Election analyst says viable candidates could one day claim no religious identity

Political candidates may one day find it more socially acceptable to say they are not attached to a religion or that they don't believe in God, election analyst Henry Olsen said in an interview that aired Tuesday on Hill.TV's "What America's Thinking."

"I think the one barrier that is not likely to be reached in my lifetime ... is somebody who can openly profess no belief in religion," Olsen, a columnist at The Washington Post, told host Jamal Simmons on Monday.

"The numbers of religious nones or nonbelievers is increasing, but even somebody who doesn't demonstrate any particular religious affect, like [Sen.] Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses MORE [I-Vt.], does eventually say, 'Yes, I believe in some deity or some god,' " he added. "The thing that still matters now, but may not in 50 years, is that question."

An analysis by Eastern Illinois University political scientist Ryan Burge released on Saturday found that, for the first time in recent history, "no religion" has topped a survey of Americans' religious identity.

The survey found that 23.1 percent of Americans polled claimed "no religion," while 23 percent said they were Catholic and 22.5 percent said they were evangelicals. 

— Julia Manchester