Dear Harvard Student,
As the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, I want you to know that if you are reading this, I would be delighted to meet you. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t believe about God, or what ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or cultural/religious background you come from: meeting with undergraduate and graduate students in my role as Chaplain is something I truly love to do, and it will be my pleasure to get to know you.
My Humanist Chaplaincy Office Hours this semester will be by appointment. Please feel most warmly invited, & don’t feel intimidated to make an appointment! I also do weekly lunches with 1st & 2nd year students in the college, where we typically will sit down one-on-one for 90 minutes or so at a nice restaurant like Crema Cafe, b.Good, Smile Thai Cafe, or wherever you like (provided “wherever you like” doesn’t involve lobster or champagne).
Some typical conversations I have with students: a death and/or illness in your family (or your own illness); concerns about love and relationships; religious/theological questions, such as whether God exists, or if not, how you can think about your life as having positive meaning and purpose; what different kinds of Humanist/Agnostic/Atheist organizations exist on campus/nationally/worldwide and how might you get involved with one or more of them; how to talk to your family/significant other about being a Humanist/atheist/agnostic; how to combine being Humanist/non-religious with your love for Jewish/Indian/Black/Asian/Muslim/Christian/etc. *cultural* identity; and I could go on and on.
As Professor Patricia Churchland, the renowned neurophilosopher who spoke for us in 2005, put it:
“In my thirty-five years of experience, I have found that often students with no religious affiliation feel rather short-changed by the lack of someone sympathetic to talk to about real life problems, especially when they feel disinclined to go to a religious chaplain, or to a psychological counselor. I myself was in such a position as an undergraduate. And sometime the faculty are happy to talk on a purely academic level but do not wish to engage undergraduates about private dilemmas, and vice versa… I do not know whose idea it was to have a Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, but it is clearly a brilliant idea.”
Well, it surely wasn’t my “brilliant” idea that Harvard should have a Humanist Chaplain, but I am deeply committed to serving you in this capacity. Please let me know how I can be helpful to you!
Greg M. Epstein
Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University