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Culture

Prejudice: Just Human Nature?

Maya Bohnhoff | Dec 23, 2014

PART 3 IN SERIES Hulk Hogan and a 5 Year Old

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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Maya Bohnhoff | Dec 23, 2014

PART 3 IN SERIES Hulk Hogan and a 5 Year Old

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

In dealing with the current American controversies around police brutality, prejudice and race, I’ve found the teachings of religion profoundly beneficial. I’m not talking about displays of ritual or belief in miracles. I’m talking about the essentials of capital R Religion: the Golden Rule, the commandment to seek knowledge (especially self-knowledge), the exhortation to work hard at being truly human.

Gautama Buddha taught:

This indeed is the Way—there is no other—for the purification of one’s vision. …I have taught you the Way… Making the effort is your affair.” — Dhammapada, v. 274-276.

Likewise, Christ counsels His audience:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets… Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. …Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. …But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” — Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:12, 21-26

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:

be-united-in-counsel-igBe united in counsel, be one in thought. Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday. Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. … Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. Beware lest ye sow tares of dissension among men or plant thorns of doubt in pure and radiant hearts. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.

Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha, expanding on this theme, said in a talk given in Evanston, Illinois in 1912:

We must strive with energies of heart, soul and mind to develop and manifest the perfections and virtues latent within the realities of the phenomenal world, for the human reality may be compared to a seed. If we sow the seed, a mighty tree appears from it. …All these virtues were hidden and potential in the seed. Through the blessing and bounty of cultivation these virtues became apparent. Similarly, the merciful God, our Creator, has deposited within human realities certain latent and potential virtues. Through education and culture these virtues deposited by the loving God will become apparent in the human reality, even as the unfoldment of the tree from within the germinating seed. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 91.

This collective wisdom reminds us that we are, to a large extent, in control of our own destinies and responsible for the cultivation of our own individual (and hence, our collective) virtues.

prejudice-blindedThis uncomfortable reality makes us culpable for our own ignorance, our unreasoning rage and fear, our own hurt and hurtfulness, our biases, our prejudices, our sometimes irrational expectations of ourselves and others. When we tell ourselves that simple human nature causes us to behave in a particular way—violently, carelessly, defensively, prejudicially etc.—we lie.

This may seem like a venial, inconsequential lie, but it is not. It is a profoundly devastating lie because it strikes at the very core of what it means to be human. It tells us that we are merely powerless victims of biology, physics, and animal nature. If we choose to believe this lie in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we buy into the greatest, most debilitating lie of all: that this is the way we are, that we will always be this way, that nothing can be done, that things will never change or improve.

Artful dodging, that. But it is a dodge that is discredited, again, by the essential tenets of religion. All of the world’s great Faiths call on us to live into a more noble existence, to work at developing our spiritual selves, to transcend our lower natures. We can overcome the prejudices in our hearts and in our cultures if we will make the effort to turn toward our higher attributes:

Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light. …To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. … Even as He hath revealed: “We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves.” Again He saith: “And also in your own selves: will ye not, then, behold the signs of God?” …In this connection, He Who is the eternal King—may the souls of all that dwell within the mystic Tabernacle be a sacrifice unto Him—hath spoken: “He hath known God who hath known himself.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 177.

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Comments

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  • Feb 26, 2015
    -
    I like this: 'We can overcome the prejudices in our hearts and in our cultures if we will make the effort to turn toward our higher attributes' I have found interesting the link between Human Tribal Instinct and prejudice; www.fatzenhen.com/human-tribal-instinct-and-racism/
  • Dec 23, 2014
    -
    The Golden Rule for kids in my neighborhood in the wake of Auschwitz and WW2 and for more and more young people today, I feel, is: Do Unto Others Before They Do It To You.
    Things are even tougher in the western world's best and biggest university - the University of Billiards, Poker and Pool from which I graduated Cum Laude.in 1974
    In the excerpt below from 64 years ago in The Promised Day Is Come, Shoghi Effendi, (Balliol College, Oxford), the one and only Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, links the dangers of atheism with racialism and vice versa ...because i m o for an increasing number of young people today the Golden Rule impacts them little given that the very existence of the supposed Creator who sent the authors of those beautiful aphorisms is an illusion. One must i m o go right back to basics when for example a football team is consistently failing or when humanity in general is imploding or when America faces self annihilation due to racism. The stakes are high and growing higher by the day, mes amis!
    Having succumbed to its thrall for two decades in the heyday of my life I feel strongly about atheism. More than obedience is required of Bahá’ís in all our dealings with a just government. We are active well-wishers of our law makers and supporters of the democratic system despite its imperfections. Speaking of religion and Revelation vouchsafed by God unto humanity the Guardian fearlessly identifies harmful and dangerous enemies under a rubric of his choice – The Three False Gods – which clearly excludes the sane and rational patriotism apparent in functioning democracies while definitely including atheistic Communism:
    “This vital force [Religion] is dying out, this mighty agency has been scorned, this radiant light obscured, this impregnable stronghold abandoned, this beauteous robe discarded. God Himself has indeed been dethroned from the hearts of men, and an idolatrous world passionately and clamorously hails and worships the false gods which its own idle fancies have fatuously created, and its misguided hands so impiously exalted. The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose altars governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshiping. Their high priests are the politicians and the worldly-wise, the so-called sages of the age; their sacrifice, the flesh and blood of the slaughtered multitudes; their incantations outworn shibboleths and insidious and irreverent formulas; their incense, the smoke of anguish that ascends from the lacerated hearts of the bereaved, the maimed, and the homeless.”
    Baha'i love
    Paul
    Read more...
  • Dec 23, 2014
    -
    The Golden Rule for kids in my neighborhood in the wake of Auschwitz and WW2 and for more and more young people today, I feel, is: Do Unto Others Before They Do It To You.
    Things are even tougher in the western world's best and biggest university - the University of Billiards, Poker and Pool from which I graduated Cum Laude.in 1974
    In the excerpt below from 64 years ago in The Promised Day Is Come, Shoghi Effendi, (Balliol College, Oxford), the one and only Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, links the dangers of atheism with racialism and vice versa ...because i m o for an increasing number of young people today the Golden Rule impacts them little given that the very existence of the supposed Creator who sent the authors of those beautiful aphorisms is an illusion. One must i m o go right back to basics when for example a football team is consistently failing or when humanity in general is imploding or when America faces self annihilation due to racism. The stakes are high and growing higher by the day, mes amis!
    Having succumbed to its thrall for two decades in the heyday of my life I feel strongly about atheism. More than obedience is required of Bahá’ís in all our dealings with a just government. We are active well-wishers of our law makers and supporters of the democratic system despite its imperfections. Speaking of religion and Revelation vouchsafed by God unto humanity the Guardian fearlessly identifies harmful and dangerous enemies under a rubric of his choice – The Three False Gods – which clearly excludes the sane and rational patriotism apparent in functioning democracies while definitely including atheistic Communism:
    “This vital force [Religion] is dying out, this mighty agency has been scorned, this radiant light obscured, this impregnable stronghold abandoned, this beauteous robe discarded. God Himself has indeed been dethroned from the hearts of men, and an idolatrous world passionately and clamorously hails and worships the false gods which its own idle fancies have fatuously created, and its misguided hands so impiously exalted. The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose altars governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshiping. Their high priests are the politicians and the worldly-wise, the so-called sages of the age; their sacrifice, the flesh and blood of the slaughtered multitudes; their incantations outworn shibboleths and insidious and irreverent formulas; their incense, the smoke of anguish that ascends from the lacerated hearts of the bereaved, the maimed, and the homeless.”
    Baha'i love
    Paul
    Read more...
  • Dec 23, 2014
    -
    Good article. I think this is just the sort of message everybody needs to contemplate in the present age. Personally, I think we need to do away entirely with the term and concept of “race.” From both spiritual and biological points of view, it’s a false construct. Spiritually, we’re all creatures of the same Creator. We also all belong to the same biological species. To the best of our knowledge so far, said species had its origins in Africa, and as it migrated to and settled in other parts of the globe, some localized adaptations developed – such as differences ...in skin pigmentation, facial features and so forth. None of that, spiritual or biological, provides any rational reason to see different “races” of people.
    Read more...
  • Dec 23, 2014
    -
    Dear Maya,
    I congratulate you on an elegant article detailing the levels of consciousness that a human being can bring forth. I wanted to share the truth that I have experienced in this journey called human life in the blog Any Body Can Derive Everything From Geometry
    @ http://www.abcdefg.co/everything.html with you and all those who read your beautiful article.
    Love,
    Sridattadev.
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