Beliefnet

 

He had gone on the Dick Cavett Show, he and the girl he was staying with [actress Barbara Hershey]. And she just took out her breast right there on national television! He's there watching them, as [she]  breastfed their child. He just looked so tacky. I said, "That's the end of that thought. I don't want that religion, either."

 

When I was in that dressing room [after the fight withYoung], down on that floor, blood on my hand and forehead, screaming that Jesus Christ was coming alive in me, I wasn't interested in any religion. [But] from that point on, I started reciting the Bible, talking from the pit of my stomach, in that dressing room.  [I was] talking about how Jesus was God's son and that he was alive.  So when I came out of that, I asked a friend to go get me a Bible.  And he said, "What kind?"  And I said, "I don't know. One like your mother has." So, he went out and bought me a King James version of the Bible. And that's how I got into religion.

 

Before you became a believer, your advisors had suggested you clean up your bad-guy image by speaking at churches.  I’m curious what you would talk about then, since it didn't seem like you knew a lot about Christianity or the Bible.

 

Didn't know anything at all.  As a matter of fact, after I lost to Ali, I was trying to get people to get on my bandwagon so I could really get a movement to get a title match.  And a friend said that there was a church in Garden Grove [in California] that had a little luncheon every day, and they invite people to speak.  He said, "I'm going to invite you to speak."

 

So, I got there, and I asked the guy who ran the church, his name was Dr. [Robert] Schuller [now pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove]. I said, "Hey, what should I talk about?  I don't know what to do." He said, "Well, Muhammad Ali is always talking about Muhammad and Allah. Why don't you say something about Jesus?"  I said, "Okay." So I just go there and say, "Muhammad is talking about Allah, and I’m going to talk about Jesus." And everybody laughed. I'd just say that over and over and over.  Never believing it, nor did I intend to ever believe it. 

 

So Dr. Schuller, as a matter of fact, when I had [my religious] experience, was the first one I called.  And I told him what had happened to me.  I said, "Look, I’m not playing, man. Jesus is really alive."  He said, "I believe you, George."  I said, "I'm serious, man!  When I spoke at your church, I didn't know what I was talking about."  He said, "I believe you." 

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