Independent Investigation of the Truth
“…no man should blindly follow his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate the truth himself . . .” (Baha’i World Faith, p.246)
Understanding man’s relationship to God and the role that the Manifestations play in strengthening that relationship requires that we think about and study religious issues for ourselves. Baha’is call this principle independent investigation of truth. No one may make spiritual decisions for us, not our parents, friends, teachers, or even clergy. In fact, in the Baha’i Faith there is no clergy; every Baha’i is responsible for his or her own spiritual education and development.
Science and Religion
“…religion must be in harmony with science and reason…” (Baha’i World Faith, p.247)
Baha’u’llah teaches that all true knowledge comes from God. Therefore, science and religion represent only different avenues to the same truth, and apparent differences between the two are merely illusions. If science and religion disagree on a specific issue, then one or the other must be in error. When traditional religious teachings contradict well-established science, the religious teachings may be in error because they have become influenced by man’s interpretations of God’s word. When a true Manifestation of God teaches ideas which are contrary to popular science, it is the science which is in error.
Sometimes the same truth is denied by both scientists and religionists at different points in history. For example, in the seventh century Arabian desert, Muhammad taught that the earth was round and revolved around the sun. The scientists of His day “knew” this was factually false and searched for the hidden or symbolic meaning to that teaching because everybody knew that the earth was flat and the center of the universe. Nine centuries later in Europe, Nicolaus Copernicus stated on the basis of scientific observation that the earth was round and revolved around the sun. The clergy of his day “knew” this was false doctrine – the work of Satan – and persecuted him for heresy because they believed that the earth was flat and the center of the universe. We see today that Muhammad and Copernicus were correct and that religion and science were actually in harmony, though it was not recognized until several centuries later.
Good and Evil
Baha’is view good and evil as being like light and darkness. Good is a positive emanation from God, like light, whereas evil is merely the absence of that good, much as darkness is the absence of light. The evil perceived in the world is the result of our own deeds when we ignore the light of God and His teachings. Thus, Baha’is do not believe in Satan or a Devil.
Heaven and Hell
Baha’is also believe heaven and hell are not places but conditions. Heaven is an awareness of God; hell is the absence of that awareness. Heaven is spiritual light; hell is spiritual darkness. These conditions may be created anywhere, in this life as well as in the next.
Life after Death
“I have made Death a messenger of joy to thee.” (Arabic Hidden Words #32)
Baha’is do believe in life after death, but as a change of condition, not as a place. Death comes suddenly, but like birth, death is an open door to a new and greater life. To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken. Our body is like the cage and the spirit like the bird. Though the body dies, the spirit continues to exist in a new condition without the physical limitations of this world.
Living a Baha’i Life
Baha’is are called upon to actively apply the teachings of their Faith in their daily lives. Baha’i teachings provide clear guidelines for personal conduct and responsibilities, and for Baha’i community life. These guidelines for human conduct are designed to promote unity and justice and to help people live happy and meaningful lives.