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Author Topic: Boy Scouts a religious organization?
hobsen
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Maybe so, but the Supreme Court did not really express an opinion on that question. They merely refused to hear an appeal, which is the fate of most appeals. That does not necessarily mean the Supreme Court agrees with U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. in his 2003 ruling, only that they do not see a need to intervene at this time.

http://www.dailybreeze.com/ci_15006898

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Wayward Son
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Remember also that the amount paid for the 18 acres by the Boy Scouts each year is $1 (IIRC). Not exactly the typical amount charged for use of city property. [Wink]
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MattP
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I have some atheist friends who's son is not permitted to participate in the local Scout pack because he is an atheist.

It seems difficult to argue that it's *not* a religious organization.

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mdgann
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If the boy is an atheist too, why would he want to be part of an organization that requires swearing an oath to do your duty to god?
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Wayward Son
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Because the Boy Scouts do neat stuff? [Smile]
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scifibum
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Where else are you going to get merit badges? Kid just wants his merits badged.

I do agree, mdgann, that it's not a great fit for an atheist kid, because of the oaths and whatnot. Maybe my boys and I will look for a non-religious scouting organization. (Or maybe I'll advise them to practice a don't-ask-don't-tell policy in their local troop. Or maybe I'll just try and do the cool stuff with them and any friends that aren't too scared of atheist camping.)

Discriminating as they are, though, they shouldn't get exclusive civic benefits. Leasing public land should be at market rates, or not at all.

I think all that Matt was saying was that of course they are religious, not that they should pretend that there is no conflict between their traditions and atheism.

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Wayward Son
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Rereading your post, Matt, I realize that I am unclear about whether it is the boy's parents who are not allowing him to participate in the Boy Scouts, or if it is the Boy Scouts themselves who are not allowing him to participate.

There is a difference.

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PSRT
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My scout master definitely got hostile with me and my parents about my, at the time, skepticism about the nature of god.
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Clark
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While my Boy Scout troop was essentially run through the LDS church, I never remember religion being an issue. We prayed before meals on our camping trips, and had courts of honor at the church, and that was about the extent of it. There were a few boys in the troop that were not religious as far as I knew, and I never sensed any problems. Like the vast majority of people, the believers and non-believers got along just fine.

I'm not disagreeing with anything that anyone else has said. I think the BSA is a religious organization, and I'm sure that some people have been treated poorly because they aren't religious. I think it is very reasonable for people of different faiths (or no faith at all) to participate together. BSA has a certain structure and religiousness built into it. If that makes you uncomfortable, don't participate. Those who are religious should be able to acknowledge those beliefs without picking on or degrading those who don't believe. But, I guess there are too many jerks in the world for things to work out, sometimes.

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TomDavidson
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I was always bothered by the religious requirement, because it meant that I had to lie -- and thus violate the Scout Law -- in order to take the Scout Oath.

It's the sort of thing that made computers explode on Star Trek.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
Rereading your post, Matt, I realize that I am unclear about whether it is the boy's parents who are not allowing him to participate in the Boy Scouts, or if it is the Boy Scouts themselves who are not allowing him to participate.

The Boy Scouts actively prohibit anyone who is not monotheistic from participating (that's where the religious angle gets a little odd- it doesn't matter which god you believe in as long as you believe in one and only one god.) They similarly discriminate against gays- explicitly banning them from holding any leadership positions.

I'm not sure of the full range of options for boys (The Girl Scouts don't have similar restrictions, but that doesn't really help) but Campfire USA and Spiral Scouts are two that I do know of that both explicitly hold to non-discriminatory policies. Learning for Life is a subsidiary of the BSA that, while not a scouting program, works toward similar general goals, but also has an explicitly non-discriminatory participation policy.

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
The Boy Scouts actively prohibit anyone who is not monotheistic from participating (that's where the religious angle gets a little odd- it doesn't matter which god you believe in as long as you believe in one and only one god.)

They aren't monotheistic. Their only requirement is that you have to believe in God, leaving each individual to define God as they please.

The official list of religious emblems for boy scouts includes entries for Buddhist and Hindu. I'm pretty sure those don't qualify as monotheistic.

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LoverOfJoy
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Like Clark, I was in a Mormon sponsored troop. Two guys in my troop were Indian (they were brothers) and I believe Hindu. One was my senior patrol leader for a while and another was briefly my patrol leader if I remember correctly, before I became patrol leader of another patrol.

While we did have prayers before meals, I don't believe it was ever a problem for them. All of our troop got along and were all friends. They were a bit older than me so we weren't the closest friends but I did help them with their eagle projects and attended their eagle court of honor where I met their parents (the mom wore traditional Indian clothes and had the Hindu dot on her forehead ... bindi I think?).

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TommySama
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"I do agree, mdgann, that it's not a great fit for an atheist kid, because of the oaths and whatnot."

An atheist kid? Pretty early to be forcing their parent's bull**** on these kids. Its bad enough that parent's cripple their kids with their belief; the least we can do is refuse to identify them as such until we are ready to let them screw and vote.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by TommySama:
"I do agree, mdgann, that it's not a great fit for an atheist kid, because of the oaths and whatnot."

An atheist kid? Pretty early to be forcing their parent's bull**** on these kids. Its bad enough that parent's cripple their kids with their belief; the least we can do is refuse to identify them as such until we are ready to let them screw and vote.

So what, atheist should actively teach their kids to cop a belief in a random or non-specific God until then? What you're saying there only makes sense if theism of some sort is a state naturally arrived at without any guidance.
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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by TommySama:
"I do agree, mdgann, that it's not a great fit for an atheist kid, because of the oaths and whatnot."

An atheist kid? Pretty early to be forcing their parent's bull**** on these kids. Its bad enough that parent's cripple their kids with their belief; the least we can do is refuse to identify them as such until we are ready to let them screw and vote.

So what, atheist should actively teach their kids to cop a belief in a random or non-specific God until then? What you're saying there only makes sense if theism of some sort is a state naturally arrived at without any guidance.
Maybe he's just saying that all parents who don't believe what TommySamma believes are crippling their kids [Smile]
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scifibum
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I think Tommy's half making a joke and half thinks any inheritance of -isms is suspect.
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TommySama
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scifibum gives me hope for us [Smile] .
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DonaldD
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I'm pretty sure Rallan got the humour, but how would such parenting strategy work out in the real world? At some point, children if left with absolutely no direction will ask the question: "but what do we believe, Dad/Mom?

It also seems impractical to insulate children from adult philosophical discussions for 12 to 18 years without banishing them to their rooms for the duration.

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Aris Katsaris
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I think Dad and Mom could tell their kids what *they* believe, without demanding that the kid believes it too.
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djquag1
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What Aris said. If and when I have kids I'll tell them that I don't believe, why that is, and that they should think for themselves. I would hope that would ward off faith based thinking, but if it doesn't and they get religion I'll grin and bear it...it's their life after all. Parents don't own their children; they're just caretakers, after all.
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simplybiological
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You can absolutely be an atheist kid.

I was raised in a Unitarian church by an atheist and an agnostic who felt guilty about not giving me some kind of religious exposure and found the least objectionable (to them) faith to raise me in. I remember as early as 7 thinking that none of the god stuff made any sense to me, even though my parents and I had never talked about their beliefs.

I'm just one data point, but hey- there could be more.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by djquag1:
What Aris said. If and when I have kids I'll tell them that I don't believe, why that is, and that they should think for themselves. I would hope that would ward off faith based thinking, but if it doesn't and they get religion I'll grin and bear it...it's their life after all. Parents don't own their children; they're just caretakers, after all.

And if never take them to a church or otherwise actually indoctrinate them in a religion, how could they go from what you do there to subscribing to a theological religion?

Religious beliefs don't come out of thin air- if you don't teach them to kids, they're generally atheists by default.

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LetterRip
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Pyrtolin,

quote:

Religious beliefs don't come out of thin air- if you don't teach them to kids, they're generally atheists by default.

Clearly religion had to arise somehow - it is fairly natural to assign happenings which we don't understand the why or how of to a mysterious being - we are naturally inclined to anthropormorphize nature and animals, it is natural to interpret our actions as having influenced random events, and those two things combined lead to religion. Atheism is rather unnatural state of being - it counters our natural tendency to assign events to some unknown being and assumes that many events are caused by natural interactions outside the scope of beings.

[ May 12, 2010, 03:06 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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Pyrtolin
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Sure- but kids don't go from 0 to theism on their own (reliably, at any rate), and especially without the active need to explain all natural phenomena. Left completely to their own devices, I'm sure kids would come up with stacks and stacks of superstitions and probably a general sense of spirituality, but it would take a few generations of retelling and reinforcing (Or at least a good run in or two with some form of drug or another) those before an actual religion manages to evolve.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
Rereading your post, Matt, I realize that I am unclear about whether it is the boy's parents who are not allowing him to participate in the Boy Scouts, or if it is the Boy Scouts themselves who are not allowing him to participate.

The Boy Scouts actively prohibit anyone who is not monotheistic from participating (that's where the religious angle gets a little odd- it doesn't matter which god you believe in as long as you believe in one and only one god.)
Source?
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MattP
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quote:
During the membership application process and as a requirement to obtain membership, youths and adults are required to subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to agree to abide by the Scout Oath and Law, which include the words, "do my duty to God" and "reverent". Youths are also required to repeat the Scout Oath and Law periodically after being accepted as Scouts.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_membership_controversies#Position_on_atheists_and_agnostics

quote:
Because of Scouting’s methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders.
http://www.bsalegal.org/duty-to-god-cases-224.asp

Regardless, I have volunteered as a Scout leader in the past without difficulty, presumably because the leaders in my ward either were not aware of my atheism or didn't care. It seems to be a DADT sort of thing in practice.

I recall much less religious focus in Scouting from when I was in the program as a child in San Diego, possibly because the scout troops there aren't associated with churches like they are here in Utah. Sure, God was in the Scout Oath, but it was just a rote recitation thing like the Pledge of Allegiance.

[ May 12, 2010, 04:38 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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hobsen
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Boy Scouts in the United States promote religion - mostly Christianity - far more than in other countries, and this difference is increasing because parents who object to this choose other activities for their sons. So those participating are becoming steadily more likely to be active church members. Thus the Boy Scouts were probably not originally a religious organization - so far as I know the references to God a century ago were an empty form for the most part - but they are now on their way to becoming one, whether or not this judge was right in his opinion. What increases this trend is that many Scout troops are sponsored by churches and meet on church property. Even without an intent to do so, such a troop tends to become the de facto church youth organization for boys of that age. Boys have only so much time, and a church cannot duplicate programs to keep the two altogether separate, even if it wanted to do so.
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simplybiological
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quote:
Atheism is rather unnatural state of being - it counters our natural tendency to assign events to some unknown being and assumes that many events are caused by natural interactions outside the scope of beings.
Our natural tendency? Pardon? Tell me you are not arguing that religion is natural and atheism isn't. At most, this goes back to the idea of a god gene- some people are inclined to explain unknown events with religious answers, and some are not. It all depends on what you find to be more likely (or simple).
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TommySama
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quote:
Originally posted by simplybiological:
You can absolutely be an atheist kid.

I was raised in a Unitarian church by an atheist and an agnostic who felt guilty about not giving me some kind of religious exposure and found the least objectionable (to them) faith to raise me in. I remember as early as 7 thinking that none of the god stuff made any sense to me, even though my parents and I had never talked about their beliefs.

I'm just one data point, but hey- there could be more.

I mean atheism as an identity. I equate calling yourself atheist with calling your christian or muslim or budhist. I probably stopped believing in god by the time I was about 10 (but vacillated a bit over the next few years). Mainly my comment was griping over calling a kid an Atheist or a Christian because that's what their parents are, which is sick identity politics.
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djquag1
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I was atheist pretty young as well; by the age of nine or ten the concept of there being no rational reason to believe a god exists was fully formed in my mind.

As to how my hypothetical children could pick up a religious psychevirus without myself indoctrinating them into said religious thinking, I don't intend on raising them in a box, either. They'll meet plenty of people in their lives ready and eager to spread the "good news." Hopefully they'll be immunized by that point. [Wink]

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I mean atheism as an identity.
There's an old joke, forgive me if you've heard it:

A man is walking down an alley of Belfast when he suddenly feels a gun pressing on his back and hears a voice demanding "Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?"
Thinking fast, and not knowing what the safe answer would be, the man replies terrified: "I'm an atheist!"
A brief hesitation, then the voice demands again: "But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
quote:
I mean atheism as an identity.
There's an old joke, forgive me if you've heard it:

A man is walking down an alley of Belfast when he suddenly feels a gun pressing on his back and hears a voice demanding "Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?"
Thinking fast, and not knowing what the safe answer would be, the man replies terrified: "I'm an atheist!"
A brief hesitation, then the voice demands again: "But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"

That's only a joke outside Ireland. There are a number of sheetheads with guns that actually think that way.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by TommySama:
I mean atheism as an identity. I equate calling yourself atheist with calling your christian or muslim or budhist.

Someone here recently cited a link (wish I could find it) where Richard Dawkins of all people said something to the effect that he considered himself to be a cultural Christian, liked Christmas etc. While religiously I prefer words like Christian to have a specific religious meaning, I don't have a problem with a qualified term "cultural Christian." At least as far as it draws people together. When cultural commitment to a religious group ends up poisoning folks against each other, as in Northern Ireland (where "catholic" atheist marxists lead a murderous terrorist organization) I obviously don't see it as a positive.
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Al Wessex
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Many cities (including where I live) have Jewish Cultural Society chapters, with a similar connotation. All the religious traditions and celebrations you might want with none of the God-thingy complications. They even served gefilte fish one time I was there.
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Pete at Home
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You've made a good point. Seems to me that it's easier for Jews than Christians to recoginize a Cultural manifestation of the faith, because Jewishness is *religiously* defined in Torah by ancestry and heritage whereas Christian scripture seems to define it through belief. But most Jews I know would have a problem with a self-proclaimed cultural Jew who joined a Muslim or Christian faith. (although not if they became atheist, Buddhist, or, apparently, turned to worship of Ashtaroth [Big Grin] ).
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