Moojan Momen is right

A few days ago I became aware of this new article by Moojan Momen discussing the ex-Baha’i phenomenon, “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community”. (The version Momen submitted to the journal Religion may be read here. The journal posts the abstract here.)

Momen’s argument is that you see this new phenomenon emerging in the Baha’i community in the past 25 years or so – a community of ex-Baha’is has developed. It used to be that someone who didn’t like the Faith would go and become an ex-Baha’i by themselves, criticizing the Faith on their own. But in recent years some of these people have formed a community. Isn’t that strange? What changed? Why now, and why has it taken this form? These are the kind of questions this article is seeking to answer.

I read some responses on the web by various ex-Baha’is. None of them like the piece. Some were sarcastic (a little puerile, don’t you think?), some were dismissive, some attempted rebuttals (none of them very effective), and some were even angry and hostile. I’m really puzzled by all this, because it seems to me Momen is on to something.

When I left the Baha’i community I looked on the Internet for an ex-Baha’i community. Not that I wanted to “join” one, but I wanted to know if my thoughts were shared by others, and if there were people out there who could help me think things through. There was a community, all right, but they couldn’t help me. All they wanted to do was talk about the evil, dictatorial “AO” all day. I couldn’t relate to that at all, because, though I had had some bad experiences with the administration (anyone who’s in the community longer than six months is going to face that), they weren’t anything to merit getting one’s panties in a wad years after the fact. I was kind of perplexed by these people. It didn’t sound like they had belonged to any Baha’i Faith that I had experienced.

And you know what? They act exactly the way Momen describes them:

[Various episodes] are told and retold in apostate e-mails and on apostate websites and indeed have now become so firmly a part of the apostate mythology that they no longer need to be recounted in full, a single word or phrase is sufficient to invoke their mythological presence.

I haven’t done any social scientific research, so I can’t confirm in a scholarly way what Momen is saying, but it certainly agrees with what I’ve seen anecdotally. I have also seen a canonical narrative constructed, a set of events and historical figures that have taken on legendary status. And it revolves around… [cue dissonant chord] the AO!

What a bunch of losers. They construct a whole groupthink around the accusation that the AO enforces groupthink.

A few points to clear up:

1) “Marginality and Apostasy” is an academic article. It uses the term “apostate” according to how it is defined in the academic literature. If you think you’re scoring points by quoting the dictionary definition of “apostate”, you’re missing the point.

2) Once again, “Marginality and Apostasy” is an academic article. It thus makes a scholarly argument that contributes to the religious studies literature. The article, the real article, is being posted in an academic journal to be read by people with PhDs. It is not an Internet flame war. If you respond to it as if it were, you’re missing the point.

3) As an academic article, it is not enough to refute it by noting that some of his facts are wrong. It is helpful and valuable to note those mistakes. Based on reading some of the ex-Baha’i responses, it appears he may have made some factual errors with regard to some of his case studies. By all means address these. Every academic article and book is a work in progress. But if you’re trying to prove him wrong overall, then you also have to take his main argument into account.

Momen wouldn’t have had any reason to include me in his article even if he knew about me, since I don’t fit with the crowd he set out to explain. But reading his article still caused me to think about what I’m doing with this blog. And since this post is a break from my normal subject matter anyway, allow me a moment of self-reflection:

I suppose it’s inevitable that my blog would be lumped in with the “ex-Baha’i” crowd. Baha’i websites don’t acknowledge this blog, and ex-Baha’is of various sorts link to it. So both Baha’is and ex-Baha’is seem to agree on the category I belong in. But this categorization is arbitrary. In some ways I have more in common with Glenford Mitchell than I do with most ex-Baha’is. In other ways, they’re both pretty far from where I am.

To use the terminology Momen uses in his article, I was a leavetaker. I simply lost my faith in Baha’u’llah and stopped participating in the community. Momen uses Bromley’s definition of apostate: “[the term refers] not to ordinary religious leavetakers . . . but to that subset of leavetakers who are involved in contested exits and affiliate with an oppositional coalition”. My exit was not contested, and I did not affiliate with an oppositional coalition. I didn’t join an ex-Baha’i community (although I might have if I had found one I could relate to). But I did join the Christian community, and I formed a Christian identity that has pretty much entirely replaced my old Baha’i identity. Then, after all that, I got onto the Internet to defend Christianity from Baha’i polemics.

Granted, I am an ex-Baha’i in the sense that I used to be a Baha’i and then I stopped believing in it. But that doesn’t put me in the same tradition as Juan Cole, Karen Bacquet and Alison Marshal. I am rather in the same tradition as Augustine of Hippo, Francis de Sales and John Henry Newman – defenders of the Gospel from those who would distort it. Unlike most active ex-Baha’is, my goal here is not to attack the administration or call for a change in the Baha’i community. I’m here to engage the Baha’i discourse from outside it.

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50 Responses

  1. I appreciate your conclusions here.

  2. Thank goodness there are Catholics of intelligence such as Hans Kung to balance the views points of individuals such as yourself.

    Yours

    Larry Rowe

  3. I am one of the ex-Baha’is Moojan Momen mentioned in his article. I found his article to be slanderous and offensive, because he accuses ex-Baha’is such as myself of being full of a spirit of hatred and resentment against the Baha’i Faith and being obsessed with criticizing it. While that may be true of a few ex-Baha’is, most such as myself do not hate the Baha’i Faith nor spend much time actively opposing it. I, personally, have moved on to become a liberal Christian and rarely think about the Baha’i Faith anymore. Therefore, I did not appreciate Momen’s attack against me in an academic journal.

    Furthermore, many of the people he mentioned in that article are not even ex-Baha’is at all — they are Baha’is who have left the organized form of the religion, but still believe in Baha’u’llah. In other words, they are not “apostates”; they are simply Baha’is who do not wish to belong to the organized form of Baha’ism for various reasons. Momen apparently cannot understand the difference.

    Eric Stetson

  4. You assert that there is a “community of ex-Baha’is,” “call its alleged members a “bunch of losers,” and accuse them of “groupthink”– yet never say who, what, or where “they” are. No such community exists to my knowledge, and certainly I’m no part of one nor are most of the other alleged apostates.

    Factual mistakes that are the foundation of personal attacks are more than a minor scholarly faux pas. Most of these named individuals have never met, are not in online communication, and exist as a “group” only in the fevered imaginations of some Baha’is and at least one ex-Baha’i. You think you were spared for some good reason, and the rest of us were targeted for good reasons. But my exit was no more contested than yours and it surely never occurred to me to create an anti-Baha’i website!

  5. First, a minor point. You’ve linked to an electronic copy of Moojan’s paper. The Religion article, available for purchase and download from the magazine is somewhat different — to the extent that the paper goes into detail about two apostates who don’t appear in the article. And the article goes into detail about one apostate who doesn’t appear in the paper!

    You say that you’re a leavetaker, not an apostate, based on the definitions Moojan gives. I would agree. The problem is that hardly anyone named or identified as a Baha’i apostate by Moojan meets those criteria either. Dan Jensen has written in detail about this. Here’s a link to his article ( http://kaweah.com/Bahai/remomen.html )

    You say that you’re not in the same tradition as Alison Marshall. Have you looked at her website – the one that Moojan identifies as “publicizing her grievances”, and that he describes as containing “much apostate material” ( http://whoisbahaullah.com )? Moojan apparently has a very low threshold for contested exits for forming an oppositional coalition and for harbouring apostate material. I’m guessing your life and blog would easily qualify according to Moojan’s interpretation. Your blog even links to “The Cormorant Baker” – need I say more? :-)

  6. It has been an allegation of mine – and self-evident to anyone with eyes to see – that an Unholy Alliance exists between the ‘Church’ and the Beli’alians of Carmel, i.e. the UH$. Thank you for lending more wait to it. Birds of a feather flock together!

  7. I’ve never been a Baha’i, but often hang out on the dissident sites (which provide better information on the religion than pro-administration sites). On the Yahoo group ex-bahai I found a number of rather good refutations to his overall methodology. And of course, the likelihood that he was wrong about most of his examples does not help his case.

    Why would anyone spend time criticizing the Baha’is? Well, is that any stranger than spending time keeping up with comic-book news, or cranking out Wikipedia articles (as I do)? We are interested in what we are interested in.

  8. I am no longer a Baha’i but have never told the Baha’i community -including my wife this.

    I began to see that Bahais have wonderful dreams, but not a hope in heaven, hell or earth of ever achieving them. May they dream on. There is much I like about the faith I joined 21 years ago. Many of its principles will live with me to the day I die.

    However, for more practical people they should start changing the stinking politics in the world. Lets get rid of war mongers and the multinational corporate scum bags that control this planet and build a system based on caring, sharing, compassion, true equality, and socialism.

    Many, would no doubt would think what I am about to say is crazy, I no longer believe in a God or Great Spirit, nor his/her messengers. My new faith is in international, libertarian, and democratic socialism.

  9. Jonah,

    I don’t know if you mean me when you mention a response to Momen’s article being “a little puerile” but if you do, I consider it an insult. A *little* puerile!? Try *very, very* puerile! The childishness of my response to Momen’s weighty scholarship is surpassed by none. I won’t concede second place to anyone in this regard. If someone asks me to, I’ll throw a tantrum. And hold my breath too.

    As to the article itself, I’ve already admitted I have no constructive criticism to offer, only childish jokes and cheap sarcasm. But I think that there’s one respect where you’re selling Momen’s more thoughtful critics short. Apart from some small factual errors, there’s another problem with the article. It’s fairly serious and has nothing to do with the argument that former Baha’is have created a shared mythology, something I don’t think anyone is disputing.

    What’s objectionable in Momen’s argument — this is the opinion of people much smarter and more mature than me, people with the patience to actually read what he says — is slightly different. It has to do with Momen’s claim that all of the ‘apostates’ he’s discussing are united by an “obsessive hatred” towards their religious past. It’s the one thing he says they all have in common. This isn’t some minor error, assuming it really is an error, it’s something that’s central to the article. “Obsessive hatred” s what defines an ‘apostate’, to the point that some people, like Sen McGlinn, aren’t ‘apostates’ because they aren’t full of hate.

    Now, I’m the first to admit that there’s no completely objective test for something like this. Who can really say for sure if someone is or isn’t hateful? The only way of really deciding is to know all the people Momen mentions individually, and then there’s no need for his article in the first place. Most people who read the article will have to take Momen’s word that all of the people he lists are consumed with “obsessive hatred.” But what if they’re not? What does it do to Momen’s thesis if Karen Baquet isn’t as nasty as Derrick Evanson? What if Alison Marshall isn’t as overcome with anger and spite as Wahid Azal? What if he’s just plain wrong to toss them all in a single category?

    Anyone who wants to test this idea can explore it for themselves, has to, in fact You can’t take my word or Momen’s word or anyone’s word on it: deciding whether someone is really consumed with “obsessive hatred” is far too subjective. But assuming it’s true that Alison Marshall and K. Paul Johnson and Karen Baquet aren’t obsessed with the AO in the same paranoid way that, say, Fred Glaysher is, assuming it’s true that they’re not as angry or hateful as Wahid Azal or as nasty as Derrick Evanson, assuming this is correct then there’s something very wrong with Momen’s article. If he’s wrong here, he’s wrong in one of his central assertions, he’s misleading readers about the extent of his subjects’ hatred. He’s falsely associating people based on a false criterion, an “obsessive hatred” that really doesn’t describe all the people he says it does.

    But that’s just what more thoughtful readers of Momen’s article have said. For my part I’d rather stick to using it for coffee filters, paper airplanes, and maybe gift wrap — but not for gifts to anyone I like.

    Brendan

  10. Thank you all for commenting. I apologize for not being able to give substantial answers to each comment, but I will say at least something.

    George Wesley – Thank you for your kind words. I enjoy reading your blog, and I agree that affirmation is more attractive than negation. That is something I’m trying to cultivate more in myself.

    Larry Rowe actually raises an interesting point that I hope Baha’i readers (if there are any left) will take to heart: Hans Kung is the Catholic version of ex-Baha’is. If a Baha’i quotes Kung or a similar Catholic dissident to make the point that Catholicism can be subsumed under the Baha’i Faith, his argument won’t get any farther than if someone used Juan Cole’s writings as justification for changing Baha’i administrative policies.

    Eric Stetson – Granted I’ve only read the draft available on the Internet, but I don’t see anything in Momen’s discussion of you that constitutes a personal attack.

    Your website’s tone certainly suggests to me that you hate the Faith. It also repeats the ideas that have become canonical among ex-Baha’is: the “authoritarian” administration, the Faith’s “borderline cult status”. And you base these judgments on your own experience “and from reading the stories of many ex-Baha’is and talking with quite a few of them”. So it appears your website corroborates Momen’s findings.

    If your website no longer represents your views, then maybe you should change it or take it down.

    K. Paul Johnson – Now, in your case, Momen does make a brief personal jab, and it’s fair to be annoyed by it, especially if you didn’t “apostatize” from Theosophy. As for whether an ex-Baha’i community exists: it is not necessary for individuals to be in direct communication for them to constitute a social movement or community.

    Steve Marshall – Alison Marshall’s website does contain material, mostly in the form of links, that condone an anti-administration viewpoint. Considering the high importance Baha’is give to the Covenant, it’s hard for me to see how anyone would regard her site as innocuous.

    When I linked to the Cormorant Baker, I didn’t know it was run by an ex-Baha’i. But that’s beside the point. You may be right that Momen would have regarded me as an apostate who harbors hatred for the administration. I suspect that’s what a lot of Baha’i visitors think.

    From the beginning of this blog I have had the policy to delete any comments by covenant breakers and never to link to them. I didn’t think about how to handle ex-Baha’is, because I had encountered them only superficially and I guess I naively thought they all hang out on e-mail lists or something.

    Wahid Azal – We should create a slogan. “Catholicism: the religion everyone loves to hate”

    Zla’od – Having been a long-time Baha’i, let me tell you that the dissident sites don’t represent the Faith very well. You won’t be able to understand the Baha’i experience by reading them. I suggest you take a six-month moratorium from those sites and go make friends with your local Baha’is and attend their activities.

    Luke Weyland – I wish you the best on your journey, and I hope you continue to search.

    Brendan Cook – I didn’t mean you. I mean it was sarcastic, but everything on your site is sarcastic. That’s the point. But I’ll concede it was better sarcasm than others.

    You said, “… the argument that former Baha’is have created a shared mythology, something I don’t think anyone is disputing.” I’m guessing K. Paul Johnson would dispute that, if I’m reading him right. I’ll wager dollars to donuts a lot of other ex-Baha’is would dispute it too. Many of them probably think they’re just describing reality.

    Perhaps we read Momen’s article differently. What I understood is not that these people are obsessively hating all the time, or that they have nothing else going on in their life except hating and attacking the Baha’i administration. It’s that when they do break away from their normal lives and look at the administration, they do so with a feeling of hatred.

    Momen may have worded the conclusion to his article a little strongly, and he could have toned it down. But I’m still not convinced that his argument is wrong, though. There really does seem to be a lot of hate floating around the ex-Baha’i community. Now of course there are other things too: camaraderie and jokes and mutual support. But when the administration comes up, or anyone associated with it, or anyone who defends it, they express animosity.

    Maybe you’re right that that isn’t true for each and every individual he discusses in the article. I don’t know any of them, so I just don’t know. And if he got someone wrong and you’re upset about it, that’s fine. But that doesn’t change the overall issue.

    To paraphrase what I’ve said on a different thread on this blog, the angry ex-Baha’is give us normal former Baha’is a bad name. And I still feel that way. Everyone who participates in the ex-Baha’i discourse needs to take a moment and think about what they’re doing, and the image they’re presenting to people who don’t agree with them.

  11. Nice summary.

  12. Jonah,

    My ex-Baha’i website does still represent my views, although it is due for an update perhaps to tone down some of the evangelical Christian aspects, since I have become much more liberal in my understanding of Christianity.

    I take exception to your statement that my website’s tone suggests that I hate the Baha’i Faith. On the contrary, I have deliberately tried to be rather charitable towards Baha’is and Baha’ism on my website. I could have made my criticisms much harsher — but the fact is, I do admire some of the beliefs and principles of Baha’ism and I found most Baha’is I knew to be nice people. So I’ve tried not to make their religion look any more full of holes than it really is.

    Furthermore, I believe it to be simply accurate to say that the Baha’i Faith organization is authoritarian and has some characteristics in common with cults. In my mind, that is not a hateful statement, but simply a statement of fact based on solid, overwhelming evidence.

    Momen attacked me by claiming that all the people he mentions in his article (which includes me) are animated by hatred and resentment agains the Baha’i Faith. I personally do not feel those emotions at all, and I maintain my website because I want people to see some arguments against joining the Baha’i Faith before they commit themselves to it. They won’t find those arguments by exploring only pro-Baha’i websites. Therefore, my website serves a useful and beneficial purpose to help people make a more rational, informed decision about whether or not to join the Baha’i Faith.

    Eric Stetson

  13. Hi Jonah. There are three points where I think you misunderstand either Momen’s article or the targeted “apostates.” First about a “shared mythology”– that is more characteristic of the unenrolled Baha’is on Momen’s enemies list than with the ex-Baha’is he names. Karen, Alison, Juan, and even Fred really do have something in common, perhaps as much as enrolled Baha’is do. But frankly, I have no idea what Ficicchia or MacEoin believe about Baha’i or anything else, don’t see Garlington as part of any such shared mythology, and know that I have very little in common with Hazini or Evenson. So the “shared mythology” accusation is quite unfounded on the ex-Baha’i side of the enemies list. (Whatever your observation of people *not* on the list might be– it does not justify your pronouncement that “Momen is right” in attacking these specific named individuals.)
    Second, this is very disingenuous sounding:”Maybe you’re right that that isn’t true for each and every individual he discusses in the article. I don’t know any of them, so I just don’t know. And if he got someone wrong and you’re upset about it, that’s fine. But that doesn’t change the overall issue.” What you ignore here is that it isn’t just SOME of the 12 who don’t fit the stated criteria, it is ALMOST ALL, 9 or 10. Which very much changes the overall issue, making the argument extremely weak. Thirdly, you are really misreading Momen here: “Perhaps we read Momen’s article differently. “What I understood is not that these people are obsessively hating all the time, or that they have nothing else going on in their life except hating and attacking the Baha’i administration. It’s that when they do break away from their normal lives and look at the administration, they do so with a feeling of hatred.” No, that is not it at all. Momen argues that ALL these apostates are totally incapable of focusing on any positive spiritual path because they are forever and totally obsessed with oppositional thoughts and feelings about Baha’i. That is highly insulting and just plain false in most cases. Here’s the quote:
    “The apostates described above, despite the different attitudes they have towards the Baha’i Faith, all share an obsessive hatred of the institutions of their former religious community. Indeed they share a certain preoccupation with their campaign against the Baha’i community that brings to mind Max Scheler work on ressentiment – “a form of envious rage that seeks either to discredit or to emulate the object of its affect, and sometimes, to do both” (Hall, 1988, p. 237) and these individuals closely conform to Scheler definition of an apostate:

    An “apostate” is not a man who once in his life radically changes his deepest religious, political, legal, or philosophical convictions—even when this change is not continuous, but involves a sudden rupture. Even after his conversion, the true “apostate” is not primarily committed to the positive contents of his new belief and to the realization of its aims. He is motivated by the struggle against the old belief and lives only for its negation. The apostate does not affirm his new convictions for their own sake, he is engaged in a continuous chain of acts of revenge against his own spiritual past. In reality he remains a captive of this past, and the new faith is merely a handy frame of reference for negating and rejecting the old. As a religious type, the apostate is therefore at the opposite pole from the “resurrected,” whose life is transformed by a new faith which is full of intrinsic meaning and value . . . (Scheler, 1961, pp. 66-7; see alternative translation in Coser, 1954, p. 250)

    PJ

    Indeed, although these apostate groups and the very similar “covenant-breaker” groups (as they are known by core Baha’is) of the past are often referred to as sects or splinter groups of the Baha’i Faith, this is, in a sense, an incorrect description. These groups are not developing their own distinctive patterns and characteristics of community life and beliefs alongside the main Baha’i group. They have no independent existence but only exist to oppose the main Baha’i community. In Scheler’s terms, they are not living in their new faith community but only in a series of acts against their former community; their new community only exists as a “point of reference” from which to attack the former community. Having no life of their own and existing only as a group of people united in their negativity towards the core Baha’i Faith, the previous generations of sectarian groups splitting from the Baha’i Faith, the “covenant-breakers”, have barely survived the death of their founder members.

  14. Hi Jonah,

    You write:
    “…Alison Marshall’s website does contain material, mostly in the form of links, that condone an anti-administration viewpoint. Considering the high importance Baha’is give to the Covenant, it’s hard for me to see how anyone would regard her site as innocuous.”

    Sure, but my point was that when you compare her website – http://whoisbahaullah.com – with your blog – https://bahaicatholic.wordpress.com – then yours arguably is equally, if not more, anti-Baha’i. You could easily be listed by Moojan as an apostate. Eric points out that if he can be listed as one, then there’s nothing stopping you from being listed as well.

    Praising Moojan may not be the best way to distance yourself from the folk he describes as apostates. I suggest that you consider carefully what Eric, your brother in Christ, has said.

    It’s great to see that you’re allowing discussion rather than closing it down.

    ka kite
    Steve

  15. Brendan Crook obviously has a bee-in-his-bonnet, which has nothing to do with me. I represent something that he loves to loathe (an archetype animating bahaism on all levels). There are Derridean “presences” in his own spiteful, psychotic nastiness that would make quite a narrative text in its own right.

    It is becoming clear to me that maybe Jonah has a point here. But not exactly from the angle he might think. Crook is incensed that Alison Marshall – a self-appointed martyr-complexed “saint” amongst this clique and in-group – and those individuals he sycophantically panders to have been compared to me. He mentions my name twice – in indignant protest – in a hypocritical “how dare Moojan.”

    Now let’s talk about hate and spite. I only publicly denounce Bahaism online, and that becomes hateful and spiteful. I have not systematically ripped families apart. Lied, trumped up or exagerrated human rights abuses detracting thereby from bona fide abuses happening. I have not driven people penniless as a tactic of silencing. I have not covered up rapes, abuses and outright crimes to protect a bureaucracy and its organization. Nor have I covered up financial malefeasances around the globe that have affected real people in a real way. Sold out innocent people to wolves who have then turned around and killed them, or raped their children. Lied about history. Screwed people over right, left and side ways. Whitewashed facts, and then lied some more and then some more after that, ad nauseum.

    You so-called liberals living in your comfortable, complacent neo-liberal Anglo-European parasitic consumer existences amongst your insular, self-perpetuating, in-group cliques online can be righteously indignant all you want. You people are no different than Momen. You are the same bunch of hoodlums and thugs, but without the power or wherewithal that he has behind him. That is the only difference. You are ferociously – even criminally – territorial like he is. You are deceitful like he is, if not worse than he is. Your interests matter over everyone and everything else, just like him. And you people have done NOTHING – nada! – about real abuses that the Bahai system has perpetrated again and again and again against innocent people, then have the gall to cry like a bunch of spineless cowards about an academic article that is of absolutely no consequence whatsoever in the bigger scheme of things.

    Case in point: not a single one of you losers so much as uttered a single breath of even mild support or protest on behalf of a family and an 85 year old man who was being ravaged to the point of death by the AO from 2001-2005. Not a single one you! Why? Because the family and the elderly gentleman happened to be Iranian and this obviously detracts from your own kulturkampf and smoldering hatred and contempt of that community. You people deserve this article by Momen. It is a karmic come-uppance long time coming your way. Deal with it!

    Wahid

  16. Jonah,

    The post above makes my point — or rather that of my more thoughtful friends — better than I ever could. Are Alison Marshall and Wahid Azal really ‘six of one and half-a-dozen of the other’ as we say out West? Moojan says that in terms of their “obsessive hatred” of the AO, they are. But to me it seems like he’s linking people not only different, but opposite. He’s comparing someone devoted to a wise and loving exploration of Baha’u’llah’s legacy with an internet troll and he’s passed it off as scholarship.

    And while we’re on the topic of “obsessive hatred”, you also said this:

    “What I understood is not that these people are obsessively hating all the time, or that they have nothing else going on in their life except hating and attacking the Baha’i administration. It’s that when they do break away from their normal lives and look at the administration, they do so with a feeling of hatred.”

    You have an interesting definition of “obsessive.” The word is derived from the Latin word for ‘siege’ — it’s literally waiting outside a fortress night and day to attack people if they try to come out. ‘Obsession’ means that you think about something constantly, that you can’t think of anything else. That’s why we call it ‘Obsessive-Compulsive’ disorder when you feel the urge to do something again and again and again. ‘Obsession’ takes over someone’s life.

    Now, you try to say that “obsessive hatred” only means that people hate when they’re not doing something else, that they have ‘normal’ lives where they’re thinking of other things. That’s not “obsessive hatred,” that’s just “hatred” plain and simple. And it’s not what Moojan meant. He suggests that Alison is as obsessed with attacking the Baha’i Faith as consumed by her ‘ex-Baha’i’ identity as Wahid Azal. And he’s wrong.

    Am I mad? Not really. But Moojan should be embarrassed, would be for certain, if everyone actually got to know the people he talks about. They’d see pretty quickly through his claim that they’re all united in “obsessive hatred.”

    Brendan

  17. I have some general thoughts.

    Let me start by explaining what I mean by a “shared mythology,” which I think Momen would agree with. On all these ex-Baha’i sites (and I use that term as shorthand to include dissident Baha’is and “unenrolled” Baha’is) you find the same claims repeated over and over. The administrative order suppresses free speech, free expression, and free thought. The Faith used to be centered on spirituality before it became bureaucratic and administrative. Ex-Baha’is commonly also throw around words like “cult” and “dictatorship” to describe the Faith, and often speak of the institutions and individual high-profile Baha’is in a maliciously sarcastic and hostile way.

    In addition to these claims, the ex-Baha’is also advance a consistent agenda: put women on the Universal House of Justice, condone homoerotic behavior, impose term limits, end literature review, and in a more general sense open up Baha’i discourse so anyone can advance their personal loony theology without regard to the moral and doctrinal teachings of the Manifestation of God.

    There is, in addition, a collection of sacred myths that ex-Baha’is reverently repeat to each other without anyone investigating the sources of these myths. These myths include stories about Dialogue, Talisman, Ahmen Sohrab, and the supposed persecution experiences of various dissidents. If anyone dares to question these sacred myths, they are viciously attacked and labelled either as part of the AO or one of its lackeys. And the AO, in this mythology, has become a sort of earthly Satan or Iblis.

    The ex-Baha’is portray themselves as heroes fighting the great dragon AO. They either confront the horrid monster directly, or they selflessly labor to save others from falling into its evil clutches.

    That’s the “shared mythology” of the ex-Baha’is.

    It’s hard for me to take any of it seriously. The claims they make about the Baha’i Faith being cultish and dictatorial are just absurd. As for their agenda, they have a right to desire things like that, but to think that these things are consistent with the Baha’i revelation is also absurd. The most idiotic thing is they think that by openly disobeying and slandering the institutions, they are being good Baha’is. The whole point of the Baha’i revelation (if I may don my Baha’i hat) was to bring people together into a _united_ community. That’s why there is a Covenant, and that’s why there are institutions! To work at cross purposes with the institutions set up (either directly or indirectly) by Baha’u’llah is to work at cross purposes with Baha’u’llah himself.

    (Taking my Baha’i hat off again…) On this blog I have criticized Baha’is for telling us Christians that we’re wrong about Christianity, and we need the Baha’is to educate us about our own Faith. Well, ex-Baha’is do the same thing to the Baha’is. They tell the Baha’is that, unbeknownst to them, they belong to a tyrannical cult, and the only way to become free is for the ex-Baha’is to re-educate them. The Baha’is don’t understand their own religion. Only the ex-Bahais really understand it. I don’t condone that attitude in Bahais and I don’t condone it in ex-Bahais.

    Regarding Steve’s point, yes, this blog is in a way anti-Bahai, in the sense that I disagree with the Faith and I think the Central Figures said things that are wrong. The issue though is not whether someone is more or less anti-Bahai.

    My site is more openly opposed to the Faith than Alison Marshall’s is, but hers is from a Bahai perspective more insidious and dangerous, because she is working to dissociate in people’s minds the Faith and the Covenant. I don’t know if that’s how she sees it, but that is the upshot of her site: that working counter to the Covenant is consistent with being a good Bahai. But the Covenant is whole reason for the Faith’s existence. Without the Covenant, the Faith can’t bring unity, and the world is lost.

    By the way, the goals of the ex-Bahais come from the values of the white, middle-class culture in the developed world, and particularly in America. You don’t hear demands like these coming from Bahais in Africa or India. What has happened here is that ex-Bahais have imbibed the bourgeois culture that surrounds them, and they want to remake the Faith in the culture’s image. They look to the culture to tell them what’s right and wrong rather than the Manifestation, and when the Faith is out of step with the culture, they think it’s the Faith that’s wrong. I just plain don’t have any sympathy for that approach.

    K. Paul Johnson, I see now what you mean about Momen characterizing people as hating all the time. But that isn’t his main argument. In fact, if we were to take those passages out of the article, would the main points of the argument be affected? In other words, would points 1 through 5, listed in the abstract and conclusion, be nullified? I don’t think so. Ex-Bahais are still trying to reverse the image of the Faith from “allegiant” to “subversive”. Their experience is still a dark mirror image of that of core members. The Internet’s role is still there. They still have a mythology, creed and set of salvation stories, and they further their aims in the academic press. The article’s argument still stands.

    KPJ said, “What you ignore here is that it isn’t just SOME of the 12 who don’t fit the stated criteria, it is ALMOST ALL, 9 or 10.”

    I disagree. Based on what I’ve seen, Juan Cole, Frederick Glaysher, Eric Stetson, Alison Marshall and Karen Bacquet all easily fit. I don’t know about Garlington, but if Momen is right that his book spends 16 pages on the dissidents’ pet issues and two pages on the Wilmette Temple, then it sounds to me he has (and is promoting) a skewed perception.

    I wonder if some of these ex-Bahais have been ex-Bahai for so long that they forget what the world looks like through Bahai eyes, if they ever knew to begin with. So they forget why Bahais would find what they say upsetting or offensive.

  18. Jonah,

    In your comment above, you wrote: “The claims they [ex-Baha’is] make about the Baha’i Faith being cultish and dictatorial are just absurd.”

    Well, you are entitled to your opinion, but I can tell you from my own personal experience that the following things happened to me when I was a Baha’i:

    — I was told that I could no longer participate in politics, which was a major interest of mine before becoming a Baha’i, and is something that many Americans view as one of the most important aspects of democratic citizenship.

    — I was told that I could not support human rights organizations such as Amnesty International or Students for a Free Tibet, because some of their views conflicted with the views of the Baha’i leadership.

    — I was told that anything I wanted to write and publish about the Baha’i Faith would have to go through a review process by Baha’i officials, to make sure I was conforming to all the officially approved ideas and interpretations.

    — I was told that I was required to believe that the Universal House of Justice is infallible in all its decisions, and that its voice was the equivalent of the voice of God on earth in this day.

    In my humble opinion, those things are authoritarian and are the kind of features that are associated with religious groups that are popularly called “cults.” However, I will grant that some ex-Baha’is go too far in their criticism of the Baha’i Faith in this regard — I do not believe this religious organization is fully a cult, but simply that it has *some* features typically found in cults. It is mainly for that reason that I feel it’s appropriate for people interested in the Baha’i Faith to learn this information before they join. And my desire for them to learn these things has nothing to do with hatred. Most of my experiences with Baha’is and the Baha’i Faith were actually positive, believe it or not.

    Eric Stetson

  19. Hi Jonah,

    You write:
    “[Alison] is working to dissociate in people’s minds the Faith and the Covenant. I don’t know if that’s how she sees it, but that is the upshot of her site: that working counter to the Covenant is consistent with being a good Bahai.”

    Folks reading these comments should pop over to Alison’s site – http://whoisbahaullah.com – and check for themselves. I’m confident they won’t see what Jonah sees.

    You also write:
    “the Covenant is whole reason for the Faith’s existence. Without the Covenant, the Faith can’t bring unity, and the world is lost”

    Alison agrees with you:

    “Baha’u’llah ends the passage by saying that if we ‘sanctify our souls,’ we will immediately ‘recall that place and those surroundings’ and testify to the truth of what he told us there. Significantly, ‘Abdu’l-Baha has interpreted this gathering to be the place where Baha’u’llah established his covenant.[Taherzadeh, 1974] This shows the importance of the fana’ experience in understanding the covenant – as with certitude, it cannot be understood by the intellect alone.”
    http://wilmetteinstitute.org/projects/fana.marshall.html

    Brendan asks, “Are Alison Marshall and Wahid Azal really ’six of one and half-a-dozen of the other’…?”

    I’m sure the folks reading this can make their minds up on that question, too.

    All I can say is that I’m so-o-o-o-o glad this marginal Baha’i didn’t adopt the homoerotic behaviour you apostates apparently condone. I might have ended up married to Wahid. :-)

    with love and laughter,
    Steve

  20. Dear Jonah,

    I very much appreciate your fairmindnesses in regards to Moojan’s article. I intend to read your other articles in more depth at a later date.

    warmest, Susan

  21. Jonah wrote:

    “…she is working to dissociate in people’s minds the Faith and the Covenant. I don’t know if that’s how she sees it, but that is the upshot of her site: that working counter to the Covenant is consistent with being a good Bahai.”

    Can you quote the words and url where she does this?

  22. Hi Jonah,

    You write:
    “When I linked to the Cormorant Baker, I didn’t know it was run by an ex-Baha’i.”

    Actually, it’s run by a Baha’i in Good Standing – me.

    cheers
    Steve

  23. Hi Jonah,

    Have you produced an article laying out the reasons why you are no longer a Baha’i? I would particularly like to see anything you wrote before this article by Momen appeared.

    Dan

  24. Brendan Crook’s out and out racism is blatantly obvious, and for a man who did an identity theft of my email, he has a lot of chutzpah calling me a troll when his trolling is etched all over USENET. I guess because I am Iranian, that makes it ok for Crook.

    “By the way, the goals of the ex-Bahais come from the values of the white, middle-class culture in the developed world, and particularly in America.”

    As does the values of most Anglo BIGS across the board. Except their values are more identical to yours: rightwing fascist and Christian.

    W

  25. From Cal Rollins

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Cal rollins
    Sent: Saturday, June 2, 2007 9:33 AM
    To: Karen Bacquet
    Cc: Sen@tele2.nl
    Subject: Re: Message not approved: Portrayal of the Bab

    Well, it’s pretty obvious you’re not sensitive, except to a limited group of white folk. The moderators not only set the tone for a list, but they essentially filter out what they don’t like by using their particular view of their power. Generally they accuse the Administration of what they themselves do. All you Baha’i and ex-Baha’i rag dolls are cut from the same cloth in my opinon. Friend Nima may be totally correct in his estimation of the bunch, although I’m not convinced about the working for the Administration bit. It couldn’t be that smart, in my opinion. –Cal

  26. Jonah,

    You said: From the beginning of this blog I have had the policy to delete any comments by covenant breakers and never to link to them.

    May I ask why, since the concept of the covenant is a theological issue for Baha’i believers, you would feel it necessary to continue to uphold it as someone who no longer practices Baha’i?

    Brigid

  27. I appreciate all the interest in this discussion. Please understand that I cannot say as much in response to everyone’s comments as I would like.

    Eric Stetson – I guess you and I have different definitions of “cult”. If sacrificing your own interests and desires for the sake of God is cult-like, then our Lord Jesus Christ was a cult leader. He calls us to make much greater sacrifices than the ones you describe.

    Steve and Sonja – Alison Marshall’s website portrays the Faith as something independent of the institutions, as if the institutions are tacked on or superfluous to one’s faith in Baha’u’llah. On her links page, she treats the “official” view as one among several valid approaches to the Faith. O “about this site” she compares the way she was treated by the UHJ to the persecution suffered by the prophets.

    Susan Maneck – Thanks.

    Steve Marshall re The Cormorant Baker – Thanks for clarifying. I don’t know how I got that idea.

    Dan Jensen – Really this whole blog is one big article explaining why I’m no longer a Baha’i, or at least one important dimension of why. But I’m guessing that’s not what you’re asking. The only thing I can think of is the comment thread under Shoghi Effendi and Christian authority. There are a few places there where I talk about it.

    Brigid – That’s a good question. There are two reasons. One is that when I was a Baha’i I investigated the question of the succession and I concluded that the Universal House of Justice is the legitimate head of the Faith. I still feel that way. If a covenant breaker got on here and started talking about his views of the Covenant, I’d disagree with him, and we’d get away from the reason this blog exists, which is to talk about the Baha’i Faith and Christianity, not to talk about the Baha’i Covenant.

    (Speaking of that, I’m starting to wonder if writing this post was a good idea. I could have spent this time writing about Christ, instead of doing the Baha’i bloggers’ job for them.)

    The second reason is one of practicality. It’s bad enough that I say that the Central Figures and Shoghi Effendi were wrong when they talked about Christianity. That alone probably turns off most Baha’is who find the blog. If there were covenant breaker comments or links, I’d probably never get a single Baha’i repeat visitor.

  28. Hi Jonah,

    I don’t intend for this comment to be printed. It’s just a heads-up about a blog entry in Badi Blog by John Taylor that refers to your blog:

    “Unfortunately, another contrarian blog came into prominence, the “Baha’i – Catholic Blog.” This blogger’s concern is to stir up the reverse of interfaith harmony, to argue that Catholics are not the only ones who think they are superior to everybody else, Baha’is and their Writings do too. In view of the convoluted, self-contradictory and self-serving argumentation here I would not advise trying to counter these criticisms of the Faith.
    I came to the conclusion long ago in dealing with certain Christians that their futility is resistless, and conversely, like the Borg, resistance is futile. A fanatic is worse than a non-brain, he is an anti-brain.”
    http://badiblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/bblogs.html

    The good news is that your blog is being noticed. :-)

    ka kite
    Steve

    p.s. Thanks for explaining what you found so jarring on Alison’s site.

  29. Thanks, Steve. This is exactly the reaction I feared I would get.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Mr. Taylor seems to feel that the only true interfaith harmony is one where everyone shares the same (i.e. his) beliefs. If a Christian disagrees with the Baha’i view of comparative religion, then he should be dismissed and ignored as an ignorant fanatic.

    You see in his comments a tendency I noticed when I was a Baha’i – most of my fellow Baha’is had a negative and prejudiced view of Christians. It bothered me a lot. Why not engage them in conversation, read their books and learn where they’re coming from? But they didn’t want to. Staunch Christians apparently made my Baha’i friends nervous and tense. I don’t get it. Maybe they felt they didn’t know enough? But that didn’t stop them from telling other people about the Faith.

    Mr. Taylor wrote, “I came to the conclusion long ago in dealing with certain Christians that their futility is resistless, and conversely, like the Borg, resistance is futile. A fanatic is worse than a non-brain, he is an anti-brain.”

    In other words, if they don’t see how right we Baha’is are, then they’re stupid and there’s no point in talking to them.

    Whatever happened to interfaith dialogue? To learning about other people’s beliefs? Why is an interfaith conversation judged worthwhile only if it results in someone coming around to the Baha’i position?

    I blogged about this here.

    I had initially decided not to post on this, but the more I think about it, the more I have to say. So I might do that. Thanks again for the link, Steve.

  30. I need to say two things Jonah.

    First of all I admire your words and your thoughts, and agree with most of them. I will not enter in dialogues or anything else justifying why I do or do not agree with someome or someone else.

    Another relevant aspect that comes to my eyes, while reading this comments is that “I was told” attitude on most comments (eventhough only one mentioned it). I was told was never my motto, even when I was on primary school. Logical reasoning made me think for myself, understand for myself and make my own research. Problems, all of us could have them anywhere (and I know what I am saying), but I was told atittude, is the first step of not-solving them.
    You were told your ideas where compared to the Borgs, Badi was told your ideas were like the Borgs, someone was told politics was over, and someone else was told Momen talked about him on his article. Well, I was told I would never graduate in my profession, I proved that person was wrong.
    What are you guys doing with your “your were tolds”?

  31. Hi :)

    A friend of mine just sent me an email with 2 links: one to Mr Momen’s article and another to this post.

    It being my “exam season” at university, I only glanced at Mr Momen’s article – since it would take me a while to read it. Meanwhile, I came to see your blog, I read this post, took a look at other posts, checked out comments and responses, and, well, felt impelled to write this comment.

    It’s more of a comment to your blog – not so much to this particular post.

    I had never quite come across “consciously former Bahá’ís”, or their thoughts.

    (Oh, I am a Bahá’í, by the way)

    I had, meanwhile, come across several “refutations” of the Bahá’í Faith – be they in the form of more or less logical expositions, or just “brute” attacks.

    I happen to be a very very “logical” person – in the sense that I need to understand things to be able to believe in them. I love the concept of demonstrating something mathematically. As is natural, I often come across something I don’t quite understand or accept, in the Bahá’í Faith.

    When that happens, I very much enjoy the whole process of trying to understand it, in order to be able to accept it. And I love the fact that this process must necessarily be as impartial (impartiality is such a precious, precious thing!) as possible – while I am, as any human being, partial by definition. So, I like the whole “dichotomy”. Indeed, Kurt Gödel’s “Incompleteness Theorem” may be understood to imply that the truth of a true system can never be proven or disproven.

    Why am I mentioning all of this?

    Because, considering all the challenges inherent to a subject such as this one, Religion, I figure it ultimately comes down to… one always striving, personally, to come closer to… “whatever it may be”, you know? While being able not only to tolerate others, but respect them and, ultimately, love them.

    The reason I write this comment is because, the form and content of your words makes me feel “This person has done/is doing just that!”

    And I just wanted to praise you for that :) Kudos!

    sahba

  32. Thanks, Sahba!

  33. There is ample proof of mythology
    and group-think in the Baha’i Community
    as well – David Michael Piff: Baha’i Lore. Oxford 2000
    offers a delightful florilegium of this stuff.

    Mooman Momen’s remark on my work (Das Aqdas) implies
    that he must have read it in German – he wouldn’t judge
    it on hearsay, or would he?

  34. Dear Kai,

    Susan Maneck is on record that she was involved in framing Momen’s article and helped with the research. Take this article not as a independent effort by a single scholar expressing his views – pseudo- in Momen’s case. This is official policy being articulated through the mouth of Moojan Momen.

    Do drop me a line. It is good to see you are still around. Same email.

    Wahid

  35. Wahid,

    In the version of his article which I obtained from his website, Moojan states: “I am grateful to Dr Michael Stausberg for his comments and advice on this paper. I have also received useful comments from Dr Christopher Buck, Dr Will van den Hoonaard, Dr Susan Maneck, Dr Peter Smith, Dr Robert Stockman and Peter Terry.”

    As you may be aware, it is not at all unusual for scholars to seek the assistance and feedback of others regarding various aspects of research and writing about the subject they are working on. In his book on Shia Islam, for example, Moojan thanks various scholars including Juan Cole for their input. I don’t think you should conclude that Moojan’s book was the mouthpiece for the views of Cole or the other scholars he thanks simply because of his interaction with them. The same reasoning applies to his other articles and books.

    In writing about those who continue to be engaged with the Baha’i Faith and/or the AO in a highly negative way despite being ex-Baha’is, it seems to me to be quite normal that he would seek feedback and assistance from those who have been very actively involved in discussions with some of these individuals. Susan Maneck is one such person. She has been bitterly attacked and maligned by ex-Baha’is because of her perceived defence of the AO and aspects of the Faith that ex-Baha’is would like to see reformed.

    I think you are unjustifiably impugning the article by suggesting that just because Susan was involved it has, ipso facto, become “official policy being articulated through the mouth of Moojan Momen.” I do not think this is any more true than it is to suggest that Moojan’s other published work is the mouthpiece of any scholar or institution he may have interacted with.

    I understand your comment about “official policy” to be a coded reference to the AO or certainly the defence of the AO. Kindly correct me if I have misunderstood you. In this regard (or even if I am mistaken) such a rush to judgement and dismissal of Moojan’s article based merely on Susan’s input, reflects, in my view, Jonah’s comment re ex-Baha’is…as heroes fighting the great dragon AO….the “shared mythology” of the ex-Baha’is. It confirms my own opinion of this shared mythology as being sometimes based on an intellectual and emotional knee jerk response which has no foundation in reality.

    Peter

  36. Peter S (?),

    For those of us apostates who know the nature of the Haifan Bahai cult all too well from the inside and know its mechanisms of operation like second nature, it is axiomatic, incontrovertible truth and hence unassailable fact that nothing is ever produced or published in the print media of such caliber as Momen put out without first having been premeditated through protracted “consultation,” micromanaged on detail and finally vetted by the very top brass of the politburo of the Haifan Bahai officiocracy itself. As such every dot, ‘tee’ and ‘i’ of Momen’s article stands as an official statement of policy by your WC in Zionistan, Occupied Palestine.

    That the Haifan Bahai politburo on Carmel is not “man enough” (pun ended) to articulate such drivel as Momen had published in ‘Religion’, in no way detracts an iota from the fact that it is merely the uhj transparently hiding behind one of its well-trusted pseudo-academic skirts/pens for hire. If they had been man enough to proclaim this nonsense themselves in one of their many vacuous encyclicals and had – me for instance – outright proclaimed an apostate, as they should have; they know quite well the legal liability issues involved, not to mention the humiliating dressing down and backlash your cult would have then received at the hands of the very Western HR groups it regularly sucks up to. As the embodied System of the Antichrist itself, the elite of your organization are first rate unscrupulous political animals of the highest order that could even teach a thing or two to the well-worn and unhallowed decrepitudes of the Vatican. So kindly go sing your hymn to the marines, as they say!

    Now insofar as dragons go, just note and be well assured that if your patrons in Tel Aviv or Washington, DC, do actually go ahead and attack Iran – which many insiders know you Haifan Bahais have been secretly lobbying for and scheming for years -, the dragon that is your organization will be finally slain for good. Whilst you people have cried about “cultural genocide” (another of those catchy phrases manufactured by Momen and the Haifan elite) rest assured that through your own Machiavellian greed and political arrogance there will undoubtedly emerge a real blood-bath genocide, and not just in Iran, should such a reckless course of action be implemented. And this you may take to the bank…

    Wahid

  37. In answer to the assertion that the Baha’i Faith is not cultish:

    “We have inherited a dangerous delusion from Christianity that our individual conscience is supreme. This is not a Baha’i belief. In the end, in the context of both our role in the community and our role in the greater world, we must be prepared to sacrifice our personal convictions or opinions. The belief that individual conscience is supreme is equivalent to “taking partners with God” which is abhorrent to the Teachings of the Faith.”

    Douglas Martin

    Then member of the UHJ

    “We don’t want to be those people who want to see God with their own eyes, or hear His melody with their own ears, because we have been given the gift of being able to see through the eyes of the House of Justice and listen through the ears of the House of Justice.”

    Councillor Rebecca Murphy at a Baha’i US national convention.

    Cheers

    Larry

  38. Hi. Nice article. It reads concicely and is unbiased sounding.
    Pity all the nonsensical garbage replies
    from the majority of these people that have commented on it.

  39. Your calling the Bahai faith a cult is a defamatory statement and as such you are practically not worth listenting to. Would you call Christianity a cult? Despite the faith being evidently not a cult and Christian sects occasionally adopting cultish behaviours?
    No you probably wouldnt, not to a Christian whom you intended to have any form of relation or reasonable discourse. Hence if you are going to pursue such tone of discourse you are just writing to flame the faith (futher supporting Moojans paper) {-:

  40. Hello Horbit,

    I have personally attended many Baha’i meetings, one which was sponsored by the Regional Teaching Committee in Burnaby BC. would definitely qualify as a cult meeting. We were instructed to look for “target” individuals amongst the “target” community which was people of Chinese ancestry. We were told to befriend people of that “target” group but to be careful at first not to tell them that Baha’u’llah was a religious leader, a manifestation of God. We were directed to use the dissimulation that Baha’u’llah was a simply social reformer. I felt like I’d walked into a Mooney or Scientology meeting by mistake. It was actually a bit frightening.

    If the shoe fits, ;^).

    Cheers

    Larry Rowe

  41. Hey Jonah,

    In case you don’t already know, your web site was cited in an article on bahai dissidents written by Bei Dawei, a non-bahai scholar of new religious movements.

    linked from:
    http://bahairants.com/cesnur-paper-bahai-dissent-by-bei-dawei-2116.html

    It is true that there is a predictable “narrative” (and groupthink) that is hostile about, or critical of, abuses in bahai administration. However, the narrative is simply shorthand for what many people have actually experienced. Recent developments about “scaling” in social sciences might be useful, as might be “pattern language” theory. It is very unusual for there to be a pattern of dysfunctional behavior in a group such as a religion that is not pervasive, but that has different levels of depth in various locations. (Geoffrey West, Cesar Hidalgo)

    It is also true that the “dissident” narrative is not monolithic. There has been continuous, mostly typically leftist, infighting amongst the academic bahai dissidents and their various supporters for decades. The commentary here is yet another example.

    So, Momen conveniently attempts to portray bahai dissidents are having more cohesion that they really do, while the dissident “community” tends to claim that is has less.

    This is not really all that significant an issue in my opinion.

    As several of the principle targets of Momen’s article have said here, the deeper issues of malfeasance and dysfunctionality in the bahai community, and its widespread extent, are the crux.

    It is a typical bahai tactic to discredit critics, nonconformists and dissidents by impugning their characters, and implying that they have some spiritual flaw that motivates their dissident. When a critic is attacked in this manner, and gets angry, their anger is used as gurther “evidence” of their spiritual problems.

    Clearly this kind of thing is a sign of a highly toxic and dysfunctional religion that simply can’t honestly face legitimate criticism.

    So, if there is a dissident “narrative”, it is also true that there are far more dangerous narratives and delusional, if not nasty, forms of groupthink within the bahai community that frequently result in abuse of authority.

    You presumably never came across the nasty folk, and if you had, you probably agreed with most of their justifications (without knowing what they are capable of behind the scenes). This is how social conformism generally operates in a modern society that values free speech and protest: behind closed doors and in dark corners to the extent possible.

    The reason that people died fighting for free speech and things like separation of church and state was so that abuses of authority and social injustices could be stopped by those outside an entrenched power structure.

    Have you ever studied what the Rulers and High Church did in places like Spain during the Inquisitions to people who protested social injustices by the social elites?

    Can you imagine what a “bahai world government” would do to dissidents if it ever came to power?

    A large body of historical artifacts and recent evidence indicates that the internal controls against abuse and corruption within the “bahai system” are completely inadequate. Of course you should be able to imagine what happens to people that raise such issues in public. It isn’t pretty.

    I have seen a large number of well educated, highly professional people quietly leave the bahai community after decades because they saw that it is usually pointless to fight against conformism and groupthink. These are people that rose to a certain point within the bahai power structure, and saw that there is no effective, systematic way of correcting important problems. More people have an interest in covering up problems than solving them.

    And this is a religion that claims to want to create a “world government”! What a joke.

    I personally had contact with several of the :A Study Group/ Dialogue/ Kalimat figures and can assure you that the issues of problems with nonconformance, dissent and criticism in the bahai community are far more broad and deep than you are aware of.

    The underlying issue is that bahai theology has significant problems, and both bahai culture and bahai institutions have a deeply entrenched pattern of dysfunctionality. The latter point has been documented by a number of sociologists and a large number of professionals that study social change and organizational theory.

    You should be aware that most people from liberal, countercultural or new age backgrounds will simply think that it is silly for an ex-bahai that converted to catholicism, which is predominantly a conformist religion that has a long, sad history of cultural imperialism, would attempt to convince his readers that his viewpoint is either objective or particularly relevant.

    (I’m an ex-bahai, buddhist/atheist)

    As such, your comments contain a few truths within a larger scheme that is internally contradictory and generally inaccurate.

    You article is flawed by your motivation to vent about some personal slights and annoyances, which ironically is what is common amongst a lot of people in the “apostate” ex-bahai community.

    The nastiness of what the Taylor fellow (mentioned in comments above) says about your blof is mild stuff in comparison to how authoritarians and fundamentalists have internally attacked nonconforming/dissident bahais.

    You do understand that bahai administration keeps “secret” files on people, and conducts “investigations” of people accused of various infractions, including “dis-loyalty”?

    One of the local bahai inquisitors, an “assistant auxiary board” member (a former black panther) use to openly brag about “getting” hippy bahais for being nonconformists. The person referred to each hippy that they got as “another notch on my gun belt”.

    These are NOT isolated incidents. I could list many other similar incidents in various parts of the USA and several countries.

    It is probably true that many bahais are only vaguely aware of the deeper levels of abuse of authority within bahai administration. Lost of them are conditioned to ignore it, or are afraid of upsetting their family or friends s they avoid the problem.

    I am personally interested in nonconformism, and am sensitive to social justices issues because I saw blatant racism in the military in the 50s/60s.

    I am interested in how bahais internally respond to the need for reform because it was evident to me (based on discussions with historians) from early on that there were big problems.

    As it turns out, there were early power struggles within the bahai community (aside from “CB” issues), and the wealthy and snob elements of the community ended up marginalizing race unity street activists and working class bahai communities.

    It is very important for you to try to understand that the mechanisms of thought policing, censorship and marginalization of “non-conforming” viewpoints inside the bahai community, which have reared their very ugly heads again on Wikipedia, have a specific historial origin having to do with power struggles within the bahai community about social justice issues. (a similar case happened in the iranian community when the historical work of reknowned bahai historian Mazandarani was attacked for not supporting the “mythic” version of bahai history promoted as the “official” version).

    It is stunning to me that you are not aware of the idea that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    No religious organization that has a closed organizational climate and is supported by a culture that is inward looking and insularized will be successful at bring about spiritual liberation.

    (Of course as a catholic, you probably see conformism to Myth as more important than liberation.)

    I personally saw a prominent bahai intellectual and reformer (a former catholic) who is a compassionate, sensitive and profound person who deeply cares about the world, viciously attacked by bahai fundamentalists in positions of administrative authority.

    The bahai world center was contacted about the attacks, and they supported the theological positions of the person that was attacked, and called for an end to the attacks by the fundamentalists. This is all documented, but the victim has no interest in making it part of the open debate under discussion.

    After being a bahai for 30 years, I have a long list of appalling examples of missionary and autocratic abuses that I personally saw up close, or was the “target” of.

    First, I was coerced into signing a bahai declaration card as a teenager during the “mass teaching” era in the south (early 70s).

    Large numbers of young people, mostly hippy types, or those sympathetic to counterculture or “progressive” ideas were becoming bahais, and the “teachers” (missionaries) became unstable in their glee at “converting” people.

    I briefly knew KPJ before returning to the west coast (1974).

    I assisted a bahai scholar in reviewing 50 years of detailed local bahai assembly archives that revealed many examples of abuse by charismatic and administrative bahai leaders.

    I saw four “mass teaching” projects fall apart because of the chaotic nature of bahai organization when faced with the pressures of dealing with the “real world”. The reality is that whenever there are mass conversions, the flimsy nature of the arrangements that most bahai communities organize themselves around come undone rapidly.

    One of the particularly disgusting things that happens is that opportunists in the bahai administration take credit for other people’s efforts. This is part of what I call the pattern of “endless bureaucratic reinvention”. The meddling can be canabalistic. I saw one charismatic, new age bahai teacher completely undone by dysfunctional types in bahai administration during a several year project that converted about 100 people in a counterculture area.

    The reality is that the bahai community is spiritually toxic, and when change happens, the toxicity morphs and expands to fill new nooks and crannies.

    You are correct that some of that toxicity got carried over into the “dissident” community (if you want to call it that).

    But the dissidents hardly invented the toxicity.

    It has existed since the early power struggles over who would control the placement of the bahai shrine in chicago (the snobs and racists “won”).

    It has existed since the iranian bahai elites attacked Mazandarani for using scientific methods of historical resarch, and it has existed since the white american bahai elites attacked Louis Gregory for failing to denounce “uppity” race unity street activists and took away his living stipend after many decades of selfless service.

    In conclusion, you have fallen under the spell of the bahai disinformation machine.

    You, like Momen, place far too much trust in religious authority and far too little in independent investigation of truth.

  42. Forgot to say “Thanks” for providing an open forum for discussion of the issue.

    On the topic of Christian-Bahai dialogue, many bahais are uncomfortable about openly embracing the truths of other religions. A lot of this comes from iranian bahais. There is some kind of “purity myth” that is common in iranian bahai culture, and that results in all sorts of assertions of superiority, some subtle, some less so. Since bahais are pressured to gain converts by making claims that a world bahai system is going to bring about world peace, everything bahai has to be presented as “perfect”, or the whole (ridiculous) scheme tends to fall apart. At the same time, there is great insularization, probably because the history of attacks by muslim authorities tends to cause withdrawal into a “bubble” of false optimism.

    Anyways, you may find this example of Christian-Buddhist dialogue useful:

    http://integrallife.com/editorial/three-faces-god

    excerpt:

    The “Three Faces of God”

    Brother David Steindl-Rast has been a practicing Benedictine monk for over half a century and was one of the first Vatican-sanctioned delegates to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. He is a recipient of the Martin Buber Award, and serves as a senior member of the Mount Savior Monastery in Elmira, New York.

    .Written by Corey W. deVos

    Just as human beings intrinsically possess 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person perspectives of the world, so do we possess those same perspectives in our experience of spirituality. And while these dimensions of the divine can be found in just about any spiritual lineage—Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Islam, etc.—many of these traditions only explicitly emphasize one or two of these perspectives, resulting in one or more important aspects of spirituality often being left out of their conceptions of God.


    Also: http://integrallife.com/editorial/perspectives-and-practice

  43. re: CESNUR article on bahai dissidents

    follow-up to the bahai dissident issue on the bahai rants blog:

    http://bahairants.com/cesnur-paper-bahai-dissent-by-bei-dawei-2116.html

    excerpt:

    Agrarian communities are conservative and communal (traditionally, people in rural communities helped neighbors with harvests, etc.). Even the more progressive elements in something like the bahai community in a place like Omaha are influenced by agrarian conservatism. Not being sensitive to the ethos of such a community probably wouldn’t make much sense.

    I do understand that as a Babi, you would have a more revolutionary stance toward the establishment. It seem unlikely that a revolutionary ethos would appeal to people (whether iranian or american, or anything else) in a place like Omaha.

    I don’t know what former associates were “denounced” (at the time of the events referenced in the letter). Perhaps you are referring to later events? If so, I’m not familiar with those events/denouncements.

    There was a critique of the PC/left elements, particularly the more radical/extremist elements, of the bahai dissident movement and associated groupthink. Such a critique was inherent in the argument that integral theory was a better alternative than the prevailing academic/left perspective.

    To be clear, there were not two, but three perspectives:

    1) the bahai mainstream and its conservative apologists (some radical),
    2) the PC/left/academic dissidents,
    3) integralists and a few other independents/moderates

    The PC/left/academic types amost always confuse anyone that does not agree with them with conservatives.

    By critiquing traditional PC/left ideology (particularly radical/extremist versions), integralists are not agreeing with conservatives.

    Put another way, the problem with PC/left groupthink is that it tends to locate any disagreement with its premises in conservative ideological territory.

    For instance, I usually describe myself to liberals/leftists as an “anarcho-libertarian” to convey my lack of simpatico with neocon politics and State Capitalism (including the “military-industrial complex”).

    As you may know, there was a mass conversion project going on in northern california around the same time as the Omaha incident. The principle in that conversion project was an advocate of integral theory (having studied at Noetic Institute, a new age think tank founded by an Apollo astronaut), and was involved in detailed consultation with the Omaha people.

    The new age conversion project eventually went into a tailspin, but before that, there were additional considerations about the sensitive nature of relationships between integralist leaders and bahai administration.

    It certainly would not have been uncharacteristic of integralists to distance themselves from radical/extremist (or PC/left) elements of bahai dissent movement in such circumstances. The priority was presumably on negotating compromises with bahai administration that would have allowed for integral models/experiments to be tried within the bahai mainstream.

    I personally do not think there is only one “right” perspective, and everything else is “wrong”. A particular paradigm that may fit the particular circumstances of a given community’s needs at a point in time may not be good somewhere else.

    That said, in hindsight it is more clear that very little real innovation would have ever been allowed by bahai administration that didn’t serve their needs and purposes. My sense was that the new age conversion project largely failed because of the “cognitive dissonance” that bahai administration placed on the leaders of the conversion project. As I said earlier, something like the Mashriq movement was always going to be seen by the bahai establishment as an “instrument” of the bahai missionary paradigm, not because it had inherent value as mysticism itself. So, the relationship between the bahai mainstream and the new age folks was one of bahai cultural imperialists attempting to colonize the new age community in ways that were completely incoherent and self-destructive to the long term prospects of community expansion and maturation.

    At some point it probably became clear to the new age folk that their culture was not going to be sustainable in the bahai community, and that they faced the choice of either:

    (1) being assimilated into something (the bahai mainstream) that would diminish their values and life purposes, or
    (2) to rebel/depart.

    In either case, I’m not aware of anyone surviving those events that became a known figure in bahai dissent. Most of the people probably just went on with their lives (the area where the events took place is an ex-urbanite community and has many figures such as Gary Snyder of “beatnik” counterculture fame, Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums”). A few of the converts may have stayed in the bahai community, but I don’t think any of them would have continued to try to influence the bahai mainstream with integralism, at least not formally.

    I hope that what this all conveys is that contrary to the public image that bahaism attempts to convey that “celebrates diversity”, in reality it is internally hostile to deep engagement with nonconformant perspectives that are critical of the dominant paradigm that operates within haifan bahai culture.

    Bahaism has developed sure-fire methods of marginalizing nonconforming and dissident perspectives and making them wither away from lack of support. Any dissent, protest or criticism of that is not well received. (as Momen’s article on bahai dissent shows clearly)

    Any corrections or other feedback are welcome and greatly appreciated.

    —end excerpts—

  44. I’ve just found this, obviously several years too late. I don’t plan to take part in the debate, but I do wonder why no-one has referred to my response to Moojan that followed the online article. I mention it because it takes up a serious point, and one that does need to be discussed: what were Moojan’s motives in writing an article like that? Academic or a semi-formal Baha’i put-down of individuals the Baha’is find hard to endure? Some others wrote pieces as well, and I think they are all on the internet somewhere. Perhaps the great mistake being made by both Moojan and many of the commentators here is to see the Baha’i community as a single, coherent collectivity, whether the people of God or a giant cult. When we realize it’s neither the one nor the other, we can gain a more sober and objective view of it.

  45. MOMEN = LIPSTICK ON A (HAIFAN BAHAI) PIG?

    Hey Denis,

    Is this it?

    Momen’s response at the end of the above publication is another appalling example of his mentality of covering up and distorting the truth in service of his religious delusions. He cites the quick responses of the people that he is attempting to bully as “proof” of some nefarious network of ungodly ex-bahais on the internet! Sorry “Dr.” Momen, but this is NO DIFFERENT from most of what happens on “social networks” when people get riled up about someone posting lies and insults about them. Momen is a polemicist in drag (using the outer form of academic scholarship to promote bahai apologetics for god knows what reasons) that got stuck in the gravity well of backward shiism. Momen attempts to put lipstick on a pig, and then insults the people that point out the honest fact that a pig is a pig.

    People develop informal networks of mutual support as a natural response to being exploited, particularly by CORRUPT AUTHORITY FIGURES. Momen’s apparent utter inability to understand this basic feature of western, democratic culture is appalling, and it reveals the true issue that underlies most of the controversies about dissent and “bahai” scholarship for the last 25 years.

    This tendency has been repeated many times on various levels (since there are creepy people promoting group think and other dysfunctional behavior in most/many bahai communities), but Momen the “scholar” selects only the evidence and data that support’s his biases, polemics and ridiculous and dehumanizing theories.

    I was coerced into signing a bahai declaration card in the early 70s as a vulnerable teenager. I saw a consistent pattern of a thinly disguised missionary-conversion cult mentality for the next 30 years as well as deeply mythic-conformist belief, intolerance of nonconformity, criticism and dissent on a wide basis in several bahai communities in several regions of the USA, as well as several other countries, and heard a long list of very similar observations about the “group think” typical in most (haifan) bahai communities from people that had occasion to closely observe bahai communities in another dozen countries. I personally observed vicious infighting amongst the bahai “elites”, and was caught up on the periphery of some of that.

    I saw three major “mass teaching” (conversion) projects go up in flames due to incompetence and gross ignorance of the basic ethical and pastoral requirements of any religious community. Most bahais are not well practiced in creating robust, sustainable communities or healthy spiritual relationships. In these mass conversion projects, outside urban bahais exhibited the most disgusting forms of “spiritual materialism” and “spiritual tourism” when they showed up on weekends to get a “spiritual high” from coercing people into signing bahai (membership) declaration cards by lying to them. In one case, an “evangelical” bahai administrator instructed her cult-followers to not only go into mental health facilities to sign up new “converts”, they were told to viciously attack anyone that was critical of the conversion technique, or a wide swath of other appalling, fundamentalist/reactionary cult antics!

    Of course “Dr.” Momen was meanwhile sitting high atop his lofty and ethereal ivory tower, and did not deign to observe such abasement and unfortunate human error, much less incorporate it into his “scholarship” or his ideology of divine purity.

    The reason that many of the bahai critics/dissidents develop a sense of solidarity is precisely because of the “crazy making” attitudes of people like Momen. Momen is an example why religion stinks: some group of delusional people develop a “superiority complex” based on some garbage metaphysics, and then look down on everyone else in the world as being “inferior”. Every instance of criticism by nonconformists is used by idiots like Momen as an example of the “spiritual” inferiority of the critics/nonconformists/dissidents! The critics’ anger about Momen’s lies is used as more “evidence” of the spiritual inferiority of the critics!

    Momen is acting out of his Jungian shadow, and “projecting” his “stuff” on critics.

    Most people that convert to haifan bahaism do so because they are looking for a deep connection to some kind of meaning and a group of people that they can share a sense of belonging with. Evolution suffices to explain why people band together in groups for solidarity and bonding. No silly religious explanation or fake scholarship is needed.

    In more recent experience, when some people associated with a recent “Unitarian bahai” experiment by Eric Stetson attempted to publish a Wiki page, a vicious, sophisticated, and highly organized haifan bahai censorhip campaign became apparent. So, the story goes on. And will continue to go on until the backward notions in bahai theology are aired out and the people in the religion allowed to get rid of the stupid stuff they don’t like once and for all.

    The bahai scriptures contain a horrible attempt at explaining evolution. The concept of bahai “progressive revelation” is incredibly bad history, and does not satisfactorily explain the nature of paradigm shifts in human culture. The very idea that “manifestations of god” (prophets) have special access to the divine is silly and elitist nonsense that was invented by the first ego-driven imperialists 8,000 years ago to justify enslavement of, and war against, their neighboring tribes.

    Any religion that has so many basic lies at its core eventually becomes rotten all over, despite the good intentions of many of its followers.

    Momen attempts to defend bahaism’s horrible stuff on the basis that he is defending the honor and virtue of the bahai community and its good intentions. In crass terms, he attempts to “save face” for the bahai establishment even though everyone can see how ugly the bahai community can be most of the time, and how incompetent its leadership has been for a very long time.

    The simple fact is that religion is either very good, or very bad, and haifan bahaism is simply another example of a largely irrelevant religion that lies about its foundational tribal and elitist memes.

    Religious scholars are reticent to tell the real truth. They have careers that depend on pandering to religious people, and thus tend to confine themselves to good manners. they can afford such good manners. The people that are exploited by dysfunctional religions such as haifan bahaism frequently can not afford to indulge themselves in such niceness if they wish to begin to heal from the psychic damage they have sustained and the lies they have been taught to believe in.

    Momens’ attempts at “saving face” are a farce that should revolt any rational person.

  46. Posted on the bahai rants blog:

    MacEoin actually uses statements from prominent bahais to demonstrate that Momen is full of cr*p:

    excerpt:

    According to Baha’i historian Robert Stockman (one of Momen’s advisors):

    the American Baha’i community has been heavily, but by no means completely, insulated from the intellectual trends in
    American society by the consistent focus of the Baha’i on their scriptures and their obedience to their elected Baha’i
    institutions. Finally, the Baha’i religion has elaborate rules of discourse that strongly direct and sharply limit the nature of
    discourse among Baha’is’. (Stockman, 1995)

    —end Momen quote—

    What MacEoin fails to do, or remember, is to contrast Stockman’s appalling, but accurate, description of bahai conformism with the bahai ideals articulated by its own leadership several generations previously!

    http://bahai-library.com/suggs_common_threads

    “It is hoped that all Bahá’í students will.. Be led to investigate and analyze the principles of the Faith and to correlate them with the modern aspects of philosophy and science. Every intelligent and thoughtful young Bahá’í should always approach the Cause in this way, for there in lies the very essence of the principle of independent investigation of the Truth.”
    Aug. 6, 1933 Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer.

  47. The author makes a huge error in logic, one of several, in stating that the Haifan bahai covenant is legitimate, but the deeper claim by the founder of the religion, to divine revelation, and thus infallibility, is not legitimate. Very bizarre inconsistency.

    Another bizarre inconsistency of the author is to claim that the history of dissent from Haifan bahais is shallow, exists on the Internet only, and consists of myths. However, the author came to those idiotic conclusions based on his experience, you guessed it, only on the Internet. ZERO research even in the publications that document the fragmentary evidence of the existence of the SYSTEMATIC suppression of dissent by abusive authoritarian in bahai leadership long before the Internet EXISTED! The author utterly fails to address the vicious and ugly history of horrible family squabbles in the “holy family”, including those that formed central features in the weird Purity myths and infallibility dogmas of bahai theology. The author fails to explain the appalling treatment of Mazandarani or Louis Gregory by incompetent, racist and abusive bahai leadership. All long before the Internet EXISTED.

  48. The claim that the bahai covenant is true is completely dependent on the deeper claim that bahai revelation is infallible. The author makes a bizarre error in refuting the deeper truth claim for the infallibility, but somehow insists that the claim of covenantal legitimacy is still true, without any basis in a “divine” revelation, even though bahai theology itself is very clear that the bahai covenant can only be considered true if it is part of such a “divine” revelation!!! One then must conclude that the author simply is a mindless worshiper of whatever authority structure has enough power to marginalize critics, and engage in propaganda and the social conditions of followers into a conformist, mythic mindset. In other words, the very core of the ideas that the bahai dissidents is self evident when the real history of the religion is examined oobjectively, but to people lost in the delusions of Purity myths, such as infallibility and covenant, no rational truth about history will ever be convincing.

    All western religion is based on mythic structures that
    Doom such religions to be patriarchal, hierarchical, authoritarian, and imperialistic. It isn’t just the absurd truth claims of bahais that are in reality just constructed myths, but also the other western religions, which are all imperialist, authoritarian projects, as is the capitalist variation of Western culture.

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