Rachel Maddow was born and raised in Castro Valley, California.
Maddow was raised in a Catholic family but I couldn’t find a shred of evidence that suggests Maddow herself still follows the teachings of that church. In fact, she defended the Obama administration’s requirement that all insurers cover contraception, which caused controversy among Catholic insurance providers which are traditionally opposed to contraceptive use.
She describes her family’s Catholic beliefs positively and as not particularly conservative, at least in regards to her sexual orientation. After Maddow’s parents discovered that she was gay, they initially struggled to reconcile that with their faith:
It took a while for them to get over it. My family’s very, very Catholic, so that was part of the initial upset. But I actually think that having a really strong faith is part of the reason they got over it—despite Catholic teaching being very anti-gay. Having a faith tradition was helpful for them and gave them the strength to get over this difficult thing.
More important to Maddow than spouting out about her religious beliefs or lack thereof is her fierce defense of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In fact, in 2010, she received an award from the Interfaith Alliance for her work in covering religion and politics and defending religious freedom.
So religion is obviously on the forefront of her mind, but it seems to be less about her own faith so much as where religion and politics intersect. I sense that she’s distancing herself from her family’s religion. And the fact that she doesn’t talk about her own beliefs in public make me think she’s probably mostly non-religious.
Maddow is a political talk show host on MSNBC, which has been labelled the liberal TV news counterpart to Fox News. When asked if she was registered with a particular political party however, she said “sometimes.” She describes her political views like this:
I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.
That quote serves more to illustrate her view that American politics–both Democrat and Republican–have shifted so far to the right that she considers some 1950’s Republicans to be more liberal than her. That’s not to detract from the fact that she’s definitely on the left side of things. She has a liberal position on pretty much every issue from equal pay for women and the legalization of gay marriage to tighter gun control legislation and critcism of the military-industrial complex. That last topic was the subject of her book, Drift.
But she’s not towing the Democratic party line. She’ll criticize Obama harshly on her show if she feels it’s warranted, and she’s been known to praise Glenn Beck. She has a reputation as an policy wonk and an outsider, but still earns the respect of many conservatives for her intelligence and pleasant respect for honest disagreement. And the high ratings of her show and book reveal the sizable impact she has on the liberal community. Maddow is undoubtedly an influential and respected figure in the world of American politics at least in the Obama years–and probably for a long time to come.