Nontheist Approaches to Religious Language

28 February 2022 - 27 March 2022



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Many Quakers today attend worship but find words like ‘God’ or ‘Spirit’ difficult. What can we say about a Divine we can’t understand and may not believe in? This course explores ineffability, metaphor, and other aspects of this challenge.

If you are a nontheist, atheist, agnostic or simply have questions about traditional religious language, this course will help you to understand the problems involved and consider alternatives. If you are fine with talking about God, the Inward Light, or other terms, this course will help you understand why other people find those words difficult and may prefer not to use them.

This course has four live discussion sessions. We start by considering how we learn words and how context shapes our understanding. We then explore what happens when something is ineffable or cannot be expressed in words, and how metaphor and other poetic tools help us say things indirectly. Finally, we will look at how Quakers are facing these challenges and how different approaches play out in communities.

The start date for the course is when the online content and discussion forum becomes available; you can work on this material at any time to suit you.

The live Zoom sessions are at 19:00-20:30 (UK time) every Tuesday during this period.

All times are given as UK time. Make sure to check your own timezone at

This course will involve:

DiscussionOnline discussion forumOnline Learning MaterialsZoom Session

Accessibility info:

On the booking form, there is a chance for you to let us know about any accessibility or communication adjustments that will enable you to participate more fully in the course. Automated Zoom closed captions are available for all live sessions but if you feel you require more accurate closed captioning please email us directly in addition to booking.

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