Simon Jenkins has it only half right (The Quakers are right. We don’t need God, 4 May). Quakers are indeed in the process of looking at the language in their “book of words”. It is a long and thoughtful process which happens every generation or so.
But discomfort with “God language”is not the same thing as the abandonment of a spiritual life. Even non-theist Quakers have a spiritual life, and certainly don’t come to meetings just for fellowship. Nor is this questioning of the terms we use anything to do with a search for “comfort”.
The Quaker Testimonies (to truth and integrity, simplicity, equality and peace) by which we aim to live our lives are hugely challenging. What Quakerism offers is a space to explore on one’s spiritual journey. The range of expression we use is part of a richness, not a limitation.
• As a long-standing Quaker, I write with some concern after reading Simon Jenkins’ article. While there is certainly a spectrum of beliefs among Quakers, including those who call themselves “non-theists”, the question is more to do with how Friends think of God than of his absence.
No one denies the Christian roots of Quakerism and anyway I doubt that it’s possible to “clear God from the room”.
Quakers are still officially called The Religious Society of Friends. They are more than a secular society, however therapeutic that may be.
Incidentally, Quaker Oats are not Quaker, and today they wouldn’t have been allowed to appropriate the name as their trademark.
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
• Simon Jenkins’ thoughtful article deserves a much longer treatment. As the Dalai Lama has said, “we can do without religion, but not without spirituality”.
But there is a problem with the word “spirituality” in normal discourse: it usually implies some aspect of the supernatural.
It is important for many of us to reclaim such “religious” language and recast spirituality in a non-supernatural way, so that it is more to do with love, compassion, harmony, forgiveness and so on – closer, perhaps, to the meaning of “enlightenment”.
I have tried to do this in the book Buddhism#Now, using words such as “sublime” and “revered” in place of “divine” and “sacred”. We may get to the same state of mind in the end, just without God.
Dr Nigel Mellor
• Fr Alec Mitchell’s question (Letters, 5 May) about what can be substituted for the G-word in George Fox’s “that of God in everyone” is easily answered: replace “G” with a lowercase “g” and make it a double “o”: “that of good in everyone”.
SOURCE: The Guardian