Welcome!

Our Book:
Godless for God’s Sake:
Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism

Nontheistfriends.org presents the work of Friends (Quakers) who are more concerned with the natural than the supernatural. Some of us understand “God” as a symbol of human values and some of us avoid the concept while accepting it as significant to others. We differ greatly in our religious experience and in the meaning we give religious terms.

We are not a pressure group trying to move Quakerism toward nontheism. We bless what our theist brothers and sisters bring to Quaker meetings and worship. All Friends have much to learn from each other. We hope to strengthen the Quaker tradition of welcoming people of diverse religious experience and to show by example that this can include nontheists.

We are part of meeting communities that include theists and nontheists. Together we worship and love and cooperate, even as we differ on the particulars of our religious experience. Quakerism has been changing ever since George Fox had his first opening on Pendle Hill, becoming deeper and richer. We are all part of this living faith.

On this website we seek to explore our own perspectives and to reflect on the meaning and implications of nontheism in the context of Quakerism. This is also a place where theist Friends may come to understand us better and to join in a deeper conversation. Please submit writings for posting. We also hope you will use the “comments” link at the end of each article to express your views.

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33 Responses to Welcome!

  1. Bev Jefferson December 28, 2006 at 5:15 pm #

    I read of this website in the Australian national newsletter “Australian Friend”. How wonderful to know that there are enough of us to justify a website! I greatly value the words and actions of my Christian fellow Quakers, but cannot share their belief in a Christian god, or even in a personified god. So, it comes as a great relief to know that there are so many other quakers who are committed agnostics or atheists.

  2. Tony Hodgkinson January 6, 2007 at 4:56 pm #

    I have just found your website and am truly amazed to find kindred thinkers.
    However, may I suggest in answer to the previous email? Atheists are similar to theists in that they have a belief. Namely, they have a definition for God but believe he does not exist to that definition, which is a belief. Agnostics are not dissimilar but cannot make up their minds.
    I prefer the term non-theist (often used in Buddhist thought). Meaning not to understand the word God. The word has so many conflicting definitions already for anyone to make any real sense to the word. My experience suggests everyone I have met has his or her own emotional views about God (that is if they think about it at all).

    When asked if I believe in God, I usually answer the questioner by asking for a definition of God and I will then answer their question. I have yet to be given a logical answer. It always comes down to an indefinable belief, which is OK for them, but doesn’t help answer the question.
    I hope I’m not being too controversial with first email?

  3. Crystal January 12, 2007 at 5:16 pm #

    Tony, I don’t think you’re being too controversial with your first post! But I do quibble with the idea that agnostics just can’t make up their minds. Strong agnostics say that it is impossible for anyone to know whether or not God exists.

  4. Pat Duclos January 13, 2007 at 2:40 pm #

    I just discovered this website. I will spend more time here in the future. I am happy to find this connection. I have always thought of myself as either an agnostic or an atheist. As I have aged I think of myself as an agnostic. I believe human beings simply arent capable of knowing all the secrets of the cosmos. I find I am at peace with my relationship to the natural world. I was raised in a non-religious family in a “Christian” culture in the midwestern U.S. I have never been concerned with the supernatural. I am mystified by my intellectual friends who in their 60’s are still searching for a religion although they refuse to call it religion. They talk about karma, they study Buddhism, they convert from one religion to the other. The ones who mystify me the most are the “new agers” with their chrystals, and belief in what I call “magic”. I have not found many people in my life with whom I can share this “nontheism”. Knowing about this website makes me feel good. Thanks.

  5. Sherry January 29, 2007 at 12:55 pm #

    Intriguing website. I was raised with what I would call traditional quaker values, though we never identified it as such. Now that we have searched our Mother’s family history, we found a 290 year dedication as friends and a fierce dedication to quaker political movements, such as abolitionsism.

    I am currently reading about the history of quakers in America and am very intrigued by it. Any suggested reading would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Stuart Hartley February 20, 2007 at 8:01 pm #

    Is it not possible that the supernatural is actually the natural rather than something that is above what we understand to be the norm of creation. The truly ‘natural’ creation is surely that which derives from the oneness and wholeness of Universal Law. The working out of this Law is also known as the ‘Law of Love’ and God/Good values are derived from an understanding of this Wholeness or Holiness. Thus we have the ten commandments and the values contained in the Sermon on the Mount. Many human values represent an inversion or perversion of the one Natural Law of the creator, depending upon the prevailing culture. Therefore, there are human values that would deny the oneness of creation, thus we have fragmentation manifest as violence, anger, selfishness, cruely, etc. These are not representative of the one true value derived from an understanding of true goodness of creation, but rather a symbol for the materialistic, something that is relative and delusory at best. Yes, scientist can measure the relative, material phenomena, but the spiritually natural is not measurable because it does not fall within knowledge of physics – yet. Therefore, to understand God as a symbol for human values is like saying that a root is a symbol for a flower.

  7. Lonnie Wiens February 27, 2007 at 2:12 pm #

    Tony, Just to confuse the issue in regard to how to define Atheism, Theism and Agnostisim I am of the persuasion they are all but mute points. I have decided to go with a fourth alternative, non-theism. What makes sense in the absence of super-natural entities. Good is what contributes to the welfare of cognitive entities, and bad is that which distracts from the welfare of cognitive entities. Quite simply what we are may be described as “we are the ability for a reality to be able to be aware/cognitive of itself”, bottom line. When cognitive entities enter the confines of a reality, then reality itself becomes cognitive. The one characteristic included in every societies description of a/their Deity/Deisties is the ability to be aware to the point of being cognitive, or aware of being aware. Even our most successful cartoon characters are hardly payed attention too unless they are able to capture the essence of awareness/cognition.
    A fun question to toy with is “What when removed from a reality renders it non-existent”. When you figure that out you will be well on your road to nontheism. A hint is that although non-cognitive reality is unable to be aware of itself let alone cognive entities, it does entertain a very real basic/fundamental characteristic/ foundation for the chance that cognition can occur called sentience, displacement of time and space or change. If absolute unalterable nothing is other than the case, what is left over…. anyway, God is merely a figment of our imagination… But, what makes sense in the absence of a Deity or Deities, thats the fun part of Nontheism. Hope you agree.

  8. Dennis Tomlin February 27, 2007 at 6:13 pm #

    Your website has opened up for me here in S. France, Europe.
    Several french Friends that I know would describe themselves as non-théists.
    Perhaps we should consider a similar website in French. It would probably be welcomed by many francophone Ffriends around the world.
    Amicalement,
    DT

  9. Francis Drake April 10, 2007 at 12:22 pm #

    Greetings from this first-time responder. Skimming through the contents here evokes these thoughts:

    Generally speaking I feel considerable kinship with many individuals here though I do not identify as nontheist (I’ve declared my non-Christianity in my home meeting but theism vs. non- is a closet I haven’t fully come out of yet, partly ’cause I’m not yet sure how best to put it so as to minimize risk of being misunderstood and at the same time seeking to remain sufficiently non-doctrinaire lest I be tempted to interpret my experiences to fit a worldview instead of the other way round).

    The best I’ve come up with so far is *universalist / panentheist*. My definition of the terms: universalist in the non-Christian sense of all paths leading to God / liberation / salvation and that, in one life or many, all ultimately will attain this however one conceives it; panentheist in that, if in my recent life I have experienced what one can call God / divine presence / Spirit etc. (and I have), I will not accept a God with *any* limits apart from, obviously, not manifesting as a physical entity or entities in our space-time planes of existence, i.e., as Thomas Merton and sundry others put it, there is nothing that is not God, transcendent *and* immanent in the universe and every living thing, grain of sand, and subatomic particle in it. And I am quite comfortable with the Quaker tenet that She, as Spirit, can be known by, live in and work through us.

    CAVEAT: The foregoing is based *only in part* on my personal experience. While that unmistakably includes a sense of, to riff on Paul Tillich, God as an infinitely, unconditionally loving ground of being, I hold very lightly to the rest. Put simply, in the absence of being given more to know or speak, I can choose inclusive, optimistic assumptions or exclusive, pessimistic ones. Until and unless additional Light is granted me by which I’m convinced otherwise I choose the former option. And being experientially based, these are views concerning which I harbor no presumption that a single other human soul should necessarily agree with them.

    What I don’t accept (and never really did — thankfully I have no fundamentalist / literalist early-life baggage to get rid of) is what Marcus Borg speaks of as “supernatural” monotheism, amusingly encapsulated in Barbara Brown Taylor’s description of her childhood image of God as a “very old white-bearded man on a throne, (who) stood above creation and occasionally stirred it with a stick.” It occurs to me as I write this paragraph that it just may be one precept that all self-described nontheists, among others, would heartily reject.

    Comments, anyone? Roses? Brickbats?

    Namasté, y’all.

  10. Rich H August 16, 2007 at 7:37 am #

    Nontheist quakers!? I thought i was the only one. 🙂

  11. Robin Anderson August 26, 2007 at 12:11 am #

    Oh my. I hope that I am not asked whether I am a theist or non-theist Quaker.

    One of the brilliant innovations in George Fox’s inspiration was that doctrine is not truth, regardless of content. I believe that he even said “stay with the experience of the life within you, and this will free you from a dependence on words.” (from Rex Ambler’s Truth of the Heart)

    My experience says to me that to be or not to be non/theist is a matter of taste, since we have no idea what the words actually mean anyway.

    I do not aim to be divisive here, nor to be flip. I am actively concerned by the tendency to change focus from experience to conceptual doctrine.

    I am neither a theist nor a non-theist Quaker, nor am I agnostic, nor atheist, nor do I reject the idea of divinity.

  12. Paul November 14, 2007 at 11:07 am #

    This website led me to Quakerism, for which I am extremely grateful. I had always known that I shared basic values with the Quakers, but had assumed I would have to profess a belief in god (if not christ) in order to join. When I found this site I felt as though it was telling my story. Thanks so much.

  13. Dale Bicksler November 17, 2007 at 7:25 am #

    I am comfortable saying that I am “not a theist”. However, it is convenient to have a single word that describes my state of affairs, so I sometimes use the word “nontheist” meaning simply that I am “not a theist”. Unfortunately, I suspect that the single word may be communicating more than I mean to say. Maybe I should stick to saying what I am not and forget about trying to say what I am.

  14. Dread Pirate Robert November 28, 2007 at 5:13 pm #

    Maybe I am not “enightened” ~~ but how can there be a nontheistic quaker when one of the cornerstones of all Quaker convictions is George Fox’s revelation that there is one ~~ Christ Jesus ~~ who can speak to our condition?

  15. William Penn February 14, 2008 at 8:14 am #

    I was raised in a fairly traditional Meeting. Basic concepts such as searching for that of God in everyone, seeking the Light and living our faith as a daily existence rather than confining our beliefs to a staid one day a week service were heavily featured in my up bringing. While non-theists were welcome to attend Meeting, the concept of membership for an atheist brought about a fairly deep schism in my Meeting which took a long time to heal. Quite simply, I have been taught that Friends are Christian non-conformists, devout pacifists who try to live their faith. We welcome all of those who wish to attend Meeting with peaceful intent, but actual membership in the Friends’ faith does require certain basic beliefs. Non-theism or atheism is not consistent with those basic beliefs. At least that is my understanding. Peaceful coexistance is a very important part of our faith. However, that is a direct outgrowth of the teachings of, and belief in, Christ. Friends’ abandoned outward displays (communion, confirmation, etc.) in order to avoid symbols and find a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the living God. We did not abandon God. 🙂

  16. doov February 17, 2008 at 12:28 am #

    “no creed” means no creed, doesn’t it? If there is no creed, then George Fox’s revelations are relevant to George Fox, and mine to me.

  17. Arthur Rifkin March 13, 2008 at 10:40 pm #

    Calling oneself a nontheist, or an atheist, makes an assertion about God. Even the label “agnostic” says one doesn’t want to answer the question, and that, also, asserts that God may exist but we don’t know. I think that that only scientific naturalism can bring knowledge. That makes the issue of God, belief or nonbelief, incoherent. It is like asking the question, “Do you still believe the bogeyman is in your closet?” What does the answer “yes” or “no” mean?

    Quakerism helps me develop my spirituality, by which I mean the experience of ideals leading my behavior and thoughts.

  18. Alex Polak March 25, 2008 at 5:56 am #

    The original post of this thread said:

    “Together we worship and love and cooperate, even as we differ on the particulars of our religious experience.”

    And I wonder whether this has accidentally encouraged some strange comments above. I shall come to this after briefly explaining my perspective.

    Speaking as an ‘outsider’ (with only a loose connection to Friends through my father’s attending Saffron Walden School upwards of forty years ago) it looks like the most overarching of all the Quaker themes must be the duo of ‘holding to no creed’ and ‘learning only by trusting one’s inner light’, since these seem to quite comprehensively cover the issue of how one is to come by one’s own beliefs and way of living one’s life – theist or non theist or etc. .

    Speaking as a philosophy student, I’d like to emphasise the subtleness of this duo, and how some posts here might not have borne this in mind.

    ‘No creeds’ sounds like a negative theme, but it also has an implicit positive aspect: equality. Having no ‘correct’ set of rules means that the beliefs formed by each individual from their own personal (spiritual?) experiences are just as correct as all others’ beliefs, and completely valid for for that individual.

    Am I about right so far? Here’s my point:

    The quote I have taken from this website says, “…we differ on the particulars of our religious experience”, but I think it’s important to note that this most probably doesn’t ONLY refer to a split between theists and non theists as the subsequent discussion might suggest.

    It seems to me that every single Quaker must necessarily “differ on the particulars of [their] religious experience” from every other quaker, whether they share theist convictions or not.

    To sum up pointedly:

    1. Are we remembering that if you are a theist/non-theist/not-a-theist/atheist/pantheist/agnostic/new age thinker, and you are a good quaker (i.e. your beliefs are formed from your own inner light/introspection) then what you believe is completely correct and ‘ok’ for all other good quakers? Of course one can be a non-theist(/etc.) and a Friend!

    2. Isn’t trying to persuade the others in this discussion of the force of your own position on a matter of faith – especially if they and you are Friends – nothing more than missing *the* point?

    I feel I may have repeated myself i’m afraid, but I’d be very interested in your comments/advice/corrections, please – jolly pleased to find this site…

    -Alex
    (You can contact me via my band website.)

  19. James Riemermann April 6, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    Alex,

    I appreciate your thoughts and your tolerant tone. I certainly would agree that one can be a Friend from a wide range of theological beliefs and experiences, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Quaker way means that “what you believe is completely correct and ‘ok.'”

    I do think certain beliefs are right and others are wrong–even if, as is often the case, we cannot be certain about the rightness or wrongness of our particular beliefs about ultimate questions. If, for instance, the anthropomorphic God of Genesis exists in a literal sense, then that is the case regardless of my unbelief.

    Rather than saying that all of us are right about ultimate questions about the nature and origins of reality, I would say we are almost certainly wrong. But we get glimpses of a deeper understanding that seem to shed genuine light on the best way to live together in the world, and we can connect and learn from one another, all the while knowing we don’t have the whole truth, and often get things wrong. The part of Quakerism that most appeals to me is an insistence on listening, to the world around us and to each other, seeking truth but never assuming we’ve got it nailed.

  20. Brian Loane July 6, 2008 at 7:56 am #

    What first drew me to Quakers was the testimony against creeds, and the apparent absence of any doctrinal test for participation or membership. So it’s a bit disappointing to find that some Friends, among them several I like and admire, do deeper down hold to a minimum core credal requirement. One recently said I should be expelled, I fear only partly in jest.

    So it’s good to know there are others to whom concepts like ‘God’ may be important but symbolic, not “real like the daisies” as someone wrote. Let’s pray for one another, and for our doctrinal friends too!

  21. Fabrice Descamps July 7, 2008 at 2:01 pm #

    Dear Dread Pirate Bob,

    You may believe in “George Fox’s revelation” as you wrote. Sorry, I don’t. What he told us about God was his opinion about God, not a revelation for me and I may not agree with him.

    The whole issue is about what you really say when you pronounce the word “God”. Most theists avoid defining God. Nontheists don’t. Spinoza, a renowned nontheist I guess, precisely defined the meaning of the word “God”. So you can say whether God actually exists or not in saying if Spinoza was right or wrong. And, for Spinoza, God was nothing else than Nature so you can say that this “God” actually exists. You may not agree with some features of Spinoza’s God as they’re described in his “Ethics”, but there’s at least a rational basis for discussion.

    Personally I feel entitled to using the word “God” in a Spinozist way. I don’t see why I shouldn’t and why only theists could use it insofar as I know what I exactly mean when I use it whereas most theists don’t.

    Yours in friendship

    Fabrice Descamps
    French Quakers’ Yearly Meeting

  22. David July 17, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    I’m an “I don’t know ’cause it hasn’t happened to me” Quaker.

    For some reason, I haven’t had any experience with the white-bearded guy, or the quasi-Jewish non-teacher who his students couldn’t get right, or any of the other incarnations, except for the Elijahs I meet as part of my everyday life. No burning bushes or flaming swords either.

    But I don’t know deny that other folks might have had these experiences. I’m not particularly waiting for them to happen to me. I certainly can’t “worship” a Being I haven’t experienced (and if S/He really need my worship, what does that say about Him/Her?)

    What George Fox did for me was rescue religion from dependence upon “Authority” (Catholics) or upon a book (Protestants) and gave it back to me as individual in the context of a community of seekers. That’s what defines me as a Friend.

    The existence or non-existence of God (whatever It be) has nothing to do with it.

  23. Daniel Wilcox July 19, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    I’m baffled but I seek to be open to understand your view.

    How can one worship if one is convinced there is no Meaning to Existence?

    I understand Albert Camus and other committed non-theists because they concluded that the cosmos is absurd and
    then set about creating their own values.

    But I don’t see how one can be a Friend
    (the term take from John in the NT) and gather
    for worship,
    yet be convinced there is no Truth.

    If a person says he is seeking. I understand
    such a statement, but not convincement
    to no-God within the Friends faith and worship.

    Here’e my own favorite quote, if you wonder
    where I am in the theo spectrum:
    True religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart does love and reverence God the Creator, and learns to exercise true justice and goodness…I found no narrowness respecting sects and opinions, but believed that sincere, upright-hearted people, in every society, who truly love God, were accepted of him.
    John Woolman

    John 15: 12-15 Love each other as I have loved you.. I call you friends because I have made known to you everything
    I heard from my Father.

    I am baffled but seek to understand
    your view.

    Daniel Wilcox

  24. Fabrice Descamps July 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    Dear Daniel,

    You used in your last comment lots of words you forgot to explain:

    a) define “God” and then I’ll tell you if I can agree with you.
    b) define “meaning to existence” and then I’ll tell you etc.
    c) define “truth” for the same reason.

    I personally believe there is of course something we can call “truth”. Otherwise I don’t know what we could agree or disagree about.
    It’s always strange for me, as a continental European, to talk to Anglo-Saxons who think you believe in nothing because you don’t believe in their christian God.
    I actually believe in lots of things, but not in the God of the Bible. I hope you don’t mind.

    For me:
    a) God is Nature ( = there’s no Revelation!)
    b) Existence has got a meaning as long as you live according to moral values that increase our common happiness.
    c) “Truth” means that the sentences you utter correspond to facts. In other words, it’s only truth (not God) that can tell you if your moral values really increase our common happiness.

    So you can see I am a decent man though I don’t read King James’s Bible.

    Yours in friendship
    Fabrice Descamps
    French Quakers’ Yearly Meeting

  25. Daniel Wilcox July 21, 2008 at 6:18 pm #

    Dear Fabrice,

    Thanks for your response and questions.

    I could (if you really wanted a long-winded
    philosophical explanation) explain my finite intellectual understanding of God that I have come to over many years of struggling with theology, philosophy, and science.
    HOWEVER,
    being a Quaker I am more concerned with practice, with testimonies. I never found that doctrine or dogma ever helped me be more loving, patient, tolerant, joyful, giving, merciful, pure, etc.
    So would say at basic that Jesus is
    the image of Ultimate Reality–that active living of Love, Peace, Equality, and other eternal truths are who God is in essence.

    This, of course, doesn’t abstract about
    infiniteness, what he was doing before the Big Bang by which he brought the universe into being;-), etc.

    All of those questions interest me, but
    I am mainly interested in how you and I and every other person in the image of God
    can help individuals in Darfur, Iraq, and
    elsewhere–how we can be that of God for others. And to care for the environment too.

    ‘meaning to existence’
    What is ultimately real, what will continue to be long after this world’s demise.
    The Ground of all Being (to quote Paul Tillich)
    The Ultimate Essence that IS behind this
    temporal existence

    ‘truth’ is what is True ultimately
    For example, it appears that non-theist Naturalists think that ultimately matter and energy is all there is (well and maybe some kind of quantum state), that evolution and Chance are the ultimate nature of Reality (See Gould,
    Dawkins, Monod, etc.)

    In contrast as a Quaker, I think ‘that of God’
    in every conscious being who has sense of ethical absolutes is what is ultimately
    true. (The apostle Paul speaks to this when he says that what is visible is temporary, but what is invisible is eternal.)

    Hope that clarifies my statements a bit:-)

    I wouldn’t agree with you about Nature.
    Having been an outdoors person and
    backpacker, etc., I have seen both
    the plesant side of nature and it very
    cruel survival of the fittest side to.
    I have no interest in worshiping that.

    Sometines following moral values doesn’t increase our happiness at all. Just take
    a look at the early Quakers. They lived
    in God’s way of love and peace but they
    there was no common happiness as they
    were put in dungeons, hanged, etc.

    Also, a person often needs to deny his group or nation happiness in order that
    God’s ultimate Truth and Way may prevail.

    We follows moral values, not to make us happy but because they are right! Ultimately,
    seeking the Truth will make everyone happy, but not necessarily at present.

    I am convinced that the cross (as a symbol
    of Truth) is the way for us to live.

    Fabrice, I am confident that you are a decent man. The very fact that you have sought out a Freinds meeting shows that you are seeking the Truth.

    By the way I don’t read the KJB either, except when teaching students.

    Peace in Christ’s Light,

    Daniel Wilcox

  26. Kevin-Douglas Olive August 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    I’ve always struggled with the idea of some Deity up there running around making decisions, moving his sheeple around. Still, I do believe that there is a divinity, maybe not a thinking deity, and that Jesus personified that deity. In my mind, Jesus personified the Divinity/Great Energy/Whatever that exists in all of us and in the cosmos. He was the Son of God, the One who would show us a way to turn towards Spirit and Love. The only one? Please, I have no way of knwing anything about that. Nonetheless, while I can pray in Jesus name, while I have a relationship with Jesus in my heart, and I have experienced visions of him, I still can’t get my mind around some GOD up there. I also see the separation between the supernatural and what is “Natural” as false. It’s a matter of perception. Where does that leave me? A nontheist Christian? I’m glad you all are here to help us all think about “god.”

  27. Fabrice Descamps August 31, 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    Dear Daniel W.,

    – quite true that living according to moral values can lead us to dungeons : that’s why I talked of “moral values that increase our common happiness”, not necessarily mine. You say you follow moral values not because they make us happy, but because they’re right. How can you know whether they’re right if they don’t make mankind happier? You obviously agree with me as you wrote “seeking the Truth will make everyone happy, but not necessarily at present”. That’s exactly what I had in mind.

    – quite true that Nature is often cruel : that’s why I don’t worship it either as I’m no (neo-)pagan. I just intended to give the word “god” a rational meaning. But perhaps it’s got none!

    – as you and every Quaker, I don’t feel too concerned by ideas, but more by practice. But, in order to live and act ethically, having clear ideas could help. Take pro-choice and pro-life opinions for instance : either opinion can lead to the right conduct, but not both at the same time.

    – naturalists who think there’s only matter and energy are very narrow minded ones because they forgot language (that is two thirds of Man’s life).

    – ” I think ‘that of God’
    in every conscious being who has sense of ethical absolutes is what is ultimately
    true”. Ok Daniel, then you think “God” is nothing else than truth. And what you worship every Sunday is then truth. I don’t mind worshipping it along with you.

    Yours in friendship and truth
    Fabrice
    French Quakers’ Yearly Meeting

  28. Becca Thackray November 23, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    The testimonies in Godless for God’s Sake struck a chord.

    “…I realized that the values I supported and was trying to transmit – values I now name simplicity, peace, integrity, community & equality – were not the mores one generally encounters whilst watching television or taking a trip to the mall. I sought a community that would reinforce these values, place them within a cultural and social context. The Society of Friends was one of the few religions where I felt intellectually, politically and socially comfortable…” (Godless for God’s Sake edit by David Boulton

    The Quaker Faith & Practice inspiration which has most guided me is:

    “Live adventurously. When choices arise do you take the way that offers
    you the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of
    the community? Let your life speak.

    I have found people on my wave length spiritually in Lambeth Green Party and the British Humanist Association, however having not felt eligible to attend a Quaker Meeting for 15 years I now feel happy to return.

    I do believe in (a) an organic urge towards healing (b) a positive creative force which arises without explanation (c) a sensation of there being potential for interconnected consciousness, akin to what ants or bees demonstrate.

    Thankful for this website.

    Becca Thackray
    becca@worldofbecca.com

  29. Meagan Healy April 7, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    I have found the Friends within the past two years. It started off with a terrific Meeting on the West Coast which seemed to house people who felt the same way as I, on many topics. It was a terrific match. Having moved to the East Coast, I have encountered a few different approaches to the Friends community, many of which I’m not certain are quite the same kind of match. But I’m open to different approaches. How else do you know what you like or not?

    WHAT I believe, came up most recently when I was instructed to teach Parables from the Bible in a First Day school. The Religious Education Committee worked it out so that the Lessons would not be theist, per se, but rather Stories that could be examples of testimonies: The Good Samaritan, as an example of Integrity and Community.

    I was initially uncomfortable at the Biblical-ness, which surprised me. We were able to make it work.

    I felt an instant connection with the ideas that THIS group presents. I’m still figuring things out so I’m want to find out others’ thoughts and opinions on the idea of non-theism, pantheism, universalist…etc

  30. Fabrice Descamps May 3, 2009 at 4:25 am #

    Dear Meagan,

    There are so many kinds of Quakers around the world, but I can just tell you what one of them looks like, that is me.
    I’m French and I’ve been raised in the Reformed faith and I thank my parents and especially my Godfather, who’s a retired French Reformed Church minister, for being from Presbyterian descent because Reformed theology is so rational that I just had to take one (rational) step further to become a Quaker.
    I go on using the word “God” but in a completely different way than mainstream Protestants. Because I firmly think there are moral values that are objective, i.e. that are universal and don’t depend on my personal conviction for being true, I understand lots of people need to give these objective values a personal shape they call “God”. This is the way I understand the civil religion and the ceremonial deism so many Americans appraise so much that they concur on considering themselves “One Nation under God”. This “God” of theirs is shared values they cherish more than themselves, like I do for the moral values contained in the offical motto of the French Republic : “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”. This is my God.
    Yours in Frienship and Truth
    Fabrice Descamps

  31. Tom Libby May 26, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    Hello and love to all. I’m 67 and still seeking. Today’s worry/thinking point was about the integral importance of war in human evolution. If one embraces nature as it is, and loves natural selection as a truth and as what actually happened, maybe that means the best way to counter that of war in all of us is to recognize it. Racism, sexism, homophobia are not unnatural. Neither are rationality, love and empathy. We are pretty complicated, and contain many contradictions in our makeup. I think we have only ourselves to look to in fighting these (I’ve decided to call them) “negative” attributes.
    I’m still working on articulating this idea, and maybe need a little help.
    There are only a few things I’m sure of. One of them being there is nothing supernatural, and another is love is the answer.
    Tom

  32. James Riemermann May 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

    Nice to hear from you, Tom! I agree with everything you say, in particular your sense that not everything that’s natural is good and healthy. Part of seeking goodness is raising up the better part of our nature over the worst part. But it’s all real, it’s all true.

  33. Pete Loetterle August 2, 2009 at 1:26 am #

    My name is Pete Loetterle. I am 32 years old and an attender at Humboldt Friends’ Meeting in Arcata, CA. I have been attending meeting for nearly four years. My initial interest in Quakers was rooted in my impression of the inclusive spirit of Quakers and their emphasis on “right” living, or practice, as opposed to creed or doctrine. In my four years as an attender, I have seen my initial impression borne out in the nurturing, creative and dynamic relationships I have developed with other attenders and members of my meeting.

    During this period of time, while I have continued to study Faith and Practice and to attempt to embody the powerful testimonies there-in in fits and starts, I have also become immersed in the thinking of A.N. Whitehead. I see strong ties between Quakerism and his idea of persuasion as an alternative to force, principally developed in his book, Adventure of Ideas.

    My interest in Whitehead has much to do with a concern I have to creatively and rationally explore, critique and develop my own emerging sense of God. Whitehead, I believe, was one of the few philosophers in the West in the 20th century who made the attempt to rationally and coherently develop an idea of God and incorporate it in a metaphysical system that took solid account of relativity theory and emergent ideas in sociology and psychology. Whitehead was a rationally minded thinker who was unafraid to develop and trace out the implications of bold, speculative ideas. Alternately, he was not afraid to revise them and re-construct them if need be. My own reading of Whitehead has left me with a sense in which I do not feel ashamed to speak of God, even God theistically, whereby I mean a personal relationship between God and myself.

    However, and I believe this is as important as my feeling of un-ashamedness in considering my relationship to God, my study of Whitehead also forces me to reflect on much of his writing toward the end of his life, when he stated again and again that his cosmological model was only one among many competing models, and that if it were to remain meaningful and valid, it would have to be tested and verified empirically and scientifically, as much as possible, and potentially would have to be re-interpreted, if not modified, in light of new evidence. Whitehead did not necessarily hold with Kant that our idea of God or God himself existed in a realm inaccessible to our senses. Furthermore, he was explicit in insisting that his idea of God not be invoked to prevent his metaphysical system from collapsing. In short, for him this meant that God, at least to a degree, was determined by metaphysical principles in the system as much as other beings were. God was not omnipotent, not entirely transcendent nor immanent. This approach to naturalistic, cosmological speculation flies in the face of some elements of traditional Christian theology. It also refutes some aspects of Kantian and modern philosophy. Whitehead had a profound sense of the evolution of speculative, philosophic thought, and of the necessary rigor of scientific method as a means of evaluating it. My own feeling is that his ability for bold speculation coupled with his respect for scientific method created a sense of perspective and balance nearly unmatched in other 20th century philosophers.

    I believe Quakers embody the spirit of Whitehead’s thought, in as much as we are able to adventure or seek, according to our lights, and hold our beliefs always with the mind that we may need to revise them as more light is made available to us. I appreciate the contributions non-theist Quakers have made on this site and I feel I have much to gain from considering and reflecting on them. I came upon this site (luckily, by Grace) nearly a week ago and already my own developing sense of Quakerism has greatly expanded. I appreciate any insight and/or leading that leads to more inclusivity and, more importantly, more constructive approaches to relating to one another as a community of seekers and worshippers. Thank you.

    Finally, I believe that we are seekers, and as such it is tasked us to constantly, incessantly, re-evaluate our understandings of what it is to be seekers and Quakers in the light of new evidence and leadings.

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