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