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Non-religious Scouts

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  • #16
    "A Scout is Referential"... no, that's not it... A Scout is Refrigerated.... ummmm no... A Scout is Revved up... ah shucks, I give up.
    I guess I'll just have to go back to the source....
    “”Reverence to God and reverence for one's neighbour and reverence for oneself as a servant of God, is the basis of every form of religion. The method of expression of reverence to God varies with every sect and denomination. What sect or denomination a boy belongs to depends, as a rule, on his parents' wishes. It is they who decide. It is our business to respect their wishes and to second their efforts to inculcate reverence, whatever form of religion the boy professes.””
    Robert Baden-Powell, “Aids to Scoutmastership”

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    • #17
      Exactly SS, now from the BSA advancement guide for the Eagle rank. "Demonstrate that you live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your daily life. List on your Eagle Scout Rank Application the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf, including parents/guardians, religious, educational, and employer references."" Let's help the OP with his question of scouts with no faith.

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      • #18
        I have a Troop with similar characteristics. My most religious scouts are a few from a local Baptist / Evangelical congregation, a Hindu Scout, and a Jewish Scout (Reform I think). I grew up CBD (Christian By Default) - my parents did not attend church, but expressed a belief in a higher power in general. In high school I was prayed for due to my belief in evolution. In college I was baptized after joining my fiancee's church (PCUSA), where I now serve as a Deacon at times.

        So I love it when Scouts tell me that they believe in something, but they are not sure what. I ask them questions, and I ask them to tell me of their faith and what it means. I encourage them to talk to their parents, and educate me instead. I have been having these conversations with Scouts for years, some of the best have been on the trail.

        From that, I have 3 times been asked to write the religious letter for an Eagle candidate. As one Scout said, "I had my best conversations about faith with you. Will you write a letter for me?"

        So see this as a challenge to understand them more, and learn more about other faiths. You can be Reverent and learn from them, which will help them express their faith a bit as well.

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        • #19
          I think kids who can tell you they don't believe in anything in particular are some of the most sincere and engaging about challenges to grow in their faith.

          In practical terms, ask what the CO expects of you. For example, mine -- being PCUSA -- expects us to say grace before meals, and a little devotional if we're out on a Sunday. But, they would not want us to make a boy say a prayer that he couldn't adhere to.

          I try to talk to the "no particular faith" boys and find out what they are comfortable with. I haven't met any who have a problem rising at the table while a buddy says grace, and some actually look forward to the opportunity to lead it for themselves. And most Christian boys would rather their mate say a poem or something respectful in his own words than recite a prayer or say something he doesn't believe in. So, I would let parents know that understanding one's religion is part of the program, and ask if there's something important about the boy's faith that I should recognize and encourage.

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          • #20
            Good post qwazse.

            In my experience, it’s not so much the families have no belief in god, they just aren’t active in how they believe in god. I typically approach the parents and tell them that the troop does a religious service on campouts. It’s not regimented or specific, it is very generic. We like to ask for volunteers to plan and lead the service. Then I ask them how they feel about that structure.

            Even if they are atheist (and we have a few), I ask them how they want us to work with their son with the reverent part of the law. In my case the parents have encourage their son to explore that part of the program so they can determine their own belief. I also point out that the reverence question will likely be asked several times during Scoutmaster conferences and boards of reviews because it is part of living the scout oath and law, especially at the Eagle BOR. I point out that no belief at the EBOR will likely disqualify him of the Eagle award.

            I make a point that we are not trying to sway their son one way or the other and welcome his interest and discovery on the subject. The unit will not judge him and he is always be welcome to troop, but the BSA does require some reverence, however that is accomplished. I have never had a family that had any issues and most of the time they find me over concerned on the matter. But I just want everyone to understand everything up front.

            Now if I ever had a young scout tell me he had no belief or reverence toward god or any kind of spirit, I would only ask him to keep an open mind as he experiences the scouting activities. I would likely ask him about it during his SM conferences so that by the time we get to Eagle, there would be an expectation and no surprises. I would also be talking to the parents at the same time about everything we have talked about so that nobody is surprised and we can work as a team if ever needed. But I have never had any of the several hundred scouts I've worked with tell me that. I hope that helps.

            Barry

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            • #21
              Eagledad, I might have misunderstood your above post. You would pass a scout along in SMC's and allow him to gain ranks as an atheist, but stop him at eagle? That does not seem right.

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              • #22
                You can always use an example, such as a Catholic is reverent by fasting from meat every Friday during lent. Or a Muslim is reverent by not eating pork and drinking alcohol. I would also explain to them that you shouldn't discriminate based on other people's religious beliefs. Which in my opinion is the most important part of being reverent.

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                • #23
                  With all this discussion floating around whether or not a scout is religious doesn't fit the definition of "reverent". Reverant is to show deep respect for someone or something, most often, but not limited to the sacred or divine. Reverence is what you do, not what you are. This is why I take my hat off when going into a church, but leave it on when I go into a synagogue. It is what I do to show respect, but it has nothing to do with my beliefs.

                  Stosh

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                  • #24
                    Maybe we should just change Reverent to Humble. Here's a nice quote I like: Humility -- true humility -- is one of the most expansive and life-enhancing of all virtues. It does not mean undervaluing yourself. It means valuing other people. It signals a certain openness to life's grandeur and the willingness to be surprised, uplifted, by goodness wherever one finds it.... Humility, then, is more than just a virtue: it is a form of perception, a language in which the "I" is silent so that I can hear the "Thou", the unspoken call beneath human speech, the Divine whisper within all that moves, the voice of otherness that calls me to redeem its loneliness with the touch of love. Humility is what opens us to the world.

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                    • #25
                      That is a pretty good explanation of reverent I guess, but we members of the BSA still have to contend with the Scout Handbook "A Scout is Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."

                      And there is that "duty to god" thing in the oath.

                      I like your suggestion Matt.

                      Barry

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                      • #26
                        >> Eagledad, I might have misunderstood your above post. You would pass a scout along in SMC's and allow him to gain ranks as an atheist, but stop him at eagle? That does not seem right.<<

                        Sorry, I didn’t see this until now. I would suggest the family be open to allowing their son to the possibility through discovery of the scout experience. They would know up front that likely the EBOR would not allow him to get the award if he still believes in no god. But seven years is a long time to experience life and to cut boy from scouting just because he doesn’t have a clue during parts of that life experience seems to me, well ungodly. Of course the parents have to agree and the scout has to be at least open to an idea of god or spirit or whatever. Who knows what the wonders of the Boundary Waters might inspire in a scout.

                        Barry

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Eagledad View Post
                          That is a pretty good explanation of reverent I guess, but we members of the BSA still have to contend with the Scout Handbook "A Scout is Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."

                          And there is that "duty to god" thing in the oath.

                          I like your suggestion Matt.

                          Barry
                          Well the problem with that is how do you as someone outside a scouts religion or spirituality determine those things. Really the only ones that can make that call are the scout and his family. And what about the more esoteric belifs?

                          For example a diest believe their religious duties amount to living you life governed by reason , well it's a little more complicated than that but you get the idea. They are also distinctly NOT atheist.
                          Last edited by Renax127; 04-03-2014, 04:51 PM. Reason: clarification

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                          • #28
                            I don't know, I would play by ear. I have had several scouts with atheist parents and this was never an issue. In fact they allowed or encourage their son to work for the religious award to learn. I think we adults make way to big a thing out of it. Boys go through a lot of self-searching between ages 10 to 17. I just want to give them the chance to do some of that searching in a scouting environment with godly role models.

                            Barry

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                            • #29
                              "Well the problem with that is how do you as someone outside a scouts religion or spirituality determine those things. Really the only ones that can make that call are the scout and his family. And what about the more esoteric belifs?"

                              I agree regarding your statement about how this should be left to the scout and his family. But in reality I've observed that it seems very easy for some of us to judge others who have beliefs outside ours. That actually seems easier for them than to engage in self-examination.
                              I have to ask, however, how would you identify an "esoteric" belief?

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                              • #30
                                I really like this Faith and Chaplaincy forum, it certainly ... oh, darn.

                                As an "experienced " parent (read: OLD...), I have come to the conclusion that it is the parent's duty and responsibility to give their off-spring a belief that they can either accept or reject. And, the fact is that ALL parents are doing just that, whether they are conscious of it or not. The example of their lives is closely being observed, judged and accepted OR rejected.

                                Is the "PM" function functional yet? I'd like to offer the "Scout's Own" curriculum I do at IOLS. I haven't figured out the Dropbox thingy to use.

                                "Esoteric belief" : Something strange to my personal ken.... (?)

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