Stephen Janick and Alexander Howard have an excellent op-ed in the Tufts Daily about the need for a Humanist chaplain at their school:
While [Tufts Freethought Society] services the needs of its current membership through weekly meetings and the sponsorship of lecture series, its club status limits its ability to accommodate the needs of the broader non?religious community. The establishment of a Humanist chaplaincy at Tufts would provide non-religious Tufts students an organizational infrastructure and legitimacy greater than what TFS can provide.
The Enrolling Student Survey of the Class of 2012 reported that of the nearly 60 percent of students who responded to the question concerning religious affiliation, over 30 percent marked “none.” While not all of these non?religious students would utilize the services of a Humanist chaplaincy, it is likely that a Humanist chaplaincy would see a rate of participation similar to other chaplaincies on campus.
We freethinkers desire one place on campus that can serve as a hub for secular guidance, philanthropy and community. The establishment of a university-supported Humanist community will not only provide a resource for students to contemplate secular answers to traditionally “spiritual issues,” but it will also allow the secular worldview to have a valued social presence equal to that of the other belief systems present on our campus.
It’s easy to knock on Humanist chaplains as being too “spiritual” or touchy-feely — hell, I know I’ve said that before — but as I’ve gotten to talk more with Greg Epstein and John Figdor who run the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, I’ve learned more about the possibilities of that position.
There’s the building of a local community for non-religious people. There’s programming events that might be of interest to atheist students. (The Harvard folks have events going on all the time. When I was in college, I was lucky to do something interesting with my atheist group once a month. Twice? That was pushing it.)
The amount of counseling they do is incredible. There really aren’t a lot of professionals you can talk to about issues like the death of a loved one, an upcoming wedding, or an addiction you’re battling that don’t involve the mention of a higher power.
Humanist Chaplains are like fire extinguishers. I’ve never had the need to use them, but many other people have, and it makes me feel better knowing they’re close by.
And if religious chaplains are given a place at the table, it’s only fair that Humanist chaplains be included as well.