NEWS: Freethinking Camp Headed for Texas

800px-Ariane_Sherine_and_Richard_Dawkins_at_the_Atheist_Bus_Campaign_launchCamp Quest, self-described as “the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for 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,” is heading to Texas later this month. The camp was founded by Edwin and Helen Kagin after an atheist was barred from Scout camp. First held in 1996, Camp Quest now has programs in nearly a half dozen cities across the country – from California to the Smoky Mountains – as well as a Canadian site in Ontario. The newest program will meet for just one day, Sunday, August 30, in Princeton, TX, a town north of Dallas.

According to the official website, Camp Quest aims 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 guaranteed by the Constitution.” Campers – who must be between the ages of 5 and 13 – are not required to be atheists to attend, though scientific thinking is given preference to faith. Activities will include “learning about different animals, making pottery, and having lots of great fun!”

Earlier this summer, Richard Dawkins (pictured above) lent his support to Camp Quest UK, a weeklong retreat in Somerset for children aged 8 to 17. As is perhaps to be expected, especially now that Dawkins has become involved, Camp Quest has come under attack in a number of recent editorials, blogs, and letters to the editor. The most common accusation among these voices is that the organization is no less evangelical or fundamentalist than its theistic counterparts and that it leaves no room for dialogue between religion and science.

For the official Camp Quest Texas website, click here. To hear or read a transcript of NPR’s Michel Martin interviewing Camp Quest Incorporated’s president of the board, Amanda Metskas, click here. For more on Richard Dawkins’ involvement, click here. And, last but not least, to see Camp Quest make the top five list on Stephen Colbert’s “Threat Down,” click here.

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