Monthly Archives: June 2009

Newsweek again: Let’s Talk about God editorial

Hi Lisa!

Hi Lisa!


So I received my latest issue of Newsweek–June 8th–today in the mail. The Take, a regular editorial by Lisa Miller Newsweek’s religion editor, featured a book with an interesting title, “The Evolution of God” by Robert Wright.

Miller’s article was well-written, and I’m dying to read Wright’s book when it’s released next week. Wright’s book has a premise–that the idea of God has evolved through history–that resonates strongly with me and correlates closely with a Baha’i perspective.

However, reading the user comments was an eye opener. A lot of really angry people. Of course, I had to put in my $.02:
Debate

“Posted By: alyosha19 @ 06/04/2009 12:00:29 AM
It’s interesting how many of the themes discussed on the comments seem to cover similar refrains: that traditional, organized religion has caused many problems in the world and that atheists seem flabbergasted at why people believe in religion at all.

To the first point, I agree. Religious leaders can be very intolerant and have caused many unspeakable, horrible and criminal things to happen. If a religion’s efforts is not uniting people and bringing them together, then it’s not doing it’s job. A wise Persian man, Abdu’l-Baha, put it more eloquently: “Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act.”

To the second point, I would like to offer some advice to those people who don’t believe in God and are proud of it: you kind of come across as insulting and unlikeable. I totally understand your grievances and I’m with you most of the way, but if you want to enlighten people with your reason–and you make great points–then can you at least try to win us over with some honey? Say something nice occasionally. That’s smart marketing.

Lastly, I noticed on the comments a lot of misunderstandings about religion, namely that religion is frozen in the past, observing literal interpretations of the Old Testament, etc. Yes, some practitioners do this–and they are wrong. Actually most people’s understanding about the psychology of relgion is wrong. Closer scrutiny of newer religious traditions–namely, the Baha’i Faith–may bring you a different insight:

–That science and religion are in harmony. Scientific discoveries expand our consciousness and propel humanity forward; (true) religion–aiming to promote the betterment of all humanity (e.g. medical breakthroughs)–keeps science grounded so that it doesn’t veer off into materialism or other bad things (e.g. eugenics).

–That the most important action you can do is to independently investigate the truth yourself. So don’t be a Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, etc. just because your parents, teachers, favorite bloggers tell you to. Do your homework–and no copying!

–That there is only ONE religion in the world, with many different chapters that you have heard of: Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc. Religion is not static–it evolves, just as humanity’s collective consciousness does, and this is what Robert Wright alludes to in his book, The Evolution of God.

Yes, I’m a Baha’i. I try not to push people–that’s not cool. But since hardly anyone knows about my beliefs–and since it is relevant to the discourse of society–I want to share some basics it so that people have a wider array of choices before coming to any conclusions about religion.”

This blog cannot stop reading the mainstream press–when will it ever learn?

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Dear Newsweek magazine: Everything You Think You Know about Iran is Incomplete

Mr. Sourpuss

Mr. Sourpuss


On the cover of the latest issue of Newsweek magazine, I was faced with a sullen Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the provocative title, “Everything You Think You Know About Iran is Wrong.” Excited to think that I might discover something new about Iran in this issue, my excitement diminished after reading the same old story again: that the Iranian people are good but misunderstood; that the government is bad, but not as bad as you think, and no, it’s not a dictatoship. This might seem familiar if you followed this blogs’s reporting about Roger Cohen’s articles in the New York times earlier in the year.

So I decided to make a comment to Fareed Zakaria’s article:

“Posted By: alyosha19 @ 06/03/2009 1:54:12 AM

Newsweek should rename this article, ‘Everything You Think You Know About Iran is Incomplete.’ Especially given the fact that the most underreported large story in the West about Iran is the ongoing, unforgiving repression of the Baha’i community there.

Journalist Roxana Saberi may have drawn a lot of attention when she was recently freed in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after a 3 month stay, however some 30 Baha’is remain incarcerated there for over a year, under false pretenses, with no due process and no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Currently the imprisoned 7 member Baha’i leadership in Iran may be facing the death penalty soon, for the crime of simply being Baha’i. Perhaps because these Baha’is were neither American nor journalists is one reason why the Western media avoided covering this story widely.

However the facts behind why the Baha’is are being imprisoned are very important for Westerners to understand — the community’s mere presence in Iran (the largest religious minority, with over 300,000 members, much larger than the Christian and Jewish populations) can be perceived as a threat to the Iranian status quo.

So what do Baha’is believe in that is so threatening to the Iranian leadership?

–the Baha’i Faith believes in the unity of all the world’s major religions as one common faith from God, from Judaism and Hinduism up through Islam and beyond.

–Baha’is reject any clergy and they participate in an elected, spiritual democracy that shuns any form of campaigning or electioneering.

–Baha’is also believe in world peace, the equality of women and men, the harmony of science and religion, the independent investigation of truth, among some of the more famous principles.

–To boot, Baha’is also are to remain obedient to their government, no matter how bad, how corrupt, and even if they throw them in prison. Nice guys seem to finish last.

All of the above principles seemingly conflict with current designs of the Iranian government. And these principles are very appealing to a disillusioned Iranian public–which in turn has led to the severe crackdown on the practice of the Baha’i Faith in Iran.

To imagine that these principles originated in Iran in the mid-19th century, well before they were accepted in the West, may be surprising to Westerners, who may view the Middle East as “backwards” or not progressive. It’s also interesting to note how in the current reporting about all the posturing and threats of war between the East and West, that the Baha’i message–which could arguably illumine the discussion between the two sides–is being silenced amidst the noise.”

If you would have written a better reply, this blog would be grateful to hear about it!

Freed journalist Roxana Saberi mentions meeting Baha’is while in Evin Prison, Tehran

From our friend, On the Chopping Blog:

Part 1:

Part 2: