The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
The much-vaunted American Dream, shared by billions around the world, promises that we can become something admired and successful from very humble beginnings, if we only work hard and achieve.
We tell our children, “You can become anything you want,” and, based on hard work, attainments in education and luck, networking and chance, some of them do indeed become successful.
This hope arises from a desire to “be better,” “become wealthy,” or simply, like the previous U.S. Army slogan, “Be all you can be.” We learn our goals from a young age and, given our own endeavors, personality, inclinations and tenacity, we sometimes become what we seek.
Every human spirit has the desire to become known. Based on all Holy Scriptures the world over, this desire to become known is shared with a deeper desire to know. The goal of “to know” involves knowing our Creator.
But the real, eternal loving Creator has a different purpose:
The mission of the prophets, the revelation of the holy books, the manifestation of the heavenly teachers and the purpose of divine philosophy all center in the training of the human realities so that they may become clear and pure as mirrors and reflect the light and love of the Sun of Reality. Therefore I hope that whether you be in the east or the west you will strive with heart and soul in order that day by day the world of humanity may become glorified, more spiritual, more sanctified; and that the splendor of the Sun of Reality may be revealed fully in human hearts as in a mirror. This is worthy of the world of mankind. This is the true evolution and progress of humanity. This is the supreme bestowal. Otherwise, by simple development along material lines man is not perfected. At most, the physical aspect of man, his natural or material conditions may become stabilized and improved but he will remain deprived of the spiritual or divine bestowal. He is then like a body without a spirit, a lamp without the light, an eye without the power of vision, an ear that hears no sound, a mind incapable of perceiving, an intellect minus the power of reason. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 59-60.
Religion—its very heart and soul and meaning—opens our souls to our own reality and to the reality of God and His teachings.
But how do we do this? By being raised in one religious tradition to the exclusion of others? Do we exclude other Faiths, along with tolerance and acceptance of diversity of thought, practice and opinion?
Young people today have become so disheartened by the outward trappings and hypocrisy they see in many religious traditions that they increasingly shun religious affiliation and communities. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found more than a quarter of Americans aged 18-29 have no religious preference or affiliation—and fewer than one in five attend services regularly. Not just in the United States but throughout the Western world, we’ve raised the least religious generation ever.
Perhaps that has happened because we have failed to act on our religious beliefs. Is it so difficult for religious or spiritual people to demonstrate and act on their faith? So difficult that others cannot see their devotion to morals and ethics, or honesty and truth? For whatever reason, it does not appear that enough right-minded people, especially our political leaders, have an influence in today’s world.
Baha’is believe that “The mission of the prophets, the revelation of the holy books, the manifestation of the heavenly teachers and the purpose of divine philosophy all center in the training of the human realities so that they may become clear and pure as mirrors and reflect the light and love of the Sun of Reality. ” The Sun of Reality is of course God and all His attributes and virtues, such as goodness, truthfulness, generosity, caring, love, consideration and cooperation.
By the age of seven we human beings can usually tell the difference between right and wrong. We’ve learned it through observed behaviors of others, modeling by those we love or trust, like teachers, parents and relatives, and by our experiences which include all we’ve seen, heard and felt.
So why is it so difficult to model good behavior? To be nice and kind rather than cruel and hurtful? To be selfless instead of selfish?
All it takes, from anyone who believes in the basic teachings of their Faith, is to act as if every child, teen and adult on the planet knows their innermost convictions. Imagine, just for a minute, what the world would be like if we each wore a badge that identified our beliefs.
Whether they believe in the Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i or any other Faith, people don’t often talk about it. We have come a long way since the beginnings of these faiths—but even those who accept them completely don’t always show it. We know the blessed Buddha taught Right Speech and Right Thoughts, and what that looks like in action. We know that Christ’s greatest law is to love our neighbor as we do ourselves, and that Baha’is teach the unity and cooperation of all humanity.
If we believed that every person on earth knew our innermost beliefs, it would become much harder to behave badly, wouldn’t it?