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July 29, 2009

11

UK’s 1st Atheist camp begins: a bastion of rigourous thinking?

by quaesitor

Well, having had a well-plugged launch a few weeks back, the Camp Quest atheist camp has started. They’re having a ball, it seems.

Sam Klein, organiser (c/o Daily Mail)

Well of course they are – kids’ activity holidays have to work hard not to be. Camping and canoeing etc – a right laugh. And the UK Camp Quest is a spin-off from an American equivalent that’s been running for a few years already. According to the camp director, Sam Klein (right) they are:

trying to get the kids involved in philosophical thinking but in a way they don’t realise they’re doing it

Hmmm. They do all the things you’d have on a Christian camp (singing – Lennon’s Imagine instead of Kendrick) games, activities talks and discussion groups, etc. The main difference is that it’s designed to get people thinking.

One parent said:

Anything that can teach the children ways of thinking critically, ways of examining arguments, and recognising logical fallacies and trying to determine for themselves what they believe is true, then I think that’s a positive thing.

What particularly stuck me was the so-called centrepiece of the camp, namely the:

search for two invisible unicorns. The unicorns cannot be seen or heard, tasted, smelt or touched, they cannot escape from the camp and they eat nothing. The only proof of their existence is contained in an ancient book handed down over “countless generations”. A prize – a £10 note signed by Professor Richard Dawkins – is offered to any child who can disprove the existence of the unicorns.

Of course, there are important critical thinking skills to be learned from that. And I’m certainly not advocating an anti-rationalist approach; merely uncomfortable with the atheistic reductionist-rationalist approach. But it’s not hard at all to see where that little game is heading. Unicorns… God… Flying Spaghetti Monster… Hmmm… all as spurious, irrational and ridiculous as each other. Because obviously, if only the theist gave it some SERIOUS thought, he or she would reject such an absurd notion immediately.

Now, it’s a nice line on Sam’s t-shirt – and I have to confess that hers is a phrase that I use more often than not. The funny thing is that I find myself wanting to say it to proponents of scientific materialism. As a result of their rampant reductionism, I have to reply, “yes, but…”. Ironic, really.

The interesting thing is to see what happened to the son of the founder of Camp Quest in the USA. Not that anyone’s into point-scoring or anything. It’s just that it’s hard to kick against the goads.

But hey – I’m just quoting journalistic accounts and so may well have completely misunderstood and unnecessarily maligned them…

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jemima Boucher
    Jul 29 2009

    I love the idea of them singing John Lennon’s imagine … “imagine no possessions” is a wonderfully ironic lyric, written as it was by a man with a wallet so thick he could beat elephants to death. And possibly unicorns too. Do atheists do irony?

    Reply
  2. Jul 29 2009

    I bet they can’t find a talking donkey at this camp either.

    Nor will they be able to find a coin in a fishes mouth.

    Nor walk on water.

    Reply
  3. Jemima Boucher
    Jul 29 2009

    Hey, it’s Steven “ancient people are too stupid to build a damn” Carr!

    Do you think the kids might find the invisible apostrophe — the one that *must* be hiding behind that “e” in “fishes” in your sentence. Geez, your posts get worse and worse …

    Readers unfamiliar with the cheeky chap may like to see Steven get thoroughly rinsed in epistemological cold water at http://www.tektonics.org/af/carrs01.html and http://www.tektonics.org/af/carrs02.html

    Reply
  4. Jul 29 2009

    Now, now, Jemima! There’s no need for that.
    Nice to see you back, Steven – after what (according to my records) is an absence of well over a year… Glad to see you’ve not changed your tune – but then of course, nor have I!

    Reply
  5. Jemima Boucher
    Jul 29 2009

    Sorry, Mark, I used to frequent the TheologyWeb forums and Steven was banned on several occasions for abuse, bullying and general naughtiness … lobbing grenades in like he did above are classic Carr behaviour. Lob, insult, run, and change IP address when banned for abuse …

    Reply
  6. Jul 30 2009

    Jemima: that’s interesting to know….

    Reply
  7. Jul 30 2009

    I see. So Holding thinks ancient people would find it easy to put a dam across the Euphrates.

    Using their bulldozer’s , no doubt.

    ‘Sorry, Mark, I used to frequent the TheologyWeb forums and Steven was banned on several occasions for abuse, bullying and general naughtiness’

    I was never banned. Please provide a link to the post which proclaimed that I had been banned.

    Reply
  8. Jul 30 2009

    ‘Lob, insult, run, and change IP address when banned for abuse’

    I don’t even know how to change IP address…..

    I look forward to these links to the ‘several occastions’ of a moderator’s post detailing these mutiple ‘abuse’ for which I was banned.

    That will be even harder to find than the unicorn.

    Reply
  9. Jul 30 2009

    It is years since I w3as on Theology Web.

    http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/member.php?u=52 shows me totally unbanned.

    I think Jemima Boucher was ‘witnessing’ for Jesus. No problems. I get used to Christian witness.

    Reply
  10. Robbie Bird
    Aug 1 2009

    Jemima Boucher asked the question “do atheists do irony?”-
    she might as well of asked – do buddhists do sarcasm? –
    any answer to either of these questions would have to be at best (and indeed at most) a sweeping and pointless generalisation,
    i did enjoy “wallet so thick he could beat elephants to death” but to think that John Lennon was bearing it in mind as he wrote the song- in my opinion is very far fetched

    Reply

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