I never went to summer camp as a kid. In fact, no one I knew at the time had ever been to summer camp.
I was vaguely aware of their existence, given how many movies and television shows ruminated on the experience, but growing up in Newark, such things just weren't a part of our universe. Visiting our cousins in the suburbs, who actually had GRASS in front of their homes, was the closest most of us ever came to interacting directly with anything that could vaguely be called "nature." (Such it is that I remember being shocked to learn, when writing a fourth grade paper on clouds, that they did not -- as I'd always assumed -- come from smokestacks.)
But I digress. The reason for writing this is to convey the joy I felt upon learning, from this article in the Chicago Tribune on the proliferation of niche specialties in the summer camp industry, that some enterprising entrepreneur has created Camp Quest -- the summer camp for atheist children.
Here's the relevant section:
A DECIDEDLY DIFFERENT experience awaits those who enroll at Camp Quest, started in 1996 for the children of "atheists, freethinkers, humanists and brights."
Last summer, the common theme at the camp's six locations was "Beyond Belief."
"We don't teach the kids that there is no God," says August E. Brunsman IV, director of the camp's site in southwestern Ohio.
"We try to promote values of secular humanism, though not everybody at camp wants to call them that. Enlightenment values. A focus on logic and reason and how to learn about the world."
Besides taking the traditional archery and swim lessons, campers spend a week trying to prove that two invisible unicorns said to be on the campgrounds do not exist. The winner is awarded a "God-less dollar bill."
Nobody has ever won.
Camp Quest allows kids to fit in without being judged for their religion or lack of it, Brunsman says.
He recalls the time a boy who had been raised Catholic attended camp at the urging of his grandfather, an atheist.
"As far as I know, he was still Catholic at the end of the week," Brunsman says.