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Hannah Goodwyn produces the Movies & TV section of CBN.com and is the site's resident movie critic.

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Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”


Brad Pitt made a personal belief statement this week at the Cannes Film Festival. At a press conference prompting his new film, The Tree of Life, a Terrence Malick film about creation, Pitt said:

“Many people find religion to be very inspiring. Myself, I found it very stifling. I grew up with Christianity and I remember questioning it greatly. Some things didn't work for me. Some things did.

“I grew up being told God is going to take care of everything and it doesn't always work out that way. And then you're told ‘Well, it’s God’s will.’ I got my issues. Man, you don't want to get me started.” (USA Today)

In a 2007 interview with Parade, Pitt spoke about his Southern Baptist upbringing and how his beliefs changed.

“Religion works. I know there’s comfort there, a crash pad. It’s something to explain the world and tell you there is something bigger than you, and it is going to be all right in the end.”

The Oscar-nominated actor said he doesn’t believe in God in an interview with Bild.com back in 2009.

“I’m probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it.”

Rather than making a reactive defense of Christianity, this blog is meant to just be my personal experience responding to Pitt’s revelation.

Since time began, humanity has waged wars over ideals—breaking men on battlefields and engaging in intellectually-minded debates. Beliefs are arguable; but one thing we cannot disregard is a person’s experience. No one can refute Pitt’s personal experience with religion, just as no one can refute mine.

Let me explain… Like Pitt, my childhood years were spent at my parents’ church on Sunday morning. Yet, I couldn’t disagree with his statement at Cannes more. The difference seems lies in our encounters with God and subsequent perceptions of how faith looks.

Stifling: (adj.) suffocating; oppressively close

That word cannot be shaken from my conscience. On the one hand, I’m taken aback. On the other, I am not so surprised.

Freedom – not restriction – is all I’ve ever felt. Free to live a full life full under God’s grace and forgiveness, not His judgment. My faith growing up in the Church was filled with personal healing and restoration far beyond what is humanly possible.

Which makes me question, what could have lead to a “stifling” experience? One could guess it was – as Pitt said – “religion”, man’s attempt at putting God in understandable terms.

I’ve always viewed the concept with discontent. Faith in Christ is simple. It’s the revelation that God is more real than I am, that His Holy Word (a book thousands of years old, yet still inspirational today) is proven true, and that His love outshines the depth of man’s rejection of Him.

Pitt’s comments cause one to reflect—not just about those who don’t believe, but also regarding the religious who misrepresent faith. Included in that group is myself.

What John 13 says convicts at the deepest level.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35

We are His disciples, and instead of showing faith to the world, somehow we've established religion. It's sobering to realize that some non-believers only know we are His because we tell them we are. A sad reality is that some who grew up in the Church, like Pitt, turn away from their religious roots when they get out on their own. They leave their childhood faith in the past. Part of the problem may be that they didn't truly experience a personal faith in Christ. It was just churcha set of rules to live by, something to do on Sunday morning, and nothing more.

To those who reject Christ because of how you view the Church, give faithinstead of religiona chance. Look to the ancient text of the Bible for God's Truth. Hope and life is found in Christ. It is not a false hope that eases fear about an unknown future. It’s a genuine hope experienced in every moment. Unexplainable, as it may be, my reaction to God's grace is faith. I’m not blindly convinced of God’s existence. With eyes wide open, I recognize that He does – and I’m free because of it.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis, a British literary genius and atheist who glimpsed the Truth and in turn followed Christ.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 6:31 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

I agree that legalistic Religion is often the reason for a mind like Mr. Pitt's but not always. The folly of human intellect and wisdom is the pride that follows. This gives the enemy a trap door to enter. You were hitting on this pretty good Hannah, but segued to the Religous spirit as the basis a little too quickly. Having been in the Music business, I have been around many artsy types who take great pride in intellectual discussions and find identity in that. The problem is, they become consumed with pride, and are then vulnerable to the opinions of atheists and agnostics who value intellectual enlightenment above anything spititual. Many begin to analyze their early church experiences at this point and it is easy to see the experiences as boring and negative, so they become bitter. I can see right through Pitt. His rejection of God is born out of self pride as much as a negative experience with Religion!
Left by William on May 23, 2011 8:33 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Agreed, pride can be an awesome blockage to holding onto faith. My intention with this response is not just to point out his remarks and respond to him, but to encourage believers to dig deep into their own walks and to realize that faith and religion are two separate things. It's about Christ, and the saving Grace He gives to His Church, not about the "church" we've built.
Left by Hannah on May 23, 2011 9:41 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Thank you for responding Hannah! I agree totally. It is very sad when legalistic religion pushes people into the wilderness. I was there and was miraculously touched and changed when God came and saved my life.
Left by William on May 23, 2011 10:51 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Yes, the key in his statements seems to be, "Some things didn't work for me. Some things did." His issue is one of pride and putting the self at the center of the universe. He doesn't want to put Christ at the center, and the implications of following Christ such as ethics stiffled him because he didn't seek Christ first. I agree that faith is important and primary but out of faith should work what you deem as "religion." It isn't following first the legality of it and second the faith of it but loving Christ and through that loving, following the legality in total freedom- out of love. It is through that love that you want to be pure for Him, your spiritual groom. That wouldn't work for him, and the lifestyle he wants to live because he doesn't love Him, he only sees the rules.

Left by thelightattheend on May 26, 2011 1:24 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Christians need to pay attention to what they call "the world" is saying, for it is the REAL world! Jesus listened to them!

I've been to at least 25 different churches in every denomination that exists, and all of them get mad at someone whom questions if religion is real. They make excusses of why they dont HELP people whom have doubts, such as "well you posted your concerns in the wrong forum!" Yet, they wont provide pastoral counseling, or mentoring, but they kick that person out of church! Jesus said, "they have turned their back on me because of how YOU treat them!"


The church today ARE the Pharesees! Jesus never confronted them, but dealt with them only when they approached him, not the other way around. Jesus never had a chruch, but only hung out with those whom wanted him. He was a "street preachers" of sorts.

If
Left by thinkingman on Jun 03, 2011 10:56 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

If the church today would look at how the bible came to be, they would see that the known leaders of the world, at the time, the counsel of nicea, manipulated the word, and kept out certain books! They deliberatly kept some of the truth hidden.

Jesus said, "they will come to know me by YOUR LOVE for one another!" Those that attack B.P. and others that have doubts by saying he was pride, are DOGMATIC and legalistic! Legalism is WITCHCRAFT according to John Hagee! One needs to put self FIRST! What do you think the scripture means when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as YOURSELF?" HELLO??!!!

What about those that honestly seek Jesus and end up being deceived by a false prophet?


LOVE people like B.P. and JUST MAYBE, CHURCH, you can change his heart and bring him to salvation! LOVING him is the ONLY WAY folks!
Left by thinkingman on Jun 03, 2011 11:05 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

The CS Lewis comment at the end may have some problems with it. First, the bible says to not pay attention to what man says. Why are we paying more attn. Christian authors, rather than the bible alone? The bible already has 52 BOOKS in it. Read those 1st!

2nd, The sun doesnt rise, that is an illusion due to the rotation of the Earth. The sun doesnt move. As far as what Lewis saw, Jesus said, You beleive becuase you have seen. But blessed are those that havent seen, but still beleive!" HHMMM....

Let's see a quote from Jesus at the end of these articles. Not a famous Christian author, or Paul! It is Jesus that we are supposed to be following, not anyone else.
Left by thinkingman on Jun 04, 2011 4:24 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

thinkingman -
You are passionate but I think you've missed the point. Brad Pitt doesn't just have doubts, he openly denies Christ (he even claims to be atheist/agnostic-denies there is a God!). That isn't loving God.

The greatest commandment is two-fold, to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. However, there isn't a single commandment that says to put yourself first and the center of your world- no we are to put God first! We are to pick up our crosses daily, to deny ourselves and seek His will above ours! You cannot serve both God and the self. The reason why man fell was because he put his desires above the will of God. The reason the devil rebelled is because he wanted to be god. When the rich man wanted to follow Christ and Christ said sell all of your belongings, the rich man walked away head hung, he abandoned following Christ because he would not deny himself and would not deny his worldly desires! Christ said...
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 06, 2011 1:14 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because the rich man puts the self first! It is the pride of the self and putting the self as center of the universe, not God.

Christ did not rescue us so that we may be free to sin, but free from sin! To follow His teachings isn't legalistic! From His mouth He said, "If you love me, you will obey my commandments." Please explain that then. It is the same idea that when you love a woman you would not say it is legalistic to want to honor her by not thinking of other women or cheating on her, but you do it by love! Same with the commandments. It is through love for God and others we obey!

Lastly, the CS Lewis statement is legit. That's an illusion, not a scientific statement. It uses anthropomorphic everyday language. The Bible isn't against styles of writing and doesn't claim a form. It also says to listen to the wise...
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 06, 2011 1:21 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

so it is good to read from Christian influences as well. To not listen to men would mean the wicked, unwise, and those of the world, not those of God. There is nothing in her article that would make one think she didn't read the Bible first so there's no need to critique her like that. She did very well.
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 06, 2011 1:22 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Either way, I must say that I wasn't saying shame on Brad Pitt, but instead, in his case it doesn't appear to be a problem with the church but rather with the heart. He doesn't mention the church as being the problem and his response shows the problem.
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 06, 2011 4:57 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Well, it all goes back to how one in the church treats others! Again, Jesus said, "They have turned their back on me because of the way you treat them!" either way you look at it, the church's heart should break to hear what people like Brad says, and then show compassion to change it, rather than being judgemental.

As far as Jesus talking about the rich, is that to mean that if I become a millionaire so that I wont have to work so hard when I am older, and can retire when I am in my 40's, that I will go to hell? Are us Christians supposed to be dirt poor? The bible says something to the effect of, make yourself so rich, that you can leave an inhearatance for your GRANDKIDS! HHHMMM....

One must look at the fact too IF the bible is 100 % true. The counsel of nicea did leave out some books in order to hide the full truth, you know.


I too question christianity because of the things I've seen:

Left by thinkingman on Jun 07, 2011 11:42 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

*Homosexality taking place, and the pastor gets mad at you for pointing it out, even though they gays know how to go undetected and manipulate the pastor

* Pastors whom admit they they can see your concerns, but block you from speaking, and dont offer HELP

* and Pastors whom assult you with a deadly weapon when you hold them accountable, and then claim they have the right, "because Jesus used a whip in the temple!"

Theses are just a few examples! So I too, have the same concerns that Brad Pitt does.
Left by thinkingman on Jun 07, 2011 11:47 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

It doesn't always go back to a problem with the church. Otherwise when the perfect Christ was here calling the lost, all would have turned and been saved. Choice to not follow Christ can be influenced by that in some cases, but it's always the fault of the self! Once again I point out the case of the rich man who walked away from Christ, no because of the church but because of his own greed and lack of faith. For Brad, it's a desire of lawlessness or something else that aligns with his very own words that you ignore- it just didn't work with him! "Peter 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position." Peoplee fall becasue of lawlessness first.
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 08, 2011 10:44 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Show me the verse the bible says to make yourself rich in please. Yes it does say that we are to take care of ourselves and earn money so that we may also take care of others, but nothing about becoming rich. As Christians we are called to a life of work, not retirement. We never retire from being disciples of Christ and working to furter his kingdom, I encourage you to read "Dont Waste Your Life" by John Piper, for some tips on that!

We mustn't question scripture, it says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" It also says Deuteronomy 4:2
"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you." Don't you think the Lord your God has enough power and faith to preserve his true word for us?
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 08, 2011 10:51 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Lastly, nowhere in the article does it say that Brad Pitt was pushed away by the Church. I'm sorry that you have gone through such difficulty with people who claim to be in the ministry. Have faith and know that the Bible did promise that there would be wolves in sheeps clothing and antichrists in the church too. So I applaud you for keeping the faith as commanded. However, Brad's case isn't yours.

Like I said, nowhere in the article does it say that he was pushed away by the hypocrisy or lack of love in the church. It only says that it didn't work for him and was stiffling him. It also says that he questioned it greatly and doesn't trust the will of God. None of that is a problem with the church but a problem with his heart! That's someone that walked away because of doubt and a desire of lawlessness. There is nothing to indicate what you have said.
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 08, 2011 10:55 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Again, the bible says, "Save up so that you can take leave something for your grandkids!" That implies, "make your self rich!" The bible doenst need to be specific! do you wipe you rear after going to the bathroom? The bible doesnt tell you to do that!

As for myself, I make it my goal to be a millionaire so that I can have a nest egg for emergencies, and so that Im not living off of mommy and daddy at the age of FIFTY! No women will ever find that attractive, and want to marry a guy like that.

Jesus was a rich man himself! Why do you think they casted lots for his clothes? You dont do that for rags!

Religion hasnt worked for me either: I once begged God for help out of 100% sincerity, and was given a missionary that turned out to be a false prophet and destpoyed me! That prooves to me that this Jesus isnt what the bible claims! But when I ask the church 4 help, all they do is get dogmatic and threaten me for "testing all things!" So I can relate to what Brad says!
Left by thinkingman on Jun 08, 2011 3:05 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Thinkingman- My Bible doesn't say that and I looked it up on an electronic bible and couldn't find it either, so be specific and say the book and verse number, also what version are you using?

The OT speaks about being smart with your money but have you taken into consideration the verses that say one can't serve both God and money? How do you reconcile that with your beliefs on pursuing riches?

I feel inclined possibly by the Holy Spirit to share James 4:2-3, which coincidentally I just read yesterday, "You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not recieve because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." If your plan is to love others like Christ through the money by spending that on blessing others in His name, then that is noble but for the self, Christ wouldn't do. We aren't called to live off of our parents either, it says to earn a living so you can take care of yourself and others (if you want the vers...
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 09, 2011 11:12 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

verse... let me know).

As for the missionary, that's B.S. You didn't deserve that, but remember that the devil is the Lord of this world until Christ returns. THere are wolves in sheeps clothing among us! So in your vulnerability he sent someone to deceive. I had the same thing happen to me. There were people I thought knew Christ and they burned me hard! It disheartened me and I started to walk away but as Jesus said, "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away... this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me." So He sent a woman into my life with the light of Christ like no one I have seen and I remembered what I missed. It has been difficult to love and seek Him again but the more I do, the more I love it and the more joyful life is! He breaks us down to build us up. It's more than mere religion. I love my relationship with Jesus and God!
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 09, 2011 11:30 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

I will have to search for the verse myself. I heard Pat Robertson mention the verse the other day in his commentary on a news story!

About seving God and Money, vs. my beleifs. Tht's easy! What context was the bible talking about that verse, and what motive of the heart was the bible alos dealing with? I am acquantances with one of the most famous musicians of our time, he is a multimillionaire, and the most down to earth person you can ever meet! He's even GIVEN some of it away, and has even said to his managment, "havent we mad enough money? Cant we just make this new CD of music and give the money away to a good cause?


Think about it! God is SO RICH that he paved the street of heaven with GOLD, not asphalt!


Left by thinkingman on Jun 10, 2011 8:57 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

As for that missionary: I once had a friend that had sometihng similar happen: He has Jesus personally and physically appear in front of him and said, "You will marry 'so and so.'" That never happened! Years later, Jesus then told him, "have you concidered 'this (other) person?'" And as it turned out, Those two got married!

It seems as though one has to go through being deceived first, before the real Jesus shows up! Funny thing is, the woman in his life never beleived in Jesus to begin withm, but always knew that the 2 would be married one day. And even my friend no longer beleives in Jesus, but now thinks that what really told him to marry this girl was "himself," his inner voice. The confusing thing is that those 2 have the best marriage I've ever seen: better than anyone else in the church!


As for that missionary, you should read my testamony on it! Its something the church could learn from.
Left by thinkingman on Jun 10, 2011 9:03 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

I think we may interpret it in similar ways. Ultimately the Christian life is about carrying our cross, putting to death the self daily and seeking to glorify God rather than ourselves. We are to love God and love others. Seeking to get rich to glorify the self is sinful. Ultimately, we are called to glorify Him, and can be more glorifying to God than finding joy in Him and living a life reliant on Him and not money or worldly desires?! Just because heaven is paved with God doesn't mean we should have gold. God isn't on the same standard as us! We are to be like mirrors pointed at God, reflecting His light to the world. He is God, shinning in glory loving His trinitarian self and others.

The missionary sounds more like he suffers from hallucinations. The promises of God are like pure gold, He cannot lie! The missionary was led by the devil, and had no faith if he walked away from God, or is at least currently in a confused state. Where's your testimony?
Left by thelightattheend on Jun 14, 2011 11:47 AM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

"self" should be defined by pastors, otherwise it will mess up peoles lives. Too many times they leave out the verb! So "self" is actually ones sin NATURE! But with the way it is taught, one defines "self" as having to give up your dreams and Godly desires. They will then settle for a minimum wage, part time job, rather than have a standard of working full time at a living wage! ...and that isnt relying on money! (I just wish I could find a woman that wants to marry a man like that!) Just look at all the ministries out their that are ASKING for money, rather than working for it! Even Pat Robertson does that! As for the missionary, SHE :) was someone that had A LOT of problems. But again, I honestly sought out Jesus for help, and ended up with her. Write to me at: s a x m a n jr (at) h o t m a i l (dot) c o m and I'll send you my 10 page testamony on it!
Left by thinkingman on Jun 14, 2011 5:19 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

"Self" needs to be defined by pastors instead of leaving out verbs that describe what the speaker means, otherwise confusion comes in. So "self" is actually, "what one selfishly wants." Is one supposed to give up on their dreams and pursue what they want to be in life? I could have been a successful musician by now if I hadnt listened to the "self" sermons, instead of struugeling to pay my bills and still living at home, as I am now pushing middle age! would ANY woman find that "husband" material? Of couarse not!

We may have to rely on God, yes, but what does Proverbs say about living as an adult? If we arent to rely on money, then lets tell Pat robertson and all other pastors to stop asking for our money!


As for the missionary, SHE, again was put in my life after I HONESTLY sought Jesus out, so can Jesus really be trusted? As for my testamony, I posted it once, and it was pulled off of the site, so we will need to find a way for me to send it to you privatly! :) B
Left by thinkingman on Jun 14, 2011 5:36 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

I am so sorry for Brad. He comes from a good family.
Left by withgreatmercy on Jun 20, 2011 11:20 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

Can anyone explain this Scripture from 1 Timothy 6:2-10: 2)They that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. 3) If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4)he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5)perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6)But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7)For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
Left by Christiangirl177 on Jul 03, 2011 8:36 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

(Continued from previous post)

1 Timothy 6:9-10: 9)But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10)For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Left by Christiangirl177 on Jul 03, 2011 8:41 PM

# RE: Brad Pitt Finds Religion “Stifling”

1 Timothy 6:8: And having food and raiment let us therewith be content. I mistakenly left this verse out, so please forgive my oversight.
Left by Christiangirl177 on Jul 03, 2011 8:44 PM