Missionary Style: Five Most Fashionable Hollywood Religions

Which stars follow what faiths?

I Villiage.com/June 1, 2006
By Sara Droman

Jesus or Allah, Buddha or Shiva? Celebrities have always advised us on where to get the hottest hairstyles and sunglasses. Now they've got fabulous tips on how to save our eternal souls.

If you're feeling lost and confused about the nature of reality and your place in the cosmos, read on to find out what Madonna, Jenna Elfman and Kirk Cameron have to say about magic red strings, evil space warlords and the afterlife styles of the rich and famous.


What is it? A mystical form of Judaism, spun off an arcane branch of the religion and popularized by [The Kabbalah Centre founded by] a couple from Queens. The kabbalah is said to be the source that governs the entire universe and thus has the power to wipe out disease, depression and death.

Chief celebrity missionary: Madonna, who was recently photographed wearing a T-shirt that said "Cult member."

Followers: Sandra Bernhard, Roseanne Barr, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton.

Purported benefits: After her infamous sex video began playing on a laptop near everyone, Paris Hilton was seen walking out of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles wearing a red string around her wrist. The string ($26) is said to protect against the "evil eye" or "the unfriendly stare and unkind glances we sometimes get from people around us." Kabbalah water ($2.95) has been said to cure AIDS, cancer and Guy Ritchie's foot fungus.

Hazards: Test audiences don't like the red string, as Kutcher discovered during the initial screenings of Guess Who. The studio digitally removed it at a cost of $100,000.

Hot accessories: A simple red string is so 2004. Now the faithful are ponying up $60 for a resin bangle, through which the string is threaded. Also for sale at the Kabbalah Centre's store: scented candles for protection, certainty and sexual energy ($12 to $22).

Dues: Members are asked to give 10 percent of their income to the organization. Madonna has reportedly given about $18 million to the Kabbalah Centre.

The Lord giveth: The Kabbalah Energy Drink had a reported $20 million in sales its first year.

The Lord taketh away: In a surprising victory for evolution, Britney Spears recently explained why she no longer practices kabbalah: "My baby is my religion." News reports say she was sick of being hit up for money. As a retort, Madge has demanded her wedding gift to Britney — a 12th-century kabbalah book — back, calling the pop tart a waste of time and money.

Endorsement: "I did start to look into the whole kabbalah thing a while ago," says Lindsay Lohan, "just because my mom was like, 'Maybe you should try it."


What is it? A religion created by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The central belief is that 75 million years ago an alien warlord named Xenu kidnapped and killed beings from many different planets and put them on Earth. Xenu then set off a series of volcanic eruptions that released toxins that continue to contaminate the minds and bodies of Earth's inhabitants. The way to purge yourself of these contaminates is to embark on a decades-long course of study that can cost several hundred thousand dollars. So it's sort of like a pyramid scheme with God at the top.

Chief celebrity missionary: Tom Cruise. "If someone wants to get off drugs, I can help them. If someone wants to learn to read, I can help them. If someone doesn't want to be a criminal anymore, I can give them tools to better their life," he says.

Followers: Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Lisa Marie Presley, Jenna Elfman, Kirstie Alley.

Purported benefits: Cruise says it cured his dyslexia. Elfman says it saved her marriage. Travolta says it got him his first big break, on Welcome Back, Kotter. Extra perks: You get a free personality test, and you'll know the history of psychiatry, unlike that stupid Matt Lauer.

Hazards: Criticizing Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression could result in diminished box-office appeal. Giving birth silently and without drugs is not all it's cracked up to be — at least according to Kelly Preston, who, 13 hours into labor at her home, screamed, "Throw me into the car — I want an epidural!" to hubby Travolta. Unfortunately, it was too late for the painkillers.

Hot accessories: The E-Meter ($3,400) — measures the purity of your soul, sort of like a lie-detector test.

Dues: To reach the higher ranks of the religion, "Operating Thetan" levels one to seven, you'll need to spend an estimated $100,000 on courses and instruction. (Thetan means "soul" in Scientology.)

The Lord giveth: "If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." —L. Ron Hubbard

The Lord taketh away: Travolta's Battlefield Earth cost more than $100 million to make and only earned $21.5 million at the box office.

Endorsement: "If we want to clear this planet, we've got to know and apply this tech. It's just a rule. It just is… I can't even emphasize it enough. It's just truth. You can't go beyond truth — it just is… If you want to keep Scientology working, you need to do the PTS/SP Course. Either that or you could be dead. You pick," says Elfman. Saner words have never been spoken. Then, in Cruise-like fashion, she reportedly threw a tantrum on the streets of L.A. when she spotted someone wearing an anti-Scientology tee. "What crimes have you committed?" she screamed. "Have you raped a baby?"

Tibetan Buddhism

What is it? A 2,500-year-old religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, aka Buddha. Tibetan Buddhist leaders, such as the current Dalai Lama, are believed to be reincarnated from holy lineages of lamas (or monks). Buddhists believe that everything in the universe — trees, animals, movie stars, publicists — is one.

Chief celebrity missionary: Richard Gere. However, Steven Seagal has the distinction of being recognized as a tulku, a reincarnated lama and sacred vessel. Says a not-at-all-jealous Gere, "If someone's a tulku, that's great. But no one knows if that's true."

Followers: Kate Bosworth, Orlando Bloom, Goldie Hawn, Tina Turner, Keanu Reeves, Harrison Ford, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch.

Purported benefits: Seagal says he can heal with his hands.

Hazards: If you're a Tibetan lama, it could get you kicked out of your homeland and exiled to India for 45 years. If you're a movie star, it could get you widely mocked in the press when you try to raise awareness of the cause at the Oscars. If you're anyone else, it could bum you out at cookouts when you have to pass on the barbecue and have a veggie burger instead (Buddhists don't eat meat).

Hot accessories: Available at DharmaShop.com, bodhi-seed prayer beads ($30), black "Free Tibet" T-shirt ($17), prayer flag gift set ($29).

Dues: Gere created the Gere Foundation, which contributes money to the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan community.

The Lord giveth: The Dalai Lama got a deal hocking computers for Apple's "Think different" campaign, and has written many best-selling books.

The Lord taketh away: The Buddhists believe that wealth is impermanent. For his part, the Dalai Lama is reported to have been paid for the Apple ad with five computers, which he gave to a Tibetan school.

Endorsement: "[It's] just a really incredible state of mind. It's just a beautiful place to try and be at," says Bosworth. "It's basically about constantly growing and making yourself a better person and focusing on what you want for yourself and the world and really putting it out there. It's amazing."


What is it? The predecessor to Hinduism, made popular in the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded Transcendental Meditation (TM). In TM, practitioners meditate on a particular mantra for about 20 minutes a day, hoping to attain a higher level of consciousness.

Chief celebrity missionary: Now: David Lynch. Then: the Beatles and Donavan. Says Lynch, "You're really and truly expanding your consciousness. You go beyond the field of relativity and you experience the nonrelative absolute. You go beyond duality, and you experience oneness. You go beyond boundaries, and you experience the unbounded, infinite, eternal, unified field, pure bliss consciousness. And also, this field has the qualities of pure intelligence, pure creativity, pure love, pure energy, power, pure harmony, pure coherence, dynamic peace. It's all there, and you can unfold that and grow in that."

Followers: Heather Graham, Laura Dern, Calvin Klein, Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow.

Purported benefits: Flying. Some TM practitioners say that deep meditation can cause you to levitate. (To the layperson, it looks like bouncing up and down.) Others say that "yogic flying" is a tool for world peace: Meditators gather together and send out positive vibrations to reduce aggression and crime on the planet. Also, it's good for stress.

Hazards: Sore buns (sitting on your butt all day can really smart).

Hot accessories: First chakra necklace ($220 at Deepak Chopra's Website); cotton zafu, or meditation cushion ($49.95 at HalfmoonYogaProps.com).

Dues: At TM.org, a four-day instruction course costs $2,500.

The Lord giveth: Lynch is working to raise $7 billion to make TM more widely available.

The Lord taketh away: In 1987, two TM organizations were ordered by a court to pay $138,000 to a man who said the organizations falsely promised he could learn to fly.

Endorsement: TM and alcohol mix! Graham says she usually gets jittery before a big premiere but has found a solution: "I get really nervous and I have to have a cocktail. I also use transcendental meditation. It's a certain kind of meditation that's very relaxing. It gets rid of stress and helps you out with things like this."


What is it? The belief that a virgin named Mary gave birth to the son of God, named Jesus, in a Bethlehem stable. After he was executed at age 33, Jesus rose from the dead and informed his followers that if they accepted him in their hearts they would live in eternal paradise, and if they didn't they'd burn in hell for all time.

Chief celebrity missionary: Mel Gibson, who makes eternal salvation particular to Catholics: "Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it [into heaven] — she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it."

Followers: Kanye West, Jessica Simpson, Beyoncé, Patricia Heaton, Mary J. Blige, Kirk Cameron. And, according to MSNBC.com, Britney has allegedly been consulting with a Christian life coach to help her marriage.

Purported benefits: It gets you on the A-list to the most fabulous and exclusive club of all — heaven.

Hazards: An appearance on Will & Grace could cost you your eternal soul.

Hot accessories: The must-have accessory for Christians is a necklace with a cross, which was instrumental in the killing of their savior. At ChristianExpressionSuperstore.com, a 14-karat-gold cross with chain goes for $138. Other great finds: St. Francis teddy bear ($9.95); Beatitudes gift set, including a mug filled with Scripture cookies and an inspirational cassette ($19.95).

Dues: West paid an artist to recreate Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling in his mansion, at a cost of $350,000.

The Lord giveth: Gibson spent $50 million of his own money to make The Passion of the Christ, which then made over $500 million.

The Lord taketh away: The Bible says it's as difficult for a rich man to get into heaven as it is a camel to get through the eye of a needle. Blige begs to differ: "My God is a God who wants me to have things. He wants me to bling. He wants me to be the hottest thing on the block. I don't know what kind of God y'all are serving, but the God I serve says, 'Mary, you need to be the hottest thing this year, and I'm going to make sure you're doing that.'"

Endorsement: Cameron urges fellow Christians to take pity on infidels: "Many of us don't share our faith even though we see sinners with God's wrath abiding on them. It says in the Bible that God's wrath will come down and grind them to powder if they're found without the savior on the Day of Judgment. And what do we do? Many of us say, 'Uh, I'm not going to share my faith. These people are having fun in their sinful lifestyles — who am I to stop them?'"

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