Camp Quest UK Article Addressed by Dawkins July 5, 2009

Camp Quest UK Article Addressed by Dawkins

Last week, The Sunday Times published a series of mistake-ridden articles about Camp Quest UK. The most gratuitous error was the headline for the main article:

Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists

Not only was Richard Dawkins not running the camp (he only made a small donation to it), it most certainly does not “groom atheists.” It encourages them to think for themselves and does not guide them toward a godless conclusion.

Anyway, today, they finally published a rebuttal letter from Dawkins himself:

Your article Dawkins Sets Up Kids’ Camp to Groom Atheists (News, last week) begins with the Jesuitical opening line: “Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.” Camp Quest, is not inspired by me or influenced by me. The British version, run by Samantha Stein, follows the American model founded by Edwin and Helen Kagin, of Kentucky.

I gave the following quote to Lois Rogers: “Camp Quest encourages children to think for themselves, sceptically and rationally. There is no indoctrination, just encouragement to be open-minded, while having fun.” Isn’t that about as far from Jesuitical grooming as you could imagine? One of my dominant motivations is an abhorrence of childhood indoctrination, of atheism just as much as of religion. It is in this spirit that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has made very modest contributions to Camp Quest.

Richard Dawkins

Many of the other letters appear to have been written by people who took the articles at face value and assume Camp Quest is some sort of atheist-indoctrination camp.

At least Dawkins corrected the record. If the paper issued a public apology, that’d be even better.

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  • Shawn

    Considering the picture painted by the original article, the lack of scripture and references to Hell is even more surprising. I am always saddened by the comments for similar stories in North American papers. I’m picturing the tone of commenters if this was USA Today or the Globe and Mail.

  • Tony

    I found this letter to be the most amusing:

    Maybe Dawkins’s atheist kiddy camps can educate these already overindulged middle-class children as to why more than 80% of all voluntary and charity work in this country is carried out by faith (mostly Jewish and Christian) groups. That he might prevent them from turning out to be as smug, selfish and generally joyless as the majority of adult atheists is already a lost cause, I fear.

    Julie Burchill

    Ah yes, the former Mrs Tony Parsons admonishing atheists for being “joyless” and their children for being “over-indulged” and “middle class”. What wonderful irony.

  • You know, I’m not that far from Kentucky. I should see about getting a jobby-job at this camp!

    BSA camps always have that undertone/vibe happening: I remember sitting head-up in the mess hall – the only kid doing so, I noticed – while the other kids were following the scout leaders in rather banal prayer. The only good side was that they all genuinely had their eyes closed, so i wasn’t noticed and singled out.

    There are church camps a-plenty out there as it is that do more to move the message and sell salvation. Not surprisingly, they’re quite expensive from what I’ve heard.

    A place like this, where it’s just about camping and having a good time with no religious undertones of any kind, is what the experience should be no matter where a kid goes! Learn outdoorsy stuff: putting up a tent, maybe building a lean-to, getting a ripping good fire going, checking out local wildlife…

    Seriously, do you really need God for all that?

    I agree: The Times should apologize for what is clearly a case of making a mountain out of a mole hill, probably to cause an uproar among people of ‘faith’ for the sheer news value.

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