Harvard University's chaplaincy team appoints atheist as new president

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Chaplains at Harvard University have elected an atheist as their new president.

Greg Epstein, 44, is the author of the bestselling book Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.

He was raised in a Jewish household but has served as a humanist chaplain at the Ivy League university since 2005.

He will head up Harvard's team of 40 chaplains who come from different faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.

Commenting on his appointment on Twitter, he said he was "obliged and honored."

Margit Hammerstrom, a Christian Science chaplain at Harvard, told The New York Times that Epstein's election as president was unanimous.

"Maybe in a more conservative university climate, there might be a question like, 'What the heck are they doing at Harvard, having a humanist be the president of the chaplains?' But in this environment, it works. Greg is known for wanting to keep lines of communication open between different faiths," she said.

A recent study by Harvard Crimson found that the atheist and agnostic portion of the student body grew from 32.4% in 2017 to 37.9% in 2019.

Epstein told The New York Times, "There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life."

He added, "We don't look to a god for answers. We are each other's answers."