Ed Miliband is atheist – so what?

An hour ago, the press association ran a piece entitled “Ed Miliband: I don’t believe in God”. This relates to an interview with Nicky Campbell on Radio 5 Live, where the question was raised, and the answer carefully noted how important it is to be tolerant of people whatever their view.

This will not stop the insults unfortunately. Nor will it help matters much that Miliband is the son of a Marxist heathen, unmarried, and the brother of an atheist who at least did his best by sending his child to a Roman Catholic school.

None of these things matter of course; and as Miliband said in his interview, his views should be a private matter, much like the atheism of our deputy Prime Minister.

But remember it is not just believers who have over-fetishised God in politics. Few may remember two years ago, when David Miliband was thought to be brewing a leadership bid, the philosopher and atheist A.C. Grayling making a plea in the Guardian for an atheist Prime Minister.

It levelled many ridiculous claims that should divide a believing PM from a non-believing one; atheists will not receive messages from beyond if going to war; they will be sceptical about giving special privileges to religious organisations; sectarianism through faith schools will be a thing of the past; neutrality between religious pressure groups will be the order of the day; and they’ll take more “down-to-earth” views.

Let’s throw this nonsense out of the water, just in case Grayling tries to write it again.

Of course, nobody can actually receive messages from beyond, but if we are dealing with stupid reasons to go to war here, suggesting this is the preserve of the religious is to forget the wars authored by such tyrants as Stalin and Mao.

This might evoke the redundant reaction given by the new atheists, usually that Communism is merely a demi-religion without supernatural Gods, and thus subject to the irrationality reserved by the religious (nb it also helps the “Ditchkins’” out in their mission to single religion out as only evil; secular reason as bringing only good).

Will an atheist be any more or less sceptical about giving privileges to religious organisation? The infection that says some religions are more evil than others strikes through even the most ardent atheist too. Christian schools have long been a feature in the UK educational system, yet Islamic schools still have the effect of discomfort for some people, whether that person is religious or not. This may be more political than theological, but then many attitudes on religion today are.

By no means am I saying that Ed Miliband will come to favour one religious institution over another, but what I will categorically suggest is that his atheism will not de facto ignore the level of favouritism or ill-feeling that is levelled at some religions, or even the level at which some secularists believe certain religions are far less compatible with secularism than others.

Furthermore, on the question of educational sectarianism, such institutions do not have a state sanction to be sectarian, but to open a school with a certain religious value system. I’ve little doubt that Ed, even as an atheist, will be happy, or even indifferent, to religious values being attached to schools. Sectarianism in schools, where it exists, is kept quiet, and is certainly not allowed as such – in fact admissions in most schools are still subject to anti-discrimination measures.

Moreover, this accusation, made by A. C. Grayling was made about David Miliband; who, as mentioned, did send his son to a Roman Catholic school.

On possible neutrality between faiths, Ed Miliband has already upset Israeli supporters by speaking at at a Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East reception. It is inevitable that a political position will eventually upset faiths when politics and faith have become so intertwined. It is quite clear, therefore, that an atheist is just as liable as a believer – a further element overlooked by Grayling.

And as for the point about Miliband being more level headed, this remains to be seen, but frankly the dividing line is not drawn between believer and non-believer, only in Grayling’s black and white mind.

4 Responses to Ed Miliband is atheist – so what?

  1. I’m an atheist, too. So, does that mean I’m supposed to think apologists for Hamas (a religious terrorist group) and Islamist supporters of suicide bombing and the destruction of a United Nations Member State are OK?

    What planet are you on?

    • Carl P says:

      I really do not know what has warranted that response Edmund? The only explanation is that you’ve misread my article. My point is that atheists don’t think in a certain way, as expressed by Professor Grayling, instead atheists are just as prone to support silly wars, accept faith schools, turn a blind eye to sectarianism, and be un-level headed (if you will).

      Nowhere did I express my own attitude towards Israel and Islamism; and for your information, having read a lot of your work, and that of the CSJ, I am more inclined to agree with you on quite a lot – much to the displeasure of my left wing comrades.

      • It was this that riled me:

        On possible neutrality between faiths, Ed Miliband has already upset Israeli supporters by speaking at at a Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East reception. It is inevitable that a political position will eventually upset faiths when politics and faith have become so intertwined.

        It doesn’t simply anger me because I’m an ‘Israeli supporter’. That’s a loaded term anyway, as I am actually a supporter of a Two State Solution, so I don’t consider myself an ‘Israeli supporter’, so much as someone who believes Israel has every right to exist, just as Palestinians have a right to self-determination in a State of their own. If I appear more slanted towards supporting Israel, that’s simply because Israel regularly suffers unreasonable and ideological attacks, and is the only UN Member State I can think of that constantly has to justify its own existence.

        What angers me is Miliband giving credibility to an organisation that publishes material sugar-coating and defending Hamas (Labour Friends) and a disgusting hate group (Friends of Al-Aqsa).

        As I’m an atheist, I don’t see why you’re linking to me in the context of your post, though, given you’re referring to ‘neutrality between faiths’ and ‘upsetting faiths’, neither of which have any relevance to me or my position.

        That said, I appreciate the supportive comments in your reply above, and thank you for responding.

      • Carl P says:

        Thanks for replying.

        The reason I have linked to your site is that you provide an example of where Ed Miliband has upset a group of people already, where the religious sentiment of some will not be wholly absent, thus proving that an atheist cannot make decisions where religious sentiments are not stirred.

        This has nothing to do with Miliband giving preferential treatment to any one religion – of course his is a political position – but that there instances where religion and politics are so closely related that “neutrality of faiths” is almost impossible.

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