It can take great courage to admit to being an atheist in Hollywood, considering just how large a role religion plays in American culture. However, these stars certainly haven’t held back from questioning – or indeed, wholly denouncing – a monotheistic system. In fact, their sometimes harsh words about God have often cut straight to the heart of religious debate.
20. Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais has used his comedy to pick apart the very notion of God throughout his career, both on screen and on stage. Furthermore, the stand-up even contributed an article to The Wall Street Journal explaining his staunch anti-God stance. In it, he went so far as to argue that scientific reasoning deemed “the very definition” of a God “a logical impossibility.”
19. Doug Stanhope
Acerbic comedian Doug Stanhope doesn’t just reject the idea of a Christian God, he actually goes as far as to claim that the very concept of any kind of deity is the root cause of all of our problems. And he made these views clear in his first stand-up DVD from 2002 when he declared, “90 percent of every war that’s ever been fought is because of some made-up, mind control, completely fictional religion.”
18. Joe Rogan
Joe Rogan might have been raised a Catholic, but the former UFC fighter certainly doesn’t practice the faith these days. In fact, he has claimed that it was actually this early brush with religion that caused him to become a staunch critic of organized faith. And while Rogan has spoken out several times against Catholicism in particular, he now seems to have rejected all traditional notions of monotheism. For example, in one Ustream broadcast he reasoned, “If there is a God, what God is, is the energy that creates everything.”
17. Ian McKellen
As a proud gay man, Ian McKellen has repeatedly come to blows with the idea of a God that regards homosexuality as a sin. In fact, the actor’s strong beliefs have actually led him to remove the passage Leviticus 18:22 from copies of hotel Bibles due to its blatant denunciation of homosexual relations.
16. David Cross
While he comes from a Jewish family, comedian David Cross has rejected any notion of a God, Jewish or otherwise. Indeed, Cross now considers himself an atheist, and consequently he takes regular swipes at faith in his comedy. He made his views crystal clear off-stage too, having told The Believer that he thinks that “all religion is garbage.”
15. Bill Maher
To say that Bill Maher is critical of monotheism is a bit of an understatement. Indeed, when the talk show host told his audience in 2014 that God is a “psychotic mass murderer” he became one of culture’s most revered anti-theists. And if anyone was ever in any doubt about his beliefs or lack thereof, Maher also made a documentary in 2008 called Religulous, which directly challenges the foundations of the Christian faith.
14. Seth MacFarlane
Seth MacFarlane has courted controversy plenty of times on Family Guy, not least because of the sitcom’s derogatory treatment of religion. But the openly atheist showrunner has insisted that he isn’t out to upset churchgoers with his gags. Rather, he told Steppin’ Out magazine that he’s just bamboozled by the concept of a deity and that “it fascinates [him] that in the 21st century most people still believe in [God].”
13. John Malkovich
John Malkovich has made a successful career out of playing deranged psychopaths in films such as Con Air, In the Line of Fire and Dangerous Liaisons. Perhaps it’s not really surprising, then that the actor isn’t exactly the spiritual type. “I don’t believe something I can have absolutely no evidence of for millennia,” he told WTTW Chicago. “People think analysis or psychiatry is mad, and they go to church.”
12. Penn Jillette
Penn Jillette has his audience believing in plenty of magic during his shows, but it seems the magician himself isn’t so easily fooled. That is to say, Jillette has declared himself “beyond atheism” – as he once put it to NPR. What’s more, he even has the personalized “NO GOD” license plate to prove it.
11. James Cameron
Just like fellow non-believer Bill Maher, James Cameron has used the medium of film to espouse his atheist views. And some churchgoers haven’t been best pleased about that. For example, Cameron’s documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus – which sought to discredit the very divinity of Christ – was labeled “a stake into the heart of Christianity” by the National Clergy Council.
10. Billy Joel
Piano man Billy Joel was brought up in a Jewish household, but the musician has very little love for any religion. In fact, he’s widely quoted as having remarked that faith of any kind is simply “a lot of very enthralling hocus pocus.” And Joel has made it clear that he holds particular disdain for Christianity’s notion of original sin too, having said, “There’s no blood of any sacred martyr on my hands. I pass on all of this.”
9. Dave Foley
When Dave Foley appeared on Politically Incorrect in 2000, the comedian revealed that he found the whole idea of papal infallibility absurd, and he was pretty disdainful about any notion of a Christian God in general. “If the Pope is infallible, then God must be like [Green Acres character] Hank Kimball,” he argued. “He must be so hard to make out where he’s going with anything.”
8. Seth Green
Seth Green didn’t outright denounce all religions when he spoke to The Onion on the topic back in 2000, but he did state that he found Christianity’s idea of a single deity implausible. And the Robot Chicken star went on to reveal, “God is, to me, a myth created over time to deny the idea that we’re all responsible for our own actions.”
7. George Carlin
For many, the late, great George Carlin was the definitive anti-theist who used his sharp wit to denounce all things religious. And among his most famous works, a 1999 HBO special saw him highlight what he considered to be the absurdity of God’s existence by quipping, “Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man in the sky.”
6. Bruce Willis
While most people are indoctrinated into religion through their parents, Bruce Willis has made it his priority to keep atheism in the family. And so the Die Hard actor, who once declared that all forms of organized religion are “dying forms,” allegedly forbade his daughters from taking up the Kabbalah faith practiced by their mom, Demi Moore.
5. Brad Pitt
A celebrity accusing God of narcissism sounds rich, but that is precisely how Brad Pitt has articulated his atheism. “I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me,’” he told US Weekly. “I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”
4. Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson has never hidden behind her views, and she reserves her strongest criticism for theism. For example, the outspoken actress once told The Australian, “It’s not enough to say that I don’t believe in God. I am offended by some of the things said in the Bible and the Qur’an and I refute them.”
3. John Lennon
John Lennon’s infamous admission that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” began what was to be a turbulent relationship between the singer and monotheistic religion. Following that hugely controversial claim, Lennon flirted with Hinduism before making his belief that “God is a concept” clear in the 1970 song “God.”
2. Morgan Freeman
Despite playing God in Bruce Almighty, Morgan Freeman has little faith that the big guy actually exists off screen. And he has totally turned the whole idea of creationism on its head, too: the star once revealed to The Wrap that he sees the Christian God as a man-made construct, rather than God as the creator of man.
1. Albert Einstein
It makes sense that the most damning criticism of God and religion comes from quite possibly the greatest scientific mind to ever walk the earth. For Albert Einstein, God was “nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses” – a view the physicist expressed in a 1954 letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind.