A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith

Note:  This is a guest entry by Eric Stetson.

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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.

http://www.voxhumri.com/books/a-lost-history-of-the-bahai-faith/

http://www.amazon.com/Lost-History-Bahai-Faith-Progressive/dp/0692331352

 

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:

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/dennett-and-lascola-study-on-nonbelieving-clergy/

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!

http://huumanists.org/

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

http://www.uuchristian.org/

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:

http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Secular_charities

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?

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%204&version=NIV

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.

Pamela Geller, pathological liar, hypocrite and bigot

As opposed to radical Islam as I may be, and as offensive as I find many Islamic dogmas to be, I would never lie to try to either discredit Islam or attack Muslims or people who do not hate Muslims. But Pamela Geller, a right-wing extremist who would have been at home in the John Bitch [pun intended] Society of the 1950s (when it accused President Eisenhower of being under Communist influence), would lie and in the worst way.

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/pamela-geller-obama-says-isil-deceive-and-disarm-americans

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller believes that President Obama and other administration officials use the translation “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) instead of “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) to describe the Middle Eastern extremist group because he wants to trick Americans who don’t know what or where the Levant is. After telling conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd yesterday that Obama aided Islamic extremists, Geller alleged that the president is trying to trick the American people by using the translation “ISIL.”

“He says ‘ISIL,’ and why ‘ISIL’ over ‘ISIS’? In my opinion, because it’s to distract, dissemble, deceive and disarm the American people,” Geller said. “The Islamic State of Levant, if anyone looks it up they see Levant and they are like, ‘What’s Levant?’ He knows this.”

 

If Geller’s analysis is correct, she has also been aiding the group, as she has regularly used the terms “ISIL” and “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” on her blog Atlas Shrugs, where she repeatedly wrote that ISIL, and not ISIS, is the correct name for the group:

The media had amended the name of the Islamic army tearing through Syria and Iraq to ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq). But the correct name is ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). What is the the Levant? The geographical area they mean to rule. The Levant includes Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and parts of Turkey.

What else can she say wrong? How about:

http://pamelageller.com/2014/08/obama-sends-defense-secretary-hagel-turkey-supporter-isis-build-coalition-willing.html/

Bush had close to 50 countries in his “Coalition of the Willing.”

Obama has so alienated and abandoned our allies, he has no one.

He is sending Hagel to Turkey to build a coalition to fight the Islamic State.

Note to Obama: Turkey is supporting the Islamic State.

But he knows this, too. Obama says he has no strategy to defeat ISIS. He doesn’t because he has provided tacit support for the Islamic State — especially in Syria.

Really? Is there any evidence for ANY of those above assertions?  If not, why make them?  Oh, because when it comes to Muslims or those who do not hate Muslims as much as Geller does, honor and truthfulness are not issues, are they?

And how seriously can you take someone who names her blog after one of the most notorious writings of the extremist loon Ayn Rand?

To see what kind of people take that nutcase seriously, just listen to this:

http://janetmefferdpremium.com/2014/08/26/janet-mefferd-radio-show-20140826-hr-2/

Damn you, Stephen Birkland!

Read this about a certain Baha’i leader:

http://bahaikipedia.org/Stephen_Birkland

Mr. Stephen Birkland is currently serving as a member of the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the Bahá’í Faith. Before his election to the House of Justice, he was a member of the International Teaching Center.[1] Prior to his service at the World Center, Mr. Birkland served as an Auxiliary Board member beginning in 1976 and a Counsellor from 1993. He also served on the board of Trustees for Huqúqu’lláh in the United States for 10 years.[2]
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Four Ways to Create a Religion of Hypocrites

1. State that religion no longer needs clergy……and replace them with leaders that are as authoritarian as the clergy ever was.
2. Claim that men and women should be equal……but then deny women membership in the all-powerful leadership council of the religion.
3. Condemn as heretics those who believe in your religion but dare to challenge the claims of your religion’s current leadership, while at the same time claiming to welcome as friends the followers of other religions.
4. Claim there is harmony between science and religion, but also claim that anything your leaders say is absolutely true, even if on topics science is expected to address.
Any one of these makes a religion not worth following, but what do you do if you find a religion that has all four such contradictions?