George Orwell once noted that some ideas are so ridiculous only an intellectual could believe in them.
That’s apparently true at America’s leading Ivy League college, Harvard, where a group of university chaplains just elected an atheist to be their leader.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Greg Epstein, who was raised Jewish but since 2005 has been head of the humanist sect among the chaplains at a college founded by the Puritans as a divinity school and which went its first 70 years before finding a president that was not a member of the clergy.
The group includes about 40 chaplains in all.
The Times noted that an utter disbelief in God is not a problem among Harvard’s supposed religious leaders. Epstein was unanimously elected.
Margit Hammerstrom, the chaplain of Christian Science association, told the Times, “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.”
Epstein himself explained that of his own group, “We don’t look to a god for answers. We are each other’s answers.”
The Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that the ratio of Christians in America had dropped from 77 -percent to 65 percent over the previous decade. On the other hand, those defined as “religiously unaffiliated,” which includes atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular,” had risen from 17 percent to 26 percent. The Times pointed out that nearly 40 percent of Millennials fall into that “unaffiliated” group.
Perhaps one reason for that is that Christians themselves.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official doctrine of the church, notes, “Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion”
The Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts, in his study of the works of the English author and religious scholar G. K. Chesterton, once noted, “When men chose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing. They then become capable of believing in anything.”
Including, apparently, that an atheist can lead a group of chaplains.
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