Billy Joel has written and released a few songs that have Christian undertones in them. The River of Dreams, for instance, was heavily influenced by the music styles of gospel songs and included many imageries that referenced Christian themes such as redemption and cleansing.
On top of that, Only The Good Die Young was a song that touched on the subject of Catholic traditions.
However, in 2018, Joel was seen wearing a jacket with a Star of David on the front. This made many people confused as to what his religious belief actually is. Is Billy Joel Jewish? Is he Christian? Catholic, perhaps? Or does he even believe in The Being Upstairs? Let’s find out.
Billy Joel’s Religious Background As a Child
As a young boy, Billy Joel had already been exposed to different religious beliefs such as Judaism, Protestant, Catholic, and Christianity.
His Jewish roots can be attributed to his parents, who came from Jewish families. Interestingly, they did not make Billy practice Jewish traditions. The closest he’s ever gotten to practicing the religion was when he had his circumcision, which is believed to be a ‘sacred practice’.
By the time he turned 11 years old, Billy was baptized in a Protestant church – which was solely his mother’s choice. At his own discretion, though, Billy used to attend Catholic masses with his friends.
To sum it all up, here’s what Billy said in a 2001 interview:
“My parents were both from Jewish families. I was not brought up Jewish in any religious way. My circumcision was as Jewish as they got. I used to go to a Roman Catholic church with my friends, and when I was 11, I got baptized in a Church of Christ in Hicksville. I’m a cultural Jew. I like the Lower East Side humor, the food. I think the Yiddish language is terrifically expressive. Does that make me a complete Jew or a partial Jew? I’m not really sure.”
In other words, Billy Joel does not religiously identify as a Jew but he does associate himself with the Jewish community in some way. As mentioned before, Billy Joel expressed his support for his fellow Jews by wearing a Star of David during one of his MSG shows. He explained:
“I had to do something that night. The president said [after the Charlottesville rally], you know, ‘There’s some good people on that side…’ No, Nazis aren’t good people. It really enraged me, actually. My old man, his family got wiped out. They were slaughtered in Auschwitz. Him and his parents were able to get out. But then he was in the US Army during the war and fought with Patton and was shot at by Nazis… My family suffered. And I think I actually have a right to do that.”
Is Billy Joel an Atheist?
Billy Joel has, indeed, failed to ‘keep the faith’. The reason why he does not consider himself a Jew, a Christian, or a Catholic is because he doesn’t actually believe in God.
He had hinted at this in several of his lyrics, such as “God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man,” and “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” But the first time he ever publicly admitted to being an atheist was during his Howard Stern interview in 2010:
“I’m an atheist. I tried it all on. I used to go to mass when I was a little kid. I liked the sound of the acoustic in the church. The singing always got to me. No matter what the religion was, the acoustics were great.”
Later in the same interview, he doubled down on his lack of belief:
“I’m not going to say there is or isn’t [heaven or hell], I just don’t believe there is.”
So, there you have it. Billy Joel is more of a ‘cultural Jew’ than a religious one. He doesn’t believe in The Being Upstairs. Still, that doesn’t make him an anti-theist.
He may not believe in God, but he still cares for the people who do. And that, ladies and gents, is what makes Billy Joel an even greater legend.