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SMT224

God?

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Basement - there are places in Boy Scout advancement where "participation equals completion" so it's not just a Cub Scout thing.

 

For instance, there is no requirement that a Scout "pass" a Scoutmaster's Conference, only that he participate in one.

 

Whether the Scout actually "believes" in God, by attending church on Sunday, he is honoring God, and that is what being reverent is all about - honoring God. If he truly doesn't "believe" in God, he's meeting the second part of A Scout is Reverent by respecting the beliefs of others (and isn't it interesting how often many of us forget about the respecting the beliefs of others part?) and by attending church, is still honoring God.

 

Attending church on Sunday is widely regarded as meeting one's obligation to God. In BadenP's terrific example, there is a Scout who does not go to church - how does he meet his obligation to God? (for me this is rhetorical - I believe there are many ways we can meet an obligation to God - cleaning up a woodland on a Sunday instead of going to church is a valid way of meeting one's obligation to God in my book).

 

The Scout hasn't announced he is an athiest, which is a rejection of any kind of higher power. The Scout has said there is no God - but there is nothing to indicate why the Scout says there is no God, or that he rejects a higher power. I suggested he may be having a crisis of faith because he's lost, or losing, someone close to him, SRBeaver has a good alternative I hadn't thought of, as does BadenP. Any or all of these may be in play. Or it's possible that his family is in a congregation where the word of God is more important than the existence of God. I merely recommend caution before judgement.

 

 

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I like the sunrise story. I heard a similar story about a boy who had a kind of religious experience when hiking on a mountain side.

 

On the other hand, there is no way to know the boy will ever change his mind. I have a cousin whose parents are very religious but he ended up being an outspoken atheist. I don't know why exactly. Maybe other influences in his life including the music he listened to, drinking and drugs, role playing games, or maybe rebellion because his parents were so religious. Maybe none of the above. Atheism has become very socially acceptable. Christians are often portrayed as narrow minded. As somebody else said, bad reactions to a particular church or pastor can cause people to be turned off to religion.

 

Anyway, I bet that my cousin's parents would have appreciated a heads-up if he had made such statements as a kid.

 

If you don't do anything now and just hope that he changes his mind it could be more painful down the road. Maybe he gets all the way to applying for Eagle and gets turned down. Then you will have a lot of explaining to do as to why you did nothing sooner.

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I am not a SM and don't have any ponies in the race. This is just purely a conversation for me.....I enjoy debate.

 

I agree that a SMC is participation only. BOR are almost like that.

 

He maybe having a crisis in faith. He maybe just being obstinate.

 

Duty to God or reverence for god....I am guessing Stating I don't believe in God or there is no god violates that.

 

So do you ask the scout if he considers himself an atheist? If he ask what that is, read him the definition from the dictionary and base your decision on that??????

 

I don't know just asking.

 

My opinion, duty to god is more than just going to church. We all know some church going folks who could live in the building and they would still not behave as church going folks should.

 

 

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(This is a general statement, and not directed at you, SMT224.)

 

A Scoutmaster, IMHO, or any other adult leader, should not be "challenging" a Scout's statement of belief. Even what is intended as a spirited discussion on matters of faith - particularly between an adult in a position of authority and a young man still forming his view of the world - can very easily turn into perceived persecution which puts a very bad taste in the boy's mouth.

 

As others have said - this is a boy probably not yet 11 years old. What did *you* believe about God at that age? Can you even remember? Perhaps he's just one of these smart, aggressive kids who enjoys arguing for the sake of arguing and poking holes in adults' bubbles.

 

Any way you slice it, this is a topic you should be discussing with the parents, explaining the Declaration of Religious Principle and making sure they understand the implications. After all, as the DRP says, "the home and organization or group with which a member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life." If the boy and his parents say that he is recognizing and fulfilling his "obligation to God," then - I suggest to you politely - butt out.

 

A personal note. I went through an atheist/agnostic/non-believing phase as a teenager. It was in large part an instinctive reaction to what I saw as the narrow-mindedness of some people who professed to be religious. If I had declared my belief openly at that time, I could have gotten the boot from my troop. But it was Scouting that reinvigorated my personal faith, through experiencing the outdoors and taking my turn leading chapel services while on summer camp staff. My beliefs aren't recognizable as falling within any major (or minor) faith tradition - but I can wholeheartedly say that I am Reverent.

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This is a fun one, I advise strongly against a knee-jerk reaction. Young men go through a period of questioning everything, its part of the healthy growth process, Id worry if it didnt happen. Ok, your scout likely had a bad experience he equates to his religious beliefs, in all likelihood. Maybe someone close to him passed away, he was forced to miss a ballgame to a church picnic, my maybe he was molested by a member of the clergy! Wow, heres a nasty spectrum of possibilities.

 

The key here is your scout is upset, that type of answer is very strong, and that is not normal. Typically a youth will hedge on this type of question, trying to not state an opinion, or just say whats expected that didnt happen here. Your scout needs this program, and he needs good role models just now. Dont send him packing, find out whats going on. As leaders we cannot, must not, push our beliefs on others, be careful.

 

Although the program requires a belief in God, Id give this scout some slack. Who signed his original application, what changed? What do Mom and Dad say about this, do they know? I see a problem here, but maybe not the one you see. Why did he give such a strong answer to an authority figure who he knew would not like it? This young man needs help, and is asking for it. Maybe hes confused; maybe hes questioning blind obedience, or maybe there is a worse problem. Please take the time to find out whats going on, and make sure this young man stays in the program, where hell get what he needs.

 

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I would certainly NOT even consider the idea of kicking a boy this young out based on this. At that age, any number of things could be in play, depending on what is happening in his family, as well as his intellectual development. If he is advanced for his age in his thinking, he may just be in his first period of questioning his parents and what he has been TOLD. There may have been a recent emotionally damaging experience with his church, or losing a loved one, of other similar issues.

 

Definitely should touch base with the parents, but carefully. One of the reasons for reverence in scouting is to help young people decide these things on their own levels and inter-personally. Certainly it is too early to hold back advancement I would think.

 

Sometimes I think we might be better served to have the definition shown for reverence to say something like, "A scout is spiritual, and seeks a greater power. He respects the convictions of others in their own spiritual journey." But that is just me.

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I agree with Trevorum. As I understand past discussions in these forums in which we have beaten this thing to pieces (that's just for you Scoutfish ;) ), if he says he doesn't believe in God "...but I do believe in that rock over there...", that is sufficient and an appeal up the line would confirm that.

 

I think it is arrogant to place oneself in a position of examining another person's faith, much less the faith (or lack of it) of a child. Not only that, but any such attempt is always inadequate because there is no way one person can completely communicate matters of their faith to anyone else.

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shortridge made a very good point, but I'd like to point out that one's reverence is something that can be very difficult to evaluate. Its fairly easy to tell when a Scout is or is not being courteous, or obediant, or thrifty. Reverence is much more difficult to directly observe. Its more of a mindset, rather than a character trait, if that makes any sense. So, given that adult leaders are asked, from time to time, to evaluate whether a Scout is living by the Oath and Law, what is the most effective way to evaluate reverence? Or should we try to evaluate it all?

 

Maybe SMT224 could just ask the boy, "what do you believe in, then?" Maybe there is some spirituality, some higher power, something.

 

I asked him how he could be so sure, and he said he just knew it

A common response when someone is asked how they know for sure that God does exist.... Based on his age, and that fact that his parents are church-goers, I'd also assume that there is some more background here, but I'm not certain that its any business of a Scouter to probe for the deeper causes.

 

I certainly hope that there's no serious possibility of removing a 10 year old from the program over this. I'm sure that he could gain a lot from being in the program, and surely he has a lot that he can offer his troop.

 

I personally wish that we could do away with looking at "reverence" in the religious sense, and just focus on delivering a quality program based on strong values, without worrying about what, if anything, motivates us to have those values. But the BSA has indicated that that's not going to happen, so here we are...

 

I realize that I mostly just rattled off some random ideas, but I guess I'm mainly interested in my first couple questions: how can we evaluate reverence in a logical and fair way when these questions come up? And, if we can't, should we be trying to?

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Interesting points and discussion.

 

Should it be measured?

 

How is it measured?

 

Is a scouter qualified to measure it?

 

remove Duty to god from the oath and remove Reverent from the scout law?

 

 

Interesting and valid questions

 

But isn't that why so many churches charter BSA units.

 

 

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Out of curiosity, does the Scout recite the Oath and Law when appropriate in the course of meetings, etc.? In other words, if the troop recites these in openings/closings, does he refuse to recite them at all because they contain the words "God" and/or "reverent"? (There have been Scouts that did, and those cases attracted a lot of publicity, but I am guessing that the Scout in SMT's troop does not refuse.) Or does he say them but omit those words? Or does he just go along and say them?

 

As I have written in this forum before, when I was an older teenager, I did not believe in God either. Or I thought I didn't -- in retrospect, what I probably did not believe was the "picture" of God that I had been raised with. I still don't believe in that "picture" today, but I am not an atheist. In the course of living, and reading, and learning, I found out there were other options, and figured out what I did believe in. Perhaps the same will happen to this Scout. The difference between me and him is, I did not go around advertising my non-belief. I did recite the Scout Oath and Law, every time I was supposed to. I don't recall thinking there was any contradiction at the time -- nor do I necessarily think there was, because what I actually believed or didn't believe is not so clear.

 

I agree with Calico's suggested approach. One variation I would suggest is that in speaking with the parents, you may want to make sure they are aware that the BSA does require a belief in a higher power. I think we tend to assume in this forum that everyone knows that, because we all know it. But I don't think everybody necessarily knows it, particularly not the parents of a new Scout. For that matter, does the Scout himself know it?

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BD:

Should it be measured?

How is it measured?

As soon as I pull this log out of my eye, I'll let you know how to measure the speck in my young scout brother's!

 

Is a scouter qualified to measure it?

 

I think that misses the point. The goal is to get the boy, over time, to measure it. It may be that his theology will line up perfectly with yours. It may be not. A higher authority is, well, higher than that.

 

But, we want our young men to reflect on this question early in their life. Because not reflecting on it until after you're guarding some enemy POW's and some crazy chick talks you into violating Geneva conventions can have dire consequences.

 

remove Duty to god from the oath and remove Reverent from the scout law?

 

Nope. There are plenty of other venues where that can happen.

 

 

Interesting and valid questions

 

But isn't that why so many churches charter BSA units.

 

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Let's take a look at the youth application for a moment. The burden is not on the youth member. It's on his parents!

 

The Boy Scouts of America recognizes the importance of religious faith and duty; it leaves sectarian religious instruction to the members religious leaders and family.

 

Members who do not belong to a units religious chartered organization shall not be required to participate in its religious activities.

 

Excerpt from the Declaration of Religious Principle

 

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of membership.

 

To me, this is not a hill to die on today. SMT224 needs to do his homework with the parents. For all we know, the boy is trying to get a reaction. Let's see how he grows, develops, and changes. There may come a time, 3-5 years from now, where the matter of faith matters towards the youths' Scouting advancement. It doesn't today. Let him grow and develop.

 

The DRP talks to the parents' responsibilities at this point, not the youth members.

 

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A mans religion is not what he professes to believe, but rather the actions he performs.

 

Same for a boys religion, probably even more so. At 10, he may not have the abstract reasoning capability us greybeards have, and he may have a hard time conceptualizing God as something other than a scary guy with a long beard whos supposed to be good and all powerful and runs the world, but still lets all sorts of bad things happen. Not every young man is going to understand he saw God in the sunrise some do, but some havent connected the words with the feelings yet. Give him a break. Watch his actions, and dont force him into making black and white statements he may not be prepared to even understand.

 

This all hinges on what the SM's idea of duty to God is.

 

Sorry to disagree, but thats incorrect. It all hinges on the Scouts idea of Duty to God. A Catholic Scoutmaster and a Buddhist Scout are going to have different ideas on what Duty to God is, but that doesnt mean the SM can or should declare the Scout to be failing. BSA has make it pretty clear that its not the adult leaders job to be a religious instructor, and that Duty to God and Reverence have very flexible meanings. Frankly, I dont think a 10 year olds religious beliefs are anything I - a ham-handed amateur in this area - should be fumbling around with anyway. I'd ask him to speak to his family about it, remind him why BSA has the DOR in the first place (not the consequences of rejecting it, the reasons for it being there in the first place), and then let it sit for a while.

 

If you don't do anything now and just hope that he changes his mind it could be more painful down the road. Maybe he gets all the way to applying for Eagle and gets turned down. Then you will have a lot of explaining to do as to why you did nothing sooner.

 

But ultimately, whats worse? Allowing an atheist to participate in several years of scouting and have multiple chances for that sunrise moment, even if he never finds his faith? Or drumming him out instantly and saying we dont want your kind around here kid.? I apologize for putting it so bluntly, but I really do see it that way. If hes not being disruptive, if hes not going around openly scoffing at other boy's religion, let his family tend to his religious upbringing. But in any event, tread lightly!

 

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I have to concur with the other posters who have stated that, It is NOT the SM's responsibility to question, challenge, or put pressure on any boy to determine if he is indeed a "true Believer" (sarcasm intended), that is up to his parents. You can review the 12th point of the scout law, read what it states but NOT add your own interpretation of its meaning. The DRP, which IMO should be dropped, should never be used as a criteria for the Eagle Award/Rank or whether or not a boy is a "good citizen". What constitutes "recognizing an obligation to a nonsectarian God", and what defines "reverent" is an individual family matter that should never be decided by a EBOR committee. It is the same thing as a company asking a potential employee are they a Christian or are they an atheist, it is inappropriate and illegal. You tell me what scouter or committee of scouters is truly qualified to determine a boys true spirituality or really capable of defining an all inclusive "God"? The answer is NONE.

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