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In previous articles we’ve looked at the concept of sin from a Baha’i perspective.  Now I’d like to look at what causes it and how it effects us.

Sin causes pathogenic factors which cause diseases to become compounded, multiplied and transmitted to others:

We see clearly, therefore, how powerful are sin and contumacy as pathogenic factors. And once engendered these diseases become compounded, multiply, and are transmitted to others. Such are the spiritual, inner causes of sickness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 153)

Sin comes from the demands of nature:

All sin comes from the demands of nature, and these demands, which arise from the physical qualities, are not sins with respect to the animals, while for man they are sin. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 119)

When we overcome one, we’ll fall into another:

The physical man, unassisted by the divine power, trying to escape from one of these invisible enemies, will unconsciously fall into hands of another.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

Love of self:

No sooner does he attempt to soar upward than the density of the love of self, like the power of gravity, draws him to the centre of the earth. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

What’s the Purpose of Sin?

Again it seems that we need contrasts; so that we can make a choice for good; and so others may be attracted to the Faith:

But when we find ourselves falling short we must add to this response the high resolve to “gain victory over (our) own selves” as speedily as possible, as a mercy to ourselves and to our fellow men, so that others may be attracted to the Faith without hindrance.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 120)

What Happens When We Sin?

The body is in torment:

If the soul falls into sin, the body is in torment!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 65)

Sins cause physical ailments:

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152)

Sins inflict painful wounds on our souls – it’s a painful torture:

All his sins and shortcomings are tools of torture inflicting painful wounds upon the souls of the Chosen Ones of God [and] . . .  is painful torture to them. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 227)

Sins cause disease, calamity, natural disasters including floods, hurricanes and earthquakes:

According to the teaching of the Prophets, disease and all other forms of calamity are due to disobedience to the Divine Commands. Even disasters due to floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are attributed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indirectly to this cause.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 95)

What Happens To The Sinner?

There is a clear link between sin and disease:

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152)

His sufferings are remedial and educative, reminding us that we’ve strayed from the right path:

The suffering that follows error is not vindictive, however, but educative and remedial. It is God’s Voice proclaiming to man that he has strayed from the right path. If the suffering is terrible, it is only because the danger of wrongdoing is more terrible, for “the wages of sin is death.” (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 95)

He is deprived of God’s bounties and blessings:

The favors of God are all-surrounding, but should the conscious eye of the soul of man remain veiled and darkened, he will be led to deny these universal signs and remain deprived of these manifestations of divine bounty.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 90)

. . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)

He’s prevented from ascending to the realms of holiness, and imprisoned in self and ego:

. . . prevent man from ascending to the realms of holi­ness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

He becomes dissatisfied about not finding a job he likes; or a place in the world that fits him:

You should never be too depressed about your dissatisfaction concerning not finding a job you like, a place in the world that fits you. If you analyse it this general sense of misfit is one of the curses of your generation, one of the products of the world’s disequilibrium and chaos. It is not confined to your life, it is pretty general.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 454)

What do the Bahá’í Writings say about “Generational Sin” or “Sins of the Father”?

Many Christians believe that because of Adam’s “original sin”, all of his descendants were, without reason, guilty sinners, which is far from the justice of God:

But the mass of the Christians believe that, as Adam ate of the forbidden tree, He sinned in that He disobeyed, and that the disastrous consequences of this disobedience have been transmitted as a heritage and have remained among His descendants. Hence Adam became the cause of the death of humanity. This explanation is unreasonable and evidently wrong, for it means that all men, even the Prophets and the Messengers of God, without committing any sin or fault, but simply because they are the posterity of Adam, have become without reason guilty sinners, and until the day of the sacrifice of Christ were held captive in hell in painful torment. This is far from the justice of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 120)

If the father of a thousand generations committed a sin, is it just to demand that the present generation should suffer the consequences thereof?

Could we conceive of the Divinity, Who is Justice itself, inflicting punishment upon the posterity of Adam for Adam’s own sin and disobedience? Even if we should see a governor, an earthly ruler punishing a son for the wrongdoing of his father, we would look upon that ruler as an unjust man. Granted the father committed a wrong, what was the wrong committed by the son? There is no connection between the two. Adam’s sin was not the sin of His posterity, especially as Adam is a thousand generations back of the man today. If the father of a thousand generations committed a sin, is it just to demand that the present generation should suffer the consequences thereof?  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 449-450)

These interpretations and statements are due to a misunderstanding of the meanings of the Bible.

There are other questions and evidences to be considered. Abraham was a Manifestation of God and a descendant of Adam; likewise, Ishmael, Isaac, Jeremiah and the whole line of prophets including David, Solomon and Aaron were among His posterity. Were all these holy men condemned to a realm of punishment because of a deed committed by the first father, because of a mistake said to have been made by their mutual and remotest ancestor Adam? The explanation is made that when Christ came and sacrificed Himself, all the line of holy Prophets who preceded Him became free from sin and punishment. Even a child could not justly make such an assertion. These interpretations and statements are due to a misunderstanding of the meanings of the Bible.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 449-450)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains how the sins of parents can carry forward 3 or 4 generations in practical terms (not because of God’s judgement):

If a man does a great injustice to another in his life, then, after his death, his son will be despised for having had such a father and in some cases the injury might be so serious that the effect would reach to the grandson, etc., or a man may, by wrong living, fall into consumption and give that disease to his children unto the third or fourth generation. “Both physically and mentally the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the children.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká 1979 ed., pp. 45-46)

Children can inherit the weaknesses and ineffectiveness of their parents:

The variety of inherited qualities comes from strength and weakness of constitution — that is to say, when the two parents are weak, the children will be weak; if they are strong, the children will be robust. In the same way, purity of blood has a great effect; for the pure germ is like the superior stock which exists in plants and animals. For example, you see that children born from a weak and feeble father and mother will naturally have a feeble constitution and weak nerves; they will be afflicted and will have neither patience, nor endurance, nor resolution, nor perseverance, and will be hasty; for the children inherit the weakness and debility of their parents.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 212)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  Post your comments below.