Aaron Rodgers recently opened up about his religious upbringing with girlfriend Danica Patrick
Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers
| Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty

Famed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently opened up to girlfriend Danica Patrick about how he has distanced himself from his devout Christian upbringing.

But Rodgers has previously hinted at a fracture in his faith, telling ESPN in 2017 that he began to question his beliefs as a young person, and continued to do so through his first few years in the NFL.

“I think in people’s lives who grew up in some sort of organized religion, there really comes a time when you start to question things more,” Rodgers, 36, told the outlet at the time. “It happens for some at an early age; others, you know, maybe a little older. That happened to me six or seven years ago.”

Despite growing up in Northern California with devout Christian parents, the 2011 Super Bowl champion said he regularly pressed clergy members on issues he had with the religion, and was often left unsatisfied with the responses.

“I remember asking a question as a young person about somebody in a remote rainforest,” Rodgers recalled to ESPN in the wide-ranging interview. “Because the words that I got were: ‘If you don’t confess your sins, then you’re going to hell.’ And I said, ‘What about the people who don’t have a Bible readily accessible?’ ”

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers
| Credit: Harry How/Getty

Rodgers’ questioning continued from his time in college at the University of California, Berkeley, to being drafted by the Packers in 2005.

When he took over as starting quarterback of the Packers in 2008, Rodgers struck up a friendship with pastor Rob Bell. Their friendship did not primarily focus on Christianity, as the two shared interests in art and science as well, Rodgers told ESPN.

But, as the pair had conversations about religion, Rodgers said he realized over time he no longer felt a connection with the beliefs he was taught as a child. Instead, he said, he found more comfort in spirituality and no longer identified with a specific religion.

“The Bible opens with a poem,” Rodgers said of believing the Bible has become misunderstood. “It’s a beautiful piece of work, but it was never meant to be interpreted as I think some churches do.”

During Patrick’s Pretty Intense podcast in December, Rodgers said he felt the “binary” characteristics of religion can be a “crutch” for believers — something he touched upon in 2017.

“I think organized religion can have a mind-debilitating effect,” he told ESPN, “because there is an exclusivity that can shut you out from being open to the world, to people, and energy, and love and acceptance.”

Patrick also discussed her views on religion in 2018, stating she believed God was “not a dude on a throne in the clouds. It’s so much more than that.”

“I’m not necessarily of any religion,” Patrick, 37, told podcaster Lewis Howes. “I don’t believe in all of any of them. They all have good points. I could go to any religious ceremony and say that I learned something today, or I might dismiss it all. I’m not sure.”

In response to Rodgers’ recent comments, a source tells PEOPLE that his estranged family felt like he had “turned his back on them.”

“There’s clearly a lot more to it, but that’s how he is perceived by his family,” the source close to the family added. “His comments are very hurtful to the family.”