Atheist politicians in the UK and US

There is no reason to think that the level of unbelief among elected officials in the US is much less than it is in the general public so it is really quite embarrassing that there are no openly atheist members of the US Congress. Compare that with the UK where they actually have a state religion of which the Queen is the head but where their All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group has 150 members, most of them elected atheists.

And open disbelief goes all the way to the top.

[Prime minister David] Cameron is often said to be vague about his Christian beliefs whereas his deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, is openly atheist, as is Labor leader and perhaps future prime minister Ed Miliband.

Miliband would not be Britain’s first atheist prime minister if his party takes power in 2015. A spokesperson at the British Humanist Association said that at least four confirmed nonbelievers held the top job in the 20th century.

In the US, the best we have are closeted nonbelievers. Maggie Ardiente of the American Humanist Association says “We already know of 24 members of Congress who have told us privately that they don’t believe in God, but they won’t come out, of course, and if we tried to out them they would deny it.”

It is kind of sad, really, how backward the US is when it comes to the acceptance of nonbelief.


  1. doublereed says

    Funnily enough, Israel as well is more accepting of nonbelievers, despite it being the Jewish State and all.

    I think it’s because in America it has become pretty taboo to speak about religion in the context of politics. Especially our ‘left wing’ which refuses to openly stand up for secularism. We don’t refer to the Republicans as ‘religious’ or ‘Christian’ even though they are. But the media and such don’t talk about that. Therefore only religious candidates will speak about religion and only when they want to. It grants massive privilege to the religious.

    Just look at the way we managed to completely step around Romney’s Mormonism.

  2. AsqJames says

    their All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group has 150 members, most of them elected atheists.

    I wonder why most of the officers (75%) and qualifying members* (70%) are unelected members of the House of Lords then?
    It is kind of sad, really, how backward the UK is when it comes to patronage and privilege over democracy.

    No country is perfect, but lots of them do at least one thing better than most others. What’s really kind of sad is national pride often prevents us adopting solutions thought up elsewhere.

    * – APPGs need a certain number of named members from a certain number of parties to receive recognition and funding.

  3. mnb0 says

    I prefer it the Dutch way (heck, I am a Dutchman). Of most politicians representing secular parties I simply don’t know if they are religious and if they are, which denomination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *