Feedback and reflections on NFN MfW&CC 1 April 2021

Trevor (NFN web person): I hope other Friends will contribute to these reflections.
I received an email this morning from Humanists UK which began: ‘Dear Trevor, You and I are not religious’.

I replied to say: ‘ ‘You and I are not religious’ not a reasonable assumption.
There are many religious humanists.
See David Boulton ‘The Faith of a Quaker Humanist’ at https://qug.org.uk under pamphlets.
Not even reasonable for British Humanists to be so determinably anti-religious!’
https://qug.org.uk/pamphlets-2/pamphlet-26/

(Except the spell-checker didn’t like ‘determinably’ and rendered it ‘determinable’ – never mind, I suppose I meant ‘determinedly’.)

Some attending the NFN MfW with creative conversation presentation by William Purser last night commented that they too were in some sense ‘religious humanists’ or that they were uncomfortable with some humanists’ anti-religious activities and that the value (and values?) of religions or religious groups should not be sniffed at.

I suppose that must include ourselves as members of or Friends of ’The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain’ (or elsewhere).

The meeting was well attended with Friends from right across the UK as well as a few from the USA and I think Africa and possibly elsewhere. (Please let us know!).

We thank William for his presentation ‘Fox to Opium via Marx….?’. I think William intended to be provocative or at least to provoke some thoughts and reflection in the following ‘creative conversation’ which it certainly did. (It’s perhaps not quite ‘worship sharing’ but not ‘discussion’ although some Friends obviously felt the urge to move in that direction – even debate or Q&A!).

Likewise, I intend to be provocative here or, I hope, to provoke further reflections and conversation (by these people, right here, now on this website as Harvey Gillman might have said).

One participant asked ‘what brought us all to this nontheist meeting, which we are not getting from our own local meetings?’ and (another?) ‘unity or what unites us is more important than anything that might divide us’ – religion, politics or economics for example?

It seems that quite a few of us do identify as ‘humanist’ in some sense, some as atheist, some as ’nontheist’ and some as ‘theist’,  while some thought that any differences between theist/nontheist weren’t even worth talking about.

From my own experience of NFN Friends, conferences and the Steering Group over 10 years, I’m sure there is quite a wide range of views or beliefs held but that all take comfort from our practice in Meeting for Worship and Quaker social activism (which includes political matters and ideas about the need for a ’new economics’).

Have I captured some ‘sense of the Meeting’ and have I been sufficiently provocative, at least not to induce yawns or snores??

(I had intended to put in a whole lot of hypertext links but I’ll assume you can all use ‘duck, duck go’ instead). https://duckduckgo.com/

We did this time have a final 20 minutes in breakout rooms after the meeting and it would be interesting to hear of any feedback (respecting privacy) from those groups. In total I believe we had about 95 attending the meeting and about half remained for the final chat in the breakout rooms at the end. My own area meeting (East Cheshire, near Stockport/Manchester) was quite well represented with at least 4 of us attending and there were two of us in my breakout group. At least one person in the main conversation had commented that men had tended to dominate the contributions a bit and that was true at first in our breakout group (I think there were 4 men and 4 women in that group. I didn’t notice what the overall balance was in the main meeting and I hope my binary reference is acceptable).

At the previous meeting with presentation by John Senior on 4 March there was quite a bit of feedback on the ‘Chat’. This time the Chat was disabled because some people apparently thought it was distracting. I on the other hand thought it was a useful additional channel of communication between participants including the organisers and a means of clarifying items not heard well.
What do you think?

Helen Gilbert on the Facebook group (link below) commented:
Tim (Regan), I enjoyed the Zoom meeting and talk, it would have been lovely to have been able to thank people by written message as I am not always able to get a good connection to speak or be seen. I know having ‘chat messages’ running along side a speaker and discussion can be a bit distracting but it can be helpful if your connection is poor (as I use an underpowered Chrome Book or for those using phones). Would it be possible for the message function to be turned on even if it is for 10 mins at the end just so the speaker and yourself can be thanked?

Comments on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1631439757083868:
Helen Gilbert
I really enjoyed the second of the Non Theist Network meetings for ‘worship’ tonight with an interesting talk on whether religion is the ‘opium of the people’. It was interesting to consider also any links between Jesus and Marx, in the discussion group afterwards. I find myself thinking that for me the link between them is that they were both motivated by compassion and love for those in need, and the motivation and reputation of both have very debatably been damaged by their ‘followers’. Thanks to the NTN for an interesting talk and debate.

Gabi Clayton
Thanks for today. I look forward to the next one.

(See additional comment from the Facebook group under Comments below).

We all now look forward to the next meeting on 6 May: Philip Gross, The language of poetry, and creative uses of the word ‘God’

6 thoughts on “Feedback and reflections on NFN MfW&CC 1 April 2021”

  1. I’ve taken the liberty (and I suppose it is a liberty) of copying some of the comments from the Nontheist Quaker Facebook Group (see above) including the long comment from Doug Hamilton below – I hope he doesn’t mind. (You might gather I don’t care very much what Mr. Zuckerberg thinks):
    Doug Hamilton (https://www.facebook.com/doug.hamilton.3956 )
    6 hrs  ·
    The second Zoom meeting of the UK Nontheist Friends Network,
    “a shortish meeting for ‘Worship’ followed by a Creative Conversation then a discussion”.
    Really well presented material in the Zoom format.
    Thank you all for initiating this format.
    Listening to the keynote presentation and the following discussion, I am struck by a similarity that appears between what is coining as non-theism by Quakers and what is coming more popularly to be termed ‘Non-Duality’.
    In the US throughout the 20th Century it seems there has been an amalgamating coevolution of spiritual traditions fostered between books, practices, and teachers coming from various parts of the East to the West. In recent years this seems to be gathering using the term, nonduality. There is a large conference of spiritual luminaries, scholars and practitioners who gather every year now promulgating views of non-duality at what is called the SAND conference, The Science and NonDuality Conference.
    The ‘nondual’ term can remain abstract like ‘nontheism’ without a cultural context in practice and experience. But both terms evidently wrestle with the problems of stale orthodox religion and religionists that even George Fox wrangled with in giving experience to.
    Likewise, this nomenclature quote below speaking to this came up on my Facebook feed this morning..
    (-substitute ‘inner-light” or ‘non-theism’ or ‘non-dual’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘Being’ or .. for the ‘Unbounded’ awareness. .
    Or as the Toaist might say, these point to the Way.. )
    /
    Bondage is not caused by possessions, but by non-
    awareness of the Unbounded [absolute level of life]
    Question: “I understand that in the third state of
    consciousness [waking] we are bound by the effects of our
    actions and our material possessions. My question is: do
    material possessions, material ownership, wealth, inhibit
    our….”
    MAHARISHI: “Let me remark at this point, at this stage of
    your question: We are not bound by material possessions
    EVER. We are bound by the non-awareness of the
    Unbounded. As long as we are not aware of the Unbounded,
    we are bound by EVERYTHING.
    We are not bound by our material possessions. Material
    possessions don’t bind us. What they do is liberate us from
    the pangs of unfulfilled desires. Our desire is to get this and
    this and this, and then if we don’t get, we feel miserable.
    Whatever we have, that is a solace to us in that misery.
    Material possessions are not a means of bondage. If anything
    they are a source of solace in our weakness. They do not bind
    us. If anything, they are a source of solace, contentment,
    happiness, joy, peace.
    Possessions will always be a means of joyfulness. It is the
    non-possessions that bind us in the craving to get them. Do
    you see the point? It is something that we don’t possess, that
    non-possession binds us in the craving to possess it.
    Possessions are not a bondage. They are a means of joy,
    happiness.
    What is bondage? Lack of awareness of the Unbounded. That
    means: ignorance, ignorance of our unbounded nature,
    ignorance that the Self within is unbounded, eternal, infinite,
    absolute, bliss. Lack of knowledge about this is ignorance,
    and this ignorance is a bondage to us. Material possessions
    are never a bondage. They are a means of happiness.”
    —Maharishi, Aug. 1970, Humboldt State University, Arcata,
    USA

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      1. I think you’re right Tim as I hinted but I thought Helen and Doug wouldn’t mind (it is an open public Facebook group), but I will endeavour to check.

        Like

  2. Fellow Creatures 😉

    There are two things about Quaker meetings that make them worthwhile for me. First is the purely practical aspect of demonstrating to myself my capacity for patience. I take that away from the meeting and summon it when needed. The second aspect is more fanciful. I see the meeting as akin to those cloud chambers that physicists use to capture traces of particles as they hurtle through the Earth. Trails of thought pop up as they occur to attendees during the meeting.

    Unfortunately I think that both these features require physical presence to really succeed for me.

    Anyone interested in thinking about the nature of online communication should read Alexander Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist. The ingenuity with which the prisoners managed to communicate between their isolated cells is a testament to the need to communicate. They even made tiny magazines out of tissue thin toilet paper. Prison Blossoms.

    Michael

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  3. Trevor

    That sounds most interesting. I must make the effort to join into one.

    My position stands on two feet:-

    There has never been a durable civilisation which did not have a “religion” at its binding structure. This uses the literal etymology of “religion” from religare; to bind.

    In that sense of secure community building with structured religious gatherings is something I strongly subscribe to.

    2.0 I do not like any of the terms like atheist, agnostic, none theist etc. This because they are all negative. I am positively in favour of a positive culture which meets the terms of my scientific upbringing and culture.

    Humanist seems to be half way there but there are actually far too many versions of humanism for the standalone word to actually have any meaning. I do have a model of what I think makes a proper scientific basis (meets Popper’s, Newton’s and Leibniz’s rules for science) but too long to explain here. It requires leaving myths and faith in authority behind.

    So, I am a firmly “post myth religious” person. That way the future lies.

    In Friendship

    Malcolm (Mike) Bell Foxhill Green Weetwood Leeds LS16 5PQ

    >

    Like

  4. Welcome back Mike!
    I’ve edited your address and removed phone number but can put them back in if you really want them public?
    If you haven’t attended one of the sessions yet, do register in time for Philip’s presentation next month. Follow the links above or visit the homepage for details of how to register and we’ll look forward to seeing you there.
    Best
    Trevor

    Like

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