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Old 08-10-2017, 12:23 PM   #1
djg
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What is Meant by Fanaticism?

We are enjoined to avoid fanaticism in our faith.

Dictionary definitions of fanatical:
  • filled with excessive and single-minded zeal
  • obsessively concerned with something
We are also enjoined to promote the Cause.

How is one to balance these things?

Would it be fanatical to post videos to one's Facebook feed explaining the faith in the same terms Baha'u'llah explained it in the Kitab-i-Iqan?

He described the ecclesiastic establishment as one corrupted by their selfish desires, who had perverted the Cause of God and loved the power of their position more than God's continuing revelations.

How can this be explained to believers and devout followers without being fanatical?

If it seems fanatical to them, and they call it fanatical, does that really mean it is fanatical -- or is that simply evidence of their own blindness?

Is to call them blind divisive and fanatical? So should one not do it to their face? (Of course, backbiting is prohibited, so if so, it would become something one simply keeps to oneself.) Is to exhort them not to be blind, without directly calling them blind, any better?
 
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Old 08-10-2017, 02:33 PM   #2
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I find the Seven Valleys has much to say on the subject. The Second, the Valley of Love specifically, seems to describe love as both a necessary step for spiritual development, and a dangerous, risky thing that can lead to fanaticism. Moving from the Second Valley to the Third is even described in such language as "escaping" from the claws of love.

So, from this, I take it to be that fanaticism is the same thing as love... simply taken to a blinding, destructive degree.

But I find it interesting that love, bordering on and courting fanaticism, is necessary to human spiritual development. It is something we need, at a certain point, but then need to overcome.

The Valley of Love

And if, by the help of God, he findeth on this journey a trace of the traceless Friend, and inhaleth the fragrance of the long-lost Joseph from the heavenly messenger, he shall straightway step into and be dissolved in the fire of love. In this city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason.

Now is the traveler unaware of himself, and of aught besides himself. He seeth neither ignorance nor knowledge, neither doubt nor certitude; he knoweth not the morn of guidance from the night of error. He fleeth both from unbelief and faith, and deadly poison is a balm to him. Wherefore Aṭṭár saith:

For the infidel, error—for the faithful, faith;
For Aṭṭár’s heart, an atom of Thy pain.

The steed of this Valley is pain; and if there be no pain this journey will never end. In this station the lover hath no thought save the Beloved, and seeketh no refuge save the Friend. At every moment he offereth a hundred lives in the path of the Loved One, at every step he throweth a thousand heads at the feet of the Beloved.

O My Brother! Until thou enter the Egypt of love, thou shalt never come to the Joseph of the Beauty of the Friend; and until, like Jacob, thou forsake thine outward eyes, thou shalt never open the eye of thine inward being; and until thou burn with the fire of love, thou shalt never commune with the Lover of Longing.

A lover feareth nothing and no harm can come nigh him: Thou seest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea.

A lover is he who is chill in hell fire;
A knower is he who is dry in the sea.

Love accepteth no existence and wisheth no life: He seeth life in death, and in shame seeketh glory. To merit the madness of love, man must abound in sanity; to merit the bonds of the Friend, he must be full of spirit. Blessed the neck that is caught in His noose, happy the head that falleth on the dust in the pathway of His love. Wherefore, O friend, give up thy self that thou mayest find the Peerless One, pass by this mortal earth that thou mayest seek a home in the nest of heaven. Be as naught, if thou wouldst kindle the fire of being and be fit for the pathway of love.

Love seizeth not upon a living soul,
The falcon preyeth not on a dead mouse.

Love setteth a world aflame at every turn, and he wasteth every land where he carrieth his banner. Being hath no existence in his kingdom; the wise wield no command within his realm. The leviathan of love swalloweth the master of reason and destroyeth the lord of knowledge. He drinketh the seven seas, but his heart’s thirst is still unquenched, and he saith, “Is there yet any more?” He shunneth himself and draweth away from all on earth.

Love’s a stranger to earth and heaven too;
In him are lunacies seventy-and-two.

He hath bound a myriad victims in his fetters, wounded a myriad wise men with his arrow. Know that every redness in the world is from his anger, and every paleness in men’s cheeks is from his poison. He yieldeth no remedy but death, he walketh not save in the valley of the shadow; yet sweeter than honey is his venom on the lover’s lips, and fairer his destruction in the seeker’s eyes than a hundred thousand lives.

Wherefore must the veils of the satanic self be burned away at the fire of love, that the spirit may be purified and cleansed and thus may know the station of the Lord of the Worlds.

Kindle the fire of love and burn away all things,
Then set thy foot into the land of the lovers.

And if, confirmed by the Creator, the lover escapes from the claws of the eagle of love, he will enter the Valley of Knowledge
 
Old 08-10-2017, 03:56 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djg View Post
We are enjoined to avoid fanaticism in our faith.

Dictionary definitions of fanatical:
  • filled with excessive and single-minded zeal
  • obsessively concerned with something
We are also enjoined to promote the Cause.

How is one to balance these things?

Would it be fanatical to post videos to one's Facebook feed explaining the faith in the same terms Baha'u'llah explained it in the Kitab-i-Iqan?

He described the ecclesiastic establishment as one corrupted by their selfish desires, who had perverted the Cause of God and loved the power of their position more than God's continuing revelations.

How can this be explained to believers and devout followers without being fanatical?

If it seems fanatical to them, and they call it fanatical, does that really mean it is fanatical -- or is that simply evidence of their own blindness?

Is to call them blind divisive and fanatical? So should one not do it to their face? (Of course, backbiting is prohibited, so if so, it would become something one simply keeps to oneself.) Is to exhort them not to be blind, without directly calling them blind, any better?
I don't think it's appropriate to call the majority of people blind, even those who are attached to their religion or no religion. They may see many spiritual truths, but just haven't connected them to Baha'u'llah yet. Some may be more spiritual than many Baha'is. That may be a very good reason why we must always be humble, especially when teaching the Faith. Baha'u'llah said we should use words that are "mild as milk" when appropriate, so posting very challenging passages from the Writings in forums where most people would misunderstand them would not be wise either.

I think we have to be careful with social media in that it seems impersonal because we may be separated by great distances, but people take it personally yet we can't see their faces or know the effect our words have on them.
 
Old 08-10-2017, 05:58 PM   #4
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Nice to hear from a Bahá'í from Utah. I find it appropriate to raise the topic about spreading the Faith in that very state. Some years ago, I came across the home page of the Bahá'ís of Utah:

Baha'i Faith of Utah

It puzzles me, to say the least. Therefore, it's most interesting that you ask those questions. Somehow, I feel that there is a connection between your question and that page. Could it be that, in Utah, you perceive the Faith in a particular way?

Best

from

gnat
 
Old 08-11-2017, 09:54 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djg View Post
Is to exhort them not to be blind, without directly calling them blind, any better?
You may consider to use positive terms like "Open your eyes/ your heart /your door to...."

Regarding your question on fanatism, I have been a fanatic myself and it is a sad condition to be in.... I sometimes wonder if I will become a Bahai fanatic and shake in shame by the thought.... (Help me out, my friends!)

I guess the key is to keep firm in using reason to evaluate all things, all possible consequences of what we do and say, all possible points of view, all potential flaws and errors we are exposed to.

Love includes, relates, connects, integrates... it does that because it is nurtured by both emotion and reason.
Fanatism excludes, splits, divides, isolates... it does that because it is nurtured only by emotion but evades reason.

Last edited by camachoe; 08-11-2017 at 11:18 AM.
 
Old 08-11-2017, 11:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djg View Post
We are also enjoined to promote the Cause.

How is one to balance these things?
I do not know... Let me know when you figure that out.

I am obsessed with proclaiming and teaching the Faith, to the exclusion of everything else in life, except going to work, and I eat and sleep when I have to... Sometimes I worry about my health, but it seems to be holding out, and given the beating my body takes on so few hours of sleep I keep thinking that God wants me to be doing this... So what have I got to lose except some of the fun I see others having?

“CONSIDER how at the time of the appearance of every Revelation, those who open their hearts to the Author of that Revelation recognize the Truth, while the hearts of those who fail to apprehend the Truth are straitened by reason of their shutting themselves out from Him. However, openness of heart is bestowed by God upon both parties alike. God desireth not to straiten the heart of anyone, be it even an ant, how much less the heart of a superior creature, except when he suffereth himself to be wrapt in veils, for God is the Creator of all things.

Wert thou to open the heart of a single soul by helping him to embrace the Cause of Him Whom God shall make manifest, thine inmost being would be filled with the inspirations of that august Name. It devolveth upon you, therefore, to perform this task in the Days of Resurrection, inasmuch as most people are helpless, and wert thou to open their hearts and dispel their doubts, they would gain admittance into the Faith of God. Therefore, manifest thou this attribute to the utmost of thine ability in the days of Him Whom God shall make manifest. For indeed if thou dost open the heart of a person for His sake, better will it be for thee than every virtuous deed; since deeds are secondary to faith in Him and certitude in His Reality. XVII, 15.”

Selections From the Writings of the Báb, p. 133

“What “oppression” is greater than that which hath been recounted? What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it? For opinions have sorely differed, and the ways unto the attainment of God have multiplied. This “oppression” is the essential feature of every Revelation. Unless it cometh to pass, the Sun of Truth will not be made manifest. For the break of the morn of divine guidance must needs follow the darkness of the night of error. For this reason, in all chronicles and traditions reference hath been made unto these things, namely that iniquity shall cover the surface of the earth and darkness shall envelop mankind. As the traditions referred to are well known, and as the purpose of this servant is to be brief, He will refrain from quoting the text of these traditions.” The Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 31-32
 
Old 08-11-2017, 11:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
Regarding your question on fanatism, I have been a fanatic myself and it is a sad condition to be in.... I sometimes wonder if I will become a Bahai fanatic and shake in shame by the thought.... (Help me out, my friends!)
I am sure I am the last person you want to hear from, as I am no help, the blind leading the blind... but here I am anyway.

I really do not like the word fanatic... what does it mean? It is just a negative label and it can mean the same thing as zealous... I am by most peoples’ definition a fanatic and frankly, I don’t care... That is why I am called Trailblazer.

We need more Baha’is who are fanatical... How the heck do you think this Cause got off the ground and spread all over the world as fast as it did? I mean in about 100 years it had spread to almost as many locations worldwide as Christianity... Now what are we supposed to do, rest on our laurels, sit in meetings, eat cake and sing songs? Not me, not as long as I am a Baha’i... I will drop out before I stop talking... well, mostly it is writing that I do because I do not like talking to people in person.

“O ye beloved of God! Repose not yourselves on your couches, nay bestir yourselves as soon as ye recognize your Lord, the Creator, and hear of the things which have befallen Him, and hasten to His assistance. Unloose your tongues, and proclaim unceasingly His Cause. This shall be better for you than all the treasures of the past and of the future, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth.” Gleanings, p. 330
 
Old 08-14-2017, 10:42 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Trailblazer View Post
IHow the heck do you think this Cause got off the ground and spread all over the world as fast as it did?
I think the success of the Cause has rested on the zeal of people like you, Trailblazer.
The magnificent resources I find in Internet, already translated, organized and available for free, were possible by the zeal of people like you.
Enjoying a devotional gathering in Mexico City, thousands of kilometers away from Akka, and held in my native tongue, has been possible by the zeal of people like you.

It is by people of you that Baha'u'lláh's New World Order will be implemented.

You said once or twice in this Forum that you regarded me as more "spiritual" person. That is simply not true.

Spirit is movement. The term "spirit" comes from the Greek word for "wind". Wind is not apparent to the eye: its effects are perceived by the way it moves things. You, my dear friend, are perceived not by how you look but by how you move, and make the Cause move.
I thank God for the existence of beautiful spiritual persons like you.

Last edited by camachoe; 08-14-2017 at 10:47 AM.
 
Old 08-14-2017, 04:48 PM   #9
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My dear camachoe,

I think the success of the Cause has rested on the zeal of people like you, Trailblazer.

The magnificent resources I find in Internet, already translated, organized and available for free, were possible by the zeal of people like you.


Well thanks, but I do not deserve your kind words... I am very zealous on the internet but that is about it... How much good that does anyone only God, and perhaps those people who have to listen to me, know!

Enjoying a devotional gathering in Mexico City, thousands of kilometers away from Akka, and held in my native tongue, has been possible by the zeal of people like you.

Like I said, I do not do much in person, with other Baha’is or other people, and I am no planner... I just blaze my own trail through the internet.

It is by people of you that Baha'u'lláh's New World Order will be implemented.

Not unless I get out of my computer chair and join the other Baha’is.

You said once or twice in this Forum that you regarded me as more "spiritual" person. That is simply not true.

It is what is in your heart that makes you spiritual... I see what I see and it is obvious to me you are very spiritual, but I think your humility prevents you from seeing it, which is not necessarily bad.

Abdu’l-Baha said that self-dissatisfaction is a sign of progress but I cannot locate that quote right now... However, here is a similar one:

Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure. Thomas A. Edison.

Spirit is movement. The term "spirit" comes from the Greek word for "wind". Wind is not apparent to the eye: its effects are perceived by the way it moves things. You, my dear friend, are perceived not by how you look but by how you move, and make the Cause move.

I do not know if the Cause is going anywhere by my efforts but I do what I can. That is not much but it is all I can do.

I thank God for the existence of beautiful spiritual persons like you.

Well thanks again but I do not see it that way... If you only knew how I sometimes feel and what I sometimes say. That is what I can relate to that song called O God Forgive Us!

The thing is I try to override my feelings and do what I think is right, even though sometimes I question what is right and my own motives.
 
Old 08-15-2017, 04:45 AM   #10
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Can't say I have really thought this through, but my first idea is to see it in context of unity:

Fanaticism is a behavior or attitude that creates division. When people take an aspect of their identity, like race, nationality, political conviction or ideology, or religion, and take it so far that they devalue people who don't belong to the same group, that's certainly "fanaticism".

Thinking about it, I found it very sobering that Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha make no difference between these different sources of identity. Using religion to look down on "unbelievers" is no different than using race to single out different races. And even a political ideology that claims to uphold values of "tolerance" may well derive into a fanaticism that justifies hostility towards those who don't share it.

It's sobering to learn that the first step towards reducing prejudice is realizing that we all have prejudices, and it's very easy to become "fanatic", which underlines how harmful pride can be.

Or maybe what I'm writing, where I currently am with my mind has nothing to do with the topic... not sure.
 
Old 08-16-2017, 05:00 PM   #11
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You should not find it difficult to present the Teachings of Baha'u'llah as identical in spirit to those of Christ, explaining that just as Christ complained of the blindness of people, so does Baha'u'llah today. Your earnestness in this should be enough for them to start their own investigation. In "The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith", p.84 Ruhiyyih Khanum tells of Shoghi Effendi making a distinction to pilgrims that we are "orthodox but not fanatical". Just what he meant by "orthodox" may be gleaned from this pilgrim note:

Quote:
The believers should not be afraid to teach about the Bahá'í hierarchy. The Bahá'í hierarchy should be compared with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church — the Pope, the Cardinals, the Archbishops, the Bishops, etc. In the Catholic Church individuals do the administering and groups do the teaching. It is the opposite in the Faith. Individuals are responsible for the teaching work — the Hands of the Cause; and the groups are responsible for the administration — the Assemblies.

Last edited by ernobe; 08-16-2017 at 05:45 PM.
 
Old 08-22-2017, 09:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian View Post
Can't say I have really thought this through, but my first idea is to see it in context of unity:

Fanaticism is a behavior or attitude that creates division. When people take an aspect of their identity, like race, nationality, political conviction or ideology, or religion, and take it so far that they devalue people who don't belong to the same group, that's certainly "fanaticism".

Thinking about it, I found it very sobering that Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha make no difference between these different sources of identity. Using religion to look down on "unbelievers" is no different than using race to single out different races. And even a political ideology that claims to uphold values of "tolerance" may well derive into a fanaticism that justifies hostility towards those who don't share it.

It's sobering to learn that the first step towards reducing prejudice is realizing that we all have prejudices, and it's very easy to become "fanatic", which underlines how harmful pride can be.

Or maybe what I'm writing, where I currently am with my mind has nothing to do with the topic... not sure.
This seems, at first examination, quite reasonable.

However, Baha'u'llah also exhorts us not to seek the fellowship of the ungodly:

"O SON OF DUST!
Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire." (Hidden Words from the Persian, #57)

...and similarly:

"O MY SON!
The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart. He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones." (Hidden Words from the Persian, #56)

Yet, we have also been told that we are to consort with members of all faiths in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.

So, it seems to me that it is those who do not recognize the role of God their Creator that we should seek to avoid.

Does this mean we should look down on them?

We are told to be "generous in prosperity" -- could this also apply to the prosperity of the spirit? Much better than looking down on someone would be reaching out a hand to help them up. But if they bat your hand away, you have no obligation to remain standing there, as there are others to be helped, and other work God has for you to do.

A passage I read recently tells us that we should deliver the message of hope and of God's Cause and Baha'u'llah's revelation, but that if it is not received, to turn away.
 
Old 08-22-2017, 10:24 AM   #13
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So, it seems to me that it is those who do not recognize the role of God their Creator that we should seek to avoid.
My wife does not recognize the role of God as Her Creator... and I do not avoid her, I feel connected to her!

Joking apart, I guess the term "ungodly" refers to the character of a person (how she lives) and not to intellectual assertions.

Therefore, it is possible for an atheist to be "godly" and or a formally religious person to be "ungodly".

Last edited by camachoe; 08-22-2017 at 11:26 AM.
 
Old 08-22-2017, 10:13 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
My wife does not recognize the role of God as Her Creator... and I do not avoid her, I feel connected to her!

Joking apart, I guess the term "ungodly" refers to the character of a person (how she lives) and not to intellectual assertions.

Therefore, it is possible for an atheist to be "godly" and or a formally religious person to be "ungodly".
Hi camachoe,

It is refreshing to hear you say this! My friends on another forum who are nonbelievers do not recognize the role of God as their Creator and I feel more connected to them than I do to many believers... I spend more time on that forum than anywhere else because I gravitate towards nonbelievers. It works well because there are a couple of strong Christians there, so I am not completely without someone who understands how I feel about God.... However, there are a lot of nonbelievers who also understand how I feel about the god they don’t believe in because the reason I question God is the same reason they don’t believe in god.

I love diversity, especially when unity in diversity can be achieved. When I first went there over three years ago, there was a lot of disunity because the Baha’i Faith was not welcome, but after a long while things started to improve. I hope that some of that might be attributed to my practicing the principles of the Faith and that having an effect on the overall atmosphere.

I fully agree that "ungodly" refers to the character of a person and not to what they believe. I think the character of certain nonbelievers is far superior to mine... I of course have a lot of emotional handicaps they do not have so I try to cut myself a break.

Trailblazer
 
Old 08-23-2017, 02:14 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by djg View Post
This seems, at first examination, quite reasonable.

However, Baha'u'llah also exhorts us not to seek the fellowship of the ungodly:

"O SON OF DUST!
Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire." (Hidden Words from the Persian, #57)

...and similarly:

"O MY SON!
The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart. He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones." (Hidden Words from the Persian, #56)

Yet, we have also been told that we are to consort with members of all faiths in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.

So, it seems to me that it is those who do not recognize the role of God their Creator that we should seek to avoid.

Does this mean we should look down on them?

We are told to be "generous in prosperity" -- could this also apply to the prosperity of the spirit? Much better than looking down on someone would be reaching out a hand to help them up. But if they bat your hand away, you have no obligation to remain standing there, as there are others to be helped, and other work God has for you to do.

A passage I read recently tells us that we should deliver the message of hope and of God's Cause and Baha'u'llah's revelation, but that if it is not received, to turn away.
The following is just my personal view, of course, but I think "avoiding the ungodly" could easily become a kind of fanaticism. Also hypocrisy: It's de facto a judgment over people, even though none of us is actually without "sin" (as Christians would call it). Because how do I know who qualifies as "ungodly"? Is it up to us to determine that? I think only God can truly determine that in the end.

Also, why avoiding the fellowship of "ungodly" people, if your faith is strong enough not to be damaged by the ways of these people? If it is, it will be them who benefit by your presence, not you who will be damaged.

There are various commandments in the different scriptures that tell us to be kind, forgiving, generous, loving and polite towards every human being: It would be hypocrisy not to be, just because I deem someone "ungodly". And hypocrisy is one of the things Baha'u'llah condemns harshly.

From the outside (just from there?), it would also look like arrogance, a "holier than you" attitude that atheists rightfully blame many religious people of -- they have a point when they point to the hypocrisy of believers who behave that way. It's a mentality that damages so many "old" religions -- that they think all their humane rules of love only apply to their kind, but not to others. That Christians are loving and forgiving, but only towards other Christians ... that Muslims consider every human equal, but only other Muslims ... The result is dividing mankind into believers and ungodly. In my understanding, it's just this mentality of dividing mankind that Baha'u'llah taught us to end with His revelation.


So how do I read this warning of "ungodly" people ... First, what does "ungodly" mean? In my opinion, it does not necessarily mean people who do not formally subscribe to a divine religion, or explicitly with words, aka atheists. It's my understanding that formal atheists can be closer to God, have a better understanding of divine truths, than even people who pay lip service to a particular religion. So I think it means people who take efforts to actively turn other people away from God, rather than, say, tolerant atheists who are kind and respectful.

And second, what does "fellowship" mean? Close friendship? A drunken brawl? A contract of employment? I guess it means any kind of social relation that gives these "ungodly" people the power to compromise the believer's spiritual integrity -- if it does not, it's not a dangerous kind of fellowship.


I think this quote is a reminder that fellowship with the wrong people always comes with the risk of compromising our spiritual integrity. I must examine how strong my faith is, and find a realistic view on how others can negatively influence it. And then avoid situations in which I give others the power to have a negative influence on me. It's up to me how much of this power I give others -- ideally, I should allow nobody to have this power, because I work on being strong in my faith. And if I am strong, I do not need to resort to the means of (rudely) avoiding people.

When I have to decide it is necessary for my spiritual integrity to avoid a person, it's then not a sign of my holiness, but on the contrary, a sign of my weakness. It may be necessary in some cases, because I am not strong enough -- but it would be preferable if I was.

(Besides, if I took the quote in its most literal sense, avoiding fellowship with atheists -- that would be an impossibility in my environment here in Berlin, Germany. Being atheist is about as common here as being Jewish is in Israel. There are only 300 Baha'is on a population of 3.5 million. And if I said 10%-15% of people here were practizing believers of another divine religion (most of which would be Muslim, I guess), that would be pretty optimistic already. Chances that I happen to encounter another Baha'i accidentally in every day life are near zero. So I would have to stay at home all day, and only leave my home for going to Baha'i meetings. And even at home, I wouldn't be safe, as my wife is agnostic. )

^ Just my current understanding, of course.

Last edited by Sebastian; 08-23-2017 at 02:50 AM.
 
Old 08-23-2017, 06:36 AM   #16
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And second, what does "fellowship" mean? Close friendship? A drunken brawl? A contract of employment? I guess it means any kind of social relation that gives these "ungodly" people the power to compromise the believer's spiritual integrity -- if it does not, it's not a dangerous kind of fellowship.

I liked your post very much, Sebastian. Thanks for sharing.

When I read "fellowship" the first thing comes to my mind is the "Fellowship of the Ring" from the book of Tolkien: a group of persons who walk together for a long time with a common purpose, and based on a shared code of values, even if their personalities and backgrounds are different.

An ungodly person does not share our values, so even when we show courtesy, respect and a positive attitude (that I will call "friendliness"),we would not embark in a common project with him/her if the exercise of those values are crucial.

It is important, though, to note that the values in question should be relevant to the context. No human being shows integrity in all aspects at all times: expecting fellowship with people of perfect integrity would leave mankind without any possibility of cooperation.

For example, if I'm working with John to bring safe drinking water to a rural community, it shouldn't affect me to learn that Johns sleeps with two different women or gets drunk at parties if his otherwise helping sincerely and effectively in our common enterprise.

However questionable his other behaviours may be, I will care about the values involved in bringing safe drinking water to the village. For example, honesty in using the funds, setting realistic expectations, keeping promises, being disciplined and meeting deadlines, focusing on the right work, etc.
Those would be the values that will define my fellowship with him.

Last edited by camachoe; 08-23-2017 at 06:41 AM.
 
Old 08-23-2017, 11:04 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
I liked your post very much, Sebastian. Thanks for sharing.

When I read "fellowship" the first thing comes to my mind is the "Fellowship of the Ring" from the book of Tolkien: a group of persons who walk together for a long time with a common purpose, and based on a shared code of values, even if their personalities and backgrounds are different.

An ungodly person does not share our values, so even when we show courtesy, respect and a positive attitude (that I will call "friendliness"),we would not embark in a common project with him/her if the exercise of those values are crucial.

It is important, though, to note that the values in question should be relevant to the context. No human being shows integrity in all aspects at all times: expecting fellowship with people of perfect integrity would leave mankind without any possibility of cooperation.

For example, if I'm working with John to bring safe drinking water to a rural community, it shouldn't affect me to learn that Johns sleeps with two different women or gets drunk at parties if his otherwise helping sincerely and effectively in our common enterprise.

However questionable his other behaviours may be, I will care about the values involved in bringing safe drinking water to the village. For example, honesty in using the funds, setting realistic expectations, keeping promises, being disciplined and meeting deadlines, focusing on the right work, etc.
Those would be the values that will define my fellowship with him.
Dear Camachoe, thank you very much for your valuable idea! You point to an important aspect of this problem, I think.

Yes... it definitely depends on the context. You may well be able to have a good working relationship with a person who you better don't take as a close person friend, just like the opposite can be the case... when someone who may be a good friend and provide great spiritual insights or provide strength may show problems with values that are the basis for a fruitful work relationship. Because of the respective values they are strong with... or not so strong.

It's said that if someone has ten bad attributes, but one good attribute, we shall focus on the one good and ignore the ten bad.

Perhaps in practize that means we shall seek company with someone who has bad attributes, only in a context when his good attributes can shine -- but avoid a context where the bad ones may dominate the situation? That makes sense.

Hardly anybody is ever so "godless" that he doesn't even have a couple of good sides. And they can be the basis for a good cooperation.
 
Old 08-23-2017, 11:32 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Sebastian View Post
Perhaps in practize that means we shall seek company with someone who has bad attributes, only in a context when his good attributes can shine -- but avoid a context where the bad ones may dominate the situation? That makes sense.
That makes huge sense Thanks for saying it so clearly!
 
Old 08-23-2017, 09:26 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Sebastian View Post
So how do I read this warning of "ungodly" people ... First, what does "ungodly" mean? In my opinion, it does not necessarily mean people who do not formally subscribe to a divine religion, or explicitly with words, aka atheists. It's my understanding that formal atheists can be closer to God, have a better understanding of divine truths, than even people who pay lip service to a particular religion. So I think it means people who take efforts to actively turn other people away from God, rather than, say, tolerant atheists who are kind and respectful.
Hello Sebastian,

I really liked your WHOLE post! I live in the United States where about 70% of people are Christians and about 90% of people believe in God, so an atheist here is a rarity!

I do not socialize in person for personal reasons and I do not even attend Baha’i activities, although I live in an area where there are many Baha’i communities and many activities. However, I do socialize a lot online, mostly on forums. An awesome atheist who just happens to be German hosts my favorite forum, the one where I spend the most time. As I recall, he lived to the UK for about 10 years and he has now lived in the United States for about 10-15 years. He considers himself fully American. I like his forum because it is mostly nonbelievers and a few Christians. I have been the only Baha’i who regularly shares anything about the Faith. When I first went to that forum I was not very welcome by many posters because they did not like the Baha’i Faith, but it is much better now, partly because some of those posters left, but also because of the forum owner is very just and equitable and he cares about his people.However, nary a poster has shown any real interest in the Baha’i Faith. That’s okay, because I am not there to convert anyone, just to share.

I like atheists and agnostics and I relate to a lot of them because I share many of their sentiments. I have no doubt that God exists but I really do not like God all that much. I see no evidence in the world that God is good, only in scriptures, so why should I believe that? Yet I cannot not believe in Baha’u’llah, so I am in between a rock and a hard place. I have been a Baha’i for almost 47 years but most of that time I had not thought much about the Faith or God and about 15 years ago is when I decided God must be bad, based upon all the bad things that just kept happening over and over; however, most of my life has been suffering. Of course, I know what the Faith teaches about suffering; I am very knowledgeable about what is in the Writings. But I still find it difficult to believe in a good God that allows so much suffering, not just my own, as I know many people suffer more than I do... Yet many people hardly suffer at all! How is this just? I simply cannot make it work in my logical mind and believe in a good God.

Sorry to ramble on so, but I sensed that you might understand. My husband who has been a Baha’i for 53 years tries to understand but he does not understand and he often just gets angry with me for saying what I say about God... That is one reason I like having a forum where I can talk to people who might understand, yet I have yet to find one Baha’i who understands! To be fair, my BFF, Duane, who posts on this forum and other forms I attend, understands in part, so that is very helpful.

Now, let me tell you who I consider ungodly... I consider people who are “attached” to the material world ungodly, people who live for material things and things of the flesh. Nonbelievers have no reason to avoid these things because they have no “standard” set by a God, but what I have observed in the nonbelievers I know is that they are not worldly! It is the believers who are worldly, and especially Christians... I consider this hypocrisy considering what Jesus said (Matthew 16:24-26) so I avoid the company of such people whenever I can. At work, I have to be polite, but I do not respect these people. Granted, who am I to judge, but I can observe and some things one cannot “miss” because they are like the broad side of a barn... I mean if that is ALL they talk about and they worship it I add two and two and get four.

I know that only God can KNOW who is close to Him and only God can JUDGE anyone, but I do not need that kind of pernicious influence in my life... During the two decades or so that I was a Baha’i, I had what I would call addictions but I had serious emotional problems back then so I do not feel guilty about that... My point is that I cannot afford to expose myself to people who worship the material world because I have fought my way out of that hole and I never want to go back in. I should feel sorry for people like that but I tend not to because they have their own scriptures so they can read. I can be merciless but what I have been through in my life hardens a person. I am nevertheless always kind and courteous to people no matter how I feel.

To further delineate, it is not really the material world per se that bothers me, it is the “attitude” so many people have towards it that I seem to pick up on. I was once very selfish, and I believe that attachment to the world and selfishness go hand in hand. I have now gone in the reverse direction, maybe too much, but I would prefer to forget myself entirely if that was possible. The material world has nothing to offer but momentary pleasures. I am only truly happy when proclaiming or teaching the Faith or talking about God to people who might want to believe in God. The irony is that a lot of the time I wish God did not even exist. Yet I want to do the right thing. I know what it is yet I cannot get my feelings on board.

I know I would never go back to the life I had before but nevertheless having to see others who are living it affects me very negatively, so I need to avoid such people. I can still be polite but I do not want to have to hear them talk incessantly about the material world and all that is therein as if it was heaven. I detest the material world for how it wrecked so many years of my life and I now have no interest in it, except for what I have to partake of in order to survive. I am sure that is why materialistic people bother me and they are not really doing anything immoral, I just do not like being around them. I am struggling to do what Baha’u’llah has enjoined us to do and not do, and meanwhile most Christians believe they are “saved and forgiven” because of the cross sacrifice no matter what they do or don’t do. I simply cannot respect such people.

I have very high standards for MY behavior, but it is not as if Baha’u’llah did not set those standards. So I feel that if the “teachings and Laws” do not matter, why bother even being a Baha’i? I mean I am not a Baha’i because I love God or because I believe God loves me, or because I am looking forward to the afterlife. I dread the very idea of living forever. I just want to do the right thing. However, I am not exactly sure what that is.

I am sure all of this sounds awfully convoluted but I thought you might understand, given what you wrote... Just a gut feeling. If you don’t, that’s fine... I just needed to vent... This forum has become my safe little haven because so far nobody here has been anything but kind and compassionate... There are not very many places where one can go for that.

Sincerely, Trailblazer
 
Old 08-23-2017, 11:17 PM   #20
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We must be polite and courteous to all people. But, that does not mean seeking out their companionship and engaging in frivolities alongside them, except to the small degree that the fostering of fundamental interpersonal unity entails.

We are first commanded to love the Lord our God, and then secondly commanded to love our fellow men -- because men are fallible and corruptible, while God is perfect and eternal.

Is this a godly perspective? I suspect that these are pieces of the puzzle, but that the message is incomplete in this form.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 03:29 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Trailblazer View Post
Hello Sebastian,

I really liked your WHOLE post! I live in the United States where about 70% of people are Christians and about 90% of people believe in God, so an atheist here is a rarity!

I do not socialize in person for personal reasons and I do not even attend Baha’i activities, although I live in an area where there are many Baha’i communities and many activities. However, I do socialize a lot online, mostly on forums. An awesome atheist who just happens to be German hosts my favorite forum, the one where I spend the most time. As I recall, he lived to the UK for about 10 years and he has now lived in the United States for about 10-15 years. He considers himself fully American. I like his forum because it is mostly nonbelievers and a few Christians. I have been the only Baha’i who regularly shares anything about the Faith. When I first went to that forum I was not very welcome by many posters because they did not like the Baha’i Faith, but it is much better now, partly because some of those posters left, but also because of the forum owner is very just and equitable and he cares about his people.However, nary a poster has shown any real interest in the Baha’i Faith. That’s okay, because I am not there to convert anyone, just to share.

I like atheists and agnostics and I relate to a lot of them because I share many of their sentiments. I have no doubt that God exists but I really do not like God all that much. I see no evidence in the world that God is good, only in scriptures, so why should I believe that? Yet I cannot not believe in Baha’u’llah, so I am in between a rock and a hard place. I have been a Baha’i for almost 47 years but most of that time I had not thought much about the Faith or God and about 15 years ago is when I decided God must be bad, based upon all the bad things that just kept happening over and over; however, most of my life has been suffering. Of course, I know what the Faith teaches about suffering; I am very knowledgeable about what is in the Writings. But I still find it difficult to believe in a good God that allows so much suffering, not just my own, as I know many people suffer more than I do... Yet many people hardly suffer at all! How is this just? I simply cannot make it work in my logical mind and believe in a good God.

Sorry to ramble on so, but I sensed that you might understand. My husband who has been a Baha’i for 53 years tries to understand but he does not understand and he often just gets angry with me for saying what I say about God... That is one reason I like having a forum where I can talk to people who might understand, yet I have yet to find one Baha’i who understands! To be fair, my BFF, Duane, who posts on this forum and other forms I attend, understands in part, so that is very helpful.

Now, let me tell you who I consider ungodly... I consider people who are “attached” to the material world ungodly, people who live for material things and things of the flesh. Nonbelievers have no reason to avoid these things because they have no “standard” set by a God, but what I have observed in the nonbelievers I know is that they are not worldly! It is the believers who are worldly, and especially Christians... I consider this hypocrisy considering what Jesus said (Matthew 16:24-26) so I avoid the company of such people whenever I can. At work, I have to be polite, but I do not respect these people. Granted, who am I to judge, but I can observe and some things one cannot “miss” because they are like the broad side of a barn... I mean if that is ALL they talk about and they worship it I add two and two and get four.

I know that only God can KNOW who is close to Him and only God can JUDGE anyone, but I do not need that kind of pernicious influence in my life... During the two decades or so that I was a Baha’i, I had what I would call addictions but I had serious emotional problems back then so I do not feel guilty about that... My point is that I cannot afford to expose myself to people who worship the material world because I have fought my way out of that hole and I never want to go back in. I should feel sorry for people like that but I tend not to because they have their own scriptures so they can read. I can be merciless but what I have been through in my life hardens a person. I am nevertheless always kind and courteous to people no matter how I feel.

To further delineate, it is not really the material world per se that bothers me, it is the “attitude” so many people have towards it that I seem to pick up on. I was once very selfish, and I believe that attachment to the world and selfishness go hand in hand. I have now gone in the reverse direction, maybe too much, but I would prefer to forget myself entirely if that was possible. The material world has nothing to offer but momentary pleasures. I am only truly happy when proclaiming or teaching the Faith or talking about God to people who might want to believe in God. The irony is that a lot of the time I wish God did not even exist. Yet I want to do the right thing. I know what it is yet I cannot get my feelings on board.

I know I would never go back to the life I had before but nevertheless having to see others who are living it affects me very negatively, so I need to avoid such people. I can still be polite but I do not want to have to hear them talk incessantly about the material world and all that is therein as if it was heaven. I detest the material world for how it wrecked so many years of my life and I now have no interest in it, except for what I have to partake of in order to survive. I am sure that is why materialistic people bother me and they are not really doing anything immoral, I just do not like being around them. I am struggling to do what Baha’u’llah has enjoined us to do and not do, and meanwhile most Christians believe they are “saved and forgiven” because of the cross sacrifice no matter what they do or don’t do. I simply cannot respect such people.

I have very high standards for MY behavior, but it is not as if Baha’u’llah did not set those standards. So I feel that if the “teachings and Laws” do not matter, why bother even being a Baha’i? I mean I am not a Baha’i because I love God or because I believe God loves me, or because I am looking forward to the afterlife. I dread the very idea of living forever. I just want to do the right thing. However, I am not exactly sure what that is.

I am sure all of this sounds awfully convoluted but I thought you might understand, given what you wrote... Just a gut feeling. If you don’t, that’s fine... I just needed to vent... This forum has become my safe little haven because so far nobody here has been anything but kind and compassionate... There are not very many places where one can go for that.

Sincerely, Trailblazer
Hello Trailblazer,

thank you very much! It's a great honor that you feel comfortable enough to share your feelings here.

And I think I do understand you ... at least the general gist of your doubts. I think I know where you are coming from ... as the doubts you express are very common among people I meet here whom I want to tell about spiritual matters, and even myself: I grew up as an agnostic, and only went on the path of exploring spirituality a decade ago. So I'm familiar with both mindsets, the religious and the agnostic/secular/atheist. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think you cannot truly be a strong believer when you don't reflect your faith, and when you don't bother with finding good arguments against the arguments of atheists.

There is a reason why atheism became so dominant over here, and I think an important part of it is because the churches were too unflexible to answer the questions critical thinkers asked them. (And I embraced the Baha'i Faith, because I found the answers in it that Christians and Muslims had failed to answer me.) Is this a kind of fanaticism Baha'u'llah warned us of? That some believers rather stick the fingers into their ears and sing "lalala", when critical questions are asked -- rather than finding answers that make their faith stronger?

So I want to say... there must be place for doubt. A religious environment where people are afraid to talk about their essential doubts is not healthy, in my opinion, because it breeds all kinds of unfortunate attitudes or even vices, such as hypocrisy.

Doubts are normal, they are the flipside of an independent mind, one cannot be without the other... so it is (imo) very unfortunate when certain believers think true faith must be blind faith. That's not what Baha'u'llah taught us, as I understand it. People who don't allow themselves to have doubts (but unconsciously realize they have them, which they then try to push under the rug) often compensate this bad conscience with zealotry and fanaticism, intolerance towards "unbelievers" or "ungodly" people and a judgmental mindset -- they project the strictness towards themselves on others. Perhaps this is one of the kinds of fanaticism Baha'u'llah warned us of?

Somewhere I read this quote, and I liked it very much: "When you don't allow yourself to make mistakes, you cannot be forgiving towards others and you don't even allow God to be merciful".

Also I believe while the divine rules are certainly very important, I shouldn't be too strict with myself, let alone with others: When religion becomes primarily just a set of rules, a list of things I'm allowed and things I'm forbidden to do for me, I'm spiritually dead. Maybe I have it the wrong way, but I think the rules are not the core of a spiritual life, and they are no end in themselves, either. (And I agree with atheists who blame believers for this kind of rigid mentality, albeit often unfairly in a generalizing manner, as a very limited and small-minded way to look at the world.) In my opinion, it is much more important to *feel* God and the spiritual world, and everything else "flows" naturally from that awareness.

IIRC, it was a medieval monk who said "justice without mercy is mere cruelty". Likewise, I believe God's mercy is greater than His justice, as He isn't cruel.

Maybe when a religion degenerates into a state where no spirituality is left, but only a strict, rigid set of rules, when your relation to God is reduced to a merely legal one -- that's the point when a religion is so decayed a new Manifestation has to bring new light? Maybe this is the "blind imitation" Baha'u'llah told us about?


I'm sorry to hear you had a hard life. And I'm sorry to hear God is no longer a solace for you. I'm not sure what I can say, as you say you know very well what Baha'u'llah said about tests and hardship, and you are very well familiar with the teachings.

So just a few ideas I try to wrap my mind around lately: We cannot know God at all, except through his Manifestations. Yet we often personalize God to some extent. Just in our minds, we attach certain attributes to God which we know from the context of relationships with other human beings -- although it is explicitly said God is beyond such ascriptions.

Buddha was a Manifestation of God too, yet He never taught about God directly. He taught his followers how to get closer to God, without personalizing God in the slightest.

That makes me think the monotheist tradition of personalizing God is just an "auxiliary means" for our limited mind to get closer to God, but it's not reality. I cannot imagine the unimaginable absolute, so I need something as a placeholder to imagine -- so I give this placeholder traits of a person. That may be most beneficial for finding a way of getting closer to God, but I always have to keep in mind it's just an auxiliary means.

So how can I be disappointed in God? Maybe it is because I am disappointed in Him because I personalized Him too much and expected Him to act like a person I can rely on -- and in the end, I was shown He is not a person after all? Am I disappointed because the image I made of God turns out to be inaccurate?

It's been helpful for me to remember that describing God as a "natural law" or a "principle" would not be any less accurate than thinking of Him as a person -- God is beyond any of these descriptions, they are all equally accurate and inaccurate.

But Trailblazer? As long as by the end of your life, you can say you were so good to other people that they will miss you, and it has been fun to be around -- my feeling is you haven't messed it up at all.


I have some more thoughts on atheists vs. religious people, materialism vs. spirituality ... have to order them a little, and am going to write about it later.

Thank you, Trailblazer!
 
Old 08-24-2017, 04:03 AM   #22
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Some thoughts on atheists and religious people:

Trailblazer, I very much agree with your observation that there are people who worship the material world, and those who don't, but have faith in the spiritual -- and that this has absolutely nothing to do with the question whether someone is formally atheist or formally subscribing to a religion.

As I explained in my first posting, most people in my environment are atheist, or at least very secular. Yet many of them have *faith* of some kind: A set of values that go beyond the material, ideals, ideas, maybe even ideologies.

Many of these atheists replace religion with a kind of humanist ideology or philosophy: They are guided by the principle that life should be improved for all humans, and that's not just material life. Many have a strong sense of justice.

Some take this onto the political field: They follow a political ideology of one kind or another, about social justice and fairness, equality for women and other disadvantaged groups, anti-racism and so on.

What I'm trying to say... many of them may be atheist, they may be totally wrong, they may be blind -- but they are not materialists. Many of them even share many of Baha'u'llah's values, without any religious context.


And just as you say, there are religious people on the other side, who are very materialistic ... who pay lip service to a religion, but are stuck in "blind imitation" of what their ancestors taught them, they go to church out of mere tradition, "because that's what people do, and what would the neighbors think if I didn't", yet are free of any kind of true spiritual feeling or awareness.

Or some Muslims I met here: They fight about the question whether accidentally eating a cake that contains pork gelatine will make you go to hell, how tight your scarf must be and so on -- merely a list of "do's and don't's", but no other relation to God or the spiritual whatsoever; they will cheerfully exploit any tiny loophole the imams leave them.


In our scripture, a couple of sources for division are mentioned: Race, nationality, class, religion and political ideology. I guess sex/gender fits into that category, too.

In the end, people tend not to behave all that differently, no matter which of these sources of identity they choose: There are political, racist or nationalistic zealots, just as there are religious ones. And just like racists or nationalists devalue other human beings, just because they belong to a different race or nation -- you got religious people who use religion as a means to divide people into an "us vs. them", into "believers" and "infidels".

I noticed that when I talked online with Americans about politics: It seems to me that the attitudes and behavior American atheists accused their domestic Christians of, are very, very similar to observations I made about a segment of political leftists here in Germany.

Baha'u'llah's teachings helped me a great deal realizing this: Humans always have this tendency of dividing people into an "in-group" and an "out-group", an "us vs. them". And it fundamentally really doesn't matter which content of zealotry they choose -- it can be race or nation, just like political ideology or religion. Any of these things can be equally taken to the extreme of looking down on those who are in the "out-group".

My understanding is: It's this divisive thinking itself we have to overcome, not one particular content that serves as qualifier.

For us religious people, that means, I think, we have to be aware that we are always running the risk of religious fanaticism -- we might step in the same trap nationalists fall into, when they look down on other nations, or racists who look down on other races. So we must be careful not to look down on those who are different than we are.

Or, as Jesus said: Loving your friends is easy, even the publicans do that ... loving your enemies, that's where it gets tricky.


And yes, I feel with you, Trailblazer ... the close company of people who are exclusively concerned with the material world, is *extremely* exhausting, in my opinion. It's breathtaking how many people have no other topic but "house, car, savings, status, looks"...

Last edited by Sebastian; 08-24-2017 at 04:13 AM.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 04:11 AM   #23
djg
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''O SON OF BEING!

Seek a martyr's death in My path, content with My pleasure and thankful for that which I ordain, that thou mayest repose with Me beneath the canopy of majesty behind the tabernacle of glory." - Hidden Words (Arabic), #45

"O FRIEND!

In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold. Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly." - Hidden Words (Persian), #2

---

But, perhaps to teach someone and to fellowship with them are two different things. The question then becomes, when a person doesn't consciously accept you as their teacher, can you still teach them? If the answer were no, then wouldn't many forms of natural learning be impossible?

I am reminded of a story I heard recently of Abdu'l-Baha taking a particularly belligerent nonbeliever into a room and consorting with him for an hour. This nonbeliever (a Christian pastor of some reputation, if I recall correctly) later became a Baha'i.

It seems to me that if we reject all contact with unbelievers, the promulgation of the Faith would become nigh impossible. I wonder, then: what is the essential difference between contact and fellowship?

Perhaps it is that fellowship indicates the endorsement of their entire identity, including mistaken or damaging beliefs. Indeed, the fact that we are also exhorted to consort in friendliness and fellowship with members of all faiths seems to indicate that a lack of recognition of God is a significant part of "ungodliness."

Last edited by djg; 08-24-2017 at 04:21 AM.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 04:22 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djg View Post
''O SON OF BEING!

Seek a martyr's death in My path, content with My pleasure and thankful for that which I ordain, that thou mayest repose with Me beneath the canopy of majesty behind the tabernacle of glory." - Hidden Words (Arabic), #45

"O FRIEND!

In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold. Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly." - Hidden Words (Persian), #2
Thank you for providing these quotes!

There is another one that fits the topic, I think:

Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion.
- 'Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, page 130
 
Old 08-24-2017, 04:27 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djg View Post
But, perhaps to teach someone and to fellowship with them are two different things. The question then becomes, when a person doesn't consciously accept you as their teacher, can you still teach them? If the answer were no, then wouldn't many forms of natural learning be impossible?

I am reminded of a story I heard recently of Abdu'l-Baha taking a particularly belligerent nonbeliever into a room and consorting with him for an hour. This nonbeliever (a Christian pastor of some reputation, if I recall correctly) later became a Baha'i.

It seems to me that if we reject all contact with unbelievers, the promulgation of the Faith would become nigh impossible. I wonder, then: what is the essential difference between contact and fellowship?

Perhaps it is that fellowship indicates the endorsement of their entire identity, including mistaken or damaging beliefs. Indeed, the fact that we are also exhorted to consort in friendliness and fellowship with members of all faiths seems to indicate that a lack of recognition of God is a significant part of "ungodliness."
I for one will take the company of a loving, kind and righteous atheist over that of a formal believer who lacks compassion, true love and mercy any time of the day -- and I also think the former will be much more beneficial for the world spiritually, than the latter.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 06:10 AM   #26
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But, perhaps to teach someone and to fellowship with them are two different things. The question then becomes, when a person doesn't consciously accept you as their teacher, can you still teach them? If the answer were no, then wouldn't many forms of natural learning be impossible?

I am reminded of a story I heard recently of Abdu'l-Baha taking a particularly belligerent nonbeliever into a room and consorting with him for an hour. This nonbeliever (a Christian pastor of some reputation, if I recall correctly) later became a Baha'i.

It seems to me that if we reject all contact with unbelievers, the promulgation of the Faith would become nigh impossible. I wonder, then: what is the essential difference between contact and fellowship?

Perhaps it is that fellowship indicates the endorsement of their entire identity, including mistaken or damaging beliefs. Indeed, the fact that we are also exhorted to consort in friendliness and fellowship with members of all faiths seems to indicate that a lack of recognition of God is a significant part of "ungodliness."
Hello djg,

after thinking about this a little more... yes, my understanding is that you are right insofar we should not endorse behavior of people who are in gross violation of divine values.

But as I said above... I don't think recognition of God is a crucial factor here. Buddha was a Manifestation of God, and even He did not teach about God, or expected his followers to recognize God.

There are people who are atheist, they have no concept of God, yet very strong values. When their values are not far from Baha'u'llah's values, I'd assume they are not too far away.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 06:36 AM   #27
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"O FRIEND!

In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold. Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly." - Hidden Words (Persian), #2

---

It seems to me that if we reject all contact with unbelievers, the promulgation of the Faith would become nigh impossible. I wonder, then: what is the essential difference between contact and fellowship?

Perhaps it is that fellowship indicates the endorsement of their entire identity, including mistaken or damaging beliefs. Indeed, the fact that we are also exhorted to consort in friendliness and fellowship with members of all faiths seems to indicate that a lack of recognition of God is a significant part of "ungodliness."
My friend:

The quote from Hidden Words does not say "unbelievers" but "ungodly".
Therefore, I guess that the key to understand the issue is not to seek the difference between "contact" and "fellowship", but to seek the meaning of "ungodly".

Many persons think that, unless you believe in an afterlife, or in a personal God, or in a sacred text of some kind, you will become a thief, murderer, drunk, rapist, etc.

This is absolutely mistaken and I have two main proofs: China and my wife.

Let's start with China. In China, millions and millions of people live their lives day after day without giving a single thought on the afterlife or in a personal God. These millions do not spend a minute of their time reading Scriptures of any kind. These millions do not pray or fast. Are their crime rates significantly worse than the rest of the world? Are they bringing mankind to destruction?

Since Confucio and Lao-Tse were not Manifestations of God... Since the kind of Buddhism Chinese got was already changed from the original, and not centered in a personal God... since Islam has barely touched the Westernmost provinces but not the main core of the land.... I could conclude that Chinese civilization, with all their gifts to mankind in science, technology, arts and philosophy, has been possible without a major revealed written theist religion given from a Manifestation from God. If you move to China as a pioneer of the Bahai Faith, you will have to associate with them, to befriend them, and to work in common projects with them... you will for sure love them and some day, as you die in your bed, bless that atheist society forever, with tears in your eyes.

Now, the turn of my wife. She is an atheist and yet she's my source of sweetness, love, and a stronghold of reason, prudence and many other virtues. She encouraged me to seek my own spiritual path. I am a Baha'i in good part thanks to her, and she and attends with me Baha'i devotional gatherings out of pure love to me.

So China and my wife are the clearest evidence of the possibility of a moral life among people who deny an afterlife and a personal Creator.

Last edited by camachoe; 08-24-2017 at 06:56 AM.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 08:48 AM   #28
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Since Confucio and Lao-Tse were not Manifestations of God...
I don't disagree with your overall post but, being me, I need to comment on this one specific line.

So this will be an unpopular opinion, as I know that Shoghi Effendi has said that both were not, to his knowledge, prophets. But Shoghi has also stated that his Ismah/Infallibility only pertains to scriptural interpretation and leadership. The matter of prophethood historically is not covered, and thus we cannot count that as an infallible statement of fact.

We know from 'Abdu'l-Baha (Source being this: Bahá'à Reference Library - Some Answered Questions, Pages 164-166) that Confucius was not a Manifestation, however, he was a lesser prophet who restored the faith of a previous Manifestation, and worked in a restorative role.

In Analects, Confucius himself states this, and reiterates that his message is not new but is a restoration of a message originally brought by two mythical Kings.

So Confucius was a restorer of an original Chinese Manifestation that had existed some time in the past.

And... being of a Taoist background I cannot say that this is an unbiased opinion ... but if Lao Tzu existed (and there is not a clear historical consensus that this is the case) than based on his writings I can only conclude that he was a Manifestation. And if he did not exist, as may have been the case, and the works attributed to him were compiled by later Taoist Priests, as some historians say, then the originator of the ideas found within the Taoist Scriptures were surely sourced from some Manifestation originally.

However, these beliefs on Lao Tzu are, of course, just my own, personal, very biased opinion and is in no way authoritative.

But Confucius, according to 'Abdu'l-Baha, did indeed restore the message of a pre-existing Manifestation, and as the Quran states, every single people got a Messenger. So while the state of China as it is today may indeed show good people living a lifestyle far removed from whatever message they have received before, I do think it would be wrong to state that they never received divine guidance.

The station of Confucius according to 'Abdu'l-Baha actually was a bit of a stumbling block for me, with a Taoist-oriented bias (the two schools of philosophy were rather critical of one another) and the passage on him in Some Answered Questions caused me to track down and read a copy of Analects just to try to view Confucius in a new light.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 01:19 PM   #29
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The station of Confucius according to 'Abdu'l-Baha actually was a bit of a stumbling block for me, with a Taoist-oriented bias (the two schools of philosophy were rather critical of one another) and the passage on him in Some Answered Questions caused me to track down and read a copy of Analects just to try to view Confucius in a new light.
Apparently based on the writings of Lao-Tzu, Shoghi Effendi has concluded that he was not a Manifestation.
So perhaps what 'Abdu'l-Baha says about Confucius is also applicable to Lao-Tzu.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 01:50 PM   #30
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Apparently based on the writings of Lao-Tzu, Shoghi Effendi has concluded that he was not a Manifestation.
So perhaps what 'Abdu'l-Baha says about Confucius is also applicable to Lao-Tzu.
Ah, but Shoghi Effendi's stance is not covered by his own Ismah/Infallibility, which does not extend to that particular subject. I had not heard that he had read the writings of Lao Tzu (and if so, which writings??) Do you have a source?? For obvious reasons I'd love to read any comparative works between the Baha'i Faith and Lao Tzu.

And Shoghi Effendi did not state merely that Lao Tzu was not a Manifestation, but not a prophet of any sort. But then again he has also said the exact same thing about Confucius being not a prophet. Which is something that 'Abdu'l-Baha contradicts in his own statements (and 'Abdu'l-Baha possesses Ismah/Infallibility that does cover the subject).

That's not meant to denigrate Shoghi Effendi, or suggest some horrendous contradiction within the doctrines of the Faith, though. He himself clearly stated the limits of his infallibility and even cautioned that his opinion, however well informed, on other subjects outside of his sphere of perfection were merely his own opinions on the subject, and not to treat such things with the authority given to the Scriptures.

So as far as I can tell everything is still on the table in terms of whether or not Lao Tzu was a prophet of any station.
 
Old 08-24-2017, 02:47 PM   #31
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But Shoghi has also stated that his Ismah/Infallibility only pertains to scriptural interpretation and leadership.
This is one of the most refreshing and reassuring things I have ever read in this Forum. I needed it, Walrus. Thank you for this and please give me the reference to Shoghi's statements on infallibility.
Is there a thread on infabillity? If not please create it or re-take it.


Regarding my post on Confucius and Lao-Tzu, I apologize for my ignorance.
I will always celebrate to know that God has visited as many civilizations and nations as possible. Although I know that the distinction between a Manifestation of God, a lesser prophet and a "wise spiritual leader" can be important in some aspects, in essence they all convey the same message. So living up to it is perhaps more important than knowing their exact station.

I've been reading a bit about Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism... I have no idea of his station but honestly, he must have been inspired judging by the essence of his message! (One unknowable God, One Mankind, Virtuous life, Service to others, etc.)

Last edited by camachoe; 08-24-2017 at 02:50 PM.
 
Old 08-25-2017, 01:19 PM   #32
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A few definitions:

Fanatical: "filled with excessive and single-minded zeal"
or "obsessively concerned with something"

Ungodly: "irreligious or immoral"

Eschew: deliberately avoid using; abstain from

However, we are told to forget all else but God.

It appears, then, that it is RELIGIOUS fanaticism of the sort which can induce a person to hate and violence via the blind following of corrupted ecclesiastics which we are to avoid -- not GODLY fanaticism, which means the constant remembrance of God and submission to His will.
 
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