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Atheist dad struggling with cub scouts

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  • Atheist dad struggling with cub scouts

    My son is a Tiger cub (had his ceremony for his Tiger badge last week). His mother and I are Atheists and have been talking about this subject since he brought home that first Cub Scout handout from school.

    Now to be fair I never had a personal problem with the cub/boy scouts. I disagree with the ideology but everything outside of that seems great. I actually think the boy scouts represent religion with more public good than most churches.

    My son is only 7 and he loves the scouts. His friends are there. His Den leader knows we are Atheists and has even offered a compromise on his upcoming faith badge.

    The problem I have is that I don't want my son to get too attached to scouting. I know in Weblos or the Boy Scouts he will be rejected. He doesn't quite understand that yet, but I tried to explain it to him. I honestly don't think kids can make religious or faith-based oaths, even Atheistic ones. I've never discouraged him from exploring religion but I also haven't taken him to church since he started school.

    If anyone on here has encountered Atheist cub scout parents I would love to hear from you. I'm not against scouting, I just know the reality of his future in scouting.

    Thank you

  • #2
    I have not had an experience with an Atheist parent so I really don't have an answer for you....I did want to say though that this must be pretty tough on you and your wife. The dichotomy in what you are faced with is pretty broad you keep encouraging your son to grow in the program but tell him that he needs to disavow the belief in God requirement or do you just say cya to the program altogether? It is a tough decision that I hope gets worked out for your family.


    • #3
      Yeah, I have a lot of problems with the selective religious affiliations that the Scouts have as well. It's a tough nut for me to crack as well. I am a Christian, but I disagree with the Scouts having such a close affiliation with the Catholic Church and the LDS.

      It seems that every community project they do around here has some attachment to the LDS. Hardly the pinnacle of most needy.

      If you look at the history of Powell, it's not too hard to make the case of why the connections are the way they are.

      I think the Scouts would be a much more beneficial organization without the affiliations.

      In the end, you have to decide what is best for you son.

      Good luck.(This message has been edited by asichacker)


      • #4
        I know in Weblos or the Boy Scouts he will be rejected.

        This is not necessarily so. Some packs and troops pretty much take a don't-ask-don't-tell attitude towards this - saying that religion instruction is the province of the parents.


        • #5
          Yah, I'm not at all sure your lad will be rejected somewhere down the line. In fact, can't imagine why he would be.

          Yeh might find that he adopts a different attitude toward religious stuff than his parents. Such is the nature of teenagers .

          Scoutin' doesn't mind lads who are looking for what to believe. Doesn't much mind lads who are rebelling against their parents' notions of God. They're learning. They're growin'. Like all humans, they will have doubts, and questions, and struggles. We have no problem with lads who are questin'.

          At some point your son might decide that in order to be true to himself he can't take the Scout Oath honestly and choose to withdraw from the program. That's OK. At some point kids make choices. That's part of growin' up. You can push him to that if you want; parents always can. I hope and expect yeh won't. Should be his choice, eh? He'll be stronger for it.

          And yeh don't know, yeh might find he makes a long run of Scouting right into adulthood.

          Not worth worryin' about, though. Enjoy your time in Cub Scouts.



          • #6
            "I have a lot of problems with the selective religious affiliations that the Scouts have as well. It's a tough nut for me to crack as well. I am a Christian, but I disagree with the Scouts having such a close affiliation with the Catholic Church and the LDS."

            Keep in mind that this close affiliation is due to what the Catholic Church & LDS do. While I probably have similiar issue with the LDS association, their association could be done by any other chartered org.

            People need to keep in mind that scouts just have to have a 'religious belief'. There is no requirement to belong to a church/religious org. There is no list of 'approved religions' or the like. If a scout is comfortable doing his 'duty to God' ("God" being what HE defines) and his is 'Reverant', there should be no issue.


            • #7
              I don't see why you say his future in Scouting is doomed. As he moves beyond Cubs the program becomes less family centered and encourages more independence. All his life he will face those of differing opinions and ideaologies, he should take this journey, explore what it has to offer and make his own decisions.

              What if he finds a tolerant troop? Scouting at the unit level can vary based on the adult volunteers.

              What if through his journey he finds his own faith?

              For now, have fun and deal with the future when it gets here.


              • #8
                I think it depends on the troop. Our troop is Church sponsored by a Christian Church but includes some scouts that are Hindu, Jewish, Unitarian and one Eagle Scout who would tell you he is an atheist if you asked him point blank. We dont have a Sunday service on campouts and basically have an opening prayer at meetings and when we leave to go on a campout. The typical prayer is for safe travel, good weather, no injuries, etc. If you and your son choose to stand quietly but not bow your head or close your eyes during this prayer time it would not be a big deal. Thats what a couple of the Jewish scouts and their dads do. Its a mutual respect thing. If youll stand quietly during the prayer we wont force you to bow your head and close your eyes. Thats being reverent, remaining quiet out of mutual respect when a fellow scout is praying.

                When new webelos visit our troop we explain our membership diversity to them and their parents. We tell them what our approach is to the budget, camping and religion also. We tell them point blank if you are looking for a troop that emphasizes a Sunday morning service on a campout or promotes a particular faith we may not be the best fit for you. We have a zero tolerance for hazing and promote respect for other scouts opinions as well as their physical possessions. So if it ever became a point of teasing or conflict in our troop the SPL would deal with it. If he wasnt successful the SM would deal with it. Dont get me wrong, some families in our troop are pretty religious, its just that no one views our troop as primarily a religious organization. Im sure there are troops out there that are the opposite of ours where religion is a cornerstone and thats fine.

                So look around a find a troop that you fit in with. There are troops out there that emphasize the camping and outdoor aspects of scouting but dont emphasize some of the other aspects. Some emphasize religion, others camping, others leadership. Find a troop you and your son like and then talk to the adult leaders about your concerns.

                I dont think rejection is a foregone conclusion. But if you go in guns blazing and want to constantly pick fights, be a militant atheist and constantly try to convert others to your way of thinking, then thats going to generate conflict which can possibly lead to rejection. But the same would be true if you are a militant republican or democrat always itching for a fight on your pet subject or topic.

                Anyway, I wouldnt just throw in the towel and say rejection is a foregone conclusion.


                • #9
                  Athiestic parents are a tricky thing in Scouting. You are a strong influence in his life, but your beliefs are not going to necessarily always match his.

                  There are requirements in his future boy scout career that mention religion and faith, but I would encourage you to take this time now to explore your own beliefs. Does your life have a moral yardstick, how do you measure right and wrong? Many athiests in scouting take their philosphical beliefs, call it Humanism, and attest it as their "religion." Teach these standards to your son and require all his leaders to handle his beliefs as they would someone who is buddist. Buddism is almost (and sometimes completely) atheist anyway.

                  Regardless, let him enjoy scouts until that point is reached.


                  • #10
                    Reverence and some type of higher consciousness is a cornerstone of Scouting. If you cannot accept that premise, then you should not be part of the group. It is so tiresome that this simple "fact" seems to be ignored by so many here. Removing a cornerstone of a building will eventually lead to its collapse.


                    • #11
                      I agree skeptic. Scouting is accepting of all religions as long as you profess to believe in some higher power. IMO only an atheist would not meet the requirements of the Oath. Some people get upset and assume this means Scouts is intolerant. I disagree. It would be no different than my joining the MN atheists organization and complaining when they don't follow my request to open meetings with a prayer and then calling them intolerant of other beliefs. Instead I know the group isn't for me and I just wouldn't join.

                      That said there is no reason to exclude a child because his parents are atheists. The child may develop separate beliefs although parents obviously have a strong influence. But at some point I'm not sure how you resolve "duty to God" with a professed atheist Scout. Can a troop advance a Scout to Eagle if he professes atheism?(This message has been edited by MNBob)


                      • #12
                        Come to think of it....I have noticed that all of the non-Christian boys that moved up from SS's Cub Scout group are now gone. Of course, 1/2 of those that did AOL didn't move up anyway. What was 10 is now 4...


                        • #13
                          As to atheism of the parents, it's a non-issue unless they want to be a leader. Atheism of the Scout presents the problems outlined above.

                          But there are multi-faith troops out there. The Troop I serve is charted to a Christian church, we have had Scout Christians of several denominations, in addition there have been the agnostic claimant (believes in a higher power that inspires him to a moral code but isn't sure who or what), a Taoist, a Buddhist, a claimant of Voodoisim(I'm pretty sure he was tweaking us).

                          There are plenty of ways around the rule, if one is seeking to do so. But, I would hope that the Scout, if not the Parent, would choose to accept all of their positive experiences in Scouting and choose not to attempt to complete the Eagle rank if they were unwilling/unable to conscientiously state their belief in a higher power at that time.


                          • #14
                            Like others, I doubt this will be an issues later on.

                            When I was a Cub & later Boy Scout, I have almost no memory of religion coming into my Scouting youth career. In Cubs, the only place religion ever entered was when my parents & I chose to earn a religious award. There was never any other mention of religion I can think of.

                            When I was a Boy Scout, the only place religion ever came in is when I attended Scout Sunday to show support for my CO. That attendance was optional.

                            My recommendation, shop around for both a pack and a troop that fits your needs. I'd be very honest with those units and tell them exactly what you want - a pack/troop that does not every push or suggest religious activity.


                            • #15
                              Interesting idea parkman. Be sure to ask which of the other points of the scout law and oath they fail to subscribe to while your at it. May be look for one that has discarded trustworthy as well.