What is the Baha’i perspective on how science and religion agree?

For Baha’is, there is no conflict between science and religion. One helpful idea is the concept that the universe is made up of two books. This is an old religious concept that Baha’is uphold. The idea is that one book is the Book of Creation, the other is the Book of Divine Revelation. These are not books of paper and ink. They are metaphors for the great collections of knowledge and experience that make up science and religion. Humanity is given both of these books, by God, for our collective education. Both of these books must be studied if we are to prosper. Both of these books should be analyzed for a proper education. And both of these books should be balanced against each other to keep us civilized. As Baha’u’llah wrote, “Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things.” (HW)  Therefore, both Books are essential to the human experience. So Baha’is are encouraged to study both of these two Books of God.

The Book of Creation is the scientific experience; it represents the material worlds around us. This book reveals the qualities of God through the laws of nature, the powers of the senses, and the exactness of the universe. Baha’u’llah wrote, “Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light.” (GWB, p. 177). Therefore, Baha’is are encouraged to study the sciences and find new insights into the wonders of God’s creation.

Clearly, Baha’is embrace intellectualism and scientific endeavor. Baha’is believe this only allows us to grow and develop as human beings in this world. Baha’is therefore, are often open to scientific hypothesis for creation. Baha’is see God as the First Orderer of the universe. It is our task to seek out this Divine Order—and wonder at it. This is one way they find, appreciate, and worship our Lord.  As Abdu’l-Baha said, “God in his wisdom has created all things. Nothing has been created without a special destiny, for every creature has an innate station of attainment. This flower has been created to mirror forth a harmonious ensemble of color and perfume. Each kingdom of nature holds potentialities and each must be cultivated in order to reach its fulfillment.” (DP, p. 110)

The other book of God is the Book of Divine Revelation. This is not referring to the one chapter of the Bible. Instead, it refers to our religious experience. The Book of Divine Revelation comes in the form of the great religions of our world. Each religion brings an actual Book of written record such as the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita and others. And each of these Books offers insight, wisdom, laws, and guidance to live our lives. But each religion also brings Founders, Messengers, or Manifestations of God. On speaking of the Messengers of God, Baha’u’llah says, “By the revelation of these gems of divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty and grace, are made manifest” (KI, p. 103). This total experience of religion, in the form of the Holy books and the lives of the Manifestations of God, make this Book of Divine Revelation a powerful force in the world. Great civilizations have risen and fallen by the Messages of God that have penetrated every corner of the Globe, in one form or another.

It is also important to mention that these two books have often been corrupted by mankind. The corruption happens when someone studies one of the books exclusively. For example, too much of the book of creation (like too much reliance on science) breeds materialism, it hinders our growth and happiness, and it leads to a hopeless and pointless existence. Too much focus on science, without the moral guidance of the Word of God, has led to great crimes against humanity such as fascism and communism. It has led scientists to immoral and destructive inventions such as atomic bombs and gas chambers. It has hindered our psychologists and psychotherapists in their abilities to treat mental ailments because they do not acknowledge the spiritual nature of humans. And it has also led our politicians and officials to paralyzing incapacity in solving our most difficult social problems. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “With the love of God all sciences are accepted and beloved, but without it, are fruitless; nay, rather the cause of insanity. Every science is like unto a tree; if the fruit of it is the love of God, that is a blessed tree. Otherwise it is dried wood and finally a food for fire.” (BWF p. 366).

On the other hand, relying exclusively on the Book of Divine Revelation also creates problems. Studying the revealed Word of God, without balancing it with science and reason, can breed fanaticism and blindness. It leads to mindless and pointless following of traditions, and to blind faith in corrupt leaders who abuse their authority. These religious leaders often deny modern science and medicine because it does not fit with their narrow, ‘traditional’ interpretations of the Word of God. These interpretations were often concocted in the Dark Ages or by uneducated extremists, and are usually based in pure fantasy. When faced with reality and with criticism, these leaders of religion have often been worked into a frenzy of rage and persecution throughout history. This is because nothing makes a group of people angrier then when they realize the other side is right, and they are wrong. This has led religious leaders to persecute visionaries and great scientists throughout history. Fanaticism has allowed corrupted men to lead their followers into holy wars of genocide and destruction, and has even bred the horrible terrorism that we have seen in our lifetimes from the Middle East, to Northern Ireland, to the KKK in the American South. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, our Faith “proclaims that religion must be in harmony with science and reason. If it does not conform to science and reconcile with reason it is superstition.” (BWF, p. 247).

Therefore, Baha’is know that the books of God must be balanced by each other. Baha’is believe both books are needed to truly make sense (and make use) of reality. And so Baha’is study both. When they seem opposed to each other, they see it as a challenge to their intellect. Baha’is believe resolving the apparent contradictions between the material world and the Word of God can lead us to a greater purity in our knowledge and to a closer relationship with our Creator.

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