Paul L. Caron
Dean




Sunday, August 29, 2021

NY Times: The New Chief Chaplain At Harvard Is Atheist Author Of 'Good Without God'

New York Times, The New Chief Chaplain at Harvard? An Atheist:

Harvard Chaplain BookThe 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.”

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August 29, 2021 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times: Why We Need To Start Talking About God

New York Times op-ed:  Why We Need to Start Talking About God, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year) , :

Liturgy Of The OrdinaryKarl Barth, a 20th-century Swiss theologian, is credited with saying that Christians must live our lives with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Barth, who was a leader of a group of Christians in Germany resisting Hitler, understood that faith is not a pious, protective bubble shielding us from the urgent needs of the world. It is the very impetus that leads us into active engagement with society. People of faith must immerse ourselves in messy questions of how to live faithfully in a particular moment with particular headlines calling for particular attention and particular responses.

While Christians and other religious people may wonder how broader culture affects our faith (or why we must hold a newspaper in one hand), others may wonder why faith is relevant to the contemporary world at all (or why we hold a Bible in the other). Membership in a house of worship has declined steadily in the United States over the past eight decades and, according to a Gallup poll, dropped below 50 percent this year. ...

As a pastor, I see again and again that in defining moments of people’s lives — the birth of children, struggles in marriage, deep loss and disappointment, moral crossroads, facing death — they talk about God and the spiritual life. In these most tender moments, even those who aren’t sure what exactly they believe cannot avoid big questions of meaning: who we are, what we are here for, why we believe what we believe, why beauty and horror exist.

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August 29, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times: A More Secular America Is A Problem For Both Republicans And Democrats

New York Times op-ed:  A More Secular America Is Not Just a Problem for Republicans, by Ryan Burge (Baptist Pastor; Author, The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going (2021); and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University):

The Nones 2Since 1988, the General Social Survey has been asking Americans of different ages what they believe about God. For decades, the answer did not change much. Around 70 percent of members of the Silent Generation said that they “know God really exists” and “have no doubts about it.” That same sentiment was shared by about 63 percent of baby boomers and Generation Xers.

But in 2018, millennials expressed a lot less certainty. Only 44 percent had no doubts about the existence of God. Even more doubtful were members of Generation Z — just one-third claimed certain belief in God.

Today, scholars are finding that by almost any metric they use to measure religiosity, younger generations are much more secular than their parents or grandparents. In responses to survey questions, over 40 percent of the youngest Americans claim no religious affiliation, and just a quarter say they attend religious services weekly or more.

Americans have not come to terms with how this cultural shift will affect so many facets of society — and that’s no more apparent than when it comes to the future of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

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August 29, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink