Quaker Universalist Conversations

“‘Theists’ and ‘Non-Theists’- Can we get on together?”

An excerpt from Secret Quaker’s blog

As Quakers stumble over the “G Word” not wishing to alienate the non-theists among us, it would seem of relevance to note that this is a very Old Testament Problem. Since it was impossible to see God, Jews developed ingenious ways to avoid saying his name, emphasised the role of angels as intermediaries and made no attempt at description.

Instead of speculating about the nature of God, the emphasis was on being alert to creation, so that you could appreciate, for example, the significance of a bush bursting into flames, maintaining a sense of wonder. The main requirement of God’s Law was self-discipline, not substituting a more tangible form of worship in the form of idols. In the same way we might also become distracted by easier options or struggle to prioritise. In whichever way we experience these “Golden Calves”, there is still a choice to be made.

Marsh west of I-95 near the Sidney Lanier Bridge, south of Brunswick, GA (9/23/2012)
It would seem to me, our relationship to God can still be compared to living by a river. We may not be able to create sculptures on what this water is all about, or wish to paddle upstream in search of its source. At times water provides a lesson in humility since the river allows so many different types of boat to travel.

We may identify with having water as a life force flowing through our bodies. In recognising our dependency, we might also choose to have a contract, choosing to respect the seasons, act responsibly and not pollute the waters. Without referring to any scripture, carrying stone tablets about in an Ark, or being dogmatic about belief, there is a relationship and interaction. Our lives too may be built around an instinctive moral law that defines our relationship with the river.


Image

Space, by Mike Shell – Marsh west of I-95 near the Sidney Lanier Bridge, south of Brunswick, GA (9/23/2012)

Comments

Reminds me of the worship that George Price led in the Quaker Sweat Lodge ceremonies at FGC before he and the Sweat Lodge were thrown under the bus by Quakers who were terrified that a form of the Spirit they didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t “see” was corrupting “their” youth. Many of our youth found their first experience of the Spirit in those Quaker Sweat Lodges. I found healing. So sad that the Theists had to make the circle smaller.

It is interesting to see a Friend mention Theist and Non-Theist, after just uncovering Chuck Fager’s ‘Without Apology’, in which “Christo-Centric” vs “Universalist” Quakers is presented. He even puts forth the “universalist,” in relation to “mishmash of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and some New Age or feminist spirituality visionaries.” This presents Jung’s synchronicity for me.

Admittedly, Mike, in a more honest view of universalists to me, theists, non-theists, and even atheists have some type of Faith from the Spirit of Life, piece of God, Inner Light, Inward Light, Self, or however anybody wishes to refer to it. To comprehend our Global Consciousness is essential. Presenting a “Life Force” flowing through us is very good. Forty years back, in ‘Star Wars’ “May the Force be with you” was used.

Many times, I simply say “May God be with you.” No offense intended to others. It is difficult for me to remember some prefer “May Life Force be with you” or some other form of caring for others. The particular word used is not essential for a universalist. It is the acceptance of others in the lives we live.

What happens if someone comes by their non-theism honestly? What I mean by “honestly” is that one gets to a non-theistic conclusion as they are reconciling the inner still clear voice and the objective knowledge that civilization provides. Reconciling the still clear voice and objective knowledge is a reasonable and honest endeavor if one finds oneself respecting both of these sources, especially when the stakes are high!

The question facing Friends today is: What happens if one is honestly led to a non-theistic view? Does that person belong in a religious group? I sense that’s what many individual non-theists are asking themselves ! One may ask what does “religion” even mean to such a person?

May I propose a leading? Religion is nowadays more about a shared experience of the awesomeness of “being here.” If one has this view, not having a god, or even a God, in one’s thinking makes the experience of existence orders of magnitude more intense, more mysterious, and the stakes much higher because there is no “backup plan.” No god is going to fix anything, or even punish the guilty or reward the virtuous, as if running the planet like a high school will make any difference.

Religion has changed throughout the millenia. Thousands of years ago it was about feeling one’s response to screams as humans were sacrificed to the sun-god. Now I propose religion is about feeling one’s response to being.

Steven,

This is a deep and moving leading, and I am grateful to you for voicing it. What you describe is the existentialist ethos in its most positive framing:

Religion is nowadays more about a shared experience of the awesomeness of "being here." If one has this view, not having a god, or even a God, in one’s thinking makes the experience of existence orders of magnitude more intense, more mysterious, and the stakes much higher because there is no "backup plan." Now I propose religion is about feeling one’s response to being.

Yes. This places the moral responsibility directly on us, where it should be.

Blessings,
Mike

Appreciate Steve & Mike’s comments. I’m beginning to think that the “awesomeness of being here” is exactly what God is, pervading and over all.

But…our associations with the word “God” are so linked to a “being” to pray to for favors, for our team to win, or a storm to pass us & an old bearded white guy in the sky, that we do need to rename this essential spirit of existence. “Force” works for some, or maybe just Spirit. Maturing our view of spirit is needed for us to get beyond the childishness & the separation it causes: “our team won so God loves us more.”

Am going to be doing some writing on this soon— needs tackling by non-theologian! So may request some of your quotes.

If we take Jesus Christ out of the picture there is no real intellectual difference between theists and non-theists, and no quakerism as they solely depended in the light of Jesus to make their discernment. And there is no difference between the good and the bad as long as they are doing some good deeds.