Could an Atheist Be the UK’s Next Leader? April 24, 2010

Could an Atheist Be the UK’s Next Leader?

How much do I know about British politics?

This much: |—|

But here’s what I do know:

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats’ new leader, has defied political convention with a frank admission that he is an atheist.

During a round of media broadcasts on the morning after his election to the post, he was asked by one interviewer: “Do you believe in God?”

“No,” Mr Clegg answered simply, during an appearance on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Actually, that’s old news — that Clegg is an atheist.

The real news is that Clegg has taken the lead in several polls over the past couple weeks.

As far as I can tell, his atheism is a non-issue.

Razib Khan at Gene Expression is amazed by this:

This is of course in sharp contrast with the United States where all politicians operationally have to avow a religious affiliation, and the higher that a politician ascends up the ladder of achievement the more vocal and thorough the assertions of sincere faith have to become. And yet it is Britain which has an established church, where the head of state is the head of the church, and, religiously oriented schools receive public funding.

I’d love for someone more knowledgeable about this election to shed some light on Clegg and what his victory could mean for non-theists. Will it have any effect at all? I know little about the man’s politics, so please enlighten me.

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  • Amy

    Nick Clegg is very unlikely to become Prime Minister as the ratings in the polls doesn’t actually reflect the number of seats the Liberal Democrats will get, because their voters are evenly spread around the country and the other 2 parties, Labour and Conservatives, have concentrated pockets of voters.

    However, we are looking at a hung parliament so Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems may be very important in the future of the country, but it really won’t have any effect on the non-religious.

    The only religious issue to come up during this election is the pope’s visit, and all three parties will allow that to go ahead in September if they win.

  • A LibDem victory would mean nothing good or bad for anyone on either side of the religion debate. Religion isn’t an issue in the UK. We expect our politicians to be corrupt, dishonest and weaselly but sane. A call to religion makes them look mad.

    All parties want to reduce the number of peers in the House of Lords (they do the legislature and act to balance an out of control House of Commons) and introduce a system where they are voted in rather than appointed. That would remove the Lords Spiritual (26 bishops of the established Church of England) from the legislature (unless they were voted in) but it wouldn’t disestablish the Church of England. No party has even considered that yet.

    If it isn’t Clegg who wins, and this is unlikely considering how our system works, and Cameron (Tory, think old money conservative but still left of the Republicans) wins then Brown (Labour, working class except that they’ve abandoned their grass roots and opted for the middle class vote) will probably go. If he does then I’d put money on David Miliband becoming the next Labour leader (or at least a future one. He’s also an atheist.

    The popular press though is saying that we’re likely to have a hung Parliament with no overall majority. That means a short term and a lot of bickering but overall no change. I say short term because we don’t have a fixed term like you do. The Prime Minister sets the day of the election and that is agreed by the Queen. She dissolves her Parliament. Typically the term is between three and seven years.

    The winning party have to have a majority in the House of Commons. That is 326 of the 650 seats. Depending on distribution this can be less than a third of the popular vote. Its all very clear. 😉

  • Harker

    While Razib might find that shocking, I live in canada where I can’t remember any politician being asked their religion or thats its ever been any point of debate.

  • Greg

    I’m surprised you guys should be surprised that atheism is a non-issue. Although, we here in the UK are always amazed at how religion is such an issue in your politics, so…

    I find it hard to believe that if Clegg were to be elected much would change for atheists here, for the simple fact that it isn’t much of an issue.

    Of course, the idiotic way the electoral system works over here, the Lib Dems (Clegg’s party) could end up with a clear majority in terms of percentile vote, and yet still have the least seats in government, so don’t hold your breath.

    I have to say that Clegg probably wouldn’t even be talked about if not for the television debates of the three leaders that we have imported over here from your presidential campaigns (although we’ve made them better, of course… ;)), so thanks for that.

  • Dennis

    In Britain, religion is essentially a non-issue regardless of which social strata you belong to. The last period of sectarian violence here was during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and that situation, although volatile, is moving towards a peaceful solution.

    Being an Athiest here is a fairly moderate business, the only serious issues being Government support of Faith Schools the Lords Spiritual.

    As Hoverfrog commented, we lack proportional representation here, so even if the Liberal Democrats win the largest share of the vote, they may still be the smallest party in Parliament!

    We desperately need political reform..

  • Sally

    Nick Clegg is a Liberal Democrat (does what it says on the tin) and although he is quite open about his atheism, I doubt there will be any real issue about this in the mind of Christian voters as his wife and children are Catholics. Immigration policy, Afghanistan, education and crime are all far higher up people’s list of concerns than the religious convictions of their politicians.

    Although the UK is nominally a “christian” nation, most people (when asked, e.g., during the 10 yearly census) will claim they are one denomination or another based on how they were baptised by their parents. If you ask the average Briton which religion they actually *believe* in, most would turn out to be atheist or agnostic. They go to church for weddings, funerals and christenings but overall church attendance is nothing these days compared to what it was 50 years ago. Most people here keep their religion to themselves. Except the Jehovahs and Muslims. Being a devout believer would probably harm a politician’s chances of being elected, so if they are Christian they tend to keep it to themselves unless asked. There are a couple of religious political parties, but they’re on the fringe.

    Atheists actually don’t have it too badly here because of the expectation that people will keep their religion (if they have one) to themselves. There is a prevailing attitude that overtly religious folks are a “bit wacko”. Religion (Christianity in particular) is actually on the defensive because they get challenged on their bigotry in this country by people who take them to the European Court of Human Rights. So in terms of non-theists, I’d say nothing will really change, however it should be a good thing for science and industry if the Lib Dems were able to hold the balance of power – they’ve indicated in their manifesto that they want to increase spending on science and research, particularly in terms of “Green” policies. Tony Blair (Labour party) “converted” to Roman Catholicism after he stepped down as Prime Minister, but whilst he was in office the number of “faith schools” increased massively, with creationism being introduced into the science curriculum in some schools. Science funding was also generally cut. Hopefully with the Lib Dems such a damaging trend would be stamped out.

  • Erp

    Clegg being a non-theist is a non-issue in Britain where even a fair percentage of official Anglicans (including some of the bishops) are probably non-theists under most definitions.

    He hasn’t much chance of becoming Prime Minister but he may have a chance of hanging Parliament and forcing either the Conservatives or Labour (probably the latter) to make a deal with his party in order to run the country.

  • Although Clegg says he’s an atheist, he also sends his kids to Catholic school and is bringing them up Catholic. He agrees with Ratzinger the paedophile cover-up Pope coming to England on a state visit at vast expense and embarrassment to the British public. So Clegg might be an atheist, but he’s not the kind of atheist that I’d want as a leader if he’s going to continue to pander to the forces of evil.

  • As a brit who has lived in North America (well, Canada counts a little bit right?!) for the last 11 years I feel somewhat qualified to talk about the different approaches to religion in the two countries. Although being an atheist might also disqualify me I suppose.

    In the UK a deep seated religious belief is seen as something rather distasteful. I, like many people across the country, went to the village church on Sunday but this had nothing to do with belief. It was simply what was done, your family has had the same pew for generations and so you continue to fill it. It is a social obligation for most people, nothing more.
    All of this born again nonsense and those dreadful Alpha posters are just over the top and seen as terribly tasteless.

    Tony Blair was much derided for his open christianity and yet in comparison to most of the Americans in office he was the picture of moderation.

    The American political system terrifies me. It seems that unless you declare allegiance to the church there is absolutely no way you can get elected to anything very much. Sarah Palin is everything that is wrong in North America.

    In the UK church goers who believe are seen as a little bit loony. I remember once, in the nineties, a woman at our village church stood up and tried to do the hand waving thing. You know? When they look at the ceiling and flap their hands about towards it? She got throat-cleared out of church. I heard one granny say to another on the way out;
    “Well, she always was a bit peculiar wasn’t she?”
    “I suppose so but she wasn’t ever that peculiar before. She must be off her medicine.”
    And that little incidence pretty much sums up religion in the UK.

    Religion is now nothing but tradition.

    And now…… the monarchy!

  • muggle

    “No,” Mr Clegg answered simply

    Man, wouldn’t that be beautiful to hear here in the United States?

    Also these attitudes:

    We expect our politicians to be corrupt, dishonest and weaselly but sane. A call to religion makes them look mad.


    church goers who believe are seen as a little bit loony. I remember once, in the nineties, a woman at our village church stood up and tried to do the hand waving thing. You know? When they look at the ceiling and flap their hands about towards it? She got throat-cleared out of church. I heard one granny say to another on the way out;

    “Well, she always was a bit peculiar wasn’t she?”
    “I suppose so but she wasn’t ever that peculiar before. She must be off her medicine.”

    Man, maybe you Brits have got something in having the C of E. Gives the people something to rebel against. And it seems the lunacy hasn’t thrived there like it has here.

    And, in the moderation it has, it seems rather tolerable.

    Of course, Ireland’s another story… I know, different part of the UK. Like comparing LA to the Bible Belt.

  • Cecilie

    I’m no expert on British politics either, but I think Britain resembles other European countries with a national church in having surprisingly little focus on religion in politics; I live in Denmark, and here religion is hardly ever brought up in Danish politics (expect when the rightwing parties complain about resident Muslims, as they’re annoyingly wont to do.) Here, being openly religious has actually proven to be a bigger issue (and more career-damaging) in politics than being openly atheist.

    When religion and politics do mix here, they often end up one the left too; the Danish National Church has protested against deportation of Muslim immigrants (and even gave some of them asylum from the authorities for a long while) and bishops are now lobbying for being allowed to conduct same-sex weddings in the national churches (we’ve had secular same-sex marriage for a long time, and priests have been allowed to marry same-sex couples, but the bishops want same-sex marriage to be conducted in the churches just like regular marriages now.)

    I personally believe that nations with rather liberal national churches (such as the Church of England or the Danish National Church) are actually less religious than supposedly ‘secular’ nations because the national church snaps up potential members of more radical religious groups before they can be indoctrinated and radicalised. It provides the traditions and rituals that many people enjoy at special occasions, as well as an easy option for the religiously curious, but it doesn’t need to compete for members and tithes as it’s state-funded.

    This, as well as a need for being the church of the whole people and not just a select part of it, makes the national church very unlikely to speak out in favour of any particular political opinion – at most, the Danish National Church likes to present itself as a force of humanism, claiming its Christianity makes it impartial to political, national, social and even religious status (as demonstrated by its effort to help Muslim immigrants avoid deportation to Iraq).

  • Amy

    muggle: Ireland’s not part of the UK.

  • JulietEcho

    Well, we got all the Puritans, so what do you expect? If all the evangelicals and fundamentalists in the US decided to go sail to a far-off shore and start a country all their own, I think we’d look a bit more like the UK in a few generations.

  • Thornavis.

    Northern Ireland although not officially part of the UK is legally under the authority of the British Crown in other words it’s a typically British fudge and no one really knows what it is ! It’s certainly another country though, somewhere where religion is actually taken seriously with all the baleful results to be expected from that. Nick Clegg’s atheism just doesn’t register with most people but in the unlikely event that the Lib-Dems win the election there would probably be a noticeable difference in attitude to the role of religion in society. New Labour have been trying to sneak a faith based approach into a number of policy areas and are obsessed with promoting self-appointed religious ‘community leaders’. The Lib-Dems have a number of sound MP’s with a rationalist approach to politics, Evan Harris is perhaps the best, they would probably not perpetuate this nonsense.

  • Amy

    Thornavis, I am well aware that Northern Ireland is part of the UK (but not part of Great Britain), but Muggle called Ireland a different part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland is quite separate from the UK!

  • Northern Island *is* part of the UK. Check the Venn diagram:

  • Amy

    Thanks for that link Dave, it’s always so hard to explain all that to people who didn’t grow up here!

  • I need to protest at the ignorance of saying that Ireland is in the UK. PART of Ireland (i.e. Northern Ireland) is in the UK, but 3/4 of it is an independent State thank you very much.

    Also, and this is much more forgiveable, religion is not even too much of an issue in Northern Ireland. The Troubles there have been about sovereignty not about religion. Yes, the different sides of the sovereignty issues fell neatly into a religious divide, and it became a handy shorthand. But it was never a religious war, e.g. about dogma etc.

  • Amy, best not mention the Empire or the British Commonwealth then. 😉

  • a thought

    I’m an American who moved to the UK at age 21, 12 years ago, and I agree entirely with Olivia. I can’t remember who said it, but someone recently stated that “the Prime Minister doesn’t do God.”

    I know lots of Brits who would tick “Christian” on any form but who actually don’t believe in god at all–for those, being “Christian” is part of the culture, not any sort of real belief in anything. Still more, though, just consider themselves healthily agnostic or atheist or indeed entirely apathetic about the idea of religion at all.

  • a thought

    Oh yes–regarding what Clegg’s victory would do for non-theists, I agree with everyone above who said (1) Clegg is incredibly unlikely (as in, beyond unlikely) to be the Prime Minister, but even if he were (2) religion isn’t really part of the landscape, so it wouldn’t matter.

    I did get annoyed, though, in our second televised debates, when all three candidates (Clegg, Brown, Cameron) said that they disagreed with the Pope, but that they “respected” Catholic faith and thought the Pope’s visit to the UK was a good thing. Nobody seemed to ask them what there was to “respect” and *why* the Pope visiting at taxpayer expense is anything *like* a good thing.

  • a thought

    Also, as I’ve mentioned here before, the CofE chaplain at Downing College, Cambridge, 12 years ago was an atheist, openly. CofE seems to be remarkably, amusingly lax in its faith requirements.

  • Sally

    @a thought,

    The reason why no head of state (or potential head of state) is willing to put their neck on the block and denounce the pope’s visit or threaten to prevent it is because that really would be career suicide for any politician, British or otherwise. Diplomacy doesn’t work like that. No matter how odious the general public find that whole institution, the government has no real grounds to ban him from entering British soil.

    Besides, if any government *did* try to ban the pope, it would generate a backlash of sympathy for the Catholic church amongst those Catholics that might otherwise have become disillusioned and left.

    I do agree though that we, the taxpayer, shouldn’t be funding the cost of this visit. Does the Catholic church not have the money to pay for it themselves or something? 😉

  • If you respect the RCC you’re also respecting child rape and abuse and cover-up. I don’t respect the RCC and and I don’t respect it’s followers as through their numbers the RCC has it’s power. Clegg for respecting the RCC should know better, but he’s nearly Catholic anyway after marrying one and bringing up his kids in that canabalistic faith. He’s worse than a faith-head as he should know better.

  • The situation in the UK is very interesting. Given that most people in the UK are assumed to be non-religious, and are surprised when someone is, the issue of religion is just really a non-issue. People don’t really care whether a candidate is religious or not. However if they were overtly religious I wold expect that to have more of a negative effect on their campaign, the opposite of the USA.

    Nick Clegg rise, I believe, is due to main things, the right time, the democratisation of the vote via the internet, and his excellent performance in the debates.

    There are problems in the UK electoral system in that the parties vote distribution isn’t reflected in the number of seats a party actually receives. The first-past-the-post system. For instance in the last election Labour won 37% of the votes and gained 55% of the seats in parliament. So we have a situation where the majority of the country voted against a government it now has. Nick Clegg and his party the Liberal Democrats have consistently advocated for proportional representation to address this imbalance.

  • Miko

    I expect that no party will end up with a majority in Parliament, so they’ll end up with a LibDem/Labour coalition. From a political angle, this means the LibDems will probably be able to at least temper some of Labour’s more disgusting positions (Third Way-ism, neoliberalism, etc.) and end up with something slightly closer to what people in the U.S. would call libertarian socialism, while from a religious angle it won’t really mean anything.

    Prime Numbers: “If you respect the RCC you’re also respecting child rape and abuse and cover-up.”

    Just like anyone who pays taxes in the U.S. is supporting torture and murder and cover-up. Isn’t having a one-track mind great?

  • @ Hemant:

    You’re aware that Razib is somewhat conservative? And he believes whites are, on average, more intelligent than blacks (not his article but from Gene Expression). But he reads my blog, so I’m aware of his position and his connections to the human biodiversity (HBD) community (Google Steve Sailer or read my blog) that espouses immigration restriction, abolishment of affirmative action, and decries the hypocrisy of American racial discourse in regards to undermining whites.

    Essentially, GNXP and Razib champion ideas that are diametrically opposed to your idealistic liberalism, yet you link to him. I’m surprised.

  • Chris

    From a Brit married to an American, living in London:

    As other posters have commented, the UK is becoming a post-Christian society. In 2005, 38% of those polled said they believed there is a God, and 12% were members of a church. These numbers are falling rapidly.

    However, we have no separation of church and state. For instance, my sons are ineligible to attend most of the local state-funded schools, as I am unwilling to lie about my atheism.

  • mark

    Miko Said:Just like anyone who pays taxes in the U.S. is supporting torture and murder and cover-up. Isn’t having a one-track mind great?

    Anyone who pays taxes in the U.S. supports keeping his ass out of jail.

    You can’t compare coerced financial support to tithing and and voluntary statements of respect.

  • Another interesting thing, Clegg actually worked as an intern for Christopher Hitchens ( Wonder if that is where he lost his faith? I’m voting Lib Dem because of the possibility of having the brilliant @DrEvanHarris as science minister.

  • Jeff B.

    This seems to me to be more of a cultural identification with christianity; like an atheist Jew.

    My parents would still identify as catholic, although their church attendance is purely for social contact.

  • Miko, if you pay US tax, that only means you respect the fact that the US has a very big stick that it will hit you with if they think you owe them tax and don’t cough up. I would not be surprised if a lot of US citizens only pay taxes under duress.

    But Catholics fully have a free choice to support their Church or not. It’s not as if Opus Dei come round with baseball bats and beat your 10% out of you each month if you stop contributing.

  • Dave

    The Lib Dems have said they’ll get rid of Anglican bishops from the House of Lords as part of their reforms, and they’re the one party I can see actually shaking things up.

    Labour may have supported certain reforms, but 13 years after they came to power we still have 26 unelected people placed in our second chamber purely because of their faith. I can’t see the Conservatives doing much about it; they’re more likely to pander to Christians and keep the status quo.

    As for Nick Clegg’s response to the Pope’s visit, personally I’d love to see him take the Dawkins approach and call for his arrest, but no mainstream politician is going to risk alienating Catholics like that.

    You can watch the debate responses here. I assume that you can watch it outside of the UK.

    It does make me sick that they all say they’d welcome the Pope’s visit, but at least none of them ignored the abuse scandal. Clegg mentions his lack of faith, and doesn’t throw in so many pro-faith platitudes, but overall I find it hard to tell much difference between them.

  • Greg

    Danu – afraid I can’t agree with you there. Religion has played a huge part in the ‘troubles’ (reminds me of the euphemism for the RCC’s child molestation) – if only because it has prevented reconciliation for years. When you have not only schools, but pubs, shops, and pretty much everything else split into Protestant and Catholic versions, where no-one of the other faith is allowed to tread, it is a problem.

    Also, historically, the roles of Protestants and Catholics in society (the ‘classes’ if you like) have changed rather since it all began, but because they are split into the different religions, the groups haven’t altered one bit. The differences started by nonreligious means but they could not have stayed beyond the first generation or two without the ‘handy’ sectarianism to label them with.

    I wouldn’t agree with you saying 3/4 of Ireland is in the UK, either, but that’s possibly just nitpicking. My geography lessons mainly went in one ear out the other, but I believe that not all of Ulster is in Northern Ireland; and Northern Ireland is not part of (what most people understand by) Ireland either, the Republic gave up all claim to it as part of the peace process! :p

    Also, I think I ought to add, that having grown up in Ireland myself, although it is more religious than the UK, it is also nowhere near the insanity a lot of the US seems to be at – it’s not really comparable to a Bible Belt for the UK muggle! 🙂

  • Thornavis.

    @Amy & others.

    You’re right, NI is of course in the UK ( I was thinking of the position of the Isle of man and Channel Islands for some reason ) but whilst this may legally be the case it can hardly be said that, in practice, it ever has been really. The claim that religion has nothing to do with the ‘troubles’ is just ridiculous the whole reason for the existence of NI is religion and it’s laws and government differ significantly from those of the rest of the UK for that reason. As I said before it’s a typical British fudge and the pernicious effects of religious bigotry and politics with a ‘faith’ element are all too obvious there.

  • Kaylya

    I’m pretty sure that the US is the only Western democracy where religion is so important for political leaders.

    I suspect someone who was openly atheist would have an easier time getting elected in Canada than someone who wore evangelical Christianity on their sleeve. Our current Prime Minister is an evangelical, but he tries to keep his exact beliefs rather quiet.

    This article actually adds some weight there:
    Why Stephen Harper Keeps his Evangelicalism Very Private
    “A 2006 Ipsos Reid poll showed the percentage of Canadians willing to vote for a prime minister who is evangelical had fallen 17 percentage points in a decade.

    Only 63 per cent of Canadians said they’d vote for a prime minister if he were an evangelical, below the 68 per cent who wouldn’t hesitate to vote for an atheist or a Muslim. ”

    (Contrast that to the US where about 50%+ tell pollsters they *wouldn’t* vote for an Atheist).

  • muggle

    Well, my ignorance certainly set off a shitstorm. My apologies to anyone offended. Thanks for the chart, Dave. Visuals help. I always sucked at science and social studies (including geography).

    Thanks for the information about the Danish National Church, Cecilie. I didn’t know that. Seems something to this. Maybe the fundies in America better hope they don’t get what they wish for. And maybe that’s the silver lining if they do. It’ll bring the about the death of religion all the faster. I have noticed that the more they push the faster the nones grow.

    Good point, Chris. Though I’m surprised that you have to lie about being Atheist to enroll in the state schools. I thought you just had to endure the RE classes.

  • muggle

    Well, my ignorance certainly set off a shitstorm.

    There’s nothing wrong with ignorance. We’re all ignorant of much more than we know so it’s a perfect place to start.

  • Rufus

    As an example of how little importance religion has on politics in the UK, I have to confess that I don’t know the faith (if any) of my MP.
    I looked him up on Wikipedia and if anything now I’m even less clear. He’s the treasurer of the all [political] party group called Council of Christians and Jews, (he has Jewish parents I discover), but he’s also a vice president of the British Humanist Association and an honourary associate of the National Secular Society (he won their Secularist of the Year award last year).

  • SgtSkepper

    Some corrections to above comments:

    “All parties want to reduce the number of peers in the House of Lords… and introduce a system where they are voted in rather than appointed.”

    While this is true, we must point out that the tories still want to retain the hereditary peers until their death and have not mentioned getting rid of the Lords spiritual whereas both the other main parties are committed to a fully elected House of Lords.

    “Typically the term is between three and seven years.”

    Not true. British parliamentary terms are limited to a maximum of five years.

    “Of course, the idiotic way the electoral system works over here, the Lib Dems (Clegg’s party) could end up with a clear majority in terms of percentile vote, and yet still have the least seats in government, so don’t hold your breath.”

    Replace ‘a clear majority’ with ‘more votes than any other party’. If the Lib Dems get a majority of the votes (50%+), they’d almost certainly have an enormous majority of seats in the Commons.

    “I can’t remember who said it, but someone recently stated that “the Prime Minister doesn’t do God.””

    It was Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s press secretary.

    As for my opinion on the Clegg effect for atheists: While he’s very unlikely to be our next prime minister, he’s very likely to hold the balance of power in the House of Commons. I don’t think his personal atheism will matter, but some of his policies are relevant. They’re against faith schools and want to stop new ones from opening. They want to get the bishops out of the House of Lords. They’re against farming out government services to faith-based organisations.

    On another note, they’re committed to much more evidence-based policy-making. See here:

  • Greg


    Replace ‘a clear majority’ with ‘more votes than any other party’.

    Apologies if I was not clear enough – that is obviously what I meant.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    As others have mentioned, Clegg may not be the next PM (although he is in with a chance), but he may well be the leader of the second largest party come May 7th and this would allow him to dictate terms in the event of a hung parliament.

    The Lib Dem position on science and research, on the lords spiritual, on faith schools, on ID cards, on Trident (The UKs nuclear submarine fleet), on parliamentary reform are all policies desperately needed by the UK.

    I’m honestly getting really quite excited about this election.

  • SgtSkepper

    It’s remarkably unlikely that he’ll be the leader of the second largest party. The Lib Dems will most probably get the third largest number of seats, but this will be easily enough for them to have real power in any coalition deal.

  • naath

    OK so;
    1)Although it would be AMAZING if the LDs won… they aren’t actually all that likely to. But they have a real chance of being the deciding vote in a hung parliament (when there is no clear majority).

    2)Basically no-one in the UK gives a crap that Clegg is an atheist; he’s not “rude” about it (er, a lot of people here dislike Dawkins, I disagree with them, but he would probably not get many votes), he’s a lot like a lot of people here. The UK is not the US, whilst we have an Establish Church a lot of us… really don’t care.

    3)The LDs are an economically left-wing, socially liberal party (to give a simplistic overview).

    4)Our current PM (Gordon Brown) is religious (Presbyterian) but I only know that because he said so when asked what he thought about the pope visiting. Because really… it’s so much of a non-issue here.

  • SgtSkepper, I’ve checked and you are correct about the term that Parliament can sit for … except by Act of Parliament. 🙂

    I’m a bit concerned that the Tories aren’t going to get rid of those Lord’s Spiritual, not that I’d vote for them anyway.

    Still thanks for the corrections. It’s always an education coming here. 🙂

  • SgtSkepper

    Just thought I’d better give an update. I was under the impression, like others, that none of the main parties were talking about disestablishment of the church, but here’s a quote from Nick Clegg on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme:

    “I would like to see the disestablishment of the Church from the state, because religion and Government are two very separate things.”

    I think I’m pretty close to falling in love with this man.

  • ceti

    Well it would be a welcome change from Tony Blair who got increasingly deranged about his self-righteous religiosity while fully supporting the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean it was a steep slide from his communications manager saying the British government “doesn’t do God” to the messianic imperialism post-9/11.

    Britain has had a rump of evangelism — exported mainly to the US in successive waves of religious dissenters, and Cameron has cozied up to the new Christian Zionism taking root in many countries.

    The LibDems are the only party talking about restoring Britain’s civil liberties and freedoms that have been rapidly eroded over the past decade. Indeed, they have outflanked New Labour on the Left which goes to show how unbalanced the British political spectrum has become.

  • Ian

    Australia now has an atheist Prime Minister -Julia Gillard.

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