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Julia Eileen Gillard (born 29 September 1961) is the 27th and current Prime Minister of Australia since June 2010. She is also the first woman ever to hold this position in the Australian government.
On July 29th 2010 she was interviewed by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne in which she spoke candidly about her views concerning religion and belief in ‘God’:
Jon Faine: Do you believe in God?
Julia Gillard: No I don’t John, I’m not a religious person…
You can listen to the full interview here:
Naturally Julia Gillard’s being an atheist has stirred a lot of discussion in Australia:
In the video below, a panel from an Australian TV talk-show respond to a question from the audience regarding Julia Gillard’s atheism. The question asked was:
“Might Julia Gillard’s status as an atheist mean that she can represent Australians more effectively and be a unifying figure for people of faith and those who don’t have faith?”
The answers are interesting:
How religious is Australia?
The 2006 census identified that 64% of Australians call themselves Christian: 26% identifying themselves as Roman Catholic and 19% as Anglican. Five percent of Australians identify themselves as followers of non-Christian religions, and 19% categorised as having "No Religion"; 12% declined to answer or did not give a response adequate for interpretation. As in many Western countries, the level of active participation in church worship is much lower than this; weekly attendance at church services is about 1.5 million, about 7.5% of the population. (For the full Wikipedia article: Religion in Australia – Demographics, go here.)
Nick Clegg is the leader of the Liberal Democrats and on May 11th 2010 became Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom through a coalition with the Conservative Party under Prime Minister David Cameron.
Clegg has stated publicly that he does not believe in ‘God’:
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.
Source: Times Online
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (40) is a Dutch intellectual, feminist activist, writer, and politician. She is the estranged daughter of the late Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh’s movie Submission led to death threats. Since van Gogh’s assassination by a Muslim extremist in 2004, she has lived in seclusion under the protection of Dutch authorities. (Source: Wikipedia)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an atheist.
She has authored a number of books, such as The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. In 2007 she released the English version of her 2006 autobiography, Infidel.
Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, cosmologist, and highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics and other natural sciences. During his lifetime, he published more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books. In his works, he advocated skeptical inquiry and the scientific method.
When asked about his religious beliefs:
“Where’s the evidence? Now, the word God is used to cover a wide variety of very different ideas, ranging maybe from the idea of an outsized light-skinned male with a long white beard who sits in a throne in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow–for which there is no evidence, none at all–to the view of Einstein, of Spinoza, which is essentially that God is the sum total of the laws of nature. And since there are laws of nature … if that’s what you mean by God, then of course there’s a God. So everything depends on the definition of God."
When asked about his spiritual views:
"My view is that if there is no evidence for it, then forget about it," he said. "An agnostic is somebody who doesn’t believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I’m agnostic."
Carl Sagan described himself as agnostic.
In episode 10 of his famous TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, he discusses the ‘God’ question:
Stephen Hawking, (born 8th January 1942) is a British theoretical physicist, whose world-renowned scientific career spans over 40 years. His books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity and he is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
Stephen Hawking is severely disabled by motor neuron disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Hawking speaking at TED2008
Transcript of part of the (above) speech he gave at TED 2008 (0.43 – 03.30):
Up until the 1920s, everyone thought the universe was essentially static and unchanging in time. Then it was discovered that the universe was expanding. Distant galaxies were moving away from us. This meant they must have been closer together in the past. If we extrapolate back, we find we must have all been on top of each other about 15 billion years ago. This was the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe.
But was there anything before the Big Bang? If not, what created the universe? Why did the universe emerge from the Big Bang the way it did? We used to think that the theory of the universe could be divided into two parts. First, there were the laws like Maxwell’s equations and general relativity that determined the evolution of the universe, given its state over all of space at one time. And second, there was no question of the initial state of the universe.
We have made good progress on the first part, and now have the knowledge of the laws of evolution in all but the most extreme conditions. But until recently, we have had little idea about the initial conditions for the universe. However, this division into laws of evolution and initial conditions depends on time and space being separate and distinct. Under extreme conditions, general relativity and quantum theory allow time to behave like another dimension of space. This removes the distinction between time and space and means the laws of evolution can also determine the initial state. The universe can spontaneously create itself out of nothing.
Moreover, we can calculate a probability that the universe was created in different states. These predictions are in excellent agreement with observations by the WMAP satellite of the cosmic microwave background, which is an imprint of the very early universe. We think we have solved the mystery of creation. Maybe we should patent the universe and charge everyone royalties for their existence.
Stephen Hawking is the author of a number of books, including A Brief History of Time, his 1988 best-seller which has, to date, sold more than 9 million copies.
James Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a Canadian film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, and inventor. His writing and directing work includes The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994),Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009).
In total, Cameron’s directorial efforts have grossed approximately US$1.89 billion in North America and US$5.7 billion worldwide,making him one of the highest-grossing directors of all time.Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar are the two highest-grossing films of all time.
James Cameron on religion:
"I’ve sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism. I’ve come to the position that in the complete absence of any supporting data whatsoever for the persistence of the individual in some spiritual form, it is necessary to operate under the provisional conclusion that there is no afterlife and then be ready to amend that if I find out otherwise." (James Cameron, from his biography "The Futurist" )
Brad Pitt (born December 18, 1963) is an American actor and film producer. Pitt has received two Academy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations, winning one. He has been described as one of the world’s most attractive men, a label for which he has received substantial media attention.
In 1995 he gave critically acclaimed performances in the crime thriller Seven and the science fiction film 12 Monkeys, the latter securing him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination. Four years later, in 1999, Pitt starred in the cult hit Fight Club. He then starred in the major international hit Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its sequels Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007). His greatest commercial successes have been 2004’s Troy, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005). Pitt received his second Academy Award nomination for his title role performance in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The 45-year-old actor doesn’t believe in God, he told Bild.com.
"No, no, no!," he declared, when asked if he believes in a higher power, or if he was spiritual. "I’m probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it." (Source: NY Daily News)
His partner, Angelina Jolie, is also a non-believer.
Angelina Jolie (born Angelina Jolie Voight; June 4, 1975) is an American actress. She has received three Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and an Academy Award. Jolie has promoted humanitarian causes throughout the world, and is noted for her work with refugees as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She has been cited as one of the world’s most beautiful women and her off-screen life is widely reported.
Jolie achieved wider fame after her portrayal of video game heroine Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), and since then has established herself as one of the best-known and highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.She has had her biggest commercial successes with the action-comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) and the animated film Kung Fu Panda (2008).
In the September 6, 2000 edition of The Onion A.V. Club titled "Is There A God?", celebrities were asked the question. Jolie was among those asked.
The Onion: Is there a God?
Angelina Jolie: Hmm… For some people. I hope so, for them. For the people who believe in it, I hope so. There doesn’t need to be a God for me. There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike. I don’t feel like doing things just because people say things, but I also don’t really know if it’s better to just not believe in anything, either.
Her current partner, Brad Pitt, is an atheist.
Bill Gates (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, philanthropist, and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2010, excluding 2007.
Gates was interviewed November 1995 on PBS by David Frost.
Frost: Do you believe in the Sermon on the Mount?
Gates: I don’t. I’m not somebody who goes to church on a regular basis. The specific elements of Christianity are not something I’m a huge believer in. There’s a lot of merit in the moral aspects of religion. I think it can have a very very positive impact.
Frost: I sometimes say to people, do you believe there is a god, or do you know there is a god? And, you’d say you don’t know?
Gates: In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don’t know if there’s a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.
Despite being non-religious and not having a belief in any gods, Bill Gates is one of the the most generous philanthropists in the world. As of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates were the second most generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity. In January this year, Bill Gates announced that he will donate a further $10 billion over the next decade to develop and deliver new vaccines to children in the developing world.
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (born 18 July 1950) is a British industrialist, best known for his Virgin brand of over 360 companies. Richard Branson is the 261st richest person in the world according to Forbes’ 2009 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of approximately £1.5 billion (US$2.5 billion).
He writes in his autobiography, Losing My Virginity (p.239) "I do not believe in God".