“What is Sanders’ Religion?” asks CNN writer Daniel Burke:
Though raised Jewish, Sanders says that he is “not particularly religious,” nor is he a member of any congregation or synagogue. “I am not actively involved in organized religion,” he has told reporters.
But at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire in February, Sanders seemed to contradict himself.
“It’s a guiding principle in my life, absolutely,” said the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate…
So what gives? Is Bernie Sanders religious or not?
It’s quite amazing to see an entity like CNN indirectly broach the whole “Marxism as Secularized Judaism” thesis:
At the University of Chicago, where Bernie Sanders went to college, he spent hours imbibing socialism’s sacred canon: the writings of Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky and Eugene V. Debs, a socialist who ran for president five times.
In his autobiography, Sanders completely skips the next chapter in his life. There is no mention of the months he spent on a kibbutz in northern Israel. (Actually, Israel isn’t mentioned at all, a noteworthy omission for a Jewish-American politician.)
Friends say the agrarian Israeli collective solidified Sanders’ faith in socialism, but it apparently did not deepen his relationship with organized Judaism
The CNN piece quotes from Walter Brueggemann, a Christian theologian:
Brueggemann said the moral foundation of Sanders’ political crusade is profoundly Jewish, even if the candidate does not acknowledge it. “I suspect he’s not schooled in the niceties of Jewish theology, but he has inhaled the tradition for so long that it may be intuitive for him.”
CNN then quotes from Jonathan Sarna, “a professor at Brandeis University and the dean of Jewish-American historians”. Regarding whatever exposure to Jewish prophets a young Bernie Sanders may have experienced:
… Sanders probably imbibed the prophets’ lessons indirectly, through an unorthodox source: socialism.
Like Sanders’ father, many Jews who emigrated from Europe in the 20th century were steeped in both Judaism and socialism. Many left Jewish rituals behind, in large part because of anti-Semitism and corrupt rabbis in their homelands, while clinging to Judaism’s ethical teachings.
“To their minds, socialism became a kind of substitute religion,” Sarna said.
In socialism, Jewish immigrants found a “secularized Judaism” whose central tenets were humanitarianism, solidarity and progress, a mix that might sound familiar to Sanders supporters.
For an invaluable discussion of this connection, in the most important modern book on Jewish identity, read “Jews and the Left”.