Why I Loved Scouting, but My Son Never got the Chance

My Scout Badges

My collection of 40 year-old Scout badges.

Firstly, Pride Month gets a do-over in July. It’s normally “National Ice Cream Month”, but I think we’re all good with combining them, right?
Secondly, I adored my time in scouts, now 40 years on, as well. Didn’t think much about exclusion while I was a member and I proudly wore my uniform to school for Scout Day. I learned a lot, much of which I still use regularly today.
So, when I had a son, I looked forward to not only enrolling him for the same experiences, but also becoming the “cool scout dad” that went on the trips, organized the snipe hunts and made everybody gag with Limburger and Sardine sandwiches (something my scout master introduced me too).
When he became old enough, shortly after we moved to Scranton, I went looking for a troop. Everybody was enthusiastic and welcoming… until they asked “What church do you belong too?” I explained that we don’t, that I was an atheist and that my kids were too young to decide. I was told that scouting didn’t permit atheists; that “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”
Now, to be fair, several of these “best citizens” and God-fearing men told me that we could “fake it”, but as a heathen atheist I found that ethically repugnant. We were turned off by the entire exercise and my son never became a scout. As I’ve watched him grow into a better man than I ever was, I know this was their loss, not his.