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Religion

3 Common Misconceptions about the Baha’i Faith

Kathy Roman | Jun 3, 2018

PART 1 IN SERIES 6 Common Misconceptions about the Baha’i Faith

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

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Kathy Roman | Jun 3, 2018

PART 1 IN SERIES 6 Common Misconceptions about the Baha’i Faith

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

Since learning about the Baha’i Faith when I was 14—and now being, well, quite a bit older than 14—I have heard all of the false claims, assertions and accusations regarding my religion.

In parts 1 & 2 of these articles, let’s deal straightforwardly with some of the most obvious untruths: the Baha’i Faith is a cult or a sect of Islam; a Baha’i clergy exists; you are born a Baha’i if you come from a Baha’i family; Baha’is don’t believe in Christ; and Baha’is want your money. None of these contain a shred of truth—in fact, they’re completely false.

False claim #1: “The Baha’i Faith is a sect of Islam”

In fact, the Baha’i Faith is a distinct religion unto itself, recognized as such by the vast majority of the world’s nations and scholars. Although the prophet and founder of the Faith, Baha’u’llah, was born into a Muslim family, he went on to establish a completely independent religion. His relationship to Islam is the same as Christ’s relationship to Judaism. Born a Jew, Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecy and founded Christianity. Although Christianity incorporates the same truths as the Jewish faith, they are two separate religions. Baha’u’llah came to unite the religions:

Christ was the Prophet of the Christians, Moses of the Jews—why should not the followers of each prophet recognize and honor the other prophets also? If men could only learn the lesson of mutual tolerance, understanding, and brotherly love, the unity of the world would soon be an established fact. – Abdu’l-BahaParis Talks, pp. 48-49.

Inasmuch as the essential reality of the religions is one and their seeming variance and plurality is adherence to forms and imitations which have arisen, it is evident that these causes of difference and divergence must be abandoned in order that the underlying reality may unite mankind in its enlightenment and upbuilding. All who hold fast to the one reality will be in agreement and unity. Then shall the religions summon people to the oneness of the world of humanity and to universal justice; then will they proclaim equality of rights and exhort men to virtue and to faith in the loving mercy of God. The underlying foundation of the religions is one; there is no intrinsic difference between them. Therefore, if the essential and fundamental ordinances of the religions be observed, peace and unity will dawn, and all the differences of sects and denominations will disappear. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 99.

False claim #2: “The Baha’i Faith has a clergy just like other religions”

Baha’is believe that intermediaries such as pastors, priests, mullahs or rabbis are no longer necessary for learning about and communing with God. Since the teachings of the Baha’i Faith state that all of humanity is equal without exception, Baha’is believe that we have reached a collective state of human maturity, and that we can independently search for and investigate truth for ourselves. Each of us has an individual relationship with God that is sacred and personal—we have reached a stage of human maturation that no longer requires the old forms of faith:

This is the cycle of maturity and reformation in religion as well. Dogmatic imitations of ancestral beliefs are passing. They have been the axis around which religion revolved but now are no longer fruitful; on the contrary, in this day they have become the cause of human degradation and hindrance. Bigotry and dogmatic adherence to ancient beliefs have become the central and fundamental source of animosity among men, the obstacle to human progress, the cause of warfare and strife, the destroyer of peace, composure and welfare in the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 439.

So while Baha’is have no clergy at all, an elected Baha’i administration does exist. Every year, Baha’is democratically elect a Local Spiritual Assembly of nine individuals in each city, entirely without campaigning or politicking. These Spiritual Assemblies address the spiritual needs of the community.

False claim #3: “You are born a Baha’i”

Although many children of Baha’is grow up to accept the Faith for themselves, the children of Baha’is do not automatically do so. Unlike other religions, Baha’i children are encouraged to study all the spiritual traditions, and, after the age of 15, make a thoughtful and informed choice for themselves. Since the Baha’i Faith validates the spiritual teachings of many past traditions, and recognizes and honors all the world religions, it is rarely an issue. One of the primary Baha’i principles—the independent investigation of truth—ensures that no one becomes or remains a Baha’i against their will:

… God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.

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Comments

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  • Ryan ryanthenerd3@gmail.com
    Apr 7, 2020
    -
    Hi, I am a middle school student doing a research project on the Baha'i Faith. I came here because I had a question that I couldn't really find an answer to. My question is, do Baha'is believe in same-sex marriage? There is no judgment; I am just trying to compare and contrast it to other religions. I'm just wondering because I really do think that this is an interesting faith.
    • Stephen Licata
      May 4, 2020
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      Dear Ryan,This is a very important issue and rather than provide a simplistic yes or no answer, I would refer you to the following article that re-frames your question in an interesting way. It asks us to consider if the present society is influencing us to examine the notion of human sexuality in a way that instead just leads us down a philosophical blind alley. Thank you for your question and please take the time to review this article, issued by the national governing body of the Baha'is of the United States, drawing on the guidance and resources of the ...Baha'i World Center in Haifa, Israel, which is at bahai.us, under the topic of bahai-teachings-homosexuality
      Read more...
  • Michael M Brown
    Jun 9, 2018
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    Note Investigation of the truth doesn't stop when one accepts the Bahai faith. Its life long..
  • Qudrat Larawin
    Jun 5, 2018
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    Due the ignorance many are given misconceptions. With social media and many alternate media sources, the truth will always reign supreme. Iam a proud Bahá'í but due to the nature of my job, I am abit stagnant but I know the truth which is the most comforting feeling you can have in our short stay in this relm
  • Jun 5, 2018
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    Great text. One thing I got to point out to add on your own argumentation concerning the first topic is that it was actually the Islamic clergy who determined that the Baha'i Faith is not a sect. At that time it was a manner of persecution, now it is really a blessing that they indirectly acknowledged a new Revelation even if not believing in Its Revelator. :)
    • Jun 5, 2018
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      Thanks for your comments, Andrew. That’s interesting to know!
  • rodney Richards
    Jun 4, 2018
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    Since i married in 1971 I've always cultivated a beard. I was surprised therefore after giving a fireside one evening when a male guest asked, "Do all Baha'i men have to wear beards?" His concern was genuine for a number of Baha'i males did indeed have beards! The answer is "No," but this is how strong perceptions are especially on new people we meet, and how clear we Baha'is must be about our dress, and demeanor, to portray the best human qualities we can and to not get attached to outward trappings.
    • Jun 4, 2018
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      That’s a great story, Rodney, and important for us to remember. Thanks so much for sharing!
  • Ellen Ramer
    Jun 4, 2018
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    Great subject matter. Looking forward to the continuation of this theme!
    • Jun 4, 2018
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      Thanks Sissy. I talk about your Firesides in part two!
  • Jules R
    Jun 3, 2018
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    Wonderful and informative article! ??
  • Matthew Freeman
    Jun 3, 2018
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    Lovely to read your words Kathy. One of the great mysteries and powers of Christianity is that Christ did not found Christianity. He inspired it but it was not until some centuries later that we can say Christianity was founded. Best wishes, Matthew
    • Jun 3, 2018
      -
      That is quite interesting to learn, Matthew. Thanks for your comments!
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