Bahá’ís believe there is only one God, the Creator of the universe, who is omniscient, all-loving and all-merciful. It is impossible for any mortal to truly understand the reality of God. However broad or imaginative our concept of God may be, it will always be circumscribed by the limitations of the human mind.
Throughout the ages, God has sent humanity a series of divine Educators—known as Manifestations of God—whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These Manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one divine Faith. While the true nature of God will always elude us, the purpose of our lives is to recognise, love, and grow closer to Him. “I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover”, says Bahá’u’lláh.
The conviction that we belong to one human family is at the heart of the Bahá’í Faith. “Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the drops of one ocean”, says Bahá’u’lláh. The Bahá’í Faith teaches us that the time has come for humanity to consider itself as one people, as citizens of a single homeland. Around the world, human society is being reshaped, and the ultimate trend is clear. We are witnessing nothing less than the reorganization of human society as a planetary civilization. “The Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”, says Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation affirms that the purpose of our lives is to know God and to attain His presence. Our true identity is spiritual. Knowing this, our free will and powers of understanding will enable us to continually better our society and ourselves. Walking a path of service to God and to humanity gives meaning to our life and prepares us for the moment the soul separates from the body and continues its eternal journey towards its Maker.
“The Great Peace towards which people of goodwill throughout the centuries have inclined their hearts, of which seers and poets for countless generations have expressed their vision, and for which from age to age the sacred scriptures of mankind have constantly held the promise, is now at long last within the reach of the nations. For the first time in history it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad diversified peoples, in one perspective.”
To be attained and to endure, this Great Peace must be firmly founded upon certain principles:
The Bahá’í Teachings ask us to see with our own eyes and not with the eyes of others, to be fair in all our dealings, not to speak in haste or anger and to weigh things on their merits rather than according to the opinions of society or the traditions of our ancestors. Prejudice is a false perception, or preconception, of others based on ignorance, blinding us to the fact that every person is essentially a spiritual being with unique talents and capacities, a “mine rich in gems of inestimable value.” Forging strong relationships with people from all walks of life is the antidote to the corrosive disease of prejudice. “Search diligently for the truth and make all men your friends” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
In language that is both poetic and practical, the Bahá’í Teachings describe men and women as being like the two wings of a bird. It is evident that no bird can really soar to the heights nor develop all the complex skills inherent to flight if its wings are not in equilibrium, both in strength and in how they interact with one another. The denial of full gender equality is a source of deep dysfunction, whose effects are crippling to our spiritual, social and material progress. It perpetrates “an injustice against women and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to economic and political life, and ultimately to relations among states. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which denial of the equality of the sexes can be justified”. The achievement of full equality between the sexes is one of the most important prerequisites for building a united world.
The Bahá’í Faith teaches that science and religion, though different in their approach to knowledge, are compatible and complementary. Both are ways to perceive truth and both are valuable aspects of our humanity.
Bahá’ís reject the notion that there is an inherent conflict between science and religion. Their harmony is one of the fundamental principles of the Bahá’í Faith, one which guards us against an excess of zeal or the emergence of superstition in religion or a lack of ethical considerations or moral controls in science. “Religion,” according to the Bahá’í writings, “is the outer expression of the divine reality. Therefore, it must be living, vitalized, moving and progressive.” “Science is the first emanation from God toward man. All created things embody the potentiality of material perfection, but the power of intellectual investigation and scientific acquisition is a higher virtue specialized to man alone.”
All religions approach humanity as spiritual beings within a physical body. The Bahá’í Faith is no different in this respect. However, it goes a step further in prescribing the application of spiritual principles to issues that are usually seen as economic or political. We cannot promote the oneness of humanity without some form of social and economic justice. A just society is measured by the way it cares for the weak and disadvantaged. Selflessness, respect, dignity, moderation, empathy and generosity are hallmarks of a culture that values every contribution. Such a culture will not accept the extremes of wealth and poverty that go with the brutal economic exploitation of people and resources. As consciousness of the oneness of humankind increases, so too does the recognition that the wealth and wonders of the earth are the common heritage of all people.
We all derive much of our character from our regional roots and cultures, and this diversity is an important part of who we are. However, to cross barriers between nations and ethnicities, a world civilization calls for a world language. An auxiliary language – one that would be taught in schools, so that every child might learn it alongside their own – would be an important factor in nurturing understanding, friendship and cooperation at every level, encouraging the emergence of a real sense of world citizenship.