Polycarp, I’ll give it a try. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, the Bab and Baha’u’llah all occupy equal station, in the eyes of Baha’is. They are not only prophets, but Manifestations of God. There are two main differences between the prophets and the Manifestations of God. The M of G mirrored forth, perfectly, the attributes and messsages of God, and they also all brought a new Covenant to mankind. The prophets could reveal to us little bits of the puzzle, if you will, and only knew little bits of the puzzle. The Manifestations are the only people who have ever walked on the earth who knew, when they were still alive, the exact nature of God. This is nothing no ordinary man (or woman) can know in this life. We couldn’t comprehend it. The Manifestations could, and will be able to in the future, because of their dual nature; they are at once human and Divine.
Does that answer your question? I’m afraid I’m not as eloquent as some folks. BTW, it was my pleasure to start this thread. It’s gotten more response than I would have expected.
EJsGirl, I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I seem to be getting some good responses. One of the reasons I haven’t done this before is because we are cautioned in our Holy writings, against proselytizing. Certainly, we can tell anyone about the faith who is interested, but we can’t go knocking door to door or anything (which I’m glad of). But when Poly asked me to start this thread, it seemed like a perfect time to tell some people some things.
I see the analogy, but something about the whole idea of “we’re all about equality of gender, equality of races – we consider, learn about and respect all major religions, and all are welcome…except you homosexuals” really stuck in my craw.
Don’t take this as an attack on you, btw. I went with gooti to a couple of her meetings and the Baha’i faith made more sense to me than any other religion I have been exposed to. I just wasn’t able to get over that one point and it was a dealbreaker for me.
As a gay man, I can see where they’re coming from. And it IS more inclusive than the Christian perspective, at least…mainstream Christianity still considers homosexual activity a sin, whether one is Christian or not. At least Baha’i seems to refuse to condemn non-Baha’i active homosexuals.
It seems like a tough row to hoe if you’re born into a Baha’i family, though.
The Baha’is are against using drugs, including alcohol. There are a lot more people who use drugs than there are homosexuals. I’m straight, but like drugs. Should this about the Baha’is stick in my craw?
And suddenly I’m reminded of a question I do have.
I remember, back when I was young and naive and thought that USENet was the end-all and be-all of this whole Intarweb thing, seeing an awful lot of posts about how some ultra-conservative group within Baha’i had hijacked the Universal House of Justice and that mainstream Baha’i was no longer a true faith because of this.
mouthbreather, I can certainly understand why you would feel that way, and I’d imagine it’s been a deal breaker to more people than just you and gooti. It occurs to me that in my response to gooti, I might have sounded a little flip, y’know? I certainly didn’t mean to. I don’t understand the laws against homosexuality myself. But the way I see it is this: if 90% of what the religion’s laws tell me makes sense, then I can take the other 10% on faith. After all, this is a religion we’re talking about, right? As always, YMMV.
Also, deciding to join the Baha’i faith wasn’t really a rational decision for me. It was a spiritual decision, and I completely believe it was divinely guided, after an episode of illness where I almost died. The story practically gets me standing ovations at Baha’i retreats, but I won’t repeat it here, unless someone is interested, because it might bore you.
I was initially impressed with Bahai, on the face of it. But the more I learned about its view towards gays and women the less I liked it. It’s unfortunate that a religion that seems to start off in the right direction in re inclusion and universality takes a bit of a dive into exclusive (not to mention boringly unoriginal) male-hetero dominance.
It may be a flaw of my own, but I don’t like to subscribe to any theory or idea or reigion unless it makes 100% sense to me. It’s also probably the reason I still haven’t found any religion that I really like. :-
In any case, thanks for your time in this thread.
I think what you’re talking about is a kind of a splinter group that calls themselves “Orthodox Baha’is”. They have broken the Divine Covenant, and are the only group of people we are not supposed to have any relationship with at all. In order to explain, I need to give you a little history:
Baha’u’llah, our Prophet, saw that one of the downfalls of previous religions was that, after the death of the Prophet that brought that religion, the clergy of that religion would twist things to suit themselves, and further their own agendas. So, Baha’u’llah set things up so that this wouldn’t happen to the Baha’i faith. In His will, he appointed Abdul-Baha’, His oldest son, to be the Center of the Covenant (able to clarify anything unclear in the Scriptures, and able to make rules concerning things that Baha’u’llah Himself did not address, but not able to change any of the laws), on the understanding that Abdul-Baha’ would appoint someone to serve as the Center of the Covenant after his death, and that after that, the Universal House of Justice would be established to fulfill this purpose. Abdul-Baha’ appointed Shoghi Effendi, his oldest grandson, to be the Guardian of the Covenant after Abdul-Baha’s death, and Shoghi Effendi oversaw the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. But some time ago, there was a group in West Virginia, the leader of whom claimed that Shoghi Effendi had appointed him Guardianship of the Covenant. In the Baha’i faith, we see unity as the single most important factor, we will not have sects or splinter groups, and saw this guy, and his followers, as a threat to the unity of the faith. They were declared to be breakers of the Covenant. I’ve looked at some of their website, and they’ve gotten decidedly strange, with a lot of talk about pyramids and aliens and such.
As far as I can tell right now, having read a lot of the writings of Abdul-Baha’ and Shoghi Effendi, as well as the Holy writings of Baha’u’llah, the UHoJ is functioning just as was intended by the Guardian. To us, breaking the Covenant is unforgiveable, at least by us. God, of course, can and does forgive whomever He chooses. Just incidentally, Orthodox Baha’is are not allowed to vote or attend regular Baha’i Feasts, although it’s my understanding that at this point in time, they don’t want to.
I don’t know about other Baha’i families, but I don’t know how tough it would be if you were my kid. As a matter of fact, my oldest daughter, who is 17, strongly suspects she might be bisexual (and has experimented with this) and may be gay. She made her Baha’i declaration when she was 15 (under her own free will, no pressure from me), and decided about a year ago to be Wiccan instead. Now she considers herself to be Christian. When I said everyone has to find their own path, I meant everyone, my kids included. Obviously, other families might bring a little more pressure to bear.
I also suspect that there may be some Baha’is who are also practicing homosexuals. I mean, yeah, it’s against the laws of the faith. But none of us follow those laws completely. Like I said before, my big thing is gossiping. I understand why there are laws against it, and I understand that abstaining from this would be in my own best interest, but I still do it. I doubt that you’ll ever find anyone of any religion who follows that religion 100% all the time. We’re only human. And while there are prescribed penalties for things like murder and adultery, I don’t know of any prescribed penalties for homosexual activity, unless you wanted to group them with adultery. Just in case you’re interested, while the penalty for murder is death, the penalty for adultery is a fine. No one would ever be excommunicated, or lose any rights, for aulterous behavior.
zoe, lissener might have been referring to the fact that women are not allowed to serve on the Universal House of Justice (there are women, however, in the National Spiritual Assemblies all over the world). I don’t know why no women on UHoJ, Baha’u’llah assured us that the reason would be clear in time. However, I will say, that according to Baha’i law, if you have a daughter and a son, and can only afford to educate one of them, you should educate your daughter, because the daughter will be the initial teacher of the children.
The reason for the waiting list is twofold: one is that they need to make sure before you visit the Holy places, that you’re not some kind of terrorist or something. Two is that if everyone just came wily-nily, it would be nuts! Certainly, anyone can travel to Haifa at any time, and look at the non-restricted places.
Baha’u’llah was exiled from Iran towards the end of His life. He travelled to Constantinople and then to Haifa. It was in Haifa that He died. Haifa is also where the one existing photograph of Him is.
From time to time, a request will come through from a Baha’i who is escaping Iran who wants to come to America. We are sometimes asked to help to find them employment and/or provide a place to stay until they can get settled. We offer this help as freely as we possibly can. Three of the members of my particular Baha’i community escaped from Iran some years ago.
I was raised Catholic, but unhappy with it. I’ve been Baha’i for almost six years now. My husband is an atheist. My 17-year-old is currently practicing Christianity (I phrase it like that because I don’t think she’s decided what she wants long-term). My 13-year-old considers herself Baha’i, but is not old enough to make her Declaration. My 4-year-old, who knows? She’s not old enough to decide anything yet. As for what the Baha’i community in the United States is like, it depends on where you’re at. To have a Local Spiritual Assembly, you need nine adult Baha’is. In Cumberland, we don’t have that many. What we have is called a registered group. There are very large Baha’i communities in North Carolina, parts of Texas and in a lot of other states. There is a LSA in Morgantown, WV (about an hour from here) that has over 50 members.
What’s the point? If all world religions preach the truth, why start a new one? Don’t we have enough already?
What about Theravada Buddhism, which is atheistic? Bahai is theistic. T.B. tells us worship of gods or God is part of samsara, and prevents ultimate attainment of Nirvana. Do you deny T.B. is a “religion”, or do you accept the contradictory statement that a valid path to God is to renouce God?
I don’t doubt the accuracy of your answer, but I find the “resolution” of the problem of mutually contradictory belief to lacking in the extreme. For instance, the in the Christian faith, the necessity of the primacy of the Church, its ultimate Truth contained in New Covenant of Jesus Christ, Christs Divinity, the need to renew the Covenant by taking the Sacrement, etc. are not “minor” details. Jesus Himself is quoted as saying “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It is not an exaggeration to say that this is THE most important concept in Christiantiy, not some unimportant exaggeration of the core Truths of Jesus’ revelation. Why does the Bahai Universal House of Justice think they can pick and choose which part of Jesus’ teachings, or any other spiritual leader’s teachings is “correct” or “incorrect”? Do you really think such things can be decided democratically? If so, what happens when you vote in a council that changes the definitions of “Truth”? Does that mean Truth is not absolute, but changes according to a ballot? Frankly, it seems to me that Bahai, by attempting to be so inclusive and consensus-oriented, unavoidably embraces so many logical contradictions, internal inconsistencies, and dubious assumptions about other faiths, it rather strains credibility even on that most unprovable standard, theological grounds.
I hope norinew doesn’t mind me tagging in here. I know this is the “Ask the Baha’i Woman” thread, but I hope she will allow a man to speak as well.
Here is progressive revelation:
Adam, yes that Adam, started a cycle of revelations from God which are given to humanity for a specific period of time and place that would stand for around one thousand years. Each Manifestation of God, such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad and others (that we may not know about from other times and places) gave a specific message that was needed for that time period. Each revelation also gave a certain building block for the next Manifestation to build on to build up humanity to “the next level!” What next level?
Boy, am I glad you asked! Adam, reading Genesis with a spiritual eye rather than a material or literal eye, was about humanity achieving a sense of God that could distinguish between good and evil. Buddha and Krishna gave their revelations about whatever needs were of that place and time (and I don’t really know because I’m not a scholar of either). Moses came to unite people into cities and tribes. Christ came to build up people into city-states and small nations. Muhammed came to unite people into larger nation-states. Baha’u’llah came to unite all nations in the world. That is the “political” message each brought.
Each also brought a certain societal message for each depending on the people’s needs. Thus, pigs killing people from eating them, well, don’t eat them. People not washing up and spreading the plague, well wash before prayers at least.
The biggest purpose for each revelation is to bring out the message of God a little more and a little clearer to all people. This is not because Jesus was a bad guy, but rather because people 2000 years ago didn’t have the same resources we have now. Talk to Urag in 6000 AD about God above and in Heaven, and he might just figure that guy is in the sky and hurls thunderbolts to the unworthy. But Joevius Flavinoid in 0 AD will get it. Much more education, technological advancement and scientific thinking later, people can realize that God isn’t really some Old Man in the Sky, but rather the Prime Mover of the universe which is unknowable and all-spiritual things.
“But Bytop,” you might ask, “What does this mean for my Buddhism or Christianity as I asked earlier?” This is it:
Buddha taught you to release yourself from material things to attain Nirvana. Nirvana is what Baha’is believe is the attainment of true spirituality and nearness to God. Yes, you must worship God, but not a statue, painting or symbol of God. But rather the inner wonder of peace and pure spirituality of God.
“What about Christianity and Jesus saying he is the only way?”
Jesus Christ spoke not as Jesus, the carpenter, but rather the Manifestation of God. You can only get to God through God. You can’t take the L. You can’t pay cash-money. Only through one of the Manifestations of God, i.e. the Eight Fold path, can you get to Nirvana, the presence of God. Jesus spoke not as a man, but as The Light of God. He says he is God, true. He says he is man, true.
“Okay, but what about the democracy of the Baha’is?”
We have a Holy Book of Laws, known as the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Those laws are absolute. Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi could clarify or explain them. They could not change them. Neither can the Universal House of Justice change those laws. The UHJ can figure out if human cloning is acceptable accoring to the laws, but it can’t put “Clone is cool” in there. The Book of Laws is about mainly physical socio-political-legal stuff. Other books, such as the Hidden Words and the Kitab-i-Iqan, give us the insights to personal spirituality. The Truth is in the books that the most recent, but not last, Manifestation of God gave to us. It is not made in the UHJ.
If this isn’t clear, I’ll be happy to try and not write so obtusely (which I’ve been told I do when I write about religion.)
I’ll also try and find some stuff about one of my biggest tests of the Baha’i Faith, which is the laws about homosexuality.