For Jose J. Rodriguez, a third year Harvard Law student, his conclusion that God did not exist was even more of a leap. “I was raised Catholic, but to say I was raised Catholic doesn’t really capture my beliefs,” he says. “I really did take on the spirituality, really wrestled with it, really promoted it.”It's a little sad that the two people with extensive quotes in the article (apart from the Chaplain himself) both grew up Catholic.
As an undergraduate at Brown, Rodriquez devoted himself to revitalizing the school’s Catholic community. After graduation he joined the Peace Corps, where he wrestled with his beliefs for the last time. “I slowly realized that [religion] wasn’t me, it wasn’t doing it for me,” he says. “It wasn’t an epiphany as much as opening my eyes a little in the moment to the process I’d just been in.”
The transition from faith was isolating at first. Leaving the church meant abandoning the way of relating that previously defined his existence. “It is a lot more difficult to find and cultivate the friendships I was used to.” Telling his family was hard, though they were supportive. “I definitely felt like I was ‘coming out.’”
Rodriguez says he feels it was worth it. “I definitely feel healthier and freer, more integrated as a person,” he says. Though Sunday School will not be his vehicle to change the world, his service continues. This summer he will work at Florida Legal Services, starting a project to help low-wage workers in Miami. It’s a job worthy of a missionary—or an atheist.
But “faith” is not a word Epstein avoids.. Humans are such meaning-makers! We simply can't help it, can't avoid it. Maybe it's [faulty] evolution, as some claim. I tend to go with St. Augustine: Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.
“I think Humanists are profound believers,” he says, “because it takes faith and it takes courage to decide that if there’s no overarching meaning to life that’s given to you by the universe, you have to decide that your life can be meaningful, and that life in general can be meaningful. I think that’s a brave choice, and I think that my job as the humanist chaplain is to support people who are making that choice in whatever way they can.”