Dr. Troutman’s Apostate Taxonomy

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I haven’t done much with this blog lately. Too much is going on in life and the Bahá’ís have been very quiet of late. I need to find something to post about! Oh here: this will do …

It was recently brought to my attention that I had been removed from Wikipedia’s list of Ex-Bahá’ís, which was quite a surprise given that I didn’t know I’d ever been on any such list. It’s hard to enjoy fame when nobody tells you you’re famous.

It happened that when yours truly was stricken from the honor roll, the list was broken up into two much shorter lists … and one really long list:

  • Former Bahá’ís: Juan Cole and Abd al-Hosayn Ayati
  • Apostates: K. Paul Johnson, Denis MacEoin, and Ehsan Yarshater
  • Covenant-breakers: (too many to mention here)


The page says nothing about restricting the list to noteworthy former Bahá’ís, therefore it follows that there is only one living “former Bahá’í,” and his name is Juan Cole.

The other three living specimens are “apostates.” This term was introduced to the list by one Chris Troutman, evidently an authority on out-group taxonomy. I know nothing about this authority figure, except that he seems to spend a lot of time editing Wiki pages.

I’m not sure how the three honorable gentlemen earned the eminent Dr. Troutman’s “apostate” classification. Perhaps it is that they have lives and don’t seem to care much about discussing the Bahá’í Faith, whereas Cole and Ayati went to great lengths to criticize the Bahá’í Faith and its Authoritative Odor. So it must mean that a “former Bahá’í” is a strident antagonist and an “apostate” is a specimen with better ways to spend his time?

One interesting fact: all “Covenant-breakers” are dead. I guess Covenant breaking isn’t an issue anymore, but of course “Covenant-breakers” do come in handy as a negative association for former Bahá’ís on lists like this, though as a general rule “Covenant-breakers” don’t consider themselves “former Bahá’ís.” It must be comforting to be a modest, harmless Ex-Bahá’í and share a page with the good folks that Bahá’ís regard as the darkest enemies of God’s Cause.

Here’s a link to the latest edit of the “Former Bahá’ís” Wiki page.

Here’s a link to Chris Troutman’s May 30, 2016 edit.

© 2016 Dan Jensen

Bahá’í Calendar Redux

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The Bahá’í Calendar, arguably the least lunar calendar there is, has recently been given a lunar calculation of its own. Because the founders of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions were reported to have been born a day apart on the Islamic calendar (though two years apart), the Bahá’í leaders in Israel figured it would be nice to make this happen on their calendar. To do this, they marked the 8th new moon after No-Rúz in Tehran as the one most likely to be close to the time of year when the two prophets were born, and then had one prophet’s birth commemorated on the first day after that new moon and the other prophet’s birth commemorated on the day after that.

The commemorations will no longer occur on the actual dates of birth on the solar cycle (October 20 and November 12) or even the Islamic calendar, but rather, they will take place on different dates from year to year, as is done with Easter and Good Friday.

Calendars are an important tool for scheduling our activities. A farmer might use a solar calendar to plan a harvest. A Bedouin might use a lunar calendar to plan a journey across the desert. Many calendars are a hybrid between solar and lunar so that they can be used in accord with seasonal and lunar cycles. The Gregorian calendar, for instance, is precisely calculated to remain synchronized with the seasons. It is not so precise with respect to lunar cycles, each of its months being about a day too long to keep pace with the phases of the moon. Still, a Gregorian month can be used to loosely approximate a lunar month.

Calendars can also be used to lend meaning to a day or a time of year. Nations and religions use calendars to assert their values and allegiances. They do so by marking certain dates as sacred (in a religious or secular sense).

The Bábí religion of 19th Century Iran was the first that I know of to take the “moon” out of month, to redefine it such that it has absolutely no correspondence to lunar cycles. The Bábí month had 19 days in it, presumably because 19 is the square root of 361 (which is nearly 365.24). If one makes a month 19 days long, one can have 19 months in a year. You’ll have to add 4 or 5 days on at the end to complete the year, but otherwise you have a calendar that is a kind of perfect square (an imperfect kind). It has little to say about natural cycles, because the cycles are not perfect squares, but if one likes mathematical perfection it has that going for it.

The Bábí calendar, like the ancient Iranian calendar, was a solar calendar with its new year, “No-Rúz” in Farsi, on the Vernal Equinox (about March 20). This changed a bit when the Bábí religion metamorphosed into the Bahá’í Faith. The founder of the latter religion, Bahá’u’lláh, used his knowledge of astrology to alter the Bábí calendar so that the Bahá’í new year would occur when the sun enters the constellation Aries, which might be regarded as a war god or a sheep.

Because the sun enters Aries on about April 18, the Bahá’í calendar should have its new year on that date, but this rule has been ignored. The Bahá’í calendar is said, rather, to begin on the Vernal Equinox, but this is not strictly the case. It is, rather, based upon the Gregorian calendar, its new year being marked on March 20th every year, regardless of whether the equinox falls on that date or not.

A calendar that begins when the sun enters a constellation is bound to drift against the seasons, so it is more astrological—or Zodiacal—than it is solar. However, so long as the Bahá’í calendar is based upon the Gregorian calendar, it will remain a solar calendar (by association).

© 2014 Dan Jensen

America’s Last Chance

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The year was 1966. The times they were a-changin’. In the Bahá’í universe, the pieces were falling into place. The first Universal House of Justice had been elected, and the world seemed to be ready for new answers and new leaders. It was the time of Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali. Malcolm X had recently been assassinated. Black Americans were asserting their status and rights as full citizens. The time was right to introduce Black America to Bahá’u’lláh’s message of racial equality and unity.

I was just a year old. My family moved from south Los Angeles to Saint Helena Island, just off the coast of South Carolina. We lived in the town of Frogmore, the location of legendary Penn Center. Saint Helena Island, midway between Charleston and Savannah, had once been a sanctuary for free blacks (Union territory during the Civil War), and the location of a school for the same. It remains an active cultural heritage center to this day. In the 1960s, Penn Center was a conference center for some of the leaders of Black America. My parents even joined in a meeting attended by Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, and—I daresay—even Joan Baez.

The lower coast of South Carolina was the focus of much Bahá’í campaigning in the late 1960s. My family played a part in those campaigns. This deeply southern portion of the state is generally poor and black, two qualifications that made the area a prime target of proselytizing. But presently, 45 years later, there is little sign of that burst of campaigning. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the population of Bahá’ís south of Lake Marion is quite low. Only in Colleton County, just northeast of Beaufort and Frogmore, do Bahá’ís constitute more than 0.7% of the population. On average, the poor, black counties that stretch from the Savannah River to Lake Marion are 0.6% Bahá’í.

The penetration of the Bahá’í Faith is significantly greater in the somewhat less black counties north of the Santee River. From the Santee north to Dillon and Darlington Counties, Bahá’ís constitute 2.4% of the population, four times the density south of Lake Marion. This region has a greater concentration of Bahá’ís than anywhere in the United States. This is probably because the Bahá’ís have an “institute” (LGBI) and a radio station (WLGI) at Hemmingway, in the heart of the area, where Williamsburg, Florence, Marion, and Georgetown Counties meet—just inland from the resort complex along Myrtle Beach. South Carolina, as a whole, has a much lower density of Bahá’ís.

The only area in the United States that comes close to the Myrtle Beach area is the Pine Ridge–Rosebud area of South Dakota, where Bahá’ís began a campaign to convert impoverished reservation Indians in the 1980s. The penetration of the Bahá’í Faith there is just under 2%. The Standing Rock Reservation on the border of the Dakotas has a Bahá’í density of just over 1%.

The highest density of Bahá’ís in the United States outside of South Carolina and South Dakota can be found in the vicinity of Bosch Bahá’í Institute, on the central coast of California. Over 2,100 Bahá’ís live between Bosch, Salinas, and Monterey (a density of about 0.33%). This is not very impressive, but it’s higher than the same stat for southern South Carolina (0.29%), where once the Bahá’ís made great strides toward their dream of “entry by troops.” Unfortunately for that dream, that great moment of sea change that brought the movers and shakers to Frogmore is long gone, and little sign of the Bahá’í religion remains south of the Santee. A Bahá’í community can be found in listings for the city of Charleston, but elsewhere in the region, you’ll need a Bahá’í membership listing to find a Bahá’í. There are over three times as many Mormons in the area, and don’t look now, but the Muslims are closing in.

Bahá’í web sites for southern South Carolina:

Louis G. Gregory Bahá’í Museum, Charleston. Entry by appointment only. Site last updated in 2003.

© 2012 Dan Jensen

My Life as a Fanatic

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When I was a young man, I turned toward the Qiblah and prayed to Allah. I fasted for a month every year, and I refused all alcoholic beverages. I exchanged Arabic greetings with my fellow believers. Of course I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where I lived for a year and studied Arabic so that I could better understand the words of Allah. You might have found me carrying around a copy of the Holy Qur’án—just in case I might have some free reading time. And, yes: I was a virgin, though perhaps not entirely by choice.

If you had asked me back then whether I was a Muslim, I would have denied it, for I was a member of a Shi’ite splinter group that refuses to be identified as Muslims. It’s a long story—let’s just say that it’s hazardous to be called a heretic in Iran. But when I look back at my youth I say, “what a Muslim!”

I was a bit of a fundamentalist. No, I wasn’t outraged by the sight of a woman’s face or anything like that, though I was a bit of a stickler about modesty. Idolatry was my hang-up. I was something of a fanatic about it. I stood firm against the worship of men, and my stomach turned whenever one of my fellow believers presumed to be able to measure the goodness of any person. The soul was a sacred trust to me, and I thought it blasphemy to claim to be able to probe it. Did these people think that they knew the mind of God? These idolators saw their religious heroes as partners of God, whether they admitted it or not. And as for their enemies, …

Yes, I was a bit of a fanatic. I was such a radical iconoclast that I couldn’t help but see idolatry more and more in my religious community, right up to the day that I determined that my religion itself was a kind of idolatry. What a crazy Muslim I was.

I suppose I still am.

© 2012 Dan Jensen

A Protestant Revival in 19th Century Iran

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We are all familiar with the “Jesus is coming” meme, and many of us are aware that Jesus isn’t the only savior on the way. Some religions are given to hopes of saviors in the future. It’s no surprise that many people hope to be saved, like a slumbering beauty longs for her Prince Charming, though that salvation may mean the destruction of the world. This desire has been expressed among Christians and Muslims for as long as Christians and Muslims have walked the earth.

In the 13th Century, the Joachamites announced the Antichrist would appear in 1260, and Christ himself soon thereafter. Around 1750, one of the founders of the Shaker movement made the following announcement:

Repent. For the kingdom of God is at hand. The new heaven and new earth prophesied of old is about to come. The marriage of the Lamb, the first resurrection, the new Jerusalem descended from above, these are even now at the door. And when Christ appears again, and the true church rises in full and transcendent glory, then all anti-Christian denominations—the priests, the church, the pope—will be swept away.

History is littered with such millenarian outbursts. We need not enumerate them all here.

One such revival, commonly called the Second Great Awakening, featured characters like Joseph Smith and William Miller. Miller was a Baptist preacher who got out his notepad and his Bible and calculated the ETA of end of the world. Smith, the self-styled American Muhammad, brought his own Kingdom of Heaven down to Earth.

Pioneers in Persia

A surge of missionary activity seems to have accompanied this revival, and for Protestant Christians, the mission almost always involves the distribution of Bibles. This generally means printing Bibles in the local vernacular, so translation is a prerequisite.

Iran in 1808

The New Testament and Psalms were first translated into the Farsi (Persian) language in 1812. The task was completed in Shiraz, formerly the capital of Persia under Karim Khan and a city with an established Armenian Christian population, by an Anglican priest and a man from Shiraz. Not much later (1820), Shiraz was visited by the missionary Peter Gordon, who asserted that Shiraz was fertile ground for missionary work, and, of all cities in Persia, ought to be the focus of missionary attention. By 1825, the missionary Joseph Wolff established a Christian school for Armenian children in Shiraz.

These missionaries were not trying to convert Muslims, though they would have been happy to do so. Evangelizing to Muslims was a dangerous business, as it meant leading Muslims into apostasy, a capital offense. The missionaries were, rather,  after Jews and Christians of wayward denominations. But their activities, and presumably much of their message, may have been familiar to the Muslims of cities that were targets of missionary action. The revival itself, thanks in part to the missionaries, was spreading among the native Christians of the Middle East, and quite predictably, some Christians were heard to be expecting the imminent return of Christ.


Things had not gone well for Persia since the death of Karim Khan in 1779. The rise of the Qajars in 1794 was a particularly barbaric affair. In 1813 and 1828, Persia suffered military defeats and lost much territory to Russia, then a Christian empire. The Shah attacked the British Empire (Afghanistan) in 1837-38, but he was rebuffed by the British. Western influence began to increase steadily across Persia. This, no doubt, emboldened Christian missionaries, just as it surely wounded Persian honor.

By 1822, William Miller had completed his calculations and began to preach about the nearness of the Second Coming. He began with general pronouncements, but eventually coughed up the details:

My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.

As is well known, Christ missed his date with destiny. Miller then selected an alternative Jewish calendar that would permit Jesus to arrive by April 18 without the risk of being deemed rude. The revised deadline also passed without incident.

I can almost hear the missionaries declaring “the end is nigh” and Persians thinking, “what have we got to lose?” in reply. They could have used a messiah at least as much as any missionary, but a Persian messiah would have to be a Muslim messiah, a mahdi.

The Shaykhis

Sometime after 1826, a Persian named Sayyid Kazim turned his Shayki following in a distinctly millenarian direction [1]. Kazim preached that the Muslim Mahdi, whom he identified as the Christian Messiah, was somewhere in the world, waiting to be discovered. Kazim stated quite clearly that he had not met this messiah. When Kazim died in 1843, he left his followers searching across the land for the Mahdi.

Sayyid Kazim had appointed a successor, Haji Karim Khan Kirmani, who would steer the Shaykhis away from Kazim’s millenarianism and back toward the movement’s less radical roots, but Persia was ripe for a savior, and the new Shayki leader couldn’t steer the ship of faith quickly enough to stop violence from breaking out across Persia.

Among Kazim’s disciples (and Karim Khan’s flock) was a young merchant from Shiraz whom Kazim had instructed at length and presumably sent back to Fars to seek the Messiah. Soon after Kazim died, and shortly after William Miller’s final calculations fell through, the young Shaykhi declared himself to be the Messiah. He was a little late to be Jesus (according to Miller’s reckoning), but better late than never. The young messiah inspired a jihad throughout Persia, and was duly executed in 1850. The rebellion raged on for years, but was put down. Ultimately, the movement renounced violence and was rebranded “the Baha’i Faith.” They continued to endure violent royal reprisals, and they are persecuted in Iran to this very day.



[1] It’s doubtful that the Shaykhis existed as a millenarian sect before Kazim took over, but even if it had, it wouldn’t have been so before about 1824.

© 2012 Dan Jensen

Messiah as Man

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“the more fallible the mammal, the truer the example.”
—Christopher Hitchens

I wasn’t brought up Christian, but I was brought up to believe in a holy trinity of sorts. I was taught that a certain few men were perfect images of God; that these men, though not God in essence, were perfect reflections of God in the “material world,” and thus they were effectively God so far as mankind is concerned. As images of God in the material realm (i.e., idols), they could be regarded as God incarnate. Hence Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of my parents’ religion wrote, “I am God.”

The metaphor I was given was made of three parts: the sun, the light of the sun, and a mirror. The sun represented God, the sunlight the Holy Spirit, and lastly, the mirror took the place of the incarnation, or as Bahá’ís say, the “manifestation,” a term which spiritualists have long equated with “materialization.” It is effectively equivalent to incarnation.

This theological model implied infallibility on the part of the manifestation, as a “perfect reflection” of God. Though infallibility was implicit, it was made quite explicit by Bahá’u’lláh’s writings. This model of perfect deification of individuals was extended, as it turned out, to various successors of Bahá’u’lláh, though nuance was applied to the notion of infallibility applied to the successors.

The doctrine of infallible succession, entitled “the Covenant,” is considered by Bahá’ís to be an unprecedented, eternal mandate from God that keeps the Bahá’í authorities “free from error.” This covenant that God keeps with Bahá’ís can be stated thus: so long as a Bahá’í is faithful to the authoritative succession, God will provide that Bahá’í with unerring guidance by means of that authority.

The doctrine was first established in Bahá’u’lláh’s last will and testament, entitled “the Book of the Covenant,” wherein he directed his followers to be faithful to his sons. This command was used by the prophet’s eldest son to claim himself to be an infallible exemplar for all Bahá’ís, just as Muhammad is regarded as a perfect example by most Muslims.

Like an abusive husband thrives on the inferiority of a submissive wife, religion often undermines humanity as a means to justifying its own existence. Christianity sees humans as hopeless sinners. Islám sees humans as powerless slaves. The Bahá’í Faith established its mandate upon an image of humans as blind sheep in need of continuous guidance. This the Bahá’í Faith did to an unprecedented degree, inasmuch as its “Covenant” is promised to continue to be manifested in this world in a much more thorough sense than in the case of the Catholic Papacy or the Shí’a Imamate.

I gave up on such divine authoritarianism long ago, chiefly because I found that it stifles independent thought and undermines human dignity; yet, as I look back at the history of the Bahá’í religion, I sometimes wonder whether it might have been originally conceived with more enlightened intentions. This is not to suggest that the Bahá’í religion can be redeemed in its current state of depravity, or even that Bahá’u’lláh was without fault.

Bahá’u’lláh had several of the markings of a reluctant messiah. He was 45 years old and living in exile when he finally declared himself the “promised one of all ages.” He’d recently disappeared for two years, apparently overwhelmed by the infighting amid his religious community. At the time, he claimed that he had been aware that he was a “manifestation” for over a decade. Perhaps he had been waiting for the right timing, perhaps to transform the passage of some number of years into a retroactive prophecy. It’s hard to even guess what might have been going on in his mind.

Bahá’u’lláh claimed to have become aware of his divine station while imprisoned in the “Black Pit” of Tehran at age 35, probably wondering whether he was about to be executed. He said he’d had a divine vision under the unbearable conditions of that former subterranean reservoir.  It should surprise no one that this man saw something remarkable while bent under the weight of heavy chains in a dark, damp, cave. What interests me is how long Bahá’u’lláh’s memory of that experience had to distill before he ever brought it to the attention of his religious community. Bahá’u’lláh’s Black Pit would make a fine analog to Muhammad’s Cave of Hira. The key difference for Bahá’u’lláh was that he was in mortal danger at the time and that he let the memory brew for a decade.

Did Bahá’u’lláh immediately come to believe that he was the world-Messiah? It doesn’t appear to be likely, but I don’t doubt that he convinced himself of it over time. He may have schemed consciously to some degree, but I think it likely that the subconscious mind ultimately took over. Yes, I believe he deluded himself, not that this would have been out of the ordinary. Men commonly delude themselves. It’s the nature of the beast. We may even look upon ourselves as naught but the delusions we craft for ourselves. We are quite adept at self-deception. We craft memories to develop narratives of our pasts. We rationalize. We forget when remembering is inconvenient. This is how the human mind operates.

I don’t think that Bahá’u’lláh’s delusion of grandeur was entirely malignant. There are signs that Bahá’u’lláh might have been something of a Bourgeois humanitarian, and his delusion might have saved a faltering messianic movement from itself and set it upon a progressive course. It’s not a great stretch to suggest that his writings emphasized human harmony, and why not advocate social change through religious revolution? There was perhaps no better forum for social change in the 19th Century Middle East than religion.

Even at his most tyrannical, Bahá’u’lláh often left us hints of a pragmatic purpose. When he spoke of the importance of fearing God, he directed his reasoning toward those whom he regarded as the shameless mass of men. When he wrote his very Muslim, retrograde “Book of Laws,” he said that he did so to satisfy certain elements among his following. He did say that men should be regarded as sheep, but I think he may have left room for exceptions, for the statement is not necessarily false if taken as a statement of sociological fact. Is it not true that most people prefer to live as sheep?

I often criticize Bahá’u’lláh for his undignified depiction of humanity, but perhaps pessimism about human vision is a forgivable failure. I consider this failure of faith in humanity to be the Achilles heel of Bahá’u’lláh‘s cause, but that crippling shortcoming does not necessarily render his efforts meaningless or in vain. Taken in the context of his time and place, we may yet be able to see Bahá’u’lláh as a progressive reformer—though no hero, saint, or messiah—in a religious milieu that was and remains in desperate need of reform.

© 2012 Dan Jensen

Dear Mr. Ayatollah

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Dear Mr. Ayatollah,

Some time ago, a close Bahá’í relation of mine insinuated that I had encouraged you to persecute her fellow believers in Iran. This, I suppose, she did because I have often criticized her religion, having once been a Bahá’í myself. I was very troubled by this assertion of hers. I would hate to think that I had ever encouraged you to persecute anyone, so I am presently writing you to make certain that you have not misunderstood my statements on the subject.

Iran: Ethnicities and Sects

To be frank, I consider your treatment of the Bahá’ís of Iran inhumane, unjust, and thoroughly detrimental to the social welfare of the people of Iran. I consider it divisive and counterproductive.

Now I know the Bahá’ís have sometimes been their own worst enemy when it comes to public relations. They believe that they have received a new revelation from God, which they believe is destined to prevail over the earth. They speak of world government, a kingdom of God on earth, and as if that weren’t enough, they’ve gone and put their world headquarters in a place that has come to be known by the name “Israel.” I can see how some people might feel threatened by the ambitions of the Bahá’ís, but let us get a better look at them.

The Bahá’ís of Iran are not so different from their fellow countrymen. In many respects, they still cling to their Shi’ah heritage. They revere Muhammad, the Imams, and the angels. They too have guardians whom they consider divinely-guided and free from error. They are not as harsh as you in punishment, but they, like you, do not drink wine; like you they believe that men and women should have different roles in society; like you they do not approve of homosexuality; and they, like you, are very proud of their Iranian and Islamic heritage. But they are also proud of their particular sect, perhaps a little too proud.

Having heard Bahá’ís speak of their great destiny of spiritual conquest, you might feel justified in considering them an existential threat to your theocratic reign, but hear me out, because I think that you would be mistaken to fear them: the Bahá’ís, in spite of their lofty ambitions and triumphalistic rhetoric, are utterly impotent and harmless.

The Bahá’ís are harmless, but not merely because of they aspire to be non-violent and non-political. The Bahá’í religion is harmless because it has grown bureaucratic and stagnant with age, while its adherents have grown complacent and apathetic. Their temples may look glorious, but that is merely the mark of an influx of money. Morally and socially, the Bahá’í religion is not so vivacious as it once was. There is little spirit left in its adherents, and even less imagination. They are nearly invisible. The only recent victory they seem to have achieved is in seeking martyrdom at your hands. In your need to punish the Bahá’ís for their heresies, their vain ambitions, and the sins of a few among them, I fear that you are unwittingly playing into their impotent hands, and alas, you achieve nothing of sustained value in making martyrs of them.

It may sometimes be useful to mark a scapegoat, but one must use caution in doing so. It can be a risky task to scapegoat a people whom citizens meet on a daily basis, a scapegoat whom the people can readily see are too powerless to be an effective enemy. Attempting to scapegoat the wrong people, a purely Iranian people of Shi’ah heritage such as the Bahá’ís, can erode public confidence in your leadership.

It may be reasonably contended that some Iranian Bahá’ís have acted greedily. I have seen the ostentatious homes, clothes and cars of some Iranian Bahá’ís that fill many American Bahá’ís with envy and covetousness; I have seen the glorious Bahá’í construction projects in Israel that have undoubtedly been funded largely by wealthy Iranian Bahá’ís, and I wonder how so many Iranians can be so poor while so few are so rich. I can understand your suspicions. But if these men obtained their wealth by criminal means, they could be investigated and prosecuted. Instead, they have been driven overseas, and they have taken their fortunes with them, leaving many less fortunate Bahá’ís behind. Though you may regret having chased so much money away, the Bahá’ís that remain in Iran are certainly no threat to you.

Globally, the Bahá’í religion is no more threatening than those unfortunate native Bahá’ís stranded in your shadow. Their religion has long lost any mark of distinction by which it might be empowered. The only distinction that the Bahá’ís lately advertise is the blood on your hands, which they claim to be their own though it is also the blood of intellectuals, artists, dissidents, and homosexuals.

Listen to the Bahá’ís: they have little on their lips other than the courage of their martyrs. They hope that their imprisoned and executed heroes will bring their religion notoriety. If you wish to silence them, then ignore them; treat them as the ordinary Iranians that they are, and deny them the glory of martyrdom.


© 2011 Dan Jensen

Annual Update

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It’s been over thirteen months since I last posted to this blog. There’s a good reason for my absence: I haven’t had much to say about Bahá’í matters. Perhaps this is because not much is going on—I’m in no position to say. I will say that I only created this blog because I wanted to remove the entries on Bahá’í matters off of my principal blog (now named Kindling, but with the original motto).

I never had any intention of blogging on the Bahá’í Faith indefinitely. I just didn’t expect to have that much to say on the topic.

Recently, I did contribute an article on my conversion to Zoroastrianism to the Project Conversion site—back at Naw Ruz time (Naw Ruz was a Zoroastrian festival long before it became a Bahá’í holy day). This article wasn’t about the Bahá’í Faith, but it might be of interest to anyone who’s wondered what a “native-born Bahá’í” like me might do in terms of religion after having moved away from the Bahá’í Faith.

The Lost Prophet of the Millennium

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Remember the old Y2K scare? We generally look back at that anxious time as an anticlimax, understanding that nothing much happened at the turn of the millennium. I remember how the Bahá’ís expected world peace to flower by the end of the 20th Century. Since then, many Bahá’ís have sought out alternative interpretations of their failed peace prophecy.


Mustaghath, shortly before his occultation

I say “failed,” but I know something that most Bahá’ís don’t. Truth be told, at the close of the year 2001, on the very last day that fell within the Y2K window, a young prophet discovered his calling. Evidence of this portentous moment can be found with the help of the tool known to nostalgic Web surfers as the WayBack Machine:

Dec 02, 2001

This page doesn’t provide any actual information on the youthful prophet, but information would soon be forthcoming:

The hour is approaching when the most great convulsion will have appeared. I swear by Him Who is the Truth! It shall cause separation to afflict everyone, even those who circle around Me….

—Baha’ullah (Mar 29, 2002)

The great unveiling was finally accomplished, as far as I can determine, in early April 2002, when the Prophet proclaimed to the Bahá’ís:

We observe that your Faith is shiny on the outside but rotten at the core: that when a person doth look, he beholdeth a beautiful thing; but when he doth taste of it, he spitteth out the foul flesh of a fruit gone bad …

Mustaghath’ul-Baha, The Book of Restoration

If there had previously been any doubts of God’s disapproval of the course of the Bahá’í Faith at the turn of the millennium, those doubts were vanquished. The LORD GOD was obviously unhappy. In that same sacred declaration, He continued:

O people of Baha! Institutions are not to be worshipped! Bow not the knee before the false god of bureaucracy!…

What Bahá’í of sound mind could possibly disagree? The world was on the threshold of rebirth. Reform was in the air.

This “new messenger of God” did not satisfy himself with a mere web site, but also founded an organization which he christened the Alliance for the Reform of the Baha’i Faith. Because he soon realized that this title was ungainly, he went on to rename the alliance “Baha’i Alliance for the Reform of the Faith,” commonly known as BARF.

The young messenger was met with strident opposition. Conservative Bahá’ís stood against him, arguing that their founder Bahá’u’lláh had forbidden any claims to prophecy ere the passing of a thousand years. But alas, the young messenger had all the answers:

Did ye think there would come unto you no messenger for a thousand years? Alas! ye have misinterpreted the scriptures and have forgotten many teachings.

The meaning of this passage was veiled in many hidden meanings, such as this: it was the dawn of a new millennium, and a millennium is the passing of a thousand years!

This was a profound insight, but because none could apprehend the meaning of His words, he was laughed to scorn.

Given more time, the young Prophet might have had a profound influence on the new millennium, but His ministry came to a premature and tragic end. No one knows for certain what happened to Him, and rumors still swirl around the memory of that blessed Youth. Some say that AO (Authoritative Odor) operatives spirited him away, and that he remains in occultation, deep beneath the great marble Arc in Haifa Israel. Other point their fingers at Eric Stetson (not to be confused with noted evangelical Christian Eric Stetson, or the noted Christian Universalist Eric Stetson) as a suspect in the abduction or murder of the Youth. Stetson appeared to be the Prophet’s web master, and had unsurpassed access to the prophet. Stetson, a strident Unitarian, has since made strong statements that some see as clues to his guilt:

Although various people may have spiritually inspired ideas, there is no human being, institution or organization that can claim to speak for God, because Baha’u’llah explicitly prohibited anyone from claiming a station of “command” for at least 1000 years after his own prophethood.

Eric Stetson (the Unitarian Bahá’í)

Though such statements may seem damning, the reader should note that any Unitarian Bahá’í could have made such a statement, and Stetson is but one of many Unitarian Bahá’ís.

In any case, the loss of Mustaghath was a lethal blow to the spirit of the Bahá’í community, which has remained mired in paralysis since the Prophet’s disappearance. From the four compass points, Bahá’í voices can be heard calling, “Mustaghath, Mustaghath! Where are you?”

Unitarian Baha’is?

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Who are these “Unitarian Bahá’í” we’ve been hearing about?

If a theological unitarianism is meant, why use the term “Unitarian Bahá’í” at all? Have you ever met an avowed trinitarian Bahá’í?

bp is for Blessed Perfection

The mystical 18-pointed star ("bp" is for "Blessed Perfection")

If we are to take the term seriously, we ought to seek to understand its meaning in context. The term has come to be associated with the Behaists, an early 20th Century Bahá’í splinter group whose distinguishing doctrine was a rejection of the divinity, i.e. infallibility, of `Abdu’l-Bahá’, the leader of the Bahá’í religion at the time. The point, then, of using the term “unitarian” in this context, is to indicate a rejection of the divinity (infallibility) of any man. This makes sense, for the deification of any man is tantamount to polytheism.

The problem I’ve always had with the Behaists calling themselves Unitarians is that they never had a problem deifying Bahá’u’lláh himself.

Frankly, I happen to believe that most Bahá’ís are trinitarians, because their theology of Manifestation owes much to Christian theology. This is also true of those who call themselves “Unitarian Bahá’ís.”

The home page for the Unitarian Baha’i discussion group states:

The Unitarian Bahai faith is a movement of Bahaism that teaches that none of the successors of the prophet Baha’u’llah are infallible …

A true unitarian would not deify any man. A unitarian Bahá’í would be a Bahá’í who lives as a Bahá’í without any belief in the infallibility of Bahá’u’lláh.

I personally believe that a Bahá’í can be a unitarian. It’s not as if I don’t know of any true unitarians among the Bahá’ís, but I hesitate to single them out for fear of what might be done to them.