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Religion

A prime force of darkness is irreligion. It robs us of our understanding of the very purpose of life. It gives rise to materialism. It closes the door to the sources of power and well-being for humanity. Irreligion and materialism promote other dark forces. Whenever people lose their authentic religious foundation, their spiritual fibre, there is little left but the physical shell of their beings, their animal selves. Their whole focus becomes the outer, ephemeral benefits of life and how to acquire them: they lose sight of their innate nobility and the heights of spiritual development to which human beings can aspire. This turning away from the higher nature and towards the lower nature spurs the growth of forces of darkness.
(Hooper Dunbar, Forces of our Times, p. 65-67)


Alas! that humanity is completely submerged in imitations and unrealities notwithstanding the truth of divine religion has ever remained the same. Superstitions have obscured the fundamental reality, the world is darkened and the light of religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences and dissensions; rites and dogmas are many and various; therefore discord has arisen among the religious systems whereas religion is for the unification of mankind. 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. When the lights of religion become darkened the materialists appear. They are the bats of night. The decline of religion is their time of activity; they seek the shadows when the world is darkened and clouds have spread over it.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 71)


Also we must remember that every religion springs from some root, and just as Christianity sprang from Judaism, our own religion sprang from Islam, and that is why so many of the teachings deduct their proofs from Islam.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 503)


And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that religion must be in conformity with science and reason, so that it may influence the hearts of men. The foundation must be solid and must not consist of imitations.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 299)


And yet, is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God’s universal Manifestations would be apparent.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 240-241)


As regards what Mirza Abu’l Fazl has said concerning the Seven Religions of the past, Shoghi Effendi wishes to emphasize that what is truly authoritative are the words of the Master. In all such cases we should try and find out what He has said and abide by His words, even though they seem in conflict with the findings of modern scholars. If He does not say anything on the subject, then the individual is free to accept, or refute what scholars, such as Abu’l Fazl, say. Through the discussion of these (statements by scholars), the truth will ultimately be found, but at no time should their decision be considered as final.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 485-486)


Bahá’u’lláh says that religion must be conducive to love and unity. If it proves to be the source of hatred and enmity, its absence is preferable; for the will and law of God is love, and love is the bond between human hearts. Religion is the light of the world. If it is made the cause of darkness through human misunderstanding and ignorance, it would be better to do without it.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 287)


Beyond the attention that religion, as formally conceived, has begun to command is a widespread revival of spiritual search. Expressed most commonly as an urge to discover a personal identity that transcends the merely physical, the development encourages a multitude of pursuits, both positive and negative in character. On the one hand, the search for justice and the promotion of the cause of international peace tend to have the effect of also arousing new perceptions of the individual’s role in society. Similarly, although focused on the mobilization of support for changes in social decision-making, movements like environmentalism and feminism induce a re-examination of people’s sense of themselves and of their purpose in life. A reorientation occurring in all the major religious communities is the accelerating migration of believers from traditional branches of the parent faiths to sects that attach primary importance to the spiritual search and personal experiences of their members. At the opposite pole, extraterrestrial sightings, “self-discovery” regimens, wilderness retreats, charismatic exaltation, various New Age enthusiasms, and the consciousness-raising efficacy attributed to narcotics and hallucinogens attract followings far larger and more diverse than anything enjoyed by spiritualism or theosophy at a similar historical turning point a century ago. For a Bahá’í, the proliferation even of cults and practices that may arouse aversion in the minds of many serves primarily as a reminder of the insight embodied in the ancient tale of Majnun, who sifted the dust in his search for the beloved Layli, although aware that she was pure spirit: “I seek her everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her.
(Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith)


Consider what it is that singles man out from among created beings, and makes of him a creature apart. Is it not his reasoning power, his intelligence? Shall he not make use of these in his study of religion?
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 144)


Dearly beloved friends: Who, contemplating the helplessness, the fears and miseries of humanity in this day, can any longer question the necessity for a fresh revelation of the quickening power of God’s redemptive love and guidance?
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 60)


Fourth, that religion must be conducive to love and unity among mankind; for if it be the cause of enmity and strife, the absence of religion is preferable.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)


Furthermore, He proclaims that religion must be in harmony with science and reason. If it does not conform to science and reconcile with reason, it is superstition. Down to the present day it has been customary for man to accept a religious teaching, even though it was not in accord with human reason and judgment. The harmony of religious belief with reason is a new vista which Bahá’u’lláh has opened for the soul of man.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 454-455)


Good God! is it possible that, seeing one of his fellow-creatures starving, destitute of everything, a man can rest and live comfortably in his luxurious mansion? He who meets another in the greatest misery, can he enjoy his fortune? That is why, in the religion of God, it is prescribed and established that wealthy men each year give over a certain part of their fortune for the maintenance of the poor and unfortunate. That is the foundation of the religion of God, and the most essential of the commandments.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 283-284)


He sets forth a new principle for this day in the announcement that religion must be the cause of unity, harmony and agreement among mankind. If it is the cause of discord and hostility, if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the absence of religion would be preferable in the world.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 454-455)


I say unto you: weigh carefully in the balance of reason and science everything that is presented to you as religion. If it passes this test, then accept it, for it is truth! If, however, it does not so conform, then reject it, for it is ignorance!
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 144)


If any religion rejected Science and knowledge, that religion was false. Science and Religion should go forward together; indeed, they should be like two fingers of one hand.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 71)


If religion does not agree with science, it is superstition and ignorance; for God has endowed man with reason in order that he may perceive reality.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)


If religion were in harmony with science and they walked together, much of the hatred and bitterness now bringing misery to the human race would be at an end.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 144)


If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231)


In the beginning the tree was in all its beauty, and full of blossoms and fruits, but at last it became old and entirely fruitless, and it withered and decayed. This is why the True Gardener plants again an incomparable young tree of the same kind and species, which grows and develops day by day, and spreads a wide shadow in the divine garden, and yields admirable fruit. So it is with religions; through the passing of time they change from their original foundation, the truth of the Religion of God entirely departs, and the spirit of it does not stay; heresies appear, and it becomes a body without a soul. That is why it is renewed.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 166)


It has, for example, become commonplace to regard religion as the product of human striving after truth, as the outcome of certain climates of thought and conditions of society. This has been taken, by many non-Bahá’í thinkers, to the extreme of denying altogether the reality or even the possibility of a specific revelation of the Will of God to mankind through a human mouthpiece. A Bahá’í who has studied the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, who has accepted His claim to be the Manifestation of God for this Age, and who has seen His Teachings at work in his daily life, knows as the result of rational investigation, confirmed by actual experience, that true religion, far from being the product solely of human striving after truth, is the fruit of the creative Word of God which, with divine power, transforms human thought and action.
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 388


It is evident therefore that counterfeit and spurious religious teaching, antiquated forms of belief and ancestral imitations which are at variance with the foundation of divine reality must also pass away and be reformed. They must be abandoned and new conditions be recognized. The morals of humanity must undergo change. New remedy and solution for human problems must be adopted. Human intellects themselves must change and be subject to the universal reformation. Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance. Therefore it is our duty in this radiant century to investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love. This unity is the radiance of eternity, the divine spirituality, the effulgence of God and the bounty of the Kingdom. We must investigate the divine source of these heavenly bestowals and adhere unto them steadfastly. For if we remain fettered and restricted by human inventions and dogmas, day by day the world of mankind will be degraded, day by day warfare and strife will increase and satanic forces converge toward the destruction of the human race.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 228)


It is evident, therefore, that religion is the cause of unity, fellowship and progress among mankind. The function of a shepherd is to gather the sheep together and not to scatter them.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)


Jesus Christ, single, solitary and alone, accomplished what all the kings of the earth could not have carried out. If all the kingdoms and nations of the world had combined to effect it, they would have failed.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 249)


Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one. When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles—and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 145)


Religion and Science are inter-twined with each other and cannot be separated. These are the two wings with which humanity must fly. One wing is not enough. Every religion which does not concern itself with Science is mere tradition, and that is not the essential. Therefore science, education and civilization are most important necessities for the full religious life.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 28)


Religion concerns matters of the heart, of the spirit, and of morals.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 158)


Religion is the divine remedy for human antagonism and discord. But when we make the remedy the cause of the disease, it would be better to do without the remedy.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231)


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, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 52-53)


Religion must be the mainspring and source of love in the world, for religion is the revelation of the will of God, the divine fundamental of which is love.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 315)


Religion must conform to science and reason; otherwise, it is superstition. God has created man in order that he may perceive the verity of existence and endowed him with mind or reason to discover truth. Therefore, scientific knowledge and religious belief must be conformable to the analysis of this divine faculty in man.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 287)


Religion, where not simply driven back into fanaticism and unthinking rejection of progress, became progressively reduced to a kind of personal preference, a predilection, a pursuit designed to satisfy spiritual and emotional needs of the individual.
(Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 89)


Such values, [spiritual and moral] the basis for real progress in science and technology for development, are, in the Bahá’í view, derived from religion. Religion has traditionally provided standards and goals for the individual and society, but misunderstanding and distortion of its fundamental teachings have brought prejudice—dogmatism, superstition, fanaticism—all major hindrances to human development.
(Bahá’í International Community: http://www.upliftingwords.org/Articles/ScienceTechnology.htm)


The divine purpose in religion is pure love and amity. The Prophets of God were in the utmost love for all. Each one announced the glad tidings of His successor and each subsequent one confirmed the teachings and prophecies of the former. There was no discord or variance in the reality of their teachings and mission. The discord has arisen among their followers, who held fast to imitations. If imitations be done away with the radiant shining Reality dawn in the souls of men, love and unity must prevail.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 351)


The essence of religion is to testify unto that which the Lord hath revealed, and follow that which He hath ordained in His mighty Book.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155)


The foundations of religion are reasonable. God has created us with intelligence to perceive them. If they are opposed to science and reason, how could they be believed and followed?
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)


The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh ... is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. v.)


The fundamental principles of the Prophets are scientific, but the forms and imitations which have appeared are opposed to science.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)


The inestimable value of religion is that when a man is vitally connected with it, through a real and living belief in it and in the Prophet Who brought it, he receives a strength greater than his own which helps him to develop his good characteristics and overcome his bad ones. The whole purpose of religion is to change not only our thoughts but our acts; when we believe in God and His Prophet and His Teachings, we are growing, even though we perhaps thought ourselves incapable of growth and change!
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 208)


The purpose is that earthlings should turn into the people of Heaven, and those who walk in darkness should come into the light, and those who are excluded should join the inner circle of the Kingdom, and those who are as nothing should become intimates of the everlasting Glory. It is that the portionless should gain their share of the boundless sea, and the ignorant drink their fill from the living fount of knowledge; that those who thirst for blood should forsake their savagery, and those who are barbed of claw should turn gentle and forbearing, and those who love war should seek instead for true conciliation; it is that the brutal, their talons razor-sharp, should enjoy the benefits of lasting peace; that the foul should learn that there is a realm of purity, and the tainted find their way to the rivers of holiness.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 10-11)


The sciences and arts, all inventions, crafts, trades and their products have come forth from the intellect of man. It is evident that within the human organism the intellect occupies the supreme station. Therefore, if religious belief, principle or creed is not in accordance with the intellect and the power of reason, it is surely superstition.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63)


The weakening of the pillars of religion hath strengthened the hands of the ignorant and made them bold and arrogant. Verily I say, whatsoever hath lowered the lofty station of religion hath increased the waywardness of the wicked, and the result cannot be but anarchy.
(Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh by Shoghi Effendi, p.186)


There are individuals who have weak intellects and their powers of reasoning have not developed, but the strength and power of religion must not be doubted because of the incapacity of these persons to understand.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 144)


There are some who imagine that an innate sense of human dignity will prevent man from committing evil actions and insure his spiritual and material perfection. That is, that an individual who is characterized with natural intelligence, high resolve, and a driving zeal, will, without any consideration for the severe punishments consequent on evil acts, or for the great rewards of righteousness, instinctively refrain from inflicting harm on his fellow men and will hunger and thirst to do good. And yet, if we ponder the lessons of history it will become evident that this very sense of honor and dignity is itself one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God. We also observe in infants the signs of aggression and lawlessness, and that if a child is deprived of a teacher’s instructions his undesirable qualities increase from one moment to the next. It is therefore clear that the emergence of this natural sense of human dignity and honor is the result of education. Secondly, even if we grant for the sake of the argument that instinctive intelligence and an innate moral quality would prevent wrongdoing, it is obvious that individuals so characterized are as rare as the philosopher’s stone. An assumption of this sort cannot be validated by mere words, it must be supported by the facts. Let us see what power in creation impels the masses toward righteous aims and deeds! Aside from this, if that rare individual who does exemplify such a faculty should also become an embodiment of the fear of God, it is certain that his strivings toward righteousness would be strongly reinforced.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization", p. 97-8)


Therefore, if religion should prove to be the cause of enmity and hatred instead of love, its absence is preferable to its existence.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 315)


They will ascertain the truth that the purpose of religion is the acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, betterment of morals, spiritual development of mankind, the real life and divine bestowals.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 15)


This [religion] is the eternal bestowal of God! This is the object of divine teachings and laws! This is the light of the everlasting life! Alas! A thousand times alas! that this solid foundation is abandoned and forgotten and the leaders of religions have fabricated a set of superstitions and rituals which are at complete variance with the underlying thought. As these man-made ideas differ from each other they cause dissension which breeds strife and ends in war and bloodshed; the blood of innocent people is spilled, their possessions are pillaged and their children become captives and orphans.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 161)


To him who has the power of comprehension religion is like an open book, but how can it be possible for a man devoid of reason and intellectuality to understand the Divine Realities of God?
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 146)


We live in an age when the role of religion in shaping human thought and in guiding individual and collective conduct is increasingly discounted. In societies that have bowed to the dictates of materialism, organized religion is seeing the sphere of its influence contract, becoming confined mostly to the realm of personal experience. Not infrequently the laws of religion are regarded as arbitrary rules blindly obeyed by those incapable of independent thought or as a prudish and outdated code of conduct hypocritically imposed upon others by advocates who, themselves, fail to live up to its demands. Morality is being redefined in such societies, and materialistic assumptions, values, and practices pertaining to the nature of humankind and its economic and social life are taking on the status of unassailable truth. Indeed, the expenditure of enormous energy and vast amounts of resources in an attempt to bend truth to conform to personal desire is now a feature of many contemporary societies. The result is a culture that distorts human nature and purpose, trapping human beings in pursuit of idle fancies and vain imaginings and turning them into pliable objects in the hands of the powerful. Yet, the happiness and well-being of humanity depend upon the opposite: cultivating human character and social order in conformity with reality. Divine teachings shed light on reality, enabling every soul to investigate it properly and to acquire, through the exercise of personal discipline, those attributes that are to distinguish the human being.
(Universal House of Justice, to a number of individual Bahá’ís resident in Europe, 19 April 2013)


When a movement fundamentally religious makes a weak nation strong, changes a nondescript tribal people into a mighty and powerful civilization, rescues them from captivity and elevates them to sovereignty, transforms their ignorance into knowledge and endows them with an impetus of advancement in all degrees of development—(this is not theory, but historical fact)—it becomes evident that religion is the cause of man’s attainment to honor and sublimity.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 272)


When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles—and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 146)


Worse, organized religion has become itself a most virulent cause of hatred and warfare among the peoples of the world. “Religious fanaticism and hatred,” Bahá’u’lláh warned over a century ago, “are a world-devouring fire, whose violence none can quench. The Hand of Divine power can, alone, deliver mankind from this desolating affliction.” Those whom God will hold responsible for this tragedy, Bahá’u’lláh says, are humanity’s religious leaders, who have presumed to speak for Him throughout history. Their attempts to make the Word of God a private preserve, and its exposition a means for personal aggrandizement, have been the greatest single handicap against which the advancement of civilization has struggled. In the pursuit of their ends, many of them have not hesitated to raise their hands against the Messengers of God themselves, at their advent: Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people. By their sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk from the chalice of sacrifice...
(Bahá’í International Community, 1992 May 29, Statement on Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)


Yet, religion is an indispensable source of knowledge and motivation-a wellspring of values, insights, and energy without which social cohesion and collective action are difficult if not impossible to achieve. Through the teachings and moral guidance of religion, great segments of humanity have learned to discipline their baser propensities and to develop qualities that conduce to social order and cultural advancement. Such qualities as trustworthiness, compassion, forbearance, fidelity, generosity, humility, courage, and willingness to sacrifice for the common good have constituted the invisible yet essential foundations of progressive community life. Religion provides the bricks and mortar of society-the ethical precepts and vision that unite people into communities and that give tangible direction and meaning to individual and collective existence.
(Bahá’í International Community, 2001 May 28-31, Overcoming Corruption in Public Institutions)