Stanford gets a chaplain for atheists

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Chaplain John Figdor has a divinity degree from Harvard. He counsels those in need and visits the sick. And he works with Stanford students under the Office of Religious Life.


So Figdor is the last guy you’d tag with the “A” word.

But, yes. The chaplain is an atheist.

“People are shocked when I tell them,” Figdor said. “But atheist, agnostic and humanist students suffer the same problems as religious students – deaths or illnesses in the family, questions about the meaning of life, etc. – and would like a sympathetic nontheist to talk to.”

Figdor, 28, is one of a growing number of faith-free chaplains at universities, in the military and in the community who believe that nonbelievers can benefit from just about everything religion offers except God.

Hired in July by the Humanist Community at Stanford, a nonprofit group independent of the university, Figdor is one of 18 “professional leaders” at the Office of Religious Life who typically work with sectarian student groups that pay their salaries. A graduate theological degree is required for the job, and the leader is entitled to office space on campus, a parking spot and a Stanford e-mail address. The leaders guide students in whatever way is needed, whether offering advice or organizing events.

Written By: Nanette Asimov
continue to source article at sfgate.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. These attempts by certain American atheists to co-opt the trappings of religion for atheism seem deeply wrong-headed to me. They certainly give ammunition to those who like to claim that atheism is “just another religion”.

  2. In reply to #3 by JackR:

    These attempts by certain American atheists to co-opt the trappings of religion for atheism seem deeply wrong-headed to me. They certainly give ammunition to those who like to claim that atheism is “just another religion”.

    Or it could simply be looked at as change coming from the inside (whether intended as that or not).

    For those who claim it’s just another religion )if they’re religious) I always answer something like this: do you say that derogatorily? If so, do do yourself think there is something wrong with religion you feel guilty about?
    It’s an interesting thought that usually perplexes them.

  3. In reply to #5 by Stafford Gordon:

    In reply to #2 by sbooder:

    Good grief!

    Indeed; prima facie a positive development, but possibly a ruse? If the latter, a bit of a risk.

    Worth “the benefit of the doubt” I think.

    Stafford.

    It could be over analyzed.

  4. Chaplain is just the wrong word for this – we’re just fuelling the idiots who see Atheism as a “religion.” Keep to to the normal counselling service people.

    In terms of them needing a degree in theology… what does a degree in theology teach you about atheism? I think they should need a psychology degree instead.

  5. In reply to #9 by TyroneAByrne:

    Chaplain is just the wrong word for this – we’re just fuelling the idiots who see Atheism as a “religion.” Keep to to the normal counselling service people.

    I’m sympathetic to your stance, just a few things:

    Do you think the people who are calling us religious will stop doing this if some atheists never became chaplains?

    Chaplaincy programs have been implemented to save money from the school/university’s perspective and from the religions perspective to give an opportunity to promote church events or directly proselytise. Having atheist chaplains undermines the second of those goals and highlights the first.

    Christians I know who disagree with the chaplaincy program do so on the correct understanding that if this is allowed then it will only be a matter of time before Muslim chaplains will also need to be allowed and that idea they cannot tolerate.

    So forcing the issue does a couple of things for us, it highlights the fact that the only reason for their existence is to justify not paying for qualified people, and if you maintain religious chaplains only, you highlight religions unjustified, privileged position in society.

    Oh, and to the people setting up the site thank you for making the formatting more easy.

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