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A Rabbi’s Perspective on the Oneness of Religion

Mordecai Schreiber | Aug 23, 2016

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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Mordecai Schreiber | Aug 23, 2016

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

For the past ten years I have been studying the prayers and meditations of the world’s major religions.

I have also traveled during that time, as a cruise ship clergyperson, to over 100 countries and islands. In all my travels I have been fascinated by the fervor of people everywhere whom I saw praying and meditating either alone, or in small groups, as well as in very large numbers. I have learned some important lessons about the power of prayer and its universality. In countries like Russia and China, where religion was suppressed for decades, I found large numbers of people attending Russian Orthodox churches and Buddhist temples, respectively. It became clear to me that human spiritual needs run much deeper than political ideologies. Most importantly, I became aware of the commonality of all forms of spiritual experience and devotion. While outwardly it seems that religions differ greatly from one another, in reality the differences come more from form than from substance.

My entire life has been a spiritual quest. I was born to secular Jewish parents in the seaport city of Haifa under the British Mandate for Palestine. Yet from a very young age I was fascinated by all the Abrahamic religions which dwelled side by side in my native town. Interestingly, I grew up across the street from the Baha’i temple and gardens in Haifa, and I learned at a young age that the Baha’i Faith embraced all religions.

Sharing-the-Sacred--My-Pilgrimage-to-the-Baha'i-Shrines-in-Israel

Now, years later, I have come to fully appreciate the Baha’i belief in the oneness of religion and the progressive nature of revelation. For years, I have been troubled by the rivalry and exclusivism which characterized the way Judaism, Christianity, and Islam approached one another. When I decided to become a rabbi, I chose a progressive branch of Judaism, and after I was ordained I pursued interfaith studies and activities.

The post-Cold War world has now entered a new phase, which some refer to as a cultural and religious “clash of civilizations.” There seems to be a greater need today than ever before to initiate a world dialogue among all religions to harness the universal power of prayer and faith for the common good, rather than continue to work at cross-purposes, which can only exacerbate conflicts around the globe.

In my new book, Why People Pray: The Universal Power of Prayer, I make a case for a new language of prayer which can bring all people together across ideological divides. I point out that the Baha’i teachings are perfectly suited for starting a new phase in the history of human faith, in which the common good of all humanity is recognized as the highest value to be pursued by all cultures and creeds:

This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. You are loosed from ancient superstitions which have kept men ignorant, destroying the foundation of true humanity.

The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 19-20.

In the final analysis, we all live on a planet that keeps getting smaller and ever more interdependent, and the good of one is the good of all.

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Comments

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  • Aug 23, 2016
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    Thank you for sharing this article! Hope other leaders of religion would care to continue to investigate the Holy Writings of other Faith's Messengers and like you recognize the Eternal Voice spoken to humanity - to have the courage to share their insight on the fundamental Truth of the Oneness of God and His Progressive Revelation.
  • Aug 23, 2016
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    Principles and Sources are era important to Unitarian Universalists like myself.
    The seven UU principles are
    1. Each person is important; We believe that each and every person is important; The inherent worth and dignity of every person
    2. Be kind in all you do; We believe that all people should be treated fairly and kindly; Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations
    3. We're free to learn together; We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together; Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
    4. We search for what ...is true; We believe that each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life; A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
    5. All people need a voice; We believe that all persons should have a vote about the things that concern them; The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
    6. Build a fair and peaceful world; We believe in working for a peaceful, fair, and free world; The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
    7. We care for the Earth; We believe in caring for our planet Earth, the home we share with all living things; Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
    I'm also Buddhist as well as Unitarian Universalist. The point is that Principles like the above and the dozen or so Baha'i Principles are important as opposed to more moralistic laws that fundamentalists tend to favor. The culture sphere (in social threefolding via Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy includes religion) shouldn't theocratic all takes over the political and economic spheres.
    Read more...
  • Christopher Buck
    Aug 23, 2016
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    On Amazon, I searched the preview of your new book, Why People Pray: The Universal Power of Prayer. I was happy to see that there were eight results for the word “Baha’i.” Imagine how delighted I was to read the following statement, in what appears to be the concluding paragraph of your book. This passage appears on p. 222:
    _________
    Perhaps the Baha’i by themselves cannot make the world see the need for their vision to be fulfilled. But I have a proposition for the religions of the world. I would like to propose that the Baha’i guiding principles be ...seriously considered by all the major faiths, and that a dialogue be initiated among all of us to look for ways to bring the world together.
    _________
    My former PhD advisor, the late Willard G. Oxtoby, founder of the Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto, called this overarching and transcendent spiritual identity “transconfessional affinity.”
    In my book, God & Apple Pie: Religious Myths and Visions of America (2015), the chapter on “Jewish Myths and the Visions of America” focuses on Jewish prayers for America!
    I wish you every success in the launch of your new book!
    Read more...
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