Secular Summer Camp: Camp Director's Opening Night Remarks at the First Camp Quest
The following remarks to the Campers and Staff of Camp Quest were given by Edwin Kagin, Camp Director, on August 11, 1996, the historic first night of the first year of Camp Quest, the nation's first residential secular humanist summer camp. This speech can be read in its entirety in Edwin Kagin's book Baubles of Blasphemy, available though Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1887392149/secularstudental.
Hello you all. Welcome to Kentucky and to Camp Quest. My name is Edwin. I am the Director of Camp Quest. You may call me Edwin, or Boss, or Sir, or Your Grace, or Mr. Director, or whatever else you like, but Edwin will do just fine. In fact, you can call all of the adults here by their first names. We were all your age once, we think, and someday you may be our age. The only difference between us and you is that we are older. We have learned some things, and may have some things we can teach you, but we believe you can teach us some things too. We are all equal, because we are all human beings. We are all learning all the time.
This is a camp run by secular humanists for the kids, grandkids, and so forth, or secular humanists. It is the first camp for secular humanist kids in the history of the United States, we think, and that is really neat, because we will probably all be in the history books, and you can tell your own kids and grandkids that you went to the very first camp for secular humanist kids.
What in the world are secular humanists anyway? We are going to try to figure that out this week. Maybe you already have some ideas about this that you will want to share with us. We might even come up with some brand new ideas about being a secular humanist that no one has ever thought of before. That's one thing that's really neat about being a kid-you have a whole lifetime to think up things no one on earth has ever thought of before.
Many of you probably have parents and friends who are secular humanists. Secular humanism sounds awfully complicated, doesn't it? But it really isn't. Humanism just means believing in human beings. Which we all are, doing human things, which we all do. Secular means believing in this world, and in the real things that are in our real world, and not believing in some imaginary pretend world that no one can prove is real. Secular humanists believe the real world and the universe the world is in is all there is. But that is quite a bit, really. It is enough to keep human beings very busy. So busy that they shouldn't waste their time and their lives believing in things that are not true and in worshipping something that does not exist.
At Camp Quest we are going to look at the wonderful world we live in. We are going to see how amazing it is, and how wonderful the living things in it are. We are going to look at the stars and wonder and imagine what human beings are and what they can do and what they can become.
We want you to know that it is okay to be a secular humanist. It is alright not to believe in any gods, or angels, or devils, or heavens or hells. It is okay to be a human being living in a real world that can be understood by people and that can be made better by people for people to live in. Not everyone believes this.
We are making history. We want this first camp for secular humanist kids to be a big success. And it will be a big success if you enjoy yourselves and have a wonderful time. We are all here to have fun and to learn new things and to make new friends. Now I want you to meet the counselors and staff here at camp. They have all come here without pay to help you have a wonderful week.
After you learn about our activities at Camp Quest, I am going to give each cabin a little problem for you to work on all week. You are to work on the problem yourselves and tell all of us your answers on the last night of camp. Your counselors may answer some questions for you, but they will not give you any answers to the problem. This is for you to give us.
Now let me introduce the counselors, who will introduce the campers in their cabins. When they are finished, I will introduce the staff who will tell you about our activities. Don't be afraid to ask questions you have as we go along. Questioning is why we are here.
Want more about Camp Quest? You can watch Comedy Central's Colbert Report with Camp Quest. Also see Camp Quest in the news: the USA Today featured an article on this year's camp session, as did Cincinnati.com. And you can always visit the Camp Quest website at www.camp-quest.org for information on all six sessions in the U.S., photos, and more.