What Religion is Penn Badgley?

Penn Badgley is an American actor best known for his role as Dan Humphrey in the CW teen drama series Gossip Girl. Though he achieved fame playing a privileged New York prep schooler on the show, Badgley has a somewhat unconventional religious background that many fans may not be aware of.

So what religion does Penn Badgley actually identify with? Let’s take a closer look at his spiritual beliefs and religious upbringing.

Penn Badgley’s Unconventional Religious Upbringing

Penn Badgley was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1986. His mother Lynne was a newspaper reporter and his father Duff was a carpenter and dump truck driver.

The family moved around a lot during Penn’s childhood, living in Virginia, Washington State, Indonesia, and even a Hare Krishna community for some time.

Badgley’s parents were unconventional freethinkers who exposed him to a variety of religious traditions and philosophies. His father Duff was Catholic but also interested in other faiths.

Badgley has described his father as a “religious seeker” who was open to exploring different spiritual paths. His mother Lynne was Jewish but the family did not practice Judaism in a traditional sense.

During his teenage years, Badgley spent time at a boarding school near Seattle run by the followers of Indian guru Baghwan Shree Rajneesh. Rajneesh, also known as Osho, taught a doctrine of free love and meditation that attracted spiritual seekers in the 1970s and 80s. Spending time at this community undoubtedly shaped the young Badgley’s worldview.

Hare Krishna Phase

One of the most interesting chapters in Badgley’s religious upbringing is the period his family spent living in a Hare Krishna community during his early childhood years.

The Hare Krishna movement, also known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKCON, is devoted to the Hindu deity Krishna. It originated in the United States in the 1960s and attracted many hippie followers with its ecstatic chanting and dancing practices.

Badgley has said that his parents were not official Krishna devotees but appreciated the sense of community. The family adopted common practices like a vegetarian diet and chanting.

Badgley was given the name Penn as a nod to Krishna devotee and Beatle George Harrison’s Sanskrit name, Sri Hari Georgeson.

Overall, living in the Hare Krishna community exposed Badgley to Hindu philosophy and vegetarianism from a young age.

Youth Group and Christianity

During his middle school years, Penn became involved with a more mainstream Christian youth group. In interviews, he has characterized this as his “born again Christian” phase.

Badgley attended retreats and youth group activities at a nondenominational Christian church during these years. He has said that he appreciated the sense of community but eventually grew disillusioned with the religious messaging directed toward teenagers.

This youth group experience imparted a basic familiarity with Christian tenets and the Bible that has stayed with Badgley into adulthood. However, he did not remain an evangelical Christian.

Penn Badgley’s Current Religious Views

So what religion does Penn Badgley identify with today, after his unconventional upbringing? Based on his public interviews and statements, it seems most accurate to describe him as a freethinking agnostic with an interest in Buddhist philosophy.

Freethinker Without Affiliation

In interviews, Badgley resist labels and affiliation with any particular organized religion. He has said “I don’t believe in God,” and described himself as having “no religion.”

Rather than commitment to a specific faith, Badgley seems to value open-minded spiritual exploration. He has said:

“I’m still struggling to find a ritual or religious community that works for me. I think it’s possible to appreciate them all uniquely.”

Badgley appreciates wisdom from religious figures like Jesus but does not identify as Christian. He also finds meaning in Buddhist teachings but does not consider himself a Buddhist.

Overall, Badgley comes across as a freethinking agnostic without strong loyalty to any faith. His priority is finding personal spiritual meaning over organized religious affiliation.

Interest in Buddhist Philosophy

While he avoids specific labels, Badgley does express great admiration for Buddhist philosophy.

He has said Buddhism is the religion that “most resonates” with him due to its “emphasis on mindfulness.” He also appreciates Buddhist notions of impermanence and the non-existence of the ego.

Badgley practices meditation and finds Buddhist teachings psychologically insightful even if he does not formally identify as Buddhist. He seems to incorporate aspects of Buddhist philosophy into his general freethinking worldview.

How Religion Influences Badgley’s Life and Work

While affiliation with organized religion does not seem essential to Penn Badgley, he does appear to lead a thoughtful, spiritually-inclined life. His religious upbringing and current open-minded perspective shape his life and work in interesting ways.

Charitable Work and Activism

Badgley is heavily involved in a variety of philanthropic and activist causes. He has worked with organizations supporting children’s rights in Indonesia, providing clean water in Malawi, and assisted efforts to house homeless youth in America.

In interviews, he has suggested his passion for charity is linked to the sense of community and care for others he first encountered in spiritual groups as a child. Even though his beliefs are not tied to one faith, he retains that value of service.

Interest in Theology and Ethics

Badgley is an intellectually curious person who thinks deeply about theological and ethical issues. He enjoys reading religious texts ranging from the Bible to the Quran to better understand diverse faith perspectives.

He also likes to discuss philosophical questions about topics like the nature of belief and morality. Badgley engages with religious ideas on an intellectual level through continual study and reflection.

Pursuit of a Contemplative Lifestyle

Despite his acting success, Badgley leads a fairly quiet life focused on contemplation. He finds Los Angeles too hectic, preferring time in nature away from the city. Meditation is an important daily activity for him. Overall, he seeks a balanced lifestyle that allows time for inner spiritual reflection.

This contemplative approach likely stems from time spent in spiritual communities as a child. His continued interest in practices like meditation demonstrate the lasting impact of those experiences.

Penn Badgley’s Interfaith Appeal

Part of what makes Penn Badgley’s religious journey compelling is its interfaith nature. He has genuinely engaged with several faith traditions and integrated helpful aspects into his own fluid belief system. This open-minded quality is attractive to many fans.

Badgley appeals to some evangelical Christians fondly recalling his born-again youth group days. Yet he also attracts fans from secular or religiously-unaffiliated backgrounds who appreciate his universal spirituality.

Hindu fans recognize a familiarity with yoga and vegetarianism picked up during his Hare Krishna years. Buddhists admire his respect for their tradition’s mindfulness principles.

Ultimately, Badgley’s inclusive approach enables him to connect authentically with followers from all different backgrounds. In a polarized cultural landscape, his message of open-minded understanding resonates widely.


Penn Badgley’s unusual religious upbringing shaped him into the freethinking, spiritually-open actor he is today. Raised by iconoclastic parents among Hare Krishnas and experimental communes, his unconventional childhood primed him to approach religion in his own distinctive way.

Badgley is not aligned with any particular organized faith – he describes himself as nonreligious. However, he is fascinated by theological questions and integrates ideas from Christianity, Hinduism, and especially Buddhism into his worldview.

Leading a contemplative, philanthropic lifestyle, Badgley appeals to fans from many spiritual backgrounds who appreciate his interfaith wisdom and discernment. Ultimately, the answer to what religion Penn Badgley identifies with is – his own ever-evolving, philosophically-inclined faith.

FAQ: Penn Badgley’s Religion

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Penn Badgley’s religious background and current beliefs:

Was Penn Badgley raised as a Hare Krishna?

  • Penn Badgley spent time living in a Hare Krishna community as a young child but his parents were not formal Krishna devotees. The experience exposed him to Hindu philosophy and practices like vegetarianism.

What does Penn Badgley believe about God?

  • In interviews, Badgley has stated “I don’t believe in God” and said he does not follow any particular religion. He seems to hold agnostic views, focusing more on spiritual exploration than definite beliefs.

Is Penn Badgley an atheist?

  • While he denies belief in God, Badgley does have spiritual interests and practices like meditation. So he is better described as an agnostic than a firm atheist.

What does Penn Badgley think about Christianity?

  • Badgley was involved in an evangelical Christian youth group as a teen and has read the Bible but does not currently identify as Christian. He respectfully integrates some Christian teachings into his general spiritual worldview.

Does Penn Badgley consider himself a Buddhist?

  • No, Badgley does not formally identify as a Buddhist. However, he does admire Buddhist philosophy and integrates concepts like mindfulness into his life.

How does Penn Badgley’s religious background influence his activism?

  • Badgley says the charitable ethos he first encountered in spiritual communities as a child inspired his passion for activism and philanthropy later in life.

Is Penn Badgley religious or spiritual today?

  • Badgley is not formally religious but leads a contemplative, spiritually-minded life. He is on his own open-ended philosophical quest rather than following one set religion.

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