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he whom god shall make manifest April 21, 2007

Posted by Brad Richert in religion.
1 comment so far

The following is an article I wrote on this day last year about in celebration of first day of Ridvan, a Baha’i festival.

Since man first gained consciousness of himself he has come face to face with forces that he does not understand. The concept of religion, whether named or not, has been around since the dawn of humanity. Thus, every single day there probably is a celebration of some festival of the past. Some founder of a religion is either born, or has declared himself to the world. I use “he” fairly liberally simply because religious leaders, and especially founders, traditionally are men, most likely compensating for something.

I feel that it is important to occasionally recognize the foundations of religions or to celebrate their birth. One such significant religion is the Baha’i Faith. Much like the founders of the world’s other major religions, Bahá’u’lláh received an explicit vision from God. The history of the Baha’i Faith reads like a condensed version of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. And like the Christian faith, the Baha’i was founded during a crucial epoch in history which would contribute to the exponential growth of the religion. As early Christians took advantage of the Pax Romana complete with safe passage on the newly built road system, the Baha’i have spread their message with the use of ocean liners, automobiles, and now the internet.

In Shi’a Islam there was promised to be a Messianic figure known as the Al-Qā’im (He Who Arises). In 1844, a young Persian merchant named Siyyid Mírzá `Alí-Muhammad proclaimed himself to be the next manifestation of God, fulfilling this title of the Al-Qā’im. He declared himself “The Báb” (The Gate). Within six years The Báb gained a multitude of followers which named themselves Bábís. After numerous conflicts with the Islam authorities he was executed before a firing squad in 1850. During his ministry, however, he wrote of a person whom “He whom God shall make manifest”.

Two years after The Báb’s execution, one of his followers, Husayn `Alí of Nur, was incarcerated in Tehran. At one pointHusayn `Alí of Nur changed his name to Bahá’u’lláh. During this time, as he later told his followers, he received a vision that it was indeed him “whom God shall make manifest”. The first time he pronounced this vision was on April 21, 1863. As Bahá’u’lláh’s mission continued to grow, he came into conflict with the appointed leader of the Bábís, Subh-i-Azal. This eventually led to the 1866 public declaration of his calling, which he had already told a few followers three years earlier. Bahá’u’lláh died in 1892 after living his entire life in exile or imprisonment.

In just over 150 years since that first declaration, the Baha’i Faith has become known as one of the most ethnically diverse religions boasting approximately 5 million adherents. It is often used as a functionary by the United Nations because of its distinct advocacy for human rights. It is one of the new independent major religions, meaning that it has transcended a “cult” like status and is taken seriously on the world religious stage.

However, the religious plurality, or more definitive, the religious relativity, of the Baha’i Faith occasionally runs into conflict when addressing certain congregations. The Baha’i Faith does not target conversions from the mainstream adherents of other rleigions, but to those who are disgruntled with the lack of tolerance and acceptance. I will end with the following message concerning the Baha’i Faith in relation to other religions.

The Changeless Faith of God

When Bahá’ís say that the various religions are one, they do not mean that the various religious creeds and organizations are the same. Rather, they believe that there is only one religion and all of the Messengers of God have progressively revealed its nature. Together, the world’s great religions are expressions of a single unfolding Divine plan, “the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”

People from all of the major religious backgrounds have found that the promises and expectations of their own beliefs are fulfilled in the Bahá’í Faith. Bahá’ís from Native American, African and other indigenous backgrounds, similarly, find in the Bahá’í teachings fulfillment of prophetic visions.

For Bahá’ís of Jewish background, Bahá’u’lláh is the appearance of the promised “Lord of Hosts” come down “with ten thousands of saints.” A descendent of Abraham and a “scion from the root of Jesse,” Bahá’u’lláh has come to lead the way for nations to “beat their swords into plowshares.” Many features of Bahá’u’lláh’s involuntary exile to the Land of Israel, along with other historical events during Bahá’u’lláh’s life and since are seen as fulfilling numerous prophecies in the Bible.

For Bahá’ís of Buddhist background, Bahá’u’lláh fulfils the prophecies for the coming of “a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship” who will, according to Buddhist traditions, bring peace and enlightenment for all humanity. They see the fulfillment of numerous prophecies, such as the fact that the Buddha Maitreye is to come from “the West”, noting the fact that Iran is West of India.

For Bahá’ís of Hindu background, Bahá’u’lláh comes as the new incarnation of Krishna, the “Tenth Avatar” and the “Most Great Spirit.” He is “the birthless, the deathless,” the One who, “when goodness grows weak,” returns “in every age” to “establish righteousness” as promised in the Bhagavad-Gita.

For Bahá’ís of Christian background, Bahá’u’lláh fulfils the paradoxical promises of Christ’s return “in the Glory of the Father” and as a “thief in the night.” That the Faith was founded in 1844 relates to numerous Christian prophecies. Bahá’ís note, for example, that central Africa was finally opened to Christianity in the 1840s, and that event was widely seen as fulfilling the promise that Christ would return after “the Gospel had been preached ‘to all nations.'” In Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings Bahá’ís see fulfillment of Christ’s promise to bring all people together so that “there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”

For Bahá’ís of Muslim background, Bahá’u’lláh fulfils the promise of the Qur’an for the “Day of God” and the “Great Announcement,” when “God” will come down “overshadowed with clouds.” They see in the dramatic events of the Bábi and Bahá’í movements the fulfillment of many traditional statements of Muhammad, which have long been a puzzle.

Sources and more info:

redirect your links December 5, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in Uncategorized.
5 comments

Awhile ago I changed my domain to http://bradleyrichert.com. If you kept your links at https://brichert.wordpress.com that was okay because bradleyrichert.com was simply a mask of my wordpress.com account. Well it is no more. I have upgraded from wordpress.com to wordpress.org (those of you in the wordpress world know what I am talking about – for those who don’t it basically means I am hosting my own site rather than the free wordpress host).

I will leave this here for the time being, but please, update your links to http://bradleyrichert.com 

(absolute)ly working December 2, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.
4 comments

If you are a regular reader, I you may have noticed the limited frequency of posts around here, and of those posts that are published, they are generally papers I have previously written. Well, as I previously mentioned, I have been attempting to take a break from blogging until I get my papers done. This was (mostly) accomplished. Last week I had three papers due and those are now done and gone. It eases up a bit from now on until December 16. “Easing up”, however, is a relative term. Yes, the week from hell is over with, but now I have three more papers due in the next two weeks (plus a couple of exams). Due dates, as well, have bceome relative terms as everything has meshed together – it is basically down to getting them done when based on their relative due dates.

So blah blah blah, right?  Well, not really. As I am working on several of these papers I would like to get some outside opinions. Two of these papers are directly related to topics I have discussed (and will discuss in more detail as this blog takes a little bit of a thematic turn): Absolutes and mystery religion. Of course leave it up to me to pick an impossible topic (the former). Let me clarify the topic a bit.

The course is Advanced Topics in Buddhism: Mahayana Buddhism. The topic I had developed was the idea of Absolutes within Mahayana Buddhism. HH the XIVth Dalai Lama onced proclaimed that if Buddhism had any absolutes it would be compassion. This stuck with me. Basically, I am investigating the relation between ontological and moral absolutism. Although I have yet to develop a hard thesis, my underlying questioning involves the validity of distinguishing between different sorts of absolutes. In Mahayana Buddhism the big topics are wisdom and compassion (moral absolutes?) and the relation between conventional and real truths (a hidden ontological absolute?). Any thoughts? Khalidmir, if you have any links of articles relating to the subject in classical or islamic thought, it would be much appreciated.

The second paper is for Early Christian Writings and the topic I have developed is the secretive nature of Jesus in early Christian writings. Any links would be helpful. I haven’t really started on this paper yet, but I doubt it will be much of a problem writing it once I narrow down what books I want to concentrate on (canonical and non-canonical).

Anyway, although I cannot get into much discussion, I would greatly appreciate any first thoughts or references. These papers, plus one afterwards, will be where my head is for the next couple of weeks, so don’t expect too much posting. As briefly stated above, you will probably notice a slight thematic change to the blog after the holidays. For the past month I have concentrated on mainly religious-oriented articles, and they appear to be much more popular (and more fun to write) than political posts – plus they don’t get me riled up as much. Finding much more success in the theme, I will concentrate on both academic and personal religious ideas.

jewel of the mahāyāna sutras November 29, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion.
9 comments

Vimalakīrti is the protagonist of the Vimalakīrti-Nirdesa Sutra. He is introduced as a Licchavi, a city-state in northern India, from the city of Vaiśālī. Vaiśālī is known to be the land of Amrapali, a famous Indian courtesan, whose garden is the opening and concluding location for the narrative as the teaching place of the Buddha. Vimalakīrti is said to be of great wealth, of which he uses to sustain the poor and helpless. As a man of wealth, he is obviously not a monk and is explicitly stated as wearing garments of a layperson. Everything about him, however, was a paradox. He was as a laymen, yet as devoted as a monk; he owned and lived in a house, but lived beyond material realm; he had a family and servants, yet remained continent; he had servants and food aplenty, but lived in solitude and was nourished by meditation. The way in which Vimalakīrti reconciled these differences would be only a shadow of the reconciliation of dichotomies he would achieve much later on in the sutra. (more…)

buy nothing day November 24, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in business.
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war in your backyard November 24, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in media, politics.
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I am not a fan of Michael Moore. Never really have been. But there is one stunt, albeit far-fetched, unfair, and illogical, that stood out in one of his films: Michael Moore tracking down U.S. politicians, trying to get them to sign their kids up for war. Of course this is silly for a multitude of reasons a big one being the fact that a parent cannot sign their children up for service), yet the point was made: do those who are quick to support war, be it the politicians or the people who put them in power, realize the ramifications of such actions if brought closer to home? I could get into a whole discussion about the philosophical problems of war, but these are not how the decisions are made. Militaristic governments, in any part of the world, do not use logic and rationality to woe their supporters – they target the emotions with rhetorical devices and purposefully fallacious logic. You hear BushCo. talk of “Freedom”, but do you ever hear him define what “freedom” is? We fight for “democracy”, they say, but what is “democracy”? Likewise in far away lands to which we are sending our young, and often poor, men and women, the authorities are convincing their peoples of “justice” and other such notions. (more…)

why i am a christian – part iv November 19, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.
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continued from part iii

During my time in Alberta I had developed relatively radical political views. Since this is not the topic of this article, I will only state that they were socialist-libertarian in nature. This, however, would have a deep impact on my religious views and the way I perceived mainstream religions (especially Christianity). As I may or may not have mentioned previously, the Sermon on the Mount several years earlier had already convinced me of the inconsistency of conservatism with the Scripture. Yet as I continued to look deeper into all things spiritual and religious, it became apparent that most of my critiques against any religion were reactions to institutionalization of religious or philosophical movements. The larger the institution became, the more corrupt and perverse so did the teachings. Hopeless attempts to correct this, such as the Protestant Reformation in Christianity during the 16th century simply became dead institutions in themselves. Radicals such as the Anabaptists became de-radicalized and joined mainstream Protestantism as they gained acceptance and their views became watered-down. New movements such as Pentecostalism relied on heavily charasmatic teachers and sensationalism with practices that would make most early 20th-century occultist jealous. Each of these attempts, at least initially, were not “wrong” or fallacious – they were examples of anarchist Christianity – tearing down the walls of stonelike institutions that deadened the theology or spirituality. Yet as time went on, they became re-institutionalized: the Protestant Reformation created a million Popes rather than rejecting one. (more…)

women and religion: more buddhism November 17, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
4 comments

(Also see “women and religion: buddhism“)

Buddhism, Eva K. Neumaier (Women in the Buddhist Traditions, “Women and Religious Traditions“) states, is one of the religions that begin with a historical founder and presents itself in the form of dialogue. Since the dialogue is within a cultural context it portrays itself as a contrast to the contemporary socio-religious framework of its day. Much of Siddhārtha Gautama’s responses towards women were counter-intuitive for the people of his day. An oft-used example is the general ascetic lifestyle. Ascetics in the Indic subcontinent were always male for females who wandered around would be considered shameful. As Gautama allowed women to follow him, they naturally took up this ascetic lifestyle, and furthermore was given allowance to do so by the Buddha. Neumaier points out, however, that despite this matter of respect in the new Buddhism that the women enjoyed dissipated in the later centuries. (more…)

women and religion: islam November 16, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
18 comments

Lynda Clarke (Women in Islam, “Women and Religious Traditions“) points out that there is no cognizant group within Islam that is able to re-establish or re-investigate aspects of the religion in the perspective of women. She does not claim that Islamic women do not question or blindly follow, but instead they are restricted within the call of “correct practice”. This practice is strictly laid out in the Sunnah, which is authoritative in Islamic tradition. Thus, women are at a seeming impasse because of the stress on orthopraxy. Anything that is added or perceived as contrary to the authoritative text can automatically be viewed as illegimate and opposed to Islam. This is often seen with Islamic women’s issues because of the contrast struck between Islam and the West’s occupation with Christian values. Islamic traditionalists view feminism as a Christian or Western ideology and is consequently perceived as opposition to the Sunnah. However, Clarke is optimistic that Islamic women have the capacity to work within the Islamic faith in order to retain their own tradition without being isolated. Clarke is arguing here that by using the Koran they can legitimize their perspective an overcome the overwhelming patriarchal worldview that Islam has currently found itself. (more…)

women and religion: judaism November 15, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
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Jacoba Kuikman alludes to the idea that Jewish women within the private sphere have balanced the public role of men, which may as well have helped the survival of Jewish tradition. Since women were “delegated” to the private sphere, they were charged with the responsibility of raising the children. Children were raised generation after generation through the Jewish traditions of the mother. At times this even countered periods of times that Jews chose to assimilate rather than stand out, which had led them to serious persecution and death. Jewish tradition cannot rely on the rabbis and teachers alone since there was not always opportunities to openly teach Jewish traditions. The private role of women is then uplifted as the tool for a continuous strand of tradition throughout generations. (more…)

women and religion: hinduism November 14, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
14 comments

Unlike other major world religions, Hinduism has a multitude of feminine deities. This, of course, is a result of the millions of celestial entities that comprise the cosmology within Hindu thought. The feminine deities of Hinduism often represent the traditional characteristics of femininity such as compassion and nurturing, although there are still many that symbolize much more traditionally masculine traits such as aggression and dominance.

Other world religions often use the lack of feminine deities to justify their positions against women. However, in Hinduism there are many feminine deities that men and women may recognize to be worthy of veneration. This should lead to a better status of women within the Hindu culture, yet it does not. (more…)

women and religion: christianity November 13, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
1 comment so far

There is a paradox in how women are treated in major religions. A woman’s body, as child-bearer garners respect and admiration. Yet a woman’s body, especially as a sexual being, is surrounded by fear-driven taboos. This paradox should be incompatible with the core teachings of many of the major religions. Yet doctrine, subsequent writings, and cultural values have continued to treat women’s bodies with a distorted dualism. The Christian religion itself has witnessed conflicting dualism between spirit and flesh, which has in turn only aggravated the paradoxical dualism within females. (more…)

women and religion: buddhism November 12, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
2 comments

The founder of Buddhism, as in other world religions, did not explicitly condone the subordination of woman from what we understand. On the contrary, Siddhartha Gautama was quite revolutionary for his time in his acceptance of women among his followers. However, by the 2nd century BCE Buddhism became increasingly institutionalized by the Mauryan king, Ashoka the Great, which women within Buddhism found themselves struggling to have any significant roles. By the time that Buddhism had left the Indian subcontinent and spread over the rest of Asia in the 5th century CE, women were completely left out of any historical records. (more…)

taking a break November 11, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal.
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Needless to say, I’m a little tied up right now. I have decided to take a little break from blogging so that I can take care of my wife and my new little girl. Hopefully this will also allow me to catch up on school work that the last three or four days has put me behind. I will probably update yesterday’s post with some pictures and Sophie’s story.

Starting tomorrow I will also have a little series on women and religion. I did not plan on this being right after my baby girl was born as I was always going to post it on these dates. They were written for a women and religion course I took over the summer. I cover a few of the world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism), but remember I am by no means an authority on the subject. I found the course very interesting and the articles are based on a combination of my western perspective growing up on the West coast and the books and article I have read on the subject. Most of the articles deal with how women have been treated by religions in the past with few additional comments about contemporary religion (which may or may not ruffle some feathers – the only real controversial ideas are quotes from women within their own religion – especially in Judaism). I appreciate any comments, as always, towards these posts – especially from those people who are within a religious tradition that I do not know much about – as I do think the subject is very important.

baby sophie November 10, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal.
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Everyone knows that by far the happiest and universally enjoyable age of man is the first. What is there about babies which makes us hug and kiss and fondle them, so that even an enemy would give them help at that age? – Desiderius Erasmus

It has been a crazy 24 hours. Kristy (my wife) and I drove to the hospital around 10:00am. She was induced around 11:30am, she started contractions immediately. For the next nine hours she grimaced almost every 3 minutes until they got her upstairs with the epideral (spelling?) going. At 02:47 this morning we had our first, a healthy baby girl, Sophia Faith. Kristy is still at the hospital and I am waiting for Sophia’s Great-grandma to fly in.

I will update this post with some pictures and other words once we get settled back home.

If men had to have babies, they would only ever have one each. – Princess Diana