A dispatch from atheist summer camp.

At Camp Quest Chesapeake, 34 campers have been asked to create, in the name of self-governance, a list of five rules that they think everyone should follow for the week.

“Be friendly to everyone.” Camp director Sarah Menon reads an item from one picnic table’s list before moving on. “Have your water bottle filled with water.” “Don’t attempt to fight telepathic bears without a helmet.”

The goal of the exercise is to get campers to think about the democratic process: What is the purpose of creating and following rules? What if a rule passes that they don’t agree with? Are they obligated to follow it anyway?

“We have a rule over here,” Menon calls out cheerfully, “about worshiping.”

The camper whose paper she has been reading looks affronted. “That,” he says, in an exasperated verbal eye roll, “was a joke.”

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