Do not destroy your most precious time by being influenced by the speech of this or that person.
(Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 232)
From a Bahá’í point of view, humanity’s worship of idols of its own invention is of importance not because of the historical events associated with these forces, however horrifying, but because of the lesson it taught. Looking back on the twilight world in which such diabolical forces loomed over humanity’s future, one must ask what was the weakness in human nature that rendered it vulnerable to such influences. To have seen in someone like Benito Mussolini the figure of a “Man of Destiny", to have felt obliged to understand the racial theories of Adolf Hitler as anything other than the self-evident products of a diseased mind, to have seriously entertained the reinterpretation of human experience through dogmas that had given birth to the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin—so wilful an abandonment of reason on the part of a considerable segment of the intellectual leadership of society demands an accounting to posterity. If undertaken dispassionately, such an evaluation must, sooner or later, focus attention on a truth that runs like a central strand through the Scriptures of all of humanity’s religions. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh: Upon the reality of man ... He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self.... These energies ... lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp.... Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. The consequence of humanity’s infatuation with the ideologies its own mind had conceived was to produce a terrifying acceleration of the process of disintegration that was dissolving the fabric of social life and cultivating the basest impulses of human nature. The brutalization that the first world war had engendered now became an omnipresent feature of social life throughout much of the planet. “Thus have We gathered together the workers of iniquity", Bahá’u’lláh warned over a century earlier. “We see them rushing on towards their idol.... They hasten forward to Hell Fire, and mistake it for light.”
(Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 65)
His beloved Master, called upon him to demolish those idols which his own idle fancy had carved and to plant upon their shattered fragments the standard of Divine guidance. He appealed to him to disentangle his mind from the fettering creeds of the past, and to hasten, free and untrammelled, to the shores of eternal salvation.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 266
How tragic is the record of the substitute faiths that the worldly-wise of our age have created. In the massive disillusionment of entire populations who have been taught to worship at their altars can be read history’s irreversible verdict on their value. The fruits these doctrines have produced, after decades of an increasingly unrestrained exercise of power by those who owe their ascendancy in human affairs to them, are the social and economic ills that blight every region of our world in the closing years of the twentieth century. Underlying all these outward afflictions is the spiritual damage reflected in the apathy that has gripped the mass of the peoples of all nations and by the extinction of hope in the hearts of deprived and anguished millions.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace)
In many of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the Kingdom of Names. The well-known Islamic saying, ‘The Names come down from heaven’, has many meanings. In this world every one of God’s attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of that attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, he is unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name ‘generosity‘, the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to boost his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 25)
It is the same with the Christians. What a pity that they are worshipping a title! They see only the garment. If one recognizes a king by his garments, one would not know him were he to clothe himself differently.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 33)
Not only must irreligion and its monstrous offspring, the triple curse that oppresses the soul of mankind in this day, be held responsible for the ills which are so tragically besetting it, but other evils and vices, which are, for the most part, the direct consequences of the “weakening of the pillars of religion,” must also be regarded as contributory factors to the manifold guilt of which individuals and nations stand convicted. The signs of moral downfall, consequent to the dethronement of religion and the enthronement of these usurping idols, are too numerous and too patent for even a superficial observer of the state of present-day society to fail to notice. The spread of lawlessness, of drunkenness, of gambling, and of crime; the inordinate love of pleasure, of riches, and other earthly vanities; the laxity in morals, revealing itself in the irresponsible attitude towards marriage, in the weakening of parental control, in the rising tide of divorce, in the deterioration in the standard of literature and of the press, and in the advocacy of theories that are the very negation of purity, of morality and chastity—these evidences of moral decadence, invading both the East and the West, permeating every stratum of society, and instilling their poison in its members of both sexes, young and old alike, blacken still further the scroll upon which are inscribed the manifold transgressions of an unrepentant humanity.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 237)
O My brother! Forsake thine own desires, turn thy face unto thy Lord, and walk not in the footsteps of those who have taken their corrupt inclinations for their god, that perchance thou mayest find shelter in the heart of existence, beneath the redeeming shadow of Him Who traineth all names and attributes.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 48-49)
This is the station of the ignorant ones who are as animals, following every croaker and shaken by every wind. “Forsake them to play in their shallow waters.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 394)
To appreciate the true meaning of detachment, let us examine the nature of a human being. We note that the animal nature in man makes him selfish. The instinct for survival drives him to find food, clothing and shelter for himself. He pursues comfort, wealth and well-being, and has an insatiable appetite for collecting any beautiful and pleasurable object that comes his way. All these, as well as his emotional, spiritual and intellectual pursuits are aimed at benefiting his own self. He is the master of his own life, a pivot around which circle all his material possessions as well as his intellectual pursuits. One day he finds the Cause of God, recognizes its truth, falls in love with it, and then he adds it, like his other possessions, to his collection. He remains the master figure in the centre and all his possessions, including the Faith, revolve around him and serve his interests. Such a person is attached to the things of this world, for he allows his own interests to take precedence over the interests of the Cause, and his own ego to rule over his spiritual side. He puts his religion on a par with his other pursuits and selfishly expects to benefit from it just as he benefits from his other possessions.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22-23)
Today, all the peoples of the world are indulging in self-interest and exert the utmost effort and endeavour to promote their own material interests. They are worshipping themselves and not the divine reality, nor the world of mankind. They seek diligently their own benefit and not the common weal. This is because they are captives of the world of nature and unaware of the divine teachings, of the bounty of the Kingdom and of the Sun of Truth.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 103)
True religion is the source of love and agreement amongst men, the cause of the development of praiseworthy qualities; but the people are holding to the counterfeit and imitation, negligent of the reality which unifies; so they are bereft and deprived of the radiance of religion. They follow superstitions inherited from their fathers and ancestors. To such an extent has this prevailed that they have taken away the heavenly light of divine truth and sit in the darkness of imitations and imaginations. That which was meant to be conducive to life has become the cause of death; that which should have been an evidence of knowledge is now a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be its degradation. Therefore the realm of the religionist has gradually narrowed and darkened and the sphere of the materialist has widened and advanced; for the religionist has held to imitation and counterfeit, neglecting and discarding holiness and the sacred reality of religion. When the sun sets it is the time for bats to fly. They come forth because they are creatures of the night.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 238)
Universal education, freedom of thought, the protection of human rights, recognition of the earth’s vast resources as a trust for the whole of humankind, society’s responsibility for the well-being of its citizenry, the promotion of scientific research, even so practical a principle as an international auxiliary language that will advance integration of the earth’s peoples-for all who respond to Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation, these and similar precepts carry the same compelling authority as do the injunctions of scripture against idolatry, theft and false witness.
(Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith)
We enjoin the servants of God and His handmaidens to be pure and to fear God, that they may shake off the slumber of their corrupt desires, and turn toward God, the Maker of the heavens and of the earth. Thus have We commanded the faithful.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 23)