Baha'i Library Online

See original version at

COLLECTIONUnpublished articles
TITLEBahá'í Faith: Prophecy and Conversion
AUTHOR 1Brian J. Mistler
ABSTRACTResults of a field study of Bahá'ís in the United States and Australia which demonstrate that family connections and social teachings are greater incentives to conversion than prophecy is.
TAGSAustralia; Conversion; Family; Interfaith dialogue; Prophecies; Social teachings; United States (documents)
Table of Contents
History of the Faith3
The Current State of Affairs5
Activities (Field Study)6
Central Beliefs9
Survey and Interview Results12
Suggestions for Further Research16
      Appendix A — Prophecy Related to 1844   18
      Appendix B — The Bahá'í Calendar20
      Appendix C — Survey21
      Appendix D — Graphs and Charts22

Abstract:[1] This study looks at the Bahá'í faith, a religion begun in the middle of the nineteenth century in Persia (modern day Iran), which has since spread to more than 200 countries. Through research, field study, and survey of a number of members living in the United States (which contains the second largest concentration of members outside of Iran) and Australia, we seek to better understand what causes people to convert to this new religious movement. Both the survey and informal interviews suggest that although much has been written about prophecy (we explore the well known 1844 prediction especially), it plays no significant role on the conversion of members to the Bahá'í faith. Rather, the two strongest factors contributing to membership are the social teachings of the Bahá'ís and having been raised as a member of the Bahá'í faith.

History of the Faith

Bahá'í grows out of Bábism, a faith founded by Mirza Ali-Muhammad (1819-50) of Shiraz who, in May 1844, at the age of 25, declares himself to be the Báb[2]. The name/term "Báb" is translated literally as "gate" or "door", and has its origin in the Islamic concept of the Mahdi of the Twelver Shi'a sect of Islam[3] who await his raj'a (return) to bring an end to the corruption of the world[4]. Such a proclamation had political consequences in Shi'ite Iran[5] and the Báb was exiled to the mountains of Adhirbayjan, imprisoned in Mah-Ku, and finally executed in July 1850 by a firing squad in the public square in Tabriz[6]. By declaring himself the Báb, he set himself up as a precursor to one greater who would follow[7] (as John the Baptist set the stage for the coming of Jesus).

Mirza-Husayn-Ali, surnamed Bahá'u'lláh (the Glory of God), was born in Tihran, the son of a nobleman and minister at the court of Qajar Synasty[8]. Much like the Buddha and other divine figures, "he chose to give up the life of luxury and the government career that could have been His to care for the poor."[9] One of the earliest followers of the Báb, he suffered all of the hardships, save death, to which other followers had been subjected[10]. In 1863 in a garden outside Baghdad (called the Garden of Ridwan) he declared to a small group of followers that he was "He Whom God Shall Manifest" as had been predicted by the Báb. Bahá'u'lláh's claims caused a split between the majority who accepted his divinity, and a minority who followed his brother, Subh-I Azal, as the legitimate successor to the Báb[11]. Fundamental to the disagreement was Bahá'u'lláh's claim of creating a universal religion, free of the "narrowly Shi'ite associations of Bábism", [12]representing to Israel the "incarnation of the ‘Everlasting Father', the ‘Lord of Hosts' come down' with ten thousand saints'; to Christendom Christ returned ‘in the Glory of the Father', to Shi'ih Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the ‘Sprit of God' (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Brahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha"[13].

After the death of Bahá'u'lláh, and not without controversy, leadership passed to the successor designated by his will, one of his two sons, Abbas Effindi, known as Abdul-Baha ("The Servant of God").[14] Abdul-Baha was largely responsible for the spread of Bahá'í beyond the Middle East[15], though some efforts had begun around 1892 by Ibrahim George Khayrullah, a Lebanese convert. After the death of Abdul-Baha in 1920, the baton was passed to Abdul-Baha's grandson, Shogi Effendi, who served for thirty-six years as "Guardian of the Cause of God," until his death in 1957 [16]. At that time control passed (de facto) to the "Hands of the Cause of God," who arranged for the election of the Universal House of Justice (the former group retains no authority, but remains to "educate, inspire and protect the unity of the Bahá'í community").[17]

The Current State of Affairs

With neither a priesthood nor formal ritual, Bahá'í rely on a local, national, and international administration[18]. Local Spiritual Assemblies (a group of 9 believers voted to office for one year by majority of members in a community)[19] as outlined in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh[20] provide the foundation for an international structure. All Bahá'í elections take place by secret ballot, with no nominations or electioneering. There are currently over 20,000 such Assemblies throughout the world[21]. These Local Spiritual Assemblies are charged with "the identification and wise application of principles of Bahá'í administration,"[22] and given "the right to be obeyed and supported by members of the community."[23]

National Spiritual Assemblies are also elected each year by regionally elected delegates at an annual national convention. To date more than 170 such National Assemblies have been formed. Every five years these National Spiritual Assemblies convene for the election of The Universal House of Justice, the highest institution of the Bahá'í faith (first elected in 1963),[24] "fundamentally different from anything that any Prophet has previously established, in as much as Bahá'u'lláh has Himself revealed its principles, established its institutions, appointed the person to interpret His Word and conferred the necessary authority on the body designed to supplement and apply His legislative ordinances."[25] The Bahá'ís, which are recognized internationally for this administrative structure, cite, "one of the subtle qualities of the Bahá'í Administrative Order [as] the balance between centralization and decentralization."[26]

In Iran, the Bahá'ís have not escaped the persecution that haunted them in their infancy. Since the Islamic republic came to power, more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed because of their religious beliefs[27], and although the United States has openly condemned such acts[28], incidents of religious persecution have been reported as recently as 1998[29].

Activities (Field Study)

Echoing the balance between centralization and decentralization, the ritual meetings of the Bahá'í's stand in sharp but complimentary contrast to the strong international administrative order and the list of procedures and laws given governing the formation of local and national assemblies. Ritual is not likely the most appropriate word for meetings which have few official formalities, save that each is generally opened and closed by prayer and accompanied by a time for socialization, during which tea in one form or another is almost certainly served.

Each Bahá'í is asked, but not required, to hold a fireside once every nineteen days[30]. Fireside is the term used to describe an informal gathering, generally held in a member's home, with the specific intent of educating non-members. Interviews suggest that many hold such meetings much less frequently, but often attend firesides hosted by other members, and in this way participate in the "recruitment" of new members on a fairly regular basis.

Having had an opportunity to attend a number of these firesides held at various members' homes, I'm impressed with a number of features. The event being set in a person's home reduces the formality, commitment, and associated intimidation which might be a product of a large church, and creates instead a sense of security and intimacy amongst the presenter, members, and newcomers. That there is a social time before and after further develops this theme. A few friends gather in a circle eating cookies and drinking tea, and without ado the discussion transits into an informal presentation on the Life of Bahá'u'lláh, the Virtue of Love, or any other topic which might interest the potential convert. A question and answer period follows, and then more social time — an opportunity for members to mingle, get to know newcomers, and a time for the inquisitive non-member to ask any questions he/she may have one-on-one.

Deepenings are quite similar, and the distinction seems to be mainly teleological. These are events (which have no requisite attendance requirement specified) aimed mainly for members (but open to new members as well) in which the presentation and discussion assume a fair knowledge of the faith and its tenets. Thus, an opportunity for members to speak about the "finer points" of the faith is offered — and opportunity for recounting experiences, interpreting texts, and expounding on central concepts.

Not only is every man (or woman) his/her own priest, he or she is also asked to serve the alternating role of lecturer to one another. This is likely very attractive to the masses of people who are confident that they do have something of great importance to share and are all to eager for an opportunity to present it. A number of the events I attended were actually led by current (or former) grade-school teachers, who appropriately make their presentations interactive and lively.

Some presentations were accompanied by pictures from a recent pilgrimage, songs, or any other item/style that melds with the interests and background of the presenter. Because presenters are taking turns, a new member is more likely, in the course of only a few meetings, to find at least one point of view and/or style that touches him or her in some way. This is equally true of members.

The interaction between members seems to be genuinely affectionate. Handshakes are warm, smiles are friendly, and hugs abound. There seems to be little distinction made in the attitudes, or in the way of greetings and interactions, that members take with another and with newcomers. The presentations being informal, it is not uncommon for members to applaud after a presentation or to interject questions or comments amongst the speaker's remarks (I even witnessed one presentation at an older home which had been converted a Bahá'í center after which an older lady speaking at a lectern in the living room received a standing ovation).

Still, there is a truly human side to their feelings, and it is often apparent when members feel disagreement or agitation with one another's views or style of presentation, even amidst the outward signs of mutual support. Although this has the possibility of undermining a sense of authoritarian views (which are, to some degree, a requirement of a revealed religion), it also has the refreshing effect of emphasizing the principle of individual investigation of the truth (these members are anything but brainwashed).

The Bahá'ís develop natural friendships within and between communities, and the distinction between Bahá'í and secular events is often blurred (a credit to any faith which aims to change a believers ordinary life). It should also be added that a "Feast" is also held once each nineteen days, but participation is generally restricted to members.

Central Beliefs

The Bahá'í faith, like all of the great world religions which it claims to subsume (or at least some interpretations of all of the great world religions), holds central the belief in one God[31]. There are ten principles enumerated at the core the Bahá'í faith's[32] pragmatism: The oneness of mankind, Universal peace upheld by a world government, independent investigation of truth, the common foundations of all religions, the essential harmony of science and religion, the equality of men and women[33], elimination of prejudice of all kinds[34], universal compulsory education, a spiritual solution to economic problems, a universal auxiliary language. The Bahá'ís have taken a strong stand on the environment[35] ( and is a member of the Network on Conservation and Religion[36]). The group has also published on the importance of the arts[37], and is very forward thinking in its approach to technology[38] (although none of the members I spoke with were introduced to the faith via the Internet, the group[39] maintains a strong presence on the world wide web).

The central theme of the Bahá'í faith, and one which seems to be a primary attraction for many converts, is the principle of unity and progressive revelation. Members constantly stress that conversion is possible as a fulfillment of current beliefs, and that one need not reject anything. This idea, that "the most important thing to know about the Bahá'í Faith is that it brings unity,"[40] is further stressed in much of the group's self-published literature. A number of books have been written by members on the unity of the Bahá'í faith with previous religions[41], and much has been put to paper in the West concerning the faiths relationship to Christianity[42]. However, many of the interpretations given would most certainly be seen as a rejection by many hard-line believers of current doctrines Catholic or Protestant doctrines[43] (I make no assertions about the accuracy of either faith's beliefs in relationship to the original ideas taught by Jesus of Nazareth).

In contrast with assertions made by believers of ancient religions, such as Hinduism, that justification comes from the precedence of their origin, Bahá'ís claim (much as Christians do) that "newer is better." They believe that the Messenger for the present time is Bahá'u'lláh,[44] and that only after the next prophet arrives (which will not occur for at least another 1000 years)[45], will his divine laws be overturned/completed.


As long as there has been religion, there has likely been prophecy. Bahá'ís, who claim the completion of all of the world's major religions, bear with that claim the burden of fulfilling a number of prophecies scatter throughout the worlds sacred texts. The only other significant example of such a multi-religious claim to messiahship is afforded by another Persian, Mání, who declares himself the inheritor of the traditions of Buddha, Zoroaster, and Jesus (in the time before Muhammad)[46].

With an interview group that was mostly converts from Abrahamic traditions, we focus on one such prophecy found in the Old and New Testaments of the Judeo-Christian Bible, which claims to foretell the date of the coming of Jesus, Muhammad, and the Báb (and thus subsequently, Bahá'u'lláh).

Wolff in Asia, Edward Irving in England, Mason in Scotland, Davis in South Carolina, William Miller in Pennsylvania, Leonard H. Kebler in Germany, and many others throughout the world, each working independently of one another, had all calculated the period 1843-1846 as the ‘time of the end'.[47] Such rational arguments likely had much import, particularly in the Occident where scientism was on the rise.[48] I choose this prophecy in large part because I suspect Western society as a whole is still recoiling from, if not further prostrating itself in, a worship of science.

A number of books have been written on Bahá'í prophecy, and many contain excellent recounts of the scriptures associated with them.[49] While it is not the intention of this paper to add to their masses, a brief explanation of the numerical calculations used in arriving at 1844 as the date of the second coming is given in Appendix A, as I believe this is important to an understanding of reactions to it as a tool of spiritual conversion.

Survey and Interview Results

A number of current Bahá'ís were surveyed[50]. The average age of those surveyed and reporting their age was 53.42 (ranging from 13 to 86, SD = 17.85, N=21). 62.5 percent were female, and 37.5 percent were male. 79.2 percent were Florida residents, and the remaining 20.8 percent are currently living in AK, AL, KS, MN, OR, WA, or New Zealand.

Asked to rate the importance of prophecy in religion on a scale from 0 to 5 (0 = not at all, 1 = minimal, 2 = somewhat, 3 = fairly, 4 = very, 5 = extremely), members report a mean of 3.05 (SD = 1.36), and marginally less for the role of prophecy in converting members to their own faith (2.95), though opinions differed somewhat more (SD = 1.50). Remarkably, however, the report of prophecy on their own conversion is significantly less (mean = 2.39, SD = 1.99)[51]. There seems to be no significant relationship between how well a person reports being able to read either Persian (r=.37, p = .01) or Greek (r=-.14, p=.55) and their reports about the role of prophecy in their conversion.[52] The importance of scripture in their conversion experience, in contrast, shows a mean rating of 3.90 (SD = 1.61)[53]. This suggests that although much as been written about prophecy, scripture plays a more significant role in the conversion of members to the Bahá'í faith.

When asks asked directly what role prophecy did play, and what caused members to convert, one woman (who converted at age 16) reports:

I was actively searching for a religion that would offer religious answers to the seeming contradictions within Christianity (for example, only believers are saved vs God's incredible love for His creation) or Church teachings that flew in the face of truth (for example; the equality of women and men vs women's traditional subordinate role within the Christian church). I was first attracted to the social teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, but in conversations with my mother realized that I also needed to KNOW that this was God's religion. Therefore I read, "Thief in the Night" , "Wine of Astonishment" and, "Some Answered Questions". My mind was satisfied that Bahá'u'lláh was the Return of Christ, in fact the Return for all religions. Nevertheless, I was not sure of my own ability to discern Truth with my own mind and limited knowledge and experience (after all, I was only 15 years old, and I knew it all too well.) So, I prayed sincerely for guidance, and my heart was satisfied.

She cites the "time prophecy" among others[54] which claim to locate the place. Another gentleman who was also introduced to the faith at 15 and converted the same years reports:

I converted because the Bahá'í teachings regarding progressive revelation made sense to me and the social teachings had the most sensible answers for this day and age. While I believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the promised one foretold by all religions and that He fulfills the prophesies of all Faiths, my knowledge of specific prophesies is only passing and prophetic fulfillment has not been a big part of my conversion.

Many others offer similar reasons for their own conversion, with clear statements of the (lack of a) role of prophecy in their conversion such as, "although I was and still am somewhat interested in prophecies, they have no impact on my religious life," "No prophecies had anything to do with me becoming a Bahá'í," or "Prophecy has played almost no role in my decision [to become a Bahá'í]. I find prophecy interesting but unconvincing as a means of Faith affirmation because it is too subjective." A number also cite Bahá'u'lláh's teaching in the Kitab-I-Iqan that prophecy should be regarded as non-conclusive evidence[55]. While responses are diverse, they tend to focus primarily on the social teachings of the Bahá'í faith[56], and often stress the lack of importance prophecy had in causing their conversion.

Of those surveyed, 37.5 percent report being introduced to the faith by a family member (N=24)[57], 20.8 percent by a close friend, 33.3 percent by an acquaintance, and 4.2 percent for each a stranger, and newspaper (interestingly, no one reports having been converted by a pioneer/missionary or a teacher/counselor). There is a lack of significant correlation between how well a member reports having known the person who first introduced him/her to the faith (mean=3.60, SD = 1.73), and the amount of time spent studying before converting (mean=3.2, an average of approx. 1 year, SD=1.3; correlation = -.29, p = .31). There is, however, a significant (p=.046) difference between genders with regard to time spent studying the faith before converting F(1, 19) = 4.57. While males spent slightly more time on average studying the faith before converting, the range remains from 0 to more than three years for both genders. In general, 19 percent of members spent less than one month studying the faith before converting (N=24), 57.2 percent reports spending less that one year, and the remaining 23.8 spent more than 3 years studying the faith before converting.

Of those who were nor raised in the faith, 68.2 percent report having converted at or before the age of 18, and 77.3 percent report having converting before the age of 22. The remaining conversion ages range as high as 53, divided fairly evenly in the interim[58]. An comparison of the ratio of total number of children to children who are members of the faith between those raised as Bahá'ís (N=7, mean = .82, SD = .26), and those raised outside the faith in a Christian traditions (N=11, mean = .77, SD = 2.9) shows only slightly more variance (F=.53, p=.48) and no significant difference between groups, t(16)=.34, p=.78.[59] Neither is there a difference in the number of religious events a member reports attending each month, between groups raised in different faiths F(2, 17) = 1.99, p = .17.[60]

Twenty-seven percent (N = 22) report having converted to another religion before becoming a Bahá'í. Members report formal prayer from 1 to 3 times each day (N=21, mean = 2.33, SD=.73), which often include one of the obligatory prayers,[61] as well as more frequent informal prayer throughout the day.

Suggestions for Further Research

One or more surveys exist conducted by the Bahá'í community which review some of the same questions addressed herein[62] and some comparison of local (and externally conducted) results should be made to those reported by the Bahá'ís own data. Equally, a comparison of figures amongst Bahá'í communities in the United States or internationally would likely prove interesting.

More than 48 percent of Bahá'ís surveyed (N=23) have an education level of a bachelors or higher, and 8.7 have a Ph.D. or equivalent; while this has attempted to be controlled for in those correlations where it might have suggested significant, this skew may be the results of the number of responses obtained via the Bahá'í studies list (which, by nature of its topic, contains a disproportionate number of highly educated individuals), and could be accounted for with a more random population sample. As always, the desirability of a larger sample group also cannot be stressed enough.

The large majority of those surveyed refused to claim political affiliation (more than 77 percent), a decision consistent with the faith's admonition to remain politically neutral. More than 47 percent of those taking the survey refused to report for which candidate they had voted in the 2000 presidential election (a question I added anticipating the possibility of this desire not to claim official affiliation). In deference to this wish, I chose not to report the results of those who did reply, though this too may prove fertile grounds for further research.

Appendix A — Prophecy Related to 1844[63]

According to the Bible, each day represents a year:

Numbers 14:34

34: According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.'

Ezekiel 4:6

6: And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, a day for each year.

After seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (7*7 + 62*7 = 483 days), the Messiah (the anointed one) would be cut off.

Daniel 9:25-26

25: Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.
26: And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed.

From the issue of the decree in 457 b.c. until the birth of Christ, there were 456 years.

456 b.c. - 483 = 27 (a.d.) the year of the crucifixion of Jesus.

How do we know that Daniel is talking about Jesus?

Matthew 24:2-3, 15

2: But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down."
3: As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?"

15: "So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

Daniel also says that from the time of the decree to build Jerusalem (457 b.c.) to the end of the abomination of desolation, there were to be 2,300 days.

Daniel 8:13-14

13: Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to the one that spoke, "For how long is the vision concerning the continual burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled under foot?"
14: And he said to him, "For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state."

456-2,300 = 1844 (a.d.) the end of the abomination of desolation — the year of the manifestation of the Bab!

Another proof calculated from the Muslim calendar (according to lunar years from the mission of and Hejira of Muhamad):

Daniel 12:6-7

6: And I said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, "How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?"
7: The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven; and I heard him swear by him who lives for ever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time; and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be accomplished.

Each day counts as a year (and in a year there are twelve months). Thus three and a half years (a time, two times, and half a time) is forty-two months, which is 1260 days. Again, the manifestation of the Báb is shown.

The year 1260 corresponds to the 1844 on the Christian calendar. This same number appears again in Revelation:

Revelation 12:5-6

5: she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
6: and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Appendix B — The Bahá'í Calendar

Month Name First Days

1st month Splendour March 21

2nd month Glory April 9

3rd month Beauty April 28

4th month Grandeur May 17

5th month Light June 5

6th month Mercy June 24

7th month Words July 13

8th month Perfection August 1

9th month Names August 20

10th month Might September 8

11th month Will September 27

12th month Knowledge October 16

13th month Power November 4

14th month Speech November 23

15th month Questions December 23

16th month Honour December 31

17th month Sovereignty January 19

18th month Dominion February 7

19th month Loftiness March 2

In order to complete the 365 days in the year (including changes associated with leap years) there are four intercalary days from February 26 to March 1 inclusive, preceding the last Bahá'í month, which is a fasting month. Fasting is from sunrise to sunset, when abstention takes place from all food and drink. During the year there are nine Holy Days during which Bahá'ís do not work. These days mark the key anniversaries of the central figures of the Faith:

1. Naw Ruz (new Year's Day) — March 21

2. 1st day of Ridvan — April 21

3. 9th day of Ridvan — April 29

4. 12th day of Ridvan — May 2

5. Declaration of The Báb — May 23

6. Ascennsion of Bahá'u'lláh — May 29

7. Martyrdom of The Báb -- July 9

8. The Birth of the Báb — October 20

9. The Birth of Bahá'u'lláh — November 12[64]

(The Day of the Covenant, Nov. 26, and the Day of Abdul-Baha's passing on Nov 28th are also observed, but not considered Holy Days). Those Bahá'ís whom I interviewed suggested that they often feel compelled to celebrate secularized religious holdays[65] with their parents, friends, or coworkers, but most choose to impress upon their children the minimal significance of such holidays in relationship to Bahá'í Holy Days.

Appendix C — Survey

All information is collected for statistical use only, and your contact information is requested if clarification of responses is required. All questions are, of course, optional, and your responses will be kept in strict confidence. Your contribution is greatly appreciated. Thank You, Brian.

Name __________________________________ Age ___ Gender: M/F Date____________

Current Address ______________________________________________________________

__________________________________________ E-mail ___________________________

Current Religion ______________ Local Church/Group Affiliation _____________________

Please use the scale (0-5): 0 = not at all, 1 = minimally, 2 = somewhat, 3 = fairly, 4 = very (well), 5 = extremely (well) to answer the following questions:

How well do you read: English ___ Hebrew ___ Persian ___ Greek ___ Arabic ____ Latin ___

How significant: was the role of prophecy in your conversion? ______

was the role of scripture in your conversion? ______

is the role of prophecy in converting members to your faith? _____

is the role of prophecy to religion in general? _____

was the role of any hallucinogenic substance in your conversion ____

was the role of family pressure/expectation in your conversion ____

How well did you know the person who first introduced you to the faith? ______

How much has you view of the importance of prophecy changed in the past year? ____

In the past five years? _______ Ten years? ______ How religious are you? _____

In which religious tradition(s) were you raised: ______________________________________

How convicted were you in the beliefs of that faith/non-faith (0-5 scale)? _________________

How convicted were your parents in the beliefs of that faith/non-faith (0-5 scale)?___________

Please list any other faiths which you were a member of before converting to your current one, noting the length of time, and your level of conviction (0-5) for each respectively: __________



At what age were you introduced to your faith? _____ At what age did you convert? _____

Where were you living at the time of your conversion (City, State/Province/Country)? ___________________________________

At the time, were you: Single/Married/Divorced

How much time did you spend studying the faith before converting: none, less than a week,

less than one month, less than one year, three years, more than three years.

Were you first introduced to the faith by: Family member, close friend, acquaintance, internet

teacher/counselor, missionary/pioneer/religious leader, stranger, other: ___________

How many: children do you have? _____ are members of your faith? ______

religious functions do you attend each week? _____ each month? _____

times each day do you pray? ______

Had you ever used an illegal drug before your conversion? Yes/No After? Yes/No

Highest level of education you have completed: some high school, high school/G.E.D.,

some college, bachelors, masters, PhD or equivalent.

With which party do you most often vote: Republican, Democrat, Other: ______________

For whom did you vote in the 2000 Presidential elections: Bush, Gore, Other: __________

Appendix D — Graphs and Charts

Figure 1 - Faiths in which current members were raised

Figure 2 - Number of functions attended per month and faith in which he/she was raised

(1 = Bahá'í, 2=Christian, 5 = other)

Figure 3 - Age at which members converted


[1] Copyright Brian J. Mistler 2001. Right for continuous internet publication granted to Bahá'í Academics Resource Library. All other right reserved.

[2] Mouhebat Sobhani, Bahá'í: Teachings for the New World Order, (New York: Waldorf, 1992) 50.

[3] Keith Crim, ed., "Imamiyya" The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions (New York: Abingdon, 1981) 337-338.

[4] Crim "Mahdi" 452-453.

[5] Crim "Bahá'í" 87.

[6] Sobhani 50.

[7] Crim "Bahá'í" 87.

[8] Sobhani 51 and Crim "Bahá'í" 87.

[9] Qtd "Bahá'u'lláh: God's Messenger to Humanity," (USA: National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá'ís of the United Sates, 1994)

[10] Crim "Bahá'í" 87.

[11] Although I was unable to gather much information about this group, it was suggested that it still exists, and further (and comparative) research may be very interesting.

[12] Qtd. Crim "Bahá'í" 87.

[13] Shogi Effendi, "Guidance For Today and Tommorow," (London, UK: Bahá'í Publishing Trust) 11-12 qtd. in Sobhani 53.

[14] Crim "Bahá'í" 87 and Sobhani 53.

[15] See especially Abdu'l-Baháh, Promulgation of Universal Peace (Wilmette: Il: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1982) which records many of his talks in the United States and Canada in 1912, and Paris Talks, a collection of address given during his visit to Paris the previous year.

[16] Crim "Bahá'í" 87-88 and Sobhani 53-44.

[17] Sobhani 58.

[18] Sobhani 57.

[19] Jessyca Russell Gaver, The Bahá'í Faith (New York: Award Books, 1967) 41.

[20] See especially "The Local Spiritual Assembly: An Institution of the Bahá'í Administrative Order," (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1970

[21] Sobhani 57.

[22] National Spiritual Asembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States in Preface to "Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities," (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1989) xvii.

[23] "Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: To the Followers of Bahá'u'lláh in The United States of America," (Wilmetter, Il: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1989) 9.

[24] Sobhani 57.

[25] Qtd. In "Individual Rights…" page 5.

[26] "Regional Bahá'í Councils, " (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, 1997) 3.

[29] Mr. Ruhollah Rowhani was summarily executed in July of 1998 in Mashhad, Iran by authorities, accused of converting a woman from Islam to Bahá'í. Another Bahá'í was executed in March of 1992, and fifteen Bahá'ís are currently being held in Iranian prisons on charges related to their religious beliefs. Four of the prisoners are on death row on charges of apostasy and of "Zionist Bahá'í activities." See: (1 Dec. 2000) for the Bahá'í news release. See also: (1 Dec. 2000) for a list of public reactions by other organizations and/or governments.

[30] Major religions and great leaders have, throughout history, offered their own calendar. Bahá'u'lláh establishes such a calendar with 19 months, each having 19days, and four intercalary days, giving 365 days for a solar year. For more details see Appendix B.

[31] "Basic Facts of the Bahá'í Faith," (Wilmette, Il: Bahá'í Publishing Trust).

[32] Sobhani 1-9

[33] See also "Equality of Men & Women: A New Reality," (New York: Office for the Advancement of Women, Bahá'í International Community, 1993).

[34] Among other related items, the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has published a pamphlet on Louis Gregory, "Louis C. Gregory: Champion of Racial Harmony, " (1995).

[35] See especially "The Environment and Human Values: A Bahá'í View," 2nd ed. (Wilmette, Il: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1983).

[36] "In September of 1986 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) launched their Network on Conservation and Religion, brining religious leaders representing Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims together with environmental leaders in Assisi, Italy. Each of the five religions represented issued a declaration on nature. As of October 1987, the Bahá'ís became the sixth major religion to join this new alliance, and put forward this statement in support of the Network's objectives." Qtd. from "The Bahá'í Statement on Nature," Leicestershire, England: BESA Ltd., Nottinham) 1.

[37] "The Bahá'í Faith and the Arts," (Mona Vale, N.S.W: Bahá'í Publications Australia).

[38]"The Bahá'í' Computer and Communication Association" (1 Dec. 2000)

[39] is an excellent site presented by the Bahá'í communities of North San Diego County, "Bahá'ís de France" is available at, and "The Official Web Site of The Bahá'í World" can be found at (1 Dec. 2000).

[40] "A Call to Unity," (LA, CA: Bahá'í Booksource International, 1992)

[41] e.g. Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith and Hinduism and the Bahá'í Faith, both by Moojan Momen

[42] "Would You Have Known Jesus," (Knoxville, TN: Stonehaven Press, 1998), and "Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith," (Knoxville, TN: Stonehaven Press, 1997).

[43] ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. Some Answered Questions. 1930. Trans. Laura Clifford Barney. (Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1999). See especially Part 2, titled, "Some Christian Subjects," pages 83-142.

[44] "God's Promise to Humanity," (London: Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Wawick).

[45] "Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor." qtd. from Bahá'u'lláh "Kitáb-I-Aqdas" The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh: A Compilation (3rd ed.). Ed. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India. New Delhi: Solar Print Process Pvr. Ltd. 1998. 185.

[46] Christopher Buck, "A Unique Eschatological Interface: Bahá'u'lláh and Cross-Cultural Messianism," Peter Smith ed. In Iran: Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, (Los Angelas: Kalimat Press, 1986)157-160.

[47] Henry James Forman, "The Story of Prophecy," (1936) p 310-311 qtd in William Sears, "Thief in the Night," (Oxford: George Ronald, 1974) 5.

[48] Paul Jerome Croce, "Science and Religion in the Era of William James," (University of North Caroline Press, 1995).

[49] I addition to those cited herein, see also Lameh Fananapazir, "Prove All Things," (New Delhi, India: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996) 107-109 and Gary L. Matthews, "He Cometh with Clouds: A Bahá'í view of Christ's Return," (Oxford: George Ronald, 1996) 103-110.

[50] A copy of the survey is attached as Appendix C — Survey participants come from three sources: a copy of the survey was posted to the Bahá'í Studies List with responses collected 11-28-2000 through 4 Dec 2000, distributed at a Sunday Morning Bahá'í deepening held at the Bahá'í Center of Orlando (1229 Hillcrest, Orlando FL 32803) 3 Dec., and a poetry reading given at a Bahá'í home 2 Dec. I all three cases, I was introduced by a member of the faith who encouraged participation. Although its impossible to determine the exact proportion of responses obtained online, monitoring the discussion list suggests that more than 90 percent of active members responded. Between the two meetings attended in which the survey was distributed, only two members declined to respond.

Where not otherwise stated, an alpha level of .05 has been used. A Cronbach reliability analysis suggests an Alpha of .5 and a standardized item alpha of .90 for number of events attended each week, and number of events attended each month, though monthly attendance (mean = 6.3, SD=3.0) includes more than 400% the variation of weekly attendance (mean, 1.6, SD = .64). Two questions with both ask the participant to rate how well he/she knew the person who first introduced him/her to the faith suggest a reliability alpha coefficient of .91, and a standardized item alpha of .93.

[51] A significant correlation exists between a person assessment of the importance of prophecy both to religion in general and in converting members to their own faith and the reported importance of prophecy in their own conversion (N=19, r=595, and .664 respectively). To few members in this data set read Hebrew, Arabic, or Latin to make any comparison.

[52] In both these cases the level of education has been controlled for. A two-variable Pearson correlation without such a control yields a correlation of -.02 for Persian (p=.95) and -.15 for Greek (p=.52).

[53] Where appropriate the data set has been filtered to exclude those members who where raised in the Bahá'í faith.

[54] See appendix A for those verse which the Bahá'ís use to substantiate their claim based on the date of the declaration of the Báb.

[55] Bahá'u'lláh "Kitáb-I-Iqán" The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh: A Compilation (3rd ed.). Ed. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India. New Delhi: Solar Print Process Pvr. Ltd. 1998. 67-109.

[56] This may be an important conclusion. With many members of society disallusiond both with organized religion, and a wide spread critique of the state, a relgion which teaches concrete social and economic remedies by spiritual means might be especially attractive (especially in the pre-seventies United States).

[57] The importance of family members in conversions seems to have similarly important for early converts from Zoroastiranism to the Bahá'í faith as reported by Susan Stiles, "Early Zoroastian Conversions to the Bahá'í faith in Yazd, Iran," Juan R. Cole and Moojan Momen ed. From Iran East & West:Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History. (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1984) 75-76.

[58] See Appendix D Figure 3 - Age at which members converted

[59] See also appendix D: Figure 1 - Faiths in which current members were raised.

[60] See appendix D Figure 2 - Number of functions attended per month and faith in which he/she was raised. Bahá'í's report a mean of 7.9 (DS = 3.6), Christians 5.0 (DS=2.6) , and those raised in the Jewish faith a mean of 6.0.

[61] The short obligatory prayer, translated in English is "I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting." A copy of the original Arabic given by Bahá'u'lláh as well as other translations can be found at

[62] I have been in contact with Rebecca Ellison, Research Coordinator for the Bahá'í National Teaching Committee Office, but at the time this paper was printed, have not yet been able to obtain a copy of the report, survey, or any results.

[63] This summary is taken primarily from Nabil I. Hanna. Bible Proofs: A Fireside Aid for Teaching Christians. (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1988) 29-26. Bible verses are from the Revised Standard Version from the University of Virginia Website (, 20 Nov, 2000).

[64] Bahá'í: Teachings for the New World Order. Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani (New York: Waldorf Enterprises, 1992) 59.

[65] I've no reference of a term such as this being previously used, but a better word for those holidays of a religious nature which are so prevalent in a given society that work and school schedules have come to revolve around them does not occur to me.

VIEWS49121 views since 2001-02-13 (last edit 2017-11-15 03:50 UTC)
Home Site Map Links Tags Chronology About Contact RSS