LONDON For the first time in the century-old association, Britain's scout movement is considering an alternative oath for atheists that does not include a pledge of duty to God.
"Throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the UK, Wayne Bulpitt, chief commissioner of the Scout Association, told the BBC News Online on Tuesday, December 4."We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members.
We will use the information gathered by the consultation to help shape the future of scouting for the coming years, he said.
Enlisting atheist members, the 105-year-old movement is considering to a new oath for those who feel unable to pledge a "duty to God".
The Scout Promise, pledged on joining the movement, reads: "On my honor, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law."
Versions of the oath have already been crafted for Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist members.
Muslims use the world Allah in referring to God, while Hindus and Buddhists pledge their duty to "my Dharma".
Non-British citizens also replace the word queen with "the country in which I am now living".
The proposed oath change comes after the National Secular Society in March complained that atheist children and potential Scout leaders were being put off.
The issue returned to the surface in October after an 11-year-old atheist boy was banned from the Scouts because he wouldn't pledge a duty to God.
Founded in 1907 by former army lieutenant general Robert Baden Powell, scouting became a global phenomenon and its British branch is also now open to girls.
Scout membership in Britain has risen from 444,936 in 2005 to 525,364 this year, the association said.
Its troops around the country organize opportunities for young people, with an emphasis on outdoor activities such as camping and hiking.
There are estimated 2,000 Muslim scouts in Britain and there are about 40 active scout groups with a predominantly Muslim membership.
Value-based The proposed oath change has won praise from secular and atheist groups.
"This is a move in the right direction, Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said.
"By adjusting their promise to include people without a religious belief, the Scouts will bring themselves in line with the reality of 21st century Britain."
Over the past few years, the numbers of non-believers have been noticeably increasing in Europe and the United States.
A 2005 survey published in Encyclopedia Britannica put non-believers at about 11.9 percent of the world's population.
An official European Union survey recently said that 18 percent of the bloc's population do not believe in God.
The Washington Post reported in September 2007 that atheist movements were growing across Europe, lobbying hard for political clout and airtime.
Despite the change, the chief commissioner of the Scout Association reiterated that faith would remain a key element in the movement.
"We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting program, Bulpitt said.That will not change.