Yale Humanist Community Working on Creating Chaplaincy

Yale University may soon get a Humanist Chaplain if the school’s Humanist Community can line all the ducks up in a row:

The Yale Humanist Community, launched last fall, is “in the process of working with the Yale Chaplaincy Office to officially be recognized as a Yale Chaplaincy,” says the humanist group’s new website. A group of alumni, students, and others are organizing events and raising money to hire a staff person — who might or might not be called a chaplain.

Either way, if they made it happen, they would be the sixth school with such a position, joining Stanford (John Figdor), Columbia (Dr. Anne Klaeysen), Harvard (Greg Epstein), Rutgers (Barry Klassel), and American University (Binyamin Biber).

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.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    this is where i start calling into question the definition and use of certain words.

    what is a ‘chaplain?’ in my book, it’s someone who “ministers” to members of a congregation using the tenents of a faith. it’s sort of like counseling, but with lots of prayer, religious ideas, and common community of belief tossed in. i’ve never been very sure why the religious are considered ideal for this role. religious training is nowhere near the same thing as the training a counseling professional receives.

    enter the humanist chaplain. the purpose is? not to “minister” and not to talk about a common (or any) faith. maybe talk about a community, but a lot of nontheists don’t participate in community events for nontheists. not about common belief; atheists and secularists and humanists are arguing more than ever about the ways we are all different.

    so why not just go to a counselor? a secularly trained one, who has professional and legal obligations NOT to inject religious belief into your session, except to discuss it as you want to bring it up. in any case, a secular counselor is never going to say “your belief is wrong” or “god doesn’t want you to be gay” or anything like that. and you get the benefit of speaking with someone who actually has a little science based training on how to handle your problems.

    people should be free to do what they want, so long as they aren’t harming others. i just fail to see a need for one of these. i’m happy to listen to arguments to the contrary.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Yes, the term counselor is a much better term than chaplain, which is the proprietor of a chapel. We should not be mimicking religion; we just should be providing needed services to people for whom religious providers are inappropriate.

      And for the gazillionth time without a single response yea or nay, I’ll offer my own idea for a term, Humanist ADVOCATE. It’s general enough to cover all sorts of services for benefiting secular people.

      Advocate. noun
      1. a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually followed by of ): an advocate of peace.
      2. a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.
      3. a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.

      Either counselor or advocate are far better than chaplain. If I were trying to create such a position for a college, I would insist on not calling it a chaplain.

  • Digital Liberty

    This idea of humanist “chaplains” strikes me as weird and cheesy. Humanist counselors, humanist cultural centers are fine ideas. But why parrot religious institutions? Humanism needs its own identity, not some goofy parallel of a church.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.mccloud2 Sarah McCloud

      I have problems with the direction humanism has been going in mimicking religious institutions as well. What is supposed to be a secular worldview is in danger of becoming just another dogmatic institution.


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