Raising kids and religion

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Jessb's picture
Raising kids and religion

So, my 7 year old wants to join boy scouts. I think most people know that boy scouts is a religious organization. His first assignment is to attend a religious group worship (of any religion) and sing a song to the group, basically he can join as long as he admits to believing in a higher power. Obviously I do not and I am not raising my kids in delusion. Should I allow him to join or will it be confusing for him, any thoughts, has anyone else had a similar issue

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Pitar's picture
You're atheist. That much I

You're atheist. That much I get. What is your son? It follows that he has had some exposure to theism to understand atheism but what is his stance on the notion of a god and the religious industries spun off of it? Can he express his position to you in plain speak and exhibit confidence about it? He's young yet so I ask the questions. It's him we're addressing, after all. Being young, he's still impressionable and can be turned toward a cause (converted) if the propaganda is made to sound reasonable to him.

My sons were innately atheist. Wholly of their own perceptions and rationales they rejected the god/religion exploitation ruse and now as young men they have become stoically entrenched in atheism. Kids develop as they will in a vacuum free of adult interference and influence and mine were very easy reads where god and religion were concerned. Can you see some of that in your son?

If he has a solid position in atheism he will not fit in well with scouting. He must understand that. Evidently he doesn't at the moment and explaining the reasons for it could be souring on him. If his friends are involved in scouting and doing well in it then he will have to know why they are treated differently than he might be treated if it is known he does not recognize a god and all its pageantry. Or, even if he's accepted by the scouts should they learn his father is atheist things would probably change negatively.

The problem you face is scouting and religion and god are conventionally perceived as good things by the ignorant masses. They will not pick out the evil in scouting because they have been indoctrinated to see it as an honorable pursuit. Scouting, god and country. For you to take on the responsibility of dissuading your son from joining an organization perceived as good it will require much thought and careful explaining to him that there are virtuous pursuits in life and how scouting diverges from them. Be ready to qualify your position because you are toppling a known iconic organization even a 7 year old is moved by. Uniforms, badges, outings, events, projects, camaraderie, parades and the whole aesthetic appeal and pageantry is an easy sell to a kid who's looking to be a part of something bigger than him, which is religion's main theme and meme complex. be well equipped to champion that with a countering and persuasive stance dripping with a higher virtue.

Or, you could just say "No chance, sundance" and tell him you have your reasons.

CyberLN's picture
Why does he want to join the

Why does he want to join the BSA? I think your response might have a wider set of options if he can provide his motivation for it.

Keith Raye's picture
When I was a boy ( a sod of a

When I was a boy ( a sod of a long time ago ) I joined a youth movement run by the Methodist Church, called the Boys Brigade. In order to become a member you had to profess belief in the christian god, attend bible classes and church services. However, it was never demanded of anyone that they become devout Christians, and most of us boys were natural atheists anyway. We didn't join because of the religious connotations, but because we liked the quasi-military style. The bible classes and church services simply washed off us like water off a duck's back, and that without any encouragement from anyone. Admittedly, that was Britain where the national psyche is some what different from the USA. But maybe your son could do the same?

Algebe's picture
@Keith Raye

@Keith Raye

I was in a cub scout group run by the Salvation Army in Hastings in the late 50s. There was a lot of Jungle Book and Baden Powell stuff, but not much god stuff. We were expected to go to the Salvation Army Sunday School, but the Sallies were mainly a fun crowd with lots of singalongs and picnics, so it wasn't much of a burden. And every boy in our troup was in love with our Akela, who everyone agreed was the most beautiful woman in Sussex.

Boy Scouts can teach boys a lot of good stuff that will outweigh the religious rubbish. Unless the religious message is reinforced at home, it won't stick. Boys together don't talk much about religion. We didn't, anyway.

Dib dib dib, dob dob dob

Keith Raye's picture


Absolutely. I understand parents being worried about their children perfectly well. But I think that, sometimes, they worry too much. And you're quite right about home life being the important factor. When I was a teenager at school, we would regularly reduce our Religious Instruction teacher to tears, and the funny thing was, no-one ever rebuked us for doing it. I think it was mainly, again, because most of the other teachers had served in the Armed Forces during WW2.

Algebe's picture
@Keith: "we would regularly

@Keith: "we would regularly reduce our Religious Instruction teacher to tears"

Oh you wicked, cruel heathens!

The religious instruction teacher at my school in London was taken away in a police car.

Keith Raye's picture


Jessb's picture
I agree with you @Algebe, I

I agree with you @Algebe, I think that Boy scouts has a lot of good stuff to teach my son. Since I am not a boy, I am not familiar with the scouts. I was reading the Wolf scout handbook and I guess I just got nervous about some of the first few assignments. I do not reinforce religion at home, I try and teach my son about all forms of religion to give him a better perspective about what it is. By doing that I am hoping that he will come to a natural and logic decision about the whole topic. On the other hand I do agree also with some previous comments that my son will not fit in. I do not want to shelter my son from different opinions, I guess I just have to have confidence that the things that I teach my son at home will carry through in his life. I

Keith Raye's picture
When I talk about us boys

When I talk about us boys being natural atheists, that was largely because all our dads had been through the Second World War.Those who survived it came back having lost all respect for religion along with the belief that their so-called social 'superiors' were better men than they were. My step-father was a Corporal in The Royal Corps of Signals. He went to France with the BEF in 1939, and evacuated from Dunkirk along with the remnants of the British Army. Then he spent four years (without leave) in the hell of the Burmese jungle. During that period, both his Medical Officer and Padre deserted, never to be seen again.

Incidentally, he was also a champion light-weight boxer who taught me how to look after myself. I never had any trouble at school because I was gay and an atheist. I've never started a fight in my life, but I've finished a few, and I reckon that, even at 71 I could still sit a bigger man than me on his arse if I had no other choice.

The point of that last paragraph wasn't intended as a boast, but to highlight the other thing my stepfather taught me - never to involve myself in pointless fights.

Jessb's picture
Thank you for all the

Thank you for all the feedback, being from Small Town USA it is very rare that I have advise from people that have the same views as my husband and I. My husband was in the scouts all of his younger years and he enjoyed it. My son wants to join for the typical boy reasons, he wants to go camping, hiking, and be with other boys his age. He wants to learn to use a pocket knife and make campfires. He has the wonderful innocent attitude. When asked at the first scout meeting what church he went to he simply said, I don't go to church and I don't believe in god. It was matter of fact and simple. For the most part I think the scouts is a great place for boys to get together to play and learn and be outside, the only thing that I worry about is the religious part. But like all things if the matter is approached carefully I am hoping that my son will be able to enjoy this activity.I guess that I just don't want him to be the odd one out every time they do prayers and such. I don't want him to be labeled. I have had those experiences and it is hard to deal with, fortunately I was an adult, he is still very young. Anyway, thank you again for the great advice!

Algebe's picture
My Dad was rejected as unfit

My Dad was rejected as unfit for being deaf in one ear, so he spent the war in Dad's Army, much to his disappointment. My step-father was in India/Burma in the war and stayed on during Partition in 1947. He learned some things about what religion can make people do during that process.

Keith Raye's picture


My paternal grandfather was a very surprising man. He spent almost his entire life in the military, actually serving in all three armed services and in both World Wars. He joined the Marines at 17 before the first WW , was an Infantry sergeant in that war, and an RAF Warrant Officer in the second. My natural father spent some of his early childhood in India.

Flamenca's picture
Hi, Jessb, and welcome to the

Hi, @Jessb, and welcome to the forum.

My nephew's been a boy scout for a couple of years or so now, so he's met some new friends and he loves camping weekends. I can understand that side is very bright.

The dark side is the indoctrination risk, that @Pitar so delightfully explained. He's 7 so he may be still struggling with the foundation of reality. Would he be capable of recognizing mythological tales as so, if they were presented as historical facts by a figure of authority? Do you want him to be exposed to ideas such as "eternal torture if you don't believe in a god" or "God watches everything you do and knows all of your thoughts?"

So place the pros and cons in a scale, but my advice for you would be to wait until he's 10 at least, at whatever age you think he's able to face some questions like those before on his own, and word his thoughts properly.


ZeffD's picture
Religion free and no

Religion free and no unnecessary gender segregation...
"At Woodcraft Folk we believe passionately in equality and co-operation: everyone is welcome to join our groups."

They don't put words into children's mouths or indoctrinate them into "the faith". (In the UK only, so far, I think)

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