The conviction that we belong to a single human family is at the heart of the Bahá'í Faith. The principle of the oneness of humankind is the pivot around which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolve.
Misconceptions and prejudices that consider one group of people as superior to another are a major contributor to humanity’s present afflictions. Racism retards the potentiality of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. If this problem is to be overcome, the oneness of humanity must be universally upheld and protected by law and through social policies and structures.
No ethnic or cultural grouping is superior to another. All receive God’s love in equal measure. Recognition by the biological and social sciences that there is only one human “race” removes any basis for prejudice. Every individual, from whatever background, can contribute to the betterment of the world.
Love of all the world’s peoples does not exclude love of one’s country. But unbridled nationalism and its associated prejudices must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole. “Let not a man glory in that he loves his country,” said Bahá'u'lláh, “let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”
The religions of the world have been founded by the successive Manifestations of God. Each religion originates with God and is suited to the age and place in which it is revealed. In essence, the religion of God is one and is progressively
Religions have the power to inspire breathtaking achievements in all fields of human endeavor and to elicit extraordinary qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice, and self-discipline from their followers. Religions produce universal codes of law and institutional systems that allow people to live together in ever-larger and more complex societies.
If all the great religions are from the same God, and can be considered to be one in essence, how can we understand their differences, particularly regarding social practices? Bahá’u’llah explained that the Founders of the world’s religions could be regarded as skilled physicians. Each has a central mission, and each has a complete grasp of the nature of the body of humanity and is able to prescribe the appropriate cures for the ills of the world at the time and place in which He appears.
The mission of Bahá'u'lláh, God’s Messenger for this age, is to spiritually re-awaken and unite the peoples of the world. Bahá'u'lláh’s teachings speak of peace as “the supreme goal of all mankind” and explain the spiritual principles that will guide humanity to this universal, lasting peace. This great peace has been promised by all of the previous Manifestations of God.
If we liken God to the unapproachable blazing sun, then the Manifestations of God are like mirrors that perfectly reflect God’s light to human beings.
Our knowledge of God, and humanity’s spiritual, intellectual, and moral capacities, have been cultivated by these Manifestations of God. These Divine Educators appear in different places in the world at different times, with teachings essential for the development of the people in that place and time.
While each Manifestation has a distinct individuality and a definite mission, They all share a divinely ordained purpose—to educate all people, refine their character, and endure all created things with grace.
With the coming of each Manifestation, spiritual forces are released which, over time, increasingly permeate human affairs, providing the main impulse for the further development of consciousness and society.
This process, in which the Manifestations of God have continuously provided the guidance necessary for humanity’s social and spiritual evolution, is known as “progressive revelation.” Bahá'u'lláh explicitly stated that after the passage of at least a thousand years, another Manifestation of God would appear.
“The Revelation of God may be likened to the sun. No matter how innumerable its risings, there is but one sun, and upon it depends the life of all things.” —The Báb
The Bahá'í writings explain that although we may find expression of God’s attributes in every created thing, although we can see signs of God in the beauty, richness, and diversity of the natural world, the reality of God—as Creator
of the universe and all that is in it—is beyond the understanding of any mortal mind. God is limitless, infinite, and all-powerful. God is all-knowing, all-merciful, and all-loving. God is one.
Out of love for humanity, God has revealed Himself and His Will through a series of Divine Messengers, or “Manifestations of God.” What we know about the unknowable God has been taught to us by these successive Founders of the world’s religions. Their teachings help us develop and express our spiritual attributes and draw closer to our Creator.
Although the exact nature of God eludes us, the purpose of our lives is to recognize, love, and grow closer to Him. We may do so by striving to emulate God’s attributes, such as love, compassion, generosity, justice, and mercy, in both our inner lives and our actions.
The essential identity of every human being is a rational and immortal soul, Bahá'u'lláh uses the metaphor of the sun to explain the relationship between the soul and the body: “The soul
of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded.”
We are able to reflect divine attributes to the extent that we cleanse the mirrors of our hearts and minds through prayer, the study and application of the Sacred Scriptures, the acquisition of knowledge, efforts to improve our conduct and to overcome tests and difficulties, and service to humanity.
When death occurs in this world, the soul is separated from the body, and continues to progress in an eternal journey towards perfection.
Bahá'u'lláh affirmed that each human being possesses a distinct, rational soul that constitutes the real self. The soul has its origin in the spiritual worlds of God. It is created in the image and likeness of God, meaning that it
is capable of acquiring divine qualities and heavenly attributes. The individual soul begins its association with the human being at the time of conception, but the association is not material; the soul does not enter or leave
the body and does not occupy physical space.
The soul shows itself through the powers of the mind and the qualities of character that we associate with each person. The expressions of the soul are love and compassion, faith and courage, rational thought and imagination, and other such human qualities that cannot be fully explained by considering a human being as an animal or as a sophisticated organic machine.
Our soul is nourished in prayer. As stated in the Bahá'í writings:
“For the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling that unites man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer.... The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide.”
When death occurs, the body returns to the world of dust, while the soul continues to progress towards God. Bahá'u'lláh wrote that the soul “will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and
The exact nature of the afterlife remains a mystery. “The nature of the soul after death can never be described,” wrote Bahá'u'lláh. Heaven may be understood as a state of relative nearness to God; hell as a state of remoteness from God. One’s degree of nearness to God follows as a natural consequence of his or her efforts to develop spiritually, and also depends on the grace and bounty of God. During this earthly physical existence, one can develop the spiritual qualities that will be needed in the next life, which is a spiritual existence.