The faith of Frank Skinner, in eight quotes


Frank Skinner is fairly remarkable among British comedians. His career has spanned three decades and endured despite changing tastes; he's reinvented himself several times – as a sitcom star, national lead football fan and latterly talk show host. Perhaps most surprisingly of all however, Skinner is a committed and practicing Catholic, profoundly interested in developing his faith and always ready to talk about it.

As a fan, I've noted Skinner squeeze a reference to his faith into almost every edition of his now-established comedy panel show 'Room 101', and this openness is consistent with his approach to interviews. Unlike other well-known believers, the comic doesn't simply resort to a well-rehearsed line about how his private, personal faith is a great source of comfort – he positively engages with the subject as a fundamental part of his life. In conversation he is uncompromising, evangelistic, and even controversial, as some of these highlights from his many interviews on the subject demonstrate.

On rediscovering his faith

"Dad was a keen Roman Catholic, but I left the church when I was 17, not because I'd stopped believing – it was more doctrinal stuff, like that there was no biblical mention of purgatory. I went back when I was 28, just before I gave up drink. Not only has it brought me a sense of where I am in the world and how I should be with other people, it has also encouraged my imagination to think widely. And when I'm in a Catholic church wherever I am in the world, I feel at home."

- From an interview with The Guardian, January 2014

On praying for his friends

"I've prayed for loads of friends, most of them atheists. I tend not to tell them. If I do tell them I fear my motivation for doing so is largely ego-based. I'm just trying to show how nice and caring I am. It's much healthier to do it on the sly. 'When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.'"

- From a column in the Times, March 2010

On understanding the Father heart of God

"When you've got a child, the love that you feel is like nothing else you feel in the rest of your life. And I think for the believer – certainly the parent – it gives you the clearer view of what a big painful, awful sacrifice that was. When they become your primary concern, ahead of yourself – for me, it's helped me to understand that sort of love of God, that selfless, forgiving love."

- From an interview with Jesuit and Friends magazine, July 2013

On doubt

"I worry when I hear religious people who have no doubt, just fundamentalist beliefs, and I worry when I hear atheists who seem to have no doubt at all. I think that that is an essential part of being a human being. And I think that when Jesus is on the cross and says "my Lord, my Lord, why have you forsaken me?" that's the moment when he completely becomes a human being – and then he can die because he's done the full works. So I don't think anyone in this church tonight who believes in God should feel bad if there are days when they find it very very hard to believe."

- From a conversation with Rowan Williams, September 2011

On raising his son as a Catholic, and 'casual atheism'

"I want him to grow up a Catholic because there's a certain Catholic imagination that's good for you. Even if he stops believing it will be good for him to have it. Also, it's good to at least have a think about God before you reject the idea, if you are going to reject it. I suspect he would reject it because most people do – but maybe he wouldn't. I still think it's a valuable thing to have gone through rather than that not to have experienced it at all. A lot if people who say they are atheists have never really given that much thought. A lot of people are just, 'I'm not that interested.'"

- From an interview with Time Out, November 2013

On why decline and 'persecution' of the modern church is a good thing

"Christians have always worked best as an unpopular minority. We were surely at our most dynamic when we knelt, eyes to Heaven, hands clasped in prayer, with a Colosseum lion bounding towards us... Christians tend to save their best work for the "voice in the wilderness" genre. We are most impressive when operating as a secret sect, kneeling in small, candle-lit rooms and scrawling fishes on walls."

- From a column in the Times, March 2010

On the rise of atheism

"I was in Edinburgh recently and I saw several comedians' shows, and even if they were nothing to do with religion they would take a 3 or 4 minute slot where they would say "oh, by the way, I'm an atheist" to make sure they'd ticked the box of 'cool comic'... Now, you need to sort that out. It's very bad that being an atheist has got to be the cool position, because that could be very serious as an end result. But we might see them as people who deny global warming. You might celebrate their rights, their freedom of speech and their opinion, to deny global warming. But if they're wrong and millions of other people have taken their view, then it could end in a terrible terrible disaster for a lot of people. And the church seems to be just letting it get 'cooler' and letting it dominate more and more."

- From a conversation with Rowan Williams, September 2011

On how faith simply 'makes sense'

"I did a tour of Sweden with Eddie Izzard in our early days, and he said, 'I'm thinking of talking about being a transvestite on stage. You should talk about being a Catholic.' I said, 'I think audiences will be more accepting of you being a transvestite than me being a Catholic.' But you know, I don't need it to be cool, I just like it. It seems to make sense to me. Sometimes I sit there [in mass] and I think: 'This is 2012, and we're sitting in this big ornate building, and there's a man holding up a wafer and saying it is the blood and flesh of someone who died 2,000 years ago.' It's quite exciting. It's like a film."

- From an interview with The Telegraph, January 2013

Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape. You can follow him on Twitter: @martinsaunders