Here’s one from Wattsupwiththat.com… “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool”, George Orwell.
Quotes from Richard Landes’ Introduction to Arthur Mendel’s “Vision and Violence”, on apocalyptic millennial movements. Point? Climate change alarmism has become the latest apocalyptic millennial movement.
Apocalyptic millennial movements foresee some catastrophic end to life, a necessary violent purging of some “evil” (CO2, greedy humanity in industrial society), before a new world (millennium, utopia) can be established or a lost paradise restored.
“The Nazis were a millennial movement… millennial as a belief in a radically transformed future for all mankind… the secular is merely another clothing that millennialism has taken… and Nazism is as much a New Religious Movement as a new political one… Hitler was one of the most powerful and paranoid messiah figures that history has ever produced… the German response to him was a classic, if tragic, case of violent millennial enthusiasm… Democracy, Scientific Utopianism, Nationalism, Communism, Zionism, Nazism, Environmentalism are forms of millennial thinking, partly secular, partly still profoundly religious.”
“To the pessimists, the world and humans are so permeated by evil that terrible catastrophes must come to annihilate the evil at the dawn of the new world. Extremists of this school foresee immense violence and human destruction, they tend to view things dualistically, seeing everyone as part of the forces of “good” or “evil” with no middle ground… nothing can motivate more powerfully than apocalyptic beliefs”.
“We have reason to fear the apocalyptic believers- they believe we hate and want to destroy them, and their violence is, in their minds, purely self-protective, when it is not world saving…. Totalitarianism is the desperate effort of a millennial movement that has taken power to force the creation of the perfect world… millennialism can be the most violent and destructive force in history”.
Why do apocalyptic millennial believers continue to believe that the apocalypse will still happen despite the endless failures of their end-of-days predictions? Why does apocalyptic millennial madness continue?
“Once the prophecy is falsified, the nonsense should cease. But the cognitive dissonance of such a conclusion is unbearable to true apocalyptic believers. They have experienced too much truth- powerful, salvific, life-giving- in their millennial community to abandon it. The power of the apocalyptic community to transform its members with a sense of intimacy, purpose, and meaning, makes it particularly resilient to prophetic failure”.
“(Apocalyptic believers) cannot live with this world… so penetrated with evil that it failed to listen and repent. At one extreme of this spectrum lies suicide. At anther extreme, lies mass-murder. They combine in suicide murders… the time has come for the final, annihilating battle in which the true believer must fight with the forces of good… believers want to be martyred and will try to provoke and attack on them… (they) are moved to extreme behavior by a sense of imminence”.
“The historian Norman Cohn sought the origins of the two most devastating millennial movements of his day- Communism and Nazism- in a millennial impulse most historians had generally ignored…”
“Millennialism is not marginal, it is a widespread belief system shared by many people, especially in the monotheistic cultures, but also quite notable in Buddhism and Taoism… Millennialism was the essential idiom of Jewish apocalyptic thinking… Christianity emerges out of the Judaism of the first century CE… (around 1500 CE) there was a shift from religious to secular millennial projects and movements.
“Millennial phenomena survive all forms of secularization (Renaissance, Enlightenment, Atheism) not only undiminished but intensified… Millennial movements play a far greater role in the dynamics of modernity than most historians have imagined.”
First a qualifier: Let me affirm that renewables should be a part of a future mix of energy sources. But the motivation to explore and promote renewables should not be based on threats from hyper-exaggerated climate catastrophe narratives. We should experiment with alternatives to fossil fuels (renewables, nuclear, other) with the understanding that there is no “existential crisis” or “imminent catastrophe” obligating us to do so. Further, renewables should be financed more by private and not public money. Public funds are better spent on solving actual problems facing humanity and supporting pragmatic energy sources like fossil fuels.
Eruptions/surges of apocalyptic hysteria, Wendell Krossa
A renewed surge of apocalyptic madness has been sweeping across the planet- i.e. the climate change hysteria that exaggeratedly claims we are facing “climate catastrophe” if Earth warms a few more degrees. The climate crisis movement is not a science-based movement, though it incessantly nags us to “believe the science”. The themes that climate alarmism promotes reveal that it is another profoundly religious movement, strikingly similar to all previous eruptions of apocalyptic hysteria. Yes, there are elements of science in the mix- i.e. that we have experienced a mild warming over the past century (1 degree C), and that CO2 plays a small role in warming (“a bit player”).
The best climate science (see sites like co2coalition.org, co2science.org, Wattsupwiththat.com, etc.) shows that we are not facing a “climate catastrophe”. Unfortunately, such evidence is overwhelmed by the primitive mythological themes that have shaped the exaggerated catastrophe narrative of the climate alarmism movement. Climate alarmism themes resonate with primitive mythical ideas that have long dominated human narratives across history, both religious and “secular/ideological” narratives.
Panic-mongering that uses apocalyptic-scale scenarios has always resulted in harm to people. Richard Landes was right to call apocalyptic “the most violent and destructive idea in history”. Today the consequences of the climate alarmist’s salvation scheme- decarbonization- are increasingly evident in (1) severely rising energy prices that hurt the poorest people the most (note recent reports on the energy problems in Britain, Europe, China, and elsewhere), (2) lack of fossil fuel reserves that threaten life as a cold winter approaches (15-20 times more people die across Earth every year from cold than die from warmth), (3) grid instability and shutdown due to increasing dependence on unreliable renewables, and more. See ‘Global Warming Policy Forum’ reports for detail. Note that contemporary climate alarmism has more to do with Chicken Little mythology than the true state of climate.
Once again, here are the primitive mythical themes and patterns that fuel apocalyptic exaggeration and hysteria:
1. The past was better than the present time (original paradise or golden age- a past wilderness world).
2. ”Fallen/corrupt” humans have ruined the original paradise (anti-humanism is central to all apocalyptic mythology- blame humanity).
3. Life is becoming worse and is now declining toward catastrophe and ending (apocalypse). The belief that life is declining/degenerating (narratives of despair) reveals an obsessive and relentless orientation to the thing that go wrong in life with no balancing context of the good things that are happening in life. Declinism denies the long-term and overall improvement of life.
4. The panic-mongering over an apocalyptic ending to life frightens people, arousing their survival impulse. Scared people then abandon rationality and are susceptible to the destructive salvation schemes of alarmists.
5. Apocalyptic salvation involves (1) the felt need to make some sacrifice (e.g. give up the good life for a “morally superior simple life”), (2) the felt need to suffer something (i.e. the felt need to pay for sin, to suffer punishment for being bad), and (3) the felt need to purge some “evil threat”, something that defiles life (purification). The purging of evil is often a violent process. Note, for example, Zoroaster’s vision of a fiery end-time purging of the world, or the similar final violent purging of an impure world as detailed in the New Testament book of Revelation. Again, these themes have been deeply embedded in human meta-narratives both religious and secular.
The purging of purported impurity in the world is necessary to prepare the way for the restoration of the lost paradise, the restoration of a previously “pure world” (Eden, Dilmun, past golden age). Today the purging of evil requires central state coercion. Further, we are told that purging must involve “instantaneous transformation” of society because the apocalyptic ending is always “imminent”. There is no time to waste. The “final tipping point… the end” is just ahead. We have no time left and must act “now”, according to apocalyptic alarmists. Damn the democratic processes that respect the freedom of others.
Note that the prophesied end never arrives because life continues to get better over the long term. Hence, the end-time dates must be endlessly reset further and further into the future.
6. When the salvation is scheme is fully enacted then the lost paradise can be restored.
Scientific fact, though critically important, releases few minds from the above themes because most people live by inherited narratives and the themes of these narratives relate to inherited impulses- i.e. the impulse to engage a hero’s quest, to fight a righteous battle against some evil/enemy (tribal dualism), to conquer a monster, to sacrifice and suffer in order to save something, and consequently to tower in stature as heroic. Climate apocalyptic resonates with these impulses.
I’m reposting some earlier comments on climate change because this apocalyptic movement is now surging to new heights of feverish hysteria over “the end-is-nigh”.
“The whole aim of practical politics (and news media) is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” ― H.L. Mencken, In Defense Of Women
The climate alarm movement is the latest in an endless history of apocalyptic alarmism movements. Many of these movements were previously religiously-oriented but today they are often “secular/ideological” in orientation, as in environmental alarmism crusades. However, the same core themes- primitive mythical themes- dominate both religious and secular versions of apocalyptic movements.
“… most people pay little attention to the study of history and the result is the ‘fallacy of presentism’: the tendency to assume that events of the present are larger, more important, or more shocking than events of the past”, James Payne in ‘A History of Force’.
The fallacy of “Presentism” in relation to climate: The belief that some extreme weather event or natural disaster is the worst ever because we experienced it firsthand. The larger context is critical for properly understanding weather events, natural disasters, and climate in general. Our current Modern Warm Period is the coolest of all the warm periods of our Holocene interglacial. Further, the extreme weather events of our present world (heat waves, cold spells) are no different from all past history. More surprising, extreme weather events (storms, droughts, floods, wildfires) are not becoming worse and in some cases are becoming less frequent and less severe (even the IPCC affirms this). Note sources like Wattsupwiththat.com for detail.
Consequences of persistent despair narratives, Wendell Krossa
“Pessimism turns to fatalism and the only option is resignation and withdrawal”, Arthur Herman in ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’. Propagandized pessimism incites spreading hopelessness in populations. World surveys tell us that majorities of populations now believe “the world is getting worse”. And note the correlated trend of young couples refusing to have children in a world they believe will soon end. Or children suffering “eco-anxiety” and afraid they will die before reaching adulthood (so why attend school).
But worse than resignation and withdrawal is the potential of apocalyptic despair narratives to push populations toward a “self-fulfilling prophecy” mindset where alarmed people are increasingly susceptible to alarmist salvation schemes. Schemes intended to overturn industrial civilization, entirely. Human freedom will be the collateral damage of these schemes because Green policies, in their extremist versions, demand all-encompassing change and control of lives via centralized state coercion. Add the disturbing trends to silence, ban, and even criminalize skeptics to Green hysteria. Example: Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical climate science in 2016. Remember- skepticism, questioning, falsification, contrary data, challenge- all are critical to good science on any issue. Skepticism will enable us to get to the true state of any issue.
Further essential to the Green revolution is the growing demand for “instantaneous transformation” of society because the apocalyptic prophets claim that the end-of-days is imminent, just years up ahead (2030 is the latest end-time date). There is no time to waste, according to the prophets, and objectors with their demands for open debate and democratic processes are endangering all life. They are “murderous” deniers, unbelievers of the despair narrative. Hence, the great Green transformation will require “coercive purging”, via state force, in order to “save the world” from the purported threat to life- i.e. greedy consumers in an industrial society based on fossil fuels.
These totalitarian apocalyptic approaches were tried last century and what was the outcome? We had the mass-death movements of Marxism (100 million deaths from the crusade against the “capitalist threat”) and Nazism (50-60 million deaths from the crusade against the “Jewish Bolshevik threat”). Environmental alarmism has now taken up the formerly Marxist crusade to overturn industrial civilization, with despair narratives no different from the other unhinged apocalyptic crusades of past history.
(Note: The above conclusions are not mine alone. Data and sources from many credible researchers are noted in articles and sections below.)
Prophets without shame, Wendell Krossa
Apocalyptic prophets have been prophesying the end-of-days at a fevered level for the past 70 years, with heightened eruptions of hysteria along the way. Notable among the sandwich-board crowd is Paul Ehrlich who claimed in the 1970s that the end was nigh for varied reasons- global cooling, mass starvation, exhausted resources. He set dates for the end around 1980. But nope. The end did not arrive because life, to the contrary, generally improved. So he, and related prophets, reset the date for the apocalypse another decade or so out. And nope again. Life and the world did not end then. So they repeated the fraud of apocalyptic exaggeration and reset the end of days again. And again. These prophets usually claim an end-times date about 10-15 years up ahead. The latest date for the end-of-days is 2030. John Kerry has become one of the main voices propagandizing this “final tipping point” mythology.
What drives this endless re-setting of the end-of-days? The apocalyptic mind denies the evidence that life overall continues to improve. Apocalyptic scenarios are irrational, irresponsible, unscientific lunacy. Is that too harsh a conclusion?
Many fundamental indicators of the true state of life show that we are living through the best of times in world history (see, for example, ‘Humanprogress.org’). And the future will be much better. The end-of-days scenarios pumped out repeatedly by apocalyptic prophets under the guise of science are fraudulent distortions of life. See sources in material below.
Articles on this site probe the mindset of the many people that continue to embrace the insanity that is apocalyptic mythology. Apocalypticism has to do with themes/ideas that have long dominated human worldviews, whether in religious versions or “secular/ideological/scientific” versions. This is deeply embedded ‘subconscious’ stuff, “archetypal” stuff.
The true state of life on Earth (a revised reposting) Wendell Krossa
While problems exist everywhere, they are solvable and humanity has done well in caring for and preserving world resources. For detailed research on the true status of world resources see Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’, Bjorn Lomborg’s ‘Skeptical Environmentalist’, or ‘Population Bombed’ by Szurmak and Desrochers, among many similar studies. Below are some basic facts on the main resources of our world. They are the main indicators of the true state of life on our planet. They all show that life is not declining toward something worse. There is no looming environmental apocalypse.
Leading indicators for evaluating the true state of life:
(1) World forest cover in the 1950s was 3.8 billion hectares (FAO stats). World forest cover today is 4.1-plus billion hectares, despite the world population tripling from 2.4 billion people in the early 1950s to almost 8 billion today. Deforestation rates continue to decline and reforestation/afforestation projects continue to succeed. We are not destroying the world’s forests. http://www.fao.org/forestry/fra/52045/en/
(2) Proven species extinctions. While any species extinction is unacceptable, we have dramatically improved our care of nature. Species extinctions are on a notably declining trend line and have decreased from about 5 per year in 1870 to about 0.5 per year today (see the IUCN Red List All Extinct Species by Decade on p.101 of Patrick Moore’s new book ‘Fake Invisible Catastrophes And Threats of Doom’). While nature has destroyed over 95% of all species over the span of life on this planet, compassionate humanity is now protecting species as never before.
See also Julian Simon’s chapter on the IUCN report on species loss (in Ultimate Resource and other books) and the discredited assumption/correlation between habitat loss and species extinctions. The wrong assumption was that with habitat loss of 90% some 50% of species would go extinct. Both the Northeastern US and Northeastern Brazil study areas disproved that assumption. The assumption did not understand the resiliency, adaptability, and toughness of life. There is no species holocaust occurring. Nature is not “fragile”.
(3) Climate change (the atmosphere as a main resource): There has been a mild 1 degree Centigrade of warming over the past century and a half. That slightly warmed our still abnormally cold world. We are still in an “ice-age era”. Average surface temperatures today are around 15 degrees Centigrade. That is 5-10 degrees Centigrade below the more optimal average surface temperatures of the past 500 million years. For over 90% of the past 500 million years there was no ice at the poles. That is a more normal and optimal world. And contrary to the falsified climate models, there is no settled evidence of much more warming occurring in the future. There is no “climate crisis” looming.
Also, most of our Holocene inter-glacial, that began around 11,000 years ago, has been warmer than today. The Holocene Climatic Optimum (roughly 10-5,000 years ago) was more than 1 degree C. warmer. The Roman Warm Period (250 BCE to 400 CE) and the Medieval Warm Period (950- 1,250 CE) were also warmer than today. Life overall and human civilization flourished during such warming periods. From about 5,000 years ago our interglacial began a long-term cooling trend (the “Neoglacial” period). Our current Modern Warm period is the coolest of the four warm periods of our interglacial.
We are also still in a “CO2 starvation era” where CO2 has declined to its lowest levels compared to most of past history. 20,000 years ago CO2 levels declined to 185 ppm, barely above the level at which all plant life dies (150 ppm). We have experienced a mild increase in atmospheric CO2 levels to 400-plus ppm today but this is still far below long-term historical averages (multiple-thousands of ppm) when life flourished with much more of its basic plant food.
(4) Ocean fisheries are not collapsing and aquaculture is meeting the growing human demand for fish. See Ray Hilborn reports and FAO summaries on fisheries. The world fisheries are not being decimated, though various species are over-fished and need more protection/better management. Wild fish consumption has peaked over past decades and aquaculture has been growing rapidly to meet the growing demand for fish. https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/01/13/fisheries-management-is-actually-working-global-analysis-shows/
(5) The overall agricultural land-base is not severely degrading. Also, any soil erosion must be understood in net terms, as related to new soil regeneration rates. Further, over the past century and more, we have returned several hundred million acres of agricultural land back to nature as hi-yield GM crops enable farmers to produce more crop on the same or less land. We have probably already passed “peak-agricultural land” use.
Thanks also to increasing levels of basic plant food in the atmosphere (i.e. CO2) there has been a 30% increase in green vegetation across the Earth over the past century. This aerial CO2 also contributes to remarkable increases in crop production (see CO2science.org). Humanity now produces 25% more food than we need. Hydroponics will also meet much of future food demands.
These, and other indicators, show that the overall long-term trajectory of life is improving, not worsening.
A note to our children: Do not fear the future of life on our planet. With continued wealth creation we will continue to solve the remaining world resource problems and life will continue to get ever better than before. Your personal contribution to making life better will add to humanity’s overall success. Do not let false alarmism narratives rob you of hope.
Other indicators of the state of life
These are some of the most important things in life and they tell us where life is heading. This is not to deny that serious problems remain in many areas of life, but to re-assure with hope that people are working to find solutions and our track record affirms that we have done well in solving problems and vastly improving life for most people. The best is yet to come.
Infant mortality rates
In 1800 one third of children (33%) died before reaching 5 years of age. The global rate today is 4.5% and much lower (well below 1%) in most of the more developed countries.
Human life span
In the pre-industrial era the average life expectancy was about 30 years. Today the world average is over 70 years and higher in many countries. See sources like Ourworldindata.org.
Over the past century major diseases have been conquered, others turned into long-term maladies. The current pandemic appears to have been caused by human action against better advice (i.e. continuing gain of function research despite a ban, and substandard lab safety measures). Hopefully, this outbreak will result in more pro-active vaccine research and other preventative measures that will lessen the chance of future similar outbreaks.
Decline in poverty
Poverty has declined rapidly over past decades and much of the world’s population is entering middle-class status. There is no reason this trend will not continue.
Human comfort and well-being
Ongoing technological advances have made human existence much less punishing with breakthroughs in transportation, communication, and general human comfort. Workplace safety has increased significantly. Deaths from natural disasters have declined by 96% over the past century.
Once more- Plant and animal life
With more basic plant food in the atmosphere (CO2) plant life has flourished with a 30% increase in green vegetation on Earth over the past century. Animals have benefitted with more food and humanity has benefitted with increased crop production from aerial fertilization. Also, GM crop breakthroughs have resulted in crop records being broken annually with more breakthroughs to come. We now produce significantly more food than humanity needs. And a warming climate (in an abnormally cold world) will further benefit animal and plant life with extended habitats.
Further, extinctions are at all time lows.
Committed pessimists ignore the many improvements to life and focus obsessively on remaining problems without locating them within the larger overall context of improving life. Alarmist types tend to exaggerate problems out to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the overall big picture and long-term trajectory of life.
Beating a mantra into public consciousness, Wendell Krossa
We hear the repeated mantra in news media today that hot days or heat waves are the “hottest on record”. The alarmist mantra of “hottest on record” refers only to the formal record of the last 150 years. That brief snippet pulled out of the larger climate history permits alarmist distortion of the true state of climate. The hottest days and years of the last 150 years were actually during the 1930s (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/07/15/the-deadly-heat-wave-of-july-1936-in-the-middle-of-arguably-the-hottest-decade-on-record-for-the-us/). But that hotter period was before CO2 could be blamed for climate change so it is ignored as it doesn’t suit the larger narrative point that climate alarmists are trying to make.
Why do we hear this particular mantra of “hottest on record” repeated endlessly by news media, politicians, and celebrities? Why are today’s hot days and heat waves not placed within the larger climate history to give the public a proper perspective on things?
The exaggerated slogan of heat threat (along with other extreme weather events) is repeated to affirm a larger background narrative- that climate is warming dangerously and will become catastrophic if it warms past another 1.5-2.0 degrees C. Further to the narrative, “hottest on record” affirms that any warming is evidence of a human-caused “existential crisis” (“manmade” climate change) because we are burning too much fossil fuel and causing atmospheric CO2 levels to rise. And the only permissible response, according to climate authoritarians, must be the immediate and radical decarbonization of our societies and a massive shift to renewables. This salvation scheme (to “save the world”) is already causing immense harm to the poorest people with rising energy costs.
This environmental apocalypse story of looming climate crisis (one of an endless series of environmental alarms over the past 70 years) is part of an even larger background political narrative that is anti-industrial civilization, anti-capitalism, and fundamentally anti-human. (See, for example, “Hubris: The troubling science, economics, and politics of climate change” by Michael Hart.)
This site challenges the narrative of looming disaster caused by humanity using fossil fuels. While there are elements of truth in the mix- i.e. that it is warming and CO2 contributes to the warming- good evidence from the best climate scientists on the planet does not support the alarmist exaggeration that (1) we are mostly responsible for rising CO2 levels, or that (2) CO2 is mainly responsible for climate warming, or that (3) the warming will become catastrophic. As noted often before on this site, there is no climate crisis and there is no scientifically sound reason to tax carbon or decarbonize our societies.
Nagging the public, Wendell Krossa
Politicians continue to bully the public to “believe in climate change”. “Its real”, they shout, and “we have to tackle it”. We have to act. Now.
Well yes, of course climate change is real. Unending change has always been the normal state of climate. There is no such thing as unchanging climate because climate is a complex, dynamic, and chaotic system and it is impossible for climate to be in stasis or to be static. It cannot but change.
So we all “know” that climate changes. It’s an established fact of our world. And yes, of course, when alarmist politicians argue for us to “believe” in climate change, they really mean believe their narrative of “manmade climate change” with the consequent alarmist mandate to cease using fossil fuels and shift immediately and entirely to renewables- i.e. decarbonization. We get this meaning behind their badgering.
And tackle climate change? If you mean mitigate, as in decarbonization, then you are engaging a King Canute-like project because we do not yet even understand all that influences climate. It is certain that CO2 is not the sole driver, not even the main driver of climate change. Good scientific research shows that CO2 is “a bit player” in a complex of factors influencing climate to change. The dominant players are factors like water vapor and that is part of a larger complex that includes the influence of cosmic rays increasing cloud cover, the sun interacting with cosmic rays to reduce cloud cover, and much more.
Add to the mix of climate change factors the significant influence of multi-decadal oscillations in ocean currents.
Certainly, we can experiment with alternatives to fossil fuels (renewables) to lower emissions but there is no “existential crisis” obligating us to do so. Because there is no evidence that the climate change that we have experienced over past decades is becoming “catastrophic”. That claim is unscientific alarmist nonsense. Pure apocalyptic exaggeration. And it irresponsibly alarms the public.
And act ‘now’? Well yes, just as humanity has reacted and acted in response to changing climate all across history. Adapting to climate change.
So enough already with the endless setting of dates for the end-of-days, terrorizing people with a false urgency based on a mild and beneficial one degree of warming over the past century. That mild warming has rescued us from the bitter pre-industrial cold of the Little Ice Age (1450-1850). We need still more warming and that will benefit life even more.
Challenging the alarm narrative, Wendell Krossa
Where is the promotion of basic science with its healthy skepticism, questioning, inclusion of contrary evidence, debate, and balancing falsification? (This comment is aimed mainly at politicians)
It is interesting to watch across the spectrum (Left to Right) politicians unquestioningly affirming the main unproven assumptions of the climate alarm movement. Those assumptions are not “settled, consensus science” by any respectable empirical measure. They are assumptions/exaggerations that have more to do with apocalyptic mythology than climate science.
Two prominent unproven assumptions of climate alarmists:
(1) That CO2 is mainly responsible for warming climate. This assumption ignores or dismisses the varied other natural factors that show much stronger correlations to the climate change that we have seen over past decades. Note, for example, the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction (See Henrik Svensmark’s ‘The Chilling Stars’), or the multi-decadal oscillations/shifts in ocean currents from cooling to warming phases, among others. These natural factors overwhelm the CO2 influence on climate.
(2) That warming will be “catastrophic” if it rises and passes another 1.5-2.0 degrees C.
First, we have had only a 1 degree C warming over the past century and that is part of the natural recovery from the earlier descent into the bitter cold of the Little Ice Age of AD 1450-1850. Who in their right mind would want to return to the pre-industrial cold and dangerously low levels of CO2?
Scenarios of another 3-6 degrees C. warming are based on discredited computer models. More to the point, a few degrees more warming would not be catastrophic but would be a return to the more normal, optimal averages of most of past history when all life flourished with much warmer average temperatures (i.e. 15-20 degrees Centigrade averages, versus the average 15 degrees C of today’s world). A much warmer world means extended habitats for life (i.e. no ice at the poles as was the state of the world for over 90% of world history), longer growing seasons, less severe gradients between the warm and cold areas that produce more severe storms, and more evaporation which means less drought, and more.
Add here that more basic plant food in the atmosphere- CO2- has resulted in a much greener world (a 15% increase in green vegetation since 1980) along with record crop production over recent years. All life is benefitting from more CO2 and more warmth. It is irrational madness to claim that more warming will devastate life when past history shows a much warmer world benefitted life immensely.
Remember also that the past warm periods of our interglacial (i.e. Holocene Optimum/Minoan, Roman, Medieval) were all warmer than our modern warm period and civilizations and all life flourished during those previous warm periods.
Big picture perspective on the true state of things, Wendell Krossa
Why the contemporary hysteria over ice melting at the North Pole, Greenland, and varied glacial regions? For over 90% of our planet’s history the Earth has been entirely ice-free. That is a more optimal, normal, and healthy state for life. Ongoing discoveries affirm that during those past eras when the polar regions were entirely ice free, diverse warm-climate flora and fauna inhabited both poles (e.g. the stumps of tropical trees have been discovered in the Arctic, along with the remains of camels and other warm-region flora and fauna). That means all life experienced vastly expanded habitats during those times. A good thing.
Note that the highest diversity of species today, both ocean and land species, are found in the tropical areas of Earth. Most life prefers warmth. Most people also prefer much more warmth and prove that by vacationing or migrating to live in the warmer areas of Earth.
More warming does not mean there will be catastrophic harm to life as already warm areas do not necessarily become hotter. More warmth is distributed, via ocean and atmospheric convection currents, to the colder regions of Earth (polar regions), to the colder seasons (winter), and to colder times of day (nighttime). Climate warming spreads to the entire world with beneficial outcomes for all life, not “catastrophe”.
Today we are still far below the much warmer average temperatures of most past history. Average temperatures across much of the history of life were up to 5-10 degrees C higher than today’s average of about 15 degrees C. And life thrived in that much warmer world. Again, there was no “climate catastrophe”.
Further, the previous three inter-glacial periods were all 3-5 degrees warmer than our current Holocene interglacial (i.e. Purfleet: 337-300,000 years ago, La Bouchet: 242-230,000 years ago, Eemian: 130-115,000 years ago).
What about our interglacial- the Holocene- now 11,000 years long? Over the past 5000 years we have been in a long-term cooling trend. Our current Modern Warm Period is the coolest of the five major warm periods of our interglacial. The previous warmer periods were the Holocene Optimum, Minoan, Roman, and Medieval periods. The larger context of our interglacial shows that we are now in a cooling trend and that ought to be our real concern as cooling climate means more droughts, more extinctions, and more human suffering.
It is irrational to be worried about melting ice and a few more degrees of average warmth when, in net terms, the benefits to all life from more warming far outweigh any negatives. Cooling is a far greater threat to life. We should value all further warming that we might get at this time in world history.
So again, why this endless media hysteria over melting ice in varied places of our world? Some species may suffer but many more others will benefit from warmer temperatures and an ice-free planet. Others have noted that polar bears have survived the much warmer past interglacial periods (i.e. complete melts of Arctic ice). The Eemian (130-115,000 years ago) was 2-4 degrees C warmer than today, so also the other previous interglacials.
End notes: Summer Arctic melting has benefitted polar bears immensely. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/09/15/still-waiting-for-two-thirds-of-polar-bears-worldwide-to-disappear-due-to-lack-of-summer-sea-ice/
Melting ice and sea level rise: It is natural for climate to warm and the ice of glacial periods to melt during interglacials and hence for sea levels to rise. Oceans have risen a total of 120 meters since our Holocene Interglacial began some 11,000 years ago. Oceans continue to rise at the slow rate of about 1.5-3.0 mm per year. Despite this mild rise, the total surface area of Pacific Ocean islands has increased and not decreased. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/08/31/new-study-62-km%c2%b2-6-net-expansion-in-100s-of-pacific-indian-ocean-island-shorelines-from-2000-2017/
Another: Heat events and wildfires are not worsening today. Wildfires have declined notably over the past century and extreme heat events are “weather events”, not necessarily related to larger climate patterns. There are many diverse factors contributing to local heat waves. See Wattsupwiththat.com for regular climate updates, also GWPF (Global Warming Policy Forum).
The tragedy of being carried away by “crowd madness”, Wendell Krossa
A sense of tragedy is evoked when the natural human desire to fight a heroic and righteous battle against some evil is misdirected into alarmist movements that ultimately cause harm to others. And yes, a generous view of this would grant that the harm is the result of unintended consequences from otherwise well-intentioned people. We saw misdirected heroism in the past century battles of Marxism against industrial/capitalist civilization. Today we are watching this misdirected zeal in the nihilist destruction of Antifa rioting. But we see its most dangerous eruptions in environmental crusades like decarbonization. Point? Make sure your monsters are real and the outcomes of your “righteous” cause are benefitting others, not harming them.
Examples: Rachel Carson was undoubtedly a well-intentioned lady. But her fear-mongering based on shoddy science arguably contributed to the subsequent deaths of many people, often children, due to the bans on DDT that were influenced by her alarmism. See “THE EXCELLENT POWDER: DDT’s Political and Scientific History” by Donald Roberts, Richard Tren.
Greenpeace alarmism over GM crops has also contributed to the unnecessary deaths of millions of children denied Vitamin A in crops like Golden Rice. https://nationalpost.com/opinion/bjorn-lomborg-trashing-rice-killing-children
Patterns in alarmism movements, Wendell Krossa (similar summaries have been posted before because the patterns and themes are important to note)
The overall long-term trajectory of life shows ongoing improvement in the main features of life. We see the improvement in indicators like declining violence, declining deaths from natural disasters, solutions to disease threats, and the improvements throughout the natural world (declining deforestation, protection of fish stocks, declining extinctions, the return of agricultural land to nature).
But there have been some disastrous disruptions to the trajectory of overall progress, notably the mass-death movements of the 20th Century. The factors that contributed to those horrors have re-emerged and are working through environmental alarmism today, notably in climate alarmism.
Note the following patterns of incitements and consequent responses…
Firsts, alarmists exaggerate problems with “end-of-days” prophesies, apocalyptic-scale scenarios, and that exaggerated panic-mongering distorts the true state of any problem making it hard to rationally approach a problem. More important, panic-mongering incites the survival impulse in populations. Frightened people abandon rational thinking and are susceptible to the salvation schemes of alarmists. Frightened people willingly embrace the alarmist obligation to purge some “evil” that purportedly threatens life, in order to “save the world”.
The widely declared evil to be purged today is the basic food of all life- CO2. That is irrational anti-science nonsense because we have long been in a “CO2 starvation era” where CO2 levels have been at historic lows that have threatened plant life. Further, science has shown that CO2 is not the main driver of climate change, and the mild natural climate change that we have experienced will not become “catastrophic” (i.e. one degree C of warming in a still abnormally cold world). Additionally, the benefits of more CO2 have been significant with a 15% addition of green vegetation across the Earth since 1980. That has meant more food for animal life, and increased crop production for humanity (see CO2science.org).
Projects to decarbonize our societies reveal the destructiveness of climate alarmism. Governments have over-invested in unreliable renewables, while defunding exploration and production of fossil fuel resources. The result has been fossil fuel shortages, skyrocketing energy prices, and destabilized electrical grids (blackouts).
Salvation (“save the world”) by decarbonization engenders a feeling of nobleness in true believers who feel called to make a sacrifice (i.e. give up the good life) and pay for their sins with some form of suffering. Also, many desire to embrace a hero’s quest and fight a righteous battle against “evil” and find that desire satisfied in the concocted/fabricated fight against greedy consumers in fossil fuel civilization. True believers in climate catastrophe are also offered the hope of salvation in a purified world (free of fossil fuels) and that more pure world will be the restoration of a lost paradise (i.e. the world before fallen humanity in industrial civilization, or even better, in extreme Green visions, a world without humanity). Climate alarmists present their crusade as an existential battle of good versus evil.
Critical to the alarmist scenarios are mandates for compelled salvationism- i.e. the demand for “instantaneous transformation” due to the imminence of the threat. Manufactured imminence keeps the panic pressure at high level, even hysterical levels. Imminence then demands coercive, even violent purging of the CO2 threat as the end-of-days is only a decade or so away (recent “end-of-days” dates range from 2030-2050). We are told that we cannot wait for normal democratic processes to function because infidels/skeptics to the cause (i.e. “unbelievers, deniers”), with their calls for open debate over the many uncertainties in data, are dangerously blocking efforts to save the world. The alarmist push is then for centralized state coercion to enact their program.
The same patterns above also operated in Marxism and Nazism. Marxist alarmists incited fear of the “capitalist threat” to the world that had to be coercively purged, while Nazis panicked Germans to coercively purge the “threat of Jewish Bolshevism”. Both alarmism movements produced mass-death outcomes. See the research of historians who have traced these and related alarmism patterns in Marxism, Nazism, and environmentalism: Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline in Western History), Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), Arthur Mendel (Vision and Violence), and David Redles (Hitler’s Millennial Reich).
Observe the same patterns operating today in climate alarmism with its salvation scheme of decarbonization.
Note: There has been intense hysteria over recent heat waves in Western North America (“hottest on record”) with media claiming those events as evidence of a looming catastrophic heat apocalypse. But heat waves are localized weather events common all throughout history, whether climate is warming or cooling. The hottest period of the last 150 years in North America was during the 1930s. Further, varied other areas of the planet now suffer more from cooling trends (e.g. Antarctica, Europe).
Themes/ideas in alarmism movements, Wendell Krossa
Alarmism movements thrive and grow because they touch base with some of the most primitive mythical ideas from an ancient past. These ideas/themes have been beaten into human consciousness across the millennia to the point that they have become embedded as subconscious archetypes (mythical themes affirming inherited animal impulses). These themes still dominate the world religions and have been given updated expression in contemporary “secular” ideologies like Declinism and its offspring- environmental alarmism.
A partial list (see “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” for full version)
1. The past was better (life began in an original paradise/Eden).
2. Corrupted people ruined the original paradise and consequently humanity has been devalued as essentially bad, sinful, fallen- a “cancer/virus” on the Earth. Fallen, sinful humanity deserves to be punished.
3. After the “fall” (the loss of paradise and degeneration of humanity) life overall has been corrupted and has been on a declining trajectory toward something worse. World majorities now believe that the “world is getting worse”.
4. Life is heading toward some “catastrophe”, toward apocalyptic ending as the great final judgment and punishment of corrupt humanity.
5. Salvation is to be found by making some sacrifice, by embracing suffering as necessary to achieve something good (i.e. give up the good life in industrial civilization). Salvation also comes by purging the “evil” in life (i.e. greedy consumers in modern industrial society).
6. Tribally-divided people are obligated to fight a righteous battle against evil enemies. Once the enemy has been defeated (the evil purged) then there is hope that the lost paradise can be restored, or a new utopia installed.
7. Urgency is demanded because the threat from the evil enemy is always “imminent”, just up ahead a few years. Hence, the need for coercive, violent purging of threat via central state coercion. There must be “radical and instantaneous transformation” of societies. There is no time to lose as the apocalypse is looming just a few years up ahead.
A counter narrative: Humanity improves life gradually, by confronting problems with creative ingenuity, using repetitious hard work, embracing the gradualism and compromise of democratic processes, and through constant guard against the anti-human, anti-life forces that would derail improvement.
See the revised reposting of humanity’s most prominent ideas just below… ideas that render people susceptible to alarmism narratives and alarmist salvation schemes with their destructive outcomes. Panic-mongering incites irrationality in populations. The subsequent policy responses are never wise, and sometimes are outright ruinous. “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” offers alternative ideas for a new meta-narrative. I acknowledge that most people on the planet choose to embrace assumptions/beliefs in some form of “spiritual” reality as essential to their quest for meaning, while also embracing the unquestionable discoveries of science.
My point in the following briefs on climate is that many politicians and scientists seem too hesitant to present a clear alternative narrative to climate alarmism. There is too much kowtowing to the basic unproven assumptions of the climate alarm narrative. Some politicians will offer a whisper of hesitation and state that decarbonization may be a bit radical and rushed. But then, fearful of alarmist backlash, they quickly pivot to affirming the alarmism narrative, following-up with “Yes, warming is a real threat and we must do something”.
No. The mild warming that we have experienced (one degree C over the past century) is not a threat and there is no clear evidence of much more warming coming, contrary to the exaggerations of the discredited climate models. In fact, we are currently in another “warming pause” with indications of a possible cooling trend developing. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/02/03/the-new-pause-lengthens-from-5-years-4-months-to-5-years-6-months/
Conclusion: In response to “We must do something”- Yes. First, stop the exaggerated panic-mongering over a mild natural warming. Then promote open and free public discussion/debate on climate issues, including the entire body of diverse evidence from all sides of climate science. And then encourage populations to adapt as humanity always has adapted to changing climate. Rather than decarbonize we should be developing the fossil fuels resources that will enable us to survive better in a potentially cooling world. Fossil fuels have enabled the incredible success of industrial civilization with its immense benefits in improving the human condition and enabling humanity to better care for the planet. Further, the public needs to know the significant benefits of more CO2 and more warmth as contrasted with cold and low CO2 levels.
Why is the pubic being denied an honest presentation and open discussion of this evidence?
News notes: https://www.thegwpf.com/allysia-finley-climate-policy-meets-cold-reality-in-europe/
The cost of Net Zero: Carbon taxes & Europe’s energy crisis
The “crowd madness” element of decarbonization– Wendell Krossa
Apocalyptic prophets (climate alarmism is more a religious/political crusade than a scientific one) have panicked populations over a beneficial mild warming in an abnormally cold world. The hyper-exaggerated climate alarm narrative (“imminent catastrophe”, “existential crisis”, “final tipping point”, the “end-of-days” by 2030) has incited the survival impulse and subsequent irrationality has possessed entire populations. Frightened citizens have been rendered susceptible to the irrational salvation scheme of alarmist prophets- i.e. “save the world”, meaning decarbonize the world, now. The outcome has been sky-rocketing energy costs now harming the poorest people the most. The outcome of climate madness is already being felt intensely in Britain and Europe with unstable electrical grids and energy shortages (due to neglected development of fossil fuel resources, and public funds wasted on unreliable renewables).
Climate evidence contradicts the climate alarm narrative entirely:
Over the past millions of years CO2 has descended to historical lows, dangerous lows, dipping almost to the level at which all plant life dies, some 20,000 years ago (i.e. down to 185 ppm- plant life dies at 150 ppm).
Good science has shown that CO2 is not main driver of climate change but is only a “bit player” in a complex of natural factors that show much stronger correlations to the climate change that we are observing. Further, climate physicists note that the warming influence of CO2 declines dramatically (logarithmically) with rising atmospheric levels. CO2’s ability to absorb and re-emit radiation (trapping infrared heat- the greenhouse effect) has already reached “saturation” and more CO2 will contribute to very little more warming.
Further, there will be no catastrophic outcome from several more degrees of warming in our still abnormally cold world. For most of the past history of life on Earth, climate was much warmer (5-10 degrees C warmer on average) and life flourished with expanded habitats, including the presence of tropical flora and fauna in ice-free polar regions. Also, during the past warmer periods of our current interglacial human civilization flourished along with all life.
There are major benefits from more CO2- i.e. increased crop productivity from aerial fertilization, more food for animal life, and an overall greener world (note the 15% increase in green vegetation across Earth over the past 40 years from more basic plant food in the atmosphere). These benefits are ignored by alarmist scientists/politicians/media.
Conclusion: There is no sound scientific reason to tax carbon or decarbonize our societies.
Endless hysteria over melting polar ice. Huh? WTF? Wendell Krossa
(Note: Endless claims of “hottest on record” distorts the larger context of climate entirely.)
Once again- Why the ongoing distress over melting Arctic ice? For over 90% of the past 500 million years there was no ice at the poles. Researchers have discovered tropical flora and fauna at both poles that affirm the massively extended habitats of that warmer past history. Average world temperatures for most of that time were 5-10 degrees C higher than today’s 15 degrees C average.
That “hothouse Earth” did not necessarily mean more heat in already warm areas as convection currents (ocean and atmosphere) distribute more heat across the world. Increased warming impacts mostly colder seasons, colder regions, and colder times of day (i.e. night). But even in areas where it was warmer overall, there was no catastrophic impact on life. Life flourished just as it has during the warmer periods of our interglacial.
Will some species like polar bears suffer in an ice-free world? Perhaps, but they have survived much warmer past interglacial eras like the Eemian (130-115,000 years ago), the La Bouchet (242-230,000 years ago), and the Purfleet (337-300,000 years ago). Those were up to 3-5 degrees C warmer than our current Holocene interglacial. Polar bears have been around for over 300,000 years. Some researchers say millions of years. They will adapt and survive an ice-free world just as they have in the past.
And note that the highest species diversity today- plant and animal- is in the warmest parts of the world, the tropical regions. Life loves more heat. A warmer, ice-free world will mean that far more species will benefit than will suffer. Melting polar ice means extended habitats for far more diverse species than currently exist in the coldest areas. Further, note that cold climate causes more extinctions than warm climate does (Ian Plimer in ‘Heaven and Earth’).
Most people also prefer a warmer world as evident in the fact they vacation or migrate to the warmest areas of Earth. Also critical to remember is that 15-20 times more people die every year from cold than die from warmth. Cold, not warmth, is a far greater threat to all life. Add here that more warmth means extended crop seasons for humanity.
And research shows that our Modern Warm period is the coolest of the warm periods of our interglacial. The Holocene/Minoan Optimum, the Roman, and the Medieval warm periods were all warmer than today and life thrived during those periods. Evidence shows that over the past 5000 years we have been in a long-term cooling trend known as the “Neo-glacial period”.
Against all this evidence climate alarmists want us to return to pre-industrial cold and dangerously low levels of CO2 that almost extinguished all life some 20,000 years ago. Where is common sense in that?
Previous warm/cold periods of our Holocene interglacial
Holocene Optimum: 5000 to 3000 BCE (several degrees warmer than today)
Roman Warm period: 250 BCE to 400 CE (at least one degree warmer than today)
Medieval Warm period: 950 to 1250 CE (at least one degree warmer than today)
Little Ice Age: 1300 to 1850 CE
As we near the end of our interglacial, the long-term trend toward cooling is the greater threat.
Following recent past eruptions of religious terrorism (i.e. ISIS), varied public commentators rightly noted that such eruptions would continue into the future unless we confronted the ideas/ideologies behind such violence. Go to the root ideologies, they said, and deal properly with that. Apply this “go to the root of the problem” to all alarmism/apocalyptic movements. There are common ideas/themes behind such movements, worldviews/narratives that incite people to destructive action. If we are to problem-solve thoroughly and for the long-term future, then we need to tackle the root ideas/themes behind alarmism movements and deal thoroughly with those root contributing factors.
Humanity’s most prominent ideas (a “mind revolution” project)
We all embrace a collection of ideas/themes that shape how we view reality, life, human society, others and ourselves. The ideas we embrace influence how we think, feel, respond, and how we act/behave in life. Just below is a list of the most common and dominant ideas that have shaped human thought across history. These ideas/themes, or indistinguishable variants of them, still dominate most people’s thinking today.
Bad themes/ideas in the mix have incited incalculable harm across history while good ideas have enabled people to counter wrong in life and to construct societies and an overall developing civilization that has progressed toward more humane conditions/outcomes over the long-term. Evaluating the core ideas/themes of our personal worldviews is critical because we have inherited some bad stuff and common human decency obligates us to find better alternatives. We engage this project to better our thinking because we want to contribute something good to life and not waste time in misguided or harmful ventures.
The themes below have been beaten into human consciousness for multiple millennia. They are now hardwired in human subconscious as “archetypes”. With the modern era shift to a more “scientific” worldview these themes were not abandoned but were given new “secular” expression in ideologies and in even sometimes in science. The terms of expression were changed but the core themes remained the same old mythology as ever before. Joseph Campbell was right that the same primitive mythical themes have been repeated all across history and across all the cultures of our world.
These themes continue to dominate most belief systems today, notably as apocalyptic in religious traditions or as ‘Declinism’ in ideological versions. Why do I offer counter-speculation in response to some of these ideas that have to do with the “metaphysical” or spiritual reality? Because bad ideas of the metaphysical already exist and continue to dominate most people’s speculation, so why not at least offer better alternatives? And I recognize that we cannot avoid speculating on a variety of these issues that have always been fundamental to the primal human impulse for meaning and purpose.
Preface to Old Story/New Story themes (revised, updated) Wendell Krossa
The belief/behavior relationship, or theology/ethics relationship, is as old as conscious humanity. People, driven/inspired by their primary impulse for meaning, have always tried to model their lives and societies according to some greater ideal or authority, most commonly according to views of deity. Plato did this with his argument that the ideal life and society should be molded according to the invisible Forms or perfect Ideals. The Hebrews followed this pattern in the Old Testament, shaping all aspects of their lives and society according to what they believed was the law, word, and will of their God. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted this practice among the Balinese of Indonesia who patterned their villages and homes according to what they believed was the divine model.
The fundamental role of belief in shaping human behavior and society (inspiring, guiding, validating human behavior) makes it critically important that our guiding ideals/authorities are fully humane, in line with humanity’s ever-advancing understanding of the authentically humane in all areas of life. And there has never been a higher ideal to guide human life than the ideal of deity. The subhuman features that our ancestors projected onto deity ought to concern all of us because of the correlated subhuman treatment of others across history in the name of deity (i.e. horrific outcomes as in religious violence).
The 18 “Old story themes” below focuses on some of the most dominant and influential ideas from history. Ideas that have shaped human consciousness via mythical and religious traditions. They continue to shape the worldviews of most moderns in “secular” or ideological versions.
The consequences from these subhuman ideas have been, and still are, significantly damaging, both personally and across wider societies. Evidence? On the personal level see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”. Cruel God theologies include the pathological features of deity as a tribally exclusive (favoring true believers, antagonistic toward unbelievers/outsiders), retaliatory (divine payback), dominating (deity as Lord, King- validating domination of others), punitive (deity as harsh judge, justice as punitive), and deity as a destroying reality (apocalypse, hell). These themes have burdened human lives with unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, despair, and violence. And the consequences in human behavior have been horrific because people “become just like the God that they believe in”.
See also the Millennial Studies historians noted in sections below- Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles. They have detailed how the ‘apocalyptic millennial’ complex of ideas contributed to the mass-death movements of the past century (Marxism, Nazism, environmental alarmism). Mendel (Vision and Violence) was right to conclude that “apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history”. Further, Bob Brinsmead has often reminded us that “Men never do greater evil than when they do it in the name of God”.
The project to embrace better alternatives is about the full transformation and liberation of consciousness, and more humane outcomes in human life. The old ideas are no longer credible for defining or explaining reality and life. In many cases, they have long been too dangerous to inspire and guide human thought and behavior.
(Revised version) Old story themes, new story alternatives (rethinking 18 of the most fundamental ideas from across human history)
1. Old story theme: The myth of deity as a judging, punishing, and destroying reality that metes out final justice- rewarding the good, punishing the bad (i.e. threat theology). This myth continues as the cohering center of the world religions and is now also given expression in ‘secular’ versions such as vengeful Gaia, angry planet, pissed Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and payback karma- the new retaliatory, destroying gods of environmental alarmism, history’s latest apocalyptic movement.
The myth of God as a retaliating, punishing reality has long under-girded human justice systems as similarly retaliatory and punitive. From early human beginnings, belief in a punitive deity has incited and affirmed the demand for punitive response to human imperfection and failure.
The primitive view of deity as punitive, i.e. God as the Ultimate Destroyer (via apocalypse, hell), is the single most important “bad idea” to engage and correct. All other bad religious ideas are anchored to this foundational pathology in human thought.
New story alternative: The “stunning new theology” that God (Ultimate Consciousness, Mind, Intelligence, Source, Mystery) is an inexpressible “no conditions love”, a non-retaliatory Reality. The adjective “unconditional” points to our highest understanding of love. It is simply the best of being human and is therefore most critical for defining deity as transcendent “Goodness”. Takeaway? There is no ultimate judgment, no ultimate exclusion of anyone, no demand for payment or sacrifice to appease angry deity, no need for redemption or salvation, and no ultimate punishment or destruction of anyone (no such mind-perverting horror as “hell”).
Why bother with these speculative metaphysical corrections? Human well-being requires us to counter humanity’s “primal fear of after-life harm” that is the outcome of millennia of shaman/priests/pastors beating bad religious ideas into human consciousness/subconscious. Fear of after-life harm adds sting to the already unbearable fear of death that many people suffer. Also, we need to sever the age-old relationship of “bad beliefs validating bad behavior”. However you may try to affirm justice as punitive treatment of the failures of others, know that deity as unconditional reality does not validate such efforts. See “The Christian Contradiction” below (Historical Jesus versus Paul’s Christ myth).
None of the great world religions has ever presented the reality of an unconditional deity. All religion across history has been essentially about conditional reality- i.e. the required conditions to appease and please religious deities (conditions of right belief, proper religious rituals, religious lifestyle, demanded sacrifices/payment for wrong, etc.).
Further, the new theology of God as unconditional Love overturns the most psychologically damaging myth that has burdened and enslaved humanity from the beginning- the myth of divine retribution/punishment exhibited through the nastier features of life. While there are natural and social consequences to living in this world and to our choices and behavior, there is no punitive Force or Spirit behind natural world events and consequent suffering (i.e. natural disasters, disease, or the predatory cruelty of others). The myth of punitive deity behind such things, whether angry God, vengeful Gaia, angry Planet, retributive Universe, or payback karma, has long burdened people with unnecessary guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety. Like the distressed Japanese woman who asked after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”
Paul used this primitive threat theology on the Corinthians, claiming that their sicknesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins.
(Note the qualifiers in sections below on holding people accountable for their behavior, the need to restrain bad behavior, responsible human maturing and growth, and restorative justice approaches. All necessary for healthy human development, in this world.)
2. Old story theme: The myth of a “perfect beginning” and that God is obsessed with perfection in the world and life, that God creates perfection (e.g. Eden), that God is enraged at the subsequent loss of perfection, and now wants to punish imperfection. This idea of deity obsessed with perfection originated with the misunderstanding that any good and all-powerful deity would only create a perfect world, and if things are not perfect now then blame corrupt humanity for mucking things up that were once perfect. It can’t be God’s fault.
We- humanity- have always had difficulty understanding and embracing imperfection in life and in ourselves. Imperfection, and fear of divine rage at imperfection, has long deformed human consciousness with fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, and depression. We rightly struggle to improve ourselves and others, and to improve life in general, but we ought to do so without the added psychic burden of fear of angry deity or divine threat over our remaining imperfection. (Note: There are healthy forms of guilt over personal failure and additional unhealthy elements that arise from bad ideas.)
New story alternative: The world began in “chaotic imperfection” but has gradually evolved toward something more complex and organized. Life on this planet is never perfect, but with a lot of hard work humanity has discovered how to gradually improve life. Over history, humanity has created something better out of the original imperfect, wilderness world.
In this new story theme, God has no problem with imperfection but includes it in the original creation. Imperfection, in a new story, serves the important purpose of providing an arena where humanity struggles with a messy wilderness situation in order to learn to solve problems and create something better.
And, most critical, we learn the most important lessons of life in our struggle with our own imperfection. For example, we learn how to love in our struggle with the animal inheritance in ourselves, those base drives to tribally exclude, to dominate, to punish and destroy differing others. We learn what it means to be authentically humane in our “righteous struggle against evil” (Joseph Campbell), the battle against evil that runs through the center of every human heart (Alexander Solzhenitsyn).
Perfection, aside from being boring, does not bring forth the best of the human spirit. To the contrary, struggle with imperfection in life, and in others, brings forth the best in humanity. See Julian Simon’s argument (Ultimate Resource) that our struggle with problems in the world results in creative solutions that benefit others. See also the comment below on Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story and our struggle with a personal monster or enemy (i.e. some life problem that may be physical, mental/emotional, interpersonal, financial, social, etc.). That struggle is where we gain insights and learn lessons that can subsequently help others. Personal suffering also promotes the development of empathy with others that similarly suffer. Empathy is fundamental to being authentically human.
(Note: The use of the term “imperfection” is not meant to generalize and diminish the horror and trauma that people suffer from natural disaster, disease, and the cruelty of others. But ‘old story’ explanations of the imperfection of the world as a fall from original perfection due to human corruption/sin, and subsequent imperfection introduced as punishment for that original sin… such myths tend to affirm deity as cruel, punitive, and destructive- i.e. God as the great obsessive-compulsive Punisher of imperfection. That only adds unnecessary psychic suffering to already unbearable human suffering- i.e. the added burden of unnecessary mental, emotional suffering. We can do better and understand original imperfection in alternative ways. And this is the impulse to “theodicy”, as roughly the belief there is Ultimate Good/Love behind all. Add here the view that the world purposefully exists as an experience or learning arena.)
3. Old story theme (related to previous): The myth that humanity began as a more perfect species but then became corrupted/sinful (the “fall of man” myth). The idea of original human perfection, and subsequent human degeneration toward something worse today, is still common in the “noble savage” mythology that dominates throughout academia- i.e. the myth that original hunter/gatherer people were more pure, strong, and noble but humanity has degenerated in civilization. See, for instance, Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline’, or Steven LeBlanc’s ‘Constant Battles’. Contemporary versions of “fallen humanity” mythology include Green religion’s belief that humanity is a “virus” or “cancer” on the Earth. These are pathologically anti-human views.
New story alternative: Humanity has emerged from the brutality of animal reality (original imperfection) but has gradually become less violent, more humane, and overall more civilized. See James Payne’s ‘History of Force’, and Stephen Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’. Also, the amassed evidence on humanity improving life over the long-term affirms that “we are more creators than destroyers” (Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource).
A new alternative to “fallen humanity” myths will recognize that humanity, with human spirit and human consciousness, is intimately united with the greater Consciousness at the core of reality, a Consciousness that is Love. This “union with deity” is more than relationship. It is more about essential nature. This means that the same Love that is God, is also the essential nature of our human spirit or human self. We can then re-imagine ourselves as most essentially “beings of Love”. We are fundamentally good. This radically changes human self-imaging. We are not the “fallen humans possessing sinful natures” as we have long been taught by mythological and religious traditions.
The real issue is not how far humanity has fallen (the mythical perspective) but the real wonder is how far we have risen (the evidence-based perspective) from our brutal animal and primitive human past. Our improvement over history is evidence of the essential goodness of humanity naturally emerging over time.
(Note: How to explain continuing bad human behavior? We have inherited a core animal brain with its base impulses to tribalism and exclusion of differing others (small band mentality), to domination of others (alpha male/female), and to retaliatory and destructive response to others viewed as “enemies”. Our human consciousness/spirit, existing alongside our inherited animal side, explains the great “battle between good and evil that takes place in every human heart”, (Alexander Solzhenitsyn). The bad side in humanity is not “inherited sin” but is better understood in terms of the inherited animal in us. See Lyall Watson’s “Dark Nature”. Fortunately, to paraphrase Jeffrey Schwartz, “We are not our brains”.)
4. Old story theme: The myth that the world began as an original paradise and that ancient “golden age” has been lost and the trajectory of life is now “declining”, or degenerating, toward something worse (“Each present moment is a degeneration from previous moments”, Mircea Eliade).
The trajectory of life as a decline toward something worse is a core feature of apocalyptic mythology.
New story alternative: Life does not decline overall but the long-term trajectory of life shows that life actually “improves/rises” toward something ever better. Humanity, as essentially good and creative, is now responsible for the ongoing improvement of life and the world. (Note again Julian Simon’s conclusion that we- humanity- have become “more creators than destroyers”.)
Evidence of life improving over past millennia and strikingly so over recent centuries: Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed, Bailey and Tupy’s Ten Global Trends, Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, James Payne’s History of Force, Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, and others.
Brian Green’s ‘The Universe Story’ and Harold Morowitz’s ‘The Emergence of Everything’ detail the longer “improving” trend of the overall cosmos from chaotic heat beginnings to a state that was amenable for carbon-based life to emerge. And over the long history of this planet, life has developed toward more complexity, organization, and suitability to mediate human consciousness . Further, even Darwin affirmed that evolution trended toward something more “perfect”.
This theme of long-term improvement, of a fundamental direction toward something better, is critical for countering apocalyptic nihilism/despair and affirming hopefulness.
5. Old story theme: The myth that natural disasters, disease, human cruelty, and death are expressions of divine punishment. This adds the unnecessary psychic burden of fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame to already unbearable physical suffering. Paul tormented the Corinthians with this argument that their sicknesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins.
New story alternative: While there are natural and social consequences all through life, there is no punitive, destroying deity behind the imperfections of life. Ultimately there is only Love at the core of reality (see alternatives below on the relationship of Love to the elements of freedom and randomness in life).
6. Old story theme: The myth that humanity has been rejected by the Creator, that we are separated from our Source and we need to be reconciled, we need to restore the broken relationship with God, via a violent blood sacrifice.
New story alternative: No one has ever been separated from the unconditional Love at the core of reality. That Love has incarnated in all humanity as inseparable from the human spirit and consciousness. That Love is the essence of the human self or person, though its expression is often hindered and buried by the free choice of people to act inhumanely.
But be assured that no one has ever been separated from the indwelling love that is God, no matter their failure to live as human. God as love is always closer than our breath or atoms. God as love is inseparable from our common human spirit and consciousness.
Note: God incarnated in all humanity demands a radical rethink of theology or God theory. There has never been any such reality as a separate ‘Sky God’ up in some distant heaven. God has always been intensely and immediately present in all humanity and this is evident in the best of humanity, in all human goodness. Conclusion? The reality we call “God” is present in all human raging against evil and suffering. God is present in all human effort to make life better. There has never been any such thing as an absent or silent God. Just listen to and observe the goodness in people all around you.
Again, as stated similarly in number 3 above, this new alternative overturns entirely the historically persistent myths of “fallen”, “essentially sinful”, or “bad-to-the-bone” humanity.
Further, the idea of God incarnated equally in every person presents a new element for affirming equality among people, and equal respect for all. God incarnated in humanity offers a stunning new element to defining the essential core of being human- what we really are as human persons and that every human person ought to be highly esteemed as an embodiment of deity, no matter their failures to live as fully human. The Near-Death Experiences also repeatedly note this feature of the astounding human unity with deity- of inseparable oneness with the divine.
7. Old story theme: The myth of a cosmic dualism, a Good spirit in opposition to a bad spirit- a demonic entity or Satan. Deity is thereby portrayed as embracing an essentially dualistic tribal reality- a good God that wars against evil opponents, a God that favors believers and hates/punishes unbelievers. This idea of a fundamental cosmic dualism is embraced and exhibited through varied human dualisms- such as the tribal mindset of “us versus our enemies”, true believers versus unbelievers, or other racial, national, religious, or ideological divisions (include the use of gender as an oppositional divide). Dualism thinking deforms human identity and buries the fact of our essential oneness in the human family. Dualism mythology affirms the inherited animal impulse that orients people to small-band thinking and behavior (the tribal exclusion of differing others). Embracing dualism as a divine reality and ideal orients people to opposing, dominating, and fighting/destroying others as ‘enemies’.
New story alternative: We all come from the same Oneness and we are all equals in the one human family. We are not essentially defined by the tribal categories and divisions that we create to set ourselves apart from one another, to devalue one another. We are most essentially defined by our common human spirit and human consciousness. And the essential nature of our human spirit is universal or unconditional love. That love is the expression of our true core humanity.
Added note: Most modern story-telling (e.g. movies) continues to re-enforce the primitive themes of dualism and tribalism. Note the all-too-common movie theme of good guy versus bad guy, and ‘justice’ as the good guy beating and destroying the bad guy. There is nothing in such narratives affirming the oneness of the human family. To the contrary, only further affirmation of infantile tribalism and “justice” as retaliation toward offending others. The only dualism that we ought to be concerned about is that of “the battle-line between good and evil that runs through the heart of every person”, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This is the dualism that exists between our true human spirit or self and our inherited animal brain impulses.
Caution: The above comment on essential oneness is not intended to diminish the urgency to fight evil and affirm good in this world. But some have suggested that dualism, and the apparent separation related to dualism- i.e. the division between good and bad- is only a temporal feature of this material realm. This world with its dualism provides an arena for us to live out our stories and engage our varied “righteous battles against evil”. Others have argued that we only experience and learn what good means in our struggle with the opposites of good- i.e. the bad in others, and in life. Bad/evil in this realm provides a contrasting context in which we experience and learn good. Joseph Campbell suggests that this dualistic realm is where “we act out our differing roles on God’s stage” (some playing bad guy, some playing good guy). But he and others suggest that the dualism between good and bad exists only here in this world. It is temporal and not part of any greater timeless reality. See also Natalie Sudman’s ‘The Application of Impossible Things’ for personal illustration of these things.
Further note on oneness: The oneness of all, along with the unconditional nature of deity, counters the myth of some people as especially chosen of God and favored by God more than others. There are no “elect people”, or special “children of God”. The people who see themselves as “true believers”, more so than others, are not closer to God than any other people. Essential oneness means that all humanity, that is every person, has God within them, equally. All people have equal access to the immediacy of God that is everywhere present as the sustaining Core or Source of all reality. Further, there are no special “holy places”- i.e. temples, churches- where limited religious groups gain more access to God than the ordinary lives and daily mundane spaces of all people. Essential oneness of all with deity is a more humane theological basis for human equality in all aspects.
8. Old story theme: The myth of a looming apocalypse as the final judgment, punishment, and destruction of all things. The myth of an apocalyptic ending embraces the pathological theology of God as the destroyer of all things. This ideal has incited endless destructive violence among the followers of such an ideal. Arthur Mendel called apocalyptic “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (Vision and Violence).
To embrace and advocate apocalyptic mythology is to embrace and advocate the epitome expression of nihilism- i.e. the complete and final destruction of life and the world.
Apocalyptic mythology still dominates much of modern story-telling, whether movies, TV, literature (the sub-genre of “post-apocalyptic”), and environmental alarmism or Green religion.
New story alternative: There are problems all through this imperfect world but there is no looming threat of a final destruction and ending (the religious understanding of apocalypse since Zoroaster). The apocalyptic alarmist exaggerates problems in the world out to “end of days” scenarios, thereby distorting the true state of things, and that promotes fear (the survival impulse) and even destructive violence in populations. The inciting of violence is evident in the consequent felt need of people to “coercively purge” what is believed to be some great threat. See the notes in other sections/articles on the Marxist, Nazi, and Green apocalyptic movements and their mass-harm and even mass-death outcomes.
In the new story alternative theme there is no destroying Force or Spirit behind the harsher elements of this world. Ultimately, there is only creating and sustaining Love. And again, the imperfection of this world serves the purpose of providing a learning arena for humanity to struggle with in order to create something ever better.
Further, the destructive elements in the cosmos and world exist as part of the ongoing creative process (i.e. death as entirely natural and serving the purpose of making room for new life), just as Second Law dissipation of energy is “virtuous waste” that serves the creation of more order (Huber and Mills in ‘Bottomless Well’). Again, the element of destruction in the natural world is not evidence of some punitive deity threatening a final punishment and ending of all things. (See also the notes below on “natural consequences”.)
Further helpful here- In response to the theodicy question “Is this the best possible world?” some have made the argument that there are also beneficial outcomes from the destructive elements of nature. For example, the plate tectonic movement that generates destructive earthquakes also generates mountain-building, which creates differences in climate and that contributes to the development of diversity in emerging life (i.e. different environmental pressures on populations and the change that brings forth). Our project is to adapt to such things and we have done better over time. Our success is evident across history in the decreasing loss of life from natural disasters.
9. Old story theme: The urgency of “imminence” (key element- “instantaneous transformation” of life versus “gradualism” in the trajectory of history and life)
The always “imminent” element in apocalyptic proclamations (i.e. the “end is nigh”) demands urgent action to “save” something, to save the world or life. The exaggerated threat of looming apocalyptic ending then incites the survival/salvation impulse in people. They feel the need to take immediate and sometimes violent action to purge what is presented to them as the life-threatening thing. Alarmed populations are then more easily manipulated to embrace policies that will abandon the democratic process and instead will support “coercive purification” schemes directed at purported threats from opponents/enemies. ‘End-of-life’ or ‘end-of-world’ claims incite populations to embrace policies that will coercively and instantaneously install their version of salvation and security in some promised paradise.
Apocalyptic alarmism that exaggerates and distorts the true state of things has too often unleashed the totalitarian impulse across history.
We saw the violence of instantaneous transformation policies in the 100 million deaths that stemmed from Marxist urgency to coercively purge the world of the threat from “destructive capitalism”. Marxism pushed for “instantaneous transformation of societies”, to immediately install its vision of communal utopia. We also saw apocalyptic urgency and totalitarianism in the 50-60 million deaths from Nazi alarmism and consequent action to violently purge Germany of the imagined threat from “destructive Jewish Bolshevism”. Nazis then coercively pushed to establish the millennial paradise of the Third Reich. And we are seeing “coercive purification” again today in the environmental alarmist push to save the world from “destructive humanity in industrial civilization” and to restore the lost paradise of a more wilderness world (Arthur Mendel in ‘Vision and Violence’, and Arthur Herman in ‘The Idea of Decline’).
New story alternative: There is no “end of days” just over the horizon. Rather, life is improving gradually as creative humanity solves problems. The escapist desire for an instantly installed utopia misses the point of the human story as the struggle with imperfection throughout the world, a struggle that is gradually succeeding. Such struggle is essential to human development, learning, and growth. Mendel in Vision and Violence is good on this issue of “gradualism” versus the violence of “instantaneous transformation” movements. Humanity is learning to patiently improve life through democratic approaches that do not coercively overwhelm the freedom of differing others.
The search for instantaneous salvation comes from the irresponsible escapist mindset of apocalyptic types who cannot endure the struggle to gradually and democratically improve an imperfect world. Such people irresponsibly seek to escape to some instantly installed utopia, even if coercively and violently established.
10. Old story theme: The demand for a salvation plan- a required sacrifice or atonement (debt payment, punishment) as necessary to appease some great threat or threatening reality, whether a religious God or vengeful Gaia, angry planet, upset Mother Earth, punitive Universe, or payback karma.
New story alternative: In a stunning rejection of atonement mythology, Jesus rejected the payment of debt as the required demand of God. He advocated the highest form of love, or goodness, as giving to everyone without expecting any payment in return. He stated in Luke 6:30-36, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then… you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.
Jesus’ argument is that exhibiting ‘no conditions love’ (not expecting payment) would enable people to be like God who was similarly no conditions love. The argument of Matthew 5 and Luke 6 is that if we do this- give without expecting payment in return- then we will be like God who does not expect payment. God loves, gives, and does not expect anything in return. This statement of Jesus overthrows the age-old religious belief that God demands payment or punishment for wrongs, that God demands atonement or sacrifice in order for God to forgive and love. Read it again and again till the point being made is clear. It is a time-bomb waiting to explode the shackles of distorting mythology that enslave human consciousness.
The fundamental nature of God as unconditional love means absolutely no conditions. None. To affirm as pointedly as possible- there is no divine demand for ultimate payment, sacrifice, no conditions to fulfil. With ultimate safety secured, the only “salvation” that we need to engage in this life is the ongoing and gradual struggle to make life better in this world.
The reality of God as “no conditions Love” obligates us to make all the logical conclusions that arise from such a stunning new theology. Again, the critically important one is that an authentically unconditional God will not demand any conditions of payment or sacrifice. God does not demand a balancing response to goodness or love that has been initially shown. Jesus clearly argued this in his Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements where he taught that an authentic universal love will not just love those who love in return (i.e. family, friends, or fellow tribe members). Unconditional love will also love those who do not love in return. Unconditional love will freely give to all and not demand any return payment. No payment of debt is required as necessary to earn forgiveness and love.
Unconditional love does good to everyone without expecting a similar response, without expecting any payback (include sacrifice here). This is how Jesus further defined a God that “loved enemies”.
In the above statements, Jesus rejected the principle of debt payment as a fundamental requirement of divine love. Again, this is clearly expressed in the statement to “give/love expecting nothing in return”. Keep in mind that in these passages (Matt.5 and Luke 6) he urged people to love in a new unconditional manner because that was how God loved. He was arguing for a new standard of love that would show what God was like, that would enable people to do just what God did, to be just like God (i.e. “Love your enemy because God does”).
Debt payment, or more generally the righting of wrongs, had long been the requirement before offering forgiveness. Payment or punishment of wrong had been the basis of atonement thinking from the beginning. That was based on the archaic belief that God, as holy, must punish all wrongs properly and fully, and must rectify all wrongs by demanding payment or retribution of some sort. God must right all wrong, rebalance the scales of justice in the cosmos. Wrong done had to be rebalanced by right done. God could not just forgive, accept, and love without first making all wrongs right. That was necessary to restore divine honor. The God of that old atonement/sacrifice mythology could not just “freely” forgive and love.
To modern sensibilities that old theology no longer makes sense because it argued that the love of God, based on prerequisite payment/punishment/atonement, was something less than the best of human love. We are expected to just forgive in an unlimited manner (“seventy times seven”), to accept all people universally, and to love without demanding prerequisite conditions or similar response. Again that statement- “give without expecting payment in return, love without expecting love in return”. Parents, spouses, and friends have all learned that no conditions love is the best and highest form of love for daily relationships. Surely God as Ultimate Goodness and Love would, at the least, love as well as we are expected to love- that is, unconditionally.
In his parables Jesus also further corrected the old religious belief that divine love was conditional and demanded full payment or punishment. His short stories illustrated the ‘no conditions’ love that defined his new theology. In his stories he stressed the point that divine love did not require the payment of debt, or more generally the righting of wrongs, before forgiving, accepting, and loving an offender. Note this element in his Prodigal Son story where the father does not demand a sacrifice, restitution, or repayment before forgiving and fully accepting/loving the wayward son. All such conditions were brushed aside by the father. No conditions love meant no conditions at all. This teaching is a stunning rejection of the long history of sacrifice/payment as required to appease demanding deity.
I reject, as Jesus appears to have done, the old theology that God as ultimate Goodness and Love is held to a lesser standard of love than we are held to. I reject the idea that God remembers all wrongs and can demand conditions before forgiving, while we are told that authentic love, for us, means “keeping no record of wrongs” for some future making-of-things-right. Our love is to be without condition because that is actually how God loves. And it is the unconditional nature of forgiveness and love that constitute the greatness and glory of these features, not the conditions of religious holiness or honor mythology with its prerequisite demands that offenders first make things right.
Unfortunately, Paul refused the new theology of Jesus and retreated back to the traditional conditional theology of a punitive God that demanded full payment for sin before forgiving anyone. We inherited Paul’s version of Christianity with its orientation toward punitive and conditional treatment of others. Note the clear New Testament statements that requisite payment is essential to the Christian gospel. The book of Hebrews (chapter 9), for example, states that “without the shedding of blood (sacrifice) there is no forgiveness”. The book of Romans (chapters 3-5) states that there is only salvation (“saved from wrath”) after the condition of a blood payment/sacrifice has been fulfilled.
And of course, in this life people should learn to be responsible for their behavior, to make amends for wrongs done, and to pay their debts. That is all part of normal human development and growth. This is never in question, but it has no part of the new unconditional theology of Jesus. It has no place in authentic love. Our love, just like God’s love, is not to be conditional on anything done, or not done, by others.
Note: The theology of Jesus is not a prescriptive model for economic/commercial relationships in this world. Jesus was speaking to ultimate realities and the atonement mythology of his era. Further, my reference to “Historical Jesus” is not an appeal to him as some special religious authority on these issues. I refer to him simply because he continues to be revered as a notable religious icon. The unconditional love being argued here is a “self-validating” reality. It is good in and of itself.
And I would emphasize the larger religious context to these themes- for example, the profound contradiction that exists between the core message of Historical Jesus in the “Q Wisdom Sayings gospel”, and Paul’s Christ myth (the oxymoronic Christian “Jesus Christ”). These two contrary gospels illustrate the profound contradiction between the themes of unconditional and conditional, non-retaliation and retaliation, non-punitive/non-destructive and punitive/destructive, among other contrasting features. See ‘The Christian Contradiction’ in sections below.
11. Old story theme: The belief that retribution or payback is true justice (i.e. eye for eye), based on the myth that God is a retributive reality that demands the reward of the good and the punishment of the bad. The myth that a retributive God demands full punishment of sin. This hurt for hurt theology, or pain returned for pain caused, still under-girds much thinking on justice today. It is often framed as the practical need to present the punishment of offenders as a warning to others, to serve as a deterrence example for the general public. Psychology now recognizes that such punitive approaches do not work with criminal offenders or children. Punitive response to human imperfection and failure “does not teach alternative humane behaviors”. Instead, punitive justice re-enforces retaliatory cycles.
New story alternative: Again, unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs, it does not obsess over imperfection, and it forgives all freely and without limit (“seventy times seven” which is to say- unlimited). But yes, there are natural and social consequences to bad behavior in this world. All of us are to be accountable and responsible for our choices and actions. This is essential to human development in this life. But all justice in response to human failure should be restorative or rehabilitative.
As Leo Tolstoy wrote regarding the criminal justice system, “The whole trouble is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Human beings cannot be handled without love. It cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life.”
Added note: Yes, there is value in remembering past bad behavior, and the outcomes of such behavior, as a warning to others. The Holocaust is a signature example of this value. But we remember the bad behavior of others in a larger context of consciously forgiving, with an orientation to restorative justice that is victim-centered (i.e. fully deals with restitution issues). Simon Wiesenthal’s “Justice, Not Vengeance” illustrates the struggle for balance regarding these concerns.
12. Old story theme: The myth of future or “after-life” judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction (Hell). The fear of after-life harm is the “primal human fear” (Michael Grosso). Myths of after-life harm have added a magnitude of order intensification of fear to the already burdensome fear of death that many people carry.
(Insert: Why bother with speculation about such unknowable realities as after-life reality? Why not just dismiss or ignore these unprovable metaphysical issues? Well, because the speculation has already been done by major belief systems and religions across history and across all the cultures of the world. Pathology- bad mythology like the horrific myth of hell- already exists in human consciousness and ignoring it does nothing to solve the problems that the pathology causes- i.e. unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, shame. While all after-life theorizing may be considered speculative, we can at least offer more humane alternatives with healthier parameters that eliminate unnecessary worry regarding death, while also focusing human orientation toward full involvement with here and now reality.)
New story alternative: Again, remember the baseline ideal- that authentic love is unconditional and does not demand the fulfilment of conditions. Unconditional love does not threaten ultimate exclusion or punishment. It embraces everyone with the same scandalous mercy and unlimited generosity. It gives sun and rain to all, to both good and bad. All- both good and evil- are ultimately safe and included in the love of an unconditional God. Such love scandalizes the mind that is oriented to ultimate (or after-life) conditional payback justice, or “deserved” punishment.
Illustration: Note again the stories that Jesus told of good, moral people who were offended by the unconditional generosity and love that was shown by, for example, the vineyard owner and the father of the prodigal son. The all-day vineyard workers and the older brother in the prodigal story were upset because, in their view, such unconditional mercy and generosity was not “fair or moral”. It was not proper justice, in their eyes. Other “righteous” people were also offended and scandalized by Jesus when he invited local outcasts and scoundrels to meals with them. He did not respect the proper tribal boundaries between good and bad people, between true believers and unbelievers. He was too scandalously universal and unconditional.
The Jesus stories point to the conclusion that God is unconditional love and hence there will be no after-life harm. We all die as a return back into the stunning “no conditions Love” that is our origin and final home. We are all safe in that Love (i.e. again, sun and rain are indiscriminately and generously given to all alike, to both good and bad people). We are never separated from that Love, no matter what we experience or suffer in this life.
Insert: It helps to maintain the important distinction between Ultimate Reality and life in this imperfect world. We can recognize the ultimate reality of God as absolutely no conditions Love but not deny the reality of natural and social consequences in this life. The need to take personal responsibility for behavior is critical to human learning and development. Love here and now is responsible to restrain violence and to protect the innocent, even with force. But our embrace of the ideal of ultimate unconditional love will orient our treatment of human failure and offense away from punitive approaches and toward restorative approaches. An unconditional attitude will recognize that, no matter how it offends and scandalizes common views of required payback justice, all of us return safely to the same no conditions Love that birthed us and is our final home. We are all one family, and return safely to that Oneness, despite our diverse failures to live as fully human in this world.
Add here that self-judgment and self-punishment are the most devastating experiences that human persons can embrace and endure (Note: We recognize exceptions to this such as psychopathy which may result from genetic deformity). Most people do not need further threat of ultimate judgment and punishment from some greater reality.
13. Old story theme: The myth of a hero messiah that will use superior force (“coercive purification”) to overthrow enemies, to purge the world of evil, and to bring in a promised utopia. This myth provides the incitement and validation to abandon the historical process of gradual improvement (via creative human freedom and endeavor) and to opt for coercive totalitarian approaches. Hero messiah mythology affirms the demand for overwhelming revolutionary violence that seeks to instantly purge some “corrupt” entity that is viewed as the threat, and then re-install some lost paradise.
We saw this resort to “violent force against an enemy”, backed by appeal to an all-powerful warrior deity, recently with ISIS in Syria (i.e. the struggle to bring on the final annihilation/Armageddon battle and then in the name of God coercively spread the caliphate across the world). We have also seen the same violence in the name of a crusading hero God throughout Jewish history (Old Testament) and Christian history (Crusades, Inquisitions, persecution of heretics, all appealed to forceful, violent deity for affirmation).
The embrace of revolutionary violence in the name of God arises from the behavior/belief relationship- that people across history have based their behavior on their beliefs about deity. As Harold Ellens says, “If your God uses force, then so may you, to get your way against your ‘enemies’”.
Again, the great ideals that we embrace will shape our thinking, our feeling, and our responses/behavior. We become just like the God that we believe in. Bad myths like coercive, destroying deity have repeatedly incited people to violent, destructive action, to act as the agents of their violent, destructive God to destroy some enemy and save something that was believed to be under dire and imminent threat from that enemy. Far too often across history the belief in divine violent force has been misappropriated to validate unnecessary harshness and cruelty toward fellow human beings.
This idea of an intervening, over-powering deity is hard to dislodge from people’s minds. Even notable atheists fall back on this idea, as Larry King said to Norm MacDonald years ago, “I can no longer believe in God because of the horrible things that happen to innocent children and God is omnipotent, isn’t he?”. Meaning that God should have intervened with power to prevent such things (the “Why imperfection exists?” issue).
New story alternative (see also “16th bad idea” below): A God of authentic love does not intervene with overwhelming force that overrides human freedom and choice. Further, a non-intervening deity helps to understand the gradualism necessary for improving life. It is entirely up to humanity to make the world a better place, in all ways, and to do so while respecting the freedom of others to differ from us.
This is to say that there is no hero messiah, no tribal deity that will intervene with superior force to conquer some enemy of ours and grant us our vision of a paradise with our enemies excluded as per the vision of Revelation where unbelievers are cast out to suffer eternal rejection and punishment.
Note: This point recognizes the valid need at times for police/military to use legal force to restrain irrational violence. The legitimate use of force is to be distinguished from illegitimate uses of force based on inhumane mythology, notably the use of force by religious extremists. Examples include ISIS and the sorry history of Christian violence against fellow Christians that disagreed over theological issues, often very minor disagreements. Note, for example, the shameful incident of Calvin putting his fellow Christian theologian, Servetus, to death over the placement of an adjective in a sentence.
14. Old story theme: The fallacy of Biblicism, the myth that religious holy books are more special and authoritative than ordinary human literature, and that people are obligated to live according to the holy book as the will, law, or word of God. This myth argues that people must submit to divine conditions, or some heavenly model, as outlined by their holy book.
New story alternative: We evaluate all human thought and writing according to basic criteria of right and wrong, good and bad, or humane and inhumane, as agreed upon in common human rights codes, constitutions, or moral codes. Holy books are not exempted from this process of discernment between good and bad.
Further, our highest authority is our own personal consciousness of right and wrong as tuned by, again, common understanding of such things in widely adopted human rights codes and constitutions that are embraced by the entire human family.
15. Old story theme: The myth of God as King, Ruler, Lord, or Judge. The idea that God relates vertically to humanity in domination/submission forms of relating.
New story alternative: There is no domination/subservience relationship of humanity to God. Jesus expressed the divine ideal when he said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. True greatness is to serve the other and not to dominate or control others. The greatness of God is exhibited in serving, not existing above to rule or dominate. God is not “above” humanity but has incarnated in all people as equals. God relates horizontally to humanity.
Yes, this is another stunning correction to traditional God theories.
We see the presence of this street-level God in all daily, mundane human goodness and love expressed toward others, especially toward enemies, which is the highest expression of authentic love or goodness. When we love unconditionally, we tower in stature as maturely human. We become the hero of our story and conquer our real monster and enemy, the animal inheritance that is within each of us. See the story outline in sections below.
This portrayal of God as an egalitarian or equality advocate, and not a superior controlling entity, is more of the stunning new theology of Jesus. He is saying in effect, if you think that I am an incarnation of God, a son of God, then I will tell you just what God is like. God does not dominate people like a lord, king, or ruler. God relates to all as equals, serving others, and not lording over them. That is the true greatness of God, or anyone- to serve. As an equal.
This comment of Jesus overturns the entire history of human thinking on gods as dominating realities, lords, kings, rulers. One of the earliest and most primitive of all myths is that “humans were created to serve the gods”, to do their will and work, to provide food for them. Jesus overturned that primitive thinking that divine/human relationships were domination/subservience relationships. He said that type of thinking belongs to primitive people (“the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them”). But if you want to be a great human being, a hero, then you should not dominate or control others. That is the secret to true greatness. To respect/honor the freedom and self-determination of all others as true equals.
16. Old story theme: The idea that humanity is obligated to know, serve, and have some relationship with an invisible reality (deity), to give primary loyalty to something outside of and above people (i.e. a law, will, or word of God). This loyalty to something other than real people has often led to neglect and abuse of people.
New story alternative: Our primary loyalty is to love and serve people around us. Their needs, here and now, take priority in life.
A 17th Old Story theme: Absent deity (related to the earlier theme, in the list above, of a hero-messiah that will intervene to save)
One of humanity’s greatest frustrations has been the apparent “the silence of God” across history. The Holocaust is the iconic example of this traumatizing silence of God.
Where was God when natural disasters took hundreds of thousands of lives? Where was God when human cruelty went unhindered during mass-death movements? Such apparent absence should put to rest the common religious myth of a miraculously intervening God. The evidence has long been final that there never was any such thing as a supernaturally intervening deity that would, for example, violate natural law or overrule human choice and action, in order to protect or rescue people.
What then should we conclude? God is good but powerless to help humanity? Or the atheists are right that there is no God? No. I would offer that the evidence simply urges us to rethink the great question of how God relates to this world. Theologies like Panentheism (not Pantheism) are wrestling with this issue.
And some versions of the Deist’s alternative are not much better than atheism. God is not the absent Creator who starts the whole thing running and then disappears off to some far away heaven to wait and watch as natural law works throughout life.
A new theory or theology is emerging that argues that God has incarnated in all humanity. God did not incarnate only in special ‘holy’ persons like the Christian Jesus. Rather, God has incarnated in all humanity in an inseparable oneness with the common human spirit or human consciousness. The human spirit has gradually emerged and developed as more humane across history. This maturing of humanity is evident in the trends to decreasing violence, more democratic societies, and generally improved human well-being (the improvement of all areas of life).
And as Bob Brinsmead notes, the improvement in life has been a long, slow process of gradually developing understanding, growing problem-solving ability, and practical solutions. It has, for instance, taken millennia for us to understand disease and come up with medical cures. See the gradualism arguments in Arthur Mendel’s ‘Vision and Violence’.
We see this common human spirit, or God spirit, emerging and developing in all human goodness, whether expressed in commerce, art, sports, medicine, agriculture, entertainment, and all areas where people contribute to making life better and just having fun while doing so.
As some have stated, we are the voice, hands, and feet of God in this world.
Conclusion? God has never been silent or absent. There has never been a ‘Sky God’ up above the world in some heaven, above and outside of humanity, doing things to the world and to people from outside (the “yoyo God”, coming down to intervene in some way and then returning to heaven). To the contrary, God has always been within all things as the creating Sustainer of all reality, and especially within the human family. This means that God is evident in all human misery and raging against suffering and evil. God is always present in all human action to prevent evil, to solve problems, and to improve life. Just as God has always been present in humanity and expressed in all good and useful human endeavor. This means it has always been our responsibility to prevent wrong and to promote good/right in our world. Yes, it is up to us. We must stop looking to the heavens for what is right here and now, in us.
Add this feature to your theology- God is at our very core, as the human impulse to love, to be something better. God is inseparably united with the love that defines us at our best. God is at the core of the real or authentic human self and is evident in the human impulse to be more humane as expressed in all human goodness.
Conclusion? God has always been closer to us than our own breath or atoms. God has never been absent or silent when people have suffered from natural disaster or human cruelty. Religious mythology has never framed this immanent feature properly. The immanence of deity speaks to the fundamental “oneness” behind all things. Even quantum mechanics points to this foundational oneness feature of reality.
The confusion here over silent deity also has to do with the element of freedom or the inseparable relationship of love and freedom. God as love does not coercively overwhelm the independence, self-determination, and freedom of others. Better, God respects human freedom profoundly and influences with gentle, quiet impulses to do the right thing, what we feel is right (i.e. God “persuades” and does not coerce).
Part of the human confusion over how God relates to this world has to do with our inability to grasp that divine Love prizes freedom highly and will not overwhelm or violate it. Authentic moral goodness emerges only from authentic freedom of choice. Such love entails great risk as authentically free people may choose wrongly. The upside is that nothing in life is pre-planned or predestined. We are free to create our own unique story, to become the heroes of our own life adventure. And there is nothing more heroic than choosing no conditions love, for even the enemy, as the supreme height of human achievement. Then we tower in stature like a Nelson Mandela.
Note: The above comments relate to one of the options offered in Jewish “Protest Theology” that emerged after the Holocaust (i.e. the idea of God willing/choosing to not intervene in human freedom). Others have suggested that, as spirit, God cannot intervene in material reality, aside from gentle suasion on the human spirit and consciousness.
And of course, aside from these points, there are still the myriad unexplainable and fascinating “coincidences” scattered through personal human stories that we may either view as just random, or the work of Providence. Interesting that people tend to explain good coincidences as Providence, but not so much the bad ones.
Added discussion group post from Bob Brinsmead: “____, many thanks for sending the link to this great Wikipedia article on Process Theology. I would have to say that I agree with the main thrust of the thesis.
“To say that God could have stopped the Holocaust but refrained from stopping it is very unsatisfactory to me. I agree with the argument of the PROCESS theologians here. If God is committed to love, then God is committed to human freedom. God can use persuasion but not coercion of the human will. Love would not allow God to do something that was inhuman (interfere, coerce, etc.). If you look at history and daily experience, there is no other conclusion that seems to be either logically or ethically possible. It is also hard to see God acting contrary to the laws of nature or the laws of physics.”
18. One more Old Story Theme, New Story Alternative to add to the list below…
While human selfishness and greed are present in any approach to life, these features do not most essentially define industrial civilization and its outcomes. Collectivists have argued that the free individual model that developed over past centuries in England (i.e. the “Classic Liberalism” that protected the individual rights and freedom of all citizens, equally) orients populations to destructive selfishness, greed, disconnect from nature, and violence, among other pathology. But that is not generally true. More importantly, with the fundamental protection of private property rights, the free individual model has unleashed human creativity as never before to achieve unimaginable new heights in the improvement of all aspects of our lives, and the world in general (increased environmental improvement).
Now the Old story theme related to this: The myth of the moral and spiritual superiority of the simple lifestyle with low consumption (i.e. self-produced, using only local resources). This relates to “noble savage” mythology, the belief that primitive hunter/gatherers were more pure and environmentally conservative before humanity “fell” and became corrupted in developing civilization, falling even further in the last few centuries of industrial civilization with its ever-growing abundance. This myth fosters endless guilt and shame over consumption and the enjoyment of the good life. ‘Small is Beautiful’ by Schumacher was an affirmation of this mythology. Note that it is most often wealthy Western elites that advocate this “morally superior primitivism” lifestyle for poorer people in developing areas (more “Rules for thee but not for me”).
New story alternative: The search for a better life is the fundamental urge of love- to responsibly improve one’s life and the state of one’s family. And it is the free choice of people to enjoy what they wish to use and enjoy. The abundance that most people enjoy today, with an ever-increasing proportion of humanity moving into middle class status, is part of the larger trajectory of developing technological, industrial civilization that is also lessening environmental impacts while it increases human well-being.
For example, the trend of continuing world urbanization is concentrating more people in smaller and more efficient spaces- e.g. economies of scale- that lessen pressure on natural areas (see population expert Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’ for detail). Industrial society further decreases per capita consumption of varied resources with ongoing technological development (the process of “de-materialization”). Thus, the general creation of wealth has also enabled more developed areas to better care for and improve their environments. This overturns the environmental alarmist argument that industrial society is “destroying the world”. See “Environmental transition” research, for example, by Indur Goklany. Also, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed. Humanprogress.org is another good source of information.
Added note: There is no finalized consensus on how much of the natural world humans can engage, use, and change. We are a legitimate species and not an intruding “virus or cancer” as per the view of those who want a mostly untouched wilderness world. And from today’s progressing industrial civilization note the emerging trends like ‘peak agriculture’ and the return of agricultural lands to nature because with safe GM crop inputs, we produce more crops on the same or less land. Note also the improving status of world forests over the past seven decades (FAO reports on increasing world forest cover), and the strengthening of conservation and restoration trends in world fisheries (Ray Hilborn research, University of Washington). Further, there is no species holocaust occurring. It appears the “responsible stewardship” approach of the early 20th Century conservationists is working (see Alston Chase’s ‘In A Dark Wood’).
As Julian Simon said, “Evidence on the big picture and long-term trends of life shows that we are more creators than destroyers”.
Added notes: There is a long history of belief in the moral/spiritual superiority of the ascetic lifestyle and engendering guilt over enjoying the good life too much (the good life viewed in terms of selfishness, greed, the “base” obsession with materialism). Note past history’s cloistered mystics, wandering holy men, and sages, begging for their daily needs. Those “holiness exhibited in simple living” cults are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and elsewhere.
Varied other beliefs play into the fear of consumption such as the fallacy of “limited good” that anthropology notes in hunter/gatherer societies where people believe that if some people in the group get more, then others must be getting less, as there are limited resources to go around. But the evidence, while at first seeming counter-intuitive, comes down on the side of ever-expanding human resources across history. “Cornucopians” like Julian Simon were right.
Simon (Ultimate Resource) has outlined the steps in the process that results in the expansion or increase in resource stocks: Within traditional production there may emerge an apparent scarcity of some resource. This leads to increasing prices for that resource. That prompts the search for more reserves of the resource, the search for technology that leads to more efficient production and use of the resource, or a search for alternatives to the resource (i.e. the shift from whale oil to fossil fuels). And ultimately there is a return to the trajectory of lowering the price of the resource. We saw the process above operating with the discovery of fracking technology and the opening of vast new sources of fossil fuels in the US.
Added note to Old Story themes: Holiness mythology
One of the most common responses from religious people to the idea of God as no conditions love is that God is also holy and just and therefore must punish all wrong. God’s honor is tarnished by the wrongdoing of people so he must be just (exhibit strict eye for eye retaliation) and punish all sin. God cannot just freely forgive and love. But this divine holiness myth is primitivism at its worst. How so? It is the very same reasoning that is behind practices like “honor killing”. People in varied cultures today still reason that, for example, a daughter embracing modern habits has dishonored her family and their traditional culture. So the dishonored males are required to punish the “evil” daughter in order to restore their tarnished honor. Holiness theology is embracing this very same primitive reasoning that wrongs must be punished thoroughly or justice and honor are not restored properly. I would counter that unconditional forgiveness and love is the true glory of God, the highest goodness and love. Authentic goodness and love will just forgive without demanding payment or righting of wrongs first.
The holiness feature in theology affirms the myth of God obsessed with perfection and punishing imperfection, hence the creation of a supporting complex of myths- i.e. original paradise/Eden (perfect creation), Fall of humanity and ruin of paradise (loss of perfection), and the subsequent need for an atonement (sacrifice/payment/punishment) in order to restore the lost perfection.
Added note to “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives”
The alternative new story themes include a “spiritual” element. This simply affirms what most of humanity across history, and most people today, understand and embrace (the 85% of humanity affiliated with a world religion, with most of the remaining 15% claiming to be “unaffiliated” or “spiritual but not religious”). Humanity in general has always understood that greater or Ultimate Reality (Ultimate meaning) is about more than just energy, natural law, quantum fields, multiple-dimensions, or Self-Organizing Principle as the creating Force of philosophical materialism.
Most human beings across history have intuitively understood that greater Reality has to do with Mind, Consciousness, Self/Personhood, Spirit, or Intelligence. Note that you do not have Consciousness or Mind without personality. Further, the early quantum theorists recognized the foundational Consciousness/Mind element also in their conclusion that their new science pointed to the universe as more “a great Thought than a machine”.