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All I want is an explanation.

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"Look at it from a parents point of view, who are you going to trust more to spend a week out in the woods with your son, a guy like you who says you are moral because good guys are moral, or the guy whose morals are based from a higher power?"


Here, at last, is the heart of the matter. It is, I would venture, exactly this idea that prompts this policy.


The bottom line is that many people view Atheists as less moral and of less character then theists. Why do they think this? I don't know. It is untrue, that I do know. But it is exactly this kind of unreasoning prejudice writ large that results in backwards ideas like the religious discrimination policy of the BSA. "Those aren't our kind of people," they say. "They don't know right from wrong." In ironic echo of the strident cry often mocked by The Simpsons "Think About The Children!", "We don't want that sort around our children. It may infect them!"


Never mind that no two religions or individuals can decide on exactly what is moral working from the same base. Never mind that what even one religion, Christianity, has thought right and wrong has changed over the years (If you doubt either of those two statements, I commend the study of history to your attention); it is the Atheist we should fear, for he is different.


So, eagledad, try this on for size. Which would you rather have with your son for a week long camp, a man who is good only because of the threat of punishment and promise of reward or one who does right for it's own sake?


The above is just as unfair, bigoted and defamatory as what you said about Atheists. How do you like it. At least I don't actually believe it when I say it.


I realize my civil tone is slipping just a bit, and I regret that, but eagledad's open bigotry kind of got to me.

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Which is why many religions make reference to a "father" or "mother" in which we may project our childlike behaviors of faith, trust, and security. Ah, to be young again and not burdened with our adult knowledge. (written only with partial tongue in cheek.)

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So, mhager, what we have is an Eagle scout who became Atheist and now wants the organization to change its membersship policies because you "know" its not right. And it appears you also place a large stock in the fact that you are an Eagle Scout. Well, so am I, and so are lots of other forum members and of all the reasons I have seen concerning changing a BSA policy, such as allowing snipe hunts (you know I had to say that) changing board of review or advancement procedures, uniforms or what not, I havent seen anyone else post that the BSA should do it the way I want because I am an Eagle. Well congrats and that and 99 cents will get you something off the value menu.


The BSA has changed it stands over the years, most likely I would imagine reflecting the changing of society. When I was a cubbie, my mother was a full fledged "den mother" and I think that was as high as a woman could go. Now women are scoutmasters. How did this happen? The membership looked at an issue and talked amoungst itself and came up with a solution. You ask for an explanation, I think several very good ones have been offfered, but you keep saying you havent seen a good one yet, well here is a feeble attempt. Many people comprise the BSA, they come from disparate backgrounds, from every socio-economic class from the very poor to the very wel off. Such a group comes together and holds in stewardhip a program that has as a core fundamental values that a religious foundation is key in a youth's development. You may wish to disagree, and I respect your right to disagree, but you should also repsect my right to be a member of a group that I share my lifes philosophy with. If at a time in the future, the membership feels that having a religious foundation is not necessary, then it may change, but it will because the membership says so, not because someone outside the group is jumping up and down and shouting unfair-unfair!

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In America, it has traditionally been held that all of the rights and privileges we enjoy come from a higher power. It has also been a traditional belief that religion does in fact play a role in shaping a person's character and that since character is a component of citizenship, a persons religious beliefs, or lack of them, is related to their quality as a citizen. There are several informative quotes from George Washington and others concerning the value of religion, morality, and faith both to the individual citizen and to the nation.


Now, the BSA is not just the same as any other Scouting organization around the world. Scouting became an American institution. The Oath and Law were rewritten so as to be in keeping with the values, beliefs, and traditions of America.


Let us look at the Mission and Vision of the BSA.


It is quite clear that the values, ideas, and ideals of the Oath and Law are the central feature of both the mission and vision. Also clearly seen is the value placed on citizenship education. Now, it is certainly a traditional (though not politically correct) idea that to be the best kind of citizen you must have a firm sense of morality grounded in some type of faith or religion.


Also, how does one do their duty to God if there is no God? How do you go about performing that duty? You claim you could do your duty to God by not interfering with the beliefs and practices of others. Yet, that is fundamentally impossible. You can not carry out your duty to God without believing in some type or form of God. Inherent in the idea of a duty to God is that such a duty is defined by the nature of God. We have a duty to God because of who and what God is. If you have no belief in God, then you have no duty to God. If you have no duty to God, then you can not fully live the Scout Oath.


The Scout Law also requires that a person be Reverent. Now, it would be simple to agree to respect the beliefs of others. However, again, it would not be possible to perform your religious obligations and duties, because you have none.


Atheism is the most intolerant of all beliefs. Atheism is the affirmative belief that there is not and can not be a God. It is a belief that all religion is false.


If a person does not believe in God, they are not automatically an true and total atheist. To be a true atheist, it must be taken one step further to the point of rejecting the possibility of a God. If a person simply does not have enough data to support a God, then they would be better qualified as an agnostic.


Now, on to the question of the possibility of an atheist living a moral life. The answer is that yes an atheist can live a moral life, but only to a point. The limits placed on their ability to live a moral life come from the fact that their morality is not grounded in faith. Without such faith the morality is not anchored to anything sacred or permanent. Instead it is floating on an ever changing sea of personal opinions.


mhager implied in one posting the legal tradition and public opinion makes religious discrimination immoral. This is a clear example of how the morality of an atheist can became attached to the worldly, secular, passing things. The fact that most people believe something does not make it moral. The fact that the legal tradition supports one argument within the law does not make it moral. Things are either right or wrong, and have always been such. Something that was once right does not become wrong, and something that was once wrong does not become right. Now, on the other hand, there are things which are neither right nor wrong (or to be clearer, they are neither moral nor immoral acts).


The permanence of right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral probably baffles an atheist. After all, it is a concept that challenges those of faith.


I do not look to the constitution, the bill of rights, the declaration of independence, the latest court decision, or the last election results for such truths. I look for them in Divine revaluation (something I am not very skilled at seeing or reading). Such truth can be found in the Word of God and in God's Creation. I like to ground my belief in fundamental truths on something more reliable than the weak, self serving, fallible, and fallen mind of man.


Perhaps an atheist may come across elements of morality and of truth without the benefits of faith or religion. After all, God does reveal much through the nature of his Creation. Yet, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could find all truth in that one source, since after all we can not observe, let alone know and understand all of Creation.


In any case, mhager, I hope you find the truth. I also hope that until you find that truth you are able to live as ethical a life as possible based on the reason, philosophy, logic, and observations of the world you have available. I also hope that you will find a way to put your willingness to work with youth and your knowledge of the outdoors to work. There are, after all, a great many organizations dedicated to the education of youth in outdoorsmanship and other such things that would be glad to have you. However, the BSA, which is dedicated to character, ethics, citizenship, and values is not the place for you unless you have a change of heart. I hope that you find in your future calm seas, clear skies, and a fare wind.


I will continue to believe and to search out an ever greater understanding of my beliefs. I will continue to support the values of Scouting. I will also support every Scouts right to their own belief system. Some may come to believe in some idea that is not compatible with Scouting. If so, I will wish them well on their journey beyond Scouting. Faith is a greater matter than Scouting, and I would not encourage any person to abandon their beliefs just for the benefits of Scouting.


I hope that Scouting will continue to encourage Scouts in their search for a greater understanding of their faith. I also hope that in carrying out such a search, some will find their way to "believe in One God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth..." (Nicene Creed for anyone wondering, a thing that came to be as it is in part because the real St. Nick punched out a heretic during the council, or so the story goes.)

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The Boy Scouts of America (unlike many other country's Scout programs) requires Duty to God and Reverence which are part of its basic principles. This is not arguable. It will not change anytime soon. Duty to God and Reverence are defined so loosely that almost ANY personal belief other than atheism is acceptable.


Many youths are raised in a religion and participate actively in it. Many teenagers question their beliefs and may consider atheism. If you choose atheism, then you CANNOT raise your hand and aver an Oath which promises duty to God without being a liar and/or hypocrite. Either commit the lie and be involved in Scouting as an atheist, or do not belong. There is no other choice at this time.


Personally, I do not understand atheism. I can see agnosticism which basically says, "how can one know with certainty the answers to these questions." (Yes, faithful, I understand you KNOW because it is the TRUTH.) But, Atheism says with CERTAINTY that THERE IS NO GOD. I just don't get that.


Maybe the atheists are too moral. They want to be in BSA but won't keep quiet about their beliefs which gets them thrown out. Isn't that ironic?



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I considered replying in detail to the last few posts, but I am not. You see, I am done. I have found out what the ideas of the rank and file are, at least those who post here. Aside from a few encouraging posts, I have seen for the most part a simple minded, unquestioning adherence to rules for their own sake and a distressing inability to think beyond the superficial.


I have seen shocking bigotry and unseemly venom, especially from evmori.


The simple, ugly truth is that all of you who support the discrimination policy are short-sighted, narrow minded fools and I am done with you. Reason cannot persuade zealots and zealots cannot see reason. That the membership of so fine, or what was so fine, an organization can sink to these disgusting lows is truly sad.


I hope that those few of reason that I have encountered here and who have more patience with foolishness then I do can somehow save Scouting. Leaving it in the hands of most that I have encountered here will only drag down what was once noble and good into a quagmire of partisan rancor. You people are not even able to discuss if a rule should be changed for goodness sake! Wake up and think for a while. The adults here are supposed to be leaders. Try not being an intellectual follower and not simply claiming "them's the rules so that's what we do".


I am off to try and figure out how to remove my membership so I won't be bothered with the inevitable sour grapes these well deserved remonstrances will generate.

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I have followed this thread, and an example of why we as leaders need to have some form of religion is this:


I served only last year as an assistant den leader to Webelos. We would have a discussion time based on whatever the boys were working on at that time. One evening I asked, "how have you applied the Scout Law and Oath to your life this past week?" One boy immediately answered, "I went to church". The others laughed. Ignoring them, I then asked how going to church was applying the oath and law. He told us that he was being reverent and doing his duty to God, that his time going to church and serving in church was part of his duty. When he realized we were encouraging this by actively listening (we being the leaders--and the boys followed suit), he gave greater detail as to how his church taught him to serve God and how that was a lot like what the Boy Scouts is about too. The others began to talk about how church and Scouts go together. We'd never discussed religion prior to this night, and we didn't venture into teaching the boys that night, but we did praise them for understanding that Scouts wasn't a "one hour a week event" and that church wasn't either, but they were trying to understand and live out what they learned in each of these areas of their lives. I wonder, would an atheist be able to do support the boy who is trying to articulate how his faith fits in with what he is learning in Scouts?

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Laurie writes:

I wonder, would an atheist be able to do support the boy who is trying to articulate how his faith fits in with what he is learning in Scouts?


Why not? Aren't scout leaders supposed to support the youth, even if their beliefs don't match? Don't you think a Jewish scoutleader could support a Catholic youth, or vice-versa? Or any other combination of religions? How about an atheist Buddhist?

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I am a little saddened that you are going away upset.

You asked for an explanation. I thought that you got one in fact I gave two: One from the Charter and Bylaws and one from a position statement that the BSA has available on the Scouting web site.

It seems to me, and please believe me I'm not always right that you were a little upset at some of us because we are happy to say : The rule is the rule and that is the end of it. I freely admit to falling into that category.

I'm not overjoyed that you ended your visit by resorting to name calling. I don't know if there are forums out there where you could find others that would agree with you? By and large most of the people in this forum are supporters of Scouting and the BSA. As such few would agree with you - I kind of think you could have guessed that before you came on board.

I have no idea what the future might hold. I do know that earlier tonight I sat in on the Board of review for two Scouts going for Eagle Scout Rank. I asked both if they thought that God should be taken out of Scouting. Both were shocked at the very idea. One 18 year old had been and is very active in his church, the other was not a big church goer. I have asked this very same question to every Scout who has come up for his Eagle Scout BOR, I think about 28 Scouts in the past year. All have said that we need to keep God in Scouting. Of course I know that some of them are telling me what they think I need too hear. But over half of these Lads have been active in their churches. These guys have all said that if and when they have kids of their own that they would encourage them to join Scouting. These guys are the future and it seems that they want to keep God or some higher power in this organization.

Of course I have no idea what the World Scout Organization, might come up with at some point down the road and who knows what the BSA reaction would be to something that the National Council would see as not being right?

There are other Scouting Organizations around that allow people who don't hold with the values of the BSA. I for one wish them nothing but the best. You might want to consider joining one of these organizations.



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It's just so much fun to see the same old routine where someone is so upset with a BSA policy and how in the world could anybody be threaten by my being involved with a unit. Same old, same old. Once again, nothing you can say will be listened to, and no minds (all sides) are changed.

This was a "one" pager last night, but a "five" pager tonight. Folks, this was a set up from the beginning. I responded clearly, but knew nothing I said would be accepted by mhager. That was an impossibility. Everyone once again "bit" on this one. So funny.




P. S. It was/is an interesting (entertaining ????) read though.

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