I was a seeker of religion from the time I was 12 years old when upon taking communion for the first time at a Methodist church. At that point while I was kneeling I gazed at a stained-glass figure of Christ. Just as I took the wafer and grape juice, I heard a voice that said “I am not in the Church.“
Although I didn’t search actively for an alternative to Christianity at that time, I was aware that there were many issues within what I had witnessed within a small Southern church, so I began to I visit different services and even wanted to attend a Jewish synagogue!
Later, as a teenager within a household that had long been headed toward divorce, I retreated to the local library and read books on religion, witchcraft, astrology and other metaphysical subjects.
Then in the summer of 1973, I heard the soaringly beautiful music of Seals and Crofts. After buying a couple of albums, I realized that their music included lyrics taken from the Baha’i writings. I rushed back to the library to search for Baha’i.
It wasn’t long until I found some very old copies of Baha’i books including This Earth One Country by JB Esslemont, and other books including one titled the Baha’i World Faith. These books are no longer in print, but at the time, helped to satisfy an 18-year-old’s curiosity about the basis of Baha’i teachings.
Within a few months of reading on my own, I called the local Baha’i Center and attended my first meeting with a friend. I was very nervous and scared because I thought perhaps it was a Middle Eastern cult, and that I might see people smoking water pipes or doing other strange things.
However, everything I heard and experienced seemed to fit my every need at the time and I signed a declaration card on August 26, 1973. Since my parents were in the middle of a divorce they simply didn’t have time or the emotional energy to try to talk to me about what I had done, and I went on my merry way hanging out almost exclusively with other young Baha’is, teaching the Baha’i faith on the college campus and spending almost my every waking moment either reading, studying, praying or listening to the music of Seals and Crofts.
I began to date a talented Baha’i musician who it turned out was the nephew of the producer of Seals and Crofts. We married two years later, almost immediately had a child, and also homefront pioneered to a nearby town. Suffice it to say that although the local community where I declared had been a warm and welcoming cocoon to heal after my parents heated divorce, subsequent years with Baha’is and the larger Baha’i community became more and more disillusioning,
My disappointment was especially strong in 1982, when the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States disbanded the local assembly where I had declared. I felt that the individuals within that Assembly had been unjustly wronged, saw their families practically destroyed, as well as that they were never the same.
This began a couple of decades of trying to right the wrongs that I had seen in that previous community, as well as for me to become the “best Baha’i” I could be, serving on local assemblies, coordinating teaching efforts, co-sponsoring a performing arts youth workshop, and many other activities.
Yet in my heart I knew that something was rotten at the core of the Baha’i faith. I saw it becoming more and more political, more emphasis placed on wealth and power, as well as a vast difference in the approach of the national administration in the 80s 90s and 2000s as compared to the 1970s. I begin to withdraw more and more especially around 2000 and finally in 2008 was accosted by a couple of individuals who suddenly visited my home came from the community where I had declared.
I was in total shock at the revelation from these people from that Assembly. They had never asked to meet with me in over 20 years time, and yet declared that there had been “problems” with me for years - that individual Baha’is and even other institutions had asked that Assembly to place sanctions on my behaviors.
There were so many parts of this final blow to my belief that were wrong on so many levels, but the biggest flaw was the fact that an assembly had decided to hold onto so-called wrongs for decades before having any connection with me either in writing or in person with a Baha’i who was supposedly “causing problems.”
It took me almost a decade to officially withdraw my belief in the Baha’i faith, but I finally did, and I have felt so much better ever since! I am currently a student of metaphysical teachings and pagan beliefs, and host a monthly women’s Moon Circle at my home.
I feel much more my own true self, and do not miss any of the restrictions, judgments and imperious behaviors of many within the Baha’i Faith and _ especially_ its tragically flawed so-called administration.
I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be able to share a portion of my experience on this forum.