Famous actor and outspoken atheist Stephen Fry had some heated words to say to God which received support from unlikely allies.
Never a man to mince words or shy away from religious discussions, Stephen Fry has once again caused arguments regarding a recent question posed to him by Gay Byrne on “The Meaning of Life.” The question posed to Fry, an actor and comedian from England, asked him about the reaction that he would have if he were to meet God in the afterlife. As a humanist who can almost be described as devoutly atheist, Fry spoke out against the misery that is so prevalent in the world to the conjectured deity.
His answer to the questions continued and touched on how God could allow people to live in such horrible situations such as a child with incurable cancer. He took time to describe God as a “capricious, mean-minded, stupid God,” and then went on to say that he would not want to live in heaven based on the terms required to get into heaven. This heavy-handed evaluation of religion is not entirely new in the case of Fry, but this controversy reached far and wide as people supported and lambasted his comments.
An Unlikely Source Of Support
While there have been several editorials written from outraged Christians, Stephen Fry has found an unlikely source of support with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unlike the others who are calling for fines or asking that Fry be removed from television, Justin Welby says that Fry is free to believe and speak about religion however he would like. He also said that Christians should not abuse Stephen Fry for having beliefs that are contrary to their own. Instead, they should speak out for the sake of religious freedom which includes the rights of others to speak against it.
The Archbishop of Canterbury mentioned that it is time for people in the church to recognize that their faith has a history of oppression and that they need to defend the rights of the followers in different churches. Similarly, even Christian Today posted an article encouraging its readers not to be upset over the actor’s comments.
Could Stephen Fry Be Punished?
Among the discussions that were taking place in the media storm swirling after the interview was the mention of possible punishments for Fry. Today, there are nearly 50 countries where blasphemy is illegal. In the nation of Ireland, where the interview was filmed, Fry could face thousands of dollars in fines. This seems unlikely to happen, though, as the Ireland has not brought such charges against anyone in recent memory. However, apostasy laws and anti-atheist laws are more serious in other nations, with at least 13 countries able to inflict the death penalty on someone for speaking out against their religion.
In Saudi Arabia, a person who declares themselves an atheist is considered a terrorist under a recent law.
About 55 other countries have outlawed atheist remarks and punish them with prison terms and fines.
Oh dear, I did give poor old god a bit of a kicking here, didn’t I?! https://t.co/jWP9UeRdXY
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) January 30, 2015
The case of Stephen Fry serves as a way to contextualize his remarks in a world where people can still be killed and imprisoned for speaking their beliefs. That is why his comments, no matter how offensive to some, and the call to defend him from the Archbishop of Canterbury, are so important. They embody the idea of free speech and religious practice that can only grow when there is such an understanding.