Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders opens up about his religion and views on faith.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders became prominent because of his socialist and far left views. But the 73-year-old senator from Vermont has always been silent about his personal life particularly on his religious beliefs until recently.

Sanders considers himself a secular Jew but only in heritage or tradition and not necessarily religious. In a media interview last year, he cites “I’m proud to be Jewish” but eventually added that “I’m not particularly religious.” Sanders was a descendant of a Polish Jewish family who migrated to the U.S. during the great depression and Holocaust period. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941 and since childhood he was raised in Jewish tradition and has also attended Hebrew school.

Sid Ganis who grew in the same neighborhood described the people living in the area as “ordinary secular Jews.” And for the senator’s friend Richard Sugarman, Sanders is “not what you would call rule-observant.” Sugarman noted that Sanders’ Jewish identity is in fact more strongly ethnic or cultural than religious.

Bernie Sanders has a deeper appreciation of politics than religion. After learning the news that majority of his relatives became victims of the Holocaust, he witnessed firsthand the powerful nature of politics. According to Sanders “A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.”

In Feelthebern.org which serves as an informative campaign website for the presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders is said to be a firm believer of the constitutional provision of church and state separation, religious freedom as well as non-faith expression, and of social and economic justice.

For Sanders, the objective of church and state separation is not the censorship of faith-oriented expressions but the protection of religious liberties. It’s the freedom to explore and engage in religion without being coerced by the government. The website cited instances that proved Sander’s commitment with such principle like his negative vote on the Community Solutions Act.

The senator is also a firm believer of religious freedom, the non-discriminatory right to express faith or non-faith. For him religious freedom is “the right to be protected if choosing to practice and express faith in a lawful manner.” He also believes that having such freedom does not entitle an individual to impose his/her belief on others. The website also cited examples wherein employers shouldn’t be allowed to impose their religious beliefs or rules to their employees.

As a socialist, Bernie Sanders believes in social and economic justice. He even prides that he considers Pope Francis his idol in this area. In an interview discussing his faith and spirituality, Sanders responded “I am who I am. 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. This is not Judaism. 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.” Sanders often describe the Catholic pontiff as “incredibly smart and brave.”

Though he is not devoted to the Jewish faith and oftentimes critical of Israeli politics, Sanders remains protective of the welfare of Israel especially against terrorist groups that want to destroy the tiny and disputed nation.

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