Recently, an interviewer asked actor and spirited atheist Stephen Fry what if he was wrong and God existed. What would he say?
Fry responded, “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? How dare you, how dare you create a world where there is such misery that’s not our fault? It’s utterly, utterly evil.”
If there is a source of divine life he would not “respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain”. He wants no part of heaven, if there is one.
God, Fry said, is “quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish. We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking him. What kind of god would do that?” Fry’s understanding of prayer and its purpose is a bit simplistic, but his overall point about a Creator who is absent from its Creation has merit.
He added, “Yes the world is very splendid, but it also has in it insects whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind”.
In the past, Fry has harshly criticized the Catholic Church making a very forceful argument that it is not a positive force in the world.
His most recent comments generated international attention. His comments aren’t anything groundbreaking and the issues that arise are the same philosophers, theologians, and intellectuals (Fry being one), have argued, debated, and wrestled with for thousands of years. Even people of deep faith have expressed doubt about God at times.
Why is there injustice? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad people get away with bad things? These are not new questions.
Throughout my spiritual sojourn I’ve read the works of brilliant men and women. Admittedly, some of them are beyond my comprehension and assuming I’ve understood some of their observations, their work leaves me unsatisfied.
God cries with me during difficulty? A divine being is with me even in the darkest places. Maybe true for some, but I’ve never found solace in it for several reasons.
There is a powerful play that I’ve often reflected on by Elie Wiesel, The Trial of God. It takes place during a pogrom several hundred years ago, but it’s actually based on something Wiesel experienced in a Nazi death camp.Wiesel remembered a group of deeply religious men who conducted a trial of God for crimes against the Jewish people. In the end, God is convicted. Despite the conviction these men still offered their evening prayers. The next day they were murdered.
Knowing the background and reading some of the commentary that’s been written about the play makes it a must read. Incidentally, God’s chief defender during the trial is Satan.
The interviewer’s exchange with Fry infers important, universal questions. Regardless of whether a person is a believer, atheist, agnostic, or humanist, this discussion speaks to the wellness of our inner being to manage the cold, harsh realities of daily life with personal dignity and respect for others.
As time passes, I increasingly seek experiences that are mystical – divine or at least transcendental. I try to let go of the nagging, legitimate, yet unanswerable questions. Finding peace in conflict, hardship, tragedy, or the injustice observed in the world has replaced difficult questions like “Why would a just and loving God allow children to die of cancer?”
One observation I’ve made based on the perspective of experiencing the slow, inevitable advance of time and occasionally reinforced by something I’ve read that I think I understand is, existence of a higher power and why it allows pain is the wrong focus.
Not until the Grim Reaper takes me to the next world might I have answers to some of the questions that bested great minds throughout the ages. I’m not, however, holding my breath to find out. No pun intended.
If on the passing from this life I’m not in a better, higher spiritual place (reincarnation be damned, don’t want any part of), then I hope to be nothing more than fertilizer never having known existence – The End.
Paul Jesep is an attorney, corporate chaplain, founder of www.CorporateChaplaincy.biz, author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”, and “Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith Without Wisdom”.