Individual Conscience Within the Baha’i Faith

Although this blog is a personal endeavor, I am blessed with the company of many friends who share with me their thoughts and opinions. Within a previous discussion, there was a comment about the sacredness of individual conscience and how it relates to the Baha’i Faith.

There are those who hold this opinion:

?We have inherited a dangerous delusion from Christianity that our individual conscience is supreme. This is not a Baha’i belief. In the end, in the context of both our role in the community and our role in the greater world, we must be prepared to sacrifice our personal convictions or opinions. The belief that individual conscience is supreme is equivalent to ?taking partners with God’ which is abhorrent to the Teachings of the Faith.?
Douglas Martin (former member of the Universal House of Justice)

I’m not sure I would word it as “supreme” but yes, individual conscience is pretty darned important. It is, after all, what guides people to find the Baha’i Faith (or whatever spiritual path they choose). It is what guides our daily lives, our daily actions. And what allows us to, however imperfectly, implement this injunction:

Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.
Baha’u’llah (Arabic Hidden Words #31)

Regarding individual conscience, last night I read this quote from Abdu’l-Baha:

“Moreover, if interrogation of conscience, which is one of the private possessions of the heart and soul, take place in this world, what further recompense remains for man in the court of justice at the day of general resurrection? Convictions and ideas are within the scope of the comprehension of the King of kings, not of kings.”
Maqalih-Shaks-i Sayyah
Provisional translation from Prof. Juan Cole

The context of this is religious freedom within society. Abdu’l-Baha is saying that civil government has no say when it comes to religious matters. Yes, the Baha’i Faith believes in separation of church and state. But since the argument is that religious “convictions and ideas” can only be judged by God, it leads me to believe that they are basically outside the purview of all earthly institutions.

Unfortunately, not everyone has internalized this. Especially the appointed arm of Baha’i institutions which are given the responsability of “protection” of the Faith. They mistakenly believe this to mean they have carte blanche to interrogate fellow Baha’is and bully them.

conscience

So the question then is, what happens when the innate and noble faculty of conscience finds itself in conflict with a decision or path taken by an organization or society? Does one simply sacrifice their conscience and fall in line? Or does one pursue it and try to change society.

Often the example of “terrorists” or “genocidal maniacs” are brought up. Should we allow them freedom to do what their conscience dictates? That would make no sense!

It would perhaps be useful to look at what Baha’is do in societies which are openly hostile to them and their beliefs. Or perhaps at the examples of Christ, the Bab, Baha’u’llah or Abdu’l-Baha when faced with threats, prosecution and potential violence?

The key for me is to ask: Is “it” in accord with the unchanging principles and laws of God?

I think this is what the UHJ is trying to say:

“A Bah??’? recognizes that one aspect of his spiritual and intellectual growth is to foster the development of his conscience in the light of divine Revelation — a Revelation which, in addition to providing a wealth of spiritual and ethical principles, exhorts man ‘to free himself from idle fancy and imitation, discern with the eye of oneness His glorious handiwork, and look into all things with a searching eye’. This process of development, therefore, involves a clear-sighted examination of the conditions of the world with both heart and mind. A Bah??’? will understand that an upright life is based upon observance of certain principles which stem from Divine Revelation and which he recognizes as essential for the well-being of both the individual and society.”
Document: Issues Related to the Study of the Bah??’? Faith

So if push comes to shove, I would say that observing divine precepts is supreme. What are they? Unity, love, fellowship and compassion. You will find these in every single religion. They have been and are, constant, and will remain so.

That is what will protect society from genocidal maniacs who may claim they are simply following the dictates of their conscience. While they may be sincere (or simply crazy), because they are in direct conflict with the spirit of the age, it can not be used as an excuse to act in ways which are contrary to the wellbeing of themselves and others.

Individual conscience is sacred because it is divinely inspired. The distinction is then whether a decision or action is in accord with divine principles or not. If it isn’t, we can not simply “submit” our conscience to the “decision of the majority” when that is, far too often, a euphemism for injustice. Abdu’l-Baha never did.

Finally, when conscience is allied with the Word of God and His principles, it is supreme by the very fact that its ally is Supreme. This ties into what Baha’u’llah said regarding infallibility. And perhaps what Rumi meant when he said: “A’nal-haq” (I am God). It is not “partnership with God” but rather total and utter annihilation within Him.

  • Anonymuz

    A’nal-haq— I am the truth. Not I am God.

  • Anonymuz

    A’nal-haq— I am the truth. Not I am God.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    not truth but Truth

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    not truth but Truth

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Dear Mr./Mrs. B. Rants,

    Let me first say that your efforts are commendable. I would be happy to embrace any convincing argument that would redeem the Baha’i Faith in this regard.

    Now permit me to point out that your first citation of scripture is a thinly veiled threat, rather than an appeal to conscience:

    “Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning;…”

    It’s really the same old reward and punishment, only the particulars have changed, or simply been made less particular. It’s still Sunday school religion.

    Where do the Baha’i writings truly put their trust in man? They don’t. The ultimate answer is that they cannot, because the fundamental postulate of revealed religion is that man is undeserving of such trust. Man is inadequate, ignorant, and untrustworthy. That’s the whole reason why God has to to keep coming back to set him straight, over and over and over again. In this respect, the Baha’i Faith has less faith in man than Augustinian Christianity or Islam.

    Sincerely,
    Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Dear Mr./Mrs. B. Rants,

    Let me first say that your efforts are commendable. I would be happy to embrace any convincing argument that would redeem the Baha’i Faith in this regard.

    Now permit me to point out that your first citation of scripture is a thinly veiled threat, rather than an appeal to conscience:

    “Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning;…”

    It’s really the same old reward and punishment, only the particulars have changed, or simply been made less particular. It’s still Sunday school religion.

    Where do the Baha’i writings truly put their trust in man? They don’t. The ultimate answer is that they cannot, because the fundamental postulate of revealed religion is that man is undeserving of such trust. Man is inadequate, ignorant, and untrustworthy. That’s the whole reason why God has to to keep coming back to set him straight, over and over and over again. In this respect, the Baha’i Faith has less faith in man than Augustinian Christianity or Islam.

    Sincerely,
    Dan

  • Carm-again

    Bacquia wrote: “Yes, the Baha’i Faith believes in separation of church and state.”

    Bacquia, I think you raise many interesting points in a nicely nuanced way. I am not at all sure though that your statement is correct. This is the conclusion Sen has arrived at. However, there are several passages in the Writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and the elucidations of the UHJ which he has ignored in his book. These passages suggest that at some point in the future when an entire country or indeed the world and the vast majority of its population is Baha’i that the separation of state and church will not be applicable.

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Bacquia wrote: “Yes, the Baha’i Faith believes in separation of church and state.”

    Bacquia, I think you raise many interesting points in a nicely nuanced way. I am not at all sure though that your statement is correct. This is the conclusion Sen has arrived at. However, there are several passages in the Writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and the elucidations of the UHJ which he has ignored in his book. These passages suggest that at some point in the future when an entire country or indeed the world and the vast majority of its population is Baha’i that the separation of state and church will not be applicable.

    Carmen

  • Anonymuz

    [quote comment=""][...] with me their thoughts and opinions. Within a previous discussion, there was a comment about the sacredness of individual conscience and how it relates to the Baha’i [...][/quote]

    Im afraid I disagree. Again you are speaking in generalities and assumptions. The Baha’i Faith encourages individual advancement and expression in hopes that it will lead the individual to whole heartedly accept and be one with God. Its a process…a never ending one. With each degree of individuality there is a degree of its relationship with God. As one becomes closer to God, they become further from themselves and their own desires and ego, their own ideas and will. What is the alternative? To basks in self? This kind of thinking that advances individualism and divinity of self is awful reminiscent to an Old Testament fable about one who rebels.

    My own explanation is indicative of my own understanding. I too believe in freedom of expression, thought, action and will. But this freedom is a two edged sword. How far removed from God does acting on my own put me? Pretty far. Therefore, it is my belief that through religion, and in this day and age, through the Baha’i Faith, I choose to slowly, ever so slowly, move closer to God by surrendering faith in myself, and putting that faith in God and His message.

    You are advocating putting faith in the goodness of individuals. I don’t believe that. I believe our purpose as souls is to display God’s qualities. That it what religion is. If one were to display thier inner self, what truly is their own natural inclinations, it would be animal. All goodness that human beings display, I believe is a reflection of virtue, and all virtue begins with God.

  • Anonymuz

    [quote comment=""][...] with me their thoughts and opinions. Within a previous discussion, there was a comment about the sacredness of individual conscience and how it relates to the Baha’i [...][/quote]

    Im afraid I disagree. Again you are speaking in generalities and assumptions. The Baha’i Faith encourages individual advancement and expression in hopes that it will lead the individual to whole heartedly accept and be one with God. Its a process…a never ending one. With each degree of individuality there is a degree of its relationship with God. As one becomes closer to God, they become further from themselves and their own desires and ego, their own ideas and will. What is the alternative? To basks in self? This kind of thinking that advances individualism and divinity of self is awful reminiscent to an Old Testament fable about one who rebels.

    My own explanation is indicative of my own understanding. I too believe in freedom of expression, thought, action and will. But this freedom is a two edged sword. How far removed from God does acting on my own put me? Pretty far. Therefore, it is my belief that through religion, and in this day and age, through the Baha’i Faith, I choose to slowly, ever so slowly, move closer to God by surrendering faith in myself, and putting that faith in God and His message.

    You are advocating putting faith in the goodness of individuals. I don’t believe that. I believe our purpose as souls is to display God’s qualities. That it what religion is. If one were to display thier inner self, what truly is their own natural inclinations, it would be animal. All goodness that human beings display, I believe is a reflection of virtue, and all virtue begins with God.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Carmen,
    for the “separation of state and church to not be applicable” we must ignore scores and scores of explicit writings from Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and the Guardian. Sen’s book is meticulously researched and leaves no authoritative text untouched. The sphere of authority of the UHJ is legislative, not interpretive and therefore their opinion regarding the concept of church and state, whatever it may be (it has never been explicitely clarified by them) is irrelevant.
    To be crystal clear, there are no statements from Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha nor the Guardian which in any way express anything but a separation of church and state. I would be in your debt if you would produce any quotes with reference which contradict this.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Carmen,
    for the “separation of state and church to not be applicable” we must ignore scores and scores of explicit writings from Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and the Guardian. Sen’s book is meticulously researched and leaves no authoritative text untouched. The sphere of authority of the UHJ is legislative, not interpretive and therefore their opinion regarding the concept of church and state, whatever it may be (it has never been explicitely clarified by them) is irrelevant.
    To be crystal clear, there are no statements from Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha nor the Guardian which in any way express anything but a separation of church and state. I would be in your debt if you would produce any quotes with reference which contradict this.

  • Anonymuz

    This may be helpful in regards to positions on Baha’i Church & State.

  • Anonymuz

    This may be helpful in regards to positions on Baha’i Church & State.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Anonymuz,
    from your comment it is obvious you didn’t bother actually reading what I wrote.

    re the letter from the Secretariat (link above) about Church and State, it is, to be extremely generous, incomplete and can not be expected to fully enunciate such a complex concept. I would refer you to the book by Sen McGlinn which has passed Baha’i review and which contains an encyclopedic reference to authoritative texts regarding church and state within Baha’i writings. The letter from the Secretariat contains rather strange injections of personal opinion not backed up by authoritative texts: “Bah??’? System”? and “The Bah??’? Administrative Order is the “nucleus and pattern” of the divinely intended future political system of the world”. Rather than pick apart an inadequate exposition of church and state, why not be constructive and look at an adequate one?

    There are many who believe mistakenly that the Baha’i administration or institutions won’t “take over” but rather will be handed the reins of power. Again, there are clear texts which make this an impossibility. As Shoghi Effendi writes:

    Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.

    There are yet others who argue that this is all too complicated and that we simply don’t know what the world will look like and/or that the “model” that the Baha’i Faith offers is unique in history. Again, this is false. The is nothing new under the sun. You either have church and state as one or separate. The Baha’i writings clearly, emphatically, consistently and continuously present the separation of church and state; from Baha’u’llah, to Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Anonymuz,
    from your comment it is obvious you didn’t bother actually reading what I wrote.

    re the letter from the Secretariat (link above) about Church and State, it is, to be extremely generous, incomplete and can not be expected to fully enunciate such a complex concept. I would refer you to the book by Sen McGlinn which has passed Baha’i review and which contains an encyclopedic reference to authoritative texts regarding church and state within Baha’i writings. The letter from the Secretariat contains rather strange injections of personal opinion not backed up by authoritative texts: “Bah??’? System”? and “The Bah??’? Administrative Order is the “nucleus and pattern” of the divinely intended future political system of the world”. Rather than pick apart an inadequate exposition of church and state, why not be constructive and look at an adequate one?

    There are many who believe mistakenly that the Baha’i administration or institutions won’t “take over” but rather will be handed the reins of power. Again, there are clear texts which make this an impossibility. As Shoghi Effendi writes:

    Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.

    There are yet others who argue that this is all too complicated and that we simply don’t know what the world will look like and/or that the “model” that the Baha’i Faith offers is unique in history. Again, this is false. The is nothing new under the sun. You either have church and state as one or separate. The Baha’i writings clearly, emphatically, consistently and continuously present the separation of church and state; from Baha’u’llah, to Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dear Baquia,

    I agree with Dan.

    Ii wish the Faith was as you see it — but to me it uses fear to provoke us to action more than any other emotion. What is needed is an appeal to the better nature of people, not fear.

    Good people are not motivated by fear of death. Simple as that.

    And BTW — you sound like a reader of Emerson “Individual conscience is sacred because it is divinely inspired.”

    I agree but I wonder if Baha’ullah does.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dear Baquia,

    I agree with Dan.

    Ii wish the Faith was as you see it — but to me it uses fear to provoke us to action more than any other emotion. What is needed is an appeal to the better nature of people, not fear.

    Good people are not motivated by fear of death. Simple as that.

    And BTW — you sound like a reader of Emerson “Individual conscience is sacred because it is divinely inspired.”

    I agree but I wonder if Baha’ullah does.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank

  • Carm-again

    Bacquia, I don’t share your opinion of the UHJ as being exclusively legislative in its speher of authority but that is a topic that requires a rather lengthy discussion. This is one http://bahaistudies.net/susanmaneck/theocracy.html to sources in a response to ideas more fully developed in Church and State.

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Bacquia, I don’t share your opinion of the UHJ as being exclusively legislative in its speher of authority but that is a topic that requires a rather lengthy discussion. This is one http://bahaistudies.net/susanmaneck/theocracy.html to sources in a response to ideas more fully developed in Church and State.

    Carmen

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    [quote comment="49762"]Now permit me to point out that your first citation of scripture is a thinly veiled threat, rather than an appeal to conscience[/quote]

    I don’t see it as a threat at all. It is merely a statement of action and consequence. For example, if an unborn child does not develop their physical faculties fully, they will suffer in this world. In the same way, Baha’u’llah is telling us that if by our actions or inactions we do not fully develop our spiritual faculties, the consequence is that in the next world we will be removed from God and suffer. The analogy I use is imperfect – as all analogies – because the child doesn’t have the choice that you and I do.

    I do not see the stern, threatening God you see but a kind, gentle nudge to be aware of the natural consequences that await my actions. He is also saying: “You are responsible” So I have been empowered. I have full control and sway in how I direct my life. But although we have freedom of choice, as a loving parent, God wants the best for us.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    [quote comment="49762"]Now permit me to point out that your first citation of scripture is a thinly veiled threat, rather than an appeal to conscience[/quote]

    I don’t see it as a threat at all. It is merely a statement of action and consequence. For example, if an unborn child does not develop their physical faculties fully, they will suffer in this world. In the same way, Baha’u’llah is telling us that if by our actions or inactions we do not fully develop our spiritual faculties, the consequence is that in the next world we will be removed from God and suffer. The analogy I use is imperfect – as all analogies – because the child doesn’t have the choice that you and I do.

    I do not see the stern, threatening God you see but a kind, gentle nudge to be aware of the natural consequences that await my actions. He is also saying: “You are responsible” So I have been empowered. I have full control and sway in how I direct my life. But although we have freedom of choice, as a loving parent, God wants the best for us.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    [quote comment="49788"]Bacquia, I don’t share your opinion of the UHJ as being exclusively legislative in its speher of authority[/quote]

    Then your quarrel is not with me but with Abdu’l-Baha.

    regarding Maneck’s commentary, it is on “Theocratic Assumptions in Bah??’? Literature”, not Sen’s book. Furthermore I have attempted several times to enter the briar patch that is the mental space of Maneck and have only emerged dehydrated, confused and bleeding from hundreds of cuts. So I’m a bit reticent to go there again. If you shove me in however, I notice that she manages to contradict herself:

    In stressing the immutability of scripture, and in confining his sources to only those texts which are written by Bah??’u’ll??h, ‘Abdu’ l-Bah?? or Shoghi Effendi directly, McGlinn implies that other authoritative sources such as letters written on behalf of the Guardian or elucidations from the House of Justice cannot overrule it. As a statement of principle this is true…

    This is nothing really new to Maneck. If you are unlucky enough to read more than a few paragraphs of her writing you soon realize that she is a most formidable opponent of coherence. In attempting to glean an understanding of Baha’i concepts within the question of church and state, McGlinn has apparently chosen to stay within the confines of authoritative texts. That is to exclude what is irrelevant and not authoritative: letters from the secretariat, letters from the secretary of Shoghi Effendi, pilgrim’s notes, etc. No serious theologian would do otherwise.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    [quote comment="49788"]Bacquia, I don’t share your opinion of the UHJ as being exclusively legislative in its speher of authority[/quote]

    Then your quarrel is not with me but with Abdu’l-Baha.

    regarding Maneck’s commentary, it is on “Theocratic Assumptions in Bah??’? Literature”, not Sen’s book. Furthermore I have attempted several times to enter the briar patch that is the mental space of Maneck and have only emerged dehydrated, confused and bleeding from hundreds of cuts. So I’m a bit reticent to go there again. If you shove me in however, I notice that she manages to contradict herself:

    In stressing the immutability of scripture, and in confining his sources to only those texts which are written by Bah??’u’ll??h, ‘Abdu’ l-Bah?? or Shoghi Effendi directly, McGlinn implies that other authoritative sources such as letters written on behalf of the Guardian or elucidations from the House of Justice cannot overrule it. As a statement of principle this is true…

    This is nothing really new to Maneck. If you are unlucky enough to read more than a few paragraphs of her writing you soon realize that she is a most formidable opponent of coherence. In attempting to glean an understanding of Baha’i concepts within the question of church and state, McGlinn has apparently chosen to stay within the confines of authoritative texts. That is to exclude what is irrelevant and not authoritative: letters from the secretariat, letters from the secretary of Shoghi Effendi, pilgrim’s notes, etc. No serious theologian would do otherwise.

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Baquia writes:
    “I don’t see it as a threat at all. It is merely a statement of action and consequence.”

    I follow you, but I must insist that there is no significant difference. God makes the rules. The punishment is the natural consequence of disobeying. God doesn’t need to raise a finger. Either he chooses to break the rules out of compassion, or he enforces the rules for the sake of justice. I think we know where Baha’u’llah stands on this.

    In defense of Baha’u’llah, though, I would like to bring two passages to your attention. First, an old favorite since well before Jesus:

    “However, unto them that are rid of all attachments a deed is, verily, its own reward.” — Tablet to Vafa

    The following words may leave some wiggle room for those who feel that they must move beyond Baha’u’llah’s religion, perhaps with Baha’u’llah’s loving consent:

    “The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it.” — Words of Paradise

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Baquia writes:
    “I don’t see it as a threat at all. It is merely a statement of action and consequence.”

    I follow you, but I must insist that there is no significant difference. God makes the rules. The punishment is the natural consequence of disobeying. God doesn’t need to raise a finger. Either he chooses to break the rules out of compassion, or he enforces the rules for the sake of justice. I think we know where Baha’u’llah stands on this.

    In defense of Baha’u’llah, though, I would like to bring two passages to your attention. First, an old favorite since well before Jesus:

    “However, unto them that are rid of all attachments a deed is, verily, its own reward.” — Tablet to Vafa

    The following words may leave some wiggle room for those who feel that they must move beyond Baha’u’llah’s religion, perhaps with Baha’u’llah’s loving consent:

    “The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it.” — Words of Paradise

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dan,

    Your quote from Words of Paradise (from the Tablets of Baha’ullah Revealed after the Aqdas) are among the keys to understanding Baha’ullah, I think.

    In these tablets he tips his hand re his understanding of human nature and his feelings for mankind. “sense of shame .. is confined to but a few.” No I disagree, most healthy people have a sense of shame to at least a degree — some more acute than others, just as most know — to one degree or another — right from wrong.

    Why else would there be in every language the saying “Have you no shame?!”

    For me these tablets are critical to an understanding of what the Baha’ullah’s view was. (I almost wrote Baha’i view but in fact Baha’ullah’s view and the views of Baha’is are separate and different.) The emphasis on fear and reward and punishment is found here stated more strongly than any place I know of in the writings.

    Frank

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dan,

    Your quote from Words of Paradise (from the Tablets of Baha’ullah Revealed after the Aqdas) are among the keys to understanding Baha’ullah, I think.

    In these tablets he tips his hand re his understanding of human nature and his feelings for mankind. “sense of shame .. is confined to but a few.” No I disagree, most healthy people have a sense of shame to at least a degree — some more acute than others, just as most know — to one degree or another — right from wrong.

    Why else would there be in every language the saying “Have you no shame?!”

    For me these tablets are critical to an understanding of what the Baha’ullah’s view was. (I almost wrote Baha’i view but in fact Baha’ullah’s view and the views of Baha’is are separate and different.) The emphasis on fear and reward and punishment is found here stated more strongly than any place I know of in the writings.

    Frank

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Dear Frank,

    Baha’u’llah was indeed tipping his hand. I appreciate and agree with your analysis. The only reason I have to be so generous of Baha’u’llah is that this is a Baha’i forum (er…blog), where readers do not think of Baha’u’llah as a religious marketeer, attempting to convince people how much they need his product, but rather a Prophet of God.

    If we concede a divine Station to Baha’u’llah for the sake of argument, we may allow that some less conscientious people would be well-served by his Product (fear of God), or at least we may concede that society might be well-served if those among us lacking empathy would be subjected to a dose of righteous fear.

    Given all this, though, we need not allow that Baha’u’llah is pitching his product to all of us, for he admits that some of us have no need for it. I suppose he must assume that we know who we are.

    As for what I actually believe: I believe that God Himself is engaged in an internal moral conflict, and that you, I, Baha’u’llah, and the rest, are divine manifestations of that holy struggle. It’s a neo-Zoroastrian thing.

    Yours,
    Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Dear Frank,

    Baha’u’llah was indeed tipping his hand. I appreciate and agree with your analysis. The only reason I have to be so generous of Baha’u’llah is that this is a Baha’i forum (er…blog), where readers do not think of Baha’u’llah as a religious marketeer, attempting to convince people how much they need his product, but rather a Prophet of God.

    If we concede a divine Station to Baha’u’llah for the sake of argument, we may allow that some less conscientious people would be well-served by his Product (fear of God), or at least we may concede that society might be well-served if those among us lacking empathy would be subjected to a dose of righteous fear.

    Given all this, though, we need not allow that Baha’u’llah is pitching his product to all of us, for he admits that some of us have no need for it. I suppose he must assume that we know who we are.

    As for what I actually believe: I believe that God Himself is engaged in an internal moral conflict, and that you, I, Baha’u’llah, and the rest, are divine manifestations of that holy struggle. It’s a neo-Zoroastrian thing.

    Yours,
    Dan

  • Grover

    [quote comment=""]Now permit me to point out that your first citation of scripture is a thinly veiled threat, rather than an appeal to conscience:

    ?Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning;…?

    [/quote]

    The funny thing about all this is we’re applying Christian ideas to the afterlife, the whole concept of heaven and hell, except we’ve merged it into one “place”, and heaven being close to God and hell being far from God. We seem to have this morbid fascination with sin and punishment (much like business men have with dominatrixes).

    The quote is a threat, but I personally believe that there won’t be anyone up there who will be reviewing our life or punishing us, I think it will be us as individuals punishing ourselves. Think about it, the afterlife is supposed to be timeless, we’ll be able to look back and see all that we’ve done and how its affected other people, and its consequences. That kind of knowledge will be a greater hell than any other I can imagine. Its bad enough now when I look back and consider past mistakes.

  • Grover

    [quote comment=""]Now permit me to point out that your first citation of scripture is a thinly veiled threat, rather than an appeal to conscience:

    ?Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning;…?

    [/quote]

    The funny thing about all this is we’re applying Christian ideas to the afterlife, the whole concept of heaven and hell, except we’ve merged it into one “place”, and heaven being close to God and hell being far from God. We seem to have this morbid fascination with sin and punishment (much like business men have with dominatrixes).

    The quote is a threat, but I personally believe that there won’t be anyone up there who will be reviewing our life or punishing us, I think it will be us as individuals punishing ourselves. Think about it, the afterlife is supposed to be timeless, we’ll be able to look back and see all that we’ve done and how its affected other people, and its consequences. That kind of knowledge will be a greater hell than any other I can imagine. Its bad enough now when I look back and consider past mistakes.

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Dear Grover,

    Do you think it matters who is doing the punishing? Whether it is St. Peter, some ugly gargoyle, or your own self, it remains a threat of Hellfire. Ultimately it’s God’s choice to threaten you with it. That makes Him a God of retribution. The point is not *who* does the punishing, but that Baha’is are motivated to act virtuously by fear of Hell. In that case, it’s just an act. Virtue does not await payment.

    “The quote is a threat, but I personally believe that there won’t be anyone up there who will be reviewing our life or punishing us, I think it will be us as individuals punishing ourselves. Think about it, the afterlife is supposed to be timeless, we’ll be able to look back and see all that we’ve done and how its affected other people, and its consequences. That kind of knowledge will be a greater hell than any other I can imagine. Its bad enough now when I look back and consider past mistakes.”

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Dear Grover,

    Do you think it matters who is doing the punishing? Whether it is St. Peter, some ugly gargoyle, or your own self, it remains a threat of Hellfire. Ultimately it’s God’s choice to threaten you with it. That makes Him a God of retribution. The point is not *who* does the punishing, but that Baha’is are motivated to act virtuously by fear of Hell. In that case, it’s just an act. Virtue does not await payment.

    “The quote is a threat, but I personally believe that there won’t be anyone up there who will be reviewing our life or punishing us, I think it will be us as individuals punishing ourselves. Think about it, the afterlife is supposed to be timeless, we’ll be able to look back and see all that we’ve done and how its affected other people, and its consequences. That kind of knowledge will be a greater hell than any other I can imagine. Its bad enough now when I look back and consider past mistakes.”

  • Grover

    [quote comment=""]Do you think it matters who is doing the punishing? Whether it is St. Peter, some ugly gargoyle, or your own self, it remains a threat of Hellfire. Ultimately it’s God’s choice to threaten you with it. That makes Him a God of retribution. The point is not *who* does the punishing, but that Baha’is are motivated to act virtuously by fear of Hell. In that case, it’s just an act. Virtue does not await payment. [/quote]

    I think it does. If it was God carrying out the retribution, fair enough, I would call him the God of Retribution, but if we are being warned about what might happen and we are punishing ourselves its a bit unfair to go calling him the God of Retribution.

    Would you call doing what your mother tells you to do because you feared being told off or feared hurting her just an act?

    I think our behaviour is motivated by many things: lust, desire, fear of hell, fear of being shamed, gaining advantage and/or prestige, building friendships, love, or just because it feels good to be doing something nice. Feel free to disagree, but in the end a lot of what we do fills our own needs, I don’t think anyone is ever truly altruistic.

  • Grover

    [quote comment=""]Do you think it matters who is doing the punishing? Whether it is St. Peter, some ugly gargoyle, or your own self, it remains a threat of Hellfire. Ultimately it’s God’s choice to threaten you with it. That makes Him a God of retribution. The point is not *who* does the punishing, but that Baha’is are motivated to act virtuously by fear of Hell. In that case, it’s just an act. Virtue does not await payment. [/quote]

    I think it does. If it was God carrying out the retribution, fair enough, I would call him the God of Retribution, but if we are being warned about what might happen and we are punishing ourselves its a bit unfair to go calling him the God of Retribution.

    Would you call doing what your mother tells you to do because you feared being told off or feared hurting her just an act?

    I think our behaviour is motivated by many things: lust, desire, fear of hell, fear of being shamed, gaining advantage and/or prestige, building friendships, love, or just because it feels good to be doing something nice. Feel free to disagree, but in the end a lot of what we do fills our own needs, I don’t think anyone is ever truly altruistic.

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Grover writes: “Feel free to disagree, but in the end a lot of what we do fills our own needs, I don’t think anyone is ever truly altruistic.”

    Hi again Grover.

    I don’t disagree. I would add, though, that the goal is not pure altruism, but rather empathy; what Adam Smith called sympathy, and the process the Stoics called oikeiosis. The general idea is that it’s fine to be selfish, so long as your self-image is sufficiently inclusive. It’s not a matter of paying for your crimes, but rather growing beyond the narrowness that caused you to misbehave in the first place.

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Grover writes: “Feel free to disagree, but in the end a lot of what we do fills our own needs, I don’t think anyone is ever truly altruistic.”

    Hi again Grover.

    I don’t disagree. I would add, though, that the goal is not pure altruism, but rather empathy; what Adam Smith called sympathy, and the process the Stoics called oikeiosis. The general idea is that it’s fine to be selfish, so long as your self-image is sufficiently inclusive. It’s not a matter of paying for your crimes, but rather growing beyond the narrowness that caused you to misbehave in the first place.

    -Dan

  • Grover

    Dan wrote:

    [quote comment=""]I would add, though, that the goal is not pure altruism, but rather empathy; what Adam Smith called sympathy, and the process the Stoics called oikeiosis. The general idea is that it’s fine to be selfish, so long as your self-image is sufficiently inclusive. It’s not a matter of paying for your crimes, but rather growing beyond the narrowness that caused you to misbehave in the first place.
    [/quote]

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’d never heard of oikeiosis before, and checked it out in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierocles_%28Stoic%29

    [quote comment=""]Hierocles, (Greek: ????????), a Stoic philosopher, who lived in the 2nd century AD. Nothing is known about his life. Aulus Gellius mentions him as one of his contemporaries, and describes him as a “grave and holy man”.[1]

    Hierocles is famous for a book called Elements of Ethics, (Greek: ????? ???????????), part of which was discovered as a papyrus fragment at Hermopolis in 1901. This 300 line fragment discusses self-perception, and argues that all birds, reptiles, and mammals from the moment of birth perceive themselves continuously and that self-perception is both the primary and the most basic faculty of animals.[2] The argument draws heavily on a Stoic concept known as self-ownership or oikei?sis which was based on the view that all animals behave in a self-preserving way and are not just aware of themselves, but are aware of themselves in relation of other animals. Hierocles’s argument about self-perception was part of the groundwork for an entire theory of ethics.

    Some other fragments of Hierocles’ book are preserved by Stobaeus. The most famous fragment[3] describes Stoic cosmopolitanism through the use of concentric circles. Hierocles describes individuals as consisting of a series of circles: the first circle is the human mind, next comes the immediate family, followed by the extended family, and then the local community. Next comes the community of neighbouring towns, followed by your country, and finally the entire human race. Our task, according to Hierocles was to draw the circles in towards the centre, transferring people to the inner circles, making all human beings part of our concern.[/quote]

    Doesn’t the last bit sound familiar?

  • Grover

    Dan wrote:

    [quote comment=""]I would add, though, that the goal is not pure altruism, but rather empathy; what Adam Smith called sympathy, and the process the Stoics called oikeiosis. The general idea is that it’s fine to be selfish, so long as your self-image is sufficiently inclusive. It’s not a matter of paying for your crimes, but rather growing beyond the narrowness that caused you to misbehave in the first place.
    [/quote]

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’d never heard of oikeiosis before, and checked it out in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierocles_%28Stoic%29

    [quote comment=""]Hierocles, (Greek: ????????), a Stoic philosopher, who lived in the 2nd century AD. Nothing is known about his life. Aulus Gellius mentions him as one of his contemporaries, and describes him as a “grave and holy man”.[1]

    Hierocles is famous for a book called Elements of Ethics, (Greek: ????? ???????????), part of which was discovered as a papyrus fragment at Hermopolis in 1901. This 300 line fragment discusses self-perception, and argues that all birds, reptiles, and mammals from the moment of birth perceive themselves continuously and that self-perception is both the primary and the most basic faculty of animals.[2] The argument draws heavily on a Stoic concept known as self-ownership or oikei?sis which was based on the view that all animals behave in a self-preserving way and are not just aware of themselves, but are aware of themselves in relation of other animals. Hierocles’s argument about self-perception was part of the groundwork for an entire theory of ethics.

    Some other fragments of Hierocles’ book are preserved by Stobaeus. The most famous fragment[3] describes Stoic cosmopolitanism through the use of concentric circles. Hierocles describes individuals as consisting of a series of circles: the first circle is the human mind, next comes the immediate family, followed by the extended family, and then the local community. Next comes the community of neighbouring towns, followed by your country, and finally the entire human race. Our task, according to Hierocles was to draw the circles in towards the centre, transferring people to the inner circles, making all human beings part of our concern.[/quote]

    Doesn’t the last bit sound familiar?

  • farhan

    Grove wrote:

    “I think our behaviour is motivated by many things: lust, desire, fear of hell, fear of being shamed, gaining advantage and/or prestige, building friendships, love, or just because it feels good to be doing something nice.”

    Very interesting point you have there, Grover.

    I would take it further by saying that as we mature, our motivations advance; A child would be encouraged into study by fearing punishment, then would work to have good marks and please his parents, and then to have a good job and prosperous situation, and then a Nobel prize…, and in the end would express himself through his passion for the truth, by “love of His Beauty”, without heeding blame or praise.

    The Bab tells us that we should do good actions through the love of God, without hoping for paradise or fearing hell. The “Love of His Beauty” is what Baha’u’llah advises as the true motivation for obedience of God’s law’s. “Fear of God” is necessary when we are at an early stage of evolution; it then becomes the fear of losing God’s protection and love, becoming deprived of His guidance.

    It becomes very clear at what point of their evolution people actually place themselves when we hear them expressing their views, and we can learn to accept people’s good actions, even when the “odeur of self” is percieved in their actions. We are all on the path to improvement, and we should be helping each other towards perfection, and not excluding those who are at an earlier stage of their evolution.

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Grove wrote:

    “I think our behaviour is motivated by many things: lust, desire, fear of hell, fear of being shamed, gaining advantage and/or prestige, building friendships, love, or just because it feels good to be doing something nice.”

    Very interesting point you have there, Grover.

    I would take it further by saying that as we mature, our motivations advance; A child would be encouraged into study by fearing punishment, then would work to have good marks and please his parents, and then to have a good job and prosperous situation, and then a Nobel prize…, and in the end would express himself through his passion for the truth, by “love of His Beauty”, without heeding blame or praise.

    The Bab tells us that we should do good actions through the love of God, without hoping for paradise or fearing hell. The “Love of His Beauty” is what Baha’u’llah advises as the true motivation for obedience of God’s law’s. “Fear of God” is necessary when we are at an early stage of evolution; it then becomes the fear of losing God’s protection and love, becoming deprived of His guidance.

    It becomes very clear at what point of their evolution people actually place themselves when we hear them expressing their views, and we can learn to accept people’s good actions, even when the “odeur of self” is percieved in their actions. We are all on the path to improvement, and we should be helping each other towards perfection, and not excluding those who are at an earlier stage of their evolution.

  • farhan

    Dan Jensen wrote:

    “Do you think it matters who is doing the punishing? Whether it is St. Peter, some ugly gargoyle, or your own self, it remains a threat of Hellfire.”

    There is an Islamic quote (I do not have at hand) where The Prophet explains why some remote from God doing evil acts are not punished by God. Muhammad compares them to students so far from the teacher that he does not even care to educate them any more. Chastising a student is a proof of love, and not of hatred and vengance, even though a child (or a spiritually young person) might believe so.

    The nearer we get to God, the more exacting our education becomes. The whole purpose of this education is to enable us enact the virtues God has provided for us; “loving God” means loving His creation and serving His creatures, i.e. mirroring forth His Beauty The purpose of an educator is to allow his students to do things through their _own_ volition, not to make them automatic robots under the educator’s control.

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Dan Jensen wrote:

    “Do you think it matters who is doing the punishing? Whether it is St. Peter, some ugly gargoyle, or your own self, it remains a threat of Hellfire.”

    There is an Islamic quote (I do not have at hand) where The Prophet explains why some remote from God doing evil acts are not punished by God. Muhammad compares them to students so far from the teacher that he does not even care to educate them any more. Chastising a student is a proof of love, and not of hatred and vengance, even though a child (or a spiritually young person) might believe so.

    The nearer we get to God, the more exacting our education becomes. The whole purpose of this education is to enable us enact the virtues God has provided for us; “loving God” means loving His creation and serving His creatures, i.e. mirroring forth His Beauty The purpose of an educator is to allow his students to do things through their _own_ volition, not to make them automatic robots under the educator’s control.

  • farhan

    Carmen wrote:

    “I don’t share your opinion of the UHJ as being exclusively legislative in its speher of authority but that is a topic that requires a rather lengthy discussion.”

    Carmen, thanks for your many posts.

    I know that I dont know what will happein in some 100 years, but I am willing to imagine. Ali Nakhjavani’s power point presentation seems the most comprehensive explanation to me;

    I have many examples of teaching the Faith and being jeered at, only to see people come back some years later saying “you were right” (i.e. the Baha’i teachings were right !)

    When humanity will have accepted most of the Baha’i principles, as it is already the case in the constitution of the European Union, unimaginable 40 years ago, the next step will be to accept the idea that we need a spiritual basis for enacting those reforms.

    Baha’is believe that legislation by the UHJ will be more and more welcomed by executives powers around the world,, weary of strife and contentions, desperately seeking mediation and arbitration, regardless of whether humanity will have accepted the spiritual teachings or not.

    There is this example by Abdu’l-baha comparing Baha’is to flowers of a garden and rays of the sun: the flowers are requesting, needing, benefiting, and the rays of the sun are conveying from the source towards the receptors; Baha’is should be in a position of giving, of serving, and not of demanding.

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Carmen wrote:

    “I don’t share your opinion of the UHJ as being exclusively legislative in its speher of authority but that is a topic that requires a rather lengthy discussion.”

    Carmen, thanks for your many posts.

    I know that I dont know what will happein in some 100 years, but I am willing to imagine. Ali Nakhjavani’s power point presentation seems the most comprehensive explanation to me;

    I have many examples of teaching the Faith and being jeered at, only to see people come back some years later saying “you were right” (i.e. the Baha’i teachings were right !)

    When humanity will have accepted most of the Baha’i principles, as it is already the case in the constitution of the European Union, unimaginable 40 years ago, the next step will be to accept the idea that we need a spiritual basis for enacting those reforms.

    Baha’is believe that legislation by the UHJ will be more and more welcomed by executives powers around the world,, weary of strife and contentions, desperately seeking mediation and arbitration, regardless of whether humanity will have accepted the spiritual teachings or not.

    There is this example by Abdu’l-baha comparing Baha’is to flowers of a garden and rays of the sun: the flowers are requesting, needing, benefiting, and the rays of the sun are conveying from the source towards the receptors; Baha’is should be in a position of giving, of serving, and not of demanding.

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Farzad Yazdani writes: “The Bab tells us that we should do good actions through the love of God, without hoping for paradise or fearing hell.”

    That’s true. We hear similar things through the ages from others who recognize the childishness of such Sunday school religion. I don’t see the need to go to the Bab for such advice. It’s easy enough to see with ones own eyes.

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Farzad Yazdani writes: “The Bab tells us that we should do good actions through the love of God, without hoping for paradise or fearing hell.”

    That’s true. We hear similar things through the ages from others who recognize the childishness of such Sunday school religion. I don’t see the need to go to the Bab for such advice. It’s easy enough to see with ones own eyes.

  • farhan

    Dan Jensen wrote:

    “I don’t see the need to go to the Bab for such advice. It’s easy enough to see with ones own eyes.”

    Dan, you and I might have acquired this concept through experience but around us we see so many others base their belief on the concepts of heaven and hell. There are so many concepts obvious to us, but not to the billions of indocrinated humanbeings.

    If we say Dan and Farhan say so, there is no weight in that statement, but if we say that the Mnifestation of God said so, it has weight today and throughout human history;

    Galen had noticed this very clearly, as quoted by Abdu’l-Baha in Secret of Divine Civilisation p 35

    ?The generality of mankind are unable to grasp a sequence of logical arguments. For this reason they stand in need of symbols and parables telling of rewards and punishments in the next world. A confirmatory evidence of this is that today we observe a people called Christians, who believe devoutly in rewards and punishments in a future state. This group show forth excellent actions, similar to the actions of an individual who is a true philosopher. For example, we all see with our own eyes that they have no fear of death, and their passion for justice and fair-dealing is so great that they should be considered true philosophers.?
    The station of a philosopher, in that age and in the mind of Galen, was superior to any other station in the world. Consider then how the enlightening and spiritualizing power of divine religions impels the believers to such heights of perfection that a philosopher like Galen, not himself a Christian, offers such testimony.”

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Dan Jensen wrote:

    “I don’t see the need to go to the Bab for such advice. It’s easy enough to see with ones own eyes.”

    Dan, you and I might have acquired this concept through experience but around us we see so many others base their belief on the concepts of heaven and hell. There are so many concepts obvious to us, but not to the billions of indocrinated humanbeings.

    If we say Dan and Farhan say so, there is no weight in that statement, but if we say that the Mnifestation of God said so, it has weight today and throughout human history;

    Galen had noticed this very clearly, as quoted by Abdu’l-Baha in Secret of Divine Civilisation p 35

    ?The generality of mankind are unable to grasp a sequence of logical arguments. For this reason they stand in need of symbols and parables telling of rewards and punishments in the next world. A confirmatory evidence of this is that today we observe a people called Christians, who believe devoutly in rewards and punishments in a future state. This group show forth excellent actions, similar to the actions of an individual who is a true philosopher. For example, we all see with our own eyes that they have no fear of death, and their passion for justice and fair-dealing is so great that they should be considered true philosophers.?
    The station of a philosopher, in that age and in the mind of Galen, was superior to any other station in the world. Consider then how the enlightening and spiritualizing power of divine religions impels the believers to such heights of perfection that a philosopher like Galen, not himself a Christian, offers such testimony.”

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dear Farhan,

    “A confirmatory evidence of this is that today we observe a people called Christians, who believe devoutly in rewards and punishments in a future state.”

    Actions based on belief in rewards in a future state are self serving, but not enlightened self interest because the rewards and the future state do not exist as the parable writer would have the Christians believe.

    Isn’t it time to put these pretty falsehoods as well as unjustified fears aside? Isn’t it time to act based on truth?

    Frank

  • Louise

    interesting account of the milgram expriments:
    http://www.jewishcurrents.org/2004-jan-dimow.htm

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dear Farhan,

    “A confirmatory evidence of this is that today we observe a people called Christians, who believe devoutly in rewards and punishments in a future state.”

    Actions based on belief in rewards in a future state are self serving, but not enlightened self interest because the rewards and the future state do not exist as the parable writer would have the Christians believe.

    Isn’t it time to put these pretty falsehoods as well as unjustified fears aside? Isn’t it time to act based on truth?

    Frank

  • Louise

    interesting account of the milgram expriments:
    http://www.jewishcurrents.org/2004-jan-dimow.htm

  • Carm-again

    Dan wrote: “I don’t see the need to go to the Bab for such advice. It’s easy enough to see with ones own eyes.”

    Perhapss easy enough for you and others who have the advantage of an education and exposure to various moral principles. I’ve been on teaching trips in some extremely dangerous ghetto areas in Kingston, Jamaica, which are dominated by drug barons and organized gangs. The murder rate in Kingston is among the highest in cities the world. While we engage in interesting intellectual discussions the children and youth growing up in these (and other similar neighborhoods in many countries) become inured to violence and other harmful actions/attitudes at an early age. It’s not so easy for them to see with their own eyes. They need a little help.

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Dan wrote: “I don’t see the need to go to the Bab for such advice. It’s easy enough to see with ones own eyes.”

    Perhapss easy enough for you and others who have the advantage of an education and exposure to various moral principles. I’ve been on teaching trips in some extremely dangerous ghetto areas in Kingston, Jamaica, which are dominated by drug barons and organized gangs. The murder rate in Kingston is among the highest in cities the world. While we engage in interesting intellectual discussions the children and youth growing up in these (and other similar neighborhoods in many countries) become inured to violence and other harmful actions/attitudes at an early age. It’s not so easy for them to see with their own eyes. They need a little help.

    Carmen

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Hi Farhan,

    There is an old religion whose fundamental law is love. This religion predates Galen, and owes much to Stoicism. Its scriptures say that love is the law and that in love is the fulfillment of the law, and those same scriptures even go so far as to say that God is love. Those scriptures even say that the Kingdom is within you. Ever heard of it?

    I’m not associated with that religion, but I think it’s still a step ahead of your Baha’i variant of Islam.

    We all have our idols. Some idols are mightier than others. You say you need a manifestation to say something for it to be true, but you must authorize your manifestation, and if you should err in your judgment with respect to whom you authorize, what then? Always keep your eyes open, even after you’ve employed a guide. You are the judge, my friend; like it or not.

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Hi Farhan,

    There is an old religion whose fundamental law is love. This religion predates Galen, and owes much to Stoicism. Its scriptures say that love is the law and that in love is the fulfillment of the law, and those same scriptures even go so far as to say that God is love. Those scriptures even say that the Kingdom is within you. Ever heard of it?

    I’m not associated with that religion, but I think it’s still a step ahead of your Baha’i variant of Islam.

    We all have our idols. Some idols are mightier than others. You say you need a manifestation to say something for it to be true, but you must authorize your manifestation, and if you should err in your judgment with respect to whom you authorize, what then? Always keep your eyes open, even after you’ve employed a guide. You are the judge, my friend; like it or not.

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Hi Carmen,

    These Jamaicans that you speak of: do you think them so incapable of love and empathy that they must be motivated by threats and treats? If that is the case with them, so be it: make empty threats and promises to them, so that they may behave; but is that the role of faith? Or is that the role of government?

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Hi Carmen,

    These Jamaicans that you speak of: do you think them so incapable of love and empathy that they must be motivated by threats and treats? If that is the case with them, so be it: make empty threats and promises to them, so that they may behave; but is that the role of faith? Or is that the role of government?

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Thanks, Louise, for the Milgram link.

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Thanks, Louise, for the Milgram link.

  • Grover

    Farhan wrote:

    [quote comment=""]If we say Dan and Farhan say so, there is no weight in that statement, but if we say that the Mnifestation of God said so, it has weight today and throughout human history;
    [/quote]

    I would like to contest that if I may. The words of a Manifestation of God only have weight if the person who hears them is prepared to listen and believe in them.

    It seems from personal experience that you get far better results from internalising the concepts, writings etc, and putting it across in your own words. People seem more likely to listen.

  • Grover

    Farhan wrote:

    [quote comment=""]If we say Dan and Farhan say so, there is no weight in that statement, but if we say that the Mnifestation of God said so, it has weight today and throughout human history;
    [/quote]

    I would like to contest that if I may. The words of a Manifestation of God only have weight if the person who hears them is prepared to listen and believe in them.

    It seems from personal experience that you get far better results from internalising the concepts, writings etc, and putting it across in your own words. People seem more likely to listen.

  • Carm-again

    Grove wrote: “It seems from personal experience that you get far better results from internalising the concepts, writings etc, and putting it across in your own words. People seem more likely to listen.”

    This has been my experience also. I do find sometimes that someone will respond when I quote from the Writings as that seems to resonate very deeply with some people. In terms of internalising, when I have had discussions about topics like chastity, for example, I’ve noticed much more receptivity when I mention my own struggles. This has always been very difficult for me as my sex drive is very high and I’ve often clicked with members of the opposite sex. When I discuss how hard this has been and use very concrete examples from my experiences it seems that most people I’ve spoken with are really able to relate to what I have to say and really listen.

    Another interesting discovery I’ve made is that when discussing some topics I get a much more receptive response when I mention related data and experiences rather than simply saying Baha’u’llah said so. Alcohol is one example. I’ve collected a great deal of information on the high positive correlation between alcohol and crime (including rape), the billions of dollars in damage each year due to work-related accidents and other problems, deaths from road accidents, MADD (mothers against drunk driving) and lots of other material. Once at Christmas when my cousin offered me a drink I began mentioning these facts without mentioning the Faith and then an uncle began saying that he left Jamaica partly because there was nothing to do in his village except drink. I didn’t know this had been a factor in his move to Montreal. They were all very receptive to the discussion about alcohol as they had seen the effects of drunken behavior. If I had just said I don’t drink because I’m a Baha’i (which I do at times) they might have had a knee jerk – here’s another religious nut – reaction.

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Grove wrote: “It seems from personal experience that you get far better results from internalising the concepts, writings etc, and putting it across in your own words. People seem more likely to listen.”

    This has been my experience also. I do find sometimes that someone will respond when I quote from the Writings as that seems to resonate very deeply with some people. In terms of internalising, when I have had discussions about topics like chastity, for example, I’ve noticed much more receptivity when I mention my own struggles. This has always been very difficult for me as my sex drive is very high and I’ve often clicked with members of the opposite sex. When I discuss how hard this has been and use very concrete examples from my experiences it seems that most people I’ve spoken with are really able to relate to what I have to say and really listen.

    Another interesting discovery I’ve made is that when discussing some topics I get a much more receptive response when I mention related data and experiences rather than simply saying Baha’u’llah said so. Alcohol is one example. I’ve collected a great deal of information on the high positive correlation between alcohol and crime (including rape), the billions of dollars in damage each year due to work-related accidents and other problems, deaths from road accidents, MADD (mothers against drunk driving) and lots of other material. Once at Christmas when my cousin offered me a drink I began mentioning these facts without mentioning the Faith and then an uncle began saying that he left Jamaica partly because there was nothing to do in his village except drink. I didn’t know this had been a factor in his move to Montreal. They were all very receptive to the discussion about alcohol as they had seen the effects of drunken behavior. If I had just said I don’t drink because I’m a Baha’i (which I do at times) they might have had a knee jerk – here’s another religious nut – reaction.

    Carmen

  • farhan

    Dan wrote:
    “We all have our idols. Some idols are mightier than others. You say you need a manifestation to say something for it to be true, but you must authorize your manifestation, and if you should err in your judgment with respect to whom you authorize,…”

    Dan, I like what you write; yes, we certainly need idols or standards, norms, and references as a vital need for organising our social lives, just like weights and measures, traffic regulations and standardised electric plugs. Agnostics and atheists can be considered as passive benefitors of standards that others have established. In the US you can benefit from a social structure based on Judeo-Christianity, without ever opening a Bible or going to church. Without that spiritual heritage, the US constitution might have been similar to that of the many other political systems around the world.

    The monotheistic religions say that we can appeal to love and detachment, spiritual reward and retribution to have people adhere to the ONE reference for all, aiming at ending wars on differing idols.

    Political ideologies believe that we can impose these idols with Goulags and Kalachnikovs.

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Dan wrote:
    “We all have our idols. Some idols are mightier than others. You say you need a manifestation to say something for it to be true, but you must authorize your manifestation, and if you should err in your judgment with respect to whom you authorize,…”

    Dan, I like what you write; yes, we certainly need idols or standards, norms, and references as a vital need for organising our social lives, just like weights and measures, traffic regulations and standardised electric plugs. Agnostics and atheists can be considered as passive benefitors of standards that others have established. In the US you can benefit from a social structure based on Judeo-Christianity, without ever opening a Bible or going to church. Without that spiritual heritage, the US constitution might have been similar to that of the many other political systems around the world.

    The monotheistic religions say that we can appeal to love and detachment, spiritual reward and retribution to have people adhere to the ONE reference for all, aiming at ending wars on differing idols.

    Political ideologies believe that we can impose these idols with Goulags and Kalachnikovs.

  • farhan

    Grover wrote:

    “I would like to contest that if I may. The words of a Manifestation of God only have weight if the person who hears them is prepared to listen and believe in them.”

    I agree with the need to internalse; Baha’u’llah speaks in the Hidden Words of “sowing the seeds in our hearts”

    At the same time, historically speaking, the message of the Divine Manifestations has a very special “power of penetration”. Jacques Monod, the French Nobel winner who wrote “Hazard and Necessity” which considers that scinece can produce it’s own system of ethics admits that the ethics resulting from religion with reference to something sacred happens to have an exceptionnal power of penetration.

    When we mirror forth ideas “sown in our hearts” it is the power of those ideas and not our own power of persuasion that inspires the hearts of others.

  • Farhan Yazdani

    Grover wrote:

    “I would like to contest that if I may. The words of a Manifestation of God only have weight if the person who hears them is prepared to listen and believe in them.”

    I agree with the need to internalse; Baha’u’llah speaks in the Hidden Words of “sowing the seeds in our hearts”

    At the same time, historically speaking, the message of the Divine Manifestations has a very special “power of penetration”. Jacques Monod, the French Nobel winner who wrote “Hazard and Necessity” which considers that scinece can produce it’s own system of ethics admits that the ethics resulting from religion with reference to something sacred happens to have an exceptionnal power of penetration.

    When we mirror forth ideas “sown in our hearts” it is the power of those ideas and not our own power of persuasion that inspires the hearts of others.

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Farhan, I presume that by “monotheistic religions” you mean truly monotheistic religions, as opposed to those idolatrous (polytheistic) faiths claiming to be monotheistic, such as the Baha’i Faith, Catholicism, and Shi’a Islam, that are overburdened with a variety personalities possessing superhuman powers of prophecy, immaculate revelation, military prowess, and various forms of infallibility.

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Farhan, I presume that by “monotheistic religions” you mean truly monotheistic religions, as opposed to those idolatrous (polytheistic) faiths claiming to be monotheistic, such as the Baha’i Faith, Catholicism, and Shi’a Islam, that are overburdened with a variety personalities possessing superhuman powers of prophecy, immaculate revelation, military prowess, and various forms of infallibility.

  • Carm-again

    Dan wrote: “Farhan, I presume that by “monotheistic religions” you mean truly monotheistic religions, as opposed to those idolatrous (polytheistic) faiths claiming to be monotheistic, such as the Baha’i Faith, Catholicism, and Shi’a Islam, that are overburdened with a variety personalities possessing superhuman powers of prophecy, immaculate revelation, military prowess, and various forms of infallibility.”

    Dan, could you kindly list the religions you consider to be “truly” monotheistic? If they include Judaism, Christianity and Sunni Islam, which are usually considered monotheistic religions, then they should not be on your list. Christianity, for example, has several individuals who fit the “variety of personalities” you mention. These personalities include Jesus, John the Baptist, St. John the Divine (author of the Book of Revelations), St.Paul and the various Old Testament Prophets who Christians revere as having had “superhuman powers of prophecy”. So is Christianity also idolatrous and polytheistic by being “overburdened” as you see it?

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Dan wrote: “Farhan, I presume that by “monotheistic religions” you mean truly monotheistic religions, as opposed to those idolatrous (polytheistic) faiths claiming to be monotheistic, such as the Baha’i Faith, Catholicism, and Shi’a Islam, that are overburdened with a variety personalities possessing superhuman powers of prophecy, immaculate revelation, military prowess, and various forms of infallibility.”

    Dan, could you kindly list the religions you consider to be “truly” monotheistic? If they include Judaism, Christianity and Sunni Islam, which are usually considered monotheistic religions, then they should not be on your list. Christianity, for example, has several individuals who fit the “variety of personalities” you mention. These personalities include Jesus, John the Baptist, St. John the Divine (author of the Book of Revelations), St.Paul and the various Old Testament Prophets who Christians revere as having had “superhuman powers of prophecy”. So is Christianity also idolatrous and polytheistic by being “overburdened” as you see it?

    Carmen

  • farhan

    Dan wrote:
    “I presume that by “monotheistic religions” you mean truly monotheistic religions, …

    Dan, without analysing deeply, i only meant to say that the concept of “One God” implies one creation, one common universal law and not a multitude of social systems, without judging who has truly applied this principle and who has not.

  • Farhan YAZDANI

    Dan wrote:
    “I presume that by “monotheistic religions” you mean truly monotheistic religions, …

    Dan, without analysing deeply, i only meant to say that the concept of “One God” implies one creation, one common universal law and not a multitude of social systems, without judging who has truly applied this principle and who has not.

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Carmen writes, “Dan, could you kindly list the religions you consider to be ?truly? monotheistic? If they include Judaism, Christianity and Sunni Islam, which are usually considered monotheistic religions, then they should not be on your list.”

    Gladly, Carmen. My favorite example of a truly monotheistic religion is , as the name indicates, Unitarianism.

    It is quite easy to be a Christian and not believe that Jesus is God or that the Bible is the immaculate word of God.

    Sunni Islam and Judaism, though tainted by their own idols, are arguably monotheistic. Some Muslims and Jews practice a monotheistic religion as a personal matter, because Sunni Islam and Judaism put such a high priority on monotheism and not assigning partners to God.

    The Baha’i Faith, probably due to its Shi’a roots, is fundamentally adverse to monotheism because it emphasizes the divinity of its founders. Many Muslims believe that Muhammad was a mere man. Muhammad never said “I am God”.

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Carmen writes, “Dan, could you kindly list the religions you consider to be ?truly? monotheistic? If they include Judaism, Christianity and Sunni Islam, which are usually considered monotheistic religions, then they should not be on your list.”

    Gladly, Carmen. My favorite example of a truly monotheistic religion is , as the name indicates, Unitarianism.

    It is quite easy to be a Christian and not believe that Jesus is God or that the Bible is the immaculate word of God.

    Sunni Islam and Judaism, though tainted by their own idols, are arguably monotheistic. Some Muslims and Jews practice a monotheistic religion as a personal matter, because Sunni Islam and Judaism put such a high priority on monotheism and not assigning partners to God.

    The Baha’i Faith, probably due to its Shi’a roots, is fundamentally adverse to monotheism because it emphasizes the divinity of its founders. Many Muslims believe that Muhammad was a mere man. Muhammad never said “I am God”.

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Farhan writes, “Dan, without analysing deeply, i only meant to say that the concept of ?One God? implies one creation, one common universal law and not a multitude of social systems, without judging who has truly applied this principle and who has not.”

    You mean that monotheism is any universal system that inhibits cultural and political diversity, like Stalinism, for instance?

    I thought that monotheism meant that there is only one God, and no man or ideology can lay claim to God (what Muslims call partnership).

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Farhan writes, “Dan, without analysing deeply, i only meant to say that the concept of ?One God? implies one creation, one common universal law and not a multitude of social systems, without judging who has truly applied this principle and who has not.”

    You mean that monotheism is any universal system that inhibits cultural and political diversity, like Stalinism, for instance?

    I thought that monotheism meant that there is only one God, and no man or ideology can lay claim to God (what Muslims call partnership).

  • Carm-again

    Dan wrote” “It is quite easy to be a Christian and not believe that Jesus is God or that the Bible is the immaculate word of God.”

    The fact that it is “easy” does not mean that this is the belief of the majority of Christians and many branches of Christianity. The Trinity and the belief in the Bible as the word of God is a fundamental aspect of the belief of many Christians. It is certainly the belief of all the Christians I have known and what I was taught in the Christian elementary and high schools I attended. They also believe that several personalities in the Old and New Testaments have varying degrees of divine powers including powers of prophecy. Based on this, it seems to me that they would be puzzled and probably astounded by what seems to be your view that they are idolatrous and polytheistic.

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Dan wrote” “It is quite easy to be a Christian and not believe that Jesus is God or that the Bible is the immaculate word of God.”

    The fact that it is “easy” does not mean that this is the belief of the majority of Christians and many branches of Christianity. The Trinity and the belief in the Bible as the word of God is a fundamental aspect of the belief of many Christians. It is certainly the belief of all the Christians I have known and what I was taught in the Christian elementary and high schools I attended. They also believe that several personalities in the Old and New Testaments have varying degrees of divine powers including powers of prophecy. Based on this, it seems to me that they would be puzzled and probably astounded by what seems to be your view that they are idolatrous and polytheistic.

    Carmen

  • farhan

    Dan wrote:
    “You mean that monotheism is any universal system that inhibits cultural and political diversity, like Stalinism, for instance?”

    Dan, I mean that one important implication of monotheisme is that we are all members of one human family, brothers and sisters, leaves of one branch, and not of two trees, one of good and the other of evil.

    Monotheism aims at uniting through love in diversity and in service to humanity, political ideologies attempt to unite through violence and exclusion towards the interests of one category over those of others.

  • Farhan YAZDANI

    Dan wrote:
    “You mean that monotheism is any universal system that inhibits cultural and political diversity, like Stalinism, for instance?”

    Dan, I mean that one important implication of monotheisme is that we are all members of one human family, brothers and sisters, leaves of one branch, and not of two trees, one of good and the other of evil.

    Monotheism aims at uniting through love in diversity and in service to humanity, political ideologies attempt to unite through violence and exclusion towards the interests of one category over those of others.

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Hi Carmen,

    Liberal Christians may not be the majority of Christians, but there are plenty of them. I know of plenty of liberal churches in my area that I could attend regularly that value Nature, life, the human spirit, inclusiveness, science, God, etc. It’s *very* easy to see Jesus as a flaming anarchist revolutionary liberal.

    If I wanted to be a member of a liberal Baha’i congregation, I’m afraid it would need to be a virtual congregation, and I’ll wager it would be rather controversial.

    The Baha’i Faith is essentially Islam plus a few idols. It’s basically a trinitarian corruption of Islam, though the idolatry doesn’t stop there.

    What’s new? Baha’u’llah preached world peace through strength, and through strength of force when necessary.

    So did Muhammad.

    Muhammad, however, did not claim to be God, or even to being infallible. The Muhammad of the Qur’an made mistakes. Muhammad is, at his grandest, a perfect exemplar, but alas, an exemplar who made mistakes! He was not even at the level of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’, that grand idol whose countenance graces so many Baha’i homes, offices, temples, etc.

    Many Christians are good ol’ fashioned idolators who take the tales of the prophets literally and believe the world is 6000 years old. Ignorance comes in all colors. They may indeed be shocked at how others see them, just as you may be shocked at how many non-Baha’is see your religion, once they get beyond the brochures.

    Yours truly,
    Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/ Dan Jensen

    Hi Carmen,

    Liberal Christians may not be the majority of Christians, but there are plenty of them. I know of plenty of liberal churches in my area that I could attend regularly that value Nature, life, the human spirit, inclusiveness, science, God, etc. It’s *very* easy to see Jesus as a flaming anarchist revolutionary liberal.

    If I wanted to be a member of a liberal Baha’i congregation, I’m afraid it would need to be a virtual congregation, and I’ll wager it would be rather controversial.

    The Baha’i Faith is essentially Islam plus a few idols. It’s basically a trinitarian corruption of Islam, though the idolatry doesn’t stop there.

    What’s new? Baha’u’llah preached world peace through strength, and through strength of force when necessary.

    So did Muhammad.

    Muhammad, however, did not claim to be God, or even to being infallible. The Muhammad of the Qur’an made mistakes. Muhammad is, at his grandest, a perfect exemplar, but alas, an exemplar who made mistakes! He was not even at the level of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’, that grand idol whose countenance graces so many Baha’i homes, offices, temples, etc.

    Many Christians are good ol’ fashioned idolators who take the tales of the prophets literally and believe the world is 6000 years old. Ignorance comes in all colors. They may indeed be shocked at how others see them, just as you may be shocked at how many non-Baha’is see your religion, once they get beyond the brochures.

    Yours truly,
    Dan

  • Carm-again

    Dan,

    You keep shifting the goal posts. Of course there are liberal Christians. However, you began only with Roman Catholics. Now you are saying that “many Christians are good old fashioned idolaters.” I know liberal Christians who do not believe humanity is 6000 years old or some other literal ideas but they still believe in the Trinity and that Jesus was God and the Bible is the word of God. You have to try to determine what it is you really believe rather than changing your answers and positions in response to questions seeking clarification.

    Ignorance comes in all colors and this includes the ignorance of non-Christians who think they can impose their inconsistent categorizations on Christians and their beliefs based on their personal opinions.

    I am quite happy to let others determine their opinions of the Faith based on what they read beyond the brochures. Indeed, many have become Baha’is precisely because they have been able to do this. I became an agnostic at age 14 in high school and it took me 8 months of intensive study of many Baha’i books and many questions during my freshman year at university before I became a Baha’i.

    I have recently been in contact with some wonderful people who believe their lives have improved tremendously because of their new found belief in Christ and their in-depth study of the Bible. One had been a drug addict for five years. His belief in Christ has not only saved him from drugs but set him on a path of service in which he has fed addicts in his home and offered help to the homeless. Shifting semantic goal posts makes no diifference in the lives of such people as they do really not care what you and others think of them.

    Carmen

  • Carm-again

    Dan,

    You keep shifting the goal posts. Of course there are liberal Christians. However, you began only with Roman Catholics. Now you are saying that “many Christians are good old fashioned idolaters.” I know liberal Christians who do not believe humanity is 6000 years old or some other literal ideas but they still believe in the Trinity and that Jesus was God and the Bible is the word of God. You have to try to determine what it is you really believe rather than changing your answers and positions in response to questions seeking clarification.

    Ignorance comes in all colors and this includes the ignorance of non-Christians who think they can impose their inconsistent categorizations on Christians and their beliefs based on their personal opinions.

    I am quite happy to let others determine their opinions of the Faith based on what they read beyond the brochures. Indeed, many have become Baha’is precisely because they have been able to do this. I became an agnostic at age 14 in high school and it took me 8 months of intensive study of many Baha’i books and many questions during my freshman year at university before I became a Baha’i.

    I have recently been in contact with some wonderful people who believe their lives have improved tremendously because of their new found belief in Christ and their in-depth study of the Bible. One had been a drug addict for five years. His belief in Christ has not only saved him from drugs but set him on a path of service in which he has fed addicts in his home and offered help to the homeless. Shifting semantic goal posts makes no diifference in the lives of such people as they do really not care what you and others think of them.

    Carmen

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    [quote comment=""]Dan, You keep shifting the goal posts. Of course there are liberal Christians. However, you began only with Roman Catholics. Now you are saying that “many Christians are good old fashioned idolaters.”[/quote]

    Hi Carmen. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. It wasn’t that I was moving the goal posts, but rather that I was at the other end of the field. I was simply conceding to you that there are indeed many ignorant Christians, and in so doing I was pointing out that your discovery of ignorant Christians ought not prejudice you against a religion of such diversity.

    A general disclaimer: my fundamental intention is not to trash the Baha’i Faith, or to trouble the meek among the Baha’is. I only seek to humble the arrogant. I’ve known too many Baha’is that give a strong impression that they have all the answers. As a Baha’i, I found this quite frustrating.

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    [quote comment=""]Dan, You keep shifting the goal posts. Of course there are liberal Christians. However, you began only with Roman Catholics. Now you are saying that “many Christians are good old fashioned idolaters.”[/quote]

    Hi Carmen. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. It wasn’t that I was moving the goal posts, but rather that I was at the other end of the field. I was simply conceding to you that there are indeed many ignorant Christians, and in so doing I was pointing out that your discovery of ignorant Christians ought not prejudice you against a religion of such diversity.

    A general disclaimer: my fundamental intention is not to trash the Baha’i Faith, or to trouble the meek among the Baha’is. I only seek to humble the arrogant. I’ve known too many Baha’is that give a strong impression that they have all the answers. As a Baha’i, I found this quite frustrating.

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