Sure, Scientology takes a lot of heat, what with Tom Cruise generally being a nonstop freakshow of mania, secret doctrines that encourage cutting off familial ties, and something about aliens. But contrary to popular belief, Scientology is not the official religion of Hollywood. In fact, much of Hollywood is probably comprised of straight-up heathens. BUT! There are some other pretty interesting (finger quotes) religions sprinkled into the mix as well. Here are some other religious groups that claim some high-profile people in their ranks:
1. Jehovah’s Witness
Venus and Serena Williams, Ja Rule, Prince, and even Michael Jackson are familiar with the teachings of Charles Taze Russell, who founded this religion in the late 1800′s. While Ja Rule seems to be lapsed, and Michael, well, dead, the others can be expected to refrain from holiday celebrations (yes, even birthdays), voting in political elections, and drinking or smoking fun things. Serena is quoted by The New York Times during Obama’s election compaign as saying:
“I don’t really get involved in political affairs because of the way I was brought up and being a Jehovah’s Witness, but it’s exciting to see someone like Barack Obama have a chance to lead one of the world’s biggest nations.”
Aside from the politics thing, much of the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine is similar to conservative Christian values, even overlapping with Scientology in how they tend to segregate themselves from people of other religions.
No aliens, though.
Mark Wahlberg, Steven Colbert, Lady Gaga, and Mel Gibson are some of the big names in Hollywood Catholicism. It’s an interesting mix, of course, since Gaga seems in need of an exorcism on occasion, Gibson in need of a penitentiary on occasion, and…well…I guess the others are mostly normal. Catholics, who believe in God and Jesus as the Son of God, are big on regular church attendance, and Marky Mark is known to make efforts to attend church daily, even while filming. He’s quoted as saying,
“The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. Whenever I go out of my house, the first thing I do is stop at the church.”
Once AT the church, the sacrament is a distinctive part of the service. Drinking some wine (score!) and eating this circular piece of bread-type substance is thought to bring you physically closer to God. Accepting sacrament requires baptism and communion. And if you haven’t had either, you are told to sit in the pews and wait while everyone goes up and gets a gold star from the priest. (NOT THAT I’M BITTER OR ANYTHING.) Catholics are also known to be conservative in nature, firmly against abortion, sex before marriage, and homosexuality.
The Church of Latter Day Saints claims Katherine Heigl, Jon Heder (YES! Napoleon Dynamite!), Aaron Ruell (YES! The OTHER DUDE from Napoleon Dynamite!) Gladys Knight, Wilford Brimley, Rick Shroder, Paul Walker, and Glenn Beck (THAT one surprised me most for some reason.) Mormons are also extremely conservative and hold high moral values, abstaining from even coffee. (COFFEE?! Lord, have MERCY.) They also believe that only those who are in good standing within the church (and who also give 10% annually, ahem) can get to the best parts of Heaven. Some can even BECOME a god, but I think that might cost extra. Heigl herself is a lapsed Mormon, but states that much of the church’s values remain with her. In speaking to Vanity Fair about her then-boyfriend singer Josh Kelley:
“I … didn’t want to live together before we were married. I still have enough Mormon in me–not a lot, but enough–that I wanted to keep that a little bit sacred.”
Richard Gere, Orlando Bloom, Tina Turner, and Jackie Chan all fall into one of the many categories encompassed by Buddhism. Generally, Buddhists revere the Buddha (or Siddhartha Guatama), who lived in about the fifth century BC. The Buddha is thought of as an enlightened teacher who can help others reach a level of enlightenment, or ultimately Nirvana through meditation and peacefulness. Life is considered to be a cycle of birth and rebirth, and a whole lot of suffering. Gere has been relatively outspoken about his Buddhist beliefs, actively working to bring media attention to the suffering in Tibet. In describing his religion, he’s said:
“Mindfulness is a quality that’s always there. It’s an illusion that there’s a meditation and post-meditation period, which I always find amusing, because you’re either mindful or you’re not. The meditation is just taking different forms. But it’s always watching the mind. It’s always watching the mind.”
I suppose I wouldn’t make a good Buddhist ‘cuz I’d try to replace “the mind” with “The Bachelor.” You’re a better person than I, Mr. Gere.
Dr. Oz, Iman, Mos Def, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dave Chappelle, and Aziz Ansari (though, this one is disputed…some cite him as a Muslim STILL, others say he’s now an atheist.) consider themselves to be Muslim. Chappelle, not surprisingly, isn’t vocal about his religion, but his reasoning isn’t nearly as crass as you (okay fine, *I*) would expect:
“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. 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. Coming here [to South Africa] I don’t have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down. I’m interested in the kind of person I’ve got to become. I’ve got to be well rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well balances. I’ve got to check my intentions, man.”
Like Buddhism, Islam also has a few sects. However, the common ground seems to be that they follow the Qa-ran, believe that God, or Allah, is the ultimate sovereign ruler, and that everything that happens in the universe is by His will (though they also believe in free will). And while Muslims believe in many of the same prophets depicted in The Bible, the holy text was communicated from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad alone. Most noteworthy is that NONE of the celebrities I’ve found double as terrorists. GO FIGURE. Though, if they were, I’m just saying that I’d probably not be checkin’ Dr. Oz’s house for Bin Laden in dude’s closet. (That one’s free, Mr. Al Qaeda!)
Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Drake, Leonard Cohen, and David Arquette (and about a bazillion other names that I recognized) practice Judaism. The Jewish religion holds a few basic standards: the Torah (or the first five books of The Bible) is the sacred text, Moses was the greatest of the prophets, that the Messiah (or savior chosen by God) will come, and that the good are rewarded and evil are punished. Pretty standard stuff. Now, Arquette was actually raised in some sort of religious-blend commune, but when his parents separated, his mother instilled an appreciation for Judaism into the boy. Well, at least for some of it. Says David:
“What I love more than anything is Yiddish; it’s so soulful…. [and] I wanted a bar mitzvah but I didn’t have one as a kid. I still may get one — maybe for my 40th birthday.”
OH DAVID. (Maybe I should’ve chosen a different person to quote…heh.)
Julia Roberts is probably the biggest Hollywood name I could find here, but others have dabbled in the religion, including George Harrison, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Britney Spears, and Sting. This religion is one of the oldest in the world, and is rooted primarily in the following principals: reincarnation, acceptance of all other forms of religion (while simultaneously rejecting religious labels), karma, dharma, yoga, and ultimately a liberation of the death/rebirth. (In other words, YES, I’m pretty sure we can blame Hinduism for that ridiculous show Dharma & Greg.) Just last year, Roberts spoke to Elle about her faith, claiming that the whole family goes to temple to:
“…chant and pray and celebrate. I’m definitely a practicing Hindu.”
And as for her next life, Julia is modest:
“Golly, I’ve been so spoiled with my friends and family in this life. Next time I want to be just something quiet and supporting.”
Like…a bra, perhaps? (Heheh.)
Ben Kingsley, Dame Judi Dench, Joan Baez, and Anne Tyler are all Quakers. Out of all those I researched, this religion doesn’t have MUCH of a following in Hollywood. (Though I’m not sure WHY exactly since it’s called The Society of Friends. Hell, I think I might go sign myself up if I can get a few friends out of the deal.) Their faith is founded in Christianity, and they are big on tolerance, abolitionism, and pacifism. Dench has said of her Quakerism:
“It’s essential to my life and work.”
Well, okay then!
While she didn’t elaborate upon this statement, she has spoke of wanting to leave three open seats (for The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) during her stage performances. Though, girl, knowing Hollywood and Broadway, they’d rather hire lookalikes than let the seats go unfilled. I feel like Christian Bale could make a good Jesus given the current state of his facial hair.
9. Christian Scientists
Many of the famous names attached to Christian Science (Val Kilmer, Ellen DeGeneres, Bruce Hornsby, Carol Channing, Robin Williams, Cindy Adams, and Jim Henson) simply have ties to this religion (through a parent), however, and it’s hard to discern who actually still practices. Val Kilmer and Adams, however, are still very much members of this church. For YEARS I pretty much thought that Scientology was the same thing as Christian Science. And in an interview with Esquire, Kilmer gives credit to that misunderstanding when he says that Scientology is “basically Christian Science without God.” I…see. As for the criticism of the religion in how it shuns the use of modern medicine, Kilmer explains:
“There is a big misnomer when it comes to Christian Science. People used to say, ‘Christian Science. Oh, you’re the ones who don’t believe in doctors.’ Which is not a true thing. It’s just a different way of treating a malady. It could be mental, social, or physical.”
Later in that interview, Kilmer defends his religion against criticism that it lead to his brother’s death when he was younger (his brother was epileptic and died from a seizure). He also indicates that, if his daughter became sick, his first instinct would be to pray, not to seek medicine.
Which…I mean…so, okay…”an apple a day”, right? Heh.
(Why are we coming down so hard on Tom Cruise, exactly?)
10. Run-of-the-mill (don’t hit me) Christians
Listen, the fact of the matter is that I am not a religious scholar. I DID however take a literature course studying the Bible during undergrad! But my point is this: I think that TECHNICALLY, Jehovah Witnesses are also considered Christians. As are Catholics. And like SEVERAL other religious groups. They just differ in how they interpret the Bible, which Bible they reference, and how they view our ultimate death and destruction (okay, fine: salvation.) But these celebs seem to fall into a more GENERAL category of Jesus loving.
Okay, FINE, you can hit me. (Please do so–ever so gently–in the comments.)
ANYWAY, in this category we have Kirk Cameron, Victoria Jackson (who burst back into the spotlight for being WAY GROSSED OUT by the epic gay Glee kiss), Kristin Chenoweth, Tyler Perry, Justin Bieber, and Sherri Shepherd. Appearing on ABC to debate the existence of God with a friend (Ray Comfort), Kirk stated:
“We’d like to show you the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith. As a former atheist myself–an evolutionist–I want to pull back the curtain and show that the number one reason that people don’t’ believe in God is not a lack of evidence, but because of a theory that many scientists today believe to be a fairy tale for grownups.”
Ehh, your “100 percent” proof wouldn’t happen to involve a banana, would it Kirk?
Actually, forget I asked.