An interview which saw renowned atheist Stephen Fry denounce God as “capricious, mean-minded and stupid”, has been nominated for a religious broadcasting award.
The 58-year-old was appearing on RTE’s The Meaning Of Life in January 2015 when he was asked by host Gay Byrne what he would do if he came face-to-face with the Almighty.
An indignant Fry replied: “How dare you!” before launching into a diatribe about how if there were a God, he would be “utterly, utterly” evil.
Fry continued: "I’ll say: bone cancer in children, what’s that about? How dare you how dare you create a world where there is such misery that’s not our fault? 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?
“The god who created this universe, if he created this universe, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish. We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking him. What kind of god would do that?
“Yes the world is very splendid, but it also has in it insects whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind.”
The exchange is shortlisted for Interview of the Year 2016 by the Sandford St Martin Trust, a body which promotes excellence in religious programmes.
The website describes the awards as: “The most prestigious broadcast awards for radio, TV and online programmes that reflect religious, spiritual or ethical themes. They are the only awards that welcome entries about any and all faiths.”
Fry, who had married his boyfriend Elliot Spencer just before the interview, later remarked upon the controversy his comments caused during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today show.
He told host Colin Paterson: “I was astonished that it caused so viral an explosion on Twitter and elsewhere. I’m most pleased it got people talking.
“I was merely saying things that many finer heads than mine have said for hundreds of years, as far back as the Greeks.
“I never wished to offend anybody who is individually devout or pious, and indeed many Christians have been in touch with me to say that they are very glad that things should be talked about.”
Speaking to the Irish Times, his host Byrne said: “Of course he hadn’t wished to cause offence. But that’s what the internet is for, controversy, debate and people’s opinions.”
Writing for Christian Today, Mark Woods posed the salient question: "So what on earth is an organisation that promotes religious broadcasting doing, giving an award to a programme that so trenchantly attacks the whole idea of God in the first place? Shouldn't it be promoting nice programmes like Songs of Praise, instead?"
He conceded: "No, it shouldn't. The Stephen Fry interview was a devastating bit of TV, and I hope Gay Byrne gets the award he deserves. Because there's another side to the argument."
Winners will be announced at the 2016 Sandford St Martins Awards ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 8 June.
Prize money of around £10,000 will be awarded to the winners.