12 July 2009
Bishop Tim guilty of gross distortion
Anti-religious campaign close to intolerance
The Bishop of Leicester notes the latest idea in Richard Dawkins' drive against God - an Atheist Summer Camp
The full article can be read here.
Several months ago Bendy-buses in London began to appear with the slogan "There's probably no God". The atheist posters were the idea of the British Humanist Association and were supported by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion.
In fact the Atheist Bus campaign was the idea of and created by comedy writer Ariane Sherine and launched on 21 October 2008, with official support from the British Humanist Association and Richard Dawkins.
This week, as schools close for the long summer break, the campaign to persuade the public that God does not exist took a step further forward when Prof Dawkins launched Britain's first summer camp for young atheists. The camp is called Camp Quest UK, and is for children aged for eight to 17. The motto of the camp is: "It's beyond belief."
The Sunday Times
The duplicity of Lois Rogers' title, "Dawkins Sets up Kids' Camp to Groom Atheists" (Sunday Times, June 28th), is exceeded only by its Jesuitical opening line, "Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week's summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life." I had nothing to do with the setting up of Camp Quest, and it is not, in any sense whatever, inspired by me, or influenced by me. The British version, run by Samantha Stein with no help from me, follows the admirable American model founded some years ago by Edwin and Helen Kagin, of Kentucky.
Lois Rogers asked me for a quotation, and she thanked me warmly for the following: "Camp Quest encourages children to think for themselves, sceptically and rationally. There is no indoctrination, just encouragement to be open-minded, while having fun." Isn't that about as far from Jesuitical grooming as you could imagine? One of my dominant motivations, passionately expressed in The God Delusion, is an abhorrence of childhood indoctrination, of atheism just as much as of religion. It is in this spirit that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has made very modest contributions to Camp Quest.
Lois Rogers' traducing of both Camp Quest and me is, alas, par for the course for religiously motivated journalists. Fortunately, I am not the litigious type, but an apology would be nice.
1. A Scout is to be trusted.
7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.
Also Camp Quest is not a uniformed organisation.
Is he suggesting that no provision is made for children who are not prepared to take an oath to a god when they are probably still too young to make any final decision as to his/her/its existence?
The stated purposes of Camp Quest are:
- Promote a sense of belonging to a large freethought community among the youth participants
- Encourage critical thinking in young people to enable them to draw their own conclusions
- Promote respect for others with different viewpoints, values, and beliefs
- Provide a safe and fun environment for personal and social development
For more details you can visit the website of Camp Quest.
What can the Bishop find so objectionable in this? The camp welcomes all children from any background. More details here.
Indeed the official Church of England policy for its "faith" schools as set out in the Dearing Report is to:
Nourish those of the faith;
Encourage those of other faiths;
Challenge those who have no faith.
At least Camp Quest aims to encourage critical thinking in all its children, not challenge only those who haven't fallen into line.
Indeed recently he claimed credit for his Church in taking the lead on "City of Sanctuary" when in fact much of the leading role has been played by members of Leicester Secular Society who have had free use of Secular Hall.
----- Original Message -----
From: Frank Friedmann
Sent: Monday, July 13, 2009 2:40 PM
Subject: Mercury Mailbox - Camp Quest
Since the Leicester Mercury affords Bishop Tim Stevens a regular column, he has to be one of the most significant influences on opinion in the city – an influence that needs wielding with caution and respect.
Is it so awful that 24 children are going to enjoy a summer camp encouraging them to ‘think for themselves’? (First Person 11 July)
In my own young years, I enjoyed joining in numerous collective activities – school clubs, a local authority youth club where I learned to drive, informal visits with friends to the local lido, and the Boy Scouts.
Only the Scouts practised discrimination, obliging me to pretend ‘my duty to god and the queen’, when I felt I had none to either. Even as a child this lie offended my ethics, but I (like many others, and with full knowledge of the leaders) put up with it, learning pragmatic hypocrisy from the Christians. Monthly church parade was to all a chore rather than a duty, and none of the real scouting activities – knots, games, badges, self-reliance, camp-fires (where we sang parodies like ‘on top of spaghetti’, not Kumbaya) – had or needed religious content. Older scouts took our motto ‘Be Prepared’ to mean ‘carry a condom’!
The Bishop will have done a great service in bringing Camp Quest to the attention of Leicester’s youngsters, and I wish them and their enthusiastic young director Samantha Stein every success.
I note that Stevens draws his lesson on ‘tolerance’ from the gentle humanist philosopher A C Grayling. Perhaps in this spirit he’ll apologise to the thousands of truly tolerant and open-minded religious and non-religious Mercury readers for his astonishing show of prejudice.
Frank Friedmann (member of Leicester Secular Society)
I only spotted one change made by the editor - the insertion of a respectful 'Bishop' before 'Stevens' in the last paragraph.