Quakerism was founded by George Fox in 1647. That year, he created the Religious Society of Friends in England, which still exists to this day. The George Fox Wikipedia entry explains that the group was termed “Quakers” during a trial for blasphemy against George Fox in which a judge made fun of Fox and the way members of his group shook when they were feeling the spirit of Christ. Many Quakers were persecuted until the Toleration Act of 1689 was passed.
When the movement made its way to the United States, William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania allowed for the Quakers to establish colonies there as a safe haven for their beliefs. Throughout history, Quakers have been influential in many different movements because of their beliefs. In the 1770s, they fought for the abolition of slavery. Their doctrine has shaped the way that they look at the world around them, and it has made them voices for the equal treatment of all people regardless of their differences.
Quakers believe that the “Inner Light” resides in all people which means that everyone has the spirit of Christ in them. They do not believe in the notion of original sin. All that one has to do to follow Christ is to seek him out. Since all people have this spirit in them, there is no one who is in anyway better than another. Therefore it can be seen why some of the things they have supported or been against in the past have directly been shaped by this belief.
Another Quaker belief is the rejection of symbolism and outward sacraments. This means that they do not have a baptism ritual as other religions do, and they also do not celebrate religious holidays, instead recognizing that every day should be lived for Christ. For Quakers, the experience of baptism happens inside a person as most religious experiences should occur. The relationship between God and a person is a personal one, which is not directed by a preacher or shrouded in rituals and ceremonies. This is why many of their meetings are silent meetings in which the members only speak when they feel they have Christ working through them.
Quakers sometimes differ on what the Bible means to their religion. Although they do recognize that it is a doctrine from God, they believe that Christ alone is the word of God. They use the Bible more as a starting place for the religion because it does not have all the answers. Being unafraid of questioning, they ask the Lord for help in answering the contradictions that the Bible holds, and also for answers to everyday questions that may not be covered in the Bible’s scripture.
The belief in being honest all of the time is upheld firmly by Quakers. Oaths and promises are not to be made because they signify that there are different kinds of honesty. A true Christian tries to live an honest life at all times. Promises make a person attached to something other than Christ who should be the highest priority in one’s life.
War and the death penalty are also opposed by the Quakers. They are pacifist in nature and do not seek harm on other human beings. This makes sense because if everyone has the Inner Light, and no one is valued more than another, then there is no way to accept the brutalities of killings in war. The Bible says that murder is against God’s will, so even in times when a human feels that death is justifiable, it is not so according to God. Only the higher power can make that decision.
The Quaker religion is one that resides around peace and pacifism. Equality is emphasized, and a personal relationship with God can be cultivated without the use of religious ceremonies and preachers. This religion has done some really great work in the past for the equal rights of all people and they will continue to do so in the future. Their religious beliefs will guide them to make social changes when they can.
“George Fox,” Wikipedia.