It's been a little over a week since I got back from counseling at Camp Quest. I can honestly say it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I honestly don't think I can express what I brought back from camp in a simple blog, but I can try.
I can start with my fellow counselors. They were in short amazing, and I think I made some lasting friendships. Then there were the kids. The kids ranged in age from 8-17. I was in charge of the younger girls cabin. I had some amazing conversations with the younger kids. They were so smart I forgot I was talking to children. One example that stuck with me was a talk with one of my favorite campers. We had this ongoing contest throughout the week to have the kids disprove the existence of Percy, the invisible dragon. Of course it was impossible to prove something doesn't exist, but there were little girls in my cabin who really wanted to believe he was real. So I was walking down to the lodge with this girl I will call Abbie (I won't use real names of campers), and she says to me "Percy represents God doesn't he". And I tell her she got the point. And she says "well do you think it hurts the younger girls to let them believe in something that doesn't obviously exist"? I asked her what she thought. She thought for a moment and said that her grandma sometimes says to her that in the past she has had doubts about God, but she wants to believe that God exists because it is comforting. Abbie than said that as long as someone is happy about their beliefs, but not mean about them she was fine with it. I found it pretty profound for an 11 year old.
There were also some pretty sad stories of intolerance. I had a couple of kids of different ages beat up because of their beliefs. They told me about their families being broken up. I found this all incredibly sad but I saw this camp as a ray of hope. My mother asked me why atheist and free thinking children need a special camp. I told her it was the same reason Christian children needed a camp. Our children learned about humanist principles as well as being with children like them. I see atheism as a minority. Here was a place that kids didn't have to skirt around the issue, but could feel free to talk about what they wanted. We even had some Unitarians, and their belief in the supernatural was openly and respectively discussed.
I was raised religious so I found it interesting to meet parents who raised their kids how I will ultimately raise mine. A mine gripe of atheists is that Christians indoctrinate their children, but atheists can do the same thing. The goal of this camp, and for parents in general is to help kids think freely and let them come to a conclusion on their own, and to respect that conclusion as long as its well though out