Bernie Sanders Remains Quiet About His Faith, Which Could Be An Issue Come Election Time

Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to make much of his religious beliefs, but some political pundits believe his belief in God (or seeming lack of belief) could end up having a big bearing on the 2016 presidential election.

Sanders, who is Jewish, does not speak often about his religious background, the Washington Post noted. But this week during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel he was asked whether he believes in God and if he thinks that is important for the race.

Sanders gave a non-answer.

“I am who I am,” Sanders said. “And what I believe in and what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together. That I think it is not a good thing to believe that as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people.”

Sanders added: “This is not Judasim. This is what Pope Francis is talking about — that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money. Life is more than that.”

Some have described Bernie Sanders as agnostic, though he doesn’t give that label to himself and it may not be entirely correct. The Vermont Senator has said he believes in God — including in an interview with USA Today — but like most aspects of his personal life, has not gone into details.

Sanders has spoken about the importance religion has in his life, but more in a political context than a spiritual one. In a profile in the New Yorker, Sanders said his background in Judaism helped shape his own political stance.

“And the other was growing up Jewish — less for the religious content than for the sense it imbued in him that politics mattered,” the New Yorker reported.

“Sanders told me that, in the aftermath of the Second World War, his family ‘got a call in the middle of the night about some relative of my father’s, who was in a displaced-persons camp in Europe someplace.’ Sanders learned that many of his father’s other relatives had perished. Sanders’s parents had been fundamentally apolitical, but he took away a lesson: ‘An election in 1932 ended up killing fifty million people around the world.’ “

Though his faith may not be a personal one, religion in general seems to be exerting a strong influence on the Sanders campaign. He has spoken of his admiration for Pope Francis, and stood up for Israel against its critics.

Stretching back even further, a connection to religion seems to have helped shape Sanders’ philosophies. Just after graduating college, he traveled to Israel for a month to study the state’s experiment with socialism.

The normally very private Bernie Sanders has been opening up in other ways. As his campaign continues to gather steam and pose a threat to Hillary Clinton, Sanders has gradually moved away from strictly stump speeches and shown more about his personal life. A few weeks ago, he paid a visit to Ellen, where he danced with the host.

There are some who believe this lack of a personal faith could hurt Sanders a bit with voters come election time, especially with the more moderate voters he would have to court in a general election — if he reaches that far.

While it may be seen as a disadvantage now, historically, religion hasn’t been too important, and Bernie Sanders certainly would not be the first president without a personal faith. Several of the founding fathers had fallen away from Christianity, including Thomas Jefferson, who described himself as something close to a deist.

[Image via Instagram / Bernie Sanders]