Stephen Fry is the unlikely nominee for a religious broadcasting award – for a speech in which he claimed any God would be “utterly evil”.

The former QI host stirred controversy when he told Irish broadcaster RTE that if God existed, he would be “evil”, “stupid” and “a maniac”, for creating a world that is “so full of injustice and pain”.

His comments were derided by evangelical Christian groups, but he won unlikely applause from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Archbishop Justin Welby insisted: “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.”

Mr Fry has this week been announced as a nominee for the 2016 Sandford St Martins Awards – set to be held at Lambeth Palace in June.

The Awards, chaired by the Bishop of Leeds, aim to “promote thought-provoking, distinctive programming that engages with religion of all faiths, ethics or morality”.

Mr Fry said: “I’m most pleased I think that it’s got people talking. I’d never wish to offend anybody who is individually devout or pious and goes about their religious ways.

“Indeed, many Christians have been in touch with me and said they are very grateful that things are being talked about.”

In the interview he was asked what he would say if he met God, and responded: “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’s 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?”