non-theistic kids camp

Michael D at Balloon Juice points to this ad for Camp Inquiry ’08 whose mission is as follows:

This is a place where kids can be themselves. We work toward helping youth confront the challenges of living a non-theistic/secular lifestyle in a world dominated by religious belief and pseudoscience. Grounded on the conviction that kids can begin establishing habits of the good and ethical life early on, Camp Inquiry 2008 adopts a three-part focus: The arts and sciences, the skeptical perspective, and ethical character development comprise an integrated approach to this “Age of Discovery.” Campers, counselors, and teachers will address key issues around individual identity, forging trusting relationships, establishing a sense of local and global community, and living with respect for the natural world. (my emphasis)

Now as I’ve said many times before I have no problem with (in fact I support) the building up of atheist religions. Or better a secular humanist religion. Insofar as they see themselves as not out to be anti-religion but rather simply themselves and work in a liberal society respecting differences towards some common good buildup.

A couple of things are clear here. This isn’t science camp. Science camp would be about science only. Again I think it’s interesting to explore the arts and ethics as well as science but what we are really discussing here is a worldview. In other words, it’s just like church camp. So the idea (contra Michael D.) that this is about teaching kids “inquiry” versus “dogmatism” is just atheist dogmatism itself. The children are still being taught what to think and even how to think. Just described as “inquiry” versus (according to this logic) the evils of religion. The idea that you can teach context (how to think) but not content (what to think) is highly problematic if not complete BS, especially in the minds of youth. The two are inherently intertwined.

Which is why I highlighted the skeptical perspective. The skeptical perspective is itself a kind of faith as any smart critiques of Hume for hundreds of years have shown. Skepticism as part of a general way of life is important. You don’t just want to believe anything anybody tells you. You need to think through their logic, their rationale, their evidence and so forth. But total acceptance of the skeptical perspective is itself a non-skeptical view. In other words, there are moments in life when you need a non-skeptical attitude (i.e. faith by any definition). That faith need not be in a god. But just you have to take certain things on faith, even authority (i.e. the kids at this camp). Otherwise why wouldn’t the kids simply by adopting the skeptical perspective turn that light right back on the entire camp itself and say its all BS and leave? In so doing, would said young person have actually correctly interpreted the message?

The first bit I highlighted (“dominated by…”) of course manages nicely to equate religious belief with pseudoscience and elides the two. Newsflash, not every religious believer holds to creationism or intelligent design–they have a class specifically devoted to debunking said views—both are incorrect. And I’m a religious believer. So thanks for equating me with pseudoscience.

One other class entitled “In the Footsteps of Darwin” is described thusly:

Experts in the natural sciences will guide campers in understanding the evolutionary model as counter to claims of creationism and intelligent design.

Now what that means (I’d bet the farm on this one) is a Neo-Darwinian materialist interpretation of evolution. That is it will either try to completely ignore consciousness or describe consciousness as an accidental by-product of material causal forces. This view is a type of dogmatism (uncritical and uncriticizable faith). This is where moving from science to a scientistic worldview (an all explanatory framework/guide for life) turns this thing into well a religion. Just one where the religion won’t allow itself to admit that it is–which is problematic on multiple levels. Again the problem is not religious-izing or more correctly mythicizing evolution (everyone has to develop through a mythical belief stage), it’s that it’s not understood to be a such. When done in a religious way we call confusing myth for factual explanation,fundamentalism. It would properly be applied here as well.

The way out of the Neo-Darwinian/ID impasse is as I’ve said multiple times, process thought or an integral frame more generally. Process thought is evolutionary in nature (point to NeoDarw. view) and does not require an Intelligent Designer or Creator but at the same time recognizes the fundamental drive towards complexity and integration in the Universe. And sees consciousness not as a by-product (whether illusory or real) of materiality but both (consciousness and materiality) as intrinsic to existence. See Teilhard’s Law of Complexity and Consciousness on how the two inter-relate in the process of evolution.

This philosophical view then allows one to either believe in a God or not while yet holding to the same Creation Story, i.e. much of the same worldview. Thereby ending all this stupid friction, battles and counterbattles over the issue. There will still be differences but not difference plus enmity which is the key (or at least very easy to imagine such a scenario, realistically coming to be).

Because in a process view of theology, God (if there is one) does not work via coercion/dictat. God works via persuasion. This is the source of all the critiques (Michael D’s included) that such a God is not bound by any laws. And such coercive power is then displayed by God’s (self-proclaimed) successors under the rubric of imitating God. Thereby perpetuating a cycle of human immaturity (classic Kantian Enlightenment critique of religion, not without its own limited truth to be sure but pushed to its illogical extreme, its own problem).

In other words, all power is top-down versus bottom-up. But of course a deeper view of the Universe sees it as containing both top-down (involutionary) and bottom-up (evolutionary) moments which is why even in Non-Theistic Camp the children are taught by elders (top-down) and given room to think for themselves (bottom-up). And this may come as a shock to some, well done church camps do allow for young people to define their own life, ask questions, struggle with ambiguity.

The only question is whether the top-down is coercive or persuasive/open to criticism-questioning. It’s not a choice between non top-down and top-down models. Top-down is intrinsically part of the game. It’s whether you are doing it to enhance and protect life flourishing or in a death-dealing/constricting manner.

So I want to make clear I don’t mean to be ragging on these folks, they are simply doing the best they can do, what they think is right. But this kinda thing leaves the primary basic problem untouched: the view that explanation (as opposed to mystery) is the primary way of being in the world. That mystery is to be explained away and therefore controlled. Knowledge is power as opposed to knowledge as a means to devotion (jnani yoga).

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