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Finding a faith, strengthening faith

Sim

Registered Member
Maybe some of you remember the debates about religion I was involved in here last year. Some of you helped me a lot by finding a connection to religion, and to see different questions about it. Thank you for that!

I've continued my studies of religious texts, especially the Bible, Quran and Baha'i scriptures, and I am in the process of finding a relationship with God. I started praying and try to see life through the glasses of religion more than before. But so far, this has been something I am doing on my own, I have not joined a religious community yet (except debates on a spiritual internet forum, mostly with Baha'i).

I feel praying has impact on me already. I feel it helped me improving my life. I feel more calm now than before. After praying, I feel more focused and attentive. And I have not been drinking alcohol in two or three months, which is an improvement too, as I realized over time, because I used to overdo this a little.

There have been moments when I had no doubt God has heard my prayers, so I felt very happy and thankful. But there are other moments when doubt gets hold of me again, and I slip back into an agnostic view and reject the supernatural. The latter moments are becoming lesser, though.

I realized my mind cannot give all the answers and I just have to take a leap of faith. Theology cannot answer which religion is the right one -- Christians tell me I cannot be saved if I embrace anybody else but Jesus, while Muslims will tell me I cannot be saved if I don't accept Mohammed as the seal of the prophets. It's statement against statement, and reason cannot solve it. So I prayed God may guide me and let me know which is the right one, when reading the different scriptures.

So far, I find that the Baha'i scriptures are touching me most. More than Bible or Quran, they give me the feeling the lessons taught are really divine. I find the prayers and meditations by their founder and manifestation of God, Baha'u'llah, especially helpful.

What I feel especially touching about these lessons is that they put most emphasis on a direct relationship to God, who is one. Private prayers are an important cornerstone of Baha'ism. And they don't reject the other religions, but confirm them: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and others were all manifestations of God, so their word is as good as Baha'u'llah's, who is the latest in this line. Another basic teaching of Baha'ism is the oneness of mankind: It's God's plan to unite mankind, and we shall love all humans regardless of nationality, race or religion, and show great respect for members of all other religions. Racism, nationalism or religious bigotry are forbidden by God.

I have online contact with some very friendly Baha'i in my city, who invited me to join some of their meetings, most of which are open for everybody. I don't feel ready for that yet, but want to work on my faith a little more first. But I feel once I feel ready to join a community, it will be them.

So why am I telling you this? I am not sure, I felt like sharing this with you. And I am also looking for advice and your opinions, when it comes to developing and stregthening faith.

Has anyone of you been in a similar situation, first being an atheist or agnostic, and then deliberately taken the way to embrace faith? If yes, which do you think were the most difficult hurdles, and how did you master them?

And what did you do to stregthen your faith, when you had doubts?

Looking forward to your replies! :)
 

viLky

ykLiv
Well, first, I'm glad you're being open to different religions and not just settling on ONE particular religion without exploring and keeping an open mind about others. You're doing your research and taking it all in. Good work.

Has anyone of you been in a similar situation, first being an atheist or agnostic, and then deliberately taken the way to embrace faith
Quite the opposite for me:

o-- 0-23 - Nothing really. Didn't really think about it all that much. Was basically a "Christian" because my parents were.
o-- 23-25 - Was a Christian on my own.
o-- 26-present - Agnostic.

As for strength, I listened to pastors preach the word and that gave me a boost in belief. However, I don't know if that was necessarily because of the word, or because they were inspirational/motivational speakers. So, my strength came from man rather than anything supernatural.
 
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Wade8813

Registered Member
There have been moments when I had no doubt God has heard my prayers, so I felt very happy and thankful. But there are other moments when doubt gets hold of me again, and I slip back into an agnostic view and reject the supernatural. The latter moments are becoming lesser, though.
There's a quote from CS Lewis about this that I like

"Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods".

I'm not saying there can't be honest changes in what you believe is true, because obviously there can be. But it's important to realize that often it's just a matter of your mood shifting.

I realized my mind cannot give all the answers and I just have to take a leap of faith. Theology cannot answer which religion is the right one -- Christians tell me I cannot be saved if I embrace anybody else but Jesus, while Muslims will tell me I cannot be saved if I don't accept Mohammed as the seal of the prophets. It's statement against statement, and reason cannot solve it. So I prayed God may guide me and let me know which is the right one, when reading the different scriptures.
I agree that faith is required, but I think you're underestimating the ability of reason to help you in the process.

For instance, look at Christianity. It makes many claims that are refutable if not verifiable. For instance, many Christians claim Jesus is God. If there is anything in the Bible (or history) that casts doubt on that claim, then there is at least doubt about those denominations of Christianity. On the other hand, you also have to look at the other possibilities. One argument that seems pretty strong to me is CS Lewis' "trilemma" (Lewis's trilemma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). I'm not sure if Lewis' argument as presented may have some flaws, but I think it provides a good starting point.

Islam merely claims Mohammed was a prophet. It's much harder to disprove that, because a prophet is still human. But even then, if any of his teachings prove false, then at least by Jewish and Christian standards, he's a false prophet (which makes sense to me - if a God/Allah is working directly through a prophet, the prophet has no excuse for getting any religious teachings wrong). But also look at what Islam claims about other religions. For instance, Islam claims that Jesus was a prophet but not God. But if Jesus claimed to be God (as many Christians argue), but wasn't God, then that makes a huge problem for anyone stating that he was a prophet. A prophet who claims to be divine is a blashpemer.

So far, I find that the Baha'i scriptures are touching me most. More than Bible or Quran, they give me the feeling the lessons taught are really divine. I find the prayers and meditations by their founder and manifestation of God, Baha'u'llah, especially helpful.

What I feel especially touching about these lessons is that they put most emphasis on a direct relationship to God, who is one. Private prayers are an important cornerstone of Baha'ism. And they don't reject the other religions, but confirm them: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and others were all manifestations of God, so their word is as good as Baha'u'llah's, who is the latest in this line. Another basic teaching of Baha'ism is the oneness of mankind: It's God's plan to unite mankind, and we shall love all humans regardless of nationality, race or religion, and show great respect for members of all other religions. Racism, nationalism or religious bigotry are forbidden by God.
There are other religions that put a big emphasis on a direct relationship with God. I know I was always taught growing up that it was something most religions didn't have, but was a key facet of Christianity (and to some extent Judaism) - the view of God as Abba father, a God who was willing to come to earth and suffer and die and bleed in our place.

There may also be other religions that have a similar emphasis on relation to God, I don't know of any though.

Religions that teach love for all of mankind regardless of race/nationality/etc are pretty common.

I don't know much about Bahaism, but I still don't understand their stance on the unity of religions. Everything I've seen throughout history, and looking at the religions themselves shows the opposite - that religions have some irreconcilable differences.

That said, I KNOW that my knowledge and approach to religion is lacking, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Has anyone of you been in a similar situation, first being an atheist or agnostic, and then deliberately taken the way to embrace faith? If yes, which do you think were the most difficult hurdles, and how did you master them?

And what did you do to stregthen your faith, when you had doubts?

Looking forward to your replies! :)
I've only gone the other direction, although even from the beginning of losing my faith I've (sort of) tried to find my way back. When I lost my faith, I really struggled emotionally, because Christianity had been such a big part of my life. I sometimes worry that if I ever do go back, if the emotional aspect will again be difficult - not painful like it was before, but difficult to re-establish.
 
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Sim

Registered Member
Hi Wade,

thanks for providing me with good food for thought, just like last time we had a debate on this topic. I really appreciate that! :)

There's a quote from CS Lewis about this that I like

"Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods".

I'm not saying there can't be honest changes in what you believe is true, because obviously there can be. But it's important to realize that often it's just a matter of your mood shifting.
That's a very helpful advice. I noticed that too. When I had moments of doubt, I wondered if it had been more intellectual curiosity than a real connection with God that let me embrace spiritual practizes like prayers, and reading scriptures. Was it just a mood that let me get into it?

At first, these moments of doubt came rather often. I tell myself then that I am free to chose, I don't need to make up my mind on the spot. I should not force anything. Usually, I went back to praying again later, and I felt the connection again. The longer I have been doing it, the easier it gets to get a routine of overcoming doubt.

But I feel I have not finished this process yet, which is why I want to give it some more time, before I actually join a community. This is more truthful to God, to myself and others.

I agree that faith is required, but I think you're underestimating the ability of reason to help you in the process.

For instance, look at Christianity. It makes many claims that are refutable if not verifiable. For instance, many Christians claim Jesus is God. If there is anything in the Bible (or history) that casts doubt on that claim, then there is at least doubt about those denominations of Christianity. On the other hand, you also have to look at the other possibilities. One argument that seems pretty strong to me is CS Lewis' "trilemma" (Lewis's trilemma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). I'm not sure if Lewis' argument as presented may have some flaws, but I think it provides a good starting point.
Thank you for this interesting idea. And I like CS Lewis, I read "Mere Christianity" and found it to be a refreshing read.

My main problem with that argument is that it stands or falls with the question of the reliability of the scripture. That's a question I still have doubts about.

I don't doubt Jesus existed, but that all reports about him in the Gospels are accurate, even moreso the theological details, is not so certain. When you put the NT as a historical document under the same scrutiny you'd use to look at other historical sources, you find that much of it cannot be proven. In many cases, there is not much known about the identities of the authors of the Gospels and epistels, and at least so much is certain that Jesus didn't write them himself, but they were written decades later.

Christian dogma claims they still are divine, because the authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit. But the only support for this claim stems from these very scriptures. So in the worst case, you have to take the word of liars that they aren't liars (or, less extreme, people who erred without bad intention). So who can tell me the apostles or other members of the early church, who wrote the NT, didn't mix inspired ideas with their own, hearsay with fact, or, in the worst case, added some things to foster their own power?

So even when I embrace God, and when I believe He sends messengers of any kind -- be that prophets, manifestations or even His son --, and thus don't doubt Jesus existed, that he was an inspired religious teacher and founder of a new religion (so much is certain, I believe), I can't find the same trust in the accuracy of the NT.

From a history science viewpoint, the tradition of Quran is probably a little better already, and the documentation of Baha'u'llah, who lived only in the 19th century, leaves probably the least doubt about the source. (Which, of course, still leaves me with the problem if I accept either Mohammed or Baha'u'llah too as prophets/God's manifestation).

The Baha'i stance, in my opinion, seems to make most sense. Other Baha'i may correct me if I got it wrong, but as I understand it, the messengers of God (who include, among others, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and Baha'u'llah) are manifestations of God, not just prophets. That means God often directly speaks through them, and thus it's perfectly correct when they claim they personificate God (which does not mean they *are* God, and they don't deserve a cult like the one and only God does -- so praying to Jesus, for example, would be an illegitimate emphasis on the manifestation, rather the emphasis only belongs to God). The Baha'i analogy is that of a mirror that reflects sunlight: The manifestations of God reflect some of the light of His wisdom and power.

When you read Quran or scriptures by Baha'u'llah, you find there often is a shift of personality: One moment, the prophet speaks, the next moment, it's the direct word of God, speaking of himself in the first person. This shift of person in the scripture documents the shift of the author from his role as prophet to directly reflecting divine words, personificating a manifestation of God.

Islam merely claims Mohammed was a prophet. It's much harder to disprove that, because a prophet is still human. But even then, if any of his teachings prove false, then at least by Jewish and Christian standards, he's a false prophet (which makes sense to me - if a God/Allah is working directly through a prophet, the prophet has no excuse for getting any religious teachings wrong). But also look at what Islam claims about other religions. For instance, Islam claims that Jesus was a prophet but not God. But if Jesus claimed to be God (as many Christians argue), but wasn't God, then that makes a huge problem for anyone stating that he was a prophet. A prophet who claims to be divine is a blashpemer.
So far, the Baha'i stance about manifestation makes most sense to me. It seems to reconcile this problem, at least for me. Jesus reflected some of God's "light", much like Mohammed did. So it was absolutely accurate that he spoke of himself as door to God, or God's son.

According to Baha'u'llah, each manifestation presented a different aspect of God's "light", much like mirrors of different shape and form will yield different effects -- but that doesn't mean it's not the same sun where the light originates. That's why some manifestations appear stronger than others, some put more emphasis on certain ideas, while others prefer another focus, and why some had more power than others.

There are other religions that put a big emphasis on a direct relationship with God. I know I was always taught growing up that it was something most religions didn't have, but was a key facet of Christianity (and to some extent Judaism) - the view of God as Abba father, a God who was willing to come to earth and suffer and die and bleed in our place.

There may also be other religions that have a similar emphasis on relation to God, I don't know of any though.
Yes. Probably the idea God is not just one, but will actually come to earth to suffer, die and bleed in our place is unique to Christianity, trinity, God the son and all that.

Baha'ism, much like Judaism and Islam, does not have this benefit: The oneness of God is the most important theological cornerstone, as far as I can tell. We will never be able to comprehend God, we can only approach him by giving him beautiful names, which are always created too and thus never fully reveal his uncreated nature. (Baha'ism adopted this tradition from Islam, as Baha'ism grew out of Islam, much like Christianity grew out of Judaism).

But it's a similarity between Baha'ism and Christianity that the respective founder/manifestation suffered a lot for us, on the path of revealing God's will. The Bab, Baha'u'llah's immediate precursor, was executed. Baha'u'llah was not crucified or executed, but he and his early followers were just as harshly persecuted most of their lives by the Muslim establishment and their clerics in the 19th century Persia and Osman Empire, thousands of them were murdered. Much of Baha'u'llah's writings were revealed when he and his followers were imprisoned in a dirty and horrible prison in the Osman Empire.

I feel this had an impact on his revelation, because Baha'u'llah puts much emphasis on the value of suffering on the path of God, and unlike Islam, Baha'ism emphasizes many ideas that I recognized from Christianity and Jesus. Baha'u'llah always demanded his followers not to resist the persecution by the Muslims, not to raise the sword, but to accept fate and to place all trust in God.

Some of Baha'u'llah's writings deal with this problem of persecution by the clerics of established religions: He continues his line from Jesus, who was persecuted by the Jewish establishment, to Mohammed, who faced violent opposition by established polytheists (and rised the sword against them), to the Bab's and his revelation, which faced the same hostility by the Muslim establishment. I find the parallels, at least between Christianity and Baha'ism striking.

Religions that teach love for all of mankind regardless of race/nationality/etc are pretty common.
That's true, but most of the other monotheist religions, they all place some emphasis on an "us vs. them" mentality towards members of other religions -- or at least they are often understood and practized like that.

For many Christians, the race or nationality of another fellow Christian doesn't play a role, but he has to be Christian. This is probably even more obvious in case of Islam, as Quran even includes long passages about not getting too closely involved with infidels, and which demands holy war in case unbelievers attack the Umma.

Baha'ism is a refreshing change in these regards. Of course they put some emphasis on fostering a common identity as Baha'i, and they claim some universalism too. But in their "Holiest Book", the ultimate law book "Kitab i Aqdas", religious bigotry is strictly forbidden, Baha'i shall meet and converse with members of other religions politely and in good spirit, and only counter attacks with the power of words and arguments. Active proselytizing is discouraged, and holy war is explicitly abolished by God's word.

I don't know much about Bahaism, but I still don't understand their stance on the unity of religions. Everything I've seen throughout history, and looking at the religions themselves shows the opposite - that religions have some irreconcilable differences.

That said, I KNOW that my knowledge and approach to religion is lacking, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Again, I can only say as much as I understand of it so far, so any Baha'i who feels I am misrepresenting their stance may correct me.

One explanation for the difference between the different manifestations of God is given with the "mirror for the light" analogy above: The different mirrors who reflect God's light have a different shape, so they reflect different aspects of the same light from the same sun.

God cannot reveal all His light at once, because revealing His power and wisdom at once would be so intense that all creation would be burnt on the spot. For this reason, only small parts of His light get reflected in each revelation anew.

Another analogy are the days of the week: You call one day monday, the next tuesday. They are different days. Each of them, the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. So of course you can, colloquially, say there is a new sun on tuesday morning. But in reality, it's the same sun. In the same way, all new manifestations of God are the same.

There is the "cycle of revelations", which means God reveals himself through his manifestations in different periods of history, and in different places. The difference of the respective religions is because God will reveal temporarily the best lesson for humans in the respective historical period, and the best the respective people can understand. It all fits into a greater plan we cannot understand.

Moses' revelation was the best for the Jewish people at that time, and Jesus' revelation was an "update", which also fitted the mentality of ancient Rome best. Mohammed's revelation, on the other hand, was most appropriate for the mentality and society of Arabia in that time.

It would have been too early to reveal more of God's wisdom at that time, but if you believe Baha'u'llah, you have to believe that each religion and its often contradictory teachings were the best path for the respective historic period and the respective people which reveived it. The differences are not because God is limited, but because humans, their understanding and social life are. It's all part of God's plan, which will continuously revealed. The next revelation is expected in about 800 years.

What all of these religions -- Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zaroastrianism, Christianity and Islam -- have in common is that they prepare our soul for the next life. It's our sense of spirituality, which we can develop through humbleness, prayers, meditations and good works which we have to develop in this life, to be prepared for the next.

According to Baha'u'llah, with him a new cycle of revelations has begun. So while other religions may allow the believer to find a path to God too, his revelation is definitely most "up to date", and he also overrides and abolishes the teachings of older religions (as for example the Muslim holy war). The older teachings are no longer the best for today's world (as they once were), but his are. In this process, he confirmed some of the older teachings, but abolished others. "God shall not be asked about his doing" is an important stance -- God does as He wishes, so if He allows one thing today and forbids the same thing tomorrow, that's nothing we can question.

So Baha'u'llah at the same time confirms, but also changes the old faith, much like Jesus fulfilled, confirmed, but also changed the OT law.

I've only gone the other direction, although even from the beginning of losing my faith I've (sort of) tried to find my way back. When I lost my faith, I really struggled emotionally, because Christianity had been such a big part of my life. I sometimes worry that if I ever do go back, if the emotional aspect will again be difficult - not painful like it was before, but difficult to re-establish.
May I ask what caused you the greatest pain, and where you stand at the moment?
 
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Wade8813

Registered Member
Thank you for this interesting idea. And I like CS Lewis, I read "Mere Christianity" and found it to be a refreshing read.

My main problem with that argument is that it stands or falls with the question of the reliability of the scripture. That's a question I still have doubts about.
That is true, and the one thing for me as well - Lewis' argument assumes that Jesus really did make the statements that the Bible says he did.

That said, I think there is something to be considered in regards to his peers; assuming he really existed (which seems likely), and assuming he was really crucified (also seems likely), then what would prompt his enemies to have him killed? Was he a hardened criminal? Not likely - and even if he was, that doesn't agree with Islam or Bahai. So why would they execute him? If he only claimed to be a prophet as Islam claims, I don't think they would have executed him.

The Bahai view of Jesus (as far as I understand it) would be sufficient to warrant execution. What doesn't make sense to me is how all of his followers got his message so twisted up.

I don't doubt Jesus existed, but that all reports about him in the Gospels are accurate, even moreso the theological details, is not so certain. When you put the NT as a historical document under the same scrutiny you'd use to look at other historical sources, you find that much of it cannot be proven. In many cases, there is not much known about the identities of the authors of the Gospels and epistels, and at least so much is certain that Jesus didn't write them himself, but they were written decades later.
Yeah, that's something I struggle with a bit myself. I've heard some arguments for and against, and neither seem entirely convincing.

One of the more common arguments I've heard is that if you apply the same historical analysis to the Bible as you would to any other ancient document, the Bible has far more in its favor as far as number of manuscripts, dates of earliest manuscripts in relation to the events, etc. However, when I'm looking at most historical figures or documents, I don't really care that much if they really existed and did the things that are claimed. If Alexander the Great didn't really conquer anybody, that doesn't really matter to me. But believing the Bible is something that I shape my entire life around.

On the other hand, there's probably not enough documentation for believing almost anything 100% unless that event occurred fairly recently. In other words, to me it's evidence in favor of the Bible, but not enough to say with much authority one way or the other.

Christian dogma claims they still are divine, because the authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit. But the only support for this claim stems from these very scriptures. So in the worst case, you have to take the word of liars that they aren't liars (or, less extreme, people who erred without bad intention). So who can tell me the apostles or other members of the early church, who wrote the NT, didn't mix inspired ideas with their own, hearsay with fact, or, in the worst case, added some things to foster their own power?
Any time you're dealing with anyone, how do you determine if they're liars or not? You look at their actions, you look at how the people around them reacted, etc. As far as I can tell, the earliest Christians (before Constantine) didn't gain power - in fact persevered despite being persecuted. This isn't unique to Christianity, in fact I believe the Bahai experienced something similar. To me it says a lot about early Christians (and Christianity itself). Making up something to gain power, then suffering persecution for it just doesn't make sense.

From a history science viewpoint, the tradition of Quran is probably a little better already, and the documentation of Baha'u'llah, who lived only in the 19th century, leaves probably the least doubt about the source. (Which, of course, still leaves me with the problem if I accept either Mohammed or Baha'u'llah too as prophets/God's manifestation).
Obviously any newer religion is going to usually have more documentation - and assuming no overt corruption, won't have glaring errors. But obviously you probably shouldn't choose a religion just because it happened to be founded more recently... ;)

The Baha'i stance, in my opinion, seems to make most sense. Other Baha'i may correct me if I got it wrong, but as I understand it, the messengers of God (who include, among others, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and Baha'u'llah) are manifestations of God, not just prophets. That means God often directly speaks through them, and thus it's perfectly correct when they claim they personificate God (which does not mean they *are* God, and they don't deserve a cult like the one and only God does -- so praying to Jesus, for example, would be an illegitimate emphasis on the manifestation, rather the emphasis only belongs to God). The Baha'i analogy is that of a mirror that reflects sunlight: The manifestations of God reflect some of the light of His wisdom and power.
You've probably done more research into Bahai than I have, but I get the impression that they divide prophets up into two categories; there are the main ones, like Moses/Jesus/Mohammed/Bahaullah, and minor ones like Isaiah and Jeremiah from the OT. I'm still not clear on what status either of the groups has to each other (or to God).

It seems to me that the Bahai accept the Bible, which means that any problems you have with the Bible would also be problems to some extent with the Bahai.

So far, the Baha'i stance about manifestation makes most sense to me. It seems to reconcile this problem, at least for me. Jesus reflected some of God's "light", much like Mohammed did. So it was absolutely accurate that he spoke of himself as door to God, or God's son.
But Jesus claimed more than just that. He claimed to be the only begotten of the Father, the great I AM, the Beginning and the End. He claimed that no man could come to the Father but through him; and that there was no other name under heaven, given among men, by which you may be saved. And of course there are all the passages in the Bible warning believers against false prophets.

According to Wikipedia, the Quran states that Mohammed was supposed to be the final prophet - again, indicating that the Bahai faith is wrong. To me, it seems that the Bahai faith actually set itself up for failure. They went to far to try to appeal to too many people. If they had set themselves up as the one true religion, then some people would accept them and some would reject them. But in trying to incorporate so many other world religions, they made themselves more popular with some lay people, but incorporated what seems to me to be inherent contradictions.

Yes. Probably the idea God is not just one, but will actually come to earth to suffer, die and bleed in our place is unique to Christianity, trinity, God the son and all that.
Well, He is just one. But yeah :lol:

Baha'ism, much like Judaism and Islam, does not have this benefit: The oneness of God is the most important theological cornerstone, as far as I can tell. We will never be able to comprehend God, we can only approach him by giving him beautiful names, which are always created too and thus never fully reveal his uncreated nature. (Baha'ism adopted this tradition from Islam, as Baha'ism grew out of Islam, much like Christianity grew out of Judaism).
I think all 4 of those religions have that (or some aspect of that).

Some of Baha'u'llah's writings deal with this problem of persecution by the clerics of established religions: He continues his line from Jesus, who was persecuted by the Jewish establishment, to Mohammed, who faced violent opposition by established polytheists (and rised the sword against them), to the Bab's and his revelation, which faced the same hostility by the Muslim establishment. I find the parallels, at least between Christianity and Baha'ism striking.
I agree that there are definitely some interesting parallels, but I think in this case the parallel is more about how humans tend to react, especially with religious influence.

That's true, but most of the other monotheist religions, they all place some emphasis on an "us vs. them" mentality towards members of other religions -- or at least they are often understood and practized like that.
As I'm sure you know, it's important to differentiate between how a religion is sometimes practiced and how it's SUPPOSED to be practiced.

For many Christians, the race or nationality of another fellow Christian doesn't play a role, but he has to be Christian. This is probably even more obvious in case of Islam, as Quran even includes long passages about not getting too closely involved with infidels, and which demands holy war in case unbelievers attack the Umma.

Baha'ism is a refreshing change in these regards. Of course they put some emphasis on fostering a common identity as Baha'i, and they claim some universalism too. But in their "Holiest Book", the ultimate law book "Kitab i Aqdas", religious bigotry is strictly forbidden, Baha'i shall meet and converse with members of other religions politely and in good spirit, and only counter attacks with the power of words and arguments. Active proselytizing is discouraged, and holy war is explicitly abolished by God's word.
Christians are commanded to love their enemies, bless those that curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. That's gotta be better than being commanded not to be bigoted and to be polite.

Again, I can only say as much as I understand of it so far, so any Baha'i who feels I am misrepresenting their stance may correct me.

One explanation for the difference between the different manifestations of God is given with the "mirror for the light" analogy above: The different mirrors who reflect God's light have a different shape, so they reflect different aspects of the same light from the same sun.
But any differences should still be explainable, because they should all be reflecting the truth, even from a different angle . I'm fairly confident that there are some inherent differences between the religions. (Also, that analogy is terrible, because a mirror will either reflect the light identically to every other mirror unless it's warped. The differences in the frame don't affect the reflective capability ;))

God cannot reveal all His light at once, because revealing His power and wisdom at once would be so intense that all creation would be burnt on the spot. For this reason, only small parts of His light get reflected in each revelation anew.

Another analogy are the days of the week: You call one day monday, the next tuesday. They are different days. Each of them, the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. So of course you can, colloquially, say there is a new sun on tuesday morning. But in reality, it's the same sun. In the same way, all new manifestations of God are the same.
Sure, but what if Monday comes out and says "You know that Tuesday and Wednesday? They're gonna lie to you". And then Tuesday comes along and says "No, Monday's a liar; I'm telling the truth. But I agree that Wednesday's a liar too". And then here comes Wednesday, who says "I'm telling the truth, but so were Monday and Tuesday".

Moses' revelation was the best for the Jewish people at that time, and Jesus' revelation was an "update", which also fitted the mentality of ancient Rome best. Mohammed's revelation, on the other hand, was most appropriate for the mentality and society of Arabia in that time.

It would have been too early to reveal more of God's wisdom at that time, but if you believe Baha'u'llah, you have to believe that each religion and its often contradictionary teachings were the best path for the respective historic period and the respective people which reveived it. The differences are not because God is limited, but because humans, their understanding and social life are. It's all part of God's plan, which will continuously revealed. The next revelation is expected in about800 years.
Seems like a bad plan when not only do they unnecessarily contradict each other and lead to excessive bloodshed; the supposedly updated one is SIGNIFICANTLY less popular than the older, somewhat outdated revelations.

And where does Buddhism or Hinduism fit in? They're huge religions (or quasi-religions) that seem to be left out of Bahai's all-inclusiveness. That's not even getting into any of a thousand other religions.

What all of these religions -- Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zaroastrianism, Christianity and Islam -- have in common is that they prepare our soul for the next life. It's our sense of spirituality, which we can develop through humbleness, prayers, meditations and good works which we have to develop in this life, to be prepared for the next.

According to Baha'u'llah, with him a new cycle of revelations has begun. So while other religions may allow the believer to find a path to God too, his revelation is definitely most "up to date", and he also overrides and abolishes the teachings of older religions (as for example the Muslim holy war). The older teachings are no longer the best for today's world (as they once were), but his are. In this process, he confirmed some of the older teachings, but abolished others. "God shall not be asked about his doing" is an important stance -- God does as He wishes, so if He allows one thing today and forbids the same thing tomorrow, that's nothing we can question.

So Baha'u'llah at the same time confirms, but also changes the old faith, much like Jesus fulfilled, confirmed, but also changed the OT law.
That's the thing - the NT's relation to the OT, at least to most Christians, is actually quite different. Jesus didn't abolish the law - he fulfilled it.

It's like T-ball compared to real baseball (let me know if you don't know anything about T-ball). T-ball is great for little kids, but it's not real baseball, and adults generally won't play it because it's too easy. I'm not saying that the Jewish law is childish, but according to Christianity it was always intended to merely point towards the fulfillment Jesus brought.

Baseball doesn't say that T-ball is wrong, but "here's the real thing".

Maybe a better analogy would be John the Baptist. The entire point of his ministry was pointing towards Jesus. So when Jesus came, Jesus didn't have to change what John had preached, or correct him - it was just the natural progression that once the Messiah started His ministry, the Messiah's harbinger would be done.

Judaism has been about looking forward to the messiah to one degree or another. Jesus merely said "I'm the one you're looking for". But AFAIK Christianity and Islam don't have something to look forward to that the Baha'u'llah could fulfill. I don't see that continuity in Bahaism in relation to other religions.

May I ask what caused you the greatest pain, and where you stand at the moment?
I'm not sure, honestly. I think it was just a matter of how big it was in my life, and how much I believed it. I attended church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. I was an usher, and I worked as an Awana leader (a kids program). I've attended the same church my whole life, and am friends with a lot of the people at my church. My family are Christians. It was such a huge part of my self identity.

Now I'm pretty much where I was before. I've answered some questions, and discovered new ones.
 

Sim

Registered Member
That is true, and the one thing for me as well - Lewis' argument assumes that Jesus really did make the statements that the Bible says he did.

That said, I think there is something to be considered in regards to his peers; assuming he really existed (which seems likely), and assuming he was really crucified (also seems likely), then what would prompt his enemies to have him killed? Was he a hardened criminal? Not likely - and even if he was, that doesn't agree with Islam or Bahai. So why would they execute him? If he only claimed to be a prophet as Islam claims, I don't think they would have executed him.
A various number of reasons is possible, none of which contradict with either the Christian, or the Baha'i view. Could have been a mere question of power: The Jewish establishment felt challenged by such a successful Rabbi who quickly gained so many followers. Attempts to pull Jesus on their side failed, but he kept teaching ideas that were against the established dogmas -- that might have been enough for them to kill him, even if Jesus did not claim to be divine. Healing on Sabbath? Unclean is what comes from within, not what comes from outside? Any excuse to blame him may have been enough. Remember how the Catholic church treated alleged "heretics" for a long time, just because they did not accept certain dogmas, or later the Protestants. Maybe Jesus even had a personal beef with some of them which is not documented in the scripture.

The Bahai view of Jesus (as far as I understand it) would be sufficient to warrant execution. What doesn't make sense to me is how all of his followers got his message so twisted up.
I believe the main part of the message is accurate, just the theological details are not necessarily that accurate. That's doesn't mean his followers got it "twisted up". I think of it this way: Back then, only the fewest people could read and write, and only the fewest had the education necessary to document the events. By far most of the early Christians followed Jesus and the Apostles not because of their detailed theological framework, but because of few words they heard, because of their appearance and possibly wonders.

The determination of the theological framework was not a thing that was important for the followers, it was an elite problem of very few. They could have easily manipulated a few details, without the large number of followers noticing it, as these details only really became relevant later in history.

Any time you're dealing with anyone, how do you determine if they're liars or not? You look at their actions, you look at how the people around them reacted, etc. As far as I can tell, the earliest Christians (before Constantine) didn't gain power - in fact persevered despite being persecuted. This isn't unique to Christianity, in fact I believe the Bahai experienced something similar. To me it says a lot about early Christians (and Christianity itself). Making up something to gain power, then suffering persecution for it just doesn't make sense.
I thought about the leaders of the early, persecuted church. They too had to keep their followers together, and to maintain the trust of their followers in their leadership, even moreso under the conditions of persecution. That was a difficult task of power play for the early church leaders. How can you make sure the community stays together, even under so much pressure?

So who knows if they exaggerated a few details in the scripture, to put more emphasis on their own roles as inspired apostles and disciples with a direct mission by Jesus, to strengthen the followers' loyalty?

Obviously any newer religion is going to usually have more documentation - and assuming no overt corruption, won't have glaring errors. But obviously you probably shouldn't choose a religion just because it happened to be founded more recently... ;)
Of course not! :lol:

You've probably done more research into Bahai than I have, but I get the impression that they divide prophets up into two categories; there are the main ones, like Moses/Jesus/Mohammed/Bahaullah, and minor ones like Isaiah and Jeremiah from the OT. I'm still not clear on what status either of the groups has to each other (or to God).
Yes. There are independent and dependent prophets.

The independent prophets are only nine: Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zarathustra, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, the Bab and Baha'u'llah. Those nine are manifestations of God as explained above, and they all brought a "book" (or a set of religious rules) to their respective peoples.

The dependent prophets did not found new religions, but remained in the shade of the independent prophets and their religions. They are very faithful and righteous humans (not manifestations of God) who are inspired and have the power to inspire people, who foster the work of the independent prophets by spreading their word. In theory, any believer can reach this status. As you say, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the Shiite Imam Husein and others were such dependent prophets.

It seems to me that the Bahai accept the Bible, which means that any problems you have with the Bible would also be problems to some extent with the Bahai.
This is just my personal understanding, not an official Baha'i stance, but for me, this problem is more or less solved, because when embracing the Baha'i scripture, I don't need to care for the theological details in the NT. From a Baha'i perspective, the NT (and Quran) have a similar role as the OT has for Christians. I view it through the lens of Baha'u'llah's revelation. That didn't require me to go too deep into the theological details of Christianity so far.

But I believe the general reports about Jesus are as accurate, as reports written decades later can be. I have more doubts about the theological stances of the apostles and early church authorities.

But Jesus claimed more than just that. He claimed to be the only begotten of the Father, the great I AM, the Beginning and the End. He claimed that no man could come to the Father but through him; and that there was no other name under heaven, given among men, by which you may be saved.
And Baha'u'llah explained why this is absolutely correct. I hope I remember it correctly when I explain it like this: Of course Jesus was the only way, much like Mohammed was the "seal of the prophets" (the one line in Quran Muslims use to condemn Baha'ism). For one, each of them was the only way to God in their respective historical period. And also, all of these manifestations of God are the same (much like the sun that rises every morning again is always the same sun).

Both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus will return in the end times. Baha'u'llah claims to have fulfilled this promise with his revelation: He is Jesus, much like Moses and Mohammed were Jesus too (all manifestations are one). Of course he is not the very same person, but the role he plays is that of Jesus. The analogy is that of a lamp: When you light the lamp, its oil is burning. When you light it another day, it will not be the same oil that burns, and technically, the flame is a new one -- but you still say it's the same lamp and the same light.

With Baha'u'llah's revelation, the end time has come and a new chapter for mankind has started, a new cycle. Baha'u'llah explains this in detail in the "Kitab-i Iqan", if you are interested, you find more there -- at any rate, he claims that Christians who interpret the end time prophecies and the Coming of Christ too literally are missing the point, much like the Jews who condemned Jesus, refusing to believe he matches the OT prophecies of the Messiah. He also explains how the NT prophecies match his revelation and the fate of his fellowship. The Baha'i faith raised the dead to new life, and the prophesized events will unfold with time, as Baha'ism will slowly spread, and Baha'i faith will play an important role then. I remember that when I read it, I found Baha'u'llah makes a pretty good case for this interpretation.

And of course there are all the passages in the Bible warning believers against false prophets.
I understand that for you, as you are rooted in Christianity, such words as those above must appear like real blasphemy for you. :)

And it's not I don't take the warnings of false prophets into account. But it's word against word, statement against statement, and I believe Baha'u'llah makes a really good case. I can only pray and trust in God He will guide me, and let me know what's right. So far, I feel I am on the right track.

And the first thing that comes to my mind when it's about false prophets, it's the Catholic Church and the Pope's claim to be God's representant on earth. The corruption and perversion of faith, the abuse of power that has taken place in God's name by the Catholic clerics over the centuries is astonishing. If this warning applies to anyone, it must be certain Popes and church officials, IMHO.

According to Wikipedia, the Quran states that Mohammed was supposed to be the final prophet - again, indicating that the Bahai faith is wrong. To me, it seems that the Bahai faith actually set itself up for failure. They went to far to try to appeal to too many people. If they had set themselves up as the one true religion, then some people would accept them and some would reject them. But in trying to incorporate so many other world religions, they made themselves more popular with some lay people, but incorporated what seems to me to be inherent contradictions.
I tried to explain that above, and of course, I am not trying to convince you. But it works for me.

Also, you have to take into account that Baha'ism didn't came out of nothing, but was based on a tradition of Shiite Islam messianistic prophecies. In the 9th century, there was the 12th Imam Mohammed ibn Hasan al-Mahdi, who disappeared and is believed to be hidden, until he returns in the end times, paving the way for Jesus' return.

In the early 19th century, the Bab in Iran claimed to be this 12th Imam having returned, many believed him and he revealed the Bayan, the new religion of Babism. But according to the Bab, very soon, "an even greater one" will arrive and fulfil the prophecies, one who is among the Babists already -- Baha'u'llah then took this place, after the Bab had been executed in 1850, and most of the Babists recognized Baha'u'llah as the predicted "greater one". Baha'u'llah officially claimed this position in the 1860s, and Baha'ism came into existence.

So in the eyes of Baha'i, the prophecy has been fulfilled: The 12th Imam and the new coming of Jesus fell together, with the Bab and Baha'u'llah. The Bab confirmed the expectations of the hidden Imam. And with Baha'u'llah's revelation of Baha'ism, the end time has come, the dead have been risen to new life (those who embrace new life with Baha'ism), and a new cycle for mankind has begun.

Well, He is just one. But yeah :lol:

I think all 4 of those religions have that (or some aspect of that).
Yes, which makes perfect sense according to Baha'ism, because all these religions praise the same God. :)

Muslims and Baha'i just have an issue with trinity, as they believe praying to Jesus is not ok, because that honor only deserves the one and only God.

I agree that there are definitely some interesting parallels, but I think in this case the parallel is more about how humans tend to react, especially with religious influence.
But the same questions you asked about Christianity apply here too: Why would humans suffer so much for a lie? Did they err and suffer in vein?

As I'm sure you know, it's important to differentiate between how a religion is sometimes practiced and how it's SUPPOSED to be practiced.

Christians are commanded to love their enemies, bless those that curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. That's gotta be better than being commanded not to be bigoted and to be polite.
Definitely. According to Baha'ism (again, I hope I am explaining it correctly), each religion starting with a new manifestation of God has a cycle of life too, until the new arrives: At first it's spring, which means the religion is powerful and inspiring, but still threatened by late freeze (persecution, opposition by opponents and so on, like the early Christianity), then it reaches summer, when it spreads with power and is in full blossom (like Christianity when it was spread over much of the planet), but then fall comes, a season when the once inspiring religion petrifies into solid rituals with only few inspiring qualities, when most people rather value its tradition than its spirit. Finally, in winter, the religion loses traction, many followers turn away from it and it becomes an empty shell for many.

My guess is that Christianity has already reached the point somewhere between fall and winter, with elements of both. Really inspired Christians have become very few, most either cling to rituals and tradition, or they have long ago turned away from faith. Islam has probably been somewhere in the fall for a while, but not reached its winter yet.

Baha'ism, on the other hand, is still in its spring. It's by far not dominant yet, and very much threatened and persecuted (at least in the Muslim world). But its believers are very inspired. It's not even 150 years old. Think where Christianity stood 150 years after Jesus.

But any differences should still be explainable, because they should all be reflecting the truth, even from a different angle . I'm fairly confident that there are some inherent differences between the religions. (Also, that analogy is terrible, because a mirror will either reflect the light identically to every other mirror unless it's warped. The differences in the frame don't affect the reflective capability ;))
I beg to differ! :p
Think of a large vs. a small mirror: One can ultimately reflect more light than the other, and if it's large enough and has the right shape, it can even bundle the light and burn things. You won't achieve that with a small hand mirror.

And think of the wonderful light games architects can make of mirrors or pieces of glass in buildings. Like in church buildings: There are many different ways an architect can use to create wonderful, different light effects (and even glass pieces reflect some light, thus are technically mirrors too).

But you are right, it's a mystery why God would reveal such different, often contradictory religions if there is just one plan. But to the same extent, some rules within each religion are just as mysterios: Why are Jews and Muslims not supposed to eat pork? Why shall Christian give the king what belongs to the king? Why shall Christians not divorce?

It's mysterious, and as a believer, you just have to place trust in God that these rules are the best for mankind. As Baha'i, you have to believe the contradictions between the different religions are just as much a part of God's plan we cannot comprehend. Christianity was the right religion in its period of time and place of the world, so was Islam, or Buddhism. Only God can see the greater picture.

Personally, I explain it for myself like that: Seemingly very small events in one place of the world have huge impact on other events, maybe even on the other side of the planet. Think of chaos theory, and the butterfly in America that can influence the weather in Africa. Or weather predictions: We have a small grasp on how events are related, but this knowledge hardly allows us to predict the weather in two days. There are just way too many factors involved for us to master an appropriate calculation. (The movie "Babel" is based on that premise, in case you've seen it.)

If we knew all factors involved, and had a large enough computer, maybe we could accurately predict the future in 10 years. But this myriad of factors is way too numerous for us to ever do that. But God knows all that, He can. God even knows eternity. So of course His plan makes sense, even if there is no way we can ever understand that. You just have to trust God.

The same question is touched by the dilemma how a merciful God can allow the suffering and death of innocent people on this planet. I like to believe that this is because this innocent suffering is necessary for the greater plan, and even if we cannot know that, it will lead to good, to fulfilment in the future. I don't believe it's punishment, just a necessity. And those who die innocently will be rewarded for their sacrifice in the next life. But that's just my personal opinion.

Sure, but what if Monday comes out and says "You know that Tuesday and Wednesday? They're gonna lie to you". And then Tuesday comes along and says "No, Monday's a liar; I'm telling the truth. But I agree that Wednesday's a liar too". And then here comes Wednesday, who says "I'm telling the truth, but so were Monday and Tuesday".
If you believe Baha'u'llah, that is the result of fallible human interpretation of the respective scriptures, not the actual meaning of the scriptures. He makes a case explaining how both Bible and Quran actually pointed to the later revelations. For example, the quote in John's Gospel, when Jesus said he will send help for mankind to spread his word. Christian dogma claims that's just the Holy Spirit, but in the three translations I've read, it seems to me that it could very well be a person. Add to that the uncertainty about the documentation we debated above.

Seems like a bad plan when not only do they unnecessarily contradict each other and lead to excessive bloodshed; the supposedly updated one is SIGNIFICANTLY less popular than the older, somewhat outdated revelations.
As I said, it's a leap of faith to accept that the mutual exclusivity of certain religions makes sense in God's greater plan. Maybe the wars between Christianity and Islam had a certain purpose, one which will only become obvious much later in history? Maybe this period of enmity is necessary for humans to realize their true qualities -- we must hate each other, before we can truly love each other?

And give Baha'ism some time. It's not even 150 years old. :lick: Remember how "unsuccessful" Christianity still was, 150 years after Jesus, and where it stands now.

IIRC, Baha'u'llah remains vague about that (probably not to scare people), but there are statements that suggest one giant, world-wide disaster will have to take place, before Baha'ism really becomes popular. We'll see.

And where does Buddhism or Hinduism fit in? They're huge religions (or quasi-religions) that seem to be left out of Bahai's all-inclusiveness. That's not even getting into any of a thousand other religions.
They fit in too, since Krishna and Buddha were manifestations of God too. Obviously, they are very different from the monotheistic religions, Buddhism doesn't even know God.

But (and again, Baha'i may correct me if I got it wrong) they all have in common that they teach their believers spirituality. Our life on earth is just as different from the next life, as the life of a fetus in the womb is different from the life of a newborn. The fetus does not comprehend the outside world, but is still part of it, subject to its influences and sometimes even reacts on it (like when the mother touches her belly). Our relation on this world to the next is similar. In order to be prepared for this next life, we should do our best to develop qualities we will need then: Most important, a sense of spirituality. This can be achieved by meditation, prayers, love for God, general humbleness in front of the creation and/or God.

This spirituality in itself, the inner quality and feelings of humans who practize it, is more important than the respective rules and teachings (which doesn't mean that respecting the rules of your respective religion is not a way to foster a sense of spirituality, on the contrary). But the rules are not an end in themselves, they are only a vehicle to achieve a sense of spirituality, a connection to God (which you also achieve when meditating without believing in God, like Buddhists do).

That's the thing - the NT's relation to the OT, at least to most Christians, is actually quite different. Jesus didn't abolish the law - he fulfilled it.
Yes. The explanation for Baha'u'llah's revelation is similar: He too confirmed the previous revelations.

But some rules were changed. Jesus, for example, said not being clean comes from the inside, so Christians are no longer bound to the OT rules about food. So he changed a rule. He also changed the rules about Sabbath, or about divorce. And Christians no longer feel the need to stone women to death who have been raped, as Levitikus demands, because Jesus' teachings about "not throwing the first stone" override the old law.

So Jesus at the same time fulfilled, but also changed the law. Baha'u'llah does a similar thing with the older religions.

It's like T-ball compared to real baseball (let me know if you don't know anything about T-ball). T-ball is great for little kids, but it's not real baseball, and adults generally won't play it because it's too easy. I'm not saying that the Jewish law is childish, but according to Christianity it was always intended to merely point towards the fulfillment Jesus brought.

Baseball doesn't say that T-ball is wrong, but "here's the real thing".
Baha'u'llah has a similar stance: Each new revelation comes to mankind, when mankind has reached a different stage of development. When Jesus came, mankind was mature enough for his teachings, and the older, stricter rules, which had been appropriate before, were no longer necessary. The same way, mankind was even more mature when Baha'ism came, which is why Baha'ism leaves more responsibility to the believers than the laws of older religions do.

My personal interpretation of this is the analogy of a child: When the child is too young to understand it, you will more often resort just to forbidding this or that as a parent, as a practical necessity. You can try, but the child would not yet understand complex explanations. But the more mature the child gets, the more you will resort to explaining things, trusting his own responsibility, and give more leeway.

Maybe a better analogy would be John the Baptist. The entire point of his ministry was pointing towards Jesus. So when Jesus came, Jesus didn't have to change what John had preached, or correct him - it was just the natural progression that once the Messiah started His ministry, the Messiah's harbinger would be done.
As I explained above, the same way the Bab fulfilled the promise of the return of the 12th Imam, and then, the focus of the Bab's teachings was to pave the way for Baha'u'llah and Baha'ism, much like John pointed to Jesus.

Judaism has been about looking forward to the messiah to one degree or another. Jesus merely said "I'm the one you're looking for". But AFAIK Christianity and Islam don't have something to look forward to that the Baha'u'llah could fulfill. I don't see that continuity in Bahaism in relation to other religions.
But a Jew will claim the same about Christianity. I've seen long explanations by Jews who cite the OT to prove why Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah. Some things the Messiah is supposed to do were not achieved by Jesus -- or at least not literally, Christians have found a way to interpret the according scripture in a way that matches Jesus, or they say it yet has to happen once Jesus returns.

In a similar way, Baha'u'llah explains how both NT and Quran pointed to his revelation and why many Christians and Muslims have it the wrong way, because they cling to a too literal interpretation -- just like Jews cling to a too literal interpretation of the OT when they explain why Jesus was not the Messiah.

I'm not sure, honestly. I think it was just a matter of how big it was in my life, and how much I believed it. I attended church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. I was an usher, and I worked as an Awana leader (a kids program). I've attended the same church my whole life, and am friends with a lot of the people at my church. My family are Christians. It was such a huge part of my self identity.

Now I'm pretty much where I was before. I've answered some questions, and discovered new ones.
What caused you to leave your community? Was it doubt slowly taking hold of you, or was there are particular eye-opening event? Do you think you are more skeptic about the faith itself, or more about the way your community practized it?

At any rate, I want to express all my best wishes for you, and I hope you find a happy, peaceful life, be that with or without faith. :)

And thanks again for the great debate!
 
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Wade8813

Registered Member
A various number of reasons is possible, none of which contradict with either the Christian, or the Baha'i view. Could have been a mere question of power: The Jewish establishment felt challenged by such a successful Rabbi who quickly gained so many followers. Attempts to pull Jesus on their side failed, but he kept teaching ideas that were against the established dogmas -- that might have been enough for them to kill him, even if Jesus did not claim to be divine. Healing on Sabbath? Unclean is what comes from within, not what comes from outside? Any excuse to blame him may have been enough. Remember how the Catholic church treated alleged "heretics" for a long time, just because they did not accept certain dogmas, or later the Protestants. Maybe Jesus even had a personal beef with some of them which is not documented in the scripture.
That is possible (although any view that states Jesus wasn't God obviously contradicts many Christian's beliefs).

I believe the main part of the message is accurate, just the theological details are not necessarily that accurate. That's doesn't mean his followers got it "twisted up". I think of it this way: Back then, only the fewest people could read and write, and only the fewest had the education necessary to document the events. By far most of the early Christians followed Jesus and the Apostles not because of their detailed theological framework, but because of few words they heard, because of their appearance and possibly wonders.
Well, if the Bahai are right, then it seems to me like the early Christians certainly got things pretty twisted up.

I thought about the leaders of the early, persecuted church. They too had to keep their followers together, and to maintain the trust of their followers in their leadership, even moreso under the conditions of persecution. That was a difficult task of power play for the early church leaders. How can you make sure the community stays together, even under so much pressure?

So who knows if they exaggerated a few details in the scripture, to put more emphasis on their own roles as inspired apostles and disciples with a direct mission by Jesus, to strengthen the followers' loyalty?
While at the same time, including Jesus' emphasis on humility and how the last shall be first, and...

This is just my personal understanding, not an official Baha'i stance, but for me, this problem is more or less solved, because when embracing the Baha'i scripture, I don't need to care for the theological details in the NT. From a Baha'i perspective, the NT (and Quran) have a similar role as the OT has for Christians. I view it through the lens of Baha'u'llah's revelation. That didn't require me to go too deep into the theological details of Christianity so far.

But I believe the general reports about Jesus are as accurate, as reports written decades later can be. I have more doubts about the theological stances of the apostles and early church authorities.
Except if one of the things you're uncertain of is the deity of Christ, that isn't a theological detail. It's THE core of EVERYTHING.


And Baha'u'llah explained why this is absolutely correct. I hope I remember it correctly when I explain it like this: Of course Jesus was the only way, much like Mohammed was the "seal of the prophets" (the one line in Quran Muslims use to condemn Baha'ism). For one, each of them was the only way to God in their respective historical period. And also, all of these manifestations of God are the same (much like the sun that rises every morning again is always the same sun).
When Jesus said "Before Abraham was, I AM", that carried a TON of meaning behind it. Not only was that a statement only God Himself made, it was a statement only God could make, because it is saying that Jesus pre-existed Abraham (in other words, is eternal). The same is true when Jesus was referred to as the Beginning and the End.

Both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus will return in the end times. Baha'u'llah claims to have fulfilled this promise with his revelation: He is Jesus, much like Moses and Mohammed were Jesus too (all manifestations are one). Of course he is not the very same person, but the role he plays is that of Jesus. The analogy is that of a lamp: When you light the lamp, its oil is burning. When you light it another day, it will not be the same oil that burns, and technically, the flame is a new one -- but you still say it's the same lamp and the same light.
That doesn't work. For one thing, I don't think it can be the end times if it's already been a couple hundred years since Bahaullah, and according to you there's going to be at least 800 more years.

On top of that, there were a lot of things about Jesus second coming that haven't happened any time in the last couple millenia. Jesus is supposed to "descend from heaven with a shout, with a trumpet, and the voice of an archangel; and the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are remaining shall meet up together with them in the air."

With Baha'u'llah's revelation, the end time has come and a new chapter for mankind has started, a new cycle. Baha'u'llah explains this in detail in the "Kitab-i Iqan", if you are interested, you find more there -- at any rate, he claims that Christians who interpret the end time prophecies and the Coming of Christ too literally are missing the point, much like the Jews who condemned Jesus, refusing to believe he matches the OT prophecies of the Messiah. He also explains how the NT prophecies match his revelation and the fate of his fellowship. The Baha'i faith raised the dead to new life, and the prophesized events will unfold with time, as Baha'ism will slowly spread, and Baha'i faith will play an important role then. I remember that when I read it, I found Baha'u'llah makes a pretty good case for this interpretation.
I think you're really overestimating how convincing those arguments are. It's not your fault, but because you're so new to so much of Christianity, it seems more reasonable to you. I'm fairly confident that not only did Baha'u'llah only address a handful of the prophecies, his arguments for the most part only hold up if someone isn't particularly knowledgeable about the Bible (realizing that I'm only semi-knowledgeable about it)

I understand that for you, as you are rooted in Christianity, such words as those above must appear like real blasphemy for you. :)

And it's not I don't take the warnings of false prophets into account. But it's word against word, statement against statement, and I believe Baha'u'llah makes a really good case. I can only pray and trust in God He will guide me, and let me know what's right. So far, I feel I am on the right track.

And the first thing that comes to my mind when it's about false prophets, it's the Catholic Church and the Pope's claim to be God's representant on earth. The corruption and perversion of faith, the abuse of power that has taken place in God's name by the Catholic clerics over the centuries is astonishing. If this warning applies to anyone, it must be certain Popes and church officials, IMHO.
Eh, blasphemy hasn't ever really bothered me that much except when it comes from people who claim to be Christians. Anyone else, I kinda expect it.

The thing is, if the Bible says in Matthew 7
13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

But the Baha'u'llah says "No, don't worry. The Bible's wrong. Most of the world religions are all correct", and also says "The Bible is right". You can't have it both ways.

I tried to explain that above, and of course, I am not trying to convince you. But it works for me.
Sometimes I get the impression that you WANT Bahai to make sense - regardless of whether it does or not. If it actually makes the most sense, then I encourage you to embrace it (in fact, I hope you would show me the things that make more sense to you, so I can learn more).

Muslims and Baha'i just have an issue with trinity, as they believe praying to Jesus is not ok, because that honor only deserves the one and only God.
Bible verses seem to disagree with that.

But the same questions you asked about Christianity apply here too: Why would humans suffer so much for a lie? Did they err and suffer in vein?
Probably. I wasn't raising that argument here - my point was that the only parallel is that humans do nasty stuff to each other often because of religion. The other parallels you were talking about don't stand out to me.

Definitely. According to Baha'ism (again, I hope I am explaining it correctly), each religion starting with a new manifestation of God has a cycle of life too, until the new arrives: At first it's spring, which means the religion is powerful and inspiring, but still threatened by late freeze (persecution, opposition by opponents and so on, like the early Christianity), then it reaches summer, when it spreads with power and is in full blossom (like Christianity when it was spread over much of the planet), but then fall comes, a season when the once inspiring religion petrifies into solid rituals with only few inspiring qualities, when most people rather value its tradition than its spirit. Finally, in winter, the religion loses traction, many followers turn away from it and it becomes an empty shell for many.
On the contrary - Christianity seems to have thrived BECAUSE of the persecution.

My guess is that Christianity has already reached the point somewhere between fall and winter, with elements of both. Really inspired Christians have become very few, most either cling to rituals and tradition, or they have long ago turned away from faith. Islam has probably been somewhere in the fall for a while, but not reached its winter yet.

Baha'ism, on the other hand, is still in its spring. It's by far not dominant yet, and very much threatened and persecuted (at least in the Muslim world). But its believers are very inspired. It's not even 150 years old. Think where Christianity stood 150 years after Jesus.
Christianity has had issues with rituals for the last several centuries. It's come and gone, and is currently not as bad as it used to be.

Also, while it's true that percentage-wise, there are few strong Christians (see the verse I mentioned earlier about the gate being narrow and there being few who find it), you have to remember that even if only 1 in a 100 Christians are strong Christians, that's still about 3 times as many strong Christians as there are total Bahai.

And it's obvious that when the Conquistadors tried to force Christianity on so many countries it would result in a lot of semi-Christians.

I beg to differ! :p
Think of a large vs. a small mirror: One can ultimately reflect more light than the other, and if it's large enough and has the right shape, it can even bundle the light and burn things. You won't achieve that with a small hand mirror.
One will show more than the other, but the large mirror will never reflect something that the small mirror can't reflect even a part of. If both are pointed at the same light, you won't have one reflecting only purple light and the other reflecting only yellow light.

And think of the wonderful light games architects can make of mirrors or pieces of glass in buildings. Like in church buildings: There are many different ways an architect can use to create wonderful, different light effects (and even glass pieces reflect some light, thus are technically mirrors too).
Pretty sure those don't count as mirrors in the sense that you're using them.

But you are right, it's a mystery why God would reveal such different, often contradictory religions if there is just one plan. But to the same extent, some rules within each religion are just as mysterios: Why are Jews and Muslims not supposed to eat pork? Why shall Christian give the king what belongs to the king? Why shall Christians not divorce?
Why not eat pork? Probably health reasons. Why give to the king what is the king's? Probably because it's his. Why not divorce? Because it's often emotionally devastating, it destroys the symbolism that God created, and any of a thousand other reasons.

Not so mysterious.

It's mysterious, and as a believer, you just have to place trust in God that these rules are the best for mankind. As Baha'i, you have to believe the contradictions between the different religions are just as much a part of God's plan we cannot comprehend. Christianity was the right religion in its period of time and place of the world, so was Islam, or Buddhism. Only God can see the greater picture.
There are different levels of things that don't make sense.

For instance, even if I didn't understand why Jews couldn't eat pork, it would be a curiosity and nothing more. These conflicts that are inherent in Bahai seem to be logical contradictions.

Buddhists often doesn't even HAVE a God. And why does Hinduism always seem to be left out? Is it just because they have a whole plethora of gods?

Personally, I explain it for myself like that: Seemingly very small events in one place of the world have huge impact on other events, maybe even on the other side of the planet. Think of chaos theory, and the butterfly in America that can influence the weather in Africa. Or weather predictions: We have a small grasp on how events are related, but this knowledge hardly allows us to predict the weather in two days. There are just way too many factors involved for us to master an appropriate calculation. (The movie "Babel" is based on that premise, in case you've seen it.)

If we knew all factors involved, and had a large enough computer, maybe we could accurately predict the future in 10 years. But this myriad of factors is way too numerous for us to ever do that. But God knows all that, He can. God even knows eternity. So of course His plan makes sense, even if there is no way we can ever understand that. You just have to trust God.
Sure, but on the other hand if you look back at history (something we can do), we see that these conflicting messages in different faiths have almost certainly reduced the number of Bahai adherents, and have led to probably millions of deaths (not to mention all of the torture, imprisonment, etc).

The same question is touched by the dilemma how a merciful God can allow the suffering and death of innocent people on this planet. I like to believe that this is because this innocent suffering is necessary for the greater plan, and even if we cannot know that, it will lead to good, to fulfilment in the future. I don't believe it's punishment, just a necessity. And those who die innocently will be rewarded for their sacrifice in the next life. But that's just my personal opinion.
That is a reasonable analogy. That said, I know for a fact that there are plausible reasons for allowing the suffering (whether or not they're sufficient reasons is another issue). I can't think of any such reasons for the conflicts between the religious teaching. Which isn't to say they don't exist, but that I'd have to hear at least minimal explanations before I write it off.

If you believe Baha'u'llah, that is the result of fallible human interpretation of the respective scriptures, not the actual meaning of the scriptures. He makes a case explaining how both Bible and Quran actually pointed to the later revelations. For example, the quote in John's Gospel, when Jesus said he will send help for mankind to spread his word. Christian dogma claims that's just the Holy Spirit, but in the three translations I've read, it seems to me that it could very well be a person. Add to that the uncertainty about the documentation we debated above.
The thing is, in order for the Baha'u'llah's argument to work, he has to be able to counter all of the verses that work against him. The fact that he found a couple that could theoretically be pointing to some human (who may or may not be him) is almost irrelevant.

When the verses talk about "a helper that will come", that isn't an argument against Baha'u'llah. And the fact that he shows that it could conceivably be talking about him doesn't counter any of the arguments against him, and doesn't establish any evidence for him. His interpretation just allows some human to be the one being talked about. For all we know, the Bible could be talking about me. Maybe I'm the one that was sent to be a helper.

As I said, it's a leap of faith to accept that the mutual exclusivity of certain religions makes sense in God's greater plan. Maybe the wars between Christianity and Islam had a certain purpose, one which will only become obvious much later in history? Maybe this period of enmity is necessary for humans to realize their true qualities -- we must hate each other, before we can truly love each other?
Don't get me wrong - I agree that faith is vital. But IMO, at some point you have to take a step back and consider just how much is too much? That's why I left Christianity. I felt there were just too many things where I had to say "I don't know, but God is infinitely wise". Maybe I just didn't have a strong enough faith, but it seems to me that at some point you have to be willing to say enough is enough.

And give Baha'ism some time. It's not even 150 years old. :lick: Remember how "unsuccessful" Christianity still was, 150 years after Jesus, and where it stands now.
Well, I'm not exactly going to be around another 100 years from now... :lol:

Also, I think you're mistaken about how "unsuccessful" Christianity was. Considering that there were no phones, cars, planes, or motor boats - Christianity seemed pretty adept at spreading across countries within a very short time.

They fit in too, since Krishna and Buddha were manifestations of God too. Obviously, they are very different from the monotheistic religions, Buddhism doesn't even know God.
Oh, okay. I keep seeing these lists of religious founders who are supposedly tied to Bahaism, and Hinduism seemed conspicuously absent.

Yes. The explanation for Baha'u'llah's revelation is similar: He too confirmed the previous revelations.

But some rules were changed. Jesus, for example, said not being clean comes from the inside, so Christians are no longer bound to the OT rules about food. So he changed a rule. He also changed the rules about Sabbath, or about divorce. And Christians no longer feel the need to stone women to death who have been raped, as Levitikus demands, because Jesus' teachings about "not throwing the first stone" override the old law.

So Jesus at the same time fulfilled, but also changed the law. Baha'u'llah does a similar thing with the older religions.

Baha'u'llah has a similar stance: Each new revelation comes to mankind, when mankind has reached a different stage of development. When Jesus came, mankind was mature enough for his teachings, and the older, stricter rules, which had been appropriate before, were no longer necessary. The same way, mankind was even more mature when Baha'ism came, which is why Baha'ism leaves more responsibility to the believers than the laws of older religions do.
Just for the record, the rules against unclean food weren't explicitly overridden until after Jesus had returned to heaven. Also, I'm pretty sure the rules about divorce pretty much staid the same. And women weren't stoned for being raped; both parties were supposed to be stoned for being caught committing adultery - and Jesus intervened in part because the law was being misapplied; there's no way the woman was caught having an affair by herself.

The rules on unclean food and about the Sabbath were both being far too heavily emphasized by the religious leaders. In addition, the very act of changing the rules about the cleanliness of food served a specific purpose. Originally, one of the main reasons for the cleanliness laws was to set the Jews apart from the pagan nations around them. But Jesus came for the whole world, and removing those laws was symbolic of how Jesus came to save both Jew and Gentile. Not only had the law before served its purpose, the very act of changing the law had a purpose.

Jesus got rid of two minor rules that had served their purpose. Baha'u'llah claims that the core doctrine of many major religions is wrong. That's not even comparable.

Also, I really doubt that people are more mature now than they used to be.

My personal interpretation of this is the analogy of a child: When the child is too young to understand it, you will more often resort just to forbidding this or that as a parent, as a practical necessity. You can try, but the child would not yet understand complex explanations. But the more mature the child gets, the more you will resort to explaining things, trusting his own responsibility, and give more leeway.
But we're not just talking about simplistic rules that the Baha'u'llah elaborated on. We're talking about core doctrinal statements that get thrown out the window with no explanation other than "Trust me".

As I explained above, the same way the Bab fulfilled the promise of the return of the 12th Imam, and then, the focus of the Bab's teachings was to pave the way for Baha'u'llah and Baha'ism, much like John pointed to Jesus.
Sure, there MAY have been some Imam who pointed toward Baha'u'llah, but that's different than all of the OT theoretically pointing to Jesus, and John the Baptist specifically saying "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

But a Jew will claim the same about Christianity. I've seen long explanations by Jews who cite the OT to prove why Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah. Some things the Messiah is supposed to do were not achieved by Jesus -- or at least not literally, Christians have found a way to interpret the according scripture in a way that matches Jesus, or they say it yet has to happen once Jesus returns.
I've seen some claims by Jews, although at least some of them demonstrate a lack of understanding about Jesus. But I think a strong argument could be made that Jesus at least reasonably could fulfill all of the requirements.

But that's not true with the Baha'u'llah. He takes everything about Christianity (and Islam, and Hinduism, and Buddhism) and flips it on it's ear. And after an admittedly quick Google search, the number of prophecies fulfilled is completely unimpressive (and the number unfulfilled seems rather ominous).

In a similar way, Baha'u'llah explains how both NT and Quran pointed to his revelation and why many Christians and Muslims have it the wrong way, because they cling to a too literal interpretation -- just like Jews cling to a too literal interpretation of the OT when they explain why Jesus was not the Messiah.
The Baha'u'llah seems to conveniently ignore certain details. And I've never heard it argued that the Jews cling to a too literal interpretation.

What caused you to leave your community? Was it doubt slowly taking hold of you, or was there are particular eye-opening event? Do you think you are more skeptic about the faith itself, or more about the way your community practized it?
It was a slow thing. It was the faith itself; if it was specific to my community, I would have just found another one easily enough. In fact, if anything, many things about the community were what made it harder to leave.
 

Starfire86

Registered Member
I haven't heard of the Bahai Faith, so I looked it up online. It seems very reasonable, which I like, but I'm unsure what it means when it says that god is inaccessible directly, because you say that the teachings emphasize a personal relationship with god. I agree that humans don't have the capacity to fully comprehend god, but I don't think that's a reason not to have a direct connection. I like how it promotes individual spiritual practice as a cornerstone for everyday life. It reminds me of my own shamanic practices, especially those concerning the use of a mesa, which you might find interest in. I would suggest researching the use of mesas, or you can PM me about them if you like.

You say you're trying to see life through the glasses of religion more, yet your practices have been more personal than anything, and I congratulate you on that. You are correct in saying that religion can't provide all the answers, because each religion has different rules you have to follow in order to...what, be saved? Win at life? Haha. In my opinion, you are at least heading in the right direction, which is the direction of questions, thoughts, reflection, etc.

I forget a lot of what I was going to say in this thread, so I'll leave you with a shamanic prayer:

God is the Earth, the Earth is sacred.
The Earth is my body, my body is sacred.

God is the Air, the Air is sacred.
The Air is my breath, my breath is sacred.

God is the Water, the Water is sacred.
The Water is my blood, my blood is sacred.

God is the Fire, the Fire is sacred.
The Fire is my spirit, my spirit is sacred.

I am sacred, you are sacred, we are sacred.

And then we end the prayer with the exclamation "Aho!" which means, "I agree with you and God".


Oh yes, I was going to tell you about my own journey.
Well, it took my entire life to get to where I am today, but the path hasn't ended yet. I don't think it will until the day I die.
I've always been aware of a presence, I just wasn't sure what it was until I got older. When I was young my parents took me to church, like most parents do. I was baptized as a christian (not sure if our church had a denomination), but I stopped going to church when I was about 9 or 10 years old, because I thought the existence of god was impossible for all the bad things happening in both the world and to me. I experimented with Wicca and Buddhism, both promoting nice messages, but it turns out I just can't stand being told how to worship :lol: Probably...three years ago? I happened to buy a book on shamanism, and I enjoyed it but never thought much of it until a year after when I moved to Georgia. I was unpacking, saw the book and decided to google "shamanism, georgia" on a whim...and I found an entire school devoted to it right there in Atlanta. A week later I made a visit, met some really loving people, and joined their mesa carrier program. That lasted two years, and I just finished the program in January.

which do you think were the most difficult hurdles, and how did you master them?
My school promotes "unconditional love and acceptance, of yourself and others", and while the "others" part really is no problem for me, I find that accepting and loving myself is extremely difficult. I think once I jump that hurdle I can truly begin to have the spiritual "career" I desire.

And what did you do to stregthen your faith, when you had doubts?
Basically, I take a deep breath, ask for what I need, and let it go. And then I wait. It may take a few days or a few months, but something always happens, something I need. Sometimes it's as simple as meeting someone, but the universe has always provided for me; I was just too young and unaware to know it for a long time.

Hope this provides some insight.
 
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Sim

Registered Member
Sometimes I get the impression that you WANT Bahai to make sense - regardless of whether it does or not. If it actually makes the most sense, then I encourage you to embrace it (in fact, I hope you would show me the things that make more sense to you, so I can learn more).
I am not sure how much it makes sense, since I am by far not an expert on either Baha'i or Christian theology. As you said, I have only just started to go into these topics. And I enjoy the debate about it, because it points me to questions I haven't considered before, and it helps me reflecting whether I've understood what I have read, and how much it makes sense. You give me really good food for thought!

Probably I am still very much influenced by my agnostic roots: When approaching religion, no matter if Christianity or Baha'i, from a strictly scientific view, neither makes sense. Hardly any theological statement can be proven with reason, and if you rely on the scripture, hardly any scripture holds scientific scrutiny regarding its authenticity. Even if you suppose God exists and he sends messengers, there is no way to prove if the claims made about them are accurate, and if the scripture accurately reflects their revelations. And even the Bible has a zillion inner contradictions, which can only be solved by theological interpretations that don't make the slightest logical sense, because they make one word mean the exact opposite of what it actually means, and many theological stances are based on circular reasoning (such as the trilemma: You use the premise the scripture is accurate to prove it is).

So I put more emphasis on the "leap of faith": I try to open myself for the possibility these scriptures make sense, and if I find a contradiction, I have no choice but accepting it. Reason won't really help me, because involving reason would inevitably point to the conclusion that nothing at all can be proven about it. All I can hope for is God's guidance when reading the scripture, and the hope He lets me know if I am on the right track.

And I'm glad you enjoy this debate as well. Probably I am not the right person to explain to you why Baha'i believe Baha'u'llah fulfilled the NT expectations, because I ultimately know less about Christian theology than you do. But I'll do my best on the basis of the limited knowledge I have so far.

Well, if the Bahai are right, then it seems to me like the early Christians certainly got things pretty twisted up.
Maybe. Christians say the same about Jews who reject the interpretation Jesus was the Messiah. In the end, it's probably just a matter of faith.

Except if one of the things you're uncertain of is the deity of Christ, that isn't a theological detail. It's THE core of EVERYTHING.
As I explained above, I can only guess that the interpretation of Jesus as "manifestation of God" reconciles this problem.

When Jesus said "Before Abraham was, I AM", that carried a TON of meaning behind it. Not only was that a statement only God Himself made, it was a statement only God could make, because it is saying that Jesus pre-existed Abraham (in other words, is eternal). The same is true when Jesus was referred to as the Beginning and the End.
IIRC, Baha'u'llah uses this statement, along with others such as Mohammed's statement to be the "seal of the prophets" to explain that all manifestations of God are the same and eternal. Each of the independent prophets, from Abraham to the Bab, were all "the beginning and the end", and they all have always existed -- because they reflect God's light, and God directly speaks through them, and God is eternal.

I admit that's pretty abstract and I don't think I have fully understood it, at least not the full scope of meaning behind it. I find it similarly difficult as understanding the somewhat abstract concept of trinity in Christianity.

That doesn't work. For one thing, I don't think it can be the end times if it's already been a couple hundred years since Bahaullah, and according to you there's going to be at least 800 more years.
It at least contradicts many interpretations Christians have of the end times. But as far as I know, there are many different expectations among Christians as well. For example:

On top of that, there were a lot of things about Jesus second coming that haven't happened any time in the last couple millenia. Jesus is supposed to "descend from heaven with a shout, with a trumpet, and the voice of an archangel; and the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are remaining shall meet up together with them in the air."
I remember Baha'u'llah addresses this particular verse and its expectation in "Kitab-i Iqan", and Abdu'l-Baha in "Questions and Answers". I don't remember the exact response, but they explain that of course this has not to be taken literally, that Jesus and his people will literally be lifted in the air like on a cloud, like in a bad movie. It's a symbolic, not literal description of the end time. And if you believe Baha'u'llah, he and his revelation have fulfilled it, with Baha'ism coming into existence. He also claims by clinging to a too literal interpretation of the end times, you make the same mistake as the Jews who refuse to believe the OT prophecies are pointing to Jesus.

Maybe I can show you the exact passage some time, but at the moment, I don't feel like posting it, because of the language barrier -- I only have a German translation at hand, and the passage is pretty long. I would have to type and translate it all by myself.

But I have taken the effort finding an article written by Baha'i to explain their view on how OT and NT verses, including Jesus' own words, are pointing to Baha'u'llah and his revelation.

http://www.alaska.net/~peace/bahaullah.htm

They are certainly much more well versed on the scripture than I am, and thus can much better explain this. Maybe this answers some of your questions. I don't know how good this article is, so maybe some points are very easy to refute. Maybe others not so easily. And in most cases, it's probably still a matter of either considering it convincing or not, because it can't be ultimately proven in the end.

For me personally, this is not that important anyway, because I am not approaching Baha'ism from a Christian perspective -- for me it's a leap of faith anyway, no matter if I embrace Christianity, Islam or Baha'ism. It's not that I placed more trust in either of them when I started reading their scriptures, so I did not have to use either the Bible or Quran as support for Baha'u'llah's scriptures. There is more meaning in all their scriptures than I will ever understand, and even more interpretations -- so I just have to accept it.

I think you're really overestimating how convincing those arguments are. It's not your fault, but because you're so new to so much of Christianity, it seems more reasonable to you. I'm fairly confident that not only did Baha'u'llah only address a handful of the prophecies, his arguments for the most part only hold up if someone isn't particularly knowledgeable about the Bible (realizing that I'm only semi-knowledgeable about it)
That's probably true. But I think it's also possible that much of these contradictions are not due to the word of the scripture, but well possibly just due to common theological interpretations, even basic ones.

I can't really prove that myself, I don't have the knowledge and skills for that. But obviously, these Christian interpretations aren't so convincing everybody buys them either. Especially Jewish clerics rejected Jesus, based on their theological interpretations. If the Christian take on Jesus was so totally convincing, and the common interpretations as sound as many Christians claim they are, there would no longer be Jews around, right?

Eh, blasphemy hasn't ever really bothered me that much except when it comes from people who claim to be Christians. Anyone else, I kinda expect it.
:lol:

The thing is, if the Bible says in Matthew 7
13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
But the Baha'u'llah says "No, don't worry. The Bible's wrong. Most of the world religions are all correct", and also says "The Bible is right". You can't have it both ways.
I don't see how this is a contradiction. As far as I know, Baha'u'llah too often warned that many unbelievers will not find to God, and even many of those who just claim to be believers, without really embracing God in their hearts. But God is merciful, in the end, only He can ultimately decide who is accepted and who is not.

Just that the "narrow gate" is not exclusive for people embracing Jesus, but for those who have the right attitude in their hearts.

On the contrary - Christianity seems to have thrived BECAUSE of the persecution.
That's a common Christian interpretation, but I am not sure how supported it is. Christianity did not really spread a lot until it had become a dominant or even official religion.

Also, while it's true that percentage-wise, there are few strong Christians (see the verse I mentioned earlier about the gate being narrow and there being few who find it), you have to remember that even if only 1 in a 100 Christians are strong Christians, that's still about 3 times as many strong Christians as there are total Bahai.
Yes. But Christianity too started with relatively few believers.

And it's obvious that when the Conquistadors tried to force Christianity on so many countries it would result in a lot of semi-Christians.
Isn't that the case with any religion that really becomes a dominant mass phenomenon?

One will show more than the other, but the large mirror will never reflect something that the small mirror can't reflect even a part of. If both are pointed at the same light, you won't have one reflecting only purple light and the other reflecting only yellow light.

Pretty sure those don't count as mirrors in the sense that you're using them.
I don't think this analogy was supposed to be taken so literally. The point is, mirrors of different size and shape will yield different results.

Why not eat pork? Probably health reasons. Why give to the king what is the king's? Probably because it's his. Why not divorce? Because it's often emotionally devastating, it destroys the symbolism that God created, and any of a thousand other reasons.

Not so mysterious.
But why shall Jews do one thing, and Christians another, although it's the same God?

There are different levels of things that don't make sense.

For instance, even if I didn't understand why Jews couldn't eat pork, it would be a curiosity and nothing more. These conflicts that are inherent in Bahai seem to be logical contradictions.
And those are any different than the zillion contradictions between Judaism and Christianity, or their respective inner contradictions?

Buddhists often doesn't even HAVE a God. And why does Hinduism always seem to be left out? Is it just because they have a whole plethora of gods?
Probably I answered this question already: Hinduism isn't left out, but Krishna was a manifestation of God too. Also, read above what I wrote about the core similarity between all religions, that they all provide the believer with a sense of spirituality and a connection to God, which helps him developing skills needed in the next life.

Sure, but on the other hand if you look back at history (something we can do), we see that these conflicting messages in different faiths have almost certainly reduced the number of Bahai adherents, and have led to probably millions of deaths (not to mention all of the torture, imprisonment, etc).
But you said yourself before that this is not because of the correct interpretation of the respective religions, but because of how people interpret it. Christians are supposed to love their enemies, pray for them and to turn the other cheek, yet we had crusades, violent conversions, witch hunts, inquisitions and burning of heretics.

Even Quran explicitly says the Muslim Umma shall no longer fight the infidels the moment they lay down their weapons and offer peace (despite very cruel and violent commandments regarding the treatment of infidels in case of war).

The Baha'i were violently persecuted by the Muslim establishment, although Baha'u'llah explicitly demanded from his followers never to raise the sword against the Muslims. The Baha'i were and are no threat to Muslims, and according to Quran, in theory Muslims should not have attacked them.

That is a reasonable analogy. That said, I know for a fact that there are plausible reasons for allowing the suffering (whether or not they're sufficient reasons is another issue). I can't think of any such reasons for the conflicts between the religious teaching. Which isn't to say they don't exist, but that I'd have to hear at least minimal explanations before I write it off.
Fair enough. As I said above, maybe these conflicts would not even exist, if all believers actually followed the commandments of their respective religions. But even in this case, God was aware of how people would interpret His revelations. So I can just guess it's part of a greater plan, just like man has the freedom to chose evil, man has the freedom to use religion as an excuse for conflict, and some day, we will take a lesson from that.

The thing is, in order for the Baha'u'llah's argument to work, he has to be able to counter all of the verses that work against him. The fact that he found a couple that could theoretically be pointing to some human (who may or may not be him) is almost irrelevant.
That I just mentioned a few verses doesn't mean there are more. It's just that I don't have enough knowledge about them. Maybe the link above answers some of your questions. It seems there are quite a few well versed Baha'i who have taken great efforts to finding according verses, much better than I ever could.

Don't get me wrong - I agree that faith is vital. But IMO, at some point you have to take a step back and consider just how much is too much? That's why I left Christianity. I felt there were just too many things where I had to say "I don't know, but God is infinitely wise". Maybe I just didn't have a strong enough faith, but it seems to me that at some point you have to be willing to say enough is enough.
My approach is different, coming from the agnostic side. My initial stance was "why bothering with all this theological bickering? It's ridiculous anyway, because nothing of it holds the slightest scrutiny, nothing of it can be proven without circular logic, and the differences between theologicians of different denominations and religions thus are not more substantial than elementary school kids fighting about the question whether chocolate or vanilla ice cream is better".

So it's all just about the question whether I believe, or whether I do not believe. Central for me so far is that I find peace by praying, and that I develop a relationship with God this way, and that I embrace it, not because of reason, but with my heart. Treating scripture like a solid science won't help me on this way. When there are different interpretations, I just have to accept that I won't get a definite answer. I can only hope to follow my heart, in the best case. :)

Oh, okay. I keep seeing these lists of religious founders who are supposedly tied to Bahaism, and Hinduism seemed conspicuously absent.
Yes, as I said, the independent prophets and manifestations of God are just nine: Abraham and Moses for Judaism, Krishna for Hinduism, Zarathustra for Zoroastrianism, Buddha for Buddhism, Jesus for Christianity, Mohammed for Islam, the Bab for Babism and finally Baha'u'llah for Baha'ism.

As far as I know, there is no complete list for the dependent prophets. They are many, maybe they include some figures of other religions too, like the founder of Daoism or Confucius. No idea what the official Baha'i stance is one people like Smith, who founded the Mormon church. Or pagan religions. Well possible some of them are inspired too, because their founders or prominent figures are dependent prophets. These other religions might very well be legitimate too, just that their founders were not manifestations of God, but "only" dependent prophets.

Just for the record, the rules against unclean food weren't explicitly overridden until after Jesus had returned to heaven. Also, I'm pretty sure the rules about divorce pretty much staid the same. And women weren't stoned for being raped; both parties were supposed to be stoned for being caught committing adultery - and Jesus intervened in part because the law was being misapplied; there's no way the woman was caught having an affair by herself.
I remember pretty well one law either in Levitikus or Deuteronomium, which says "when a woman has been raped and nobody heard her crying, punish her with stoning her to death". Obviously, Christians don't do that.

The rules on unclean food and about the Sabbath were both being far too heavily emphasized by the religious leaders. In addition, the very act of changing the rules about the cleanliness of food served a specific purpose. Originally, one of the main reasons for the cleanliness laws was to set the Jews apart from the pagan nations around them. But Jesus came for the whole world, and removing those laws was symbolic of how Jesus came to save both Jew and Gentile. Not only had the law before served its purpose, the very act of changing the law had a purpose.

Jesus got rid of two minor rules that had served their purpose. Baha'u'llah claims that the core doctrine of many major religions is wrong. That's not even comparable.
I don't see the slightest difference between Jesus changing core rules which are central for Judaism, and Baha'u'llah changing the rules of Islam, i.e.

Fact is: Some rules are central for Judaism, but Christians no longer follow them. You just find excuses and reasons post-facto why that makes sense, and Jews will laugh at your for these excuses. Baha'u'llah is doing nothing that's different from what Christians do when they desperately try to find rationalizations for rejecting certain OT laws.

Also, I really doubt that people are more mature now than they used to be.
Maybe "mature" is not the right word, at least not regarding moral development. But obviously, there has been much technological and social development.

But we're not just talking about simplistic rules that the Baha'u'llah elaborated on. We're talking about core doctrinal statements that get thrown out the window with no explanation other than "Trust me".
The Bible is based on "trust me" too. Or Quran. Or the OT. Not the smallest verse in any of these holy scriptures can scientifically be proven, not even God. It's always "trust me": "Trust me that this is God's word". "Trust me that the Gospels are accurate". "Trust me that all of it is inspired, not just parts of it".

I don't see that Christianity is anyhow more logically sound or provable, than Islam or Baha'ism. There is no other thing to base faith on than just "trust me".

Sure, there MAY have been some Imam who pointed toward Baha'u'llah, but that's different than all of the OT theoretically pointing to Jesus, and John the Baptist specifically saying "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
The Bab's prophecies pointing towards Baha'u'llah were just as direct and obvious. And I don't see any reason why one can have more trust in John than in the Bab, except than "that's just what I believe".

You have chosen to believe the NT and its report about John more, than Quran, Islamic tradition and accordingly the Mahdi who is the Bab. That's perfectly legitimate, of course!

I just don't see that this is any more reasonable, provable or logically sound than believing in the Bab's revelation too.

I've seen some claims by Jews, although at least some of them demonstrate a lack of understanding about Jesus. But I think a strong argument could be made that Jesus at least reasonably could fulfill all of the requirements.
Of course you find these arguments convincing, which is why you are (or at least were) Christian, not Jewish. :)

But apparently, they are not absolutely convincing and beyond any doubt, because in that case, there would no longer be Jews around. Certainly no Jewish rabbis, because they, with their detailed knowledge of the scripture, should all have realized Jesus was the Messiah, if it was so unambigous.

So in the end, it all depends on how convincing you find a particular interpretation, which cannot ultimately be proven to be right.

But that's not true with the Baha'u'llah. He takes everything about Christianity (and Islam, and Hinduism, and Buddhism) and flips it on it's ear. And after an admittedly quick Google search, the number of prophecies fulfilled is completely unimpressive (and the number unfulfilled seems rather ominous).
Maybe you are right. But even if you aren't, it wouldn't be surprising you don't find the fulfilled prophecies convincing, just like Jews don't find the claim convincing Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies.

We can't solve this problem with logic and reason, because in the end, there is always the question whether we personally find the argument sound or not.

Quran says: "If God had wanted, he would have made you one people and one community. He will decide in the end about the things you disagree about." :)

The Baha'u'llah seems to conveniently ignore certain details. And I've never heard it argued that the Jews cling to a too literal interpretation.
Now I am not sure I remember the debate correctly, but I witnessed a debate on another forum between a Jew and several Christians and Baha'i about this question. IIRC, the Jew claimed the Messiah is supposed to unite Israel as a people once again, after it had been spread all over the planet in a diaspora, and finally re-built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He said Jesus can't be the Messiah, because the diaspora had not taken place yet, Israel had not come into existence again when Jesus was around (not before 1948), and he certainly did not rebuilt the Temple after it had been destroyed. So it's more than obvious that Jesus can't be the Messiah.

Christians then replied that Jesus will do that once he returns. Then, in the End Times, Jesus will fulfil this prophecy. Another Christian or possibly a Baha'i said Jesus has fulfilled it, the Temple is not one of stone, but the temple of Christianity. The Jew naturally thought this is a cheap excuse for the fact Jesus simply has not fulfilled the prophecy, no way around this fact, and Christians have just made up the claim Jesus will return, in order to deliberately avoid contradictions to the OT prophecies, or are twisting words. He pointed to many other pretty shaky interpretations of Christians regarding OT verses concerning the Messiah, which I do not remember.

But I remember I could very well see where the Jewish position was coming from, and how it was pretty reasonable. In the end, we don't have hard facts.
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I haven't heard of the Bahai Faith, so I looked it up online. It seems very reasonable, which I like, but I'm unsure what it means when it says that god is inaccessible directly, because you say that the teachings emphasize a personal relationship with god.
Maybe my wording was misleading. I meant that Baha'ism puts much emphasis on individual praying and developing spiritual feelings towards God, as opposed to community rituals (group prayers are even forbidden, so is a clergy). So what I meant is that the focus is on my personal spiritual practize, and my personal connection to God, not on things I do in the community. There are no priests, no other humans between God and me.

But God is indeed one, uncreated and inaccessible, unlike in Christianity, where God became flesh in Jesus Christ. Baha'i only pray to God directly, not to his prophets or messengers.

I agree that humans don't have the capacity to fully comprehend god, but I don't think that's a reason not to have a direct connection. I like how it promotes individual spiritual practice as a cornerstone for everyday life. It reminds me of my own shamanic practices, especially those concerning the use of a mesa, which you might find interest in. I would suggest researching the use of mesas, or you can PM me about them if you like.
Thank you! That sounds interesting. I'll look it up when I find the time. If it doesn't contradict Baha'i teachings, I might try it. I'll let you know when I have questions! :)

You say you're trying to see life through the glasses of religion more, yet your practices have been more personal than anything, and I congratulate you on that. You are correct in saying that religion can't provide all the answers, because each religion has different rules you have to follow in order to...what, be saved? Win at life? Haha. In my opinion, you are at least heading in the right direction, which is the direction of questions, thoughts, reflection, etc.
If I have understood Baha'ism correctly, most important is the development of individual spiritual skills and feelings, which can be achieved by different practizes, because that's what we need to be prepared for the next life (but which already help us in this life). So I guess that's why I am doing it. :)

I forget a lot of what I was going to say in this thread, so I'll leave you with a shamanic prayer:

God is the Earth, the Earth is sacred.
The Earth is my body, my body is sacred.

God is the Air, the Air is sacred.
The Air is my breath, my breath is sacred.

God is the Water, the Water is sacred.
The Water is my blood, my blood is sacred.

God is the Fire, the Fire is sacred.
The Fire is my spirit, my spirit is sacred.

I am sacred, you are sacred, we are sacred.

And then we end the prayer with the exclamation "Aho!" which means, "I agree with you and God".
That's beautiful, thank you for sharing!

Oh yes, I was going to tell you about my own journey.
Well, it took my entire life to get to where I am today, but the path hasn't ended yet. I don't think it will until the day I die.
I've always been aware of a presence, I just wasn't sure what it was until I got older. When I was young my parents took me to church, like most parents do. I was baptized as a christian (not sure if our church had a denomination), but I stopped going to church when I was about 9 or 10 years old, because I thought the existence of god was impossible for all the bad things happening in both the world and to me. I experimented with Wicca and Buddhism, both promoting nice messages, but it turns out I just can't stand being told how to worship :lol: Probably...three years ago? I happened to buy a book on shamanism, and I enjoyed it but never thought much of it until a year after when I moved to Georgia. I was unpacking, saw the book and decided to google "shamanism, georgia" on a whim...and I found an entire school devoted to it right there in Atlanta. A week later I made a visit, met some really loving people, and joined their mesa carrier program. That lasted two years, and I just finished the program in January.

My school promotes "unconditional love and acceptance, of yourself and others", and while the "others" part really is no problem for me, I find that accepting and loving myself is extremely difficult. I think once I jump that hurdle I can truly begin to have the spiritual "career" I desire.
That's interesting, and I wish you good luck and only the best wishes on your path! I hope you find what you're looking for on your spiritual career.

Basically, I take a deep breath, ask for what I need, and let it go. And then I wait. It may take a few days or a few months, but something always happens, something I need. Sometimes it's as simple as meeting someone, but the universe has always provided for me; I was just too young and unaware to know it for a long time.

Hope this provides some insight.
Yes, thank you! Maybe I should do the same when I have moments of doubt. Just letting it go for the moment and wait, until something points me back to the path of God. It's very helpful you remind me of the value of patience.
 
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Starfire86

Registered Member
Shamanism isn't a religion, it's a spiritual practice, so it won't interfere with your beliefs. Basically, a shaman is a hollow bone, or a conduit, for god to work through in healing others. So really, the only requirement is that you have some sort of faith, because I don't think the concept works for atheists:lol:

I'm still not agreeing with god being inaccessible, maybe I'm just not sure of your meaning. I find god to be everything and everyone, so inaccessibility would be impossible (in terms of what I believe, anyway).

I'm not sure what's on the internet as far as the use of mesas is concerned, but you're probably going to find websites that say you have to set up your mesa in a certain way. But what it means is that you have to set it up in that way for that group, it's their tradition so to speak. My school encouraged individuality, and everyone set up their mesas differently.

One of the first things I was taught when I was learning to be a mesa carrier was that we can only control our own actions and feelings. Everything else is under god's control, and things will work out in the exact way they need to.
 
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