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

Breaking The Spell: Religion As A Natural Phenomenon

Philosopher Daniel Dennett writes in a book titled Religion As A Natural Phenomenon, a tiny parasite called the Lancet Fluke has captured the brain of an ant, and forced it to climb the tallest blade of grass. The ant gains nothing from this, but the Fluke profits by using the ant to get itself into the stomach of a sheep or cow to reproduce itself. The cow eats the grass, and the Fluke produces another generation. Of course the ant has no reproductive machinery, and perhaps that is the reason the Fluke can use it so easily. Perhaps there is a kind of “ecstasy of the cells” in the ant when they discover they have a driven purpose of reproduction, even if not their own. Other parasites infect fish and mice for similar reasons. Dennett writes:

“Does anything like this ever happen to human beings?….We often find human beings setting aside their personal interests, their health, their chances to have children and devoting their entire lives to furthering the interests of an idea that has lodged in their brains.”
Dennett proposes a connection and writes:
“The word of God is a seed, and the sower of the seed is Christ. These seeds take roots in individual human beings, it seems, and get those human beings to spread them, far and wide (and in return the human hosts gets eternal life…)”.
Certainly this eternal life cannot be proven, so there is no actual biological profit as far as anyone can tell. But something is definitely reproduced, and it grows and changes in time.
In spite of the fact there is no proof for such sacrifice, millions of people will sacrifice their lives for an idea with no guarantee of any kind of personal reward. There is a kind of ecstasy associated with this kind of faith, and the individual will quite willingly sacrifice himself along with millions of others, even if that individual is not certain s/he will receive a reward for doing so.
Are we acting out of free will in such situations? If the ant could have a concept of free will, would it not conclude that it was freely acting as it climbed the tallest and juiciest blade of grass? Is it possible that the ant might feel a kid of joyous celebratory effect as it waited to be eaten?
Eric Hoffer and Erich Fromm have written that the individual joins a mass movement because it allows him/her to escape a miserable, lonely existence. It is, as Fromm wrote, “escape from freedom”.
Humans desire to transcend, and they can’t transcend if they’re not part of something more wonderful than themselves. Nazi Germany shows us that individuals, even decent individuals, can lower themselves to the most horrible atrocities simply because their countrymen are also doing it.
Christianity takes it for granted that the word must be spread, as does Islam. This who do not accept and repent are fodder forever burning hell. The drive becomes so powerful that, as Jesus said, those who kill you will think they’re doing God a service.
The atheist will look at the idea of christianity and scoff, as well he should, because christians gain a proselytizing zeal that often borders on fanaticism, again, similar to Islam.
Christians do not see it as an infection of a parasitized brain, but rather a duty, a God-given prime directive to make others like themselves. They consciously accept the “parasite” without question. Even worse, they will argue that their “mission” is righteous and holy and is of God.
At this point, I have to go back to the old standby scriptures, Matthew 24:23, Romans 8:7, and Isaiah 55:8. If the natural mind is enmity against God, and cannot be subject to God, and if God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways, then it stands to reason that our desire to convert the masses to “one way” cannot be a drive that is Biblical approved, and is the reason Jesus told us not to believe any of them. It is as much a disease of parasites as the Lancet Fluke that captures the ant’s brain. The only difference is that humans breed the disease within themselves from their own desires to transcend.
“From whence come wars and fighting’s among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have no, ye kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain…(James 4:1-2)”.
The “self” disease, however, is not something we can simply correct by developing laws that are righteous, because the most stringent and enforced laws are themselves subject to corruption. The disease is within ourselves, but we are a collection of uncounted parasites that inhabit our bodies and use our bodies for their own reproduction as surely as the Lancet Fluke uses the ant’s brain. We are a culmination of all those germs and bacteria that accumulated to create “me” and “you”. There is no separation from this drive. It is innate and basic to everything we do.
And all that is subject to genes, whose main purpose is to replicate themselves from generation to generation while seeking to minimize and control change. So, the “lusts that war in our members” are drives that come from the combined needs of billions of microorganisms that use our bodies to reproduce themselves. At the conscious level, we seek to extend communities of those like ourselves, to extend our own reproductive success statistically, with genes selecting those most like themselves, as E.O. Wilson pointed out in his concept of sociobiology. Given n o perceived kinship, we tend o act selfishly, to preserve our own interests at the costs of others. Given a kindred family, we see it more successful to our own genes by preserving those genes most like our own. It should be no surprise, then, that we seek to “convert” others to “brothers in Christ” or in Islam, and eliminate them if they do not believe.
Christianity and Islam are purely biological processes that parasitize our brains and use us to control environments so that the genes replicate with as little change as possible, and the idea of heaven as the reward of the “saved” allows for total sacrifice of self for the good of heaven, even if it destroys the world in the process.
-Ralph Haulk

Post Traumatic Religious Syndrome (PTRS)

Symptoms can be described as follows:

Dramatic/Traumatic loss of self identity

Feeling of having been mentally abused

Social isolation as a result of having been cut off from all contact with the outside world

Difficulty in finding the way back into a normal social surroundings

Depression as a result of the loss of ones own identity

Recurring nightmares

And the list goes on …

PTRS usually arises in that aftermath of:

having left a religious sect or cult

being excommunication by a religious sect or cult

end of a religious sect or cult

rescued from a religious sect or cult

being unwilling forced into a religious sect or cult as a child or spouse

Discovering that someone suffers from PTRS is often very difficult. In almost all cases the individuals can hid their experiences behind a world of indifference. Most people avoid contact with religious sects and are therefore immune to the idea that they can be so harmful, it’s what I call public indifference. You could almost say they feel ashamed to have been part of an religious sect, raped by it, and they just don’t want to talk about it. It’s difficult for a victim of this abuse to “Out themselves” since society cannot imagine that it’s possible to suffer in anyway as a result of bad religious practice. Religious sects and cults do damage to people, it’s a fact that nobody want to believe.

The buried emotional state of mind of a PTRS victim results in some very strange behavior that is often misunderstood by family, friends, and the world in general. The outing process is difficult, often with an imagined stigma, that isn’t all to imagined but very real. You get labeled, therefore you begin to hid even more behind a facade of underlying emotions. These can often span throughout the whole of a life span. Younger victims can have lasting side effect right up till their deaths.

It takes a lot of persuasion for a PTRS victim to connect back into the main stream of daily life. Detoxification is a form of deprogramming that requires a willpower that would seem for others as super human. Most give up, since the effort is simply to big. The result is a return to another religious group in most cases a little less extreme. The sheltering effect is returned and the stigma not so hard to bare. For those who do discover the can make the jump back the experience is almost intoxicating, a new found self, a world of freedom and hope for a self defined life.

It goes without saying that although there are no statistics with respect to suicide rates of victims of PTRS, the number of deaths whether mental or physical are there. For an outsider to pick up on the trauma that is brewing under the surface that is so well hidden, very difficult and almost impossible for an untrained eye. We live in a world where shutting out anything thing that isn’t in the norm is the norm. Discussion seems useless since for most the idea of being tricked into joining a sect or cult is out of the question. How can anyone fall for this trap? Therefore discussion is out of the question. Faced with a world of indifference the victim of PTRS is now even more isolated then before. Breaking the isolation is the most important step to escaping to a more balanced way of life, a way of accepting the past and putting an end to it. Only then can a Victim truly live a normal life and avoid the depressions that can lead to suicide.

I’m not sure how help groups would function with this problem. The programing by religious sects is often very difficult to decode. The brain is not easy to wash clean from years of indoctrinated programming. The coding is so deep in some instances that it would be nearly a miracle (if you believe in miracles) for someone to walk away without having permanent side effects. I would go so fare as to call it a form of Programmed Brain Damage, or PBD.

Since we are in life designed to be influenced by ones self and by others the question is, who is to be taken account of for the influences we experience? Is it the person who’s been misguided, or the persons who are misguiding? Our brains are hard-wired to accept new programing, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to evolve through life. This in itself is proof enough that nothing is static in our world and that we can influence change in more ways then one. Religions can use this instinctive human drive to grab at anything that will provide a victim with a satisfactory answers to their basic instinctive need to understand why we are. Religions plug in on and transfer their idea directly into the victims mind, burring it deep inside, with roots that grow deeper the longer the exposure.

It’s is strange but educating people about the dangers of cults and sects is of little priority in our world. Religions get to much freedom to act without any form of self control that truly puts the facts on the table. We’ve simply rule out any form of self critic with respect to the abuse of peoples rights when it comes to sects, cults and religions. Without allowing for critic there is no way that you can make any of these organization accountable for their actions today. There is not real policing of religion, it’s taboo to question.

So in the coming years the explosion of religious extremes in America will continue, and many more children and adults will suffer from PTRS should they leave the closed surrounding of a religious sect or cult. As long as America and the rest of the world tolerates the spreading of lies under the disguise of religious freedom, we shouldn’t wonder why there is so much social unrest and division within the populations of the world.