No God on Duty

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No God on Duty

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Home Page | Philadelphia Church of God

The Verdict. But from the earliest days of the Boy Scouts of America, the organization also understood that it was not a church, a synagogue, temple, or mosque. The Boy Scouts of America understood then and continues today to understand that it is absolutely nonsectarian, and that it is the duty of the parents and the religious organization to which the family is connected to provide guidance and education in the spiritual development of the youth. The Boy Scouts of America understood then that in order for the movement to reach all youth in America, it must embrace the plurality of faiths practiced by the people of America.

Your Duty to God

Although the scouting movement in America originated with the YMCA, its first Chief Scout Executive, James West, understood that the organization must welcome and respect all beliefs and faith traditions. James West, during his 32 years as Chief Scout Executive, worked tirelessly to bring all faith traditions to the scouting movement. Even among this limited group of faith traditions that sponsor boy scout units and provide religious awards for their scouts, the views on nature of God range widely, including nontheistic, monothesitic, and polytheististic faiths.

With the wide ranging perspectives on the nature of God embraced by Boy Scouts of America, including monotheistic, polytheistic, nontheistic beliefs, scout leaders and scouts alike must acknowledge that respecting the beliefs of others is a core principle taught in scouting. He is faithful in his religious duties, and respects the convictions of others in the matters of custom and religion. A Scout is reverent toward God.

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He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others. The activities of Boy Scouts of America to be carried out under conditions that show respect for the convictions of others include scoutmaster conference and boards of review, including Eagle boards of review that are held by the district or council. Boy Scouts of America has published guidance for scouters and scouts on the new Duty to God requirements, which may be found here.


Furthermore, it is no longer permissible for a scoutmaster or board of review to ask a scout to affirm a belief in God or a higher power. Fundamental Principles goes on to say: "It should be noted that, by contrast to the title, the body of the text does not use the word 'God' The whole educational approach of the Movement consists in helping young people transcend the material world and go in search of the spiritual values of life" ibid. First, Scouting wants people to adhere to spiritual principles, such as valuing emotions and seeing life as having meaning. Second, Scouting wants people to be loyal to the religion that expresses their spiritual principles.

A religion is a set of beliefs and practises, not necessarily an organization. Some Scouts will be called to join a formal religious organization, others will express their spirituality outside of such institutions. In either case, Scouting believes that people should be loyal to their choice, recognizing that spiritual development would be impaired if a person were constantly changing their religion. Third, Scouting wants people to accept the duties resulting from their spiritual principles, to be active doers, not just passive believers. What does Duty to God mean?

New Cub Scout and Boy Scout requirements explore duty to God

The material elements of religions are not important to Scouting. Just as Scouting does not care whether or not one believes in gravity, it does not care whether or not one believes that a god created the universe, in the material sense. Thus, atheists and agnostics are welcome in Scouting as both youth members and Scouters.

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Excluding such people violates the definition of the Scout Movement which states that Scouting is "open to all without distinction of origin, race, or creed Of course, everyone in Scouting must be open to continual spiritual development. Human understanding sees two distinct worlds: the material world and the spiritual world.

The Scouting Principle, Duty to God, requires Scouts to develop their spiritual side and does not make any claims about the presence or absence of a god in the material world. It would be much clearer if the Principle was titled Duty to the Spiritual.

In any case, the people in Scouting must understand what Duty to God really means so that no one is turned away from Scouting because of their spiritual beliefs. Once a person is turned away, Scouting loses the ability to help develop that person. Let us look beyond shallow interpretations of words so that we can bring to Scouting Spirit to everybody. Notes Since this essay was first put on the World Wide Web several years ago, I have received a number of comments about it.

Most of these fall neatly into two categories.

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