BENNET’S FAITH IS ENTIRELY ‘MAINSTREAM’…. In Colorado’s very competitive U.S. Senate race, incumbent appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has been attacked for all kinds of things, so I suppose it’s not too surprising that the right would take an interest in his religious beliefs.

This week, Politics Daily sent the Bennet campaign a questionnaire, and we learned that Bennet “does not affiliate with a particular religion but says he believes in God.” Growing up, the senator was raised by a Jewish mother and Christian father (for me, it was the other way around), and the questionnaire quoted him saying, “I am proud that both heritages are part of me, and I believe in God.”

Bennet and his wife were married by an Episcopal priest, but he is not a member of a congregation.

This doesn’t sound especially interesting, but far-right pundit Erick Erickson is unimpressed. After noting what he perceived as unfair criticisms of Republicans, CNN’s Erickson wrote a RedState post arguing:

Michael Bennet, you see, rejects religion. Yes, he says he believes in God, but he makes clear he does not go to worship, does not believe in organized religion, and does not affiliate with a religion.

And they say the Republicans are running candidates outside the mainstream.

This is pretty silly. If someone chooses not to join a specific congregation, that doesn’t mean the person “rejects religion.” For that matter, I’m not even sure what “does not believe in organized religion” means. A person can chose not to affiliate with a specific tradition without rejecting the idea of “organized religion.”

But just as important is the notion that Bennet’s approach to religion — he believes in God, but doesn’t affiliate with a particular religion — is somehow “outside the mainstream.” At the risk of getting into a semantics debate over the word “mainstream,” Bennet’s beliefs are actually quite common.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life publishes an annual “Religious Landscape Survey,” which is ecumenical, non-ideological, and well respected by experts. In its most recent report, the Pew Forum found more than 12% of Americans — not including self-identified atheists — don’t identify with a specific religious group. That may not sound like much, but the “Unaffiliated” are actually the nation’s fourth largest religious group, representing a larger percentage of Americans than Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Mormons combined — times two.

To characterize Bennet’s beliefs as “outside the mainstream” is absurd.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.