The national leader of the Boy Scouts of America has gone on record explaining why he thinks the organization is right to exclude secular humanists, atheists, and agnostics. Let's take a look at what he says:
Recent comments from the Boy Scouts of America provide some interesting insight into the group's rationalization of its discrimination against secular Americans. In an AP story about the 100th anniversary of the BSA, chief Scout executive Bob Mazzuca explained that atheists are excluded from the BSA because "we believe that to become the best you can be, you need a belief in something bigger than yourself."
Hence, Mazzuca is saying that atheists are incapable of believing in something bigger than themselves. This, it seems, points to an old prejudice that needs correcting.
Just because atheists have no belief in a divinity, they are fully capable of seeing that they are part of something bigger, of living lives filled with purpose. Indeed, by eliminating supernatural views from their thinking, most atheists nevertheless still recognize the enormity of the natural world, the dependence of humans on the fragile environment, and the duty of global citizens to solve the challenges of living in the modern world.
All of this, of course, points to a recognition of "something bigger than themselves," and it highlights the unfortunate but all-too-common prejudice of Mazzuca and others, who see their religious approach to the world as somehow being superior to the naturalistic approach of atheists. This view wrongly scorns and vilifies atheists.
The Girl Scouts of America doesn't discriminate against atheists, and most scouting organizations around the world no longer have religious requirements. The BSA, however, clings to this old prejudice, thereby only calling attention to itself as a discriminatory, ultraconservative institution.
It's a fact that secular societies tend to have lower rates of violent crime, spousal abuse, teen pregnancy, and divorce than religious societies - a phenomenon that we see within the US (when we compare religious states to less religious) and internationally (when we compare countries with higher rates of religiosity, such as the US, to more secular countries such as most nations in Western Europe). The BSA stubbornly ignores such facts, instead clinging to the notion that God-belief is a requirement for good citizenship.
But if this long tradition of discriminating against atheists is based on the mistaken notion that atheists don't believe in anything bigger than themselves, then we can dispell such ideas quickly. Millions of nonreligious Americans selflessly contribute to the greater good every day, volunteering at food pantries, making contributions to scientific research, and in countless other ways. Two of America's most charitable individuals, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, are well-known for being nonreligious.
The BSA remains somewhat isolated today because it has allowed a wall of prejudice to separate itself from rational, decent secular Americans. Mr. Mazzuca and his colleagues would be wise to tear down that wall.