A week ago Stephen Fry in that now-famous interview on RTE’s The Meaning of Life said that if he ever met God, he would ask ‘‘bone cancer in children? What’s that about?’ and went on to ask, ‘Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’
Fire nor brimstone nor lightning bolt were visited upon Mr Fry’s head for his comments but he did find himself at the centre of a storm of Biblical proportions in both conventional and social media, with people of faith lining up to throw figurative stones or pointed words of forgiveness at him.
Yesterday, Mr Fry apologised for any offence caused.
In calling God a ‘bastard’ Mr Fry could not have intended any offence whatsoever, this is clearly an objective statement of fact, drawn from the reality of disease, pain, suffering and so forth that is entirely beyond our control.
People of faith clearly were stirred to strong feelings, yet no apology from Mr Fry was necessary for this simple reason: in all the froth and outrage not one of Mr Fry’s critics has been able to answer his questions. Not one.
What, indeed, about bone cancer in children? God’s not like that, the faithful say, as if no child has ever suffered. God moves in mysterious ways, others told us sagely without seeing that mysterious ways are entirely unhelpful to those afflicted by them.
On the Guardian site, Giles Fraser wrote a borderline incoherent post in which he claimed God is love and warm and fuzzy and suffers with us, without seeming to comprehend the question ‘why have suffering?’ Mr Fraser left us with the surreal feeling that God indeed made the universe, but not the bits we don’t like.
Citation needed, I think, Mr Fraser.
Genesis says that God made the world and everything in it. Genesis is very clear about that. Genesis doesn’t attach an asterisk to ‘everything’ and a footnote: ‘except for disease, natural disasters, dangerous insects and anything else you feel you would like not to be the work of the creator’.
If you accept that God created the universe you have to accept that God created arbitrary misfortune and the misery it brings (and then, as Mr Fry pointed out, demands to be thanked for it). This would indeed imply a vile and capricious deity.
On Twitter @Belief4Truth was very confused and invoked free will: ‘can God stop Man Stephen ?’ [sic; being just as confused about capitalisation] as if victims of cancer will the condition on themselves.
And on and on and on, in ever-diminishing spirals of absurdity and non sequiturs.
So, no, Mr Fry, you are way too nice and you don’t need to apologise. The faithful have yet to provide any meaningful answer to your questions — and they won’t, because they don’t have one.