How does Camp Quest differ from other secular summer camps?
In terms of its activities, Camp Quest is similar to other traditional sleepaway summer camps, particularly those with a science or nature focus. Our camps provide a wide range of activities including sports, arts and crafts, games, swimming, nature walks, outdoor skills, and campfires. Where Camp Quest is unique is in presenting its educational programs from a specifically secular and humanist perspective. This means that in addition to our traditional summer camp activities, Camp Quest offers educational activities focused on critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and comparative religion. We explore the world and approach ethics and values from a starting point that’s completely outside of religion, and does not assume theism.
Camp Quest is also particularly geared towards building a community for kids and teens from atheist, agnostic, humanist and other freethinking families. However, Camp Quest is open to all kids and teens within the specified age range, and we work hard to create an environment in which all campers feel welcome. Our goal is to provide a place where campers can explore their developing worldviews and how to put their values into practice, ask questions, and make friends in an environment that is supportive of critical thinking and skepticism.
Is Camp Quest run by Humanists? Atheists?
Our leadership and volunteer staff generally describe themselves as one or more of the following: atheists, agnostics, Secular Humanists, Ethical Culturists, freethinkers, secularists, rationalists, skeptics, pantheists, Brights, and other labels or no label at all. Staff are not required to hold a particular position on metaphysical questions, but are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is supportive of the camp’s mission and goals, and in keeping with basic humanist and freethought philosophy and values.
Must kids be Humanists/freethinkers/atheists to attend Camp Quest?
No. Campers at Camp Quest are encouraged to think for themselves and are not required to hold any particular view. We firmly believe that kids should not be labeled with worldview labels by adults, and instead should be encouraged to ask questions and explore different worldviews as they grow. We do present atheism and humanism as valid and reasonable options for an ethical and fulfilling life, and most staff at camp consider themselves to be atheists. Most campers also come from freethinking families that are largely non-theistic and non-religious. However, Camp Quest has also welcomed campers from families representing a variety of religious traditions, including Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Paganism, and Buddhism.
Does Camp Quest indoctrinate campers into atheism or teach them that religion is bad?
No. First, Camp Quest does not teach campers WHAT to think, we teach them HOW to think. Campers are never required or pressured to stake out a position on any question of religion. Our emphasis is on applying the critical thinking process, not on reaching a particular conclusion. Further, Camp Quest is not anti-religious. We do not denigrate religion or teach campers that religion is bad. Camp Quest does briefly introduce campers to the variety of religious beliefs they may encounter in our society. We discuss religious, non-religious, and cultural traditions with campers in an “academic” sense, in order to give kids cultural literacy. Campers are given space to discuss their own views and the views of others, if they so choose, and are taught to engage in such discussions in a respectful manner that balances honest consideration and critical thinking.
What is Humanism?
Humanism as a worldview is rooted in valuing the worth and dignity of all people based on our shared nature as human beings, and on applying the capacities we have as humans to gather knowledge about the world around us and use it to create fulfilling lives for ourselves and others. We emphasize science and reason as our tools for learning about the world, and we base our ethics on experience and empathy.