The Human Truth Foundation

The Bahá'í Faith

https://www.humanreligions.info/bahai.html

By Vexen Crabtree 2016

#atheism #bahai #bahá'í_faith #iran #islam #israel #religions

Bahá'í Faith
Links: Pages on Bahá'í Faith, Other Religions
The symbol of the Bahai Faith
God(s)Atheist / Monotheist / Polytheist / Other
AdherentBaha'i
AdherentsBahá'ís
TextsWritings of Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha
AfterlifeYes
Founding
HeritageShi'a Islam
Area of OriginIran
When18631
FounderBy Bahá'u'lláh
Numbers in the UK (Census results)
20014 64520115 021
Bahá'ís Worldwide (Pew & WM)
World: 0.116%. Nauru (9.61%), Tonga (6.68%), Kiribati (5.2%), Tuvalu (4.95%), Vanuatu (2.85%), Belize (2.49%), Sao Tome & Principe (2.38%), Samoa (2.33%), United Arab Emirates (2.26%), Bolivia (2.24%) 2

The Bahá'í Faith holds that a series of prophets have come from God and founded religions, and that Bahá'í is the latest1. Bahá'í is counted as one of the great world religions3,4,5. Bahá'í texts prefer to name the faith as "The Bahá'í Faith" but for brevity it is often referred to just as "Bahá'í". It began in 1844 when Mirza Husayn Ali declared he was a 'Bab' - a gateway of communication between God and humanity. He prophesized that a new prophet would arrive. After the Bab's death one of his followers rose to the occasion: Baha'u'llah. Bahá'í arose in Iran and is a liberal offshoot of Islam and uses Shi'a Islamic theological terminology.

Bahai is globalist, modern and progressive in its outlook, emphasizing the togetherness of all people. Despite this, a series of schisms and legal battles have ensued as the main denomination has attempted (mostly successfully) to suppress other Bahai groups. Most Bahá'í doctrine suggests greater equality for women6 but the ruling body of its largest two denominations (the Universal House of Justice, based in Haifa, Israel and the Orthodox Bahai Faith) is strictly limited to male delegates7,8. It is heavily persecuted in Iran, especially since the Iranian revolution during which many Bahá'ís were executed9. Despite being only a small world religion, Barrett & Johnson have calculated that one million Bahá'í's have been killed because of their religion10.


1. Numbers of Bahá'ís Around the World, by Country

#religion

Worldmapper (2005)11
Pos.11
1Nauru9.6%
2Tonga6.7%
3Kiribati5.2%
4Tuvalu5.0%
5Vanuatu2.8%
6Belize2.5%
7Sao Tome & Principe2.4%
8Samoa2.3%
9UAE2.3%
10Bolivia2.2%
11Zambia2.0%
12Mauritius1.9%
13Guyana1.7%
14Dominica1.7%
15Micronesia1.6%
16Marshall Islands1.6%
17Niue1.5%
18Suriname1.5%
19St Vincent & Grenadines1.5%
20Panama1.3%
21Barbados1.2%
22Trinidad & Tobago1.2%
23Kenya1.0%
24Antigua & Barbuda1.0%
25San Marino0.9%
26Lesotho0.9%
27Papua New Guinea0.9%
28Gambia0.9%
29Fiji0.9%
30Botswana0.8%
31Chad0.8%
32Cook Islands0.8%
33Palau0.7%
34Solomon Islands0.7%
35S. Africa0.7%
36Congo, (Brazzaville)0.6%
37Greenland0.6%
38Iran0.6%
39Venezuela0.6%
40Equatorial Guinea0.5%
q=191.

Bahai literature proudly proclaims the moment a monarch converted to the religion, in 1968:

And exactly one hundred years after Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation to the kings of the north, the first reigning monarch embraced the Bahá'í Faith - in 1968, after many months of investigating the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II of the Pacific nation of Western Samoa, became a Bahá'i.

"The Bahá'í Faith" by Joseph Sheppherd (1992)12

The conversion did not have a resounding effect - by 005, only 2.33% of the country called themselves Bahá'í13.

2. Calendar (2024)

#religious_calendars

DateEventNotes
Jan 19th
Friday

(this year)

Feast of Sultán (Sovereignty)

Feb 7th
Wednesday

(this year)

Feast of Mulk (Dominion)

Mar 1st
Friday

(19 days)
(this year)

Month of Fasting

Mar 20th
Wednesday

(this year)

Naw Ruz

On New Years' day at the end of a 19-day fast.

Apr 8th
Monday

(this year)

Feast of Jalál (Glory)

Apr 20th
Saturday

(12 days)
(this year)

Ridvan

Apr 27th
Saturday

(this year)

Feast of Jamál (Beauty)

Apr 28th
Sunday

(this year)

Ninth Day of Ridván

May 1st
Wednesday

(this year)

Twelfth Day of Ridván

May 16th
Thursday

(this year)

Feast of 'Azamat (Grandeur)

May 23rd
Thursday

(this year)

Bab Declaration Day

The herald of the Baha'u'llah.

May 28th
Tuesday

(this year)

The Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh

The death of Baha'u'llah.

Jun 4th
Tuesday

(this year)

Feast of Núr (Light)

Jun 23rd
Sunday

(this year)

Feast of Rahmat (Mercy)

Jul 9th
Tuesday

(this year)

The Martyrdom of the Báb

To mark the anniversary of his execution.

Jul 12nd
Friday

(this year)

Feast of Kalimát (Words)

Jul 31st
Wednesday

(this year)

Feast of Kamál (Perfection)

Aug 19th
Monday

(this year)

Feast of Asmá' (Names)

Sep 7th
Saturday

(this year)

Feast of 'Izzat (Might)

Sep 26th
Thursday

(this year)

Feast of Mashíyyat (Will)

Oct 15th
Tuesday

(this year)

Feast of 'Ilm (Knowledge)

Oct 20th
Sunday

(fixed)

Birth of the Bab (until 2014)

This was observed on the 20th of Oct each year until 2014, after which it was changed to the 8th new moon after each Bahai new year. The prophet who foretold the arrival of Baha'u'llah (another prophet).

Nov 2nd
Saturday

Birth of the Bab (since 2015)

This was observed on the 20th of Oct each year until 2014, after which it was changed to the 8th new moon after each Bahai new year. The prophet who foretold the arrival of Baha'u'llah (another prophet).

Nov 3rd
Sunday

(this year)

Feast of Qudrat (Power)

Nov 3rd
Sunday

Birth of the Baha'u'llah (since 2015)

Before 2015, the date was observed in accordance with the Islamic calendar date. The founder of Baha'i.

Nov 22nd
Friday

(this year)

Feast of Qawl (Speech)

Nov 25th
Monday

(this year)

Day of the Covenant

For the appointment of ?Abdu'l-Bahá as the Centre of Baha'u'llah's Covenant.

Nov 27th
Wednesday

(2 days)
(fixed)

Ascension of Abdul'l-Bahá

On 6th of Qawl, either the 27th of 28th of Nov For the death of `Abdu´l-Bahá.

Nov 27th
Wednesday

(this year)

Ascension of ?Abdu'l-Bahá

Dec 11st
Wednesday

(this year)

Feast of Masá'il (Questions)

Dec 30th
Monday

(this year)

Feast of Sharaf (Honor)

3. Good Stuff

As Bahá'í was formed, it adopted "what is perceived to be the best in other, already existing religions" (according to sociologist of religion, Michael York)14. This approach naturally leads to a more liberal stance on many issues, which has genuinely steered Bahai in a positive direction in some areas, for example, with their institutional support for the United Nation's efforts. 'The central message [of] the unity of all people'1 is a rare element of non-sectarianism in the world of religion.

Bahá'í teachings are based on the principles of economic justice, equal rights for women and men, education for all people, and the breaking down of traditional barriers of race, class and creed.

"Religions of the World" by Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997)1

Bahai's believe we must strive for the equality of gender and races, and work to reduce the disparate extremes between rich and poor. Only when we have eliminated the prejudice and avarice we hold within us, will the Lesser Peace evolve into the Most Great Peace.

"The Bahá'í Faith" by Joseph Sheppherd (1992)15

All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty bereath Me witness: To act like the beast of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah:CIX
In Sheppherd (1992)16

Bahá'í's are exhorted to associate with the followers of all religions with fellowship... to study such arts and sciences as will benefit mankind; to distinguish themselves through good deeds; to be truthful, trustworthy. [...] People should strive to eliminate all forms of prejudice. Equality should be extended to everyone regardless of gender, race, religion, culture, age, heritage, language, occupation, social status, or their group's numerical strength.

"The Bahá'í Faith" by Joseph Sheppherd (1992)17

Observe equity in your judgement, ye men of understanding heart! He that is unjust in his judgement is destitute of the characteristics that distinguish man's station. He Who is the Eternal Truth knoweth well what the hearts of men conceal.

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah:C
In Sheppherd (1992)17

It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah:CXVII
In Sheppherd (1992)17

The text sounds great and at worst it can be accused of going too far into the fluffy territory of "love everyone", which in practice has proven to be a disaster for social justice. Nonetheless, this is a better ethical start than statements found in most other traditional religions.

Drugs and alcohol

Bahai's are admonished to abstain from alcohol and drugs, aside from their prescriptive use in remedies by a physician. These substances impede the process of clear thinking and, what is more, their abuse is at the root of many diseases of the body and mind.

"The Bahá'í Faith" by Joseph Sheppherd (1992)18

This is another common-sense and progressive stance, and it is a shame that no other traditional religion is so clearly positive in its doctrine on drugs and alcohol whilst at the same time permitting sensible interventions for medical reasons.

4. Shortcomings in the Bahá'í Faith

4.1. Another Religion Claiming that its Prophet is the Latest from God

#buddhism #christianity #god_communication #judaism #monotheism #paganism #polytheism #prophets #religion

Most religions teach that ultimate reality is revealed to humanity in a series of steps. Despite this, most religions also claim to embody final truth. This contradiction is most pronounced in the classical monotheistic religions: Jews believe their religion to be the result of a new eternal covenant between God and man, replacing the polytheistic paganism of their era. But Christians believe that Moses and Abraham were only given partial truth and that Jesus was then given the next set of revelations, washing away the Old Testament and establishing a new final word - in Matthew 5:18 it says very clearly that the word cannot ever change, although John 16:12-13 admits that people are not yet ready for the full truth so some things are not yet revealed. Then comes the Qur'an, superseding the New Testament with another even newer final word from God19. The eternal and perfect text of the Qur'an is held in heaven and Muhammad is another final "seal of the prophets" (Qur'an 33:40, 5:19, et al.). Yet he has been followed by Bab and Baha'u'llah of the Bahá'í Faith who too claim to be the latest messengers of God1. The sequence of messiahs continues and what is revealed by one, is annulled by another. It isn't just monotheistic religions that are at it; the teachings of the Buddha are divided into "Sudden" and "Gradual" teachings, and people must learn the more superficial doctrines before moving up to the more profound ones20.

Despite its appearance in formal doctrine and holy texts, the idea of sequential revelation doesn't make sense. (1) There is no reason for God to deceive entire cultures with claims that the latest revelation is the last - we cope with changes in knowledge without all going crazy. (2) The illusion of finality causes religious conflicts to be prone to violence and aggression, because 'belief' is raised to a matter of life and death. A benevolent God would simply tell everyone the truth, or, make it clear that it doesn't matter what we believe. The middle-ground of gradual-instruction is very destructive. (4) Many of the specific things revealed by religion differ from revelation to revelation in a haphazard manner; there is no sense in which religion is gradually getting closer to final theological truth. What this all tells us has more to do with human nature than divine truth: in reality, the only clear evidence from the proliferation of different religions is that if there is a god, it doesn't mind who believes what.

For more, see:

4.2. The Line of Guardians Broke After Only One Iteration

Original Bahai doctrine (in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá) states that a Living Guardian is essential for the Bahai community, and is to be drawn from the male descendents of Bahá'u'lláh. The first Guardian was Shoghi Effendi. This much is accepted by all Bahai's. But after Shoghi's death, yet another round of leadership fights ensued, resulting in splits and factions. Because previous infighting had seen all Shoghi and Bahá'u'lláh's relatives expelled there was no clear successor. Leadership morphed (eventually) into the Universal House of Justice in what is now the main Bahai denomination, and the line of Guardians was discontinued. There are good arguments for the founding of this ruling body, however, it makes a mockery of the concept of Guardians. If God, being all-knowing and wise, knew that this would happen after the very first Guardian then why did it even inspire the concept of Guardians to be written into doctrine? It throws doubt on acceptance of the idea that Bahai's founders had a line of communication from God.

4.3. The Failed Experience Theodicy

#bahá'í_faith #humanism #theism

Bahá'í is hot on good social ethics; but it is unclear why it is necessary to be a Bahá'í in order to adopt such Humanist mores. Why not just be a Humanist? Why the need for the religious framework of Bahá'í? Well the main answer is that Bahá'ís believe in God, and therefore, attempt to frame their moral teachings in terms of their belief in God. But if they value goodness so greatly, how is it they reconcile the fact that their god created evil and suffering in the world? Theodicies are the attempts at solving this problem, and the lack of a sensible theodicy has plagued theism for thousands of years of philosophical debate.

To the present day, all theodicies have failed to explain why a good god would create evil, meaning that the existence of evil is simply incompatible with the existence of a good god. After thousands of years of life-consuming passion, weary theologians have not formulated a new answer to the problem of evil for a long time. The violence of the natural world, disease, the major catastrophes and chaotic destruction seen across the universe and the unsuitability of the vastness of reality for life all indicate that god is not concerned with life, and might actually even be evil. Failure to answer the problem of evil sheds continual doubt on the very foundations of theistic religions.

"The Problem of Evil: Why Would a Good God Create Suffering?: 9. Conclusion" by Vexen Crabtree (2011)

Bahá'í answers to the problem of evil center on the experience theodicy21, the idea that there are things we must learn during life, and that this is the reason that suffering and pain exist. Bahá'í sacred literature endorses the experience theodicy in at least two places:

The purpose of God in creating man hath been, and will ever be, to enable him to know his Creator and to attain His Presence. To this most excellent aim, this supreme objective, all the heavenly Books and the divinely-revealed and weighty Scriptures unequivocally bear witness.

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah:XXIX

The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah:LXXXI

So, the point of life is so that we can learn - through life - that there is a God. But this makes little sense - if this was such an "excellent aim", then why didn't God create all humans with an intrinsic knowledge of God? Or even better, simply create everyone in heaven, already within the presence of God? Why create people in an abstract, divorced world, and then declare that the aim is that they learn that they're in an inferior place, and that there is a great creator looking after them? To state that the "purpose of God in creating man [is] to enable him to know his Creator and to attain His Presence" simply doesn't make sense. It is a scheme that can only ever enable arbitrary failures.

In defence of this, Shephard argues that as we didn't understand the purpose of our limbs while in the womb, we likewise don't understand the purpose of our development during life - it just looks like suffering, to us. He writes that "Humans are essentially spiritual beings [... whose] inner being [...] continues to progress regardless of the condition of the physical vehicle which contains it"22. In other words, the experiences of life are somehow useful to us in the long-run, spiritually. But this roundabout way of improving people doesn't make sense - especially if it is the case that people who die in the womb manage to get to heaven, or if there are angels in Heaven who have known God all along. Do poor innocent babies who die before experiencing the right things in life end up impoverished forever? The only way out of this is to admit that actually there are no life experiences which are so important that people can't get to heaven without them. In other words, the experience theodicy is either completely immoral, or, completely wrong.

A full suite of arguments against the experience theodicy can be found here: "The Experience of Evil Theodicy" by Vexen Crabtree (2003).

4.4. Moral, Organisational and Systemic Problems

#evil_god #iran #israel #UK

5. Denominations, Schisms and Splits

#israel #USA

Bahá'í has splintered over a dozen times; some of the smaller splits have folded and no longer exist. In the USA, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai's has instigated a number of lawsuits against some other Bahai organisations.26. It all started when Shoghi Effendi died in 1957 without clearly denoting a successor. During his reign he had expelled all of his own male family members, so no relatives remained as possible leaders of either Shoghi or of Bahá'u'lláh.

The Bahai Faith or Bahai World Faith based in Haifa, Israel. The largest and the original Bahai church. It is accused by most of the other denominations of choosing the wrong successor to Shoghi Effendi (i.e., ignoring his will and picking their own successor, Rúhíyyih Khánum, his wife), of being overbearing, cultish, oppressive and too centralized. It uses excommunication as a weapon against dissent. As such, schisms are frequent.27. According to this denomination, the leaders of the faith started with this succession:

  1. Shoghí Effendí Rabbáná, First Guardian 1921-1957. As it was doctrine that future Guardians had to be male descendents of Bahá'u'lláh, and after Shoghi no such people remained, the line of Guardians was abandoned after just one iteration, which was not exactly good planning on God's behalf.
  2. The Hands of the Cause were the 27 spiritual leaders of the religion, and they unanimously declared that there was no clear Guardian successor.
  3. The Universal House of Justice became the ruling body from 1963 onwards (by unanimous decision of the 9 church leaders).

"The Orthodox Bahá'í Faith" (orthodoxbahai.com), (or Mother Bahá'í Council).26 Their main argument is that Shoghi Effendi (the First Guardian) appointed Mason Remey as the Second Guardian. However one Orthodox Bahai28 admits that "the majority of the Bahá'í world turned against Mason Remey" and selected a different leader. It was once defended in a courth of law by Jeffrey Goldberg (who runs truebahai.com) when the Bahai World Faith pressed charges against several denominations. That website is crammed full of articles by various authors writing negative statements about the Bahai World Faith; it feels like the point of everything written there is to attack them. The Guardians so far, according to this denomination, are:

  1. Shoghí Effendí Rabbáná, First Guardian 1921-1957.
  2. Charles Mason Remey, Second Guardian 1963-1974.
  3. Joel Bray Marangella, Third Guardian 1974-2013.
  4. Nosrat´u´llah Bahremand, Fourth Guardian 2013-present.

The Orthodox Bahá'í Faith Under the Regency, who followed Rex King and his family successors.26

Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant were also founded as a result of accepting Mason Remey as the correct "guardian" to succeed Shoghi Effendi. "They have organized a series of International Bahá'í Councils (IBC). They claim a membership approaching 144,000. Their Bahá'í Center is located in Missoula, MT. This group has apparently splintered into five groups, following a series of excommunications and shunnings".26

The Charles Mason Remey Society, who follow Donald Harvey and Francis Spataro26.

The Friends Newsletter Bahai group, mentioned by the OCRT26.

There are countless divisions that no longer exist. The New History Society of New York, USA, which once had a few thousand members. Faith of God (also known as The House of Mankind and The Universal Palace of Order followed Jamshid Ma'ani26. The group called National Spiritual Assembly Under the Hereditary Guardianship was founded by the USA branch of Bahai in 1962, but, after it tried to grab power from the main body it was dissolved in 1964.