How Can I be Happy? – A Response to Stephen Fry

We are in the middle of our Solas Connect training week – with people from all over Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Belarus, Scotland).  One of the tasks we gave people was responding to one of Stephen Fry’s cartoon videos for the Humanist Society – How can I be Happy?  

Peter Byrom came up with the above video which I think is superb.  In just over one minute Fry’s position is destroyed by reality!  Enjoy and pass on…and thanks Peter


9 thoughts on “How Can I be Happy? – A Response to Stephen Fry

  1. Interesting. Never seen a straw man video before.

    You could of course do a video of what it means to be religious and have videos of all the deaths religion has caused. Like Thomas Aitkenhead for example. Or women burned as witches. This video also assumes that the concerns and behaviours of excesses and poverty are solely the reserve of the religious which is also incorrect. After all, we have seen the spats over who owns church buildings demonstrate that even the religious value property.

    1. Douglas – the video makes a simple and direct point – that making your own ‘meaning’ is, in the face of the reality of suffering throughout the world, meaningless. It exposes the empty middle class complacency of Stephen Frys’ ‘humanism’ and shows that at bottom it doesn’t really care for humans at all! The silly attempt to bring in Thomas Aitkenhead (the one example you can find in Scottish history of an atheist being executed) is pathetic – not least because it ignores the millions killed in the name of atheism. It is not a straw man video – it is a direct response. The fact that you seem not to be able to respond to that response – is indicative of how good Peter’s reply is…

    2. Douglas, I’m confused as to why you mention religion in your response. The video does not have any content suggesting that a religious worldview is in any way superior or has all the answers. In fact, as far as I can tell, it has no religious content at all (unless I missed it?). The video simply highlighted the fact that meaning for one person can be destruction for another. If anyone has created a straw man here it is you.

      As far as I can tell, humanism is essentially based on a relativistic worldview, which doesn’t take a genius to identify the flaws in.

      1. I think it can be inferred from the source that the video is intended to critique Humanism and support Christianity. All it does critique is the rather bizarre view that if somebody claims that meaning for then involves harming others then Fry endorses that. Lunacy aside Byrom’s video is actually a strong endorsement of Humanism – the harmful images show the consequence of actions whose impact on other people was not considered or ignored. Without a deity to please, the consequence of actions on others is the primary consideration of Humanism and there is always a danger when this consideration is trumped – religion being the main excuse for doing so.
        What are the flaws of Humanism you have in mind?

      2. Flaws of humanism? Shallow trite view of humanity. Illogical and dangerous trust in human goodness. Inability to face up to and deal with human evil. Blind faith worthy of Walt Disney. And Fry’s video illustrates all of this – not least its middle class privileged liberalism.

    3. Cloudscape,

      Douglas made the following comment after saying that the video was a straw man:

      ‘This video also assumes that the concerns and behaviours of excesses and poverty are solely the reserve of the religious which is also incorrect.’

      It does nothing of the sort. Again, the video contained no religious content. As such, Douglas addressed a line of argument that was never presented- I.e. The definition of a straw man.

      As to the point of humanism being concerned about the consequences of one person’s actions on another- so is Christianity. Reflected in the second most important commandment- love your neighbour as you love yourself.

      I didn’t say that humanism is flawed- I don’t know much about it so can’t comment. However my perception is that it is based on relativism. My problem with relativism is that it promotes multiple truths and realities, ultimately leading to a number of incompatible contradictions.

  2. I have to say with being brought up with Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster etc I always take an instant warming to Stephen Fry. In many ways he is kind too and I find a comfort in that and in his richness of vocabulary and ability to articulate.

    However as you have rightly said David the absence of God is hell on earth and this reality is missed and picked up on with the clever way Peter Byrom uses images over Stephen Frys argument.

    So what is it that Fry objects to? It seems the word “wrath” coming up is central consistent with the atheist argument on the bus campaign about there being no “god” and to stop worrying and enjoy your life. Scripture says “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God.” Perhaps the term “wrath” needs investigation. In “The Institutes” Calving writes, “[God] is beyond all disturbance of mind, yet he testifies that he is angry toward sinners. Therefore when we hear that God is angered, we ought not to imagine any emotion in him, but rather to consider that this expression has been taken from our own human experience.”

    Douglas raised a point about the “religious” with killing and fights over property. Perhaps the most honorific use of rhetoric in recent years has been to use the term “crusade” to describe the “war on terror” with echoes of the crusades and Muslims being converted to Christianity by the sword. These are valid points and none of them are representative of the Jesus that sands by the door waiting for it to be opened. Rather, it is more akin to what Black Sabbath call “War Pigs”. The lyrics of the song contain the words “Day of judgement God is calling, On their knees the war pig’s crawling. Begging mercy for their sins.” Scripture says “by God’s word… the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

    I wish Bus and Blair had experienced the fear of God when they made decisions about military intervention in the middle east and I wish Cameron and Obama would now. We would all be in a better place if they did.

    Thankfully for now there is the assurance that eternal justice will prevail as scripture (and Ozzy Ozzbourne) state. I, for one, am happy about that.

  3. A very clever exposure of the emptiness of humanism, at least as explained by Stephen Fry. If we find meaning in any of our pleasures why shouldn’t some people find ‘meaning’ in debauchery, drunkenness, exploitation or extermination? Not to be too subtle, the Nazis found plenty of meaning in extermination; the Soviet and Chinese Communists found plenty of meaning in the horror of their Gulags. The current Chinese Communists find plenty of meaning in forcing abortions on women who have the temerity to get pregnant when they already have one child. Oh, but we didn’t mean that kind of meaning, cry the outraged humanists. You’re just referring to strawmen, replies one of them. Methinks the problem lies not in the Christian response but in the fragility of the original humanist contention. So it’s back to the drawing board with this particular video, I think.

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