I signed my 5 year old daughter up to join a Daisy troop this year. And I signed on to be one of 3 leaders for the troop. I did this because I love Girl Scouts. I was one myself until I was 15. And unlike the Boy Scouts they don't discriminate. 
The Girl Scout Promise:
On my honor, I will try
To serve God and my country
To help people at all times
And to live by the Girl Scout Law
On the website it says that girls and volunteers may substitute any word they would like for God when saying the promise. But as I dive deeper into the experience I'm seeing the word God pop up in more material. The local camp songbook that they showed us at the New Leader Orientation had at least 30 songs about God.
I knew that once my daughter entered school being an Atheist parent would become more difficult. I'm not sure how to approach this situation without alienating my daughter and turning myself into the bad guy. I also haven't discussed my personal views with my co-leaders yet because we've only gotten together a couple of times and we don't know each other that well yet. 
If anyone could offer some advice it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. 

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I am a leader for my daughter's Brownie troop in the middle of the bible belt. She has been in Girl Scouts since the age of 5 and loves it. I too was a Girl Scout and don't remember it being steeped in religion. (My Catholic schooling gave me enough of that.)

I struggle with the same thing every day in every situation, not only at Brownies. It is really impossible to get away from the mention of god from every angle of every day. I've given up trying to shelter my daughter from it because frankly, I can't be there every minute of every day. It is our discussions in private about religion and god that will hopefully guide her beliefs. She says "god" in the pledge because everyone else does...and while I cringe, I have let myself be ok with it. It is not worth causing a scene over - for her, or for me. Instead, we have come up with our own definition of what "god" means.

The positive aspects of scouting far outweigh the exposure to the word god. It is more about arts and crafts, and singing songs around the campfire with s'mores, and sisterhood, and helping others.

Hope that helps.

Thank you so much Jennifer! I think sometimes its hard for me to identify situations involving God where I should fight or when I should just let go. I'm so thankful that there are sites like this that give me a sounding board so that I can prevent making an ass of myself.

Her father wanted me to pull her out as soon as he read the promise. But I held my ground because I do believe in the benefits of the organization and because of how much I enjoyed it as a girl. So I didn't even want to think about discussing this with him because he can be a bit irrational about the subject.

Up until now (she just entered Kindergarten) both he and I have been avoiding the topic of religion with her and the fact that situations like these are going to continue to happen. I know I can't keep her in a bubble. And if I don't discuss it with her eventually someone else will. I'm pretty sure its time for me to head over to amazon and order "Parenting Beyond Belief" :)

Great book! I hope you enjoy it.

I also hope your husband relaxes about Girl Scouts. I must say that in the three years she has been in Scouts, typically the only mention of God in our meetings is when we say the Promise. And as you point out, the guidelines say that the word can be substituted for anything based on the girls own beliefs. One time God was discussed when we were doing one of the Journeys because the girls had ti list things that were important to them. Not surprisingly, since I live in the South, God was something important to many of them and it would have been ridiculous for me to tell them they were wrong to think so. The only other time it came up was when our troop was in charge of leading grace at the Council Camporee, and I was very pleased when the girls all chose a secular one without any input from me.

That being said, we are pretty laid back in the anti-religion enforcement with our daughter. We have even let her go to church a couple times with her friends when she wanted to. She really only wanted to go because she had heard how much fun bible school was. I just made sure I looked at the coloring pages to glean what "lessons" they taught that day and tried to temper it with an alternate view. Most of the time she didn't even remember what they had talked about. She just looked at it as time to play and color with her friends. After going a couple times she got bored with it and hasn't asked to go again. I am of the mind that exposure brings understanding, and to deny would make it more tempting and appealing - and it would also mean she'd know how to push my buttons in the future when she wants to piss me off.

Thank you John :) I was actually lucky enough to be chosen as one of the leaders of my daughters troop. I'm really excited about the opportunity because I'm a stay at home mom and I'm overdue for some real world interaction. 

I'm glad to hear that there are other atheists in the organization who enjoy it. After reading some of the material I was afraid that I wasn't going to feel comfortable. And since they had placed me in a leadership role I was really anxious to reach out to this community with my concerns before I became deeply involved. (our first meeting is this Thursday) 

I haven't really come out as an atheist to a casual or business type acquaintance before, only family and close friends. So that fear of rejection or backlash is strong for me. Especially with the political climate in the US. It's always in the back of my mind that I may end up in a confrontation about my beliefs with someone at some point. And handling confrontation is not one of my strong suits. 

I'm disappointed that Girl Scouts seems to be as steeped in religion as Boy Scouts is. I always thought they were more secular and inclusive. My three boys have not been involved in Boy Scouts because they openly discriminate against gays and the non-religious and I just can't compromise on that. Now it looks like my daughter won't be joining Girl Scouts either.

 

Have you looked into Campfire USA? I wish there was a chapter near me because that's definitely a group I would love my kids to be involved with. A little blurb from their mission and core values: "Camp Fire USA is a not-for-profit youth development organization serving youth from birth to 21 years of age. We are inclusive, open to every person in the communities we serve, welcoming children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspects of diversity. Camp Fire USA's programs are designed and implemented to reduce sex-role, racial and cultural stereotypes and to foster positive intercultural relationships."

http://campfireusa.org/index.aspx

I have been my daughter's co-leader for the past 4 years - through Daisies and Brownies. I think now-a-days, religion is so pervasive that those who are religious put religion into things that aren't. We have a jewish girl in the troop and that pretty much keeps the christians at bay ;)

 

I didn't make an issue of my Atheism - mainly because I get so much religious push from so many directions - I don't want to be another  "pusher" - anyhow - one of our leaders asked me if I would like participate in their church bible study last year (after 3 years of working together) - I told her that being Atheist, usually I worry about making others in a bible study uncomfortable (citing a past participation). She didn't even respond to my email and probably now thinks I am the devil. Anyhow, I have always been a great leader and maybe she is thinking twice about Atheists.

 

I try to steer troop focus to science, nature, respect for other cultures, helping others, girl empowerment, etc. - that is what it is about I think. My daughter says the god stuff because she thinks it sort of an old-fashioned tradition - Girl Scouts is 100 years old this year - and she feels like the founders probably believed in god - sort of like they didn't know any better (her analysis - what a critical thinker!).

 

Good luck to you! I hope you do it - my daughter has made so many friends.

That's a great story John! Knowing that the GS National did that makes me feel much better. 

 

Kara, I hope that my story didn't you sour you on the Girl Scouts. As you can see from the wonderful responses I have received that there are Atheists within the Girl Scout organization and people of other non-christian faiths as well. I am strongly against the boy scouts and from all of the material that I've had to go through to become a Girl Scout leader I can tell you that their policies are VERY similar to Camp Fire USA. 

 

I became concerned because of the large amount of God themed songs in our local camps song book. But this was more than likely locally made by another leader and not a reflection of the national organization. It was still upsetting to me though which is why I came here for advice. :)

 

What I've learned from this discussion is something that I already knew but didn't want to think about - I can't protect my child from the word God and that other people believe these things forever. Five is such a transitional age and I think that the transition from "my baby" to "my child" is a difficult one to deal with as a parent. No one wants their child to be singled out as different. But its my difference, not her's. And I can't assume that just because I'm a non-believer she will be one too.

One other thing I want to share about Girl Scouts is that the basic tenets and foundations of the organization really reinforces Humanist ideals. The traditional Brownie story that ends in the little rhyme "Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and saw myself" is all about self-reliance, responsibility and taking action. No one else is going to make anything happen for you - especially not some invisible, imaginary elves (or God).

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