George Clooney’s newest movie, The Monuments Men, advances the thesis that preserving timeless art is worth a person’s life. His personal worldview explains his sentiment: “I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell. I don’t know if I believe in God. All I know is that as an individual, I won’t allow this life—the only thing I know to exist—to be wasted.”
Learning of Clooney’s faith perspective, I wondered what other members of his cast thought about God. It turns out that Hugh Bonneville studied theology at Cambridge before becoming an actor. Bob Balaban is Jewish. Bill Murray, by contrast, claims that “religion is the worst enemy of mankind. No single war in the history of humanity has killed as many people as religion has.” The other major cast members—Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, and John Goodman—have been so silent about any faith commitment that there is nothing online I could find on the subject.
The “Celebrity Atheist List” catalogues other notable Hollywood celebrities who are reportedly atheists, including Woody Allen, Rodney Dangerfield, Janeane Garofalo, Diane Keaton, Keira Knightley, Hugh Laurie, Seth MacFarlane, Ian McKellen, Julianne Moore, Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix, Rob Reiner, and Keanu Reeves. Among its celebrity agnostics are Carrie Fisher, Larry King, Sean Penn, and Uma Thurman. Skeptics include Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, David Duchovny, Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, William Shatner, Donald Sutherland, and Bruce Willis.
In reading the list, you might think that every star in Hollywood is an opponent of the faith, but it’s not so. Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, Patricia Heaton, Martin Sheen, Ralph Winter (producer of the “X-Men” trilogy), Angela Bassett, Kristin Chenoweth, and Howard Kazanjian (producer of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi”) are all strong believers.
Movies and television have a clear and outsized effect on the worldview of our culture. How can believers respond to this fact?
One: we can become involved in the arts personally. For instance, Philip Anschutz, a former oilman and co-owner of several sports teams, created production companies to bring high-quality family movies such as “Ray” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” to the screen.
Two: we can encourage other believers to consider acting and other artistic professions. I have long said that God is calling more Christians into public service than are answering his call. I would add that he is calling more believers into the arts as well.
Three: we can pray for Hollywood celebrities to know Christ as their Lord. Mastermedia International produces a prayer calendar which lists celebrities for intercession each day (I just prayed for Jerry Bruckheimer and Drew Carey, listed for February 10). The Hollywood Prayer Network profiles a celebrity for intercession this week (I just prayed for singer Martina McBride to know Christ.)
Jesus counted among his disciples leading businessmen, political figures, and religious leaders. He instructed his followers to focus in each town on “whoever is worthy in it” (Matthew 10:11). He knew that we can influence culture by influencing those who influence culture.
Have you prayed for someone in Hollywood yet today?