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October 14, 2012

Question:  “What is the greatest obstacle to faith?”

We should not reduce obstacles to faith to just one thing. But a possible single global answer would be the Ego—the insatiable selfishness that imperiously puts the wants and needs of the self at the centre of the universe. In such an egocentric world, there is no real room for others, least of all God, the Supreme Being of all beings. In such a world, the love of God would not exist. Ergo, faith would not exist. It would be replaced by self-love. The love of others would exist only to the extent that they satisfied the demands of the ego. By this negative definition, we can understand the great importance of universal, selfless love to belief in God/having faith.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh, and the appointed interpreter of his teachings, has commented on the dangerous nature of egotism as a threat to spirituality: “This [self-love] is a strange trait and the means of the destruction of many important souls in the world. If man be imbued with all good qualities but be selfish, all the other virtues will fade or pass away and eventually he will grow worse” (Tablets, vol. 1, p. 135). Those souls who have great faith (in God) have always demonstrated in their lives a great love of God. Love of God by definition translates into love for all His creatures, and this love is most often demonstrated by good deeds and sacrifice.

Systematic doubt and scepticism would be a second obstacle to faith. Faith is based on hope and affirmation—saying Yes to God, so to speak. Doubt and scepticism are not hopeful. They negate and deny, instead of affirming. As such, doubt does not empower; it disempowers. If it becomes necessary to doubt something, we should do so, as St. Augustine suggested, only in order to better understand the truth. A third obstacle to faith would be the poor example that the so-called “religious” have shown in the way they practice religion. Unhealthy religious ones have turned large numbers against religion and continue to do so.  
-  Jack McLean

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