Baha'i activities, Baha'i friendship for what ?
Hi, I'm new to this but I wanted to speak about my recent experiences with the local Baha'i cluster, their activities and how I lost most of my friends after I decided to stop participating in their events.
Firstly, I wanted to mention that I'm an atheist, I always have been and I imagine I always will be. I'm not sure if any of them knew that then, and I wonder if that played a role in how they treat me now. Although I dislike religion and what my friends did over the past year, I was never traumatised or severely upset by anything that happened and I can't say I dislike any of these friends even if I disagree with them now.
At the start of 2016, my close friend invited me to a youth gathering which she described was for "community building activities" and "empowering youth," with absolutely no mention of any religious component. I attended, we only discussed the societal potential of young people and by the end of the day some older youth I met had already signed me up to start the Ruhi Institute books despite the fact that I'd never heard of them and they didn't show them to us or tell us what they were about.
I continued meeting with my new friends throughout the year because I enjoyed their company and learning about their work, but each time our conversations about community and youth would become slightly less secular and eventually all we talked about was in context of the Baha'i faith. Nobody was forcing me to participate, but there was a LOT of manipulation and pressuring on their behalf from the beginning, which sadly I chose to overlook.
Amongst the possibly hundreds of people I met in the year, there were about 10 people around my age who I became particularly close to. We often had meals together, met outside of school and on weekends just to hang out together as we enjoyed each other's company. I had a lot of fun with these people and I was frequently invited to join them whenever they met, which I appreciated because it made me feel included and important for once.
At different stages in 2016, but particularly towards the end of the year, we (the non-Bahai's who were a part of the cluster) were expected to attend several Ruhi study circles and devotionals a week, go to regular Institute camps, have our own Junior Youth groups or Baha'i Children's Classes, regularly doorknock and attempt to involve our friends, classmates and any strangers we encountered in our activities. Although I wasn't bothered by the frequency of these things, as someone who is strongly against religious proselytizing I decided it was time for me to withdraw once and for all. I told my friend (also a non-Baha'i in the group, who is one of the 1 or 2 who I think genuinely cares for me) I didn't want to be a part of cluster activities anymore. She said she'd let the others know, and that marked the end of my year working with the Baha'is in my city.
Since then, December of last year, I barely socialise in groups outside of school. I'm not particularly bothered by this since I like to be alone, but it feels strange after a year filled with things to do every week. I've been invited to one or two casual catch-ups since, but recently I've tried to organise my own with four individual people from this group and every single time I was told they were busy, not available, etc., and even though I know they don't owe me their time, it's very clear to me that they are making an active choice to not see me. I think they see me as an apostate and somehow threatening to them, or at the very least they have realised that I'm not receptive to their religion and I refuse to spread it for them, so they don't have a use for me anymore. I love my friends, but I have to say their behaviour could be quite pathetic at times and I've always just felt sorry for them when they talk about the Baha'i faith. I'm sure they must have been furious when I left abruptly since they used up so much of their time and resources on me, but the only thing I feel bad about is allowing myself to be manipulated for an entire year.
That's all. I'm not sure if many people frequent this subreddit, but I'd appreciate some feedback, opinions, any commentary really. There's nobody I can really speak to about this since nobody I know in person can relate. Have any of you experienced something similar to this? What do you think?
Posted by Naser Emtesali at 12:51 AM
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