Atheism & cubs/scouts?

(55 Posts)
Himalaya Fri 16-Nov-12 17:11:29

DS wants to join the cubs. He says he is fine with saying 'do his duty to god and the queen' if that is what it takes to get in. I guess that is ok, as it is a meaningless statement if god doesn't exist and you have no duty to the queen. I do resent that he has to say it.

They are only accepting new kids if parents are willing to become Assistant Leaders. I said ok. I quite like the idea of the camping and activities etc... but reading into it I wonder 1) if they will have me as an atheist and 2) if i really can be involved if they expect adults to lead prayers and all kinds of other religious stuff.

Has anyone got any experience or advice here?

Is it really religious or is it just tradition?

Himalaya Sat 17-Nov-12 13:07:14

Maybe I need to post this somewhere with more traffic?

CPtart Sat 17-Nov-12 13:30:08

Both my sons are in cubs/beavers and imo the benefits of the opportunities/experiences it brings far outweighs any religious beliefs you may or may not have. We are (non-practising) catholics and there are prayers on pack nights, saluting the flag, church parades... all that sort of thing. No-one ever questions DS non- attendance at the church parades but it may be an issue if you are a leader!

I certainly wouldn't deny your DS the opportunity to join if thats what he wants just because of your religious concerns. Just shut your ears to the bits you don't believe in and enjoy the fun stuff!

NotALondoner Sat 17-Nov-12 14:52:02

Not all groups are religious as such, to be in the Scouting movement I think you have to believe in some 'higher being', but isn't Jedi a religion now? Look for a group that is doing the bare minimum religion wise and putting all their energies into muddy camps, soggy biscuits and plenty of fun.

Himalaya Sat 17-Nov-12 14:55:22

Thanks CP, NAL - yes that's what I want: mud, biscuits, minimal religion.... I guess I'll just have to ask them how religious the group is.

technodad Sat 17-Nov-12 17:56:09

The scouts do my head in. I find it ridiculous that they will accept anyone who believes in make-believe and refuse to allow kids to join unless they either believe or pretend to believe (i.e are hypocrites). The latter is hardly setting a good example.

I remember reading on the scout website that the two things that prohibit an adult bring a scout leader are being an athirst or a pedo! angry

FlibberdeGibbet Sat 17-Nov-12 18:12:47

I'm a cub leaders, and religion doesn't play a huge part in my life. I'm not an atheist, but not a churchgoer either.

It is true that cubs and leaders have to make the promise (to do my duty / To God and the Queen). I see the promise as more about how you behave as a person - ie respect for yourself, and for other people, which is basically the underlying ethos of most religions.

In our cub pack we start each session saluting the union flag, and end with short prayer that is thought up and delivered by the "on duty" cub for that night - it is usually something very simple, such as "dear God, please look after the homeless". I see this as teaching the cubs to think about other people less fortunate than themselves. we do attend church services (the 2 main ones a remembrance day, where the pack plays an active part in the service, and St George's day, which is a biggie in the Scouting movement) We encourage our cubs to attend, and it is an unspoken expectation that leaders will attend if at all possible.

I would suggesthimalaya that you have an informal chat to the cub leader, to gauge how "churchy" the pack is. If you were joining our pack as a leader, I would welcome you with open arms (we are always desperate for help, and have a waiting list of children who can't join as we don't have enough leaders), and I would find a middle path that would enable you to get stuck into the muddy bits, whilst quietly sidestepping any overtly religious bits that you felt uncomfortable with.

Oh, and technodad, essentially the scouting movement is a church movement, although it has broadened out since it's inception, so as such they can choose who to admit. There's always the Woodcraft folk for any determined atheists, so there is a choice grin

technodad Sat 17-Nov-12 18:34:54

FlibberdeGibblet said "It is true that cubs and leaders have to make the promise (to do my duty / To God and the Queen). I see the promise as more about how you behave as a person - ie respect for yourself, and for other people, which is basically the underlying ethos of most religions."

You imply that if you are not part of "most religions" that you are not capable of respecting yourself and other people, which is clearly utter crap.

As you say, they used to be a church group, and then they broardened to allow ANYONE with an imaginary friend to join, because the term "god" can mean different things to different people. Of course they can choose to admit who they want, all I am saying is that they (as an organisation) are offensive, in that they descriminate against the non-religious!

"There's always the Woodcraft folk for any determined atheists, so there is a choice"

My point isn't about the fact that there are alternatives, my point is that an organisation that has a foundation based upon doing good things is hypercritical and that it is insulting and offensive. Would it be acceptable to ban homosexual leaders, or black kids - I suspect not!

But maybe you disagree?

FlibberdeGibbet Sat 17-Nov-12 23:21:46

I must have missed the bit where I said that atheists / agnostics were incapable of self respect and respect for others. IF I had said that, then that would have been "utter crap". But I didn't. Please re-read my post more carefully.

Look, scouting is a church based organisation. That won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's not correct to call it "discriminatory" - just as a church would require a belief from its members. I don't think that's insulting or offensive.

I do think a more religious person than I might find your reference to "imaginary friends" offensive though. Belief in God is important to some people, and to belittle that is disrespectful to their views.

technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 16:38:11

Hi Flibber.

I did read your post carefully, I even quoted it. You said that the promise is about how an individual behaves and that you cannot make the promise without believing in "god". This implies that the Scouting Association believes that non believers cannot join because they are not capable of behaving correctly (otherwise why would they ban non-believers). Clearly you did not say it directly, but it is implicit in what you say.

Scouting used to be a church based organisation, but it is not a church organisation anymore. If the scouting organisation said very clearly "We are a christian organisation, but everyone is welcome" (i.e. like the church does), then that would be fine. The church does not ban people from attending a service or a wedding because they are unwilling to say the lords prayer, it lets people take part in the elements that they want (in the desperate hope they they can brainwash people into giving money). The church is not discriminatory in this regard (clearly it is massively discriminatory in many other regards, but this is another sordid subject all together).

The Scouting Association is discriminatory organisation because it will accept ANYONE, except one group within society (whereas the church is just one group within society)

A good analogy might be if a local village youth group in a well-off area letting any child join except the children who's parents are on benefits, or a group in an asian community that didn't allow white kids to join. Both of these examples are wholly unacceptable.

Why is it that people can happily discriminate on the grounds of religion like the Scouts, when it is rightly illegal to do it for other reasons (like skin colour or perceived social status)?

"I do think a more religious person than I might find your reference to "imaginary friends" offensive though. Belief in God is important to some people, and to belittle that is disrespectful to their views."

I find many many things that some religious people say deeply offensive (on things like abortion, homosexuality, discrimination against women). I may not agree with their views, but I defend their freedom to speak them (and I trust they do the same for me too!). Despite the fact that my views are founded on facts and evidence......

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 18-Nov-12 20:35:58

The promise is to do one's duty to God and the queen therefore you can't really be making a promise unless that's what you believe. There is no allusion, implicit or explicit, that athiests Are incapable of respecting themselves or others.confused

The scouts may no longer be church based, but they are faith based. Would you be as pissed off with them if they were called something like Youth Faith in Action?

All clubs are discriminatory in one sense or another, thats what makes a club a club. Do you think that no faith group should exist because it discriminates against those of no faith?

You have facts and evidence that god is imaginary? Wow. Can I see it?

technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 21:21:51

Dione said "The promise is to do one's duty to God and the queen therefore you can't really be making a promise unless that's what you believe. There is no allusion, implicit or explicit, that athiests Are incapable of respecting themselves or others"

I think you are missing the point. My point is the Scouts sell themselves as an inclusive group, but they are not. If you look on their website, you have to dig pretty deep to find out that you must be of faith, in fact, if you type "Faith" into their website search, you only get information regarding their membership policy with the 18th result (showing as 14% relevant). Why is it's faith only membership policy buried so deep. If they were called "Youth Faith in Action" then it might at least be a little clearer!

If I go to a church website, they state their denomination and principles on the homepage, but the scouts homepage (and all top level pages) make no mention.

I can go on Jury Duty and ask for a different oath if I don't want to lie and swear to a non-existant god, so why can't my child do it at Scouts, and then learn about different faiths from his friends in Scouts (and maybe pick one if he wants)?

"All clubs are discriminatory in one sense or another, thats what makes a club a club. Do you think that no faith group should exist because it discriminates against those of no faith?"

Please list all the other youth groups which operate on an national (or international) scales (or even local for that matter), that have a policy of banning membership of one category of children from within society, whilst permitting ALL others.

You have facts and evidence that god is imaginary? Wow. Can I see it?

I think we have been here before, and it was probably unfair of me to raise this within this thread, because it is not directly related to the subject. I am happy to debate it again on another thread if you want to.

Himalaya Sun 18-Nov-12 23:00:10

Techno, Flibber and Dione -

Interesting points for a late night pub discussion, but probably not one I am going to get into. I tend to agree with Technodad that it is wrong for an organisation to exclude just one kind of person, but since my son wants to do the Scout thing I am going to have to keep my head down about that.

I'll keep out of the debate above, but I was in cubs/scouts when I was young and my mum joined as a leader too. We're not religious in our family and that never seemed to be a problem at all. Of course we were aware of the promise to god and to the queen but it was something we said rather than taking at face value.

I suppose that was just our troop so different troops might take the religious aspect more seriously. Maybe worth asking the leader?

GrimmaTheNome Sun 18-Nov-12 23:22:46

Him - there was a massive thread about atheists and scouts recently, in the context of a child who couldn't become a full member because he felt unable to make the promise. The relevance is to your question is that there were several atheists who did help out- the one exception (other than paedophiles) was to 'avowed atheists' being leaders. would seem that avowed atheists can help out but not be leaders, and atheists willing to adopt a 'don't ask, don't tell' stance could be leaders. I don't think there was any mention of 'assistant leaders'.

It was also apparent that different troops have different levels of church affiliation.

technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 23:32:28

I was in cubs and scouts when I was a kid too. I just said the god promise thing (just like when they made me say it at school etc). I didn't know I wasn't allowed to believe (and kept it secret that it made no sense and also that the Sunday school teacher was creepy).

Why is it that kids have to pretend to believe in god all the time, why can't they just be given the freedom to believe in what they want (I am sure this should be a human right, but Gove and Pickles don't seem to agree)

My kids don't believe in god, and my eldest decided he wouldn't join beavers because he didn't want to tell a lie (by promising to a god he didn't believe in).

The beaver leader said "he doesn't have to mean it, but he must say the words or he can't join". What an appalling lesson to teach a kid, it is OK to lie to get something you want, and you will miss out if you don't copy everyone else. I was very proud of my 6 year old's decision. it is an experience I hope will stand him in good stead when he is offered drugs for the first time and chooses to say "no" even if he is the only one!

So if huge numbers of scouting members just lie, and don't believe, then they should either throw them out (for breaking their deeply held promise), or modernise and change their promise!

technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 23:34:38


If that thread was an AIBU thread about a year ago, then it may well have been my thread.

exexpat Sun 18-Nov-12 23:35:26

The British Humanist Association has been campaigning about this issue for a while. There is also the issue that they won't accept openly gay scouts.

Luckily neither of my DCs have ever been particularly keen on joining, as it's not an organisation I'd be very comfortable with. One reason I only lasted a few months in guides (more than 30 years ago) was that I was already a convinced atheist and there was far too much prayer-writing going on.

exexpat Sun 18-Nov-12 23:37:21
technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 23:39:27

Ah, so they are even more discriminatory than I gave them discredit!

Who was it on this thread who said they weren't discriminatory? Maybe you were even more wrong than I thought!

GrimmaTheNome Sun 18-Nov-12 23:41:09

techno, no, it was more recent than that.

exex - from what I read in the course of the recent thread they shouldn't be discriminating against gay people any more. It really is just atheists and people who won't mouth the promise (I guess a youth who was serious about repblicanism also wouldn't be able to be a proper member).

technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 23:44:38

Although it is fair to say that the Queen does actually exist! I saw her jumping from that helicopter during the Olympic opening ceremony. wink

exexpat Sun 18-Nov-12 23:49:37

My apologies - after a quick google it turns out that the anti-gay stance is just the US wing, where they seem pretty adamant about it - but the UK organisation is rather more enlightened about it. so that's good - I wonder why they can't be equally flexible about faith?

technodad Sun 18-Nov-12 23:59:45

I am glad to hear it (although not about the USA equivilant).

nightlurker Mon 19-Nov-12 16:31:50

A member of my religion was refused here in the US because the church running it was opposed to the religion and didn't want someone of my religion as a leader. I disagreed with the church's choice (obviously), but fully supported them being allowed to make that decision.

nightlurker Mon 19-Nov-12 16:32:44

The man's son was allowed to participate, however. It was only discrimination for leadership positions.

technodad Mon 19-Nov-12 19:03:44

Night - what boy? If it is the boy in the link below, then he was not permitted to join. If you are not a full member you can not do all the activities.

Dione - did you manage to come up with that list (or even one club) which discriminates like the scouts?

FlibberdeGibbet Mon 19-Nov-12 19:17:41

Well you can't be a girl guide if you are a boy grin

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 19-Nov-12 20:48:07

Jewish Boys Brigade. Discriminate on gender and religious grounds.

technodad Mon 19-Nov-12 20:58:41

The Jewish Boys Brigade ONLY allow Jewish Boys to attend. This does not meet the category as discrimination. There is nothing unjust or prejudicial about this club, they are just pro-Jewish Boys.

Like I said before, discrimination is where EVERYONE is allowed to attend, except one category of people. The Scouts unjustly stop ONE category of people from joining their club, whilst permitting all others. Can you come up with any clubs with similar membership rules?

technodad Mon 19-Nov-12 20:59:42

Mind you, I support your view that the Jewish Boys Brigade do discriminate on grounds of sex, but not religion.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 19-Nov-12 21:18:26

And the scouts only allow people of faith to attend. They are both faith based organizations. One allows only those of Jewish faith, the other just asks for faith.

technodad Mon 19-Nov-12 21:26:24

Don't worry Dione, I don't think you are bothering to read my posts.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 19-Nov-12 21:32:04

Oh, I am reading. Just to be clear, are you saying that only interfaith groups are discriminatory?

technodad Mon 19-Nov-12 21:34:53

I am saying that being inclusive to all parts of society except one is discriminatory.

I gave a couple of examples.

nightlurker Mon 19-Nov-12 21:37:07

Masons allow only men, and only people who believe in God. I think they fall somewhere between religion and club.

nightlurker Mon 19-Nov-12 21:37:41

Traditional masons*

Some newer congregations allow both genders.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 19-Nov-12 21:49:51

So what do you think should be done?
Ban interfaith groups?
Or insist they admit people with no faith?confused

technodad Mon 19-Nov-12 21:50:45

Thanks night

The maisons have a similar membership policy to the Scouts. That is a powerful message!

technodad Tue 04-Dec-12 07:14:36

GrimmaTheNome Tue 04-Dec-12 08:23:48

>So what do you think should be done?
>Ban interfaith groups?
>Or insist they admit people with no faith?

Depends what sort of 'interfaith group' you're talking about. If its something like an Ecumenical council, great.

However, the term 'interfaith group' is often applied to groups set up to contribute to policy making or ethical debates. Those certainly should admit people of no faith, they are all too often unrepresentative at the moment.
This has nothing to do with the scouts issue (which isn't exactly an 'interfaith group', that's not its primary purpose), its more important.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 04-Dec-12 10:21:14

Today in the Times (which unfortunately is now subscription so I can't link) there's one article saying the Guides are going to update their oath and probably drop God from it.

it also says the Scout movement 'has announced that it is to write a special pledge for atheists who become members, but feel they cannot promise to do their duty to God. '


I expect this story has been covered in other papers, if anyone wants to link but preferably not the Fail

It also has a commentary by their religion correspondant on the subject which ends 'Children who do not believe in God should not have to learn to lie to gain access to all that Scouting offers. '

It doesn't really say whether this affects leaders, which is what the OP was asking about, but its excellent news.

exexpat Tue 04-Dec-12 10:24:49

Here's that BBC version of the story in a clickable link. Definitely good news that they are moving with the times - Scout organisations in several other countries already have a non-religious version of the promise.

HarkTheJammyAngelsSplodge Fri 07-Dec-12 13:09:21

I just thought I'd mention, the consultation underway includes a question on whether aethiests should be allowed to be leaders, so it's not just focussing on the kids' beliefs.

Himalaya - I'm an aethiest Assisstant Beaver leader, i.e. one of those in charge with the blue jumper and necker on. Our group isn't affiliated to any church or religious organisation and for the vast majority of the time have very little religious involvement.

I had my Leader interview a few weeks ago and thankfully nothing at all was asked about religion - it was more to check I'm a safe person to have round kids. I've not taken the promise yet, more out of having a disorganised Group Scout Leader I suspect, and am hoping to keep my head down on that one until the Scout Assc. have made a descision on all of it.

If you've not already, I'd just ask informally about it. I suspect the groups are that desperate for parents to help out (as leaders or otherwise), they brush over the faith bit. There might be exceptions for those attached to churches etc though.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 07-Dec-12 18:49:29

Thanks jammy - that's good to know. thanks

GayScoutLeader Thu 27-Dec-12 23:47:57

"There is also the issue that they won't accept openly gay scouts. "

Em, no. That isn't the case. I actually used my civil partnership certificate as one of the forms of ID when I applied to be a leader.

exexpat Thu 27-Dec-12 23:56:09

If you had read on a few posts, you would have seen I corrected that to say that it is only in the US that they don't accept gay scouts.

GayScoutLeader Thu 27-Dec-12 23:59:58

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand atheists can be just as moral (or immoral) as people who believe in a god or gods. On the other, Scouting does have a religious component to it, such as the My Faith badge.

If people of no faith were allowed to join, they wouldn't be able to do the My Faith badge. So what should be done? Should all faith-based challenges and awards be removed (so that all Scouts can, potentially, do all the badges) or should there be a two-tier system within the Scouts where some badges are only open to some people? The former isn't something I like, but nor is the latter.

exexpat Fri 28-Dec-12 00:08:24

Are all scouts expected to be able to do all the badges? I presume that the scouting movement is now open to children with disabilities who may not be able to do the whole range of badges. Excluding a large (and growing, according to the latest census data) section of the population just because they are unable to do one badge seems like a pretty flimsy excuse to me.

My main reason for quitting the guides after a few months, more than 30 years ago, was because I couldn't take the all the religious content, and I haven't enrolled either of my two DCs for the same reason, even though I'm pretty sure DD at least would enjoy the outdoorsy stuff.

GayScoutLeader Fri 28-Dec-12 00:13:33

"Are all scouts expected to be able to do all the badges?"

As far as I understand it, yes, at least if they are given the time and resources.

"I couldn't take the all the religious content"

Why did you join? It is an explicitly religious (or at least spiritual) group.

exexpat Fri 28-Dec-12 00:25:47

I joined because I was 10 and I had been in the linked Brownie pack which did very little that was overtly religious (I was consciously atheist from the age of about 7 or 8, so I would have noticed), then when I joined the guides we seemed to spend a lot of time sitting around writing prayers. I assumed the difference might have had something to do with the interests/inclinations of individual leaders.

Scouting movements in other parts of the world seem to be doing fine after removing the religious part of the pledge, so it seems odd that it could be seen as so essential in the UK, which is an increasingly non-religious country.

exexpat Fri 28-Dec-12 00:31:40

Oh, and what is the situation with disabled scouts/guides and badges with a component they are unable to do? Are they just excluded from those badges, or are concessions/alterations made for them?

Also, it doesn't seem beyond the bounds of possibility that the 'my faith' badge could have an option for those not affiliated to any religion to, for example, study the beliefs of a major world religion, attend a ceremony or service of some kind, and produce a report etc. I would have no problem with doing that as an atheist.

BackforGood Fri 28-Dec-12 01:01:43

I have to correct GayScoutLeader.
No, of course all Scouts aren't expected to do all badges - indeed, there was an article in Scouting not long ago as someone actually had completed all the activity badges, and it was thought to be a unique achievement, there are so many. Some youngsters go through some years without bothering to do any.
Re Scouts with additional needs, adaptations and adjustments are made. It is recomended you adapt things and look at the effort and progress the Scout has made.

*by 'Scout' I mean Beaver / Cub / Scout / Explorer / Nework member.

GayScoutLeader Fri 28-Dec-12 10:46:57

"No, of course all Scouts aren't expected to do all badges"

I didn't say that - I said that all badges should be open to all Scouts.

BackforGood Fri 28-Dec-12 11:19:38

Sorry I misinterpreted what you said, GSL (see what I did there? grin), I skim read it as "Are all scouts expected to do all the badges". My apologies. Must stop posting after I should have gone to bed. smile

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