Greg Epstein, 44, was recently unanimously elected to the top spot at the college and is set to begin work this week, Yahoo News reports.
Epstein is the author of the book “Good Without God.”
“There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life,” Epstein said.
Epstein was raised Jewish and in 2005 received ordination as a humanist rabbi from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
He then worked as the humanist chaplain for Harvard and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In his new role, Epstein will work with students and help coordinate religious events and counsel students.
“Greg was the first choice of a committee that was made up of a Lutheran, a Christian Scientist, an evangelical Christian, and a Bahá’í,” said Lutheran chaplain Rev. Kathleen Reed, chairwoman of the nominating committee. “We’re presenting to the university a vision of how the world could work when diverse traditions focus on how to be good humans and neighbors.”
Margit Hammerstrom, the Christian Science chaplain at Harvard, said in an interview that Epstein is respected and popular among the other chaplains at the college.
“Maybe in a more conservative university climate there might be a question like ‘What the heck are they doing at Harvard, having a humanist be the president of the chaplains?’” she said. “But in this environment, it works. Greg is known for wanting to keep lines of communication open between different faiths.”
According to a poll from the Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, more than 40 percent of the students identified as either atheist or agnostic in 2020. In 2017, that number was 32 percent.