The Religious Affiliation of Actor
Tom Hanks
Catholic, Latter-day Saint, Nazarine, Fundamentalist, Greek Orthodox

Tom Hanks was an adherent of a number of different Christian denominations while growing up (including Catholic, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Nazarene, and a Fundamentalist Christian group. Hanks joined the Greek Orthodox Church when he married his wife, Rita Wilson. The webpage below is not a comprehensive spiritual biography of Tom Hanks, but focuses primarily on the time he spent as a Latter-day Saint.

Source: David Gardner. Tom Hanks: The Unauthorized Biography. London, UK: Blake Publishing Ltd. (1999).

Pg. 20:

Winifred [Tom Hanks' stepmother] had become a Mormon while married to Amos and that soon became a source of conflict with her new husband, who was suspicious of religion in most forms. 'When we met his kids were Catholic and mine were Protestant and that had its difficulties,' said Winifred. 'Then I became enamoured of the Mormon Church and Mr Hanks [Amos Hanks -- Tom Hanks' father] didn't.

'It was funny because the kids enjoyed going to church. But after we had split up, Mr Hanks and I were at a friend's wedding and Tom ran up to me and said, "Mum, mum, guess what? I'm not a Mormon any more. Now I am a darned old Catholic!"'

She went on: 'Tom got on very well with my children. But Sandy [Tom's oldest sibiling] felt the loss of her mother. To her I was always an intruder.

'Larry was much quieter than Tom, but he would hold his own. I don't think anything was really difficult for Tom. He was one who could roll with the punches.'

[At this point, Tom's father Amos had divorced his first wife, the mother of his four children, because she wanted to leave them. She still had the youngest child with in California, but Amos and his three oldest children -- Sandra, Larry and Tom -- moved to Reno, where Amos married Winifred, who had 8 children (5 still at home) from her first husband. Tom was five years old when his father moved from California to move into Winifred's basement apartment in Reno. Amos and Winifred were married soon after that.]

Pg. 21:
The marriage had lasted less than two years when Amos once again instructed his three children to gather together their belongings and climb in the truck. Although the scenario was no longer novel to Tom, Larry or Sandra, it was no less unsettling. With the possible exception of Sandra, they had made friends, tried their best to put down some new roots and found solace in the topsy-tuvy world of a big family. Tom felt strongly enough to call Winifred 'mum', and she in turn felt very protective of the baby of her extended family.

Pg. 22:
Tom has never made any attempt to contact his 'secret' family and has been dismissive of them in interviews. Asked by the American entertainment magazine US in 1984 whether it was a Brady Bunch home, he replied: Oh, nooo. I wouldn't remember their names if they showed their faces today.'

In another interview, he said: 'My first stepmother was somewhat flaky. Her love of the Mormon Church was just one of the reasons I think dad left her. Dad did kind of rebel against it. She's not a Mormon now. She's probably into astrology or something.'

Tom Hanks: The Unauthorized Biography, pg. 39:
'I mostly just wanted to get out of the house; the house wasn't a good place to be.'

The path Tom took was to religion. A club at school led him to the First Covenant Church, just down the hill at Skyline, and a faith that would dominate his life for the next four years.

The church would provide friends, a girlfriend, structure, later even surrogate parents and a car. In return, the young recruit simply had to believe and to conform -- two things born-again Tom was more than happy to do.

Sister Sandra remembers her brother as being 'self-rightous' around his Fundamentalist Christian period, 'as if he had seen the light and the rest of us were in the dark.'

His father was equally dismissive, saying Tom suffered 'an adolescent faith attack.'

But although he admits to being 'a geek, a spaz' as he entered his teens, the church answered a very real need in Tom at a time he was having trouble shrugging reality off with a ready quip.

He had already tried being a Catholic, a Mormon and a Nazarene. But those had always been forced on him by circumstance. Here was a religion that wanted him for himself, irrespective of who his mother happened to be.

'Because of all the people I lived with, I had a chequered religious upbringing. Then, when I was in high school, I had a serious born-again experience,' Tom explained in a Los Angeles Times interview. 'A great group of poeple ran a church near where I lived, and they provided a safe, nurturing atmosphere at a time there wasn't much else I could count on.

'The beliefs I embraced at that time don't mean the same thing to me now. When you're young and idealistic you tend to view things in absolute terms, and the absolutes didn't pan out, even within the confines of that place. You begin to see the contradictions without looking too closely.'

It was a while though, before Tom started looking back to the secular world. For now, he was enjoying his own, contradictory [pg. 40] rebellion. While other kids were his age were straining at the leash, growing long hair, pubescent moustaches, playing truant from church, and testing authorty, Tom was joining the congregation youth group and choir and faithfully attending both the morning and afternoon Sunday services at the Oakland church that had become his second home. In time, he wasn't just joining Bible readings, he was leading them.

He says he was 'a Jesus freak', the sort of boy who would approach other studnets in the hallways at school and invite them to his house after class to discuss passages from the Bible. [He was 14 years old at the beginning of this period.] ... Apart from the church, the other main influence on Tom's life at the time was director Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Tom first saw it when he was 13 and he went on to see it an incredible 22 times in the cinema.

'It was probably the most influential film, story, artistic package, whatever, that I ever saw. It was just bigger. It affected me much, much more than anything I had ever seen,' he said. 'There was just awe. Eveyr time I saw it, I saw something new, something else that Kubrick had put in. He was able to suspend my disbelief. I just felt, "We are in space."'

From "Tom Terrific", article by Richard Corliss and Cathy Booth, part of "The Best of Cinema" sub-section in the "The Best and Worst of 1998" special section, in Time, December 21, 1998:
Tom also got an eclectic religious education. His mother took the kids to Roman Catholic Mass. A stepmother brought in some Mormon proselytizers [missionaries]. His aunt, with whom he lived for a time, had converted to the Nazarene Church ("What did I know from fanatical?" he asks). In high school his Jewish friends inducted him into the sacred rituals of seder, bagels and lox. At the same time he joined "a great group of people" who were born-again Christians; for four years he led Bible readings. But Tom was a man with his own mission. The mission was acting.

From an interview published in George magazine, April 1998:
The major religion I was exposed to in the first 10 years of my life was Catholicism. My stepmother became a Mormon. My aunt, whom I lived with for a long time, was a Nazarene, which is kind of ultra-super Methodist, and in high school, all my friends were Jews. For years I went to Wednesday-night Bible studies with my church group. So I had this peripatetic overview of various faiths, and the one thing I got from that was the intellectual pursuit involved. There was a lot of great stuff to think about. What were the four spiritual laws? Are you a post-tribulationist or a pre-tribulationist?

From: Tosie Bonner, "My church gets pimped...", posted 23 November 2005 on LiveJournal blog website (; viewed 7 December 2005):
I'll explain - when my wife and I lived in Los Angeles, we attended the St. Sopia Greek Orthodox cathedral. It's one of the biggest and fanciest Greek Orthodox churches in the country. Any Greeks involved in showbiz attended this parish. I saw a few familiar faces from time to time. We even saw Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson a couple of times (in case you didn't know, Rita Wilson is Greek - she was a producer on "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"). This was during his Forrest Gump years, so he unfortunately had to suffer many 'box of chocolates' jokes from older Greeks, but he was always a good sport.

Anyhow, my wife and I were watching Nip/Tuck last night, and one of the main characters was getting married. He and the other main character are standing outside a church when my wife and I realize, "Hey, it's St. Sophia's!"

The church is really pretty to look at - inside and out. It's one of the few Orthodox cathedrals in the U.S. And it has been used in other movies as well (Coppola's "Dracula" comes to mind). But this was just weird. Have you ever seen Nip/Tuck? The show breaks just about every sexual taboo out there, along with several non-sexual taboos too. So, yeah, this was strange.

Then they get to the wedding part, and who is playing the priest but St. Sopia's own priest, Father X (I'm not going to name him, because I'm about to say a few negative things about the guy). He was standing at the altar with a big grin on his face, looking kinda like...well, in Greek, we'd say he looked like a malaka.

You see, this priest looooves attention. He craves the spotlight, and he loves to act. He was the Greek priest in the Daredevil movie too (at the funeral of Elektra's father). He's a nice guy, and gives fairly good sermons, but man...I've just gotta question his intentions sometimes.

I mean, it's Nip/Tuck. I just don't think a real priest should associate with the show. Watch it? Sure, and he can watch "Sex in the City", "Deadwood", and "The Sopranos" if he feels like it. But to be on the show? I dunno. If the priest is supposed to be God's representative on earth, I don't think God would want him there - or that he'd want a show like that filmed in his home.

Another Father X story bugs me. Granted, this story is only a RUMOR - it may not be true at all. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if it were. Whatever. Here it is: rumor has it that Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks visited Father X and said Tom was interested in getting baptized (while he showed up to church, he wasn't Greek Orthodox). Father X thought this was terrific news and SUPPOSEDLY told them, "Great! You will be baptized and I will be your godfather."

That's right - he volunteered himself.

We never heard anything else about Tom Hanks getting baptized after that.

I hope this isn't true. Of course, if it's not, then I just slandered a priest. Crud.

Webpage created circa May 2002. Webpage last modified 7 December 2005.