Reason, Religion, and Divine Revelation #11: Some of the Basic Teachings of the Baha’i Faith

Reason, Religion, and Divine Revelation #11: Some of the Basic Teachings of the Baha’i Faith

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbMen at all times and under all conditions stand in need of one to exhort them, guide them and to instruct and teach them.

Bahá’u’lláh

August 12, 2013: Our innate religious tendencies – including our built-in need to believe – can lead to both good and bad.

Without a doubt, much of what is good in the world today – the arts (architecture, painting, sculpture, poetry, and music), the sciences (cosmology, mathematics, the origins of life, linguistics, philology), philosophies, morals, ethics, even our great cultures – is due to religion.

But when religion becomes old and divided – as is the case for the major religions of the world today – religious sentiment can be easily exploited by political factions, can be readily turned into dogma, superstition and ignorance, and can be made to act as a brake on – and an impediment to – progress.

Conversely, when religion is ignored, or made socially unacceptable, or suppressed, our religious urges come to the fore in other ways, sometime very destructively. Marxist-Leninism, with its apocalyptic visions of a soon-to-be utopia (to be achieved when we get rid of the unbelievers) is one of those ways. Scientism – with its vision of popular science as the source of revealed truth – may not seem nearly as bad. But knowledge of the roles played by social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism, all of which are recent manifestations of scientism, should be enough to give anyone pause, as should the modern willingness to paint scientists as the arbiter of all that is true or good (see comments on Steven Pinker in a recent blog in the New York Times).

Some of the Basic Teachings of the Baha’i Faith

The basic teachings of the Baha’i Faith are now reasonably well known:

Bahá’u’lláh taught that there is one God whose successive revelations of His will to humanity have been the chief civilizing force in history. The agents of this process have been the Divine Messengers whom people have seen chiefly as the founders of separate religious systems but whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity.

Humanity is now coming of age. It is this that makes possible the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society.

Many of the basic principles of the Bahá’í Faith (from the basic teachings of the Baha’i Faith) are widely embraced as core aspects of modernity:

Others basic principles of the Baha’i Faith are more challenging:

In the following, we start to look at these principles in light of what we know about our innate religious tendencies and our need to believe.

The Abandonment of all Forms of Prejudice

O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. … it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land.

If we endeavor to abandon all forms of prejudice – prejudices for or against people of a different race, or for or against a different religion, or for or against different education and income levels, or for or against any of a multitude of other prejudices – then we must fight and win against a basic innate instinct to identify with and favor our own group.

Group identification is widely observed in animals, including primates, and is widely thought to have been necessary to human survival in primitive times. Human beings are social beings and it is impossible to survive without others and without tight social bonding. Prejudices towards others are a natural result of such innate survival needs, and to fight against such natural needs as the Baha’i teachings demand requires concerted effort.

So, one might conclude that this Baha’i teaching requires us to go against our own nature. But that this is not so is evident when you consider what is gained – a sense of belonging to the whole of the human race and identifying and empathize with all of the people on the planet. It hardly needs saying that if we are to build a better world for all of humanity, such a sense of identification with everyone – and further to all living things – is a necessary prerequisite.

This example, in part because it is so clear and so simple, illustrates the way that a powerful religious teaching engages with our innate instincts. On one hand, it addresses what has now became a major source of conflict and barrier to progress in our modern age – our innate tendency to identify with our own group and look down on, or to scorn, or to exploit and maltreat members of other groups. On the other hand, it redirects and elevates that instinct towards the highest good – the progress of the human race.

Next

We look at more basic principles next time (or perhaps, we will report on the Association for Baha’i Studies Annual Conference to be held August 15th to August 19th in Irvine, CA.)

…………………………

This is the 11th in a series of blogs on Reason, Religion, and Divine Revelation. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked at NTT in Japan before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

142 thoughts on “Reason, Religion, and Divine Revelation #11: Some of the Basic Teachings of the Baha’i Faith

  1. Beautifully done!

    I suspect that the common thread behind all forms of evil (calcification of religion, the perversion of science and others) is ego. This is not the “ego” as defined by science, but as defined by Buddhism. Ego is the core of all selfishness and separateness. Ego is the blindfold pulled down over our spiritual eyes. In fact, I have seen with spiritual eyes only when ego was entirely gone. Alas, that lasted only a few moments 42 years ago.

    Humility seems to be the antidote to ego and with the taking of that cure, combined with the bliss of absolute confidence (faith), unconditional love and perfect responsibility, miracles become effortless — pure creation, which is our birthright.

    With perfect responsibility, one rises above the victim-perpetrator dichotomy and becomes one with the whole. One is no longer capable of becoming a victim who wants to lash out or a perpetrator who suffers.

  2. How about abandoning the prejudice against homosexuals and bisexuals? The Baha’i Faith refuses to abandon that prejudice.

    1. The Baha’i Faith asks its member to abandon all prejudices against everyone, including those whose sexual orientation is homosexual or bisexual. The Baha’i Faith is unequivocal about this. Baha’is who find themselves with such prejudices should abandon them.

      1. So have you dropped the doctrine that homosexual acts are sinful? Are you no longer prejudiced against homosexuals as viewing them as bad sinners?

        1. Apologies for not providing a prompt answer. Let me briefly review the e-mail trail:

          Tom: How about abandoning the prejudice against homosexuals and bisexuals? The Baha’i Faith refuses to abandon that prejudice.

          Stephen: The Baha’i Faith asks its members to abandon all prejudices against everyone, including those whose sexual orientation is homosexual or bisexual. The Baha’i Faith is unequivocal about this. Baha’is who find themselves with such prejudices should abandon them.

          Tom: So have you dropped the doctrine that homosexual acts are sinful? Are you no longer prejudiced against homosexuals as viewing them as bad sinners?

          Stephen (somewhat frustratedly): Are you still beating your wife?

          Tom: I did not intend my question to be disrespectful. So please answer me more clearly.

          There are two parts to these questions. Let’s break them down them as follows: “Does the Baha’i Faith condone or condemn prejudice against those who are homosexual or bisexual?” and “Does the Baha’i Faith allow homosexual or bisexual relationships or marriages?” You are phrasing the questions using the Western world’s all-encompassing condemnatory language of “sin.”

          I’ve already answered the first question, and the answer is that the Baha’i Faith condemns prejudice of all kinds, including that against those who are homosexual or bisexual.

          So, here is where my frustrated response “Are you still beating your wife?” comes in. This question is the classical example of the loaded question which Wikipedia defines as

          a question which contains a controversial or unjustified assumption ( e.g., a presumption of guilt).

          You are asking loaded questions that presumes guilt. Here are some nice quotes from Wikipedia.

          … such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that serve the questioner’s agenda. The traditional example is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Whether the respondent answers yes or no, they will admit to having a wife, and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed. The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious.

          So, for example, you say “How about abandoning the prejudice against homosexuals and bisexuals? The Baha’i Faith refuses to abandon that prejudice.” You are presupposing such a prejudice.

          Or, you write “So have you dropped the doctrine that homosexual acts are sinful? Are you no longer prejudiced against homosexuals as viewing them as bad sinners?” Again, the presumptions are clear. You are supposing such a prejudice.

          So now that you understand my point, can I ask you my question again? “Are you still beating your wife?”

          …………….

          Does the Baha’i Faith condone homosexual acts? No, the Baha’i Faith does not condone homosexual acts. Nor does it condone heterosexual acts outside of marriage. The Faith is uncompromising in these regards:

          Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. It requires total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs. It condemns the prostitution of art and of literature, the practices of nudism and of companionate marriage, infidelity in marital relationships, and all manner of promiscuity, of easy familiarity, and of sexual vices. It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age. Nay rather it seeks to demonstrate, through the dynamic force of its example, the pernicious character of such theories, the falsity of such standards, the hollowness of such claims, the perversity of such habits, and the sacrilegious character of such excesses.

          But it would be totally wrong to conclude that sexuality is condemned in the fanatical western way. Please … please! … keep in mind that sexuality – heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality – are innate qualities of human beings, as they are of primates, mammals, most animals, and even flowering plants. Having prejudice against sexuality of any form of sexuality is like issuing a blanket condemnation of children because they have genitals or trees because they have flowers!!

          The greatest sin, according to the Baha’i teachings, is backbiting, because backbiting destroys unity and community and respect and tears down people.

          So keep these in mind when considering the Baha’i attitudes toward sexuality – something absolutely necessary, needless to say, if we are to carry forward an “ever advancing civilization”. Keep in mind the large picture: people’s happiness, community, the advancement of all of humanity, the oneness of all the peoples of the world when you consider these teachings. That is what they are about.

          According the Baha’i teachings, we must guard against certain types of ascetic teachings which conflate purity of the spirit with denial of sexuality – a perverse (and misogynistic) aspect of ancient culture that, having crept into a central place in Western Christianity, is now so widely condemned. Consider the Baha’i approach instead:

          It must be remembered, however, that the maintenance of such a high standard of moral conduct is not to be associated or confused with any form of asceticism, or of excessive and bigoted puritanism. The standard inculcated by Bahá’u’lláh seeks, under no circumstances, to deny anyone the legitimate right and privilege to derive the fullest advantage and benefit from the manifold joys, beauties, and pleasures with which the world has been so plentifully enriched by an All-Loving Creator. “Should a man,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself reassures us, “wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not your”selves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful.

          Now, as to the meaning of “sin”, that would indeed be a fruitful topic to explore. Is it a sin to go 70 mph on a freeway marked 55 mph? Is it a sin to give into your natural sexual urges? Is it a sin to give in to the pleasure of drugs? Or is a protection to avoid doing those things?

          And what do we mean by sin? Is it the condemning attitude and prejudice that is more “sinful”?

          These are questions that must be addressed if we are to adequately consider these questions. It is not the slam dunk “I’m right – you’re wrong” approach that characterizes so much of modern sound-bite discussions on these topics, both for and against.

          1. How is denial of sexuality intrinsically perverse and misogynistic? While I recignize that sex negativity or antisexualism may have been extrinsically perverse and misogynistic at times, sex negativity and antisexualism aren’t intrinsically perverse or misogynistic. See below for sex positive fallacious thinking in this regards. While historically some groups of people were seen as more sexual than others and more in need of regulations therefore, it’s not to say an egalitarian non perverse non bigoted non discriminatory antisexualism and sex negatvitiy is impossible. It’s like the difference between Catholics and Cathars. The first had a sex negativity that was worthy of the criticisms while the latter had one that didn’t fit the same criticism due to being consistent and non discriminatory. In fact, the Catholics waged the Albigensian Crusade because of that and other reasons.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisexualism
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-negativity

            Some proponents of sex-positivity claim that under the Western, Christian tradition, sex is seen as a destructive force except when it is redeemed by the saving grace of procreation, and sexual pleasure is seen as sinful. Sexual acts are ranked hierarchically, with procreative marital heterosexuality at the top of the hierarchy and masturbation, homosexuality and other sexualities that deviate from societal norms closer to the bottom. Medicine and psychiatry are said to have also contributed to sex-negativity, as they may, from time to time, designate some forms of sexuality that appear on the bottom of this hierarchy as being pathological (see Mental illness).[1] However, Western societies which predate Christian influence, such as ancient Greece, have often endorsed forms of sexuality that strongly conflict with Christian beliefs. For instance, Plato, certainly not the most libertine of the Greek writers, supports homosexuality:

            Let no one whom he [a soldier] has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by him while the expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in the army, whether his love be youth or maiden, he may be more eager to win the prize of valour.[2]
            An emerging chorus of voices from sex-positive theorists who are people of color has provided an important contribution to the movement, giving substance to the power analysis of sex-positivity at the intersection of race/culture, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and spirituality. Farajaje-Jones (2000) highlighted the connection between white supremacist ideology and what he termed “erotophobia” saying:

            The fear of the erotic and of its power, has therefore played a powerful role in shaping institutionalized White supremacy’s vision of what it means to be African, to be Black. African is wild, hot, savage, beastlike, libidinal, primal; in short, the African is the very embodiment of all that the dominating culture sees as evil and in need of being policed and controlled. (p.331)[3]

          2. Thank you for tackling this, Stephen. I was pondering this subject the other day and realized that the miscommunication really does rest on what you express here: “You are phrasing the questions using the Western world’s all-encompassing condemnatory language of “sin.””

            There is a broad-brush attitude toward religion that often conflates the beliefs of any and all religious groups with what you call “the Western world’s all-encompassing condemnatory language of “sin.”” Individual Baha’is even bring this attitude into the Faith with them. Indeed, we all bring our baggage into the Faith with us, then spend a lifetime trying to jettison it…assuming we recognize the need for doing that.

            But the attitude of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha toward “sin” is so far removed from that all-encompassing condemnation that it is hard for people who are most familiar with the “Judeo-Christian” concept of sin and condemnation to grapple with.

            Our first responsibility toward our fellow human beings — whatever their sexual orientation, skin tone, language, gender, status, level of intelligence etc. — is to love them. Period. This is something that is crystal clear in the writings. It is also crystal clear that, to paraphrase CS Lewis, we are souls; we have bodies. Sexuality is a body attribute. Our souls are genderless, and attachment to the physical — or defining oneself by it — is not beneficial to any of us as we struggle to be truly human. It is not for any of us to judge another’s struggle.

            I think there is another word or concept that needs defining here as well: prejudice. Prejudice means that one prejudges something about another person based on some aspect of their reality. For example, someone who prejudges that blacks are less intelligent that whites (whatever that means) or that all gay men are pedophiles, or that all women cry when they break a fingernail and compulsively buy shoes, or that all of any group are (your prejudicial phrase here).

            In saying that a Baha’i marriage is between a man and woman, Baha’u’llah is not expressing prejudice, but confirming that the primary purpose of marriage is to bring children into being and carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. Is it prejudicial to note that no matter how ideal their health, a homosexual couple cannot fulfill this purpose?

            Having said that, as a Baha’i, I recognize that the larger society can define marriage as it pleases. I voted against California’s Prop 8 because it would strip from a beleaguered group of people a right they had been granted by the state. It is against everything the Baha’i Faith stands for to force our beliefs onto those who do not share them.

          3. Maya, if you interpret reproduction as limited to the traditional biological method, then yes. But there is adoption, artificial insemination, and IVF as well.

            Deleted wikipedia link (moderator)

            Also, does bringing children into existence have to be interpreted to litterally mean giving birth to new children as opposed to adoption? Some Jews and others have said that be fruitful and multiply doesn’t have to be interpreted litterally and can allow for adoption as an alternative.

          4. Obviously, the “traditional” or natural biological method determined by evolution is a core criteria. For what reason does Baha’u’llah make it a criteria? I don’t know, but He does. Will it ever be thus? I don’t know that either, but only the next Manifestation of God will have the authority to redefine marriage.

            What I do know is that without these workarounds, propagation of the species is not possible without a male and a female.

            Adoption really isn’t the issue. We were discussing propagation, not parenting. That’s a different, though related, subject. Personally, I feel that if every child on the planet had even one adult who cared for, loved and nurtured them — whether that parent was gay, straight, androgynous or whatever — we could cut society problems exponentially.

          5. Maya, religion has a tendency towards making their morality the law of the land. This is currenlty limited to just Islamic countries, but with some vocal religious people elsewhere wanting the same thing.

            Many cultures attempt to codify their prescriptions concerning individual sexual behaviors. Such codifications are frequently enacted as laws, extending their application beyond the culture to other cultures under the purview of the laws, including dissenters.

            Most of the Islamic world has strict rules enforced with sometimes violent punishments to enforce Islamic moral codes, including sexual morality on their citizens, and impose it on non-Muslims living within their societies. The same was true of various European Christian regimes at some stages in history, and some contemporary Christians support restrictions on the private expression of sexuality outside of marriage, ranging from prohibitions of prostitution to restrictions on oral sex and sodomy.

            While there are currently no Bahai societies as of yet, the Aqdas does contain laws to be enforced with criminal penalties of fines, imprisonment, and death specifically mentioned for some and the rest to be determined in the future. Theft, murder, adultery, and arson has specified punishments. Assault, carrying of arms, head shaving, long hair on men, calumny, sloth, cruelty to animals, homosexuality, gambling, confession of sins, hand kissing, pulpits, clergy, begging, monasticism, asceticism, slavery, and interpreting Bahai scriptures all are yet to be determined for their punishments.

            It’d be one thing if Baha’is only limited their scope to telling Baha’is to stay within the confines of Baha’i morality, but a possible future with it being the only religion defining law and morality for everyone Baha’i or not is another thing. How Baha’i exactly is a Baha’i society for Aqdas laws to become law of the land?

            Most world religions have sought to address the moral issues that arise from people’s sexuality in society and in human interactions. Each major religion has developed moral codes covering issues of sexuality, morality, ethics etc. These moral codes seek to regulate the situations which can give rise to sexual interest and to influence people’s sexual activities and practices.

            Sexual morality has varied greatly over time and between cultures. A society’s sexual norms—standards of sexual conduct—can be linked to religious beliefs, or social and environmental conditions, or all of these. Sexuality and reproduction are fundamental elements in human interaction and society worldwide. Furthermore, “sexual restrictions” is one of the universals of culture peculiar to all human societies. Accordingly, most religions have seen a need to address the question of a “proper” role for sexuality in human interactions. Different religions have different codes of sexual morality, which regulate sexual activity or assign normative values to certain sexually charged actions or thoughts.

            Also, erotic and wholesome at the same time? Isn’t that a contradiction Maya? Really?

          6. I’d like to be precise here. “Religion” doesn’t have a tendency to do anything. Religion is — depending on how you look at it — a body of teachings and/or their communal application, or a set of (usually manmade) institutions.

            PEOPLE use religion to do various things — grow spiritually and maintain contact with God and other believers, exert control, accumulate power, etc. Repressive societies such as those you mention (though there have been repressive societies based on atheism), arise precisely because the spiritual precepts of the religion lose their hold and the institutions of the faith elevate civil ordinances to the level of holy law and fall back on judging who is “in” and who is “out” based on those laws. They do this despite the fact that their holy books call on them to interpret any and all laws in the light of those spiritual precepts.

            Realistically, if Christians had viewed the civil laws they devised in the light of the Law that Christ made primary — to love one’s neighbor as oneself — not one drop of blood (not even non-Christian blood) need have been shed during the Christian Dark Ages over points of dogma. Christ is unequivocal when He says that the divine commandment to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is the one commandment upon which all others depend.

            The problem lies in our human inability to deal well with ambiguity. It is far easier to tell that someone is or is not confessing their sins to a priest on a regular basis than to know whether they have real love in their hearts for God and their fellow human beings. And for some reason, we feel we have to know.

            Obviously, civil laws are necessary to the running of a society. We have laws against killing each other, stealing from each other, littering. The first two are also recorded in various Holy Books, the last can be extrapolated from spiritual principles. I think you’ll agree that shooting someone and littering are not equal in the sight of civil law, yet you imply that Baha’u’llah’s injunction against men shaving their heads (which is targeted specifically to a social phenomenon that was prevalent in His society), is in the same category as murder and hint that the punishment will be equally draconian. I don’t know if you meant to convey that idea, but you did.

            Baha’u’llah does say that there are crimes for which it may be appropriate for the offender to pay with his life. Murder and arson are, I believe, the only two because of their callous disregard for the life of the victims. However, He also says that life imprisonment is a suitable punishment and leaves it up to civil societies to determine which to practice.

            My point is this: It is this regard for life that permeates the Baha’i teachings. Baha’u’llah places love, unity, justice and personal purity of heart at the top of the sacred ladder — everything else is secondary. This principle is intended to guide such decisions as what penalty goes to a man who shaves his head to let his neighbors know how holy he is, or to someone who commits adultery, or even to someone who sets a house ablaze with children sleeping inside it.

            There are nascent Baha’i societies that exist within some localities around the globe — villages here and there where the Local Spiritual Assembly has been tasked with some of the daily oversight of the community — education of then children, say, or arbitrating disputes, or dispersing resources. This has happened organically, with the residents requesting that the Assembly assume that responsibility. And it has happened in areas where there is not much of a civil framework. It would likely not happen wholesale in a developed country such as the US.

            Another facet of this is that it is up to the House of Justice to determine when and in what way the laws and ordinances of the Aqdas are to be enacted in the Baha’i community. They have already shown that they may enact a law in one region but not in another — which, given the diversity of the human population and cultural norms makes perfect sense.

            If the United States, for example, were to someday be 90% Baha’i, the House of Justice would decide how Baha’i law would function within that framework. Since Baha’is don’t belong to political parties or run for partisan office, the entire political system would have to change before Baha’is could serve in government, so the two systems would have to exist side by side for a long time. And since Baha’u’llah favored democracies, the people — Baha’is and non-Baha’is, alike — would decide what laws they wished to follow as a civil society.

            Baha’u’llah was adamant that we not lose sight of the purpose of all of His laws — the progress and unity of the world’s peoples. The House of Justice is charged with making sure that we don’t lose that perspective. And I can tell you that those nine individuals are extraordinary. They are not statesmen or politicians, nor do they behave as if they were.

            For me, what it comes down to is trust. Some of Baha’u’llah’s laws may seem odd to me, but they make perfect sense in context with another culture. I trust that if and when and where those laws are enacted, the House of Justice will do so with prayerful consideration of the lives involved. And they will be Baha’i lives that are affected. This faith is not about dragging the unwilling, kicking and screaming into conversion, nor do I believe for a moment it ever will be.

          7. Maya, you do have a point. I was thinking about current Islamism aka Political Islam mostly. I’m no Hadith expert, but they use Hadith to justify their positions. Don’t the Torah, Quran, and Hadith have tendencies for calling for the death of pagans, homosexuals, apostates, and a whole bunch of other people?

            Muhammad “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” I can’t remember which Hadith collection this is from. There are better examples of such a Hadith since this one is vague and would condemned both conversion to and from Islam, but is only interpreted in the latter meaning.

            Moses did say “You shall not suffer a witch to live.” This lead to the Witch Trials of the Middle Ages.

            Also, when it comes to neighbors, people tend to have a clause that excludes homosexuals, apostates, infidels, unbelievers, heretics, witches, pagans, etc. from counting as neighbors even if they were to litterally live next door to you.

            Also, people don’t differ between the mala in se and the mala prohibita in religious law.

            Malum in se (plural mala in se) is a Latin phrase meaning wrong or evil in itself. The phrase is used to refer to conduct assessed as sinful or inherently wrong by nature, independent of regulations governing the conduct. It is distinguished from malum prohibitum, which is wrong only because it is prohibited.

            For example, most human beings believe that murder, rape, and theft are wrong, regardless of whether a law governs such conduct or where the conduct occurs, and is thus recognizably malum in se. In contrast, malum prohibitum crimes are criminal not because they are inherently bad, but because the act is prohibited by the law of the state.
            This concept was used to develop the various common law offences.

            Another way to describe the underlying conceptual difference between “malum in se” and “malum prohibitum” is “iussum quia iustum” and “iustum quia iussum,” namely something that is commanded (iussum) because it is just (iustum) and something that is just (iustum) because it is commanded (iussum).

            Malum prohibitum (plural mala prohibita, literal translation: “wrong [as or because] prohibited”) is a Latin phrase used in Law to refer to conduct that constitutes an unlawful act only by virtue of statute, as opposed to conduct evil in and of itself, or malum in se.

            Conduct that is so clearly violative of society’s standards for allowable conduct that it is illegal under English common law is usually regarded as malum in se. An offense that is malum prohibitum may not appear on the face to directly violate moral standards. The distinction between these two cases is discussed in State of Washington v. Thaddius X. Anderson:

            Criminal offenses can be broken down into two general categories malum in se and malum prohibitum. The distinction between malum in se and malum prohibitum offenses is best characterized as follows: a malum in se offense is “naturally evil as adjudged by the sense of a civilized community,” whereas a malum prohibitum offense is wrong only because a statute makes it so. State v. Horton, 139 N.C. 588, 51 S.E. 945, 946 (1905).

            “Public welfare offenses” are a subset of malum prohibitum offenses as they are typically regulatory in nature and often “‘result in no direct or immediate injury to person or property but merely create the danger or probability of it which the law seeks to minimize.'” Bash, 130 Wn.2d at 607 (quoting Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 255-56, 72 S. Ct. 240, 96 L. Ed. 288 (1952)); see also State v. Carty, 27 Wn. App. 715, 717, 620 P.2d 137 (1980).

            Crimes and torts that might be considered as malum prohibitum—but not malum in se—include:
            Building or modifying a house without a license
            Copyright infringement
            Gambling
            Illegal drug use
            Operating a business without a license
            Prohibition of alcohol
            Prostitution
            Surrogacy for profit
            Weapon possession

          8. Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. It requires total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs. It condemns the prostitution of art and of literature, the practices of nudism and of companionate marriage, infidelity in marital relationships, and all manner of promiscuity, of easy familiarity, and of sexual vices. It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age. Nay rather it seeks to demonstrate, through the dynamic force of its example, the pernicious character of such theories, the falsity of such standards, the hollowness of such claims, the perversity of such habits, and the sacrilegious character of such excesses.

            Stephen, technically nothing in the above quote even mentions the issue of homosexual sex acts within a same sex marriage. Nothing in the quote mentions gender or the gender of people involved in sex acts at all. Let’s say a traditional couple lives up to the above standards, how would an identical same sex couple fail to live up to anything in the above said quote given that it only implies that sex should only be in marriage without making reference to gender anywhere in there?

          9. On the issue of condoning, condemning, and neither condoning nor condemning, Hinduism and other Dharmic Indian religions like Buddhism are worth noting.

            Hinduism neither condones nor condemns birth control, sterilization, masturbation, homosexuality, petting, polygamy, or pornography. Source: Saiva Siddhanta Church and Hinduism Today Magazine.

            The purpose of sexual union of husband and wife is to express and nurture their intimate love for each other, which draws them closer for procreation. Hinduism does not dictate special code for sexual behaviour except that abortion and adultery, except to save the mother’s life, are prohibited by scriptures. Hinduism neither condones nor condemns, birth control, sterilization, polygamy, homosexuality or masturbation. The only rigeid rule is the wisdom guided by virtues and tradition.
            Hindu tradition and wisdom demands that intimacies of sexual intercourse remain within the confines of married life. Hindus believe in marriages that are free of pre-martial and extra-martial sex seldom end in separation or divorse. Hindu parents parents strongly advise their children to value and preserve their chastity as a sacred treasure for their spouse. Traditional, Hindus do not practise polygamy, which is forbidden by law in India. Source: Hari Om TV.

            http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2003/07/Religious-Views-Of-Sodomy.aspx?p=2

            A belief net link on comparing religions on the issue. On a side note, other Dharmic Indian religions take the same position such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism. Buddhism in particular is famous for its Middle Way teachings.

            There are three areas to look at: white, gray, and black. The white are corresponds to good, condoned, recommended, mandated, obligatory, etc stuff. The gray are neutral, indifferent, neither white nor black, etc stuff. The black are evil, discouraged, forbidden, etc stuff. Sex acts before and outside of marriage are black zone, heterosexual marriage sex acts are white zone and homosexual marriage sex acts are gray zone.

  3. Why can’t we be against some religions? Is that prejudice against religion? For example if I am against the Church of the Lamb of God, which is a religion whose main doctrine is murder against members of other polygamous Mormon churches? Its members are now in prison having been convicted of multiple murders. Clearly not all hate of religions is unfair prejudice. I could say the same of the al-Qaida sect of Islam. We have good reasons to hate such religions. While we can respect other forms of Christianity and Islam as being more benign.

    1. I wouldn’t classify the Church of the Lamb of God or al-Qaeda as a religion. Both are in the business of terror, and are attempting to use the cloak of religion to further hatred. So, distinctions must be drawn – I think that most people get this.

      Consider, for example, the murder trial in the news concerning a United States soldier who went on a killing spree in Afghanistan. The fact that the soldier was an American doesn’t mean that all American soldiers go on killing sprees. Similarly, the fact that the Church of the Lamb of God draws on Mormonism doesn’t mean that the Mormon Faith is bad, just that the Church of the Lamb of God is bad.

      So, relax! We can be against bad guys who cloak their deeds in religion.

      But the bigger and more interesting question is whether or not religion compels people to do bad things. And the answer is that there are some aspects of our innate religious urges – fanaticism, intolerance, a willingness to believe that everybody who doesn’t think, act, or look like us is an enemy – that lend themselves toward that end. And, there are plenty of religious leaders who are willing to lead people to do just those things. And that’s one of the reasons there is no priesthood in the Baha’i Faith, and our leaders are elected.

  4. I am a Baha’i.  I am a Ph.D. biologist.  I am a wife and mother of three children.  I love the Baha’i Faith.  I chose to become a Baha’i.  I was not born into it.  I chose it because I tested its teachings and found them to be true in my life.  I test them everyday.  I remain a Baha’i because I find reaffirmation continually.  I am attracted to its vision of unity and love for all people. I am attracted to its commitment to the equality of men and women and the elimination of prejudice.  As a scientist I am especially attracted to the firm Baha’i position that science (and religion) are two equally important ways of accessing truth.  I rejoice that I can be a Baha’i and not look down on or judge other religions or people who are different from me.  I love the Baha’i Faith because it illuminates the metaphorical nature of Biblical stories.  All of this being said, I still struggle.  I struggle because I am human and lacking in knowledge.  I accept that I cannot know everything.  I accept that reason, science and religion all have their individual limitations. I accept that the Faith presents a wide vision that encompasses things that I cannot fully comprehend.  One of these is the teachings on homosexuality.  I do not see a conflict between science and religion in the teachings on this subject.  This is not my struggle.  In reading books, scientific articles and exploring a variety of other resources on sexuality over the past several years, I have come to the firm understanding that sexual orientation, like nearly all aspects of human nature, cannot be placed into discreet categories.  There are genetic/biological contributors to all aspects of who we are from personality traits to preferences.  I do not think any one individual or group should be reduced to the label of a sexual preference.  At the same time, we are conscious beings with a self-awareness and psychology that is subject to joy and pain.  We can be elevated, and we can be damaged.  Experiences we have as children, during critical periods of our development, can affect who we become as adults. These can be positive and life affirming, or they can be negative, tragic and in some cases, beyond repair.  We have a material component that is the legacy of our profound and amazing evolutionary history that cannot be separated from who we are, even though I accept that I am a spiritual being first. I believe that understanding and accepting who we are, where we come from and having a concept of where we are going, is not only essential to our well-being, but a requirement for developing loving, respectful, authentic relationships with other human beings.  I believe that a secure home with parents who love and respect each other and want to foster each others’ material and spiritual growth is the best environment in which children can be raised.  I also think that individual men and women have different strengths and can complement each other in different ways.  I believe that we are the product of our spiritual nature, genetics, epigenetics, parenting, our environment (which includes a WIDE range of things), our experiences as young children, the experiences we have as a result of our choices and more.  I believe we have free will around a mean. Ultimately, what will make the most difference is being loved and having the ability to love others. How, when, where and in what context that plays out, is open for us to figure out.  With guidance from our faith, our loved ones, our family, friends, counselors and our own conscious, we persevere.  As a Baha’i, I am instructed to love all people. (As a compassionate human being, I already know this.) I am not to judge, condemn anyone to any fateful end, or discriminate on any basis.  As a Baha’i I am told that the spiritual family unit is the basis for the advancement of the human civilization.  I am told that sexuality is sacred and the proper context for its expression is within the committed, sacred relationship of marriage.  I am also told that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.  Understanding why a loving, committed, spiritual and sexual relationship among people of the same sex is not acceptable in my Faith is something that I do not understand.  It is my interpretation that all of the above are ok, other than the sexual aspect. Still, I do not understand.  This leaves me with four choices knowing that everything else I have experienced in the Baha’i Faith affirms my belief in Baha’u’llah: 1) Decide that this is the correct interpretation of the teachings, treat this as a deal-breaker and leave the Faith, 2) Consider that we are either misinterpreting the Writings and/or there may be additional Writings that could further clarify the position and wait, 3) Consider that the teachings as we understand and interpret them now are correct and continue to try to reconcile this in my mind by praying, studying, talking to people, reading more, etc. and 4) Consider that the teachings as we understand and interpret them now are correct and that perhaps we are not in our point of societal evolution where we can tease out the reasons for this teaching.   Whichever decision I go with, and this may change over time, I will never condemn my fellow human beings.  I want to be a part of helping Baha’is and non-Baha’is as they contemplate these kinds of things by contributing my insights and experiences. I do not understand everything.  I have few answers. But I am still seeking.

    1. My dear friend. Homosexuality is NOT criminalized in the Baha’i Faith – of course not. Could I ask you to not spread falsehoods or misinformation?

      1. OK, Barb is wrong in saying it is criminalized in the Baha’i Faith, after all, today the Baha’i Faith does not rule any country. But you answered to my post above that the Baha’i Faith does not condone homosexual behavior, not even homosexual marriages. That would mean that a good believing Baha’i homosexual (as opposed to a bisexual, who could fall in love and marry a person of the opposite sex) is condemned to a celibate life until death, unless he or she marries a person who he or she did not fall in love with, because he or she can fall in love only with a person of the same sex, and then will have sex with somebody he or she does not desire sexually. And if the Baha’i then does marry a person of the same sex, you might claim you still love him or her, but you tell him or her that his or her behavior is contrary to Baha’i laws, even if you don’t want to use the word sin. Now I do agree that promiscuity is wrong and foolish, so it is good to regulate sex, to limit it to stable monogamous relationships, if you want to wait until marriage, OK. But to deny homosexuals Baha’i marriage, where they could start having sex with the partner they fell in love with, and to force them into lifelong celibacy, that is in my view very unnatural, too ascetic, and it can easily lead to prejudice to anyone who decided to violate the Baha’i prohibition on same sex marriage. You might not say they are living in sin, since you somehow don’t like the word sin, but you would surely not elect them to any Baha’i office, since you would say something like they are not living up to Baha’i standards, or whatever you say in your religion. The quote you included, without saying who you quoted, prohibits sexual vices, without saying what are the sexual vices. Maybe some would say that includes homosexual sex, even in marriage. You don’t like saying sin, but the quote you included says vices, which is an even stronger word. For example speeding a little can be called a sin, since I disobey the government, but I have to weigh it with the fact that when I do the limit 60 on the highway, when everybody around me is doing around 65, since the police here in SC generally don’t enforce the limit unless you go over 10 above the limit, when I do 60, I am not keeping up with the traffic, so I am driving dangerously slow, I could cause an accident. So doing 65 would be a sin, but not a vice. I would not be doing a vicious thing. Similarly if I were gay, and in love with a man, and married him, I would be violating the law of South Carolina, so it would be a sin, but not a vice. Unfortunately the majority of voters in SC passed a constitutional amendment outlawing not only same sex marriage, but also same sex civil unions, and I don’t expect that to be reversed in my lifetime, unless by some miracles of future medical science I get to live centuries. It is a very conservative state, with a very common prejudice against even monogamous same sex relationships. Thankfully I am not gay, but I have a lot of empathy for those who are, and who have to live with this prejudice.

        1. Good questions! My apologies for not being able to answer fully until tomorrow (humongous UN Peace Day Celebration tomorrow), but I can’t resist replying. BTW, please read Lisa Ortuno’s post. And both of you should use paragraph separations to help the reader follow your ideas (aargh!!).

          First of all, this is a science and religion blog, so some science is in order (check my accuracy, please …..). In this case, surprisingly, it is scientism that raises its ugly head. To a large extent, the idea of homosexuality being this monster huge sin is a Victorian invention – Brits and our dear Baron Richard von Krafft-Ebing and their theories of deviant sexuality and all that. Before that, mainly but not exclusively, homosexuality was, well, sexuality.

          Another idea – or best said, a set of ideas – also has a history. Libertinism, the idea that there should be no social constraint on sexual urges and indulgences in pleasure, was a prominent Enlightenment topic of discussion. The very famous Voltaire was only the most famous of the dedicated campaigners for libertinism (Marat-Sade was his more notorious fellow-traveler). The progress of this idea in the 19th century is difficult to follow, but suffice it to say that sexuality, romantic love, and freedom from constraints imposed by culture, religion, parents, or others fused together in the great romantic sensibility that made marriage appear to be the liberation of one’s sexual desires (as opposed to, say, one’s duty to society and humanity). Freud, the great prophet of sexuality, gave a blissful, quasi-scientific blessing to this marriage of, well, sexual expression and life-urge fulfillment.

          Which brings me – after this detour – to one of your main points. And it is not just yours, it in many ways a central belief of our modern culture. And that is that sexual satisfaction and expression is a central human right in and of itself. It is, this point of view holds, not it’s biological functioning that is of importance, but rather its psychic, self-expressing, pleasurable-release aspects that is its main function.

          Now, of course, that is not necessarily true and the scientific basis for this conclusion is hard to construct given the huge role that sexuality plays in evolution.

          So, I think that underlying the Baha’i point of view is a different perspective on the central purpose of human life than one that much of modern European culture holds. It is incorrect to assume that sexual expression is so centrally important, the Baha’i Faith affirms.

          About sin and vice. I still think that you are enmeshed in a particularly western Christian version of thinking about it. I agree that there are some centrally important issues in your discussion, but I think the point is to recognize that there are huge value-judgements loaded into the terms, value judgements that are not universal and maybe not even helpful.

          I’m hoping that some of the other people in this excellent discussion can address this issue. I just don’t think it is helpful to be so all-condemning about sexuality. Its like the reverse side of our culture’s worship of it. And, by no means at all does the Baha’i Faith share in this condemnation of people because of their sexual urges.

          Another thing that I would like to talk about – maybe later – is something I find wildly wrong. We condemn mothers who parade their six year old daughter’s in sexually titillating costumes, but seem to have no problem at all in encouraging people – young men and women – to adopt an identity of themselves based on sexuality. Why do we encourage this caricaturization of people as sexual beings – something we know is so violently harmful in other contexts – by making sexuality such a big deal!? Arghh!

          1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_sexuality
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_homosexuality

            Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism have both liberal and conservative camps on these issues. There’s an extensive article on Christian denominations and whether or not LGBT people can be church members, ordains as clergy, have their unions blessed, and get married. Other religions like Unitarian Universalism, Paganism (Wicca and Neo Druidism), Eckankar, Raëlism, Native American Church, and several others are completely in the liberal camp. Humanism also is another part of the liberal camp, but derives from the Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism of Religious Humanists.

            The issue gets complicated by the Western concept of gender, maleness/masculinity, and femaleness/femininity which is based on a combination of Mediterranean culture and Abrahamic Middle Eastern religions. This can be seen in places where there is a homosexuality double standard where only male homosexuality is banned. Both forms are banned in places, but there are places where said double standard is in place.

            Non Western conceptions of gender are more compatible with the concept of love that transcends gender. Both sides of the debate in the West have been steeped in Western obsession with gender. Neither side, even the side you would think so, has been able to get rid of the Western gender fixation. I’d like to refer to the articles and the Dharmic Indian South Asian and Taoic Chinese East Asian positions for comparison to the Western positions in the article.

            Ironic, that these parts of the world are more gender transcending than the West in this regards, except the laws haven’t matched their modes of thinking yet. Western pride themselves on their gender egalitarian ways of thinking. Non Westerners have surpassed Westerners in this regards in some ways. The argument boils down to whether or not a person is male, female, or third/indeterminate and whatever their partner is.

            I remember my study of various religions. Religions say people have a duty to undergo vows as a life such as either holy orders or matrimony. Eastern Orthodoxy takes this further and says that Holy Orders is the universal duty of each individual, but God created matrimony as an opt out. Ordination can be said to be a marriage of sorts.

            This reminds me of Anglican moral theology that I read about via Wikipedia. An Anglican Archbishop has said in his writings on the subject (I forgot his name) that opposition to homosexuality is based on an obsession with gender.

            A Hindu online has said that since love is a function of the soul and the soul is gender less, therefore love is gender less. I can’t remember the source of the quote exactly, but remember seeing somewhere online.

            Sexual orientation is more of a gender based than a sex based concept actually. A person has to have an extremely strong concept of gender before the orientations of ace, gay, straight, and swings both ways can be conceptualized. Others like the gender fluid and gender queer movements make describing their relationship to sexual orientation impossible. Sexual orientation can only describe gender binary people. Non gender binary people like third gender, gender queer, gender fluid, and others are impossible to describe in terms of sexual orientation.

            Sexual orientation is a new concept but concept of love and sex regardless of gender are much much older. I’m no expert on South Asian, East Asian, and Southeast Asian cultures, but I make study of them an interest or hobby of mine. I have noted said gender transcending outlook in said cultures to a degree.

            I have noted in some social media profiles people protesting against the concept of sexual orientation by not identifying as having a sexual orientation, but are effectively pansexual while denying that sexual orientation exist in them or maybe anyone for that matter. Said people say that people do not have sexual orientation and that love can occur between any people regardless of concepts like gender and orientation. They say things like love people, not genders.

            Sexual orientation is now a universally and culturally entrenched notion just like gender. Outside of movements like the gender queer movement, people do identify themselves along gender and sexual orientation.

            I haven’t studied all angle of the gender issue, but it is an important but ignored aspect of the debate. Traditional Western thinking assumes and even mandates a binary gender consciousness of only two genders of males and females with no other genders or similar categories. Third genders, gender fluids, gender queers, and any other such categories are a problem.

            There are tons of invented pronouns in the English language that are used to accommodate the gender queer movement. Words like ze, zie, sie, and hir for example are the examples I read about in a book with an article on the gender queer movement in it. Wikipedia has tons of other gender neutral pronoun systems. At least twelve different gender neutral pronouns systems exist. A gender queer person use these pronouns. Sie can only be accurately described with these pronouns. It is hir choice amongs dozens of invented pronouns systems of which system to use. Hir pronouns are hir choice. Pronouns are a tool of hirs to express hir true identity. Sie is able to truly be hirself.

            If you aren’t familiar with any of the above referenced concepts, I recommend various Wikipedia articles to catch up with the concepts referenced.

          2. Stephen Kent Gray, of course the people you describe as pansexual can be described instead as bisexual. My sister is bisexual (or pansexual if you prefer) at least as far as attraction is concerned, she finds good looking people of both sexes as sexy. But she never had sex or dated a woman, both because of the common prejudice, and because she wanted to have children. So now she is married and has 2 boys with her husband, and sexually faithful to her husband. But she is of course in favor of anyone being allowed to marry anyone he or she wants, except of course relatives or children. But she and her husband campaigned in California, where they live, against that proposition that would prohibit same sex marriage. Thankfully now that proposition has been judged invalid, by the Supreme Court. But here in South Carolina the state constitution was amended to exclude both same sex marriages and civil unions, and the Supreme Court allows that.

          3. Stephen Friberg, I apologize for not using paragraph separations, I will try my best to do that.

            Now I agree with you that sexual relations are not absolutely necessary for our lives. For example I am a very shy person, so I am still a virgin. And if I were not shy, I would still not like promiscuity, that just leads to venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies, jealousy and disappointments, like one night stands where one person is disappointed that the other person just leaves and does not want to continue the relationship.

            But still, non-shy people will likely fall in love, and if they happen to be exclusively homosexual, they will naturally want to marry and have sex with their lover, that is just natural, but that is one thing that religions like the Baha’i Faith want to deny them, whether you want to call it sin or not. It is just not approved in the Baha’i Faith, just like drinking alcohol is not approved, or being buried too far from the place of death is not approved, or stealing is not approved of course, whether or not we call it sins. I don’t know the Baha’i terminology, so if you don’t call them sins, I suppose you would still agree such acts are not approved in the Baha’i Faith. Sorry for not knowing the right Baha’i terminology and using the word sin, since you don’t like that word.

            Though you believe in at least parts of the Bible being inspired, and of course in the Bible the word sin is all over the place. So are you rejecting any mention of the word sin in the Bible? Likewise you believe the Qur’an was revealed to the Manifestation of God Muhammad, and it often mentions sin, for example 6:120 says in A. Yusuf Ali’s translation “Eschew all sin, open or secret. Those who earn sin will get due recompense for their earnings”. So that verse alone has two mentions of the word sin. So I don’t know why you don’t like the word sin, when it is in some of your scriptures. So can you explain why you don’t like the word sin in spite of such scriptures?

            And can you explain why the Baha’i Faith does not approve of homosexuals marrying the person they love? Or is it another mystery, like the prohibition of women members in the Universal House of Justice? Something you just have to accept or leave the Baha’i Faith? Or live torn between both opinions on same sex marriage, like Lisa Ortuno seems to be doing above?

        2. Hi Tom:

          Good to hear from you again! I’m replying to this post instead of your latest because your latest doesn’t allow a reply the way the website is structured. (Thanks for paragraph breaks!!!)

          You bring up two important topics: sin and homosexuality. Do the Baha’is teach that homosexuality is a sin?

          I just went through the Baha’i Writing’s and there are some scattered uses of the term sin. But they are amazingly few in number. Baha’u’llah literally wrote (or more accurately, dictated) 100s of volumes of written materials, but among the large numbers of texts, books, epistles and prayers translated into English, there are precisely 18 references to sin. And half of them are comments on His being charged with sin:

          And if My sin be this, that I have exalted the Word of God and revealed His Cause, then indeed am I the greatest of sinners! Such a sin I will not barter for the kingdoms of earth and heaven.” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 52)

          `Abdul-Baha talks more about sin than his father, often in a Christian context. And he gives a definition of it that I find very interesting:

          This physical world of man is subject to the power of the lusts, and sin is the consequence of this power of the lusts, for it is not subject to the laws of justice and holiness. The body of man is a captive of nature; it will act in accordance with whatever nature orders. It is, therefore, certain that sins such as anger, jealousy, dispute, covetousness, avarice, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, pride and tyranny exist in the physical world. All these brutal qualities exist in the nature of man. …

          All sin comes from the demands of nature, (`Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 119)

          In other words, all of us equally have an animal nature, and one the great purposes motivating our lives as human beings – a universal spiritual drive – is to escape from its bonds (and not by asceticism, the Writings say).

          The attitude of Baha’is toward those with a homosexual orientation is unequivocally against prejudice or disdain. Here, in the words of the Universal House of Justice, authoritative for Baha’is, is how Baha’is should act:

          The purpose of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Bahá’ís are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Bahá’í is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.

          The Baha’i Faith also teaches that, in the words of the Universal House of Justice, “marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that sexual relations are restricted to a couple who are married to each other.” Further, “the Writings state that the practice of homosexuality is not permitted.”

          So, the Baha’i teachings are straightforward and clear.

          But, it is very important, I believe, to understand that this is for Baha’is. Here is a quote in this regards from the Universal House of Justice:

          … the Bahá’í community does not seek to impose its values on others, nor does it pass judgment on others on the basis of its own moral standards.

          So, is homosexuality a sin? I’ll give you my opinion using the following analogy to road-rage.

          There are actually two sides to the question, one about inclinations, the other about actions based on inclinations.

          Consider road-rage. I drive to and fro from work every day and sometimes I get furious at various drivers doing this or doing that. Is my being angry – a quite natural inclination – a sin? In a sense, yes, because I would definitely prefer not being angry. But overall, my being upset with someone cutting me off is not a big sin. But, if I start chasing the person I’m angry with with my car, or try to force them in the ditch, or as they sometimes do in Southern California, shoot at them, then I’m definitely committing a sin.

          Similarly, if I have certain natural inclinations – and sexuality is among them (and remember, many of the attempts to label it as this kind of sexuality or that kind of sexuality have a strong dose of harmful “science gone haywire” aspects to them) – then it is not even a sin. Yes, this goes against seemingly endless eons of “hellfire and damnation” Western Christian preaching by what sometimes seems like an entire wierded-out segment of European society, but that doesn’t make it less true!!

          But, acting on this natural inclinations is a different story, as we know with respect to all aspects of promiscuity. But the standard of the Baha’i Faith in regards to those who in our society who engage in sexual acting out – and that now includes large numbers of people and sometimes even our own kids – is very clear: don’t pass judgments, don’t impose our own standards.

          I haven’t answered your last question (except peripherally):

          And can you explain why the Baha’i Faith does not approve of homosexuals marrying the person they love?

          Since this a blog on science and religion, I would like to share my own thinking along those lines – and I have a whole range of speculations ranging from how homosexual acting-out strongly disadvantages women, to how it is related to the importance of raising children, to how it relates to how biology and evolution works. And, of course, we can review what the Baha’i teaching say about marriage, a topic I never tire of. But, that is a whole series of new posts and this is already quite long.

          Stephen

          BTW, I have to say that I think this is a very good conversation.

          1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin

            Your response made me curious about the concept of sin in each and every religion. Wikipedia gives seven examples listed with more in depth articles linked as well.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_and_religion_topics

            This article has more complete info on each and every religion and sexuality than the two other links in a previous post of mine.

            This also leads to how religions form cultural spheres. Christianity forms Christendom or the Christian world where Christianity predominates. Islam forms the Ummah or the Muslim world where Islam predominates. Buddhism forms the Buddhist world where a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shenism, Shinto, Shamanism, etc predominates. Judaism and Hinduism do also have cultural spheres as well. Some have also added a Secular / Humanist world for places where Secularism and Humanism predominate.

          2. Hi, Steven Friberg, I don’t see how same sex marriages would disadvantage women. Lesbian women can likewise enter same sex marriages. And so can a bisexual woman, if she falls in love with a woman rather than a man.

            And about the importance of raising children, of course if some marry same sex, that will not in any way damage raising of children by different sex couples. And same sex couples can likewise adopt children and raise them well. Of course they can’t have biological children together, but then with all the overpopulation in the world, it is better if some married couples don’t have their own children but adopt.

            You are talking about how evolution works, but I can say that homosexuality seems to be one type of evolutionary adaptation for the problem of overpopulation.

          3. Stephen, I checked on the Bahai Reference Library and found that the word forbidden appears around 97 times in the writings of Bahallah alone. There are about 40 more references in all. I didn’t check to see which writings were in Arabic and which were in Persian. In Arabic, the word haram means forbidden, unlawful, and sinful all rolled into one word.

            Sin equals forbidden and forbidden equals sin. Things like fornication, adultery, murder, apostasy, blasphemy, theft, highway robbery, alcohol, pork, not praying, not fasting, non full body burkaesque clothing, etc are all forbidden and sinful in Islam for example.

          4. Hi Stephen:
            Apologies for not getting back sooner.
            The forbidden/sin dichotomy is a fascinating one – Baha’is are forbidden such things as backbiting, murder, and a number of other things, and certainly engaging in many of those things is sinful. But the Baha’i attitude towards sin is that we all are sinners and that, as Baha’u’llah wrote: “If ye become aware of a sin committed by another, conceal it, that God may conceal your own sin.”
            What are you thinking about the topic?
            Stephen

          5. That would be okay if it weren’t for the implicit and even explicit criminal law aspects of religious law.

            For example, Judaism and Islam have criminal law mandates in their sacred texts that have been and are the law of the land in some countries. Contemporary examples of religious law as the basis of criminal procedure and criminal law are Mauritania and Sudan in Africa as well as Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Palistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen is Asia and Oceania. Indonesia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates are examples in some parts of their countries, but not other parts.

            Current common law and civil law in various countries around the world deal with issues like muder, manslaughter, theft, arson, assault, defamation, etc. Countries aren’t unanimous on the legal status of adultery, fornication, sodomy, etc.

            No matter how much secrecy is tried to be expressed in a no snitching rule, the state will always and can be assumed to know of law breaking because it always finds out.

            I haven’t done an extensive search for every Arabic word and synonym for sin in the Bahai writings, but I need someone else to look for each instance of these Arabic words and Persian equivalents if necessary: Sayyia, Khatia, Itada, Junah, Dhanb, Haram, Ithm, Dhulam, Fujur, Su, Fasad, Fisk, Kufr, and Shirk. Shirk means idolatry and polytheism and is synonymous with Taghut which means the same which are the worst sins in Islam and are illegal in various Muslim countries I listed earlier. Kufr means unbelief and infidelity (in the religious sense) with only a limited number of accepted religions varying in each country I listed above as well. All the words can be translated to sin or something sinful once looked into.

            As well as the legitimate state I mentioned above, there is also the Islamic State (unrecognized, but controls parts of Iraq and Syria) that is even stricter than all the countries I listed combined even Saudi Arabia or the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It’s something new that has become an issues in the recent months since this summer and their caliphate declaration.

            Sin, sinning, and sinners are state issues rather than just church issues in all other countries than the relevant examples where religious laws defines or influence the country’s laws.

            Also, you do realize that all gays being promiscuous is an already discredited sterotype. The culture war is about taking a reference to gender out of the traditional standard.

            I should also bring up the issue of sin verus vice. A sin is to break religious law. A vice is any act of gluttony, lust, greed, anger, envy, jealousy, sloth, vanity, pride, etc that doesn’t break any known religious law.

            Religion is a private thing that most religious people wouldn’t want to use to remodel a society’s criminal law code/prosecute with. In the countries I listed, there are lots of stuff that can get poeople executed, flogged, amputated, etc on their law codes.

            Take Iran for example, because it is the only country I remember the specifics of its law code and memorable instance of their enforcement. Wiki islam has pics of people flogged, hanged, etc by Iran and other countries fro breaking the laws against homosexuality or MSMs or WSWs or whatever terminology you want to use for the law. Such sodomy laws form part of the Law of Moses and Theodosian Code or Sharia law or whatever other religion based law code. This doesn’t go for just that one subject, but a whole bunch of stuff listed under the things prohibited by said law codes.

            Regardless of the act versus identity debate, it doesn’t change the fact that various are and were penalized under said law codes. Emperor Theodosius who lived during the fourth century if I remeber correctly is an example of a law code based on Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

            There used to be a great deal of variety of civilizations and societies in regards to cultures, religions, philosophies, etc before the exportation of Christianity, Islam, etc changed all that and put wide swaths of people and territories under what people believed to be a specific God endorsed one versus all heathen pagan worthless infidel ones. The period that the West was under Christianity is now known as the Dark Ages between antiquity and modernity.

            Regardless of the issue of sexual identity, it still remains a fact that for centuries prior to the Victorian Era, such sex acts were banned by law. In Europe, you have a a uniterrupted period of time between Christianization and the French Revolution where lots of Christianized Mosiac Law was in effect whether with regards to topics like sex acts or idolatry or other religions being banned with the full force of the law.

            A history or the Law Codes of Moses and Muhammad throughout the ages show strict law and order cultures being exported to other parts of the world. All countries in the world currency with the exceptions of India, Burma, Singapore, and North Korea have sodomy laws because of the influence of said law codes. Burma and India used to be part of British India so an indirect influence is their with India having a significant percentage of Muslims as well. Singapore used to be part of Malaysia which explains it as well.

            Israel was one country with peculiar laws and customs before mass conversions to the spin off religions of Christianity and Islam exported ancient Israeli society to the world at large. While Jesus didn’t address lots of legal issues not addressed, the Hebrew Bible is the Christian Old Testament and exerted influence that way. Muhammad copied lots of aspects of Mosiac Law in Islamic Law. No we have yet another similar code of law that wants to be the law of the land when a majority of people in a society or societies follow said religion. These law codes have so engulfed various societies that people refer to them as tradition, ignoring the fact that lots of traditions existed before them.

            Sexuality is just the last culture war based on the effects of the above law codes and religions on society. Lots of aspects of life can under the purview of the respective religious laws due to Christianization and Islamization of various societies. Societies went 180 from we tolerate various things to we kill people and torture them for doing various things. Sex outside of heterosexual marriage was just one of a list of various things: idols and temples were banned and destroyed, alcohol was banned (Islam, not Christianity), a whole plethora or animistic and shamanistic religious practices were banned, cows which were sacred in various societies in antiquity (now limited to India) were now slaughtered and ate as food, abortion was banned, etc. I can’t list each and every way Christianzation and Islamization as well a Judaization because Canaan had a society before the arrival of Judaism there.

            It would take a huge leap to try and figure out if say hypothetically change in the religions that dominated the world was the basis of an alternative history novel. Chiristianity and Islam are the major world religions of all countries except some of the 10/40 window countries where other religions are in the majority. What if those religions hadn’t spread outside their countries of origin and other religions spread to the countries instead? Basically the world with a huge religious demographic change in spreads of religions. What if instead of Indian and Chinese religions as well as relevant cultural sheer being limited to East Asia, Sout Asia, as well as South East Asia while Christianity and Islam spread to the rest of the world, that Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianims, Taoism, Shinto, etc spread to the rest of the world while Chrisianity and Islam (and Judiasm) were contained to the Levant and Arabia?

          6. Stephen:

            I see you are very interested in issues concerning sin, vice, religious law, and law. I think it an interesting topic, but can’t say I know much about it.

            What interests me, though, is how scientism has entered into the equation. For example, sexuality was medicalized in the 19th century and “homosexuality” was defined in a pejorative way. Here is how the Stanford Encyclopedia describes it:

            In the 18th and 19th centuries an overtly theological framework no longer dominated the discourse about same-sex attraction. Instead, secular arguments and interpretations became increasingly common. Probably the most important secular domain for discussions of homosexuality was in medicine, including psychology.

            The application of these viewpoints to humans led to accounts of sexuality as innate or biologically driven…. Under this new view it [makes] sense to speak of a person as a ‘latent homosexual.’ Instead of specific acts defining a person, as in the medieval view, an entire physical and mental makeup, usually portrayed as somehow defective or pathological, is ascribed to the modern category of ‘homosexual.’

            This idea that people were innately this or that combined with the Social Darwinist ideas that we have been studying about degeneracy led people to being labelled by their sexual preferences. I.e., instead of being thought of as human, certain people were thought of as innately degenerate. So the idea of sin, which in the ancient world was based on what people actually did – you weren’t a sodomite unless you committed sodomy – scientism medicalized things.

            Thus, much as certain races came to be seen as inferior, certain individuals came to be seen as degenerate and having innately sinful sexual preferences and therefore being inherently inferior.

            Stephen

        3. I have in a earlier post compared and contrasted condoning, condemning, and neither.

          On the issue of condoning, condemning, and neither condoning nor condemning, Hinduism and other Dharmic Indian religions like Buddhism are worth noting.

          Hinduism neither condones nor condemns birth control, sterilization, masturbation, homosexuality, petting, polygamy, or pornography. Source: Saiva Siddhanta Church and Hinduism Today Magazine.

          The purpose of sexual union of husband and wife is to express and nurture their intimate love for each other, which draws them closer for procreation. Hinduism does not dictate special code for sexual behaviour except that abortion and adultery, except to save the mother’s life, are prohibited by scriptures. Hinduism neither condones nor condemns, birth control, sterilization, polygamy, homosexuality or masturbation. The only rigeid rule is the wisdom guided by virtues and tradition. Hindu tradition and wisdom demands that intimacies of sexual intercourse remain within the confines of married life. Hindus believe in marriages that are free of pre-martial and extra-martial sex seldom end in separation or divorse. Hindu parents parents strongly advise their children to value and preserve their chastity as a sacred treasure for their spouse. Traditional, Hindus do not practise polygamy, which is forbidden by law in India. Source: Hari Om TV.

          1. I forgot after switching computers to reenter my info.

            Also, Tom, technically he says they’re only not condoned which doesn’t neccesarily say they’re condemned.

        4. Hi Tom:

          I’m rushing of to catch a business flight to Asia (China, Singapore, Taiwan!) in 15 minutes, so this is going to be a hurried reply:

          First of all, I love your question and comments:

          I don’t see how same sex marriages would disadvantage women. Lesbian women can likewise enter same sex marriages. And so can a bisexual woman, if she falls in love with a woman rather than a man.

          And about the importance of raising children, of course if some marry same sex, that will not in any way damage raising of children by different sex couples. And same sex couples can likewise adopt children and raise them well. Of course they can’t have biological children together, but then with all the overpopulation in the world, it is better if some married couples don’t have their own children but adopt.

          You are talking about how evolution works, but I can say that homosexuality seems to be one type of evolutionary adaptation for the problem of overpopulation.

          Let me outline my thinking about how homosexuality disadvantages women (this my own thinking, not anybody’s doctrines). It is based partly on biology – how people and animals raise children – and partly on history – where the record of women’s rights is, well, abysmal.

          Biologically, the burden of bearing children and raising them initially falls on women. So if men are absent, then there are huge costs – biological, financial, emotional – both to the women and the children. So, in the societies I’ve lived in (Japan, US) the result of childbirth out of wedlock is often impoverishment, as well as loss of educational and work opportunities. So for child-birthing – and child-raising as well all the way through college – a husband and wife family makes a huge, huge difference. This is found to be true among many – although not all – animal species as well. So men being absent from raising children has huge emotional, financial, and educational costs. Homosexual marriages may be able – with some luck – to recover some of that, but the cost to women and the children they raise by themselves – and the loss to society – is immense.

          Another way to see how it disadvantages women is by studying history. Very often, older societies privileged homosexual relationships – one thinks of the Greeks, the Romans, and other highly militarized societies – where women were forced into the background (or, as in ancient Sparta, into almost slave-like status) with the result being an extraordinary imbalance between male and female virtues, as well as the complete eclipse of women’s rights. In other words, the price of privileging homosexual/military valor at the expense of heterosexual equality as long been a burden on the world’s societies and is only now starting to be redressed.

          (I know that we don’t associate homosexuality with soldiering and warfare, but traditionally the connection was extremely strong (I’ve read old Japanese “bushido” manuals for samurais telling them how it is essential to put on makeup and lipstick before going into battle so as to not to dishonor one’s lord!).

          Anyway, these comments necessarily need to be greatly expanded, but they show the direction my thinking is going.

          Stephen

          1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage

            The info on Wikipedia and other referenced sources say otherwise.

            Scientific literature indicates that parents’ financial, psychological and physical well-being is enhanced by marriage and that children benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally recognized union (either a mixed-sex or same-sex union). As a result, professional scientific associations have argued for same-sex marriage to be legally recognized as it will be beneficial to the children of same-sex couples.[14][15][16][218][219][220]

            Scientific research has been generally consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.[15][220][221][222] According to scientific literature reviews, there is no evidence to the contrary.[19][223][224][225]

            Also, on the history of sexism. All ancient societies were sexist. There is no noticeable correlation between the status of women and the societal views on sexual orientation. The Norse, Israelites, Arabs, and other societies that executed homosexuality weren’t any better with regards to not treating women like slaves, so your implied causation doesn’t make sense.

          2. Hi Stephen Friberg,
            thank you for the answer. I wish you a good business trip.
            You seem to be implying somehow that a gay man would make a woman pregnant, and leave her for a boyfriend, leaving her to raise the child alone. That I think would be very rare, a bisexual man could do that, but not an exclusively gay man, who of course does not want sex with a woman. And a decent bisexual man will want to marry to marry the woman he made pregnant, unless he was never in love with her, but of course such situations are common with heterosexual men too, plenty of hetero men make a woman pregnant and leave her. So such behavior cannot be blamed on homosexuality. And if a woman gives birth alone, it would be preferable for her to give up her newborn for adoption, whether to be adopted by a heterosexual married couple or a homosexual married couple. So I don’t see how homosexuality disadvantages women at all.

            Now you bring up the issue of ancient Greece and specifically Sparta. I think you don’t have enough info about Sparta. The magazine Discover has recently (October 2012) published an interesting article called Sex and the Society, by Robert Epstein. It does not mention homosexuality to be sure, it mainly discusses sex ratios and their influence on societies. Let me quote from the part about ancient Greece: “Ancient Athens most likely had a sex ratio between 1.43 and 1.74 (based on historical analysis) because of rampant female infanticide and neglect. With three men for every two women, women were kept uneducated and at home. Sparta, in contrast, was a military state in which males were removed from their families early on to be trained as soldiers. With an extreme shortage of men in Spartan society, girls received education and even physical training similar to that of boys, and women controlled and inherited property. Fourth century B.C. Spartan women controlled 40 percent of land and property in Sparta. Athenian women controlled no property at all.”
            So clearly in militaristic Sparta, women were not in an almost slave-like status, as you claimed. They were not exactly equal to men, but they had a far higher status than the women in the much less militaristic Athens.

          3. Also, Stephen Friberg, did you notice Stephen Kent Gray’s reply to me, about the punishments promised in the future by the Baha’i Faith to homosexuals, when the Baha’i Faith would control countries? And it is not only future, I clicked on the link, and it has quotes about active homosexuals that they can be deprived of voting privileges in the Baha’i Faith, even today.

          4. I think it’s interesting that people in this society tend to read the word “penalties” or “sanctions” and see “punishments”. Those punishments are usually assumed to be physical — prison, stoning etc. The stiffest penalty the Bahá’í world possesses for breakage of Bahá’í law is to remove the administrative rights of a person who is flagrantly breaking the law, even flouting it. As an example of how that works, an assembly might remove the administrative rights of someone who very publicly drank alcohol, repeatedly engaged in drunken rages and refused to seek help. They would not, however, visit sanctions on an alcoholic who had trouble staying sober. This is because alcoholism is a disease that the sufferer may find it difficult to control.

            As I said, the removal of one’s administrative rights (the ability to vote, serve on institutions, and attend the administrate portion of Feast) is the stiffest penalty given — and that’s assuming the person wished to remain part of the Bahá’í community. If they don’t wish to follow the Bahá’í laws at all, they are free to leave the Faith by requesting removal from the membership rolls (in countries that have formal registrations). In some cases, lesser sanctions that related directly to the behavior of an individual might also be given. For example, if a believer repeatedly disrupted meetings or tried to assert control over other Bahá’ís an Assembly might bar that person from certain activities until they could get their impulses under control. In all of these cases, the believers would be counseled to seek help if their situation warranted it — to see a counselor, a physician, etc.

            Please, do not imagine for one moment that a Bahá’í institution would “punish” anyone in the sense you seem to imply. It would run counter to the teachings of the Faith.

            To keep this in perspective, Bahá’u’lláh has said that the most grievous sin is backbiting, because it causes estrangement and “extinguishes the life of the soul.”

          5. Would it surprise you to know that Wikipedia is not the authority on the Bahá’í Faith or any other subject? The authorities for what the future of the Faith holds are the writings of the central figures of the Faith–that is, the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi–and the Universal House of Justice. Which the wikipedia article you cite does give links that you might have followed.

            I’m puzzled, though: the wikipedia entry you cite says nothing about punishment for homosexual acts. Nor does it forecast a totalitarian theocracy. The Bahá’í Laws apply to Bahá’ís only not to anyone else. Besides which, the writings have made it clear that the central, the core teaching puts love and unity above all else, and while older faiths have strayed from their core teachings into doctrinaire and dogmatic frameworks, Bahá’u’lláh, Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi (and the House of Justice as well) have warned explicitly and in emphatic language that all laws and teachings depend upon and must be understood in the light of the primary teaching of unity with its prerequisite foundations of love, kindness, respect, and justice.

            Shoghi Effendi put it very concisely, so I’ll quote him at length — please read:

            Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá’u’lláh. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity such as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has explained:

            “Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.”

            The call of Bahá’u’lláh is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. If long-cherished ideals and time-honored institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine.

            Does that help clarify?

          6. Stephen, you’ve lived in Japan? Also, is there significant rates of birth outside of wedlock there or is that experience mostly or all from the United States? Celibacy syndrome and herbivore people are things I have read about in relationship to Japan and other Asian societies. While these phenomena originated in Japan, they have also started occurring in places like China, Taiwan, Korea, etc. Below are links describing the phenomena in full.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celibacy_syndrome
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbivore_men

            Population crunches in Japan and other Asian societies are related issues. What age demographic did tend to have children outside of wedlock because the new trend towards celibacy is mostly among people 16-40 and maybe some people older than? Introverted people who eschew pleasure of the flesh are 36-70% among the age demographics listed. I’m not saying birth out of wedlock never happens in Japan, but that it has been extremely rare with decking birth rates since the 90s. I also remember an article in The Economist related to South Korean women and how these phenomena have helped them with the rise of celibate career women.

            There are both herbivore men and women, but the article focuses on men do to gender stereotypes. I also recommend reading the PDF on the references section of the Wikipedia page.

            Asexuality (sometimes called non sexuality while asexuals are called Aces) is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone and absent interest in sexual activity, basically an orientation towards celibacy. I don’t know that demographics of what percentage they make up of any given society, much less the ones we are discussing.

            Births outside wedlock during the year 1980
            Iceland, Sweden 40%
            … (list edited by moderator)
            Japan 1%

            Birth outside wedlock during the year 2007
            Iceland 66%
            … (edited by moderator)
            Japan 2%

            Japan is 1 or 2 percent in both years. This means that birth outside of wedlock is rare in Japan compared to the other sampled countries back in 1980 with a more radical comparative rareness during the year 2007.

            Births outside of wedlock in the year 2011
            Panama 80%
            … (edited by moderator)
            Japan 1.4%

            This 2011 list again shows Japan as have the lowest out of wedlock birth rate among a wide variety of countries around the world. Is it even possible to learn about out of wedlock births in a country like Japan where they are so rare? I also didn’t expect such a range among countries from Japan to Panama.

          7. Maya, on religious laws a comparison of Dor Daim to Salafism would be helpful.

            Political militancy is no more characteristic of Dor Daim than of many Kabbalistically-inspired branches of Religious Zionism (e.g. the followers of Zvi Yehuda Kook). In fact the conditions for political or military action, as laid down in the Mishneh Torah, are extremely strict and limited.

            Neither Dor Daim nor talmide ha-Rambam are against mysticism per se: see Attitude to Kabbalah above. The attitude to Kabbalah is based on much more specific factors: if there is an analogue to their opposition among other religions, it is essentially an opposition to the espousal of concepts such as incarnation, pantheism, and panentheism – apart from the opposition to idolatry in general, as understood in the context of the Mishneh Torah.

            The antagonism shared by Dor Daim and talmide ha-Rambam against praying at tombs etc. is distinct from the Salafi view in a number of ways. First, in contrast to the Salafi view, the Dor Dai / talmide ha-Rambam view is that this prohibition is Rabbinic, meaning that it is not a direct command from the Almighty, but rather it is a “fence” to distance a Jew from the possibility of transgressing a more severe prohibition. They do not consider praying at or visiting a tomb to be idolatry, nor do they believe that this is prohibited to all people (i.e. non-Israelites), whereas the Salafi view is that this is forbidden to everyone as a very severe prohibition in itself.

            It is wrong to accuse Dor Daim and talmide ha-Rambam of being extremists, or of dismissing more moderate coreligionists as unbelievers: see reply to 2 above. On the contrary, they often find more in common theologically with sectors of Modern Orthodoxy than they do with much of the Ḥasidic or Ḥaredi communities.

            The method of learning and religious observance aimed at by them is firmly rooted in Jewish rabbinic authority (see Jewish law above), and is about as far from an “every-man-for-himself” approach as it is possible to get. How far a similar accusation may be true of Salafism (which is itself an umbrella description for a great many trends) is an independent question, on which Dor Daim are not required to express a view.

            Salafis typically reject Islamic philosophy of the kind propounded by Avicenna and Averroes. Dor Daim, by contrast, find strong inspiration in the closely related Jewish philosophies of Bahya ibn Pakuda and Maimonides.

            Many Dor Daim and talmide ha-Rambam desire that the Jewish people as a nation will return to upholding the Almighty’s Torah with the establishment of a central religious authority – a Great Court (Sanhedrin) reestablished according to Jewish law as only fully codified in the Mishneh Torah. That is one form of the Messianic aspiration implicit in any form of Orthodox Judaism. It cannot be compared to the desire of some Islamists to reestablish a Khilafah by violent means if necessary.

            The issue of religious laws and non believers, Gentiles, pagans, etc is also brought up above. The current controversy over Sharia law is one prominent example.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righteous_Among_the_Nations
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuous_pagan

            Above, not in the links, but quoted is the Salafi belief that religious law applies to all people. Religious law is serious business among Salafis.

          8. “Maya, on religious laws a comparison of Dor Daim to Salafism would be helpful.”

            Helpful in what way to what purpose?

            I would kindly ask that you stop posting wikipedia entries to our comments section. Pulling quotes here and there is fine, but you have cut and pasted or paraphrased entire chunks of the wiki—which is not, as Ian points out—a necessarily trustworthy or accurate source of information. Even information that is germane to the subject at hand.

        5. Tom, some quotes do imply that violating Bahai religious laws will be punished by society in the future.

          http://justabahai.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/two-views-of-the-bahai-view-on-homosexuality/

          ‘Baha’u’llah makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy.”
          (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, p. 223, authored by the U.H.J, 1992)

          “Sex relationships, of any form, outside marriage are not permissible … whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will INCUR THE NECESSARY PUNISHMENT FROM SOCIETY.”
          (Letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, 5 September 1938; Cited in a Letter from the U.H.J. All National Spiritual Assemblies 6 February 1973, on Bahai-Library; Lights of Guidance, p. 346, #1157 – Here a date for this letter is not given)

          “We must struggle against the EVILS IN SOCIETY by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well.”
          (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 21 May 1954; Lights of Guidance, p. 365, #1221)

          1. Thanks for the info. I hope Stephen Friberg notices it. It sure is different from what he is saying.

          2. Hi Stephen, Tom:

            Tom, you are going to have to point out the differences you see from what I was saying, because I don’t see them.

            I still think the two of you are in some western Christianity high-dudgeon fit of excessive concern about sexuality as if it were somehow the world’s greatest sin and then reading things through the lens of this dudgeon into the Baha’i Faith.

            As I pointed out, Baha’i law for individual conduct include abstaining from sexual relationships of any form outside marriage. And yes indeed, Baha’i are encouraged to struggle against the evils of society. As Maya points out, the greatest evils in society include injustice, intolerance, prejudice, and disunity. The greatest evil of all, according to the Baha’i Teaching, is backbiting. So, if you think that sexual misconduct is really, really high on this list of evils, this is a reflection of your concerns, not mine or ours.

            A footnote in the Kitab’i’Aqdas notes that the UHJ (the Universal House of Justice) can, if it so chooses to, determine penalties for adultery and sodomy, and I’m guessing that, in this high-dudgeon of western pre-occupation with sexuality, you assume that they are going to be “strong stuff”.

            It could well be completely the opposite: either nothing at all, or a protection for the people involved.

            Think outside the bubble of western secularism as it has existed in certain limited geographical areas in the last 15 years or so. Consider, for example, the widespread eastern Mediterranean practice of “honor killing” of sisters or daughters. Baha’i penalties for adultery would completely eliminate such honor killing among Baha’is and even among societies where there were large numbers of Baha’is. The penalty could be as onerous as a 10 dirham fine.

            Yours sincerely,
            Stephen

          3. Stephen, how much is a dirham given it’s a unit of currency I’m not fammiliar with.

            Look at the list of prohibitions and things that either have a punishment already or may be punished if the UHJ so decides. Several of the listed are illegal depending on the country you live with several being universally illegal.

            Technically, I’d say in light of current Islamists in the Middle East and Africa that the punishment for adultery and sodomy would be “strong stuff”. Iran (the birth place of the faith) gives the death penalty for both. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria (parts of, atleast), and Somalia (parts of and Somaliland) give the death penalty for sodomy. Somalia and Sudan (as well as several other countries I don’t have the list for) give the death penalty for adultery. When it comes to punishing people for the sex they have, the Middle East and Africa are the places that come most to mind. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Sudan, and Yemen give the death penalty for both fornication and adultery as well as sodomy. On a side note, lesbianism may sometimes receive a light punishment like whipping in Iran.

            Prohibitions included in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas include:
            Interpreting the Bahá’í writings (`Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi were the only approved interpreters of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings).
            Slavery[6]
            Asceticism[6]
            Monasticism[6]
            Begging[6]
            Clergy[4]
            Use of Pulpits[6]
            The kissing of hands (As a form of obeisance)[6]
            Confession of sins[30]
            Gambling[31]
            Homosexual acts[32]
            Cruelty to animals[6]
            Sloth[6]
            Calumny[6]
            The carrying of arms unless essential.[33]
            Assault
            Shaving of one’s head and the growth of men’s hair beyond the lobe of the ear.[29]
            Adultery and sexual intercourse between unmarried couples:[6] Sexual intercourse between unmarried couples is punishable by a fine paid to the Local Spiritual Assembly; the penalty for adultery is left to the Universal House of Justice.
            Arson: The punishment for arson is either the death penalty or life imprisonment. If the death penalty is applied the convicted person is killed by burning. The details of the law such as the degree of the offence and the circumstances are to be taken into account to decide which of the two sentences is to be selected has been left to the Universal House of Justice.[29][34] The Universal House of Justice has stated that the law is intended for a future condition of society, at which time they will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice;[34] the Universal House of Justice has written “In relation to arson, this depends on what ‘house’ is burned. There is obviously a tremendous difference in the degree of offence between the person who burns down an empty warehouse and one who sets fire to a school full of children.”[35]
            Murder: murder is punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment. The details of the law such as the degree of the offence and the circumstances that are to be taken into account to decide which of the two sentences are to be selected has been left to the Universal House of Justice;[34] the Universal House of Justice has stated that the law is intended for a future condition of society, at which time they will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.[29][34] In the case of manslaughter, it is necessary to pay a specified indemnity to the family of the deceased.
            Theft: Theft is punishable by either imprisonment or exile; on the third offence, however, a mark should be placed upon the thief’s brow so it is easy to identify the person and disallow him in the “cities of God”. The purpose of the mark on the forehead serves in warning other people of the thief’s proclivities. The details of the nature of the mark (how the mark is to be applied, how long it has to be worn, and under what conditions it may be removed) and the circumstances that are to be taken into account in deciding which sentence is to be applied have been left to the Universal House of Justice; the Universal House of Justice has stated that the law is intended for a future condition of society, at which time they will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.[29][34]

          4. Hi Anonymous:

            You wrote:

            Stephen, how much is a dirham given it’s a unit of currency I’m not fammiliar with.

            In Morocco, which I visited with my family last year and loved, the exchange rate is roughly 8 dirhams to a dollar.

            You wrote:

            Look at the list of prohibitions and things that either have a punishment already or may be punished if the UHJ so decides. Several of the listed are illegal depending on the country you live with several being universally illegal.

            Prohibitions included in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas include: Interpreting the Bahá’í writings, slavery, asceticism, monasticism, begging, clergy, use of pulpits, the kissing of hands as a form of obeisance, confession of sins, gambling, homosexual acts, cruelty to animals, sloth, calumny, he carrying of arms unless essential, assault, shaving of one’s head and the growth of men’s hair beyond the lobe of the ear, adultery and sexual intercourse between unmarried couples, arson, murder, theft,

            Can we assume that you agree overall that there should be laws and that certain things should be prohibited? For example, can we agree that sexual assault, murder, theft, etc., are things that should be prohibited?

            If so, then the issue is not that society should have laws and prohibitions, but rather the details – which things should be allowed and which prohibited. For example, gambling used to be prohibited in most places in the United States, but now it is widely allowed even though it appears to be a kind of addictive behavior with severe consequences for those who are addicted. Whether or not gambling should be prohibited is an example of this type of question.

            Also, the issue is the nature of the punishment, which you are afraid might be “strong stuff”. Do you think that because you associate the Baha’i Faith with the Middle East and Africa? Or Islam? Or religious fundamentalism? You wrote:

            Technically, I’d say in light of current Islamists in the Middle East and Africa that the punishment for adultery and sodomy would be “strong stuff”. Iran (the birth place of the faith) gives the death penalty for both. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria (parts of, atleast), and Somalia (parts of and Somaliland) give the death penalty for sodomy. Somalia and Sudan (as well as several other countries I don’t have the list for) give the death penalty for adultery. When it comes to punishing people for the sex they have, the Middle East and Africa are the places that come most to mind. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Sudan, and Yemen give the death penalty for both fornication and adultery as well as sodomy. On a side note, lesbianism may sometimes receive a light punishment like whipping in Iran.

            .

            I would answer that many people are very cynical about religion these days, and often for very good reasons. So, if you share that cynicism and worry that the Baha’i Faith would continue in the same vein, I think that we can readily understand your concerns.

            But, what we are saying is that the Baha’i Faith is the renewal of religion – a sweeping away of all the prejudices, biases, cruelties, corrupt practices, conflicts, and all that of the religions of the past. Those things have corrupted religion and are not what is true and good about it, rather they are to be discarded. And the Baha’i Faith now has an extraordinary track record of achievement around the world in effecting that renewal, so much so that its principles – the equality of men and women, the need for universal education, the idea that communities should be self governing, the importance of science as a compliment to religion – are widely adapted by the leading thinkers of the age and that its institutions are widely respected. The Baha’i Faith is widely acknowledged as a new world religion that is a very real force for good.

            One of the purposes of the Baha’i Faith is to correct and/or eliminate the bad things of past religions by building a strong and viable alternative. And the truth is, that such vast endeavors involve prohibitions – you mention clergy or blind obeisance by hand-kissing – as well as prohibitions, laws, and yes, even punishments! A world society is not going to be an “anything goes” one.

            So, I’m sure that you would agree that laws, prohibitions, and punishment are needed by society even if you don’t agree on the details.

            Stephen

          5. I looked it up on Google and it’s said in the United Arab Emirates, a dirham is worth two cents more than a quarter when you convert into US Dollars. So, a little less than four to a dollar.

            Also, culture wars in United States, Canada, and other places have been over what should be allowed and what should not be allowed. There are tons of battleground issues. Western Canada and Quebec are special cases where they might separate from Canada to form their own nation/society.

            Back on religion, the Bible and Quran contain much more hard passages than your average scripture. The Skeptic’s Annotated Project (Bible, Quran, and Book of Mormon) has annotated scriptures with each and every hard passage highlighted. Categories include absurdity, boring stuff, contradictions, cruelty/violence, “family values” (used ironically for verses that don’t mesh well with the alleged family values that religious people say they are for), good stuff, history/science, homosexuality, injustice, interpretation, language, misogyny, politics, prophecy, sex, etc. There is also a section on what scripture says about various topics including abortion, alcohol, amputation, astrology, beheading, believers, birth control, blasphemy, blind people, burning people to death, cannibalism, catholics, children, christians, clothing/fashions, crime/punishment, decapitation, democracy, determinism, end of the world, evil, family values, fat people, fathers, fighting, figs, food/drink, free will, genocide, giants, god, going to church, handicapped people, hell, hemorrhoids, holy war, homosexuality, human sacrifice, images, jews, incest, liberals, magic, marriage, masturbation, medical science, menstruation, morality, native americans, non-christians, non-mormons, nudity, oral sex, parenting, pedophilia, penises, people of color, personal hygiene, polygamy, prayer, predestination, pregnancy, rape, religious tolerance, rich people, salvation, semen, shrimp, signs of true believers, slavery, stoning, suicide, taxes, terrorism, testicles, those who reject scripture, unbelievers, vegans/vegetarians, weather, wealthy people, wet dreams, witches, women’s rights, etc. All these categorized passages become problematic for people following said religions and said scriptures.

            The new religious movements are providing renewals of religion for the last 300+ years of world history. A focus only on the “good stuff” of religious traditions among religious groups has also been a product of the last three centuries. They are the strong viable alternatives which have grown in the last three centuries.

            Societies have laws and prohibitions, but across all places and times few have been universal. When a society disputes over them, culture wars happen which may even lead to secession and civil wars. How would a world society avoid being in a state of permanent culture war? People with different moralities and ethics see those of others are weird and hard to understand. They see their laws and prohibitions as weird and non-sensical at best, fascist and tyrannical at worst. Neither side of any given culture war, wants any anything goes society. They just have mutually contradictory views of what rules and prohibitions there should be. A nice survey of the various variables in morality can be the Moral Foundations Questionnaire and its related Your Morals site. They have surveyed thousands of people on moral surveys and have found at least three mutually exclusive patterns.

            Universal adoption of the eight listed principles would be a example of a goal.

            The abandonment of all forms of prejudice
            Assurance to women of full equality of opportunity with men (Why did you have to qualify it like that “of oppurtunity” rather than unqualified or “of outcome”?)
            The elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth
            The realization of universal education
            The responsibility of each person to independently search for truth
            The establishment of a global commonwealth of nations (note, I deleted the second mention of this principle in the copy and paste because it was listed twice in your post)
            Recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge (note, I deleted the second mention of this principle in the copy and paste because it was listed twice in your post)
            Recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth

            It gives a template for laws and prohibitions which society can follow. The first and second of the principles are the main reasons that the world is moving towards things like marriage equality. The last two have to do with it as well since various religious groups have varying teachings on topics like marriage, sexuality, etc. You could test laws and prohibitions from whether or not they logically follow the above principles or not. Fines and imprisonment (but not life) seem to be the punishments the world will use due to movements to abolish all other forms of punishment (life imprisonment and the death penalty). Actually, several of the above principles have been invoked on why society should have marriage equality, not just in the above.

          6. Hi Stephen Friberg,
            I did not assume that the you believe adultery or sodomy are the greatest sins. After all, arson can be punished by burning the offender alive to death. So it looks like in Baha’i Faith, arson is among the greatest sins, presumably even if you just burn an empty barn.
            You say that the penalty for adultery or sodomy might be nothing at all. That would surprise me, after all, the Anonymous contributor above has pointed out that for fornication the penalty is a fine to the local Spiritual Assembly. I would think that adultery is a much more serious transgression than fornication, after all, it involves betrayal, while fornication just involves unmarried people doing it. Except of course if an unmarried person is going steady with somebody and fornicates with somebody else, that would be a betrayal too, though not a violation of a vow.

          7. Hi Stephen:

            You write concerning some of the Baha’i guidelines that you found on Wikipedia

            Lots of the things listed have absolutely nothing to do with disunity and preventing societal advancement. Head shaving (unless you are talking about white power skinheads), having hair beyond ear lobe (later defined as only for men despite gender not being mentioned originally), the carry of arms (for gun rights supporters like me for example), confession (something that actually makes people more moral), sloth (lacks a definition of what entails sloth), homosexual acts (can such sex acts really have such purported effects), gambling (unless you are addicted), clergy/pulpits (they form legitimate uses for people of various religions), asceticism/monasticism (help people give up attachments and various other bad stuff), etc I will have to look them up more in depth later.

            Any chance that you can share your justifications and reasonings? You are aware that there are a wide variety of opinions, and indeed a huge track record from experience of things, right? Unless you engage with these issues, and explain why you think as you do, its not really in keeping with this blog, which is about science and religion. In other words, justify your views. And try to avoid just posting things from Wikipedia. We want to know your thinking. And also your recognition that there are real issues to be addressed.

            In your list, I suggest consider these prohibitions in place for Baha’is. And you might think towards a future where whole countries are Baha’i.

            – the prohibition against carrying of arms
            – the prohibition against confession to individual people
            – the prohibition against sloth
            – the prohibition against gambling
            – the prohibition against clergy/pulpits,
            – the prohibition against asceticism/monasticism

            We can talk about the prohibition against sex outside of marriage, but we have almost talked that do death. I wouldn’t bother about worrying about such weighty issues as whether or not hair for men should be past their ear lobes. No Baha’is or Baha’i institutions that I know of worry about that.

            Stephen

          8. I’d say any look at any country with sodomy laws on the books proves that the punishments are always harsher for sodomy than their straight equivalents. If a country bans fornication and adultery, you can be certain that the punishment for sodomy is even harsher.

            Take for instance that an ounce of gold is let’s say 2000 dollars (I roundid up, I don’t know what the east price of gold is right now, so I’m using a nice rounded number). The punishment for fornication is about one (or two, I can’t remember) ounce of gold and it doubles each time it is repeated as well. That is basically 2000 or 4000 dollar the first time and doubling each time. Given the established pattern, sodomy fines would definitively be more not less.

            Also, I’d say rather than just religion in general, Islam (and its spin offs) is (are) viewed more cynically due to the state of Islamic countries compared to non-Islamic countries.

            Examples of countries as examples of religions would be Israel for Judaism as well as Nepal, India, and Mauritius for Hinduism. I could add Taiwan for tradition Chinese religion and Japan for Shinto but stats are iffy. There are way too many Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim countries to single out a few examples in particular. Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates are good examples of what first pops in my mind when I think of a Muslim country. Saudi Arabia does have Mecca and Medina in its boundaries which makes it pop up more in my head than the others.

            There is no Bahaiistan to serve as an example of a Bahai country right now though. Sikhs for example have sometimes dreamed of a Khalsistan which has lead to problems for Sikhs in India.

        6. Hi Tom:

          Its the usual problem with our web site! I can’t reply directly to you because it ran out of subsections. So let me reply to you under an earlier posting of yours.

          You write:

          I did not assume that the you believe adultery or sodomy are the greatest sins. After all, arson can be punished by burning the offender alive to death. So it looks like in Baha’i Faith, arson is among the greatest sins, presumably even if you just burn an empty barn.

          I see two concerns here. One is a ranking of sins – I think the implicit question is whether or not the Baha’i Faith has a kind of ranking of sins. Correct?

          Interestingly, the Baha’i Faith views things like creating disunity – backbiting and calumny – as among the worst possible things that people can do. Here is a quote from Baha’u’llah:

          “Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.”

          And it is easy to see why, as disunity creates division, hatred, distrust, anger, and the like. It is directly the cause of things like the continuing carnage in Syria and Iraq where militant terrorism bedevils the lives of the people living there. And much of the day-to-day news that fills our newspapers stems from the extraordinary hatreds that animate wars, pogroms, and the like. In a sense, the 20th century with its 100s of millions of deaths is a record of the results of these hatreds.

          It is very easy to see why things that create disunity are sinful!

          What about arson? If you know history, you know that fire is one of the greatest risks to cities large and small. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed much of the city. (See Wikipedia, list of fires). Tokyo burned down repeatedly throughout history, the last time in response to American carpet bombing in World War II with at least 50,000 dead. So arson can kill large numbers of people at time and is probably the single most destructive cause of mass murder that an individual can unleash.

          So, are people going to be put death for burning down barns? I’m not sure that this is a serious question, but if it is, the answers is simple: no.

          But, I’m guessing that there is more to your concerns than whether or not people will be put to death for burning down unoccupied barns. Right?

          Is there a ranking of sins in the Baha’i Faith? Obviously, things like murder, rape, thievery, and things like that are pretty bad. No revelation there. What is unique about the Baha’i view is the condemnation that it gives to things that create disunity and prevent society from advancing. Again and again, the Baha’i teachings ascribe the current bad state of the world to disunity. Creating unity is, according to the Baha’i teachings, the most important thing we can do. And creating disunity is a very destructive thing to d0.

          Another thing that the Baha’i Faith teaches is that it is wrong to deprive children of education. This, I think I can say, is regarded as one of the worst of sins by the Baha’i Faith. And it is a huge, huge problem the world over and even in advanced countries like the United States.

          Another of your concerns is whether or not there are ridiculous or extreme punishments proposed for relatively benign things like, say, burning down unoccupied barns. If the question is a serious one, the answer is the one that I gave above: no.

          Stephen

          1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahá%27%C3%AD_laws

            Lots of the things listed have absolutely nothing to do with disunity and preventing societal advancement. Head shaving (unless you are talking about white power skinheads), having hair beyond ear lobe (later defined as only for men despite gender not being mentioned originally), the carry of arms (for gun rights supporters like me for example), confession (something that actually makes people more moral), sloth (lacks a definition of what entails sloth), homosexual acts (can such sex acts really have such purported effects), gambling (unless you are addicted), clergy/pulpits (they form legitimate uses for people of various religions), asceticism/monasticism (help people give up attachments and various other bad stuff), etc I will have to look them up more in depth later.

          2. Hi Stephen Friberg,
            I oppose backbiting and calumny of course. But we should not try to have unity at all costs. Disunity is normal in a democracy, it is the result of people having different opinions on issues. Trying to have unity at all costs, punishing any anger at government, just leads to a dictatorship. People should be free to criticize the government, and each other.

          3. Tom, I think you may have a mistaken idea about the Bahá’í idea of unity and what we believe constitutes harmful disunity. The Bahá’í writings—specifically Abdu’l-Bahá—state that the spark of truth arises out of the clash of different opinions. But there is a difference between expressing differing opinions and arguing with someone or backbiting someone you disagree with. We’re not talking about unity at all costs, Tom. We’re talking about keeping those principles which are the foundations of unity constantly in mind as we work at moving our families, communities and nations forward and trying to solve problems that we have.

            Having the consultation of a working group—whether it is a Bahá’í spiritual assembly or a parliamentary committee—bear fruit and lead to truth will be easier if everyone at least shares the same goals. Differences of opinion about how to reach those goals can still be expected, but the current political system in this country (the US) is set up in such away that those disagreements become contentious, polarized and dogmatic—ultimately the goal of moving the community forward is lost in the slugfest. That is what we mean when we talk about disunity—not honest disagreement over how best to achieve a goal, or even how to prioritize our goals.

            Something that happens in a Bahá’í community that is functioning according to Bahá’u’lláh’s principles is that when there is disagreement that ends in a majority rule vote as opposed to a consensus or unanimity is that those who held the dissenting view take it as their obligation to do everything they can to help the decision succeed. In this way, if the step was flawed, it will become apparent much more quickly and everyone will know it failed because it was a flawed idea or flawed in execution, not because dissenters’ continued pressure hampered it. Imagine, if you can, what would have happened with a government program like the ACA if the dissenters had tried to help it succeed instead of fail.

            Another important part of the way decision-making works in a properly functioning Bahá’í community is the use of an iterative process which, as Stephen Friberg will tell you, is similar to the scientific process. An idea or situation is consulted upon and—through the weighing in of people with differing opinions—a plan is conceived. It’s rolled out and—often at predetermined milestones—its results are analyzed and assessed and reflected upon. There may be adjustments made at any point, or perhaps it will be seen that the idea isn’t working at all as planned and needs to be completely scrapped or replaced with something else. In that case, the deciding body may choose to start from square one. In the case of Bahá’í communities, there are regular times of consultation in which the members of the community consult as a body and may offer ideas or suggestions to their assembly. Often, the assembly will request this sort of input from the community, if fact. The ideal is for all members of the community—including children—to be engaged in these decisions directly.

            Criticism is a broad term that covers just about everything from constructive suggestions, to recognizing a problem and commenting on it, to harassment and mockery, to concerted efforts to undermine the functioning of a given body. As a Baha’i I would personally view the last of these as sedition and the teachings are clear that Bahá’ís should take no part in seditious acts. And while it may be within my first amendment rights to disagree with secular government’s policies by calling politicians names or criticizing them publicly, such behavior would be unbefitting a Bahá’í and I know it. I can choose to ignore that, of course, because unless I stand on a soapbox in a public square (metaphorically speaking) and rant about government actions, my criticism of my government is between me and God.

            Please understand, too, that there is a profound difference between engaging in public discourse about critically important social issues (which Bahá’ís are encouraged to do), and engaging in partisan politics that trivialize and polarize those issues.

          4. Maya, you are right of course that the partisan divisions in this country have gotten out of hand, just too sad. It has become difficult for any Democrat to be nominated in the primaries unless he is a liberal, and for a Republican to be nominated unless he is very conservative. There is just too much name calling and insults in politics nowadays. It used to work much better in the twentieth century, when each party had a much wider spectrum of opinions, so politicians respected each other better.
            I guess one reason for the current partisanship is the current popularity of talk radio, where it has become hard to be successful as a radio host unless you are very partisan, disrespectful of the other party, even contemptuous of them. It is so sad nowadays. So nowadays I prefer to listen to NPR rather than talk radio, except on weekends, when most NPR programs are boring.
            So yes, you have some good points on how politics should work, they should be respectful and nice to each other even when they disagree. Instead we get budget deadlocks, government shutdowns, a lot of hate, the Congress has become very dysfunctional. But that does not mean we should give up on partisan politics, like Baha’is want us to do. We should try to influence them to become more civil, respectful.

          5. Hi Tom:

            I’ve been in a bunch of discussions with some folks – not Baha’is – who would agree strongly with you. Actually, they might go further than you in that they see politics as the means to successfully address world problems.

            But, being exposed to the Baha’i view for such a long time, I’m now convinced that that is not the case. So, while I think that everyone should work to improve the political process as you recommend- it strikes me as very much a good thing – I don’t think of it as the long term solution. In many ways, it seems to me, partisan politics is just warfare and a strongly for power and control, more civilized than military campaigns, but in much the same spirit. (That said, it offers a respite from actual warfare, definitely a good thing!) But, when it is not balance by people working together in a spirit of community and love for each other – which is what I see true religion as striving for, it can’t address humanities current needs.

            Stephen

          6. Hi Stephen:
            Of course parties want power, so they can implement their own ideas. So this does not have to be interpreted as selfishness. And they can be pragmatic, for example now the 2 main parties of Germany have agreed to put aside partisan differences and form a coalition government, because no party had a majority in parliament, and this was basically the only plausible coalition that could be formed.
            But here in American there is already so much hate, it is a mess. And we don’t have a parliamentary system. We have two similarly powerful branches of Congress, controlled by opposite parties, while in Europe if they do have a bicameral parliament, usually one chamber is much more powerful than the other, so being controlled by opposite parties is not very important. And the president or monarch is usually weak in Europe, so it is not usually important what party he or she favors. Except in France. But here the system can lead to a divided government and even a deadlock. So it is a mess.

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-specific_and_gender-neutral_pronouns#Invented_pronouns

    Scroll down to summary for the table on gender neutral pronouns in English. This is a reference for my earlier post for people who weren’t familiar with the concepts.

    A good example of how Westerners are gender obsessed is that they try to identify the gender of gender ambiguous characters in fiction. This makes gender the central part of a person in their misguided efforts at identification. I for one don’t care whether say Crona of Soul Eater or any other fictional character or even real person is male, female, or any other third non binary gender queer category.

    1. Yes, it is a disadvantage of English, and most other European languages, that forces speakers to choose between he and she. Of course likewise in some non-European languages, like the Semitic languages. But some other languages, like Finnish, Hungarian, and other Uralic languages, likewise many other languages, like spoken Chinese, Indonesian, Navaho, etc., even some innovative Indo-European languages like Farsi (the language of Baha’u’llah) and Bengali, do not have gendered pronouns, they have the same word for he and she. So if somebody is intersex, does not identify as more male or female, then he or she does not have to choose, at least as far as pronouns are concerned. Though still, as far as nouns are concerned, then still, these languages have words like man, woman, mother, father, brother, sister, so in that respect the intersex person is still almost forced to choose, except that one could use instead words like human being, parent, sibling. Also these non-gender pronoun languages don’t force us to keep saying he or she, when referring generically to people of either sex. Of course in Older English people would have just said ‘he’, but that was sexist.
      But at least English has no grammatical gender, so it has many gender neutral nouns like president, teacher etc. In many other European languages you have to choose depending on the gender, so for example a female president would be prezidentka in Czech, or Presidentin in German, because the Czech word prezident, or the German word President, is necessarily a masculine noun, and so inapplicable to women. Likewise with words like teacher, butcher, doctor etc., every noun in such languages is assigned a gender and is inapplicable to the other sex. Very inconvenient, when you want to speak of presidents generically, if you say any president, or every president, in languages like Czech or German you have to use both the feminine noun and the masculine noun, if you don’t want to sound sexist. Now both languages also have a neuter gender, but that is inapplicable to occupation terms, there is no neuter gender equivalent of president or teacher etc., you have to choose instead. Very inconvenient, what these languages force you to say. But then English has a similar problem of forcing you to use he or she. The gender neutral pronouns you mention are still not recognized by most speakers of English, so they are not part of their version of English. And I doubt anyone has proposed gender-neutral pronouns in languages like Czech, German or Spanish, after all, gender is such a necessary part of the grammar of such languages. Languages like Spanish or French don’t even have neuter nouns, every noun is either masculine or feminine, they lost the neuter gender that they inherited from their Latin ancestor. Languages like Czech, German, Russian, still have some neuter nouns, though not for occupations, as I mentioned. Though Russian has several nouns like vrach, meaning physician, which can be either masculine or feminine, depending if the doctor is male or female. But not for most occupations. And in Czech or German this is impossible.

        1. Concerning Iranian languages, I have written above about Farsi already, not having a distinction between he and she. That is typical of probably most Iranian languages, for example Baluchi and Ossetian. Though one exception is Pashto, which has grammatical gender, and the gender is indicated in past tenses also on the verb.

          Concerning Indo-Aryan languages, I have written above about Bengali already, that it likewise does not distinguish between he and she. This lack of gender is typical of more eastern languages, like Oriya, Assamese, Sinhalese. In the west there are languages that distinguish gender, including pronouns, like Marathi and Kashmiri. Other Indo-Aryan languages do have gender, but not in pronouns; instead they tend to show the gender in the verb endings, for example in Hindi, Gujarati and Punjabi.

  6. Here goes a little bit of crazy. I would like to talk about sex. I want to be frank about some of this. It is not meant to be crude, just honest about sex. This is a brainstorm on sex, sexuality and spirituality. Let me begin by saying that these are just my current thoughts on the subjects in light of some of the Writings of the Baha’i Faith and what we understand about some aspects of sex and sexuality from the biological sciences, psychology and social science and public health.

    I have been pondering the idea of sexuality and spirituality for a while now, (as well as the idea of complementarity, but that is a tangential discussion.) Sex is reserved for a married man and woman and its primary purpose, but not ONLY, purpose, is for having children. The main issue at hand, as it seems to me, is the sex act. The prohibition, as we have discussed previously, is not the attraction (heterosexual or same-sex) itself, but the acting out of this impulse in a sexual manner. Sex (acts) among people who are not married, we are told as Baha’is, are not conducive to one’s (or two’s) positive spiritual development. So overall this means no pre-marital sex for heterosexual couples, no hook-ups and no sex among heterosexual couples who have found themselves in satisfying, companionate relationships. Sex among unmarried gay Baha’is is prohibited, and since gay Baha’is are not allowed to get married, this means no sex (act) is acceptable for them, ever. (I feel the need to add, again, that Baha’is do/should not push these views on non-Baha’is. Just want that to be very clear.) See my post above on what I have to say about this.
    Now there are a few directions I could go here. Again, this is just brainstorming. (See references at the end for documentation)

    1. What ARE these sex acts, anyway? And when are they “ok” or not? I don’t really know which sex acts “count”, particularly when we consider sex among women, who, for once, seem to be a bit less under fire. I think we all know that the majority of the fear/concern/revulsion is by (heterosexual) men thinking about men engaged in sex acts with each other. (Heterosexual woman may also not like the idea of this, but they don’t tend to go around making crude jokes about it with one another, engage in derogatory name-calling and use homophobic slurs). At the same time, we know that anal sex among heterosexual couples in on the rise. Additionally, oral sex, clearly another non-procreative act, is fairly common among many couples and occurs at a significant rate among young people. Baha’is are told that we are to live “holy and chaste” lives. “…{M]arriage should lead to a profound friendship of spirit.” The Faith “…condemns the prostitution of art and of literature, the practices of nudism and of companionate marriage, infidelity in marital relationships, and all manner of promiscuity, of easy familiarity, and of sexual vices. It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age.” Given that loving, committed heterosexual couples can engage in most of the same sexual acts, and I will go out on a limb here and add that these can certainly be done in a loving, respectful way, as same-sex couples, does this mean that they are then OK? There’s something else going on…

    2. One idea that keeps coming up is that sex, in sexually dimorphic organisms, evolved primarily for reproduction. Without the intersection of an egg (whose carrier is called a female) and sperm (whose carrier is called a male) there is no fertilization. No new offspring. Sex is how we get those little gametes together. In most sexually reproducing species, there are set times when the gametes (and their carriers) are ready and available to come together for fertilization. Outside of those specific times, there is no reproductive action/sex going on. But there’s a glitch in the matrix. Humans are outliers in that human females, most often the action-limiting gender, are be receptive at any point in their menstrual cycles, as well as after menopause. And sex feels good. (To read about an example of what non-pleasurable reproduction might look like, scroll to see the scene from K-Pax: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0272152/quotes).

    I think most people who have had “good” sex with someone they cared about would describe it as a “spiritual” experience. The physical aspect is thrilling, but with someone you LOVE, it is the emotional connection that is “out-of-body.” I wonder – how does THIS fit into the idea of sexuality and spirituality? I keep thinking that there is actually MORE to sexuality and intimacy than we know now, not LESS!! As a species, (albeit with a spiritual component) we STILL haven’t gotten very close to the “ideal.” There is still racial inequality, inequality of the sexes, lots of unplanned pregnancies, drug and alcohol dependence, poor parent-child relationships, ineffective government, etc. Everywhere we look there is example after example of poor relationships. Immature relationships. Unevolved relationships. Sex itself is one of two major evolutionary drives (after survival). In the Baha’i Faith we are told that our physical form had to reach a point where it was attractive to the spirit. We are told that we are at the end of darkness and the beginning of light. So is it not possible that intersection of the physical sexual act (product of our material nature) and our spirit (associated with true intimacy/relationship) is all tangled up at this stage in our development? It’s easy to have sex. We are driven towards it. We are obsessed with it in Western culture. We feel it is our “right” because it is our evolutionary AND emotional drive. I am ok with that, but “rights” come with responsibilities. But combine that with the Baha’i idea that we have a spiritual nature that is first, interacting WITH our material beings, and this combination can manifests a profound intimacy in the context of right relationship. This is good for the individuals, and it is good for families which is good for society.

    So what am I trying to say? I am proposing that a) Stephen is correct in that an overemphasis is placed on sex acts themselves, b) often instead of the development of a spiritual intimacy among people who love one another, once we reach a certain stage of maturity, it will transcend the physical exchange of body fluids, c) all close relationships will be able to manifest some degree of this transcendent intimacy, d) sex itself will always be a part of us, will continue to be one way for the fulfillment of intimacy, but maybe become more so for procreation (?) and e) we are nowhere near this.

    3. So what does this mean about where we are now? We know that sex is risky. It is risky for women having sex with men because of the possibility of physical harm, pregnancy, acquiring a sexually transmitted disease and the potential for emotional harm. Anal sex is risky no matter who is having it, and highly so with multiple partners, high frequency and unprotected. Oral sex is practiced by a significant fraction of young people and “although the risk for HIV/AIDS through oral sex is lower than vaginal intercourse or anal sex, according to the CDC, the transmission rates for genital herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis are considerably higher.” So what does this mean? From a purely medical point of view, for the most part, the safest sex to have is among two people who are virgins and who remain faithful to one another. “Safe sex” decreases many dangers but this is a huge point of debate. It rules out the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases, but not necessarily other dangers depending upon the activity. So it seems to me, we want people in committed, loving relationships. We want to stress the need for waiting to have sex until you are with someone you can be committed to. We do not want careless promiscuity in any form. We need to educate people, young people especially, on their own value, integrity, and spiritual nature; how to control and channel our deepest impulses; be safe; and build healthy relationships with themselves; other people and with God. We are talking about a higher standard, here, after all.

    4. Lastly, when it comes back to taking a position on who gets to be with whom, who’s watching, anyway? Good grief! Let me ask this? Do we assume that a young heterosexual couple goes home every night and has sex? Do we worry about it? Are we afraid that we might accidentally see them through a window? Or do we feel the need to spy on them and make sure they are not doing something other than missionary style intercourse? Do we want them to only have sex when they want a baby? What do we think about a couple who has been married for 5 years? What about a couple who has a new baby? Or two or three children? How much sex is that couple having? So why do people worry so much about what a committed gay couple does? We don’t know! And it is not anyone’s business but theirs. It seems to me to be a mind game in a lot of ways. To me, even if only a step forward, we have to get rid of the past prejudices, clear our minds, embrace all kinds of people and stop worrying about what people do in their own homes.

    http://sexscience.org/dashboard/articleImages/SSSS-SexualSatisfactionInCommittedRelationships.pdf

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cdc-40-percent-teens-oral-sex/story?id=17013130

    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/gender/msm/facts/index.html

    http://factsaboutyouth.com/posts/male-homosexual-behavior/

    http://www.webmd.com/sex/anal-sex-health-concerns

    http://m.livescience.com/27428-truth-about-porn-stars.html

    1. Technically, it would be more accurate to say gay (or bi if a same sex couple) Bahais can’t get a Bahai marraige rather than say they can’t get married period. They can get secular marriage as well as religious marriages in other religion, especially if it’s the intterreligious marriage between a Bahai and a non Bahai. Inablility to get a Bahai marriage shouldn’t be generalized as inability to get a marriage period for Bahais since there are tons of non Bahai marriage places where they can get married. It’s one thing to say for example gay Catholics can’t get married in the Church and another to say gay Catholics can’t get married period.

        1. To simply just because same sex marriage are not performed doesn’t change the fact that Bahai’s (and non-Bahai’s if an intterreligious marriage) can and do enter into same sex marriages, and doesn’t change the fact that they are married.

          1. The Baha’i scriptures do specify that Baha’i marriage is between a man and a woman. There are also other aspects of Baha’i marriage that make it different than marriage among what Baha’u’llah refers to as “the generality of mankind.”

            Also in response to this:”technically he says they’re only not condoned which doesn’t neccesarily say they’re condemned.”

            This is an important distinction that many people miss. To not condone a behavior (whether it is backbiting or immodesty or prejudice or drunkenness) is not to condemn the human being who exhibits that behavior. As Abdu’l-Baha has said: “Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed the promise of the oneness of humanity. Therefore, we must exercise the utmost love toward each other. We must be loving to all the people of the world. We must not consider any people the people of Satan, but know and recognize all as the servants of the one God. At most it is this: Some do not know; they must be guided and trained. They must be taught to love their fellow creatures and be encouraged in the acquisition of virtues. Some are ignorant; they must be informed. Some are as children, undeveloped; they must be helped to reach maturity. Some are ailing, their moral condition is unhealthy; they must be treated until their morals are purified. But the sick man is not to be hated because he is sick, the child must not be shunned because he is a child, the ignorant one is not to be despised because he lacks knowledge. They must all be treated, educated, trained and assisted in love. Everything must be done in order that humanity may live under the shadow of God in the utmost security, enjoying happiness in its highest degree.” – Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 270

          2. Maya, actually the duality refernces on the website I quoted was between condoning behavior and condemning behavior. There was no references to condemning or condoning people in my post or the article. Birth control, sterilization, polygamy, petting, homosexuality, etc. None of the above are condemned nor condones behavior in Hinduism according to the website and article I quoted above. I have some familiarity with Kama Shastras to verify that statement. Rape and adultery are condemned by the way for sake of comparison as well as sex in marriage being condoned.

            To condone a behavior means to list it in the morally good category. To neither condone nor condemn a behavior means to list in the morally neutral category. To condmen a behavior means to list it in the morally evil category. Or in Buddhist speak good becomes skillful, evil becomes unskillful, and neutral stay neutral. I lack familiarity with Jainism and Sikhism to make any parallels there.

            It black and white fallacy to interpet the statement that something isn’t condoned means that something is condemned even if the people who do it aren’t condemned as people. Condoning, condemning, or neither with regards to behavior is seperate from doing so with regards to people. Your response assumes that saying a behavior isn’t condoned is the same as saying a behavior is condemned.

          3. Stephen Kent, I wasn’t speaking directly to your references, but rather wanted to take the dialogue into a “where the rubber meets the road” area of what I see happen in conversations every day. In real life, people don’t chat amicably about condoning or condemning behaviors, they argue vehemently about beliefs. It has been my experience that saying one doesn’t condone a particular behavior often leads to the charge that it means one condemns and even hates the person who exhibits that behavior.

          4. “Stephen Kent, I wasn’t speaking directly to your references, but rather wanted to take the dialogue into a “where the rubber meets the road” area of what I see happen in conversations every day. In real life, people don’t chat amicably about condoning or condemning behaviors, they argue vehemently about beliefs. It has been my experience that saying one doesn’t condone a particular behavior often leads to the charge that it means one condemns and even hates the person who exhibits that behavior.”

            Maya, that is still dodging the issues of three categories rather than two brought up in the other reference. Morality is controversial despite earlier movements like Felix Adler’s Ethical Culture movement thinking otherwise. The three categories of moral, amoral, and immoral are agreed upon, but what goes where is the issue. Just because something doesn’t go in the first category, doesn’t automatically put something in the third and vice versa due to the second category.

            I have take some ethics classes in college, but ethics courses (except business ethics for business major) are all elective except maybe for philosophy majors. Ethics course, covers various ethical systems as well as current culture wars and the reasons why said things get categorized into each category. Nothing is explicitly put into any category as a fact but as a consequence of the theories one adopts ie virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism, etc. You can look up any given issue and find arguments on both sides as well as ones that takes third or more options.

          5. Stephen, sweetie, I’m not dodging anything. I don’t really care about philosophical categories or who agrees on what is moral or amoral or immoral. That is irrelevant in this context unless YOU personally hold a particular belief about a point of ethics that you want to discuss.

            I would argue that to constantly throw out academic philosophies or to insist that I use the terminology favored by your ethics professor (or mine, ‘cos I took those classes too) is dodging the real issue that this entire blog is dedicated to: how we put the prescriptive teachings we claim to live by into practice in the real world not in a classroom, or a wikipedia entry, or a term paper.

            This blog—and therefore, the post to which you are supposedly responding—is about the reality of belief and practice and how those things affect our everyday lives.

            I keep coming back to this refrain: this is not an academic exercise to me or to Stephen or Ian or Bahram or any of our guest bloggers. This is where we live. After all the posts and comments you’ve made, my dear, I have absolutely no idea what you believe or hold dear or hold to be at the core of your identity. I only know that you’ve taken ethics courses and spend a lot of time reading wikipedia. I wager the real Stephen Kent Gray is much more interesting than all those wiki entries.

      1. Hi Stephen:

        Again, our site ran out of room, so I’m posting under a previous posting of yours.

        You wrote:

        The info on Wikipedia and other referenced sources say otherwise.

        Scientific literature indicates that parents’ financial, psychological and physical well-being is enhanced by marriage and that children benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally recognized union (either a mixed-sex or same-sex union). As a result, professional scientific associations have argued for same-sex marriage to be legally recognized as it will be beneficial to the children of same-sex couples.[14][15][16][218][219][220]

        Scientific research has been generally consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.[15][220][221][222] According to scientific literature reviews, there is no evidence to the contrary.[19][223][224][225]

        Also, on the history of sexism. All ancient societies were sexist. There is no noticeable correlation between the status of women and the societal views on sexual orientation. The Norse, Israelites, Arabs, and other societies that executed homosexuality weren’t any better with regards to not treating women like slaves, so your implied causation doesn’t make sense.

        Three comments:

        – 1. My guess is that it is indeed correct that children raised by two parents in a long term stable relationship are, on the average, better off than those raised by one parent. But, of course, there are many, many variables.

        – 2. Wikipedia does indeed give some references about studies of the children of same sex marriage, and the conclusions are thought provoking. But, I think are some obvious flaws – for example, it certainly seems that children with parents of both sexes are going to have a different set of experiences that children with parents that are of single sex, and I suspect that the diagnostics used don’t take the larger social issues into account given the modern focus on individualism. I also think that we have to be very carefully aware that people – and websites – often push an agenda, so while it is encouraging to see that individual children will mature well with loving parents of the same gender, It is clear to me that we haven’t heard the whole story.

        – 3. I can’t say that I agree with you about the lack of causality with respect to sexism in ancient society, and I’m sure that you would agree that you haven’t supported the view that there is no causal relationship. I haven’t proved the opposite, either, but there is a lot of historical evidence that shows that the societies did prevent women from having the same status as men and that homosexuality was a strong component in societies that prized military valor and the rule by force, so I’m suggesting as a hypothesis that there is a relationship between the two. In some cases, for example, Sparta, the relationship is well known, so I suggest that the empirical evidence of the relationship is there. What I do think to be the case is that love and attention between men and women can heal this huge social divide and that when you look at the need for healing it is hard to conclude that maintaining the separation of men and women in different social arrangements is the way forward.

        Thanks for your comments!

        1. 1. Can’t disagree with that point.

          2. The fact should be that the evidence tends to support the liberal position rather than the conservative one. No one said that any two families no matter how simmillar have the same experience, just that neither is better or worse.

          3. You lack a comparison between those societies and their contemporary societies. All ancient societies were sexist to some degree. You don’t show if those societies were more sexist than, as sexist as, or less sexist than other societies. Christian and Islamic societies of the Middle Ages are usually what people think of when they think of sexist societies. Those were two of the most heterosexual and heterosexist societies in history. Also, there is the fact that the word heterosexism exists as well. A modern LGBT affirming society won’t be the same as ancient Greece despite that one simmilarity. Really they would be as different as apples and oranges. Actually, such a society would consider gender to be purely and aesthetic and have absolutely no gender discrimination.

        2. To summarize,

          There is debate over the impact of same-sex marriage upon families and children.
          Social conservatives and other opponents of same-sex marriage may see marriage not as a legal construct of the state, but as a naturally occurring “pre-political institution” that the state must recognize just as the government recognizes employment relationships; one such conservative voice reasons that “government does not create marriages any more than government creates jobs.”[21] They argue that the definition proposed by same-sex marriage advocates changes the social importance of marriage from its natural function of reproduction into a mere legality or freedom to have sex.[citation needed] Dennis Prager, in arguing that marriage should be defined exclusively as the union of one woman and one man, claims that families provide the procreative foundation that is the chief building block of civilization.[22] The focus of the argument is that relationships between same-sex couples should not be described as “marriages,” and that a rationale for this is that the putative ability to have natural offspring should be a formal requirement for a couple to be able to marry.[citation needed]

          Opponents of same-sex marriage, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, and National Organization for Marriage, argue that children do best when raised by a mother and father, and that legalizing same-sex marriage is, therefore, contrary to the best interests of children.[23][24][25][26] David Blankenhorn cites the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child[27] which says that a child has “the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents,”[28] in support of this argument (before he reversed position on the issue). Some same-sex marriage opponents argue that having and raising children is the underlying purpose of marriage, that same-sex unions implicitly lack the everyday ability of opposite-sex couples to produce and raise offspring by natural means, that children raised by same-sex partners are disadvantaged in various ways,[29] and that same-sex unions thus cannot be recognized within the scope of “marriage.” The argument in this form is strongly contested and leaves a number of issues open to debate. These include application of the argument to infertile heterosexual couples or couples not wishing for children, as well as its application to same-sex unions where a family exists with children from previous relationships, adoption, artificial insemination, surrogacy, or co-parenting.[citation needed]. Social consequences are also heavily debated, including whether marriage should be defined in terms of procreation, and the argument draws strongly on religious views in some cases.[citation needed]

          In contrast, same-sex marriage advocates argue that by expanding marriage to gay and lesbian individuals, the state actually protects the rights of all married couples and of children raised by same-sex partners while in no way affecting the rights of opposite-sex married couples and their children, natural or adopted.[30] Some same-sex marriage supporters also claim that the historic definition of marriage as a license to intercourse and as a license to the treating of a wife as a possession of her husband has already been changed by social progress, reminding us that the legal equality men and women enjoy in modern marriage and that, in modern society, it is no longer illegal to have sexual intercourse before marriage.[citation needed]

          Some proponents of same-sex marriage argue that laws limiting civil marriage to opposite-sex couples are underinclusive because they do not prohibit marriages between sterile opposite-sex couples or to women past menopause; therefore, they take the view that the procreation argument cannot reasonably be used against same-sex marriages.[31] Proponents also consider these laws restricting marriage to be unconstitutionally overinclusive, as gay and lesbian couples can have children either through natural or artificial means or by adoption.[32] In 2002, in a leading Canadian same-sex marriage case encaptioned Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General), a Canada court found that “excluding gays and lesbians from marriage disregards the needs, capacities, and circumstances of same-sex spouses and their children.”[33]

          NARTH and American College of Pediatricians (a religious conservative organization; not to be confused with American Academy of Pediatrics) argue that mainstream health and mental health organizations have, in many cases, taken public positions on homosexuality and same-sex marriage that are based on their own social and political views rather than the available science.[34][35][36][37] The American Psychological Association, on the other hand, considers positions of NARTH unscientific,[38] and the Canadian Psychological Association has expressed concern that “some are mis-interpreting the findings of psychological research to support their positions, when their positions are more accurately based on other systems of belief or values.”[2] Views held by the American College of Pediatricians are also contrary to views of American Academy of Pediatrics[39][40] and other medical and child welfare authorities which take the view that sexual orientation has no correlation with the ability to be a good parent and raise healthy and well-adjusted children.[41]

          Stanley Kurtz of the Hoover Institution contends that same-sex marriage separates the ideas of marriage and parenthood, thereby accelerating marital decline. Kurtz points to Scandinavia as an example of such a place, though he admits that in that case, other factors have also led to the decline of marriage.[42]

          Both sides, but more often the conservative side is guilty of dismissing the other side of just pushing an agenda while ignoring the facts. The other side does it too, but atleast refutes their points with actual data and facts.

          I should also note that you need to compare and contrast to find causation. That’s why experiments require experimental and control groups. Your findings suffer from the no control group fallacy.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_and_the_family

          1. Stanley Kurtz of Hoover Institute is totally wrong about same sex marriage in Scandinavia causing a separation of the idea of marriage and parenthood. The trend away from marriage in Scandinavia had been strong long before same sex marriage was legalized there. And the same is true of other European countries. In the country where I am from originally, now it is the Czech Republic, same sex marriages are still not legal, though several years ago they legalized registered partnerships, similar to civil unions here in the US. But even there in the Czech Republic it has become similarly common as in Scandinavia, for opposite sex couples to live together and raise children together, without bothering to get married. There is no longer a societal pressure to get married, and the current beliefs there generally dismiss as old fashioned the idea that sex without marriage is a sin. In the Czech Republic most are no longer Christian, but very often atheist or agnostic. In Scandinavia most still consider themselves Christian, but are often very liberal, don’t follow the Bible, don’t go to church except maybe for baptism or funeral, and many are basically agnostic, even though they will also say they are Lutheran. So they are basically Christian Lutherans who wonder if God exists.
            But in their life they might want to stay together so their kids have both parents, and so their shacking up can be as stable as if they were married. Of course marriages often end in divorces anyway, as there is no longer a stigma against divorce, in such societies. There has been a radical change in that. Almost none of my aunts or uncles divorced. But many of my cousins divorced. And some of their grown children in the Czech Republic live with a lover together as couples even with children without marriage.

    2. Thanks, Lisa, that was terrific.

      I know several gay and lesbian Bahá’ís personally, some of whom are very active in the Faith. One of them—a lesbian friend—had come out before she became a Bahá’í and put a lot of thought and prayer into the Bahá’í teachings on homosexuality before she enrolled.

      Her thoughts were these: We are, as CS Lewis (and Harry Dresden) noted, souls that have bodies. This physical existence is a school in which our purpose is to consciously evolve toward being truly human and to prepare for the spiritual life we will experience in the next phase of existence. We are here to develop spiritual arms and legs, as it were. While our animal bodies have gender and sexuality, our souls do not. My friend concluded that her true identity was invested in her soul, not in her body. Her goal was to evolve spiritually into a closer relationship with God. Her gender and her sexual orientation were irrelevant to that goal and placing emphasis there—indeed identifying herself by her sexual orientation—placed limitations on her spiritual progress. It was a distraction.

      I’ve long pondered her point of view as I watch our society lurch toward the conclusion that we are just smarter animals. I think this is driving a new “sexual revolution” (or devolution) that is, in many ways, an extension of the “if it feels good, do it” school of thought. We have no spiritual component, this theory of humanity holds. The difference between us and other animals is quantitative, not qualitative.

      I heard a neurologist on NPR several weeks ago who drew an interesting distinction between the brain and the mind in relation to drug and other addictions. Addiction is hard to kick, he explained, because while the mind was saying “no” to the impulse to indulge, the brain was saying “yes, yes, yes!” because indulging the impulse was physically pleasurable.

      Rising above potentially harmful physical impulses (like rising above the earth in a flying machine) requires the studied and passionate application of the mind, of reason, and of faith that we are more than the sum total of our physical parts.

      1. What does what one is have to do with what one does?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpocrates

        Even if everyone agreed on the above premise: “Her thoughts were these: We are, as CS Lewis (and Harry Dresden) noted, souls that have bodies. This physical existence is a school in which our purpose is to consciously evolve toward being truly human and to prepare for the spiritual life we will experience in the next phase of existence. We are here to develop spiritual arms and legs, as it were. While our animal bodies have gender and sexuality, our souls do not. My friend concluded that her true identity was invested in her soul, not in her body. Her goal was to evolve spiritually into a closer relationship with God. Her gender and her sexual orientation were irrelevant to that goal and placing emphasis there—indeed identifying herself by her sexual orientation—placed limitations on her spiritual progress. It was a distraction.”

        It still doesn’t say what one should do, just what one is. Carpocratianism is one example of how people can believe the above premises, but their actions branded them as heretics by the Catholic Church since they believed too strongly in the above premises. On the other part of the spectrum, Sethians, Thomasines, Valentinians, Manichees, and most other Gnostics were the other end of the spectrum with regards to actions, despite being based on the same premises given above, also branded as heretics. Even if one identifies as a soul in a body rather than the body and its gender/sexual orientation, it doesn’t follow what one should do from that premise.

        I could find more elucidation of Carpocratianism if you didn’t get the reference. Wikipedia only does a slightly good jiob describing it and I’m not currently looking at my book on it. Still, you only explained that she identifies as a soul, not what lifestyle if any she live by whether celibacy, monogamy, polygamy, polyamory, free love, cohabitation, etc? Given the above, no one follows any more from the above than the others, given the spectrum from Manichees/Cathars/most Gnostics (celibacy) to Carpocratians (free love) who believed in the above premise as a starting point, but diverged wildly in actions and conclusions. A Catholic blog blamed miodern day problems on modern day Carpocratianism.

        1. Kent, I’m not going to comment on Carpocratianism, and please don’t bother to find more elucidation. Carpocratianism isn’t the subject of the blog, after all. And I didn’t intend sharing my friend’s personal understanding of the laws pertaining to chastity and marriage as a jumping off point for a broad-ranging philosophical discussion. But to speak to your comment that “It still doesn’t say what one should do, just what one is”–I’m not sure what “it” you refer to here unless it’s the laws of the Faith on the subject of chastity and marriage.

          There are a number of subjects upon which Bahá’u’lláh (and other Manifestations) have given clear and unambiguous laws for the community of believers: in this case, that Bahá’ís are to practice chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within it, that we are not to drink alcohol, take opiates, commit murder, backbite, or trespass on another’s property, etc. These are laws that apply to how we conduct ourselves within a larger society. There are other prescriptive commandments that may be even weightier spiritually speaking, but which the individual alone is accountable to God and to no one else–for example, daily prayer, study and meditation, or calling oneself to account each day. There are also teachings of general principle that, as you say, don’t tell us what to do, but simply how to be. For example, Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction to “be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity” among other things (sometimes called the Bahá’í Beatitudes).

          In those situations, one is free to relate to the principle however one wishes and one may not trespass on another believer by seeking to determine how he or she should relate to it. So, each believer is on their own to determine what being generous and thankful means to them.

          In the case of my friend we have both a clear social/spiritual commandment relating to sexuality AND the way she chose to relate to that commandment. This has nothing to do with heresy or Carpocratianism that I can see. It is simply the way that she understood a particular law of the Faith that might affect her life more than, say, the commandment to avoid partisan politics. Other Bahá’ís, as you might imagine, would have no problem with the teachings on chastity, but would find avoidance of partisan politics to be of great difficulty.

          We all have different tests.

          1. The it of the topic wasn’t religious law, but the concept of the ghost in the shell, the concept of the soul. You said earlier people care about romantic and sexual relationships because of the body, paraphrasing. You also said people should use the soul to transcend the body, also paraphrasing. I was talking about how these above two premises led to any such conclusions as you say naturally follow from the two.

            A Wikipedia line says “The laws are seen as the method of the maintenance of order and security in the world.” How is that related to individual spiritual growth? How is that related to spiritual growth at all? Does that imply that unbelievers are a threat to order and security? Why the emphasis on order rather than goodness (character alignment based argument)? What about the weird and silly laws like regulating hair length and styles relate to the above premise? Why is stuff being chaotic rather than evil as possibly implied by the line a good reason to prohibit stuff? How does the ideas of societal order and justice relate to spiritual growth? Do the acts prohibited intrinsically against order, justice, and spiritual growth or do they only have that effect if done by Baha’is since they’re the only people that are bound by them? Why would any government allow a private religious organization judicial power over their follower with regards to crimes, imprisonment, and execution?

            Back to marriage, are Baha’is still married if they don’t get the specifically Baha’i marriage? I bring this up because you referenced chastity and marriage. Baha’is have for various reasons gotten regular ones rather than specifically Baha’i ones and have gotten their voting and administrative rights removed. That is supposed to be used for punishing immorality rather than simple regulation avoiding, evil rather than just chaos. While gender usually wasn’t one of the issues in most of the cases, I have read of atleast one same sex couple that atleast tried to go through all the regulations of a Baha’i marriage. Usually, abscence of parental approval or intterreligious issues were the reason why a regular marriage was used instead. The problem is that those marriage are pretended to be non-existent by Baha’is until they go with the specific ritual of Baha’i marriage which is impossible for some due to various reasons, inlcuding obvious and not so obvious, listed and not so listed. A Baha’i could marry someone who didn’t believe in God so much they won’t invoke God in their vows. I could list lots of reasons.

            Marriage is a loving union of people. Though the debate has focused on issues like gender and sexual orientation, there are documented cases of the heart wanting what the heart wants. Gender and sexual orientation seem to be poor predictors of love. People can and have fallen in love despite incompatibility in the orientation department. The heart has proven like the soul to be both gender and orientation blind. The best examples would be any relationships aces or asexuals wind up in, they fall in love and have sex despite having no inclination to do that, but are in love anyways. The same phenomenon can happen to both gay and straight people, but that issue isn’t brought up that much.

      2. Maya, I have found the blog reference.

        http://bahaicatholic.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/the-body-and-homosexuality-part-1/
        http://bahaicatholic.wordpress.com/2006/12/17/the-body-and-homosexuality-part-2/

        On a side note, my reading of both the Bible and Apocrypha always lead me in a Gnostic rather than a Catholic direction, but the point is made in her blog. People can agree on conclusion, but differ on the premises they started with. They can also agree on starting premises, but differ on conclusions. I have always found Platonism, Gnosticism, and Buddhism to be consistent philosophies.

  7. Tom, more on Humanist Society of Scotland here:

    http://www.humanism-scotland.org.uk/content/same_sex_marriage_infographic/

    The info was made in June 1, 2012 so is dated and lack map updates of areas where marriage equality has became law since then like in England and Wales for example.

    I’ve only recently started joining several Humanist organizations and donating to them above membership fees regularly. I’ve also become curious about Humanist ceremonies and Humanist Celebrant status. I like the Humanist magazine and Free Minds newsletter that comes with membership in the AHA. I have since expanded to membership in HC, BHA, GLH, and HSS. They are listed under Canada, United Kingdom, and United States in the above list.

  8. Maya,

    I think that last post of your nailed it. Once one gets past — or perhaps more accurately, sees through — the rash and false notion that we are only or primariy biological creatures, the agonizing quandaries current society finds itself in with matters regarding such things as sexuality gain a much sharper, rational focus.

    “Marriage equality” is a fundamentally rash term, because it rests everything on quirks of biological sexuality supposedly being fundamental idenity markers. Plus, it rests upon the strained notion that same-sex couplings and man-woman marriage could ever be objectively “equal.” Subjectively, there can be equality. (insofar as a gay man can clearly care for his partner as much as I care for my wife.) Hence, particularly in a secular democracy such as the United States and other Western nations, a sound argument can be made for same-sex marriage as a matter of freedom of choice and expression for consenting adults under the rule of secular law.

    But in the objective sense, there clearly is no equality. Therefore, trying to make same-sex marriage a matter of pressing social justice — such as Black Americans’ struggle for civil rights –, and therefore a morally imperative for people of religious faith, is clearly a strained, rash and ultimately rhetorical argument. Hence, that line of arugment often falls back on the last-ditch tactic that anybody who disagrees and refuses to change religion accordingly must “hate” gay people or otherwise be a “bigot.”
    That’s not reason, logic or justice, that’s resorting to guilt-tripping and name-calling — which is the dying gasp of an argument that can’t hold merit.

    I think your lesbian friend also got directly to the heart of things — by realizing our true idenity — that which we should stive for, transcends our biology. What is more, it’s hardly only a “gay” issue — that is, when it comes to tempering our sexuality toward the stardards religion calls us to.

    I’ve thought about this: Now, a gay man might complain that the Baha’i standard that if he is to marry — it will be to a woman — simply is not a “natural” thing for him to do.

    To which I could reply, Well sir, according to inclinations of my own base biological sexuality, being married to a woman is about a far from “natural” as I could ever get. My own “born this way” biolocial urges tell me to admire, lust after and seduce as many women as possible, as often as possible. Marriage in general, and Baha’i marriage in particular don’t mesh well with that. But by golly, that’s exactly what my biology’s been telling me since I hit puberty. So, no, my biology isn’t very thrilled with this whole marriage thing. In fact, it’s downright cranky about it, and complains and pouts to me on a regular basis about my horribly un-natural act of pledging myself to a woman in marriage.

    The Baha’i standards of sexuality and marriage call for complete fidelity within marrige, and chastity outside of it. Furthermore, fidelity and chastity extend far beyond the mere physical aspects.

    The physical part of fidelity — simply refraining from trying to have sex with women other than my wife is the “easy” part, so to speak. Baha’i standards call me toward complete purity of the eye and mind as well. Not even so much as looking toward another woman in such a way that could start my mind toward sexual thoughts about her — now, that’s the real challenge. But it’s what Baha’u’llah expects of me.

    And the more we learn about female sexuality, the more it seems that the old notions that is was somehow “easier” for women to be completely mongamous than it was for men, seem to hold not so true either.

    The bottom line, the struggle toward the ideals of sexuality and marriage that religion calls us to aren’t easy for anybody, regardless of whether their primary base urges attract them to the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes.

    Marriage was never meant to be easy. And it sure as heck isn’t “natural.” For anybody.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_same-sex_marriage

      Mark, actually your argument is a straw argument because you assume that all supporters of same sex marriage (or even any for that matter) actually believe your given straw argument or that the opposite argument you gave actually supports only traditional marriage.

      There are both conservative and liberal views about homosexuality and same-sex marriages in Hinduism, similar to many other religions. A liberal view is presented by Mathematician Shakuntala Devi, in her 1977 book, The World of Homosexuals, in which she interviewed Srinivasa Raghavachariar, head priest of the Srirangam temple. He said that same-sex lovers must have been cross-sex lovers in a former life. The sex may change but the soul retains its attachments, hence the love impels these souls towards one another.[47] In 2002, Ruth Vanita (writer/reporter for GALVA – The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association, Inc.) interviewed a Shaiva priest who performed the marriage of two women; having studied Hindu scriptures, he had concluded, “Marriage is a union of spirits, and the spirit is not male or female” (p. 147).[48]

      As Amara Das Wilhelm, a Krishna devotee and founder of GALVA, notes in his book, Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex, “several Gaudiya Vaishnava authorities emphasize that since everyone passes through various forms, genders and species in a series of lives, we should not judge each other by the material body but view everyone equally on a spiritual plane, and be compassionate as God is.”[49]

      According to Ruth Vanita, “Indian newspapers, over the last 25 years, have reported several same-sex weddings and same-sex joint suicides, mostly by Hindu female couples in small towns, unconnected to any gay movement. Several weddings took place by Hindu rites, with some family support, while the suicides resulted from families forcibly separating lovers.” According to Vanita, the phenomena of increased visibility of same-sex weddings “…suggest the wide range of Hindu attitudes to homosexuality today. The millennia-long debate in Hindu society, somewhat suppressed in the colonial period, has revived. In 2004, Hinduism Today reporter Rajiv Malik asked several Hindu swamis (teachers) their opinion of same-sex marriage.[50] The swamis expressed a range of opinions, positive and negative. They felt free to differ with each other; this is evidence of the liveliness of the debate, made possible by the fact that Hinduism has no one hierarchy or leader. As Mahant Ram Puri remarked, “We do not have a rule book in Hinduism. We have a hundred million authorities.”[51]

      I would have copied other examples, but this one was most comprehensive as a counter example to the straw argument.

      There is also the contradictions in that your argument that gender both matters and doesn’t matter and the people shouldn’t identify with their gender and should at the same time. You also claim objective facts, yet make no references to objective universally known facts.

      Same sex marriage where performed during the reigns of Nero and Elgabalus, centuries before we even had the concept of sexual orientation.

      Religion wouldn’t be as problematic if religious people just abstained from sin (or what they believe to be) personally rather than prohibiting it in public policy and agitating for the same.

      1. Stephen Kent,

        Firstly, citing a few anomalies of thought on the subject hardly make the case for a normative view of homosexuality, or the proposal for gay marriage being a matter of objective “equality.”

        Also, I wasn’t really addressing “gender” per se. I was talking about the sex drive as a biological attribute — and pointing to the larger irrationality of defining people according to biological attributes.

        As far as gender, I think it’s a no brainer that in the general sense, children do best with both a mother and a father — as there are differences between the genders (or sexes) that complement one another during the parenting process.

        That said, people in general, and children in particular, are resilient. Therefore, in many cases of specific instance, children can be raised well under circumstances other than the “traditional” mother-father mode. But again, exceptions of specific instance do not detract from the objective general principle — that children have the best advantages when raised by a happily married, biological mother and father.

        As far as public policy, I don’t think I even addressed that, other than musing that I can understand how same-sex marriage could feasibly be legal under the rule of secular law, in a country such as the United States. For many of us “religious” people, it’s not a matter of agitating, it’s simply a matter voicing our opinion on the matter.

        I find it somewhat hypocritical of the gay rights movement to float an idea as radical as same-sex marriage, and then turn around and act as if anybody expresses any misgivings about the idea hasn’t any right to even talk about it — much less point out how it could, indeed, effect society in negative ways.

        I, personally — and as a Baha’i — do my best to just remain aloof of the political firestorm surrounding the gay marriage issue. But, I can still understand why some people support it, while others oppose it.

        1. Mark, actually Wikipedia gives links in the reference page on same sex parenting that your conclusion on traditionally married men and women being the gold standard of parenting. There is no real data to support the traditional perspective.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage#Issues

          There are tons of circumstances children can be raised under like single parent households, but the data does show a statistical inferiority of such arrangements. The data doesn’t show such an inferiority for same sex parent household.

          Jus because the belief in the gold standard traditional family is held to be a commonly held belief, what matters is whether or not that is in accord with the facts, even if you consider it to be a no brainier that doesn’t even need to be investigated. There is no such things as a no brainer in science.

        2. Mark, not only countries without a state religion, but also one’s with do legally recognize same sex relationships whether marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or registered cohabitation. You claim secularism rather than liberal Protestantism is the cause of such developments in those societies. Other than in America, liberal Protestantism is a dominant form over mainline and evangelical.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion

          Argentina, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom are under the marriage section. Andorra, Finland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the Unite Kingdom have civil unions. Israel has cohabitation. Finland, Nepal, etc. Are debating the issue.

          1. Hi Stephen:

            You write:

            Mark, not only countries without a state religion, but also one’s with do legally recognize same sex relationships whether marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or registered cohabitation. You claim secularism rather than liberal Protestantism is the cause of such developments in those societies. Other than in America, liberal Protestantism is a dominant form over mainline and evangelical.

            Mark is right. Most of the countries in the categories you discuss are strongly secular, maybe excepting Argentina, and liberal Protestantism is there but extremely weak. In countries around the world and outside of Europe (where religion is at a very low ebb and secularism is dominant), liberal Protestantism is not very influential. Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity are very strong in many, many countries (in east Asian, Central and South America, and Africa). In many other countries, Islam in dominant.

            Stephen

          2. Stephen, other than in South Korea, Christianity is a minority religion throughout East Asia. I wouldn’t consider them strong given how many religious movements are stronger there.

          3. Stephen Kent Gray, of course you are right when you define East Asia this way. But I do wonder if Stephen Friberg had a wider definition of East Asia in mind. To the south of East Asia as you defined it, there are two countries, Philippines and East Timor, where Catholic church is dominant, and other Christians tend to be evangelical.

          4. Tom,

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christendom#Demographics

            This has a good chart of Christianity by country. Philippines and East Timor are part of Oceania, and aren’t even considered Southeast Asia much less East Asia. The vast majority of any part of Asia with some exceptions are extremely light blue meaning less than 10% Christian.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christendom#Christendom_and_other_beliefs

            This has good charts on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Agnosticism/Atheism/Humanism/Irreligion/Secularism by country.

          5. Stephen Kent Gray, you have an unusual definition of Oceania there. Usually it is defined as Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. So while it is true that Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor are island countries, so they are technically in oceans, they are normally never considered part of Oceania, except maybe for the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea. So they are considered part of Asia instead. Not mainland Asia of course, but island Asia, just like Japan, Taiwan, Hainan, Sri Lanka, Sakhalin and other islands or island groups.

          6. These two articles have little to say about the weakness of liberal protestantism. I’m not seeing what you are getting at.

            Stephen

          7. Stephen, I have asked you several times not to cut and paste massive amount of text from other sites into these comments. Please stop doing it. It is plagiarism and not conducive to discussion.

            Stephen Friberg

          8. Dear Stephen

            The post you just submitted was cut and pasted from the website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_the_United_States without indication of its source i.e, without attribution, so I’m removing it. Please don’t cut and paste content from other sites onto this blog – the correct procedure is to write your own comments and selectively quote, indicating that it is a quote, from other site.

            Thank your very much.

            Stephen Friberg

      2. I forgot to include these link in addition.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_of_same-sex_marriage#Religious_recognition
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_that_support_same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States#Religion

        Judaism and Christianity especially need to be looked at through a denomination by denomination view. Ethical Culture Movement and Humanism are either religions or secular philosophies depending on whom you ask. Eckankar, Raëlism, Paganism, Unitarian Universalism, etc are several new religious movements. Japanese Buddhism is Zen and other East Asian variants, Pure Land, Shingon, and Nichiren. Buddha’s Light International Association is a wing of Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist Modernism / Humanistic Buddhism / Buddhist Humanism organization. Shamballa Buddhism is Tibetan Buddhism.

        1. I think you could look at Christianity or any other faith through its denominations, if you were looking at specifically comparing and contrasting the rituals, doctrines, and traditions of those denominations, but another way of looking at these historic faiths is through the words attributed to the Founders.

          The Bahá’í point of view is that little is to be gained spiritually by a doctrinal comparison of sectarian precepts. While they are interesting as data points in an historical context, the myriad and diverse religious rituals and doctrines in the historical faiths are what incline many people to look at religion as a conflicting, confusing, mass of dogma not worth the time to study.

          On the other hand, absorbing and applying the tenets of the Founders of faith is of great benefit to both the individual and the society in which he or she lives. One could spend one’s days trying to ferret out every doctrine of every sectarian group and—at the end of those days—have absolutely nothing to show for it. Conversely, one could commit one verse of prescriptive scripture to memory and strive to live by it and greatly improve their personal character, their lives and the lives of others by doing so.

          I’m fascinated by the revelations and lives of the Founders of the great revealed faiths but, at this point in my life, less so by the twists and turns those faiths take once they’ve entered the world of man and been “edited”. (There’s a nifty little children’s story about this called the Wonder Lamp that is a great metaphor for this process). Which is not to say that I don’t have my share of books on the course of Catholicism in my personal research library. 🙂

          In a lot of ways, religion is like Luke Skywalker’s cave in the Empire Strikes Back. What you find there depends in great part on what you take in with you.

          1. Maya, you used a minor detail of the post as if it was the whole topic of the post. The topic was same marriage and religion. Judaism and Christianity were divided by denomination on this issue. Other religions were a more united front on this issue; Islam, Sikhism, and Baha’i Faith against it with Humanism, Ethical Culture movement, Eckankar, Raëlism, Contemporary Modern Neo Paganism (Druidism, Druidry, Wicca, etc), Unitarian Universalism, etc for it.

            Given the wide range of diversity in Judaism and Christianity in particular, there is no real objective way to say Moses or Jesus or any other founder of a religion (except maybe more recent ones like Claude Vorilhon, founder of Raëlism) had on the issue of same sex marriage or any other such issue that they didn’t directly address clearly.

          2. Er … I went back over the voluminous posts prior to the one I responded to and failed to see that same sex marriage was the subject under discussion. The only place the term was referenced was in the wiki links you posted. Since I have no opinion of the denominational views of other religious institutions, I was responding to the assertion that “Judaism and Christianity especially need to be looked at through a denomination by denomination view.” I think, whether the subject is same sex marriage or any other doctrine, there is—as I suggested—choice involved in how one looks at an issue.

            When Jesus speaks of marriage, He speaks of it being between a man and a woman, as does the Bhagavad Gita and the Torah. This makes sense, since this is the primal relationship at the core of human society. The sexual relationship between a man and a woman is the means by which the human race continues to exist. Marriage as an institution is a means of elevating that relationship from the purely physical and creating a stable unit in which children can be reared and educated. Nowhere is this more clear than in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l-Bahá.

            Analysis of the doctrines of a particular sect of Christianity or Buddhism or any other faith is, while interesting and informational, beyond the scope of Stephen’s original article and the purview of this comment thread.

          3. Maya, for example trying to find Jesus’ (and Moses’) opinion on same sex marriage is difficult.

            http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.com/
            http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/

            On the one hand you have, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, 1 Kings 14, 1 Kings 15, 1 Kings 22, 2 Kings 22, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1Timothy 1, Jude 1, Jude 7, and Revelation 22. On the other hand, you have Ruth 1, 1 Samuel 18, 2 Samuel 1, Matthew 8, Matthew 19, and Acts 8. That’s if I limit myself to canonical literature of mainstream Judaism and Christianity because it’s too exhaustive to try and find apocryphal references and Gnostic/Nag Hammadi literature as well on this topic. I could also look up other religious figures on this topic, but these are the most well known on this topic.

          4. Maya, I don’t remember marriage being one of the topics discuses between Arjuan and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

          5. In expressing to Arjuna what makes a person dear to another person, Krishna notes that “it is not for the love of the husband that a husband is dear; but for the love of the Soul in the husband that the husband is dear. It is not for the love the wife that a wife is dear; but for the love of the Soul in the wife that the wife is dear. It is not for the love of children that children are dear; but for the love of the Soul in children that the children are dear.”

            This seems, to me, to be expressive of the love that is to exist in the primary (and primal) family unit. Is it a categorical statement that marriage as an institution is between a man and woman? No. It merely points to this primal unit—husband, wife, children—as being a cultural norm in that society. Again, this seems reasonable given that it requires a sexual union between a man and woman to produce children and a loving family unit in which to raise those children.

          6. Maya, the post was responding to another post that posited that there’s a united secular view and a united religious view. The post I posted showed that religious people aren’t unanimous on this or any other issue. For example, the statement that all religious people support traditional marriage is one common such statement despite being show in said previous post to be false. The association of religion with LGBT rights opposition is also thereby disproven.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_privatization

            Marriage is a contract and is to be defined by parties to said contract.

          7. Stephen, the problem is that what you are responding to and how your most recent comment relates to any prior one is getting lost in the sheer volume of linkages and quoted material you post. If you had expressed yourself as you just did above, with perhaps one or two brief examples, then the message would not have gotten lost, I feel.

          8. Maya, actually the quote of the Bhagavad Gita is talking about how the soul is the lover and the beloved. It’s talking about how marriage is a union of two souls and how love transcends gender. You turned that basically into say Krishna supports one man and one woman traditional marriage, despite the fact he himself was polygamist thus sinking said interpretation. The verse only recognizes that husbands exist and wives exist and that they give and receive love from their soul. Nothing in it specifically states husbands marrying wives, wives marrying husbands, husbands marrying husbands, wives marrying wives, or precludes any.

            Ashtabharya(s) or Ashta-bharya(s) is the group of the eight principal queen-consorts of Hindu god Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu and the king of Dwarka – in the Dwapara Yuga (epoch). The most popular list, found in the Bhagavata Purana, includes: Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana. Variations exist in the Vishnu Purana and the Harivamsa, which includes queens called Madri or Rohini, instead of Bhadra. Most of them are princesses.

            Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha was Krishna’s first wife and chief queen (Patrani) of Dwarka. She is considered as an avatar of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Vishnu’s chief consort. Satyabhama, the second wife, is considered the aspect of the earth-goddess Bhudevi and Vishnu’s second wife. Though Rukmini and Satyabhama enjoy worship as the consorts of the married king Krishna, the others do not enjoy this honour. A young cowherd Krishna is worshipped with his lover Radha. Kalindi, the goddess of river Yamuna, is worshipped independently. Besides the Ashtabharya, Krishna had 16,000 or 16,100 junior wives.

            The texts also mention the many children Krishna fathered by the Ashtabharya, the most prominent being the crown-prince Pradyumna, son of Rukmini.

          9. I didn’t say anything about one man and one woman, SKG. And whether He was a polygamist or not is something we will probably never know. Certainly, those who generated the stories of His exploits would have seen multiple wives and concubines as being a measure of His greatness and wildly exaggerated the number. A number of the Divine Emissaries had more than one wife. It’s also been determined that though the OT says that Abraham had many camels, it is mostly likely He had none at all as they were not in use at the time domestically.

            While Krishna (and Bahá’u’lláh, too, for that matter) use the metaphor of the Lover and Beloved to illustrate the relationship between the soul and its Creator, that particular passage is very clearly speaking of human men and women—husbands and wives—and noting that it is not the physical form of the husband or wife or child that is dear, but the soul (their reality and essence) that makes them dear. There’s nothing at all ambiguous about that.

            Now, one place the symbology of the Lover and Beloved does arise clearly and powerfully is in Arjuna’s wonderful prayer upon realizing that this man, Krishna, whom he has regarded as a friend and with whom he has jested, is the Abode of Brahman. I love the passage: “I bow before thee, I prostrate in adoration; and I beg thy grace, O glorious Lord! As a father to his son, as a friend to his friend, as a lover to his beloved, be gracious unto me, O God.”

          10. Maya, the point is that there is no sola scriptural reason to say the quote explicitly refers to any particular definition of marriage. Your appeals to tradition and appeals to culture for interpreting obviously violate sola scriptura. The verse refers to husbands, wives, and children as archetypal parts of a family. The verse doesn’t solely refer to the husband, wife, and children traditional family, but is written in such a way as to include any combination of husband(s), wife(s), and child(ren) as a family. It refers to both families with children as child free ones, monogamous ones as non monogamous ones, same sex as well as opposite sex, etc. No particular combination is preferred or referenced as a gold standard.

            Also, the Asthabharya (eight principal wives) are agreed upon as historical, though there are a variety of opinions on the historicity of the other 16,100 secondary wives. During the time period of the Kurukshetra War (anywhere from 1500-800 BC the historic rather than traditional time period of Krishna due to fabricated astrological charts dating to 1100 AD or later being the basis of traditional dates of 3000+ BC despite early documentation to the contrary supporting a later date like around 800 years before Alexander the Great ie 1100 BC), both polygyny and polyandry were both common. Arjuna was one of Draupadi’s five husbands. Unrelated to epic literature, archeology has even uncovered some instance of group marriage. Krishna has always been contrasted with monogamous Rama.

            India and South Asia has no history of the concept of an ideal family at not till the Middle Ages or later. India has produced Kama Shastras literature, from 200 CE until the present. It present the shifting mores and values of India during said times periods. Contact with Muslims and British/Christians changed India to the India we have today. Mughal and British rule have effects India.

          11. I think the quote clearly speaks to the concept of a marriage involving husband and wife. How many wives, given the culture in which the quote has its context, is a different question. But the fact that marriage has been for millennia between males and females is driven by biology and the religious and cultural imperatives derive from that simple biological reality: it takes a male and female of the species to propagate. Period.

            Religion has intersected that primal relationship by setting it in a spiritual framework: as the Hindu texts say “it is not for the love of the husband that a husband is dear; but for the love of the Soul in the husband that the husband is dear.” The role of religion, as Bahá’u’lláh has indicated in His writings is to inject that particular relationship—the relationship that forms the basis of every human culture—with a spiritual dimension. This is true no matter how you take the older texts.

            It is unlikely that earlier Manifestations would have felt a need to single out marriage between a man and woman (or women) as being of special kind, under the existing circumstances.

          12. Maya, no one consider the procreation argument a valid defense of limiting marriage to one man and one woman. No one considers a marriage li science invalid on the part of a man or a woman due to not procreating whether due to age, infertility, sterilization, celibate marriage, spiritual marriage, platonic love, asexuality, child freedom, birth control, antisexualism being Brahma Kumaris, etc. Besides, people consider love the primary reason for marriage, and procreation secondary to that.

            Also, no one consider the statement that religion created marriage historically valid. For all we know, marriage could predate whatever the first religion was whether Animism, Vedism, Paganism, or something else.

            Also, no scholar of religion would actually say such general statment about religion as valid given all the religions out there. Especially, given celibacy centered religions like Gnosticism and Brahma Kumaris. As well as LGBT affirming religions like Ethical Culture, Humanism, Raëlism, Druidism, Wicca, Thelema, LaVeyanism, Eckankar, etc which elevate the relationship of any two people with a spiritual dimension.

            Also,:

            The Buddhist view of marriage considers marriage a secular affair[1] and as such, it is not considered a sacrament.[2] Buddhists are expected to follow the civil laws regarding marriage laid out by their respective governments.[2]
            While the ceremony itself is civil, many Buddhists obtain the blessing from monks at the local temple after the marriage is completed.[1]

            The Dalai Lama has spoken of the merits of marriage.

            Too many people in the West have given up on marriage. They don’t understand that it is about developing a mutual admiration of someone, a deep respect and trust and awareness of another human’s needs…The new easy-come, easy-go relationships give us more freedom — but less contentment.[3]

            While Buddhism neither encourages nor discourages marriage, it does offer some guidelines for it.[4][5] While Buddhist practice varies considerably among its various schools, marriage is one of the few concepts specifically mentioned in the context of Śīla (Buddhist behavior discipline).

            Gautama Buddha never spoke against marriage[6] but instead pointed out some of the difficulties of marriage.[6] He is quoted in the Parabhava Sutta as saying

            Not to be contented with one’s own wife, and to be seen with harlots and the wives of others — this is a cause of one’s downfall.

            Being past one’s youth, to take a young wife and to be unable to sleep for jealousy of her — this is a cause of one’s downfall.[7]

            The fundamental code of Buddhist ethics, the Pancasila (or five precepts), contains an admonishment of sexual misconduct, though what constitutes such misconduct from a Buddhist perspective varies widely depending on the local culture.
            The Digha Nikaya 31 (Sigalovada Sutta) describes the respect that one is expected to give to one’s spouse.[8]

            So in summary, the Buddha neither encouraged nor discouraged marriage, but was neutral on it. Far from saying the central point of his Dharma is to bless householders. In fact exactly the opposite of said statement.

          13. SKG, to say that no one considers the “procreation argument” a valid reason to define marriage as involving male and female is simply not true. Many people do. As I said, that religious teachings arose around marriage, historically, makes perfect sense, given how critical THAT particular relationship is to the human race.

            So, to be clear: It is inarguable that the relationship between male and female is uniquely essential to the continuance and progress of the human race. It doesn’t matter what our philosophy of life is with regard to legal marriage as practiced here or elsewhere. The fact remains that if that relationship ceases, we cease. There is no other marriage of which that is true.
            Religious sacraments have arisen historically around marriage and made it an institution because it is so critical to the foundations of human society. Something we seem to have lost sight of. As a Bahá’í, the word “marriage” applies to that unique relationship in the same way, I suppose, that the word “wristwatch” applies to a particular type of bracelet, but not to all bracelets because the wristwatch does something other bracelets do not—it can tell time.

            When all the spiritual principles Bahá’u’lláh taught apply to a marriage relationship, then it is a Bahá’í marriage—a union of a very particular type that operates on physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels simultaneously. A Bahá’í marriage is even different than marriages in the general society because of the spiritual features it is supposed to encompass. So, your arguing that this or that group or even past Manifestations weren’t as specific as Bahá’u’lláh isn’t really relevant. That was then and this is now.

            If we are not happy to have the same word applied to marriages of convenience, or same-sex marriages, or polygamous groups, then perhaps we need to come up with a different set of words that are applicable to each type instead of trying to shove all such diverse types of sexual relationships into one pigeon hole.

            So, to be clear, when I speak of the sort of marriage that the Bahá’í writings refer to as “a fortress for wellbeing” I will use the term Bahá’í marriage.

            That work for you?

          14. Marriage is defined minimally as a committed contractual relationship.

            Also, just because hypothetically bodies were to cease to exist doesn’t mean humanity would cease to exist. Since humans are immortal souls, don’t all so called dead humans actually exist in some sort of spirit world even if the bodies of so called living humans were to cease to exist.

            Also, nobody considers the word mariage unqualified to be limited to the views of one religion. It would be wrong to use the marriage in general then limit a conversation to marriage in a specific religion.

            Also, as mentioned previously not all religions have made marriage a sacrament but rather let it as a completely secular thing like Buddhism, Protestantism, and others.

            Also, there is no given universal definition of marriage like there is for say bracelet and wrist watch.

            Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.[1] The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.

            That sums up all the varying definition over times and places. Also you were the one trying to retroactively put the Bahai marriage definition into past religious teachings.

          15. You covered a lot in your comment. Let’s see if I can comb out some threads.

            Marriage CAN be defined minimally (or generically) as a committed contractual relationship, but that definition also applies to a variety of other contractual relationships. When you begin drilling down and getting more specific then it can also be defined in more specific ways. Using the bracelet and wristwatch analogy, both are bracelets, but only one of them is a bracelet that tells time. Likewise there is one type of contractual marriage relationship that produces young naturally and that is the one between male and female. You are free to define marriage as simply a committed contractual relationship. I am free to hold that it is more than that.

            Humanity, as a living embodied species would cease to exist, Stephen—that’s not really arguable. Yes, the souls of those who have gone on would still be around, certainly. But I don’t think you can use it to argue that a marriage between a man and woman that produces the next generation is no different from any other committed contractual relationship.

            Protestantism isn’t a religion unto itself. It’s a sect of Christianity and Christ did speak of marriage between a man and a woman. It became a sacrament of the church. The Teacher who is credited by the Chinese as having given mankind marriage in order to ensure the raising of children by both parents is Fu Hsi, so this humanizing of the sexual relationship between male and female members of our species goes far back. I don’t have written proof that every Manifestation of God had laws pertaining to marriage, but I suspect from the evidence I have seen that they did speak to that societal pivot. It seems logical that they would.

            Stephen that there is no universal definition of marriage currently (we thought there was, though, didn’t we?) is at the heart of the matter. Bahá’u’lláh and other Manifestations of God have—when they’ve spoken of it—stated it as a special bond between man and woman. I’m simply saying that the reasons for that are obvious. The disagreement arises as to whether that is a valid distinction. Some believe it is, some do not.

            Stephen, if you have a sense of history, then you may understand that going very far back, marriage was assumed to be between male and female humans. Again, for obvious reasons—marriage was about producing children (heirs for the wealthy, helpers for the less wealthy, someone to take over the family business or bring wealth to the family by marriage, themselves). So this was the relationship that the Manifestations of God were concerned with spiritualizing and humanizing. As you say, marriage is a cultural universal, and up until recently, it has been about the creation and nurturing of human life. Perhaps Bahá’u’lláh chose to define it more clearly because something that was once assumed, no longer is.

            So, my question to you is: were all of the cultures that—regardless of their sense of sexual relations between other people retroactively using Bahá’u’lláh’s definition of marriage?

            (Edit: actually, I should have wait that our ancestors proactively used Bahá’u’lláh’s definition of marriage through the cultural assumption that it was a particular type of contractual relationship between a man and a woman (or women).)

          16. Maya, that has never historically been the explicit definition of marriage, but rather a positive externality thereof. A positive externality (also called “external benefit” or “external economy”) is an action of a product on consumers that imposes a positive effect on a third party. It can be exemplified by the fact that nobody ever barred sterile people or people to old to reproduce from marrying based on your marriage is reproduction definition. I would expand marriage to the triangle of love involving liking, passion, and commitment. Also, no one will revoke a marriage license due to failure to reproduce.

            You also qualify reproduction with the word natural. We do have technology assisted reproduction right now, but it could advance in the future as well in ways only handled in speculative fiction.

            Marriage may produce children, but that is secondary to love and affection. No one really questions marriages that don’t creat new people. If they adopt instead, no one considers that an issue. If they are infertile, no one considers that an issue. Reproduction is an externality of marriage, rather than its definition or purposes.

          17. Maya, that has never historically been the explicit definition of marriage, but rather a positive externality thereof. A positive externality (also called “external benefit” or “external economy”) is an action of a product on consumers that imposes a positive effect on a third party. It can be exemplified by the fact that nobody ever barred sterile people or people to old to reproduce from marrying based on your marriage is reproduction definition. I would expand marriage to the triangle of love involving liking, passion, and commitment. Also, no one will revoke a marriage license due to failure to reproduce.

            You also qualify reproduction with the word natural. We do have technology assisted reproduction right now, but it could advance in the future as well in ways only handled in speculative fiction.

            Marriage may produce children, but that is secondary to love and affection. No one really questions marriages that don’t creat new people. If they adopt instead, no one considers that an issue. If they are infertile, no one considers that an issue. Reproduction is an externality of marriage, rather than its definition or purposes. You used inductive rather than deductive logic to reach your conclusion.

          18. You say that marriage has never explicitly been defined as between a man and woman. If that were so, it might be because previously it was an underlying assumption that it was between man and woman.

            Yet, marriage as an institution—even when assumed to be between male and female—is different things to different people. It can be a political move; a consolidation of assets or families; the result of intense and sudden passions; a relationship of convenience, a meeting of like minds; a “nest” in which to raise children. In the context of Christianity, until very recently, it was assumed to be between male and female members of the human species specifically because it produced children. Again, I don’t think that’s arguable from an anthropological, cultural or historical perspective. Indeed, marriage often has had economic and political facets that—alongside producing the next generation—have made it of great consequence to the shaping of cultures. The idea that it is about love and affection is (a romance), in most cultures I’ve studied, a fairly new idea.

            You say, I’ve used inductive logic to reach my “conclusion”. My only conclusions are that Bahá’u’lláh has defined Bahá’í marriage in a certain way and that historically marriage has been a joining of males and females. That assumption is now being challenged in some cultures.

            Do you know what “presentism” is? Because I think that may be what’s occurring here. You seem to be looking back at history and culture through the lens of present day mores (and countless wikipedia entries) 🙂 Reproduction may be an “externality” of marriage at this juncture to some people. But historically, that is not the case, nor do all people today—even in the US culture—accept that premise.

            As I said, marriage is different things to different people. To a Bahá’í it is the physical and spiritual joining of a man and a woman in sacred union that can—ideally—produce a new generation of strong, compassionate people who will carry on an ever-advancing civilization. ‘Nuff said.

          19. Maya, you aren’t using sola scriptura when reading the past. You keep reading tradition and culture into the scripture when said text doesn’t actually support your conclusion. You also retreat to minimizing it to the Bahai definition despite earlier talking about quoting Krishna on marriage. On the one hand you talk about marriage throughout history, yet only care about the Bahai definition. Marriage is a big circle and to use the word marriage unqualified by adjective is to talk about the concept itself rather than the Bahai subset thereof.

            Also, to say that someone didn’t say something because it was assumed by culture or tradition is to say that because scripture doesn’t say something they mean something despite not ever saying it. It totally contravene sola scriptura. There are tons of websites debating the views of Moses, Jesus, or whomever else on marriage. To say that Buddha, Krishna, or any other religious figure taught a specific definition is unsupported by their scriptures.

            For interesting views on Krishna on marriage.
            http://galva108.org

            Back to religious groups, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, Paul Twitchell, Gerald Gardner, Alexander Sanders, Claude Vorilhon, Felix Adler, and any other founder of a religious tradition that which practice (in whole or even as little as one denomination) marriage regardless of gender are worth mentioning as well. If a religious figure and their scripture don’t support traditional marriage, appeals to culture and tradition which you keep using won’t make it so.

          20. Stephen, if you aren’t going to respond directly to what I’ve actually said, I’m respectfully going to decline to respond further except to say that you have essentially asked why Bahá’ís don’t accept that marriage is whatever a myriad different sources define it as—or do not define it as. I have answered that question and discussed the roles that marriage has played in culture. I’m not sure why you wish to argue that there is no linkage between the human biological imperative to have children and marriage as an institution, but you are certainly entitled to do so.

            You say I’m reading tradition and culture into scripture. Yes, because scripture both informs culture and tradition and is informed by it. I tend to look at the world through context and connection because nothing exists in a bubble.

            I really can’t respond to your desire to “peg” me as something you can stick a label on. That’s between you and God.

            God bless.

        2. Maya, we were talking about marriage in society rather than marriage In the Bahai Faith. It’s also what happened in a previous discussion on the afterlife. You switched from talking about what Krishna or Buddha or whatever other religious person taught on the afterlife to what Baha’u’llah taught. Even if you take the argument that society has marriage of men and woman because of your argument, it doesn’t have to qualification just or only or any such other qualification.

          Your argument technically deal more with why mean and women can get married rather than why men and men or women and women can’t. Men and women marry because if they didn’t we would cease to exist doesn’t explicitly state that only men and women should be married. You go from the extreme of saying what if there were no traditional marriage to the opposite extreme of there being no gay marriages. To say we should humanize and spiritualize the relationships of mean and women doesn’t exclude doing the same for men and men or women and women.

          Also, the issue deals with theocracy versus liberal democracy. Why should society base it policies of one religion especially one currently at 0.1% of the world. Also, how do you expect people to live by scripture in a way when you assume all past scripture taught your position on marriage despite followers of said religions disagreeing with you?

    2. Mark, the spirit flesh dualism is better exemplified in religions like Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Platonism where flesh denying sprit affirming spirituality is an ideal. Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, and Scientology are good examples as well.

      Desires of the flesh come in the form of various listed deadly sins which vary from list to list: gluttony, lust, greed, anger, envy, jealous, pride, vanity, sloth, sadness, fear, and lies.

      Celibacy as an ideal for everyone is related to the extinction of lust. Poverty as an ideal with the extinction of greed. I could go on and one with examples for each.

      I find it ironic that a religion that bans clergy, pulpits, asceticism, and monasticism would bring up the framework and worldview that justifies said practices and forms their basis.

  9. Maya, I found this compilation on voting rights and administrative rights.

    http://en.bahaitext.org/Lights_of_Guidance/Administrative_Rights,_Sanctions,_Dissimulation

    What I talked about earlier covered the civil marriage only sections. It also covers an intterreligious marriage with a paired Baha’i marriage ceremony.

    Sections 178-217 are on the link given above and cover a variety of issue on this topic. Lots of topics show it’s not limited to acts of immorality. Also, it says any drinkers, not just black out drunk public binge drinker who can’t hold their liquor will be have their rights removed. Also, one quote that grave blatant immorality is the only reason for rights removal, but several issues don’t qualify as such ie dissimulation in the face of persecution, civil marriage only, moderate drinking, membership in fraternal organizations, same sex relationships, ecclesiastical/political associations, not raising your children as your religion, being in good standing and marrying someone without their rights, marriage without parental consents, etc. Also, what does it mean to shame and embarrass the Faith or a specific community and in whose eyes?

    Also, the strongest penalty is excommunication as referenced in the compilation.

    Are youth who aren’t yet of of voting age (which I don’t know what Baha’is use as their voting age), even old enough to be Baha’is (15 or 21 or whatever the age is)? This is specifically on section 210. Can 14 year olds, 12 years olds, or even younger really be said to be Baha’is by choice rather than birth? Are they actually believers at such young ages rather than that being the only religions they know in depth and personally rather than any other religious perspectives they either don’t know of or have only skim knowledge of? I guess if it would be a moot point eventually by either not enrolling once they turned 15, thus nullifying any Baha’i status they had as a youth by de facto being a non Baha’i until any possible future enrollment if any.

    This goes in with the religious abuse concept. You would find it absurd to consider a child to be a member of a political party, but applying that concept to religion brings this concepts. In the next paragraph is a copy and paste from Wikipedia.

    Religiously based psychological abuse of children is a growing area of interest in the psychological and sociological community. It can take the form of using teachings to subjugate children through fear, or imposing heavy indoctrination such that the child is taught only the beliefs and/or points of view of their particular sect (or even just that of their caregivers) and all other perspectives are stifled or kept from them. The beliefs are taught as absolute truth, with no way of ever questioning them. Psychologist Jill Mytton describes this as crushing the child’s chance to form a personal morality and belief system, making them utterly reliant on their religious system and/or parents. They never learn to critically reflect on information they receive. Similarly, the use of fear and a judgmental environment (such as the concept of Hell) to control the child can be traumatic.

    This is tangentially related to section 180. What does raising your children in a religion have to do with being a religion? I get the part about not getting married as a religin you aren’t, but what does any individual’s religion have to do with other individuals even children?

    Also, why does the texts use the term East when they mean Intermediate Region? There are four world regions: Occident or West, Orient or East, Africa (sub Saharan parts only), and Intermediate (none of the above). People get this wrong a lot, by ignoring the fact there’s and Intermediate Region between the West and the East, usually dividing along continental lines erroneously. I don’t know of the applications of Baha’i law in China or any part of the East for that matter.

    The lands between the Adriatic Sea and the Indus River form the Intermediate Region, and are considered a bridge between Western and Eastern civilisations. This vast area extends from the eastern half of Europe to the western half of Asia. Its significance is that there is neither such thing as a uniform Europe nor a uniform Asia. The terms “Europe” and “Asia” denote geographical regions and not civilisations. In terms of population, the dominant religions in the Intermediate Region are Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam, and to a lesser extent Shiite Islam, Alevism and Judaism. In contrast, Catholicism and Protestantism dominate in the West, as do Hinduism and Buddhism in the East.

    The Intermediate Region had for 2500 years been dominated by an ecumenical empire, whose centre lay by the Turkish Straits and the Aegean Sea. Fundamentally the same empire throughout history, its successive leaders sought to unify its respective peoples. From the Persian empire of Darius, it fell into the hands of Alexander the Great, then to the Hellenistic Romans, the Christian Romans and finally to the Sunni Ottomans until 1923-24, even though originally the Ottoman Dynasty was Alevi.This is why the Janissaries followed the Bektashi-Alevi religion. This Central Empire had been subject to attempts by other empires to seize succession. These empires, situated along its periphery, were the Islamic, the Persian and the Russian (until 1917).

    The dynamic between the Central Empire and the Peripheral Empires constitutes an internal conflict in the Intermediate Region. Each of the main peoples in this area struggled to seize control of its centre of influence, that is, Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul, which remained the undisputed focal point for nearly 2000 years. The Arabs in the 8th century and the Russians in the 20th century almost succeeded in doing so, but were not able to take control of the ecumenical empire. Western intervention, since the 18th century, is considered to be an external conflict, which sought not succession, but the destruction of the ecumenical empire, and later its dismemberment (Balkanisation) and its subjection to the stranglehold of Westernisation.

    In conclusion, “due to historical events spanning thousands of years, the Eurasian continent, of which Europe is but one of its peninsulas, comprises three civilisational areas: a) the West, which today includes North America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Western Europe; b) the East or “Far East”, which includes the peninsulas of India, Southeast Asia (with Indonesia) and China (with Korea and Japan); c) the Intermediate Region, which is found both in the East and the West.” (D. Kitsikis, L’Empire ottoman, Paris, PUF, 1985, p. 15).

    1. Hi Stephen:

      I note your continuing concern about things like drunkenness and the removal of voting rights in the Baha’i Faith. I think it is useful to review the Baha’i writings on the topic. The following, from the reference you give, is an authoritative overview:

      178. Basis for Deprivation of Voting Rights

      “The general basis for the deprivation of voting rights is of course gross immorality and open opposition to the administrative functions of the Faith, and disregard for the laws of personal status; and even then it is the duty of the National Assembly, before exercising this sanction, to confer with the individuals involved in a loving manner to help them overcome the problem; second, to warn them that they must desist; third, to issue further warnings if the original warnings are not followed; and finally, if there seems no other way to handle the matter, then a person may be deprived of voting rights.

      “The Guardian however, wishes the National Assemblies to be very cautious in using this sanction, because it might be abused, and then lose its efficacy. It should be used only when there seems no other way to solve the problem.

      “Answering specifically the questions you raise, if a person is deprived of his voting rights, he may not contribute to the Local or National Funds; he may not attend Nineteen Day Feasts. Of course, not attending the Nineteen Day Feasts, he can take no part in consultation. While it is not forbidden for the friends to associate with the individual, yet their association should be on a formal basis.

      “So far as the individual who has been deprived of his voting rights, teaching the Cause, he is of course free to do this, as every individual has been encouraged by Bahá’u’lláh to teach the Cause.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of South America, March 7, 1955)

      What stands out is the great extent that the Baha’i administration goes to avoid even deprivation of voting rights, as we have been emphasizing. Clearly it is not done blithely, and of course, believers can appeal to a higher level. So, although I can understand why you are concerned about these kinds of things in a world that tends to go overboard in punishing people, even demolishing whole communities as punitive exercises, I think that is important to contrast the way that everyday world around so casually punishes people for even minor violations of the law (and engages in things like wholesale deportation of immigrants who in a spirit of political hay-making) with the care and spirit of leniency that characterizes the Baha’i approach. And clearly, depriving someone of their voting rights is neither a harsh thing, nor does it harm anyone, unless it impinges on their conscience.

      Consider, very example, if, heaven forbid, a Baha’i claimed that the Baha’is were supporting a certain political party. Such an action would not only violate the Baha’i principle of non-involvement in politics, but could put Baha’is at grave risk, even to loss of life in many, many parts of the world. The punishment, if appropriate, is loss of voting rights.

      You wrote:

      Sections 178-217 are on the link given above and cover a variety of issue on this topic. Lots of topics show it’s not limited to acts of immorality. Also, it says any drinkers, not just black out drunk public binge drinker who can’t hold their liquor will be have their rights removed. Also, one quote that grave blatant immorality is the only reason for rights removal, but several issues don’t qualify as such ie dissimulation in the face of persecution, civil marriage only, moderate drinking, membership in fraternal organizations, same sex relationships, ecclesiastical/political associations, not raising your children as your religion, being in good standing and marrying someone without their rights, marriage without parental consents, etc. Also, what does it mean to shame and embarrass the Faith or a specific community and in whose eyes?

      I don’t see this as accurately reflecting those quotes, nor their spirit. They do show, however, that there are issues that Baha’is don’t hold lightly. The punishment for conscious violation of the Baha’is by those who are informed as to what they are can be, after very concerted attempts to correct the situation, a loss of voting rights.

      But consider how seriously the Baha’i consider the issue and only how National Spiritual assemblies acting as an assembly can enact such a removal:

      202. No Justification Suspension of Voting Rights Pending Investigation

      “There is no justification for the suspension of a believer’s administrative rights pending investigation and review of the facts of the matter in which he is involved. As we have repeatedly stated, the application of sanctions is a very serious action and should be imposed only in extreme cases. Furthermore, any decision involving a believer’s administrative rights is to be made by action of the Assembly itself.

      “While the Assembly should always be concerned about matters which might affect the good name of the Faith, it should be remembered that a believer involved in such matters is entitled to the understanding of the Assembly and may need its guidance and assistance both before and after any decision regarding sanctions is made.” (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 16, 1969)

      Stephen

    2. Stephen Kent, I own a copy of Lights of Guidance and have referenced it many many times over the years both as an individual and in my function as a member of a Local Spiritual Assembly. It is just what the title suggests, guidance, not a mandatory sentencing manual, i.e., if he’s caught drinking yank his voting rights. I’ve served on spiritual assemblies most of my adult life and in my experience, they are not geared to be punitive. Their first goal is to preserve the unity of the community and the safety and dignity of any individuals who meet with them for whatever reason. Removal of administrative rights is the most weighty sanction a Local Assembly can apply, and it is only used in cases where the individual is doing real harm to themselves, those they engage with and the community as a whole. An Assembly will exhaust all other possibilities before recommending to the National Assembly that a person’s voting rights be removed.

      “Excommunication” as you term it is something entirely different. This is something that is done only in circumstances where an individual has purposefully and with malice attempted to cause real harm to the Bahá’í community and to the Faith, itself. Only the Universal House of Justice can take this step. But even that is not irretrievable.

      On a couple of administrative points: in the US (but not in all countries) Bahá’í parents can register their children as Bahá’ís so that they can, among other things, receive the Bahá’í children’s magazine and other communications from the National Center. When the child is 15, they have reached the age—set by Bahá’u’lláh—of spiritual maturity and they can decide for themselves whether they will continue to self-identify as Bahá’í. They are, at that point, entirely responsible for their own spiritual education. My two oldest children very much looked forward to receiving their official adult Bahá’í status. They were welcomed into the community by their National and Local Assemblies, were given gifts. They were celebrated. They are both very active Bahá’ís, working with children and youth because how the next generation—whether they are Bahá’ís or not—deals with conflict and social issues is of critical importance to a global society. My youngest, who is ten, is very active in the community as well, and is eager to go to the Bahá’í Family School our community sponsors. If I told her she wasn’t going to Family School she’d think she was being punished for something. With rare exceptions, my kids have always wanted to go to Bahá’í events and in those times when they elected to stay home, we did not force them to go.

      Regarding what Bahá’í children are taught, the goal of any Bahá’í parent is to teach their children how to contribute to society in a positive way. So, naturally, we will teach them the principles of the Faith and explore its history with them. But equally important, is the mandate to ensure they are educated in the arts and sciences and equipped with analytical skills that will enable them to independently investigate reality—which is the first mandate Bahá’u’lláh gives.

      So, as a Bahai parent, I have certainly taught my kids Bahá’í prayers, told them about the history of the faith and what I knew of previous revelations. I have tried to instill in them a hunger to know more and to embark on their own study. I have not hid from them the horrific things that have happened to Bahá’ís—and are still happening to Bahá’ís in Iran and other countries. I have engaged them in planning and participating in devotions when Bahá’í Feast (worship) was held in our home. In short, I’ve tried to make them feel like part of a community—a knowledgable part. I have also tried to teach them to be skeptical, to look at incoming information with an objective eye and to use reason to determine “the fruits” of an idea (as Christ taught). That, no less than human oneness, is a primary tenet of the Bahá’í Faith.

      I think that’s the answer to these questions, at least as I understand them: “What does raising your children in a religion have to do with being a religion? I get the part about not getting married as a religin (sic) you aren’t, but what does any individual’s religion have to do with other individuals even children?”

      I think you may have a misconception about the nature of the Bahá’í Faith. While the modern trend in religion seems to be toward the salvation of the individual, the Bahá’í faith is really about the “salvation”—that is to say, the evolution and maturation—of the species. We believe that religion—as the word implies—is about binding together ever widening groups within humanity as we move toward a true global society. But humanity cannot be unified by force—it must come about by conscious choice and in all its glorious diversity. That requires that knowledge be passed down from parent to child, that the individuals and the family as a unit reflect the human virtues so necessary to our evolution. Raising children with a knowledge of the parents’ faith seems like a no-brainer to me. We send our children to school to learn our nation’s history, or how to do science, why wouldn’t we teach them the history of our faith? At home, we teach our children human virtues, such as kindness, justice, etc. why wouldn’t we teach them about the source of those virtues?

      Jesus asks His audience, “If your son asks you for bread, would you give him a stone?” If my child asks me for guidance in how he should respond to bullying, or what justice is, or if he requires a model for human virtues of patience, love, justice, mercy, am I to refuse to answer? Should I tell him to figure it out on his own with no help from me? If he ask me what is the most important moral principle, how am I to answer if not from my faith? If he asks how he should behave when someone taunts him, how better to guide him than to show him Abdu’l-Bahá? It is my faith (and I’m including the Christian faith I was raised in as well as the Bahá’í Faith I consciously entered as a young adult) that has taught me how to be. The beginning of my child’s spiritual education is for me to share that with them. It is the beginning not the sum total. Parents who refuse to speak to their children about their own faith connections for fear of influencing them are short-changing their kids. We’re supposed to influence them; that’s what it is to be a parent.

      Religion is not a garment you put on or a vehicle that you drive. Despite the fact that many people try to treat it as if it were that, it is not, and never has been. Neither is it a purely mental exercise for the edification or entertainment of an individual. It is a way of being an individual in a larger community of diverse human beings. Our human impulse is to try to codify it, reduce it to formulas, or pretend that it is a purely private exercise. As long as human beings congregate in larger communities, it can’t be that, because the teachings of religion are all about how we treat each other.

      1. Actually, you’re describing ethics rather than religion in the last part. Everyone and everything is for how we treat each other. Agnosticism, Atheism, Secular Humanism, Spuritual But Not Religious, Deism, Ethical Culture Movement, and Transcendentalism are good examples of secular religions by your definition of what a religion is about. They also teach people to contribute positively to society as well.

        I also didn’t say you couldn’t teach children religion, but rather teaching them to be a particular religion as opposed to any other religious option they can possibly choose. Dharmic religions, Abrahamic religions, Western esotericism, Indigenous religions, Pagnism, Secularism, Spiritism, Syncreticsm, Taoic religions, and a whole Grab Bag of other religions. The last is a none of the above category for any religion not included in the other categories.

        Your respons is about religion itself rather than being one religions over another. I should add the comple category of secular religions as well listed at the top. What does any of that have to do with children being a parent’s religion as opposed to any other?

        Various issues like the purpose of life, deities, key texts, where religionists are located, afterlife promises, category of religion, what the religion is, perks of the religion, drawbacks of the religion, activities, paraphanelia, sex regulations, dietary restrictions, time commitment, cost, conversion difficulty, afterlife quality, traditional, rate of growth, holidays, aesthetics, etc are involved.

        The condition being that the child asks, but children eventually do reach a point when they stop asking like usually around like twelve or some other tween year area. It would eventually lead to unprompted lectures on virtue, bullying, justice, or whatever topic is related due to the child not asking for guidance but receiving it anyway. Also, how much are other perspectives covered or even recognized as existing?

        Also, what other religious services and houses of worship have they opted to go to as well occassionally? For example, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Unitarian Universalism, Eckankar, Spiritualism, etc are all in my Yellow Pages phone book under “Churches” (it uses it as a general term for all houses of worship except Jewish ones which are labeled as Synagouges). Check your Yellow Pages or simmilar phone book provider and see how many houses of worship are in your area. How many have you or any of your relatives visited in the last twenty years? Have they expressed any curiousity in going to any of them? A side note: in my area, Eckankar is just a call line rather than a location of a house of worship.

        1. Stephen, I can easily imagine if I were an enthusiastic believer in some religion, and if I had children, I would naturally teach them all I know about my religion, and if I mentioned other religions, I would naturally mention why I think they are not as great as my religion. After all, if I were enthusiastic about my religion, I would naturally want my children to join that religion. One can’t expect a parent to do otherwise. Though of course if each parent is enthusiastic about a different religion, then that would lead to a conflict, so in that case the only sensible solution is to let the child explore both religions without either parent criticizing either religion. But if both parents are of the same religion, or there is only one parent bringing up the child, of course the child will be taught the parent religion. The parents might not know much about other religions anyway. And if they do, for example if they left some religion, then they will likely tell the child why they left, what they did not like in that religion. I would not expect a parent to do otherwise.

          1. Tom, it depends if such a thing is consistent with one’s parenting style. This leads to radically different views of parenting. Also, how enthusiastic is enthusiastic? The quote didn’t qualify itself by only enthusiastic parenting could only in good conscience raise their children in their religion only.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parenting_styles

            Also, a parent could try to raise children with an equal time approach to all religions, thus not biasing children in favor of any one in particular.

          2. Tom, again, I think perhaps the Bahá’í “take” on religion is at the core of this. We don’t view God as being in competition with Himself/Herself or Buddha as being in competition with Christ or Zoroaster in competition with Bahá’u’lláh. In our family, of course, we’ve taught our children primarily about the Bahá’í Faith, but even at minimum the very fact that Bahá’u’lláh says we should make no distinctions between the Messengers (Muhammad also taught this very directly) when it comes to their station. So, no, we don’t teach that Bahaullah’s revelation is “better” than Christ’s because that is not at all what we believe.

            We do teach that Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation was timed to be relevant to the world we live in now, but the spiritual teachings of the earlier Messengers are as beautiful and valid today as they were when they were first taught—which is why Bahá’u’lláh reiterated and enlarged upon them.

            I left a Christian church; I never left Christ. In fact, I left because I found Him.

          3. Maya, your response seems limited to recognizing the equality of eight religions (three Abrahamic, one Iranian, two Abrahamic-Iranian, and two Dharmic). You do ignore all religious traditions outside of these as nonexistent or inferior, especially the new religious movements with particular emphasis on the even newer religions.

          4. 🙂 You seem bent on trying to find points of disagreement. I thought I had made it clear that I mention the religious Teachers and teachings I do because, as I’ve said before, 1) they are most accessible to me and 2) they are most accessible to most of the people who read this blog. Even those who are not amateur scholars of religion know who Christ and Gautama Buddha are. So I use them freely.

            I also use them because theirs are the revelations I can be certain of from an historical perspective (I’ve said this before too). Bahá’u’lláh or Abdu’l-Bahá mention them and their lives and teachings are not difficult to acquire and study. That does not mean that there haven’t been Manifestations of God that I don’t know about, or that Bahá’u’lláh or Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t mentuon by name. In fact, Bahá’u’lláh says that the Divine revelators have been coming as long as man has existed, and mentions a couple of prophets I’ve never heard of. I’m sure I mentioned before that my study has led me to believe that there was a Manifestation of God at the root of the teachings attributed to the Egyptian God Ra, but I’m not about to teach it as a point of Bahá’í belief. On the other hand, Bahá’u’lláh says that Joseph, son of Jacob and governor of Egypt, was an independent Manifestation of God.

            That qualifier “independent” is significant here. Messengers such as Krishna, Buddha, Joseph, Bahá’u’lláh, etc, bring an independent revelation direct from God. The Bible puts a fine point, for example, on the fact that Moses did not receive inspiration from God in dreams and visions, but spoke to God face to Face. Christ makes this same claim (to have “seen the Father”), Gautama Buddha tells the Brahmins that He was “born in the world of Brahman”, and Krishna that He is “the Abode of Brahman”.

            There are, then, different types of revelations. There are those (what Jews and Christians refer to as minor prophets) that receive some sort of intimations of the spirit through dreams and visions. They do not necessarily spawn new relgions, but sometimes they do. Usually, they add to the canon of an existing faith.

            So, I also recognize that there are different types of religion. There are the religions raised upon the claims of divine revelation of men like Bahá’u’lláh and Krishna, for example; there are sects of those religions that yet consider themselves part of the greater whole and there are “spin-offs” from those faiths that may combine elements of one or more of them or refinements on them brought about by the teachings of people like Sri Yuktaswar or Yogananda; and then there are tribal religions whose connection to a Manifestation might be very tenous due to distance in space and time from the major revelation. There is a religion of the Middle East that claims to derive from the teachings of Adam’s son Seth. That’s a pretty old revelation.

            In one way or another, I believe they have all been informed by one of the major revealers of God—after all, those revealers have been appearing every 500 to 1000 years or so, since we first crawled out of the primordial ooze.

            It’s all connected in one way or another. But, while Bahá’u’lláh has taught that the original stream of revelation is pure and conditioned on our ability to understand it (and pushing our capacity envelope at each new revelation), every refinement made by sages, priests and wise men is not necessarily consistent with the teachings of the major Prophet or beneficial to the cause of God. These refinements may alter the character of the Message. In fact, that is why God continues to send new Emissaries to reveal new ideas, straighten out our understanding of old ones, and set new goals for us to achieve.

            For example, where before, tribal or national unity was the goal, now global unity is the collective goal. The means of achieving that unity is, spiritually speaking, the same in every age—follow the spiritual teachings of the Prophet and base our social mores and systems on them. The collective is simply broader and the challenges more complex at each new level.

            That’s why, while I find the study of previous revelations edifying and inspiring, I don’t read every wiki article on the myriad theologies and philosophies out there. I believe that we are standing in the light of a new major revelation and rather than try to dissect and understand all the timeworn teachings of the past, it makes more sense to me to study what I believe is the fullest, most recent revelation and apply, as best I can, its teachings.

            I do this because I beleve the solutions to mankind’s problems and the goals we should be striving for are contained in that revelation most fully. In doing so, I am not rejecting the validity of the philosophies of Messengers past, or noble sages of any age. I simply want guidance that was intended for the present and the future.

            To use an analogy, the fact that a student studies most ardently what his college professor sets him to doesn’t mean what he learned from his previous teachers, tutors and mentors is invalidated. Without that teaching, he would not have made it to college in the first place, and everything his college professor teaches him builds on the knowledge and wisdom he has acquired before.

          5. Maya, by qualifying by recongising all other religions of the past, you assume that even more recent religions of the twentieth and twenty first century are excluded. Cao Dai, Hao Hao, Falun Gong, Cheondogyo, Tenrikyo, Sekai Kyusei Kyo, Seicho No Ie, Raëlism, Scientology, Eckankar, Stregheria, Wicca, Rastafari, etc.

            Also, even scholars of religion tend to differ on which religions are independent and which ones are dependent. For exmple, used to be difference of opinions on Sikhism, but the consensus now is that it is its own religion rather than a sect of Hinduism or Islam. The Bahai Faith for example is referred to by some as a sect of Islam as referenced in that. I could give tons of examples of misidentifications of idenpendent religions as being dependent.

          6. “Maya, by qualifying by recongising all other religions of the past, you assume that even more recent religions of the twentieth and twenty first century are excluded.”

            Excluded from what?

            “Also, even scholars of religion tend to differ on which religions are independent and which ones are dependent….The Bahai Faith for example is referred to by some as a sect of Islam as referenced in that. I could give tons of examples of misidentifications of idenpendent religions as being dependent.”

            First, please DON’T give tons of examples of religions that this or that scholar determines to be independent or dependent. People can study that in depth elsewhere if they wish—this blog’s comment stream really isn’t the place for it.

            Second, with regard to the Bahá’í Faith or any other faith, dependency is relative. In a true sense, all the religions are dependent on revelations or forms that have gone before. Bahá’ís believe the revealed religions are one progressively unfolding faith. Bahá’u’lláh very explicitly frames His faith as independent in the sense that it is not a sub-set of another faith. His criteria for that is simple: the independent Messenger brings a set of teachings (a “book), that are more than mere refinements on existing teachings. This “book” or set of teachings supersedes what has gone before. I have only passing academic interest in what religious scholars have to say about it because the Bahá’í Faith is not an external object to be studied as an intellectual curiosity. It is the atmosphere in which I live and breathe.

            Most Muslims would be scandalized by the idea that the Bahá’í Faith is a sect of Islam precisely because the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh both clearly framed the Faith as standing alongside Islam as a new revelation beginning at the Conference of Badasht in 1848. The big standout there, was the poetess, Tahirih, appearing among the men without her veil and announcing the equality of women and men. This caused a falling away because some Báb’ís took the Báb message as one of reform under the shadow of Muhammad.

            So, not only did the Founders of the Faith not consider it to be a subset of Islam, but we Bahá’ís don’t consider it that, either. It’s hard to make a case for its dependence when it has an entirely separate administrative order with a central global authority, no clergy at all, and its own many volumes of holy scripture. Bahá’ís are not even required to read the Qur’an, though I daresay, many of us do.

            In reality, whether we Bahá’ís believe the Faith is independent or not really doesn’t matter, and whether there are scholars who say the Faith is not independent doesn’t matter, because those are just human labels that are our way of sorting things out to support the pretense that we really know what’s going on. For me, the real touchstone is that Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb marked the Faith as independent of Islam and took it completely out of the purview of the Muslim clergy and Muslim doctrine. For that reason alone, I propose that it is absolutely independent … and is yet part of a continuum of revelation that’s been coming since we were very small.

          7. Maya, I do know that you consider Buddha, Jesus and Zoroaster as Manifestations of God, and therefore not in competition. So you are not telling me anything new here. Though personally I happen to like more Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, than Buddha, Jesus, Zoroaster or Baha’u’llah. Though I don’t think Nanak was a perfect preacher either, he put too much emphasis on faith in God. And later Sikhism has deteriorated somewhat, with the adoption of the 5 Ks, like a sword and long uncut hair, and too much toleration of castes, and preferring the birth of boys than girls, even though in theory Sikhism is supposed to be nonsexist, and against castes. So I have yet to find the perfect religion. But if you are looking for another Manifestation of God, perhaps you should consider Nanak.

    3. Stephen Kent Gray, I have read somewhere that the Baha’i faith changed its doctrine a few decades ago on the issue of children of Baha’is. That originally they did not count little children as Baha’i, because they could not be believers, but after a few decades, they changed their mind, and so now even newborn babies can be considered to be Baha’i, if born to Baha’i parents. I would say the original doctrine made much more sense.

      1. Tom, the registration of Bahá’í children is not “doctrine”. It’s an administrative function. It also varies depending on what country one lives in and what that country’s National Spiritual Assembly has opted to do with regard to children.

        In some countries there’s still no formal enrollment process for adults or children and whether and when such a process is begun will be decided on by that country’s National Assembly perhaps in conjunction with the Universal House of Justice. In the US, we can register Bahá’í children (though I’m not sure they’re counted in “census” numbers). Again, this is pretty much an administrative function and allows the kids to receive communications from their National Institutions and the Brilliant Star magazine, for example.

        It helps to understand the organic nature of the Faith. Every individual, local, regional and national institution is, in some sense, a test bed for “best practices”. Many programs (such as the way we educate believers, including children) are driven from the grassroots level. A community in Columbia, for example, came up with the most widely used study program through which new believers (and not-so-new believers 🙂 engage in study and dialogue about the essential teachings of the Faith and their practical application. We also recognize that a program that works in rural Iowan communities, may need adjustments to be used in urban Germany. Or a completely different program or idea might be used there.

        I’ve read “cult bashing” books that make much of the fact that Bahá’ís in the West look like “normal” Westerners and that Bahá’í devotions take on a different character here than they might have in Iran (if they were allowed there). “The Faith has been Westernized!” or “it’s been changed to appeal to a western audience.” This is, to me, a bizarre assessment. Bahá’u’lláh makes it clear that the idea of standard Bahá’í rituals is counter to the organic nature of the Faith. We are warned away from inventing rituals and, as a result, the Faith is more than simply “westernized”. Devotions may look vastly different depending on the make up of the community. We have about a 50% Persian population in our community. We also have Latino believers, members from the Cameroon, Ethiopia, Vietnam, etc. We have people from all religious backgrounds as well—Muslim, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christianity, Wicca, atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism and on and on. This means that a devotional meeting may take on different character depending upon who is participating in hosting it.

        There will almost always be live music at devotions my family hosts because we’re all musicians. There will likely be readings from Hindu, Buddhist and Christian scriptures, as well as the Bahá’í scriptures, because of the unique character of my own personal exploration. If you attend a devotional on the Blackfoot reservation in Pocatello, Idaho, you may see hoop dancing as part of the devotional program. I don’t know about you, but this makes sense to me, given the global outlook of the Faith, it’s evolutionary nature, and its discouragement of ritual.

        1. OK, so do you register also babies as Baha’is in this country? Of course children, when they are old enough to read Baha’i magazines like Brilliant Star, they could be considered believers, but certainly not little 4-year old children.

  10. Stephen, according to both Wikipedia and WikiIslam, honor killings are committed for a variety of reasons.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing
    http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Honor_Killing_Index

    Accusations/rumors of various natures, being the victim of a rape, preagnancy as a result of rape, religous conversion, being gay, refusing an arranged marriage, being to Westernized, marrying a person of your own choice as opposed to an arranged one, being part of an interreligious relationship or marriage, refusing to honor kill, karo-kari, general immorality, seeking education, refusing to allow your husband to take second/extra wives, leaving/divorcing someone because they beat you, etc. WikiIslam lists tons of reasons. Actually, a lot of the list killings had nothing to do wi fornication or adultery, but other reasons like arranged marriage related, interreligious relationships, being Westernized, etc.

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.