“Famous” and “Christian” seem like two words that go together about as well as oil and water, yet that hasn’t stopped some of the world’s best known people from converting to Christianity. Below, we’ve listed 23 of the most famous Christian converts — along with seven famous de-converts.
Like much of his famous family — including his older brother Alec — Stephen Baldwin abandoned his Roman Catholic upbringing upon starting out on his acting career in Hollywood. Baldwin, who first gained attention in the film Born on the Fourth of July, credits the 9/11 terrorist attacks for bringing him back to the Christian faith. Today, Baldwin travels the country speaking about his Evangelical ministry and his faith-based book The Unusual Suspect: My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith.
Prolific character actor Gary Busey is best known for roles in films like Lethal Weapon and Point Break, as well as his perhaps-less-than-Christian lifestyle tending towards women and cocaine. In 1988, Busey’s life changed forever when he overturned his motorcycle. The actor fractured his skull and he suffered permanent brain damage. This extreme hardship ignited Busey’s interest in religion, and in 1996, he announced that he had officially become a Christian. Busey says, “I am proud to tell Hollywood I am a Christian. For the first time I am now free to be myself.”
George W. Bush
Though raised Christian by his parents, 41st President of the United States George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, President George W. Bush abandoned much of his religious beliefs quite young in life. After years spent partying and experimenting with drugs, Bush was able to get sober and adopted Evangelical Christianity. As the 43rd President of the United States, Bush was vocal about his religious beliefs, saying, “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.”
There may have been no 1980s and 90s television actor more loved and adored than Kirk Cameron. The Growing Pains star was young, All American, and good looking — and an atheist. For those familiar with Cameron now, that last characteristic likely comes as a bit of a shock. Cameron converted to Christianity as a teenager and is now a widely known evangelist. He has written a number of Christian books. He’s also produced multiple Christian films, including three based on the popular Left Behind series.
Alice Cooper, the “Godfather of Shock Rock,” is a devout Christian. Surprised? In 2006, Cooper shocked many of his most faithful followers when he announced he was turning away from his reckless life and becoming a born-again Christian. The long-time music icon is still most famous for his goth music and appearance, elaborate live performances, and typical rock and roll lifestyle of enjoying women, drugs, and booze. But while Cooper’s Christian conversion helped him to move past such a harmful lifestyle, he insists he’s still a rebel. “Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.”
In the 1970s, “voice of a generation” Bob Dylan announced he had become a born-again Christian. He even released two gospel albums: “Saved” and “Slow Train Coming.” Many of his fans, including John Lennon, were horrified by Dylan’s conversion to Christianity. The former Beatle even recorded a record called “Serve Yourself” in response to Dylan’s evangelical song “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Though Dylan has remained quiet about his faith for much of his life, he confirmed as recently as 2012 that he “still believes in Jesus.”
When actress Jane Fonda announced in 2001 that she had converted to Christianity, perhaps no one was more surprised than Fonda herself. As she put it, “I always assumed I was an atheist.” In 2006, Fonda revealed to Charlie Rose that she had found Christianity during a time of crisis in her life. She admitted that her conversion likely played a part in ending her 10-year marriage to Ted Turner, a “staunch atheist.” Fonda now refers to Christianity as her “spiritual home.”
In 1977, heavyweight boxer George Foreman nearly died as the result of a 12-round fight against the great Jimmy Young. After praying to God for a second chance, Foreman committed to becoming a born-again Christian. Today, Foreman ministers at his own church, has founded a youth center, and frequently collaborates with Trinity Broadcasting Network and The 700 Club.
Jeff Gordon may be retired from NASCAR, but he’s still one of the most famous drivers in the history of the sport. He is also one of the most famous Christian converts. Although he wasn’t raised in a religious family, Gordon asserts that he always believed in God to some extent. It wasn’t until he met his future wife, Brooke (Sealey, whom he divorced in 2003), that Gordon felt he was finally able to pursue the interest in religion that he had long felt. Shortly after their marriage, Gordon was baptized and began to attend Bible studies.
Although raised in a typical Catholic home, actress Katie Holmes officially renounced her Christianity in 2006 when she married famous Scientologist Tom Cruise. The former Dawson’s Creek star set off a wave of controversy with this move, especially when it was reported that she had given birth to daughter Suri via “silent birth,” in accordance with official Scientology practice. When Holmes famously filed for divorce from Cruise in 2012, it was said she did so because she was not happy about the idea of raising her daughter in the Church of Scientology. Instead, mother and daughter moved across the country to New York City, where Holmes rekindled her Catholic faith and enrolled her daughter in one of the city’s top Catholic schools.
C.S. Lewis may be the author of some of the most famous Christian books (The Chronicles of Narnia series and Mere Christianity, for example). But faith wasn’t always as big a part of the beloved British thinker’s life. Lewis was baptized into the Church of England as a child, but forsook his faith as early as his teenage years. It wasn’t until age 30 that Lewis re-committed to Christianity and joined the Church of England.
Reggae legend Bob Marley is perhaps the most famous Rastafarian in history. This unique religious movement, which originated in Jamaica in the 1930s, worships former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I as the messiah. Marley routinely spoke publicly about his Rasta faith. But it’s widely believed that he was baptized as an Orthodox Christian by Abuna Yesehaq, the archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere, just before his death in 1981.
Stanley Kirk Burrell — better known as MC Hammer — enjoyed fame during the 1990s thanks to his hit song, “Can’t Touch This.” Unfortunately, fame didn’t last long. Through a series of events, including his unexpected fall from the spotlight, the hip-hop star decided to become a born-again Christian. Today, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spends much of his time as an ordained Evangelical minister.
Moby may be hesitant to call himself a “Christian,” and he has said on multiple occasions that he is “wary of orthodoxy [and] fundamentalism.” And yet the pop sensation, who has sold more than 20 million albums over the course of his career, isn’t shy to admit that he “loves Christ” and “perceives Christ to be God.” According to various interviews, Moby converted to Christianity in 1985 when he reportedly read the New Testament and was “struck by the idea that Christ was somehow divine.”
Lawrence Tureaud — better known as Mr. T — turned away from the Christianity he grew up with when he began his entertainment career, first as a professional wrestler, then as an actor. Over the years, Mr. T became a household name thanks to his roles in Rocky III and television’s The A Team. In 1977, Mr. T chose to be re-baptized into the Christian faith. Since then, the actor has continued to dedicate his body and mind to God.
Chuck Norris, the iconic and manly star of the hit show Walker, Texas Ranger, is easily one of the most famous people in Hollywood to have become a born-again Christian. Since officially converting, Norris has written a number of Christian books. He’s been vocal about his belief that children in American public schools should be educated about the Bible.
A household name in the 1950s, Bettie Page was a cultural icon and (often nude) pin-up model beloved for her audacious sensuality and free spirit. In 1959, Page raised eyebrows when she converted to evangelical Christianity. She reported that she had come to this decision after attending the Key West Baptist Church, after which she immersed herself in Bible studies. Whatever the reason for her conversion, she was certainly affected. It’s widely believed that Page’s conversion incited her departure from the world of pin-up modeling.
Tyler Perry is the comedic actor, writer, and producer of the popular Medea movie franchise. Though he doesn’t often speak about his religious views, he has publicly stated that he converted to Catholicism when he was younger, and continues to practice. Many of Perry’s (and Madea’s) biggest fans are thrilled with his faith, especially since he’s not afraid to include religion and religious characters in his popular movies. “I’m not afraid to have a character say, ‘I am a Christian,’ or ‘I believe in God,’ because I think they represent real people on this earth.”
Anne Rice is another famous person who left Catholicism only to return years later. The bestselling author of The Vampire Chronicles series lost her passion for the Church’s “smells and bells” during college, when she became enthralled by the works of existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre, a thinker traditionally frowned upon by the Catholic Church. Rice spent years describing herself as an atheist, but found her way back to Catholicism in 1998. Though she is still most famous for her vampire novels, Rice has now added her popular Christ the Lord series to her impressive bibliography.
Former supermodel Niki Taylor was one of the most famous names and faces of the 1990s. At the height of her career, she had already been named one of People magazines Most Beautiful People at age 16! She led campaigns for Covergirl, Versace, L’Oreal, Gap, and Pantene. She appeared in magazines like Allure, Vogue, ELLE, Marie Claire, and Sports Illustrated’s famous swimsuit edition. In 2001, Taylor was riding passenger in a car when it struck a utility pole. Unbelievably, Taylor survived the ordeal, despite the 56 operations it took to repair a collapsed lung, serious liver damage, head trauma, and severe spinal damage. This extreme experience led Taylor to become a born-again Christian shortly after the accident.
Transformers and Ted actor Mark Wahlberg had a bit of a rough childhood. The youngest of nine, Wahlberg dropped out of school at age 13. At age 16 was charged with attempted murder and assault, for which he served prison time. As an adult and major Hollywood star, Wahlberg rediscovered his Catholic roots and the results have been life changing. No matter where he is in the world, the married father of four begins his day with daily mass at a local Catholic Church. Says Wahlberg, “The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”
Golf legend Bubba Watson (he was born Gerry Lester Watson, Jr.) is a multiple majors champion, and has been ranked as high as second in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s also one of the most famous Christian converts. In 2004, Watson became a born-again Christian. The experience, he says, “was my true time of becoming a Christian and shaping me into the man I am today.”
Brian “Head” Welch
If you’re not familiar with the music of Korn, consider this: the Chicago Tribune called the rap-metal band “perverts, psychopaths, and paranoiacs.” The group’s songs — with titles like “Freak on a Leash” and “Make Me Bad” — often have lyrics that are sexually explicit and very, very dark. So you can imagine fans’ shock when, in 2005, the band released a statement informing the public that they had parted ways with their rock guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, “who has chosen the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end.” Though some thought it was a practical joke, Welch showed up to Valley Bible Fellowship the following Sunday and told the crowd of 10,000, “I am the happiest man in the world right now.”
In 2004, actor Orlando Bloom officially traded Christianity for Buddhism. Though raised in the Church of England, Bloom became a full member of Soka Gakkai International, a Nichiren Buddhist lay association. Said the Pirates of the Caribbean actor of his adopted faith, “The philosophy that I’ve embraced isn’t about sitting under a tree and studying my navel. It’s about studying what’s going on in my daily life, and using that as fuel to go and live a bigger life.”
Tom Cruise may just be the most famous Scientologist in the world. Still, he didn’t always buy into the controversial Church of Scientology. The Mission: Impossible actor was actually raised as a Catholic, but set aside his faith upon moving to Hollywood.
Australian actress Isla Fisher, perhaps best known for her role in the comedy Wedding Crashers, was raised in a Methodist family. When she met Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedian known for “Borat” and other outrageous characters, Fisher converted to Judaism and even took the Hebrew name Ayala. As she told Allure magazine in 2009, “I never saw it as a losing or gaining situation, just an embracing situation.”
Named for the Virgin Mary and educated in Catholic schools throughout her childhood, the pop singer Madonna began her career wearing crosses and singing seemingly Christian lyrics with decidedly un-Christian meanings. Though Madonna’s trademark juxtaposition pleased the masses, the Catholic Church was less than amused, and it wasn’t long before Madonna officially left Catholicism. In the 1990s, the singer began studying Kabbalah instead. The controversial and mystical offshoot of Judaism seems to suit Madonna better. She has continued to practice with fervor, even adopting the Hebrew name of Esther.
The way he tells it, actor Brad Pitt did not come to his decision to leave Christianity on a whim. Though he grew up in a Baptist household, Pitt told Parade Magazine in 2007, “I’d go to Christian revivals and be moved by the Holy Spirit, and I’d go to rock concerts and feel the same fervor. Then I’d be told, ‘That’s the devil’s music! Don’t partake in that! I wanted to experience things religion said not to experience.’” Pitt continued his faith through college, but ultimately declared himself an atheist. Still, Pitt doesn’t hesitate to admit that he sees the good in religion and has said about faith, “There’s a comfort there, a crash pad.”
Snoop Dogg, the self-proclaimed “leader of the hip-hop community,” raised eyebrows in 2009 when he announced that he had officially joined the Nation of Islam (NOI). The controversial NOI differs greatly from mainstream Islam. Founded as a group that promoted black empowerment and supremacy, the modern-day NOI operates under the stated goal of improving “the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans in the United States.” For his part, Snoop Dogg has stated that his interest in NOI stemmed from the personal need he felt to be a part of a peace movement.
Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, converted to Judaism when she married her husband in 2009. In 2015, Ivanka opened up to Vogue about her decision to abandon Christianity: “It’s been such a great life decision. I am modern, but I’m also a very traditional person, and I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition in how I was raised as well. I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.” Ivanka, who stays busy raising her three children while also serving as an advisor to her father in the White House, was recently named by The Jerusalem Post as the “World’s Most Influential Jew.”