Front Page Story on Camp Quest June 27, 2007

Front Page Story on Camp Quest

***Update: Here’s a picture of the Tribune front page, for those who would like to see:


The article is at the bottom!***

The Chicago Tribune has a Page One story today on Camp Quest, the summer camp for children of atheist parents.

While it’s a very positive article (And I’m thrilled about the coverage), there were a couple phrases that rubbed me the wrong way.

Writer Ron Grossman makes a typical mistake that reporters too often do when discussing atheism:

Proudly proclaiming the motto “Beyond Belief,” Camp Quest bills itself as the nation’s first sleep-away summer camp for atheists. Founded in 1996, it has inspired four similar camps across the nation for children whose parents are either opposed or indifferent to religion.

This makes it sound like the parents are either apathetic about religion (in which case, why send a child to a religion or non-religious camp in the first place) or they hate all religions (when in fact many of the parents have close religious friends and family members).

The truth is these parents just don’t believe in superstition and don’t want to teach their children that we should rely on faith instead of proof and evidence. They want their children to grow up questioning the claims of religious figures and anyone else, for that matter. Many of them live in areas where they face a lot of antagonism (usually from Christians) as a result of their non-religiosity. Camp Quest is a haven for these children who have to deal with the atheist stigma on a daily basis.

Opposed or indifferent? Both options are incorrect.

[Camper Sophia] Riehemann notes that a secular perspective takes away childhood joys other kids have, such as Christmas. But that doesn’t bother her. “They have Santa Claus,” she said, “and we have Isaac Newton.”

Perhaps not the reporter’s fault since he’s speaking to a camper, but atheists celebrate many special occasions — and in today’s culture, it’s easy enough to enjoy Christmas (at least that time of the year) without being a Christian.

Plus, presents are always good.

And Santa Claus is real — I don’t know what Riehemann is talking about…

One thing Grossman gets entirely right is his description of the camp’s founder, Edwin Kagin:

Kagin has a full beard, a rolling gait and a sardonic delivery reminiscent of Mark Twain, as played by Hal Holbrook.

If you met him, I promise you this would be hilarious.

[tags]atheist, atheism, Camp Quest, Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune, Santa Claus, Christmas, Christian, Edwin Kagin, Hal Holbrook, Mark Twain, Sophia Riehemann, Isaac Newton[/tags]

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  • Yea, that’s a nice description of Edwin Kagin. Sorta the impression I got when I met him. 🙂

  • Ah Edwin. Hehe.

    Anyhow, no matter what the article is, the news never gets it fully right. =/

  • Ash

    christmas is a religious thing? these days? maybe it’s just an english thing, but here xmas is about family, friends and presents, easter’s about giving/getting chocolate eggs (or chocolate bunny idols, not quite a golden cow, but still pretty cool…), etc for other ‘religious’ holidays. they may have roots, but ask any kid what xmas means and they’ll know all about the fat beardy guy and not necessarily a thing about a baby with a halo. in fact, we thought you americans invented the idea of turning a religious holiday into a secular celebration (or maybe it was just the gift/card companies…?)

    recently, there’s even been a spew of ‘politically-correct’ bannings of nativity scenes/plays for fear of upsetting the non-religious/opposing religious folks. at christmas. gotta love living in a completely secular country like england…erm…

    google ‘nativity’ ‘ban’ ‘uk’ for shits + giggles…

  • Thank Logic! I always hated the sleep-away “Jewish” camps my (reform Jewish) parents sent me to.

  • Hi there F-A, thought I’d let you know, I’ve tagged you!

  • Maria

    thanks for the secular celebration website. I will always love celebrating the holiday season, whether I’m religious or not. how you celebrate it should be your own personal choice. I’m glad the camp is there; there needs to be an alternative to “Jesuscamp”. Do you know if any other faiths have tried to set up a camp in “bible country?”

  • I like the idea of this type of camp.

  • Norm

    That was certainly one of the better articles about Camp Quest that I’ve seen, thanks for the link. For better or worse, the Minnesota one is filled up for this summer, but we could use a few more counselors to handle our increased enrollment.

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