After years of publicly declaring himself an atheist, award-winning actor and film producer Brad Pitt says that he was just being “rebellious” when he kept telling the world he didn’t believe in God.
“Oh, man, I've gone through everything. Like, I cling to religion. I grew up with Christianity. Always questioned it, but it worked at times. And then when I got on my own, I completely left it and I called myself agnostic. Tried a few spiritual things but didn't feel right. Then I called myself an atheist for a while, just kind of being rebellious. I wasn't really. But I kinda labeled myself that for a while. It felt punk rock enough. And then I found myself coming back around to just belief in—I hate to use the word spirituality, but just a belief in that we're all connected,” Pitt, 55, said in an interview for the October issue of GQ.
When pressed on whether his soul is spiritual, he said: “No, no, no! 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."
Two years later in 2011, the 55-year-old actor told Extra how stifled he felt by his religion.
"I got brought up being told things were God's way, and when things didn't work out it was called God's plan. I've got my issues with it. Don't get me started. I found it very stifling," he said.
It was that stifled feeling, he told The Hollywood Reporter, that led him to turn away from his Southern Baptist tradition.
"I grew up very religious, and I don't have a great relationship with religion," he said at the time. "I oscillate between agnosticism and atheism."
The discussion of Pitt’s faith comes as he promotes a new movie called “Ad Astra.” It’s a paranoid thriller in space that follows character Roy McBride, played by Pitt, “on a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.”
In the film, faith is presented as something that can often be a distraction from self.
“Yeah. Escape. A looking outward instead of looking inward. Looking beyond, not seeing what's right in front of you,” Pitt said, noting that “it's more comfortable.”
When GQ writer Zach Baron tried asking Pitt what he does to escape from himself, he explained that he is always aware of what’s happening in his life.
“No, I always — I'm aware when I'm doing something in an obsessive way. Like, my friend right now, he's just obsessed with watches, and he looks them up and studies them. And I know he's avoiding something in his … in his domain,” Pitt said.
“I'm very aware. I could feel that from an early age. I knew I was avoiding something. But then once you're aware of it, then what? I mean, the people I'm really drawn to, they just have no filter. They have no protection. They have no filter on their thoughts. They sometimes get in trouble because of that, but I adore them. I adore that they're just so open and raw about their feelings at any moment,” he said.
When asked if he appreciates candid people because his own life is so controlled, Pitt said, “Well, I think we're drawn to what we are trying to change or improve in ourselves. I grew up in the Ozarks, and I've come to learn that we're pioneer stock. We're people who get things done. Don't talk about much; get it done. And we don't complain. Complaining is really looked down upon.
“And it's not true. We're always kind of ‘Woe is me.’ But this idea of if you get hurt, you break an arm, you cut yourself, you just deal with it. You don't make a big fuss about it. And there's a positive side to that that I appreciate. But it works the same way internally — what I've described as not taking inventory of yourself. How are you feeling at this moment? What's really going on? We just don't deal with it, and get on with it. And that, I've found a real hindrance.”