07 May 2017

The Meaning Of Life

The Meaning Of Life
Irish police have announced that they are investigating a complaint of blasphemy in relation to comments made by Stephen Fry in a television interview. The interview, for an episode of The Meaning Of Life, was broadcast by RTE One on 1st February 2015.

In the programme, presenter Gay Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God if there was an afterlife. Fry, who has been a life-long atheist, didn't mince his words: "I'll say, 'Bone cancer in Children? What's that about? How dare you! 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?'"

Irish law states that anyone who intentionally "publishes or utters blasphemous matter" is guilty of criminal defamation. The 2009 Defamation Act defines "blasphemous matter" as "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion," though there are exemptions for content of "literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value".

The law of blasphemy was abolished in the UK in 2008. Famously, the editor of Gay News was prosecuted for blasphemous libel after he published James Kirkup's poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name on 3rd June 1976. Extracts from the poem subsequently appeared in Socialist Challenge magazine (14th July 1977); Gay Left magazine (Winter 1977); The Observer newspaper (17th July 1977); Geoffrey Robertson's memoir, The Justice Game (1998); Bound & Gagged, a history of obscenity by Alan Travis (2000); A Voyage Round John Mortimer (2007) by Valerie Grove; the Channel 4 documentary The Secret Life of Brian (1st January 2007); and an episode of Joan Bakewell's TV series Taboo (12th December 2001).