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The Bahá'í Faith

Beliefs and practices

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Beliefs:

bulletBahá'ís believe that there is only one God who is the source of all creation. 
bulletGod is transcendent and unknowable. However, He has sent, and will continue to send, great prophets to humanity, through which the Holy Spirit has revealed the "Word of God." The Great Manifestations of God up to this time have been:
  1. Adam (? BCE)
  2. Abraham (? BCE)
  3. Moses (1456 BCE)
  4. Krishna (1249 BCE)
  5. Zoroaster (1000 BCE)
  6. Buddha (757 BCE)
  7. Jesus Christ (34 CE)
  8. Mohammed (613 CE)
  9. The Bab (1844 CE)
  10. Baha'u'llah (1863 CE)

(Dates shown are common estimates from historical and Christian sources; BCE dates are very approximate) A new prophet is not expected for many centuries into our future.

bulletThe Bahá'í's believe in an essential unity of the great religions of the world. However, this does not mean they believe the various religious creeds and doctrines are identical. Rather, they view all religions as having sprung from the same spiritual source. The social and outer forms of different religions vary due to the circumstances at the time that they were founded. Other differences in doctrine and belief can be attributed to later accretions, after the death of the founder.
 
bulletEvery person has an immortal soul. Unlike everything else in creation, it is not subject to decomposition. At death, the soul is freed to travel through the spirit world. The latter is viewed as a "a timeless and placeless extension of our own universe--and not some physically remote or removed place."
 
bulletSome of Baha'u'llah's most famous sayings are:
bullet"The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice,"
bullet"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens"
bullet"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
 
bulletBahá'í beliefs promoted major social changes when they were first circulated in the 19th century: they supported gender and race equality; world government; freedom of expression and assembly; world peace; religious tolerance, and religious cooperation. In many ways, they were a century or more ahead of many other faiths. Their followers are heavily involved in promoting these concepts today. Also, unlike many other religions, Bahá'ís view scientific inquiry as essential to expand human knowledge and to deepen their members' faith. They feel that science needs to be guided by spiritual principles so that its applications are beneficial to all humanity. 

One exception to their acceptance of scientific findings is their teaching  about homosexuality. Baha'u'llah rejected homosexuality. This puts the Bahá'í faith in opposition to mental health and human sexuality researchers who have reached a near consensus that a homosexual orientation is unchosen, fixed, and is normal and natural for a minority of adults.

Neither the official Bahá'í website, 1 or the national web sites in Canada 2 or the U.S. 3 appear to contain any description of the faith's teachings on homosexuality. The Canadian web site, for example, states:

"The Bahá'í teachings promote the elimination of all forms of prejudice and uphold equal dignity and respect for all peoples, regardless of their racial, ethnic, religious or national background. Equality of men and women, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth and economic justice for all peoples, universal education, and the dignity of the individual are central Bahá'í principles." 4

Sexual orientation is notably absent from their list of protected classes of humans.

Another policy which appears to contradict the faith's promotion of equality is the exclusion of all women from serving on its highest religious court, the Universal House of Justice.

We expect that the Baha'i policy towards homosexuality and the role of women in the court will cause increasing friction within the religion over time.

bulletThey believe that there will eventually be a single world government, to be led by Bahá'ís, and based on the Baha'i administrative framework. This would have the world governed by a theocracy -- a form of government that has had a poor track record on human rights in the past.

Practices:

bulletThe Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel, is the global governing body; its functions were set out by Baha'u'llah. It is an all-male body.
 
bulletNational Spiritual Assemblies (NSA) supervise affairs in each country. The American NSA is located in Wilmette IL at the site of a Bahá'í House of Worship, one of 7 worldwide.
 
bulletIn each locality where there are more than nine adult believers, affairs are administered by local spiritual assemblies. Each of these institutions has nine members and is elected, not appointed. Their functions have been defined by Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha in Bahá'í scripture.
 
bulletBahá'ís have no clergy, sacraments or rituals.
 
bulletMembers:
bulletpray each day.
bulletobserve the 9 holy days.
bulletfast 19 days a year.
bulletwork to abolish prejudice.
bulletregard work as a form of worship.
bulletmake at least one pilgrimage, if they are able, to the Shrine of the Bab and the houses in which Baha'u'llah lived, which are situated near the Bahá'í world headquarters.
bulletReflecting their early ties to Shiite Islam, Bahá'ís do not consume alcohol.

Sacred texts:

Bahá'í scripture comprises the writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, together with the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Among the better known writings of Baha'u'llah are, The Most Holy Book, The Book of Certitude, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words and The Seven Valleys. There are many others books of Bahá'í scripture.

Holy days:

The Bahá'ís have created a new calendar. Its year begins on March 21, at the spring equinox. Other fixed seasonal days of celebration or commemoration are:

bulletApril 21, 29 & May 2: Baha'u'llah's public declaration of his mission
bulletMay 23: Bab's declaration of his mission
bulletMay 29: Passing of Baha'u'llah
bulletJuly 9: Martyrdom of the Bab
bulletOctober 20: Birth of Bab
bulletNovember 12: Birth of Baha'u'llah

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References used:

  1. The official "Bahá'í Faith website" is at: http://www.bahai.org/
  2. "The Bahá'í Community of Canada welcomes you," at: http://www.ca.bahai.org/
  3. "Welcome to the Bahá'í Faith," maintained by The Bahá’ís of the United States, at: http://www.us.bahai.org/
  4. "Human Rights," Bahá'í Community of Canada, at: http://www.ca.bahai.org/

Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Bahá'í > here

Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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