I’m a big fan of Stephen Fry. Love him in the Hobbit…24…QI…and on and on it goes. Anyone who knows me realises that I’m a bit of a Star Wars devotee. And Stephen is best buds with Carrie Fisher, of all people. How great is that?
I’m also pleased that the RTE show, “The Meaning of Life”, has interviewed him and allowed him to talk about what he might say to God if he were to meet him.
“How dare you create a world in which there is 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 creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain? That’s what I would say.”
Ok. Correct me if I’m wrong…but I’m hearing a bit of moral outrage in has response here! Amazing as it may seem – Stephen Fry’s reaction to the suffering of innocent children – is the very thing that sometimes leads people to a discovery of the real God. As Krish Kandiah ponders about Stephen…”I wonder if he is closer to faith in God than he realises?”
How does THAT work? I’m kidding…right?
No – I’m not. Calm the emotion…and let’s consider this from another perspective for a moment.
There is a Universal Moral Law
Yes – we all agree with him – the suffering of innocent children is wrong. But …why? Where did we get the idea of good and evil from in the first place? What makes something right? If we are simply chemicals swirling thru a randomly generated Universe, why would morality exist at all? As C S Lewis once said…
“A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
But morality DOES exist. People intuitively sense injustice. Lying is wrong. Bravery is a human virtue. It is good to care for our loved ones and not hurt them, etc, etc. My kids were black belts at this when they were little. We measure our experiences and other people against this straight line and we quickly notice crooked when we see it. (Usually leading to the cry, “It’s Not Fair!!”) Ironically, we also hope that other people DON’T measure US against the straight moral line (cos we are all too aware of our own inner crookedness and we do our best to hide it!).
So the question is…who first drew the straight moral line that we compare everything and everyone against? An ultimate moral standard must exist for evil to exist. Stephen is appealing to something and someone greater than himself, when he says “It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil.”
Is Morality A Natural Phenomenon?
Some would say that Moral Law is simply an artefact of the Universe. Morality is evolved social convention. But I reject this notion. Why? Because I think it misunderstands what morality is all about. You see – if morality is a result of evolution…then we have no right to judge anyone else. We have no right to appeal to any single straight Moral Absolute when judging anyone in the past, present and future. Because maybe the people involved aren’t as evolved as we are right now. Or maybe they are more evolved than we currently are!
Think of it this way – imagine that everyone has a moral meter inside of them…and everyone’s meter is set to a different number. If Morality was a result of cultural evolution, then that’s what we would have. If that’s what was going on, then we’d better just keep our personal judgements to ourselves cos we are all at different moral stages. Our meters are all set differently inside.
But we don’t have that.
Instead – we all appeal to a single Moral Absolute, a single moral meter that we are compared against. One straight Moral Line! The Moral Law. Our sense of justice disproves the notion that Morality is subjective. We all appeal to a single shared Moral Law…we share a general sense of right and wrong across all times and cultures…and judging from this clip…so does Stephen.
Here’s another reason I don’t think Morality is a result of nature. If the Moral Law was just naturally caused by the inner workings of our Universe or our biology, then we could use science to study it. But we can’t use scientific inquiry to study Morality. Rather – scientific inquiry is GUIDED BY the Moral Law (or not, as the case may be). Matter and Energy and Morality are separate and complementary domains in our Universe. Science allows us to explore Matter and Energy. Morality guides Science. The Moral Law sits just behind our matter and energy filled Universe…it underpins it. It is a separate truth from atoms and molecules, cells and DNA. But Morality is also as true as all of these things.
Morality is not naturally occurring – it sits just behind our Universe, it is imposed on us from the outside.
So Where Does Morality Come From?
Google’s corporate mission statement urges us…”Don’t be evil.” It is therefore better to be good. It makes sense. Or in other words…let’s use our matter and our energy to act like the Moral Law Giver…the one who first drew that straight line we all appeal to.
It must be a mind, a person. Because abstract truths like “goodness” and “beauty” don’t draw lines. What is his name? God.
God is the one that Stephen is appealing to with his talk of good and evil! In fact whenever we sit in judgement on God…we are ironically using our God given inner Moral workings…and appealing to our sense of God’s Moral justice as we judge God!
Do you see the contradiction in that? Well – either way…all roads are leading to God at this point.
Our Morality Points Us To God
This eventual realization led C. S. Lewis to abandon his atheism…and turn to the only historically underpinned and reasonable alternative. The God of the Bible.
“I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England” (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy)
“The Gospel is Good News. Not because it gives us a set of laws to live by, or religious rites to perform, but because it deals with the biggest problem in the world – the problem of the human heart.” (David Robertson, The Dawkins Letters)
I wonder if Stephen is closer to faith in God than he realises?