Interesting to see the attention given to the Baha’i Faith since it has emerged from the Hutton Enquiry that David Kelly joined the religion in 1999.
I nearly became a Baha’i in 1995, intrigued to learn more after attending a Baha’i wedding, and again in 1999. In crude terms, the Faith is non-sexist, pacifist and internationalist, actively encourages co-operation with all other religions, and its organisation is — in management-speak — flat and fairly non-hierarchical. It’s also committed to avoiding what might be called evangelical recruitment methods to grow its numbers: no emotional arm-twisting or moral blackmail.
But it’s not post-modernist because it is firmly wedded to what po-mo’s would call an Enlightenment Narrative: Baha’i’s believe that things are getting better; people are getting better; as time’s arrow advances, so do our souls, towards salvation. Jesus, Mohammed, Zoroaster and the Buddha were all manifestations of the one God. The reason their teachings were not fully non-sexist etc was that people weren’t ready to hear that stuff back then. But by the mid-19th Century, Baha’u’llah — the latest manifestation of God — was able to give us Release 5.0 of the Word of God. (OK, I’m teasing a bit, but I mean no offence to Baha’i’s, for whom I have great respect, through my use of language.)
But herein lay my sticking point: what the Baha’i Faith shares with other religions is a rigid adherence to the Word, albeit a kinder, gentler, more cosmopolitan scripture. I asked what Baha’i’s thought of homosexuality, and the answers were hedged slightly, but — from what I could gather — it seemed Baha’u’llah didn’t think the Victorian era was ready for gay rights. And the bad news is that it is written that there won’t be another manifestation of God visiting us with an update on the Word for at least another 2,000 years.
Oh, I should confess to another little problem I had with the Faith: Baha’u’llah says ‘no alcohol.’ I wasn’t sure I was ready to hear that.
I’m no expert on the Baha’i Faith, so if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick on any points above, please add a comment below. Of course I will correct inaccuracies.