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

“In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world,…” ~ Baha’u’llah

For Baha’is, the ‘organized religion’ aspect of their Faith is a necessary tool. They see it as something that is needed in order to stay unified and to marshal resources. It is a means to an end. Without this organization, they believe that the Baha’i Faith would dissolve into a thousand different sects. These sects would start by any charismatic figure or megalomaniac who could pick and choose what teachings they feel like following, and their energies would be wasted in division and confusion. Without any centralized organization, the Baha’i Faith would lose its potency as a force for change in the world.

The danger from sectarianism is that it would divide the one ‘system’ that Baha’u’llah brought for the world. This system is the Administrative Order of the Baha’i Faith, which is headed by the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel. The Universal House of Justice is an elected body. This system is the New Jerusalem that was sent down from heaven to gather all the world’s peoples together in a single human family. This is an important gift of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation that must be preserved. Therefore, protecting the integrity of the ‘organized religion’ of the Administrative Order is a critical aspect of our Faith. As Baha’u’llah wrote, “In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world, for the fear of God impelleth man to hold fast to that which is good, and shun all evil. Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine. Unto this will bear witness every man of true understanding.” (TB, p. 125)

But Baha’is also realize that the religion of God is an eternal spirit that has taken on the clothes of the Baha’i Faith for a certain period of time.  They believe that there will be a time when another religion will be required that will replace this Baha’i Faith with a new religion. As the Baha’i Texts state, “This Holy Spirit is the mediator between God and His creatures…Every time it appears, the world is renewed, and a new cycle is founded. The body of the world of humanity puts on a new garment. It can be compared to the spring; whenever it comes, the world passes from one condition to another.” (Abdu’l-Baha, SAQ, p. 145)

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