A lot of people think the principles of the Baha’i Faith are great, the stories are amazing, and the goals are fantastic; but they just can’t join an ‘organized religion.’ People have many reasons for this. Some look at history and the corruption that has infected most of the world’s organized religions, and they conclude that all religions must be that way. Some have had bad experiences with leaders of religion; perhaps they just didn’t feel good about what they saw as fire and brimstone fear mongering; or perhaps they just don’t like authority.
Baha’is believe that organized religion is capable of doing great and wondrous things for civilization. Baha’is recognized that there were hundreds of years when the only people who could read or write were religious leaders, when the only people who had books and bothered to copy them were religious monks, when the only people who thought critically about philosophy and reason were religious thinkers. The fact that religions started the first hospitals, orphanages, and schools and universities is often overlooked. All the great civilizations of human history were founded on the backs of the world’s great religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Therefore, from this perspective, religion has truly enriched mankind’s experience. The Baha’i Holy Texts state that, “Briefly, it is demonstrable that in this life, both outwardly and inwardly the mightiest of structures, the most solidly established, the most enduring, standing guard over the world, assuring both the spiritual and the material perfections of mankind, and protecting the happiness and the civilization of society — is religion.” (Abdu’l-Baha, SDC, p. 71)
On the other hand, most of the atrocities committed in history in the name of religion are not the religions’ fault. In reality, the people who commit such crimes are often disobeying the teachings of the Founders of their own religions. They are not following the teachings when they commit these atrocities. These people are making a choice to disobey their religions. This should not be blamed on the organized religion they claim to follow, but instead be a lesson to all that a religion is a force for good only when believers are true to the basic tenants, and only when they do not add their own misguided interpretations.