Vivek Ramaswamy is as comfortable talking about Bible stories as he is sharing the message of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most sacred Hindu texts.
The 37-year-old biotech entrepreneur turned Republican presidential candidate has been steadily garnering support in a party dominated by conservative Christians. In many polls, he’s in third place behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and he is one of six candidates who have qualified for the first GOP presidential debate on Aug. 23.
He is also only the nation’s second Hindu presidential candidate. Tulsi Gabbard, the former Hawaii congresswoman, ran as a Democrat in 2020.
Ramaswamy’s Core Beliefs and Political Stance
Ramaswamy shared 10 core beliefs as part of his campaign, with “God is real” topping the list followed by “There are two genders.” He cascaded into the limelight with his 2021 book “Woke Inc: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” a scathing critique of corporations that he says use social justice causes as a smokescreen for self-interested policies.
He became a regular commentator on Fox News and other conservative outlets, backing capitalism and meritocracy, and criticizing affirmative action, mask mandates and open borders. He is anti-abortion and believes gender dysphoria should be treated as a mental illness. He has expressed support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose populist policies have been divisive.
Utilizing Faith in the Campaign Trail
On the campaign trail, Ramaswamy has leaned into his faith as he vies for the nomination of a party where evangelical Christian support is key. In speeches and casual conversations with these voters, he maintains that his religion has much in common with “the Judeo-Christian values this nation was founded on.”
“I’m an ardent defender of religious liberty,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I will be an even more vocal and unapologetic defender of it precisely because no one is going to accuse me of being a Christian nationalist.”
While questions have been raised about his ability to appeal to conservative Christian voters, Ramaswamy said he has more in common with people of all faiths than those with no faith at all.
“I was raised in a belief system where there is one true God who empowers each of us with our own capacities,” he said. “As we say in the Hindu tradition, God resides in each one of us. In the Christian tradition, you say we’re all made in the image of God.”
Ramaswamy’s Religious Background and Influences
The child of immigrants from southern India, Ramaswamy grew up in Cincinnati speaking Tamil at home with his religious parents who performed pujas — a form of worship rituals. He heard stories from Hindu epics, offered daily prayers to deities and attended temples in Dayton and Cincinnati. He and his wife, Apoorva, a physician, plan to raise their two sons as Hindus.
Ramaswamy said he was also deeply influenced by Christians. He cemented his anti-abortion stance while attending St. Xavier Catholic High School in Cincinnati, and learned a strong “Protestant work ethic” from his piano teacher of 10 years.
“The lessons learned being Hindu were similar and in many ways overlapping with Judeo-Christian values like sacrifice, performing your duty without attachment to the results and believing that your work on this Earth is not being done by you, but through you,” he said, adding these Hindu values seem to resonate with Christian and Jewish audiences.
Criticism from Christian Audiences
Not all feedback from Christians has been favorable. Hank Kunneman, a pro-Trump pastor in Nebraska, attacked Ramaswamy’s faith during a recent sermon.
“What are we doing?” he asked his congregation. “You’re going to have some dude put his hand on something other than the Bible? You’re going to let him put all of his strange gods up in the White House?”
Ramaswamy dismissed Kunneman’s views as unrepresentative of most U.S. Christians.