Whether God Exists: Distinguishing Emotion from Reason

Depositphotos Image ID: 52812133 Copyright: sdecoret

Stephen Fry was posed with the question: “Suppose it is all true, and you walk up to the pearly gates and are confronted by God, what would you, Stephen Fry, say to Him”? This is Stephen Fry’s answer:

Bone cancer in children? What’s that mean? How dare you! How dare you create a world with 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 created a world that is so full of injustice and pain?

To the following question, “Do you think you’re going to get in?” he responded;

No! I wouldn’t want to get in on His terms. They’re wrong! Now, if we find out it is Pluto, Hades, and if it was the twelve Greek gods, I would have more trust because … they didn’t pretend not to be human in their appetites and in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness.  They didn’t present themselves as all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, and all-beneficent. Because the God who created this universe … is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish, totally! We have to spend our life on our knees thanking Him?! What kind of God would do that? [That God] made an insect whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children making them blind. They eat outward from the eye. Why?! Why did He do that? He could easily have made a creation in which that didn’t exist. It is simply not acceptable…. On the assumption there is [a God], what kind of a God is He? It’s perfectly apparent. He’s monstrous, utterly monstrous! He deserves no respect whatsoever.

The emotional tenor of Fry’s response hits like a ton of bricks. Confronting it may seem, at once, quite daunting for the Christian theist.

Fry’s position echoes the likes of Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Richard Dawkins in more recent times, who all found the “problem of evil” a stumbling block to any commitment to a God who would create such a world as we find ourselves living in. While Darwin and Einstein were not as emotional in their rejection of Christian theism (Darwin being skeptical of his own inner convictions), Dawkins adopted a very similar attitude:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion

My thoughts, aside, Dr. William Lane Craig tackles the matter head on and exposes the irrationality of Fry’s response. Fry’s position is nothing but an emotional response to the problem of pain and suffering. It is not an intellectual response. There is no intellectual answer at all in this response. I suggest that an interested reader consider the totality of Dr. Craig’s response.


As for me, I am struck by this thought. If we put the shoe on the other foot, and apply similar thinking to our view of the natural world, for instance, the irrational nature of this response becomes evident. For instance, a person might say, “I can’t believe in a world in which children die of cancer and insects eat eyeballs from the inside out causing children to go blind, and, if such a world exists, I don’t even want to have anything to do with it. I reject it straight up!”

This is the Fry response turned on itself. Implied in this response is an attitude of not wanting to know anything about the world or any understanding of it. At the root of this response, is the expression of an unwillingness to consider any explanation. If we adopted Fry’s position against the idea of God in respect to the reality that we find in the world, ours would be a particularly irrational, willingly and willfully ignorant position, cutting off any understanding and any possibility of understanding.

The position is really pretty absurd from an intellectual standpoint.

We do live in such a world of course, and Fry uses that acknowledgment as a sword and shield against any understanding of God. Emotion aside, an open-minded, rational person would not foreclose investigation or inquiry into the matter whether God exists, on the one hand, and understanding of the dilemma on the other, if God does indeed exist. It is what it is, and choosing to remain indignantly ignorant of any possible explanation is not a rational response.

None of this is an argument or evidence regarding whether God exists or does not exist. In order to determine whether God exists, we need to do some rational exploration of the point. Emotions do not give us a reasonable answer one way or the other. We need to set emotions aside and approach the answer more scientifically, if you will.

The analogy to the natural world may seem to fall apart at first blush. We obviously live in the natural world and experience the natural world physically all around us. To deny that the natural world exists would seem foolish in the face of the obvious reality. (Though there are some philosophers who have managed to do that.)

For the theist, however, the existence of God is everywhere. The difference is that we do not know God and experience God in a physical way like we experience and interact with the natural world. This is necessarily so.

The natural world consists of space, time and matter. If there is a creator of the natural world, and I believe there is, the creator of such things as space, time and matter would of necessity have to be something spaceless, timeless and immaterial. Space, time and matter do not create themselves.

This means that we can’t know God in the same way as we know the natural world, and we can’t interact with God in the same way as we interact with the natural world. If God exists, and I believe He does, God must be known in ways that transcend the natural world because God is necessarily transcendent.

Many people, however, have declared that the natural world is all there is. To that extent, they have excluded the possibility of anything that is spaceless, timeless or immaterial and have foreclosed any knowledge of those things by establishing arbitrary parameters. This is as close minded and, if you will, unscientific.

Taking the position that God doesn’t exist because we don’t like and don’t understand why God might have created a world such as ours is no different than taking the position that the natural world doesn’t exist because we don’t like or understand it. This position does not even allow for the possibility of God in the same way as the person who puts blinders may attempt to deny the possibility of seeing what he doesn’t want to see.


One thought on “Whether God Exists: Distinguishing Emotion from Reason

  1. Pingback: Whether God Exists: Distinguishing Emotion from Reason | Navigating by Faith

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