I write on diverse religious issues, often analysing perspectives from the Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Bahá’í).
Religion So Perfect
Our focus in this article is straightforward: Some devotees believe their religion is so perfect it will never be changed but will perforce remain the guidance for mankind until the end of time. But is this really so? Will one religion remain unchanged for all time? Or, to put it another way, can one faith claim finality for its scriptures and religious system?
Every avowed believer loves his religion. Christians of all denominations love the one Christian faith. They love it so dearly they can scarcely understand why Muslims are not converting in their masses to the Christian cause. And the opposite is also true in that Muslims love their religion so much it baffles them that Christians have not abandoned the Church in their numbers to join the Islamic faith. Nor do Hindus understand why others cannot see the beauty in their own religion and enter it in droves, and so on with other faiths and sects. So, the question is, why do all these devotees regard their religion as the very best for mankind and without equal?
The Founders of Religions
The answer is surprisingly simple, although some might find it difficult to swallow. The answer is because the Founders of the religions are all wonderful. So much so that when a worshipper falls in love with any one of them, he gets transported to such heights of spiritual intoxication that he scarcely can find space in his heart for any other.
And yet, to all intents and purposes, these holy personages are one and the same—the same Holy Spirit having worked through them, at different times and in different climes, to transmit God’s heavenly teachings to mankind. It is the same Holy Spirit that helped them gain victory against all odds. Therefore, one can say it is the same Manifestation (or Messenger) of God that appears in a different form each time—not in a literal sense, obviously, but in a symbolic sense.
And this is why Bahá’ís see all the Manifestations of God—Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad—as one with the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, the Twin Manifestations of God for today. To insult one of these holy personages is to insult all of them. To mock any of them is to mock the rest. To deny one is to deny them all.
Comparing the Founders of Religions
The reality, though, is that when Jews judge Jesus by the standard of Moses (who parted the Red Sea, according to the Torah, and conversed with God on the mountain of fire), they do not see anything extraordinary about Jesus. When Christians measure Muhammad by the standard of Jesus (and the miraculous episodes of his life), they do not see much to admire about Muhammad.
To truly see the glory of each Manifestation of God, one has to see him through his own eyes, not through one’s deficient eyes or by comparing him to another Manifestation. He has to be judged in light of his own unique revelation and specific God-given mission, bearing in mind that while the overall mission of the Manifestations is the same, the specific mission of each is always unique and different. It is easy for a Christian to see, for instance, that the specific mission given to Moses was very different from that of Jesus Christ.
Bahá’ís see all the Manifestations of God as the great educators of the human race, the spiritual teachers of humankind in the school of God, and so they love them all dearly as a child should love and cherish all the teachers in his or her school.
The Rise and Decline of Religion
Over the course of centuries, every true religion will assure tremendous progress and enlightenment to the society where it flourishes. It will invariably lay the foundation for an advanced civilization there—a divine civilization underpinned by the worship of the one true God and the practice of virtues.
Gradually, though, the spiritual nature of the civilization becomes relegated to the background. Instead, the society becomes increasingly focused on the material aspect—the sciences and arts, new inventions, commerce, finance, infrastructure development, sports, entertainment, politics, etc. In some cases, military domination becomes a preoccupation.
In parallel with this development, the believers begin to decline in virtue as their attention becomes increasingly focused on the outward, nonessential aspect of their faith—the ceremonies, festivals, rituals, traditions, sundry observances, social teachings, and so on—forgetting the essential aspect of religion, dealing with the deeper spiritual lessons and counsels of the hearts, the practice of good deeds, and the acquisition of lordly attributes such as purity, detachment, love, chastity, mercy, equity, trustworthiness, etc.
When Religion Becomes Outdated
The true teachings of the religion become more and more obscured by the smoke of erroneous, man-made doctrines and clergy-inspired dogmas. The society as a whole begins to wobble under the weight of corruption, violence, sexual vices, tyranny, communal strife, political agitations, human rights abuses, criminality, family breakups, religious disputes, etc., etc.
The society itself would have advanced and matured far beyond what existed when the teachings of the faith were first promulgated by the God-sent Messenger. Therefore, those teachings become increasingly inadequate to address the profound changes in society and the challenges that come with them. For instance, the harsh punishments sanctioned in some older religions can hardly be enforced in our time, and women refuse to be relegated to the background in spite of whatever the religions say.
The challenges of present-day globalization are not adequately addressed in any of the older religions, nor do they have a workable answer for the mindboggling developments we see—in such phenomena as man’s ability to walk on the moon as a consequence of space exploration or the ever-present threat of global annihilation as an outcome of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The Future of Religion in a Globalized World
A paradox such as this can only be conclusively resolved with the coming of a new revelation from God. And this happens when a new Manifestation is sent by God to bring light to a dimming world—the same Holy Spirit working through him as worked through the Manifestations of former times. Those who listen to him become illumined. Those who refuse to heed his call are left deprived of his heavenly bounties and enmeshed in their superstitious beliefs and vain imaginations.
All the religions have promised the coming of a holy personage in this day—be it Kalki Avatar in Hinduism; the Messiah in Judaism; Shah Bahram in Zoroastrianism; Maitreya, the Fifth Buddha, in Buddhism; the Second Coming of Jesus in Christianity; or the coming of Nabi Isa in Islam. Yet surprisingly, there are masses of worshippers out there who do not anticipate the coming of the Promised One to be the occasion for the revelation of a new message from God, the unveiling of new divine laws, the promulgation of a new religion, and hence a call to a new way of life for all mankind.
The Bahá’í claim is that Bahá’u’lláh has come in fulfilment of all these religious expectations. To Bahá’ís, he is the Manifestation of God for today, who has come with a new divine revelation—one that is vast in range, modern, world-embracing, and far-reaching enough to meet the aspirations of all peoples, races, nationalities, ethnicities, and religions of our globalized world society. The only requirement of true seekers, Bahá’ís say, is to investigate the challenging claim independently.
Religion is Continuous and Progressive
Far from being a disorganized and haphazard phenomenon, religion, when looked at from its big-picture perspective, is orderly, continuous, and progressive. And so, the answer to the original question is that no religion is so perfect that it will unavoidably remain the guidance for humankind for all time, or in other words, remain unchanged and never to be superseded for as long as the world lasts. As shown in the foregoing, the only logical way for our contemporary world to make progress and advance into the future is to welcome the inauguration of a new religious system under the influence of a new Manifestation from God—a divine Manifestation whose inevitable appearance, it must be pointed out once again, has long been promised in the heavenly books of the past.
Related Articles and Links
- The Origin, Beliefs and Purpose of the Baha'i Faith
A succinct introduction to the Bahá’í Faith, the latest of the world religions.
- Women Have Equal Rights With Men Upon Earth
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- Why Jesus Is God, but God Is Not Jesus
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- Has the Bible Been Corrupted?
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© 2021 Kobina Amissah-Fynn