‘Monstrous’ and ‘a maniac’ was how Steven Fry described God on national television this week, and Brian Grogan SJ was on Newstalk responding to the well-known actor’s controversial views. Steven Fry was being interviewed by Gay Byrne on his programme The Meaning of Life. When asked by Gay Byrne what he would say to God at the pearly gates, Steven Fry replied, “I would say ‘How dare you create a world in which there is so much misery that is not our fault?’”. He said he wouldn’t want to get in through the gates on God’s terms because “the God who created this world is a maniac”. He allowed that there was a lot of beauty in the world but he said it was also rife with evil creations such as the worm which spends its whole life in the single pursuit of burrowing through the eyes of innocent children and blinding them. He asked was this the work of an all-powerful, all-loving God and concluded, “No, he’s monstrous, utterly monstrous”.
Pat Kenny invited Jesuit author Brian Grogan, humanist Brian Whitehead, and Muslim Sheik Al Kadri on to his morning radio programme to discuss Steven Fry’s challenging and uncompromising stance. When asked by Pat Kenny if God willed evil as part of His overall plan for good for the world Brian Grogan answered with an emphatic “No”. He said that whilst acknowledging all that is good in the world one could not get away from the evil that exists too. There was human evil in the case of wars and child abuse for example, but also evil in creation itself as in the case of say the recent tsunamis that caused such destruction and death. He said the existence of such evil presented a challenge to faith in an all-loving God. “But where I get support,” he said, “is that I believe God is present in evil and inviting me to play my part in alleviating and removing the evil that exists in the world.”
Sheik Al Kadri agreed that helping to alleviate suffering was the task of the believer. He said the Prophet wrote of a woman who wasn’t a believer but who nonetheless was admitted to heaven because she fed a starving cat.
But humanist Brian Whitehead took issue with both men, claiming that “God has had a very good run of it” as we were all brought up to believe that only the religious believer was considered ethical or moral or capable of doing good. Nowadays, he said, it’s perfectly clear that atheists are as moral and good as any believer and maybe more so given the preponderance of religious wars.
Brian Grogan responded by saying he had no issue with the fact that atheists could be very moral people, but the Christian faith gave people the challenge and the grace to go further than what would normally be expected. Christians, for example, are required to love their enemies and repay evil with good. You can listen to the whole discussion here. Listen from 22.23 to 47.13.