Last week in The Sunday Times, the interviewer of Leader of the Opposition made the strange claim that, if elected, he would be the first Prime Minister not to believe in a god. The editors thought this was such a good point that they put it in bold, in a pull-out quote, and made reference to the linking of religion and politics in America! Today I had a letter in The Sunday Times and here is the full version:
Your interviewer’s claim that Keir Starmer would be the first UK Prime Minister to not believe in a god will no doubt have surprised many.
Within the twentieth century alone, Ramsay Macdonald (1924, 1929-31) was an early President of Humanists UK, having made the journey from Christian to Unitarian and then out; Clement Attlee (1945-51), though he shared some ethics with Christianity, saw theology as ‘mumbo-jumbo’; Winston Churchill (1940-45, 1951-55) a typical Victorian sceptic, said he supported the Church ‘like a buttress – from the outside’. Both David Cameron and Boris Johnson have said in interviews that their faith comes and goes.
Really the abnormal thing is to have a PM with genuine religious faith. But thankfully, there is no evidence at all that the British electorate care one way or the other about the theological beliefs of candidates. Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, and many more are just a few of the self-described atheists who have headed political parties and, whatever their electoral fortune, there was never any sign that their non-religious beliefs played a part.
Please, don’t let an obsession with the religiosity of our politicians be yet another thing we import from the US to our lasting regret.