The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan Cole <>
Subject: Re: The Most Right Scholar
Date: Sunday, June 27, 1999 2:09 AM

You are being completely illogical.  First you say that difference must
be preserved and each one of us is free to interpret for ourselves.
Then when I interpret for myself differently from you, you accuse me of
trying to force my opinion on you and set myself up as an interpreter.
But when did I ever do that?  When did I say that my interpretation is
special and superior to anyone else's?   Isn't it the fact that this
accusation is false, and is simply a ruse whereby you can prevent me
from expressing my difference and from engaging in an interpretation
with which you disagree?
Make up your mind.  Either diversity is good and we have freedom to
interpret for ourselves, or uniformity must be imposed and I don't have
the same freedoms you do because I differ with you on some points.
And if the idea is to prevent the growth of priesthoods who can tell
people what they have to believe, why are *counselors* going around
browbeating, interrogating and threatening ordinary Baha'is?  Aren't the
counselors and the UHJ members themselves becoming a sort of priesthood?
 Isn't it possible that they are attacking thinking people precisely for
the same reasons as other priesthoods, to retain their priestly
perquisites and authority?  Where does it say in the Writings that
Counselors and the UHJ can Interpret authoritatively?
Incidentally, the structure of your argument is precisely the one used
by the McCarthyites against American communists.  The McCarthyites
argued that communists had forfeited their civil liberties and first
amendment protections because they wished to force their views on
The only difference is that a lot of communists really were Stalinists.
 Whereas I have in the past 3 years run a number of email groups where I
have allowed a great range of Baha'i opinion to be expressed, and even
allowed myself to be attacked.  What Baha'i institution can make the
same claim?
You seem a nice enough person.  But you are being misled down a road
that leads to intellectual repression and a sort of Peace Fascism.  I
plead with you to rethink it all.
cheers    Juan
In article <7l2tje$2bh$>, wrote:
> Dear Friends
> The enormous diversity of humanity is key to unity, I believe. We all
> have much in common, yet we are all unique, see and understand
> differently. This "difference" must be preserved, and the way to do
> that is by ensuring that each one of us is free to interpret and
> understand in our own way. This is perhaps one of the reasons that
> Baha'u'llah appointed 'Abdul-Baha' to be His only interpretor, and
> why 'Abdul-Baha' continued this by appointing Shoghi Effendi to be
> Guardian, a most interesting title. Their interpretations were
> authoritative, but not restrictive. They gave us understanding without
> binding us narrowly to a rigid mindset, like some army of robots.
 Independent investigation of
> truth, and the abolishment of the priesthood are elements of this
> assignment of responsibility for spirituality which God has today
> back to each individual.
> As I understand it, some few individuals, working either separately or
> collectively, have been attempting to coerce the Baha'i community into
> believing that they know what Baha'u'llah means, and that the
> House of Justice does not. They seem intent on becoming a group
> of "interpretors" who can decide for us what Baha'u'llah wants for us
> to think and say and do. We would become the "mundane" Baha'is, the
> sheep who are herded here and there at the whim of the self-elected
> spiritually and intellectually superior.
Juan Cole, History, U of Michigan
Buy *Modernity & Millennium: Genesis of Baha'i*
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