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What was Baden-Powell's position on God and Religion in Scouting?

  • His Writtings
  • Baden-Powell founded Scouting in England around 1905. Here is what he had to say about God and Religion in Scouting.

    "A careful analysis of the Founder's writings shows that the concept of a force above man is basic to Scouting. The whole educational approach of the Movement consists in helping young people to transcend the material world and go in search of the spiritual values of life." (The Fundamental Principles of the WOSM

    "When asked where religion came into Scouting and Guiding, Baden- Powell replied, It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding." (Religion and the Boy Scout and Girl Guides Movement-- an address, 1926).

    "I don't mean by this the mere soldiering and sailoring services; we have no military aim or practice in our movement; but I mean the ideals of service for their fellow-men. In other words, we aim for the practice of Christianity in their everyday life and dealings, and not merely the profession of its theology on Sundays.... The co-operation of tiny sea insects has brought about the formation of coral islands. No enterprise is too big where there is goodwill and co-operation carrying it out. Every day we are turning away boys anxious to join the Movement, because we have no the men or women to take them in hand. There is a vast reserve of loyal patriotism and Christian spirit lying dormant in our nation to-day, mainly because it sees no direct opportunity for expressing itself. Here in this joyous brotherhood there is vast opportunity open to all in a happy work that shows results under your hands and a work that is worth while because it gives every man his chance of service for his fellow-men and for God. " (Scouting for Boys 1908)

    "No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scout should have a religion....Religion seems a very simple thing: First: Love and serve God. Second: Love and serve your neighbour." (Scouting for Boys)

    "The atheists... maintain that a religion that has to be learnt from books written by men cannot be a true one. But they don't seem to see that besides printed books... God has given us as one step the great Book of Nature to read; and they cannot say that there is untruth there - the facts stand before them... I do not suggest Nature Study as a form of worship or as a substitute for religion, but I advocate the understanding of Nature as a step, in certain cases, towards gaining religion" (Rovering to Success, Robert Baden-Powell, 1930, p. 181).

    "Development of outlook naturally begins with a respect for God, which we may best term "Reverence. Reverence to God and reverence for one's neighbour and reverence for oneself as a servant of God, is the basis of every form of religion. The method of expression of reverence to God varies with every sect and denomination. What sect or denomination a boy belongs to depends, as a rule, on his parents' wishes. It is they who decide. It is our business to respect their wishes and to second their efforts to inculcate reverence, whatever form of religion the boy professes. There may be many difficulties relating to the definition of the religious training in our Movement where so many different denominations exist, and the details of the expression of duty to God have, therefore, to be left largely in the hands of the local authority. But there is no difficulty at all in suggesting the line to take on the human side, since direct duty to one's neighbour is implied in almost every form of belief." (Aids to Scoutmastership, 1919)

    Katharine Furse described him with more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek as 'the inspired mystic of Scouting', but this was actually how he was seen by millions. This image owed much to his growing tendency to represent Scouting as a form of religion. "Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity," he had written in the introduction to a pamphlet entitled Scouting and Christianity in 1917. In 1921 in a pamphlet entitled "The Religion in the Woods" argued that observing the beauties of nature was the best way in which to apprehend God and that no one religion held a monopoly of truth. This made him very unpopular with churchmen... Bishop Joseph Butt, auxiliary bishop to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, accused Baden-Powell of "sweeping with one magnificent gesture the Christian Revelation, Mohammadanism , and all the rest, into a heap of private opinions which do not matter much." In the next edition of the "Headquarters Gazette", Baden-Powell obliged his horrified Committee by assuring readers that it was "not his intention to attack Revealed Religion or to suggest a substitute for it." But he never regretted what he had said, nor that he had invited Muslims and Buddhists to recite prayers at Gilwell. He quoted Carlyle as saying: 'The religion of a man is not the creed he professes but his life -- what he acts upon, and knows of life, and his duty in it. A bad man who believes in a creed is no more religious than the good man who does not. Baden-Powell's public refusal to countenance the exclusive claims of any one religion was accompanied by the increasingly fervent references to 'God' in his speeches. (The Boy-Man by Tim Jeal, pg 515)

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