Tufts University is now offering academia’s first university-funded “humanist chaplain” after five years of complaints from atheist and agnostic students.
Called a “humanist in residence,” the new position will not offer the spiritual guidance of typical chaplains, The Daily Signal reported. Instead, the humanist chaplain is intended to help non-religious students by encouraging, uh, positive thinking?
“Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity,” the American Humanist Organization said, according to The Daily Signal.
The organization has also launched a variety of controversial campaigns, including one that encouraged people to “sit out the Pledge of Allegiance until the phrase ‘under God’ is removed from it, according to The Signal.
But Tufts students generally appear accepting of the new humanist chaplain.
“I built a close relationship with the humanist community last year and realized that increased staff support for them would be valuable — not only to them, but to our staff overall,” Tufts chaplain Greg McGonigle told Religion News Service. “The president asked me to present a report of my findings and a proposal. Through research with various humanist organizations and colleagues, I developed a position description, and President Monaco reviewed and approved it.”
While critics question the necessity of an atheist chaplain, McGonigle said most students are understanding and supportive.
“Some are curious about why a nonreligious person would be interested in chaplaincy or interfaith work, but when they think about, it they realize that humanists have the same needs for inspiration, reflection, caring, community and service that religious people find in their faith traditions,” McGonigle said. “Humanists share a similar quest to lead a meaningful and purposeful life and to be supported in doing that.”
Student tuition and fees pay for the new position, The Daily Signal reported.
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