Comedian and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver has lambasted televangelists in a segment of his show. Oliver showed how televangelists convince vulnerable people to donate to their megachurches by telling them that their donations will bring them more money in return — an ideology called "seed faith," according to the segment. Oliver doesn't make his views on Christianity or any religion really clear in the video, but he has criticized the U.S. for allowing religion to seep into its policies. What is John Oliver's religion? He hasn't professed any support for one religion, but he has kind of started his own church.
Oliver doesn't like to call himself a journalist, but he does a lot of journalistic work. He's also great at separating himself from issues. He calls out issues that are usually universally appalling, but doesn't make his own opinion too clear. He reports what he and his team have found, and usually the numbers or quotes from televangelists, for example, do the work for him. In the televangelist episode, for example, Oliver didn't go so far as to say Christianity, or organized religion is bad if it's making money to support itself. He just pointed out that televangelists have told people that their sickness and poverty could be healed if they donated to the televangelist's program and that it's totally legal for them to do that. But Oliver has never publicly admitted to being part of a specific religion.
Oliver attended Christ's College, a constituent college at the University of Cambridge, which is where he first became involved in comedy, according to Biography.com. Though the college has a Christian chapel on the campus that provides services, not all students are Christian nor does the school adopt any specific Christian ideology. The College's prospectus even says that the Chaplain is available to give advice or guidance to students "regardless of their religious views or lack of them."
Neither Wikipedia nor Biography.com discuss Oliver's personal religious beliefs, which is notable. He also hasn't spoken about his personal beliefs in recent interviews. If Oliver does worship any particular religion, he's pointedly keeping it to himself. The only instance where Oliver did endorse or support a religious organization was when he started his own church as part of his episode on televangelists. He noted that televangelists and megachurches get to keep the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars they make in donations because they are tax exempt under current tax laws. Often, the episode found, this means buying luxury homes and private planes on the swindled viewer's dollar.
So, Oliver officially registered Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption as a religious organization under the Internal Revenue Service and started collecting donations at the end of the segment. Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption ended up receiving thousands of dollars in donations, according to the Daily Beast, and all of the money went to Doctors Without Borders. Oliver said that donations came in the form of bags of seeds, beef jerky, and foreign currency, in addition to U.S. currency, according to the Daily Beast:
For those of you who have sent U.S. currency, blessings unto you. We have received thousands of envelopes with thousands of dollars — some featuring heartwarming notes, such as this $5 bill with the message, ‘Take my seed, you rat-faced bastard.' We also received multiple checks, including this one for $65 billion, which you may have sent in as a joke, but guess what? We’re fucking cashing it. So who’s laughing now? The more money you send in, the more blessings will be returned to you. And that is still something I’m, amazingly, legally allowed to say.
Oliver then closed the church and still hasn't revealed his personal religious beliefs, but he undoubtedly will continue to call "bullshit" on anyone who uses religion to swindle, deceive, or legislate.