What questions would Stephen Fry ask God at the pearly gates?


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Christ, what an asshole.


Oh my gosh, he has discovered theodicy! No college freshman ever asked these hard questions before! I suppose the Pope is just going to have to pack his bags.


Takes after His Father.

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I’m going to go with “Excuse me… what does God need with a starship?”

No, no, wait, that’s what I’d ask God if I met him past the Great Barrier.


…and there is a reason why theodicy is still discussed - there aren’t very many satisfying answers to these questions. Bottom line, people who don’t find “cause God said so” to be reason enough for unnecessary suffering will continue to ask.

Why do you personally feel that these questions are unreasonable?


Short answer is - this isn’t Heaven and bad things can and do happen here. Also it appears God doesn’t micromanage.

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Yeah, I mean, if God knows all, and Christianity is true, then he’s just going to sigh and say something like “You think I invented childhood bone cancer? I put you all in a disease-free paradise when I made you, and it was your choice to leave. I’m ready to go back to that disease-free paradise the moment you are, Steve. But if I’m going to let you pick your own paths in life, then some of those paths result in childhood bone cancer. It sucks, and I’m doing everything I can to get back to that paradise, and deflecting the blame to me for ‘making’ it is part of why you guys still haven’t figured it out. All of those horrors you mention, if they are horrors, it is because of what you do to make them horrors.”

Of course the issue with THAT is that it’s still a hard pill to swallow when you look at children with bone cancer and think “We did this to them…” Even theists aren’t comfortable with that idea, and have to do a lot of mental loop-de-loops or “trust in God” if they want to pin all evil on human behavior.

Like, sure, that’s internally consistent, but it’s not really a satisfying answer.


Not at all unreasonable; just that it’s silly when somebody acts like they’re the first one who ever noticed human suffering. It’s double silly when they hold themselves out as public intellectuals who, one would imagine might have time to do a little research. You (and Fry) might be surprised to find there were nuanced discussions of these things as early as the 3rd or 4th century - and by nuance, I don’t mean “cause God said so.”

I mean, I’m a Christian, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to ask the same things.


Well, there’s kind of a limit to the nuance possible because saying “well, it’s all for the greater good somehow; God knows what’s he’s doing, etc.” only really works if the god in question has limited resources and has to make tough choices the way a human ruler has to. But the Christian god is supposed to be both all-knowing and all-powerful. It doesn’t make sense that he’d have to allow cancer and famines over here in order to help people over there. At least polytheism has the excuse that problems in the human world are due to internal conflicts between Zeus and Hera and the like.


What did Byrne expect would happen when he asked that question?

What’s the point of asking it?


I can forgive suffering on Earth… it’s awful, but I can potentially accept the idea that there’s a point to it, especially if life on Earth is a short span meant to prepare us for an eternal afterlife, just like exercise can be painful but it makes you stronger after.

My problem with God is with Hell. So my questions to meeting a God-figure after I die will center on that, first checking to see whether it really exists as described by some of the popular religions (to paraphrase Catch-22, I don’t believe in God, but the God I don’t believe in is a loving, just, and intelligent God, so I’d be inclined to think at first that it was just messed up people who came up with that bit, or that it’s a test to weed out the psychos who believe that’s a good idea and single them out for remedial morality instruction), and if it was: “Really? You created a universe where people will suffer eternally for sins including the sin of not worshipping you? Well, I guess I’m going there, and I’m glad because the only moral choice is to oppose you, even at the cost of eternal suffering.”


Fry calls it theodicy before he even starts his full response. No one is claiming this is new in any way. But it’s still nice to see it voiced so clearly and unequivocally.


That’s why it’s an opening salvo in a debate. A way to measure up the other debater and how well he or she has prepared. Just like the good Reverend’s opening salvo was so predictable.

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I would say that the issue with that is that nature was red in tooth and claw loooong before humans came about, so God would have to be an asshole to try and dodge the question like that.

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I understand these questions do have meaning within the mental framework that includes “pearly gates”, and that’s totally appropriate when debating a Judeo-Christian opponent, or indeed anyone with their minds stuck in self-limiting Xian religious paradigms. Nonetheless, to paraphrase Leibniz, how could it be any other way, without being even worse?

Ursula K. LeGuin gave a more subtle treatment than Leibniz in “Those who walk away from Omelas” or whatever that was called. Something something Salemo spelled backwards.


Nonetheless, to paraphrase Leibniz, how could it be any other way, without being even worse?

How would removing agency from the equation make it worse? It just becomes unfortunate then.

To which the reasonable counterpoint is “What do you mean we ‘chose’ to leave? You designed humanity without the ability to make informed decisions until we ate the fruit of knowledge! That’s a pretty twisted Catch-22, God.”


nevermind the fact that we didn’t do anything, or non-existant forebrears did.

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