Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Atheist Summer Camps For Children and Teenagers?

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 30, 2010

News out of Great Britain indicates that Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world’s most famous living atheist, is setting up a summer camp intended to help children and teenagers adopt atheism. As The Times [London] reports: “Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.”

The camp, based upon an American precursor, is to be financially subsidized by Dawkins. According to media reports, all 24 places at the camp have been taken.

AsLois Rogers of The Times reports:

Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism. There will be sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war. There will also be a £10 prize for the child who can disprove the existence of the mythical unicorn.

The organizers of the camp are doing everything possible to emulate more traditional summer camps, generally organized by Christian groups or venerable organizations such as the Boy Scouts. Campers are to learn about evolution even as they go canoeing and swimming. Like their counterparts at Christian camps, these campers will sing songs around the campfire. As might be expected, the songs will be quite different.  “Instead of singing Kumbiya and other campfire favourites, they will sit around the embers belting out ‘Imagine there’s no heaven . . . and no religion too.’”

Camp Quest, established in the United States in 1996, has now expanded to six locations. While its numbers are small in terms of attendance, especially as compared to more traditional camps, the camps for atheists receive a good deal of media attention.

In this light, it appears that this announcement hardly adds to the reputation of Richard Dawkins. In the parlance of American popular culture, he appears to have “jumped the shark.” As this phrase indicates, some figures in the public eye become something like parodies of themselves. In this case, the recently retired Oxford University professor has thrown his public reputation behind an effort that appears to be profoundly unserious when it comes to reaching the masses. If Richard Dawkins is really so concerned to support atheism, it hardly seems that a summer camp limited to 24 children and teenagers represents a bold advance for his cause.

In recent months, Dawkins has spent his personal credibility on a project to put atheistic messages on London buses and, now, on this very small experiment in a secularist camp for children. The bus advertisement campaign became something of a joke, with the signs declaring only the claimed probability that there is no God. Londoners seemed more bemused than persuaded. Now, Professor Dawkins lends both his name and his financial support to an atheistic summer camp that will teach evolution to children by day and teach them to sing the songs of John Lennon by night. The Boy Scouts should not fear the competition.

At a deeper level, the existence of this camp in Great Britain and its sister camps in the United States indicates something of the intellectual insecurity of contemporary atheism and agnosticism. The effort to create a religion-free zone for summer camp makes for an interesting news story in the media, but it is not likely to draw the masses.

What comes after atheistic bus signs and a secularist summer camp? Time, as they say, will tell.

Courtesy of http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/06/30/richard-dawkins-jumps-the-shark/

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6 Responses to “Atheist Summer Camps For Children and Teenagers?”

  1. jugglinbob said

    Erm… Nice report, well researched. It used both present and future tenses indicating that the camp is just being set up.

    Except that it isn’t. This is old, old news!

    Even your link has a posting date of just over 11 months ago…

    As to the bus campaign – as a Brit I can confirm that it was a success. It prompted debates both at nation level in the media and at the “water-cooler” level (as you Yanks might say) in the workplace. This is what the whole campaign was meant to do!

    However, I did like the come-back that one Church of England church came up with. They paid for signs at bus stops (in the same font and style) stating “There’s probably no bus”.

    But back to your post:

    “What comes after atheistic bus signs and a secularist summer camp? Time, as they say, will tell”

    Well Time TRAVEL anyway…

    As to the bus campaign – as a Brit I can confirm that it was a success. It prompted debates both at nation level in the media, and at the “water-cooler” (as you Yanks might say) in the workplace. This is what the whole campaign was meant to do!

    I did like the come-back that one Church of England church came up with. They paid for signs at bus stops (in the same font and style) stating “There’s probabaly no bus”.

    But back to your post:

    “What comes after atheistic bus signs and a secularist summer camp? Time, as they say, will tell”

    Well Time Travel anyway…

    • Hey Jugglinbob,

      I realized the post was about a camp last year but the purpose of posting it was to raise awareness that atheists are proselytizing and indoctrinating children and teenagers to atheism. Sorry about the present tense. I will try harder next time. Although I think your reaction was a little over the top for a Brit. Thought the Brits were always cool-headed in the face of opposition and controversy. Churchillesque if that is a word.

      I guess from your post that maybe the turnout was a little low as I assume Dawkins is not doing it again this summer. I let my Richard Dawkins monthly newsletter lapse so I was not current on his events. Although it is hard to fight against God and ever expect you can win.

      I do like the one church of England response.

      Thanks for your post as I always love hearing from our atheist friends. I will respond to your evolution comments and other postings later this week.

      Faith and the Law Blog

  2. jugglinbob said

    Also – how does it “At a deeper level… indicate[s] something of the intellectual insecurity of contemporary atheism and agnosticism”?

    The fact that this item became news a year ago indicates that it is unusual for a camp to have no theistic leanings. If setting up ONE atheist camp in the UK shows the intellectual insecurity of atheism, then how insecure must the theists be, as they have hundreds of camps? Surely it must be proportional? Or not, in which case your argument is proved invalid.

    Please note, that this camp was organised NOT to teach atheism, but rather to teach basic philosophy, and empowering children to decide for themselves!
    Perhaps is it OK to indoctrinate children at camp TOWARDS a religious belief, whilst teaching them the tools to make up their own minds is wrong?

    I am concerned about your logic here!

  3. […] tomorrow’s actually because of nature’s amazing time travel ability by time zone!) Faithandthelaw’s Blog, in which we learn that Dawkins is setting up an atheist camp!  The peice is written in present […]

  4. jugglinbob said

    Thanks for your response.

    I did understand your reasons for posting, but still stick with the fact that the majority of youth camps have some form of theistic leaning, so the fact that you are raising “awareness that atheists are proselytizing and indoctrinating children and teenagers to atheism” doesn’t really make any sense, as far more religious groups are “proselytizing and indoctrinating children and teenagers” by their use of camps. I hope that you’ll address this fact in a future post.

    As to my reaction – it mainly came from the fact that you reported (or at least copied and pasted a report) which misleadingly gave the impression that this was current news. If you did know, as you have now stated, that this was a piece from last year then why didn’t you say so in the original post? A quick header saying “found this about something that happened 11 months ago” before copy and pasting would have sufficed. But you did not. You reported this as NEWS. OK enough said on that one – I think that you were deliberately misleading in your post, whilst you don’t seem to think that the 11 month gap was important…

    However, I’m not sure where the bit about “I guess from your post that maybe the turnout was a little low as I assume Dawkins is not doing it again this summer” came from, (especially as Dawkins never “did it” in the first place!) I’m sure that you’ll be glad to hear that it seems that it was indeed a success, as instead of one camp, like last year, that in fact TWO camps are being held in the UK! (http://www.camp-quest.org.uk/). Mathematically, it’s growing at an exponential rate!

    I do however have some concerns about these camps… mainly that the only children who would go to such a camp would be children of atheist parents, whilst I firmly believe that this sort of teaching should be given BY LAW to all children. Give them the intellectual tools, ability, and opportunity to evaluate their beliefs, and then, and in fact, ONLY then, are they able to make an informed choice about their chosen religion or indeed, lack of one. I agree with the sentiment and subtext of your copied post – indoctrination of minors is wrong, and immoral. Giving minors the ability to decide (both intellectually and morally) about their religious belief has to be the only ethical way – and this is the aim of these camps. I’m sure that you’ll agree with me here if your stated sentiments were honest.

    I wish that I’d been given this choice as a child, and it is one that I have given my own daughter, (who at the moment is some form of Christian, yet still understands that the bible is not necessarily accurate or true, but gives her some guidance about how to live her life)

    I look forward to your comments about this, and about the evolution points I raised elsewhere.

    Take care, Bob

  5. […] HOT OFF THE PRESS (Cont.) Faithandthelaw commented on his page about my […]

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