It is always interesting and sometimes perplexing to come across religions that readily admit that they hold no creed. It seems so strange because when people think of religion, they still often think of a set of rules or beliefs that one must believe in and live by in order to be “saved.” (And such creeds are often the reason that people have no time for religion).
I have been a part of two religions or spiritual movements that do not have set creeds, Unity, and currently Unitarianism. Instead, each has sets of principles which are generally agreed upon, but congregants are free to disagree with these principles with no threat of excommunication.
Today, though, I read a bit about the Religious Society of Friends, more popularly known as Quakers:
“For many unfamiliar with Quakers, the way we speak of our faith and the diversity of belief found among us may be perplexing. Even those who have been among Friends for a while may find it challenging to sort out our theology. This difficulty arises in part from the fact that the Society of Friends is not a single, homogeneous group but a large spiritual family with several branches that have evolved in different directions over the past three centuries. Another part of the challenge in understanding Quaker faith derives from our attitude towards creeds or other formal statements of faith. Friends do not make a written creedal statement the test of faith or the measure of suitability for membership.
The lack of a creed has sometimes led to the misconception that Friends do not have beliefs or that one can believe anything and be a Friend. However, most Quakers take the absence of a creed as an invitation and encouragement to exercise an extra measure of personal responsibility for the articulation of faith. Rather than rely on priests or professional theologians, each believer is encouraged to take seriously the personal disciplines associated with spiritual growth. Out of lives of reflection, prayer, faithfulness, and service flow the statements of belief, both in word and in deed, which belong to Friends.”
North Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice, 1984.
Having a creed that we can recite (such as the Nicene Creed) can be very meaningful for many people, I acknowledge that. However, I prefer these more “fluid” religions, which leaves more of a responsibility on the individual and makes people like me ask “How am I living my life lately? I know I’m in no threat from any church or religious organization, or God for that matter, so what do I do now?” As I recently read somewhere, “Religion is what you do on Monday through Saturday, not just on Sundays.” I think that personal practices and disciplines such as reflection and prayer, spiritual reading and writing are important, and then I must take what I have learned and go into the world and act differently. In a world of injustice, I seek justice. In a world that focuses on the wealthy, I focus on the poor. In a world that demands that my needs are met yesterday, I instead learn patience. It excites me to see religions that realize and embrace the evolution of their institutions.
I’ll end off with sharing the 7 Principles of the Canadian Unitarian Council:
We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote: