USSSP: A Scout's Duty to God and Country

APPENDIX A

 

INTERNATIONAL VIEWS ON

SCOUTING AND RELIGION

 

        

 

 

SIR ROBERT BADEN-POWELL ON ATHEISM AND RELIGION

 

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.

 

B-P began 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.

 

In 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 "Rocks" were:

 

      Chapter/Title                                 Topics Discussed

 

      1    HORSES                                 Gambling, lack of thrift, indolence, etc.

      2    WINE                                     Alcohol abuse, gluttony, foul language, etc.

      3    WOMEN                                 Venereal diseases, irresponsible sexual conduct

      4    CUCKOOS & HUMBUGS   Demagoguery, snobbery, jingoism, etc.

      5    IRRELIGION                        Atheism and irreligion*

 

In his 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:

 

      "Irreligion:

            atheism is being pressed on young men;

            irreligion is prevalent;

            religion is essential to happiness.

 

      Nature lore:

            Safeguards against atheism;

             God's work in Nature gives the lie to atheists;

            Nature knowledge is a step to realizing God." 

 

B-P at page 175 went on to say:

 

Atheism

 

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 it slide...

 

Religion is essential to happiness.

 

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."]

 

The rest 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.

 

and the Koran:

 

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 men.                         

 

Commenting 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."

 

He mused 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 . . .

 

His 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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