Church seeks public apology from Wall Street Journal columnist

A recent article by James Taranto has sparked concern for what the international headquarters for the Manichaean Religion has called “blatant misinformation about the Manichaean Religion” and “the name of the Prophet Mani, the founder of what has become known as Manichaeism.”

Taranto, writing for the Wall Street Journal, in his article “Out of Mani, One – The philosophical roots of the Obama cult” applied the term “Manichaean” in a generic way for the purposes on reporting on politics regarding the morals and other topics related to U.S. President Barack Obama and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.

Michael Tarendra, spokesman for the Manichaean headquarters in Iran, said, “This is not about politics. The Manichaean Religion is neither Democrat or Republican or any other party for that matter. Although our Faith is generally considered conservative, it is neutral in regards to political parties. Manichaeans do not put hope in Obama, Romney or any other political character in the world, no matter how utopian their ideals may be. This is about an author who has misused the name of our Holy Prophet Mani. Manichaeans worldwide can forgive the misapplication of the word Manichaean when journalists use it in a generic manner because we know they base their writing on the limited information that is available to them. We know that Obama and Romney are certainly not adherents of the Manichaean Faith. But when it comes to the use of our Prophet’s name in such a manner, Manichaeans can not remain silent. To use our Prophet’s name in what appears to be an attempt at humor is not only highly offensive but also extremely insulting to Manichaeans.”

Taranto mostly quotes from other sources about the Manichaean Religion and Gnosticism in his article. He utilized an entry from an online encyclopedia written by Tore Kjeilen which says, “The religion disappeared from the West in 10th century, and from China in the 14th century, and today it is extinct.” Michael Tarendra said, “This is the typical misinformation that is spread by those who are unfamiliar with the Manichaean Religion and who continue to rely on outdated and mostly unreliable sources and even anti-Manichaean writings. These authors are usually unaware that Manichaean faith has continued to exist in China and other areas of the world. To say that our religion is extinct is nothing more than ignorance of the facts concerning our Church’s rich history. We can easily forgive them for those type of comments.”

Jon Ming, the representative of the Chinese Manichaean tradition centered in Beijing said, “We are very disappointed in seeing yet another article that spreads false information about the Manichaean Religion being extinct. Manichaeism has existed in China and neighboring lands for centuries in one form or another. There are religious sites in China that still exist which Manichaeans consider sacred. Our religion is not dead. It was more disappointing though to read how Mr. Taranto used the name of the Prophet Mani.”

Professor Yar of the University for Historical and Cultural Research in Los Angeles, noted that the author also quoted from the online encyclopedia regarding “dualism.” Professor Yar said, “Manichaeans never historically associated what some refer to as dualism with their own views of the future. The thought of dualism is that good and evil are in some kind of eternal battle and that one of these will be victorious in the end. Historical Manichaeism doesn’t entertain the thought that evil will ever win over good, but that God is eternal and supreme over all things, that God will be triumphant over all forms of evil and that one day evil will no longer exist. Neither does Manichaeism teach that this battle is eternal. To say that Manichaeans believed in dualism in such a manner puts good and evil on equal grounds. That form of dualism is not taught by Manichaeism. The founder of the Manichaean religion would be appalled by such a thought.”

As noted, the main concern among Manichaeans is not so much with the generic use of the word Manichean connected to politics, but it is how Taranto used the actual name of Mani. Mani is considered by Manichaeans today, as they did in ancient times, as the central Prophet of their religion and they uphold his name with high esteem.

H.H. Mar Innai Kharba, the Patriarch of the Manichaean Church, was asked about his thoughts regarding Mr. Taranto’s recent article. His Holiness said: “It is a sad statement on modern journalistic integrity when writers, simply in order to create a premise for for a book, article or blog, restrict their research to a handful of derelict, out-of-date, misinformation sites, or the propaganda of those who who had a vested self interest in denouncing Manichaeans in the past.”

“Would anyone take seriously a statement made about American democracy from a North Korean news program? Or would such writers feel so inclined to use the founder of Judaism, Christianity or Islam so recklessly? Mr. Taranto, in an effort to get his point across, stampedes with complete insensitivity over the beliefs of all Manichaeans, both of the past and the present.”

The Patriarch continued by saying: “Is making a political point worth alienating devout men, women and children, the majority of whom have no connection to the American political process? Journalistic integrity would call for a closer examination of the life of our Holy Prophet Mani, and his Teachings and then it would become abundantly clear that grasping for the oft-used and thoroughly misunderstood concept of ‘dualism’, and seeking to apply it to real Manichaeism, would be just a foolish, thoughtless and amateurish mistake to make. It doesn’t take much to get the accurate information, it just takes a little journalistic integrity, some level of objectivity.”

In a statement from the international headquarters of the Manichaeans, Michael Tarendra said, “While we can forgive the blunders of misapplying the word Manichaean in a political manner, it is more difficult, however, to simply overlook the manner in which our Prophet’s name was used in the article appearing on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site. The article provided not only blatant misinformation about the Manichaean Religion, but was also blasphemous concerning the name of the Prophet Mani, the founder of what has become known as Manichaeism. For the author to associate the term ‘cult’ in quoting other sources in an attempt to compare the ideals of Obama and the Manichaean Faith, causes those who are first learning of our Religion to be misguided about the facts about our Prophet and his teachings. For us, Mr. Taranto’s use of our Prophet’s name in such a way is the epitome of blasphemy. For these reasons Manichaeans are seeking a public apology from Mr. Taranto. If the Wall Street Journal wishes to do the right thing, they will remove the article from their Web site.”

More about the Manichaean Religion

Mar Mani was the founder of what is known today as Manichaeism. He is considered the central prophet of the Manichaean Religion. The Prophet Mani was born in Iran in the early 200’s A.D. Manichaeans observe the anniversary of Mani’s birth in April.

The Manichaean Faith, also known as the Religion of Light, spread throughout Iran, India, Western Asia and China. Due to persecution, most of its adherents were massacred while others practiced the Religion in secrecy.

Manichaeans believe in one God and in a Divine Messenger sent by God to the earth. Manichaeans uphold the equality of all men, women, races, nationalities and sexual orientations and believe in protecting all life including animals.

Manichaeism is not an offshoot of Judaism or Christianity and it is not viewed as a mixture of various religions. It is a world religion that expresses itself from within the cultural setting in which it is active.

Today Manichaeans exist with limited freedom in Iran, Syria, Egypt and China. Manichaeism is also represented by a few members in Europe and North America.

In China, Manichaeism is known as “Mingjiao” which means “Religion of Light.” Church records indicate that Manichaean monks in China, during World War I and II, were busy copying sacred texts. In April of this year Manichaeans in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and other areas observed a Water Festival that is part of the Mingjiao Tradition. Earlier Manichaeans in Tibet, also under the guidance of the Mingjiao association in Beijing, celebrated the Butter Lamp Festival.

Recently in Turkey the “Manichaean Studies Center of Central Asia and China” was established for publishing commentaries on the Religion’s sacred texts.

The international headquarters, officially known as “Bitavhati Madinkha d’Maninaye”, is located in Tehran, Iran.

The Patriarch of the Manichaean Church recently participated in a radio interview, which was a “cross-religious, cross-cultural dialogue” where he provided answers to several questions by the Buddhist radio host Tenzin Norbu.

The Manichaean headquarters is expected to release an English version of the Manichaean Holy Book in mid-January of next year.

On March 20, 2013, Manichaeans will celebrate the 253rd Jubilee Festival for the Religion of Light. The Jubilee is observed every seven years.

Some videos on Youtube produced by Manichaeans and others:
What is Manichaeism?
Zurvan – A Historical Name of God in Manichaeism
Why Suicide is Not the Solution
The True Path is Before You
Manichaeism is Not Dualistic
Manichaean Faith and Wicca – Two Worlds Apart

The official Web site of the Religion is

Spokesman Michael Tarendra may be contacted via email through the Manichaean Worldwide Organizational Committee’s Web site at


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