The Bahai faith is often included in the "New Age" family of cults.
Historically, it is a sect or cult derived from Islam. Yet like many new age groups, it attempts to absorb Christianity by claiming that Christianity was a phase in the overall evolution of true spirituality and faith. It tries to build on Christianity with repeated references to Jesus and the ethical teachings of the Christian faith.
The belief of the Shi'ite division of Islam is that a "messiah" or Imam will arise at the end time and usher in a world of peace.
In 1844, Mizra Ali Muhammed was convinced that God had called him to a similar ministry as John the Baptist. He assumed the title "the Bab" which means "the gate." Some feel that he actually believed he was the Imam.
His charisma and message began to draw many. J.E. Esslemont writes of the Bab, "The Bab was the manifestation of God, the Founder of an independent religion," (Baha'u'llah and the New Era, 1980, p. 14).
The Bab and his followers were horribly persecuted by Moslems and he was martyred in 1850. In 1863, Mizra Husayn Ali, a prominent follower of the new faith, announced that, "He was the one whose coming had been foretold by the Bab-the Chosen of God, the Promised One of all the prophets," (Ibid,pp.23,30).
Mizra Husayn Ali took the title of Baha'u'llah which means "Glory of God." He wanted his followers to understand that he was not just another prophet but that he was the "Divine Manifestation in whose era the reign of peace will actually be established," (Ibid, pp. 46-47).
Doctrinally, the Bahai faith has incorporated both Islamic and Christian concepts, but depending on which list one reads, Jesus was merely one of many prophets or manifestations (reflections) of God for each age.
Baha'u'llah is considered to be the final and most relevant for this contemporary age.
Bahaism teaches that God is actually beyond comprehension, he is revealed in nature. Man is basically good and there is no original sin. In fact, sin itself is merely the wrong use of good qualities. Bahaism teaches the universality of God, that all religions have the same God.
Salvation rests in the spiritual advancement through adherence to its ethical teachings to prepare for this life and the afterlife. These ethical principles include humanitarianism, faultfinding, humility, honesty, self realization (a strain of new age influence), harmony of science and religion (evolution), repudiating race and sexual prejudice, injustice, and nationalism.
The Bahai's goal is to establish a new world order, ruled compassionately over by their currently existing National Spiritual Assembly.