When I was seven years old, I joined the “junior” group of the Boy Scouts, the Cub Scouts. When I was eleven, I moved up to the Boy Scouts and after seven years of procrastination and hard work, I earned Eagle Scout.
For those who are not aware, Eagle Scout is not an easy accomplishment. It takes determination and hard work. I felt it was worth it. The ony drawback was, I had to omit certain personal views which would have disqualified me from even being in the Boy Scouts. I was and still am an atheist.
One of the central tenets of BSA’s charter is that a boy must believe in the guiding hand of a higher power in order to acheive a normal, balanced sense of morality. This is a misguided viewpoint and one that keeps well-behaved, intelligent boys and their families from participating in an organization which has been a huge part of American culture for a century.
The tragedy of all this is it is not necessary. Bigotry rarely is. Instead of teaching kids a rigid set of morals based on religion, let them develop their own sense of right and wrong through the world around them and by example. Kids learn by example, anyway, so it should be simple.
Teaching kids how to survive and get by in the outdoors is great and that should always be a part of the scouting experience.
Service to the community is also a must.
Learning about the natural world through experience and observation should be given more ground, rather than faith.
Instead of an opening and closing prayer at meetings, have everyone introduce themselves if the troop is big, have them demonstrate some skill that they learned in Boy Scouts, anything (but prayer). I fully acknowledge that this is a reflection of my own personal values, but a child is no more a Christian than he is a member of the IBEW.
The BSA has a real chance to change their ways and become a youth organization of the 21st century. I doubt that they will any time soon, but a guy can dream.