Oneness - True Faith
wizanda
Bahá'í Posted on: 2004/3/20 15:05
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History:
Most religious historians believe that the Bahá'í Faith arose from Islam, similar to the way Christianity arose from Judaism. However, many Bahá'í's believe that it is a unique religion with no historical connections to other faiths. It has grown to be a worldwide faith. It is most commonly spelled Baha'i, although alternate spellings of Ba'Hai, Bahai, and Bah'ai are sometimes seen.

Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad (1819-1850 CE) assumed the title Bab which means the Gate. In 1844-MAY-23 He announced the "Declaration of the Bab." He explained that the purpose of His mission was to herald the arrival of "One greater than Himself", Who would fulfill the prophetic expectations of all the great religions. This date is regarded as the founding of the Bahá'í Faith. His followers became known as Babis. 20,000 were martyred for their beliefs. His movement caused much religious ferment. This led to His execution in 1850 by order of the Shah's chief minister and at the instigation of Muslim clerics, who saw His movement as a threat to orthodox Islam.

In 1863, one of the Bab's followers, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri (1817-1892), a prominent follower of the Bab to Whom the Bab had given several indications of His future station, confided to some of his followers and to His eldest son that He was the Manifestation predicted by the Bab. On 1863-APR-21, He began proclaiming his station openly and publicly to the world at large. His assumed title, Baha'u'llah, by which He is generally known, was the title the Bab used to refer to Him. The last forty years of Baha'u'llah's life were spent in prison or in exile. The last 22 years were spent in or near Acre, then a prison city. The world headquarters of the Bahá'í Faith is located in the Holy Land today as a result.

Baha'u'llah's son 'Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), was appointed by His father to be leader of the movement after His father's death.

The religion came to North America in 1893. The Bahá'í Faith states that it currently has about 6 million members worldwide: about 2.5 million adherents in India and 140,000 in the US. The Canadian census found 14,730 in Canada in 1991. There have been many discussions on Bahá'í mailing lists which have tended to estimate a total of 1 million members worldwide. BSome claim that the US figure is grossly inflated, and that the number of active members might be much lower. Barry Kosmin and Seymour Lachman estimated 28,000 adult US Bahá'ís in their 1993 book "One Nation Under God." Fredrick Glaysher estimates 26,600. 1

According to the 1992 Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year, the Bahá'í Faith has established "significant communities" in more countries and territories than any other religion except for Christianity. They are organized in 205 areas vs. 254 for Christianity. According to The Baha'i World, this has increased to 235 countries and territories, including over 2,100 racial, ethnic and tribal groups. They number about 5 million members worldwide.

The official "Bahá'í Faith website" is at: http://www.bahai.org/ National pages are at http://www.us.bahai.org/ for Americans, and http://www.ca.bahai.org/ for Canadian.

Bahá'í faith is still looked upon by many Muslims as a breakaway sect of Islam. Bahá'ís are heavily persecuted in some countries because of this, in violation of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



Beliefs:
Bahá'ís believe that there is only one God who is the source of all creation.
God is transcendent and unknowable. However, He has sent, and will continue to send, great prophets to humanity, through which the Holy Spirit has revealed the "Word of God." The Great Manifestations of God up to this time have been:
Adam (? BCE)
Abraham (? BCE)
Moses (1456 BCE)
Krishna (1249 BCE)
Zoroaster (1000 BCE)
Buddha (757 BCE)
Jesus Christ (34 CE)
Mohammed (613 CE)
The Bab (1844 CE)
Baha'u'llah (1863 CE)


(Dates shown are common estimates from historical and Christian sources; BCE dates are very approximate) A new prophet is not expected for many centuries.

The Bahá'í's believe in an essential unity of the great religions of the world. However, this does not mean they believe the various religious creeds and doctrines are identical. Rather, they view all religions as having sprung from the same spiritual source. The social and outer forms of different religions vary due to the circumstances at the time that they were founded. Other differences in doctrine and belief can be attributed to later accretions, after the death of the founder.
Every person has an immortal soul. Unlike everything else in creation, it is not subject to decomposition. At death, the soul is freed to travel through the spirit world. The latter is viewed as a "a timeless and placeless extension of our own universe--and not some physically remote or removed place."
Some of Baha'u'llah's most famous sayings are: "The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice,"
"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens"
"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."

Bahá'í beliefs promoted major social changes when originated in the 19th century: they supported gender and race equality; world government; freedom of expression and assembly; and world peace. In many ways, they were a century or more ahead of many other faiths. Followers are heavily involved in promoting these concepts today. Also, unlike many other religions, Bahá'ís view scientific inquiry as essential to expand human knowledge and deepen their members' faith. They feel that science needs to be guided by spiritual principle so that its applications are beneficial to all humanity. Notably missing from the Baha'u'llah's teachings is the acceptance of homosexuality as a normal, natural sexual orientation for a minority of humans. Neither the official Bahá'í website, 8 or the national web sites in Canada 19 or the U.S. 21 appear to contain any reference to homosexuality. The Canadian web site, for example, states:

"The Bahá'í teachings promote the elimination of all forms of prejudice and uphold equal dignity and respect for all peoples, regardless of their racial, ethnic, religious or national background. Equality of men and women, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth and economic justice for all peoples, universal education, and the dignity of the individual are central Bahá'í principles." 20

However, sexual orientation is notably absent from their list of protected classes of humans.

Another policy, which appears to contradict the faith's promotion of gender equality, is the exclusion of women from serving on its highest religious court.

They believe that there will eventually be a single world government, to be led by Bahá'ís, and based on the Faith's administrative framework.



Practices:
The Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel, is the global governing body; its functions were set out by Baha'u'llah. It is an all-male body.
National Spiritual Assemblies (NSA) supervise affairs in each country. The American NSA is located in Wilmette IL at the site of a Bahá'í House of Worship, one of 7 worldwide.
In each locality where there are more than nine adult believers, affairs are administered by local spiritual assemblies. Each of these institutions has nine members and is elected, not appointed. Their functions have been defined by Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha in Bahá'í scripture.
Bahá'ís have no clergy, sacraments or rituals.
Members: pray each day
observe the 9 holy days
fast 19 days a year
work to abolish prejudice
regard work as a form of worship
make at least one pilgrimage, if they are able, to the Shrine of the Bab and the houses in which Baha'u'llah lived, which are situated near the Bahá'í world headquarters.
Reflecting their origins in Shiite Islam, Bahá'ís do not consume alcohol.




Sacred texts:
Bahá'í scripture comprises the writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, together with the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Among the better known writings of Baha'u'llah are, The Most Holy Book, The Book of Certitude, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words and The Seven Valleys. There are many others books of Bahá'í scripture.



Holy days:
The Bahá'ís have a new calendar. Its year begins on March 21, the spring equinox. Other seasonal days of celebration or commemoration are:

April 21, 29 & May 2: Baha'u'llah's public declaration of his mission
May 23: Bab's declaration of his mission
May 29: Passing of Baha'u'llah
July 9: Martyrdom of the Bab
October 20: Birth of Bab
November 12: Birth of Baha'u'llah



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Persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran:
There are about 350,000 Bahá'ís in Iran who are experiencing oppressive government persecution for their religious beliefs. They are looked on as heretics, because of Baha'u'llah's claim to be the latest prophet of God. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, declared himself to be the final prophet centuries earlier.

In 1996-APR, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about the state of religious freedom in that country for members of the Bahá'í and other minority faiths. On 1996-MAY-14, Reuters news service quoted the most senior judge in Iran, Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi, saying that the Bahá'í faith "is not a religion but an espionage establishment". Since the late 1970's, the government of Iran has accused Bahá'ís of spying for other countries. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States stated on 1996-MAY-15: "Since the Islamic regime took power, more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed on account of their religion, and thousands have been imprisoned. Bahá'ís have systematically been denied access to education, jobs and pensions, and both personal and Bahá'í community properties have been confiscated."



Freedom of expression within the Bahá'í Faith:
Although Bahá'ís have been very active in the promotion of freedom of expression around the world, there are significant restrictions on freedoms of individual Baha'i members. These are enforced through shunning or expelling non-conforming adherents. Some examples are:

Gay males and lesbians in monogamous, committed relationships who have held union services to recognize their partnerships have had had their religious rights removed. Similarly, heterosexual Baha'i couples who were married in a non-Baha'i ceremony have had their rights removed.
The Bahá'í authorities have imposed pre-publication censorship on all material written by members about the Faith. Until recently, all such material has to be first scanned by a review committee of the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of the country in which the text is to be published. This was a temporary policy introduced many decades ago. It was slightly modified in 2001-JAN for U.S. materials. Censorship responsibility has been transferred to local authorities. No changes have been made elsewhere in the world.
The "Talisman" mailing list was closed down in 1996-MAY, after several of its prominent academic posters were investigated at the orders of the Baha'i World Center in Haifa, Israel. Several, including the list owner, were allegedly threatened with being shunned ("coming into conflict with the Covenant") if they did not fall silent. 2 Baha'i authorities have denied that they caused the list to close. Juan Cole was one of those allegedly threatened. He resigned from the faith in 1996-MAY, but declared his private belief in Baha'u'llah in 1999-FEB. He maintains a new talisman list. 3
The Bahá'í electoral process does not permit public nominations or discussion of the candidates. As a result, there has been no change in the nine person US National Spiritual Assembly since 1961, except for those caused by deaths, retirements, or a member leaving the country.
Michael McKenny, a Canadian fantasy writer was expelled from the church because of his views expressed in Emails.



Divisions within the Bahá'í Faith
All religions evolve. Followers of established religions break away and form new sects. Many schisms are triggered by the death of the founder of the religion, or a successor. Typically, the leaders of the splinter group follow most of the beliefs and practices of their religion of origin; they generally regard their own faith group as being the true representative of the religion. In this way, most observers believe that the Bahá'í Faith arose from Islam, and Christianity arose from Judaism, and the Mormons split away from Protestant Christianity. Sometimes, the sect becomes the dominant group. The Bahá'í Faith itself has experienced a number of schisms.

The founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Baha'u'llah, selected Abdu'l-Baha to interpret the Baha'i writings after his death. Some members refused to accept the authority of the new leader. After the death of Abdu'l-Baha, the authority passed to Shoghi Effendi, "the infallible Center of the Baha'i faith," the "Center of the Cause," the generally accepted sole interpreter of the Baha'i teachings. Again, some members refused to accept his authority. After his unexpected death in 1957, controversy developed over his successor. One webmaster 4 states that there are now 7 faith groups in the world who claim to be the "true" Bahá'í Faith. Of the six new groups, five were created shortly after the death of Shoghi Effendi, The sixth broke off later. All of the new groups have very small numbers of members compared to Bahá'í World Faith. All have been declared covenant breakers by the Universal House of Justice:

The World Faith is followed by the vast majority of believers. In the United States, it is headed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. Authority once exercised by Shoghi Effendi is now transferred to the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel.
Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant who recognized Mason Remey as the guardian who succeeded Shoghi Effendi. They have organized a series of International Baha'i Councils (IBC). They claim a membership approaching 144,000. Their Baha'i Center is located in Missoula, MT. 5,6
Faith of God, (a.k.a. the House of Mankind and the Universal Palace of Order), who followed Jamshid Ma'ani. They "are no longer active (listed as 'defunct' in Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of Religions)." 7
The Orthodox Bahá'í Faith," (a.k.a. Mother Bahá'í Council), who follow Joel Marangella.
The Orthodox Baha'i Faith Under the Regency, who follow Rex King.
The Charles Mason Remey Society, who follow Donald Harvey and Francis Spataro.
A dissident group organized around The Friends Newsletter.

Another group teaches that a Third Manifestation is coming in the immediate future
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