Harrelson was born in 1961 in
Midland, Texas, the son of Diane (née Oswald) and
Charles Voyde Harrelson.
 He has two brothers, Jordan and
 In 1973, Harrelson moved to his mother's native city,
 where he attended
Lebanon High School. He spent much of his high school years working as a
Kings Island amusement park.
Hanover College in
Hanover, Indiana, where he joined the
Sigma Chi fraternity. He received a
Bachelor of Arts in theater and English in 1983. He told
Playboy in October 2009: "I was getting into theology and studying the roots of the Bible, but then I started to discover the man-made nature of it. I started seeing things that made me ask, 'Is God really speaking through this instrument?' My eyes opened to the reality of the Bible being just a document to control people. At the time I was a real mama's boy and deeply mesmerized by the church."
Charles Voyde Harrelson, was a convicted
contract killer, who received a
life sentence for the 1979 killing of Federal Judge
John H. Wood Jr. in
San Antonio, Texas.
 He died in the
United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility on March 15, 2007.