Eric was a Baha’i from 1998 to 2002, at which point he left and became a Christian. You can read more about him and his views on his site. Momen, in his recent paper, lumped Stetson in with a few others as “apostates” because of their belligerence towards the Faith they once belonged to.
Recently he wrote a lengthy letter outlining a public apology to the Baha’is of the world. And he has approached several websites and blogs to distribute this apology further. I’m happy to oblige his request:
Between the years 2002 and 2008, I have gradually progressed from the point of condemning Baha’u’llah to hell (a judgment that only rebounded back upon myself while I believed it) to a recognition that, whether or not he was inspired by God and regardless of any specific mistakes he may have made, he was surely a man who was trying to make a positive difference in the world and deserves much credit for that.
So let me join the Baha’is this year, this day, in saying “Happy birthday Baha’u’llah!” The world is a better place and many souls have been lifted up to greater heights because you were born and lived on this earth and shared your spiritual message with its people. I love you — not in the way Baha’is do as a follower of the religion you founded, but as a fellow child of God who yearns to do good for my brothers and sisters in the human family and who appreciates the positive things you did in your life in the face of extraordinary trials.
I apologize for excessive and sometimes unfair criticisms I have voiced against Baha’u’llah, his successors, and the Baha’i community. I ask forgiveness from all of you — those who are in this world as well as those in the world beyond. I especially ask those who have been martyred for their Baha’i faith to forgive me. I know that you sacrificed yourselves for something worth dying for: a vision of humanity united in inclusive love, common purpose, and peace among nations and religions under One God. Let me have as much courage and strength to live for these ideals as you had to die for them.
I didn’t talk with Eric very much when he was active and seemingly angry at the Baha’i Faith online. I did join his online group briefly and left on amicable terms after taking part in a few discussions.
The history of the Baha’i Faith and polemics on the internet is quite rich and I’m sure at some point historians will wade through the archives or discussion groups, websites and blogs to write more about it.
At the beginning Baha’i activities online were mostly dominated by academics, mostly because it was they who had ready access to the internet and were at the forefront of adopting new technologies. Then as the internet became more widely available, a more diverse group of people entered the fray. For the most part, it remained a very small group of people.
Over time the discussion flowed from these smaller academic discussion groups to the wider newsgroups: soc.religion.bahai and talk.religion.bahai – the establishment of the latter is itself an interesting story.
From there the online presence branched off into many different discussion groups and then into separate Baha’i blogs, like the one you are reading. Many of the original forums are still ongoing, with Talisman, being one of the oldest. You can find a full list of online Baha’i communities and discussion groups to the right.
No one knows what the future holds, the only thing certain is that the nature of discourse has been forever changed. Whereas before Baha’is were confined by geographic locations and the ability to travel and perhaps on a limited basis, communicate via letters and books, now, we can instantly exchange ideas, share news and collaborate.