With encouragement from USC religious leaders, atheist alumna heeds her spiritual calling

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USC News

By Joanna Clay

February 9, 2018

Allison Rosen is in Boston, studying ministry and Buddhist animal ethics and also working at a homeless shelter.

The first-year Harvard Divinity School student is in heaven. “I have no doubt in my mind this is where I should be,” the USC alumna said.

Well, heaven might be a funny word to use.

Although Rosen is there to pursue chaplaincy, she might not be the cookie-cutter divinity student of generations past. She’s an atheist, a lesbian and an industrial engineer looking to apply the teachings of religious traditions to secular communities.

And she’s not alone.

“I am the norm,” Rosen, 24, said of her classmates at Harvard. “There are people from all different backgrounds, all different careers.”

“Nones” — folks who don’t affiliate themselves with a religious tradition — are becoming more and more prevalent. The Pew Research Center reports that 35 percent of millennials identify as nones, more than double their baby boomer counterparts.

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