Just after Christmas, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg casually told a commenter that he wasn’t an atheist. Not now, not ever. He said he was “raised Jewish,” went through a period of questioning, and now thinks “religion is very important.” It was a response that reeked of the old joke, “I don’t believe in God, but don’t you dare call me an atheist.”
The fact that he responded at all was pretty odd: Why would someone with Zuckerberg’s fame and money go out of his way to answer that particular question? It wasn’t entirely clear.
But we may be getting closer to a response after another statement he made this week about how he planned to visit every state in the U.S. this year.
My personal challenge for 2017 is to have visited and met people in every state in the US by the end of the year. I’ve spent significant time in many states already, so I’ll need to travel to about 30 states this year to complete this challenge.
After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.
As many pundits have noted, the only people who want to visit every state and get to know the people are politicians — especially ones trying to build a national profile before jumping into the ring. Zuckerberg, too, may be sowing the seeds for a potential run for political office. It’s an idea he’s given at least some serious thought to in the past.
In early December, unsealed court filings from a class-action lawsuit filed in April revealed that Zuckerberg and two board members had discussed how the CEO might pursue a political career while retaining control of Facebook.
Not a bad way to do something bigger than Facebook. And unlike Donald Trump, at least Zuckerberg isn’t a pretend philanthropist.
If there’s a political future in store for him, then quietly announcing that he’s not an atheist would fall right in line with eliminating any potentially divisive issues as early as possible. As I pointed out yesterday, even if he didn’t believe in God, why make that a campaign issue for his opponents? Try defusing that bomb right now.
It’s much easier to take the Bernie Sanders approach and claim some sort of nebulous spirituality: Religion is important, let’s all be nice, we should follow the Golden Rule, my religious beliefs are personal, etc. It’s never specific. And it’s never all that interesting.
It’s also the easiest way to be privately atheist without having that label bite you in the ass on the campaign trail.