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January 2, 2014

Question: Are there really ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people?

Yes, there are, and many shades in between. But the question implies a standard by which so-called good and bad behaviour can be judged.

One of the historical functions of religion, which has been established by the founders of the world’s faiths, is precisely to provide such a standard, whether by laws, teachings, exhortations, and so forth.

Of course, both the religious and non-religious do violate moral standards, but if we accept the standard as being valid, we know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, even if we sometimes fail to live up to the measure. The realization of this discrepancy is called conscience.

An intended gem of wisdom holds that there are no good and bad people, only good and bad behaviour. But ‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), the son of the Prophet-Founder Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), the appointed interpreter of his father’s teachings, had a different view. He said that some individuals do exist who turn the soul entirely away from God. They live according to the dictates of the lowest side of their nature. These individuals become dominated by vices such as selfishness, ignorance and brutality.

If such an individual obtains the command of a tribe, a community or a nation, the potential for evil is great: “Men such as this, plan to work evil, to hurt and to destroy; they are entirely without the spirit of Divine compassion, for the celestial quality of the soul has been dominated by that of the material.”

However, it is important to state that the Baha’i teachings reject any teaching of original sin, i.e. that the human being is born with a sinful nature. In the design of God, creation is purely good; evil results from a lack of spiritual education and from personal inclination.

The human soul when it enters this world is a pure, divine creation, with the potentiality to do good. This potential must become actualized by exposing the child, youth and adult to divine education; otherwise, the soul may be overwhelmed by its material nature. When man’s spiritual nature dominates the soul, he manifests praiseworthy virtues.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen January 2, 2014
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