Atheists in Scouting
Douglas Flewelling (dougf@GROUSE.UMESVE.MAINE.EDU)
Thu, 14 Jul 1994 11:51:31 -0400
I have to admit that the 'new' religious BSA has been an area of personal
conflict for me. I consider the BSA's guiding objective is to promote the
development of good character in American youth. However, this good
character seems to be more and more defined in terms of religious beliefs.
A case in point is that BSA is including the religious medal in more of its
requirements in Cub Scouting than it has in the past. It is very clear that
the preferred option is for the Webelos scout to earn the religious medal,
and only if this is not feasible does the boy have to meet the second tier
I am an Episcopalian and firmly believe that the teachings of Jesus are the
best way for me to come to an understanding of 'God' (Webster: the supreme
or ultimate reality). I came to my choice after years of searching and
thought. When I was in my Eagle Board of Review I don't remember being
asked to explain my duty to god, but at that time it would have been pretty
indefinate. With the wisdom of years ;-) I would say that my to duty is to
seek, question, and meditate.
Among my friends are New Ager, Spiritualist, Angelist, Jews, Muslims,
Hindus, Catholics, Wicans, and a number of un-named belief systems all of
whom are of outstanding character. In many cases, those that are actively
seeking an answer are of higher character than those attending weekly
services in 'established' churches (in my pompous opinion).
When questioned about the religious requirements in Wolf and Bear, I have
told parents that their families beliefs are their own business, but their
son has reached a point where those beliefs should be discussed and
explored. As far as I am concerned atheism is acceptable as long as the
parents are able to honestly express that belief to their son. Perhaps the
requirements do the souls of the parents more good than the boy.
Webelos requirement 5 could be met by an atheist by doing the following:
< 5.2 Tell how your religious beliefs fit in with the Scout
< Oath and Scout Law, and discuss with your family and Webelos leader what
< character-building traits your beliefs and the Scout Oath and Scout Law have
< in common.
Just about any internally consistent belief system can fit the Scout Oath
and Law, (or we really don't want you).
< 5.4 Pray to God daily as taught by your family, church,
< synagogue, or other religious brotherhood. Do this for at least 1 month.
If your family doesn't believe in prayer, don't pray for a month ;-).
< 5.5 Under the direction of your religious leader, do an act
< of service for someone else. Talk about your service with your family and
< Webelos leader. Tell them how it made you feel.
Assuming the parent is the religious leader, do some good work at their
direction. (ex. work at soup kitchen, conduct a blanket drive for the
homeless, sort clothing at Goodwill.)
< 5.6 List at least two ways in which you believe you have been
< a good example and lived in accordance with your religious beliefs.
If we accept a definition of 'God' as the supreme or ultimate reality
rather than a supreme being then more people are religious than the BSA
would like to admit.
As for the recognition of a supreme being, does the BSA admit devote Satanists?
Doug (You touched a nerve) Flewelling
Webelos Den Leader (At least until my Council Exec reads this)
Pack 301, Bangor, ME
Eagle Scout '76
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City