Resources for the Ascension of Baha'u'llah
- Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, passed away on 29 May, 1892. This holy day is commemorated by Baha’is all over the world and is known as ‘The Ascension of Baha’u’llah’.
Join activities, celebrations, study groups, spiritual empowerment and education programs for young people, and more.
Baha’i beliefs address essential spiritual themes for humanity’s collective and individual advancement. Learn more about these and more.
Featured in: Health, Healing & Overcoming Difficulties
At some point in our lives, we all suffer from illnesses of the body or the mind and we face tests and difficulties. This collection highlights resources dedicated to physical and spiritual health and well-being, healing, resilience and overcoming challenges.
I was reading an interesting article on the BBC news website the other day and it talked about the detrimental health effects and the financial cost of alcohol related hospital admissions to the National Health Service in the UK. I couldn’t believe it when I read that nearly £2 billion was spent on alcohol related in-patient hospital admissions in just one year.
As a medical doctor from the UK, a country that has an entrenched culture of drinking alcohol, (in moderation and to excess) I thought it would be interesting to write about the health implications of drinking alcohol.
Having been brought up as a Baha’i I know that the Baha’i teachings do not allow the consumption of substances such as alcohol which alter our judgement. In The Most Holy Book, Baha’u’llah states:
It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away.
When I talk to friends about alcohol, the first response is “Yes, but I only drink wine with food, what’s wrong with that?” Many would say that there is nothing wrong with that and in fact there are some health benefits to drinking one glass of wine per day, however there are also extensive amounts of study which point to the overwhelming medical and social harms caused by alcohol. The problem is that many people cannot drink in moderation. The religious laws that have been revealed to us which are meant to guide and protect us, refer to the whole human race — all of society, not just a minority of individuals who can drink in moderation. Unfortunately the social, economic and physical harms of alcohol are usually seen in populations of people who are unable to drink “just one glass of wine” a day, and the Baha’i Faith is not the only religion that teaches abstinence from alcohol, many of the writings from other religions also discuss this topic.
As a Baha’i, I adhere to the law of abstinence from alcohol and I don’t feel that I need to be convinced about the wisdom of this law, but as a doctor, I see the wide reaching effects of drinking alcohol on a daily basis — and not just physical, but psychological, emotional, social, and economic. There is an emerging body of evidence and health professionals who are accepting the negative effects of alcohol on health and on the individual, and are consequently actively questioning its place and discouraging its use in society. There are numerous writings and quotes on the subject, but one that refers specifically to the health issues is the following quote by Abdu’l-Baha:
The drinking of wine is, according to the text of the Most Holy Book, forbidden; for it is the cause of chronic diseases, weakeneth the nerves, and consumeth the mind.The Advent of Divine Justice
I regularly talk to patients about the harmful health effects of alcohol, and I thought I would share just five of the many harmful effects that alcohol has on our health, in order to shed some light on this Baha’i law from a medical perspective.
The first point to make is that alcohol is a chemical and a toxin to the human body. When alcohol is ingested it is absorbed into the blood stream and needs to be metabolized and converted to a safe compound that can be then converted to carbon dioxide and water. One of the main functions of the liver is to remove toxins from the blood. When excess alcohol is consumed, it can cause inflammation, cell death and fibrosis of liver cells. This can lead to hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver, which can in some cases be fatal.
According to Cancer Council Australia it is estimated that 5,070 cases of cancer (or 5% of all cancers) are attributable to long-term, chronic use of alcohol each year in Australia. Alcohol is known to be a risk factor for mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel (in men) and breast (in women) cancers. There is a dose dependent relationship between amount of alcohol consumption and development of the cancers mentioned above, and for the first time the US Department of Health and Human services has listed alcohol as a known human carcinogen (substance directly involved in causing cancer). There are a number of mechanisms thought to be involved, including the effects of acetaldehyde (the breakdown product of alcohol), and the induction of certain enzymes (cytochrome system ).
Alcohol can raise triglyceride (trig) levels, as well as lead to high blood pressure (high trig and high BP are risk factors for heart attack and stroke) and heart failure. There is increasing evidence to show that even moderate amounts of alcohol in young adults has a proatherogenic effect, i.e. it helps to contribute to the formation of atheroma (plaque) in the arteries which leads to heart attack and stroke. Other conditions where alcohol is a causal risk factor include fetal alcohol syndrome, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
Alcohol use can cause alcohol-related psychosis (delusions and hallucinations , paranoia etc), and can also increase relapse frequency and severity for those suffering from schizophrenia. Alcohol can also lead to dementia, with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alcohol can also cause depression, and also leads to higher rates of suicide and poorer outcomes in patients with depression who use alcohol to try and cope with their symptoms. Alcohol can cause problems with sleep, and general functioning as it is a “depressant” chemical – it slows processes down in the body- brain function being a primary example.
Effects of alcohol on behaviors/brain functioning include: impaired judgment, extreme emotion, and slowed behavior, slowed processing of information, difficulty in learning new material, deficits in abstraction and problem solving, and reduced visuospatial abilities. We have all seen examples of this especially impaired judgement and loss of inhibitions!
As you can see regardless of one’s religious beliefs, strong arguments can be made for the benefits of abstaining from drinking alcohol on health grounds alone. I could go on and on — seizures, gout, anaemia, nerve damage, pancreatitis — but I would rather hear about your thoughts on drinking alcohol, so please feel free to share!
"*" indicates required fields
Join activities, celebrations, study groups, spiritual empowerment and education programs for young people, and more.
The arts and media have a critical role in how we share our community experiences. We’ve got resources, projects and more to help you get involved.
Baha’i beliefs address essential spiritual themes for humanity’s collective and individual advancement. Learn more about these and more.
We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.
The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha’i Faith.
Visit the site of the
Australian Baha’i Community
and the Baha’i Faith Worldwide
In your informative article you state that “in fact there are some health benefits to drinking one glass of wine per day.” While this has been noted in some studies, recent research concludes that even one glass may have inimical effects which outweigh health benefits. For example, in a report published in 2009 the French Cancer Institute stated that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is associated with an increase in risks of the following types of cancer: mouth, pharynx and larynx, oesophagus, colorectal, breast and liver. The risk of developing these types of cancer increase even at low levels of alcohol consumption, start at one glass per day.
In response to the question: “Does red wine have a protective effect against cancer?” (p:47), the brochure answers: “No, quite on the contrary. No alcoholic beverage, including wine, has a protective effect against cancer (…). The crucial factor is the quantity of alcohol consumed. It is important to stress that, in terms of the prevention of cancers, the consumption of alcohol and notably wine, is not advised.” The Institute also stated that a single glass of wine a day will raise the chance of contracting cancer by up to 168 per cent. According to the Institute, the booklet (distributed to 70,000 French GPs) is based upon the conclusions of 500 studies carried out by acclaimed scientists worldwide.
Of course, research is on going and the matter may not yet be deemed to be settled by the medical/scientific community. I have found research on these issues to be complicated by the fact that the sponsors of research can influenc the findings and also that there are numerous variables to be considered.
Reports of the Institute’s findings can be found in Google.
Finally, in addition to your medical perspective on this issue, I would like to state that there is massive peer reviewed evidence linking alcohol consumption to high positive correlations with billions of dollars annually in costs to businesses and economies globally, accidents, domestic violence and crimes of various kinds due to the disinhibiting effect of alcohol.
Peter (October 10, 2012 at 12:31 AM)
Thanks very much for your comprehensive comment! I agree with you re: the damaging effects of even one glass of wine- i was debating whether or not to make this comment (one glass being beneficial). I decided to include it as many people do believe it is (depending on which studies they have read!) and the point i wanted to make was that even if it is, there are still reasons why as a society we shouldn’t drink.
Regarding the other wide reaching detrimental effects of alcohol i agree entirely, and that will be the subject of part two of this post ! 🙂
Thanks again for your comments and your support of Baha’i Blog !
Roya (October 10, 2012 at 7:36 AM)
Liked the article. I am from my mother’s side of family and although she was the best mom in the world, she, her 5 brothers were major alocholics. My mom, my sister, a year older died at 50 of alcoholism. I drank a lot before I became a Baha’i, never thinking it could happen to me. Alcoholism is a disease, and I adored my mom and my sister. My twin took after my father’s genetic side, and I the other. I became a Baha’i very quickly, after 3 weeks, and I wondered about the drinking. A friend, not a Baha’i then, who had told me of the Faith, said, “Don’t worry about it honey. It will give you up.” But I had to make conscious decisions. I stopped drinking. A couple of slips in the midst of turmoil, but very little.
I have a heightened sensitivity towards everything – the good, the bad, and the lima bean is safe from my consumption. But i feel this sensitivity in the form of addiction and yet far beyond addiction. I am grateful to be a Baha’i, but i am never judgmental of anyone with an addiction. I used to smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day. Addiction travels. I think the Twelve Step programs help many,and I am grateful to have had such a wonderful mother.
Esther Bradley-DeTally (October 10, 2012 at 7:42 PM)
Thanks very much for your heartfelt comments Esther and for your continued support of Baha’i Blog!
Roya (October 10, 2012 at 4:00 AM)
My comment below does not add to your succinct paragraph on the subject of mental health and alcohol, namely, that: “Alcohol use can cause alcohol-related psychosis…..and can also increase relapse frequency and severity in Schizophrenics……..Alcohol can cause problems with sleep, and general functioning…….brain function being a primary example.”
But I would like to add some tangential comments on mental health in general, if moderators here will permit the extension of this week’s topic into the vast tract of mental health issues in contemporary society. You can view these comments on mental health at four sub-sections of my website—at this link: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/MENTAL_HEALTH.html
RonPrice (October 10, 2012 at 4:01 AM)
I have witnessed what alcohol consumption does first hand especially during stressful times and vowed to never do so. I admit I have tried drinking every once in a while, but that lethargic feeling afterwards really freaked me out! I have a very weak tolerance for this type of consumption. I am very appreciative that I have found a community that shares this belief.
SERGIO GUTIERREZ (October 10, 2012 at 4:47 PM)
Thanks for your comments Sergio, glad that you have found a community to support your wise choice 🙂 !
Roya (October 10, 2012 at 4:01 AM)
Thanks for your comment and link Ron !
Roya (October 10, 2012 at 4:02 AM)
Thank you for this article! I just wanted to add that I found a relevant journal article just the other day, showing that moderate drinking, as in even below the legal driving limit of many countries, was enough to decrease the number of new brain cells produced in the hippocampus, which is an area that deals with memory and spacial navigation. So even one glass a day with a meal, which most people would consider acceptable, can have a long term damaging effect on the brain.
Here’s a link to a summary of the article. I think you’d need to pay or have university access to get the original paper.
Shirin (October 10, 2012 at 7:22 AM)
Thanks for the comment and link to that article Shirin! Im sure more and more of these studies are going to surface- its another sign of the changing culture… Thanks for your continued support of Baha’i Blog !
Roya (October 10, 2012 at 7:31 AM)
Thank you for the item on the dangers of alcohol. I lost my father to alcoholism and currently keep in touch with friends now seriously ill due to alcohol consumption. The suffering of these people makes me very sad when it could have been avoided.
avigale bischard (November 11, 2012 at 10:43 PM)
Thanks for your comments Avigale, hopefully as more people realise the damaging effects of alcohol future suffering will be avoided…
Take care and thanks for your support of Baha’i Blog.
Roya (November 11, 2012 at 7:18 AM)
[…] couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on Baha’i Blog called Why Baha’is Don’t Drink Alcohol – A Medical Perspective, and we there was a great response with a lot of really great feedback. As the title suggested, my […]
Why Baha’is Don’t Drink Alcohol – A Social Perspective | Baha'i Blog (November 11, 2012 at 1:40 AM)
………nearly £2 billion was spent on alcohol related in-patient hospital admissions in just one year.And £50 billion income from the taxes for the government!!! hehehehe
daneistis (November 11, 2012 at 12:22 PM)
I totally agree that every new habit begins with mental shifts
Casa Bella Recovery Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center is an addiction center that offers modern and effective drug and alcohol recovery through cutting edge techniques. If you want to know more about it then please Follow the link casabellarecovery.com
loramacantoch (December 12, 2012 at 11:16 AM)
Interestingly enough I just today received the american baha’i and there is an article about the use and sale of alcohol. The most concise quote was from Shoghi Effendi dated March 1957 that says “under no circumstancess should Baha’is drink. It is unambiouosly forbidden in the Tablets of Baha’u’llah that there is no excuse for them ever touching it in the form of a toast,or in a burning plum pudding;in fact in any way”
beckey (January 1, 2013 at 5:14 AM)
In the late 1980s I had a class in Social Work on working with families of alcoholics and we had a guest speaker who told of some amazing research. A friend of his was a neurologist at Columbia University (in New York City) who found through auto paying brains of alcoholics that instead of metabolizing down to sugar & water, in an alcoholic it immediately broke down into the same substance as heroin thus creating an instant, intense and addicting high! I don’t remember any names but those results have always stayed with me as an excellent example of why we’re not to drink – you never know if you may be one to have such a reaction.
Nancy Moore (January 1, 2013 at 6:18 PM)
There is another downside to alcohol, namely foetal alcohol syndrome, which occurs when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol even in small amounts at a crucial stage of pregnancy. Because of the nature of current drinking and sexual culture this damage to the foetus can occur more often in lower socio-economic groups. As a young Baha’i in the 50s I finally appreciated the injunction to completely avoid alcohol as an example to my indigenous friends. Indeed the indigenous cultures all over the world have demonstrated appalling reaction to the alcohol culture produced by and in the face of colonisation. Now I am in my 70s I appreciate even more my physical and mental health assisted I am sure by complete avoidance of alcohol over the decades. I drink the occasional glass of red grape juice too….non-alcoholic of course, believing it contains the equivalent health benefit as red wine is purported by some authorities.
Helen Harrison (February 2, 2016 at 12:13 AM)
Jesus drank wine. Jesus turned water into wine. Many great prophets drank wine.
How about a drug that has withdrawal symptoms like lack of alertness, fatigued muscles, throbbing headache, difficult to concentrate… a drug that is chemically addictive and is listed as a mental disorder in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
This drug actually changes the brain, blocking receptors for adenosine causing brain cells grow to more adenosine receptors, which is the brain’s attempt to maintain equilibrium in the face of a constant onslaught of this drug.
In extreme cases withdrawl can cause dull muscle pains, nausea and other flu-like symptoms.
I’m speaking here of caffeine … coffee!
Anything can be addictive and potentially harmful if not used in moderation. There are many studies that show the benefits of small amounts of wine drinking.
What I see here is a lack of consistency, a righteous lack of extending personal responsibility and an unyielding fundamentalism that is at worst, hypocritical.
BTW….I’m an athlete who rarely drinks alcohol.
William (August 8, 2013 at 3:33 PM)
Clarification: Caffeine withdrawl is listed as a MENTAL DISORDER in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Why do Baha’i’s think caffeine is ok and alcohol in any amount is bad? There are a lot of things that influence behavior and judgement… including sugar, high carb intake, and a host of so-called ‘safe’ and commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. But most of all, one of the biggest influences on judgement is divisive religious fundamentalism – one of the driving factors of hate and violence in human society.
Sure alcohol can be very harmful, but when used sparingly, moderately and responsibly, it can be safe and promote happiness for some. Unlike many of the so-called ‘safe’ and commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs that Baha’i’s would have no hesitation to use, there is often no determination of the long term health risk of such drugs. On the other hand, alcohol has been used for thousands of years by humans and the risks and benefits are well known.
William (August 8, 2013 at 4:20 PM)
People rarely use alcohol in the amounts consider safe equivalent to half serving per a day,
And, caffeine takes alone more though personally i don’t use caffeine. I tend to drink low or preferably no caffeine drinks.
But, if you tried eliminate all caffeine you would have to give up chocolate one of the foods considered a super food. Alcohol comes either processing grains and fruits or fermentation which is a form rotting. Caffeine is found naturally in many edible plants
Peace (February 2, 2016 at 5:09 PM)
Abdul-Baha also praised tea as the drink of the future! There are many teas available now that do not contain caffeine.
Helen Harrison (February 2, 2016 at 12:16 AM)
William (October 10, 2013 at 2:15 AM)
I just read this blog, somewhat late in the piece, I found your comments interesting and thought provoking (thank you for that), so I followed your link, read the article on the benefits of beer and linked to the cited Harvard study, here’s what it says at the end of the published article on the benefits of moderate drinking: (it’s actually titled “Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits”)
18.2 million Americans meet standard criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. (19)
Alcohol plays a role in one in three cases of violent crime. (20)
More than 16,000 people die each year in automobile accidents in which alcohol is involved. (21)
Alcohol abuse costs more than $185 billion dollars a year. (22)
I live in a country (Australia) where almost all deaths on the road are related to Alcohol, and Alcohol related violence and domestic violence is a significant issue.
I guess the problem is the availability of alcohol in our societies means many people don’t drink moderately leading to the above problems, don’t they outway the benefits to the few? Dare I quote Start Trek here?? 🙂 I don’t think the same numerous detrimental societal impacts can be claimed for caffeine or the responsible use of pharmaceutical drugs. I do have to agree with you about fundamentalism though (great point), of any kind, be it religious, political, capitalist etc… all very bad. One has to wonder when the massive profits from Alcohol that flow to a minority and to our governments around the world far out-way the monetary costs, therefore there is no economic and political will to affect a beneficial change for people. Capitalist society’s don’t really value human happiness they value human consumption of goods, they are pro individual gratification and anti community.
I think that if we had happier societies based on humanist values there would not be the “need” be it perceived or otherwise to seek a substance to consume that provides temporary “happiness”. True happiness is an elusive thing.
I also come from a family who claim to be responsible moderate drinkers, but being the observer I always notice that at parties there’s always more than one moderate drink, peoples personalities are visibly altered and many times it’s not for the better. Sure this is an anecdotal story, I accept that, it’s just that I know a lot of friends who don’t drink and they are among those I would list as the happiest people I’ve met.
One of the things about alcohol that I cannot personally forgive is that our colonialist societies brought this to indigenous societies when we colonized Australia, NZ etc, with devastating effects, look at the impact of the native American peoples also – to me this is unforgivable and seriously worth contemplation. Being originally Scottish, I know first hand the impacts alcohol has on an entire society who champions its use and abuse, and having lived for half a decade in a culture that does not drink to excess (in the Middle East) I noticed that people were on average happier, and there was significantly less person to person crime and feeling of safety for all members of society to enjoy public night life etc, not something I’ve experienced in the USA, UK or Australia, all the world capitals for drinking to excess.
Sorry Mate, I hope this didn’t come across as an attack on your comments, rather I was inspired by what you said to share some other points of view which I hope constructive further this discussion.
Stu (November 11, 2013 at 11:38 PM)
This statement by Stu is false: “I don’t think the same numerous detrimental societal impacts can be claimed for …. the responsible use of pharmaceutical drugs.”
The CS Monitor reported last year: “Prescription drug abuse now more deadly than heroin, cocaine combined”
About 6.1 million people abuse prescription pills, and overdose deaths have at least doubled in 29 states, where they now exceed vehicle-related deaths. In 10 of those states, rates tripled; in four of them, they quadrupled.
Still believe that pharmaceutical prescribed drugs are better than natural substances like cannabis? Millions dead from pharmaceutical prescribed drugs. How many from cannabis? But cannabis is forbidden, and pharmaceutical prescribed drugs are just fine?
Why do Bahai’s have this ignorance and think all drugs are ok that are bought over the counter or prescribed?
America is a drug culture. Better to learn responsible use and education. Prohibition doesn’t provide for very good education.
JSB (March 3, 2014 at 6:27 PM)
Just one other point there are also numerous studies, one of which is from Harvard about the benefits of Caffeine and having a cup of coffee a day, so it’s not a black and white issue either.
BTW I’m an athlete who abstains from caffeine, alcohol, cane sugar, animal products etc and I’m pretty happy 🙂
Stu (November 11, 2013 at 11:49 PM)
Kia Ora William THANKYOU for acknowledging the far reaching, devastating effects that alcohol and other addictI’ve substances continue to have on the Maori and Aboriginal First Nations peoples and communities of North America and America. I am forever greatful that I choose daily to make effort to be a Baha’i the fundamental Teachings of Bahaullahs divine Faith enabling me to step back and away from those “fundamentalist ” values, beliefs, behaviours, life styles inherently born of materialism and consumerism from which no individual, culture or society is exempt.Naku iti noa ! Nga mihi ki a Koutou Katoa! Greetings and Love to you all…..
Lynne (May 5, 2016 at 11:36 PM)
This response was meant to be for Stu, Arohamai
Lynne (May 5, 2016 at 11:39 PM)
To consume alcohol is to live in an illusory world…
Steeve (February 2, 2014 at 4:46 PM)
Yes I agree that one glass of wine a day is not really that bad and it has some benefits, but think of it that all addictions starts with a little bit of consumption. Alcohol addictions affect most of people in who suffer S.A and depression and it can lead a lot of problems in future. There’s an effective way to cure this kind of substance abused, a rehab treatment is one of the way to help those people suffering it.
Alcohol & Drug Treatment (February 2, 2014 at 3:13 AM)
are you kidding me? bahai’s doesn’t drink alcohol?!!
bardia (February 2, 2014 at 5:36 PM)
bardia, …to say that Baha’i’s don’t drink alcohol is not true. What is true is that the Manifestation of God has forbidden His followers from drinking alcohol, unless prescribed by a Dr. Baha’i’s are human beings with all the faults and frailty’s that come with that title, so one may know a Baha’i who drinks alcohol which does not mean that Baha’i’s drink alcohol, it only means that some do. The same can be said for any group of people. White people don’t or black people do or Native people do etc. In other words we cannot generalize about any group of people based upon the actions of a few as it is stereotyping and is unjust. The article might have been more constructive had it begun with why Baha’i’ are forbidden from drinking alcohol, rather than why Baha’is don’t.
Thank you for your consideration
Micheal D. Barry (February 2, 2014 at 1:05 AM)
Hops is a herb used in beer for flavoring. As a supplement it has potent medicinal properties. It is available as a liquid extract. It provides all the benefits without the alcohol. It tastes great when added in generous amounts to non-alcohol beer.
Kevin G. Dolgos (February 2, 2014 at 6:01 AM)
First off, I love Guiness and red wine, but choose not to drink these as part of the spiritual disciplines necessary to cultivate a generic spiritual and specifically Baha’i world view which I regard as more valuable than transitory highs.
Red wine can convey some benefits as a source of reseveratrol and polyphenols, but the mechanism of delivery has significant down-sides inasmuch as any amount of alcohol will kill brain cells and impair judgement, and is particularly harmful at all stages of foetal development. You can get the same benefits from grapes themselves as well as tomatoes.
It is also important to understand something of the social history of alcohol:
The earliest known evidence of brewing was in Babylon 3,500 years ago at a time when it was the largest urban community in the known world. That many people could not rely on wells or running water, and so cisterns were built and the harmful effects of bacteria mitigated by adding yeast and honey from which emerged a very light, but drinkable and relatively safe “ale”. The lightheadedness that accompanied this was enhanced by concentrating the process and the same idea was applied to fruit juice.
Certainly in northern Europe, sharing alcoholic drinks was less a custom of simply getting drunk, as a means to demonstrate that the knowledge of brewing was known, and used to preserve a decent community water supply, and thus a community large enough to warrant such storage, so keep your distance.
The Greeks and Romans notably ascribed the “madness” to the Gods and it was enfolded into an idea that if sufficiently detached from one’s willful conversation and action, a less restrained, more truthful opinion or action might result, and one might receive divine insight. Not for nothing do the manifestations of God use wine as a metaphor for divine inspiration, one devoid of the constraints of human interference, and capable of inducing unconstrained joy. Jesus turned the plain water of the un-edified soul into the wine of the devout believer, a metaphor well received at the time.
You should not forget that while it is easy to assume someone gets drunk or takes drugs or whatever because of some incident in their past, for most people it is because it is fun to set aside one’s inhibitions and see what happens. Pity is that it kills off the brain and can have immediate consequences such as impaired driving, or “Dutch courage” (incidentally Dutch bargees were employed during the 17thC plague of London to carry off the dead bodies and dump them in the sea, for which they were fortified with strong drink that their judgement would not prevent them from carrying out their duties – hence the term) that can turn nasty when incipient frustrations rise, triggered by even the most innocent of remarks, and chaos and violence follows.
I love that Baha’u’llah is sufficiently concerned for my health that He would wish me to avoid alcohol, and learn to become creative and unrestrained through conscious effort, rather than letting loose the wild animal within me.
Charles Boyle (February 2, 2014 at 6:08 AM)
When people ask why I don’t drink I say it’s in solidarity with those who can’t drink in moderation, whose lives have been destroyed by alcohol, who would have avoided a great deal of pain if alcohol was not part of our society. I want to be able to meet with these people and say “I’m on your side”. This becomes a practice in compassion, a sacrifice for mankind. Since I live in a house where alcohol is being consumed I feel from day to day the strain of being an outsider, sometimes I even feel judged. So it is a sacrifice, but from sacrifice comes strength and integrity. In so many ways, other than just the health benefits I feel abstaining from alcohol pushes me to walk the spiritual path.
Rasmus Blomqvist (February 2, 2014 at 1:37 PM)
I’m wit you on the societal dangers of Alcohol use. But, as the US learned trying eliminate it strictly by laws it cause even more danger to society.
Peace (February 2, 2016 at 5:21 PM)
Thank you, we will be using that reasoning here in Hawai’i. Not only is it humorous but non- threatening, non-critical, and non- confrontational. it’s an explanation we will find very useful. Aloha! and Mahalo!
csl (May 5, 2016 at 9:15 AM)
It is so sad that in the face of so much evidence of the harm alcohol does, society continues the multifaceted and relentless pressure on individuals to drink it. Alcohol is presented as the drink for celebration, special events a sign of hospitality, a medicine, a bracer in hard times, a way to socialize a sign of sophistication,in fact for all occassions at all times, and those who dont drink are labled kill-joys.
It breaks my heart the mixed message we send out about alcohol use that result in stunned looks when drinkers find out what damage they have done themselves while behaving “Normal”. As if we will be protected as long as we follow the accepted pattern of drinking. I see growing numbers of women counting glasses of wine and not units, suddenly finding their world falling apart. Being stopped at lunchtime by the police, found guilty of drink driving , loosing their licence , their job, their income their house. All from false ideas and harmful myths such as “Drinking responsibly”. When we look at the government guidelines on alcohol its obvious that recommended limits are far lower than most people drink. There is frankly no safe, healthy , legal limit that would allow the levels of drinking most people drink on “a night out”. Who sits with one glass all night?. One reporter bought a can of strong larger that had a “Safe drinking” label and phone number. He called it and asked “What should I do with the rest of the can ? ” The can contained more than the recommended daily limit. !! Mixed message ? I think so.
Hari Docherty (February 2, 2014 at 2:11 PM)
It is interesting to hear alcohol consumers constantly citing the health benefits of wine as a justification for drinking it. If they were really concerned about health benefits, why are they not drinking grape juice instead which is a thousand times healthier and does not alter the mind? As the article points out, drinking in moderation does not exist. All those who consume it WILL drink in excess whenever a rough day comes their way. As a medical transcriptionist, I was astounded at the number of visits to the hospital that were secondary to drunkenness – people falling down concrete steps reslting in fractures or broken bones, etc. And comparing caffeine to alcohol is like comparing gently tapping yourself on the chest with a hammer versus bashing yourself over the head with it. Alcohol is HIGHLY poisonous and toxic. Why consume it in any amount?
Shawn (February 2, 2014 at 4:03 PM)
Articles often point to health problems or drunk driving as negatives of alcohol. But I believe that these are tangential.
A much larger cost is the social costs for example:
– men that work hard all week for a meager wage in a poor country drink away the earnings on the weekend
– its relation to domestic violence and abuse.
– the eroding and destructive effect is has on family relations
While alcohol may be bad for you (like too much fat is probably bad for you), alcoholism is totally destructive not only to you but to your family and ultimately society. A good illustration of this is the book “Angela’s Ashes”.. but most of us can also find examples in our friends and families.
I believe Baha’u’llah forbade alcohol consumption and drug consumption because He wanted humanity to be free from material addiction of all forms including money, luxuries, and transitory and obsessive entertainment. Drugs and alcohol create attachments to substances when Baha’u’llah only wants us to be attached to the love of God and to be free from the slavery of material attachment.
How horrible that someone could become so attached to a drink to the point that family pays the price. Alcohol is not the only way to do this… but it is a common way.
am (February 2, 2014 at 4:33 PM)
Incidentally, America sought to ban what was regarded as the pernicious effects of alcohol by prohibiting it in the 1930’s. The consequence was bootlegging and all manner of alternatives – notably methanol derived from wood and other cellulose distillation. There was such a dramatic spike in deaths as a result of poisoning by such that it lead to the development of the science of forensic investigation, and this in turn led to an overturning of prohibition because of the public health risks that resulted.
“Observe My commandments for love of My Beauty” exhorts Baha’u’llah, which would seem to be the best approach to this by way of voluntary, willful and informed abstension even if we can’t understand why.
We might usefully define a “spiritual” life as one lived on the understanding that one’s evety action has consequence and effect on people and circumstances about which we have no direct knowledge. Certainly Baha’u’llah broadens our understanding that our actions have consequence on the world, not just ourselves, or family, tribe, city or nation. Perhaps one element of the “Beauty” to which He refers is the comprehensive and integrative nature of our global civilization, and that following His advice and the laws or guidance He gives will be for the good of us all, whether Baha’is or not.
Charles Boyle (February 2, 2014 at 4:33 PM)
I don’t feel like Baha’is push their beliefs about not drinking alcohol onto others at all. This is the first article I have read in years that even broached the topic and I found its tone to be non judgmental towards anybody that did decide to consume alcohol.
My feeling is that there are many things in this world that are bad for us from a health perspective (coffee, alcohol, refined sugar) but that alcohol and other mind altering drugs have a particularly detrimental affect on collective society.
Williams example of coffee was perfect. Coffee, like alcohol and also be very unhealthy (especially is not taken with moderation) but despite coffee’s legality and widespread availability I think it would be hard to argue that it brings about as many social ills as alcohol. Coffee doesn’t destroy relationships and break up families, coffee doesn’t result in car accidents and wreck less behavior that ruins people’s lives, and coffee doesn’t carry with it the huge emotional dependence that so many regular alcohol drinkers have… Even if they are not alcoholics. Sure… Coffee an result in dependence… But it’s not an dependence that inhibits who you actually are.
My basic point is this. Although alcohol is prob unhealthy medically… It is really the social implications that it breeds that are of the greatest benefit to those who choose to abstain from it. Again… As a Bahai I make my own choices and do not wish to force my beliefs on another person… But it is clear that socially… Alcohol takes much more away from society than it contributes…
Ariel Goldberg (February 2, 2014 at 4:36 PM)
From my life in Ghana, West Africa I have also come to understand alcohol as a social disease as well, for lack of a better term. In rural areas, men whose focus should be on their families and children end up bankrupting the home by spending money on alcohol. Money that could go towards school fees, clothing, books and transportation for the children. Women often have to sacrifice their roles as traditional mothers by getting jobs or starting businesses to supplement the household account, leaving children to be raised by other relatives. It’s like a ripple in a pond – the alcohol is unhealthy for the person drinking it, but the repercussions ripple out and disrupt the entire family.
Dennis Hunter (February 2, 2014 at 5:46 PM)
The damages are much greater than the benefits. People get killed by drunk drivers. Buildings are burnt because of drunk tenants. Families are destroyed by alcoholism. People lose their jobs when they have drinking problems ending on the street begging. I do not drink because if I drink I am contributing to its production which will abused by someone. When I see a drunken men on the streets I say to myself when will society care about the welfare of others. If you love humanity and do not want to see people in that condition it is better for you to sacrifice your drinking habit just for the sake of a healthy society.
Burhan Zahrai (February 2, 2014 at 7:06 PM)
I am not a baha’i and I do drink wine occasionally. I am one of the few that drinks in moderation. My father is an alcoholic. My brother never drinks, and I only drink wine about 2 times a month (and not more than1 glass at a time). Oh, and I drink decaf coffee occasionally (no caffeine for me) and I do not smoke. My addiction is food. I love cooking it, sharing it with others, and eating it.
I think that earlier civilization drank alcohol due to lack of other water resources for consumption. Wine keeps for a length of time. Water did not.
Strange thing about religion telling followers not to drink, they allow smoking, coffee, and other things like multiple wives, killing others in the name of god, divorce, require you cover your head, and such. But don’t drink! seems like a control thing to me.
There are all kinds of addictions that change behaviors. Not just alcohol. Anything in moderation can be okay. But many humans can’t really moderate themselves.
Ann (February 2, 2014 at 8:07 PM)
You leave a very interesting comment. I believe this article provides a great description of why Baha’is are prohibited to drink, and I don’t judge you for anything you said. I would just like to point out that having multiple wives or killing others in the name of God are not allowed in the Baha’i faith, and even in other religions those laws were not in their holy writings, but later accepted by new religious leaders. In the Baha’i faith, there is no requirement to cover your head, but you can choose to do so if you feel like it. (Hats can be cool :P) As for smoking, it is discouraged in the Baha’i faith due to its health detriments but not prohibited. As for coffee and caffeine, Stu provided a great explanation in a comment above. Because of the explanations for each of the laws in the Baha’i faith, I don’t believe that they are there for “control” purposes.
Have a great one!
Kira S (February 2, 2014 at 4:00 AM)
I read your comment with interest, Ann. I share your addiction to food!
I get the sense that you are implying that “religion” devises an arbitrary set of rules, which you refer to as a “control thing”. For a non-believer, this is an understandable conclusion. In reality, “religion” represents a continuous, progressive unfoldment of God’s purpose for mankind. Every teaching brought to us by the founders of the world’s religions is intended to enable us to develop our true and full potential, both individually and collectively. The laws of religion may be divided into two categories: spiritual and social. Spiritual laws are those that never change from one religion to another because our spiritual reality doesn’t change. These laws include the Golden Rule, generosity, love, compassion, loyalty, unity, detachment, etc. Social laws are those that often change according to the time and place where a religion appears. These include laws of diet, dress, marriage, inheritance, administration, etc. As each religion established itself in a population, conditions change and evolve further, and it is necessary for additional laws to be formulated within the framework of the original laws. So now we have two other ways to categorize religious laws: divine and human. Unfortunately, while divine laws are perfectly suited to our needs, some human laws can be as harmful as others are beneficial. Often, they arise from corrupt intentions, and have little to do with helping us achieve our purpose. After some time, most people are clueless as to which laws fall under which category, and it usually happens that the worst ones cause the most difficulties and alienation. This is not surprising as those laws do not serve our best interests.
For your concerns, I can offer the following. I know of no religion that has ever advocated killing in the name of God. The 5th Commandment states, “Thou shalt not kill.” The tragic record of killings being committed through the histories of most religions has nothing whatever to do with the teachings of the Prophets who founded those religions. All I can say about those is that you should read the scholarly histories that have been written, which clearly show that those who hijacked leadership started these bloodthirsty campaigns for their own benefit. It is well known that jihad refers to an internal spiritual struggle and not to the current wave of terrorism. Likewise, the requirement for women to cover themselves, as far as I have been able to tell from a limited study of Islam, is not one of the Laws of God. If covering oneself is an article of modesty, then it should apply to both men and women. Those who understand the spiritual benefit of modesty will naturally dress accordingly; imposing one person’s idea of modest dress upon all does not lead people to become modest.
The institution of marriage was given to us by God, it is a divine creation that reflects His Will. Every religion promotes it. It stands to reason that divorce runs counter to the Will of God. Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “Truly, the Lord loveth union and harmony and abhorreth separation and divorce.” But keep in mind that none of us are perfect, and some are very far from it. In order to prevent a situation where a bad marriage was the cause of unhappiness, and certainly where it was the cause of harm, divorce is permitted. It was certainly never intended that divorce would be seen as a frivolous abandonment of responsibility, as is currently the case. The only religion I know of which permits multiple wives is Islam. There was a very real set of circumstances in Arabia during the time of Muhammad that required a law such as this, but if I explain it here this will become a very long post. Suffice it to say, it was intended as a protection for a woman who was widowed, divorced, or ostracized from her family/tribe. It was never meant to be a luxury for men.
So that leaves three items that have something in common, they are items of personal consumption. Anyone that truly understands the relationship between God and mankind, which is the entire point of why He created us, would be convinced that smoking is an activity that is entirely against the good pleasure of God. Our bodies are temples for our souls, and as such should be treated with the same care, devotion, and dignity. There is a passage in the Baha’i writings, commonly referred to as the Tablet on Purity, which states, “… smoking tobacco is deprecated, abhorrent, filthy in the extreme…”. As for coffee, I’m not sure why so many in this blog are associating it with alcohol. Quite simply, what I said about smoking applies to any substance that causes addiction or a loss of control: we should try to free ourselves from it. If you can’t go a day without coffee and it causes physiological issues, then perhaps you should cease using it. But when it comes to alcohol, the difference is abundantly clear. Bahá’u’lláh prohibited it for one reason and one reason only. “It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away.” None of the items in your comment can be said to cause this condition, only alcohol (and narcotics, which are implied in the prohibition).
Our faculty of reason is one of the powers of the soul that separate us from the rest of creation, and gives us the ability to improve ourselves and our society. It is an indispensable tool in the independent investigation of truth (Bahá’u’lláh’s first principle), in the acquisition of education, in the application of the Scientific Method, in the practice of consultation. I hope this has helped to clarify for you the differences of the issues you mentioned.
Jim Murray (May 5, 2015 at 4:34 AM)
There’s been a lot of very interesting comments here, especially in regards to the social effects of alcohol. I just wanted to let everyone know that Baha’i Blog has another post on alcohol about the social effects called: ‘Why Baha’i Don’t Drink Alcohol – A Social Perspective’.
You can read it here: http://bahaiblog.net/2012/11/05/why-bahais-dont-drink-alcohol-a-social-perspective/
Naysan (February 2, 2014 at 9:54 PM)
Really interesting comments. Great discussion.
All things in the universe operate with laws. The laws of gravity, attraction and energy distribution and movement etc. Then there are biological laws. It is a physical law of all living things to eat, otherwise we die. Then we have social laws, for e.g., traffic laws. These allow us safety and many conveniences that we would not otherwise have enjoyed if this was lacking. if there were no lanes that separate the flow of traffic or no traffic lights, it would be very unpleasant. And having visited countries with loose traffic laws, believe me it is an amazing blessing. You may say but some people are able to drive very politely, they are considerate drivers and dont need red lights to tell them to stop and let others go. Clearly then, the laws are not meant for those people only right? Plus even with such great people around, the progress of traffic would still be very inconvenient and slow. Even something as unbridled as music is based on laws of harmony and tone and vibration. there is no taking away of our freedom or control in all of these instances that I mentioned. In fact, laws help us to create a greater sense of liberty and creativity within the security of the boundary. Many sweet melodies can be created by the utilisation of the laws of music for eg. So ok we need laws for everything, but interesting thing is, we make exemptions when it comes to the topic of spirituality and personal growth, to say that we do not need them and that we are intelligent/controlled enough to check ourselves.
then with regards to quoting of laws from older religions. These laws were created for the time and place they were revealed. They made sense for that dispensation. For example not eating pork when the religion was revealed in the heat of the desert and at a time when no fridges existed made total sense right? Marrying more wives to give them a home and security in a time of war when their husbands was actually a kind act. Religion needs to be renewed always, to not only keep it in context but also to guard against its corruption, because lets face it, many people use these laws for power right? Perhaps citing laws that are out of context for today as a reason not to have any religious laws at all may be saying we shouldn’t have traffic laws for cars because making camel drivers pay tax is unfair. I guess the two don´t really have much to do with each other, would you say? Humanity is moving towards a wondrous level of advancement and nobility. And to be honest, alcohol just doesn’t fit that vision for me.
The question is what does alcohol do for the moderate drinkers? it helps them loosen up, relaxes them after a stressful day, helps them lose inhibitions and gives them confidence to socialise etc. The new maturity we have attained is that of those capable to create authentic connections with people that doesn’t require courage from a bottle, and ways to cope with stress that don´t need a glass of wine. this law is not for something else to control us, it is to help us control ourselves and maintain our nobility and to be masters of ourselves instead of masters to the feeling alcohol gives us. When we have tasted the sweet wine of unity with others, we will find we can feel intoxicated with the joy of it.
Nadia (February 2, 2014 at 10:49 PM)
Charles Boyle in fact gives the correct answer to this question! For example, there is little or no evidence supporting the so called health benefits in the Biblical/Koranic prohibition on eating pork. On the other hand, social research showed that the prohibition era in the USA had some strong social benefits. Although there were always some who knew how and where to get alcohol, for the majority, a full pay packet went home at the end of the week, rather than to the bar.
David (February 2, 2014 at 4:11 AM)
Some people may have defended coffee drinkers. Caffeine is a highly addictive substance, as we all know. And again, studies have shown different results: some researchers argue that one cup of coffee a day can benefit you – others disagree.
Isn’t it very similar regarding a glass of wine a day? Both alcohol and caffeine can be damaging to health and can be addictive (according to studies) even in moderation.
Secondly, while all of the comment above are relevant and very interesting, I can’t help but think: why would you not just decide for yourself especially if you have tried alcohol and enjoyed it? A glass of wine or a small beer would not in the slightest hinder your path to spirituality.
And since Bahai claims to be the most modern, up-to-date religion ‘made’ to respond to demands of the human kind right here, right now… how is it possible that you are not allowed to drink alcohol but being gay in Bahai religion is still frowned upon? Is this not in any way fundamental, judgemental and goes against your core beliefs? While my Bahai friends have never shown any sign of discrimination towards gay people, it is still very alarming that a religion like Bahai, claiming to be the world religion, would not allow someone involved in a same-sex marriage to become a Bahai. If this is not discrimination, than what is?
Would you rather be sober and feel good about yourselves instead of opening your eyes at issues such as discrimination coming from the Bahai community?
I do not wish to offend any of you, however, I am genuinely curious and passionate regarding this matter.
Looking forward to reading all of your replies.
Anna (February 2, 2014 at 7:30 PM)
Hi Anna, thanks so much for your sincere comments.
In my understanding, the issue relating to alcohol is not that it is addictive, (as anything and can become addictive, as addiction is not limited to a substance or physical intake) but the issue with alcohol is the fact that it can quite easily affect ones sense of reason and judgement. The Baha’i teachings prohibit this along with other ‘mind altering’ substances. For someone to have a glass of wine a day with their meal in some cases may not affect their sense of reason or judgement, but ultimately perhaps it comes down to sacrificing something one may want for the greater good. Furthermore, Baha’is strive to live their lives (as best as they can) according to the laws and teachings of Baha’u’llah and the interpretation and explanation of these laws by Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. So basically our benchmark or road map for life is not based on what the society around us ‘does’ or ‘does not’ do. We based our lives on the Baha’i Teachings.
I don’t think Baha’is claim to be a ‘modern’ religion, but we often do say that it’s the ‘most recent’ religion in a series of divinely ordained religions, but ‘modern’ and ‘recent’ are two different things. ‘Modern’ is something which is based on the the social norms and trends of a society or group of people at any given time, and this can be extremely varied depending on where you are on an emotional, social, geographical, historical etc level. As soon as it becomes ‘modern’, it can become outdated the next day. This idea is also based on human ideas of what is ‘modern’ or relevant or ‘the norm’, but Baha’is do not base our lives on this, as we base our lives on the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, which we believe is divinely ordained.
It is also important to understand that the Baha’i laws and teachings are not changed by any institutions or individuals.
On the issue of Homosexuality, this is a topic which deserves its own discussion and should not be limited to this ‘commets’ section relating to a post about alcohol, so it’s something I’ll write about for Baha’i Blog. But I’ll just quickly say that your right about the act of homosexuality being forbidden in the Baha’i Faith, and you’re also right that we do not show prejudice to homosexuals, the same way we do not show prejudice towards those who drink alcohol.
Naysan (February 2, 2014 at 9:01 PM)
Naysan, thank you for your response. I will be looking forward to your post on homosexuality.
Anna (February 2, 2014 at 9:38 PM)
That article that you promised months ago has yet to materialize. Did you forget or are you doing more research on the topic before publishing it?
Back to this and a general issue of religious law. Religious law is currently used only in several Muslim countries where Sharia is recognized as the source of and surpassing all law.
We don’t have any Bahai countries right now, but I did see quotes that a Bahai country would use Bahai laws as the source of criminal law? Doesn’t that contradict Bahai law being for Bahais only?
I ask because every time a religion reaches a tipping point in a society before secularist ion kicked in said religion dominated a society and its laws. This can be any topic relevant to Bahai law whether alcohol, homosexuality, or any other aspect that would be problematic for people of other or no faith if it became public policy.
Stephen Kent Gray (October 10, 2014 at 11:32 PM)
I read Anna’s comment and couldn’t help but agree, even though homosexuality is completely off-topic.
Naysam, you seemed to spend a long time interpreting and re-interpreting the words ‘modern’ and ‘recent’, however, it does not change the fact that homophobia is a big problem in Baha’i Faith.
I do understand that Bahai laws cannot be changed, however, at some point Baha’i Administrative Bodies will have to re-examine how Baha’i law is applied to gay Baha’is in committed relationships.
There will have to be a campaign to educate Baha’is on the harm of homophobia because homophobia is a form of prejudice that has to be eliminated.
I am also very much looking forward to your blog entry on homosexuality and the problems of homophobia in Baha’i Faith.
Nick (February 2, 2014 at 10:06 PM)
I understand RESPECT is the best Religion and Law for Living in the World. Very interesting Article to read and learn. This is a world of Free Wheel and everybody needs to decide want to do with their own Live not harming anyone others has to respect it… I think that’s the Best Religion ever. And by the way I believe all monotheist religions teaches us the same just in different words and adapted to the times they came for…
Karen (February 2, 2014 at 1:58 PM)
When we went on Baha’i Pilgrimage many years ago, Mr Furutan discussed with the pilgrims the topic of alcohol. He pulled out his notebook and gave us 30 references from the Bible , both Old and New Testaments, which condemned the use of alcohol. I have kept his list of refs for Christian folk who are interested in the Baha’i Faith They tend to come up with other refs which appear to state the opposite !
Richard (February 2, 2014 at 10:44 PM)
Hi Richard, my father had a list of those references from the Bible as well and it’s something I’ve wanted to put together for a while now as I can’t find it. Is there a way you could email me that list? I would really appreciate it Richard! My email is: [email protected] Thanks!
Naysan (February 2, 2014 at 2:20 AM)
Hi Richard: me too please, if it is not too much trouble, or otherwise advise where and how to secure a copy.
Charles Boyle (March 3, 2014 at 4:56 AM)
This is a fine article, but I feel that any such reference to the negative effects of alcohol should never neglect the science of addiction and at least briefly reference the processes that are necessary to rid oneself of said addiction. As you may or may not know, quitting “cold turkey” is highly ineffective even though that is what many new Baha’is feel compelled they are to do. Ridding oneself of addiction takes a long process of pain and honesty from the addicted as well as the ability to surrender our will to a higher power. It also takes support from a supportive community that allows the afflicted person to be open and to grow spiritually as they work to divest themselves of their addiction. Unfortunately, for many of us (myself included), the Baha’i Faith does not currently provide that community. I believe this is due to a lack of awareness of the nature of addiction, a desire for the community to maintain an appearance of purity, and the misguided belief that we must panoptically monitor each others’ adherence to Baha’u’llah’s laws. It is important to remember that what Baha’u’llah has lain out for us is a path towards spirituality and not a fixed point on a continuum. In other words, the laws were created for us to become healthy, spiritual, and closer to our Beloved. The reasons for His prohibition of alcohol is clear, as this article states, but it is not a law that many can adhere to without serious commitment and even medical/psychological treatment. To imply that ridding oneself of addiction is simply a matter of never drinking or using again can have devastating psychological effects on the individual.
As a Baha’i as well as a recovering addict/alcoholic, I find the statement “Baha’is don’t drink” particularly disturbing, offensive, and above all, dangerous. The fact of the matter is that even though the writings urge us to refrain from alcohol, there are many among our ranks who are still suffering from the debilitating effects of addiction, whether or not we are actively using/drinking at the time. However, as we loudly proclaim that “Baha’is don’t drink,” we create and perpetuate a stigma on the addict/alcoholic that tells the afflicted that they are unfit within the community. This is dangerous ground in that, in an effort to keep within the ranks, the addicted Baha’i must “act perfect” and keep their addiction in hiding. In other words, “Since Baha’is don’t drink or use drugs, I am a bad Baha’i, for I have and sometimes still want to”. So yes, we are not to drink or use drugs, but how do we deal with the alcoholic/addict Baha’i who still suffers? The answer, as illustrated by this article is “not very well”. Healing addiction, as Alcoholics Anonymous rightly asserts, takes a program of rigorous honesty. I can tell you firsthand that the only way out is to be absolutely open and honest about the addiction in order to deal with the multiple underlying causes of the addiction. Stigmatizing the addicted does not allow for this healing process to occur. Just being told that we are not to drink or use drugs is not enough for those of us who are addicted. Simply put, addiction does not work that way. It cannot simply be “willed away”. Some might take the path that I did, become a Baha’i and stop drinking. Unfortunately, the way addiction works is that just because one is not actively consuming does not mean that they are no longer addicted. They are what is known as a “dry drunk”. They are clean, but far from sober. The sad fact is that without dealing with the addiction itself, it is bound to reappear in an even more dangerous level. I was clean for 9 years but was still heavily addicted. As I did not deal with the underlying causes of my addiction, it was bound to return in a much more nefarious incarnation. Unfortunately, because “Baha’is don’t drink,” too many of us feel unable to come to our communities for support due to the stigma created and the crippling fear of the personal judgement to which we addicts and alcoholics are particularly sensitive. Some of us may be “dry drunk” and some of us are still drinking/using, just not during Feast or other Baha’i activities. We addicts and alcoholics are particularly prone to feelings of guilt and shame. To many of us, it is why we drink/use in the first place. The exclusionary attitude of “Baha’is don’t drink” creates a wall of shame and guilt that is insurmountable, for not only have we offended our communities, but we have offended God. For me, it has taken a great deal of prayer and personal reflection to come to the understanding that even though the community might blame and stigmatize me, the God that I believe in does not. I am sick but I am not bad.
We Baha’is are promised that many more people will join our communities in the years to come. They will come from all walks of life. They will be from all kinds of cultures, economic backgrounds, and religions. We welcome that. Many, like me, will come bearing the heavy burden of addiction. Will we openly welcome them as well? As a Baha’i and a recovering alcoholic/addict, I will make it my personal mission to strive to remove the stigma and allow addicted Baha’is to be open about their affliction and heal through proper and effective measures rather than simply stopping their active consumption.
Theo (March 3, 2014 at 5:52 PM)
Thank you for your open and honest feedback about this article Theo, and for sharing your personal experiences with us. I think it’s safe to say that many of us have some form of addiction in our lives regardless of whether we are Baha’i or not, and we’ll be posting about addiction on Baha’i Blog as well within the next couple of months.
I’m also sorry to hear that you live/d in a community which was not very supportive of your journey with addiction. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience communities which were extremely loving and supportive of individuals struggling with addiction, but I’ve also experienced communities which are not quite there yet. A community, like an individual, also has to go through its own process of growth, and sadly this process often means individuals are tested along the way.
In my personal experience over the last 10 years or so, I can honestly say that I’ve definitely seen a shift for the better in both individuals and communities towards a more outwardly-focused, compassionate and less judgemental approach to individual and community life. I think this is partly due to the core activities, but also in large part because individuals like yourself have persevered and made it ‘your mission’ as you say, to help communities understand the realities of things like addiction. I really like what you said:
“We Baha’is are promised that many more people will join our communities in the years to come. They will come from all walks of life. They will be from all kinds of cultures, economic backgrounds, and religions. We welcome that. Many, like me, will come bearing the heavy burden of addiction. Will we openly welcome them as well?”
I think this is something we can all think about and work on.
Thanks again Theo!
Naysan (March 3, 2014 at 7:55 PM)
I just want to say how interesting and enlightening many of your comments are. I really appreciate a respectful blog where people reflect on others’ opinions while sharing their own. Now here are my two cents on this topic…
As a scientist, the first thing we are trained in doing is to not just read the conclusions of a study, but also to really understand study design and methods of analysis. Many people see an article in a high impact journal and from a credible university, and automatically trust all its conclusions. This, however, is a fatal flaw. I understand many in the general population aren’t trained in the basic science, and hence have no base to allow them to properly read and critique a scientific article. I don’t believe anyone, from a religious perspective, can say alcohol is good or bad in moderation for humans. I say this with my genetics hat on because EVERYONE is different. Although we are all human…we have teeth, hair, a particular gender identity, we cannot be judged as uniform. Why? Simple, genetics! As a neuroscientist and pharmacologist, I see this first hand with contraindications for specific medications for people who are “poor metabolizers” or “super metabolizers” for a given drug. This is clear evidence that due to alternate levels of gene expression for particular liver enzymes or proteins involved in metabolism, different people respond in different ways to specific chemicals. That being said, nobody can tell anyone that moderate drinking, for example, will harm them. But also, we cannot say drinking wont harm someone. Get it? No one size fits all, which seems to be a constant expectation of people from scientific research. As we discover the complexity of the human genome (from person to person even), this becomes a mere fantasy.
With this in mind I’d like to refer to some commenter’s reference to a study they found that mentioned that even moderate drinking can decrease hippocampal neurogenesis, leading to long-term development defects (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024164759.htm). I checked out the article first hand before having any sort of opinion. First thing I saw was that this study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Great journal! I view the literature in that journal with high regard. I then dived into the findings and the methods employed to do the study, and the first thing I noticed was that the study was done in Sprague-Dawley rats. For those of you who don’t know, this is ONE rat strain that is inbred, meaning all subject have a single uniform genetic background. What’s the issue here? ALTHOUGH a lot can be gleaned from rodent studies, you cannot 100% translate findings to human. As I mentioned to you before, different people respond to differently to specific chemicals in terms of metabolism. This study is similar to doing a study on ONE human…for anyone who is familiar with human studies (in particular epidemiologists) such would NEVER fly. Why? Because we are all different, which not only is from our environment, but also genetics. So my fellow bahais, be careful when telling people why they shouldn’t drink. I do agree that there are many people that should never take a drink, due to their predisposition to alcohol abuse. Also, remember to not judge others and to not hold your ideas as the holy grail. Such is one fundamental teaching, and one that I find MOST ignored by Bahais.
Neema (March 3, 2014 at 7:47 PM)
Theo, I can understand your frustration with the statement but it seem so to me that it was intended to be a comment on what Baha’is are ideally not supposed to do. As Naysan has noted, we are all as individuals and communities struggling and striving in varying degrees of development and maturity. There are clearly communities in which individual Baha’is are still struggling to give up old habits such as drinking. For those who are addicts, members of the community may have no clue about the medical aspects of the addiction issue. These problems are like several others in the sense that only those who have suffered from them or professionals who treat these issues can truly know the full ramifications. In this regard, you can be of tremendous service to many Baha’i communities in helping to educate them to understand more about the problem of addiction. A medical professional would not advise that addicts quit cold turkey several different kinds of addictive substances unless this is done in a medical facility under professional supervision. As you may know, such an abrupt cessation can be fatal or very inimical to the health of the individual. So if you could prepare or circulate existing material and/or give talks on the subject it could be very beneficial indeed in helping to educate your own and other Baha’i communities. I have been fortunate to meet a couple Baha’is via Facebook who have been very actively involved in helping those with alcohol and other addictions in their communities. Re your excellent point about people from all walks of life, I would like to add that there are many people who become Baha’is who have suffered from various problems ranging from child abuse to racism as African Americans or Native American Indians. I have noticed that some of these individuals have been able to help Baha’i communities greatly in their work towards healing the wounds caused by these experiences because of their unique insights and perspectives. For example, the dialogue (http://www.manyhoops.com/main.html) initiated by Paul Bidwell (an American Indian) with Lea Gerlach has been wonderful. African American Bahais have also helped each other and their communities to make progress in healing some of the damage caused by racism. The Black Men’s gathering is one example: http://vimeo.com/74769779 Thanks so much for giving your very valuable input.
Peter (March 3, 2014 at 8:33 PM)
Personally, I rarely drink and I see the dangers of alcohol on society when mixed with driving. But, I see quite a bit of hypocrisy regarding the Bahai’s ban on drugs. They would think nothing wrong with a myriad of psycho active drugs when prescribed by a physician / psychiatrist, as if these drugs are somehow “better” than say cannabis that has a history of thousands of years of use, and now legal in many states. Who knows what the long term affects of psychiatric drugs will be on the health of individuals and society. Bahai’s think nothing of using caffeine yet the National Inst of Health acknowledges caffeine can be physically addictive and overdoses can result in ‘confusion, dizziness and hallucinations.’ Yet to take small doses of herbs and elixirs with centuries old histories of use like cannabis and alcohol, are forbidden. These substances – again, in small doses – can help with a variety of physical ailments or simply create a feeling of well being, personally, socially, and even spiritually. But Bahai’s are too fundamentalist apparently to accept this yet will succumb to physician prescribed chemical addictions, caffeine, etc… Most are ignorant to the affects of such natural substances and assume all use must be debilitating, grossly mind altering and addicting. It’s narrow minded and hypocritical.
JSB (March 3, 2014 at 6:10 PM)
I grew up in a small town in northwestern Wyoming where the institutionalized and familial alcoholism is legend. I was told my whole life growing up here that “you HAVE to drink — everyone does!!” to which I replied, “Oh, yeah — watch this.” Then, in my freshman year of college, I became a Baha’i and have never looked back, especially at alcohol.
So — how do I respond to people’s questions about “Why don’t Baha’is drink?” — easy and straightforward. The social laws brought by Baha’u’llah for the world I live in are based on what grows unity versus what creates disunity. Why don’t I drink? Name me ONE THING that has been responsible for more DISUNITY between individuals, among family, within a nation than ALCOHOL and its destructive misuse. There you go.
Janet (September 9, 2014 at 12:13 AM)
Everyone is different. Everything is good and bad. If I had to leave a group of children playing in the yard I would tell them not to go near the pool. I might even build a fence around the pool. It’s not that swimming isn’t nice and I’m sure that some of the kids can swim… But it’s the responsible thing to say/do. It’s the best message for the entire group. There’s wisdom in the reasoning.
Aaron (September 9, 2014 at 2:09 AM)
|| Por qué los bahá’ís no tomamos alcohol ||
Para nosotros, los bahá’ís, la respuesta es bien sencilla. Porque nos lo prescribe Bahá’u’lláh, Quien lo razona así “Es inadmisible que el hombre, habiendo sido dotado de razón, consuma lo que le priva de ella”. Por su parte, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expone dos razones indiscutibles que la ciencia confirma cada día más: “El alcohol descarría la mente y produce el debilitamiento del cuerpo”.
Los bahá’ís podemos comprender que otras personas beban, si así lo prefieren, lo mismo que tienen otras costumbres (murmurar, criticar, relaciones sexuales libres…). Pero nosotros preferimos descartarlas de nuestras vidas porque no las consideramos sanas para nosotros ni para nuestros hijos. Y creemos que otros podrían hacer igual para su propio bien y el de la sociedad.
Aparte de los bahá’ís, muchos otros han descartado totalmente el alcohol de sus vidas: jainistas, budistas, musulmanes, sijs, vegetarianos y otros.
Hoy se vende cerveza y vino sin alcohol (no es dulce como el mosto), que conservan las características beneficiosas que se les atribuyen. Lo beneficioso es el mosto de uva por los polifenoles que contiene, no el alcohol.
El vino no es tan bueno como se cree. Ha sido un alimento útil durante siglos en muchas culturas, aunque siempre eran conscientes de que había que tomarlo con moderación pues, si se tomaba en exceso, sus efectos eran bien negativos.
Lo que era aceptable siglos atrás está teniendo más efectos negativos cada día en el bebedor: accidentes de tráfico, embarazos no deseados, enfermedades físicas y mentales, muertes, maltratos, violencia…; y en la sociedad: gastos sanitarios, bajas laborales, familias destrozadas… Los perjuicios son enormes, comparados con los beneficios que se atribuye a las bebidas alcohólicas.
Vino, alcohol y otras drogas: Hoy se reconoce que el alcohol es una droga legal, pero que tomada en dosis moderadas no suele dañar. Se considera de buen gusto como acompañante de las comidas y se insiste en algunos beneficios para la salud. Muchos piensan que bebidas alcohólicas son los licores, el coñac, la ginebra, el güisqui, que al principio no suelen gustar si no se mezclan con algo pero se toman por imitación. Sin embargo, también son bebidas alcohólicas el vino, la sidra y la cerveza; su grado de alcohol es menor, pero puede dañar igual ya que se bebe más cantidad. El alcohol crea adicción, como el té o el café, pero estos son estimulantes y no afectan a la conciencia de quien los toma. El alcohol, en cambio es un alienante como las demás drogas. En pequeñas cantidades no se nota su efecto, pero la esencia del alcohol es inhibir la conciencia.
El alcohol es una droga depresora, aunque se suele creer lo contrario. Empieza por inhibir las funciones cerebrales y su primer efecto es la desinhibición, da sensación de alegría y sociabilidad, pero esto confunde. Si una persona lo toma porque se siente deprimido, acabará por deprimirse más. El alcohol inhibe el cerebro empezando por la zona frontal (de ahí que se hagan tonterías), seguido de la zona motora como el cerebelo (de ahí que el borracho ande de lado a lado sin control), seguido de zonas más profundas como es la amígdala y el hipocampo (de ahí que luego la gente no recuerde lo que ha hecho) y por último, inhibe el rombo-encéfalo y por ello quien está ebrio puede caer en coma etílico y no es capaz ni de respirar por sí mismo.
La adicción no tiene etapas sino que es un todo continuo; como una escalera mecánica: en cuanto subes dos escalones ya estás en marcha hacia arriba, y aún es fácil bajar. Sin embargo, si consumes más, va resultando cada vez más complicado. Los que quieren superar el alcoholismo lo tienen muy difícil; no pueden beber ni una “cerveza sin” (con que tenga unas décimas de alcohol), pues vuelven al problema.
Hay muchos estudios sobre los daños del alcohol, pero nadie pone remedio, ni siquiera los padres. El País (02/11/10) mencionaba un estudio con este titular: “El alcohol causa más estragos en la sociedad que las drogas ilegales”. “El alcohol es la droga más dañina, por delante de la heroína y el crack (una forma muy poco elaborada de la cocaína), si se tiene en cuenta su efecto social, en especial sobre el entorno del usuario, además del daño a la salud”.
Tópicos y excusas habituales: Nuestros amigos suelen decir que no les gustan las prohibiciones, pero la vida está llena de prohibiciones de todo tipo y las asumimos porque nos protegen y liberan: matar, robar, violar, conducir en dirección contraria, cruzar con semáforo en rojo, tirar la basura en la calle, escupir en el suelo, fumar en el cine (y ahora en bares y restaurantes), beber productos tóxicos, comer setas venenosas, etcétera. El argumento habitual de que “todo en exceso es malo” es un sofismo, un argumento falso que lleva al equívoco. El agua, la comida, el trabajo, el orden, la diversión… han de tener un punto sano de moderación. Su exceso puede perjudicar la salud física y a veces la mental (ludopatía, manías obsesivas…).
Hablando del alcohol, no se puede decir que “su exceso es malo”, sino que “en pequeñas cantidades no perjudica apenas”; lo mismo que cualquier droga o veneno (salvo que sea muy tóxico) puede no perjudicar si se toma una cantidad mínima. Pero se está jugando con algo que en sí es potencialmente dañino. Jugar con una droga es como andar por un puente estrecho sin barandillas: solo algunos caen. Si se demostrara que la sacarina o los pepinos producen algunas muertes al año, se dejarían de producir pues nadie los tomaría. En cambio, se sigue consumiendo alcohol, que produce la muerte de muchas personas por cirrosis, infarto o en accidentes de tráfico.
Daños irrecuperables en los jóvenes: Los más perjudicados están siendo los jóvenes. Apenas beben a diario, pero usan el alcohol como una droga del fin de semana (botellón, fiestas…). Los daños en su cerebro, antes de los 25 años, son irreparables. El consumo de esta droga legal comienza sobre los 10 años. Lo peor de todo es que el comienzo del consumo se da en la familia. Es tradición permitir que el niño beba en una fiesta (Navidad, bodas…). A los 12 años la mitad de la población ya realiza botellones y a los 15 consume alcohol el 90%.
La ley bahá’í: «Es inadmisible que el hombre, habiendo sido dotado de razón, consuma lo que le priva de ella. Más bien, le incumbe comportarse de un modo conforme a la dignidad humana, y no según los desafueros de toda alma negligente y vacilante». «Los Escritos bahá’ís contienen numerosas referencias a la prohibición del consumo de vino u otras bebidas embriagantes. En ellas se describen los efectos destructivos que esas bebidas alcohólicas le acarrean a la persona. En una de Sus Tablas, Bahá’u’lláh dice: Cuidaos de no trocar el Vino de Dios por vuestro propio vino, pues entorpecerá vuestra mente y hará que vuestro rostro se aparte del Semblante de Dios, el Todoglorioso, el Incomparable, el Inaccesible. No os acerquéis a él, puesto que os ha sido prohibido por el mandato de Dios, el Exaltado, el Todopoderoso. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explica que el Aqdas prohíbe “tanto las bebidas ligeras como las fuertes”, y dice que la razón de prohibir el consumo de bebidas alcohólicas obedece a que “el alcohol descarría la mente y produce el debilitamiento del cuerpo”. Shoghi Effendi, en cartas escritas en nombre suyo, afirma que esta prohibición incluye no solamente el consumo de vino sino de “todo lo que trastorna la mente”, y aclara que la ingestión de alcohol solo se permite cuando forma parte de un tratamiento llevado a cabo “en consulta con un médico competente y responsable, que podría tener que prescribirlo como remedio de alguna dolencia en particular”».
Conclusión: Los bahá’ís lo tenemos claro gracias a la ley expresa de Bahá’u’lláh. A algunos nos pudo costar entender su importancia y la aceptamos porque nos convencía el resto de Sus enseñanzas. En la sociedad en que vivimos parece algo innecesario, demasiado estricto, pero la realidad nos va demostrando cuánta sabiduría hay en esa ley. Es tan necesaria para el bienestar de la humanidad como la prohibición de la esclavitud, de las guerras, de la sexualidad libre, de la murmuración o de los prejuicios. No la entendemos como una imposición autoritaria dictada arbitrariamente sino como una amorosa protección de Dios a la humanidad. “Aquellos a quienes Dios ha dotado de perspicacia reconocerán fácilmente que los preceptos establecidos por Dios constituyen el remedio supremo para el mantenimiento del orden en el mundo y la seguridad de sus pueblos. (…) Tened por cierto que Mis mandamientos son las lámparas de Mi amorosa providencia entre Mis siervos y las llaves de Mi misericordia para con Mis criaturas”.
Es inadmisible que el hombre, habiendo sido dotado de razón, consuma lo que le priva de ella. Más bien, le incumbe comportarse de un modo conforme a la dignidad humana, y no según los desafueros de toda alma negligente y vacilante.
Omar (October 10, 2014 at 1:50 AM)
Justo lo que estaba buscando, llevaba tiempo queriendo encontrar esto y me estaba volviendo loca, gracias y besos!
Samanta - iPhone para siempre (March 3, 2015 at 11:42 AM)
As a mental health counselor, I know that consuming alcohol can have a negative impact on one’s marriage and family life. One reason is that all addicting substances flood the brain with dopamine. Dopamine facilitates the experience of pleasure. Every day events (e.g. eating ice cream, getting a backrub, walking in the park) trigger the release of dopamine, but the amount released by such simple pleasures is nothing compared to the massive quantities of dopamine released when addictive substances enter the brain. Therefore, generally speaking people who drink enjoy the simple pleasures of family life less than those who do not.
Fereshteh (May 5, 2015 at 4:02 AM)
Great article. I stopped drinking alcohol when i became a Bah’i over 35 years ago and not only am i a healthier person because of it, i have more money in my pockets or have been able to own things i could have afforded otherwise. Until my reirement at 70, some 3 years ago, i worked for 22 years with homeless and disadvantaged people and had to deal with cases of alcohol and drug abusers and truly seen how low man can and does become because of alcohol. The probkem is that no one wakes up in the morning and decides to become an adict. It can happen over many years, creeping up on them without them realising it by which time it is too late. Even among my friends and those who worked with me, wouldhave nights out and become totally drunk, and even they do not see the danger. Really. No alcohol is the only answer to health both physically anf financially, and a truly happier life.
John Butler (May 5, 2015 at 9:20 AM)
Great discussion! A warm-hearted thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts.
In response to William and JSB, there seem to be a few misconceptions from what I read in your comments.
1. It is not the Baha’is who made the decision to have abstinence from alcohol in our Faith. It is the Law of God for this age, as revealed by Baha’u’llah. The first paragraph of His Book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas, states that all people must first recognize Him as the Revealer of God’s Laws, and then obey all of His laws. End of discussion. He shall not be asked of His doings. All this exchange of ideas, opinions, facts, findings, studies, anecdotes, etc., is beneficial but largely irrelevant in view of this teaching. No doubt thoughts of “blind faith” may occur to some who read that, but the nature of faith is another topic, which the Baha’i Writings cover in great detail. For example, ‘Abdu’l-Baha described it as first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds. I encourage you to investigate this subject in the Writings also.
2. The reason for the prohibition, which was stated by the original poster, is clear and unambiguous: It is inadmissible that man should consume that which stealeth away his reason. Period. All of the other detrimental effects are interesting and reinforcing, but again irrelevant. Caffeine, prescription drugs, nicotine, energy drinks, etc., generally do not have this effect except in rare cases. If you consider that the first principle of Baha’u’llah is the independent investigation of truth, this law makes perfect sense. This reverts back to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s statement about faith, cited above.
3. A thorough investigation of the Baha’i teachings will show that the future will bring about wholesale changes to the way that we view health and healing. Our diets and lifestyles will change radically. Our knowledge of nutrition and medicine will be complete and balanced. ‘Abdu’l-Baha hinted that we will probably shift towards a vegetarian-based diet, although unlike many of my fellow believers I don’t assume that it will be completely so. Doctors will heal mainly with natural remedies: ‘Abdu’l-Baha refers to the faculty of animals that leads them to find the right food when they are ailing, adding: “It is, therefore, evident that it is possible to cure by foods, aliments and fruits; but as today the science of medicine is imperfect, this fact is not yet fully grasped. When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature.” It seems logical that the pharmaceuticals that exist today will not be around forever. I do not use any prescription drugs unless I can find no other way to treat myself. Baha’is, like most people nowadays, use these on the advice of physicians, but there is increasing awareness that prolonged use is either ineffective or harmful. However, our teachings encourage us to use the skills of a competent physicians, so the use of pharmaceuticals would be a part of that. Incidentally, the advice of a physician is the one instance where the consumption of alcohol is permitted according to the laws of the Faith.
4. Although I am not fully aware that alcohol has any proven benefits, I am aware that “a glass of wine a day” is often claimed to have some. From my considerable attempts to read on the subject, the benefits of wine are also to be found in grape juice (or better yet, whole grapes, so that you get dietary fibre as well). As the original poster noted, alcohol is a toxin. Does it make sense to ingest a toxin in order to obtain the same goodness that exists in numerous natural and healthy foods? Especially given the other detriments of alcohol, it seems entirely self-defeating.
5. Christ and other Prophets may well have consumed wine. In many parts of the world, it was/is healthier than the water. I think God would prefer it to having us be poisoned by foul water. I also think that justification is disappearing in the world, or soon will, as water quality improves. Even more importantly, though, is that each of the Prophets of God revealed the Word of God for their age. Regardless of what Christ said or did, in this day Baha’u’llah has proscribed it. Moses and Muhammad forbade the consumption of pork, a law that made good sense in that time and place, but no longer necessary. Finally, the turning of water into wine is almost certainly allegorical, and serves no useful purpose in a literal sense.
6. Alcohol does not produce happiness in anyone. It produces a sense of euphoria that is of no volition. Happiness is a choice, not an induced state. ‘Abdu’l-Baha makes it absolutely clear that happiness is something we can achieve regardless of our circumstances. Alcohol simply desensitizes us to our circumstances, to the point that when we are sober and find our situation unimproved, we habitually return to the state of inebriation to escape it.
7. Not all Baha’is abstain from alcohol. Not all Baha’is follow any, or all, of the laws. That is irrelevant. What is relevant is the relationship I have with my Creator. I am responsible for myself to Him. I independently investigate truth. I must then strive to apply that truth to every facet of my life. How well I accomplish that determines how close my relationship with God becomes. Inevitably, it will determine how I proceed in the next life. What my fellow Baha’is are doing is not my responsibility, apart from encouraging them to tread the path of faith and setting a good example. “For the faith of no man can be conditioned by anyone except himself.”
I wish you all peace and happiness.
Jim Murray (May 5, 2015 at 8:30 AM)
Hi!,marc,Bahai spirit from the seychelles islands.the writing makes it clear that religion serves to our spiritual transformations,while science serves to our material transformations.most comments addressed the scientific implication of alcohols.ive always wondered about the spiritual implication of the law,till I met someone who didn’t drink and was not Baha’i,to my curiosity why she didn’t drink,she said a drunkard cannot meditate.meditation is a journey to enlightenment.alchohol disrupts this the process.we need a conscious mind with the capacity to reason over our wishes we seek.but most importantly,to have faith in our answers.as Baha’is we are a encouraged to pray and meditate.perhaps when we shall captivate the art of meditation,will the law transform into a loving bounty from our lord to know ourselves better and our relationship with the divine.and I believe meditation will be the key to the success of our devotional attitude.kind regards and my love to you all.
Marc (September 9, 2015 at 7:33 PM)
Thanks for writing about the realities of alcohol and the relation of the Bahá’í law of abstinence in relation to the widespread problems of alcohol abuse and health and the minority who can choose to drink moderately, I was once someone who could not choose to drink in any sustained moderation and in fact, lost my tolerance to alcohol, a symptom of latter stage alcoholism, in 2007, even after a period of trying to control and curtail my alcohol misuse. It’s refreshing to hear someone comment on this dynamic between having choice to drink moderately (I was told that this is about 20% of adults) and the 10% who actually are drinking and misusing alcohol *without* that power of choice: consumed by the physical and psychological need for alcohol who face the dilemma every day of not having the tools to stop drinking and without the ability to say no to alcohol, despite often wanting very much to cease drinking. I was in this latter 10%. I was told that another 10% of adults refrain from drinking alcohol, yet another, majority of 40% of adults, who are not addicted psychologically or physiologically, are what was described to me as the “Idiot” drinkers, who may be in control of their choice to drink, but do not drink responsibly or socially. So these statistics and your helpful article say to me that even if you have the capacity (to choose to drink alcohol) better yet to choose to abstain, for all of the reasons stated above. I am keen to resolve mysrlf on this matter, having gone through a long period of healing from Alcoholism. Knowledge is the harbringer of choice and choice is freedom. For Who, for what, for why, remains to be seen. I hope my decisions will serve humanity and not my narrow needs. Thank you for your article, Yashasvi x
Yashasvi List (February 2, 2016 at 2:52 AM)
I shared your article on Facebook with this comment: “It also helps, when talking about substance abuse, to raise it to the level of virtues. We are talking about intemperance, so explore in conversation what its opposite, temperance, is. The more mind, the less matter.”
John Taylor (May 5, 2016 at 1:07 PM)
It is some months since I commented on this site but two talks I attended recently spurred me to add something. One was a talk on cancer causal aspects and the other on heart health. Both the speakers admitted they drank alcohol in moderation but both also said it is better not to drink alcohol at all for maximum health benefit. The prize for giving these talks to our group was a bottle of wine! They did not mention coffee! The trouble with alcohol is the societal effect….. Humans are social beings….and it takes courage to say no to alcohol. I know because I fought that battle in my youth, and I am glad I won. Nigh on eighty now my powers of reason are better than most of my peers and my health too….the friends who kept on drinking and smoking are now in the grave or dementia units.
When I had a minor heart problem some years ago (I was told it was a bundle block) …the specialist advised not to drink any coffee at all. Kia ora !
Helen (May 5, 2016 at 12:28 AM)
I have often wondered when people repeat the idea concerning the beneficial effects of drinking wine. Do you know of any studies that show the beneficial effects? Did those studies which showed beneficial effects distinguish between the effects of the alcohol and the effects of the grape juice? Perhaps if we just ate the grapes instead, we could avoid the alcohol effects. Fruit juice as a social drink?
Richard Hicks (February 2, 2017 at 2:44 PM)
I came across your blog as I was looking on the internet for answers as to whether people in the Baha’i community could consume food cooked with alcohol. I am not Baha’i myself but one of my best friends is. I wanted to cook her a meal but one of my favourite recipes is made with alcohol. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be the same without it so I thought I’d try and find an answer and if all else fails I will reassess my options. My question is not just about this one meal but if I plan on cooking any meals for her in the future.
Hope you can clarify this for me.
KirstyJ (March 3, 2017 at 10:13 AM)
Thank you for your interesting question and for taking the time to comment! I think it is very important to stress that Baha’i Blog is not an authoritative Baha’i website and what I’m about to share only reflects my personal opinion and my limited understanding of the Baha’i Teachings — just as all of our articles reflect the personal thoughts and humble opinions of our authors. And perhaps other readers may offer their understanding on this subject.
While the emphasis in the Baha’i Writings prohibits the drinking of alcohol, when it comes to some of the greyer areas such as cooking with alcohol or using mouthwash containing alcohol, many Baha’is may, using their own understanding and discretion, completely and totally avoid alcohol in the spirit of the law.
However in a letter (dated April 7, 1974) from the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the worldwide Baha’i Community, it says:
“You ask whether it is permissible for the friends to use cake flavours, such as vanilla, lemon and rum flavoured extracts, as such flavours have a certain percentage of alcohol in them, and whether Bahá’ís may work in factories manufacturing such extracts.
We have found no texts prohibiting the friends from using flavoured extracts in their food. This may be a matter for later legislation by the Universal House of Justice but for the time being the friends should be left free to do as they choose. The same principle applies to those who are employed in factories manufacturing such extracts.”
In other words, your question is a very good one and in researching this, I couldn’t find any authoritative guidance that answers your question explicitly one way or another. The fact that you are considering this question shows what a good friend you are and demonstrates how considerate and thoughtful you are about your friend’s beliefs. I hope this helps you a little.
Sonjel Vreeland (March 3, 2017 at 11:02 AM)
The guidance for Bahá’ís is not to cook with alcohol. I have used non-alcoholic wine in some of my cooking. You are thoughtful on two counts – to cook your friend a meal and to consider asking here for answers to your question! And thirdly it was thoughtful of u not to put you friend on the spot by asking her.
Yashi (March 3, 2017 at 11:15 AM)
Thanks for a great article and discussion. I suggest that to be respectful to people with mental health issues that the term “people with schizophrenia” or “people who have schizophrenia” be used. People are not their illnesses or diagnoses.
Linda O'Neil (May 5, 2018 at 1:31 PM)
Thank you for your thoughtful and conscientious comment. I have edited the article accordingly in order to be more respectful of those suffering from schizophrenia. Thank you for noticing and for reaching out to us!
Sonjel Vreeland (May 5, 2018 at 10:13 PM)