Atheist Summer Camp Is Heaven on Earth for Nonbelievers

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Other campers believe people use God as a catch-all explanation for life's events, but they still have questions.

"They don't really know, when they think about when [and] how they were here," Elle said. "They have to find something to explain why was the first human here on Earth, and their answer, their go-to is God, he made them."

Despite her young age, Elle arguably knows as much about the Bible as many of her peers but said God is something she would have to see to believe.

"Personally, I don't believe in him, but if he were to come down and do something really amazing, I would be able to accept that he exists," she said.

The majority of Americans still identify themselves as Christian, but a survey from the 2008 U.S. Census reveals that more than 34 million Americans consider themselves agnostic, atheist or to have no religion. That number has more than doubled since 1990.

The first Camp Quest started in 1996 in Kentucky with 20 campers. Camp Quest Northwest, which opened this summer, is the 15th Camp Quest location and this year, camp enrollment exceeded 620 campers, more than twice the number of campers than two years ago.

But Lisa Miller, the director of clinical psychology at Columbia University whose research focuses on the spiritual awareness of children, said spirituality is incredibly valuable to a child's development and it has been shown to emotionally protect children against suffering, even depression.

"Consistently, it's been shown that spirituality is associated with health, greater academic achievement and, of great importance to teens, more meaning and purpose," Miller said. "Spirituality, globally, helps children and adolescents to thrive."

Most children are more spiritual than their parents, Miller said, and often the child will be the one to encourage the family to be more spiritual.

"We are inherently spiritual beings," she said. "Spirituality is, just like cognitive development, moral development and social development, that cornerstone of our whole personhood."

Several campers described Camp Quest as a support group of sorts and that this was a place where they are free to be themselves.

"I don't have any atheist friends or anything," Chandler Garry said. "So I would like to maybe make a couple of friends that live near me that I could actually go to their house and have dinner, not have to pray before eating. ? I can actually be the same as them and not have their parents hate me or whatever because I'm an atheist."

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