Baha’i superiority

In this post of the blog Baha’i Rants, Baquia complains about Baha’is taking an attitude of superiority toward other faiths. In the comments, I raised the question: well, isn’t such an attitude intrinsic to the Baha’i teachings – in the sense that the Baha’i Faith is relevant to our time and the other religions aren’t? Whereupon several Baha’i commenters insisted that that is not the case and there is absolutely no sense of superiority in the Baha’i writings.

Well, what about this?

First among the great principles revealed by Him [Baha’u’llah] is that of the investigation of reality. The meaning is that every individual member of humankind is exhorted and commended to set aside superstitious beliefs, traditions and blind imitation of ancestral forms in religion and investigate reality for himself. Inasmuch as the fundamental reality is one, all religions and nations of the world will become one through investigation of reality. The announcement of this principle is not found in any of the sacred Books of the past.

That’s from The Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 433. This is an excerpt from a much longer passage. Abdu’l-Baha is explaining what is new about Baha’u’llah’s teachings, and he goes through a litany of concepts that are supposedly absent from other religions and only found in the revelation of Baha’u’llah. He makes some really preposterous and offensive statements, such as saying the Baha’i Faith is the only religion that forbids racism, that it’s the only one that says that faith should be in accordance with reason, and that it’s the only one that teaches that women should not be oppressed.

The flip side of Abdu’l-Baha’s statements is this: he’s insinuating that all other religions implicitly allow racism, obscurantism and the oppression of women. The only way to bring an end to these evils is by God bringing a new revelation, because the existing religions can do nothing about them.

His Holiness Baha’u’llah has risen from the eastern horizon. Like the glory of the sun He has come into the world. He has reflected the reality of divine religion, dispelled the darkness of imitations, laid the foundation of new teachings and resuscitated the world. (Baha’i World Faith, p. 238)

What is the “darkness of imitations” Baha’u’llah came to dispell? What else could it be but the other religions in their modern form.

It’s all well and good to say the Baha’i Faith embraces all religions. What Baha’is really mean (and they get this from Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha) is that all religions originally taught the truth, but have since been corrupted by human ignorance and arrogance. And then, inexplicably, Baha’is insist that there is nothing in the Baha’i writings to suggest any spirit of superiority, that they are tolerant of everybody’s beliefs.

If Baha’is were genuinely open-minded, they would make an effort to understand what others actually believe, rather then spending their time telling us that our beliefs are wrong and if we want to be true Christians we should embrace Baha’u’llah. It isn’t just modern-day Baha’is that are like this. Abdu’l-Baha was the same way.

To demonstrate this point, we here at Baha’i-Catholic Blog have secured an exclusive interview with Abdu’l-Baha.

BCB– Good morning, Abdu’l-Baha, thank you for taking the time to meet with us.

AB– I am very happy at being present at this meeting (PUP p. 87). Are you happy?

BCB– Yes, thank you. Now I wonder if you could shed some light for us on how you view some essential Christian doctrines. Let’s begin with the quintessential Christian ritual, baptism. I should clarify that in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, baptism is much more than simply a ritual to demonstrate that the individual has chosen to believe in Christ. Rather, we believe that God has chosen baptism as a medium through which he infuses us with saving grace. What are your views on this?

AB– No, baptism is a only symbol of repentance (SAQ p. 91). The physical act of baptism is without spiritual effect. It is only a custom (SAQ p. 95).

BCB– It sounds as if you disapprove of the Christian belief on this point. Let’s explore another area dear to the hearts of Christians, and particularly Orthodox and Catholic Christians – the Eucharist, or communion. The Second Vatican Council called the Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life” because it is through this sacrament, more than through any other means, that we are given the spiritual sustenance to become like Christ. We believe that it is the body and blood of Christ, and through it we are joined both to Christ’s suffering and to his eternal life. What do you think of our belief in the Eucharist?

AB– How can such a thought be conceived? God forbid! Certainly it is an absolute fantasy (SAQ p. 98). The mind cannot accept this. Children should be taught that the Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol (PUP p. 213).

BCB– It sounds as if you take objection to our faith on this point because you can’t understand it. But I don’t see why God can’t do things that go beyond our ability as humans to understand. And certainly God can manipulate matter at his will. Catholics and Orthodox are comfortable with teachings like the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist, because Christ can be physically present wherever he chooses. We see no need to draw a strict division between God and his creation. Take for example our belief in the resurrection of Christ. We believe that God the Son became a human being in order to perfect humankind. All those who join their humanity to his will enjoy the eternal life of God through him. Just as Christ’s body was raised to eternal life on Easter morning, so too our bodies can be raised to eternal life along with our spirits. We see no reason why God cannot make a physical body eternal.

AB– Physical resurrection is not scientifically possible. Therefore, to insist on it is to cause religion to be at odds with science. The Baha’i Faith, on the other hand, is in perfect accord with science. The Christian clergy do not understand the Bible. When the Bible says Christ rose from the dead, what it means is that three days after Christ died, his disciples regained their confidence and started preaching (SAQ pp. 104-105).

BCB– I’m struck at your insistence that God will only act within the confines of physical laws. The Bible sometimes says things that seem to contradict what we know scientifically. Often that is simply because it is speaking poetically. And as anyone who has studied Church history will know, Christians have always read figurative meanings in the Bible rather than only taking it literally. Yet, at the same time, God is all-powerful and is capable of changing his creation to show signs on the earth. It says, for example, that at the end of the world the stars will fall from heaven. Whether that’s to be taken literally I don’t know, but I’m sure God could accomplish that if he so willed. What do you think?

AB– According to reason and science this thing is quite impossible, so this is obviously just a symbol (SAQ p. 112).

BCB– These views are striking when we consider that on other occasions you have said that God is unfathomable and inconceivable. For example, on June 9, 1912, you gave a talk at a Unitarian church in Philadelphia in which you said, “how can the human reality, which is limited, comprehend the eternal, unmanifest Creator? How can man comprehend the omniscient, omnipresent Lord?” Yet here you’ve insisted that fundamental Christian beliefs should be discarded because they are not logical and not consistent with current scientific knowledge. I can’t help but wonder if you were making these arguments just to discredit Christianity, even though these arguments clearly contradict your teachings and those of your father regarding divine omnipotence. In any event, thank you for your time.

AB– You are very welcome, very welcome!