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fight for your mind: the age of critical thinking

Jesse Richards will ask, What is critical thinking and why is it important for us and our society? A view of history as an inevitable trend towards individual freedom, democracy and scientific thought will be presented, as well as specific tools to help us survive in an era of marketing, junk journalism, and information overload.

Richards takes the Hegelian concept of progress, along with the Islamic/Bahá'í view of Progressive Revelation, and incorporates them into the Bahá'í theme of Independent Investigation of Truth. The resulting idea is of a humanity that is gradually learning to think for itself - both at the state level with the rise of democracy, and at the personal level. We can fight against this trend or learn to work with it and flourish.

Jesse Richards began his investigation into Critical Thinking several years ago after reading Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. He has since incorporated concepts from over twenty related books into his topic, which he has presented several times to groups throughout his home state of New Jersey. Richards received a degree in art and writing from Drew University and worked as a graphic designer for several marketing companies. He currently lives in Manhattan and works as a Creative Director. His web site can be seen at www.jesserichards.com.

spiritual perception:
avoiding fundamentalism in the culture of the baha'i community

Kambeze Etemad will examine the risks of fundamentalism in the Bahá'í Faith and how this challenge affects opportunities for growth as well as difficult topics within the community. Cultivating spiritual perception provides a path away from these dangers and towards greater fulfillment in our personal lives, relationships, and communities.

What is spiritual perception? What are its forms and outcomes? How do we develop spiritual perception?

What is the psychological and spiritual profile of "fundamentalism"? What are the essential characteristics of fundamentalist-type thought and behavior? What are the risks, consequences, and some examples of fundamentalist streams within the culture of the Baha'i community?

What might these two look like in our personal lives? in our relationships? in the functioning of Baha'i communities?

Spiritual perception is a vital ingredient to progress on all levels of life. "Fundamentalism" squelches spiritual perception and its fruits. The Covenant of Baha'u'llah supplies patterns of thought and action which, if earnestly and faithfully applied, both cultivate spiritual perception and neutralize fundamentalist tendencies. This may well accrue to the Baha'is experiencing greater health, fulfillment, enrichment and advancement of their lives, relationships, communities and society. We will ask how this might be so.

We will also inquire how this challenge might apply to various issues and opportunities for growth facing the Baha'i community, including: the general skill of problem solving; leadership and decision making in the Baha'i system; effecting change, developing new patterns, and improving function in our communities; the manner and method of teaching; individual initiative and Baha'i service; avoiding a "fundamentalist" attitude about the current emphasis on "core activities" in the Baha'i community; Baha'i responses to political developments and world events; "difficult" topics in the Baha'i teachings; and scientific thought, scholarship and academic elitism.

Kambeze B. Etemad, M.D. lives in the Philadelphia area, where he practices psychiatry and pursues an avid calling in education and development. He is also a writer and an amateur folk pianist/vocalist.


Sponsored by the Association for Baha'i Studies, Mid-Atlantic Area Committee