Feedback from an Ex-Bahai on Bahai Numbers…

One of the visitors to TheBahaiInsider.com wrote this email so I thought it best to share it with you all…

My opinion is that the Baha’i membership statistics are highly distorted and basically false. I will tell you the reasons I know this.

I was an active member of this religion for at least 15 years, was a member of their administrative bodies, including a state committee that had the membership roll for the state. (I remember well the computer printout.)

The reality is that Baha’i membership is a great big “churn.” That is to say, it’s continually gaining new members and losing active members. Disaffected or alienated members fade into the woodwork. But the members who become inactive or disaffected remain on their rolls as statistics. For example, I have been disaffected from the Baha’i Faith for at least 15 years, and would even consider myself an active enemy of this religion at this point. (I feel it promotes race-destruction and racial destruction without offering a body of genuine religious knowledge.) However, my name is still counted on their membership rolls. My case is no doubt very common.

Back when I was the secretary of the state committee (and a very avid and sincere Baha’i I should add) I recall there were around 350 names for my mid-sized midwestern state. Though I tended to travel and go to many Baha’i activities statewide, and actually had an obligation to keep in touch with the members and inspire their interest, there were a great many of them who that I never saw. They were nothing but names. It became a common experience, too, to finally contact some of these persons and find that they were indeed disaffected from the Baha’i Faith and did not want any contact with us. But we carried their names year after year. (In some cases, through contact, their interest and activity would be rekindled, which was my objective and the objective of our committee.)

One reason this occurs is that the Baha’i administration levies a certain requirement in order to have your name taken off their membership rolls: You must sign some sort of statement “renouncing Baha’u’llah,” basically “undeclaring” your faith and repudiating him/it. For a wide variety of reasons, most disaffected members do not do this. These are among the reasons:

– It is one more Baha’i hassle and not worth the bother

– They don’t wish to face or interact with any Baha’i in such doings, much less some sharpie at the “National Center” etc, and go through whatever it entails.

– They may not really have such a negative attitude that they wish to repudiate Baha’u’llah, or may even prefer not to do so. They just don’t want to be involved with Baha’is any more.

– They may feel that philosophically it is not valid or necessary to repudiate him/it. There understanding of what he/it is may have changed, and they may still see some validity there, perhaps seeing him/it as “mixed.” To repudiate him/it would not be, to those philosophical Baha’i leavers, honest or necessary.

Thus I would say that the great majority of those disaffected never do sign this statement and they remain on their rolls as deadwood, helping create fake Baha’i membership statistics.

Another phenomenon, similar but different, is membership created through “teaching projects.” I was involved with a number of these. As the result of these intensive, focused activities is a particular place Baha’is would often get high numbers of “enrollments” due to the buzz they create, or the particular coercive or tricky techniques of some “project teacher” hotshot. So in the American southern states among poor blacks, during the 1970s and 1980s, American Baha’is ended up getting large enrollments down there. But the attrition rate on these is very, very high. In the first place, most of them really have no idea what they got into. In the second place, Baha’s notoriously inept at “following up” to “deepen” these people (teach them better, in the Baha’i vernacular). By the time any Baha’is got around to following up on 5 percent of them (if lucky and highly ambitious), many of them would have forgotten about it. Or it turned out they really had no idea what they’d signed up for or its significance. Or they might be actually pissed off and embittered after being hyped and revved up so much by the visiting Baha’i teachers that weekend long ago, then forgotten. I am describing the typical outcome of Baha’i teaching projects. When I head about the Baha’is doing these “projects” in India I naturally assumed it was the same sort of deal, and that the quality of these enrollments — given the dramatic differences between Hinduism and Baha’i for starters — would be even lower and the numbers even more absurd from any realistic or responsible point of view. (Baha’is should really stay out of India. The Hindu religions are far superior to the Baha’i Faith.)

As I said, Baha’i membership is a big churn. I have no doubt that if I went back to my old town there would be few of the ones I knew, and that most of the faces would be new. Most people go through the Baha’i Faith as part of a developmental phase of the mind; a phase of seeking and testing. But when they outgrow it or change, their names remain on the rolls.

That’s the big secret of Baha’i membership numbers.

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About imranshaykh
I am a student of comparative religion with a special interest in Islam and The Bahai Faith

2 Responses to Feedback from an Ex-Bahai on Bahai Numbers…

  1. I always knew the numbers were severely inflated. Unfortunately for those of us who once so earnestly taught this faith…we have been let down. This religion is doomed to relative obscurity!

    • imranshaykh says:

      I think so too. Thanks Michael!

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