Atheist Quakers II

Hor-Asha-Khet, Ptolemaic periodMark, camping in a field of forty tents and ten caravans of Quakers, was distressed by the Swarthmore Lecture. He is atheist, married with two sons aged around ten, has been interested in Quakers for two years but committed for six months. He is spiritual but not religious, and wanted his sons to have the community we offer. He tried the “Sunday Assembly“, but was disillusioned, as it appeared to be a huge marketing campaign with lots of people having different expectations of it- a bit like some churches.

He felt comfortable with Quakers, but in the lecture Ben Pink Dandelion said we should get back to our core beliefs. Quakers tend to be “fuzzy”, said Ben, a former Anarchist- all the anarchists could agree on was changing their names to something silly. Our Book of Discipline, Quaker Faith and Practice, is clear about who we are and what we do, but if you ask a Quaker about Quakers s/he will start “well, for me…” Mark saw this as an attack on him. His atheism is our fuzziness, and if we got back to our clarity we would exclude him.

I can state what we do in materialist terms. We set aside our egos and seek the highest Good, which (most of us) call God’s Will. We speak as moved- by “The Spirit” or by unconscious brain processes. We seek Unity and Discernment, not necessarily theist concepts. I told Mark that if he valued what we do, I wanted him in Quakers. I had thought the “fuzziness” Ben attacked was me- call myself a Quaker, but make no great advance on our Testimony, which in former ages set how we lived our lives. I loved Mark’s enthusiasm, and impressed him: he thought me thirty.

There were some polemic views. Sarah wanted Quakers to leave Churches Together, and said in the seminar on the language she used that she had used religious language when she was a child, but had matured now. She is only trying to get at her wife, a theologian, and just because you have matured out Column capital of the God Bes, Ptolemaic periodof particular language does not mean that anyone who uses it is childish. The Non-Theist network and the Committee on Christian and Interfaith Relations worked together. A man told me that though we could divide ourselves by the words we used, our differing experiences cut across those divides.

Trying to do too much, I slept through Michael Wright’s talk on “Atheist prayer”, but picked up some things. He is a former Anglican priest who had what he thought was an experience of God, and never had another though he craved it. He felt bereaved of God, but still heeded the intellectual and spiritual challenge of love, and just, compassionate living. Our responsibility is to ourselves, not God. Our promptings of love and truth come from within ourselves, not beyond. He used the Anglican mnemonic ACTS- Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication but changed it, so S was self-examination; but Thankfulness is a useful practice, whatever one believes. He recommended Gretta Vosper and the Progressive Christianity Network.

32 thoughts on “Atheist Quakers II

  1. I get lost in this, sorry, Clare. I am busy chatting with another Quaker at the moment ( he loosely associates with Liberal Friends) who considers himself Christian but isn’t convinced that Jesus was even a real person!
    After several exchanges his comments seem more vague by the reply and I am floundering.
    Why cannot people simply ditch all forms of religion a become secular humanists?


    • Because some of us are clear that God is involved. Our G-D (rigorously NOT male) is a particularly theist God, and if around 6,500 people are sitting in Quaker meetings on any Sunday in GB, this theist God will inspire very roughly around five hundred of them to speak messages to the other Friends present. Others of us are clear that G-D is not involved, and that we are evolved beings in a Godless material universe. Being absolutely clear will irritate too many people. Being “fuzzy”- blog posts on that coming up- lets us live together.

      As for me, when I said “I hold my beliefs lightly” you did not like that, so what about this? Mine is a religion of practice and attitude. Practice- what I do: sitting in silence, particular mental disciplines which can work in a theist or non-theist Universe. Attitude- seeking to live a Good life.

      Do you really need all these Theists to change their minds? Will nothing less satisfy you? One idiot, somewhere, believing crap, and Arkenaten cannot rest until s/he is convinced of Atheism!!

      Do give me a link, and I will look at your other discussion thread. I will only intervene if I think I can be constructive, elucidating or bringing peace.


      • Do you really need all these Theists to change their minds? Will nothing less satisfy you? One idiot, somewhere, believing crap, and Arkenaten cannot rest until s/he is convinced of Atheism!!

        You know my views on theists and religion. I’ll try to keep it cordial for once 🙂

        Smile…I am big enough and quite able to sort out my own battles these days. But here is the link. The chap’s name is Barry. Knock yourself out, Clare.


        • Thank you. I am with Barry, I am afraid, but not sure I want quite as long a thread as that one here.

          I invite you to consider different levels of idiocy. At one level, there is the Creationist who teaches that all those who do not believe Creationism will endure eternal torment, and at another there are Barry and me. I am against the Creationist because s/he makes Christianity seem worthless and harmful, and because her/his Christianity is harmful. My religion does no such harm.


          • Of course you are with Barry. Good grief, I would have fallen off of my chair if it ere otherwise.
            As I said to Barry, the basis of your belief and that of the Creationist is the same. Superstition and unfalsifiable claims that have their roots in a collection of erroneous texts, be they the Bible the Quran or whatever.

            Christianity makes Christianity worthless simply because there is no right Christianity. 42,000 separate denominations and counting are proof of this.
            Like all god-belief. It is wrong – period.


            • Um. Superstition… erroneous… worthless… wrong. It would be nice if you could understand that there is value in my Quakerism, but I really don’t care that much. Think what you like. I have had a wonderful week with wonderful people, and even if our practices were wholly worthless, the social aspect would more than make up for it.


            • As I mentioned to Barry, one can enjoy social interaction with the folks at the local Table Tennis club.

              The point is, one doesn’t need any religion to function either as an individual or as a society or as a species.
              Ultimately it is divisive.
              And if you wear a Christian label then you are going to be lumped in with Christians.
              The basis for your ‘label’ is the same as theirs” the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth.
              You label yourself Christian but are repulsed by YEC’s and their ilk; as you are with some other versions of god belief to varying degrees.
              But how do you know that your version is right and their’s is not.
              Seriously, what evidence can you offer?
              And of you are going to cherry pick doctrine, weed out all the bits you find unpalatable, how do know that what you have left is based on any foundation of truth?
              How do you know that what you have discarded is not the truth?


            • Just one of the ways we talk past each other is that you ask what is true, and I ask what is useful.

              I am repulsed by Creationism, but not by the YECs themselves. I have met lovely YECs.


            • We talk past each other because you insist on asserting your worldview, which is based on the religion of Christianity, ( as with every god belief religion) is rooted in truth or at least a large dollop of fact.
              This I disagree with, and the evidence does not support your belief.

              I am repulsed by Creationism, but not by the YECs themselves. I have met lovely YECs.

              As I am sure there are some marvelous communists, and facists, and some of their beliefs are probably ‘useful’ as well,right?

              As there was no doubt a soft side to Caligula and Genghis Khan.

              At some point in the card game, Clare one is going to be called and then the rules say you are obliged to lay your cards on the table or fold.
              And whether you like it or not you are not going to be able to bluff with a pair of twos indefinitely.


            • My worldview is based on mystic strands in all religions, not just Christianity.

              The benefits of Nazism.


              You don’t get to define the rules.

              I rather like Lepanto. Wonderful rhythm. I don’t have to agree with it. As an illustration of use,

              I am created in the image of God.
              Therefore I am loving, creative and powerful.

              This has been of great value to me, in building up my still weak self-confidence and self-esteem. As was the thought that I evolved, here, over four billion years, so I fit, here.


            • I do not define the rules. Truth should. Not a version of it.

              I am created in the image of God.
              Therefore I am loving, creative and powerful.

              And this is where the wheels fall off … yet again, Clare, for with this single statement you reveal the fallacious nature of what you espouse.
              Whose god? What does it look like? How do you know it exists? How do you know that this deity is the right one and how can you make an assertion based on no evidence whatsoever?

              There are many things that can build up self esteem etc etc.
              Why not simple secular humanism? It has all the positive traits and value systems, is all inclusive non divisive, and has no need for crippling god belief.
              No need to inculcate fallacious doctrine.

              Why is that not enough?

              People have been killing and dying for thousands of years simply because of unfounded god claims.
              And they still are.


            • Quakers kill less than the average. So do Sufis.
              Oh, dear. Are you now going to do the lame point-scoring over who kills more?
              Really! How tiresome.
              I haven’t killed anyone. Is there relevance?

              Are you a secular humanist? You seem quite divisive to me

              sec·u·lar hu·man·ism
              humanism, with regard in particular to the belief that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without belief in God.

              That covers it pretty well. No frills,


            • You know, much of the time I am laughing at you, when I am not bored. Here you are, trying to argue with me, and I don’t care what you think, and find your arguments worth less than my own. What was that meme about doing the thing which failed before, expecting a different result? If you are tired too, now, let me see. I wonder what you will do…

              I like frills!

              Atheism doesn’t kill. But Atheism with a passionate desire that religion be ended, that kills a great deal.


            • Smile…What you fail to understand, Clare is this is simply banter.
              I have made it quite clear that what you believe as an adult is your business. I would hope you do not influence children and allow them to reach adulthood where they too can make informed decisions, based on reason and critical thought.

              As it is, humanity is slowly but surely moving away from formal religion and god belief, so it is merely a matter of time.

              I would imagine you do enjoy frills.

              Atheism doesn’t kill. But Atheism with a passionate desire that religion be ended, that kills a great deal.
              A lot less passion than religious fervor of that I can assure you.

              It will end, Clare, of its own accord, simply because
              lies cannot be sustained forever anymore than you can bluff indefinitely with a pair of twos.


            • You are too stupid to conceive of what I understand, or fail to understand. Take your tiresome banter elsewhere. You do not wind me up any more, just bore me. You mock what you do not understand. I have had my share of influence over children and parents, thanks.


    • Yes. I have done. The Quaker meeting is one of the few places where if you start to shake, then stand suddenly and start declaiming, this is seen as a sign of Health. Though more often the physical symptom is the heart beating rapidly, not visible to others at all.


  2. I thought the core belief of Quakers was that God is in all of us and if that is so then each and every one is in the right when he/she interprets God in his/her personal way, it’s when people start competing amongst each other – who knows God best – that confusions and “troubles” start. God is big and mysterious


    • On the squabbling, that Non-theist/ Theist divide is the most productive of squabbling in GB. But though there are righteous letters in The Friend magazine from both sides, at the Yearly Meeting they co-operated. The dividing line is only the words we use. The experiences we have unite us, the words are less important.

      Lovely to see you dropping in. I hope you are well and happy in your “delicate state”.


      • I am reading the second edition which is in a blue hardback cover and is in a volume combined with the notes for teachers and workbook for students. It is a big commitment, but since each sentence reveals something delicious, utterly lovely to read and contemplate, that’s fine.

        I don’t suppose it much matters if you go for a newer edition, as I am supposing that each edition incorporates changes designed for increasing simplicity…..but that is conjecture. Lots of love! xxx


  3. I think you are offering me some Quaker thought this morning as I sit ‘stuck’ on the internet before turning to my daily meditation practice of TM. We attended the non theist conference this year at Woodbrooke and it wasn’t the conference I wanted to go to. I love the Universalist one and it’s my yearly intense douse of being in a Quaker environment. I realised the sincerity of those at the non theist conference with their struggle to understand ‘God’ thinking. I recognised the need for such discussions and the need for unity and understanding of experiences.
    I’ve been ‘ok’ with God thinking but not with many aspects of Christianity. But my nature journey is astounding me as I read about the evolution of plants! It fills me full of awe! It’s a pity what happened to the word awful ! I wonder what will happen to the beauty of some translations of the bible and God.


    • The internet offers a series of dopamine hits as you click on articles. The delay of waiting, then the article appearing, increases this effect. I hope your meditation was valuable. It may have been slightly scary, for you to be stuck.

      I have just booked for YMG in Warwick.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No it was quite enjoyable following your Quaker posts and I have refrained from blogging for a while. I’m now on my guardian app half hour! Being abroad means I do miss aspects of Quaker community. Meditating keeps me rested from the bog of the Internet and the news and fake news. Now I must move!

        Liked by 1 person

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