By Mark Ellis —
As many were left reeling by the unexpected suicide of comedic genius Robin Williams, a few clues have emerged about a quiet, underlying faith that came to the surface during times of trial – most apparently after one of his stints in rehab.
Raised by an Episcopalian father and Christian Scientist mother, he publicly identified with the Episcopal Church, and offered the quip that being Episcopalian was essentially “Catholic lite: the same religion, half the guilt.”
In 2007, he spoke to journalist Kavita Daswani after emerging from a month in rehab for alcohol addiction. Their revealing interview was published by the South China Morning Post.
Williams had been sober for 20 years, but then found himself drinking again, and decided to take proactive measures to deal with it for his own well-being and the well-being of his family.
Daswani described his mood in the interview as “more somber” than usual, with his mind and heart refocused on rehab, God, religion and alcoholism.
“You get a real strong sense of God when you go through rehab,” he told Daswani. He said he came out of rehab a better man. “Having the idea of a really loving and forgiving God really helps if you’re an alcoholic – someone going, ‘It’s OK. Remember, there was wine at the Last Supper.”
Williams said religion was an integral part of his childhood. But having just gone through rehab, his relationship with God awakened beyond mere formalism.
“It’s become much more personal to me,” he said. “Instead of my mother saying, ‘We’re going to church now’, there’s much more a sense of [religion] coming back to life for me.”
Robin Williams’s father, a senior executive of the Ford Motor Company, moved the family to the San Francisco Bay area after his retirement. “As a child, I was heavily into religion. I was into the ritual of it. I grew up in San Francisco where the gospel music is so beautiful. I’m more religious in the sense of an open, compassionate church that’s there to take care of people with outreach programs and counseling. The idea of really working together, that means something. I’m religious on that level, trying to take care of everyone, and the idea of compassion is powerful to me,” he told Daswani.
He fell away from his faith during his battles with drugs and alcohol, which he compared to “one of the coming attractions of hell.”
“You have an idea there’s a dark force when you’re in that space, and it’s totally the opposite of doing the right thing.”
He told Daswani he believed in the afterlife – but couldn’t resist the urge to make a joke about it. “You talk to people who have had those experiences and it’s always a white tunnel and you realize, ‘What if it’s [New York’s] Holland Tunnel and you’re just going to Brooklyn?’”
On several occasions he described a spiritual battle for his soul, with voices from the demonic realm seeking his destruction.
“You’re standing at a precipice and you look down, there’s a voice and it’s a little quiet voice that goes, ‘Jump!'” he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
Sometimes the voices told him to do things that, as an addict, he knew were utterly senseless. “The same voice that goes, ‘Just one.’ … And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that’s not the possibility.”
All his humor about God, the Bible, and fundamentalists emerged from a restless soul, wrestling with his own personal demons, but the mainstream media devoted little attention to this side of his gifted and tumultuous life.
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here