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Are We Meant to Kill Each Other?

Rodney Richards | Jun 2, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Jun 2, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

According to Genesis, humanity’s symbolic first parents had two male children, Cain and Abel:

And it came to pass that Cain, the eldest, was not favored by God when he did sacrifice to Him, yet his brother Abel’s sacrifice was favored. And Cain was so wroth that he slew his brother and was cursed by God. Yet God placed a mark upon Cain’s forehead that others might not slay him. – Genesis 4:1-7.

Why, if the Bible is inspired, does this gruesome tale of murder become our unavoidable human destiny? What was the purpose of giving us this example if we weren’t meant to take something important from it? Have we actually learned anything about man’s inhumanity to his fellow human beings?

Here we can witness God’s love and forgiveness again, first creating man and woman, and second, even protecting their bad offspring, ensuring that Cain cannot be slain in turn after he kills his brother. Not only did God condemn Cain’s murder of his own flesh and blood, He also condemned, seven times seven, anyone that would slay Cain. In other words, God does not condone murder, whether in vengeance or in anger, or even as retribution. Have we learned these lessons yet?

The Baha’i teachings say that simple reason can teach us this vital truth:

…the divine philosophers hold that the excellence or baseness of things depends upon both reason and religious law. Thus, the prohibitions on murder, theft, treachery, falsehood, hypocrisy and iniquity are based on reason: Every rational mind can grasp that these are all vile and reprehensible. For if you merely prick a man with a thorn he will cry out in pain: How well must he realize then that murder, according to reason, is vile and reprehensible. And were he to commit such a crime, he would be held accountable for it whether the prophetic message had reached him or not, for reason itself grasps the reprehensible character of this deed. Thus, when such a person commits such base actions, he will assuredly be held to account. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 306-307.

Cain and Abel by Marc Chagal (1960)

’Cain and Abel’ by Marc Chagal (1960)

Clearly, every person needs to take responsibility for the evil they commit. Society itself would not be able to exist without this great moral understanding of justice: we are responsible to others, to society, for our actions. In turn society is responsible to every person, youth and child, to protect them from evil, to provide security and well-being and wealth, as in decent wages for a decent day’s labor.

So human cultures and societies institute laws that rest on the pillars of reward and punishment, and judges and courts and juries adjudicate and punish transgressions of those laws. Yet, given the example in Chapter 4 of Genesis, God can be merciful, as man should be. For He did not strike Cain down, nor allow others to do so—and neither should we.

No matter the reason, no one condones murder, and I believe, neither should the state. Perhaps because of this early lesson in the Bible, and because of subsequent religious laws given to humanity as society has advanced, we have begun to move away from the harsh punishments of old:

Moses dwelt in the desert. As there were no penitentiaries, no means of restitution in the desert and wilderness, the laws of God were an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Could this be carried out now? If a man destroys another man’s eye, are you willing to destroy the eye of the offender? If a man’s teeth are broken or his ear cut off, will you demand a corresponding mutilation of his assailant? This would not be conformable to conditions of humanity at the present time. If a man steals, shall his hand be cut off? This punishment was just and right in the law of Moses, but it was applicable to the desert, where there were no prisons and reformatory institutions of later and higher forms of government. Today you have government and organization, a police system, a judge and trial by jury. The punishment and penalty is now different. Therefore, the nonessentials which deal with details of community are changed according to the exigency of the time and conditions. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 169.

As an example, take the United States at the present moment. After 30+ years of tough sentencing laws, “Three strikes you’re out” and so forth, we find that the U.S. has 25% of those incarcerated in the world, yet only 4% of the world’s population, a major disconnect. Criminal justice officials at many levels have begun to reexamine that hard-core stance, and some prison systems now provide actual rehabilitation, instead of strictly punitive, mind-numbing and soul-killing days behind bars.

In other words, as times change, the balance between reward and punishment is mediated by mercy. Unless we keep every prisoner behind bars forever, most will eventually be released back into society. That means we need to give our greater society the mercy of providing meaningful training, socialization and rehabilitation within our prisons.

Guess what? It’s already been proven by a number of countries like Germany that this rehabilitation-based approach cuts repeat offenders by more than half. By contrast, currently in the United States the recidivism rate is 76.6% within five years of release. The Baha’i teachings recommend a more rehabilitation-based approach:

The body politic is engaged day and night in devising penal laws and in providing for ways and means of punishment. It builds prisons, acquires chains and fetters, and ordains places of exile and banishment, of torment and hardship, seeking thereby to reform the criminal, whereas in reality this only brings about the degradation of morals and the subversion of character. The body politic should instead strive night and day, bending every effort to ensure that souls are properly educated, that they progress day by day, that they advance in science and learning, that they acquire praiseworthy virtues and laudable manners, and that they forsake violent behaviour, so that crimes might never occur. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 312-313.

Just as God showed mercy to Cain, it’s time the justice system did more than execute or incarcerate criminals. Man’s inhumanity to man should not be perpetuated in perpetuity.

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Comments

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  • Jun 5, 2016
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    Does Baha'i Law abolish the death penalty? Is it modern and reflecting of the needs of humanity? The Wikipedia page on Baha'i law gives a good list of all the prohibitions in the Kitab-I-Aqdas as an example of points which are brought up below. What laws would a Baha'i state with the Baha'i Faith as it state religion have? It will be discussed below. Hints: the probation of alcohol, no laws against rape and molestation as only martial status matters in sex related law, no LGBT rights as no recgintion is given to any LGBT rights or same-sex marriage, hair ...laws for men, etc.
    As the research I did, I would like to thank Kaweah Baha'i and the Forum for Baha'i Invesitgations for all the following info. Pics weren't copied, only text despite text referring to pics that aren't in this post.
    The Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Bahá'í Fundamentalism
    God hath decreed, in token of His mercy unto His creatures, that semen is not unclean. Yield thanks unto Him with joy and radiance ¶74
    Bahá'u'lláh is said to have written the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in 1873, or perhaps several years earlier. This was relatively early in his ministry, so much was added or ammended afterward, but the Aqdas stands as the book that Bahá'u'lláh intended to serve as the foundation of his scriptures. The Aqdas, when viewed with its Islamic, Shi'i, Iranian, and Bayanic origins in mind, presents very little original material, and is hence a very traditional book in the Shi'i style, and it contains much that western Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís might find hard to swollow. It is therefore no surprise that the Bahá'í authorities did not complete an authoritative English translation until 120 years after its release in Arabic. Its release in English, along with the advent of the Internet, preceeded a surge in fundamentalism in the previously liberal western Bahá'í community.
    First and foremost, the Twin Duties assigned by the Aqdas to all men are (1) belief in Bahá'u'lláh and (2) obedience to his laws and ordinances. ¶1 The Aqdas states quite clearly that good deeds—without satisfying these two duties—are worthless. This fundamentalist doctrine of salvation leaves no room for the unbeliever and those who cannot manage to live by the entirety of Bahá'u'lláh's rules and regulations, which are—as well shall soon see—quite hard to swallow hole. The Bahá'í community, in fact, does not follow many of the directives of the Aqdas, though they claim they will one day when mankind has reached a sufficient level of maturity.
    The Foundation: Original Sin
    The Bahá'í doctrine of the Twin Duties rests upon the foundation of the Bahá'í version of the doctrine of original sin. The Bahá'í idea is not that Adam and Eve blew it for the rest of us, but rather that we are inadequate by design, and not just morally, but we are futhermore incapable of discerning right from wrong. Our only hope is to fear God, recognize Bahá'u'lláh, and obey him.
    O people of the world! Follow not the promptings of the self, for it summoneth insistently to wickedness and lust; follow, rather, Him Who is the Possessor of all created things, Who biddeth you to show forth piety, and manifest the fear of God. ¶64
    Regard men as a flock of sheep that need a shepherd for their protection. This, verily, is the truth, the certain truth. We approve of liberty in certain circumstances, and refuse to sanction it in others. We, verily, are the All-Knowing. ¶124
    Bahá'u'lláh makes this point in different ways throughout his writings:
    man is unable to comprehend that which hath streamed forth from the Pen of Glory and is recorded in His heavenly Books. Men at all times and under all conditions stand in need of one to exhort them, guide them and to instruct and teach them.
    Lawh-i-Maqsúd (Tablet to Mirzá Maqsúd)
    Thus the Aqdas states in no uncertain terms that we are to follow Bahá'u'lláh strictly according to his own terms:
    Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance established amongst men. In this most perfect Balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, ... ¶99
    Thus it follows that one cannot rest ones conscience on good deeds alone, because one cannot distinguish good from evil in the first place.
    Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that "He shall not be asked of His doings". Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. ¶161
    This, of course, puts men in a position of being incapable of measuring the appropriateness or fairness of any of Bahá'u'lláh's laws and ordinances, or for that matter, anything Bahá'u'lláh has said. Therefore, men must simply believe and obey:
    The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. ¶1
    Unbelievers
    There are certainly passages in Bahá'í scripture that exhibit tolerance of the unbeliever, but there are certainly passages that exhibit a less than complimentary attitude:
    The peoples of the world are fast asleep. ... So bewildered are they in the drunkenness of their evil desires, that they are powerless to recognize the Lord of all being, Whose voice calleth aloud from every direction ... ¶39
    Islamic Legalism
    One of the most striking characteristics of the Aqdas, especially in light of the fact that such gravity is given to its laws and ordinances, is that a number of important issues are omitted while several less important topics are addressed in great technical detail. What the Aqdas chooses to address appears to follow the pattern of Islamic tradition and Bábí law more than issues that concern modern civilazation. Indeed, the Aqdas itself indicates that Bahá'u'lláh wrote the Aqdas to appease the many contemporary Bahá'ís who saw great importance in addressing Islamic law. ¶98
    Severe Punishments
    It is not enough to say that the Aqdas endorses capital punishment. In many parts of the world where capital punishment is used, it is reserved for extreme crimes. In the Aqdas, the application of capital punishment is more straightforward: if one kills (with intent), one is to be killed. ¶62
    Even stronger is the punishment for arson, which appears to be the equivalent of burning at the stake. ¶62 Not to imply that arson is not a dreadfully serious crime, but isn't that a bit cruel and unusual? Is there no other crime that calls for a punishment of proportionate cruelty?
    Unfair Penalties and Allotments
    Though Bahá'u'lláh dealt with a handful of topics in great detail, his handling of these topics left something to be desired with regard to fairness.
    One example of this are the flat monetary fines applied to fornication ¶49 and manslaughter ¶188 and flat amounts assigned to dowries ¶66: did it ever occur to Bahá'u'lláh that this approach favors the wealthy? It has the effect of making fornication and manslaughter similarly minor offenses for those who can easily part with a little gold.
    I have, on occasion, stopped to wonder how a modern criminal court system might be served by the additional load of fornication cases. I also wonder how people might come to be accused of fornication. It's good for a laugh or two.
    Manslaughter is treated as a civil offense for which the blood money is set to about 11 troy oz. of gold. The fine for first offense adultery is about an ounce.
    Marriage and Inheritance
    The passages of the Aqdas on marriage ¶63-70 are noticeably gender-biased. Men are permitted to have two wives ¶63 (`Abdu'l-Bahá later abrogated this allowance of bigamy). Men are presumed to be the sole bread winners, so no consideration is given to the likelihood that a woman might work ¶67. Whereas adultery is considered to be an offense that men and women can commit ¶49, divorce appears to be justifiable by female adultery only, for, in keeping with Islamic tradition, divorce is not a two-way street: the man divorces the wife; not the other way around. ¶68.
    Dowries are set to a couple ounces of gold for city urban Bahá'ís and a couple ounces of silver for rural Bahá'ís. ¶66 Silver is, of course, worth much less than gold. This system favors rural residents whether they are rich or poor, but more importantly, why even bother with such detail? Why require dowries in a modern age in which wives are presumably no longer possessions?
    Bahá'u'lláh's rules for inheritance clearly favor men over women. ¶20–29 The only defense Bahá'ís have for this is that Bahá'u'lláh's rules are merely a default to be used when Bahá'ís don't leave a will (which would be illegal). Is this to suggest that Bahá'u'lláh's inheritance rules are not to be used, even as a model? Of course they are to be used! If failing to leave a will is forbidden, why else would Bahá'u'lláh have specified these allotments? To punish the female descendants only?
    Important Topics Avoided
    It seems a bit peculiar that, having dealt with incidental topics in great detail, Bahá'u'lláh found his way to sidestep some important issues, such as circumcision—especially the female variety practiced in parts of the Muslim world. He must have been aware of the practice, yet he did not seem to believe it was an issue deserving of his attention.
    Some heinous crimes are not touched by the Aqdas. Thievery is addressed in detail, but robbery—the violent equivalent—is not touched.
    The Aqdas does not address sexual crimes such as molestation and rape. These heinous offenses may not have been considered as serious from Bahá'u'lláh's Islamic perspective, but of course that's no excuse for a universal manifestation.
    Good Old-Fashioned Homophobia
    The Aqdas fails to discuss rape, sexual assault, or molestation, but it does express great abhorrance for something it ambiguously calls the subject of boys. ¶107 Shoghi Effendi interpreted this as a general forbiddence of sexual relations between males. As ambiguously grossed out as Bahá'u'lláh appeared to be by the subject of boys, Shoghi Effendi was probably reading Bahá'u'lláh right.
    Silly Stuff, But Not Harmless
    Though the Bahá'ís claim to respect cultural diversity, the very fabric of the Bahá'í Faith threatens cultural diversity, because the Bahá'í Faith is no mere code of international and interracial good will as it has been sold to us; rather it is a complex set of behavioral codes that dictate manner of dress, eating, worship, marriage, and on and on. One directive that drives this point home is Bahá'u'lláh's directive on the trimming of hair:
    Shave not your heads; God hath adorned them with hair, and in this there are signs from the Lord of creation to those who reflect upon the requirements of nature. He, verily, is the God of strength and wisdom. Notwithstanding, it is not seemly to let the hair pass beyond the limit of the ears. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Lord of all worlds. ¶44
    It's a good thing Shoghi Effendi clarified the prohibition against long hair to be directed only toward men! Still, given the apparent spirit of this passage, consider how Bahá'u'lláh kept his own hair. We have included a photo to assist the reader.
    This question ought to also be put to `Abdu'l-Bahá's appearance. Still, this lack of integrity is not the most troubling aspect of the twin directives on hair. The keeping of hair is a part of many cultures. What are the Bahá'ís to say people who have used the grooming of their hair as part of their cultural and religious heritage for thousands of years? For example, in many Native American cultures, the cutting of ones hair is a sign of grieving or shame. Are the Bahá'ís prepared to follow in the footsteps of the Christian missionaries of old?
    This is certainly not the only place where the Bahá'í Faith imposes on perfectly harmless cultural practices. The Bahá'í Faith requires burial of the dead, for instance, and the Bahá'í Faith brings its own set of rules and form of ceremony to marriages and funerals. Even the dinner table is not spared:
    Take heed lest, when partaking of food, ye plunge your hands into the contents of bowls and platters. ¶46
    Does this mean we must eat pizza with a fork?
    And in keeping with the Tidiness-is-Godliness principle, we have another gem:
    Should the garb of anyone be visibly sullied, his prayers shall not ascend to God, and the celestial Concourse will turn away from him. ¶67
    Well, I should say: what if the garment is invisibly sullied by some horrible bacteria? Then his prayers would be welcome because there is no visible dirt?
    And finally, another silly rule:
    If ye should hunt with beasts or birds of prey, invoke ye the Name of God when ye send them to pursue their quarry; for then whatever they catch shall be lawful unto you, even should ye find it to have died. ¶60
    The obvious question here is: what if one hunts with a gun, a net, or a bow?
    This is a discussion about the culturally insensitive nature of the Bahá'í Faith that goes beyond the Aqdas itself, but the Aqdas is a prominant part of the problem.
    The Roots of Shundamentalism
    Shundamentalism, the distictly Bahá'í practice of shunning other Bahá'ís who follow another Bahá'í leader, was put forward again and again by Bahá'u'lláh, and an example is to be found in the Aqdas:
    Erelong shall clamorous voices be raised in most lands. Shun them, O My people, and follow not the iniquitous and evil-hearted. This is that of which We gave you forewarning when We were dwelling in Iraq, then later while in the Land of Mystery, and now from this Resplendent Spot. ¶37
    Later, in Questions and Answers, Bahá'u'lláh utters this remarkably divisive statement regarding non-Bahá'í family members, giving great legal weight to the practice of shunning apostates:
    Any heir, from whichever category of inheritors, who is outside the Faith of God is accounted as non-existent and doth not inherit.
    Answer #34
    Why one should not become—or remain—a Bahá'í, according to the Aqdas
    Finally, here are some selections from the Aqdas to help motivate good people to keep clear of the Bahá'í Faith:
    It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away. ¶119
    Burden not an animal with more than it can bear. ¶187
    Read more...
  • Jun 4, 2016
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    So insightful and well written. I gained so much understanding that I did not have. Thanks Rodney!
  • Jun 2, 2016
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    Violence is a complex issue. Religion and its relationship to violence is also complex. Some people think religion forbids violence while others believe it prohibits violence. This is especially true with regards to Abrahamic/Iranian/West Asian religions. Religious laws like Halakha, Canon Law, Sharia, etc are example of violence based laws based on religion with capital punishment, corporal punishment, and amputation as penalties for various crimes.
    I previously in another comment in another article here, mentioned the Euthyphro Dilemma. Basically, independent ethical and moral standards (which I will refer to as Dharma) can only be transmitted, never given. People can ...use reason with or without other sources like to arrive at what Dharma is. There are various sources transmitting Dharma, but reason must always be used above and alongside any alleged sources transmitting Dharma. Rita (Arta in the equivalent Iranian part of the Indo-Iranian branch of languages) was the earlier version of this concept before Rita was divided into the concepts of Dharma and Karma along with the introductions of the concept of Moksha/Mukti/Nirvana in addition to it. Also, Ahimsa (non-violence) is a concept very strongly linked to the ones I mentioned. These concepts are associated with Indian/South Asian/Dharmic religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Ahimsa (non-violence) has many implications in issues like war, capital punishment, and various other things.
    Generally, there have been various predominately Hindu and Buddhist societies in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia whose law codes have tried to apply insights on Dharma from Hinduism and Buddhism. There has been one or two short lived examples of predominantly Sikh societies, as well a no examples I know of predominantly Jain ones. Some of the societies in those regions are under (or have been under the rule of) Communism, Chrisitinaity, and Islam due to either invasion, revolution, or colonialism. Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh law still exists, but the other three have had influence on several of the countries as well. India has a system of a variety of personal laws as well as a special personal law as an option as well. Hindu Code Bills (which cover Hindus as well as Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs as well), Muslim Personal Law, Chrsitian Personal Law, Special Personal Law, and maybe even Jewish Personal Law and Parsi/Zoroastrian Personal Law exist in India. There have been attempts at an Uniform Civil Code, but it hasn't happened yet.
    Back to the concept of Ahimsa, it has lots of implications. Lots of Buddhists and Hindus hold the abolition of capital punishment, pacifism, veganism, birth control/contraception (that isn't abortion, to prevent abortion), suicide help resources (like hotlines and other such stuff to prevent suicide), hospice care (to help deal with issues related to euthanasia), and various other examples of the ideal of Ahimsa in action as ideals to support by the ideal Hindu and/or Buddhist.
    Lots of secular states with speration of church and state exist in East Asia, South Asia, and South East Asia, due to Communism, Christianization, Islamization, disestablishment, decolonization, and some combination of the above. Theravada Buddhism is still the state religion of Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, Tibetan Buddhism is still the state religion of Bhutan. HInduism was disestablished in Nepal and Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. Communism was and is in control of countries like North Korea, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Camobodia, and Afghanistan. Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Mainland China, Japan, Mongolia, and any others I forgot have never been the colony of a European Christian Western country. Sikkim used to be an independent country before being annexed into India and so was Tibet before being annexed into China. Both were examples of Tibetan Buddhist state religion. I know of no examples of countries were a form of Buddhism other than Theravada Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism was the state religion. Catholicism used to be the state religion of the Philippines. Islam (Sunni Islam specifically) is the state religion of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Malaysia, Brunei, and the situation in Indonesia is complex as Pancasila is the state religion (combination of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism Hinduism, and Confucianism). Singapore used to be part of Malaysia before it achieved independence.
    Since Dharma is an independent ethical and moral standard, a society need not adhere to a South Asian religion or its laws to abide by Dharma or even know what it is, but it does help. Any society that abolishes the death penalty is applying Dharma. The same can be said for societies that avoid war, that make contraception/birth control/family planning available, that do what they can to prevent suicide, and any other Ahimsa compliant desicions made.
    Since Dharma is an independent ethical and moral system, Dharma can only be transmitted never given. Also, it is independent of whether or not someone follows a religion or any religion at all.
    Countries and their criminal laws and penal codes vary widely. What is completely legal and regulated in one country can be a capital crime in another country. Laws regarding religious conversion (apostasy), sexual orientation (homosexuality and bisexuality), gender identity (transgederism), substances (drugs), religious practices (folk religion aka paganism, idolatry, polytheism, witchcraft), etc are examples. I looked up non-homicide related capital crimes in Wikipedia's capital punishment by country and found the above examples.
    Even controversial culture war issues are examples of Dharma in action. Various religious organizations like Jodo Shinshu, Soka Gakki (Soka Gakkai International), Shambhala Insitute, Juniper Foundation, and Fo Guang Shan (Buddha's Light International Association) have said that Dharma demands LGBT rights and equality. All the others culture war issues can be disccused later and their relationship to Dharma.
    Read more...
    • Jun 4, 2016
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      The Five Precepts give five examples of such rules.
      1. Do not kill.
      2. Do not steal.
      3. Do not abuse/misuse sexuality.
      4. Do not abuse/misuse speech.
      5. Do not abuse/misuse alcohol and drugs.
      Religions do to geography separating people have gone through parallel evolutions. Religions have indigenous, African, European, Uralic, North Asian, Central Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian/Daoic/Taoic, South Asian/Indian/Taoic, Iranian, and West Asian/Abrahamic lineages of evolution.
      The relationship between religious law and state/political law isn't really clear. In a theocracy, they are one and the same. In a country with a state religion, things are murky. ...With a secular state, they are separate in theory, but hard to fully seperate in practice. Religious voters and constituents who believe that the state should prohibit everything their religion tell people to abstain from is an example. The debate on Section 377 and the contradictory High Court and Supreme Court verdicts had religious people cheering how the Supreme Court had endorsed their scriptures in retaining it. (Despite being minority religions in India, various Jews, Christians, and Muslims joined in with conservative Hindus in supporting Section 377 on religious grounds.)
      Also, the difference in wording between killing and murder in various translations of the commandments and precepts of various religions does lead to problems. When exactly is killing murder and when is killing just killing due to being allegedly justifiable killing? This leads to the problem of people seeing killing as just killing and not murder.
      Also, complicating the evolutionary chart of religious groupings mentioned is evolutions within religions as well as between them. Buddhism, as pre-sectarian early Buddhism, was founded by Buddha (460-380 BCE) 430 BCE. Mahayana Buddhism developed a few centuries later during the first four Buddhist councils (380 BCE, 270 BCE, 250 BCE, 100 BCE or somewhere around those dates. NIchiren Buddhism was founded by Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282) during the 13th century. It is based on the Threefold Lotus Sutra (Innumerable Meanings Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Samantbhadra Mediation Sutra) which were already part of Mahayana Buddhism mentioned earlier, as well as the addition of the Gossho (writings of Nichiren Daishonin). Soka Gakkai was founded in 1930 and Soka Gakkai International (the organization seeing all growth outside of Japan) was founded in 1975. They add the writings of various Presidents of said organizations as well. It is often noted for its support of Pacifism back during the World War II era where Imperial Japan cracked down on all forms of dissent as lots of its initial followers were jailed by the Imperial authorities. It is also noted for support for human rights and LGBT rights also.
      The world still lives in the shadow of World War II as it and the Holocuast created blowback for the ideals of the Axis Powers as people began embracing Pacifism, Human Rights, Freedom Of Conscience, Freedom Of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Racial Equality, LGBT rights, and various other anti-fascist ideals. LGBT RIghts oppositions and the related issues of discirimination, prejudice, and violence are religion linked issues.
      As listed on various news sources and Wikipedia articles on various laws, initiatives, and referenda (correct plural, not referendums), religious groups have endorsed both sides of various culture war related issues. The LGBT Rights affirming side has Mainline Protestantism, non-Orthodox/Haredi/Hasidic Judaism, Ethical Culture, Humanism, Eckankar, Raëlism, Contemporary Modern Neo Paganism, and Japanese schools of Buddhism like Jodo Shinshu and Soka Gakkai. It really boils down to the liberal/humanist versus fundamentalist divide. The groups mentioned are the liberal/humanist part of the continuum. A paper on Tibetan Buddhism and Western converts to it listed it among groups like Hare Krishnas and Baha'is as not being as liberal and humanist as advertised to Westerners. Likewise various religions groups among Orthodox Judaism, Evenagelical Protestantism, non-Protestant Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and the Baha'i Faith have endorsed LGBT Rights opposition. Whether supporting Section 28 aka anti-LGBT propaganda laws in the United Kingdom, preserving sodomy law in Guyana, opposing sex education in South Africa, or any other such examples, the main point of such political actions is religion.
      Read more...
    • rodney Richards
      Jun 3, 2016
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      Stephen, thank you very much for this elucidation of Dharma, or may I call it one of man's oldest moral codes? As you state, whether inspired by God or Man or the Great Buddha, it is absolutely beneficial to society. As a westerner I appreciate the succinct definitions (there are more) of dharma: 1.essential quality or character, as of the cosmos or one's own nature.2.conformity to religious law, custom, duty, or one's own quality or character.
      As everyone can understand and see, we live in different times than 216 BCE or 216 CE. It's now 2016 and as in ...evident in every sacred scripture from the Bible to the Upanishads to selections from the Dhammapada, mankind has changed and the application of God's laws and Man's laws in relation to them, must also change. Baha'is feel the Baha'i Teachings reflect the general and specific needs of humankind in this modern age as distinct from past ages. Yet, as you point out and as I tried to in this article, the moral injunction "Do not murder," and others, is ancient. Now its' up to nations and societies to stick by this simple law.
      Read more...
  • Jun 2, 2016
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    For a long time I wondered how evolution could explain the huge step from the animal condition to the human condition. I believe that the answer is that we bootstrapped ourselves by competing with each other more than with other species. Some of this competition involved acquiring technology and moral behavior, but a lot of it involved killing each other. The story of Cain and Abel is a concise metaphor for that. Now, if we are really above the animal realm, we should have the ability to set that behind us.
    • rodney Richards
      Jun 3, 2016
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      Daniel, yes, our animal nature is continually being tested. As The Descent of Man by Darwin proved, tested to change and adapt into peaceful respectful endeavors where competition for scarce resources such as territory no longer force killing decisions, no matter how rationalized. As you point out, we had the tools, have the tools, to overcome or subdue much of nature, Now we must use the spiritual moral tools at hand to fully change to our human nature. Baha'is believe the Faith offers modern, rational, moral and spiritual (as well as practical), tools to accomplish that, as I'm sure you ...can appreciate.
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