Democratic candidates discuss the importance of their faith

The Democratic town hall in 90 seconds
The Democratic town hall in 90 seconds

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    The Democratic town hall in 90 seconds

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The Democratic town hall in 90 seconds 01:30

Story highlights

  • "My spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me," Sanders said
  • "Regardless of how hard the days are, how difficult the decisions are, be grateful. Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe," Clinton said

Washington (CNN)The Democratic presidential candidates discussed the role that faith plays in shaping their principles at Wednesday's CNN Democratic Town Hall.

"It's a guiding principle in my life, absolutely, it is," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said. "You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings."
He added later, "I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can't afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me."
Sanders, who could become the nation's first Jewish president, said he is a concerned about people whose faith does not cause them to be concerned about people in need.
"I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, 'It doesn't matter to me, I got it, I don't care about other people,'" he said. "So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That's my very strong spiritual feeling. "
Sanders recently opened up about his religious views and his Jewish heritage, saying he believes generally in God, but not necessarily organized religion.
Later in the town hall, hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper, Hillary Clinton used faith to answer a question, asked by Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett, about the tension of balancing the "ego" that comes with potentially being the leader of the free world with "the humility" to recognize that no leader is all-knowing.
"I feel very fortunate that I am a person of faith, that I was raised in my church and that I have had to deal and struggle with a lot of these issues about ambition and humility, about service and self-gratification, all of the human questions that all of us deal with," the former secretary of state said.
"I'm constantly trying to balance: How do I assume the mantle of a position as essentially august as president of the United State (and) not lose track of who I am, what I believe in and what I want to do to serve?" Clinton added. "I have that dialogue at least, you know, once a day in some setting or another. And I don't know that there is any ever absolute answer, like, 'OK, universe, here I am, watch me roar' or oh, 'my gosh, I can't do it, it's just overwhelming, I have to retreat.'"
Clinton, who is Methodist, said she receives Scripture lessons by email and has close friends who are rabbis and other spiritual leaders who encourage her through difficult times.
"I have lived a very public life for the last 25 or so years. And so I've had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues, political, public issues," she said.
Clinton discussed the influence of reading Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and noted spiritual writer, and his interpretation of the biblical parable the prodigal son.
"I read that parable and there was a line in it that became just a lifeline for me. And it basically is practice the discipline of gratitude," she said. "So regardless of how hard the days are, how difficult the decisions are, be grateful. Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe."