Atheism Isn’t Self-Evident From a Scientific Education

In describing a “camp for atheists” (that’s not an entirely accurate generalisation, but it’s close) Ruth Gledhill notes the following:

At Camp Quest, children will be led to believe that science, which forms the main substance of their instruction, is incompatible with religion and religious beliefs, not because a scientific education makes this fact self-evident but because children at Camp Quest ‘learn about science, the scientific method, critical thinking’ alongside ‘world religions and church-state separation’, a correspondence which is normally avoided and criticised by atheists and mainstream educational establishments, rather than encouraged, even if it is to discredit links between the two spheres.  (emphasis mine)

That, in a nutshell, is one of atheism’s biggest problems.

I’m one of those people who’d like to see hard science and math education become the “core” education in our schools, as opposed to the arts or social sciences, which is the case now in the Anglophone world in general and the U.S. in particular.  Looking at the end result of such an emphasis would lead to engineers and scientists at the top of our society (as is the case in China) rather than the lawyers.  The reason why this isn’t so is complicated, from cultural factors to the systemic problems our public schools have in retaining science and math teachers to the fact that excelling in any scientific educational track is hard work.

Many Christians might think that this would lead to a diminishment of faith in our students.  But I know better.  And so do the atheists, which is why, at places like Camp Quest, they have to lard a curriculum in scientific discovery with materialistic philosophy to get their point across.

The fact that a scientific education doesn’t make atheism self-evident per se is a serious problem for the purveyors of anti-theism.

7 thoughts on “Atheism Isn’t Self-Evident From a Scientific Education”

  1. My children are currently attending Camp Quest, and they are not atheists. However, they are being raised by atheists. They are well aware of how they are being raised, and Camp Quest gives them a chance to be with their peers for one brief week.

    This is their third year at Camp Quest, and Ruth Gledhill’s piece is highly inaccurate.

    My children are the ones who are told they are going to hell for not believing in a god and that their parents are evil for not taking them to church regularly or being baptized.

    There is NO “larding” of a curriculum.

    It’s great to read that you think hard science and math education should be at the forefront. But, there is a big reason why so many scientists are non religious.

    I think Gledhill’s article is a bunch of bunk.

    How people can get so uptight about 24 children from the entire UK attending a five day camp, compared to 4,500 children attending 100 CPAS Venture camps this summer, let alone the weekly Sunday services and youth services that children of Christian parents have attended since birth, is beyond me.

    If anyone is being indoctrinated, it is the children of religious parents.

    My kids know about the bible, the torah, and the koran as well as buddha and jain and hindu and many others along with religions that have faded into history, like the Greek and Roman and Norwegian gods.

    My kids are not isolated from mythology and history. We have taught our children to respect the right of others to practice their religion and that when they become adults, they will then be able to proclaim what they are, if anything.

    Compare this to children, by a coincidence of birth, who are told they are Muslim or Jewish or Christian or etc since birth, simply because of geography.

  2. WayBeyondSoccerMom, there are some inaccuracies in your own analysis.

    First, your complaint about the number of children in Venture camps in the UK vs. Camp Quest masks the simple fact that the UK is a very secular society (with the church attendance rates to go with it) and is becoming more so all of the time, except for the explosive growth of Islam, which secularists don’t seem to have the stomach to deal with.

    Second, your idea that people are Christian by birth is not real Christianity. Such an idea can justifiably be posited about Islam and Judaism. In fact, the central reason why Christianity is targeted most frequently for attack is because its growth is largely conversion growth (as opposed to the birthrate in Islam.) People choose to become Christians and that’s what scares secularists and other religions. The former use the legal system to grind their Christian opponents down. The latter respond with anti-conversion legislation.

    Third, I simply do not buy the idea that the long-term objective of secularists is to create a more tolerant society. Historical experience of nations which attempt to create a society without God (such as France, the old Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China) demonstrate otherwise. I think that the idea that the Anglophone world will do differently is self-serving rubbish, but then again self-serving rubbish is a speciality of the Anglophone world.

    Fourth, you may accept the “larding” as “scientific” without having critically examined same. Materialistic philosophies end in circular reasoning on many issues of meaning and desirable outcomes, which is why it seems to me that the ultimate result of secularism is a new religion. (Marxism went through the same process, but secularists refuse to learn anything from that unhappy experience.)

  3. Thank you for the link. I wonder if the commenter who describes my blog on Christian and atheists camps as ‘highly inaccurate’ has actually read it and, if so, what precisely they are referring to? They possibly meant the contribution by a work experience student at The Times, which it was ill-advised of me to post and which I have now in the most part removed.

    1. It’s an honour to hear from you.

      Reading both the first comment here and the ones I’ve seen on your blog make me think the non-theists are being too defensive. For my part I didn’t see the bias, even as originally written. Your comment that “In future, I would quite like my own son to attend both camps and then be in a position to make his own mind up” should have indicated your own even-handedness, but evidently it did not.

      My own purpose was to challenge one of atheism’s central theses these days, namely that science always leads to atheism. But atheists obviously dislike their assumptions being challenged as much as anyone else. My fluid mechanics/heat transfer professor at university said that, in examining a problem (and what, if anything, that went wrong) one should start by looking at the underlying assumptions. But, that’s real science…

      I also noticed a sensitivity about the prejudices that people are raised with, especially religious ones. But prejudices abound. My father disliked Evangelicals and was negative in many ways about the Episcopal Church I was raised in, and made both be known. So ending up in an Evangelical church required me to deal with that kind of legacy as well.

  4. Sorry. I was away picking up my kids from Camp Quest.

    First, I was raised Catholic by my parents. For the first 12 years of my life, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. It was only when I asked to participate in my Catholic confirmation that I rebelled. My mom actually negotiated with me, “you do this for your grandparents and I’ll owe you a big favor later”. When I turned 18, I actually told my parents, “I am never attending another service again, unless there is a wedding or funeral involved.”

    In my entire life, I don’t know of a single baby or child of Christian parents who has not attended the same church of his/her parents. It’s not until preteen/teen/college age that children may even start to think about stopping, switching or staying.

    Your idea that people choose to be Christian is highly hopeful. My Christian friends appear to be Christian more because it’s convenient, familiar, and comfortable. They were raised that way, their kids will be raised that way, too. Yes, a few of my friends have been “born again”, but you must not know many Catholics. The whole idea of being “born again” just doesn’t happen. The process is much more formal with First Communion and Confirmation. For the many Catholic families I know, it’s something that you do, a rite of passage versus a “personal experience with Jesus.”

    Yes, evangelicals do seek others of different faiths to join but the number one way of growing any religion is giving birth to new members. (See Quiverfull families for a very broad example.)

    The UK may be a much more secular society than the US, but it also requires many of its schools to not be secular. The role of Christian faith in UK public schools is much stronger than in the US. Despite that, it is obvious that the Christian faith, especially the CoE version, is losing ground in the UK (other than Evangelical).

    Regardless of how secular the UK is, the fact is only 24 children of non religious parents attended a five day camp, compared to thousands of children attending numerous weekly religious camps.

    At one point at Camp Quest UK last week, the children were outnumbered by reporters was 2:1.

    I really am puzzled at the fascination of Camp Quest. It’s not like 24 kids were kidnapped from a convent and forced to attend. The 24 kids, probably very much like my own kids, are being raised in a non religious environment, and the five days was a chance to let the kids know they weren’t the only ones being raised that way.

    Regarding Gledhill’s article, there are certainly plenty of comments at the Times Online website from readers that discuss the inaccuracies of her writing.

    I am glad to see that her original article has been edited, and seems more balanced than the way it was written originally (especially with the “Kiva” addition).

    My children have attended several camps this summer. However, Camp Quest, by far, has been their favorite. On the drive back home after picking them up, they asked us to promise they could return next year.

    Thanks for reading my comment and responding.

    Every single one of my cousins has raised their children in the same faith they were brought up in, be it Catholic or Methodist or Episcopal.

    For you to state that this doesn’t happen is misleading and inaccurate. Yes, my examples are personal and anecdotal, but I don’t my life experiences are unique.

  5. I became Roman Catholic when I was 17:

    http://www.vulcanhammer.org/2009/07/15/called-out-of-the-pews-an-experiential-reflection-on-the-role-of-the-laity/

    My parents didn’t like that either. (My mother, BTW, had left her Baptist upbringing to join the Episcopal Church.) Neither did my Episcopal school, but then again they were much of the reason why I did it. I have my great-grandmother’s Episcopal baptismal certificate, if that gives you any idea of how long some of my ancestors had been in the Episcopal church. When she married my great-grandfather, he was excommunicated from the RCC.

    But then again, I have a good number of Freemasons in my background, and that always complicates things. However, I do know many Roman Catholics and are well familiar with their idea and their system. (I devote an entire topic on this site to that subject.)

    I went on to have the spiritual experience of a lifetime in the RCC, but fell out over the Charismatic Renewal:

    http://www.vulcanhammer.org/2009/07/19/evangelicals-and-catholics-together-a-letter-to-keith-fournier/

    I didn’t say that people of a certain denomination didn’t raise their children in that denomination. What I said was that real Christianity is a result of a conscious choice.

    What I suspect about Camp Quest in the UK is that a) it’s fairly new, so it takes time to get the publicity going and b) perhaps secular people in the UK don’t have the camping tradition their Christian counterparts do.

    I’ll stick with my statements about the UK being a more secular society, state church (and all that goes with it) notwithstanding. The statistics speak for themselves.

    As far as Quiverfull is concerned, even without such movements religious people tend to have a higher birthrate than non-religious ones. That’s the dilemma that secular Europeans (and to a lesser extent those in the U.S.) face vis à vis Islam. It will be THE defining moment for Europe in the near future.

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