Harvard Chose Atheist to Be Its Head Chaplain
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – The new head chaplain at Harvard University is an atheist and “ordained humanist rabbi,” Christian Headlines reports. Greg Epstein, 44, was the unanimous first choice of a selection committee made up of a Lutheran, an evangelical Christian, a Christian Scientist, and a Bahá’í.
Epstein was raised Jewish but was ordained as a humanist rabbi by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in 2005, CH reports. He has published a book called “Good Without God.” Having first worked as a humanist chaplain for Harvard, Epstein was later employed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His new job at Harvard will involve counseling students and organizing religious events.
“There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life,” Epstein said in a statement. A poll taken by Harvard’s student newspaper in 2020 showed that over 40 percent of the students identified as either atheist or agnostic. That number was 32 percent in 2017, CH reports.
In a statement about choosing Epstein, Rev. Kathleen Reed, Lutheran chaplain and chairwoman of the nominating committee, said: “We’re presenting to the university a vision of how the world could work when diverse traditions focus on how to be good humans and neighbors.”
Commenting on the fact that an atheist has been chosen as chief chaplain, Margit Hammerstrom, the Christian Science chaplain at Harvard, said in a statement: “Maybe in a more conservative university climate there might be a question like ‘What the heck are they doing at Harvard, having a humanist be the president of the chaplains?’ But in this environment, it works. Greg is known for wanting to keep lines of communication open between different faiths.”
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