My name is John Figdor, and I’m a Humanist chaplain who serves as the “Professional Leader” for the Humanist Connection. Some people will see the idea of a Humanist chaplain as a contradiction in terms – after all, why would students who don’t believe in God need a chaplain? I remember posing this very question to Greg Epstein, my mentor while I studied with him at Harvard Divinity School in 2007. He answered my question with a series of questions, as Greg is wont to do: “Don’t students who are non-religious deserve to have a non-judgmental person to talk to about problems such as adjusting to the intense academic environment at institutions like Harvard and Stanford, adjusting to life away from one’s parents, navigating the dating world in an increasingly socially atomized world, and even coping with sickness or death in the family? Don’t non-religious students deserve to have a person on campus organizing programs of interest to non-religious students, organizing secular service projects such as food packing drives for low-income individuals, or ecological light bulb exchanges to speed our transition away from inefficient and ecologically unfriendly technologies? Don’t non-religious students deserve someone working for them to bring inspirational and educational speakers from Joss Whedon, to Steven Pinker, to Salman Rushdie, to t.v.’s Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hynieman to campus?”
This isn’t all that a Humanist chaplain does (we also perform non-theistic weddings, funerals, and baby-namings, advocate for a compassionate and reason-based approach to life, visit Humanists and non-theists in hospitals and hospices, and represent the Humanist perspective in interfaith organizations), but if like me, you agree that students, alumni, and local residents deserve to have a person help build and foster a community of compassionate, reasonable, engaged, and intellectual atheists, Humanists, and non-religious students, then we hope you will join us for a service project, public speaker, film screening, dinner conversation, pub night, or museum expedition. Or just drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule an appointment to meet you and talk about how we can work together to build a better, more connected, compassionate, and engaged community of Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at Stanford and beyond.