Another Reason Not to Buy a Christmas Tree from the Boy Scouts

(via The Atheist Pig)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    There is a Boy Scout Christmas Tree lot a few blocks from my house. It is set up in the parking lot and playground of a Catholic church and school. A nice homophobic double whammy.

  • StillPissed

    Actually, I never liked the scouts.  Their were a couple of older boys who were gay who hit on us.  No one would do squat.

    I am not blaming them, because the harassment can obviously go both ways, but the Scouts are too much like a mutation of the Hitler Youth.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SMVTMGVS7B5ZJ45DLCYO2U7U2E wallflower

    There’s a BS tree lot across the street at the Y.  I go to a family tree farm to get my solstice bush.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      First thing that popped into my mind.

  • Larry Gagnon

    It should be made clear that this is the Boy Scouts of AMERICA organization only. Other international Boy Scout organizations are more open-minded. For instance, here in Canada the organization is Scouting Canada – they are fully accepting of homosexuals and do not require belief in a god. So do buy a tree from them if you want to support them!

    • ThatItIs

      Although, from Scouts Canada’s website

      Duty to God: Defined as, The responsibility to adhere to spiritual principles, and thus to the religion that expresses them, and to accept the duties therefrom.

      While that doesn’t rule out atheism, it does seem to rule out irreligiosity. Scouts Canada has not wavered on this. The Girl Guides, on the other hand, have no such requirement at all.

      • Larry Gagnon

        Not sure where you found that on the SC website but if you look at the FAQ it is clear that a belief in God is not required, nor is it adhered to in any way from Scouts I have talked to.

        • ThatItIs

          http://www.scouts.ca/ca/values

          Their FAQ page states

          “Duty to God” as defined by the World Organization of the Scouting Movement, means “a person’s relationship with the spiritual values of life, the fundamental belief in a force above mankind.”

          That’s pretty damn vague, but there’s still an element of “something greater than mankind”.

          Yes, it allows for atheism, but that’s because the term just relates to a belief in a deity; it’s still possible to be a religious atheist. Most of the atheists around here probably wouldn’t identify themselves as religious or “spiritual”, at least not in the sense of “the fundamental belief in a force above mankind”

          • Deven Kale

            Again?

            Okay… Theism: “(generally) : belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically :
            belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the
            human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world.”

            So then atheism: “(generally) : non-belief in the existence of a god or gods.” Or from the dictionary: “a disbelief in the existence of deity” or “the doctrine that there is no deity.”

            Religion: “the service and worship of God or the supernatural,” (I left out a few others, this is the most fitting to the discussion).

            So what does all this really point to? It means that, except in very rare (I would say so rare as to essentially be never) circumstances, there is not and cannot be such a person as a religious atheist. Even if you allow for just “worship of the supernatural” it doesn’t seem to fit because the only supernatural beliefs I know of that involve worship are those involving deities (except ancestor worship, do people still do that?), which atheists don’t believe in by definition.

            So no, that statement definitively does not allow for atheism. Luckily though, they seem to ignore that part of the code so it’s basically like it’s not there. I see no reason to really care if it’s there if they don’t live by it anyway. I’d rather they never really notice it than have it brought to their attention and have them decide they want to enforce it.

            *Edit: copy/paste formatting issue.

    • D$

      Another reason not to support you wierd canooooks!

  • MoriyaMug

    Wow, that kid did a lot of growing between panels 3 and 4.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Love the ending. Didn’t see that one coming.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Just do the right thing – After Christmas, go to Target and buy a tree at 75% off. It costs less, can be enjoyed for years, has less of a risk of catching on fire, and doesn’t contribute to homophobia. It’s a win-win-win-win

  • ProfessorTom

    Good heavens.  One might expect a more enlightened and rational approach from a progressive and atheist.

    The national organization of the Boy Scouts of America does not sell Christmas trees.  When you see scouts selling Christmas trees, 100% of that money goes to those boys to help them with service projects in your local park, or to help a scout whose dad got laid off go to camp with his friends.  Not one cent goes to the BSA, and neither that boy nor his family or scout leaders have a vote in the BSA’s national policies.   Boycotting Christmas tree purchases is like withholding food from a starving homeless man to protest government policies on the homeless.

    As for the rest…
    “Boy Scouts is a bigoted organization”.  The scouts have never tried to use the courts to force atheist groups to accept fundamentalist Christian members; the scouts have never tried to defund LGBT programs or celebrated when funding was cut to other youth organizations that they might disagree with.  Who is bigoted?

    “Sadly, many children brought up in this organization will champion the scouts intollerance of others.”   Really?  You have the research on that, do you?  Properly controlled for family background?   Surely we can do better than making unsubstantiated claims.

     

    • David Starner

      Let’s take the homeless man. Are you going to give money to a homeless man with a sign that says “fuck the niggers”? If you talk to him and realize he’s illiterate, are you going to give him money and walk off? Or are you going to point out that his sign is offensive and you can’t give in good conscience to people holding that sign?

      Just because you don’t have a vote in an organization doesn’t obliterate your obligation to make sure the organizations you belong to are morally correct. No one would buy that for a second if you were joining a group that bans blacks.

      As for the Boy Scouts not being bigoted, do you really think that Christians would hold that opinion of nominally neutral children’s organization had a policy of expelling known Christian members? Do you think they would tolerate for one second the level of entanglement the Boy Scouts have with the government in a group with anti-Christian policies?

      • ProfessorTom

        Did the Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees in your neighborhood have a sign which said “Fuck the Atheists?”  In that case, the first argument would make sense.  Of course they didn’t.

        You and I have a vote in the various levels of government that affect us.  We do our best, but I’m not sure that also implies we have an obligation to ensure that every level of government is always morally correct, or we should up and move. Living in a diverse community means that we are always joining organizations with which we don’t agree on every item all the time.  The alternative is to be a right-wing survivalist alone in the mountains.

        The Christians I know don’t have any problem with an atheist group expelling Christian youth or adults.  We rather think such Christians are obnoxious, trying to evangelize where they might not be welcome. 

        • David Starner

          You can belong to whatever organization you want, but I think it bizarre that you object to me boycotting them  because I don’t approve of them. This is majority privilege in the extreme; atheist groups that openly exclude Christians don’t bother trying to get the public to support them.

          You keep referring to atheist groups. The Boy Scouts advertise for everyone; http://www.scouting.org/ (the home page of the Boy Scouts of America) says “The Boy Scouts of America provides a program for young people that
          builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.”  It took me some time to find a page that mentions religion. If they claimed to be a religious organization, they would get a different type of fuss; they certainly wouldn’t get all the open support they do.

          There simply aren’t any major atheist groups like the Boy Scouts, because atheists don’t feel a need to put their children into a scouting organization that excludes other children because of their religion.

          • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

            The Boy Scouts advertise for everyone; http://www.scouting.org/ (the home page of the Boy Scouts of America) says “The Boy Scouts of America provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.”

            Absolutely, and the BSA often pretends to be open to all. They recruit children through the public schools.
            In the past, they have handed out flyers that said “Any boy can join.” Which is clearly untrue, since boys may not join unless they believe in a deity and are heterosexual.

            http://www.bsa-discrimination.org/html/welsh-top.html

          • ProfessorTom

            Of course you can boycott anyone you like, and I in turn can criticize it as being irrational and counterproductive. :)

            The stated mission of the BSA is to instill the values of the Scout Oath and Law (you know, that pledge to do one’s Duty to God and Country).  It’s printed on every application, along with their statement of religious principle.  That doesn’t strike me as being very stealthy about it.  I suppose it’s a bit like people who don’t realize the Salvation Army is a religious organization either.  I don’t think that’s the Salvation Army’s fault.

            • http://profile.yahoo.com/QX5RHMTHB3WPWZYMSEO3NYPDFA Michael

              And we, in turn, can regard you as a concern troll.

              • Superdove

                A person who disagrees is a troll?

            • Revyloution

              Then,  the BSA should not receive government assistance, as they have been for the past decades.   If the BSA wants to be an explicitly religious organization  then they should stop using all those forest service leases for their camps.

              • ProfessorTom

                All those forest service leases?

                You do of course realize that any group is eligible for long-term leases on BLM and other multi-use federal lands.  After all, we all pay the taxes which support, protect, and maintain those lands.   Private timber and grazing companies are of course the most common, followed by oil and natural gas drillers and then ski areas I believe.   All of them, by the way, receiving such leases at substantially less than fair market value.

                The question from an unbiased perspective would be whether we really want to exclude all religious people from the same sorts of access and terms which are given to everyone else.  My argument would be “no”, out of fairness and an appreciation for diversity of thought.

            • David Starner

              How much have you donated to atheist organizations? You’re demanding something of atheists that you would never expect of Christians, that we should donate to an organization that discriminates against us and wouldn’t accept our children as members.

              Your suggestion downpost that people mumble is obscene; hypocrisy is not a moral value. It’s bizarre as well, as the Scouts don’t reject people who don’t believe the monotheistic God, just atheists, nor is anti-homosexuality part of the pledge.

              The Salvation Army, on their front page, say that they are “an evangelical part of the universal Christian church”.  They make no bones of their associations, unlike the Boy Scouts.

              • ProfessorTom

                Purchasing a Christmas Tree isn’t making a donation, it’s buying a product.  What’s happening is that the boy and his family are donating the labor, so that rather than receiving wages from your purchase the funds go to the organization.  That is why you cannot take a tax deduction on such a purchase.

                In answer to your question, though, I donate a quite a bit to secular organizations, and some to scientific/skeptic groups which are atheist.   I buy products almost exclusively from secular / atheistic corporations. 

                I think in a community, it’s a fine thing to support other members of the community, even when we disagree.

                • David Starner

                  You blur the lines here. It is illegal for the corporations you buy products from to not hire someone based on religious reasons. If buying the tree really was a fully commercial activity, the BSA would be in violation of the law. None of the corporations you buy from are atheist in the way that the BSA is religious.

                  I do not think that it was fine to support the bus system of Montgomery, Alabama, over the people who they discriminated against.

        • Amakudari

          Would they have a problem with an atheist group benefiting as much as the BSA does from public funding, heavily subsidized government land use, and direct assistance from the US military?

          If the BSA wants to be treated like a private entity—in which case I would agree that it can discriminate, however pigheaded—then it needs to give up subsidies first and start acting like a private entity.

          • ProfessorTom

            The BSA has never tried to block anyone’s access to public funding, use of public lands, or assistance from any government agency.  They have never tried to defund state-supported LGBT program supports at public universities, have never tried to stop public schools from sponsoring atheist clubs, have never lobbied corporations or private donors not to give to left-of-center causes, have never tried to dictate the membership of other private organizations, have never tried to deny access to payroll contributions from public employers.

            Their position has always been that others are free to believe differently, and to lobby for public dollars just like any other private corporation or individual.  We do after all fund everybody from the oil industry to agribusinesses to private and religious college tuitions with public funds.

            If we’re honest, we’ll also admit to ourselves that from a secular public policy perspective, the very limited support scouting gets makes some sense.  Scouting skills are useful ones for men going into military service, and scouts go into such service in numbers far out of proportion to other groups.   The military taking advantage of such a group for recruiting purposes is hardly surprising.  It’s a rational investment.     

            • Revyloution

              If we’re honest,  we we’ll admit that public funds going to an explicitly religious organization is a violation of the constitution.  

              • Superdove

                So was there an alternate Atheist scouting organization that the government rejected in favor of the religious one? 

              • ProfessorTom

                Not if we have made any significant study of constitutional law. We do, after all, provide financial aid, guaranteed student loans, tuition grants, and public research funds to such explicitly religious organizations as the University of Notre Dame.

                Perhaps it’s because of the football.

                The question you really need to address is whether funding achieves a secular purpose without undue entanglement.

          • Superdove

            Sure! Show us an atheist group that has done as much for kids as the BSA!

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      The scouts have never tried to use the courts to force atheist groups to accept fundamentalist Christian members; the scouts have never tried to defund LGBT programs or celebrated when funding was cut to other youth organizations that they might disagree with.  Who is bigoted?

      The BSA. None of what you described is bigotry. In fact, I’m curious as to whether or not you even understand the concept at all.

      “Sadly, many children brought up in this organization will champion the scouts intollerance [sic] of others.”   Really?  You have the research on that, do you?  Properly controlled for family background?   Surely we can do better than making unsubstantiated claims.

      What about this needs to be substantiated? Are there people in the current institution who support the BSA’s bigoted stance and were themselves Scouts? (I would say that this is almost certainly the case, having been a part of the organization.) Then it is reasonable to think that there will be many – or, to state it differently, a significant number – who will themselves champion this stance. This isn’t exactly a contentious claim, certainly not one that needs a proper study. You can observe it in the organization as it exists presently.

      • ProfessorTom

        In order to support a claim, one traditionally provides evidence and reasoning.  The claim that BSA membership contributes to boys growing up to “champion the intolerance of others” is a causal claim.  Therefore, the evidence should help to establish causality.

        What you propose does not even establish correlation, let alone causality.  You suggest that if some small group of people in an organization have some views, then that means the organization must have caused those views because they were in it as children.

        Of course there are many adults in the BSA who have been in it since childhood who oppose the BSA’s current position.  By your argument, that proves that the BSA is tolerant.   It’s just nonsense.

        To make a rational argument, you must look at individual background.  Family is the big influence here, so the important causal question is whether the BSA, through its support of environmentalism, citizenship, and values is apt to make them more or less tolerant than their family background would otherwise suggest.   I think the evidence in such a study is likely to refute your claim.

        • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

          I’d have to agree. I don’t think the BSA is going to increase the chances of a child developing prejudice. What’s more likely is that Scouts who were brought up in anti-gay, anti-atheist environments will continue to have negative feelings about those groups, and will support the BSA because the organization agrees with what they were taught at church and at home.

        • TheG

          “I think the evidence in such a study is likely to refute your claim.”

          Unfortunately, “in order to support a claim, one traditionally provides evidence and reasoning.”  Your last sentence was just left out there like a rotting fish without evidence, logic, or supporting claims.

          You had me a little swayed at the start and I began questioning my preconceived beliefs (which is ALWAYS a good thing).  Instead of merely pointing out the poster’s logic was faulty, you had to push towards the other side.  It is as though you don’t trust your audience to make the connection on their own.

          • ProfessorTom

            Come now.  Go back and read that again.  What I posted was clearly not a claim, but rather a scientific and testable hypothesis.  

            Boy Scouting mandates a strict Leave-No-Trace environmental ethic, and requires for its highest award study of Environmental Science and (more recently) sustainability, with additional awards across all areas of science and engineering.   It typically mixes boys of diverse backgrounds in an environment which requires cooperation and collaboration.  

            There is a substantive literature showing the educative benefits of short-duration adventure challenge programs on reaching at-risk youth, as well as breaking down patterns of conflict between groups.  There is also a strong emergent literature on the disproportionate impacts of informal educational programs compared with formal schooling.  

            So the hypothesis would be that 4-7 years active participation in an informal education program like Scouting would be successful at achieving at least similar effects to shorter-term programs.  That may be especially the case for youth in their impressionable years who come from backgrounds not traditionally open to environmentalism, science, or collaboration with diverse groups.  That is quite testable, and I’d argue the hypothesis is quite justified based on the available research to date.

            For the rest, you’ll have to forgive me for any inadvertent lack of trust of the audience of a blog which makes rather sweeping and unjustified comments about millions of people.  :)

            • Nope

              You’re very sanctimonious for someone defending a bigoted organization.

            • amycas

              Why don’t you go support other scouting organizations that don’t discriminate needlessly then? If this is so important, then you should want the organization that is advancing these activities to be accepting of everyone, right?

              • ProfessorTom

                Sadly, there aren’t any other scouting organizations in the U.S.  The BSA has a government-granted monopoly.  THAT’S something which is worth repealing.  Of course, one might also suggest that if this is so important to you, rather than boycotting an organization to try to force it to change its position, you start up your own youth outdoor leadership program and out-compete the BSA.

                For the rest, I’m perfectly happy with the notion that it takes many different organizations to reach all kids, rather than claiming that one size fits all.  BSA scouting works for some kids and families, and that’s a fine thing worth supporting.  Other groups work well for other kids, and are also worth supporting.  You get greater strength from diversity of approaches than from a monoculture.

    • Erp

      I think you mean the profits goes to the troop though presumably the boys will have a say on how it is spent (service projects, troop outings, etc.).  The boys don’t get it directly.    Also the troop is required to discriminate against gays and atheists by national policy though many choose to quietly ignore one or both policies.  

      IIRC it is the popcorn sales that are split between troop and council (council uses such money for campgrounds and council wide projects).  National income is from membership fees. 

      It is a pity the boys (and scout leaders) have no voice in national policy as views on gays might be changing  a bit faster.  I note the girls 14 and over in the Girl Scouts (and adult members both male and female) do have a voice as they elect delegates for council and indirectly national (the San Jacinto council delegation to national for 2011-2014 has 8 girls and 28 adults (3 of whom are male judging by their names)).

    • Deven Kale

       I think most atheist groups accept pretty much anybody as long as they don’t start causing problems. So even if you’re a fundy, just don’t show up to cause trouble and they’re just as welcome as anyone. I don’t know of any studies where that’s been tested, but you can always try to join an atheist group yourself and see how it goes.

      • ProfessorTom

        I think the same is true for scouts, Deven, at least for kids.   Show up an mumble through the oath, don’t talk about your sexual proclivities (gay or straight), and you’ll do fine.  There is a reason why there are many atheist and gay Eagle Scouts.

        The “just don’t show up to cause trouble” bit applies as well.  Come with your child on the first day and have him refuse to participate in the Oath because you don’t believe in gods and want to challenge the stated mission of the organization, and I’m not sure it’s surprising that the reception would be the same as a Fundamentalist showing up just to evangelize the atheists.

        • amycas

           Ah, I see, so it’s DADT for scouting then. That’s totes reasonable.

          • ProfessorTom

            Yes, DADT has been the official BSA position with respect to adults.  

            For youth, it’s a bit more nuanced.  There is no requirement to remove gay youth who are not disruptive, and outside of a few religiously-sponsored units that have their own views, most scout units would not.   Similarly, most scout leaders are perfectly happy allowing youth to explore their belief (or lack of belief) in God(s), and even encourage such exploration.  

            In many cases, only when they come to Eagle Scout are they asked to consider whether they can honestly take the Scout Oath and apply for the highest award of a group with which they disagree, and the primary reason for that is to help them form their own sense of integrity.

            • smrnda

               Wow, great. So as long as gay youth stay in the closet and keep a low profile they’ll totally be treated the same as straight kids. Are you trying to suggest to me that this implies fair treatment, or is just just some privilege talking? I’ve run into too many straight people who feel that well, since gay people can hide it or keep it a secret they can just stay in the closet.

              What if the Scouts actively discriminated against say, Christians? Couldn’t Christian kids just keep quiet, hope the adults they work with are a little more tolerant than the ones at the national level, and occasionally just mutter “Jesus is not the Son of God and was a false prophet” or remain respectfully silent while the other Scouts said so? I’m sure nobody would say this is fair treatment of them.

    • Zugswang

       Tom, the sad fact is, much of that money does go to the national organization.  While some of the money does, indeed, never see the hands of anyone outside of the troop, the rest of it does go to council and national in several forms:

      - Membership dues: some troops pay for the membership of their adult volunteers, and many have at least a few scouts who need sponsorship to participate simply because of the annual cost of membership (the cost of membership is not expensive; it’s only $15 a year, but spread across between 5-10 adult leaders, and x number of boys, that number adds up)

      - Uniforms, badges, etc. – This is one of the biggest regular costs to scouts, the shirt, pants, neckerchief, badges, etc.  Many troops pay for all scouts’ badges, awards, and neckerchiefs, and for those scouts that would otherwise have trouble affording the rest of the uniform (class A shirt and pants can run about $30-$50 a piece), the troop may choose to help them to purchase those with money they receive from these fundraisers.

      - Summer camps, high adventure bases, etc. – This is where the biggest chunk of fundraising money often goes.  Troops who want to attend a council-run summer camp, or one of the national high adventure bases (Philmont, Sea Base, Northern Tier) use these sales to blunt the cost of transportation, lodging, and the charges associated with the camp/HAB itself (just as an example, if you want to go to Philmont, the cost of just participating in the 10-day backpacking trek is ~$500; this doesn’t include transportation or lodging prior to arriving)

      (this isn’t just someone talking out of his ass; I was an ASM for 10 years, and also held a volunteer position at my local council)

      • ProfessorTom

        Fair enough, but that in turn requires some more careful research.  Summer camps are of course run by local councils, and the approach of local councils to this issue is quite diverse.  Indeed, many are leading the internal opposition to the BSA’s policies.

        High adventure bases are separate cost centers and generally money-losers for the national organization.

        Supply division (uniforms and badges) does make money.

        As an ASM, though, you would know that fundraising goes almost exclusively toward camping opportunities.  To the extent it supports uniforms for the poor it’s buying them off of EBay, which does not make the national organization any money.

        I guess the question would be how comfortable are you making the same sort of argument as the Catholic Church makes about birth control?  No money or support for health care that benefits lots of people if it includes a few dollars for something with which you disagree?

        For me, I’m willing to buy a Christmas tree despite the risk that fifty cents of that purchase might go toward buying an award patch for Environmental Science, 15 cents of which may go to the national BSA.   It may well mean that boy in the future supports science and environmental responsibility.

        • Zugswang

          ——–”Summer
          camps are of course run by local councils, and the approach of local councils
          to this issue is quite diverse.”

          Nonetheless, councils (and regions) are still beholden to the dictates at the
          national level; it’s an organizational hierarchy not unlike the Catholic
          Church.  So while individuals may
          dissent, BSA employees at any level must still act in accordance with national
          policy, and generally, if word of a gay/non-theist scout/volunteer reaches the
          district or council level, it’s the result of a discovery made by an unhappy parent
          or volunteer, or someone with an axe to grind.  In those cases, you’re in
          an official capacity as an employee of the BSA, and have to follow policy; the
          only other option left to you is how your employment with the scouts will be
          terminated.  Regardless of the individual
          makeup of a district/council/regional staff, they are still official arms of
          the national organization.  They simply
          do not have the degree of autonomy you perceive them as having. 

                                                                                            

          I
          know this, because I had to go through my own witch trial at my local council
          when one of the parents in my troop was unhappy that a non-Christian was well
          on his way to earning his Eagle Scout Award, and falsely accused me of being an
          atheist (at the time, I was an actively practicing Buddhist).

          ———-”As an ASM, though, you would know that fundraising goes almost
          exclusively toward camping opportunities…does not make the national
          organization any money.”

          While it’s true that, generally, the majority of a troop’s annual budget goes
          to paying for outings, many of those outings are to council-operated camps or
          national high adventure bases, and the amount that goes to purchases made at
          the scout shops are still substantial. 
          And it is very uncommon to see participants or troops purchasing them
          second-hand (it’s actually more common that gently used uniforms are donated
          and redistributed at the council level). 
          The uniforms a troop purchases for its youth with limited means are, by
          in large, still purchased directly from scout shops.

          ———–”High adventure bases are separate cost centers and generally
          money-losers for the national organization.”

          All high adventure bases are run by BSA employees at the national level. 
          As for HABs operating at a loss, I’d be interested to know where you got this
          information, because I also worked at the Philmont Scout Ranch for 3
          years.  True, 30-40 years ago, it operated at a loss (which is why Waite
          Phillips also donated the Philtower Building in Tulsa), but the ranch has
          actually been profitable for quite some time, and the BSA sold the Philtower
          back in the late 70’s when the building’s revenues began to fall well below the
          cost of maintenance in the wake of a recession. 

           

          National
          high adventure bases don’t stay open if they’re losing money.  As a matter
          of fact, the recent closing of the Double H Ranch was precisely because it was
          losing money, as was the case in the 1980′s when another high adventure base in
          Kentucky closed down (it was eventually reopened, and was operated until
          recently by the now defunct Shawnee Trails council.  The last I had heard
          from the merger meetings between two other councils, this camp’s future is
          highly questionable).

          ——–”I guess the question would be how comfortable are you making the
          same sort of argument as the Catholic Church makes about birth control?”

          And I would respond that this is a false equivalence; the questions facing the the
          Catholic Church revolve around issues of legal exemptions on the grounds of
          religious belief, medical necessity, public good, etc.  This is an
          argument of whether I should voluntarily give my money to a charity that holds
          positions with which I disagree.  It’s a
          comparison that is absurd on its face. 
          Additionally, if I don’t give to the scouts, it isn’t as if that money
          will no longer go to helping youth participants in similar programs.  The money I would have spent on the BSA goes,
          instead, to organizations like Camp
          Quest, Girl Scouts of
          America, etc.

           

          ——–“For
          me, I’m willing to buy a Christmas tree despite the risk that fifty cents of
          that purchase might go toward buying an award patch for Environmental Science,
          15 cents of which may go to the national BSA.   It may well mean that boy
          in the future supports science and environmental responsibility.”

           

          And
          if you’re willing, that is fine by me.  I
          may disagree, but you ultimately get to choose what you do with your
          discretionary income and where it goes. 
          But I hold that it isn’t the only rational choice, and many of the arguments
          I’ve read here to the contrary, thus far, seem more conjectural than
          substantive and take on the distinct characteristic of someone who is concern
          trolling, rather than making an argument in good faith.

          • Zugswang

             Also, I have no clue why my last post was formatted so strangely.

          • ProfessorTom

            Yes, that formatting was odd.

            I’d suggest that there’s a difference between making a personal choice about one’s discretionary funds and issuing a public call for a boycott.  The latter is a deliberate effort to use economic pressure to force another to change behavior or beliefs.   I’m arguing that using coercion to cause another person to convert to your way of thinking is not appropriate.

            Wouldn’t you agree?

            In those rare cases where economic sanctions are appropriate (perhaps as an alternative to war), I would argue they should be carefully chosen so as to be properly targeted and not to hurt the innocent.  

            Wouldn’t you agree?

            A far better boycott target would be the companies of BSA board members.

            As for trolling, if someone posts a blog on Scouting and opens it to comments, do you think it is surprising that someone with an interest in Scouting would come to post on it?   Implying that they are somehow trolling doesn’t quite seem fair, does it?

            • Zugswang

              —-”I’m arguing that using coercion to cause another person to convert to your way of thinking is not appropriate.”

              And I’m saying that I don’t want my money to go to charities that do things I find to be distinctly uncharitable.  Scouting is welcome to continue its discriminatory policies, but it won’t do so with my financial support.  In the same way, I’ll permit people to practice their faith, but I won’t give them money to do so.  Not giving them money does not mean I’m trying to coerce them into abandoning their faith, but at the same time, I won’t support the propagation and promotion of beliefs I find to be erroneous and unethical.

              —- “I would argue they should be carefully chosen so as to be properly targeted and not to hurt the innocent.”

              There is no way to take any action without causing indirect negative externalities to some party, somewhere.  If we send a man to life in prison for a murder he commits, we also create a variety of additional difficulties for that man’s family, any businesses he may work at or own, etc.  But the negative impact that results from sending a murderer to prison is far less than the negative impact of not sending him to prison, or giving him a sentence that does not appropriately reflect the severity and depravity of his crime. 

              In the same way, I would argue that the negative impact of providing financial support of the BSA and de facto approval or indifference to its discriminatory policies is worse than the relatively mild negative impact that some scout might not be able to go to a summer camp.

              Additionally, the implied choice between buying a tree and not is a false
              dichotomy.  The money we don’t spend isn’t just going to stay in our
              wallets, as I mentioned before.  That money I don’t spend at a scout
              troop’s tree lot will go to other youth orgs that I’ve previously identified; it will do an equivalent
              amount of good for some other group of kids in a different organization.  So in the end, I feel I’m doing a greater amount of good by giving to them, instead.

              ——”As for trolling, if someone posts a blog on Scouting and opens it to
              comments, do you think it is surprising that someone with an interest in
              Scouting would come to post on it?   Implying that they are somehow
              trolling doesn’t quite seem fair, does it?”

              It’s not so much that you’re coming to comment and make an argument.  This, alone does not a troll make.  Rather, it’s the way that these arguments had originally been stated.  For example, the indication of a perceived hypocrisy followed by asking questions that establish false equivalencies or dichotomies are fairly common characteristics of arguments put forth by someone who is really just concern trolling.  Granted, it is sometimes difficult to tell between a concern troll someone making sincere, but unconvincing arguments.

    • Superdove

      You point out that  “The scouts have never tried to use the courts to force atheist groups to accept fundamentalist Christian members…”

      That is correct. Atheists have no problem pushing their agenda upon others, (suing in court at the slightest infraction) even though others take a more hands-off, respectful tone.

      After reading this post, I will seek out the scouts selling trees so I can offer support. Boycotting kids who are trying to do something positive is mean-spirited. 

      (Isn’t the BSA a private organization anyway?)

      • smrnda

         I don’t think anyone is pushing their agenda forcefully on anyone else. They’re just deciding not to give their money to an organization based on its discriminatory policies. It is a private organization and can make its own rules, but as a private citizen I can decide that I’m not giving any of my private money to any private organization whose policies I disagree with. If they want my money, they can change their policies.

  • Ginga1015

    The Boy Scouts are a Christian organization.  Why would an atheist or a homosexual want to be in??  Do they think they are coming in to try to convert?

    • Spamamander

       If it is a “Christian Organization”, (which materials do NOT say they are) then they need to stop accepting government money,  stop handing out materials in schools, and refrain from using public facilities at reduced prices, as well as moving away from political activity like naming the PotUS as “President of the Boy Scouts”. They want it both ways- be able to discriminate against certain classes of people because of “moral” (ie religious) beliefs, but yet be supported by the government.

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        It’s blatantly untrue, anyway. The BSA allows Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, among others, and has special religious emblems for a variety of religions.

        http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/ReligiousAwards/chart.aspx

        All they require is that you believe in at least one deity. It doesn’t matter which one. Which I find strange because isn’t a child who has been taught to believe in multiple gods and goddesses just as much of a “heathen” as an atheist child?

    • He-she

      Where do boys who want to find other boys go? Joining the Boy Scouts seem a good place. Lots of opportunities.

      • Superdove

        yuck.

        • amycas

           Is it also yuck when girls and boys want to seek each other out…or is your outburst just a symptom of homophobia (i.e. the “ick factor”)

          • Superdove

            in He – she’s outburst, he (or is it she?)  is sexualizing a kids organization. One can be an atheist and still have morals, I am told.

            • Deven Kale

               You do realize that it’s a valid question when you consider that the BSA is not just a kids organization is the standard sense of how people use kid: meaning children 12 and under. It’s also full of teenagers not only discovering their sexuality but experimenting with it as well. There are bound to be some of them who are gay who decide to stay in scouts simply because it’s a large group of boys their same age. Not necessarily for sexual purposes, but that possibility can’t be ruled out completely either.

              So again, when taken in the context of a large group of of-age, likely already sexually active teenage boys, what is this “yuck-factor” you speak of?

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I wonder if I am the only atheist reader bothered by referring to those who would discriminate against homosexuals and atheists as assholes.

    • Sindigo

      I think “asshole” is fine. What bothers you about it?

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        I think, at least, some Christians discriminate against atheists and homosexuals because they sincerely believe they are doing what is right. It may make them wrong, but not assholes. What do you think?

        • Sindigo

          I guess you’ve got a point but I’m not sure that a religious point of view is justification for bigotry. A dick move is a dick move, regardless of your reasoning and I think it makes you an asshole. To my mind, calling you anything else is pandering.

          Of course, calling someone an asshole does nothing to open lines of dialogue, project a good image of the godless, create an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect or any of that good stuff but maybe there’s value in calling someone out in such a vociferous way. Maybe said asshole will take a look at himself and think “Maybe I am being an asshole?”. Maybe.

          It’s been a while since I read the Bible. I don’t recall Jesus specifically saying “Don’t be an asshole” but maybe it’s in there somewhere. I will admit to having skim-read some of it. ;)

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

            At least part of this hinges upon what it means to be an asshole (or a dick). While I think I have a firm grasp of the meanings of such words, I’m not sure I could produce a clear definition. This might be why I object to the drawing, and others don’t; my “asshole” might be malformed.

            A think a major component of being an asshole is knowing or deliberate rudeness or inappropriate behavior, either for its own sake, or as a result of a priority higher than not being rude. This is why I disqualify kind, well-intentioned people who simply don’t know better.

            • Sindigo

              I see your point, I’m just not sure I can fit bigots of any flavour into my idea of kind, well-intentioned people.

              I wouldn’t like to speculate on the topology of your asshole.

        • Nope

          I think that still makes them an asshole.

        • amycas

           You’ve got a point, but it sounds an awful lot like what people often tell me about Christian proselytizers–”If you were in their shoes, and knew that somebody would go to hell forever because they didn’t know Jesus, wouldn’t the loving thing be to tell others about it?” To which I reply, no, the loving thing would be to tell that sadistic god to go fuck himself. It’s not very loving to worship the thing that would send others to be tortured forever.

          I feel the same way about this “they’re only bigots because it’s their religion and they think it’s right” line. Well, their religion also says slavery and genocide is ok, but they’re not out advocating for slavery and genocide. At some level, they are using their own moral reasoning to decide which religious moral proclamations to follow and which ones to ignore.

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

            I’m still pondering this, but it seems inaccurate to call someone an asshole if they do something wrong because they think it’s right.

            By the way, if the threat of hell is real, as you mention in your first paragraph, then telling a god to fuck off won’t change anything. Further, if that action replaces informing others, then it would worsen the situation by serving to persist the ignorance of the unsaved.

            • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

              I’d have more respect for people with that worldview if they said that their god is an abusive sadist and admitted that they worshipped it and followed its rules out of fear. That would at least make logical sense to me. But they never do that. Instead, they insist that their god is loving and try to justify the most horrible parts of their belief system as moral and just.

              • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                I’m with you on that, but I realize it won’t happen. The belief system prevents it.


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