10 Celebs You Didn't Know Were Atheists
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It’s almost Oscar season, and we all know what that means: a parade of well-dressed, trophy-clutching men and women thanking their friends, family, spouses, and above all, God. As I watch the Academy Awards each year, I’m always left wondering: Aren’t there any atheist celebrities?
Sure, there are a few famous ones who are essentially defined by their lack of adherence to organized religion. Woody Allen, for example, is the quintessential Jewish-atheist. In his autobiographical film, Stardust Memories , Allen's character explains that his atheism is not simply an aspect of his identity; it’s a cosmic act of resistance: "To you, I'm an atheist,” he says. “To God, I'm the loyal opposition."
In fact, the iconic Allen is actually only one member of a growing club: high-profile celebrities who are finally coming out about their atheism. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s awards (I’m still pulling for Quvenzhané Wallis) the presence of many of these performers on the red carpet is certainly something to celebrate.
1. Angelina Jolie
From her stint as Lara Croft to her 180-degree shift to being a UN ambassador, Jolie has never been one to follow conventions or expectations. So it’s no surprise that she’d be up front about her atheism. In an interview with the A.V. Club , she answered the question, “Is there a God?” with the conciliatory yet firm answer:
“Hmm… For some people. I hope so, for them. For the people who believe in it, I hope so. There doesn’t need to be a God for me. There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike. I don’t feel like doing things just because people say things, but I also don’t really know if it’s better to just not believe in anything, either.”
As to whether they're going to raise their six children to be atheists, Jolie and partner Brad Pitt (see #5) haven't yet said.
2. Ani DiFranco
Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Ani DiFranco is not one to shy away from political causes. A feminist and anti-war activist, DiFranco is so adamantly anti-corporate that she founded her own record label, Righteous Babe Records, at 19 years old. She’s also an outspoken atheist with the reasoning that achieving social justice on earth should be the role of humans, not a higher power.
"I'm an atheist ... how unfortunate it is to assign responsibility to the higher up for justice amongst people,” she explained in an interview in 2000 in the Progressive.
Atheism as a path toward collective salvation on this earth...how’s that for a reason to be non-religious?
3. Jodie Foster
Oscar-winning actor Jodie Foster may not believe in God, but that doesn’t stop her from having some ritualistic fun. From trimming the Christmas tree to ruminating about Ramadan, Foster and her family observe religious traditions without actually believing in the existence of a higher presence.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly she explained, “I'm an atheist. But I absolutely love religions and the rituals. Even though I don't believe in God. We celebrate pretty much every religion in our family with the kids. They love it, and when they say, 'Are we Jewish?' or 'Are we Catholic?' I say, 'Well, I'm not, but you can choose when you're 18. But isn't this fun that we do seders and the Advent calendar?'"
4. Morgan Freeman
I don’t know about you, but when I try to imagine what God would look like if he were male (since everyone knows that God, if she existed, would look like Toni Morrison), I pretty much imagine Morgan Freeman. I’m clearly not the only one, since the Oscar-winning actor has played God not once but twice in his career. But off the set, Morgan Freeman does not believe in the Man (capital ‘m’) himself.