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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
  Damn Beavers...
I've got a bit of a conundrum... My youngest son has joined the Beavers, this is the youngest program in Scouts Canada, for boys aged 5-7... I was actually a Beaver when I was this age, though I did follow through on it much more than that.

I've got a bit of a problem with the program... The first step in becoming an 'Eager Beaver' is to learn the Beaver Law, Promise and Motto... Here they are:

Beaver Law: A Beaver has fun, works hard and helps his/her family and friends.
Beaver Promise: I promise to love God and to help take care of the world.
Beaver Motto: Sharing, Sharing, Sharing

I've got a problem with the God part...

I'm really torn on this and would love some comments on the right way to handle this...

I've done some reading online tonight, and it seems that how the whole God thing is handle varies quite a bit from one scout organization to another. Not suprisingly, Canada is more liberal than in the US where Atheists are actually expelled from the Scouts program. Canada appears to allow all religions in, however, lack of a Religion is somehow seen as a negative. It doesn't seem that being a Humanist counts for anything...

I hate being seen as a hypocrite, and there's no way that I'll be praying or anything when we all head up camping this weekend, but I'm struggling a bit with this promise. I don't feel comfortable with Henry saying that he promises to love God... I'm totally fine w/ the help take care of the world part, that's great, I know I could just not let it bug me, but it DOES bug me... We need to open peoples minds and show them that one can be an Atheist and still be a good moral person. I definitely think I need to address this somehow as opposed to just going along with it, but I want to make sure I do it in a tactful, positive way...

Good morning,

Scouting has a mission, principles, and practices (see http://www.scouts.ca/inside.asp?cmPageID=80 for the full document). Throughout, the duty to God is referenced, with this duty being defined as the responsibility to adhere to spiritual principles, and thus to the religion that expresses them, and to accept the duties therefrom.

How God is defined is extremely loose with Scouts Canada, however the generally accepted lowest common denominator is: do you believe in something greater than self and the material world and does recognizing this belief cause you to act in a more responsible, ethical manner?

Without the mission, principles, and practices, Scouting ends up looking like a Boys and Girls club or some other recreational program, instead of the values-based, life-changing experience that it is. In particular, the spiritual dimension is often denied or rejected by many contemporary programs, which is to deny youth the opportunity to grow as a whole person.

That being said, membership should not be denied to a youth who does not believe in "god", though it may be denied to an adult who is an avowed atheist. The reason for this is that the youth is still going through a process of discovery and formation, whereas the adult is there to be a role model for the youth.

However, you should be aware that spirituality will be incorporated into the program, and prayers, graces, and religious songs. The extent of this will be determined by the group's sponsoring body. While your child is free to not participate in these parts of the program, they will not be dropped to accommodate an individual's choice to deny their spirituality. This has been the case since Scouting started 100 years ago.

Ultimately, it is your choice whether you are comfortable exposing your child to a program that encourages spiritual growth within the context of his own faith, whatever that may be.

As I'm unsure of where you live, I can't connect you with anyone, but talk to your section leaders, or you can call 1-888-SCOUTS-NOW (1-888-726-8876) to reach the nearest Scouts Canada Administrative Centre if you need any further clarification.

Christopher Dougherty
Council Field Executive
Scouts Canada - Chinook Council
Christopher, Thanks for your well reasoned post... I feel strongly that belief in a supernatural God is absolutely NOT a requirement to behave in a more responsible or ethical manner.

I want my children to question established morality and ethics, and find their own way in the world, generally speaking I'm a humanist, or a bright, whatever you might call it, but I'm very, very concerned about ethics and morality.

My family is actively involved in charities, community activities, etc, and I don't personally find it necessary to involve or require God in order to do so.

I choose my actions in order to benefit the lives of Humans and other sentient beings in the here and now of this life (e.g. I'm a vegetarian, I personally find it immoral to raise sentient animals in horrible conditions and slaughter them so we can eat them).

I think we should minimize pain and suffering, to maximize happiness. I would hope that Scouts would recognize that there are positive, life-affirming non-religious philosophies that share many of the some positive ideals that Scouts hold dear, the same way as the organization has grown from it's original Christian-based roots, and accept non-theists into the fold as well!

I'm looking forward to the camping trip this weekend, if an appropriate opportunity arises to discuss this, then I'll be interested to see how this group's leaders feel about it...


My son is about to do the same tomorrow (UK) And I feel exactly the same way. The thing is 1) There is no proof God exists at all, so promising to love God can be seen as "I promise to love God...just like I love Sanata Claus". The promise doesn;t specify which God - so I'd go for Zeus of Thor, Apollo, Mars or even the Egyptian God Ra...they're all my favourites. I very much dislike Christopher's view that Children should be protected from adult atheists because they are still going through a process of discovery and formation - surely the best form of discovery is done when you haven't already been forced to take a particular view...that has never been proven to be correct and actually narrows your field of view??? Quite frankly, I'm very angry about it inside, but the benefits of joining the Scouting organisation far outweighs a 5 year old's broken promise to the fairytale figured head of a 2000 year old desert mythology.
Obviously I realise you posted this years ago - how did it all go?
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I think a lot. Some people say I think too much... However, I don't want to be seen as being aloof or pretentious, it's just that I really enjoy philosophical questions and deep thoughts. That's not to say that I don't find pleasure in more down-to-earth or trivial things, like beer and soccer :) I'm happily married with 3 wonderful children. I'm a partner in a technology services company based in Toronto. Myers Briggs says I'm an ENTJ

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