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Nontheist Friends

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Nontheist Friends

#1 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » April 11th, 2012, 8:45 pm

A Quaker friend of mine drew my attention recently to the existence of the Nontheist Friends Network, which was formed last year, and had an inaugural conference in the UK recently ("Conference of the Nontheist Friends Network at Woodbrooke, March 9-11 2012: MINUTE AND EPISTLE"). I find it a little bit baffling, especially the references to "worship", but at the same time encouraging. If only nontheist members of other religious organisations could be so open.

Emma

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Dave B
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#2 Post by Dave B » April 11th, 2012, 9:04 pm

An interesting concept.

It sounds as though they are trying to describe something "nontheist" using the "theist" lexicon that they are comfortable with. Where they speak of "seekers of reverence" I wonder if they mean "nontheist" pacifists and humanitarians, those with a similar ethical outlook as themselves?

If this is so then it seems to indicate their acceptance that one does not have to be a "theist" to be a good person - as we all know. So, bridge building with the rest of the world, looking for resonance?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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getreal
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#3 Post by getreal » April 11th, 2012, 9:13 pm

:puzzled: But aren't Quakers religious? I thought they were a religion.
http://www.quaker.org.uk/

or am I missing something?
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Alan C.
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#4 Post by Alan C. » April 11th, 2012, 9:14 pm

Interesting Emma but not sure about.
We let our hair down in a “Quaking with Laughter” session (with “ministry” from Friends Gerard Hoffnung and Sheila Hancock) and concluded with a powerfully gathered meeting for worship.
My bold.
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Dave B
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#5 Post by Dave B » April 11th, 2012, 9:25 pm

Alan C. wrote:Interesting Emma but not sure about.
We let our hair down in a “Quaking with Laughter” session (with “ministry” from Friends Gerard Hoffnung and Sheila Hancock) and concluded with a powerfully gathered meeting for worship.
My bold.
Yeah, looks damning I agree. But is the "Network" comprised of Friends and "Nontheist" Friends I wonder. If it is the steering body for the project then it might be only Friends and they would worship as they do (I also thought they just sat there in silence until someone felt the need to "witness" something). If it had "nontheist" members then that is indeed strange.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#6 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » April 12th, 2012, 1:16 am

Dave B wrote:It sounds as though they are trying to describe something "nontheist" using the "theist" lexicon that they are comfortable with.
Yes, I think that must be it. Or rather, using the Quaker lexicon they are comfortable with, which has its own little peculiarities.
getreal wrote:But aren't Quakers religious? I thought they were a religion. http://www.quaker.org.uk/
or am I missing something?
Well, Buddhism is a religion too, but it's nontheistic. Religion isn't theistic by definition. And there is a wide range of different beliefs within Quakerism. There's no great leader imposing doctrine from above. There's no creed. Instead there's an understanding that a person's beliefs are based on his or her inner conviction. The kind of Quakerism I'm familiar with is pretty liberal, and a lot of conventional Christian beliefs have already been discarded, so why not go one step further and discard belief in a personal god? ............. It is a bloody big step, though. :)
Alan C. wrote:Interesting Emma but not sure about
We let our hair down in a “Quaking with Laughter” session (with “ministry” from Friends Gerard Hoffnung and Sheila Hancock) and concluded with a powerfully gathered meeting for worship.
My bold.
Yes, I struggled with references to worship, but I've just checked good old Wikipedia and found this definition: "Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something ..." (my italics). Surprising. I'd never have thought the word "worship" was one that could be claimed by nontheists, but actually there's quite a lot of scope there. Quaker worship (of the liberal kind) is quite unusual because it's largely silent, with participants speaking "when the spirit moves them", but it translates pretty easily to a nontheistic context. (A bit like Buddhist mindfulness meditation, perhaps?) There's no requirement to talk about God or Jesus. And Quakers seem to feel strongly about the equal worth of all human beings, so worth-ship could be naturally quite humanistic.

More from Wikipedia: "The first organization for non-theist Friends was the Humanistic Society of Friends, founded in Los Angeles in 1939, although this organization remained small and was later absorbed into the American Humanist Association." And David Boulton, who started the Nontheist Friends Network, describes himself as both a Quaker and a Humanist. He's written a book entitled The Trouble with God, the subtitle of which seems to have changed from Religious Humanism and the Republic of Heaven to Building the Republic of Heaven. The Republic of Heaven? Aha, I thought that rang a bell. It's a phrase coined by Gerrard Winstanley, Digger, Quaker and Proto-Communist [---][/---] a hero of mine. He wrote: "[Priests] lay claim to heaven after they are dead, and yet they require their heaven in this world too, and grumble mightily against the people that will not give them a large temporal maintenance. And yet they tell the poor people that they must be content with their poverty, and they shall have their heaven hereafter. But why may we not have our heaven here (that is, a comfortable livelihood in the earth) and heaven hereafter too, as well as you? ... While men are gazing up to heaven, imagining after a happiness or fearing a hell after they are dead, their eyes are put out, that they not see what is their birthrights, and what is to be done by them here on earth while they are living." (Apparently, Philip Pullman has written about the Republic of Heaven too, in His Dark Materials.)

Oh ... I don't know. Winstanley aside, religious humanism and nontheistic Quakerism don't appeal to me at all, but heck, if they offer something that chimes with some people, it certainly seems preferable to what's pushed down people's throats in the average Christian church. Bring it on, I say.

Emma

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#7 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » April 12th, 2012, 1:19 am

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:If only nontheist members of other religious organisations could be so open.
Oh, gosh. Now I've discovered something called the Sea of Faith. This is bigger than I thought.

Emma

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animist
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#8 Post by animist » April 12th, 2012, 9:05 am

yuk - I noticed Don Cupitt's name and remember him driving A. J. Ayer mad on a TV programme long ago (actually 1984, when the Sea of Faith series was broadcast). Cupitt kept reinterpreting questions about faith in, say, the Resurrection to suit his own anodyne beliefs - if you could what he spouted a belief. Give me proper Xians any day, rather then someone who demands that obviously supernatural beliefs are to be interpreted in his rationalistic way!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Cupitt

The other thing that this reminded me of was the "Spiritual Humanism" which someone on this forum was pushing some months ago

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Dave B
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Re: Nontheist Friends

#9 Post by Dave B » April 12th, 2012, 9:25 am

. . . if they offer something that chimes with some people, it certainly seems preferable to what's pushed down people's throats in the average Christian church. Bring it on, I say.
I agree, Emma, if there is an overlap in the Venn diagram between the Friends and humanists then let's exploit that point of contact for the betterment of as many people as possible. If it works it may be that others, in other religions, may well come to recognise that humanists aren't all ogres with bloodstained teeth!

Will have to look into the Friends' concept of god. You speak of a "personal god" which I always take to be an inbuilt moral model that the person practises. This is far more honest than the inculcated model that does not always fit the person - give me the honest "baddie" rather than the hypocritical "saint" any day of the week!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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