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Atheist / Agnostic Scout?

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And I'm not gonna offer any advise. I see no point to this thread except validation of what you want validated! And I will not be party to that!


Say thanks to a veteran today!

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This is a junk thread created by a poser. There in no value in this. There is no scout. There is no scout with a delima.


We have a place for these types on non-value added threads its called the Issues Forum where angels on the head of pin are discussed daily. Move this junk there!



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If you want to quit scouts, then quit, you don't need a philosophical argument concocted by internet nabobs. You said your parents have an expectation that you stay in scouts and that they are raising you without religion. Explain to them to be in the BSA you are required to beleive in a higher power and you don't. If they havent taught you about a higher power, why would they be upset if you rejected one? If you beleive a person should be able to beleive what they want, why worry about building a case, the answer is I don't want to be a scout.


As far as how intolerant the BSA is about the groups you mentioned, do you mean the professionals in Irving, the National Committee or the rank and file members? You are a member of a single unit in a nation wide organization. Very few of us here have contact with more than 30 units, I am not sure we can give you a picture of the personality of the BSA.


I know that I would have a hard time understanding a 14 year old who claimed to be bisexual. Then again, since I am not a trained counselor or psychologist or anything close, I can't say much other than a scout is all the things in the scout law and asexual unless married so whether a scout is straight, gay, or bi is of no relevance.


You have a decision to make, or rather you appear to have made a decision already, I dont see how internet responses should effect such a private decision

(This message has been edited by oldgreyeagle)

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I find this thread to be interesting, whether "Avery" is a poser or not. For one thing, as scout leaders a lot of us will, or have, interacted with a 14 year old boy who questions faith in our own troops. And it is very interesting to me to see how others address this question toward a (seeming) youth. Over in the issues & politics arena the debate would have disintegrated into nastiness long before it reached page 4. For another, who knows, maybe some teen out there will read this thread and gain good advice.


Avery, if you are indeed a "real boy," you should be commended on your ability to express yourself clearly and cogently - most 14 year olds I know (let alone, many adults) could not take on this subject as eloquently as you are doing here.


Here's my advice, for what it is worth. Scouting at its best is like an open doorway, beckoning you to walk through and experience new and different things. This can be true in terms of outdoor adventure but it can also be true in terms of exploring ideas about who you are. Now there are limits - scouting is not the place for exploring sexuality, for example (in general, youth programs of any sort tend to treat youth as asexual, or perhaps, "pre-sexual" beings and I don't think this is bad, or unusual). But it is a place for you to think more deeply about who you are, what you believe, and what all those words in the scout oath and law mean to you. People aren't fully formed at the age of 14 - or 24 - or 54 - or whatever age - but after your teens and early 20s I do think it is harder for many to find time and mental space to truly think about these sorts of issues and to effect change. We tend to get rooted in our lives and identities by work, family, and sheer force of habit. So I would say, don't pass up that open doorway that scouting offers you, while you have the luxury of youth to go and explore.


And more pragmatically speaking, maybe you need to find a different troop to be part of, if your current troop is very rigid about these sorts of things. I'd be uncomfortable in a troop that required attendance at chapel every camp out too.


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The guy who invented Scouting (Lord Robert Baden-Powell) did like chapel either. He wrote that he only went there when he could not to get to his "usual church" (the jungle). Observing nature was religion enough for him.


His famous father (Rev. Baden Powell) wrote a book called The Order of Nature. It contends that nature is the source of all science and of all religion and that their common root is the human experience of awe and wonder.


Rev. Powell was the first English cleric to declare in favor of Darwin, and Darwin admired Powell's writings as he indicated very clearly in his introduction to the third edition of The Origin of Species.


The Oder of Nature examined the role of religion in the age of evolution. Powell traces the history of science and philosophy from alchemy and astrology to Darwin. He wrote that as science explained more and more of the mysteries of life, belief in "miracles" and the supernatural became less important and the importance of Christianity was in its moral truth and guide to moral action.


He was charged with heresy and died before his trial.


His son (the inventor of Scouting) grew up hearing members of the clergy condemn his father. When he was a year younger than you are now one prominent clergyman crowed over his father's death as God's decision to put Rev. Powell on trial for heresy Himself and judge him unfit for eternal life.


Despite his age, Baden-Powell understood the attack and grew up with a distrust of clergymen and theology which he would never lose.


When he invented Scouting he included "Duty to God" in the Scout Promise. Scouting is a Game, and Duty to God was a practical application of his father's controversial book The Order of Nature.


Scoutcraft, a Scout's interaction with nature was called "The Religion of the Deep Woods." These badges (Pioneer, Woodcraftsmen, etc.) were all worn on the right side of a Scout's uniform.


Public Service was called "Practical Christianity" and these badges (First Aid, Fire Prevention, etc.) were all worn on the left side of a Scout's Uniform.


Most religions have some version of these two traditions: 1) Inward introspection associated with nature (Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness for instance), and 2) Good works for the betterment of society.


Likewise, in the first act of all of Shakespeare's comedies the characters come into conflict with society, in the second act they always retreat to the wilderness where the conflicts are resolved (often through supernatural forces), and in the third act they return to become productive members of society.


The religious beliefs of Baden-Powell and his father have been called "Pantheism."


Over the years eight of my Scouts (including four Senior Patrol Leaders) have announced that they are atheists.


When they ask for a Scoutmaster Conference I ask them to memorize what Carl Sagan said was Einstein's summary of Spinoza's Pantheist definition of God as "the sum total of all the natural laws in the universe."


Pantheism works nicely for young atheists because 1) it does not require a belief in the supernatural, 2) honors awe and wonder (qualities lacking in many "secular humanist" adult atheists and aggressive religious fundamentalists), 3) does not stand in the way of adopting a personal god at a later time, 4) offers the Scout insight into the original meaning of "Duty to God" as part of a game called "Scouting" that any boy can play regardless of his beliefs.


During the Scoutmaster Conference I ask them to explain in their own words the "natural laws" governing their experiences on campouts, and I ask about their Service for Others. My goal is not to talk an atheist into believing in God, but to train him to use language that would satisfy an Eagle Board of Review's questions about Duty to God. Our own Troop Boards of Review were never a problem, even when we had four Christian Missionaries (two married couples) on the Committee.


Young atheists who stick with Scouting are the ones who are most likely to come back ten years later to visit the Troop as members of the clergy :)


For more about Baden-Powell and "Nature Knowledge," see:






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In my stint as a Chaplain at the '05 Jamboree, one of my duties was as a "welcomer" at the Relations Tents. Here were exhibits by social orgs (Lions, Rotary, American Legion, etc) and various religious groups, LDS, Catholic, Methodists, Islam, etc. The Scouts could earn a "Duty to God" badge by (among other things) visiting the Relations Tent and speaking to the rep of their faith, if there was one, and they would sign off on that requirement. If there was no rep for their particular faith, and no Chaplain around of that particularity, then they could speak to the "Chaplain on Duty" a little about their faith and we would sign off on that part. I spoke to a number of Scouts who told me, quote, "I'm not sure about this God stuff". If I projected my experience onto the other Chaplains' time as the "Welcomer", I would estimate at least 300 plus Scouts out of the 43,000 attending the Jamboree held reservations about "that God stuff", so you are in good company.

I've always thought that when it comes to religion, a family, whether consciously or not, always gives the children something to either accept or rebel against. You are no exception, only you have begun the choosing a bit earlier than some. No religion? Rejection of any faith? Acceptance of a formal religion? Creation of your own faith? Did you not say your folks were irreligious? is that the right term? So to will you accept that or reject it.

And here you must discern the difference between "Faith" and "Religion".

The idea is to ask questions (a challenged faith is all the stronger, so your questions should be welcomed), spend time reading the various Holy texts (Bible, Bagihvad Gita, Koran, etc.) and marvel at the variety and the simularity, and go off and wait. And I don't just mean asking people. Ask yourself and keep your mind and heart open to the answers. Waiting and listening to your ownself. Waiting and listening to the woods.

Your unwillingness to just "go along" speaks volumes to me. I have met many quote Christians unquote that I have a hard time seeing the simularity between their behavior and speech and that of Jesus. They seem to just -- go along. I don't see you just going along.

The same problem can be seen in the adherents of other religions, but that is another discussion.

Look for the great teachers. St. Francis, Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Gautama Buddha, George Fox, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Martin Buber, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others. You have your job cut out for you and I somewhat envy you for it.


If you will excuse the expression, I would encourage you to Go Where The Spirit Leads You.


Scouting done right is about exploration if nothing else.


Didn't I say we need a "Chaplain" section here?


YiS(This message has been edited by SSScout)

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I found your post very interesting, assuming that all your facts are indeed correct.


My son and I are new (15 months) to Scouting, and I have no prior experience with Scouting. Because we are evangelicals, and because I'm using Scouting as an element of my son's home school curriculum, I've been very interested in the relationship of Scouting to Christianity.


I was surprised to learn the degree to which Scouting could be 'customized' to reflect the religious message of the chartering organization, and have subsequently been interested to understand what philosophical and religious background Baden-Powell had, in order to come up with such an organization.


I haven't, as they say, 'gotten to the bottom of things' but my working guess has been that Baden-Powell was a great believer in the value of Judeo-Christian ethics, but had no particular belief in, nor commitment to, orthodox Christianity. His ethical concern appeared to arise from an almost imperial Roman desire to create good British citizens, capable of serving the British empire's needs effectively and courageously. He also, in the snippets I've found, appears to have drunk deeply at the fountain of what I've called "optimistic evolutionism" that was so popular and persuasive at the beginning of the 20th century.


Kudu, your observations and references appear to confirm all this.


What I find fascinating about all this is that neither a true Christian nor a true atheistic evolutionist could have created Scouting, since neither would have been open to employing religion as a mere tool in a quest to create better citizens. Had either an atheist or Christian tried to do so, they would likely have been able to do so only with the greatest hypocrisy and cynicism. Yet, I gather that Baden-Powell -- so far as he knew himself -- was neither hypocritical nor cynical.


All in all, it appears to me that Scouting is one of those fascinating historical occurrences, that could never have occurred at another time or at another place.



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Looks like I'm late to the party...but I usually just read Issues & Politics...


Hey Avery, I'm a lifelong atheist who was a Cub Scout for a year or so about 40 years ago. The BSA, officially, does not allow atheists to be members (though they seem ignorant enough of the existence of non-theistic religions to be incoherent). What your local troop and/or council does is a crap shoot, as some of them ignore the atheist and/or gay policies as well as they can.


Assuming your troop is in or around Fort Collins, most of them appear to be chartered to churches, but if your troop is one of the handful chartered to a Boys & Girls Club, it's very likely they'd ignore the policies.


But if you want an "out" from the scouts to justify it to your parents, just show them http://www.bsalegal.org/faqs-195.asp

Q. Can an individual who states that he does not believe in God be a volunteer Scout leader or member?


A. No. The Scout Oath represents the basic values of Scouting, and it addresses the issue of duty to God before duty to country, others, and self.


If you do decide to stay in the scouts, you might want to check out www.scoutingforall.org, which is an organization I'm part of that opposes the BSA's discriminatory membership policies.

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Avery said, "I have made a reasoned and well thought decision on my non-theism."


As a person with a professional background in engineering and science who took a boatload of classes in philosophy, all I can say is if you have faith in that, go with it. There's really no reasoned or scientific basis for the existance or lack thereof God. Theism and atheism are philosophies not subject to the same acceptance criteria as fields within the realm of empirical science. You simply can't use scientific method to observe the unobservable or prove the unprovable.


To either accept any theistic or atheistic belief requires faith.


It would be interesting for you to extrapolate on your reasoned approach to your decision. If you take a long hard look at it, I bet you'll find your lack of belief is based on an assumption or feeling... Which is okay because so is belief.(This message has been edited by MarkS)

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