Questions from an Atheist
The Granularity of God
Day and night you must strive that you may attain to the
significances of the heavenly Kingdom, perceive the signs of
Divi...
Behind the Questions
An online conversation started by an atheist
philosopher and blogger: “Maynard”
He asked these questi...
The Questions
1. Is God a (a) material or (b) non-material entity? (i.e., is God made up of the same kind of

stuff like p...
Nature of the Questions
The questions spring from a
number of assumptions:
That our concepts of omniscience
and omnipotenc...
Question 1:

Is God a (a) material or (b) non-material entity? (i.e., is God made up of
the same kind of stuff like proton...
What Sort of Being Is God?
All the visible universe comes
from my invisible Being. All
beings have their rest in me, but I...
The Writer’s POV
I am “in” the books I write.
But I am not literally or physically in the
book.
I created the characters, ...
“All my visible literary universe
comes from my invisible being. All
characters have their rest (and
origin) in me, but I ...
“He hath known God who hath known
himself.”
— Bahá’u’lláh
In God’s Image...
Sacred texts dating back millennia tell us that human beings are, in
some essential way, created in God’...
What does this mean?
I think if we recognize the
uniqueness of our own
rational faculty, we’ll have a
fraction of a glimmer of a
clue about the...
So, here’s a neat twist...
The scriptures of the world’s
religions tell us the human
spirit is a reflection of the God
who...
How so?
If we posit that God is, like us,
made up of star stuff (atoms,
etc) then we end up with an
infinite regression. (...
Question 2:

Does God exist everywhere in space?
God’s Address
God dwells in the heart of all beings, Arjuna: thy God dwells in thy
heart. And His power of wonder moves al...
The Home of God
The scriptures of these three faiths
(Hinduism, Christianity and the Baha’i
Faith), though thousands of ye...
How does God
dwell in our
hearts?
My understanding: He
dwells there when we
live by the spiritual
principles and practices...
The Absolute
Krishna gives God absolute
existence (a concept repeated in
diverse scriptures) and the
capacity to pervade a...
Something to ponder...
The human intellect has
the capacity to escape
the world of the “born,
originated, formed”. It
can ...
If we are “chips” off the Divine Block...
Why is it so hard for some of us
to accept the idea of a Being
even more placele...
The Placeless...
According to Bahá’u’lláh, God does
not have a distinct physical “place” in
space — especially if by this ...
“And also in your
own selves: will ye
not then behold the
signs of God?”
— Muhammad
Question 3:

Is God a sentient being like us, with thoughts and
feelings?
Is God Sentient?
The scriptural record — from all
major Faiths, not just the Bible
or the Baha’i Writings — tells us
that ...
“God is sentient
in a
‘supereminent’
fashion.”
— Thomas Aquinas
The Writer Metaphor
Consider the genesis of
the book I’m writing.
I tell the story from the
viewpoints of about halfdozen ...
Like, But Unlike?
Perhaps our thoughts and
feelings are at once like and
unlike God’s in the same way
that the reflection ...
Between Two Worlds
Food for thought: Many of
our thoughts and feelings
result from interactions
between our
material/physi...
Why Would God Create
Us?
O SON OF MAN! I loved
thy creation, hence I created
thee. Wherefore do thou love
Me that I may na...
My short
answer:
“Yes, God is sentient.
And yes, He has
thoughts and feelings
that are at once like and
not like our own.”
Questions 4, 5 & 6:

Can God change the past?
Does God know the future?
Does God know absolutely everything?
Can God Change the Past?
God, Time & Science
Heisenberg proved that we can
measure either the momentum or
location of an e...
What Sort of Being is God?
If we try to observe an arc (a
two dimensional object) we
capture only a single point (a
one di...
Why?
God could change the past, but
why would He?
We humans long to do that,
because we’re so clueless about
how to learn ...
Rewriting the
past means we’d
lose the lessons
we have gleaned
from it – and
we’d never know
the difference.
Does God Know the Future?
Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l‑Bahá’s
statements about the future
indicate that certain arcs across
time...
Does God Know the Future?
No human being can answer
this question with any certainty.
How does a being who can
only see po...
The Creator’s Eye View
Story junctures.
Which path to take?
Certain things must happen in
the book before the plot unfolds...
Q: Does God
work that
way?
A: Only God knows. His
educators, the Founders
of the world’s Faiths, can
only tell us what we ...
Does God Know it All?
This question deals with God’s
omniscience with regard to time.
Human beings have no experience of
o...
Question 7:

Can God intervene in events whenever and wherever, to
violate natural laws and change their course (i.e. perf...
Does God
intervene in
natural
processes?
I don’t know.
Does God “Do” Miracles?
None of us, not even Alan
Guth, knows everything
about natural laws and
how they function and
what...
Does God “Do” Miracles?
Not long ago, human flight seemed
a breakage of laws.
People don’t have wings, ergo,
people don’t ...
If we can do such things
with the little bit of
subjective knowledge that
we have, what might the
Being who has a
Creator’...
Why?
The Prophets tell us
that God’s activities are
rational and purposeful.
Think about some of the
miracles you’ve heard...
Abdu’l‑Bahá
said:
[Miracles] do not constitute
proofs and evidences for all the
peoples of the earth, and they are
not dec...
What is the Greatest Miracle of Any
Divine Prophet?
Healing the sick?
Walking on water?
Calming a raging
elephant?
Restori...
Or is it this:
That a Man with no worldly
power is remembered
world wide, has
transformed billions of
lives, and is revere...
Who Has Performed this
Miracle?
Only a handful of individuals
in all of history have
performed this miracle.
Baha’is belie...
And it shall come
to pass...
...in the last days that the mountain of the
Lord’s house shall be established in the top of
...
How Does God Intervene?
His “house” is established
(He has a presence on
earth).
People willingly “visit” it.
His law goes...
What does the
verse NOT say?
It does not say that God
will do these things for
us. It says that we will do
these things in...
Question 8:

Do you believe that you have a soul or spirit that will continue to
exist in some form (perhaps reincarnated)...
You are a soul. You have a
body.
— C.S. Lewis
Stating the
obvious:
Humans clearly have a
capacity that animals do
not.
The Rational Soul
I wrote this material in characters that
symbolize sounds and that, configured
in diverse ways, form wor...
The Rational Soul
Human beings—though naturally
wingless—have invented ways to
fly.
They have done this, not by brute
forc...
An
inescapable
fact:
Human beings have a literally
supernatural faculty that allows
us to transcend nature. All of
us inte...
It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would
make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if...
The power of the rational soul can
discover the realities of things,
comprehend the peculiarities of beings,
and penetrate...
The Sign of God
Bahá’ís believe the existence
of the soul gives life meaning
and depth, joy and sadness,
exuberance and wo...
Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of
God, a heavenly gem whose reality the
most learned of men hath failed to
grasp, a...
Of this essential piece of the human
being, Krishna said:
“It is God’s spirit in man”
The authors of Genesis said we were
...
And now concerning thy question
regarding the soul of man and its
survival after death. Know thou of
a truth that the soul...
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Questions from an Atheist: The Granularity of God

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Questions from an atheist about common religious views answered from a Bahá'ís point of view.

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Questions from an Atheist: The Granularity of God

  1. 1. Questions from an Atheist The Granularity of God
  2. 2. Day and night you must strive that you may attain to the significances of the heavenly Kingdom, perceive the signs of Divinity, acquire certainty of knowledge and realize that this world has a Creator, a Vivifier, a Provider, an Architect— knowing this through proofs and evidences and not through susceptibilities, nay, rather, through decisive arguments and real vision —that is to say, visualizing it as clearly as the outer eye beholds the sun. In this way may you behold the presence of God and attain to the knowledge of the holy, divine Manifestations. You must come into the knowledge of the divine Manifestations and Their teachings through proofs and evidences. — Abdu’l‑Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace,pp 227-8
  3. 3. Behind the Questions An online conversation started by an atheist philosopher and blogger: “Maynard” He asked these questions because he felt “the God hypothesis” wasn’t granular enough. He wanted every detail filled in. An interesting request given that few, if any, scientific hypotheses leap fully formed from even the most advanced minds; leap forth proven or even with enough evidence to satisfy the scientific community.
  4. 4. The Questions 1. Is God a (a) material or (b) non-material entity? (i.e., is God made up of the same kind of stuff like protons, electrons, etc. with properties like mass, charge, spin, etc. that every other thing in the universe is made up of, or is he made of something that is non-material?) 2. Does God exist everywhere in space? 3. Is God a sentient being like us, with thoughts and feelings? 4. Can God change the past? 5. Does God know the future? 6. Does God know absolutely everything that happens every moment, including every thought of every being? 7. Can god intervene in events whenever and wherever, to violate natural laws and change their course (i.e. perform miracles)? 8. Do you believe that you have a soul or spirit that will continue to exist in some form (perhaps reincarnated) even after you are dead?
  5. 5. Nature of the Questions The questions spring from a number of assumptions: That our concepts of omniscience and omnipotence are applicable, realistic, or even rational. That God is a type of being with material qualities, such as physical strength and a human perspective. That our concept of something being “made” applies to God.
  6. 6. Question 1: Is God a (a) material or (b) non-material entity? (i.e., is God made up of the same kind of stuff like protons, electrons, etc. with properties like mass, charge, spin, etc. that every other thing in the universe is made up of, or is he made of something that is non-material?
  7. 7. What Sort of Being Is God? All the visible universe comes from my invisible Being. All beings have their rest in me, but I have not My rest in them, And in truth they rest not in Me. Consider my sacred mystery: I am the source of all beings, I support them all, but I rest not in them. – Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita 9:4.
  8. 8. The Writer’s POV I am “in” the books I write. But I am not literally or physically in the book. I created the characters, laws and plot out of my innermost thoughts and imagination, and the characters continue to live and grow in my mind. But ... I am not encompassed or defined by the story in the pages, nor do I have to abide by the laws I establish for my fictional universe. Yet, the book… reflects my emotions about certain things and people, reveals my thought processes, shows the reader glimpses of my life.
  9. 9. “All my visible literary universe comes from my invisible being. All characters have their rest (and origin) in me, but I don’t rest in them. Really, they don’t rest in me. I am their source, and I support them all by writing about them, but I’m not in them.” In other words, I’m not defined by my stories or limited by them. I don’t begin and end in them, but rather transcend them. Their reality reflects my reality and my intellect.
  10. 10. “He hath known God who hath known himself.” — Bahá’u’lláh
  11. 11. In God’s Image... Sacred texts dating back millennia tell us that human beings are, in some essential way, created in God’s image. Krishna says that the atman (soul) is “God’s spirit in man” and that atman makes the human precious in the sight of God and drives us to seek Him. Bahá’u’lláh writes of the capacity of the human soul to reflect the “names and attributes of God”. He says, O SON OF MAN! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. – The Arabic Hidden Words, #3.
  12. 12. What does this mean?
  13. 13. I think if we recognize the uniqueness of our own rational faculty, we’ll have a fraction of a glimmer of a clue about the sort of intelligence human beings reflect in the universe.
  14. 14. So, here’s a neat twist... The scriptures of the world’s religions tell us the human spirit is a reflection of the God who is the origin of the Universe. Perhaps this is why we ask “Why are we here?” and “How did we get here?” (which are not the same question) and seriously expect an answer. We can employ that rational faculty to arrive at the idea that a transcendent, non-physical God logically exists.
  15. 15. How so? If we posit that God is, like us, made up of star stuff (atoms, etc) then we end up with an infinite regression. (Meaning, we have to ask what caused God.) Hence, the Origin of the laws by which this universe works, cannot, itself, be subject to universal laws. It must be something fundamentally different.
  16. 16. Question 2: Does God exist everywhere in space?
  17. 17. God’s Address God dwells in the heart of all beings, Arjuna: thy God dwells in thy heart. And His power of wonder moves all things… – Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 18:61. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. – Jesus Christ, John 14: 23 O SON OF DUST! All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory… – Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, vs. 27.
  18. 18. The Home of God The scriptures of these three faiths (Hinduism, Christianity and the Baha’i Faith), though thousands of years apart, speak of God’s “place” as being the human heart. In the Baha’i writings Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l‑Bahá use more straightforward language to assign this “realm” to what Baha’u’llah refers to as the “rational soul”, the reasoning faculty that separates us from the animals. Krishna said: Brahman is the Supreme, the Eternal. Atman is His Spirit in man. Karma is the force of creation, from which all things have their life. – Bhagavad Gita, 8:3.
  19. 19. How does God dwell in our hearts? My understanding: He dwells there when we live by the spiritual principles and practices that can transform human life and character.
  20. 20. The Absolute Krishna gives God absolute existence (a concept repeated in diverse scriptures) and the capacity to pervade and support the entire universe without “resting” in it. Buddha further refers to this absolute Being in this way: There is, O monks, an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. Were there not, O monks, this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, formed. – Udana 80-81.
  21. 21. Something to ponder... The human intellect has the capacity to escape the world of the “born, originated, formed”. It can escape the animal condition and the limitations imposed by nature, not just through abstract thought, but by observing, articulating and manipulating reality.
  22. 22. If we are “chips” off the Divine Block... Why is it so hard for some of us to accept the idea of a Being even more placeless and more powerful than our own intellect, and more capable of creating and manipulating reality? When we deny the possibility of the existence of God, are we not calling into doubt the reality of our own existence, as well?
  23. 23. The Placeless... According to Bahá’u’lláh, God does not have a distinct physical “place” in space — especially if by this we mean outer space. He refers to God as the Placeless. Clearly when the scriptures speak of the “heavens” they do not mean the physical skies around our planet or even the outer reaches of the cosmos, but something else entirely. Baha’u’llah refers repeatedly to “the heaven of God’s will” — something that one can perhaps best find through intellectual rather than physical search.
  24. 24. “And also in your own selves: will ye not then behold the signs of God?” — Muhammad
  25. 25. Question 3: Is God a sentient being like us, with thoughts and feelings?
  26. 26. Is God Sentient? The scriptural record — from all major Faiths, not just the Bible or the Baha’i Writings — tells us that we are created in God’s image. What does this mean? Baha’u’llah says that the rational soul reflects the Divine Intellect. So, given that we are sentient, it stands to reason that if our intellect is a reflection of God’s, He is also sentient.
  27. 27. “God is sentient in a ‘supereminent’ fashion.” — Thomas Aquinas
  28. 28. The Writer Metaphor Consider the genesis of the book I’m writing. I tell the story from the viewpoints of about halfdozen different characters and I have to put myself in their shoes to do my job.
  29. 29. Like, But Unlike? Perhaps our thoughts and feelings are at once like and unlike God’s in the same way that the reflection of something in a mirror is like, yet unlike the original image. The original object has three dimensions, while the mirror image has two. God has, as my son likes to say, additional dimensions that His creations, including us, do not.
  30. 30. Between Two Worlds Food for thought: Many of our thoughts and feelings result from interactions between our material/physical and spiritual/intellectual realities. God, having no material/physical component, cannot be caught between the two realities as we are.
  31. 31. Why Would God Create Us? O SON OF MAN! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore do thou love Me that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. – The Arabic Hidden Words, #4.
  32. 32. My short answer: “Yes, God is sentient. And yes, He has thoughts and feelings that are at once like and not like our own.”
  33. 33. Questions 4, 5 & 6: Can God change the past? Does God know the future? Does God know absolutely everything?
  34. 34. Can God Change the Past? God, Time & Science Heisenberg proved that we can measure either the momentum or location of an entity. We cannot measure both. Consider a movie: If we try to measure the speed of the film, we cannot determine the position of a single frame; if we determine the position of a single frame, we can no longer measure the speed.
  35. 35. What Sort of Being is God? If we try to observe an arc (a two dimensional object) we capture only a single point (a one dimensional object). We humans cannot see the universe from more than one point of view. Can we reasonably expect to comprehend a Being that can see, not just individual points, but arcs and waves as well, including the arc of time?
  36. 36. Why? God could change the past, but why would He? We humans long to do that, because we’re so clueless about how to learn from the past. Layli & Majnun. If God had spared Majnun the calamity of being pursued, he would not have found his true love. His illinformed impulse to have the past rewritten would have robbed him of the very thing that reunited him with his beloved.
  37. 37. Rewriting the past means we’d lose the lessons we have gleaned from it – and we’d never know the difference.
  38. 38. Does God Know the Future? Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l‑Bahá’s statements about the future indicate that certain arcs across time—Divine Goals—proceed in a pre-determined way. For example: Progressive revelation of religion and the maturation of humanity from savage to civil, from material to spiritual, from irrational to rational, from selfishness to community-consciousness. How that comes about is up to us.
  39. 39. Does God Know the Future? No human being can answer this question with any certainty. How does a being who can only see points answer questions that relate to an arc? It’s as if one of my fictional characters asked another, “Do you think there’s a Writer out there who knows exactly what I’m going to say on page 123?” I don’t know yet what my hero will say on page 123, but I do know that he will, in his own way, help move the plot forward.
  40. 40. The Creator’s Eye View Story junctures. Which path to take? Certain things must happen in the book before the plot unfolds. BUT...how my characters arrive at the end point changes as they navigate turning point after turning point. If I’m doing it “right”, the interactions between my characters will determine their path through the plot, rather than my forcing a particular sequence of events.
  41. 41. Q: Does God work that way? A: Only God knows. His educators, the Founders of the world’s Faiths, can only tell us what we have the capacity to understand.
  42. 42. Does God Know it All? This question deals with God’s omniscience with regard to time. Human beings have no experience of omniscience. None. Irks the heck out of us, but there it is. Buckeroo Banzai put it eloquently: “Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”. I take this to mean, in part that we each have only our singular, microscopic viewpoint. We can’t know what a super-eminent Being knows or does not know unless He tells us, because we lack the capacity to do more than imagine omniscience.
  43. 43. Question 7: Can God intervene in events whenever and wherever, to violate natural laws and change their course (i.e. perform miracles)?
  44. 44. Does God intervene in natural processes? I don’t know.
  45. 45. Does God “Do” Miracles? None of us, not even Alan Guth, knows everything about natural laws and how they function and what constitutes “breaking” them as opposed to merely using those laws in ways previously unimagined. I think God intervenes through natural processes.
  46. 46. Does God “Do” Miracles? Not long ago, human flight seemed a breakage of laws. People don’t have wings, ergo, people don’t fly. But we do. And we live in space, and at the bottom of the ocean. What these miracles require is a sufficiently advanced technological understanding (which, as fellow science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke pointed out, is indistinguishable from magic).
  47. 47. If we can do such things with the little bit of subjective knowledge that we have, what might the Being who has a Creator’s knowledge of the system and its potential be able to do?
  48. 48. Why? The Prophets tell us that God’s activities are rational and purposeful. Think about some of the miracles you’ve heard about. Now ask yourself: Why? What purpose do they serve?
  49. 49. Abdu’l‑Bahá said: [Miracles] do not constitute proofs and evidences for all the peoples of the earth, and they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them; they may think that they are merely enchantments. – Some Answered Questions, p. 37
  50. 50. What is the Greatest Miracle of Any Divine Prophet? Healing the sick? Walking on water? Calming a raging elephant? Restoring physical life to the dead? Rising from the dead?
  51. 51. Or is it this: That a Man with no worldly power is remembered world wide, has transformed billions of lives, and is revered when great kings are forgotten.
  52. 52. Who Has Performed this Miracle? Only a handful of individuals in all of history have performed this miracle. Baha’is believe this is the chief way that God “intervenes” in history — by sending beings like Christ and Moses and Muhammad and Krishna and Buddha and Baha’u’llah to guide us through Their words and deeds.
  53. 53. And it shall come to pass... ...in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us his ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their swords into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. – Isaiah 2:2-5
  54. 54. How Does God Intervene? His “house” is established (He has a presence on earth). People willingly “visit” it. His law goes out. As a result, mankind will “beat their swords into plowshares” — turn destructive implements into productive ones.
  55. 55. What does the verse NOT say? It does not say that God will do these things for us. It says that we will do these things in response to God’s presence and law.
  56. 56. Question 8: Do you believe that you have a soul or spirit that will continue to exist in some form (perhaps reincarnated) even after you are dead?
  57. 57. You are a soul. You have a body. — C.S. Lewis
  58. 58. Stating the obvious: Humans clearly have a capacity that animals do not.
  59. 59. The Rational Soul I wrote this material in characters that symbolize sounds and that, configured in diverse ways, form words that carry abstract and concrete meanings (in human minds). I also composed this thing not found in nature using technology devised by other humans and which I understand only dimly, though I’ve worked with it for over 20 years. The things I use these tools to describe are rarely material, real-world things that have happened. I also arrange my characters and words to tell of things that did not happen to people who do not exist in worlds that I made up out of whole cloth.
  60. 60. The Rational Soul Human beings—though naturally wingless—have invented ways to fly. They have done this, not by brute force, but through the use of abstract reasoning and extrapolation, something that other animals—even those with opposable thumbs and DNA that is 99+% identical to ours— cannot do. Is a bird’s ability to fly the same, categorically, as our ability to write fantasy fiction or build spacecraft?
  61. 61. An inescapable fact: Human beings have a literally supernatural faculty that allows us to transcend nature. All of us interact with the supernatural on a daily basis, but especially those of us who do such things as science, art, music, writing, technology … and baseball.
  62. 62. It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. —Albert Einstein
  63. 63. The power of the rational soul can discover the realities of things, comprehend the peculiarities of beings, and penetrate the mysteries of existence. All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders, institutions, discoveries and enterprises come from the exercised intelligence of the rational soul. There was a time when they were unknown, preserved mysteries and hidden secrets; the rational soul gradually discovered them and brought them out from the plane of the invisible and the hidden into the realm of the visible. This is the greatest power of perception in the world of nature, which in its highest flight and soaring comprehends the realities, the properties and the effects of the contingent beings. — Abdu’l‑Bahá
  64. 64. The Sign of God Bahá’ís believe the existence of the soul gives life meaning and depth, joy and sadness, exuberance and wonder. Without it we have no real purpose beyond the physical; with it our existence becomes a powerful and purposeful journey toward transcendence. We are more than the sum total of our physical parts.
  65. 65. Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. — Baha’u’llah, Gleanings LXXII, p 159
  66. 66. Of this essential piece of the human being, Krishna said: “It is God’s spirit in man” The authors of Genesis said we were created “in God’s image”, and Baha’u’llah said: “He hath known God who hath known himself.” If true, this makes self-knowledge critical to human existence — most especially to a human existence that will someday be free of the conflict between our natural and supernatural selves.
  67. 67. And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. — Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, LXXXI, p. 156

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