Honestly, I didn’t know there was a need for such a thing. But, then again, there are Jewish camps and Christian camps. So why shouldn’t there be a camp for nonbelievers?
Camp Quest, the week-long sleepaway camp in Ohio, hosts about 80 children whose parents are atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonbelievers. The campers range in age from 8 to 17 and many of the kids are still figuring out their own religious beliefs and attitudes.Although campers participate in regular camp activities like hiking and sitting around campfires, they also engage in philosophical discussions about the nature of happiness. Sounds like deep stuff.
Founded in 1996, the camp’s “overarching philosophy is that life without religion is a perfectly healthy, viable option,” according to AP.
At mealtime, cabins take turns presenting “famous freethinkers” including Mark Twain and George Clooney. Not sure what landed Clooney in the same class at Twain, but he’s sure cute.
The camp gives the kids “one week where their families’ beliefs aren’t controversial,” said Amanda Metskas, executive director of Camp Quest Inc. “It gives them some confidence they can draw on.”
Juliana Panteloukas, 13, of New York, a self-described atheist, said that at home most of her friends are religious. As for her experience at camp, she said, “I just think it’s really nice because I feel these are my kind of people.”
I’m all for conveying the message that it’s okay to believe what you want, but isn’t part of the idea of sleepaway camp is to be exposed to an entirely different group of kids than you meet at home?
I grew up in an insular secular Jewish community and attended a YMCA sleepaway camp for many years. Part of the draw for me was that I got the chance to learn about another religion (attending chapel in the woods was a real experience) and to make friends who were completely different than the ones in my neighborhood at home. This summer, I’m sending my older daughter to the same camp with the hope that she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Would you want your kids to attend camp with kids from the same faith (or non-faith)?