Thursday, June 30, 2005

There is a Heaven After All

Anyone who regularly reads Orange Quark knows that I spend a fair amount of time outraged over the increasing encroachment of religion on the rational world. It's not because I'm a glass-half empty sort of guy, or that I love complaining (although it is true that neither of these help); it's just that it's amazingly rare that I see anything in the news these days to give me hope that reason will ultimately prevail. When something encouraging finally does come along, I can be all sweetness and light, honestly.

The New York Times has a wonderful, happy, feel-good story about a very special summer camp for kids. This delightful place is called Camp Quest and is in, of all places, southern Ohio. And what is it that makes me giddy for Camp Quest? As the Times reports
"Providing a haven for the children of nonbelievers is what Camp Quest is all about. As the camp's official T-shirt announces, it's a place that's "beyond belief." More precisely, it claims to be the first summer sleep-away camp in the country for atheist, agnostic and secular humanist children."
Isn't this great? I'd love it if this were all they did - just provide a place where kids aren't made to feel odd because they don't subscribe to others' fantasies - but it gets better. The camp sees it as part of its mission to celebrate and teach reason and rationality. For example
"At the opening campfire ceremony, Mr. Kagin issued a set of challenges for campers to respond to in skits on the final night of camp. One such challenge: Help residents of the faraway planet Questerion understand how life on earth came into being. Another challenge: Prove that the two invisible unicorns in residence do not exist.

As in years past, camp leaders also worked on presentations in science and other natural (as opposed to supernatural) phenomena. This year's subjects were raptors and meteorology, including a demonstration of a portable weather station. Also, Gene Kritsky, a biology professor at the nearby College of Mount St. Joseph, talked to campers about creationism, arguing that the theories used to try to disprove evolution fail to hold up."
I'm not going to rant about the pressures faced by nonbelievers in this country - it'd ruin my happy happy post. I'm just going to end with the words of Edwin Kagin, the camp's director and one of its founders
"We're serving as a night light in a dark and scary room"
Imagine me with a big goofy smile across my face.
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