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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.

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(absolute)ly working December 2, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.

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.

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…)

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

Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.

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.

(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.

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.

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.

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…)

gop loss good thing for evangelicals? November 9, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in politics, religion.
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Normally, I would not dispute this, but when the headline from Agape Press reads, “A Good Election Loss for the GOP“, I start to question myself. See, Agape Press is the CNN for evangelical Christians. While FOX News may be the secular front for the right-wing community, Agape Press makes no excuses for being the voice of the religious right. When I started reading this article I was expecting the typical “GOP-has-become-too-immoral” rhetoric I have been hearing lately from many evangelical Christians (ie. stop having homosexual sex and in general just being corrupt). I was wrong. Mr. Matt Friedeman, a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary, argues that the Republican Party has strayed from its “small-government” roots. Honestly, I could understand that if everything that the Democrats are going to do is intrinsically evil. (more…)

satanism article update November 4, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in philosophy, religion.

I have updated my previously posted article “Nietzsche within LaVey’s Satanism” with a short clip from the mouth of LaVey himself. You can find the YouTube clip at the bottom of the article, it is worth checking out.

Note that I do not promote LaVey’s Satanism. If you are a Satanist (or a “Nietzchean” for that matter) feel free to comment on the article or the video. I welcome discussion from any religious adherents.

the baptism of jesus in the synoptics November 2, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion.

Every Gospel, that is, biography or recording of Jesus the one called Christ, portrays its subject in a unique perspective. Each perspective may have a different bias and purpose, but there is still a common narrative being told. Examples of this can be seen in the individual narratives that consummates the different Gospel accounts of Jesus. One such individual narrative presented in the beginning of each Gospel is that of the teachings of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus by John. By investigating the separate perspectives of this story among the synoptic Gospels, one can interpret the different impressions, roles, beliefs, and implications that each writer is hoping to present. Implicit in this investigation is the assumption of the two-source theory of the synoptic Gospels that places the hypothetical “Q” document in combination with the Gospel of Mark as the two early sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. (more…)

marriage crisis in america November 1, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in politics, religion.
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I love reading Agape Press. It gives me a rush of indignation towards delusional, self-centered, self-righteous, and generally stupid people. No offence. Nothing personal. Agape recently posted an article on the America Community Survey’s conclusion that the institution of marriage is falling apart in America. I was pleasantly surprised that the article did not outrightly blame the LGBT movement’s attempt for equality. Instead, it targeted such legislations as “no-fault” divorce for the increasing rise of divorce. I should say that this is not the survey’s conclusion, but the “World Congress of Families” which is a considered a leader in the “pro-family” movement (ie. pro-right wing evangelical traditionalist north american family movement). (more…)

why i am a christian – part iii October 30, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.

continued from part ii

Before leaving to Alberta I had patched up some turbulent relationships so I did not feel like I was simply running away from my problems. This was extremely freeing, and allowed me to gain some stability in my life. I was able to find a room close to the university the day I drove into the city of Edmonton. I had a little difficulty adjusting to my new setting, but I was visited by often enough by someone from home (who would later become my girlfriend and then my wife). Scholastically I was just getting by: a couple of B’s, a couple of C’s. Most of my time spent reading was not for school. Only a year into my Philosophy major I had a tendency to pass over my Philosophy textbooks to read books on religious syncretism, Buddhology, and early Christian writings. (more…)