BAHAI THINKING III
In the former house of Baháú'lláh in Bahji near Akko
Religion has inspired man to attain his greatest intellectual achievements. Man owes almost all of his classical monuments and works of art to religion. Of the cultural artifacts which the world community considers its greatest inheritance, most have a connection with the religious. Through the ages, great thinkers, writers, scholars and artists have been religious people, and all great civilizations have had a transcendent core. Whenever the Divine is missing, civilization decays, as currently in the East and the West.
But "Wherever there is much light, there is also much shadow" (Goethe). Assuredly religiosity has caused great harm to mankind. In the name of God, man has committed genocide, plundered golden cities and put freedom of mind to the stake. Nevertheless, the barbarism of all the crusaders, inquisitors and religious fanatics of the past thousand years never caused the deaths of two hundred million citizens and soldiers, as have the yellow, black, brown and red ideologies of our day, in less than one tenth of the time.
Around the change of the millennium, the world community was again confronted with an evil ideology, which expressed a narrow, unholy and murderous belief in its own orthodoxy. In April and May 2002, emissaries of the Universal House of Justice, the world administrative body of the Bahá'í Faith, delivered a letter of warning to the leaders of all the world's religions. They should join together and direct their influence against the new danger of religious hatred, the ideology of terrorism as a "sacred right" of revenge.
A century earlier 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the appointed Exemplar of the Bahá'í Faith, had made already an alarming pronouncement in this direction:
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. (Divine Philosophy)
The deadly danger of religious extremism has spread itself across the world. People let themselves be programmed as kamikaze pilots and living bombs. Terror insists on bringing justice to earth. For the first time in history the unholy side of religion has had global consequences. The letter which the religious leaders of East and West received from Bahá'í World Centre in 2002 sketched the situation in which the earth finds itself:
"With every day that passes, danger grows that the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable."
While mankind forms a kind of creation of wholeness , with equality of sexes, people, races and beliefs as a basic principle, a large percentage of organized religions, according to the Bahá'í world administration "stands paralyzed at the threshold of the future, gripped in those very dogmas and claims of privileged access to truth that have been responsible for creating some of the most bitter conflicts dividing the earth's inhabitants."
Although there can only be but one God, Who binds everything and everyone, every religion imagines itself, from its theological perspective, to be in an exclusive position relative to the Divine, and, therefore, alienates its minority from the majority of people who think otherwise. Only through a powerful policy based on the insight that all religions essentially origin in God can the world's religions deflect the evil of a clash of cultures, as stated in the message of the Bahá'í World Administration.
Later, in 2002, the Bahá'í international community called upon the United Nations to pay extra attention to the capacity of religions to motivate mankind towards good. It had become evident that the necessary reconstruction of the earth into a home for the whole of mankind "is not achievable in a spiritual vacuum". The message proposed a UN forum for continuing consultation among religious leaders. On New Year's Day 2004 the Pope also announced the need for a new world order, with the United Nations as its highest authority, a concept which Bahá'u'lláh had already praised and exhorted in 1868 in His Tablets to the world leaders of the time.
Not everything that is called "religion" serves God. And theology, which professes to know the Divine Power, is, according to the philosopher Karl R. Popper, even a "symptom of unbelief". True religion promotes the humanization of mankind and the growth towards spiritual maturity, which is most appropriate given the gigantic technological and financial capacities of mankind as a whole. But - "If it be the cause of discord and hostility, if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the absence of religion would be preferable in the world."
In our time, we see the historical bridge to a global world in which everything is interconnected with everything else and everyone with everyone else. This trend has almost literally fallen from heaven. It is God's means for God's ends; a world in which everything is shared and borne together.
The gulf between scientific knowledge and religious teachings from the past is growing greater and greater and this, while science and religion are perfectly complementary; the two legs upon which mankind stands; the two wings of the spirit; the two poles of consciousness. Scientific knowledge increases through investigation, religious knowledge through revelation, and both seek out one and the same reality.
Before the explosion in scientific knowledge in modern times, a revelation occurred which announced new times and clarified the background of the amazing acceleration of current knowledge even before it had begun. In the collected works of God, a new Book had appeared.
Through the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh it appears that true religion can bring the ideal of unity within our reach. Religion is, after all, a uniquely binding force. All western and eastern cultures have a religious foundation. The world culture that is coming about will grow from this soil. In God's starry heaven a nova of universal religiousness is already shining.
Within only a few decades, an inventive mankind has created the world wide web, a state of physical communication within the world of perception hitherto unknown. Many thinking people have noted that times are changing. That such a change occurs with a clear underlying purpose in advance is a spectacular discovery indeed. It implies that we are ignoring a supreme factor that determines the world's fate at this moment in history.
Just as laws bind particles, suns and organisms, so social history, too, moves in a predetermined course. The Revelation, which occurred just before the dawn of the third millennium, gives mankind a panorama of a shining future.
From the obscurity of 19th century Persia, comes information that puts science into the perspective of a living Universe. God reveals unseen facts of creation. Religion appears to be ahead of the times and to reveal the future. The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh offers information about the universe and the destination of the millennium first-hand:
The creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself.
Know assuredly that God's creation hath existed from eternity, and will continue to exist forever. Its beginning hath had no beginning, and its end knoweth no end. His name, the Creator, presupposeth a creation.
If it were His wish He could cause a mere atom to be transformed into a sun and a single drop into an ocean. He unlocketh thousands of doors, while man is incapable of conceiving even a single one.
Religion has as its aim a redeeming enlightenment of understanding. God uses the wonder of language for this purpose. The inspiring power, which the living word releases, raises man above his own self. He is challenged to become interconnected with others. Religion can motivate man to change totally by raising him out of the cage of the ego. In a socially-evolving process of consciousness and humanization, phase after phase increasingly complex organisms emerged - family, clan, tribe, people, nation, supranational institutions, finally the united nations of the earth.
You are the flowers of one rose garden.
From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity. This is the straight Path, the fixed and immovable foundation.
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.
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.