In Response to: Keeping the faith

Anent “Faces of Faith” (cover story, Dec. 17): It would seem that “diversity” has been the holy grail of the University for several decades now, especially with respect to religion as it is depicted in PAW. Indeed, the online University directory of campus activities lists a multitude of religious groups, including some quite arcane. Yet a search for organizations that may represent nonbelievers draws a blank.  

Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, and a multitude of state universities and smaller private institutions host a full gamut of nonbeliever groups. Harvard has had a Chaplaincy of Humanism for over 30 years. Even our new president noted in his inaugural address: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 16 percent of Americans identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Nonbelievers outnumber Jews, Muslims, and Hindus combined. Surely, then, shouldn't the University be making an effort to recruit and support this increasingly important segment of America?

As a humanist and member of the American Humanist Association, I find it difficult to ignore the countless numbers of lives lost and the anguish suffered in the name of religion over the history of the Earth. Princeton is fond of considering itself “in the nation’s service” and more recently in the service of all nations. In my view, the time is long past due to leave all religions behind. Humankind has been gifted through evolution with an intrinsic sense of morality, ethics, and altruism. Reality is or will be explained by the sciences. Belief in the supernatural is increasingly passe. Regrettably, Princeton appears to have failed to realize this and is woefully falling behind not only its Ivy League competitors, but other institutions as well. The message is simple: Do the right thing. Be good for goodness’ sake.

Earl B. Byrne ’54