Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Harvard to honor Greg Graffin of Bad Religion

Harvard University's prominent community of atheists and agnostics is poised to honor a rock star and scientist whom they argue is an ideal role model for the nation's millions of non-religious youth.

The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard has gained considerable national attention in the past year for its unique approach to building a culture and community for the non-religious, and this April 26 it will give its highest honor, the "Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism," to a unique figure: Dr. Greg Graffin, frontman of the influential punk rock band Bad Religion.

Graffin, whose "day job" since 1980 has been recording and extensive worldwide touring with a band boasting such hits as "How Could Hell be Any Worse" and "American Jesus," earned his PhD in Zoology at Cornell and is a member of the UCLA's Faculty in Biology, teaching Life Sciences courses covering Darwin and natural selection. Graffin will give an acoustic performance after accepting the award.

"I always put education high on my list of priorities because I thought, wouldn't it be neat if you can have a singer of your favorite band who also has something more to offer than looking cool -– which I don't -– or dressing cool -– which I don't;" Graffin said. "Those are the things that I try to inspire young people to do, whether it is in the lecture hall or on stage on the Warped Tour."

But Bad Religion, considered among the most influential modern punk bands, has been known for inspiring young people towards a particular set of ideas: those of atheism and Humanism. Graffin's lyrics make plain his passionate disbelief in God. Yet the Harvard Humanists cite his faith in the ability of music and science to improve the world as making the singer unique.

"So much attention gets heaped onto polemicists like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, but Graffin is a truly deserving candidate for the face of atheism,'" said Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University.

The award, intended to honor a Humanist or atheist having made a lasting impact on US culture, was presented last year to renowned novelist Sir Salman Rushdie before a sold-out audience of 1100 that Rushdie likened to a celebration of "Atheistmas," and will once again be conferred at Harvard's Memorial Church, the official University Chapel.

Graffin was selected for this year's award by the Harvard Secular Society, an undergraduate student group affiliated with the Humanist Chaplaincy.

For information about Greg Graffin and Bad Religion, visit

For information about the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, visit

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