Baha’i Scandals

1. The Violation of Abdu’l-Baha – Baha’u’llah in the The Kitáb-i-Ahd, or Book of the Covenant (his Will and Testament) appointed Abdu’l-Baha as his successor, but also started that Abdu’l-Baha’s younger brother Mirza Muhammad Ali should be below him in rank and also be his immediate successor. Abdu’l-Baha disobeyed this commandment by depriving Muhammad Ali of any rank and replacing him as successor with his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, in his own Will and Testament.
2. The Madness of Shoghi Effendi – Abdu’l-Baha, in the same Will and Testament that appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Cause of God, stated that the Guardian must appoint either his firstborn or another branch (male descendant of Baha’u’llah) as his successor in his own lifetime. Shoghi Effendi not only had no children, but he expelled from the Baha’i community every single one of Abdu’l-Baha’s own descendants, making it impossible for him to keep his grandfather’s commandments. He also died in 1957 without leaving a Will and Testament of his own as required by Baha’i law, throwing the Faith into a crisis.
3. Failed prophecy cover up –  An early edition of Baha’u’llah and the New Era by J. E. Esselmont stated a prophecy by Abdu’l-Baha that by 1957 “Universal Peace will be firmly established, a Universal language promoted. Misunderstandings will pass away. The Bahá’í Cause will be promulgated in all parts and the oneness of mankind established.”  But what really happened that year was Shoghi Effendi’s death. The prophecy was deleted from later editions of the book.
4. Attack on Kalimat Press – In 2005 and 2006,The National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha’is of the United States and the United Kingdon issued orders to Baha’i communities under their command to stop selling books published by Kalimat Press, a small Baha’i owned book publishing company,  for publishing a few books that they happened to disapprove of. As a result, the company was crippled in its operations.
5. Dr. Hossein Danesh, sex offender – A member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, Danesh was stripped of his psychiatric license in the 1990s after being accused by several of his patients of sexual abuse. Instead of being expelled from the Baha’i community, he was sent to the Baha’i Landegg “university” in Switzerland, a private school which failed in 2005. Returning to Canada, he was hired by the NSA of Canada as a marriage and family therapist for fellow Baha’is.
6. Italian Baha’i financial scandal – Franco Ceccherini, a longtime member of the Italian National Spiritual Assembly, was found in 2007 to have stolen over 360,000  euros over 14 years while serving as the Assembly’s treasurer. This was discovered only when the Italian government audited the Baha’i community and then charged it 275,000 euros in back taxes, crippling financially the entire Italian Baha’i community.
7. Stephen Birkland, Baha’i secret police detective – In the 1990s, as a member of the Continental Board of Counselors for North America, Birkland led an investigation of Baha’is running an internet forum known as “Talisman” where members could openly question and debate issues regarding the management of the Baha’i communities. Birkland’s abusive tactics drove several Baha’is, including Juan Cole and John & Linda Walbridge, to resign rather than be condemned as covenant-breakers for taking part in Talisman, which was then shut down. Birkand was later rewarded for his zeal by being appointed to the International Teaching Center in 2008 and eventually he was elected to the Universal House of Justice in 2010.

Polonium halos

I got this comment from someone on an earlier blog entry regarding Creationism.


I came across this site and, although ridiculed by several here, I was very impressed with Purdom’s honest answers to Shermer! Everyone has God given choice to believe what they want but I personally believe there is ample evidence for belief in the Creator God; and it would take more faith on my part to believe evolutionist viewpoint. About 27 years ago I met Dr. Robert Gentry who told his story about discovering published evidence of polonium halos in granite — see — and lost his job as a result. Scientists whose whole lives and degrees are bound to evolutionary theory do not want to acknowledge such evidence as it would negate their own cherished belief and positions. What Purdom stated is true that there are lots of holes in the theory of evolution–seems like taught as fact now in schools–but it is still just a theory.

First, she did not bother to address the obvious hypocrisy of Georgia Purdom, as noted in my original blog entry. How can you call someone “honest” if there is evidence of hypocrisy? Does Judy need a dictionary?

Second, people are entitled to their own opinions (“I consider the Bible to be the greatest book ever made.”), but they are NOT entitled to their own facts (“The planet Earth is less than 10,000 years old.”). Facts by definition are based on clear empirical evidence and two people looking at the same evidence should come to the same conclusion, which is why science is reliable by nature.

Third, evolution, and all other things in science, is NOT based on faith at all. And scientists usually do not use faith to justify their hypotheses and theories. They may argue about how to interpret limited amounts of evidence, but they all rely on evidence. The reason Creationists say otherwise is projection, the attributing of their own character flaws onto their opponents.  Christian fundamentalists literally CANNOT imagine people not having “faith” in something, so they assume that atheists have “faith” there is no God (an outright self-contradiction, since you have to have faith in something, not nothing) and that Atheism is the dogma that motivates scientists to support evolution. But no scientific theory is intended to debunk any specific religion. Science simply ignores religious beliefs.

Fourth, and most damning, polonium does not exist in isolation, but is often a product of the decay of uranium, which itself has a half-life of billions of years.

Polonium is a very rare element in nature because of the short half-life of all its isotopes. 210Po, 214Po, and 218Po appear in the decay chain of 238U; thus polonium can be found in uranium ores at about 0.1 mg per metric ton (1 part in 1010),[43][44] which is approximately 0.2% of the abundance of radium. The amounts in the Earth’s crust are not harmful. Polonium has been found in tobacco smoke from tobacco leaves grown with phosphate fertilizers.[45][46][47]

Because it is present in such small concentrations, isolation of polonium from natural sources is a very tedious process. The largest batch of the element ever extracted, performed in the first half of the 20th century, contained only 40 Ci (1.5 TBq) (9 mg) of polonium-210 and was obtained by processing 37 tonnes of residues from radium production.[48] Polonium is now obtained by irradiating bismuth with high-energy neutrons or protons.[17][49]

Robert Gentry is most likely a fraud. His research on polonium has never been duplicated by any other scientist. There are plenty of questions about his assumptions and methods.

Gentry is a physicist, not a geologist. He doesn’t follow accepted geologic reporting practice and consistently fails to provide the information that a third party would need to collect comparable samples for testing. For his research, Gentry utilized microscope thin sections of rocks from samples sent to him by others from various places around the world. Thus, he is unable to say how his samples fit in with the local or regional geological setting(s). He also does not provide descriptive information about the individual rock samples that make up his studies – i.e., the abundance and distribution of major, accessory, or trace minerals; the texture, crystal size and alteration features of the rocks; and the presence or absence of fractures and discontinuities.

Finally, saying that evolution is “only a theory” is like saying Barack Obama is only the President of the United States. A theory is actually the most powerful idea in science, bringing together an unlimited number of observations regarding a certain subject in an explanatory framework. The attempts to poke holes in evolutionary theory result from dishonesty, delusions, confusion about how evolution is supposed to work, and refusal to consider actual facts. That has always been the case!

Yes, all lives DO matter!

At First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, a banner was put up that said, “BLACK LIVES MATTER”. A couple of weeks later, someone decided to “correct” the message:


And one of the church members came up with an excellent response.


I would go farther. If you as a white person are not willing to talk about what black people go through, if you as a Christian are not willing to talk about what Jews, Muslims or other non-Christians go through, if you as a man are not willing to talk about what women go through, and if you as a straight person are not willing to talk about what gays go through, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!

A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith

Note:  This is a guest entry by Eric Stetson.


Dale Husband, a fellow Unitarian Universalist and former Baha’i, invited me to write a short summary of a book I edited which has recently been published, A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha’u’llah’s Forgotten Family.

lost-history-bahai-faith-coverThis book tells the story of the Baha’i faith through the writings of some of the children and grandchildren of its founder, and others who knew Baha’u’llah personally. They called themselves “Unitarian Baha’is” and stood for a broad-minded faith based on reason and individual freedom of conscience. Because of their liberal views and skepticism of absolute religious authority, they were excommunicated and shunned as the Baha’i faith developed into an organized religion. In fact, all but three descendants of Baha’u’llah – totaling dozens of people – were excommunicated by their own relatives who led the religion after its founder’s death.

The Baha’i faith was founded in the mid 1800s by a Persian nobleman in exile who claimed to be a new messenger of God. Baha’u’llah taught that all nations, races, and religions should come together to build a global civilization of peace and justice for all. Although Baha’i began as a pluralistic, reform-oriented offshoot of Islam, it quickly relapsed into a form of fundamentalism based on claims of infallibility by its leaders.

The Baha’i organization expects its members to believe that Baha’u’llah’s successors were perfect and infallible and that their interpretations and decisions can never be changed. A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith offers a different perspective on what Baha’i could have become – an Islamic-inspired faith with similar progressive values as Unitarian Universalism – if the Baha’i prophet’s own descendants had not been ostracized and expelled as heretics.

This book reveals how even liberal religious movements can be hijacked by dogmatic thinking. A cautionary tale for people of conscience of any faith.


Stop the Hypocrisy, NOW!

On the blog Why Evolution is True, we find this entry that seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with evolution, biology, or even science at all.  Instead, it is all about hypocrisy in religion:

Imagine being forced to go to work every day and, as part of the job, profess something that you absolutely don’t believe.  More than that: at least once a week you have to publicly profess it, and also counsel other people on the explicit premise that you share the beliefs you reject.  In other words, you’re forced to live a lie.

No one is forced to do anything like that.  The issue is that you have a job that makes you money and enables you to influence others. That sounds like a strong motivation to keep doing it, but there are alternatives.

Why do these preachers stay in the faith and on the job? Three reasons, mostly.  One is financial: what else could they do with their training if they left the ministry? Often they have neither equity (living in church-owned houses) nor pensions.

What about simply switching to become ministers of Unitarian Universalist churches or hold some other position in the Unitarian Universalist Association? You do not have to believe in the Bible as the Word of God to be a UU!

You can also profess liberal Christianity in the UUA and not be hypocritical:

Another, and perhaps more important, reason is that an admission of unbelief  would shock and disappoint their friends and family.  This is a very powerful motive, for facing the truth would rip asunder your network of social and family support.

Where is the unconditional love that Christians are supposed to have for people? And wouldn’t being open and honest about unbelief be just as likely to cause others to defect as well?

Finally, many of these preachers like their work, especially the part of the job that involves helping troubled people……..There’s absolutely no doubt that faith, and religious institutions, have provided important help for those in need or in trouble.  Some religions do this more than others.

There is no reason why they cannot do work like counseling or doing charity work, even if they are atheists.

But isn’t it a shame that there aren’t secular communities where those with altruistic instincts can “minister” without hypocrisy or fear?

That last remark irritates me.  The UUA may not be “secular”, but it provides exactly the sort of framework needed by those former Christian ministers. And then there are these many groups:

Nice going, Jerry Coyne. Your obsession with bashing religion only made yourself look ignorant! And that would not be the only time you did that!

The Bible and a flat Earth

About a decade ago, I was having a debate on evolution with a couple of Christian bigots. And the issue of the Bible teaching the Earth being flat came up. When I suggested this, they vehemently denied it.

The Bible says the Earth is round, Dale. He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. -Isaiah 40:22- So much for that argument…. Dale. Christians aren’t idiots.

And to prevent you from claiming that “Circle” does not mean “Sphere”, and playing a little word game, the English translation of the Bible was written in the English vernacular of that time. They used the word “circle” to describe the shape of anything round, like a melon, or a grapefruit, or a round rock. So don’t go there. This isn’t Geometry class.

But then again, how would they have explained THIS passage?

Matthew 4: 8-10

Again, the devil took him [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

Why would the devil have to take Jesus to a mountain to show him anything? If the Earth is a sphere, such a move is pointless. Only if the Earth is indeed flat does it make sense. Which is why I did not believe my opponents then and I certainly don’t now!

Of course, the story could be only a metaphor. But that would apply to almost anything else in the Bible, including the creation stories in the book of Genesis.