Camp: "It's Beyond Belief" [Excerpts]
There is no God, but there is horse riding; Summer camp is for atheists, agnostics
It's summer camp time in America, but few camps are quite like this one.
This week, 31 atheist and agnostic youths from Ohio, Kentucky, New York and other states have gathered in ButlerCounty for CampQuest, one of a handful of summer camps nationwide where children are taught there is no God.
Armed with its motto "It's Beyond Belief!" CampQuest is an alternative to religious-oriented summer camps.
Children and teens learn about the canons of rational thought, critical thinking and scientific inquiry. They're also taught to stand up for their secular beliefs while living in a world of religious believers who might question their values.
Besides the usual camp activities such as canoeing and horseback riding, campers tackle serious discussions of atheistic, agnostic and deist philosophies. They learn about famous figures - such as Charles Darwin and Carl Sagan - who shared a disbelief in a supreme being who oversees humanity.
"It's kind of an oasis for us," explains Sophia Riehemann, 16, of Bellevue. "But people who don't know me well think we come here and devil-worship or something stupid like that."
Camp Campbell Gard is operated by the Christian-based Great Miami Valley YMCA.
Metskas agreed to a recent interview - along with a handful of campers - away from camp premises because she said YMCA officials have ordered them not to publicly link the secular summer camp to the YMCA.
But Rick Taylor, executive director of YMCA Camp Campbell Gard, said he has no problems leasing the camp to a nonreligious group.
"We really pride ourselves on inclusion," said Taylor. "We are firmly committed to promoting a summer camping experience to all children despite their backgrounds."
(Clark, "The Cincinnati Inquirer," Local News, 7/21/06).