Stephen Fry, it’s not God that’s the problem with the world, it’s you and I

I write this knowing that there’ll be very few who read my opinion, compared to the millions for your recent tirade against God. Apart from the Pope, or perhaps Bono… even learned and accomplished believers get little coverage compared to you and Dawkins and all of the other famous celebrity atheists. You have an awful lot of power. Somehow The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t seem to go viral, he seems a nice man but he’s just not got the street cred I suppose. Most of the believers who get the headlines are the nasties like Westboro Baptist Church, and they’re about as representative of Christians as Stalin and his cronies are of atheists.

As many of my learned friends have pointed out, your anger against God assumes that this world is the way he designed it to be. But it’s not, if we take a Christian view on the subject. It doesn’t take much reading of the Bible to see that the God described in those pages is not very happy with the world as it is. In fact when he’s most angry, in the much maligned Old Testament, then God’s raging about the lack of compassion for people in poverty, the murdering of children in pagan blood sacrifices or just plain selfishness and hate. Most clearly in Jesus’ teachings, you can see clearly that God wants people to care for one another, not to be greedy etc. Yet, we ignore him.

The problems you cite in your rant on RTE – as with most of the suffering of the world – could be alleviated, if not eradicated, if human beings chose to love. (Not the fickle, randy, romantic kind of love that is usually what’s counted as ‘love’ these days, but the agape, compassionate, caring kind of love that Jesus talks about.) How? Well, we could be giving our money to the care of those children turned blind by worms, rather than spending it on nice meals out, posh clothes or sunny holidays. We could be adopting the orphans and tending to the sick kids – spending all our time caring for them rather than all the ‘leisure’ activities that us Westerners love so much. We could be studying for the ultimate purpose of relieving suffering and treating illness rather than just the learning for enjoyment’s sake that we tend to do – or the learning we do to make ourselves sound clever and be admired, even worse. We could be spending as little money as possible on ourselves, in order that we can give it to others. In short, we could be living lives of pure love, and focusing all of our time and energy on relieving the suffering of others. But, we don’t. You and I, Stephen Fry, do not do that. Even the people I know who do a much better at it than I do, still obviously fail at it on a regular basis.

This, according to the Bible, is why God is angry. He doesn’t want it to be this way, because he loves us. He created a world that was meant to be good, where humans were meant to love one another. But, we were given free will. We have many choices that we make each day, that could make the world a better place. They involve more than just giving a fraction of our handsome surplus or of our time to our favourite charity – it involves genuine sacrifice of our whole lives for the sake of others.

We’ve been given that responsibility. And most of us have it in our power to do something about it, however small that something is. If everyone used their little bit of power for love’s sake, then most of the evil in the world would either be stopped at source, or at least alleviated. It’s no use shouting at God for the evil we claim he is responsible for. He’s given us the power and the free will, to make things different. And we choose not to do that. Heaven is the place where what God wants is done perfectly, not here. He’s given us the reins while we’re on Earth, and we’re doing a hopeless job of being in charge.

Jesus was pretty clear, when he was asked by a rich young man how to be good enough get to heaven. He said, we’re to give all our money up for the poor – to the people who are genuinely suffering. The rich young man was sad, as I suppose we would be too, if told we had to give up our comfortable, Western lives, to help those who are suffering today.

His disciples were too. But thankfully, Jesus had more to say – “nothing is impossible with God”. Christianity is not about us being good enough, but instead recognising that God is good enough. That’s pretty good news given the very clear reality that there’s no-one who’s perfect in this world – no-one who is giving up everything for the sole purpose of genuine self-sacrificial love of others. It says that Jesus saw this problem, and decided to take on the negative consequences of all our selfishness so that we can be free of it. If we choose to, we can accept this free gift, accept our own responsibility for the problems of the world and say sorry to God for this – and then learn from Him how to love better, love more, and relieve suffering. But we have to recognise that we can only do this, by turning to God, for his leadership and his love. On our own, we just don’t manage it.

Now you might say, with good reason, that the church is not presenting this utopia to the world. We’re not the perfect houses of love that we’re meant to be. That’s very true. There are some pretty irritating and occasionally nasty people within church walls – such as myself, I would say. But I came from a very typical liberal, secular culture and then moved into the church after I became a Christian as an adult. No, it’s not perfect, but when you find a genuine church that is truly seeking to follow Christ, then you do start to see something a little bit different. You see glimpses of the way the world is meant to be. Not a window, but just glimpses. A drug addict who has been healed and now has a happy family and is holding down a job. A church rallying round a mum whose disabled daughter and poorly husband have left her exhausted. People who give up well paid and powerful jobs in order to go and practically help the suffering in other countries. Those who suffered terrible abuse as a child who find peace through faith, and start to give their lives to help others. These are glimpses of heaven, and of the way the world is meant to be. Sometimes those glimpses are seen outside the church, it’s true, but in my lifetime I’ve most often seen self-sacrificial love within the church. It’s not a wishy-washy, State-dependent, ranty, political kind of ‘love’, either (though there is quite a bit of that too, to be fair, it not being perfect). There’s a ‘taking on of responsibility’ kind of love, making things happen with our own hands and not blaming the government or whoever else for the problems. It’s recognising the massive responsibility that has been given to humans to choose. To choose whether to obey God’s commands for genuine love and to avoid greed and suchlike – or not. To choose his way, his redemption, or not.

So, when you get to the Pearly Gates, you rage to God all you want to. I suspect what he might say to you or I, or anyone who chooses to start wagging their fingers at him: “And what about you? What did YOU do with the money, time, gifts and relationships that you had? Did you love others or did you love yourself and your own desires? Did you follow Jesus’s instructions for making the world a better place, or not?”

I think that we’re living in this world where God’s will is not done, to see whether we want to live in the world where his will IS done – heaven. There, is pure joy and pure love, with no greed or selfishness at all. If you don’t want to follow his way of love – loving God, loving people, and recognising that the world’s problems are our fault and saying sorry for that – it’s your choice. But you might find out that who you should really be angry with, is not God, but yourself, myself, and everyone else.

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13 thoughts on “Stephen Fry, it’s not God that’s the problem with the world, it’s you and I

    • Thanks. It’s a bit of a mystery to me, why so many people list to people without questioning what they’re saying, or knowing about the subject on which they speak… I guess it’s our role to try to help people understand our views. Thanks!

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    • I don’t think he gives children bone cancer. Cancer is linked to a lot of of human activity – chemicals, food etc. Plus, the point is, it’s our job to be giving of ourselves to help treat and care for those children. It’s our responsibility, given by God.

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      • “Cancer is linked to a lot of of human activity”

        But not all cancer.

        And a tidal wave or earthquake that kills babies and innocents isn’t linked to human behavior either.

        Is your god doing those things? If not, who is?

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      • How do you know? There are so many links, I think it’s plausible that cancer is the ultimate result of human activity. And, why are we building houses on areas that have earthquake or tidal wave risks?
        You’re missing the point of my article, though. It’s OUR responsibility to look after the people affected by those things. If we all gave all we could, then this world would be entirely transformed. So, when you get to the pearly gates, what would you have to say? Did you give everything you have for the sake of others?

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      • And you’re missing my point, and Fry’s point. There are things that are not the fault of humans (which we know thanks to evidence) that are awful. If a god exists, then that god is responsible for those things, and could easily prevent them. That he doesn’t would make him an awful being.

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      • Well, if you won’t answer my point, no need to keep on communicating. As I said, I think most suffering is either caused, or could be caused by human beings – and most certainly could be ameliorated by human beings, if we chose to do so. It’s not God that’s awful – it’s us.

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      • We’re awful because we have scientists working to cure cancers, but your god isn’t because he is giving these kids cancer?

        Honestly, it comes off sounding like someone in an abusive relationship. “She hits me, but she still loves me. It’s my fault she hits me.”

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      • Now I’m not sure if you’d read my article, but I said that if people sacrificed for the sake of others, then suffering would be radically reduced. That’s not happening. And as I previously said, I don’t believe God does give us these things.
        Do you give everything for the sake of the suffering of others?

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      • Everything I can and still live, yes. Do you?

        So who gives us these things? Because the evidence shows that your opinion that humans cause all cancers and tidal waves and earthquakes is false.

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      • No I don’t, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone truly do all they can. I probably would have thought so before, but I’ve seen and heard enough stories of people who really risked their lives and sacrificed for other people, I don’t even come close. And, I don’t think they’d say that they did everything they could.
        It is possible that the ultimate cause, or reason, for suffering is human, and I think you’d struggle to prove otherwise. I’ve argued for ways in which this could be true, though mostly impossible to know.

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