Friday, June 29, 2007

Camp Pine Ridge

At the age of eight in 1968 I attended a Christian summer camp called Camp Pine Ridge in Rumney, New Hampshire. I happened to be thinking about it and found that they now have a Web site, and a place for alumni to send greetings and memories. Here's the friendly message I sent:

Let's take a walk down memory lane shall we? I was a camper at Camp Pine Ridge nearly forty years ago. Besides spending most of my time unsupervised and nearly drowning in the pool, my most vivid memories are of being physically abused by the counselors.

They called it "The Stairs". A minor infraction (name calling in my case) earned you some number of runs up and down the long set of log stairs outside, next to the chapel I think it was.

I was to run as fast as I could up and down the stairs thirty times (in my case). Assisting me were two brutes at the top and bottom with broom sticks and a few evenly spaced fellows along the stairs with ping pong paddles. I think you can guess what their task was - no, not just to yell encouragement for me to run faster – my bottom was black and blue for weeks. I was crying and exhausted. And terrified, I was pleading apologies for my sin; I was sure this was a precursor to an eternity in Hell. I was eight years old.

But I got off relatively easy. Another poor boy got fifty stairs and I witnessed him falling half way down the stairs. I clearly recall his bloody knees and elbows, and pine needles sticking into his lips. Drooling, coughing, and crying, his callow eyes begged for leniency. Yet he continued to receive enthusiastic encouragement from the merciless counselors.

It was this same hapless fellow, perhaps nine years old, who I saw being publicly berated in chapel by the minister for wearing shorts on Sunday - he'd apparently run out of clean clothes. The unfortunate boy must have been staying there for multiple weeks. I thankfully got out in one.

The day before going home the alpha counselor informed us that the parents of all those who had received punishment (The Stairs) were going to be told of our transgressions. I was panic stricken and prayed vigorously for forgiveness and protection.

Of course they didn't follow through. In retrospect this was obviously a transparent attempt at inciting fear and promoting silence to conceal their actions. It was successful; I was greatly relieved that my parents didn't know, and I never told them.

What a silly, sadistic, and hateful religion you practice. Like all religion, it is man made and morally bankrupt. You understand this better than you might admit – for you are an atheist relative to all the other religions of the world – I just go one religion further.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. Though you still support the indoctrination of religion into children, they who lack the cognitive abilities to rationally evaluate the ideas you preach (a revolting practice, indeed a form of child abuse), I trust these physical abuses wouldn't fly now. But I hope you do feel an obligation to contemplate this and to seek out more information on your disgraceful history and heritage.