Richard Dawkins challenges Ireland to arrest him for blasphemy after Stephen Fry investigation

Outspoken atheist quotes sentence from ‘The God Delusion’ in solidarity

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 10 May 2017 11:58 BST
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The author said he would be ‘available for arrest on a charge of blasphemy’ ahead of a talk in Ireland
The author said he would be ‘available for arrest on a charge of blasphemy’ ahead of a talk in Ireland

Richard Dawkins has challenged Irish police to arrest him for blasphemy after they investigated Stephen Fry for calling God “capricious, mean-minded [and] stupid”.

In an article for The Irish Times, the outspoken atheist and evolutionary biologist said he would “be available for arrest on a charge of blasphemy” as he gave a public lecture in Ireland.

“I shall be giving a public lecture in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, on June 12th, and I shall therefore be available for arrest on a charge of blasphemy,” he wrote.

To show solidarity with Fry, Dawkins quoted a sentence from his book, The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

On Twitter, Dawkins added: “The Irish blasphemy law must go. An embarrassment to the civilised world, it encourages the uncivilised one.”

Police dropped their investigation into Mr Fry after failing to find enough people who were outraged by his remarks.

The row prompted New Zealand to commit to repealing its blasphemy laws.

It also led Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to demand a referendum in Ireland “to allow Stephen Fry or anyone else” to air their views on God without fear of criminal charges.

Under the Defamation Act, blasphemy is punishable by a fine of €25,000 (£21,000) in an offence rooted in the Irish constitution.

Stephen Fry under police investigation for blasphemy after branding God an 'utter maniac'

In Dublin's parliament, Mr Adams said a single complaint had led to the "spectacle of Mr Fry being investigated by the gardai on a criminal charge of blasphemy".

"This story was widely reported in the international media with appropriate mocking commentary and some disbelief," he said.

"Blasphemy should have no place in the constitution."

Mr Adams urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to arrange a referendum - which is needed to change the constitution - as soon as possible to remove the blasphemy clause.

Referencing a famous remark from the surreal Irish sitcom Father Ted, he asked: "Will you give citizens the opportunity to say clearly, 'down with that sort of thing', and allow Stephen Fry or anyone else to express an opinion without threat of criminal proceedings?"

Across the chamber, Mr Kenny said the last known prosecution for blasphemy in Ireland was thought to have been in 1855.

There have been no such prosecutions under the Defamation Act, introduced in 2009, he added.

Mr Kenny said it had already been agreed by government to hold a referendum on the issue, and it was simply a case of "finding an opportunity to deal with this".

The row erupted after a member of the public contacted police about Fry's interview on Irish broadcaster RTE's show The Meaning Of Life in February 2015.

The footage went viral after it was aired and has now been seen more than seven million times on YouTube.

Asked what he would say if he was confronted by God, 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?"

Questioned on how he would react if he was locked outside the pearly gates, he responded: "I would say, 'Bone cancer in children? What's that about?'

"Because the God who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac.

"Totally selfish. We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of God would do that?"

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