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Baha’i Faith

QUESTION: What part does tolerance play in the Baha’i faith?


Tolerance is a major theme and concept in Baha’i teaching. The Baha’i ultimately believed in one world race, one world religion, one world government, and a universal language. As such, intolerance of any kind was anathema and totally contrary to all that the Baha’i stood for.

Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah and considered to be his successor stated, “Fanaticism and ‘unreasoning religious zeal’ repel others.” Accepting the religious beliefs and practices of others was to be done magnanimously and with delight. Baha’u’llah himself taught his followers to associate with all the people of the world with joy and radiance. This acceptance of all people was to be along all lines, cultural and religious. Indeed, the only beliefs that were not tolerated by the Baha’i faith were the particular religious beliefs of any that included prejudice and hatred. The mistreatment of others based on religious superiority was shunned. Minority religious groups of that time, in the mid-nineteenth century, such as Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians were often criticized and considered ritually unclean by others. The acceptance of the persons and beliefs of these groups actually led to some of them converting to the Baha’i faith.

The promotion of tolerance by members of the Baha’i faith was a natural outgrowth of their ideas about God. Since the Baha’i beliefs are lofty and moralistic, they believed that God was disinterested in outward physical differences and characteristics; God was concerned with behavior, good deeds and unity. Thus, it was incumbent upon the followers of Baha’i to rid themselves of all forms of prejudice. This was a great challenge but nevertheless to be sought after, individuals striving for higher and higher levels of tolerance and acceptance. The abolition of prejudice whether racial, religious, political, or economic must be achieved at all costs. Instead, moral worth and spiritual well-being were to be promoted; these were godly concerns.

The Baha’i have strong beliefs concerning human rights; these rights are to be supported by humans towards each other and by the government. First and foremost is the equality of all mankind, including the equality of women and men. This means that all are entitled to equal opportunities of education, work, and political participation. The Baha’i believe that all humans have the right to work and fair wages. They are entitled to own property, receive inheritance, and expect rest from labor, such as vacations. Baha’is believe that each person can chose their own marriage partner, though subject to parental consent, and that couples can decide how many children they would like to have. Neither spouse has the right to dominate.

All people should be free from economic or chattel slavery. The government has the responsibility to rule with justice and to stand firm against crime. The government should also promote peace, international accord, and encourage religion. The Baha’i emphasis on tolerance of all religions plainly coincides with their belief that ultimately there will be one religion and one people. This fostering of tolerance is escalating this eventual outcome.

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