Scout“Be Prepared” is the motto of the Scouts but I seriously doubt anything could have prepared them for a rather bizarre attack by the National Secular Society (NSS) and the British Humanist Association (BHA). The Scouts association is being unceremoniously dragged up in front of the Equality and Human Rights Commission because as part of their oath they require young members to promise to “do my duty to God.”

Well folks, looks like it’s “D” word time. This oath, or so yap the NSS & BHA, discriminates against young atheists. I’m not sure that that claim is remotely true, but even if it is: so bloody what?

Secular and Humanist groups are on the march, seemingly spurred on by recent ramblings from Dawkins, Hitchens and others of that ilk, and despite their claims to rationalism this latest move is nothing other than a brain fart on the part of the members of each group: all noise, very little substance and bit of a smell. They might like the smell of their own farts, but it’s noxious to those of us who are standing nearby. Like it’s mentors, these groups are becoming increasingly loudmouthed, even a little frantic and aggressive, and dare I say fundamentalist in tone. We can enjoy the irony of that at least. The Scouts have existed for around 100 years and have experienced few problems in all that time. Now they must contend with these psychos who have crawled out of the woodwork to pick a fight. For God’s sake!

Here’s the obvious answer to the Secular-Humanist problem: start your own group. No one is forcing young atheists to join the Scouts. Why don’t they form another youth group? Perhaps one where they get to run around the forest on camping trips studying various species for signs of evolution, stand in circles yelling about how they believe in absolutely nothing whatsoever, and delight in the works of Dawkins and Hitchens. The trouble is Secular Humanists never seem to want to do anything positive. When you see people giving out hampers to little old ladies at Christmas time you’ll get odds in the region of 10,000-1 that it’s a secular humanist. It’s the same with youth groups, homework clubs, summer schemes, and other organisations for young people (and, incidentally, for most other volunteer and charity work). Why the hell don’t the NSS & BHA put their efforts into setting up their own club and lets see how well it does in the market. If Keith Porteous Wood, NSS executive director, is right when he claims that 2/3 of teenagers define themselves as non-religious then surely they’ll have no problem. Why do they have to rely on the Scouts? Maybe instead of criticising the Scout Association they should see if they can found an organisation that can manage to encourage 250 million children to aspire to such things as: “[becoming] trustworthy, self-controlled and self-confident,” “[having] self-respect and respect of others,” and “[having] proper respect for possessions and property.” The Woodfolk is the only such atheist organisation I have ever heard of. It was set up in the 1930’s by atheists to promote their ideals: it failed. If the atheist worldview is so strong, compelling and dynamic then they should be able to attract kids in droves. So many atheists: so very little being done besides the odd anti-religion hot-aired rant. Before any atheist readers get on their high horse and try to tell me at least atheists haven’t done anything bad to people just because of their religious beliefs I suspect a few million theists who lived under communist Russia, or China, might well beg to differ.

The whole episode is lunacy and should embarrass sensible atheists. What the hell is their problem really? Perhaps once they’ve had a rattle at the Scouts they’ll take on the Church of England for using the Bible in it’s services and singing songs to a God atheists say doesn’t exist. After all, doesn’t this discriminate against atheists who might want to join in too? Or perhaps they should take the Roman Catholic Church to the Equality & Human Rights Commission because it discriminates against people who think that priestly miracles during mass is pushing things a little. Alternatively the NSS should “be prepared” itself for a few claims, since in order to join it you must be sympathetic with the general principles on its website which pretty much keeps Christians, Jews, Muslims, and many other religious folks from joining in all the atheist fun. Truth be told the NSS and BHA are simply choosing to be offended and indulging in an sordid little episode of grandstanding. They have no more reason to report the Scouts than they do to report ministers who mention God at funerals with atheists in the congregation.

Remember also that doing one’s duty to God is not the only part of the oath. Surely other bits are equally discriminatory, no? Maybe they need to rewrite the oath entirely. We can only sob for those poor young people who don’t want to “help their neighbour” or do anyone a good turn. And what about the poor republican youth who must promise to do their “duty to the Queen”? And what’s so great about “self-respect,” or “duty” at all? Isn’t duty just a fascist construct? Moreover, that part of the oath that talks of “keeping the scout law” is a blatant contravention of the rights of anarchist youth! Don’t even get me started on how camping trips discriminate against the disabled and those who suffer mental illnesses like claustrophobia. Scouts = Spawn of Satan!

I seriously do wonder why anyone would want to join groups like the NSS and BHA anyway? What on earth do you do at a NSS meeting? Sit and discuss everything you don’t believe in? No one feels the need to set up groups like the “Santa Doesn’t Exist Society” or meet with other likeminded people who deny the existence of the tooth fairy. Life is surely too busy without having to go to meetings to discuss all the things we don’t believe in. Would anyone want to join an “Elvis Is Really Dead Club” or the “There’s no Such Thing as Aliens Association?” These people are just the sort of miserablists that we could do without in our country. They really aren’t any different from other wacko groups all trying to force government and its related quangos to bend to their will and use its legislative muscle to beat its opponents. Why don’t they get a life? It’s turning into an atheist version of the bloody Spanish Inquisition. I thoroughly recommend counselling.

Alas, picking on the Scouts was a bad idea. A lot of support is rallying behind the Scouts on this one and the vast majority of comments I have read on news-blogs and in newspapers are supportive. It was a rather soft target. I’d love to see them directing their efforts against Muslim groups – perhaps bolding proclaiming the Allah does not exist. The reaction wouldn’t be pretty. Seemingly the NSS and BHA have suffered a rather splendid self-inflicted shot to the feet. Many people have a lot of affection for the Scouts Association, which regards a spiritual dimension as beneficial for the personal development of young people. At the same time it acknowledges that a member can be unsure of the existence of God, and such members are not prevented from joining or fully participating. No one is forced to take part in the (very limited) religious observance. As a publicity stunt (what else was it?) it has backfired. Sure, more people now know of the NSS and BHA as a result, but the vast majority think it’s just another band of malcontents trying to force themselves on other people. Frankly they are little more than jumped up hypocrites pretending to give a toss about the welfare of children while in reality caring solely for their own bigoted ideals. Their rabid attacks on anything religious aren’t only tiresome but they give the impression that they’re miserable, have given up on life, and have little positive to offer. I’d really love to see these people cheering up a bit. This absurd storm in a tea cup is fundamentally counterproductive to the cause of secularism and those behind it should really know better.

Ultimately, here’s the rub: lets say the oath discriminates. What follows? The Scouts are, after all, a private organisation and as such can discriminate against whoever they damn well please. All groups are “sectarian” to some degree. They all have boundaries, rules, and an ethos shared by the members. Book clubs exclude people who don’t read books. Libertarian think tanks exclude socialists. National Secular Societies and British Humanist Groups exclude those who see life in religious/supernatural terms. Or perhaps they wouldn’t mind if I wanted to open one of their meetings in prayer? The Scouts do not exist to serve every minority group who wants things done their own way. It’s exhausting having to listen to 101 special interest groups and minorities using the “D” word every time they’re upset about something. The Scouts were accused of sex discrimination a few years ago and then started to admit girls to its ranks. Now it’s the non-religious who are up in arms. Maybe next we’ll have disgruntled pensioners lamenting the age discrimination of the organisation.

On the back of this episode I think the Scouts should offer a new badge award: for lighting a fire by rubbing two humanists together. Or perhaps to really piss off atheists they could have a “hug an atheist” day, telling them “God bless you.”

Whatever happens I’m sure that the NSS and BHA won’t be placated in their demands as they pursue their goal to wipe out religion nationwide using the machinery of government if necessary to accomplish it.

Does anyone else think it’s very much appropriate that NSS has “SS” in it’s title?