Why Stephen Fry is wrong about God

stephenfrygodIn a recent RTE interview, Stephen Fry said that God, if he exists (which he doesn’t), is a total bollocks. How, for example, could an all-powerful and benevolent creator possibly tolerate the existence of childhood illnesses, or a parasite that cannot survive without burrowing through a child’s eye? Nothing particularly new or original there, but Fry’s comments went viral, and have now been watched by at least seven billion people on YouTube. Understandably, religious commentators have been queuing up to tell us why Fry is wrong, and how God is actually really nice.

Having worshipped Stephen Fry for as long as I can remember, it feels almost blasphemous to question his infallibility, but I think he’s wrong. It’s not fair to suggest that God, if he exists (which he doesn’t), is responsible for all the pain and suffering in the world. He’s far too busy waging a daily war of minor inconvenience against me. He simply doesn’t have time to even think about preventing terrible events elsewhere. Making my life a misery is a full-time job.

Just yesterday, while enjoying a nice cup of tea, I felt a sudden urge to sneeze. I didn’t have time to swallow it, so a great big mouthful of tea went everywhere – all over my jumper, my laptop, the carpet and even the wall. And then I started choking on the small amount of tea that hadn’t just redecorated my room. It was my first and only sneeze of the day. And it was also my only cup of tea. It is obvious that these two events couldn’t possibly have coincided by some unhappy accident. The only rational explanation is that God, if he exists (which he doesn’t), decided to have a laugh at my expense.

I’m sure you think I’m just being paranoid. Everybody thinks I’m paranoid. They don’t say it, but I know it’s what they’re thinking. I’m not being paranoid (so stop calling me paranoid). These little things happen all the time. Last Friday, I was waiting for an important parcel to be delivered. I decided to have a quick shower when – lo and behold – just as I was all lathered-up (go on, let that mental image seep in…) the doorbell rang. I jumped out of the shower, hastily threw some clothes on and ran down the stairs, still soaking wet and covered in suds. When I opened the door, it wasn’t the courier at all. It was just some pensioner selling tickets for a charity raffle. I didn’t bother buying a ticket because I know God, if he exists (which he doesn’t), would never allow me the pleasure of winning anything. I’ve never won anything in my whole life. How much more proof of God’s malevolence do you need?

A religious person might suggest that, far from being the work of a mischievous God, my catalogue of everyday disasters is all part of some higher plan. Of course, I’m far too humble to suggest that God has a special plan for me alone, or that I’m perhaps some sort of messiah. I’m not suggesting that at all, but it’s definitely worth thinking about…

Originally published in the University Observer (18th February 2015)

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