About Bart

Bart Campolo is a secular minister, speaker, and writer who currently volunteers as the Humanist Chaplain at the University of Southern California.

Born and raised in suburban Philadelphia, Bart became an evangelical Christian as a teenager and was immediately attracted to urban ministry. After graduating from Brown University and serving as an urban youth pastor in Minneapolis, he returned to Philadelphia to found Mission Year, a national service organization which recruits young adults to live and work among the poor in inner-city neighborhoods.

As he became an influential evangelical leader, however, Bart increasingly questioned his own faith. In 2005 he returned to street-level community building in inner-city Cincinnati, where he eventually completed his gradual transition from Christianity to secular humanism. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2014, Bart’s work has been focused on inspiring and equipping all kinds of people to make the most of their lives by actively pursuing loving relationships, social justice and a genuine sense of wonder.

Because this is a very dull introduction to a very vibrant person, below are Bart’s answers to some frequently asked questions.

FAQ

Absolutely!!! I mean, just look at all these exclamation points!!!
Yes, Tony Campolo is my Dad. He’s also one of my all-time favorite people and the best live communicator I’ve ever heard. We’ve worked together on lots of ministry projects and towards the end of my Christian career I was the executive director of his ministry, EAPE. While my deconversion has been very difficult for him, he’s been incredibly understanding and our relationship is still strong and mutually supportive. In fact, we’re working on a book and documentary film together right now, which capture our ongoing conversation about faith, values, and the wisdom of loving people even when you seriously disagree with them.
I call myself a secular humanist these days not because I’m angry or fed up with the Church, but rather because I don’t want to confuse all those folks who no longer can or never could believe in supernatural forces, but still want to pursue goodness as a way of life. Such people have very few spiritual leaders, so I’m just trying to let them know where they can find one. That said, I’m still grateful for Christianity, since that’s where I learned almost everything I know about love. Just as I no longer live in Philadelphia, but still speak with that accent and love the Eagles, I’m proud of where I came from spiritually and I still root for the best kinds of Jesus followers. I know lots of those folks are praying for me these days, and I’m grateful. In fact, believe it or not, I still pray myself. I don’t think there’s anyone out there listening, but I know for a fact that there’s something about expressing our gratitude and articulating our deepest, most positive desires that makes us better people and changes our world by extension.
Every label has its drawbacks, but I avoid “atheist” and “skeptic” because they sound like negative definitions and because they’re too easily confused with anti-theism, which doesn’t work for someone like me. Technically I am indeed agnostic (I mean, have you really looked everywhere?), but the word suggests way more uncertainty than I actually feel. I’m way too aware of my cognitive biases to call myself a freethinker, and even if I wasn’t, my inner marketer tells me that moniker is way too old-fashioned. As unfortunately anthropo-chauvenistic as it sounds, “humanist” nevertheless immediately communicates a) I don’t believe in God and b) I’m actively committed to a positive value system. It also invites the question, what is humanism, anyway?
The American Humanist Association has a detailed manifesto that’s pretty good, but to me humanism is simply a commitment to pursue love and goodness for their own sakes, instead of because you believe in a God who will reward you for it. As the humanist statesman Robert Ingersoll once put it, “Reason, Observation, and Experience – the holy trinity of Science – have taught us that happiness is the only good, that the time to be happy is now, and that the way to be happy is to make others so.” That’s not much of an answer, of course. Giving a better one is what the rest of this website – and I hope the rest of my life – is all about.
Well, according to my USC (volunteer) job description, I provide regular inspiration, pastoral care, and supportive fellowship and service opportunities to USC students, faculty, staff members and local families and individuals who are exploring or actively pursuing secular goodness as a way of life. All of which means I do the same things any other kind of clergy person does, including officiating at weddings and funerals. I also meet and correspond with people from all over the world who are working through a wide variety of spiritual issues.
Now that’s a good question! Send me a note and let me know what’s on your mind. Don’t be shy. After all, if you want to make the most of your life, I’m on your side already.
Thank you! I think it’s important too. Other than by sharing links to my podcast and blog articles on social media and by telling your friends about them, the best support you can give is by giving a donation to the work I’m doing at the link HERE. My position is volunteer, after all, which means it relies upon the support of others to survive at all. These are amazing times and I think we’re starting to reach people! Thanks for being a part of it.