New England’s first atheist summer camp launches, raising questions about atheist youth education

Print More
Campers at Camp Quest Chesapeake in 2013.

Campers at Camp Quest Chesapeake in 2013. Photo by Siobhan Riordan, courtesy Riordan.

Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content by logging-in here.

This summer Camp Quest, a trailblazing summer camp for the children of nontheistic parents, will launch its first camp in New England. Program Director Paul Chiariello speaks with RNS about education for atheist youth and why they're not “indoctrinating” children.

  • Larry

    I think their greatest challenge is the lack of atheist campfire songs. 🙂

  • nope, we got those. So much is still beautiful and worth singing about in a world without god. 🙂

  • The Great God Pan

    “Some atheists might feel…”

    That’s awfully vague language, isn’t it? “Some” atheists “might” feel that Mr. Stedman is using imaginary third parties to air his own opinions.

    I’ve never seen a religious interviewer ask the head of a religious summer camp about “indoctrination” and demand a justification for their camp’s existence.

  • Larry

    Good to know! 🙂

    It would be great if they can expand into the Northeast a bit more. Even though there is a plethora of non-religious summer camp options in those areas. I can see this sort of camp fitting in well in NY or NJ

  • Well our newest camp is Camp Quest New England! But I definitely agree. The closest one after that is around DC.

  • Freethinkin Franklin

    excellent… hope they open one here in Florida. one would hope these “followers” of christ, would be more christ like and not bully those who do not submit to superstitions.

    i do agree with the comment asking for Jerry Falwell, Tammy Fay Bakker, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Ken Ham and Kent Hovind to get questioned about indoctrination of children…..

  • Actually, I appreciated the question because it is something that a number of atheists are rightfully suspicious. It was also a chance to further distinguish a trait of many harmful religious camps from what we’re aiming for at CQ.

  • Atheist Max

    There are a lot of good campfire songs without Gods

    The American Songbook – woody guthrie has some great ones.
    Heddie Ledbetter
    The Joni Mitchell songbook ALONE will suffice for some kids:
    Big Yellow Taxi: (“don’t know what you got til its gone”)
    The Circle Game: (“goes round and round”)
    Woodstock
    Ladies of the Canyon

    Beatles:
    All you need is Love.
    Imagine
    Across the Universe
    All things must pass
    Free as a Bird
    Here Comes the Sun
    I Feel Fine
    I’ll Follow the Sun
    IN MY LIFE
    Norwegian Wood

    Goodness – who needs gods for a camp song !?!
    The more I think of it
    the good ones are all without any mention of god at all.

  • Atheist Max

    You are doing great, important work!
    Thanks.

  • Freethinkin Franklin

    indeed… fan base says The Beatles have Pat Boone and his kid Debbie beat no problem…

  • There’s also good campfire songs made by Public Enemy, The Wu-Tang Clan, and the peer-reviewed rap of Baba Brinkman.

  • Atheist Max

    Chris Stedman, Thanks for making sure atheists get a voice. Your articles are incredibly helpful.

  • gilhcan

    Religious people who hold negative attitudes toward non-religious people are really hypocrites. Most religions, in spite of the evil histories of most of them, and in spite of the nasty attitudes many religious people hold toward non-religious people, especially free thinkers, urge their members to be good, decent, respectful and caring of others.

    Sadly, that is not the practice of uncountable, loud members of the various religions. Numerous religious people are arrogant and consider themselves better, brighter, more inspired, or more informed than people who do not accept religion. In many cases, as with the Taliban of Islam or with so many religious extremists in our presumed democracy, they are downright nasty toward others in their conviction that belief trumps all knowledge.

    Just as sad is the arrogance of too many free thinkers who hold those arrogant,negative attitudes toward people with religious convictions. Definitely, the odds are stacked against free thinkers, but we will never have peace in this world or this country until there are good attitudes on the part of religious people and free thinkers toward each other. Separation of church and state means both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

  • gilhcan

    Gee, Freethinkin Franklin, you left out “Franklin” Graham and his father.

    We know all the big ones. It’s the “followers” in both camps who need changes of mind and attitude sets.

  • gilhcan

    What is most needed is for everyone to start practicing the words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all…”

    We have no chance of progressing toward any wholesome good until we live with such a spirit in a nation that practices the genuine freedom for religion and freedom from religion that is meant by the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment to our Constitution.

  • Atheist Max

    “You have your freedom. If you can keep it.” – Benjamin Franklin

    SCOTUS shot down freedom from religion yesterday because the Christian Lobby wants to push their nonsense on all of us.

    Where is the outrage? Who is leading the opposition?

  • david

    Actually-they do have “prophets”, those of the failed predictions of the prophets of doom & gloom of the environmental/global warming/climate change prophecies.
    They also have dogma, such as their origins myth of macro-evolution or the big bang theory (or as some secular scientist who now reject the big bang have come up with the brane theory, MOND, etc.).
    As for “nurturing an “us versus them” approach –that is exactly what they are doing-isolating themselves among like minded individuals who deny the existence of God.
    You people can be so PHONY sometimes….u know what I’m saying?

  • Jamie who can’t believe

    David, you are so right.
    Old fashioned religion is what we need. Perfection has always been a part of God’s plan and we need not look elsewhere for the TRUTH!

    God commands it….Kill the women. Rape the little girls:
    “Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. ‘Why have you let all the women live?’ he demanded. …They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.” (Num:31:18)

    David,
    The lessons we learn from this chapter is that keeping a number of virgins for yourself is exactly what God wants us to do so no wonder it comes naturally. Men have been given this right to do with women whatever the men want to do – and the women should be made to understand that this is how they are to be treated.
    It is not merely my opinion (thank goodness) but the word of the living, loving God.

    God’s laws are perfect and unchanging. They never were flawed. Ever.
    So they are still good in the sense that we can admire them even if we don’t practice these laws as often as the religious would like.

    Jesus loved these laws as much as we do. He was God, you know.

  • Ken

    At Camp Quest Texas, we sang “Imagine” by John Lennon.

  • Ken

    Isn’t that what Christians do as well? Lock themselves away to include only those who believe in god? If you are so wanting to integrate, why don’t you suggest Christians go to a Unitarian Church then?

    Churches can have all their religious camps and nobody says anything about them, but people have a heart attack over a camp because it is Atheist.

  • Sam

    So, let me get this straight:

    When religious people do this, they’re indoctrinating their children.

    When atheists do this, they’re not indoctrinating their children.

    Talk about double standards.

    And before anyone butts in and says “they’re promoting free-thinking!” well they can’t be if they shoot down anything that mentions God. In our limited understanding and knowledge of the universe, anyone saying there is “no god” and then teaching their children that and discouraging them to think of a Prime-Mover, is guilty of indoctrination.

  • Sam

    First it’s atheist churches, now its atheist summer camps. You atheists really are a funny lot.

  • Sam

    So, let me get this straight:

    When religious people do this, they’re indoctrinating their children.

    When atheists do this, they’re not indoctrinating their children.

    Talk about double standards.

    And before anyone butts in and says “they’re promoting free-thinking!” well they can’t be if they shoot down anything that mentions God. In our limited understanding and knowledge of the universe, anyone saying there is “no god” and then teaching their children that and discouraging them to think of a Prime-Mover, is guilty of indoctrination.

  • Jaden Fivekiller

    I am looking for a good summer camp for my 11 and 16 yrs olds. We are a traditional Native family. I am sickened by every summer camp having Christianity in it. I just want my kids to have a fun summer, meeting new kids their ages, being able to learn to ride a horse, make pottery, robotics, row a canoe lol anything but learn about a God that does not exist for my family n never has. We live in Tahlequah OKLA even our tribe supports Christianity which is sickening.

  • Jaden Fivekiller

    How can one quote a monster who hung 38 Lakota warriors. I do not want my kids at a camp with christians no more than i want them at a camp who wants to worship euro monsters. This is what many do not understand or even want to know. Many of us Natives do not want Christianity on oue soil any more than we want the disease infestig our children or our people. Many of us Natives do not celebrate euro holidays or salute the euro death rag. We just want a camp where our kids can have fun, make friends n enjoy their summer without being polluted or diseased

    http://www.unitednativeamerica.com/hanging.html