One of the most persistent problems facing the world today is religious strife – a truism that has never been more true. On the local level, Santa Barbara religious groups have worked hard to foster an interfaith community, putting on events like the Interfaith Thanksgiving and the Interfaith Seder, both of which were covered by Your Worship.
Despite these efforts to reach out to members of other religions, however, only one monotheistic faith has truly attempted to reconcile every major world religion. That is the Bah¡’- Faith, which recognizes the prophets of all other religions as Messengers of God, and the beliefs of all other religions as being an aspect of the truth.
The Bah¡’- Faith began in Iran in the 19th century as a sect of Islam. While certain interesting remnants of Islam remain in the Bah¡’- Faith – such as a prohibition against publicly displaying images of the religion’s founder, Bah¡’u’ll¡h, which is reminiscent of Islam’s ban on images of the Prophet Muhammed – Bah¡’- quickly developed into a religion very different from the Muslim faith.
The overriding principle of Bah¡’-, if it were possible to express an entire religion in one word, might be unity. Global oneness and peace between all is the long-term goal of the Bah¡’- Faith, and total equality between everyone, regardless of race, gender, or location, seems to be the slightly shorter-term goal toward which the followers of the Bah¡’- Faith are working.
In keeping with these goals – which those of the Bah¡’- Faith are well aware will not come about through prayer alone – Bah¡’- houses of worship are not just a place to gather for worship services. Instead, they are multi-functional buildings with space for community activities. The buildings themselves are distinctive, nine-sided, and with a central dome. The number nine is important within the Bah¡’- Faith; administrative groups within the religion are also composed of nine individuals. Within the Bah¡’- Faith, the number represents unity and togetherness.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Bah¡’- Faith is the religion’s mix of what might be thought of as progressive ideology with other, fairly conservative ideas. The Bah¡’- Faith takes a traditional view of marriage, for example, and officially disapproves of homosexuality and extramarital sex. At the same time, one of the Faith’s most important tenets is an insistence on the equal rights of women in all contexts. These facets of the Bah¡’- Faith are only contradictory when viewed in terms of stereotypical two-party American politics, but it takes a moment of mental readjustment to reconcile the Bah¡’- Faith’s beliefs, nonetheless.
In Santa Barbara, the Bah¡’- Faith can be reached by calling 965-3246 or by visiting bahai.org.