Note: this is an updated and expanded version of an original blog entry from nearly a decade ago.
From 1995 to 2004, I was a member of a religion known as the Baha’i Faith. This religion teaches that God is called by various names but is still the same all over the world, that all religions teach the same basic message, and that humanity is actually one race and is destined to unite under the banner of the Baha’i Faith in a new age of peace and unity.
I was eager to see and to achieve the highest goodness in my life and in the world, so this was a Godsend to me! I embraced the faith after attending firesides about it in Bedford, Texas and became an active teacher of it, even attempting to convert others to it. I had been a Christian, specifically a Southern Baptist, in my teens, but had become disgusted with Christianity and left that faith in my early 20s because I saw the errors, contradictions, and failures of it. The Baha’i Faith explained that away by claiming that while Jesus was indeed a Messenger (or Manifestation) of God, His faith had become corrupted over time and thus most Christians were not truly following him, but the doctrines of men. In joining the Baha’i community, I thought I was seeing what the early Christians in the Roman Empire were like, except that unlike them the Baha’is would not split into competing sects and engage in wars against each other. If only everyone in the world became Baha’i, I was told, we would be at peace and prosperity forever.
What a wonderful vision! But human nature will NEVER allow for it! The reason is that the leadership of the Baha’i Faith, from its founder, Baha’u’llah, to the Universal House of Justice today, claims to be infallible because it is guided by God. Yet we know that Baha’u’llah, his son Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha’s grandson Shoghi Effendi (the Guardian of the Faith), and the members of the Universal House of Justice were/are all HUMAN BEINGS. What evidence do we have that ANY of them are infallible? NONE! And if you cannot question the will of a leadership, what do you in fact have? Tyranny! And what does tyranny always lead to, according to history? Corruption and injustice! And that, in turn results in the system breaking down over time. Indeed, the very idea that any human being, human run institution, or human product is infallible is sheer nonsense. It is the most dangerous idea in the world!
Also, I finally began to see that the Baha’i Faith also has errors, contradictions, and failures of its own, despite being less than 200 years old. It was my coming to understand this that finally led me to leave the Faith with a heavy heart. The hypocrisies of the Baha’i Faith’s own dogmas can be summed up as follows:
- State that religion no longer needs clergy……and replace them with leaders that are as authoritarian as the clergy ever was.
- Claim that men and women should be equal……but then deny women membership in the all-powerful leadership council of the religion.
- 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.
- 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.
- Claim to shun partisan politics, but favor a government of their own, which is as partisan as it gets.
Then there are the scandals I discovered which really disturbed me, even after I had left the Faith.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Attack on Kalimat Press – In 2005 and 2006,The National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha’is of the United States and the United Kingdom 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 then he was elected to the Universal House of Justice in 2010.
So at the end of 2004, realizing that I had to remove myself from that community outright as a matter of honor, I wrote the following to the National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) of the Baha’is of the United States:
After years of investigation and soul-searching, I have finally come to the sad understanding that I can no longer bring myself to believe in Baha’u’llah or any of the institutions established in His name, including the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. I am totally convinced that the Baha’i Faith is doomed to fail in its mission to bring peace, unity, and a Golden Age to humanity and I therefore resign from my past membership in the Faith. Goodbye.
I composed that letter on my computer and then mailed it in January of 2005. A few weeks later, the NSA replied that they had accepted my resignation and expressed hope that I would one day decide to return. That looked like denial to me, so I dismissed it and threw away the letter. Then I cut completely all personal ties to the Baha’is in the Fort Worth area. Despite this, I stayed silent about my defection from the Baha’i Faith until October 19, 2007, when I posted my first blog entry attacking it. Encouraged by the feedback I got as a result, I stepped up my efforts until I found myself in battle over the years with various members of my former religion, all of whom only showed me why I had no business being among them anymore!
I have joined the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and found its principles to be far more enlightened than those of the Haifan Baha’is. And better still, they truly LIVE those principles too!
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
I have every reason to believe that, unless the version of the Baha’i Faith led by the Universal House of Justice goes down to extinction in the next century or two, it will become as dangerous as any other religion has ever been. It is not dangerous now only because there are so few of them. But the fact is that this Faith is directly descended from the Shiite branch of Islam, which is known to be extremely violent and intolerant by nature. The Baha’i Faith, which was founded in the 19th Century, looks exactly like what one would expect if one took the most liberal Western political and social concepts of that Century and grafted them onto Shiite Islam. By implication, that also involves accepting everything about Islam and its Prophet Muhammad as true and good as well. Since Muhammad in his middle age was said in some stories to have married a CHILD bride, this strikes me as absurd!
Despite my rejection of most Baha’i teachings, I later supported my friend Eric Stetson’s effort to establish a new Unitarian Baha’i (UB) community, blending Baha’i and Unitarian Universalist ideas. It may be the only way to save the Baha’i Faith itself from continuing to degenerate into a destructive cult. If the UBs do not succeed, the Baha’i Faith itself must be destroyed instead!
I am a non-theist now, worshipping no God and refusing to adhere to any other religion than that of the UUA. And I do not foresee myself being anything else. The Baha’i Faith was the last chance I was willing to give for a God centered religion to rule my life….and now I know that none ever will.
**this Faith is directly descended from the Shiite branch of Islam, which is known to be extremely violent and intolerant by nature.**
Actually it is the Shunni branch of Islam which is violent and intolerant by nature, ISIS is a clear example of this whose actions are ironically exactly like the teachings of Babism, the mother faith of Baha’ism. These were the rules of the Bab according to Abdu’l-Baha:
“the decree of the Bayan was the striking of necks, the burning of books and papers, the destruction of shrines, and the universal slaughter of all save those who believed and were faithful” http://bahai-library.com/maceoin_babism_militancy
Granted, both Sunnis and Shiites tend to be very bigoted and dangerous. The problem is with the dogmatism of Islam itself. Indeed, most religions! Once you are willing to substitute faith for knowledge, anything goes.
That does not mean I endorse Islamophobia, however, since most Islamophobes are themselves extremist Christians or Jews that are just as dangerous and stupid.
I am pleased to have read of your decision to abandon the mainstream Bahai faith. I was originally happy to learn about the Bahai faith but I was ultimately disappointed with it. I love some of its teachings, especially those which are close to my favorite faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism. However, I am disappointed with its teachings about homosexuality and bisexuality. The mainstream Bahai faith does not allow for same-sex marriage. I also was disappointed that the Bahai faith does not teach reincarnation since I think that reincarnation is the only sensible theodicy-if a divine creator being exists.
I agree with the contradictions. It teaches gender equality yet I know of no female member of the UHJ. It teaches an independent search for truth yet it considers Baha’u’llah’s writings and those of his son to be infallibly true and beyond questioning. What if someone’s independent search for truth leads that person to believe that people are born gay and the Bahai faith teaches that being gay is morally wrong? What happens if an independent search for truth leads someone to believe that neuroscience has disproven free will and yet free will is needed in the Bahai faith in order to follow the moral teachings of Baha’u’llah?
I really liked the Unitarian Bahai community and the only UBs that I came into contact with were on the FB group. I ordered and read parts of *A Lost History of the Bahai Faith* which is fascinating and insightful. At one point, I had seriously wondered if Baha’u’llah and his teachings were a missing ingredient to Unitarian Universalism and that the UU faith was complete with his teachings. Baha’u’llah’s teachings seem both “Unitarian” and “universalist”. However, I don’t know of any cogent argument that Baha’u’llah is any kind of messenger or prophet of God and I don’t know of any cogent argument that any divine creator being is real!
In the end, I am probably going to reject the Bahai faith in it’s “Unitarian” form. It’s not that I am glad to do so. I liken it to applying for a university with great hopes that it will prove to be a world-class center of education, only to find out that the university is nothing like one was expecting it to be. I am glad to have never been and not be a mainstream Bahai but I do feel a bit disappointed that the UB faith wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and there was no reason to believe it to be true. Oh well. Life is interesting that way. Right now, I feel as though I am on the edge of a sword blade, teetering between atheism and some kind of deism.
Thanks for your post!
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I would like to meet with former Baha’is to discuss experiences. Some parts of the Baha’i Faith are still part of me. However, now I am atheist. What I miss about the faith is the excitement and solemnity. I miss the beautiful writings and prayers of the faith. One might say that nothing is stopping me from continuing to read or pray, but the fact that I no longer believe in a god kind of precludes it. The writings had a profound effect on me, and I’d like to retain this effect without getting drawn back into any religion. Dale, feel free to contact me if you so desire.
Welcome! It is entirely possible that your spiritual orientation is still Baha’i. For an explanation of this concept, see: https://dalehusband.com/2016/06/09/spiritual-orientation/
If you want to experience the spiritual and social benefits of religion without being brainwashed, start here: https://dalehusband.com/2017/03/11/why-more-people-should-join-the-unitarian-universalists/
Albert, I’m a former bahá’í and currently I’m atheist too. I feel the same what you have been felt nowadays. Contact me if you want to: email@example.com , Would be a pleasure to keep in touch with you.
I really appreciate your blog Dale and I also found Eric Stetson’s book really helpful. I have been slowly waking up to a new reality after 30+ years of being a Baha’i. I really couldn’t cope with the ‘infallibility’ concept any longer. I have found a lot of support in a group of other people moving away from organised religions. Religion meets a need that many of us yearn for and the Baha’i illusion of peace and unity is very powerful. But for some people there comes a point where blind faith just stops working. I have decided my mission is really to honour and support the different spiritual journeys that people take through life (as long as it allows them to grow). I don’t want to criticise or attack the Baha’i Faith and I will continue to support my Baha’i friends on their journey as long as they are happy and fulfilled. If I lived in the US I would most definately be a Unitarian Universalist.
Where do you live, Lisa? You can still support the Unitarian Universalists through their international organization:
There just might be a community near you that fills your needs. If not, you can still worship through this:
You can also connect with others like yourself here:
I run that group, so be sure to identify yourself when you apply for membership there.
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