Bahá'í Religion

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tomtailford
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Bahá'í Religion

Postby tomtailford » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:09 pm

Hi all, I am new to this forum.

I'm new to the Bahá'í religion really, I have a little understanding - but I have had an Athiest upbringing and thought maybe I should investigate.

I agree with certain aspects of the Bahá'í religion, especially equality of all human beings, but also strongly disagree with certain Bahá'í teachings - ie. the prohibition of gay marriage / gay intercourse (which in my opinion contradicts equality of all human beings)

I am not gay, I try to think logically, I think my approach with religion so far has been to find the bits that I think are wrong, then maybe decide that the whole idea is flawed.

I've had brief looks at other religions - and had a similar approach. Ie. Judaism saying the world began just under 6000 years ago & that we have not evolved... It seems that from Judaism came Christianity, then Islam... and most recently we have the Bahá'í religion.

I think about things like how religion was generally polytheistic, but over time became monotheistic... and how these changes came about.

I don't know what this post is going to achieve... but maybe someone can help me in trying to understand the Bahá'í religion a little better.

BruceDLimber
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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby BruceDLimber » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:03 am

Greetings, Tom, and welcome to the neighborhood! :-)

It's great to have you here!

What you mentioned is indeed the Abrahamic sequence of religions (though we see the Babi Faith as a separate step after Islam and before the Baha'i Faith itself). There are of course otehr religions that don't fit this sequence, and we recognize a number of them--indeed, ALL the great religons--as valid.

I would suggest that a somewhat more positive approach to things you question might be helpful, in particular endeavoring to understand why a given teaching exists. Not everything in the Baha'i Faith (or, probably, any other religion) is immediately obvious, and while the Baha'i Faith, too, has a few things that might give one initial pause, those of us who are Baha'is have satisfied ourselves about these such that we no longer consider them problems (if indeed we ever did).

Please feel free to ask any specific questions; they're most welcome!

Here are a couple sites that will provide you general information about us:

www.bahai.org

www.bahai.us

And if you'd like a list of other Baha'i web sites, just ask me; I'll be happy to give you a list.

While this forum is an excellent place to ask questions and investigate, I'll suggest one additional place if I may: IME the Planet Baha'i discussion area is one of the best around and has a great mix of Baha'is and others, so you might want to check it out, too! You can find it at:

http://www.planetbahai.org

Many regards, :-)

Bruce

brettz9
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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby brettz9 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:07 am

tomtailford wrote:Hi all, I am new to this forum.


Hi Tom...Welcome!

tomtailford wrote:I agree with certain aspects of the Bahá'í religion, especially equality of all human beings, but also strongly disagree with certain Bahá'í teachings - ie. the prohibition of gay marriage / gay intercourse (which in my opinion contradicts equality of all human beings)

I am not gay, I try to think logically, I think my approach with religion so far has been to find the bits that I think are wrong, then maybe decide that the whole idea is flawed.

I've had brief looks at other religions - and had a similar approach. Ie. Judaism saying the world began just under 6000 years ago & that we have not evolved... It seems that from Judaism came Christianity, then Islam... and most recently we have the Bahá'í religion.

I think about things like how religion was generally polytheistic, but over time became monotheistic... and how these changes came about.


The Bahá'í Faith maintains that the Manifestations of God are perfect reflections of God's Will for humanity. In the view of our Teachings, all flaws attributed to religion may be due to the likes of the following:

1) people trying to apply teachings which were at one time relevant to a later time period
2) interpretations of individuals which become associated with the religion, but which were in no way endorsed by the infallibly guided Founders of the Religion
3) a temporary lack of guidance or revelation of obscure passages designed to be unraveled for their meaning at a later time, whether as a test for humanity, and/or because the people were not ready to hear a fuller truth (e.g., the law in the Qur'an about 4 wives being permissible if one could be fair to them--'Abdu'l-Baha made clear that this is impossible, so only one is now permissible).

And that's not to speak of "flaws" which are due to our own limited understanding and are not actually flaws.

The three cases above have all been addressed in this Age of Fulfillment by Baha'u'llah through:
1) Abolishing a clergy and setting up a clear Successorship and institutions (His Lesser Covenant) which He promised would not be divided, so there is no confusion as to the applicability of fundamental teachings in the present age for those who will look
2) Unraveling the mysteries of prior Scriptures (such as the meaning of a new "creation" referred to 6000 years ago) to reconcile the contending sects of the world (and religion and science) and speaking in a plain language.

As to homosexuality, I'll first try to offer a few points as to why I think equality is not an issue here, even though it is a reasonable question to ask:

1) Religion does not only regulate homosexual sexual activity, but also the likes of forbidding sex before marriage (and outside of marriage). If someone does not find a marriage partner, in Baha'i belief, they should remain celibate until they do.

Of course, if someone could not change their orientation, then this would be harder for those with a homosexual predisposition since they'd have no chance of finding anyone, but it is worth pointing out that some (heterosexual) people may not be able to marry for health reasons, lack of finding a partner, etc., or the like and they are to remain celibate as well.

That might not be comforting, but I do think it weighs against the idea that this is some kind of prejudicial thing.

2) The Baha'i Faith contends that with the help of doctors, prayer, and persistence, one can change one's inclinations and behaviors, including homosexual behaviors. Psychology recognizes that biology gives us a predisposition to certain behaviors, but it does not maintain that these behaviors will always be manifested nor that we cannot overcome them. People have many kinds of unhealthy inclinations or addictions, and while that is the way we were born and in a sense "who we are"--we are called to overcome. Some are inclined to aggression, some are inclined to philandering, some may get a rise out of confronting authority, or whatever, but we accept we can sublimate these tendencies to a reasonable degree.

While some may argue that this still may leave some individuals unable to win the struggle, and the Baha'i Faith, while strongly advocating marriage, ultimately leaves the choice to the individual. So there may be some people who end up not marrying, and perhaps suffering as a result. This is more a question of why God could allow this to happen to people, similar to how He could allow any suffering to visit people (which, by the way, besides allowing for future consequences in the afterlife to compensate for such earthly sufferings, is still, according to our teachings, a mystery the mind of man cannot fathom). But our Writings this might only pertain to a very small proportion of people, given the belief that homosexual behavior can be overcome and heterosexuality successfully embraced.

As to why homosexual behavior is forbidden, I will first offer some of my own ideas, and then refer you to authoritative sources.

Although I think there are plenty of rationales against any kind of non-marital sex (mostly related to the emotional and social security and well-being of both partners), as far as rationales against homosexual marriage, I can offer the following (though mind you, Baha'is are not to get involved in agitating for political changes, so I'm not talking about legislating against such marriage or civil unions, etc. in the public here, just about moral reasons why the Baha'i Faith might be against this).

1) A focus on sexual indulgence might gear individuals away from their calling to raise children, if not for the couple themselves than for society as a whole. Again, this is not just related to homosexual activity, but any overemphasis of sex outside of the context of heterosexual marriage (and even possibly within heterosexual marriage, since our Writings emphasize that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children). Admittedly, though, this is not a strong argument (and not one made, at least explicitly, in our Writings), but I'm just offering it as a possibility (e.g., see http://bahai-library.com/compilation_di ... _divorce#7 ).

2) The complementarity of men and women (and in a secure one-to-one exclusive relationship) being both naturally good for the couple and for children. I personally think this may be the strongest human rationale for the question. While we still have evolved some inclinations which are not always in our best interest (though some increase in homosexuality may be caused to the likes of hormones and chemicals being added to our ecosystem), the partnering of men and women and children, is something which has been fundamental to advancing civilization.

This is manifested at various levels, whether at the physical level of women breast-feeding the babies (the healthiest form for most women as recognized by modern medicine), to the social level of women socializing babies early on with language and tenderness (recognized by linguists and psychologists), and men guarding children with discipline (benefits recognized by sociologists), to the benefits of a couple being biologically inclined to love their own biological children more (while it is noble to strive to treat adopted children with one's love, there are indisputable biological inclinations to find particular love for those sharing a good portion of genetic material, and also advantages for social compatibility for the same reason).

This is not to mention the complementary features in which a man and woman can comfort and support each other in daily life. Granted, sexual attraction is a part of it, and the same gender can offer certain support, but the diverse features of men and women is something to be enjoyed by the couple as well.

While one might argue that homosexual marriage could be a last resort for couples who could not overcome their inclinations (which really ought to be a small minority), numbers #1 and #3 might still apply.

3) Finally there is the "Because God says so" argument (or the variation that it will benefit us in the next world). While this might not serve very well as a proof of the legitimacy of the argument (or the religion behind it), when one obtains a prescription from a competent physician where one finds every other reason to trust, certain prescriptions might be taken simply with a recognition that its truth will become apparent later. This argument is not very intellectually satisfying on its own, I'll admit, but it is still sound when considered in the whole.

Since the above is really just my own personal analysis (but based in my mind at least on some seeds found in our Writings), you might find further considerations by looking at the authoritative statements/compilations like http://bahai-library.com/uhj_homosexuality_biology or http://bahai-library.com/compilation_homosexuality_bwc .

One other point I should add is that love is still to be afforded to all people, as well as a strong intolerance for bigotry and hatred such as many homosexuals have suffered. Granted, some may label even our own beliefs as "hatred" or "phobia" or "bigotry", but the view of our teachings that non-heterosexual actions (or those outside of marriage) ought to be avoided (as with adulterous behavior, etc.)--which we believe will actually be in the ultimate best interest of the persons involved--is quite different (and really opposite) from the genuine hatred out there which can in no way be countenanced and which Baha'is are to strongly resist.

best wishes,
Brett

tomtailford
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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby tomtailford » Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:45 pm

Hello, thanks for your welcome! It's been a while since returning!

I appreciate your thoughts, although I still find it hard to understand.

I suppose we all have a limited understanding of everything. I understand that there will be more prophets - and who's to say in the future that it all won't change!

I do feel that you marry someone for a variety of reasons, not just for children. I feel that just because a homosexual couple can't create a child, doesn't mean they don't the ability to bring them up either.

Do you think if rules were applied to relationships based on their race it would be considered racist?

I think as a Bahai, even if you don't agree with something, or if it doesn't sit quite right, you accept it because God has said so. I would find that very hard, I think impossible!

brettz9
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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby brettz9 » Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:04 pm

Hello Tom,

Welcome back any time. :)

tomtailford wrote:I do feel that you marry someone for a variety of reasons, not just for children.


Yes, and the Baha'i Writings aren't saying that either, just that it is, from God's point of view as intended for us, the primary purpose--not the only one. But I think that emphasis is drawing us to a recognition which has been sadly lost in society: that having children is both of high social importance, and also a natural and great phenomenon which God wishes for us to enjoy; people today often settle for less in avoiding these two (or failing to enjoy them earlier in life) because they are turned off by the failures of married or formerly married people who may also have given marriage or parenthood a bad name for their own lack of appreciation of how to maintain them and have the appreciation and motivation to honor them, or they simply give too much ear to those who haven't had a chance to appreciate it themselves.

tomtailford wrote:Do you think if rules were applied to relationships based on their race it would be considered racist?


The question is whether we can accept that there is spiritual equality among people, with the ability to have physical differences and a corresponding need for distinct arrangements in society.

One could imagine, for example, that even though 'Abdu'l-Baha specifically praised interracial marriage, we can still admit that it may be possible that some racial combinations might have a greater likelihood in certain cases of having let's say children with certain physical defects. If the Baha'i Writings were to have guided people to seek genetic counseling (and one might even say they do, as the Baha'i Writings emphasize listening to competent doctors and taking advantage of what modern medicine has to offer) and this counseling pointed out racial considerations (which wouldn't exclude the possibility of intra-racial unions having as many or more potential problems), I don't think this would be racist; on the contrary, I think it would be in harmony with reality.

Likewise, when the Baha'i Writings recognize that women are more suitable for teaching very young children, while men are looked at to provide for the woman (e.g., the Kitab-i-Aqdas, book of laws of Baha'u'llah, only provides that a man provide for the wife during a separation period, not the other way around). This is not sexist, it is supporting a principle which is recognized by social biologists and other disciplines.

Or when the Baha'i Writings, say that, although spiritual rank is only known to God, but in this world, we need to recognize and appreciate different stations in society--whether kings, queens, presidents, CEOs, etc.

Or when Baha'u'llah says, although we recognize the body as a whole, we certainly value our eyes more than our fingernails. Just because they are all one and interconnected, doesn't mean they are equivalent.

That is in fact, one of the reasons we need a Manifestation of God: these nuances are rather hard to navigate on our own. Humanity has struggled with these dualities, and invented man-made solutions like communism, extreme capitalism, so-called liberalism or conservatism, etc., which will being motivated by idealistic justifications, fell short in reality. Only a perfect Manifestation of God could prescribe remedies which, if we are convinced of Their perfection, could have the knowledge to truly know what would lead to happiness for us, and also be consonant enough with our natures to have the potential and power to unify us all maximally as well (free will notwithstanding).

The Manifestations of God have proven this capacity to unify, so it is worth investigating Their claims, I think, and questioning whether our own understanding might be limited due to our own attachment to present-day discourse which gets caught up in argumentative dualities without examining the true reality of the differences that do exist, and thus a need to preserve the distinctions.

I understand that homosexuality before this century might not have even been conceived as a permanent condition; there have been studies point to chemicals increasing homosexuality, whether for humans or animals--to take just one recent one I've seen: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_ne ... 243902.stm . With an evolution of millions of years of sexual differentiation, just suddenly trying to reverse that, even purely from a scientific point of view, does raise questions about the chances of success. There are no shortage of, for example, strident feminists, for example, who, upon seeking to nullify distinctions among their children, are surprised to find--as biologists and psychologists who have really researched the topic, can confirm--certain unalterable distinctions among the inclinations of the sexes no matter how they rear the children.

Of course, this issue might not be purely for physical reasons, but it is worth considering.

tomtailford wrote:I think as a Bahai, even if you don't agree with something, or if it doesn't sit quite right, you accept it because God has said so. I would find that very hard, I think impossible!


While no one with some curiosity can be satisfied too easily with such answers, there are some mysteries in life which we can't quite resolve, even potentially (e.g., the mystery of the suffering of innocents). That won't stop any of us from continuing to wonder or think about it, but if we, like children with loving parents, come to accept enough of the rest of their capacity and wisdom, we might be able to live with certain uncertainties.

The real question is whether we believe the Prophets (such as the specific Ones affirmed in the Baha'i Writings or elsewhere up to and including Baha'u'llah) are True Educators, perfect representatives of God's will for humanity. (In the book, Some Answered Questions, 'Abdu'l-Baha elaborates in the first few chapters (starting in Chpt. 3) on what a true Educator must be, and how we might investigate each Prophet (He covers the Western ones in this book of approved talks, as it was for a Western audience), so this might be of interest to you in your investigations about this topic.)

If we can be convinced that these are Perfect, Divine Educators, and not just some individuals with some good ideas or perceptions, but are, as They claimed to be, perfect reflections of God's will, then, as mentioned above, we might take Their advice as one accepts the instructions of a competent physician---we assume They know more than we do, and if they can't satisfy us with a perfect answer in a certain case or cases, but we still remain confident they are highly skilled and our knowledge is of no comparison to Theirs, then it really doesn't make sense for us to dispute with Them on Their prescription, even if we would like a clear answer. This doesn't mean we stop asking questions, of course.

But, if we are not confident, then we can either ignore them (whether we believe them to be false, delusional, misguided, etc.), or we can further study Their claims in the event that we might be persuaded enough to accept Their claims.

But it really doesn't make sense to accept Their station as Prophets reflecting perfectly God's Will, while also ignoring Their ordinances. Of course, we might fall short in some areas, but at least intellectually, it doesn't make much sense to accept their status as Physicians yet reject Their prescriptions.

So, personally, I think that is the bigger question to ask: are They or are They not perfect reflections of God's will? But even answering the question in an unbiased way is not easy, since, if we were really wholly unbiased from society or our personal prejudices, we would have no need for Their guidance in the first place. So I think it is worthwhile to see what They considered as the standard of truth, the criteria to consider, etc., even for the process of search itself.

warmest regards,
Brett

tomtailford
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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby tomtailford » Sat Jan 08, 2011 2:54 pm

Well, I suppose the religion supports the normal man & woman relationship - which I can't argue against, it's just the exclusion of homosexuals I think is wrong.

What is the reason given by the manifestations of God for someone being gay?

I've read a few articles online, not all Bahai related, some related to fundamental human rights, some also about science.

There was a post online which had nearly 400 comments. I read from some people who have been Bahai, but left the religion as they were homosexual and didn't want to be a hypocrite. Another person was homosexual and still a pracitising Bahai, but believed that the religion contradicts itself in places.

The Bahai perspective on homosexuality means that I can't believe in it, maybe when the next manifestation of God comes along it will all change?

brettz9
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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby brettz9 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:50 am

tomtailford wrote:Well, I suppose the religion supports the normal man & woman relationship - which I can't argue against, it's just the exclusion of homosexuals I think is wrong.


For some reason, our society attaches strong identities to those based on things like race, sexual orientation, or disability. While this identity is often caused by historically differential treatment, it is actually something overemphasized in our society.

People often like to garner more sympathy for themselves or their cause by getting themselves labeled as though some physical characteristic is the fundamental definition of their identity, but this is in opposition to a spiritual outlook which sees our souls as being fundamentally the same--even for something as basic to our identity as being a man or woman--the soul has no gender either in our belief.

This is not to ignore the fact that sometimes an unfair history (such as with race), or actually differentiated behavior (as with gender), can lead to an understandable or necessary labeling of people by these characteristics, but they should still not be overemphasized.

The Baha'i Writings teach us that there are simply people born with a certain skin color, or people who happen to have a physical or mental difference or challenge.

The Baha'i Faith in no way excludes homosexuals, just as it does not exclude adulterers or the like; it forbids the practice of homosexuality (and adultery, etc.) but that is a very different thing.

There are Baha'is who have striven to overcome their homosexual actions, just as there are Christians, Buddhists, or Muslims, etc., who, as also forbidden by their religion (in authoritative texts no less) to engage in this activity, strive to do so as well (and just as there are Baha'is struggling to overcome other moral challenges).

tomtailford wrote:What is the reason given by the manifestations of God for someone being gay?


The Manifestations of God have not directly addressed the reasons for this, but simply forbid the action as unnatural (e.g., in the Qu'ran or Baha'i Writings).

However, this question is addressed very directly in this document prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice at their request: http://bahai-library.com/uhj_homosexuality_biology , with the Universal House of Justice being the unequivocally designated and infallible present-day center of the Faith. Modern science recognizes genetics as playing a factor in predispositions to certain behaviors, but also with the environment (or individual choice) being able to adapt to these predispositions.

tomtailford wrote:There was a post online which had nearly 400 comments. I read from some people who have been Bahai, but left the religion as they were homosexual and didn't want to be a hypocrite. Another person was homosexual and still a pracitising Bahai, but believed that the religion contradicts itself in places.


A person who claims to adhere to a religion claiming infallibility and yet also claims the religion contradicts itself, is truly living a contradiction. What sense does it make for someone to belong to a community which recognizes that God has spoken through His latest Manifestation, Baha'u'llah, and then disputes its legitimacy? Either it is from God and perfect or it is not from God. If they deem it is not from God, there is no reason to stay a part of the community, particularly when that community is to be kind to all, no matter whether they are Baha'is or not.

The real question is to examine for yourself whether it actually contradicts itself, or whether there are ways of reconciling any apparent contradictions.

And people have left the religion because they did want to get involved in politics, and any number of other reasons. That is not any proof of the religion being invalid. Many others have stayed and submitted their own will to God's, insofar as they were capable and applied themselves.

tomtailford wrote:The Bahai perspective on homosexuality means that I can't believe in it, maybe when the next manifestation of God comes along it will all change?


While normally, the Baha'i Writings say that "He, verily, doeth whatsoever He willeth" meaning that each Manifestation can change the laws of the previous, in this case, the infallible Son of the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith has stated the following:

"Know thou that the command of marriage is eternal. It will never be changed nor altered. This is divine creation and there is not the slightest possibility that change or alteration affect this divine creation (marriage)."
('Abdu'l-Baha, cited at http://bahai-library.com/uhj_homosexuality_biology )

So, this does not appear to be anything which could ever change from a Baha'i perspective. You are always welcome to associate with Baha'is if you do not believe in its divine legitimacy. The real question is whether you believe there is enough proof to accept Baha'u'llah as an unchallengeable Divine Educator and/or whether further research or contemplation of the topic could lead to an acceptance of the ability and even Wisdom of the Prophets in providing prescriptions which regulate human behavior, but in any case, I think you should find that the Writings are quite clear that these regulations are not to descend into bigotry.

best wishes,
Brett

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Re: Bahá'í Religion

Postby Baha'i Warrior » Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:04 pm

There was a post online which had nearly 400 comments. I read from some people who have been Bahai, but left the religion as they were homosexual and didn't want to be a hypocrite. Another person was homosexual and still a pracitising Bahai, but believed that the religion contradicts itself in places.


Greetings brother. Thanks for your post. A person with same-sex attractions doesn't have to leave, as long as he does not engage in fornication and break Bahá'í Laws. In fact, all Bahá'ís are tested: Whether you're attracted to another man, or women, you can control your urges. If heterosexuals can, then so can people with same-sex attractions. God has given us the capacity and strength to do so; if we didn't have such capacity, then surely He would have not revealed teachings on chastity.

Having sexual relations is certainly not obligatory, so homosexuals are not being discriminated against. It's not like eating food being essential to live—no one will die if they refrain from sexual relations. However, if one wants to then we are instructed as Bahá'ís that the only proper or lawful use of the sex impulse is between a married man and his wife. If someone can't do that, that's fine, then he can remain celibate.

Even if the popular "born that way" theory was true (which it isn't necessarily), and if someone has some gay genes, that doesn't legitimize him engaging in sexual relations with other men. If it does legitimize it, then by that logic an alcoholic should be encouraged to drink as much as he can because he was born with an alcoholism gene. Or the obese guy with the obesity gene should frequently go to all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. Obviously, we won't encourage that either. Therefore if we are born a certain way, or if the environment makes us a certain way (e.g., absent father/domineering mother), homosexual relations are still not a valid use of the sex impulse. Pedophiles have just as strong attractions to children, but no one is going to use that as an excuse to say that pedophilia is good. Thus, the fact that one is born a certain way or has certain desires doesn't legitimize those desires. Of course, there is much moral confusion in society today, such that I wouldn't be surprised if that eventually happened. When religion weakens in society, hedonism and an over-emphasis of sex goes on the rise. It's in all the movies, music, and other media, so no wonder it's such an issue today.

Hope that helps brother.


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