Were You Coerced to Go to Christian Bible Camp? August 4, 2009

Were You Coerced to Go to Christian Bible Camp?

Reader “Bob” saw the article by Ian Bell that suggested some Camp Quest attendees are going there against their will.

In an email, “Bob” writes:

I work for a Christian Bible camp which also serves as a weekend retreat for groups out of season. I’ve worked there for two years. They are probably the only people in my life that are not aware that I am an atheist.

Regarding your Camp Quest blog, I would like to account for the two summers which I’ve worked, about 5% of the children are forced either by their parent, or a friend convinced them to go, and they do not believe in God. A lot of them end up being miserable about the whole week. The kids who always come were children who were from the churches that own the facility. Their youth ministers instructs them to bring at least two friends with them to camp the summer. Most of them end up becoming indoctrinated, and I’ve been told most Bible camps are like that.

I wonder if anyone else has similar stories to share. Surely, plenty of readers went to Bible camps (willingly or otherwise) as children.

Let’s also reiterate that Camp Quest doesn’t indoctrinate. It doesn’t tell the kids what’s right or wrong, or that the kids will suffer for eternity if they choose to disagree. It’s a place for open dialogue, debate, and discussion.

Do Christian summer camps allow for all of that?

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  • Emily

    I went to Quaker camp for four summers as a child and let me tell you, there was never a religious camp for the young with less god in it than Quaker camp. Course they were just one week jobbies more for socializing and learning about contemporary Quakerism than they were for indoctrination (I mean, it’s Quakers, c’mon), but hey, maybe that’s the way it should be. I remember playing capture the flag and tie-dying socks more than anything else. Alas that some child must suffer at their religious summer camps D:

  • Microbiologychick

    I was forced to go to church camp until I decided to take dual enrollment college classes in the summers.

    Here’s my story:

  • littlejohn

    My parents, who I’m sure were just trying to get me out of their hair, often sent me packing to various Episcopal, Presbyterian and Boy Scout camps (yes, the Boy Scouts are a religious organization). I didn’t especially like them, but I encountered no offensive indoctrination. Of course, those are pretty liberal churches. I was just a kid, but I was an atheist. I kept that to myself.

  • ccubeman

    Not sure about the rest of folks here, but when my parents told me to do something – I did it. Or things went badly, most times. Being miserable when your parents ask you to do something you dislike is part of growing up. Maybe some of these Camp Quest kids simply dislike camps, It’s not that unusual.

    I was forced to do lots of things I hated. Cutting the grass, taking out the trash, cleaning the cat litter, coming in to eat dinner when all I wanted to do was play another hour, not allowed to look at the creepy neighbors dirty magazines…. The worst was not allowing my best friend Kenny anywhere near our house. Of course he had accidentally shot me in the leg with his .22, so they may have had good reason. Seemed trivial to me, but what did I know…

    On a Camp Quest note… Their list of activities sounds pretty darn interesting. There are activities to exercise the body and mind; What’s not to like?

  • Erp

    Well I suspect camps vary. Grace Bible Camp’s kids schedule seems to include 40 minutes for personal/cabin devotion, 45 minutes of Bible study, 105 minutes of chapel (split into morning and evening services), and possibly more depending on what “Surprise Hour” is. A total of 3 hours plus of solid religion per day every day.

    A Quaker or Unitarian Universalist camp is likely to be more relaxed.

    I did go to a YMCA summer camp one year (my parents were redoing the house interior). I don’t recall any religion.

  • sc0tt

    I had to go to “Vacation Bible School” every year for the first few weeks of summer vacation. It was a half-day, multi church thing and my parents mostly considered it cheap baby sitting I think.

    We sang religious songs and did religious crafts and church ladies were the volunteer teachers. I absolutely hated it.

    Went to YMCA camp too and it was great (Native American theme) but years later when my sister went to the same place it had turned religious. They’re still around and here’s their mission statement:

    Camp Foster YMCA’s mission is To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Camp Foster continues to remain a summer camp that is grounded in our Values and Mission.

  • My daughter was an atheist before I was. While we still were going to church, I gave her the option of going to the summer and fall camps. I didn’t force or coerce her to go (I honestly would have rather had the time with her instead of paying money for a camp while I sat home and missed her). As a social being whose friends were all going to camp, of course she wanted to go to be with her friends. She always had a good time, and because she is a very animated person naturally, she was never harassed by the counselors (they assumed she had “the spirit” since she danced and clapped and sang and stuff during the songs).

    My daughter is probably an exception, though. She is the child of an atheist and a (former) christian, so she saw both sides from the beginning and was able to come to her own conclusions early.

  • Oh, and I am totally asking her if she wants to go to Camp Quest next year. How did I not know about this camp before??

  • I fortunately was never forced to go to any camp, but the local church had a summer “Vacation Bible School” for a few hours a day over a week which my brother and I were forced to go to for a few years.

    I don’t think a single kid there was in it entirely by their own choice. Obviously parents often need to encourage their kids to do anything rather than just sitting around playing video games all summer, but if you give a churchload of kids the choice between bible camp and some other secular summer camp (not necessarily Camp Quest, but even a band camp or something else relating to the kids interest) I am willing to bet that not a single kid will choose the bible camp.

  • andrew

    what I want to know is Bob’s story – why, as an atheist is he working for a bible camp? and what does he do there? Is he toning down the indoctrination from the inside? whats his deal?

  • ATL-Apostate

    Back when I was a theist, I worked as a counselor at a Christian camp run by the Southern Baptist Association. The kids were definitely coerced into coming by their respective churches.

    At the end of each week’s camp, we had an evangelist come to preach, with the goal of getting campers to “get saved” or “rededicate their lives to Christ.” We did fun things during the week, but there was always an Christian take on everything we did. There were no courses on critical thinking or making rational decisons.

  • mkb

    I went to Presbyterian camps every summer — one summer I went to two. When I was in college I was a counselor for one summer. I loved every minute of it. Other than singing upbeat religious songs, I don’t remember much religion. There were probably a few minutes of uplifting thought and meditation on a regular basis but nothing memorable. It was about being outside, away from home and having fun.

  • Hey Emily- I went to a Christian Science camp in Pennsylvania that had almost no religion involved.

    Heres what was involved:

    Random abandonment of the scheduled events for an all camp mudfight in the best rainstorm ever

    Getting out of the early bedtime for astronomy class (no mention of god here, either)

    Making model rockets

    Catching rattlesnakes, newts, frogs, anything else that looked cool

    And my favorite thing for a religious camp?

    Skinny dipping with the hippyish counselors.

    Also, one Sunday a lot of people had a day off so they had the head cook teach a Sunday school class. He was an atheist (which the camp knew) and was just there because he had a ton of fun working there and got paid for it.

    I miss camp.

  • Bryan

    I always saw Bible Camp/Sunday school as a complete waste of time when I was a child. (That view has not changed)

    It was mostly arts and crafts with a Christian theme. But it made the parents happy because they could drop their kids off at some sort of “day care” and have a break.

    Of course, they may do Bible camp differently these days, so who knows what they are shoving into young kids’ minds.

  • I was a cub scout and then a boy scout for my entire childhood. The only time I have ever attended church was when I was forced to go to a service at one of these camps.

    It was horrible, it made me cry. I told them I didn’t want to go, I told them I don’t believe in God, I don’t go to church, I was confused and hurt.

    They didn’t drag me there physically but they certainly threatened to. I was told that “every one was going” and that attendance was non-optional.

    It was a pretty traumatic event.

    I just wanted to go camping…

  • Stan

    For about three consecutive summers when I was around ten years old, I was forced to go to a week-long “Vacation Bible School” at my local church. We basically just played games and talked to each other, but there was always a religious undertone to everything and each day ended in lots of hymn-singing. I sort of enjoyed it for the chance to talk to friends outside of school, but the Jesus part never really caught on. I stopped going when I left that particular church.

  • Dan

    When I was a child, I was forced to go to both Vacation Bible School and Bible Camp (which my church called retreats). Actually, there were a few summers where I had to go to TWO Vacation Bible Schools, one at my mother’s church and one at my aunt’s.

    I recall one of the last Retreats I was forced to go to was particularly miserable. My real friends were going camping at the beach that same weekend, but I was not allowed to go because it conflicted with the retreat.

    One of the things that really disillusioned me with the other youths at that church were some of the hypocritical gangbangers/wannabe gangbangers that would go for social reasons.

    On that last retreat, I wandered off one night to explore the woods on my own. Back in the main camp, people could see my movement and flashlight and for whatever reason I really scared some of the other kids, because they thought I was a bear. A few of the older kids came over to check out what was going on. One of the much older and larger kids discovered me, and for reasons I don’t entirely understand–my best guess is embarrassment–he started beating me, and I was hurt pretty badly. I didn’t go back to my bunk that night, because I overheard some of the other older kids talking about the incident, and I was afraid I’d get jumped there, too.

    Oh, and the food was terrible.

  • Tim

    Although I wasn’t coerced, I was also never asked. I was just sent. I guess it really depends on the camp and the counselors. Kids will like and dislike experiences based on a whole lot of things. I suspect that until a certain age, religious content would be the least of reasons to judge something.

    My parents left Christianity for the Unitarian Church (not as far a leap as I’d have liked) when I was in first or second grade, but I still went to a Christian day camp for a few summers around that time.

    Looking back now, I can see the religion in it, but it never felt that way at the time. Though we performed a musical at the end of the camp called “Cool in the Furnace” (about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego vs. King Nebuchadnezzar) I never really got that it was Christian. It was just music to me and I recovered nicely and have been an Atheist my entire life.

    Boy Scouts though…now that’s a whole ‘nother story! Way worse than the church in my life story.

  • Clytia

    I went to Children’s Bible Camp at Camp Raglan, NZ (http://www.cbm.org.nz/campraglan/campraglan.htm) most holidays, from when I was about 8 or 10 till I was 16, first as a camper, later as a junior leader. I always went voluntarily, and loved it… most of the time. They were bloody strict, and boys and girls were barely allowed to interact, least of all exchange contact details to stay in touch after camp (even the junior leaders!).
    We had morning and evening service every day, group devotions time, bible verse memorisation competitions, and Thursday nights were always “holy spirit night” – people would speak in tongues, shake, collapse on the floor… you know, all the usual shit that happens when the holy spirit enters you.
    Looking back, it was disgusting. It was indoctrinating as hell, they were right, everyone else was wrong, if you disagreed, your opinion was not discussed and acknowledged, rather you were corrected. And because we were in groups for a points race with a prize awaiting at the end (chocolate bars, bibles, christian books…), most kids did their best to learn their bible verses and be as “christian” as possible, whether they believed or not. If they didn’t, the rest of their group would give them hell for letting their team down, and they’d probably get in trouble from their leaders.
    The guy who ran the camp I remember as an authoritarian bastard who got off on the power trip of being in charge of all these kids… most of the kids were scared of him, and the whole Camp experience makes me sick when I think about it now.

  • My freshman year of college, I got a job at a summer camp. I was to be the riflery and amateur radio instructor in addition to being an all-around camp counselor. The staff had two days on site getting acclimated before the campers arrived. And, having been in Boy Scouts I was not surprised that one of the core staff lead a prayer before each meal. What I wasn’t expecting is that once the campers arrived, the prayer before meals were suddenly being recited in Hebrew.

    Aside from that and not having any pepperoni on the pizza, that was as much religion as there was at the camp but I felt somehow deceived. At no point was I told how private a camp this was.

  • Kyle

    I went to “Vacation Bible School” too. I also went to Bible Camp for weeks at a time in junior high during summer. There were no other camp “choices.” We drove to church and took the bus from there into the mountains. We learned about the evils of Dungeons and Dragons, and we sang this song I’ll never forget:

    Will ya won’tcha ain’tcha gonna,

    If I coax ya wontcha wanna,

    Aw come on ya saidja would,

    Why dontcha wanna talk about Jesus, ooh ooh.

    We would start slow and speed up until the words were just a blur. Ah memories.

  • Kitecraft

    I fall into that category. When I was 15, I was asked to attend a 7 day outback horse riding camp. Sounded fun (even though I knew I was both allergic and scared of horses).
    I said yeah, I’d like to go. BUT, and I stressed this alot, several times. I don’t want to go if this is a religious camp of some sort.
    So, everyone told me repeatedly that no, it’s not a religious camp of any kind. It’s just a horse riding camp.

    Pure religion right down to the evening service and everything.
    But, only once did they actually try to get me to do something I didn’t want to (attend a service). The paster began telling me the usual prattle about needing saving, yadi yadi ya
    He gave me version of what was at the time the Boeing 747 argument. Back then though, it was about a tornado blowing through a junkyard and building a fully working lawnmower.
    I told him that I just didn’t get why people always think that ‘WE’ are the top of the line model. I told him that sure, maybe chance can’t put together a lawnmower. BUT, I don’t think we should be so arrogant to believe we are the finished product and contain every single piece of the product. Maybe, in the grand size of the universe, WE are nothing more complicated than a wheel on a bolt with a half threaded nut holding it on. That life on earth shouldn’t be considered the epitome of life, and that humans shouldn’t arrogantly believe they are the special, and that WE may not even be the best Human species we can be. So, stop thinking your the lawnmower because maybe your just the half-threaded nut. OK, I didn’t actually say that last sentence, because I just thought of it. But it’s the gist of what I said anyways.

    He never tried to talk to me after that.

  • Siamang

    I went to one church camp for a week or so with some friends who belonged to a church.

    I think there was a prayer before mealtimes. But other than that I don’t remember much religious content.

    I do remember the swimming and the talent show and that one night they showed us Creature from the Black Lagoon.

    That was awesome!

  • Mikko

    i was on a non religious summer camp in the swedish archipelago

  • Beth B.

    I did Vacation Bible School several summers at a few different churches, and as a teenager helped babysit the younger kids during VBS. All I ever heard about church camp was from the friend who used it as an opportunity to smoke pot out in the woods. I have a feeling that among the older age groups at least as much of that goes on as praying.

  • JulietEcho

    I spent several summers working at a camp run by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, back when I was a Christian. It’s mostly for training college students to be better evangelists and to strengthen their faith, but there are also several weeks of camps where former IV students come back and bring their families. The kids usually don’t get a choice, although most of them seem to enjoy it and have already been fairly heavily indoctrinated by their parents and home churches.

    The part that bothers me, in retrospect, is that there’s a whole group of college student volunteers who essentially run a VBS-like operation that the kids are forced to attend (infants all the way up to teens) while the adults have sermons, Bible studies and prayer meetings going on, for several hours in the morning and evening.

    And everything is dripping with Christian indoctrination techniques. And it’s wrapped in the friendly, enjoyable package of boating, swimming, hiking, etc. The students volunteers who are trained to run it are actually called the “Program” crew, which sounds eerie to me now, as they’re essentially helping to “program” kids.

  • Stephan

    My parents were relatively non-religious people, but I was still forced into a Methodist day-camp for the summer because it billed itself as just a babysitting thing.

    It sucked beyond all comprehension, was full of truly hateful people and tried to teach us bad Christian music.

  • Cait

    I was sent to an Episcopalian summer camp once. I live in a Canadian bible belt region, so pretty much the only alternative for summer camps was an evangelical camp. It wasn’t bad, they even said that it was perfectly OK if you didn’t believe in their teachings, as long as you didn’t make a fuss about it – and nobody tried to convert me! There was a little bit of religious stuff, but mostly it was hiking and canoeing and whatnot.

  • K

    I was raised in a strict christian household. My parents were southern-baptists with deep roots in evangelism and fundamentalism. My first church service was at the tender age of three weeks. I wasn’t allowed to not attend church from then until I turned eighteen. Compulsory church required bible study and two services per Sunday, one service on Wednesday twice a month, AWANAs (weekly child indoctrination), vacation bible school during summer break, mandatory pre-meal prayer, and summer church camp. Church was our family’s only social outlet, the preferred source of friends, and the only acceptable activities outside of sports.

    I spent many summers at church camp, pretty much every summer from 4th to 12th grade. When younger, I enjoyed the socialization and outdoor activities. It was exciting to be away from home with other kids my age, playing tug-o-war and capture-the-flag, singing songs, eating s’mores. Services, devotionals, sermons, worship, prayer, and bible study filled most of our days at some of the camps and other camps required as few as 4 hours per day. When you’re a kid, almost everything that doesn’t involve your parents is fun.

    As I grew older, the pressure to believe and agree often resulted in my acting out and breaking the rules. I didn’t quite understand yet that I was an atheist; I’d never been given the option to not believe in their god. So, I broke the rules, sometimes I got caught, once I got sent home. Eventually, right about the time I graduated high school, I found myself permanently barred from our church campus. Turns out “men of god” don’t take kindly to uppity women with funny ideas about science and reason (as well as the audactiy to ask WHY and argue for logic in the middle of Sunday morning bible study).

    My point is that I’m vehemently against the indoctrination of children which caused me more than a little distress as a young adult.

  • nogos

    When I was younger, I was forced to attend both Vacation Bible School and AWANAs.

    Vacation Bible school was entirely religious, though I didn’t fit with the norm. I acted in ways they didn’t expect: asked why things were the way they said, didn’t follow their oh so carefully crafted instructions to draw angels and god, and paid little attention to anything they were doing (especially the horror that was the hymn singing). I went for several years before I was allowed to quit, albeit under my parents’ presumption that I had outgrown it.

    AWANAs was a beast on it’s own. It was also entirely religious but implemented a transparent strategy of indoctrination. We played religious games, memorized bible verses (though I never really participated, just watched and said that I had forgotten), and listened to religious speakers talk about religion. I was forced to go there for a few years, but then my parents stopped caring. It was a different church from the one we usually attended, so if we were to go we had to get a ride from someone else. By then, though, my sister and I had gotten into a competition of who could withstand the place the longest. So we both just kept going for a months. My sister dropped first. Weeks later, after my victory gloat, I finally stopped going.

    Looking back at these times, it was obvious that I was very skeptical of religion, though I had never noticed it at the time. I didn’t coöperate with the religious exercises well, and nearly always questioned the teachers in Sunday school. I was a general nuisance to the religious leaders at whatever church I went to, but they never stopped me. I guess claiming that you are a Christian stopped any impulses to banish a child.

  • My sister and I were both forced to go to a Pentecostal bible camp as children and teenagers, although — since I was the “good” one — I escaped after two years. I still had to attend one or two scream-fests a year, but that was superior to having to live there. I don’t have any real horror stories, because I only had to go two years: they have a cult-like atmosphere, but beyond that I really can’t say anything.

  • I was forced into a week-long mormon camp every summer. Terrible times. Some girls were sent home one year after they got topless in their cabin to see what normal development looked like. Since I was 16 at that point (my last year going) and not the virginous innocents they were, I found it really really sad they didn’t even know what a girls’ breast looks like. after that I snuck out of camp, called my douchebag boyfriend, and spent the rest of the week at his apartment. I don’t think my parents ever found out.

  • I am so sorry to hear about the awful experiences some of you had. Well intentioned (and not so well intentioned) people can really cause a lot of harm. I’m not a fan of camps of any flavour. I hate sharing rooms, trying to smile and be nice to people before I’ve brushed my teeth or had a coffee… I am a Christian and I do teach kids in our church about Jesus, but I would call frightening children, not giving them a choice and not encouraging them to ask questions and use critical reasoning to be spiritual abuse. Reading these comments has reminded me how crucial this is, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  • Tony Boling

    I would like to address the YMCA summer camp mentioned above. The mission statement that was posted is accurate, but it’s rarely touched upon.

    I’m an atheist and my partner isn’t exactly christian, but isn’t atheist or agnostic either according to her. She’s undecided. We send our six-year old son to YMCA summer day camp which is 7am til 5 to 6pm during weekdays which works out excellent for work schedules. Everyday they do something different like beaches, water parks, regular parks, rollerskating etc, etc.

    Wednesdays for one hour they do have a sort of non-denominational religious studies time but you can opt them out of that if you wish and no, mine isn’t the only kid that’s opted out. The only other religious thing is a sort of prayer song before lunch that they sing. It’s not perfect, but the benefits to him and us as parents far outweigh the little prayer song they sing.

    My kid may say things like the rain is god’s tears or something like that, but he literally equates god the same way he does santa clause and once he fully develops complex critical thinking and abstract logic (9 to 11 according to Piaget’s theory) any notion of god should dissolve with santa clause, which is why we allow him to believe in santa clause now so he has a good point of reference.

  • Mountain Humanist

    I’m not sure if this is a case of religion or not. In any society, some parents are going to force their kids to participate in whatever is perceived as the dominant social structure (think recreational sports leagues — in fact I wonder if youth soccer will someday replace church). In American society (especially in my beloved South), evangelical Christianity is part of that package. I was never forced to attend vacation Bible school as a child as my parents were not hyper-religious. However, in my small, rural community, if you wanted to do something fun in the summer with your peers (aside from hunting for crayfish, mooning passing cars and bottle-rocket wars) that meant going to VBS. Oddly, I learned some of the best “cuss” words and heard more about sex from the other campers than from any other secular source.

  • Greg B

    Bible camp was awesome.

    I worked in the kitchen as a trashboy during the day and at the icecream parlor in the evening. My parents didn’t force me, and I had to earn my way while I was there… more like a work camp actually (with plenty of down time) Developed my work ethic and learned how to make perfect old fashioned milk-shakes and malts.

    Off camp, you could follow the train track to an overpass where we would jump down thirty to forty feet into a reservoir of cool water. (previous campers had fashioned a rock dam)

    Sure there were about two uncomfortable hours every day where I had to sit in tabernacle and figure out why I didn’t seem to feel what everyone was broadcasting. After a few years, I focused on sitting in the back row and drawing. Now I’m a professional artist.

    My Mom thought it was crucially important, but I’m pretty sure my Dad is the one who made sure I would get more out of Bible camp than just realizing I’m an atheist. (get off my ass and work)

  • Mike Nolan

    Yes and all of the little kids who attend anti-war rallies and pro-abortion rallies chose to do so after an extended period of research and reflection.

    Guess what? Kids get coerced by their parents every day. Even if they are those bad old religious folks who dare not to share your enlightened and intrinsically correct views on the origin and nature of life.

  • JSug

    Well, for two consecutive years I attended a week-long church camp around the ages of 12-13. I’ll admit I wasn’t really looking forward to it the first year, but I eagerly went back the second. After that, I was too old. I don’t remember what the denomination was. It might have been Lutheran, or even non-denominational. Either way, it was very liberal and the religion was kept pretty low-key. We would line up before meals and sing a few Sunday-school songs, and maybe there were a few times during the day where we said prayers or chatted with our councilors about belief. That never bothered me, because the councilors were all young and pretty cool. They didn’t bug me when I admitted that I wasn’t a Christian and let me just sit quietly during prayers. One guy was a very talented guitarist and was a big fan of Zeppelin and AC/DC. I had never heard “Stairway to Heaven” before.

    Otherwise, the days were filled with all sorts of activities that were completely secular in nature. Swimming, canoeing, hiking, crafts and classes on various subjects. And there were a lot of… unsanctioned activities going on, as well. I had a couple great week-long flings. 😀

  • Alex

    My mom pretty much made me go to Bible camp for 3 summers.I never liked it and EVERYTHING we did was related to God. We went swimming. The water is holding us afloat just like God. We ate. Christianity was the only religion that completely nourished you. We had church 3 times a day and one night we had to watch a guy draw a picture of Jesus and the counselors got mad at me for not crying because he was bleeding. Then at the end they asked me “How has your relationship with God grown?” I almost answered truthfully and said, “It hasn’t grown because I don’t believe in him.” But then they would have talked to my mom and I’d have to deal with her. Eventually, I took up a job and got out of it.

  • Heidi

    I had to go to VBS the summer my mom volunteered to babysit some of my cousins’ kids. The plan was that the cousins dropped their kids off at my house. Then one of my aunts picked us up and drove us to VBS. She brought us back to my house when it was over, and my mom did the afternoon babysitting shift.

    I was told that I *had* to go to VBS because the cousins’ kids were going. Great. Macaroni necklaces for Jesus in the church basement was not my idea of a good time. And since none of my friends were SDA (Mom came from an Adventist family), I didn’t know anybody there except my second cousins. Oh, the fun. I felt like I’d been sold out.

    But the cousins’ kids were, as my mom put it, wild. lol. She refused to babysit them again the next year, and I didn’t have to go again. I wasn’t an atheist yet, then. It might not have been so bad if there was *any* aspect of fun about it. Maybe we could have gone outside occasionally? But no. It was all macaroni crafts and holy coloring books in a dark basement. With cousins I barely knew.

  • Bria

    I went to church camp semi-voluntarily as a child. I was a zealot at the time and never really enjoyed it, although that had more to do with the snotty popular kids who also went than the religion being shoved down our throats (and, I assure you, religion was shoved down our throats). The part that seems the most glaringly bizarre in retrospect was the police officer who came every year to warn us of the dangers of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. He used the stage name of “Deputy Dawg” and had a particular vendetta against Ozzy Osbourne: he’d show us posters of Ozzy Osbourne and tell us how he had sexually abused the girls in the posters. According to him, one girl was blind because Ozzy had habitually shot cocaine into her eyeballs (and the poster was PROOF!). He also set up a table of seized drugs and paraphernalia for us to see so we’d all know what an eightball of coke or some heroin works looked like–probably not the smartest exhibit for a bunch of kids and adolescents.

  • At the end of my very last Christian Summer Camp is when I first realized that I was actually an atheist.

    And I can sympathize with Bob… whilst I was still in denial, I was a group leader at my church’s Vacation Bible School. Mostly we just played games and had fun.

  • Sean Webb

    When my brother and I were kids we were sent to a two-week summer bible camp. I’m guessing that it was free or my mother arranged for a sponsor of some sort. We were poor, but not at all religious. I was only told that we were going to summer camp. When I arrived I was surprised by the “fun” prayers they told us we would do at each meal. In the afternoons there was a bible study section, which completely confused me. My brother and I were the only kids that didn’t have copies of the bible. I caught on pretty fast and I was able to explain what we had read or had read to us fairly accurately. I sort of got a gold star in bible studies. Throughout my entire childhood I was amazed to learn that Christians took the stories of the bible literally. Even my grandmother was an atheist. When I was a teenager she told me “Dead is dead. I don’t believe in heaven or an afterlife”. After her death I learned that she had taught Sunday school when my aunts and uncles were children, but that was more of a social norm at that time. Sort of like serving on the home and school association or ladies auxiliary. I really liked Beavers, Cubs and Scouts when I was a kid. I was pretty clean cut and the idea of hanging out with other kids talking about nature and citizenship appealed to me. I didn’t understand why this had to be done in a church. Later I learned you had to profess some sort of belief in god to stay with them. Which hastened my departure.

  • Nadroj

    I was never asked to go, or even made to go to any type of Sunday School or Youth Group. It wasn’t optional. No discussion, I WAS going whether I put up a fight or not.
    I hated it. I asked how they knew God was real, and they responded with a generic “He’s in your heart.” I replied that, no, he wasn’t, because he wasn’t real, and a woman I hardly knew hit me across the face.

  • Socraticphilosophia

    I’m so happy people are coming together to talk about their experiences with youth groups, bible camps and cubs/scouts. My mother sent me to bible camps, youth groups and my father taken me to cubs/scouts. It didn’t dawn on me the least, that my parents were sending me to be apart of their religion, and or me being a practicing Chrisitian. I recall reading the Bible during ‘Chapel’ , the people their were fun to be with, as sometimes there were skit’s held at night time. Still, the picture of Jesus, and zealot’s of Christian children/counsellors belief’s didn’t dawn on me that I was apart of a religious group. Now I remember looking back as it were singing ‘THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR THE GOOD GOOD FOOD’ or ‘ROMANS 3:16 SAY’S” during meal time. At that time it all seemed like fun, the question of the existence of God didn’t come up until much later in life, realizing the Bible doesn’t make much sense and all the time I still had a sense of reality. Like I wasn’t overly religious, like a girl I remember raising her hands in worship, I decided to mock to try to figure out what she was doing. The two boys behind my row in chapel starting to laugh at me, probably because they knew I was confused and hardly knew what was going on. Growing at home, my parents hardly explained the concept of religion, it was entirely up to me to figure it out on my own I suppose. Still, it makes me SO ANGRY, Christian’s set up these fun bible camps for children with tonnes of activities (which I was most likely obliged to take part in for summer fun), and get sucked into their way of thinking. Why can’t they’re be a camp for free thought? Where kids meet different kids from other cultures? A place where kids can grow, be creative and ask questions without bullshit religious dogma? IT’S NOT FAIR!

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