Inside Ellen DeGeneres' Religious Upbringing

Ellen DeGeneres laid her career on the line to tell her authentic truth. When her character, Ellen Morgan. came out on her ABC sitcom in 1997 and went down in LGBTQ+ history. "I'm so afraid to tell people, I mean, I just ... Susan, I'm gay," the actor revealed over an airline speaker to her friend Susan (played by Laura Dern) and everyone else waiting for their flight. In the show, Susan gave her friend a hug. In real life, this revelation didn't go so well.

It spelled the end of DeGeneres' 1994 sitcom, and suddenly, Hollywood wouldn't cast Ellen anymore. "[Execs] really didn't want me to come out ... I said, 'It's my life ... I'm going to lose the career. Like, you can just put another show on," she told The Armchair Expert in 2018. The fallout was immense. There were death threats, bomb scares, hate mail, and inevitably, Jerry Falwell wading in. He branded the comedian "Ellen Degenerate," something she'd been called "since fourth grade," she shared with Time.

Ellen was raised in a strict and conservative southern family. Yet, her mother was accepting of her daughter's sexuality. "It is absolutely unbelievable to me that some parents would reject their son or daughter just for who they are," Betty DeGeneres told the Sun Sentinal. Still, she admitted it took "a matter of months before I accepted her 100 percent." That's no surprise, though, given Ellen DeGeneres' religious upbringing. 

Ellen DeGeneres' father was deeply religious and hugely supportive

Being gay was a secret that Ellen DeGeneres was forced to keep in Hollywood. But not when she was at home with her family in Louisiana. "I've been really lucky. I have a really great family. I have parents who understand," she told Time. "My mother understands, now even more so. My father is supportive."

Ellen's parents, Betty and Elliott DeGeneres divorced when she was 13. She went to live with her mom but remained close to her devoutly religious father. Ellen admitted that her religious upbringing played a large role in shaping who she is. "Faith is part of who I am," she told Good Housekeeping. "I was raised Christian Scientist. The most important thing I saw every single week on the wall at Sunday school was the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'"

Ellen was heartbroken when Elliot died in 2018. "He had a good, long life. And he lived his life exactly how he wanted." She said in a tearful tribute, sharing that her dad lived till 92 despite his deeply held beliefs forbidding him from ever seeing a doctor. She said she'd spoken to Elliot shortly before he died. After he passed away, a rainbow formed above her studio. "He was very proud of me," she said. "He loved this show. He was a kind man, a very accepting man. There was not one bone of judgment in his body."

Ellen DeGeneres had a phone call with God

Ellen DeGeneres was "raised very, very strictly with Christian Science." She admits to never taking medicine, even aspirin until she was 13. "We had to go to church, do testimonies every Wednesday night," she once shared (via Good Reads). "I believe in God. I think that God is everywhere. Every morning I look outside, and I say, 'Hi, God.' Because I think that the trees are God. I think that our whole experience is God." DeGeneres spoke to "God" during her first appearance on the Johnny Carson Show in 1986.

DeGeneres hit back at an anti-gay pastor who personally attacked her and the "gay agenda" in Hollywood. "Ellen DeGeneres celebrates her lesbianism and 'marriage' in between appearances of guests like Taylor Swift to attract young girls," Larry Tomczak charged. DeGeneres broke it down, explaining she wasn't [airquotes] "married," she was just married. DeGeneres said her only "agenda" was "trying to influence people to be more kind and compassionate with one another. That is the message I am sending out," she insisted.

DeGeneres' [no air quotes needed] marriage is to the actor Portia di Rossi. She paid tribute to her wife on their 14th wedding anniversary. "It's good to be loved. It's profound to be understood. I love you, Portia DiRossi. Happy 14!" DeGeneres captioned a super cute video on Instagram.