Diana Eck – Globalization & Religious Pluralism



this production is brought to you by the University of Edinburgh well let me extend a warm welcome to this series of Gifford lectures at the University of Edinburgh for the session 2008 to 2009 my name is Stuart Brown and I am professor of ecclesiastical history and deputy convener of the Gifford lectures shifts committee we're particularly fortunate this year to be meeting in the elegant surroundings of the historic st. Cecilia's Hall built in in 1763 and the oldest purpose-built music concert hall in Scotland as is customary let me say a few words about the historic Gifford lectures before I introduce our speaker the Gifford lectures were established in 1885 by a gift from Adam Lord Gifford a justice of the Court of Session and a man of broad cultivation and learning Lord Gifford was committed to promoting a theistic interpretation of the universe and he endowed a series of public lectures at each of the four older Scottish universities Edinboro st. Andrews Glasgow and Aberdeen for quote promoting advancing teaching and diffusing the study of natural theology in the widest sense of that term or in other words the knowledge of God and the foundation of ethics and morals the first Gifford lectures were delivered in 1888 and they have become one of the world's most renowned lecture series for theological and philosophical inquiry and reflection past Gifford lectures have included such figures as Edward Caird William James of Harvard John Dewey William temple Arnold Toynbee Albert Schweitzer Carl Bart Bryant old Niebuhr and Iris Murdoch our gifford lecture for 2008 to 2009 things added luster to this list she is Diana Eck professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and Frederic wertham professor of law and psychiatry and society at Harvard University professor AK was born in the western big sky state of Montana she was educated at Smith College in Massachusetts Banaras Hindu college in India the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and Harvard University where she earned her doctorate in the comparative study of religion a distinguished scholar teacher at Harvard professor AK is a member of both the Department of Sanskrit and Indian studies and the Faculty of Divinity since 1991 she has led a research project at Harvard to explore the new religious diversity of the United States and its meaning for national life this pluralism project which involves a number of affiliate colleges and universities has been documenting the growing presence of the Muslim Buddhist Hindu pagans Sikh Jane and Zoroastrian communities in the United States professor Oak is the author or editor of a number of critically acclaimed books these include darshan seeing the divine image in India 1981 Banaras City of Light 1982 speaking of faith global perspectives on women religion and social change 1987 encountering God a spiritual journey from Bozeman to Banaras 1993 and a new religious America how a Christian country has become the world's most religiously diverse nation 2001 as well as a distinguished scholar of Indian religion and women and religion professor ik is also a public intellectual of the highest order helping to reshape public attitudes and policies in the United States and to promote religious and cultural engagement in the wider world in 1996 professor AK was appointed to a State Department Advisory Committee on religious freedom abroad which advises the Secretary of State on enhancing religious freedom within the overall context of human rights in 1998 she received the National Humanities medal from profiles from President Clinton and the National you in a tional Endowment for the Humanities for her work on American religious pluralism in 2002 she received the American Academy of religion Martin Marty award for the public understanding of religion in 2005 to 2006 she was president of the American Academy of religion she is currently chair of the interfaith relations commission of the National Council of Churches professor X series of six Gifford lectures are entitled the age of pluralism and they will explore religious diversity in the context of the massive world migrations of peoples and the emergence of new cultural landscapes it is a subject of immense importance and highly appropriate for our Gifford series the lecture this evening will be recorded and will be available online on the Gifford website allow me also to mention that following this evenings lecture there will be a reception to mark the beginning of this series in the stairs and the lay Hall down below everyone present this evening is warmly invited to the reception professor act should I now invite you to present the first of your gifford c lectures on the subject of globalization and religious pluralism thank you for that introduction it is really a great pleasure personally for me to be here for these lectures and also an honor to my university thank you this has special significance for me too because one of the first of the Gifford lectures was really the father of the field of study that I pursue Max Muller who in many ways in his work at Oxford did the most pioneering work in in dalla G at the time of his Gifford lectures he had been editing the sacred books of the east bringing to english-speaking Western audiences the Treasury of the world's religious texts he also had a special expertise in the religions of India and he was the primary translator of the Rig Veda in that sacred books of the East series a few years ago one of my graduate students got together and prepared a trivia game of in dalla ji and one of the questions that we had was what year did max Mueller first arrive in India it was a trick question the answer was he never went to India his view of the Hindu tradition derived primarily from the important texts that he studied and was quite uncomplicated by the multitudes of temples and poojas people and gods and images of the gods the festivals and the pilgrimages that I encountered as a student when I first arrived in India and that have been the subject of most of my and illogical work ever since and of course it goes without saying that the England in which max Mueller lived in Oxford was much more homogeneous than the multicultural world of today's UK with its Hindu temples and its Islamic centres large and small its Sikh Gurdwara xand Jain societies all of these traditions he knew and could know really only from a distance these lectures take up the trajectory of this enormous change in the religious currents of the West and indeed the entire world over the past century and especially during the past few decades one of the great engines of that change has been the massive migration of people from one part of the world to another as immigrants as economic migrants as refugees migration has literally changed the map and the religious demography of nations and of neighborhoods tamil Hindus have temples in Strasbourg and Baron gujaratis like the global Swami Narayan movement have built huge temples in needs done outside London and in Chicago and Houston Muslims have put on get-out-the-vote campaigns in Detroit Michigan very involved in the last election and they gather in mosques and storefront Islamic centers and prayer halls across the face of European and American cities Sikhs litigate for their right to wear the turban in France or carry the coupon in Canada and Christians Jews and Muslims secular people as well whether in France or Sweden or the Netherlands encounter these new neighbors with a weary uncertainty now along with migration the twin engine of this fast-paced change has been the globalization of communications that has made virtual connections across seas and continents almost instantaneous even for those who don't venture across the metaphorical street religious teachings scriptures books are more widely dispersed than ever before and religious discourse is on the radio or powered by the Internet it's in the news on television in January of this year the Vatican launched a YouTube site powered by Google Italia that makes clips of pope benedict xvi homilies and liturgies and speeches available in multiple languages all around the world and meanwhile Sheikh Qaradawi and Qatar has a popular television show on al Jazeera in which he issues statements on Sharia and thought was in response to questions that are submitted electronically from all over the world so propelled by these twin engines of migration and global communication our daily encounters with religious and cultural difference are more pervasive especially in the West than ever before we rub shoulders with one another we shares the same workplace in many cases our children go to the same schools we eat one another's food but very often we know all too little of one another's faith and religious practice so how do we navigate the Swift currents and the white waters of our religious differences and a fast-paced religious change in our world a world in which we live in greater proximity to one another than ever before we open the daily papers we listen to the nightly news we know full well how religious ideas religious communities religious sects religious leaders and visionaries and religious fanatics are all part of the ferment contrary to expectations religious faith has not disappeared in the onset of post enlightenment secularism despite the predictions that somehow religion would wane as science answered more and more questions about the workings of the universe it seems not to be the case human religiousness is not really simply about answering questions puzzling questions about how the clock works but rather about the meaning of life and death and the communities of connection that sustain us and despite the expectation that religion would and should somehow become a more private affair what happens on weekends or at home we see more public voicing of religion in many parts of the world some who conduct the affairs of state have begun to speak of knowledge of religion as quote the missing dimension in foreign policy former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once confessed to having scribbled often on the margins of her briefing papers learn more about Islam indeed today we are beginning to speak of a post secular age of the return of religion if it ever was gone and the energies of faith seem to be enduring today sometimes people speak of themselves as spiritual but not religious sometimes that spirituality has been nurtured in the Christian Sunday school but then brought to flower by Buddhists Vipassana meditation and some of the energies of faith are channeled into what we might call secular NGOs by people who are not so sure about religious institutions but are very sure about religious ethics and the AIDS pandemic or education for girls or human rights for all people so I call these lectures the age of pluralism because religious faith and religious difference is one of our great planetary issues how do we human beings relate to one another across the various divides of culture and religion that's an important question it's important for those of us who study religion as I do it's important of those for those of us who don't study religion but are citizens of increasingly multi religious cities and it's an important question for those of us who are people of faith whether Christian or Muslim or any other faiths first let me say that in studying religion this age of pluralism is a challenging one how do we reach into the complexity of this new world how do we study the kinds of multi religious encounters and intersections that I have come to think of as pluralism there are certainly historical precedents for our time times when what we came to call the religions did not flow neatly within borders when religious movements were entwined in a common context I think of Buddhist monks arriving in China in the second and third century for example encountering Confucian and Taoist traditions and a whole new cultural complex began to emerge or I think of Mughal India currents of what we now call Muslim or Hindu or Sikh devotional traditions all flowing together and developing in relation to one another or medieval Spain where Muslims Jews and Christians lived and flourished together in what came to be called the competencia in Toledo in Cordoba in Andalusia my own teacher Wilfred Cantwell Smith was a lifelong critic of the all too solidly conceived religions which some scholars persist in trying to tame and study and arranged in separate book chapters as if they could be studied separately which they can't he was especially drawn to those complex places in human history and he did not often use the term pluralism but there was much in these historical into relations of cultures and people's that provides precedent for the more intense forms of encounter that we see today but here this as scholars we live today in a world as rich with the immediacy of profound cultural encounter the living laboratory of the convivencia is at our doorstep Boston is Toledo Birmingham is Toledo a new reality is unfolding before our eyes and to study it requires a new kind of curiosity an ability to look carefully at the local and trans local nature of inter-religious encounter and I'm recruiting scholars to do this because I think it is very important scholarly work but the age of pluralism is not just a challenge for scholarly study it's also a challenge for citizens in the nations and cities where our co-citizens are people of many faiths how do we whoever we mean by we live and work together out of the depths of our differences that is a challenge of the age of pluralism for many societies in Asia that challenge began with the colonial experience and it's aftermath whether in India in Indonesia or Malaysia and that began for many of us in the West with the migration of people some of them from those former colonies religious traditions long at home in India put down roots new roots in the UK and now more recently in the u.s. this religious diversity is both potentially creative and also problematic all sorts of issues headscarves Sharia education mission conversion are on the table and even for ardently secular people and there are quite a few of them who have no personal use for religion at all this new situation demands the attention that comes with citizenship these issues are not just theoretical issues they will not go away but they're grounded in the everyday living context of our civic life these are the workshops where our future is being built and I'll talk about that tomorrow and on Thursday of this week and then there's a third context in which we encounter this challenge of the age of pluralism and that is in our communities of faith here were challenged to take stock of our own faith in the presence of so many others scholars may study these encounters mayors and judges may wrestle with them in the context of our civil society but those of us who are people of faith we have our own work to do how do we as Christians or Muslims or Buddhists understand the faith the truth the path of the religious other religious life today is lived everywhere in an awareness of multiple frames of faith an awareness that one's neighbors weather around the world or across the street do not share the worldview that we have for some this awareness may be frightening and destabilizing and for others it may launch an exploration of religious meaning that takes us into a deep appreciation of the faith of others perhaps too reflective interpretation of our own faith do we pray to the same God can we pray together I'll go into these questions next week these lectures are cited then in the many contexts in which religious pluralism is on the agenda the global context of a world increasingly Without Borders the national context of multi religious societies the local context of our cities and towns and then I turn to the communities whether a Christian Muslim or well we engage with these questions in our religious language the language of our faith and finally I address the pluralism within that religious diversity and difference is not simply something that's out there but a matter of our own energy ography as well to say something of the worlds within me India and America would be two of the primary worlds when I first went to India to study Hinduism the migration of peoples and the instantaneous global communications were alas far on the horizon did not yet exist air letters still took ten days at least to get from Banaras to Boston and a telephone call was somewhere between difficult and impossible that was 1965 it was the same year that the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed in the u.s. opening the door to immigration from Asia before long Indian trained doctors were migrating to American cities and from the standpoint of India we called it the brain drain but I had not yet begun to imagine what it meant from the standpoint of America since then India and America had become entwined in one another's histories the immigration of the past 40 years has created a living bridge between India and America a constant two-way traffic parking tickets in New York might be processed in the Kulu Hills or call centres in Bombay answer questions from credit card customers in Illinois or Indian scientists in California check the cricket scores on their cell phones South Indian Tamil and Telugu Americans consecrate temples in Nashville and Kansas City they import sacred images from the artists and workshops of Mahabalipuram they fly home to Chennai for a family wedding the Gujaratis hold their Garbo's in a big New Jersey hotel American Hindus recreate the festivals of Diwali in Salt Lake City and Cleveland and last year for the first time in history in my hometown in Bozeman Tanna a Diwali celebration Hindu American Foundation which is an advocacy group for Hindus has pressed the government to issue a Diwali stamp and it has also kept a close eye on Hindu civil liberties in America just as the Sikh coalition documents civil rights abuses against Sikhs and meets with the National Transportation Safety Board over issues of turbans and Kier puns on the airlines ours is a world of increasing connections it was in the early 1990s that I began to feel the ground under my own feet as an academic shift as the religious communities I had studied in India became more visible in the United States I launched the pluralism project at Harvard University in 1991 and for more than eighteen years now we have engaged students and colleagues in research on this dynamic life we've studied individual temples and mosques and Gord Juarez doing some of the own only micro histories of these communities that have been done we've asked how these traditions have changed and adapted in the American context as they become nonprofit corporations and have to elect officers and have their own elections and competition etc the great American leveler of Elections and we've asked how America is changing as we the people become more complex where are the tensions and fault lines the ugly stereotypes the hate crimes where are the new connections where are the Interfaith initiatives the pluralism project has become one scholar of religion characterized as the study of globalization and religious pluralism from the ground up beginning with the local so let me say a word what is pluralism we should at least ask that question and I'll give you a quickie answer first that diversity and pluralism are not the same thing diversity is a fact of our societies and of our communities pluralism is a response to diversity and engagement with it and second pluralism is not simply tolerance tolerance doesn't require us to know a thing about one another it does nothing to remove our ignorance it leaves in place some of the old stereotypes and half-truths and fears that we've carried with us for a long time and in the world of proximity in which we live today we need something a bit more active than tolerance and pluralism also is not easy relativism seeking the lowest common denominator trying to sign at the bottom line at the bottom of the page pluralism is really the encounter of our commitment it means holding our differences our deepest differences even even are the things that we think of as absolute but not in isolation holding them in relation in conversation in mutual understanding with one another it's not about eliding difference of course there are other responses to our religious and cultural difference exclusion for example speaking as an American our immigrant society has gone through a lot of chapters of exclusion there were too many Irish Catholics there were too many Jews this was in the nineteenth century there were also too many Chinese we drew the line there the 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and those policies of Asian exclusion continued deep into the 20th century we know all of us the impulse to build walls thick and high enough to protect the insiders and keep out the others we see it even today but in a world that is swirling with movement we also suspect that this kind of exclusionary stance this kind of tribalism will not be be viable and there are not only social exclusions but also religious and Theological exclusions we know about those speaking as a Christian I know there are many Christians historically and today for whom the religious other the non-christian is excluded from the salvation of the one we call God and we'll come back to that next week inclusion or assimilation is another response to diversity including the other under the umbrella of our own world on our own terms in our own language in the structures in the nation we have already built that have been made by us whomever we are our own lives need not be changed or channel challenged and especially when there's a large majority community as Christians in America or Muslims for example in Indonesia the dangers of an inclusive stance or an assimilative consciousness often include the effective Eclipse of the voice of the other or the agency of those who are supposedly included pluralism is not the melting pot where our differences disappear but the orchestra in which all of us together create something new we had those two images in America in the early 20th century Israel sang will the famous poet who wrote a play called the melting pot and in the mouth of his hero looking out at Ellis Island and seeing all the Europeans lined up there said into the crucible with all of you God is making the American the melting away and shedding of difference as a way of conceiving who we are but it was another Jewish sociologist Horace Callen in the late nineteen teens who said wait a minute this is not even American or democratic to think that you have to shed your differences to participate in the common covenants of citizenship and he took issue with this and said pluralism is really the encounter of our differences and he was the one who used the image of the orchestra that pluralism is about the integrity of that encounter and the orchestra an image to describe the relatedness of our society pluralism requires something of everybody of all of us we all change and that can be frightening because as we know change is frightening I'll never forget one woman who observed the building of a new Jain summer camp in a wooded area at the end of her Road in New Jersey I'm not a prejudiced person she said but I just don't want things to change and that of course is precisely our problem in the world it's a tough issue we're not prejudiced but we don't want things to change and in a dynamic world of religious change that's a problem as we think about this new era of global encounter and religious pluralism I want to go back now to another global moment a hundred years ago the world's Parliament of Religions and then another global moment just sixteen years ago the centennial of that Parliament and then fast-forward to today what do we mean when we use this word global come to Chicago with me in 1893 where the world's Parliament of Religions took place in connection with the World's Fair and there for the first time in modern history some would say for the first time ever representatives of the world's religions gathered Hindus Buddhists Jains Protestants Catholics Jews it was a global event a great convergence that was planned and hosted by Protestant Christians reformed Jews and Unitarians as chairman of the Parliament Presbyterian minister John Henry barrows wrote it was felt to be wise and advantageous that the religions of the world which are competing at so many points on all the continents should be brought together not for contention but for loving conference in one room the organisers in 1893 sent out some 10,000 letters to various parts of the world who knows how the recipients were identified or the addresses found but the invitation was cast in confident language the language of an unmarked Christian universalism listen to it it read in part believing that God is and that he has not left himself without witnesses and convinced that God is no respecter of persons but that in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted of him we affectionately invite the representatives of all faiths to aid us in presenting to the world at the Exposition of 1893 the religious harmonies and unities of humanity now if the invitational word sounded familiar they actually should they are taken straight out of st. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles indeed they are a kind of Christian warrant for regarding as part of God's plan the many peoples of faith throughout the world God has not left himself without witnesses anywhere Acts 14 in every nation those who worketh righteousness are acceptable unto Him acts 12:10 so the language itself had this sort of unmarked Christian vision to it I don't think it was offensive or even noticed by the Hindus or the Buddhists who received it there were rebuffed to the invitation however one from the Archbishop of Canterbury who declined to attend because as he put it the Christian religion is the only true religion and Hong Kong missionary who wrote accusing the organisers of quote playing fast and loose with the truth and coquetting with false religions the headline in the Chicago Tribune in September 16th 1893 would have confirmed his suspicions it read wells of truth outside it announced the realization for some a blasphemy that there was indeed religious truth perhaps deep wells a bit outside the Christian tradition now for our standpoint today the predominant spirit of the 1893 Parliament was a kind of welcoming universalism on the part of the largely Christian hosts the spirit of universalism looking toward a transcendent unity of religion was the zeitgeist at the time it was in the air in the late 19th century and when one of our first Gifford lecturers max Muller found that he was unable to come to the Parliament he wrote enthusiastically in his letter of response the living kernel of religion can be found I believe in almost every Creed however much the husk may vary and think what that means it means that above and beneath and behind all the religions there is one eternal one universal relate this kind of universalistic vision was reiterated in many ways and many keys throughout the parliament barrows himself echoed this view religion he said like the white light of heaven has been broken into many color colored fragments has been broken into many colored fragments by the prisms of men out of the many one of the many objects of the Parliament of Religions has been to change this many colored radiance back into the white light of heavenly truth those who flocked to the Parliament to fill the halls also heard this very vision proclaimed by Swami Vivekananda the elegant robed and turbaned Swami from India hitherto unknown in India itself really who seemed eloquently to enunciate this universal spirit he spoke of Hinduism as the religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance for many it was the first time they had ever heard a Hindu speak in his own voice and the room erupted in thunderous applause then they heard rabbi emile hirsch of chicago proclaimed the day of national religions is passed the god of the universe speaks to all mankind he is not the God of Israel alone the Jordan and the Ganges the Tiber and the Euphrates hold water wherewith the devout may be baptized unto his service and redemption every day the Assembly recited the Lord's Prayer as what was called a universal prayer and on the final day rabbi Hirsch led the prayer so as we explore the age of pluralism we should take clear note that for many at the Parliament the universal in gathering of religions was really a kind of extension of a Christian Universal chairman barrows addressed the gathering assembly as children of the one God and asked why should not Christians be glad to learn God has wrought through Buddha and Zoroaster through the sages of China and the prophets of India and the Prophet of Islam while barrows truly believed that they were all there as members of a parliament over which flies no sectarian flag it's clear that his very conception of the universal was but a larger and more expansive version of Christianity and frankly perhaps as a first initiative in this kind of interfaith encounter it could not have been otherwise given what they knew in Chicago in 1893 at the closing session Chicago lawyer Charles Bonney one of the parliaments chief visionaries declared henceforth the religions of the world will make war not on each other but on the giant evils that afflict mankind let's put aside for the moment that this vision of evolving comity among the people of different religious traditions was so deeply disappointed in the century that followed of course there were many ways in which the Interfaith movement as we know it today does have its roots in the parliament Britain's own Marcus Braybrook has carefully put together the history of the fits and starts that came to mark the 20th century experiments with interfaith understanding and we'll say more of this in the lectures to come but on the face of it most people who were not tracking the interfaith movement and not participating in it see little evidence for a cooperative religious alliance against the ills of the world in the 20th century indeed the past hundred years seems to have provided ample evidence that the powerful producers of the symbolic weaponry for the strife of humankind are very often religious trations now let's fast forward a hundred years to 1993 the Parliament of the world's religions the centennial event that also took place in Chicago and if the zeitgeist of 1893 was universalism all the faiths gathering under the great umbrella one God the spirit of 93 was very different growing from the very diversity of a new Chicago it came nearly three decades into what we in America now called the new immigration the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act as you may recall had eliminated the restrictive Asian immigration and opened the door for immigration once again people came to the u.s. from all over the world and they came not only with their dreams of freedom or their economic dreams of opportunity and wealth but also with their Bhagavad Gita's and their qur'an's and their images of the Bodhisattva Guanyin and of the Virgin of Guadalupe they rented halls in storefronts for Friday Islamic prayers they gathered in homes for Hindu festivals and as they settled into neighborhoods and suburbs they contended with zoning boards and City Council's with skeptical neighbors and court challenges to build those big new Islamic centers and Hindu temples that are now part of our American landscape in Chicago Hindu immigrants built the huge sri venkateswara temple in aurora in one of the suburbs they built the Shriram temple in Lemont jain's built a flagship temple in Bartlett and Sikhs a beautiful Gurdwara in Palatine a Zoroastrian Center in Hinsdale across the face of Chicago Islamic centers Islamic schools Chinese Lao Vietnamese immigrant Buddhist centers the whole panoply and as the Centennial for a parliament began to be planned people in Chicago looked around and said you know the basic elements of a parliament are already here we just don't know each other and so it began before long there were 14 host committees not only Protestant Catholic and Jewish but Hindu Buddhist Muslim Jain Zoroastrian they were the inviters while previously people from religious traditions around the world had been the exotic guests of other lands and faiths by 1993 they were the hosts Chicago Hindus and Muslims inviting their co-religionists to Chicago and that gathering was eye-opening for America it was the first major public manifestation of what I call the new religious America and the opening ceremonies included the cymbals and drums and polyphonic chanting of the draping loosening Tibetan monks and Native Americans blessed the four directions with smoking sage it was not only about what happened in America but also about networks of connection that had by this time linked religious communities in America to religious communities around the world in the Parliament halls of Chicago in 1993 there was a level of encounter no longer dominated by a single worldview it was a rough-hewn kind of pluralism it was clear that the global is not the universal but is richly diverse unlikely to be subsumed under anybody's flag or canopy it was as polycentric as the world it was a fair with displays and pamphlets and dances and prayers there were panels and discussions face-to-face encounters on urgent global issues Kashmir human rights the rights of indigenous people gone was the presupposition that we're all basically the same that behind all religion there is one universal religion 1993 now let's fast forward again to today 2009 that was only 16 years ago in real time but in another sense it was one huge revolution ago when the book megatrends 2000 came out in 1991 it was touted as the visionary book that would carry us into the 21st century there was mention of the new religious reality of America we had been starting to describe in the pluralism project I could even find my name in the index but one word that was absent from the index and from the book itself was the word into the book pointed to fiber-optic cables that could increase in 2000 zuv simultaneous phone conversations around the world and that was extraordinary enough but even in 1993 the internet was not fully in view 1994 Netscape was founded and Netscape Navigator became the first popularly available web browser in 1996 Google revolutionized the search engine with a simple box into which you could type a subject any subject by 2006 there were 92 million domain names and by 2007 more than a billion users of the Internet as we think about globalization now even 1993 the year before this all came about seems somehow distant these years have meant the creation of increasingly networked societies and a networked world this is a revolution of communications like that of 16th century Europe with the use of the printing press the world of the Internet is one in which boundaries are superseded and that includes not only national boundaries but religious and dogmatic boundaries as well we have witnessed this era of economic globalization in our own time we know about it the banks the markets we've all seen it in the last few months powerful telecommunications networks deploy worldwide advertising strategies they create worldwide markets Boston's Dunkin Donuts coffee shop sells coffee and joke Jakarta Indonesia and OshKosh B'gosh sells children's clothing in a skyscraper in Kuala Lumpur their Italian fashions in Singapore and Tata industries make steel here in Britain and all this driven by free-market capitalism and what Thomas Friedman calls the inexorable integration of markets nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before most of us here have also lived through the increasing globalization of communications today there are world wide news brokers CNN Al Jazeera BBC all bringing their respective versions of the news to the entire world I can read The Times of London here in Edinboro Locke looking right out on Charlotte square Brazilian soap operas are broadcast in Turkey American primetime sitcoms some of the most awful things are broadcast in rural Egypt in South India and bring a vision of me and my country to people I don't even know and the walls of our museums have fallen the works of the National Gallery in London are visible to students in Argentina and through the internet a student here in Edinburgh can access the entire Buddhist Canon in Chinese Tibetan and Pali this communication revolution means that we and I put that in quotes we can as Friedman puts it see through here through look through almost every conceivable wall we can know so much about each other with lightning speed we can communicate our lives our hopes our hatreds our prejudices and we're just beginning to awaken to the religious and ethical dimensions of global communications and the ways in which it shapes and has reshaped our consciousness this is a challenge all of us face Horrors are digitized amplified and multiplied the snapshots taken in Abu Ghraib prison the bus blown up in Jerusalem the row of dead children in Gaza starvation in Darfur everyone sees these images and they deeply affect our moral imagination on the other hand there is much that we don't see the connections the hands clasped the understandings reached the friendships forged across chasms of difference rarely are they newsworthy and they are for the most part publicly invisible when an American fundamentalist preacher like Franklin Graham makes the receiver ignorant comments about Islam it's on the next days newspapers in Jakarta the inflammatory words of a Muslim preacher in Cairo will be picked up and amplified to fuel the very worst fears of Israeli and American Jews cartoons published in Denmark become the flashpoint of international controversy in this world no one speaks in private the opportunities for distortion misunderstanding and the amplification of prejudice are many and there is no international regulatory commission to contain the distortions contextualize the horrors balance each bomb attack with a countervailing story of goodwill and human creativity and connection but the good news is that those stories are there there are also hundreds of stories of creativity and connection a Methodist Church and a mosque in Fremont California buy property together break ground for a new church and a new Islamic Center side-by-side live together for some ten years now Mormons and Muslims in Salt Lake City send cargo planes together with supplies for the tsunami stricken Indonesia these things do not make the international news but it puts on the ground the kind of connections that are prognostic for our future also somewhat on the positive side is the fact that the voices and visions of religious communities are also part of the worldwide communications revolution after centuries think of it after centuries of relying on the interpretation and misinterpretation of others religious communities can represent themselves to others and to the public the jamaat-e-islami in India and Pakistan packages its Islamic views for the english-language internet you can read about it so does the worldwide Hindu organization called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that links diaspora Hindu communities in America and perhaps in Britain to the projects that they have in India and the politics that they have India the taiwan-based folk Wong movement of Buddhist humanism called the International Buddhist progress society links a network now of more than 50 huge buddhist temples around the world from Dallas and Denver to South Africa and Amsterdam even the World Council of Churches communicates its projects now via the Internet to member churches in 110 countries and of course the YouTube of the Vatican Pope Benedict gave a very clear rationale for why this was important when he launched it earlier this year he said so that the church and its message continue to be present in the great areopagus of social communications and so that the church is not a stranger to those places where young people search for answers and meaning in their lives so he told them you must find new ways to spread the voices and images of Hope through the ever-evolving communication system that surrounds our planet it's very astute very important and for those young people this Areopagus of communication works for everyone they might start out looking for the Vatican website and just as well find the Dalai Lama or take not Han or any one of a hundred spiritual leaders whose talks and dialogues have made it to YouTube they might find the fellows of Osama bin Laden or the inspirational videos of the Interfaith youth corps certainly from the standpoint of the u.s. nothing has more powerfully demonstrated this new world situation than the catastrophes of September the 11th in villages with a single TV in parts of the world where literally New York and rural India is just a word people saw the towers collapse and they saw the face of Osama bin Laden delivering his message sent by foot messenger from from the hills to al-jazeera and broadcast to every television set in the world within hours of that I had received messages and email statements from a dozen Islamic organizations in the United States and around the world most of them never heard by anyone but statements of condemnation of the tacks over the next day I could see citizens lighting candles along Shanthi pot at the heart of New Delhi or Buddhists having candles around the rim of the borobudur stupa in Java at the pluralism project we read accounts of the attacks on Muslim companies buck a bookstore in Virginia for example a firebomb at a mosque in Texas rifle shots through the dome of a mosque in Toledo we saw the countervailing response as well as 2000 citizens of Toledo came out to join hands in a human circle around the mosque and we gathered local newspaper accounts of the many many open houses that were held in Islamic centers to invite in neighbors who did not know them as one presbyterian put it visiting a mosque in Texas for the first time you know the time of not getting to know each other is over that fall during the festival of sukkot our Jewish neighbors at Harvard built their cyka a makeshift shelter of branches and leaves covered but open to the sky and to the wind remembering the wilderness experience of the Hebrew people and that fall in 2001 the theologian Arthur Bosco wrote this year the ancient truth came home to us we all live in a Sukkah even the greatest oceans do not shield us even the mightiest buildings don't shield us even the wealthiest balance sheets and the most powerful weapons do not shield us they are only wispy walls and leaky roofs and then there are the deep ethical issues that globalization and the counter globalization movements have made F evident so powerful is this communication technology that the great digital divide between those who do and don't have access to it is enormous globalization as we know has its own exclusions we know through our images of the villages in Afghanistan and the madrasahs in Peshawar how very few in the human family have a share in the economic benefit of globalization how few have the educational privilege that my own students take for granted in roaming the world through the medium of modern communications and learning about places and people near and far as the Human Development Report of the UN put it the collapse of space time and borders may be the creation of a global village but not everyone can be a global citizen the report documents that the wealthiest 20% of the world control 86 percent of the world's wealth the rest are left out altogether I could access this report on my computer for we in the United States owned more computers than the rest of the world combined I could print it out and I'm afraid I did four we in the richest 20% consume 84 percent of the world's paper so how do we think about the ethical dimensions of this global revolution how does it shape and reshape our religious life these are all religious issues has Communications now become the bearer of a new kind of Orientalism a new kind of cyber globalism a new order of domination based on rapid access to information former UN Special Envoy Sergei Vieira de Mello UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who was killed as you know in Iraq in 2003 put it this way these problems are not fundamentally new human beings have lived with war disease and equality inequality for centuries what is different today is that we have no excuse to be unaware of the divide between the world's rich and poor powerful and powerless included and marginalized the Buddhist philosopher and teacher took not Hanh describes this world as one of interbeing everything is interrelated the paper on which my text is printed is dependent on and related to the sunshine and rain it could grow the trees from which it was produced and the labor and machinery that produced it and the forms of Commerce that marketed and all of this is a kind of classic Buddhist observation but he puts it in modern and practical language we enter our we do not exist in and for ourselves and I'll come back to him next week as well for religious people in all traditions refining our awareness of interbeing of interdependence is certainly one of the great religious tasks of our time whether we're christians muslims are jews we all have this challenge before us we do not live in a world alone unaffected by the presence and power of the other for those of us who are scholars of religion refining our analysis of the ways in which globalization is reshaping the religious energies of our world is one of the most important challenges in the humanities studying religion is not only increasingly important but increasingly difficult and I believe it will require the very best of our students the ones who go into neuroscience and cancer research the ones who know the workings of the inside of a computer or know where cyberspace is those students we need them because our scientific and technological achievements span the globe but we have not yet developed the religious literacy to understand the people who whom with whom we share the globe we haven't learned their languages and we have not learned the languages of inspiration and transcendence that animate them as the AG economy to think in new ways will challenge us on all fronts in the age of pluralism as scholars were challenged to understand the Swift currents of a global world with its complex interfaith encounters we need to understand what is necessary to address the clash of ignorance as citizens of nations and cities were challenged to develop what Robert Putnam has called the bridging capital that we need to build the multi cultural and multi-religious societies of today and as people of faith we're also challenged to think deeply and anew about the resources of our own tradition as we encounter the religious other these are questions of scholarship they're questions of citizenship and they're questions of faith and they are all our questions in the age of pluralism thank you very much you you gave us a very eloquent depiction of the the growing religious diversity in the United States and all of these things that are going on at the ground but the image that many people have of our country particularly after 2001 was of a of a resurgence of a fundamentalist evangelical Christianity and I was wondering if you could comment at all about about that world image of the United States and this is this fundamentalism and the culture wars and and this sort of other reality that you were describing existing on the ground of interfaith cooperation and understanding well I won't say that everything on the ground is by way of interfaith cooperation and understanding there is there's a lot of that but certainly the the image of a Christian America and even the argument over a Christian America is a very very powerful one I mean you know among our great culture wars and I want to say just a word about these tomorrow it you know the big argument over whether we can post the Ten Commandments in public places we hardly ever post them in churches mind you but you know we want to have them in the courthouse the issues about prayer in school and all the things that prayer before football games etc all of the things that have become sort of flash cultural issues for what we have called the Christian Right and it is true that the evangelical Christian Church has grown in the United States considerably over the last 20 plus years it also is increasingly diverse and the the sort of strident Christian America folks know that in fact they don't have much of a constitutional argument we do have a constitution that does not provide for a and established religion but they have really claimed the kind of de-facto establishment over the last 20 or 30 years that's beginning to break apart and I think the sort of recasting of the image of America what barack obama called our patchwork people it is something that is that will increasingly diffuse that image but i know that when i went on a mission with the state department to indonesia one of the reasons they wanted people to have an indonesian translation of my book on new religious america was that there was just none of this knowledge of the fact that there are many many islamic communities in the united states islamic advocacy groups lots of you know muslim energy to say nothing of the buddhists and the rest so I think that image issue is a huge one thank you very much for that first lecture I look forward to hearing the other ones you left us thinking about the need to develop a language a way of understanding religion in the future and meeting our best minds to apply themselves to that task I just wondered if you could say who is doing that and I'm particularly one wanting to your opinion about the work of people at Ken Wilber I mean I didn't know his work but few people who keep telling me he's doing this kind of thing and developing I can of intrical spirituality and if you like a theory of everything which is really a theory of everything so I just wonder if you could gauge us if you can't say much about Ken Wilber himself though I do and more or less aware of his of his work and have read some of his early things but and he is someone who actually does reach a very wide audience and that's important I think I mean there are two things we need we need many many more people who are religiously literate let's just put it that way and in the United States at least we have departments for the study of religion in virtually every major university and in some cases I think we could say that the number of religion majors is growing more people are understanding that they need this knowledge in order to navigate in the world but we actually do not attract really the very best students to the study of religion I wish we did and there are many many places in the world that are teeming with religious life that don't have academic studies of religion at all I mean I think of India for example where you can study Islam if you're if you go to Aligarh Muslim University or to one of the one of the great Muslim academies and if you're Muslim that would make sense to people or if you're Hindu go to Banaras Hindu University and studying in the philosophy department or the Department of in dalla ji the idea that someone would deliberately study someone else's religion is really almost unheard of in many parts of the world and so this is a this is a huge challenge and I have to say that among our undergraduates at least at Harvard we do have really superb students and not all of them go into religion that you know they go into medicine and other things as well but I just take this as a as a personal challenge that this is this is a real credit a critical issue for the world that's a knife Catherine the French here please thank you very much professor fact for a really wonderful tour Dora's on your first lecture um a couple of weeks ago with the Archbishop of Canterbury was viciously attacked in the journal called a spectator for his involvement in an ongoing series of seminars for building bridges which I attended in Singapore in 2007 and they were actually begun by George Kerry after 9/11 as a response to it the same article by a quite prominent BBC producer attacked the Bishop of Oxford John Pritchard for defending the right of a mosque to propose broadcasting the call to prayer in a Oxford suburb and the up but the article went beyond business in suggesting that these bishops are actually part of the cultural collapse of Christianity in Britain in the extent to which they are prepared to engage and even rather more than engaged welcome Islamic Witness Islamic presence in this country and pointed out that in Saudi Arabia in Pakistan in Muslim parts of Nigeria and the Sudan the list goes on and on Christians not only would not find a similar welcome quite the contrary are frequently persecuted burned out of their homes killed even while at worship so he was suggesting that really this was this was part of a kind of sad decay of Christian civilization and christian Britain and at best perhaps the realization of a kind of Hague alien vision of Christianity is finally working in stars out into the in the form of a secular civilization but not something to be celebrated very very interesting I want to see the articles because this argument of course has been made other places as well that the the and the entry into sort of deep dialogue with other faiths but let's say Islam in particular since that's the most salient in our time is really a sign of weakness now you know the truth is I think the Christian Church in so far as it has begun to stagger in various places did so long before it developed an outreach to other faiths and for many people and I say this in relation to young people that I know the sign of vitality of Christianity is really that it is engaged with the world and the world of other faiths I mean for students at Oxford I'm afraid and I mean I think that would probably be the case I don't may not be as true for their parents but the relation of Muslims and Christians is not something that is sort of theoretical this is the sea they swim in this is the world they live in and that's certainly true in the universities in the United States their parents sometimes have to be convinced that this is not abandoning the gospel if their Christian but students themselves this is the level of engagement with people that that is taken for granted and there's no way they can sort of dig in through the trenches and isolate themselves theologically from relation with others so I don't know how you know how this will play out in in Britain I don't think that the model presented by many Muslim countries where the Christian is not welcomed and indeed persecuted is one that we can sort of make as a parallel to how it should be for us I mean the place that I see the strongest sign is in the Amman declaration the group of Muslim leaders literally from across the world and from a whole spectrum of Shia and Sunni and the all of the various schools of islamic law who not only came together in a kind of ecumenical declaration in amman jordan but then issued this invitation so to speak a common word between us and you to Christian churches to come together around the things we most deeply share the love of God and love of neighbor now to me that is a really hopeful sign because all of those Muslim leaders are not people who are known to be you know welcoming Western Muslims by any shot but are people who do have influence in the wider Muslim world so I think my own feeling is we've got a bank on that on that side of it and I may be an eternal optimist but I think it's the age of pluralism pluralism even if you reject it and there are its rejecters to be sure Markovic high celtic and scottish studies here at the University of Edinburgh I'd like to join the others first and thanking you very very much for a lecture which has got this series off to such a splendid start I know we're all looking forward to the whole series I was delighted at what you said about Diwali in Bozeman partly because in my department you can read a student project about Diwali and Inverness and how interesting and I hope that while you're here in ed Brendan Scott and you'll have a chance to see how in a way we have a kind of microcosm of what you've described in the United States that we we're a very pluralist society now here too in religious terms and from an ethnological point of view looking at the expression at religious expression and and so on from a folkloristic and a cultural point of view this is the kind of thing that we have begun to explore here very fruitfully I'd like to follow on from an earlier question in asking you about your team at Harvard and my question was to what extent are members of the research team that you are working with in this project which I'm looking forward to hearing much more about themselves from a range of religious backgrounds absolutely they are we've had from the beginning Muslim students Hindu students seek students a few a Buddhist webmaster and a few other Buddhist students one of our associate directors for a time was was no longer working with us now but was pagan and very much a leader in a Wiccan circle in Cambridge so I think religiously they have had a good deal of diversity we haven't necessarily hired them for that reason but it's in some cases we have wanted to have students who really had the language skills to work in Gujarati communities for example or Tamil speaking communities and the other thing is I think they're drawn to this work I mean now we have a tiny bit of new funding so we can actually pay some research interns this coming summer but for the last three summers we didn't have any money and even so we had a flock of students I mean 75 students who submitted applications to work with us for free we could only take maybe ten of them but the idea that students really want to do this kind of work is to me encouraging and most of it is students we do have research affiliates in other universities and they to do it as a sort of pedagogical issue to work with their students Thank You professor I I'm from Indonesia I'm no studying at University of Edinburgh you mentioned my country a lot but also you mention about the need for religious literacy but I just wonder if you can locate the the a taste group or even the agnostic within this interfaith dialog that you propose because basically I think that's part of the diversity too and also the number are significant and I mean I haven't heard you mentioning about this this group of people thank you for that question I I sort of had them in mind when I spoke of the the ardent secularists but it is very true that those who are atheists are have a significant voice in the societies that all of us live in although I think in Indonesia if you're an atheist you still have to put one religious community or another down on your on your ID card it's not a government option to be an atheist but but on the whole the atheists are you know important participants and as I said even if you're an atheist in a British society and you've got some very famous atheists here you still are a co citizen in a society in which there are lots of Muslims and and Christians and Jews and others so it's not as if by being an atheist you wash your hands of the problem of the age of pluralism because that too is part of it I will say also that we on our website in the pluralism project if you go to it pluralism dot-org we about five years ago set one of our students young man from Dartmouth College to doing research on atheism and atheist organisations because the atheist didn't have a sort of button on the website and well everyone else had a button even though you realized that once you push the Christian button there was all sorts of arguments underneath it but still we so we did a whole entry for atheists because there are atheist organizations and quite a few of them but I think it is important so thank you for mentioning that I think we can take one more question I joined the chorus and thank you for the lecture I'm John Openshaw and I teach hid of traditions from an anthropological perspective in the University of Edinburgh and I was interested in connecting your work in India and your present focus on pluralism I was wondering how so-called Hinduism which as you know do more characterized as including but higher archiving fell into your category of inclusive is in which you seemed to rather dismiss or rather into pluralism it's very good question I'm always struggling with this question I think it is a kind of hierarchical pluralism as you say I mean there is a way in which there is the deep sense that there are plural paths there are many gods many expressions of each and every God many some parodies or religious movements or sects on the other hand so from a theological point of view it has a wide pluralism from a social point of view it's very hierarchical so pluralism on the ground so to speak is disrupted to a great extent by the fact of caste and and there also is a sense that that Hindu Hindu pluralism is a kind of inclusive istic pluralism that you know even if you're a Muslim in India from a Hindu point of view your path is just one of the many paths and of course that's not my identity as a Muslim so this is a real problem I want to talk more with you about this because I think I don't actually think that the pluralism inclusive ism exclusivism way of talking about societies is is it all adequate I mean it's one way of sort of slicing it but India has its own peculiarities I will say one other thing about my the relation of my work in India to my work here in or in the United States and that is that for some reason as a as a daughter of an architect and someone who grew up in the Wild West I'm very interested in space and place and so a lot of my most recent work in India has been about pilgrimage and networks of pilgrimage and sacred places and that that's just finished it won't be out for another year or so but that's kind of when I look at it when I started doing in the United States as well which is to do a kind of mapping of of religious traditions as they began to emerge in the American context so I look forward to meeting you I think we can take the one more question from the gentleman thank you thanks I just wondering if the fallin what that lady was talking about these are sort of the gnostics as does the tourism project recognized the notion of a separate religion active in America and if so how does actually monitor and measure such a phenomena of civil religion yes I'm gonna talk about that tomorrow actually because civil religion means a lot of things but it of course it is true that when people look at America they say you know you don't really have an established religion and yet you're always praying in public and you know you have prayers at the inauguration and and prayers at the beginning of City Council meetings and at the legislators and that sort of thing how does that figure and so there is I think a very strong stream of civil religion in the u.s. we I mean yeah we study it because it's certainly part of the mix but it's something that I think we need to do much more work on it has to do with how we ritualize our civil society in a deeply religious context in which were not all the same and we do that increasingly in a pluralistic way so you look at the inaugural sort of service that was held at the inauguration of Barack Obama this was in the National Cathedral which is an Episcopalian Cathedral in Washington and in the procession there is my friend uma Mysore a car from the Hindu temple the Ganesh Indu temple in Queens and she had a word to say and the woman who's head of the Islamic Society of North America and she had a role and Muslims both african-american and and immigrant Muslims this is sort of a new transformation of our civil religion the time of not getting to know each other is over I like that phrase professor heck you've given us a extremely eloquent highly informed and engaging first Gifford lecture noting that this is a new world for all of us a new world defined by the twin revolutions of the massive migrations of people and the internet and communications revolutions so that religious encounter is now pervasive for all of us we look forward to the rest of the series the next lecture will be tomorrow evening at the same time 5:30 here in the same place the st. Cecilia's hall when Professor Oak will address us on the Civic perspective citizens Nations and the challenges of religious pluralism now again there will be a reception just after we finish but could you join me once more in expressing our appreciation both for the lecture and for the questions this production is copyright the University of Edinburgh

29 thoughts on “Diana Eck – Globalization & Religious Pluralism”

  1. Globalization is a major subject that has made virtual connection through content and seas, from religious teaching, to religious courses on the radio or power by the internet, additional to articles on the papers and news .they even lunched many YouTube channels and TV shows like : al ‘jazira’ show that talks about the ‘Muslim fatwa’ ..
    Globalization lets us know everything about each other except the faith and religious practice of one another.
    Although expectations, religious faith has not disappeared because of science and their answers about the working of the universe. Our religion is not about answering question about how the clock works it’s about the meaning of life and death .Despite the expectation that religion should be private; we see in many part of the world more public religion.
    Globalization lets us see the Energy of faith variety for example: the same person that goes from Sunday school to Buddhism flower meditation.
    So how do we human can relate to one another because religion faith and difference are the issues.
    The migration of people all around the world and there traditions can be creative and problematique at the same time.
    For some this awareness of variety of religion is frightening and the power to understand one another .Pluralism describes all of us and Changing is a tough issued in a dynamic world of change.
    They once said it is a must to bring all religion together in a conference for love and not war.
    All religion are one universal religion.
    You can now through globalization google any subject and find it.there are more than a billion user after 2007. The Creation of network world is the revolution of communication
    The world of the internet removed the bounder of religion.
    We can know more about each other.
    Now religion can represent themselves through the internet, the news the radio. They even made a YouTube channel for the benedict himself to lunch his own message to the world.
    But there is some negative images around the world that effect our morale imagination.
    No one speaks in private and this can lead to misunderstanding because there is no control over this globalization.

  2. Atheist in my understanding means a man honest to himself, and broken away  from slave mentality and became a free human being. I know,it is a hard thing to do. When our society is ruled by the very canning exploiters. Despite  all of manipulations there are  all the signs that mankind destroying the religion mambo and jumbo .      . 

  3. The earth bursts with life. Right wing religion bursts with death. IF there is a creator of life He/She/It must hate fundamentalist religion. The countries in the world that are the most fundamentalist and religious, and those whose identity is most religion-based, are the world's greatest troublemakers.

  4. @klaasgroen The approach we should be striving for is that iron age fairy tales are awarded the same respect in society as if you said Santa Claus wills it. We need less religion, not more. This is the 21st century.

  5. @TomFynn I agree, but the universalist world-view that you suggest is somehow utopic in this world. That's why we need to strive for a religious plurist approach first i guess.

  6. I read Eck's "A New Religious America" for a course on American theology. Just the Introduction alone made me want to hurl. She is drunk on the "multicultural/diversity" punch doled out at the "cultural Marxism" party that so-called "intellectuals" love to tout as the new "progressive" ideology.

  7. Pluralism is not that opposed to inclusivism. It is just that the base for inclusion is secular culture conceding the notion of homo religiosus and incorporating all the diverse practices with an appeal to common decencies.

  8. Why is there a need for religious pluralism? After all, religions are all the same. They are all made up.

  9. Great! Finally some Uni lectures on You Tube. It's great that they've started these You Tube Education uploads; long may it continue.

  10. Isn't that the point of the scientific method? That nothing is ever a certainty, just somewhere on a sliding scale of probability? As far as I know, the hundred years or so of investigation into this theory has produced a great deal of evidence that seems to support it.
    And approaching something without certainty is the best way. Otherwise you end up with the ossified pathways of religious dogma, which produces no useful knowledge.

  11. Its ironic that, unknown to the public at large, the theory of evolution, and its definately a theory and not a fact, came from Theosophy and Luciferianism. HP Blavatsky taught that human spirits were divine but that their physical bodies had evolved from the animal kingdom. This is why this theory is promoted with such vigour. The ruling Elite are luciferians.

  12. Yet you still have that number taken from a religious text (Apocalypse of St. John) in your user name. Shame on you Mr. Secularist :-)))

  13. well the video proves that even dawrins theory is not perfect. it has holes just like every other theory. for one thing dawrin thought that cells were lumps of carbon and for another thing he thought that evolution was random but DNA contradicts that

  14. darwins theory of evolution was proven wrong a few years ago and "not knowing" is unacceptable to some people so thats why beliving in god will always have a place.

  15. lol well you cant say that there is no devinity either unless you are a aiethiest but then what came b4 the big bang and why are humans evolved in this way? religion has a place in our "advanced civilization" because as long as there is death, there are people who wounder about whats next.

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