Sunday, May 07, 2017

The problem of evil

I see that Irish police have started an investigation into comments made by Stephen Fry on an Irish TV program over 2 years ago. The comments essentially outlined his opinion on the idea of a "God" and were in response to a thought experiment posed by the program host along the lines of "what would you say to God at the pearly gates". Fry presented a reasonable and rational argument, essentially a "show-biz" version of the ancient "problem of evil" argument, which is a well known philosophical argument against an intervening Deity of the kind that most Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in. Ireland stands alone in still having prohibitions on it's statute books for blasphemy, which simply put, protect the opinions of religious people from criticism or insult. The penalty for expressing a counter-religious view in Ireland is 25,000 Euro. In other words, to exercise freedom of conscience as an Atheist in Ireland is a criminal offence, clearly a ridiculous and unenforceable travesty of free-speech in what is supposed to be a pluralistic democracy.

In some ways I would welcome a test case, it would be a huge waste of tax-payers money, but the publicity would put this anomalous law into sharp relief for people, and the injustice of blasphemy laws would be exposed to many more people both in Ireland and in the rest of Europe. I broadly agree with the position of Atheist Ireland, an organisation that campaigns in Ireland for an end to religious privilege and the proper separation of church and state (i.e. a level playing field for all religions and none). Apparently, they are also implicated in this charge and I'm sure will relish and exploit the publicity.

You can see the interview in full for yourself above. Hopefully this police case will lead to many millions more people seeing Fry's response and perhaps looking into the "problem of evil" argument a little more for themselves, it's a very good argument against the kinds of religious ideas that we see in our world today and one which has remained without a good counter from religious people for many thousands of years.

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