“Belief? What do I believe in? I believe in sun. In rock. In the dogma of the sun and the doctrine of the rock. I believe in blood, fire, woman, rivers, eagles, storm, drums, flutes, banjos, and broom-tailed horses…”
Shirine (my name for those of you who didn’t know) is an uncommon name for a white Canadian due to the fact that it is of Persian origins, a name you would more commonly hear in Iran than where I am from. That’s because I am named after a Persian young women, a Baha’i martyr who was hung, at the young age of twenty-five (in 1983), because she would not denounce her faith. Though she could have fled, she choose instead to stay in Shiraz in order to continue serving her community. When asked how long she would hold off denouncing her faith, she said, “Even to death! I hope that God’s mercy will enable me to remain steadfast up to the last breath of my life.” Which is exactly what she did.
My father heard about her story through a song, “Mona and the Children” which hit the pop charts in Canada during the mid nineteen-eighties. The song depicts the story of Mona, a young seventeen year old girl who was hung (at the same time as Shirin) for teaching children, working at an orphanage, and simply being a Baha’i. Like Shirin and the nine other young women who were executed that day, she would not denounce her faith. This cruel hanging came to symbolize the government’s deadly persecution of Baha’is, and unfortunately, a new wave of persecution has recently hit the Iranian community. (Baha’i Human Rights)
Though I grew up Baha’i (I’ll go into what it is a bit more in a second) and still believe in its Teachings and Principles and Practices, I have come to view “organized religion” as a tool for destruction, disunity, and war in our present world and I don’t necessarily want to partake in any sort of religion, even one which strongly believes in peace and unity. Though every religion started with the same basic principles: love, unity, do no harm… us humans have done a mighty fine job of messing it all up, creating sects of religions which are in constant battle, and even killing “in the name of God.” (I will proudly say here that the Baha’i faith is the only major religion which has not split up, and never will, as that goes against the very basic core of the unity it is trying to promote). Though I may not feel the need to seek spirituality or answers for our worlds unanswered questions, I do strongly believe that the Baha’i way of life is indeed the only way our world will ever achieve world unity. Which is why it is so sad, that even today, Baha’is in the Middle East are denied education, their rights, and even, their lives.
Alright, so a bit about this somewhat unknown religion. The Baha’i faith started in 1844 in Persia, and has since spread to nearly every single country in the world. Though we are still small in numbers, the Baha’i faith is the second fastest growing religion. Baha’is believe that God has sent down different Messengers (Mohammad, Krishna, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ…) when mankind is in need of guidance, and that Bahá’u’lláh (the founder of the Baha’i faith) is the prophet for this day and age. He is a son of God, the one foretold about in the Bible (the “second coming” of Christ), who has brought teachings to help our world through this violent and turbulent time. Because Baha’is believe in all of the prophets of the past (they believe each one is a chapter in the one religion sent by the one and only God), they therefore accept all religions. They see religion as an every advancing progression of ideas and teachings, and that the Baha’i faith is the religion for our current time. (For a brief history check out: Baha’i History)
Now, before we go any further, I will admit one thing… I haven’t decided what I believe about God, or even if I believe in “Him”. I have always felt atheistic, but, as many people often state, there is no way to prove it either way. Sure, maybe there is a God who created our universe, but to me, at least right now, that doesn’t matter. I do know however, that regardless about my feelings (or lack of feelings) towards “God,” that I will strive to live my life following the Baha’i principles, not because someone told me to or because I blindly believe in religion, but rather because I believe it is the healthiest, most meaningful, and overall best way to life a life of happiness. (Seriously, when was the last time you encountered a truly happy serial killer? Kind, good willed, peaceful people are the ones who are happy.)
Baha’is believe in unity, oneness, and truthfulness. They believe that everyone was created equal, and they believe that science and religion are one. They believe in the power of education. Baha’is believe in the independent investigation of truth and that it is up to you to determine Bahá’u’lláh writings for yourself (there is no priest or “interpreter,” that’s your job). They believe in a life of service, in high moral standards, and in a life free of alcohol, backbiting, and gambling. And most importantly, they believe in peace, world peace, and world unity.
Regardless of your feelings towards God, organized religion, or spirituality, there is no denying the fact that the Baha’i principles are indeed guidelines for a happy, healthy, radiant life. It’s not more blind followers, rituals, or meaningless religious wars that we need, it is simply a moral code such as this which will make our world a much more hospitable place for us and our children.
“The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for humanity’s unification into one global society. While reaffirming the core ethical principles common to all religions, Bahá’u’lláh also revealed new laws and teachings to lay the foundations of a global civilization. “A new life,” Bahá’u’lláh declared, “is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth. The worldwide Bahá’í community, composed of people from virtually every racial, ethnic and religious background, is working to give practical expression to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of world unity.”