Thursday, September 30, 2010

Requirement 11 (Cub Scouts Duty To God)

Recently I had to explain to my 7 year old son the consequences that being an atheist might have on his being a cub scout.

You see the scouts are inherently discriminatory against atheists. The cub scout promise starts "I promise to do my duty to god..." so if you don't believe in god, how can you possibly keep your scout promise?

I didn't realize this about the scouts until he had spent almost a year as a tiger scout and even then there didn't seem to be any material impact. After all, he says the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school and we understand that this was written a long time ago and the inclusions of god is a formality, so it is no big deal. In addition I must point out that while the official stance of the scouts is a discriminatory one, his particular den has never shown any such inclination.

For Wolf scouts there are requirements to demonstrate your duty to god. We discussed ways that he might be able to achieve his scout requirements without believing in god. We mentioned that some might be met simply by understanding his own and other religions. We discussed what it meant to have faith. (About a year ago he demonstrated his own show of faith by proclaiming that despite no evidence to prove it, he felt that by simply believing in magic it would be true. Something I ultimately could not refute.) We discussed that believing that god does not exist is basically faith since you can't prove it. We discussed helping the Ethical Humanist Society.

I have to say he took the whole thing like a champ. He was very upset about the whole thing and was on the verge of tears for quite a while. He asked us why people are like this? Why do they discriminate? We explained that people have been discriminated against since as far as recorded history. We reminded him of Rosa Parks and other well known examples of discrimination against people because of race, religion or gender. On the bright side I believe that dealing with adversity such as discrimination builds character.

Ultimately he said when he grows up he wants to start his own scouting organization. One that doesn't discriminate against anyone.


  1. I'd just like to thank you for posting this -- I really appreciate seeing that I am not the only one struggling with this question. I also am leaning towards finding a Humanist "church" in order to satisfy my son's Wolf requirements. I would be interested to see how you dealt with the Bear requirements which continue with the god requirements.

  2. @Allan C.Alan, My son is a Bear scout now, and I have to say we've been very fortunate. Our den and pack have been very liberal.

  3. Just happened here as I am helping my son prepare to advance from Wolf and I am struggling with the "Duty to God" requirement. Our troop has not made an issue of it, although to be fair I have never until today let anyone know I am atheist. Not anyone's business and it never came up in casual conversation. However, I am not about to "teach" my son the requirements for the "Duty to God." I do like Eric's take on the issue but will have to see how my wife prefers to move forward as she is not atheist. All in all, the Scouts are highly discriminatory and lump atheists in with "sexual predators" when it comes to "allowing" an atheist adult to be a leader. I like Scouts less and less everyday.

  4. The boy scouts have been meeting at our church for over a year now. I go to every meeting because I feel I need to be there to reach out to the boys and to the parents. I teach Sunday school and it is so awesome to have our church filled with children. Look at what has happened to our children when they took God out of the schools. Leave the boy scouts alone and let them continue to make a difference in these boys! God is real!

    1. Misty, I also go to every scout meeting, which are usually held at one of the local churches. What is your point? What has happened when "they took God out of the schools?" Are you saying we should quit the scouts? Are you suggesting that we are somehow interfering with the scouts? God is a figment of your imagination.


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