Saturday, September 25, 2010

FIRST GUEST POST! Boy Scouts and Atheism

 This post was submitted by our wonderful friend Zach, who lives in Chicago and will hopefully join us in L.A. someday. I'm very excited that I don't have to think as much this evening!

This is a story about a kid in my Scout troop. 

The Boy Scouts of America is relatively famous for its Scout Law.  A twelve point list of qualities that every scout is supposed to aspire to.  The final point of the Scout Law and the one I personally have found the most conflict with is "A Scout is Reverent."  I have not been a believer for probably about 13 years now and in that time I have risen through the ranks to Eagle Scout and joined my troop as a leader.  Through this exposure to scouts I have come to my own definition of reverence that works for me and which I was called to defend when I was reviewed for my Eagle Scout. 

Last April a young man was up for rank and facing a board of review, a common question on the board is to explain an aspect of the Scout Law as it pertains to you.  The young man (he is 13)  was asked to explain reverence.  He thought on the matter and said it didn't apply to him as he is an Atheist.  The board asked him to leave and ended up withholding their decision as to whether or not to grant him rank (I have never heard of this happening before).  The kid is a great scout. He is resourceful, an avid camper and outdoorsman, respectful and helpful.  He just doesn't believe in God. 

The matter was brought to the troop committee where several leaders suggested ejecting the young man from the troop outright and definitely denying him rank.  Several of these leaders were people that up until then I had nothing but respect for.  Ultimately, it was decided that at his age he could not have solidly decided on the matter and his merits as a scout and individual won the day. Despite this, several leaders still took it upon themselves to talk to this young man about how such exceptions might not be made in the future. 

Here's the thing.  A belief in God does not make one reverent nor does disbelief make one not reverent.  Here a young man has learned from this whole incident that he has to hide his beliefs in an organization that claims to support American values.  Reverence is (don't care what Webster says)  acknowledging and respecting that there are things in life greater than oneself and putting those things ahead of ones own desires.  Vegetarians have reverence for the lives of animals.  Soldiers have reverence for their country and its ideals.  Doctors Without Borders revere human life and health.  These are all people who can quite easily be atheist but live with reverence none the less. 

I am proudly still a member of the BSA.  It has done a lot of good for a lot of kids, myself included.  Seriously though, if it doesn't make a push to pull its head out of its ass on things like Atheism, Homosexuality and other social issues, it's going to risk becoming another completely irrelevant excuse for parents to pawn their kids off on other people for a weekend. 

Thanks Zach!

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