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God turns up at the BAFTAs

‘I believe in God.’ 

Those words made me sit up and listen when they were uttered by Samantha Morton during her acceptance speech for the BAFTA fellowship award on Sunday night.  

Morton, who has starred in blockbusters such as Minority Report and Fantastic Beasts, also directed the 2009 movie Unloved, which she said was about ‘faith, hope and forgiveness’. 

Morton is a committed Catholic. And she’s not the only celebrity who has been willing to share their faith from a public platform. 

A few years ago, Hollywood actor Chris Pratt shared his Christian faith during an MTV awards ceremony, saying ‘God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that.’ Likewise England football player Bukayo Saka frequently gives thanks to God in post-match press conferences.  

This increasing willingness among public figures to talk about their faith marks a change in the spiritual atmosphere in recent years. During the height of so-called ‘New Atheism’ in the mid-2000s, it was rather unfashionable to admit you believed in God. Bestselling atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens were pouring scorn on anybody who admitted to having a faith.  

So, what’s changed?  

In part, the new atheist movement itself became over-zealous and shouty. But, it also turns out you can’t eradicate the religious impulse. Indeed, even in our very secular age, I’m surprised by how many thinking people are converting to Christian faith.  

One of them is Paul Kingsnorth, a celebrated writer and poet, who surprised his audience by announcing his conversion in 2021. Speaking on my Surprising Rebirth podcast, Kingsnorth explained why he believes many people are waking up to the need for God, saying that the search for the divine ‘has always been at the centre of every culture… except this one… which has decided to pretend that’s not real for a bit.’ 

Another high-profile thinker reminding secular people about God is the historian Tom Holland, co-host of the hugely popular The Rest Is History podcast. I trace Holland’s own intellectual and spiritual journey in my book The Surprising Rebirth Of Belief In God. 

Holland is among a number of secular thinkers who are reconsidering the value of Christianity in the wake of new atheism’s collapse and the growth of a ‘meaning crisis’ in our culture.  

Whether God gets celebrity endorsements or not, I think the tide is turning in our post-Christian culture. Think about your everyday life – you might just be surprised where God turns up next. 

Justin Brierley
Justin is a broadcaster, speaker, and author of The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God: Why new atheism grew old and secular thinkers are considering Christianity again. He also hosts the Surprising Rebirth documentary podcast. Find him at 


Join Justin and Tom Holland on Tue 5 March for a conversation on whether we really are seeing the first signs of a ‘rebirth’ of belief in God – book your ticket here


  1. Good to see God being talked about in every area of life.

    By Grace Freeman  -  29 Feb 2024

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