Via Domenico Bettinelli is a story about Harvard hiring a secular humanist chaplain and I am sure it will come as no shock to my readers that this chaplain is an ex-priest who left the church over contraception. Now this story opens up a rich vein of possible comedy of which I will try to tap a bit.
I mean a secular humanist chaplain at Harvard is the epitome of overkill. The secular equivalent of preaching to the choir. I wonder how much call there is for a SH Chaplain though? Not exactly comforting for those who are terminally ill "Cheer up you will soon be in oblivion. You will cease to exist, kaput, that’s it. You will no longer feel pain, in fact you will no longer feel or be anything. All that you are will vanish forever just like all the other flukes of the universe that have accidentally come into existence. Now I am not just saying all of this to cheer you up – I really believe it!"
A SH Chaplain could counsel students about the importance of not having faith and to absolve them of ‘sins’ like not buying a product in a biodegradable container. Console and counsel students who have fallen into faith, have doubts about secularism, or have experienced dryness in confidence that government and other human institutions can lead to a perfectible human society. Help them to pick courses that won’t be detrimental to secularism or challenged their belief system. To give a proper respect for scientists and to emphasize that while not all are called to be scientists that everyone is called to the labhood of the lack-of-faithful. That we are a scientific people. To have faith in reason.
The article talked about how Roméo Dallaire gave a sermon in an auditorium to a group of agnostic and atheist students. They could decorate the auditorium to make sure it was a cold sterile and very rational looking place that would never make you look up or to get down on your knees. In fact they could not go wrong using NCCB’s Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy document "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship" In fact all they need to do is black out part of the title and use the contents verbatim to achieve the cold sterile effect. This stark effect seen in many Catholic Churches might be too much for even the most austere secularist and some more traditional secularists might prefer retaining some stained-glass windows of Voltaire and Frederick Nietzsche. They could have inter-communion with the Democratic Party when it comes to the sacrament of abortion. Of course country-club materialistic Republicans would also be well received as long as they weren’t one of those social-conservatives.
It might be difficult trying to determine where to send secular humanist missionaries. Though there are still some backward places where the message of secular humanism has not yet prevailed. They could work with the natives and do things like translate the New York Times into their language and perhaps smuggle american textbooks across the border. To provide staples like condoms and the pill. After all the best way to teach the message that humans are basically decent is to make sure that there are not to many of them getting into each others hair.
This story also makes me wonder about the opposite scenario where secular humanist parents send their kid off to a secular school and their kid ‘s come back home religious.
Mom: I was going through Johnny’s room to gather up his laundry and I found something extremely disturbing.
Dad: We told him in the past he doesn’t have to hide recreational drug use from us, so what is the problem?
Mom: It’s not drugs, I found a, how can I say this, well – a bible.
Dad: What! Well maybe it was for some literature class where they deconstruct all those silly myths.
Mom: That’s what I had hoped it meant at first. But no, there are highlighted passages and he has handwritten notes in the columns that weren’t about deconstruction, but were actually devotional!
Dad: How could this happen? We have done our best for him. Sending him to public school, keeping him away from the Boy Scouts, and then on to a fine Ivy League School. He certainly didn’t pick up this bad habit from our example. We’ve taught him to be tolerant and open minded so how could he do this to us? We spent all that money to send our son to get the finest in secular education and what happens? I feel so betrayed. I mean what kind of school allows this to happen. Is there no supervision of Freshmen there. Is there not enough schoolwork and parties that they find enough time to go – to go to a church? This is just plain criminal negligence on their part.
Mom: I should have seen the warning signs when he came home at the end of the semester. First he acted more respectfully to us and he also stopped swearing all the time.
Dad: I blame myself. I must have been in denial to have missed the danger signs. I just thought, or maybe it was wishful thinking, that going away to school had disoriented him and he was just getting his bearings. Who could have thought that after all we had done to teach and to reinforce secular humanism could be destroyed in only one semester?
Mom: I wish that was the end of it. I also found a Rosary.
Dad: Is this some kind of sick joke or the all-time worst practical joke? I mean ha-ha, please tell me yo are joking?
Mom: I wish I was. I could almost handle him having some nebulous belief in some kind of outside force, but Catholic in this day and age? What will the neighbors think? Perhaps some church he could go to on Sundays that make no demands on the rest of the week.
Dad: We have to do an intervention. We will get some of his professors and old friends together and confront him with what he is doing.
Mom: Maybe this is a rebellious stage where he is just rejecting are values. If we push him it might just drive him further into religion. Possibly we can take a softer approach. For example occasionally leave a Carl Sagan book in his room and reset his radio presets to just NPR
Dad: That might be a good idea, but if that doesn’t work we are going to have to do some tough love, like threaten to stop paying his tuition unless he kicks this religion habit.