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The New Humanism: Conference at Harvard in April

I can’t afford financially or logistically to take five days off to travel and attend a conference these days. But if I could, I might consider trotting on over to The New Humanism: A Conference Honoring 30 Years of Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard”. It’s happening April 20-22, 2007 at Harvard University. The subtitle, “Honoring 30 Years of Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard,” is just so very Harvard in its self-referential congratulatory tone. The substance of the conference has that elitist touch as well (check out the program here). There’s a bit of a rock-star mentality to the whole shebang, heavy on celebrities such as Steven Pinker, Salman Rushdie, Dar Williams, E.O. Wilson, Amartya Sen and Ned Lamont. But there is also an exposition of secular and/or humanist organizations and an activist training session (with a fee of $80???) with the Secular Student Alliance — which is holding a parallel conference.

8 comments to The New Humanism: Conference at Harvard in April

  • Argh! Those self-congratulatory humanists really drive me nuts sometimes!

  • Jim

    Well, I meant Harvard more — every topic Harvard discusses always seems to come back to Harvard. But yeah, we humanists can be as self-congratulatory as members of any other religious or philosophical tradition.

  • Tom

    If you suffer from insomnia, get the tapes of the lectures sent to your house.
    Seriously though, Pinker’s worth listening to – he’s authored several interesting books recently.

  • Thanks a lot for the mention, we really appreciate it. Just to clarify: this conference is self-referential because it really is about a unique institution at Harvard– Harvard has the first and only permanent, (partially) endowed humanist chaplaincy, and all these more & less well-known speakers are coming out to help us promote the idea of a humanist chaplaincy and help spread it to other schools. The fact that there is an institution here which serves the humanist, agnostic, atheist & non-religious community is not necessarily more noteworthy then if it wee somewhere else, but for the time being it is here, and we figure if we can use Harvard’s prestige to call attention to an idea that could help people in a number of places, we might as well do so. Also, the activist training does NOT cost $80 unless you are a non-student, non-member of our partner organization the Secular Student Alliance, which can be joined for $10. And we’ve worked hard to raise scholarship funds to help students from all over the US attend– even non-religious students who have no great interest in calling themselves humanists.

    I can sympathize with those who feel Harvard gets too much press and takes itself too seriously, but we just want to do the best we can with the opportunity we have to contribute to a broader secular and humanist movement. I hope some reading will consider joining us.

    Thanks again,

    Greg M. Epstein
    Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University

  • Junga

    Why would we humanists want chaplains?

    Why not have something more humanist?

  • There’s an article addressing the subject of why chaplains in the new issue of the Humanist magazine ( In short, however, even someone as anti-religious as Richard Dawkins has written a fair amount (in his blog, in October & November after he visited us) about how humanist chaplaincies are very important, and how he hopes other schools will develop them.

  • The Ethical Society Without Walls ( is an online community of Ethical Culture, a humanist or ethical organization.

  • That’s all well and good, Billy, but where do they hang the pictures?

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