It all makes sense if one remembers that religion, as brought to a mass market, is a commercial phenomenon. In any market you’re going to have competition and all sorts of people trying to exploit various potential market niches. It’s why rip-roaring faiths survive better than private-contemplation faiths; in the latter, the revenue model can be troublesome.
I’ve met a few rip-roaring Quakers. Fun people!!
Quakers are an interestingly varied bunch. George Fox sounds like he was probably suffering from some neurological ailment or other, and for a long while they were much in that sort of vein. Nowadays, Pennsylvania Quakers are much more in the quiet-contemplation side of things, and I gather that modern British Quakers think they’re a bunch of wimps. Meanwhile, on the west coast we have some groups of Quakers that are rather Pennsylvania-ish, and some others that sound a bit more George Fox-ish.
The history of Christian churches does seem to be schism after schism after schism, and the velocity was turned up enormously by the Reformation, when changing your church was made less likely to result in your death or imprisonment.
The Milwaukee Quaker Friends are very politically active, at least those I talked to. They consider getting arrested for political protest a day well spent.
I think many of the statements of the article are too vague or misleading.
We might see a Babel of religions because of our imperfect understanding, but we’d also see convergence. As the disparate religious groups compared notes, common supernatural truths would become apparent. Positive feedback would take hold as we matched our tentative consensus against that rudimentary understanding of the Divine. And if that supernatural Divine wanted us to understand, it would nudge us in the right direction so Humanity would gradually cobble together an accurate understanding.
There’s an awful lot of “common supernatural truths” among the 2.4 billion Christians in the world. Simply citing the number of denominations hides the fact that about 2 billion of those Christians are either Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or “historical Protestants” (Reformed, Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, etc.) - who accept all the ecumenical creeds and share the same understanding of God and Jesus. They might disagree on many of the practical implications and the detailed understandings of some doctrines, but the basics are all the same.
There’s also a lot of shared truths among the 1.8 billion Muslims, who all regard Muhammad as a prophet and the Quran as God’s revelation.
I would go further and say that Christians, Muslims, and Jews all agree that there is one omnipotent, holy, infinite God who created the world, and he revealed himself to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and David. That’s over half of the world’s population agreeing on that.
Let’s compare that to atheist movements. New Atheism was barely a decade old when it split into those who believed in Atheism+ and those who didn’t. Shouldn’t we expect a little bit more convergence from a movement which claimed to be filled with “bright” people and was based on rationalism, skepticism, and science?
Christians, drop the pretense that this is an intellectual project. Admit, at least to yourselves, that your belief is cultural and built on nothing more solid than tradition.
No movement is a purely intellectual project. Humans are not purely intellectual. Even the public propagation of science is not a purely intellectual project, but a rhetorical and emotional one as well.
One might also argue that modern science is also a culturally Western idea. Sure, there are plenty of non-Western scientists around the world, but their intellectual lineages were historically descended from originally Western scientists. Does this undermine the truth value of scientific propositions? I don’t think so.
My take: this blog post is not intellectually insightful. It’s really just a feel good piece for convinced atheists.
Here in Seattle, I was involved in an anti-draft movement during the Carter administration when Carter asked Congress to restart draft registration. The Quakers were always helpful in that – they offered services to people who needed to sort of build up a file to attest to their conscientious objector status, and that sort of thing. I recall that a few years later, Quakers were helping provide student loans to people who wouldn’t sign the statement that they had registered for the draft.
Talk about great revenue models! Their oats are big sellers.
Not to mention their motor oil.