Chelsea Handler says she chose to be Jewish because 'Mormonism is so ridiculous'

On day two of the 2020 MAKERS Conference, Chelsea Handler sat down with Judy Blume to discuss the 50th anniversary of the author’s beloved book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The two touched on topics like rejection and ageism in Hollywood before pivoting to their complicated relationships with faith.

The conversation came after Handler asked Blume whether there were any characteristics of Margaret — the main character in Blume’s iconic novel — that she relates to. “Of course, I mean I was that little skinny late developer,” Blume said. “The religious part ... that's fiction, which is interesting.”

Handler said it was a big part of why she connected with the book. “That's one of the things that resonated with me because I grew up as a Jew and a Mormon. My mom was Jewish and my dad was Mormon,” Handler said. But after learning about both religions, Handler decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “I chose Jewish obviously,” Handler admitted. “Mormonism is so ridiculous. But I related to ... that conflict of religion for both parents.”

Judy Blume and Chelsea Handler speak onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference on February 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS)

The comedian — who released her sixth book last year — said Blume’s book helped her navigate the difficulty of that divide. “I [had] just found out my mom was more on top thinking she was Jewish,” said Handler. “It was a very confusing time. But your books were just such a reprieve for me and such a joy.”

Blume related, noting that she was also learning her relationship to faith as well. “I talked to God, I mean I had a relationship with God that had nothing to do with organized religion,” said Blume. “But he was my confidant or maybe she, and then I thought he.” When Handler asked if Blume still talks to God, she replied, “not so much” — which Handler said is likely connected to “ideas of god and spirituality changing.”

But the 82-year-old said it served a purpose when she was younger. “I needed it ... I needed to have that feeling, you know, that I had somebody that I could talk to...” said Blume. “Somebody who wasn't judgmental.”

It’s not the first time Handler has spoken out about Mormonism. In a contentious 2012 interview on Real Time With Bill Maher, the comedian pushed back on a CNN contributor who said that the religion has “improved millions of peoples’ lives” and created “flourishing” institutions. “But they can’t even drink alcohol,” Handler countered. “They can’t have sex, they can’t have caffeine, they can’t have alcohol ... Unless you accept Jesus Christ as your savior in the Mormon church, you go to hell.”

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