Jonathan Edwards – atheist, agnostic or something else?

The athletics gold-medallist and one-time Christian pin-up boy, Jonathan Edwards, became a high-profile apostate a few years ago. He announced that he had lost the faith that had sustained him through his athletics career and which had taken him on to presenting Songs of Praise and other religious programmes on TV.

He has said little about it since, and it was never really clear where he stood. Now he has given an interview to The Times magazine, saying that his life was transformed when he won the gold medal. “It was possible I could have got to the same level through my own inner drive, but unlikely. I was neither single-minded nor ruthless enough. It was the belief that I should pursue excellence in association with my faith that gave me the confidence necessary to achieve success: I was doing things for God’s glory rather than my own…”

But retiring from athletics “gave me the time and freedom to question my faith. And suddenly I found the answers to questions as basic as ‘Is there a God?’ no longer made the sense they had before. Coming from a scientific background, that in itself wasn’t especially traumatic; I was able to analyse, accept and move on. But of course the whole situation was made much more difficult by the fact I was a relatively high-profile Christian at the time, presenting Songs of Praise on television. I couldn’t be dishonest, though. I had to stay true to myself.”

05 September 2008