The Effect “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” Had on Me

When I was a kid, some of my favorite books to read were the Scary Stories series.  The cover designs were captivating.  Some truly amazing artwork.  The fact that the company who produces those books redid the covers because some soccer moms said it’s too scary for their pussy kids pisses me off.  But here’s the thing about those books – despite their scary imagery, one of the things about each of the stories was that it usually wasn’t that scary.  It was just something that wasn’t understood.  And very few of the stories had endings truly as dark as the visuals you had in your mind.  They had happy endings but with the surreal nature being something for the reader to contemplate.  Or to show that sometimes what you fear is just what you don’t understand.

For little kids, that’s actually a really good lesson.  Kids need to know that not everything they’re afraid of is bad.  Sometimes it’s just something they don’t know.  The sense of fear compels kids to know what happens.  They’re short stories where the author has to build suspense quickly, and the best way to do it is with fear of the unknown.

When I got a little older, I got into Stephen King.  But as interesting as some of his books were, I didn’t get into many of them.  It always built to a point when the source of the fear is explained, and that bored me.  That and that guy has a real problem knowing when to end a book.  Too often he just sucks the premise dry to the point that you don’t even care anymore and just want it to be done.  King has admitted several times that he has written himself into a corner more than once.

Then I happened across a little book by an author I had heard of, but never really read – H.P Lovecraft.  The book was called “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”  It told the story of a narrator who ends up in a small European fishing town, and learns about the secret cult that governs this community.  As he delves further and further into it, he learns a horrifying truth – that the beings that this cult worships are real.  The Deep Ones (or Old Ones, depending) are massive, unknowable, supreme being, ancient in a way that we cannot understand.  The people of this community are trying to cross-breed with them in order to rise to a higher plane of being.  The deeper the narrator gets into this nightmare, the more he is driven to madness because the truth nature of these beings is beyond his comprehension.  It’s beyond anyone’s.  You as a reader are having to realize that you are stuck with this guy, and you can’t tell if his narration is on the level the further it goes.

All of my life, I had questioned religion.  I mean, a story about a wizard in the sky who creates a guy from dirt and then makes a woman from his rib, who gets all pissed because said woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat fruit from a magic tree?  Who wouldn’t be a little bit skeptical of that?  Over 1 billion people in this world, apparently.  Will never get that.  But this book helped solidify what I found the entire concept of a supreme being fucking terrifying.

The Deep Ones are ancient, all-powerful, unknowable, and probably evil, if their motives made sense to us.  But they don’t.  Those who get too close are driven to madness.  Another thing about this is that they see us as less than insignificant.  We mean nothing to them.  That’s because we are nothing to them.  We are ants on this planet, whose petty efforts mean nothing.  As we live and die, they go on.  Generation after generation will perish, but they will remain.  The existence of humanity is just something that happens, and being this ancient, who have seen all the life of this world come and go, is just a small diversion that has no meaning at all.

And in my eyes, that’s what a true God would be.  Why would it care about us?  What would we mean to it?  The Abrahamic faiths wants to believe that this being created us and cares for us.  That makes no sense.  For starters, let’s just get rid of one of the arguments right off the bat.  This universe was not made for us.  We have scientific proof that this universe is billions of years old.  Humanity is just a species that came about after a planet that has existed for billions of years.  All the young-Earth creationists are blithering idiots who have not a single piece of scientific evidence to bolster their claims.  Everything we know about the universe tells us that it is billions of years old.

So why would a supreme being, who has seen countless species that we can’t imagine rise and fall on this lonely speck of dust in this one galaxy, give any amount of a shit about us?  It wouldn’t.  Objectively, there is NO reason why it would.  It’s ridiculous.  If you existed outside of time and space, seeing countless creatures and even countless sentient civilizations come and go, why would you care about this one?  Here’s a fact – it is a mathematic impossibility that this planet is the only one with life.

When I see people who say that they have a hotline to God and that they understand his will, I see two types of people.  The first are shysters like Ray Comfort and Joel Osteen.  They are just as much of an atheist as I am, only concerned about the money.  The second are the lunatics who are using religion to bolster their madness.  Only difference is that their supreme being is nowhere to be seen.  Can you only imagine what kind of madness this world would devolve into if a cult like the one in “Shadow Over Innsmouth” was real and was known to the rest of the world?  It horrifies me.

That books shaped a lot of my beliefs about the world.  Lovecraft had a firm belief that what you couldn’t see or understand was where fear comes from.  When I hear people say they fear God, it strikes me that they choose to believe because they are afraid of displeasing this entity that can destroy them.

As for me, I choose to believe there is nothing.  Because if one day the clouds are ever pulled back and this deity actually reveals itself, that’s when the real nightmare begins.  Just read how that books ends.

Until next time, a quote,

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Peace out,

Maverick

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The Book That Sparked My Atheism

While I have contended that I never really believed in God as a kid, and still hold true to that, there was a book that really got to me when I was thinking about what it meant to believe in a deity.  A lot of atheists have books by Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris or people like that, but to me there was one book that truly took my thoughts about a religious being and calcified them into a perfect blend of terror.  That book is what I believe to be the best work by H.P. Lovecraft “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”  A story that tells of a man who goes into an isolated community and learns things that slowly distort his mind until he doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.

Can you think of a perfect metaphor for religion?  A values system that those who follow it believe in whole-heartedly and never have even a moment’s worth of criticism.  A belief structure that gets people so wrapped up in its narrative that they eventually cannot tell what is real unless it is the reality that they are told to believe in.  And any threat to that reality is actively attacked by its members.  Yup, religion in a nutshell.

But here’s the difference – in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the narrator finds out that the deity that this cult believes in is real.  He realizes that they are worshiping, communing, and even trying to cross-breed with being who are ancient and powerful.  Beings who are massive and beyond comprehension.  The Deep Ones are found to be real, but this knowledge destroy the minds of everyone who comes into contact with them.  See, the gods of this story and the Cthulhu Mythos surrounding it are not beings who care about if you stick your dick in another man’s butt.  They are creatures who are ageless, unknowable and see humans as so far beneath their concern that they act as they see fit without any input from those in the cult surrounding them.

When I think about a being that is capable of creating the entire universe, do you know what comes to mind – the Deep Ones.  I mean, why on Earth would a God give five shits about us?  What would be to it?  In the span of time that this universe has existed, with all the countless civilizations in the stars who have risen and fallen in the billions of years that this cosmos has existed, this idea that a divine being actually created us and watches us close enough to the point that they care if a man has sex with another man just makes me laugh.  It’s the pinnacle of absurd.

Something the book was very good at was portraying the narrators as small, and their lives as meaningless.  In the scope of the universe, that’s true.  We are insignificantly tiny.  We aren’t even a pixel in the massive image of the cosmos.  Given the size of the cosmos, we aren’t even an atom in it.  We are a subatomic particle.  If the size of the universe is our model, humanity isn’t even that.  We are NOTHING in the face of reality.  So when my religious friends tell me all about how God has our backs and cares deeply about us, it strikes me as complete hubris.  After all, since there is no possible way that countless civilizations better than us haven’t risen and fallen, then how exactly is it that a being with the power to create all of this finds us so fascinating?  What quality does humanity have that the rest of the universe does not?

And as the book points out, the answer to that question is – nothing.  We are NOTHING in the face of that kind of power.  The Deep Ones see us as meaningless, and so would any kind of god that could conceivably exist.  That reality shook my young mind up when I read the book, but then it made a lot of sense.

Here’s the truth – God is a fairytale that is created because the universe is a scary place.  It’s scary to think that we are so pathetic that we are one cosmic disaster away from not existing anymore.  One asteroid away from letting the octopus have its chance at sentience and living in the world we leave behind.  When people are faced with that kind of helplessness, it’s easy to just reach out to whatever source of moral comfort you can find in order to not feel so small and meaningless anymore.

Just like at the end of the book, however, we all must realize that religion is a delusion, and the God that you worship wouldn’t give a single fuck about you anymore than the Deep Ones did about that community.  Unknowable, infinite.  And when you think about the fact that infinite realities probably exist with infinite possibilities, then God would probably end up like Rick from Rick and Morty.  The only reason he is so cold and cruel is because he realized how meaningless his own life is because of the sheer amount of existences that he has been able to see.

But that’s just me.

Until next time, a quote,

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Peace out,

Maverick