Terkel was a prize-winning author and radio broadcast personality who spoke for the common man by interviewing many of them. He described himself in many interviews at the end of his very long life (1912-2008)
About religion he said: “I happen to be an agnostic. You know what an agnostic is, don't you? A cowardly atheist. I, myself, don't believe in any afterlife. I do believe in this life, and what you do in this life is what it's all about.” -- from an NPR broadcast.
About his background he said, “My mother came from Bialystock, near the Russo-Polish border, a very cosmopolitan town decimated by the Nazis. My father came from a suburb [and was] a tailor.”
And about whether his Jewish background influenced him: “Of course it has. That’s a baby’s question. Of course it played a tremendous role. My father voted for [Socialist Party candidate] Eugene V. Debs for president. Of course, there’s anti-Semitism. Of course, there’s anti-everything. There’s always nativism. At the moment, it seems to be more [about] color, than anything else.” – from an article in the Jewish Journal.