Celebrities Who Are Deeply Religious
See who keeps the faith in Hollywood.
Though Scientology often steals the show when the media covers celebrities and religion, a closer inspection of the religious landscape of Hollywood reveals that stars are diverse in their beliefs, which is not so different from the rest of America.
The actors, musicians and comedians we know and love come from a variety of faiths. Some are outspoken about their beliefs, while others are committed to their religion but keep it mostly out of the public eye.
Here are 30 celebs you might not have realized are devoted to their faith.
“Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik shares her Jewish faith with readers of her site, Grok Nation. But the actress has said that Hollywood isn’t a friendly place for people of faith.
“I think in general it’s never going to be trendy to be observant or religious in Hollywood circles,” she told Fox News. “There are people I know of faith and we tend to congregate together. I study Jewish texts weekly. That’s something really positive to me when you’re a person of faith, it stays with you all the time.”
Stephen Colbert wears his Catholicism on his sleeve on “The Late Show,” but this wasn’t always the case. Colbert went through a period of doubt when he was younger. He told the show “Faith in Focus” that in his early 20s, he “lost my faith in God, to my own great grief.” He found it again on a chilly night in Chicago when a stranger handed him a small Bible, and he cracked it open and read the Sermon on the Mount.
“I stood on the street corner in the cold and read the sermon, and my life has never been the same,” he said.
Growing up with a preacher as a father, Denzel Washington went to church every Sunday, he told GQ. He’s been going to the same church for 30 years, and he reads the Bible every day. In a 2015 commencement address, he told the grads of Dillard University to “put God first in everything you do.”
Chris Pratt was living hard when he had a revelatory experience just before he hit it big as an actor. A friend had ducked into a store to buy him alcohol (Pratt wasn’t old enough yet) and, while he was waiting, “a guy named Henry came up and recognized something in me that needed to be saved,” he told Vanity Fair.
“He said, ‘Jesus told me to talk to you …’ At that moment I was like, I think I have to go with this guy. He took me to church. Over the next few days I surprised my friends by declaring that I was going to change my life.”
Pratt has been a Christian ever since, and fans of his Instagram account know that he often shares his faith with followers there.
Before the actress and singer put out a Christian album in 2005, Kristin Chenoweth’s agent and manager told her she’d “take hits,” she told the National Catholic Reporter. But Chenoweth, a star on stage and screen — from “BoJack Horseman” to “Glee” to “The West Wing” — saw things differently. She grew up singing in the Baptist church and didn’t want to hide her faith after making it in Hollywood and on Broadway.
“I’m an actress and a singer and I’m also a Christian … I just want to be like Jesus, forgiving and loving and nonjudgmental, accepting of everyone even if they don’t agree.”
Though she was raised in New York, Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem and has dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship. Portman attended Jewish school growing up, and her husband converted to Judaism before they got married.
The actress told the Telegraph, “The older I get, the more I realize how different it is to be a Jew in a Jewish place as opposed to a Jew in a non-Jewish place. It’s definitely a different feeling in terms of how freely you can be yourself and celebrate your culture and religion.”
The actor who once played 007 says his Catholic faith helped him when he lost his first wife to cancer.
“It always helps to have a bit of prayer in your back pocket,” he told RTE in 2011. “At the end of the day, you have to have something and for me that is God, Jesus, my Catholic upbringing, my faith.”
When his daughter Charlotte died in 2013, he once again looked to his faith to help him and his family through the grief, Christianity Today reported.
In 2004, Orlando Bloom became a member of Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International.
“The philosophy I’ve embraced isn’t about sitting under a tree and studying my navel,” he told the Mirror. “It’s about studying what’s going on in my life and using the fuel to go on and live a bigger life.”
Being the hilarious writer and actress she is, Mindy Kaling has talked about her Hindu faith in funny ways. For example, she once made a clever joke on Twitter about YOLO (you only live once), writing that Hindus, in light of their belief in reincarnation, only use the acronym YOL. She also told Jezebel that she wrote the “Office” episode about Diwali, a Hindu holiday.
Actor Sean Astin was exposed to a variety of religions when he was growing up. His mother was Catholic and his father was an atheist-turned-Buddhist. One of his brothers lived in an ashram and became Hindu. Eventually, Astin, his wife and his three daughters were all baptized in the Lutheran church.
“I consider myself a Christian,” he told Fox News. “I don’t know if I’m a very good one, but I’m praying the forgiveness thing is legit.”
A devout Catholic, Mark Wahlberg keeps an impressive schedule to make sure he has time to pray every day. He gets up at 2:30 a.m. to get in his prayers — and his workouts. Action stars do have to stay fit, after all. The actor also lives out his faith by giving his time to talk with young people about his own troubled youth.
Though he converted to Islam 20 years ago, comedian Dave Chappelle doesn’t talk about his faith often.
“I don’t normally talk about my religion publicly because I don’t want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing,” he told Time in a 2005 interview. “And I believe it is a beautiful religion if you learn it the right way. It’s a lifelong effort. Your religion is your standard.”
Actor Kevin James of “King of Queens” fame grew up in a Catholic family, and his faith is still a part of his life today.
“My father always took us to church and we went as a family,” he told CBN. “I knew, at times in my life, where I would not fall away completely out of the faith, but just not be as faithful and not learn as much. Later on in life, I just started coming back to it more and more. And I’m continuing to learn more and more each day and trying to be the person that God wants me to be.”
Basketball superstar, writer and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam during his freshman year at the University of California Los Angeles.
“In 1973, I traveled to Libya and Saudi Arabia to learn enough Arabic to study the Quran on my own,” he wrote in an opinion piece for Al Jazeera America. “I emerged from this pilgrimage with my beliefs clarified and my faith renewed. From that year to this, I have never wavered or regretted my decision to convert to Islam.”
A follower of the Baha’i faith, Rainn Wilson says acting, just like any art, is a form of spirituality.
“I don’t see an artistic journey and a spiritual journey as being that different,” the “Office” actor told Huffington Post.
Actor David Oyelowo’s Christian faith helps him choose between projects.
“My faith and my being a father very much guides me in terms of what I do, because I want to practice what I preach both as a Christian and as a father,” he told the Gospel Herald.
And once he’s decided on a role, he continues to draws from his faith.
“I always knew that in order to play Dr. King, I had to have God flow through me because when you see Dr. King giving those speeches, you see that he is moving in his anointing,” he told the Huffington Post about his performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma.”
After starring in “Miracles from Heaven,” a movie based on a true story about a little girl who claims she visited heaven and met Jesus after falling out of a tree, Jennifer Garner decided to return to church on a regular basis with her family.
“There was something about doing this film and talking to my kids about it and realizing that they were looking for the structure of church every Sunday,” she told Good Morning Texas.
Her kids were baptized in a Methodist church in her hometown of Charleston, West Virginia.
When she was growing up, Ginnifer Goodwin’s mother took her to synagogue on Saturdays, and her father took her to church on Sundays. As an adult, though, the actress chose Judaism. When Goodwin married Josh Dallas in 2014, they had a Jewish wedding — though their ketubah, or wedding contract, was almost lost when the wedding planner’s car was robbed just before the ceremony. Miraculously, the ketubah still made it to the wedding on time.
When she was in India to film “Eat, Pray, Love,” Julia Roberts was spotted with her spiritual guru, Swami Shri Dharam, and she announced that she had converted to Hinduism. She has explained that she appreciates “finding peace and tranquility of mind in Hinduism, one of the oldest and respected religions of civilization.”
Tyler Perry hopes that by putting engaging characters on screen, he’s opening the door to audiences relaxing and talking about faith, he told Christian Broadcasting Network.
“I’ve seen lots of people who don’t go to church, who have no concept of God, who have never really thought about it, begin to change their lives because of something that was said in the film or something the character invited them to see,” he told CBN.
Tina Turner began practicing Buddhism in the 1970s when she was trying to leave an abusive marriage. She told Lion’s Roar that in her branch of Buddhism, chanting the Lotus Sutra is a song.
“In the Soka Gakkai tradition we are taught how to sing it,” she said. “It is a sound and a rhythm and it touches a place inside you. That place we try to reach is the subconscious mind. I believe that it is the highest place and, if you communicate with it, that is when you receive information on what to do.”
Kim Kardashian went to Catholic schools growing up (where she wasn’t allowed to wear makeup!).
“We don’t share it much, but we’re really religious,” Kardashian told Vogue. “We start our day with a group chat with a Bible verse from my mom, and everyone chimes in on the meaning of it. We are very Christian — and our work ethic and our discipline comes from so many years at Catholic school.”
For Americans, Richard Gere might be the second-most famous Buddhist — after the Dalai Lama himself. Gere has been studying Buddhism since his 20s, and he considers the Dalai Lama his main teacher.
“It completely changed my life the first time I was in the presence of His Holiness,” he told Lion’s Roar. “It wasn’t like I felt, ‘Oh, I’m going to give away all my possessions and go to the monastery now,’ but it quite naturally felt that this was what I was supposed to do — work with these teachers, work within this lineage, learn whatever I could, bring myself to it.”
Patricia Heaton won two Emmys for her role in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but success wasn’t always ensured for the actress. She told Christianity Today that when she was trying to start her career, she went on a mission trip and, when she returned, she decided to leave her direction — acting, or more mission work? — up to God. Just after that, she started landing acting gigs.
“You have to be really good at what you do,” she told Christianity Today. “You have to show up and do your best, but the rest is up to God.”
Rapper and hip-hop artist Mos Def began following Islam in his adolescence, going to the mosque with his father. His faith has influenced both his music and how he manages his career.
“You’re not gonna get through life without being worshipful or devoted to something,” he told Beliefnet. “You’re either devoted to your job, or to your desires. So the best way to spend your life is to try to be devoted to prayer, to Allah.”
The “Napoleon Dynamite” star grew up as a Latter Day Saint, and he’s still active in the Mormon church.
“Being a son, a husband, a father, a brother, a Church member, a Scoutmaster, etc. … everything I am influences my choices,” he told LDS Living. “Every job I take, I think about how it will affect my abilities to fulfill the duties required by each of these roles in my life.”
The teen star of “Growing Pains” was an atheist through most of his adolescent years, but the actor is now an outspoken evangelical Christian.
“I was about 17 years old, and I followed a girl into church. Not because I wanted to learn about God, but because I wanted to be with this girl,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I decided that I needed to be saved.”
Cameron’s current mission? To use his skills on stage to help people with their marriages.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan works his Catholic faith into his act so often that he was invited to perform for Pope Francis.
He told the New York Times, “If you looked at my material that touches on my Catholicism, it’s not very well-informed. It’s not hypercritical. Some of the jokes are like, ‘I haven’t read the Bible, because you don’t have to when you’re Catholic.’ Its roots are in the cultural Catholicism of America.”
Country music superstar Carrie Underwood talked about the role her Christian faith played in her life when she was struggling with sadness and anger through a series of miscarriages in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning. After what she thought was yet another miscarriage, Underwood said she prayed like she never had before.
“And for the first time,” she said, “I feel like I actually I told God how I felt. And I feel, like, we’re supposed to do that.”
It turned out that nothing was wrong, and she had her second child early in 2019.
In the late 1980s, Tom Cruise’s then-wife, Mimi Rogers, introduced him to Scientology, and he’s been a Scientologist ever since, becoming one of the most powerful voices in the church. Though many celebrities are Scientologists, the action star is arguably Scientology’s most famous adherent.