Harvard University has selected an atheist to be the school’s new chief chaplain.
Forty-four-year-old Greg Epstein, author of “Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” has served as Harvard’s humanist chaplain since 2005.
In a 2009 interview with the Harvard Gazette, Epstein recalled his time as a graduate student of Harvard Divinity School. He remembered reading about most of the world’s major religions but nothing on Humanism—or the belief that human needs and values are of prime importance. When he questioned a professor about the void of literature on Humanism, she encouraged him to write his own book about the topic.
“We don’t look to a god for answers,” Epstein told The New York Times. “We are each other’s answers.”
In his new role, he will lead the university’s community of more than 40 chaplains who represent “more than 20 different religious, spiritual and ethical traditions.” The school characterizes these chaplains as “professionals … who share a collective commitment to serving the spiritual needs of the students, faculty and staff.” Chaplains often work closely with students, both in groups and individually, and act as mentors and counselors.
A tweet by the president of Colorado Christian University, Don Sweeting, signaled revived tensions between Harvard’s original mission and its more recent secular orientation.
“So much for ‘truth for Christ and the church’ (the original Harvard motto),” Sweeting posted.
That motto—Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae in Latin—was adopted by Harvard University in 1692, and can be still be found on many buildings around campus. But over the centuries, liberalism has grown and Harvard’s motto has shortened. The current motto is simply Veritas, or truth.
In response to the announcement of Epstein’s appointment as chief chaplain, former NFL tight end and outspoken Christian Benjamin Watson quoted Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God.’”
Photo: dbimages/Alamy Stock Photo