Jonathan Ferguson
The New Understanding: Post-Secular Pluralism and Universalism!

Yes, you’re free to burn Stephen Fry, as long as you’re ready to burn Job too

The utter barbarism of the Irish anti-blasphemy diktat, an eleventh-century law for a 21st century world, is not merely an unfortunate error, a misguided and somewhat anachronistic law.

On the contrary, it is an utterly intolerable stain and wound on a relatively progressive and forward-thinking society.

The stigma, or perhaps stigmata, of the Magdalene Laundries and of clerical child abuse continually dogs the footsteps of a superficially confident and boisterous Celtic nation. The kind of Christianity at issue here, and the kind of Catholicism, more specifically, deserves to be buried and never see the light of day again.

That particular breed of utterly demonic piety, which has wreaked such havoc both north and south of the border, is a satanic assembly, and has nothing to do with faith, hope or charity in the best possible and least hypocritical sense of the words.

Let’s not forget, of course, that ‘atheism’ means many things. A close examination of the video footage of Fry’s supposedly ‘controversial interview,’ or even the dry bones of an ink-bled transcript, clearly shows that this is none other than the ‘atheism’ and ‘rank impiety’ of Moses and the prophets, and the patriarchs, and even of the one who can be drawn and likened.

Catholics, Orthodox Christians and even some Anglicans might be inclined to say that St John of Damascus knew well enough, he actually walked among us, and was not ashamed to show his face.
Whether or not this is so, one must ask…

Whose honor is it, that is to be avenged?

Fry’s comments are reminiscent of no-one in the Bible so much as Job himself; not the sanctimonious, craven, quivering weakling Ayyub of the Quran.

The pathetic sap who, like the other Biblical figures in the latter text, are just that little too smug and perfect for those who prefer the heady warts-and-all authenticity of the New Testament and Hebrew Bible alike.

What do you think should be the punishment of Stephen Fry if he wrote the following words (the Book of Job, New English Bible):

Job is resentful at being given life by his Creator.

Perish the day when I was born and the night which said, ‘A man is conceived!’

Job believes God is oppressing and persecuting him.

Why should a man be born to wander blindly, hedged in by God in every side?

God is a malicious warrior who is laying siege to Job’s body and soul.

God’s onslaughts wear me away.

God is so merciless, that he will not give Job a single moment’s peace.

Wilt thou not look away from me for an instant?

This is not very ‘pious,’ is it?

At least not by narrow worldly standards…

Job ungratefully curses God for daring to create him for a life of misery.

He accuses God of oppressing him; of surrounding him and suffocating him, and crushing his spirit.

He is under relentless attack from God; and God is always looking at him with an evil eye.

He even goes to far as to threaten God to not let him have his spoil.

Instead, he will take his life, and so rob God of his cruel sport with him.

Seek me, and I shall not be.

What Job is doing is exactly what Stephen Fry is doing.

He is saying that there are some things that human heart cannot bear; how is it possible to believe in and depend upon a God of love, when it seems those who are afflicted most are ever the most innocent, who have done no harm to others?

Fry’s Gordon Deitrich is a perfect example of this. In ‘V for Vendetta,’ the courageous foppish humorist makes light of the High Chancellor Adam Sutler, and pays a very heavy price. Gazing up in terror, the last words Gordon ever hears are the chilling words:

Not so funny now, is it?

It is difficult not to imagine Fry, a double-exiled gay Jew with a tenderly resilient spirit, putting his very heart and soul into this heartbreaking role.

And now, the latter day grand inquisitors of today say with the authorities of Gordon’s nightmarish dystopia:

By what authority dost thou say these things?

And Fry has every right to practice some Messianic dialectic, and respond to a question with a question.

If you show me your authority, and the authority of Job, I also will show you mine.

The only possible answer to that is the usual equivocal mummery:

We cannot tell.

Now what a cowardly answer, indeed!

Fry’s atheism, like the impiety of Jesus himself, is motivated by love for people, and love for truth. Not for him the airy intellectualities or smug certainties of the superstitious.

Yes, this is not the atheism of the black mass or the Soviet oppressor, but of the Unitarian, the Deist, the Luther, the Savonarola, the St Francis of Assisi, the Mendelssohn, the Buber, the Rumi, the Nawaz, the Guru Nanak.

And if all of the foregoing, like Job, were marred by irredeemable imperfection, and were of this earth, and not heaven; why should any more be expected of Fry?

O ye torchbearers of benighted ignorance!

Agree or disagree, but do not let hypocrisy and bigotry darken your hearts.

Steven Fry’s brief homily has done more for true ‘piety’ and ‘faith’ in a few breaths than the endless Alexandrian garbage heaps of religious fundamentalism and rigid, dogmatic hyper-orthodoxies, will ever accomplish, unto the very ages of ages.

Instead of casting out Steven Fry, perhaps his tormentors and persecutors should sit at his feet in all humility, and be prepared to learn, rather than to be blind guides.

Unless, by any chance, they already have their liber scriptus, and have nothing more to learn.

But if such a sad case is theirs, then they truly are beyond all hope of redemption in this world, and perhaps also in the world to come.


I’m trying to engage with my readers more than more, as I believe an egalitarian discussion is much more useful than a one-sided ‘lecture.’

Here are my questions, unless you yourself have a few more to offer.

Is Fry being persecuted?

What do you think motivates people to pass such laws, or to report comedians to the police?

Do you think blasphemy laws are an outdated relic of the past?

Is blasphemy a moral wrong, or is it a legitimate form of self-expression, humor, satire, critique, activism, consciousness-raising?

And finally:

If you believe blasphemy is a moral wrong, how best to respond to it? Criticize it? Educate people? Or just roll your eyes and ignore it?


Further reading:

If you have an angle on blasphemy (or any other topic) you’d like me to write about, feel free to tell me!

I am open-minded to any suggestions.

You can always check my Times of Israel and Jewish News back catalogue for inspiration.

About the Author
Jonathan Ferguson is an honorary Yorkshireman, originally from Northern Ireland. Unfortunately however, it is utterly impossible (or at least something of a thankless task!) to note the slightest trace of Swiftian bantz and blarney in his scrupulously highminded and middle of the road prose style. He is also a Chinese graduate of the University of Leeds (BA, MA) and King's College London (PhD). On a deeper level, he is a curious mind and a recovering cynic; or to put it another way, an Orthodox Christian. His work is focused on religiophobia and the coming Age and World of post-secular pluralism and universalism. If you like (or love, or even absolutely HATE!) his work, then by all means do feel free comment on his work, or write to him in the personal comment box on his Times of Israel profile... Or alternatively, in the very worst, ne plus ultra cases of radical fanfatuation, just click "HERE" to become a Patron!
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