Unitarian Baha’is

Over the past 30 years, I have gone from being a member of a Unitarian Universalist church, to being a member of the Haifa based Baha’i Faith, to returning to the Unitarian Universalist church. Since 2010, it seems there has been found a way to merge the two religions and to use the internet to break the power of the “mainstream” Baha’i Faith and allow religious freedom to be a genuine concept for Baha’is to embrace among themselves.

Introducing the Unitarian Baha’is:

http://unitarianbahais.org/

http://unitarianbahais.org/about/

Unitarian Baha’i Faith is an interpretation of the Baha’i religion characterized by a focus on individual freedom of conscience rather than the authority of Baha’i leaders and institutions.

The Baha’i Faith is a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people especially the family of Baha’u’llah. The teachings of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Faith, form the foundation for the Baha’i belief. Three principles are central to these teachings: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. Baha’is believe that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind and to develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Religion is thus seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age.

Baha’i teachings are in some ways similar to other monotheistic faiths: God is considered single and all-powerful. However, Baha’u’llah taught that religion is orderly and progressively revealed by one God through Manifestations of God who are the founders of major world religions throughout history; Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad being the most recent in the period before the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

“Say: all things are of God.” This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smouldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity.

– Baha’u’llah, The Book of My Covenant

Baha’is believes in all the principles such as the oneness and singleness of God, The oneness of mankind, Equality of Races, Equality of Men and Women, Harmony of Science and Religion, Religion without Clergy, Universal Language, Universal Tribunal, Universal Peace.

Unitarian Baha’is consider the Bab as the forerunner of He whom God shall manifest and Baha’u’llah as the Fulfiller! The Manifestation.

In history, every Prophet of God came and assigned a successor after him to lead the religion of God and to withstand the rivals from harming the righteous path. However, in the will of Baha’u’llah (Kitab-i-Ahdi), he had appointed two Guardians out of his four sons to safeguard and spread the faith worldwide which is as follows:

“Truly, God has ordained the station of Ghusn-i-Akbar after the station of the former [Ghusn-i-Azam, Abbas Effendi]. We have surely chosen Akbar after Azam as a command from the All-Knowing, the All-Wise!”

As Baha’u’llah was the Manifestation of God, he prophesied in the above statement that he had appointed his elder son Abbas Effendi preceded by his younger son Mohammad Ali Effendi as his successor. Baha’u’llah was indeed aware of the fact that his elder son will fall in his own greed and will be deviated from the holy word of God and his second son will prevail.

Secondly, due to Abbas Effendi’s deviation and rebellious actions against God led him to be cut off from his male descendants causing it to be deprived of further Guardianship from his progeny whereas his younger son’s (Muhammad Ali Effendi) lineage and guidance still continues according to the will of his father.

Lastly, we wanted to know more about the pure descendants of Baha’u’llah and the one who could lead the dynasty of Guardianship and the flawless religion of God.

Historical Unitarian Baha’is 

The first Unitarian Baha’i was Mirza Muhammad Ali, also known as Ghusn-i-Akbar (“the Greatest Branch”), the second son of Baha’u’llah.

Baha’u’llah’s will named Abdul-Baha, the eldest son, as his successor, and stated that Ghusn-i-Akbar’s status or rank was after that of Abdul-Baha. None of Baha’u’llah’s other children were mentioned by name in the will.

Most of Baha’u’llah’s family supported Ghusn-i-Akbar’s side, including Baha’u’llah’s two surviving wives, Fatima and Gawhar, and all of their children. However Baha’u’llah’s daughter Bahiyyih Khanum, from his late first wife Asiyih Khanum, and the vast majority of Baha’is supported Abdu’l Baha’s side of the dispute.

The supporters of Mirza Muhammad Ali called themselves “Unitarians” because they emphasized the concept Oneness of God and absolute prohibition of joining partners with God (known as Unitarianism among Christians).

Hence Abdu’l-Baha was deviated from the covenant of Baha’u’llah but Mirza Muhammad `Ali sincerely pray that God may forgive and guide them to the truth. 

Our Aim

Unitarian Baha’is today seek to revive actual teaching of Baha’u’llah. Modern Unitarian Baha’is  is an understanding that emphasizes the unity and transcendence of God, the humanity and limitations of all religious leaders including prophets, the importance of inclusion and tolerance among followers of Baha’u’llah and people of all faiths.

We have a tolerant and welcoming view toward some types of people who are viewed with suspicion or rejected by the supporters of Abdu’l-Baha especially the so called Universal House of Justice. 

Many Baha’is today are members or supporters of the Unitarian Universalist Association and participate in its cause and congregations.

The Unitarian Baha’is includes all the living descendants of Baha’u’llah (the Aghsan); the descendants of those whom were excommunicated by Abbas Effendi, and later Shoghi Effendi.

Unitarian Baha’is who identify themselves as followers of Baha’u’llah, the Founding-Prophet of the Baha’i Faith. We welcome all unenrolled Baha’is, Free Baha’is, the Aghsan (the descendants of Baha’u’llah living in Israel who followed Muhammad Ali Baha’i, the second son of Baha’u’llah), Israeli-Baha’is, Baha’is-Muslims, Baha’i-Christians, Orthodox Baha’is, Baha’is Loyal to the Guardian, Tarbiyat Baha’is, Reformed Baha’is and Baha’is who belong to the Administrative Order headquartered in Haifa, Israel.

WE WELCOME ALL…WE SHUN NONE!

17 thoughts on “Unitarian Baha’is

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  2. The problem Dale, is that this group is started by someone who does not even believe in Baha’u’llah anymore. Eric Stetson is a Christian, so how can he start a new “Baha’i” sect?

    • http://www.bahai-faith.com/

      http://www.christian-universalism.com/

      Like most Baha’is, Eric was probably brainwashed into believing that if the authority of the current Baha’i leadership (the Universal House of Justice) was not valid, then the credibility of Baha’u’llah himself was also destroyed. That’s how I lost MY faith in Baha’u’llah. Eric has made no secret of his becoming a “Universalist Christian”, which is not incompatible with his being a “Unitarian Baha’i”, since Baha’u’llah himself was said to be the “Return of Christ” and Baha’is accept the validity of many other world religions. I myself am a Unitarian Universalist by church membership and an agnostic by theological conviction, yet I am allied with Eric. Confused, Susan? It’s called freethinking and tolerance. Try it sometime!

  3. I don’t have any problem with freethinking or tolerance, Dale. It is just that it is rather weird for someone who does not accept a religion to go about trying to form a new sect of it! It does cause one to question their motives, don’t you think?
    As you may be aware Eric Stetson claimed at one point to be a prophet himself. Then he had a vision that persuaded him of the existence of the devil and became an evangelical religion. Now he is a Christian universalist. That’s all fine, but once someone has repudiated a religion, why put so much energy in trying to recreate it in your own image? If Eric Stetson truly believed, as you suggest, that Baha’u’llah is the Return of Christ, there might be some logic to his actions, but to my knowledge he does not.

    • If Eric Stetson truly believed, as you suggest, that Baha’u’llah is the Return of Christ, there might be some logic to his actions, but to my knowledge he does not.

      Want to know what I think? That you assume that if someone truly beleived in Baha’u’llah, one would submit not only to him as infallible but to Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice as infallible also. And if you had bothered to read my earlier blog entries on the subject of the Baha’i Faith and indeed on religion in general, you’d know already why I find that absurd. Eric Stetson made some mistakes and learned from them. So have I and so should everyone else, instead of swallowing rationalizations to continue to adhere to a religion that is wrong or at best has no rational foundation.

      • Maybe you should ask what I think rather than speculating about it. If Eric Stetson said he believed Baha’u’llah was the Return of Christ I would take him at his word no matter what other weird things he believed.
        I have not even brought up the issue of infallibility. It is therefore irrational for you to throw in that red herring.

  4. In reply to Susan Maneck:

    My spiritual journey has taken me from the Bahai faith (1998 to 2002); to evangelical Christianity (2002 to 2004, which was largely as an overreaction to the tremendous hurt I experienced in the process of leaving the Bahai faith); to Christian Universalism (2005 to present, which I now realize was largely motivated by my desire to find and follow a liberal and all-embracing religious tradition since I couldn’t find that in the corrupted Bahai faith); and now to Unitarian Universalism (2009 to present).

    I remain a Christian Universalist. I also have regained my belief in the prophethood of Bahaullah. I see no incompatibility in the two beliefs — especially in the context of the fact that I’m a Unitarian Universalist. The UU churches encourage their members to explore and believe in a wide variety of religions, sometimes simultaneously, since it is an interfaith community. As for me, I currently consider myself all of the following: Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Sufi, and Bahai — all in the context of being a Unitarian Universalist. I am a member of a UU church and intend to become more and more active in the UU community.

    The Unitarian Bahai Association has come about as a result of a grassroots movement of people who are interested in exploring Bahaism outside the confines of the Haifan tradition, with a more liberal interpretation such as would be found in Unitarian Universalist churches. Many, but not all “Unitarian Bahais” in this movement are members of UU churches. Much of the evolution of the movement has come about through the input and actions of people other than myself.

    Yes, I started a discussion forum in mid 2009 for Unitarian Universalists to discuss the Bahai faith — http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unitarian-bahai/ . I started it mainly out of curiosity to see what would happen, since I was regaining my interest in the Bahai religion and wanted a place to discuss it that was free from Haifan biases. The group has grown from 1 to 90 people currently, and is very active, and in fact it has far surpassed my expectations in such a short time.

    I am not the leader of the Unitarian Bahai Association (there is no leader), but I am involved in it. I was actually going to quit the Unitarian Bahai discussion forum a few months ago; but as a result of various things that happened in my life, and some forum members asking me not to leave, I decided to stay and continue to be involved. Most of the work being done in the Unitarian Bahai Association is actually not done by me. There is a large team of volunteers who are running things, producing articles and other resources, etc.

    Eric S.

    • Oh, and by the way, since somebody posted the link, I just haven’t had time to update my http://www.bahai-faith.com website yet, to reflect my newfound belief in the prophethood of Bahaullah. I plan to make some significant changes to that site soon.

      I also want to add that I do not believe Bahaullah or any of his successors were infallible. Nobody is. In fact, I don’t even believe that Jesus was infallible. I’m a Unitarian. All prophets have their flaws, since they are human. But sometimes they speak with the Divine Voice.

    • Dear Eric,

      I’m a little confused here. I realize that your claim to prophethood was partly motivated by your desire to see the Faith as more inclusive than you believed it was (though at the time you claimed you had a vision), but my recollection of your conversion to evangelical Christianity is that it was the result of an assault you supposedly experienced from Satan. I do recall that later on you had some kind of vision or dream that persuaded you not to attack Baha’u’llah any longer but this is the first time I’d heard that you accepted Him as a Prophet. Do you also believe He is the Return of Christ as Dale and I were discussing?

      (Dale Husband: Speaking for myself, I take little stock in visions or dreams. I think Eric would be wise to be as skeptical as I am. Perhaps he is becoming that.)

      I realize that one can be a member of the UU Church and believe all kinds of things, but I was under the impression that you had formed your own Christian Universalist Church which unlike the UU Church, is explicitly Christian in orientation. Has that church now fallen apart?

      (Dale Husband: Whether it still exists or not is irrelevant to the issue of what the Unitarian Baha’i movement may offer others who no longer support the Haifa based Baha’i Faith.)

      I am, of course familiar with your Yahoo group though I rarely visit its website anymore. My impression is that it is a site more aimed at disenchanted Baha’is or ex-Baha’is than a UU site per se. My recollection is that you tried unsuccessfully to tie it to the family of Muhammad Ali which also called his group ‘unitarian.’ That is a bit amusing because the term ‘unitarian’ in Arabic has a fundamentalist connotation quite different from what it connotes in English. Wahhabis, for instance, are called Unitarians.

      (Dale Husband: Your impression was correct. But any movements in Islam that happen to call themselves “unitarian” [Islam by defintion rejects the Christian Trinity] are irrelvant. We are talking about a movement involving Unitarian Universalism and Baha’i. If any Arabic speakers want to know more, they can merely ask instead of making mistaken assumptions without doing their own research.)

      I can see why you would want to reject the notion of infallibility but without it revelation no longer has any authority. If that is the case, then why have prophets at all? Prophethood infers revelation and revelation infers authority. Without that what you have is a man-made philosophy, not a religion. I think your situation and that of your friends very much resembles what Ian Semple (one of those House members you so despise) described:

      “Alas, we have all met members of the Baha’i community who have suffered from this limitation. Take, for example, someone who is afire for social justice and who, from his own experience in life and from ideas that he has drawn from others, has evolved a philosophy of social reform that is very close to the teachings of Baha’u’llah. When he meets the Faith, he finds a whole community of people with similar ideas. He declares himself a Baha’i and is registered as a member of the community. If his attraction does not develop into true understanding of the teachings and into obedience to Baha’u’llah, he sooner or later meets with Baha’i teachings which do not fit into his own philosophy, so he challenges them and tries to change the Faith to be closer to his own ideals. He does not succeed, so, in disillusionment, he leaves the Faith and drifts off to link up with others of like mind with whom, in due course, he comes again to disagree. Because he is self-centred he remains alone, in a sense, throughout his life. He may connect with some people but then break up again.”

      warmest, Susan

      (Dale Husband: Only those who are weak minded or weak willed are content to live under absolute authority. And have you considered that most religions may also be man-made philosophies, given enhanced authority by the claim that they came from a higher power than any human being? And if having one’s own opinions is being “self-centered”, does that mean that all liberal movements are cesspools of selfishness? Aren’t authoritarian leaders (including that Universal House of Justice that Ian Semple was a member of) also being selfish? Why are you and all other authoritarians so afraid of allowing a diversity of opinions and ideas among yourselves?

      • Susan,

        It seems you’re replying in the same post both to things I said and things Dale apparently said. I will only address the points regarding me.

        1. Events of my life in 2001-02. I had some mystical experiences, first which made me think I had a mission from God to try to reform the Bahai faith, and then which made me think that there was some kind of battle being waged over my soul and that the Bahai faith was evil. I don’t think I interpreted those experiences correctly. They were very personal and, like most such experiences, can be subject to various interpretations. Most likely these experiences were the product of my overactive and stressed out mind at the time, since I was feeling very confused and anguished about my spiritual beliefs, identity, and affiliation. In any case, these experiences I had in 2001-02 are irrelevant to my present support of the Unitarian Universalist church and my present belief that Bahaullah was a spiritual teacher who should be celebrated.

        2. Return of Christ. Bahaullah never claimed to be the literal return of Christ, as Christians expect that Jesus will return. Nor did he claim to be the reincarnation of the soul of Jesus Christ. What Bahaullah claimed — in very mystical and metaphorical language — is that his cause is the same cause as Christ and that the Divine Spirit inspiring him is the same Spirit that inspired Christ. I have no problem with that. But frankly, this is not central to my renewed belief that Bahaullah was an inspired spiritual teacher. It has little or nothing to do with it, actually.

        3. My involvement in a Christian Universalist church. In late 2009, I briefly worked with two other ministers to try to plant an independent nondenominational Christian Universalist church in Nashville, Tennessee. The church did not succeed and has been shut down. After that, I decided to fully commit myself to the Unitarian Universalist Association. I do continue to serve as the executive director of a nonprofit organization called the Christian Universalist Association, which was founded in 2007 and has over 1,000 members worldwide. I don’t plan to remain in that position indefinitely, however, as I’m planning to go back to graduate school and there are other highly qualified individuals who could take over the job when that becomes necessary.

        4. Relationship of the Unitarian Bahai Association and Yahoo discussion group to Muhammad Ali Bahai Ghusn-i-Akbar. The only such relationship is simply that we do not regard him as an evil “Covenant-breaker,” but rather as a man who objected to Abdul-Baha’s authoritarian leadership style and grandiose claims to be writing new Bahai scriptures, preferring instead to keep the focus of the Bahai faith on Bahaullah and his writings. We strive for a historically accurate and balanced view of the terrible conflict that occurred between these two brothers, rather than supporting a one-sided polemical narrative as was developed in the Haifan Baha’i Faith tradition.

        5. Your description of me as supposedly being like a person described by Ian Semple — “he sooner or later meets with Baha’i teachings which do not fit into his own philosophy, so he challenges them and tries to change the Faith to be closer to his own ideals. He does not succeed, so, in disillusionment, he leaves the Faith and drifts off to link up with others of like mind with whom, in due course, he comes again to disagree. Because he is self-centred he remains alone, in a sense, throughout his life.” Fortunately for me, this description doesn’t fit me. My spiritual life, and my life in general, has been greatly enriched as I have been on a journey of continual discovery and building new relationships with people in various religious traditions, such as Christianity and Unitarian Universalism. I am blessed to have developed great friendships with Christians, UUs, and people in the interfaith movement. Since I am not self-centered, I am not alone, because I am willing to interact with and learn from people of all faiths. I attend a UU church, a Sufi meeting group, and occasionally also go to Christian churches. I have friends who are Muslims from the Middle East. I belong to several religious organizations. My spiritual life is so much richer today than it was when I accepted the Haifan Baha’i Faith party line and just wanted to convert everybody to Haifan Bahaism and its insular and authoritarian organization.

        Take care,
        Eric S.

        • Okay, I didn’t realize you had given up on a Christ-centered universalism and had now embraced the UU entirely.

          (Dale Husband: That is NOT what he said. There is Christ-centered religion within the UU. See here: http://www.uuchristian.org/ )

          To call Baha’u’llah a spiritual teacher is not really saying very much. Even Joseph Smith was a spiritual teacher of sorts.

          (Dale Husband: You focus on ONE thing Eric said about Baha’u’llah and ignore everything else. Are you seriously allowing for Joseph Smith and Baha’ullah to be on the same level or assuming that Eric does? I don’t!)

          As for your relationship with the family of Muhammad Ali, from reading your posts on your yahoo group it certainly seemed as though you were seeking some kind of formal relationship as you were actively trying to contact members of the family. That seems to go far beyond merely believing Muhammad Ali is not the devil incarnate. I realize that your attempt failed, probably because you bought into Nima’s pretensions of being somehow connected with them. Nearly all of the family now consider themselves Muslims. That’s isn’t the case with Nigar, of course, because she married a Jewish denist. That’s why she stayed in Israel after 1948, unlike the rest who mostly went to Jordan.

          (Dale Husband: Gee, you seem obsessed with almost everything Eric does. I wonder if you were specially assigned by the Haifa based Baha’i Administrative Order to spy on him constantly. Sure looks like it! Do they think he is THAT much of a threat?)

          As for Ian Semple’s remark about being self-centered, I think you misunderstood him because you aren’t familiar with the entire talk. You can read it here:
          http://bahai-library.com/talks/semple.obedience.html

          By self-centered he doesn’t mean selfish, what he means is that there is sovereign center that governs ones life other than the self. When that happens there is nothing around which to form community in any abiding sense of the word. That’s what he means by ending up alone.

          (Dale Husband: And with confusing language like that [self-centered DOES mean selfish in any other context imaginable], you destroy your credibility. Perhaps you should no longer comment on my blog, lest you end up looking even more rediculous than you already do.)

          • I can’t resist replying to a few things Susan said in her last comment.

            Susan wrote: “I didn’t realize you had given up on a Christ-centered universalism and had now embraced the UU entirely.”

            Eric’s response: It seems that the idea of having multiple religious affiliations is alien to you. I’ve been a member of a UU church for over 2 years. I have gradually moved away from various elements of Christian orthodoxy over the past 5-6 years, but Christ is still central to my faith. I love Jesus and believe he was the greatest spiritual teacher the world has ever seen. This is in no way incompatible with believing that Bahaullah was inspired by God and was a mighty prophet for the modern era, or that Buddha was a great guru, or that the Tao Te Ching is a sacred wisdom text just as good as the Psalms (better, actually, IMHO), or whatever other non-Christian beliefs and sources of truth.

            Susan wrote: “To call Baha’u’llah a spiritual teacher is not really saying very much.”

            Eric’s response: I’m a Unitarian. Unitarians don’t believe any religious figure is ever more than just a “spiritual teacher.” No matter what exalted titles they may used for themselves or that others may give them. It’s all just cultural conditioning anyway. If Bahaullah had grown up among the elite of 19th century Boston instead of Persia, he probably would have ended up a radical and super-charismatic Unitarian preacher and tract writer, rather than assuming the mantle of Shiite-Babi revelatory prophethood.

            Susan wrote: “As for your relationship with the family of Muhammad Ali, from reading your posts on your yahoo group it certainly seemed as though you were seeking some kind of formal relationship as you were actively trying to contact members of the family.”

            Eric’s response: Do people passively try to contact someone? No, I think the only way to contact a person is actively. And the fact that somebody wants to contact someone doesn’t imply that any “formal relationship” is necessarily being sought. I never wanted to have a formal relationship with the descendants of Ghusn-i-Akbar and never expressed a desire for that kind of relationship. But yes, I did want to contact Nigar Bahai Amsalem and correspond with her, mainly for purposes of historical research and also to show her that not all Bahais are sectarian fundamentalists who shun co-religionists who have a different interpretation of their faith. Oh, and by the way, I succeeded in getting her contact information.

    • As far as I know, Unitarian Bahais, while accepting Abdu’l-Baha as the legitimate successor of Baha’u’llah, insist that Mirza Muhammad Ali should have been made Abdu’l-Baha’s successor and that it was wrong for Abdu’l-Baha to designate Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Cause of God. We do not assume that the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha was forged, however. Unitarian Baha’is also have moral teachings similar to those of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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