Posted by: Jason | September 15, 2009

Return of the Cub Scout Post – apologies ad infinitum

It has been a few days since I posted about my personal delima with our scout leader

Here’s what I did about it.  I hope it’s somehow helpful for you.

I called “Big Phil” and explained very nicely that our family was not Christian, and that while ending a prayer in Jesus’s name at a Cub Scout meeting did not offend me personally, I think it goes against BSA rules and would appreciate it if we could keep things as general as possible.

“Phil” said he absolutely would, thanked me for calling, sincerely hoped he didn’t offend me, so sorry so sorry etc.  And I reminded him again that I was not offended, just concerned that the pack would become sectarian.

“Phil” then gave me a shocker:  he said he was glad that I called him, because last year someone QUIT over this instead of calling him about it! Why, that would make me think that maybe adding Jesus to a cub scout prayer is not a productive use of time!  I made it a point to say so.

“Phil” did ask me what my religion was, and I told him it was personal and not relavant, and would rather keep things nice and general.  He didn’t push it, so I guess we’re in a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell agreement.

As for the other issues that were brought up by some well thought out comments:

Yes you can start your own group, and I have already. There are also some great groups mentioned in the other comments, and there is also a group called Adventure Scouts that welcomes all children.

This was a particular thing my youngest boy wanted to do.  I made a decision to compromise myself so that my 6 year old doesn’t have to fight the good fight just yet.  Soon enough, he will understand that people really do believe in gods and no its not just a thing you say to the flag.  But right now all he sees are cool uniforms and patches.

Did I mention the Fluff / Sour Patch Kids stuffed pita pockets?



  1. I’m happy to hear this development! Sounds like Big Phil is a pretty reasonable guy.

  2. I’m curious… if the cub scouts didn’t allow black people to join, would you let your son participate? What about Jews? What if they restricted membership only to people who were, in their mind “Aryan”, no Italians, Spaniards, Portugese, Celts, or Gauls allowed? What if they only allowed Christians?

    If “Big Phil” finds this blog and connects you to this article, are you prepared to handle the reaction? Does your son understand the importance of never, ever revealing the fact that you are an atheist? Because the wrong dad getting that information will spell the end of your participation in the group.

    This whole thing just gives me the willies.

  3. Philosodad: all good questions. I tried to separate the fact THAT I chose to compromise myself and WHY I chose to compromise. But since You asked…

    I am not a closet atheist and have no intention of outright lying to participate. I chose to go along with the silly Boy Scout Promise and be polite during the Noncommittal, Nonsectarian, Ceremonial Prayer. Our cub scout leader could ask around the school and find out pretty quickly where I stand. My wife and I volunteer at the school a lot. We are SAC Co-Chairs, I run an astronomy club at the school and my own youth group through the school. So we are visible and well known. We don’t hide our views.

    My son, however, is not being raised an Atheist. He’s being raised a Human. He understands that some people go to church because it makes them feel good. He understands that there are many many different religions, just like there are many many different myths, urban legends, and silly wives tales like peeing on jellyfish stings (doesn’t work by the way, actually makes it worse). And like peeing on jellyfish stings, he understands that just because a lot of people might think its true, that doesn’t make it true. He likes Christmas and Santa even though Santa isn’t real but its fun to play along and get the presents.

    We choose to raise our kids to humor some of these silly stories and holidays on the grounds that it’s always a good time to be polite, get presents, and have a party! He is completely oblivious to concepts like prejudice. He doesn’t get that people will not be your friend because you don’t believe their silly story is true. He doesn’t know that racism exists. These concepts are alien to my boy.

    Soon enough, just like with his two older brothers, we will start to explain the dark side of beliefs and how divisive and violent people can be over silly things that aren’t true. If history is to repeat itself, he will choose to leave on his own. That’s what happened with his two older brothers. When they realized that BSA wouldn’t let everyone in, they made that choice on their own.

    My only concern through all of this was holding the local BSA to their own rules.

  4. Jason, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, necessarily, that you have already put your name to an outright lie in order to comply with the cub scout requirements and participate. I’m not trying to assault your skeptical cred. I think that it’s a little contradictory to claim that you aren’t raising a child as an atheist when you are clearly raising him without god’s help and approval, but I get what you mean.

    My point is this: you will not be permitted to participate in scouts if the wrong parent discovers your atheism. If you are as visible as you say you are, the only variable is whether you have that parent in your den. It isn’t just “Phil” I’m worried about, it’s that guy you don’t know who gets a little upset that the Jesus is gone from the meeting and starts wondering why.

  5. Philosodad,

    You’re right- its semantics to say I’m not raising an Atheist. What I mean to say is, he’s not aware that we have a title.

    And You’re right that I am walking a gray line and could be kicked out. The last time we did this, about 3 years ago, it was a different leader and in 2 yrs we had 1 ceremonial prayer at a huge multi pack meetup. This time we’re 2 for 2 at weekly meetings. I may not be in Kansas anymore.

    This week’s meeting is in today. We’ll see how it goes.

    Oh, and no offense to my skeptic cred taken sir! I put this out there and hoped for feedback. For better or worse I hope this is enlightening for any other parents in the same boat.

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