“[I]s not the object of every Revelation,” He asks, “to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?”2
Following the coming of the Manifestation of God, extraordinary progress occurs in the world. Reaching to the roots of human motivation, His teachings awaken in whole populations capacities to contribute to the advancement of civilization to an extent never before possible. They also inspire breathtaking achievements in all fields of human endeavour and elicit from His followers extraordinary qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice and self-discipline. Universal codes of law and institutional systems are created that bind people together in ever larger and more complex societies.
Thus—as the driving force of the civilizing process and the primary agent of human development—religion has the power both to nurture moral character and profoundly influence social relationships.
The teachings that the successive Manifestations of God reveal to humanity are “endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame.”3 Once accepted, these teachings can overturn old patterns of thought and contribute to new understandings at the deepest levels of belief. But belief must be accompanied by a sincere effort to “translate that which is written into reality and action.”4
By fully adopting and putting into practice the divine teachings, the true follower is led “to sincerity of intent, to high purpose, to purity and spotless honor, to surpassing kindness and compassion, to the keeping of their covenants when they have covenanted, to concern for the rights of others, to liberality, to justice in every aspect of life, to humanity and philanthropy, to valor and to unflagging efforts in the service of mankind.”5
Religion also provides the teachings and unifying power by which entire societies can achieve order and stability. And it is the Word of God that, alone, “can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required for so great and far-reaching a change.”6
No lasting transformation can be effected without unity and agreement “and the perfect means for engendering fellowship and union is true religion.”7 It must “unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart.”8
The indispensability of religion to social order has repeatedly been demonstrated by its direct effect on laws and morality. When the lamp of religion is obscured, the result is chaos and confusion and the “lights of fairness and justice, of tranquility and peace cease to shine.”9
The separations and conflicts between people, carried out in the name of religion, are contrary to its true nature and purpose. “If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act,”10 said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion.”11