Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Believe

"Why are you a Baha'i?" That question has been asked of me so often recently that I thought I would just write it down. I've written my declaration story. I've written a bit about how I practice my faith. But I don't think I've ever really talked about why I am a Baha'i.

Well, it all starts a long time ago when I realized that my beliefs were just a bit different than those around me. Without going into much detail, I started church hopping, going from church to church to see what I could learn. It was a wonderful time, but the churches I happened to choose to visit all had the same tendency to say "We're right and everyone else is going to hell." Later this became tempered to "We're right and everyone else is wrong." Better, but still not good. It leaves no room for learning from others, and is still fairly condemnatory. (Is that a word?) (If not, it should be.)

Anyways, during this time, I began checking out other religions besides Christianity and that was when I first ran across the Baha'i Faith. When I started reading the Writings, I found there were many things I questioned, or even disagreed with. As time went on, however, I found that I came to agree with Baha'u'llah's vision.

I began to see Him as an authority, and was eventually convinced that His view of reality was far more accurate than my own. It got to the point where I realized that He was right so many times that on those few occasions when I disagreed with what He said, I went with what He said over what I believed. Eventually, by taking what He said for granted, I came to realize that He was actually correct.

And really, is this any different than a student who trusts what their teacher says? Once the teacher has proven themselves as an authority, the student accepts what they say. They may not always know why, or how, but they trust their teacher. They accept the fact that they will probably understand later.

But let me be clear: I, for one, do not advocate blind faith. As 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds."  I believe that everyone should strive to find their own authority that they accept in their life, being conscious of it and understanding why they accept that authority. If they truly believe that they, themselves, are their highest authority, then I would wonder about their ego, but I would not suggest that they blindly follow someone else. Oh, and after this authority is acknowledged, then it is time to act on it. After all, what good is it to believe in something and then not act on it? As Baha'u'llah said in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, once we have recognized, then it is our duty "to observe every ordinance of Him" that we accept.

That sort of reminds me of Mark Twain when he said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." If you can read, but don't, what good does your ability do for you?

I believe the way I do because I searched. I took what Baha'u'llah said and I tested it, to the best of my ability. This is not to say that if I was not convinced according to my own deficient standards, Baha'u'llah would be any less. No. It just means that I would not have become a Baha'i.

Anyways, I tested what He said, and every single time His Writings just made more and more sense.

Eventually, I was convinced that He was a greater authority on reality than I am, and I began to take what He said as truth. When He said that He was a Messenger of God, well, I just had to accept that, too. It was not fathomable to me that He could have been wrong, or lied about it. He had convinced me.

Still does.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the way your description focuses around the realization that Bahá'u'lláh's view of reality was "far more accurate" than your own.

    I was also struck by the way in which this realization is not, as you mention, the same as "blind faith."

    When I think about it, I never had to "just accept" that Bahá'u'lláh was an authority, or just "have faith" that He knew what He was talking about. -- On the contrary! -- My trust in Bahá'u'lláh came as I actually considered His teachings, and it became more and more obvious to me, as I read and thought, and read more and thought more, that He actually does know a lot more about reality than I do. Like a whole lot. It was indisputable, really.

    So everything started to make a lot more sense (although I would not have considered myself confused before). And I started to understand things I hadn't previously understood (although I would not have considered myself ignorant at the time). So I grew to trust Him.

    I think this also highlights the appropriate sense of humility with which we must undertake all search for truth. In order to actually consider His ideas in the first place, especially when they were different than my own, I had to familiarize myself with the limits of my own knowledge, and prioritize learning over self-justification.

    And finally, the real challenge (and in my mind the greatest proof) is actually after the recognition of Bahá'u'lláh's wisdom, and that is, as you mentioned, to actually put His ideas into practice.