Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BS......of A

I was a Cub Scout in fifth grade. I liked the outdoor activities and the social interaction with other kids outside of the school setting. We met in the basement of a local church once a week. About that same time, something happened that changed me forever.

I had begun to question the existence of a "God" sometime around third or fourth grade. It was through private conversation (and by that I mean, talking to myself) that in the fifth grade, I came to the conclusion that his or her existence seemed unlikely to me. It was my "big secret". I had never shared my feelings with anyone else. Everyone talked about and seemed to believe in God, so I was uncertain how other people would react to my opinion. I began making small, private (or so I thought) demonstrations of my lack of faith. The most significant was omitting the word "God" each morning in school when we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. My display did not go unnoticed. As each day passed I got a little more animated in my rebellion, and I guess it became very noticeable that I was not saying it. The teacher told the principal, who in turn called my parents to report this "very disturbing" turn of events (I am going to keep the names of these people out of this, I hold no grudge against them...I'm actually grateful). My parents, of course, defended my right not to say it, though I think it may have upset my mother (a lifelong Christian). It seemed so strange to me (at the time) that I could create such a racket by the simple act of NOT saying a word. It seemed like they were saying "It's okay (kind of) to believe what you want, but you better keep it to yourself".

I then starting thinking about the Cub Scout Oath that I recited at each meeting with my friends. You know, this:

I, (your name here), promise
to do my best
to do my duty to God
and my country
to help other people, and
to obey the law of the pack.

From the time I started going to Cub Scouts, I had been mouthing the word "God" from this oath. I mean, if you don't say it, you're can't be a Cub Scout, right? Obviously, I didn't belong here. I stopped going. I remember telling my friends that I wasn't going to be able to continue with Scouts because it conflicted with my new Karate class (a lie, and the first of many that I would make trying to hide my atheism).

Today is the 101st anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, an organization that openly excludes atheists and homosexual boys and scout leaders. As a private organization, this is their right, and no one will argue more for that right than me. I also would argue that they should not receive any public money or "special deals" on the use of public land BECAUSE of this. It's a shame that they have not attempted to evolve along with the rest of society (its also a shame that they don't offer an Evolution Merit Badge). Boy Scout membership is down 11% in the past decade and Cub Scouts membership is down 23%. Camping and outdoor education is a great part of growing up, and could be a nice counter to the video game culture that we live in (I have nothing against games, but you need some fresh air every once in a while). But as my son very appropriately put it (he too attended a Cub Scout meeting..he quit after the first one), "What does God have to do with camping and knot tying?"

I now talk openly with others about my atheism (obviously, you're reading this). I know some people judge me because of it, and that's okay. But I don't feel I have to HIDE it anymore. The experiences I had in fifth grade did nothing to help me get here. And that is BS!!!

P.S. - I use parentheses a lot!!! I'm not a writer, it's my other BIG SECRET!!!

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