Downey was raised in a partly Jewish, partly Catholic family. He seems to identify with both--as well as Buddhism, which he credits to helping him with his drug and alcohol addiction.
Downey is a conservative Republican and, without saying exactly why, credits his prison time to making him that way.
Robert Downey Jr. was born and raised in Manhattan, New York.
It would seem that religion was secondary in Downey's childhood and in his family, which was rife with drug and alcohol abuse. Downey picked up these bad habits later in life and is now almost as famous for his struggle with addiction as he is for his impressive on-screen performances.
As with any recovering addict, Downey looks to his past experiences as a source for inspiration and spirituality, saying:
I think I'm more sensitive and introspective and filled with wonder at the universe because of what I've gone through than I care to admit.
Still, Downey seems either confused about his own beliefs or satisfied with the ambiguity. His upbringing was both Jewish and Catholic and he credits much of his recovery from drugs and alcohol to Buddhist meditation. As a result, Downey's beliefs are a hodge-podge of these three distinct faiths. He says:
I'm not above [religion]. But like Jung said about people using religion to avoid a religious experience, I have managed handily to avoid a religious experience. I don't know where I fall. Spiritual Green Party? There were times when I was into the whole Hare Krishna thing, which is pretty far out. Now I would call myself a Jew-Bu, a Jewish-Buddhist. But there were many times [in prison] when Catholicism saved my butt.
Jail yard politics
It wouldn't be too far-fetched to want to count Downey among the throngs of Hollywood liberals. In fact, he did attend a 2012 fundraiser for Barack Obama at George Clooney's house.
But this is simply not the case.
Apparently, Downey used to be your standard Hollywood liberal, but once again, his struggle with drugs and the resulting prison time is what he credits to the shift:
I have a really interesting political point of view, and it's not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can't go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can't. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics every since.
I really wish the reporter would have clarified this statement, though, and no one seems to have asked Downey for a follow-up. It would seem that a stint in prison on a drug charge (something Republicans advocate and Democrats seek to change) would cause one to go the other way. But there must be some occurrence or realization that got Downey to equate a learning experience in prison to conservatism. But we might never know what it was. C'est la Vie!