Friday, December 21, 2007

This blog is now closed

Having received e-mails from many of the people originally invited to contribute to this blog, I now realize that there is simply too great a gulf between the different individuals who have posted or intend to post. Some say they will not appear on the same blog as certain others, and so on. I had no intention of this becoming a blog on which differing opinions could be used: it was to be simply a — what is the word for a dead-end road onto which fast traffic can be siphoned in an emergency?

It is also clear to me that a blog bringing together so many diverse opinions and personalities will only invite the criticism that it is a rallying-point for 'enemies of the faith' and that Momen and others might well use it as evidence to strengthen their claim - however absurd - that anyone who is not a fast and firm Baha'i 'in good standing' will join forces with other dissidents to work a conspiracy against the one true faith. I spend half my llife arguing against claims to a Jewish conspiracy as described in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and I really have neither the time nor the energy to devote to yet more refutations of theories that are patently absurd from the start.

Let us concentrate now on ensuring that a clear, academically-sound message is published in one of the next issues of Religion, exposing Momen's many falsehoods and the deception he has deployed to make himself seem academically neutral.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My letter to Religion (for publication)

A longer version is posted online in other fora, but was not for publication. This is what I am asking be published if space allows:

Dear Editors:

In “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community,” Moojan Momen names me first among a list of alleged Baha’i apostates. In three sentences he misrepresents me on four crucial points:

"Johnson, a librarian, had been a Baha'i for five years (1969-1974) and could be called a serial apostate (1) since he then became a theosophist and subsequently wrote a book 'debunking' Blavatsky. (2) He has now moved on to Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment. (3) He was active on the Talisman list as an ex-Baha'i, attacking core Baha'i beliefs (4) and publishing an article about the Talisman episode in Gnosis magazine."

I was never a Baha’i apostate by Momen’s definition, resigning as a member at the age of 20 but remaining in friendly relations with Baha’is for many years thereafter. My Talisman membership in the mid-1990s was motivated primarily by the fact that I was writing a book at the time that addressed Baha’i history, and the discussion list provided access to the leading scholars in the field. Several Baha’i members of the list read relevant sections of my manuscript and made helpful suggestions; these included Robert Stockman of the National Baha’i Center and Christopher Buck, both now cited as sources by Momen, as well as Juan Cole, now named as an apostate. Since the book, Initiates of Theosophical Masters, was published in 1995 no Baha’i has ever to my knowledge suggested in any way that it was unfriendly to the Baha’i community. Far from angrily rejecting my Baha’i “spiritual past,” I embraced it in that book and in my dealings with Baha’is at the time.

The statement that I became a theosophist and subsequently wrote a book debunking Blavatsky is misleading in three ways. I wrote three books about Blavatsky, all while an active theosophist with substantial support from fellow theosophists. The research on which they were based was shared in a collegial atmosphere over a ten year period, in Theosophical conferences and lectures across the country and abroad. Although my books aroused some controversy, most Theosophical reviews were favorable. I have never repudiated or attacked Blavatsky and my books have generally, and accurately, been regarded as friendly to her.

It is untrue that I have now “moved on” to the Association for Research and Enlightenment after apostasizing from Theosophy. In 1995 I moved on from Theosophy as a literary subject and began research for a book about Edgar Cayce that appeared three years later. But I first joined the ARE thirty years ago, a few months before first joining the Theosophical Society, and have been involved intermittently with both movements ever since. The two have always been intertwined interests for me, but except for the period when I was writing about Cayce in the late 1990s, Blavatsky has been the greater influence and remains so now.

The claim that I participated in Talisman “as an ex-Baha’i” who attacked “core beliefs” is another misrepresentation. It is more accurate to say that I was there as a Theosophical historian, whose ex-Baha’i status inspired him to write a book that was friendly to the Baha’is. The majority of listmembers were welcoming and did not perceive me as attacking their religion. But in 1996 some of the Baha’i scholars on Talisman were targeted by the administration as dissidents which resulted in the closing of the list. My brief Gnosis article about the experience is the only thing I have ever published that was critical of the Baha’is, so I find it surprising ten years later to see myself at the head of Momen’s list. It is disheartening to see a sectarian enemies list filled with personal attacks on individuals in a scholarly journal, and I hope this will be the last instance of such an article in Religion.

Sincerely yours,

K. Paul Johnson


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Purpose of this site

I have just set up this blog as a public space on which individuals named in Moojan Momen's highly slanted article in Religion may write at length about their complaints with that article and set the record straight. It will also be used (I hope) as a reference point for readers of the rebuttal I intend to place in a future issue of the journal. Many individuals have already sent letters to Religion, but it is highly unlikely that many or any of these will be published. They are welcome to post those letters here. It is not my intention for this to become a rallying point for everyone with a grievance about the Baha'i religion. There are already sites that cater for that, and no doubt individuals can find their own way to the ones that cater best to their particular positions.