2. Bahai's view of the Soul
The Bahai faith is a little known religious faith but then they still got between 5 or 6 million adherents spread over 200 countries. They are a monotheistic religion worshipping the same God as the Christians and the Muslims. Founded in 19th century Persia, now Iran, they believe that God has revealed himself through a series of prophets including Buddha, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad with Báb Bahá'ulláh as its latest prophet. Believing in the unity of God, of religion and of mankind, they think that God is too great to be fully understood through one religion alone.
To the Bahais, all human beings have a "rational soul" and a duty which enables them to recognize God's creative power and status and how man is related to him through his messengers, which will come once every thousand year or so in times of turmoil and uncertainty, to follow his teachings of regular prayers and spiritual practice so that our "soul" becomes closer to God. They believe that before being born, we have no "soul" and that it is the
destiny of our "soul" to evolve away from materialism towards God. Like the Christians, they believe that when a man dies, his "soul" will pass on to the next world where he will be judged but to them, heaven and hell are not "physical places" of reward or punishment after death, only "spiritual states" of our distance or nearness to God.
Bahais believe that all human beings are equal and that hierarchies based on race, culture, nationalism, caste, social class and gender are artificial impediments to human solidarity. They think that all men are free to explore their faith in their own way in an ordinary daily life setting and do not believe that they need any professional priests. In fact they forbid a mendicant and ascetic lifestyle. However, they do believe that we must use our work, done in a spirit of service, as our form of worship and prayer to our creator God. They have suffered much persecution in Islamic countries.
I find that the Bahai's views about what "heaven" and "hell" are are very close to what I think. My only difference with them is that I believe that we do not experience "heaven" and "hell" only "after" death. To me, we do not have to wait for the arrival of the "kingdom of heaven" or for that matter, "hell" until the day of our death. I believe that every time we think, every time we feel, every time we act in a way contrary the principle of love preached by Moses, Jesus or Muhammad, the principle of compassion preached by Buddha, the principle of "benevolence"(仁) preached by the Confucians, the principle of Tao (道) preached by the Taoists, the principle of the universal good preached by the Hindus, we are already experiencing "hell" ( which is just the opposite of "heaven") and that the concepts of "heaven" and "hell" are merely metaphors of how far we have strayed from the path towards "God" or the Tao.
Like the Bahai, I believe that the human "soul" is just another "metaphor" to describe the "kind" of flesh and blood person that we "were/are/can be" i.e. the totality of all that we "were/are/may be", all that we "think", all that we "feel", all that we "do" to our "body" and to other "people". and to the "external physical universe" in the past, at present and in future until the moment of our death in this world. But unlike Bahais, I don't believe that our "soul" is something different from our "personality" and our "moral biography". nor that our souls will be judged by an entity called "God" after death. I believe that we are already constantly "judged" by the standards of human decency even in this life but that such standards are merely internalized social values we have adopted for ourselves based on criteria in the societies and cultures in which we happen to live and that we simply do not know for certain if there is "another world" after death. Many people claim to have "seen" another world and to have "seen" "spirits" or "souls" or various "gods" or even "the Buddha" or "God" or even that they have "heard" or "talked" with such "entities" and many people claim that they "know" that there is another world before we come into this world and after we shall be gone. To me, their "claims" remain just that: subjective "claims" and "beliefs". I have yet to be convinced of the "truth" of their claims. Whenever they encounter phenomena which they cannot explain by the principles of present day science or "common sense" and very often even when such phenomena can be perfectly explained by the application of the known principles of present day science (but are still unknown to them owing to the lack of the necessary educational opportunities available to them) without resort to "supernatural" principles, they immediately jump to the conclusion that it must be a "miracle" or must be the work of their "God" or their "boddhisattvas" or other gods that they worship or "spirits" or "ghosts" because they have offered the required "sacrifices" to such entities, through their "intermediaries", the priests, the monks, who have little hesitation to "cash" in on the "sale" or euphemistically called their "contribution" or "donations" or "gifts" towards the expenses of the requisite "offerings" in the form of flowers, fruits, animals, candles, joss sticks and other so-called "ritual" paraphernalia and for their intercessory "services" which they agree to perform on their behalves out of their "sympathy" for the plights of the relevant faithfuls or believers..
(To be cont'd)