The Bahai Faith, Quakers, and Jefferson

#1

Now I can’t pretend to know much, but I think there is something of a commonality in the three: Jefferson, the Bahai Faith and the Quakers.

In some recent reading, “The Founding Brothers”, which by the way is an excellent book describing the early relationships between the founding fathers of America, I thought Jefferson presents something of the spirit of these two religious philosophies. At one point in his thinking Jefferson held that every generation should be governed by new laws, meaning simply that every 15 to 20 years or so the law ought be revisited and rewritten to accommodate the times, especially the times of the younger generations. It was a whacky idea, but probably one not without merit. In fact, it is an idea that likely influenced America’s law by precedent so that the sage judges of any one generation could stamp their values on the times in which they lived. Also in that book, I learned of the role the Quakers played in civil rights, especially in terms of slavery and proposing the first bills to the nascent American parliament to discuss abolitionist ideas. They were widely derided because they wouldn’t take up arms against the British because of pacifist convictions but in doing so they stoked the fires of civil war. Then there are the Bahai who essentially believe every age has its prophets.

Is there not some commonality here? A thread that ought not be ignored? Do others think like this or is the crack pipe simply bubbling with gay abandon?

Anyone with the vaguest notions of American history and either religious philosophy is welcome to set me straight.

#2

Well, for one thing, the Baha’i and the Quakers are both extremely pacifist religions. I don’t know how Jefferson felt about pacifism.

#3

That’s a reasonable. He said there comes a time when you have to stand up for your rights. That doesn’t mean he didn’t see the merits of a pacifist agenda per se – if the times were right, for example, Ghandi.

#4

I only know Quakerism (and only the British variety at that). But as the topic of Quakerism and pacifism was brought up, I suggest Googling “Friends’ Ambulance Unit”. Some fascinating stories. I remember interviewing an old guy who’d been in the FAU.

#5

Thanks Joesax. I read a little about the FAU. Quite interesting.

#6

One of my favorite Quakers, RIP Rich.

#7

The Quakers emphasize the authority of conscience and the “inner light.” For many, that has meant opposition to war and capital punishment, support for immigrants and the poor, and other liberal causes. Other Quakers, however, are more conservative (think Nixon). Taiwan has a number of Quaker churches of this type.

The Baha’is (who are also present in Taiwan) teach that their founder, Baha’u’llah, inaugurated new laws and institutions which all must obey. No new prophet may appear before a thousand years have passed. It is the duty of everyone to obey every word from his pen, as interpreted by the chain of successors culminating in the Universal House of Justice, a nine-man committee headquartered in Haifa, Israel. One of those laws, for example, states that homosexuality is wrong (though the faith opposes “prejudice of every kind”). Another law forbids women from serving on the UHJ (though the faith emphasizes the equality of men and women). A number of liberals have been expelled for disagreeing with “official” stances like these. The Baha’is may superficially resemble Quakers, but a better comparison would be with Mormonism.

Jefferson was officially Episcopalian, but was personally something of a Deist. Very much an Enlightenment thinker, he saw Jesus as a great moral teacher (the “Jefferson Bible,” his summary of the gospels, omits any mention of miracles), disbelieved in hell and the Trinity, and disliked priests of all sorts. His political philosophy (e.g. on the separation of church and state) reflects this basic suspicion of institutional religion.

#8

Huh? How did their pacifism “stoke the fires of war”? Please elaborate.

#9

At the signing of the of the constitution in Philadelphia to get all 13 states to agree they had to waiver the slavery issue for 20 (or so i.e., maybe a little longer) years. It was the number one divisive issue even at the beginning of federation. That deal had been brokered by Adams. However, the congress that existed at the time couldn’t refuse giving a petition a hearing, especially one supported by Benjamin Franklin. So the slavery issue was very difficult to put to bed for 20 years and it was the Quakers initially and of course others who drove the issue. However, because they were pacifists they hadn’t fought in the revolution and consequently their patriotism was readily questioned. After, this time they continued in pushing the slavery issue right up to the war publicly through the first Anti-Slavery newspaper and surreptitiously through the underground railway etc.

#10

Definitely, but I wouldn’t say they helped to cause the war through their pacifism. As you said they weren’t alone in their anti-slavery position, not at all. Many recognized the problem, but it was basically insoluble at that point if the constitution was to be passed. The seeds of civil war were planted then to be sure, but the Quakers shouldn’t get any special part of the blame. An “unpatriotic” charge leveled against the Quakers would have been a convenient blunt object for slave-owners to wield against anti-slavery in general. Politics were pretty rough in those days, not that its all that much better now.

#11

Their anti-slavery speeches were banned and many town halls wouldn’t allow their speeches under the threat of being burned to the ground so they were quite literally stoking the fires in that sense. They eventually had to build their own halls.

#12

[quote=“Zla’od”]
The Baha’is (who are also present in Taiwan) teach that their founder, Baha’u’llah, inaugurated new laws and institutions which all must obey. No new prophet may appear before a thousand years have passed. It is the duty of everyone to obey every word from his pen, as interpreted by the chain of successors culminating in the Universal House of Justice, a nine-man committee headquartered in Haifa, Israel. One of those laws, for example, states that homosexuality is wrong (though the faith opposes “prejudice of every kind”). Another law forbids women from serving on the UHJ (though the faith emphasizes the equality of men and women). A number of liberals have been expelled for disagreeing with “official” stances like these. The Baha’is may superficially resemble Quakers, but a better comparison would be with Mormonism.
.[/quote]

There are some major differences between the Baha’is and Mormon’s, in my considerable personal experience.

First, Baha’is accept the validity of all major world religions.

Secondly, your critiques of Baha’is are the same as of many religions. There are only a few that accept homosexuality, or allow women to serve at the highest levels. This may be wrong but it’s hardly a point to use to compare the Baha’is to Mormonism.

Thirdly, the Baha’is general metaphysical beliefs are not cuckoo. There are no golden tablets or anything like that, just one God and prophet updates.

I’m not a Baha’i but I feel they are not to be so lightly compared to Mormons for these reasons.

#13

I would argue those points. There are tablets - not golden - from The Bab, and the founder of Bahai followed the teachings of The Bab, and claimed to be the Promised One that The Bab predicted would come. The Bab’s disciples essentially claimed he was god, and he claimed to be the Savior (along with Jesus). About 3 or 4 years ago I read an extensive debunking of the Bab in particular and the Baha’i faith in general, I can’t seem to find it online, it may have been in a magazine (like “Harpers”), but it included an extensive set of quotations from the boss himself about how Africans are inferior, stupid, etc - pretty nasty stuff, though admittedly par for the course for those times. I haven’t been able to find any reasonably objective sources for claims that several of the founders actually owned slaves themselves.

But I agree that beyond the generally cuckoo parts of the 3 major religions (Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism), the only extra cuckoo stuff about Baha’i is the whole spiritual thing, which isn’t as far out there as some of the claims of Mormonism. The Bab was nuts tho.

Oh and also they’re anti-homosexual though not militantly so:

So gay people are handicapped. Lovely folks those Bahai.

Quakers on the other hand get to decide these matters by regional meeting, and they have their own inclusive GLBT outreach (non-coercive, not trying to change your mind):

I may be getting OT. Sorry.

#14

The tablets are books, and they are different than the Mormon ones because they were written by a human being they way books generally are, as opposed to being written by angels and buried.

I don’t know much about the Bab. But having his followers consider him divine is surely not strange in a religion, is it? Please provide links to the article “debunking” him instead of just referring to some mysterious authoritative source. Otherwise it is anyone’s guess on the validity or interest of the source. Was it a Muslim author, who might have religious reasons for attacking the Bab? Many fundamentalist Muslims hate the Baha’is. But for that matter, the article could be right and I’d love to read it.

Yes,the Baha’is consider homosexuality to be “wrong”. I am not defending that mistaken belief, but rather said it has no bearing on the Baha’i faith being similar to Mormonism.

I’m not defending the Baha’i religion. My point was that it is not so similar to Mormonism, OK?

#15

Here’s an article that argues that Baha’is were revisionists in talking about violence and militancy of their Babi roots. No big surprise: I’m sure Jesus didn’t multiply loaves and fishes.

http://bahai-library.com/articles/babism.maceoin.html

The author’s name is Denis MacEoin. He is an ex-Baha’i considered a critic of the religion, but is also a very well-respected scholar of Islamic studies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_MacEoin

#16

[quote=“BigJohn”]The tablets are books, and they are different than the Mormon ones because they were written by a human being they way books generally are, as opposed to being written by angels and buried.

I don’t know much about the Bab. But having his followers consider him divine is surely not strange in a religion, is it? Please provide links to the article “debunking” him instead of just referring to some mysterious authoritative source. Otherwise it is anyone’s guess on the validity or interest of the source. Was it a Muslim author, who might have religious reasons for attacking the Bab? Many fundamentalist Muslims hate the Baha’is. But for that matter, the article could be right and I’d love to read it.

Yes,the Baha’is consider homosexuality to be “wrong”. I am not defending that mistaken belief, but rather said it has no bearing on the Baha’i faith being similar to Mormonism.

I’m not defending the Baha’i religion. My point was that it is not so similar to Mormonism, OK?[/quote]
As I noted, I am having a hard time finding the debunking source, maybe the search criteria isn’t easy, more likely it was in a James Randi style book or the Skeptical Inquirer. But I have no qualms about relating that I have read it and it was extensive and is the basis for my being somewhat interested in the religion: please feel free to ignore that background if it bothers you, I was not referring to it as a source, I was referring to it as the source of my interest. The anti-African stuff I wrote of finding there can be found online at the websites I cited separately.

[edit] no wait I didn’t, you’re right, let me see if I can find it, hold on. Won’t be the original Bab debunking, which was a separate piece.

Given that The Bab was basically the basis for the religion - beyond the original religions behind it - and both he and the Baha’ullah considered themselves to be saviors or mahdi’s or prophets and their words infallible, it’s important to know what they believed and said when judging whether the religion has kookiness or not. I agree that it doesn’t have some of the outward peculiarities of Mormonism, but the “tablets” being books isn’t really relevant, they’re considered tablets or books, and if the Mormons get their divinely revealed tablets or books, then they’re pretty much on the same level of kookiness. So the Baha’i’s weren’t buried. How is one religion claiming the text was written by an angel and buried so much different from another religion claiming the text was written by a divinely inspired and infallible prophet writing the word of god? It just isn’t, they’re both full of it, and on a basically equal level.

As for opposition to homosexuality and the historical belief of inferiority of black people, Mormonism and Baha’i share these tenets.

#17

[quote=“TwoTongues”]
As for opposition to homosexuality and the historical belief of inferiority of black people, Mormonism and Baha’i share these tenets.[/quote]

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, to name a few are all opposed to homosexuality, so please stop mentioning this as a similarity to Mormonism.

And equality of the races is a tenant of the Baha’i faith.

So get your facts right!

#18

Here are some:

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/TAB/tab-625.html

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAQ/saq-29.html#pg119

There are many more. I am not arguing that this was necessarily unusual in those times, only that it is racist and ignorant, hardly worthy of someone divine or with a divine connection, and similar to Mormonism, but not Quakerism.

#19

[quote=“BigJohn”][quote=“TwoTongues”]
As for opposition to homosexuality and the historical belief of inferiority of black people, Mormonism and Baha’i share these tenets.[/quote]

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, to name a few are all opposed to homosexuality, so please stop mentioning this as a similarity to Mormonism.
[/quote]
In the first quote earlier, you are claiming that there are major differences between Baha’i and Mormonism. Duh. I am presenting some very clear similarities between the two and refuting some of your claims. It’s not relevant what those other religions believe or historically believe, we’re only discussing Mormonism and Baha’i right now, by your own statement. And not all religions have to hate blacks and gays, which is why I presented the example of Quakers - also to tie it back into the topic title, since we’re getting OT.

I suggest you reread the Baha’i reference website that I cited above. Perhaps Baha’is do now consider Africans equal, that was not the case with the founders of Baha’i and its prophets. And the same could be said for Mormons - historically, there were a whole lot of racist Mormons, now the official religion definitely pushes inclusivity and equality, not arguing that.

Which facts are those again that I didn’t get right? Or is this just a throw away wise ass remark?

#20

[quote=“TwoTongues”]
In the first quote earlier, you are claiming that there are major differences between Baha’i and Mormonism. Duh. I am presenting some very clear similarities between the two and refuting some of your claims. It’s not relevant what those other religions believe or historically believe, we’re only discussing Mormonism and Baha’i right now, by your own statement. And not all religions have to hate blacks and gays, which is why I presented the example of Quakers - also to tie it back into the topic title, since we’re getting OT.[/quote]

But it does matter what other religions are like, so that we have a fair comparison and do not unduly create a false sense of similarity. Is the Baha’i Faith more similar to Mormonism than it is dissimilar? There are huge differences, which you have ignored.

Again, there were many groups in the 19th century that were racist.

Which facts are those again that I didn’t get right? Or is this just a throw away wise ass remark?[/quote]

No, your argument makes no sense.You are saying the Baha’is are racist because of Abdul Baha’s statements about Africans. But his statements are not represented by modern beliefs. Yes, Mormons also used to be racist, and now are that. But why does that make Baha’is specifically like Mormons, as Judaism and Christianity also became much less racist or non-racist over time. You are pairing Baha’is and Mormons on the basis of a general social change, not any intrinsic similarity.

Is there anything specifically similar between the B’s and the M’s? Or do they just share similarities that exist with a wide range of religions over the same time frame?