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As Baha’is see it, in order to achieve a truly permanent universal peace, we must have a new universal view of religion.
Currently, so many religions and denominations claim to be the only way to God. This makes no sense—it’s an illogical contradiction.
Usually a person’s religion is determined by the country where he is born and the family he is born into, and how he is raised by his parents. Often, he is then taught that his religion is true and all others are false. This too makes no sense.
Baha’is believe there is only one Creator, though He has been called different names throughout history, such as Ahura Mazda, Brahma, Adonoi, Father, Allah, God, the Great Spirit, etc.
Logically, one Creator can have only one religion. He is not in competition with Himself.
The Baha’i teachings say that God has revealed His one religion not once, but many times throughout history. His messengers founded the major world religions: Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad, and the many indigenous Faiths revealed to every people.
Baha’is view ALL the major world religions as divine in origin, one in essence, equally true, equally important, equally valid, and all part of one progressive process:
… men have always been taught and led by the Prophets of God. The Prophets of God are the Mediators of God. All the Prophets and Messengers have come from One Holy Spirit and bear the Message of God, fitted to the age in which they appear. The One Light is in them and they are One with each other. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 24.
The Baha’i teachings say that God, through His messengers, has adapted this one religion to meet the needs of each age in which it has been revealed.
God’s messengers reveal two types of teachings: spiritual and social. The spiritual teachings include love, forgiveness, kindness, patience, justice, honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, the Golden Rule, etc. This is God’s one religion: His spiritual teachings that are eternal and never change. All the major world religions contain the same basic, underlying spiritual teachings.
In contrast, the social teachings of religion change. Each messenger changes them, to meet the needs of each age in which they are revealed: dietary laws, prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce, punishments for crimes, etc. These are the temporal teachings of religion, and are not permanent.
The major world religions are like many chapters of one great book. If a chapter were missing, the book would be incomplete. All the chapters contain the same basic teachings, but each chapter emphasizes a particular principle for the needs of the times. Moses emphasized justice. Christ emphasized love and forgiveness. Muhammad emphasized submission to the Will of God.
A universal loving Creator does not play favorites. He wants all His children, whenever and wherever they have lived, to know of His existence, to love and obey Him, and in so doing, to develop into the spiritual human beings we were all created to become.
It’s like we’re going to school. In first grade, our first grade teacher teaches us how to add and subtract. When we get to second grade, we don’t say to our second grade teacher, “My first grade teacher is the only way to truth, and you are a false teacher!” Rather, we accept the authority of the second grade teacher. She adds to our knowledge by teaching us how to multiply and divide. We cannot multiply and divide until we’ve learned how to add and subtract.
Both teachers have the same education: Masters degrees in the field of education. But they only teach us what we are capable of understanding.
Likewise, all of God’s teachers—the founders of the major world religions—have the same divine knowledge. But they only reveal laws and teachings we are capable of understanding and applying in our daily lives during a particular time in human history.
Unfortunately, the fallible clergy of each religion have tried to interpret and even alter the infallible Word of God as revealed by His messengers. The result has been conflicting interpretations. As if this isn’t enough, the clergy have then imposed their fallible interpretations on their followers, saying in effect, “My interpretation is true and all others are false.”
Those followers have wrongly assumed the clergy are knowledgeable and wise. Hence the followers have blindly followed the clergy, instead of independently investigating truth for themselves and reaching their own conclusions.
The result of all this has been the creation of countless sects and denominations, intense fear, self-righteousness, fanaticism, prejudice, hatred, narrow-mindedness, literal interpretations of symbolic statements, greatly exaggerated distortion of the original teachings of the founders, and destructive wars fought in the name of religion.
The founders of religion came to bring unity and harmony. The clergy and followers have created irreparable disunity.
This broad, progressive view of religion stands in stark contrast to the narrow-minded, self-righteous views of religion prevalent today. We can only achieve a lasting global peace by accepting a universal view of religion that totally embraces all religions as one.