Here’s the news today, as relayed by the Theos website:
The Scout Association has launched a consultation to gauge support among members for an alternate atheist Scout promise, removing the invocation of a deity. At the same time, the Guide Association, the parallel movement which began two years later, is to launch a consultation about its very similar promise, with views sought on all parts of the wording from early January.
The current version of the Scout promise reads: “On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout law.”
My thoughts about this, should my dear readers be interested, is that yes, on the one hand the consultation simply reflects the reality that boys can be atheists at a young age, and why shouldn’t they be allowed to be Scouts if they’re atheists? Does faith in God really help in putting up that tent, after all? Will their compasses no longer point to the true north if they don’t believe in a deity?
On the other hand, the Scouts were founded by someone who obviously believed that faith was important in the building of a young man’s character. Its not all about rubbing sticks together to make a fire, tying knots and singing ging-gang-gooly; its about the many-layers of development that go into formation of character and making us fully-rounded human beings. Spirituality being one of them.
Lord Baden-Powell had just come through the Boer War when he formed the Boy Scouts in 1908. He took the existence of God as a truth, felt the recognition of God and duty to Him to be a prerequisite of character formation, and that’s why the Scouts promise was written as it is. Perhaps – as ‘BP’ and my own grandfather did – you have to be pinned down by an opposing army and pray to God for help before you realise you’re not alone in the universe.
The sinking feeling I had when reading this news is that it was yet another indication of Britain’s swing away from the very legitimacy of having ‘deity’ as a useful part of life, and towards an unofficial adoption of atheism as a standard, and more logical, disposition. Once we start that, full de-legitimisation of religion per se – as in North Korea – comes very quickly. Within 100 years we could see religion done away with completely.
Long before that, of course, the Scouts will also have dropped pledging their allegiance to the monarchy, (a remnant of Biblical notions) and the salute of the Union flag (since it is based upon three Christian symbols and therefore highly suspect) will have been also dismissed.