The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


From: Timothy Mulligan <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Why I left (expanded version)
Date: Monday, August 17, 1998 6:34 PM wrote:

> Dear Timothy,
>   I'd like to reply to some of your comments:
> In article <>,
>   Timothy Mulligan <> wrote:
> >     Well, it’s been a year since I left the Baha’i Faith after having
> > been a member for only several months.  I thought I would commemorate
> > the return of my membership card by recounting why I left.
> >
> >     First, let me say that, with hindsight, I can’t imagine why I ever
> > joined the faith.  I had sworn off religion, but something in the
> > advance literature (the pamphlets, the introductory books) seemed to
> > superficially allay concerns I had that the multiplicity of religions
> > signaled their invalidity.  I thought to myself, "Here at last is a
> > tolerant religion that reconciles the differences.  They say they don't
> > proselytize, and they affirm the truth of all the great religions."  I
> > had some lingering doubts, especially regarding the inclusion of Buddha,
> > a man who refused to discuss metaphysics and who described Brahman as
> > deluded about his divinity, as a Manifestation of God.  Also, the Baha'i
> > exegesis of the New Testament was tortured to say the least.  But I
> > jumped in anyway.
> Darrick: Buddha discussed the existence of God many times, but He called Him
> "Truth", "The Uncreated", and like terms. You may say He was a metaphycial
> "purist"; a good thing in a time when Hinduism was overly metaphysical, and
> described millions of gods and goddesses in the forms of humans, monkeys,
> rats, and elephants. Buddha once gave a sermon which He said that Brahman
> thought He created the Universe, but He was mistaken; because the Universe
> had already existed, but had merely come from one form to another. Buddha was
> refuting the Hindu Brahma; the Creator deity of the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma,
> Vishnu, Shiva. While Brahma is a figment of the imagination of  some
> polytheistic Hindu priest--who invented him thousands of years ago-- Buddha
> _did_ acknowledge the existence of BRAHMA: the One Supreme Being. Vaishnavist
> Hindus (worshippers of Vishnu) believe that Vishnu is Brahma, and Brahma
> Vishnu. The Bhagavad Gita confirms this. This is also a Baha'i belief. Braham
> is Jehovah, or Vishnu, or Allah. He has many names. Buddha never refuted Him,
> but only false Hindu conceptions of Brahman (an anthropomorphic creator-deity
> who false thinks he is the highest god and who--in Hindu mythology--rapes his
> own daughter).

Darrick, I think you may be correct in your analysis.  I stand corrected.  But I
should correct you on one point:  Brahman is the “uncreated,” and Brahma is the
deluded, anthropomorphic deity.  I confused that in my post, and I think you
confuse it here also.

> >     When I got to participate in actual feasts as a declared Baha’i, the
> > picture changed.  There was almost zero attention paid to the spiritual
> > formation of members, especially new members.  The unrelenting focus was
> > on getting new members.
> Darrick: This is true! Actually, almost zero emphasis is put on moral or
> religious teaching, and almost 100% of social teachings. The fact that you
> saw people discuss entry-by-troops all the time is only because it has
> recently been emphasized. But instead of leaving, you should have become a
> change-agent. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Contrary to what many have been surmising in response to my original post, it
wasn’t just the local Baha’i community and LSA that turned me off.  It was also
the emphasis of the U.S. NSA and the UHJ on gaining converts and contributing to
the Baha’i Funds.  It wasn’t simply that I didn’t receive spiritual nourishment.
Of course, as others have suggested, I could have buried my head in the “ocean” of
Baha’u’llah’s words and ignored the emphasis of the institutional Baha’i Faith.
What I objected to was the apparently general disregard for spiritual substance.
Of course, it’s possible that on the Isle of Skye in Scotland or in Papua New
Guinea, the community is very nurturing, spiritually, and doesn’t manifest the
rapacity that I encountered in Houston, Texas and in the messages of the NSA and
the UHJ.

>  The hackneyed phrase “entry by troops” was
> > mindlessly and continuously repeated like a mantra.  A goal was set by
> > my state's Bahai's on the number of firesides to be held by
> > Baha'u'llah's birthday.  This rapacious attitude turned my stomach,
> > reminding me of Jehovah's Witnesses.  I thought the Baha'i Faith was
> > tolerant toward other religions.  Didn't this push for conversions imply
> > intolerance?
> Darrick: Who told you the Baha'i Faith was tolerant of other religions? You
> were misinformed. The true Baha'i teaching is that the Faith has the greatest
> Truth, and all must conform to this truth. The Faith is not Unitarianism. If
> you wanted a religion that teaches that "all religions are true" then you
> should become a Unitarian. The Faith actually teaches that "all religions
> _began_ true, but were corrupted, and the Faith is the latest Revelation of
> the One True Religion--uncorrupted". God has only one Truth. Jehovah's
> Witnesses believe they have it, but Baha'is believe they do. NO! Both don't
> cancel each other out. It is equally as probably that one is in fact True,
> while the other is less true. If Baha'u'llah was Who He said He was, then the
> Faith is the fulness of Truth; not the exclusiveness of Truth.

Yes, indeed.  Here is just one more example of the way in which the real Baha’i
Faith differs from the version presented to prospective Baha’is.

> >     For this reason, I looked forward to my first attendance at a
> > “deepening.”  I thought, "Now at last I'll find some spiritual
> > substance."  What did I find at the deepening?  A videotape of a Baha’i
> > National Spiritual Assembly meeting, where every speaker to a man went
> > on and on about getting new members.
> Darrick: Again, the Baha'is in this country don't yet know _HOW_ to
> spiritually feed new Believers. But _this will change_, and is changing. The
> Faith is still in it's pioneer phase. The Faith in the U.S. has been very
> secularized and watered-down because it was invaded by tens of thousands of
> social-reform activists during the 30s to late 70s. These people tended to
> ignore the moral and religious teachings, and to overemphasize--again and
> again and again--the social teachings. Now, the need for converts is
> beginning to drown-out the overemphasis on social teachings. You _still_
> could have been spiritually fed in this Faith; but you need to "feed
> yourself" (get the Writings and study yourself). Some Baha'is today recognize
> that the Faith in this country is too "social-activist" and not enough
> "spirituality". This is changing, and you should have stayed and helped.

See the above.  I purchased and read a virtual library of Baha’i writings,
included all four volumes of “The Revelation of Baha’u’llah.”  I even bought a
book of selections from the Bab’s writings.  Boy did that set me back a few
bucks!  So I can say that I got a thorough soaking in the “ocean” of Baha’i
literature.  But I didn’t see the point in staying, because it was clear to me
that the rapacity I mention above is now an integral part of the Faith.Let me make
a prediction here.  As “entry by troops” becomes more and more remote as a
possibility, the institutions of the Baha’i Faith will become more desperate and
frantic in their recruiting efforts, thereby driving even more people away.

> >     Oh, how could I forget those memorable feasts where a tape recorded
> > message would be played, usually, of course, on the subject either of
> > getting new members or contributing to the Baha’i Funds.  I felt like I
> > was one of Charlie’s Angels.  (Can’t you just imagine Bob Henderson,
> > lounging by the pool, sipping a (non-alcoholic) drink and dictating to
> > the tape recorder?)
> Darrick: The Mission of Baha'u'llah was to Unite Mankind. Why? Because the
> human race will end if it is not united. Thus, He becomes the Savior of the
> Human Species. But this collective salvation cannot be accomplished without
> the help of every Baha'i, and this means sacrifice; in time and money. For
> now, your own spiritual education and growth must be a personal private
> affair. All forces in the Faith are geared toward growth. Because if the
> Faith doesn't grow, then it can't conquer the world. Hopefully, some day
> soon, the Faith will emphasize the moral and spiritual principles in the
> meetings. In fact, plans have been drawn to do this, but won't be implemented
> until _after_ the 4-year Plan (i.e. 2001 at the earliest).

See my prediction above.  2001 will come and go without entry by troops.  The
revolving door effect (experienced by yours truly) will continue to operate.  The
more the Baha’i Faith tries to “conquer the world,” the less palatable and the
less tolerant and therefore the less inherently consistent it will seem.
Proselytism and tolerance don’t mix.  (I’m using the English definition of
proselytism, not the superfluous Bahai-speak definition.)

> >     I thought to myself:  Are these people crazy?  How in the world can
> > they expect to keep the new members that they do recruit if all that the
> > new members will encounter upon joining is an incessant demand to
> > “teach” and get new members?
> Darrick: Good point! You should have been spiritually fed. You should have
> been taught that you needed a spiritual conversion to Baha'u'llah; instead of
> joining just because you agreed with some of the Principles. Those who are
> not spiritually converted ("born-again") will not stand.

I was originally drawn to the Faith when I read the Hidden Words.  I was much more
interested in the person and writings of Baha’u’llah than in the social
principles.  Let me say something about the latter.  You know, almost all of those
principles are generally accepted now.  In fact, they’re rather passe.  That makes
the Baha’i Faith appear like a fellow-traveler—it looks like a big case of “me
too”-ism.  We all know racism is bad.  Some Baha’is walk around telling people
this as if it’s a big revelation.When I detected flaws in the Baha’i institutions
and their actions, I had to revisit my initial assessment of Baha’u’llah.  And I
changed my mind about him.

>  Oh, and that’s another thing.  I have to
> > laugh when I think back to what the “advance” literature said about
> > Baha’is not proselytizing.  I discovered, alas too late, that there is a
> > particular and peculiar Baha’i definition of “proselytize,” which means
> > “to convert by force or threats.”  Oh, I see.  So the happy-talk about
> > not proselytizing meant, “Hey folks!  We don’t convert by force!”  Wow.
> > What an enticement.  I found out that instead, Baha’is “teach.”  That’s
> > like saying, “I didn’t abort my child.  I terminated a pregnancy.”
> Darrick: If the Baha'is told you that we don't proselyte, they were using
> Shoghi Effendi's definition of the term. He defined it as "using coercion,
> threat, or force in teaching". Of course Baha'is seek converts. They want to
> convert the entire world. You should have known this.

There’s a big difference between wanting the whole world to convert and converting
the whole world.

> >     In short, I found that the Baha’i Faith was the religious equivalent
> > of AmWay.
> Darrick: Actually, Scientology is the religious equivalent of AmWay. Baha'is
> don't expect personal gains by their sacrifices, but to help save the World
> from destruction; spiritually and physically.

What’s that about “teaching” being the greatest deed?  I think a kind of spiritual
greed can come into play here.  I recommend to you the book, Cutting through
Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa, as well as anything by Jiddu

> >     Then of course I found that lots of little omissions had been made
> > in introductory literature.  They don’t tell you how many wives
> > Baha’u’llah had.  Or that he was a midget (see my other post dated
> > today).  Okay, that’s not fair (although it’s true -- didn't you know
> > that you were praying to a midget?).
> Darrick: Introductory literature is for the purpose of attracting souls. What
> does the fact that Baha'u'llah had three wives to do with attracting souls?
> Baha'is don't try to deny it, but it is something that has nothing to do with
> a person's salvation, or the salvation of mankind. The fact that Baha'u'llah
> was short (not a midget nor a dwarf) should make short people feel happy! It
> should make tall people feel humble (for a change). What does one's height
> have to do with one's spiritual stations anyway?

Height has nothing to do with Baha’u’llah’s claims, and everything to do with my
warped sense of humor.  The number of Baha’u’llah’s wives, on the other hand, is
very disturbing to Western “seekers,” and I think most Baha’is know this.  It
should be disclosed up front, to avoid disillusionment later.  Another poster here
has pointed out that the Baha’i Faith teaches that Mohammed “really” taught that
one couldn’t have more than one wife.  How, then, was Baha’u’llah acting in
accordance with Islamic law?  I know, I know:  because he was perfect.  Still,
that’s not a very good example to set.  I guess it’s just another one of those

>  One “teaching” book by Gary
> > Matthews lauds the perspicacity of Baha’u’llah in writing that “every
> > star hath its planets,” omitting that he says immediately thereafter
> > “and every planet its creatures.”  Stuff like that began to burn my ass
> > big time.
> Darrick: Every planet does have it's creature; sooner or later. Venus was once
> inhabited, and some day the Earth will look like Venus. Someday Mars will
> resemble the Earth. Billions of years from now, when the Sun expands, then the
> outer planets will congeal into Earth-like planets. Every star will have it's
> planets; but not all at the same time.
> >     Contradictions began to emerge.  I compared the “Tablet of the True
> > Seeker” in the Kitab-i-Iqan, which enjoins the independent investigation
> > of truth, with the dire, shrill threats hurled at unbelievers in the
> > Kitab-i-Aqdas and could only shake my head in wonder.
> Darrick: You are confusing "independent investigation of truth" with "every
> religion is true". This is not what Baha'u'llah taught. He taught that
> everyone should seek Truth regardless of their parentage, their geographical
> location, etc. But not everything is "Truth". For those who reject the
> Truth--after they have independently discovered it--then YES, there are
> eternal negative consequences.

Uh oh!

>  There was so much
> > explaining and back-filling in Baha'i propaganda.  For example, in the
> > Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha'u'llah says that men can have two wives.  Later,
> > Abdul Baha says that this meant men could only have one wife.  Let the
> > mind games begin!
> Darrick: Baha'u'llah actually wrote "do not go beyond two". Now, did He mean:
> 1) You can marry no more than two women at the same time? 2) You can only
> marry twice (i.e. can only marry another women after the first is dead or
> divorced from you). 3) You can marry a second wife if the first one is
> incompacitated (i.e. crazy, or a total invalid). 4) You can have two wives,
> and as many concubines as you wish? 5) You can have two wives, but only if
> you treat them equally, and since you can't do it--because you are mere
> mortals--then you can only have one.  His statement can be interpreted in any
> of the above ways. Since 'Abdul-Baha was His Interpreter, then He knew what
> Baha'u'llah meant. I personally believe (just my opinion) that Baha'u'llah
> allowed the marriage of a second wife if the first was infertile, or became
> incompacitated. A Baha'i husband is not allowed to put his seed into a
> surrogate; even by artificial insemination. But, again, this is only my
> opinion. This verse troubled me too. But, I can see the wisdom in it.

Whew. This is all too complicated for me.

> >     Anyway, it quickly dawned on me that this religion was going nowhere
> > fast.  Its stated objective of becoming a world religion and
> > establishing a world Baha’i government is ludicrous.  It will never
> > happen.
> Darrick: Obviously, you signed the Declaration Card knowing _very_ little
> about the Faith!!! The _entire mission_ of Baha'u'llah was to form a World
> Commonwealth; so that mankind can avoid self-destruction. Why in the "world"
> did you join this religion? The Baha'is in this country teach people a few
> social-principles, and then have them sign a card and expect them to obey and
> understand Baha'u'llah. WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?
>  The early Christians expected Jesus (the real Jesus, not
> > Baha'u'llah-as-Jesus) to come back during their lifetimes; they were
> > wrong, and they're still waiting.
> Darrick: Jesus DID return in their own lifetimes! I suggest you look at the
> Preterist view of Christian history. I suggest you go to search engines on
> the Internet and type in "Preterist". Jesus returned in 70 A.D.; not in His
> physical body, but in His ethereal form; which can only be seen in visions.

Now you’re getting weird on me.  Stop that!

> Baha'u'llah is not the return of Jesus, but the return of "Christ"; the Holy
> Spirit Who embodied Jesus from His baptism until His crucifixion.

That's the party line.

>  Now the Bahai's are waiting for entry
> > by troops, the collapse of world civilization, and the triumphant
> > takeover of the world by Bahai's.  It's not happening.
> Darrick: Many people doubted that the Soviet Union would fall for hundreds of
> years, if ever. This World System _will fall_. This may be only an economic
> collapse; which we may now be seeing the beginning of. It will fall; because
> God has says it will. When that happens, mankind will be humbled, and seek a
> divine system instead of a Humanist one.
>  I don’t care how
> > many times Abdul Baha appears.  In any case,  he’s got lots of
> > competition from the Virgin Mary, the Ascended Masters, and little gray
> > aliens.
> Darrick: How do you know the Virgin Mary has not appeared? How do you know
> that Ascended Masters have not appeared? How do you know creatures from other
> systems have not visited here? Each has a purpose; not all of them divine.

You misread me here.  I believe they do appear.  That’s the point.  The spiritual
world is a zoo.  Actually, I know this from my own experience, but I won’t go into
that here, because y’all already think I’m crazy.

> >     That brings me to a little metaphysical speculation.  I'm sure there
> > have been apparitions of Abdul Baha, as well as amazing synchronicities
> > that Baha'is call "confirmations."  But, folks, phenomena like this are
> > reported in all religions and spiritual paths.
> Darrick: I've never heard of Unitarians having them! There are Seers and
> visions in every major religion, and many of them have prophecied of
> Baha'u'llah.

Huh?  Examples please.  And I hope you've got more than that loony guy who founded
the Seventh Day Adventists.

>  The world is awash in
> > reports of these types of things.  Moreover, there has been a gang of
> > self-proclaimed god-men even in this century, from Reverend Moon to Adi
> > Da, each with their fanatical followers willing to follow the leader all
> > the way to martyrdom.  This world, and the spiritual world, is a very
> > complicated and diverse place.  In ways that we don't fully understand,
> > human beings can tap into spiritual realities and develop very real
> > psychic powers.  In Hinduism, these are called "siddhis," and they've
> > been documented for several thousand years.  They are not proof that
> > those possessed of them are worthy of worship.  In fact, the spiritual
> > literature warns about the ego-inflation that can result from their
> > exercise.  It seems to me that Baha'u'llah didn't heed that warning.
> Darrick: 'Abdul-Baha actually preached again "psychic powers", and never
> claimed to have them. All He had was the Holy Spirit to guide His
> interpretations of what His Father wrote. 'Abdul-Baha was so humble, that He
> refused to have people bow to Him. Baha'u'llah never practice Yoga or any
> Hindu practices. He did, however, miraculously heal people, but the Baha'is
> don't offer these things as proofs; since they are only proofs to those that
> witness them.

Yes, that’s a sensible position.  It originally was one of the things that
attracted me to the Faith.

> >     Anyway, I finally decided that I had to return my membership card to
> > Bob Henderson.  Bob, if you’re reading this, I wish you all the best.  I
> > assure you that I will continue to wash my feet every day, not only in
> > the summer, but all year round.  And don’t forget:  ENTRY BY TROOPS!
> >
> > Tim Mulligan
> >
> Darrick: Tim, I am sorry that the Baha'is in this country had you sign a card
> not knowing what you were getting into, and not having a testimony of
> Baha'u'llah. It was wrong and foolish of them, but you can't judge the Faith
> by it's stupid members, but by Baha'u'llah. I hope you will get to know Him,
> and His son, and not rely on what foolish Baha'is have told you (or failed to
> tell you). You have not rejected the Faith--you've never known it! All you
> have done is rejected what some ignorant and foolish Baha'is have told you. I
> hope you will reexamine the Faith; this time from the Sources, and not from
> the mouths of the American Believers.

Darrick, don’t pick on the people I encountered in the Faith.  They were all kind
to me.  (Except for a certain bigoted Pakistani psychiatrist who shall remain
nameless.)  You see, I contacted them after reading about the Faith.  And then
they kindly invited me to a fireside.  At the fireside, I asked a lot of tough
questions, especially about evolution.  During the evening, they marveled at the
extent of my knowledge about the faith, given that I had never even been to a
fireside before.  You see, Darrick, I’m a librarian.  I know how to find
information for myself.  This shocked a lot of the Baha’is I met subsequent to
declaring, who would ask me, “Who brought you into the Faith?” and I would answer,
“Baha’u’llah.”  It’s just that the introductory literature available in libraries
presents a more holistic picture of a religion than I actually encountered.  The
one I encountered after attending feasts—and as you know, I could not attend a
feast until after I declared—was rapacious and vacuous.

> Darrick Evenson
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  Thanks for your remarks.
Tim Mulligan