“Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right, 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?’ That’s what I would say.”
These are the words of the outspoken Atheist Stephen Fry. An interviewer asked what he would say if he were to die and find himself confronted by God, and that is how Fry responded. As ignorant, narrow-minded, and faulty as Stephen Fry’s view is, it is unfortunately shared by many people in the world today. There cannot be a God, they say, when there is such unjust suffering, misery, and tragedy in the world. This fallacy needs to be countered and disproved, and there are many simple yet very logical arguments that easily accomplish the task.
Perhaps the easiest of arguments to make against the notion that suffering means no God, is that even if God was a creation of the human mind, belief in Him would still serve the suffering person better than not believing in Him. To illustrate this point, suppose a mother were to lose her newborn baby to some form of terrible tragedy. An atheist could offer no comfort whatsoever to the mother. The only emotion the atheist could reasonably generate in this situation would be anger or indifference–both of which would be detrimental to the mother’s well-being. She could be angry about her loss and refuse to move on with her life, or she could be indifferent to the loss because nature was simply taking its course. Neither of these are desirable outcomes.
Belief in God, on the other hand, would serve as the greatest source of comfort and strength for the mother. Even if her belief was in a God that didn’t actually exist, she would still be the better for it. Belief in God would serve as a method for the mother to reason her child’s passing, and thus offer closure. Belief in God goes hand in hand with belief in an afterlife, and this would also be a tremendous source of relief to the suffering mother. The atheist has no explanation for the tragedy and can only say, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” but the believer has many sources of encouragement, comfort, and relief. Even if the atheist is correct and the believer incorrect, which belief in this instance is going to produce a better post-tragedy person? Clearly, belief in God is the better option.
Another simple argument that refutes the premise of suffering means no God is the idea that suffering might actually be God’s mercy sparing us from something worse. Take Fry’s example of a child with bone cancer. Suppose an innocent little boy does get bone cancer and die at a young age, but before instantly determining that this is a terrible tragedy, consider other possible outcomes. We all like to imagine children as innocent little angels who do not deserve to suffer, but we often forget what these innocent little children can turn in to. All children are born completely innocent of any wrong doing, but none of them stay that way for long. Perhaps an innocent child dying of bone cancer is a great blessing because that child could have turned into a not-so-innocent adult. Imagine a young and still innocent Hitler, Stalin, or Bin Laden dying of bone cancer. Wouldn’t that have been a great blessing for the entire human race?
It must also be noted here that there is a serious error in the entire basis for Stephen Fry’s claim. By being angry with God for all the suffering in the world, he is implicitly stating that God is the one responsible for evil in the world. This could not be further from the truth. It is impossible for God to create anything that is evil, and all suffering in the world comes directly from mans’ misuse of God’s creations. There is suffering in the world because there is human sin in the world. There would be no murders if men did not sin by breaking the Fifth Commandment; there would never have been so many terrible diseases if mankind hadn’t broken the Sixth Commandment; there would be no stealing if men did not break the Seventh Commandment; and so on down the list. Suffering in this world is a direct result of our sins, and to blame God for our sins is not a very logical position to take.
Stephen Fry claims to be an atheist, but his reaction in this interview sheds some light on his true beliefs. The interviewer was visibly shocked and caught off guard by the sheer harshness of Fry’s remarks, and anyone could agree that the words are filled with anger. Fry’s anger is palpable and real, yet it is directed at something that he claims to be not real. If there is suffering in the world but no God, then suffering can only be ascribed to nature taking its course. By Fry’s own logic, then, he must be angry with nature. Yet how could he be angry with nature if it is an insentient entity with no creator? One cannot logically be angry with water, grass, or rocks, so Stephen Fry is either completely illogical by being angry with nature, or he is actually angry with nature’s Creator. Anger directed toward God is an implicit acknowledgment of God, and this is at least better than an outright rejection of God altogether.
The final and most important argument to make in this discussion can be summed up in one simple sentence. This world is not meant to be our final home. Our true destination is Heaven. This world, then, necessarily has to have suffering and hardships. If it didn’t, why would any of us ever strive for Heaven!? If we take a narrow-minded and purely naturalistic view, suffering in this world is often terribly unjust, but if one believes in God and understands His desire for us to be eternally united to Him forever in Heaven, the sufferings of this world are clearly seen as a great blessing from God. Instead of complaining about suffering in this world as being unfair, and blaming God for a problem that we ourselves have caused, we should all be thanking God for His infinite mercy in permitting us to suffer while still on this Earth, rather than to suffer in the next world by eternal separation from Him. Let us pray that poor Stephen Fry and his ilk do not remain forever blinded by their anger, but rather open their eyes to the simple truth that God is all-wise, all-loving, and all-merciful–no matter how much supposedly unjust suffering he lets us endure.