Mr. Stephen Fry is an educated, erudite, intelligent and well-spoken man who has spent much of his time and treasure in the effort to better the world. He is also an atheist, one who proves by his deeds that one does not need to be religious in order to do good.
As Fry advances in years, though, he is becoming an increasingly prolific polemicist on the “evils” of religion. No person of faith – and especially no Jew – should fear or hate the atheist: they play an essential role in forcing us to see and acknowledge the problems with our beliefs, and in the case of Judaism, to dig deeper to find the source of those problems.
But there are good atheists and there are bad atheists, and when I study Fry’s words I find five glaring failings that reveal that, while he is without doubt a good man, he is a fairly awful atheist.
- His understanding of the reasons to believe in G-d are at best simplistic, if not intentionally reductionist
- His attempt to critique religion as an undifferentiated whole completely ignores the distinctions between them.
- His understanding of the nature of the religious quest is incomplete at best.
- His constant use of the ad hominem fallacy in defending his beliefs undermines his best arguments.
- His apparent belief that to justify his ethos he must tear down en masse the entire edifice of theism makes him less an atheist than a crusading anti-theist.
This is someone whom I would have expected to have take the time to understand the belief systems (note the plural) that he opposes and to address them in detail. The fact that he has not speaks well neither for him nor for atheism generally.
It falls upon him to explain these failings, or at least to address them. Until then, his arguments invite not debate, but scorn, and not least from fellow atheists.