Scouts welcome atheists a century after Baden-Powell demonised them

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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.

It follows accusation of discrimination and intolerance after an 11-year-old boy was barred from full membership because he said he did not believe in God.

George Pratt was told he could not join 1st Midsomer Norton Scout Group in Somerset, after saying he felt unable to make the traditional promise to do his best to do his “duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law”.

Although originally founded along Christian lines, the Scouts have long welcomed followers of other faiths as full members.

For more than 40 years, alternative versions of the promise have existed allowing Muslims to pledge allegiance to Allah and Hindus to substitute the words “my Dharma”.

And earlier this year a new variation on the uniform was introduced for Muslim girls, with an optional head covering.

Meanwhile citizens of other countries are permitted to replace the phrase “duty to the Queen” with “duty to the country in which I am now living”.

Written By: John Bingham
continue to source article at telegraph.co.uk

16 COMMENTS

  1. The title is a bit misleading. This is what the Scout Association is saying to current leaders: “Please be aware that you may see media coverage tomorrow focused on the part of the survey that asks about providing an alternative version of the Promise for potential members who may be atheists or are unable to make the existing commitment. The survey is broader than this specific issue but it is the topic that the media are most likely to be interested in.

    No matter what the outcome of the consultation, the existing Scout Promise and its alternatives will continue to be used.”

    In other words, the Assoc will still require full members to make a promise which includes promising to do their best to do their duty to god.

  2. Amazing. I didn’t think this would happen for years. 

    I’ve been a leader since 2001 and an atheist since 2006. It’s been very much a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ kind of thing since then – I’m sure everyone around me knows my stance, but so long as I don’t make too much of a fuss then they look the other way. I’m convinced that there are many others like me too, in fact I could name at least three or four. 

    I’m sure some will hold me to a charge of hypocrisy for remaining in a movement that has discriminated against people like me. I don’t really have a counter-argument, except to say that it felt I was doing more good being in than being out. Virtually every night I’d do some cool sciencey stuff or tell them of some mind-boggling facts to instill some inspiration in them (an extension of my day job). My own group have always been very encouraging of this. I’m sure there are groups out there that would have had a problem but this one wasn’t in that category. Another thought went along the lines of when I joined in 2001, I considered myself Christian (a spectacularly weak one admittedly) and then five years later I decided to ditch all that. Have I not then explored faith, as per ‘policy’, even if I’ve also dispensed with it? This could well be shaky reasoning but some good has come out of it, I assure you.

    Now the cynic within me isn’t counting too many chickens. At the moment this is a consultation – it could be that they change their mind having weeded out all the atheists and then tell them to sod off…? Maybe that’s an over-reaction but I’ll wait and see. They’ve already sent me a questionnaire with the following wording: 

    Please be aware that you may see media coverage tomorrow focused on the part of the survey that asks about providing an alternative version of the Promise for potential members who may be atheists or are unable to make the existing commitment. The survey is broader than this specific issue but it is the topic that the media are most likely to be interested in.
    No matter what the outcome of the consultation, the existing Scout Promise and its alternatives will continue to be used. Scouting remains a values-based Movement and our programme with young people will continue to enable them to explore their faiths, beliefs and attitudes as well as share in spiritual reflection.

    Having said all that, it still marks an unexpected shift in the establishment which is to be welcomed. I’ll see what transpires.

  3. I see it differently – they’re saying that people can continue to use the current promise but there may now be an alternative for non-believers. It’s the wording of that which is the consultation. But I also realise that there may yet be a U-turn after a lot of the hand-wringers get going with their moaning. 

  4. And children of this age know that they’re atheists?

    The problem with the anti-atheist stance of the Scouts was not that it was anti-atheist: the real problem was that it imposed a religious test, and did so on children whom it would then exclude on that basis.

    The wider problem isn’t anti-atheism (I’m anti-religious, incidentally), it’s anti-secularism.

  5.  You certainly will do more good inside rather than outside.
    You will be a shining example of a cultural Xtian, able to hear the words of the pledge and totally ignore the possibility that there’s a real skydaddy.
    Keep up the sciency stuff; it’s so much more exciting than myths.

  6. Yes Jabarkis they do know they are atheists at that age. Well I did anyway. Didn’t get me out of school assemblies, though the Catholics, who believed slightly different nonsense, they got out of it. Go figureth. 

  7. V good news, I enjoyed the scouts immensely years ago except for the utter boredom of church parade 6x year. My son is in the beavers and has come back with some churchy questions on occasion.

  8. Should Aliens discover the internet, but only through the comments of news articles online,( vide the source article above)  I have good reason to belive that they may think that amongst the most cruel and barbarous species within the universe may be found there. I also have the nagging susupicion that they may start exhibiting these discussions as a freak show.

  9. Likewise but more so- patriotism, nationalism, tribalism and the whole gamut of deference to anything and everything including fawning over ‘celebrities’ makes me want to puke. Isn’t it time for humanity to grow up? 
    Ahhhh…. that’s better!

  10. It begs the question as to how you can do your duty to an entity which demonstrably doesn’t exist.

    (Or at least has a probability of existing so low it makes winning the lottery look like a certainty!)

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