• I Was A Boy Scout; I’m Better Now

    Today I want to set the record straight and talk about my experience with Scouting, why I left, and why I oppose the organization. When I was in first grade, I joined scouts as a Tiger Cub with one of my closest friends. I seem to recall hearing that Tiger Cubs was a new thing for Scouting at the time and that we were among the first to graduate from that program. I don’t know if that is actually true.

    In any case, my friend came from a family of scouting. His father was a scout. His older brother was a scout, and his mother was a den leader. So I joined up. All the people in our den were friends already. It was fun, I guess.

    Cub Scouts was a little more structured, but not much. We still had the same den mother (my friend’s mom). Basically we still had the same group of friends with one or two new kids. The weekly meetings were held in our homes and the monthly meetings were held in a church. As a Jew it was a little odd, but not too much. Religion wasn’t really an issue.

    When Pinewood Derby time came around I had to work on my car at my friend’s house because we had no tools at my house. I always focused on creativity and tried to win the prize of “Most Creative Car,” a prize I actually did win one year.

    When I graduated Cub Scouts, I had to walk over a bridge in the middle of the floor to receive the “Arrow of Light” award that all graduating cub Scouts receive. The bridge was in the middle of the floor! I remember thinking that it was kind of stupid to stick a bridge in the middle of the floor. The ceremony was supposed to represent crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, but I just couldn’t get into the ritual of it.

    So there I was a Boy Scout at last. I figured that nothing would really change from Cub Scouts, but I was wrong. My friend’s mom was no longer our den mother and the new Scout Leader was an asshole. The older kids in our new den were bullies who picked on all the new scouts (i.e. me and my friends). They particularly liked to pick on the Jewish kids and there were a few of us. The Scout leader never intervened even when it was obvious he knew what was going on. In fact, he emphasized “Jesus” quite a bit and it was actually a little uncomfortable… even for my Christian friends.

    One by one, my friends started leaving the Boy Scouts. I probably wasn’t the last to leave, but I did stay far longer than I should have. It just wasn’t fun anymore. The Boy Scouts were far too serious and acted like a bunch of thugs.

    I wish I could say that I left because of their discrimination of atheist and gays, but I didn’t know about that until later. I didn’t start questioning religion until a year or two after I left Scouts and I didn’t know any open gay people so I wasn’t even aware gay people existed. I was a little sheltered I guess.

    Now of course, those are huge issues and rightfully so but they are only the tip of a very hateful iceberg. As I have come to know many Boy Scouts over the years, I found that most of them are not very nice people at all. The higher up in Scouting you go, the more likely you are to be a hateful asshole.

    It could be the uniform or the perceived authority Scouts think they have while wearing the uniform. It could also be the sense of self-righteousness many Scouts feel which is very similar to religious fundamentalists. I’m not really sure, but today I see Scouts as a propaganda organization which indoctrinates kids into being assholes. In my mind, they are just a watered down version of the Hitler Youth. Yeah, I know that is pretty harsh, but there it is. Every time I see Boy Scouts that is all I can think of.

    Cub Scouts are different. It seems that Cub Scouts differ widely from group to group, but it still acts as a conditioning for Boy Scouts. So my advice for Cub Scouts is to get out now. My advice for Boy Scouts is this, why are you still in Scouting?

    Adults in Scouting are just creepy. In college, I knew an Eagle Scout and he was a horrible person who broke into his roommate’s computer (by physically taking out his hard drive (voiding the warranty) and hooking it up to his own computer to get around the password), in order to prove that his roommate was gay… which he was, but that wasn’t any of his business. The Eagle Scout was seriously creepy and also bullies his next roommate (who wasn’t gay).

    Oh, and just for kicks, here is an embarrassing photo of me with my younger brother from my Scouting days:

    Other Bloggers Writing About Scouting Today:

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    Arizona Atheist

    Atheist, Intermarried

    Atheist Pig

    Atheist Revolution


    Barrels of Oranges


    Camels with Hammers

    Dangerous Talk

    Daylight Atheism


    Debunking Christianity

    Deep Thoughts

    Deity Shmeity

    Dispatches from the Culture Wars

    Emily Has Books

    Friendly Atheist

    Hausdorff’s Bible Blog

    Incongruent Elements


    Kriss the Sexy Atheist

    Laughing in Purgatory

    Left Hemispheres

    Martin Pribble

    My Humorous Agenda

    Ramblings of Sheldon (posting on Dec 2)

    Reason Being

    Rippere, Always Evolving

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    Category: Boy Scouts


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.

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    1. Beautiful pic. My son was a scout and I agree that the adults look a mite creepy. I think it’s the tassel on the socks. Peder (my son) made it to Eagle Scout, but it was a long, hard pull. While the adults were supportive, the other scouts were as you described. That’s too bad.

    2. I was a scout too (I stayed in scouting until I left for college). My experience was different, I think there is a lot of variation as you saw in Cub Scouts. My scout leader never pushed religion. In fact he knew I was an atheist and simply suggested I don’t put atheist on some form I had to fill out.

      Of course, today I see the religious bigotry of Scouting as a whole, but at the time I was not really out as an atheist so keeping it quiet didn’t bother me.

    3. I have been a cub scout, a boy scout, a cub master, and an assistant scout master, plus an adult leader trainer, and a member of the OA. I had the most horrible experiences when I was a boy scout (being beat up at meetings and on camping trips) but there was a lot of good experiences I wanted to share with my sons, the reason behind signing them up and being in a leadership role, unlike my father, prevented the bulling and gave me a chance to share in those experiences with my sons. Yes there are assholes in scouting just like any other organizations. A title like Eagle Scout does not instantly make a man a better person, neither does the title Christian, hell being a scout doesn’t instantly grant a man better or higher morals, nor does it instantly grant a man or boy with the ability survive in the wilderness.
      I’m an Atheist and so are both my boys, we didn’t make a big deal about it. We weren’t there to change the world of scouting, we were there to have fun, learn, and grow and make memories as a family. When my sons decided it was time to leave, we left, both achieved the rank of life scout (the rank before eagle). It has been a couple of years since we have done any scouting, most of the people in scouts now know I’m an atheist and have very little to say to me. That is ok, I was there for my sons not the closed minded people.
      I will agree that there are issues with Boy Scouts, yes things need to change, the program that helps instill the values of good conduct, respect for
      others, and honesty, should not teach discrimination against those that have a different sexual orientation or a lack of religious belief. However there are a lot of good things about scouting such as basic outdoor skills, first aid, citizenship skills, leadership
      skills, and how to get along with others (all these especially the last one also includes parental involvement).

      1. The rank before Eagle is Life. Other than that, as an atheist Eagle Scout (who may or may not be an asshole depending on who you ask) I enjoyed your post.

    4. Interesting article. I can relate to your mention of the sense of self-rightousness when wearing a uniform. I know how I felt five inches taller when wearing my soddy green during compulsory service. It’s like the clothes make you feel a bunch of the other uniformed blokes always stand behind your back wherever you go, despite me hating most of my roomates.

      Must be something from human nature, identifying with your tribe or something.

      Never was a scout, but I heard a lot of stories from my grandparents about the Hitler Youth and the German Girl League, and then from my dad about the soviet equivalent of the scouts. Nothing but political brainwashing.
      Don’t even have to say anything about the NS youth organisations, but my dad was especially colourful about his lessons of how to be a good little socialist. Of course the group leaders were either party members or sons of party members.
      Besides, the shooting, camping and survival training leave a bad taste in my mouth anyway as I see them as nothing but youth-friendly
      “militaristic culture”, presenting war as a big adventure for adolescents.

      Dogmatic systems seem to show a geat understanding of the importance to influence the next generation. Hopefully the boy scouts in the US will be able to avoid becoming a mouthpiece for “traditional american values”. But even if they can, there’s always Jesus Camp.

    5. I briefly tried “Brownies” which was the group girls joined before becoming Girl Scouts. I didn’t make it through more than a couple of meetings. I didn’t fit in at all and was horrified to see what the activities were, nothing fun at all. It was like some sort of competing for approval game, and they were all competing in things I didn’t want to do with a ten foot pole. Badges for sewing, helping your mom with housework, etc. Yuck. It was all an “I am such a good girl” club. And they included bits of religious and patriotic stuff too.

    6. The only uniform that says “unauthoritative authority” more than the boy scout’s is perhaps the Canadian Mountie’s…but they are kinda awesome in their own way.

    7. I was a scout back in the seventies. The leaders were pretty worthless and most of what our den and pack did or accomplished was a result of my brother and I. I eventually quit because I was not getting anything out of it. Thirty years later, I let my son join, assuming things may be more organized now (and in an entirely different part of the country). But, same story – lack of organization, poor leadership, etc. I would be willing to help, but I can’t because I can’t sign their screening forms stating that god plays a role in my life.

    8. Great article, thanks for sharing your experience. FYI though, all of the links above to other blogs on the SkepticInk network are coming up “page not found”.

    9. Wow, this discussion is remarkable. “I never was a scout” followed by comparisons to the Hitler Youth? Is that level of prejudice common in this community?

      Not to let fact get in the way of deeply held bias, but the Hitler Youth were formed as the Nazi answer to the Scouting movement. They needed to form a competitor to Scouting, which at the time was a very successful international peace movement. When they didn’t do all that well as a competitor, membership became mandatory and real Scouting was abolished in Germany and its occupied territories.

      The modern reality of scouting in America is that it’s a volunteer organization run mostly by parents and a few former scouts. Not all parents are the best parents, and not all good parents have the skills and abilities to be good youth group leaders. So there is a wide variety of scout troops, ranging from the weak to the mediocre to the incredible, just depending on the skills of the volunteers. In addition, Boy Scout troops in the U.S. are all owned and operated by community organizations (churches, VFW posts, school PTAs, etc.). Each community group has its own mission, so some scout troops will be quite religious in nature (ex. Mormon troops, which are required religious ed for Mormon boys). Others will be quite secular. The diversity is very large, and represents a fair cross-section of American community organizations and parents.

      I’m sorry that the original poster and a few others here had poor experiences. That does happen, with any organization that depends on volunteers (as well as some that depend on professionals, as any boy who has been bullied at school or had a poor teacher can attest). I would like to think that rational people can, with time, avoid making unjust generalizations from their personal experiences. The personal experience of a scout coming across the posts here might be that atheists are “not nice people at all”, as the blog writer concluded from meeting a few scouts. Any scout leader in the country would pull such a boy aside and correct him for making such a generalization.

      Just as their are poor schools, there are also good ones. Good troops exist as well. Many boys and families, including atheist and gay youth and those who are questioning their beliefs or character find scouting to be a wonderful, safe place to pursue interests and grow as young men. In the troop I have been affiliated with, over a third of the alumni report that they found their career through experiences they had in Scouting. We have had boys who said they were atheist, boys along the way who questioned their sexuality or decided they were gay. Sometimes they were, and we were kind and supportive; sometimes they were looking for attention and later decided they were something else, and we were kind and supportive.

      Now, I will grant that the uniform, especially on “well-rounded” adults, looks pretty goofy. I would hope, though, that most enlightened individuals would quickly get past judging a person by their clothing or appearance. The average scout volunteer gives many hundreds of hours and many hundreds or thousands of dollars each year just to try to do something nice for other people’s kids. If that’s creepy, then the nation needs far more creeps, and far fewer self-righteous, judgmental types.

      1. I was a scout and I thought I did a good job recounting my experience. As I said, I had a lot of fun as a cub scout, but the problem was with Boy Scouts the leadership was more scout and less parent. As an organization, the BSA has certain views and push a certain type of discipline that makes scouting more “uniform with authority” and less, let’s have fun teaching kids about stuff. Is that a generalization? yes, but I think it is a systemic issue brought about by the BSA religious and anti-gay policies.

        No, it isn’t mandatory, but it does indoctrinate patriotism in much the same way as the Hitler Youth. That was my point.

        1. Staks- I understand where you are coming from with the discrimination towards gays and atheists. I myself am a black, gay, atheist, Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of Scouting’s honor society the Order of the Arrow. If anyone can tell you about the discrimination, I can. But, there is something else I can attest to as well; and that is the fact that many units and even councils are going against the national policy because they feel it is a disservice to the community and the youth of America to hold such bigoted ideology. My boyfriend of ten years and I are both Eagle Scouts, our unit leaders knew before either of us applied for Eagle Scout status, and we weren’t refused. The BSA asked it’s members to participate in the Day of Silence for the LGBTQ community, something that many of us inside the organization were proud to see.

          As for atheism, many units are understanding now that atheists can be reverent. Not to god, but to the idea of secular humanism, the idea of working together as a community to achieve the greatest potential of humans…and accept that as reverence, a key component for membership within the BSA.

          As a pastor, and fellow scouting brother of mine put it: “The only way to change the organization is to set the example for the up and coming youth. Old white bigots are in charge now..but hopefully, with the example of people who stay with the program and hold view contrary to those…we can make the BSA what it should be, instead of a right wing tool for brainwashing

          1. I respect that. Good luck and if there is anything I can do to help in that fight, let me know. I was just recounting my experiences briefly and my thoughts. But if someday the scouts became more like you envision, then I am right there with you in promoting that.

            1. The best thing to do, is to make it known. It brought joy to my heart last year when I was out helping my boyfriend’s younger brother sell popcorn, and a lot of people in the community refused to buy the popcorn because of how the BSA treats atheists, agnostics (or any religion other than Christianity) as well as the LGBTQ community. Articles like to are great, and it creates an open forum for us to talk about the BSA and the changes it’s making. Great Article.

    10. I have been a boy scout for 3 years now and counting. What you get from scouting all depends on the troop you are in, If it is like your troop It would make sense to leave and go to a different troop. Boy scouts do more than sell popcorn and camp they help there community in a big way and many scouts are afraid to tell anybody they are in scout because of people like you who make fun of the scouts. You said your friend a eagle scout stole a computer to see if his friend was gay, what the scouts do after they exit the troop is on them, now your comments about the scouts was not needed and is heartfull to me and other scouts.

      1. I am glad that many scouts are embarrassed to let people know they are scouts. They should be! The BSA is a horrible organization and I stand by everything I wrote in this post.

        Sure every troop is different, but from the top down BSA is a horrible organization. The organization is intolerant of gays and atheists. My advice to you sir, is to get out!! If you really enjoy helping your community, you can do it without that uniform. That uniform is a disgrace to you. It has become a symbol of intolerance, bigotry, and thuggery.

        BTW, that dude (who was most definitely not my friend) who broke open my friend’s computer, never exited scouts. He is in all likelihood still a scout. He was a Eagle Scout at the time and talked about being a scout for life. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was a Troop Leader now.

        1. I’m glad gays are not alowed in scouts, the last thing I want to do is sleep next to a gay person in a tent. I also agree bsa is not the best organization just because of all the rules they require for the scouts to do and follow, it will not last much longer, adults nees to spend a weekend at a camp to learn about scouting rules and then take a 8 hour test just to watch the scouts on camp outs!! I stay because when I join the army to fight for my country I will be 3 ranks higher because of boy scouts.

          1. Thank you for proving my point. As if any gay person would ever be attracted to your bigoted ass in the first place… or maybe you are afraid that you might just be a little attracted to him. Admit it, the real reason you don’t want to sleep next to a gay person in a tent is that you don’t think you could control your own sexual impulses.

    11. I am very sorry that you had a bad experience in scouting. I, myself am an Eagle Scout, and count my hearing in scouting as some of the most formative and some of the best memories of my life. Now, I really thinks it depends on the troop you had. I know many kids in my troop were not religious and some were self- declared atheists. This was not a problem in my troop because they did not push any “christian” values or ideology on us, even though most of the adult leaders were deeply religious. I’m not disregarding your experience or the negative experience of many other children across the states, but I will say that scouting provides an extremely positive experience for many boys across the country. I never made scouting my whole life and I left my troop as soon as I achieved Eagle, but it did give me some positive moral upbringing. It provides structure in the lives of boys that some would not get in there home life and is a social gathering. I was never one to brag about being in scouts and I really do realize it has many pitfalls. But, at its core, the values of scouting represent a great environment for boys in which to become men. I was never “brain washed” or any of that bull shit. There were even Hindu kids in my troop. So, it should be reformed from the inside out, not just completely disregarded. All the friends that I have that are Eagle Scouts and many that never achieved that rank are doing great things in college and have a bright future ahead of them. I just thought I would give my experience with scouting, because it was very positive and it probably is for the majority of boys that participate in it.

      1. Thank you for commenting and adding your point of view. But when you claim that you were never brainwashed, I can’t really take your word for that. How would you even know if your were. I know, I know, just because your compliance was rewarded doesn’t necessarily mean you were brainwashed, but…

        All joking aside, you mentioned scouting provided positive moral up-bringing. If I recall correctly, in scouting they call that “morally straight.” I think Scientology probably abbreviates that to being MS. Plus, that plays into my perception of scouts acting like self-righteous bullies. I don’t know you, so I don’t know if you are one of those self-righteous bullies. If you found this article, you probably are not one of those but can you see how scouting can turn people into that?

        Just like with religion, not all religious people hate gays and atheists, but if someone hates gays and atheists, they are probably religious… or maybe just a Boy Scout.

    12. I completely agree with everything in this article. It was fun in the cub scouts but after that it was just a horrible experience. I left after probably 6 or 7 months. If you still want to do something that has the same perks as they Boy Scouts, wait til your 16 and go and join your local Volunteer Fire Company. People there are generally good people who want to help. You’ll find an asshole there every once in a while, but that will happen pretty much wherever you go. Plus there are actual perks to it such as TAX CREDITS AND WRITE-OFFS. And you also get to ride on the fire truck, which is every boys dream.

    13. I feel as though the writer either never actually participated in boyscouts or never really was involved. It seems as though he based how one troop acted (he called it a den which is one of the reasons why I feel that this whole article was made up) as how all scouts are. Also that atheist and homophobic thing was blown way out of proportion by the media. They really don’t care as much as you might think, my own brother is an eagle scout, as I am, and is gay. They didn’t care. I knew of several atheist that went through it and became eagles. They didn’t care. Another thing the writer doesn’t realised is its a Christian based organization, and troops are based in a church. The troops would attend some church events, helping out with them too. The writer missed the entire point of the boy scouts though. Which is to teach young people leadership, morality and how to be a good citizen. Overall a poorly written article by a man who understands little about the subject.

      1. Well, I am the writer and this is my story. Like I said in the story, I wasn’t a Boy Scout for very long. I did go through all of Cub Scouts and in Cub Scouts it was called a Den. While it is true that the Boy Scouts is owned by the Mormon Church, it is not classified as a religious organization because if they were, they would not be allowed to promote themselves in public schools. Because of this, they have made it their policy not to be a religious organization and to be open to everyone… except gays and atheists of course.

        Again, every “troop” is different. I can only tell you my experience in scouting and at the time, I lived in a very liberal area. If the Boy Scouts are supposed to be teaching leadership, morality, and good citizenship, they have spectacularly failed. Instead, far too often they teach obedience to authority and how to be authoritative. That is not the same thing as leadership. Not my a mile.

        1. As of 2015, the bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America allow gay youth and gay adult leaders, but it is still the chartering organization that makes the decisions for who they want to be adult leaders.

    14. The Boy Scouts of America is a horrible organization. My son was in a troop based out of a catholic church. The scoutmaster is a 4 and a half foot tall egomaniac who pretends that he is in charge of an army and he is the general. He overstepped his bounds many times with my husband and myself. When he was finally called on it, he lied continuously, backed pedaled and tried to shift blame to others. The worst part of it is that he has some kind of crazy power over his committee. We were astounded to find at least 5 or 6 people that made up his committee were willing to back up his lies. This is dangerous people!!!! While none of the incidents involved sexual abuse with my son, the whole mentality that this man is above following the parents wishes and has people willing to lie for him is definitely how the BSA got away with being one of the biggest organizations of child molesters in history. This has been a learning experience for us. In hindsight , we were fools for putting our son in this organization is the first place. What a recipe for disaster …BSA + Catholic church. How many possible pedophiles can you fit in one room? DON’T JOIN BOY SCOUTS!!!!!

    15. Scouts is different for all. The Boy Scouts of America is run like a franchise as such imagine that your concept of “The Boy Scouts” is really an organization, like a church, YMCA, Masons, American Legion, etc., that wants to do character development, citizenship, physical fitness with local youth. The organization then charters with the Boy Scouts, BUT and more importantly all adult leaders that are apart of said charter are 1st and foremost approved by the chartering organization. SO if that organization wants only their organization members to be the leaders then they have that prerogative. It ranges for all units, some chartering organizations proved space, but just rubberstamp the charter, others are way more involved. The adult leaders are then required to take a few trainings before they can even work with youth, for example, Youth Protection Training and a Criminal Background Check along with providing references.

      Outside of those early trainings there are adult trainings for their specific position, but training on time and right away isn’t always there.

      As a youth in Boy Scouts I was bullied by my peers that were outside of Scouts. I knew gays in Scouts along with agnostics or even atheists, but that was never a problem. It was on the bylaws of BSA, but in my neck of the woods it wasn’t a problem at all. Scouts gave me the chance to be a leader at a young age. I got my Eagle before turning 16 and then ran the entire Fall Camporee by myself as a 16 year old. We did have games to play during our “game” time at the end of the night which were very physical like “kill the carrier” which was just like rugby until I was knocked into the sign that we were playing near. When I went home and told my mom that my back has a small pain, she looked at it and noticed a superficial cut that was about a foot long. After telling the other adult leaders, that game was never played again. We had overall good to great adult leadership and good boys that were in Boy Scouts. Only a couple times did I find an adult that wasn’t so much fun, but that was because he over protected his own son from doing simple labor like collecting firewood for our camporee while everyone else had a job, but his son.

      I too have found that the “fun” in scouts ranges from people that loved it to people that had issues. The Boy Scouts of America is a wonderful program. The information that you have pointed out sounds to me like situations in which someone was not taking the appropriate steps to take care of certain things. Yes, they are all volunteers too and many of them do not possess the exact skills that they are asked to do, but overall I have heard way more positive than negative.

      Science and logical fallacies do not allow your experiences to dictate the overall understanding of something. Your individual bad experiences do NOT mean that overall the Boy Scout program is bad.

      FYI, the Boy Scouts is NOT owned by the Mormon Church. About 30% of units that are in the Boy Scouts are chartered by the Mormon Church. The Boy Scouts of America is chartered through congress.
      The Boy Scouts of America program promotes citizenship, character development, and physical fitness.

      1. Also, if you want to do something about this problem you are seeing in Scouts, then step up to the plate and volunteer. Make sure that it is run correctly. Don’t just be upset that it’s being done wrong, be an advocate and take responsibility for youth development.

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