The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience



[Incidentally, this resignation letter to the nsa is from a Baha'i with a national reputation.]

Why I Left...

Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 1:09 AM
Subject: Why I Left...

You may use the content of the email resignation I have sent you; however,
please withhold my name.

I was a devoted Baha'i for over 30 years. I have at last decided to resign.
You may find interesting my letter of resignation which encapsulates my
experience over three decades. You may use it as you wish.


Dear National Assembly Members:

Please accept my resignation from the Baha‚?Ti Faith.

Perhaps you will find instructive what has led me to this decision.

When I joined the Baha‚?Ti Faith over 30 years ago, I did so largely because
I was promised that enrolling would be the most effective means for me to
help transform the planet. I was told all my abilities and passion to
change the world would be put to use furthering the Cause which held an
unerring blueprint ‚?" a divine mandate ‚?" for ushering in a new world. I
was in my late teens; the offer was irresistible.

I never received that ‚?opromised‚?Ě opportunity to utilize my talents; I
can only surmise it is because my voice and manner were foreign to the
predominant culture of the Baha‚?Ti Faith. For credulous people who simply
want to believe, I asked too many hard questions. A religion that prizes
‚?ounquestioned loyalty‚?Ě and ‚?oselfless devotion‚?Ě as the paramount
qualities in its adherents, it has been my experience, ultimately breeds a
culture of blind faith populated by docile, compliant followers.

It is also my perception that the Baha‚?Ti Faith was not capable of fairly
utilizing the energy and competence that exists in the rank and file of
followers; people like me. Ahead of me in line there was always a coterie of
‚?ofavorites‚?Ě, ‚?oregulars‚?Ě, relatives of those already in authority,
and unquestioning ‚?oloyalists‚?Ě who were content to accept things as they
found them and who were rewarded accordingly.

As the years went by, a number of issues eroded my ability to believe.
There‚?Ts no point listing them here. Still, I waited and waited and waited
over 30 years for the Baha‚?Ti Faith to emerge, evolve and take leadership
in changing the world; a situation in which I believed I would indeed have a
role equal to my skills and interests. I felt like a solitary man waiting
on the platform for a train that never arrives; always telling myself,
‚?oit‚?Ts coming next year; have faith, it‚?Ts coming‚?Ě. But the train
never came for me. And now, at over 50 years of age, my existential dilemma
is that I no longer have the faith necessary to continue waiting.

Now, as for that unerring ‚?oblueprint‚?Ě to transform the planet‚?¶.

What has at last driven me to my decision are a range of recent
developments; most prominent among these is the over-administration and
‚?~clusterization‚?T of the Baha‚?Ti Faith, which I have found completely
maddening and counter-intuitive. And yet, despite my unspoken grave
reservations, I had loyally put my shoulder to the wheel: I hosted and
studied three books of Ruhi, and dutifully held devotionals in creaky cold
shacks in the middle of nowhere ‚?" attended by no one ‚?" trying to
convince myself that my shivering in the dark was doing some good somewhere.
All the while I lived with the cognitive dissonance, the sheer duality of
knowing deep down with my heart and mind: that you simply can‚?Tt transform
a planet with a handful of badly written workbooks; that it is nonsensical
for local communities to extract their meaning, identity and status from an
arbitrarily assigned alphabetic letter designation that it appears is not
entirely based on merit. Out of the earshot of officialdom, this is what I
found a number of thinking Baha‚?Tis to be saying, too.

In short, I could see that the Baha‚?Ti Faith had lost its way and for the
first time in my life it was actually moving retrograde. No matter how often
you repeat the disingenuous, Orwellian cant about an ‚?ooutward-looking
orientation‚?Ě‚?¶deep down everyone knows the current focus is
overwhelmingly internal. Disastrously so. Stagnant enrolment rates,
disappointing fund contribution levels, and low retention and participation
numbers provide the evidence; so too does the fact that the Baha‚?Ti Faith
is increasingly marginalized and omitted from significant interfaith and
public undertakings. From where I stand, the inward-focused Baha‚?Ti Faith
has reversed into deepening obscurity.

Alas, you have embarked upon an ill-conceived course that is destined to
fail miserably. I have concluded that it will take something in the order
of the Chinese Cultural Revolution or an internal purge or schism to correct
what amounts to a 100-year mistake. My saying this, I realize, places me
squarely in a heterodox position. Yet, as a consequence of the constant
retooling, revamping, wholesale refitting and about-faces that have marked
the flawed cluster and institute processes ‚?" and the concomitant
burgeoning over-administration ‚?" everything comes into question.

Even by the accounts of the House itself, one must conclude the current
approach is in serious trouble. At Ridvan 2005 the House wrote the

‚?oWhile inadequate to express the full significance of the developments
taking place, the statistics suggest something of the scope of what is being
achieved. The human resources of the Faith have steadily multiplied.
Altogether, more than 200,000 worldwide have completed Book 1 of the Ruhi

So then, after five years of single-minded promotion of this defective
project, the House announces that only 200,000 have chosen to complete Book
1. Even if we were to assume that all 200,000 are drawn solely from among
the world‚?Ts 5 million Baha‚?Tis ‚?" which is unlikely ‚?" at best that
amounts to a lowly four percent buy-in. How can a four percent adoption
rate be regarded as a success?

In other organizations, such results would prompt the leaders to abandon the
failed stratagem, resign in disgrace or, at the very least, call an
investigation into the problem. After nearly five years of ceaseless
worldwide promotion ‚?" only a four percent buy-in? That‚?Ts like scoring 1
out of 25 on a test after studying for five years, and then attempting to
frame it as a success.

One is left to conclude that either the believers are not ‚?~buying‚?T the
plan and the leadership has failed to lead‚?¶or there are nowhere near the
reported 5 million Baha‚?Tis.

Let me approach it another way. We will yield a measure of our personal
freedom and believe in a religious system if it fills two key functions: it
meets our emotional needs; and it organizes and explains our world in a way
that makes sense to us. The Baha‚?Ti Faith has failed me on both counts.

On the emotional side it no longer affords me any sense of rapture, ecstasy
and awe. That‚?Ts not really surprising. After all, the current plan‚?Ts
slavish left-brain obsession with statistics has warped its feasts and
community life, and transformed the Faith‚?Ts adherents into virtual
actuaries burdened with devoting their uncompensated labor to tracking
endless minutiae; dedicating hundreds of hours every year to an onerous
administration that has become an end in itself. I need something more.

On the matter of the Baha‚?Ti Faith‚?Ts ability to help make sense of my
world ‚?" there, too, it fails me. You see, a devoted adherent expects his
or her religion to be constant, unwavering. This Faith, in its current
incarnation, has strayed far from the one I joined. For me, once the
Baha‚?Ti Faith was like the line painted up the middle of the highway.
Perhaps I‚?Td occasionally deviate and tack back and forth across the line,
but I depended on the line itself to always remain true ‚?" the fixed
reference point by which I navigated my life. However, the constant
extensive revisions to the plan(s), the organization and its institutions in
recent years, combined with the unfathomable elevation and promotion of
often unqualified people, led me to a satori-like awakening:

‚?oThere‚?Ts something very wrong. Instead of me, it is THEY who are
weaving all over the place and straying from their course‚?¶and now I am
compelled to navigate solely by my own reckoning.‚?Ě

The rest came unravelled from that point.

So distressed was I, that I was driven to make a special pilgrimage of the
soul to Wilmette to pray for guidance two years ago. While there, I
received a blindingly clear and evident message:

"When you joined this Faith many years ago, we made you a promise. A
promise that you would help transform the planet by joining with us. A
promise that we would utilize all of your talents to that end. You loyally
spent decades attending meetings and sublimating your true self and
identity. You held up your end. But we didn't use your talents. We didn't
keep our word to you. You are free to go now. Go now. Go in peace."

My faith, my credulity is spent. And so, at long last I am leaving the
Baha‚?Ti Faith.

My decision and my rights in this matter are protected under Article 18,
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (cited in the Baha‚?Ti International
Community‚?Ts Freedom to Believe statement, October 2005).

I ask that you please respect my decision ‚?" and my right ‚?" to go.


[Name Withheld]