Quite often it may not occur to us what religious affiliation our leader may have but when you sit back and think about it, it should or at least could, have a very important bearing. In this article I run down five leaders who were involved in politics and appear to have atheist views.
Let it be known that for the sake’s of the article I am using the term ‘Atheist’ rather loosely as it can be argued that in fact some of the leaders would be more accurately described as agnostic. However, the point I’m trying to get across is that at some point or another these leaders either denounced religion or indeed God when questioned. And of course the real purpose of the article is to question whether or not these particular beliefs had any outcome on the nations and people that these leaders controlled.
‘Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.’
Often the U.S.A of today is thought of as mainly a country that has it’s roots grounded deeply in Christianity and where the teachings of the bible often reflect common law. It is therefore strange to see one of the most influential Founding Father’s and 3rd President make the list. While Jefferson never outright claimed to be an atheist it seems there is evidence to suggest he was. In all of his writings Jefferson is never quoted as denying an existence of God yet he always aimed to question the role of religion within society and was often critical of stubborn believers. It is in particular the letters Jefferson wrote throughout his life to colleagues and acquaintances that are available to read today that make it thoroughly hard to believe he was a religious man.
A select range of Jefferson’s thoughts towards religion and Christianity can be seen here: http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm
"The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion."
Whilst never a political leader on the basis that he didn’t run any countries it is impossible not to recognise the political impact Karl Marx had on the world. Marx was unarguably a true Atheist and in his extensive writings on communism he proclaimed in no uncertain terms that "in the country of reason" the existence of God cannot have any meaning. Marx also revealed himself to be a strong humanist and it in fact seemed that he saw man as the greatest possible being and head of the universe. As a sociologist who was setting himself the task of creating the perfect socialist state Marx famously declared religion as ‘the opium of the people’. As an idealist it was obvious to Mark that religion was a great suppressant on the people believing that religion was the twisted consequence of man attempting to work out the world they lived in.
"Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism"
Following on from the ideologies of Marx the first communist leader Vladimir Lenin acknowledged that atheism was fundamental in running a large communist state such as the Soviet Union. As the leader of the state it is vital that the people saw Lenin as the highest power there can be therefore there was no room for any form of God or Supreme Being within the state. Lenin made it abundantly clear to his people that Christianity had no place in the future of the Soviet Union. In this sense, it can be said that whether Lenin (and Stalin) was or wasn’t an atheist at heart is irrelevant, their role as totalitarian leaders meant they had to be.
‘I'm one of those people who are incapable of religious experience.’
In official terms Attlee seemed to be an agnostic. Based on what he said concerning his faith in the past, however, I felt it important to include him based on the fact that he was a very important British leader and one of the first to question his faith in such an honest and open way. When questioned on the values of Christianity Attlee said he did value the ethical side that the faith brings but couldn’t believe the ‘mumbo jumbo’. Make of that what you will.
‘To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist.’
When looking through the host of USSR leaders a common theme seems to occur in the fact that none, if any advocated religious worship. As seen earlier in the article with Marx and Lenin communism functioned on what is known as ‘State Atheism’. Gorbachev, famously the last communist leader whilst in power maintained he wad an Atheist as shown through the quote bove. HOWEVER, it has since emerged that Gorbachev has, for a lot of his life been a strong Christian. As reported here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1582213/Mikhail-Gorbachev-admits-he-is-a-Christian.html
Certainly makes you wonder if any of the other USSR leaders were secretly harbouring devout religious feelings also.