Jump to content

Recommended Posts



The problem is that 80% of this country is Jewish, Islamic or Christian and another 15% believe in God but don't self-identify as a particular religeon, while about 1% or so claim to be atheists and agnostics. That means when the term "God" is used in conversation, it is automatically assumed that one is talking about the God of the aforementioned monothestic Abrahamic religeons.


First, the BSA uses the term "absolutely nonsectarian". That means that when the BSA uses the term "God", they are not referring to the monothestic Abrahamic God.


Second, the boy didn't say he was atheist...he said God doesn't exist.


IMO, there's nothing for the SM to deal with, other than to continue to provide a quality program for the boys to lead.


If the boy declares that he's an atheist or begins disrespecting the beliefs of the other boys, there is an issue that needs to be dealt with.


I think if a SM in this situation wanted to do "something", he or she could talk to the boy about the BSA's intent behind "Duty to God", that he isn't required to believe in the God of his parent's church, and that the BSA is nonsectarian and he is free to explore other faiths without fear.(This message has been edited by jrush)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 189
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Yeah, I liked that Grant quote too. In fact I've applied it here and there and it works if enough others apply it too. A lone person, however, will merely be the only person following the letter and the rule will remain nevertheless. This is how laws about the illegality of feather boas and spittoons in church get left on the books. They're ignored until everyone forgets and then one day many years later someone who needs to get a life is reading through the old statutes and all of a sudden there's a new 'law joke' in the newspaper for the rest of us to laugh at.


But yes Vicki, I think we got the point....that or else the point hasn't been explained well enough.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Packsaddle, the rule isn't "bad" and it doesn't need stringent application to make it be changed.


You can have a personal belief system which doesn't require belief in the God of your parent's church.


Bottom line, not believing in your parent's God doesn't make you an atheist by default.

Link to post
Share on other sites

No, but stating "absolutely and definitively that there was no God" (OP) does. He didn't "profess not to believe" (OP), he said there was no God.


I've read smt224's post pretty carefully.


In an evangelical Lutheran troop I served, this kid would have been questioned very thoroughly as to his beliefs. I don't think he would have been drummed out. In the secular troop I serve now he would barely raise an eyebrow.


But, again, let's not allow our hairsplitting and rationalization get in the way of understanding national BSA policy. We have two very different threads going here.




Ps pack, I realized I didn't answer your query as to my whereabouts. Easter is a pretty big thing in the church, I usually get pretty busy.(This message has been edited by Vicki)

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Second, the boy didn't say he was atheist...he said God doesn't exist. "


EXACTLY! And the thing is, I cannot use my version of what the boy considers to mean God, or my terms to decide the way he uses the word God. Only HE can decide WHAT HIS VERSION IS AND WHAT IT MEANS TO HIM.


And the thing is, I am not saying the boy isn't an athiest, nor am I saying there is no way he can be an athiest. He might be so athiest that Merlyn looks like a believer in comparison.


But what I am saying is that he did not say he was an athiest ...based on the OP.


Now, to make it more clear...in the way some here have decided he is an athiest is just as wrong if I went to India and said that I dabsolutely do not believe in Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Brahma, Vishnu, Kali, Annapurna, or Indra ....and the locals declare that it is oibvious and plainly clear I am an athiest.


And truth be told, I will say that I do not believe in a particulat western "God" but still believe in my "God" when talking about the God that those southern white supreamacists refer to in their idiotic hate filled prayers.


And if that didn't make sense- I do not believe in the "God" that people stand behind before they bomb abortion clinics or spew hate and racism from their mouths.


Am I athiest? Not hardly, but my version of "God" (using a capitol G and not meaning "a god" in a general sense ) is not the one that many racists and bigots refer to.



So again, I am not athiest.


Is the boy in the OP? Who knows since the boy did not use those words. Maybe he believes in another god or perhaps he is pagan or Toaist. Maybe he believes in Wiccan or even Thor for all I know.


And I don't know.


I just think it's funny he said one thing and everybody else made it something else based on what they would mean inside instead of actually waiting to see what the boy meant.


If nothing else, uyse a standard as it would be in a court of law:


Boy's lawyer;" Mr.Merlyn, did the boy specifically say he was an athiest. Did he use those exact words? Did he say that he was an athiest instead of saying something else?"


Merlyns: "Well, actually he said he didn't believe in god. Same thing as far as I am comncerned."


Layer: " Yes sir, but it' s not your concerns we ate discussing. WE are talking about the boys. Isn't that right Mr Merlyn.


Merlyn: "Yeah but we know what he really meant..."


Mr. Merlyn, just answer the question, did he say he was athiest or not?"


Merlyn: "But he was..."


Lawyer: Mr merlyn, Yes or no. Did he say he was athiest?"


Merlyn: " No, he did not specifically say that he was athiest."


Lawyer: "Was the word athiest even mentioned?"


Merlyn: "No."


Lawyer : " So you assumed that is what he meant?"


Merlyn: "Yes, based on my experience with..."


Lawyer: "Yes, but we are not talking about your experiences, we are talking about tghe boy's. Judge, I move to dismiss."


Judge: "Based on the testimony , the lack of evidence , and too many assumptions based onperson experiences and beliefs not associated with the youth himself, trhis court has no choice but to rule in favor of the scout and hereby declare this case closed!"


Or whatever he would say..ask Beavah since I have no doubt he should probably type this last line in! :)




Link to post
Share on other sites

Eagle Dad you're correct, this discussion is getting way off base. This question is what should a SM do about a scout he said he does not believe in God during a SM conference for the Scout rank.


Where things have gotten confusing is how to measure/judge these actions. The answer is actually in the questions.


A Scout is Reverent.

A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.


Yes, this scout is reverent. Read the words, tempered by the Oaths wording that Ill do my best.


. . . To do my duty to God . . .

Your family and religious leaders teach you about God and the ways you can serve. You do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.

Yes, this scout is doing his duty to God. Read the words, tempered by the Oaths wording that Ill do my best.


The other questions.

-Is this scout having some type of crisis? Yes

-Does this scout need guidance? Yes

-Is this youth learning, and growing? Yes

-Is it the SMs place to council, or guide the scout regarding matters of faith? No

-Do the scouts parents need to be aware of this conservation? Absolutely

-Who will guide this scout? Thats up to the parents. We are scout leaders, not parents.

-Is it the place of the SM to judge in the scout in his religious beliefs? Absolutely not.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Scoutfish writes:

EXACTLY! And the thing is, I cannot use my version of what the boy considers to mean God, or my terms to decide the way he uses the word God. Only HE can decide WHAT HIS VERSION IS AND WHAT IT MEANS TO HIM.


The same goes for the term "atheist", as early Christians were branded as atheists because they didn't acknowledge the emperor as a god.


So even if he unambiguously stated that he was an atheist, you can still play games with what HE means by "atheist." Or "believes."


And that still doesn't settle anything, because not all BSA pronouncements on their religious membership requirements even USE the term "atheist," like their resolution from Feb 6, 2002.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yah, I reckon the original poster got the answer he needed a while back, eh?


Those that want to continue da never ending thread where Merlyn explains what the BSA really means to all of us BSA folks should take it over to Issues & Politics. Or just read one of the two dozen identical threads in the archives, eh? ;)




Link to post
Share on other sites

So (besides not letting a good post fade away prematurely), there are two suggestions that I will not follow ...


1. Pretend that the 11 year old boy in the original post must mean that he's simply "fed up" with the God of his parents and is fishing for an offering from a pantheon of options from our pluralistic society. Life is far too short to not take a boy at his word.


2. Swift and sure dismissal in the name of BSA policy. In spite of Merl's protestations, there is -- as with many policies -- room to be deliberative. There's also room for individual courses of action.


I like OXE82's recap.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A common theme on this forum is Scouter's debating what is meant by a BSA policy and then when some have issues with it, the policy is labelled as only a "guideline" or other rationalization occurs - i.e. do what's best for the Scout, etc.


It is occuring with the "God" issue. BSA policy is clear - what is up to us as Scouters is to determine how we will respond to the policy. Let's don't get wrapped around the axle debating the policy itself.

Link to post
Share on other sites

if were going to focus on application of the policy you have to understand how its implemented. The Scout is neither asked to, nor allowed to, fill out his application for membership, including the attestation. Many of you may not like this, but what that scout says he believes doesnt matter one whit. What matters is what the parents say the scout will believe. Until the scout is an adult, this is not his choice, and we cannot question the progress of this religious education, only the intent. The intent is questioned in the application.


What about the Oath and Law.? Yes, the scouts adherence to the Oath and Law can be questioned. However, keep in mind Ill do my best to do my duty to God and Country . Ill do my best is the standard. Who says if the scout did his best? The person responsible for his spiritual guidance answers this question, through the parents, not you or me. We, as scout leaders, set the expectation of reverence, and promote spiritual growth, and support practice of the scouts faith.


Reverence, not only should be expect the scout to meet this standard, but we must hold ourselves to the same standard.


A Scout is Reverent.

A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.



The point Im making is that BSA policy has not been violated. Remove emotion, personal bias, and put your own beliefs aside, and look at the facts. The attestation is a parental item; the oath is a do my best item; and reverence is behavior based, not faith based.


I never looked at this situation as being about policy, as policy has not been violated.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry Old Ox but you are totally incorrect in your assumption that what the scout believes "isn't worth a whit". The parent has to sign the application only because an organization can not legally contract with a minor, period. So the boy can not be held accountable for the DRP, technically, but it is a slippery slope. The rub is when the boy turns 18 and is up for his EBOR and what he says to the committee about his beliefs, if it even comes up, which is rare in my EBOR experiences. Unless the boy, now an adult, at that time attests he is an atheist, even then the board really is powerless, since up to that point the parents signature on the annual application attested to his following the DRP.


Lets be honest here people, except for maybe the deep south, how many of you who ever sat on an EBOR ever heard of a candidates religious beliefs being brought up? Rarely if ever I expect. Even if it is however, if the boy is under 18 it is a moot point because of the application signature of the parent, and can not be used as the reason to deny the Eagle. That is why IMO the DRP needs to be dropped from the BSA, and the 12th point of the scout law needs to be redefined and clarified to make it truly nonsectarian.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...