(Incidentally, the title of the article is called “My summer at atheist camp” — not Samantha’s idea. Just a lazy copywriter who assumes all kids attending CQ must be atheists. Not true. Still, it’s not nearly as bad as the NPR copywriter who initially called CQ “Anti-Christian” before CQ’s President Amanda Metskas politely asked for a change in headline.)
… I had just spent most of my remaining student loan on a plane ticket to a city about which I knew nothing (other than that a lot of people get shot there), to meet a group of complete strangers with whom I would work for a week at a YMCA camp, no less, in a state which ranks reasonably high on the scale of religious nuts. Not to mention the fact that I would have to spend my waking hours taking care of other people’s children.
… As I was introduced to the other counsellors, I was thrown without warning into a group of individuals who were all articulate, passionate, intelligent and hilarious. Every single conversation with them was stimulating, inspiring and entertaining. I felt a part of the team immediately.
Soon enough, the children began to open up, telling horror stories from their schools about anti-evolution teachers and the isolation they felt from other children, and it was then that I realised what a blessing (pardon my language) this organisation is. It became evident that for some of them it was the first time they were in a place where it was OK to believe whatever they believed; to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of mockery or reprimands and where they were allowed to question the supposed wisdom of authority. There was no “atheist agenda” imposed on the children; we made it clear from the start that we stood for free enquiry and respect for each other’s views.
The most striking thing about these children was their minds. Without exception, the kids were exceptional. Their precociousness emanated from every aspect of their being, and while the younger ones merely thought that religion was a bit ridiculous, the older ones made a conscious effort to embrace reason and rationality.
If you’re in America, it’s not too late to sign your kids up for this summer’s camps!