Thursday, February 19, 2015

Je Suis Stephen Fry

An article which tried to explain Why Stephen Fry's Complaint Against God is Unconvincing - if You're a Christian was spectacularly unsuccessful. Here is the comment I posted in response.

The problem of evil is just one of many reasons not to believe in god. For some it would be exhibit A. This was certainly the case in Jonathan Miller's "Rough History of Disbelief", which began its elegant and thoughtful story with Epicurus and his riddle "whence cometh evil".

For others, the problem of evil might be exhibit E. Mr Dickson is asking us to pretend we don't have a problem with A, B, C and D, and THEN try to understand why E can also not be a problem. That's a lot of pretending, and to be honest, I'm not quite sure of the point of the exercise, as the arguments all hold each other up in the air like some kind of Escher drawing, with none touching the ground.

His reasons for asking us to try this thought experiment are problematic. Firstly, I don't think you can say "the vast majority of people" believe in a creator". China with its state atheism, India with its ambiguous Hinduism, Europe and Japan with a statistically high proportion of atheists, don't add all that many. Plenty of cherrypicking churchgoers are also far from convinced and are really just hitching their vague pantheism to the wagon of Christian ritual.

John Dickson then asks us to accept a conceptual version of Russel's teapot (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster to take a more modern example). "You can't prove that X doesn't exist, therefore X exists" is the nature of this argument. In this case, we are being called on to prove that God's mysterious plan doesn't exist. Even if we fail, it still doesn't prove the plan is out there somewhere.

We are also required to set aside the frankly unsustainable claim that Jesus was or indeed IS God. We must then accept that the cruel execution of one person is somehow compensation for all the unjust suffering that has existed throughout history. And even if it meant more because that person WAS God, the whole thing was actually orchestrated BY God who could have stopped it in the first place.

I'm still failing to make any sense of it whatsoever.

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