Jeannette just got back from Camp Quest of Minnesota where she and others worked with 30 or so kids. Camp Quest is pretty much like other camps. There is camp food, smores, camp fires, sing-a-longs and cabins. There is swimming and canoeing, tie-dye and sponge ball. The thing which makes Camp Quest unique is that the programming is designed for kids of secular parents.
So, what does that mean? Does that mean that kids are taught to hate religion and religious people? Not at all. To their parents, humanism is an important philosophy and learning about critical thinking, science, and famous freethinkers help build a community. Each year, religious literacy is improved by having a group, such as pagans, Hindu, or Baha'i, give a presentation and offer to answer questions from the kids. While the kids aren't converted into any religion, it helps to foster understanding between people.
Why is there even a Camp Quest? From talking to Jeannette who has spent the last two years counseling at Camp Quest, the kids who go every year really look forward to it. Why? Some kids have a hard time making friends. For some, it's because of their views on theology which makes them an outsider. For others, they have a fascination with science and science fiction and might be part of a handful in their school like them. At camp, they don't have to think about who is going to ask them which church they go to, or treat them differently because of what they think about the supernatural. They can have open discussions about ethics and morality and determine for themselves how they think about different issues, like abortion, assisted suicide, killing in general, stealing and bullying, and eating animals. Critical thinking is as important for problem solving as it is for morality.
Atheists and freethinkers can feel like outsiders in the United States. While our government is secular, the majority is Christian. Our culture is filled with religious language, religious symbolism and religious traditions. For one week, it's nice to get away from that, hop into the woods, watch Stargate SG-1 and play Risk.
Only 51 more weeks until the next Camp Quest!