Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Questions About Famous UUs: Dr. Seuss?

I continue to try to verify lists of famous UUs. Linus Pauling? Yes. He belonged to the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. The UUA web site has a biography.

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall? Sort of, but not really. Several references have him as an Episcopalian, and while he seems to have doubted a lot of the doctrine, there's not much to positively label him a Unitarian. This account by his daughter claims that "he was a Unitarian in opinion, though he never joined their society." That would almost do it for me, but the same account says that he changed his mind shortly before he died. If she's a reliable source for the one, then I guess she's a reliable source for the other. In any case, at best he was unitarian in the sense of belief, and not a member of a Unitarian congregation.

The one that's giving me fits today is Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel. UU minister Douglas Taylor starts a sermon "Theodore Geisel was a Unitarian Universalist author better known around the world as Dr. Seuss." But he doesn't say how he came to that conclusion. Now, of course, the Dr. Seuss books have all kinds of great UU ideas in them. A few biographical details point to him not being a church-goer: He was married by a justice of the peace. He was cremated without a funeral. I'm getting a humanist/agnostic vibe, which might fit with a CLF-type UU who never clicked with a UU congregation. Or maybe he just didn't connect with any religion at all, UU or otherwise. Anybody out there have a lead on this?

Another one I wonder about is Samuel Morse, the telegraph guy, who appears on a lot of Famous UU lists. His father was Jedidiah Morse, who was Channing's main opponent in the pamphlet wars that led to the Congregational/Unitarian split. Wikipedia says of Samuel "Although he respected his father's opinions, he sympathized with the Unitarians." Wish I knew what they mean by that. Sympathized could mean he joined, or it could mean, "Dad, why don't you lighten up on those Unitarians?"


ogre said...

Cremated without a funeral wouldn't seem strange among many West Coast UUs--particularly among the older Atheist/Humanists.

Given how long he lived in La Jolla, I'd say that if you wanted to see if he'd evinced UU inclinations, you should find out what someone at First Church in San Diego might be able to tell you. Or perhaps UU Fellowship of San Dieguito. I found a reference to his living for a time in Polos Verdes Estates before he and his wife moved to La Jolla, so another place to check might be Pacific Unitarian Church.

And of course there's always contacting the Central Library at UCSD, which holds the Geisel Library, I believe. If any place has biographical details that might shed light...

SC Universalist said...

It looks as though Samuel Morse became an active member of the Presbyterian church in 1847. He was a member of the Congregationalist prior to that. His funeral was held in the Presbyterian Church as well.
(source: the Life of Samuel F.B. Morse, LLD; 1875)

SC Universalist said...

I can do with the Doc S. is say that he grew up a Lutheran.

BobSpar said...

Hi, Doug,

I'm just starting to explore your blog. What's CLF as in "CLF-type UU"?

SC Universalist said...

Im not Doug, but I am a CLF-UU; so let me answer.

the by mail (and now online) church for isolated UUs.
so this way one can be an official UU with an official congregation.

David P. said...

I remember in the 1980's Geissel was going around and speaking at UU congregations and their promo material identified him as one. I remember hearing he came onto UUism as an adult after he divorced his first wife and had remarried - but I don't have a verifable source for you on this.

UUFlint Lifespan Learning said...

I found this blog as I am doing research on Dr. Seuss and his religion. From the biographies that I have read, he was very clear about not being affiliated with any religion and was very upset when people claimed his faith for him. Many religious groups, especially after the release of Horton Hatches the Egg began to quote him out of context to fit their agendas. For example, right to life groups ran a campaign that used "A persons a person no matter how small." The campaign stopped only after the threat of legal action from Giesel and the publisher.
To correct another misnomer, he did not divorce his first wife, she (Helen) actually committed suicide in the mid-sixties and he was re-married to Audrey shortly thereafter.
Because of the company he kept and some of his known political statements, one could only assume that he was probably at least aware of Unitarian Universalism, however, he chose not to be publicly affiliated with UUism or any other religion for that matter, and that ought to be respected. He wanted his books to speak to EVERYONE, and that was his greatest accomplishment!