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5 Surprising Divinity School Dropouts

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From Hollywood superstars to adulterous dilettantes, several seminary dropouts have managed to find success in the secular world. Here's a sampling of the finest in almost-clergy.

1. Tom Cruise (1962"“ )

In 1976, a deeply religious child named Thomas Cruise Mapother IV enrolled in a Franciscan seminary in New Jersey. Within five years, he'd ditched the church, dropped the Mapother, and landed a part in Endless Love. And in spite of his diminutive height (5 feet 7 inches) the man who might have been a priest became one of Hollywood's top leading men. Around 1986, though, he abandoned Catholicism altogether, embracing the Church of Scientology, which he once credited with helping him overcome dyslexia. Wildly popular with celebrities, Scientology has been the chosen path for everyone from John Travolta to the guy who played Parker Lewis in Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Incidentally, while Scientology does have ministers, Cruise has yet to seek ordination.

2. Casanova (1725"“1798)

Everyone's favorite 18th-century libertine began his scandalous escapades at the seminary of St. Cyprion, from which he was expelled under cloudy circumstances (we're guessing he slept with someone). And as you well know, his postseminary life was as ungodly as it gets. By the age of 30 he was sentenced to prison for engaging in "magic," but he escaped after only a year to Paris. There, he made a fortune by introducing the lottery to France. But before settling down to write his ribald, self-aggrandizing autobiography, Casanova was expelled from more European countries than most of us ever visit. Along the way, he slept with tons of women, dueled with many of their husbands, and generally sinned his way to the top of European culture, befriending such figures as Madame du Pompadour and Jean-Jacques Rousseau along the way.

3. Joseph Stalin (1879"“1953)

Lasting longer than the vast majority of divinity school dropouts, noted mass murderer Joseph Stalin studied at a Georgian Orthodox seminary in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) for five years, between 1894 and 1899.

He left the seminary either because of poor health (his mom's story) or revolutionary activity (Stalin's story).

Either way, Stalin clearly didn't take much of what he learned to heart. After he became the Soviet leader in 1922, he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of religious leaders, and Stalin did more than any other premier to eliminate the role of Christianity in Soviet life. But his seminary wasn't exactly a study in Christian love, either. Prior to Stalin's arrival, a rector was murdered there—possibly by unruly seminarians.

2007-06-19MichaelMoore.jpg4. Michael Moore (1954"“ )

Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore began studying at a seminary in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, as an eighth grader in 1967. Brought up a devout Catholic, Moore aspired to a career as a priest, but he left the seminary the next year for thoroughly secular reasons. When the Detroit Tigers made it to the World Series in 1968, the seminary refused to let him watch the games—so he quit. Before his successful filmmaking career, in fact, Moore was something of a serial dropout. He dropped out of the University of Michigan because he arrived at school one morning and couldn't find a parking place, and he once got a job at an automobile factory in Flint—but called in sick on his first day and never returned.

5. Al Gore (1948"“ )

051031_Gore.jpg Al Gore graduated from Harvard in 1969, but he'd always been interested in theology, so he decided to continue his studies. He didn't exactly live up to his potential though. After enrolling in Vanderbilt's prestigious divinity school, over the course of three semesters, he failed five of his eight classes. Gore's allies claim that the birth of his first child and his duties as a reporter at the Tennessean newspaper kept him from his studies. For the record, though, Gore also later dropped out of Vanderbilt's law school (in 1976), but this time for a truly higher purpose—to run for Congress.Ed. note: This list was pulled from Forbidden Knowledge.

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entertainment
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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Art
Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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