My religion of birth, the Bahá’í Faith, is often described to non-Bahá’ís with a list of a dozen principles, though there are fundamental aspects of the Bahá’í Faith that are not revealed in those principles. Here, I would like to propose a similar list of principles that, were they to fully define Bahá’í belief, I would still be a Bahá’í today.
- Strict Unitarianism. God is one, thus God cannot be associated with any name, attribute, or individual over any other. No man speaks for God to the exclusion of others; rather, all things speak equally for God. This principle precludes any belief in divine messengers and prohibits any covenants thereto. Any vow of allegiance to any man or institution is naught but idolatry.
- Independent Investigation of Truth. In accordance with the Unity of God, no one path can be exalted to the exclusion of any other. This is not an endorsement of apathy; to the contrary, it is a mandate to actively seek truth with one’s own eyes.
- Religion is multifarious. In accordance with the Unity of God, there can be no One True Religion. Religions should not be forcibly unified, though interfaith harmony and tolerance are worthy goals.
- Mankind is one species, but people are not uniform. People are entitled to have different values and talents.
- Though people are not the same, people should be treated equally when their differences are irrelevant, whether in terms of race, gender, height, weight, elderliness, or sexual orientation. Any preference based on any of these criteria with respect to religious office or ceremony is antithetical to this principle.
- Harmony of science and religion. The cultural merit of religious myths and practices should not be invalidated by their lack of conformity with science. In turn, knowledge obtained by means of a rigorous scientific process must not be contested by religion. Religion must defer to science in all matters within the domain of science. To anticipate the eventual vindication of religious beliefs by future advances in science is a violation of this principle.
- Mitigation of suffering by means of the elimination of extreme poverty, malnutrition, illness, violence, and illiteracy.
This set of principles looks just fine to me — but I think virtues are at the core of Baha’i, so I’m hardly a typical believer.
Virtues? You mean, like obedience, ignorance, credulity, and ostracism? 😉
Seriously, though; virtues are probably what religion ought to come down to, though I wonder whether I might rather begin with values. The two are closely tied.
Yes, yes, yes…this is the essence of what being Baha’i is to me. I also had to leave the Faith because as an organization it does not follow these ideals. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
What is up with #4 and how is that inconsistent with Baha’i? Where does Baha’i Faith say that people can’t have different “talents”?
You’ve got me wondering whether I should have worked harder on my wording. Please permit me to explain:
I didn’t say that diversity is essentially inconsistent with the Baha’i teachings. It is, of course, inconsistent with the dominant form of Baha’i practice. The Baha’i Faith, as it is commonly practiced, enforces specific values such as obedience, submission, and uniformity, and yes, specific talents — personal qualities — that support those institutional values. Of course I’m not talking about juggling bowling pins, but something more like the social talents of a salesman.