How “cultish” is the Bahai Faith?

This picture of Ruhiyyih Khanum is worth a 1000 words

For High Control Groups, I’ll just go down this checklist found here. To be fair, in my opinion, most of these items would to one degree or another be applicable to any major Christian denomination.

The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.

The Universal House of Justice is collectively infallible in religious matters.

The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

Yes, I would say this is the raison d’être of the Bahá’í Faith, to bring in new members in order to establish the World Order.

The group is preoccupied with making money.

No, I would not say there is a preoccupation with a profit motive.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

Yes, many prominent Bahá’ís have resigned or been declated Covenant-breakers for no other reason than expressing opinions in variance to the Administrative Order. They include Juan Cole, Ehsan Yarshater, Denis MacEoin, Abbas Amanat, Allison Marshall and numerous others. The members of the Administrative Order actively monitored internet forums for dissent.

Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

I would say no.

The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).

Yes

The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).

Yes

The group has a polarized us- versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.

There is a high degree of polarization with Bahá’ís seeing themselves as the saviors of humanity, but I would not say this causes conflict with the wider society.

The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).

Yes. The Administrative Order is very opaque. For example, there is no independent accounting of finances, so a financial scandal in Italy was only uncovered by that country’s national tax authority.

The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).

There are certainly some deceptive practices, for example posing as teachers in country’s where overt missionary is illegal or presenting religious lessons to children as moral education.

The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.

Yes

Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.

No, I have not witnessed this.

Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.

No

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

No

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

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