What Religion Is Meryl Streep?

Meryl Streep is one of the most acclaimed and decorated actresses in Hollywood history. She has received more Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations than any other actor. Over her decades-long career, Streep has played a diverse range of characters across many genres.

But one aspect of her personal life that remains relatively private is her religion. So what faith does the legendary actress practice?

Meryl Streep’s Religious Background

Meryl Streep was born Mary Louise Streep on June 22, 1949 in Summit, New Jersey. Her mother, Mary Wilkinson Streep, was a commercial artist and art editor. Her father, Harry William Streep Jr., was a pharmaceutical executive.

Streep’s mother was a Presbyterian of English and Irish descent. Her father came from a Lutheran family of Swiss-German heritage. Streep has described her upbringing as “lower middle class” in suburban New Jersey.

As a child, Streep attended Presbyterian church with her mother. However, she has said that organized religion did not play a major role in her early life. Streep’s father passed away in 2003 and her mother in 2001.

Streep’s Views on Religion as an Adult

As an adult, Streep does not follow any particular organized religion. When asked in interviews about her faith, she has provided thoughtful but ambiguous answers.

Here are some insights into Meryl Streep’s religious beliefs based on her public comments over the years:

  • She has described herself as open to the idea of spirituality, but non-committal to any specific faith or creed. Streep stated, “I’ve always been really, deeply interested, because I think I can understand the solace that’s available in the whole construct of religion. But I really don’t believe in the power of prayer, or things would have been avoided that have happened, that are awful.”
  • When discussing her views on God, Streep has said, “I don’t believe in an old man sitting on a throne. I’m sorry. I don’t believe that. But I think I believed when I was a child that there was a controlling force in the universe that was capable of looking out for you.”
  • She seems to connect more to a general sense of meaning and morality rather than a particular theology. Streep shared, “People have been talking about religion and ideologies and faith for eons. And for me, I love having those provocations in art. I like when things are confronted that deserve to be confronted. And I think that’s the role of art in the world.”
  • She values her upbringing within Protestant Christianity but ultimately concludes that religious truth is complex. Streep has said, “I really did grow up believing in the tenets of Christianity. And I liked the teachings of Christ, but the church was another thing. We all search. We all want some kind of truth that’s amenable to our own needs. I don’t think you ever find it.”

So in summary, while Meryl Streep has learned from and appreciated aspects of her Protestant background, she does not profess a firm belief in Christianity or any particular religion as an adult. She seems to keep an open but undecided mind towards life’s spiritual questions.

Streep’s Portrayals of Religious Characters

As an actress, Meryl Streep has played a wide range of characters with different religious affiliations. Her ability to authentically portray these roles speaks to both her acting talent and her nuanced understanding of faith.

Here are some of Streep’s most acclaimed performances as religious characters:

Sophie in Sophie’s Choice

In this 1982 drama, Streep won her first Academy Award for playing a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz. The Catholic faith was an important dimension of Sophie’s background and informs her tragic choices in the film.

Lindy Chamberlain in A Cry in the Dark

Streep received an Oscar nomination for playing Lindy Chamberlain in this 1988 drama based on a true story. Lindy is part of an Australian Seventh-day Adventist family. Her religious identity factors into the public’s distrustful response to her daughter’s death.

Sister Aloysius in Doubt

Streep earned another Oscar nomination for portraying a strict Bronx Catholic school principal in this 2008 drama. Her character represents traditional Catholic mores, which are questioned by a more progressive priest.

Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady

In this 2011 biopic, Streep won the Academy Award for playing the British prime minister. Thatcher’s Methodist upbringing shaped her conservative political philosophy and uncompromising leadership style.

Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette

Streep had a small but powerful role as feminist leader Emmeline Pankhurst in this 2015 historical drama about British women fighting for the right to vote. Pankhurst uses her Christian faith to justify civil disobedience.

By immersing herself in these profoundly religious characters, Streep has proven her talent for embodying a diversity of spiritual worldviews and experiences. Her nuanced portrayals reveal the complex ways faith shapes human psychology and choices.

Public Comments on Religion

Beyond discussing her personal views, Meryl Streep has also weighed in on broader religious topics like the role of faith in society and politics. A few thought-provoking quotes:

  • On the separation of church and state: “I think that our public life is not enriched by religiosity. But that’s just me talking.”
  • On religious values in policy debates: “I think people are entitled to their opinions, and I understand the passion people bring when they believe in something. But I don’t really bear witness to it.”
  • On evangelical Christians supporting Donald Trump: “I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was. I really thought they knew better.”
  • On Vice President Mike Pence’s conservative Christianity: “He’s really pointing up something that we all knew was there but is now becoming policy — this discrimination against the LGBTQ community.”

While Streep keeps an open mind about personal spirituality, she believes strongly in maintaining a secular government and is concerned by the religious right’s political agenda. Like the characters she portrays, her comments reveal thoughtful perspectives on the intersection of faith and society.


So in conclusion, while Meryl Streep was raised Presbyterian like her mother, she does not currently identify with any particular organized religion. As an adult, she has cultivated an inquisitive yet undecided attitude towards spiritual matters. Streep appreciates values like empathy and meaning that resonate across belief systems.

Through her acting, she compellingly expresses the internal struggles and external influences of fictional religious characters. And in public comments, she advocates for the separation of church and state and expresses concern over the religious right’s discriminatory policies.

So ultimately, Streep considers faith thoughtfully but keeps an open and questioning mind. Her nuanced views on religion reflect the same complexity she brings to every role.

Key Points About Meryl Streep’s Religion:

  • Was brought up Presbyterian by her mother but religion did not play major role in childhood
  • Does not follow any particular organized religion as an adult
  • Remains open minded to spirituality but noncommittal about specific beliefs
  • Appreciates moral teachings of Christ but skeptical of institutional church
  • Able to authentically portray diverse range of religious affiliations as actress
  • Advocates keeping religion out of public policy debates
  • Concerned by discriminatory agenda of religious conservatives in politics
  • Considers faith carefully but maintains an undecided stance overall

Frequently Asked Questions About Meryl Streep’s Religion

What church was Meryl Streep raised in?

Meryl Streep was raised Presbyterian by her mother. Her mother took her to Presbyterian church services as a child.

What religion is Don Gummer, Meryl Streep’s husband?

Don Gummer, an American sculptor who has been married to Meryl Streep since 1978, was raised Lutheran. He does not appear to actively practice any religion.

Is Meryl Streep an atheist?

No, Meryl Streep is not an atheist. She has said she remains open to spirituality and the idea of a “controlling force” in the universe. However, she does not follow any particular organized religion.

What did Meryl Streep say about Vice President Mike Pence’s faith?

Meryl Streep criticized Mike Pence’s conservative Christian views, saying his policies discriminate against the LGBTQ community. She believes Pence’s faith-based positions are problematic.

Did Meryl Streep leave the Presbyterian church?

Meryl Streep was taken to Presbyterian church by her mother as a child but she drifted away from active church affiliation as an adult. She still values some Christian teachings but does not identify as Presbyterian now.

What religious groups have criticized Meryl Streep?

Some evangelical Christian groups have criticized Meryl Streep’s progressive views on topics like LGBTQ rights and her support for separating church and state. She has also spoken out against religious conservatives like Mike Pence.

Is Meryl Streep Catholic or Protestant?

Meryl Streep was raised Presbyterian Protestant but she does not currently identify with any particular denomination or religion. Some of her most acclaimed acting roles have been playing Catholic characters.

What does Meryl Streep think about prayer?

Meryl Streep has said “I don’t believe in the power of prayer” suggesting she thinks praying does not supernaturally influence outcomes. She seems skeptical of God intervening based on prayer requests.

Why did Meryl Streep play a nun in Doubt?

Meryl Streep took the role of a strict Catholic nun in Doubt because it was a complex, challenging character. It allowed her to explore faith and morality through acting even if she does not share the character’s beliefs.

What religion was Margaret Thatcher, who Meryl Streep played in The Iron Lady?

Margaret Thatcher, who Meryl Streep won an Oscar for portraying, was a devout Methodist. Thatcher’s Christian faith shaped her politics and uncompromising leadership style as Prime Minister.


Streep, Meryl. Interview by Peter Travers. ABC News. April 7, 2016. https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/fullpage/meryl-streep-interview-peter-travers-38323642

McNamara, Mary. “Meryl Streep: The Fresh Air Interview.” Fresh Air. WHYY. March 16, 2016. https://www.npr.org/2016/03/16/470664561/meryl-streep-the-fresh-air-interview

Schudel, Matt. “Harry William Streep Jr., 77; Father of Actress Meryl Streep.” The Washington Post. July 2, 2003. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2003/07/02/harry-william-streep-jr-77-father-of-actress-meryl-streep/f1cf0f09-1513-4971-842f-c85c6f2ad204/

Parker, Ryan. “Meryl Streep on Donald Trump: ‘I’m Shocked’.” The Hollywood Reporter. February 7, 2017. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/meryl-streep-on-donald-trump-im-shocked-974746/

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