Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Baha'i Faith and Interreligious Dialogue

The corresponding video can be found at:

4/27/2011 11:44 am (et) Michael Turner: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:44 am (et).
4/27/2011 11:45 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:45 am (et).
4/27/2011 11:46 am (et) bobzane: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:46 am (et).
4/27/2011 11:50 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:50 am (et).
4/27/2011 11:55 am (et) bking: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:55 am (et).
4/27/2011 11:56 am (et) Tiffany: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:56 am (et).
4/27/2011 11:57 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 11:57 am (et).
4/27/2011 12:00 pm (et) batya.steinlauf: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 12:00 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
4/27/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is “The Baha’i Faith and Interreligious Dialogue” with Michael Turner of the Baha’i faith and member of IFC’s board offering a reflection and standing by. For further background on the Baha’i faith you can visit
4/27/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from “soapboxing.” If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
4/27/2011 12:01 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it led to some issues.
4/27/2011 12:02 pm (et) MikeNelson: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 12:02 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:07 pm (et) Williams: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 12:07 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:07 pm (et) Aaron: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 12:07 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:09 pm (et) Moderator: Williams said: Are there still Bahai communities in Iran?
4/27/2011 12:10 pm (et) boobzane: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 12:10 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:10 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson said: Is the garden and the island in the Tigris a shrine today?
4/27/2011 12:11 pm (et) Michael Turner: Yes but they are under a lot of restrictions now. They are not allowed to organize as such and the informal coordinating group, formed with the knowledge and tacit permission of the government, was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
4/27/2011 12:12 pm (et) Michael Turner: The island, I believe, is still there, but the Baha'i Faith is not allowed to own property in Iraq, despite a League of nations ruling in the 1920's.
4/27/2011 12:12 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: How do Bahais pray and worship?
4/27/2011 12:12 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson said: How many American Bahais maintain membership in another church or religious institution?
4/27/2011 12:13 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Is it possible to remain in both?
4/27/2011 12:13 pm (et) Michael Turner: We have no clergy. We meet for public devotions with readings from scripture, or worship privately, praying and meditating.
4/27/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson said: How many Bahais are there in the US and worldwide? Where are they concentrated?
4/27/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson said: Are the Bahais active in their communities? If so, is there a focus? (e.g. Catholics run schools)
4/27/2011 12:16 pm (et) Michael Turner: At this time we no longer affiliate with other religious bodies as we do not think of our selves as being Muslim Baha'is, Christian Baha'is, and the like. we are Baha'is (which means followers of the Glory) and we recognize the validity and power of the other
revelations sent down by God to humanity.

4/27/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson said: So Baha'is are not allowed to belong to other faiths, too?
4/27/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson said: Were they in the past?
4/27/2011 12:17 pm (et) Michael Turner: Depending on who you ask, between 5 and 7 million. The Encyclopedia Brittanica gives a higher number than the Baha'is do.
4/27/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: bking said: Are Baha'i communities actively involved in social justice issues?
4/27/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Most other communities make some type of exclusivist claim, i.e. in the Christian faith what Jesus does is unique and final, how do you reconcile such beliefs?
4/27/2011 12:19 pm (et) Michael Turner: At the very beginning, there was not an effort made at separation, but eventually it was recognized that we were allowing historical barriers to divide us from people of different belief systems.
4/27/2011 12:21 pm (et) Michael Turner: We believe that the Revelation at the center of each major religion was sent down by the same God. That there are many similarities is well known; the differences are do to the different requirements of the time and culture in which a Revelation was introduced.
4/27/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What are the similarities you see among the religions?
4/27/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What significance do the difference have if they are accidents of time/place?
4/27/2011 12:23 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs off on 4/27/2011 12:23 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:24 pm (et) Michael Turner: All religions tend to the same restrictions on personal behavior. All religions advocate prayer and reflection. All religions make efforts to unite a particular community of people.
4/27/2011 12:25 pm (et) Michael Turner: The differences between religions can be seen as part of the the great diversity of humanity. Because we have different understandings of the Divine or the nature of reality, we can, if we choose, learn from each other.
4/27/2011 12:27 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I am not quite sure how to put it, but if the differences are all manifestations of the Divine, then are any wrong? If so, how can we tell? What do we appeal to?
4/27/2011 12:27 pm (et) Michael Turner: If you remember the story of the Blind men and the Elephant, it is apparent that God, or Heaven, is too great to be summarized or understood by any religion
4/27/2011 12:29 pm (et) Michael Turner: Someone once asked Baha'u'llah to name the best religious system. Baha'u'llah answered, 'Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberation on its exigencies and requirements.
4/27/2011 12:30 pm (et) Michael Turner: For Baha'u'llah, I think, the name of the religion was not so important as what you did in response to that connection with the Holy Spirit.
4/27/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I guess this gets back to some earlier questions, but Baha'is would be very active in social justice?
4/27/2011 12:31 pm (et) Moderator: Williams said: What is the core ethical teaching of the Baha'u'llah? Meaning, what is the way one is to act on that
4/27/2011 12:31 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: So, by what standards do you measure the work of the Holy Spirit?
4/27/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: If I dig into Christian faith it would be the fruits of the Spirit, such as charity and love, would it be similar to the Baha'i tradition/.
4/27/2011 12:32 pm (et) Michael Turner: Yes and no. We have strong feelings, but at the same tim, have to avoid getting involved with politics. Too often various causes involving social justice are associated with one political faction or another.
4/27/2011 12:34 pm (et) Moderator: boobzane: Since the Baha'i Faith is head quartered in Israel what is the Baha'i position on the Palestinian situation
4/27/2011 12:35 pm (et) Michael Turner: There is only one God, there is only one human race, and there is only one religion. Human beings have tried to describe the different names for God as belonging to different entities, tried to divide humanity into different races, and persisted in thinking of religions as plural, according to their labels that humans have applied to them.
4/27/2011 12:36 pm (et) Michael Turner: Charity and love as demonstrated in Christianity, and most especially by the actions of Jesus are certainly praised honored and regarded as examples to follow.
4/27/2011 12:36 pm (et) interfaith1017: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/27/2011 12:36 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: If politics is not the way to go about uniting people, how do you suggest carrying out this mission?
4/27/2011 12:38 pm (et) Michael Turner: The Baha'is have been in the Holy land since the times of the Ottoman Empire. We believe that the solution of that tragic situation depends on both sides recognizing each other as human, as relatives, and both sides coming to believe that Justice will prevail.
4/27/2011 12:39 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: How can we convince people of that?
4/27/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: Your vision of a peaceful Middle East is beautiful. I wonder how this gets carried out. How do you envision this happening in practical terms?
4/27/2011 12:40 pm (et) Michael Turner: We work on people's mindsets. We see humanity as one family, and that diversity is a blessing and to be treasured. We are encouraging others, in part by example, since Baha'is are among the most diverse groups of people on the planet, by cultural
background, language, etc.

4/27/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: So, the Bahais are involved in specific peacemaking efforts to change people's mindsets?
4/27/2011 12:42 pm (et) Michael Turner: At the Baha'i gardens in Israel, on Mt. Carmel, people of many faiths are employed as gardeners, caretakers, technicians etc. All of them learn to work with each other, to respect each other.
4/27/2011 12:43 pm (et) Michael Turner: We are active at the United Nations, working to improve the status of Women around the world. to improve education.
4/27/2011 12:44 pm (et) Michael Turner: We send people to different countries to act as bridges between groups that sometimes are separated by suspicion or just fear of the different.
4/27/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What about traditions who are against such initiatives? We are talking about social justice movements, but it is clear that some religions go about making the world better in different ways? How do we get them to work together?
4/27/2011 12:44 pm (et) Michael Turner: I lived in China for 6 years. I was there to teach and to learn.
4/27/2011 12:46 pm (et) Michael Turner: The basic need is for the different religious groups to decide that the world does not need competition between religions, but it does need the religions working together to accomplish important goals that are seen as important by these diverse communities.
4/27/2011 12:47 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: Do you find yourself a lonely voice among the religious community in helping to improve the status of women?
4/27/2011 12:48 pm (et) Michael Turner: Universal education, is now being seen, even by groups that had not stressed that value in the past as being necessary for the world to move in a positive direction.
4/27/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: What unique role, if any, does religion have in uniting the world?
4/27/2011 12:49 pm (et) Michael Turner: Any of the greater religious communities you can name have significant groups within that now see the realization of the equality of Women and Men as being crucial to the material as well as spiritual development of any community.
4/27/2011 12:51 pm (et) Michael Turner: Religion must define all humanity as being part of a common community, with shared interests and shared obligations towards each other. Religion is a social force that could do this in a way that no political or philosophical movement could.
4/27/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What do you find in religion that is so unique?
4/27/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do humanists fit into this view?
4/27/2011 12:53 pm (et) Michael Turner: The chief question is: Who is my neighbor? That is a question that religion can answer in a positive way, rather than exclusively.
4/27/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But so often religions don't answer in a positive tone/ What drives this misconception if it such?
4/27/2011 12:55 pm (et) Williams: private message to Moderator: logs off on 4/27/2011 12:55 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:55 pm (et) Michael Turner: I think that there are people who have values that are sometimes described as humanistic, but they are not that different from values associated with religion.
4/27/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: Ok, so we are coming to the end of our time today. Mr. Turner will answer the remaining questions and then we will wrap up
4/27/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: boobzane said: Is believing in God a requirement to world unity
4/27/2011 12:57 pm (et) Michael Turner: Religions sometimes, historically, have become manipulators of power. Religions need to put aside such 'trappings' and focus on core values and messages. Religion can reach hearts and feelings in a unique way, unless we use religion to define difference rather than to understand unity.
4/27/2011 12:59 pm (et) Michael Turner: Believing in Justice? In China I talked to Atheists who believed in Justice but not God. I think that Justice, or Love, are just different names for something that is byond definition.
4/27/2011 12:59 pm (et) Aaron: private message to Moderator: logs off on 4/27/2011 12:59 pm (et).
4/27/2011 12:59 pm (et) Michael Turner: OK. Can people who have questions send them
to me at

4/27/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Tiffany said: I hope we can both value and respect difference as well as envision a unity that ultimately transcends.
4/27/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. If you would like to reach our speaker, please contact him at We hope to see you back here next week, REMEMBER, we are moving to Fridays from 12 noon-1 PM EST. Next week, we will hear from Gerald Krell, maker of “The Asian and Abrahamic Religions: A Divine Encounter in America.” Stay tuned for the schedule for the next few months which will be posted on IFC’s website ( by the end of the week!
4/27/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Also, this is a new effort on our part so we welcome your feedback! Any comments will be helpful. If you have any suggestion please feel free to email me at
4/27/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: If you are interested in finding out more about our organization please feel free to browse our website: and sign up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter by emailing me, again the address is