What is the Baha’i perspective on the potential of religion?

“…religion is the teachings of the Lord God, teachings which constitute the very life of humankind,..” ~ Abdu’l-Baha

Baha’is see a very distinct and important role for religion in society. Many Baha’is will tell you that they believe religion should be a source for good in the world. If it is the cause of division, then there should be no religion. As our Holy Texts state, “Divine religion is not a cause for discord and disagreement. If religion becomes the source of antagonism and strife, the absence of religion is to be preferred.” (Abdu’l-Baha, PUP, p. 117).

Baha’is believe that religion has the potential to be a transforming, enduring, and unifying force. Indeed, no other force has been able to bring together people in the way religion has, as the Baha’i Holy Texts state, “It is clear and evident that this greatest power in the human world is the love of God. It brings the different peoples under the shadow of the tent of affection; it gives to the antagonistic and hostile nations and families the greatest love and union.” (Abdu’l-Baha, SAQ, p. 301). When you look at history, you see great civilizations being sustained and inspired by the world’s great religions. People of vastly different backgrounds overcoming thousands of years of prejudice, suspicion, and hatreds join the ranks of the new Faiths when they appear. The tribes of Israel united under Moses. The Jews and the Gentiles united under Christ. The Arabs, Persians, and the Africans united under Muhammad. And today you see people from every corner of the globe accepting the Baha’i Faith. No political cause, no philosophical teaching, no manmade invention has been capable of such sustained, enduring, and empowering a force as religion. Therefore, Baha’is see religion as the greatest force for improving society.

Baha’is see the whole of humanity’s history with religion as one continuous story. For Baha’is, religion is more than just a social curiosity, as the Baha’i Holy Texts state, “Religion, moreover, 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 honour.” (Abdu’l-Bahá, SWA, p. 52).

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