The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

Subject:      Re: Michael McKenny's expulsion from Baha'i Faith
From: (K. Paul Johnson)
Date:         1997/09/03
Message-ID:   <>
Newsgroups:   alt.religion.bahai,misc.misc,talk.religion.misc
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Chris  writes:
> That is not how I read some of his posts.  Did you see, for instance,
> his "Tablet of the Nine Brewers" which I felt verged on blasphemy. 
> he done the same with Muhammad I suspect the reaction would have been
> far more swift.
There's no central authority in Islam that could do what the
House has done.
  I have long since stopped reading Talisman as I found
> the forum constantly sails very close to the wind.
That says a lot right there.  Baha'is live with a constant
sense of danger that their thoughts or statements may be
viewed as being too nonconformist, and punishment (informal
or formal) always follows in such cases.
  It is one thing
> wonder why certain things are as they are in the Faith; it is another to
> continually question their validity even after statements have been made
> by the House of Justice. 
The statements by the House typically ignore, rather than
engage, the scholarly concerns that have been raised.  That's a
sure-fire way to keep the pot boiling.
> Paul, neither you, nor I, nor anyone else knows exactly what went on and
> for how long.
Mike does.
  To speculate on that matter is to indulge in idle fancy.
It's not speculating to believe the primary source.  It's idle
fancy to ignore him.
> I know you don't believe in the infallibility of the House, but I do,
> and my sources are the Writings.  If I reject that infallibility then I
> have to reject everything that can be traced back to Baha'u'llah and,
> hence, my Faith. 
They've got you where they want you.  Your whole being is tied
up with the Baha'i Faith, and you see all the belief system to
be interdependent so that if you pull one thread
the whole thing unravels.  This insures that you can't even
allow yourself to look openly and honestly into the decisions
of the House, at the risk of abandoning the Baha'i Faith
entirely. Point of correction: you absolutely do NOT have to
abandon everything good about Baha'i just because you stop
believing in parts of it.  That's the BIG LIE they feed you.  I
still appreciate substantial portions of the Baha'i writings
and have never abandoned what I see as worthwhile about the
Faith.  The same is true of the tens of thousands of
ex-Baha'is, I suspect, who probably now outnumber the enrolled members
in this country.
General observation: anytime you *have* to believe in
something, not because there's evidence of its truth, but
because its integral to an elaborate belief system enshrining
some people's power over others, you're in BIG trouble.
 In fact, I have generally found Baha'is much more
> interested in probing the central and peripheral teachings their Faith
> than members of other faiths, thus laying themselves more open to
> finding flaws, if there are any.
They're generally converts, which means they're more conscious
of having made a choice.  But there is an awful lot of fear in
that "probing" due to all the unpleasant consequences, informal
and formal, that one's fellow-Baha'is bring to bear.
> Either you are a Baha'i or you are not.  You cannot pick and choose.
> Would you consider it OK if I just followed those teachings and laws
> that suited me and quietly forgot the rest?
OF COURSE.  ABSOLUTELY.  BE MY GUEST.  Any religious group that
does not allow this kind of freedom is not worth belonging to.
The only kind of assent that is meaningful is FREELY given, not
compelled.  Cayce says in effect "Try and test these teachings,
and what you find useful should be incorporated into your life;
forget the rest."
  Sure, there are laws and
> tenets that I find difficult to follow but either I accept the whole or
> I have to say I am not a Baha'i.
That was not the way of Baha'u'llah AT ALL and even less so of
`Abdu'l Baha.  I could give you dozens of chapter and verse
citations, but that matters little when Shoghi Effendi and the
House have overruled Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l Baha and said NO,
you do not have freedom of conscience.
  "Unquestioning" is a loaded word -- it
> implies blind following.  We all DO question but, in the end, if we
> cannot find an answer for ourselves, we must accept on trust.  Often,
> the answer presents itself after a while anyway.
No, we don't have to accept on trust.  We can suspend judgment,
which is what I do with a lot of very basic elements of
> Again, you are putting words in my keyboard.  I would not ignore tyranny
> any more than you.  But there are two questions -- Is the tyranny part
> of the teachings of Baha'u'llah?
No.  It is certainly not in keeping with his teachings that
someone can be expelled from a religion without any explanation
of the charges against him.
 and Is what appears to be tyranny
> really what it appears to be? 
It would be nice if the House were answerable to anyone so an
explanation of their extremist behavior might allay fears of a
witchhunt ahead.
> What I think he was saying (and I am sure he will put me right if I am
> wrong) is, in effect, that there cannot be any duality.  Either one is a
> Baha'i or one is not. 
Duality exists whether or not we can accept it in ourselves.
Somewhere in the heart of sensitive and perceptive Baha'is lies
the capacity to realize how far astray the House has gone in
the direction of being international thought police.
 True none of us can be regarded as an exemplar,
> though some are far nearer that station than I am, but it is what is in
> our hearts that matters -- and striving towards the station of being a
> true believer and practioner.
which in my opinion would be believing and practicing this:
> of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of
> My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is 
> perfect and My command is binding.  Question it not, nor have a doubt 
> thereof.                                                   [Baha'u'llah]
Well, neither I nor my fellow A.R.E. members have any problem
being content with the strength and light God has placed
*within us to discern the truth without reliance on external
authority.* Baha'i's however, are clearly *not* content with
the inner light (which, if listened to, will give the right
answer about the House vs. McKenny).  Instead of seeking
"naught else" they have created the most elaborate and
oppressive religious bureaucracy imaginable to keep people from
thinking their own thoughts too freely.