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Atheist in the Pack

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It has just come to my attention that one of the Webelos trying to earn his badge is an atheist. The Den leader is asking for suggestions on how he can full fill this. I said that I thought while not a religion or religious per se, Scouting does promote the individual scout to be religious. I mean how can you have the cub scout promise...I promise to do my duty to God....and be an aetheist. I guess you could interpret God in any way that makes sense to you. But if you truly do not believe in any form of religion (i.e., "a religious belief that refers to a faith or creed concerning the supernatural, sacred, or divine. It may concern the existence, nature and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life.") then you have to decide.


I then asked the Den Leader "There are requirements to be a Wolf about faith too, did he skim by that one?"


I'm sure our sponsoring organization (Church) would have issue.


We're about more than just camping and fun, it's about character.


I'm not sure exactly what the Webelos requirement is yet, but I don't know if he could finish.


Has anyone else had a similar problem and how did you handle it?




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Of course you should kick him out immediately, just as you should kick out an 11-year-old Jew if you belonged to a no-Jews club. In fact, not kicking out the kid as soon as possible might give him th

Here are the requirements, as listed on usscouts.org:


8. Faith

After completing the rest of requirement 8, do these (a, b, and c):

a. Know: Tell what you have learned about faith.

b. Commit: Tell how these faith experiences help you live your duty to God. Name one faith practice that you will continue to do in the future.

c. Practice: After doing these requirements, tell what you have learned about your beliefs.


And do one of these (d OR e):

d. Earn the religious emblem of your faith*

e. Do two of these:

* Attend the mosque, church, synagogue, temple, or other religious organization of your choice, talk with your religious leader about your beliefs. Tell your family and your Webelos den leader what you learned.

* Discuss with your family and Webelos den leader how your religious beliefs fit in with the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and what character-building traits your religious beliefs have in common with the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

* With your religious leader, discuss and make a plan to do two things you think will help you draw nearer to God. Do these things for a month.

* For at least a month, pray or meditate reverently each day as taught by your family, and by your church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or religious group.

* Under the direction of your religious leader, do an act of service for someone else. Talk about your service with your family and Webelos den leader. Tell them how it made you feel.

* List at least two ways you believe you have lived according to your religious beliefs.


* If you earned your faith's religious emblem earlier in Cub Scouting, and your faith does not have a Webelos religious emblem, you must complete requirement 8e.


Completion of requirement 8e does not qualify a youth to receive the religious emblem of his faith.

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This is going to be an issue....


Did "come to your attention" mean you heard it from the DL or just heard it about it?


Scouting is founded in religious belief (just not specific belief)...not avowed absence of belief, which is how I would interpret "Atheist".


2 choices....

#1 - head in the sand - can an 11 y.o. really make this statement of faith?


#2 - private conversation with the parents. This will become a bigger issue if he crosses into Boy Scouts where belief & duty to a belief comes up more often.


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Maybe I missed it, but what exactly is your role in the pack? Are you the Committee Chair, Cubmaster, or Charter Org. Rep? If not I would say that you need not do anything because it isn't your responsibility to deal with this issue. Supposing that you ARE in one of those roles though...


I think I'd want more info before doing anything. There is an enormous difference between boys who are not members of any specific religion and boys who are atheists. There is also a difference between a kid being confused or uncertain about the nature of a higher power, and one who is clear that he's really an atheist. Kids (and even some adults) often miss these differences and mis-label others who have different beliefs or who have questions or who aren't part of an established religion as "atheists." I notice that this is particularly true in places where there is a strong evangelical presence and not much religious diversity. Perhaps that is the case where you are too, I don't know.


So, what does it mean to say this young man is an atheist? Is that really an accurate description? According to whom? What do the young man's parents say about it? There's also the possibility that the boy has announced that he's an atheist (fully understanding the meaning of the label or not) but the parents state that he is not. You'd have to decide whose word you were going to go with there. (Personally I figure a typical 9 or 10 year old's views on religion aren't set in stone and since most kids take their parents' religious views and since in cubbing the parents are "Akela," I would go with the parents' word.)


As you probably know, BSA policy currently excludes atheists from membership. Whether one agrees or disagrees, that's the policy. So supposing that this falls into your responsibility and that the boy really is an atheist, then you will need to determine the amount of urgency with which you (and the CO) wish to enforce this policy. On one extreme, the boy's membership in your pack could be immediately revoked. This is a pretty serious step so I do hope you'd make very sure of the facts before doing this. On the other extreme, you could leave the religious component of the program up to the parents as "Akela" and trust them if/when they tell you he met the requirement. Many packs do this, figuring that at the cub level, religious instruction is a family matter. Depending on your CO, this might or might not be an appropriate approach for you. I suppose in the middle, you could gently encourage the boy (via his family of course) not to close his mind to other options before he has had the time and maturity to explore the matter in further detail. After all, most people go through times in their lives when they question, explore, and learn about religious faith and maybe this 9 or 10 year old simply needs to have time to do that.

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Lisabob answers many questions and differing positions, and is right. It's not as simple as it may appear. However, if this young man is indeed an athiest, then he doesn't belong in Scouts. I see too often that people try to come up with speculative justifications for this. If the boy were Lutheran, we wouldn't be trying to figure out whether he really is, or if he just doesn't know better, or whatever. We'd accept it as fact, true or not.

Personally, I think I'd handle this the same way. Yes, the parents need to be consulted. If they're athiests, then they signed their son up in the wrong organization, and they need to understand that we take an Oath pledging to do our duty to God. If they can't tolerate our Oath, then they should leave.


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"I promise


To do my DUTY to GOD

And my Country

To HELP other people, and

To OBEY the LAW of the Pack".


What? They didn't cover this in Fast Start?




1) "Oh, so you're an atheist, huh? well YOU'RE out a here!!!" No, not that one...

2) "Mrs. Jones? I have heard (tell her HOW you heard) that Timmy is/thinks he is/is telling people that/told me that he is an atheist. As a Scout leader, I have to point out that part of Scouting is encouraging the boys in their religious faith. Now we don't really care what faith that is, that's up to you and your family after all, but as Timmy moves on in Scouting, it will become a more important issue. Could we talk about that?"

3) Interpretation: If one believes that their duty to God is to not believe in him/her/it, then by not belonging to a given religion or professing a given belief or even not being able to express your belief/feeling, is THAT doing your duty?

4) Don't get personal. Point out to the boys in the Webelos Den that when they move on into Boy Scouts, they will be asked to make a Promise and asked to abide by a set of Laws. Discuss whether setting some ideals to base one's life on is a (choose one) good thing/not a bad idea/not necessary/. Remind them that the very first of these Laws is to be TRUSTWORTHY. Discuss what 'hypocracy' is. Discuss how human it is to strive for the ideal and not make it. Suggest that if one cannot in good faith (there's that word again) agree to this promise and these Laws, perhaps they shouldn't move on in Scouting, of their own free will, but you'd love to see them try.

5) Show, by one's own example, the life that one's faith leads to, that creates in one's spirit. To get Christian about it, your actions may be the only Bible they read today.

6) Pray for guidance...

7) All the above.


Bet you didn't see that coming...






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Yah, hmmm.


By and large, lads of webelos age are a bit young to be doin' much questioning of faith on their own, eh? Odds are the lad is just parroting his parents.


I think yeh really want to turf this to the COR and IH, eh? It's their unit, and it's up to them to determine how their CO's youth programs reach out to the unchurched, and how willing they are in that outreach to accommodate those who are willing to express interest.


Ultimately, if the parents are atheist and they insist that the lad be atheist I reckon that's a decision to part company, eh? The more interestin' question is if the parents are atheist but they don't mind their son participatin' in faith-based activities and makin' his own choices. I doubt a church (as chartering org.) would turn such a lad away at age 9 or 10. Leastways, not a Christian one.


But I'd also keep true to the badge requirements, eh? That will encourage the conversation. Besides, it's just fine for a lad not to earn a badge.




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If I may offer my opinion.


A few of our fellow forum members have offered some great comments.


His application for membership has been accepted and processed by your pack and the local council.


So in my opinion, he is still a Cub Scout till he ages out. He is still eligible to earn activity pins and compass points. Still eligible to earn belt loops, Still able to recieve a few other recognitions and more. But base on his own declaration, he will not be eligible to earn Webelos Rank, Arrow of Light or Bridge over to Boy Scouts.


If he is ready to declare any belief. Animist to Yi Guan Daoist, then he may earn Webelos Rank, Arrow of Light Award and bridge over to Boy Scouting.


I personally would not eject him from the pack. He may have fun with his friends; but his advancement trail will end, based off his own choice.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv

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Note - There are Duty to God requirements in Bear as well, not just Wolf and Webelos.


As long as there is some spark there (ie, not complete rejection of the Almighty under any name or form), he can continue. But, this is also crucial parent decision. They can sign his requirements as Akelas - and the religious requirements are squarely their responsibility. If they totally reject God, then yes, it is time to part company. If they complete the exercises (and sign their son's book), then he stays. Nobody but the parents could sign the boys "Duty to God" requirements in the Packs we've been in. Of course, our CORs have not been religious organizations. Yes, you should require to see the book and verify that everything has been fully signed off.


Tell the parents that the boy is not only welcomed but that everyone very much wants him to continue. However, complete atheism is fundamentally incompatible with the program and organization.


As stated by others, let the parents know it know it will only become a much bigger issue in Boy Scouts. At every every single meeting, he will be publically announcing aloud his promise to do his Duty to God and his obedience to the 12th point of the Scout Law (a Scout is reverent). At that point it is the Scout - not the parent - taking responsibility.


Many, many boys are skeptical or uncertain about their religious beliefs during the age they are Boy Scouts. I view that as healthy - the boy is beginning to learn on his own - not just parroting the parents (yeh words are so true, Beavah!). Scouting can help a boy find his way - as long as there is not complete rejection of the Creator.(This message has been edited by Knight)

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