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?

Logic fail in a comment

Someone made a comment below one of my oldest blog entries here and it ended up in my spam folder. I not only pulled it out of that folder and approved it, I wish to respond directly to it here to make sure that it gets maximum exposure, because I found it to be sheer nonsense! The original parts of the statement will be in red italics and my responses will be in green bold.

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The Universal House of the International Teaching Center of Justice

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice and...

Image by Adib Roy via Flickr

This ironic title above refers to the incestuous relationship that has recently been established between two major bodies of the Baha’i Administrative Order (BAO) : The Universal House of Justice (UHJ) and the International Teaching Center (ITC).  The former is the supreme governing body of the BAO, while the latter’s membership is appointed by the UHJ. The bureaucratic nature of this system is illustrated by the “alphabet soup” I used here, much like that of American governmental institutions. Note also that the buildings of the Baha’i World Center look a lot like the governmental buildings in Washington, D. C. Would you call this spiritual?

When the UHJ was first established in 1963, its membership included former members of the International Baha’i Council (these had been appointed by Shoghi Effendi) and members of various National Spiritual Assemblies.  Later, the UHJ established the ITC, intended to take the place of the dwindling Hands of the Cause of God. Over several decades, however, more and more members of the UHJ have tended to come from the ITC, until today, ALL the UHJ members were elected from the ITC’s membership, which was appointed by the UHJ previously. This is known as a “feedback loop”. The result is a system that is by nature extremely conservative and not open to new ideas that could allow it to adapt to changing circumstances.

This is truly no better than the Roman Catholic Church, in which the Popes are elected by the College of Cardinals, and these Cardinals are themselves appointed by the previous Popes!

Why peace activists (and critics of religion) sometimes fail

I just read something interesting in this article:

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/4749/why_liberal_religious_arguments_fail/

I participated for a time in a Los Angeles-area peace and justice group, an interfaith group filled with good and righteous people. Following the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, it was decided that we should be reaching out to area congregations to ask if we could provide them with guest speakers who would then tell the members of those congregations just how wrong and pointless the war and occupation was. There were few takers. Meanwhile, but on a separate track, this same group was establishing relationships with returning soldiers and military family members who opposed the war. I suggested that we might ask congregations whether they would care to hear from a service member or a military family member, someone who would simply tell their story, rather than hear from one of the well-briefed peaceniks. My suggestion was rejected, as this would have deprived the peaceniks of a chance to sound off about how wrong (how very wrong) George W. Bush and Don Rumsfeld had been in regard to principles of international law. I withdrew from the group shortly thereafter.

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