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The Bahai Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions. Its founder, Bahai (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahia's as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.

The central theme of Bahai's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahai said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.

One of the purposes of the Bahai Faith is to help make this possible. A worldwide community of some five million Bahai's, representative of most of the nations, races and cultures on earth, is working to give Bahai's teachings practical effect. Their experience will be a source of encouragement to all who share their vision of humanity as one global family and the earth as one homeland.
Bahai's taught that each human being is "a mine rich in gems" unknown even to the owner, let alone to others, and inexhaustible in its wealth. The purpose of life is to develop these capacities both for one's own life and for the service of humanity. Life in this world, as Bahai's presents it, is like the life of a child in the womb of its mother: the moral, intellectual, and spiritual powers which a human being develops here, with the help of God, will be the "limbs" and "organs" needed for the soul's progress in the worlds beyond this earthly one.

The way of life which Bahai's seek to cultivate, therefore, is one that encourages personal development. Daily prayer and meditation free the soul from conditioned patterns and open it to new possibilities. Joining in projects with peoples of diverse backgrounds breaks down traditional prejudices. The use of alcohol or narcotic drugs is avoided, except when prescribed for medical reasons, because these substances eventually deaden the mind. The latter is also true of the habit of backbiting, which weakens trust between people and undermines the spirit of unity upon which human progress depends. Bahai's writings attach great importance to the institution of the family as the foundation of human society. The sanctity of marriage, recognition of the equality of the husband and wife, and the use of consultation are especially emphasized.
Science and Faith
Science is the truth only in matters that can be objectified; in the spiritual world, where values, goals, authority and purpose are located, science has nothing to say, and it is a poor life that is restricted to the scientific standard of truth, where you and I are nothing but a collection of atoms without meaning and purpose. Realizing the narrow-minded nature of science opens the gate to an understanding of God that complements the scientific truth and gives life, love and peace.
Bahai's and the United Nations
The staff of the Bahai's International Community's offices in New York, taken in front of the United Nations General Assembly Building.
The Bahai's Faith teaches that true religion promotes unity, and that unity is the fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of global peace. "The well-being of mankind," Bahai's said, "its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."

Among the measures which the Bahai's community advocates as contributions to world unity are a federation of nations, an international auxiliary language, the coordination of the world's economy, a universal system of education, a code of human rights for all peoples, an integrated mechanism for global communication, and a universal system of currency, weights and measures.

Believing that the United Nations represents a major effort in the unification of the planet, Bahai's have supported its work in every way possible. The Bahai's International Community is accredited with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The Community's offices in New York and Geneva and Bahai's in many lands regularly participate in conferences, congresses and seminars concerned with the socio-economic life of our planet.

The sufferings which their own fellow believers have experienced as victims of religious persecution have particularly sensitized Bahai's to Bahai'steachings on human rights. The Bahai's International Community participates actively in United Nations consultations dealing with minority rights, the status of women, crime prevention, the control of narcotic drugs, the welfare of children and the family, and the movement toward disarmament. The Bahai's International Community and the United Nations

Everyone now and then, people on TV dramas or sitcoms quote scripture, kneel before crosses, mention Jesus by name or perform other acts that symbolize religious devotion.

What happens next is rather predictable, according to the Media Research Center's third annual "Faith In A Box" study of television entertainment and news. A commercial or two later, these true believers usually rob, rape, seduce or shoot someone, or at the very least act like bigots.

"It appears to be OK for characters to say that they have a kind of nebulous faith in some higher power," said Thomas Johnson, who wrote the study's entertainment report. "But the warning sign is when people do something that shows that religion is the most important thing in their lives. That means they're strange ... and they almost always turn out to be intolerant, violent wackos."

In news reports, the Media Research Center is almost always identified as a "conservative media watch group," which means that many media insiders scoff at its findings. However, the "Faith In A Box" reports are getting harder to ignore.

During 1995, the center's researchers studied virtually all prime-time programs -- almost 1,800 hours of content -- on major and minor broadcast networks. The number of portrayals of religion rose slightly to 287, from 253 in 1994. Still, this meant fewer than one depiction for every six hours of programming.

The report noted that negative portrayals of "devout laity and of the clergy" rose sharply, from 35 percent in 1994 to 64 percent in 1995. Positive portrayals of devout laity slid from 44 percent in 1994 to 11 percent in 1995. Twenty percent of 1995 clergy references were positive in, an 8 percent drop in a year.

In other words, while "spirituality" may be making a slight comeback, most Hollywood artists continue to blast religious traditionalists. This is especially true in programs that focus on sex and social issues.

"One of the harshest things you can say about someone in the entertainment business is that they're judgmental. That's a curse," said Johnson. "So when characters say that what they believe is absolutely true, or say that a particular act is sinful, then that means they're judgmental. Obviously, they're bad guys."

The news wasn't much better in network newsrooms. Out of 18,000-plus evening-news reports, religion drew 249. Out of more than 26,000 items in morning-news programs, religion drew 224. "Networks continue to neglect people and issues of faith in their everyday reporting," said the report. "When religion is covered, hostility toward traditional religious positions on social issues remains overt and sometimes unrebutted."

In one case study, "60 Minutes" superstar Mike Wallace devoted an entire segment to Call to Action, a Catholic group that opposes church teachings on birth control, the ordination of women, priestly celibacy, abortion and other social issues. The report featured 25 Call to Action sound bites, without including a single traditional Catholic voice. Later, Wallace told the Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor that quotations from conservative Catholics just didn't blend with Call To Action footage.

As in Hollywood, social issues cause problems. Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz, appearing on conservative Cal Thomas' CNBC talk show, conceded that a "cultural bias" exists on subjects such as religion, abortion and homosexuality. "I think a lot of it is unconscious, but I think on those kinds of subjects, most reporters are probably to the left of the American public," he said.

Media Research Center analysts did find some signs of improvement, especially at ABC News, the only network newsroom with a religion specialist. Also, the faith-friendly CBS drama "Touched By An Angel" is drawing a loyal audience. Acknowledging that religion plays a positive role in millions of lives might be a savvy move in an era when complaints are up and ratings down.

Nevertheless, "old habits don't change easily," the report concluded. "The silver lining ... is that the failure of the broadcast networks' yuppie-centered fall offerings and the continued decline in their share of the audience makes a return to traditional programming a more attractive prospect now."

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