News

Something to strive for: an atheist badge of honour

Something to strive for: an atheist badge of honour

America’s Freedom From Religion Foundation has unveiling a freethought scouting badge, inset above, to reward young non-believers and challenge the Boy Scouts of America’s discrimination against the non-religious.

According to this report, the badge, symbolising atheism and agnosticism, is being issued in collaboration with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.

Scouts who wish to earn this badge are asked to help disprove the the Boy Scouts of America’s misguided claim that non-believers cannot be good citizens. The requirements, paralleling typical merit badge requirements, ask scouts to learn about secularism and the rich history of dissent from religion.

Robyn E Blumner, President and CEO of both the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Center for Inquiry which recently merged said:

By excluding boys from non-religious families, the Boy Scouts of America is practicing the same kind of baseless prejudice it exhibited for so long against gay Scouts.

There is no doubt that a young man can be honorable, diligent, wholesome and represent the best that America has to offer while not subscribing to a religious faith. For the association to suggest otherwise is to perpetuate ugly stereotypes and open millions of boys up to exclusion and bullying.

The Boy Scouts of America has a policy of discriminating against non-religious boys and their families, officially excluding atheists, agnostics and non-believers. Currently, the organisation maintains that:

No member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognising his obligation to God.

Said FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is co-President of FFRF with her husband Dan Barker:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation maintains instead that no one who discriminates against the non-religious can grow into the best kind of citizen.

Barker, a former evangelical minister who is also co-founder of The Clergy Project, a support group for ministers who lose their faith, added:

It’s what you do – not what you believe – that makes you a good person.

Boy Scouts of America recently ended its ban against gays, but the two groups note that it should also be socially unacceptable to exclude non-religious boys and their families from an organisation that claims “Any boy may join” and receives substantial public school and governmental support.

Because this unauthorized badge is intended to protest the Boy Scouts’ policy, it’s expected that Scouts won’t be able to work with a typical merit badge counselor to demonstrate the completion of requirements.

So FFRF will ask a parent, guardian, sibling over the age of 18, teacher or another adult to attest that scouts have qualified. At Richard Dawkins’ suggestion, thescout is also required to send FFRF a short essay addressing the Boy Scouts of America’s claim that non-believers can’t be good citizens. FFRF will not charge acouts money for the badge.

Said Gaylor:

If any young person fulfills the requirements, we’d be delighted to reward them with this badge. Many non-religious students who might otherwise wish to join the Boy Scouts Association, knowing of its bigoted policy, don’t try.

This is their chance to be rewarded for critical thinking and to earn a keepsake at the same time. We hope someday very soon that Boy Scouts of America itself will change policy and adopt its own official merit badge rewarding critical thinking.

Details of how the badge can be earned are published here.

Hat tip: Peter Sykes

12 responses to “Something to strive for: an atheist badge of honour”

  1. harrynutsak says:

    A big “A” for Adultery again, is it?

    Well who the fuck came up with that and could we have them forced to watch “The Crucible” until their eyeballs pop out as punishment. Just a thought.

    Atheism is a lack of belief, so it’s rather stupid to have a patch for it.
    Why not have a patch for humanism or socialism or secularism because these things have actual ideologies associated with them and atheism, small “a”, does not.
    Or if you want to have a patch for critical thinking skills, that’s not the same thing as atheism, is it.

    How about a patch for de-programming any brainwashed person? Or avoiding commercials on tv? Or how about a patch for always keeping up to date with Patch Tuesday?
    aaahhh yessss

  2. L.Long says:

    Well my short survey says harrynutsak is wrong as most people don’t know what the red-A stands for, I usually have to tell them about the older adultery thing, and very few know about the red-A atheist thing.
    Besides since both adultery and atheism are condemned in a superbly stupid manner then the symbol is appropriate.
    Love the idea!

  3. M says:

    How about a plain blue patch with no graphics?

  4. AgentCormac says:

    It is disgrceful that in 21st-century USA an organisation as prominent as the scouts can openly discriminate against those who do not believe in a god. And to claim that ‘No member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognising his obligation to God’ is as mind-bogglingly stupid as it is downright insulting. However, I’m not convinced that a badge based on learning about secularism and the history of dissent from religion is a great idea. Why not make it about being ‘Good without God’ or something similar which proves that by their actions (in community care, local volunteering, etc.) atheist scouts are every bit as caring, worthy and moral as their godly counterparts, but without the vitriol, superiority complex and ugly discrimantion displayed by the bigots in charge?

  5. barriejohn says:

    Harrynutsack: I can’t agree with you that socialism and secularism are fundamentally ideologies. And humanism is the very antithesis of ideology, as it values humans above dogma. We had a troll visiting this site once who just couldn’t get this into his thick skull, and kept insisting that humanists and atheists were distinct groups! Humanism has become closely associated with secularism these days, but in the past prominent humanists included Thomas More and Erasmus – devout Christians.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderius_Erasmus

  6. 1859 says:

    A* all round – .the more the message gets out there the better. Great idea.

  7. John says:

    Why not an ‘E’ badge for ‘Ethical’?
    That could include both areligious and religious persons.
    What is important is to be ethically-inclined.
    A simple course in basic secular ethics could be drawn up for scouts to complete to qualify for the badge.
    Any volunteers?

  8. harrynutsak says:

    @L.Long – Yes, I think you’re quite right to point out that my obscure historical religious reference is not generally known and so isn’t much of a bar to using the FUCKING LETTER A
    like an airhead. No, that’s a very good point indeed.

    @barriejohn – Look, I hate to cut and paste from the dictionary and all that, so let me just say that secularism is a procedural economic policy normally applied to any form of government as being the only realistic way of getting anything done in the real world without reference to any religion – which is why it works. It’s a realistic ideology of how to govern not a delusional one.
    It’s not atheism. It’s anti-religion in the area of governing, it’s the antithesis of theocratic intent.
    It’s not “a lack of a belief in any deities”.
    It’s not atheism by definition.
    Socialism is the logical function of any government in that large numbers of people can best be served by the government and not any private concern.
    You can’t run a country like a business, but that’s an economic truth that gives socialism a solid leg to stand on So, socialism means no private government including no privatising of what is properly a government function.
    Private parties, like royals, business owners, investors, greedy fucks all around, are not considered legitimate types of governing bodies with socialism.
    Socialism is an ideology, a political one, not addressing religion in any way, that merely says society should be governed by its own general societal interests, not any private ones.
    It’s not atheism.
    Humanism is not anti-ideology, it is (pasted):”an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”

    That sounds like an ideology to me.
    I am a secular humanist who knows socialism is the very bones of any government despite everyone trying to conflate it with communism. That I am an atheist in that I lack a belief in any deities MAKES NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE to anything because atheism is NOT AN IDEOLOGY. It is a lack of a very specific type of ideology, like lacking a belief in magic, which I also have but what word to use for that? A-magicist?
    No, my friend, do not argue semantics with me. The mere definitions of the words will do, but if you looked up the words you’d see I am right.
    Sorry for jumping down your throat, but people who completely disregard historical facts and lack imagination will always choose poorly – like choosing a letter of the alphabet to represent atheism, a very childish and unimaginative thing to do, while also pretending that atheism is an ideology like rationalism or a skill like critical thinking. Um NO FUCKING GODDAMNIT WHAT THE FUCK

  9. Brian Jordan says:

    Let’s not make too much of the A for Adultery thing, for (I learn from Wikipedia) two reasons:
    1) It relates to events in Boston (USA) in the 1640’s
    2) and more to the point, it’s from a work of fiction written in 1850.
    ‘Nuff said, I think,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Letter
    Mind you, I don’t fancy the chances of any boy who sews it onto his uniform: talk aboutbeing drummed out of the Brownies!

  10. Cali Ron says:

    Harrynutsak: You seem to be an angry secular humanist. Semantic bully?

  11. jay says:

    I am not objecting as such, times change, but it’s true that over the years my instinctive reaction to seeing that logo has been first ‘adultery’, then, oh wait, it’s ‘atheism’.

    Of course millenials probably have not learned classic literature (not politically correct these days to make people study American literature), but certainly everyone of my generation would recognize it. And the kids parents may see it that way too.

    [In a hundred years we’ve gone from Greek and Latin in high school to remedial English in college]

  12. Daz says:

    Talking of history, it seems some here might be just a tad ignorant of the history of the modern atheist movement. The scarlet A was first introduced in 2007 as a symbol for Richard Dawkins’s Out Campaign which, to quote The Fount Of All Knowledge™:

    “The campaign aims to create more openness about being an atheist by providing a means by which atheists can identify themselves to others by displaying the movement’s scarlet letter A, a scarlet colored capital “A” in the Zapfino typeface, and an allusion to the scarlet letter A worn by Hester Prynne after being convicted of adultery in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. It encourages those who wish to be part of the campaign to come out and re-appropriate, in a humorous way, the social stigma that in some places persists against atheism, by branding themselves with a scarlet letter.”

    It’s been used as a symbol by atheists for the best end of a decade now, and is visible on many atheist websites.