A reply to Stephen Fry’s condemnation of God

To blame the atrocities of this world on God is not only a negative and ungrateful attitude, it is an extremely counter-productive stance, akin to an intelligent yet complacent and immature child who has yet to realize his capacity to engage with and change reality, writes blogger João Silva Jordão.

From a secular perspective, one would think that Stephen Fry would be among the happiest, most grateful humans beings on earth. Coming from a background of extreme material privilege, he is free from the most abhorrent hardships that human beings face, such as extreme poverty, disease, hunger and social exclusion.

He has been, reportedly, plagued by depression, and seems to be, if one is to believe his characterization of God, very bothered by the injustices of this world. But more important than any psychological hardships that he might be tried with, it is quite another factor that seems to be at play here, one particularly found among a certain new breed of atheist – the tendency to exclusively blame the negative aspects of life on all matters associated with religion, while failing to apply the same yardstick to the more positive aspects.

So if any evil befalls us, God is supposedly to blame, but when any good comes to us, do we, likewise, thank God for the blessings? When a religious person does something bad, religious belief is at fault, but when the contrary is the case, is the positive effect of religion accounted for?

In the case of many modern militant atheists, the answer is: certainly not.

Double standards

There have been millions of heroes throughout the history of mankind, struggling for the collective good. Most have no name; they are anonymous fallen champions of truth and justice. Most of them no doubt will have been given harder lives, tougher conditions, and yet still against the oddsthey made a difference.

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Upon witnessing the injustices of the world, instead of externalizing the blame for the world’s evils, they took it upon themselves to roll up their sleeves and fight against injustice.

Despite being a man of means, and certainly of intellectual capacity and able to attract a lot of media attention, Stephen Fry seems to take a rather passive approach when it comes to fighting injustice, except when it comes to defending the rights of homosexuals.

Stephen Fry focussed on those who suffer needlessly
Stephen Fry focussed on those who suffer needlessly

He has even recently done so by calling for the Russian Winter Olympics to be boycotted because of Russia’s poor record in the treatment of homosexuals.

No such call from Stephen Fry was heard, however, in regards to the London Olympics of 2012, against which a boycott could be called upon for, say, the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq, the havoc caused across the Middle East because of centuries-worth of British military interventions, or perhaps the billions of pounds worth of deadly weaponry sold by the United Kingdom every year, often to despotic and murderous regimes.

In his defense, he did criticize Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq, even going as far as saying that the moment he took the decision to go to war there must have been a “storm” going on inside his head. So in Fry’s world, this is the terminology used to describe the mind of a war criminal who profiteers immensely from mass murder and supports despotic regimes around the world. “There must have been a storm inside his head.”

That hardy constitutes speaking Truth to Power, one might say.

Taking responsibility

What is even more interesting is that the attitude of blaming the world’s evils on God, and thereafter of throwing the responsibility for fixing these evils on God, is very common among Muslims in particular and believers in general.

There are many Muslims who look upon injustices and resort to saying, “This is how God wants it,” thus removing from themselves the responsibility of fighting injustice. This is not only cowardly, it is an efficient way for humans to become accustomed to inequity, seeing it as a factor of reality to be unconditionally accepted rather than a momentary condition that must be corrected.

For Stephen Fry, as for the rest of us, when looking upon the horrors of this world, be it the increasing despotism, inequality, and human suffering, instead of blaming God and choosing to sulk every time a news programme unleashes a festival of apocalyptic images, we would do better to roll up our sleeves and see the fight against injustice as falling well within the realm of personal and collective duty.

Furthermore, for those of us feeling depressed, demotivated, or struggling to find a purpose for life, this attitude will not only equip society with a more constructive approach towards its own faults, it is also very much a way to provide meaning for a life otherwise dominated by selfishness and egotism, and hence, futility.

For there is no purpose in life more fulfilling than courageous altruism; and there is no fight worth fighting more than the fight against injustice; and there is none more fit to be made an enemy than the oppressor.

So help us God.

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