Letter to Stephen Fry – You’ve Created a Straw God

Here is the link to my latest article on CT – the full text is below as well , but you will need to go to the article on CT for the links…. Enjoy

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/letter.to.stephen.fry.youve.created.a.straw.god/47551.htm

Letter to Stephen Fry: You’ve created a Straw God

The latest celebrity ‘I hate God’ piece has hit the fan, and, as expected, millions of words have been blogged and spoken in response. I’ve read lots of them, the best being that of my fellow columnist on Christian Today, Dr Krish Kandiah; the worst was Giles Fraser’s piece in the Guardian, whose claim that God did not really exist but was just the name for our ‘respect for the planet’ is just atheistic hogwash dressed up as spirituality. And I guess the most amusing was from Russell Brand:

The following is a letter I wrote to Stephen Fry after watching the whole moving RTE interview:

Dear Stephen,

Wow. What’s it like to have millions of people follow your every tweet and hang on your every word? Must be tough. Seriously. And it must be gratifying, for both you and the RTE programme makers to have had such a response to your latest interview. In case you got lots of angry messages questioning every aspect of your character because you questioned the character of God, I apologise. Personally, I didn’t feel anger, just a deep sorrow, which is still with me. On the off chance you might actually read this I thought I might dare to point out why your position does not really work.

1) You create a straw God. You are wrong in your understanding of the Christian God. Way wrong. Russell Brand says you are wrong because you are too literalist. In reality the problem is that you have not been literalist enough. You are not arguing against what the Bible says – you are arguing against what it does not say. You ask, “Bone cancer in Children what’s that about? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault?” The simple answer to that question is He didn’t. He created a world in which everything is good. Christians believe that there was subsequently a Fall which changed everything; that the whole creation now groans and is burdened because of the entrance of evil into the world. You will regard that as unscientific nonsense. Fair enough. But please don’t then attribute your conflation of your understanding of the Christian God with your understanding of how evolution works, as somehow being what we believe. You have set up a straw god, one we don’t believe in either.

2) The analysis is simplistic. If you are really interested in ‘theodicy’ and the problem of evil then you need to approach it at a slightly more sophisticated and intelligent level. The straw man god, you set up is backed up by some emotive language, which when you actually stop and think about it, does not really make sense. You state that God could easily have made a creation in which suffering did not exist. Indeed. But it could not have included humanity. If I were God I could have made a world in which you experience no pain, no broken relationships, no sorrow and none of that existential angst in which you seem to delight. I could have made you as a chair. The chair I am sitting on right now is not plagued with worries about health, concerns about purpose or even the existence or non-existence of a chair-maker. What if the price for love, good, and beauty is that there also has to be hatred, evil and ugliness? There is much I could write about this but have a look at this earlier article.

3) You contradict yourself. In the interview you state that you believe in mankind and then go on to say that you would prefer the Greek gods because “they didn’t pretend not to be human, in their appetites, capriciousness and their unreasonableness..they didn’t present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all kind all beneficent.” So your definition of human is that we are capricious, unreasonable and driven by our appetites. Yet you have faith in humanity! Your complaint about God is that he is not human – that he is all seeing, all wise, all kind and all beneficent. Or at least your complaint is that he claims to be these things but your misunderstanding of creation means that you are judging him as a human. Your position is, to say the least, confused.

Forgive me for this but can I point out one other contradiction – earlier in the interview you said “I’m intolerant of anything that tells mankind how to think” and yet that is precisely what you are doing. You are telling us how and what to think about God.

4) A Selfish Being “The God who created this universe is totally selfish…we have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of God would do that?” It is of course a deeply unattractive quality in human beings when we seek the praise and adoration of other humans and when we almost become an idol. And we do set up our human idols far too much.

But what if there was a God who was all-powerful, all knowing, all beautiful and all love? Would He not by definition, be worthy of our worship and praise? The truth is you won’t bow down and worship God because you think there is no one worthy of such worship. Ironically in this attitude you are once again proving the Bible right in what it says about human beings – our hubristic, arrogant, proud and disdainful attitude. It’s not that God is selfish, it’s that humans are so self-centred we cannot see beyond ourselves. Incidentally you seem to have the notion like the late great Bertrand Russell that you will stand on the day of judgement and judge God as an equal. That’s not how it will work. Before him every knee will bow, including yours. And you will not be making any accusations on that day, as you realise just how wrong you got this. It’s not that you will say to God “how dare you?” it is that you will fall on your face and cry out “how dare I? – what a foolish thing to do!” My own prayer is that you come to that realisation before you actually meet your Maker.

5) A Surprising Admission. Thanks for your confirmation of what I often say about atheism. “Atheism is not just about not believing there is a God, but on the assumption there is one, what kind of God is he?” Atheism is really a faith. A set of beliefs. You believe that you have the ability and the right to sit in judgement upon God. You believe that you can tell him what He should be and what He should do. It’s not just that you don’t believe in God, it’s that you hate Him – especially the God you think (wrongly) the Bible teaches.

6) A Sad Solution. Saddest and most contradictory of all was your solution to the problem of God and evil. “The moment you banish him, your life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, more worth living in my opinion”. I remember you when you were the Rector of Dundee University. You came to this wonderful city in the same month I did, October 1992, and you will be pleased to learn that you are generally regarded as one of the best rectors we ever had. What I remember though is how sad you were. I loved your humour, your wit and your intelligence and wide reading, but there was a depth of sorrow within you. After reading your The Fry Chronicles and Moab is My Washpot, I came to understand why. I’m sorry but your life has by no stretch of the imagination been ‘simpler, purer, cleaner and more worth living’ because you rejected God. Even in the RTE interview you explained a little of why you took cocaine – that you were not a party animal and felt alone. I’m afraid that you are a walking contradiction of your own philosophy.

7) The Saviour. I hope all the above does not come across as too ‘defensive’. The questions you pose are not new and are something that many of us have thought about over many years. In my life as a human being and my work as a Christian minister I continually come across the reality of evil, suffering and pain. I experience it myself. The trouble is not so much the existence of evil, as what can be done about it. If you take God out of the equation you still have the suffering, pain and apparent meaninglessness. Evolution still provides you with the worm that burrows through children’s eyes. What’s your answer and solution – apart from suck it up and see?

For me there really is an answer. And it is not so much a series of philosophical propositions or the ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ hedonistic angst. My answer is in a person. I keep coming back to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to defeat the forces of darkness. He came to redeem and to save the world. Ironically in your tirade against the God of the Bible you have demonstrated one clear truth – that the world is really in need of redemption and salvation. The bottom line is that you have no Saviour (neither you nor I can save ourselves, never mind the world), but God so loved the world that he gave his Son. Many of us have experienced what that means. Have you got anything better?

Yours

David Robertson

And here is our video response – https://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/stephen-frys-god-a-video-response-to-his-rte-interview/

27 thoughts on “Letter to Stephen Fry – You’ve Created a Straw God

  1. Hello David, I don’t suppose you’ll read this but just in case you do, here goes. I haven’t read the Stephen Fry thing but I’ve a pretty good idea of what would be in there, and am pretty much with you. Many of the celeb culture are revered to a point where dumb arses hang on their every word, even though much of it is populist, sentimental drivel. However, reading your response proves to me what I’ve thought of late. That yes, SFs remarks about a Christian god are probably way off the god that you believe in. But you can’t counter that with ‘This God made everything good, but now it’s all infected with badness since the fall’. That’s like saying that ‘such an such is way off, okay, but here’s the real deal, a fairy tale’. It doesn’t wash, and repeating the mantra of ‘God gave his only son’, does not offer any credible alternative. Also, can you explain to me what ‘Evil’ is? Who do you regard as being evil? When you go on about evil, to me, you sound like you’re talking about something that is not badness in the extreme, but something apart from, and much worse than badness. An almost possessed by the devil presence. This sort of thing exists in the movies David. Real life evil, has roots and nurture. It is developed malignantly or it can be used in positive ways rather than negative, if the circumstances dictate. Stalin had reasons for doing what he did. Paranoid reasons and being able to remain separate from his decisions. But they were all things that grew out of certain circumstances and being in a position to put his delusions into practice. Delusions which probably worsened as time went on. But it wasn’t some kind of exorcist film phenomenon that was controlling his mind. I want to hear why I should believe in your specific fairy tale without you quoting passages from the bible at me. In other words, convince me.

    1. Hi Michael….yes I read it….I don’t agree the fall is a fairytale…I think its a pretty good explanation of why things got screwed up….

      Evil is the absence of good. It is the absence of God. What is evil for the atheist?

      And I have no doubt I cannot convince you….what would it take to convince you?

      1. Hello David
        I don’t agree that evil is the absence of good. As I said, show me what is truly evil and not just downright bad. If it is nurtured, can it be called evil? I would say all human behaviour is nurtured through various circumstances.
        And I think you cannot convince me because I don’t agree that the bible is the word of god, it’s the work of men. There may very well be at the end of all this, a god. None of us truly know. But al bet me last garibaldi that the bible has nothing to do with such a creature.

      2. Well David, am sure a horse thinks your god is a creature. Because you can bet yer boots that a horse thinks its god is a horse god. Yours is the invisible man. Were all made in the image of god-Robert Powell.
        Anyway, looks like you’re heading for a dreadful Islamic hell David. Get used to shovelling coal to feed the Islamic fiery furnace David.

      3. “What is evil for the atheist?”

        The same as for anybody – the opposite of “good”.

        Why do you consider yourself unable to tell the difference?

      4. Kiteman – this one made me smile. You answer ‘what is evil?” by declaring that it is the same for everyone and it is the opposite of good. The first part of your answer is demonstrably wrong, the second part just begs the question – what is good? How do you know? Your position is a faith position which lacks logic, reason and evidence.

  2. I pray that Stephen reads this.
    He has suffered from mental illness for so many years and has attempted suicide several times.
    May he open his arms to his Savior.

  3. Good post here.The members of the A-team deny they do not have a belief, but common sense tells you they cling tenaciously to their own evangelism of so called nothingness.

    It definitely is a religion. Not only do they believe ‘nothing,’ they want you to think you are deluded if you do not believe in the same nothing. Truly bizarre, and a fool proof case for God.

  4. David, you said “The simple answer to that question is He didn’t. He created a world in which everything is good. Christians believe that there was subsequently a Fall which changed everything; that the whole creation now groans and is burdened because of the entrance of evil into the world.”

    But of course, you can believe whatever you want. But the fact is, if God exists, God made THIS world. It’s easy to blame the victim, but God would have had to create the world that had the capacity to Fall.
    Something you blissfully ignore because it doesn’t make money to say that.

    Let’s face it, David, you do this because you have no other talents to feed your family.

    1. Brent – not only do I not blissfully ignore it…I explictly state it…God made the world capable of falling. And what does that have to do with money? You atheists have a really strange way of not thinking!

      1. My point is that you prefer to make money by selling snake oil. You don’t have any other talent but regurgitating the Christian franchise message.
        I think you know it’s false, but what else are you going to do?
        What else could you do to feed your family? You[‘ve chosen the easiest thing: promise things to desperate people you have no intention of proving if your claims are true.
        You are selling Heaven, like a vacuum salesman, except you don’t have a sample vacuum to show people, you simply promise it will arrive in the mail if they believe you.
        Your religion is obviously false, that’s not the issue. The issue is why are you so proud of being a con artist?

      2. Brent – its interesting. Why do you have to be so nasty and ignorant? You don’t know me, you don’t know my salary, you don’t know my motivation and yet you make such ignorant and hateful comments. Why? What is really bugging you?!

  5. If my point wasn’t made. In order for the world to Fall, God would have had to made the world capable of falling.

    Imagine a company that made a crib capable of collapsing if the baby cried too loudly. You would say, “It’s the Baby’s fault!”

    That’s the insanity of Christinanity.

  6. Brilliant response David. I have been disheartened not so much by the comments by Stephen Fry which were largely to be expected, but from the reaction of some of our Christian brothers and sisters who have been less than gracious. I found this to be courteous and well-judged and I’m thankful for that refreshing approach which I feel has the potential to pay dividends.

    I think one commentator has made a good point on Fry’s claim that without a belief in God we would be happier/more fulfilled/etc. The point was that while this may be true in some sense for the small metropolitan wealthy elite Fry associates with, it is largely ignorant to the people of the world whose only hope is in the love and providence of God for their daily living.

  7. “Christians believe that there was subsequently a Fall which changed everything; that the whole creation now groans and is burdened because of the entrance of evil into the world.”

    Why do they believe this? As far as I can see, the bible only states that the “fall” resulted in humans being unable to live forever. What passage credits this event with causing diseases such as cancer?

    Further, since most diseases are caused by living organisms such as bacteria, moulds and parasites, it is reasonable to assume that you believe these organisms did not exist before the “fall”? So, who created these organisms?

  8. “What if the price for love, good, and beauty is that there also has to be hatred, evil and ugliness?”

    Then, simply, your god is not as powerful as you would have us believe. Either your god is all-powerful, and chose to force us to suffer hatred, evil and ugliness, or your god is lying to you when “he” describes himself as all-powerful.
    Which would you prefer to worship; a sadist or a liar?

    1. Kiteman – once again the lack of logical thought in your rush to condemn is quite scary. There is another option to the false dichotomy you set up. God did not force, but permitted, us to choose hatred, evil and ugliness. You can see the difference?

  9. “But what if there was a God who was all-powerful, all knowing, all beautiful and all love? Would He not by definition, be worthy of our worship and praise?”

    He would.

    However, since suffering, evil, etc exist, then either your god is not all-powerful, or he not only doesn’t love us, he actively inflicts pain on us, or he simply does not exist.

    1. Kiteman – you presuppose that the existence of a loving God is incompatible with the existence of evil. Not only in this article but in many others I have explained why that statement is not logical. Can I suggest you read them before you make accusations about things that you clearly do not understand?

  10. “Atheism is really a faith. A set of beliefs. You believe that you have the ability and the right to sit in judgement upon God. You believe that you can tell him what He should be and what He should do. It’s not just that you don’t believe in God, it’s that you hate Him – especially the God you think (wrongly) the Bible teaches.”

    It’s amazing how so many Believers assume that all atheists are the same.

    Here’s the thing, the only thing all atheists have in common is a lack of faith. A lack of belief in any gods, not just yours.
    Any Believer can speak for great swathes of other Believers, because they [theoretically] have the same world-view, based on what they have been told to Believe about a holy book. No atheist can speak for such large proportions of other atheists, because there is an infinity of possible world-views that lack a god.

    Personally, I do not judge your god, because that would be like judging Harvey the Invisible Rabbit. Instead, I judge *you* and the other Believers, based on your words and actions. I judge you by my own strong moral code, and I find you very wanting.
    I judge you also by the standards set by the rules you claim to live by, the rules set down in your holy book. Again, I find you wanting.
    I judge your concept of god; again, by my moral code, and by the rules in your bible, I find him wanting.

    I do not hate your god. How can one hate a fiction?

    Instead, I hate what is done in your god’s name. The pain and suffering inflicted in his name. The families riven in his name. The children tortured in his name. The cultures slaughtered in his name. The civilisations destroyed in his name.

  11. “If you take God out of the equation you still have the suffering, pain and apparent meaninglessness. Evolution still provides you with the worm that burrows through children’s eyes.”

    You’re missing the point, aren’t you? Evolution has no mind, no drive, no intent, no direction. Evolution does not value any living thing above another beyond its ability to procreate. Using an evidence-based word-view, the eye-burrowing worm is undesirable, but perfectly natural. In a Faith-based view, the eye-burrowing worm was deliberately created to attack children. There is no half-way compromise, because in the Faith-based view only your god can create Life – the eye-worms were not created by the actions of man or devil, but by your god.

    “What’s your answer and solution – apart from suck it up and see?”

    My answer is to give life meaning through my own actions, to take credit for the good I do, and to take responsibility for the wrongs. I do not need to be afraid of an afterlife to do good, I just need to know that my actions have consequences that outlast my mortal self, and that those I love and leave behind me will suffer if the consequences I leave are for the ill.

    It saddens me to see so many otherwise-intelligent people being so selfish as to expect a reward or eternal pleasure for their actions, and so vindictive as to wish an eternity of suffering on those who dare to have different standards to themselves.

    1. Kiteman – thanks for your post- You clearly have missed the main points of my article.

      1) There was no worm ‘deliberately created to attack children’. If you are going to attack Christianity, attack what we say – not what we don’t say.

      2) Your answer – to give life meaning through your own actions etc is meaningless – to everyone else, but ultimately even to you. It is sentimental tosh without a shred of empirical or philosophical evidence.

      3) Christians don’t expect an eternal reward for our actions, and we don’t wish an eternal suffering upon anyone. Again please don’t argue against a Christianity that you just make up. Our desire is that you repent and seek God, that you might LIVE!

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