Amy Lawton is the research manager at Brandeis University’s Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. She completed her PhD in sociology at the University of Connecticut.

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How Do Nonreligious Chaplains Offer Spiritual Care?

by Amy Lawton 09-07-2023

A close up of two people holding hands. Credit: Unsplash/Saulo Meza.

Yet a common assumption is that chaplains themselves must be grounded in a religious tradition. After all, how can you be a religious leader without religion?

In reality, a growing number of chaplains are nonreligious: people who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist, or “spiritual but not religious.” I am a sociologist and research manager at Brandeis University’s Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, where our team researches and supports chaplains of all faiths, including those from nonreligious backgrounds. Our current research has focused on learning from 21 nonreligious chaplains about their experiences.