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Author Topic: Camp Quest: for atheists, freethinkers, humanists, etc.
Leonide
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Just browsing the myriad articles that are linked to on RichardDawkins.net, and came across this one that I thought was really interesting:


Camp Quest

It's a camp, otherwise exactly like any other you might come across, that offers horseback-riding, cook-outs, arts and crafts, special events...however, it's advertised as being for "Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever..."

The article I linked to tells of a school in Virginia where the fliers were required to be handed out (according to a policy where ANY non-profit is allowed to distribute their promotional material) and where the teachers are now protesting that being forced to hand them out is a violation of their religious beliefs.

I can understand the teachers not supporting the camp, and not wanting to send their own children there, but would they be this up in arms if it was a Zen Buddhism camp? Certainly not if it was Vacation Bible School. I know we've discussed here before that atheists are the "most distrusted minority" in the united states today, but I wonder how the religious among us feel about the camp, and/or the teacher's response to being required to hand out the pamphlets, and some of them refusing.

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RunningBear
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The teachers are bigots.

not much to it. It is hypocrisy, through and through.

Unless that same school refuses to hand out any flyers whatsoever.

And for the same reason students don't receive first amendment rights, teachers do not get to exercise their religion in school.

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King of Men
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It seems they were likewise up in arms about an earlier flier for a seminar on the pagan origins of Christmas, which is certainly quite religious.
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Leonide
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Quite religious, but not their religion. At least, not the holiday they currently celebrate.

edited paragraph: i misread the article, they pamphlets weren't Just handed out to kindergarteners, just children "as young as kindergarten" [Embarrassed]

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Rakeesh
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Well, it's good to know that atheists are capable of the same exclusivist behavior many religious people are.

Well, not that I didn't already know that.

As for your question, I am pretty uncomfortable with an institution like a school doing what amounts to advertisement for private institutions such as this camp. That goes for other private institutions* as well, because it invariably (to me) begs the question, "What's the payoff? Advertisement isn't free."

I am deeply uncomfortable with an institution like a school doing what amounts to advertisement for a religious institution, which this camp falls under for these sorts of purposes.** It would be one thing if it were a student handing out these fliers to other students willing to take them home, but this ain't that.

*The YMCA, while I don't know much about it, doesn't seem to have much of an advocacy position with regards to itself. I believe organizations which open their doors to all comers like they do should get a pass.

No, I do not believe that public schools should be handing out pamphlets about the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts, before anyone jumps on that.

**A cursory glance at the flier shows that this is certainly a religious organization, or at least should fall under the blanket of things restricted and protected under religious grounds.

--------------------

Hehe, one semi-related thought: I got a chuckle about the 'Freethinkers' portions of the pamplet. I mean, does anyone else get a whiff of irony in the air? "Come to our camp of like-minded individuals, Freethinkers!"

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Leonide
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I don't disagree with anything in particular that you said, Rakeesh, but I wonder what you would consider acceptable in a summer camp situation -- do you have a problem with any group meeting and excluding others for whatever reason? Or is it just the school angle that bothers you?
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Rakeesh
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Not at all! In general, I have no problem with a particular community being a bit exclusive rather than inclusive in its behavior and recruiting.

It's just one of the most commonly heard criticisms of religions, monotheistic religions in particular, that led me to point that out is all.

The school angle is another layer of unease for me. But, to be fair, I'd be surprised if some of those very same teachers who refused to hand out the fliers would also refuse to hand out, say, Vacation Bible Camp fliers. Or, for a less overt example, fliers for a fund-raiser.

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Leonide
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Further research, into this article: Pagan Christmas

...about the flyer that started it all. Basically it seems like the school was trying to allow certain flyers and pamphlets to go out, like for theatre groups and fundraisers, but specifically exclude ones from a local Evangelist church. The state ruled that this could not be: that if they were to allow even one non-profit to distribute, they had to allow all of them. So the year before the Camp Quest one made the rounds, this Pagan Christmas one did, and stirred up a lot of controversy. So basically, no, there doesn't seem to be an issue with the teachers being forced to hand out fund-raiser flyers, or the like, but any that specifically fall into the realm of a belief system seem to evoke similar reactions among the staff, and parents.

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Rakeesh
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I have no idea what the law is on whether or not all non-profit organizations must be permitted, that sort of thing.

If that is the only standard being used, I think it should be changed, but it would unfortunately be a very subjective business.

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Leonide
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quote:
School Board chairwoman Sue Friedman told WND the flyer was distributed because the school was forced to do so, following a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Maryland.

The ruling concluded if one community group were allowed to use a flyer-distribution program at a school, then all groups must be given the same access. The group initiating that case objected to a policy that allowed school officials to arbitrarily discriminate against groups they did not like – in that instance, a Christian organization.

The district even made a policy adjustment this fall in order to accommodate that ruling, Friedman said.


...from the second article.

It's the law in Maryland, now.

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KarlEd
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Rakeesh, I disagree with your use of "exclusivist". I don't agree that it's exclusivist to create a camp and market it to atheists, etc., or even to manage it so that these people have a place where they can attent without being subject to religions. This isn't exclusivist unless everyone else is barred, and I don't see that in the link. From what I read, I bet they'd be thrilled to have some Christians attend and fellowship with them provided they are there for that purpose and not for proselytizing or some other goal counter to the purpose of the camp.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
Rakeesh, I disagree with your use of "exclusivist". I don't agree that it's exclusivist to create a camp and market it to atheists, etc., or even to manage it so that these people have a place where they can attent without being subject to religions.
So, Vacation Bible Study camps that accept people who haven't signed on aren't exclusive?

If you are suggesting that the only way an organization is exclusive is if people who don't toe the line are explicitly barred, I disagree.

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Snail
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
Rakeesh, I disagree with your use of "exclusivist". I don't agree that it's exclusivist to create a camp and market it to atheists, etc., or even to manage it so that these people have a place where they can attent without being subject to religions.
So, Vacation Bible Study camps that accept people who haven't signed on aren't exclusive?

If you are suggesting that the only way an organization is exclusive is if people who don't toe the line are explicitly barred, I disagree.

I think a camp such as this one doesn't necessarily have to be exclusivist, but it can be.

If the camp makes a huge point of it being an atheist gathering and then "rubs it in" at every instance that God doesn't exist then it is an exclusivist gathering regardless of whether Christians are encouraged to join in or not. (And I have to say the advertisement to this particular camp didn't really seem to be building any bridges to me.)

But it doesn't necessarily have to be so, I guess. Here in Finland we have things called "Promethius Camps" for non-Lutheran children. They're sort of a religion-free option for the Confirmation Camps organized by the Lutheran Church every summer for 14-year olds in preparation for the Confirmation. To explain, somewhat 90% of Finns being Lutheran the Confirmation Camps are a big part of Finnish culture, and so the Promethius Camps were created as a similiar experience for others. So even though they're organized by the local Free Thinkers Association they're not really about disbelieving God, they're about going through different philosophical perspectives and so forth. Children from the minority religions attend them and some Lutheran parents sent their children to both the Confirmation and the Promethius camps. So while those camps are non-religious, I wouldn't call them exclusive.

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Qaz
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I have a non-theist Quaker friend (Friend?) -- they call themselves "non-theists" not "atheists" -- and she said they had a convention for non-theist Quakers. She went but she was bored despite being very into the Quaker thing. It was because what they had in common was the absence of something. It's sort of like having a convention of people who don't like ice cream or aren't into genealogy.
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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
Rakeesh, I disagree with your use of "exclusivist". I don't agree that it's exclusivist to create a camp and market it to atheists, etc., or even to manage it so that these people have a place where they can attent without being subject to religions.
So, Vacation Bible Study camps that accept people who haven't signed on aren't exclusive?

If you are suggesting that the only way an organization is exclusive is if people who don't toe the line are explicitly barred, I disagree.

Ok, then I guess I don't understand your use of "exclusive", or if I do understand it, then I guess I don't have a problem with your kind of exclusivity. I mean we do live in America and do have a constitutional right to assembly. Any assembly that has a purpose whatsoever is going to tend to be "exclusive" of those with goals counter to that purpose, otherwise nothing would get done. That sort of "exclusivity" seems to me to be that natural result of defining any group at all. It's inherent in the act of forming any group.

But you seem to be using the word to mean more than that. Is Snail's "Prometheus Camp" exclusivist to you in the same way as the atheist camps? Because I can't see how they are different, from the facts given, and I don't have a problem with the "Prometheus Camps". In fact, I can see why they would be socially necessary. Snail seems to see a negative difference:

quote:
(And I have to say the advertisement to this particular camp didn't really seem to be building any bridges to me.)
But again, I don't see what bridges the Prometheus Camps are building. Both they and the atheist camps seem to be filling a void for people who already feel excluded, much more than creating an experience intended to exclude others. Where's the negative in that? And what would you suggest? Should they sue to be included where they're not wanted? Seek to change the other experience ot fit their needs? Or just give up on the idea of going to camp at all?
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the doctor
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In a world where we can't force pharmacists to dispense drugs (such as the morning-after pill) if they declare that it's against their religious principles, I don't exactly see how we can fault teachers for balking at something that is against their religious principles.

The people who pay the salaries have a decision to make. Is it more important to retain people or is it more important to make a statement about plurality, or legality, or whatever else they decide to call this.

If it is company/government policy that you have to do X or get fired, then the teachers (or whomever) have a choice to make -- either comply or leave/get fired. They could choose to sue and, depending on the way the judges interpret the state and Federal constitution, they'll either get their jobs back or not, and this could go to the Supreme Court in order to get a decision.


Or...

We could all decide that people's religious convictions are protected in this country, just like free speech, and that when the two come into conflict, then something sensible like an "opt out" clause can be put in place with just a little bit of communication and, perhaps, some advance warning.


This kind of thing is not that difficult to figure out if people aren't in danger of losing their livelihood over it, and/or are willing to make a reasonable accommodation in both directions.

It's when people decide that THEIR religious principles are the general principles that EVERYONE should live under, or when the law is interpreted narrowly and without any allowance for religious convictions of the people called upon to implement things that we have problems.

And it's not a simple of matter of telling people to "suck it up or lose your job" because there are legal protections in both directions.

----

As for the camps -- I really don't care. Parents are the ones making the decision. As with any camp, as a parent, I'd want to know that they have trained camp counselors and a sufficient adult to camper ratio to ensure safety and make it fairly certain that kids aren't bullied or abused. Beyond that, it's just a matter of who has the "right" program for my kid. Riding, archery and Thoreau -- okay. Camping, canoe, and St. Augustine -- sure, whatever.

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Stephan
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I say don't allow any community groups to distribute. There are plenty of other ways of getting pamphlets to kids and their parents.
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Qaz
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Schools are supposed to be a place where children are exposed to knowledge. It should not be hidden from them. That atheists exist and some wish to promote their view should not be kept secret. But maybe that's not what we're talking about here. The article was not clear and has not been confirmed AFAIK.
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Leonide
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I don't think a doctor not wanting to dispense the morning-after pill is quite the same as a teacher not wanting to hand out pamphlets to an atheist-leaning children's camp.

In the former case, the doctor knows that what he is dispensing will lead directly to an action that he considers immoral, and tantamount to murder. In the latter, the teacher is merely *possibly* exposing the children to a situation that might make them rethink or question their beliefs. Regardless, in the latter scenario, it would come down to the children's PARENT'S decision, and so all they teacher is doing is releasing information, just like with a fundraiser or children's theatre flyer. Would they balk if the children's theatre was performing a play they thought was poorly written? Had a bad director? Or if the fundraiser was selling a cookie dough recipe he or she knew to be not that tasty?

I just don't agree that the information could really violate anyone's religious beliefs. If that pamphlet makes it home, it'll either be preaching to the choir (as in, an already atheistic/humanist/nontheistic family looking for something just like it) or it will be completely dismissed and thrown away.

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Belle
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I have to say that I disagree with any private camp being advertised by the school. But if it's going to happen, I'd hand out that pamphlet provided I was also allowed to hand out pamphlets for Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other religious camps. If this were handed out and Christian camps excluded, I'd have a serious problem.

The easisest solution is not to advertise ANY camps, and to be honest, my school has never sent home any flyers for any kind of camp or any other private organization, and I've never felt the lack. Nor would I have any trouble finding summer camps for my kids if I wanted to. The information is readily available for parents without the schools' being a go-between.

The only organizations that send home flyers from our school are community based ones, like little league baseball and football.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by the doctor:
In the United States where we can't force pharmacists to dispense drugs (such as the morning-after pill) if they declare that it's against their religious principles, I don't exactly see how we can fault teachers for balking at something that is against their religious principles.

Fixed that for you, the United States is not the world. Second, even in the States, we can easily fault the teachers if we in fact fault the pharmacists as well.
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the doctor
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Hmm...I seem to recall this discussion before. I seem to recall it not going very well for those who demanded that we find fault with the pharmacists who refused to dispense any particular prescription, no matter what their reasons were for refusal. Short of a corporate policy requiring them to dispense as a condition of employment, there really is no basis for fault finding. Even if we think it's reprehensible for them to shove their religious convictions down the throat of another human being, the truth of the matter is that they are within their rights to refuse.

Some concerns exist for situations where there are no alternate pharmacies/pharmacists within a given geographic area, of course, but even there it's not the pharmacist's "fault" for being the only provider.

As for the correction of "world" to be "US" I understand what you're saying, but I think your being unnecessarily petty about it. If the discussion were of a more global nature where nationality came into play, I suppose it'd be important to make that correction. As it is, it just looks like a nit-pick.

If you care a great deal about it, I'll concede the point by saying that I was unnecessarily broad, but really, it seems like you are taking a rather scattered approach and injecting hostility into what should be a discussion.

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the doctor
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quote:
I don't think a doctor not wanting to dispense the morning-after pill is quite the same as a teacher not wanting to hand out pamphlets to an atheist-leaning children's camp.
What are the important differences? If anything, more is riding on the pharmacist's negative decision and one might expect a certain professional detachment there (since a trip to the pharmacist is not, generally, considered an opportunity for moral or ethical instruction.

I suppose that because PUBLIC school teachers are paid with tax-payer dollars, there might be a stronger expectation of religious neutrality when it comes to what they instruct our children. But this isn't really anything having to do with classroom instruction. It's teachers being asked to do something other than instruct and having them balk at it based on some rather personal criteria.

Either we have to say "no, this is ALSO part of your job and you must do it" or we have to decide that "well, this isn't really the same as that part of your job where we expect you to behave in X manner, so do what you think is best and we'll trust you."

At any rate, I think the similarity to the case with pharmacists is strong enough to support a discussion of whatever might make this situation different. Or...at least to get us to examine whether we think one way in one situation and another way in a different situation, and then...why.

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BaoQingTian
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
Fixed that for you, the United States is not the world.

Wow, where did that come from?
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Shigosei
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Some of my science teachers handed out pamphlets for science programs. I think that's a good thing. However, I would find it a little strange if my teacher gave me an advertisement for something not related to the curriculum. Perhaps a compromise could be made? Have a table or a bulletin board in a central place like a lobby or school office where people can leave flyers for people to take if they want them.

I do agree that if flyers can be handed out for some groups, they must be handed out for all groups of the same type. So if the teachers were ok with distributing flyers for Christian-related activities, they need to be ready to distribute atheist flyers too.

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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by the doctor:
Even if we think it's reprehensible for them to shove their religious convictions down the throat of another human being, the truth of the matter is that they are within their rights to refuse.

Of course. And if someone is not able to fulfill the requirements of a work position, then there is precedent for either not renewing a contract or relieving that person of that duty, be it through any variety of ways.

The best solution seems to be for pharmacies to be up front about [what the] requirements of the position they are hiring for are, and for pharmacists to be up front about any problems they may have in fulfilling those duties. Now that this has had so much media coverage, I am pretty sure this is the direction we are headed.

[ May 29, 2007, 05:29 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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the doctor
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CT -- I totally agree. I ended up being really angry with Eckert's or WalGreens (whichever place it was where the most news-covered incident like this happened). When it turned out that they knew their employees had a problem, didn't address the issue with a clear corporate statement until after they got bad press, and basically failed to make it a condition of employment (or rather failed to clarify what their corporate policy was -- whether or not this was a cause for dismissal).


The way I saw it, the pharmacy (as a company) has to spell out its conditions of employment. If they don't do that, and someone on their staff makes a case for a religious objection to something (anything), then they are going to have a lawsuit on their hands one way or the other. That's really short-sighted of them, I think, since this issue has been floating around for awhile.

Ideally, they would have had a discussion with their employees about dispensing prescription birth control (in general) and the morning-after pill in particular. If they decided as a company that they didn't care what the prescription was as long as it was legally written, then they needed to tell their employees that. If, on the other hand, they were willing to make accommodations (with limits) for individual employee's personal morality, then needed to communicate that.

When I wrote to whichever pharmacy it was (pretty sure it was Eckerd because I was using them at the time and was very upset about this whole thing) they wrote back the most weasle-worded thing I've ever seen. I basically stopped using them to fill my prescriptions at that point and it wasn't because of the pharmacist -- it was because the company decided they were going to be weasles about it.

Ultimately, I care most about the people in rural areas who can't get a particular prescription filled without a huge hassle if their local (only pharmacy in 50 miles) won't do it.

Everyone else can pretty much vote with their feet/pocketbook to go someplace else. Short of a few moments of embarrassment as the person behind the counter refuses to fill the prescription, the hassle factor is pretty much nil.

At that point, I care more about how companies treat their employees and while I might prefer the company policy to be one way or the other, the thing that really gets me angry is company policies that are just weasle words leaving everyone in doubt until we have a few test cases.

The biggest problem I see is lack of prior communication and a bunch of pronouncements from on high as to "how it's going to be." Nextmost, I think it's a problem when companies fail to be clear in what they expect of employees.


Ah well...I don't know enough about the case with these teachers in VA. If they refused to hand out these fliers but enthusiastically endorsed ones from Christian camps, then yeah, it's a problem. If they refused to hand out ANY fliers unless they were curriculum-related (as Shigosei pointed out), then I'm in their corner 100%.

So, really, it all depends.

And I'm probably going to give a big thumbs-down to the school board for trying to be selective in what gets handed out. I think The real answer is what other people have said -- don't hand out anything from companies. But if they are going to hand out stuff, then they pretty obviously have to do it for any in the same class (like all non-profits, whatever).


That's a long post -- sorry.

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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by the doctor:
CT -- I totally agree. I ended up being really angry with Eckert's or WalGreens (whichever place it was where the most news-covered incident like this happened). When it turned out that they knew their employees had a problem, didn't address the issue with a clear corporate statement until after they got bad press, and basically failed to make it a condition of employment (or rather failed to clarify what their corporate policy was -- whether or not this was a cause for dismissal).


Indeed. I believe WalMart has recently come out with a corporate statement on this (that all valid prescriptions must be dispensed, and this is a necessary duty of the position). That surprised me, but I'm glad to see things start to be spelled out.

quote:
Ultimately, I care most about the people in rural areas who can't get a particular prescription filled without a huge hassle if their local (only pharmacy in 50 miles) won't do it.

Me, too. And I am reminded that one key feature of being a conscientious objector is the willingness to undergo the expected consequences of one's protest.
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Samprimary
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Wow, it's like a bad parody of religious summer camps.

"And at night, we sing campfire songs about the inevitable embrace of oblivion!"

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Snail
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quote:
Originally posted by KarlEd:
Snail seems to see a negative difference:

quote:
(And I have to say the advertisement to this particular camp didn't really seem to be building any bridges to me.)
But again, I don't see what bridges the Prometheus Camps are building. Both they and the atheist camps seem to be filling a void for people who already feel excluded, much more than creating an experience intended to exclude others. Where's the negative in that?
What makes the "negative" difference to me are some of the details in that advert to the Camp Quest... such as the "Beyond Belief" headline and the offer to be the first kid to disprove the invisible unicorns living on the camp area. Now, I don't think exclusivity is a bad thing, and neither are the headline or the invisible unicorn quest. But I can see how the quest to find the unicorn especially could make religious kids (especially the teenage ones) uncomfortable or leave them feel offended.

To use a counter-example: a few years ago I was set to do a newsstory about a Summer Fair organized by the local Pentacostalan Church. In their own press story and in the Summer Fair advertisements they went at lengths to explain how the Fair was meant for everybody, not just Pentacostalans.

So I went there, a gay atheist 17-year old kid. I went to the youth sermon and listened to the preachers talk how people who lack religion are often alcoholics and fall easily prey to evil things such as homosexuality, fantasy literature and so forth. (It was actually the alcoholic thing that got to me the worst as my non-drinking habits had such a huge negative affect on my social relations during those teenage years.) So anyway, while the Fair was open to everybody, it was not really designed to make everybody feel welcome.

Again, not that it's a bad thing for Pentacostalans to preach as they like or for atheists to teach their children to disprove invisible unicorns. I'm not sure if I would call the difference to the Promethius camps a "negative" one. Rather, the difference is that on the Promethius camps the children are not lead towards God or the lack of God, they're given tools to find their own answers and question the world around them. It doesn't really matter what that answer is. If that makes any sense.

(Also, I suppose I ought to note that atheists are most definitely not the most hated minority in Finland, and the whole idea that they might be so in America was initially hard for me to accept. I'm not even sure if we are a minority... Something like 10% of priests in the Finnish Lutheran Church don't believe in God, and among the consecration the presentage is probably much greater. Most people simply belong to the Church out of tradition or because they like the hymns or because it's the Finnish thing to do. Like my family, we all belong to the Church so that everybody can have Church weddings and Christenings and funerals and confirmations, but Grandma aside we don't really believe any of it. We never attend Church sermons other than at such party occasions. If you ask a Finn what their religion is they're likely to say Lutheranism, but if you ask them whether they believe in God they're likely to say no or maybe.)

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