Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Randy Pausch's Religion.

Coinciding with Randy Pausch's passing last week, many have been searching the net for clues about his religion. I know this because many searches have ended up on my site with the following search terms, "Randy Pausch religion" or some combination, since I have reviewed his book, "last lecture" and commencement address in May, 2008, and the blog title includes the word religion.

I didn't previously comment on his religion in part because he downplayed it. However, in viewing his "last lecture" and reading his book of the same name some clues emerge. Dr. Pausch wrote about his family: "We were Presbyterians." He called his father "the most 'Christian' man [he] ever met." He further stated that "unlike [his] mom, [his father] didn't easily embrace organized religion."

Also, consistent with being a Presbyterian or other Protestant, Dr. Pausch referenced his "minister." "And since my diagnosis, my minister has been very helpful." His minister told him that Dr. Pausch also needed emotional insurance to supplement his life insurance. The minister "explained that the premiums of emotional insurance would be paid for with [Dr. Pausch's] time, not [his] money." To this end, the minister suggested that Dr. Pausch make videotapes of himself with his young kids so "they'll have a record of how [they] played and laughed."

Eschewing the opportunity to evangelize, Dr. Pausch explained that his religious views would not be explicated in the last lecture or book because he believed religion is a private matter.

He did allow he had a "deathbed conversion." It, however, pertained to his conversion to a Mac after his diagnosis.

Finally, Dr. Pausch referred to "karma" in his lecture and book in the following fashion: "It's not about achieving your dreams. It's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you." He also said in the lecture: "I believe in karma."

I think Dr. Pausch here was referring to "karma" in the generic and not religious (or new age) sense.

UPDATE: A Unitarian Universalist website asserts he was one:

UPDATE 2: Here's the pertinent excerpt from the interview linked above:

" What is your religious background, and what is it about being a Unitarian Universalist that attracted you to this faith?

"Pausch: I was raised Presbyterian and attended church regularly until I was about 17. I like the fact that [Unitarian Universalism] appeals to reason and thought more than dogma."