An Atheist Takes Over Harvard

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Doug Berger 0:45
Hey, did you hear the news? An atheist has been elected king of the Britons. I’m sorry, that was a terrible, terrible Monty Python reference. Now, the news was that an atheist was recently elected head of all the chaplains at Harvard University. His name is Greg Epstein. And he’s been a humanist chaplain at Harvard University for many years. I don’t personally know him. But I’ve I guess, we’ve talked on social media years ago. Because we had a disagreement, we didn’t see eye to eye on a couple of issues. And I kind of want to go into that. I mean, I guess I’m happy that he got a new job. But I generally have a problem with interfaith anything. Anytime somebody is talking about interfaith, interfaith, what that means is when you have all the different major faith, parts come together and try to work together. A majority of the time, atheists are left out, because people don’t believe that they’re an a faith, or they just have really bad ideas about atheists, so they exclude them. So we have these humanist chaplains, humanist celebrants. They’re atheists, but they take on these these trappings of religion, General, General, mainstream religious faiths. They may have a congregation like Unitarians, they meet on Sunday. There’s a couple of groups like Sunday assembly, and there’s a place I think Kansas City called, it’s called oasis. It’s similar they meet on Sunday, they sing hymns, they have a sermon quote, unquote. The only thing is that they’ve stripped out all the supernatural element elements and, and backing for what they’re talking about. They they use, you know, like classic social sociology, psychology type things to talk about life and how to live life. Here in the part that I’m part of American Humanist Association, we have the Ten Commitments instead of the 10 Commandments. So you see how they kind of take that the imagery and the trappings of religion and kind of remoulded refashion fashion it into something for secular people. That’s what I have a problem with. I don’t like that. It’s a personal thing with me. I just don’t like that. If you’re an atheist, and you want to have a community, by all means, get together, have a community. You don’t need to meet on Sunday. You don’t need to sing hymns, if you don’t want to. You don’t need to take up a collection. You don’t need to help your community if you don’t want to. All these things that that except for belief in God and scripture and all that stuff. People do every day, outside of an organized thing. And so I just I just had a problem. So good on Greg, Greg Epstein, that he got this new job. He said of all the chaplains at Harvard. I just think that I mean, I’ve read the articles, I read his personal response to it. And he says all the right things that I agree with, I just don’t believe in the foundation, the structure of it. I just don’t believe in having congregations. That was one of the disagreements we had. He was writing a book years ago. I don’t know if it ever came out. They might still be working on it. But he was gonna go around the country and Visit with different humanist groups and find out, you know what, what makes a good humanist group. And he had come to the conclusion that you needed to have a community and that community needed to meet on Sundays and sing hymns. And that just, I just had a problem with that, as I’m explaining badly, I’m explaining but, you know, good ol Greg, I’m glad he got that job. I mean, it’s a step up from a mentor, or a judge, I’m not sure what position he was in, on the reality show “Married At First Sight”, back on 20, back in 2015. So you know, Hey, he’s got a better job. Now.


Greg Epstein 5:45
Each one of these six individuals is going to have to grow in order to work as married couples.

Doug Berger 5:53
I had this in its other pocket podcast that I host, I had an interview with a former clergyman who was now a humanist celebrant, who also had an affinity for interfaith work. And he was talking about building a bridge where his job was to build a bridge between people who did not believe in a God and people faith. And I’m like, I’m totally there. I agree with that. But what happens is when you build this bridge, for most religious people, people of faith that you work with, it’s a one way bridge. Generally, it’s the atheist, agnostic, humanist, non faith believer that has to tone or is asked to tone down their, their beliefs, compromise their principles, because you don’t want to offend the faith people, the people faith, or you don’t want to offend the believers. And so it’s usually people like me, the atheist that, that when we are allowed to participate in interfaith, were kind of pushed to the back and behind the curtain and tolerated, you know, it’s just like, we’re not actual equal participants. And so that’s why I kind of like Greg Epstein getting this job because now he’s at the head of the table with all these different faith groups. And so we got a big write up in the New York Times and, and in, I’m sure, there’s gonna be a lot of press because, you know, Harvard is a prestigious university. And believe it or not, it was originally founded to educate ministers, clergy in the in the colonies, in the 1700s. You know, they wanted their clergy to be literate. And so they founded this university named after a minister, you’ll find that out when you read the article from the New York Times. And so it has this history. It has a strong chaplain, it has a Divinity School, but it has a strong chaplain organization, many different ones different faith, faith traditions have a chaplain at Harvard, in Greg was the humanist chaplain. And so, like I said, I am not I am not enthusiastic about interfaith cooperation with people faith, because like I said, it’s usually just a one way bridge. And I think it should be a two way bridge, you know, they should tone down their beliefs and, and philosophies had compromised their principles in order to work with me, so as not to offend my beliefs. So that’s why in the humanist group that I’m part of, we refuse to work with any group that does not support abortion rights. You know, that’s just like a line in the sand that that we drew. If your group affiliates with somebody that doesn’t support, right, reproductive rights, we’re all women. We’re not going to work with them. And this issue with interfaith work, also comes from the atheist side, too, when we tried to work with who we thought were like minded individuals. I remember when I lived in in Columbus and and working with the Columbus humanist group. We had many people that were members of a Unitarian Church in Columbus

Doug Berger 9:59
And some of us would have dealings with that that church, they had a Sunday forum program that you could, they had speakers, and occasionally some of us would go there. And so you’d have people, these Unitarians there, and they would talk to you. And they would ask you, you know, what, you know, what your beliefs were, and you’d say, you were an atheist. And they would just kind of roll their eyes. Some of them were tissue tissue that they were you were bashing religion? Why do you have to be so mean to religious people, you know, stop making fun of religious people. And now these were people that were like minded, they were not. They didn’t go with the religious dogma. So you think that they would be friends. But these were, they didn’t act like they were friends. So that kind of turned me off on that a lot. The other thing too, was a lot of Unitarian churches, employ ministers who were from previous religious traditions, that who had left their ministries, like you would have somebody that was a Presbyterian minister years ago, leaving the ministry, and then getting ordained into the Unitarian Church. So you have a lot of this rigid, rigid, residual residual leftover Christian mysticism, incorporated into Unitarian services. And so I that’s why I just that’s why I just never became a Unitarian. You know, they always talked about big tents, including as many people as you can. And I believe that humanism means something other than just humanitarianism. We had a guy, I know, down in Columbus, he’s passed away since then. But he used to claim that the Pope was humanist. which is not the case. This guy that I was interviewing the other day, for my for the other podcasts that I work on. He wrote an essay called was Jesus a humanist? And so this just comes from this liberal Western religious tradition. That is it. It just doesn’t. It’s just you strip away all this supernatural stuff, but you still go to church, on Sundays, you still sing hymns, you have potlucks? You know that because that’s sort of what the Unitarians do anyway. And I just, I just never got into it. So. So that’s why, you know, I’m happy for Greg Epstein for getting this job. But not really seeing the point of it. And in Hemant Mehta at the “Friendly Atheist” said, Well, you know, it shows that he’s at the table and, and we mean things and I’m like, okay, but he’s not going to, he’s not going to forward any, any beliefs like that, you know, any non belief items that we go through that we believe, you know, he’s got to, he’s an administrator now. So he’s got to balance all these different opinions and different viewpoints, to try to come to a consensus, which is good, that’s what humanists do, you know, we, we come to our conclusions based on consensus and evidence and, and personal experience. But so he has to do this on a daily basis. So I don’t see him advancing secular humanism, other than the fact that people say he’s an atheist, secular humanists. Oh, let me check that out. That’s the only way that he it’s gonna benefit the movement. So, like I said, I guess I’m okay with him getting the job. You know, it’s a good thing for him. I’m just kind of on a wait and see attitude here. That, you know, I’ve been down this road before, and I’m going to wait for the backlash to come in, they’ll probably come soon.

Doug Berger 14:34
One of the crazy stories from this pandemic, and there’s been plenty of crazy stories was one of the relief efforts that the federal government did initially was they added on to the unemployment insurance for people that lost their jobs due to the pandemic. They added on an extra $300 a month, which was Fantastic for the people that that were struggling that needed it that didn’t have a job. And for a time, most people were happy that that was being done. Then we flipped the the calendar to 2021. And a lot of conservatives believed that the pandemic was over now that the vaccines were being distributed, and that we needed to end the $300 extra benefit. One of the reasons they said was because people weren’t going back to work. There was story after story. And I think I might have covered this in a previous episode. There has been still stories after stories of companies that were having trouble hiring workers or keeping the workers that they had. And the the running thread through all the stories was either the company there usually it was a restaurant. They were either terrible employers, or, or in general, or they weren’t taking precautions for the pandemic like they weren’t requiring mask and or they were little tiny, tiny diners that couldn’t remove tables and things like that. So they assumed that it was this extra benefit coming from the federal government that was keeping people from going to work that they were lazy, etc. So they want to end this $300 extra benefit. Originally, that extra unemployment insurance was due to expire in September, I still think it’s going to be expiring in after Labor Day. But some states that republican states By the way, ended that ended it early, they withdrew from the program, Ohio was one of them. And there were some other states like Missouri was one earlier than that. Texas, I think did too. And the initial studies that came out, said that it wasn’t causing people to go back to work. There were still companies that couldn’t hire anybody that had trouble hiring people. A lot of restaurants still had trouble hospitality that really took major hits during the pandemic. We’re having trouble getting people. So the other day in my local paper, the Toledo blade, they had a story was “Ohio canceled federal UI benefits months ago, but company still can’t find workers”. And so there was a study that came out. Said states that ended federal unemployment in June, months before Labor Day, cut off nudged relatively few people back to work, and helped cause a 2 billion cut in household spending. a steady release last week found Ohio in late June ended the $300 a week federal supplement that came on top of regular benefits, but it did leave intact to other federal unemployment programs. Unlike some other states. Despite a robust job recovery, Ohio remains well short of its pre pandemic levels. There were about 300,000 fewer Ohioans employed last month, compared to July 2019. And Lucas county where I live, there are were about 16,000 fewer people employed. So then they had this interview with Kevin Sauder is the chief Chief Executive Officer of Sauder Wood Working and they make ready to assemble furniture. The company manufactures their put together furniture in Archbold. Archbold is in the middle of the country in a rural area of Northwest Ohio, and they can’t fill 100 open factory positions. Part of that is that they are out in the middle of nowhere. That’s that’s a big, big thing. If you’re working this factory job, and you don’t have a car, you’re not gonna be working at that factory. You have to have a car to work at that factory.

Doug Berger 19:27
And so they were interviewing him and he was claiming that it was the unemployment insurance extra unemployment insurance, but now that they ended that they’re still not getting any people. So he’s not sure you know, what it what’s going on today. And so they’ve had to cut back on some of the stuff that they make. And they also interviewed Trevor Deeter, owner of Deets BBQ restaurants in the Toledo area and He said that they had been excited for the end of enhanced unemployment Ohio, figuring it would lead to an uptake and good applicants. But it turned out there was only minimal improvement. So, so all these, basically what’s going on, and generally, the economists are speculating is that, that people aren’t going back to work because either they found better jobs that pay better, or they have childcare issues and can’t and can’t go back to work. Or that they are too vulnerable to the pan to the virus. And these companies that want them to come work for them don’t take care of, of their people. And so it’s not the extra benefits. And people told them that when these republican conservatives wanted to end these benefits, said, it’s not the reason why people aren’t going to work. But of course, they don’t listen, they went ahead and cut it. So instead of having these deluge of people going back to work, they’ve actually cut the $2 billion cut and household spending. So that’s going to trickle down through the economy. But that’s just like a lot of the stuff a lot of the stories surrounding this pandemic.

Doug Berger 21:23
And I, and I guess I don’t want to get too wrapped up into it, because I know, I make the mistake of, of diving into social media that tends to amplify these negative stories. And it’s just I get a hear a lot of the negative stuff. But it’s a lot of people they don’t, they don’t use the data, they don’t find the data, or they ignore data that doesn’t fit their narrative. So this is the case in point with the unemployment insurance, is the data doesn’t fit the narrative that people weren’t going back to work because they’re getting paid extra. They weren’t going back for other reasons. Same with the mask mandates people complain about mask mandates at school, we talked about that, in the last episode, the data refutes all their arguments about not wearing a mask like it doesn’t cut oxygen levels, it isn’t it doesn’t give you COVID. It doesn’t, what one of them, somebody was talking about it, that children in order to learn effectively need to be able to see facial expressions, which is a dumb argument that has no evidence to support it. And then you have the religious element where they say, Well, God didn’t mean us to wear masks, which is even more ridiculous. And so you get these people that, that make these wild claims. And they either don’t support it with any evidence, or data. Or if there’s opposite data that refutes what they say they just ignore it. I was having this discussion with somebody the other day on Facebook. Yes, I was arguing with people on Facebook. And she had these two charts. Oh, she’s running for school board. So that’s good. She had these two charts from the Ohio Hospital Association showing what she was trying to show was all the mitigation efforts like the lockdown and mask mandates didn’t affect the bed, the status with the hospitals, whether or not you could get into the hospital. So she was saying it that’s a false thing. People are lying about that, that if we don’t do something and have mask mandates that the hospitals are going to get overrun. She said they they’re not going to get overrun. So she had these charts that she supposedly screencap from the Ohio Hospital Association. So I went to that that website, looked at their COVID-19 dashboard. And they had for Ohio hospital hospitalizations due to COVID was like 2600 people, roughly 2600 people and but they had like seven day change, 21 day change, 60 day change. So like the seven day change was up 11%

Doug Berger 24:17
The 21 day change was up 111% and the the 60 day change was 747% up. That’s just mind boggling. That means there’s a problem. And the same with the ICU beds, the ICU beds a 60. Day change was like 847% up and that’s just astronomical. That in two months. That’s two months. It went from this to 800% higher You know, so it this person that posted this information, supposedly she got from the Ohio Hospital Association didn’t say anything, what she claimed it been saying. And, in fact, one of the one of the graphics that she posted, I couldn’t even find on their website. So I think what it was, is probably somebody shared it on Facebook, or one of the other social media outlets, and she just copied and pasted it, because she agreed with it. But that’s the things that we have to put up with, in this era of misinformation and, and lack of use of data. And so because of this lack of believing in science and using data to drive policy, it’s going to prolong the pandemic. And it’s going to make people’s putting more people sicker. They had it schools a bit back maybe about a week in here in Ohio. And already they here in my area, they’re reporting something like 16 students test positive three staff people test positive for COVID 81, kids, were now out of school quarantined, because they had contact with people that were sick. And so a lot of the school districts now that went started out with having mask optional, because these parents that didn’t know what they were talking about complaining so loudly, that they just didn’t want to deal with it. So they went with mask optional or no mask, are now switching back to mask mandates. Because they don’t want the kids to be out of school for very long, because when you go into quarantine, you have to quarantine for seven to 10 days. So you’re out of school for seven to 10 days. And so they would rather the kids remain in school, then than that. So now these parents are raising a ruckus. They’re having a school board meeting in Findlay. At the time I’m recording this supposed to be tonight, where the the rumors are that they’re going to go to a mask mandate. And so people, these parents that shouldn’t be making these decisions are organizing because they’re going to try to stop it. And so that’s what that’s the kind of world we’re living in right now. Is that you got to you got to trust the science when the scientific consensus reaches a certain conclusion. And you also have to realize that the data can change. If you get new data, the scientific conclusion can change. And that if you try to make public policy, or try to act by ignoring science and ignoring data, you’re going to get people have hurt, or you’re going to get people killed. And that’s the kind of world we’re living in right now. And I don’t see a way out of it right now. I really don’t. It’s troubling, it’s troubling me. And so all I can do is just contact my, my elected officials and try to make this point that you got to use the data, you’ve got to listen to the scientists in a scientific consensus, in order to make public policy during a time of a pandemic. And if you don’t, you’re going to extend the pandemic, you’re going to hurt people possibly kill them. And it’s, and it’s not, it doesn’t have to happen that way. And hopefully, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. So hopefully this will be the last time I talk about the anti vaxxers and the anti maskers because I’ve wasted so much time talking about them. And there’s so much other stuff to talk about.



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