previous page: What is the WOSM position on God and Religion in Scouting?
page up: Scouting FAQ
next page: rec.scouting.issues: Was Baden-Powell a Freemason?

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


This article is from the Scouting FAQ, by Bill Nelson nelsonb@nospam.aztec.asu.edu, Soaring Golden Eagle eagle@rangernet.org and Alan Houser troop24@emf.net with numerous contributions by others.

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

Date: 16 Dec 1998

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

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
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,

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)

Also see:
The Founder's Thoughts on Christianity, Religion and Scouting
Baden-Powell on Reverence


Continue to:

previous page: What is the WOSM position on God and Religion in Scouting?
page up: Scouting FAQ
next page: rec.scouting.issues: Was Baden-Powell a Freemason?