The Hidden Religion Of Comedian Robin Williams

EVA RINALDI is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Famous Actor Had A Complicated Relationship With Faith

Robin Williams was a comedy legend. Known for his hyper energy and spot-on impressions, he was a successful stand-up comedian, sitcom sensation, and celebrated actor. In 2014 Williams tragically committed suicide. The spotlight has returned to his life and death with the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. However, there is one question that defies a clear answer: what religion was Robin Williams?

Robin Williams’ parents were Episcopalian and Christian Scientist. He identified as an Episcopalian in some interviews. He described his faith as “Catholic lite: the same religion, half the guilt.” But he never was seen publicly describing religious tendencies in great detail. Given how open the actor was about his personal life, this seemed unusual. Part of the explanation could be his distance and strained relationship with his father. William’s father was gone for a large percentage of his life and was reserved in giving emotional support to his son.

While Williams claimed to be Episcopalian, some of his comedian friends argued he was actually an atheist. They point out comedy routines that poked fun of belief in general. While Williams’ upbringing was important to him, his friends claim he genuinely did not follow any organized religion. It may be why he called himself “an honorary Jew” and endorsed Israel.

Others point to interviews at the end of his life to demonstrate an evolution in his understanding of God. Williams always struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. He attended rehab several times over the course of his life. Rehab programs usually incorporate some element of belief in a higher power to help addicts who feel powerless gain confidence about their ability to be sober. Robin Williams talked about it weeks before his death: “You get a real strong sense of God when you go through rehab. Having the idea of a really loving and forgiving God helps if you’re an alcoholic – someone going, ‘It’s OK. Remember, there was wine at the Last Supper.’”

Part of the difficulty in explicitly identifying Williams’ religion was the man was always trying to entertain. Many co-workers, friends, and family mention laughter was the comedian’s greatest addiction. Sometimes it became hard to identify when Williams was making a joke or a serious statement. This is what caused his death tragic. Very few people saw it coming.

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