What Religion Is Tom Hanks?

Tom Hanks is one of the most famous and beloved actors of our time, having starred in countless critically-acclaimed and blockbuster films over his decades-spanning career. However, one facet of his life that often goes underexplored is his religious beliefs and spiritual background. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Hanks’ faith journey, examining his upbringing, personal convictions, and how religion may have shaped his worldview and acting roles.

Early Life and Religious Upbringing

Tom Hanks was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California. His childhood was split between his Mormon mother’s and Catholic father’s faiths, exposing him to two of the world’s largest Christian denominations from an early age.

In various interviews, Hanks has spoken about being raised in a religious household and attending church regularly as a youth. However, he has also acknowledged feelings of confusion and internal conflict due to the contrasting belief systems of his parents.

“I must have had the both/and of a mixed religious upbringing,” Hanks said in an interview with Bob Costas. “I was raised in what could be called contrasting religions. By the time I was ten years old, I was going down the path of being confused.”

Despite this early religious exposure, Hanks has stated that he ultimately left organized religion as a teenager once he began questioning certain doctrines and teachings.

Spiritual Beliefs as an Adult

While Tom Hanks may have strayed from the formal practice of his childhood faiths, he has maintained a sense of spirituality and belief in a higher power as an adult. In multiple interviews, the accomplished actor has described himself as being on a “religious journey” and having an overarching philosophy centered around treating others with respect and finding truth.

“I don’t think I’ve found any great truths, but I’ve found enough to understand how precious life is and how important it is to try to behave with respect and forgiveness and an awful lot of laughter,” Hanks said while promoting his film The Terminal.

In the same vein, Hanks has rejected being labeled as an atheist, agnostic, or secularist, instead preferring to keep the specifics of his personal beliefs private while stressing the importance of faith, hope, and inner exploration.

“I don’t have a Bible, but I am constantly informed by scientific inquiry and by philosophy and I think the Big Ask is to just be a good person,” he told Bob Costas. “I don’t deny faith or a supreme being or God or anything because I do not think that’s the right tact.”

Connections to Faith in Acting Roles

Though separate from any specific religious doctrine, themes of faith, spirituality, and moral pondering have manifested in several of Tom Hanks’ most iconic acting roles over the years.

One prominent example is his Oscar-winning performance in the 1994 film Forrest Gump. While the film did not delve deeply into religious subject matter, Hanks’ portrayal of the gentle, pure-hearted Forrest resonated with audiences on a spiritual level through its emphasis on innocence, kindness, and adherence to one’s moral compass against societal pressures.

Another notable example is Hanks’ role as a death row prison guard who undergoes a crisis of faith and conscience in the 1999 film The Green Mile. The film’s exploration of themes like miracles, the afterlife, and moral culpability in the face of a deeply flawed justice system left viewers pondering profound spiritual and ethical quandaries.

More recently, in the 2016 drama Sully, Hanks portrayed real-life pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who was forced to make a split-second decision whether to risk his life and those of his passengers to land a disabled airplane on the Hudson River. While overtly irreligious, Sullenberger’s selfless act and willingness to sacrifice for a greater good exemplified spiritual ideals around service and human dignity.

So while Hanks may not adhere to an organized faith, his acting work has often grappled with spiritual themes that resonate with viewers of various religious backgrounds. This interplay of spiritual philosophy and character-driven storytelling is a testament to Hanks’ nuanced ability to portray the depth of the human experience.

What religion was Tom Hanks raised in?Tom Hanks was raised with both Mormon (his mother’s faith) and Catholic (his father’s faith) influences in his childhood home.
Does Tom Hanks still practice a religion today?No, Hanks left organized religion as a teenager after experiencing internal conflicts due to his parents’ differing faiths. However, he maintains a sense of spirituality and belief in a higher power.
How has religion influenced Tom Hanks’ acting roles?While not delving into specific doctrines, Hanks has portrayed several iconic characters that grapple with spiritual themes like morality, faith, sacrifice, and the human condition (e.g. Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, Sully).
Has Tom Hanks ever described his personal spiritual beliefs?Yes, Hanks has stated he doesn’t follow a specific religion but believes in being a good person, finding truth, and maintaining faith and hope. He sees himself on a “religious journey” of inner exploration.
Does Tom Hanks identify as an atheist or agnostic?No, Hanks has explicitly rejected identifying as an atheist or agnostic, saying he doesn’t deny the existence of a supreme being or God, though he keeps the details of his personal beliefs private.

Impact of Faith on Tom Hanks’ Worldview

While Tom Hanks may not subscribe to any single organized religion, the varied spiritual influences he was exposed to from a young age have clearly left an indelible impact on his worldview and approach to life. His repeated emphasis on behaving ethically, questioning the nature of existence, and exploring the human condition aligns with the core tenets and traditions of spirituality.

“I’m actually pretty interested in religion, great traditions, and philosophy,” Hanks said in an interview with Sharon Waxman. “That is something I’m pretty knowledgeable about.”

This curiosity and open-mindedness towards different philosophies is perhaps what has allowed Hanks to tap into such a wide range of profoundly human stories and characters through his acting work. By not fully committing to any one faith, he maintains the freedom to explore the varied belief systems that have shaped civilization.

At the same time, Hanks’ public remarks suggest an adherence to moral and ethical principles of dignity, kindness, and truth-seeking that transcend religious boundaries. These values are reflected in his decades-long advocacy work for causes like protecting human rights, supporting veterans and military families, and promoting equal justice.

“The greatest, greatest thing about one’s religion is the acceptance and the love,” Hanks said to Bob Costas about his views on tolerance and compassion. “It behooves oneself to actually subscribe to that part of the teachings.”

So while the specific theological ins and outs of Tom Hanks’ personal beliefs may always remain an intimate and closely-guarded matter, his humanitarian works and emphasis on essential human virtues point to a spiritual inner life founded on universal moral truths common to most faith traditions.

How Religion May Continue Shaping Tom Hanks’ Future

Now well into the latter half of his career, Tom Hanks shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to taking on complex, thought-provoking roles that resonate on a deeper human level. As he continues exploring new creative avenues and life experiences, it’s likely that religious and spiritual themes will continue manifesting in his acting work and public persona.

One potential avenue may be Hanks using his stature and platformed voice to weigh in more directly on societal and moral issues with spiritual underpinnings. While steering clear of outright proselytizing for a particular faith, Hanks’ broad-ranging perspective and emphasis on human dignity could allow him to serve as a unifying voice promoting compassion, ethics, and mutual understanding across religious and cultural divides.

Alternatively, Hanks may feel drawn to take on more acting roles that explicitly confront religious themes, dogma, or humanitarian issues tied to faith. Given his decades-spanning career, the 66-year-old actor has earned the clout to tackle controversial subject matter that younger stars may shy away from.

One hypothetical example could be Hanks portraying a religious leader or influential historical figure whose actions or teachings disrupted the status quo – for better or worse. By allowing audiences to view such stories through Hanks’ grounded, empathetic lens, new perspectives may emerge that bridge secular and spiritual worldviews.

Regardless of which specific directions Hanks’ artistic journey takes him, one element seems certain – his explorations into the role of faith, ethics, and spiritual enlightenment in the human experience are far from over. Audiences and viewers will likely continue receiving works that challenge them to ponder life’s biggest questions and what it means to live a life rooted in moral truth.

“Hopefully, I will continue acquiring some kind of spiritual make-up that will allow me to place things in perspective,” Hanks said about his outlook on the future. “The only thing I concern myself with anymore is trying to be a good guy.”

Connecting Faith and Stardom

The dichotomy between Tom Hanks’ outward superstardom and inward philosophical strivings is a fascinating one to dissect. On one level, he has achieved pinnacles of fame, wealth, and professional success that are the envy of millions globally.

Yet this external, material success exists in concert with Hanks’ self-professed desire to continually deepen his understanding of himself, the world, and life’s bigger spiritual questions. This dynamic points to the universal human truth that regardless of our external circumstances, we all grapple with the same fundamental needs for purpose, meaning, ethics, and illumination.

Hanks’ own musings on religion, faith, and “trying to be a good person” highlight how even global megastars are, at their core, just fellow travelers on life’s great spiritual journey of inner-discovery alongside the rest of humanity.

Perhaps this humble self-awareness and grounded perspective in the face of immense fame is what has allowed Hanks to sustain his relatable, everyman appeal for decades. Fans and audiences may subconsciously recognize and appreciate that beneath the actor’s stardom lies a seekerof truth just like themselves.


In examining Tom Hanks’ lifelong spiritual journey and relationship with faith, one thing becomes abundantly clear – the acclaimed actor views religious and philosophical exploration as an essential part of the human experience. While not adhering to any single organized doctrine, Hanks’ worldview synthesizes respect for varied belief systems, an openness to continual inner growth, and an adherence to moral and ethical principles centered on human dignity.

Through both his acting work depicting spiritually-resonant characters and his real-life humanitarian efforts, Hanks has served as an inspiration for striving to live an authentic, truth-seeking existence. His willingness to confront life’s biggest questions while maintaining humility points to a spiritual maturity befitting of a global icon.

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