Stephen Fry talks to Tony Jones of ABC Lateline about his many interests, passions, convictions and roles.
He discusses his vice-presidency of the auspicious conservation group Flora and Fauna International, a responsibility Sir David Attenborough convinced him to assume. He expresses his love for “indifferent nature” and evolution and ponders his interest in saving the planet, in view of the fact that as a gay man he isn’t prone to leave genes behind. He offers his views on gay marriage, the “teenage years” of the gay rights movement and the human yearning to love and to be loved.
This brings up Molly Lewis’ open letter to Stephen Fry in which she sings her offer to act as a surrogate mother to pass on his genes. He touches on his friendship with and the mortality of Christopher Hitchens, whose academic genius and brilliantly expressed atheism has contributed to his rising stature over the past decade.
…one of the things that was most perhaps galling, if I can put it like that, for him is that his life seems to be on the verge of being snatched away from him at a time when he has most achieved.
An atheist himself Fry offers his more gentle appraisal of religion in general yet reserves no particular escape clause for the folly of theistic belief and theology. In view of the real world struggle for life in nature this seems to strike him as incomprehensible. Although fond of the art religion has inspired, he agrees with Jones that, “…there’s no proof contained in this of the existence of God”;
And no, I don’t believe in God. To me there is no difference between someone who believes in Allah or Yahweh, or God, the Christian God, or Christ, than someone who believes in Pan and Hephaestus and Zeus and the gods of the Greek myth.
They’re wonderful constructs and they allow for marvellous art because they tell great stories of the human collective unconscious at a time before we had science to articulate an expression and an explanation of the world.
We can’t disprove the existence of God anymore than we can disprove Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot:
On the other hand, it is absurd to believe that it exists. And it’s more than absurd to predicate a whole system of moral codes on the basis of that unprovable thing. It is actually wicked to do so.
So, yes, you can never disprove God. Of course you can’t. And you can’t disprove the teapot, but to all intents and purposes, if there is a god, it is clear that he’s capricious, wilful, mean, treacherous, a liar, unkind, prepared to see suffering of the most shameful kind.
Whilst life is “beautiful” it is also “unbelievably cruel. It’s only about passing on the genes”:
And so, you have to dispense with any sort of Victorian idea of this benign, loving god, this brown-eyed Jesus, this Holman Hunt knocking at the door…
…by all means say that there is a god, but don’t tell me he loves me. I mean, that’s just silly.
There’s no shortage of the charm, wit and warmth we’ve come to associate with this admirable, adorable and wonderful chap. May he delight us all for many years to come.