A Calm Storm

The blog of Sholeh Samadani Munion

Science and Religion

My last post regarding science and religion was touched on very lightly, so I thought I’d explain a bit of where I am coming from.  The following excerpts explain much better than I ever could.

“Among the ancient philosophers the infallible way to knowledge was through logic. The different schools of logic weighed everything in the scales of cold scholasticism. As to religious people their criterion has ever been the sacred text which must be accepted as final. One is not allowed the slightest reflection. “The word of God,” they say, “is truth.” Inspiration is the fourth criterion. Occultists say, “I have had a revelation. This truth has been revealed to me.”   For them everything outside direct revelation is viewed with doubt. So we have indicated the four criterions: the senses, reason, the sacred text, inspirations. There is no fifth.

Let us speak of the first criterion — that of the senses. Contemporary philosophers say, “We have spent our time in universities and laboratories analyzing composition. We have not encountered the spirituality of God, or any sign of the soul’s existence. We are people of truth, intelligent, learned men, but we can find no proof of the existence of a divine being.”

The senses mistake a mirage for water; the eyes see the sun move; your train or boat seems immobile and the landscape seems to pass by, planets look like fixed points of light; but they have measurable dimensions. A lighted point set in rotation appears like a circle. These examples show the senses subject to error. How can we put our trust in them?

The test of logic is just as imperfect, for were this criterion perfect there would never have been the continual clash of opinion as to the sacred texts. How can they be interpreted by logic if the means be at fault?

Inspiration, what is it? Whence comes it? Is that which reaches our heart divine or satanic? How can we judge?

It is no proof of intelligence to reject everything which does not strike the senses. Nay, rather, such a one is brother to the animal. The cow has no idea of God; she does not know the soul. So the only difference between her highness the cow and a materialistic philosopher is that the latter takes a great deal of trouble! It is not a special or exclusive privilege to be the prisoner of one’s senses; the cow is the example of this theory.”

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 94)

“Until now it has been said that all religions were composed of tenets that had to be accepted, even if they seems contrary to science. Thanks be to God, that in this new cycle the admonition of [Baha’u’llah] is that in the search for truth man must weigh religious questions in the balance of science and reason. God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth. If one renounce reason, what remains? The sacred texts? How can we understand God’s commands and to what use can we put them without the balance of reason?

The priests are attached to ancient superstitions and when these are not in keeping with science, the priests denounce science. When religion is upheld by science and reason we can believe with assurance and act with conviction, for this rational faculty is the greatest power in the world. Through it industries are established, the past and present are laid bare and the underlying realities are brought to light. Let us make nature our captive, break through all laws of limitation and with deep penetration bring to light that which is hidden. The power to do this  is the greatest of divine benefits. Why treat with indifference such a divine spark? Why ignore a faculty so beneficial, a sun so powerful?”

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 100)


28 thoughts on “Science and Religion

  1. Hi Sholeh,

    I’ve never been to Iran. There are many Oskoois out there whom you may know. I don’t think I’m closely related to all of them. But speaking of relations, science tells us that we are related to other primates by common ancestors. For just one of the reasons why we can know this, see this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk . ‘Abdu’l-Baha denied such a relationship between animal primates and humans. How is that not conflict? Also, scientists think there is life out there based on statistical probability, but not on every planet as Baha’u’llah states in the Gleanings. In fact, there are good reasons to think that life could not exist on planets like Venus or Saturn.

    I notice in your replies to me and Mavaddat that you try to point out the deficiencies in scientific knowledge in order to validate religious belief, but ignorance is not a license to believe in whatever you want. What is to distinguish a belief in Baha’u’llah from a belief in Joseph Smith if both the Baha’i and the Mormon claim to believe in science as well? Both of them ostensibly fulfill ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s 4 criteria for gaining knowledge, but how is either of them to know they are right about who God’s most recent messenger is? You see, there is no way to tell because they are not founded on evidence. I can believe in everything science says, and still believe in a number of other things based on no good reason. That doesn’t mean those other things are true or that I’m justified in believing in them, as what you wrote seems to suggest.

    Why not just say you don’t know whether Baha’u’llah was who he said he was? Whatever reasons you think you have for believing he was right, you must balance them with the reasons for believing he was wrong (such as the conflicts with science I listed above) in order to give a fair assessment.

  2. 🙂 Who is giving out licenses? You? Also, please do not insult me on my own blog, it is considered rude in most cultures to come into someone’s home and insist that they change their views on a subject. I do not mind having a polite conversation, but I expect mutual respect as a general rule.

    “…you must balance them with the reasons for believing he was wrong (such as the conflicts with science I listed above) in order to give a fair assessment.”

    Wow. I must? How do you know what I’ve done and haven’t done? Unless you’ve somehow been in the back of my head for my entire life, you don’t have a clue as to my thought process and why I believe in the Faith. If one wishes to convince another person of the validity of their argument, one generally does not act in a condescending manner or act as if they are the teacher and the other is the ignorant student.

    I will not try to convince you of anything, simply because I feel that it is a complete waste of my time, and I have respect for people’s decisions about their beliefs. 🙂

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. Ignorance is not an excuse to believe whatever you want – but lack of evidence is? Note that is not the presence of evidence to the contrary. So in essence I read your view to mean, “My knowledge of your ignorance is reason for you to believe in my ignorance.”

    Clever, perhaps, and certainly sufficient to bemuse the simple. Sholeh does not strike me as simple.

    You must have a low estimation of her capacity, or a ridiculous view of your own. Either way your espousal of logic fails even the most basic of serious evaluations.

  4. This conversation seems to have become heated very quickly. I mean, when working on patience shows up, you know things are getting frustrating.

    I sincerely don’t think Salman meant to be offensive or suggest that anyone was ignorant. Nor did he mean to force his views on you. I also don’t think that anyone is insisting that anyone else change their views. I mean, for all we know, none of us are right! Am I right? Wait, don’t answer that…

    When Salman says that “you must balance [your reasons for belief] with the reasons for believing he was wrong,” what he means is not that you must, literally, do as he says; but rather, that it seems reasonable to do so. Would you not agree that it does indeed seem reasonable to weigh the good and bad evidence for some proposition when deciding whether it’s true? That seems harmless enough, no?

    In general, I think that when people say “you must do such-and-such” what they mean is “you ought to do such-and-such if you wish to preserve value x.” In this case, it seems to me that the value that we are trying to preserve is rationality, which as you know, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says God demands of us. For he says:

    If thou wishest the divine knowledge and recognition, purify thy heart from all beside God, be wholly attracted to the ideal, beloved One; search for and choose Him and apply thyself to rational and authoritative arguments. For arguments are a guide to the path and by this the heart will be turned unto the Sun of Truth.

    And again:

    Every subject presented to a thoughtful audience must be supported by rational proofs and logical arguments.

    So let us engage in a friendly discussion as friends! After all, even if the words come across as harsh, I seriously doubt any ill-intentions on anyone’s part here.

  5. Phreeow! The party’s moved over here now, has it? Well, how charming.

    Sholeh asked me to take a look. I think I have only one real comment! That’d be this:

    I haven’t yet seen a place where I’d characterize “friends having friendly discussions” in the same space where those friends drop by presentations being given by their friend and attempt to poke holes in them. That’s not friendly, but maybe I’m wrong in my assessment. What I saw here was not opened in the manner of friends having friendly discussion.

    Before you doubt or decide this was an open door to wide discussion of the topic, consider that this was two quotes posted to explain where someone is coming from, and the supposed “friendly” reply was to suggest that she declare a doubt of her Faith.

    Has anyone had good luck making or keeping friends that way in the past? (Note! This was a rhetorical question! Yes yes, I’m sure you can come up with one example somewhere in history that would affirm the positive response, but I’m using rhetoric here instead of simply saying “That strikes me as rude, and to pretend otherwise strikes me as duplicitous or completely out of touch with common courtesy as practiced in this hemisphere”, because rhetoric is more subtle, more gentle, and less… rude!)

  6. Wow. I was going to leave a comment on this about something my brother and I were discussing over Thanksgiving about quantum physics and God, and so on. But I think I’ll skip it for now.

    I have a kinda silly question though. Sholeh – where can one buy this book in the US? Either in English or Farsi? Sina’s been trying to find his “favorite” philosophy book for a long time, and I think it is this one (he didn’t know the title in English), but our local center doesn’t seem to have it in their library and I have no clue which website or whatnot to try. His mum and dad are in Haifa right now, actually, and they could probably find it there I guess (?), but we forgot to tell them before they left.

  7. I think Salman’s tone and, therefore, intention has been misinterpreted. Such are the vagaries of online communication.

    Paul, you seem to suggest Salman has mistakenly viewed Sholeh’s post as “…an an open door to wide discussion of the topic.” That’s not just taking issue with his supposed rudeness, but with the very act of sharing one’s thoughts on the topic raised by Sholeh. I doubt Sholeh would be opposed to an open and honest exchange, as evidenced by her response to Salman’s initial comment.

    Sholeh, do you mind if your blog hosts a sustained discussion about the Bahai position on the relationship between religion and science? It’s a very interesting topic, and I think it would be a rewarding experience.

  8. Wow, I must say, 😉 , that I am surprised by how people took my comment(s). I did not mean to be rude and I don’t doubt Sholeh’s capacity for intellectual discussion or reasoning. If I did, I probably wouldn’t bother posting on her blog.

    I made my comments because I assumed that blogs were places of discussion and the open expression of different views. If I am not allowed to ask questions or suggest new avenues of thought, or if that’s simply just considered rude in this forum, then I won’t comment anymore.

    I would like to say, however, that the issues I brought up are some that Baha’is really ought to think about (for their own sake) in light of the quotes from ‘Abdu’l-Baha that Mavaddat posted. Baha’is wish to teach their Faith to the multitudes, right? So isn’t it inevitable that they will grapple with these questions when philosophers and scientists ask them to explain these things? I ask that you look at my comments as a preparation for that, if you will. This just might be good practice for you to teach your Faith to a skeptical audience.

    Again, sorry if I offended anyone. But please, consider what I wrote for its philosophical merit. At no time do I claim or imply to know more than those to whom I am speaking. But I do think it’s fair to ask questions, and to be asked questions… to try to persuade, and to be open to being proven wrong or short-sighted.

    Warm regards,

  9. Thank you for your insights, Paul.

    I sincerely appreciate your exposing me to my duplicity and (indeed, both!) lack of familiarity with the standards of common courtesy. Let no one accuse me of irony: I am serious. I saw nothing rude in your criticism and accusation of me. For as the illustrious Socrates said to his dear friend Gorgias:

    I am one of those who would be glad to be refuted if I say anything untrue, and glad to refute anyone else who might speak untruly; but just as glad, mind you, to be refuted as to refute, since I regard the former as the greater benefit, in proportion as it is a greater benefit for oneself to be delivered from the greatest evil than to deliver some one else. For I consider that a man cannot suffer any evil so great as a false opinion on the subjects of our actual argument.

    To be honest, I think I was completely out of touch with the proper standards of courtesy, or else fooling myself, as you rightly suggested. On reflection, I think that I should acquire some gift to accurately judge people’s intentions in spite of themselves so that I would be less out of touch with common courtesy. But as Shakespeare said, I am a poor player.

    As it stands, my duplicitous analysis (for I was lying not only to you, but to myself) of Salman’s intent was resting solely on my five years of friendship and communication with him, and my equal years experience with academic writing, which I wrongly though had exposed me to the common standards of etiquette when presenting one’s ideas in the form of an argument.

    Anyway, I am somewhat embarrassed now. Although I know it benefits me to do so, it is still difficult for me to admit when I’m wrong. But I believe that is truly the most important part for me to do, since I hope to grow and contribute something worthy to this conversation.

  10. Suppose the following perspective was expressed at a fireside by a non-Bahai.

    The findings of modern astronomy conflict with Baha’u’llah’s contention that “…every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 162)

    Modern biology and chemistry teach us that organic life can emerge only within strict physical parameters. The only planet that we know of that harbors life in our solar system is the Earth. While scientists entertain the possibility that microbial life may exist or have existed on Mars and/or some of the Jovian moons, scientists would unanimously agree that the physical conditions on planets such as Mercury and Venus are inhospitable to organic life, at least as we experience it on Earth.

    It would seem to follow, then, that counterexamples such as Mercury and Venus falsify Baha’u’llah’s assertion.

    One may argue that there may be life forms that are profoundly different from the carbon based life we know of on Earth, and therefore there is a possibility of discovering organisms that can survive in the hellish environment of Mercury and Venus.

    This is a distinct possibility, but an unproven one, and in the eyes of many scientists, highly unlikely. However, it’s a possibility that science is open to provided that there is evidence for it.

    What circumstances would have to be the case for you to accept as conclusive evidence that Baha’u’llah’s contention is wrong? If a probe was sent to Mercury or Venus, and reported conclusively that there was no life, carbon-based or otherwise, how you respond to it? Would it impact your belief about Baha’u’llah’s divine nature?

    So yeah, suppose this was expressed during a fireside. How would you – or anyone – respond?

  11. Reza –

    Very interesting questions/hypothetical scenario. Here’s how I might respond:

    Immediately before Baha’u’llah’s aforementioned statement from Gleanings, he writes, “Thou hast, moreover, asked Me concerning the nature of the celestial spheres. To comprehend their nature, it would be necessary to inquire into the meaning of the allusions that have been made in the Books of old to the celestial spheres and the heavens”

    What were the “allusions in the Books of old to the celestial spheres and the heavens”? I can’t think of any concrete, useful, scientific information, but I do recall things like the “heavens being cleft asunder”, the “stars falling from the sky”, the “moon turning to blood”, etc. In the Kitab-i-Iqan, and other places, Baha’u’llah explains that these “allusions” are not to be understood in their outward meaning (as many do), but rather, that they have an inner significance.

    Thus, I think it is completely reasonable to allow for the possibility that Baha’u’llah is speaking in metaphor, that when he talks about “planets”, he is not referring to those big balls of rock and gas that float around in outer space.

    What do you all think?

  12. Philosophy (not the capital P to distinguish it from the normal philosophy we use every day) has devolved into argument. Its about the exploration of ideas and not actually coming to any conclusions.

  13. Dan,

    Thanks so much for your insightful response!

    The expression “celestial spheres” is associated with geocentric cosmologies that date back to Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy. I’m no expert on the history of astronomy, but my understanding is that this model posited that the stars and planets (planets were considered “wandering stars” and were not understood as we understand them today) rotated around the Earth in spheres. Aristotle, if memory serves, remarked that the movement of these spheres creates beautiful music. This is the origin of the expression, “music of the spheres.”

    Obviously this is an obsolete and antiquated cosmological model, superseded by the heliocentric model of Copernicus. Astronomy was a very important field in the Islamic world, and many philosophers and astronomers dedicated their lives to studying the heavens, building on the pre-Islamic astronomy of the Persians.

    I’m not sure if Copernicus’ heliocentric model was accepted or even known in 19th-century Persia, but I do know that astronomy was inextricably interwoven with astrology and esotericism in the Islamic world. I think this is what Baha’u’llah may have had in mind when he said, “Thou hast, moreover, asked Me concerning the nature of the celestial spheres. To comprehend their nature, it would be necessary to inquire into the meaning of the allusions that have been made in the Books of old to the celestial spheres and the heavens and to discover the character of their relationship to this physical world, and the influence which they exert upon it.”(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 162)

    Astrology is the purported study of the influence of the celestial objects on human affairs, and this is what Baha’u’llah seems to be referring to when he says “…to discover the character of their relationship to this physical world, and the influence which they exert upon it.”

    With regard to his mention of the “Books of old,” the capitalization of books suggests he may be referring to previous religious texts, or perhaps even some of the celebrated books of Islamic astrology-astronomy.

    He goes on to say, “The learned men, that have fixed at several thousand years the life of this earth, have failed, throughout the long period of their observation, to consider either the number or the age of the other planets. Consider, moreover, the manifold divergencies that have resulted from the theories propounded by these men.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 162)

    I don’t know if he’s addressing the observational/empirical difficulties that the Ptolemaic system posed, such as the stellar parallax, or something else.

    So it seems we’re left with two options: Baha’u’llah did actually mean planet as we understand the term today, which leaves him in a sticky position given the deliverances of modern science; or, he’s using the term within a completely different – and archaic – framework, focusing on its astrological and esoteric accretions.

    I think we’d have to leave this up to someone well-versed in Islamic scholarship and literary study. But if it is the latter, he refrains from actually explicating the allusions, admitting, “Every heart is filled with wonder at so bewildering a theme, and every mind is perplexed by its mystery. God, alone, can fathom its import.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 162)

    Baha’u’llah makes other strange references to pseudo-scientific disciplines of 19th-century Persia, such as alchemy: “Consider the doubts which they who have joined partners with God have instilled into the hearts of the people of this land. “Is it ever possible,” they ask, “for copper to be transmuted into gold?” Say, Yes, by my Lord, it is possible. Its secret, however, lieth hidden in Our Knowledge. We will reveal it unto whom We will. Whoso doubteth Our power, let him ask the Lord his God, that He may disclose unto him the secret, and assure him of its truth. That copper can be turned into gold is in itself sufficient proof that gold can, in like manner, be transmuted into copper, if they be of them that can apprehend this truth. Every mineral can be made to acquire the density, form, and substance of each and every other mineral. The knowledge thereof is with Us in the Hidden Book.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 197)

    If we are to understand this literally, then it’s not scientifically credible insofar as I understand basic chemistry. And I find it difficult to characterize this passage as figurative.

    But this leads to a very interesting issue: do we consider the sayings of a religious leader as figurative when they would be scientifically unsound, if taken at face value, as a way of avoiding the admission that they uttered a falsehood?

    Should we determine whether something is figurative by evaluating its scientific credibility? Is this what is meant by the harmony of science and religion?

  14. EZ,

    You seem to be using argument in the pejorative sense, to denote bickering and wrangling. I believe philosophy is the exploration AND assessment of ideas, through rational analysis and exchange, which would, ideally, conform to the best standards of discursive thought. Definitive conclusions are hard to come by, but that’s no reason to bow out of the struggle.

  15. Marcia: Please do no hesitate to make a comment whenever you wish! I love your contributions. This is what I found about “Divine Philosophy”:

    Online edition provided by Robert Stauffer, 1998, proofread by T. Lovejoy, formatted by J. Winters. Copies of this book are no longer available at the address given on the title page, nor has it been reprinted since the 1916 and 1918 printings.
    Eunice Braun, in Know Your Baha’i Literature (1968), writes: “In 1936 the Guardian wrote to the NSA not to make a new edition of this work because ‘this book has in large part been taken from notes recorded at the time but which do not constitute an authentic text of the Master’s word’s.'” (page 11) At the same time, the book concludes with the colophon “Approved by Bahai committee on publications.” William Collins, in his Bibliography of English-Language Works on the Babi and Baha’i Faiths, writes: “[this is] a collection of wisdom attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Sources are not indicated for most of the items and some of the quotations are questionable, thus lessening the value of this compilation. It does, nevertheless, give a sense of how early Western Baha’is were introduced to the teachings of their faith.” (p. 10)

  16. Reza wrote: “So it seems we’re left with two options: Baha’u’llah did actually mean planet as we understand the term today, which leaves him in a sticky position given the deliverances of modern science; or, he’s using the term within a completely different – and archaic – framework, focusing on its astrological and esoteric accretions.”

    There’s good reason from the following quote to believe that the former is the case:
    “Regarding the passage on p. 163 of the ‘Gleanings’; the creatures which Bahá’u’lláh states to be found in every planet cannot be considered to be necessarily similar or different from human beings on this earth. Bahá’u’lláh does not specifically state whether such creatures are like or unlike us. He simply refers to the fact that there are creatures in every planet. It remains for science to discover one day the exact nature of these creatures.”
    (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 9, 1937; cited in Lights of Guidance, p. 478)

    So according to the authoritative interpretation, the intent of Baha’u’llah was with regard to physical planets and creatures.

  17. In regards to people’s intentions, I really can’t judge. All I have to go from is what people say. I think it would be wise for the philosopher to be mindful of their audience. Mav, we’ve had this conversation before…about how not every person in the world is a philosopher, and cannot be expected to expound on a subject when it is demanded of them.

    I stand by Paul’s comment above. If one wishes to have a friendly discussion, especially about something like religion, one should be very careful how they approach it. I don’t think that most atheists appreciate being told they “are going to hell” (which I don’t believe), and most people of faith don’t appreciate the implication that they have not thought through their Faith.

    So general rule of thumb if you want to comment on my blog: be very, VERY respectful of people’s personal views. Everyone has different paths in life, and I will not have people feeling hurt or that they can’t believe what they wish, whether you are atheist, religious, or undecided.

    If a person does not feel like responding, they are not required to do so, and for those of you with a more philosophical/questioning bent, I ask you to be particularly respectful of this wish. The reason I say this is because I have noticed a habit amongst some to attack those who do not wish to engage in a discussion (for whatever reason), saying that they are avoiding the issue/are not intelligent/etc. Walking away from a discussion that one does not see as fruitful is perfectly acceptable.

    OK? Thanks, guys.

  18. Thanks for clarifying your perspective, Sholeh.

    I understand that you are not a philosopher and you should not be expected to expound on esoteric subjects at the drop of a hat. That is very reasonable. I don’t think anyone is expecting that.

    In fact, I would argue that we have more to learn from you than the opposite. After all, you expressed a knowledge about the nature of science and religion which delightful us all, for we want them to be true. We want to live in a world where science and religion are in harmony, but we have sunken to the state of cynics. But we do not enjoy our cynicism. We want to rid ourselves of it.

    To consider an analogy: If a person expresses some remarkable knowledge about the nature of medicine in relation to humanity (e.g., that common sea water is the best medicine for curing AIDS), would that not amaze you? Would you not then seek to know how that person arrived at their conclusion so that you too could spread this wonderful news? If so, then I hope you can sympathize with our situation.

    If you still question my motives and charge me with malice and having no interest but to stir up argument for its own sake (as Paul is so keen to impute to me), then I will bother you no more, but please to consider this last question:

    Do you not agree that, from a purely selfish standpoint, it would behove you to convince yourself of your own justifications by putting them to test? For your own sake? Or for the sake of spreading the Bahá’í Faith? Will it not help you to present your ideas in a persuasive way to others? I mean, even if you believe that we are all uninterested in the justifications you have, don’t you think there is any benefit to you and your religion to consider your reasons for belief? After all, we’re not really asking you to do anything very radical, but give arguments, right? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seems to demand the same of us:

    It is my hope that […] those who are seeking after truth will hearken therein to reasoned arguments and conclusive proofs.

    And again:

    In this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason.

    And lastly:

    Every subject presented to a thoughtful audience must be supported by rational proofs and logical arguments.

    Of course, you have the right to make assertions of a philosophical nature without also having to go through the philosophical reasons for those conclusions. Surely. But would you not then admit that you do not know why those conclusions are true? My question is sincere, I am not trying to insult you here in the least. There is nothing shameful in admitting that one has faith, for example. But faith and knowledge are two very different things.

  19. Sholeh,

    I appreciate your last comment for its clarity and honesty.

    A while back, you wrote a post about experiencing an intense feeling of existential discombobulation. I found the post really interesting, mostly because I’ve experienced that sensation as well, and so I was looking forward to discussing it with you.

    But before we could get a really good conversation going, one of your readers posted a quote from Abdul-Baha. Given the content of the quote, it was obvious the reader was suggesting that such thoughts and their expression were frowned upon by Abdul-Baha. The quotation, whose content did not at all express what the reader took it to mean, managed to quash any further discussion. It saddened me that someone could just terminate a potentially enjoyable conversation with the drop of a quote.

    In any event, I was wondering, if you don’t mind me asking, how do you face questions and queries, challenges and objections that non-Bahais pose to you when you discuss the Bahai Faith with them?

    Humble Dan, I hope your humility doesn’t keep you from sharing your thoughts on my response, and Salman’s response, regarding Baha’u’llah’s “planets” quotation.

  20. Ah! It took me a few moments to find the post you were talking about, Reza, since I don’t remember any conversation being quashed. Actually, it was a really good quote, and I didn’t feel that it terminated anything. If you had felt that way, you should have said something, since I am pretty sure that the person had no intention to stop the conversation. I took the quote to be encouraging, personally. 🙂

    Regarding your question about facing questions and challenges…I rarely get into such questions on the internet, especially with people I do not know. Mostly because a) people don’t hear my tone of voice or see me smile, which is a huge factor in conversation about these topics, and b) because I find that it is hard to convey such huge concepts in snippets of comments and IM conversations. People allow themselves to be so extremely rude on the internet because they can’t see the other person, they don’t HAVE to be polite. I prefer to have conversations in real life, sit down with a person and connect with them on a more human level. Written words can be misinterpreted, even with the addition of smiley faces, and it is so easy for people to be duplicitous. Sad facts, but true.

    For example, you’ve commented on my blog a number of times, but I don’t know anything about you, what you believe, your background…so I have a hard time relating to you or knowing how you prefer to converse. My reactions tend to be tempered by my experiences with a person. 🙂

    I hope I’ve answered your question.

  21. Mavaddat,

    Surely by know, after the many conversations we’ve had, you know the answers to many of the questions you are posing to me. I HAVE thought through my belief, and quite frankly I don’t need to explain anything to you, especially since I have a hard time believing your motives and intentions after many of the things you’ve said in writing about how you feel about the Baha’i Faith, faith in general, and some of your behavior in my forum and in interactions with other individuals. I respect that you have chosen your own path, but your subtle maneuvering is sadly misplaced in this venue.

    I don’t have any interest in trying to persuade people to believe one thing or another. People will believe what they wish. Teaching the Faith is not about “proving” something. I shouldn’t have to explain these things to you, since I know that you were once a strong Baha’i and are an intelligent person.

    But we do not enjoy our cynicism. We want to rid ourselves of it.

    Really? Well, I wish you good luck with that. I don’t know how to help you, I wish I could. 🙂 It seems like you actually enjoy being a cynical person, because you seem to spend an large chunk of your time dwelling on these issues, and not on solutions.

    I find it so interesting that you and Salman seem so concerned that Baha’is learn to question our belief (for the “sake of spreading the Bahá’í Faith” or whatever), that you seem to be on some sort of quest to educate Bahá’ís on how to think rationally…yet all you really seem interested in doing, when one looks further into your arguments, is poke holes in peoples’ arguments and show off your ability to throw in a “logical” argument. I am not accusing you of anything, I am just letting you know how you are coming across…and not just to me, but to many of the people reading these comments. 🙂

    I hope you take these comments as observations coming from a place of nothing but love and hope for your peace of mind. take care.

  22. My Dear Sholeh,

    What is with you and Paul? Honestly. Why are you two so intent on judging people’s intentions? Are you just returning the favour? I mean, is anyone judging your intentions? Why, then, do you insist on imputing malice to anyone (yes, anyone) who presents the least criticism of Bahá’í ideas? Does not Bahá’u’lláh admonish us thus?

    The tongue I have designed for the mention of Me, defile it not with detraction. If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others.

    And what about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?

    If some one commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them, and if you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the bearer.

    And yet, both you and Paul judge people and then proceed to preclude them from the conversation on that judgement. Why? Why can’t we discuss the matter at hand without imputing devilish intent to those who disagree?

    The Universal House of Justice encourages intellectual courage in conversation:

    Let Bahá’í scholars look upon their fellow Bahá’ís with trust and affection, not with disdain as to their qualifications and suspicion as to their motives.

    Why do we not deserve the same courtesy? If the doctrines of the Bahá’í Faith are true, won’t a closer examination of them only increase our confidence in their truth?

  23. I must apologize, Sholeh. For I’ve realized there is something profoundly arrogant about the approach with Salman, Reza and I have adopted on this thread.

    Without any invitation or encouragement, we have taken it upon ourselves to present you with what we see as tensions between the Bahá’í doctrines and modern science. But why? Were we justified in assuming you were interested in such tensions? Not in the least. On the contrary, the evidence seems to be entirely to the opposite conclusion.

    But wait. Am I judging your intentions here? I seem to be guilty of the very offense I asked you to eschew. So let me just ask you: Are you interested to know the reasons why it appears that the Bahá’í Faith is in conflict with modern science?

  24. Andrew, I think that is probably the most profound thing that anyone has said on this thread so far. Thank you, dear friend. 😀

  25. Haha. (profound cat statement).

    So is that book not available anywhere then? I wonder why it’s not still printed, but with some sort of major disclaimer, like NOT AUTHORITATIVE TEXT or whatnot. Like the Pilgrim’s Notes. Hmm.

  26. I am closing comments to this entry. It is unfortunate that some individuals have decided to make my personal blog a place to put forth their various agendas.

    Have a great day, everyone.

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