Saturday, June 14, 2008

Faith U Like

In doing our little tour of Kampala during our last days off, we came to learn a lot more about something we knew very little about.

The Baha'i Faith.

I'd always assumed this lesser known religion was one of the more crackpot belief systems out there. Something crazy but on the cusp of legitimacy. Like Scientology. Or being pro-Bush.

I knew something of the fact it had some followers in Iran. Who had been, or were being, prosecuted.

R even knew someone who was a follower of the Baha'i faith. In fact, even I knew her. Allegedly.

(She was one of the people I met whilst in a chemo-induced stupor and as such, I have no physical memory of her. I've been shown the photos, but you can't prove anything...)

But we knew nothing really about it.

Turns out, it's actually quite a nice religion, as religions go. I mean, don't get me wrong, we're both confirmed atheists, but if we weren't, we both agreed this wouldn't be a bad way to turn.

Their principles just sound, well, lovely. It's an inclusive sort of belief system, one that acknowledges all earlier religions and reckons this is just the latest link in the chain, all stemming from the same source. And they're all for justice, peace and equality. Including that of women, which makes a nice change.

Here are the founding beliefs of Baha'ian faith:

All humanity is one family.

Women and men are equal.
Look, it's right up there, number two in the list of priorities... cool!

All prejudice — racial, religious, national, or economic — is destructive and must be overcome. Most religions manifest themselves in prejudice against other religions... so this can only be a good thing.

We must investigate truth for ourselves, without preconceptions.

Science and religion are in harmony.

Our economic problems are linked to spiritual problems.
Oh Yes.

Abolishing the extremes of poverty and wealth

The family and its unity are very important.

There is one God.

All major religions come from God.

World peace is the crying need of our time.

You said it... About the only two principles I don't agree with personally are the ones with the word God in them. But hey, that's just me...

So, not only do they have a fundamentally sound set of principles which only leaves you wondering just who would want to persucute someone as nice as the people that practice such beliefs, they only have seven temples in the world and one of them is in Kampala.

A few miles out of town, high up on a green and pleasant hill, amid the birdsong and far from the traffic-choked city streets, serenely sits a round chapel like building that hugs itself to the ground.

We were let in to look around, with strict instructions not to speak once inside. It was strangely empty, except for some austere seating and beautiful Persian carpets. We suppressed the urge to giggle (we'd be crap at being religious) but left feeling generally impressed with the whole Baha'i thang.

Far from crackpot, it seems to be one of the most sane religious movements around.


Montana Don said...

Your conclusion concerning the Baha'i Faith is like that of Gene Roddenbury of Star Trek fame. His cousin is a Baha'i and I heard her speak one time. She was asked about his reaction to the Faith and she explained that he was a committed atheist with a very poor view of religion. (Note in the original Star Trek series that religion *never* comes off very well.) She said, however, that he had once told her that if you had to have a religion, he guessed that Baha'i was about as good as you could get.

Don C

george wesley dannells said...

With your permission I would like to excerpt from this post on Baha'i Views and link.

There are many paths into the Baha'i Faith, including by way of atheism. I often tell people, I don't believe in the God you don't believe in either.

Anonymous said...

"Women and men are equal."

Of course they are. Except when they aren't. Women are not allowed to serve on the Baha'i supreme administrative institution, the House of Justice.

"All prejudice — racial, religious, national, or economic — is destructive and must be overcome."

Of course it must. Except when it mustn't. Gay and lesbian Baha'is can either leave the Baha'i community, make concerted efforts to change their sexual orientation, or remain closeted when it comes to expressing their sexual orientation. Ugandan Baha'is have actively opposed the extension of civil rights to gay men and lesbians.

"We must investigate truth for ourselves, without preconceptions."

And once we have investigated for ourselves, we become Baha'is and submit in all things to the House of Justice.

"Science and religion are in harmony."

Except when they aren't. Then religion trumps science.

There is a crack between the real and the ideal, and it's called denial. Not a river in Egypt, nor in Uganda for that matter.

Bette said...

OMG, (or not, in the vein of your blog post) I am so wondering what the hell happened last year. I do remember, last summer, thinking about how "together" I felt, in spite of being under the chemical infuence of chemotherapy drugs. But now I too struggle to remember anything about last summer. Meeting people, movies I saw, parties I attended (bald for godsakes!!), not one memory. Maybe a psychological defense mechanism of my brain? Should I be thankful? Just don't know.

Priscilla Gilman said...

Ah, the reality is so much more complicated than that list of principles indicates. There is much sanity in the Baha'i Faith and much else.


p.s. If I have to do chemotherapy I'll anticipate good skin; if I need to kidnap someone I will avoid the obese.