On his Good Without God book tour, Greg Epstein spoke to a standing room only crowd at Reed College on Thursday night. The event, which was cosponsored by the Reed Secular Alliance, Kol Shalom Humanistic Jews of Portland, and the Portland Coalition of Reason, drew a crowd of 170. All involved were pleased with the turnout.
During his lecture, Epstein outlined his personal journey from a secular Jewish boy to Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain. The son of a Cuban refugee mother and a father of Eastern European Jewish descent, Epstein’s spiritual journey led him to Buddhism. However, after spending time in the East, Epstein realized that no religion had a special access to “Truth”.
Throughout his presentation, Epstein stressed the importance of finding freethinking fellowship. Like those of faith, Epstein explained, the billion people who are non-religious need to have communities too. Asked what his role was as Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain, Greg Epstein explained that he served as a “coach”, not preaching about god but guiding his fellow humanists.
While Epstein emphasized community inside the lecture hall, the secular organizations tabling outside offered a home for non-theists. Among those tabling included Kol Shalom, the Center For Inquiry Community of Portland, and the Humanists of Greater Portland. Epstein’s book tour was part of a greater effort to attract the religiously unaffiliated to various secular organizations.
Starting Monday, ten Portland-area buses have featured signs that say “Are you good without god? Millions are.” The ads, which are set to run for one month, have sparked quite a conversation around Portland. Responses varied from indignation to excitement, but most of the responses have been positive. Area freethought groups eagerly await the impact of this campaign.
At his lecture, Greg Epstein emphasized the importance of having conversations. And it was just such a dialogue that the Good Without God tour hoped to spark. Whatever the campaign’s long-term results, stressing positive humanism can only have a good impact upon the Portland community. And Epstein has done a great job of starting a dialogue about humanism.