Day Camp, Community Building, And Atheism

I saw a youtube video of a speech that Dawkins gave that inspired me.

In a nutshell, he stated that atheists in the U.S. have the potential for a lot more political power and social acceptance. Atheists, when combined with agnostics and people who consider themselves “non-religious” form a very, very, large group of people. Large enough to rival the power that fundamentalist Christians enjoy.

What they lack is a unified and active community.

Having been an atheist since college this is no surprise to me. You get a bunch of atheists together and you get a lot of boring talk about how silly religion is.

Human beings need shared values and beliefs to build communities on. Negations are not enough for community building.

That is why I think this summer camp for atheist children is a step in the right direction. It is teaching children the values and skills of rational skepticism. I’m not 100% fan of popular skepticism, but I think Dawkins is on the right track with his summer camp. That track would be giving atheists something other than a negation to have in common.

That is what happens with religion. Religion doesn’t just take away from people, it also gives them things. Highly definable things that make them feel better. Those things generate enthusiasm and the wish to bond with like minded people.

Focusing on teaching people how to think, the scientific method, how to evaluate information and some of the wonderful secular philosophies out there can bring many empowering changes into people’s lives. Concrete changes they can get enthused about and share as a common base for community building.

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6 thoughts on “Day Camp, Community Building, And Atheism”

  1. i’ve heard that he doesn’t own or run the camp; apparently he just made a donation recently, and the media have twisted that to Dawkins somehow owning it.

    but uber cool campy either way.

  2. I thought I invented this word, but it turns out I didn’t:

    apatheist (n) – A person who doesn’t care whether God exists.

    It seems to me that when you take a bunch of people who all hold an eminently sensible belief, get them to start thinking that holding that belief forms an essential part of their identity, and have them spend a substantial amount of their free time talking about their belief with other people who hold the belief, before too long, they stop talking sensibly and start talking crazy talk.

  3. @ #2

    To become an extremist, hang around with people you agree with


    This tale reveals a general fact of social life: much of the time groups of people end up thinking and doing things that group members would never think or do on their own. Those who lack confidence and who are unsure what they should think tend to moderate their views. Suppose that you are asked what you think about some question on which you lack information. You are likely to avoid extremes. It is for this reason that cautious people, not knowing what to do, tend to choose some midpoint between the extremes. But if other people seem to share their views, people become more confident that they are correct. As a result, they will probably move in a more extreme direction. Noteworthy is that this process of increased confidence and increased extremism is often occurring simultaneously for all participants. Seeing their tentative view confirmed by others, each member is likely to feel vindicated, to hold their view more confidently, and to move in a more extreme direction.

    Fits many [*ists |*ans | *ians]

  4. Great post.
    I agree atheists would benefit from having more options for connection and community – though it’s hard to imagine a belief that something doesn’t exist as grounds for connection.
    Like other atheists, I imagine, I’ve occasionally found myself wishing for a community and/or practice for exploring ethics and values and what constitutes a “good life” – which religious folks can get from their churches. When I lived in Philly, I participated a bit in the community around the Ethical Humanist Society http://www.phillyethics.net/about_us.php

    and I loved it. When I moved I was disappointed I couldn’t find anything like that in DC.

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