Bahá’í Calendar Redux

The Bahá’í Calendar, arguably the least lunar calendar there is, has recently been given a lunar calculation of its own. Because the founders of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions were reported to have been born a day apart on the Islamic calendar (though two years apart), the Bahá’í leaders in Israel figured it would be nice to make this happen on their calendar. To do this, they marked the 8th new moon after No-Rúz in Tehran as the one most likely to be close to the time of year when the two prophets were born, and then had one prophet’s birth commemorated on the first day after that new moon and the other prophet’s birth commemorated on the day after that.

The commemorations will no longer occur on the actual dates of birth on the solar cycle (October 20 and November 12) or even the Islamic calendar, but rather, they will take place on different dates from year to year, as is done with Easter and Good Friday.

Calendars are an important tool for scheduling our activities. A farmer might use a solar calendar to plan a harvest. A Bedouin might use a lunar calendar to plan a journey across the desert. Many calendars are a hybrid between solar and lunar so that they can be used in accord with seasonal and lunar cycles. The Gregorian calendar, for instance, is precisely calculated to remain synchronized with the seasons. It is not so precise with respect to lunar cycles, each of its months being about a day too long to keep pace with the phases of the moon. Still, a Gregorian month can be used to loosely approximate a lunar month.

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Our Daily Bread: Of Sheep and Men

When I left my religion of birth, the Bahá’í Faith, it was due to one characteristic of that religion more than anything else: its contempt for humanity.

We previously discussed the authoritarian character of the Bahá’í Faith. We revealed the fact that the Bahá’í religion bases human virtue solely upon recognition of Bahá’u’lláh’s divine authority and obedience to him. What we didn’t mention is the poor opinion of men that underlay this authoritarianism:

Regard men as a flock of sheep that need a shepherd for their protection. This, verily, is the truth, the certain truth.

—Bahá’u’lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas

This view is expressed in more than one place by Bahá’u’lláh:

Men at all times and under all conditions stand in need of one to exhort them, guide them and to instruct and teach them.

—Bahá’u’lláh, Lawh-i-Maqsud

I once held a very dim opinion of Christians for regarding men as sinners, and I still disagree with the view, but I now understand that Christian view leaves room for transcendence. I cannot say the same for the Bahá’í view of man. To Bahá’u’lláh, men are lower than sinners: they are blind, ignorant, utterly helpless, and, for the most part, unable to act virtuously except when threatened. Even the most submissive, deterministic views of Muslims seem to give humanity more credit.

Men are seen as so low, in fact, that they cannot even understand their own scriptures:

Man is unable to comprehend that which hath streamed forth from the Pen of Glory and is recorded in His heavenly Books.

—Bahá’u’lláh, Lawh-i-Maqsud

Thus the Bahá’í doctrine of the Covenant, which guarantees the sheep that they will never be left without a shepherd. This “Covenant”, Bahá’ís boast, is what makes the Bahá’í Faith special, and I agree; only I see it as a sign of what is most wrong with the Bahá’í Faith: its distinctive contempt for humanity.

Our Daily Bread: The Twin Duties

Any given religion can mean a variety of things to its adherents. The religion I was raised in, the Bahá’í Faith, is no exception to that rule of thumb, though that changed substantially with the long-overdue publication of Bahá’u’lláh’s “Most Holy Book” in 1993, five years after I had left the Bahá’í Faith. The book provides a definitive, unambiguous “mission statement” for the Bahá’í religion that runs counter to the pluralistic vision that some Bahá’ís had embraced previously.

The statement begins by declaring that the author is the sole representative of God in the universe and that men are duty-bound to recognize him as such:

The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation.

Bahá’u’lláh then goes on to state that those who recognize his exclusive divine authority are the good guys, and everyone else, however virtuous, is lost. Authority trumps morality.

Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed.

However, he adds this critical afterthought: believers, though they have “attained unto all good,” must also be absolutely obedient.

It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other.

Note that there are no concessions made to virtue per se. The only virtues recognized by Bahá’u’lláh are recognition of him and obedience to him.