Thursday, June 24, 2010

discrimination against atheists

It's weird how I switched from a religion with a major persecution complex to religious views that are actually discriminated against. As a jewish person I never suffered from clear discrimination. There is nothing I think I can't do due to me being jewish at this point in the US. Yes, my house got egged when I was a kid cause the neighbor kid next door was an anti semetic douche, but I never felt as if my opportunities were actually restricted due to my religious views.

Today in Philadelphia the boy scouts won the right to continue renting land from the city at the dirt cheap rate of $1 a year. The city was trying to kick them off their land (or start charging them real rent) because the Boy Scouts' policy on not accepting homosexuals violates municipal anti-discrimination laws. The jury decided this was an infringement on freedom of speech. I think the city has a right to rent or not rent to anyone they want, that they should have the right to not rent their land to private companies that violate their anti-discrimination laws, and I hope they appeal this decision.

But that's not really the point of this post. The point is, I think everyone knows that boy scouts don't let gay people in at this point. But in one of the article comments, someone mentioned that atheists and agnostics can't join the group either. That I hadn't previously known about. So I went over to wikipedia to check it out and found this:

The Boy Scouts of America's position is that atheists and agnostics cannot participate as Scouts (youth members) or Scouters (adult leaders) in its traditional Scouting programs. According to the Bylaws of the BSA, Declaration of Religious Principle:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members."[6]

During the membership application process and as a requirement to obtain membership, youths and adults are required to subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to agree to abide by the Scout Oath and Law, which include the words, "do my duty to God" and "reverent". Youths are also required to repeat the Scout Oath and Law periodically after being accepted as Scouts. The BSA believes that atheists and agnostics are not appropriate role models of the Scout Oath and Law for boys, and thus will not accept such adults as leaders


So the rule is that gay people can't be LEADERS in the boy scouts. But apparently, atheists and agnostics can't be leaders OR scouts. So that seems even worse! But no one gives a crap about that part of the rules apparently, because people don't think about atheists as a discriminated-against group that merits protection?

I'm sure there are other examples things that you can't do if you're an atheist (that you can do when you're jewish). One example I can think of offhand is that one of the steps of alcoholics anonymous is that you have to accept a higher power (AKA god)- so atheists can't really take part in alcoholics anonymous (or they can, but not to the same extent- and I would be super uncomfortable joining that kind of program, presuming I needed that kind of help). I checked the internet, and apparently there are a few non-god-centric alcoholic support groups/programs, but they are extremely rare and it's hard to find meetings for them.

So two services that are not available to atheists: your kids can't join the boy scouts and it's harder to get help if you're an alcoholic. What other examples can you think of? FFTA in the comments.

20 comments:

  1. Good luck getting elected to anything as an open atheist. Prepare for horrified looks from religious coworkers if they hear of your disbelief.

    (In AA, btw, there are supposedly plenty of atheists who interpret "Higher Power" in various ways. However, AA is less effective than many other (scientific) treatment modalities, like psychotherapy, and may not even be more effective than just going it alone, so atheists who are turned off by AA's religiosity are probably doing themselves a favor.)

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  2. AA is sometimes court mandated, though I believe in most cases you have to simply enroll in some kind of court-approved program. Maybe in some places the choices are limited, who knows.

    What I find most interesting is that BSA accepts Buddhists, who don't necessarily believe in a supreme power or creator deity. Apparently they just like the idea of only working with people who believe some form - any form - of bullshit.

    And before anyone tries to reply back with "Buddhism is more of a philosophy" or "Buddhism doesn't believe in dogmatic teachings or mythology," ask yourself a couple questions:

    1. How did they pick the Dalai Lama?

    2. What were the circumstances of Siddhartha's birth?

    That should be enough...

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  3. You might like to watch the episode of Penn and Teller's show Bullshit! on the Boy Scouts. Or maybe just read the BSA's BSA Declaration of Religious Principle:

    The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

    If that's not plain enough, see the more recent Reaffirmation of the Position of the Boy Scouts of America on Duty to God (1991):

    The first Boy Scouts of America *Handbook for Boys*, published in August 1911, declares that "..no boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God." (page 215)

    The latest edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1990, reads: "A scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others." (page 561)

    While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God, the Boy Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout Oath and its declaration of duty to God.


    The Scout Oath says:

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.


    "Duty to God" is the first duty mentioned, so it is hardly surprising that they won't allow non-theists to join.

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  4. Sleeping vocally Christian men sleeping in tents with boys... I don't know... seems so... how do you put it... Catholic?

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  5. > It's weird how I switched from a religion with a major persecution complex to religious views that are actually discriminated against.

    I’ve noticed that too!

    But then, every religious group seems to think it’s being persecuted. I think it may be part of what forms group identity: WE have to stick together to stand against THEY who are persecuting us; and WE are obviously morally superior to THEY who are doing the persecuting.

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  6. Why would you want to join the boy scouts?

    It was a paramilitary organisation to prepare young kids for the boor wars... They taught them for minor tasks, like being a messenger...

    I suppose, the basic concept would be prohibited under the rules against child warfare today.

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  7. It is definitely true that atheists are the most discriminated people in the US. Many people think of us as child molesting neo-Nazis. I am not going to deny this, but there is a certain part of my that likes this. It makes me feel like a bad boy.

    Of course, I am not trying to use this as a justification for this discrimiation, there is no justification why we should be discriminated against. Just expressing how I feel.

    Anyway, as MKR said, there is a good Penn and Teller Bullshit! episode on this topic. The boy scouts discriminate against gay and atheist children. You can go here ( http://www.bigvidpro.com/?v=SoNeWaXE4tH1a1Y-Q5wQ-A ) if you want to see the episode.

    Now the boy scouts should be able to discriminate against gay and atheist children if they operated like a private school. Private Jewish schools discriminate against atheist and non-Jewish kids too. However, they are private schools and are not funded by the government. But the boy scouts want to have the cake and eat it too. They want to be funded by the government and be able to act like a private system.

    By the way the states also discrimate against atheists. Some states have the policy that anyone who want to run for office must believe in God. So not only will public atheism kill your chances of running for office, it might even be illegal! And this is entirely unfair.

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  8. But the boy scouts want to have the cake and eat it too. They want to be funded by the government and be able to act like a private system.

    Yes, that is the other half of the objection, without which it is not really an objection. For substantiation of the point, see Larry A. Taylor, "How Your Tax Dollars Support the Boy Scouts of America" (The Humanist, 1995).

    By the way, Baruch, my comment included a link to that episode of Bullshit!, though perhaps the version on the site to which you link does not have a sound delay like the one I found.

    Belatedly replying to Ginx's comment:

    What I find most interesting is that BSA accepts Buddhists, who don't necessarily believe in a supreme power or creator deity. Apparently they just like the idea of only working with people who believe some form - any form - of bullshit.

    Well, no; bullshit or not, I think it has to be accepted under the name of "religion." I'll bet that they don't admit Scientologists or Wiccans, say.

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  9. Wow! I mean, you can still be a citizen and not agree with the wording of the pledge of allegiance and you can still go to twelve step is you don't believe in a higher power (it could be a believe in a stronger you for goodness sakes).

    But this?? I assumed (back when I was a girl scout in troup 613, yes an OJ group) that it was one of those American, everyone believes in god things. Never would have guessed atheists/agnostics are not allowed!

    Is there a world yet that means discrimination against atheists yet? Because I refuse to play the pretend game, but at the same time, man, I not feel the love.

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  10. Baruch,
    Just so you are aware, in Solomon Schechter Day Schools, Jewish Schools of the CJ world, do not require or even expect neither their study body or students to believe in god. It is no boy scout thing. I refused to daven (pray) in my OJ high school and lose my saludatorian spot as a result.

    In fact there was an informal study done. The vast majority of parents send their kids to the Schechter where I live for reasons having nothing to do with god.

    Point being, careful not to overgeneralize. Not all Jewish schools are OJ or demand a theist belief system.

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  11. TO- girl scouts and boy scouts actually are not affiliated with each other , and girl scouts from what I have been able to find out do not discriminate against atheists.

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  12. MKR- the BSA does have wiccan chapters, from the wiki page:


    "Wiccans, and many others can be and are members of the BSA. The BSA officially recognizes religious emblems for over 38 faith groups including Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and many varieties of Christianity. Boy Scouts of America approved religious emblems exist for all these except for Wicca and Native American religions. The former exists but has not been approved due to less than 25 chartered Wiccan units."

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  13. Wiccans, and many others can be and are members of the BSA. The BSA officially recognizes religious emblems for over 38 faith groups (etc.)

    That really surprises me. Although it confirms my hunch that what matters is adherence to something that they (the BSA) recognize as a religion, it seems to be in clear contradiction to their official statements on "duty to God." It would be interesting to see what answers the higher-ups in that organization might give if they were pressed on this point.

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  14. TikunOlam, why would you go to a twelve step program? All they do is rob you of your money, they achieve absolutely nothing.

    "Point being, careful not to overgeneralize. Not all Jewish schools are OJ or demand a theist belief system.":

    I do not speak politically correct language. Obviously, when I say "Jewish schools" I must be referring to many of the Jewish schools that do discriminate against non-Jewish people. You should be able to figure that out from the content. I am not going to put a little note on the bottom saying how there are some exceptions to the rule.

    About the pledge of allegiance. The problem with the pledge is not that it has "God" in it. The major problem with the pledge is that it is a bunch of nationalistic non-sense. It is just a flag, get over it. America was funded on the idea to be against authority and against trusting authority. Having a nationalistic pledge defeats the entire point. My problem with the pledge is not that it has "God" in it, but that there is even a pledge to begin with. I would also get rid of the national anthem. Do not misunderstand me. It is a nice anthem, but it is too nationalistic.

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  15. Baruch,
    Fortunately I don't struggle with addiction problems (unless you mean coffee) so I wouldn't go to 12 Step.

    I am not sure of the information that you have on 12 Steps and perhaps it contradicts mine (I am a psychologist but addiction is not my area of therapy) but support groups, including AA etc. have been shown to be an effective component to treatment of addiction for many.

    I am not against them. I don't think they are effective alone though. Kind of like part of a healthy breakfast. When meeting is the only thing you are doing, you are more than 90% sure to fail.

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  16. Baruch,
    I was referring to your comment about discrimination against "atheists."

    I don't like when OJ is used synonymously with "Jewish." They are a teeny tiny part of the Jewish people and they don't represent most of us. All I am saying. Much of the Jewish world is agnostic or atheists, very proud to say. Ohr L'goyim (light unto the nations) :)

    How heretical was that!

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  17. I'm thankful to work for a company that really has little discrimination and accepts athiests just as much as orthodox Jews (even more so because they work on off shifts LOL).

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  18. TikunOlam, it is funny that you mention twelve step programs like AA. There was a Penn and Teller Bullshit episode on this as well, go here: ( http://www.bigvidpro.com/?v=jXfo0UDV2ONKMKe-UYdubQ ). It has good points.

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  19. Oh what a shame. I really like Penn & Teller, but this is not accurate. AA/Alanon have helped a lot of people. The steps were created in 1935, so it had the tendency to be god-soaked, but actually there were atheist when AA was being formed. That is why the steps have "God as we understood Him". Atheist were there at the beginning and there are plenty of them there now and are accepted as full member. The ONLY requirement to be a member of AA is to have a drinking problem. The ONLY requirement for Alanon is to a have friend or family member with a drinking problem.

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  20. Despite the BSA bylaws, any sort of discrimination largely varies from troop to troop, and even then it depends on who is in the troop. I, for example, am an Eagle Scout and also an atheist. The troop I belonged to hardly cared if someone was religious or not (although we did have Sunday prayers). I am not happy with certain BSA bylaws. Yet despite its discriminatory stance towards atheists (like me) and homosexuals, I am still very much in love with the fantastic organization that gave me some of the best memories and friends I've ever had.

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