30 November 2013

Another Blog Update - Losing My Faith

After seeing Bryan's post I felt compelled to update as well, after about two years of inactivity. This is essentially a coming out post. I have only told a handful of people where I am at - out of worry that I would disappoint friends. Now it has been a while, and since I helped start this blog I feel like I should use this forum to explain myself. To put it simply: I lost my faith. Since then I have regained interest in spiritual practice - but not belief in a Baha'i sense. Let me explain.





I had already been going through a deep process of questioning and doubt during the summer of 2010 as I was doing an internship in Morocco. Most of my posts during that time were produced out of a dialectic in my mind between doubt and my Baha'i identity trying to reconcile it. Near the end of the summer and that fall I cut that identity. I no longer believed the Baha'i story - in particular the idea of divine progressive revelation. I still saw religion as progressive and evolutionary, but a social construct, a product of time and place, a story people tell themselves to facilitate the embedding of morals and institutions in a culture. I still viewed the Baha'i Faith as the most forward looking, inspired, and effective religion serving humanities needs in this day. But I also stopped thinking of it as "divine". I stopped believing that prayer was doing anything other than serving psychological needs.

About a year later I moved to Michigan and started a PhD program.  I looked forward to getting to a new place where I no longer felt the need to hide anything. And that occurred. From the beginning I presented myself as a friend of the Faith - a husband of a Baha'i.

For a while I put away all thoughts of spirituality. I generally viewed things through a secular lens, yet I never could disbelieve either - in God, a divine plan, teleology, something. My worldview became kind of bleak. I stopped having any kind of ultimate vision to motivate my actions. Yet I maintained a more provisional humanistic drive. I started accustoming myself more and more to the idea of non-existence after death.

In the last six months I have taken up with great interest something that first intrigued me in high-school and helped lead me towards the Baha'i Faith in the first place: the idea of higher consciousness. A friend sent me a book by Eckart Tolle which opened up a space within me that I had long considered closed. This has led to a daily meditation practice with special interest in secularized Vipassana.

I am again interested in spiritual experience, but I am not interested in contextualizing it within a belief framework. I have come to an equilibrium of deep reverence for the figures of the Faith. The more mystical writings - in particular the Seven Valleys and some of the Hidden Words have guided me in my new practice. As I write these words a part of me bows down in surrender to Baha'u'llah.

I don't know what the future holds, I am not closed to anything. I am involved in a personal investigation of the truth, as are we all. I know that I will continue to be interested in pragmatic action to make the world a better place. I see the Baha'i community as one of the most innovative and progressive forces for social change - and I will still seek opportunities to collaborate in Baha'i initiatives.

One final note. This blog was initially set up for Baha'is to collaborate on their ideas. Since I  no longer identify as a Baha'i, I am not sure what involvement I will/should have with this space. If anything, I might be interested in writing about meditation and spiritual experience, we'll see. 

6 comments:

  1. I am a Baha'i. I resonate with your experience. You have not lost faith: you have lost naivete. You have abandoned the intellectual for the experiential. You have left the realm of names and entered the realm of reality. Few are blessed to be able to walk that path. True faith is not a simple "I believe": it is hard won by being bloodied in the trenches.

    Do not abandon the blog. Some will find the courage to continue to forge ahead by knowing that they are not alone in their journey.

    Mike

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    1. Thanks Mike, I appreciate your wisdom!

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  2. Hey Jason, of course you should post whenever you feel compelled. As far as the blog goes, I see it as tied to the Baha'i Faith and its teachings, but that can stretch pretty far.

    Faith is very personal so I respect whatever path you think you should take. If you struggle for awhile and come back to being Baha'i, then you will be stronger. If you investigate and decide that religion is man made, then you will decide confidently. You are responsible for whatever path you take. I think there is a good reason why independent investigation of truth is the first and foremost principle. Before asking the question: is Baha'u'llah a Manifestation of God? You must investigate whether such a premise is even valid. Question everything.

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  3. Thanks Bryan, that's good advice. I think my major question is whether the premise of a Manifestation is even valid. If I were to accept that premise, then I would have no doubt that Baha'u'llah would fit that description. Ultimately I suspect that there will be some kind of convergence among the path I am on now and the path I was on.

    I look forward to posting here in the future.

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  4. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for this post. I admire your intellectual integrity in questioning beliefs and honesty in sharing where you are at.

    I am a postgraduate philosophy student, specialising in the philosophy of religion, epistemology and philosophy of science. I don't know whether this is a good idea or not, but if you are still investigating and open to considering and evaluating new perspectives, then perhaps you might like to have a catch up or a Skype sometime to discuss some of these questions, since these are things that I think and write about often (as a Baha'i) and I appreciate learning other perspectives. However, perhaps you are fairly confident and content with the conclusions you have arrived at already, but if you're still open to exploring these questions, perhaps you might like to have a chat sometime.

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  5. Late comment, but since you have made several posts on Buddhism by now, have you considered converting to Buddhism? I'm a Buddhist ex-Baha'i just like Daniel Orey (I'm Nichiren and he is Zen). Soka Humanism is a good start comparing schools of Buddhism to each other and to Christianity. It also links to other good sites for info. Conversion stories are long and complicated journeys, so I won't summarize it yet until another comment at another time. Nichiren Buddhism Library is a good source of texts to read.

    Beliefs in unity and religion and progressive revelation can paradoxically prevents Baha'is from considering converting to previous religions due to viewing them as previous dispensations only rather than intricate beliefs systems with stuff to offer people. Despite all that I did eventually study Buddhism on its own terms like several other religions I studied. I did eventually convert to Buddhism, once I considered it more true than all the other religions I have studied including the religion I was at the time, the Baha'i Faith, or the religion of my birth, Christianity. Specifically, Mahayana Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, and Soka Gakkai International are the specific categories of Buddhism I follow.

    I have noticed you have been prone to gaps between posting now, so I don't know when or even if you will ever read this as I don't know how much you are on this blog anymore. Please give me any question you may have.

    Yours truly,
    Stephen Kent Gray

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