Ask Richard: A Young Atheist, a Baha’i Egyptian Girl, and Her Father

Note: When letter writers sign with their first names instead of a pseudonym or nickname, I randomly change their name for added anonymity.

Dear Richard,

I have been seeing an Egyptian girl of the Baha’i faith for about one year. It has gotten serious enough that she decided to tell her father that she was dating me. He started to ask her questions about me and the “what religion is he” question came up. She was honest and told him I was an atheist. To say the least he wasn’t happy. She said that he didn’t seem to dislike me, but the fact that I didn’t believe in a god at all was the problem. She said he believes that if we were to start a family that it couldn’t work with one believer and one non believer. That the children would get confused and not know which parent to believe was correct. And that they would want to go towards my side because not believing is easier than following the rules of a faith. I tried to tell her that if we had children I would not interfere if she wanted to raise them in her faith and that I respected and supported her beliefs. I even go to services with her. But this doesn’t seem good enough. She said he wanted to know why I don’t believe and I said that I just didn’t, I have been like this since I was little, that the idea of a god just didn’t make logical since to me, but again that wasn’t good enough. I need help! She is ok with my beliefs and knows I would never try and change hers! But in her culture and religion she will not go against her father! She told me that if he told her to not see me she wouldn’t see me!

Please help!
Robert

Dear Robert,

It is not clear where this is happening, in Egypt or somewhere in the West. I suspect the latter. Where the girl lives makes an enormous difference in her options, but in this case it does not matter. She has left the decision up to her father regardless. From your name I assume that you are not Egyptian. She says that he didn’t seem to dislike you, but he may privately have political, national, cultural or ethnic reasons to disapprove of you besides the issue of atheism. So even if you had religious beliefs that were acceptable to him, he might still have objections.

From what little I have read about Baha’i Faith, one of their very positive sounding principles is respect and equality for women. However, I may have been reading a Western version of their creed, and religions absorb the social attitudes of the local cultures wherever they take root. In places where women are told what to do by men, and fathers are the final authority in families, the culture will usually prevail, regardless of what the religion says. Even when people emigrate, it can take a few generations to adapt to the new culture.

I commend you for being forthright to both of them about your not believing. Since you already go to services with her, it could be tempting for you to lie to her father and even to her, saying that you do believe, just for expediency. However, in the long run that would be a mistake. A relationship that will last is one founded on honesty and openness. Deceit is toxic to love.

Since you do go to services, the two of you might consider consulting a senior leader there, telling them the situation and asking for any advice or help that might appeal to her father. I have no idea how this would be received or if it would be workable.

Now, I am going to say this with deep respect and sincere caring, knowing that I am dealing with very tender feelings, but I think it is important to look at this openly. There is a great deal of the girl being the intermediary in this exchange between you and her father. You are being told about doubts and objections that are attributed to him. One thing you should do is to gently but frankly ask her if she is having her own personal doubts. This has to be very difficult for her, and she might be using her father to deflect the responsibility for her own misgivings. If you and she have already discussed this candidly, that is good.

If you are satisfied that this conflict is really only between you and her father, then if it is at all possible, go directly to the source of the problem and give it your best shot. Go to her father and talk to him man-to-man, giving him all the reassurances that you have stated here. Offer him what he as a father would need, to know that his daughter will be honored, nurtured and protected. You must look him in the eyes when you tell him what is in your heart, and he must see that you expect him to look you in the eyes when he tells you what is in his heart.

Understand the man as best you can through the lens of his culture, and remember that for almost all fathers, having a daughter means having your heart running around outside of your body for the rest of your life. You will discover this terrifying condition when you have your own daughter, as I did.

Be prepared for this: Your promise to him that you will “not interfere” with her raising future children in her faith may not be good enough because his culture may (I don’t know) expect you as the father to be the primary religious authority and teacher of the children. If you took a back seat to your wife in this particular duty, she would have to fulfill it as if she were a widow. You will need to have something to compensate for that. I don’t know what; perhaps your girlfriend will have a suggestion.

While on the subject of children, another thing for you to consider is that your easygoing feelings and her easygoing feelings about your future children being raised as Baha’i may change when those children are actually running around your feet. I have seen this several times before, where a mixed couple has no conflict about kids until they are no longer hypothetical kids. It is very difficult to know what your future feelings will be, but sometimes the experiences of others can give you some warning.

Hopefully her father will hear your case and will give you a conditional approval. If his answer is no, then do not fight it for too long because that will pull your girlfriend in opposite directions. Definitely do not urge her to see you behind his back. That would cause her much suffering in her conscience and in her relationship with him, which up to now has apparently been very honest. Your most loving gift may have to be to spare her pain.

Robert, Your letter ends with an ambiguous “if.” She has clearly said that if he told her to not see you, then she would not go against her father, her culture or her religion. End the ambiguity one way or the other as soon as you can. Get a yes or a no. Enjoy being together openly, or say goodbye, grieve, move on, eventually heal, and find love anew.

I earnestly wish for all three of you, young man, young woman and father, the joy of love. If it is the love of the three of you having found a way together, wonderful. If it is the love that each of you have found in your separate ways, then still it can be joyful.

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. All will eventually be answered, but not all can be published. There is a very large number of letters; please be patient.

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • littlejohn

    I wonder if the young man in simply infatuated, rather than actually in love. There are really two problems here: They have profoundly different religious views, and they have profoundly different family values, i.e., she is willing, despite being an adult, to let her father make her decisions for her. However attractive she may otherwise be, she doesn’t sound like a very good match for this man.

  • Don Pope

    I don’t know how serious this relationship is, but the girl already picked sides. Not a good sign.

  • Fizbin

    It should be noted that according to Bah’i teachings, both sets of parents must agree to a marriage before it takes place. So this father has a great deal of power in this relationship, unfortunately.

  • Trace

    “And that they would want to go towards my side because not believing is easier than following the rules of a faith.”

    From what I see around me, that is not necesarily the case, but I concede that from his perspective that may seem right.

    Robert, I reiterate the advice Richard gave you about hypothetical/real children: plans to raise them and reality are, sometimes, two different things…. and that does not only apply to non/religious education and customs.

    I wish you and your girl the best and I hope things work out for you.

  • Trace

    Robert, by girl, I meant girlfriend…no disrespect intended, just fast typing.

  • http://smackshack.livejournal.com Marvin

    Here’s another thing to consider. I’m going to assume that “Robert,” his girlfriend, and her father all prize honesty. So far there seems to be a certain amount of mutual respect all around because everybody is being honest about their beliefs, feelings, and reservations.

    Now think about what happens when you promise not to “interfere” in your future children’s religious education. Would being up-front about your own atheism, even if the kids are going to church services regularly, constitute interference? If so, you’re making a promise to lie to your future kids about yourself and your beliefs for an indefinite period of time, just for the privilege of being with this girl.

    Put yourself in the father’s shoes: “Here’s this nice young man. He’s been honest to me about his beliefs, but now he’s trying to persuade me by promising to lie to his kids and to abdicate his share of the responsibility for their moral formation. What does that really say about his character, and do I really want such a man marrying my daughter?”

    Then think about the fact that this woman is not willing or able to be an autonomous adult and be responsible for her own decision to be with you.

    Forgive me, but you sound like two children wheedling and scheming to get what you want without facing up to the reality of your differences. Neither of you is mature enough for marriage, and you should cut the relationship off while you can.

  • bunnyslipperz

    I have to agree with littlejohn, who is to say that in the future after they are married that this girl’s father won’t continue to be the first source of her decision making. It could very well become a future source of conflict.

    Also as you pointed Richard, its very easy to say that you wouldn’t object to raising hypothetical children in a religion that you, yourself don’t agree with until those children become a reality. Can this young man honestly think he can allow his children to be taught something that he does not personally agree with. Its the same feeling as lying to them. Could you lie to your children? As you have told this young lady that you would not object to her raising them in her religion, would she be just as open to your future children and let you voice your beliefs and opinions to them? Or would she object if one of your children asks you about what you believe and you were to answer them in all honesty and say you don’t believe in a god?

    These are serious questions you have to ask of yourself and her before a serious lifelong commitment can be made.

  • http://yrif.org Your Religion Is False

    If she cares that much about her father’s opinion on this issue, she’s probably going to care just as much about his opinions on many other issues as well.

    It will be like being married to both of them!

  • http://www.pippinbarr.com Pippin

    I think this is largely a good response, and appropriate to many, but wanted to comment briefly to speak from experience and provide an alternative view.

    About eight years ago I started seeing a woman who was raised culturally as a Muslim and who also believed/believes (if somewhat loosely) in a greater power and so on. She told her parents early on that she felt what we had was serious, but they objected strongly on the grounds of religion and of my not being Bangladeshi (which is where her parents are from). Refused to meet me, forbid her to see me, tried to find her other boyfriends, etc.

    We went with deceit and saw each other behind their backs for five years – with the proviso that they were always aware that we were together. Naturally, this was incredibly difficult and painful for my partner and for me throughout the experience, but we felt it was worth it.

    Five years later they agreed to meet me (effectively, we wore them down and gained their respect) and thus began a second form of deceit in which I officially converted to Islam in order to marry my now wife. I don’t believe in God, but, again, the deceit was deemed worthwhile in order to not rock the boat. Importantly, this is tied to common non-Western cultural beliefs which can often prefer “no boat rocking” over complete honesty.

    As such, we’ve now been married for over two years, and her parents and family accept me as one of their own. I also suspect there’s a strong “don’t ask don’t tell” policy being followed by all of us on the question of my religion… and we all get along just fine. Don’t underestimate the power of “don’t ask don’t tell”, frankly… people do often want to just get along.

    Children may or may not bring about further trauma, but I see no reason to suspect we cannot deal with that issue as well – whether it comes in the form of some further minor deceit (e.g. saying the kids are Muslim when in fact they get a far broader education and choice), or in terms of some kind of stand in the sense of “they’ll make their own decisions” now that we’re married and I’m in good standing with the family and can afford to take the stand myself, instead of having to let my wife do so.

    Anyway, I just want to temper the response given here with a success story surrounding some deceit, quite a bit of heartache, and the eventual victory of love. Yay, love!

  • pocketsize

    Marvin, I’m not sure how not interfering has to equal lying: I was raised Catholic, with my atheist father not interfering (although likely influencing), but not lying either. He would answer questions, but never “preach”, and was firm on me having to go to church (he stayed home) and Sunday school, until I affirmed my own atheism at about 14-15.

    Robert, I can only support Richard’s suggestion of talking to her father directly, and I wish you luck.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    From the wording in your letter there is the possibility that her father has a misconception of what atheism practically means. Although it technically means a lack of belief in God or gods, it does not follow that atheists don’t follow any moral principles. If her father is mainly concerned about his grandchildren being raised to follow good moral principles, then perhaps you need to sell him on the principles of secular humanism. On the other hand, if his concern is predominately cultural where for him the culture and traditions surrounding Islamic belief are the key, then to marry her you may need to go through some kind of conversion and become a “cultural Muslim”. I agree that more communication with her father is probably key. The fact that he hasn’t already banned his daughter from seeing you means that there is still a possibility here. If things don’t work out, though, just remember life goes on. There will eventually be other opportunities for love.

  • Aj

    I don’t understand how one can be OK with their children being indoctrinated into a religion, and all that implies, the coercion, the restriction, and the encouragement of irrational thinking, unless they actually think it’s true and right.

    I couldn’t respect an adult woman who can’t think for herself, and submits to the will of her father because of tradition, some book, or some man tells her she must. That would be like an axe hanging overhead in any relationship.

  • pinksponge

    JeffP, the girl in question is Baha’i, not Muslim. But the advice to talk to the father about his conception of atheism is a good one. It may also help to review the principles of secular humanism with him. Aside from the belief in God and Prophets and such, some of the Baha’i principles are perfectly in line with humanist values — equality of all humans; the requirement to be educated; the respect for science; and so on. If the father has any (mis)conceptions of atheists as automatically “anti-theist” or as baby-eating monsters, perhaps this will help to dispel them.

    To those who are critical of the girl’s attitude about her father’s opinion: remember that in the Baha’i Faith, both sets of parents are required to give their blessing to a marriage — to a Baha’i, marriage is seen as the unity of families, and not just of the couple only. That, and non-Western attitudes towards autonomy, independence, and family are sometimes different than Western ones, in which we put a priority on the wishes of the individual.

    Robert, hopefully you have an understanding about these things, and have assented to them, before marrying into them. Best of luck to you with whatever happens.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @pinksponge,

    thanks… I need to brush up on my religious literacy. From glancing at the wikipedia page, the Baha’i look a little bit like the Unitarians in some respects. The way they borrow from the other main religions is interesting.

  • Killer Bee

    If marriage really is being seriously considered, my advice would be very similar to what Pippin, above, did: Just hang in there baby. (But, don’t convert! unless you genuinely want to.)
    A few years of dating exclusively is more than any traditional parents can take. Eventually, the doubts about Robert will turn into “When are you getting married, already?!?” Where’s the mother in all this? If she’s on your side…women can be very persuasive no matter how the power dynamics may appear.

    Deceit is oil in the gears of social interaction except when it comes to those in your innermost circle, e.g. a wife. Who cares what Robert says to his possible f-i-l about hypothetical, future children at this point? By the time there are actual children, they’ll be married anyway.

    Picking her father’s side at this stage is a little worrisome, but not a harbinger of doom. She’s known this guy a year. She’s known, and will know, her father her entire life. Her attitude will likely change once married and she becomes a woman of her own house, and not in her father’s house. But, I’d certainly want to talk about it with her just to be sure.

  • Houndies

    If the religious aspect is already this much of an issue. I would save myself the inevitable troubles that will most definitely be arriving and part company with this girl. It may be hard but it will be much much harder later.

  • Aj

    pinksponge,

    To those who are critical of the girl’s attitude about her father’s opinion: remember that in the Baha’i Faith, both sets of parents are required to give their blessing to a marriage — to a Baha’i, marriage is seen as the unity of families, and not just of the couple only. That, and non-Western attitudes towards autonomy, independence, and family are sometimes different than Western ones, in which we put a priority on the wishes of the individual.

    Are you suggesting that this in anyway should change the opinion of those who are critical of the girl’s attitude? It doesn’t matter what the attitudes of societies are, or what a religion says, towards what is right. If someone in the West has these attitudes, it doesn’t make them more or less wrong.

    Religion usually enforces this kind of attitude, it’s not surprising to me that it’s the case here. These attitudes are still prevalent in the West, especially among conservative religious communities and other traditionalists. Religion in general is usually against autonomy and independence, there’s often something there about obeying authority figures including parents (although this is not the case in the canonical gospels).

  • pinksponge

    Hi Aj. By no means. I think if anybody changed any opinion based on something I wrote on the Internet, it would be a true miracle. :D I was trying to say that, although from our modern Western view it may look like an unhealthy dependency or etc., it may be simply an aspect of culture in this case. In my life, I’ve observed that not everyone, or every culture, has the same view of family, familial relationships, individualism, and independence, that I have, or that modern Western culture has. The girl may be too dependent on her father or other family; or, she may not. I don’t know her so I can’t say one way or the other.

    In this case, the girl is Baha’i, and the Baha’i Faith does put a premium on parental consent to marriages and on the unity of families and marriage ties. I think it’s wise for someone (like Robert) who wants to marry a Baha’i to fully understand that and feel comfortable with it, before tying the knot. I hope things work out for them, regardless of whether they go through with a marriage or not.

  • SickoftheUS

    “A Young Atheist, a Baha’i Egyptian Girl, and Her Father walk into a bar….”

  • Aj

    pinksponge

    I was trying to say that, although from our modern Western view it may look like an unhealthy dependency or etc., it may be simply an aspect of culture in this case.

    I don’t understand why it being an aspect of culture makes any difference whatsoever.

  • Kamaka

    @ Aj,

    I don’t understand why it being an aspect of culture makes any difference whatsoever.

    Apparently you haven’t traveled outside your cultural milieu.

    “Strike out on your own” type independence is peculiar to western cultures. There are plenty of places in the world where connection and obligation to family is valued. I have friends in the Philippines who are *shocked* that I live alone. I had to explain to them it’s not some family dysfunction, but quite common here in the USA.

    “CultureShock! Philippines” by Alfredo and Grace Roces, explains this cultural difference.

  • Aj

    Kamaka,

    Apparently you haven’t traveled outside your cultural milieu.

    I was aware of it. Hell, I don’t think it’s that uncommon inside the West. It’s only been two generations in my family away from that kind of culture. What I was saying is that it makes no difference to whether I’m critical of it or not. I didn’t think for a moment it was a rational thoughtful decision to submit control of ones life over to their patriarch, I assumed it was cultural from the outset.

  • Manksteve

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1%27%C3%AD_marriage

    I know wikipedia isn’t 100% but according to this she doesn’t have to marry someone of her own faith. if hats any help this is quite interesting religion that I have not come across before.

  • Bill

    There are a number of issues that require examination here. Let me explain that I am a longtime member of the Baha’i Faith.

    First, a Baha’i is required to have a Baha’i marriage and the Baha’i marriage requires the consent of all living natural parents. This is not about “patriarchy” or “conservative religious attitudes.” The Baha’i Faith highly values unity as a source of social well-being. The parents have no right to interfere in their child’s selection, but they have the right to grant or withhold consent. If any one parent withholds consent, the marriage cannot take place. I have seen couples wait for two or three years, maintain good relationships with their parents and ultimately receive consent. The young woman’s father is being a good Baha’i parent, asking qestions. He is legitimately concerned about the parties to the marriage having basic values in common.

    Second, however, the father should make no judgments and should probably refrain from all the negatives until he has met and conversed with the young man and observed his interaction with his daughter over a period of time. The young man can ask to speak with her father and engage in an open discussion about why he is an atheist – even if th answer is simply, I have always felt this way and don’t have a set of “reasons.”

    Third, the Baha’i Faith is not Islam. Athough the Baha’i Faith emerged from Islam similar to the way Christianity emerged from Judaism, neither Christianity nor the Baha’i Faith is socially or theologically the same as the old faith. The Baha’i Faith is actively persecuted in most Muslim countries. Egypt is no exception. This may be an active part of the parents’ concern.

    It is important for this young couple to be respectful an patient in the process. It may turn out that this is not a proper match. It may turn out that it is. Time will tell.

  • Killer Bee

    @Bill,

    Communal well-being, postponing life decisions for up to THIRTY-SIX months, familial harmony? That’s just a bunch of irrational superstitious, patriarchal nonsense!

    Clearly she’s enslaved by a mind virus and must either be set free or abandoned to her delusions; he should propose eloping and see what she says.

    We all know that people who respect their parents to such an unhealthy extent that they must wait for them to be comfortable with their future mate, tend to make for terrible life partners.

    And waiting to see if your child’s spouse shares your values, even if not your religion, is just plain bigotry.

  • Aj

    Killer Bee,

    I love the spin. Communal well-being, obviously obeying the patriarch. Postponing life decisions for up to thirty-six months, waiting for the patriarch to decide. Familial harmony, obviously obeying the patriarch. Freedom is overrated, it’s better to let someone else decide. If they get to control the lives of others then they won’t get upset with decisions so much.

    Not being able to marriage the people you want? No way this could effect communal well-being or familial harmony. Conversely, choosing an option your parents will agree but is not preferred would never end badly. Long engagements and trial periods before marriage? There’s just no way this would happen without requiring consent from parents.

    It has nothing to do with waiting or respecting your parents. Do you think that those who don’t require their parents consent don’t respect their parents? Do you think that all adults who don’t need their parents permission to marry rush into marriage unwisely?

  • Killer Bee

    Do you think that those who don’t require their parents consent don’t respect their parents?

    Do you think that all adults who don’t need their parents permission to marry rush into marriage unwisely?

    No. And no.

  • Killer Bee

    Aj,

    Freedom is overrated, it’s better to let someone else decide. If they get to control the lives of others then they won’t get upset with decisions so much.

    Is that what’s going on with this Bahai girl, then? Is she completely abdicating her responsibility to decide for herself by seeking her father’s approval?

  • Aj

    Killer Bee,

    Is that what’s going on with this Bahai girl, then? Is she completely abdicating her responsibility to decide for herself by seeking her father’s approval?

    That’s certainly a dishonest way of putting it. Approval doesn’t mean permission.

    If Robert is correct:

    But in her culture and religion she will not go against her father! She told me that if he told her to not see me she wouldn’t see me!

    Certainly sounds like she’s completely abdicating her freedom by seeking her father’s consent.

  • Killer Bee

    That’s certainly a dishonest way of putting it. Approval doesn’t mean permission.

    Assuming she’s in America, does it seem reasonable that she’s aware that she has the right to get married even without her father’s consent?

  • Aj

    Killer Bee,

    Assuming she’s in America, does it seem reasonable that she’s aware that she has the right to get married even without her father’s consent?

    Yes, what of it?

  • Killer Bee

    @Aj,

    “What of it?”

    What would you say is the distinction between seeking “permission” when it’s not required, and seeking approval?

  • Aj

    Killer Bee,

    What would you say is the distinction between seeking “permission” when it’s not required, and seeking approval?

    It’s not required? Seems quite clear to me Robert thinks it is required by her culture and her religion.

  • Killer Bee

    @Aj,

    We both agree that she doesn’t HAVE to obey her culture or religion either through physical force (I think) or due to ignorance of her rights.

    If that’s the case, isn’t her decision to obey her father/culture/religion her own? Is it possible she is thinking for herself but Robert just isn’t her top priority?

  • Aj

    Killer Bee,

    If that’s the case, isn’t her decision to obey her father/culture/religion her own? Is it possible she is thinking for herself but Robert just isn’t her top priority?

    That’s not how religion or culture usually works. Physical force isn’t the only form of coercion.

  • Herk

    The whole thing seems odd to me. “Raising the children” shouldn’t be a problem. Children can be taught about Baha’i but cannot become full-fledged Baha’i's until fifteen years of age, and they must come to it with full freedom. Although similar in some ways to Islam, Baha’i is not Islam. Baha’u'llah was adamant that, should you find something better than Baha’i, you should go to it, unlike the death threat of Islam. I know these things because I was a Baha’i for 14 years. (I’ve now been atheist for about 26 years.)

    So it’s difficult for me to understand why this couple has a problem. But perhaps Baha’i is practiced differently in Egypt.

  • Harlan

    Even though the Baha’i Faith is very progressive in its social principles and goals, the Baha’i law concerning parental consent for a marriage to take place is not flexible. A parent may not choose a spouse for his/her child, however whoever the child chooses must be approved by all living parents on both sides. The principle is that marriage is the union of two families and not just two individuals. This fits in nicely with the majority of the world’s cultures, but is an adjustment for the ones from Western cultures which value individualism in all things.

    After converting to the Baha’i Faith I wanted to marry a Baha’i in order to create a Baha’i family. This would have been impossible if I’d married an atheist or someone with another religion. I really can’t understand why anyone who takes his/her religion seriously would want to marry someone who didn’t share the same profound view of the world, of mankind, of history, of the purpose of life and why we go to all the trouble of working hard, raising a family, struggling with the issues of life, etc. If a couple is not on the same page, it’s more than just more difficult. It can become like hell.

    I don’t know why an atheist would want to marry someone who is committed to a fantasy, and why would a person of faith want to be tied to someone who denies that that faith is real.

  • Brian Macker

    “But in her culture and religion she will not go against her father! She told me that if he told her to not see me she wouldn’t see me!”

    That’s all he needs to know. He should break up with her.

  • http://bahai-islam.blogspot.com Susan

    Dear Robert,

    While Baha’is are allowed to marry people of different religions the marriage vow itself involves saying “We will all verily abide by the will of God.” Could you in good conscience pronounce those words? The reason the Baha’i Faith requires the consent of all living parents is because we believe that the success of marriage depends upon the unity of the family. I would suggest that you get to know this girl’s father as much as possible and let him get to know you and your character. Share with one another your views regarding the existence of God. The better you understand one another the better decision you all can make.

    warmest, Susan

  • abby

    I’m shocked that some of you encourage the two to break apart! This situation is a difficult one, granted, but it’s entirely possible to make work. I’m an atheist myself, and have been dating a Baha’i since we were 12. We’ve had religious discussions between ourselves and with our parents, and we both remain true to our beliefs. His parents obviously don’t agree with my beliefs but they accept me for who I am, accepting that we aren’t going to break up anytime soon, and so focus on getting to know ME. We plan to get married in the near future, and raise our children in the knowledge of many different beliefs and faiths, so they can decide for themselves. Our families get along well despite our contradicting beliefs, but of course it wasn’t easy at first. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to not give up. If you love each other, cliche as it sounds, you can definitely make it work. Good luck :)

  • Marena

    I also married a bahai and am having a very difficult time with it. I know some people make it work and we are trying to figure out ways to work around it as we just have two very different views of it. The problem is that this has led to so many problems and I wish I would have thought about this more before marrying him. I did the whole getting permission by two parents things (which I thought was absurd) and also the ceremony (but not because I wanted) and now as he spends time outside the house doing all his events and fasting and am learning more about how they operate I am incredibly worried about our future. I was looking forward to having children with this wonderful man and having a wonderful life together and now that is just not looking so good. My biggest suggestion is to really think about whether you will be able to handle it. Everybody told me about this, but I just thought that he would eventually grow out of it and compromise, etc. Big mistake.

    Best of luck to you and I hope you do the right thing.

  • Trigono Jipsee

    As a Baha’i of some 30+ years, from a western, Jewish background, my experience is that the religion promotes a very high degree of independence of mind and autonomy. A major principle of the religion is independent investigation of the truth and there is a strong injunction to see through your own eyes, not the eyes of others. Like everything else in this holistic religion, such teachings are blended with many other teachings, including obtaining parental consent no matter what the age of the intended partners. The logic of the consent teaching seems to be aimed at promoting family unity over the long-term, taking advantage of the wisdom of the parents and respecting the elders, plus other factors as well. I just wanted to explain that the teaching around consent in no way at all implies that in all other aspects of life the daughter would defer to the father. That being said, culture of course plays a very important role and can not be discounted. Different cultures and personalities to different degrees will value and interpret these teachings differently. That is why the advice given by the columnist to speak to some of the leaders of the religion is a good idea. For example — equality of men and women, elimination of prejudice etc. are deeply enshrined in the Baha’i teachings. It doesn’t mean that everyone has achieved in one jump the essence of practice of these teachings. But, if they are sincere Baha’is, they can be educated by other respected Baha’is regarding the full nature of the practice of these teachings. I also want to confirm that Baha’is are perfectly free to marry people of any other religion. While they must have a Baha’i ceremony which only has a two basic requirements (consent, statement of spiritual duty), they also are fully entitled to have the same day any other religious ceremony (e.g. of the other partner) in any order. Given the central importance of a God and His Teachings to the Baha’is, I agree with many of those who have stated that the couple should think deeply about the implications of marrying each other. Not that an atheist may not have even a better character or virtues than someone with a religion — it is possible. But, still, the goals and values could be different. 

    We don’t know the age of the Baha’i girl but if she is young her willingness to completely defer to her father rather than to find skillful ways to address his concerns is more likely. Baha’is are asked to not fight with parents over their decisions on consent but can certainly interact about it. Much more could be said but I would like to mention one last point. The Baha’i Faith has been under severe persecution in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, where members have been jailed, denounced, threatened with physical extinction and denied constitutional rights. About 1-2 years ago, there were some positive legal developments however. In this situation of hateful pressure against a religious community which resists only with patience, devotion,  dignity and solidarity, it is not surprising to me that the father and daughter are placing a great value on this identity they are striving so hard to protect in the face of persecution.

  • Trigono Jipsee

    To Marena — it sounds like your husband is not being kind and loving enough to you. I assure you — even among Baha’is there can be large differences over how much time one should spend on Baha’i activities and how much to contribute in funds. There are many dozens of Writings which address the issue of marriage and unity. You should not feel alone in your concerns. I am sure your husband is headstrong and not fully performing his duty of balancing his interests and yours. Not that it is ever easy. What about consulting with his family, with Baha’i institutions (many of them have counselling committees) and with a psychologist/counsellor. It sounds like you love your husband but his behaviour may be insensitive. He has to be free to practise and contribute to his religion, but not to a degree which wrecks the marriage, God forbid!

  • Servant of God

    I am an ex-atheist who converted to Islam. Watch this video I made entitled “Death to Atheism” in which I totally refute your baseless lies and completely demolish atheism:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgtmEMYXzSU


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