Recently I sat down with a dozen or so of my LDS friends and spoke with them about my desire to affiliate with Quakerism. I talked about my deconversion from Mormonism and the joys I feel when worshiping with Friends. As I spoke about Quaker beliefs, practices, and values, one of my friends questioned whether The Religious Society of Friends could really be labeled a ‘religion’ because it doesn’t have any concrete beliefs about the afterlife.
I found this post from Friend Heather to be a nice response to the question of whether Quakerism is a religion. I particularly like these paragraphs:
I don’t worry too much about whether others call what we do a religion. What does the name matter? If we earnestly try to turn our hearts to God, to sit together in waiting worship, and to follow the promptings of the Light revealed to us, then it doesn’t matter what we’re called.
I thought of the many other times and places where I feel the sense of worship: around trees, in meditation, at concerts, in acts of service, walking, dancing, in the presence of the ocean, listening to a child, making love with my husband, experiencing sudden natural beauty, doing mundane chores, knitting, sharing a cup of tea with a friend. I am reminded that it’s all sacred, that God is everywhere, and that all I need to do is open my heart and be where I am, right now.
What do you think? Do names matter? I suspect that most LDS would say that they do. Mormons hold the belief that the name of their church was divinely revealed and that each word in its name has significance. I’m not sure that Quakers give such importance to such words. I do know that they call themselves a ‘religious society’ rather than a ‘religion’ to distance themselves from the hierarchical trappings of most religions (and certainly those contemporary to the founding of Quakerism).
I’ve discussed before how labels matter to me because they are about creating self-identity. But I’m not sure if it’s important to me whether Quakerism is a ‘religion’ per se. It just feels right to me and for me. And perhaps that’s all that matters?