Tag Archives: secular humanism

Camp Quest Ohio is underway

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I wrote about Camp Quest back in March and camp started up this past week. The Columbus Dispatch not only had a print article but also a podcast and short video about the camp. Follow the links below.

The camp director’s housekeeping lecture met the usual disinterest from the dining hall full of sweaty, bug-bitten kids.

Messy cabins are a staple of summer camp. Who wants to tidy up when you can swim, play games and goof around with your friends?

But August Brunsman finished his cleaning directive with a so-subtle-the-kids-probably-missed-it pun that made clear that Camp Quest is not the usual summer offering.

“Remember,” he said, a slight grin crossing his face, “cleanliness is next to godlessness.”

Camp Quest is a sleepaway camp for the children of atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonbelievers, though kids from religious families are welcome, too.

Most of the time, the kids do normal camp stuff such as hike, compete in relay races, sit around campfires.

But the overarching philosophy is that life without religion is a perfectly healthy, viable option.

Kids wrestle with religion at Camp Quest

Faith & Values Podcast | No. 101 Dispatch religion reporter Meredith Heagney talks with Amanda Metskas, the director of Camp Quest, a program for children of atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonbelievers.

Donate to Camp Quest

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Camp Quest Ohio meets in June but it is filling up now. Camp Quest is a summer camp for atheists, Humanists, agnostics and other freethinkers. They have a fund you can donate to help provide free or low cost fees for needy campers.

From their website:

Camp Quest is 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.

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 guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

Camp Quest was first held in 1996 and until 2002 was operated by the Free Inquiry Group, Inc. (FIG) of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The idea for the project originated with Edwin Kagin and he and his wife Helen served as Camp Directors for the first ten years of the original Camp Quest, retiring at the end of the 2005 camp session.

Camp Quest website

They have several branch camps across the country, one in Canada and one in the United Kingdom. I personally know the current leadership of the group and have known both campers and staff at the Ohio branch and it is an excellent way for freethinking children to have freethinking summer camp.

In February, Helen Kagin, co-founder of Camp Quest, died. The group created the Helen Kagin Memorial Campership Fund to honor her work and life. The fund will help provide free or low cost fees to needy campers.

I’m going to donate to The Kagin Fund because back when I was in Boy Scouts (before the religious right took it over) I got to go to Summer Camp through generous donations from community members and now I have a place to repay that favor without giving up my principles.

Female nonbelievers *DO* exist

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One complaint about atheism and secular humanism is that we don’t have many if any women involved. The inference is that women tend to gravitate to emotional support that supposedly only theistic or spiritual religions can provide. Besides supporting a bad stereotype, the inference is plain wrong. Jen McCreight, writer of the Blag Hag blog listed some of the great female nonbelievers alive today.

As she notes at the end of her entry:

To clarify, this list is for living women who are known for their vocal support of atheism, skepticism, and/or scientific thinking – or, likewise, speaking out against religion and supernatural beliefs. There are plenty of women who simply happen to be atheists but never ever speak about it – this isn’t intended for them.

A large list of awesome female atheists

The list includes Wendy Kaminer – Author, Kathy Griffin – comedian, Taslima Nasrin – Writer & human rights activist, and Amanda Metskas – Head of Camp Quest among others.

Check out the list.

It’s Humanist Time in the City….

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A friend of mine sent out an e-mail about attending a recent HumanLight celebration in the Philadelphia area. It was hosted by another friend who had been a member of my local Humanist group here in Ohio. HumanLight is a positive secular humanist take on the winter holiday season so full of theistic religious symbolism. My friend Martha Knox was interviewed for Tuesday the 23rd on Morning Edition on NPR about the celebration.

While others are lighting Hanukkah candles or decorating Christmas trees, atheists and humanists are holding their own December celebrations.

The secular holiday known as HumanLight began eight years ago. And while there are no set traditions, many of these gatherings use familiar rituals such as singing and candle lighting to highlight reason and human achievement.

HumanLight can be celebrated anytime on or around Dec. 23. The date was chosen because it is between the winter solstice and Christmas. This past weekend, groups gathered across the country to celebrate.

Because humanists don’t have a bible or religious doctrine, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate HumanLight. Gary Brill, who co-founded the holiday, says the parties are usually family occasions. However, some humanists ignore the holiday, saying it feels too much like religion.

HumanLight: December’s Secular Holiday (includes audio)

I am not one to totally ignore the holiday season since that would be impossible, but I still don’t celebrate it religiously or secularly. However, if the Christians stole the holiday season from the Pagans then I guess we secularists can carve a slice off for ourselves.

The distorted history of Steve Kellmeyer

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I have written about Steve Kellmeyer, who posts on the Renew America website, before. A previous post took him to task for claiming that secular humanism abuses women.

In his recent article CNN: God’s gift to religion Kellmeyer tries once again to slander secular humanism.

The thrust of the article critiques a special on CNN called “CNN Presents: God’s Warriors” that starts on Tuesday August 21st and hosted by Christiane Amanpour. According to the website, the program “examines the intersection between religion and politics and the effects of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on politics, culture and public life.”

Kellmeyer doesn’t like the program – which hasn’t aired yet – because he feels it left out a group:

You see? It isn’t secular humanism that causes problems. How could it be? Secular humanism has only been around since the Enlightenment, has only really gained traction in public culture with the growth of industrialization in the late 1800’s, and only had public advocates in the American political sphere in the latter half of the 20th century, that is, within the last thirty to fifty years.

No, the problem isn’t secular humanism, rather, it’s the explosion of faith into a powerful political force in the last 30 years that causes “anger, division and fear.” As every CNN viewer knows, faith in politics was never a powerful political force prior to 1970.

Then he says:

Every European and trans-Atlantic war since (and including) the French Revolution has been based in secular humanist principles. Together, they have generated more famine, rapine, torture and slaughter than the rest of human history combined. What could possibly be the problem?

CNN: God’s gift to religion

Really?

Once again Kellmeyer offers no evidence for his bold claim of his distorted history.

I don’t know of any secular humanist suicide bombers or terrorists. I also don’t know of any secular humanists who attack clergy or burn their churches. It wasn’t secular humanists who got a majority of people in 11 states to take away rights from gays in 2004 when laws outlawing same-sex marriage were passed.

As for secular humanists being responsible for every war since the French Revolution, I had no idea that President Bush was a secular humanist when he invaded Iraq in 2003.

One of these days Kellmeyer might actually get his history right and not have to resort to cheap shots at secular humanists.

Shilling for The Last Presentation

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Normally I am hesitant to shill for anyone or anything on this blog, but I was contacted by group trying to improve the perception of non-believers in the minds of the public, and they need money.

The group is The Colorado Coalition of Reason

They are raising money to fund the distribution of a 38 minute video for social science classes in the public schools across the country. The video opens young minds to the importance of logic, reason, and science, and introduces students to the nonbeliever’s point of view. The name of the video is “The Last Presentation” and is the result of comparing notes by various speakers to compile a presentation that can be shown during discussions of diversity and comparative religion. It would address the problem of trying to find a presenter with the knowledge and experience to speak to young people in school and would present a single version of the information.

The fundraising is due to close on 9/15/2006 but they need more funding. Currently the jar stands at $7,035 and their goal is $25,000.

Marvin Straus. the video’s producer and director had this to say:

Some nonbelievers, including myself, have made similar presentations to high school classes. When other speakers and I shared notes, we identified common themes. Generally, students at these social science presentations:

1) Were very interested in the opinions of nonbelievers.
2) Wanted to know more about the subject.
3) Were supportive of the speakers and his or her views.
4) Asked identical questions at different schools.

A few students did display deep-seated negative feelings such as “all atheists are communists” or “since nonbelievers have no religious background to guide them, they are probably immoral and unethical.”

After the presentations, many students said they had a more positive view of nonbelievers.

The problem: It is difficult to obtain an invitation to speak to a social science class. Teachers seldom invite nonbelievers, sometimes because they do not think of it. Attempting to contact each school or school board to ask for the opportunity to address high school students would be inefficient and time consuming.

The solution: Send TLP directly to the 16,000 public, high-school teachers. By doing so, with your help, we can

– open young minds to the secular world of logic, reason, and compassion,
– encourage the separation of church and state, and
– encourage the teaching of evolution instead of Intelligent Design.

These students are future voters and potential supporters of Jefferson’s wall. They will become citizens who hopefully will protect the rights of minorities, including nonbelievers. After watching the video, we hope the audience will think of nonbelievers as friends, not possible enemies.

For more information or to donate visit the video’s website at:

http://www.cocore.org/last_presentation.php