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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Baha'i, B' Who are you?

In a recent poll of religious association by state, the news was that an obscure religion was number 2 in South Carolina. Having lived in North Carolina for many years, I was surprised to find a name that I didn't recognize. The second largest religious affiliation in South Carolina is Baha'i. For most of us, this is not at all familiar and for a valid reason; it's 'messenger of god' didn't declare himself as such until 1866.

 The leader, Bahá'u'lláh, followed the unconventional teaching of a Shi'a man, Báb. These teachings led him to 3 keys beliefs, which are the basis of the religious faith of his followers today. (1) The unity of god- god is omni this and that, the creator, the force of universal consciousness, which isn't anything terribly different from most major religions. (2) The Unity of religion- all religions are from the same god and are essentially all the same once you remove cultural and time-specific regulations. (3) The unity of humanity- all are created equally and diversity is valuable. 

Surprisingly this includes gender, race, and ethnic equality. This accepting of all people equally was very controversial in the Persian & Ottoman empire, where this religion arose. Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned where he later died. So, given the relatively recent history of this religion, as well as the hostile environment in was born into, the following is relatively small with about 5 million today. 

The Baha'i seem to have followed the modern day trend in religions of adopting the current major world religions and simply adding on to them. So just as Buddhism, Mormonsim, Rastafarianism, Christianity and Islam assert that the prophets from the preceeding religions are true prophets of god and then point to their own 'prophet' as the current revelation from god.

 Geographically, it was and still is centered primarily in modern day Iran, where believers are considered apostates and heretics. There are, however, other significant pockets of Baha'i found in Europe and the Americas. This type of all-encompasing theology of everyone is correct and god is consciousness are difficult to dispute as this type of claim and most other religious claims are not falsifiable (meaning they cannot be proven wrong). Similar to the way one cannot prove that Bertrand Russell's teapot isn't orbiting the sun, or that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the creator of heavenly stripper factory complete with beer volcano.

 I suppose as long as we are still here on earth and white horses of the apocalypse haven't trod, I will be waiting to see who is next to claim messianic status.

Pictured below is `Abdu'l-Bahá', the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, in Adrianople with his brothers and companions of Bahá'u'lláh. He is third from the left in the front row.

1 comment:

  1. As a kid, I was around for the Baha'i expansion program in SC. Also did South Africa (not as successful). Here's a little something I wrote up. BTW, FSM say don't dis his beer.