Do Quakers believe in God?

If you ask this of your pet Quaker, the answer will almost certainly start off along the lines of “Well, it depends upon what you mean by ‘God’…”, be followed by much hand wringing, and no doubt continue along similar lines. By the end of the answer you may be none the wiser, but more than likely after digesting it you could be forgiven for responding “A simple ‘yes’ would have sufficed”! Your pet Quaker wasn’t deliberately trying to be evasive or unclear; the somewhat wordy reply stems partly from our suspicion of anything which looks like a creed, partly from the difficulty which follows on from that of giving an answer which might be considered to be speaking on behalf of other Quakers, but mostly to honestly check what you actually mean by ‘God’!

Certainly few, if even any, Quakers today believe in the traditional image of God as an old bloke with a long white robe and a long white beard sitting on a throne on a cloud giving orders to passing angels and generally running the show, so we don’t want you to think we do. To be fair, few if any people in other churches believe in that image of God either. But it seems that most people on the ‘outside’ of religion have the impression of that being the God people on the ‘inside’ of religion believe in, and we want to take extra care to correct that misconception.

Although most Quakers do at heart believe ‘in God’, a significant number might not actually use that word – replacing it instead with terms such as ‘the Light Within’, ‘the Creator’, ‘the Spirit’, ‘Inward Teacher’ etc. This might partly be due to not wanting to upset the sensitivities of others, and partly as a result of any previous bad experiences themselves have had. Either way, whatever different words Quakers use or hear other people using, there is a shared understanding we all refer to the same ‘life force’ which binds the Universe together. Quakers do not worry about what name we give to God – after all, if an English speaker refers to ‘God’ and an French speaker refers to ‘Le Dieu’, they are still both referring to the same God.

Needless to say, there are a small number of Quakers who reject the whole concept of God entirely, considering it at best to be irrelevant and at worst to be superstition.

7 Responses to Do Quakers believe in God?

  1. Peter Breuer says:

    This is a very simple question.
    In St.John’s gospel there is a clear and straightforward definition of God.
    “God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
    The in this definitiondoes not include spectre, phantom or ghost.
    The truth does not include mysticism.
    Since the word spirit in English is a neutral noun, for the personal pronoun “him” read “it”. That is merely a matter of language (not of theology) For example, in Hungarian there are no genders. A Hungarian who reads St.John would read:
    “God is a spirit, and they that worship him, her or it, must worship him, her or it in spirit and in truth.”
    Moses did not write: “There are no other gods.”
    Moses wrote that there were to be no other gods ahead of the Spirit in which the Israelite were to relate to the world.
    To illustrate: you can make the spirit of revenge your God, but you may find it preferable to stick to the spirit of togetherness and forgiveness. It’s up to you.
    NB A German speaker refers to “Der Liebe Gott” (the dear god) That is the right spirit.

    • Rod Morison M M says:

      Your answer only has any credit if you believe in the bible, should one not accept the bible then you have no comment to make. Belief is not fact!

  2. Isaac pfizemaier says:

    I want to be a quaker but I don’t know how, could you help me?

  3. I want to be a quaker but i don’t know how, could you give me some info on that?

  4. F. Webb says:

    Isaac, you’re making a good start by reading up on Quaker beliefs and practices. There may be a Quaker meeting within reach of you – searching on the Web can be a good way to find them. Attending a few meetings should give you a clearer idea as to whether this is a tradition which can meet your needs.

  5. That is a good way of looking at it. God isn’t so much a deity as it is a spirit. Good point.

  6. Lee Borrett says:

    Can anyone please help me? I have a small collection of early primitive clocks that were made at the quaker settlement of Tiffenthwaite near Wigton, Cumbria and date from around c1690. I am convinced that these clocks with the religious verses on their dial were made for the quakers and non conformists of the area. John Sanderson the clockmaker was married to William Pearsons daughter or grandaughter (the same William Pearson who had met with George Fox). The clocks have all got some sort of religious message on their dials and one has come to light with some sort of angel or cupid with trumpet engraved. They all seem to give the Memento Mori (bear death in mind) However I have yet to find proof that these are connected to the quakers . Could someone please help me solve this puzzle and educate me as I have been unable to find any evidence other than there was a large settlement of quakers living in the area during this time. Thankyou Lee Borrett

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