Going to atheist camp


by Rumbold
28th June, 2009 at 12:59 pm    

Hmmm…:

“GIVE Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life…

The five-day camp in Somerset (motto: “It’s beyond belief”) is for children aged eight to 17 and will rival traditional faith-based breaks run by the Scouts and church groups.

Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism. There will be sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war.”

This doesn’t seem particularly problematic to me. We already have camps with religious themes, while the children are just there to have fun and marshmallows, so won’t really care what they are being told. However, it will give more ammunition to those who accuse Richard Dawkins (and others) of turning atheism into a religion.


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  1. David O'Keefe — on 28th June, 2009 at 1:13 pm  

    Atheist camp? I don’t believe it.

    Can someone have a word with him? Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

  2. munir — on 28th June, 2009 at 1:17 pm  

    “along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war.”

    Having children look at the wonders and beauty of nature is probably not a good idea if you want them to be athiests

  3. David O'Keefe — on 28th June, 2009 at 1:24 pm  

    “Having children look at the wonders and beauty of nature is probably not a good idea if you want them to be athiests”

    Having Dawkins droning on about evolution when your looking at the wonders and beauty of nature will probably be enough to put you off atheism for life.

  4. munir — on 28th June, 2009 at 1:36 pm  

    David O Keefe
    “Having Dawkins droning on about evolution when your looking at the wonders and beauty of nature will probably be enough to put you off atheism for life.”

    Hahha its true. The number of athiests with religious kids and athiest children of vicars indicates that.

  5. comrade — on 28th June, 2009 at 1:50 pm  

    There is in every village a torch-the teacher; and an extinguisher – the clergymen. Victor Hugo.

  6. BenSix — on 28th June, 2009 at 3:30 pm  

    How in *ahem* God’s name do you get a “budding atheist“? Atheism is a position of some certainty, you don’t adopt it and then move to justifications.

  7. Don — on 28th June, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

    Atheism is a position of some certainty…

    Well, it tends to be a considered position. But if you are certain then you are probably doing it wrong, as you can’t prove a negative. I regard myself as a fairly ‘strong’ atheist, but there are things that could persuade me that I was wrong.

    I admire Dawkins’ work, but he does sometimes get the tone wrong. ‘Brights’ was an embarrassment and Atheist Camp is a bit like sticking a ‘Kick me’ sign on your own trousers.

    But in reality a summer camp with a few courses on critical thinking and Philosphy for Children (which doesn’t have to be dull), maybe a little evo-devo, spot of fossil hunting, goat sacrificing, zip-wires and camp-fire cooking… sounds ok.

  8. Stirring Up Apathy — on 28th June, 2009 at 3:55 pm  

    Don’t agree with what Dawkins is doing, but for The Times to use the word “groom” in the headline for this story is a tad ironic given the certain problems *cough* certain religious institutes have had over the years.

    Even The Mail has a less alarmist headline.

  9. Arif — on 28th June, 2009 at 3:57 pm  

    I think it is quite, err, rational for Richard Dawkins to set up such a camp.

    If he sees religions as memes which have found ways of replicating themselves, and society as an organism suffering from these out of control memes, then – in the absence of more effective meme therapies, or to supplement them, why not introduce (what he would consider) more positive memes using the same methods of replication as the negative ones.

    Basically – Dawkins sees the spread of religion as bad, and camps are one way it spreads, and so why not use the same processes to spread something he sees as good?

    More profoundly, one of the ways religions become powerful is through the deep self-identification of believers, and few atheists are like Dawkins in embracing such an identity in the same way. If Dawkins can find a way of making non-believers, how do I put it … sufficiently … zealous for atheism, perhaps he thinks the necessary counter-meme can be constructed, where it does not actually currently exist.

  10. Denim Justice — on 28th June, 2009 at 4:08 pm  

    “Re-education” camps?

    What an authoritarian stooge. He’s just as bad as the brainwashing mullahs and clerics

  11. Denim Justice — on 28th June, 2009 at 4:09 pm  

    Atheism is a position of some certainty, you don’t adopt it and then move to justifications.

    You do if you are Richard Dawkins or any other of the plethora of bizarrely religious atheists.

  12. BenSix — on 28th June, 2009 at 4:16 pm  

    “But if you are certain then you are probably doing it wrong, as you can’t prove a negative. I regard myself as a fairly ’strong’ atheist, but there are things that could persuade me that I was wrong.”

    Well, absolutely; thus the comfortable vagueness of the “some“.

    “But in reality a summer camp with a few courses on critical thinking and Philosphy for Children (which doesn’t have to be dull), maybe a little evo-devo, spot of fossil hunting, goat sacrificing, zip-wires and camp-fire cooking… sounds ok.”

    Agreed – there’s a fine line between telling people what to think and telling people how to think, but I’m sure it can be traversed.

  13. Amrit — on 28th June, 2009 at 4:35 pm  

    motto: “It’s beyond belief”

    Hahahahaha! That is SO LAME… sorry, but it is.

    I have the same stance on this as you, Rumbold. It really does feel like an attempt to turn atheism into a belief system (ironic, much?).

    Good luck to Dawkins though – as long as the kids enjoy themselves and aren’t getting anything rammed down their throats, it sounds fairly fun.

  14. Arif — on 28th June, 2009 at 4:37 pm  

    Amrit – that is the point – Dawkins surely needs atheism to become a belief system if it is to be effective in undermining (what he sees as) the other belief systems doing harm to everyone.

  15. Shatterface — on 28th June, 2009 at 5:11 pm  

    Atheism isn’t a belief system in the way that religions are because it doesn’t, in itself, provide a moral framework. It doesn’t provide any framework for undrstanding at all, in fact, save that it cuts out an appeal to higher powers.

    As an atheist myself I could be just as intolerant of homosexuals, for instance, or ‘immoral women’, it’s just that if I was challenged to defend my bigotry I couldn’t just pass the buck onto the sky pixie, I’d have to provide an answer that I’d thought through myself and for which I alone was responsible.

    Atheism doesn’t make you a ‘good’ person in itself, it just takes away the crutch which helps you maintain idiotic prejudices.

    Likewise, atheism itself does not tell me where the universe came from or how life emerged but it does prevent me from pat appeals to the supernatural as a substitute for attempting to find out.

  16. comrade — on 28th June, 2009 at 5:18 pm  
  17. Sunny — on 28th June, 2009 at 5:28 pm  

    yeah I see what Dawkins is doing – and Arif explains it well. The problem being of course that he is in danger of turning atheism into a dogma, as others have pointed out.

  18. comrade — on 28th June, 2009 at 5:51 pm  

    Some time back I met an old friend who had high BP, who later became baptatized Sikh. And we got talking about religion. He informed me that he had given up is medication, and that he had full faith in God now, that if he continues to recite is name all illness will dissapear. I pleaded with him not to stop his medication but to no vail. The poor chap had a stroke six months latter and paralized.

  19. Don — on 28th June, 2009 at 6:03 pm  

    Arif makes a persuasive point, but so long as the ‘meme’ in question is critical thinking then I don’t think some sort of ‘atheist dogma’ is going to emerge.

  20. Ravi Naik — on 28th June, 2009 at 6:09 pm  

    Any camp whose goal is to try to make your kids into something for life, well… that sounds to me like brainwashing and indoctrination, and that I believe that is the role of parents. :>

    I think kids need to learn to question knowledge, authority and dogmas, but I do not think it harms them to experience religion and meditation. Having different experiences makes them healthier human beings,

  21. comrade — on 28th June, 2009 at 6:51 pm  

    think kids need to learn to question knowledge, authority and dogmas,

    Ravi, I think the above should read;

    I think kids need to learn to question religion, authority and dogmas,

    Ravi, I have a teenage daughter who herself, through study has become an atheist, not through Dawkins or myself but Darwin. She faces lots of discrimation and bitterness from our Sikh relatives due to her beleifs.

  22. Denim Justice — on 28th June, 2009 at 7:02 pm  

    Why can’t he just teach them critical thinking, rather than trying to brainwash them into atheism? It is better they arrive at that conclusion themselves, rather than him aggressively re-educating them.

  23. Don — on 28th June, 2009 at 7:16 pm  

    How did you arrive at the conclusion that he wasn’t?

    Aggressive re-education? Rather a radical reading of the text, surely?

  24. comrade — on 28th June, 2009 at 7:21 pm  

    Denim justice,
    woundnt it be better that we ban the teaching of religion and atheism to under eighteens like everything else and close down all religuos schools.

  25. Jo — on 28th June, 2009 at 8:25 pm  

    nice one! God definitely has a sense of humour.

  26. Chris Baldwin — on 28th June, 2009 at 9:06 pm  

    If atheism means having to do a load of stuff then count me out! I thought the point was that we decide that it doesn’t make sense to believe in gods and then get on with our lives. It’s not a belief system or a practice.

  27. Cabalamat — on 28th June, 2009 at 10:02 pm  

    @2: Having children look at the wonders and beauty of nature is probably not a good idea if you want them to be athiests

    Nonsense. I for one find nature is all the more beautiful for knowing the evolutionary origins of it.

  28. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 12:01 am  

    You would have to really hate your kids to subject them to Richard fuckin Dawkins. Has he done The Hindu Milk Miracle yet? Every Athiest so far who has tried to explain that to me in a rational and scientific manner has been totally crap.

  29. Andy Gilmour — on 29th June, 2009 at 1:01 am  

    Dave Bones – oh, you mean the Hindu Milk Mass Hysteria? :-)

    Try here.

    Fascinating article by ‘T.Jayaraman’, complete with a couple of relevant experiments you can try at home.

    Hope that helps.

    :-)

  30. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 3:36 am  

    Thanks. That explanation is utter shite as usual. I will say the same to any athiest. Pick up your spoon, I’ll bring the milk. We’ll go to the statue. Show me. Lets watch the fuckin thing drink milk. Simple.

  31. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 3:46 am  

    Bloody surface tension. There were Hindus queing the whole way round the block. I saw it on the BBC. they like to pretend they are rational and scientific too. It started, then it stopped. there was a change in “surface tension”? of stone? Rubbish. the explanation is no good. try another one. Pass the spoon to Dawkins. lets have a proper laugh.

  32. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 3:54 am  

    Why did it start and then stop? These people queued with lots of milk. I am not saying that this definatley isn’t the answer- I am just saying that to believe it is requires more faith than I possess faced with the information the BBB provided at the time when I saw it on TV.

    I am with Sunny on this one. Dawkins is a religious athiest. there is nothing wrong with people prothelesysing their religion (or however it is spelt) but I am not interested in Dawkins religion. It is boring.

  33. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 3:54 am  

    BBC even. Where is the bloody edit comments facility? :-)

  34. DavidMWW — on 29th June, 2009 at 9:18 am  

    dave bones, please supply your explanation for the milky statue miracle, and give reasons why your explanation should not be considered “utter shite.”

  35. Paul Moloney — on 29th June, 2009 at 10:26 am  

    “Having children look at the wonders and beauty of nature is probably not a good idea if you want them to be athiests”

    I’ve always thought that the concept of an orchid being the end result of millions of years of evolution is far more amazing and beautiful than the rather trite idea of a big guy with a beard magicing it up.

    P.

  36. Leon — on 29th June, 2009 at 10:33 am  

    Really don’t know what to make of this. I can see plus sides and negatives in almost equal measure.

    Must say I’m getting a little bored of Richard Dawkins being a ‘leading light’ amongst Atheists…

  37. Denim Justice — on 29th June, 2009 at 10:44 am  

    If Richard “Fuck Off” Dawkins is a leading light amongst Atheists, Atheism is in trouble

  38. Mister Christian — on 29th June, 2009 at 2:23 pm  

    Something tells me that he is going to be ‘preaching to the converted’
    http://moralorder.mediumisthemess.com/

  39. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 2:43 pm  

    I have no idea how all those statues suddenly drank milk and then stopped. I am totally comfortable with having no idea of how all those statues suddenly started drinking milk and then stopped. I don’t have to make up any psuedo scientific bullshit about surface tension apparently sucking loads of milk into stone and then stopping. I have no idea. I don’t know.

  40. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 2:46 pm  

    I don’t need faith in science or religion. I don’t believe in faith. I don’t believe in belief. I don’t believe in science.

  41. Paul Moloney — on 29th June, 2009 at 2:50 pm  

    Note to the ranters: Dawkins is not the Pope of Atheism. It is neither organized not a religion.

    P.

  42. Humpty Dumpty — on 29th June, 2009 at 3:41 pm  

    4. munir:

    “The number of athiests with religious kids and athiest children of vicars indicates that.”

    Got any proof of that? I’d imagine that it may possibly true of those few parents who heavily indoctrinate their kids with atheism (A kind of push-back against them), but I’d be very surprised if that was the case with parents who just never bothered talking much about religion with their kids.

    Anyway, I think the people who shriek about indoctrination are just projecting here. Religions have had a monopoly on indoctrinating children for thousands of years, so it’s a bit hypocritical if religious people moan that atheists are getting in on it all of a sudden.

    That said, I agree with previous posters who say it’s making atheism seem a bit too much like a religion or a dogma. For me it’s just a default position that I don’t have to think about. Disestablishing the C of E, total secularisation of the education system, ensuring evolution is properly taught in school and the government stopping pandering to faith groups would be far more effective.

  43. Leon — on 29th June, 2009 at 5:47 pm  

    Note to the ranters: Dawkins is not the Pope of Atheism. It is neither organized not a religion.

    Get a grip mate, nobody’s ranting. You can’t deny the guy loves publicity and always jumps at the chance to push Atheism (for the record, I’m an Atheist) when ever he can. By default he’s making it look like an organised movement whether he likes it or not…

  44. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 5:52 pm  

    Dawkins is ranting. He is the pope of Atheism. Its a free country he can rant if he wants. I am just not interested in his ranting. None of his ranting explains anything.

    Going up to a rabbi and saying

    “Mr Wabbi you are wong.” isn’t even clever. I could do that. Anyone could.

  45. Don — on 29th June, 2009 at 6:21 pm  

    Leon,

    nobody’s ranting.

    dave’s borderline.

  46. dave bones — on 29th June, 2009 at 9:48 pm  

    You’ve got to have a rant sometimes. Better out than in :-)

  47. Andy Gilmour — on 29th June, 2009 at 11:15 pm  

    “That explanation is utter shite as usual. I will say the same to any athiest. Pick up your spoon, I’ll bring the milk. We’ll go to the statue. Show me. Lets watch the fuckin thing drink milk. Simple.”

    Actually, Dave, the guy in the article I linked to describes exactly how you can do that experiment at home for yourself. Doesn’t matter what you choose to “believe” in. Fascinating stuff. But then, as DaveMWW asked, I’d be very, very interested in your rational, evidence-based explanation as to why the guy is wrong. (The videos purporting to support the “miracle” are very interesting, especially when you check out exactly how much is spilling down the front of the statues. But then I *would* say that, wouldn’t I, I’m just another godless “reality-based” dupe, who’s “making up” “pseudo-scientific bullshit”).

    I considered continuing debating this (just to bore you senseless) – we could have examined Hume’s arguments that (in a nutshell) extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to support them.

    The phenomenon of mass hysteria clearly played an important role – something which millions of people become subject to every weekend attending football matches, for instance…

    But your replies suggest that on this topic at least, it’d be a complete waste of my life.

    Ho hum.

  48. fug — on 30th June, 2009 at 9:56 am  

    theres a period a lot of teenagers go through when dawkins is compelling for them. im wondering what kind of parents would send their kids to these.

    hmm. perhaps the pushy middle class , gotta get the bugger into oxbridge types.

  49. dave bones — on 30th June, 2009 at 10:38 am  

    totally up to you

  50. Ala — on 1st July, 2009 at 7:27 pm  

    I think this is a terrible idea. Kids don’t go to camp to learn! Educate them, by all means, but at school.

    Richard Dawkins himself would probably argue that these matters should be decided on when you’re older. Yes, religious indoctrination is a terrible thing, so counter it by not having any indoctrination at all, not forcing them to learn concepts they won’t be interested in.

  51. Don — on 1st July, 2009 at 9:43 pm  

    …forcing them to learn concepts they won’t be interested in.

    What? Is that your reading of the proposal?

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