Rowan Williams on Stephen Fry's Attack on God: I Hope If He Met God, He'll Wait for a Reply

Rowan Williams
Former archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. |

Former Anglican Archbishop Dr. Rowan Williams has responded to atheist actor Stephen Fry's recent criticism of God by saying that only a "stupid and insensitive person" would never protest suffering in the world. At the same time, Williams said that he hopes Fry would actually wait for God's reply, if he got a chance to speak with Him.

"It's interesting that already in the Psalms and the book of Job, you're beginning to have that kind of protest voice within religious communities," Williams, who led the Church of England for 10 years, said on BBC's Newsnight.

The former Archbishop was responding to Fry's controversial comments earlier this month, when the actor called God "utterly evil" and "monstrous" for designing a world which includes bone cancer in children, and other such diseases.

Fry said in an interview with Ireland's RTE: "Yes, the world is very splendid but it also has in it insects whose whole lifecycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind. They eat outwards from the eyes. Why? Why did you do that to us? You could easily have made a creation in which that didn't exist. It is simply not acceptable."

He continued: "It's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?"

Williams responded that "it would be a very, very stupid and insensitive person who never felt that. But to me what's mysterious is the fact that people in the heart of suffering, people who are alongside children with bone cancer still, somehow, maintain a faith, a trust of some kind."

He added: "And that has to be mysterious, that has to be something that makes one draw back a little bit from simply saying well 'it's all god's fault and that's it'. And I'd also rather like to hope that if Stephen Fry actually met God, he'd wait for the reply."

Some church leaders, such as the Rev. Ian McNie, the newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, criticized Fry for his comments. McNie said:

"The Bible says that the God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers that they cannot see the light of the Gospel."

He added: "I felt sorry for the man that his understanding of life is simply confined to the here and now and that from his position of atheism there is no hope for the future. I did not so much find his remarks hurtful as just sorrowful that here was somebody who was so spiritually blind."

Williams' successor, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, suggested that Christians should not attack Fry for his views, however.

"It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused improperly by Christians who are affronted as it is the right of Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ," Welby said last week.

"That is his freedom to choose that is given to us in creation."

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