Thursday, November 07, 2002
The Generic God of the Boy Scouts-The issue of banning atheists from the Boy Scouts has been percolating in my mind for awhile ever since the original Volkoh article on the subject, and I think Kevin gets close, pointing out that this is a freedom-of-association case, but doesn't quite nail it. The Boy Scouts are generic theists that accommodate most, if not all, religions in America. Basic morality is part of the Boy Scout code; a duty to God to be reverent and "morally straight" is in the code. This allows people of all faiths to send kids to Scouts and know that they are getting a wholesome message. "Can't an atheist be a good Scout?" As in “be a good citizen”, yes. However, taking the generic God out of the picture allows for other forms of "inclusiveness" to poke its nose into the tent. If there is no transcendent moral standard from God, even a watered-down civil religion generic God, many of the underpinnings of the scouts go bye-bye. The ban on homosexuals would go out the window as simple bigotry rather than a constitutional-protected expression of religious belief. Other moral standards, such as sexual purity, anti-substance abuse and honesty, would likely be challenged and quickly become unenforceable. If the Scouts become a-theistic (God isn't an issue rather than God doesn't exist), then the old-school values that make Scouting popular with parents will disappear and more sectarian versions will pop up. Many evangelical churches have scout-like programs for kids with a more open evangelical message; a secularization of the Boy Scouts will increase this trend. The problem with having atheist scouts isn't that a tweenaged Stevie Den Beste would corrupt the other kids (Captain Clueless has had some interesting musings on ethics as of late) but that the resultant secularization that would be forced upon it by the courts due to its non-religious nature would help do it in.
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