Atheist Summer Camp

Hey kids! It’s time once again for your folks to begin planning for summer! Sure, we haven’t even hit Spring and the Days of Unleavened Bread yet, but you know reservations can take the best spots and the money has to be set aside for a week of fun at camp!

While it is true that a number of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia sects have summer camps, it’s high time you and your parents reconsidered their programs and look for alternatives, given that the Founder, Herbert Armstrong, was a failed false prophet who did terrible things to his own children. Camp Orr, Minnesota doesn’t exist any more and there’s no Garner Ted Armstrong to stop by and visit with the young… sters (thank G… Oh, never mind).

I know what you’re thinking. You probably are suspicious. And why not, when you have someone like Tim Hawkins making fun of Atheist Summer Camp:

Very funny.

There are tens of millions of atheists in the United States — the number has doubled in the past few decades (assuredly, partly thanks to Herbert Armstrong: When people began waking up to what a fraud he was, starting to do some research, think for themselves and finding that he was just full of it, many saw that his supposed ‘proofs’ were so much sloppy research promoting lies — and finding no compelling reason to believe, left the fold). No one should be surprised that there is a separation of church and summer camp. There is a wave of atheist summer camps, offering a god free alternative to the traditional religious summer camps:

It’s a relief for the campers to spend time with kids like themselves. Note that Chandler Gary didn’t have any atheist friends near where he lived and he’d like to hang out with some — he’d like to go to a friend’s place and not have to listen to prayer before eating (the Armstrongists are famous for asking God to remove poison from the food: Just think, atheist moms don’t put poison in the food for their children, so don’t have to ask God to take it out and not putting poison in the food saves a lot of time, not to mention money and trips to emergency). Notice too, he’s actually been bullied by his Christian friends. Wait! What? Is that what Christianity is all about? Did Jesus command to bully your enemy unbelievers? It was nice for the kids to be able to attend camp where they weren’t limited, bullied or hurt. Socrates Cafe sounds interesting. Camp Counselor: The best way to become an atheist is to study the Bible (Amen to that!). The children think that people find comfort in God because of the unknown (we all know the truth — Armstrongists believe because of what they think they know about the future [which isn’t going to turn out the way they think], which means that they believe in God because of the (wrong) known). It’s really hard to take responsibility for yourself and much easier to just let someone Else come in and make things better. At least the atheist kids can admit they don’t know.

You can look at the activities at Camp Quest: You will find the standard stuff, like:

  • Archery
  • Campfires
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Climbing
  • Crafts
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Field Trips
  • Games
  • High and Low Ropes Challenge Courses
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Overnight Sleepout
  • Photography
  • Singing & Songwriting
  • Sports
  • Swimming

Of more interest are the intellectual pursuits:


  • Astronomy
  • Biology & Evolution
  • Critical Thinking
  • Ecology & Environmental Science
  • Ethics
  • Famous Freethinkers/Humanist Heroes
  • Fossil Hunting
  • Invisible Unicorn Challenge
  • Philosophy
  • Science Experiments
  • World Religions

One item stands out more that any other — an activity which was never and will never be pursued by the Armstrongists: Ethics. Anyway, they are devoid of it, so would be totally incapable of teaching it.

Parents can never know where this can lead. Long ago, Carl Sagan took a teenager ‘under his wing’ so to speak. He was very nice to the young man and helped him with his understanding with science. Decades later, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson honored his mentor by rebooting Cosmos.

Not all of us at the Painful Truth are atheists (in spite of what the Exit and Support Network may say), so we aren’t necessarily advocating Atheist Summer Camp, but on the other hand, we absolutely oppose Armstrongist summer camps for obvious reasons.

The Suppression of Happiness

One of the great errors of freedom people (myself included) is that we’ve sometimes based our arguments on less-than-optimal grounds.

What I mean is that we argued for freedom on political or legal grounds. And while those arguments were generally accurate and valid, it was a relatively poor line of argument.

Our arguments on economic grounds were somewhat better, but they still missed the largest and clearest areas of human experience.

A stronger strain of argument, in my opinion, involves happiness.

Defining Happiness

Happiness, of course, is a subjective thing. A new car might make one person very happy but be a burden to another (or to that same person at a different stage of life).

Furthermore, happiness is very often temporary. People think they’ll be happy if they win the lottery, but that rush of happiness lasts only a short time, then fades away. Lottery winners are happier than other people for a few weeks, then they return to normal – or worse. The same goes for similar cases.

Long-term happiness is what we would be wisest to pursue. But this type of happiness – which we generally think of as satisfaction – requires things of us. In particular, it requires good choices, the courage to make them, and good information to base them upon.

The best definition of the long-term happiness I know is a paraphrase of Aristotle. It goes like this:

What makes us happy is the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording us scope.

Let’s break that down. Three things are required for us to be happy for the long haul, all of which must be present together:

  1. Vital powers.
  2. Exercise along lines of excellence.
  3. A life offering us scope.

What We Have, What Is Taken From Us

Of the three items listed above, two are innate to us:

We are born with vital powers. Unless we’ve been seriously damaged, these are already ours. We may develop them or allow them to atrophy, but they are inside of us and not directly assailable by anyone else.

Exercise along lines of excellence is something that we can do and should do. This depends upon us and our choices. We control this ourselves.

A life offering them scope is where the problem lies. Our lives have been massively restricted, and that directly restricts our happiness. That’s such an important thought that I’d like to restate it:

Restrictions of human action are direct restrictions of human happiness.

And please forget knee-jerk reactions like, “We have to restrict criminals!” That’s a non-issue, and, more importantly, it’s a brain hack.

Go ahead and restrict your criminals, but don’t restrict me with them.

There is no sane reason restraints upon criminals have to be applied to everyone else at the same time.

No one has any moral right to restrain you, unless and until you harm others.

Other Restraints

There are plenty of natural obstacles in our world that limit a man or woman’s scope. We require food, shelter, sleep, clothing, mates, and so on. And that’s precisely why we must be unrestrained in all other ways. We need to employ our talents to overcome these problems… then, hopefully, to expand our horizons.

The more restrained we remain, the more impoverished and unhappy we remain.

To restrict peaceful humans is to directly restrain their happiness. It also directly restrains their talent, and that impoverishes the future, including billions of humans yet unborn. It is among the worst crimes imaginable, yet it is presented to us as an essential.

Our happiness is being stolen from us daily, and the justifications for this crime – if ever we examine them – are quickly seen as mere fear and inertia.

It’s time that we started playing a different game.

Paul Rosenberg