Religion in a new light
November 2, 2008

We’ve all heard endless versions of the joke about how many people of this or that profession it takes to change a light bulb. The purpose of these jokes is to show how some of us can make such a meal of doing something so simple as changing a light bulb.

Imagine how much more embarrassing it would be if the light bulb didn’t need changing in the first place! Say, if the light switch was off, or if there was so much dust on the bulb, that it hid the light completely.

This idea of light being hidden by dust is a powerful metaphor in the Bahá’í Writings. Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, compared religion to a radiant light that is all too often obscured by the dust of prejudice, dogma and fanaticism.

The consequences, in terms of human well-being, have been ruinous. It’s surely unnecessary to give examples of some of the terrible deeds that have been carried out, that bring shame on the name of religion. So it’s not surprising then, that people are turning away from religion altogether, and blaming it for many of the problems in the world today.

But if the dust of prejudice were somehow removed from the light of religion, then maybe we could see all the world’s faiths in a new light – not as separate and unrelated to each other, but all united, all part of one eternal Truth, coming from the same Divine source.

Bahá’u’lláh said that unity is the only power that can bring light to the world. He said: “The well being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”

Since Bahá’u’lláh wrote these words in the middle of the 19th century, we’ve taken significant steps towards unity among nations, but not among the world’s religions. All around the world, we still seem to be caught up in old ways of religious conflict.

And if we really can’t remove the dust of prejudice that’s obscuring the light of any religion, then we have two options. Either we stay in the dark – or we search for a new light bulb.