He further explained that, like many religious nones, he has his own brand of spirituality — one that is more secular in nature, and defined less by dogma and more by humanity’s (and nature’s) interconnectedness.
“I think everyone believes in God in their own ways,” Sanders said in a recent interview. “To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”
Sanders would be our first Jewish president, as well — although one must not be religiously devout to identify as Jewish. (Larry David, Jon Stewart, Woody Allen, and Sarah Silverman are all fine examples.)
A secular Jew is not a whole lot different than a secular person of Christian (or any other) heritage. Any of us who grow up in a religious background, or come from a religious heritage, have a choice to either embrace the religion we are born into, or not.
At The Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson wrote about Bernie’s loose definition of God:
Well, that’s great, but in that case, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris believe in God. If this is theism, then what is atheism?
No, Bernie was being political. He knows that atheists are widely despised in America—it’s one of the few permissible prejudices—and that many of them are arrogant, obnoxious jerks. He also knows that his own quasi-atheism is yet another reason he is unelectable in a country that still identifies as over 80% religious.
According to Pew Research, half of adults would be less likely to support an atheist for president. (They would be 9% more likely to vote for a Muslim.)
Just four years ago, 77% of senior voters who would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable with an atheist president (this includes 60% who would feel VERY uncomfortable with an atheist president).
The times, they are a’ changin.’
A major survey by the Pew Research Center recently revealed that America’s religiously unaffiliated, also known as “nones,” had for the first time grown to become the second-largest religious identification group in the country, beating out Catholics, and leaping from about 16% in 2007 to 23% just seven years later.
If that weren’t enough to shuffle the political deck, over a third of millennials are “nones,” and many of them left formal faith traditions to become so.
Millennials, it is clear, place much less importance on religion when choosing a candidate than their grandparents. And it’s millennials who are coming out in droves for Sanders. Currently, Sanders is enjoying a 24 point lead over Clinton among the age group.
You might’ve said that hell would freeze over before we saw a non-religious president. And while it still might be somewhat of a longshot for Bernie to find his way into the White House, his non-religiosity does not appear to be his sole barrier.
And as more boomers fade away, it will become less of a barrier for future candidates.