You say that human beings are facing "the sudden and eruptive disintegration of life as we know it." What is the nature of this crisis in the world?
You mean how it's manifesting itself? It's manifesting itself in continuing and enduring conflict on the Indi-Pakistani border, in 50 years of unending conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in ongoing shooting in Ireland, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It manifests itself in ways that are apparent and obvious by the picking up of any daily newspaper.
There have always been wars, and plagues, and horrible things happening throughout human history. Is all of this somehow coming to a head now?
The difference between then and now is that we have never before had the ability to wipe out the entire human race in one fell swoop. That is, our technologies have raced ahead of our ability to stop conflict. It is the great sadness of our species that we have not found a way to eliminate the conflict and to eliminate violence as a device to resolve our conflicts throughout the entire history of the human race. This demonstrates us to be a very very primitive species -- that across the span of thousands of years, we still use the equivalent of clubs to alter our behaviors with each other. But the problem right now is that the clubs have gotten very, very large.
And you believe that organized religion not only doesn't help to resolve this problem, doesn't offer us the solutions that we need -- but that it in fact contributes to the problem?
A particular kind of organized religion -- exclusivist, punitive organized religion. That is, organized religion that says, "Our way is the only way." Because exclusivist organized religions teach us, and indeed command us, to separate ourselves from each other as a means of getting back to God. Which is interesting since God is the ultimate unity in all of the universe. Nothing has done more to separate and divide human beings one from another than exclusivist organized religion. The 200 years of the Christian Crusades is a prime example of that. The flying of airplanes into buildings in New York city all the while shouting "Allah is great" is another extraordinary example of that. These are religious and cultural expressions of enormously mistaken beliefs. And until we approach the changing of these behaviors at the level of belief rather than at the level of behavior, we will never see the behaviors go away.
There's no way you can misunderstand the teachings of the Qur'an, there's no way you can misunderstand the teachings of the Bible, there's no way you can misunderstand the teachings of the Bhaghavad Gita, or of the Book of Mormon, or of the other sacred texts of many of those religions. Those teachings are very very clear and they cannot possibly be misunderstood.
How do you misunderstand the following words [from Exodus 32]? "Take every man his sword by his side and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp and slay every man his brother and every man his companions and every man his neighbor." How do you misunderstand Numbers 25? "Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the Lord." How do you misunderstand the quotations from the Qur'an or the Bhagavad Gita as well? Which are equally direct and very very violent. Listen to the Bhaghavad Gita at Chapter 2 text 31: "You should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles so there is no need for hesitation." Read the Qur'an at Surah 9:123: "Oh ye who believe fight the unbelievers who gird you about and let them find firmness in you and know that Allah is with those who fear him."
You cannot misunderstand these words, these words are very clear. Now apologists for all of these scriptural writings say, "Oh, those words are meant metaphorically, they don't really mean fight, as in fight and kill people. It's a metaphor, it means struggle on behalf of your faith. And that's all very well and good and I would suggest to you that probably 90% of the followers of those various faiths and the readers of those various texts agree that those words are today are to be understood as metaphors and not to be taken literally. Regretfully, however, about 10% take them quite literally and actually scream them out load as they slit the throats or bomb the people with whom they disagree.