The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


Juan Cole and Ron House on individual conscience

Doug Martin & individual conscience menu.... 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Juan Cole" <>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.bahai,talk.religion.bahai
Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2002 10:00 PM
Subject: Re: Individual conscience...

Hi, folks. I don't check this board too often, but I happened to,

The original discussion was more important than the one you've gotten
off on.

But I just did want to intervene to express outrage that Baha'u'llah's
writings were so wretchedly misused to attack the importance of
individual conscience. Baha'u'llah himself speaks of the centrality
of the latter. What do you think he means when he attacks blind
obedience and insists that justice consists of seeing things with your
own eyes. That's the individual conscience at work. It is called
d.ami:r and wujda:n in Arabic and Baha'u'llah has nothing but praise
for its working. `Abdul-Baha also praised it.

The quotes condemning "self" by Baha'u'llah are not condemnations of
the individual conscience. The word for "self" in the original is
"nafs." The Muslim mystics spoke of various kinds of "self," good and
bad. The worst is an-nafs al-ammarah bi su', or the self that is at
the command of evil. It is, in other words, the self of carnal
passions, unbridled desires. That is the "self" Baha'u'llah
condemned. The word for *individual* would be quite different, as
would the word for conscience.

In fact, conscience is the exact opposite of the "self" condemned by
Baha'u'llah, since it is the working of ethical reasoning inside the

So, to quote Baha'u'llah condemning self and passion and to equate
that with a condemnation of the individual's ethical conscience, is an absolute 
travesty. The horrible thing is that there are Baha'is who read the 
scriptures in this insane way, and maybe even a lot of them.

Douglas Martin hates individual conscience because he is a cultist. 
Cultists want to control people, and don't want any pesky objections
when they behave dictatorially. Conscience leads people to object when
they witness injustice.

As for backbiting people, here's a beaut. In 1982 when I was a
pioneer in India, doing travel teaching for the Indian NSA and also
doing some translation work for the House of Justice, Doug Martin told
more than one person that he considered me "a covenant breaker." 
These persons later became my friends and told me what Martin had
said. They are persons of absolute integrity, and I have no doubt
that they have spoken correctly. It is no accident that it was after
Martin got himself elected to the UHJ in 1993 that the attitude of the
House changed so dramatically toward Baha'i thinkers like myself, who
had earlier been encouraged, and we started receiving secret visits
from Martin's cronies threatening us with being declared CBs if we did
not fall silent. Martin has long had a cultic attitude, and now he is
in a position to implement it at the highest levels of the Baha'i

So, dear friends, not only have I been backbit, I've been turned in
the eyes of perhaps a majority of US Baha'is into a cartoon villain
whom it is perfectly alright to backbite in the most vicious way. And
it all started with Martin's viciousness and tyrannical impulses, his
narrow-minded fundamentalism, as far back as the early 1980s.

cheers Juan Cole

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Juan Cole" <>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.bahai,talk.religion.bahai
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 2:27 PM
Subject: Re: Individual conscience...

Dave, these things are difficult to discuss in the abstract.

Individual conscience (vujdan, damir) is ethical reasoning.
Revelation contains the ethics.  Conscience is how you apply them in
your individual life.

The more cult-like elements in the Baha'i faith want you to give up
your individual ability to reason ethically once you enter the faith.
Thus, if you see Baha'i officials repeatedly doing something wrong,
and you also see that appeals to the higher-ups are stonewalled so
that the wrongdoing continues, you are expected just to keep your
silence about it all.  (Remind anyone of the pedophilia scandal in the
Roman Catholic Church?)

Anytime any group of people tells you that 1) you are not allowed
publicly to criticize their power elite and 2) that you must give up
your individual ability to reason ethically and just fall lockstep
behind whatever the infallible leaders decide--then you are dealing
with a cult.

Any time a person buys into propositions 1) and 2), he or she has
become a cultist.  Any time he or she buys into all this and then
tries to hide the fact, or obscure it for others, or engage in
misdirection by launching stock accusations at anyone who won't go
along, then that person has him or herself become a cultist.  That is
only one step away from the People's Temple in Guyana or the
Koreishites at Waco.  Once someone gives up the right to use his or
her individual conscience, there is no reason not to drink the poison
coolaid, or not to set the children on fire.

It is for this reason, to protect the Cause of God from slipping into
cultism, that Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha so heavily praised seeing
with your own eyes and not with the eyes of others (i.e. not with the
eyes of the NSA or the house of justice), and that they so heavily
praised freedom of conscience and forbade Baha'i institutions to
interfere with it.

Douglas Martin wants to repeal that part of the Revelation that
sanctifies the conscience of the individual believer.  He wants to do
so because he gets more power and possibly more wealth that way.
Trying to repeal part of the Revelation for your own selfish purposes
is a form of treason to the Faith.

cheers    Juan

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ron House" <>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.bahai,talk.religion.bahai
Sent: Wednesday, May 15, 2002 10:50 PM
Subject: Re: Doug Martin, member of bahai universal house of justice - "Dangerous Delusion from Christianity" = Individual Conscience

Freethought110 wrote:
> Ron,
> You once stated here (or was it talisman9) that Peter Khan said something
> similar to you.

Indeed. I don't doubt at all that Doug Martin expressed sentiments along
the lines of those reported. I just doubt that he used those _exact_
words in expressing them. In other words, whilst I think that criticism
of the general viewpoint is justified, I don't agree that it is valid to
make an argument that hinges on the precise words in the passage (unless
we can get verification that it was transcribed from a tape, thus
eliminating an important source of error). I know most commentary here
isn't doing that, but the one comment seemed to do so (to my mind, at

Likewise, I am prepared to testify in any court that Peter Khan
expressed that same viewpoint (very forcefully, in fact), but I cannot
testify to the precise words he used when he did so.

For the record, the general thrust of Khan's statement was:

1) When you become a Baha'i, that is the end of your independent search
for truth;

(shortly after, in response to a question on conscience:)

2) (Repeated the question, then responded) In the Baha'i Faith, the
writings are our guide, and the directions of the House take precedence
over our consciences. (Explained further at some length.)

Now the above is ONLY the general thrust of the discussion; the words
used are mine, as this was two decades ago, except that I am close to
certain he used the phrase "end of your independent search for truth" or
something almost identical to it. That phrase stuck because it was quite
theatrical the way he did it, leaving it hanging there some seconds for
maximum shock value before proceeding.

Ron House
"Every time you manage to close the door on Reality,
it comes in through the window."  - (Unknown).