The Daily Signal reported some news that tickled my irony bone this morning, and I had to share. Harvard University, an Ivy League school begun by puritans, has hired Greg Epstein as Chief Chaplain. From the Daily Signal report, we find the following reasoning for the new Chief Chaplain’s ascension:
“A Harvard Crimson survey of the university’s 2019 class found that students were two times more likely to identify as agnostic or as an atheist than average 18-year-olds, The New York Times reported. About 21.3% of the class said they were agnostic, and 16.6% said they were atheists. About equal shares of the students said they were Protestant (17%) or Catholic (17.1%), 10.1% said they were Jewish, 2.5% said they were Muslim, 3% said they were Hindu, and 12% said they were “other.”
I make no broad-stroke generalizations based upon a report that has passed through The New York Times and The Daily Signal; however, it is interesting to note the data is a unique finding. Now consider that atheists have begun holding meetings, singing hymns, hosting children’s meetings. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, atheists are flattering those they proclaim not to be.
President General George Washington made the following comment in his farewell address to the nation:
“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Returning to the axiom of flattery being found in imitation, then the appointment of a US Military Chaplain who is also an atheist is both a possibility and shortly a reality— bringing up some interesting questions for those atheists who continue to proclaim that atheism is not a religion. More to the point, a military chaplain is required to deliver services in a host of different religious services. How will that work for both the chaplain and the parishioners? What about spiritual counseling? Marriage counseling? Other life and death style counseling chaplains are required to perform?
Having been a US Military Chaplains Assistant, who has fought for religious freedom for soldiers and the soldiers’ rights to worship how, where, or what they may, I find this discussion intriguing and interesting. When his command was telling a Christian-Jewish Soldier that he had to choose which holidays he would be allowed to celebrate, my job was to help provide a voice of reason and history to aid the command in supporting the soldier and discover a compromise. When two Wiccans wanted to hold a wedding, guess who got behind the happy couple to handle the administrative affairs? When a soldier needed a chaplain but was uncomfortable talking to his own, guess who called the soldier a chaplain who was more comfortable to be around.
Religion and social standards, laws, and morals all cross and intertwine. In the mixing, society builds a value system and a method of thinking and acting. Here is the opportunity, do we learn and grow or do we denounce and castigate? I have met good people among those calling themselves non-religionists. I have met some grand and noble people among those who would call themselves religionists. The opposite is also true; I have met some genuinely deplorable characters among both religionists and non-religionists. It has been fun and exciting to meet truth seekers among the religionists and non-religionists and watch the conversations unfold regarding science, math, logic, psychology, and every form of human study.
Where freedom of religion is concerned, I believe The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints says it best in their tenth Article of Faith:
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, and what they may.”
From my earliest days as a child, I have espoused similar beliefs. I do not care how, what, or where you worship, what you worship, or when. Provided your rights to worship, do not refuse another person their liberties to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, enjoy your faith. I will even come along and observe occasionally. I find the shift interesting as a social movement by Harvard, and I want to think that the move to ascend an atheist chaplain to Chief Chaplain is not a move with hidden purposes and political leanings.
I offer my genuine and heartfelt congratulations to Chaplain Epstein as he takes his new promotion at Harvard and look to see what develops over the coming years that brings more harmony amongst religionists and improves religious freedoms across America and the globe. I would caution Harvard if this is a trick, many an honest person will be angry when the truth reveals hidden agendas, and I hope the caution is not needed. I do look forward to the day when Wiccans and other “non-traditional religions” obtain military chaplains. Not because it would cause problems, but because it would reflect truth in religious freedoms we espouse in the US Constitution. If a Muslim Chaplain can serve harmoniously with a Baptist Chaplain and a Jewish Chaplain in the US Military, I see no problems with Atheists and Wiccans joining their ranks.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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