About Greg M. Epstein
Welcome to the relatively infrequently updated blog of Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University. For more information and much more frequent updates, join Greg on Facebook:
Along with directing the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, Epstein sits on the executive committee of the 38-member Harvard United Ministry interfaith corps of chaplains. In 2005 he received ordination as a Humanist Rabbi from the International Institute for Secular and Humanistic Judaism, where he studied in Jerusalem and Michigan for five years. He holds a BA (Religion and Chinese) and an MA (Judaic Studies) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a Masters of Theological Studies from the Harvard Divinity School. He recently agreed to write his first book, Good Without God, for William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Epstein was the primary organizer of “The New Humanism,” an international conference in honor of the 30th Humanist Chaplaincy of Harvard University, which drew one of the largest and most diverse audiences of any Humanist gathering in North American history. He blogs for Newsweek magazine and The Washington Post, and his work as a Humanist rabbi and Chaplain has been featured by National Public Radio, BBC Radio, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Jewish Daily Forward, and more. He is an adviser to two student groups at Harvard College, the Secular Society and the Interfaith Council, and to the Harvard Humanist Graduate Community.
Epstein’s journey to Humanism has been unconventional: growing up as an assimilated and disinterested Reform Jew, he began studying Buddhism and Taoism while at High School in New York City, and in college went to Taiwan for a semester aiming to study Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism in its original language and context. Finding that Eastern religions do not necessarily have greater access to truth than Western ones, he returned to the US and abandoned Buddhist studies in favor of rock music, recording and singing professionally for a year after college. He then left the music industry, disappointed by its drug and negativity-ridden culture, and might have been forced into attending law school had he not discovered the movement of Humanism and the possibility of a career as a Humanist rabbi and chaplain. His efforts speaking and reaching out to thousands of students from many cultural and religious backgrounds on and around 9-11-01 led to his being featured in a cover story of Newsweek Magazine on “Generation 9-11” and in other national media outlets. As a graduate student he has earned a number of prestigious scholarships including a Posen Fellowship with which he studied in the Talmud Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for one year.
The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard was established in 1974 and is a permanent position at Harvard, endowed in 1995 by the late John L. Loeb ’24 as part of a $100 million gift to the University. Epstein is proud to have recently succeeded Thomas Ferrick, currently Humanist Chaplain Emeritus of Harvard, in this role.
For even more information, including archived articles from national and local publications, and multimedia, please see Greg’s profile at the Harvard Chaplains website, and scroll to the bottom of the page.