A Guide to Religions, Religious Information and Help in Search for God

Quakerism (Religious Society of Friends)

The Christian Protestant religion of Quakerism has an estimated 113,000 followers or Quakers. Quakerism was founded by George Fox (1624-1691) in England circa 1647-1660. The group that Fox started called themselves the "Children of Light". Supposedly, Quakers got their name from Judge Bennett, who noticed some of them "quaking" during testimonies, in 1673. However, many Quakers prefer to be simply called "Friends".

Quakerism has its roots in Christianity. George Fox believed in and wrote about Jesus Christ, emphasizing that each person can have a personal relationship with the living Jesus Christ. In this regard, we consider Quakers to be Christians.

Otherwise, Quakerism is very different from most other Christian denominations. Quakerism has no creed or required beliefs. However, Quakers generally believe in the "divine inner light" or spark of God that exists in each and every human being.

Quakers were persecuted in England for certain practices, in particular for their refusal to take oaths and fight in war. Sometimes, persecutions included imprisonment and hefty fines.

So, many Quakers including William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania) fled to America. Friends General Conferences (of the Religious Society of Friends) began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania circa 1862. (NOTE: most Quaker churches or meeting places are named "Religious Society of Friends".)

Quakerism has no central headquarters or unifying body. Unlike most other Protestant religions that are ruled by Congregational, Episcopalian or Presbyterian forms of government, most Quaker meetings and meeting places are freely and independently organized and managed.

In a way, Quaker meetings are just a gathering of friends. Most Quakers meetings are conducted without a pastor, sermon or any of the other practices that are normally done in most other Christian denominations.

Instead, Quakers normally practice silent meditation during their meetings. Each person may briefly share messages that he/she sees and/or hears with others at the meetings. According to the Journal of George Fox (by George Fox), he first heard his "inner voice" in 1646.

There is one notable sect or offshoot of Quakerism known as the "Shaking Quakers" or simply, "Shakers". Under the leadership and James and Ann Wardley circa 1758, a group of Quakers noticeably shook or trembled under the influence of the Holy Spirit. (NOTE: according to one source, Shakers got their name from one of their unique practices, in which they "shaked" themselves to rid themselves of evil.)

Ann Lee (often called "Mother" Ann) led a group of eight Shakers from Manchester, England to the wilderness of Watervliet (formerly Niskeyuna), near Albany, New York circa 1772-1774, where the Shakerism movement grew.

Later, under the leadership of Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright, Shakers started to practice communalism in the 1790's. There were about 6,000 Shakers by 1840.

Unfortunately, Shakers almost became extinct by 1940. Only a few small groups remain today. One of the main reasons for this was that Shakers prohibited marriage and sex, which can be traced back to Ann Lee's belief in celibacy.

Another Shakers community was the Oneida Colony (or Oneida Community in upstate New York) that was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848. The Oneida Colony became famous for making highly-regarded silverware and the fact that Noyes allowed sex between female and male communal members by practicing a birth control technique called coitus reservatus (in which males never ejaculated).


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