Web continues to vibrate to Stephen Fry’s anti-God belief

Few topics have spurred as much debate among Christian circles online as Stephen Fry’s recent outburst against God on RTÉ’s Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne, in which he says that if he were suddenly confronted by God as a reality, he would hold him to account for the world’s suffering.

Edinburgh-based Dominican Lawrence Lew OP considers at lawrenceop.tumblr.com how, in responding to a Filipino girl asking why innocent children suffer, Pope Francis had recognised the unifying power of compassion aroused by such suffering: “The heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question.”

Citing Job as an instance of how the Bible “gives space” for the desire to “rant at God, especially in the face of innocent human suffering”, Fr Lew says that Mr Fry is “right to wonder and cry out and even rant just as the prophet Job did”, but contrasts how Mr Fry cites suffering as an argument against God’s existence with how innocent suffering causes Job to question the point of man’s existence.


Ben Trovato at ccfather.blogspot.com says Fry is engaged in a “Straw God Argument” that “attacks a theology that nobody holds”. Pointing to Mr Fry’s apparent ignorance of how his criticisms have been considered through history, Trovato says “He is a bit like someone arguing against climate change who points out that we have had a very cold winter: he is rather missing the point at issue.”

Trovato thinks this is no accident. Describing Mr Fry’s contribution to a 2009 debate on whether the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world as “a vicious, and inaccurate and intellectually lazy, polemic”, he says: “I think Fry is attacking God as a proxy for attacking Christianity, especially Catholicism. For that is an enemy he does believe in, and which he hates.”

At steadfastreflections.wordpress.com, Anglican Chris Stead insists that “Christianity takes suffering very seriously”, and responds to Mr Fry’s comments about children with serious illnesses by speaking from the experience of caring for his two-year-old daughter who “has a neurological disability so rare and severe that only 10 cases have been reported worldwide”. 

Saying he would be suspicious of anyone who tried to offer “a philosophical answer that exhausts and resolves the heartache [his] family endures”, he nonetheless says that it is right that he should feel “cut to pieces by grief” when he thinks of her.

Pointing to how the Psalms couple the reality of human suffering with “the firmness of the promise that ultimately, God is doing something I cannot fathom, but that it is good”, Stead asserts that Fry’s “suspicion concerning God’s ability to be all-powerful and all-good is unfounded”, adding: “He should instead be suspicious of his own ability to comprehend the infinite.”

G.K. Chesterton Society of Ireland co-founder Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh writes at irishpapist.blogspot.com that one “all too-predictable” response to the celebrity’s diatribe has come from secularists assuming that it must have been offensive to religious people, with one letter-writer to The Irish Times even asking whether the blasphemy section of the 2009 Defamation Act might be implemented.

Pointing out that the radio show on which he first heard the clip was “flooded with responses”, Ó Ceallaigh observes that though many “robustly” challenged Fry’s comments, “it didn’t seem like anybody was angry or offended”, adding that the supposedly relevant blasphemy law “only ever seems to be invoked by members of Atheist Ireland and by like-minded individuals, with whom it is, indeed, a near-obsession”.