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Cyclone

Duty to God question

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I’ve need some advice from the group.  I was having a conversation with a Scout last night as we discussed how he has done his duty to God (2nd Class req. 10), he stated he was “more of an agnostic type of a person.” He then added that he was cool with everybody’s beliefs. We continued our conversation and I ended up signing off on it.

I have no clue if I did the right thing. Or is this Scout going to have issues in the future because of his beliefs or lack there of? If he’s going to have issues I want to address it now instead of any later.

Thanks for the help.

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Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board Resolution Reaffirming Duty to God

WHEREAS the foundational values of the Boy Scouts of America are reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law;

WHEREAS the first part of the Scout Oath declares “On my honor I will do my best to do my Duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;”

WHEREAS the Declaration of Religious Principle in Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America states that:

The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgement of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental of good citizenship should be kept before them.

WHEREAS the twelfth point of the Scout Law is Reverent and while the Boy Scouts of America is absolutely nonsectarian in its view of religious training, Reverent means that a Scout is faithful in his or her religious dutiesand respects the beliefs of others; and

 

WHEREAS these faith-based tenets have been a part of the Boy Scouts of America since it was founded and, notwithstanding any changes to Scouting programs, the commitment of the movement to Duty to God is unwavering;

 

Now therefore be it resolved that the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America hereby reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the Declaration of Religious Principle as a fundamental component of the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.

—-

The Boy Scouts requires a scout to be religious, it does not specify what religion. This is a major gray area. However this means atheists and not religious people are not allowed in the Boy Scouts. Therefore not to blame anyone but you signing that off is not allowed as a scout must be religious.

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I find that there are plenty of ways that agnostic scouts fulfill their duty to God.

It seems like you heard a couple of those ways. As the scout matures you can help him discover other ways.

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Well, as I was raised (Lutheran) THE most important "duty to God" is to believe and have faith.  Mark 16:16

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I always fall back on Baden-Powell's writings that "...to do their duty to God through doing their duty to their neighbor. In helping others in doing daily good turns, and in rescuing those in danger, pluck, self-discipline, unselfishness, chivalry, become acquired, and quickly form part of their character. "

Thus I see it can be as simple as "Be Prepared" and "do a good turn daily".

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2 hours ago, scoutldr said:

Well, as I was raised (Lutheran) THE most important "duty to God" is to believe and have faith.  Mark 16:16

That is great for you as a Lutheran. But that isn’t how all religions define Duty to God. Unitarians, Buddhists, Quakers, and many others don’t always adhere to a “supreme supernatural being” view of God and that spiritual duty may take on other forms. 

See: https://www.uua.org/children/scouting/memorandum-understanding

 

The Scoutmaster Conference and the unit Board is Review are not pass/fail. I would have also signed off, but counciled the youth that if he or she ever makes it to an Eagle board of review it would be prudent to have a better answer explaining how the youth’s beliefs and practices fulfil the spirit of BSA’s “Duty to God” requirements. The smaller rank advancements present an opportunity for the youth to reflect on his or her Duty to God and learn to articulate it, even in the context of being an agnostic. Passing it off as “I’m an agnostic” is missing the opportunity. 

 

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8 hours ago, chief027 said:

Therefore not to blame anyone but you signing that off is not allowed as a scout must be religious.

Agnostic is not the same thing as atheist. And while there is a requirement to be faithful in religious duties, BSA does not define those duties.

I would say that the goal in this situation would be to help this agnostic scout discover ways in which they can perform (I will use a different word), spiritual duties. "Religious" implies a set of organized dogma and I really don't think such is in keeping with the intent.

A parable:

God and the devil were walking down a path one day when God spotted something sparkling by the side of the path. He picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand.

"Ah, Truth," he said.

"Here, give it to me," the devil said. "I'll organize it."

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Cyclone said:

I’ve need some advice from the group.  I was having a conversation with a Scout last night as we discussed how he has done his duty to God (2nd Class req. 10), he stated he was “more of an agnostic type of a person.” He then added that he was cool with everybody’s beliefs. We continued our conversation and I ended up signing off on it.

I have no clue if I did the right thing. Or is this Scout going to have issues in the future because of his beliefs or lack there of? If he’s going to have issues I want to address it now instead of any later.

Thanks for the help.

Does he understand what agnostic means? "A person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God".

I agree, at this age and experience of life, living the "Do a good turn daily" is a good approach.

I caution though, these things can become complicated when a scout is close to Eagle. This usually becomes an issue when the adults have let the question pass without clarity of expectation for the requirement. You may not be the SM and he may be in a different troop when he is ready for his Life or Eagle SM Conference.

I would not make a big deal of it now, in fact I wouldn't approach it until his First Class SM conference. But, the scout should have some clarity of expectation that would appease most adults for an agnostic. I would also approach the parents to get some understanding. But practice your question so that it's not alarming, just informative. Likely not, but sometimes the sons are a pawn in the matter, so it's good to know the big picture. As I said, informative, not alarming.

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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If a Scout claims to be agnostic - and I have had that conversation, the basic definition I fall back on is a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God

My view was the Scout was in fact developing his beliefs.  He was trying to define.  He did not claim there was no God, just he was not really sure.  We spoke on beliefs and that true, you likely could not prove the existence of God.  This particular Scouts issue was more with organized religion.  He did not really feel  that Church was beneficial.  

We had a good conversation and my advise to him was to let your faith and beliefs develop, be open.  Defining God is tough, sometimes organized religion is not your path. 

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*sigh*

"By their fruits ye shall know them".   Most Scouts do their DtG without even knowing it.  This is, as has been said, not a pass/fail thing.  "Tie a bowline" Yep.  "Point out Poison Ivy". Yep.   "Recite the Scout Promise". Yep.  "Live your life according to the Scout Law and Promise."  ummmmmm . . .

When I served as a Scout Chaplain at the Jambo, one of my duties  was to sit in the "Relationship" pavilion and be "available".  The Scout could earn a patch (!) by coming by and visiting their faith's exhibit. If they didn't have one, (didn't profess a faith, faith wasn't there)  they could speak with the "Chaplain di jour" (me). In my 5 hour stint, I met Scouts with unique faiths (Jain? Taoist? Sikh?) and learned alittle myself. And I met a few Scouts that said, in essence, "I'm not so sure about this God stuff." and we would talk.  My fellow Chaplains told similar stories.  Draw them out.  Logic?  Science proof? Is humanity the final power in the universe?  Is Catholicism/Hinduism/Buddhism/Taoism/Protestantism   (choose and -ism) the final word?   Define religion?   I heard talk about searching, asking,  wondering,  finding problems without answers,  that's what a Scout should be about....

Now if the Scout poo poos the idea and naysays religion and denigrates any faith, then I have a problem with his/her abidance with the twelveth  point....

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While I have your attention, I am reminded of the agnostic, dyslexic insomniac.

 

 

 

Poor man lay awake all night wondering if there is a dog.... 

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Posted (edited)

There is this article from Scouting Magazine (2015):

Bryan on Scouting: Beginning next year, Boy Scouts will tell about their ‘duty to God’ at each rank


JMO but a Scout can tell how they do their duty to God in many ways.  The requirement doesn't say they have to define God or their religion.  They could say (some examples I can think of off the top of my head):

"One way I do my duty to God is when I [help the elderly / feed the poor / am a good steward for the environment / help the sick or needy / etc.]:

-helped a little old lady cross the street.
-followed the Golden Rule when I...
-helped feed the poor when I participated in / helped organize our Scouting for Food or similar service project
-volunteered at a local soup kitchen
-was a good steward for the environment when I...
-was respectful to my parents when I...
-volunteered at a local food bank

These examples focus on the duty part and do not try to define God or religion.  Of course, Scouts could have many other answers depending on their beliefs.

Lots of good advice from other posters above.

The requirement for Scoutmaster conferences is simply for the Scout to participate - they are not pass / fail.  However, boards of review are a bit different, because a Scout must "successfully complete" them.

Edited by Thunderbird

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1 hour ago, SSScout said:

While I have your attention, I am reminded of the agnostic, dyslexic insomniac.

Poor man lay awake all night wondering if there is a dog.... 

Hmmm.  That makes me lie awake at night wondering, how are we, as scoutmasters, supposed to determine whether the dyslexic scout is fullfilling his Duty to Dog?

It's a Ruff question!

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9 minutes ago, Thunderbird said:

The requirement for Scoutmaster conferences is simply for the Scout to participate - they are not pass / fail.  However, boards of review are a bit different, because a Scout must "successfully complete" them.

True, but let's also not under-emphasize the importance of the scoutmaster in the process. When push comes to the pinnacle shove, the committee has the final word. But, for most parents and scouts, the SM carries all the weight because they are the scouts' personal mentor, guide, coach, teacher, and assumed authority on advancement requirements. I've seen scoutmasters refused the scout a conference just to make a point. That is why I suggest a clear understanding of expectations early in the scout's career. 

Barry

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10 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

True, but let's also not under-emphasize the importance of the scoutmaster in the process. When push comes to the pinnacle shove, the committee has the final word. But, for most parents and scouts, the SM carries all the weight because they are the scouts' personal mentor, guide, coach, teacher, and assumed authority on advancement requirements. I've seen scoutmasters refused the scout a conference just to make a point. That is why I suggest a clear understanding of expectations early in the scout's career. 

Barry


Right, that was not my intent.  Someone made the comment earlier that boards of review are not pass / fail, but they are.  The board members must vote unanimously to approve a rank - it isn't automatic based on the Scout's participation.  Sorry, I was trying not to take the thread off on a tangent.

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