The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
The Baha’i teachings say the differences in what we call ourselves—Christian, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Baha’i, etc.—are merely differences of terminology:
When Christians act according to the teachings of Christ, they are called Baha’is. For the foundations of Christianity and the religion of Baha’u’llah are one. The foundations of all the divine Prophets and Holy Books are one. The difference among them is one of terminology only. … Whoever acts completely in accordance with the teachings of Christ is a Baha’i. The purpose is the essential meaning of Christian, not the mere word. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 247-248.
What matters most is living a good life, a life that justifies one’s claim to be a follower of the prophets of God, and making sure that life produces all of the good spiritual and moral qualities implied in one’s belief. This is also what it means to have true faith:
They should justify their claim to be Baha’is by deeds and not by name. He is a true Baha’i who strives by day and by night to progress and advance along the path of human endeavor, whose most cherished desire is so to live and act as to enrich and illuminate the world, whose source of inspiration is the essence of Divine virtue, whose aim in life is so to conduct himself as to be the cause of infinite progress. Only when he attains unto such perfect gifts can it be said of him that he is a true Baha’i. For in this holy Dispensation, the crowning glory of bygone ages and cycles, true Faith is no mere acknowledgement of the Unity of God, but rather the living of a life that will manifest all the perfections and virtues implied in such belief. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Baha’i World, Volume 1, p. 12.
This understanding of true belief begs an important question: What is the purpose of God’s revelations brought by the messengers of God, especially a new revelation? The Baha’i teachings explain:
And yet, is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God’s universal Manifestations would be apparent. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 240.
Indeed, transformation is the essential purpose of the Baha’i revelation, a worldwide transformation that brings unity, peace, and justice to all of humanity. In this day, Baha’is understand, the most powerful and effective vehicle for the realization of this transformation is unity of Faith:
That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 255.
Considering this term of “one common Faith,” it’s natural to wonder how this vision takes into account the great religious diversity in our world. According to the Baha’i teachings:
The Revelation, of which Baha’u’llah is the source and center, abrogates none of the religions that have preceded it, nor does it attempt, in the slightest degree, to distort their features or to belittle their value. Its declared, its primary purpose is to enable every adherent of these Faiths to obtain a fuller understanding of the religion with which he stands identified, and to acquire a clearer apprehension of its purpose …
Far from aiming at the overthrow of the spiritual foundation of the world’s religious systems, its avowed, its unalterable purpose is to widen their basis, to restate their fundamentals, to reconcile their aims, to reinvigorate their life, to demonstrate their oneness, to restore the pristine purity of their teachings, to coordinate their functions and to assist in the realization of their highest aspirations. These divinely-revealed religions, as a close observer has graphically expressed it, “are doomed not to die, but to be reborn.” – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 57-58, p. 114.
This transformative vision of one common Faith is not a romanticized ideal, but rather a recognition of a fundamental spiritual truth–God is one and God’s Faith is one. Does it matter what we call ourselves?