Believing in a Higher Power Shouldn’t Be a Prerequisite to Becoming a Boy Scout

Tom Krattenmaker, author of The Evangelicals You Don’t Know, has written a column for USA Today in which he brings up the other question we’re all asking about the Boy Scouts of America:

When will the Boy Scouts accept the non-religious?

Ultimately, it would be self-defeating for the Boy Scouts to forfeit the chance to spread Scouting skills and values among the population of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or otherwise not religious. More and more youths are growing up in non-religious homes; why would the organization squander the opportunity to serve and influence these boys?

Yes, as a private association, the Boy Scouts have a right to decide for themselves who’s in and who’s out. But just because they can exclude atheists doesn’t mean they should.

The issue isn’t whether atheists can be good scouts — many already are and many have become Eagle Scouts. But, like their gay counterparts in this regard, they’ve had to do so while keeping an important part of their identity under wraps.

There’s no good reason for that.

The Boy Scouts of America can ban atheists and gay people if they want to. But if they do, we’re going to call their leaders out on it and let the world know what kind of bigots they are.

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.

  • primenumbers

    Well if they won’t allow those that don’t believe in a power higher than themselves in, they’d have to exclude Jesus.

    • The Other Weirdo

      I am not sure that follows. Can you explain?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

        According to some religions Jesus is God, and god is the highest power. Jesus can’t believe in a higher power than himself because there is no higher power.

        • The Other Weirdo

          I am pretty sure the part in the OT where God claims that his ways are not our ways gives Christians an out in this case. Though I must say, that’s a pretty convoluted reasoning, even for religious people. How many people actually hold it?

        • primenumbers

          That’s exactly what I was referring to Brian.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          I think changing water into wine would get you a nifty merit badge.

  • The Captain

    I have to admit this is the other shoe that I’m most interested in seeing how it drops. If the BS decide no to let in gay people there will be a large outcry, big fuss, pressure will continue, yada yada, yada. As it should. But if they do decide to let in homosexuals,this is when we find out who our friends really are. I wonder how many of those that lobbied for, went to the press, called for boycotts in that cause, will even bat an eyelash that atheist are still able to be discriminated against once gay people are allowed in.

    I really hope I’m wrong, but I got a funny feeling I can’t shake that once the homosexual battle against BS discrimination is won all we’re going to hear is crickets.

    • Artor

      You’re probably right, but our time will come. It’s not like we’re going to stop bitching.

  • fiona64

    The original intent of the Boy Scouts was to have a secular, non-factionist organization to help inner-city English boys who were displaced by the Industrial Revolution. It was only when the organization came to the US, and churches started chartering troops, that the concept of a religious test came into play at all.

    It’s ridiculous; one need not believe in a particular deity, or any deity, to benefit from learning useful skills.

    • JET

      I don’t know the numbers, but I believe the Mormon church is HUGE in sponsoring Boy Scout troops. We’re in liberal California, but years ago when we were thinking about the Scouts, our local troop was sponsored by the Mormon church, the leader was a Mormon and the meetings were at the local ward. We said “No thanks.”

      • SecularPatriot

        By default, every Mormom boy is a due paying member of the BSA. Whether they attend or have a troop is another matter. In essence, the Mormons own scouting.

        I believe this has been true since 1979 when the BSA moved to the right and took a firm stance against gays/atheists a few years later. I desperately tried to find the link for that one, but if memory serves, it was a calculated move and ordered at the very top of mormonism.

        • Gus Snarp

          Wow, I did not know they all paid dues no matter what. That’s huge, and creepy.

          • Erp

            Actually the church pays the membership fee and funds their scouting units (and usually at a far higher level than it funds their internal young women’s program to the disgruntlement of some Mormon women). The families are paying through their tithings to the church whether or not they have boys. Also the boy’s parents still have to sign the forms; however, it is expected for any active member. Note the LDS is more influential by the number of units is charters than the number of boys it has in scouting since representation at the council level is by unit (e.g., a parent’s group sponsoring one troop with 75 members has 1/5 the clout of the LDS iwhich sponsors 5 troops with a total of 75 members [LDS troops on average are smaller than non-LDS troops]). At the national level representation is roughly by numbers in each council but the representatives are chosen by the councils not directly by the members.

            • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

              Wow, so that’s how they manipulate the system.

        • JET

          Great link. It also says that the LDS church has threatened the BSA that they will quit registering every one of their boys and paying dues if they change their policy on homosexuality. Because each ward sponsors multiple troops even if they’re technically not active, it would mean a huge loss of revenue for the BSA. We thought the whole Mormon connection was a little creepy, but I had no idea they were this powerful an influence. Sounds like another marketing tool for their church.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

          Along with the Mormons, the Catholic Church is a very big contributor to the BSA. It is specifically called “a youth ministry” – http://www.scouting.org/About/FactSheets/operating_orgs/Catholic.aspx

          And when I was in Catholic grade school, there was a big religious component to the school-sponsored scouting program (although I never became a boy scout – that was about the time when I started switching schools).

  • NogahdzNoughmasters

    My little tiger cub scout is a positive atheist (his own choice, I swear! We’re totally hands off regarding that.) So far we’ve had no issues. A cursory mention of god in the pledge and that’s it. We skip the church electives and so far it’s a non issue. Lets hope it stays that way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      Why are you seemingly proud about being “hands off”? What do you mean by “hands off”? Why wouldn’t you teach your child what you believe about gods and why? If that’s not what you meant then how can one be hands on in a way that forces your child to be a positive atheist? What more could you do that you would consider wrong and also effective at making it your choice that he IS a positive atheist. Would it be beatings, and if so how can one administer a beating in a way that generates such a belief. Would you beat him with a cross, for instance?

      I’m serious. I don’t understand this line of thinking. I understand how you can force ignorance on someone by keeping them locked in a cage from birth, however to be a positive atheist he would need to be exposed to the things he is rejecting. To teach him why you reject the Christian god you’d have to teach him about it.

      • Gus Snarp

        I consider myself “hands off”, and I haven’t really taught my kids much about the Christian God. I don’t think you really have to teach kids about any particular god for them to decide to reject the notion of gods in general. After all, how many gods do you and I not even know about who we would automatically reject because we reject the concept of god? Well, I would at least.

        Here’s what “hands off” means to me: I answer questions when the come up, directly, honestly, and with as much information as is needed to give the answer and no more. A Tiger Cub, as mentioned in the comment above, is six or seven years old. About the same age as my oldest. The questions are pretty simple, and the answers have to be too. So I tell him some people believe in a god or some gods, most in America believe in the Christian God. His mother and I do not, because we have a pretty good understanding of how the world works and to us it doesn’t make sense to insert a god in that working. He says he doesn’t believe in God either, but most of his friends do. So I also told him the important thing to me is not what he believes, but how he figures out what’s real, and that a lot of people believing something doesn’t necessarily make it real.

        Now some people might think this is hands on, because I’m talking about it at all, but I think it’s pretty hands off. Hands on is more my approach to science, where I’ll make a point of introducing science experiments to him that I think he can get and explaining why they work. I’m pro-active. I’m not so pro-active with regard to religion.

        Although he once asked what church was and that conversation did lead me to explain that it’s a place where people go every week to listen to a boring lecture about how to be good people because apparently they can’t manage to remember from one week to another.

        • NogahdzNoughmasters

          Thanks Gus! That would have been my response, essentially. You saved me quite a bit of typing (at which I am so slow).

      • NogahdzNoughmasters

        I simply mean we don’t push anything, beliefwise,on him. I’m not “proud” (or ashamed) to be “hands off”, it’s just the way we choose to parent. I only mentioned it because it would seem odd to most people that a 6-7 year old would say things to his little sister like “God is just made up!” when she talks of things like that. It surprised me to hear him say things like that since we don’t rail against “stupid god believers” or anything like that at home. AS for the better details, see Gus’s response below as it sums up my views as well.

      • JET

        Hands off is a rather subjective term. We were “hands off” in that we never told our kids they were atheists. We felt that was as ridiculous as our parents telling us we were Catholics. We did try to teach them to think for themselves, use logic and common sense, be good and considerate people, and value education, but we never once brought them to church. They had the inevitable questions about why some of their friends went to church and they didn’t and we answered them as honestly as we could in light of their age at the time. Fortunately, not ALL of their friends went to church or we would have had a much more difficult time explaining why we had no need to do so. It wasn’t until their early teens that we got the direct question “So what do you guys believe?” and we told them. By that time there was sort of big sighs of relief all around as they had come to that conclusion themselves. And there began some wonderful philosophical conversations around the dinner table!

        I’m not going to say that we had no influence over their beliefs at all, because as their parents of course we did. We never hid our lack of religion from them and quite often said very negative things about specific aspects of religion either to them or within earshot of them. But you could say we were relatively “hands off” compared to some parents in that we never said “You will believe this OR ELSE!” There were many outside influences as well. A close friend of theirs committed suicide when his very religious parents condemned and abandoned him when he told them he was gay. Another religious friend was arrested for grand theft. Another for selling drugs. A couple of pregnancies because condoms are bad! They learned for themselves that religious and good have nothing to do with one another.

        The idea that some magical force must be the explanation for things one doesn’t comprehend was understandable in the past. But in this age of reason, science, and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, religion is no longer the natural default. Hundreds of years of education and research have taught us that things are known or knowable, and that things can be fixed if we just figure out how to do it. No need to suppose magic or pray for divine intervention! If religious parents took a more “hands off” approach and just allowed their children to get a modern education, the world would be full of atheists.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    There is a special place in my heart for the bigoted Boy Scouts of America. What amazes me are the otherwise good people who support the BSA’s special brand of bigotry.

  • scipio1

    The Captain is spot on. Sticking up for LGBT(…) today is easy and fashionable. Atheists, not so much.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      Easy? Fashionable? Didn’t a couple of gay guys just get a beat down for their fashion sense right in the heart of NYC? NYC mind you, not Buttfuck, Mississippi. I don’t think that was the Captain’s point at all.

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

    Why not take advantage of such loose wording?

    A quick list of “higher power,” in no particular order: The nearby star we call the sun; A taller-than-oneself human; Electricity in wires on utility poles; Any given exponent, relatively speaking; Cannabis; A trampoline; The President of the United States of America;

    • Zugswang

      The current means of circumventing this requirement is claiming Unitarianism as your religion, which allows atheists. So it’s a technicality that allows them to serve, just not openly as atheists.

      It’s still absolutely wrong (not admitting atheists outright, I mean), but it’s the most common tactic used by fellow atheists who don’t want to be completely dishonest on the application.

      After I self-identified as an atheist, I just couldn’t volunteer any more for an organization that effectively stated that the Oath and remaining 11 points of the scout law are moot without reverence. A group with a core tenet that humans are so baseless and immoral they need a whimsical supernatural figure to tell them what to do is not something with which I would wish to associate.

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

        Is being a scout really so great that it’s worth lying to get in? It seems to me like employing the Universalist technicality would violate being trustworthy, thus making the scout even less fit as a scout.

        Regarding the issue, I think we should try to have their federal funding stopped, rather than make them admit atheists and homosexuals.

        Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s certainly more revealing and relevant than what I posted earlier.

        • Zugswang

          For some people, it is worth twisting the facts to stay on as a scout or an adult volunteer. I don’t recommend it, but I can understand the desire to want to remain in the scouts. I was in the BSA for nearly 15 years as a scout and a scoutmaster, and it wasn’t something that was easy to leave behind.

          In the meantime, I’m hoping a group like the Baden-Powell Scouting Association gains greater prominence in the US.

        • Gus Snarp

          I think saying the oath with the words “do my duty to God”, which I don’t believe is optional, violates trustworthy no matter what.

      • Steve Willy

        So why haven’t you shot yourself in the face yet? No atheistic position can be taken seriously until two threshold questions can coherently be answered. 1. Why is the atheist even engaging in the debate. On atheism, there is no objective basis for even ascertaining truth; there is no immaterial aspect to consciousness and all mental states are material. Therefore, everyone who ever lived and ever will live could be wrong about a thing. By what standard would that ever be ascertained on atheism? Also if atheism is true, there is no objective meaning to existence and no objective standard by which the ‘rational’ world view of atheism is more desirable, morally or otherwise, to the ‘irrational’ beliefs of religion. Ridding the world of the scourge of religion, so that humanity can ‘progress’ or outgrow it, is not a legitimate response to this because on atheism, there is no reason to expect humanity to progress or grow. We are a historical accident that should fully expect to be destroyed by the next asteriod, pandemic, or fascist atheist with a nuke. In short, if atheism is correct, there is no benefit, either on an individual or societal level, to knowing this or to spreading such ‘knowledge.’
        2. Related to this, why is the atheist debater even alive to participate. If there is no heaven, no hell, no afterlife at all, only an incredibly window of blind pitiless indifference, then the agony of struggling to exist, seeing loved ones die, and then dying yourself can never be outweighed by any benefit to existing. As rude as it way sound the atheist should have a coherent explanation for why they chose to continue existing. Failure to adequately address these threshold questions should result in summary rejection of the neckbeard’s position.

        In the end, we all know you can’t answer these questions because yours is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

        • trj

          Oh dear, maybe you should think things through somewhat before posting such drivel.

          On atheism, there is no objective basis for even ascertaining truth

          You mean apart from empiricism, the method shown historically to be the most successful and productive method of acquiring truth? The method which actually produces tangible and verifiable results, unlike revelation and theology?

          if atheism is true, there is no objective meaning to existence…

          We assign our own subjective meaning to our existence – usually it’s things like family, friends, career, etc. The same as theists.

          if atheism is true, there is … no objective standard by which the ‘rational’ world view of atheism is more desirable, morally or otherwise, to the ‘irrational’ beliefs of religion.

          So any value judgement should be automatically disregarded because it can’t be compared to some divine cheat list which contains all the correct answers?

          In moral matters atheists and humanists have to justify by argument why their opinion makes sense. I much prefer that to the theist who simply refers to his Bible to say something is right or wrong.

          Also, it’s interesting to note that even though you Christians looove to claim you have objective answers you can’t agree what those answers are. So why should we trust your “objective” answers? Why should we trust you have any at all, for that matter?

          atheist should have a coherent explanation for why they chose to continue existing.

          Huh? Why the fuck should we kill ourselves? We are perfectly capable of finding happiness and meaning in our lives. We don’t need some predetermined, preexisting meaning invented by God to lead full lives. We leave the evaluation of our lives to ourselves and our fellow humans, rather than some invisible cosmic judge.

    • Gus Snarp

      I don’t know. The oath says “God”. I for one am not going to promise to do my duty to God when I don’t believe in a god, no matter what kind of semantic games one can play around policy. I don’t think my son will either, but we’ll just have to see how that plays out as I’m leaving the final decision up to him.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Perhaps another approach that should be considered is competing with the Boy Scouts instead of waiting, and hoping, and pleading, and protesting, and waiting some more for them to get off their 1907 mummified asses and change their ways. Screw them. How about a 21st century-oriented organization that models the best of the scouts but doesn’t include the religiously-based bigotry?

    • anniewhoo

      I agree Richard. Even if children who are atheists can sneak in the back door, I really don’t think most parents who identify as atheists want their child to be a part of a group that requires their children to keep quiet about a part of their identity and world view. If our community created a secular, science based scout-type group for children, I would be more than happy to be a group moderator/leader in North Central Florida.

    • Claire Gilder

      We are members of the Baden-Powell Service Association, an inclusive scouting group fairly popular in the UK & Oz, just getting started in the States. It’s traditional scouting without the bigotry. My 7y/o just got back from his first camping trip.

    • hailey

      Damn skippy! When and if the day comes that my son wants to join the Boy Scouts, I’ll be scouting for a secular organization. No way do I want my son to join a group that only accepting certain kinds of people because of pressure from the media or the law.

    • Gus Snarp

      I appreciate this idea, but I have a problem with it. The BSA is a massive nationwide organization that provides a top award that has cachet with employers and even gets you an automatic promotion on enlistment with the military. It is respected and supported by schools and government and is recognized world wide. If a competing organization that was properly inclusive could reach that level it would be great, but the fact is that over a century of organization and reputation building is unlikely to be repeated. There is just very little chance that a competing organization will reach that level. To me it is worthwhile to try to change the Boy Scouts. It may be unlikely, but I don’t think it’s any more unlikely than getting another organization to the point that it’s actually competitive.

      That doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of joining and supporting those other organizations, I am, but I think the overall strategy should be to push the BSA to change by joining and supporting competitors over the BSA, lobbying the BSA directly, lobbying government regarding their support of the BSA, pressuring the private sector over their donations to the BSA, and publicizing the problems with the BSA. I don’t think it’s one or the other, all of these things must be done. They all lead to one of two end results, both of which are acceptable, and working toward one does not mean a diminishing of the other. All these tactics will work to both pressure the BSA AND improve the competitiveness of other organizations. Either the BSA will comply and change OR they will lose their privilege and prominence and other organizations will rise in prominence. I don’t care much which end result we get, and I don’t think we can really control it. Everything we can do to reach one could also reach the other. It just depends on who gets on board and how the BSA and other organizations respond.

      • Spuddie

        One should also not discount the resistance from within the organization to the discriminatory practices. There is a large number of current and former Eagle Scouts, scout leaders and parents of scouts who are active in voicing their disapproval of the policies. One of the most prominent I can think of is Michael Bloomberg, mayor of NY and former head of the National Eagle Scout Association. For the most part the current generation of scouts and many former ones of the Gen X, Y and Millenials bitterly oppose

      • FBG

        The core supporters and enthusiasts of scouting will stop being involved in scouting if you have your way with “inclusiveness.” Which is what you want anyway. But it will collapse the organization.

        • Gus Snarp

          Yes, forget the Eagle Scouts and leaders like myself and Spuddie who have abandoned the organization as it is. If the future success of the BSA is entirely dependent on a right wing religious minority (mainly the Mormon church), then by all means, it should collapse.

          But I don’t see it that way. I think it will either change and remain acceptable to broader society and maintain it’s image and reputation as the foremost youth organization in America, or it will keep its archaic rules and collapse in on itself until it is entirely a right wing fringe movement and arm of the Mormon church.

          • Spuddie

            I feel lucky that the troop of my youth, which is still going strong, always had a non-sectarian, non-discriminatory backbone to it.

            It was the troop in my town kids would go to if their parents were uncomfortable with the overt sectarianism of the Catholic Church funded troop. Being funded by a veteran’s organization, and located in an ethnically mixed suburb, Evangelical and Mormon influence was non-existent.

            To their credit, for the last 30 years, they have either ignored or openly defied the bans to no ill effect. Much of it coming from the fact that they traditionally produced a very high number of eagle scouts in the district. The District would rather have the prestige of a continual stream of Eagle Scouts than negative PR.

            I still support the troop in various ways, but I refuse to deal with anything beyond that level.

            I look forward to the day I can stop having to prep Eagle candidates on questions concerning “The 2 Gs” (Gays and God)

  • Artor

    The BSA has shown itself to be a fossilized, overtly Xtian organization. For those who are okay with that; fine. If not, why bother trying to change them? They won’t do it, or if they do, only by grudging, half-hearted & insincere measures. Far better to put our resources into developing a secular alternative, like CampQuest. We all know BSA is run by bigots now. Keep calling them out on it, but don’t expect them to change.

  • SJH

    Children who may be atheist are not prohibited from joining. Adults atheists however are. This only makes sense if you believe that the existence of God is the root of all morality. It would be like having an atheist club and allowing an adult leader to teach your kids that morality comes from God. You would ask that they find another group.

    Regarding homosexuality, it makes more sense to allow the homosexual because there is a potential that they still believe in God.

    Also, their proposed language would not allow adult homosexual leadership either. If the language is adopted then atheists and homosexuals will be in the same boat.

    Here is a link to the current policy:

    http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/KnowTheFacts/CurrentPolicy.aspx

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      It also makes sense to fly planes into buildings if you truly believe in Islam. That doesn’t make it right. Allowing an atheist scout leader is not like have an atheist club where a adult leader teaches the kids that morality comes from god. The boy scouts are a religion, and they don’t teach were morality comes from. I was in the BS and the subject never came up, ever.

      No, it is like having a youth group which is controlled by bigoted atheists that will not allow Christians to join because they don’t want their children to see that it is possible for a Christian to be behave morally. Behave, not teach the source.

    • Gus Snarp

      That’s not exactly accurate. The link you gave is to a very brief summary, which includes the words “meets the membership requirements”. You’ve got to dig a little deeper to find the actual requirements (http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/KnowTheFacts/Background.aspx )which include:

      The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.

      The Scout Oath includes a promise to “do my duty to God” and the Law includes “A Scout is Reverent”. The declaration of Religious Principle (http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/GuideToAdvancement/Appendix/CharterAndBylaws.aspx ) states:

      The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God……The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.

      So the BSA tries to bury it and not talk about and to get fancy with semantics, but basically belief in God is a membership requirement. Now I could probably agree to be “reverent” and content with it meaning something different to me. But I could not, and could not encourage my child to, take an oath to do a duty to God, no matter how nebulously others are willing to interpret that word. And the Membership Requirements don’t make it sound very nebulous when they talk about “God as the ruling and leading power of the universe” who bestows “favors and blessings” that we should be “grateful” for.

  • Erp

    The Boy Scouts of America do kick out atheist youth (at least those who aren’t willing to abide by the oath). To be exact “All that is required
    is the acknowledgment of belief in God as stated in
    the Scout Oath, and the ability to be reverent as stated
    in the Scout Law.” Note however that Buddhists can be Scouts though their numbers are small (about 1600 total youth) in the BSA (internationally though there are a lot of Buddhist scouts [Thailand is a big scouting country]).

    The World Organization defines ‘duty to God’ (one of the three duties that a scout is suppose to have) as “Adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom” which deliberately does not mention belief in god. An official document, “Fundamental Principles” which expands on the three duties further states “It should be noted that, by contrast to the title, the body of the text
    does not use the word “God”, in order to make it clear that the clause
    also covers religions which are non-monotheistic, such as Hinduism, or
    those which do not recognize a personal God, such as Buddhism.” So the BSA’s usage is more restrictive than the international organization (and there are some national members of the international organization that are lenient; several do not mention ‘god’ in their promises and never have).

    Alternative organizations do exist. The largest is probably Campfire USA which was originally set up by some of the BSA’s founders as a girl’s alternative to the BSA (the BSA had very rocky relations with the Girl Scouts of the USA in the early days). Campfire allowed boys in the 1970s. The words ‘Worship God” is in their ‘law’ but apparently the law has no official standing as a requirement within the organization nationally. Another older group is Woodcraft though it is small in the US (Woodcraft Rangers located in Los Angeles). SpiralScouts was set up around 1999 by several pagan groups after the BSA refused to recognize a Wiccan religious emblem and then refused to allow pagan groups to charter scout units; it does not discriminate by religious belief or sex or sexual orientation (however it is classified as a religion and therefore does not apparently file a 990). Navigators was founded in 2003 in east Harlem by a group that liked scouting but not the various types of discrimination associated with it. It went national in 2010 as Navigators USA and I know my local Unitarian Universalist church has started a unit (I think the UUA has been supportive). Navigators USA does have 990 forms filed. There are also a few ‘traditional scouting’ groups though they will vary in how accepting.

  • BamaJack

    Hey I have a novel idea… Why don’t you whiney atheists form your own scout-type groups and mind your own business. Ever thought of that? Every time you force your beliefs upon Christians your bigotry is noticed. You’re only digging yourselves deeper. Mind your own business and form your own clubs.

    • The Captain

      Yea, how dare people publicly call out others for discrimination. What nerve huh? All those civil rights activist in the 60s should have just shut up and opened their own lunch counters. What a bunch of bigots huh?

    • Bob Becker

      BJ:

      Let me try one more time.BSA is a private organization. It can ban gay scouts or admit gays as its governing board pleases. But that freedom also implies its ability to change its rules at any time the governing board decides doing so would be prudent. Same applies to not admitting atheist Scouts. Strikes me as interesting that many of the same people who loudly maintained that the Scouts, as a private organization was free to exclude gays if it wanted to are, now that it seems BSA may change its policy, want to deny the Scouts the freedom to choose.

    • RobMcCune

      Private clubs have a right’s, so private citizens have no right to criticize them.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

      You know what BJ that is a great idea, forming our own group. Maybe we could call it, “The Navigators.” http://navigatorsusa.org/ So your idea is not novel, it’s just uninformed.
      Why do you call us whiny? (you misspelled it.) One of the definitions of whiny is: “to complain.” Isn’t this exactly what you are doing? Making a shrill and childish complaint.
      mind your own business Why do you have a problem with our desire to learn about the world? Where would you direct you hateful remarks if we had “minded our own business?”
      You’re only digging yourselves deeper. Deeper into what?
      you force your beliefsWhat are these beliefs?

      • BamaJack

        a.) thanks for the follow, b.) since you have your own club why bother destroying ours unless you have some kind of bigoted hatred towards Christians? This reminds me of a few years back when a woman golfer wanted to be included into the Master’s Club – a male only organization. Liberals everywhere claimed it was discrimination and bigotry. If that’s the case then we should have no men’s clubs, no women’s clubs, no atheist-only clubs, no religious-only clubs, no gay-only clubs…. EVER…. you get the point. c.) The law agrees with me on this. The BSA has every right to include who they want into their organization and it is not discrimination. If it were discrimination, IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL.

        • CultOfReason

          since you have your own club why bother destroying ours unless you have some kind of bigoted hatred towards Christians?

          What you fail to understand is that the Atheist’s intent is not to destroy the BSA, but to make it better by being more inclusive.

          Sorry you can’t see it that way.

          The law agrees with me on this. The BSA has every right to include who they want into their organization and it is not discrimination. If it were discrimination, IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL

          You’re only partially correct. Yes, the law allows private clubs to discriminate, but let’s be absolutely clear here, it IS discrimination. Just because the law allows it doesn’t magically make it NOT discrimination.

          • BamaJack

            So a women’s-only club for example is discrimination against men?

            • CultOfReason

              Technically speaking, yes. But it’s still perfectly legal.

            • Spuddie

              A non-sectarian organization is not supposed to be engaging in sectarian discrimination. Maybe instead of trying to hijack the BSA and turn it into your church’s youth wing, you should have educated yourself on the principles of the organization.

              • BamaJack

                They can run it however they wish. If they want it to be a Christian-only, heterosexual only organization, they can. What’s so difficult to understand here?

                • Spuddie

                  They can do so, but it doesn’t make them immune to criticism from inside or outside. There is no question on the legal issue. The BSA can do what it wants. Nobody is arguing otherwise. You are making a strawman point.

                  But for those who actually care about the organization, its integrity, the values it was formed around and for its future, their current course of action is abhorrent.

                  Maybe you can’t understand that. You definitely don’t seem to give a crap about the BSA as long as they are following along with your own beliefs.

                  However, as someone who spent their youth in the organization, who achieved its highest award, and continues to be involved in it, I cannot with good conscience just sit by idly while it turns to shit.

                  The bigots and sectarian fools running the BSA have made a mockery of the achievements of my youth and those who came after me a generation. Whatever I think the organization supposed to do comes from the values the BSA taught me. Values that I am seeing dragged through the mud by people like yourself.

                • BamaJack

                  I was in the Boy Scouts and distinctly remember reciting an oath referring to God.. The fact is BSA has ALWAYS been religious-centered and you’re the one wanting it to take two steps back for every step forward the organization makes to get away from your out-dated and bigoted grand vision you’d like to see the club become. So you have an opinion of what YOU want the BSA to be, it’s not happening so you’re throwing a hissy fit – like some cheese with your whine? The fact of the matter is the vast majority of BSA supporters and leaders disagree with you. Your grandiose vision to renovate the moral integrity of the organization is just that – a vision of bigotry which will never come to fruition.

                • Spuddie

                  Never religious centered. Religion was always subordinate to citizenship. You might want to check out a Boy Scout Handbook once again. My guess is your involvement in the Boy Scouts probably ended early with little to no future involvement.

                  There is no requirement for religious awards. No requirement that a scout declare what faith they belong to. Citizenship awards are still mandatory for advancement. The requirement of a public service project is still mandatory for Eagle Scout. Engagement with the public has always been the foundation of the program.

                  Many troops do not receive funding from religious organizations either. My old one was funded by a veterans organization. They were the troop parents sent their kids to when they were uncomfortable with the blatant sectarianism and proselytizing of the religious backed ones. Yes religious interference has existed there for a long time. But in the past it was an aberration. Now it is the norm.

                  I want the BSA to be what it is supposed to be. To exist under the principles it was founded under. The ones they actively try to instill to our youth. You would rather teach them how hatred and sectarianism should matter most. Lessons not found in any scout leadership manual. Ones taught by its leaders in their actions.

                  The only bigots are the ones seeking to exclude people from the organization for sectarian reasons and prejudices. People like yourself. Those who see it as a wing of their church rather than an extension of their community.

                  My opinion about what I want the BSA to be comes from experience and personal investment in the organization. Something you don’t seem to understand. Why should you care about it. You would rather see it implode as long as it upholds your bigotry.

                • BamaJack

                  From the source: DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY: Your family and religious leaders
                  teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty
                  to God.

                  You do realize this is straight from the BSA oath, right?

                  What part of “doing your duty to God” makes you think BSA isn’t religious-oriented?

                  I was in the scouts but lost interest in early high school. No regrets, I later joined the Marine Corps and honorably served my country. But I do recall our troop being funded by church’s and events held at churches. All you’re doing is bastardizing the BSA to fit into your own vision of what you think it “should” be, not what reality indicates. Again, the vast majority of scout leaders agree with me. So cut the bigoted ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude that because you were so invested somehow means you’re right, no questions asked. Forcing a private organization to adopt your beliefs against their will is bigotry and downright extortion. Stay out of their business.

                • Spuddie

                  “What part of “doing your duty to God” makes you think BSA isn’t
                  religious-oriented?” The fact that the organization is NON-SECTARIAN from its foundation. It is respectful of the notion of religious belief, but not beholden to any given sect or faith’s beliefs.

                • Derrik Pates

                  When the government stops funding them and giving them special favors, then they can discriminate all they want. Until then, they should stop being bigots.

        • Dez

          Why are you trying to deny us our first amendment right to freedom of speech?

        • Spuddie

          You are already destroying yours. Mine actually. As a former Eagle Scout and Scout leader I can claim ownership for the organization as much as you can. Probably more so.

          For the last 2 decades or so religious bigots have twisted the purpose and meaning of the BSA to serve sectarian, discriminatory interests. It used to be devoted to citizenship and engagement with the community at large. Now it seems to be a social club for redneck idiots and religious fanatics.
          If your goal is to ruin the reputation and meaning of the BSA, it is accomplished.

          • Gus Snarp

            Me too.

        • Gus Snarp

          The BSA can legally do whatever it wants.

          It should not legally get the government recognition it does if it chooses to discriminate.

          I am similarly free to publicly criticize them and lobby other private organizations and companies against donating to them.

          I am free not to donate any of my time or money to them.

          And as an Eagle Scout and former scout leader, I’m not about to stop trying to change what I know can be a better organization until they include gay, transgender, female, and atheist scouts and leaders at all levels.

          Yet another conservative Christian who seem to think that having the right to do something without government interference means the right to do it without criticism. It doesn’t work that way.

    • RedGreenInBlue

      E pluribus… plures?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      Stop whining Bamajack, and mind your own business. Ever thought of that? Every time you force your beliefs upon atheists your bigotry is noticed. You are only digging yourself deeper.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Is that what the Mormons(I hear they’re a large contributor to the Scouts) said to the blacks back in the day? Why don’t you whiny blacks form your religion and mind your business.

      That was back in the day. Back in the good old day, Christians believed it was a-okay to own slaves. Or to hate and beat up Jews. Or to hate and beat up other Christians who were not quite Christian Enough™. Back in the excellent old day, Christians would descend on Jewish villages and raze them, when they weren’t too busy in their schedule of genociding entire Christian cultures in Europe.

      Is that really what you are advocating? A return to “Christians just do whatever the fuck they want and everybody better mind your own business”?

    • John (not McCain)

      Hey I have a novel idea – why don’t you fuck off and die? You’ll be in heaven and America becomes a better place!

      • BamaJack

        Dear cunt stain… thanks for the death threat. I’ll archive this for my records.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ben.dreidel Ben J. Dreidel

      Sure, as long as the atheist scout-type groups get a Congressional charter and free military promotions to high ranking members and the U.S. President as the head of the organization. I’m sure Congress, the D.O.D., and the President will get right on that.

      • BamaJack

        That’s all your own fight, not that of BSA. The BSA is a private organization and can include who they wish. If the gov’t/military believes they’re being bigots, they can stop their perks anytime they wish, but it has NOTHING to do with how the BSA wishes to run their organization.

    • Spuddie

      “Force beliefs upon Christians” meaning acknowledging the existence and rights of people other than themselves. Not accepting white Christian privilege to run roughshod over others.

      “Christians” meaning only Fundamentalist Christians.

    • Carmelita Spats

      What beliefs? Rational skepticism is a “belief”? Sorry, but I’m not the one hawking a cheap trinitarian-incarnational-atoning-resurrecting-ascending-soon-to-be-returning-god who was his own father through the freaky molestation and insemination (Holey Spirit Jizz???) of a horny teenager with Himself so that He could stupidly sacrifice Himself to Himself so that premarital sex can be forgiven. IOW, the Bearded Guy, His bloody Brat-On-A-Stick and their Pigeon? Now THAT is Christianity (a BELIEF) in a nutshell and it has NOTHING to do with being a scout any more than swearing allegiance to a spaceship piloted by talking, lava eating, sea clams. Stupid superstition. The Boy Scouts recruit at PUBLIC schools, on taxpayer property and time, so they damn well better NOT discriminate.

  • neanderhummus

    An atheist has his morality as mutable and changeable as the next picture of a celebrity with a profound quote.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

      You do not seem to have listen to many atheists discussing morality and ethics. Please go do the research. That’s what Google is for.

      And this all is irrelevant to this story.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Being religious is certainly not a prerequisite to being a good Scout. The Netherlands and Belgium’s FOS Open Scouting have no mention of gods in their promise or laws. The UK Scout Association is considering adding a promise for atheist members. Is anyone going to tell the Brits they don’t know what scouting is about?

  • Andy

    The Boy Scouts have the right to ban nonbelievers. They teach the principles of good moral living which is the foundation of most religions. God taught us to treat others as we would treat ourselves.
    If Atheists want to form their own group, they should. I just don’t believe they would have enough members.


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