Quaker Beliefs

These are some of the original beliefs of the seventeenth-century Quakers. Later Quakers would adopt policies of quietism (basically not converting people) as well as a belief in pacifism and social justice.

  • Inner Light.
  • The Quakers’ most major belief was in the inner light. What they meant by the inner light is relatively vague. The inner light lives within people almost like an organ that is used for spiritual purposes. Because God lives within you, it eliminates the need for churches and formal training for ministers (it was like Fox’s ‘so there’ response to people who criticized his lack of formal education). This was a big difference from the strict hierarchy that dominated the Church of England.

  • Pre-Destination. Or Lack Thereof
  • The Quakers also did not believe in predestination. Predestination was a common belief that you were born a sinner and there was nothing you could do to change your fate or whether or not you were destined to go to heaven or hell. The Quakers strongly objected to this belief and countered saying that babies were born innocent—though, of course, would inevitably fall prey to sin, despair, and degradation.

  • Worldly Goods
  • The Quakers emphasized a simple life without much expression of personal vanity or attachment to worldly goods. The Quakers helped express that belief by insisting on not wearing clothes that indicated their status in anyway—a practice that William Penn, later a prominent Quaker, was heavily criticized for not following when he first converted.

  • Egalitarianism
  • The Quakers were very interested in leveling out many of the structural inequalities that occurred in English society. They did this through their practice of simple dress, reduction in worldly goods, as well as their belief that whoever was in touch with their inner light could be a spiritual leader. This belief later manifested itself in protests against slavery and war.