25 July 2010

Stephen Fry discusses atheism

...and I love how when people watch I don’t know, David Attenborough or Discovery Planet type thing you know where you see the absolute phenomenal majesty and complexity and bewildering beauty of nature and you stare at it and then… and somebody next to you goes, “And how can you say there is no God?” “Look at that.” And then five minutes later you’re looking at the lifecycle of a parasitic worm whose job is to bury itself in the eyeball of a little lamb and eat the eyeball from inside while the lamb dies in horrible agony and then you turn to them and say, “Yeah, where is your God now?” You know I mean you got… You can’t just say there is a God because well, the world is beautiful. You have to account for bone cancer in children. You have to account for the fact that almost all animals in the wild live under stress with not enough to eat and will die violent and bloody deaths. There is not any way that you can just choose the nice bits and say that means there is a God and ignore the true fact of what nature is...

...perhaps the greatest insult to humanism is this idea that mankind needs a god in order to have a moral framework. There is a very clear way of demonstrating logically how absurd that is because the warrant for that logical framework, for that moral framework that comes from God is always tested against man’s own morals and it’s a complicated argument, but I mean that’s, you know it’s the standard one which is pretty unanswerable, but the idea that we don’t know right from wrong, but we have to take it from words put down in a book two, three, four, five, six thousand years ago and dictated to rather hotheaded neurotic desert tribes is just insulting. It’s just no, I mean you know if there were a God he would want us to be better spirited than to take his word for everything. Wouldn’t he? If he gave us free will would he really want us to say, “No, I have to abide by everything that’s written in this book, all the laws of circumcision and of eating and of… and what to do with menstruating women?” I mean, “I’m going to obey those written down there.” “I won’t think for myself because that’s not required of me.” Come on. It’s just not good enough and you know I have no quarrel with individuals who wish… who are devout and who have faith. I don’t want to mock them. I really don’t, but damned if I’m going to be told by them what to do with my body or damned if I’m going to have the extraordinary battles won by enlightenment over the past 400 years, to have those battles abdicated by a new dark ages...
Excerpted from the full interview at Big Think.


  1. Very well said and powerful. I wouldn't say one needs a God (or gods or whatever higher force you need to get you through the day) to have a moral framework. The original argument as I understood it, before it was dumbed down by sincere but not firing on all cylinders folk, is that you need a God for it to ultimately meaningful.

    The idea goes thusly, Given the shelf life of the universe compared to the lifespan of us mere humans then everything we do is ultimately meaningless. Even if you were king of the world, what good you do would fade not even to memories after humanity goes extinct or evolves on or whatever. Imagine a stream, put your hand in, and the water swirls around till it forms the original path. Even if you could block the whole stream it would just eventual go around or over and again back to as it was.

    This, in this argument, is where God comes in. God isn't in the stream so to say. Being Eternal without beginning or end, what God says or does will matter even when the universe in dust. So then, if we align ourselves with God and with his ideas we will also be part of that greater whole that transcends mortality.

    Anyhooo take that with all the salt and pepper you want.

    Lazarus lupin
    art and review

  2. Very good statement Lazarus. I wonder how your idea realates to the concept of Hell or Eternal Damnation. If everything we do is ultimately meaningless in the great span of the Universe, then how is that some will end up in Hell?

    If we are alive for but a brief blip in the time span of the Universe, how is it that anything we do could have an effect until the end of time? Also, God made us Sinners and then punishes us for eternity for being how he made us. Hardly seems fair and just.

  3. Well and here we dive full into apologetics. On the one hand someone might say "God, is not punishing since he is not forcing anyone into hell, and is affording humanity every instance to be saved."

    But then the other person would say, "Wait a minute, what about when God as an example harded Pharoah's heart? More to the point as the ultimate creator of the universe doesn't he bear ultimate responsiblity."

    And so it goes. I will merely say that assume as you introduce the concept of "1" then you also introduce the concept of "not 1," and if you are in a quantum state of mind, "Maybe 1."


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