Justin Welby says Christians must stand up for religious freedom of atheists and Muslims as much as themselves
The Archbishop of Canterbury has come to the defence of Stephen Fry who infuriated Christians by denouncing God as “utterly evil”, “capricious, mean-minded, stupid” and “monstrous”.
The Most Rev Justin Welby insisted that the atheist comedian and writer had a God-given right to express his beliefs and should not be abused by Christians for doing so.
He added that the Church must speak out in defence of religious freedom – but with the humility of a reformed alcoholic who recognises that they once practised the very things they now urge people not to do.
His intervention came as he spoke about the suffering of Christians and other faiths around the world at the launch of a new Religious Liberty Commission set up by a group of charities and campaign groups to highlight the spread of persecution.
The meeting in the chapel of the Houses of Parliament heard harrowing first-hand testimony about brutality meted out to many Christian groups in Eritrea and reports of suffering in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
He said Christians must continue to bring such cases to the eyes of the world but added that churches including the Church of England must also recognise their own history of involvement in oppression and must defend the rights of followers of other faiths now.
“We find it fine to say that a particular church is doing incredibly well and is full every Sunday but at the same time feeling uncomfortable about the Mosque down the road that has people outside because they can’t fit them in,” he said.
“Well, if we believe in freedom of choice, if we believe in freedom of religion what is good for one is good for all.
“We must speak out for others persecuted for their beliefs whether it be religious or atheistic.
“Taking responsibility for someone else’s freedom is as important as my own.
“It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused improperly by Christians who are affronted as it is the right of Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ.
“That is his freedom to choose that is given to us in creation.”
Mr Fry triggered an Internet storm last week when lashed out at the idea of God during an interview with Gay Byrne, the veteran chat-show host, on Ireland’s RTE.
Asked what he would say to God if he found himself standing at the gates of Heaven, he said he would say: “How dare you. How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil.”
He added: “The God who created this universe, if he created this universe, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”
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SOURCE: The Telegraph