It's funny how memories can surface, after the fact... this happened to me recently as I was in the process of becoming Baha'i (more about that in a minute).
I remember taking a cultural anthropology course in college and learning about different religions and religious views. At the time I was a fairly new Unitarian Universalist and had Christian roots, yet was interested in many spiritual paths. I had, many years before, heard about Baha'is but I did not know anything about the faith. But in class as a mature adult I remembered distinctly that I was familiar with the name "Baha'i" and that it had a favorable feeling in my soul, yet I had no idea why.
There I sat, reading about the Baha'i faith in my college textbook... about the universalist principles of love for all mankind and overcoming prejudice, and equality of the sexes, no proselytizing allowed (totally agree!), there is no clergy (spiritual education is the responsibility of the individual, although there are many functions and classes and books!), education is highly promoted (there is a saying that if you have two children, a boy and a girl, and only enough money to educate one of them, you should educate the girl because she will teach her own children), there is a strong interfaith stance, the concept of Satan is that of man's lower nature rather than an actual imaginary being, the promotion of world peace instead of war, a united planet and positive one-world government (not the fear-based New World Order that some fundamentalists teach), the avoidance of politics, concepts like Progressive Revelation, spiritual leaders coming in and going out and being replaced by people more appropriate for each age (whether Adam, Zoroaster, Abraham, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, etc.), and even being open to other worlds existing in the universe. I agreed with all of these concepts.
Yes, I was a Baha'i at heart. I thought to myself, "I'm already a Baha'i and didn't even know it!"
I decided right then that if I ever stepped off the agnostic fence and chose the path of no god, then I would become Buddhist, but if I chose the path of a God (and although I know there are many gods, I am inclined towards monotheism as a greater power of spirit/energy that pervaded the universe(s) and beyond) then I would become Baha'i. However, I sat on that fence yet another 10 years.
So back to how memories can surface when you least expect it. I was recently watching the film "To Light a Candle" about the Iranian Baha'is who were being kept from a college education, yet they studied and learned anyway. Many eventually fled Iran to other countries because of the religious persecution. My heart went out to these people who have experienced this, and then, while hearing--during this film--about the Ayatolla Khomeini, who in 1979 led a revolution and took over Iran from the Shah, a blast of memories of my dad watching the news (he loved politics and world events) popped up and suddenly I remembered the Baha'is and who they were! I did not like politics as a kid (or an adult) but I watched and kept up with what was happening at the time. I understood and my heart had reached out as a 10-to-12-year-old child to these people.
Today, although far from being oppressed, I am one of them. I am proud that today I will be declaring myself as a Baha'i on Naw Ruz (Baha'i new year at spring equinox) so it is very fitting. I have been learning, watching videos, reading books and scripture, talking and meeting with friends, going to gatherings and participating in devotionals, learning Book 1 (Ruhi), and attended my first feast and practiced the fast.
So now I feel I have finally come home, full circle, to where I had learned about Baha'is as a kid, then about what the faith was really about as an adult, and now am learning what it means to be Baha'i and practice those ways. Next I get to do what I was meant to do, and be a part of a much bigger plan.
No religion is perfect, but the concepts and matters of faith that are part of the Baha'i path are more in unison with what I already believed, and has a beautiful image and focus and actual plan to bring in God's desires for humanity and an ever-advancing civilization towards world unity--and although I am not perfect either, all of this is intrinsically and together a big part of who I already am.
This time, "I am Baha'i and I know it."
The best is yet to come!