In today’s Dagens Nyheter is a new interview with Björn, in which he is asked a variety of questions regarding religion, finding peace and places of worship. I have tried to summarise as best I can, some of the more interesting statements that Björn made.
DN Kultur: He doesn’t believe in God or anything to do with life after death and dislikes all forms of religious extremism. However atheist Björn Ulvaeus has no issue with hymns being sung in church or school end-of-term ceremonies. “Humans have an unmeasurable need for fairy tales and myths. I enjoy the beautiful stories and legends that mean a lot to many.”
Every Christmas Eve, Santa visits Björn’s family but he can no longer play Santa, the grandchildren recognise him.
“It is important to me that Santa comes, and that the children experience the delight that I remember from childhood.
“Although today the story of Jesus is just a myth to me and Jesus himself is just a mythical figure.”
Since 2005, Björn has been a member of the atheist Humanist organisation.
“I am interested in the role of religion in a secular society and marvel at how people can have faith in something that no-one has ever been able to prove exists. On that condition, I just cannot indulge in a belief in ‘something’ or ‘someone’.”
Björn Ulvaeus comes from a home without religious rituals or ceremonies, even though he once portrayed a belief in God: “I was baptised and confirmed. It was something you just did. I was pretty young, maybe around 12 years old.”
Björn has not always questioned religion in quite the same way as he does now. The terrorist events of September 11, 2001 however served as a wake-up call. “It was then, that I realised, that people with subjective experiences and revelations that had no basis in reality wanted to assume power over others in the name of religion.
“We see that religious forces are now penetrating the political arena. Religion should not control people’s lives, whether they be Christians or Muslims.
“Take Mitt Romney who wanted to be U.S. president. He is a Mormon and believes in all seriousness in the proclamations of that movement. The Book of Mormon is founded on the assumed revelations of an angel. Such a man wanted to be leader of the world’s most powerful country!”
Despite his harsh criticism of organised religion, Björn thinks that ceremonies with a religious background have their place. “Many people cling to religious traditions – even when they do not believe in God.”
Last summer Björn’s and wife Lena’s youngest daughter Anna got married.
“It was a wonderful intimate wedding on a Greek beach, almost like the one in Mamma Mia!, with a lot of music, excellent food, friends and many speeches.
“When I married Agnetha Fältskog, my first wife, we wanted a real fairy-tale wedding in a church, with a castle and a ceremonial ball. We followed the traditional path. Today, with the wisdom and freedom that comes with age, I’m more radical.”
Björn Ulvaeus is impressed by the amazing architecture of churches and is humbled by the realisation that churches mean so much to many. He marvels at all those who invested so much in building great cathedrals as well as beautiful churches in small villages.
Here he is in Hedvig Eleonora Church in Stockholm. He thinks Notre Dame in Paris is an amazing building but also appreciates and enjoys the small rural churches back home in Småland.
“I think that these people who created places of worship thought in a different way. Culture and society was quite different then. People thought truly that God existed and that Jesus once walked the earth. I cannot.”
DN: Yet you pay church tax?
“Yes. I hope my tax money (some of it anyway) goes towards preserving old churches. They are a part of our heritage.
“When Kristina in Kristina från Duvemåla as an immigrant woman cast adrift in America wonders if God failed her, it is a cry for consolation. For many this need is so strong that they step over a threshold, and feel that faith becomes reality, becomes the truth.”
DN: How do you find comfort?
“I find inner peace in my four children and five grandchildren. It is healing to be with them. We have no specific issues. We have no rituals or things that must be done. Worldly problems leave me when we are together.”
DN: Are you afraid of dying?
“Not of the end no, but I would be scared of a protracted painful death with a lot of suffering.”
DN: Have you planned your funeral?
“No, a funeral should give consolation to those who are left and they are the ones who’d probably be best at arranging how the ceremony should be. But perhaps I will talk to the children about how they would want it to make sure that there is no clashing of ideas.”