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An atheist chaplain

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  • An atheist chaplain

    Not sure if this is the best place for this...



    Source: The New Chief Chaplain at Harvard? An Atheist


    The Puritan colonists who settled in New England in the 1630s had a nagging concern about the churches they were building: How would they ensure that the clergymen would be literate? Their answer was Harvard University, a school that was established to educate the ministry and adopted the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.” It was named after a pastor, John Harvard, and it would be more than 70 years before the school had a president who was not a clergyman.

    Nearly four centuries later, Harvard’s organization of chaplains has elected as its next president an atheist named Greg Epstein, who takes on the job this week.

    Mr. Epstein, 44, author of the book “Good Without God,” is a seemingly unusual choice for the role. He will coordinate the activities of more than 40 university chaplains, who lead the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious communities on campus. Yet many Harvard students — some raised in families of faith, others never quite certain how to label their religious identities — attest to the influence that Mr. Epstein has had on their spiritual lives.

    “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,” said Mr. Epstein, who was raised in a Jewish household and has been Harvard’s humanist chaplain since 2005, teaching students about the progressive movement that centers people’s relationships with one another instead of with God.

    To Mr. Epstein’s fellow campus chaplains, at least, the notion of being led by an atheist is not as counterintuitive as it might sound; his election was unanimous.

    “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?’” said Margit Hammerstrom, the Christian Science chaplain at Harvard. “But in this environment it works. Greg is known for wanting to keep lines of communication open between different faiths.”

    The dozens of students whom Mr. Epstein mentors have found a source of meaning in the school’s organization of humanists, atheists and agnostics, reflecting a broader trend of young people across the United States who increasingly identify as spiritual but religiously nonaffiliated. That trend might be especially salient at Harvard; a Harvard Crimson survey of the class of 2019 found that those students were two times more likely to identify as atheist or agnostic than 18-year-olds in the general population.

    “Greg’s leadership isn’t about theology,” said Charlotte Nickerson, 20, an electrical engineering student. “It’s about cooperation between people of different faiths and bringing together people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves religious.”

    The Harvard chaplains play an outsize role on campus, touching hundreds of students’ lives whether through Mass offered by the Catholic Student Center or Shabbat dinners at Harvard Hillel. Its leader reports directly to the office of the university president.

    To Mr. Epstein, becoming the organization’s head, especially as it gains more recognition from the university, comes as affirmation of a yearslong effort, started by his predecessor, to teach a campus with traditional religious roots about humanism.

    “We don’t look to a god for answers,” Mr. Epstein said. “We are each other’s answers.”

    Mr. Epstein’s work includes hosting dinners for undergraduates where conversation goes deep: Does God exist? What is the meaning of life? He previously ran a congregation of Boston-area humanists and atheists who met in Harvard Square for weekly services that centered on secular sermons. In 2018 he closed that down to focus his time on building campus relationships, including at M.I.T., where he is also a chaplain. Mr. Epstein frequently meets individually with students who are struggling with issues both personal and theological, counseling them on managing anxiety about summer jobs, family feuds, the pressures of social media and the turbulence endemic to college life.

    “Greg is irreverent and good at diffusing pressure,” Ms. Nickerson said, recalling a time he joked that if her summer internship got too stressful she could always get fired — then she would have a good story to share.

    Some of the students drawn to Mr. Epstein’s secular community are religious refugees, people raised in observant households who arrive at college seeking spiritual meaning in a less rigid form.

    Adelle Goldenberg, 22, grew up in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn, where she recalls being told that she could not attend college. In preschool, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer was simple: a bride. It was the only thing she could envision for a girl like herself. When she turned 19, she applied to Harvard in secret and fled the community.

    Once at Harvard, she was wary of assuming any religious label, but she still yearned to find people wrestling with issues deeper than academic achievement. She started attending meetings of the humanist group and discovered in Mr. Epstein a form of mentorship that felt almost like having a secular rabbi, she said.

    “When the pandemic hit I was like, ‘Greg, do you have time to talk about the meaning of life,’” Ms. Goldenberg recalled. “He showed me that it’s possible to find community outside a traditional religious context, that you can have the value-add religion has provided for centuries, which is that it’s there when things seem chaotic.”

    Ms. Goldenberg reflected anew on how unlikely her path had been when her mother asked to see the university yearbook: “I told her, ‘I don’t think you’re going to like it,’” Ms. Goldenberg said. “It says I was co-president of the Harvard Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics. And you can see my shoulders.”

    Nonreligiosity is on the rise far beyond the confines of Harvard; it is the fastest growing religious preference in the country, according to the Pew Research Center. More than 20 percent of the country identifies as atheist, agnostic or nonreligious — called the “nones” — including four in 10 millennials.

    The reasons that more young Americans are disaffiliating in the world’s most religious developed country are varied. The Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith attributes the trend partly to the growing alliance between the Republican Party and the Christian right, a decline of trust in institutions, growing skepticism of religion in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a shift away from traditional family structures that centered on churchgoing.

    Mr. Epstein’s community has tapped into the growing desire for meaning without faith in God. “Being able to find values and rituals but not having to believe in magic, that’s a powerful thing,” said A.J. Kumar, who served as the president of a Harvard humanist graduate student group that Mr. Epstein advised.

    Other Harvard chaplains have applauded Mr. Epstein’s efforts to provide a campus home for those who are religiously unattached, skeptical but still searching. Some said his selection to lead the group, following its previous Jewish leader, seemed obvious.

    “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 the Rev. Kathleen Reed, a Lutheran chaplain who chaired 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.”

    And for some members of Harvard’s humanist and atheist community, exploring humanism has brought with it a richer understanding of faith.

    Ms. Nickerson grew up in a working-class Catholic household where she struggled to connect with rituals like Mass. But during her freshman year at Harvard, she found herself capable of long, lively conversations with her devout grandmother. Ms. Nickerson realized that her involvement with Harvard humanism had given her the language to understand her grandmother’s theology.

    Last spring, the two were tending roses and daylilies in the family garden when they got on the topic of surrender. Ms. Nickerson’s grandmother reflected on the aspects of her life that were in God’s hands; Ms. Nickerson agreed that it was important to recognize all the events beyond human control, though she does not believe there is a deity involved. Ms. Nickerson then shared a Buddhist parable that she had learned from the humanist club, which her grandmother later passed on to her Bible study group.

    “We understood the idea of surrender in a similar way even though one of those explanations came with God and the other didn’t,” Ms. Nickerson said. “I find I’m more fluid in my spiritual conversations now.”



    Source

    © Copyright Original Source



    An atheist chaplain.

    Talk about an oxymoron.





    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

  • #2
    yeah, as a licensed chaplain, I take offense to the idea of an atheist chaplain. A better word for what he does would be social worker.
    "What has the Church gained if it is popular, but there is no conviction, no repentance, no power?" - A.W. Tozer

    "... there are two parties in Washington, the stupid party and the evil party, who occasionally get together and do something both stupid and evil, and this is called bipartisanship." - Everett Dirksen

    Comment


    • #3
      It is an accurate description of the state of the church in our era.


      Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.

      Comment


      • #4
        Harvard hasn't been a theological university in a long time. Not surprised.

        One day all these uber liberal 'christians' are gonna re-enact Matthew 7:21-23

        Comment


        • #5
          Tim Keller, whom I previously have had quite a bit of respect for, is apparently congratulating this man in the position. What a disappointment.
          "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
            An atheist chaplain.

            Talk about an oxymoron.
            What god does a Buddhist chaplain worship?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Juvenal View Post

              What god does a Buddhist chaplain worship?
              Possibly:

              Ganesha.jpg
              sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                Possibly:

                Ganesha.jpg
                After they convert to Hinduism.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Juvenal View Post

                  After they convert to Hinduism.
                  True:- it would involve synchretism.

                  Also true - Buddhism does does not believe in any gods. It does believe in supernatural beings who can help or hinder people in the search of enlightenment. There is prayer to Buddha [O Blessed One, Shakyamuni Buddha, Precious treasury of compassion, Bestower of supreme inner peace, You, who love all beings without exception, Are the source of happiness and goodness; And you guide us to the liberating path.]

                  So supernatural beings - including Buddha(s) who can help, hinder and guide people.

                  The difference between a Buddha and a human elevated to the status of deity, as has occurred in a number of religions (including that of Imperial Rome), is no more than a semantic quibble.
                  sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                    True:- it would involve synchretism.

                    Also true - Buddhism does does not believe in any gods. It does believe in supernatural beings who can help or hinder people in the search of enlightenment. There is prayer to Buddha [O Blessed One, Shakyamuni Buddha, Precious treasury of compassion, Bestower of supreme inner peace, You, who love all beings without exception, Are the source of happiness and goodness; And you guide us to the liberating path.]

                    So supernatural beings - including Buddha(s) who can help, hinder and guide people.

                    The difference between a Buddha and a human elevated to the status of deity, as has occurred in a number of religions (including that of Imperial Rome), is no more than a semantic quibble.
                    The essence of Buddhism is the four noble truths and the eight-fold path. The essence of my response was that chaplaincy doesn't imply or require even the most watered down form of theism.

                    Nontheists have spiritual needs. We want to know what purpose we should give our lives, or some of us do, enough to lay waste to the ill-considered statement above that an atheist chaplain is an oxymoron. When an entire community of chaplains thinks enough of a nontheist chaplain to vote him into leadership, unanimously, it's thoughtless to declare them wrong without first considering whether the error is one's own.

                    Buddhist chaplains aren't theists, and hence, are atheist chaplains.

                    Why wasn't that obvious?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Juvenal View Post

                      The essence of Buddhism is the four noble truths and the eight-fold path. The essence of my response was that chaplaincy doesn't imply or require even the most watered down form of theism.

                      Nontheists have spiritual needs. We want to know what purpose we should give our lives, or some of us do, enough to lay waste to the ill-considered statement above that an atheist chaplain is an oxymoron. When an entire community of chaplains thinks enough of a nontheist chaplain to vote him into leadership, unanimously, it's thoughtless to declare them wrong without first considering whether the error is one's own.

                      Buddhist chaplains aren't theists, and hence, are atheist chaplains.

                      Why wasn't that obvious?
                      Buddhists are theists in all but name, and certainly members of a faith group. As to the rest, I am inclined to agree on empirical grounds. If non-Christian chaplains, regardless of denomination, are acceptable, then there are no grounds for complaining about an atheist chaplain.

                      However, a chaplain is by definition a member of a faith group - so if atheists are not members of a faith group, perhaps a complaint might be sustained that "chaplain" is a misnomer.
                      sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Juvenal View Post

                        What god does a Buddhist chaplain worship?
                        That would naturally depend on the form of Buddhism.

                        I'm always still in trouble again

                        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                        "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                          True:- it would involve synchretism.

                          Also true - Buddhism does does not believe in any gods. It does believe in supernatural beings who can help or hinder people in the search of enlightenment. There is prayer to Buddha [O Blessed One, Shakyamuni Buddha, Precious treasury of compassion, Bestower of supreme inner peace, You, who love all beings without exception, Are the source of happiness and goodness; And you guide us to the liberating path.]

                          So supernatural beings - including Buddha(s) who can help, hinder and guide people.

                          The difference between a Buddha and a human elevated to the status of deity, as has occurred in a number of religions (including that of Imperial Rome), is no more than a semantic quibble.
                          Going back to my Huston Smith and Joseph Campbell days, but my understanding is that some Buddhists do indeed believe in gods -- although not an eternal creator. They even have pantheons.

                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            That would naturally depend on the form of Buddhism.
                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            Going back to my Huston Smith and Joseph Campbell days, but my understanding is that some Buddhists do indeed believe in gods -- although not an eternal creator. They even have pantheons.
                            There's no rescuing this. You claimed an atheist chaplain was an oxymoron, and got busted on it. You were wrong. Just move on.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Juvenal View Post



                              There's no rescuing this. You claimed an atheist chaplain was an oxymoron, and got busted on it. You were wrong. Just move on.
                              Your argument is with Smith and Campbell

                              And

                              Early, pre-sectarian Buddhism had a somewhat vague position on the existence and effect of deities. Indeed, Buddhism is often considered atheistic on account of its denial of a creator god and human responsibility to it. However, nearly all modern Buddhist schools accept the existence of gods of some kind; the main point of divergence is on the influence of these gods. Of the major schools, Theravada tends to de-emphasize the gods, whereas Mahayana and Vajrayana do not.

                              The rich Buddhist Pantheon of northern Buddhism ultimately derives from Vajrayana and Tantrism.[2] The historical devotional roots of pantheistic Buddhism seem to go back to the period of the Kushan Empire.[3] The first proper mention of a Buddhist Pantheon appears in the 3-4th century Guhyasamāja, in which five Buddhas are mentioned, the emanations of which constitute a family:[3][4]
                              The five Kulas are Dvesa, Moha, Rāga, Cintāmani, and Samaya, which conduce to the attainment of all desires and emancipation

                              — Guhyasamāja.[4]

                              By the 9th century under the Pala king Dharmapala, the Buddhist Pantheon had already swelled to about 1,000 Buddhas.[5] In Japan, Kūkai introduced Shingon Esoteric Buddhism and its Buddhist Pantheon, also in the 9th century.[6]


                              I'm always still in trouble again

                              "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                              "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                              "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                              Comment

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