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The Baha’i teachings offer a completely new way to think about, experience and reconcile religious belief—as a continuing cycle, an ongoing organic process rather than a single rigid revelation.
You might call that big Baha’i idea the theory of religious relativity, or progressive revelation, or the essential unity of all religions. Not only does it connect each of the world’s major Faiths in a great chain of being; it also reveals a consistent cycle of change within every religion.
Each individual religion, the Baha’i teachings say, has its seasons:
From the seed of reality, religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequalled, its existence eternal. The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken and a universal brotherhood in the reality itself will be established. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 84.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, has sown the seed of reality in human hearts once again. This age, destined to give the world a new impetus toward love, harmony and peace, will gradually bring about unity between the races, the nations and the religions. We now live in a spiritual springtime, an era of reawakened and revitalized hope, a blossoming of soul-stirring renewal:
…just as the solar cycle has its four seasons, the cycle of the Sun of Reality has its distinct and successive periods. Each brings its vernal season or springtime. When the Sun of Reality returns to quicken the world of mankind a divine bounty descends from the heaven of generosity. The realm of thoughts and ideals is set in motion and blessed with new life. Minds are developed, hopes brighten, aspirations become spiritual, the virtues of the human world appear with freshened power of growth and the image and likeness of God become visible in man. It is the springtime of the inner world. After the spring, summer comes with its fullness and fruitage spiritual; autumn follows with its withering winds which chill the soul; the Sun seems to be going away until at last the mantle of winter overspreads and only faint traces of the effulgence of that divine Sun remain. Just as the surface of the material world becomes dark and dreary, the soil dormant, the trees naked and bare and no beauty or freshness remain to cheer the darkness and desolation, so the winter of the spiritual cycle witnesses the death and disappearance of divine growth and extinction of the light and love of God. But again the cycle begins and a new springtime appears. In it the former springtime has returned, the world is resuscitated, illumined and attains spirituality; religion is renewed and reorganized, hearts are turned to God, the summons of God is heard and life is again bestowed upon man. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 12.
That poetic description from Abdu’l-Baha exemplifies the fifth and most important way to stop religious conflict:
Baha’u’llah founded a new Faith—but it doesn’t conflict or compete with other religions. Instead, the Baha’i Faith continues the gradual unfolding of God’s guidance for humanity through a sequential series of divine messengers and teachers. Baha’is accept and love the teachings of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad, and find their fulfillment and renewed expression in Baha’u’llah’s teachings:
Today the one overriding need is unity and harmony among the beloved of the Lord, for they should have among them but one heart and soul and should, so far as in them lieth, unitedly withstand the hostility of all the peoples of the world; they must bring to an end the benighted prejudices of all nations and religions and must make known to every member of the human race that all are the leaves of one branch, the fruits of one bough. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 277.
So let’s review:
1. Build Interreligious Understanding, Cooperation and Fellowship.
2. Establish A World Interreligious Council to Settle Interfaith Disputes
3. Educate Everyone—Early–about Everyone’s Religion
4. If Your Faith Causes Hatred and Bloodshed, Find a More Peaceful Path.
5. Think of All Religions as Chapters of One Religion.
If you think about solving religious conflicts in this new way, the solutions become so much more rational and reasonable than ever before. Rather than a jumble of conflicting creeds and warring factions, you can begin to see religion as a holistic system; as a series of revelations linked with one another; as chapters in the same book and as leaves of one tree.