Sunday, March 1, 2015

Resources for Atheist Cub Scouts

As a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Cubmaster, father of a Webelos scout, and atheist, I'm frequently struggling with how to deal with the scout's bigoted policy regarding atheism and homosexuality. It's an unfortunate part of life that otherwise good organizations fall victim to the glorified bigotry of religion in an attempt to teach "values."  Rather than reject the whole organization over one disagreement, I've thus far decided to work within the organization.  Note that I discovered that atheists weren't welcome after I'd already accepted the Cubmaster position, and I've stayed on because the pack needs me.  Though our pack is sponsored by a church, they have been very hands-off, allowing us to run a secular pack that largely serves the local schools.  Few of our scouts members are members of the church that sponsors us and provides us with meeting space.  I can't help but wonder how they'd respond if they ever asked my religion -- I wouldn't lie, but it's never come up.

But this isn't about me. It's about my 10 year old son in Webelos Scouts.  Ten is too young to have a firm and defensible opinion on the nature of the universe. But since he's close to me and I talk about my beliefs with him often, he identifies as atheist. This could wind up being a problem for my him since BSA doesn't consider it an acceptable to admit honest, rational, and reasonably skeptical world views. I've been looking for a good solution, and I found a few useful tidbits to share.

Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowships are not merely tolerant of atheist world views; my atheism is welcomed as the perfectly rational worldview it is and there are many other open atheists in our local fellowship. I know that some atheists consider UU a religion, but I think of it more as a socially conscious club to which I'm a member. There's no dogma (no creed to join), and a very wide range of beliefs are welcome.

Why am I talking about "church"? Because to earn the Webelos badge, scouts MUST accomplish a religious requirement.  The Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization UUSO Answers the mail for atheists by providing a comfortably secular perspective on scouting in their "Religion and Family" program (note the lack of "god" in the title).  They've done the hard work of getting a dogma-free curriculum through the scouts religion panel. hosts PDFs of relatively simple workbook you and your scout can work through to complete his religious requirement without being brainwashed into accepting absurd and indefensible claims of magic sky wizards. The material focuses on values and the role of religion plays in society. By helping your son understand what other people mean when they say "God", it's possible to get all the valuable aspects out of scouting without the spiritual woo.
There are two main charitable organizations I regularly donate to that are working to solve this problem over the long haul. 
  Scouting for All:
  Scouts for Equality:

Unfortunately, LDS, Catholic, and Baptist influences hold substantial sway and their closed-minded one True™ answer worldview makes them difficult to work with. 

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