Showing posts with label All Souls UU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label All Souls UU. Show all posts

Saturday, August 1, 2015


I was a Boy Scout and an atheist and a Scoutmaster and an atheist.  Most of my ancestors that I know their religious inclinations were atheists or at least made fun of their clergy.  It is rumored that an ancestor that left England circa 1611 for Virginia was given the choice emigrate or die by his bishop.

Nonetheless, I grew up in a religious society and being an out atheist was neither important nor safe.  The Scouts provided a great experience for little money and my parents weren't wealthy enough for secular camps. So it was "Trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, thrifty, brave, clean, irreverent" for me.  I was interested in religions by that time so going to church was no problem.  I even went to a Pontifical Mass at a Boy Scout Jamboree, certainly a first for an atheist. I could sing dominos with the best of them.

The scoutmaster was a different story.  My UU church wanted to sponsor a Boy Scout troop at a welfare hotel, the worst in NYC.  They forgot to tell the Scouts that I was an atheist so I became one of the scoutmasters.  A successful troop, as those things go.  One of our scouts was quite successful and had a nice Wiki write up courtesy of the Scouts until the church quit Scouts due to discrimination and founded the Navigators, a scouting experience for everybody.  The two troops they had, one in the South Bronx and one in Manhattan, became the first chapters in the Navigators.  I think BSA were relieved, as the scouts were generally the wrong skin color as well as not too loyal to God and the Republicans. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An ex-UU none on the blue road.


As an ex-UU none who studied religion and spirituality at the university and beyond at All Souls in NYC and later beyond UU I have a couple of suggestions.
1. Take our spirituality seriously. You lost a promising UU spiritual leader (it wasn't me) by banning an atheist from a God discussion group at a UU Church. Keep in mind that spirituality is a human attribute that has nothing at all to do with God or religion.
2, You may keep and use the God meme, as long as it is clear that it is a spiritual learning meme rather than something to pray at or worship. You can even still pray if it is clear that prayer is a way to focus thinking usefully.
As an aside, not a suggestion, we all have our own social and political action vehicles that we choose for ourselves. Social pressure to conform to particular social values is Katy, bar the door! for most of us even if we agree with them. 

I love the scene of Ben and Elaine barring the door with a cross in The Graduate.  I have  been tempted frequently as I left a UU church for good, prevented only by not being able to find a cross. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Navigators USA alternative scouting group : alternative scouting group starts to grow

As an early atheist scout and scoutmaster with a possibly gay co-scoutmaster (don't ask, don't tell) at a troop from a welfare hotel sponsored by All Souls, I have been dismayed by the Boy Scouts religious right lurch. Magnum kudos to Robin Bossert and again to All Souls for leading the way to an inclusive outdoor adventure program.

The benefits I got from scouting were incredible. Where else could an atheist go to a Pontifical High mass? (Irvine CA Jamboree) The self confidence, and self assurance from being able to build a shelter from sticks and a bit of rope and a poncho was critical to being able to get as my fortune cookie taped to my monitor says "The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."

The benefit from being a Scoutmaster at All souls with the kids from the welfare hotel were more subtle, but being able to work with kids whose enthusiasm overcame their minor disability of living on welfare was a joy and an inspiration.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jamel Oeser-Sweat

Jamel Oeser-Sweat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "As a youth, Oeser-Sweat’s family was homeless. After spending two years fighting homelessness and living in welfare hotels and shelters, Oeser-Sweat’s family moved into public housing.... However, despite an upbringing filled with homelessness, poverty and challenges, he has managed to evolve into one of his generation’s rising young stars."

It was at one of the worst of the welfare hotels that All Souls Unitarian Church found Jamel as a core participant in a Boy Scout troop created from residents of that hotel. He was one of the quiet leaders of the troop and his drive to take advantage of his opportunities was apparent to all of us involved in the project. I would like to think that we provided some of the social stability that allowed him to launch himself into what he is now. Watching him grow was one of the rewards of all the work we put into the troop. I lost track of him when I left New York, and recently remembered enough of his last name to succeed with a Google. As I noted on his Facebook: Wow! and Congratulations.

Absolutely relevant I just stole it from his facebook profile:
If you are not a King or a Queen...Act like one...that way..when you become a King or a Queen, you know how to act. Nothing magical will happen to show you the way..You must work to evolve yourself, one habit and trait at a time..
-Jamel Oeser-Sweat