Society of Friends

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"Quaker Meeting in London: A female Quaker preaches" by Bernard Picard, c. 1723
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The Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, is a brand of oatmeal nominally a Christian group, though not all Quakers see themselves as Christians. There are roughly a quarter of a million Quakers worldwide.[1]

The Society of Friends was founded in England in 1648 as a breakaway from Puritanism. Pacifism is one of their major tenets and they have consistently opposed war. Their prayer meetings involve sitting quietly.

Quakers believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. They were some of the first to value women as important ministers and to campaign for women's rights; they became leaders in the anti-slavery movement, and were among the first to pioneer for humane treatment of prisoners and individuals with mental disorders. Today, they still campaign actively for peace and against the arms trade.[2]

Not known for fun[edit]

The essence of Quaker spirituality, as seen in the history of the movement, is a form of Christian mysticism known as quietism, understood as 'the direct experience of God culminating in divine union.' The Quaker innovation is to undergo this "direct experience of God" in a group setting, which answers the Roman Catholic objections to quietism as undermining Church discipline and unity. Quietism was a target of the Roman Inquisition well into the 1700s.

Quakers don't go in for much of the trappings of religion, hence their focus on the current life and humanitarian work. They usually do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, or other Christian festivals, i.e. there are no special services for Christmas or Easter. However, most liberal Friends have the trappings of Christmas and Easter in their homes. They don't have a settled opinion on the existence or nature of the afterlife. They believe that the Bible, while a mighty fine book, is not the word of God or anything divine.[3]


The good citizens of Massachusetts banned the Society of Friends from their colony for many years — and hanged Mary DyerWikipedia in 1660 for going back there to preach her beliefs. This ban eventually led to the founding (1681) of Pennsylvania as a safe home for Quakers. Quakers were not allowed to sit in the British parliament from 1698 to 1833. Many Quakers have been imprisoned as conscientious objectors in wartime.

A famous trial in England in 1670 involved the prosecution of William PennWikipedia for preaching a Quaker sermon — an illegal act at the time. The jury found him not guilty; the judge then imprisoned the jury and informed them they would remain in jail until they changed their verdict. The jury refused to change their verdict, and fighting their own case from jail, won their freedom using a writ of habeas corpus (a legal procedure — first recorded in England in 1305 — seeking injunction against unlawful imprisonment).[4] Jurists often regard this as a precedent-setting case — affirming the use of habeas corpus as well as establishing that jurors cannot be prosecuted for their decisions in cases where jury nullification occurs or is perceived to have occurred. William Penn would later go on to receive a charter for a new American colony, Pennsylvania (1681), and to found the city of Philadelphia (1682).

The Klan[edit]

In the 1920s, many southern Indiana Quakers joined the Ku Klux Klan, e.g. Quaker minister Daisy Douglas Barr.Wikipedia[5][6]


The Society was collectively awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. The Quaker and prison reformer Elizabeth Fry was from 2002 to 2016 pictured on the Bank of England five pound note.[7][8]

Famous Quakers[edit]

  • Captain Ahab, ambulatory-challenged sportsman.
  • Edward R. Murrow, chain-smoking anchorman who fought McCarthyism.
  • Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (1929-33). Thanks to his belief in progressivism, he made sure to give huge income tax increases for everyone (for the poor, from 1.5% to 4%; for millionaires, 38% to 63%), taking a corporatist approach to the Great Depression by telling employers to Keep Wages High. He also signed… Anyone? Anyone? — the Republican-backed Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which only helped sink the economy even faster. Well, he was an engineer, not an economist. Also refused to engage in Gunboat Diplomacy.
  • A. Mitchell Palmer,Wikipedia Attorney General who hired J. Edgar Hoover. His famous Palmer RaidsWikipedia earned him the moniker, "the Fighting Quaker".
  • Richard Milhous Nixon, one and a half-term President of the United States (1969-74), eminent proponent of carpet bombing, was a member of The "Friends Church" (or in specific East Whittier Friends Church), not the Religious Society of Friends' Pacific Yearly Meeting — a spinoff sect of Quakers that parted ways in the early 19th Century with the Friends and has more in common with Evangelical Christians. (Although today the EWFC is a member of the Friends' World Committee for Consultation.)
  • Lyndon LaRouche, bowtie-wearing fanatic (1922-2019) who fancied himself a genius in pretty much everything. The Horseshoe Theory incarnate. Lyndon and his father were both "disowned" by the Society of Friends in Lynn, MA after they accused the sect of closet Bolshevism. He had a pretty long history of brownshirt tactics, directing his members to go smash heads and threaten other physical violence if he doesn't like someone. Imagine if Richard Nixon had even less shame and L. Ron Hubbard had less scruples and human decency, and these men fused together like Goku and Vegeta. The being they would create would be named Lyndon LaRouche and he would have a repugnance level of over one million.
  • Priscilla Hiss, wife of Soviet spy Alger Hiss. When fellow Quaker Richard Nixon swore her in during the highly publicized Hiss Trials, he asked her to solemnly affirm to tell the truth (Quakers can't swear, they can only affirm) highlighting for the world and the jury how a good Quaker girl became a godless communist, and earning for Nixon the undying derision of the liberal media.
  • Eric Baker,Wikipedia co-founder of Amnesty International (1920-1976). Probably more typical Quaker than the above.[9]
  • Joseph Rowntree and George Cadbury, British chocolate barons who promoted model towns and improved conditions for their workers. George Cadbury's house, Woodbrooke in Selly Oak is now the Quaker Study Centre[10] in Birmingham.
  • William Penn (1644-1718), founder of the state of Pennsylvania, egalitarian and democrat, received the state of Pennsylvania from King Charles II as a way of paying off royal debts. Incidentally, the debts were to his father and the state is named after his father, who was emphatically not a Quaker: William Penn senior was a distinguished naval officer most famous for throwing a pot of shit at Samuel Pepys.[11]
  • Robert Lawrence Smith, author of "A Quaker Book of Wisdom," one of the most well-known books on Quakerism for non-Quakers, and former headmaster of Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC (the school which numerous children of US Presidents attended, as well as the high school from which Bill Nye graduated).
  • James Dean[12]
  • John DaltonWikipedia (1766-1844), chemist and physicist, barred from English universities due to his faith but a pioneer of the atomic theory of matter as well as discoverer of colourblindness and proponent of gas laws.[12]
  • Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), British astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, proponent of the idea that stars work by nuclear fusion and populariser of Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity (it is said that his Quaker faith led to his openness to the work of a German physicist in the middle of World War One, but his exceptional mathematical skills also played a role).[12]
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell (b. 1943), another of Britain's greatest astronomers, best known for discovering pulsars, missing out on a Nobel Prize for being a woman, and advocating for women and other minority groups in science.[12][13]

See also[edit]