Thursday, July 1, 2010

Newly Appointed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on God and Religion.


[Jon] FAINE (ABC): Do you believe in God.

PM [Julia Gillard] : No, I don't Jon, I'm not a religious person.

Australia’s first female Prime Minister is an atheist. While this would be virtually unthinkable in America, it’s not new in Australia. Governor-General Bill Hayden was also an atheist, and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke was agnostic (I presume they both still are). Not many high echelon political leaders have spoken out about their unbelief, though many, particularly in recent times, have used their belief and the religion card to attract votes (prime examples being Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd ).

According to Gillard:

"I am not going to pretend a faith I don't feel," she said.
"I am what I am and people will judge that.
"For people of faith, I think the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretence about mine."
"I grew up in the Christian church, a Christian background. I won prizes for catechism, for being able to remember Bible verses. I am steeped in that tradition, but I've made decisions in my adult life about my own views.
"I'm worried about the national interest. About doing the right thing by Australians. And I'll allow people to form their own views about whatever is going to drive their views.
"What I can say to Australians broadly of course is I believe you can be a person of strong principle and values from a variety of perspectives."

Source: Gillard won't play religion card

Gillard’s admissions have sparked debate about whether Australia is an atheist country. From Sunrise:

So what is the truth? The truth is that the majority of Australians believe in God, but not in religion. I’m only producing one survey sample here:


1. A question of beliefs

2. Research

Conclusion: Gillard’s atheism is very unlikely to affect her politically (any more than it affected atheist Hayden or the agnostic Hawke). Australians who identify with God mostly do not identify with religion, and may even view religious partisanship as “peddling religion”. Perhaps Ms. Gillard did her research long before making public statements, and realised that this was one issue which would not be detrimental to high office, even the highest office in Australia.

Other Links:

1. PM tells it as she sees it on the God issue

2. Julia Gillard won't bow to Christian vote

Clarification: I originally titled this post "Newly Elected Prime Minister....". Of course Gillard has never been elected, but was appointed by Labor Caucus. If she wins the next election, then she will be "elected" prime minister.

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