Atheist Scout leader quandary.

(32 Posts)
AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 14:52:07

I've just started the process of becoming a Scout leader, and very stupidly I hadn't considered the religious side of things until the leader went through the promise with me this morning.

I told the leader that I don't believe in God, and she said that isn't a problem as long as I believe in something spiritual that makes me be a good person. I sort of nodded, but the truth is that I have no belief in anything spiritual. I'm a good person because I want to be, so by that logic my conscience is my god confused

I'm really keen to do this, but don't want to lie. They're desperate for leaders to keep the group going, and I know I'd do a good enough job of it, but I'm worried I'll feel like a hypocrite and that they'll kick me out if the truth outs.

Or am I being silly and should just say the promise, then forget all about the religious bit?

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 15:01:24

I should probably say that my children are all members of Scouts etc, and I have no problem with them having committed to God when they made their promise. They don't yet know if they have faith in anything spiritual, and I'm not anti-religion. They can work their own thoughts out as they get older, so I don't feel that their was any hypocrisy there.

I'm sure nobody else gives it this much thought! blush

MaryBS Tue 17-Sep-13 15:45:07

Personally, you don't sound happy to profess to something you don't believe in, so I would tell them that you can't, that you need to stand by your principles. I thought there was a new alternative promise now, which leaves out a reference to God?

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10136888/Scout-Association-amends-vow-to-God-in-bid-to-appease-atheists-and-other-faiths.html

ErrolTheDragon Tue 17-Sep-13 16:01:08

Its not clear whether the alternative is for leaders or just for the kids though.

Here's a thought. Buddhists don't believe in God either, I've heard that they are already allowed to adapt the vow to refer to their Dharma rather than god. Dharma is a bit hard to pin down but this: 'As well as referring to Law in the universal or abstract sense, dharma designates those behaviours considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things. Dharma may encompass ideas such as duty, vocation, religion and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright. ' - apart from the 'religion' part, its I (a non-spiritual atheist) could happily sign up to.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 17-Sep-13 16:01:54

(editing fail on the last line but I expect you get my drift!)

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 16:51:46

Yes,I suppose I could claim to have the same beliefs as Buddhists without actually stating that I'm a Buddhist.

Alternatively I could tell a little white lie and just make the promise without any fuss. It's not going to play on my conscience, it's just bothered me a bit that I could be excluded if I'm honest.

Thanks for your thoughts.

curlew Tue 17-Sep-13 16:54:07

My son said that he made the promise happily because it says "my God" and that his God was Darwin, so that was fine.

<aware of being unhelpful.......>

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 17:03:16

Curlew, I have to admit that did cross my mind!

curlew Tue 17-Sep-13 17:04:41

He's now Senior Patrol Leader- so it hasn't stood in his way!

NoComet Tue 17-Sep-13 17:13:10

I'm an ex brown owl, I've been fudging this since I was 7. The Guides have now got a new promise which is …

I promise that I will do my best:
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,
To serve the Queen and my community,
To help other people
and
To keep the Guide Law.

Terribly twee, Honestly it would be far better if Guiding and Scouts accepted we live in an age where all beliefs and no belief should be treated as equally valid.

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 17:19:45

Thanks, this has been reassuring. I think I'll go down the fudging and avoiding scrutiny route!

NoComet Tue 17-Sep-13 17:35:24

Fudge is tasty grin and our Scouts are desperate for help.

I may, someday go back to Guides (when I'm not taxi driving at meeting times), but boys scare me.

"Thanks, this has been reassuring. I think I'll go down the fudging and avoiding scrutiny route!"

Given that Atheistsdotheirbest is planning to be a role model and mentor to young people this isn't a great start in the ethics dept is it?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 17-Sep-13 18:52:48

Its perfectly ethical if you're a utilitarianist: 'Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering'

If the OP doesn't take the outdated discriminatory oath, all that happens is that a scout group desperate for a leader doesn't get one. 'something spiritual that makes me be a good person' is a phrase so vague as to be meaningless - the leader clearly wants the OP on board.

alemci Tue 17-Sep-13 19:22:31

I'm sure they will be delighted to have you. I wouldn't get too hung up on it.

The first Remembrance Day service in church is going to be a challenge though.

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 20:28:53

Why will it be a challenge? I've been to dozens of Remembrance Day services. I was a Brownie, Guide and Venture Scout. The regular events won't come as a shock to me.

I've never been uncomfortable inside a religious building before and I respect the beliefs of others. So I don't say amen, it's no big deal.

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 17-Sep-13 20:31:16

I bloody love singing hymns anyway, so I'm really looking forward to the services.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 17-Sep-13 20:46:12

>The first Remembrance Day service in church is going to be a challenge though

Remembrance day is a time for anyone who wants to remember, not something that the church owns. Atheists who are 'cultural Christians' (which from the hymn remark I assume the OP is) can cope with such events. Christmas etc too.

specialsubject Tue 17-Sep-13 21:11:09

all atheists can cope with Remembrance Day. How insulting to say that non-believers cannot pay their respects.

OP, just smile and nod. No wonder the Scouts are desperate for leaders.

curlew Tue 17-Sep-13 22:56:28

"The first Remembrance Day service in church is going to be a challenge though."

Why?

NoComet Tue 17-Sep-13 23:00:54

I've laid the wreath on Remberence day, nothing religious in remembering a grandfather who was was partially paralysed at 17 and two great uncles I never met as they were killed in WW1.

AnitaBlake Tue 17-Sep-13 23:12:11

I'm an atheist and I quite like going to church! I don't sing (its not nice, the noise that comes out of my mouth lol) but I enjoy the community, and the occasion I'm there for. Even my catholic sister thanked me for going to my nieces christening because she 'gets' that although I don't have a god, I can enjoy and support my loved ones in their special days, I will attend their first communions too.

For me, its something I can observe, no different to going to a Jewish Temple, or a Mosque. Religion fascinates me, and certainly a Rememberance Service is one of the more secular services because its about the people we are remembering more than anything else.

OddSockMonster Wed 25-Sep-13 11:40:37

I'm in just the same boat as you OP, I'm an aethiest Asst Beaver Leader. So far, I've never had to say the promise, but I have exactly the same issue as you in terms of not wanting to lie.

In terms of the ethics of being in an aethiest in a 'faith' organisation, that's never been a problem. We're doing our faith badge at the moment and so I looked up the background to the badge - it's primarily about tolerance and understanding for others and about being comfortable with your own faith, and not religious instruction. If you can promote tolerance, then I can't see any conflict.

I'm really hoping the World Scout Organisation approve the proposed UK extra promise for those without a faith - I replied to the consultation when it was on, stating very clearly the position I'm in and how I don't see this as a hindrance to Scouting values.

We'll see what happens, but you're certainly not the only one!

SadBadMadFat Sat 05-Oct-13 19:53:55

So they've taken God out of it but left the Queen in?? what about if you're not a fan/follower of the royal family? (genuine question)

I am religious and my children attend Beavers and Cubs currently. I would much rather they had leaders who were honest and stood by their principles than those who didn't if that helps. Hope it all works out.

MostlyLovingLurchers Mon 07-Oct-13 10:54:45

I hope the changes go ahead. All that is needed is something like the solemn affirmation that atheist MPs can swear. They also still have to swear allegiance to the queen though. I would rather they swore allegiance to the public they are meant to represent but guess that is another thread.

OddSockMonster Tue 08-Oct-13 09:15:43

Woohoo!

New alternative promise!

I'm really happy, I know at least two Beavers who will be happy with this too, think we'll be renewing our promises as soon as we start back after new year smile

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 08-Oct-13 10:09:02

Quick update to this.

This morning I received a letter which has presumably been sent out to all Scout Leaders. It states that yesterday, The Scout Association announced they have introduced an alternative to the Scout Promise that can be taken by people who are humanist or have no affirmed faith and wish to join Scouting.

Great news for people like me, and great timing! I hope this will boost the number of adults signing up to volunteer, and children wanting to become Scouts.

AtheistsDoTheirBest Tue 08-Oct-13 10:10:21

Ah, just realised people shared the good news before me! Should have checked the end of the thread before posting!

ErrolTheDragon Tue 08-Oct-13 10:13:15

That's great - pleased this has come in at a good timing for you. smile

technodad Tue 08-Oct-13 20:05:20

Regarding the Queen.

It is at least possible to do your duty to the Queen, since she actually exists and is not a fictional character.

However, since Henry VIII thought he was gods representative on this planet, swearing to do your duty to someone who is delusional about their divine position is pretty stupid too. Although, this has all been watered down a lot with the modern monarchy, so is is slightly less bollox, albeit, still clearly... bollox.

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