AHA Field Coordinator Sadie Rothman interviews John Figdor, Humanist Chaplain of the Humanist Community at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
HNN: Why did you decide to start the group?
We launched the Humanist Community at Stanford with a full time professional Humanist chaplain because we wanted to provide quality Humanist programs for students, faculty, and staff at Stanford University, as well as for community members from Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Renowned neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland summed up the need for a Humanist chaplain quite neatly when she said, “In my thirty-five years of experience, I have found that often students with no religious affiliation feel rather short-changed by the lack of someone sympathetic to talk to about real life problems, especially when they feel disinclined to go to a religious chaplain, or to a psychological counselor. I myself was in such a position as an undergraduate. And sometime the faculty are happy to talk on a purely academic level but do not wish to engage undergraduates about private dilemmas, and vice versa… I do not know whose idea it was to have a Humanist Chaplain at Harvard [or in our case, Stanford], but it is clearly a brilliant idea.” Later, we voted unanimously to become a chapter of the American Humanist Association.
HNN: What activities does the Humanist Community do?
We have had some great events this year, including visits from Professor Richard Dawkins, Prof. Matthew McCormick, and Atheist provocateur David Fitzgerald, watching The Rumble: The Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly debate, and attending the San Francisco Atheist Film Festival.
HNN: Any exciting events coming up?
Next quarter, we plan to host Ed Buckner (former Director of American Atheists and the former Director of the Council for Secular Humanism), Elizabeth Cornwell (Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation), Mary Roach (best-selling author), and Anita Sarkeesian (researcher working on project “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games”), along with barbecues, dinners, game nights, hikes, bike rides, and meditations.