The Timesonline informs us of a summer camp in England designed for atheist kids. The camp is funded by famous militant atheist Richard Dawkins whose book The God Delusion enjoyed the distinction of being perhaps the most poorly argued book ever to be a smash best-seller.
Here are some excerpts from the Times' article:
One parent said of his children, "I'm very keen on not indoctrinating them with religion or creeds," he said this weekend. "I would rather equip them with the tools to learn how to think, not what to think."
The emphasis on critical thinking is epitomised by a test called the Invisible Unicorn Challenge. Children will be told by camp leaders that the area around their tents is inhabited by two unicorns. The activities of these creatures, of which there will be no physical evidence, will be regularly discussed by organisers, yet the children will be asked to prove that the unicorns do not exist. Anyone who manages to prove this will win a �10 note - which features an image of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory - signed by Dawkins, a former professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University.
"The unicorns are not necessarily a metaphor for God, they are to show kids that you can't prove a negative," said Saman-tha Stein, who is leading next month's camp. "We are not trying to bash religion, but it encourages people to believe in a lot of things for which there is no evidence."
I have an idea for another activity Ms Stein might consider. Take the children to a garden where all the flowers are planted in the form of mathematical equations and then ask them to imagine a plausible way this could have come about purely by chance, wind, rain and erosion without the input of an intelligent agent. Offer the little nippers a million dollars if they can come up with a theory. She won't have to worry about paying the prize, of course, since no one else has been able to do it, either - not even the revered Dr. Dawkins.
Stein, 23, a postgraduate psychology student from London, was inspired to work at an atheist summer camp in America after reading The God Delusion, the bestselling book that sealed Dawkins's reputation as Britain's most prominent non-believer.
Camp Quest was founded in America, where Bible classes and Christian retreats are widespread, by Edwin Kagin, an atheist lawyer from Kentucky. Since launching in 1996, Camp Quest operates at six different US sites, with a new camp due to open in Florida at Christmas.
Amanda Metskas is currently supervising 71 children at a Camp Quest project in Clarkesville, Ohio. Her classes include a session called Socrates Cafe, which debates issues such as definitions of knowledge, art and justice.
I wonder what Ms Metskas' definition of justice is, or more to the point, what reasons she offers to the children as to why anyone, in a world without God, should be just if they can get away with being unjust. That would be a very interesting campfire talk to listen in on.
Moreover, at these camps campfire dialogues are sprinkled with jokes like this one: How many atheists does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change the bulb and the other to film the work being done so the fundamentalists won't claim that God did it.
What a hoot. I'll bet that has the tots doubled over in stitches.
The counsellors also teach the children that lots of famous people were atheists:
"We teach them that even people like Sir David Attenborough are religious sceptics," said Metskas.
Wow. David Attenborough an atheist? How inspiring that must be for the little ones. I wonder if Ms Metskas also mentions that Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Adolf Hitler, and most of the people who wind up in our jails were atheists at the time they committed their crimes.RLC