In a recent post,"On Christian Horror and Atheist Dread" http://mikeduran.com/?p=9016 author Mike Duran makes the rather broad and erroneous claim that Atheist horror centers around the fear of "The Great Void."
"A world without meaning and purpose is the ultimate horror. A universe that arose by chance, exists without meaning, where lives plummet toward annihilation is the worst kind of horror."
I would, in fact, assert that the fear he describes is at the heart of Christian Horror and in the entire Christian faith if not all faiths. It is what drives the religious screaming to their church pews and confessionals, clutching their bibles to their bosom. It is what makes them cling to faith and stubbornly resist reason. The atheist simply accepts the void as reality and moves on with his or her life.
This was a very detailed and well-written essay that widely missed the mark. When atheists first awaken to the reality that God and Heaven are mere fairytales, there is a fear of non-existence because we have been taught all of our lives that this is something to fear. This fear does not continue for the rest of our lives. We get over it. It doesn't dominate our writing anymore than it dominates our thoughts.
I wrote an entire short story collection, The Book of A Thousand Sins, eleven stories dealing with religion and society from an aggressively atheistic perspective. Only one of the stories dealt with the fear of "The Void". Most dealt with how terrifying it would be if there was a deity with the personality and abilities of the biblical God, a megalomaniacal, insecure, vain, jealous, capricious, mentally unstable, emotional infant that was omniscient and omnipotent. THAT is terrifying. Other stories dealt with the fear of mankind itself under the influence of religion.
Duran cites H.P. Lovecraft's writings as examples of Atheist horror but Lovecraft is not writing today and his work is hardly indicative of atheist writers in the twenty-first century. George Romero would be closer. What atheists today fear are mindless religious fanatics. The zombies of George Romero's day represented Communism. Today, they represent the mindless hordes of unquestioning believers. And, despite the claim that "“Christian horror” provides a way of escape; “Atheist horror” cannot." We, atheist authors, do offer a way out...REASON! That is the bullet to the brain we wish to gift those hordes of marauding brain-eating religious fanatics with, a ballistic projectile of critical thinking fired with marksman-like precision into the skull cavity of every believer. We don't fear the void. We fear the legions of the ignorant and deluded coming to strip away our rights and freedoms in the name of dogmatic adherence to some ridiculous moral code written by sheep-herders who believed the earth was flat and that demons caused disease.
My own writing usually starts by conceding that God exists. It then asks you to look at the world and consider what type of God would allow the atrocities of which the world is everywhere full, because such a deity would be the true horror. If there were a God that allowed 20,000 children a day to die from curable illnesses and diseases, that allowed child prostitution, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, plagues, child soldiers sent into battle by leaders claiming to be doing His will, priests using their "divine authority" to gain access to children so they can molest them, assured that the church will sheild them from prosecution, droughts, famines, slavery, war, the existence of such a malevolent creature would be far more terrifying than non-existence. There is nothing to fear from non-existence because you will never experience it. You cannot experience nothingness. You will never "feel" not being. So what's to fear? Those who would force you, under threat of physical harm, imprisonment, disenfranchisement, and/or social ostracism to conform to their belief system are the great fear that I, as an atheist, am confronted with each day.
After September 11, the fear of religious fanaticism rose to a fever pitch among atheists and agnostics and even quite a few moderate and liberal believers. Almost immediately, the "zombie" surged as a horror icon, filling the bookshelves. The zombie who marches forward with single-minded determination, heedless of damage to its person or even the threat of annihilation was a perfect metaphor for Jihadists and holy crusaders of all types, the morons who bomb abortion clinics, the assholes who hold up protest signs at gay and military funerals, the heartless bastards that called Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, or the Tsunami in South Asia "God's Judgement". Of course Christians appropriated this symbol as well, writing their own stories where good ultimately triumphs and where science is portrayed as the great evil from which religious faith is the only salvation. However, these stories tended to suck to be perfectly honest. I'm sure there are exceptions, some good Christian zombie novels, I just can't think of one.
Unlike the vampire, who was almost inextricable from Christianity with it's fear of crosses and holy water, the zombie is free of such superstitious trappings and bares an uncanny resemblance to Gay marriage protesters and the guys who knock on your door on Sunday mornings pushing religious pamphlets or the guys in the white shirts and blue pants and ties zipping through your neighborhood on ten-speeds spreading the gospel of Joseph Smith. They are the religious zealots with that mindless gleam in their eyes that makes them resistant to logical arguments. They are the living, walking, rotting, flesh-eating embodiment of everything the atheist fears in religion, loss of identity, will, choice. I shudder just thinking about it.
In novels like Succulent Prey and The Resurrectionist, I challenged the morality of a God that would allow the birth of such monsters as serial killers, humans with the overwhelming compulsion to prey on other humans, and then give them the power to torture and kill. In The Book of A Thousand Sins I challenged everything from God's existence to his morality to the morality of those who profess to worship him. Again, it was religion itself that was the evil rather than its absence. The "Void" is only terrifying when you still hold onto the belief that there is some alternative. In other words, it is only terrifying to the religious and those who have been brainwashed by years of heavy indoctrination to believe that there should be something to fear in annihilation. Once the atheist has rid himself of the last vestiges of faith, the reality of death holds no fear. You only fear the light because you have lived so long in darkness. The light of reason illuminates but it seldom burns.