A STORY that gave me pause for thought was about an 11-year-old boy who was banned from joining the scouts because he’s an atheist.

His beliefs mean that he can’t swear the oath of allegiance, to God and the Queen in the scout Promise.

My immediate thought was that he was a bit young to declare himself an atheist unless he’d read The Hitchhikers Guide To The Universe and discovered that the meaning of life was 42. It was more likely he was an atheist because his parents didn’t believe in God.

If that was the case, was it such a terrible thing, apart from the fact that atheists get fewer holidays?

Religion is an accident of birth. The faith you follow is, initially at any rate, the one into which you are born and the situation stays that way until you reach an age when you can make your own decisions.

The overwhelming majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists are born that way. They follow the same beliefs as their parents. Children have no choice.

Is it a good thing that they grow up in a religion? Does it matter which religion? Is one better than another?

Most of the world believes in something, whether it be Maya the Earth Goddess or a Jewish carpenter. The right to worship what or who we want – or not worship at all – is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work in practice.

Religion is often the cause of wars, strife and persecution by people who declare their beliefs are right and those held by others are wrong.

Everybody should have basic religious freedom to believe or not but, in reality, it doesn’t work that way.

Even for an 11-year-old boy who wants to be a scout.