Christianity Today on Camp Quest

Last week, there was a front page article in the Chicago Tribune on Camp Quest, the summer camp for non-religious families.

Christianity Today’s blog features a post by Stan Guthrie regarding that article.

The Tribune interviewed several young campers in Ohio about their beliefs, or lack thereof. I don’t think Christians have a lot to worry about. Here is a sampling:

“[Sophia] Riehemann notes that a secular perspective takes away childhood joys other kids have, such as Christmas. But that doesn’t bother her. ‘They have Santa Claus,’ she said, ‘and we have Isaac Newton.’”

Actually, Sophia, I hate to break this to you, but you have Santa Claus, and we have Isaac Newton.

Then there is Allison Page, who is described as a 9-year-old only child. Reflecting on the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Allison opines, “It just doesn’t make sense. A brother wouldn’t kill his brother.”

Ah, the innocence of children. Just wait until you have siblings, Allison.

Ouch. He’s picking on the children. That’s good journalism.

No doubt Newton believed in God (though it’s wasn’t exactly Protestant Christianity), but I wonder how Guthrie would have responded had she used the examples of, say, James Watson and Francis Crick. Both great scientists. Both atheists.

Not to mention there are plenty of Christian children who believe in Santa. It’s not an “atheist thing.”

As for the other girl, Guthrie turns her perfectly valid comment into a joke.

And I’m not sure Christians had much to “worry about” in the first place, as there are hundreds (thousands?) of Christian summer camps/Bible camps, and there is just a small handful of Camp Quests.

Notice also that the subtitle to the blog posting.

Does Guthrie actually imply Camp Quest is worse than Jesus Camp? Has he seen the movie?!

Helen made a post about how this article is poking fun at people (children) in a poor attempt at humor. Guthrie even commented on the posting:

Any atheist who is offended by my little post poking a bit of fun at a summer atheist camp that supposedly teaches children how to think for themselves needs to lighten up and enjoy the irony. The really funny parts were what the campers said, not what I said.

It’s not a “bit of fun.” It’s this exact type of message that makes it difficult for atheists to be accepted and treated as equals in society.

Unfortunate, many Christians will read this article and take it seriously, not as a joke. And Guthrie, of all people, should know that.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Camp Quest, Christianity Today, Stan Guthrie, Chicago Tribune, Christian, Sophia Riehemann, Christmas, Santa Claus, Isaac Newton, Allison Page, Cain and Abel, God, James Watson, Francis Crick, Jesus Camp[/tags]

  • Jen

    What a jackass. “Children don’t have the life experience I do, let’s laugh at their stupidty.” I think as many atheists as possible need to go over there and mention that.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    “I think as many atheists as possible need to go over there and mention that.”

    Yes, but will it magically “disappear” like their poll on atheism?

    Journalism much?

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    I just think its funny that adult atheists on the one hand will get angry about Christians “indoctrinating” kids and on the other hand send their kids to camps that “teach” them to say things like what those kids said.

  • Desert Son

    Any atheist who is offended by my little post poking a bit of fun at a summer atheist camp that supposedly teaches children how to think for themselves needs to lighten up and enjoy the irony.

    Classic abdication of responsibility. “Hey, lighten up, it’s just a joke!” What this misses, what it always misses, is the power behind comedy (not to mention the insult implicit: “you have no sense of humor!”)

    The power behind comedy is joking at the expense of the powerful, not the weak. The comic is funny because the jokes hit home in the belly of those in power. Jokes at the expense of the weak aren’t born in the impulse of humor, they’re born in the impulse of cruelty.

    Hey, Stan, pick on someone your own size, huh? Disagree with what they’re learning at camp? Fine, take it up with their parents, guardians, and teachers. It’s hard enough being a kid and trying to sort through all the data that assaults people on a daily basis, much of it hostile. There’s a word for those who make fun at the expense of the weak, and children. They’re called bullies.

    No kings,

    Robert

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I’ll send my kid to science camp, not atheist camp.

    When she’s a surgeon or discovers the cure for cancer, she’ll be saving the lives of all those flat-earth, young-earth, humans-are-the-center-of-the-universe Jesus Campers who are still babbling in tongues and worshiping their cardboard figures of Bush.

  • Jen

    macht- I think the difference between Christian camps and Camp Quest is that Camp Quest teaches one HOW to think, while Christian camps teach WHAT to think. I went to a Christian camp 7 years ago. They taught us no critical thinking skills; they merely indoctrinated us. It was scare tactics, releasing only certain bits of information, and telling us, rather than allowing for discovery, discussing, or debating. And this was a fairly laid back camp, not a Jesus Cam by any means.

  • Logos

    Yeah, take that macht!!!

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    “a brother wouldn’t kill a brother”, said like an only child could say it.

    These theme camps aren’t likely to produce free thought, did any of them come away thinking that their parents and the camp staff might be wrong about the supernatural?

    “and we have Isaac Newton”, apparently they’re not teaching them about the virutes of sharing. No, young materialist, “you” do not have Isaac Newton, Isaac Newton had Isaac Newton, whoever masters his calculus and physics has those. Didn’t they tell these children the shocking truth that Isaac Newton was religious to a degree that even many other religious people can find overwhelming? Or was that truth too much to burden them with?

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Ummm, that’s quite a big generalization about Christian camps, don’t you think? And how can you possibly think that a kid who says, “They have Santa Claus and we have Isaac Newton” is learning HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

  • Vincent

    I don’t want to go anywhere near that woman.
    If she thinks about killing her siblings, none of us is safe.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    And how can you possibly think that a kid who says, “They have Santa Claus and we have Isaac Newton” is learning HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

    I don’t pretend to know what the girl is thinking, but you seem to be taking the statement as literally as Stan Guthrie.

    I think I understand what she means. It’s a simple statement. She means we have science and Christians have myth.

    That you don’t understand it, and merely look for “Was Newton a member of their clan or ours?” is the kind of tribalist thinking I sadly have come to expect of folks.

    That you are blind, apparantly, to any other possibility, including my simple statement above, causes me to wonder if literalism has you blinkered.

  • Jen

    Ok, you caught me! Secretly, I have not been to every Christian camp in the nation. Because of that, I have to generalize based on my experience, my friends’ experience, and the nature of religion in general. I think that there can be a religion that involves logic and thought and debate, even for children, but that was not my experience growing up.

    Also, a 9 year old named a scientist who was religious. What if she had said “Darwin” or “Dawkins” or “Rebecca of Skepchick”? The point would still stand. And the fact that Newton wrote a bunch on religion but is remembered for his science was probably her point. We, the atheists, have scientists and the scientific method, you, the religious, have myths, legends, and Santa.

    And again, the kid could leave believing in the supernatural, assuming the supernatural is something that can be reasoned using logic, rational thought, and science. The kids will leave the camp able to think for themselves, and evaulate on their own the claims of any and all adults that offer them opinions on the world..

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    My point about Newton had NOTHING to do with the fact that he was religious. It doesn’t matter if it was Newton or Dawkins or any other scientist. She said “They have Santa Claus and we have Isaac Newton.” (my emphasis, obviously) The people who are indoctrinating this kid at this camp are the ones who are establishing “clan”-like thought into her.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Macht,

    How do you know they taught her to think that?

    How do you know that they didn’t teach her how to think and she came up with that on her own?

    Is she supposed to come up with nothing but unassailable thoughts at age 9?

    How old are you? You haven’t figured out how to do that yet, either.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    We, the atheists, have scientists and the scientific method, you, the religious, have myths, legends, and Santa.

    Jen, you like arrogant atheists always do, don’t seem to realize that science, evolution, math, reasoning, etc. don’t belong to atheists. If the poll figures of between 3 and 14% of the American population are atheists then there are far more religious believers who accept science than there are atheists. “Atheists” do not have these things anymore than religious people do, they belong to whoever masters the essential information and techniques required to possess them. If there is one thing that shows the cultist aspects of some atheism it is that kind of statement.

    I haven’t found atheists on the blogs to be particularly good at reasoning, I’ve found religious liberals generally are better at both reasoning and in knowing what they’re talking about. Some atheists are pretty much on the level of religious fundamentalists, when it comes right down to it. Or members of AmWay.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    My mommy said I shouldn’t talk to you anymore.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Make that If the poll figures of between 3 and 14% of the American population are atheists are accurate then there …

  • Jen

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist, Learn to read. I was trying to reason out what the little kid’s point was, not what my point was.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Jen, I can read. Learn to write.

  • Darryl

    I haven’t found atheists on the blogs to be particularly good at reasoning, I’ve found religious liberals generally are better at both reasoning and in knowing what they’re talking about. Some atheists are pretty much on the level of religious fundamentalists, when it comes right down to it. Or members of AmWay.

    This is a stupid statement.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Jen, I can read. Learn to write.

    Is there a phrase that means the opposite of “touché”?

    Cause you earned it there.

  • Jen

    I wrote earlier

    I think that there can be a religion that involves logic and thought and debate, even for children, but that was not my experience growing up.

    And then wrote

    Also, a 9 year old named a scientist who was religious. What if she had said “Darwin” or “Dawkins” or “Rebecca of Skepchick”? The point would still stand. And the fact that Newton wrote a bunch on religion but is remembered for his science was probably her point. We, the atheists, have scientists and the scientific method, you, the religious, have myths, legends, and Santa.

    So clearly I was talking about the child, not my personal belief. This was not a failure in writing.

  • Joe

    Well, if you want to go the numbers route, statistically, the more educated person is, the more likely they are to be an Atheist.

    But all of that misses the point.

    I’ve gone to christian run camps before. They really shove it down your throat.
    I went to a science camp, and it was a heck of a lot more fun.
    There was a bog on the camp grounds. We caught bugs, and took water samples to look at under the microscopes.
    I learned critical thinking and obversation skills I still use today.
    By and far, much more useful than learning how to recite bible verses.

  • http://globalizati.wordpress.com globalizati

    “Learn to read.” “Learn to write.” “I’m rubber, you’re glue.”

    And the atheists and Christians argue like children…

  • http://joniruhs.wordpress.com Joni

    Amen globalizati. Oops. I said Amen.

    Seriously, isn’t this camp thing more about parenting? Raise your kids how you want to raise them. In church or not. Just because its a bible camp doesn’t mean its a good one. Just because its not a bible camp doesn’t mean its a bad one. Geez, there are yodels on each “side”.

    I view one of my jobs as a parent is to teach my kids about making choices and how to reach a conclusion. I don’t want to leave that entirely to people I don’t know. Kids spend exponentially more time with their parents(hopefully) than they do in Sunday school or non-Sunday school(sorry, didn’t know what the opposite was). So who do you suppose SHOULD have the larger influence?

  • Steelman

    Olvlzl, and macht are a bit over the top in regard to what comes out of the mouths of babes, and the playground antics, I think. The treatment of children can evoke rather emotional responses, I suppose. ;)

    I agree with Siamang’s 1:51 comment. We don’t know if the child quoted was taught the Sir Isaac Newton line or not, and have to take the maturity of her age into consideration when judging what she said. Also, I wonder what other quotes were available to the author of the article, but weren’t used since they didn’t aid his purpose of poking fun?

    I’ve been to Christian camp before. I was seven or eight, I think. I asked what hell was like one night. The wide-eyed, young camp counselor fearfully told me, and a couple of my cohorts, about the excruciating horrors of eternally burning flesh that was continually renewed, only to be burned again and again. Then we put a bunch of fruit salad in the bottom of his sleeping bag when he wasn’t looking. Bastard. :)

    Olvlzl, I appreciate the call for balance in your 1:11 post. It makes me wonder how accepting the Camp Quest counselors would be of a child’s notions of the supernatural? How would the evolution discussion go if little Jimmy said he thought there might be a God who invented the laws of physics and natural selection? I’m hoping the reaction would be much more tolerant than if that same child piped up that he thought there might not be a God, during that same discussion at Creation Camp.

  • http://mjlacore.net Mark

    Such irony. I read your post immediately after I read this one from Atheist Revolution. I feel compelled to call those of you who do not believe in God on what seems to be your freedom to be bitterly sarcastic and cutting towards those of us who do, while brooking no criticism towards yourselves. I make no claim to such freedom, and don’t wish to reciprocate, yet I cannot resist pointing out the irony. It’s hard to see that graceless rationalism could be any better, or more attractive, than the graceless extremist religious views so often derided in the atheist world.

  • Darryl

    It’s hard to see that graceless rationalism could be any better, or more attractive, than the graceless extremist religious views so often derided in the atheist world.

    Please tell me just how it is that you know the mind of “those of [us] who do not believe in God”? “Graceless rationalism.” Interesting formulation. Please expand on your view of rationalism and how you know that all those who do not believe in God hold such rationalism. I’m disposed to think that their might be more than just two villainous groups beside the graceless rationalists and the graceless fundamentalists. Get some imagination going.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Mark,

    Thanks for stopping by to condemn us for our narrow, bitter and graceless ways. :-)

    We usually are quite welcoming people, especially to new posters. It’s difficult, however, to get a proper friendly greeting when your post starts off with such condemnation. I hope you’ll accept my apologies for whatever offenses intended or unintended you’ve recieved in the past from nonbelievers. May I extend an olive-branch to you.

    I do hope you continue to post here, because we welcome a friendly dialogue. Please tell us about yourself.

    We here don’t pretend to know all the answers. None of us claims to. But we do find the questions, and the process of questioning worthwhile. We are but humble travellers upon this earth, and we seek to understand others, particularly people with different beliefs. At the same time, we seek the understanding of people who similarly believe differently, and we feel caught sometimes in a society that has little respect for people who think differently. I think your Jesus Christ himself had a little experience with that predicament, eh?

    As I said to other theists… don’t judge us until you know our stories.

    Here’s mine.

    And welcome!

  • http://mjlacore.net Mark

    Darryl,

    I do not know that all who don’t believe in God hold to “graceless rationalism”, nor did I say such a thing. I’m certain there are those who are atheists who are quite capable of expressing kindness and grace toward those who disagree with them, just as there are multitudes of Christians whose everyday lives bear no resemblance to the extremist caricatures who seem often to be portrayed on atheist blogs and websites. Nothing is so simple as the black and white world you seem to be think I meant.

    In fact, my comment was in response to the juxtaposition of one atheist blog post rife with bitter sarcasm towards Christians at its heart, and another (this one) lambasting a Christian post where the author is criticizing the atheist summer camp. I am not defending the Guthrie post, either; I think it’s tone was inappropriate. I simply was captured by the irony of jumping from one post to the other.

    The degree to which I “know the mind of those who do not believe in God”, as you express it, is very simply the degree to which I have read certain blogs. It is, to be sure, a very limited view. But it is the view I am getting at this time. I would more than welcome a different view, if you can point me in that direction.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Steelman, of course I was over the top. As the scare quotes in my first comment suggest, I think the line between “indoctrination” and “teaching” is thin and it largely depends on one’s perspective. (I’m not talking about the extreme’s here.) Some of the earlier comments by others were being WAY over the top by suggesting sending kids to a bible camp is like sending them to a North Korean prison camp to be brainwashed while sending them to Camp Quest is the epitome of Enlightenment thought. I’m exaggerating of course. Quite obviously, the truth lies somewhere in between. When I called somebody on this type of generalization, the reply was “You’re right.” But then she continued with “We, the atheists, have scientists and the scientific method, you, the religious, have myths, legends, and Santa.” At that point I just decided to play the game that she was playing and make wild generalizations based on limited information. Then my mommy said I couldn’t talk to you any more (she’s outside right now – don’t tell on me).

    In any case, you are absolutely right that we have no idea whether this kid was indoctrinated with this crap or not. I honestly hope she did come up with it on her own, although judging by some of stuff said in the comments here, I doubt it.

  • http://mjlacore.net Mark

    Siamang,

    Thanks for the welcome! I apologize for sounding condemning; that was not my intent. The peril of this sort of communication is that it’s difficult to capture nuance in brief and often hurried writing.

    I hope my previous response to Darryl above helps clarify what I meant to say. In a weird sort of way, I guess I meant my criticism to be constructive. A dialog between people who are asking the same questions, even if they come from radically different starting points, is always of value, but it can only happen in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The majority of what I have read from the atheist blog world thus far, however, limited as it is, has not seemed to indicate a lot of respect for opposing views and probably serves only to harden the opposition. I would welcome a conversation in that sort of atmosphere, and I will definitely take time to read your story. If you are interested, you can see at least a portion of mine on my web site at mjlacore.net.

    Thanks much,
    Mark

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Macht,

    When I called somebody on this type of generalization, the reply was “You’re right.” But then she continued with “We, the atheists, have scientists and the scientific method, you, the religious, have myths, legends, and Santa.”

    Jen has already said that she was explaining the child’s quote, not saying that she, Jen, thinks that.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Yeah, and I was writing about what I was thinking at the time, not what I think now.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Hi Mark,

    I already looked at your site (congratulations, gramps!), and it’s what caused me to try and reach out better to you than what interaction with atheists you may have had in the past.

    The sad truth of the matter is that there are precious, precious few places in this big wide internet where positive communication between atheists and Christians is valued.

    If you’re surfing atheist sites where Christians post, or if you’re surfing Christian sites where atheists post (without getting deleted or banned), I have yet to find a place where people rise above playing to “their own,” while diminishing “the other”.

    But this site is an attempt at better. I recommend reading Hemant’s book, which was published by a Christian imprint of Random House… it’s an honest, open, respectful beginning of a dialogue with Christians by an atheist.

    Is this site perfect? No. Does Hemant sometimes post things that don’t always please the Christian posters here? Yes. Are people sometimes rude? Yes, but the rudeness that sometimes crops up comes from both camps. But to take the opposite tack, some wonderful posters here are Christians. Hemant had a Christian Pastor guest blog here for a number of posts a week or so ago… so it’s pretty open around here.

    I blog on a related subject matter, and it’s a blog co-hosted by Christians, and atheists for a Christian ministry. It may be unique in the world…. that commitment toward such an open dialogue.

    Beyond the peskyness of human behavior…. sometimes people don’t behave well…. But a certain type of atheist posts here. It’s the kind that seeks a better conversation than you can find elsewhere.

    I myself rarely venture to the wild and woolyier parts of the atheist net… I have no desire for knock-down-drag-out internet brawls. I never venture into deepest darkest Christian webland either, where my beliefs would be linked with the word “satanic”. Those people are forever lost to me, and I’d just be beating my head against the wall with that lot.

    Anyway, I apologize if you’ve found the conversations here lacking as well. Please add your voice to them, and improve them by example and participation.

    This community is only as good as its members. Welcome!

  • http://mjlacore.net Mark

    Siamang,

    I’ve looked at your blog at Off-The-Map and very much look forward to reading it regularly. It seems to be exactly what I’m looking for. I will continue to read here as well, but will probably stay away from what you call the “wild and woolyier parts of the atheist net”. Like you, I’m not in the least bit interested in a brawl.

    I’m concerned, though, that our little conversation here is getting way off the track of this thread and perhaps we need to move it elsewhere. If you are interested at all in doing so, please drop me an e-mail using the contact form on my blog.

    I would also like to put a link to your blog on my site, if that’s OK with you. My blog as it stands now is pretty new and there aren’t a lot of readers yet, but I would like to point people to you when I can in hope of furthering respectful dialog.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  • Lynn

    I posted at the Christianity Today blog about my kids’ experiences at Camp Quest last year and that they are going again this year. (Note: There are five Camp Quests this year, and the one in Ohio is over. Each site only holds camp for one week each summer.)

    If a reporter was to ask my kids questions about how they’ve been raised by their atheist parents or what they thought about Camp Quest, I would be shocked if they could offer a one sentence sound bite. Instead, they would provide some long winded story, full of tangents. Debaters and public speakers, they’re not, let alone understanding nuance and people taking what they say the wrong way. Most kids don’t understand sub-text.

    Cut the kids in the Camp Quest article some slack.

  • Darryl

    Mark, you will find a great diversity of opinion and biography among the usual bloggers on this site. What impressed me with this blog from the beginning was the elevated level of most of the discourse. There is plenty of good humor and self-deprecation here as well as intellectual depth. The regulars are quite knowledgeable in a wide range of topics, and some have an authoritative knowledge in some of the areas into which this blog dwells. You are welcome here. I consider this a place where people are taken seriously and treated fairly, and yet we are not shy about a good smack down for uppity bloggers. We are Friendly Atheists.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Thanks mark. I’ve bookmarked your site, and I’ll read it and interact there. You are welcome to respond on the Off The Map site and I’m glad to have you here as well.

  • http://mjlacore.net Mark

    Thanks, Darryl!

    I have already subscribed to this site’s feed and check it regularly, and will most certainly continue to do so. And I echo my previous reply to Siamang about getting in touch off the track of this thread if you are interested.

    It’s off to a birthday dinner with some friends. I’ll check back here later.

    Mark

  • Maria

    Hi Mark,

    I already looked at your site (congratulations, gramps!), and it’s what caused me to try and reach out better to you than what interaction with atheists you may have had in the past.

    The sad truth of the matter is that there are precious, precious few places in this big wide internet where positive communication between atheists and Christians is valued.

    If you’re surfing atheist sites where Christians post, or if you’re surfing Christian sites where atheists post (without getting deleted or banned), I have yet to find a place where people rise above playing to “their own,” while diminishing “the other”.

    But this site is an attempt at better. I recommend reading Hemant’s book, which was published by a Christian imprint of Random House… it’s an honest, open, respectful beginning of a dialogue with Christians by an atheist.

    Is this site perfect? No. Does Hemant sometimes post things that don’t always please the Christian posters here? Yes. Are people sometimes rude? Yes, but the rudeness that sometimes crops up comes from both camps. But to take the opposite tack, some wonderful posters here are Christians. Hemant had a Christian Pastor guest blog here for a number of posts a week or so ago… so it’s pretty open around here.

    I blog on a related subject matter, and it’s a blog co-hosted by Christians, and atheists for a Christian ministry. It may be unique in the world…. that commitment toward such an open dialogue.

    Beyond the peskyness of human behavior…. sometimes people don’t behave well…. But a certain type of atheist posts here. It’s the kind that seeks a better conversation than you can find elsewhere.

    I myself rarely venture to the wild and woolyier parts of the atheist net… I have no desire for knock-down-drag-out internet brawls. I never venture into deepest darkest Christian webland either, where my beliefs would be linked with the word “satanic”. Those people are forever lost to me, and I’d just be beating my head against the wall with that lot.

    Anyway, I apologize if you’ve found the conversations here lacking as well. Please add your voice to them, and improve them by example and participation.

    This community is only as good as its members. Welcome!

    I agree with everything you said Siamang. And a big kudos to you for reaching out to people. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Science, evolution, math, reasoning, etc. don’t belong to atheists. If the poll figures of between 3 and 14% of the American population are atheists then there are far more religious believers who accept science than there are atheists. “Atheists” do not have these things anymore than religious people do, they belong to whoever masters the essential information and techniques required to possess them. If there is one thing that shows the cultist aspects of some atheism it is that kind of statement.

    Yep. That’s pretty much what I wanted to say too.

    I don’t find that little girl’s comment funny. I just find it sad – sad that at age 9 she’s already been exposed to the “us vs. them” Culture Wars mentality that infects so much of American discourse both in religious and secularist spheres. Somehow she has already come to think in the oft-debunked yet still pervasive Enlightenment terms of “religion=myth” (and the corollary “myth=false”), and then to assume that somehow atheists have a corner on science.

    And yet, as others have already pointed out, truth belongs to no one’s camp. If you believe in God, then (as many Christian intellectuals have said) all truth is God’s truth – we affirm it wherever we find it, no matter the personal religious beliefs of the person that said it. And if you don’t believe in God, I still wouldn’t expect you to reject truth just because a religious person said it either.

    I don’t know what is taught at Camp Quest, or whether this little girl picked up these attitudes there, but I would have thought that a “freethought” camp would be big on teaching kids to explore truth wherever it is found and to entertain many differing ideas in hopes of discovering that truth. But then again, maybe I’m unclear on what “freethinking” is really all about these days. If these are the results it produces, it doesn’t seem very free at all.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    BTW, just to offer an alternative perspective: I grew up at Christian camps – I mean literally. My dad was a Christian camp director for half of my childhood. I’ve lived and worked at four different evangelical Christian camps during my pre-teen and teen years. And I can attest that none of them were anywhere near as bad as “Jesus Camp”. We didn’t indoctrinate kids with conservative politics or rail against evolution. We didn’t force feed them the Bible or condemn them to hell. Mainly we just told them that Jesus loved them and played lots of fun games in the woods and lakes of northern Michigan. We took them on nature hikes where they learned a lot of the same stuff you’d probably learn at science camp, and yes we taught them about the Bible too. There wasn’t any contradiction between the two and we didn’t see the need to act as if there were one.

  • Logos

    When I was in Junior high I heard other students talking about a Christian Camp they went to where the children were given swats with a paddle for failing to memorize assigned bible verses. Now I know that not all Christian Camps are like that (and this was the deep south), but I doubt you would see any kids at camp quest getting spankings for failing to read Richard Dawkins.

  • Maria

    BTW, just to offer an alternative perspective: I grew up at Christian camps – I mean literally. My dad was a Christian camp director for half of my childhood. I’ve lived and worked at four different evangelical Christian camps during my pre-teen and teen years. And I can attest that none of them were anywhere near as bad as “Jesus Camp”. We didn’t indoctrinate kids with conservative politics or rail against evolution. We didn’t force feed them the Bible or condemn them to hell. Mainly we just told them that Jesus loved them and played lots of fun games in the woods and lakes of northern Michigan. We took them on nature hikes where they learned a lot of the same stuff you’d probably learn at science camp, and yes we taught them about the Bible too. There wasn’t any contradiction between the two and we didn’t see the need to act as if there were one.

    In high school I went on several catholic retreats (that were optional) that were like this as well, with some minor differences. They were run by very liberal people. Evolution wasn’t an issue b/c they taught it at that school (yes it was a religious school, but obviously not a conservative one-my school was run by very liberal people, not all of them even religious). If someone asked about religion in science class, they were told to ask it in their religion class. If someone asked about science in a retreat or religion class, they would usually get the answer of “I’m not a science teacher, so I honestly don’t know and I don’t want to mislead you. Ask your science teacher. If you need to talk to both of us together we can set something up for the three of us to talk outside of class”. The two were separate most of the time, period. And it worked quite well. I actually knew more about evolution at the time then some of my public school friends, which was surprising. I know it’s surprising, but remember I’m from a pretty liberal part of the country. I wish stuff like this was the norm, not the exception. I admit I grew up pretty sheltered geography wise-my first trip to the deep south was a huge culture shock.

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Mike C wrote: I don’t find that little girl’s comment funny. I just find it sad – sad that at age 9 she’s already been exposed to the “us vs. them” Culture Wars mentality that infects so much of American discourse both in religious and secularist spheres. Somehow she has already come to think in the oft-debunked yet still pervasive Enlightenment terms of “religion=myth” (and the corollary “myth=false”), and then to assume that somehow atheists have a corner on science.

    I agree – but if that is disturbing, how much more disturbing is it that many Christian kids are exposed to the ‘us vs. them’ at a much earlier age? Did you see my Friday Video on CatE last week – ‘refuting evolution’. Apparently that’s from the Camp Quest movie. There’s plenty of indoctrination of children in there.

  • http://www.camp-quest.org Amanda

    Helen –

    The “refuting evolution” footage is amazing.

    I just want to clarify one thing quickly. That footage is from a HBO film called “Friends of God,” about Answers in Genesis. It’s not from a movie about Camp Quest.

    Thanks for the link!

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    In other words, “If you think that’s bad, you Christians are are even worse at the ‘us vs. them’ than us atheists!” Way to make your point there, Helen.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    To start with, I’m not crazy about the idea of summer camp, at least not sleep over camp. Children should be with their family, if there isn’t something wrong with their family.

    Camps like the one under discussion here or the “christian” camps that are being brought up seem to have indoctrination as their goal, that I’m especially against. Summer for children should be about reading lots of library books (chosen by the children themselves, not by some adult) playing outside in unorganized activities, exploring nature, learning worthless or even worthwhile crafts…. any camp that deviates from these is a form of child abuse.

  • Monkeymind

    I too found the 9 year old’s comments disturbing. It does echo the rhetoric from the Culture Wars, but it dould also be due to a child’s concrete way of thinking and expressing herself. Nuance is not something we really expect from 9 year olds. And the response of the author of the article was not any more elevated.

    That said, I went to a religious summer camp that was run by Wheaton College, which is a pretty conservative religious school. I mostly went on the backpacking and canoeing trips for girls only, and I found them very empowering. The leaders would give us a destination for the day, and it was up to us to pick a route and figure out how to cooperate to get the necessary tasks done. The leaders gave us Bible verses to meditate on and discuss, but no indocrination.

    I remember one time when we had a rest day on a particularly remote lake, we all spontaneously decided not to get dressed, and thus became “canudists”. Not exactly what you would expect from a conservative religious camp!

  • http://joniruhs.wordpress.com Joni

    You know, olvlzl, no ism, no ist , I kind of agree. I liked the camp I went to as a kid–it was only a week long and there really wasn’t any agenda. Just learning to ride and care for a horse, swimming lessons, crafts, all the biggies! But it wasn’t all summer long and the rest of the summer we kind of did our own thing. Don’t know if that drove mom and dad crazy or not but I loved my unorganized, figure it out yourself, hang with your friends Summers.

  • Jen

    What’s wrong with camps? I disagree that kids need to be with their families all the time. I am not saying people should de facto send their children to boarding school and never see them again after the age of 5, but why not let them experience a world away from their normal life for a week or two a summer? I agree kids should also have some unstructured fun- but activities, especially optional ones, never hurt anyone. For instance, my sister is ADHD, and structure is an important part of her day. Its also better if she has things specifically for her to do, rather than whatever she wants- because that will be to chase after boys, talk on her cell phone all day, or watch another dozen episodes of Smallville (she is 14). I think camp would be a blast for her.

  • Logos

    In other words, “If you think that’s bad, you Christians are are even worse at the ‘us vs. them’ than us atheists!” Way to make your point there, Helen.
    macht, if you are really spoiling for a fight why don’t you go over to http://www.infidels.org. Things have been peaceful here for some time, and we would like to keep it that way!

  • Miko

    If the poll figures of between 3 and 14% of the American population are atheists then there are far more religious believers who accept science than there are atheists.

    For that to be justified, you’d also have to determine what percentage of the population accepts science and also show that it was distributed evenly among the population.

    The basic poll numbers I’ve heard (rounded slightly) are:
    General Population: 15% atheist
    Have a B.S.: 30% atheist
    Working mathematician (M.S. or above): 40% atheist
    Working physicist (M.S. or above): 60% atheist
    Working biologist (M.S. or above): 80% atheist
    ‘Elite’ scientist (NAS, etc.): 95% atheist

    I don’t have numbers on how large each of these groups is or on what percentage of the public ‘accepts science’ (whatever that means), but your claim is in no way justified simply because atheists aren’t the majority of the overall public, since the above stats clearly show that accepting science and rejecting religion are correlated (although I doubt causal).

    Or members of AmWay.

    Er… what?

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Mike C wrote: I don’t find that little girl’s comment funny. I just find it sad – sad that at age 9 she’s already been exposed to the “us vs. them” Culture Wars mentality that infects so much of American discourse both in religious and secularist spheres.

    Unless they’re home-schooled, I’ll bet that by 9 all kids have been hit with that us-vs-them stuff.

    Do we know where this girl lives? If it’s a red state, I’m sure she’s been told by her “friends” at school what a toasty fate awaits her post-mortem.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Just because I’m being sarcastic doesn’t mean I’m “spoiling for a fight.” If you prefer, I can rephrase my point,

    Complaining about how Christians are worse than the atheists at promoting an “us vs them” attitude while at the same time having that kind of attitude doesn’t do any of us any good. There are plenty of Christians who have that kind of attitude and there are plenty of atheists who have that attitude and it is pointless to talk about which is more “disturbing” because, as I said, it displays the same kind of attitude you think is bad. It would be like Paris Hilton calling Lindsey Lohan “messed up.” Sure it’s true, but nobody’s going to listen to what one messed up girl has to say about another messed up girl.

    A much better approach than making generalizations about different groups (a symptom of “us vs. them” attitudes, BTW) would be to point out the attitude when you see it. There are several ways to do this. I prefer a nice, short, sarcastic comment. Others prefer long, point-by-point explanations. In any case, however, the point is to just point out that attitude when you see it, in the hopes that the person will realize his or her mistake.

    Is that better, Logos?

  • Logos

    I still think you would be better off at http://www.infidels.org. There are people of all different backgrounds there who love the kind of discussions you seem to prefer

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    If you think that’s true, I don’t think you know me well enough.

  • Steelman

    macht said: “It would be like Paris Hilton calling Lindsey Lohan “messed up.” Sure it’s true, but nobody’s going to listen to what one messed up girl has to say about another messed up girl.”

    Bad analogy. It seems everyone is hanging on her every word. At least that’s what TV news would have us believe. :)

  • HappyNat

    It would be like Paris Hilton calling Lindsey Lohan “messed up.” Sure it’s true, but nobody’s going to listen to what one messed up girl has to say about another messed up girl.

    Actually I think a bunch of people would listen to it, expeciallty if she was on Larry King. Have you seen the “news” recently? :)

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Good point. I guess I shouldn’t assume that because I wouldn’t listen to Paris, that others also wouldn’t.

  • Logos

    macht said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    If you think that’s true, I don’t think you know me well enough.

    Have you been to the site? You might like it!

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    As I said, you don’t know me very well.

  • Logos

    So you have been there? Did you like it?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    That said, I went to a religious summer camp that was run by Wheaton College, which is a pretty conservative religious school.

    Ah, you’ve been to Honey Rock I see! :)

    A lot of my friends at college did the “High Road” trip before Freshman year. (At least, that’s what they called that wilderness experience you described back then. I don’t know what it was called when you did it.)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    To start with, I’m not crazy about the idea of summer camp, at least not sleep over camp. Children should be with their family, if there isn’t something wrong with their family.

    Camps like the one under discussion here or the “christian” camps that are being brought up seem to have indoctrination as their goal, that I’m especially against. Summer for children should be about reading lots of library books (chosen by the children themselves, not by some adult) playing outside in unorganized activities, exploring nature, learning worthless or even worthwhile crafts…. any camp that deviates from these is a form of child abuse.

    I do hope you’re being sarcastic… Summer camps are great my friend! I was going to them every summer and loving it even before my family lived and worked at one.

  • Logos

    In all fairness Mike C you were with your family while you were at it. To be shipped off someplace with a bunch of strangers for several weeks can be pretty traumatic for some kids.

  • http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~ludtke/prof/index.htm cautious

    This thread is by far one of my favourites, I’d like to thank everyone for their input. Impassioned dialogue is still dialogue, and I think that dialogue is important. Humour that involves (even lightly) prodding the sensibilities of anyone is bound to piss off someone, so a bit of temper flaring is a somewhat rational response.

    Heck, to throw in my opinion on things, as a non-parent, I don’t really care where children get thrown to summer camp. Don’t like the idea of sending kids to (insert non-preferred camp name here)? Then don’t. As long as the camp isn’t teaching hatred of others, then it’s probably not causing any harm. If summer camp is the only reason you have a faith (or don’t), then…your cognitive skills probably aren’t very high.

    A camp that tells kids what to think is scary regardless of whether there is a religious or irreligious component to it. From what little I know of Camp Quest, I don’t think Camp Quest is indoctrinational. Teaching kids that it’s ok to not be a theist is not a bad thing; although society is getting better at accepting atheism, households of atheists are in no way the majority.* Being a kid who is different than everyone else can be difficult. Learning that there are other children who don’t go to church could be a very positive and useful experience for these kids.

    Oh, and as my closing statement, I would like to say that the whole Santa v. Newton “us v. them” exchange is pretty weird. Why are a kid and a Christianity Today article writer fighting over the bones of two dead white guys?

    *Hey, there’s a social experiment lying in wait for any would-be social scientists in the crowd: pick a random block and ask what the religious preference of every household is. See if there are clusters of people with similar opinions or not. Note: do not blame me if you get yelled at or worse.

  • http://www.camp-quest.org Amanda

    Just FYI, each of the Camp Quest sessions is only one week long. We don’t keep kids all summer, just for a week. I think there is a lot to be said for both summer camp and for unstructured time in the summer. When camp is only a week long, there is no reason you can’t have both.

    (I could say more in response to some of the posts here, but I’m trying to avoid weighing in too much on your discussion since I’m one of the organizers of Camp Quest. I just wanted to clear up that point, and the point about the YouTube video made above.)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    In all fairness Mike C you were with your family while you were at it. To be shipped off someplace with a bunch of strangers for several weeks can be pretty traumatic for some kids.

    Umm, no I wasn’t. I was going off by myself for whole weeks of summer camp since the 2nd Grade.

    There were always a few kids at camp that were terribly homesick and hated it, but most, by and large, loved it.

  • Logos

    Sorry, I thought you said your family ran the camps.Well I guess it all boils down to individual differences. I only went to day camps and they were some of the worst experiences of my life

  • Darryl

    The younger kids are the more likely it is they will spout their parents’ ideas. Unless you’re a Bertrand Russell, if you’re 9 years old, you got the ‘us-vs.-them’ mentality from your parents. This is one of the reasons why kids are not considered capable of making independent legal decisions and why we don’t hold them responsible for their actions until after the age of accountability. I generalize, of course.

    Some degree of child indoctrination is unavoidable; what needs to be known is the kind of indoctrination, and it’s value. Macht, comparing Paris Hilton with Ms. Lohan is a matter of apples and apples; and they’re both rotten, by the way. Comparing atheist indoctrination with religious indoctrination involves differing fruit.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    I wasn’t comparing Paris and Lindsey to atheist indoctrination and religious indoctrination. I comparing them to complaining about an us vs. them attitude while at the same time displaying that attitude.

  • Darryl

    I wasn’t comparing Paris and Lindsey to atheist indoctrination and religious indoctrination. I comparing them to complaining about an us vs. them attitude while at the same time displaying that attitude.

    One is an extension of the other, isn’t it? Not all indoctrination is equal; not all us-vs.-them attitudes are equal. It’s content that counts–that was my point.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Sorry, I thought you said your family ran the camps.

    They did, but that was later. I went to camp by myself all through elementary school. My parents moved to the camp when I was in middle school.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Let me guess. Atheist indoctrination is A-OK. And when atheists promote an us vs them it’s just fine and dandy.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Let me guess. Atheist indoctrination is A-OK. And when atheists promote an us vs them it’s just fine and dandy.

    Didn’t you know macht? It’s not indoctrination if you’re right… :roll:

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Oh man, I wish I had known there was a eye-rolling smilie about half a dozen comments ago.

  • monkeymind

    Darryl:

    Askoxford.com defines indoctrination as:

    verb cause to accept a set of beliefs uncritically through repeated instruction.

    Can you give more details on how “atheist” brand indoctrination is superior to “religious” brand indoctrination?

  • monkeymind

    Darryl:

    Askoxford.com defines indoctrination as:

    verb cause to accept a set of beliefs uncritically through repeated instruction.

    Can you give more details on how “atheist” brand indoctrination is superior to “religious” brand indoctrination?

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    So we’re automatically assuming that Camp Quest constitutes indoctrination, then?

  • monkeymind

    No, I’m not assuming anything about camp Quest, but Darryl made mention of “atheist indoctrination” and I am curious as to what he meant.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Ah. Sorry.

  • Steelman

    Isn’t rote learning of any kind indoctrination of a sort? There was a long conversation on this kind of subject (actually on what constitutes brainwashing) awhile ago over on Talking Philosophy:
    http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=39
    (and a followup on page 41).

    Re. Good and bad indoctrination, and us vs. them thinking:
    I’m “guilty” of perpetuating the us vs. them dichotomy myself; I indoctrinate my children to always trust me, but never strangers. I don’t engage my 6 year old in philosophical argument, or encourage him to make empirical observations, to help him decide whether or not what I’m telling him is true in the case above. “Us” is your loving family who will keep you safe, and “them” are dangerous strangers who may harm you (that’s why only mommy or daddy are allowed to answer the front door). It’s presented a priori. It’s a simplistic generalization, which I’ve purposely used to instill prejudice. But I’m not going to stop repeating it for the moment. We can talk about how it’s not really true that all strangers are dangerous as his maturity, and ability to engage in critical thinking, increases. The prejudice will eventually be lifted, or at least modified enough to allow for independent decision making.

    Now, on the other hand, if I teach my child that “us” consists of intelligent, right thinking, atheists, and “them” are all stupid, deluded, Christians…

  • Maria

    Interesting points you all make…..

  • Darryl

    Can you give more details on how “atheist” brand indoctrination is superior to “religious” brand indoctrination?

    If you want to know about indoctrination read Plato.

    I agree with Steelman.

    Example: An American couple of a moderate Christian sect raise their children. An American couple of a fundamentalist Christian sect raise their children. Both couples indoctrinate their children. I prefer the indoctrination of the first to the second.

  • Miko

    Isn’t rote learning of any kind indoctrination of a sort?

    Yes. And furthermore indoctrination of any sort is rote learning.

    What’s more, it’s also a fairly bad method of teaching stuff, which is why so many college students still have trouble remembering which of 1/0 and 0/1 is undefined and which is zero. Teaching conclusions by themselves is a lousy policy whether it’s done regarding religion or mathematics, or in anything in between: the subject matter is not relavent; the method itself is at fault.

  • Jen

    Askoxford.com defines indoctrination as:

    • verb cause to accept a set of beliefs uncritically through repeated instruction.

    Can you give more details on how “atheist” brand indoctrination is superior to “religious” brand indoctrination?

    I suppose I would see it this way: if the atheist parent just tells the kid over and over, “There is no god, there is no god” then this is indoctrination, because you are forcing the child to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. On the other hand, if you teach the kid how logic and science work, and other various reasons that you don’t believe in god for X, Y, and Z, then you are teaching the kid how to think critically. Therefore, I think there could be atheist indoctrination, but I think raising a child as an atheist is not necessarily indoctrination.

  • Miko

    I suppose I would see it this way: if the atheist parent just tells the kid over and over, “There is no god, there is no god” then this is indoctrination, because you are forcing the child to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

    Interestingly enough, to do this, you’d first have to explain what god is. I’d imagine that just not mentioning god in the first place is more common (except in places like the Bible Belt where that’s not possible).

    On the other hand, if you teach the kid how logic and science work, and other various reasons that you don’t believe in god for X, Y, and Z, then you are teaching the kid how to think critically.

    Or at least teaching him/her how to evaluate evidence. Critical thinking is a more difficult skill to teach. The key is to focus most strongly on (as you said) how logic and science work and not on what they conclude; if you’ve done this properly, the kid can develop X, Y, and Z for him/herself (depending on age, etc.).

  • monkeymind

    I indoctrinate my children to always trust me, but never strangers.

    Steelman, I doubt you have to indoctrinate your kids to trust you you more than strangers. Most kids develop this basic inclination around 8 months unless something goes seriously wrong. Isn’t educating about stranger danger more a matter of empowering kids with the knowledge that they don’t always have to obey adults and giving them specific things to do if they get approached?

    An American couple of a moderate Christian sect raise their children. An American couple of a fundamentalist Christian sect raise their children. Both couples indoctrinate their children. I prefer the indoctrination of the first to the second.

    Isn’t the main difference that there is less of it in the second example?

    Miko, Jen, I could also see how extreme ridicule (eg use of the word “christards”) of anything religious could also count as indoctrination. It could cause the child not to express certain things out of fear of ridicule.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Re. Good and bad indoctrination, and us vs. them thinking:
    I’m “guilty” of perpetuating the us vs. them dichotomy myself; I indoctrinate my children to always trust me, but never strangers.

    You raise an interesting dilemma Steelman. My daughter is only 2, so we haven’t entirely had to have the “stranger danger” teaching yet (as she’s never very far from us as it is), but when I think about teaching her this, I really lament the (seeming?) necessity of protecting kids in this way. We already live in such a culture of fear and suspicion, almost completely lacking in any real sense of community or simple neighborliness. How much of it is due to this early indoctrination into the idea that “Others” are always dangerous and scary? Do we ever fully overcome this tendency to put up walls between ourselves and others and isolate our lives into anemic little nuclear family groups? How much of the prejudice and division in our society is because of these early messages that anyone not like “us” is not to be trusted?

    I dislike this society that we’ve become and I long for the days when we lived in more open and close-knit communities where neighbors where treated like family, and I also want to teach my daughter to view outsiders with interest and respect rather than fear; but at the same time, I understand the dangers and I do want to protect my daughter from those “strangers” that would harm her. So how do we do this? How do we teach her to be safe, but at the same time, not teach her to distrust and fear outsiders? I’m not really sure.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Oh man, I wish I had known there was a eye-rolling smilie about half a dozen comments ago.

    just type roll surrounded by colons. like this : roll :

    except without the spaces

    :roll:

  • Darryl

    I dislike this society that we’ve become and I long for the days when we lived in more open and close-knit communities where neighbors where treated like family, and I also want to teach my daughter to view outsiders with interest and respect rather than fear; but at the same time, I understand the dangers and I do want to protect my daughter from those “strangers” that would harm her. So how do we do this? How do we teach her to be safe, but at the same time, not teach her to distrust and fear outsiders? I’m not really sure.

    Mike, I lament along with you. It’s a miracle that our kids manage to get through their young years unscathed in as many numbers as they do. I felt the same way as you when my children were little. It’s part of the ugliness of life as it is now here in urban America. I seriously considered at one time leaving the city and taking my kids to be raised in a rural environment just so that they would not be exposed to the kind of life that you describe. We did the best we could, and things turned out well, but we couldn’t have done it without a close-knit community. Community is vital; if you can’t leave the big city, you’ve got to find a way to join or start a clan, a tribe, a social network, a ‘church family,’ a support group, a club, or something to help you. This may be the most important role churches play.

  • http://joniruhs.wordpress.com Joni

    Having been molested as a child(I’ve talked about this publicly before), I wrestle with that question. I was taught as a child in the late 70s to fear strangers. No one told me to be careful of the people I knew. So now, I talk to my kids about making sure they are safe and that when we are out together, they must stay by me. And I’ve become ok with “scaring” my kids a little because the alternative is worse. Yes, it sucks to have to do this nowadays. Who knows if yesteryear was safer or just less talked about? I tell my kids they must be polite and kind and should respond if a stranger says “hi”–if I’m with them. Now my kids are 6, 4, & 3 so they are never without a trustworthy adult. But we are also trying to foster a home environment where they can feel free to tell us anything even if its about a family member(uncle, cousin, close neighbor, whatever). I guess I don’t mind being a bit overprotective because I am responsible for my children, not the hurt feelings of a stranger or suspect individual. And I don’t think of it as teaching them to fear people “not like us” because in my case, it was a neighborhood man that everyone knew and he was “just like us”. But to be cautious of those they don’t know–whether or not they are “just like us”.

    OK, is this WAY off track now?

  • Darryl

    Joni, I’m sorry to hear of your victimization. Nothing scares a parent more than the possibility of such a thing. I think you’re right; there never was a golden time when these things didn’t go on; they were just swept under the rug and not talked about in families. We, thankfully, are much more open now. We have perhaps overcompensated; we are now obsessed with child molestation, and sex crimes in general. Our fears keep us from a clear-eyed perspective on this social ill; but that’s understandable. I have often thought that this will be the last social illness that we overcome, if we ever do. Until then, we can only be vigilant, and resign ourselves to the reality that our children will not be allowed to be as wonderfully trusting and outgoing as they are by nature.

  • monkeymind

    I really lament the (seeming?) necessity of protecting kids in this way.

    This is such a hard one. I think the advice that makes most sense to me is to teach them about specific situations and things that they could do if they get lost, or if a stranger asks them if to get in their car, etc.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    James Watson and Francis Crick. Both great scientists. Both atheists.

    Got nothing against Francis Crick except for his dishonest use of “Ancient of Days” for the “Beyond Belief” website, James Watson, though is a A#1 asshole. Actually, as more comes out about how much their publication depended on work they stole from Rosalind Franklin their greatness is somewhat mitigated.

    How about Theodosius Dobzhansky? He was a great geneticist and evolutionary biologist and he was Russian Orthodox or Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian?

  • Logos

    Got nothing against Francis Crick except for his dishonest use of “Ancient of Days” for the “Beyond Belief” website, James Watson, though is a A#1 asshole.
    Can you elaborate?

  • Steelman

    monkeymind said: “Steelman, I doubt you have to indoctrinate your kids to trust you you more than strangers. Most kids develop this basic inclination around 8 months unless something goes seriously wrong. Isn’t educating about stranger danger more a matter of empowering kids with the knowledge that they don’t always have to obey adults and giving them specific things to do if they get approached?”

    I don’t know the extent of your experience in dealing with small children, maybe yours differs from mine? Mine is twofold. I have a 6yr old and a 3yr old. Also, my wife has run a licensed Family Daycare in our home for the past 8 years, so I have lots of experience being the “stranger” to newcomers (usually the first time they see me is when I get home from work in the afternoon). As for most 8+ month olds, all I’ve needed is a bottle, pacifier, or interesting toy to be their new best friend. This is especially true if they’re already used to being held by a variety of adults (e.g. extended family, daycare providers, mom showing the baby off to the neighbors, etc.).

    “Stranger danger” scenarios are a good tool for educating kids on how to deal with unknown adults in public. I quiz my kids with them every so often. However, I used the words “always” and “never” when it came to trusting parents vs. strangers (i.e., never trust strangers, and always trust that what I say about strangers is true) because I can’t think of every possible ploy that a child abductor might use.

  • Steelman

    To Mike C, re. your 11:10 post:
    There are a number of ethical issues there. I think part of the lack of a sense of community, which you lament, comes from the fact that we live in the pluralistic society that I think many of us profess to prefer. It’s hard to have a lot in common with “others” when everyone is so different (language, religion, interests, priorities). Also, in a small town you can get involved with the lives of those around you by sharing their concerns and trying to be helpful in some way. That’s doable in an environment where you pass fifty of your neighbors, on average, when you’re walking downtown. But when you pass one-hundred, or five-hundred? There are only so many minutes in a day you can take away from yourself, your work, and your own family to be involved with those others in any way.

    How do we teach her to be safe, but at the same time, not teach her to distrust and fear outsiders? I’m not really sure.

    No easy answers here. Setting appropriate boundaries for how you think your child should safely interact with other adults is just another difficult issue parents have to deal with in the modern world.

  • Steelman

    Darryl said: “Community is vital; if you can’t leave the big city, you’ve got to find a way to join or start a clan, a tribe, a social network, a ‘church family,’ a support group, a club, or something to help you. This may be the most important role churches play.”

    And here we break into our subdivisions once again (isn’t that a song by that freethinking band, Rush?). Outside of the small town environment you mentioned, the diversity of culture in the U.S. makes this unavoidable. I guess the key here is to join and support communities that are as tolerant as possible of others’ beliefs (however you might define tolerant in that case).

  • Steelman

    To Joni, re. untrustworthy people who are “just like us”:

    My wife and I have talked to our children about how no one should be touching their private areas except their doctor, at the doctor’s office, when mommy or daddy take them to the doctor’s office. It seems like the list of qualifiers for appropriate behavior just keeps getting longer. *sigh*

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Logos, to use one of William Blake’s best known works to promote atheism is rather dishonest. Blake’s life and work were primarily motivated by his religious experiences and ideas. I know that many people don’t believe it but I think an artistic genius’ intentions should be honored.

    As for James Watson, other than having heard the arrogant jerk a number of times and had people who knew him tell me stories about what a back-biting asshole he is, there’s his bragging about having stolen Rosalind Franklin’s work and insulting her after her death in absolutely sexist language. I seem to recall that Crick thought he’d gone way too far on that one.

  • Miko

    Logos, to use one of William Blake’s best known works to promote atheism is rather dishonest. Blake’s life and work were primarily motivated by his religious experiences and ideas. I know that many people don’t believe it but I think an artistic genius’ intentions should be honored.

    That would first require everyone to form a consensus on what each particular person’s intentions and motivations were and on whether each potential application was consistent with them. And seeing as neither of those is ever going to happen…

  • monkeymind

    Steelman said

    That’s doable in an environment where you pass fifty of your neighbors, on average, when you’re walking downtown.

    You’re right, walkability is key, and subdivisions are the great Satan. I live in a medium sized town (60,000+) but it is very walkable/bikable. Walkable= more encounters with neighbors, more eyes on the street, enhanced feeling of community, larger public sphere.
    Subdivisions provide an illusions of safety through homogeneity. Real neighborhoods are better.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Miko, If you had read even the relatively accessible Blake you would have read

    Mock on, mock on Voltaire, Rousseau
    Mock, on, mock on, tis all in vain….

    Blake’s intentions were quite clear, though complex. I doubt he would have endorsed any kind of atheistic materialism, I’ve read most of what he wrote and don’t recall ever having seen anything like that. To steal his work to promote Beyond Belief is intellectually and morally dishonest.

  • Darryl

    Blake’s intentions were quite clear, though complex. I doubt he would have endorsed any kind of atheistic materialism, I’ve read most of what he wrote and don’t recall ever having seen anything like that. To steal his work to promote Beyond Belief is intellectually and morally dishonest.

    Original intent is your standard? Aesthetic malleability is mine. No one knows the fullness of the meanings that may be found by others in one’s work. We make of Blake what we will; what suits us. I doubt that he is in any position to give a damn.

    “As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.” William Blake

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Darryl, I guess it’s a difference between being unwilling to distort an artist’s work and being ready to steal and distort its meanings out of anything the artist intended.

    Blake was opposed to the established church, as were many other deeply religious people. He had very unorthodox ideas about God and religion but he said that he was always conscious of God’s presence in his life and through out the world. Atheists who appropriate his work as part of their propaganda are lying about his intentions and the content of his work. I guess it comes down to a question of honesty and respect for an artist’s intentions.

  • http://joniruhs.wordpress.com Joni

    Hey, we got to talking about parenting here and there and I had a question but I decided to post it on my blog, Joni Ruhs, if you don’t mind. I didn’t want to clog up this thread(at 108 comments! ) with my own curiosity. Would you mind stopping by? My question is, do non-religious parents lament if their children choose a religious life? I know stereotypically, Christian parents lament when their children “stray” from their spiritual upbringing. Thanks!

  • Darryl

    Darryl, I guess it’s a difference between being unwilling to distort an artist’s work and being ready to steal and distort its meanings out of anything the artist intended.

    Blake was opposed to the established church, as were many other deeply religious people. He had very unorthodox ideas about God and religion but he said that he was always conscious of God’s presence in his life and through out the world. Atheists who appropriate his work as part of their propaganda are lying about his intentions and the content of his work. I guess it comes down to a question of honesty and respect for an artist’s intentions.

    Theft, distortion, propaganda, lying, dishonesty, disrespect: a bit over the top are we? Who made you Blake’s defender? And why should we care how his work is used? If spirits were real, and he were cognizant of us, he might be thankful that the world hasn’t completely forgotten him yet. You might consider that not everyone views such a use of Blake as iniquitously as you do. To impute your motives to others is unwarranted, and says more about you than about Mr. Blake.

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