From the Bahá’í Faith to Porn to Alpha to Jesus
Image: Jonathan Bielaski

I always wanted to be self-made. Raised in Caledonia, Ontario, I was identified in third grade as gifted, and from then on was keenly aware that I should “act smart.” I only participated in things I knew I would do well, and did my best to control all factors that could sabotage perfection. If I got a 93 on an essay, I demanded that the teacher tell me how I lost 7 points. For group projects, I asked my classmate to bring only the presentation board—and brought a backup board just in case. By age 17, I saw myself as a teenager who had everything under control.

Heading to college in London, Ontario, I was eager to be a grown-up. And the ultimate marker of my new independence, I thought, would be joining the Bahá’í faith. A local assembly met in Caledonia, and some of my closest friends were raised in Bahá’í homes, so I was already familiar with the faith. I remember leaving Bahá’í events buoyed by the leaders’ optimism about the future: no more war, poverty, or racism. One language, one currency, and equality of the sexes. It sounded perfect.

The Bahá’í faith grew out of Islamic culture in 19th-century Persia. A merchant, Sayyid Ali Muhammad, claimed to be the long-awaited Báb (“Gate”) to the knowledge of the twelfth Imam. Just before the Báb was executed, he appointed one of his followers as his successor. The new leader’s half-brother would declare himself Bahá’u’lláh (literally “the glory of God”).

According to the tenets of the Bahá’í faith, all major religions before 1863 were founded by “Manifestations of God.” So Adam, Noah, Krishna, Moses, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and the Báb are all manifestations, with Bahá’u’lláh being the final and complete manifestation. The most appealing belief to me: a new order led by Bahá’í leaders that would usher in world peace.

Since I had managed to be so good at everything else, belonging to the religion that ensured perfect order seemed the right step. But I quickly found myself falling short of its requirements. I struggled to pray the long, obligatory morning prayer. I skipped ceremonial washings because I didn’t understand how to perform them.

It didn’t help that I had started dating a non-Bahá’í a few months after joining.

About a Boy

Aaron was a friend who identified as a “hostile agnostic.” I quickly learned that spending time with him was way more fun than prayer and chastity. I tried to manage my dual commitment to God and to someone who found the Bahá’í faith strange. But the more serious our relationship became, the greater the gap grew between what I should have been doing (praying, reading scripture, fasting) and what I was in fact doing (showing up to class late wearing Aaron’s shirts). So I became indifferent to spiritual matters, abandoning the pursuit of “holiness” to do whatever seemed right.

After graduation and two years of living with Aaron, I was still living without an anchor. I decided to take greater control of my life by becoming debt-free. With delusions of paying off loans quickly, I started working on the tech side of the Internet porn industry, populating websites with ads for porn sites. The company behind the scheme promised absurd amounts of wealth—with only one hour of work a day!

November
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From the Bahá’í Faith to Porn to Alpha to Jesus