Religion: The Greatest Cause of Human Alienation 1

“‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ WILL SPEAK upon the oneness of humanity,” Reverend Leon Harvey told to his congregation at All Souls Unitarian Church in Brooklyn. “It is a great gospel,” he said. “Many have dreamed of it, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has lived it.”

The congregation at All Souls was one of the largest in the city. During its hundred-year history it had counted among its members some of New York’s most prominent reformers and cultural figures, including novelist Herman Melville. It was founded in 1819 under the Congregationalist banner, but by the late 1800s had become a Universalist Unitarian church – a movement with roots in Christianity, which accepted people of every religious background, unified by a dedication to spiritual growth and a commitment to serving the local community.

Reverend Harvey was pleased that he had assembled such a large crowd on one of the hottest days in memory. He began with a prayer: “We thank Thee for him whom we shall hear this morning and pray that whatever may come to us may not fall upon barren soil.”

Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the pulpit and began. “In this great century the most important accomplishment is the unity of mankind,” he announced, “it has now become the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world.”

The oneness of the world of humanity and the principles of divine religion 2

Today was a very happy day. The Master had been invited to speak at the Unitarian Church of New York. The pastor of the church [Rev Leon A. Harvey] advertised the talk in the newspapers and also posted announcements outside the church to the effect that the ‘Great Persian Prophet will speak at 11:00 a.m. on July 13 [14], 1912. A large multitude assembled. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was welcomed by the pastor, who escorted Him into his office. When the music and singing began, the Master came out. The pastor gave a short and interesting account of the history of the Cause and spoke of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s incarceration in the Most Great Prison in ‘Akká, after which he introduced the Master to the audience.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá stood and spoke on the oneness of the world of humanity and the principles of divine religion. His talk gave everyone fresh insight, opened new vistas before every eye and engendered a new spirit in every heart. At the end of His talk He chanted a prayer in a melodious voice, which stirred the souls and made everyone long to offer their prayers and supplications to the Kingdom of God. Not wishing to greet the audience one by one owing to the excessive heat and the strain of His exertions, the Master went into the pastor’s office and waited. The pastor told ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that people from the audience were waiting outside to shake hands with Him and to thank Him so the Master came out and stood on the platform. In great humility and reverence the people came one by one in a file from one side, shook His hand and left from the other side. Those who had not known of His presence in America asked for His address so they could visit Him.

On the way home from the church, the carriage passed through the spacious parks and gardens of the city. While the carriage was crushing the flowers and grass under its wheels, it seemed as if it were exacting tribute from the kings and bestowing crowns and thrones upon the poor.

In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke about the distribution of wealth and the means of livelihood, thus removing some of the erroneous notions of the socialists.

14 July 1912, Talk at All Souls Unitarian Church, Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York 3

Today I wish to speak to you upon the subject of the oneness of humanity, for in this great century the most important accomplishment is the unity of mankind. Although in former centuries and times this subject received some measure of mention and consideration, it has now become the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world. History shows that throughout the past there has been continual warfare and strife among the various nations, peoples and sects; but now—praise be to God!—in this century of illumination, hearts are inclined toward agreement and fellowship, and minds are thoughtful upon the question of the unification of mankind. There is an emanation of the universal consciousness today which clearly indicates the dawn of a great unity.

In the investigation of a subject the right method of approach is to carefully examine its premises. Therefore, we must go back to the foundation upon which human solidarity rests—namely, that all are the progeny of Adam, the creatures and servants of one God; that God is the Protector and Provider; that all are submerged in the sea of divine mercy and grace and God is loving toward all.

Humanity shares in common the intellectual and spiritual faculties of a created endowment. All are equally subject to the various exigencies of human life and are similarly occupied in acquiring the means of earthly subsistence. From the viewpoint of creation human beings stand upon the same footing in every respect, subject to the same requirements and seeking the enjoyment and comfort of earthly conditions. Therefore, the things humanity shares in common are numerous and manifest. This equal participation in the physical, intellectual and spiritual problems of human existence is a valid basis for the unification of mankind.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “Religion: The Greatest Cause of Human Alienation.” 239 Days in America, 14 July 2012, [return]
  2. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. [return]
  3. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 228-229. [return]