Oh God. And I mean it. What was a well meaning Irish citizen doing, bringing a blasphemy complaint against Stephen Fry? I mean, if you wanted to make the big man’s day, to give him that delicious sense of being persecuted without actually being persecuted, well what could be better than being done for blasphemy? It’s the campaigning atheist’s wet dream. It could mean, if you’re really lucky, being prosecuted in Ireland for repeating your observations about the Deity – cruel, capricious, allowing bone cancer in children etc – and the very worst that can happen to you would be a fine, which you could then refuse to pay and strike an Oscar Wilde sort of attitude. It’s not like, say, being done for homosexuality or apostasy in a Gulf State, when the whole persecution business takes on a rather less fun aspect. It means that very cheaply you’re the pin-up of Irish unbelievers, the occasion for umpteen agonised columns in the Irish Times about the futility of blasphemy laws, a rallying point for Irish secularists who are possibly even more irritating there than here…what, in God’s name, is not to like, from S Fry’s point of view?
As it happens, I thought Stephen Fry’s interview with Gay Byrne (short for Gabriel, not his orientation) on RTE in his discussion programme about religion two years ago, trite and silly. ‘Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’ he asked. You know, that line of argument was put rather better by Voltaire after the Lisbon earthquake, and it still doesn’t wash – given that a world in which God constantly intervenes is one difficult to square with human free will and natural laws.