Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University and new chaplain facilitator. (Harvard University/YouTube via CNA)
A landmark change in theists’ outlook
Greg Epstein is in the hot news now throughout the world.
Greg Epstein, an atheist and humanist was unanimously elected by more than forty chaplains of diverse faiths as the chief of the chaplains at Harward University. This is a landmark in the history of atheism and humanism in the US and even in the world. His election reflects huge abatement of multipronged theistic opposition to rationality and atheism in the US.
He has been a humanist chaplain at Harward University since 2005.
He is the author of the book, Good Without God: What a Billion Non-religious People Do Believe. His views on atheism and humanism are innately rational, forthright, and honest.
Atheism plus humanism, a respected worldview
In his book, he inimitably summarizes the philosophy of rationalism and humanism:
“They(human beings) must be free to think, research, experiment, express, disagree, and make mistakes, and also free to know and criticize other people’s ideas, share and challenge their own, change their mind, if necessary, in case new evidence or stronger arguments prove that they’d been wrong; finally, they must be free to admit their ignorance in the face of unknown or unsolvable issues in the candid spirit of Socrates’ saying, ‘I know that I don’t know.”
There is no iota of self-righteousness, infallibility, and dogmatic rigidity, such as have been traditionally prevalent in religions, in the summary. The human mind is held to be open to all streams of thought and any possible and necessary change.
On his chaplaincy web page, his stance is further clarified:
‘The goal of the Harvard humanist chaplaincy, as stated on the university’s website, is to create “a new model for how humanists celebrate life, promote reason and compassion, and better the world for all.” The chaplaincy aims to foster community among atheists, agnostics, and “allies.” Humanism is a progressive life stance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring to humanity’s greater good,” the page explains.’
Change is the force that brings about social growth.
In the words of Basavanna, the Indian rational and humanist mystic:
The sthavara comes to an end,
but the jangama does not-Guru Basava/75
(The italicized words, sthavara in Sanskrit and jangama in Kannada respectively mean “static” and “ dynamic.”)
In another translation, these two lines of the vachana (lyrical prose poem)read as follows:
things standing shall fall,
but the moving ever shall stay.”
Religious dogma is static and fallible but humanism is dynamic, self-corrigible, and progressive.
On assuming charge of his promotional post, Greg Epstein told the Times that “ we don’t look to a god for answers. We are each other’s answers.”
We can find answers to our problems and shape our lives in the light of reason and humanist values. We are the masters of our destiny without falling victim to servitude to religious myths.
It is a matter of pride that he is a respected and adorable atheist and humanist who has won the rare confidence and respect of the other chaplains of various faiths, his unanimous electors.
Atheists are rationalists and humanists. They are broad-minded and liberal in their approach to religions. They hold that the continuous clash between believers and unbelievers should be only intellectual and philosophical. They abhor violence in any form. They are the least interested in imposing their worldview on others with monetary lures or bribes. Their philosophical means and ends are mutually harmonious, fair, and ethically equitable.
They have as much an intensely spiritual mind and heart as the believers. They live a spiritual life without religion and supernaturalism.
Rational humanists have been derided as abnormal and materialistic and ostracized by many theistic people in many countries. But they practice non-religious human values or morality and spirituality. For them, religious spirituality is not the right or the only kind of spirituality. The religious word “conversion” has no place in their dictionary since atheism is not a religion but a non-religious way of life.
Be a good human being first, then you may be a Hindu, a Christian, or an Islamist, or a Buddhist, a pantheist, a mystic, and so on, or an unbeliever. This is their foundational motto.
I, as a rationalist and humanist stress that every person has a right to think dispassionately and freely and to decide on and practice his worldview or philosophy.
Evaporation of mist
There is a negligible mild protest by some theists against the promotion of Greg Epstein as the President of the chaplains at Harward University.
A welcome and positive trend the up-gradation of Greg Epstein is that the thick mist of well-entrenched prejudice and ancient antipathy covering most theistic human minds so far against rationalism and atheism has been substantially evaporating day by day. The mist will disappear from their minds in a hopefully short course of time.
Greg Epstein’s unanimous election as the chief chaplain at Harward is an outstanding event of the growing and gripping rational trend, among the believers, of the gradually dying religious dogma in most democratic and secular countries.
His unanimous election marks the direction towards which the humanist wind has been blowing in the recent centuries.