Today the Bahá'í Faith counts millions of followers in virtually every nation and territory on earth, firmly establishing it as a great new world religion. The achievements of this united global community, comprising the whole diversity of the human race, already portend the realization of mankind's ancient hopes for world peace and universal happiness.
The Bahá'í Faith has been an active part of religious and social life in America since the late 1800's. It advocates spiritual solutions based on the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh on issues such as the elimination of all forms of prejudice with an emphasis on race unity, the equality of women and men, the spiritual education of children, the importance of family cohesion, and the establishment of world peace. Bahá'u'lláh is God’s Messenger for this day, a day in which all humanity is spiritually mature and can visualize the reality of uniting to build the Kingdom of God on Earth.
The Baha'i Faith came to the U.S. in the early 1890s, and was nurtured by the religion's second leader, 'Abdul-Baha. From 1921 to 1957, the world community was headed by Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Baha'ullah's great-grandson, who died childless and without a successor as "Guardian" or interpreter of the religion. After a hiatus, the Universal House of Justice, consisting of nine men, was elected by the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the world in Haifa, Israel, in 1963, in the wake of a Baha'i world congress held in London.
The expansion of the Bahá'í Faith takes place mainly through the person-to-person contact of individual Bahá'ís with their neighbours and friends. Those who express an interest are invited to a "fireside", an informal gathering usually held in the home of one of the Bahá'ís. In some countries, however, especially in the villages of the poorer countries of the world, the Bahá'í Faith has been proclaimed and accepted by large numbers of people at one time.
The Baha'i Faith has no priests or clergy; it also has no rituals or sacraments. The actual process of becoming a Baha'i is very simple. If you live in the United States and want to become a Baha'i, there is a 'Declaration Card' available from the Baha'i National Center which should be signed and returned.
One goal of the Bahá'í movement is to bring about an all-inclusive global faith under a federalist world government. Their views on the nature of God reflect this desire to include all beliefs, gods, and religions neatly into their belief system. They teach that God is so far beyond humans that no one can really know the essence of God; while Bahá'í is clearly a monotheistic faith, and unknowable God means any god will fit the mold, whether it be Allah, Yahweh or Brahma.
Bahá'ís believe that spiritual life goes hand in hand with the practical life. They see social and economic development projects as an expression of faith in action. So Bahá'ís are much involved in projects to improve the world, but their projects always intend moral, spiritual and social improvement as well as helping people improve their physical condition.
For Bahá'ís, the word of the Manifestation is the Word of God, though which an individual can grow closer to God and acquire a deeper knowledge of Him. The most holy text is the Kitab-i-Aqbas, written by Bahá'u'lláh, which forms the book of laws in the Bahá'í Faith. Other important texts include: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, Epistle to the Son of Wolf, and The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys.
Bahá'í Faith psychology proceeds from a holistic point of view with both phenomenological and universal foundations. The ideographic aspects of the individual and his or her subjective experience is an essential part of understanding human nature, motivation, intentionality, and behavior. Equally important, on the other hand, is that human nature cannot be studied separate from its historical, cultural, environmental, and transcendental/teleological elements.
Born out of the messianic expectations of Islam, the Bahá'í Faith is not a sect of Islam, but rather an independent prophetic religion with a new central figure and a new holy book. It is the most recent of the revealed religions and is increasingly classified as a world religion by scholars of comparative religious studies. During its 150 year history it has spread to almost all countries of the world and, in geographical terms, is the second most widespread religion after Christianity.