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Harvard University's new chief chaplain is an atheist.
Greg Epstein, the 44-year-old author of the book Good Without God, was unanimously elected to the top role by his peers and will begin working this week, according to the New York Times.
“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.
Some of Epstein's special interests include ethics in technology, meaning and purpose beyond religion, secular humanistic Judaism, racial justice and healing, and the philosophy and practice of interfaith work, according to his biography page on Harvard's website.
Raised in a Jewish household, Epstein received ordination as a humanist rabbi from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in 2005. After that, he has worked as the humanist chaplain for Harvard since 2005 and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2018.
“Greg was the first choice of a committee that was made up of a Lutheran, a Christian Scientist, an evangelical Christian, and a Bahá’í,” said Lutheran chaplain Rev. Kathleen Reed, chairwoman of the nominating committee. “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.”
Harvard's school year begins Sept. 1. Epstein and the other chaplains intend to be involved with the students, which will involve coordinating religious events and helping counsel students through spiritual struggles, according to Relevant magazine.
Atheism and agnosticism have increased over time at the institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over 40% of students at the school identified as either atheist or agnostic in 2020, compared to roughly 32% in 2017, according to the Harvard Crimson, the school's student newspaper.
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Original Author: Asher Notheis
Original Location: New chief chaplain at Harvard is an atheist