Christ vs. Cthulhu

Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself of other possible ways of looking at the world, not least because it can help you understand the characteristics of your own view more clearly.

One of the great writers of 20C horror fiction was HP Lovecraft, known for his famous Cthulhu mythos. Lovecraft, a convinced atheist, used a mythology of massive, inconceivably powerful and unstoppable extraterrestrial beings such as Cthulhu (depicted above), to express his real-life philosophy of cosmicism:

The philosophy of cosmicism states that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as God, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence, and perhaps are just a small species projecting their own mental idolatries onto the vast cosmos, ever susceptible to being wiped from existence at any moment. This also suggested that the majority of undiscerning humanity are creatures with the same significance as insects in a much greater struggle between greater forces which, due to humanity’s small, visionless and unimportant nature, it does not recognize.

Perhaps the most prominent theme in cosmicism is the utter insignificance of humanity. Lovecraft believed that “the human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. And what human beings do is just as free of sense as the free motion of elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, feelings? Pure ‘Victorian fictions’. Only egotism exists.”

Now, consider Christianity. One of the Messianic texts made especially famous by Handel’s Messiah is Isaiah 9:1-7:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

The idea of a human being being the ruler of the world, and more extensively, the entire universe (including heaven), expressed in Christianity’s oldest creed (“Jesus is Lord”), could not be more of a contrast to Lovecraft’s mythos.

And perhaps Lovecraft’s imagined universe (apparently inspired by some of his night terrors) is not so far from what would be the truth otherwise: before Christ was on the throne, a dragon ruled this world. Perhaps this Christmas we can be reminded by some creepy horror fiction that the story of a baby, destined to be Lord of all, being born in the city of David is good news after all.