Last week, I traveled to, a city famous for beautiful architectures, nice restaurants and terrible weather. Among the numerous magnificent architectures, Baha’i House of Worship (I prefer to call it Baha’i Temple) is by all means one of the landmarks. Considering its relatively remote location, it may not be the first choice for tourists or people who have never heard of Baha’i, but for me, it’s a must-go place since my best friend in China believes in Baha’i. I went there not just for sightseeing, I brought lots of questions as well – questions for this youngest religion in human history.
The temple itself is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Its unique structure, and complicated decoration originated from Islamic culture are just fascinating. After I walked into the auditorium, although I was not religious, I did feel that this place is so divine.
After I got out of the temple, I met an elegant old lady who had a name tag that says “Guide”. So I asked her whether she has time to answer some of my questions, which turned out to be start of our two-hour conversation.
Her name was Dorita and she chose to believe in Baha’i more than 40 years ago. The conversation was quite enlightening, in the first half of the conversation, we were basically discussing the deficiencies of other religions:
The intention of all the religions are good – they want to educate people to do good deeds and bring harmony to this world. However, human beings are fallible. Of course there is nothing wrong with Bible or Koran, but people could interpret them in a distorted way to serve their own interest. That happened so many times in human history and it is still happening in the 21st century. Think about the Middle Ages, the Crusades, indulgences in history and the Islamic extremism nowadays. All of them are in the name of the divine god and all of them are stupid, inhumane and indecent. Why is that? People change the way to interpret the religion and use if as a tool to manipulate people’s minds and behavior, especially when it is combined with the government, it becomes a powerful brainwashing.
Believing in something is good. However, believing in something blindly is dangerous.
“Baha’i doesn’t have such deficiencies because we emphasize personal development – Baha’is need to learn and meditate and try to be a better person day by day.” Dorita said. I don’t know how to respond because in my eyes, that deficiency mentioned above exists in every religion, including Baha’i. So I decided to ask another question to change the topic.
“What do you think of gay people? How about gay marriage? I heard that homosexuality is not allowed in Baha’i.” I asked.
“That’s not true.” She said. She explained that gay people are also welcome to join Baha’i and she knew some gay people who believe in Baha’i. “But, according to Bahá’u'lláh, marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” She kept explaining it, saying that it is decided by law of Bahá’u'lláh, marriage between two men or two women is not acceptable. Honestly speaking, this conclusion made me a little bit uncomfortable and at the same time, a little bit sad.
“But, ” She added, “There is possibility that we are wrong. My husband is doing a research on Bahá’u'lláh’s writing and he found that the word that is translated into homosexuality originally means the relationship between an adult man and a young boy. They changed the meaning of the word when they translate it into English.”
Well, that’s another perfect example of different interpretation to serve someone’s own interest. I thought. But this piece of information did make me happier. I was quite disappointed just three minutes ago, but at that moment, I felt much better. At least there is still hope and possibility, that’s enough.
Although I would love to spend more time on our conversation, I had to end it because I have to go to the airport. This conversation turned out to be a very pleasant and enlightening memory before I left Chicago. I still have to spend more time to think about these two hours, and hopefully I’ll revisited this place in the future, to bring up more questions.
There is no such thing as “perfect religion”. Of course it is not rational to deny every religion just because I see some dark part of it. I love to learn about religion and explore the culture behind it, however, by far, I’m not interested in believing in any one of them (If I have to choose one to believe in, maybe I’ll choose Buddhism or Taoism). Sometimes I ask myself “What do I believe in”, now my answer is “I believe in doing the right thing, things that go with the human nature and benefit the society.”
I don’t know whether it is God who created this world, the only thing I know is that it is we human beings who created what we have today. Thus, before believing in God, remember to believe in ourselves.