TV host asks staunch atheist Stephen Fry question about God, the reactions from both are incredible

By Jameson Parker | 30 January 2015
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(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

It’s a question that nearly every nonbeliever faces at some point in his or her life: “But what if God exists, what would you say to Him?”

Stephen Fry, a well-known British comedian, actor, and writer – who just so happens to be an outspoken skeptic – faced the question with an interview on Ireland’s RTE television station.

The interviewer, Gay Byrne, begins, as they inevitably do, by asking Fry to humor him and suppose that God really does exist.

“Suppose it’s all true, and you walk up to the Pearly Gates and you are confronted by God. What will Stephen Fry say to him or it?”

At first Fry laughs and remarks that the question is the “oddest thing.” After collecting his thoughts, he gives an answer that leaves the interviewer speechless.

“I’ll say ‘Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you! How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil.

Why should I respect a capricious mean-minded stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’ That’s what I’d say.”

The interviewer stares silently at the ground for a moment, before retorting “And you think you’re going to get in?”

Fry has an answer for that as well.

“No. But I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to get in on his terms. They’re wrong.”

Later, Fry concedes that if he died and was greeted not with the Christian God, but perhaps the Greek gods, he would struggle a bit more. In Greek mythology, gods were flawed like humans are and therefore it would make a bit more sense (albeit not with much more comfort) to learn that the masters of the Universe were simply petty, self-serving and flawed. The Christian God, in contrast, is meant to be totally without fault and infinitely good. It makes his (or her or its) apparent indifference to human misery that much more baffling.

“The god who created this Universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac.”

I’ve never seen an interviewer more uncomfortable. Nearing the end of the segment and Byrne has all but removed himself from the conversation. He leans back in his chair despondently, while Fry documents various atrocities a supposedly loving God has willed onto people – including children.

Watch the illuminating segment below courtesy RTE:

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  1. Always the same old ignorant comments from atheists here, nothing new. KDMoore, ignorance is bliss isnt it. Do you even know the story of Satan? If you did you would not be making silly statements like "So he created satan". Its very convenient that people dont want to believe in God when they are themselves in bondage and sin. Its very common in the world today, this not being accountable for one's own misery. Im not surprised at all at Mr Fry's outburst at God and christianity, he carries alot of hate and animosity towards christianity. He doesnt hide it. People like Mr Fry dont want to be accountable for their immoralities and sins so they conveniently dismiss God and blame God for all the trouble in the world… He probably blames God for his cocaine addiction and his suicidal depression? Did God make him take cocaine or made him try and commit suicide? Own up mr Fry!

    • Lots of unfounded assumptions here!

      Number 1: religion absolves you of personal responsibility, and you know it does. Mr. Fry would be the first to tell you that he is entirely responsible for his behavior, drugs and suicide attempts included. And he would have a logical and medical explanation thereof, which religion certainly cannot provide, which you have just proven. All you have is judgment and opinion rather than fact. You should know better than to claim that atheists, who do not believe there is a divine plan and that all people are held accountable for their actions without the need for a supernatural sky daddy to do so for him. Also, you better check your "morality"… religion and morality have nothing to do with each other and it is a shame you are incapable of seeing that, as well as being a shame that you think you have the right to opine on other people's actions and judge them "moral" or "immoral." The bald fact is that you have no idea what "immoral" or "moral" mean because morality is very subjective and people are not obligated to follow your twisted Christian standards, which are no standards at all. Read your bible and find out what you all really believe. It's horrifying as well as complete nonsense.

      Number 2: Like the euphemism which this phrase represents, the "story of Satan" is also a huge pile of Number 2. It's a myth, it has always been a myth, and it will never be anything but a myth. There is no such thing as Satan or God. You have no proof whatsoever at all that these stories are relevant or true. Faith is the willing suspension of disbelief to the point where you are willing to reject fact in favor of your comfort zone. Very weak-minded thing to do. I advise against it.

      Mr. Fry's "outburst" consists of logical questions that you don't like. I too would like to know why babies die of cancer, why there are tsunamis and typhoons. Why does war exist? If your God is omnipotent, why couldn't he create a world without evil? If he knows all and can do all, why did he choose to create such a horrible world and then, worse, ignore it? Also, please explain to me how, in the vast 13.5 billion lightyears of our universe that are plainly visible through the Hubble Telescope, somehow some random Roman outpost where less than 2% of the world's population actually lived at the time was so very important?

      9 million children will die this year before the age of 5. Where is your god? 21,000 kids will die today. Where is your god? Boko Haram just burned 2000 people for no reason. Where is your god? I had to walk home six miles on September 11th. Where is your god? 22 million people will sleep in slavery tonight. Where is your god?

      Why would your god ignore the prayers of a child starving and suffering and somehow give even a vague shit about someone's cat's surgery? You must understand that abandoning logic is not a good thing. Believing without seeing is not noble or a virtue. It is fear-based stupidity and our world will be infinitely better without it.

      • 9 Million children will die young this year. 9 million children experience 5 years of life of mother of learning to stand and make a sound. 9 million souls wanted That, nothing more. Boko Haram have their passionately held reasons!! Albeit from a psychology of generations of pain and rage and simple misunderstanding. They no doubt feel that they are ultimately good, like a surgeon cutting, not bad. On your 6 mile walk your legs surely grew stronger, I expect your emotional angst (we’ve all got our share) cleared a lot triggered by the indignation of walking and sustained against all your inner resistance (again we all resist growing and letting go of baggage I reckon) for 6 long miles. Likewise a soul may choose slavery or may consider it a relatively free and/ or uncomplicated life experience compared to its last one.

        • God is both in them all looking out from those soul journeys And overlooking the whole thing respecting choices and helping just a bit when Asked and also needed, I reckon..

    • Johann, how could ‘god’ be the creator of the universe and NOT have created ‘satan?’ You seem to think that one doesn’t ‘want’ to believe in god. there is no such ‘want’ or ‘not want’. I am fortunate to have never been raised with such nonsense, and have never believed that a myth was real. I appreciate the stories and poetry of your bible, but that is all it is. Ignorance is when you do not understand that your ‘beliefs’ should be thought by all people. You also missed the entire point of Mr. Fry’s interview. Truth be told, if there were such a thing as heaven, I would never want to be there with a bunch of narrow minded, superstitious religious people.

  2. On what basis does Mr Fry issue the value statement “utterly evil”? To which transcendent moral standard is he appealing? If the standard is not universal, then why should she expect anyone to agree? Indeed why should she agree with herself?

    For an atheist, the question of good and evil is challenging because it is not “provable”. How do you prove the existence of a moral standard?

    Until then, raging against an “evil” deity when there is no greater standard seems a foolish and illogical undertaking.

    • I do not "rage" against and evil deity. I do not believe in a god, therefore there is nothing to rage against. However, if a god were to exist, and good and evil therefore to exist as well… your gods condemn themselves even with their own standards on good and evil.

    • The standard for evil is not universal in Christianity. Your churches shield pedophiles from conviction and allow children to be physically and mentally preyed upon. Rape, slavery, genocide, death for apostates, these are morally valid? Your argument is amazingly incoherent and bereft of any form of reason.

      Thank you for allowing me to so easily obliterate your attempt to say atheists have no sense of morality. Raging against atheists seems to be a foolish and illogical undertaking coming from someone who is supposed to not judge others and who is supposed to forgive and turn the other cheek.

    • The basis he makes this moral stance is his own and he fully accepts the responsibility for making this stance. Unlike the theist, who claims, without evidence presented, that it is a god that makes things moral.

      If Stephens morals are less than a god's then let that god actually show that he has the higher morals. Which to date has not been done. Any alleged documented action of a god can always be bettered by an ordinary human in the moral realm. If you disagree, prove me wrong, name me a moral action done by a god that a human could not better.

    • The standard doesn't have to be supernatural or theistic at all. Evil can simply be defined as intentional and needless harm, and then the "dilemma" you've created here vanishes. You don't have to prove the existence of a moral standard. Most people would agree that intentional, needless harm is undesirable–both as a behavior and a circumstance to want to avoid. Empathy can be explained biologically with no transgression against logic. Nothing you've said derails or weakens the fair and obvious criticism Stephen Fry is pointing to here.

    • Nothing you've said derails or weakens the fair and obvious criticism Stephen Fry is pointing to here. Considering the possibility of a deity, either that deity is powerless to stop unnecessary suffering or is apathetic to it and therefore is no deity to champion or worship.

      You don't have to prove the existence of a moral standard. You only have to show that human beings form systems of preference and value, and from there we can point out that some value systems seem to be inconsistent and self-contradicting. Basic, traditional Christian doctrine is an example of one of these inconsistent and contradictory value systems.

      In other words, in order to uncover logical problems in ethical systems, you don't have to establish that value beliefs point to things that actually obtain in the world, only that there are people pointing. Nor do you have to participate in the same system–you don't have to be pointing at the same things in order to notice that the same system can point to two or more logically exclusive theories.

    • Well, presumably God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac and Abraham was going to do it before God intervened and said it was a test. This was in Genesis 22. Earlier in Genesis 19 we also had Lot offering his virgin daughters to Sodomites so that they wouldn't have homosexual sex with angels. Both of these acts (threatening to kill your own son or offering up your own daughters to be raped) seem abhorrent to us today and yet Abraham and Lot are seem as good people. Why? Basically the problem is that people obviously used to consider their children, male and female, as property. The same reasoning seems to apply to a man's wife: from Exodus 20:17 " You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." This implies that a man's wife was seen as property and, indeed, a woman who was accused of adultery at the time would have been stoned to death: "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death." (Leviticus 20:10) None of this seems moral to us today.

      Indeed, we even have the Bible advocating the murder of atheists: "Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death." (Deuteronomy 17:12); "Everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman." (2 Chronicles 15:13 ) and homosexuals: "If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13) and disobedient children: Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15); "All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense." (Leviticus 20:9) and sluts: "A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death." (Leviticus 21:9) and fortunetellers: "A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death." (Leviticus 20:27) and witches: "You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17) and so on and so on and so on. The Bible basically advises the murder of anyone who follows a non-Abrahamic religion. (Deuteronomy 13:1-19; 17:2-5; 18:20-22, Numbers 1:48-51 and Zechariah 13:3).

      The Bible clearly isn't a good source for morality. So where do we get morality from? Basically we are told from a young age that it is wrong to lie, kill, steal or hurt others. And these beliefs are not unique to Christianity. You've heard of the Golden Rule? It dates back to ancient China: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." – Confucius; "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." – Laozi, Egypt: "Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you." – Maat; Greece: "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales; "What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. " – Sextus; "Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you." – Isocrates; " to injure anyone is never just anywhere." – Socrates, Rome: "expect from others what you did to them" – Seneca, India: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." — Buddha; "One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self." —Brihaspati. I see no evidence whatsoever that morality is unique to Abrahamic religion.

  3. It’s unusual looking at both sides that some want to blame God for the atrocities in this world and others want to blame Satan. We need to accept that there is no blame to be laid only that which we create ourselves. Blind religious followers need to cast aside there egos and look at the vastness of the universe around them and ask am I that important in the grand scheme of things and eventually accept the painful truth that death is a natural part of life and it’s fixed. There are no tests from a higher power trying to push our beliefs and there is no dark force trying to tempt us with pleasures there is just life and then death and when we die the electronic patterns in our brain stop working and that’s it. The key to any life needs to be enjoyment and a respect for life as there is only one time you can experience it. No need to accept faith and follow false gods created several thousand years ago no need to find blame through life just accept its nature. Celebrate that we are experiencing life and that death is the natural order. Self control is all we need to accept rather than the thought of being punished in the so called afterlife.

  4. Two thoughts spring to mind….

    In every depiction of Adam & Eve they have belly buttons….

    We all know that belly buttons are the result of the chord being cut when you are BORN..

    So if Adam & Eve were the first, why do they have them????

    Secondly… If a god exists (which it does not) why would it allow another religion spring up like Islam which is about as evil as it gets?

    Stephen Fry is right is right in every word he said.

  5. Why did “God” “create” a fly that’s eats children’s eyes and make them blind?

    Divine consciousness is not a “God” entity separate from us at all. Those scriptures were written or in Constantine ‘ s case chosen either to explain the ineffable in simple concrete analogy to unschooled but bright folk or to bind a people as one for a tribal purpose at the time. God, if we must use that term is the primary consciousness that gave rise to intention, energy and in the densest dimensions matter. Physicists, mystics and modern day Shamans alike tell us they’ve found a beautifully complex but elegant multi verse. This consciousness is immortal and immutable, it is merely playing with form, being not one unified consciousness but losing itself temporarily in lots of different beings, you, I, Steven Fry, the brave questing soul of the suffering blind boy (no doubt bringing compassion and healing knowledge back to our world) and of course the fly, the mite on the fly, the amoeba in the mite, the bacteria on the amoeba and the virus in the bacteria. In this physical plane there is a profound forgetting to facilitate “God’s” experience as many rather than one. The consciousness roots back into the one in deep mediation and altered states, but in body we have individuality. We have choice and consequence and time. The mind may see a thing as bad, but in fact it just is. Form is temporary so from your true self’s perspective it won’t last long, but it will have effects, dramatic ones that sculpt the society and world of form in which Divine Consciousness plays.


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