Baha’is believe in the unity of all Faiths. However, the Baha’i principle of the oneness of religion is not:
- A hopeful wish for cooperation
- A syncretic attempt at combining different Faiths
- An artificial aggregate of beliefs
- Or a “cherry-picked” bundle of religious tenets.
Instead, the Baha’i principle of the oneness of religion centers around the organic unity of the world’s major Faiths and the Divinely-ordained, organic cycle of their revelations:
From the days of Adam until today, the religions of God have been made manifest, one following the other, and each one of them fulfilled its due function, revived mankind, and provided education and enlightenment. They freed the people from the darkness of the world of nature and ushered them into the brightness of the Kingdom. As each succeeding Faith and Law became revealed it remained for some centuries a richly fruitful tree and to it was committed the happiness of humankind. However, as the centuries rolled by, it aged, it flourished no more and put forth no fruit, wherefore was it then made young again.
The religion of God is one religion, but it must ever be renewed. Moses, for example, was sent forth to man and He established a Law, and the Children of Israel, through that Mosaic Law, were delivered out of their ignorance and came into the light; they were lifted up from their abjectness and attained to a glory that fadeth not. Still, as the long years wore on, that radiance passed by, that splendour set, that bright day turned to night; and once that night grew triply dark, the star of the Messiah dawned, so that again a glory lit the world.
Our meaning is this: the religion of God is one, and it is the educator of humankind, but still, it needs must be made new. When thou dost plant a tree, its height increaseth day by day. It putteth forth blossoms and leaves and luscious fruits. But after a long time, it doth grow old, yielding no fruitage any more. Then doth the Husbandman of Truth take up the seed from that same tree, and plant it in a pure soil; and lo, there standeth the first tree, even as it was before. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 51-52.
This concept–that all religions function as part of a single system–means the Divinely-inspired spiritual teachers who founded the major world Faiths each wrote a chapter in one continuous, sequential and unified system of Faith. Together they created a linked series of Faiths which gradually and progressively revealed the spiritual and mystical knowledge humanity needed at the time they appeared. These teachers – the Prophets, Manifestations and Founders of the world’s great Faiths – have gradually given us the moral and spiritual education we require to progress and grow as a human species. Their Faiths founded entire cultures, established universal moral codes and inspired the continual progress and growth we call civilization.
This remarkable Baha’i concept, called progressive revelation, links the teachings of Buddha, Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Christ, Muhammad and now Baha’u’llah in one unbroken chain of wisdom and guidance for humanity. Like professors in a university, the prophets of God bring the spiritual and social teachings appropriate for the level of maturity and development humanity has reached. They elevate our moral and mental capacities. They enlighten humanity. They enlarge our perspective, urge us to love one another, break down the barriers between people and mediate God’s love for us:
Each religion teaches that a mediator is necessary between man and the Creator — one who receives the full light of the divine splendor and radiates it over the human world, as the earth’s atmosphere receives and diffuses the warmth of the sun’s rays. This mediator between God and humanity has different designations though he always brings the same spiritual command.
In one era he is called Abraham, at another time Moses, again he is called Buddha, another time Jesus, and yet another time Mohammad. All turned to the divine reality for their strength. Those who followed Moses accepted him as their mediator; those who followed Zoroaster accepted him as their mediator; but all the Israelites deny Zoroaster, and the Zoroastrians deny Moses. They fail to see in both the one light. Had the Zoroastrians comprehended the reality of Zoroaster, they would have understood Moses and Jesus. Alas! the majority of men attach themselves to the name of the mediator and lose sight of the real purport.
Therefore did Baha’u’llah cry, “O God, deliver us from the sea of names!” Man must turn to the light and not think that the form of the lamp is essential, for the lamp may be changed; but he who longs for light welcomes it from whatever source it comes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 32.
This message, that the world’s Faiths are essentially one Faith, calls on all of us to reevaluate what and how we think about religion.