Thursday, April 19, 2012

National Secular Society plumbs new depths of absurdity

This blog has a long standing interest in the antics of the National Secular Society, or National Sausage Society, as we now prefer to call it. (for reasons that are explained here). I'm not the first to comment on this (David Keen did already) but their latest attention seeking stunt is a classic of its kind.

As the BBC website tells us, "atheist children are being excluded from the scouts, the NSS has warned in a letter to Chief Scout Bear Grylls." Readers may remember from their own distant childhoods, that the new scout makes a promise to "to my duty to God and to the Queen".  I remember saying it myself, and it meant what you might expect it to mean to the average 11 year-old, the "region of ill-defined piety", as Patrick O'Brian describes it in one of his books (though I don't think he was talking about scouts). I do not recall the march of atheism being a burning issue among my contemporaries in the 9th Ampthill & Woburn, but perhaps the modern child is different.

I don't deny there is the core of a serious issue here. But, as ever, any seriousness is badly served by the pantomime histrionics of the NSS. Their official version of this incident is typical. In the world of Stephen Evans and his fellow Sausage Society zealots, everything is terribly unfair, the world is riddled with religious conspiracies, and the populace is oppressed by the likes of Bear Grylls who threaten all right thinking people with the dreaded word "religious" (the appearance of this word in itself is a sign of how slack the NSS's thinking is). Their sonorous public pronouncements are a definition of what it means to take yourself too seriously, and they are utterly without a positive raison d'etre, their only aim being to stop things that they do not agree with.

The scout promise is one of the fundamental aspects of the scout movement. The wording of it may be debatable. But the Scout Association is not obliged to change it just because the NSS says so. Furthermore, it looks very much as though the leadership of the Association has the backbone to say so, unlike Bideford Town Council, which has now caved in to the NSS's bullying, despite losing its legal case on a technicality which was subsequently overturned by the Government.

Perhaps this could be a case too far for the NSS. I've seen Bear Grylls disembowel a dead sheep and sleep inside it. His methods might prove a bit more direct than the usual targets of the Secular Sausages.

2 comments:

chaplain.cz said...

Charlie - I share with you, a long standing interest in the antics of the National Secular Society (NSS). You have already made my evening by referring to them as the National Sausage Society!

The NSS are a total irrelevance. They will not publicly admit to their minuscule membership numbers yet the media, most notably the BBC, give their views such prominence that you would think more than 50% of the British population agreed with them. I have myself taken this issue to task. See http://rickyyates.com/the-new-atheism-and-the-bbc/ .

Like you, I hope the Scout Association stand firm and successfully shows the 'new depths of absurdity' to which the NSS have now sunk.

Dan said...

Bear Grylls said:

"Scouting has something to offer everyone, no matter your religion, ethnicity or belief, and I'm so proud that we offer an environment for people of all backgrounds to come together and enjoy themselves."

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/30/scouts-outfits-muslim-girls)

Why didn't Bear Grylls just tell the truth in the first place, i.e. that the Scouts don't have something to offer everyone, regardless of religion of belief, and don't offer an environment for people of all backgrounds to come together and enjoy themselves.

Why didn't Bear Grylls just say, "the Scouts does not welcome atheists as members, only people who believe in God."