This is an article posted by JACK MCLEAN is a Baha'i scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Baha'i theology and poetry located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Sunday, August 28, 2011 in answer to the question “Are lascivious thoughts immoral if not acted upon
Today’s question asks whether or not a moral distinction may be drawn between thought and action with the lustful desire.
The answer would depend upon which standard is used to judge: the absolute or the relative. The distinction between the ideal and the real may also aid understanding.
The absolute standard of purity/chastity would make no distinction between the thought and action. In absolute terms, the lascivious thought is immoral. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), and the authorized interpreter of his father’s teachings, wrote that we should keep “… secret and hidden thoughts pure before the Lord of Hosts!” (Tablets, vol. 3, p. 704).
The reason is easy to understand. Thoughts, if strongly driven, usually lead to expression, either in word or deed. If the thought is not immoral, it is unlikely that it would lead to an immoral act. Immoral thoughts lead to immoral deeds. Moral thoughts bring peace of mind.
But relatively speaking, the concrete act would be more sinful than the thought. If a lascivious thought remains private, only the thinker suffers. If the thought is acted ¬upon, one or more persons suffer the consequences. In some moral theo¬logies, temptation is not considered to be sinful, but giving in to temptation is a breach of the law.
Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, drew a realistic distinction between faith and character that may be useful here.
In answering one of many thousands of questions, he wrote through his secretary: “It is often hard to accept this fact and put up with it, but the fact [remains] that a person may believe in and love the Cause — even being ready to die for it — and yet not have a good personal character or possess traits at variance with the teachings. We try to change, to let the Power of God help re-create us, make us true Bahá’ís in deed as well as in belief. But sometimes the process is slow, sometimes it never happens because the individual does not try hard enough. But these things cause us suffering and are a test to us …” (Oct. 17, 1944).
Religion and Porn
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