I rarely talk about it, but I was raised in the Quaker religion. I think it’s fair to say you’d probably never know unless I told you. Most people have no idea what Quakers are or what they mean. When faced with such an esoteric sect of Christianity, it’s not unusual that we Americans can only conjure to mind “the oatmeal guy”. But they’re nothing to do with oatmeal.
Quakers essentially practice a sort of natural religion, that is, it’s not christianity in any sense that Americans are used to. For one, Quakers reject all religious symbols as superfluous. We believe, for instance, that the bible is a book written by people about the religious experience as they interpreted it, not a literal account of history. Quakers notably use the bible and other sacred text as teaching tools, which is probably why greater than 80% of Quakers identify as Christians.
Quakers believe in “the inner light of god” which is really an abstraction, that to me, describes life: the beauty and awe of existence. Faith in god is what makes religious people religious, I suppose, and Quakers do believe in a god. This would be a monotheistic non-anthropomorphic god though, there’s no “guy in the sky” so to speak.
The Quaker religion is very unusual for Christianity. It’s not large like the shows that orthodox churches put on. For one, there is no Church of Quakers. This is because Quakers believe that the inner light (god) is within everyone, they believe that a person can pray anywhere they are. There are no priest, women and men are equal, children are loved and nourished and treated as equals.
Quakers practice unprogrammed prayer or “silent reflection” as I like to call it, usually in a meeting-house. A meeting-house is any house that the Quakers choose to meet in regularly. In step with the Christian tradition this meeting day is usually “first day” or Sunday. Adults attend a session of unprogrammed prayer on Sunday mornings, children usually attend unprogrammed prayer for 15 minutes before they are whisked off to first day school. First day school can be anything, but usually consist of lesson taught by one of the adults.
Quakers are liberal anti-war pacifist, they believe in the tenets of simple living, honesty and loving all people in the world (inner light) regardless of creed or of race or of sexuality. Quakers don’t believe in pushing religion on people because religion is a personal experience.
So that’s what Quakerism is in a nutshell. It’s funny, I didn’t even realize I was a Quaker for a long time because nobody ever told me I was one. My mom always told me she was a Quaker, but she never put the label on me. In regards to religion, my mom dragged me along to meeting and Quaker camp, but I was allowed to believe whatever.
I guess they got me.