Recently a video clip of Stephen Fry being interviewed by Gay Byrne on Irish National TV[i] has gone viral on the internet. Byrne asked Fry to set aside his disbelief for a moment and tell us what he would say were he to find himself face to face with God. For two and half minutes Fry berated God with a blistering attack, at one point comparing him unfavourably with the pantheon of Greek gods.
I was surprised by the emotional intensity of Fry’s antipathy towards a god that he does not believe in. Why does he get so angry about something that he believes is fantasy?
Leaving that aside, I concluded that the god he describes is not the God that I recognise and believe in. Stephen Fry’s key argument is that he cannot believe in a god who has created a world where there is suffering and pain. He cites things like bone cancer in children, and insects who burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind and then declares that it is not acceptable for god to create a world in which these things exist.
There is no denying that in the world there are innumerable things that cause pain and suffering. The question is where do these come from? The authors of the Bible, most notably in the opening chapters of Genesis, but also in other places such as the Psalms and the book of Job, declare that the world God created was good. Indeed at the end of creation God looked at all he had made as said that it was very good. If the world was so good at the dawn of time, where then did all the evil come from? Again the Bible gives us an answer to that. It is the work of a created, sentient being called Satan who drove a wedge between God and man and brought sickness, death and disease into the world.
The book of Job is particularly interesting because it deals exclusively with real suffering in one individual’s life. Satan is identified as the source of Job’s torment. God is shown as restraining Satan from unleashing the full venom of his destructive nature upon Job. Ultimately Job’s suffering drives him towards God rather than away from him; it intensifies Job’s resolute faith in God.
The god that Stephen Fry rails at is at best only a caricature of the God of the Bible; a caricature I am only too willing to reject. Perhaps like Fry you consider yourself an atheist. If so I would urge you to at least investigate what the Bible claims about God for yourself, rather than dismissing him based on what others say about him.
This blog post featured in the March 2015 edition of Hook Focus