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To believe or not to believe?

So, I joined the Scouts and am going on my first training session soon. But, there's a part of me that really doesn't want to any more. Scout meetings are fun, definitely, but there is something else which came up last week as part of the application process which has made me question what I'm doing. More than that, it's made me question my own beliefs.

One question I was asked was "what are your spiritual beliefs?" Now, this struck me as a bit odd. Why ask such a question? I left it blank and thought no more about it until a couple of weeks later when I had a conversation with another member of Scouts. It seems that if I'm honest about my beliefs (or lack thereof) then I'm likely to be told that I should reconsider my involvement with the Scouts. That shocked me. Both Scouts and Guides are now multi-faith organisations, admitting children from homes of all religions, but it seems that there is still discrimination going on.

Of the various suggestions from friends, several people just said "lie". I could have done that, but it would have been wrong and I would have felt very uncomfortable doing it. As a child I looked at what I had been taught to believe, analysed it, thought about it, and rejected it. This never seemed to be a problem before, I was a leader with the Guide Association for several years and was never once asked the question. I accept that spiritual development is one aspect of what these youth movements are hoping to achieve, but I don't think that this is a good reason for excluding a whole section of the population.

Yes, I'm a scientist so I'm bound to be logical and questioning. But I don't see why it should matter what I believe. I do not intend discussing my beliefs with the Scouts, so why should it be a problem? It doesn't make me a bad person, I still have morals. If, in the end, they decide they really don't want me as a leader then, fair enough, I'll accept that.

A quote from pharyngula which seems topical:

Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. [...] You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

Very true. I enjoy reading pharyngula but I'm often surprised at the comments he receives. People can believe anything they like as far as I'm concerned, as long as they don't force it on anyone else. If only people could be a bit more open minded.

Posted by Megan on Friday 25th Jul 2008 (10:28 UTC) | 1 Comment | Permalink

Comments: To believe or not to believe?

Hey Megan!

I am surprised you weren't ever asked about it when a Brownie leader, one of the parts of the Adult Leadership Qualification specifically relates to this and has you discuss it with your mentor. Then you have to make the promise to be a leader and that involves doing your duty to God, unless you negotiate it to be to Dharma etc depending on your belief. But there has to be some kind of belief, or working towards understanding belief. The Guide Association has flat out said an atheist cannot be a leader, though agnostics can because they are still searching for their own belief.

Sounds to me like the Scouts there have the same kind of structure in becoming a leader in relation to this aspect.

I have to be honest, this was the hardest part of the promise for me, I had no problem with the Queen bit! I came to the conclusion that I am uncertain of my own beliefs but not able to rule in or out either way, and that I was happy to support the kids in their beliefs, and my mentor was happy with that. That may help you with your own decision?


PS: When you said you hope my next camp won't be so wet? There won't BE a next camp, we are going indoors in the future. I did it once so they got the experience, now I will leave it to the Guides in the future (and our Guides are really keen campers so they will definitely get the chance).

Posted by Guider on Thursday 31st Jul 2008 (09:00 UTC)

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