Frank Sinatra Risked ‘Boycott’ Over His Comments About Religion in 1963

In a Playboy interview in 1963, Frank Sinatra offered surprising honesty when asked about his stance on religion. The musician once spoke about his belief system and why he took issue with many elements of organized religion. Sinatra acknowledged that some of his comments could lose him fans.

Frank Sinatra wears a suit and fedora and sits against a blue background.
Frank Sinatra | GAB Archive/Redferns

Frank Sinatra grew up in a Catholic household

Sinatra was born in 1915 to Italian immigrant parents. Though he was baptized and raised Catholic, Sinatra’s upbringing was nontraditional. His father was a boxer and a bar-owner, and his mother was a Democratic ward boss and midwife. She also campaigned for women’s rights and illegally provided abortions to women in need.

“My mother is what you would call a progressive,” Sinatra said, per the essay “Frank Sinatra: The Popular Front and an American Icon” by Gerald Meyer. “She decided she didn’t want to be just a housekeeper, and studied nursing and is now a graduate nurse. She was always interested in conditions outside her own home. My father, too, but he was the more silent type.”

He shared his thoughts on organized religion in the 1960s

Sinatra’s politics were left-leaning, embracing antiracism and antifascism. He made his support of these causes clear. He was also candid about his stance on religion.

“I believe in you and me,” he told Playboy in 1963, per Billboard. “I’m like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life — in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don’t believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice.”

Sinatra believed that spirituality was deeply personal and that organized religion could get in the way of this.

“There are things about organized religion which I resent,” he explained. “Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I’ll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. Over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well.”

Sinatra also did not believe that human decency came from religion alone. He also acknowledged that he was risking backlash with these comments.

“Can you imagine the deluge of crank letters, curses, threats and obscenities I’ll receive after these remarks gain general circulation?” he asked (via Boing Boing). “Worse, the boycott of my records, my films, maybe a picket line at my opening at the Sands. Why? Because I’ve dared to say that love and decency are not necessarily concomitants of religious fervor.”

Frank Sinatra later had his fourth marriage in the Catholic Church

Despite these comments, Sinatra chose to have his fourth wedding in the Catholic Church. This required him to annul his first marriage, which greatly upset his children.

“I found the concept of annulment shocking,” his daughter Nancy wrote in the book Frank Sinatra: An American Legend (via the Desert Sun), “and my brother (the late Frank Jr.), sister and I were concerned about how it would affect our mother.”

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