“The Gates” by Cristo in New York’s Central Park

Baha’ullah, like many religious leaders claimed to be infallible. What he meant by this is subject to debate but most people believe it means he could not make mistakes. Sen McGill, noted Baha’i scholar, wrote this about infallibility in an email to me:

“When a man has new ideas, you have to follow him when he defines his own terms. What did “evolution” mean before Darwin got hold of it?”

I told him that I struggle to understand what is new in Baha’i re: infallibility. The Christ of the gospels said something similar — “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father save through me” or words to that effect. And of course the Catholic church has had infallible Popes guiding their religion for centuries.

Darwin spent his life collecting, synthesizing, and explaining evolution which is based on evidence. Baha’ullah’s concept of infallibility uses a well known word to express something which Sen claims is quite different from the accepted definition. The notion of infallibility has been used for centuries to control people. If Bahai has a new concept of infallibility it once again got lost in translation.

In the same email discussion, Sen wrote this:

“Prophecy, in the biblical and Baha’i sense, is not about predicting
the future, but about pronouncing the will and judgment of God. A
really successful prophet is a failure at forecasting, because he
warns people where they are heading and gets them to change their
ways, in time.”

I wrote:

Sorry but I disagree. Prophecy is about many things. Predicting when the return will occur, when the next manifestation will show up, when the Most Great Peace will happen. Sometimes its a warning as in the old testament, sometimes its about predicting the future. The calamity that Bahaullah predicted is certainly of the kind you refer to. But this has given the Faith a cult like ethos when Bahaullah intended no such thing.

In the Iqan (The Book of Certitude) Baha’ullah writes at length about the return of the prophet and the return of the people who renounce him. He tells us to ponder why this keeps occurring. I have done so and have concluded that the religions of the Abraham and his successors while an important part of our history are inherently flawed. The once a millennium appearance of a messenger from God who speaks in metaphor and congers up beings that don’t exist and miracles that never happened leaves us to fend for ourselves while trying to find answers in scripture when we should be working out solutions for ourselves.

Scripture is no more true than poetry and poetry is often quite true. But with poetry we need to pick out the good and true from the bad and false. With scripture we are told its all true and then we spend our energies trying to see how that can possibly be.

Religion is often calcified truth. What we need now (and always needed I think) is the ability to draw on all available sources of inspiration, love and power to help us solve problems in the here and now.

Religion is one of those sources but heaven help you if its your only one!