April 2, 2014

Ohioans Offended by Summer Camp

1898 photograph of a group of young girls lear...
1898 photograph of a group of young girls learning how to make a bed at a "vacation school." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seems like there are quite a few people out there who derive some pleasure or a sense of purpose from getting offended, so much so that they appear to seek opportunities to take offense. I'll admit that I have always had difficulty understanding this mindset, as I'd generally prefer not to feel offended. My tentative theory is that offense-taking gives some of them a sense that they are doing something meaningful even though this is rarely the case.

Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) brings us the latest example of offense-taking run amok in a post about readers of The Blade (Toledo, OH) who took offense to an article the paper printed about Camp Quest. The article did not strike me as an endorsement, but it was certainly not a condemnation either, and that seems to have upset some of the paper's readers.

Camp Quest is a summer camp for children between the ages of 8 and 17 that features "science, natural wonder and humanist values." They emphasize support for freethinkers, critical thinking, exploration of the natural world, the promotion of open dialogue, and many other positive things which some religious believers apparently find quite threatening.

I suppose reactions like this should not surprise us. We have seen many examples of how some Christians take offense at the mere existence of atheists, and we have speculated about why this might be the case. And yet, I cannot help feeling like a newspaper's coverage of a summer camp for kids shouldn't be terribly offensive. I was surprised to see that the negative reactions to the paper's story about Camp Quest were sufficient to prompt their Ombudsman, Jack Lessenberry, to address them.

Hemant suggests that the paper should write a story about the people who become offended by the mere presence of atheists. I agree. That really would be something, especially if they had the courage to label it with the label it deserves: bigotry.