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If we look around us at the wider world, we see numerous and diverse expressions of religious faith. Estimates range from 4,000 to 10,000 distinct religions – so how does a spiritual seeker decide?
Well, first, the core teachings of most of these religious systems urge humanity to love one another, to strive for moral righteousness and noble conduct, and to achieve a deeper understanding of our relationship with God.
Through each Faith our Creator gives us a sense of purpose for our lives.
Although these diverse religious systems share in common this moral and ethical core, they diverge in their outer expressions and social laws. Different people understand them quite differently, and therein lies a very serious problem. This problem causes violence and suffering, generated by human bigotry, ignorance and hatred, all of which clearly violate each respective religion’s teachings. How do we solve this seemingly intractable problem?
Well, good news, Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, has brought a Divine remedy. That remedy – a new religious revelation – has as its purpose the unity of all religions. Baha’u’llah wrote:
He is God, exalted is His state, wisdom and utterance. The True One (glorious is His glory) for the showing forth of the gems of ideals from the mine of man, hath, in every age, sent a Trusted One.
The primary foundation of the faith of God and the religion of God is this, that they should not make diverse sects and various paths the cause and reason of hatred … Religious hatred and rancor is a world-consuming fire, and the quenching thereof most arduous, unless the hand of Divine Might give men deliverance from this unfruitful calamity.
Baha’u’llah taught that the world’s great religious systems all emanate from one Divine source, through His intermediaries and His messengers. Religious contention and conflict egregiously violate that Divine purpose. The Baha’i writings also reassure us that the “Divine Might” can and will deliver humanity from this calamity of religious conflict:
O people of the world, ye are all the fruit of one tree and the leaves of one branch. Walk with perfect charity, concord, affection, and agreement. I swear by the Sun of Truth, the light of agreement shall brighten and illumine the horizons. Endeavor to attain to this high supreme station which is the station of protection and preservation of mankind.
Baha’u’llah wrote that:
The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The one true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words.
The Baha’i teachings say that true Faith actually comes from the knowledge of God and His Divine teachings, not unthinking and blind imitation of our ancestors. Archaic and manmade rituals, dogmas and creeds, because they are manmade, don’t feed us spiritually, and are the very cause of religious strife and conflict. Instead, real faith requires us to think for ourselves, to acquire discernment, and to question the assumptions that we have been taught. It requires the courage to open our eyes with justice and fairness and see God’s truth for ourselves. Christ spoke of this in Matthew 13:14-24, when he references a prophecy of Isaiah and then gives the parable of the Sower, “… for this people’s mind has become gross, their ears are dulled, and their eyes are closed.”
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By independently investigating and then becoming personally aware of God’s teachings through His messenger, we acquire knowledge of a higher reality. Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, said:
You were asleep; you are awakened. Your ears are attentive; your hearts are informed. You have acquired the love of God. You have attained to the knowledge of God. This is the most great bestowal of God. This is the breath of the Holy Spirit, and this consists of faith and assurance. This eternal life is the second birth; this is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God has destined this station for you all. He has prepared this for you. You must appreciate the value of this bounty and engage your time in mentioning and thanking the True One.
This knowledge emanating from God’s messengers – who manifest His will, knowledge, and purpose – is an expression of God Himself. In this day, Baha’is believe Baha’u’llah represents that renewed voice of God and His most recent cause:
… a Cause through which the potentialities of the might of God have been revealed, and His sovereignty established. With faces beaming with joy, hasten ye unto Him. This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.
When we learn that Faith is not blind imitation, dogmas, creeds and ritual or blindly following others, we set ourselves free from imitation and, as Abdu’l-Baha said, we become truly faithful:
Religion, is not a series of beliefs, a set of customs; religion is the teachings of the Lord God, teachings which constitute the very life of humankind, which urge high thoughts upon the mind, refine the character, and lay the groundwork for man’s everlasting honor.
So, true Faith represents entering into relationship with God, through love and attraction of His beauty, manifested through His messengers, acquiring knowledge of His will and purpose for our souls, and carrying these teachings into action in our daily lives. As Abdu’l-Baha put it:
… the Sun of Reality is shining gloriously. Heavenly teachings applicable to the advancement in human conditions have been revealed in this merciful age. This reformation and renewal of the fundamental reality of religion constitute the true and outworking spirit of modernism, the unmistakable light of the world, the manifest effulgence of the Word of God, the divine remedy for all human ailment and the bounty of eternal life to all mankind.
The Baha’is around the world welcome anyone who would like to investigate Baha’u’llah’s revelation.