Bahai News - Bahá'ís represent the newest continuation of a long line of Messengers

Bahá'ís represent the newest continuation of a long line of Messengers

September 03, 2001

Editor's Note: This is the third in a four-part series on religious faiths that do not often receive much attention.

By MICHAEL PROTOS

For The Times Herald

The name sounds like a sect of Islam. My mother thought it was a form of Judaism. It certainly does not resemble any major Christian sect. Yet, if you ask what exactly are the Bahá'ís, the answer would be, they are all of the above, in a sense.

The Bahá'í Faith is not a very old religion, yet it lays claim to the great Messengers of God throughout history, including Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed. The principle figure responsible for starting the Bahá'í Faith is Bahá'u'lláh, who was born in 1852 in Iran and left an indelible mark on this world.

Five million Bahá'ís worldwide, representing over 2,100 ethnic or tribal groups according to the pamphlet "The Bahá'ís," venerate the most recent Messenger of God. This term applies to the conduits of the Creator that all Bahá'ís acknowledge and glorify.

The Bahá'ís believe different Messengers have appeared throughout history to teach the Creator's message to different people in different places at different points in human history.

"Bahá'u'lláh is the first messenger to speak to the world. He is the messenger who is going to unite the world, in the Bahá'í view," said David Fiorito of King of Prussia, a practicing Bahá'í.

Bahá'u'lláh faced immense persecution during his life and was repeatedly exiled to many countries.

Fiorito said Bahá'u'lláh had a vision while in a dungeon in Tehran revealing religious truth to be spread throughout the world. Bahá'u'lláh is special because humanity has all of his copious writings in the original form, not handed down through years of copying, which allows for potential faults.

One central tenet of all Bahá'ís is the sanctity of all people. All individuals of every creed are respected. Bahá'ís promote an unprecedented amount of diversity in their religion and refuse to condemn anyone as wrong.

"All religions are a continuation and expansion of the promise," said Fiorito, referring to the promise of God to always be present with people.

Because Bahá'ís view all people as brothers and sisters within the greater spirit of God and this creation, they reject all forms of exclusion. At a Bahá'í fireside, all members of the community regardless of religious affiliation are welcomed to enjoy food and conversation in the home of a Bahá'í.

"When you get right down to it, we are all the same. Every human being is seen as a child of God and we are all, in essence, equal," said Fiorito.

The Bahá'í calendar features many feasts to celebrate and remember principle virtues of the Faith. One virtue that Bahá'ís find in all major religions worldwide is respect for others.

"The biggest common bond is the Golden Rule," said Fiorito.

The Bahá'ís maintain many moral codes that are spelled out in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'ís try to remain politically neutral because to engage in partisan politics breeds a climate of distrust and hostility, which are two qualities all Bahá'ís seek to cure rather than indulge.

Bahá'ís do not believe personal transgressions will render an eternal punishment of death on their souls. Rather, Bahá'ís believe in a form of hell that essentially involves the complete separation of one's soul from God through immoral living. At this point, only the grace of God and prayers from living souls can help this distanced soul from being little more than a "stone."

"Heaven and hell are not physical places but they are very real states of being," said Fiorito.

The source for the Bahá'í Faith is Bahá'u'lláh and his teachings, which Bahá'ís believe come directly from God. Fiorito said the very name of God is a mere human creation through words that cannot conceivably embrace the totality of the omnipotent Creator.

Yet, some Bahá'ís readily express their own ability to converse in some form with God.

While the Bahá'í Faith does have many firm convictions and tenets of faith, one of the most important is the respect for all people and their ideas. Therefore, diverse opinions on theological topics are not met with diatribe, but rather welcomed with the insatiable search for religious truth.


©Copyright 2001, The Times Herald

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