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Atheist dad struggling with cub scouts

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Our Pack recruiting night was April 2nd.



By the end of last night's meeting of our Bobcat Den, composed of newly recruited boys and their families, we completed seven of the eight Bobcat requirements.


I explained the meaning of the Cub Scout promise to boys and their listing parents.


For us, the "duty to God" means two things:


1. We respect the religious traditions of our families.


2. We respect the religious traditions of other people and families.



Our pack is chartered by a Catholic Church. Several families are parish members, and more are not.


I haven't had the parish, parish families or pack families that may have no religious beliefs object to the formula I described. From time to time we may have a simple prayer before meals or at the Blue and Gold dinner or whatever.


But people are free to not participate in prayers if they wish.


So far, that has been working well.

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"So are you strong atheists, meaning that you have no doubt that there is no possibility of God or gods, or are you weak atheists, and just see no signs that there is a God or gods."


One of the ironies of atheism if that if you are a strong atheist, you are exhibiting faith. I allow for the possibility, I just count that as a very low possibility, and even lower for the versions of god taught by most organized religions. God can not be disproved logically, I just see no evidence or need.


I myself am not anti-religion in that you won't see me ever complaining about "In God we Trust" on our money, and I've supported the Boy Scouts in terms of their stances on homosexuality and religion at a philosophical level. While I was only luke warm on scouting and quit when we moved when I was a child, my father was an Eagle Scout.


What I wasn't expecting though was my son to come home VERY excited about the scouts and having to deal with the offical stance on atheism. These issues are beyond a 7 year old, and I don't want to see him hurt either by denying him the option, or him being told he can't play in the reindeer games later on.)(This message has been edited by Fishman)

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"...atheists should be barred because atheists hold that NO religion is valid."

I'm with KC9DDI on this. And I've read somewhere that atheists are actually barred because they "can't become the best kind of citizens" or something along those lines...I'm not sure where those words come from. ;)


This unit has a mainstream flavor of Protestant church as the CO and yet, most of the families in the unit are either areligious or, I suspect, have parents who are closet atheists. It's just not a big deal. I wish BSA wasn't so obsessed with sex and religion.

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I only have two suggestions then...


1) If you allow for even the slightest possibility of there being a higher power in the universe then I respectfully suggest that you are agnostic, rather than an atheist.


2) You should sit down with your son and explain your views and what you understand scoutings views on the matter are. Then ask him if it was still something he wanted to do.


Though not in the same position as you I had a sit down with both my sons to explain to them my views on scouting, that it wasn't just camping, pinewood derby, and fun. That there would be times where they and us as a family, would be called on to provide service to our community, to help our Pack and others, and to be selfless. I told them how I expected them to behave.


Now all of that might have gone in one ear and out the other but I did explain to them what scouting was about and left the final choice to them.(This message has been edited by dlchris71)

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I have to say I've been encouraged by what I've been reading here. Yes I expect there will be those who are dogmatic on the issue, but that I can deal with.


We will see how the recruitment meeting goes tonight.

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Unlike KC9DDI or Packsaddle.. Although I would like to find a way to welcome the atheists, I do not think our Scout Oath should be 100% changed for them..


Simply respect them to be silent on the line about God, or if it is a 100% athiest group except they will probably then omit it.. But, the line should stay in for those who still wish to say it and believe in it..


Therefore I guess I would still be barring the atheists who could not respect or show reverence for the beliefs of others in the group (Unless they want to form an atheist only group that omitted the phrase).


But, I don't believe reverence is being met, if all those who believe in the line "do my duty to God", are forced to change what they believe in to accomidate the atheists.


Fishman - I agree with DLChris on this one, if you believe that God can not be disproved logically.. If your son also can keep his mind open to a slight possibility there is something, but not sure what he is good right up to Eagle.. If he is definate that there is no God, he probably will be fine in many troops, but probably shouldn't go for the Eagle rank.. I would think your family values will probably weed out any Pack/troops that are highly religious, and be more comfortable in the Packs/troops that see religious training as personal to the family, and a very low responsibility of the unit.(This message has been edited by moosetracker)

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To sum up my post on page three (3) of this thread: An atheist who does not believe in supernatural stuff can simply define "God" as the sum-total of all the natural laws in the universe. :)


Yours at 300 feet,





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While I am not an atheist, I do not attend any church. Our pack is chartered through a Methodist church. Up until joining the pack, neither my husband nor myself attended church, nor did our children. (I was RC, husband Southern Baptist--yeah, what a combination we are!)


After joining, my son decided that he wanted to try church. My husband and son have started attending the church where the pack is based, and both are happy in their decision. I am struggling, myself, about attending, due to a series of negative events that caused me to leave the RC church many years ago.


Anyways, in our pack, we have quite the mixture of religions--less than 20% of our boys are Methodists. But everyone is respectful to one another.


On our last camp out, I sat and talked with a dad (whom I've rarely had interaction with) about the Jewish faith--learned a lot from him. For my husband's Wolf den, he gave the parents the responsiblity of handling the Faith achievement--we explained to the parents that because Faith is a very personal thing, it's best that the boys ideas of faith and religion come from home, and not from us.


I think you can be involved in scouting without believing in one specific religion. I would rather have a dozen boys who show qualities like honesty and respect yet don't believe in one religion, over one boy who believes in God but doesn't know why or understand how to be a good person.

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if all those who believe in the line "do my duty to God", are forced to change what they believe in to accomidate the atheists.


Moose - How would removing two words from the Oath "force" you to change what you believe? You're saying that you'd no longer be able to believe in God unless He's mentioned in the man-made Oath of an American youth group?


Maybe we differ on what we perceive the purpose of the Scout Oath to be? I don't feel that the Scout Oath should be a declaration or enumeration of the "beliefs" of anyone. There's all kinds of things I believe in - religious and otherwise - that aren't mentioned in the Scout Oath.


But, the line should stay in for those who still wish to say it and believe in it...


I happen to believe that A-frame tents are far superior to the domed variety. Is it OK if I include that somewhere when I recite the Scout Oath - after all, I wish to say it, and I believe in it. Maybe Kudu would like to toss in some beliefs about 300 feet and/or leadership skills? :-) I guess there's nothing stopping me from saying that, but that would be kind of silly, wouldn't it?


Look at just the first nine words of the Scout Oath: "On my honor, I will do my best to..."


We're not talking about what we believe in - we're talking about what Scouts are pledging to do.


To be more clear, we're talking about what all American Boy Scouts are pledging to do. So, hypothetically, if the powers that be decide that our atheist friends are in fact capable of being good Scouts and Leaders - how can we possibly ask them to pledge to do something that they cannot do?


It's not a matter of accommodating anyone or anything, or forcing people to believe one thing or another - it's a question of what we actions should be asking members of our organization to promise to carry out.


(This message has been edited by KC9DDI)

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I meet weekly with a Christian who's dad was a strident atheist. Based on what I've learned from him, let me suggest that your son is in the "too early to tell" stages. He has to grow into his faith just as you have yours.


Take whatever compromises den leaders come up with. Let him enjoy the program. As he matures encourage him not to take vows he doesn't believe in. Stay honest with yourself as well. As you can see there are a lot of scouters willing to stretch for the both of you. Some of them are doing so out of their belief in God and what they feel would be expected of them at the core of their religion.


Then, like the rest of us, bite your nails and hope the kid does right and maybe inspires something in you as well.

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What I am saying is that there are many who believe strongly that the line should be in there.. There are churches who see this as not a neighborhood youth program but THEIR (the churchs) youth program.. It is a way for them to teach their youth about God in a fun way that will interest them..


For those people you are coming into their churches, into their churches youth program and telling them that God is to be cut from their programs.. No more in the oath, no Grace before meals, no interfaith worship (or if a specific religion like LDS no LDS worship service if they are camping on Sunday.. Well not LDS they don't camp on Sunday, but their are other faiths I am sure that are only for their faith..)


Even for churches who open their doors to the neighborhood telling an CO that is a church that God needs to be cut from their program is disrespectful of their beliefs..


I can see units of church groups still having the local option not to include athiests, units of atheists only, and units that allow both and where atheists their will simply be allowed to be respectfully silent for anything pertaining to God..


But, I can not see, forcing every BSA unit to give up anything pertaining to religion in order to welcome in the Atheists.. That is being disrespectful of the beliefs of alot of our current units.(This message has been edited by moosetracker)

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moose - Those are valid points.


Though I have to wonder if there's a better solution for the minority of COs you're referring to. Your solution is that people can basically say whatever they want and call it the Scout Oath, which I think creates a source of division in what should be an Oath common to all American Boy Scouts.


Maybe something like this: The Boy Scout Oath (and it's counterparts in Cub Scouts and Venturing), remain "generic" and applicable to all who are qualified to be members of the organization. And, in this hypothetical world, that would involve removing the words "to God."


Churches or other faith-based COs who wish to use Scouting as a vehicle to deliver their religious education programs can then optionally include their own religious declarations or rituals in their local Scouting program. So a Catholic troop might recite the Apostles' Creed along with the Oath and Law, if the CO decides that it would be a useful part of their Scouting program. To me that seems like the best of both worlds - the Scout Oath can be a common promise that unites all American Boy Scouts, while units with a strong religious background can incorporate other traditions and rituals into their own program.


You seem to be worried that someone's going to "disrespect" you (and I still don't claim to know exactly what we mean by "respect" in this context) if the Scout Oath suddenly becomes applicable to all Scouts. As a Christian myself, I don't see it as disrespectful if an atheist doesn't want to participate in my religious traditions and beliefs just to have the privilege of participating in my (non-religious) unit.


But, I can not see, forcing every BSA unit to give up anything pertaining to religion in order to welcome in the Atheists.. That is being disrespectful of the beliefs of alot of our current units.


I still don't know where you're getting this idea of "anything pertaining to religion" being taken away BY FORCE.... But regarding people's beliefs: You're not going to find two people with the same set of beliefs (the pastor of my childhood parish liked to joke "You can't get two Catholics to agree on the time for the church picnic, much less on any matter of theology!") The question is how much should various "beliefs" affect a program of a generic youth group with a focus on the outdoors and (sorry Kudu) leadership development?


Personally, I don't see why my belief in God needs to be part of the BSA's program. Now, if a religious group wants to use the BSA's program as a component of their religious programs, then Godspeed (no pun intended). But why does this "belief" need to apply to everyone?


I don't care about my grocer, barber, mechanic or boss's belief (or lack thereof) in God. That doesn't affect whether I'll buy my groceries, cut my hair, fix my car, or post on Scouter.com instead of doing work. Same deal with the BSA - Religion isn't really on the list of factors that I use to evaluate my fellow Scouters.



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