A video clip lasting less than two-and-a-half minutes, published on YouTube five days ago on 28 January, has already exceeded three million views. It features Stephen Fry, very well interviewed by Gay Byrne, talking about his atheism. I first came across it, being shared all over the place on Facebook. The question Byrne asked him was what he’d say to God if he met him.
I have several times described myself in this blog as a ‘devout doubter’. I also like to think of myself as a seeker after truth. Therefore I just had to watch it.
I once here gave Fry a kicking for something rather stupid, and on another occasion praised him fulsomely for a well delivered speech. In the Facebook posting Fry is described as ‘one of the most articulate men on TV’. Well yes he is, but look at the competition.
My first complaint is that I really didn’t expect someone as well-read as he to use an argument that is so old hat – a God who is omnipotent and benign nevertheless presides over a world that contains misery, etc. It is just so hoary, threadbare and facile that I suspect a seventeen-year-old A-level theology student could crush it without breaking sweat.
My second is that it apparently hasn’t dawned on him that God, and fallible mankind’s historic definition of God, might be slightly at odds.
My third is that I should have expected Fry to consider himself a seeker after truth, except seekers after truth ask questions, seek explanations. Fry simply relieved himself of statements. Here are some samples.
- Capricious, mean-minded, stupid God
- God […] is quite clearly a maniac – totally selfish
- You could easily have made a creation in which [nasty things] didn’t exist. It is simply not acceptable.
- It is perfectly apparent that he is monstrous, utterly monstrous, and deserves no respect whatever.
You get the picture? This is a hypothetical conversation with God at the Pearly Gates. If the above had been prefaced with, “I really need to understand. Please explain why…” he might have emerged with a respectable position. He did utter the word “why” a couple of times, but rhetorically. This is not an open mind. This is fundamentalism. This is a classic example of the fundamental atheist who thinks he doesn’t believe, but actually passionately believes – in no God. He fundamentally believes he has found the truth. The science is settled.
What idleness! What a disappointment!
Seek the company of those who search for truth; run from those who have found it. Andre Gide