East London Humanist chairman Paul Kaufman asks why people found Stephen Fry’s comments on God offensive


- Credit: Archant

Stephen Fry recently caused a stir on an Irish religious affairs programme when asked what he would say in the unlikely event of meeting God at the gates of heaven.

The presenter was shocked by his response and Fry’s comments quickly went viral on YouTube.

Along with his busy TV and writing schedule Stephen Fry is also an active supporter of the British Humanist Association. He was invited to be interviewed in his capacity as a Humanist. He explained in blunt terms how he would express to God his anger at the creation of so much misery in the world. He gave examples of child cancer and a graphic description of the organism whose life cycle involves drilling its way through the human eye. He questioned what sort of creator could have dreamt up such things.

Many probably found his remarks shocking and offensive. But why? They were not made with the intention of causing offence. He was himself taken aback by the strength of the reaction. Are these not questions which any thinking person, religious or otherwise, should be asking?

There are many like Stephen who cannot reconcile the idea an all-loving benevolent creator with the dreadfulness of natural disasters and disease. There is no rational way of doing so. But the point about faith is that it doesn’t require a rational explanation to reconcile such contradictions. And the reason some believers find remarks such as those of Stephen Fry offensive is because it challenges their faith. Many countries still have heavy criminal sanctions for blasphemy, and there are some where speaking as Stephen Fry did would risk the death penalty. Recent shootings in Paris and Copenhagen are examples of violence being used to try to end free speech where it questions religious belief. We should be thankful we live in a country where views critical of religion can be expressed, and is constantly vigilant against any attempt to diminish this freedom.