Rowan Williams responds to Stephen Fry

"To me what’s mysterious is the fact that people in the heart of suffering...still, somehow, maintain a faith,” former Archbishop Lord Williams has said.Reuters

The former Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to Stephen Fry's criticism of God, saying only a "stupid and insensitive" person would never question God in the face of suffering.

In an interview on BBC's Newsnight, Lord Williams told Evan Davis that the Bible is full of people grappling with the issue.

"It's interesting that already in the Psalms and the book of Job, you're beginning to have that kind of protest voice within religious communities," he said.

"It would be a very, very stupid and very insensitive person who never felt that. But to me what's mysterious is the fact that people in the heart of suffering, people who are alongside children with bone cancer still, somehow, maintain a faith, a trust of some kind."

Lord Williams insisted that there is something so "mysterious" about that, that one has to "draw back a little bit from simply saying well 'it's all God's fault and that's it'."

"And I'd also rather like to hope that if Stephen Fry actually met God, he'd wait for the reply," he added.

Fry condemned God as "utterly evil, capricious and monstrous" on an Irish religious affairs programme at the end of January.

Asked what he would say to God were he to meet him, Fry replied: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right. It's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?"

His comments inspired both praise and criticism. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Justin Welby, defended Fry's right to criticise God as an act of religious freedom.

"Taking responsibility for someone else's freedom is as important as protecting my own," Archbishop Welby said at the launch of the Religious Liberty Commission last week.

"It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused by Christians who are affronted, as it is the right of Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ as their Saviour. That is his freedom to choose, that is given to us in creation."

Fry told BBC's Radio 4 programme on Friday that he was "absolutely astonished" by the response to his outburst.

"I don't think I mentioned once any particular religion and I certainly didn't intend to say anything offensive towards any particular religion," he said.

"I said quite a few things that were angry at this supposed God. I was merely saying things that Bertrand Russell and many finer heads than mine have said for hundreds of years, going all the way back to the Greeks."