NPR

Is It Hateful To Believe In Hell? Bernie Sanders' Questions Prompt Backlash

The senator challenged a Trump nominee over his belief that Muslims are condemned, calling his statements "Islamophobic" and "inflammatory." Evangelical Christians say that's a troubling argument.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally in Omaha, Neb., on April 20. Sanders has been criticized for a recent line of questioning toward a Trump administration nominee, which focused on the man's religious beliefs about damnation. / Charlie Neibergall / Shutterstock.com

A low-profile confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill this week raised eyebrows when the questioning turned to theology — specifically, damnation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont pressed Russell Vought, nominated by President Trump to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, about his beliefs.

"Do you think that people who are not Christians are condemned?" Sanders repeatedly asked, challenging that belief as Islamophobic.

Christian organizations have denounced Sanders' questioning as amounting to a religious test for public office — one that would disqualify millions of people.

Polls show about half of all Christians in the U.S. believe that some non-Christians can go to heaven. But particularly among evangelicals, the traditional view of damnation remains widespread.

A confirmation showdown rooted in college dispute

How did hellfire come up in a confirmation hearing in the first place?

In 2015, an evangelical Christian college suspended a tenured professor who said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. That's a belief shared by many Christians, but not all; Wheaton College said it contradicted the school's statement of

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min readPolitics
This Thanksgiving A Majority Would Prefer To Hold The Side Of Political Talk
In the latest NPR Politics Podcast, we explain why Democrats and Republicans are feeling so differently about the inevitable talk of politics during the Thanksgiving holiday.
NPR3 min readPop Culture
Musical Acts Show Their Gratitude On Thanksgiving
NPR's Ari Shapiro spreads the musical appreciation around once again, in conversations with Tegan and Sara, Shabazz Palaces and more.
NPR3 min read
First Listen: Danielle Bradbery, 'I Don't Believe We've Met'
Once a teenage winner of The Voice, the country singer has begun to personalize her craft, with new textures to her big delivery and diaristic self-disclosure in her lyrics.