Gray and magisterial, squarely planted in the heart of campus, Bowdoin’s chapel keeps watch over all who traverse the quad. During my own time at Bowdoin, it was usually empty. Like an antiquated board member of a Fortune 500 company, the chapel was appreciated but generally ignored. The questions it offered were not asked by the student body; the answers it held within its great stone walls were not sought.

This was not due to a policy of hostility, at least not one that I was aware of as a young man in the class of 2003. A good many faculty members treated religion with a kind of detached skepticism. Those who taught religion usually approached it as a sociological phenomenon. A few observed a religious tradition to some extent; out of nearly 160 faculty members, I knew of about five who were Jewish, about five who were Catholic, and about ten who were identifiably Protestant.

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