From Iceland — Where The Candidates Stand On God

Where The Candidates Stand On God

Published June 27, 2012

The Icelandic media has asked a number of presidential candidates for their religious beliefs, including how they feel about the separation of church and state, and their answers varied greatly.
The radio show Harmageddon asked Þóra Arnórsdóttir for her opinion on her religious beliefs. Þóra said that she is not a Christian, and is not registered in the national church. However, she said that she is not sure separating church and state would be a good idea, as “I see how much the church matters to the lives of many,” and that the president should be the president of everyone, regardless of their religious upbringing. At the same time, she believes that religious indoctrination has no place in primary schools.
Andrea Ólafsdóttir, for her part, told Vísir that she does not understand why separation of church and state has not been put up for referendum yet. She preferred to keep her personal religious belief to herself, though, as she said it would be difficult to explain them in plain words.
Hannes Bjarnason told Vísir that he believes in God and considers himself Christian. He also supports the continued existence of a national church, but said that he believes it necessary for the church to continuously update itself.
The beliefs of the incumbent president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, have changed significantly and inexplicably over time. In an interview he did for Helgarpóst in 1980, he said, “I belong to the national church, like most, but despite this I am pretty convinced that God does not exist.” In October 1995, he was asked if he was still of this opinion, and replied, “Yes, I really am,” adding furthermore that there were many gods of many cultures, but that “it is very difficult to convince me that any of these gods is the right one, that is to say, the one that rules the church now.” However, in an interview he gave Stöð 2 in June 1996, he said, “Of course I am a Christian man”, saying he is a member of the national church, and that he believes in God. He also responded to a direct question from a DV reader on his position on separation of church and state by saying, “The connection between the state and the church has already changed. There is religious freedom in this country. On the other hand, the national church is an integral part of Icelandic history, culture and society, and difficult to separate the two, as it pertains to formalities.”

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