Humanist Community at Stanford Launches

As of today, the Humanist Community at Stanford is up and running with Chaplain John Figdor at its helm:

“If Stanford is going to provide resources such as funding for programs and activities to promote religious life at the university and Chaplains for religious students, then Stanford should provide those resources for Atheist, Humanist, and Agnostic students as well.

I worked with John at the Secular Student Alliance and I have no doubt this group is in good hands. He has a lot of experience in this position, too, previous working under Greg Epstein at Harvard. And for anyone who cringes at the word “chaplain,” well… get over it. Look beyond the word and find out what John is actually doing.

Most important on the list? Humanist counseling:

To give you some sense of what students come to talk to me about, some typical conversations I have with students include illness or death in one’s family (or one’s own illness); concerns about dating and relationships, particularly relationships in academia; work/life balance issues, philosophical questions including whether God exists, questions about the positive meaning and purpose of life, and the existence of free will; what Atheist, Humanist, Agnostic, etc. organizations are available locally and nationally, and how one can get involved with them; coming out as an Atheist, Humanist, or Agnostic, and how talk about it with your family and friends; interests in Christian Humanism, Secular Humanistic Judaism, Muslim Humanism, Transhumanism, hUUmanism, etc.

This is a great opportunity for the students at that school — and for the Silicon Valley community as a whole. You can subscribe to their Facebook page, too, to stay informed about upcoming events.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jonathan Figdor

    Thanks for covering our launch, Hemant!

  • ortcutt

    “Chaplain”?  Are you fu*king kidding me?  Why should I get over the term “chaplain”?  

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    “Chaplain: a clergyman in charge of a chapel”

    If Universities are going to force the title “chaplain” on nontheists, then we should say “No thanks”.   This shit is ridiculous.  It’s sad that even a place like Stanford University cannot accept non-theists as non-theists.    

  • Anna

    Interesting! I’m not sure there’s a lot of demand for organized humanism in the Bay Area, but I’ll keep an eye on the Stanford group. I’d probably attend a book talk or something along those lines.

  • Erp

    The following is my understanding.

    Stanford University did not force the term, chaplain.   From the university point of view, I think Jon (or is it John as Hemant wrote?) is the “professional leader” associated with the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at Stanford student group.    The Humanist Community at Stanford is independent of the university (separate 503c, not under the supervision of the university though it must presumably abide by some rules to work with official student groups).

  • Rick T

     Reasonable criticism (except for the profanity), but what’s your proposed alternative? What title do you suggest for a non-theist counselor, officiant, community representative, social leader, and friend to skeptics needing a friendly ear?  Possibly “humanist lay leader”, but that’s pretty awkward.  Chaplain is a familiar term to most people without committing to a belief in the supernatural. Before you say rip out all religion from all schools, come up with a way to work with the current system instead of trashing it

  • Richard Wade

    What’s wrong with “Advocate” instead of “Chaplain”?

    I’ve suggested this almost every time this issue has come up, and I get the same amount of response as if I hadn’t written anything.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad that Stanford has a supportive structure for the nonbeliever students. I wish them all success.

  • Renshia

     How do you know it was the university that applied that label and not the humanists themselves?

    Maybe the university said hey guys we need some humanist representation and the humanists said ” great, we will send over a chaplin”.

  • Baal

     I like “advocate”.

  • MTMacPhee

    I agree completely, ortcutt. Hemant will just have to get over our not getting over the use of the word “chaplain” in this context. Words *are* important, and as you point out, this word has exactly the wrong meaning and connotation. I like “Humanist Advocate” as suggested by others. Much more precise, much less off putting to those who are questioning their faith, and non-irritating to out atheists seeking counselling.