Stephen Fry is an actor, a novelist, a comedian, a Twitter genius, an activist and the correct answer to the question, "Who is the Oscar Wilde of the 21st century?" After a candid back-and-forth with a television host, he may be able to add "provocateur" to that list.
Fry, a British renaissance man with a global following, left a television host stunned when he was asked what he would say if he were "confronted by God." In the interview with Gay Byrne for RTÉ One's The Meaning of Life, which asks prominent figures about the meaning of life, Fry said exactly how he, an atheist, would respond to a face-to-face with the almighty.
"Suppose it's all true, and you walk up to the pearly gates and are confronted by God," Byrne said. "What will Stephen Fry say to him, her, or it?"
Fry replied, "I'd say, bone cancer in children? What's that about?"
Fry continued: "How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It's not right, it's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That's what I would say."
Byrne seemed a little concerned for Fry's immortal soul. "And you think you are going to get in, like that?" he asked Fry. "I wouldn't want to," Fry said. "I wouldn't want to get in on his terms. They are wrong. Now, if I died and it was Pluto, Hades, and if it was the 12 Greek gods, then I would have more truck with it, because the Greeks didn't pretend to not be human in their appetites, in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness. They didn't present themselves as being all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, all-beneficent, because the God that created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac ... utter maniac, totally selfish."
This answer knocked Byrne off his feet. "That sure is the longest answer to that question I ever got in this entire series," he said.
Fry speaking out this strongly on atheism is a huge step forward for the irreligious. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of respondents who described themselves as "religiously unaffiliated" to Pew Research Center jumped from 15% of the American population to nearly 20%.
Despite this demographic jump, atheists still face numerous social hurdles to their acceptance. Seven states have laws that bar atheist men and women from holding elected office. Atheists have been denied custody of their own children, simply because their former spouses attend church. Hell, atheists can't even become Boy Scouts. According to Pew, Americans view atheists the most unfavorably of any religious group in the United States:
Fry's aggressive stance on proclaiming his atheism will embolden other people with the same points of view — and maybe give Byrne second thoughts about assuming that everybody's interested in donning wings and learning the harp.
h/t The Independent