I bet what happened to me happened to a lot of people when they heard that a depressed Robin Williams died, in an apparent suicide. They googled him and watched him do his stuff — and laughed and laughed and laughed. Depression. Suicide. But we’re laughing. Somehow, the laughing part is OK, right?

Robin Williams is dead

Robin Williams in "Good Morning, Vietnam.'" Image courtesy of BagoGames via Flickr.

Robin Williams in “Good Morning, Vietnam.'” Image courtesy of BagoGames via Flickr.(Image source)

Though his mother was a Christian Scientist and his father belonged to the Episcopal Church, Williams was not, at least overtly, a religious man. But religion and religious figures were central to much of Williams’ comedy. Here is his Top Ten Reasons To Be An Episcopalian.

The video below is his riff on the Virgin Birth, Mother Teresa and Gandhi. And here is your warning, like you really need it: this clip is full of sacrilege, all kinds of stereotypes and a bunch ‘o bad words. Read to the end of the roundup and I’ll reward you with one of my favorite Robin Williams’ lines.

Mark Driscoll is off the shelves

The nation’s second largest Christian book retailer has pulled megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll’s books from its website and 186 stores. The pastor famous for his traditional/Neanderthalish (you choose) views on women, gays, etc. is no longer welcome at the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources. Our own Sarah Pulliam Bailey explains why he’s not even welcome on their remainder tables anymore.

Isn’t it enough that they have to fight Ebola?

Scientists, African governments and health officials around the world are trying to tackle the ruthless Ebola virus. Meanwhile, Fredrick Nzwili reports from Nairobi, some pastors are speaking of Ebola as a curse from God. They are, of course, blaming gay people. What happens when these pastors get a cold, or the clap? Who do they hold responsible?

Ethics of experimental Ebola drugs

The World Health Organization declares it ethical to test Ebola drugs on humans. But it sidestepped the tricky questions of who gets these drugs, and who decides who gets them. More than 1,000 people in West Africa have died from Ebola. One of the latest casualties — a Spanish missionary priest who contracted it in Liberia, has died in Madrid.

The Pope doesn’t like war. But what if bloodthirsty wackos are attacking?

Here is a nuanced piece written by our David Gibson stateside and Jo McKenna in Rome and how the Vatican doesn’t want to endorse war, but at the same time can’t ignore the Catholics on the ground and other targeted minorities who are pleading for more military strikes on the murderous Islamic State.

Cue the Jesuits

Jesuit with a Japanese nobleman, circa 1600.

Jesuit with a Japanese nobleman, circa 1600.Photo courtesy of Anonymous Japanese ("Nouvelle Asie" Belin) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

I am recommending a movie even though 1. it has not been made yet and 2. I boast no movie-reviewing credentials. But tell me that this doesn’t sound good? Martin Scorsese directs Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield in the true tale of a 17th-century Jesuit who goes looking for another 17th-century Jesuit in Japan who might have renounced his religion under torture. One thumb up! Mark I. Pinsky has the scoop on “Silence.”

Cut the nun memorial

Some residents of a quaint Long Island town found a sign memorializing a nun killed in a hit-and-run accident too depressing. So they took it down. (But it’s so unobstrusive! Take a look.)

Detained for leaving Bible in North Korean hotel?

You may remember Jeffrey Fowle, an Ohio dad of three who has been held in a North Korean jail for months, diplomats say, because he left a Bible in his hotel room. His family holds a news conference today in anticipation of his trial for “anti-state” crimes. Fowle told reporters in North Korea earlier this month that he fears the worst from the upcoming judicial proceedings.

Bonus Tracks

Norway’s 2009 ban on prostitution is working and has resulted in less violence against women, a new study finds.

– The ranks of those joining Switzerland’s “right-to-die” society are growing.

– One of the groups rescuing Yazidis from ISIS is the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which in the past has embraced terrorism as a tactic.

As promised, one of my favorite Robin Williams’ lines:  “See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.”

(I just used the word “penis” in the Religion News Roundup, thus fulfilling one of my work-related goals for 2014.)

Subscribe below to the roundup, because it’s your daily dose of religion news, and usually classier than it was today.

– Lauren Markoe

Categories: Beliefs

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011. She previously was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.)


  1. Actually, Lauren, I think Williams borrowed the joke. Here’s the form I heard, years ago.

    God: “Adam, I have two gifts for you.”

    Adam: “Great! Where are they?”

    God: “The first gift I will place in your head. It will help you solve problems and have interesting conversations with Eve.”

    Adam: “Great! And the other?”

    God: “The second gift I will place between your legs. It will give you great pleasure with your wife, and help you procreate your newly intelligent race.”

    Adam: “Both of those sound like great gifts. Is there a downside?”

    God: “Yes, there is. You can’t use both at once.”

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