Featured image from: https://bahaiteachings.org/bahai-faith-summary/
Welcome to our first discussion on world religions. I hope that through this information we can come to a better understanding of the commonality and the differences in belief around the world. Through this understanding, I trust each of you can find new meaning in your life and a sense of how to better live with those around you.
As I mentioned previously, there are thousands of documented religions around the world. As this is not intended to be an academic study, I chose to select from the faiths that have the most adherents around the world. Ranked in order from most adherents down are my choices.
- Christianity – 2.4 Billion
- Islam – 1.9 Billion
- Secular – 1.2 Billion
- Hinduism – 1.2 Billion
- Buddhism – 500 Million
- Spiritism – 15 Million
- Judaism – 14.7 Million
- Bahá’í – 5 Million
A few comments about this list. The named categories are broad. We know that Christianity can be broken down into two large groups: Catholic and Protestant. Protestants can be broken down into hundreds of denominations. Likewise, we have recently seen in news reports that Islam is represented by various degrees of orthodoxy. Indeed, all religions, when examined closely, have variations in beliefs or in the degree of adherence.
You may also be wondering why Secular is listed among the religions. I believe it is valid because it represents a collection of beliefs. An atheist lives by a set of faith beliefs based on evidence just like anyone else. A very spiritual person may base some of their faith on personal, intangible experiences.
When we are done investigating each of these groups individually, we will attempt to identify common beliefs and differences.
While there are numerous religions that have adherents of roughly five million, Bahá’í is unique in that its followers around the world follow the same beliefs consistently. To those of you of the Bahá’í Faith, I wish to humbly apologize in advance if anything I say below misrepresents the faith. Should I do so, I would appreciate a comment to correct my misunderstanding.
The beliefs of Bahá’í are communicated to the world through “Manifestations of God”. These are humans who have been empowered to hear and share God’s message to humanity for a particular age. A partial list of these Manifestations includes: Adam, Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad.
The first modern Manifestation who started Bahá’í is Husayn Ali, born in Iran in 1817. A subsequent Manifestation is Baháʼu’lláh who claimed the title in 1863. He wrote extensively from his enlightenment. This collection of writings is called The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book.
In the opening paragraphs he writes that God is humanity’s creator and reveals His laws to us. “They whom God has endued with insight will readily recognize that the precepts laid down by God constitute the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples.” [The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, paragraph 2]
The following beliefs can be found at bahai.org/beliefs.
Life of the Spirit: “… the purpose of our lives is to know God and to attain His presence.”
The Human Soul: “Every human being possesses an immortal, rational soul that passes through this world for a brief time and continues for eternity to advance towards God.”
Devotion: “Acts of devotion such as prayer, meditation, fasting, pilgrimage, and service to others are inherent to religious life. Through them, individuals and communities are able to continually reinforce the unique bond that exists between God and humanity.”
A Life of Generous Giving: “Just as a candle’s purpose is to provide light, the human soul was created to give generously. We fulfil our highest purpose in a life of service in which, with humility and detachment, we offer our time, energy, knowledge, and financial resources.”
Character and Conduct: “The cultivation of spiritual qualities in this world is inseparable from an ongoing refinement of our conduct in which our actions increasingly come to reflect the nobility and integrity with which every human being is endowed. Such spiritual qualities are not acquired through focusing on the self; they are developed in service to others.”
God and His Creation: “The Bahá’í Writings explain that the reality of God is beyond the understanding of any mortal mind, though we may find expressions of His attributes in every created thing. Throughout the ages, He has sent a succession of Divine Messengers, known as Manifestations of God, to educate and guide humanity, awakening in whole population’s capacities to contribute to the advancement of civilization to an extent never before possible.”
Revelation: “God, the Creator of the universe, is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-merciful.” This revelation comes through the Manifestations of God as described previously so that, “humanity’s spiritual, intellectual and moral capacities have been cultivated.”
Nature: “The beauty, richness, and diversity of the natural world are all expressions of the attributes of God.”
An Ever-Advancing Civilization: “Humanity, having passed through the ages of infancy and childhood, now stands at the threshold of its collective maturity, the hallmark of which will be the unification of the human race in a global civilization.”
Universal Peace: “The Bahá’í Writings are replete with references to universal peace—“the supreme goal of all mankind”—as well as explanations of the social principles with which this peace is associated. Among these principles are the independent search after truth; the oneness of the entire human race, which is the pivotal principle of the Bahá’í Faith; the abolition of all forms of prejudice; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of humankind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; and the confirmation of justice as the ruling principle in human affairs.”
Summary: The Bahá’í Faith believes in a creator God whose nature is beyond our understanding. This God reveals Himself to humanity through select individuals to teach humanity how to live productive, peaceful lives. Humans have been created as immortal souls who will eternally approach the presence of God. [I found no clear teaching to ensure ultimately being in God’s presence.] Our duty on earth is to appreciate the created nature surrounding us and to ever advance our civilization towards the goal of a worldwide community of peace. We live one material life before transitioning into eternity.
Please comment and let me know if I am presenting this information clearly enough for you. Remember, this blog is for you.