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Eradicating Extremes of Poverty and Wealth: A Collective Undertaking and a Determinant of Justice

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Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic and the recent war have widened the extent and aspects of poverty across the globe necessitating further research and action. Yet, despite the depth of existing research on poverty, the role of religion is still in debate. Accordingly, this chapter explores the contribution of the Bahá’í Faith as a contemporary world religion to this discourse. It finds that the Bahá’í scripture articulates extremes of poverty and wealth as structural issues rooted in ‘morality’ and ‘justice’, and emphasises the role of individuals, firms, societies, governments, law, and educational systems and mechanisms, to collaborate and take ownership of eradication of both extremes. At an organisational level, it stresses moderate withdrawal of profit and the owners’ willingness to share, employees’ fair remuneration and share on the profit towards a distributed comfortable life, and philanthropic activities in various contexts and extents.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Douglas’ identification of religion is of particular interest to this chapter, as she theorises the “plausibility of different forms of religion, worldview and ideology”, explaining that people’s religiosity and acceptance of religious precepts depend on what makes sense to them, and that depends on their social environment, for instance solidarity (Douglas, 1986). She explains that rational competitive individuals guided by self-interest would not accept solidarity, as they realise their donations would not make much difference and if others don’t donate too, theirs would be wasted. However, existence of volunteer services points to other types of rewards such as God’s grace, “Belief in a God who rewards good works or in ancestors who punish transgressions substitutes for worldly honours and threats” (Spickard, 1991, p. 7). Thus, Douglas (1986, p. 13) discusses achieving legitimacy based on the theory of functionalism, stating that beliefs keep societies together because “individuals carry the social order around inside their heads and project it out onto nature”.

    However, some scholars have opposed functionalism in exploring religion. For instance, Penner (1971, p. 94) argues that functionalism explains religion as “antecedent-consequent”, making changes in individuals and societies (the latter often unintended), but it would be inadmissible “to argue that [an] unintended consequence of religion is the cause of religion”. However, Burhenn (1980) acknowledges the criticisms and states that while functionalism fails to explain ‘why’ certain religious phenomena happen, it is a valuable tool to explain religion and ‘how’ these phenomena happen. This chapter, accordingly, will not explore a causal relationship, but aims to explain the Bahá’í Faith and its approach to poverty alleviation, rather than exploration of a particular impact, directly or indirectly associated its precepts.

  2. 2.

    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1979, pp. 28–33) and Shoghi Effendi (1991, p. 203), thus, draw an alternative path to a universal peace, through principles such as unity of nations (through an agreement among representative of ‘all’ nations), establishment of a universal auxiliary language (to be learnt along the mother tongue), universal sharing of the natural resources among all nations, a universally agreed monetary system, and establishment of supreme tribunal to resolve the issues between the nations. In such a case then, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1990a, p. 65) states that the governments would not need the “pile of the weapons of war” or to produce “new military weapons” any more, and “a small force for the purposes of internal security, the correction of criminal and disorderly elements, and the prevention of local disturbances” would suffice. This, along with other benefits, would free the efforts of the nations to “bend their efforts to the production of whatever will foster human existence and peace and well-being, and would become the cause of universal development and prosperity” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1990b, p. 65).

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Correspondence to Legha Momtazian .

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Momtazian, L. (2022). Eradicating Extremes of Poverty and Wealth: A Collective Undertaking and a Determinant of Justice. In: Vu, M.C., Singh, N., Burton, N., Chu, I. (eds) Faith Traditions and Practices in the Workplace Volume I. Palgrave Studies in Workplace Spirituality and Fulfillment. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-09349-4_9

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