Atheist Summer Camp Programs Take a Page from Bible School PlaybookMadeline Holler
Every summer, when the camp and childcare funds run dry and we’ve got weeks to go before school starts up, I consider shipping my two oldest off to one of the many vacation Bible schools I see advertised all over the city. Or one of the week-long sleepover camps run different churches of various faiths all over our region of the state. The hours are decent, the price is great (in the case of VBS, sometimes it’s free or just the cost of a T-shirt).
What gets in the way is that we don’t believe in God. And my morals — which I, indeed, have — tell me that I can’t use the outreach of a church for my own personal gain. (Even though, technically, I’m offering up potential converts. Their call!)
All of which is to say I’m intrigued by Camp Quest.
Camp Quest is a summer camp for atheists and/or their kids. Also welcome are “agnostics, secular humanists, freethinkers and other self-identified members of the non-religious community,” according to the Washington Post. While some religious blogs have called Camp Quest a “Re-Education Camp,” some of its campers think of is more as a place where they can be comfortable with the fact that they don’t pray before eating.
Atheist camp is sort of modeled after church camp, where fun is mixed in with deeper thought. According to Camp Quest director Sarah Menon, camp programming includes much philosophical discussion, talk about ethics and critical thinking.
We want kids to know that they should do the right thing” even if they don’t believe in heaven.
But there’s also swimming and hiking and canoeing and lanyard-making. It sounds like a regular camp with no pressure to hide or make excuses for not believing in God.
Where my kids are growing up, there is enough religious diversity that tolerance for non-believing is, while not a given, it’s not something that’s unheard of. But there are plenty of places in the U.S. where one’s agnosticism (or atheism) or irritation with every presidential speech ending in “God bless America” isn’t something that’s freely shared. If you know of places like this, and I certainly do, I can see how great this camp could be.
From the Washington Post:
“I don’t have any freethinker friends at home,” says Jake Monsky, thoughtfully. He’s 11, with blond hair damp from spending his free time at the lake. At some of his friends’ houses, the families pray before dinner. Jake says he bows his head because he doesn’t want to be rude. He likes these friends a lot, but sometimes, he thinks that if he told his friends that he isn’t religious, “then they might not be my friends anymore.”
(Let’s hope they don’t read the Washington Post!)
Do you send your kids to church camp or VBS (or atheist camp)? Do you consider another
Photo: Chairman Meow via flickr