As regular readers know, I deem religion to be a toxic and divisive force in the world and history tells us that countless numbers of people have died over the centuries because of the hate and bigotry religion fosters. In the political arena, religion is equally toxic. Despite this reality, most American politicians prostitute themselves to the "godly folk." The exception to this rule? Bernie Sanders. A column in the Washington Post looks at why Bernie Sanders does not participate in the toxicity of organized religion. Here are highlights:
Growing up, Bernie Sanders followed the path of many young American Jews. He went to Hebrew school, was bar mitzvahed and traveled to Israel to work on a kibbutz.But as an adult, Sanders drifted away from Jewish customs. And as his bid for the White House gains momentum, he has the chance to make history. Not just as the first Jewish president — but as one of the few modern presidents to present himself as not religious.
“I am not actively involved with organized religion,” Sanders said in a recent interview.
Sanders said he believes in God, though not necessarily in a traditional manner.
“I think everyone believes in God in their own ways, “ he said. “To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”
Sanders’s religious views, which he has rarely discussed, set him apart from the norm in modern American politics, in which voters have come to expect candidates from both parties to hold traditional views about God and to speak about their faith journeys.
Every president since James Madison has made the pilgrimage across Lafayette Square to worship at St. John’s Church at least once, according to the White House Historical Association. Only three presidents, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, have been unaffiliated with a specific religious tradition,. . .
For Sanders, rejecting the formal trappings of religion adds to the unconventional nature of a candidacy that has energized many liberals but could prove problematic in a general election. He is a self-described “democratic socialist” who has refused to shy away from policy positions that would expand government and increase taxes.
Sanders often presents his support for curbing Wall Street banks and ending economic inequality in values-laden terms. He recently described it as “immoral and wrong” that the highest earners in the country own the vast majority of the nation’s wealth.
In the interview with The Post, Sanders sought to explain how his approach to political issues, from climate change to income inequality, is grounded in a moral understanding that transcends religious and political partisanship.“In terms of climate change, you have people as conservative as the evangelicals, many evangelicals, who understand that you cannot destroy God’s planet. And you have Pope Francis, who as you know, I admire very, very much, talking about this planet and the suicidal direction regarding climate.”