In response to J's observation "But Quakerism is a religion--I don't see how there's any way of getting around that fact. If I reject religion outright, I reject Quakerism" -
I see Friends/Quakers as an identity, as a community, as a historical trajectory, as a kind of troopbond, and I, personally, actually don't see the Society of Friends as a religion. I also see the bond aspect of religion as scary and dangerous - a kind of brainwashing potentially. For example, Catholicism can be viewed quite realistically as a death cult, by anthropologists and sociologists, for example, with its key central symbol what it is. It is also a global, 2000 year old institution - an interesting and long example in contemporary historical terms, notwithstanding evolutionary history. And the differences between religions and cults aren't great, yet religions and cults are so widespread - think ancient Greece. I see much religious behavior and thinking as troopbonding around ideas and symbols. Why are religion and cults so brainwashing? I think we might look to Richard Dawkins for some clear-minded explanations, informed by evolutionary biology.
And Quakers, too, can and do perpetuate negative aspects of religion, in my experience, in conjunction with all the good which Friends do, and the senses of community and caring which Meetings create. So I see nontheistic Friends are shaping an important discourse, in this Friendly openness to the areligious, to the nonreligious, to the nonspiritual and to the antireligious. So I think agency and thinking vis-a-vis Meetings is very sensible; negative 'politics' can emerge anywhere. In fact, it's the creative possibilities for this discourse to be ongoingly generative of conversations around nontheism in these respects, which is fascinating to me. I appreciate the connectedness and friendliness, too, of Quakers, and nontheist Friends, and especially the pragmatic service orientation, but I find it great that we can create a conversation around areligiosity, and that, in this nontheistically Friendly Google Group as minuting process and archive, this discourse becomes something which many can engage conversationally through many cycles of the moon, and rotations of the earth, 10s of thousands of generations ahead.
With friendly greetings,
(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2010/04/eastern-deciduous-forest-i-see.html - April 16, 2010)