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Home: Religion: Bahai: Bahai Faith Core Beliefs.

Bahá'í Religion Core Beliefs

Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humankind. From these postulates stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine educators, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind and develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Religion is thus seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age.

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The three core beliefs of Bahai

The Bahá'í writings describe a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe. The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end. Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of creation, with a will and purpose that is expressed through messengers termed Manifestations of God.

Bahai Religion and God

Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accurate image of, by themselves. Therefore, human understanding of God is achieved through his revelations via his Manifestations of God. In the Bahá'í religion God is often referred to by titles and attributes (e.g. the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving), and there is a substantial emphasis on monotheism; such doctrines as the Trinity contradict the Bahá'í view that God is single and has no equal. The Bahá'í teachings state that the attributes which are applied to God are used to translate Godliness into human terms and also to help individuals concentrate on their own attributes in worshipping God to develop their potentialities on their spiritual path. According to the Bahá'í teachings the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer and reflection. Bahai Temple Ingleside Sydney Australia
Bahai Temple Ingleside Sydney Australia

The Bahá'í view of God is essentially monotheistic. God is the imperishable, uncreated being who is the source of all existence. He is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty". Though transcendent and inaccessible directly, his image is reflected in his creation. The purpose of creation is for the created to have the capacity to know and love its creator. God communicates his will and purpose to humanity through intermediaries, known as Manifestations of God, who are the prophets and messengers that have founded religions from prehistoric times up to the present day.

Oneness of God

The Bahá'í teachings state that there is only one God, and that his essence is exalted above human attributes and thus his essence is unknowable. While God's essence is unknowable, knowledge about God is achieved through his messengers, known as Manifestations of God, who reflect God's attributes onto the worldy plane. While all human conceptions of God are imaginations, the Bahá'í teachings state that existence reflects his image, and his attributes are most particularly shown in humans. Shoghi Effendi, the guardian of the Bahá'í Faith described God as inaccessible, omniscient, almighty, personal, and rational God, and rejected pantheistic or anthropomorphic conceptions of God.

The Singularity of God: Although human cultures and religions have different concepts of God and his nature, Bahá'ís believe that such varying views nevertheless refer to a single being. The differences between these teachings of the religions about God are attributed to the varying cultural and developmental contexts in which the messages were propagated. Bahá'ís regard the world's major religions as one single faith, revealed by God's manifestations progressively and in stages. No single message, and therefore no single religion, can be (according to Bahá'í belief) considered essentially superior to another. Furthermore, a more recent message may be considered more relevant to humanity's current spiritual, social, and developmental context.

Bahai House of Worship in Wilmette Illinois
Symbols of many religions on a pillar of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.

The Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully understand or to create an image of. Even the attributes that Bahá'ís attribute to God, such as the All-Powerful and the All-Loving, are derived from limited human experiences of power, love, or justice. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge of God is not possible. Furthermore Bahá'u'lláh states that the knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through the messengers that God sends to humanity.

Manifestations of God. Bahá'ís believe that God expresses this will at all times and in many ways, and specifically through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes divine educators. In expressing God's intent, these manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world. Since the Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to ever comprehend or to create more than a limited conception of, the Bahá'í scripture instead focus on the divine names and attributes which are described in the teachings of the Manifestations. Examples of divine attributes found in Bahá'í scripture include Almighty, All-Powerful, All-loving, All-Merciful, Most-Compassionate, All-Glorious. In the Bahá'í view, the Manifestations of God are divine mirrors who reflect God's attributes, but are not incarnations of God's essence. It is through these divine educators that humans can approach God, and through them God brings divine revelation and law. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, is considered to be the "complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God".

Bahai Faith and the Unity of Religion

Bahá'í notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of most of the world's religions, whose founders and central figures are seen as Manifestations of God. Religious history is interpreted as a series of dispensations, where each manifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed. Specific religious social teachings (e.g., the direction of prayer, or dietary restrictions) may be revoked by a subsequent manifestation so that a more appropriate requirement for the time and place may be established. Conversely, certain general principles (e.g. neighbourliness, or charity) are seen to be universal and consistent. In Bahá'í belief, this process of progressive revelation will not end; however, it is believed to be cyclical. Bahá'ís do not expect a new manifestation of God to appear within 1000 years of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.

Bahá'í beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic combinations of earlier religions' beliefs. Bahá'ís, however, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history. Its religious background in Shi'a Islam is seen as analogous to the Jewish context in which Christianity was established. Bahá'ís describe their faith as an independent world religion, differing from the other traditions in its relative age and in the appropriateness of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings to the modern context. Bahá'u'lláh is believed to have fulfilled the messianic expectations of these precursor faiths.

Bahai Faith and the Unity of Humanity

The Bahá'í writings state that human beings have a "rational soul", and that this provides the species with a unique capacity to recognize God's station and humanity's relationship with its creator. Every human is seen to have a duty to recognize God through His messengers, and to conform to their teachings. Through recognition and obedience, service to humanity and regular prayer and spiritual practice, the Bahá'í writings state that the soul becomes closer to God, the spiritual ideal in Bahá'í belief. When a human dies, the soul passes into the next world, where its spiritual development in the physical world becomes a basis for judgment and advancement in the spiritual world. Heaven and Hell are taught to be spiritual states of nearness or distance from God that describe relationships in this world and the next, and not physical places of reward and punishment achieved after death.

The Bahá'í writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, social class and gender-based hierarchy are seen as artificial impediments to unity. The Bahá'í teachings state that the unification of humankind is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.

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