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Spirituality

The Biggest Imaginable Question: God

David Langness | Apr 25, 2015

PART 1 IN SERIES Some Answered Questions about God

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Apr 25, 2015

PART 1 IN SERIES Some Answered Questions about God

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

…it is clear that nature, in its very essence, is in the grasp of God’s might, and that it is that Eternal and Almighty One Who subjects nature to ideal laws and organizing principles, and Who rules over it. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions (newly revised edition), p. 4.

Here’s the biggest imaginable question: does God exist?

Yes, the Baha’i teachings answer.

Looking-up-to-the-heavensBut they don’t just give a simple, yes-or-no response. Instead, the central Baha’i belief in a Creator offers rational, scientific and philosophical reasons to believe in God throughout the Baha’i writings. In this short series of essays, we’ll take a look at those core Baha’i beliefs, compare them to the generally-utilized philosophical and non-religious explanations for God’s existence or non-existence, and then encourage you to come to your own conclusions.

The inspiration for this series of essays comes from a wonderful Baha’i book called Some Answered Questions. First written a little more than a hundred years ago, Some Answered Questions contains Abdu’l-Baha’s responses to a series of deep questions on theology, spirituality, ethics, morality and social problems posed to him by an early American Baha’i named Laura Clifford Barney. Abdu’l-Baha reviewed and corrected the notes for the book personally, and Ms. Barney compiled his answers, then translated and first published them in 1908. In March of 2015, the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel published a newly-translated version of this beloved Baha’i book. In it, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith said, we could “find the clue to all the perplexing questions that agitate the mind of man in his search after true knowledge.”

This series of essays will rely in part on quotes from the fresh translation of Some Answered Questions for its exploration of the perplexing questions about the existence of God.

But first, a disclaimer: Baha’is refrain from proselytizing, trying to convert others to their way of thinking or insisting on any one interpretation of religious truth. Your belief in God belongs only to you, and no one can condition it or demand that you believe the way they do. This core Baha’i principle—called the independent investigation of truth—means that you have the right, the responsibility and the freedom to believe what you see as true. Since the Baha’i Faith has no clergy, scriptural experts or ecclesiastical authorities, this series of essays—like all of the articles you’ll find here at BahaiTeachings.org—represents only my humble opinion and my very limited understanding of the enormous breadth and depth of the Baha’i revelation. So please, if you’re interested in this fascinating and compelling big question about the existence of a Supreme Being, get a copy of the newly-revised version of Some Answered Questions and read through it. (www.bahaibookstore.com)

With that in mind, let’s quickly review the history of belief in a monotheistic God.

Humans have believed in one God throughout history, as far back as the late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age—or at least, that’s the first we know about it. Initially, monotheistic beliefs came from a wide variety of places and civilizations–indigenous belief systems that arose in primitive Egypt; in the first few centuries of Hinduism in Vedic India and in early Greek philosophy. That belief in one God has continued and thrived. Most scientific polls and demographic studies have concluded that the vast majority of people on Earth today—at least three-quarters of us—now believe in a monotheistic Faith.

Philosophers and religious historians used to think that human religious beliefs gradually evolved, from animism to polytheism to monotheism. But today, most of that theory has been thoroughly dismantled by a better understanding of indigenous belief systems, and by the recognition that most Faiths taught the idea of a monotheistic Creator, at least in their original forms.

Atheism, on the other hand, has a much shorter history. Although a few smaller prehistoric and pre-literate societies had no known concept of a God; the vast majority did not. In fact, the term atheism didn’t originate until the 16th Century, and didn’t come into wide use until the late 1700s, at the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Atheism became popular in the 19th Century, some philosophers maintained, since our five senses couldn’t prove the existence of God. Called verificationism, this idea spread into the early 20th Century, and then began to collapse when science conclusively proved that our five senses aren’t very accurate measuring tools. As the idea of verificationism gradually disappeared, a resurgence occurred—in metaphysics and in something called natural theology.

Natural theology seeks to prove God’s existence through philosophy and science, without appeal to divine revelation. For Baha’is, who believe in the agreement of science and religion, that rational method of thinking about a Supreme Being makes eminent sense. In fact, Abdu’l-Baha used it extensively in Some Answered Questions, saying that “the proofs and arguments which we provide here are based on rational and not traditional arguments.” – p. 13.

Please follow along in this short series of essays as we explore the rational, logical and analytical contentions the Baha’i teachings put forth to prove the existence of a loving Creator.

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