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Ok I may be a little late to the game with this one, but a fellow skeptic friend and I watched the 2006 documentary “Jesus Camp” recently. For those of you unaware it follows a few kids as they take part in ‘Kids On Fire School of Ministry’, a pentecostal summer camp run by Becky Fisher. At the camp they praise Jebus but also become motivated to ‘fight’ for God (I have no idea why he can’t do it on his own?) and become the next generation of evangelicals.

You know, a lot of people often throw around the term indoctrination and brainwashing in relation to parents and adults pushing their religious beliefs on children. But most religious parents, in the UK at least, are just nice people who are sincerely trying to imbibe the ideas and teachings that they believe give their life meaning and morality, into their progeny. Sincerity of course doesn’t make it any more right or wrong, or even their ideas more correct, but it seems rather more tolerable. Well, relatively speaking at least.

Someone who is completely intolerable is Becky Fisher. Towards the end of the film, she is asked by a radio commenter “Why kids?”. This is her response:

Anyone who does any work with kids knows the reason you go for kids is because whatever they learn by the time they are 7, 8, 9 years old is pretty well there for the rest of their life… I don’t think any child gets anything by choice. As I understood your question to me was ‘Do you feel it’s right for the fundamentalist to indoctrinate their children with their own belief?’ I guess fundamentally, yes I do, because every other religion is indoctrinating their kids. Hello! I would like to see more churches indoctrinating… You could call it brainwashing, but I am radical and passionate in teaching children their responsibility as christians, as God-fearing people, as Americans.

Don’t beat around the bush Becky, say what you really feel! Apart from the fact that Fisher believes it is ok to indoctrinate children at an age in their development when they do not have full comprehension of all available arguments, and when they are predisposed to believe adults and authority figures, there’s also something else inherently sad in her statement.

What does it say about your beliefs if you have to indoctrinate people into that way of thinking? It is almost as if she knows that her ideas don’t stand up to logic and reason…

The whole film just made me very, very sad. I did get a little chuckle when Ted Haggard made some comments about the acceptability of homosexuality, as ‘we don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible’. This from a man who was subsequently found to have been soliciting a male escort. The fun didn’t last though, soon Haggard turned his head to evolution. Woe. I think anyone can probably guess what an evangelical thinks of evolution, but the gist of it is that he doesn’t think public schools should tell students that they are animals created by natural selection. Boo hoo! More worryingly though, this is a man who used to speak to president Bush and his advisors every monday. Damn America, you scary!

Overall verdict of the film; it will make your head hurt and make you sad, if you have any sense, but it is a compelling watch. It also helped me to find some gems like this, after they showed a young man named Levi watching it at home:

And by gems I actually mean complete pieces of utter crap. In fact I think that may be an insult to fecal matter. I watched the whole thing and I swear by the end I was dribbling because of the inanity of it. I wouldn’t even know where to start to correct the multitude of errors in this video.

Giving it a go though, at an intuitive level their argument that because you can’t observe something, you cannot formulate any knowledge about it that would be anything other than belief; apart from completely ignoring the possibility of inferential evidence, doesn’t even work with their own philosophy. No one observed God create the earth.

Humans and dinosaurs co-existing?! Anything even remotely resembling animals from the Genus Homo do not appear in the fossil record until around 2,000,000, and modern Homo sapiens appear around 200,000 years ago. Dinosaurs existed 230 million years and are found in the fossil record up to 65 million years ago. The magnitude of the difference between the time of our existence and dinosaurs is immense, almost incomprehensible. Of course all of this is just belief. It is definitely not informed by stratigraphic evidence and radiometric dating. Definitely not.

Also the idea that because we don’t know what killed the dinosaurs; then we don’t know when they died is absurd. Imagine a pathologist who is unable to determine the cause of death of an individual. Does this mean that they can’t determine time of death despite evidences, such as onset of rigour mortis and body temperature, that are inconsequential of how the death was affected? The disappearance of dinosaurs from the fossil record occurs regardless of the method of their disappearance.

I love their explanation for why dinosaurs aren’t included in the bible though! The first english version of the bible was translated in 1611 (neglecting the fact that the Tyndale bible came earlier), however, the word dinosaur wasn’t invented until 1841. See, that’s why it’s not in the bible. Flawless logic! It has nothing to with the fact that the word dinosaur wasn’t invented until then because knowledge of dinosaurs didn’t exist until this point. And that isn’t why the authors of the bible, with their limited knowledge back then, didn’t include them in the holy book. Don’t be silly.

Anyway enough of this nonsense, I am off to drip feed bleach into the hippocampus and amygdala sections of my brain to make sure none of this stuff sticks.