What is the Religious Society of Friends? The Religious Society of Friends is the name of the group commonly known as Quakers. Friends are a Christian group who believe in the presence of God within each person, often referred to as the "Inner Light." Quakers emphasize a personal commitment to God and humanitarian causes. When was Quakerism founded? The Religious Society of Friends was founded in the mid-17th century in England by George Fox (1624-1691). Where did the names "Friends" and "Quaker" come from? The Society of Friends took its name from the New Testament gospel of John, which says, "You are my friends if you do whatever I command." (John 15:12-15 ). The original Quakers called themselves "Friends of Truth" after this verse. They were also known as the "Children of Light." The Society of Friends is commonly known as Quakers because the original Friends were mocked for "trembling with religious zeal." What are the major Friends groups currently in the U.S.? There are three major organized groups of Friends in the U.S. today: Friends United Meeting claims about 100,000 members worldwide, including 40,000 in the U.S. Friends General Conference claims about 33,000 members in the U.S. and Canada Evangelical Friends Alliance claims over 100,000 members in 20 countries. Quaker meetings are organized into regular cycles: different groups have preparative, monthly, and yearly meetings. Are all Quakers pacifists? According to the an introduction to Quakerism from the Friends General Conference, the Society of Friends does not require all its members to be pacifists. The Quaker position on pacifism is that it is left up to each individual in deciding whether to serve in the armed forces. Beliefnet columnist Kenneth Briggs provides additional details to this question in a recent column.