Camp Quest would like to help correct a number of statements made in a recent article titled “Atheists target UK schools” by Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent at the Sunday Telegraph, that misrepresented aims and objectives of Camp Quest. It should be noted that Mr Jonathan Wynne-Jones had not attempted to contact Camp Quest at anytime for clarification before writing the article.(1)
The article also misrepresented the aims of the The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies while implying a level of co-operation between our two organisations. Corrections by the AHS can be found on their website.(2)
The article, stored in the education rather than religion section of the site includes the statement by Jonathan Wynne-Jones;
It will coincide with the first atheist summer camp for children that will teach that religious belief and doctrines can prevent ethical and moral behaviour.
Camp Quest finds this statement offensive, and has no basis in reality. Camp Quest is often labelled anti-christian/muslim/religious for the affirmation that it is OK not to believe in a idea such as a god/dess(es). The camp is based on humanist principles and seeks to promote tolerance through the understanding that there are many ideas in the world.
In a further development to strengthen the role of atheism among the younger generation, the first summer camp for irreligious children or the children of nontheistic parents is being held this summer.
Organisers say that Camp Quest, which originated in America, offers “a godless alternative to traditional religious summer camps, such as vacation Bible schools”
Camp Quest is open to all children, from families that hold any belief. Camp Quest’s aim is to get campers thinking and asking themselves questions, while equiping them with the tools to go off and come to their own conclusions about a wide range of topics.
There is no ‘atheist dogma’ or agenda, but an atmosphere of inquiry is created and the campers are encouraged to discuss ideas of interest to them.
The additional statement regarding the origins of Camp Quest is true. With numerous summer camps in the US having a religious element, it was proposed that a secular summer camp could provide a welcome alternative.
The sensational writing style of Mr Jonathan Wynne-Jones to misrepresent and distort to create a ‘news’ article have drawn protest from the Muslim community(3) and criticism from the Tories, while Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague called for more moderate language. An article titled ‘Christians ask if force is needed to protect their religious values‘ has been discribed by Dr. R. David Muir, Public Policy Director at the Evangelical Alliance (4)
as a case-study in bad journalism. It is the sort of piece that lecturers would give to their first year ‘A’ Level students to identify the sensational, the specious, and the not-too-subtle exercise in dissimulation.
Notes to Editors
Camp Quest was first held in 1996 and until 2002 was operated by the Free Inquiry Group, Inc. (FIG) of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The idea for the project originated with Edwin Kagin and he and his wife Helen served as Camp Directors for the first ten years of the original Camp Quest, retiring at the end of the 2005 camp session. Six Camp Quest summer camps currently offer programs within the US and Camp Quest UK is the first camp outside North America.