Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts Who Are Agnostic or Atheist

A Couple of Questions About Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts and Agnostics

Amy sent in this question:

How do you complete the Wolf faith requirement if a family does not have a faith, and does not talk about God in their family? This family was hesitant to join Scouts because of the faith component.

And John asked a similar question about faith requirements for Cub Scouts and agnostics:

I am a den leader and I have a scout who is being raised agnostic. What can I do to assist the scout in completing the “Duty to God” achievement?

Faith Adventures in the Cub Scout Program

In the Cub Scout program, there are required faith adventures for every rank. While the faith requirements for Cub Scouts are broad and do not require adherence to any specific religion, they do require a Cub Scout to think about faith and discuss it.

You might find the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle from the Charter and Bylaws helpful when discussing this with parents:

Article IX Section 1: The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath the member declares, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.”

The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

Boy Scouts of America Charter and Bylaws

If you discuss the declaration of religious principle with them and you are still not sure what to do, I recommend you call your local council and seek advice from them. Your local Scouting professionals are there to help you sort through difficult questions like these. They are a valuable resource when you don’t know where else to turn.

Talk with the Parents about the Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts

Have an open and honest discussion with the parents. See if they have ideas about how they can fulfill the requirements in a way that is comfortable with their beliefs. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding also. They do not need to belong to a church or form of organized religion to complete the requirements.

Also, remember that these requirements do not need to be completed at a meeting. It might be best if you let the families complete them at home and then tell you when they have finished them. See Should Duty To God Requirements Be Completed at Home or at a Meeting? for more information.

Check the Comments About Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts Below

There is a lot of practical advice about how other Cub Scout leaders have handled Cub Scout faith requirements and agnostics or atheists in the comments below. If you read through them, you might find something which works in your situation.

Related Resources

Should Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts Be Completed at Home or at a Meeting?

I think the best solution is to have families do these requirements at home. You can’t know the specifics of each families practices and this approach will ensure that everyone’s beliefs are respected. Just ask the parents to do them with the Cub Scouts and report back to you when they are completed. A detailed explanation from the parents is not required.

The Scout Oath and Law

A Scout regularly says the Scout Oath and Law. The Scout Oath speaks of “Duty to God” and one of the points of the Scout Law is “Reverent”. But people of different faiths may have broad ways of interpreting these.


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74 responses to “Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts Who Are Agnostic or Atheist”

  1. Jenny Avatar
    Jenny

    I had my wolf den do this requirement at home. Some families attend church, some are believers but don’t attend, and some are agnostic. We have some problems with arguing about little things (we’re working on it) and I know 2 of our boys have had words over religion before.

    1. Jason Avatar
      Jason

      All,
      I just wanted to encourage leaders to be sensitive to the agnostic perspective but be bold in the position of the organization. Clearly, we are faith-based (not religious based.) There is one Creator God that we are to acknowledge, give thanks to and understand our accountability to. Anyone who is part of the organization that does not support and promote this cornerstone principal is not leading BSA. Its ok to allow for requirements at home – but not talking about this topic at meetings does not help anyone. I would argue that it hurts the next generation of Scouts who need leadership examples of mature faith. I wish you all the best in striking this balance; respecting different faiths yet boldly teaching the position and honoring the culture of Boy Scouts of America.
      Respectfully,
      Jason

      1. 3rd Generation Scouter Avatar
        3rd Generation Scouter

        I remember when BSA did not allow black scouts and I also remember when units did not allow jewish scouts. Times change. Religion is for church and home not the Scouting unit. It is a family issue. BSA recognizes many religions through the Religious emblem program that have contradicting beliefs. Do some ready on the other religions and what their beliefs are and you will have some real shock.

        For Example: Jain or Jainism is recognized religion and part of the BSA religious emblem program is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of nonviolence towards all living beings. They specificly reject the idea of a creator or destroyer god and postulates that the universe is eternal. Jainism believes every soul has the potential for salvation and to become god. So no one God but rather potentially many gods.

        BSA also recognizes Hindu, another religion with a belief in gods rather than God.

        For Scouting to servive we need to move away from the Duty to God and move to duty to god or mankind etc. A Scout should do the right thing not because of religion but because he is a Scout.

        Religion and God or god is 300 pound gorilla that BSA should politly show to the door.

        1. Brian Avatar
          Brian

          I really like the way you explained this and appreciate your thinking on this matter. I for one have a wide variety of religions and non-religious families in my den and we welcome them all. We teach that it is more about how we treat other people and the earth we live on that is more important.

        2. Douglas Cooper Avatar
          Douglas Cooper

          “I remember when BSA did not allow black scouts and I also remember when units did not allow jewish scouts”

          3rd Generation Scouter needs to back this up.

        3. Michelle Avatar
          Michelle

          I politely disagree. BSA’s principles echo our natural rights as outlined in the Constitution. We are quickly becoming a country that defames organized religion. As you said, BSA has evolved and embraces many different faiths. And faith in some God/god is what’s missing today. Faith and belief in a higher power gives a bedrock for everything else; when many in our country are crying out for government to get involved to establish and reinforce needed mores, our founding principles knew our rights were tempered with service to others and the morals intrinsic to faith. This was- and continues to be cornerstone to BSA. Don’t like having duty to God/god in this program? Join the Girl Scouts.

          1. Scouter dad Avatar

            Michelle- I politely disagree with your take. What you’re missing is that faith, by definition, places belief without justification up on a pedestal where it cannot be questioned. Then this leads people of faith to justify any action or belief: slavery, women being considered less than men, etc.

            It is our diversity of religious and non-religious beliefs in America that makes us great, not one specific set of religious belief. If you think about your community and considering the sum of all the beliefs in your town, that communal belief is what gives America a bedrock for everything else. We have a word for that participation of everyone in your community. It’s called voting and government. When I hear someone say we need more god and less government, I think it means, “I want my specific religious beliefs to supersede all other beliefs in my community”. That’s not good citizenship.

            For me, including the word “God” in the Scout Oath is unnecessary and it should be removed, just as the Scouts in Canada, UK, and many other countries have done. The Scout Law can stand on its own as a great moral code, and Scouting can continue to have ideas of reverence and respect for other people’s (religious) ideas without compromising Scouting in any way!

            Scouting needs all the new scouts we can get, and I know several families that I tried to get to join, but were worried about all the new religious requirements. Shameless plug: So I created the site AtheistScout.com to help non-religious Cub Scout parents navigate the newly added “Duty to god” requirements.

      2. Leo Avatar
        Leo

        Are you able to hear yourself? “Not religious based…there is one creator god…”
        That’s religion..and one with an imaginary totalitarian celestial dictator at its helm.
        Who is more moral & humble? The individual who believes they require the moral instruction from a character just as verifiable as Humpty or the individual who is brave enough to be tiny with an understanding that we are a primate capable of great things but also have the potential to bring harm, learning that the latter is not good practice on many levels?
        The idea that a person with an imaginary friend has better values or morals is arrogant, misinformed & sickening.
        Name one good moral thing it’s storied god did in the Bible. A bloody temporary sacrifice in a remote part of Palestine isn’t moral by any stretch.

        1. Jeff Avatar
          Jeff

          This is too harsh. I’m an atheist, but telling Christians their god is a “totalitarian… dictator” helps no one. There are a variety of different stories in the bible and they aren’t perfectly consistent with each other. There are many different flavors of Christianity with different takes on god and the meaning of those stories. Different people within the same denomination have different interpretations. A lot of people are doing their best in an uncertain world. Insulting people and their religion is not the way to move this discussion forward.

    2. Bob Avatar
      Bob

      When I was a kid, I was in Cub Scouts and loved it. As an adult I am an atheist, and I believe myself to be a good citizen. God had nothing to do with me being a good citizen. Instead it has been MY decisions that have made me a good citizen. I served my country in the Army as an Infantryman for 15 years until I was medically retired due to damage to my body from a bunch of explosions. I volunteer, I vote, and I am raising two children that have learned that they are responsible for their actions. I would love it if my son could join Boy Scouts, but he can’t. All because some people think that one cannot be moral without God. To which I say, if you found out tomorrow that there was no God, would you immediately start raping, and killing people?

      1. Brent Avatar
        Brent

        Thanks for sharing your story Bob. I appreciate it being atheist myself with both a son, and as of this month, a daughter in Cub Scouts.

      2. Geoffrey Benedict Avatar
        Geoffrey Benedict

        We all have faith. Whether it is in God or not. For example, the Quakers have different branches that all seek to follow their inner light in order to live a better life.
        Some believe that is the Holy Spirit from the Christian Trinity, others their own conscience.
        Faith is confidence in things unseen. For example I believe I can raise my son to be a good person, I don’t have evidence that I will succeed, I have Faith.

        I would suggest that we all have hope, and hope is a part of faith. It is okay for people to believe in God or gods or a lack of gods, what matters is that we draw common good values from what we have Faith in.

        Ignoring faith altogether isn’t the right way to approach it. If you do have multiple faiths in your group, then this is a great time to enforce on them respect for each other and the right to believe what we choose, and understanding that what matters is not what we say we believe, but the people that faith drives us to become.

  2. Amy Avatar
    Amy

    We have a pack whose members are from many different faiths, including many agnostic families who are in leadership roles. We ask everyone to complete the faith elements of each rank at home and we have several Scouts Own Service programs which are patriotic, Native American, multi-faith or nature-oriented. For our agnostic families, they are all active in service to our community and combine service projects with their children as part of their faith discussions.

  3. Liz H Avatar
    Liz H

    I am a Wolf leader. I had the boys complete at home and took the parents at their word. I know that the boys come from different religious backgrounds and some that believe that God exists but don’t believe in an organized religion. That is between them and their God. A large portion of that requirement is to discuss with their family so that is where I left it. Part d is the only one that one not apply and I will not keep a child from advancing based on their family’s religious beliefs. Our leader is a deacon and he agreed.

  4. Marie Avatar
    Marie

    We ask our families to do this at home, but most do not or don’t know how. I have done the discussion in den meeting. I have the boys turn and talk to their parent (most have one who stays). They discuss it then and there. We then let each share. I share also and give several examples of different beliefs. Then I let the boys choose 2 things that they can do to demonstrate their faith and tell them to report back to me the following week.

  5. Ned Avatar
    Ned

    I think the answer summed up as “These kids are out of luck, but if they start to believe in a deity, they’ll be more than welcome.”

  6. Mama Grizzly Avatar
    Mama Grizzly

    We need to get free from the compulsion to try to be all things to all people. Scouting has at its core faith in God and honoring and living true to that faith, as stated above in the basic Scout Charter, and as the boys repeat regularly in the Scout oath. Plain and simple. If someone has a problem with that, with God, they don’t belong in Scouts, and can find another outlet for their boys. If we continually apologize for our faith, and try to soft sell, backpedal and minimize it out of fear of offending people not of faith, we might as well pack up and go home.

    1. Poppie Avatar
      Poppie

      What she said…………

    2. Me Avatar
      Me

      That’s rude, maybe that needs to made crystal clear when recruiting. You don’t need religion, you need morals to be a good person and scouting embodies that regardless. I have a wonderful group of boys and need idea’s to help them obtain their badge for all faiths or non. Is this what I am supposed to tell boy’s who have worked so hard the past 3 years? To go take a hike?

      1. Brent Avatar
        Brent

        “You don’t need religion, you need morals to be a good person and scouting embodies that regardless.”

        BAM! Any believer who doubts this one iota needn’t look around themselves too far to find at least one non-believer consistently acting just as moral as himself or herself. Additionally, anyone doubting that statement likely hasn’t been bothered to listen to or read author and speaker Sam Harris.

        1. MarkT Avatar
          MarkT

          and where do you think those morals in America come from? Oh wait. Yes they are Judeo-Christian in origin. People are not Born Moral, they are taught.

          1. Brent Avatar
            Brent

            No sir. Human morality’s foundation predates judeo Christian origin. I can point you to numerous sources that show this. Look into countries where Christianity is a minority (like Scandinavian ones) and ask yourself where their respectable morality comes from.

      2. James Lehman Avatar
        James Lehman

        “” to help them obtain their badge for all faiths or non. “” The requirement for Cub Rank has no more need than the certification from the parent that the Cub has done his duty to his God/faith. The Scout leader need only listen to the explanation of the Cub and nod understanding. The Cub leader in no way needs to “approve” of what the parent or Cub says. The adult leader should encourage the Cub to earn the faith award appropriate to his family’s faith. Google is your friend, seekout the Scout Faith Award list and contact info.

  7. Terry Avatar
    Terry

    I am not offended by others beliefs but the idea that to participate in scouts we have to believe in “God” saddens me. It seems rather narrow. Does it include Buddhists? Those who worship Allah? Or only a Christian/Catholic version of God? 95% of scouting has very little to do with religion, so to chase off those of us who aren’t believers but otherwise participate in a positive way. Perhaps that explains why the rolls are shrinking in our parts. I hope my family can continue to participate but I feel I am being backed into a corner by some of these requirements. I was just doing “don’t ask, don’t tell” but I won’t lie.

    1. J Avatar
      J

      Terry, I believe the requirement is to believe and have faith in A God, not necessarily the Chrisian God only. I have been to Scout troops with Muslims. No big deal.

    2. Katherin Avatar
      Katherin

      Terry, take a look at the link
      http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/ReligiousAwards/chart.aspx

      It is from the scouting web page about the religious awards offered through scouting. The emblems are for Hindu, Islam, Baptist, Orthodox, LDS, Jewish, Quakers, The Salvation Army and more. To say that scouting is limited only to Christian/Catholic versions of God is not what scouting believe or make available to their boys.

      1. Brent Avatar
        Brent

        Small nitpick, but since when is Baptist a religion? I understand it as a flavor of Christianity. More specifically, a flavor of evangelistic Christianity.

        1. James Lehman Avatar
          James Lehman

          I recommend , Brent, that you seek tolerance of others understanding of faith. For most people’s understanding, yes, the different “flavors ” of Christianity demark different “religions”. For instance, “Quakers” are officially “The Religious Society of Friends” . This does not mean one is wrong in denoting that “flavor” of Christianity as “Quaker”, merely a different name for that version of worship, via Jesus…. See you on the trail.

  8. Ralph Griggs Avatar
    Ralph Griggs

    Well folks, our country and the Boy Scout organization were both founded on the very clear principals of the God of the Bible. Not Allah, or Buddha, and certainly not atheists and/or agnostics (there is absolutely no wiggle room here)

    It is all over the writings of our founding fathers, our monuments in Washington, DC, and plastered on the very doors and building of our Supreme Court.

    If you agree with these principals, then join the Boy Scouts.
    If not, then join the 4H club or some other civic organization

    So now, I suppose I am to be considered intolerant, but I am not.

    Quite the opposite, intolerance is refusing to accept the precepts that the Boy Scouts promote and feeling you, somehow, need to impose your view point on them and require that they conform to your position.

    If we were able to pose the question to Robert Baden Powel and/or Daniel Carter Beard, they would be crystal clear in their response.

    You know, in the world of tolerance, it is just “OK” if an organization is founded, recruits members, and conducts business or activities and other people or organizations do not agree with what they believe. It’s just OK, really !!!

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar

      The BSA is nonsectarian. Its members and chartered organizations include those who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and members of other faith communities. See http://www.scouting.org/About/FactSheets/operating_orgs.aspx

      1. Ralph Griggs Avatar
        Ralph Griggs

        Read the fact sheet above. How very unfortunate.

        How do the civic organizations, agnostics, atheist groups justify a requirement for faith in God?

        Wonder what the Muslims teach our kids about God and Jesus??

        Do you suppose they teach them that all non Muslims are infidels?

        How about Jihad?

        10 years in scouting growing up. The organization clearly reflected Christian Moral Code, readings from the Bible (not the Koran), and the prayers were ended with “in Jesus name” Every one.

        Well, Scouter Mom, we all know what the Christian values are.

        Are there any constraints, at all, on what they teach our children about God, country, liberty, and the law?

        Merely asking because I don’t know.

        1. Tom Linton Avatar
          Tom Linton

          >They agree to follow BSA’s vague guidance on “A Scout is Reverent.” Buddhists can belong and do not believe in God.
          >Muslims teach that Jesus is a prophet of God who will return with Mohammed and Moses when God’s rule on Earth begins.
          >Like Christians, Muslims are divided about who is an infidel.
          >Ending prayers as if everyone is Protestant Christian is fine – if everyone is a Protestant Christian. Otherwise, is not “Reverent” and is, frankly, rude. Religious observance within Scouting is to be nondenominational.
          >”They”? If you mean B.S.A., it is committed to leaving religious teaching to parents and religious institutions selected by the family. As to law, see “A Scout is Obedient,” language inconsistent with some of the heroes recognized by B.S.A.. who disobeyed immoral laws. As to political issues, B.S.A. ducks to the greatest extent possible.

        2. Jake Avatar
          Jake

          Thank you. People like you are the reason I will not allow my son to join scouts. There’s so much wrong with what you said. I wouldn’t want my son anywhere near you or someone who believes the way you do. Religion divides people up…period!! Scouts should not.

    2. Olivia B. Avatar
      Olivia B.

      Tom- well said. Ralph Griggs get a grip on reality. I sense so much hate in your words. It is OKAY that people believe in god or not- it is really OKAY. Also, times change and beliefs change evolve too. It is also, Okay to be inclusive. Peace to you.

    3. Scott Larson, Pack 352, CFC Avatar
      Scott Larson, Pack 352, CFC

      Just to point it out, Muslims believe in the same God as you do. Allah isn’t a different entity, it’s a different language. Allah is the literal translation of God. If you don’t think Arabic speaking scouts should join becuae of their language, you are basically saying that anyone who doesn’t speak English isn’t welcome in scouting.

      As far as whether or not other non-Christian religions should be able to join, as scouting leaders, we have the luxury of having a national council, so our opinions are not only irrelevant to this specific scouting policy, they are unwelcome. If you don’t agree with the national policy, that is fine. But, we also teach obedience, which means that if you don’t agree with policy or law, you work to change it while abiding by it. If you won’t abide by it, you don’t belong in scouting and should immediately leave the organization (the quicker, the better).

      We, as a scouting organization, do not discriminate against boys who are Hindu, Muslim, Gay, or Transgender. If you are in a cub packs, our charters can accept girls or maintain a gender segregated organization. If you are in a segregated pack and are at a multi-pack event with co-Ed packs, you need to treat them, according to the scout law and organizational bylaws, as equal scouts. If not, you are not teaching our youth the appropriate scouting principals and doing a disservice to the organization. Simply put, we don’t want rouge leaders in packs or troops, and given that we are obedient, we have already agreed to abide.

      Yours in Scouting,

  9. Terry Avatar
    Terry

    Mr. Griggs,

    My little Pagans aren’t talking about religion at all. And no one else is talking to them about religion. Never heard anyone mention infidels or jihads. We are just trying to get them to get their minds off Minecraft for a little while and out into nature and doing something as a family and as a community. Why does that have to turn I to something politically divisive? Thankfully I live in Northern CA, so it hasn’t. If I lived elsewhere I am sure we would not be welcome. I guess that’s why I am born, bred, raised, never leaving California. We celebrate and accept differences in our communities instead of alienating those who are different. We were able to come to an understanding and my son received his Webelos badge without lying and being an Atheist.

    1. KB Avatar
      KB

      Terry, that is unfortunate that your little pagans aren’t talking about religion, I am sure they have so much to say or teach. In our Pack we had Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, Christian, Catholic and Agnostic families, on one particular campout we were going to be covering Faith at our Sunday morning service. We invited every family to tell the pack ways they worshiped, how they worship and what they believed. Every family was surprisingly receptive. We ended the morning with finding the ways the Scouts were still the same. They all believed in being kind to others.

      1. Emma Olivier Avatar
        Emma Olivier

        That is a nice story, but it does not always work that way. In my pack, someone found out my family was not religious and we were viciously verbally attacked and reported to the BSA. This was a parent that we had been fairly close friends with and no one saw it coming. She was a Southern Baptist who took the Bible literally and believed non-Christians were evil. It was so divisive that our pack almost folded over it with most people being very upset that an issue was being made of it. The BSA ultimately ignored the report from the woman, but if they had followed their policy most families said they would quit the BSA. I caution people against forcing the issue of having everyone talk about religion as you never know how people will respond. It certainly backfired with our pack.

      2. Scott Larson, Pack 352, CFC Avatar
        Scott Larson, Pack 352, CFC

        Nice exercise. If we can teach scouts
        To be respectful of other beliefs and that different opinions doesn’t threaten personal convictions of faith, we are 90% there and have done our good turn of the day. Thank you for all you do in scouting, I believe that this is the quality of a good scouting leader.

        Yours in Scouting,

    2. Javonne Avatar
      Javonne

      My name is Javonne and I wonder if by any chance you happen to see this message if you would contact me as I have a some questions on how you handled the faith portion of Scouting. If you email me I will email you back my phone number. Thank you. [email protected]

    3. Denice Ney-Lugo Avatar
      Denice Ney-Lugo

      Love this !!

  10. John Avatar
    John

    As a person who does not believe in gods, it is quite easy for me to answer the Duty to God question the same as my Duty to the Easter Bunny- well, no duty at all, I suppose.
    The issue is that the religious folks have trouble seeing outside of their limited worldview (see Mr. Griggs above) and assume that the nonbelievers must be out killing and stealing at every opportunity. Not true, and I try to support my family, my community, my country and charity to the best of my ability. Not because of a god, but because it is how I choose to live my life.
    Of course, this makes me ineligible to be “the best kind of citizen” per the Declaration of Religious Principles above. Meanwhile the jails are filled with the fervently religious, who are apparently the best kind of citizens. ; )
    Bigotry is bigotry, and the scouts should drop this as they were forced to drop their exclusion of African Americans and later, gay kids.

    1. Brent Avatar
      Brent

      “Meanwhile the jails are filled with the fervently religious…”

      Excellent reminder that the statistics on religious affiliation of long-term prison inmates consistently show that it takes religious fundamentalism to make most criminals.

  11. Ralph Griggs Avatar
    Ralph Griggs

    This has nothing to do with politics
    This is about faith
    So if your kids are pagans, how do you deal with the faith in God requirement of the BSA?
    Terry, don’t get ticked off, I simply wonder how you reconcile
    3 comments
    None are duplications

    1. 20 year Scouter Avatar
      20 year Scouter

      We don’t. Believe it or not, many of the Troops, Packs, and Crews in the BSA, are composed of a diverse array of religious backgrounds. Many of us are chartered by groups that have non-discrimination policies that prohibit us from denying athiest and agnostic members, as well as gay ones. Many councils have also adopted similar non-discrimination policies, and simply ignore the National Council bigotry. Since the National Council can’t afford to lose 40,000 scouts, they tend to not object to much.

      I choose to adopt a paraphrasing of the words of Martin Luther King and judge people not by their religious professions or sexual orientation, but by the content of their character. Our country is a secular republic. It was founded by people of diverse backgrounds from Christian to Athiest. There is nothing of a religious nature needed to be a citizen of this country, and no religious test is allowed to hold governmental office. This is expressly stated in the Constitution, and was commented on extensively by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.

      So, I don’t care what religions my scouts are part of. They can do their “duty to God” as their conscience dictates. We inform them of available religious services, and let their God lead them to pray or not. We have had 100 Eagle Scouts in my troop in the last 20 years. Some were gay, some were devout Christians, some were atheist, BUT ALL were exemplary human beings, who it was my honor to know.

      1. Denise Avatar
        Denise

        Thank you, 20 Year Scouter. Well said!

      2. Brent Avatar
        Brent

        Thank you for sharing that, and doing so eloquently.

      3. Middle Path Avatar
        Middle Path

        For those needing a religious emblem for nature based religions such as Wicca:

        http://www.cog.org/about-cog/awards

      4. Nicholas Desnoyer Avatar
        Nicholas Desnoyer

        I love this so much. Thank you!

  12. Rick Avatar
    Rick

    I would hope that any “religion” has at its very core the aim to do good things for humanity.
    I’ll explain faith as a feeling or trust one has when they dial 911. They have faith that help is coming soon. Apply the same thought to a man/woman down…when that person’s partner says to them “I’m getting you out of here…help is coming” there could be a feeling of faith , trust , and relief for the injured.
    I’ll stay away from theological history or who is right or wrong that isn’t a scouting principle to my knowledge.
    Let the kids have fun and try and create good citizens!

    1. 20 year Scouter Avatar
      20 year Scouter

      The problem with the word faith is that it has many meanings to many people. “I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow,” or “I have faith the EMT will come if I call 911,” is not the kind of faith most people are referring to when they profess religious belief. To quote Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In short, this kind of faith is fervent belief in that which you have no evidence for, but wish were true. The Titanic is sinking in freezing water, but I have “faith” that I will be fine (even though I know that the odds against it are astronomical).

      So I agree, lets go about teaching kids to be good citizens, leaders, and clear thinkers, and leave faith in church where it belongs.

      1. Brent Avatar
        Brent

        “…and leave faith in church where it belongs.”

        Or, better yet, in our human history books. IMHO, that is.

  13. 20 year Scouter Avatar
    20 year Scouter

    It is also interesting to note that the BSA recognises Buddhist, Hindu, and Native American faiths as part of its organization. But none of these would fall under the “duty to God” umbrella. Buddhism is not a religion that worships a god, but seeks to follow the example of a man who, through meditation and self-reflection, achieved divinity. It is more of a philosophy than a religion. Hindus worship many gods, so duty to god depends on which god they are praying to that day. And Native American religions range from worship of the “great spirit” to ancestor worship, and animistic shamanism. So obviously “duty to God” can be construed very broadly even within the organization.

    What if my “duty to God” requires me to love and respect my fellow scouts for the amazing, culturally diverse, spiritually varied, sexually spectrumed, unique individuals that they are, and not make biased, uninformed, bigoted, and unfounded preemptive judgements about them?

  14. Switters Avatar
    Switters

    So…
    I was very briefly in scouting… My son has now joined.
    On faith, service to God, country, and how it applies to Boy Scouts in the real.

    In the beginning from the dust, God created humans in Their own image. Trinity, stay with me people…. And we went forth and multiplied… In multiplication we compounded our confusion and decided to build a tower in our stupidity to reach Them in the heavens. They laughed and slapped Their hypothetical knees and added another variable to our confusion. Language. As the sands in the sea, a babel rose, and the sound of laughter… We spread, to the far reaches of the earth telling stories as we walked. Legends born and we Taught our children round fires light to fear, to love, to respect wence we came. Confusion still, the old trying to remember things they forgot. The young trying to Create things that they wish. And the confusion lives on.
    “There is nothing new under the sun, merely chasing the wind.”
    One did come. And They taught round fires light, to love, to have faith, to hope in wence we came… History is written by winners of war… Confusion compounded, rebounding, within our minds confounding.

    This IS what I know.

    Fast forward, rewind, we are all in twined. This breath a gift, not a rift between two faiths or the faith in Ones image, as We were created. Agnostic confusion, indifference, no difference. Does not change what was, what is, and will always be.

    Confusion.

    This country, the United States of America, was built upon altruistic ideals.
    All were created equal, we all can speak our mind, we all have the right to believe, we all have the choice to defend, we all have the choice to be free.
    We all have the duty to fight, to defend, and to extend, these ABSOLUTE rights to ALL CITIZENS of this once great, and can be again, country! This is what We The People are all about! This is what the One taught us.

    LOVE one another as we love our self, prepare a table for the ones we, are different from, we don’t ” like”, the ones we hate, our enemy.
    To all the Pharisies and the Sagusies, I say, come in from your street corner prayer, come down from your vain temples, and prepare the table. Let not your pomp and circumstance be your teacher, but your humility and servitude.
    This is what it means to be human, to be real, to be alive. As scouts, as parents, as children of this world. These are our obligations to our God, to our Country, to Ourselves, to what ever you do or don’t believe.
    This is how it applies.

  15. Howarthe Avatar
    Howarthe

    I think our founder believed that boys could not grow up to be the best kind of citizens without acknowledging their duty to God because everyone should believe fervently in something greater than oneself. I don’t really understand agnostics or anther hurts but the Unitarians helped me broaden my understanding of what the word God could mean to different people. If an atheist patent could acknowledge some duty greater than his duty to his family it his community or his country then I believe that would qualify as a duty to God. The men of the enlightenment were such people. Thomas Jefferson did not believe in miracles but he believed in something. He believed in liberty and justice. There are people who will give up their families, their friends, and even defy the law in order to stay true their duty to liberty and justice. These are the best kinds of citizens.

    1. Brent Avatar
      Brent

      “If an atheist patent could acknowledge some duty greater than his duty to his family it his community or his country then I believe that would qualify as a duty to God.”

      But why go through all the mental gymnastics to attempt to redefine what the term ‘god’ means? It seems disingenuous and sidesteps the real issue that belief in or perceived duty to any kind of diety or dieties does absolutely nothing to advance one’s concern for a fellow human or other animal.

  16. Nanette Avatar
    Nanette

    I came across this list of all organizations that have developed a sound approach to earning their religious emblem:
    http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/religious.asp#Unitarian.

    I was actually raised as a Unitarian, so it was easy for me to click on this option…but many agnostic/atheist families have no knowledge of Unitarians. It’s very much like Hindu (as in its more like a philosophy than a religion), but basically, “the Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide…”
    1st Principle: Each person is important
    2nd Principle: Be kind in all that you do
    3rd Principle: We’re free to learn together
    4th Principle: Search for what is true
    5th Principle: All people need a voice
    6th Principle: Build a fair and peaceful world
    7th Principle: We care for the earth

    So, for those scouting families that want to properly/honestly earn this requirement, and want their children to question question question, while learning about all religions, Unitarian is a great option….especially if they do not want to enjoin themselves to a traditional religious organization.

    The guidebook to earn the emblem is here: http://www.uuscouters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/UUSO-ReligionAndMeGuidebook_2010-05.pdf

    1. Corinna Avatar
      Corinna

      Thank you for spelling out those principles. I have been turning around in my head the Unitarian perspective for going forward with our sons’ and family’s “duty to god”.

  17. Pete Avatar
    Pete

    Teach about Faith. Does not have to be about a single dog. Example Hindu has multiple gods.
    A boy in a family with no god atheist, I would tell the boy about other Faiths and how we should not judge people based on there Faith or lake of Faith.

  18. Tom Linton Avatar
    Tom Linton

    We now have very explicit guidance on this topic from B.S.A.. As of January 1, 2016, there is a Duty to God requirement for advancement. B,S.A. explains that the Scout simply explains how he meets his duty to “God.” The Scout is not judged.
    http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2015/11/02/beginning-next-year-boy-scouts-will-discuss-duty-to-god-at-each-rank/

    Not too great a surprise: some adults utterly reject B.S.A.’s words and fully intend to cross-examine, judge, and reject.

  19. R Avatar
    R

    The bottom line is that atheists and agnostics are not welcome in Scouting – not as youth and not as adults. That’s National policy.

    There’s nothing so disinfecting as the harsh light of public scrutiny. If the BSA is going to keep this as policy, then they should be happy to shout out this policy from the rooftops. They don’t, but we should.

    If you don’t like it, change it.

  20. Steve Avatar

    How depressing. I was a scout in the 1970s and I was planning to enroll my 7-year old in BSA this month. After reading these posts, I don’t think I can allow my son to join a group that discriminates on the basis of personal beliefs – that is inconsistent with the values I’m trying to instill in him. What I am sure of is that teaching children to exclude and persecute those who do not think like themselves does not create the “best kind of citizen.” Both the BSA membership and leadership will eventually come to this same realization, but gauging by these caustic, insular and divisive posts, I suspect that my son will be a grown man by then.

    1. Brent Avatar
      Brent

      Steve, I’ll second what Another Scout Mom suggested. I’m a hard atheist, my wife’s a soft Christian. Our son is 7 and is thus neither atheist nor Christian nor any other thing regarding belief in deities. I’ve been adamant about not being part of any group that wouldn’t want to associate with people of zero belief.

      It seems that we may have stumbled upon a local troop that’s open-minded on this point. We’ve only attended a few meetings and had a brief discussion about my and my son’s nonbelief but it seems to be a non-issue thus far.

      1. Steve Avatar

        Thanks Brent. That’s very helpful. I’ll remain hopeful!

    2. James Lehman Avatar
      James Lehman

      Steve: Please understand, it is not the “organization” that discriminates, it is the “person”. Baden Powell went to great lengths to avoid being labeled a “Church of England” organization, altho the CoE tried mightily to adopt the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides as their own. BP recognized early that Scouting had to be separate from any particular religion. Look around the world. We have Scouts in almost every recognized nation . France has no fewer than six Scout associations , each defined by a different Catholic Church type (!). Germany has dozens, both secular and religiously sponsored. To assume that the BSA is the end-all, be-all of Scouting is so unfair and limiting. Would you deny Scouting to Afghanistani youth merely because they face Mecca when they pray? That is not what our soldiers there are doing. There will be a loyal Afghani contigent at the World Jamboree HERE , at The Summit, in 2019. Come down and watch, Scouts of every color and flavor of faith, joining in, living “The Scout Way”.
      See YOU on the trail……

      1. Steve Avatar

        James. I am really not trying to be antagonistic and appreciate you comments but am honestly confused about what appears to be contradiction after contradiction. In the first sentence below from a Scouting Magazine Q&A blog it states that there is no requirement for a religious faith as long as his or her religious faith includes a diety. I know this isn’t a legal document but I can’t get my head around how inconsistent that is. In the second sentence, one must ascribe to religious (not moral) principles and believe in a higher power. There appears to be a religious test indeed.

        (1) “There is no requirement that a Scout identify a religious faith as part of his duty to God.”

        (2) “… a Scout does have to ascribe to the declaration of religious principles, and express belief in a higher power.”

        But the blog answer that really hit me in the gut is this one:

        (3) “A Scout’s declaration that he does not believe in God is grounds to deny rank advancement and could affect his continued membership in the troop.”

        So if my son ever states that his personal belief system does not include a diety (he’s just learning about religion now), then he could be singled out, humiliated and expelled. It makes me think of totalitarian regimes that limit freedom of thought. I get that there are probably many kind, considerate and pragmatic troops that would never shame a young child like that, but the organization’s founding principles clearly condone it – so it could happen – and to scar my boy like that would truly be my nightmare scenario.

        Am I thinking about this too hard? Perhaps, but that’s what parenting does to you …

        1. James Lehman Avatar
          James Lehman

          Hello, Steve. I have come to the realization that it is a parent’s duty and responsibility to give their kids something to either accept or reject (did I say that before?). The parent then has no say in what that choice will be. Your Cub may come to be a fervent follower of…. who? or a dedicated rejecter of …. what? I would hope in your denial of the supernatural stuff you do not deny your kids’ ability to see the wonder of the natural world, however it came to be. What I see as miracle, no matter how small, others see as a coincidence or merely the working out of the laws of physics and time. A human eye still discerns the different frequencies of light.
          The BSA does trip over it’s own feet in talking about the need for faith. It is said that Buddhists do not “believe” in (a) God, but theirs is definitely a religion. It is the sincerity I look for. Is “Pastafariansim” really a religion, or merely a sarcastic , insincere objectivization of a teenager’s nose thumbing? The Bible I read tells me to “Know them by their fruits”. If I see a person’s action as those of a “good Christian”, but they espouse atheism, who am I to complain? If you see your “duty to God” is fulfilled by not believing in him/her/it, well, let’s see you tie a good bowline….

          Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic , insomniac? Poor man lay awake all night, wondering if there is a dog…..

  21. Another Scout Mom Avatar
    Another Scout Mom

    Steve, I would advise you to check out your local Pack options and discuss how they handle this issue before you decide to give up on scouts.

    As for me, though I am a Sunday School teacher as well as a scout leader, I’ve decided that each family handles this as they will. If a family does not want to hear “God” mentioned, then unfortunately scouting isn’t for them. But, if they are willing to say to themselves, we don’t believe in a supreme being, but when we are supposed to discuss “duty to God” with our scout, we talk about what we do believe and how we live our lives accordingly, then I see this as fulfilling the requirements. As others have pointed out, BSA accepts religions that don’t worship a supreme being, so I feel my perspective is consistent with that.

  22. James L. Avatar
    James L.

    As a Scout Chaplain (watch MASH and see Father Mulcahy as my trainer), I will say the following: 1) Faith is an ideal. The God we follow is an ideal. Atheists have ideals, and the same is true for them as for me. I often fall short of that ideal. 2) When someone wishes me a “merry Christmas” or a Salaam Aleichem, or a “bless you”, I welcome them all. I need all the help I can get. 3) A Scout’s faith (or lack of it) begins with his/her parents, should they be fortunate to have some. It is the duty and responsibility of parents to give their progeny something to accept or reject. Parents have no say in that. I have an avowed atheist daughter and a devout to our faith son and some “ummm not sure” stepsons. I lead and teach by example. See what happened? 4) The BSA is a religious organization, by definition, but NOT a religion. When I am asked to organize a “Scout’s Own” service at a camporee, I always ask the Troops to appoint some Chaplain Assistants (Scouts) and I let them plan it. The Scouts are much more sensitive to the vagaries in their groups than any adult. 6) The Bible, the Koran, the Baghivad Gita, the Torah , all have their peace and violence. And they all have their own version of the “”Golden Rule””. We have our differences (only one type of Christian? giveth me thy break), but we must admit that if we are “”made in God’s Image””, what kind of funhouse mirror he must have looked in ! See you on the trail.

  23. Jen Avatar
    Jen

    Because my den’s parents stink at doing homework, I covered some of the God adventure for my Wolf den.

    The Golden Rule is in pretty much all religions, so that’s what we talked about. It’s pretty easy to find a list online.

    I’m not interested in getting the southern Baptist parents riled up, but I’m not offending my Hindu boys’ parents either. So I stick to common ground with instructions to ask their parents what other duties they have to God.

  24. James Lehman Avatar
    James Lehman

    Yep, we’re still here, stumbling around, trying to find agreement as to what (or who?) was the originator of the universe’s rules. Consider the human eye. Is there any hint of intended design in that? Only accidental success driven molecular combination? WHY would a photon frequency sensitive organ be valuable to a motile organism? WHY should that organism find it necessary/fun/desirable to wonder at it’s own existence? Why is coffee more important to the world’s economy than petroleum?

  25. Chris Acree Avatar
    Chris Acree

    I raise my boys (6 and 8) humanist and am considering the cub scouts. If you are reading this, could I get your thoughts on how I might handle Article IX Section 1?

    We talk a lot about the importance of kindness to others especially when we have disagreements. We also talk about religions because many of our family and friends believe in God but we do not. I share with them many religious-based stories not just from the Bible, but from many different places and times. Aztecs, Egyptians, Persians, Inuits, Celts, Mayan, Chinese, Irish, and on and on.

    I want them to know three main things concerning other’s beliefs.

    1-religion is very important to people, so treat them kindly especially if you do not share the same belief.

    2-there have been hundreds of thousands of different beliefs and religions all over the world and they cannot all be right no matter how much they believe.

    3-it is up to them and only them what they chose to believe. others may try to persuade, but it is always their choice. Talking about differing beliefs may cause some people to be angry and use hurtful words. Please try to stay calm and don’t return unkindness with unkindness.

    We spend a lot of time on honest as well, which is incredibly important when it is hard to do so. We talk about doing the right thing because it is the right thing even when no one else is looking. In short, I want them to strive to be the best versions of themselves.

    So when I told them when they must use “God” in pledges, “God” means many things to many people. For them, it could be the best version of themselves and the best version of the people we share this planet with.

    So walking down Article IX Section 1…yes, we have an obligation to ourselves and others to be the best version of ourselves we possibly can. Yes, we owe ourselves and each other a duty to be kind, trustworthy, helpful. It is up to us, all of us, to build and protect the world we want to live in, to be the change we want to see in the world.

    What are your thoughts to this approach?

    1. Scouter dad Avatar
      Scouter dad

      Try this web site: https://AtheistScout.com

  26. Scouter dad Avatar
    Scouter dad

    I had a bunch of concerns being an Atheist parent, but after looking around a bunch, I found the site AtheistScout where someone went through all the requirements for each rank and it looks like most of the new specific “Duty to God” requirements are only for Cub Scouts…

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