No aspect of contemporary civilization is more directly challenged by Bahá’u’lláh’s conception of the future than is the prevailing cult of individualism, which has spread to most parts of the world. Nurtured by such cultural forces as political ideology, academic elitism, and a consumer economy, the “pursuit of happiness” has given rise to an aggressive and almost boundless sense of personal entitlement. The moral consequences have been corrosive for the individual and society alike - and devastating in terms of disease, drug addiction and other all-too- familiar blights of century’s end. The task of freeing humanity from an error so fundamental and pervasive will call into question some of the twentieth century’s most deeply entrenched assumptions about right and wrong.
(Bahá’í International Community, 1999 Feb, Who is Writing the Future)
Whether as world-view or simple appetite, materialism’s effect is to leach out of human motivation—and even interest—the spiritual impulses that distinguish the rational soul. “For self-love,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, “is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good.” In the absence of conviction about the spiritual nature of reality and the fulfilment it alone offers, it is not surprising to find at the very heart of the current crisis of civilization a cult of individualism that increasingly admits of no restraint and that elevates acquisition and personal advancement to the status of major cultural values. The resulting atomization of society has marked a new stage in the process of disintegration about which the writings of Shoghi Effendi speak so urgently.
(Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 89-90)