I’ve written before about my experience of realizing I was an atheist while in the middle of earning Eagle rank in Boy Scouts. But now, it looks like the Boy Scouts may start welcoming atheists:
To the founder, Lord Baden-Powell, it was as much a peril for a young man to avoid as gambling, drunkenness, swearing or the wiles of the opposite sex.
But more than a century after the Scouting movement was founded, it is finally preparing to recognise atheism on a par with Christianity and other religions.
The association is consulting its members on plans to draft an alternative oath without references to God, allowing atheists to become full members and Scout group leaders for the first time.
I can’t say I’m entirely surprised by this. When I wrote my “atheist Eagle scout” post, the little brother of one of my old scouting friends commented that when he had done his board of review, he had told them he was an atheist and it wasn’t a problem. So obviously there are people in scouting who don’t have a problem with atheist scouts. Now if they could just extend that tolerance to gays…
An aside: one thing I learned from the article is how very British the Boy Scouts was in its original form. The original scout oath required scouts to promise to do their duty to “God and to the Queen.” The article claims, oddly, that for people living in other countries this was changed to “duty to the country in which I am now living.” Has anyone ever actually said that mouthful as part of the scout oath? I always knew it as just “duty to God and my country.”
Correction: I had originally only read the excerpt posted at Richard Dawkins’ site, and assumed that this was something being done by the worldwide organization in charge of all the national organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, and which would therefore apply to them. The full version of the article at the Telegraph’s site is clearer that this is going to be a UK-only thing. Drat.
See also Hayley Stevens’ post on the subject for something that’s more skeptical, even with respect to changing things in the UK. But apparently the UK’s Scout Association is already OK with gays, which makes a change in their stance on atheists seem reasonably likely.