But more than a century after the Scouting movement was founded, it is finally preparing to recognise atheism on a par with Christianity and other religions.

The association is consulting its members on plans to draft an alternative oath without references to God, allowing atheists to become full members and Scout group leaders for the first time.

It follows accusation of discrimination and intolerance after an 11-year-old boy was barred from full membership because he said he did not believe in God.

George Pratt was told he could not join 1st Midsomer Norton Scout Group in Somerset, after saying he felt unable to make the traditional promise to do his best to do his “duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law”.

Although originally founded along Christian lines, the Scouts have long welcomed followers of other faiths as full members.

For more than 40 years, alternative versions of the promise have existed allowing Muslims to pledge allegiance to Allah and Hindus to substitute the words "my Dharma".

And earlier this year a new variation on the uniform was introduced for Muslim girls, with an optional head covering.

Meanwhile citizens of other countries are permitted to replace the phrase "duty to the Queen" with "duty to the country in which I am now living".