Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders artfully dodges a pointed question about believing in God by articulating a powerful vision of compassionate humanism while appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last night.
At one point in the wide ranging discussion Kimmel asked Sanders if he believed in God, and if not, would that hurt his chances of being elected president:
You say you’re culturally Jewish, but you don’t feel religious. Do you believe in God and do you think that’s important to the people of the United States?
In a politically savvy yet compassionate response, Sanders answered:
I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people.
Sanders continued to explain that his philosophy of humanist compassion was not Judaism, while citing remarks made by Pope Francis concerning the worship of money:
And this is not Judaism. This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of money. Life is more than that.
This is not the first time Sanders has articulated a vision most humanists would recognize as their own. In an uplifting viral video supporting Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign an inspired Bernie Sanders rejects divine intervention and asserts:
The problems we face did not come down from the heavens. They are made, they are made by bad human decisions, and good human decisions can change them.
Sanders, a favorite among progressives looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016, is a friend to freethinkers, and the enemy of conservative Christians. Religious News Service describes Sanders as “unabashedly irreligious” and “the anti-Bible thumper,” noting:
Sanders is the presidential contender most willing to dissociate himself from religion. Though he identifies as Jewish and by Jewish law is Jewish, he has freely acknowledged that he is not a religious person. He scored a solid zero from Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition in its most recent scorecard and a 100 from the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Scoring a zero from Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition is a badge of honor, and should be a ringing endorsement to the ears of every humanist, every atheist, every freethinker, every reasonable American who rejects the deplorable, theocratic agenda of the religious right.
In a perfect world, a candidate’s belief in God, or lack thereof, would not be a concern for voters. In fact, the US Constitution forbids a religious test for office. However, this is not a perfect world, and politicians are often forced to confess their belief in God or suffer the consequences.
While Sanders successfully navigated Kimmel’s question about God last night, this probably will not be the last time Sanders is asked about his belief in God. How Sanders chooses to address or not address this question in the future may be pivotal in his success or failure as a presidential candidate.
Bottom line: Sanders sounds like a humanist, which is a beautiful thing, but will that be enough for an American public that has come to expect politicians to publicly profess a belief in God at every opportunity?
(Portions of this post were previously published here.)
Watch the interview, Kimmel asks Sanders about God around the 1:30 mark: