CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The monthly schedule is church-like, with its parenting classes, guest speakers and small group meetings to hash out shared beliefs. But God isn't part of this Cambridge congregation.
Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is building a God-free model of community that he hopes helps humanists increase in numbers and influence.
Epstein sees potential in research showing that there are more people with no religion. In the latest American Religious Identification Survey, released this month, 15 percent of respondents in 2008 said they had no religion, compared to 8.2 percent in 1990. Epstein believes that group includes large numbers of people who are humanist, but have never identified themselves that way and can be reached.
At the same time, there is broader acceptance of those with no faith, as indicated by President Barack Obama's mention of "nonbelievers" in his inaugural address, Epstein said.
Definitions of humanism vary. Generally, humanists reject belief in the supernatural and are guided by reason, experience and compassion for others. Epstein defines the philosophy as a commitment to living ethical, personally fulfilling lives while serving the greater good.
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