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Do you believe that religion and reason can agree? If so, you might be a Baha’i.
The Baha’i teachings say that human beings possess intellectual abilities, inquisitive minds and curious spirits—precisely because we need the tools to determine the truth for ourselves:
… weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorance! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 143.
Over the course of human history, some religious authorities have quashed and discouraged the independent investigation of reality—punishing, shunning and condemning all those who questioned. As a result, superstitions, traditions and unintelligent dogma have attached themselves to religions since the beginning of time. These man-made rituals, forms and imitations then gradually obscured the original message and its intent.
When that happens, religion becomes corrupt, conflictive and incapable of change.
The Baha’i teachings counsel everyone to avoid this dogmatic and blind imitation:
God has created in man the power of reason whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to blindly imitate his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind or the faculty of reasoning by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth; and that which he finds real and true, he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.
Baha’is believe that science and religion agree. The Baha’i writings describe science and religion as “the two wings that humanity needs to fly.” This revolutionary concept of the unity of science and true religion underpins the Baha’i ideal of the independent investigation of truth:
First, it is incumbent upon all mankind to investigate truth. If such investigation be made, all should agree and be united, for truth or reality is not multiple; it is not divisible. The different religions have one truth underlying them; therefore, their reality is one. –Ibid., pp. 105-106.
Baha’u’llah, urging all humanity to investigate spiritual truth for themselves, urged us to “Look into all things with a searching eye.” – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 157. An open-minded spiritual exploration can take many forms, but the Baha’i teachings recommend looking for meaning inwardly, seeking to know and understand your true self:
When the spiritually minded dive deeply into the ocean of their meaning they bring to the surface the pearls of their inner significance. – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 79.
When you dedicate yourself to a spiritual search, to your own independent investigation of reality, you become a true seeker. You can learn from the experience and knowledge of others, of course, but ultimately you must let your own heart and mind decide what you truly believe.
For this reason, Baha’is have no clergy. Each Baha’i has the responsibility for his or her own spiritual growth. Every Baha’i prays and meditates as they see fit; no preaching, sermons, sacraments, confessions or rituals exist; and democratically-elected bodies administer every Baha’i community, rather than individual authorities who can impose their understandings on others.
The Baha’i teachings urge seekers to read and study the holy books of every Faith—and to go beyond their literal, outer words to discover their profound, symbolic inner meanings. At the same time, Baha’u’llah asks seekers of truth to explore their own inner landscape and learn to understand themselves:
One must, then, read the book of his own self … – The Four Valleys, p. 51.
That searching self-exploration, coupled with a quest for inner and outer truth, leads the seeker on a journey of insight, spiritual development and growth.
We all have minds, hearts and souls. When these three powerful instruments combine in a seeker’s quest for meaning, our intelligence, our emotions and our deepest spiritual yearnings can bring our true inner reality to light. The Baha’i Faith encourages everyone to take that journey of spiritual discovery.