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Baha’i Basics – Science and Religion

 

Compiled by Marlene Macke, St Marys, ON, Canada

 

 Definitions:

Religion:   Particular system of faith and worship; human recognition of superhuman controlling power and esp. of a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship.  Concise Oxford Dictionary

Science:   knowledge; systematic and formulated knowledge; physical or natural sciences collectively; branch of knowledge esp. one that can be conducted on scientific principles such as observation, experiment and deduction

What is Science?

[Science] is the very foundation of all individual and national development.  Without this basis of investigation, development is impossible.  Therefore seek with diligent endeavour the knowledge and attainment of all that lies within the power of this wonderful bestowal.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 61

A New Principle

Bahá’u’lláh teaches that religion must be in conformity with science and reason. If belief and teaching are opposed to the analysis of reason and principles of science, they are not worthy of acceptance. This principle has not been revealed in any of the former Books of divine teaching.  –  `Abdu’l‑Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 434

The Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh are many. The precepts and teachings they contain are universal, covering every subject. He has revealed scientific explanations ranging throughout all the realms of human inquiry and investigation‑‑astronomy, biology, medical science, etc  –  `Abdu’l‑Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 155

The Most Noble Of All Virtues

God has conferred upon and added to man a distinctive power, the faculty of intellectual investigation into the secrets of creation, the acquisition of higher knowledge, the greatest virtue of which is scientific enlightenment.  This endowment is the most praiseworthy power of man, for through its employment and exercise, the betterment of the human race is accomplished, the development of the virtues of mankind is made possible and the spirit and mysteries of God become manifest.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 49

This scientific power investigates and apprehends created objects and the laws surrounding them. It is the discoverer of the hidden and mysterious secrets of the material universe and is peculiar to man alone. The most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment of man, therefore, is scientific knowledge and attainment.  –  `Abdu’l‑Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 29

The highest praise is due to men who devote their energies to science, and the noblest center is a center wherein the sciences and arts are taught and studied. Science ever tends to the illumination of the world of humanity. It is the cause of eternal honor to man, and its sovereignty is far greater than the sovereignty of kings. The dominion of kings has an ending; the king himself may be dethroned; but the sovereignty of science is everlasting and without end.  –  `Abdu’l‑Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 348

Religion And Science Are In Conformity

And among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is that religion must be in conformity with science and reason, so that it may influence the hearts of men.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 299

Whatever the intelligence of man cannot understand, religion ought not to accept.  Religion and science walk hand in hand, and any religion contrary to science is not the truth.   –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 131

There is no contradiction between true religion and science.  When a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition: that which is contrary to knowledge is ignorance. … The true principles of all religions are in conformity with the teachings of science.  The Unity of God is logical, and this idea is not antagonistic to the conclusions arrived at by scientific study.  All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress.  All religious laws conform to reason, and are suited to the people for whom they are framed, and for the age in which they are to be obeyed.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 141-42

The outcome of all this dissension [that forms and rituals in the various churches differ among the various churches and even contradict one another] is the belief of many cultured men that religion and science are contradictory terms, that religion needs no powers of reflection, and should in no wise be regulated by science, but must of necessity be opposed, the one to the other.  The unfortunate effect of this is that science has drifted apart from religion, and religion has become a mere blind and more of less apathetic following of the precepts of certain religious teachers, who insist on their own favourite dogmas being accepted even when they are contrary to science.  This is foolishness, for it is quite evident that science is the light, and being so, religion truly so-called does not oppose knowledge.  We are familiar with the phrases ‘Light and Darkness’, ‘Religion and Science’.  But the religion which does not walk hand in hand with science is itself in the darkness of superstition and ignorance.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 143-44

Science Is Reason And Knowledge

The third Tajalli is concerning arts, crafts and sciences.  Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent.  Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone.  The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words.  Great indeed is the claim of scientists and craftsmen on the peoples of the world…. In truth, knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him.  –  Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 51-52

Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress.  It is not possible to fly with one wing alone!  Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 143

Any religious belief which is not comfortable with scientific proof and investigation is superstition, for true science is reason and reality, and religion is essentially reality and pure reason; therefore the two must correspond.  Religious teaching which is at variance with science and reason is human invention and imagination unworthy of acceptance, for the antithesis and opposite of knowledge is superstition born of the ignorance of man.  If we say religion is opposed to science we either lack knowledge of true science or true religion, for both are founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason and both must bear its test. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 103

Another cause of dissension and disagreement is the fact that religion has been pronounced at variance with science. Between scientists and the followers of religion there has always been controversy and strife for the reason that the latter have proclaimed religion superior in authority to science and considered scientific announcement opposed to the teachings of religion. Bahá’u’lláh declared that religion is in complete harmony with science and reason. If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man, and the religion of God is in harmony with it. Bahá’u’lláh has removed this form of dissension and discord from among mankind and reconciled science with religion by revealing the pure teachings of the divine reality. This accomplishment is specialized to Him in this Day.  –  `Abdu’l‑Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231

Science must be accepted.  No one truth can contradict another truth.  Light is good in whatsoever lamp it is burning!  A rose is beautiful in whatsoever garden it may bloom!  A star has the same radiance if it shines from the East or from the West.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 137

Future Unity Of Mankind Depends On Harmony Of Religion And Science

Much of the discord and disunion of the world is created by these man-made oppositions and contradictions.  If religion were in harmony with science and they walked together, much of the hatred and bitterness now bringing misery to the human race would be at an end.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 144

Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one.  When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles – and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God.  –  Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 146

Recommended Reading:

Paris Talks, Abdu’l-Baha

The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Abdu’l-Baha

Foundations of World Unity, Abdu’l-Baha

The Secret of Divine Civilization, Abdu’l-Baha

Baha’u’llah and the New Era, J.E. Esslemont

Science and Technology for Human Advancement, BIC Document #79‑0820, Bahá’í International Community United Nations Office

Causes of Bitterness

 What are some of the causes of bitterness?

 Misunderstanding:  Often we jump to conclusions without having all the facts.

This hatred and enmity, this bigotry and intolerance are outcomes of misunderstandings, the reality of religious unity will appear when these misunderstandings are dispelled.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 96)

Difference of Opinion:  Instead of thinking of truth as a diamond, with many facets, we feel that our way is the only right way.

Do not allow difference of opinion, or diversity of thought to separate you from your fellow-men, or to be the cause of dispute, hatred and strife in your hearts.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 53)

Taking Offence:  Our ego takes a bruising and we get our feelings hurt.  We take offence even when no offence was meant.

The temptation to react sharply and defensively is very great, yet we know that . . . we should not do so. Not only is it contrary to the spirit of the instructions of the Master and the Guardian, with which you are thoroughly familiar, but giving vent to such reaction tends to evoke resentment rather than bringing about the desired result.  (Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated January 25, 1972, to a National Spiritual Assembly)

Temporary Bonds of Brotherhood:  We form alliances which we think are forever and when they aren’t, it can lead to bitterness.  This can happen when family members betray you; or when gangs feel they have to defend their turf.

Brotherhood or fraternity is of different kinds. It may be family association, the intimate relationship of the household. This is limited and subject to change and disruption. How often it happens that in a family, love and agreement are changed into enmity and antagonism.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 79)

These forms of fraternity [family, race, nation, ethical motives], these bonds of brotherhood are merely temporal and transient in association. They do not insure harmony and are usually productive of disagreement. They do not prevent warfare and strife; on the contrary they are selfish, restricted and fruitful causes of enmity and hatred among mankind. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 227)

Holding onto Imitation and Ancestral Beliefs:  You see this in parts of the world that have been feuding for generations.  The original problems are long forgotten, but the bitterness continues down through the generations, and you follow suit without thinking, because your family has always held that particular prejudice.

Alas! we have turned away from that foundation [of divine religions], holding tenaciously to various dogmatic forms and blind imitation of ancestral beliefs. This is the real cause of enmity, hatred and bloodshed in the world; the reason of alienation and estrangement among mankind.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 96)

Imitations . . . have ever been the cause of strife, enmity, jealousy and war.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 158)

Human Inventions and Dogmas:   An example of this can be seen in Rwanda.  When the European colonists conducted censuses, they wanted to identify the peoples throughout Rwanda-Burundi according to a simple classification scheme. They defined “Tutsi” as anyone owning more than ten cows (a sign of wealth) or with the physical feature of a longer nose, commonly associated with the Tutsi. The Europeans noticed that some Rwandans had noses they thought characteristic of their people, so they created historical and racial theories to explain why some Africans inherited such features.  This ultimately became a factor in the genocide.

Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance . . .  we remain fettered and restricted by human inventions and dogmas, day by day the world of mankind will be degraded, day by day warfare and strife will increase and satanic forces converge toward the destruction of the human race.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 228)

Lack of Religious Unity and Association:  It’s hard for us to feel bitterness towards those we are associating with, if we can see that they are focused on God.

The world of humanity is one, and God is equally kind to all. What, then, is the source of unkindness and hatred in the human world? This real Shepherd loves all His sheep. He leads them in green pastures. He rears and protects them. What, then, is the source of enmity and alienation among humankind? Whence this conflict and strife? The real underlying cause is lack of religious unity and association, for in each of the great religions we find superstition, blind imitation of creeds, and theological formulas adhered to instead of the divine fundamentals, causing difference and divergence among mankind instead of agreement and fellowship. Consequently, strife, hatred and warfare have arisen, based upon this divergence and separation.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 393)

 

For more in this series:

Introduction to Bitterness:

Examples of Bitterness:

Bahá’í Quotes on Bitterness:

The 7 Underlings of Bitterness:

How Bitterness Works:

Effects of Bitterness:

Estrangement as an Outcome of Bitterness:

Warning Signs for Bitterness:

Solutions to Bitterness:

 

Peace and Tranquillity

 

God wants us to be at peace:

His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh endured ordeals and hardships sixty years . . . He willingly endured these difficulties . . . [that] peace and tranquility be realized by all. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 230)

He teaches us what is needed to overcome disease:

Praise be to Him, ye are acquainted with the various laws, institutions and principles of the world; today nothing short of these divine teachings can assure peace and tranquillity to mankind. But for these teachings, this darkness shall never vanish, these chronic diseases shall never be healed; nay, they shall grow fiercer from day to day.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 249)

We’ve lost our peace by a lack of security and trust:

Today no state in the world is in a condition of peace or tranquillity, for security and trust have vanished from among the people. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 293)

We need the love of God:

Know thou, verily, Baha’ was the Sun of Love and Peace, who shone forth with the Light of Guidance and was a Spirit of Life to all regions. The signs of His effulgence shall appear when the love of God shall influence the hearts, just as the soul influenceth bodies. The clouds of darkness shall be dispelled from the manifest light of love and peace, and from the abundant bounty of reconciliation and tranquillity.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 190)

And the love of each other:

May the light of love shine forth and illumine hearts, and may human lives be cemented and connected until all of us may find agreement and tranquility.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 115)

We need to turn to God:

It behoveth him who is a wayfarer in the path of God and a wanderer in His way to detach himself from all who are in the heavens and on the earth. He must renounce all save God, that perchance the portals of mercy may be unlocked before his face and the breezes of providence may waft over him. And when he hath inscribed upon his soul that which We have vouchsafed unto him of the quintessence of inner meaning and explanation, he will fathom  all the secrets of these allusions, and God shall bestow upon his heart a divine tranquillity and cause him to be of them that are at peace with themselves. In like manner wilt thou comprehend the meaning of all the ambiguous verses that have been sent down concerning the question thou didst ask of this Servant Who abideth upon the seat of abasement, Who walketh upon the earth as an exile with none to befriend, comfort, aid, or assist Him, Who hath placed His whole trust in God, and Who proclaimeth at all times: “Verily we are God’s, and to Him shall we return.”  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 25)

God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquillity of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 79)

The plight of man today is similar to that of a gardener who toils and labours in vain because he has planted his seeds in fertile soil but in a dark pit far away from the rays of the sun. Man has turned his back on the Sun of Truth. Not until he recognizes Him and turns to Him will he find peace on this earth and tranquillity in his heart.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 418)

And consider the messages of His prophets to be the Divine Remedy:

The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 79)

So many times when we are sick, we rush to see a doctor, without considering first the spiritual implications of our disease.

To none is given the right to question their words [those of the Prophets of God] or disparage their conduct, for they are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments. No man, however acute his perception, can ever hope to reach the heights which the wisdom and understanding of the Divine Physician have attained. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 79)

Following anyone other than the messengers of God, won’t lead us to happiness:

A great many people embrace these cults which become fashionable for a time. But when the Novelty wears off or dissatisfaction sets in, or the movements become impotent and disintegrate, then they look for another saviour, another movement or another sect, and there are many to turn to throughout the world. And so the experiment to find peace and tranquillity in one’s life continues. But so far few have found happiness or peace of mind.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 4, p. 71)

We need religion:

Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine. Unto this will bear witness every man of true understanding.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 125)

Religion is a manifest light and a strong fortress for the protection and tranquillity of the people of the world. For the fear of God commands people to do that which is just and forbids them that which is evil. If the lamp of Religion remain concealed agitation and anarchy would prevail, and the orb of justice and equity and the sun of peace and tranquillity would be withheld from giving light. Every man of discernment testifies to that which is mentioned.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i World Faith, p. 198)

We need virtues:

The first, the fundamental purpose underlying creation hath ever been, and will continue to be, none other than the appearance of trustworthiness and godliness, of sincerity and goodwill amongst mankind, for these qualities are the cause of peace, security and tranquillity. Blessed are those who possess such virtues. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 328)

We need trust that by becoming Bahá’í, God has already given us peace and tranquility:

These are they whose countenances God hath graciously turned away from the face of the unbelievers, and whom He hath sheltered beneath the shadow of the Tree of His own Being; they upon whose hearts He hath bestowed the gift of peace and tranquillity, and whom  He hath strengthened and assisted through the hosts of the seen and the unseen.  (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 10)

We need education:

“Bahá’u’lláh,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá affirmed, “after His return (from Sulaymaniyyih) made such strenuous efforts in educating and training this community, in reforming its manners, in regulating its affairs and in rehabilitating its fortunes, that in a short while all these troubles and mischiefs were quenched, and the utmost peace and tranquillity reigned in men’s hearts.”  (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 133)

We need to study the sacred texts for clues, and trust that God has our best interests at heart:

We have exhorted them at length in various Tablets and beseech God to graciously assist them, to enable them to draw nigh unto Him and to confirm them in that which would bring peace to the hearts and tranquillity to the souls and would stay their hands from whatsoever ill-beseemeth His days.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 121)

We need righteousness and understanding:

The purpose underlying the revelation of every heavenly Book, nay, of every divinely-revealed verse, is to endue all men with righteousness and understanding, so that peace and tranquillity may be firmly established amongst them.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 205)

When met with opposition we are asked to:

Resist their fighting with peace and reconciliation, their blows with kindness and perfection and their blame with joy and tranquillity.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 285)

Pray for the hateful sinners . . . Beseech God to direct them to the Path of Salvation and breathe into them the Spirit of Life.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 285)

By teaching others, we can ensure their peace and tranquility:

Consider what source of joy and gratification it should be to you to see people, who have been for years seeking for the truth and craving to obtain it, who look upon the prevailing conditions of the world with distress and earnestly pray for salvation, find through you the object of their quest and attain the peace, tranquillity and spiritual life which they have longed for. The accomplishment of the task and the resulting success will be an ample reward for all your strivings.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v II, p. 21)

He . . . affirms that man will experience peace and tranquillity when he becomes the well-wisher of all that dwell on earth and exhorts the peoples to leave the darkness of enmity and enter the light of unity.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 270)

God knows what has happened to us, and has given us prayers we can say:

Thou knowest all that is in me, O Lord, but I know not what is in Thee. Have mercy then upon me through Thy loving providence and inspire me with that which shall give peace to my heart during Thy days and tranquillity to my soul through the revelations of Thy sacred presence.  (Compilations, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

All laud and honor to Thee, O my God! Thou well knowest the things which, for a score of years, have happened in Thy days, and have continued to happen until this hour. No man can reckon, nor can any tongue tell, what hath befallen Thy chosen ones during all this time. They could obtain no shelter, nor find any refuge in which they could abide in safety. Turn, then, O my God, their fear into the evidences of Thy peace and Thy security, and their abasement into the sovereignty of Thy glory, and their poverty into Thine all-sufficient riches, and their distress into the wonders of Thy perfect tranquillity. Vouchsafe unto them the fragrances of Thy might and Thy mercy, and send down upon them, out of Thy marvelous loving-kindness, what will enable them to dispense with all except Thee, and will detach them from aught save Thyself, that the sovereignty of Thy oneness may be revealed and the supremacy of Thy grace and Thy bounty demonstrated.   (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 335)