Populism and religion have a long relationship, not least in the United States. The great Populist orator of the early twentieth century, William Jennings Bryan, was a deeply religious man, who always infused his populism with his Christianity. Today, authoritarian leaders still combine populism with virtually every major religion across the global – for example, Jair Bolsonaro and Christianity in Brazil, Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Judaism in Israel, Narendra Modi and Hinduism in India, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Islam in Turkey. Still, the relationship between populism and religion is complex, in theory and practice, and in most cases politicians use one of the two transactionally. Most (right-wing) populists are more patriotic than pious, although some are (or pretend to be) both, politicizing religion rather than religionizing politics.
Cas Mudde is the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and a professor II in the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) at the University of Oslo. His research aims to address the question: how can liberal democracies defend themselves against political challenges without undermining their core values?