Is the Baha’i Faith supposed to be a highly bureaucratic religion, with heavy-handed top down control? Many Baha’is become alienated from the Faith today because of such a spirit prevailing within the Baha’i community. But, is this the essence of the original teachings?
The moment a Baha’i presents his views, the chain of excommunication kicks in, ultimately leading to his ouster from the faith. Baha’is today would be excommunicated from their religion even for pointing out the scriptural passages in this article and seeking to reform the Faith according to such teachings. In fact, Baha’is are often disciplined or pushed out of their religious community simply for expressing ideas that conflict with the viewpoints of those bureaucrats who hold power in the national and international organizations.
Abdu’l Baha said the following at a church in New York City: “This is a goodly temple and congregation, for — praise be to God! — this is a house of worship wherein conscientious opinion has free sway. Every religion and every religious aspiration may be freely voiced and expressed here. Just as in the world of politics there is need for free thought, likewise in the world of religion there should be the right of unrestricted individual belief. Consider what a vast difference exists between modern democracy and the old forms of despotism. Under an autocratic government, the opinions of men are not free, and development is stifled, whereas in democracy, because thought and speech are not restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. It is likewise true in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail — that is to say, when every man according to his own idealization may give expression to his beliefs — development and growth are inevitable.” Abdu’l Baha (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 197.)
Now the question is, to be a Baha’i does a person necessarily should accept a certain religious organization? Consider what Baha’ullah and Abd’ul Baha have to say. They, after all, are the true sources of spiritual authority and we should take what they say more seriously than the viewpoints of bureaucratic administrators.
- “Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the All-Glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Baha in the Crimson Book.” Baha’u’llah (Book of the Covenant. Published in Tablets, p. 220.)
- “It makes no difference whether you have ever heard of Baha’u’llah or not. The man who lives the life according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah is already a Baha’i. On the other hand, a man may call himself a Baha’i for fifty years and if he does not live the life he is not a Baha’i. An ugly man may call himself handsome, but he deceives no one, and a black man may call himself white yet he deceives no one: not even himself!” (Abdu’l Baha in London, p. 106.)