Abortion and the Faith

The Baha’i Writings say that human life begins at conception. During my eight years as a Baha’i, though, I never heard anyone express concern over the practice of abortion.

In retrospect, that seems strange. Baha’is make a big deal about some aspects of human rights, like racism and sexism. But if a person begins life at conception, then isn’t abortion a human rights issue too? Why doesn’t it get the same attention that race unity does?

I’d like to hear what Baha’is have to say about this. What has been your experience in the Faith with regard to abortion? How do the members of your local community feel about it? Do they ever discuss it? Has abortion come up in firesides or in institute? How was it handled?

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31 Responses

  1. Jonah, as you probably know abortion is not allowed in the Baha’i-faith, except to save the mother’s life. Also in my experience, this issue is not often discussed, although I have discussed it with fellow believers.

    Abortion is certainly a human rights issue, so why not the same level of attention? I just have personal thoughts on this, I don not know of an authoritative explanation.

    My take on this (which is very much open for discussion): The mission of the community as a whole is to promote world peace. This central aim determines the focus of public discourse with the wider community. Perhaps the healing of racism and sexism and the increase of knowledge have more immediate ‘results’ with regard to accelerating the path to peace.

    Perhaps a focus on universal, moral education is ultimately more effective in reducing abortion than a direct focus on the practice itself?

  2. Both the House and Shoghi Effendi assert in various places that “the Teachings state that the soul appears at conception” (or other words to that effect), but I’ve not ever come across a Baha’i Writing backing up those assertions. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist. And nor have I seen any Baha’i scripture that says human life begins at conception.

    Baha’is tend to be fence-sitters on the issue, and it’s very difficult to tell whether they are for or against abortion. For example – http://www.sma.org.sg/sma_news/3506/stemcells_bac.pdf

    Part of the “problem” (if it is a problem) is that terms like conception are quite vague. Does conception refer to fertilization or to implantation? It makes a big difference if you’re considering using an IUD.

    I understand that many fertile human eggs fail to implant, and that natural early-term abortions are quite frequent — and often un-noticed. So I’m not inclined to worry about exactly when life or the human soul begins. It’s a process.

  3. Maybe it is intimidation(?). Baha’i institutions would find themselves under attack by powerful and ruthless leftist terrorists, in addition to the powerful and ruthless Muslim terrorists that they are already in danger from, if they initiated a campaign against abortion. Maybe the same problem of intimidation exists for people in mass media who would like to oppose abortion(?). Baha’i teachings have no explicit position on abortion as a legislative issue, only as a moral issue.

  4. Let none contend with another, and let no soul slay
    another; this, verily, is that which was forbidden you in
    a Book that hath lain concealed within the Tabernacle
    of glory. What! Would ye kill him whom God hath
    quickened, whom He hath endowed with spirit
    through a breath from Him? Grievous then would be
    your trespass before His throne! Fear God, and lift not
    the hand of injustice and oppression to destroy what He
    hath Himself raised up; nay, walk ye in the way of
    God, the True One.
    (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 45)

  5. To discriminate against any race, on the ground of its being socially backward, politically immature, and numerically in a minority, is a flagrant violation of the spirit that animates the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. … Unlike the nations and peoples of the earth, be they of the East or of the West, democratic or authoritarian, communist or capitalist, whether belonging to the Old World or the New, who either ignore, trample upon, or extirpate, the racial, religious, or political minorities within the sphere of their jurisdiction, every organized community enlisted under the banner of Bahá’u’lláh should feel it to be its first and inescapable obligation to nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation within it.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 35)

    It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age. Nay rather it seeks to demonstrate, through the dynamic force of its example, the pernicious character of such theories, the falsity of such standards, the hollowness of such claims, the perversity of such habits, and the sacrilegious character of such excesses.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30)

    All of them, be they men or women, must, at this threatening hour when the lights of religion are fading out, and its restraints are one by one being abolished, pause to examine themselves, scrutinize their conduct, and with characteristic resolution arise to purge the life of their community of every trace of moral laxity that might stain the name, or impair the integrity, of so holy and precious a Faith.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29)

  6. If memory serves, my parents (Baha’is) supported Ronald Reagan because of his candidacy’s strong pro-life position (though I doubt that my parents actually voted). This was a time when I remember the conservative aspects of the Baha’i Faith beginning to emerge, a time when the political climate in our home took a sharp turn to the right.

  7. Hi Steve,
    the earliest source of this that I know of is a letter written by Shoghi Effendi’s secretary to an individual believer, printed in High Endeavours page 71, which says “The soul or spirit of the individual comes into being with the conception of his physical body.”

    I agree with Martijn Rep. that — for a religious community — a “universal, moral education is ultimately more effective in reducing abortion than a direct focus on the practice.” To teach the value and dignity of human life in general, is also to teach that discrimination, oppression, poverty, war and abortion are wrong. But we do come out quite directly against all but the last of these. The reason I think is that abortion unlike any of the others does pose really moral dilemmas. If the rich oppress the poor, there is no human right of the rich people that is diminished if the poor people get their dignity and rights, and so on. But if a woman has an unwanted pregnancy – for example due to rape – and is forced by lack of facilities or fear of the law to go through with an unwanted pregnancy, her own dignity *may* be violated, depending on her own attitude and the circumstances. And if we agree that human dignity is the source of much of the value of human life, depriving the mother of agency in this way is itself a human rights issue, which can be set in the scales against the value of the infant’s life. You can’t say the same about the Generals’ right to wage war and their dignity.

    I’m against abortion, but I can’t support that large part of the anti-abortion movement which argues to convince itself, by simply pretending that the moral issue is unambiguous. I’m also against depriving women of agency over their own bodies, but I can’t support that part of the women’s rights movement whose arguments ignore the human rights of the embryonic child, for if one does not recognise the dignity and value of all human life, how can one argue that women, or blacks, or the poor have an equal claim to the opportunties to develop their full potential?

    Sen

  8. I agree with all that Martijn Rep said but there is another aspect. The focus of efforts to end abortion is the repeal of Roe v Wade. But in the Baha’i Faith we are not permitted to engage in partisan politics. Thus abortion is considered a matter of personal conscience in the Baha’i Faith.

  9. Abortion didn’t begin with Roe vs. Wade. Roe vs. Wade allowed women to have relatively safe abortions without leaving the country. There’s no record of how many abortions were performed when they were illegal, but there were plenty and many girls and women died from the complications. Overturning Roe vs. Wade will not stop abortions for those women who are determined. I agree that the best way to reduce abortions is to spiritualize society so that it would be unthinkable.

  10. I am confused by everyone’s responses.

    Let me raise homosexuality as a comparison.

    Mr. Rep wrote,
    Perhaps a focus on universal, moral education is ultimately more effective in reducing abortion than a direct focus on the practice itself?

    Then why condemn homosexual behavior directly? How does condemning homosexuality promote world peace? Abortion would seem to be a much graver moral issue. On the one hand you have 46 million abortions worldwide each year. If Shoghi Effendi is right, that means 46 million babies put to death. On the other hand you have a bunch of men having sex. Yet the Baha’i community is quite open about its opposition to homosexual behavior, and not so much about its opposition to abortion.

    Sen wrote,
    The reason I think is that abortion unlike any of the others does pose really moral dilemmas.

    As does homosexuality. This is also a complicated and ambiguous moral issue. Yet the Faith still states that, notwithstanding the moral ambiguities surrounding it, the act itself is unambiguously wrong.

    Mr. Bebow wrote,
    The focus of efforts to end abortion is the repeal of Roe v Wade. But in the Baha’i Faith we are not permitted to engage in partisan politics. Thus abortion is considered a matter of personal conscience in the Baha’i Faith.

    Homosexuality is also a political issue — take for example Proposition 8 in California, or the anti-sodomy laws in some other states. Since it has been made a political issue, should Baha’is stop taking a position on the morality of homosexual acts? Is sexual preference now a matter of personal conscience for Baha’is?

  11. Some more abortion-related Baha’i quotations for you:

    “Regarding the practice of abortion; as no specific reference has been made to the subject in the writings of Baha’u’llah, it devolves upon the International House of Justice to definitely pronounce upon it. There can be no doubt, however, that this practice, involving as it does the destruction of human life, is to be strongly deprecated.”
    (Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 13 November 1940)

    “Abortion merely to prevent the birth of an unwanted child is strictly forbidden in the Cause. There may, however, be instances in which an abortion would be justified by medical reasons, and legislation on this matter has been left to the Universal House of Justice. At the present time, however, the House of Justice does not intend to legislate on this very delicate issue, and therefore it is left to the consciences of those concerned who must carefully weigh the medical advice in the light of the general guidance given in the teachings.”
    (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ireland, March 16, 1983)
    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)

    It should be pointed out, however, that the Teachings state that the soul appears at conception, and that therefore it would be improper to use such a method, the effect of which would be to produce an abortion after conception has taken place.”
    (From letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 23, 1975)
    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)

    Know ye that to be killed in the path of His good pleasure is better for you than to kill.
    (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 110)

    “You cite the case of Bahá’ís in other fields of expertise, such as Bahá’í physicians who, you say, “may pursue their professions as Bahá’ís with no prospect of interference by Bahá’í institutions”. This is hardly the case. All Bahá’ís are subject to Bahá’í law and Bahá’í standards. It would clearly be unacceptable for a Bahá’í doctor to advocate abortion as a method of birth control and set up a clinic for that purpose, or for a Bahá’í psychiatrist to publicly advocate sexual intercourse before marriage.”
    (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)

    “We must struggle against the evils in society by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well. We must be tolerant but uncompromising, understanding but immovable in our point of view.”
    (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 21, 1954)
    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 364)

  12. I am concerned by your fear of “ruthless leftist terrorists.” I fear that my ignorance of their activities will put me in danger. So please, enlighten me, when was a building bombed, or a doctor shot, by an individual or organization purporting to speak on behalf of a woman’s right to chose to continue her pregnancy, or not?

  13. “Is sexual preference now a matter of personal conscience for Baha’is?”

    No, I don’t think sexual preference is likely even a conscious choice. Sexual behaviors, on the other hand, are I believe a matter of personal conscience in the Faith. Just as the obligatory prayer, fasting, and all other sorts of Baha’i laws are.

    There is a quote in Lights of Guidance (Ithink) from a response on behalf of the guardian that says only in instances where a Baha’i is flagrantly and repeatedly violating the laws of Baha’u’llah to the extent that they are misrepresenting the Faith to the community at large should any “legal” action be taken by the insitutions of the Faith – in the case of homosexual behavior, this entails loss of administrative rights (certainly not the end of the world).

    Basically, we know what the laws of Baha’u’llah are, and if we are to be enrolled in the community He created, we must not be repeatedly, flagrantly, knowingly, publicly violating those laws and misrepresenting His Faith. (May I also point out that one is only a Baha’i by choice in the first place…)If you are a Baha’i, and believe that His laws are nothing but pure mercy for our individual and collective spiritual well-being, this whole issue is far less controversial that it is often made out to be, and what controversy remains tends to be a product of incomplete understanding and partial information.

  14. I think the question posed about why Baha’is will be vocal about homosexuality and silent about abortion has something to do with their cultural influences. I have grown up a Baha’i and while I don’t believe abortion should be used as a means of birth control I also understand why the law allows it. Considering not everyone believes the soul begins at conception it would seem to infringe on separation of church and state to make laws surrounding theological belief.

    At the same time I feel the same about homosexuality. While I personally have reservations about a flagrant homosexual lifestyle I don’t think my views should dictate the law of the land. So, I support the right for gays to marry if they so choose.

    Also, if gays had the right to marry and valued sex as something between a married couple then perhaps the culture that exists today would not be as promiscuous. But considering they cannot marry, what is there to wait for?

    As to abortion, you should check out the song by Seals and Crofts that directly opposed abortion. It is called “unborn child.”

    One last thing concerning abortion, and why Baha’is aren’t generally more vocal on the issue. In the case of unborn children or people like Terri Schiavo who were basically brain dead and helpless, we believe that once their heart no longer beats it is not the end of their journey. If true life is the life of the spirit, and the soul ascends to the next world, we know that the life of the unborn child or the life of the person who is in a state like Terri Schiavo will be ok. This is why i was confused by the amount of anger people had when they fought to keep Terri Schiavo in the state she was in. It was as if they did not believe there was a life beyond this one.

    Anyway, I am not condoning the taking of life at all. But I’m just giving a reason why, perhaps, Baha’is could come across as apathetic.

  15. I think Nathan’s comment is a perfect illustration of the moral irrelevance of the Baha’i Faith. Compare these sentences from the preceding comment:

    Considering not everyone believes the soul begins at conception it would seem to infringe on separation of church and state to make laws surrounding theological belief.

    As to abortion, you should check out the song by Seals and Crofts that directly opposed abortion. It is called “unborn child.”

    The Seals and Crofts song says that abortion kills a child. Nathan seems to agree with this sentiment. He closes his comment with,

    Anyway, I am not condoning the taking of life at all.

    So, abortion means taking the life of a child and is therefore wrong, but if someone else thinks it’s okay to kill a child, we should let them because we have to uphold the separation of church and state.

    At least the die-hard abortion supporters are consistent. They deny that the fetus is a child. Nathan, as a Baha’i, believes it is a child but thinks people should be allowed to kill her anyway.

    That’s the religious community that’s supposed to be teaching the rest of us how to live ethical lives. I don’t see any moral courage coming from the Baha’i community. The Baha’is are supposed to lead the rest of the world to the Most Great Peace. Instead, they follow the popular morality of the American Left. You can’t lead people if you’re following them. You can’t inspire people to think differently if you take your inspiration from them.

    All the values the Baha’is proclaim in their pamphlets, like race unity and equality of men and women, are mainstream American values. Yes, there is still racism and sexism in our culture, but most people agree with the Baha’is that these are bad things that should go away. So when Baha’is tell others that that’s what they stand for, they’re not speaking truth to power, they’re cashing in on the popular sentiment. Like I said, they’re following, not leading.

    Nathan sounds confused and conflicted over this issue. My anecdotal experience is that a lot of Baha’is feel conflicted. There are two kinds of Baha’is — those who grew up in Baha’i families, for whom the Baha’i faith is part of their family heritage, and those to embraced the faith as teenagers or adults. For the latter, at least for many of them, they like the Faith because they see it as liberal, and they think of themselves as liberal. (Of course, some Baha’is raised in the Faith do too.)

    If someone has strong liberal convictions, being in a religious community can be hard because American liberalism is a belief system unto itself that doesn’t always agree with any given religion. At some point the liberal Baha’i has to choose between the two. Until they do, whenever they speak on topics where the two ideologies clash, they will inevitably sound mealy-mouthed and confused, as Nathan did in the above comment.

  16. Jonah,

    I, too, was raised a Baha’i, and also my daughter. We are neither conflicted, or consider our faith JUST a part of our family heritage. Both of my grandmothers had been raised in other religions…one Catholic, the other Jewish. They became Baha’is as adults in the 1930’s and 1940″s because their religions of origin of which they had been active seemed hypocritical and illogical. I did my own independent investigation of truth, and so did my daughter whose father was Moslem. We ALL came to our OWN conclusion that the Baha’i Faith is truth for us and holds the answers to the problems of this upside-down world.

    In the Baha’i Faith, we are given CLEAR guidance, as can be understood from the quotes given in previous posts, as well as the ability to extract from the writings of Baha’u’llah (which are numerous and still being translated) using our God-given intelligence, to choose a spiritual and MORAL path. There is NO ambiguity.

    In your last post, you mentioned that the Baha’i Faith is liberal. Are you joking? The Baha’i Faith has a very high moral standard. Baha’is are admonished to practice modesty and chastity in all things of mind and body. We are obligated to the laws of God. Our purpose is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization by serving humanity. Excellence in all things is encouraged.

    We do not participate in partisan politics, as politics causes division, although we are very concerned about issues.

    I was a teenager during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Although my views on the oneness of mankind were liberal, that is the ONLY liberal view that I had in common with other young people of that time. As a Baha’i, I was not a part of political protests, drugs, alcohol or “Free Love.” I was considered conservative in those areas.

    Baha’is have been commended on our socio-economic projects around the world.

    Baha’u’llah brought the principles of race unity and equality of men and women in 1863….LONG before it was mainstream in America…Baha’u’llah’s teachings are universal, NOT just for Americans. I don’t know if you’ve lived anywhere else in the world, but in the majority of the world, these are not mainstream principles.

    You cannot force anyone to believe something. It has to come from a change of heart. That is why Baha’is do not force their beliefs on anyone. We try to live by example.(I heard a Catholic priest on Catholic radio tell someone that they must change someone’s feelings about the Church by example…they couldn’t MAKE them believe, they needed to see WHY the Church gave them purpose, direction and joy). We cannot FORCE someone who does not to believe that the soul appears at conception, or that the act of homosexuality is wrong, or even that there is a God. We do need to demonstrate that it is through the guidance of ALL the Manifestations of God, the direct channels of God, that mankind is lifted to a higher reality; a reality where each person would NEVER WANT to commit the act of abortion or homosexuality knowing this would not be in accordance with the laws of God. You can liken this to a child who would not want to disappoint their parents by doing something wrong because they love and respect them.

    Just like ALL human beings, Baha’is are subject to error. But that is another job we have…to try each day to bring ourselves into account for our actions, and attempt each day through prayer and effort to become more spiritual beings.

    Baha’is are not wishy-washy. Obviously, you have not read about the plight of the Baha’is in Iran, who though persecuted heavily, continue to call themselves Baha’is even with the threat of death. The Baha’i Faith is the largest minority religion in Iran, and it is the most persecuted with many Baha’is in prison being denied any rights, tortured, and some killed. These are not weak individuals. They could be released from prison if they denounced their faith. With threat of death, they do not.

  17. Mzr, you and I are not on the same wavelength. You’ve misconstrued a lot of what I wrote.

    Baha’is are not wishy-washy. Obviously, you have not read about the plight of the Baha’is in Iran

    Of course I’ve read about it. I was active in the community for eight years. I’m not talking about the Baha’is in Iran, because I’ve never been there. I’m talking about the Baha’is in America, and about the Baha’is in the Administration.

    I, too, was raised a Baha’i, and also my daughter. We are neither conflicted, or consider our faith JUST a part of our family heritage.

    Yes, yes. For every general observation there are plenty of exceptions. I remember lots of conversations with my fellow youth, about how they were raised in the Faith but then they had to investigate for themselves. Everyone’s different.

    I shouldn’t assume I know where you’re coming from based just on what you write here. At the same time, you can’t know all about where I’m coming from based on this either. Try to cut me some slack. I’m grappling with some big issues here and it’s impossible to cover all the angles in a single blog comment. Of course what I say will involve generalizations, and not every case will fit the generalization. You know it, I know it, everyone else knows it. Let’s move on.

    In your last post, you mentioned that the Baha’i Faith is liberal. Are you joking? The Baha’i Faith has a very high moral standard.

    “Liberal” is not the same as “libertine”. I didn’t say Baha’is have loose morals. And for the record, I don’t think political liberals are immoral. I happen to agree with them a lot of the time.

    We cannot FORCE someone who does not to believe that the soul appears at conception, or that the act of homosexuality is wrong, or even that there is a God.

    I just don’t understand this logic at all. No, you can’t force someone to believe something. But you can prevent them from doing something that is objectively wrong.

    Should a family be allowed to perform female genital mutilation on their daughter? Is it wrong to FORCE them to believe it’s wrong? Should a man be allowed to perform an honour-killing on his sister or daughter? Is it wrong to FORCE him to agree with you?

    You don’t prohibit female genital mutilation and honour-killing because you’re trying forcibly to change people’s beliefs. You prohibit them in order to protect innocent girls. If you genuinely believe that the soul begins at conception, then you must believe abortion involves the killing of little baby boys and girls. Doesn’t that bother you?

  18. Dear Jonah, I, too, feel that we are on different wavelengths. Instead of my answering your questions, I am posting a TON of quotations from Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l Baha, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice. (There is also some individual commentary) To Baha’is, these authoritative Bodies give us the definitive answers, not me as an individual Baha’i. I was very surprised by your comments about the American Baha’is and the Baha’i Administration, because as a Baha’i, it is our responsibility to investigate truth independently. IF we are still unable to find a definitive answer, we can ask our National Spiritual Assembly or the Universal House of Justice for guidance. The National Spiritual Assembly does not have the authority to invent, interpret, or legislate policy. It can assist us in coming to an understanding, or it can refer the question for further study to the Universal House of Justice. As far as your definition of “liberal” and “libertine,” I know the difference, and I still will use the term “moral” in regard to the Baha’i standard. Even though I believe that most religions teach similar standards, and there are non-religious people who also have “good” morals, the bar has been raised in the Baha’i Faith. If you would like, I will submit another reply with a TON more quotations from the Baha’i writings about those standards. There are MANY! So what I am saying is this, many people became Baha’is in the 1960’s – 1970’s believing the Baha’i Faith was a “liberal” religion accepting all of the “freedoms” that were part of that time…drugs, sex, politics, etc. When they discovered there were laws and standards that were high, they dropped out. Baha’is would be considered conservative in our moral and political standards then and today. I will admit that our principles of oneness, equality, science, and government (not politics) are considered liberal then and now, but these have NOTHING to do with the definition of “liberal” with which I believe you are referring. If you read through ALL of the quotes I will post, you will notice one thing different in the Baha’i Faith. No clergy TELLING us what is right or wrong. Each of us is encouraged to study, study, study the sacred writings, so that EACH of us can be guided by the writings to make correct choices based on these writings. When my daughter was small, I had to make her choices as she was not equipped to make them. As she matured, she was able to make her own choices based on her spiritual and material education. As she studied the sacred writings (and continues to do so), she became more and more confident in her ability to make the right choice I am very proud of her choices. She ALWAYS uses the writings as her guide. If the conscience of society were at such a point that breaking a law of God would cause them great spiritual pain, those laws would not be broken. And so, the desire of the Baha’is is to develop themselves spiritually, share this message with all people, so that the outcome will be that each person will attain their own spiritual maturity. This is how the Baha’is see that change will happen…individually and then collectively through the individuals, NOT through politics, confrontation, judging others. We are required to follow Baha’i law, but we are NOT allowed to impose our laws on others. These are eternal and spiritual laws that will manifest themselves over time. I’m not sure what you would have the Baha’is do? If I am asked, I tell people what I think, and so does the Administration. So, I’m not sure what you are saying about that. So here are the MANY pages of quotations. I hope you can see from this great amount of information, there is no question as to these issues in the minds of Baha’is. ABORTION The practice of abortion – which is absolutely criminal as it involves the deliberate destruction of human life – is forbidden in the Cause. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 15 August 1939) Regarding the practice of abortion; as no specific reference has been made to the subject in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, it devolves upon the International House of Justice to definitely pronounce upon it. There can be no doubt, however, that this practice, involving as it does the destruction of human life, is to be strongly deprecated.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 13 November 1940) As there is nothing specific in the Bahá’í Writings on the subject of abortion, it will consequently have to be dealt with by the International House of Justice, when that Body is formed. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 20 October 1953) The problems confronting doctors at this time when abortion is becoming such a widely accepted practice are indeed grave, and we have the greatest sympathy with them in the serious dilemma in which they are placed. It is quite true that, according to the Teachings, the soul of an individual appears at conception and the practice of abortion merely to get rid of unwanted children is absolutely prohibited in the Faith. However, circumstances might exist in which abortion could be justified. Since such a situation is not dealt with in the Sacred Text and the Universal House of Justice does not wish to legislate upon it at present, individual believers needing to make such a decision will have to be guided by the general principle stated above, the best professional advice available to them, and their own consciences. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 26 August 1971) The House of Justice is acutely aware of the difficulty you are currently experiencing due to the desire of your daughter to have an abortion, and to the legal requirement that such a procedure have the consent of a parent. The House of Justice understands and commends your sincere wish to act in the best interests of your daughter, and at the same time to comply with the teachings of the Faith. You are undoubtedly aware of the law of the Faith that abortion merely to prevent the birth of a child is forbidden. This law is based on the fact that the human soul comes into existence at the time of conception. In light of this fundamental principle, the House of Justice does not deem it permissible under these circumstances for a Bahá’í to give consent to an abortion. Bahá’u’lláh has laid down certain laws for the protection and upliftment of humanity, and believers can with complete confidence in the results adhere to the requirements He has placed upon us. The benefit which is derived from such obedience will undoubtedly enable you to eventually see in the present “calamity” the “light of mercy” of His providence, which He has affirmed is there. The House of Justice assures you of its most ardent prayers at the Sacred Threshold that the Blessed Beauty will surround you and your daughter with His love and protection during this trying period. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 26 June 1990) BIRTH CONTROL We have not discovered any specific reference in the texts to the problem of population explosion in its relation to birth control. This question, of course, is a matter which is currently a subject of concern and speculation by many. A study of our teachings, however, indicates that in the future there will no doubt be a general improvement of standards of life and of health, but there will also be the full exploitation of unused and as yet unsuspected resources of the planet along with the control and tapping of its sources of raw material, with a great increase in productivity… As to your desire and that of your husband to avoid any action which would permanently prevent you from bearing children, the only text we have so far found on the subject is in a letter to an individual believer from the beloved Guardian. The question asked was whether after a few children it would be permissible to have a surgical operation on the wife to prevent further conception. His reply was that such an act was unacceptable and unworthy, and those who commit the act were responsible before God. When the Guardian was asked whether the exercise of birth control constitutes a sin in a case where the number of children would prevent the father from fulfilling his obligation to educate his children, he stated that it is the duty of Bahá’ís to uphold moderation in all things, and avoid illegal methods. And finally we have the following statement written on behalf of the Guardian which we hope will shed more light on the subject: “Regarding your question of whether you should have more children or not, the Guardian feels that this is a matter for you and your husband to decide. However, we must always bear in mind that God will protect His own, and that the Bahá’í children are the future servants of mankind who will help to carry the world forward into the glorious New Order which Bahá’u’lláh has prepared for it in this day of days. We should not face the future with fear, but with glad and assured hearts.” (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 31 July 1970) With regard to birth control an individual asked the beloved Guardian a similar question in 1935, and the Guardian’s secretary replied on his behalf on 14 October 1935: “As to the problem of birth control, neither Bahá’u’lláh nor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have revealed anything direct or explicit regarding this question. But the Bahá’í Teachings, when carefully studied imply that such current conceptions like birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life. For Bahá’u’lláh explicitly reveals in His Book of laws that the very purpose of marriage is the procreation of children who, when grown up, will be able to know God and to recognize and observe His Commandments and Laws as revealed through His Messengers. Marriage is thus, according to the Bahá’í Teachings, primarily a social and moral act. It has a purpose which transcends the immediate personal needs and interests of the parties. Birth control, except in certain exceptional cases, is therefore not permissible.” Another believer, having read this letter, asked the beloved Guardian whether all birth control methods of any purpose were absolutely prohibited by Bahá’í Teachings. The secretary of the beloved Guardian wrote on his behalf on 4 February 1937: “The Guardian has…given his careful consideration to your question regarding the Bahá’í view of birth control. “…there is no reference whatsoever in the Writings on this subject. The utmost we can say is by way of reference from what Bahá’u’lláh has revealed regarding the nature, purpose and character of marriage. “We, as Bahá’ís, are not therefore in a position either to condemn the practice of birth control or to confirm it. “Birth control, however, when exercised in order to deliberately prevent the procreation of any children is against the Spirit of the Law of Bahá’u’lláh, which defines the primary purpose of marriage to be the rearing of children and their spiritual training in the Cause. The Universal House of Justice will have to consider this issue and give its verdict upon it.” The Universal House of Justice feels that the time has not yet arrived for legislation on this matter, and that these instructions provide sufficient guidance for the friends for the time being. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 26 August 1971) As to your question about whether it is permissible for a married Bahá’í couple not to have children, a letter written to an individual believer on behalf of the beloved Guardian states: “Regarding your question of whether Bahá’ís should consider it their duty to have children: as Bahá’u’lláh has stated that the fundamental purpose of marriage is to being other souls into this world, to serve God and love Him, the Guardian does not believe that you should be unwilling to undertake this responsibility and privilege, even if it should, temporarily at least, interfere with the tempo of your Bahá’í activities.” However, there is nothing in the Writings to indicate or imply that Bahá’í marriage is open only to those who are physically able to have children. The bearing of children is but one of the purposes of marriage, albeit a fundamental one. The question was raised about bringing forth a “defective” child. In a letter to an individual concerning a serious hereditary disease which afflicted the male members of the family, and which was feared latent in any child the couple might bear, the House of Justice states that there is nothing in the Teachings about the use of contraceptive methods in order to prevent the transmission through inheritance of undesirable family traits and tendencies. These are, therefore, matters which the Universal House of Justice will have to consider in the future, but which it does not wish to legislate on presently. Therefore the decision in each case is left to the individual believers involved. The House of Justice states that there may be circumstances which would justify not having children, and that those called upon to make decisions in this regard must rely on the best medical advice available (preferably more than one expert should be consulted) and their own consciences. They should also take into account the availability, reliability and reversibility of methods of contraception. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 13 August 1980) In a letter written to an individual believer on 3 February 1932, the beloved Guardian’s secretary wrote on his behalf: “You inquired whether we have anything in the teachings concerning birth control and the sex element in marriage. Shoghi Effendi says that there is scarcely anything on that subject in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Master except a constant emphasis on mutual fidelity. Both Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb emphasise the need for children in marriage. The latter, for example, states that to beget children is the highest physical fruit of man’s existence. But neither say whether the number of children should be limited or not. Or if it is to be limited what is the proper method to be used.” Bahá’u’lláh stated that the primary purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, and the beloved Guardian alludes to this in many of the letters that were written on his behalf on this subject. This does not imply that a couple are obliged to have as many children as they can; the Guardian’s secretary clearly stated on his behalf, in answer to an enquiry, that it was for the husband and wife to decide how many children they would have. A decision to have no children at all would vitiate the primary purpose of marriage and would be contrary to the spirit of the law of Bahá’u’lláh, unless, of course, there were some medical reason why such a decision would be required. Concerning the general matter of family planning, the spacing of children and the methods available for such birth control, there is nothing in the Sacred Writings beyond what Bahá’u’lláh has revealed regarding the nature, purpose and character of marriage. However, with reference to the use of intrauterine devices, the House of Justice understands that there is a difference of professional opinion as to how intrauterine devices work, i.e. whether they prevent conception or whether they prevent the fertilized ovum from attaching to the wall of the uterus. According to our teachings, individual life beings at conception. In using such devices, therefore, Bahá’ís will have to be guided by the best professional advice available and their own consciences. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 16 March 1983) Your first request is for a definition of “unwanted children”. From the context this can be seen to mean children whom, for some reason or other not covered by circumstances which would justify abortion, the parents do not wish to have. It is, for example, very common in some countries to use abortion as a method of birth control when a family is large or a child is conceived out of wedlock. Such uses of abortion are absolutely prohibited by Bahá’í law. Your second request is for a definition of the circumstances under which abortion would be justified. The House of Justice does not wish to enter into this subject at this time, since it is very complicated indeed. From the context, however, it is clear that the House of Justice has in mind medical circumstances. Letters written on behalf of the House of Justice in response to specific questions indicate that among circumstances which are open to consideration are: – serious malformations of the embryo – serious damage to the foetus – neural tube defects in babies in utero -serious risk to the mental health of the mother We should stress that these by no means exhaust the range of possibilities, they are merely those which have arisen in specific cases. Moreover, the House of Justice has not ruled that abortion would or would not be justified in these cases, merely that they are the kinds of circumstances which fall within the area of the individual’s decision. In the case of rape of a mentally defective woman who would in incapable of bringing up the child, the House of Justice answered that although some cases of this kind might fall within the area of permissible abortion, the problem of care for a child born in such circumstances would have to be solved in the situation of each case and that one solution would be adoption. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 14 November 1986) STERILIZATION You and your husband, therefore, should have no feeling that you are obliged to add to your already large family. This is a matter entirely for you to decide, and there are many methods of preventing conception, including self-discipline and restraint, to which you can have recourse. Sterilization, however, would be a more far-reaching action than any of these, with implications and results beyond those necessary for the immediate purpose of limiting the size of your family, and it is not permissible in Bahá’í law except in rare instances where it is necessary for a medical reason. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 28 January 1977) The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of April 29 asking about tubal ligation and has noted that you are familiar with general Bahá’í principles on the subject. However, it has directed us to say that under normal circumstances it is not permissible to have a surgical operation for the purpose of not having more children if such an operation could result in permanent sterility. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 28 May 1978) A related subject is, of course, the possibility of sterilization in certain circumstances. In regard to this the principle is that a surgical operation to prevent the conception of children is not permissible if it is irreversible, unless there are specific medical grounds to justify it. Among such grounds the House of Justice has included grave sickness of the mother, and grave genetic defects of the parent – although not all genetic defects. It has also ruled that lack of social and financial means or a wish to avoid additional children are not acceptable reasons for permanent sterilization. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 14 November 1986) HOMOSEXUALITY From the Bahá’í Writings Bahá’u’lláh We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 58, paragraph 107) 134. the subject of boys ¶107 The word translated here as “boys” has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of paederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations. The Bahá’í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Bahá’í law thus restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married. In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated: No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap. Bahá’u’lláh makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of the offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy (Q&A 49). (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes, p. 222) 49. QUESTION: Concerning the penalties for adultery, sodomy, and theft, and the degrees thereof. ANSWER: The determination of the degrees of these penalties rests with the House of Justice. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, p. 121) Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful. By the righteousness of God! Ye have been called into being to purge the world from the defilement of evil passions. This is what the Lord of all mankind hath enjoined upon you, could ye but perceive it. He who relateth himself to the All-Merciful and committeth satanic deeds, verily he is not of Me. Unto this beareth witness every atom, pebble, tree and fruit, and beyond them this ever-proclaiming, truthful and trustworthy tongue. (Bahá’u’lláh, cited by the Universal House of Justice, 5 July 1993) The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity. To none is given the right to question their words or disparage their conduct, for they are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments… The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 80-81) O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 329) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá The mission of the Prophets of God has been to train the souls of humanity and free them from the thraldom of natural instincts and physical tendencies. They are like unto Gardeners, and the world of humanity is the field of Their cultivation, the wilderness and untrained jungle growth wherein They proceed to labor. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 310) Know thou that the command of marriage is eternal. It will never be changed nor altered. This is divine creation and there is not the slightest possibility that change or alteration affect this divine creation. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Volume II, p. 474) Shoghi Effendi Briefly stated, the Bahá’í conception of sex is based on the belief that chastity should be strictly practiced by both sexes, not only because it is in itself highly commendable ethically, but also due to its being the only way to a happy and successful marital life. Sex relationships of any form, outside marriage, are not permissible therefore, and whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will incur the necessary punishment from society. The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expression such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá’ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control. (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, 5 September 1938) Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Civilization, p. 25) They (homosexuals) should be treated just like any other people seeking admittance to the Faith, and be accepted on the same basis. Our teachings, as outlined in “The Advent of Divine Justice” on the subject of living a chaste life, should be emphasized to them just as to every other applicant, but certainly no ruling whatsoever should be laid down in this matter. The Bahá’ís have certainly not yet reached that stage of moral perfection where they are in a position to too harshly scrutinize the private lives of other souls, and each individual should be accepted on the basis of his faith, and sincere willingness to try to live up to the Divine standards; further than this we cannot go at present. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, 11 April 1948) We must be patient with others, infinitely patient!, but also with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair! …He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side. The Master said: turn your back to the darkness and your face to me. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 22 October 1949) Bahá’u’lláh has spoken very strongly against this shameful sexual aberration, as He has against adultery and immoral conduct in general. We must try and help the soul to overcome them. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 25 October 1949) No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap. God judges each soul on its own merits. The Guardian cannot tell you what the attitude of God would be towards a person who lives a good life in most ways, but not in this way. All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh and that one so afflicted should struggle and struggle again to overcome it. We must be hopeful of God’s mercy but not impose upon it. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 26 March 1950) Regarding the question you asked him about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly homosexual – although to a certain extent we must be forbearing in the matter of people’s moral conduct because of the terrible deterioration in society in general, this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. The person should have it brought to his attention that such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, and that he must mend his ways, if necessary consult doctors, and make every effort to overcome this affliction, which is corruptive for him and bad for the Cause. If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away. The Guardian does not think, however, that a Bahá’í body should take it upon itself to denounce him to the Authorities unless his conduct borders on insanity. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, 20 June 1953; Lights of Guidance, p. 52, #185) Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex. Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with. It does mean that we do not believe that it is a permissible way of life; which, alas, is all too often the accepted attitude nowadays… This indicates how the whole matter of sex and the problems related to it have assumed far too great an importance in the thinking of present-day society. We must struggle against the evils in society by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well. We must be tolerant but uncompromising, understanding but immovable in our point of view. The thing people need to meet this type of trouble, as well as every other type, is greater spiritual understanding and stability; and of course we Bahá’ís believe that ultimately this can only be given to mankind through the Teachings of the Manifestation of God for this Day. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 21 May 1954; Lights of Guidance, p. 365, #1221) When a person becomes a Bahá’í, actually what takes place is that the seed of the spirit starts to grow in the human soul. This seed must be watered by the outpourings of the Holy Spirit. These gifts of the spirit are received through prayer, meditation, study of the Holy Utterances and service to the Cause of God. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 6 October 1954) There is no teaching in the Bahá’í Faith that “soul mates” exist. What is meant is that marriage should lead to a profound friendship of spirit, which will endure in the next world, where there is not sex, and no giving and taking in marriage; just the way we should establish with our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters and friends a deep spiritual bond which will be everlasting, and not merely physical bonds of human relationship. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 4 December 1954) The question of how to deal with homosexuals is a very difficult one. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Bahá’í Faith by Bahá’u’lláh; so, for that matter, is immorality and adultery. If one is going to start imposing heavy sanctions on people who are the victims of this abnormality, however repulsive it may be to others, then it is only fair to impose equally heavy sanctions on any Bahá’ís who step beyond the moral limits defined by Bahá’u’lláh. Obviously at the present time this would create an impossible and ridiculous situation. He feels, therefore, that, through loving advice, through repeated warnings, any friends who are flagrantly immoral should be assisted, and, if possible, restrained. If their activities overstep all bounds and become a matter of public scandal, then the Assembly can consider depriving them of their voting rights. However, he does not advise this course of action and feels that it should only be resorted to in very flagrant cases. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, 20 August 1955; Lights of Guidance, pp. 368-369, #1230) Homosexuality is highly condemned and often a great trial and cause of suffering to a person, as a Bahá’í. Any individual so afflicted must, through prayer, and any other means, seek to overcome this handicap. But, unless the actions of such individuals are flagrantly immoral, it cannot be a pretext for depriving them of their voting rights. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, 6 October 1956) Concerning your question whether there are any legitimate forms of expression of the sex instinct outside of marriage; according to the Bahá’í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse. The Bahá’í youth should, on the one hand, be taught the less of self-control which, when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general, and on the other should be advised, nay even encouraged, to contract marriage while still young and in full possession of their physical vigor. Economic factors, no doubt, are often a serious hindrance to early marriage, but in most cases are only an excuse, and as such should not be overstressed. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, cited in Lights of Guidance, pp. 364, #1220) Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a new and noble set of principles, not by any organized campaign of teaching – no matter how world-wide and elaborate in its character – not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abhá Revelation. One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendour of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh. (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 66) Guidance A number of sexual problems, such as homosexuality and transsexuality can well have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be had to the best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh that homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a distortion of his or her nature which should be controlled or overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires. The exercise of self-control in this, as in so very many other aspects of life, has a beneficial effect on the progress of the soul. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that although to be married is highly desirable, and Bahá’u’lláh has strongly recommended it, it is not the central purpose of life. If a person has to wait a considerable period before finding a spouse, or if ultimately, he or she must remain single, it does not mean that he or she is thereby unable to fulfill his or her life’s purpose. (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 12 January 1973; Lights of Guidance, p. 366, #1222) Just as there are laws governing our physical lives, requiring that we must supply our bodies with certain foods, maintain them within a certain range of temperatures, and so forth, if we wish to avoid physical disabilities, so also there are laws governing our spiritual lives. These laws are revealed to mankind in each age by the Manifestations of God, and obedience to them is of vital importance if each human being, and mankind in general, is to develop properly and harmoniously. Moreover, these various aspects are interdependent. If an individual violates the spiritual laws for his own development he will cause injury not only to himself but to the society in which he lives. Similarly, the condition of society has a direct effect on the individuals who must live within it. As you point out, it is particularly difficult to follow the laws of Bahá’u’lláh in present-day society whose accepted practice is so at variance with the standards of the Faith. However, there are certain laws that are so fundamental to the healthy functioning of human society that they must be upheld whatever the circumstances. (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 6 February 1973) Bahá’í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Thus Bahá’í law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married. Thus, it should not be so much a matter of whether a practicing homosexual can be a Bahá’í as whether, having become a Bahá’í, the homosexual can overcome his problem through knowledge of the teachings and reliance on Bahá’u’lláh. (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice, 14 March 1973) While recognizing the divine origin and force of the sex impulse in man, religion teaches that it must be controlled, and Bahá’u’lláh’s law confines its expression to the marriage relationship. The unmarried homosexual is therefore in the same position as anyone else who does not marry. The Law of God requires them to practice chastity. Even though you feel that the conflict between sensuality and spirituality is more than you can bear, your affirmation – “I do know I am a Bahá’í” – is a positive factor in the battle you must wage. Every believer needs to remember that an essential characteristic of this physical world is that we are constantly faced with trials, tribulations, hardships and sufferings and that by overcoming them we achieve our moral and spiritual development; that we must seek to accomplish in the future what we may have failed to do in the past; that this is the way God tests His servants and we should look upon every failure or shortcoming as an opportunity to try again and to acquire a fuller consciousness of the Divine Will and purpose. Certainly the problem confronting you is a difficult one. However, its solution lies within your power, for Bahá’u’lláh has assured us that God “will never deal unjustly with anyone, neither will He task a soul beyond its power.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 106) And again, “Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: ‘Whoso maketh efforts for Us’, he shall enjoy the blessings conferred by the words: ‘In Our Way shall We assuredly guide him.’” (Ibid, pp. 266-267) You can be confident that with the help of doctors, by prayer and meditation, by self-abnegation and by giving as much time as possible to serving the Cause in your community you can eventually succeed in overcoming your problem. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 January 1977) The House of Justice comments that while there is little in Bahá’í literature that specifically points to the causes of homosexuality itself, there is much that concerns the nature of man, his inner life and growth, and the way to a true Bahá’í life. If you are sincerely intent on overcoming your problem, you must yourself determine to resist wayward impulses each time they arise and the House of Justice feels that there is no better way than to turn to the Writings to divert our thoughts into spiritual channels, perhaps to concentrate on what we may do to help others along the way to discovering the Bahá’í Faith. The more we occupy ourselves with teaching the Cause and serving our fellow-man in this way, the stronger we become in resisting that which is abhorrent to our spiritual selves. Man’s physical existence on this earth is a period during which the moral exercise of his free will is tried and tested in order to prepare his soul for the other worlds of God, and we must welcome affliction and tribulations as opportunities for improvement in our eternal selves. The House of Justice points out that homosexuals are not the only segment of human society labouring at this daily task – every human being is beset by such inner promptings as pride, greed, selfishness, lustful heterosexual or homosexual desires, to name a few which must be overcome, and overcome them we must if we are to fulfil the purpose of our human existence. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 16 July 1980; Lights of Guidance, p. 368, #1228) When a person wishes to join the Faith and it is generally known that he has a problem such as drinking, homosexuality, taking drugs, adultery, etc., he should be told in a patient and loving way of the Bahá’í teachings on these matters. If it is later discovered that a believer is violating Bahá’í standards, it is the duty of the Assembly to determine whether the immoral conduct is open and scandalous and can bring the name of the Faith into disrepute, in which case the Assembly must take action to counsel the believer and require him to make every effort to mend his ways. If he fails to rectify his conduct in spite of repeated warnings, sanctions should be imposed. Assemblies, of course, must exercise care not to pry into the private lives of the believers to ensure that they are behaving properly…. The House of Justice asks us to point out that the recognition of the Manifestation of God is but the beginning of a process of growth and that as we become more deepened in the Teachings and strive to follow His principles, we gradually approach more and more the perfect pattern which is presented to us. Bahá’u’lláh recognizes that human beings are fallible. He knows that, in our weakness, we shall repeatedly stumble when we try to walk in the path He has pointed out to us. If all human beings become perfect the moment they accepted the call of Bahá’u’lláh, this world would be another world. Recognizing imperfections, which we all have, is a positive step towards spiritual growth. Every living thing must change; it is the very nature of life. This growth and change can be imperceptible and slow or dramatic and rapid…. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 2 December 1980) There should be real incentive for you to courageously face the problems inherent in the situation you describe in your letter, and to firmly resolve to change your way of life. But you must desire to do so. Both you and your Bahá’í friend must first recognize that a homosexual relationship subverts the purpose of human life and that determined effort to overcome the wayward tendencies which promote this practice which, like other sexual vices, is so abhorrent to the Creator of all mankind will help you both to return to a path that leads to true happiness. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 23 August 1982; Lights of Guidance, p. 368, #1229) …the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a “natural” or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, however intractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question of alteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in the future clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as you rightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from homosexual acts. Your plea for understanding and of justice extended to homosexuals is well taken in many respects, and the House of Justice assures you of its concern for the large number of persons so afflicted. Your work with the homosexual community is praiseworthy, and it permits you personally to exercise the support which is necessary for these often harassed persons, support which you call for in your essay. Moreover, your interest cannot but be therapeutic, at least for the more superficial elements of the problem; however, definitive therapy of the underlying predisposition, which you consider to be innate but the Teachings do not, may have to await additional investigations. As for the responsibility of Assemblies and of individual Bahá’ís, certainly all are called upon to be understanding, supportive and helpful to any individual who carries the burden of homosexuality. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 March 1987) The Universal House of Justice does not feel that the time has come for it to provide detailed legislation on subjects such as abortion, homosexuality and other moral issues. The principles pertaining to these issues are available in the book “Lights of Guidance” and elsewhere. In studying these principles, it should be noted that in most areas of human behaviour there are acts which are clearly contrary to the law of God and others which are clearly approved or permissible; between these there is often a grey area where it is not immediately apparent what should be done. It has been a human tendency to wish to eliminate these grey areas so that every aspect of life is clearly prescribed. A result of this tendency has been the tremendous accretion of interpretation and subsidiary legislation which has smothered the spirit of certain of the older religions. In the Bahá’í Faith moderation, which is so strongly upheld by Bahá’u’lláh, is applied here also. Provision is made for supplementary legislation by the Universal House of Justice – legislation which it can itself abrogate and amend as conditions change. There is also a clear pattern already established in the Sacred Scriptures, in the interpretations made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, and in the decisions so far made by the Universal House of Justice, whereby an area of the application of the laws is intentionally left to the conscience of each individual believer. This is the age in which mankind must attain maturity, and one aspect of this is the assumption by individuals of the responsibility for deciding, with the assistance of consultation, their own course of action in areas which are left open by the law of God. It should also be noted that it is neither possible nor desirable for the Universal House of Justice to set forth a set of rules covering every situation. Rather is it the task of the individual believer to determine, according to his own prayerful understanding of the Writings, precisely what his course of conduct should be in relation to situations which he encounters in his daily life. If he is to fulfil his true mission in life as a follower of the Blessed Perfection, he will pattern his life according to the Teachings. The believer cannot attain his objective merely by living according to a set of rigid regulations. When his life is oriented towards service to Bahá’u’lláh, and when every conscious act is performed within this frame of reference, he will not fail to achieve the true purpose of his life. Therefore, every believer must continually study the Sacred Writings and the instructions of the beloved Guardian, striving always to attain a new and better understanding of their import to him and to his society. He should pray fervently for divine guidance, wisdom and strength to do what is pleasing to God, and to serve Him at all times and to the best of his ability. The House of Justice feels it would not be wise for it to make a public statement on the moral issues you mention which are now being discussed widely. In such aspects of morality, the guidance that Bahá’í institutions offer to mankind does not comprise a series of specific answers to these moral issues, but rather the illumination of an entirely new way of life through the renewal of spiritual values. Bahá’ís who are striving to teach the Faith can take advantage of the growing public disquiet about the accelerating moral breakdown through the world to bring to the attention of thoughtful people the fact that such problems are symptoms of a profound malaise which can be healed only throughout acceptance of the divine message. As Bahá’u’lláh states, “the people are wandering in the paths of delusion”, engaging in practices which will lead inevitably to unhappiness and disorder. Inspired by the example of loving compassion set by the Master, let the believers disclose to the wayward multitudes a new mode of living which brings true liberty and abiding happiness… (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 5 June 1988) The Universal House of Justice understands the concern you feel upon discovering that the Faith includes teachings about homosexuality which differ so markedly from your own views. This discovery may best be regarded not as a challenge to your faith in Bahá’u’lláh but rather as an opportunity for you to acquire a deeper understanding of the Bahá’í teachings and their implications. When an individual becomes a Bahá’í, he or she accepts the claim of Bahá’u’lláh to be the Manifestation of God bringing a divinely-inspired message from God for the benefit of mankind. Implicit in the acceptance of this claim is the commitment of the believer to embark on the lifelong process of endeavouring to implement the teachings on personal conduct. Through sincere and sustained effort, energized by faith in the validity of the Divine Message, and combined with patience with oneself and the loving support of the Bahá’í community, individuals are able to effect a change in their behaviour; as a consequence of this effort they partake of spiritual benefits which liberate them and which bestow a true happiness beyond description. As you know, Bahá’u’lláh has clearly forbidden the expression of sexual love between individuals of the same sex. However, the doors are open for all of humanity to enter the Cause of God, irrespective of their present circumstance; this invitation applies to homosexuals as well as to any others who are engaged in practices contrary to the Bahá’í teachings. Associated with this invitation is the expectation that all believers will make a sincere and persistent effort to eradicate those aspects of their conduct which are not in conformity with Divine Law. In the case of homosexuality, the Guardian has stated, in a letter written on his behalf on 26 March 1950, that “through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap”. As to why Bahá’u’lláh forbade the expression of sexual love between people of the same sex, this question relates to the broader and more fundamental question of the purpose of the laws of Bahá’u’lláh and of the Bahá’í teachings on sexual morality The laws do not represent a sterile and inhumane legal code, but rather the divine prescription, a definition of how an individual must act in order to achieve true freedom and spiritual happiness in this world and the next. Bahá’u’lláh wrote that: The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity. To none is given the right to question their words or disparage their conduct, for they are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments… The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, rev. ed. [Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1984] sec. XXXIV, pp. 80-81) In a letter dated 6 February 1973 sent to all National Spiritual Assemblies, the Universal House of Justice underlined the importance of the law of God to both individual and social development, and described the effect of obedience to the laws on individual lives: Just as there are laws governing our physical lives, requiring that we must supply our bodies with certain foods, maintain them within a certain range of temperatures, and so forth, if we wish to avoid physical disabilities, so also there are laws governing our spiritual lives. These laws are revealed to mankind in each age by the Manifestation of God, and obedience to them is of vital importance if each human being, and mankind in general, is to develop properly and harmoniously. Moreover, these various aspects are interdependent. If an individual violates the spiritual laws for his own development he will cause injury not only to himself but to the society in which he lives. Similarly, the condition of society has a direct effect on the individuals who must live within it. As you point out, it is particularly difficult to follow the laws of Bahá’u’lláh in present-day society whose accepted practice is so at variance with the standards of the Faith. However, there are certain laws that are so fundamental to the healthy functioning of human society that they must be upheld whatever the circumstances… In considering the effect of obedience to the laws on individual lives, one must remember that the purpose of this life is to prepare the soul for the next. Here one must learn to control and direct one’s animal impulses, not to be a slave to them. Life in this world is a succession of tests and achievements, of falling short and of making new spiritual advances. Sometimes the course may seem very hard, but one can witness, again and again, that the soul who steadfastly obeys the law of Bahá’u’lláh, however hard it may seem, grows spiritually, while the one who compromises with the law for the sake of his own apparent happiness is seen to have been following a chimera: he does not attain the happiness he sought, he retards his spiritual advance and often brings new problems upon himself. With regard to the Bahá’í teachings on sexuality, the extract (cited below), from a letter dated 5 September 1938, written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, provides a succinct summary: Briefly stated the Bahá’í conception of sex is based on the belief that chastity should be strictly practiced by both sexes, not only because it is in itself highly commendable ethically, but also due to its being the only way to a happy and successful marital life. Sex relationships of any form, outside marriage, are not permissible therefore, and whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will incur the necessary punishment from society. The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expression such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá’ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control. (30 June 1988) …you write that you cannot explain to a friend why her way of love, homosexual love, is wrong and that your lack of understanding on this point also hampers your teaching efforts. Until there is wide recognition of Bahá’u’lláh as the Revealer of the Divine Will, there is no answer that will satisfy all questioners, particularly one who has a vested interest in maintaining that his behaviour is innocuous. Homosexuality has been forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh in His Book of Laws, just as it was forbidden by other Prophets of God…. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 3 July 1990) The House of Justice was sorry to learn from your letter that your son has recently informed you that he is a homosexual. It commends your attitude of compassion and your efforts to both maintain harmony in your marriage and to keep open the lines of communication to your son. – In answer to your specific question, there is little in the Bahá’í writings that specifically points to the causes of homosexuality itself, but as the House of Justice has emphasized in past letters to individuals who sought its advice on this question, there is much that concerns the nature of man, his inner life and growth, and the way to a true Bahá’í life. In a letter to an individual believer, the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, gave the following advice: No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap. God judges each soul on its own merits. The Guardian cannot tell you what the attitude of God would be towards a person who lives a good life in most ways, but not in this way. All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and that one so afflicted should struggle and struggle again to overcome it. We must be hopeful of Gods mercy but not impose upon it. In general, the House of Justice urges you to avoid dwelling on thoughts of guilt which you, as a parent, would likely experience, and to continue to demonstrate love and acceptance toward your son; such an attitude, however, should imply no agreement with his attitude towards homosexuality. You will, no doubt, want to urge your son to seek appropriate counselling; in this connection you are encouraged to seek the assistance of your National Spiritual Assembly, which has often dealt with such cases, and can most probably assist you in identifying individuals who are experienced in this area and whose views on homosexuality are basically compatible with those of the Bahá’í Faith. Regarding your husband’s refusal to permit your son to return home, it is understandable that a parent might feel deeply confused and angry when confronted with such questions which go to the very root of what it means to be a human being and what it means to educate and raise a child. Prayer, faith in God, loving consultation and patience will aid you to deal with this difficulty. As for your family members who are causing you further anguish, it is perhaps also to be expected that reactions to such inherently perplexing questions, nowadays compounded more than ever by the general disarray in moral thinking, tend toward extremes, either of resignation or condemnation. You are obliged to hew your own course, as illuminated by the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Whether you can persuade anyone of the correctness of your responses, which seek to preserve your relationship to your son and also to avoid alienating your husband, is secondary; the main thing is that you strive to deal with these difficulties in a manner consistent with the spirit of the Cause of God, which is neither harsh and maledictory nor excessively liberal and forbearing. (1 March 1992 on behalf of the Universal House of Justice) (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 5 June 1993, Homosexuality, p. 7) You mention recent research which indicates that there may be a genetic basis for homosexuality; you accept the Bahá’í view of this matter, but you question the use of such terms as “abnormality, handicap, affliction, problem, etc.” since they can create misunderstandings. On the contrary, the House of Justice feels that just such words can be a great help to the individuals concerned. Human beings suffer from many problems, both physical and psychological. Some are the result of the individual’s own behaviour, some are caused by the circumstances in which he grew up, some are congenital. Some human beings are born blind, some suffer from incapacitating accidents or diseases. Such conditions present the individual affected, and those around him, with serious problems, and it is one of the challenges of the human condition that all those concerned should strive to overcome such problems and have understanding and sympathy for the individual so afflicted. There is a wide range of sexual abnormalities. Some people nowadays maintain that homosexuality is not an abnormality and that homosexuals should be encouraged to establish sexual relations with one or more partners of the same sex. The Faith, on the contrary, makes it abundantly clear that homosexuality is an abnormality, is a great problem for the individual so afflicted, and that he or she should strive to overcome it. The social implications of such an attitude are very important. The primary purpose of sexual relations is, clearly, to perpetuate the species. The fact that personal pleasure is derived therefrom is one of the bounties of God. The sex act is merely one moment in a long process, from courtship through marriage, the procreation of children, their nursing and rearing, and involves the establishment of a mutually sustaining relationship between two souls which will endure beyond life on this earth. Some couples are unable to have children, and that, in itself, is an affliction, but this fact does not vitiate all the other bounties of the marital relationship. Some individuals for various reasons are unable to find a spouse, or choose to remain single; they must develop their natures and talents in other ways. One could have concluded that homosexuals could well establish stable relationships with one another for mutual support, similar to the marital relationship of a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. This, indeed, is the conclusion that some churches and governments have come to. But Bahá’u’lláh, having divine knowledge of human nature, shows that such a relationship is not a permissible or beneficial solution to a homosexual’s condition. If a homosexual cannot so overcome his or her condition to the extent of being able to have a heterosexual marriage, he or she must remain single, and abstain from sexual relations. These are the same requirements as for a heterosexual person who does not marry. This law is no reason for Bahá’ís to consider homosexuals as outcasts. If they are not Bahá’ís there is also no reason to expect them to obey the Bahá’í law in this respect any more than we would expect a non-Bahá’í to abstain from drinking alcohol. (16 March 1992) (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 5 June 1993, Homosexuality, p. 11) The Universal House of Justice received your letter of 6 August 1993 and was very pleased to learn of your interest in the Bahá’í teachings. It notes that the one matter which causes you deep concern is the Bahá’í attitude towards homosexuality, and it has asked us to send you the following brief explanation and analysis of the Bahá’í approach to the matter. First of all, it is important to understand that there is a difference between the Bahá’í attitude towards, on the one hand, the condition of homosexuality and those who are affected by it and, on the other, the practice of homosexual relations. Basic to the Bahá’í teachings is the concept that it is only God Who knows the purpose of human life, and Who can convey this to us through His Manifestations. A distinguishing feature of human existence is that we have been given the capacity to know and love God and to consciously obey Him. Thus we also have the converse: the ability to tur
  19. I don’t believe that sexual preference is the issue for Baha’is. The true issue is that sexual drive is is considered as a noble attribute only when canalised to within the bonds of marriage. Whatever our preferences, sexuality outside marriage is considered as unlawful, whether gay or not and it seems impracticable to rule that only gay relations should be made lawful outside marriage. It so happens that no provisions are made for gay marriages in the Baha’i Faith

  20. The Baha’i teachings condemn abortion unless undertaken on sound medical basis. The Universal House of Justice that can adapt it’s ruling to the needs of each day and age, does not wish at this time to provide a list of lawful circumstances and leaves this decision to the conscious of those concerned and competent medical advise in each specific situation. Hence this subject becomes a personal and medical issue that does not need further discussion in general meetings.

  21. There is no need to oppose rigidly liberal and conservative stands.We cannot restrict reality to general situations and prone automatic general solutions. it is generally forbidden to kill, but in exceptional circumstances, under strict regulations, such as protecting peace and order, it might sometimes become necessary and lawful to kill. Baha’u’llah exhorts the nations to rise and oppose tyrants and aggressors, and this might obviously involve killing. In the same way, abortion is condemned but tolerated in exceptional cases that should be evaluated seriously in each specific situation.

  22. Bahai Scriptures clearly state that the soul exists at the moment of conception. Whether the fertilized ovum implants or not is a moot point.

    IUDs cause a fertilized egg not to implant, thereby causing abortions, unbeknonwst to the woman.

    Please read Bahai Faith and The Book of Certitude.

    Thank you,
    Lyn

  23. Perfectly quoted.

  24. It seems to me that the matter at hand is not often brought up between Bahai’s for the obvious reason that it is a decidedly political issue, as well as a religious one; we are allowed to vote, but are supposed to abstain from political involvement, especially when arguing in the name of our Faith. This is a tricky one, because it can be put under the umbrella of human rights issues, but it, like all moral, socially responsible, and religious choices it is a very personal one as well.

    My attraction to this Faith began with recognition of the practicalness of the religion itself. I greatly admired (and still do) my very dear friend, who served with me on the Burlington, VT LSA, until which time I left. I was, at the time I met her family, involved with intense personal struggles, mostly in my marriage to an addict. She and her husband offered me both solicited and not-so-solicited advice/insight into how I was basically selling myself cheap in life, and deserved better. What was wonderful was that while the world was judging me for loving an addict, though I wasn’t one myself, I didn’t feel that from them. I felt, and still do feel, that this is one of the greatest examples of God’s Love.

    We are given the Book of Laws, as we are offered any Rules of the Game book, in that if you want to be a Baha’i, this is how you play. It is, of course, essential. However it is useless without struggle if we are to use our Faith to be truly Godly people. The most lovable people in my life have struggled hard to get through tough choices, and have stretched their love all the more as a result. If God isn’t Love, what is He?

    There are many reasons a person will find herself (yes, I admit I look at this as a women’s rights issue as well as a religious one) and I will put myself on the line here by admitting that there was a very dark time in my life when I was struggling with this issue myself. It was about three weeks of nervous breakdown, and when I finally realized that what was killing me was preparing for this decision to terminate the unplanned pregnancy, and I decided I loved it more than I could comprehend. Though I didn’t want it in the first place, and would raise it alone which I didn’t want, I decided my personal choice was going to be to raise this unexpected baby and he would just have to put up with me and all my shortcomings.

    This is such a difficult struggle for any woman to go through, and a lot of my leaning first toward abortion had to do with the shame of having a pregnancy outside of marriage, which happened in part because of the dark place I found myself in, despite my Faith and love for Baha’u’llah. I have always held Abdu’l-Baha up as what he was: the perfect Baha’i example. My favorite prayer is Be as a Lamp, be a Baha’i. I believe that God wants us to do the right thing, of course, and to follow His Laws. But I believe He wants us to struggle with some of these tough, heartwrenching choices, so we can become more like that Lamp that attracts others to His Love. If we simply regurgitate our Laws to each other and others, we aren’t really stretching our Faith or our Love.

    The worst feeling in the world is rejection of who you are as a person, and when that comes at a dark time of struggle, it can send you out of your spiritual self. God is with us during our times of greatest imperfection. If He wanted us perfect, He could have made us that way, so I believe the spiritual journey is in large part about acceptance and love for ourselves, each other and Him. God wants us to listen to each other and help each other through the rough patches so we’ll be better on the other side. Remember, He gave us ears to hear, eyes to see and a tongue with which to taste while we were still in the womb, because we would need these things when we were born. Similarly, we are supposed to grow spiritual attributes so that we have necessary tools when we die and move on without our physical attributes to guide us anymore.

    Yes, we know we are not For abortion, as spiritual and religious entities, but God warns us in every religioun not to judge others for their shortcomings, but to help love them through those terrible growing pains. So, if you ask me, as a Baha’i, is abortion wrong, I guess I have to answer yes, but if you ask me as an individual struggling with her own spirituality, trying to be a Godly, loving mother and just Godly and loving in general, about anything of a controversial or religious nature, I have to ask the individual how I can best love her through any challenging situation, so the real challenge becomes mine: how can I be a more Godly person, so I can accept this person and her struggles, and help her know God through my unconditional Love which flows freely from Him to her through me?

  25. Diane,
    Thanks for your comment that I feel globally valid. The Baha’i attitude is that we are responsible for what we do, and not for what other do, and our institutions are engaged in organising our spiritual and community lives, which is of utmost urgency in the present world situation if we want life to survive on this planet, and not interference in civil law making.

    All these point will be one day a priority when the vital threats facing humanity will have been solved. On that day, the Baha’i instiututions will reply to states that ask for guidance with proposals that the governents of the world could adopt. Before that time comes, a number of very important spiritual issues will first have to be solved. As the saying goes, you cannot put a beard on a new born child.

    For the Universal House of Justice gives guidance to whomsoever seeks that guidance and for the moment that guidance is sought by individuals and not by states and the Baha’i institutions will not engage in these issues which are under civil laws that Bah’is have to comply with.

  26. I had a recently formed friendship break up over this very issue, because the other party feels that my attitude on this subject is ‘pro-abortion’. I found both the viewpoint and the ending of the friendship to be heartbreaking, in that I approach this and all issues with my personal take on Baha’i principles, which is all any of us really does, and being that we have no clergy, it really levels the ‘playing field’ as far as personal interpretation. This point is very important in all religions: we should ALL deepen our understanding as individuals within our chosen religion. We choose our Faith because we are either born into it, or because it speaks to us clearly of Truth we should be eternally seeking throughout life, and sharing with others when it is a fair and mutual exchange that brings about a bigger truth.

    I have always been very worried about posting anything online, because as a Baha’i I worry that I will be the only Baha’i a person is exposed to, just as is often true in live encounters. A HUGE reason for my comfort level in this Faith is that we are never supposed to attempt coercion to bring about change of beliefs in others. All we can do is to ‘be that Lamp’ so that if others want to exchange ideas in a loving, healthy manner, it is easily facilitate to bring about larger truths.

    I’ve always admired the Baha’i principle of conflict: the ‘spark of truth’ becoming ignited by conflict. It is debate at it’s utmost best! We don’t need to smile and agree about these huge issues; we need to be real with each other and approach this and all issues from a Loving standpoint. Who among us chooses a Faith or way of life in the hope of finding more judgment heaped upon us, when we are simply trying, as all Godly people everywhere, regardless of religion wants and prays for? Isn’t all we really want nearness to God? I mean, isn’t that why we try to do the right thing? Is it so important to be right, if being right really seems to mean being more stubborn or judgmental or that one person can yell louder than the other?

    We are all siblings of God, some of us of course finding the easier way, while others (ME) are struggling through everything before figuring anything out, but in the end some of us will get bigger spiritual attributes than others, and those of us who do will be expected to aid those who have not gotten those traits, and in the best of all situations, won’t we really just come together to aid each other in learning and doing, each strength in one soul lending aid where another lacks? And why bother keeping score in this world, when only God knows the true importance of our qualities?

  27. God bless those who write without vitriol, in patient dialogue, with courtesy.

  28. Diane, perhaps we can replace the word “conflict” by diverging opinions.

    I feel we have a tendency to consider the Baha’i Faith as an administration upheld by spiritual values; we should consider it as a spiritual enterprise facilitated by an administration. The purpose of religion is individual spiritual growth and a society based on spiritual values. There is no point in being a Baha’i if we are not concerned by these goals. Anyone can benefit from the Baha’i teachings without being enrolled, an action that enables us to participate in the administrative functions of the Faith. The main purpose of the Faith is a mystical transformation of our lives, as Shoghi Effendi points out:

    Indeed, the chief reason for the evils now rampant in society is a lack of spirituality. The materialistic civilization of our age has so much absorbed the energy and interest of mankind, that people in general no longer feel the necessity of raising themselves above the forces and conditions of their daily material existence. There is not sufficient demand for things that we should call spiritual to differentiate them from the needs and requirements of our physical existence. The universal crisis affecting mankind is, therefore, essentially spiritual in its causes. The spirit of the age, taken on the whole, is irreligious. Man’s outlook upon life is too crude and materialistic to enable him to elevate himself into the higher realms of the spirit.
    It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform. For the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling that unites man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Baha’u’llah has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer to merely accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality, which he can acquire chiefly by the means of prayer. The Baha’i Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Baha’u’llah, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed.
    Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing.
    (8 December 1935 to an individual believer, published in “Baha’i News” 102 (August 1936), p. 3)

  29. Lyn wrote:
    “Whether the fertilized ovum implants or not is a moot point.”

    Exactly, Lyn. In nature, numerous cycles in a woman’s life produce fertilized ovum than never implant. : perhaps more than 75% of fertilized ovum are doomed to disappearance. Also, before cellular development into a morula, the fertilized ovum splits into two, and except in exceptional cases of identical twins, one of the cells disappears; so we have all had an identical twin that in most cases, did not survive.

    The whole issue hence is not what will happen to undeveloped souls, but how we, the living, deal with the human soul, an attitude that will determine the way we live and interact with our fellow humans. similarly, we have no evidence as to how the soul after separation from the body will feel about our attitude to the body which we consider as the temple of the soul. What we do know for sure is that the attitude towards the body will influence the outlook on life in those who survive.

    My taking is that our attitude towards the embryo is important to our outlook on life. Over attachment to the embryo entailing serious problems for the mother or the family, or a too casual attitude that depreciates the embryo might both have adverse consequences on society.

    Since the purpose of human life in this world is not salvaging as many embryonic souls as possible, but serving an ever advancing civilisation, we have to find the appropriate attitude in each specific case.

  30. Chit chat aside, abortion is forbidden in the holy law except in self-defense, as is all other killing of another human being. It is untrue that the Bahai scriptures are at all vague about the sanctity of human life. Many of the administrative leaders may be, but God has not been. The writings of Bahau’llah and Abdu’l-baha run parralell to the “Gospel of Life” as preached by Pope John Paul II.

    Bahais SHOULD be pro-life. Bahais USED TO BE pro-life. Bahais are now primarily pro-Choice, at lest in America.

    New declarants in the last 20 years have come primarily from the American political left , attracted by the teachings of love and unity and the concept of individual investigation of truth- (which they have taken to mean that the Faith is expression of the views held by the members of the community and not a mechanism for actually determing those views ). They have worked hard to reconcile the neo-pagan view of human life which they have brought with them into the Bahai Faith, with the Bahai teachings, and are constantly writing little ditties that appear to create ‘loopholes’ through which the sanctity of life can ‘slip through’. These have risen to places of power and authority within the administration and have thus contaminated the Truth with neo-pagan theories , probably unintentionally, but the effect is the same, a decline in respect for human life and an apathetic stance towards defending the sanctity of the unborn.

    Anyone who actually studies the writings will realize that this is at variance with the actual teachings. It is what is called a ‘lie’ and it comes from a desire to use the influence of religion in people’s lives to bring about a non-divine unity because divine unity is more difficult to obtain. Man has a tendency , after all, to bring God’s teachings down to his level, rather than rising to meet them. The process is one which, over time, kills the spirituality of the religion until God’s Grace sends inspired souls to relite the lamp of Truth in the hearts of the faithful.

    This downward trend among Bahais in America away from the original teachings of the sacred nature of human life has done great damage to the Faith itself and to many of the believers. Many have left the faith and become Catholic or pro-Life Protestant or Bhuddist etc. Any religion that they feel has the Godly light of justice to the unborn and through this to all humanity, shining forth.

    The fact is, love and unity are divine realities that, according to scripture , MUST rest on the foundation of the sanctity of human life. Without this foundation, the twin pillars of divine reality cannot stand.

    Whether intended or not, Bahais of this generation have accepted the divine pillars of unity and love, but rejected the foundation upon which they must rest. Until this is corrected, the Bahai Faith is as dead a religion in spirit as any other religion that does the same.

    For instance, I noticed a Bahai poster claim that the Bahai view of an after life makes accepting abortion and euthanasia more palatable because the soul will move on after the body dies. This is a severe distortion of the teachings. Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah CLEARLY state that the soul MUST be allowed to journey through this life, for as long as that journey takes, until God ends the journey that God set the soul upon, in order to develop and help others develop the necessary spiritual qualities to function in the next life. Otherwise, according to their own words, we will enter the next world “handicapped” and unable to function.

    The scriptures teach the human womb is preparatory for this physical life, and this physical life is a spiritual womb preparatory for the next. So induced death has a consequence to the deceased because it forces premature birth into the next life. Their soul does not just go merrily on its way without a consequence!

    Bahais have an obligation, as do all those who believe in a loving God, to stand up against evil and speak openly against it. Abortion is the purest evil that has ever existed and only the most severe blindness could make today’s Bahais so apathetic about it.

    Unity at the expense the unborn is not love and is not from God. Unless world unity includes the sanctity of life, it is man made and will not last.

    Bahais also have an obligation, according to Bahau’llah and Abdul-Baha, to defend the helpless from assault, murder, attack, and injury. What could be more helpless than the unborn? As their legs are torn from their bodies, who hears their cries of agony? Only God. Only God.

    Every Bahai who loves God should be spending their days weeping for the unborn and praying for their rescue, working with pro-Life groups and standing against this satanic assault on humanity. (Yes, our scriptures do mention satan, contrary to what most are told.) Satan’s desire, according to all scripture including Bahai scripture , is the total destruction of humanity. Bahais SHOULD stand against this.

    Protecting others from physical assault is an exhortation of Abdul’-Baha currently ignored by a large segment of the Bahai community (in America at least). I do not know how other communities are managing to date.

    In short , their is One Religion. It has no lable or name, not even Bahai. It is God’s religion. It can be known by its teachings, which are light unto the world. This light may once have shown in the Bahai Faith, but is now obscured and the longer the believers allow that to be so, the less of this light will shine upon their Faith.

    But, God will not leave man without guidance. Though it should have been the privilege of Bahais to instruct the world, we have (in my humble opinion as a Bahai for over 40 years) rejected the task set before and , as a result, God has given it to those who will do what his Will.

    He has restored the light elsewhere for the time being. Perhaps for as much as a thousand years.

    I see the light in the lamp of Catholicism, the one faith working tirelessly for the promotion of the sanctity of human life, on which all else rests. The future of humanity depends upon it , the unity of the world depends upon it. The ability of mankind to love one another is inextricably tied to it.

    If the Bahai Faith wants to promote love and unity in the world, it is paramount that they promote first love and unity in the womb.

    This light of the sanctity of human life has been the foundation of the teachings of every divine religion and every subsequent organized version that followed it, for a time at least, obscured this teaching resulting in a decline in the spirituality of that faith. After which, reformers arose to call the believers back, not to a particular ‘label’ of religion, but to a particular divine and eternal Truth of God. That of the sanctity of human life.

    Catholicism has been so blessed with such a return to Truth (though I am old and remember when Catholics were at odds over the question and the same arguments now fluttering around the Bahais were making their way through the Catholic world).

    We should pray that the Bahai’s are soon granted the same blessing, a voice rising from their midst calling them back to the Truth of the sanctity of human life.

  31. Caroly, thank you for expressing your view; As you know, Baha’u’llah has clearly submitted to the legislation by the Universal House of Justice all matters which have not been clearly stated in His writings and this legislation is equated by Abdu’l-Baha in his will and testament as having the same value as the text itself. The present legislation (which might change in time), is that abortion is clearly discouraed but remains licit in exceptional cases, just as for the taking of human life which might prove necessary is in rare cases when the sanctity of other human lives are jeopardised by one human life. The decision as to which cases are licit is between each individual and God and left to the spiritual responsibility of individuals, assisted by adequate counselling ad medical competence. Nothing can more harm the Cause of God than individuals burdening others with guilt and detraction. As a physician I am aware of how painful these decisions can be and how important it is for onlookers to keep their own conscious and choices to themselves and to abstain from further over burdening these souls with judgemental attitudes.

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