The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan R. I. Cole <>
Subject: Re: Covenant Breakers
Date: Tuesday, March 03, 1998 3:21 AM
The point is that there were about 170 individuals subscribed to Talisman I,
including numbers of LSA members, assistants, ABMs, and even occasionally
NSA members from outside the US.  There was, I believe, one CB subscribed.
(This is not counting, of course, the loyal and committed Baha'is who were
later falsely and outrageously accused of contravening the covenant by
reason of their postings).  Since was run off a
listserv, subscriptions were automatic, anyway, and Indiana University rules
were not such that potential subscribers could be excluded because of their
religious views, which would have been a form of discrimination.
Talisman differed from the AOL, Microsoft, Compuserv and other Baha'i
chatrooms, and even from Soc.Religion.Bahai in this regard.  All of these
places in cyberspace had hugely more covenant breakers signed up, and in all
of those places the CB's posted freely and frequently, nor was there
anything the Baha'is could do about it but ignore them.
Counsellor Birkland's attack on in winter of 1996
therefore can only have been an unfair singling out of this list.  Why
didn't he come on AOL and warn *its* Baha'i chatroom that the covenant was
being endangered by the presence of CBs and imply that everyone should sign
off?  Especially since no Remeyites or others had ever dared actually post
anything on talisman, because it was fairly obvious that the high powered
Baha'i academics would easily defeat them in debate.  It was a ploy on
Birkland's part.  He had been instructed to attempt to destroy talisman, and
that was his opening gambit.  It failed so miserably that in its aftermath
he looked a bit silly.  He did manage in the end to decommission the Indiana
service (at a rather high cost to the faith), but he never did succeed in
destroying talisman--in fact as far as I can tell he multiplied the
talismans.  Nor did he succeed in preventing the sorts of statements to
which he and his handlers had objected from being made.
But, well, the Baha'i administration is a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies are
not good at dealing with new situations.  Everybody, including the
intellectuals, was caught off guard at the dynamics of the new medium, and
none of us could imagine our email traffic being taken so seriously as to
eventuate in formal heresy charges!  As the Information Revolution unfolds,
either the Baha'i faith will find a way to adapt to it more productively, or
it will recede back into obscurity.  Because this is the Wave of the next
millennium, and whoever doesn't catch it is going to be road kill.
cheers   Juan

At 03:24 PM 3/2/98, T.ALBERT-ISHMAEL ANDERSON wrote:
>Hmm! "almost no covenant breakers" on sounds very much
like "almost pregnant". 
>Juan R. I. Cole wrote:
>> Dear Dean:
>>Being savvy about cyberspace, they knew that the
>> list was distinguished from others in having almost no covenant breakers
>> signed up and in being a high powered intellectual environment where they
>> dared not actually say anything.
>> Enjoy the fast!
>> cheers   Juan
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