The Quakers are right. We don’t need God.

An article in The Guardian (online) by Simon Jenkins under this title, dated 4 May 2018, has brought many more visitors to our NFN site – in fact linking to an article by David Boulton which references a 2013 survey cited by Ben Pink Dandelion. Perhaps we should return the compliment and put a link to the Guardian article here!

Some Friends, including ‘non-theists’, might think this title is a travesty of the Quaker position and Yearly Meeting decision to revise Quaker Faith and Practice. (Link edited at 22.00 Central European Time to be more useful on a mobile device!)

Simon Jenkins writes ‘I am not a Quaker or religious, but I have been to Quaker meetings, usually marriages or funerals, and found them deeply moving’.  As this member and attender for 8 years (Trevor Bending) has so far been to only one Quaker marriage (my  own) and no Quaker funerals (yet), we must assume that Simon has a considerable number of Quaker friends or contacts.  In any event, his article is much more interesting than the provocative title and well worth reading.

I think some further consideration or re-consideration of what we might mean by ‘non-theism’ is now due in the light of the YM decision and the publication of ‘God, Words and Us‘.

It would be wonderfully appreciated if some of our NFN members, Followers, and Friends were to append their comments here!

5 thoughts on “The Quakers are right. We don’t need God.”

  1. Interesting Simon Jenkins writes, “The 12-step movement of alcoholics and narcotics “anonymous” has much in common with Quakerism, notably the emphasis on non-authoritarian fellowship” given the 12-step movement claims to not be a religion, just a spiritual practise, but mentions God in all it’s literature. For example, Step 3 for AA states, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”


    1. Thanks for this comment Izzy.
      “God as we understood Him.” or “God or whatever you call it.”?
      Simon Jenkins continues by comparing Quaker meetings for worship with therapy generally – perhaps showing a misunderstanding of what spoken ministry is supposed to be. Reading the Wikipedia article on ‘AA’ perhaps throws a little more light on it. (I’ve always thought the ‘God’ dimension of ‘AA’ was a bit ‘American’ – my prejudice perhaps).


      1. The God aspect of 12-step groups is not American; it’s there in the groups in the UK too.
        I definitely think Simon Jenkins has not understood the differences between Quakers and a 12-step group. In a 12-step group it is completely unacceptable to comment on what another person says. But I’ve heard spoken ministry that can only be described as a carefully considered discussion.
        One thing I heard in a 12-step meeting that I find useful to remember in a Meeting for Worship is to not ignore wisdom just because of the source. When this was said to me, the person went on to say, “If the words of a song or a line in a soap opera speaks to you, then listen.” I find the same idea can be applied when spoken ministry is a quote from the Bible or uses ‘God language’; rather than discard it because of the source, I ask myself, “Does this speak to my condition?”


  2. I find that a number of Quakers understandably seem to struggle with the diversity that exists within the Society of Friends. When I joined the Society more than 30yrs ago, I had already abandoned any orthodox notion of a God, therefore Simon Jenkins article is no real surprise to me. I don’t quite get the 12 step programme reference.
    I am a Non theist Quaker and find this a credible place to be. I accept that not all Quakers will be ‘comfortable’ with this.
    The main thing for me is that the Society continues to embrace differing opinions in an open, honest and loving manner.
    We are a diverse Society and hopefully any revision process will continue to reflect that.


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