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The discussion about reverence in Scouting and respecting others' beliefs, along with previous discussions on atheism, led me to ponder the following question: Why does BSA think following a false religion is better than having no religion? (The definition of false religion, of coursee, is any religion disagreeing with my own.) For those of us who believe our religion is true (and especially if we believe that it is "the" truth), do we really think there is a qualitative difference between persons who follow false gods and those who follow no gods at all? I have always been a supporter of BSA's religious requirement, but I have to confess that this line of thought has made me question it more. If what we're after is reverence for something "greater than oneself," could we be satisfied with "Nature" or "aspirations of the human race" or something like that?

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You seem to be projecting a lot of your opinion or the opinions of others into the philosophy of the BSA, as if it was the programs point of view rather than that of others.

 

There is an easy litmus test as to what falls within the ideals of the BSA program and what doesn't.

 

The BSA requires two things of its members in relationship to faith.

1." On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God"

2. "A Scout is Reverent toward God"

 

If a scout meets these two requirements then whatever name he calls God by is irrelevant, how he gives service and reverence is of little concern as long as he does it.

 

Can an atheist do duty to God? How when he rejects the existence of God. Can an atheist worship God? How?

 

Can someone who believes in the aspirations of the human race give service to that belief? Probably. Can he worship that belief? How?

 

Can a person who worships nature (a Wicken) give service to what they believe is God? The BSA feels that that case has been proved.

 

I met a scouter who practices Confucianism. He has suddenly realized that it does not meet the religious standards of the BSA. It does not recognize the a God. It sees Confucius as a very wise man and he endeavors to follow his philosophies, but he does not perform duty to Confucius.

 

He wants to know who he can talk to to change this. His only real choice is to talk to God.

 

I personally do not agree with atheist's lack of faith. But I do respect their right to be able to choose that path. They need to respect the BSA's right to choose a different path for itself and its members.

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My point is that BSA recognizes wildly different (and inconsistent) beliefs and practices as satisfying its religious requirement. I'm just pondering what it is, exactly, that we are valuing with this position. We will presumably welcome a guy who worships an ancient Roman snake goddess, but exclude a Confucian? Why do we value reverence toward a supernatural being (or beings) per se? I would point out that the two requirements you quote don't use the word "worship," although they do refer to "reverence" a

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and "duty." I submit that a person could exhibit both reverence and duty to a non-divine ideal, like "nature" or "humanity" or "the good." While BSA is within its rights not to recognize this as meeting its duty to God requirement, I'm still not sure why ANY religion is better than such a belief.

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Bob White,

 

You seem to have flip-flopped on the issue of respect for athiesm...

 

Anyway, you said that you didn't agree with the athiests lack of faith. You said that anyone of any religion that recognizes and worships a God fulfulls the membership requirements of the BSA. For me, religion begins with one fundamental beleif. It's shared by most, if not all religions. The beleif that a force or power greater than our comprehensions of physics is existent and in control. This is the exact beleif that I lack, or at least do not understand, and how can I trust what I don't understand? It has long since seemed like a time-endured theory developed and grown before the knowledge of science. Off on a tangent here, but my point is that you are disagreeing with and to some extent discriminating against (however unintentionally it may be) athiests because they do not share that beleif with you. Are you saying that it is their specific fault that they do not believe it? I do not say that I specifically deny the existence of this power, I merely feel reluctant to commit myself to a religion (and therefore a specific way of life) on the premises of something I don't understand and definitely don't have any faith in.

 

The fact that you don't agree with this conclusion of indeciciveness is perfectly OK, as any society will have conflicts of agreement. But excluding these people from organizations and general attitudes of resentment at worst and ignorance at best can make athiests feel discriminated against just because they haven't come to beleive the same things about the world. Your comment about athiests walking one path and the BSA walking the other only further polarizes the situation.

 

What I'm saying is that athiesm doesn't just automatically reject values that Scouting teaches. The beleif in whether or not a controlling force is existent shouldn't gap the two the way they do.

 

Anyway, that was my athiest defense speech for the month.

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"What I'm saying is that athiesm doesn't just automatically reject values that Scouting teaches.

 

No but it does automatically reject one value we teach. And that is your choice. To deny membership to those who reject that value is the BSA's choice.

 

 

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I'm not sure what difference Bob means, but my faith tells me there is not a significant difference between somebody who doesn't believe in any God and somebody who is following a false god. I certainly don't think that it's irrelevant what name he calls God by--that's universalism, not ecumenism.

 

I understand that BSA has made a choice, and that it is entitled to make that choice. I'm trying to understand what the principle behind that choice is. Although BSA's documents refer to "God," BSA doesn't

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require monotheism. Apparently, all it requires is belief in some power greater than ourselves that can be conceptualized as God. To me, that's an extremely tenuous principle, and one that shades almost impreceptibly into less religious beliefs (like a reverence for "Nature").

 

(Why are my messages being cut off?)

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So Hunt, What specific situation has arisen in the unit you serve where you felt a scout was worshipping a false God?

 

 

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Well, Bob, since my son's troop follows the program, we don't inquire into the specific religious beliefs of the boys as long as they meet the joining requirements. I have no problem with a boy worshipping a false god, except that I regret he's not following what I consider the true religion. My point is that I don't see much qualitative difference between that boy and a boy who doesn't have any religion at all other than an ethical system. My simple question is this: why does BSA value adherence to any religion, no matter what its beliefs are, to adherence to a non-religious value system? Yes, it's BSA's choice, but what is the justification for that choice? What exactly is the value that is being embodied?

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Hunt,

 

I believe the value is one of believing in something bigger than you. A lot is made of this part of the oath and law, but when have you ever seen this discussed in great detail between the unit leaders and the boys? There are those units that practice a scout's own service and there are those units that say grace at meals and there are those units that urge boys to earn their religious emblem. There are those units that do not. I'd like to see my unit do these things more often, but they don't. How many people have you run across in life that tell you they believe in "God", but practice absolutely no form religion? I've met many. I'd dare say that I've run across more scouts who are not active in any religion than I have who do. But they all seem to believe in "God".

 

Every religion believes that they are the true religion. For every person that you believe worships a false god, they in turn believe YOU are worshiping a false god too. All scouting asks is that you believe in something bigger than yourself and you do your duty to that faith. Why? Because it makes the world a better place for everyone and it keeps you from thinking the world revolves around you. Scouting seeks to teach boys to be men of character, ethical and to serve others. Religious service helps to strengthen those values, whether it is service to God, Jehovah, Allah, nature or the Great Spirit in the Sky.

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Hunt,

 

You asked "What exactly is the value that is being embodied? "

 

I'm going to take a stab here, I think the value the BSA is promoting here in the 12th point is Faith and Reverence towards that Faith. Faith in a power or something that can't be proven scientifically. Not just the logic of good over bad or ethical behavior versus unethical.

 

As I understand the BSA's concept of reverence, reverence could refer to God or however the individual perceives God. I believe one council indicated they would accept Faith in Mother Nature. It could even be the "Force", as in "Mmay the Force be with you." But, the difference between all of these and atheism as I understand it, is the element of Faith or Belief, without proof.

 

Just my thought.

 

 

SA

 

 

 

 

 

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"why does BSA value adherence to any religion, no matter what its beliefs are,

 

You are unable to find a conclusion that suits you because your premise is incorrect.

 

The BSA does not value an adherence to any religion. The BSA has determined that a scout needs to accept a belief in God and accept that he has a responsibility and duty to serve God in some manner. Whether that is done through a formalized or recognized religion is irrelevent to the BSA. It is not the belief or customs of any religion that the BSA cares about but the individual members ability to recognize and give service to God as the creator.

 

See the Boy Scout Handbook for more information.

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Bob, are you saying that a scout must worship God as "creator?" I don't see that in any BSA requirements. Also, I note that you don't attempt to answer my question of why BSA has determined that a scout has the need "to accept a belief in God, etc." Scoutingagain suggests that the value is in having faith or belief without proof. SR540Beaver suggests that it's the need to believe in something larger than oneself, and that such a belief tends to strengthen other values. But aren't both of these really a kind of universalism--the idea that all religious beliefs capture part of the truth? Also I have to question, as a matter of empirical observation, whether religious belief and observation per se tends to strengthen other values. I think it depends on the religion, and the values embodied by the particular religion.

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