Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
John-in-KC

How Can a Youth Program Member who Proclaims Atheism make an ethical choice to be in Scouting?

Recommended Posts

OK, the question was asked. How can an atheist Scout earn a religious emblem?

 

I'll counter: How can the parents of an atheist place a young man in a program where God/gods are a primary point?

 

Scouting, especially in the US, but in much of the world too, bookends the values of the Oath and Law with GOD.

 

- "to do my duty to God..." is the first promise we make.

- "A Scout is... Reverent" is our last point of a proactive LAW.

 

Now, as I've said more than once, what you believe in (Christianity, Judaism, Wiccan, Shinto, Buddhism, Hindu, tribal custom in native American...) matters not to me. THAT THE YOUNG MAN HAS A TOUCHSTONE BEYOND HIMSELF does.

 

Please, let's talk about family faith here. This isn't about the first amendment; it's about faith, or its lack, and our existing oath and law.

 

I'm listening for the moment... John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, the question was asked. How can an atheist Scout earn a religious emblem?

 

I didn't interpret that as being a serious question. My impression was that Pack15Nissan was trying to be funny. Perhaps I was wrong, but that was my impression.

 

I'll counter: How can the parents of an atheist place a young man in a program where God/gods are a primary point?

 

Has anyone suggested that they can? I know there have been a few cases where atheistic Scouts (and sometimes their parents) have challenged the policy, but at this point I don't think anyone can doubt that the policy is the policy. (Apart from the issue of whether the policy should be changed, which is not what you raised.) There will probably always be some who defy that policy, and others, but that is just one of the facts of life in an organization, especially a large one with policies that are controversial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Judging from what I see in most packs and a good many troops too, it would be entirely possible for a child to be in scouts for years and not even really notice a religious aspect of ANY kind, with exception of the occasional word or phrase in the cub scout promise or boy scout oath & law. That will almost certainly upset some folks and I am neither advocating for nor against it in this post - just stating reality on the ground in my neck of the woods.

 

As for mouthing the words without serious thought or meaning behind them, hey it happens all the time at school. Kids learn, hear, and say the pledge of allegiance on a regular (daily?) basis, yet the similar phrasing there is pretty much devoid of real religious content, at least as discussed and taught in most public schools. So in a unit where religion isn't a focal point, why should we expect kids (or even their parents) to take more serious notice of passing mention of religion in scouts?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John-in-KC asks:

OK, the question was asked. How can an atheist Scout earn a religious emblem?

 

Depends on the emblem. There are religions where belief in a god isn't a requirement. Buddhists, Jews, and Wiccans can also be atheists.

 

I'll counter: How can the parents of an atheist place a young man in a program where God/gods are a primary point?

 

Primary? If it's "primary," how could atheists get along in the program for so long?

 

Now, as I've said more than once, what you believe in (Christianity, Judaism, Wiccan, Shinto, Buddhism, Hindu, tribal custom in native American...) matters not to me. THAT THE YOUNG MAN HAS A TOUCHSTONE BEYOND HIMSELF does.

 

Why? And why does that touchstone have to be a god?

 

What if the scout considers his religion to qualify, but you don't, because it doesn't involve what you consider gods? What do you do regarding religions that don't have gods?

 

Addendum: The BSA itself has stated in a 1991 Q&A on "duty to god" that:

 

Q. Some people maintain that God is a tree, a rock or a stream. Would a person believing such be eligible to be a member of Scouting?

 

A. The BSA does not seek to interpret God or religion. The Scout Oath states a requirement for a Scout to observe a duty to God, and the Scout Law requires a Scout to be reverent. Again, interpretation is the responsibility of the Scout, his parents and religious leaders.

 

Now, from that, it looks like you are adding requirements that you, personally, approve of the god(s) of his religion (at least to meet your "touchstone beyond himself" criterion), but the answer above explicitly leaves that up to the scout, his parents, and religious leaders -- NOT you. Even if you disapprove, it doesn't look like you would have the authority to make any kind of judgement as far as whether a scout's religious views meet the requirements.(This message has been edited by Merlyn_LeRoy)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Just some random thoughts...

 

- In practice, how much is God and religion brought up and discussed in den/pack/troop meetings in units which are chartered by secular bodies (i.e. "parents of ..", service clubs, etc...)? In many cases, probably only as it relates to the saying of the Oath/Promise/Law and with particular advancement milestones (Wolf/Bear/Webelos badges).

 

- Wouldn't an athiest child who lives in the US run into "God" just about as often (Pledge of Allegiance, on our currency, in our songs, etc..)?

 

- If an athiest is fine with bumping into religion once in a while outside of scouts, then why not inside (especially in a unit of a particular flavor)?

 

- Would all the other positive benefits of scouting allow parents to be drawn to the program even in spite of the focus on religion?

 

- Not all athiests are actively anti-religion. For many, it's just not for them, so being in a program that has some religious aspects may be no big deal.

 

I don't know, I can see it happening quite a bit, I guess. Now, I would think that if a unit is chartered by a church or other like organization, then the frequency would drop off tremendously, of course.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Merlyn... I will buy non-theist, but the faiths you mentioned have a touchstone beyond themselves.

 

In connotation, a-theism has come to be the refusal of existence of a supreme being. That is the definition I'm using for the arguement in this thread.

 

Lisa... understand exactly what you're saying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John-inKC writes:

Merlyn... I will buy non-theist, but the faiths you mentioned have a touchstone beyond themselves.

 

In your opinion, but that isn't what counts. That's your made-up criterion, which is not an official BSA requirement.

 

The BSA insists in belief in a god, correct? What about a Buddhist atheist?

 

In connotation, a-theism has come to be the refusal of existence of a supreme being. That is the definition I'm using for the arguement in this thread.

 

Buddhists, Jews, Wiccans, UUs, etc can all refuse to believe in the existence of a supreme being, while still being members of those religions.

 

Plus, given the BSA's own apparent approval of a tree, rock, or stream as a god, "supreme being" doesn't seem to be part of the requirement, either. The BSA used to have "supreme being" way back when they first disagreed with UUs over wording, but they don't seem to require "supreme beings" now.

 

I don't see anything offhand in the Sangha Religious Award Requirements for Buddhist scouts that requires theism.

 

(fixed typo)(This message has been edited by Merlyn_LeRoy)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Merlyn_Leroy,

 

How does a "Wiccan" profess belief in Wicca and not the God/Goddess or the dual aspect of divinity?

 

(This message has been edited by ghermanno)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"How does a "Wiccan" profess belief in Wicca and not the God/Goddess or the dual aspect of divinity?"

 

Not that I really want to get into this discussion, but there are quite a few Wiccans who believe that the Gods are archetypes - basically, that they only exist as symbols, not as actual beings separate from our own imaginations - and as such they represent the ideals we should strive towards. Not my thing, but I've seen people do it and it seems to work out ok for them.

 

 

 

As far as atheist families in scouting...if you look through many of the threads here about all the benefits that kids get from scouting, it ought to be pretty obvious why people would want their kids involved, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof). The question for families then becomes whether the religious aspects are something they can live with.

 

The number of places where religion sort of spills over into daily life is not at all obvious unless you're standing outside that religious paradigm. Generally speaking, most Americans who fall outside of mainstream Christianity are used to the surprising number of places where those mainstream religious values and expectations crop up in daily life (often in places where they are not at all necessary), and we either ignore them and participate anyway, or go live in a cave somewhere without interacting with anyone. Neither option is terribly appealing, but most people shoot for ignoring most of the items that come up, because it's about the only way to get along most days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What most people, especially athiests, find difficult to accept is that Athism is a religion in and of itself. It simply means the person does believe there is no god. When they say there is no god it is a statement of belief/faith. An Agnostic is the only true non-believer because he doesn't believe in anything one way or the other.

 

As far as ethics? An Atheist can accept and live according to morally defined practices and still atribute them to the creative insights of mankind. He/she can adhere to these standards and make what others would deem ethical decisions. He/she would consider the basis of their decisions upon the accepted norm of human behavior and not have to give any credit to a god or god-like originator.

 

Stosh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Atheism isn't a religion, it's someone who does not subscribe to the creed "god(s) exist." I've already pointed out that atheists can belong to various religions. An agnostic is someone who doesn't think knowledge of gods is possible; agnostics can also be atheists or theists.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All religions have three elements in common:

1. belief in supernatural entities or forces;

2. system of ritualized behaviors;

3. system of moral/ethical rules.

 

Atheism has none of these elements and is therefor not a religion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One has to remember to use commonly accepted definitions and not definitions that one makes up to support their biases. A person's religion is that system in which they believe.

 

 

"religion

 

religion [ ri ljjən ] (plural religions)

 

noun

 

Definition:

 

1. beliefs and worship: people's beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life

 

 

2. system: an institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine

 

 

3. personal beliefs or values: a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by

 

 

4. obsession: an object, practice, cause, or activity that somebody is completely devoted to or obsessed by

The danger is that you start to make fitness a religion.

 

 

5. christianity monk's or nun's life: life as a monk or a nun, especially in the Roman Catholic Church

 

 

[12th century. Via French< Latin religion- "obligation, reverence"]

 

All these accepted definitions can and do fit into the belief systems of Athists. Athism is a religion. They believe in the non-existance of god. If one says a person is a Christian, one has a fairly good idea what they do or don't believe in. If one says a person is Hindu, one has a fairly good idea of what they do or not believe in. If one says a person is an Atheist, one has a fairly good idea of what they do or don't believe in.

 

But when all is said and done, there are those that believe different than others even when it comes to common definitions of words. I can go on and on forever about how blue the sky is, but when it's cloudy, it's grey, when there's a bad thunderstorm the sky is black, at night it is black, but at dawn or dusk it can be red, and then just before tornadoes it can take on a green cast as well. So when someone asks you what the color of the sky in your world, be sure to check the weather and your watch before answering.

 

To those of us who adhere to the definition above, a person's belief system concerning god is their religion. To believe there is no god is their belief system/religion.

 

I guess if I would write my own dictionary, I can make words mean whatever I want them to mean, but until then, I'll just go along with what are the accepted common definitions.

 

Stosh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×