By Ashley Brooks
Celebrities like Madonna and Richard Gere get a lot of attention for converting from their Christian roots to trendy religions like Kabbalah or to Eastern religions like Buddhism. But what about celebrities who convert to Christianity, or who decide to return to their Christian faith after abandoning religion altogether or experimenting with other philosophies? Read on to discover 10 celebrities, including TV stars, iconic music legends and movie stars, who converted to Christianity.
- Kirk Cameron: Kirk Cameron was probably the cutest, most popular boy on TV in the 1980s and early 90s. The Growing Pains star seemed to embody basic American values, but before he became hugely famous, Cameron was actually a self-professed atheist. During his late teens, however, Cameron converted to Christianity and became more conservative in his social life and even in the story lines he wished to portray on Growing Pains. Today, Cameron is a well-known evangelist who works with Ray Comfort to promote the ministry program The Way of the Master. Cameron is also a strong supporter of the Left Behind book series and has acted in the first three movie versions of the story.
- Tony Fontane: Popular singer Tony Fontane reached his peak in the 1940s and 1950s and even had his own TV show, “The Tony Fontane Show.” But in 1957, Fontane was nearly killed in a car accident and abandoned his pop career in order to pursue a gospel singing career. Prior to the accident, Fontane was an atheist, but he claimed that while in a coma after the accident, he had a vision of God offering him another chance. Although he did give up his mainstream career, Fontane did enjoy immense success as one of the biggest gospel singers of his time.
- Anne Rice: Anne Rice is a popular novelist who often writes about New Orleans culture and even science fiction or fantastical themes. One of her most famous works, Interview with the Vampire, was even turned into a film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Rice was a sometime Mormon and atheist but reaffirmed her childhood Catholic roots in 2004, and since then, has only written Christian-focused books.
- Bob Dylan: Music legend and pop culture Bob Dylan was raised Jewish but became a Christian in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He went to Bible study classes at the Vineyard School of Discipleship in Reseda, Southern California, and recorded many Christian-themed songs like “I Saw the Light;” however, in an interview with Newsweek’s David Gates, maintained that he doesn’t “adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists.” In the late 1990s, Dylan was reported to have begun celebrating Jewish occasions and attending Jewish temples.
- Larry Flynt: Famed Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is known for promoting sexually explicit content and supporting its right to appear in magazines, quoting the First Amendment. While flying his private plane, Flynt claimed that he had a vision from God and claimed to be a born again Christian, even though he never stopped working for Hustler. The conversion didn’t last, however. Flynt now identifies himself as an atheist.
- Faye Dunaway: Academy Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway is a Catholic convert who embraced the religion in 1996. Dunaway starred in well-known films like Bonnie and Clyde, The Thomas Crown Affair, Three Days of Condor, and Mommie Dearest, among others.
- C.S. Lewis: Author C.S. Lewis is most famous for creating The Chronicles of Narnia series and The Space Trilogy. His books often follow strong Christian undertones, and while Lewis was baptized in the Church of Ireland, he abandoned his faith as a teenager. When he was 30 years old, Lewis joined the Church of England and welcomed back his Christian faith.
- Felix Mendelssohn: The German composer Felix Mendelssohn is still one of the most celebrated musicians of all time. Famous for his Wedding March, various operas, symphonies and concertos, Mendelssohn was born to a Jewish father who renounced his religion. Mendelssohn was brought up without any religious guidance or beliefs, but he was eventually baptized as a Christian when he was five years old.
- Jane Fonda: Jane Fonda, daughter of Henry Fonda, is a successful actress and celebrity who was born in New York City in 1937. Besides her acting, Fonda is also an outspoken political activist who has opposed the Vietnam War, the treatment of Native Americans, and the Iraq War. In 2001, Fonda became a born-again Christian, which may have played a role in her divorce from Ted Turner. But while Fonda publicly announced her conversion, she also maintained that unlike some Christians, she did not support “bigotry, discrimination [or] dogma.”
- George Foreman: Heavyweight Boxing Champion-turned-grilling phenomenon George Foreman had a near-death experience after a 12-round fight against Jimmy Young, in 1977. Foreman prayed that God would give him a second chance and help him change his life, and after the experience, Foreman became a born again Christian. He became an ordained minister of his own church, opened a youth center, and frequently collaborates with The 700 Club and Trinity Broadcasting Network.