General Question

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Do hospital chaplains necessary have to be Christian?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (24049points) April 29th, 2023

Or could they be anything? Like an agnostic?

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12 Answers

chyna's avatar

Generally speaking, clergy in a hospital is there to meet your spiritual needs and to pray with patients and their families. I can’t imagine an agnostic would even want to take this role on.

Acrylic's avatar

They don’t have to be of certain denominations, necessarily. One of my pastor’s, he’s lead pastor’s for a non-denominational church, also works as a clergy for a Catholic hospital. He likes to talk about the discussions he and the priests have about their work there. An agnostic can’t serve as clergy no more than a blind man can be hired as a truck driver.

snowberry's avatar


I am an evangelical Christian.

kritiper's avatar

Specifically, according to Webster’s Dictionary, a Christian is a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. No more, no less.

SnipSnip's avatar

No, but for someone asking for the chaplain, a secular anything or anyone is useless. Please share this with the head buffoon.

LadyMarissa's avatar

No, they comfort many different beliefs or religions or lack thereof.They provide comfort without pushing any specific religion. My only interactions with a chaplain had NO religious context of any form. They NEVER asked my beliefs & their support was NEVER of a religious nature. They more or less listened to my thoughts & concerns. They were there to help me understand what was happening & how it applied to my situation. They offered the exact same care to the agnostic/atheist patients’ families as well. The requirement of training is that you have a masters or PhD in divinity or theology. I can’t imagine that an agnostic or atheist would put in the time & effort to become a chaplain.

Don’t know if you ever watched MASH. Father Mulcahy was the chaplain for the unit. Whenever he welcomed a new member, he ALWAYS made it clear that he had his own beliefs but he had knowledge of ALL religions & if they had a specific need they needed to let him know. I think a hospital chaplain would be much the same.

ragingloli's avatar

Many moons ago, on the radio show “the Atheist Experience”, I learned that quite a few priests are actually atheists performing a role so to speak, after they became atheists from actually studying the bible.
So I see no reason that a chaplain can not be a full blown atheist.

JLeslie's avatar

No. They do not have to be Christian.

There had been some discussion a while back about allowing atheists to be chaplains in the military. I don’t know what happened with that. I think it should be allowed in the military and hospitals.

The main point is to comfort the patient.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Chaplain is not specifically Christian, it is a generic term for a religious official. For example, Abraham Lincoln appointed the first Jewish US Army chaplain in 1862.

Knowing that Dearborn Michigan has a large muslim population, I googled “muslim chaplain Dearborn”. Here are a couple of results:

Beaumont Hospitals Spiritual Care “Spirituality and faith are an important part of health and recovery. Our Chaplains are professionally trained to provide spiritual and emotional care to patients and families who are dealing with a stressful situation. We value all religious traditions and offer support and comfort aligned with your personal faith experience…_

”..A chapel is provided at each Beaumont hospital and are always open for those in need of meditation or prayer. Sabbath candles, Bibles, Qur’ans, rosaries and communion are all available upon request”

The Association of Muslim Chaplains is a professional association that supports Muslims chaplains by ensuring they have access to the resources, tools, and training to provide the highest quality spiritual care in public and private institutions in the United States while advancing the field of Islamic chaplaincy.”

Caravanfan's avatar

No. Our hospital has an on call list of clergy of all denominations.

kritiper's avatar

A person could continue to say they were a believer even if they had decided that atheism was more logical. People will do what they feel they must to keep the money coming in. And a person could be an agnostic for the same reason.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s not just keeping the money coming, but yes it’s a job. In combat situations sometimes a chaplain is providing prayers, comfort, or available to listen to a patient, even outside of their own religion. They don’t have to believe the details, it’s for the patient.

My sister worked in more than one Catholic hospitals, and the Catholic Chaplain during orientation explained to nurses, techs, etc., not to assume anything about whether a patient would want prayers, not to speak using religious language, to always allow the patient to take the lead on anything religious. It was ok to ask a patient if they wanted a chaplain to visit their room, but even in a Catholic hospital they understand there are patients of other religions and atheists. I don’t know if the Catholic hospitals had chaplains from other faiths?

Most large hospitals have chaplains of many faith just as @Caravanfan said. My aunt is an atheist, but she liked having the rabbi chaplains come to her room. Even they would ask permission to say or sing a prayer even after she said she wanted the visit.

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