There’s An Openly Atheist President in Uruguay

In news that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of American press, José Mujica, the President of Uruguay, made a reference to his own atheism this week when speaking about the ailing Hugo Chavez:

President José Mujica (via EFE)

Reader David Osorio was kind enough to translate:

“I still have not been able to believe in God… if such an important man exists I hope he gives a helping hand to the poor in Latin America by defending the health of the commander,” said Mujica.

Ignoring for the moment the suggestion that Chavez is the solution to poverty in Latin America, it’s not very often that a sitting president makes a declaration like that.

Even stranger (at least from my American perspective) is how that barely seems to register as “news.”

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Laisa

    Well, yeah… while most Uruguayans are religious, ours is still a pretty secular country (with flaws, of course… like a gigantic cross in the center of our capital city); here, the idea of having prayers in public schools, for instance, is unthinkable, luckily :)

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    If you’re an atheist, you’re probably smart. If you’re smart, there’s a good chance you’re an atheist. In many societies (including Latin America), smart people are respected. That doesn’t mean people agree with them, but I guess you could say they get some slack cut towards them. They’re smart, so you expect them to think a little differently. No problem.

    In the U.S., if you’re smart, you’re an intellectual (a pejorative)  and can’t be trusted. Smart people have funny ideas and are out to destroy society. Let’s not forget they’re probably commies, too. In the U.S., we respect idiots. The stupider our leaders are, the more we admire them. If they take pride in their own ignorance and stupidity, so much the better.

    • Yukimi

      That explains Bush XP

    • J. R. Boedeker

      I so like and agree with this statement.  Very well said C.

    • NickDB

      Which is why  a lot of us foreigners (wrongly) refer to the States as DUHmerica.

      Helmut this isn’t news to most parts of the world, all it is one leader wishing another leader well. How José Mujica does his job is WAY more important that what he believes. Same for my country too.

    • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

      In my experience most people aren’t very smart regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Moreover, it doesn’t seem as if being smart is at all correlated with having a greater likelihood of believing truths over falsehoods. Just my impression of humanity, and I’d very much like to be proven wrong.

  • Miko

    I’ll grant that anarchism is the only real solution for poverty, but Chavez has still done more for the poor than any U.S. president ever has.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    Interesting and good to know. I like the way he expresses it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HXODDKBLQIKBWZSN3YNALACPTQ maya

    South America is very Catholic, this is very interesting….
     

    • Pedro Lemos

      Blame it on Portugal and Spain… But now the catholic church is losing it´s power to the Evangelics, at least here in Brazil…

    • Juan

      Uruguay has always been more secular than Latin America as a whole. We had the luck of a transformational president early in the twentieth century in the form of Jose Batlle y Ordoñez, who brought great reforms to Uruguay, he truly changed the Uruguayan society. In the respect of religious freedom, we were among the first countries where the church was separated from state, that’s why i’m constantly shocked when i see that a US president cant even say he doesn’t believe in god. In Uruguay, religion has no place in politics. About 1/3 of the population are atheist, but also 1/3 are not practising religion, so that’s not a topic we care to.

  • Larry Gagnon

    I love Uruguayans even more now. Having spend many weeks travelling all around Uruguay (which is a country generally off the tourist map) I can attest to the wonderful laid-back attitude and genuine friendliness of the natives.  Felicitaciones Senor Mujica !

  • Rosaldicas

    After 14 years in prison and at the bottom of a well thanks to the USA policy in Latin America, and their subordinate Uruguayan military, I guess that it would be very hard to believe in a god at all.
    He doesn’t believe in a god of ANY persuasion, as most Uruguayans do. Not even he reveres the god Mamon, himself being the poorest President of the whole world. He owns no property other than his aging VW beetle, and donates 70% of his remuneration as President, to his party and humanitarian aid for the Uruguayan poor.  This in a country that abolished religious education in public schools in the 19th century, that allowed women to vote before the French did, that implemented the 8 hours working day before the USA, the first that recently provided every primary and secondary public school student with a free computer and free connection to the internet under an educational plan called Plan Ceibal. So, who needs gods?

    • Laisa

      though, unfortunately, we still haven’t legalised abortion or same-sex marriage… I guess no one can have it all ;)

  • J. R. Boedeker

    Well, yeah, it’s 
    Uruguay. ‘Murcans don’t care too much about a backwards three person commie country. We got more important things to think about, like those troublesome gays trying to have abortions. 

  • Cassecou

    I am very proud of our atheism. This was a process that began in 1959 with a little problem between Catholics ans Masons. José Batlle y Ordoñes was the one who concludes this process with many laws in the earlies years of the twenty century. But now we still fighting against the obscurantism and the new religions coming mostly from Brazil. I am glad to know that in other countries there is people interested in our secular society.

    • Laisa

      did you mean 1859? becasue, as far as I know, Pepe Batlle was dead in 1959…

  • JanH

    Here in Belgium our Prime-Minister is a socialist, gay, atheist son of illiterate Italian migrants. How ‘s that!

    • Stijn

      Yea, when do we get any credit? :p

  • Simon

    Ignoring for the moment the suggestion that Chavez is the solution to poverty in Latin America, it’s not very often that a sitting president makes a declaration like that.

    Chavez has decreased poverty in Venezuela. This is basic economics data that you can look up online.

  • http://www.quietatheist.com/ Slugsie

    It’s a very odd statement. Almost like he’s hedging his bets on the whole God discussion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gowri.thampi Gowri Thampi

    Well, its no big deal in India either, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was an atheist, even now so many cabinet ministers refuse to swear on the Gita and ask for the constitution instead, nobody bats an eyelid. Whether they uph0ld the constitution they swear by is another issue altogether. 


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