Baden-Powell's (B-P) book Rovering to Success, Rev. Ed., a
handbook for British Rover Scouts, is an excellent source for understanding the
goals and philosophies of Scouting as espoused by the founder of the movement
himself after he had a chance to see the beginning of Scouting's maturation. In
addressing his book to older Scouts, he went to some pains to explain the
importance of religion to a Scout.
this book by using the adventure-style of writing that captured boys'
imaginations, began by describing the "Voyage of Life" using the metaphor of a
canoe trip. B-P put it thus:
The whole thing--the early
voyage through the easy running stream, and then coming out on the broad lake,
the arising of difficulties, the succession of waves and rocks only avoided by
careful piloting, the triumph of overcoming the dangers, the successful sliding
into a sheltered landing place, the happy campfire and the sleep of tired men at
night--is just what a man goes through in life.
paddling one's canoe on the "...adventurous voyage from the stream of childhood,
along the river of adolescence, out across the ocean of manhood", he warned of
the dire need to avoid foundering on certain "Rocks", i.e., dangerous hazards,
deleterious influences, in the lives of Scouts which, unless avoided, interfere
with the scout's goal of achieving happiness in life..."the only true
success." The organization of B-P's book makes clear what he thought these
HORSES Gambling, lack of thrift, indolence, etc.
WINE Alcohol abuse, gluttony, foul language,
WOMEN Venereal diseases, irresponsible sexual
CUCKOOS & HUMBUGS Demagoguery, snobbery, jingoism, etc.
IRRELIGION Atheism and irreligion*
introduction B-P made clear what he thought the most dangerous of these rocks
was: "The dark side of this rock is the danger of atheism and irreligion. Its
bright side is its realization of God and Service to Brother Men. To this the
study of Nature is a direct help." In writing about irreligion, B-P organized
his discussion in the following manner:
atheism is being pressed on young men;
irreligion is prevalent;
religion is essential to happiness.
Safeguards against atheism;
God's work in Nature gives the lie to atheists;
Nature knowledge is a step to realizing God."
page 175 went on to say:
There are a good many men who
have no religion, who don't believe in God; they are known as atheists.
In Great Britain alone there
are nine societies of these. They are welcome to have their own opinions in
this line, but when they try, as they are always doing, to force these ideas on
other people, they become enemies of the worst sort.
Some of these sects directly
attack the religious belief of others in a very offensive way, ...
[an example is given]
This to every Christian who
believed in his religion is an indecent insult. At the same time it is a direct
call to him to action. But I am not going into that here.
Apart from the anti-religious
there are lots of fellows who, though not violently opposed to religion, are not
particularly interested in it. In some cases they have never been shown what it
is; in others it has not proved very attractive or inspiring and they have let
Religion is essential to
If you are really out to make
your way to success -- i.e. happiness -- you must not only avoid being sucked in
by irreligious humbugs, but you must have a religious basis to your life.
This is not a mere matter of
going to church, of knowing Bible history, or understanding theology. Many men
are sincerely religious almost without knowing it and without having studied
it. Religion very briefly stated means:
Firstly: recognizing who and
what is God.
Secondly: making the
best of the life that He has given one and doing what He wants of us. This is
mainly doing something for other people.
. . . As steps towards
gaining these two points and avoiding atheism, there are two things I would
recommend you do. [Read the Bible and read "The Book of Nature."]
of the chapter on "Irreligion" is devoted to various measures to help scouts
"avoid atheism", to use B-P's repeated phrase, such as experiencing the grandeur
of Nature as a "step towards realizing God", to which he added, "I advocate the
understanding of Nature as a step, in certain cases, towards gaining religion."
His handbook is replete with examples and quotations on how first-hand
experience of Nature's wonders can help one understand God. For example, he
quotes Abraham Lincoln:
I can see how it might be
possible for a man to look down upon earth and be an atheist, but I do not see
how he can look up into the heavens by night and say there is no God.
Seest thou not that all in
the heavens and all on the earth serveth God; the sun, the moon, the stars, and
the mountains and the trees and the beasts and many
on the inspiration he drew from the outdoors, he wrote:
I love the homely beauty of
the English countryside as I do the vast openness and freedom of the rolling
veld in South Africa. I love the rushing waters and the nodding forests of
Canada; but I have been more awed by the depths and heights of the Himalayas
and by the grandeur of those eternal snows lifting their peaked heads high above
the world, never defiled by the foot of man, but reaching of all things worldly
the nearest to the Heavens."
that perhaps the reason so many of the world's peoples at such high elevations
are Buddhists is:
the mountains almost talk
you into it. In the quiet of the night you listen to their voices; you are
drawn into the brooding immensity all round you. In warm cities, where men
huddle together, one must have something to cling to -- a personal Saviour, a
lantern in a sure and kindly hand, comforting voices in the dark. But . . .
there is a mystic purpose in Nature . . .
writings make is clear that B-P felt very strongly that he was opposed to
atheism and deeply committed to the idea that a Scout cannot develop fully
without religious belief. In his own words, B-P said:
Religion is essential to
happiness. This is not a mere matter of going to church, knowing Bible history,
or understanding theology. Religion . . . means recognising who and what is
God, secondly, making the best of the life that He has given one and doing what
He wants of us. This is mainly doing something for other people.
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