roots in the Islamic countries, among the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Confucians, and the Animists. How could all these so different religions be reconciled with the Christian background of Baden-Powell’s thinking? How, for example, could he recommend the reading of the Bible without practising a kind of spiritual colonialism? How can the Scout brotherhood be built on a God-Father while for the majority of Buddhists the problem of the existence of God should not even be posed? How to reconcile a religion of service for one’s neighbour with the Hindu and Buddhist conception of religious life as a manner of getting away from the life of man? More generally, by using words like “God”, “religion”, “Church”, that do not cover the same reality for Christians and nonChristians, did B.-P. not run the risk of basing the religious training in Scouting on a kind of ambiguity? Would he not end up by becoming entangled in a series of endless religious disputes? Here we find a typical characteristic of Baden-Powell: his tolerance of ideas and his respect for the convictions of others. Whatever his own viewpoint on religion, he never considered it as an absolute truth, obligatory for all others to follow, or as the only possible foundation of Scouting. While proposing a Scouting inspired by the Christian faith he also admitted the possibility, even the legitimacy, of other kinds of inspiration. Around 1911, after Scouting has spread to various countries, he revised Scouting For Boys to include the following passage: There are many kinds of religion, such as Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mohammedans, and so on, but the main point about them is that they all worship God, although in different ways. They are like an army which serves one king, though it is divided into different branches, such as cavalry, artillery and infantry, and these wear different uniforms. So when you meet a boy of a different religion to your own, you should not be hostile to him, but recognise that he is like a soldier in your own army, though in a different uniform, and still serving the same king as you. The passage was deleted in the editions following the Olympia Jamboree, no doubt because of the military image B.-P. had used, which was no longer “politically correct” in the post-war atmosphere, and also, perhaps, because too much theism could, as we have seen, offend some religions, and too much equidistance among religions could offend some others. What did remain is B.-P.’s firm encouragement to religious tolerance, as clearly shown by the following passage that can be dated in the mid 20’s:
Take a negative instance [he wrote]. A Mohammedan Guider comes to England and addresses a lot of Girl Guides on religion, in the course of which she quotes Mahomet as the one divine teacher. This in spite of the fact that her audience are believers in Christ. How would you regard her action? As tactless, as insulting, as fanatical? At any rate it wouldn’t be exactly polite or in accordance with the our law of courtesy.
International Catholic Conference on Scouting (ICCS) Interreligious Dialogue 2007 http://www.cics.org/?wpfb_dl=21