Presenting the work of Quaker atheists, agnostics, humanists, and others who practice Quakerism without supernatural beliefs

Nontheism Among Friends workshop — Jan. 26-28, 2007, NY

Powell House conference center, NYYM

Robin Alpern and Joan Lukas, facilitators

As early as 1976, the Friends General Conference Gathering hosted a well-attended Workshop for Nontheistic Friends. In the decades since, Friends have become increasingly aware of the theological diversity of our Religious Society. Through experience and statistical studies, we have learned a large proportion of our members and attenders are somewhere on a spectrum that includes postchristians, agnostics, atheists, secularists, humanists. How can we be nontheists and Quakers too? If our Quaker life is not centered on belief in God, what is our center? What are our challenges? How can theists and nontheists enrich each other while holding views that differ?

We will explore the faith and practice of Quaker nontheists and the richness of a spiritual life not necessarily dependent on belief in God. While sharing our theologies, we will remain grounded in what we “know experimentally”. To expand our base of knowledge, we will consider the findings of a recent survey of nontheistic Quakers. We invite all seekers, to celebrate and deepen our own beliefs and practices, and our appreciation for the beliefs and practices of others, so that we may all enjoy what Henry Cadbury called “the natural variety in Quakerism.”

Robin Alpern, a member of Scarsdale Meeting, is one of the originators and many-times co-leader of the Nontheism Among Friends workshop, offered at the FGC Gathering since 1996. Joan Lukas, a member of Cambridge Meeting (NEYM), has facilitated the workshop several times. Robin and Joan each contributed an essay to Godless for God’s Sake: Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism, David Boulton, ed., available from

Cost: $180 adults, $90 for ages 13-22, $45 infants-12, & $90 commuters
Childcare with 3 weeks notice

Tentative outline:
Friday, January 26
8:30-10 pm
brief intros
overview, guidelines, brief background of workshop
icebreakers (1 or 2 brief ones)
David Rush’s survey (or presentation of his new work)

Saturday, January 27
9-11:45 am
extended introductions (Being a nontheist Friend)
small group discussion of our relationship w/our MM

1-3pm free time

3-4:15 pm small group discussion of our membership status (each individual’s) and how it’s affected by nontheism; reports back to large group

4:30-5:45 pm interest groups (topics chosen by participants); reports back to large group

discussion: what are challenges we face?
discussion: gifts of nontheist Friends to RSoF; gifts of RSoF to nontheist Friends

Sunday, January 28
9-10:30 am
meeting for worship
sharing about meeting for worship

10:30-11:45 am
next steps: personal and NTF community
resources (book, FGC workshop & others, website, listserv, etc.)