"If religions are radio stations..."

My family was Baha’i and my school was Catholic.

My mom meant well: the school had a great French program and we were enrolled to benefit from that, despite the religion.

Unfortunately it meant that religion was around every corner for me. I had no escape at school or at home. Worse, I wasn’t aware, or prepared, for the problem. You can’t see the forest from the trees.

It would be like telling a fish: “hey, does the water feel like it’s getting warmer to you?” And the fish replying: “what’s water?”

I resent being a child and having my head pumped full of this stuff.

Friends from school would ask me why I wasn’t doing the Eucharist or confession. It was against my religion. Wait you aren’t Catholic? What are you? Sooo awkward.

I’d have to sit on the bleachers by myself while the entire school lined up for communion. It was isolating.

Friends who visited would ask me who the old guy was on the mantle (Abdulbaha) or would ask “is that your grandpa?”

I’d do my best to explain, out of some sense of duty. But it was always awkward. Never satisfying. The faster those questions were over the better. I blamed myself for not being eloquent. If only I was older or more courageous, I could do a better job teaching the faith to my friends.

One day I had two buddies stay for a sleepover. The next day on the walk to school, they asked me something about my religion. I remembered the notion from children’s class that if I talk openly and with courage about the faith, that the Holy Spirit will flow through me and help me. And that as long as I use lots of writings, because it’s gods words not my own, that it WILL be well received by seekers. Guaranteed. You just had to have faith.

So, ten year old me went for it. I can totally convert my friends on this walk to school, if I just use lots of the word of god.

I opened right up, told them the best history of the faith I could muster, and included a few quotes and everything.

At the end of my spiel looked at them for their reaction and: they busted out laughing. I think they thought it was a prank. They laughed, not meaning to hurt my feelings, but because I think it was awkward to have their friend seriously rant about a strange religion with Arabic words peppered in.

It’s funny to me now, but it wasn’t then. It hurt me deeply, even though I didn’t show it. I had done everything I was told, why didn’t it work?

My friends were cool at least, they went easy on me and we stayed friends.

I do resent being tricked into that set of motivations as a child, to actually have cared so much at that young age.

I wish I could have just been a kid and had a non religious childhood.

When I moved out after high school, to have no religion was such a relief, it was like sunshine after a life of overcast weather.

I felt guilt and shame for not being an active Baha’i, but the relief and joy I felt out weighed the guilt.

The guilt didn’t go away until I found Reddit, found some talks and debates by atheists, and read the book by Richard Dawkins called “The Greatest Show on Earth: the evidence for evolution”. I was shocked at the time at the claim on the cover: “written by the best selling author of the god delusion”

God delusion. Wow. It felt like such a fuck you to religion I was surprised the book was legal.

That book simultaneously answered my questions about how life began, in a way that was light hearted, satisfying, intellectually honest and scientifically accurate.

I’d never heard such a cool tone used on topics of such great importance to me.

My experience with religions was always so serious, solemn and certain. To experience levity was absolutely refreshing.

Oh and the book eliminated the guilt and shame from my conscience, placed there by the Baha’i and Catholic upbringing. What a gift.

Sex, relationships, friendships, became more and more guilt free. What I felt became more based on my own morality of integrity, honesty and having fun. I was free to learn about myself and the world. It felt amazing.

My view now is that every religion is imprinted by the culture in which it originated. Flaws and all.

This fact lets you almost predict the flaws.

A religion founded 200 years ago in the Middle East? Well what were the flaws of the Middle East back then?

  • They weren’t exactly known for their fair treatment of women and gays.

  • There was a struggle with polygamy, a slow transition.

  • Lots of in fighting between religions and sects.

  • violence was a popular tool of the times

  • martyrdom was glorified

  • the style of writing was long prose with rambling, blow hard imagery

And now if you look at the Baha’i Faith, it checks all those boxes.

How could it not?

A religion and a culture must marry for it to take hold and spread by word of mouth. It cannot be so progressive as to completely alienate the norms. It must strike a balance.

That’s also it’s greatest flaw hundreds of years later.

The world advances eventually leaving every religion behind. Because their morality is written down, obsolescence is a matter of when, not if.

They’re stuck in time. You don’t have to be.

These religions and their followers look more ridiculous the more vocal they are, with each passing year.

Every time they contradict a modern moral value, they pay a social cost.

Witnessing it ranges from awkward to funny to sad.

Like us three boys walking across a park to school, with two thinking about boy things and the third wanting to explain who Bahaullah was and why everyone should care.

That was always a non starter. It’s hard enough to spell Bahaullah as a ten year old.

Years later I thank god, that she made me an atheist.

If religions are radio stations, then atheism is turning the radio off.

It’s the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard in my life.

"My psychosis was largely made up of religious delusions..."

I actually grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school and all. When I found that I couldn't be Catholic anymore because I simply didn't believe in it, I thought my life would be meaningless if I didn't glob onto another religion. The Baha'i Faith seemed like the antithesis of Catholicism: supposedly no clergy, no sexism, unity of all religions because everybody matters...

This is not to mention that I was in a particularly vulnerable state when I found the Baha'i Faith. I was eighteen, still a kid, and I had just been let out of a mental hospital because of a psychotic episode. And on top of that-- my psychosis was largely made up of religious delusions. I thought that there was a demon damned by God to live inside me, and I was totally coerced by that demon into doing things I shouldn't have done. More than that, the voices said that God was evil and a pedophile. I think I went searching for a religion mostly because I didn't want to believe these things were true.

And when I joined the Baha'is everything seemed hunky-dory. They were super nice to me, despite the fact that they were gaslighting me about the reality of the Baha'i Faiths homophobia, sexism, and that the assemblies were just clergy without the pomp and circumstance.

I may sound ignorant, or like I didn't research enough before diving in, but I honestly had no idea about the homophobia or sexism before declaring. It was a shock to me, especially when, on the outside, this religion seemed so progressive.

But what really got me to leave was realizing that I didn't have anything to be sorry about. My psychosis was just mixed up chemicals in my head. I have no need to reconcile my relationship with God, because there was no relationship with God. How can you have a relationship with someone who never speaks to you and only sends a messenger every thousand years or so?

But sometimes just God not being God is not enough reason to leave your community. Thankfully, the Baha'is-- not just Baha'u'llah's words-- gave me plenty of reasons to. They were constantly proselytizing, never actually doing any community service. They talked to me with affection but never knew me. They didn't even know about my illness, they had never met my family. If anything, that's enough reason not to trust them: who starts hanging out with an eighteen year old girl, and lets her declare her "faith", without knowing anything about her? It was all clearly just to bolster their numbers.

Anyway... I think I'm realizing that I'm on the right path and that my moral compass doesn't have to rely on any strange man from centuries ago.

"I was converted to the Baha'i Faith at the young age of 16..."

I was a convert to the Baha’i Faith at the young age of 16 and officially joined the religion in 2015. I fell in love with the idea of progressive revelation and very much used my belief in the Baha’i Faith to reconcile my struggle for identity as a mix race interfaith child.

I did not convert in the traditional sense. I had never met a Baha’i before when I did convert. Instead I converted after reading the writings of Baha’u’llah and convincing myself the religion was progressive and afforded equal treatment to all people. I saw it as the ideal religion and it wasn’t long until I contacted the local Baha’i community. Within a week of my conversion, I attended my first feast which I still mark as one of the happiest days of my life sadly. It made me feel like I was apart of a community of like minded people who wanted what was best for mankind. I loved it to say the least, and responded by becoming very active in the youth community.

I joined local ruhi groups and quickly became entrenched in the Baha’i community with a plethora of other activities. I made friends and met people who still stand as some of the nicest individuals I’ve ever met in my life. All while learning whatever I could to spread the faith and teach it to my non-Baha’i friends.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I went forward with these activities, I slowly became more and more programmed to embody a cult like mentality. Ideas like excommunication, heresy, homophobia, and sexism were at one time outlandish to me, but eventually became more and more normalized in my brain as I continuously turned to the faith as the monopoly of truth.

By early 2019, I was practically a stalwart for the Faith. I spent the majority of my time going to faith activities, began giving keynote speeches and being in teaching committees by the age of 20. I was doing things most Baha’i youth had no interest in and I truly believed I’d be Baha’i all my life...and it all started to change after I agreed to be a summer camp counselor for a Baha’i camp in Oregon.

Suddenly, I took a step out of my community and saw just how manipulative and corrupt bahai organizations could be. The safety of campers was thrown aside. Counselors were ignored or bullied for voicing criticism of how campers were treated. I found out about gay conversion therapy still being active in the faith and not condemned at all. It just got worse and worse until I left the event to immediately go to ISGP.

And ISGP was even worse. It treated learning in an almost covertly authoritarian way. The facilitators painted it as a Socratic seminar where we arrive out our own conclusions, but in reality we were forced to read nonsense for 12 hours in a classroom ever day for nearly two weeks. I was shamed by facilitators for using the restroom or trying to stretch and our breaks were never properly observed.

All of this sucked, but even then I just passed it all off as individual events being bad or blaming myself for it. What really was the last shred of my faith came in the form of a keynote speech I gave. It was about the state of the world and what we as humanity needed to do to fix it. The speech talked about climate change, corporate greed, and the need for a new societal structure to be built with violence if absolutely necessary.

The ATC surprisingly was okay with my speech for the bicentennial of the Bab originally. They were excited for me to give the speech, but at the very last minute I was told I had to scrap everything and start from scratch. They gave me less than 48 hours to make a new 15 minute speech and what I came up with was ineffectual garbage that was practically shoved down my throat.

This event really did it for me and made me start questioning the faith and the concept of a god a lot. A big thing going on in my head was why people had to live with depression for their entire lives and then be expected to meet the standards of a God when they are programmed to not be motivated to even do so.

I left the faith on December 9th of 2019 and haven’t looked back. I openly identify as a bisexual since leaving and work to help other Baha’is come to terms with the faith being a regressive cult cleverly wrapped as progressive and forward thinking.

"For a long time, even as a Baha'i, I felt a pull toward Buddhism..."

Like many Baha’is in America, I was a convert to the so-called faith. I had become disillusioned with my cradle religion of Protestant Christianity due mainly to my inability to reconcile a loving deity with an eternal, torturous Hell, so when I learned of a religion that didn’t believe in an eternal, torturous Hell, but rather a Hell that is temporary and symbolic for a state of being, I was almost immediately sold. I had learned of Baha’i in a college course and contacted the Baha’is of my hometown that summer. After three meetings with the Baha’is, I signed my card, a sign of formal conversion to the so-called faith.

Now my parents are very religious. My grandpa is a retired pastor and his religiosity was passed down to my mother who married my step-dad who is also deeply religious. All are Protestant. I’m also someone who suffers from mental illnesses, one of which is generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Because of my GAD and the fact that my parents are deeply Christian, I was anxious and didn’t want to immediately tell them about my conversion, so on the meeting with the Baha’is in which I signed my card, I asked them if I could, at least initially, keep my new faith a secret from my parents and they said that would be fine. This was the first lie told to me by the Baha’i community.

They immediately got me into Ruhi 1. In case anyone who may read this is unfamiliar, Ruhi is a series of books intended to teach the tenets of the Baha’i religion to those in the religion as well as those outside of it. Since there was no Ruhi 1 group going, it was just me and my teacher so we finished the book before I went back to school.

One thing the Baha’i faith claims to be is a community unlike any other, and when I went back to school and joined the Baha’is in that city, I felt this sense of community.

The next lie I was told by the Baha’is is that the religion has no rituals. This was, to me, not the biggest of lies at the time, but looking back it is a big deal as there are very important rituals in the Baha’i religion and to say there are no rituals is a bold faced lie meant to bring in as many followers as possible. I’ll give two examples of rituals in the so-called faith. First is ritual prayer. Every day the Baha’is do their obligatory prayer. There are three prayers to choose from, each of which has a certain time of day it’s performed at and has certain actions associated with it such as facing East toward the shrine of the founder of Baha’i named Baha’u’llah and washing of hands before or during the prayer. The other ritual I will mention takes place on the holy day of Baha’u’llah’s ascension. On that holiday, a medley of Baha’i scriptures is read at a certain time by a designated person while the congregation faces East toward Baha’u’llah’s shrine.

I mention this second ritual in particular as on my first time attending this holiday I was chosen to read this medley of scriptures which is referred to as the Tablet of Visitation. I enjoyed the reading at the time and it was definitely a spiritual experience for me, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was, in fact, a ritual in a religious community that claimed to have no rituals.

Around this time the first lie started to come to fruition. The community in my college town started really pushing me to tell my parents about my new faith. I felt highly uncomfortable with this due to my severe (and at this time untreated) anxiety as well as the fact that the Baha’is in my hometown had said to me that I didn’t have to tell my parents yet.

The third lie I was told by Baha’is is that they believe in absolute gender equality. This is easy to debunk, however, as only men are allowed in the religion’s highest office known as the Universal House of Justice. Supposedly, as per Baha’u’llah’s son Abdul Baha, the reason only men are allowed in the House will soon become as obvious as the noon day sun, but this seems like a cop out answer to myself and others.

I pondered these lies a lot, but I was willing and able to push them to the back of my mind in order to maintain my faith. That is, until I watched a fellow Baha’i lie to the face of a seeker who had come to our regular Sunday gathering called devotion. He told this seeker that the Baha’i world is totally unified. That Baha’i has only one sect and that no matter where you go in the world, if you go to the local Baha’i center, you will know that they are part of the same organization as any other Baha’i. This is a very important “fact” to Baha’is as one major tenet of the religion is unity: unity of God, humankind, and religion. But it’s a lie, and I already knew it was a lie, but hearing a Baha’i lie to someone else who was seeking affected me differently for some reason.

I wanted to tell the seeker it was a lie. I wanted to tell him that we were part of the Haifan Baha’i organization centered in Haifa, Israel which comprises the majority of Baha’is, but that there were also other sects such as the Unitarian Baha’is, Free Baha’is, Reform Baha’is, Orthodox Baha’is, the Baha’is Under Provisions of the Covenant, and others, but I didn’t.

And then there’s the issue of my sexuality. The Baha’i religion defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but I am gay. Not only this, but Shoghi Effendi, called the Guardian and leader of the so-called faith after the death of Abdul Baha, stated that homosexuality was akin to an illness that can be cured. This is certainly not the case. I’ll be honest, I tried to change my sexuality before I accepted myself for who I am but I couldn’t, not before I was a Baha’i and not after I declared. This just goes to show the errancy of conferred infallibility, the doctrine that Baha’u’llah and all the succeeding leaders of the religion (currently being the House) are infallible.

All these things compounded to push me further and further from the faith.

Then my mental health took a turn for the worse. Not only did my anxiety spike to levels exceeding severe, but I started having psychotic episodes and would ultimately be diagnosed with schizophrenia. I made the decision to drop out of college and move back home. This was about two and a half years after I declared. For a religion that prides itself on the community aspect, there was no fanfare when I left, no going away party or the like, and no calls or texts to check up on me after I left. I felt abandoned. It began seeming to me that the community aspect of the religion really only served to keep people in the borg.

I chose not to contact the Baha’is of my home town.

About a year later I formally revoked my membership in the Baha’i religion. I wrote to the LSA and they struck me from Baha’i membership. I had said that no one called or texted me to check up or just say hi after I left, but I guess I lied as, a day or two after my deconversion was formalized, I received a call checking in on me. They didn’t mention the revocation of my membership, but I know that’s why they called. And that confirmed my suspicion that the efforts to create a tight knit community only serve to keep people in.

Two years after I formally revoked my membership and I’m doing great. Through all of it, I ended up no longer believing in an all powerful deity. I guess I just can’t reconcile that against the suffering of the world.

For a long time, even as a Baha’i, I felt a pull toward Buddhism. Since Buddhism denies the existence of an all powerful creator I felt the need to look into it after coming to disbelieve in God.

To keep it short since the main purpose of this testimonial is to chronicle my exiting the Baha’i religion, I will just say that I came to believe in some of the basic tenets of Buddhism such as anatman and rebirth, but I felt incapable of moving toward enlightenment on my own, so in my search for a particular sect of Buddhism to join, I settled on Jodo Shinshu Buddhism which teaches that true entrusting in Amida Buddha is the cause for enlightenment. True entrusting comes from Amida Buddha himself and therefor I need not do any difficult practices to realize enlightenment. Rather, I simply say Namu Amida Butsu (I take refuge in Amida Buddha) and am saved by the Buddha to achieve enlightenment upon death.