In Which Stephen Fry Steps In It

If you would be so kind, I would like to ask you to view this brief bit of blasphemous cheek. It’ll just take a few minutes.

Now then, all set? Let’s break this down into two basic parts. The first part is that Stephen Fry is given a thought experiment, and we should take a moment to see how he thinks in thought experiments. He doesn’t believe in God, but he is nevertheless asked a “what if.” What if you were wrong, the questioner asks, and the whole thing turns out to be true, with you finding yourself in a conversation with God at the Pearly Gates. Fry takes that occasion to launch into his diatribe. Bone cancer in children? What’s with that?

But I want to note something really strange about this set up. When God and Fry take their places as these disputants, Fry undertakes to argue morality with Him. And in order to argue this way, he has to assume — and most certainly does assume — that there is a moral standard that overarches the two of them, and which is equally binding on both of them.

But what is that standard? Where did it come from? How does it come to be binding on both of them? In order for the standard to be authoritative, there must be an authority, correct? Who is that authority?

If the standard arises from within Fry, then why should it be in any way obligatory for God? That standard fails to overarch the two, so why the indignation? If the standard arises from within God, and yet God is inexplicably a hypocrite, not living up to His own standards, then the question becomes why the standard continues to bind God after He has abandoned it. Suppose God just changed His mind. Why should Fry be indignant?

Or, taking another option, Fry could think, should think, that since there is a standard that overarches the two of us here, then I must have gotten into an argument with a demiurge porter down at one of the lower pearlies. I must hasten to find the Most High God, the source of all that is moral and true and right. I must find Him because He alone is worthy of worship. He alone is the grounded source of my indignation. Funny — that’s not how this thought experiment goes.

After unloading his indignation on the questioner — who was clearly unaccustomed to blasphemy — Fry then coyly says that it is best to dispense with believing in this being’s existence altogether. But notice what happens now.

There is no God. What about bone cancer in children now? What about insects that make children blind now? You have abandoned God for the sake of the children, but for God’s sake, what does this do to the children? You cared about them a lot just a few minutes ago. Even though you have dispensed with God, you must still answer the questions you have posed. All right. There is no God. You have persuaded us. What is bone cancer in children? What’s that about? Please speak into the microphone.

The cosmic chaos around us doesn’t care what happens to children. All of that is just matter in motion. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it feels good, but there is nothing out of the ordinary here. There is nothing to object to, no reason to be indignant. Imagine there’s no heaven, above us only sky.

There is one step more . . . since we cannot change the inexorable law that we become like what we worship, and since Fry’s ultimate reality is a blind, impersonal, godless, materialist machine that grinds people up, not caring at all, indignant with nothing, let us take a look at the behavior of the kind of secularist society that Fry champions. We have rejected the God who decreed the existence of insects that eat children’s eyes, thus blinding them. We have done this so that we might become a pro-choice society, so that we tax-paying grown-ups might all become the insects that eat children’s eyes.

Stephen Fry has posed some questions that I believe have some straight-forward answers. I would like to hereby extend a cordial invitation to meet together with him in order to debate them in greater detail. I believe that we could put together an event that put the spotlight on these questions, along with our respective answers.

Skip to 115 Comments
Letters
Submit A Letter to the Editor. Well-written, fair-minded letters may be interacted with in featured posts. Also, please mention the title of the post which you are addressing.

115
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
115 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
36 Comment authors
Jerome BushnellMatt RDavid RkatechoMatthias Recent comment authors

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
valerieab
Member

‘Bout as clear a case of “There is no God, and I hate Him” as I’ve ever seen.

valerieab
Member

’Bout as clear a case of “There is no God, and I hate Him” as I’ve ever seen.

(Just wanted to see if I could get that first apostrophe to go the right direction.)

Frank Turk (@Frank_Turk)
Guest

It’s always interesting to watch an atheist talk himself into the corner with the problem of evil.

http://centuri0n.blogspot.be/2008/11/is-evil-problem-6.html

It’s not new. But it’s nice to know they are all on the same page.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Check out David Robertson’s video reply to Stephen Fry…

Drew
Guest
Drew

I think these arrogant atheists are becoming tiresome and cliche in light of the arguments that Doug poses.

John Weis
Guest

I’d absolutely love to see a debate!

Tim Etherington
Guest

I had a similar reaction. Okay, Mr. Fry, so there is no god and the insect and the eye it bores into just evolved. Why is that insect then evil? Its evolutionary process found it a niche that had not been exploited and it adapted to take advantage of it. The adolescent homo sapien, unwilling host though it be, has not evolved a defense. Who cares? Why is the child’s eyesight worth more than the survival of the worm? Why the indignation, Mr. Fry? The other thing is that he assumes that since Stephen Fry can see no purpose in… Read more »

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

I predict an appearance by Eric the Red.

Tim Etherington
Guest

jigawatt, I’m surprised that I beat him to it. How about if we only answer if he has a concrete, useful question. Not to answer just because he says something inflammatory.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5 ESV)

Johnny Simmons
Member

Stephen Fry observes children dying of bone cancer, and in response to this stimulus there is a burst of electricity in his neural pathways. Meanwhile, there’s some other electricity somewhere else. The end.

C
Guest
C

Don’t quit your day job Mr. Fry, philosophy/logic is not your strong point.

The frustrating thing about Mr. Fry is that he is very articulate and passionate when he speaks. Far too often this is all it takes to get someone to side with you.

Matt
Guest
Matt

But Fry actually gives the answer. He is arguing basically that there is an obvious morality which God has just as obviously not adhered to in the creation of the world. So why should Stephen Fry give him any respect? You didn’t answer that question. Nevertheless, whether morality comes from God or not doesn’t actually make any difference.

Blannwich
Guest
Blannwich

Perhaps he read a bit too deeply into his script while narrating the Hitchhiker’s Guidd to the Galaxy.

Matthias
Guest
Matthias

Matt, creating a world in which children get bone cancer violates an obvious morality?

Blannwich
Guest
Blannwich

Matt, it appears you already know the response. That morality does come from God. As the creator, it is his morality that sets the moral standard in creation. And that DOES matter, but the only way to see and affirm that is to believe God is actively trying to redeem things with a plan and a purpose.

Tim Etherington
Guest

Mr. Fry does work to stir those chemical reactions in our gray mushy matter, doesn’t he? Children get bone cancer? Don’t adults? Does the parasite only bore out of the eyes of children? I’ll bet it hits virile, grown men and the elderly too.

Let us not forget, friends, that Mr. Fry is an actor and a fine one at that.

wtrsims
Member

Matt said, But Fry actually gives the answer. He is arguing basically that there is an obvious morality which God has just as obviously not adhered to in the creation of the world. So why should Stephen Fry give him any respect? You didn’t answer that question. Nevertheless, whether morality comes from God or not doesn’t actually make any difference. I often get myself into trouble by being too ambitious in my comments and spreading myself too thin, trying to cover 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base at the same time, so I’ll try to bite off smaller chunks and raise… Read more »

Ben Bowman
Guest

If you worship a God who you never disagree with, then you’re not worshiping God but the best version of yourself.

Drew
Guest
Drew

Matt,

I think you raise an interesting issue, i.e. whether morality needs to come from God. For the sake of argument, I grant that you could be correct, but do you think it’s important to give an accounting of where morality comes from then? And if not, how could you possibly not think so?

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

My two year old thinks I’m mean when I don’t let her eat chocolate candy for supper. If she could express herself more fully, her argument would be much like Fry’s.

Scott Diesing
Guest
Scott Diesing

Stephen Fry is a compelling personality. He is way more articulate and erudite than I am. He has courage of his convictions and he has true compassion. He really cares about people and he helps them. He lives life big.

All of this is good. And all of it (every bit of who Fry is) is a gift from the sovereign God of the universe who is one God in three persons.

Michael Hutton
Guest
Michael Hutton

Another question to ask is what does the secular nihilistic world view do to our suffering at human hands? Is it a coincidence that the number of family murder-homicides – fathers who murder children and/or partners then themselves – is it a coincidence that this is rising as the number and influence of atheist thinkers rises. When there is nothing else beyond this pain and misery does it matter that I take my kids with me to punish that_____? How much does that thinking shape some of our crime and where does that thinking come from??

timothy
Guest
timothy

I thought, felt and argued as Mr. Fry does. Where I think we differ as of today, is that I took my complaint directly to Him via heated conversation (yelling, screaming, cussing, spitting, shaking fists, more cussing) (aka prayer) and Mr. Fry has not. I am not mad about it any longer but I was furious that God created this world knowing that the fall would happen; He had to know, He is at all places at all times. (The Bible has a verse or two that tells us this, btw). While I no longer scream and curse directly at… Read more »

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Thank you for saying that Timothy. We need people who won’t repeat the respectful cant, but protest to God, demanding that he answer as a man, and refuse to let Him off the hook lightly.

Tom
Guest
Tom

I would venture to guess that Mr. Fry would consider the flesh being torn from ones body, a crown of thorns beind driven into ones skull, and ones hands and feet being nailed to a cross an evil injustice.
Thank God our Lord submitted to an over arching moral standard.

RFB
Guest
RFB

Matt Petersen,

Do you really mean that we should demand that God “…answer as a man…”?

Jane
Member

And yet while we should not “let God off the hook lightly” lest our apologetic be for some half-hearted thing that truly is not God, we should not assume that everyone who has already been satisfied by God’s answers and is no longer raging and demanding is “letting God off the hook lightly.”

Tim Etherington
Guest

If I might continue my thought. Mr. Fry might be willing to concede that since there is no god his objection to cancer and eye-worms is, indeed, because he doesn’t like them. Were there a god behind the design of said worm, a conscience determination to create a worm like that, then that mind would be horrible according to Stephen. The universe Mr. Fry lives in lacks that kind of god so the worm is just a worm and since he likes children who see more than worms that eat eyes, he uses words like “evil” and he might even… Read more »

Brent
Guest
Brent

Oh my, yes, please have this debate! Contact his publicist or something. This debate needs to happen!

jjgru88
Member
jjgru88

John Weis
I second that!

Greg
Guest
Greg

What is this “inexorable law that we become like what we worship”?

valerieab
Member

Greg, This is from Psalm 115: 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. And Romans 8:29: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of… Read more »

Tim
Guest
Tim

He gives it up when he says that atheism is not just about “there is no God”, it’s about “what kind of God is there if there is one?” “An utterly monstrous one.” So he can’t really even get to atheism, it’s more like “dystheism”. God is real and God is bad. I think that’s his real belief.

Scott Cottrill
Guest
Scott Cottrill

And what right does the pot have to say to the potter, Why did you make me so?” or for that matter, Why do you do anything that you do? If God is really God (and He is), then His perspective is infinitely greater than ours. What is catastrophic to us is not so to Him. And yet, here’s the irony – despite His infinite character and perspective, He knows us personally, even to the number of hairs on our heads. Everything is for His glory, not our own, and ultimately everything that happens to us is for our good… Read more »

John Trocke
Guest
John Trocke

While I agree entirely with what is argued in the above post, I think it’s a little disingenuous to brush over Fry’s argument completely – and misses an opportunity to present the gospel. It is generally well regarded by Western Civilization when those in authority over someone or something take on full responsibility for those subject to them, even when in reality it is unjust to do so. “The buck stops here”, “a captain goes down with his ship”, “I take full responsibility for the actions of my men”, etc. I think what Fry is looking for is this same… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

If he does decided to take you up on the topic for discussion, may I suggest Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas? I am a campus pastor there and should be able to access a proper facility for such a venue. Let me know.

Matt R
Guest
Matt R

In response to atheists or others who would ground morality in human flourishing, presuppositional apologists, including many commenters on this blog, rhetorically ask “Why I care about that?” insisting that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is” and that happiness cannot be the basis of an objective morality. Fair enough, but I’m struggling to see how grounding morality in God avoids the same response. The commands/will/nature of God is just as much an “is” as human happiness. In other words, if your chain of moral whys ends with “Because God says so” or “Because God is like this” I… Read more »

Matt R
Guest
Matt R

Why *should* I care…

Matt
Guest
Matt

For the sake of argument, I grant that you could be correct, but do you think it’s important to give an accounting of where morality comes from then? Well I just don’t think the question is really pertinent to Fry’s complaint. Where morality comes from and what authority it should have is an interesting question, but Fry is asking why he should even respect, much less worship, a god who behaves as Christians believe. The problem is that that isn’t happening quickly enough for Mr. Fry and his ilk. Ok, but that seems like a legitimate complaint. In the NT,… Read more »

Matt R
Guest
Matt R

My comment said it was awaiting moderation and then disappeared. I thought maybe it was still pending but another comment has appeared since then. I was asking a sincere question raised by your post and certainly didn’t mean to be offensive, off-topic, or semi-Pelagian. Am I missing something?

RFB
Guest
RFB

Matt R. “The challenge for Christians is to give a compelling reason for all of this…” No, it is not. I do not have to explain God, just like in a lesser sense, I do not have to explain gravity. And, my (or anyone’s) ability or lack thereof in providing an explanation has zero effect upon both the reality and force of gravity. We are commanded to obey our Creator, by the obedience of faith. The cascading obedience that follows faith, which we are commanded to do (which accomplishes zero merit for us, but are just the duties of loyal… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Above post in response to “Matt”, not Matt R.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Touche RFB. You don’t have to give a crap. For the sake of Christianity, I hope other Christians take a different tactic.

Jane
Member

“but Fry is asking why he should even respect, much less worship, a god who behaves as Christians believe.”

And we are asking Fry why not, what’s wrong with the way God behaves? The basis for morality is not an abstract question in this context, it is essential to Fry’s complaint having any merit. If Fry can’t give us a convincing basis for his contention that there’s something “wrong” with what he accuses God of, then why does his complaint amount to more than “God is chocolate but I prefer vanilla?”

RFB
Guest
RFB

Matt,

“You don’t have to give a crap.”

If someone does not believe in God, why should they “…give a crap.” about Christianity? Why sould they “…give a crap.” about anything?

When Jesus spoke the above referenced quote, was He uncaring?

Jane
Member

Matt R., it’s there, and has been there (to my view) since before you posted your query about what happened to it. Sometimes the comments are just glitchy that way.

Tim Etherington
Guest

Thanks for the reply Matt. Yes, Doug doesn’t cover everything in his post and my comments were just my rambling. He wasn’t trying, I don’t believe, to answer it all. Nor am I. You said, “God demonstrates himself capable of curing all disease, feeding the hungry, and so forth at any time. But he doesn’t. He will one day? That’s great…how about today? The challenge for Christians is to give a compelling reason for all of this…” I really believe that is a fair question. But, I’m not sure that I am capable of a compelling reason, indeed, I’m not… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

And yet while we should not “let God off the hook lightly” lest our apologetic be for some half-hearted thing that truly is not God, we should not assume that everyone who has already been satisfied by God’s answers and is no longer raging and demanding is “letting God off the hook lightly.”

This is very true.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Look also how Mr. Fry’s complaint is an affirmation of how we know deep inside how things are supposed to be. There is not supposed to be suffering. There is not supposed to be pain. There is not supposed to be disease. There is not supposed to be death. That bad things exist is an affront to all of creation and Mr Fry is affirming this. On the flip side: There is supposed to be good There is supposed to be joy There is supposed to be love There is supposed to be happiness There is supposed to be abundant… Read more »

David R
Guest
David R

@Tim – to sort of spring board off this conversation, there is this notion that we MUST know what God is doing at all times and if what He is doing upsets us or does not make sense to us, then the fault is not ours but His. This reminds me of my young son. He cannot see the value or benefit in the way we discipline him or in why we teach him to be responsible, even though there are much tears and anguish. Why does he have to clean his room? Why does he have to respect his… Read more »