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Why Is Religion Important?

"In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world, for the fear of God impelleth man to hold fast to that which is good, and shun all evil. Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine. Unto this will bear witness every man of true understanding." - Baha'u'llah

Even Religion Must Be Renewed

Each religion of God is originally a source of rapid material and moral progress for mankind, however over time, like all things, it will slowly begin to decline and eventually lose its original influence and relevance and beauty, and is then in need of renewal.

According to Baha’i Philosophy, it is a law of the Universe that all things except for the Origin of Creation are subject to change, and are in need of renewal. This applies universally to everything, from the air in a room, to the cells in our bodies, to the laws and institutions of Governance and Law, and this also applies to Religion.

To cite an example: For those who believe in the existence of God, the fruits of the earth are, like all things created through the laws of nature, considered to be created by “the Will of God”, yet these fruit have a lifespan after which they will begin to decline and then rot. Is it reasonable for a person to insist on eating an old and spoilt piece of fruit and say “It is from God” or “God Created it”, as the justification for such an action? Is that action at all in conformity with wisdom, or justice, or the Will and good pleasure of God?

No it is not reasonable at all. Yet this is what occurs when one insists on living under the teachings of a past Faith, and claims that it still must be beneficial and good simply because it was originally “Created by God”. By clinging to the past we are doing a dis-service to ourselves and to mankind, and perpetuating the incorrect belief that the Religion of God revealed to humanity throughout the ages is irrelevant. This together with other unfortunate factors - such as the followers of ancient Faiths attributing metaphorical divine lessons like the story of “Noah’s Ark” to being actual historical events - are further causes of disappointment to anyone of rational mind, and further reinforces the incorrect notion that religion is contrary to science and reason.

The Religion of God may be compared to a tree. At first it is young and beautiful, and entire nations derive benefit and inspiration from its fruits, and take shelter in the shade of its leaves, and make enormous progress in scientific achievements, civilization, and morality. However after a time the tree will grow old, will no longer yield fruit, and will fall into a condition of decay.

That is when a seed from that old tree is taken, and re-planted in the soil, in order that a new tree (a new Faith) may appear. This process is eternal and God has throughout eternity revealed new Teachings in each era, and a new Faith to replace the old. Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Christ and Muhammad are examples of those past educators of civilizations whose teachings transformed and built entire nations, but whose original regenerating influence is now for the most part spent.

Appearing in the mid 19th century, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith - Baha’u’llah, is regarded by Baha’is to be the most recent in this line of Divine Educators, whose function throughout the ages have been to unite the hearts and to accelerate the material and spiritual progress of the human race. In this era Baha’u’llah proclaims Teachings which are the need for this day and age, and relevant to the present day illnesses and needs of society. Teachings such as the necessity of equality between men and women, the necessity for religious belief to be in accordance with reason and logic, the need for universal standardizations in language, currency, measurements and script, in order that all nations may be more closely united, the need for one’s Faith to be the cause of harmony and love and that if one finds that his Faith has become a pretext for hatred, then both he and his society are better off if he be irreligious, and countless other teachings which are the Spirit of the age.

When one says they seek "God without religion", or "Spirituality without religion", by "religion" they are usually referring to the old and decayed "winter" state of a past religion after it has become encrusted with dogmas and lost its original beauty and relevance, rather than referring to the "summer" state of a religion which is when it caused the rapid transformation and progress of man and caused new civilizations to rise up, or they may not have yet heard of or studied the Baha'i Faith, which as a new Revelation of God is still in its early/growing "springtime" state and a source of progress and unity to mankind.

Mankind Always Needs The Influence of An Educator

One may object that perhaps as human beings we have an innate capacity to reach perfection and nobility and guidance on our own, and that our progress to date has been of our own doing, and not due to the educative influence of the Prophets of God.

However if we consider history, we will observe that every high achievement and progress attained by any civilization, or individual, has been the end result of education by a superior, and without the constant influence of education, man would become bestial.

To cite an example, if the child of the most noble, kind-hearted, and intelligent parents were to be left alone in the wilderness to grow according to the rule of nature, and his innate capacities alone, and were to be deprived of education and guidance from superiors, he would unquestionably become a mere brute, and would make extremely slow progress. It is then clear that a superior educator is needed and that innate capacity alone is not sufficient for mankind to attain perfection.

In the words of Baha’u’llah:

“Men at all times and under all conditions stand in need of one to exhort them, guide them and to instruct and teach them. Therefore He hath sent forth His Messengers, His Prophets and chosen ones that they might acquaint the people with the divine purpose…and that everyone may become aware of the trust of God which is latent in the reality of every soul. Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess." - Baha'u'llah

And again:

“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom." - Baha'u'llah

Although man has been created noble, it is unquestionable that education, guidance, and instruction brought about by a superior Educator is the cause of the uncovering of the latent capacities of man, and the rapid progress of mankind, and not innate capacity alone. Neither is innate capacity sufficient to cause rapid progress amongst groups of adults over extended periods of time.

For example, in the Amazonian jungle and some regions of Africa, there are tribes which have changed very little over the course of many centuries even though they comprise of many adults. This lack of progress is not due to them being inherently inferior in intelligence to the rest of the world, we all belong to the human race and are gifted with the human rational faculty – rather this difference in achievement is primarily the result of variances in the degree of education. Any race or people, denied educational development, will remain in a natural condition of illiteracy and deprivation, for nature is incomplete and defective. Education by a Superior is a necessity. If a piece of ground be left in its natural and original state, it will either become a thorny waste or be covered by worthless weeds. When cleared and cultivated, this same unproductive field will yield plentiful harvests of food for human sustenance. If today a European child were raised in the Amazon, he would be the same as an Amazonian child, and if an Amazonian child were raised in Europe, he would be the same as a European child. The primary factor in the progress of man is the influence of a superior Educator, rather than the innate capacity of the human mind.

In order for rapid progress to occur, this educator must be superior to those being taught, and an authority. In the same way that a classroom of children will not attain perfection on their own through "trial and error", or by sharing ideas “amongst themselves”, and are in need of the influence of an adult Teacher - an adult who is both an Authority, and who is Superior in knowledge and insight in order to impart education to the children, similarly the human race is in need of a Teacher, who is both an Authority, and who is Superior in knowledge and insight, otherwise if he were like the rest of mankind, he would be like the pupils themselves, and would not be able to impart an education, or cause any rapid progress amongst them.

“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!” - Abdu'l-Baha

The greatest power in creation which impels the masses towards righteous aims and deeds is the force of true education (material, intellectual, and spiritual), brought about through the Faith's of the Prophets of God. This is a truth which the records of history testify to. In the following section are examples of their educative influence on mankind throughout history, both to prove their truth of being "Educators of mankind", but also to present to anyone who is of the opinion that "religion" is bad, that "religion" itself is actually extremely good, but like all things in creation, over time it will lose its vitality, beauty, and relevance, and will eventually fall into a condition of decay, and is then in need of renewal.

The Prophets of God are the first educators of the human race. They bestow a universal, and complete education upon man and cause him to rise even from the lowest levels of savagery to the highest pinnacles of spiritual development. The philosophers too are educators along lines of intellectual training, however at most they have only been able to educate themselves and a limited number around them, to improve their own morals and, so to speak, civilize themselves; but they have been incapable of universal education. They have failed to cause an advancement for any given nation from savagery to civilization.

The Prophets of God however have always possessed the power to impel the masses towards righteous aims and deeds. Through their educative influence there has always been a rapid surge in material and spiritual progress on massive scales, and a new chapter in Civilisation has unfolded each time one of these Divine Educators has appeared amongst mankind. The efficiency at which they were able to cause progress, and the depth of penetration amongst the consciousness of the masses which they were able to effect are unmatched. Not even the noble forces of knowledge or science could equal in efficiency such rapid, and efficient moral transformation and progress amongst the masses of humanity which these Prophets achieved through the love of God.

"This transformation of morals, this improvement of conduct and of words, are they possible otherwise than through the love of God? No, in the name of God. If, by the help of science and knowledge, we wished to introduce these morals and customs, truly it would take a thousand years, and then they would not be spread throughout the masses. Today, thanks to the love of God, they are arrived at with the greatest facility. Be admonished, O possessors of intelligence!" - Abdu'l-Baha

The Educators of the Masses are the Prophets of God

"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.

But when we speak of religion we mean the essential foundation or reality of religion, not the dogmas and blind imitations which have gradually encrusted it and which are the cause of the decline and effacement of a nation." - Abdu'l-Baha

To clearly demonstrate examples of the range and depth of influence which these unique individuals who were the Prophets of God had on human civilization - below are summaries of the achievements of three of these Divine Educators: Moses, Christ, and Muhammad.

Moses

Over a long period, the Israelites, divided and scattered, were captive in the hands of the tyrannical Copts, and were scorned and despised by all, so that the meanest of the Copts would freely persecute and lord it over the noblest of the Israelites. The enslavement, wretchedness and helplessness of the Hebrews reached such a pitch that they were never, day or night, secure in their own persons nor able to provide any defense for their wives and families against the tyranny of their Pharaohic captors. They continued on in this anguish until suddenly Moses, the revealer of the Beauty of God appeared. In the midst of the Israelites, He blazed out like a lamp of Divine guidance, and He led that lost people out of the shadows of ignorance into knowledge and perfection. He gathered Israel's scattered tribes into the shelter of the unifying and universal Word of God, He raised up the banner of harmony, so that within a brief interval those benighted souls became spiritually educated, and they who had been strangers to the truth, rallied to the cause of the oneness of God, and were delivered out of their wretchedness, their indigence, their incomprehension and captivity and achieved a supreme degree of happiness and honor. They emigrated from Egypt, set out for Israel's original homeland, and came to Canaan and Philistia. They first conquered the shores of the River Jordan, and Jericho, and settled in that area, and ultimately all the neighboring regions, such as Phoenicia, Edom and Ammon, came under their sway. In Joshua's time there were thirty-one governments in the hands of the Israelites, and in every noble human attribute -- learning, stability, determination, courage, honor, generosity -- this people came to surpass all the nations of the earth. When in those days an Israelite would enter a gathering, he was immediately singled out for his many virtues, and even foreign peoples wishing to praise a man would say that he was like an Israelite.

It is furthermore a matter of record in numerous historical works that the philosophers of Greece such as Pythagoras, acquired the major part of their philosophy, both divine and material, from the disciples of Solomon. And Socrates after having eagerly journeyed to meet with some of Israel's most illustrious scholars and divines, on his return to Greece established the concept of the oneness of God and the continuing life of the human soul after it has put off its elemental dust. Ultimately, the ignorant among the Greeks denounced this man who had fathomed the inmost mysteries of wisdom, and rose up to take his life; and then the populace forced the hand of their ruler, and in council assembled they caused Socrates to drink from the poisoned cup.

After the Israelites had advanced along every level of civilization, and had achieved success in the highest possible degree, they began little by little to forget the root-principles of the Mosaic Law and Faith, to busy themselves with rites and ceremonials and to show forth unbecoming conduct. In the days of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, terrible dissension broke out among them; one of their number, Jeroboam, plotted to get the throne, and it was he who introduced the worship of idols. The strife between Rehoboam and Jeroboam led to centuries of warfare between their descendants, with the result that the tribes of Israel were scattered and disrupted. In brief, it was because they forgot the meaning of the Law of God that they became involved in ignorant fanaticism and blameworthy practices such as insurgence and sedition. Their divines, having concluded that all those essential qualifications of humankind set forth in the Holy Book were by then a dead letter, began to think only of furthering their own selfish interests, and afflicted the people by allowing them to sink into the lowest depths of heedlessness and ignorance. And the fruit of their wrong doing was this, that the old-time glory brought to them by Moses, and which had endured so long now changed to degradation, and the rulers of Persia, of Greece, and of Rome, took them over.

Christ

Christ, single and alone, without schooling or outward education and trained to labor in the shop of a carpenter, appeared in the world at the time when the Jewish nation was in the greatest abasement. This radiant Youth, without wealth, power of armies or prestige, rescued the Jews who believed on Him from tyranny and degradation and lifted them to the highest plane of development and glory. Peter, His disciple, was a fisherman. Through the power of Christ he shed light upon all the horizons of the world. Furthermore, various people of the Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Assyrian nations were brought together in unity and agreement; where warfare and bloodshed had existed, humility and love were manifest, and the foundations of divine religion were established. This proves that Christ was a heavenly Teacher and Educator of the world of humanity, for such evidences are historical and irrefutable, not based upon tradition and circumstantial report.

For the space of three years, that Luminary of perfections walked about the fields of Palestine and in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, leading all men into the dawn of redemption, teaching them how to acquire spiritual qualities and attributes well-pleasing to God.

In the fifth chapter of Matthew beginning with the thirty-seventh verse He counsels: "Resist not evil and injury with its like; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." And further, from the forty-third verse: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and thou shalt not vex thine enemy with enmity.'[1] But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth down the rain of His mercy on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?"

At that time the peoples of the world were utterly ignorant, fanatical and idolatrous. Only a small group of Jews still professed belief in the oneness of God and they were wretched outcasts. These holy Christian souls now stood up to promulgate a Cause which was diametrically opposed and repugnant to the beliefs of the entire human race. The kings of four out of the world's five continents inexorably resolved to wipe out the followers of Christ, and nevertheless in the end most of them set about promoting the Faith of God with their whole hearts; all the nations of Europe, many of the peoples of Asia and Africa, and some of the inhabitants of the islands of the Pacific, were gathered into the shelter of the oneness of God.

Observe how those souls who drank the living waters of redemption at the gracious hands of Jesus, the Spirit of God, and came into the sheltering shade of the Gospel, attained to such a high plane of moral conduct that Galen, the celebrated physician, although not himself a Christian, in his summary of Plato's Republic extolled their actions. A literal translation of his words is as follows:

"The generality of mankind are unable to grasp a sequence of logical arguments. For this reason they stand in need of symbols and parables telling of rewards and punishments in the next world. A confirmatory evidence of this is that today we observe a people called Christians, who believe devoutly in rewards and punishments in a future state. This group show forth excellent actions, similar to the actions of an individual who is a true philosopher. For example, we all see with our own eyes that they have no fear of death, and their passion for justice and fair-dealing is so great that they should be considered true philosophers."[1]

One demonstration of the excellent character of the Christians in those days was their dedication to charity and good works, and the fact that they founded hospitals and philanthropic institutions. For example, the first person to establish public clinics throughout the Roman Empire where the poor, the injured and the helpless received medical care, was the Emperor Constantine. This great king was the first Roman ruler to champion the Cause of Christ. He spared no efforts, dedicating his life to the promotion of the principles of the Gospel, and he solidly established the Roman government, which in reality had been nothing but a system of unrelieved oppression, on moderation and justice.

What a firm foundation of excellent character was laid down in those days, thanks to the training of holy souls who arose to promote the teachings of the Gospel. How many primary schools, colleges, hospitals, were established, and institutions where fatherless and indigent children received their education. How many were the individuals who sacrificed their own personal advantages and "out of desire to please the Lord" devoted the days of their lives to teaching the masses.

When, however, the time approached for the effulgent beauty of Muhammad to dawn upon the world, the control of Christian affairs passed into the hands of ignorant priests. Those heavenly breezes, soft-flowing from the regions of Divine grace, died away, and the laws of the great Evangel, the rock-foundation on which the civilization of the world was based, turned barren of results, this out of misuse and because of the conduct of persons who, seemingly fair, were yet inwardly foul.

Muhammad

The savage peoples of the Hijaz, before that Flame of Prophethood was lit in the lamp of Mecca, were the most brutish and benighted of all the peoples of the earth. In all the histories, their depraved and vicious practices, their ferocity and their constant feuds, are a matter of record. In those days the civilized peoples of the world did not even consider the Arab tribes of Mecca and Medina as human beings. And yet, after the Light of Muhammad rose over them, they were -- because of the education bestowed on them by that Source of perfections, that Focal Center of Revelation, and the blessings vouchsafed by the Divine Law -- within a brief interval gathered into the shelter of the principle of Divine oneness. This brutish people then attained such a high degree of human perfection and civilization that all their contemporaries marveled at them. Those very peoples who had always mocked the Arabs and held them up to ridicule as a breed devoid of judgment, now eagerly sought them out, visiting their countries to acquire enlightenment and culture, technical skills, statecraft, arts and sciences.

Observe the influence on material situations of that training which is inculcated by the true Educator. Here were tribes so benighted and untamed that during the period of the Jahiliyyih they would bury their seven-year-old daughters alive -- an act which even an animal, let alone a human being, would hate and shrink from but which they in their extreme degradation considered the ultimate expression of honor and devotion to principle -- and this darkened people, thanks to the manifest teachings of that great Personage, advanced to such a degree that after they conquered Egypt, Syria and its capital Damascus, Chaldea, Mesopotamia and Iran, they came to administer single-handedly whatever matters were of major importance in four main regions of the globe.

The Arabs then excelled all the peoples of the world in science and the arts, in industry and invention, in philosophy, government and moral character. And truly, the rise of this brutish and despicable element, in such a short interval, to the supreme heights of human perfection, is the greatest demonstration of the rightfulness of Muhammad's Prophethood.

In the early ages of Islam the peoples of Europe acquired the sciences and arts of civilization from Islam as practiced by the inhabitants of Andalusia. A careful and thorough investigation of the historical record will establish the fact that the major part of the civilization of Europe is derived from Islam; for all the writings of Muslim scholars and divines and philosophers were gradually collected in Europe and were with the most painstaking care weighed and debated at academic gatherings and in the centers of learning, after which their valued contents would be put to use. Today, numerous copies of the works of Muslim scholars which are not to be found in Islamic countries, are available in the libraries of Europe. Furthermore, the laws and principles current in all European countries are derived to a considerable degree and indeed virtually in their entirety from the works on jurisprudence and the legal decision of Muslim theologians.

To sum up, from 490 A.H. until 693, kings, commanders and other European leaders continually came and went between Egypt, Syria and the West, and when in the end they all returned home, they introduced into Europe whatever they had observed over two hundred and odd years in Muslim countries as to government, social development and learning, colleges, schools and the refinements of living. The civilization of Europe dates from that time.

Those European intellectuals who are well-informed as to the facts of Europe’s past, and are characterized by truthfulness and a sense of justice, unanimously acknowledge that in every particular the basic elements of their civilization are derived from Islám. For example John William Draper, the well-known French authority, a writer whose accuracy, ability and learning are attested by all European scholars, in the second volume of one of his best-known works, "The Intellectual Development of Europe", has written a detailed account in this connection, that is, with reference to the derivation by the peoples of Europe of the fundamentals of civilization and the bases of progress and well-being from Islám.

In essence, the author shows how the totality of Europe’s civilization—its laws, principles, institutions, its sciences, philosophies, varied learning, its civilized manners and customs, its literature, art and industry, its organization, its discipline, its behavior, its commendable character traits, and even many of the words current in the French language, derives from the Arabs. One by one, he investigates each of these elements in detail, even giving the period when each was brought over from Islám. He describes as well the arrival of the Arabs in the West, in what is now Spain, and how in a short time they established a well-developed civilization there, and to what a high degree of excellence their administrative system and scholarship attained, and how solidly founded and well regulated were their schools and colleges, where sciences and philosophy, arts and crafts, were taught; what a high level of leadership they achieved in the arts of civilization and how many were the children of Europe’s leading families who were sent to attend the schools of Cordova and Granada, Seville and Toledo to acquire the sciences and arts of civilized life. He even records that a European named Gerbert came to the West and enrolled at the University of Cordova in Arab territory, studied arts and sciences there, and after his return to Europe achieved such prominence that ultimately he was elevated to the leadership of the Catholic Church and became the Pope! Yet over the passage of time the spirit of the teachings of Muhammad became effaced from the hearts of His followers, sincerity and selflessness gradually changed into perversity and violence, and that era of righteousness and progress came to an end. When the winter of Islam finally came, and the people of Persia were steeped in religious fanaticism and bigotry, God raised up Baha'u'llah as a Prophet, to once again shine the light of Divine Knowledge amongst men, and to once again begin the process of the rejuvenation and upliftment of mankind.

The purpose of these references is to establish the fact that the religions of God are the true source of the spiritual and material perfections of man, and the fountainhead for all mankind of enlightenment and beneficial knowledge.

The Religions of the Prophets of God, despite their original excellence, eventually become effaced from the hearts of men and the teachings of the Prophets are eventually replaced with human conceptions and dogmas which eventually lead to the downfall of both the Religion, and the societies they influenced. These Divine Faiths are like the Springtime. Springtime is never the cause of the dying of plants, on the contrary, it is the cause of the progress of plants, but over time the influence of the Springtime is all but lost and as winter approaches the plants begin to droop, and so there is a need for a renewal of spring yet again so that the plants can become beautiful and blossom once again. That is why God always reveals a new Faith in each era. For Baha'is the most recent Divinely Inspired Educator who has appeared amongst mankind is Baha'u'llah.

After becoming acquainted with the historical facts relating to the enormous transformative influence which the Religions of God have had on the hearts and minds of the human race, the weight of the following statement can be appreciated:

"Consider whether there exists anywhere in creation a principle mightier in every sense than religion, or whether any conceivable power is more pervasive than the various Divine Faiths, or whether any agency can bring about real love and fellowship and union among all peoples as can belief in an almighty and all-knowing God, or whether except for the laws of God there has been any evidence of an instrumentality for educating all mankind in every phase of righteousness.

Those qualities which the philosophers attained when they had reached the very heights of their wisdom, those noble human attributes which characterized them at the peak of their perfection, would be exemplified by the believers as soon as they accepted the Faith." - Abdu'l-Baha

Unrighteous Actions In The Name of Religion

If you reflect upon the essential teachings of the Prophets of God you will realize that they are the light of the world. Nobody can question their truth. They are the very source of life and the cause of happiness to the human race as is proven by the nobility and superiority of the civilizations they formed when in the "Golden Age" of their respective religions. The customs and superstitions, and the abominable deeds which appeared afterwards and obscured the light did not affect the reality of what those Prophets actually taught. For example, His Holiness Jesus Christ said: "Put up the sword into the sheath." The meaning is that warfare is forbidden and abrogated; but consider the Christian wars which took place afterward. Christian hostility and inquisition spared not even the learned; he who proclaimed the roundness of the earth was imprisoned; he who announced the new astronomical system was persecuted as a heretic; scholars and scientists became objects of fanatical hatred and many were killed and tortured. How do these actions conform with the teachings of Jesus Christ and what relation do they bear to his own example? For Christ declared: "Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you that you may be sons of your Father which is in Heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust." How can hatred, hostility and persecution be reconciled with Christ and His teachings?

Therefore there is need of turning back to the original foundation. The fundamental principles of the prophets are correct and true. The imitations, superstitions, and abominable acts which have crept in are at wide variance with the original precepts and commands. His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh has revoiced and re-established the quintessence of the teachings of all the prophets, setting aside the accessories and purifying religion from human interpretation. Among the many volumes of His Writings which consitute Baha'i Sacred Scripture, He has written a book entitled "Hidden Words". The preface announces that it contains the essences of the words of the prophets of the past clothed in the garment of brevity for the teaching and spiritual guidance of the people of the world. Anyone who has read it and enjoyed it's wisdom and beauty can understand the true foundations of religion and reflect upon the inspiration of the messengers of God. It is light upon light.

We must not look for truth in the deeds and actions of nations; we must investigate truth at its divine source.

Further to this, the religion of God revealed to mankind throughout the ages not only is in need of renewal from the standpoint of protection from man made decay, but also from the standpoint of relevance to the current requirements of the time. Every Religion of God has always been revealed in a manner which best conforms to the needs of the time, and the capacity of its recipients, and is therefore in need of renewal as mankind progresses. For example Moses lived in the wilderness of Sinai where crime necessitated direct punishment. There were no penitentiaries or penalties of imprisonment. Therefore according to the requirements of the time and place the law of "eye for an eye" was the appropriate means of maintaing order in the land, however this is no longer suitable in this era.

"The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require." - Baha'u'llah

Good Deeds without the Love of God are incomplete

When a man puts into practice the Teachings of God, but is unaware of their origin, or carries them out without the motivation of pleasing God, then that act although still praiseworthy, becomes incomplete and imperfect - because it is the knowledge associated with an act which gives it its worth. Righteous acts without the knowledge of God are imperfect, because a fundamental knowledge associated with the existence of that act is missing.

For example, if virtue were only a matter of obtaining and giving forth good then the worth of a person knowingly putting themselves in danger to help someone would be equal to a person unknowingly/accidentally putting themselves in danger to help someone. The end result is the same - a person has been helped, but there is a vast difference in the worth between the two acts because it is the knowledge associated with an act which gives that act its ultimate worth, and not the act itself.

"As this lamp is lighted and illuminates the house -- without doubt this illumination is a benefit -- then why do we not praise the lamp? The sun causes all the beings of the earth to increase, and by its heat and light gives growth and development: is there a greater benefit than that? Nevertheless, as this good does not come from goodwill and from the love and knowledge of God, it is imperfect." - Abdu'l-Baha

"When, on the contrary, a man gives to another a cup of water, the latter is grateful and thanks him...this insignificant kindness of the man is due to conscious feelings which exist; therefore, it is worthy of praise, whereas the light and heat of the sun are not due to the feelings and consciousness; therefore, they are not worthy of eulogy or of praise and do not deserve gratitude or thanks.

In the same way, when a person performs a good action, although it is praiseworthy, if it is not caused by the love and knowledge of God, it is imperfect. Moreover, if you reflect justly, you will see that these good actions of other men who do not know God are also fundamentally caused by the teachings of God -- that is to say, that the former Prophets led men to perform these actions, explained their beauty to them, and declared their splendid effects; then these teachings were diffused among men and reached them successively, one after the other, and turned their hearts toward these perfections. When men saw that these actions were considered beautiful, and became the cause of joy and happiness for mankind, they conformed to them. Wherefore these actions also come from the teachings of God. But justice is needed to see this, and not controversy and discussion..." - Abdu'l-Baha

"Although a person of good deeds is acceptable at the Threshold of the Almighty, yet it is first “to know,” and then “to do.”..." - Abdu'l-Baha

Conclusion

  • Human beings, despite the great capacities they are endowed with, are still always in need of the influence of Education from a superior in order for these latent capacities to be revealed. Without this education man would remain brutish. The original Educators of the human race have always been the Prophets of God who are the Founders of Religion. Those unique personages such as Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Christ, Muhammad, and in this day Baha'u'llah.

  • Every concept of nobility and righteousness posessed by man today, has been the result of the educative influences of the Prophets of God. When one seeks "Spirituality without Religion", or "God without Religion", the "spiritual" behaviours and actions they are seeking to reveal in their own lives are in fact the result of education which mankind has derived from the Prophets of God.

  • Human progress is infinite, and there will never be an age when mankind is no longer in need of the educative influence of the Prophets of God. I.e. one cannot claim that today the knowledge we have derived from religion and past experience is sufficient to enable us to reach all further progress and perfection in the future, in the same way that a past civilisation which imagines itself as modern could not claim that it were no longer in need of the influence of further guidance and education.

  • Mankind is perpetually in need of the influence of a Prophet of God to protect it from declining into materialism and godlessness. The unhealthy and agitated state of mankind today, which has in large part turned its back on God's teachings in preference to its own ideologies, is ample testimony to what state of affairs the world naturally leads to when the instructions of the Prophets of God are ignored.

  • All things eventually decline and decay, and are in need of renewal - the same applies to religion. That is why religions which were so potent and effective in raising entire nations in the past, have today lost the greater part of their influence and relevance. That is why in each era God reveals a new Faith. In this era the Divine Educator of the human race is the Founder of the Baha'i Faith - Baha'u'llah. His Revelation and Teachings contain the solutions to all of mankinds present day ills, be they economic, spiritual, environmental, or social.