AHA Launches Humanist Chaplaincies Website

By Eric Nguyen

The American Humanist Association is proud to announce the completion of a website dedicated to promoting Humanist Chaplaincies in the United States.

The website, www.humanistchaplaincies.org, will include biographical information about current humanist chaplains and information on how to start a chaplaincy at your college or university.

Today, there are humanist chaplains at four universities: Ben Biber at American University in Washington DC, Greg Epstein at Harvard University in Cambridge, Anne Klaeysen at Columbia University in New York, and Barry Klassel at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

The AHA and the Humanist Chaplaincy program, joined with the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, will also advocate for a humanist chaplain in the U.S. military.

Religious chaplaincies are a staple at any university. Often catered to specific religious traditions, they offer advice, counsel, and community. As nonbelievers, atheist students usually do not have access to this type of community, and humanist chaplaincies offer an alternative.

Many see the university chaplaincy as an essential part of the larger humanist movement. At the 2011 AHA conference, in a breakout session entitled “The Future of Humanism,” many of the panelists agreed that the university chaplaincy was essential to the movement’s future: it not only provides support for humanist students, but offers a humanist viewpoint in religious discussions, has the potential to influence policies, and are able to connect alumni to humanist communities after graduation—aiding the transition from humanist student to the post-college adult.

As Rutgers University Humanist Chaplain Barry Klassel put it, “Chaplaincies have a distinct and complementary function. Chaplaincies can provide a permanent humanist presence and can help student groups stay strong as their leadership changes with graduation. We can maintain contact with students beyond their graduations and help them find groups to join when they settle down with jobs and families.”

If you’re interested in getting a humanist chaplaincy started at your school, or supporting any of the current chaplaincies, contact Eric Nguyen, grassroots coordinator at enguyen@americanhumanist.org.