Friday, September 07, 2007

Christians, Baha'i's and Buttons, Oh My!

I know a lot of people are going to ask "Why have you been criticizing Christianity so much lately?" or "Why don't you criticize a different Abrahamic religion? Why not even a non-Abrahamic religion?" Well let me try to explain things to you.

I do not necessarily believe that faith is a bad thing; it is when faith is not tempered by reason that it concerns me. I am more than willing to allow someone to hold and express their beliefs as long as they do not interfere with my rights to the same. I don't think that I would particularly mind if someone called me a "Satan worshiper" and that I would "burn in Hell" as long as they let me say how ridiculous I think that their beliefs are. Of course, if they repeatedly harassed me, I would have no compunction against taking them to civil court. If our roles were reversed, I would expect them to do the same.

Yesterday, I had a Christian evangelist tell me "I'm not tolerant and I'm proud of it." He also said "One way to God, right?" Frankly, a find this level of zealotry disturbing. I wouldn't even classify it as an extreme level of zealotry, considering what you see on the Internet and in the Middle East.

I don't buy that there is one way to God either, if there is one (which I doubt). I can see four possibilities if God does exist: God is malevolent, God is indifferent, God is omni-benevolent and our perception of God is completely inaccurate, or God is insane. If I say that God may exist, I shouldn't discount that a multitude of gods could exist either.

Now that that's out of the way, I want to address something. I want to point out that the Baha'i faith is probably one of the most tolerant I've seen. I'm not going to pick at any of their theological or metaphysical beliefs, but rather a few things that I think will create issues for the faith in the future.

1) The Baha'i faith views scientific inquiry as essential to expanding Human knowledge and deepening the faith of Baha'i adherents. Considering that I believe that God or some other divine aspect cannot be proven or disproven I find it interesting that the Baha'i faith supports scientific inquiry when historically most religions have been opposed to it. Historically, most religions are opposed to scientific inquiry because of contradictions with various beliefs within those religions. Just take a look at Galileo or Darwin. But consider this: What if the existence of a divine entity could be empirically disproven? I am sure that it would very much shake the Baha'i religion to its very core. I doubt that this could happen however, and I find it more of an interesting question to pose than something I could see becoming an issue. The one place where the Baha'i faith and science knock heads is #2.

2) The Baha'i faith rejects homosexuality. This is the one place I know of where science and the Baha'i faith have a contradiction. While the Baha'i faith teaches equality between people and the elimination of prejudices, sexual orientation is absent from their list of groups of Humans where prejudice should be eliminated. Others have said it before me, and I predict that this will cause tensions within the Baha'i faith in the future.

3) Women are excluded from serving on the Universal House of Justice. This is mostly for the same reasons as #2, with the Baha'i faith's teachings of equality and elimination of prejudice.

4) Followers believe that there will eventually be a single world government. I'm not going to deny that it could happen, but I doubt it. The closest we have come to this is the United Nations, and I doubt that we will go much farther. Groups of people with similar ideals would break off from a united world government and form their own nations. Self-determination has happened many times in the past and I don't see why this would change in the future.

5) It had been my understanding that the Baha'i faith also believed in a single unifying language for humankind. However the official website of the Baha'i International Community cites "the need for a universal auxiliary language."

And just a couple minor notes to finish off with:

The link to Nick Gisburne's website is no longer in the sidebar. He has taken down his website because he is no longer interested in discussing Atheism. This means some of the links in my older posts may not work correctly.

Also, if you're wondering what's been happening with the buttons, you have no need to fret. I decided that it would be easier to post all the buttons once the challenge is over than to post them every week. Article

Baha'i International Community Website


Matthew said...

Interesting remarks. I should point out, however, that the Baha'i are not the only religious group to promote scientific inquiry. Islam is also actively in favor of scientific advancements, though only within the boundaries of their doctrines, if I understand my cursory reading correctly. Modern science, furthermore, can be said to have originated with Newtonian mechanics, and Newton himself was a devout, even fanatical Christian.

Perhaps your one-sided attacks on Abrahamic religions are due to the fact that you live in a society where Abrahamic religions are predominant. If you lived in Japan, is it not possible that Shintoism would be the subject of your attacks?

jarjar_head said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jarjar_head said...

Or Buddhism, for that matter. I agree with what you are saying, it is easier to critcize what you know and have experienced firsthand. To be honest, I digressed from my intended discourse and neglected to mention that the predominace of Abrahamic religions in western society probably influenced my selection.

You are also quite right about Sir Issac Newton, of course.

As much as I resent the phrase "one-sided attacks" I freely admit I have not myself made any opposing arguments to my criticisms, and I am quite happy to recieve them from any reader to further my intellectual development.