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Baha'i-related resources at the Internet Archive

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Quotations and study questions regarding the Nineteen Day Fast

Next to obligatory prayer, fasting constitutes one of the most important laws of the Revelation of Baha’u’ llah. We are fortunate to have a multitude of guidance on this subject in our Sacred Writings. We will study some of these Writings together in order to gain a better understanding of the law of fasting and to try and put it into practice in our lives. You can study and meditate on these quotations throughout the period of the Fast.

Suggested study guidelines: Please read every quote at least twice. Discuss any difficult words or concepts and then answer the questions in each section on your own before discussing them in groups of 8-10 people. Keep the discussions around the Writings you are studying.

Section 1

“We, verily, have set forth all things in Our Book, as a token of grace unto those who have believed in God, the Almighty, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting. And We have ordained obligatory prayer and fasting so that all may by these means draw night (sic) unto God, the Most Powerful, the Well-Beloved.... We... have commanded them to observe that which will draw them nearer unto Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Loving. Say: Observe ye the commandments of God for love of His beauty..

Complete the following sentences:

We, verily, have set forth all things in Our ________, as a token of __________ unto those who have _____________________, the Almighty, the protector, the Self-Subsisting. And We have ordained _____________and __________so that all may by these means , the Most Powerful, the Well-Beloved.... We... ...have commanded them to _________ that which will _______________________________________Who is the Almighty, the All-Loving. Say: _________ ye the commandments of God for _____________________________________.


  1. Why and for whom has Baha’u’lláh set forth all things in His Book?
  2. Why has Baha’u’lláh ordained obligatory prayer and fasting?
  3. Why should we observe the commandments of God?

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On 'A Secular Age'

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I've been quite busy with dissertation and article writing lately, but as time has allowed I've been plodding my way through philosopher Charles Taylor's fantastic new book A Secular Age. It's a sweeping book of over 800 pages so a simple summary is difficult, but the general argument is that human history has not been a linear progression from religiosity to secularism. Rather, modernism and the Enlightenment transformed the way everyone, religious or not, understands the world and their place in it (to a more naturalistic, less 'magical' view of the universe'). We live in a secular age not because religion has receded (which, counter mid-century predictions, it has not) but in so far as the possibilities for all types of orientations toward the world are now open, including new religious and spiritual ones. Old orthodoxies have loosened their grip, creating a new type of landscape within which believers and non-believers both act. I know that's probably confusing and unhelpful, but it's what I have time for right now. And besides, it was really just a way to lead into a couple things I wanted to link to. From an article in Prospect on the book:

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The Leaves of One Tree: Bottom-Up and Top-Down Edition

{amazon id='0743203046'}

It’s been slow around these parts lately, but I went to a talk last Thursday that I wanted to write a bit about. Robert Putnam, most known as the author of Bowling Alone, was here at Stanford talking about his controversial new work. In Bowling Alone Putnam argued that America’s social capital, its resources derived from social networks, has been declining over the past few decades. This means that people both belong to fewer organizations and have fewer friends than in the past. The title of the book refers to one example of this, that people still bowl quite a bit, but don’t do it in leagues like they used to. (And, as I previously blogged about one of last year’s most important sociology papers described a major decrease in the number of friends the average American has).

Putnam’s new work is about how these trends interrelate with America’s growing diversity. What Putnam found was troubling not only to many other political scientists and sociologists but to Putnam himself. Putnam and his associates surveyed 41 different and varied American communities and found that the ethnic and racial diversity of a community is strongly, and positively, correlated with how socially fragmented it is. In other words, the more diverse a location is, the less likely people of all backgrounds were to trust each other, to be friends with each other, and to belong to organizations with each other.

{josquote}Putnam pointed to two modern examples of institutions were participation does seem to increase cross-race friendships: the military and megachurches.{/josquote}

We have to be careful here because this finding has been largely distorted in the media to say that diversity causes poor race relations. That isn’t what the findings suggest, however as Putnam went through great pains to make clear. In this research diversity isn’t correlated with poor race relations, but rather poor social relations in general. If I’m white and live in a diverse area it's not that I trust my black, Asian and Latino neighbors less, it's that I trust everyone less. It's not that I have fewer black, Asian or Latino friends, I have fewer friends in general. What seems to happen is that people who live in diverse areas are just less likely to be engaged with their neighbors and with civic life (and more likely to be home watching TV). The story, in other words, is a strange and complicated one (and like any methodologist they control for as many possibly confounding factors as they can).

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Seventy and two

Beware lest ye shed the blood of anyone. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men’s hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other. God’s mercy, hath, verily, encompassed all created things, if ye do but understand. Aid ye your Lord, the God of Mercy, with the sword of understanding. Keener indeed is it, and more finely tempered, than the sword of utterance, were ye but to reflect upon the words of your Lord.Baha’u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 23.

Over the past few months I have once again fallen into the trap of lazy-blogging at my blog A lack of focus there - lacking a mission for the blog and a direction in which to aim my posts- combined with a recent post by Jonah on the lack of solid Bahá’í Apologetics in the blogosphere has led me to create this new blog with a direct and simple mission.


To present and defend Bahá’í views on topics with quotations from sacred writings and practical applications. To investigate the action of the Bahá’í Community in relation to those views. To counter misinformation, misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the Bahá’í Faith in the blogosphere.While most posts will be apologetic in nature, some will deal with issues I have observed within the Bahá’í Community (Good and bad.), my personal struggle to uphold the values my Faith holds dear, interfaith and pluralistic learning of my own, and perhaps a few other issues.

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