by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Once upon a time, Bernie Sanders would have had another political vulnerability besides his socialism — namely, his atheism.
In 2016, a DNC staffer had to apologize after the WikiLeaks hack exposed an email he wrote that suggested using Bernie’s atheism against him in the primary.
This year, Bernie’s religion or lack of it has barely made a ripple or even occasioned any comment. It used to be expected that serious presidential candidates would have religious faith and discuss it, in keeping with the religious coloration of the country they sought to govern. Just as the taboo against openly socialist candidates has given way, so has the old norm about religiosity eroded nearly to the vanishing point.
Sanders, a secular Jew, doesn’t call himself an atheist. The way he puts it is that he’s “not actively involved in organized religion,” and that he believes in God, just not in a traditional matter. “To me,” he has said of his religion, “it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.” …
… Functionally, this means his religion is indistinguishable from the vision of solidarity undergirding his socialist politics. …
… This makes Sanders an outlier in American life, but less of one than he used to be. According to the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of Americans says that they are atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular,” up from 17 percent in 2009. The growth of the religiously unaffiliated can be seen across all demographic groups and regions but is especially pronounced among young people who are, of course, disproportionately Bernie supporters.