Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Camp Quest and the Invisible Unicorns

I don't know why I was worried about my kids missing out on the Mormon Youth Programs since I never really enjoyed them much myself. I'm not gonna say I hated the Youth Programs entirely but there wasn't much I liked about them. I liked some of the leaders and I like some of the youth. I rarely liked the activities; I mean how many times can you bake chocolate chip cookies or write down your goals for future wifehood, blech!

So I was pretty excited to read in Richard Dawkins The God Delusion about Camp Quest - "founded in 1996, [it] is the first residential summer camp in the United StatesCanada, the United KingdomIreland, and Norway specifically for the children of nontheistic or freethinking parents (including atheistsagnosticssecular humanistsreligious humanistsskepticsrationalistsBrightsUnitarian Universalists, and others who hold a naturalistic worldview)". (Wiki). 

Hmmm, Canada? Ireland? Norway? These countries have been calling to me for a while now. Which one? which one? ..................... 

Their mission: Camp Quest is the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States aimed at the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural world view.

The purpose of Camp Quest is to provide children of freethinking parents a residential summer camp dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government.
Through our programs we seek to:
  • Build a community for freethinking families
  • Foster curiosity, questioning, and critical thinking
  • Encourage reason and compassion as foundations of an ethical, productive and fulfilling life
  • Raise awareness of positive contributions made by atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic people to our society
  • Promote an open dialogue about metaphysical questions that is marked by challenging each other’s ideas while at the same time treating each other with respect
  • Demonstrate atheism and humanism as positive, family-friendly worldviews.

They have a list of activities that I can get excited about! compared to the infuriating list of requirements that had to be checked off over the course of the Mormon camp experience (the boys didn't have a list of requirements grrrrrr!). One more moan for old times sake... they won't be subjected to intrusive scrutiny for their choice of clothing or style

America has a LOT of churches getting their groove on. Being an atheist in America is something many  people prefer to keep quiet about. I don't know if the same holds true here in Australia, I haven't been atheist long enough to find out I think. I wonder whether my kids will encounter any flack for having atheist parents...

   "Nearly two million American adults openly identify themselves as atheist or agnostic, according to a 2001 survey by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. As a group, they face more than their share of bigotry, said Edwin F. Kagin, Camp Quest's longtime director, and their children are often made to feel like outcasts.
    Many of the two dozen campers who attended this year's session last week recounted experiences of being called names and otherwise harassed. For instance, Travis Leepers, 17, from Louisiana, reported that just about everyone he knows has expressed concern to him about his soul and has tried to convert him.
    Sophia Riehemann, 14, from Bellevue, Ky., recalled how one of her schoolmates called her a devil-worshiper. "People get really confused sometimes," Sophia said. "They think that if we don't believe in God we believe in the devil."
    At Camp Quest, children age 8 to 17 take part in all the usual summer camp activities. But in addition to horseback riding, organized water balloon fights and outdoor survival lessons, the camp's volunteer staff aims to promote a healthy respect for science and rational inquiry, while assuring campers that there is nothing wrong with not believing in the Bible and not putting stock in a supreme creator."

I have no idea how to end this post and I've been dying to tie in the invisible unicorn theme but I am so tired and just can't be arsed tinkering with this write-up any longer. Unicorn poop for everyone! Goodnight


  1. I don't know about Australia but in California the boys had 4 or 5 merit badges to work on, each with its list of requirements.

  2. The Scouting program used to be a part of Young Mens here, it still is a bit but depends on what ward you're in. The YM camps tend to be more about activities than badges/requirements. Also, since the church doesn't own any camping grounds here the camp sites are often hired at the cheapest time of year (the coldest/wettest) and tend to be a bit of a flop anyway. I did go to a YW camp in Utah when I was 14 which was much better than the ones they have here but still riddled with unnecessary rules and obviously lots of talk about god etc as you'd expect from a church camp. I'd have loved the option to go to other camps that were not religious.

  3. Oh wait! but I did. I sent to 'Space Camp' in the first week that I was in Utah (at age 14) BUT that was full of indoctrination too. I felt bad for the Korean students who weren't Mormon. They took us to a session of Conference, we saw 'Legacy' at the JSMB, we toured the temple grounds and the other LDS buildings. What the! We could have spent another couple of hours in the simulator running and hiding from the Klingons (cute male camp leaders!) or setting of street fireworks, or rollerblading etc etc. There was heaps of cool stuff to do at Space Camp but it must have been an LDS initiative too.

  4. I've always found the church's relationship with scouting and the BSA a bit odd, but it's what the leaders and boys make it I guess.

  5. BSA? Boy Scouts of America?

    Exactly, I think that any curriculum is only as good as the teacher. ... and that a good teacher can rectify a shitty curriculum. I've completely forgotten what the original post was about now...

    Oh yeah, the YW camps I went on, both as a youth and as a leader were diabolical. They were always in the rainy cold winter or the stinking hot summer Ever heard of Spring! The leaders were anal (we seriously had some uptight leaders. Us girls added a surprise to a dead boring skit that the leaders had made us learn. We 'mooned' the crowd, and by that I mean we lifted up our grass skirts but had jeans on underneath... we thought it improved the skit immeasurably but our leaders spent the next hour yelling at us and the rest of the camp being mortified and mopey with us.)

    The best you could hope for was a good hike and some toasted marshmallows. And being at camp on a Sunday sucked!! dressing up in church attire, going to church classes, no activities. I honestly don't know anyone who enjoyed it, youth or leader. When I was a leader the girls would do anything to get out of going. So sad.