View Poll Results: Should Athiests Be Allowed to Be Leaders?

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    19 29.23%
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Thread: Should Athiests Be Allowed to Be Leaders?

  1. #76
    aka "Old Battle Axe" tomahawk's Avatar
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    as a christian, (albeit high days and holidays) I would feel that the SA had sold us out if they changed the promise. Why? Becuase it is a cornerstone of the movement. If we allow leaders to opt out, it wont be long before the YPs can opt out. Otherwise there will be questions like "why dont you say duty to God when you say YOUR promise?" And while this might lead to interesting philosophical debates on the nature of religion, existance etc. I dont think that is our role. It could do more damage that good - certainly to the younger sections.

    And if everyone opts out, then a central and important part of the movement will be lost under the banner of political correctness.

    I think I would be one of those that would hang up my woggle as a result.

    BP was a deeply devout man - I have found his expressions of faith to be very moderate but still passionate and very very inspiring... and the SA should stay true to the principles established by BP.

    To quote the good man himself:

    There is no Religious side to the Movement, the whole of it is based on religion, that is on the realisation and service of God.


    I would also question all the atheists (and republicans) out there....

    (and I am making a very generic statement here and not directing it at any individual)....

    that have taken their promise whether they feel they have done an "honourable" thing.

    After all, we are supposed to respect a "Scouts Honour" - it has even become a synonym for honesty and integrity, but if a promise is made to do duty to both queen and God and the individual doesnt believe in one or both of those elements, does his/her honour count for anything?

    I think my biggest concern is that, as my very first post in the original poll said, it is a slippery slope. I fear that a key element of scouting - faith in a higher power and duty to follow faith based values - will be lost because non-believers and indeed sceptics will make a part of the balanced programme an option. Allow skeptics in and suddenly are we violating their rights by insisting on a balanced programme that includes faith and beliefs? Should they be allowed to share their "belief" (or lack thereof) with the YPs?

    And yes, this is a fear of the unknown. And fear of change. A change that I believe would not be to the full benefit of the YPs.
    Last edited by tomahawk; 12-02-2008 at 12:29 PM.

  2. #77
    Senior Member big chris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk View Post
    as a christian, (albeit high days and holidays) I would feel that the SA had sold us out if they changed the promise. Why? Becuase it is a cornerstone of the movement. If we allow leaders to opt out, it wont be long before the YPs can opt out. Otherwise there will be questions like "why dont you say duty to God when you say YOUR promise?" And while this might lead to interesting philosophical debates on the nature of religion, existance etc. I dont think that is our role. It could do more damage that good - certainly to the younger sections.

    And if everyone opts out, then a central and important part of the movement will be lost under the banner of political correctness.

    I think I would be one of those that would hang up my woggle as a result.

    BP was a deeply devout man - I have found his expressions of faith to be very moderate but still passionate and very very inspiring... and the SA should stay true to the principles established by BP.

    To quote the good man himself:

    There is no Religious side to the Movement, the whole of it is based on religion, that is on the realisation and service of God.


    I would also question all the atheists (and republicans) out there....

    (and I am making a very generic statement here and not directing it at any individual)....

    that have taken their promise whether they feel they have done an "honourable" thing.

    After all, we are supposed to respect a "Scouts Honour" - it has even become a synonym for honesty and integrity, but if a promise is made to do duty to both queen and country and the individual doesnt believe in one or both of those elements, does his/her honour count for anything?

    I think my biggest concern is that, as my very first post in the original poll said, it is a slippery slope. I fear that a key element of scouting - faith in a higher power and duty to follow faith based values - will be lost because non-believers and indeed sceptics will make a part of the balanced programme an option. Allow skeptics in and suddenly are we violating their rights by insisting on a balanced programme that includes faith and beliefs? Should they be allowed to share their "belief" (or lack thereof) with the YPs?

    And yes, this is a fear of the unknown. And fear of change. A change that I believe would not be to the full benefit of the YPs.
    But BP was conforming to a time... Girls were not allowed to be scouts, (indeed, they did not have the vote or much in the way of rights). We acknowledge that the position of women has changed. Atheists too have a different position in society.

    And there are agnostics (many agnostics) who make the promise although THEY DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. We seem happy to impose our words on them... "oh... you basically believe in God... you just don't know it".

    It is not on. It is time for us to welcome atheists. Some will be inappropriate ... but we weed out inappropriate people. There are inappropriate types from all walks of life.

  3. #78
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    Scouts in Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Israel all have options to exclude 'duty to god' or similar phrase. Are the Scouts in these countries that chose this option lesser Scouts? I doubt it. I also doubt that were leaders have chosen this option that this has lead to the collapse of belief in their section/group/country. And so what if Beavers ask if why their Leader doesn't make a promise with a duty to god. Why are we trying to hide the fact from Beaver Scouts that there are people in this world that have different beliefs.

    There is precedent for changing the promise, to fit individuals. For example duty to God, can be changed for Duty to gods, my god, Allah or my Dharma. You can also change the promise to 'my country' We can accommodate all, and still keep the promise, the cornerstone of our movement.

    Our movement - we progress! At the beginning of this century leaders said they would leave if girls were allowed to join, they said it was not what BP would have wanted, and they said it would lead to the downfall of our movement. It is sad when leaders say they will leave if we progress, it has happened throughout our history sometimes resulting in the formation of splinter groups. I don't think that you will have to hang up your woggle anytime soon, because I don't think that the powers that be want this change. I hope we will in the future though, and if we do I hope you stay because I am sure you are a fine leader. We should never though let us be held to ransom with leaders threatening to leave if we change.

    I do believe in the BHA and NSS campaign though, that we must be open and honest about our policies. They have highlighted examples when we have said open to all, and we are obviously not. The Chief Scout said it himself - "in practice scouting is much more flexible than the rules seem to allow" I think this is because in practice there is a lot of people who disagree with the rule, and encourage atheists who want to be leaders to 'just put down Christian, CofE or agnostic - you'll be alright' This is dishonest, but a sad fact. I wouldn't blame the atheist and question their honour.

    Balanced programmes can be kept, as they are now, by asking for help of other leaders if you don't have the necessary skills. If I can't tie knots, I ask for someone else to show my Scouts how to tie knots, if I am no good at making bird boxes I get my mate who is a joiner to show my Cubs. A leaders lack of religion does not mean that a balanced programme can not be kept. In the older sections the faith zone is coupled with values - a topic I am sure you agree, that an atheist is just as capable of talking about and running a programme on as anyone with a faith.
    Last edited by Viking; 12-02-2008 at 12:41 PM.

  4. #79
    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    I said I wouldn't but....

    I fear that a key element of scouting - faith in a higher power and duty to follow faith based values - will be lost because non-believers and indeed sceptics will make a part of the balanced programme an option. Allow skeptics in and suddenly are we violating their rights by insisting on a balanced programme that includes faith and beliefs? Should they be allowed to share their "belief" (or lack thereof) with the YPs?
    There is an inference in the above which I think is objectionable. It is presumptuous on several levels. When we start talking about faith in a higher power, does that have to be God? I don't think so. And whose faith-based values should we follow? Are those without faith incapable of holding values? Given the general global nature of most civilised values, even in places where we presume them to be non-existent, or ignored, our perception is surely based on propoganda, for when you meet an ordinary person from Myanmar, or perhaps China, or elswhere, I have always found them to have the self same essential values as anyone else - they want to have a long, healthy, happy life and they want the best for their families, and hey, some of them have a far higher concern for their community than many westerners do.

    Followers of any given religion do not have exclusive right to claim that civilisation is based on their faith values. Everyone has the same essential values. The atheist can do as much good, or evil, as a man of the cloth. We are all human.

    And before I make the nest point, let me be perfectly clear, it is a point in debate, not an assault on anyone's faith. Why should anything be lost if we allow the introduction of non-believers, or skeptics? Let me ask you. Is there a fear that faith is not strong enough to withstand questioning? If not...

    Surely, and I'm sorry, I cannot think of a way around saying this, is an unquestioning, fundamentalist christian (and I use the term generally in an attempt to avoid offending - at least), is he the ideal person to have as a Scout Leader ? Is someone who takes the Bible literally an ideal candidate for a Leader? How can he encourage people to investigate and follow their faith if it is NOT the same as his own? How can he, as an avowed evangelist handle people of other faiths? Is he any better equipped to discuss the subject than someone who is skeptical and is asking questions? I think the skeptic might well actually be in a better position to ask questions.

    As for atheism, is it perhaps possible that his "faith" is just as committed, as anyone else's? In fact, could it be that he has more to lose and as such may have MORE faith than the religious man? Is it wrong that we offer should suggest to our members that, look, you only get one life, so make it count?

    I don't have answers, I have plenty of questions. But once again I can see this debate heading slowly where it inevitably will.

    Ewan Scott

  5. #80
    Senior Member big chris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushfella View Post

    I don't have answers, I have plenty of questions. But once again I can see this debate heading slowly where it inevitably will.

    Ewan Scott
    indeed... a debate on atheists, leads to a debate on religion. it's of its nature.

  6. #81
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    This debate is on topic and it is not personal. To defend the statement that Atheists can't run a balanced programme or develop their Scouts spiritually, I think it only fair to draw comparisons with a religious fundamentalist. The arguments against a religious fundamentalist being a leader are not covered in our religious policy - and that is what we are debating. The Religious Policy is wrong, unfair and discriminative.

  7. #82
    aka "Old Battle Axe" tomahawk's Avatar
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    viking, I get your point and I am well aware that a scout leader can "get someone in" to do "the religious bit" - but the reality is, if you are a group of all atheists, then you will find reasons not to do the religious bits....and there is no Audit of programmes as far as Im aware.....

    In a scout troop of my acquaintance there are a number of atheists. Spirituality and belief are covered by saying the lords prayer at the end of the meeting. (how this is supposed to boost their faith or help them grow spiritually???) The leaders moan that the YPs should attend church parade, but rarely attend themselves. Have they really fulfilled the brief of the balanced programme? No, I dont think so. And are they just being "old fashioned" in the way that they approach spiritual development? Absolutely. This is just the kind of lazy and stuffy approach to faith that turns people off.

    I think that you can develop a persons spirituality in a number of ways, but all require the acknowledgement of a spirit - which is something that transcends the basic physical needs and hum drum existance and seeks something greater than self, that gives us hope and a sense of peace, that gives our lives a deeper sense of meaning. To a Christian mind, faith is a very precious gift, and we should not try to take that away from our young people. They have time enough to become cynical, we should encourage their faith and belief for as long as we can.

  8. #83
    ESL and DESC ianw's Avatar
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    I know an atheist who refused to put a religion in the box, and is thus is "only" classed as a troop helper. He's a fantastic leader, but he doesn't at the moment provide a balanced programme, as he's not been trained, as he's "only" a helper, and has no requirement to do training. He only found out about the balanced program as he's a trainer, and was asked to deliver that module for the YLs! Maybe now he knows about it....
    Ian Wilkins
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  9. #84
    Senior Member big chris's Avatar
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    viking, I get your point and I am well aware that a scout leader can "get someone in" to do "the religious bit" - but the reality is, if you are a group of all atheists, then you will find reasons not to do the religious bits....and there is no Audit of programmes as far as Im aware.....

    no... and there are some awful programs out there, no camping, no fires, no axes, no rough games, no hikes, no sailing,

    In a scout troop of my acquaintance there are a number of atheists. Spirituality and belief are covered by saying the lords prayer at the end of the meeting. (how this is supposed to boost their faith or help them grow spiritually???) The leaders moan that the YPs should attend church parade, but rarely attend themselves. Have they really fulfilled the brief of the balanced programme? No, I dont think so. And are they just being "old fashioned" in the way that they approach spiritual development? Absolutely. This is just the kind of lazy and stuffy approach to faith that turns people off.

    that sounds like most scout troops. It is not becuase they are atheists, it is because they are stuck in their ways... i assume you know that when they go for hikes, they do not contemplate the wonder of nature, the remarkable size of the universe and our apparently insignificant place within it. You assume that they do not sit around the fire and discuss life, the universe and everything


    I think that you can develop a persons spirituality in a number of ways, but all require the acknowledgement of a spirit - which is something that transcends the basic physical needs and hum drum existance and seeks something greater than self, that gives us hope and a sense of peace, that gives our lives a deeper sense of meaning. To a Christian mind, faith is a very precious gift, and we should not try to take that away from our young people. They have time enough to become cynical, we should encourage their faith and belief for as long as we can.

    no, it really does not. Seriously... You can appreciate another's culture, beliefs, faith without buying into it.

    I understand the arguments that the atheists produce. I have offered them to children and we discussed religion. I would suggest that you can run spiritual programming without having a faith. And also... what about those who do not know what they believe. There are very few atheists in the world but many people who struggle with God. (in the terms that seems to be accepted on this forum anyway)

    Leaders are jumping through hoops to make 'God' a term to define their undecided beliefs. We need to accept all.

  10. #85
    aka "Old Battle Axe" tomahawk's Avatar
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    and I agree with Ewan and Viking that fundamentalist are just as dangerous in the movement.

    If atheists were "allowed" (officially) in the movement, then there would have to be a way of ensuring that spirituality was taught in balance - so the fundamentalist would have his evangelical wings clipped and the atheist would be audited to ensure effective adherence to the duty to develop faith. By doing so, I think we could move the "god spot" of the programme away from the mundane and boring and dutibound, and use it to truely develop a YPs understanding of his/her place in the world and his/her duty to be of service and work to the greater good. This is something I would hope we would all want to achieve for our youngsters, regardless of faith or lack thereof.

    At the moment we go on trust, because leaders assure us that they have faith through taking the promise. And we all know that this is not the case. We would have to have mechanisms in place to develop the spiritual side of (or awareness and appreeciation of spirituality) leaders so that they could effectively guide the development of the YPs.

    At the moment we are often stuck in the Sunday School/dry old sermons in fusty old pupit ideas of faith and belief, instead of dynamic and creative spiritual growth. I heard today of a traditional Jam and Jarusalem womens group within the faith community who are developing and changing and doing really dynamic work (very very quietly and without a lot of fuss ) within the developing world. This is real spiritual growth -not the dry old stick of a service on a SUnday or a congratulatory and self satisfied clique.

  11. #86
    aka "Old Battle Axe" tomahawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big chris View Post
    ... i assume you know that when they go for hikes, they do not contemplate the wonder of nature, the remarkable size of the universe and our apparently insignificant place within it. You assume that they do not sit around the fire and discuss life, the universe and everything
    I know this group very well....... I'm married to one of the leaders

  12. #87
    Escouts Founder Richard's Avatar
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    I do find some of the labels getting banded about, and the assumption of what that person believes slightly concerning.

    Anyone who was at the World Jamboree would appreciate what a tolerant movement we have.

  13. #88
    aka "Old Battle Axe" tomahawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    I do find some of the labels getting banded about, and the assumption of what that person believes slightly concerning.

    Anyone who was at the World Jamboree would appreciate what a tolerant movement we have.
    works both ways Richard. All Christians are not fundamentalists. All Atheists are not members of the secular society.

    I do think, however, that some belief systems (or "lack of belief" systems) are incompatible with scouting - espcially those that refer to religion as fairytales, superstitions, myths etc.

    Or indeed some religious folk that hate gays, muslims, women......

  14. #89
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk View Post
    and I agree with Ewan and Viking that fundamentalist are just as dangerous in the movement.

    If atheists were "allowed" (officially) in the movement, then there would have to be a way of ensuring that spirituality was taught in balance - so the fundamentalist would have his evangelical wings clipped and the atheist would be audited to ensure effective adherence to the duty to develop faith. By doing so, I think we could move the "god spot" of the programme away from the mundane and boring and dutibound, and use it to truely develop a YPs understanding of his/her place in the world and his/her duty to be of service and work to the greater good. This is something I would hope we would all want to achieve for our youngsters, regardless of faith or lack thereof.
    I completely agree - there should be a system in place to ensure all of our programmes are balanced in all areas. I would say though, we have a duty to to develop spirituality - not faith.

  15. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk View Post
    works both ways Richard. All Christians are not fundamentalists. All Atheists are not members of the secular society.

    I do think, however, that some belief systems (or "lack of belief" systems) are incompatible with scouting - especially those that refer to religion as fairytales, superstitions, myths etc.

    Or indeed some religious folk that hate gays, muslims, women......
    Hmm, I would describe some beliefs as a belief in a story, that is not the same as not respecting someones right to believe in that story. We talk about the ancient Greek and Roman myths, especially when we talk about their Gods, is that the same?

    We should teach respect, love and tolerance no matter what your own beliefs are, or your thoughts about other people's beliefs are.

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