My Duty to God
The Scout Promise is a core part of the movement. But the National Secular Society (NSS) is claiming that atheist children are being excluded. But that is not the case.
This is the Scout Promise:
On My Honour, I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to God and to the Queen,
To help other people
And to keep the Scout Law.
But what does the Promise mean? It essentially, a promise that we make to ourselves and to others. It states the values that should all try to act out in our lives and intend, as Baden-Powell said to “leave this world a little better than you found it.”
One big misconception – such as the one made by the NSS – is that that “Duty to God” equates to being a member of a Christian organisation. This is absolute rubbish. Not only is Scouting more than open to young people regardless of belief (for example, variations on the Promise include using “Allah” and “my Dharma” for Muslims and Buddhists), the statement isn’t even about religion: it’s about spirituality.
Spirituality and religion do not equal each other; they are not the same. And we as Scout Leaders do not expect young people to be religious, though different Groups will have different expectations and involvements – for example, some Scout Groups are sponsored by Churches or Mosques and have some religious expectations; but of course the vast majority don’t. What we do expect, though, is that young people are open to new experiences and ideas.
I think the NSS are truly barking up the wrong tree with this claim that any children are being excluded; it is absolutely not the case (and since they can’t provide a number of so-called “complaints” they have received…). However, they do have one point about adult volunteers. An avowed disbelief in a higher being is a bar to being a full Adult Member – and I disagree with this. I believe that the requirement should instead be based on willingness to help young people develop their spirituality, regardless of the individual’s own.
When I make the Promise myself – as I did last weekend at our St George’s Days service – I am quite happy to say the line “To do my duty to God and to the Queen”. But I am not religious at all; but I am not an athiest. I struggle to believe at times; and I especially find it hard to believe in the same God that the organised religions promote.
But my duty remains the same: to be a good person and make the best of myself, to respect others and their beliefs, and to leave this world just a little bit better than I found it. I’m not sure what more any God could want from me.