Even in the heart of the Bible Belt, Texas isn’t immune to the proliferation of atheistic propaganda, whether in its public schools or now in atheist summer camps.
Camp Quest—with the tagline “It’s beyond belief!”—bills itself as “the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural world view.”1
The first UK Camp Quest, which received funding from the Richard Dawkins Foundation and other private donors, launched late July in England, and five other Camp Quest locations have been established in North America.2
Texas’ first Camp Quest will take place for one day on Sunday, August 30, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Princeton, just east of McKinney. The camp is geared toward children ages five to 13. According to the camp’s website, as of the morning of Wednesday, August 26, all the activities were not completely set, although it was mentioned that the children will “be learning about different animals, making pottery, and having lots of great fun!”1
The camp’s sponsor, the North Texas Church of Freethought, calls itself a “church” in the Christian tradition of “people who are ‘called out for a purpose,’” though it is unclear what or who called.3
According to the church’s website, Freethought differs from atheism, which “means nothing more than a lack of belief in god(s). That’s all. Someone could believe in all sorts of magical and mystical powers, or even fairies and leprechauns. But, if they did not believe in god(s) then they would still be an atheist…Freethought relies instead on facts and reasons, while bearing in mind their limitations…Freethinkers hold their beliefs conditionally, and are willing to reexamine them in the light of new facts and reasons.”4
“Freethought is not thinking whatever one likes. Thinking is much like other things we do in that it is subject to certain rules and restrictions that we call reason or logic,”5 though there is no acknowledgement regarding from whom or where those reasoning and logical capacities come.
Freethinkers are not “persuaded” of God’s existence, but do not directly rule Him out completely. “Essentially the only reasons left for believing in god(s) today are those of tradition, authority, and established belief, all of which Freethinkers reject as a means to discerning truth. Therefore, if a Freethinker did believe in god(s) it would be likely that he or she simply had not yet gotten around to examining the question. In this case, though, the belief would be held provisionally and not dogmatically.”6 But unlike the atheist, it seems, a Freethinker does not take a stand on either side of the issue, preferring to allow his or her opinion to be swayed according to the convenience of any given “evidence.”
The church meets on a monthly basis and includes a time of fellowship, a service, and even a “Sunday School” for children. Its leaders look to several individuals for inspiration, including such anti-religion notables as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Carl Sagan. Interestingly enough, Thomas Jefferson is also on the list of notables, even though he chose the words “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” when penning the Declaration of Independence.7
The church website also noted about Jesus that “unbelievers find the evidence for his being anything more than a human being to be lacking. A coherent account even of the circumstances of his alleged resurrection cannot be constructed from the books of the New Testament,”8 suggesting that the writer of the FAQs did not examine the synoptic gospels.
“In some respects, we find [Jesus’] teachings lacking, as he never, for example, spoke against slavery and the subordination of women, practices that were common in his day.”8 Yet there is no mention of Christ’s teachings in Mark 10:42-44 (reprised in Matthew 20:25-28) regarding slavery or of Paul’s reference in Ephesians 5:25 to Christ’s sacrifice for the church as the model for how husbands should love their wives. Sometimes, the best lessons are not spoken, but taught by example.
“Freethinkers,” as they like to call themselves, are within their rights to hold whatever beliefs they choose and instruct their children only those values that they see fit to teach, whether in their “church” or in privately funded summer camps like Camp Quest. But to tell them specific lies about one belief system or another is not just ignorant, it’s a disservice and injustice to the free and open inquiry they claim to hold dearly.
- Camp Quest Texas website, campquest.churchoffreethought.org.
- Dao, C. Dawkins Supports First UK Atheist Kids’ Camp. ICR News. Posted on icr.org July 27, 2009, accessed August 25, 2009.
- “Why do you call yourselves a church?” FAQ, North Texas Church of Freethought website, accessed August 25, 2009.
- “What is the difference between Freethought and Atheism?” Ibid.
- “How can you think freely if you are not free to believe in god(s)?" Ibid.
- “Can a Freethinker believe in God?” Ibid.
- The Declaration of Independence.
- “Haven't you heard the 'Good News' of Jesus? Don't you know that God loves you?” FAQ, North Texas Church of Freethought website, accessed August 25, 2009.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on August 26, 2009.