Opinion

Entries arguing a particular point of view

Baha'i Fundamentalism (2001)

A fundamentalist Baha'i seems, at first glance, to be almost a contradiction in terms, given that religion's reputation for tolerance and liberal social teachings. However, forms of fundamentalism can be found in almost all of the world's religions and share several features in common, including: resistance to the secularization of society, scriptural literalism, rejection of scientific and scholarly findings which contradict the fundamentalist worldview, apocalypticism and millennialism, a belief that the faithful are under siege by the forces of evil, authoritarian and/or charismatic leadership, and the insistence that fundamentalism is the only true form of the religion.

So, fundamentalism also exists within the Baha'i Faith, including some members of its leadership, and Baha'i fundamentalism shares many attitudes with that found in other religions. The Baha'i Faith presents its liberal face to the public, emphasizing such teachings as the unity of religion and racial harmony, because these teachings are more attractive to potential converts. However, fundamentalists within the Faith emphasize the more authoritarian and legalistic aspects of Baha'i practice and community structure.

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Rebels Within the Cause? (2001)

Although the Baha'i Faith has been part of the American religious scene since the turn of the last century, its numbers have remained small and growth has been slow. The only exception to this pattern has been the late 1960s and early 70s when large numbers of idealistic Baby Boomers became Baha'is. Besides the spiritual seeking that was characteristic of young people during that period, the social ideals promoted by Baha'i teachings resonated with many of their concerns, such as racial harmony, sexual equality, and world peace. Baha'i scriptures, written by the faith's founder, Baha'u'llah, also promote the individual investigation of truth, freedom of expression, and the harmony of religion and reason, making the faith appealing to the intelligent and well-educated. The baby-boom influx created a class of bright young people who went into academic fields such as Middle Eastern history and other studies that were related to this religion with its origins in nineteenth century Iran.

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The Talisman Crackdown (2001)

The Baha'i Faith is often described as an open and tolerant religion, classed with New Age groups or Unitarian Universalists because of its teachings concerning the unity of all religions, racial harmony, and world peace. What is little-known even within the Baha'i community is that the elected Baha'i institutions have historically kept strict control of any public information concerning the religion and has been willing to use threats and sanctions to silence members who have unorthodox views.

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Seeking Truth, Seeking Unity (1999)

It will not be news to anyone reaching this page that there is a great deal of controversy going on now in the Baha'i community. The Baha'i Faith has essentially declared war on its own best and brightest. This is a very bitter battle with a good deal of anger, fear, and hurt feelings to go around. It is perhaps presumptuous of me, coming to the knowledge of this controversy so recently to offer comments about it. But it seems to me that it might be profitable to take another look at the principles involved.

 

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Judging and the Fundamental Attribution Error

Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, describes an interesting phenomenon of human nature--our common tendency to attribute the actions of others to some general quality of character. Gladwell writes:
Psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people's behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context.
He goes on to give an example of an experiment in which people were asked to observe two similarly skilled basketball players, one playing in a well-lighted gym, and the other playing in a darkened gym and consequently missing many shots. When asked to judge the abilities of the players, the observers judged the player in the well-lighted gym to be superior, thereby ignoring the important role of situation and context--namely, the fact that one player was performing in a environment more conducive to excellence than the other.

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