What do Quakers Believe?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Quaker faith is one with a number of beliefs that set it aside from other religions and Christian sects. These beliefs make members very difficult to define, since they are largely governed by their own personal faith and ethics, and the religion actually lacks a governing universal creed. Since the Quakers have had a surprisingly large impact on society, given how small their global membership is, understanding their basic beliefs can be very helpful.

The Quaker faith is closely associated with Christianity, though some modern branches identify with other religions.
The Quaker faith is closely associated with Christianity, though some modern branches identify with other religions.

The origins of the Quakers, also called the Religious Society of Friends, can be found in England during the mid-1600s. This was a period of extreme religious turmoil, and some people felt that the Christianity of England at that time was no longer true to the teachings of Christ. As a result, they founded their own religious group, which is closely associated with Christianity. Some modern branches, however, can also profess another faith at the same time, such as Buddhism, and they may also say that they are agnostic.

Quakers do not take oaths; they prefer to take affirmations instead.
Quakers do not take oaths; they prefer to take affirmations instead.

The central guiding principle of the faith is that the spirit comes from within, in a concept called “inner light.” An individual's inner light governs his or her beliefs, and no one in the faith will tell someone else what he or she should believe. This is a reflection of the larger belief that all people can commune with God, should they choose to do so, without the actions of an intermediary. In addition, members are expected to translate their inner faith into direct action. For example, if the spirit moves someone to believe that the mistreatment of animals is wrong, he or she must act to put a stop to that practice.

Quakers also do not believe in a hierarchy of any kind, and they have a very egalitarian religious practice. Men and women of all social ranks are considered equal, just as they are in the eyes of God. Member of the faith also tend to believe in living simply and honestly, and they prefer to take affirmations rather than oaths. This preference stems from the idea that taking an oath implies that one might lie, whereas an affirmation implies agreement with the principle of honesty. As a result of this belief, some nations allow people to take affirmations rather than oaths in court or similar situations.

At a set time every week, Quakers meet together. Most branches follow a specific program of worship that includes readings and a sermon. A few practice waiting worship, which consists of sitting in silence, only speaking if they feel particularly moved by the spirit. Otherwise, the group sits quietly, taking the time to contemplate God and their daily lives. In organizations run by the group, a silent period may be held daily for the purposes of contemplation.

A Quaker's inner light controls what she believes.
A Quaker's inner light controls what she believes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


If Quakers have regular jobs and war taxes are a requisite for holding onto that job, how can Quakers justify this indirect violence? Clearly, anyone who knowingly pays war taxes is cooperating with a killing machine. This is a huge dilemma for me.


@Post 16: This has changed with time, but the Quakers believed that everyone was equal, regardless of race. This was a point of contention among various Quaker meetings during the times of slavery, but even when blacks at meetings had to sit in separate benches, they were still worshiping in the same room as the white Quakers. I go to a Quaker school, and have done since kindergarten. From what I understand about racial equality within the Quaker meeting to which my school is/was attached, I remember hearing about the contentions about racial equality, but that the meeting resolved that black Quakers could sit in the same benches alongside white Quakers much, much earlier than anyone else would even hear of it, and that through consensus, the meeting decided that they did believe in racial equality far earlier than non-Quaker groups did (certainly so for the US government and laws). Quakers were also a major part of the underground railroad as well, and my school was one of the New York City stops.

For more information, I encourage you to check out The Quaker Testimonies, which is essentially the, "this is what we believe" document of Quakerism, which is republished fairly frequently (annually, maybe?). Anyway, you can look into that as well as older versions of it for a more definite answer, as I can only answer your question from the point of view of someone who knows one particular meeting's history somewhat, not in terms of all Quakers, as there are vast differences between meetings and between different sects of Quakers.

My school's meeting is a Hicksite Quaker meeting, but there are also several kinds of conservative meetings now, with the Hicksite (liberal)/Orthodox (conservative) schism occurring in 1820-1830. I hope I've helped!


What three things did the Quakers believe in?

Antislavery, Nonviolence, everyone was equal in God's eyes...

or Antislavery, Violence, All whites were equal in the eyes of God.

I'm doing a history paper and can't find the answer. Can anyone help?


Quakers believe that Jesus (if he existed at all) was a good man and a great teacher. However there are other great teachers, and we can learn from all of them.

Quakers don't spend much time wondering whether or not someone was the son of man, or sent to redeem us, but believe that you only have one crack at life, and need to get on and make the best of it.


Well it looks like I'm a Quaker. I know this isn't discussing the article. I have not been christened, baptized or undertaken any religious indoctrination, but have always had a strong belief of the God from within all who dare look.

I will be looking for my first meeting asap with a hope to meet many like minded friends. I personally see the beauty in all faiths based on the love and respect of all and would find it impossible to chose one over the other, if forced.

However I have always believed that I don't need another to tell me what the rules are in accordance with god as I have always felt he tells me himself. Seems I have stumbled into the right place. Thanks for the site.


A couple here at our church (they also serve on committees, one is the Peace and Justice Committee) have been caught in lies. Not one or two, but they tell heinous lies straight faced. They are also involved in generating a law suit. We don't understand, we thought they were good people.


The MM I attend has welcomed me and many others, others who were not made to feel welcome at other places of worship. A Quaker will not try and tell another what is right or wrong, in a sense that is proselytizing, something that a Quaker will not do.

When Quakerism started, it was truly a Christian belief, but Quakerism has grown and developed over the centuries. The term Quakerism is assuming that all groups believe the same thing, and this is definitely not true. Each MM is a bit different from the next, and there is also a difference between the FUM and FGC Meetings. The similarity is that all Quakers believe in the Inner Light and that there is that of God in everyone.


Salvation only comes though Jesus Christ and God has appointed people to go and spread this news using his holy word. 2 Corinthians 5:20 "So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Sitting in silence waiting for God to prompt you about something like animal cruelty as it states above, is missing the whole point of the ministry God has given to all those who believe and accept him as their saviour.


Well said #8. The beauty of it.


I take it back that there isn't "original" Quaker practice. Indeed, when George Fox began his mission it *was* Christ-centered. But because one of our strongly held beliefs is that God speaks truth to every individual and every individual has God within themselves, the "truth" is different for different people. Ah, the beauty of it!


There is no such thing as "original" Quaker faith. Your faith is living and experiential today as God speaks to your condition.

The beauty of this practice is that you can have individuals believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God and you can have faithful Friends believe simply in "that of God in everyone", with shared values, such as peace, equality and simplicity. It's one of the dynamics of Quakerism that I find very attractive and I am a Quaker by lineage back to George Fox in England.

My ancestor welcomed Fox into his orchard to preach his direct experience with God.


You do not need to be a Christian to be a Quaker. It is not mandatory for membership. You can come to this practice with your truth as God (the inner light) gives it to you. A "true" Quaker does not tell anyone what they should believe. God can deliver the message quite beautifully without our interpretation.


as a christian, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and three to me. jesus is my saviour and the only mediator. What do quakers teach about Jesus?


Quakers are Christians and no true Quaker can profess to be another religion. Either you are Quaker or you are not. Liberal "Quakerism" does not represent the original Quaker Faith.


this is the best site yet!

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