An old friend of mine, whom I will always remember with fondness, posted a link to a video showing atheist Stephen Fry responding to the question of what he would say if he met God. Mr. Fry’s response addresses the basic problem of evil, and he gives a long winded version of ‘how dare you?’ It is interesting that Mr. Fry says he would prefer it if the God he met were the Greek gods. These were gods that were flawed, so at least they would have an excuse for the evils we experience. The commentary in the video also brings up the problem of other religions, and how can believers be so arrogant as the expect that their religion happens to be the correct one.
I am pleased to report that my religious faith was unshaken by this video, and I would like to explain why.
First off, I think what Mr. Fry is arguing against is absolute definitions of the nature and character of God, largely from Protestant Christianity. My Mormonism has some wiggle room here. The God I believe in is embodied, and can only be in one place at a time. My God is fighting against evil right along with us. There is no absolute and complete control by God over everyone and every thing. My idea of God could be considered as non-absolute.
In addition to this, I believe life to be a test. And often this test is quite harsh. A test that will eventually push us to certain limits, and the important thing is our response to such tests. These tests must be real, with real consequences, and sufficient force to create real doubt, pain, grief and all the rest. One may wonder what point life would have if nothing ever went terribly wrong. I think part of the problem with Mr. Fry, and those who are persuaded by him, is that they insist on impossible expectations for any God to meet.
When it comes to the question of other religions, I feel my understanding of Mormonism provides some unique perspective. Mormonism has this concept of a long apostasy, where full gospel knowledge and ordinances were not even available. I conclude that in many cases, our response to life in general can be quite sufficient for God’s purposes, independent of any religious affiliation.
Further, the availability of vicarious ordinances for all, potentially makes Mormonism quite universal in the long run. It can be okay if an individual lives their life in another religion, or no religion at all. Eventually opportunity will be granted to all. So the all or nothing religious test, for everyone, during mortality, does not affect Mormonism in the least.
I cannot speak to the religious experiences, or the lack thereof, of other people. I can only speak to my own. I have had significant religious experiences, and I must either follow those experiences, or ignore them. I know that there is evil and suffering in the world – a lot of it. I know there are a lot of religions out there with competing claims.
I still believe.