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Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Atheism, Philosophy, Secularism | 0 comments

Boy Scouts can now be atheists (so long as they remain Royalists).

For nearly 50 years already, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists have been able to recite an alternate version of the Scout oath, vowing to do their duty to “my Dharma” or “Allah” instead of to God. Secular scouts have had no option but to swear to uphold their duties to something or other – so long as it was something religious.

Progress has now been made, in that as from January 2014, scouts will be able to swear to “uphold our scout values”, like so: “On my honour I promise that I will do my best to uphold our scout values, to do my duty to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law”.

Likewise, Girl Guides also need no longer swear loyalty to God, with their oath changing from “to love my God, to serve my Queen and my country” to “to serve the Queen and my community”.

You’ll notice that in both cases, they still need to swear loyalty to the Queen. But seeing as the Queen is already understood to be a symbolic force, rather than a divine one who can send you to hell, or judge your mortal soul for the clothes you wear or the company you keep, we don’t need to be concerned about that. Instead, we can welcome this move. As BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: “The new promise is about personal integrity and ongoing and active self-reflection, both of which sit well alongside a sense of responsibility to others and to the community.”

Exactly. The locus of ethics and our concern for other sentient beings is the self, and it’s self-reflection – rather than duties towards some metaphysical creature – that we need to emphasise and encourage.