Summer Camp Teaches Kids to Ignore Religion: Amen!

Growing up in the Heartland, deep in the Bible Belt, I felt the pull of religion throughout my entire childhood and I hated it.

My mother was a lapsed Catholic who converted to Judaism to marry my father, and my father was (and is) a secular Jew who is culturally Jewish, but spiritually agnostic. It was a pretty Godless upbringing and I liked it at home, but at school it was something else.

All of the other kids had their Sunday schools and their church days and their youth groups and their extreme beliefs, and at a certain point, it was overwhelming as a child to NOT have beliefs. That is where summer camp like Camp Quest comes in.

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Camp Quest is a summer camp for kids like me. It's for the children of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, freethinkers, and other non-religious types. In short, it's a place where people who often feel like they don't have a community or a "youth group" can find other like-minded people who will not belittle them or make them feel guilty, but will encourage them.

The fact is, children are masters of black and white thinking. As many of us get older, we (thankfully) begin to engage more of our brains and we become open to the possibilities beyond the rules of our childhood. Many of us (even those of us raised in strict, religious households) become free thinkers. And that is what this camp is all about.

The camp teaches kids about the democratic process and certainly models what any good citizen would do -- sharing, creative and critical thinking, ethical living. But they don't believe in G-d. And they've found a space in which those beliefs (or lack thereof) are actually encouraged.

After leaving the insular, religious area I grew up in (thankfully) at 16, I moved to a part of the Northeast where religion -- and all its trappings -- was actually not as common. Now, I can't name a single person I know closely who considers themselves religious. No one judges me or tells me I am going to hell as they did when I was a child.

My children will be raised pretty much free of religion, too. I think it's a gift. To have the tools to be a moral and upright person, but not the weight of archaic and sometimes illogical beliefs is freeing. There is a reason why so many people who experience great success are also atheists.

Warren Buffett, Steve Wozniak, Stephen Hawking, and Mark Zuckerberg are just a few of the many, many famous and successful people who don't believe in G-d. It's freeing when you have no one to answer to and no after-life to aspire to. All you have is here and now and you want to make it count.

I would consider this camp for my children in a second. Would you?


Image via George Ploaie/Flickr

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