The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
True religion is an expansive, not a restrictive force; it is the essence of creation, not the spirit of limitation. – Stanwood Cobb
True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness. – Albert Einstein
True religion is that relationship, in accordance with reason and knowledge, which man establishes with the infinite world around him, and which binds his life to that infinity and guides his actions… and leads to the practical rules of the law: do to others as you would have them do unto you. – Leo Tolstoy
True religion is the foundation of spiritual union, the union of thought, the union of susceptibilities, the unity of customs and the ideal chain binding together all the children of men. – Abdu’l-Baha
When I first began investigating the Baha’i Faith, I read every Baha’i book I could get my hands on. The Baha’i writings, so lyrical and beautiful and filled with meaning, had an enormous impact on my mind and my soul. But I found one thing in those writings that absolutely shocked me. I learned that the Baha’i religion sometimes sees religion itself as a destructive force:
In short, by religion we mean those necessary bonds which have power to unify. This has ever been the essence of the religion of God. This is the eternal bestowal of God! This is the object of divine teachings and laws! This is the light of the everlasting life! Alas! A thousand times alas! that this solid foundation is abandoned and forgotten and the leaders of religions have fabricated a set of superstitions and rituals which are at complete variance with the underlying thought. As these man-made ideas differ from each other they cause dissension which breeds strife and ends in war and bloodshed; the blood of innocent people is spilled, their possessions are pillaged and their children become captives and orphans.
Thus religion which was destined to become the cause of friendship has become the cause of enmity. Religion, which was meant to be sweet honey, is changed into bitter poison. Religion, the function of which was to illumine humanity, has become the factor of obscuration and gloom. Religion, which was to confer the consciousness of everlasting life, has become the fiendish instrument of death. As long as these superstitions are in the hands and these nets of dissimulation and hypocrisy in the fingers, religion will be the most harmful agency on this planet. These superannuated traditions, which are inherited unto the present day, must be abandoned, and thus free from past superstitions we must investigate the original intention. The basis on which they have fabricated the superstructures will be seen to be one, and that one, absolute reality; and as reality is indivisible, complete unity and amity will be instituted and the true religion of God will become unveiled in all its beauty and sublimity in the assemblage of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 160-162.
“Sweet honey,” the Baha’i teachings say, “changed into bitter poison.” Those words altered my view of religion. I grew up going to a Protestant church, and as I came of age I learned about the bloody history of the ugly schism between Christian denominations and sects. I learned about the religious wars—was there ever a worse oxymoron?—that plagued just about every ancient and modern Faith. I learned about the terrible hostilities between so many religious groups, and so I sought out a belief system that taught peace, unity and harmony. I found it in the Baha’i teachings, where I also learned how destructive and deathly corrupted religion could become:
Alas that humanity is completely submerged in imitations and unrealities notwithstanding the truth of divine religion has ever remained the same. Superstitions have obscured the fundamental reality, the world is darkened and the light of religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences and dissensions; rites and dogmas are many and various; therefore discord has arisen among the religious systems whereas religion is for the unification of mankind. True religion is the source of love and agreement amongst men, the cause of the development of praiseworthy qualities; but the people are holding to the counterfeit and imitation, negligent of the reality which unifies; so they are bereft and deprived of the radiance of religion. They follow superstitions inherited from their fathers and ancestors. To such an extent has this prevailed that they have taken away the heavenly light of divine truth and sit in the darkness of imitations and imaginations. That which was meant to be conducive to life has become the cause of death; that which should have been an evidence of knowledge is now a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be its degradation. Therefore the realm of the religionist has gradually narrowed and darkened and the sphere of the materialist has widened and advanced; for the religionist has held to imitation and counterfeit, neglecting and discarding holiness and the sacred reality of religion. When the sun sets it is the time for bats to fly. They come forth because they are creatures of the night. When the lights of religion become darkened the materialists appear. They are the bats of night. The decline of religion is their time of activity; they seek the shadows when the world is darkened and clouds have spread over it. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 179.
What can counter this degradation, corruption and superstition? What can reverse this dogmatic death of faith? What can cause the sun of religion to rise, and send the bats of night to roost in their caves?
Only a new revelation, the divine springtime of belief, the renewal of faith, can enlighten the world again.