Giles Fraser's response to Stephen Fry's recent statement that he feels he has no option except to repudiate the "evil, capricious, monstrous maniac" presented to us as "God" by many Christians reminds me of the insistence of the classic 20th-century Catholic theologian Karl Rahner that many people may have a moral obligation to repudiate the idea of God and choose atheism, when the "God" presented to them by people of faith wears a demonic face. Rahner insisted that atheists have a great deal of value to teach Christians about who the God Christians worship really is — if we who are believers would only listen attentively to atheists.
Too many religious people actually worship power. They imagine the source of ultimate power, give it a name (God, Allah, Yahweh) etc, and then try and cosy up to it, aligning their interests with those of the boss. In this they are just the same as many non-religious people, except they believe that ultimate power is metaphysically situated. Whether it be a king or a prime minister or a CEO or God: the temptation is always to suck up to power.
This is why the Jesus story is, for me, the most theologically revolutionary story that there can be. Because it imagines God and power separated. God as a baby. God poor. God helpless on a cross. God with a mocking and ironic crown of thorns. In these scenes it is Caesar who has the power. And so the question posed is: which one will you follow when push comes to shove? You can follow what is right and get strung up for it. Or you can cosy up to power and do as you are told. By saying that he will stare ultimate power in the face and, without fear, call it by its real name, Fry has indicated he is on the side of the angels (even though he does not believe in them). Indeed, Fry is following in a long tradition of religious polemic, from Job to Blake and beyond.
This response seems to me correct. If you really want to see the demonic face of the hateful homophobic "God" many Christians worship on full display, take a careful look at the comments on this thread at the Facebook page of the Sweet Cakes bakery folks in Oregon who are in hot water for violating Oregon law that prohibits businesses from discriminating against people on grounds of sexual orientation. I, for one, want nothing to do with the "God" some of these people are proclaiming to the world.
The "Happy Birthday to GNU" photo of Stephen Fry is available for sharing at Wikimedia Commons.