One of the greatest disappointments in my life as a follower of the Baha’i Faith (1997-2004) was observing a couple I’d been close to go through a bitter divorce and the fallout that resulted from that. First, read this for a general background:
An internal Baha’i household survey done in 1987 found that the divorce rate in the U.S. Baha’i community was higher than that in American society as a whole. The report was never released to the public.
My own suspicion is that the high divorce rate has several causes. First of all, Baha’is are encouraged to utopian ways of thinking. Two young people with little in common save that they are recent converts to the faith will be encouraged to marry. I have seen this sort of thing over and over again with my own eyes. This utopianism is widespread in the faith and is the same reason for which so many other Baha’i enterprises end up doing damage to people. That both are “Baha’is” is not a basis for a marriage. One may be a liberal and the other a fundamentalist; current norms against such labeling make it difficult for people to identify one another on that basis, but you’d better believe the difference would show up in a marriage!
Young married Baha’is are also encouraged to pioneer, whether abroad to places like Haiti and Nicaragua, or homefront. Being uprooted from their social networks and families and isolated in a strange environment is not good for them as young marrieds.
In smaller communities the Baha’i committee work is a killer, and may isolate the two spouses, who spend less time together just coccoonin and watching t.v.
And it is my estimate that from a third to a half of U.S. Baha’is are what the sociologists would call marginal people–persons with poor social skills who are emotionally needy and who join the faith because they are love-bombed and find a high proportion of other marginals in it. A high rate of marginality is fostered by the cultists who have infiltrated the administration, since only such individuals would put up with being ordered around summarily or would eat up conspiracy theories about bands of dissidents seeking to undermine the administration. Marginals would have higher than normal divorce rates, obviously.
Finally, the Baha’i faith encourages a great deal of ego inflation in the individual. Each Baha’i thinks he or she is saving the world and is a linchpin in the plan of God. This inspires in them great (and often quite misplaced) confidence in their own judgment–I’ve seen them pronounce authoritatively on astronomy, biology, Qajar history, and many other subjects on which they are woefully ignorant. Such ego inflation and over-confidence in personal judgment would not be good for a marriage.
[P.S. I should have also included that the exclusiveness of the Baha’i community, non-attendance of non-Baha’is at Feast, pressure to convert spouses, etc., was also probably a contributing factor to Baha’i divorces where only one spouse was Baha’i.
Everything said on that web page rings true to me. I remember attempting to teach the Faith online to a young woman I was fond of (but had not yet met face to face) and at one point, I bluntly told her that if she converted to it, I would “definitely marry her”. Our chats ended soon after that. I later realized I’d made a mistake, but I still thought I’d marry a fellow Baha’i and that would result in a nearly perfect marriage for us.
On another occasion, I got a rude awakening in how cynical some Baha’is can be. I was attending college and saw a car in the parking lot of the college that had a bumper sticker on it that clearly said “Baha’i Faith” on it. So I placed a note on the car’s windshield saying: “Fellow Baha’i. Call me at [home phone number]”. But when the call was made to me, the woman said immediately, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in dating anyone now.” I had said NOTHING about wanting to date her and indeed I had known nothing about her gender or age until she called me. My intention was to join with her to TEACH THE FAITH TO OTHER STUDENTS, NOT MAKE HER MY GIRLFRIEND!
As for the couple that got divorced, I won’t mention their names for the sake of their privacy, but I will note that they lived in North Richland Hills (NRH), a suburb of Fort Worth, as did I for some years. Soon after my declaration of faith in Baha’u’llah, I was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly (LSA) of that city. This fueled my ego, so I enjoyed attending most of the meetings, including feasts, Assembly meetings and celebrations of Baha’i Holy Days. I was happy there, for a while.
But the couple in question were not happy and after a few years they began to pull apart. The wife moved out of the house they shared and the husband stopped appearing at Baha’i activities. He may have deconverted at that time, though I never found out due to the Baha’i teachings against “backbiting”. They underwent their required year of patience and then the divorce was finalized. In the terms of it, the ex-wife got back the family home and the ex-husband moved to Saginaw, another suburb of Fort Worth.
Just before the ex-wife moved back into the house, I and some of the other members of the LSA of NRH went to clean it up. I was shocked at what we found: The lawn of both the front and back yards had been left unmowed and was badly overgrown, the floors of most of the rooms were littered with trash, the walls were dirty, and the carpets were extremely wet due to a leaky plumbing system that had somehow spread water all over them! The house was almost in RUINS! Apparently the soon to be ex-husband, knowing his wife would get the house back, left it unmaintained to spite her for that whole year, making it difficult for her to sell it later. It took us several hours to remove all the trash and fix the pipes and that was only the beginning of what needed to be done.
Eventually, the ex-wife did sell the house and moved away to California. Last I had heard, she had married again……to a non-Baha’i.
After I left the Baha’i Faith, I realized that religion simply has nothing whatsoever to do with one’s character; if people have screwed up personalities, religion actually can make them worse by making them think that believing certain dogmas and following certain rituals will save them and make them great people before God and their fellow humans. I know from my own experience with myself and others that this is simply a lie.