What does it mean to be human? Finding answers in the unconditional treatment of every person.

Contact: wkrossa@shaw.ca

Site project: Combating alarmism, turning “falling skies” back to “acorns”, going after the foundational ideas that incite alarmism. No mythical idea has been more prominent for inciting alarmism over history than the perception of some great metaphysical Threat, whether the angry, punitive gods of religion, or the revenge of Gaia/angry planet in “secular” systems of thought.

Changes coming soon in the new year to make it easier to access material on this site.

Recent comment: “Distortion and Deception”- the full version of the Christian Contradiction (posted just below Page Content Lists and Terror in Mumbai). This material covers the central breakthrough of Historical Jesus (a stunning new unconditional theology) and the subsequent Christian denial and burial of that discovery with highly conditional atonement theology (Paul’s Christ myth).

List of contents for this opening section: Getting to the point; The Big Picture (Historical descent of mythical/religious pathology); Defending unconditional; Islamic violence; Introduction; Herman on Declinism; The Christian Contradiction (brief version); Page Content Lists; Terror in Mumbai; Distortion and Deception (Full version of the Christian Contradiction); Ancient Alarmism; Calming religious concerns; It Stands on Its Own (Who needs Jesus?); Muhammad affirms Jewish/Christian influence; The real battle against terror, and more.

Getting to the point… (a project to counter alarmism of all forms, religious and secular)

There has never been some great metaphysical Threat behind life. There have never been angry, punishing gods, and there is no vengeful Gaia, angry planet, or payback Karma (some greater metaphysical intention behind the common natural consequences of life). The idea of some great retributive force or punitive spirit behind life has been the greatest fraud ever beaten into human consciousness. The result of this pathology has been millennia of wasted human endeavor on Salvationism, whether religious or secular. Think of the blood that has been shed in the sacrifice industry starting in prehistory, and the endless time wasted in religious ritual to appease threatening gods (also include modern anti-development appeasement efforts and the trillions that this has cost humanity in hindered, blocked, or abandoned development projects). Add the emotional distress and despair from this mental pathology, and more. Time and effort that could have been better spent on improving the human condition from the healthy standpoint of “rational optimism”.

I continue…There is no need to make a payment for human imperfection, an atonement of some sort. There has never been any “broken relationship” with Ultimate Reality/God. There has been no loss of an original paradise and decline of life toward something worse. There is no such thing as fallen, sinful humanity that deserves punishment. There is no cosmic dualism and there should be no related oppositional dualism in the human family (i.e. true gods versus false gods, and the consequent battle of true believers versus unbelievers). There is no coming apocalyptic end to history, and no future judgment or ultimate destruction. Hell is simply the most psychopathic perversion ever conceived by human minds. These things have never been located in any kind of truth or reality. They are distorting fictions derived from humanity’s original great error- that the imperfection of life was punishment from the gods. Humanity’s original great fail.

The above denials of pathology (no this, no that) are some of the liberating conclusions that are derived from the single greatest human discovery ever- that there is only an “absolutely no conditions Love” behind all. Despite the inevitable imperfection that life hands everyone (bad things happening to good people), there is only incomprehensible Love behind reality and life. And everyone is ultimately safe. This is the foundational argument of this site and it involves the single most profound shift in human consciousness ever- from viewing some grand retribution/payback behind life, to understanding that there is only an unconditional reality behind all.

This is about hope that is based on good evidence and the finest historical insights of humanity. Its also about the Daddy in me telling others- don’t be afraid, don’t worry, its going to be all right.

My further argument here- despite centuries of good reform effort, and the moderation projects of religious traditions, these horrific ideas of ultimate Threat, are still preserved at the core of our great religious traditions, and in secular systems of thought like contemporary environmental alarmism.

While these perceptions of Ultimate Threat provide diversionary entertainment as in modern apocalyptic story-telling, it should be recognized that they are entirely false perceptions of reality. There is no evidence to support them. They have too long distorted human perception of reality and hindered the full liberation of human consciousness and the human spirit.

Note: Two lines of “evidence” (quotations marks for the skeptics) affirm the rational optimism on this site. They affirm the argument that there is an ultimate Goodness behind all things. I refer to the long-terms trends of improvement in the cosmos, life, and human civilization (i.e. developing organization, complexity). And I refer to the highest reach of human imagination, that the unconditional treatment of all is our highest understanding of what it means to be authentically human or humane (e.g. Nelson Mandela). What is ultimately humane then gets us closest to the discovery of ultimate truth and reality. This is what unconditional is all about.

Further evidence: You could add the majority status of goodness in life- such as ordered, predictable reality (natural law), abundant energy and other resources, stability and peace as dominant features of life, versus the minority or aberrational status of disaster, accident, and cruelty. Again, evidence of foundational goodness behind all. In arguing this line of thought, I am embracing here the reasoning of the Palestinian wisdom sage quoted often on this site (i.e. his appeal to the sun and rain that is given to all as evidence of Ultimate Goodness behind all). That wisdom sage is someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus.

(Note: The great question is not- Why is there so much misery and suffering in life?, but- Why is there so much beauty and goodness in life?)

I venture beyond conventional approaches to evidence (i.e. science) because we need to respond to the most profound impulses of human consciousness- the impulses for meaning and purpose. Science will never get us to the ultimate truth about all things with any finality and it should not be expected to do so (note also the general scientific fear of purpose and the potential spiritual implications of this). Science has a limited mandate and a limiting methodology but this works fine for the scientific venture. For the bigger issues of meaning we need projects like philosophy, theology, and general spirituality. Areas of knowing that, if engaged properly, will get us to the authentically humane, which is the ultimate desire of the human spirit.

The Big Picture

(Intro: The following material comments on how mental pathology begins and develops over history. See further below for more comment on the logic behind the ancient misread of the natural realm and its imperfection. We (i.e. humanity across history) have always had a hard time embracing imperfection. We just do not appreciate its role in promoting struggle, learning, and our development as human. For example, what about the role of inhuman behavior in the struggle to learn how to love? Opposites that provide opportunity to exhibit the better human qualities. Again, I would point to Joseph Campbell’s comment on human story- that our struggle with “monsters” has the outcome that we gain insights that can then benefit others. Julian Simon also affirms the role of struggling with problems, and how such struggle then produces personal solutions and better results for others. But still… Yechh, eh.)

Our ancestors tried to understand and explain the big question- the presence of imperfection in life. Why natural disaster, disease, cruelty and violence, and death? They wrongly concluded that such things were punishment from angry gods, gods that were pissed at human failure to honor and obey the gods, failure to offer sacrifice, or failure to live according to the dictates of religious taboos and commands. The result of their misread of human suffering was the profound mental and emotional pathology that is still lodged at the core of most myth and religion. All those “bad religious ideas” (Sam Harris’ term).

Here is a long-term historical view of the origin and descent of some of the main ideas that are explored on this site. I have focused quite intensely on the pathological ideas that have caused more damage to human consciousness and life than anything else. Across the millennia these themes have become hardwired in human subconscious where they work in concert with our inherited animal impulses to incite, inspire, guide, and validate the worst behavior. These themes have long shaped how people see the world, how they feel, and how they respond to life.

The cohering central theme behind the bad religious ideas listed below is that of a threatening deity (the worst of all bad ideas), a God that uses violence to resolve problems. Further, I have gathered these ideas under the umbrella framework of apocalyptic. Ernst Kaseman called apocalyptic the “Mother of Christian theology”. I would expand that out to argue that apocalyptic is the Mother of most mythology, most religion, and much ideology. Its just that prominent and persistent across history (the pessimistic belief that life is declining toward some catastrophic ending where this imperfect historical process will be abandoned). Many of the other bad ideas noted below relate intensely to apocalyptic. They are part of the larger template of tightly inter-connected apocalyptic mythology.

Note how these ideas descend down through history, being absorbed into ever new systems of thought or belief. Subsequent systems (i.e. religions) make changes and revisions to adapt these inherited ideas to their local situations and cultures. But it is important to note that the core themes remain the same. It is always the same old, same old being repeated, whether in religious or later secular systems of belief.

Historically, apocalyptic has been mainly about a divine intervention to punish bad people for ruining an original paradise, and to purge the world of that evil so that paradise can be restored. It is the destruction and removal of fallen, corrupted people. That would be most of us. Except for the “true believers” in the destroying God. They are exempted. Saved.

This summary is incomplete because brevity was the goal (see rest of site for detail). I am posting this because it is helpful to keep an overall historical picture in mind, a greater background template in which to locate things. For brevity, I am only touching on some major nodes down through history and I am tracing mainly down through to our Western tradition. One also finds similar bad ideas moving down through the Eastern tradition (Mircea Eliade, and others, on apocalyptic themes in Hinduism, Buddhism, and elsewhere).

Lets start in prehistory. Pre-historians John Pfieffer and Jacquetta Hawkes state that what we find in the first human writing (i.e. Sumerian cuneiform tablets) we can assume represents what was believed in the pre-literature or prehistory era.

Pfieffer suggests, for instance, that people in prehistory may have already held an original golden age myth (the cornerstone myth of apocalyptic). The belief that life began in some early paradise. Is he on to something? Well, consider that our line of humanity emerged about 150,000 years ago. And consider that evidence of developing consciousness also begins far back (i.e. ancient people burying their dead, artistic beauty in tool-making, sacrifice to appease spirits, and so on). Prehistory people were already engaging their impulse for meaning and purpose, the fundamental impulses of human consciousness. They were trying to understand and explain life (especially the bad parts), the world, and the cosmos, and what it all meant.

Some checking of the natural history of the more ancient past shows that the previous interglacial- the Eemian Interglacial Period- occurred from about 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, well within the span of developing human consciousness. And some research shows that the Eemian Interglacial may have ended abruptly (within several centuries). The ancients would have considered that loss of better interglacial conditions in terms of the loss of a paradise (the warmer interglacial) and descent toward something worse (the colder glaciation that followed). That severe downturn/decline in climate may have prompted the belief in early apocalyptic. Such is how myth originates and develops.

Note on following: Early myths of apocalyptic floods may originate from varied natural events such as Mediterranean tsunamis or the great Black Sea Deluge of 5600 BCE.

Sumerian mythology- Here we find the first human writing and literature. Writing begins roughly around 3000 BCE (noun lists of temple produce, and kings lists) and then more expressive literature (words as verbs, adjectives, etc.) develops around 2600 BCE. Then we start getting early poems, stories, epics, and related material. The Sumerian cuneiform tablets are broken and scattered but later Akkadian and Babylonian versions are more complete and are quite identical to the earlier Sumerian versions of the same myths.

Apocalyptic is not found in any formal statement of theology in that first writing. It is more a scattering of themes throughout the epics. For instance, we find an original paradise theme in the story of the city of Dilmun where there is no sickness, death, predation, or corruption. We then find a loss of paradise and “fall of man” mythology in the story of the god/man Enki eating the 8 forbidden original plants and becoming ill. The paradise of Dilmun is then corrupted and lost.

A statement of early proto-apocalypse is also found in the Sumerian Flood myth. In this myth the waterworks god, Enlil, becomes enraged at people. There are too many people and they have become too noisy and he is sleep-deprived. So he plans a great flood to wipe out humanity and end human history. Some “nicer gods”, arguing against drowning, suggest that they could destroy people by having wild beasts tear them apart. Ah, such mercy.

Again, this is not formal apocalyptic theology but the core themes are detectable in this mythology, right at the beginning of human writing.

Skipping over to another major node along the way- Zoroaster is dated around 1500 BCE. He is credited with shaping ancient apocalyptic themes into a more formal statement of apocalyptic theology. He claims that there is a great cosmic dualism, a cosmic battle between a good God (Ahura Mazda) and an evil power (Angra Mainyu). Zoroastrian cosmic conflict is similar to early combat mythology. The cosmic battle is played out through humanity, with the followers of the good religion set in opposition to the unbelievers, the “bad people”. The good God eventually destroys the world in an apocalypse of fiery molten metal that purges the world of corruption (note that Zoroaster shifts from a water apocalypse to an apocalypse by fire). Then after the final purging, the lost original paradise can be restored.

Note also that Zoroaster makes revisions and changes to the myths that he adopts, but he preserves the core themes of previous apocalyptic in his “new” religion. Zoroaster is then credited with shaping Jewish thinking and belief. Varied routes to this line of descent are suggested- e.g. Jewish exile in Babylon, or Jewish descent from the Sumerian/Mesopotamian region, or the usual exchange of ideas over centuries of mutual contact and trade.

Jewish apocalyptic belief is stated more formally around the second to first century BCE in books like Daniel (written roughly around 175 BCE). See Walter Schmittals’ “The Apocalyptic Movement” for more detail.

The next historical node is a major one- Christianity. Christianity is a religion created by Jewish people within Jewish culture. Paul, the main creator of the version of Christianity that came down to us, was a Jew. His apocalyptic Christianity has shaped Western consciousness and society more than any other body of thought (see James Tabor, Mary Boyce below). Tabor says that apocalyptic shapes all that Paul said and did.

In the Christian scriptures we find all the main themes of apocalyptic- original paradise, early human sin and the loss of paradise, the corruption of life, the decline of life toward something worse, toward some great catastrophic end where evil people will be punished and purged from the world, and then the original paradise will be restored, or a new utopia created. In the meantime, the true believers exist in opposition to unbelievers (Zoroastrian dualism- good versus bad, truth versus falsehood).

Note that Salvationism, often thought of as the basic Christian message (i.e. Jesus died for our sins in order to save us from Hell), is a sub-category of the larger apocalyptic system of belief. Salvationism derives from the myth that humanity suffered an early Fall into sin when paradise was lost and people must subsequently find salvation from the apocalyptic wrath to come (punishment for sin, for ruining paradise). The threat of future punishment pushes people to find some atonement scheme- a payment for sin in order to escape the coming apocalyptic wrath of God (Romans 5:9).

(Side note: The Jewish/Christian movement also gave us one of the best expressions of the new insight into absolutely no conditions reality, though this Christian movement then immediately buried that insight in highly conditional reality)

And with this template of pathological ideas the Western world entered the Dark Ages- very much a consequence of such irrational and damaging mythology. However, the humanizing influence of Jesus’ core teaching (i.e. Matthew 5:38-48) also remained within the Christian tradition. That central theme of no conditions love helped to blunt the harsher impacts of the Christian teaching.

Then, continuing the Western line of descent, we have the stepchild of Christianity- Islam. The early revelations of Muhammad begin roughly around 610 CE when Muhammad was about 40 years old. And yes, as Joseph Azzi’s The Priest and the Prophet shows, Muhammad borrows Jewish/Christian ideas from his Jewish Christian mentor Waraqa (Ebionite Christian) and shapes Islam around those ideas. Islamic apocalyptic also believes that an angry, vengeful God will destroy all unbelievers, purging them from the world and will then restore a lost caliphate (Islamic paradise) across the world. See, for instance, David Cook’s books on Islamic apocalyptic belief.

Islamic historian Abbas Amanat adds that Islamic apocalyptic includes the beliefs in the advent of the Mahdi (Islamic Messiah) to be followed by a great resurrection and Day of Judgment. This will include the restoration of the utopian Islamic community (see “Apocalyptic Islam and Iranian Shi’ism”).

And then the next major historical node- The Enlightenment and scientific age from roughly the 1600s on to the present. From this time, in a more widespread manner, people begin to think more critically, scientifically, or secularly. Less mythically, or at least they believe so. They shift toward a more rational way of viewing life and reality. Again, so they think. And much is good in this shift. Empiricism emerges more widely (observing natural evidence and making rational conclusions based on evidence) and is developed further. The empirical/observational approach actually began initially with the Greeks but never became as widespread as during the Enlightenment.

But something else happened in the shift toward the more widely accepted scientific worldview. People also brought along the themes of primitive apocalyptic mythology into their new scientific worldviews. They actually “secularized” ancient mythical themes, giving them new secular expression. Thus the same old, same old continued into modern consciousness. How so?

Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline) details some of the transformation of mythology into secular ideology. But he notes only a few themes from apocalyptic mythology. For instance, he states that 19th Century Declinism (also known as Cultural Pessimism, or Degeneration theory) borrowed ideas of an original golden age that was lost (a pristine natural paradise before humanity). He also notes the Declinist belief in the violent purging of the corrupting element from the world (i.e. removing the destructive human technological, industrial society). This purging myth is derived from the similar Christian belief that God will violently purge the world of corruption (the present “evil” world system) in the final apocalypse. Despite Herman’s limited references to previous apocalyptic mythology, the full template of primitive apocalyptic is still visible in 19th Century Declinism. Herman then rightly concludes his book showing that Declinism has subsequently shaped contemporary Environmental Alarmism.

And this brings us to today. As Herman and others have noted, the environmental alarmist movement repeatedly voices the themes of primitive apocalyptic. Environmental alarmists believe that the world was an original paradise before humanity emerged to engage, use, and change nature. They believe that corrupt, greedy humans have destroyed the original paradise and all is now in decline toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. The salvation scheme? We must purge the world of the corrupting element (greedy, destructive humanity in industrial society) in order to restore the lost paradise.

Apocalyptic despair infects more than just environmental extremism. Its core theme of violent, punishing deity finds expression in such widely embraced myths as vengeful Gaia, punishing Karma, or angry planet.

I detail this below.

And I am now verklempt. Discuss this mental pathology- these bad religious ideas- amongst yourselves.

Explaining and Defending the focus here on Unconditional reality

Orienting ourselves to the unconditional treatment of every human being is about finding and maintaining our humanity in an imperfect world. It is about trying to live and respond as authentically human, despite the traumatizing horror of violence from others.

But being human, as in treating all others unconditionally, is not inconsistent with protecting the innocent. Any common sense understanding of love will grasp that love involves robust action against evil of all forms- restraining, imprisoning where necessary, and eliminating if other options fail. You cannot make peace agreements with irrational psychopathy, as in ISIS and similar groups or persons. Often, your only option is to press the trigger and vaporize.

But even the worst failures in the human family deserve an unconditional, restorative approach, where possible. And we widely recognize this humane treatment of “enemies” in our international policies on the decent treatment of prisoners of war.

However, no matter how we are obligated to act in the midst of outbreaks of violence, nothing weakens or diminishes the truth of a core reality that is Unconditional Love. There is simply no more humane understanding or explanation of ultimate Goodness (deity), despite how we struggle to live and express such an ideal in an imperfect world.

I return repeatedly to figures like the Chinese sage Laozi who advised that sometimes we must regrettably use force to defend ourselves but we should not then engage triumphalism when defeating “enemies” (Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation). We should employ force non-aggressively, unassertively, not in a spirit of vengeance, retaliation, or harsh punishment.

Its about maintaining our humanity no matter what we experience in life. Maintaining the attitude of restorative justice toward even the worst people. It is about recognizing that grotesque outbreaks of violence can stir our basest impulses to respond in kind with hateful vengeance and thereby drag us down into cycles of further dehumanizing violence. (Note Nelson Mandela for a recent contemporary example of humane response to violent abuse and endeavor to lift a society toward something better.)

We act more humanely when we take our horror at violence and direct it toward lessening future outbreaks of violence. James Payne urged this in his book “History of Force”. He argued that we should find ways to lessen cycles of violence in the future and thereby help contribute to the long-term decline in violence across history. Using their revulsion at violence is how people began to decrease religious violence over the past.

Our very humanity is at stake in our response to violence in all forms and at all scales.

Islamic Violence

Careful expression of distinctions is required when pointing to a problem like the religious violence incited, or validated, by Islamic teaching. One needs to re-assure moderate Muslims that one is not damning all members of the Islamic community.

But it also means being clear that part of the violence problem derives from the religion itself and its holy book. It is very much about core Islamic teaching or ideas (again, those “bad religious ideas”) that incite and validate violence. Religious violence has long sought validation from such bad ideas as an angry, punishing God that uses violence to solve problems. This is the same problem that has been experienced in the histories of Christianity and Judaism, where violence is also advocated in their sacred scriptures. Remember also that Islam directly borrowed Jewish/Christian beliefs. Fortunately, many members of all three Western religions have learned to ignore those bad ideas and to moderate their approach to their religion and to life. That moderation must be affirmed while at the same time helping those people to see the remaining pathology that is still embedded at the very heart of their religious systems, in their ultimate ideals and authorities. The core pathology has to be completely removed in order to fully and properly ensure our progress toward a safer and more humane world.

Note: Some express tiredness at all the talk of “root causes of violence”. But if we are ever to thoroughly and properly solve violence for the long term future then we must understand its historical origins and development (i.e. the inherited animal drives and the mythical/religious validation of this animal inheritance). Problem solving means dealing fully with root causes and then offering potent alternatives. This is all part of the complex mix of things necessary to solve violence, along with social, political, economic, and personal elements.


Mythologist Joseph Campbell outlined human story as a struggle with monsters, overcoming and defeating monsters, and in the process gaining insights that benefit others.

The argument of this site is that the greatest monsters of all are the gods of mythology and religion. These are the Master Terrorists that have terrorized more people than anything else.

My personal struggle has long been with the monstrosity embedded in the Christian God, with the pathological features associated with that deity- myths of fallen/sinful humanity, separation from and abandonment by that deity, condemnation of human imperfection, demand for violent appeasement (blood sacrifice), exclusion and opposition toward other members of the human family (true believers versus unbelievers), and the threat of coming catastrophe and destruction (violent apocalypse and Hell), and more.

This site explores, among other things, humanity’s ultimate ideals and authorities (i.e. the gods) and their impact on human consciousness and life, particularly the damaging impact from pathology in deity. Note, for instance, the history of human appeal to violent gods to validate violence toward others. See Terror In Mumbai below for a recent example. Remember also ISIS exhibiting this pathology today. Judaism and Christianity also have well-documented histories of violence incited and validated by deity.

Beginning back in prehistory, people have appealed to ultimate ideals and authorities to guide, inspire, and validate human behavior (the belief/behavior linkage). Unfortunately, the ancients projected some pathetically inhumane features onto early gods that have remained embedded at the core of most versions of deity ever since.

In response, a central project on this page is to fully humanize theology (as in human perception of greater ideals and authorities); to purge deity of subhuman features such as animal-like vengeance, tribal exclusion and opposition, payback punishment, or violent destruction of outsiders. We already have the stunning discovery that points us in the right direction- the radical redefinition of deity with the ideal of absolutely no conditions love. A discovery that liberates entirely from the pathology of so much past mythology and religion.

I repeatedly employ the Jesus/Paul contradiction to illustrate the deformity in Western religion and how to correct that. That contradiction illustrates the very heart of what is wrong in the larger human story (i.e. the impact of our animal inheritance with its features of vengeance, tribal exclusion, and violent destruction of enemies, and how these features are validated in Paul’s Christ myth with its similar themes of retaliation, exclusion, and destruction of unbelievers). The Jesus/Paul contradiction also tells us how to make things right (i.e. the exodus out of animal existence and toward an authentic human existence, a truly unconditional existence, as outlined in the breakthrough insight of Historical Jesus). The Jesus/Paul contradiction is about how we get to the better future that we all want- a more humane world. And its about the ongoing resistance to that liberation and progress, often religious resistance. Christianity, with its Christ myth, has played a major historical role in resisting and blocking progress toward a more humane world (i.e. the widespread impact of Christian ideas on human consciousness and society).

So the Christian influence is mixed. There is that core Jesus tradition (mainly the Matthew 5:38-48 rejection of ‘eye for eye’ justice), a humane influence that has been seriously blunted by the overall Christian framework of ‘eye for eye’ atonement.

Note: Christianity is in the same pathology basket as Judaism and Islam. They comprise the Western religious tradition, all descendants of Zoroastrian apocalyptic. The pathology they share? As noted above and more thoroughly below- Zoroastrian dualism (saved insiders, damned outsiders), payback vengeance as justice, and the final exclusion and destruction of unbelievers (apocalypse and Hell), and more. Foundational to this pathology is the core myth of violent deity, a God that solves problems using coercive violence. This is the heart of Christian atonement theology.

Further Introductory comment:

The unconditional treatment of every human person, both good and bad, is the single most profound ideal ever discovered by humanity. This stunningly humane ethic is based on the related discovery that there is an “absolutely no conditions love” at the core of reality and life.

(Note: Religious traditions have missed this insight entirely over history. Early Christianity included it but then set about burying it with Paul’s highly conditional Christ myth.)

The belief/behavior link in the above two things is critical to get a grip on. People act according to what they believe. Note also that I am using unconditional across the entire spectrum of human ideals and ethics- unconditional inclusion of all, unconditional forgiveness of offenses, unconditional generosity toward all, to name a few features. Remember also that unconditional orients consciousness toward scandal in that it offends conventional views of justice as payback- i.e. reward the good, punish the bad. Authentic unconditional means “Absolutely no conditions. None”.

Religious use of the term unconditional tends to drag it toward the distorting direction of religious conditions. For instance, when you try to explain unconditional in terms of a supreme condition- e.g. the sacrifice of Jesus- then you are talking oxymoronic nonsense. Christian use of unconditional in relation to their atonement belief- God now loves unconditionally after demanding the conditional sacrifice of Jesus- shows that Christianity has never understood the core teaching of Jesus. His unconditional discovery has long been buried in highly conditional Christian theology.

The absolutely no conditions love at the core of reality robustly counters the “worst idea” to have ever infected human consciousness- that there is some great threatening force/spirit behind reality and life, something that will condemn, exclude, retaliate, punish, and destroy imperfect humanity. See material below on the ancient logic that led to this error. Our ancestors reasoned from natural disaster, disease, and human violence to explain ultimate realities. A huge fail. Ever since, people both religious and secular have never fully let go of that original pathology.

People who believe in violent, punitive gods have too often treated others in the same harsh manner. The belief/behavior link again. Note ISIS today in this regard. People shouting “God is great” as they kill others are acting according to a horrifically pathological view of God that deforms human consciousness and life. See comment just below on “Terror in Mumbai”.

(Clarification: Before you conclude that I am picking on Islam let me place Islam in its proper historical context as a descendent of the Western religious tradition. Islam shares the common heritage of bad religious ideas- apocalyptic- that have descended from Sumerian mythology to Zoroastrianism, to Judaism and Christianity, and even down into Declinism and Environmental Alarmism. Note also the research below which shows that Jewish Christianity shaped early Islam- i.e. Joseph Azzi’s The Priest and The Prophet. It will be disorienting for many religious people to embrace, but Islam adopted the violent deity of Christianity. Using Azzi’s research, among others, I have traced the historical linkages- from the hellfire threat in the gospel of Matthew, and the Ebionite gospel to the Hebrews that was roughly similar to Matthew, and then to the Quran which absorbed the Hebrew gospel. See Section Three below.)

This myth of threatening and violent deity is probably responsible for more human misery than anything else that humanity has created. It is the foundational idea behind multiple millennia of apocalyptic alarmism and salvation religion. It has been at the basis of far too much inhumane treatment of others (inciting, guiding, validating). In its more extremist expression it has been employed to validate outright murderous violence. But it also finds expression in varied forms of punitive justice.

The threat of divine violence against human imperfection is found in the earliest writing (e.g. the Sumerian Flood myth). This core idea of divine violence then continued into most subsequent mythology/religion and was supported by a developing complex of similarly “bad religious ideas”. These include the following: that early humanity had ruined an originally perfect world (original paradise, Eden); that humanity had “fallen” and become corrupt or sinful; that humanity had become separated from deity (“broken relationship”); that humanity consequently deserved punishment; that life was in decline toward some catastrophic ending; that humanity must appease the threatening deities with some sacrifice (i.e. the conditions of the salvation industry); that unbelievers will eventually be excluded and destroyed; and that, in the future, the world will be instantaneously purged of imperfection (escapism- apocalypse as the abandonment of the slow historical process); and the original paradise will be restored (utopia- escape to some mythical realm).

(For more detail, see “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas” in Section 2 below)

These primitive and terrorizing ideas have darkened and deformed human consciousness for millennia, permeating all areas of human thought, both religious and secular. They have enslaved people in subhuman stages of development (see psychotherapist Lotufo below), and have often incited violence between people. Zoroastrian dualism has added the burden that “true believers”- the chosen people- are obligated to affirm that their God will dominate and destroy unbelievers or outsiders to the “true religion”. True believers are obligated to help their God purge the world of evil.

This site repeatedly isolates the main features in the pathology of some great Threat behind life- features such as retaliation, vengeance, exclusion, punishment, domination/control, and violence. These harsh elements have long defined the core of the great Monsters that people have lodged at the foundations of their mythologies, religions, and ideologies (e.g. vengeful Gaia). Monsters that have terrorized humanity with unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, despair, defensiveness, and aggression. Bad ideas have always stirred the worst impulses in people.

(Note: Having created those ultimate monsters to terrorize others, is it any wonder that subsequent generations of people have suffered varied emotional and mental pathologies? See Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, Ellens, and others below)

The fear engendered by such monsters drives people to embrace irrational salvation schemes, schemes to save themselves, their communities, or to save the world. Salvationist responses, motivated by fear, have always led to horrific waste, even destructiveness. Look at the damage to both people and the environment from environmental alarmism (e.g. Carson’s chemical alarm and the ban on DDT, or the bio-fuels fiasco).

This site exists to counter and to bring down these threatening monsters, whether religious or secular. The project to counter alarmism is not a denial of the serious problems that exist in life. It is more about going after the exaggeration and distortion of problems to apocalyptic scale- from an acorn falling to the sky is falling (i.e. the Chicken Little hysteria syndrome). It is about countering the mental and emotional terrorism from alarmists.

Important to emphasize here- the bad ideas listed above have also descended into contemporary secular versions where they continue to damage human consciousness and retard human development and progress. I have traced the line of descent often below- from Sumerian gods threatening to destroy humanity in a great flood, to following Akkadian and Babylonian versions, to the Zoroastrian God threatening a great fiery destruction of the world, to this very same God adopted into the Western traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, to the 19th Century Declinist threat of looming catastrophe, to the threatening deity of Green religion today- vengeful Gaia, or angry nature, angry planet.

Herman on Declinism

Arthur Herman’s book The Idea of Decline in Western History is critical to understand the shift that humanity made over roughly the past four centuries, from the mythical expression of our past to the more secular expression of our present “scientific” era. Despite an apparently fundamental shift in human worldview, Herman helps us see that humanity preserved the defining mythical themes of the past but simply restated them in new secular versions in the ideology of Declinism, or Cultural Pessimism (also known as Degeneration theory). Nothing really changed at the core of human thinking. You can see this continuity of mythical themes in environmental alarmism.

Add to Herman

All systems of thought/belief develop in relation to previous systems of thought. Nothing develops in total isolation. Succeeding systems borrow and absorb ideas from previous systems. Yes, they revise and restate the borrowed ideas, but often retain the essential core themes. To detect the borrowed ideas, do not look for some exact restatement of any given idea, but look for the core theme that is embodied in the new expression.

The Christian contradiction (brief version- see full version below)

(Note: I embrace the view that there was a historical person called Jesus and that he presented a core message of unconditional love, in both ethic and theology. But the Christian scriptures, while including his core teaching of Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36, then rejected the theme of unconditional and developed the myth of the Christ. The Christ myth is all about the demand that a supreme condition must be met- a blood sacrifice- before any forgiveness is offered. The central difference between the historical Jesus and the Christian Christ is this difference between absolute unconditional and highly conditional. Note also that Paul, the creator of the version of Christianity that we have today, ignored the actual teaching of Jesus and formed Christianity around his personal visions of Christ.)

Christianity is vital to understanding the unconditional ideal, and the intense opposition to this ideal. Both elements are found in the Christian religion. Christianity therefore embodies the best and the worst of human thought and practice. To use Thomas Jefferson’s colorful description, Christianity presents the situation where you have the diamonds of Jesus’ teaching (i.e. Matthew 5:38-48) but they are buried in the “dunghill” of a less humane context.

Jefferson did not clarify the unconditional feature at the core of Jesus’ teaching, but he sensed something profoundly human in the “sublimely moral” sayings of Jesus. He also recognized that “inferior minds” had written the rest of the gospels.

I have framed the Christian situation this way (peripherally using Historical Jesus research, and Q Sayings Gospel research- neither of which clearly present the points that I am making below): The original ‘Historical Jesus’ presented an entirely new theology that centered on the unconditional treatment of all people, both good and bad (Matthew 5 and Luke 6). According to Historical Jesus, God was absolutely no conditions love. That meant no required payment for human imperfection (i.e. no sacrifice), no exclusion of anyone (no saved versus unsaved, no Zoroastrian dualism of true believers in opposition to unbelievers), no final judgment or punishment, and no final destruction (no Hell).

Paul, the creator of the Christian religion that we have today, out-rightly rejected and then buried the unconditional breakthrough of Jesus in his highly conditional Christian theology. See, for instance, his formal statement of atonement theology in Romans (i.e. the supreme condition of a human sacrifice). This ranks as one of history’s greatest contradictions and scandals. The very religion that claims to represent Jesus, actually opposes his central teaching on the unconditional treatment of all, an ethic that he based on the unconditional God at the core of all. Essentially, Jesus said, act like this because God does this.

Paul created the Christian Jesus, known as “Jesus Christ” or just “Christ”, a mythical person entirely opposite to Historical Jesus (again, the difference between highly conditional reality and unconditional reality). The gospel writers- notably Matthew and Luke- adopted Paul’s Christ myth. They then wrote all sorts of conditional things in their gospels (i.e. threats of divine vengeance and punishment, statements of Jesus coming to make a payment for sin, a sacrifice) and they put these statements in the mouth of Jesus, claiming that he taught these conditional things. But this added gospel material contradicts Jesus’ core teaching in Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36. The gospel writers tried to bury the actual teaching of Jesus with their conditional Christ mythology that they had received mainly from Paul.

(Note: In 1 Corinthians 1-3, Paul, in a general manner, opposed the wisdom tradition of sages like Jesus. See for instance, Stephen Patterson’s “The Lost Way”. Then, in Romans 12 he more specifically rejected the core ethical/theological breakthrough of Jesus. In the Romans 12 passage he appeared to get the ethic of non-retaliation but in an entirely contradictory conclusion, he based it on a theology of retaliation. Pure oxymoron. Closer inspection shows that he also missed the ethic of Jesus in that he urged non-retaliation in order to assure divine retaliation on offenders- to “heap burning coals on their heads”. He missed the core unconditional message of Jesus on both counts- ethical and theological. Retaliation, or eye for eye justice, was the central theme in Paul’s thinking.)

There are varied other elements in Christianity that can be affirmed as decently humane and I would certainly affirm the general contribution of Christian believers to society. Over the past few centuries, most Christians have learned to moderate the practice of their religion despite retaining its darker features. But it is inexcusable to continue to protect the larger theological framework of Christianity that distorts and buries the unconditional ideal that was taught by Jesus. That larger framework is based on the pathological myth of an angry, punishing God that demands a blood payment before he will forgive anyone. That God demands that a supreme condition be met first before he will show mercy to anyone. This conditional gospel of Paul is entirely opposite to the unconditional theology of Jesus. For two millennia Paul’s theology has tried to bury the no conditions discovery of Jesus.

Paul’s Christ myth- the sacrifice of Christ to appease an angry God (Romans 5:9)- is the great anti-Jesus myth. It is about a supreme condition that negates entirely the no conditions teaching of Jesus. Meditate on this for a while, and check the varied New Testament passages listed below that set forth this stunning contradiction at the heart of Christianity. See, for instance, the comparison of Jesus and Paul in List of Topics, Section Two.

(To reduce the need to search below I will include here the following 7-8 paragraphs that are a quote pulled from the List of Topics further below on the contrast between Jesus and Paul)

“The stunning contrast between the core teaching of the historical Jesus and the entirely opposite teaching of Christianity: Jesus rejected retaliation and punishment and instead introduced a new ethic and theology of non-retaliation or the unconditional treatment of all persons. That was his core theme, his gospel. Do not retaliate because God does not retaliate. Love your enemies because God loves all enemies.

(Note: Some Jesus Seminar Fellows respond that unconditional is not the core theme of Historical Jesus. Ultimately, it matters not if we can establish unconditional from the Jesus tradition. We take what is useful from such traditions and then make our own conclusions for today. We do not need to appeal to religious authority to establish the validity of unconditional for defining authentic humanity.)

“Jesus’ new theology blew away the foundations of conditional religion. It over-turned entirely all previous belief in the required conditions of sacrifice, atonement, and salvation. He stated clearly that God was unconditional love and did not demand that people meet any conditions at all in order to be forgiven and accepted. (Note: He did not dismiss human responsibility to counter wrong and promote right; to be accountable for one’s actions)

“Paul reversed the new theology of Jesus and retreated back to a primitive retaliation/punishment view of God. He re-established the divine demand for blood sacrifice, atonement, and highly conditional salvation religion. He made divine conditions the foundation of Christianity (See Romans 1-5). He rejected outright the greatest liberation movement ever offered to humanity and took the opposite view to that of Jesus. His Christian religion was based on his stunning reversal of Jesus’ teaching. This is history’s greatest scandal because it is an outright rejection of history’s single greatest discovery.

“Paul buried the unconditional theme of Jesus, the core theme of his gospel.

“Summary contrast of Jesus’ gospel compared to Paul’s opposite gospel:

“Ethic and Theology of Jesus (Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 6)- Do not retaliate against evil, but instead, love others unconditionally and you will be like God (this bases the non-retaliating ethic on the identical non-retaliating theology). God loves enemies, is kind, merciful, and compassionate to the evil and gives good things to all alike (unconditionally), both just and unjust.

“Ethic and Theology of Paul (Romans 12)- Do not repay any one evil for evil, do not take revenge but… (he then bases the non-retaliating ethic on the absolutely contradicting retaliatory theology)… leave room for God’s wrath…for ”Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord”. Paul reverts back to a retaliating, punishing God.

“Note in regard to the above- theology determines ethics. What people believe (i.e. their highest ideals and authorities) will determine how they act. This helps explain why people holding high ethical standards will still treat others inhumanely. Note, for instance, how harsh Paul was toward all who disagreed with his views. Paul did not love his enemies, not even his fellow believers that differed from him (see, for example, Galatians 1:8-9). He damned them to eternal destruction. Despite his comments on the noble ideals of love and non-retaliation, when others disagreed with him, he then responded just like his vengeful, punishing God.

“Also note that Paul, while advocating non-retaliation toward offenders, urged this response in a spiteful manner, to ensure punishment of the offender (“to heap burning coals on his head”, Romans 12). He missed the main point of the unconditional ethic of Jesus as well as his unconditional theology.” (End of quote from List of Topics)

Keep in mind also that Christianity has shaped Western consciousness and life more than any other body of ideas (Tabor, Boyce, and others). While some of that influence has been positive, those bad religious ideas are still present at the heart of Christian theology and they continue to undermine and cloud the more positive Christian influence. Most significant, Christian theology continues to hinder any broader human appreciation of unconditional reality. Basic Christian beliefs, whether viewed literally or metaphorically, orient consciousness and identity to overall exclusion, separation, punishment, and destruction of outsiders to the religion (unbelievers).

The breakthrough discovery of Historical Jesus orients consciousness to authentic hope, to true liberation at the depths of human consciousness and spirit, and to the highest form of love ever known, an unconditional love that defines us as truly human or humane. Unconditional means absolutely no conditions. None. The central unconditional theme of Historical Jesus is a death blow to all conditional religion.

Again, the main point here is the discovery of absolutely no conditions love at the core of all and the related ethic of the unconditional treatment of all people- the single greatest discovery of humanity, ever. Explore with us the liberating and humanizing potential of this supremely humane ideal.

Added note: The “spiritual insight” that “no conditions love defines ultimate reality” is necessary to engage in order to properly counter the original error- a mythological/religious error- that some threatening, retaliatory spirit defines ultimate reality. Ultimately, the spiritual is critical to fully meet the human impulse for meaning and purpose.

Insert: Posing some oppositional dualism between religion and atheism, as humanity’s only choice, is simple-minded dogmatism, on both sides of this debate. We can do much better, with more diverse alternatives. Let seven billion (plus) flowers bloom. See further comment below on religious/atheist issues.

Another note: There is growing public recognition that we must deal with the ideology behind terrorism if we are going to win the long-term war against terror. You can militarily defeat a group like ISIS but, absent a plan to deal with the inciting/validating belief system, you still lose the overall war against terror. Another group with the same ideology will just take its place. You have to deal with the root causes (the disease) behind religious terrorism and not just the repeated symptoms, such as groups like Al Queda or ISIS.

So there is growing recognition that we have to engage the “battle of ideas”. Some have stated more directly that the problem behind terrorism is “bad religious ideas” (e.g. Sam Harris). It is more than just an “ideological” issue; it is more of a theological/religious problem. But few have stated exactly what those bad ideas are. I have set forth the basic template of bad religious ideas in such comments below as “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas”, and other comment on grand narrative themes.

But more important, I have repeatedly set forth the worst of all bad ideas- that of a violent deity/God. This is the core bad idea behind violence. This is the real monster that we face- the Master Terrorist. A violent, threatening God has long been at the root of human religious violence, inciting and validating the worst impulses in people. We are talking about a primitive mythical theme that was long ago embedded in human subconscious where it works a damaging influence with inherited animal drives. (See more detail further below on how bad religious ideas incite and validate our inherited animal impulses to harm others.)

Consequently, a violent, vengeful God has long provided the ultimate model for human existence, the ultimate ideal and authority for people to commit violence against others.

Page Content Lists

(The lists below are only a partial listing of each section’s comments, but they cover most of the material on this page.)

Site Comment: Section One

The true state of life- It gets better; Anti-science alarmism; CO2 alarmism; Plimer and Moore quotes on the benefits of CO2; Grappling with imperfection; Human narrative- Old story versus new story; Rethinking justice; Dogmatic meaninglessness; Defining the core of ultimate reality (some theological musing); Noble savage mythology; Authentic liberalism- its all about freedom; Alleviating irresponsible alarmism; Karma as payback myth.

Site Comment: Section Two

The foundational error in human thought- that there are punishing, violent forces or spirits behind life; A potent response to the original pathology- the discovery of absolutely no conditions love; List of Topics; Challenging the Greek view that retribution is at the core of reality; Main indicators of the true state of life- the status of forests, fisheries, soil, species; Confronting alarmism with hope based on the best available evidence; The problem of conditional religion; Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas; Theism/Atheism debate; A model of religion and violence; Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology; Inoculate children against religious pathology; Garcia on Alpha God and animal-like subservience; Pessimism as mental masturbation; Moore- Celebrate CO2.

Site Comment: Section Three

Violence- Getting ultimate inspiration and validation from bad religious ideas; Bad ideas promoting bad behavior; Christianity and violence in the Western tradition; Jewish Christianity shapes Islam; The great Contradiction- the unconditional theology of Historical Jesus contrasted with the supremely conditional theology of Paul/Christianity (or non-retaliation versus retaliation); The great scandal at the heart of Christianity; Chronology of the contradiction; James Robinson quotes on the contradiction.

Site Comment: Section Four

Disorienting historical evidence- Richard Landes on Christian apocalyptic shaping mass-death movements, Marxism and Nazism; Bad religious ideas; Zenon Lotufo quotes (Cruel God, Kind God- violence in God as psychopathic); Nelson-Pallmeyer (Is Religion Killing Us?); Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion); Discussion group comment.

Site Comment: Section Five

Roots of apocalyptic/alarmist thinking; A thought breakthrough; Grand narrative core themes (humanizing worldviews); The futility of reforming religion (the stunning contrast between the unconditional teaching of Jesus and the conditional atonement of Paul); Standing up to bully gods- the monsters of the metaphysical; History’s greatest terrorist- the pathology of violence in God.

Site Comment: Section Six

A brief history of punishment; Tackling Paul; Ethics and theology contrasted- Jesus versus Paul; Maccoby on Paul inventing his Christ myth; Paul’s great reversal/retreat from Jesus; Eliminating Zoroastrian dualism; Solving the root causes of violence; The wonder of being human; The most potent force against evil; CO2 or natural variation?; Secularized mythology- apocalyptic in modern ideology.

Site Comment: Section Seven

The problem of deity- defining and describing God; Punishment thinking; Reason for this page- leaving conditional religion for unconditional freedom; I am a dreamer (my list of greatest things); Unconditional as the cohering theme of Historical Jesus; Dating the New Testament books (watching the great contradiction unfold); Mandela’s example; Unconditional is impractical?; Unconditional and the use of force- advice of the Chinese sage; Brinsmead on non-retaliation in relationships; Humanity’s greatest mistake.

Site Comment: Section Eight

Humanity’s greatest discovery; Post to Jesus Seminar Fellows; Grand narrative context; Paul’s dominant themes; The benefits of blasphemy; Two grand narratives of the cosmos, life, and humanity; The Ultimate Resource- Julian Simon; Stephen Pinker on the decline of violence over history; Remembering Nelson Mandela; Environmentalist/Environmentalism; The ultimate insight; The Mennonite solution- Lipstick on a pig.

Site Comment: Section Nine

Unconditional goodness; Big picture approach; No Hell beneath us; Climate change alarmism; Decline or Rise- What is the actual trajectory of life?; Nothing to fear behind life; Retaliation/non-retaliation; The apocalyptic error and the real nature of life as unconditional; Creating divine monsters; Excerpts from Near-Death Experiences (unconditional love at the core of reality); The historical trend from retaliation to the unconditional treatment of all (leaving animal existence to engage human existence); Entirely opposite: Jesus versus Paul, An unconditional TOE; Depression and bad theology.

Site Comment: Section Ten

Dense complexity (causes of violence); Mimetic Mennonites; Ellen’s Destructive Power of Religion; It all gets better; History’s greatest liberation movement; Celebrating more CO2; Hitchens on violence; The longing for perfection; Brinsmead on imperfection; God as psychopath; The pathology in Western religion; Zenon Lotufo quotes (the psychopath behind atonement theology- finding satisfaction in the suffering of others); A model of religion and violence; review of Armstrong’s Fields of Blood, Love and freedom- understanding suffering.

Terror in Mumbai

Fareed Zakaria narrates the CNN documentary ‘Terror in Mumbai’ on the attacks that killed 170 people there in 2008. The documentary includes taped telephone conversations between the man in Pakistan controlling the shooters, and the shooter’s responses to the controller. In the back and forth between the controller and the shooters, note the repeated appeal to God.

Some examples:

The controller encouraged his protégés to start killing, stating, “This is a struggle between Islam and unbelievers… God chose you to kill unbelievers”.

The controller repeatedly appealed to the promise of heaven if his shooters would kill unbelievers, “You must kill people in order to get your reward in heaven… (then as the death toll mounted and the shooters faced death themselves)…you are close to heaven”.

The controller insisted that God was assisting the shooters with success, “With God’s blessing you’ve done a great job”.

After one of the shooters was killed by police, either the controller or another shooter said, “May God accept his martyrdom”.

The controller at another point affirmed to the shooters, “God is waiting for you in heaven”.

When the shooters were hesitant about killing hostages, the controller impatiently urged, “Do it in God’s name”. Then as the shooters continued to kill, the controller encouraged them with, “Praise God. God keep you”.

As one of the shooters, already wounded, faced his own death, he told the controller, “May God accept my martyrdom”.

And so it went, a violent episode of mass murder, drenched in God-talk and appeal to God. Much like the Christian Crusaders of previous millennia appealed to God (i.e. seeking God’s blessing, thanking God) as they slaughtered Jews and Muslims.

If you want to win the war on terror then, among other things, you must confront and correct the pathological theology at the heart of this madness. And recognize that you are not dealing with some aberrational theology that is just unique to the terrorists. You are dealing with a core element in the foundational theology of all Western religion- violence in the ultimate ideal and authority of deity.

Religiously inspired terrorism is not just an Islamic problem. The inciting idea of violent deity goes back to the very beginning of human mythology/religion. And this core bad religious idea has long dominated Western thought, producing an endless “river of blood” in all three Western religions. The idea of violent deity descended from Zoroastrianism to Judaism, to Christianity, and then to Islam. It is a direct line of succession to the religious violence of today. And Christianity bears major responsibility for bringing this Master Terrorist into Western consciousness.

If you are going to deal thoroughly and fundamentally with violence, then you must purge this worst of all bad ideas (the divine ideal of vengeful violence) from human systems of thought. This is what the “humanization” project on this site is all about. Slay the real beast, the Master Terrorist behind human terrorism.

The Christian Contradiction (full version)

(Note: The following comment is related to sound historical research, namely Q Sayings research which is a subsection of general Historical Jesus research)

A significant historical misunderstanding, distortion, and consequent scandal. That refers to the Jesus/Paul contradiction noted below, and its recognizable impact on public consciousness and general human existence. Varied historians have stated that Paul has been the single greatest influence on Western consciousness and society. Some of that influence has been good. Some has been harmful. Note the difference because it is important. This contradiction between Jesus and Paul encompasses significant validating ideas that have shaped human existence for better and for worse.

Qualifier: A note on the Jesus tradition and Historical Jesus research. Ultimately it does not matter what Jesus said, or did not say. Historical Jesus research shows that we will never know his actual original teaching with finality. It is more important to get the insight on unconditional reality that is found on the Jesus side of the tradition, and pull that out of the highly conditional Christian context where it has been severely distorted by Paul’s atonement theology (i.e. the demanded payment for sin- the fulfillment of an ultimate condition). Jesus’ unconditional insight is better understood in new contexts aside from conditional religion. As he said, put the new wine in new wineskins. The diamond of unconditional has too long been buried by the overwhelmingly dominant Christ myth of Christianity. That is Thomas Jefferson’s point that the diamonds of Jesus- “his sublimely moral teaching”- were buried among the other inferior teaching of the gospel writers. He used a stronger term to describe the inferior teaching in the New Testament, but I am trying to be nice.

Further, unconditional does not need validation by a religious authority figure like Jesus. It is self-validating as the ultimate definition of authentic humanity. Therefore, I am advocating that we get the unconditional insight clear, pull it out of the Jesus tradition, and then create a better context aside from the conditional features of a religion like Christianity. Jesus points us in the right direction on unconditional. Now we need to move on further.

One more: I am not claiming below that Paul set out to intentionally deceive people. I assume that he actually believed that his Christ myth explained what Jesus was all about. But the outcome is the same- whether just serious misunderstanding or intentional deception. Paul proclaimed something that was not true. His Christ mistake has harmed people more than is commonly recognized. (See comment below on Paul’s influence on Western consciousness and society, and the psychological impact of his ideas)

Distortion and Deception (propagating belief in things that are not true)

This is about the claim to represent someone, but then distorting and burying entirely that person’s central theme. The very name Christianity expresses the basic problem. It is not Jesus-ianity. It is Christ-ianity. Its all about the Christ myth of Paul, a myth that contradicts the original message of Jesus entirely.

(I recognize that the ideas that Paul used to shape his Christology were also common in Judaism and other traditions- i.e. Messiah myths. See, for instance, Daniel Boyarin’s The Jewish Gospels)

It ranks high as probably the greatest deception and scandal in the history of mythology and religion- that Christianity rejected and then buried the earliest gospel of Jesus. This is much more consequential than the discovery of the ossuary of Jesus. Or the pedophile priest scandals. Or any other scandal/deception. The distortion and burial of Jesus’ teaching within Christianity has resulted in the “spiritual abuse” of countless people over the past two millennia (see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s comment at bottom of this article).

Christianity as spiritual abuse? That’s an extravagant and unsettling claim to make. But take into account the widespread influence of Christianity and the nature of its foundational ideas. To get this abuse issue fully, note, for instance, Lotufo’s comments on the harmful impacts from atonement theology (i.e. the belief in divine anger that demands suffering and death as payment for imperfection). He wrote an entire book outlining the damage to human personality from these ideas (see Cruel God, Kind God).

There are two sides to this claim of abuse. There is the Christian denial of something that could powerfully liberate and heal human consciousness and life- i.e. the proper knowledge of the highest expression of authentic humanity ever presented. I refer to the Jesus breakthrough on the unconditional treatment of all people. Christianity’s contrary retaliation themes have denied people the full understanding of this supremely humane ethic. And just as important, Christianity has denied people the healing impact of Jesus’ theological breakthrough- the discovery of a God that treats everyone with absolutely no conditions love. The new Jesus theology points us toward “the single most profound shift in human consciousness ever- from viewing some grand retribution or payback behind reality, to understanding that there is only an absolutely no conditions Love behind all”. See the implications of denying this wonder below.

The other side of this abuse claim is that, aside from denying people the proper presentation of history’s most liberating insight, Christianity has promoted contrary ideas that have proven harmful in all other contexts. It is no longer responsible to protect these bad ideas in religious contexts like Christianity, no matter how sacred we feel them to be.

The proper presentation and full understanding of the stunning unconditional insight of Jesus could have produced the greatest liberation movement ever- freeing human consciousness from all kinds of unnecessary threat, guilt/shame, fear, anxiety, depression and despair that arise from atonement theology. The clear presentation of the unconditional insight could have also removed a central historical validation for violence- i.e. the ideal of violent, punitive deity that has long been used to validate similar violent treatment of others (see, for example, Terror in Mumbai). We have been denied so much, to our detriment, over the past two millennia.

This Christian denial is about an original teaching and a religion that claims to represent the original teacher but has contradicted entirely his core theme. Yes, much of the content of Jesus’ original teaching has been included in the New Testament but it has been tampered with by gospel writers like Matthew. Most of the rest of the New Testament then ignores Jesus’ teaching outright and instead promotes the Christ mythology of Paul (i.e. Paul’s Christology- his personal visions of Christ). The Christ of Paul embodies an atonement myth- a supreme condition- that contradicts entirely the Jesus breakthrough on unconditional.

The basic outline of the scandal:

The closest that we can get to the original teaching of Jesus is a collection of wisdom sayings, called the Q Sayings Gospel (see, for instance, the research of James Robinson, among others). That teaching encompasses basically Matthew chapters 5 to 7, the Sermon on the Mount, and a few other passages/stories. Luke 6 covers similar material. Q research (short for Quelle, the German word for Source) is part of the larger multi-century search to discover the Historical Jesus- what he actually said and did. Historical Jesus research recognizes that the later gospel and epistle writers put a lot of additional things in the mouth of Jesus, things that contradict his original teaching. Hence, the understanding that there are notable “dissimilarities” or contradictions in the New Testament. The latest phase of this search involves the Jesus Seminar, which began around 1985. These scholars have done excellent work trying to decipher what the original Jesus actually said and did. Unfortunately, they have never made fully clear the shocking nature of the Christian denial of Jesus’ core theme, and what this means for Christianity and other belief systems.

Again, Matthew 5-7 comprises Jesus’ core teaching or message, his gospel, though Matthew has altered that teaching in various places. But within this core teaching there is a core theme that is stated in Matthew 5:38-48, which Robinson calls the “core of the core”. There, Jesus introduced something entirely new- a stunning theology of a non-retaliatory God. He said that there should be no more ‘eye for eye’ vengeance but instead we should love our enemies and we would then be the children of God, we would be like God. Because God gives the good things of life- sun and rain- to all, both good and bad. God does not exclude or discriminate but treats all the same, with unconditional generosity and love. God does not exercise payback or ‘eye for eye’ justice- i.e. reward the good and punish the bad. God treats all the same. This was something uniquely new and unprecedented in history. A God that did not retaliate, punish, or destroy but instead exhibited absolutely no conditions love toward everyone.

Here is a summarized/paraphrased statement of the Matthew 5 insight combined with parts of the same Luke 6 teaching: “You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not take vengeance on an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies…do good to those that hate you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven (i.e. if you do that you will be like God). He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous, he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked…Be merciful therefore just as your heavenly Father is merciful”.

(Side note: As with all comment on unconditional, one feels obligated to qualify to doubters that common sense understands that love is responsible to restrain evil in order to protect the innocent. Unconditional is very much about the spirit in which we treat all others, despite what we might have to do to protect people and to restrain bad behavior.)

The ethic of non-retaliation (no more eye for eye, no getting even with those who harm us) had been voiced repeatedly over previous millennia in such writing as the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son, roughly around 2000 BCE. Other ancient traditions- e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism- had similar statements. But never before had anyone presented the related theology of a non-retaliating God. Jesus took theology somewhere entirely new.

James Robinson calls Jesus’ new theology “his most important contribution to the history of ideas” (Jesus According to the Earliest Witnesses, p.17). It was a vision of God that was more humane than anything ever stated before, a God that exhibited impartial love for both good and bad people. All previous deities, despite embracing new features like mercy and compassion, had also maintained the traditional harsher features of gods, such as anger, vengeance, punishment, tribal favoritism and exclusion, and destruction of enemies. Jesus’ new Q theology had none of that.

(Note: Robinson gets the closest to grasping the unconditional theme of Jesus’ theology but does not seem to get the full nature of this discovery and its profound implications for Christianity. He continues to roam around in the confusing Christian context. For example, in several places he says that doing Jesus’ words is “what counts in the day of judgment”. The unconditional treatment of all and judgment? Huh? But Robinson gets further with his grasp of Jesus’ core theme than most Jesus Seminar scholars.)

My point in this discussion…

Non-retaliation is one element in the larger theme of unconditional love- the unconditional treatment of all people. This unconditional theme, though Jesus never used exactly that term, is visible all through the teaching and behavior of Jesus. We find unconditional in his advocating for unlimited forgiveness (i.e. seventy seven times, Matthew 18: 21-22); in his advocating for non-discrimination toward all people, or the unconditional inclusion of all (i.e. he did this at meals and elsewhere- inviting “sinners” to table fellowship, without condition); and in his advocating unconditional generosity toward all (“give to whoever asks, especially enemies, and expect nothing in return”, Luke 6:35). The absolutely no conditions treatment of all people was the new kingdom of God (the new humane existence) that he spoke about.

Unconditional is also evident in the short stories that Jesus told. Note, for instance, that in the Prodigal story the father (representing God) demands no sacrifice to pay for the sins of the wayward son. He demands no repentance or payback of any kind. He exhibits an unconditional welcome and celebration toward the bad son. The generosity of the father offends the older son, the good son. It offends his sense of proper morality or justice. The unconditional treatment of all is offensive to traditional religious/payback understanding of justice.

The no conditions treatment of all is a “cohering theme” throughout the teaching and life of Jesus. There are more detailed outlines of this below- see, for instance, “Unconditional as the cohering theme of Historical Jesus” (formerly Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition), section 7.

Again, there were two parts to the statement of Jesus’ core theme in Matthew 5:38-48. First, there was the ethic that was then based on the exact same theological belief. That has been a critical relationship all through human history- to base behavior on beliefs. We act according to how we think. And for the first time ever Jesus got both the behavior and the belief right in that he stated them in terms of the highest understanding of authentic love- unconditional. He took our understanding of being authentically human, of the great ideal of love, to new heights with the absolutely no conditions ideal.

To enhance appreciation for what he discovered, I have stated repeatedly here that Jesus’ statement of the unconditional insight competes as humanity’s greatest discovery ever. It is the finest statement of authentically humane ethics and the ultimate definition of a supremely humane God. There is no more comparably humane insight anywhere in human thought or literature.

Consider its two parts- an ethic that Jefferson called “sublime”. And then a theological foundation that takes perception of ultimate reality to absolute new heights of the humane. And I do not know if Jesus had any clue about what he was doing with these two elements, but when he combined them, he responded in the best possible manner to the fundamental human need to base behavior on validating beliefs, ideals, or higher authorities. He responded sublimely to the human need to think about and validate what we do. And he attained the highest possible reach of the authentically humane on both features.

Some anthropologists have treated this important behavior/belief linkage. See, for instance, Clifford Geertz below.

But again, it matters not whether Jesus actually taught unconditional as I have stated it, or not. We know it today as the highest expression of authentic humanity. It is right and true in itself and needs no religious authority to validate it. And again, I would advocate pulling this insight out of the confusing Christian context (i.e. highly conditional atonement theology) in order to see it more clearly. Create a new ‘no conditions’ context for it.

The misunderstanding and consequent deception: Burying unconditional in a highly conditional theology and Christology (i.e. the teaching about the Christ).

When Paul composed the theology of Christianity a few decades after Jesus died, he outright rejected the central unconditional theme of Jesus. He created a Christ myth as a message that was entirely opposite to what Jesus had taught. His Christ myth became the heart of the new Christian religion. It was about a Savior that had to come to meet the ultimate condition ever conceived- to become a sacrifice to pay for sin in order to save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9), to save us from a God that would retaliate with horrific punishment and destruction of unbelievers. The myth of the Christ was about the supreme condition of a Savior sent to make a supreme payment for sin, a human blood sacrifice in order to save people from the rage of Paul’s retaliating/punishing God. I am stating these beliefs as plainly and coarsely as possible in order to make their essential nature clear. (For Paul’s statements of these ideas see the early chapters of Romans, and the wrath/retaliation theme all through Paul’s letters)

When Paul presented the Christ myth in his letters, he included almost nothing from the actual teaching of Jesus, except in one place where he apparently engaged Jesus’ teaching, but only in order to contradict its main discovery and theme.

Jesus, in his original wisdom sayings, had said nothing about traditional religious conditions or salvation conditions. And he said nothing about his coming as a Savior to become a sacrifice to pay for sin. He also said nothing about bringing the world to an end in a great apocalyptic punishment and destruction. To the contrary, he had repeatedly emphasized the themes of unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity toward all. Because that is what God does. His teaching was mainly a body of ethical statements on how to live as authentically human. How to love unconditionally.

Paul outright rejected that absolutely no conditions message, especially the new Jesus theology of a non-retaliating God. Paul then reversed back to primitive eye for eye justice, and to the entire opposite theology- that of a punishing, retaliating, and destroying God. Paul retreated into highly conditional salvation religion.

Robinson says that Jesus’ basic insight was then lost and early Christianity returned to a retaliatory God. Christianity, he says, returned to Matthew’s vengefulness. Jesus’ view of God was replaced by the reverse view of God (see Jesus According to the First Witnesses, p.134, 137). Robinson concludes that Jesus’ shocking new view of God has since been largely ignored. Buried, forgotten.

Does this give you some sense of the profound deception that has actually occurred in Christianity?

Paul states his outright rejection of Jesus’ new teaching in several places in his letters. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 1-3, he more generally opposes and dismisses the wisdom tradition of sages like Jesus (see Stephen Patterson’s The Lost Way for detail). But then in Romans 12 he appears to more directly engage and oppose the main ethical/belief breakthrough of Jesus (i.e. Matthew 5:38-48). He especially reverses its stunning new theological insight. Taking an entirely contrary position to Jesus, Paul advocates for a vengeful, retaliating God (“Vengeance is mine… I will repay”). At first glance, this appears to be quite nonsensical for a supposedly bright man, to base a non-retaliatory ethic on a retaliatory belief (i.e. you should not retaliate because God will retaliate- Romans 12:17-20).

Here is the Romans 12 statement combining the non-retaliation ethic with the contrary retaliation theology: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge. I will repay’. Instead, treat your enemy well and in doing this you will heap burning coals on his head”.

A side note: Imagine- Paul asks us to act in a more humane manner than God does. We are not to engage the “evil” of retaliation (“Do not return evil for evil”) because God will do that evil, and to much worse degree. We are to be more humane than God. That is a nonsensical argument.

While Paul appears to at least embrace the non-retaliation ethic of Jesus, closer examination shows that he also misunderstands the very spirit of Jesus’ ethic on non-retaliation. So Paul is actually being consistent by making his ethic similar to the belief that it is based upon. Both are retaliatory in essence.

Paul urges his non-retaliation ethic as a temporary this-world stance that will ensure ultimate divine retaliation. Do not retaliate, he urges, but he then relates this to the outcome that it will “pour coals of fire” on your enemy’s head. Some scholars claim that this comment shows that we should engage non-retaliation in order to then ensure that God will retaliate. Hence, the ethic is also retaliatory in intent and outcome. It will ensure a much worse future retaliation against your enemies. Hence, Paul appears to be consistent in rejecting the spirit of the ethic of Jesus, as well as rejecting outright the core theology of Jesus.

Paul creates Christianity on this foundational myth of divine retaliation (eye for eye justice).

The theme of divine retaliation runs all through Paul’s writing. Note just for example the following statements from Paul’s first two letters written to the Thessalonians around 50 CE. “Coming wrath…the wrath of God…the Lord will punish… (they will) suffer wrath… destruction will come…he will pay back trouble… Lord Jesus revealed in blazing fire…he will punish…they will be punished with everlasting destruction…doomed to destruction…Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth…they will perish…”. And that is just from two short early epistles. The man was grounded in retaliation theology. So it goes throughout his letters. Urging believers to trust in a retaliatory God who will destroy their enemies when the great apocalypse and end-time judgment comes.

Paul was significantly influential in shaping the rest of early Christian thought and writing. His views dominated the Christian movement and the rest of the Christian scriptures. He set the retaliatory tone for the rest of the Christian religion.

The outcome was that his retaliatory Christianity has distorted and buried Jesus’ original gospel teaching on non-retaliation.

The other New Testament writers, under Paul’s dominating influence, also promoted Paul’s retaliation-oriented Christ myth, known as the Christian “Jesus Christ”.

Writers like Matthew (or whoever actually wrote that book) felt obligated to include the unconditional teaching of Jesus as it was too well known by the early Christian movement to ignore. But Matthew then immediately set about contradicting that non-retaliatory teaching, burying it in retaliatory and conditional comment. He starts in the Sermon on the Mount, putting all sorts of retaliatory/conditional statements in the mouth of Jesus. For instance, Matthew has Jesus stating that anyone who breaks the least of the commandments would be punished with diminished status (Matt.5:19). He then threatens that unless a person’s righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees they would not enter the kingdom of heaven (5:20). He continues stating that expressing anger would subject people to judgment (5:22), that calling another person a fool would get people into Hell (5:22), that lustful thoughts would get people into Hell (5:30- that means all men), that people would only be forgiven on condition that they first forgave others (e.g. “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Father will also forgive you”, Matthew 6:14), and that judging others would result in eye for eye retributive judgment (Matt.7:1). And so on throughout the sermon. Matthew’s tampered version of Jesus’ original gospel is full of retaliatory ‘eye for eye’ comment, in startling contradiction to the core theme of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48.

Matthew in later chapters then goes nuclear with threats of divine retaliation and Hell, repeatedly warning people that they will be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, among other threats (see for example Matthew 10:15, 10:20, 11:21-22, 13:42, 18:9, 18:35, 22:13, 23:33, 25:30, and other verses). He even claims that some sins will never be forgiven (12:31). Matthew is just following Paul’s lead on a retaliating God with threats of divine anger and punishment. He contradicts entirely the clear statement of Jesus that God did not retaliate against anyone, not even the bad. So it goes with much of the New Testament, ending in that orgy of grotesque Christ-fueled retaliation of Revelation.

Consequent to this harsh teaching, billions of people have never been clearly told the full wonder and the liberating implications of the absolutely no conditions news that Jesus taught. They have been denied the profoundly liberating news that there is only an absolutely no conditions love behind all. They have never been clearly told that there never was an angry God threatening punishment and damnation in Hell. There never was a Fall into sin and separation from God (i.e. ruptured relationship). There never was an exclusion from paradise. There is no need for some sacrifice to pay for sin, for some plan of salvation. There is no need for faith in some Savior. There is no need to be saved from anything. There is no division of humanity into the special saved children of God (true believers) and damned outsiders (unbelievers). There will be no apocalypse or judgment or hell. There is no need for mediating religion and priesthoods. We are free indeed and we are all safe in unconditional love. We always have been. Unconditional means absolutely no conditions. None at all.

But instead of liberating humanity into an authentically unconditional understanding and existence, Christianity has re-enforced the old threatening, retaliation view of reality and existence. This religion has subsequently shaped our justice systems, our ethics, and our overall societies (again, see comments by Tabor, Boyce, the Mennonites, and others below). As writers like Zenon Lotufo state (Cruel God, Kind God), this harshly inhumane teaching has retarded many people in subhuman states of development. It has darkened and enslaved human consciousness and the human spirit for two millennia.

Despite these nasty influences and outcomes, many Christians have learned to focus on the more humane themes in the Bible and ignore the larger context of retaliation. They are to be applauded for this. But the larger background context continues to undermine, weaken, distort, and bury the better Christian ideals like love. Unconditional love has no relationship at all to atonement conditions. Jefferson was right that the diamonds are buried. The only reasonable conclusion then? Pull the diamonds out and clean them off properly. Or to use another statement from Jesus- the new wine needs new wineskins.

This deception/scandal has been ignored and downplayed for two millennia now. It needs to be exposed widely. It is one of history’s greatest frauds and scams. Yet it lies there plainly visible in the New Testament. Why have so many missed it? I would suggest because of the cognitive dissonance that Christianity has promoted, the great contradictions that people are pushed to hold in their minds. Christian believers are told that all of the ideas in the Bible are sacred ideas- ideas given by God in holy books (i.e. the fallacy of Biblicism). So they are not to be questioned or challenged. They are all from God. So submit, believe, and obey.

That unquestioning subservience has to end. But I understand the fear that a fundamental challenge and reform project will evoke in Christian believers and leadership. If you embrace the original teaching of Jesus, if you take it seriously, it then represents the greatest threat to the Christian religion, ever. If people start to take his unconditional theme seriously then that will spell the end of all conditional religion. It spells the end of Christian conditional atonement, the foundational belief of Christianity. My suggestion to alleviate concern- rather than fear the unconditional core theme of Jesus, and its implications, get a good grip on unconditional itself and appreciate the liberation that it brings. Look at the positive outcomes. It also fully humanizes Jesus. Something the Christ myth could never do.

And at least recognize, without bias, what any superficial understanding of unconditional really means. Conditional religions like Christianity cannot properly present the unconditional discovery of Historical Jesus. To try and merge unconditional with conditional atonement, as Christianity does, only confuses things. It weakens unconditional. Jesus and Christ cannot be merged as they are entire opposites. They represent unconditional reality versus highly conditional reality. Absolutely contradictory. And while it is true that there are the ideals of love, mercy, forgiveness and more in the Christian teaching, it is what you maintain in the larger context (i.e. divine wrath, vengeance, punishment) that defines and distorts these other ideals. The result of trying to merge opposites in the same system of belief, as Lotufo notes, is cognitive dissonance (contradiction) and the obstruction of healthy personality development. Note his discussion of the cognitive dissonance in the lives of John Stott and J.I. Packer, two Evangelical theologians.

Brief summary of the development of early Christian thinking…

Jesus taught his new theology somewhere between CE 27-36. Paul wrote his first letters to the Thessalonians around the 50s CE. Mark wrote around the 70s CE. Matthew wrote around 80s CE. An aside: Robinson notes the 70 CE event- the Second Temple destruction- that may have turned early Christians away from Jesus’ non-retaliatory theology and back to a retaliating God. But Paul had already been teaching a retaliatory deity before this (again, around 50 CE in Thessalonians). John wrote around 90s CE. Luke/Acts was written early in the second century.

Further comment on the claim of ‘spiritual abuse’ by Christian teaching: Psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God) details the harmful consequences from “Cruel God” religion (i.e. angry deity threatening punishment for human imperfection, and demanding blood sacrifice). Aside from producing fanaticism and violence, violent deity religion also produces psychological outcomes like “fear that infantilizes, guilt and anxiety, shame, feeling of rejection and condemnation, depression, and impoverished personalities… the inhibition of the full development of personality” (p.1-5). He argues that the God of atonement and hell-fire threat does “not surpass the least evolved moral levels” (p.101). Such a God hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life. This ‘violent God’ religion leads to “paralysis of moral development in stages typical of young children… the greatest damage done by doctrines that include the ‘plan of salvation’ lies in producing …atrophy of the personality… similar to what happens to those who undergo surgical lobotomies” (p.138). And more. Lotufo rightly notes that the atonement belief is the heart of the problem- an angry God demanding violent punishment and payment. That belief is the foundation of Paul’s Christian religion.

He adds that these Christian ideas permeate Western culture (p.5).

Follow-up note: Isn’t it somewhat callous to challenge a religion that has provided hope for billions of people over two millennia? To “attack” beliefs that provide people the comfort of salvation, beliefs that many consider to be the supreme expression of divine love and compassion? Christians embrace their salvation religion as an expression of love and grace from God. So again, how can anyone be so callous to challenge such love and hope? Well no. That is not the point of what is being done here. My argument is that Christian hope has too long been based on an entirely fraudulent foundation. It is therefore a seriously deformed hope and it leads to “retardation of people in subhuman stages of development” (the psychological description- again, see Lotufo comment on spiritual abuse).

The “comfort” that Christians derive from their tradition stems from that fact that they have first been traumatized by such things as the belief that there is some threat of divine wrath that must be appeased with blood sacrifice, in order for people to be “saved”. Add the horrific myth that they need to be saved from Hell. Of course, a salvation plan that promises to rescue from such threat will provide hope and comfort. But the foundational beliefs are all wrong in the first place. And you must confront this issue- What do such perverse ideas do to human consciousness, emotion, and life?

The question is legitimate: What kind of hope is based on a foundation of traumatizing ideas, fraudulent ideas such as angry deity and Hell? Such ideas do not promote healthy human development but are actually damaging to human personality.

Christian hope is wrongly grounded in a fraudulent and harmful mythology. There has never been an angry God threatening to exclude, punish and destroy people, and demanding payment for human imperfection. There has never been any need to be saved from anything. And the related conditions, such as the requirement to believe and follow the Christian religion correctly, those conditions have left many uncertain if they really are among the saved. Have they met all the conditions properly and fully?

The infinitely better news comes from the unconditional insight of Jesus. That is a much better foundation on which to base authentic hope- that God has always and only been absolutely no conditions love. That provides real security and safety. Unconditional states unequivocally that all are safe. There is no discrimination or exclusion of anyone. That alone generates authentic hope and comfort. Keep this in mind as you read the challenge here to the Christian God and religion.

So to the Christian argument that I should look at the love and hope in their Salvationism, I respond that it begs the question of what kind of love would kill and torture people in Hell? What kind of hope wishes for the destruction of its enemies in Hell (i.e. the Christian hope as expressed in books like Revelation).

I would urge Christian believers: Do not miss the best thing in your tradition- the core unconditional theme of historical Jesus. Recognize how that theme has been distorted by Paul’s Christ myth. And start taking your Jesus seriously (i.e. his original gospel of wisdom sayings). You cannot understand and communicate the wonder of his unconditional theme through conditional ideas and myths such as atonement theology. You only distort and bury unconditional through such concepts. The result is beyond oxymoronic. And you then deny people true liberation, real hope and love, and authentic “salvation”.

This explains my advocating that you take the supremely humane insight of Jesus (Matthew 5:38-48, and related material) out of the New Testament and leave the rest. The rest cannot be salvaged. I have read too many books that get lost in arguing what is valid or not in the Jesus tradition. What might have been added to some original teaching. And the endless debates over which interpretation is right, or not. Endless haggling over words and phrases, jots and tittles. At times it all seems such a waste of time and effort. And it so often misses the main point- is the content humane or not? Is the content promoting the best of human ideals like unconditional?

Remember the old maxim- Do not miss the forest for the trees. Don’t miss the supreme insight and get lost in endless detail that does nothing to enhance human understanding of the most important human insight ever. Like Thomas Jefferson, it seems better to get your scissors and cut out what is best and then throw the rest away. Quit wasting time parsing, defending, and promoting material that is recognizably subhuman or outright inhuman in many cases (according to basic standards of common human rights today).

Take the Matthew 5:38-48 section and spend your life meditating on that. There is no better guide to thinking and acting in the most humane manner possible. That takes human understanding of ultimate reality (God) and human existence to the absolute heights of the authentically humane.

Another: I get the defensive Christian response to the Jesus’ ideal of the unconditional treatment of enemies. Christians argue, to the contrary, that God is holy and therefore “must punish all sin”. But no, love does not have to punish wrong. It can just forgive. Exactly as Jesus advocated (the claimed founder of Christianity). And remember 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. That hymn states that love keeps no record of wrongs. It just forgives and forgets all wrongs. Most spouses and parents get this unconditional love and exercise it toward their imperfect spouses and children. Do you think that a God that is Love cannot get such unconditional love? See “Countering the Holiness Distortion in Christianity” further below.

Finally: While initially offensive for the religious mind to even consider, the Jesus/Paul contradiction illustrates the struggle of humanity to leave animal existence (our origin with its dominant features of small band or tribal relating, domination and exclusion of enemies, retaliation and the destruction of outsiders). It illustrates our struggle to become fully human. Unfortunately, our history has too often also exhibited intense opposition to becoming fully human. Religious traditions like Christianity have used the myths of the sacred to validate the animal and to keep it alive, to protect and preserve the animal under the canopy of the sacred. For detail on how people have embedded animal-like features in sacred ideals see, for example, Alex Garcia’s “Alpha God”. This may be upsetting for religious minds to contemplate, but evidence supports the existence of this animal/sacred relationship in religions like Christianity. That relationship has deformed human consciousness and hindered the proper development of human society. Yes, I know… Ouch. But Lotufo, Ellens, and others affirm this conclusion.

Note: My paraphrase of a well-known statement by Jesus- “You will know the truth about unconditional and this truth will set you free”.

Ancient Alarmism

Pre-historian John Pfieffer (Explosion: An Inquiry Into the Origins of Art and Religion) suggests that fear was central to the earliest religion. He claims that the ancients used religious forms of fear-mongering (early alarmism) to control people. He states that early people painted drawings on cave walls deep within the earth, some 25,000 years ago, partly so the darkness would disorient people. Further, it was “anamorphic art”- drawings that appeared to move in flickering candle-light. More to scare people. Also, the shaman claimed special knowledge of the “invisible” realm, and could use their claimed knowledge of religious secrets to manipulate others. Add here that sacrifice (appeasing, placating threatening deities) has also been discovered far back in prehistory…. A variety of facts that suggest the early use of fear or alarm in relation to religion. It appears that religion may have begun, among other reasons, as an early social institution to create fear and to enable early elites (shaman, priests) to control others. Some information to ponder.

Further note on religious alarmism: Much alarmism is based on the primitive mentality that you have to threaten and scare people in order to get them to behave properly. The discipline of psychology has largely rejected this thinking because research shows that most people respond better to affirmative or restorative approaches, and not to punitive approaches (see detail below, e.g. Australian Psychology Association paper).

Calming Religious Concerns

This site is not anti-religion. I am not advocating that people leave their religious traditions. And I am carefully affirming all reformation of religion, all endeavor to make religion more moderate, inclusive, and peaceful.

But as you try to reform any religion, be fully aware of what you are doing if you decide to preserve the larger context/framework of religious beliefs. Too much reformation of religion retains the core mythical ideas- concepts such as corrupted humanity deserves punishment, atonement (required payment for sin, appeasement of angry deity), or gods as punitive, judgmental, retaliatory, and destructive. These features only cloud and bury the better ideals of a religious tradition.

Any reform of religion must critically evaluate all “bad ideas” and understand how such ideas influence the better elements of the tradition. The influence of bad ideas is about weakening, undermining, distorting, and even burying the more humane ideals that people are trying to promote via religion.

My argument is that you need to fully humanize religion, especially the core ideal of deity.

We understand what is authentically humane today. We know better. And take the Historical Jesus seriously when he says, “Do not put new wine into old rotten wineskins”. And take seriously his central breakthrough insight- that there is no Threat behind life, but only an inexpressible Love.

Sorting out the issue of religious violence

It is as simple as the basic human discernment between good and bad. Most of the rest of human thought and life has had to face this project of separating the bad from the good, and then abandoning the agreed-upon bad. Unfortunately, some serious bad stuff was long ago placed in the realm of the sacred and since then humanity has had a hard time questioning that religious bad. Religious people, in particular, have had a difficult time re-evaluating, questioning, purging, and then abandoning the nastier elements of their systems. The result has been cognitive dissonance in religious minds- the felt obligation to maintain or merge a mixture of severely contradicting bad and good ideas in one system of belief.

The ongoing protection of bad religious ideas has now become inexcusable as the general human understanding of bad and good has progressed further and further. Religion must now do the same as all other areas of life- quit defending what is clearly pathological just because it has long been considered sacred. Things like violence in deity are no longer defensible in any common sense manner. So also, apply this discernment between good and bad to atonement theology which is plainly the belief in human sacrifice as payment for human imperfection. This barbaric belief in blood sacrifice to appease gods was long ago abandoned by most rational people.

Religious traditions must also engage the project of distinguishing bad from good, and then purge the bad. This is what it means to humanize all of thought and life.

Added note: For the health of Western consciousness, it is critical that we overcome the cognitive dissonance (the great contradiction) of good and bad at the heart of Christianity. You cannot merge in any common sense manner the belief that “God is love” with the belief that “God will punish and destroy unbelievers in Hell”. Both are ultimate statements of opposite extremes at the core of Christian belief. The expression of ultimate love in deity, and the expression of ultimate hate in the myth of Hell. The myth of a threatening, punishing God perverts entirely the ideal of ultimate love. To attribute such hate to a God of love is to defile the ideal of deity entirely. It certainly defiles and distorts the ideal of love.

Hell no

There is no greater statement of hatred toward another human being than to claim that they are going to Hell, to be rejected by their Creator, punished, and tortured forever in fire. This barbaric belief in Hell involves the related belief in primitive tribal dualism, that the human family is divided into factions of true believers set in opposition against unbelievers. And the unbelievers deserve condemnation and punishment. It also involves the belief that violence is required to deal with the unbelievers. Add to this the belief that unbelievers are a dangerous threat to the true religion (i.e. the requirement to aggressively protect oneself against a threatening enemy, the sense of victimhood).

It is a small step then to feel that you must send the unbelievers on their way to their fate by killing them in the name of your God. If your God hates others that much then surely you will find favor with your God if you help to finish the enemy off, to remove “the dangerous threat”.

Look at the holy books of all three Western faiths and note how densely repetitious this note of hatred actually is (verses on angry deity, threats of rejection, punishment, destruction, violence, Hell). Count the verses. Others have counted them, and they number in the multiple hundreds for each holy book. For instance, 1214 verses advocate cruelty or violence out of a total of 31173 verses in the Bible; 527 verses advocate cruelty or violence out of a total of 6236 verses in the Quran (see ‘Dwindling in Unbelief’ site, among others).

And sure, there are many other verses advocating mercy, love, forgiveness, and other human ideals. But these better themes are often overwhelmed, distorted, and buried by the nastier stuff.

Religions of peace and love? You tell me.

Added note to “Calming fears”…

Most Christians do just as Thomas Jefferson did and differentiate between the sublime moral teachings of Jesus and the other inferior material in the gospels. More generally, they pick and choose between the good stuff in their Bibles, and the nastier stuff. They may not act as blatantly as Jefferson did and actually cut out the bad stuff from their holy book, keeping only the good material in a much reduced booklet (i.e. Jefferson’s personal gospel that was published in his day).

Instead, many Christians will just ignore the darker stuff and focus more on the better material. For instance, they no longer heed the Old Testament commands to stone disobedient children or put adulterers to death. And they do not demand that women cover their heads or be silent in church. They do not push women to submit to their husbands, and they certainly do not advocate that slaves should be subject to masters (a command from Paul).

Added Note: Due to the common human spirit and common human consciousness, people have an amazing capacity to find the human thing in all sorts of less-than-human contexts, a capacity to hold on to the more human elements. Despite larger inhumane and distorting contexts. But the question remains- Why do that? Why not just start with the authentically human and create entirely new contexts without the distorting and dehumanizing features of the old religious frameworks? Why not create new wineskins for the new wine?


It is difficult, even disorienting, for the religious mind to embrace, but there is one foundational idea behind religious violence that has incited and validated more harm over history than any other idea. It is the idea of a violent God, a God that employs violence to solve problems.

Many religious people believe that God punishes people with violence in natural disaster, accident, disease, war and death. They believe that God demands violent sacrifice as payment for human imperfection. For instance, the New Testament teaches that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:25). Religious people also believe that God threatens to end the world with a violent destruction of humanity in an apocalypse. And that God promises unbelievers will suffer eternal violence in Hell.

The religious ideal of violent deity has been the foundational belief in Western religion. It is the single worst idea ever conceived, and it has long been protected as sacred and unquestionable in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And adding insult to injury, people who refuse to believe this ideal of divine violence are subject to condemnation as heretics and are threatened with eternal punishment.

If we are ever going to properly solve the curse of human violence then we must purge all deity of any trace of violence. We must fully humanize the ultimate ideal and authority of humanity- God.

This site exists to counter this religious pathology with the greatest human insight ever- that absolutely no conditions love defines ultimate reality. This discovery takes human consciousness to the height of the authentically humane. It liberates consciousness entirely from the darkening, enslaving influence of divine violence.

It stands on its own (or Who needs Jesus?)

Even if Jesus had never existed, or if he had never taught the unconditional treatment of all people, unconditional would still stand on its own as the most humane ideal ever conceived. It would have eventually emerged somewhere as our ultimate ideal, the ultimate definition of authentic humanity. It is true in itself, not because some religious authority figure taught it. It stands on its own as the highest form of love. It needs no validating authority from anyone. And because it is the highest expression of authentic humanity, it is the most true and the most real thing that we can imagine.

Qualifiers to no conditions love

Below are some responses to the common complaints that an unconditional ethic is a “weak response to evil”, that it will result in chaos, that it is not a robust enough form of justice (i.e. the felt need for justice as payback punishment), and so on. Further to this, note the comment of Bob Brinsmead below that the most severe punishment that any person can endure is the self-judgment (self-punishment) for the inhuman deeds that they commit.

Responses to complaints

Everyone without exception is safe, ultimately. This does not deny the fact that life will offer up sickness, disaster, accident, and the cruelty of others. Bad things happen even to good people. And there will always be an element of mystery to evil and suffering. “Natural consequences” also helps explain much human suffering.

Everyone without exception is equal by virtue of being human and possessing human consciousness. Every human being is an equal member of the one united human family. But this does not then mean equality of outcomes in life. Differing inputs produce differing outputs. And there is, for example, a legitimate difference between such things as good forms of economic inequality and bad forms of economic inequality. For helpful explanation of this issue see William Watson’s new book “The Inequality Trap: Fighting Capitalism instead of poverty”.

Everyone without exception deserves unconditional treatment from others but we all live with the natural consequences of our words and actions. For instance, people who do not control their worst impulses (e.g. violent assault) must be restrained by others in order to protect innocent victims. So we have prisons for repetitively violent people and we employ military force to stop terrorists and protect the innocent. Unconditional love embraces common sense and is not dogmatically pacifist.

But these and other qualifiers do not lessen the wonder of absolutely no conditions love at the core of reality and life. They do not lessen the fact that everyone, both decent and inhumane, deserves unconditional treatment.

And as Bob Brinsmead argues, there is no worse punishment than the self-judgment for wrong deeds committed. Bad acts that are committed, will punish the one who does wrong with personal guilt, shame, and regret. To realize that one has “wasted” too much of one’s life acting inhumanely is the greatest regret of all. Self-punishment for the failure to live as human, at any level, is the worst form of punishment. So also, reward is experienced in good behavior (i.e. the satisfaction from acting as truly human).

But unconditional at the core of reality means no ultimate threat of punishment.

Muhammad affirms Jewish/Christian influence (Again, see Joseph Azzi’s The Priest and The Prophet)

Muhammad does not deny the Jewish/Christian influence on his religion. In the Quran he repeatedly refers to “the previous books, or gospel”. His argument, of course, is that Islam fulfills and completes the previous teaching. But he admits that he does embrace that teaching (i.e. the Jewish Christian strain of early Christian thought- monotheistic, not Trinitarian, among other adopted Jewish/Christian themes).

The real battle against terror

The real battle against terror takes place inside each of us. I am talking about our personal impulses to vengeance, exclusion, domination, opposition to some “enemy”, and destruction of our enemies. These impulses arise from our animal inheritance, or core animal brain. We all have to struggle to overcome these base impulses, and to encourage the expression of the unconditional human spirit in our unique personal story. This is our greatest personal contribution to the overall battle against violence and terror. Our only real enemy is the animal inside each of us. Unfortunately, the animal has long been incited and validated by religious myths of vengeance, punishment, exclusion, and violent destruction.

One of the central lines of comment on this page: To properly solve the problem of violence/terrorism for the long-term we need to radically humanize our ideas of deity, purging this ideal of all elements of violence. Any “reform of religion”, or endeavor to moderate religion, must engage this core issue. Violent gods have incited or validated human violence endlessly across history, and violence in God remains deeply embedded as the foundational idea in the great Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Consequently, this ideal continues to work its damaging influence on human consciousness and life. Detail below. Further, the belief in God has always served as humanity’s highest ideal and authority, the supreme model for human life (note, for instance, comment below on research of anthropologist Clifford Geertz).

Further Intro: This site is a project to bring down humanity’s greatest monster- the myth of ultimate Threat, as in religious myths of divine vengeance, exclusion, condemnation/judgment, punishment, or violent destruction. This site offers a humane alternative to define ultimate reality, something non-religious, but also non-materialist (i.e. as in “philosophical materialism”). We can do much better than the traditional explanations of dogmatic religion or dogmatic atheism.

Further: It is unquestionably the most radical re-orientation of human thought ever- the shift from viewing retribution at the core of reality (e.g. the Greek view) to understanding that non-retaliation, or no conditions love, defines the core of reality. The shift to non-retaliation, or a core love, is the outcome of insights such as the stunning new theology of Q Sayings Jesus (“the secular sage”), someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus.

The expression of unconditional in the Historical Jesus breakthrough of Matthew 5:38-48 is the first ever statement of authentic universalism, the first ever expression of the genuinely humane inclusion of all, and the first clear expression of the full equality of all people. I emphasize that his unconditional breakthrough was “the first ever” because he was the first person in history to get the ethical/theological linkage right. He argued that people should love their enemies because God loved enemies (humane behavior based on humane belief). Unfortunately, even though his breakthrough was included in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Paul had previously rejected and buried that breakthrough in the highly conditional theology of Christian payback atonement (detail below). Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians are the earliest Christian writings, at least in the version of Christianity that we inherited.

More: Unconditional is the ultimate humanization of the ideals of mercy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, inclusion, and love. Unconditional takes these ideals to new heights of authentically humane meaning and expression. It lifts these features out of the stingy realm of limited payback thinking. It therefore fully liberates human consciousness from the retribution orientation of our animal past as nothing ever before. The common tendency is to limit these ideals with payback qualifiers and conditions. Most religious thought does this. We all share the tendency to be somewhat harsh and stingy toward others and their failings, especially toward outsiders to our groups (i.e. the animal-like tribal orientation to “us versus our enemies” thinking).

Qualifier: Unconditional forgiveness and mercy is not a call for some form of mushy feel-good hugginess toward evil. Unconditional can embrace the present imperfect human condition; it can even embrace rage at cruelty and violent inhumanity. But it recognizes that there is a greater reality behind all, where all is swallowed up in an incomprehensible love, including even the worst failures in the human family.

More: This site is about the great mythical/religious themes of human history, themes now revised and absorbed into secular systems of thought. I am interested in the impacts of these themes on human consciousness and life. Hence my focus especially on the impact of “bad religious ideas” that represent the very highest of traditional human ideals and authorities. And I give an intense focus to “the worst of all bad ideas” ever conceived by humanity- that of punitive, violent deity. The Monster of the metaphysical. This site exists to slay that greatest-ever monster.

One more: I have combed through human thought and literature across history and I have not found any more humane insights than the following two, noted just below. These are by far the most robust responses to the worst pathology of the past- i.e. the myth of some great Threat behind reality and life that will punish human imperfection, whether the angry God of religious belief or the vengeful Gaia of more secular belief systems. I refer- one- to the discovery that there is “absolutely no conditions Love” at the core of reality, and- two- the equally important discovery that the essence of the human spirit and human consciousness (the authentic human self that is each of us) is that very same Love. We are inseparably one with That Love. Despite our experience of suffering with imperfection in this life.

A mindfulness suggestion: If we embrace the reality that our essential self is love, it would transform life for the better as nothing else ever has. It would grant a new laser focus to the meaning and purpose of human life- as existing to learn and express something of the love that is our essence. And it will transform human self-image away from “fallen humanity mythology” to a more healthy valuation based on the wonder of being human.

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Site Comment: Section One- The true state of life? It gets better.

What defines the overall trajectory of life and civilization- rise toward something better or decline toward something worse? Evidence on the complete picture and long-term trends shows improvement overall. There is much sound data to affirm hope. Life and civilization are rising toward a better future. Detail below. Critical to rational optimism is the evidence that humanity is in net terms creative and not destructive.

This site continues as a project to go after the foundational ideas behind all forms of alarmism, religious or secular, mythical or ideological. This is much more than some simple opposition between optimism and pessimism. It is about hard physical evidence and what this evidence shows about the complete picture of life and the long-term trends of life.

Life is story. Taking Joseph Campbell’s framework for human story (i.e. going out, fighting and conquering monsters, gaining insights to benefit others), I am going after a monster in human consciousness- the monster of vengeful, punishing, violent deity. That has been humanity’s supreme ideal and authority for most of human history. It is at the very foundation of much alarmism, past and present (note that ancient mythical themes have been given secular expression for the contemporary scientific era- see Declinism below).

This is all to say- Do not be afraid. Do not be anxious. Despite the nastier experiences that life hands us, ultimately, everything will be all right, for everyone. There is no ultimate threat of payback, punishment, or destruction behind life. There is only a scandalous and universal no conditions love, a transcendent love unlike most conventional understanding of love as a limited and exclusive ideal (i.e. love for insiders, not so much for outsiders or enemies). This site gets extravagant, and engages the metaphysical, in trying to describe this “greatest ever discovery”. It all stems from an early CE breakthrough that involved a stunning shift away from retaliatory theology and toward a striking new non-retaliatory theology. Detail below.

And yes, I am a dreamer, explorer, and adventurer, on my way to a better world.

New comment below: “Anti-science Alarmism”, “CO2 Alarmism”, along with Plimer and Moore quotes on the larger paleo-climate context, “Grappling with Imperfection”, “Human Narrative- Old Story, New Story”, “Rethinking Justice”, “Getting Intense with Unconditional”, “Dogmatic Meaninglessness”, “Balance Again”, “Defining the Core of Ultimate Reality (some theological musing)”, “Exposing Apocalyptic (again)”, Noble Savage Mythology”, “Authentic Liberalism- Its all about freedom”, “Karma as Payback”, “Short-cut to alleviate irresponsible alarmism”, and “Trigger Warning”, among other comment.

There is extensive comment below on religious violence and the foundational religious ideas (i.e. “bad religious ideas”) that incite or validate violence. This site explores the most important element to long-term solutions to violence. This has to do with the thorough humanizing of our guiding ideals and authorities, whether religious or secular.

A qualifier for the many who fear social breakdown if we humanize the old payback justice systems- the unconditional ideal liberates, but it liberates into something more humane, not less humane. Far from opening the floodgates to chaos, it offers a much “safer” way to counter evil (studies in psychology affirm the beneficial outcomes of non-punitive approaches, versus less beneficial punitive approaches). Rather than advocating some irresponsible free-for-all, unconditional orients consciousness toward becoming more human. It emphasizes the development of more loving approaches toward others, not less. Where the conditional treatment of others (i.e. payback justice) often evokes ongoing nasty response, unconditional severs those impulses to hurt back, to get even or punish in kind, or to destroy. Those base impulses have endlessly fed ongoing cycles of violence over history (i.e. justice as retaliation). And once again, unconditional is not about abandoning the need to hold people responsible for their actions (i.e. Truth and Reconciliation commissions), and to protect the innocent.

I will continue to engage theology/mythology on this site as part of a larger project to fully understand pathology in human thought and to thoroughly counter the core themes at the foundations of alarmist worldviews (e.g. challenging the ancient belief that retribution, or punishing payback, is at the core of reality, and offering the humane alternative that unconditional generosity defines the core of reality). Too much alarmism, aside from its exaggeration and distortion, embraces the belief that there is some greater threatening force or spirit behind life (i.e. vengeful Gaia or retribution in secular versions, angry deity in religious versions). This irrational belief in some ultimate threat adds an unnecessary burden of psychic suffering- that people are being punished for being “bad” in some way. It adds unnecessary emotional and mental suffering to already unbearable physical suffering. Remember the Japanese lady who asked after the tsunami there, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?” So also singer Toni Braxton wondered if her more recent miscarriage was punishment for an abortion earlier in her life. Many others voice this same concern, that something bad happening to them is punishment from some greater force (i.e. karma) or spirit. Enough already with this unnecessary added suffering stirred by the pathological mythology of punishing gods.

Correcting an ancient theological error: Note new comment below on the human struggle with imperfection in life and the distorting mythology that has arisen from this struggle. Evidence from primitive mythology shows that early people reasoned from the imperfection in the natural world to define greater realities.

Just a preview: It is there in the earliest human writing and mythology- angry, vengeful gods punishing humans through natural disaster (i.e. Sumerian Flood myth). Since the beginning people have projected the imperfections of life (natural disaster, disease) out to explain ultimate realities (gods punishing people through natural disaster and disease). Consequently, ultimate realities/gods have long been defined in terms of the imperfection of life. This faulty reasoning must be corrected as part of the project to counter the foundational errors that promote alarmism. This explains my response further below to the Greek view that retribution was at the core of reality. It also explains my engaging the more general problem of imperfection in life. Note new comment from discussion group on the history of people wrestling with imperfection, and its possible role in life.

Note: It has always been basic to human reasoning that people have explained invisible realities in terms of what they have experienced in the physical world (projecting the features of the known onto the unknown). To guide this reasoning process toward a proper understanding of what is most true and most real, I would suggest that it helps to follow what is most humane. This will make more sense below.

Alarmism- Anti-science exaggeration, distortion, and fraud.

(Note: The material below distinguishes between legitimate problems all through life and an alarmism that exaggerates and distorts the nature of problems. Alarmism is often fueled by some ideological underpinning and is employed to coerce people into embracing some “salvation” scheme, such as policies oriented to “saving the world”. The outcome of fear-based policy has often been harmful to both people and nature. We need to be careful to distinguish the actual nature and extent of problems, and our progress in solving them, from the excessive alarmism that has too often approached problems from an unscientific, ideological basis.)

Alarmism persists as a prominent pathology in the modern secular world just as it was in the ancient mythical world. As one commentator said, “We have to be terrified of something all the time, new fears are created to replace the old ones”. Traumatizing alarm over the supposed worsening state of life is stirred and propagated endlessly, despite overwhelming evidence that life is improving on all fronts.

Sociologist David Altheide, in his book “Creating Fear: News and the Manufacture of Crisis”, tackles the news media, the primary promoter of science alarmism. He says that news media are not truth-tellers but are entertainers competing with the rest of the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is obsessively and compulsively addicted to creating fear via apocalyptic story-telling. Just an example- note the major movies of the summer of 2013, almost entirely apocalyptic-oriented stories. Relate this also to the endless battering of public consciousness with climate change alarmism.

Alarmism is the shoddiest of science, or to be more exact- the absence of good science. It provides little or no context for its endless scare scenarios. Context is critical to good science. To get to the true state of anything you must include all the data on the complete picture of that thing, and you must include the longest-term trends that affect the thing that you are looking at. Julian Simon does this exceptionally well in Ultimate Resource. Bjorn Lomborg further illustrates this basic science in Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomborg also includes examples of scientists that violate good science by making generalizations about the state of life based on aberrations to trends (i.e. short-term reversals). Others embrace the anecdotal fallacy- taking an isolated example as representative of some whole.

When you include the complete overall picture of something and the long term trends related to that thing, you then see the general improvement on the main elements of life. Again, I refer people to the excellent studies by Simon, Lomborg, Easterbrook, Ridley, Goklany, Payne, Pinker, and others (see below).

Getting the proper perspective on the true state of life is not denying the fact that serious problems exist. But the complete picture generally leads to an affirmation of hope as it shows that our compassion and creativity are improving life for all, despite the problems that are still present throughout life (i.e. the ongoing presence of imperfection everywhere).

Alarmism has an established reputation for exaggeration, distortion, and even outright fraud. Yet major political/economic policies are based on alarmist views and it is now estimated that the outcome of such policies have cost humanity trillions of dollars of misspent and wasted funds, or blocked development programs.

Ron Bailey (The End of Doom) argues that alarmism has been a significant drag on human economic growth and general human progress. He notes that a majority of people (54% in the US, Canada, Australia, and Britain) embrace “cultural pessimism”, believing that “our way of life will end within the next 100 years”. Others believe that humanity will go extinct in the next century. Bailey counters, “This pervasive pessimism about the human prospect flies in the face of a plain set of facts: Over the past century, the prospects and circumstances of most of humanity have spectacularly improved”.

Bailey then comments on the US education system: “Almost every child is told that we are running out of resources; that we are robbing future generations when we use these scarce, irreplaceable, or non-renewable resources…; that we are callously polluting the environment beyond control; that we are recklessly destroying the ecology beyond repair; …” and so on. He states that this alarmist narrative creates an unhealthy, immoral, and disastrous educational context. Every element of it is largely incorrect, misleading, overstated, or just plain wrong. Yet most Americans believe it. He adds, “Large swaths of the Western intellectual classes still preach an apocalyptic anti-progress ideology….corrosive pessimism has clearly trickled down and is demoralizing many citizens. Such cultural doom is a significant drag on scientific, technological and policy innovation. Overcoming that pervasive pessimism and restoring the belief in human progress is one of the most important philosophical and political projects for the 21st Century” (http://reason.com/eod).

See other comment below on the linkages between climate alarmism and excessive environmental regulation, and the consequent obstruction of economic growth- e.g. Murdoch below. Bailey notes an economic study which shows that excessive regulation in the Post-WW2 era has restrained US household income to the current average $55,000 when it should be above US$300,000 per average household. Alarmism has made us all poorer.

The alarmist’s wrong-headed assumption is that economic progress in industrial society is destroying nature. They express this in the Ecological Footprint mantra that “too many people are consuming too much and are thereby destroying nature”. Hence the alarmist’s endeavor to slow, halt, and even reverse economic growth. And the outcome of this anti-development movement has been more regulation and consequently less economic growth and development. But evidence (i.e. “environmental transition” research- e.g. Indur Goklany) shows that the assumption about human consumption and destructiveness is all backward. The exact opposite is true. Wealth creation (economic growth) in industrial/technological society enables us to save the planet. Increased wealth enables us to develop more efficient use of resources, to find alternative resource supplies, and to clean up the world and preserve more wilderness spaces. It is anti-development alarmism and entrenched poverty that ruins more of nature. See more detail below.

(Note: Careful distinction must be made between the legitimate human use of nature- our changing of elements of nature- and contrast this with careless destruction of nature. We are not a virus or cancer on life but are as natural as anything else in nature. We have the right to engage and use nature to our benefit, with careful consideration for protection and preservation of varied areas and elements of nature.)

Other commentators have noted that significant elements of fact-distorting ideology are evident throughout the environmental alarmism movement. I argue on this site that you need to look even further behind the ideology to the mythological themes that are often at the foundations of ideologies. Those primitive mythical themes have long shaped human perception, thought, and worldviews. They are irrational/unscientific themes that have endlessly re-emerged over history, more recently in new secular versions such as 19th Century Declinism and its offspring- Environmental Alarmism.

This site is intensely focused on correcting alarmist distortion at the foundational level of the core themes of apocalyptic mythology. This explains the treatment here of religious traditions such as Christian apocalyptic. Christianity bears major responsibility for bringing apocalyptic pathology into the modern Western consciousness. Christian apocalyptic themes have been traced behind such ideologies as Declinism (see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline, for example).

Quote from Ross McKitrick: “Unfortunately, in my experience, once people migrate into green sentimentalism, environmental issues become questions of righteousness and morality, not facts and information…apocalyptic rhetoric doesn’t win arguments if the facts don’t back it up… all these data (e.g. on air and water pollution improving) are online (see yourenvironment.ca) for those who can be bothered looking stuff up before pontificating…” From “When Margaret met Preston” in National Post, Tuesday, Sept.8, 2015.

Added comment: Where is the outrage and outcry over the damaging consequences of environmental alarmism? Where is the media coverage of the multiple millions of children that died unnecessarily in the wake of Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism and the consequent banning of DDT? Where is the anger over the millions of unnecessarily blinded children that have been denied access to Vitamin A in Golden Rice? (i.e. anti-GM alarmism) Where is outrage over people stuck in dehumanizing poverty if denied access to fossil fuels? Where is the outrage over unnecessarily cut rainforest due to bio-fuel plantations created as a response to alarmism over fossil fuels? On and on it goes. Horrific damage to people and to nature from environmental alarmism. And where are the news media when the apocalyptic prophecies of the environmental alarmists repeatedly fail to come true? That stubborn 100% historical failure rate. Why do news media mindlessly and endlessly take up new alarmist scenarios from scientists in sandwich boards wailing, “Repent, the end is nigh”.

Just asking.

Comment: Apocalyptic has been called “the Mother of all theology”. I would expand that to Mother of all mythology, and mother of much ideology, also. It is the governing theme of the mythical outlook on life. It is a primitive, barbaric, and entirely anti-science viewpoint. Apocalyptic wrongly assumes some great vengeful, punishing, and violent force or spirit at the core of reality and life. It also assumes that people are essentially bad and deserve severe retribution of some sort, some world-ending punishment. This worst-of-all pathologies still dominates much contemporary outlook, including that of notable scientists and politicians across the globe.

What’s Up?

My concern with the climate change alarm has to do with the almost universal acceptance, by large segments of the scientific establishment and by politicians worldwide, of the assumption that CO2 will be the cause of some looming catastrophe. This is unscientific nonsense. And even among so-called “skeptics” there is a puzzling hesitancy to come out and boldly argue against the widespread demonization of CO2 as a pollutant and poison.

Just as puzzling, we hear almost no public celebration of CO2 and its significant benefits to life, an exception being Patrick Moore, formerly of Greenpeace. What happened to Grade 1 science? CO2 is the food of all life. We are at historically low levels of CO2- subnormal, suboptimal levels. Plants need much more CO2 in the atmosphere, preferably in the 1000 to 1500 ppm range. That will be a boon to life. Life will flourish. The Earth will become greener and healthier. And it will not result in catastrophic warming. (See detail in Plimer and Moore quotes below)

Another point on CO2 and warming periods: CO2 has a “warming effect” or influence. No one denies this. CO2 contributes to climate warming. But that contribution is small and is consistently overwhelmed by other natural elements that impact climate. Note, for instance, research on the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, and the impact of multi-decadal ocean current shifts on climate. We are just beginning to understand these natural elements more.

There is no clear evidence, and certainly no consensus, that CO2 is solely or dominantly responsible for any climate change events over the past. Alarmists cannot then make the case that people must stop using fossil fuels in order to “stop climate change”. Further on the smaller human contribution to overall CO2, there is even less evidence to support the case to stop using fossil fuels due to possible impact from this smaller human contribution.

Note also the historical disconnect between CO2 and warming periods. During the late Jurassic Period CO2 levels were above 2000 ppm, while temperatures were on a long-term decline to a cold 15 degree Celsius average for Earth. CO2 continued falling over the Cretaceous Period (below 1000 ppm) but contrarily, world temperatures rose to a 25 degree Celsius average, and even higher in the Tertiary Period. Where is the CO2/warming correlation in this? The Vostok ice core samples further challenge the argument that CO2 is dominantly responsible for causing warming periods. Those samples revealed that CO2 levels rise approximately 800 years after rising temperatures warm the Earth. The relationship? Rising climate temperature first warms the oceans over centuries and the warming oceans then release CO2 into the atmosphere. So much for CO2 causing climate warming periods.

Note also that CO2 continues to rise but the slight warming over 1975-1995 has halted and even chief alarmists have publicly recognized this (e.g. James Hansen of NASA, and Phil Jones formerly of CRU in Britain). Again, this undermines the argument that CO2 will cause catastrophic warming.

CO2 Alarmism: Getting the science all backwards

The long-term and larger overall perspective. What is normal and natural for life on Earth? What is the more healthy and natural state of things for our planet?

Straight out of the gate- There is much more benefit to life on Earth when there are higher levels of CO2 and warmer temperatures. Life has flourished during such times in the past (see Plimer comment below) and there was no catastrophic damage to life. Higher levels of CO2 and warmer temperatures are a return to more healthy and normal conditions for life. That is the evidence from much of Earth’s history and it overturns the alarmist narrative completely.

The alarmist distortion of the optimal state of life is clearly evident in climate change alarmism. Alarmists pull climate change out of its larger paleo-climate context to claim that the mild warming and slight rise in CO2 levels, over the past few decades, are signs of looming catastrophe. This is anti-science distortion gone irrational.

In the larger historical context, Earth is currently in an abnormally cold “ice age era” with abnormally low levels of CO2. Such low levels have stressed plant life. For long stretches of the past CO2 levels have been much higher (1000-1500 ppm). Also, for long periods of Earth’s history there have been much higher average temperatures. For 75% of Earth’s history the world has been entirely ice free, including the poles. And life has flourished during such times (again, see Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth). Ice on Earth is not “normal” or healthy for life. Most extinctions occur during cold eras.

(Side note: The stumps of tropical forest trees have been discovered in the Arctic. That brutally cold area was once the warmer habitat to much more abundant tropical life.)

The slight increase in CO2 levels from the pre-industrial age till today (from roughly 250 to 400 ppm) has benefitted life immensely with a 14% increase in plant productivity just since 1980. Plant life loves more food. The Earth is now greener and healthier because of warmer temperatures and more CO2. More plant productivity benefits animals and humans (i.e. increased biomass and crop production). Why are the Greens not celebrating this amazing greening of our planet?

Further, our recent warming is part of a longer-term recovery from the abnormal cold of the Little Ice Age (roughly 1645-1715). Since that time we have been returning to more normal and healthy conditions for life and life is once again flourishing.

As for “climate change” itself- climate has always changed and much more notably than over recent history. There is no such thing as stasis in nature because change is the normal state for nature. And certainly it is not desirable to have some mythical stasis at the low and harmful pre-industrial levels of CO2 that stress plant life. That was not an optimal state for life. We do not want to return to subnormal conditions for life. (Note: Alston Chase deals with this stasis-in-nature myth in his book In a Dark Wood)

Recap- We need a fresh public restatement of basic climate history and science. We need more clear acknowledgement that CO2 is not a poison or a pollutant but is the basic food of all life. This is grade one science. More CO2 in the atmosphere is a benefit to all life. Warmer average temperature is also a benefit to life. Many elite scientists seem to have forgotten this basic science of CO2.

Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Protest Petition (signed by almost 32,000 scientists including many of the best minds on the planet). Here is their summary statement:

“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Concerns over warming: Species such as polar bears might suffer from warmer climate. But where one species may suffer from change, many others will benefit (extended range). Also, polar bears have survived previous inter-glacial periods that had much warmer temperatures than the current inter-glacial. Further, polar bear populations have increased multiple-fold times over the past half century (from roughly 8,000 to 25-30,000) while climate was warming.

Further comment: There is much contemporary comment (2015) that the last few years have been the hottest on record. One reason for this is the current strong El Nino that produces aberrational warming in a longer trend (see GWPF newsletter of Sept. 18/2015). And of course, more generally, it has become a bit warmer over the past 150 years. As noted above, we are still rising out of the Little Ice Age period of 1645-1715, an abnormal bitterly cold period on Earth. That harshly cold period was a subnormal state for life on Earth. Since then we have been returning to more normal and healthy conditions for life. So yes, of course it has become warmer over the past 150 years (the exceedingly short “historical record” that is so often referred to). But this is not a danger to life. It is a return to a more normal and healthy state for life. Earth is still too cold compared to past long-term average temperatures on the planet.

To claim that the pre-industrial era was optimal, and that the rise in temperature and CO2 since then is dangerous, is entirely anti-science and ridiculous. Look at the long-term picture. We have been sub-optimal for millions of years now. CO2 has been too low and this has stressed plant life. Life is now responding positively to more food in the atmosphere. The present trend of increasing CO2 is a healthy return to more normal, natural, and optimal conditions for life. This evidence overturns entirely the doom and gloom message of environmental alarmists.

Comments on the larger paleo-climate record from Ian Plimer’s Heaven And Earth (Introduction):

“There is little or no geological, archeological and historical input into discussions about climate change…The history of time shows us that depopulation, social disruption, extinctions, disease and catastrophic droughts take place in cold times and life blossoms and economies boom in warm times…”

“Planet Earth is dynamic. It always changes…It is currently in an ice age that started 37 million years ago…We know there have been past climate changes which have been extreme and rapid…to reduce modern climate change to one variable (CO2) or, more correctly, to a small proportion of one variable (i.e. human- produced CO2) is not science”.

(Note: Someone has made the comment that it is absurd to believe that you can change climate by adjusting a CO2 knob.)

“The history of temperature change over time is related to the shape of the continents, the shape of the sea floor, the pulling apart of the crust, the stitching back together of the crust, the opening and closing of sea ways, changes in Earth’s orbit, changes in solar energy, super-noval eruptions, comet dust, impacts by comets and asteroids, volcanic activity, bacteria, soil formation, sedimentation, ocean currents, and the chemistry of air. If we humans, in a fit of ego, think we can change these normal planetary processes, then we need stronger medicine.”

“To argue that we humans can differentiate between human-induced climate changes and natural changes in naive. To argue that natural climate changes are slow and small is contrary to evidence. The slogan “Stop climate change” is a very public advertisement of absolute total ignorance as it is not cognizant of history, archeology, geology, astronomy, ocean sciences, atmospheric sciences and the life sciences.”

“CO2 is not a pollutant. Global warming and high CO2 content bring prosperity and lengthen your life. Carbon dioxide is plant food, is necessary for life, and without CO2 there would be no complex life on Earth.”

“The extensive reliance by global warmers on computer models impresses those with little scientific training…A model is not real. Models are not evidence… These climate models exaggerate the effects of human CO2 emissions into the atmosphere because few of the natural variables are considered.”

“Why do human emissions of CO2 continue to increase yet since 1998 temperature has (flat-lined)?… Although man-made increases in atmospheric CO2 may theoretically make some contribution to temperature rise, such links have not been proven and there is abundant evidence to the contrary.”

Comment on the long-term state of world climate (CO2 and temperatures) from Patrick Moore’s Confessions Of A Greenpeace Dropout:

“During the past 500 million years since modern life forms emerged, the earth’s climate has been warmer than it is today for most of the time. During these ‘Greenhouse Ages’ the earth’s temperature averaged around 22 to 25 degrees Celsius (72 to 77 Fahrenheit)… (This compares to today’s 14.5 Celsius average)…All the land was either tropical or subtropical and the world was generally wetter. The sea level was much higher than today and life flourished on land and in the oceans. These warm periods were punctuated by three Ice Age (Eras) during which large ice sheets formed at the poles and in mountainous areas, effectively eliminating most plants and animals in those regions.

“(Three Ice Age Eras have occurred over the past 500 million years)….Ice started to accumulate in Antarctica beginning 20 million years ago and eventually the current Ice Age, known as the Pleistocene, began in earnest about 2.5 million years ago. The Pleistocene, which we are still in today and during which our species evolved to its current state, accounts for only 0.07 percent of the history of life on earth.

“During the coldest periods of the Pleistocene Ice Age, the average temperature of the earth was around 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) and there were large ice sheets on both poles. Before the recent retreat of the glaciers, beginning 18,000 years ago, the ice extended below the US/Canada border, over all of Scandinavia, much of northern Europe, and well into northern Russia. The sea was about 122 meters (400 feet) lower than it is today, having risen steadily since then and continuing to do so today. In recent times the sea has risen about 20 centimeters (8 inches) per century. The cause of sea level rise is a combination of melting glaciers and rising ocean temperature, as water expands when it gets warmer.

“The earth’s climate underwent a general warming trend beginning with the end of the last major glaciations, about 18,000 years ago. This has not been an even warming, as there have been many fluctuations along the way. For example, during the Holocene Thermal Maximum between 9,000 and 4,000 years ago it was warmer than it is today by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit). During this time the present-day Sahara Desert was covered with lakes and vegetation, clearly indicating there was much more rainfall there than today. We know for a fact this was not caused by humans. Many scientists believe it was caused by variations in the earth’s orbit around the sun.

“This historical record highlights the importance of analyzing the starting point and end point of temperature measurements when explaining trends, both up and down. It is warmer today than it was 18,000 years ago. But it is cooler today than it was 5,000 years ago during the Holocene Thermal Optimum (note: polar bears survived the warmer Holocene). So it could be said we have been in a cooling trend for the past 5,000 years even though it is warmer now than it was when the glaciations ended…

“Today the average temperature of the earth is about 14.5 degrees Celsius (58 degrees Fahrenheit), decidedly closer to the Ice Age level than the Greenhouse Age level and only 2.5 degrees above the temperature at the height of the last major glaciations. The fact is we are still in the Pleistocene Ice Age (Era) and it is possible another major glaciations may occur sometime in the next 10,000 years…

“Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas in that it tends to heat the atmosphere and thus raise the temperature of the earth. But water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas, contributing at least two thirds of the greenhouse effect. CO2 and other minor gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, make up the other third of the greenhouse effect. It is not possible to prove the exact ratios among the various greenhouse gases as they interact in complex ways…

“We know global levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have risen steadily from 315 parts per million (ppm) to (400 plus ppm) since scientists began taking measurements at Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawaii in 1958. This is a very short time compared to the 3.5 billion years of life on earth. Many scientists assume that human emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of this increase. (Many more other) scientists question this assumption. It is a fact that CO2 levels were much higher than they are today during previous eras…”

As noted repeatedly above, see the mass of detailed evidence on the long-term history of the climate in Ian Plimer’s excellent book Heaven and Earth. Further, see The Chilling Stars by Dr. Svensmark, which presents good information on the relationship between cosmic rays, the activity of the sun, and cloud cover, and how this complex relationship impacts climate. Also, see Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu’s research on our continuing recovery from the Little Ice Age (available online). There are other natural elements that better explain the warming/cooling periods that we have experienced, and better explain the rise and fall of CO2 over earth’s history.

I read the news today, oh boy…”

The Washington Post did a recent piece titled “Cold blob (North Atlantic ocean) worries scientists”. My initial reaction?: There they go again, stirring the Chicken Little cry, ”the sky is falling” over another natural event. It sometimes approaches a form of hysteria that borders on insanity to view every twitch or shift in nature as reason to create alarm and to traumatize the public further over the environment. Nature is all about endless change and diversity, with little-known events and outcomes occurring unpredictably. We are still in the early stages of understanding the patterns and cyclical aspects of varied elements of nature, along with the random swings and aberrations to more established patterns (some sudden and severe). For example, it is only in the past decade or so that we have become aware of the cosmic ray/sun/cloud relationship and how this impacts climate. So let’s tone down the endless alarmism over constantly changing nature. Change is a fundamental and defining feature of nature.

Our response to most of what goes on in nature should be that of adaptation which we have done well over the past. There is too much in nature that we may never be able to control or prevent. Climate being a prominent example here. As someone said, “It is absurd to think that you can control climate by adjusting a CO2 knob”.

Further on alarmism and long-term trends

In any long-term trend you will never get a straight line in some direction (rising, falling or level). What you get in real life are trend lines with all sorts of spikes and dips (mountains and valleys) along a general overall trend. The spikes and dips are short-term reversals or aberrations to the general trend, due to all sorts of things. They generally last for only a few years and then the overall trend continues (see Lomborg for detail in Skeptical Environmentalist).

You cannot build a general case from a short-term reversal. The overall long-term trend properly defines the true state of the thing that you are looking at.

Another- When are alarmists going to embrace the anti-bullying campaigns that all sane and decent people have embraced? Alarmism is irresponsible bullying of the worst kind, causing “eco-trauma” in children. Julian Simon noted that environmental alarmism was causing children to view the world as a more and more frightening place. There is enough to fear in life without adding the exaggerated and distorting hysteria of the environmental alarmists. Shame on these bullies.

This site goes after the most fundamental of all alarmist movements- religious alarmism. That is where the worst forms of bullying have originated over history. So there is no less shame to the religious bullies that have terrorized people across the millennia with their sky monsters.

Grappling with Imperfection

The human family has long had difficulty with imperfection in life (e.g. Why do good people suffer?). We have not been able to embrace imperfection as originally natural to reality and life. Hence, the ancients created the myth of original perfection (e.g. Eden- the belief that a good God would create only a perfect world, not an imperfect one). The ancients then blamed humanity for ruining the original perfection and causing the introduction of imperfection into life (natural disaster, disease, cruelty, death). We know this as the “Fall of man” myth, or original sin myth. It is found all through history and across the world in all the mythologies of humanity.

This profoundly anti-human myth is at the root of apocalyptic mythology which states that God will finally punish bad people for ruining the early paradise, purge them from the world, and then restore the lost perfection (a new utopian world populated with only the “good people”, the true believers).

It may embarrass those who know better, but I have to state the following because the myth of original paradise is still widely believed in religious and secular traditions: This original perfection myth gets the actual story of life all wrong. To the contrary, imperfection has been present from the beginning. It is a natural part of life and it is not humanity’s fault. We will not be punished for being imperfect and for struggling to improve an imperfect world. Imperfection is the arena where we learn to wrestle with problems, gain insights, and become something better through our struggles. Struggle with imperfection is essential to our development as human. And we have been doing exceptionally well over our history, becoming something ever better than before. We have become more empathic, less violent, more inclusive and tolerant, more creative, solving problems and making life ever better for everyone.

Human Narrative

The following material comments on the difference between the old narratives of life, and where those went wrong, and then presents the core features of a new narrative based on the best available evidence today.

The old narratives contained the following main themes: there was a perfect beginning to life (i.e. “better past” mythology- Eden, pristine nature without humanity); corrupt people ruined the original paradise; vengeful and violent gods punish people through natural disaster, disease and the cruelty of others; life is a great battle between good and bad people (dualism); life is in decline toward something worse, toward a catastrophic ending of civilization and life; a salvation scheme must be followed by true believers (a sacrifice to appease); divine intervention will eventually purge the world of imperfection (a violent, abrupt ending to purge corrupt humanity); and then there will be the restoration of the lost original perfection (restored utopia- a complete escape from the slow, gradual and imperfect historical process).

But indisputable evidence now demands an entirely new story of reality and life. All began in imperfection, whether in the violence of the emerging cosmos, or in the struggle of organizing and developing life. Accident, natural disaster, disease, and predatory cruelty were part of life from the beginning. But instead of decline toward something worse, life has been steadily progressing toward something ever better than before.

More on Two Stories: Exploring a more humane narrative

I have gathered a few insights about human story- both personal story and the larger grand narratives of the public realm. This site explores and presents this personal discovery regarding human story.

All of us live by story. We each have our personal story that shapes our thinking, feeling, and behavior. It is something that we create and live out daily. It is intensely personal. And we also draw upon, and relate to, greater public stories that we share with the rest of our societies, and even with the entire human family. We also, perhaps more subconsciously, draw upon grand historical narratives that have been passed down to us through the millennia.

This site explores what I would present as the two dominant stories of human history- what I would term the old mythical story of life and the new more scientific story of life. Most important, the new story is a more human or more humane story of life.

The themes of the old story have shaped most of human history, influencing the other smaller stories, whether ethnic, national, religious, political, or personal. The new story is still struggling for full embrace by public human consciousness. Few are willing to engage the new story fully because the themes of the old story are still deeply rooted in the background of most people’s consciousness, in what we call the subconscious.

And many people engage some form of “cognitive dissonance”, holding old story themes in their worldviews along with new story themes. They walk around holding great contradicting ideas in their heads, and often blissfully so.

The old story

The old story is mythical, irrational, unscientific, and profoundly inhuman. It is the viewpoint of the mythical mind and on all of its major elements it misses entirely the actual narrative of life on this planet. I have repeatedly labelled it a fraud, a lie, and devastatingly harmful to human consciousness and society.

The old story themes are initially found scattered throughout the earliest human writing, the Sumerian cuneiform tablets and the following accounts of Sumerian mythology (i.e. Akkadian and Babylonian mythologies). Those themes have re-emerged endlessly down through subsequent history in ever new versions. They have shaped the major world religions, and even modern ideologies such as 19th Century Declinism. Note carefully that those primitive themes are still evident today in secular worldviews, including Environmental Alarmism, arguably one of the more prominent viewpoints of our era.

The core ideas of the old narrative have infected human consciousness at all levels and have had an immeasurably damaging impact on people, retarding them in subhuman stages of development (see Ellens, Lotufo, and others below). They have made the old story a narrative of despair that engenders pessimism, resignation, anxiety, fear, and even aggressive defense. The old story is profoundly mythical, irrational, and quite entirely against the evidence of life.

Those core old story themes- the problem of imperfection

(Explanatory note on material below: Most people have a hard time understanding the presence of imperfection in reality and life. The ancients assumed that imperfection was punishment for their being bad. Hence, they created the myth of some original perfection/paradise that was ruined by corrupt and destructive people. That myth distorts the history of life entirely. Life began in imperfection but has gradually made progress toward more organization and complexity. Further, it has been made something better by the emergence of human consciousness in early humanity. Also, our improved understanding of the role of imperfection in life notes its critical role in human learning and development. In the struggle against imperfection in life, people gain insights, make discoveries to improve life, and that results in benefit to all. Subsequently, there is gradual progress toward something better. The struggle with imperfection, or problems, brings out the best of the human spirit. Julian Simon noted this in Ultimate Resource).

(Continue with more detail on old story themes…)

The old story claims that life on this planet emerged in a pure beginning. The beginning of life was perfect, a paradise. In contemporary environmental mythology, Earth was a wilderness world covered with pristine nature and absent the “destructive presence of humanity (the human plague)”.

The old mythical story also claims that the original people were perfect, pure, and strong. This is a version of “noble savage mythology” and is still a prominent view in the academic world (see Stephen LeBlanc in Constant Battles). The old story cannot admit that imperfection was present in the cosmos and life from the beginning. The mythical mind cannot comprehend imperfection in original creation or life. It cannot grasp any good purpose in imperfection.

To explain the obvious imperfection of present life, the old mythology claimed that early people must have committed an original error or sin and that ruined the perfect original paradise. The ancients must have angered their Creator who then punished them with consequent imperfection throughout life. This is how old story mythical thinking explains the presence of imperfection in life. The mythical mind resorts to blaming humanity. Mythical thinking takes a harsh view of humanity as “fallen”, corrupted, and as destroyers of some previous paradise. In environmental extremist terms, people are a virus on the planet, a cancer in life. Consequently, any human engagement of nature, or use of nature, is viewed as destructive.

So paradise was ruined and God introduced death, disease, natural catastrophe, and all forms of suffering as punishment for some original fall into sin.

Note also that the foundational idea in the old story is that of an angry, violent, and punishing God. A God that is always finding reasons to be pissed at the imperfection of people. A God that cannot tolerate imperfection in human life. As Harold Ellens says, there is something pathological about a God that cannot get his head screwed on right until he kills someone.

After the ruin of the original paradise, life then became a great struggle between the good and the evil. The old story claims that a great dualism now divides the human family. The early mythical mind concluded that the great forces behind life were dualistic- good and bad- and they were engaged in a great cosmic battle. This cosmic battle was waged via proxies in humanity- between the followers of the good and the followers of the bad. Both sides were obligated to engage conflict and destroy one another on behalf of the greater creating forces or spirits. The myth of dualism argues that we are obligated to become true believers and join the “good force/spirit”, the good religion, or good side (the “perfect”). We must then fight against our enemies that are on some other side, in some “bad” religion, or belong to some bad ideology (the “imperfect”).

After the ruin of paradise, the mythical mind also claimed that life and humanity were in decline toward something worse, toward some catastrophic ending of civilization and life. Life was in decline toward a great apocalyptic climax which would be the ultimate punishment from God. There would be some final catastrophe that would end life on earth. There would be some apocalyptic destruction of life and civilization. There would be an end of the world when God would purge the world of imperfection, of corruption (i.e. of industrial, technological civilization in environmental mythology), and would then restore the original perfection.

While waiting for the end of the world, the mythical mind believes that people must also engage some salvation scheme, which often means offering a violent sacrifice to appease and please the threatening forces or gods behind life. For much of history the sacrifice has been that of blood offering. Or it may entail some radical change in lifestyle, some form of self-punishment and self-inflicted suffering (penance), such as a return to a “morally superior” simple lifestyle (i.e. poverty as purifying self-denial).

Again, the foundational idea behind all these old story core themes is that of a violent, vengeful, and punishing deity. That God is only satisfied with a violent solution to the imperfect world. He demands a violent atonement, a blood sacrifice, a severe punishment for wrong, a punishment of imperfection. He then requires the violent purging of the corrupted world, and violent destruction of his enemies in a great violent apocalypse. That will entail the sudden abandonment of the messy, imperfect historical process for an instantly installed utopia. The old story is all about violence, violence, and more violence against intolerable imperfection.

The apocalyptic destruction of the world and the subsequent restoration of paradise is how the mythical mind views the final stage of salvation in the old story. That is where the good people (those who believe and follow the good spirit) are to be saved and the bad people are to be finally punished, purged, and destroyed forever. Then, as noted above, the “true” God will restore the original perfection, or paradise, for his true followers.

The central theme of vengeful and punishing deity also re-enforces the long-standing perception that the core of reality is about retribution, payback, or “just” reward/punishment. The old story advocates payback as the very basis of reality and life (see comment below on the Greek view of fundamental reality). And punitive thinking sees payback everywhere in the natural consequences of natural law. This emphasis on essential payback has long prevented people from seeing the essential unconditional love that is at the core of reality.

Another way of viewing the old story is to recognize that it embodies the base features of animal existence. Those features have been made sacred in the old narrative. I refer to things like the dualism and opposition of animal bands- each small band against other bands. And the domination of alpha animals- that people are similarly subject to alpha gods and alpha leaders, religious or secular. And then there is the feature of exclusion and destruction of the competing other, the enemy. Further, there is the predator’s bloody meal which may be at the root of sacrifice thinking (i.e. the bloody meal to appease). See also Hector Garcia’s Alpha God for more detail on the animal in God.

We now know that early people projected animal features onto the earliest gods and those features were then protected as sacred. Ever since, those ultimate ideals and authorities- the gods- have been used to inspire and validate animal-like behavior among their followers, re-enforcing the features of religious opposition, domination, exclusion, and destruction of enemies.

The old story and all its basic elements are a grand distorting lie. They miss entirely the actual story of the emergence and development of life on this planet. Unfortunately, the themes of the old story have dominated human worldviews since the beginning and are still prominent today in many religious traditions, and even in secular ideologies and mythologies.

The new human story

Over the past few centuries, science has uncovered the basic features of the actual story of life. We now know that reality and life began in imperfection, whether in the violence of the greater cosmos, or the brutality of early life with its accident, natural disaster, disease, predation and cruelty. The imperfection of life is not punishment from the gods, nor does the imperfection all through life deserve punishment. It is just something natural to life since the beginning. The imperfection of life is not due to some metaphysical evil force or the consequence of human failure. Further, the imperfection of life is not the dominant reality in life.

We can also conclude that the core of reality and life is not dominated by some fundamental principle of just reward/punishment (strict payback). The dominant feature behind reality and life is goodness and generosity toward all, both just and unjust. As a noted sage said long ago, the good things of life (i.e. the life-giving sun and rain) are given to all alike, without discrimination or exclusion. This is true of many things throughout life. The very organization of fundamental matter, the consistency of natural law, the foundational progress of reality and life toward more organization and complexity, the infinite energy of the cosmos, the unlimited natural resources on Earth, and much more, all express the fact that goodness and generosity toward all is the overwhelmingly dominant feature of reality and life.

(Note: The Palestinian sage called “historical Jesus”, not the Christian Jesus, reversed millennia of explaining the nasty elements in material reality as evidence of some nasty spirit behind life. He started a new tradition of understanding the beneficial elements of material reality (sun, rain) as exhibiting ultimate Goodness behind all. He got it right. The nasty things were aberrational, and the good things were more fundamental to explaining Ultimate Reality.)

And contrary to the old fall mythology, life is not declining toward something worse but is on an ever-improving trajectory, becoming something ever better than before. This site presents thorough evidence to affirm the improving trend of life. Humanity epitomizes the grand trend of improvement in that we have steadily become less violent and more compassionate than ever before in our past. Consciousness has enabled us to think humanely, to move beyond the barbarity of animal life. Since our earliest emergence we have been leaving brutal animal existence behind and progressing toward creating a truly human existence.

The defining summit of this progress toward a more humane future is embodied in our highest ideal- love. And we have discovered the ultimate expression of love in the ideal of unconditional. This is the absolute peak of what it means to be authentically human. It points us toward something infinitely better. With unconditional love there is no more tribal dualism and opposition, but rather one inclusive family. In unconditional relating there is no dehumanizing domination but the embrace and treatment of all persons as free and full equals. And with unconditional there is no exclusion and destruction of the other, but unlimited forgiveness and generosity toward all.

We have struggled to embrace imperfect life with all its problems as an opportunity for learning, developing, and growing. In a word- the great struggle for progress toward something better. And we have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. As noted above, people in general have become less violent, more empathic, and more creative. We have created civilization, and its influence on all life, as something that improves life for the better. To the contrary, there is no sound evidence of some decline toward a catastrophic ending.

All this evidence speaks to goodness behind life.

Despite the claims of many that they adhere to modern secularism, even atheism, few have fully embraced the core themes of the new story, the more humane features of an authentically human narrative. Many still hold firmly to the primitive myths of the old narrative. Look for instance at supposedly secular Europe. It is the greenest place on Earth, adopting environmental alarmism as its new ideology, which is actually just more of the same old, same old mythology and religion of its Christian past.

Environmental alarmists have created their own updated version of old story myths. They believe that corrupt humans have ruined the original paradise of a perfect wilderness world. They argue that life is now in decline toward some catastrophic environmental collapse. Hence, their salvation scheme- we must purge the world of corrupting industrial civilization in order to restore the lost paradise of a wilderness world. That is their proposed solution to the present imperfection of life, which they believe was caused by destructive humanity.

The old story is rightly defined as primitive, backward, and subhuman. More animal than human.

We understand today that there is no violent, vengeful, and punishing spirit or force at the core of reality and life. There is no grand dualism behind life (primitive tribalism or small band exclusion and opposition). There is no greater cosmic battle between God and Satan (a great enemy). The core idea of the new story is that there is only unconditional Love of a transcendent and incomprehensible nature behind all things. There is nothing to fear in ultimate reality.

Consequent to there being only Love behind all reality, there is no great struggle against some enemy. We are all full members of the one human family.

And the imperfection of life can be viewed as a learning arena for humanity, where we encounter the problems of imperfect life and struggle with them. Our greatest struggle is with the inherited animal that still resides in all of us. This residual imperfection with our own violent and inhumane tendencies is the real “enemy” that we ought to fight.

Out of our struggle with personal imperfection, and the greater imperfection of life, we gain insights and find solutions to problems that benefit others. This is the “salvation” element of the new story. It is about the struggle to create an ever-better life on this planet. But there will be no apocalyptic collapse and ending to this story of life. And most critical to any new story, there is no need to appease some angry deity, or any other greater force. There is no ultimate threat of punishment or destruction. There is no need to engage some salvation scheme, unless you view any salvation in terms of the general struggle to make life better.

The new scientific story assures us that the future is open-ended for unlimited creative development and progress. We ought to celebrate how well we have done and that our future is “infinite in all directions”. Without the imperfection of life we would never have discovered our creative compassion to make all things better.

Added note: Any robust human narrative will not be bare-bones materialist in content. It will have a “spiritual” component to properly encompass the human impulse for mystery, something even science continues to discover and uncover, though dogmatic materialist types dismissively discount mystery as eventually resolvable in terms of natural law or natural explanations. I do not see the two parallel tracks in science ever meeting and explaining the spiritual fully and properly. The two parallel tracks emerging from science include (1) ever more explanation of material reality and (2) ever more discovery of incomprehensible mystery behind all.

And my use of the term “spiritual” does not include most of what is understood as “religious”. My use of spiritual refers to something altogether quite different (see below).

Summary list of grand narrative themes:

No original paradise, or better past. Life began imperfectly and brutally.
There has been no decline toward something worse. Rather, life has improved over time with ever more diversity, complexity, and order/organization (something better than before).
There will be no catastrophic end to life. Life is open and progresses into an unlimited future. The future is “infinite in all directions” (Freeman Dyson).
There is no punishing force or spirit behind life. There will be no final destruction.
The old story was fundamentally wrong in all its core themes.

(Note: I take the risk of referring to NDEs on this site because I do not find any clear description of ultimate unconditional Love anywhere else in traditional spiritual or religious traditions, which are all oriented to highly conditional reality. Hence, my engagement of the “unscientific evidence” of the NDE. See also Pim Van Lommel’s excellent ‘Consciousness Beyond Life’ for a discussion of science and the NDE phenomenon.)

A just-breaking-the-stream-of-thought quote: Pam Reynolds, in her well-known NDE account, stated that “Death is a fraud and a lie”. She was trying to express her experience of continuing life, and a stunningly better state of consciousness and life, outside of her dying body. She, as a person distinct from her defective body, did not die. She then embraced an entirely new view of dying and death. Many others that have had NDEs arrive at the same conclusion about death. They claim that we view death all wrong. It is not to be feared. It is simply a transition into inexpressible wonder.

This got me thinking about human views of death over the millennia. The earliest understanding of death concluded that it was a punishment for being bad. The Sumerian flood myth proposes this view. The Biblical Fall of Man myth (original sin of Adam) presents the same view- death was a punishment for sin. Then over subsequent time early people intensified the horror in the human fear of death. They claimed that after death people entered dark, dreary realms of ghost-like existence, populated by tormenting demons. Contemporary story-telling continues to embrace this pathetic view of death and after-death reality. Add to this the religious threats of confronting divine anger, judgment, loss, and worst of all- eternal torture in Hell.

Death then becomes a terrifying monster to many people.

Contemporary materialists have added their own dark views of the non-existence of the human person. On this point of non-existence after death: I have not seen one shred of good evidence- not in consciousness research, brain/mind research, or anywhere else- that consciousness, or the human person, is produced by the 3 pounds of brain meat in our heads. My conclusion from this? You are not dependent on the hamburger in your head for your existence.

Discussion group comment:

“A CNN anchor interviewed family members that had lost relatives to gun violence. Powerful stuff. They all shared the moments when they first discovered that a son, a daughter, a mother or someone else, had been killed. One lady, a pastor who lost her mother at the Charleston church shooting, had the following to say, “As a pastor I know that suffering is part of life….I know that my religion tells me to engage the process of forgiving, but I am not there yet. I don’t feel it. I don’t want to say just yet, ‘I forgive you for killing my mother’. I know that the God I believe in is patting me on the back and saying, ‘You take your time’. It will be a process that she may engage at sometime but she is in no rush”.

“The point of that lady pastor’s comments- I have never heard such a powerful statement of human struggle, of belief in what is right, of something better to attain, and yet not beating oneself up about those ideals, as to what is good or best. Just being imperfectly human in the present. Embracing that. She said that she would take her time to engage forgiveness. “I don’t feel it yet”. That should be the human response to many things in life. To tell your Deity, look this is what I am right now, what I am experiencing, what I feel. Accept this imperfect humanity struggling to be more humane. This is what it means to be human in an imperfect world. This is what I understand and feel from my limited perspective in this present world. Accept it as my experience. Sure, we try to be something better, but that is the struggle of life.

“My feeling in light of her comments- Embrace your imperfection. Do your best to be human and don’t beat yourself up over remaining imperfection. That was her point. She still hurts badly. But ultimate Love understands imperfection. And is patient with it. Love “created” imperfection in the first place.

“Don’t you think that ultimate Love gets being human in an imperfect world?”

Rethinking Justice

Apocalyptic is the broad overall framework of the mythical mind. Apocalyptic has been called the “Mother of all theology”. I would extend that to include all mythology.

Apocalyptic is the theology of a violent, punishing God. That angry deity will punish and destroy corrupted people in a final fulfillment of “justice” at an apocalypse- justice as payback. This harsh punishing understanding and approach has long defined justice for humanity.

Unconditional changes justice entirely. It offers a stunning new take on justice as no more “eye for eye” payback, getting even, or punishment. It re-orients justice to restoration, forgiveness, liberation, inclusion, and unlimited generosity. Unconditional fully humanizes justice. It states that there is no violent, punishing God. There will be no final payback or punishment.

Note: This site wrestles repeatedly with the emerging understanding of justice as restorative, while balancing the felt need for accountability for all human behavior, notably bad behavior.

Note: Bob Brinsmead has done interesting work on the emerging view among Old Testament prophets of an entirely new view of justice as liberation and mercy, not punishment.

Getting Intense with Unconditional

Do not glide over the adjective “unconditional” with a dismissive nod of familiarity. No conditions. OK. Got it. I would shake up any sense of familiarity with some far more intense definition. I would stress that unconditional expresses something much more explosive and liberating for human consciousness. It means “ABSOLUTELY NO conditions. Absolutely none”.

Let that stir your consciousness. Feel the full scandal of that. Do some mindfulness exercising over that. And relate that to ultimate realities with the dimension of infinitude.

And I would get even more intense and state that unconditional is the single most important concept/word in human understanding and language. Its liberating and humanizing potential goes extreme in the direction of ultimate humaneness (i.e. liberating entirely from the dehumanizing payback orientation of our animal past). It is the supreme ideal to define authentic humanity and ultimate realities. Unconditional takes the supreme human ideal of love far beyond what we mostly engage or experience in life. It takes us to the height of humane relating and existence. When you relate this type of love to deity then you are in the realm of the infinitely transcendent or infinitely better.

Because it relates so critically to “spiritual” realities, I would add the following: Unconditional completely overturns all previous theological understanding that has been oriented to threatening, punishing deities demanding that requirements or conditions be met. It spells the end of religion as a conditional institution that sets forth the requirements for inclusion, salvation, or success- basically, how to appease and please the gods. Unconditional changes everything- for the better. It revolutionizes ethics and justice systems that are based on payback. It ends violence thoroughly and for the long term by radically humanizing the ideals and authorities that validate violence (i.e. the felt need to appeal to something greater to justify payback behavior). It is the route to a better and more human future in thought and behavior.

Ah, how does one set forth the unlimited potential of this ideal? It goes ultimate and “infinite in all directions”.

This site tries by offering a thorough exploration of unconditional reality.

Something to mull over: “What is most humane is most true and most real.”

Related discussion group comment: “I have been coming at this from varied angles over the years and will keep working on better expression. But I am more convinced that to get to the ultimate truth about reality and life, to get to what is most “real”, we need to follow the human thing, what is most humane. Make this central to the discovery of truth. And then we can’t go wrong as in so much past religious endeavor. This seems so obvious.”

“What is most human, most humane? Love has long been central to understanding this. Love is the essential nature of human consciousness. And I would expand this centrality of love out further to such things as the search for the essential nature of the cosmos or reality itself. And the nature of life. It is about so much more than what we call the natural realm. And yes, this pulls us toward the supernatural.”

“We continue to embrace the most rational, the best evidence. That is all part of the search. But that empirical evidence does not get us to ultimate truth and has often left us in a meaning vacuum at the shore of Mystery. There is something that takes us further, something that is the safest guide to ultimate truth.”

“And this gets me to unconditional as the ultimate height of our search and discovery. There is simply nothing more humane. From this conclusion I take it that there is then nothing more true or real. This is the ultimate goal of all understanding, all searching, all meaning, all human desire. It answers all the great questions- Why something? What is the point of it all?”

“Think about it- What is most humane is most true and most real”.

Many have stated that the greatest question of all is “Why something?” Why this cosmos and life? I would suggest there is an even greater question- “What does it mean to be human?” This gets us to all truth, to ultimate truth about all things.

Dogmatic Meaninglessness

I am an entirely non-religious person but I have never understood the dogmatic denial of some greater Creating Mind or Consciousness behind all reality. Yes, I get the denial of a religious Creator as understood in world religions. I get the denial of the barbaric inhumanity that has been projected onto those monsters. I am with the atheist materialists fully on that point. But I have never seen any good evidence for throwing out the deity baby with the bathwater.

Further, I have never got the denial of consciousness living on after the death of the brain. Again, I get the revulsion toward a religious afterlife (the religious myth of heaven). That is my vision of Hell- an endless church service with endless hymn singing. God save me from the Christian heaven. But if the afterlife is about Enya, Andean flute, and the Mark Knopflers of life, and ongoing creativity of all sorts, then yes, I could handle that.

If the NDE accounts are right and the other realms are non-religious (unconditional, all forgiven and included) and just the beginning of freedom for more creative growth and exploration, then why not? What is wrong with an authentically humane future? Why such dogmatic investment in nothing, in meaninglessness? That is not the logical conclusion of rational science. And there is no final evidence anywhere that consciousness ends with the death of the brain. Consciousness does not die. It is fundamental to all else in reality. The human person does not die. That appears to be a sane minimal conclusion from such areas as quantum mechanics and its inseparable observer/observed reality relationship.

What if some greater Consciousness is involved in the origin of life, and the progress of life through various improving stages? That does not mean that we are then obligated to embrace some religious view of God. Of course not. But if the evidence points toward some great Mind working via natural law… then, so what? Why the dogmatic refusal to embrace such possibility and insist on a limited materialist view of reality and life? Dogmatic materialist conclusions sometimes sound very much like dogmatic religious conclusions- incoherent and irrational to the point of absurd at times, too often exhibiting an abandonment of common sense.

Balance again

Note- taking other’s concerns into account: People urge me to be more balanced in regard to the place of religion in human society, to acknowledge its benefits. In a stab at moderation I counter that, yes, I am not advocating for people to abandon their religious traditions. But I am presenting the case that unconditional calls for such a complete transformation of religious/mythical thinking that the result would be unrecognizable to anything out there that we have known as religion.

Another: I would urge Christian visitors to consider that Paul’s Christ myth devalues and dehumanizes the historical Jesus with its central themes of vengeance, punishment, and violent destruction. To the contrary, unconditional highly honors the historical person by fully humanizing him with the most humane conception of love.

One more- On this site I repeatedly point to my personal take on the historical Jesus (someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus) in order to help Christians see the stunning alternative to Paul’s Christ myth and his apocalyptic religion.

Another “one more”: I get repeated push from some people to be more oriented to the practical here and now, and to let all this “spiritual stuff” go. To be more in this world. I agree with them about fully embracing the present. And that is exactly why I deal with all of this “spiritual” stuff. Because it remains deeply rooted at the foundations of contemporary human worldviews, fostering endless fear, depression, and despair, and other pathologies, in the here and now of daily life. My argument: you will never be free to fully embrace the here and now until you correct all this “spiritual” pathology at the foundation of human consciousness.

Jesus Versus Paul/Christianity

To fully understand Christianity- what is wrong and how to correct it- it helps to engage the following information:

Jesus’ core theme is presented in Matthew 5:38-48 (non-retaliation, the unconditional treatment of all people). His central theme of unconditional is part of a wisdom sayings gospel, known as the “Q Sayings Gospel”. It is the original gospel of Jesus. In one of history’s greatest retreats to past primitivism, Paul directly attacked and rejected that wisdom tradition in 1 Corinthians 1-3. See Stephen Patterson’s “The Lost Way”. Paul argued that we do not follow the historical Jesus, or his wisdom sayings tradition. He argued that people must believe only his Christ myth, which he made the foundation of his Christian religion. And he tyrannically cursed those free spirits that refused to bow to his threats (e.g. Galatians 1:8-9).

In his writings Paul said almost nothing about Jesus’ actual teaching except to distort it as part of a larger project to reject and bury it. Note his Romans 12 comments, detailed further below on this page. Paul’s Christian religion embodies his project to reject, distort, and bury of the wisdom gospel of Jesus. Read more below.

Comment: Atheism is not the greatest threat to Christianity. Jesus is the greatest threat to the Christian religion. If you take Jesus’ core theme of unconditional seriously it will spark the collapse of the entire mythical foundation of Christianity. It spells the end of Paul’s Christ myth with its absolute conditions.

Summary of central difference between Jesus’ teaching and the Christ myth of Paul: Jesus’ core theme was the unconditional treatment of all people by God. Paul’s central theme was that a supreme condition must first be met (i.e. the sacrifice of Christ) before the Christian God would offer salvation to anyone.

Defining the core of Ultimate Reality (some theological musing)

(Qualifier: I do not embrace the assumption that science offers the only route to ultimate truth, to all truth about everything- i.e. scientism. I appreciate immensely the contribution of science to the search for truth. Any final conclusions that we make about anything must include related scientific discovery, as far as it goes. Also, see the comment on the limits of science in Pim Van Lommel’s Consciousness Beyond Life. Every human discipline needs to remain open to contrary evidence to prevailing dogma, whether scientific or spiritual disciplines.)

It is the most stunning discovery and realization in the history of human consciousness. There is nothing else remotely as profound anywhere in human searching, discovery, or understanding. I refer to the discovery that our material cosmos, and life, is infused with a creating and sustaining Consciousness that is Love. But it is not just love as we have long understood the term as our highest human ideal. Further discovery, notably from one particular spiritual tradition- a wisdom sayings tradition, has added the critical insight that the creating and sustaining Love behind all is of the character of unconditional. It is absolutely ‘no conditions’ love.

Some of the best descriptions of this unconditional feature, that I have come across, are the NDE accounts where people speak of experiencing an Ultimate Unconditional Love that is, as they claim, “billions” or “trillions” of times better than anything that we experience here. These people are trying to express something inexpressible, something transcendent and incomprehensible, something infinitely better than the best that anyone can imagine or define. NDErs say that the love they experienced is simply beyond any terms or words that they can think of.

Add to this the equally important and related discovery that our essential person, our authentic or true self, is that very same love. We are never separate from that Love. We are that very same Love. But we do not lose personal distinctiveness in this union.

(Side note: One NDE researcher stated that philosophers and theologians have largely ignored the NDE movement. I would suggest this is because the discovery of deity as unconditional love overturns past theological understanding entirely. Across history the great religious gods have been understood as conditional realities- demanding that conditions be met for human well-being and salvation. Unconditional is therefore a major threat to conditional religions like Christianity in that it demands an entirely new theology. That spells unemployment for many theologians and religious leaders. Further note: I take NDEs seriously because I take conscious human experience seriously, while applying validating criteria as to what is humane and what is not. Again, what is most humane is most true and most real.)

To get some sense of just how profound and potent this unconditional discovery is, contrast it with the dominant themes of past human thought and explanation. Take a broad view of the full sweep of human perspective over history. Consider that mythologies, religions, and ideologies across history have never communicated the full scandal and wonder of this Love, but have buried it with the pathologies of conditional religion. Most systems of thought, philosophy, or spirituality have embraced prominent elements of payback thinking (i.e. retribution, vengeance, violent punishment, proper justice as rewarding good, punishing evil). Certainly, throughout history, the creators of belief systems also included more humane elements in their systems, such as kindness, mercy, and forgiveness in the gods. Those features are even found in Sumerian mythology, as well as in early Egyptian religion and elsewhere. But the nicer features have always been defined by larger contexts that were dominated by the harsh features of anger, judgment, payback, punishment, and destruction. Those darker themes have oriented general human understanding toward a threatening conditional reality for millennia. They have long buried the wonder of unconditional ultimate reality. The diamonds have always been buried in dunghills (Thomas Jefferson).

Over recent history it has become more clear that the nastier features of past belief systems have given us a profoundly distorted view of ultimate reality. The traditional views of the spiritual realm have entirely distorted human understanding of such reality. Our improved understanding of the critical feature of unconditional, or absolutely no conditions reality, now tells us that there is nothing to fear. There is no threat of retaliation, vengeance, or punishment from Ultimate Reality. There will be no exclusion of anyone. All are embraced by the infinite generosity of deity. There will be no final judgment, condemnation, or destruction. This liberating truth goes to the deepest roots of human anxiety, fear, worry, and despair.

When I survey the vast sweep of human insight across historical systems of thought, I can find nothing remotely as profound as the recognition that Unconditional Love defines Ultimate Reality. This is the single greatest discovery that humanity has ever made- that there is an incomprehensibly wonderful, even scandalous, Love at the core of all things, behind all reality and life. And it is not sullied by the slightest hint of threat, vengeance, or punishment. It takes some meditation, imagination, some probing thought, to allow it to fully permeate one’s consciousness.

How do I properly establish this “truth” that unconditional defines deity? How do we safely arrive at rational conclusions about ultimate realities? Can unconditional at the core be affirmed in any way by rational or evidential science? What do I base my conclusion upon?

First, let me affirm that I am as zealous an advocate for good science as anyone on the planet. The scientific movement of the past few centuries has been immensely beneficial in freeing us from the mythical, from the irrational, from the illogical, and from plain bad religious ideas and thinking. So take the following as not an attack on the credibility and value of science, but as just some counter to “scientism”.

Science will never be the final and ultimate truth-teller for humanity. It will not get us to all truth about everything. It has a limited mandate and a limiting methodology. We used to frame the mandate of science in terms of natural or material reality. We understood that science was about exploration of observable evidence in the material realm (i.e. empiricism). And of course, quantum mechanics has challenged our perceptions of material reality quite significantly (the older Newtonian worldview). But generally, the parameters of the older science still apply in many areas- that science is responsible to explore and explain what we perceive as physical reality, and the substance, patterns and laws that govern the material.

Notable scientists in a variety of disciplines have recognized the limits of traditional material or physical science. Martin Rees stated in Scientific American many years ago that it was embarrassing that after 400 years of science they (cosmologists, physicists) still did not know what the universe was made of. They had discovered that mysterious and invisible Dark matter and Dark energy made up some 96% of the universe. And we still do not even know what the visible 4% is really made of. So Rees suggested that we needed some new type of scientific approach to understand reality. Traditional approaches were not sufficient to fully understand the cosmos or physical reality. He recognized the limits of current science.

David Chalmers, near the end of his book ‘The Conscious Mind’, suggested that we needed some new approach to understanding consciousness, as the current science was not capable of resolving the consciousness problem. He said that we needed new “psychophysical laws” to explain the relationship between consciousness and physical systems.

And then Franklin Harold, in ‘The Way of the Cell’, argued that current biological science had embraced too much unproven dogma (“a paucity of evidence”) on the origin of life, its development, and what life actually was. He also argued for some new scientific approach to understanding such things.

(Note: Harold was not abandoning some version of “evolution” but simply advocating for something more evidence-based. I prefer to use something like “the long-term development of life” as there are too many questions re “the gradual accumulation of mutations on the genome” version of evolution, the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis model. See also Lynn Margulis’ “Acquiring Genomes” and Michael Behe’s “The Edge of Evolution”.)

These skeptical thinkers were simply recognizing the limits of conventional science regarding the most fundamental issues- the origins, nature and progress of reality, consciousness, and life.

I see two parallel tracks emerging from science. The one track of ever more discovery and explanation of material reality. May this continue forever. And the other track of ever more discovery of profound mystery in and behind all things. Consequent to the persistence of mystery everywhere, people both inside and outside of the scientific movement have pressed beyond the current limits of science for a more full understanding and more satisfying conclusions. They have appealed to philosophy, ideology, and even to spiritual traditions to complete their understanding and explanation. This is where our fundamental impulse for meaning and purpose takes us. We simply have to know more than our current systems of explanation provide us.

Quantum mechanics also pushes us to look beyond the material as we have formerly known it. Many of the early quantum theorists became mystics when they realized the universe appeared to be more of a great thought than a mechanical or material machine. Humanity in general has always intuitively got this right- that we are part of some greater reality that is more of the nature of Mind, Consciousness, Intelligence, or Spirit. Unfortunately, such reality has long been horrifically distorted by the inhumane features of religious traditions.

Greg Easterbrook, in a long ago Wired article, noted that materialist scientists do just as religious people have always done. They appeal to the invisible and unknowable realms in order to explain what exists. Cosmologists, for example, appeal to un-provable multi-verse theories: the birthing of infinite numbers of universes till one (our universe) could finally fall together on the knife edge of Martin Rees’ ‘Just Six Numbers’. Rees lists six fundamental fine-tuned parameters, but there are more. Other scientists appeal to varied invisible forces, or for instance, to features of quantum reality in the endeavor to explain our visible reality. Some of these explanations appear incoherent and even irrational but great scientific minds embrace them.

Lee Smolin, in ‘The Problem With Physics’, says that string theory has reigned as dogma for over three decades despite never having been affirmed by any experiment. Others settle for explanation in some “Self-Organizing Principle”, a natural laws force that creates all things. Dawkins and Strauss, in their tours of recent years, have taken a similar tack that all can be explained ultimately in terms of natural law. Dawkins, stepping beyond the limits of final evidence, has created his own natural god in claiming that natural selection is “the source of all enlightenment” (The God Delusion). Others then annoyingly retort, “But what creates natural laws and sustains them in existence?” Damn infinite regressers.

(See also Roy Varghese’s argument, in “The Wonder of The World”, that human reasoning takes us logically and rationally to theism. But again, to re-assure the skeptics, it does not take us to religious theism. An important distinction.)

Those with more spiritual inclinations resist the claim that that all things will eventually be explained in terms of material reality and natural laws (dogmatic philosophical materialism). For instance, the “Panentheists” seek some new understanding of the spiritual in terms of embracing a deity that creates and operates through natural law, not violating natural law as claimed by religious traditions (i.e. the mythology of a miracle-working god that disregards and overrules natural law). This approach is similar to other endeavor to rethink spiritual reality in terms of what science has discovered… what some call the attempt to merge the conclusions of scientific discovery and spiritual insight. Certainly, any explanation of reality must embrace, at a minimum, what is now firmly established via science. But you can fully embrace scientific discovery, while at the same time recognizing the limits of science. Science will never get us to final truth about all things. And dogmatic materialist explanations for all things are not the obligatory and only rational conclusions from naturalist science.

Science will only take you so far, and then you must finish the journey of human meaning for yourself.

Over the past I have followed a number of interesting debates- mind/brain and neuroscience discussions, consciousness research, evolutionary research, and others. I appreciate the more moderate conclusions of skeptics like David Chalmers on consciousness, Franklin Harold on evolutionary biology, Lynn Margulis also on evolutionary biology (i.e. Acquiring Genomes), John Eccles on brain and consciousness, and others regarding discovery in their particular disciplines. Listening to these scientists you can rationally conclude such things as the fact that there is no final evidence that consciousness is a product of the brain or brain functions (i.e. mind from meat mythology, consciousness from the hamburger in your head). There is no final materialist explanation for the mystery and wonder of consciousness, or for anything else in material reality. This is not a dismissal of materialist input but just openness to a radical rethinking of the material and the material/spiritual relationship.

Again, quantum mechanics, with its inseparable relationship between an observer and observed reality, ought to disturb dogmatic materialist thinking about reality. The cosmos (material reality), life, and human consciousness have become ever more profound mysteries, the more that we have probed them. And contrary to the claims of people like Susan Blackmore and Stuart Hammerhof, we are not on the verge of a complete understanding of consciousness, certainly not in materialist terms alone. Some people, in making such claims, sound like the late 19th Century physicists who claimed that understanding and explanation of physics was almost complete with only a few loose ends to tie up. Then quantum mechanics began to explode in their faces.

I would affirm Chalmer’s conclusion that consciousness is “fundamental”. And I would go further to argue that it is creative of the material, not somehow just co-equal with the material.

The point of the above discursive comments: To arrive at my conclusion that the core, the foundation or essence of all reality, is unconditional love, I take insights from a variety of sources, from a variety of “evidence”. That evidence leads me to safely conclude that Ultimate Reality is Love of the highest form- that of absolutely no conditions.

As I have noted elsewhere on this page, I see in the general trajectory of the cosmos, life, and civilization a great trend of improvement, from something not as good, toward something better, something more complex, organized, and more suitable for the existence and expression of conscious life. I see endless improvement (rise, not decline) and that progress toward something better reveals goodness behind all things. Infinite Goodness at the core of all.

In this conclusion I am affirming human meaning and purpose in the most profound way. That which is most humane is most true and most real.

Using the material to reason back to the spiritual

When the historical Jesus said that the sun and rain were given to all alike, both just and unjust (Matthew 5:38-48), he was arguing that those natural elements were evidence that God loves all, including the “bad people”, or enemies. God does not discriminate or exclude anyone, no matter how terribly they have acted. God includes all and treats all the same, with unlimited generosity. God does indeed “love enemies”. And from the negative side of Jesus’ argument- God does not engage eye for eye justice, which is to say, God does not retaliate against offenders. God does not engage payback, or punish anyone. Forgiveness is unconditional and unlimited (see also Jesus’ comment about forgiving “seventy times seven”, or in an unlimited manner).

This is hard stuff for many of us to embrace. The felt need for justice as payback or punishment is powerful. But is it authentically human?

I take the reasoning of the sage Jesus, his appeal to elements in material reality (i.e. sun and rain) to explain ultimate reality, as sound reasoning. He based his profound breakthrough insight regarding unconditional love- both the ethical and the theological dimensions- on his understanding that the good things in life reveal the unconditional Goodness behind all life. He used the material realm to explain the spiritual realm in a humane and proper way. (See more detail on his breakthrough insight below on this page)

Most important, I affirm that the best of the human spirit further reveals the nature of ultimate reality as love. The best in humanity points toward something infinitely better. Jesus also reasoned from the best in humanity to deity: (my paraphrase of Luke 11:13) “If you imperfect people know how to be good, how much more is God good, only infinitely more so”. He argued that if we imperfect people knew how to express love toward others, then how much more was God love of a transcendently perfect nature. Jesus saw love in humanity and then reasoned out to an infinitely better love in deity. Again, this was reasoning from something in natural reality back to ultimate reality.

(Side note: I am paraphrasing and changing the words of a respected religious authority? Yes, because he was not clear enough. He was also muddled on other things. Look, for instance, at his take on economics and business. “Give to whoever asks, expecting nothing in return.” I don’t think so. If you are an employer, you are responsible to maintain your business properly in order to continue to provide jobs for your workers. That means subcontractors must pay their bills, even if you must use the legal system to ensure payment. Also, unconditional treatment of all, unconditional generosity toward all, is primarily about the nature of Ultimate Reality. Human exercise of this ideal has to do with personal freedom of choice. It is up to the owner of property to make the free choice of what to do with that property in any given life situation. Again, someone like a business owner has responsibilities toward employees and the security of their jobs so that they may take proper care of their families. Common sense must also apply in the application of our ideals.)


Jesus understood that love of the highest kind- unconditional- explained ultimate truth, ultimate reality. Unconditional love was the highest reach of the human mind and reason. It was the most authentically humane ideal for any person to hold. Embracing his insight, we can safely define ultimate reality with what we know is the ultimate in goodness or the ultimate in humaneness. Absolutely no conditions love. This includes the facets of unlimited forgiveness, universal inclusion of all, and limitless generosity toward all. An infinitely better or more perfect God will exhibit the nature of this unconditional feature to transcendent quality. This is as sane, rational, and safe a conclusion about ultimate reality as we can possibly reach.

Our very ability to imagine something infinitely better also affirms this insight on unconditional. Our highest imagination of ultimate goodness is as valid a line of reasoning as anything else that we have discovered.

So I base my argument that Ultimate Reality (God) is unconditional love, of a scandalous and wondrously transcendent character, on varied lines of “evidence”. I base it on physical evidence, noted above, such as the grand trajectories of the cosmos, life, and civilization, as improving trends. I draw from spiritual traditions such as that of the historical Jesus, someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus. And I note the grand progress of humanity from a barbaric past and our development toward a more humane present. I see that violence has decreased and common love has grown and spread across the human family, and in this I see the presence of an inspiring Consciousness and Life (embodied in the human spirit) that is infinitely better love.

As I noted at the beginning, I also draw insights from the more historically recent Near-Death Experience movement. There is admittedly some strange and even fraudulent stuff going on in that movement, i.e. those accounts that try to affirm traditional religious beliefs such as hell. But there are also some very credible accounts that affirm that Unconditional Love is at the core of all reality. As with anything, I employ some baseline criteria for evaluating things and I apply that to NDE accounts. Overall, I take conscious human experience seriously. It is the most “real” thing that we know of in the cosmos, and it may be the only real thing (the observer of quantum mechanics). And where human experience affirms an authentic unconditional love, then it speaks to the highest and the best that we have discovered. That experience of unconditional is then valid, true, or authentic experience, no matter who had it or how it was achieved. “What is most humane is most true and most real.”

Note: the more credible NDE accounts affirm two elements of unconditional reality- that Ultimate Reality (God) is unconditional love, and that we in our most essential and real self, are that same love. We are not fallen, corrupt creatures. We have inherited an animal brain with animal drives and that results in bad thought and behavior. But that is not our “real self” (see, for instance, Jeffrey Schwartz’ You Are Not Your Brain).

I repeat my introductory paragraph on this subject from the top… “It is simply the most stunning discovery and realization possible for human consciousness. There is nothing else remotely as profound anywhere in the history of human search, discovery, or understanding. I am talking about the discovery that everything in reality (the cosmos, life on Earth) is infused with a creating and sustaining Consciousness that is Love. But it is not just love as we have long understood the term, even as our highest ideal. Other discovery (spiritual traditions) has revealed that the creating and sustaining Love behind all is of the character of unconditional. It is absolutely ‘no conditions’ love.”

Related comment from a discussion group: “The conclusion that unconditional love is at the core of reality is something outside of the mandate and method of science. It is more of a conclusion from the more humanized versions of spiritual traditions, but it also embraces input from the material. For my conclusion, I use as a springboard the highest human ideal of all- love. I reason that the most humane thing that we have ever discovered is therefore the most “true” and most “real” of all things (the comment below highlights this point). This is part of the sound reasoning that I find in the teaching of the historical Jesus.”

Another discussion comment- “Eban Alexander was right in his statement that unconditional love was not only the greatest spiritual or emotional discovery but it was also the greatest scientific truth. He got it. He was overwhelmed by unconditional love through his personal experience and did the best he could to present that, even though clumsily at times (i.e. The butterfly feature that distracted Bill Maher and affirmed his dismissal of NDEs. Maher missed entirely the central discovery of the NDE movement). But Alexander got the point that unconditional Love is the Ground of all, the essence of all, the substance of all reality (the nature of the light behind all things), the creating Source, the Life of all, the Energy infusing all, the nature of the creating Consciousness that we call God. God is love. Nothing is more profound in all reality for a human mind to center on.”

Another- “The power of Jesus’ breakthrough insight comes to one more fully when you contrast it with the history of human thought, and the general themes that have dominated human consciousness over the millennia. I refer to those “bad religious ideas” so prominent in the world religions. Ideas that have engendered such darkness, fear, worry, despair, and more over the millennia. Ideas that have incited and validated too much bad behavior and violence. Survey that incalculable harm done to billions of people over the years and then contrast that misery with this insight that there never was any threat, there never was a punitive deity, and there is no coming destruction. There has always been only transcendent Love behind all. Consider how this liberates and enlightens human consciousness. The larger historical contrast brings out the insight of Jesus all the more clearly and powerfully.”

Another- “Historical Jesus also broke the back of that primitivism about human failure being punished by disease or disaster. He said, “This man was not born blind because of his parent’s sin”. He sundered that correlation as not true. Natural things only speak to natural consequences of natural law. They are not evidence of some harmful metaphysical intention or intervention, certainly not some retaliatory or punitive intention. Again, the historical Jesus conclusion was that there is only infinite Goodness behind all. He spent considerable comment on this relationship between nature and how it could be used to understand the spiritual. And of course, Bob notes correctly that the human spirit is a primary source of “evidence” here also (that love defines deity). The best in humanity speaks to something infinitely better in deity.”

Another- “I have comment on my site noting that ancient people began to reason back from the material to the spiritual. However, they incorrectly picked the aberrational things in the material realm (disaster, disease) to define the Ground of all as punitive. That was a mistake- to conclude that natural disaster, disease, and so on, was evidence of punishing forces or spirits behind all things. Paul made the same mistake in Corinth, reasoning that sickness and death in Corinth were evidence that God was punishing the Corinthians for their sin. That is barbaric and distorting mythology. Jesus broke that pattern of payback reasoning by viewing the best in material reality as an expression of Goodness in deity. He took the most common things in daily reality, in the material world, and made humane conclusions about God as unconditional Love. Good exercise of rationality on his part.”

Another- “We use all sorts of things to help us sort out the fraudulent from the more credible. I use unconditional as the most truthful of baselines from which to evaluate all things. It is ultimate humaneness and therefore ultimate truthfulness and hence ultimate reality. We have discovered nothing more human or humane, and therefore nothing more “true” or “real”. This helps in understanding that ‘love is all’.”

“This new understanding in theology- that unconditional defines the Love that is God- comes from the historical development and progress of humanity. We understand that God is unconditional love because our species has become more human or humane over history. We have progressively learned what it means to be authentically human. We have come to understand that love is our defining ideal. And we have learned that unconditional is the supreme definition of love. We then rightly project this developing understanding out to define God, only in a transcendently better manner. We get it that God is ultimate Goodness or Love.”

Last one- “One of the reasons that I take the time to deal with this “metaphysical bullshit” (the comment of one pissed atheist) is because we need to clean things up at the most basic level if we want to see permanent improvement at more surface levels of existence. I also do it because the metaphysical, in all its variety, is still central to human perception, emotion, and behavior. Just the other night as I watched some late night comedy show to relax (empty chatter to relax the mind for sleep- actually recommended by sleep researchers), several guests brought up this issue of greater punishing forces. Of course, they were being flippant as it was a comedy show, but still it came through as their belief- that because bad things had happened to them so they concluded that they were being punished. One said this in relation to karma (karma was punishing her). The other stated that something bad happening to her was evidence that she was being punished by some greater force or spirit. Their comments affirmed again how common this stuff is in human consciousness. It is accepted as part of the background reality. Nasty natural consequences reveal some form of metaphysical punishing intention or intervention in life. It is as primitive as primitive gets but I hear it everywhere. No one questions it much. So as part of a general approach to unconditional I have been dealing with this ancient perception of retribution at the core of reality.”

Exposing apocalyptic

Why go after the great fraud of apocalyptic? Why pick on apocalyptic mythology in particular? One theologian called apocalyptic the “Mother of all theology”. I would expand that further and call it the Mother of all mythology, and even the mother of much ideology. Apocalyptic has had more influence on human minds than any other body of ideas (i.e. Tabor’s claim that apocalyptic shaped all that Paul said and did, and Paul is the most influential person in history, shaping Western consciousness and culture more than any other single person). Note also Mary Boyce’s statement that Zoroastrianism was the most influential religion in history. Paul took up the core Zoroastrian themes (via Judaism) and shaped Christianity as an apocalyptic religion. And his religion then shaped Western consciousness and is still a dominant narrative today (i.e. environmentalism).

Apocalyptic embraces the single worst idea ever conceived in the human mind- that of a punishing God at the core of reality and life.

I go after apocalyptic because it promotes endless unnecessary despair about life, and too many people take it seriously. Watch how contemporary alarmists regularly traumatize public consciousness with an endless series of exaggerated crises and imminent disasters. The outcome is the widespread sense that life is in decline toward some great catastrophic ending. And note how this irresponsible alarmism scares children with things like “eco-anxiety”. But evidence shows the exact opposite to be true- that life has been steadily and irreversibly rising toward something better than before.

Julian Simon argues that the evidence provides good reason for us to celebrate how well we have been doing in making life something better. That evidence shows that we are not corrupt destroyers of life, we are not a virus or cancer on life. To the contrary, we are compassionate creators of an ever better world for all life. Check the evidence for yourself (see listed sources below). It gives good reason for an optimist narrative. Sure, apocalyptic can be fun as entertainment if taken at the level of something like a Terminator or Zombie movie. But it is utterly pathetic and consciousness-darkening if taken seriously as some expression of truth about life. Apocalyptic distorts life entirely.

This page explores thoroughly what are termed “bad religious ideas”, apocalyptic being prominent in this mix. We see these bad ideas first in the earliest human writing, that of the Sumerians. We assume their writings express what was also believed in the pre-writing or prehistory era.

Those early bad ideas became deeply embedded in human worldviews. They became the archetypes or grand themes of the human subconscious. And those themes have re-emerged endlessly over history. They emerged in ever new versions that were adjusted to differing cultures and societies. But the same core themes are visible in the succeeding versions. Those later versions have continued to express the same deeply rooted subconscious themes that have always shaped human outlook, emotions, and response. Those early bad ideas have long shaped how people see reality and life and how they respond to it.

And those ancient themes are still prominent shaping modern human thought. In the most basic way those core themes express animal drives that have been projected onto the spiritual. Those drives were made sacred in the earliest mythology. The animal and the sacred were pair-bonded at the beginning and have been hard to separate and purge ever since. The damage to emerging human consciousness from the protected animal has been profound. See detail throughout this site on the animal/sacred relationship.

Noble savage mythology:

Stephen LeBlanc (Constant Battles) notes that much of contemporary academia, and the public, believe in some form of “noble savage” mythology. They cling to the idea that in the past there was peace among people and ecological perfection. This thinking expresses the universal desire to believe that things must have been better in the past.

The noble savage myth appears to assume the related myth of the original perfection of all life (Eden, paradise) and then subsequent decline of life and humanity. The noble original people myth argues that humanity has degenerated from the better original species (hunter/gatherer humans) to the more corrupted present species of human (industrial, technological people).

But evidence affirms the very opposite to original noble savage mythology. Early humans were brutal, violent, and engaged in endless warfare. And to the contrary, over our subsequent history we have become notably less violent, more compassionate, more cooperative, and more peaceful. We have become something better than we were before.

Discussion group comment: More on understanding the humane nature of ultimate reality

The following comments are from a discussion where one person was arguing that the dark and violent things in life express something of the ultimate reality behind life, and show a dark side to that reality. I was responding that the nasty things in life- i.e. imperfection- are “aberrational”. They do not represent the dominant, defining theme of life and they do not define in any foundational way the creating Reality behind all. This person was arguing that the dark elements were “conflicting evidence” to my contention that unconditional Love was the true nature of the foundational Reality behind all. (Note: see more comment below on the argument that love is tightly pair-bonded with freedom and how this helps to explain the nastier elements of life.)

My response to the other person:

“(Name), Conflicting evidence? The “aberrational” violence, disaster, and disease in life?

“What about the dominant reality of the emergence and ongoing development of order in the cosmos and life? What about the myriad elements of fine-tuning in reality and life, that make life possible and beneficial. What about the growing complexity of reality and life, and so much more? What about the obvious goodness behind such things? What about the generosity that gives existence in the first place, that gives life, and grants consciousness to life? What about the progress of life toward more complexity, more beauty, and more bounty? What about the grand rise of humanity out of an animal past to become human? Humanity has become more empathic, more loving, and less violent over history. That is the dominant reality and trend in life.

“What about the greater creating Love that allows freedom of choice, learning and development, and patiently tolerates mistakes and imperfection? Not overruling, not intervening to override personal choice and freedom? What about the fact that an ultimate Love honors freedom so highly? What about our subhuman understanding of such incomprehensible Love and its valuation of freedom?

“And what about the commentator who said that to focus excessively on the dark side was “mental masturbation”, self-pitying despair that distorts understanding?

“The evidence argues that the dark side of life is the minority side, the “aberrational” side of things. The great mystery and wonder is the goodness that is everywhere present in existence, in life, and in humanity. Love is everywhere. Why do we not appreciate its prominence and give it the primary place that it occupies in reality and life?

“Apocalyptic, and religious mentality in general, has so distorted human consciousness over history with its darkening, dehumanizing myths that many of us have a hard time seeing the ultimate Goodness behind all. Lotufo comments on this thing of people believing that the core of reality is explained by retribution, or payback (e.g. the Greeks). But that view actually goes back further to the very beginning with the Sumerians already seeing the gods as retaliatory and punishing. That darkening and distorted understanding of reality has shaped human world views from the start. It has made it very hard for people to see what Historical Jesus saw…. that there was ultimate Goodness behind all things… notably in the rain and sun that is given to all alike (non-discriminating, unconditional generosity). Ultimate Goodness is also evident in the fact that there is no punishment behind the disease and accidents of life (e.g. Jesus’ comment that the man born blind was not punished for his parent’s “sin”), and so much more. He added that the great creating and sustaining Reality behind all is Love that cares for each fallen and forgotten sparrow. And on and on.

“Its about choice- we can look at the nasty aberrations of life and conclude from such minority evidence that life is a horror and evil, or we can look at the majority evidence and conclude rightly that there is unconditional love at the core of all, behind all things. Love that respects freedom everywhere. Authentic love.

“Why so many people continue to choose against the best evidence and conclude that its all misery and darkness and ugliness…well, pardon my bluntness but that is wrong-headed understanding and choice…. (Just a caution: I would tread carefully here so as not to appear to downplay or dismiss the horror that life brings to many people via natural disaster, disease, or from the cruelty of others. What I am trying to do is to provide a larger context of hope)…

“We have endlessly urged people to read the amassed evidence of such great researchers as Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, and so many others. It becomes more and more inexcusable to continue to wallow around in this self-pitying mental masturbation when so much evidence points to such goodness behind all things. Julian Simon carefully looked at masses of evidence on the major elements and trends of life and concluded things were getting better. The evidence changed entirely his worldview and ended his depression once and for all.

“I’m stating things a bit bluntly, but its time for us to rise above the subhuman and enslaving impact of this apocalyptic nuttiness.

Response to other comment on the darker elements of life:

“I am not arguing for some thoughtless resignation and toleration in the face of suffering in life, or some giving-in acceptance of the nasty elements of life. Whatever some greater purpose might be for suffering, we respond at the level of our current understanding and feeling about these things. And that drives us to try to stop all forms of suffering. To do all that we can to solve suffering, and to end it forever.

“There appears to be, at times, some forms of excuse-making in religious traditions with regard to human suffering. Religious people will argue re suffering that “It builds character”. Or it exists “so that we can learn lessons”. Now there may be some truth to these responses so I would not entirely reject such thinking. But really, what did that young 12 year old girl in Somalia learn when those 3 men raped her, and then after she complained to the village leaders, they charged her with adultery and had her buried to her neck in a local stadium and stoned to death? What do such traumatized and terrorized people learn in the last few hours or moments of their lives? What character is built in trauma and terror?

“No. The only human response is that such suffering has to stop. Entirely and forever. No matter what it might mean in some greater scheme of things.

Comment: This page urges readers to look at the improving trends of life and take hope from that overall rise toward something better. This is not to deny the horrors we see daily on our TVs. It is an advocacy for proper perspective on horror. If you consider disaster and cruelty as evidence of some overall decline of life toward something worse then you are undermining hope.

So I urge that we place all problems in a larger context of the grand trajectory of life. That trajectory reveals such things as a long term decline in violence. It shows that our compassion-fueled endeavors to make life better are gradually working. Evidence affirms this. The future will be much better for our children. Context is critical and it affirms hope.

Comment on the forgiving response of the church members in Charleston after their fellow Christians were killed by the deranged young man.

“I am with you ____ on taking more time to engage such a powerful response (i.e. forgiving their offender right after the crime). It does not feel “natural” to do as they did. Like the shooting at that elementary school a few years back. One Evangelical father stepped outside just the day or two after to say that he was forgiving the killer of his little girl. I felt…”No”… give yourself a bit of time to process that horror…, to feel rage, anger, even what we call hate, and then wrestle with responding with something like forgiveness. Let yourself feel as most people do. But then, who understands the “supernatural” impulses that also surge through our consciousness, where that comes from and what it is all about.


“____, this is distorting caricature…your comment that ”Forgiveness seems so cheap and easy”. What they did in Charleston was courage beyond what most of us will ever be called on to demonstrate. True strength. As Dr. Martin Luther King said long before, “They exemplified the strength of love”. Gandhi said the same, “The weak can never forgive… forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. Look at the dying Jesus, in horrific pain, tortured beyond comprehension, but remembering to forgive his tormentors (“Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”). Courage, strength, and humanity beyond anything that most of us will ever experience. The wonder and power of love.

Just an aside:

“Quote from Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian journalist kidnapped in Somalia and brutally raped and tortured. One of the things she expressed after her captivity, “True power is derived from kindness”. I am endlessly awed by the human spirit.

Further response to the argument that forgiveness and love toward offenders equates with weakness, or mushy response, or that it automatically means dogmatic pacifism.

“To clarify more… yes, you have to stop Hitler, you have to stand up to the bully, you have to take control of those who cannot control their own worst impulses, and lock them up if necessary. But you do all of that in a spirit of love, not retaliation or payback. Not ‘getting even’. You act for the best interests of all people, at all times. That will keep you from triumphalism after you “back down your enemies” (i.e. the Soviets). Not gloating that you “won the Cold War” and “beat the Russkies”. Humiliating your opponent. See the comment of the Chinese sage on this (i.e. no triumphalism after engaging war to defend oneself). Or Mandela. As Payne says, you engage war to protect yourself, but you do so looking for ways to lessen your forceful protective response and to facilitate the ongoing decline of violence over history. Pinker gives similar good detail on declining violence over history and how to decrease it further. Encouraging the growth of empathy among many other things.

Another: “Yes ____. You did recommend Hector Garcia’s “Alpha God” to us. Thanks. And just as important to understanding that our violence springs from our inherited animal brain/nature, so equally important is to get Lotufo and Garcia’s point. Something I have been arguing for decades. That early people projected their inherited animal features onto their gods and then used those ideals and authorities to incite, inspire, and validate their worst impulses and actions toward others. The animal and the sacred have been tightly pair-bonded from the beginning and that explains why the animal still persists in human society, in our religions and justice systems as payback.

“And no one has ever argued for your straw-man view of stopping psychopaths with love. Hence, our repeated statements that love is responsible to protect against evil. But over the long term, human violence has decreased and human society has become less violent because of the growth and development of love, notably unconditional love. Again, excellent histories of violence- Payne and Pinker- show this. And its also evident in the response of Mandela. It is love in the mix that leads to that better, non-violent future, just as it does with children and criminals, in rehabilitation programs.

“Violent wars have not “generated peace”. That is a denial of the evidence. They may have halted outbreaks of violence for a while, but they have not set forth the alternative better future. They have not provided the full program for a more peaceful future. Payne and Pinker both wrestle with this and the dynamics involved.

Comment on Obama’s speech at the Charleston church memorial…

“If you did not see it on CNN, get a hold of a video of Obama’s speech at the remembrance service for the slain people in Charleston. Excellent. Unconditional is what Christians refer to in using the term “grace”. Underserved, unearned goodness from God. Unmerited. Obama was wrestling with this throughout his speech. But the full liberating impact gets lost in the conditional context of Christian atonement thinking. But let not my quibble on that detract from what the man expressed. I have all sorts of disagreements with his policies but I affirm the spirit of the man. His humanity. His groping for unconditional. Go Obama, go.

Comment on the full context for understanding the dark side…

“Someone suggested that my positive take on life as progressing toward something better was too Pollyanna. And my equally positive conclusion that the Ultimate Reality behind life was unconditional love, was also too Pollyanna. My response is that to reach proper conclusions about the true state of life, or anything in life, you must look at the complete picture. It is not about optimism or pessimism but about the actual state of something based on all the evidence available. It is about the correct perception of life according to the best evidence. My conclusion after considering the evidence is that it overwhelmingly supports a positive, hopeful view of life. It also affirms the dominant goodness of the ultimate creating and sustaining reality behind life.

“Understanding the true state of something- e.g. that life is improving- does not entail denying or downplaying the element of horror in life- the traumatizing outcomes from accident, natural disaster, disease, and the cruelty of others. But I would argue that we should not be swamped and overly discouraged by such things. The brutality in life should not shape our perception toward hopelessness, resignation, or fatalism, and cause us to give way to the disheartening sense that everything is going to hell in a hand-basket, that it’s all heading for disaster of some kind.

“So yes, we look the brutal aspects of life in the face but then find inspiration against the despair-generating power of such darkness. Unfortunately, over history apocalyptic mythology has played a prominent role in distorting human perception of the actual state of life, and has pushed people to see only the worst in life and to conclude that it’s all heading for some catastrophic ending. Apocalyptic generates despair and has ruined life for many. It is still a dominant feature in much contemporary story-telling.

“Good evidence shows that the opposite of apocalyptic is true for understanding the true state of life. This is not shallow optimism (i.e. Martin Seligman- the post-World War 2 trend in academia to claim that optimism was shallow, while pessimism was deep). It’s about actual reality and the true state of humanity and life. Its about the overall state of something and the long term trends affecting that thing. Consider that evidence when making conclusions about things. Evidence from the overall status of life, and the long-term trajectory of life, affirms that things are generally getting better.”

Other posts:

“____, just a comment or two on some things that you have mentioned in past posts. And I get it that you are probably playing devil’s advocate in your comments. You have said things about taking some of the darker elements of life and reasoning back to deity from those. That we should conclude that tragedy in life reveals something other than unconditional love at the core of all. It shows a nasty side to God.

“I would point to Historical Jesus to counter this argument. He denied that the harsher elements of life defined God in any way. You see none of this in his reasoning (at least in the Historical Jesus).

“He, to the contrary, affirmed that the better elements of life defined God as ultimate goodness and generosity, as unconditional love. Several lines of evidence express this. For instance, he saw the best in people as defining God as infinitely better (i.e. “if you being evil know how to give good gifts, then how much more is God good”). And in the natural world, the dominant elements of life (sun and life-giving rain) revealed unconditional generosity toward all.

“And he also argued from the negative that the bad things (i.e. the man born blind was not punished) do not reveal God punishing or taking vengeance on imperfection.

“I would follow this same type of reasoning to make conclusions about ultimate realities- God. And I confidently see all this as pointing clearly to unconditional love at the core of all. I have been thinking about this because of Lotufo’s comments on the Greek view that retribution was at the core of reality. This is a very common element in most people’s worldview. Look at comment on karma today. That it reveals a strict payback at the core of the cosmos and life. This misses the excellent reasoning of Historical Jesus based that unconditional love is at the core of reality and life.


Karma may serve some usefulness in relating to the natural consequences of natural law, namely, if you fulfil or violate natural law then you suffer related natural consequences. For instance, step off a high cliff and you will get hurt. Or, to the positive, plant seeds and you will get a crop. This even goes into social relating- be nice and you often get nice in return. Be nasty and you often get nasty in return. So people use karma to explain such natural consequences of life in the natural world with intimations that this points to some larger explanation about all reality (i.e. cosmic purposes and intentions).

But karma fails even as a full explanation regarding the natural realm because a larger and foundational generosity overwhelms karma’s supposed explanatory power about payback in the material world. Even the historical Jesus saw this greater foundational Goodness in his claim that the sun and rain (the good life-giving things of the natural realm) fell on all alike, both just and unjust. People did not get the ‘just results’ of their behavior, they did not get what they “deserved” (the natural consequences of their behavior), because even the “bad” people got the good things of the natural realm. And one could argue that the good given generously to all alike (sun and rain) is the prominent reality of the natural realm.

So be careful how you use karma to explain even the natural world. Karma points only to some limited natural consequences of the natural realm. It certainly says nothing about the nature of the greater creating and sustaining reality behind all, about its intentions and the outcomes toward people and their behavior. Sun and rain- prominent features of the natural world- point more to the overwhelming generosity that is expressed toward all people, and that is the underlying and dominant nature of all reality- both natural and spiritual. There is nothing karmic about this.

Authentic Liberalism- Its all about freedom.

(Note: I have used the term Leftist below not to disparage anyone of that persuasion, but just to define a political/economic approach. I know many good Leftist/Socialist people that exhibit genuine compassion and decency toward all. I embrace their concerns about poverty, fairness, exclusion/inclusion, and the success of all. Also, I would argue that most people in the Western tradition, and elsewhere, are intuitively liberal in the sense of valuing individual freedom. The great tussle between the Left and the Right is often over how much freedom people should be allowed and how much state control there should be. This tussle is located very much in the argument over the size of government. William Bernstein in The Birth of Plenty notes the debates over the size of government as a portion of GDP and what is best for any given country- should government be at 20%, or 30%, or 40%? And the term “government” refers to state programs, taxation, and regulation. Milton Freidman argued that the optimal size of government, including local, state, and federal, should be around 15%. This would allow the most good for the most people and best enhance individual freedom. Further, my comments below are not some reflexive defense of the Right, a Western sector of society that often intervenes and controls human lives in the social arena. Both Left and Right need to respect freedom in all areas of life.)

The West has given the world the priceless heritage of Classic Liberalism via Britain (i.e. from the Magna Carta on down to parliamentary democracy). The Magna Carta may be considered as the first anti-bullying document. Kings were not to be treated as special, and not permitted to abuse others. All were to be equal and protected legally.

The key feature of this Classic Liberal tradition is the protection of individual freedom and individual property rights (protection from monarchal/state confiscation).

The modern Illiberal Left has never fully understood how individual freedom works to benefit life. Hence, Socialism has often stubbornly countered individual freedom with a collectivist vision, what it terms the “greater good”. This is more a moral/mythical perspective than an economic/political approach. Unfortunately, this Leftist collectivist route to some form of utopia has too often resulted in totalitarian outcomes. And the totalitarian outcome has always perplexed Socialists no end- why their collectivist programs persistently turn tyrannical. Former Socialist Joshua Muravchik, in his excellent history of Socialism, Heaven on Earth, details the unavoidable totalitarian outcomes from collectivist movements.

Yes, there is an element of freedom in the more contemporary collectivist programs (i.e. social democracy). But in any collectivist system, somebody must run the collective for the “benefit” of all members. Hence, there is often more freedom for the “enlightened elites” that run the show while they employ state coercion to ensure that all others serve their vision of the greater good. You see this in the use of central state power to enforce interventionist control via excessive and burdensome social programs, taxation redistribution, and onerous regulation. Enlightened vanguard Socialists have long believed that average people are just too ignorant to know what is best for themselves so they must be coerced into adopting the vision of the enlightened elite. And I don’t question that many subservient members of these systems also support the overall collectivist program.

Also interesting here is that the current environmental movement has been populated by Leftist refugees from failed communist movements of the pre-1990s era. They continue to agitate for centralized control of economies and lives via UN organizations like the IPCC. All for the “greater good” of the planet.

I am not denying the importance of contributing to some greater public good. But how do we best promote that good? Historical evidence shows that greater public good is a natural by-product of the creativity that is unleashed through individual freedom. This is the point of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” producing greater societal good via self-interest. Collectivists- Socialists, Communists, Greens- believe that individuals should be coerced to subsume their freedom to central state dictates that enforce the greater good.

Collectivist’s will claim that they are not undermining individual freedom, what with their emphasis on local “democracy” meetings to decide all things in local situations. But those are often just the microcosm expressions of the larger collectivism. They are about centralism pushed at the local level under the appearance of democracy (enforced “localism”, also part of a larger anti-trade, anti-market program). The local meetings must adhere strictly to the central collectivist vision. Collectivists do not trust average citizens with “too much” freedom to make the right choices. In the collectivist vision, individual freedom of choice has long been demonized as selfishness and it opens the door to evil “greed” (i.e. “self-interest”).

You would think that we would have learned the lessons by now- what with the last century’s horrific outcomes from its varied experiments with collectivism. Note, for example, the human impoverishment and environmental damage from Russian and Chinese collectivism- their central planning of resource use, aside from the wisdom of individual choice.

Freedom saves all

Our efforts to protect individual freedom since the early 1800s have given us the most powerful evidence of all that protected individual freedom works best to improve life for all. Over the last few centuries we have unleashed individual human creativity as never before in history and we are still just beginning. People have been set free to solve problems, to invent, produce, sell, trade, and buy, and they have created new wealth, lifted billions out of poverty, extended the human lifespan, ended diseases, learned to protect life from natural disasters, and overall improved the environment as never before.

This unleashing of individual creativity did not originate with monarchy or state government but it arose from the historical movement of Classic Liberalism, the project to protect individual freedom from state interference and control. Classic Liberalism has been more of a bottom-up movement and not a top-down movement.

How successful has it been? Look, for example, at the individual creativity of people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and millions of others in small, medium, and large businesses. Creating products, services, and jobs for billions of people. Making life better for all. These people and their creativity were not the product of the central state bureaucracies that have more often obstructed and hindered individual creativity. Central governments have undeniable records of burdening and hindering business, and wasting the time and resources of creative people.

The fundamental issue is to trust people with freedom. Sure, given freedom some people will screw up, but most are responsible and will successfully better themselves and their families. That drive for personal success has been termed the motivation of “self-interest”. Collectivists have never understood this basic human motivation and have wrongly damned it as selfishness and greed. This distorted assumption is behind collectivist efforts to restrain self-interest and to force redistribution of other people’s success (i.e. wealth redistribution).

The desire for something better for oneself and one’s family has more to do with basic human love.

Comment: Socialists/collectivists present themselves as the noble defenders of the greater good and as the embodiment of authentic compassion for the poor. They demonize what they call the harsh selfishness of the market system that is oriented to “evil profit”. But they have things entirely backwards. The proof of good from any system is in the outcomes of that system. One (the free market system) has liberated billions of people from dehumanizing poverty. The other (centralized state control) has repressed economic development and growth. It has hindered wealth creation and thereby harmed the poorest, as well as causing immense environmental damage (e.g. Soviet Union over the past century, and the growing pile of environmental alarmist fiascos).

Comment: You do not have to like the fact that some people make millions or billions of dollars. But understand how that benefits all, including yourself. Business- small, medium, large- is the creator of wealth in a society. And wealth creation is fundamental to any other good that you wish to accomplish in a society (i.e. to pay for social programs, to improve the environment). Business people invest their money to create new products, new wealth, new services, and new jobs.

An example of Leftists getting it:
The Communists in France, under Mitterand’s early 1980s Socialist government, were forced to recognize the critical role of business in creating wealth because of the disastrous outcome of implementing their system of central control. They tried to nationalize sectors of the French economy and that caused the economy to tank within their first year of governance. They immediately reversed course and backed off from intervening in the business sector, stating that they recognized that “business was the creator of wealth in society” (again, see Muravchik’s Heaven on Earth).

It ought to be evident now how wrong-headed it is to demonize business success and then to try to hinder or coercively redistribute that success. That Leftist approach does not understand wealth creation and too often ends up harmfully disrupting economic growth and development. Further, see William Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty for the basic principles of wealth creation.

The urge to push central planning also has to do with the perverse moralistic urge to intervene and control other’s lives because some people believe that they alone know what is best for others. Those have often been the most dangerous people in life, satisfying their control impulse through totalitarian systems. That busy-body, meddling control is a failure to trust average people with freedom.

We all have the right to try to persuade one another in the free market of ideas. But we have no right to seek to coerce others via state mechanisms and central control. And economic freedom is the critical basis of all other freedoms. Wealth creation is fundamental to all other good in society, critical to all the social programs that people want, and essential to environmental protection and improvement.

Another line of comment: One quick short-cut to alleviate endless and irresponsible alarmism is to go directly to the foundational issue behind most alarmism and offer the following general affirmation: There is no ultimate threat behind life, whether spiritual or natural. There is no ultimate punishment, exclusion, or destruction. Everyone is safe, included, and fully forgiven. All will receive the full generosity of ultimate reality (Universe, Mind, Consciousness, God, or however you define Ultimate Reality). This assurance goes to the deepest roots of human fear, anxiety, and meaning. To put it plainly in theological terms- there is no anger, threat, or payback in deity. This “spiritual insight” cuts a significant taproot that has long fed human fear.

Humanity’s signally damaging original error was to believe there were violent or punishing forces/spirits behind life. That has contributed to endless varieties of alarmist thinking over history.

Our most important discovery, to counter that original error, is that unconditional love and generosity exists at the core of reality and life. We see this core goodness expressed in the endless rise and improvement of life (and yes, its more complex than just this- see new comment below on Defining Ultimate Reality). This unconditional discovery overturns entirely the whole mess of bad religious ideas that we have inherited.

Punitive deity myth has caused more damage to human consciousness and existence than any other single idea. No conditions reality has the potential for more liberation and benefit to life than anything else ever discovered. This is a central argument of this page. Ah, but I am repeating myself.

Note also new comment that “what is most humane defines what is most true and most real”. It might help to answer one of the most fundamental of human questions- Why something?- with the enhancing insight- What does it mean to be human/humane? This will help us get closer to ultimate truth and the nature of ultimate reality.

Trigger warning.

Just kidding.

Religious visitors to this site may feel intimidated by what appear to be harshly negative comments regarding their religious belief systems. Let me re-assure such visitors that I affirm repeatedly any expression of the authentic human spirit, whatever the context that it is found within, religious or secular. And I affirm any and all attempts to reform religious traditions toward more moderate stances.

What I am proposing here is as old as human consciousness- the ongoing project to distinguish between the bad and the good, between the human and the inhuman. I am advocating the age-old endeavor to fully humanize all thought and action in human society. There is still too much residue of the inhuman at the very core of the great religious traditions. We can do much better.

Religious traditions should never be out-of-bounds to the humanizing project that has been extended to all of the rest of human thought and life. This is especially important because the core themes of religious traditions have long served as humanity’s highest ideals and authorities.

Comment: Some acquaintances have told me that the optimistic views presented on this page are “too Pollyanna”. My response is that an embrace of hope based on the best available evidence is not Pollyanna. And embracing hope or optimism does not entail the denial of the horror and trauma that life brings to many people. Authentic hope is about understanding the true state of reality and life as overall progressing toward something better, no matter what our personal experience of life entails. The greater context of life is the proper baseline from which to evaluate all things.

More on Pollyanna

Others have argued that the unconditional approach on this site is just too mushy to deal with the harsh realities of a cruel world. Unconditional treatment of all is a “weak response to evil”. Its application would produce dangerous outcomes with the bad guys getting off easy. So to be safe, we must maintain the threat of coercive punishment in order to keep people in line. We must threaten, engender fear, and control by force to ensure order is maintained and people do the right thing. Their argument is that we need “robust justice systems with strong elements of payback and punishment” to deal with bad people and maintain order in society.

A Balancing Approach

In response, let me first affirm to the advocates of strong payback justice that, yes, there is cruelty and horror throughout life, though often blown all out of proportion and employed to define the general trend of life as worsening. But yes, it is present all through life. And there is still too much of it. However, it is critical to sustained optimism that we maintain a clear view of the overall state of things, the bigger picture, as progressing toward something better. While problems exist everywhere in life, the evidence is that we are improving life on all the main fronts, notably in decreasing violence. Our efforts to make life something better are working well. This evidence sustains hope to continue to engage life and improve it even more. Exaggerating alarmism over remaining imperfection distorts our progress and undermines hope.

Further, the old payback justice approach has failed. It does not deal properly with the foundational issues behind the harsh cruelties of human life. Note that the discipline of psychology has exposed the failure of punishment-oriented approaches. Those approaches do not work with children or criminal offenders (see, for example, the Australian Psychology Society paper further below). My counter argument is that an unconditional approach is the most potent response at the foundational levels of human consciousness and experience. Far from being too Pollyanna or weak, it is the most robust response to what is most fundamentally wrong in life. Contrary to the claim that unconditional exhibits human weakness in dealing with evil, only the most courageous of people are able to engage unconditional in the project to make life something better. For example, see the comments of Martin Luther King and Gandhi below, as related to forgiveness after the Charleston shooting.

To further reassure the doubters, let me repeat that embracing unconditional is not a call for pacifism in the face of evil. We recognize that a small minority of the human family are responsible for most human violence and must be dealt with appropriately in order to protect others. Again, news media do not present that minority within a proper evidence-based perspective. Media tend to focus inordinately on the misbehaviour of that minority, giving the impression that their impact is common, widespread, and worsening. Media tend to generalize the minority aberration all out of context and out of proportion to its actual status and influence. That does not help us to understand the true state of things (again, see David Altheide’s Creating Fear: News and the Manufacture of Crisis).

But yes, those destructive few must be restrained if they are not able to restrain themselves, or are unwilling to restrain their worst impulses. However, even that preventative action must be done in the spirit of unconditional treatment of all. We are most authentically human when we act restoratively toward all others, not punitively.

Another: See new comment below on the struggle to maintain hope in a better ultimate reality (ultimate Goodness), while fully recognizing the imperfection that is experienced all through life. I embrace the view that life exists as a learning process. Hence, the necessary presence of imperfection in the slow and messy historical process, and our struggle with that imperfection.

Related: Few people make a clear distinction between the present imperfection of life and the ultimate Goodness that creates and sustains life (that intuitive process of reasoning from the known to the unknown). Many continue to project the imperfection of life- features such as vengeance, violence, destruction- onto Ultimate Reality (the gods) and then define the Ultimate in terms of such imperfection. Mythology and theology have always done this. Hence, the monster gods of religion.

And once again- Is it really necessary to engage this issue of Ultimate Reality? Yes. Ultimate ideals and authorities still shape and guide the consciousness of most people. And there is still too much residual inhumanity in such ideals.

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Site Comment: Section Two- The foundational error in human thought- that there are punishing, violent forces or spirits behind life; A potent response to the original pathology- the discovery of absolutely no conditions love; Challenging the Greek view that retribution is at the core of reality; Main indicators of the true state of life- the status of forests, fisheries, soils, species; Confronting alarmism with hope based on the best available evidence; The problem of conditional religion; Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas; Theism/Atheism debate; A model of religion and violence; Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology; Inoculate children against religious pathology; Garcia on Alpha God; Pessimism as mental masturbation; Moore celebrate CO2.

Contact: wkrossa@shaw.ca copyright Wendell Krossa

(Previous section summary: This site explores the foundational error in human thought since the beginning- the belief that there are violent and punishing forces, or spirits, behind life. That error was long ago expressed in primitive apocalyptic mythology, in the Sumerian Flood myth where the gods would punish and destroy imperfect people. The punishing deity myth then sparked the response of salvation religion- the felt obligation to appease angry, vengeful gods with sacrifice. Punitive deity is a profoundly anti-human mythology that views people as fallen, corrupt, and deserving punishment. The original error has re-emerged over history in endless new versions, both religious and secular. The Greeks stated it in their belief that retribution was at the core of reality. More recently, 19th Century Declinism, and its offspring of environmental alarmism, have expressed the punishing deity belief in angry planet mythology or the revenge of Gaia against humanity…

We have the potent response to that original pathology in the discovery that “no conditions” (unconditional love) defines the core of reality. This ideal liberates entirely from the monstrous error of punitive, threatening deity. Unconditional takes us to the heights of authentically humane understanding and existence. It purges entirely the worst features of past mythological and religious thought. It is humanity’s greatest discovery, ever. See also the comment on the mythology behind environmental alarmism.)

New comment below: challenging the Greek view that just retribution, or payback, is at the core of reality; the “Atheism/Theism” debate; Patrick Moore on “Celebrating CO2″; also “Inoculate children against religious pathology”; “Confronting alarmism with hope based on the best available evidence”; “Jewish apocalyptic expressing the animal impulse”; “Animal-like subservience to alpha gods” (comment on Hector Garcia’s “Alpha God”); “Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology”; pessimism as “mental masturbation”; and more discussion group comment.

The two most basic things

This site gives intense focus to two basic ideas or ideals- that of violent, punishing deity, and the entirely contrasting ideal of unconditional reality. Why? Because the violent deity myth- the single most profound error in early human thought- can be viewed as responsible for causing more damage to human consciousness and existence than anything else in history. And the other- the reality of absolutely no conditions love- has the potential for more liberation and benefit to life than anything ever discovered by humanity. The nature of these two realities provokes some extravagant language throughout this site.

I have repeatedly contrasted these two and their impacts on human consciousness, behavior, and society- the horrific damage and waste from the one and the liberating and humanizing power of the other. They represent the worst and the best, the lowest and the highest in human understanding and existence.

Over history, an incalculable amount of confusion, suffering, despair, violence, and waste can be traced back to the myth of violent, punishing God. This one idea, more than any other, has caused an immense surge of misery through human consciousness and society over the millennia. It has been the foundational myth in much historical religion, where it resides as sacred and therefore unquestionable and untouchable (protected under “the canopy of the sacred”).

The myth of threatening, punitive deity- rooted in perceptions that payback or retribution is fundamental to existence- has long been employed to define the core of reality and has consequently shaped the foundations of human worldviews (see Zenon Lotufo’s comment on Greek cosmology below). Punitive deity has inspired the harsher features of human ethics and is the theological basis of payback justice systems where people feel obligated to punish human imperfection. It has often been used as the supreme validation for violence toward others. See ISIS for a contemporary example of human appeal to punitive, violent deity to justify violence toward outsiders to one’s religion.

The original error of violent, punishing deity is directly responsible for birthing apocalyptic mythology- the threat of an angry, vengeful god causing the great ending of life, the final punishment of humanity, and the destruction of the world (a purging of the corrupted world). That myth has been one of the most dominant beliefs over history and is still prominent everywhere today. It has incited unnecessary fear, guilt, despair, and depression among people. The myth of violent, vengeful deity also sparked the emergence and development of salvation religion, where people under divine threat have felt obligated to pay for sin. The salvation industry has been a great drag on humanity and it has wasted an immense amount of human time, effort, and resources that could have been better spent in more productive activity directed toward improving the human condition.

But, some argue, salvation is an ideal that gives hope to people. I would respond to this by asking- is Salvationism about authentic human hope? Salvation thinking responds to the fraudulent threat of divine damnation. It embraces the equally fraudulent myth that humanity is fallen and sinful. Salvationism demands the perverse solution of blood sacrifice and states that people who do not meet its conditions are lost in some horrifying way (i.e. hell). What kind of hope is based on such barbarity? A more humane perspective would base its hope on the more humane ideal of ultimate unconditional reality.

Consider other related ideas and practices that have been sparked by the original bad idea, such as the dehumanizing submission of people to dominating alpha gods and threatening authority figures (i.e. the myth that people were created to serve the gods via subservience to the proxies of the gods such as pharaohs, kings, ruling priesthoods, or political elites). Other derivative bad beliefs and practices include the obligation of true believers to separate from enemies (the unbelievers), the destruction of outsiders to the “true religion” (crusades and other violence against infidels and heretics), and the belief in the decline of life toward disaster, along with all the fatalism and resignation that such belief engenders. And on and on. A vast wasteland of confusion and misery generated from that one original error of punitive and violent deity. Just consider the immense distress and suffering that has burdened so many billions of people over history as they have tried to placate the monstrous Lie that never existed in the first place.

The misery and suffering from that original bad idea did not end with the modern scientific era. We have secular versions embodying the same old religious error- notably 19th Century Declinism (see The Idea of Decline by Arthur Herman), now expressed in environmental alarmism. This Green religion has revived ultimate threat in such myths as that of angry Gaia seeking revenge on corrupt and destructive humanity, along with angry planet mythology, and karma (note comment below on karma in relation to recycling). Greens also maintain the felt need to make some atoning sacrifice, which in their religion involves giving up prosperity and returning to a more simple or primitive lifestyle- i.e. embracing the myth of the “morally superior” simple life, or “noble savage” mythology.

Think of the emotional and general psychological impact on people that live under all this threat of ultimate condemnation, punishment, and rejection.

Fortunately, we also have the discovery that blows this confusion and misery away and liberates humanity into an authentically humane understanding and existence. I refer to the discovery that ultimate reality is “absolutely no conditions”, or unconditional love. This discovery states that there is no threat behind life, there is no looming punishment, no payment or atonement is required, and there is no demand for domination/submission forms of relating. All people are included, forgiven, and generously loved. None are excluded. The core of reality is incomprehensible freedom, love, and infinite generosity. This greatest insight and discovery liberates from all fear of punishment, from fear of some final exclusion or loss. It frees and inspires our human spirit toward authentic humane existence.

Explore with us the development of these two great ideas and the narratives built on them, along with the outcomes that they have generated throughout human existence.

When you purge that original bad idea and replace it with the no conditions discovery, then you correct vast areas of historical pathology and thoroughly liberate consciousness and life. Pull that core error and the foundations of much pathology in human consciousness and society will unravel completely.

So yes, I provide an intense focus on these two primary ideas/ideals and their associated outcomes because of their profound impacts on human thought and life over history.

(Note: To fully correct the original bad idea of violent, punitive deity, you also have to resolve the distorted thinking that supports that bad idea. I refer to the wrong conclusion that the harsher elements of the natural world are in some way an expression of the ultimate reality behind nature- that a harsh deity punishes people through natural disaster, disease, or the cruelty of others. This distortion in human thought emerged at the beginning and continues today. People too often reason wrongly from the harsh elements of life- the imperfection of life- and project such aberrations onto deity, as defining ultimate reality somehow.)

Disorienting Admission- News media/public commentators on world violence continue to neglect what is arguably the most critical factor in religiously incited violence- the religious ideal of violent deity. The ideal of a threatening, violent God- notably as expressed in apocalyptic millennial mythology- has long incited the worst impulses in people, just as we are seeing again today in ISIS. This ideal has inspired the same violence in the histories of Christianity and Judaism.

(Note: See a more “balanced” appraisal of Christianity below)

Using the threat of severe punishment if you fail to obey, the violent apocalyptic God demands that his followers oppose and destroy their “enemies” in order to prompt the onset of the great apocalyptic purging of the world, and bring on the promised paradise. Apocalyptic, in all its varied historical versions, has repeatedly brought out the worst in people. Note another contemporary destructive movement that is inspired in part by apocalyptic thinking- the unrelenting assault by environmental alarmists on human industrial society and progress.

Western religious people respond uncomfortably to the fact that ISIS apocalyptic relies heavily on Christian apocalyptic teaching (see David Cook’s Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature for detail). Note also Arthur Herman’s “The Idea of Decline” which shows something of the influence of Christian apocalyptic themes on environmental alarmism. Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) further reveals that Christian apocalyptic millennialism influenced the mass-death movements of Marxism and Nazism. It is always the same old, same old damaging mythology, and Christianity is primarily responsible for bringing this pathological mythology into the modern world.

Given the historical evidence, it is now irresponsible to deny the central ideal of the violent deity that shapes this inhuman mythology and incites human violence. But agreed, as Landes notes, it is just too disorienting for many religious people to admit the role that their religious ideas have played in promoting so much barbaric inhumanity across history.

If it helps the religious mind, and alleviates the traumatic disorientation of admitting the destructiveness of one’s religious beliefs, we have the potent answer to this religious barbarity. It lies in the project to purge entirely the darker elements in Western religion that incite and validate violence. Especially important here- recognize what is commonly understood as “bad religious ideas”, and purge those from your religious ideals. And then, most critical, radically humanize your ultimate ideal and authority of deity. Fully humanize your God with the ultimate ideal of love as absolutely unconditional. This is the most potent response to win the long-term “battle of ideas” with violent religious movements like ISIS.

Excerpts from discussion group comment further below…

(The following material discusses a quote from Lotufo) “In previous pages Zenon Lotufo explains why it is hard for many to get around the punishment issue and embrace the unconditional treatment of all people. Payback has long been viewed as the defining core of the cosmos. He notes the Greek views on this. But this belief that punishment is foundational to reality actually goes back much further when the earliest gods were defined in terms of payback retaliation, or vengeance (i.e. the Sumerian Flood myth as a great act of vengeance or punishment from the gods).

“Payback punishment is viewed as supporting the very underlying order of the universe. It is understood as structuring both nature and society. Many believe that it is the essence of all order. As Lotufo says, “Retribution is inscribed at the center of the universe and nothing escapes it”. This is understood in the statement, “All things are moral”. Retribution is fundamental law. “Punishment is the way balance is restored” (he had noted earlier the long-held impulse of most people for homeostasis, or healthy balance, and that such balance is believed to be the outcome of exercising payback justice). “It (payback justice) is in the world and the world was made by it”. And so on.

“The problem here is that people have long believed that the natural cause and effect that is found all through life, that this expresses some greater divine intention or intervention, often punishment. They conclude that the sometimes harsh outcomes of natural cause and effect in life (i.e. natural disaster, disease) express some greater punishing force behind life. People then conclude that there is divine retribution, or payback, at the core of reality. This perverts understanding of life and its natural processes.

“This belief that payback punishment is at the core of reality explains why it is difficult for many people to grasp an alternative to primitive retaliation worldviews…why many fail to grasp the “no conditions” love at the core of reality.

“But as the historical Jesus advocated (note carefully- not the Christian Jesus), we need to replace that old payback core with the most humane ideal that we have discovered- unconditional love. The embrace of unconditional, or absolutely no conditions love, at the core of all reality will provide a new humane theology as the basis for a humane systems of ethics.

“Think again of Bob’s new read of John’s gospel, chapter one …”In the beginning was Love. Love was in the world and all things were made by Love”. This changes everything for the better. It is a radical new understanding of the core nature of reality. It is the new thing that Jesus tried to introduce in his central theme and great breakthrough insight of unconditional theology. No more “eye for eye”, but rather “love your enemies…because God does”. Unfortunately, Paul buried that unconditional insight in the payback theology of his Christian religion.

The human struggle or adventure.

Our modern human species began to emerge about 150,000 years ago. Then about 100,000 years ago, our line of humanity began the great exodus out of Africa to explore and populate the world. But a far more profound exodus was taking place during that time- the emergence of a strikingly new human consciousness in our species was sparking an exodus out of animal existence/behavior and into a new more human existence/behavior.

The new emerging human consciousness, or human spirit, brought with it new human or humane impulses, impulses that sparked us to understand what it meant to be authentically human. These impulses then led to behavior that was entirely opposite to that of past animal response. Note, for instance, the compassion shown toward a disabled Neanderthal man, whose life was preserved and cared for after his disability, even though this would have certainly been a burden on his small hunter-gatherer band. Animals would have just abandoned a disabled fellow animal to die (I am assuming that Neanderthals may have merged with modern humanity).

The new human consciousness led to a great struggle against the inherited animal brain with its animal drives (i.e. small band orientation, exclusion of competing outsiders, alpha domination of both insiders and outsiders, destruction of competing others). With a new human mind, and capacity to reason (i.e. via the frontal cortex), humanity began to counter, resist, and overcome the often irrational and damaging drives of the animal brain (i.e. amygdala, limbic system). Since then (and of course, never perfectly), we have learned to view all people as equal members of the one human family (no more excluding tribal bands). We now reject the categories of insider/outsider, true believer/infidel, or friend/enemy. We reject division and exclusion. We treat others as free equals, not dominating, controlling, or manipulating others harmfully (i.e. alpha behavior that dehumanizes others with loss of personal control and loss of personal freedom/choice). We also forgive unconditionally and seek the rehabilitation and restoration of even the worst among us. And so much more that relates to our search to be authentically human and constitutes our humane future.

Religious people, like the apostle Paul, frame this struggle against the inherited animal as a struggle against “the sinful nature” (Romans 6-7). Paul stated that it was the struggle of the “Spirit of Christ in us” against sin.

However, the religious view of this struggle distorts what is actually involved because it misses the actual physiological nature of the struggle- that of a human consciousness/spirit/mind against a residual animal brain.

The religious view also argues that the presence of the old animal nature in humanity is something that deserves punishment. Hence, the development of systems of justice oriented to the punishment of continuing human imperfection. See other comment here on human responsibility and accountability in a restorative context.

The emergence and gradual development of human consciousness and human society is not something that deserves punishment. The myth of original ‘perfection’ (Eden) and then fall into imperfection has distorted the actual story of humanity which is one of original ‘imperfection’ but then subsequent improvement. This gradual rise toward something better should not be punished but should be celebrated and affirmed. Our exodus out of animal existence and behavior is the greatest liberation movement and advance in all history.

This site is a project to bring down humanity’s greatest monster- the myth of violent, punishing deity, an ultimate threat that has incited endless alarmism over history. The project to correct the pathology of vengeful, retaliatory deity includes the need to counter a wide array of related “bad religious ideas” that have traumatized human consciousness with unnecessary fear, anxiety, resignation, depression, and defensive aggression. From another perspective, this site is about the search to understand what it means to be authentically human, and the search for the full potential of creative humanity.

Our ancestors made a terrible mistake. They believed that the gods used violence to solve problems. They then compounded that error by projecting other inhumane features onto deity- myths of the gods punishing human imperfection, gods demanding sacrifice as payment, and gods threatening apocalypse and hell. They created profoundly anti-human deities bent on punishing and eliminating “corrupt” and “fallen” people. From the very beginning, the most grotesque forms of inhumanity were embedded in humanity’s highest ideals and authorities, in the deities that inspire and validate human life.

The psychological, emotional, and physical damage from that original error has been immense (see Lotufo and others below). Fortunately, we have discovered the alternative that corrects the original error of violent deity. This new reality (forgiveness, kindness toward enemies) first appears in the “Akkadian Father’s advice to his son”, circa 2200 BCE. The alternative, in its later historical refinement, is the humane ideal of no conditions love- the liberating wonder of no punishment, no payback, no exclusion, no destruction, but instead, unconditional love and generosity toward all. Unconditional restores a proper estimation of humanity as worthy of the highest valuation. This ideal fully corrects the distortions from the original error, distortions still embedded in contemporary religious systems and even in secular ideologies. Note in this regard, the continuing myths of angry, punitive gods, revenge of Gaia, angry planet, or even the widespread embrace of payback karma to explain greater realities.

The unconditional ideal liberates consciousness into an authentically humane future. Humanizing consciousness with this ideal is the most foundational way to win the battle of ideas and solve problems like violence by eliminating the primary religious inspiration for violence- the violent, punitive deity. Explore these issues with us…

It is noted repeatedly here that religious ideas are one element in a complex mix of things that motivate people to violence, along with political, economic, and other social and personal elements. But I would argue that the religious element is absolutely foundational to solving the problem of violence most thoroughly and for the long term. Bad religious ideas have persistently played a central role inciting and validating violence over history by shaping basic human ideals and background archetypes (subconscious themes that influence human mood, thought, and response). This goes back to the very beginning of the development of the sacred in early human history.

The importance of confronting the religious element arises from the fact that early people thought almost entirely in terms of mythical themes. When they formed their worldviews they often employed religious ideas, ideas that were inhumane, according to modern sensibilities. In fact, their religious ideas embodied very animal-like features. Unfortunately, the subhuman features of those early worldviews are still present in contemporary worldviews. See the complete version of A Model of Religion and Violence below.

Site Summary: Unconditional Reality overturns entirely the foundational myths of atonement and salvation religion- that humanity must appease some ultimate threat. It defines authentic human existence with the most humane ideal ever discovered (i.e. note the example of Mandela). It offers a potent alternative to the religious ideals that have long inspired and validated violence. It presents the hope-engendering core of a new narrative to replace the pathology of apocalyptic and alarmist mythology. Unconditional is not a project for pacifism in the face of violence but offers the most effective long term solution to violence. It points to the greatest liberation movement ever, to the full humanization of thought and life. Unconditional reality tells humanity, as nothing else can, that ultimately there is nothing to fear; that everything is going to be all right for everyone. The very nature of ultimate reality as unconditional love assures this outcome and calms human fears at the deepest levels, fears that are often at the root of aggression and violence.

List of topics covered on this page: The following brief summaries are expanded further below on this page, or elaborated in more detail in essays listed on the topic bar at top of page

Unconditional reality corrects the most damaging error in the history of human thought- that there are threatening and punishing forces/gods behind life. The early belief in punishing gods sparked the emergence of religion as the institution that would set forth the conditions to appease the divine threats (i.e. the atonement/sacrifice/salvation industry). The idea of some ultimate threat continues to erupt over history in ever new versions- vengeful Gaia, angry planet, punitive nature and natural law, or karma.

Countering environmental alarmism and general apocalyptic alarms with the good evidence that life is not declining toward something worse but is actually rising toward an overall improving future. Notes the research of Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, Matt Ridley, Stephen Pinker, and others.

Summary quotes from Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource) and Stephen Pinker (Better Angels of Our Nature) pointing to the evidence that shows life and humanity are on a great improving trend (rising toward something better). This evidence effectively counters the myth that humanity is fallen, and a corrupting force in life. It shows, to the contrary, the essential goodness of humanity, and that we are essentially creators and we are creating an ever better world.

Model of religion and violence: Our animal inheritance (core animal brain) is the root source of violence. The inherited animal drives of that brain include small band orientation (my band versus other bands), alpha domination, and predatory impulses to exclude and destroy competing others. These animal drives were long ago projected onto early deities, humanity’s highest ideals and authorities (dominating, threatening, destroying gods). Once embedded in the sacred, these features have served to inspire and validate bad human behavior over the millennia.

Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology: primitive honor, shame, and retaliation culture.

The Jesus versus Christianity contradiction illustrates the greater human story of primitive error (punishing gods), endeavor to correct that error, and retreat from that advance. (Note: the repeated reference to the historical Jesus on this page is not about appeal to some religious authority figure for validation. The historical Jesus is useful simply for his breakthrough insight on unconditional reality. But our ultimate authority is our own personal consciousness of the authentically humane, whatever examples we employ to illustrate that)

The stunning contrast between the core teaching of the historical Jesus and the entirely opposite teaching of Christianity. Jesus rejected retaliation and punishment and instead introduced a new ethic and theology of non-retaliation or the unconditional treatment of all persons. That was his core theme, his gospel. Do not retaliate because God does not retaliate. Love your enemies because God loves all enemies.

Jesus’ new theology blew away the foundations of conditional religion. It over-turned entirely all previous belief in the required conditions of sacrifice, atonement, and salvation. He stated clearly that God was unconditional love and did not demand that people meet any conditions at all in order to be forgiven and accepted. (Note: He did not dismiss human responsibility to counter wrong and promote right; to be accountable for one’s actions)

Paul reversed the new theology of Jesus and retreated back to a primitive retaliation/punishment view of God. He re-established the divine demand for blood sacrifice, atonement, and highly conditional salvation religion. He made divine conditions the foundation of Christianity (See Romans 1-5). He rejected outright the greatest liberation movement ever offered to humanity and took the opposite view to that of Jesus. His Christian religion was based on his stunning reversal of Jesus’ teaching. This is history’s greatest scandal.

Paul buried the unconditional theme of Jesus, the core theme of his gospel.

Here is a summary contrast of Jesus’ gospel compared to Paul’s gospel.

Ethic and Theology of Jesus (Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 6)- Do not retaliate against evil, but instead, love others unconditionally and you will be like God (this bases the non-retaliating ethic on the identical non-retaliating theology). God loves enemies, is kind, merciful, and compassionate to the evil and gives good things to all alike (unconditionally), both just and unjust.

Ethic and Theology of Paul (Romans 12)- Do not repay any one evil for evil, do not take revenge but (this bases the non-retaliating ethic on the absolutely contradicting retaliatory theology) leave room for God’s wrath…for ”Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord”.

Note in regard to the above- theology determines ethics. What people believe (i.e. their highest ideals and authorities) will determine how they act. This helps explain why people holding high ethical standards will still treat others inhumanely. Note, for instance, how harsh Paul was toward all who disagreed with his views. Paul did not love his enemies, or even his fellow believers that differed from him (see, for example, Galatians 1:8-9). He damned them to eternal destruction. Despite his comments on the noble ideals of love and non-retaliation, when others disagreed with him, he then responded just like his vengeful, punishing God.

Also note that Paul, while advocating non-retaliation toward offenders, urged this response in a spiteful manner, to ensure punishment of the offender (“to heap burning coals on his head”, Romans 12). He missed the main point of the unconditional ethic of Jesus as well as his unconditional theology.

Unconditional in the life of Nelson Mandela. Responding to the argument that unconditional treatment of others is impractical. This site argues, to the contrary, that unconditional treatment of others is highly practical. It is, in fact, at the foundation of peace and order, trade and commerce, and the general progress of human civilization. Mandela’s response in South Africa illustrates this well.

Grand Narrative Core Themes: the old mythical/religious meta-story contrasted with the new scientific/rational narrative.

Paul’s dominant themes- the wrath of God, human sacrifice to pay for sin, punishing justice (i.e. Paul returned to eye for eye or payback justice, and even worse, he argued for insanely excessive punishment for the pettiest of “sins”), the judgment of Christ, blood atonement, domination/submission in relationships (i.e. the submission of women and slaves), and more. And yes, Paul also advocated for humane ideals such as freedom from law/scripture/religion (Galatians- Paul used the same Greek word interchangeably for law, scripture, and religion), as well as the inclusion of former outsiders (i.e. Gentiles), though that was a conditional inclusiveness. You must “have faith” in his gospel, or else.

Jesus rejects the Zoroastrian dualism of true believers versus unbelievers. He eliminates all opposing categories of good/bad people, friend/enemy, insider/outsider, or true believer/infidel. All are to be included as family. All will receive the mercy and generosity of a non-punishing God.

I am a dreamer: my list of “greatest” things. The greatest error is belief in some threatening, punishing force or god. This becomes humanity’s greatest monster. The greatest fraud (wasted detour up a blind alley) that results from such belief is that of salvation religion. Our greatest battle now is overcoming the greatest monster of a punishing God. The greatest discovery is the Jesus insight that unconditional love defines God (ultimate reality). This results in the greatest liberation movement ever- that of mind, emotion, and spirit at the deepest levels of consciousness. And the greatest retreat ever was Paul’s reversal back to retaliating and punishing deity. Extravagant claims? See for yourself.

The Liberating Power of Blasphemy: Liberation from the fear of the sacred, viewing pathological mythology for what it really is. Offering a summary of Stephen Mitchell’s book on the gospels (i.e. his elaboration on Jefferson’s “diamonds in the dunghill” comment).

The Problem of deity: the human/God relationship, and projecting inhumanity onto deity. People have always embraced deity as their highest ideal and authority. It is a fundamental human impulse to appeal to God/ultimate reality for inspiration, guidance, and validation. But contrary to the belief of the ancients, we were not “created to serve the gods”.

Defining and Describing God: creative exploration and expression of the concept of Ultimate Reality- part of the humanizing trend away from retaliation and toward unconditional. Tired of the term God and God-talk? How about Ultimate Goodness, Ultimate Ideal, Ultimate Consciousness, or Ultimate Humanity/Humaneness.

Post to Jesus Seminar Fellows: Getting to the root issue behind the apocalyptic Jesus debate. Jesus’ core theme was non-retaliation or the unconditional treatment of others. Apocalypse is a grand, divine retaliation. Therefore- plain and simple- Jesus was not apocalyptic. See for example- “Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition”, posted below.

Secularized mythology: Tracing the line of descent of apocalyptic mythology down through history. From primitive myth to modern ideology (i.e. environmental alarmism). We have the spectacle today of a lot of people considering themselves to be secularists, even atheist, yet mouthing the core themes of the most primitive mythology, that of apocalyptic beliefs.

Reason for this page: My personal journey out of conditional religion and toward unconditional freedom.

Grand Narrative core themes: Old story themes compared to new story themes. Clean up your worldview thoroughly and properly. Humanize your ideals fully.

Unconditional defines the core of reality and life. It is the ultimate humane ideal. And it is the most powerful long-term response to the problem of violence.

More on the stunning contradiction between the historical Jesus and Christianity, variously understood as non-retaliation versus retaliation, or unconditional inclusion versus conditional atonement. The contradiction between the core message of the historical Jesus and the entirely opposite Christian message illustrates the larger human struggle for liberation from a primitive past defined by conditional reality.

Humanity’s greatest mistake- the myth of punitive forces/spirits behind life (retaliatory deity). Humanity’s greatest discovery- unconditional defines the core of all reality. It encompasses both theological and ethical elements.

Contrasting history’s two great macro-stories- apocalyptic/decline and exodus/rise.

The ultimate insight- non-retaliation as authentic human response and relating.

Environmental alarmism- the apocalyptic mythology behind alarmism and its historical line of descent through religious and secular movements. The complete template of apocalyptic myth includes the following ideas- original paradise, corrupted humanity destroys paradise, subsequent decline of life, looming apocalyptic ending, atonement/salvation scheme, purged world and restored paradise.

CO2 or Natural Variation?: Climate change update. Countering the distorting exaggeration of environmental alarmism.

Unlimited resource essays- forests, fisheries, soils, species. Countering the myth of limits to human creative potential.

Decline or rise?- the fundamental trajectory of life. Understanding the mythology behind environmental catastrophism.

The apocalyptic error and corrective to that error.

No hell beneath us- eliminating pathological mythology.

Creating divine monsters. Countering myths of retaliating, punitive gods.

An unconditional TOE (my theory of everything- unconditional best explains reality and life).

Christianity got the wrong gospel (Q research). Christianity took up Paul’s gospel of retaliating deity that is a complete denial of Jesus’ gospel of non-retaliating deity.

And much more below.

Note to readers from a religious background: One of the take homes from the varied topics on this page is that everyone is ultimately safe. There is nothing to fear behind life. No looming judgment, no threat of punishment, and no final exclusion. And no matter what a person’s belief system or lifestyle may be, all will be included in the end. By engaging these basic metaphysical themes I am aiming at the deepest levels of the human subconscious to counter those embedded ideas from the old mythical narratives, ideas that have long inflamed unnecessary fear and anxiety.

And of course, this universal inclusion assumes that the point of our existence is to be human. We are all responsible to learn what it means to be human and accountable to become as fully human/humane as we can. This, surely, is the main point of our personal stories. But no matter how imperfectly we accomplish that, in the end we are all included, all forgiven entirely, and are all safe, in the ultimate sense. Everyone- none excluded- will receive the full generosity of the universe. Such is the scandal of the historical Jesus who advocated unconditional treatment of all people in contrast to the Christian Jesus who embodies conditional treatment of people- reward the good, punish the bad.

The sum of unconditional is that everything is going to be all right, for everyone. Unconditional means absolutely no conditions. None.

Is this unconditional ideal scandalous to our conventional perspectives on justice as proper payback? Of course it is. And is it just too impractical for orderly human society? Not at all. See comment further below… “Is Unconditional Too Impractical?” It was the most practical approach of all for avoiding civil war in South Africa. See comment on Nelson Mandela also below.

As Mandela noted, the unconditional treatment of others turned enemies into friends and brought out the best in others. And to the contrary, retaliatory, punishing treatment of others often evokes more of the same retaliation, while unconditional treatment of others inspires the best of the human spirit. Again, this is not advocating for pacifism in the face of irrational hate and violence. Love is responsible to protect and to restrain violence. As many note, facing ISIS irrationality today is not the same as Gandhi facing the British. Yes, true. But many in moderate Islam can be influenced and reformed for the better, and that greater religion provides the context for movements like ISIS.

Also remember that just as Mandela followed his unconditional approach by establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so people should be held accountable for their actions, though in a restorative framework.

Comment: The key predictor of the future of any person (or society) and how humane they will become (or not become), is embodied in their view of the highest ideal, the highest Good (i.e. God).

Comment: The good ideas/practices that people claim are produced by their religious system- i.e. love, mercy, forgiveness, generosity- are also found in all other religions, in secular systems, and even in atheist systems of thought. They are common human ideas/practices, and are not religious in origin. They arise from common human consciousness. These common human ideals are too often distorted in religious contexts. The nastier features of a religious system will hinder the full expression of more humane ideals.

Excerpts from material below

“The great error in early human thought- gods angry at imperfect people- has long been the core theme of much religion and the foundation of salvation thinking. It has all been a great fraud based on a profound error in early human logic. Consequently, salvation religion has been a hugely wasteful detour for humanity. Think of all the time, effort, thought, and resources invested by billions of people over history toward appeasing and pleasing something that has never existed- angry, punishing deity.”

“There has long been this animal-like deity at the core of human consciousness, this myth of violent, tribal deity, an ultimate ideal that has incited the worst impulses of our animal inheritance, validating the expression of those base impulses. Violent, threatening deity has long been the foundational theme of the old mythical/religious narrative. It is the single most damaging idea ever lodged in human minds. And it has found new expression in contemporary beliefs such as the “revenge of Gaia”, angry planet, or the modern use of karma…

“We now have something to replace that old core, to purge it entirely and revolutionize human consciousness. Something to powerfully counter the old animal drives and inspire the new human spirit and human impulses. This is the ideal of the unconditional treatment of all people, both the ethic and the theology. This new ideal overturns entirely the old core myth. If we place this unconditional ideal at the very foundation of our worldviews it will radiate through consciousness, cleansing, changing, and bringing out the best in humanity and inspiring us toward that better future that we all want. This is the single most humane insight that we have ever discovered. Unconditional enlightens and liberates consciousness as nothing else can. It becomes a new humane baseline for evaluating all things in life.”

As I watch environmental alarmism playing out across the globe, I have wondered how this impacts human consciousness and society. The endless threat of some great disaster looming. We hear of children now traumatized with “eco-anxiety” and depression. Repeated studies show depression as the major US illness and a worldwide pathology. How does this endless irresponsible alarmism impact people and does it hinder human development and progress by generating unnecessary fear, anxiety, despair, and depression?

Sure, significant progress is still being made. But how much more progress could there be if people were free of the disheartening pessimism of anti-development alarmism? Julian Simon argued that alarmism promotes fatalism and resignation in populations.

(Just a note on some interesting linkages here: Rupert Murdoch, in a recent Global Warming Policy Foundation newsletter- 28/08/15, said that “Global growth is dangerously low. Blame politicians’ layers of regulations”. He focused criticism specifically on rules related to climate change alarmism. Then Ronald Bailey in an article “Federal Regulations have made you 75 percent poorer” noted that US GDP should have been at $54 trillion instead of its current $16 trillion. The average American family should have income in the $330,000 range instead of the current $55,000 range. Hmmm. Just musing on some possible linkages.)

And then I wonder about the role of background religious beliefs in fostering alarmism over history. The great threats from gods, to punish and destroy corrupt, “fallen” humanity. The devaluation of people as sinful, corrupt, as destroyers of life and deserving punishment. The ancient and long-standing threat from deity of vengeance toward human imperfection. And the resulting guilt, shame, and fear. The pathology of threatening, punishing deity has been stubbornly lodged in humanity’s highest ideals and authorities, in the great religious traditions. I wonder about the horrific impact this has had on human consciousness and existence over history. The linkage between sick gods, sick beliefs, and sick people.

Much good research has now come out on the influence of “bad religious ideas”. We have Richard Landes’ work showing the impact of religious belief on secular movements like Marxism and Nazism and their mass-death outcomes. We have Zenon Lotufo and Hector Garcia’s research on the impact of religious ideas on human consciousness, personality, and development (i.e. restricting people in subhuman stages of development).

This religious influence stems from the fact that ancient people thought almost entirely religiously and consequently shaped early human worldviews with mythical themes. Those themes were deeply embedded in the background of consciousness (subconscious ideals, archetypes). They have subsequently continued to influence much human thought and outlook, even today. We see this, for instance, in the apocalyptic themes of environmental alarmism (see Arthur Herman’s “The Idea of Decline in Western History” for detail). Modern alarmists- secular, and even atheist- are walking around mouthing the core themes of primitive apocalyptic mythology.

A central project of this site is to confront the foundational pathologies in human consciousness. In this regard, I refer often to the old monster that is still lodged deeply in the background of human consciousness- the perception that there is some great threat, some punishing force or spirit, something that will destroy life and humanity, some malicious Ultimate Reality, whether God, Gaia, karma, or harsh natural law.

Take whatever evidence you find useful and then purge your consciousness of all perception of some ultimate threat. Use religious insight, material evidence, or whatever…but get a grip on the long term trajectory of improvement that is behind all things. Look, for instance, at the long term trajectories of the cosmos, of life, and of civilization… all moving toward something better than before, toward more organization, complexity, beauty, and suitability to life. This progressing improvement points to the great mystery of ultimate goodness behind all things. And then especially laser in on the long term progress of humanity toward something better, toward more empathy, love, creative goodness, generosity, and so on (research of Payne and Pinker). This overall trend toward something better defines life more prominently than the “aberrational” features of disaster, accident, cruelty, and disease.

(Note: Appreciating that reality and life exhibit long-term improvement and not decline toward something worse, this relates somewhat to the old debate over the place of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in defining reality and life. Some suggested that the Second Law was the prominent defining feature of reality and that it presented a narrative of decline toward ultimate cosmic disaster. But others argued that the Second Law was not pre-eminent in defining reality- i.e. in terms of decline- but that it served the greater process of creating more order, it served a greater trend of improvement)

Further, I am arguing that the most potent solution to alarmist distortion of reality and life is to see ultimate reality in terms of unconditional reality. This is the foundational solution to human fear, anxiety, and depression. Put that liberating reality at the core of your worldview. Make it the baseline from which to evaluate all else.

Another issue: when you cut the tap root of fear you enhance liberty. Fear is commonly used as a tool of control. Fear-mongers frighten people and are then able to coerce scared people to seek relief in whatever salvation plans the fear-mongers are offering… save the world, save your soul, save whatever…

A further critical distinction- it is important to understand the natural consequences that are found all through life and to keep this free from the distorting myths of punishing forces/spirits behind such consequences. To illustrate natural consequence- if you punch a wall you will hurt your hand. So also, if you wander too close to a cliff and fall, the sudden stop below will be painful. But there is no greater “metaphysical” threat or punishment behind such consequences of natural law. No greater “lesson” is being given by some intervening spirit. Its just the way that natural law operates.


People define karma in varied ways and purist defenders of this concept will recoil against any endeavor to define karma in terms of punishment or vengeance. They claim that it has more to do with natural consequences in life. But common street use of karma is very much about payback, punishment, and vengeance. As John Lennon sang, “Karma is gonna get you” (Instant Karma).

Payback punishment is evident in the Wikipedia definition of karma: “Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering”. A local advertisement for recycling used karma in a very threatening manner, stating that people who did not recycle properly would be struck with lightning. This is all about “karma is gonna get you” as payback, punishment, and vengeance.

This karmic perception re-enforces the ancient distortion that retribution is the core of reality (just consequence or proper payback for deeds). Such reward/punishment thinking misses entirely the “no conditions” essence of ultimate reality, the strikingly humane insight that love of an astounding unconditional nature is the real core of all. The mistake that people have made since the beginning is to read the natural reward/punishment consequences of life back into ultimate realities (i.e. to define God in terms of human payback or retributive justice).

Many in their search for meaning also ask- Why then do bad things happen to good people? (Note: The theological concept of theodicy tackles the question of a good God allowing suffering) To even begin to comprehend something of the mystery of disaster, accident, disease, cruelty (evil), and suffering in life, we need to explore varied lines of insight that probe the following issues- the imperfection of life, the random element in reality and life (natural and moral freedom), the inseparable relationship between freedom and love, the purpose of life as an arena for learning (the meaning of human life story), and more. See more comment on this further below (e.g. Hasker on theodicy).

Related quote from Bob: “Well yes, if love is a syrupy emotional feeling that is inimical to true justice and intervenes in human freedom like the nanny state, then I would agree. We have to take into account that agape love implies complete human freedom to go our own way and to choose our own path without divine interference. That’s why there is an awesome toughness about love. How long did it take humanity to find out, without divine intervention, the knowledge of the germ theory of disease, immunology, nutritional science, and all the rest? If people are to develop their full humanity, that requires time, and God does not intervene to do the human homework. That’s the patience and forbearance of love. The biggest issue in theodicy is the silence of God. Where is God, they asked, during the Holocaust, or when a loved one continues to suffer? Well, most of the old answers don’t stack up.”

More on alarmist distortion and it’s anti-science approach

Alarmists often take problems out of their larger context (overall, long-term) and then exaggerate the problems in life as evidence that life is declining toward disaster and ending. The Chicken Little syndrome. But problems are simply evidence that life is imperfect. Problems stir human creativity to find solutions. They are not evidence that overall “things are getting worse”. The great wonder of life is that, generally and over the long-term, life is improving. Research on all the major world resources- forests, soils, fisheries, species- affirms the long-term trend of improvement, notably in terms of the human engagement of nature.

Major world resources- the main indicators of the true state of the world

1.World forest cover in 1953 was 3.8 billion hectares… http://www.fao.org/forestry/fra/52045/en/ . Human population in 1953 was 2.6 billion people.

World forest cover today is just over 4 billion hectares… http://www.fao.org/forestry/28808/en/ . Human population today is 7.3 billion people.

2.World fisheries are not collapsing… http://www.atsea.org/doc/Hilborn%202010%20Science%20Chronicles%202010-11-1.pdf

3.World soil resources. See Lomborg’s assessment in Skeptical Environmentalist. “Present evidence does not seem to indicate that soil erosion will to any significant degree, affect our global food production…” (p.106). Widespread improvements in farming practices have alleviated the worst impacts of erosion. Add to this… ever-increasing gains in crop productivity has enabled us to produce more food on less land.

4.Species. There is no evidence that “one half of all species will disappear by the end of this century”. There is no sound evidence that a “species holocaust” is occurring. See online “What biotic holocaust?” by Peter Foster. Another summary by Foster is http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?displayGroupName=Viewpoints&prodId=OVIC&action=e&windowstate=normal&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010602206&mode=view&userGroupName=gran68706&jsid=825f9c364ff8a0a5a1f8d944cc72124c

“Hope liberates love and generosity. Fear drives suspicion, hate, and stinginess.”

Further evidence of long-term improvement that counters alarmist scenarios…

The average life span, or expectancy, in the pre-modern world was about 30 years (up till 1900). Today the average life span world-wide is approaching 70 years. In many countries it is longer.


Violence: “Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we are living in the most peaceable era in our species existence…it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years”, Stephen Pinker, Better Angels of Our Nature. See also James Payne’s History of Force. The corollary to decreasing violence (and contributing cause) is the amazing increase in empathy throughout the human family. Love really is everywhere, and growing.

Poverty: Stunning decline in poverty. In 1820, fully 94% of the human population was extremely poor (defined today as living on less than $1.25 per day). 43% of the world population still lived in extreme poverty in 1990. Today only 17% of the human population is in that category, and the decline continues. This is the greatest reduction in poverty in all history, and many expect poverty to be eliminated in 20-30 years.

The focus on “wage gaps” or “wealth gaps” and the rage at the extremely wealthy (i.e. “one percent” movement) has more to do with misplaced resentment and envy. It misses the more important fact that poverty is declining significantly and more and more people worldwide are prospering. Envy of the wealthy is often based on zero sum mythology- that if some prosper then others must be losing out, as resources are assumed to be limited. So you must prevent some from taking “more than their fair share”, and forcibly redistribute their wealth to the poor. But resources are not limited (see Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource). There is more than enough for all to prosper. Remember, infinite generosity is the core of reality and human creativity is “infinite in all directions”.

As William Gairdner says, it is wrong to feel resentment over other’s great wealth. They are wealthy for a reason and the reason is freedom. “Three cheers for freedom, mobility, and inequality…Oprah Winfrey, Wayne Gretzky, and Bill Gates did not steal their fortunes. They were given to them voluntarily in little bits by millions of people willing to pay for what was offered. There was no hardship for the buyers and no coercion by the sellers”. It matters not that many are becoming exceedingly wealthy. They take risks, create companies and jobs, create more wealth for all, pay a hugely disproportional percentage of their government’s taxes, and donate their fortunes to doing good (e.g. Gates, Buffett). What they do with their wealth is their business and choice, not ours.

More important for all of us is to remove the remaining barriers to everyone leaving poverty and accessing prosperity. See William Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty for the four basic institutions that promote wealth creation. Also…



This is not an argument to take up the battle for the wealthy, but just to counter the distortion from the “one percent” movement and the distortion about wage gaps or wealth gaps. That misses a greater point of all moving toward increasing prosperity.

While on this subject, let me overturn a central distortion of the environmental alarmist narrative- that more people and more economic growth are destroying nature. As Julian Simon argued with good evidence, more people means more brains to solve problems. And more wealth means more resources to enhance and protect all of life. Evidence supports the exact opposite narrative to the alarmist distortion- human development and economic progress does not destroy the world; it saves the world.

From a “wisdom saying” tradition… “There is no ultimate threat behind reality or life. Instead, there is only unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity. Toward all- both good and bad. This is the central insight of the historical Jesus, now recognized as someone quite different from the Christian Jesus. Historical Jesus taught that God did not retaliate against enemies (no more “eye for eye”) but embraced every person with an unconditional generosity (“sun and rain given to all alike- to both just and unjust”). This stunning new theology contradicts entirely the payback atonement themes of Christian theology. Is Jesus’ insight disorienting to conventional views of justice as proper payback? Certainly. But it takes consciousness to the height of the authentically humane.”

“The point of the Jesus insight: all past understanding of deity as demanding atonement- some punishment for sin- had been entirely wrong. There never had been any such God. According to Jesus, God was undiluted love. Unconditional love of a stunningly humane variety. A God that demanded absolutely no conditions for forgiveness, inclusion, or access to God’s generosity.”

“The value of his insight is that it goes to the foundations of human fear, anxiety, and despair. It goes to the ultimate ideals and authorities that, over history, have shaped human mood, motivation, perception, and behavior. It is about the liberation of consciousness at the most foundational levels.”

The problem of conditional religion

In keeping with calls for “balance”, I affirm any effort to reform religion (see Ayaan Hirsi Ali comment below). I affirm all endeavor to make religion more humane. And much further below, I have even applauded the “reframing” efforts of the Mennonites, their project to restate brutal atonement theology as “non-violent atonement”. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Any form of “atonement” is payment of some kind. Atonement is all about the fulfillment of some condition.

Here is something to consider in all this reform of religion- humanity’s greatest discovery is that Ultimate Reality is unconditional love (see comment on Historical Jesus research, along with NDE research). This means absolutely no conditions. None. Forgiveness, inclusion/acceptance, enjoyment of the generosity of deity, or however else one views “spiritual” issues….all come without conditions. Religion, to the contrary, emerged as a generally conditional institution. Religion has long been about the conditions necessary to appease and please the angered, vengeful gods. Religion, by its very nature, cannot properly communicate unconditional reality. Keep this in mind when you look at religious reform efforts.

So I would raise the question- do we really need religion?

A good look at the history of mythology will help in tracing out the origin and development of religion as a conditional institution in human society. See, for example, John Pfeiffer’s “Explosion: the origins of art and religion”, Joseph Campbell’s “Masks of God”, or Mircea Eliade’s “History of Religious Ideas”, among other sources.

A brief history of religion as conditional reality…

This site argues that much of what we have known as religion has been based on a huge error in early human logic. Consider first that ancient people saw spirits behind all the elements of nature/life. Spirits of water, rain, and storm. Spirits of trees, animals, birds, rivers, and sun. These elements or forces of nature were often harmful to humans, experienced in outcomes such as sun/drought, rain/flood, storm/lightning, along with things like earthquake and disease. The ancients then concluded that the gods were angry and punishing them for their imperfection, mistakes, or breaking taboos (sin). They wrongly concluded that there were greater, punishing forces or spirits behind the natural laws and natural consequences of life. The mythical/religious mind has always thought this way.

In this you can see conditional religion emerging as something based on fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and more. It is not coming from the best of the human spirit.

Then some early innovative mind came up with blood sacrifice to appease the angry gods and to ensure benefits from the gods. Was sacrifice just about bloody prey offered to an alpha predator- bribery or appeasement- or was it something more refined such as life offered in place of life (i.e. blood sacrifice as a substitute for human life)? Research on the origin of sacrifice presents varied theories. See, for instance, Mircea Eliade’s summary on “Sacrifice” in The Encyclopedia of Religion. With the introduction of sacrifice, religion got underway as Salvationism. It emerged and developed as the institution to tell people how to fulfill the conditions necessary to appease and please the gods. And as an institution of conditions, religion has oriented human minds intensely toward conditional reality. It cannot, by its very nature, communicate ultimate reality as unconditional love. Religion has quite entirely missed any sense of authentic love in deity.

And, certainly, along the way there were bits and pieces of authentic humanity in the mix that were projected onto the gods. The nicer stuff. In the more general human search for meaning, people also projected more humane features onto deity such as mercy, generosity, protectiveness, and forgiveness. There was also in religion the noble human impulse to wonder at greater creating Mystery and to explain the meaning of things like good and evil. But despite the presence of some better features, the dark side of religion has too often dominated and thereby distorted the nicer features. You then get, for instance, such oxymoronic teaching as God is love but will torture people in Hell. Huh? What the…. ?

The great error in early logic- gods angry at imperfect people- has long been the core theme of much religion and the foundation of salvation thinking. It has all been a great fraud based on a profound error in early human logic. Consequently, salvation religion has been a hugely wasteful detour for humanity. Again, think of all the time, effort, thought, and resources invested by billions of people over history toward appeasing and pleasing something that has never existed- angry, punishing deity.

Add to the wastefulness of religion, the damaging influence of religious ideas on human psychology, personality, and society (i.e. promoting fear, guilt, shame, vengeance, and violence). Zenon Lotufo presents some good detail on the damage that religious beliefs have caused to human development (see below).

If God is unconditional love then there is no need for some sacrifice or atonement, some payment for human imperfection/sin. There is no need for any salvation plan, no need to fulfill any conditions in order to be forgiven and accepted. Unconditional states that all are forgiven, all are included, and all are safe in the ultimate sense. There is no need to fulfill any condition in order to please God, Gaia, karma, or anything else. There is no need for conditional religion. Ouch. There, I said it.

Explore these issues with us…

(Note: I base my conclusions on how early humans thought, and their logic, not just on the studies noted above but also on my own experience with tribal people in Mindanao- some 11 years living with Manobo tribal groups. Anthropologists argue that contemporary tribal groups can serve as a rough proxy for ancient people, especially contemporary groups that are further away from modern urban society. My comparison of contemporary tribal beliefs with research on ancient mythology affirms this proxy argument.)

Here is a brief summary of a “model of religion and violence” (full version further below)

First, the defining features of animal existence would include small band mentality (us versus them- the outsider), domination (alpha male/female), along with exclusion and destruction of some competing enemy. Now what does the animal have to do with religion?

The good and bad in religion

Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to reform Islam and counter the extremist violence of groups like ISIS. And she presents some good ideas on how to reform that religion, in her book ‘Heretic’. One element that she focuses on is that of Biblicism- the excessive respect that people hold for what are believed to be inspired holy books, similar to the excessive respect they hold for religious founders who are considered to be specially inspired, or even ‘god-like’ people. This deification of religious writings and people arises from the common human tendency to mythologize ancestors, not recognizing that they were just fallible creatures like the rest of us. Is this part of the more general tendency of people to believe the myth of a better past- an original paradise, or original “noble savage”?

But agreed, deal with the Biblicism issue- i.e. religious devotees taking scriptures literally as messages sent directly from God as to how people should think and behave. But also deal very straightforwardly with the problem of core ideas and dominant themes in religious traditions. As you do so, keep in mind especially that most fundamental of all distinctions- what is good and what is bad, what is nasty and what is nice, or what is human and what is inhuman. There are pathological ideas in all the religious traditions that simply cannot be reformed. They are so irredeemably bad that they should be purged as simply inhumane by any basic modern consensus on human values, rights, and freedoms. I am referring to ideas/beliefs that incite bad behavior, the inhumane treatment of others (see Top Ten list of bad religious ideas, below).

Just a repeat aside on the balance concern and the need to also recognize the ‘good’ when I tackle the nasty in religion: Let me state the balance clearly- I do recognize good religious ideas/practices that affirm such common human values as forgiveness, inclusion, the treating of all people as free equals, and so on. Though I would argue that such human ideals, as they are expressed in religious traditions, derive from our common human consciousness and are not original to religion in any particular manner. They are not somehow uniquely religious ideals and practices. So in the endeavor to humanize or reform religion, we appeal to common human discoveries, we appeal to common human consciousness or sensitivities on these issues. And maintain awareness of how the larger context of nasty themes distorts and buries the better features of a religious tradition.

When doing the above (i.e. recognizing and purging the nasty from religion), also be fully aware of how belief shapes and motivates behavior for good or bad. Understand how bad ideas can incite bad behavior.

This project of separating between the good and bad ideas in religion is all about getting to the long term solutions and doing so at the most foundational level. One of the ultimate foundational issues to understand is the animal/sacred relationship and how these two have interacted over history. Especially important is how the sacred, as humanity’s highest validating ideal, has impacted human behavior.

And again, just to keep clear in the background, I am urging that unconditional is the ultimate solution to break the damaging influence of the animal/sacred relationship. Unconditional love most potently affirms the new impulses of our common human consciousness. It brings out the best of the human spirit to counter the worst in humanity. Remember also that our animal inheritance is the ultimate origin or source of our inhumanity, of violence and other nasty features of human existence.

Now just to get at this animal/sacred issue a bit more…

How do we best explain the historical persistence of bad human behavior? I would suggest that one helpful approach is to trace the relationship between the inherited animal (in the human brain) and the development of the sacred in mythology and religion. Note also, right in the middle of this animal/sacred mess, the struggle of emerging human consciousness to take humanity in a better direction, to be something better. These are all elements/dynamics of the human condition.

The emergence of human consciousness initiates the human search for meaning. That search originates the struggle to answer the great questions like- what does it mean to be human? What ideas/ideals do we employ to define and express being human? And in this search for the authentic human, and what hinders the development of humanity, you need to explain especially the darker features of religion, and how those darker features got there in the first place. Religion has always been a dominant system of meaning for people and it has operated as the repository of ideals that inspire and validate human life. Admitting to the presence of the ‘dark side’ in religion is disorienting to religious people but a mass of historical evidence supports the fact of the damaging role of religion in human existence.

To sort out how the dark features of religion were developed and then employed to hinder human development start with the fact that people long ago projected their animal features onto their gods and then turned around and used the ideal of animal-like deity to validate the continuance of their own animal-like behavior. That is blunt to the point of grating harshly on religious ears but it is as accurate as I can state it (Hector Garcia does the same in Alpha God). The animal and the sacred have been in a tight pair-bonding ever since. The projected features of animal life have long been considered “sacred” making it hard to rethink and reform them properly and fully. And yes, again for “balance”, there is more to deity than just the animal side. Human features have also been projected onto deity over history, but the nicer features have often been expressed in an oxymoronic and distorting manner- again, “God is love but tortures and destroys people in Hell”.

The continuing presence of the animal in the sacred is the outcome of Biblicism- the felt obligation to retain all the features that are found in a religious tradition and its holy books, whether good or bad. If it is all in the “inspired” holy books then all of it must be from God, approved by God. Right? The result of this obligation to Biblicism is the endeavor to harmonize both the good and the bad elements of religion. It doesn’t work and the better ideals in religion are only distorted by harmonizing them with the baser elements. Love and hell? Nah. That’s as contrary as contrary can get.

Over the past years this site has been exploring the story of what is most fundamentally wrong in life and how to fix it, in order to make life better. This site has argued that ancient people created monsters, including history’s worst monster- violent, vengeful, and punishing deity. The ancients created violent tribal gods that threatened to destroy people (i.e. Sumerian Flood myth). That mythology became embedded at the core of human worldviews, and then lodged deeply in human subconscious. And it is still in the background working its damage on consciousness and life. It is, to this day, the defining core of the major world religions. Note, for instance, the central atonement myth of Christianity- an angry God demanding human sacrifice for appeasement. That tribal God will “save” his chosen few and destroy all others in a final great punishment (apocalypse and hell).

Most people do not maintain daily conscious awareness of that animal-like monstrosity in the background, awareness of its still powerful contemporary influence on their consciousness. They sense more that they are living and reacting in response to more immediate events and stimuli in their lives. But that background stuff is still there darkening their consciousness and influencing their perception (e.g. some great, imminent threat), their mood (e.g. fear, guilt, shame, despair), their motivation (e.g. defensive aggression), and their actions (e.g. exclusion, revenge, violence).

Just another side point on the residual influence of this mythology- note the punishment orientation of Western justice systems and the recognized fact that these systems are based historically on the Christian theology of a punishing God. Inhumane religious mythology is still an influential part of the complex mix of human thought, mood, and response. And that religious influence is too much about violence, violence, and more violence to solve problems.

I have argued that this religious element is most critical to engage because of its status as humanity’s highest ideal and authority. When making changes to their worldviews, few people go to the foundations to make the necessary fundamental changes there. They do not fully humanize the core themes or ideals of their worldviews (the background, subconscious, religious influence), hence the liberation and humanization of consciousness remains incomplete.

Further comment on this subject (from discussion group): Taking the Animal out of God- another round with more detail (repeat with different material and approach).

To fully understand and properly solve problems like violence it is vital to recognize the ultimate source of violence in the animal inheritance and how this relates to human mythology or religious ideas as the highest sources of validation.

When early people created their worldviews (i.e. Sumerian mythology- the first writing or literature) they were trying to explain life. But they were still very animal-like in their thinking and behavior. They also felt the impulse for meaning that came with their emerging and developing consciousness. They felt the need to explain things like disease, accident, suffering, and death. But their thinking was still shaped by alpha domination, small band exclusion, and the destruction of enemies (competing others). So in their endeavor to explain life, they projected these features onto their beliefs in spirits and gods. Those animal features defined their developing awareness of the spiritual realm. The result was that they explained the spiritual by creating very animal-like gods and myths. Gods that were dominating kings/queens, gods of small band mentality that demanded the exclusion and destruction of differing outsiders (i.e. the Zoroastrian dualism/tribalism that shaped Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

(Note: Pre-historians- e.g. Jacquetta Hawkes, John Pfeiffer- point out that what we find in the earliest literature represents what was believed in the pre-history era.)

They then turned around and used that mythology to validate their own very animal-like behavior and existence. The sacred then became their highest ideal and authority to validate their own lives and actions (i.e. a feedback loop- first project and then use the projection to validate). And so we have had an endless series of tribal gods, favoring their chosen people and excluding “unbelievers” to their group. Gods that dominate insiders and promise to destroy all outsiders, and followers that have behaved just like the gods they had created. (Note: I make the distinction that human-created views of God are something quite different from the ultimate reality that is God)

The problem is that those animal features are still there at the core of the great world religions, lodged firmly in the religious gods and related mythology. Those are still the great background ideals, archetypes, and authorities of many people. Since those animal features have been placed under the protection of the sacred they have been very hard to root out, or even to change or humanize. (I use “archetypes” in the sense of subconscious inherited propensities that are expressed in association with ideas, themes, ideals)

There has long been this animal-like deity at the core of human consciousness, this myth of violent, tribal deity, an ultimate ideal that has incited the worst impulses of our animal inheritance, validating the expression of those base impulses. Violent, threatening deity has long been the foundational theme of the old mythical/religious narrative. It is the single most damaging idea ever lodged in human minds. And it has found new expression in contemporary beliefs such as the “revenge of Gaia”, angry planet, or karma.

We now have something to replace that old core, to purge it entirely and revolutionize human consciousness. Something to powerfully counter the old animal drives and inspire the new human spirit and human impulses. This is the ideal of the unconditional treatment of all people, both the ethic and the theology. This new ideal overturns entirely the old core myth. If we place this unconditional ideal at the very foundation of our worldviews it will radiate through consciousness, cleansing, changing, and bringing out the best in humanity and inspiring us toward that better future that we all want. This is the single most humane insight that we have ever discovered. Unconditional enlightens and liberates consciousness as nothing else can. It becomes a new humane baseline for evaluating all things in life.

Additional note: I had just finished this summary of the animal/sacred relationship when I came across Hector Garcia’s book titled “Alpha God” (May , 2015). Garcia also argues that we need to recognize our underlying animal propensities and how ancient people projected these animal drives onto their gods, and then used those gods to validate their own expression of animal drives (i.e. small band orientation, domination and destruction of others).

I have been making this very argument for decades- that long ago, animal features were projected onto God and that animal-like God was then employed to validate very animal-like behavior in people. But Garcia brings in far more evolutionary biology detail to buttress this argument. Well done Hector Garcia.

I have quibbles with some of his points (i.e. consciousness as a by-product of brain functions- mind from meat mythology) but overall I would strongly recommend his book. He will help to understand the presence of bad ideas in religion, where they came from, and their damaging impact on human psychology, behavior, and society.

While Garcia makes partial recommendations on how to counter the animal influence, he does not offer a robust alternative. The argument of this site is that the unconditional treatment of all people is the most humane alternative to the animal. This ultimate human ideal (i.e. ultimate definition of love) should become a central plank in the foundation of human worldviews, especially for ethical and theological elements. This ideal of unconditional is critical to any endeavor to reform religion. Unconditional offers a great baseline for evaluating what is animal and what is authentically human. It liberates from the animal as nothing else can.

Additional- The pathology of apocalyptic

The most damaging pathology to human consciousness has been that of apocalypse and its related myths, notably the vengeful, violent God that is the driving core of this mythology. See the full template further below- it includes the myths of original paradise, corrupt humanity destroying paradise, decline of life toward disaster, punishment of imperfect humanity, demanded salvation scheme, obligation to separate from and oppose some enemy, threatened apocalyptic purging of world, and final punishment and hell. Grasping the nature and impact of this mythology helps us to understand what incites and validates violence in today’s world. This site considers the most potent solutions/corrections to apocalyptic mythology. This is all about going to the foundations of the “battle of ideas”.

There are some very disturbing things noted on this site, such as the central role that apocalyptic millennial themes have played in inciting and validating mass-death movements (i.e. how religion influences secular movements). For instance, Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) notes that historians and scholars have recoiled from acknowledging the role of apocalyptic millennialism in Marxism and Nazism. Historians have backed away from that admission because it is just too disorienting for them to engage. In response, they argue that someone like Hitler could not have been religiously motivated but had to be uniquely evil.

However, Landes points out with detail from Hitler’s speeches, that Hitler was notably indebted to Christian apocalyptic themes. He saw himself as a messianic figure, delivering Germany from looming apocalypse, and promising a millennial paradise. Hitler believed that he was doing something good, that he was in the service of Providence to save Germany from an evil threat (i.e. the Jew). Landes notes that if we ignore the role of apocalyptic millennialism in such things as the Nazi mass-death movement then we miss the opportunity to fully understand and prevent such violence in the future.

While Hitler is a more extreme example, history is replete with other destructive movements that relied on core Christian themes for validation. Note for instance, 19th Century Declinism and its influence on contemporary environmental alarmism. Christianity bears major responsibility for bringing the damaging influence of apocalyptic mythology into Western consciousness.

Also, David Cook presents evidence that contemporary Islamic extremism borrows heavily from Christian apocalyptic themes (e.g. “Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature”). The larger framework of Islamic ‘extremism’ is about much more than anger at the West. This is uncomfortable material to confront, especially for Christians. But it is critical to solving the problem of violence in today’s world. People need to acknowledge the ‘bad ideas’ in their religious traditions and how those ideas incite, inspire, and validate inhumanity. Then they can properly engage the project to fully humanize their belief systems. Too much ‘reform of religion’ stalls short of fully cleaning up the pathology at the core of religious systems (see below “The Futility of Reforming Religion”).

To repeat- Christianity especially needs to confront it’s dominant role in bringing apocalyptic mythology into Western consciousness and civilization. Apocalyptic is the heart and soul of Christianity. See James Tabor on ‘Paul and Jesus’, further below.

As always, this site is concerned with the broader context of the origin of apocalyptic mythology, its development over history, its impact on human life and society, and how to properly counter apocalyptic; how to liberate human consciousness from this Mother of all pathologies.

“Apocalyptic is fantasy thinking, unscientific and entirely out of touch with reality and factual evidence (i.e. evidence of the long-term improving trajectory of life). As one commentator suggested, it is escapism into the self-pitying ‘mental masturbation’ of despair. As for the millennial element of apocalyptic, that is correctly defined as ‘violent hope’ because it requires the destruction of one’s enemies in order to attain one’s ‘paradise’. It is not authentically humane hope”.

Further clarification on presenting unconditional love as the ultimate ideal of authentic humanity. I am urged to point out more that this ideal does not mean abandoning concerns for justice, and so on (note: unconditional does radically overturn ‘payback’ versions of justice). Also, I would clarify that the embrace of an unconditional ethic does not necessarily mean that people must abandon their religious traditions, though religion as a highly “conditional” institution has never been able to properly communicate unconditional reality. And I have been careful to acknowledge the humane ideals in religious traditions, the “diamonds in the dunghill”, according to Thomas Jefferson.

Let me state once again, as I do repeatedly throughout this site, a no conditions approach toward all people does not mean ideological or dogmatic pacifism in the face of evil. Love is always responsible to protect the innocent. That means holding people responsible and accountable for their actions. It means making restitution. And it is always up to the victim to maintain the freedom of choice to initiate, or not initiate, the unconditional treatment of their offender in whatever manner they choose.

But all of us are responsible to maintain an unconditional attitude toward every human being, no matter how badly some people have failed to be human, and regardless of our struggle with applying this ethic in the messy imperfection of life. This is very much about the nature of authentic humanity. Unconditional urges that we should never act without love, even when defensively protecting the innocent from violence- i.e. restraining those who will not or cannot restrain their own worst impulses. So the ideal remains intact no matter how we struggle to apply it in life. Our struggle with all sorts of cruelty, carelessness, abuse, and evil does not change the truth that Ultimate Reality is unconditional love. That is the essential nature of reality. And that is also the essential nature of our human person or spirit.

Top 10 list of “bad religious ideas

These are beliefs that have long incited, inspired, and validated violence and other forms of inhumanity. They have hindered human development, holding people in subhuman stages of thinking and behavior. Various commentators refer in general terms to the problem of bad religious ideas but few actually spell them out in detail.

You will find comment on these themes scattered throughout this site. These bad ideas are first seen in the earliest human literature, the Sumerian myth of angry gods threatening a flood apocalypse as punishment for noisy people. This pathological mythology then flows down to Zoroaster with God threatening a fiery apocalypse to end the world and purge it of the ‘bad’ people that have corrupted life. The flow of bad ideas then continues into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and then into 19th Century Declinism (i.e. corrupt people destroying nature) and its offspring of Green religion or environmental alarmism. It is a poisonous river that has polluted human consciousness from the beginning and has still not been properly cleaned up. I am simply recognizing that some inhumane features were lodged in humanity’s highest ideals and authorities at the beginning and have caused immense damage ever since.

Let’s begin the list….

1. An angry, violent, and punishing deity behind all things. Violence has long been embedded in this ultimate human ideal and authority that is God. This is the single most damaging idea of all. It drives the rest of the bad ideas of religion. This number one bad idea re-enforces in consciousness the sense of some great threat, the sense of looming punishment, and that ultimate threat stirs unnecessary fear and anxiety. This pathology buries entirely the nature of ultimate reality as unconditional love.

2. Fallen, sinful people deserve punishment and destruction. This fallen humanity myth views the original imperfection and the slow development of humanity as punishable. This belief has produced endless guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety in human consciousness. This myth misses the amazing improvement in humanity over the millennia (i.e. the growth in empathy and love). Associated with this belief is the mistaken understanding that death was introduced as the initial punishment for being imperfectly human- the Fall of man myth.

3. The dualism of a good Force versus a bad force, or the true religion versus false religion- Zoroastrian oppositional dualism. While such distinctions between good and bad are important, we need to challenge the abuse of this dualism to affirm exclusion and destruction of “enemies”- “us versus them” tribal thinking. This myth of dualism misses entirely the essential oneness of the human family (note: people employ all sorts of categories to separate themselves from the “other/them”- whether religious, ideological, racial/ethnic, or national).

4. The myth of an original paradise (better past) that sinful humanity has ruined. This establishes the reason for punishing humanity (i.e. humans are viewed as corrupt destroyers of original good). This myth is also vital to understanding the reason for the world-ending apocalypse, which is the purging of the ruined world in order to restore the lost paradise. Original and ruined paradise is the bedrock myth of the apocalyptic template of ideas. Original paradise mythology distorts the fact that life began in brutal imperfection but has become something better.

5. The belief that life is now in decline; that humanity continues to ruin the world and life. Humanity is also believed to be in decline, degenerating toward something worse. This myth of declinism distorts entirely the actual trajectory of life which continues to improve over the long term. This myth also misses the essential love, goodness and creativity of humanity that is evident in the improvement of life. The belief in declining life causes unnecessary fear, fatalism, resignation, and even despair.

6. Looming (always imminent) apocalypse. The threat of coming collapse and ultimate destruction stirs fear, and fear can incite aggression and violence. This myth is often coupled with a sense of victimhood- that there is a threat or enemy that we must eliminate if we are to survive.

7. Violent and overwhelming intervention is another element of the apocalyptic pathology. This element defines the apocalypse as a great instantaneous purging of this present imperfect world in order to install a new perfect utopia/millennium. Such coercive intervention violates individual freedom in the name of some “greater good”. Great-purging and instant-utopia-belief also seeks to escape the slow and messy historical process (i.e. the gradual improvement that comes out of the struggle to solve problems, the gradual learning process that is critical to human development). This mythology violates the most basic human values of love and freedom. Add to this the felt need of people to act violently as the agents of God in order to get the always delayed apocalypse moving along.

Further, the idea of a God that overwhelms and intervenes in life distorts our understanding of power. Truly human power does not coercively overwhelm and intervene to change things. Rather, authentic love patiently respects human freedom of choice and tries to gently persuade. Love does not violate the freedom of others. And far from being a “weak” response to evil, this unconditional treatment of others is the most powerful response to transform people and life for the better. See Mandela comment below and how his non-coercive unconditional approach spared South Africa from civil war, while other countries, abandoning unconditional treatment, descended into mass-death responses (e.g. Rwanda, Serbia).

Also note that, historically, violent crime has declined in tandem with people abandoning coercive, punitive responses such as the death penalty (see Pinker in Better Angels of our Nature, page 153). These are important relationships to understand. As coercive, punitive treatment of people declined, so also violence in general declined. But during the “transition” to that better world, defensive action against remaining violence is still necessary to protect innocent people. James Payne, for instance, recommends gradually lessening our coercive defensive responses in order to help the overall process of declining violence along (History of Force).

8. The demand for some salvation plan. Historically, this has been the demand for a blood sacrifice. This religious salvationism embodies the perverse understanding that violence is necessary to solve problems. We must hurt/harm others- i.e. human sacrifice- in order to give satisfaction, to appease some great threatening reality. Lotufo has rightly termed this psychopathic.

(Note: In environmental apocalyptic the ‘sacrifice’ is a return to a more simple lifestyle- “the moral superiority of simple living”- that will appease the threatening Gaia)

9. Payback justice- Human systems of justice often demand that the good be rewarded and the bad be punished (i.e. getting even, revenge, primitive offense and retaliation response, or retribution as making things “right” again). This belief and practice of payback justice too often misses the humanizing ethic that is the unconditional treatment of all people. Unconditional is the supreme human ideal- i.e. the highest definition of authentic humanity and authentic human existence. Justice should affirm responsibility and accountability in a restorative framework, but not promote retaliation or punishment.

(Note: Psychology studies affirm that punishment approaches do not work with children or criminal offenders. Punitive approaches do not teach alternative humane behaviors. Also, see the interesting research on non-punishing “natural consequences” approaches)

10. Did I say ten? Uh….I can’t think of a tenth one. Give me a moment or two….or just add your own picks.

These bad religious ideas are foundational themes in all three Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And they are expressions of base animal impulses (e.g. small band dualism- exclusion and destruction of competing enemy), impulses that have long been projected onto gods and embedded in myths and religious beliefs- protected under the canopy of the “sacred”- where they serve to inspire and validate inhumanity.

Purging the background of human consciousness- i.e. the subconscious, the archetypes or grand narrative themes- of these bad ideas and replacing them with humane alternatives such as unconditional will most thoroughly and foundationally improve life for the better.

The project to eliminate bad religious ideas is based on the understanding that ideas/beliefs powerfully shape how we feel and act, and hence, the societies that we create.

Some will notice that if you purge these particular bad ideas from Christianity then you have gutted the core of the Christian belief system and you have nothing left of the original religion. But if you replace these bad ideas with the central theme of Jesus- the unconditional treatment of all people and unconditional theology- then you have rediscovered the best of everything, something far better than the original religion of Paul. (See The Contradiction between Jesus and Paul, and The Futility of Reforming Religion below)

Inoculate- preventative medicine for kids (comment from discussion group)

“Just a suggestion- I would argue that if you could ‘inoculate’ children with 2 basic ideas/themes, then you could do more than anything else to prevent the pathology and damage from bad religious ideas. You would be liberating consciousness at the most foundational level and therefore liberating people into a better future and better world.

“I am talking about teaching children that there is- number 1- a wondrous love behind all reality and life (i.e. redefining ultimate reality as ‘no conditions love’). And that- number 2- their true self is that very same love. The essence of their consciousness or human spirit also consists of no conditions love.

“These two themes/ideas counter the dominant pathologies of past myth and religion- i.e. themes of angry, threatening gods, corrupt people ruining paradise and deserving punishment and destruction, looming final punishment for sin, demand for payment for being bad and so on. And when countering such pathology include also the problem of “eco-anxiety” in children that arises from the exaggeration and distortion of environmental alarmism- that corrupt people are destroying life.

“These two simple ideas counter all this darkening, traumatizing, and enslaving mythology.

“Could these two basic ideas be put in some simple story form for wide dissemination? Like a meme for consciousness, or a leavening agent, or a good virus?”

“Also, on the affirmative side, re-enforce to children that life is improving, rising toward something better, and not declining toward something worse. Counter the distortion of environmental alarmism. Children should know that we are creators of good, not destroyers. The evidence on this is extensive.

No conditions reality (These previous site Introductions are preserved here even though they repeat core themes. They also contain insights that differ from more recent Introductions)

No conditions reality effectively shuts down one of the main validations for violence over history- the pathological ideal of violence in God. It overturns humanity’s worst error- apocalyptic mythology. The apocalyptic template of myths has been the most damaging set of ideas ever conceived. That includes the myths of original paradise, corrupted humanity ruins paradise, life declines toward some catastrophe, destructive humanity deserves some punishment, required salvation plan (human sacrifice), people obliged to engage oppositional dualism (fight and destroy some “enemy”), threat of apocalyptic destruction, and the trauma of looming final punishment.

These pathological ideas have caused endless fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, and defensive aggression over history (some detail in Lotufo below). These ideas are still embedded at the core of Western consciousness in the great religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, in our highest ideals and authorities.

We have the liberating and humanizing alternative- the authentically humane ideal of no conditions love. This site explores this reality thoroughly. No conditions reality and existence provides a new foundation for human worldviews and narratives. By transforming and humanizing our highest ideals and authorities, no conditions offers long term liberation from violence and other behaviors that have hindered human progress (i.e. social, economic, and political progress). Explore with us the project to thoroughly humanize all of human perception and existence.

Comment from discussion group…

“____, I would combat your discouragement over depressing news reports by urging you to get into someone like Julian Simon and his Ultimate Resource. That is full of factual information on the main trends of life and the “true state of the world”. So also Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg. And then more specifically on violence and humanity- get James Payne’s History of Force and Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. Their marshalling of fact on violence decreasing over human history is good. All this evidence shows that despite media distortion (Altheide in Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis) life is actually getting better over the long term. Downturns, setbacks and so on, are all aberrational to the long term improvement of life. The evidence is overwhelming.”

“Simon was clinically depressed, but when he checked the evidence on all the major trends of life, his depression left and never returned. He said that we- creative and good humanity- should have a party to end all parties to celebrate how well we are doing.”

Another comment from discussion group…

“I ‘harp’ on it too much, but I affirm strongly that human consciousness has so long been darkened by apocalyptic doom and tales of decline that people have a very hard time appreciating the wonder of improving life, that life becomes something ever better. Again, the evidence is overwhelming. This was the point of my report for Global Warming Policy Foundation….’Decline or Rise: The actual trajectory of life’.”

“I see this rise/improvement in the entire trajectory of the cosmos, from more chaotic beginnings toward more order and complexity, suitable for life. And in the trajectory of life on this planet- toward more order and complexity again, suitable for conscious life (i.e. the complexity of the human brain). And then civilization- the decline in violence and movement toward increasing empathy and love everywhere, in a more complex environment. More freedom, diversity and creativity. But this ‘overwhelming’ evidence is so often missed because of the long history of human obsession with and enslavement to apocalyptic mythology.”

“If you doubt how widespread this apocalyptic declinism is- just listen to people around you, and in public media. How often we hear comment that the ‘world is a mess’, ‘things are getting worse’, ‘its all going to hell’, and similar statements. Apocalyptic-like decline is often accepted as conventional truth”.

General site context: This site maintains an intense focus on what it means to think and act as human, exploring what it means to be authentically humane. I take seriously the wonder of human consciousness with its profound impulse for meaning and its desire to fulfill some humane purpose related to a greater and supremely humane Consciousness.

This site goes after the foundational ideas/themes that have long been used to promote and validate all sorts of inhumanity. I take a careful look at humanity’s “worst mistake ever” (violent, punitive deity), an early error in human perception that has promoted and validated far too much brutality. And I thoroughly explore humanity’s “greatest discovery ever” (no conditions reality and existence) that has liberated people from that inhumanity.

Worst? Greatest? The very nature of the subject demands some extravagant language.

I am going to the most basic levels of perception, thought, belief, emotion, motivation, and behavior to solve long-standing problems there, for the long term future. This is why I persistently go after core ideas, ideals, archetypes, or themes and this is why I grapple so much with mythology and religion, the original historical source of bad ideas. Original source? How so? I recognize that early people thought almost entirely in mythical ways. They then shaped the foundational ideas and themes of ancient human worldviews in terms of their myths. Those became the core themes or archetypes for human understanding. And those now hard-wired (subconscious) themes are still present in the background of human consciousness, endlessly re-emerging in new versions over history- e.g. environmental alarmism.

In response, this site explores the scandal and wonder of a supremely humane reality- that of no conditions love. This “greatest ever” discovery is a stunning contrast to the core themes that have dominated the history of mythology and religion. Most mythology and religion has oriented human consciousness to conditional reality (i.e. how to appease and please some god). That has never enabled people to appreciate the wonder of unconditional reality.

The further pathology of religion is that it has also focused human consciousness intensely on violence in our highest ideals, with the idea that the gods employ violence to solve problems- i.e. threatening punishment for human imperfection, demanding blood sacrifice, and promising a great final destruction of apocalypse to clean up the world. This has stirred endless fear, anxiety, and defensiveness in human populations, and has validated endless violence.

Fortunately, rare voices over history have pointed to an entirely different ultimate reality- that of a non-retaliating, non-punishing, non-violent ultimate reality or deity.

No conditions love now liberates consciousness from conditional thinking and response and points toward the supreme height of authentically humane reality and existence. It provides an entirely new foundation for human perception and grand narratives. It states that there is no threat behind life, but only unconditional forgiveness, universal inclusion, and unlimited generosity.

No conditions love overturns the foundations of salvation thinking. It argues that there is no demand for sacrifice or payment, and no threat of punishment. It provides a new supremely humane basis for human ethics (theology has always determined ethics, religious views of deity have always shaped how people act and the societies they create). No conditions takes our understanding of what it means to be human to new heights. It gives us new insight into humanity’s highest ideal- love.

The Theism/Atheism Debate: When sorting out the problem of ‘bad religious ideas’, and their impact on human society, it is necessary to deal with the most foundational of all religious ideas and the pathology that has long been embedded in that idea. I refer to the reality that people have always called God.

Because the reality of God has caused humanity such misery and suffering over the past, some argue that we need to abandon it altogether. As one thoroughly pissed atheist urged, “Let’s get rid of all this metaphysical bullshit”. But this will never be a serious option for many other people. The best alternative is to then humanize this reality entirely. Just as we have done with much of human thinking and belief over the past few centuries.

For any religious visitors that may be unnerved by the comment on this site… while I appreciate various elements of the atheist critique of religion, I do not join atheism in rejecting entirely a ‘spiritual’ element to reality. I would affirm that humanity has generally got the big picture right- the long-standing intuition of most people over history that we are part of a greater reality that has more to do with intelligence/consciousness than just natural law, or energy-type forces. People have defined this Ultimate Reality in varied ways, as Universal Mind, Self, Consciousness, Intelligence, Source, Ground, Universe, Spirit, or God.

The Ultimate Reality that we call God has served as the embodiment of humanity’s highest ideals, as the Ultimate Good. This ideal of deity has operated to inspire and validate human behavior and existence, with all the problems that come from finding inspiration in something that often includes inhumane features. It has also functioned as humanity’s highest “authority”, with all the problems that come with subjection to authorities outside of the individual human self.

For many people, atheism simply does not properly answer the most fundamental of human impulses. Atheism is too often just a shrug of the shoulders and walking away. Materialist explanations that end in natural law, energy, and overall meaningless nothingness do not respond fully to the profound impulse for meaning and purpose that is at the core of human consciousness.

So I affirm the ancient intuition that we are part of some greater Mind or Consciousness and that we derive profound meaning and purpose from the greater surrounding reality. Unfortunately, religion has grotesquely distorted that reality by developing a conditional understanding of it (i.e. conditions to appease and please the gods). Conditional religion has failed to communicate the wonder and scandal of Ultimate Unconditional Goodness.

Ultimate Reality has subsequently been horrifically distorted in human mythology and religion. People have projected all sorts of subhuman and vile features onto deity- gods as kings/rulers (domination/subservience- i.e. people created to serve the gods), gods as judges (condemnation, punishment), gender, anger/rage, retaliation/vengeance, demand for violent blood sacrifice, tribal exclusion (saved insiders, damned outsiders), and destruction (temporal and eternal), and more.

Hence, my advocacy for the full humanization of ultimate reality, and especially understanding it in terms of humanity’s greatest discovery- no conditions love. The ultimate ideal of authentic humanity. This single discovery overturns all of the worst features of past mythology and religion.

The atheism versus theism debate has so often been little more than a defensive dead-end for both sides. An orientation to unconditional reality opens up whole new areas of exploration and creative innovation for all sides. I am speaking, for instance, to the growing movement of people toward “spiritual but not religious” identities. The options for creative humanity are much more than some simple dualism between religion and atheism.

And while affirming the felt need of many people to be in harmony with some ultimate ideal or authority, I also recognize the damage that arises from setting some “greater good” above people. This orientation to greater good has often led to neglect and abuse of people (there is more comment on this further below on this page). For instance, the belief that we must know, serve, or please some God “up above” has often taken precedence over serving real people with real needs in the here and now. It has repeatedly led to the worst forms of brutality against others. We saw this in 9/11 where Mohammed Atta flew a plane into the World Trade Center out of his devotion to his God, his “greater good”, or higher ideal and authority. His reasoning- I must please my God even if I have to kill you. My loyalty and service to some greater good or authority above humanity comes before treating others humanely. This has always been the problem of religious belief and devotion. We see this same orientation with ideological movements. The loyalty to the ideology is placed above treating people humanely.

The atheists are right that we need a more secular/scientific approach in our societies- separation of state and religion. Keeping the spiritual in the private and personal sphere. And emphasizing a focus on this life and real people, and their needs and rights in the here and now. Religion could benefit greatly from abandoning the obligation to know and serve some invisible reality. As my friend Bob Brinsmead often says, “God has disappeared into humanity and is known only in the human race. Humanity is what we know and serve”.

Any reality that is genuine love will forget itself and focus on serving the other, and that would mean a focus on real people. Authentically humane spirituality will embrace this life and improving the human condition here and now.

Add to the above- the need for creative new understanding and expression of ultimate reality and how this relates ‘safely’ to human experience. Especially important here is to find more humane alternatives to what mythological and religious traditions have given humanity. We will never rid human consciousness of the awareness of greater ultimate reality, nor should we. This will continue to play a role in the search for meaning and purpose. It just needs to be fully humanized.

One more: How do we arrive at the conclusion that Ultimate Reality is no conditions love? Using an insight from Bob Brinsmead, we start with the best in humanity (i.e. the authentically humane), such as we see in a Mandela or a Jesus, and then we reason that Ultimate Good is infinitely better than the best that we find in ourselves. Our “authority” for such a discovery is our own human consciousness of what is the best of the human spirit. We then reason from the best of humanity to the infinitely better “spiritual” reality.

For Christian visitors to this site- this is exactly what Jesus did when he said that if you imperfect people know how to give good gifts, then how much more so your Father in heaven (i.e. how much more is God good). He reasoned from the best in humanity to something infinitely better in deity. Note also, in this regard, that Jesus’ unconditional insight did not come from scripture but was his own insight against scriptural teaching. He said in Matthew 5 that it was taught (in scripture) “an eye for an eye”. But then he rejected that scriptural teaching for his own entirely contrary perspective (“love your enemies”). He was no Biblicist but used his own sense of the human thing- of what was more humane.

Why I am a Climate Change Skeptic
March 20, 2015 PATRICK MOORE
Dr. Patrick Moore is the co-founder, chair, and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies

[Editor’s Note: Patrick Moore, Ph.D., has been a leader in international environmentalism for more than 40 years. He cofounded Greenpeace and currently serves as chair of Allow Golden Rice. Moore received the 2014 Speaks Truth to Power Award at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, July 8, in Las Vegas. Watch his presentation about this piece at the video player to the left.]

I am skeptical humans are the main cause of climate change and that it will be catastrophic in the near future. There is no scientific proof of this hypothesis, yet we are told “the debate is over” and “the science is settled.”

My skepticism begins with the believers’ certainty they can predict the global climate with a computer model. The entire basis for the doomsday climate change scenario is the hypothesis increased atmospheric carbon dioxide due to fossil fuel emissions will heat the Earth to unlivable temperatures.

In fact, the Earth has been warming very gradually for 300 years, since the Little Ice Age ended, long before heavy use of fossil fuels. Prior to the Little Ice Age, during the Medieval Warm Period, Vikings colonized Greenland and Newfoundland, when it was warmer there than today. And during Roman times, it was warmer, long before fossil fuels revolutionized civilization.

The idea it would be catastrophic if carbon dioxide were to increase and average global temperature were to rise a few degrees is preposterous.
Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced for the umpteenth time we are doomed unless we reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to zero. Effectively this means either reducing the population to zero, or going back 10,000 years before humans began clearing forests for agriculture. This proposed cure is far worse than adapting to a warmer world, if it actually comes about.

IPCC Conflict of Interest

By its constitution, the IPCC has a hopeless conflict of interest. Its mandate is to consider only the human causes of global warming, not the many natural causes changing the climate for billions of years. We don’t understand the natural causes of climate change any more than we know if humans are part of the cause at present. If the IPCC did not find humans were the cause of warming, or if it found warming would be more positive than negative, there would be no need for the IPCC under its present mandate. To survive, it must find on the side of the apocalypse.

The IPCC should either have its mandate expanded to include all causes of climate change, or it should be dismantled.

Political Powerhouse

Climate change has become a powerful political force for many reasons. First, it is universal; we are told everything on Earth is threatened. Second, it invokes the two most powerful human motivators: fear and guilt. We fear driving our car will kill our grandchildren, and we feel guilty for doing it.

Third, there is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.

So we are told carbon dioxide is a “toxic” “pollutant” that must be curtailed, when in fact it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, gas and the most important food for life on earth. Without carbon dioxide above 150 parts per million, all plants would die.

Human Emissions Saved Planet

Over the past 150 million years, carbon dioxide had been drawn down steadily (by plants) from about 3,000 parts per million to about 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. If this trend continued, the carbon dioxide level would have become too low to support life on Earth. Human fossil fuel use and clearing land for crops have boosted carbon dioxide from its lowest level in the history of the Earth back to 400 parts per million today.

At 400 parts per million, all our food crops, forests, and natural ecosystems are still on a starvation diet for carbon dioxide. The optimum level of carbon dioxide for plant growth, given enough water and nutrients, is about 1,500 parts per million, nearly four times higher than today. Greenhouse growers inject carbon-dioxide to increase yields. Farms and forests will produce more if carbon-dioxide keeps rising.

We have no proof increased carbon dioxide is responsible for the earth’s slight warming over the past 300 years. There has been no significant warming for 18 years while we have emitted 25 per cent of all the carbon dioxide ever emitted. Carbon dioxide is vital for life on Earth and plants would like more of it. Which should we emphasize to our children?

Celebrate Carbon Dioxide

The IPCC’s followers have given us a vision of a world dying because of carbon-dioxide emissions. I say the Earth would be a lot deader with no carbon dioxide, and more of it will be a very positive factor in feeding the world. Let’s celebrate carbon dioxide.

Patrick Moore (pmoore@allowgoldenricenow.org) was a cofounder and leader of Greenpeace for 15 years. He is now chair and spokesman for Allow Golden Rice.


A model of religion and violence

Armstrong in her new book Fields of Blood, tackles the problem of religion and violence, which she dismisses as the “myth of religious violence”. She correctly notes that violence is influenced by varied motivations, religion being one prominent motivator. While replete with interesting historical detail, her book misses fundamental elements and linkages that are necessary to understand religion and violence. She tends to dismiss or downplay the role of religion in inciting violence over history. That is misleading and does not help in finding long term solutions to violence. She offers no complete presentation of what exactly in religion has validated so much violence over history.

I would offer a more comprehensive model for understanding the problem of religion and violence. Armstrong includes several of the basic elements of this model (i.e. the animal as the foundational source of violence, and that early humans thought entirely mythically) but she provides no larger framework of explanation for the elements that she notes.

Remember, a model tries to simplify some aspect of reality and focus on a few key elements and note the possible relationships among them. The purpose of a model of reality is to make something more clear, or easier to grasp, and to illustrate how things may impact one another. This model tries to note the long term relationship of religion inciting inhuman behavior (i.e. violence) over history.

First element- violence fundamentally springs from our animal inheritance, more specifically from the core animal parts of the modern human brain (i.e. the amygdale and limbic system). These sections of the brain (reptilian core) generate the impulses to fear, aggression, and violence.

We understand that the animal inheritance is expressed in behaviors like small band orientation (tribal mentality and response- my band against other bands), the drive to dominate (alpha male/female), the predatory drives to exclude, oppose, and destroy others (competing enemies), and the bloody meal to satisfy hunger.

Second element- early humans, with their developing consciousness and its basic impulse for meaning, sought to explain reality and life. They understood there was some greater creating and sustaining spiritual reality. They also saw spiritual forces behind all the elements of life and nature. Consequently, they explained the events of life in terms of such spiritual forces. Hence, their explanations were almost entirely mythical or religious. All areas of life were influenced by the spiritual.

Third element- unfortunately, the explanations of early people were also shaped in terms of the prominent features of their still often animal-like existence. They then projected those base animal-like features out to define the spiritual (the gods). The result was angry, threatening, and dominating gods. Gods that were predatory (demanding blood sacrifice- the predator’s meal to atone, to appease). Such gods were very tribal- excluding and destroying outsiders to their small bands. They were gods that would destroy all enemies (apocalypse).

These features of their early gods became deeply embedded in ancient consciousness and worldviews. They defined humanity’s highest ideals and authorities. Such features- anger, threat, violent punishment- shaped the foundational archetypes or themes of human subconscious. And they continued to shape human thinking, mood, motivation, and response in subsequent millennia, both in religious and later secular traditions (see Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth, Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History).

Fourth element- important to note here is that the ancient human understanding of ultimate reality became the model that people over subsequent history have followed/replicated in their lives. Anthropologists like Clifford Geertz have done important work noting that people have always tried to replicate divine models in their lives and societies. People seek inspiration and validation in higher authorities. They want to be in harmony with some greater reality. Early Israel is an example of this- the Hebrews built a temple according to what they believed to be the divine model. They then set up their tribes around that temple according to some supposedly divine plan. And their adherence to the divine pattern extended into the details of their lives- clothing, food, sexual behavior, and more. All modelled on what they believed was the divine law, will, plan, or word.

Returning again to the animal-like features that were projected onto the earliest gods- these have became embedded in human subconscious as fundamental archetypes or themes. They have shaped the ideals and authorities that inspire and validate human behavior and society.

Lines of descent over history

We see those primitive features later expressed again in Zoroastrian mythology or theology (the most influential religion in history and it has profoundly shaped Western consciousness). There is the small band dualism in the Zoroastrian mythology of a good God versus a bad Spirit. There is the divine demand that people must join the true tribe of the good force (the true religion), and then exclude and oppose the false tribe of the bad force (the false religion). The good God will also ultimately destroy the outsiders or enemies of the good. The true God will bring forth a great final act of predatory violence, a great apocalypse where he will destroy all of the bad. This is the ultimate statement of violence toward outsiders or enemies. A great final act of violence to solve all problems once and forever. To utterly destroy one’s enemies/competitors.

This core template of Zoroastrian themes then shaped Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Various studies show the historical linkages and lines of descent from Zoroastrian religion down through Judaism, to Christianity, and then Islam. This Western heritage of violent Deity has produced incalculable violence in these traditions over their history (“rivers of blood” according to James Payne, History of Force). People have used these themes to validate their worst impulses to exclude, oppose, and violently destroy others.

Key issue- All this pathological mythology is centered in an ultimate ideal of a violent God (ultimate predator) that employs violence to solve all problems. Violence to punish enemies, the demand for bloody sacrifice to appease and bring reconciliation, and ultimate violence to purge enemies finally from the world. This God is the real Master Terrorist behind so much violence over religious history. And this God is still at the very core of these religions, operating as the highest ideal and authority for the followers of these religions. Inspiring and validating the harsh treatment of others.

While Christianity has moderated its violence from the horrors of its past history, you can still find the influence of the harsh Christian God in such things as Western justice systems. Note, for instance, that Christian America locks up people at historically unprecedented rates. As the Mennonites and others argue, the belief in a punishing Christian God is the historical basis of Western justice systems.

You also can still find examples of Christian exclusiveness (small band orientation) in such things as the favoring of true believers/insiders, and overall a very tribal version of love (saved believers, damned unbelievers). The inhumane features of the Western God are still present clouding understanding of authentically humane reality and inhibiting an authentically universal love.

This is unfortunate, especially since the historical Jesus offered a radical new theology that blew away entirely all the animal-like features of the old theology. His new view of God as unconditional Love liberated entirely from the old mythology of violent deity demanding the exclusion, punishment, and destruction of enemies. Jesus rejected the violent animal entirely.

Armstrong does not deal with these other prominent elements and linkages necessary to understanding religion and violence. She tries to excuse and defend the Christian tradition and does not get to the real root of the problem of religion and violence- the violent ideas/gods at the core of the Western religions. These gods must be purged entirely, or fully humanized. The historical Jesus did exactly this with his new theology of a non-retaliating, non-punishing, or non-apocalyptic God (Matt.5). But Paul rejected Jesus’ new theology and retreated back to a view of primitive violent deity. He founded Christianity on this myth of a violent God and Christ (Rom.1-5, 12).

Other later historical elements- the moderating impact of Enlightenment/secular elements such as the separation of state and religion, growing human empathy and inclusiveness, developing toleration of human difference and freedom of expression.

Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology

There is a common Christian response to any challenge to the primitive blood sacrifice at the core of that religion, a barbaric belief and practice that most of humanity long ago rejected as inhumane (see Payne’s History of Force). Christians argue that their God is holy and must punish sin. Holiness is offered as the main reason why God must demand revenge against offense (appeasement) and cannot engage unconditional love. Holiness logic drives the demand for blood payment or punishment.

Holiness was an Old Testament ideal that was projected onto God and it has distorted entirely the nature of God as unconditional love. Holiness is an expression of primitive honor, shame, and retaliation culture. You have offended me, my honor- shaming me- and so I must retaliate and punish you, I must hurt you. This primitive thinking and response still dominates in backward areas of the world today. But most of the modern world has moved beyond this primitivism. The primary issue in relation to Ultimate Goodness or God is not holiness but what is the nature of authentic forgiveness and love? As parents we all get it. We just unconditionally forgive our imperfect children. When they fail, we do not take offense and then demand some severe punishment. Are we then more humane than God, the ultimate Good?

Holiness theology has produced a profound distortion of Ultimate Goodness. Authentic unconditional love does not demand payment or punishment.

Holiness theology misses entirely the unconditional discovery of Jesus. Any purity or perfection in God has to do with unconditional love, not conditional holiness. So rather than thinking of the “glory” of God in terms of primitive projections like holiness, think of the purity or ‘glory’ of God in terms of unconditional love. Unconditional gets you closer to the real purity, glory, or wonder of God. This shift in perspective will get you to more humane conclusions or answers about ultimate reality or deity.

Essential, then, to humanizing ultimate ideals and authorities (God) is to drop the projection of holiness onto God. Again, holiness embodies the primitive offense and retribution response of a barbaric past. Jesus rejected such thinking as inhuman (no more “eye for eye”, Matthew 4). It was the old honor, shame, and retaliate mentality of subhuman humanity. Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), and others, all point to this as primitive, backward humanity (subhuman). It is still dominant in some areas of the world (see, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel”, or Wafa Sultan’s “The God Who Hates”).

Lotufo and Landes also note that real power is not defined by anger and hurting another, by overwhelmingly destroying some offender. We need to rethink the “power of God” in terms of no conditions, non-coercive, non-interfering, and respecting the freedom of others. It is about non-coercive forgiving and loving. This will change human existence for the better by breaking the old anger and hurt responses and taking us in new directions, more humane directions (again, note Mandela’s example).

Comment from discussion group: The irrational “anti-science” of environmental alarmism. (Do not expect anything approaching literature in the following comment. It is from the free-ranging back and forth of a discussion forum.)

Confronting alarmism with hope. Optimism over the state of life on Earth is not about whistling in the dark against evidence, but about hope that is based on the best available evidence.

A qualifier before starting- Most of humanity shares concern for the “environment”, for clean air and water, for healthy soils and protected species, and for preserved forests (wilderness). Most people are natural environmentalists. The “Environmental Transition” research affirms this common human propensity to protect nature. When basic needs are met most people automatically turn to protecting their environment (see also Ecological Kuznets Curve research).

“Environmental alarmism” is something quite different from this natural concern and care for nature. Environmental alarmism is the irresponsible exaggeration that distorts the problems that arise throughout life. It is an unscientific and irrational hysteria that has repeatedly led to outcomes that damage human life, human progress, and harm nature itself.

Public media (i.e. TV news) have persistently and unquestioningly taken up the promotion of irresponsible alarmism, falsifying the claim that news agencies are society’s objective truth tellers (see Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis by David Altheide- news media are more entertainers than truth tellers).

The alarmist, with a Chicken Little worldview (the sky is always falling), views problems as evidence that life is declining toward disaster. The alarmist will then pull a problem out of its larger context and exaggerate that problem all out of proportion to reality, thereby distorting the true state of that thing. The alarmist does this in order to recreate the problem as evidence of looming catastrophe (“disaster”, “crisis”, “catastrophe”, “imminent end”, are the verbal coin of alarmism).

A good example of alarmist distortion is that of Professor Pimental of Cornell University, a well-known environmental alarmist. Pimental pulled a short-term aberrational reversal out of the long-term trend of declining tuberculosis to make the distorting claim that tuberculosis, and all disease, was getting worse (see details in Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, p.21-26). But after the five-year extent of the reversal, the long-term decline of tuberculosis continued. This misuse of data to create alarm is all too common from the alarmist movement. It is, as Lomborg notes, shoddy science, or more correctly, not credible science at all.

Tragically, unnecessarily frightened people are then susceptible to supporting the proffered salvation schemes of the alarmists, schemes that have repeatedly proven harmful to people and to nature. Note, for example, the bio-fuels fiasco and raising food prices for the poorest people along with further unnecessary deforestation for bio-fuels plantations, or Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism that led to the banning of DDT and millions of subsequent unnecessary deaths, mainly children. Fear-mongering, of the environmental variety, has too often been a tool of control and a destructive assault on freedom and human well-being. Alarmism pushes people to embrace salvation schemes that often involve unnecessary intervention and meddling control of people in the details of their lives- what they should eat, what car they should drive, and so much more.

A massive amount of evidence on the main elements of life, on the main resources on the planet, shows improvement over the long term (see Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment On The Earth, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, among others). In the most fundamental manner, life is improving; it is rising toward something better. As noted above, we get to the true state of life, to the true state of any particular thing, by noting its overall context, and the long term trends related to that thing. That is basic science at its best. We must include all the available evidence, especially the evidence that is contrary to prevailing or conventional wisdom on some issue. This is how good science progresses. We should never shut out skeptical viewpoints or contrary evidence.

Good science is always on guard against the distortion from things like “confirmation bias”. Confirmation bias is often driven by personal ideology and chooses to ignore, downplay, or dismiss outright any evidence that does not affirm its ideological assumptions. It is beyond shameful today that alarmists have tried to silence all skepticism of the alarmist’s exaggerated doom scenarios. You have, for instance, respected scientists showing good evidence that natural elements in life go further to explain climate change (i.e. stronger correlations to cosmic ray/sun interaction and cloud cover, also correlations to multi-decadal ocean current shifts). Yet alarmists refuse to give such evidence any credible place in their zeal to demonize humanity and its use of fossil fuels as responsible for any and all climate change. The climate change alarmist movement has now become an attack on industrial civilization and the free enterprise system that has lifted billions of people out of the misery of poverty.

When you see the denial of credible evidence as in the global warming alarm, you are then pressed to acknowledge that alarmism is often driven more by ideology than by science. And when you consider the central themes that repeatedly surface in the alarmist movement, you are then pushed further to acknowledge that it is also driven by some very primitive mythology, notably the apocalyptic template of themes. This includes the myths of a better past, corrupt humanity ruins original paradise, life is now declining toward disaster, and now a great purging of corrupt, destructive humanity from the world is required in order to save life and restore paradise. These themes first appeared in the earliest human writing, then became embedded in early human worldviews, and have since continued to resurface down through history in ever new expressions and versions, even secular ones. Explore these themes throughout this site.

Children in the future will look back on this era of environmental alarmism and wonder at the hysteria that possessed people over climate change. They will wonder that normally sane people tried to demonize CO2 as a pollutant and poison, despite the fact that it is the food of all life, and over the past centuries it has been at historical lows that stress plant life. The small rise that we have recently experienced, from the sub-normal pre-industrial level (roughly 250 ppm), has been a great boon to life with a 14% increase in plant productivity since 1980. The Earth is greener, plants are thicker and stronger and enjoy more efficient water uptake (drought resistance) due to more food in the atmosphere. We are returning to healthier and more normal or natural levels of CO2, and plant life loves this. Animals and people also benefit. Environmental alarmism has not told the public this good news (see paleo-climate research on previous historical levels of CO2 as much higher than today and that life flourished during such eras without any disastrous warming).

My argument has been that in order to liberate people from unnecessary alarmism and to improve life for the better you must engage distortions in human perception at the most foundational level. You must go to the ultimate root themes, those deeply lodged ideas or archetypes in the background of human consciousness. You must go to the very foundations of human worldviews and make effective changes there. That is critical to fully and properly liberate consciousness and human potential.

On this site I have repeatedly traced the linkages of pathological alarmist ideas down through history. I have presented the original versions in ancient Sumerian mythology (the first human writing), down into the great religious traditions (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam), and then into secular versions (Declinism, environmental alarmism). You find the same old primitive apocalyptic themes in all these versions over history.

Too many people do not go to the foundations of their worldviews to thoroughly purge the primitive themes still embedded there. That allows those themes to continue to distort and cloud the better ideas and ideals that people may hold.

Further, fear is generally a useful human response. But it should be kept to the arena of natural consequences. For instance, jump off a cliff and the sudden stop below will hurt you. So fear standing too close to the edge. But we should not exaggerate fear beyond natural context and especially we should not locate it in some greater metaphysical threat of punishment- whether God, Gaia, or karma. In addition, irrational fear produces pathological guilt, shame and other damaging outcomes that distort greater reality or context. Most seriously, the irresponsible misuse of fear harms human development and potential.

We have over the past few centuries liberated ourselves from much irrational mythology that has held humanity back. But significant elements of the damaging pathology of apocalyptic still remain in human worldviews. This traumatizing myth hinders the full creative potential of people. As Julian Simon said, apocalyptic “doomsterism” creates fatalism and resignation in populations.

Further note: Belief in a greater punishing force or spirit frightens some people excessively and it prompts them to meddle in other’s lives in order to prevent some great disaster as punishment. Such busy bodies believe that “sin” (a violation of some preferred order) causes a vengeful response from the greater realities and people will suffer, not just the “offender” but also the wider society. You see this in the religious claim that gays are responsible for inciting God to punish the wider society with such things as hurricanes. Consequently, religious people feel obligated to go after “sinners” and force them to change in order to protect the rest of society and all life. This leads to all sorts of violation of other’s freedom. Environmental alarmists also share the similar view that the “sins” of modern consumers are angering Gaia and she will take her vengeance on greedy humanity with natural disasters that impact all life. So the environmental activist feels obligated to stop such “destructive” people by using central state power to control and coerce them to embrace the ‘morally superior’ lifestyle that is envisioned by the environmental alarmist. Environmental alarmism is just another “secularized” version of the same old irrational religious extremism.

Again, it is a shameful assault on human freedom and progress.

The next three paragraphs are from an Amazon blurb on Hector Garcia’s book, Alpha God

“This book uses evolutionary psychology as a lens to explain religious violence and oppression. The author, a clinical psychologist, examines religious scriptures, rituals, and canon law, highlighting the many ways in which our evolutionary legacy has shaped the development of religion and continues to profoundly influence its expression. The book focuses on the image of God as the dominant male in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This traditional God concept is seen as a reflection of the ‘dominant ape’ paradigm so evident in the hierarchical social structures of primates, with whom we have a strong genetic connection.

“The author describes the main features of male-dominated primate social hierarchies— specifically, the role of the alpha male as the protector of the group; his sexual dominance and use of violence and oppression to attain food, females, and territory; in-group altruism vs. out-group hostility (us vs. them); and displays of dominance and submission to establish roles within the social hierarchy. The parallels between these features of primate society and human religious rituals and concepts make it clear that religion, especially its oppressive and violent tendencies, is rooted in the deep evolutionary past.

“This incisive analysis goes a long way toward explaining the historic and ongoing violence committed in the name of religion.”

As with most material that I read, I have a few quibbles (noted earlier). Garcia takes a fairly strong materialist position and based on those assumptions he overreaches with various conclusions and explanations. He states that consciousness or mind is just the product of brain functions (mind from meat mythology). But taking such things into consideration, he still makes such good points. Materialists tend to believe that all of the human being can be understood in terms of the animal and hence use evolutionary biology based on that starting assumption. This tends to devalue the human and the wonder of consciousness with its “supernatural” impulses.

Comment from discussion group….

“I’ve just been filling in a sort of dimmer spot in my historical understanding…the development of Jewish apocalyptic (roughly second century BCE). One useful source has been the Jewish Encyclopedia at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1642-apocalypse

“The authors make some interesting points. They note that the doctrine of a chosen people is a dominant idea in Jewish apocalyptic. This idea expresses the Zoroastrian dualism- that the chosen people are always in opposition to the outsider, the non-chosen. Now remember Garcia and my own comment on those animal impulses…

“Regarding this thing of the animal impulse behind apocalyptic belief, the authors note that Jewish apocalyptic arises out of frustration with the historical process that did not favor Israel. The Jews were recognizing that they were not gaining any lasting political supremacy, hence the shift to belief in an age to come, a glorious future. In that mythical, fantasy future they would escape to a paradisal reality where they would reign supreme.

“Taking Garcia’s recent good work, one can see here that apocalyptic longing comes from a very animal impulse- the desire (hope?) to dominate and to see one’s enemies destroyed. Dualistic tribalism is also visible all through this (chosen people triumphing over their enemies).

“The Jewish Encyclopedia authors state, ‘The more unlikely that Israel would ever be able to get the upper hand of the surrounding nations, the stronger grew the feeling that the final triumph would be preceded by a complete overthrow of the existing order. The present age would come to a sudden end and a new age, ushered in by the ‘day of the Lord’ would take its place…the day of Israel’s triumph was to be a day of judgment on the Gentiles…wrongs would be set right…the final triumph of the righteous over the wicked…’ And so on.

“So many interesting elements in this Jewish apocalyptic. Hope as ‘violent hope’ (Landes), salvation and glory depending on the violent destruction of one’s enemies.

“All sides in the apocalyptic tradition- Jewish, Christian, Islamic- see the outcome in the same way…they will be the ‘righteous’ triumphing while God destroys their enemies. Islamic apocalyptic shares exactly this view.

“And escapism as central to the deliverance. The messy, slow and disappointing historical process is suddenly brought to a violent end so the chosen people can instantly be brought into a restored paradise. Escapism into fantasy reality. The authors of this piece also note the fantasy elements in such things as the great serpents and beasts that are referred to. Describing enemies as beasts is also part of the endeavor to dehumanize others, to facilitate the obligation to destroy them.

“But that central theme- that they the chosen people would ‘triumph’, that is to say ‘dominate’ over their enemies. Finally gain supremacy and rule all the others. Pure animal impulse behind this type of thinking.”


“This has been thought through and repeatedly dealt with. That there is an unconditional reality at the core of all- this is the basic plank for human worldviews. This is the basic point that historical Jesus and others advocated- the unconditional treatment of all people (full forgiveness, full inclusion, full generosity toward all). And this does not mean dogmatic pacifism in the face of evil. It does not mean rejecting all sorts of organizational and social relationships that make modern society function- i.e. bosses/workers, suppliers/retailers, and so many more. It does not mean abandoning contractual relationships that keep free enterprise functioning.

“The unconditional treatment of others does not mean embracing Marxism/Socialism to alleviate poverty, but rather it means embracing the very principles that Bernstein enunciated (The Birth of Plenty). Bob has repeatedly put up good posts spelling out these differences or distinctions. It is not about dogmatic adherence to those statements of Jesus (e.g. give to whoever asks). You don’t mindlessly apply those to contemporary economic reality- which is where socialism and Christianity found common ground in the past (i.e. all sharing everything in some communal existence- obligation to the ‘greater good’ that suppresses individual freedom).

“But I still refer to that one comment of Bob- that we are obligated to always act in love. Never otherwise.

“To some that may involve giving away a lot to the poor. But to most, especially those accountable for running a business responsibly and caring for employees as well as customers, so obviously it does not mean selling the entire store and giving it all away. And acting responsibly does not in any way nullify treating all unconditionally. Acting responsibly in such a manner does not undermine this most human of all human ideals. This defining core of reality and of the human self.

“So we continue to wrestle with applying unconditional love to the messy reality of life. And hopefully have a lot of fun as we do so.

“Keep pushing back big guy- your comment on that healthy competition of the modern human era, but not that sick tribalism of the past. <:” Another... natural consequences but not punishment... “Then something very interesting from Lotufo around pages 96-100. He is trying to distinguish between the “useless punishment” of the Western punitive justice system (“cruel and useless”), that one source argues, “generates more violence”. He is not opposing what he terms “penalties”, but is opposing punishment. And then he distinguishes...”Penalties are direct and proportional results of certain behaviors...if in a fit of anger, someone punches a wall, the wound in his hand is a penalty, not a punishment; if another man smokes a lot, and develops lung cancer, he is being penalized, not punished...punishment, understood as a long and painful torture inflicted over years with the intent of causing suffering....the element of punishment is an adventitious and indefensible additional penalty...it corrupts the legal principle...with a moral surcharge...it is the deliberate infliction of pain in addition to or in lieu of penalty. It is the prolonged and excessive infliction of penalty, or penalty all out of proportion to the offense”. “This is exactly what “natural consequence” people are getting at. “In previous pages Lotufo explains why it is hard to get around the punishment issue. Payback has long been viewed as the core of the cosmos. He notes the Greek views on this. But it actually goes back much further when the earliest gods were defined in terms of payback punishment, retaliation, or vengeance (i.e. the Sumerian gods threatening a great flood). Payback punishment is viewed as supporting the very underlying order of the universe, structuring nature and society. It is the essence of all order. “Retribution is inscribed at the center of the universe and that nothing escapes it”. This is understood in the statement, “All things are moral”. It is fundamental law. “Punishment is the way balance is restored” (he had noted earlier this fundamental drive for homeostasis or balance). “It is in the world and the world was made by it”. And so on. “This belief that payback is at the core of reality explains why it is difficult for many people to grasp an alternative to primitive retaliation worldviews...to grasp the no conditions love at the core of reality. But as in the great Jesus/Paul contradiction, and the outcomes from these entirely opposing views, ethics must be properly grounded in a humane theology. The emerging understanding of unconditional love at the core of all gets us to that humane theology, that will radically change everything, including our systems of ethics. Think again of that new read of John...In the beginning was Love and all things were made by Love. It changes everything. For the better. It is the new understanding of the core nature of reality. The new thing that Jesus tried to introduce in his central theme of unconditional theology. “Just to clarify, what Lotufo is getting at in the “moral surcharge”, is things like imprisonment. “And in changing the error of the Greeks on the nature of ultimate reality as retaliation, Jesus appealed to basic elements in nature as revealing unconditional generosity- sun and rain (the good things of life) given to all alike, both good and bad. Good solid evidence of unconditional goodness behind all. And he saw that all through nature and life. Unconditional goodness and generosity everywhere. Much more than just seeing the glass half full. “We must be careful to distinguish natural consequences all through life from the distorting myth that natural disaster, disease, and other natural consequences represent some great metaphysical threat to punish. This horrific lie has added unnecessary fear and guilt to already unbearable physical suffering. Another... “And use Garcia’s Alpha God to give you some sense of what all previous (and continuing) human perception of deity had been about. Get some sense of how that has impacted human consciousness and life over the millennia. The fear, dread, anxiety, shame, guilt (sparked by the accompanying myths of sinful humanity having offended such deities), along with the damaging subservience and felt obligation to appease and please some ‘higher authority’. The study of human mythology, which is just the study of how humanity thought, reveals all of this. “With something of that in mind, then you can appreciate what a stunning breakthrough Jesus was presenting. No threat. No punishment. Just the same unlimited generosity for all, both just and unjust. This new ‘unconditional justice’ still offends good, moral people.” Another... “On engaging defense against violence...the Chinese sage offered good advice on protective or defensive war. His point had to do with the spirit of the person conducting the defensive action. In justice they call this “restorative”. It is taking defensive action that is not conducted in a spirit of revenge or payback but regrettably engages coercion to restrain those who cannot or will not control their violence impulses. This action is taken for the safety of victims and for the good of the offender. And the defensive action is done carefully with an eye to resolving the situation to the benefit of all involved. There should be no follow-up triumphalism or gloating, but rather effort to restore. Much like Mandela in South Africa after his imprisonment. “Robert Perry also has some good comment on Matt.5:38-48 in this regard, that turning the other cheek and going the extra mile mean nothing that conventional religious comment on this passage posits. He notes that in Roman culture both those actions were about the victim taking back control of the situation and putting the offender on the defensive for acting inhumanely. “Bob also has some comment on this issue of how to apply unconditional today. He says it does not mean abandoning a variety of relationships that require the fulfilling of responsibilities- e.g. solder/ superior, teacher/student, or boss/worker. We maintain such relationships in order for society to function properly. Yet in all such situations we act in a spirit of unconditional love toward one another. “And whatever we do in this imperfect life, in all our struggle to apply this ethic, we do not lessen the scandal and wonder of the unconditional Love that is behind all things. That incomprehensible love remains as an inspiring ideal for us to attain to. Another comment from discussion group... “Just another on Christianity, Paul’s religion, and why I “curse” it (your word that misses entirely what I am doing). Paul was a smart man. He knew a lot of things. In fact, he was brilliant on some of his insights and arguments. Yet he purposely turned away from the greatest insight ever in the Jesus wisdom saying on non-retaliation (no more eye for eye justice, but rather, the unconditional treatment of all). “Paul embraced the ethical part, recognizing its goodness, its humanity (i.e. his Romans 12 comment that retaliation is evil). But he could not make the connection that if this is the best in humanity, then surely God is much better on this very same thing. God as ultimate Goodness is infinitely more humane. “And he had it right in his hands, a copy of Q (or maybe just the oral tradition- but he knew exactly what he was rejecting- see I Corinthians and his rant against the wisdom tradition, just what Herb is also doing). “Paul saw that Jesus made the connection of the ethic to the theological basis. Yet, stunningly, he rejected Jesus’ core insight and retreated back to the barbarism of apocalyptic retaliation and vengeance, back to a primitive retaliating God. How could such a bright man be so stupid? So ignorant... so intentionally primitive? “Oh, we have all been guilty of such cognitive dissonance (holding contradictory things in our minds). But as history moves forward and knowledge accumulates, it gets less and less excusable to keep making the same fundamental mistakes. Its high time for all of us to grow up. God has been waiting a long time. Maybe that explains all the NDEs being given to so many now (and the central discovery of God as unconditional love). Time to move the process along a bit more. “ Another... “You see this all through life, this animal-like cowing to ‘higher’ reality. Watch any sports event. When someone scores, they often immediately genuflect or cross themselves and look skyward. Giving the ‘glory’ to God for any success. I remember all that from Evangelicalism... you better pray before going on a trip or something bad will happen. You better give God the glory after any sort of success or if you don’t, he won’t continue to bless you. He will be offended and you will lose the blessing next time. Such pathetic superstition based on fear of the dominant male. It is all so animal. “Then you get those refreshing smart asses like Ellen Degeneres, who once said about some accomplishment of hers, ‘No thanks to Jesus. I did it myself’. She was mocking all this giving praise to God or Jesus, as people do at all sorts of awards shows. Someone gets an Oscar and immediately they say, all thanks to my Lord Jesus or what not. “Oh yes, I get it that there are other elements in the mix...gratefulness and so on. But also, get behind these practices to what Garcia is noting... the animal-like behavior. Its there alright.” Another... “I remember, with intense embarrassment, how as a young Evangelical convert I returned to my hometown to ‘witness’ to old friends. I visited one, Nipper Friesen, and warned him that at the great judgment he would have to bow down to God in repentance. Mockingly (to my Evangelical mind) he retorted, ‘Well, I think I will just stay standing up’. Ha. He had it right. Why act like a stupid animal. Be human. “Ah, with Lotufo and Ellens and the others, you see the pathology in all this and how damaging it is to human well being. Retarding people at subhuman stages of development, as Lotufo said. Maintaining depression and other pathology, as Garcia shows. Sick God, sick religion, sick people. All so pathetically animal through and through. “Garcia quotes someone else to make this point (and these quotes pulled from his book do not do justice to his detailed data on animal species that he presents to make his case).... ” He says, ‘We are forced to the conclusion that in a behavioral sense, religious activities consist of the coming together of large groups of people to perform repeated and prolonged submissive displays to appease a dominant individual....the submissive responses to it may consist of closing the eyes, lowering the head, clasping the hands together in a begging gesture, kneeling, kissing the ground, or extreme prostration...the dominant individual is appeased....the appeasement ceremonies have to be performed at regular and frequent intervals, to prevent its anger from rising up again...’ “And later...He adds, ’As we deconstruct God’s projected size and dominance behaviors we place them within an ancient registry of human and proto-human psychology. In this way we may begin to more deeply understand the reasons why men engage in religious violence and intellectual subjugation, particularly among religions that are commanded by a dominant male god...human beings have inherited these tendencies and have woven primate rules for dominance and submission into the fabric of their religious cultures. Despotic men have co-opted evolutionary fear structures in their alliances with dominant male gods and have used these directives to rain intimidation and suffering down on religious subordinates...’ And so much more. “Amazing how long familiarity with something like an inherited religious tradition keeps us from seeing clearly just what we are engaged in. It takes the shock from someone like these bluntly honest atheists to state exactly what is going on. I remember Charles Templeton and his book Farewell To God. He described Christian worship to a God demanding praise of his greatness on threat of death....that such a personality was an Idi Amin (psychopathic African dictator). The lights came on when reading that. Exactly. “Ah, along with Lotufo you begin to see the damage to human personality in all this religious nuttiness. Keeping people in all sorts of pathology. Keeping them at the level of cowed animals. And in later chapters Garcia notes the damage that subservience and submission cause in terms of depression. “Years ago I read Israeli research on organizational hierarchy and the damage to people from that....those higher up get more opportunities for satisfaction, for freedom of choice and other benefits that enhance mental and emotional health. Personal control is critical to human health and well-being. My old prof Peter Boothroyd did some good work on this with his bottom-up theories of decision making for organizational settings. People need to be included in decision-making processes that affect them. Personal control and being treated as a free equal are vital to human well-being. Religious subservience to a dominant alpha male violates this sense personal freedom and control. “But that is just one peripheral point to all this domination/submission material.” Another... “When you read Garcia you see so clearly the animal in all this religious behavior. And this is just what unconditional in God counters so powerfully. There is no animal in God. There is no domination/submission in truly humane love. Again, I would suggest reading some of those better NDEs to get some felt or ‘visualized’ sense of what authentic love is about. Equality in the truest sense of the word. Full acceptance, inclusion...without any threat, fear, or felt need to cow before greatness. Sure, there is the wonder of something so brilliantly bright and loving but without any of this inherited animal pathology. It is a whole new humane appreciation of things like power and greatness. Tim was poking at this the other day. “And that is exactly why and how this has been so destructive over history. Early humans, still very animal-like in their thinking (tribalism, domination, exclusion and destruction of the other) projected all this pathetic animal-like reality onto their gods. Those animal features then became embedded in the very core of human worldviews and consciousness. And those animal ‘predispositions’, connected to validating themes and myths, have expressed themselves repeatedly over history in all sorts of versions, both religious and secular (in more recent times). As Garcia urges, just as so many others are now doing, we need to be aware that those pathologies are right at the core of our thinking, and most especially they are lodged in our highest ideals and authorities, in our gods and religious traditions. It is from there that they have done the most horrific damage. “This is exactly what I have been arguing and saying for decades. Garcia just backs all this up with some good input from evolutionary biology/psychology. Another... “And this is exactly what Garcia does very well- showing how we dehumanize the other, the outsider to our group, so we can then treat them as less than human. This oppositional dualism, Zoroastrian dualism, is pure animal tribalism, small band mentality and orientation. Garcia, as Landes and others did, shows how this infects the ‘West versus Islam’ conflict. Both sides believing that they are with God and standing against the other as ‘evil’. And the leaders on all sides using this very language.” One more... Do you want to deal with violence thoroughly and for the long term? Many mass-death movements are driven by apocalyptic mythology (Landes). Jihadist Islam is one of these. The driving theme at the core of apocalyptic mythology is the myth of a violent deity. A God that will retaliate and punish people in an apocalypse. So you had better start destroying your enemy now, or God will punish you severely for not acting on his behalf (the Quran actually states this). If you are ever to deal with the ultimate root of violence then you must purge this idea from people’s ultimate ideal and authority- deity. You need to replace that with unconditional reality. A God that does not become angry, does not punish or destroy. This gets to the ultimate root of violence in human thought. It most thoroughly changes human ultimate ideals and authorities for the better. Apocalyptic has had a profoundly damaging impact on human psychology, personality, and society over history (fear, anxiety, depression, fatalism, defensive aggression, violence). It keeps re-emerging to harm human development and progress. But take courage, violence has no long term future. The overall historical trend is toward decreasing violence. This information from Garcia and others can help that decline along. Previous Intro

This site explores the foundational error that has been deeply embedded in human worldviews since ancient times- the belief that there are violent and punishing forces or spirits behind life. That error was long ago embodied in primitive apocalyptic mythology (e.g. Sumerian Flood myth) and it then sparked the emergence of salvation religion- the felt obligation to appease angry, vengeful gods with sacrifice. It is a profoundly anti-human mythology that views humanity as fallen, corrupt, and deserving punishment. The original pathology has re-emerged over history in endless new versions both religious and secular, including 19th Century Declinism and its offspring of environmental alarmism (i.e. angry planet mythology, or the “revenge of Gaia” against destructive humanity).

We have a potent response to the original error in the discovery of “no conditions” reality. This ideal liberates entirely from the monstrous error of punitive, anti-human forces or deity. Unconditional takes us to the height of authentically human understanding and existence. It redefines the human ideal of love in the best way possible. Also, see comment on “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas”, full “List of Topics”, and the mythological themes of environmental alarmism, along with comment on its anti-science approach.

Note: The threat of payback or just retribution- “proper justice” as punishment or vengeance- has long defined the core of reality. It has shaped the core of human thought and behavior. Dehumanizing vengeance or punishment has long been the defining center of our consciousness and worldviews. This has prevented people from seeing the unconditional reality that is the real core of the cosmos and life.

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Site Comment: Section Three- Violence: Ultimate inspiration and validation from religion, getting to the foundational issues and solutions

(Note- It is understood that there are many diverse elements that are employed to incite terrorism, including political issues, economic issues, ideological or social issues, and personal issues. There is also the contributing influence of the inherited animal brain with its impulses to small band mentality, to separate and exclude the outsider, and to dominate and destroy the competitor. And there are varied critical responses to solving terrorism such as diplomacy and military action. One often neglected but important element in the mix is the religious element. This must be dealt with if solutions to violence are to be thorough and long term.)

Additional note: Someone asked me, “Are we heading for World War Three?” My response- Always maintain a view of the larger historical context and the long-term historical trend. That shows an overall decline in violence across the millennia. Violence has no long-term future. James Payne and Stephen Pinker are right that violence causes revulsion in most people and that results in more endeavor to encourage moderation and peace. The evidence affirms this optimistic view. While there will be more outbursts of violence, the trend is clearly toward lessening violence over time. The big picture and the long-term view solidly affirm hope.

New comment below: Bad religious ideas promote bad behavior; Christianity and violence in the Western tradition; The Christian influence on Islam; The great Contradiction: the unconditional theology of Historical Jesus contrasted with the supremely conditional theology of Paul/Christianity (non-retaliation versus retaliation); the great scandal at the heart of Christianity; an outline of the chronology of the contradiction; James Robinson quotes.


The horror continues. We’ve just seen another eruption of terror, and it churns our guts again with disgust, intense concern, and helpless rage. Humane consciousness is traumatized repeatedly by such horrific suffering. Years ago it was the Trade towers in New York. Then public transit in Spain and Britain. Then Charlie Hebdo in France. And recently marketplaces in Beruit. And previously the school girls of Northern Nigeria. And how often in Afganistan, Pakistan, or India. Our TVs bring into our homes the scenes of slaughtered innocents in cafes, theatres, marketplaces, and schools. We see the blood-stained sidewalks and bodies of people whose lives were ended while they were simply engaging the same activities that we all do in our daily rounds. We then watch our governments committing themselves anew to undertake military responses that take the fight directly to areas that spawn terrorists. And no one questions that we must fight this war on terror.

But there is more to be done to combat such violence…

This page continues to argue, as others have, that it is long past time to shed any remaining hesitancy about confronting one notable contributing factor behind the ongoing insanity of violence. I am referring to statements from Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Heretic) and Sam Harris, and others, who have been trying to tell us that one significant pathology remains at the inciting basis of this violence- the pathology of “bad religious ideas”.

And for years (going into decades now) I have argued repeatedly on this page that there is one singularly prominent bad idea behind religious violence. It is the single worst idea ever embedded in human minds- that of a violent God that demands revenge and destruction of enemies, and promises eternal torture in Hell for unbelievers. This horrific idea of divine violence toward “bad people” (outsiders to one’s belief system, heretics, enemies) has long incited religious people to treat their perceived enemies, the unbelievers, just as their God would treat those people. The result over history has been “rivers of blood” (James Payne). People have endlessly appealed to these pathological religious ideas to validate the worst treatment of others.

Pay careful attention to the varied features that constitute this most prominent bad idea of punishing, destroying deity. There is anger/rage at human imperfection and difference, violent vengeance or payback punishment, and exclusion and ultimate destruction of the other. Where is the humanizing inspiration in these ideals?

Remember, deity has long served as humanity’s highest ideal and authority. It ought to express the ultimate of humane ideals.

And when is it going to be enough? When are religious people going to cease defending or explaining away these pathetic ideas of divine violence (e.g. they are just metaphorical), bad ideas that feed the worst impulses in people to harm others? It is difficult enough to counter and overcome the base drives that come with our inherited animal brain. Bad religious ideas only further incite and fraudulently validate the expression of those base drives to exclude, oppose, dominate and destroy the other that is different from us.

If you are going to solve any problem properly and for the long term then you must understand the real nature of what you are facing. You must unflinchingly recognize all aspects of the problem that you are trying to deal with if you are ever going to thoroughly solve it.

(Note: Some will react to my mention of Islam just below. Carefully note that I view Islam as just one more recent historical example in a long line of mythologies/religions that have repeatedly adopted the very same core ideas. I am not picking on any one expression of these ideas and I am not discounting the many good people that belong to these religious traditions. I am taking my ire out on the bad ideas in these traditions. Note carefully these distinctions.)

The current wave of religious violence across the world originates consistently from Islam. And the terrorism of today is not the result of some extremist distortion of Islam. Just as past Christian violence was not aberrational to that religion but was inflamed by some of the core ideas of the religion. So with Islam today. The violence that we see is not an aberration to an otherwise “peaceful religion”. No. The Islamic terrorists are actually being faithful to central elements in the teaching of the religion. This was the response of the radical Muslim cleric of London to a CNN interviewer (Smerconish, Spring 2015) who argued that ISIL did not represent Islam. The cleric disagreed strongly and said that, to the contrary, the members of ISIL were just being faithful to the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad and their holy books. He was right. He understood his own religion and what it demanded of its adherents. Violent destruction of the differing other was obligatory from the clear teaching in Islam’s holy texts. So also with violence in Christian history incited by the teaching of its Bible, or Jewish history and its scripture. Literalist minds take such teaching seriously as divine imperative.

It will be disorienting for many religious people to hear these things. But it is time for religious people to set aside any discomfort and to recognize what the bad ideas of their religious systems actually represent. As with the rest of human thought and society, the less-than-humane ideals in religious belief systems must be confronted and purged. To state it most bluntly but clearly, religious adherents must fully humanize their gods, the gods that have long served as the highest ideals and authorities of humanity. You must go after the real inciting Beast behind religious violence and then replace that with something far more humane by any common standard of contemporary decency. This is fundamental to ending the river of blood that endlessly flows from a long history of religious violence.

Anthropology (see Geertz below) recognizes that people have always looked to divine models to inspire their lives and actions. We must then make sure that the divine models that we follow are fully humane, in order to ensure that they inspire the humane treatment of others. If our gods are vengeful, violent, punishing, and destructive, then is it any wonder that such gods inspire the same behavior in their followers? Nasty gods have always incited nasty behavior in their followers.

Also, projecting inhumane features onto deity, onto the Transcendent, then elevates those features to ultimate extremes. It is the worsening of the bad idea to infinity.

Harold Ellens has stated it bluntly, “Any God is a monster if he cannot behave at least as well as the average human in his or her better moments would like to behave. Monster gods make monster people” (Honest Faith for Our Time, p.91). He went on to argue that we must destroy the monster God that reigns subconsciously in people’s hearts. It is damaging to human well-being to worship “a God whose behavior is sicker than that of the world’s most demented and vicious killers” (p.160).

I have also noted further below the linkage between perceived threat, the consequent fear of that threat, and then the aggressive defense in response to the threat. We saw this in WW2 Germany (fear of the polluting influence of the Jew), we saw it in Bosnia (fear of the Muslim enemy), and now in Islam (fear of Western culture and values). People, acting out of fear of some threat, feel obligated to take pre-emptive defensive action against those perceived threats, and will appeal to ultimate authorities for validation, often religious ideals and authorities.

I am arguing that you must also purge human consciousness of the element of religious threat that continues to play a major role in stirring fear and aggressive defense among people. We are today spectators, once again watching the outcome of people inspired by threat in the ISIS movement. We also see less violent, but still aggressive defense, from those in other movements inspired by some great threat (Hint- see comment below on the offspring of Declinism).

Note on material below: I have repeatedly traced on this site the core bad ideas of historical mythology/religion, and the line of descent of these core bad ideas down through the main world religions of history, from Sumerian mythology, to Akkadian and Babylonian mythology, to Zoroastrianism, to Judaism, to Christianity, into to Islam, then to a lesser extent into Declinism, and then into contemporary Green religion. It is a strikingly similar template of core ideas that has infected all these religions, as well as related secular ideologies (i.e. see Landes on Marxism and Nazism). Detail below.

The Christian role in historical violence

Navigating this page: Here is another brief summary of some of the main ideas on this page. One of my central points is expressed in the material on the Great Contradiction between the Historical Jesus and the Christian Christ (Paul’s Christ myth). This is about cognitive dissonance gone extreme- people trying to hold opposites in some tension (i.e. good ideas/ideals held alongside bad ideas/ideals). Unfortunately, the bad ideas have a history of distorting and burying the good ones. Christianity has engaged this cognitive dissonance more intensely and profoundly than other systems of belief. The result is what Thomas Jefferson refers to as “diamonds buried in a dunghill”. Jesus said it was putting new wine into rotten, leaky wineskins.

Let me insert a qualifier here to alleviate the natural defensive reaction of Christian readers to any challenge to their religion. I am not picking on Christianity in particular. Repeatedly below I have recognized that there are many good people in the Christian religion and they do a lot of good in life. They hold admirable ideals and ideas also derived from their belief system. But I am arguing that there remains a significant stock of residual bad ideas in the Christian religion that have yet to be confronted, purged, or properly humanized. Many of these bad ideas are lodged right at the core of the Christian belief system, notably in the Christian God and the related Christ myth. My additional argument is that Christianity bears major responsibility for bringing these bad ideas into Western consciousness and society where their pathological influence continues to cause much harm (e.g. shaping Western justice as retaliatory and punitive). I recognize such comments are profoundly disorienting to Christian readers. Hear me out and note the good research on this issue from writers like Lotufo, Garcia, Ellens, Nelson-Pallmeyer, Landes, and others noted below.

Here are some of the basic mythological themes and contrasting ideas…

The Historical Jesus introduced a stunning new vision of Ultimate Reality (God) as “absolutely no-conditions love”. In his new theology he eliminated entirely the worst features of past deities. Putting all hyperbole aside, his discovery is the single most profound insight or discovery ever made. He tied his new theological discovery to a similar ethic of the unconditional treatment of all people, both good and bad (i.e. “love your enemies”). He provided humanity with an entirely new divine model for behavior and life.

He stated that God was entirely non-violent, non-retaliatory, did not engage any vengeance (no more eye for eye), and would not judge, punish, or destroy anyone. Instead, God loved even enemies and treated all with the same unlimited generosity (i.e. sun and rain were given to both the good and the bad- see Matthew 5:38-48). The new theological vision of Jesus eliminated entirely the perception that conditions had to be met for forgiveness, inclusion, and salvation. God, according to Jesus, was “absolutely no conditions” love. What a death blow to all conditional religion.

And we were to do the same and be just like God- treating everyone with no conditions love (loving enemies the same as we loved family and friends). The Nelson Mandelas of the modern world have given us great examples of what this unconditional treatment of all people means in real life situations, and its potential to liberate from violence and misery.

But then the great Contradiction

Paul out-rightly rejected the non-retaliatory God of Jesus and retreated to a vengeful, violent, and punishing God that demanded an ultimate condition first be met before he would forgive anyone (i.e. the blood sacrifice of an innocent victim- see detail in his Romans letter, the statement of his basic theology and beliefs). Anyone not believing Paul’s gospel would be ultimately rejected and destroyed by a vengeful and violent Christ (see further biblical references below). Paul reversed back to the same old primitivism of past mythology. His ideas formed the foundation of the new Christian religion. Yes, Christianity is Paul’s religion, not the religion of Jesus (see Tabor comment below).

The brilliant breakthrough of Historical Jesus was included in the Christian New Testament but it was effectively distorted and buried by the larger context of bad religious ideas that were developed to contradict his great insight (notably those bad ideas embodied in Paul’s Christ myth).

The ultimate expression of violence and vengeance from deity is found in the myth of apocalypse- that an angry God will punish and destroy humanity in a final apocalyptic purging of the world, in a world-ending destruction. Paul’s Christ is the central figure in this pathological myth. As Tabor notes, apocalypse shapes all that Paul said and did.

The Historical Jesus had eliminated entirely the long-standing belief in some great Threat behind life. He went to the very foundation of human fear and anxiety to purge consciousness of the primitive belief in a threatening deity. He stated that there was only Love at the core of reality and life. And no one, good or bad, was excluded from that Love. No one was separated or in need of some reconciliation/salvation. All were ultimately safe and included, despite the scale or depth of their imperfection. The new theology of Jesus was a death blow to the old monster of threatening deity.

Tragically, Paul created Christianity by reverting to the foundational belief in some great divine Threat behind life. Divine threat became the very core of his Christ mythology and his Christian religion. Divine threat has always been the driving core of all forms of Salvationism- that people must appease some threatening, angry God with blood sacrifice, or be excluded and punished with everlasting damnation. People must be reconciled and saved from divine wrath. Divine anger and violence permeate Paul’s writings (again, see the early chapters of Romans and his other letters). Also note again- threat stirs fear and aggressive defense. Threat, and the fear it incites, primes the way to religious violence.

The result of Paul’s contradicting theology is that the diamonds of Historical Jesus are buried in a dunghill of entirely opposing themes.

This great contradiction in Christianity (Jesus versus Paul) highlights the greater story of humanity trying to leave its barbaric animal past for a more human future, and the ongoing resistance to that exodus into the freedom to be fully human.

Further comment…

I have repeatedly urged readers to look behind the varied mythologies/religions of humanity, and ideologies, to see that the same core themes have re-emerged endlessly in new versions across history. There is excellent research available today to help us see the commonality of the core ideas that have too often driven some people to behave violently and to treat others inhumanely, just as ISIS is doing today with its unique religious version of those ideas. See below the research of Landes, Cook, Herman and others on the similarity between the core themes of ideologies like Marxism, Nazism, environmentalism, and the mother religions like Christianity that have provided those themes. I have repeatedly traced here the historical lines of descent.

My argument is that unless you purge those core bad ideas from religions and ideologies, you will never solve problems like violence for the long-term. Those bad ideas will continue to re-emerge in ever new versions of human belief systems. They will continue, as they always have, to incite and validate violence and other destructive behavior.

Unfortunately, too many religious people react defensively to any challenge of the core themes of their belief systems. This is due to ingrained attitudes like Biblicism or dogmatism, both affirming the viewpoint that the ideas in religious belief systems are somehow given by God as some final truth, and are therefore sacred and untouchable, and must be unquestioningly defended. No matter that the bad ideas are clearly inhumane by any modern standard of human decency, and their presence creates profound cognitive dissonance- by contradicting the better ideals in the belief systems (e.g. God is love but will punish, destroy and then send people to hell… Huh? What the ___?).

(Note: A fundamental baseline for evaluating “truth”- any recognizable pathology does not come from God, from ultimate Goodness or Love. This is common human sense, despite the claims of the founders of great religions to have been inspired by God or given visions and revelations from God. Paul did this with his Christ myth, claiming that it was a direct revelation from Christ. Moses claimed that he was given tablets directly from God. So also Muhammad claimed that his visions and revelations were from the heavens. But whatever the claimed origin of such visions, human religious writing must be evaluated in terms of what we understand to be common human decency today (note: some suggest these religious visions may come from schizophrenia- see Joseph Campbell on the shamanic experience). If any sacred text does not meet some basic level of common humanity, then we reject it as simply inhuman and wrong. It is not worthy of respect, despite its being considered divinely inspired or “sacred”.)

Ellens again… “Any God is a monster if he cannot behave at least as well as the average human in his or her better moments would like to behave”. Wow.

Other material below on the contradiction between good and bad ideas includes comment on the core themes or ideas found in the old and new grand narratives of humanity. The old mythical narratives present such ideas as the myth that the past was better and the present is a degeneration from the past. And the future will be a worsening state with some catastrophe looming that will end life or civilization. This pathology in new secular versions like environmental alarmism continues to stir endless fear and defensive aggression.

The new scientific narrative contradicts such mythology and tells us that the past was actually a much worse state of things, the present is clearly improving, and the future is wide open for far more improvement. Progressing life is open to improvement that will be “infinite in all directions” (Dyson).

More on the present danger

As multiple nations continue to combat ISIS-type insanity, there is a wider recognition that a critical component to successful defeat of such violence is to engage ideology or the “battle of ideas”, meaning the bad religious ideas that incite or validate religious violence.

See below for a list of these bad religious ideas that are common to the major world religions, just as they have been common to most mythology down through history (see “Human Narrative” below, and further below “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas”). These bad mythical themes have even resurfaced in contemporary secular traditions like Environmental Alarmism.

Any project to reform religion must confront these foundational religious ideas and purge them entirely if we are ever to solve the problem of violence properly and for the long term.

Be very clear on just what those bad ideas are. I refer repeatedly to the Jesus/Paul contradiction to highlight the core bad idea. Jesus had introduced the single best idea ever (most humane) in his argument that God did not retaliate but was unconditionally generous toward all people, both good and bad. In doing that Jesus eliminated the foundational idea that had long validated much bad behavior among people (i.e. religiously or theologically-inspired violence). But Paul rejected that new view of God and retreated to the worst of all bad ideas- that an angry God would punish and destroy unbelievers.

I do not deny that there are many good ideas and ideals in the great world religions like Christianity. But my argument is that those better ideas are too often distorted in a larger context that maintains the bad ideas. The resulting mix is, once again as Thomas Jefferson described it, a situation of “Diamonds in a dunghill”. And again, Jesus said it was like putting new wine in a rotten wineskin.

Defensively protecting those bad ideas does not work. It leads to cognitive dissonance- the holding of entirely contradicting things in tension. The outcome is that the bad only distorts or undermines the good.

To repeat, the worst of all bad ideas is that of an angry god that takes revenge on people, punishing and destroying the differing outsider. The close second bad idea is that of apocalypse- that an angry, vengeful god will destroy people in a great world-ending catastrophe. The outcome is endless fear, fear, and more unnecessary fear. People, acting out of exaggerated and baseless fear, do not make good decisions. They can even become destructively aggressive.

I have repeatedly traced these bad ideas as they have flowed down through history, infecting the great systems of mythology and religion, and continuing into secular ideological traditions. Always the same core themes just given ever-changing expression in new versions. Always causing alarm and inciting the worst impulses in humanity. Impulses to separate from and oppose differing others, and even impulses to dominate and destroy others that are viewed as threatening.

Summary Comment: Paul created and shaped Christianity (a highly conditional religion) as a stunning rejection of the central teaching of the historical Jesus (that God was unconditional love).

Another element in the violence mix: The differing other:

We wonder at what can drive a human mind to such intense hate of the “other” that it will mercilessly torture and destroy the other. One element of that hate involves people inciting themselves with fear of the different other- the unbeliever, the foreigner (xenophobia). And we have often seen this accompanied by dehumanization of the other as demonic, satanic and threatening (differences exaggerated to “evil” extremes). This is how Islamic apocalyptic literature portrays the Jews today. They are not just unbelievers, along with other Westerners, they are something far worse- they are demonic and threatening (see Cook’s “Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature” for detail).

We also saw this hateful dehumanization in Nazi Germany (the Jew as vermin), and in Rwanda (Hutu propaganda of the Tutsi as “cockroaches”- defiling, dangerous, and deserving elimination).

And so fear and disgust of the other as dangerously threatening is incited (vile insect, demon), and this is followed by the demand for aggressive action to protect oneself, to save one’s community from the threat.

In this incitement to hate the different other, you see the primitive tribal opposition that has far too long been promoted by religious belief- true believers in opposition to unbelievers. This has long been a central strain in Western religious traditions (i.e. the Zoroastrian dualism- the good versus the bad- that was passed down through Judaism, Christianity, and into Islam).

The Lines of Descent of Bad Ideas- Christianity and Islam

Here is something to consider that will be entirely disorienting to the minds of moderate Christians today. The very ideas that inspire ISIS terrorists to violence, those ideas were more than likely fed to early Islam (Muhammad) from Christianity.

Whoa. You have to be kidding.

No. Unfortunately not. Here is the line of descent based on research from sources such as Joseph Azzi’s The Priest and The Prophet, or David Cook on Muslim apocalyptic belief.

The links are roughly as follows: The gospel of Matthew repeatedly presents the violent themes of divine vengeance and the destruction of unbelievers in Hell (cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth). Matthew’s gospel is also notably apocalyptic (see list of references from Matthew, included elsewhere).

Early Jewish Christians known as Ebionites (or Nazarenes) produced their own gospel- the gospel to the Hebrews- that was quite similar to the gospel of Matthew. Also, Matthew’s gospel was translated into Arabic around the time of Muhammad.

Now, a prominent religious influence on Muhammad was his Jewish Christian mentor named Waraqa Ibn Nawfal, a Nazarene or Ebionite, and the cousin of Muhammad’s first wife. Waraqa provided Muhammad with the foundational Christian ideas that would shape his later visions and revelations. Revelations that resulted in the Quran and related Islamic writings. Consequently, the Quran is also permeated with the same threatening violence as Matthew. From the very opening chapters, the Quran repeatedly and frequently threatens the destruction of disbelievers in Hell. There is more to the Jewish/Christian influence on Islam but I want to focus in particular on this theme of divine violence.

Note carefully this established linkage or line of descent- the teaching on violence in the gospel of Matthew, the Ebionite Waraqa (Jewish Christian) with his gospel to the Hebrews roughly similar to Matthew, Waraqa’s familiarity with other Christian scriptures and teaching, Waraqa mentoring Muhammad, and the Islamic scriptures with similar calls to violence as in Matthew. In this linkage I am most interested in the theme of divine violence in Matthew and the Quran, how this theme has descended through world religions, and its impact on the minds and lives of the people in these traditions.

While there are all sorts of debates over the Jewish/Christian influence on Muhammad, the above basic line of inheritance is quite clear.

Add here, as commentators note, that if people believe that God is going to destroy people in Hell, then they will more likely feel obligated to help God along by sending the unbelievers on their way to Hell. Bad ideas inspire bad behavior. Violent religious ideals inspire violent religious behavior.

This is upsetting historical information. But consider these established lines of descent and note that these violent ideas are still embedded at the very core of religions like Judaism and Christianity, the historical sources of Islamic theology. I have traced often on this site the line of descent of “bad religious ideas” over the larger span of history. It begins with Sumerian mythology (punishing, destroying gods), and continues down to Zoroaster (the mother of all Western religion, with its divine destruction via apocalypse), down to the violence of apocalyptic in Judaism, Christianity, and then Islam, and even further into secular traditions like Declinism and its offspring- Environmental Alarmism or Green religion.

Original bad religious ideas are modified for expression in subsequent belief systems, but the core themes remain the same.

My takeaway from this? Its time to thoroughly and properly end the religious validation for violence. Religious violence has been protected under the sacred far too long (i.e. in untouchable or unquestionable religious scriptures). Anyone planning to commit violence against another should not have any recourse to some divine idea or authority that validates violence toward others. Violent offenders must be left naked in the stark barbarity and animalness of their violence.

Quotes from Josepth Azzi’s The Priest and The Prophet showing that Islam is the offspring of Jewish Christianity and repeats some of the core bad ideas from Christianity.

Azzi asks the question- “From where does Muhammad get his revelation?” He then sets about providing the answer from historical evidence, including quoting Muhammad himself. Before his revelations, Muhammad had received significant religious instruction from the Jewish Christian Waraqa and his Jewish Christian scriptures, notably the gospel to the Hebrews that was an early rough version of the gospel of Matthew.

Azzi notes the hallucinations and fainting spells that Muhammad was suffering as he received “revelations”, and Azzi says, “(Muhammad) expects answers from Waraqa in order to obtain some helpful guidance”. After one incident of receiving visions, Muhammad reported the details to Waraqa who responded, “It is the same law transmitted to Moses” (p.35). Overall, Azzi says, “Muhammad has been incorporated into Waraqa’s plan” (p.36).
Azzi notes that it is Muhammad’s first wife Khadijah who established the link between Waraqa (her cousin) and Muhammad. Waraqa, Khadijah, and Abu Talib played a preeminent role in Muhammad’s life and mission, according to Azzi. The extent of this role is evident in that “With Waraqa’s death revelation dried up” (p.37). Azzi goes on to show that “religious authority was transmitted by the Nosrania sect (Nazarene Christian) to those following Islam” (p.37).

Another interesting side note- Azzi says that Muhammad understood his task was to warn people about the coming judgment from God. He knew his task was essentially, “Warn. Thou art only a warner. His book is a warning or a recalling of the gospel of the Hebrews that was in Waraqa’s hands. Muhammad was present for the transmission of this book into Arabic” (p.38). Muhammad begins his mission as a warner. You do not warn people about good things coming. This affirms my point that Muhammad embraced some of the darker material from Matthew, such teaching as the 79 references to Hell in the Quran.

Continuing: “The Ebionite priest Waraqa translated the Hebrew gospel into Arabic…This little known apocryphal gospel eventually became embedded in the Arabic Quran, making it an important link…from which the Quran emanates” (p.41). Commenting on the origins of the gospel to the Hebrews, Azzi quotes early church Fathers who stated that the Ebionites “were only attached to the Gospel of Matthew and called it the gospel according to the Hebrews. The gospel of Matthew…is not perfect, but it has been altered (in the gospel to the Hebrews)… Ebionites only use the gospel of Matthew” ((p.42).

Azzi continues, “The Hebrew gospel….is a version of the Aramaic gospel of Matthew…The Hebrew gospel will play a significant role in the transfer of both heterodox and orthodox doctrines into Muslim beliefs and practices” (p.43). Quranic references follow notable themes from Matthew such as ‘the last judgment, and the final destination of human beings (Hell)’” (p.43).

Further, “The only useful and meaningful trail which remains from Waraqa’s lifetime is the Arabic Quran itself…Muhammad admits that a guide….who informed him about the ‘faith and scripture’ revealed to him the right way…he would never learn the book’s content without the aid of a master who had taught him what he did not know…The truth of Muhammad’s book issues from the truth from a prior book. This is the knowledge that will reappear in the Quran (p.44)… The Quran expands, elaborates, and details the teachings of the foreign book by taking into account the situation in Arabia at the beginning of the seventh century…its teaching continues to confirm that of the original book (p.46) … Muhammad makes every attempt to confirm that the Quran is really an authentication (tassidiq) of the Hebrew book… a confirmation of what was at your disposal… Muhammad has within his grasp at least part of the Pentateuch and the Gospel. He expanded on the original Hebrew gospel for his Arabic listeners” (p.47).

“These references that the Quran is an easy digest, as well as a competent summary of the Pentateuch and the Gospel (p.48)… indicate that the present Arabic book, the Quran, is extracted from a former book…What is often ascribed to Muhammad must be ascribed to Waraqa, who has faithfully dispensed the book’s teachings and facilitated it in a clear Arabic language (p.50)… What the Quran extracts from the previous Scriptures is done to prove that there is a single purpose linking all the holy books together… He (Muhammad) does not bring a new revelation from nothing…he possesses the same message brought by former prophets (p.51)”.

And finally, “Muhammad’s scriptures proceed from a pre-existing book (p.52)… Muhammad became familiar with the prior revelation by means of a wise expert who taught him what he did not know… Muhammad learns much from the prior revelations which Waraqa, the wise expert, shares with him (p.57)… It is a problem for the Muslim community to recognize behind the Quran another book to which it refers. Even as the priest of the Mecca Ebionite church (Waraqa) is behind the prophet and blew on his ears the message from God, there looms a former book that is the source of much of the teachings and narratives of the Quran itself… the recognition of the now lost Hebrew gospel could become apparent as it is firmly embedded in the Quran… the Meccan revelations are closely aligned with the Hebrew gospel that was translated into Arabic by Waraqa (p.59)”.

Further comment from Azzi:

“Muhammad’s grandfather (was strictly devoted) to Nosranian Ebionism” (p.63), the Jewish Christian sect in Mecca at the time Muhammad grew up, received his visions, and produced the Quran. “At the death of his pious grandfather….His uncle Abu Talib takes charge of the boy’s education and introduction to the Hashemite wing of the family that would include the clan’s religious legacy…. (Abu Talib’s) virtues are much more part of the straight path associated with the monotheistic Ebionites…” (p.64). Noting the monotheism of the Nosranian sect, Azzi says this is further evidence of “the friendship and reverence expressed by Muhammad towards this Christian sect (that) is also embedded in the Quran” (p.66).

Azzi is answering these questions: “Is Islam a new religion and Muhammad its first forerunner, or did it exist before him? Is there a divergence between the Nosrania teachings, which Muhammad learned from Waraqa, and Islam’s teaching as found in the Quran? Has Islam been created out of nothing or is it a new Arab form of prevailing Nosrania beliefs?”

He goes on, “The word Islam and its cognates are repeated seventy-one times in the Quran. It never describes a religion that is independent of the other revealed books” (p.68). “The Quran evokes a certain vision of God and his attributes that stems directly from the older holy books and is filled with events and characters that can only be understood with knowledge of the Bible” (p.81). “The Quran borrows heavily from the earlier scriptures. But this borrowing… actually preserves a missing text called the ‘gospel to the Hebrews’” (p.101).

The Quran is filled with graphic detail on Hell. Azzi summarizes this teaching, “Instructions concerning the Last Day, Resurrection, Paradise and Hell are foremost teachings of Muhammad. While in Mecca the subject of doom and heaven and hell became the main items of his preaching” (p.122). Azzi then goes on to detail this teaching in the Quran.

Azzi then does a section on Christian apocalyptic belief that was passed into Islam and again details this from verses in the Quran, “Quranic and Christian beliefs form the strongest linkages when it comes to the discussions of the last days…and the future of humans beyond death. Common subjects such as the Last Day or Doomsday, Paradise, Hell, Resurrection and Judgment are descriptively portrayed in sometimes identical images, vocabulary and expressions. This close affinity means that the Quran draws its material from the Pentateuch and the Gospels… (this shows) the debt that Muhammad owes Waraqa, the Nosranian who, among other endeavors, translated a gospel of the Hebrews into Arabic. That gospel provided Muhammad multiple eschatological issues that are embedded in the Quran” (p.123).

Azzi’s conclusion states, “The teachings of al-Qiss Waraqa Ibn Nawfal, are thoroughly embedded in the Quran. This embedding process means that the faith of the early Meccans played a major role in forming Islam as a definite people of the book who were instructed by this heterodox priest” (p.135). “Along with several Old Testament books and the gospel of the Hebrews and the Jewish Talmud, it becomes evident how much was available to the Arabs in the early seventh century. My hope is that the reader will be convinced as I am that the Quran drew its content from these previous sources that ranged from Arab tribal stories to specific Christian authors…” (p.136).

Best ever- the wisdom saying of Matthew 5:38-48

I have not found anywhere in human thought or literature such a profound statement of how to think and act humanely, as authentically human. It is beyond the highest understanding and expression of love anywhere. It is a shame that Paul immediately set about undermining and rejecting it. He confronts it generally in his attack on the wisdom sayings tradition (1 Corinthians 1-3) and specifically in his Romans 12 attack on the Jesus insight. More below.


This new material continues as part of the larger project on this page to counter alarmism of all types, whether religious or secular environmental alarmism. I am going after the foundational mythological underpinnings of alarmism, the great mythical monsters that reside in the human subconscious.

Countering the damaging impact of alarmism is critical to unleashing human creativity and progress toward the better world that we all want. Alarmism has long undermined hope and promoted pessimism, resignation, and even despair. It has hindered human development and progress.

Behind most alarmism is a long history of bad mythology (e.g. angry, punishing gods, revenge of Gaia, angry planet). Those bad mythical ideas were then embodied in the great religions, and now continue in secular traditions like 19th Century Declinism (see Arthur Herman below), and its offspring of environmental alarmism, a dominant mythology of our time. Alarmism, both religious and secular, has always been anti-science and anti-humanity (anti-development and anti-progress).

A pat on the back, sort of…

Christianity, as with other religions over the past few centuries, deserves commendation for moderating the brutality of its past (i.e. Councils, Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms against Jews, burning/drowning/torturing heretics). But it has not yet removed the nasty core beliefs that have incited and validated past brutality. Most important, it has not yet fully humanized its God. To properly moderate behavior for the long term you must also moderate the belief foundation of the behavior, or the behavioral changes will not be sound and lasting.

The Christian example illustrates the greater human story of struggle with progress toward a better world and opposition to that progress. This struggle is located in the profound contradiction between the historical Jesus and the entirely opposing theology of Paul, the creator of the Christian religion.

Its time to end the cognitive dissonance that has always dominated Christianity. The outcome of that contradiction has been horrifically damaging to Western consciousness and society. Detail below.

Certainly, I recognize that many people have expressed the best of the human spirit through their religion. They have found space in their religion to hope for something better, to wonder at transcendence, to express love toward others, to find help for their own struggles in times of trouble. But my quibble is this- all these more humane impulses are mixed within a larger context that contains a lot of dehumanizing stuff that undermines the better impulses. I am talking about those foundational religious beliefs that orient consciousness to tribalism (us versus outsiders to our belief system), vengefulness, judgment, punishment, demand for payment, and ultimate destruction. That is all foundational stuff in religious belief systems.

Even the religious hope for some day of deliverance or salvation (a great apocalyptic ending to life and transport to utopia or paradise), this hope is pair-bonded to the correlated destruction of one’s “enemies”, the unbelievers, which is most of the human family that are not in your belief system. That inhumane element of destruction of others defiles the hope of the believer.

You get my point- a lot of great human ideals are mixed in with some of the most barbaric features of primitive mythology. So much of religion continues as a situation of diamonds in dunghills, or new wine stored in old, rotten wineskins. We can do much better.

The Stunning Scandal of the Christian Religion

As noted above, the new material below is part of the ongoing project to get to the foundational ideas behind alarmism, to those mythical themes that have endlessly re-emerged over history, including in recent secular versions. Close examination of what undergirds alarmism shows that it is the same old primitive ideas that have always retarded human consciousness in subhuman stages of development (Lotufo, Ellens, and others noted below, back me on this argument).

The new material looks at the single most profound human breakthrough ever made and the ongoing opposition to that breakthrough, notably the opposition from Christianity. The breakthrough insight was made by the person that Christianity claims as its founder, the historical Jesus. But to claim that Jesus is the founder of Christianity is entirely misleading because he did not found Christianity, Paul did. And Paul rejected outright the breakthrough of Jesus. This is the great scandal of Christianity.

Jesus presented an insight that was entirely unprecedented in history. I have repeatedly called it the single greatest discovery or insight ever. It cannot be found anywhere in previous mythological, religious, philosophical, or general spiritual traditions. Some traditions presented a close proximity to his ethical insight but none have gotten anywhere near his theological breakthrough.

(Note: Beliefs are critical to support behavior. People act on or according to what they believe. This belief/behavior link is notable in the Jesus breakthrough.)

Jesus tried to fully humanize people’s understanding of God, to make deity fully humane. This is clear in his brilliant theological statement in Matthew 5:38-48. Jesus stated for the first time ever that deity was entirely non-retaliatory, and exhibited unconditional generosity toward all, both good and bad. God, said Jesus, did not retaliate or punish (no “eye for eye” justice) but was generous toward all, both good and bad (loved enemies). Never before in history had any deity been expressed as unconditionally loving. Yes, there had been more human features projected onto ancient gods but the old features of anger, punishment, and the destruction of outsiders were also retained in those deities.

This new theology of non-retaliation, or the unconditional treatment of all people, was an entirely new theological basis for human behavior. Jesus argued that we should not retaliate against our offenders but, instead, we should love our enemies- and here is the critical theological basis- because God did so. He went on to explain that God gave the good gifts of life (sun and rain) to all people alike, both just and unjust. God treated every person with the same generous love and mercy.

(Anthropology notes that people have always based their behavior on their beliefs about greater realities. Most people instinctively embrace some belief/behavior link. Belief has always shaped human behavior, and beliefs about deity are the most influential of all ideas on behavior.)

No previous mythology, religion, or spiritual tradition had ever fully humanized God in the manner that the historical Jesus did. No previous mythology or religion had ever presented an entirely non-threatening deity. Again, previous gods had been given more humane features like kindness, forgiveness, and mercy but had also retained the darker elements of judgment, punishment, and destruction of the bad person, the unbeliever. Past traditions had projected more humane features onto their gods but never the feature of a radical unconditional love. Unconditional meaning that there was no threat, no condemnation, no exclusion of anyone, no tribal opposition between good and bad (true believers versus unbelievers), and no ultimate destruction (no Hell). To the contrary, most previous religion had embraced a clear conditional orientation in the varied requirements to appease and please the gods. That conditional orientation continued into the secular traditions of more recent history.

But then in a “stunning shift” immediately after Jesus’ death, emerging Christianity rejected and buried the new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus. Paul in particular, rejected the unconditional/non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and returned to the retaliatory and punishing deity of all past primitive religion. He then created Christianity based on his rejection of the gospel of Jesus. His basis for human behavior was a retaliatory God (for example, see Romans chapters 1, 2, and 12). His punishing deity would repeatedly affirm the base impulses of Christians to retaliate, to punish, and to destroy outsiders, despite Paul’s mild urging not to do so. That Pauline ideal of vengeful deity has too often incited the worst of human behavior. Subsequent Christian history reveals this harsh outcome (e.g. the outcomes of Councils, Crusades, Inquisitions, pogroms against Jews, and so on).

This stunning reversal of Jesus’ core non-retaliatory theology is also evident in the book of Matthew where subsequent to including the Jesus breakthrough (chapter 5) Matthew then reverts back to angry, punishing, and destroying deity. Matthew repeatedly states that unbelievers will suffer divine retaliation and be cast into outer darkness to suffer weeping and gnashing of teeth (see references below).

(I will interject here that Paul dominated the early Christian movement and his ideas about Christ- called “Jesus Christ” in the Christian scriptures- became the gospel of Christianity. Paul dismissed the actual teaching of Jesus and developed a theory about what Jesus meant, and elaborated on this in his teaching about Jesus Christ. Paul shaped the thinking of later writers like Matthew and Luke who repeated his ideas about Christ.)

Early Christianity, as a general movement, then rejected the unconditional God of Jesus and chose instead the wrathful, punishing God of Paul. Paul oriented his Christian religion toward highly conditional themes such as his core myth that Christ had to die a brutal death in order to pay for sin before his God would forgive. That core Christian belief expressed the supreme condition of a sacrifice that must first be met. It was a complete reversal of the unconditional theology of Jesus.

And so Christianity became a profound statement of cognitive dissonance, of massive contradiction. We can sum up the basic Christian message as “God is love but demands a sacrifice to pay for sin. Believe this or you will be sent to hell”. That is a bit harsh on Christian ears but it sums up the core message.

The cognitive dissonance is evident most clearly in the contradiction between the opposing gospels of Jesus and Paul- that God treats all unconditionally (historical Jesus) but demands that a supreme condition first be met before anyone can be forgiven (Paul). God must first pour out his violent anger on an innocent victim (i.e. a child sacrifice at that) in order for people to be saved from wrath and destruction (Romans 1-5).

This contradiction between the theology of Jesus and the contrary theology of Paul/Christianity illustrates the greater human story and humanity’s struggle to embrace authentic love, and the ongoing opposition to that unconditional love. It is more than scandalous that the strongest opposition to the unconditional insight of Jesus comes from the very religion that claims to represent him.

I have repeatedly urged Christians, that after two millennia of rejection and opposition, it is time to take Jesus seriously and embrace his unconditional gospel. But I recognize that would spell the end of conditional Christianity. And that is simply too disorienting for many Christians.

Note: The reference in this material to the historical Jesus is not an appeal to authority, and especially not an appeal to religious authority. Humanity has made no bigger mistake than to kowtow to the domination of religious authority over history.

In this material I appeal directly to unconditional love as the ultimate human ideal because it resonates with common human consciousness and the common human spirit. We intuitively get it that the unconditional treatment of all people is true and right. It is the human thing to do. We see it in a Mandela or in the forgiveness of the Charleston Church people after the murder of their fellow church members, and we get it that such unconditional treatment of offenders is right and true in itself. Unconditional needs nothing more to affirm it. It does not require some outside authority, certainly not conditionally-oriented religious authority. Unconditional is true because you cannot imagine anything better, anything more humane. It is the best of being human. It is ultimate goodness, or love.

But if it helps the religious mind, I offer the fact that unconditional is taught clearly by the historical Jesus, someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus. And I refer repeatedly to Jesus’ statement of unconditional in Matthew 5:38-48 because that is the clearest statement of unconditional anywhere in human literature. I also highlight that passage because Jesus got the belief/behavior link right for the first time in history.

Note also the anti-authority practice of the historical Jesus. He directly rejected religious authority for his unconditional insight. He referred to the religious authority of his day- Judaism and the Jewish scripture (Old Testament)- and noted that it taught a retaliatory view of justice (eye for eye). But he then rejected that Old Testament justice and taught an entirely contrary justice of “love the offender/enemy”, because God did so. God was generous to all alike, both good and bad. Jesus presented his new unconditional theology by appealing to his own personal consciousness of what was right and true, not based on any known religious teaching or authority. When asked what his authority was, he refused to acknowledge any authority except to state, “I say to you…”. He offered only his personal view of what was the human thing to do.

Other new comment

There is one singularly transcendent reality and truth to this human experience. We summarize it in our highest ideal- love. This separates us from our animal past as nothing else does.

Humanity’s struggle with love over the millennia is illustrated graphically in the stunning contradiction between historical Jesus and Christianity. Historical Jesus advocated a radical new version of love as unconditional, but Paul/Christianity rejected that breakthrough and reversed to primitive versions of love as highly conditional and ultimately punitive and destructive.

The human struggle with love is set within the greater story of our long-term exodus out of an animal past and our long-term journey toward becoming authentically human or humane. This is a much greater exodus than just the exodus out of Africa some 100,000 years ago.

In our progress toward a more human future, our dominant battle has been against the residual animal impulses still emoted from our inherited animal brain. These are impulses that orient people to tribal opposition and exclusion (e.g. religious, ideological, racial, or other forms of exclusion), domination/subservience relationships, and destruction of the competing other, the enemy. These impulses are about base drives that retard us in subhuman stages of development and they drag us back toward animal existence and behavior.

Note that the great world religions have often sided more with the animal and against the human. How so? By embodying the above noted features of animal existence- the small band or tribal dualism of protected/saved insiders (true believers) as against damned/excluded outsiders (unbelievers); the domination of Alpha gods and priesthoods, and the final exclusion and destruction of “enemies”. These features are nowhere as prominent as in the Christian religion. Hence, my argument that the profound contradiction between the historical Jesus and Christianity summarizes the greater human story. It is a story of struggle for authentic human love against the residual conditional mentality of an animal past. (See also comment on Garcia’s book Alpha God, further below)

Despite ongoing opposition, our primary human impulse to love has enabled us to resist and conquer these residual features of our animal past. Love has now become the core ideal that defines us as human, in all its facets- i.e. forgiveness, inclusion, kindness and generosity. We see love conquering the animal in the gradual progress of humanity away from violence and toward developing and spreading empathy and compassion.

And we have further discovered the ultimate way to define love- that in its ultimate humane form it is limitlessly unconditional. Unconditional takes us to the absolute height of being human. Nothing liberates us more from our animal past than this feature. Unconditional is the most humane understanding of our purpose and meaning, our goal and future. It most potently defines us as authentically human.

Quote from discussion group:

“Unconditional is the broad term I use to define the core theme of Jesus’ message and life. In the wisdom sayings of Jesus you find the following elements that elaborate on the unconditional treatment of all people: for instance, he said, do not engage payback (eye for eye justice), but instead love enemies; forgive all offenses endlessly (seventy times seven, or unlimited); engage unconditional generosity (give expecting nothing in return); include all without conditions (evident in Jesus practice of fully embracing/including all people, both good and bad); and more. These are all features of what is rightly termed unconditional love. Absolutely no conditions. None. Unconditional is the cohering central theme of the message and life of Jesus.”

On to new Intro:

The redefining of ultimate reality as “absolutely no conditions love” is the single most profound breakthrough in all history. It is the single most important insight in human thought and literature. It overturns the entire history of inhumane themes that have shaped most historical mythology, religion, and ideology.

Overwhelmingly, human thought and explanation across history has concluded that there was some form of anger, threat, retaliation, retribution, or punishment at the core of reality and life. Ultimate reality has long been viewed in terms of such things as deities that demand appeasement with offerings and sacrifices. Conditions that humans must fulfill in order to obtain benefits from the greater forces behind life, or to avoid negative outcomes. And so human thinking and behavior has long been oriented to harsh conditional existence. The no conditions reality at the core of all is buried beneath such perception.

The harsh conditional ideas of religious traditions have had a powerful influence on human behavior by influencing similar harsh conditional treatment of others. The relationship here is that people model their lives on their beliefs. Beliefs powerfully shape human behavior. Hence, the dismal history of religious violence (e.g. “meet the demands of our God, our religion, our lifestyle, or else”). The evidence is that nasty, retributive views of gods produce nasty, retributive human behavior. Look at ISIS for a contemporary example, as well as past Christian history for a similar “endless river of blood”.

Fortunately, as we have learned to be more human in our treatment of others, so we have also correspondingly humanized our ideas or beliefs to support more humane behavior. We have gradually added more humane features to our belief systems.

Unfortunately, we have too often maintained the inhumane core features of past belief systems and those have distorted and weakened the new human ideals. The consequence is that “absolutely no conditions love” has never been able to clearly break forth into human consciousness in all its wonder and scandal. It’s full liberating and humanizing potential has never been fully unleashed in human existence.

The struggle of no conditions love to revolutionize human existence is a fascinating innovation to follow down through history. We first see it in the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son where he urges an embryonic form of no conditions treatment of offenders- “Do not return evil to your adversary; requite with kindness the one who does evil to you, maintain justice for your enemy, be friendly to your enemy”. But he then misses the critical supporting belief that would affirm this new behavior. Later in his advice, he tells his son to “make sacrifice to your god”. The Father still viewed the gods as demanding that conditions be met- i.e. sacrifice. The gods (ultimate realities) were still viewed as threatening, retributive, punishing and demanding appeasement. The darker features of his belief system still dominated, distorted, and buried the full potential of the unconditional ethic that he was trying to promote. His theological belief did not affirm his new ethic.

And so it was down through subsequent history. More humane features were added to human belief systems, and to the gods- the highest of all human ideals and authorities. There was often some element of humanizing going on in the distant past. The ancient gods were also viewed more and more as kind (e.g. the Pharaoh gods, the Jewish God), merciful, protective of their followers, and even forgiving. But in the background, within the larger belief framework, there were still those features of threat, anger, retribution, and punishment. You could still smell the stench of sulphur amidst all the nicer stuff being added. And that sulphuric smoke clouded the full wonder of the newer humane features. Such cognitive dissonance has always plagued human minds- trying to maintain opposites in distorting and contradicting tension. Cognitive dissonance is often the outcome of “Biblicism”, the felt need to maintain all the elements of an inherited belief tradition, both human and inhuman features.

In response, I would argue that it is critical to break the spell of this protective Biblicism and then fully humanize all human thought and behavior. Most critical, we must fully humanize the gods of humanity, the ultimate ideals and authorities. Religion must not be spared the general humanizing impulse that has engaged all the rest of human thought and life.

Another side note before proceeding: Engaging the “metaphysical” is critical to improving the human condition, because belief has always shaped human behavior. You will never purge human consciousness of its awareness of greater realities, what has long been termed the “spiritual”, despite ongoing attempts by the materialist community to do so. Such realities have always been central to the fundamental human impulse for meaning and purpose.

Further below I have noted that anthropology (e.g. Clifford Geertz) recognizes that people have long based their behavior, communities, and overall existence on divine models. Unfortunately, the divine models of people (the will, word, or law of some god) have too often been oriented to inhumane features. Hence, my argument to fully humanize all areas of human thought and life. The humanizing endeavor needs to be rooted in contemporary freedom from religious ideals and authorities, and be fueled by the freedom to question, challenge, and refute all things that are less than fully human.

Further side note: I take the approach that it is best to reason from the best in humanity out to theology. We take the ever-improving understanding of what it means to be authentically humane and use that to properly define Ultimate Goodness, or God. This “humanizing” venture (making even the spiritual more humane) reaches its ultimate summit with unconditional love, the unconditional treatment of all people. We achieve this unconditional insight not from any religious holy book, as those traditions have too long embodied the worst of ancient pre-human thought. We get this unconditional insight from general human understanding and experience, though one notable spiritual tradition has given us a good jump-start on unconditional (see below).

Reaching for the ultimate Humane- Comment on Historical Jesus research

A note on the material immediately below: Around the early 1700s theologians and scholars became more aware that there were serious contradictions in the New Testament gospels. They recognized that there were some sublimely humane ideals being expressed by the historical Jesus, but much other material in the gospels seemed to out-rightly contradict his more humane sayings. There appeared to be a core message (i.e. Matthew 5-7) but then later additions by the gospel writers that were quite contrary to the core material. To illustrate, Jesus in Matthew 5 advocated that we should “love enemies”. But then later in Matthew 11 he pronounces woe, judgment, and destruction on the towns that did not repent and believe his message. What happened to “love your enemies”?

Thomas Jefferson, in his own unique manner of expression, referred to this apparent contradiction in the gospels, stating that the sublime moral teachings of Jesus were like “diamonds buried in a dunghill” of contradicting material. Later researchers would argue that Matthew 5-7 (and the similar Luke 6 statements) contained the main diamonds in the larger dunghill context.

Scholars then began the search for the “Historical Jesus”, the authentic person and message of the original Jesus. They believed that an original, authentic person had been buried under layers of later interpretation by the gospel writers and other New Testament (NT) authors like Paul. These later writers had put many things into the mouth of Jesus that contradicted an original core message. And the varied NT authors created a growing mythology of “Jesus Christ” that on many points was opposite to what the original person had actually taught. Paul especially contradicted Jesus with his elaborate, other-worldly Christ myth. That myth of Christ became the foundation of Christianity, which is Paul’s religion. It is noted by scholars that Paul paid little attention to what Jesus taught.

(Note: Scholars point out that Jesus’ teaching was about life in this world, acting humanely toward others here and now. Paul’s gospel was about a future utopia, an other-worldly paradise. And where Jesus never said anything about himself, Paul and the gospel writers went on endlessly about the person of Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus never saw himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. Paul’s Christ is primarily about the sacrifice of Jesus. These are a few of the contrasts between the gospel of Jesus and the gospel of Paul/Christianity.)

One sub-category of search for the historical Jesus was Q research. This is based on the following facts: Mark wrote the first gospel. Luke and Matthew wrote their gospels later. Scholars noted that Luke and Matthew both borrowed a similar set of sayings from Mark. But scholars also noted that Matthew and Luke contained many other related passages that must have come from some other common source. They named that other source Q after the German word “quelle”, for source.

The Q research argues that the original Q sayings are a “wisdom sayings” tradition (“sapiential” sayings). That is the ultimate original gospel of Jesus. That Q gospel went through several editions or revisions. The original Q (Q1) was a collection of sayings oriented to non-retaliation and love of enemies, what we rightly term the unconditional treatment of all people. Later versions of Q (Q2 and Q3) became harshly retaliatory and threatening, more apocalyptic in tone and substance. This is the background for the material right below.

More on the great breakthrough and reversal- the Jesus insight versus the Christian contradiction.

I will offer this at the start- if you get this fundamental contradiction between Jesus and Christianity you will then understand the key issue and problem in the greater human story- what it means to be human and what is holding humanity back from full liberation and potential. Like Adam indulging his curiosity in Eden, understanding this contradiction will offer the key to the knowledge of good and evil, to understanding the authentic human from the inhuman. Its all about absolutely no conditions reality and existence, versus conditional reality and existence. So go ahead and taste the fruit that opens the understanding of this contradiction. You won’t be punished by any god.

The historical Jesus, a person entirely opposite (in his theology) to the Christian version of Jesus, put together a link between the best of human behavior and the best of human belief, for the first time in history. He made the most powerful connection of behavior to belief ever stated. And he overturned entirely all the darker elements of the previous views of ultimate reality, all those features that had to do with anger, threat, retaliation, punishment, and destruction. He rejected entirely all the demanded conditions of traditional religion for sacrifice, correct belief, religious precepts and ritual, and obligated servitude to mediating priesthoods.

Others, like the Akkadian father long before him, had got the more humane ethic right- that we should treat others unconditionally, by forgiving, including, and exhibiting unlimited generosity toward all. But no one had ever got the supporting theological belief right- that God also treated all people unconditionally. Jesus finally did it. He stated that we should reject retribution, retaliation and punishment (no more eye for eye justice, no more getting even or engaging payback), and instead we should love our enemies. And we should do this because God does this… God loves enemies and gives the good gifts of life (sun and life-giving rain) to all alike. Be kind to all because God is kind to all. Be merciful just as God is merciful. Jesus made the most powerful link between belief and behavior that has ever been made, in his core gospel as stated in Matthew 5:38-48. He linked the best possible behavior to the best possible belief. He linked the most humane behavior to the most humane belief ever conceived by a human mind. In doing this, he severed completely the influence of previous bad belief on human behavior.

Give the Matthew 5:38-48 statement careful consideration. There isn’t a more humane statement of ethics and ideas, behavior and belief, anywhere in human thought or language. It is simply the most profound insight in all of human history.

But then the stunning contradiction. Paul out-rightly rejected the unconditional insight of Jesus and created the Christian religion as the formal rejection of Jesus’ unconditional breakthrough. Paul created his myth of Jesus Christ (the Christian Jesus) as the very opposite to the actual historical Jesus. Paul’s gospel of Christ is known as his Christology, or his Christ myth. Be clear- it is the very core and foundation of Christianity. Christianity is Jesus Christ as presented by Paul. And Christ is all about intense and supreme conditions.

This contradiction between the actual teaching of the historical Jesus and Paul’s Jesus is a far greater scandal than even the discovery of the ossuary of Jesus. This fundamental contradiction over the unconditional Jesus (non-retaliatory theology) and the conditional Jesus Christ (retaliatory theology) has rarely been treated properly by historians and scholars of religion.

Bob Brinsmead has suggested that this contradiction between unconditional and conditional reality is the Big Bang of religion and mythical traditions. It is the quantum mechanics of the spiritual, the thing that challenges and overturns all past religious thought quite entirely.

I have devoted this site to the discovery of unconditional (absolutely no conditions love) and its liberating and humanizing potential. And I have thoroughly treated the opposition to this discovery, notably from Christianity, but also from all forms conditional religion, including contemporary secular versions like Green or environmental religion.

Chronology of the Contradiction:

Jesus presented his wisdom sayings somewhere around CE 27-36, roughly over a 3 year period. His main teaching, his gospel, encompasses basically Matthew 5-7 (see also Luke 6), along with some other sayings and parables (see James Robinson’s books for detail on the content of the Q Sayings gospel). Jesus’ core theme was that it was humane to treat all people unconditionally because this is what God does. He said, do not retaliate against offenders but love your enemies because God does not retaliate against offenders but loves all, both good and bad. Jesus based his new unconditional ethic on a new unconditional theology. I will spell it out plainly so the meaning is not missed. A God that does not retaliate against offenders, but treats every person unconditionally, means that there is no judgment, no condemnation of imperfection, no discrimination or exclusion (sun and rain are given to all alike), no punishment (no eye for eye payback), and no destruction. All are safe, accepted, and loved. Forever.

Wow and yikes together.

Is this unconditional love toward all people offensive to conventional understanding of proper justice as payback of some form? Of course it is. It is scandalous to most human conception of justice as retribution in some manner.

To those who counter that they don’t believe this religious mythology anyway, so what does it matter to them, I would question: But do you perhaps hold some secularized version of these very same myths? For instance, do you believe in karma as some form of payback from greater forces? Do you believe, with the ancient Greeks, that there is retribution at the core of reality? Do you believe the “revenge of Gaia”, or angry planet mythology? Then welcome to the retaliatory mythology club. In the Western tradition it all traces right back to religious and mythically-minded Paul, the single most influential person in history and the most prominent shaper of Western consciousness.

Note particularly that a God that does not retaliate means that there will be no apocalypse. Apocalyptic mythology presents apocalypse as a great divine act of retaliation against corrupt humanity. It is a great history-ending punishment and destruction of “bad/sinful/disobedient” people.
The original historical Jesus did not teach apocalyptic as the gospel writers claimed that he did. Gospel writers like Matthew shamelessly put those harsh statements about some final judgment and retaliatory destruction into the mouth of the historical Jesus, against his clear teaching that God did not retaliate (Matthew 5:38-48). The actual historical Jesus had firmly stated that God was a non-punishing God. God did not engage eye for eye justice, or get even with offenders. Jesus’ God would not engage apocalyptic retaliation and punishment.

The call of Jesus to “love your enemies” was not just the hardest saying ever stated. His follow-up point that God did not punish bad people, but instead loved all the same, was an even harder saying for early Christians to accept. It did not sit well at all with their sense of justice as demanding payback. So they eventually rejected it and returned to Paul’s retaliatory gospel instead. That gospel of divine vengeance and punishment satisfied their felt need for retaliation against enemies. Instead of the Jesus breakthrough, they chose to embrace the core theme of Christianity that God would retaliate and punish all sin in Christ. This is commonly heard in the Christian summary statement that “Jesus died to pay for our sins”.

Note that James Robinson and other Q scholars have argued that the original wisdom sayings gospel of Jesus went through several revisions (redactions), perhaps 3. The first Q was basically the Matthew 5-7 sayings. That is the ultimate original gospel of Jesus. It expresses a generous spirit of unconditional treatment of all people. But the following versions of Q made a “stunning shift” toward harsh, retaliatory apocalyptic threat. There was a distinct shift away from the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and toward a retaliatory emphasis.

Fortunate for us, Matthew and Luke felt obligated to include that original wisdom sayings gospel of Jesus even though they subsequently distorted it in their larger contexts. They most likely included the original gospel as it was an oral tradition too widely known by early Christians for them to deny it outright. But they successfully buried it in their larger mythology about the Christian Jesus Christ, putting all sorts of contradicting retaliatory comments in the mouth of their version of Jesus, comments that contradicted utterly the original teaching of Jesus. Matthew even made revisions to the core teaching of Jesus in chapter 5-7, weakening Jesus’ unconditional theme with religious conditions.

But back to the contradiction…

Paul was a dominating personality and did not tolerate disagreement with his views (see, for instance, Charles Freeman’s “The Closing of the Western Mind”), cursing those who disagreed with him, including his fellow Christian leaders Peter and James (see Galatians 1:8-9 for an example). Ultimately, his ideas and his interpretation of Jesus shaped the early Christian movement to the exclusion of all other versions. His gospel won out over other gospels, such as the Jewish gospels of early Christianity (e.g. Ebionites).

Paul created his myth of Jesus Christ to explain what he thought Jesus was all about. His myth of Christ did not embrace the actual teaching of Jesus but was shaped according to his own heavenly visions of Jesus. His Christ myth was oriented to vengeance, retaliation, and punishment. The Christ of Paul would return to judge and destroy all unbelievers in a great final day of punishing justice- the apocalypse. Paul embraced a theology that was entirely opposite to the core non-retaliation theme of the actual historical Jesus.

(Note: New Testament references show the orientation of Christ to vengeance, punishment, and retaliatory apocalyptic: see, for instance, Romans 2: 5,8,9,16, 12:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:8; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:25; Philippians 1:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:16, 4:6, 5:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; also the writing of Peter, and John’s Revelation.)

The apocalyptic retaliation of Paul’s Christ was already clear when Paul wrote the first New Testament books, the letters to the Thessalonians. Scholars note further that Paul eventually wrote over 50 percent of the New Testament. The New Testament is Paul’s book, not the book of Jesus.

Paul’s Christ was most prominently about blood payment for sin which is the appeasement of an angry, retaliatory God. His Christ embodied the supreme condition of appeasing an angry God with a blood sacrifice (see Romans 1-5). Paul’s primitive conditional logic argued that all sin must be punished in Christ’s death. Paul’s God was all about eye for eye justice- demanding payment for all wrongs, getting even, punishing all sins. His Christ and Christianity were all about conditions, supreme conditions that had to be fulfilled. Once again, the unconditional insight of Jesus was entirely rejected and buried in Paul’s Christian religion.

Further, Paul directly refuted the wisdom sayings tradition in 1 Corinthians chapters 1-3 (see Stephen Patterson’s The Lost Way for comment on this).
While scholars are generally right that Paul ignored the actual teaching of Jesus, there appears to be an exception in Romans 12 where Paul seems to engage the Matthew 5:38-48 breakthrough. Paul tackles the behavior/belief link that Jesus made, but note that he does so in order to reject it and to reverse it entirely.

At first blush it appears that Paul got something of Jesus’ breakthrough on non-retaliation where he urged Christians to not return evil for evil that was done to them (Romans 12:17). But then, in an entirely oxymoronic disconnect, he based that ethic of non-retaliation on the contradicting and opposite theology of retaliation (“Leave room for God’s wrath…Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”). He was playing with the belief/behavior linkage but got it all wrong. It does not work to urge a humane response that is based on an inhumane belief. It is simply oxymoronic and contradictory. It does not work. The belief will undermine the behavior, if it is contrary to the behavior. Paul was tackling the Jesus insight but was contradicting it in the most basic manner, by reversing its theology from non-retaliation to retaliation. Huh?

And a closer look at Romans 12 shows that Paul even got the ethical part wrong. He urged that non-retaliation should be done in a retaliatory manner. Your non-retaliation should be engaged in order to “heap coals of fire”- to ensure fiery judgment- on the heads of your enemies. Do not retaliate against evil so that you will ensure ultimate divine retaliation against your offenders. If you don’t retaliate then you make certain that your offenders/enemies will get far more severe retaliation from God (i.e. punishment from a God who claims that “vengeance is mine, I will repay”). Paul gets both the ethic and the theology wrong, completely wrong. He missed the theology and the spirit of Jesus. He missed both the belief and the behavior of an authentically unconditional spirit.

Most important to understanding this great contradiction between Jesus and Christianity is to note that Paul clearly states in Romans 12 that he rejects the non-retaliatory God of Jesus and embraces the retaliating God of all primitive mythology and religion.

So in an unprecedented historical rejection and reversal, Paul retreats entirely from Jesus on this issue of non-retaliation, or the unconditional treatment of all people. And Paul’s rejection of non-retaliation is Christianity. Once again, Christianity as we know it is Paul’s religion, not the religion of Jesus. James Tabor makes this case in his book ‘Paul and Jesus’.

This rejection of the gospel of Jesus by Paul is a stunning contradiction and scandal at the heart of Christianity. Yes, Jesus’ unconditional insight is still there in the gospels, though buried by the larger context. Fortunately, its leavening presence has helped moderate the worst of Christian impulses to punish and destroy enemies over the millennia.

Just to summarize again the chronology of this Jesus insight and Paul’s rejection of it. Jesus taught his wisdom sayings around CE 27-36. Paul began to present his contradictory and retaliatory apocalyptic views in his first letters sent to the Thessalonians, around 50 CE. Researchers affirm that Paul influenced all the other New Testament writers. His views dominated all others. So when Matthew wrote his gospel later around 70 CE, he was already presenting Jesus in strongly apocalyptic terms, similar to Paul’s writings. Matthew was busy contradicting and burying Jesus’ core teaching of Matthew 5-7 in his larger context. This is cognitive dissonance writ large as Matthew reversed entirely the central theme of the original gospel of historical Jesus.

To get the full impact of how severely Matthew rejects and buries the spirit and message of Jesus note these verses in his gospel that relentlessly emphasize the threat of judgment, condemnation, and destruction in hell: Matthew 11 (pronouncing woe on unrepentant towns), 12:31 (refusal to forgive all offenses), 12:36-37 (judgment and condemnation), 13:40-42 (burning in hell), 13:50 (weeping and gnashing of teeth), 18:8-9 (eternal fire), 21:44 (crushing enemies), 22:13 (throw into outer darkness), 23:15 (become a son of hell), 23:33 (condemned to hell), 24:51 (weeping and gnashing of teeth), 25:30 (weeping and gnashing of teeth), 25:46 (eternal punishment). Matthew abandons entirely the spirit, ethic, and theology of Jesus’ original gospel (do not retaliate but love your enemies). Like Paul, he reverses back to the primitive apocalyptic threat of punishment and destruction of enemies. This illustrates exactly what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said that the diamonds of Jesus were buried in a dunghill.
Instead of the all-forgiving God of Jesus, Matthew’s Christ/God would destroy and burn in hell all unbelievers, sending all those who refused to meet the conditions of the Christian faith “into outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth”. His threatening Christ was entirely opposite to the non-threatening Jesus of Matthew 5-7.

And so the rest of the New Testament goes. The unconditional God of Jesus is buried in the “dunghill” of apocalyptic Christianity with its repeated threats of looming judgment, punishment, and destruction. The New Testament is permeated by these themes of retaliation, vengeance, punishment, and destruction (see earlier lists of New Testament references).

This is a huge scandal that Christianity needs to confront and resolve. The Christian religion has yet to begin to take the historical Jesus seriously. And of course, Christianity cannot embrace the original unconditional Jesus because it would mean the end of the Christian religion with all its conditions of required sacrifice to pay for sin, and the obligation to submit and believe this myth of a sacrificed Christ. Unconditional spells the end of, not just Christianity, but of all conditional religion.

The Christian myth of Christ has also shaped the rest of Western consciousness and religion. It has influenced Islamic theology (see The Priest and the Prophet by Joseph Azzi) and other movements. For detail, I refer readers to the excellent research of David Cook (Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature), Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), and others.

Until we resolve this reflexive impulse to protect and worship retaliation at the heart of the Christian religion, it will continue to stir alarm and defensive aggression toward offenders, as it has already done over history. This has been especially true in Western consciousness and history. It also continues to stir alarm in apocalyptic movements like environmentalism, an offspring of 19th Century Declinism, a new secularized version of Christian apocalyptic mythology.

It is time to take Jesus seriously on God as unconditional love- his greatest contribution to the history of ideas. The single greatest human insight or discovery ever made.

Robinson quotes

James Robinson, one of the more prominent researchers of the Q Sayings Gospel, known as the original wisdom sayings of Jesus (the wisdom teaching of Jesus- “sapiential” in theological terms). This original gospel of Jesus consists of mainly Matthew chapters 5 to 7, with some other parables and sayings.

Robinson’s comments below note the amazing breakthrough of Jesus that God was unconditional love (“non-retaliatory” is Robinson’s term), and that Christianity later rejected this breakthrough and returned to the pagan view of God as vengeful and punishing. The rejection of Jesus’ original gospel occurs in books like Matthew, in Paul’s letters, and throughout much of the rest of the New Testament.

I have not found anyone else who so clearly presents the contradiction between Jesus’ teaching, and the contrary Christ myth of Christianity, and how this contradiction developed in early Christianity (the rejection of Jesus’ gospel of unconditional). Robinson also suggests why this stunning reversal may have occurred. Unfortunately, Robinson did not seem to fully grasp how explosive this Jesus/Paul contradiction was and what the full implications were for religions like Christianity, or for human liberation in general. And he ends his book on the confusing note of facing possible judgment. Still, his comments are valuable.

Quotes from Robinson’s “Jesus: According to the Earliest Witnesses”, with paraphrased bracketed sections:

“(In the wisdom sayings gospel of Jesus, he taught)… how one should think of God and how one should act accordingly…there is an explicit correlation between Jesus’ teaching about God and Jesus’ ethic…’Be full of pity just as your Father is full of pity’…Here Jesus explicitly appeals to God’s pity as the model to be followed by God’s people. This he does again and again…”

“Love of the enemy…the highest that one can ever expect from a person, as something that elevates the disciples of Jesus high above the sphere of the generally human, and makes them like God himself…the requirement of love of enemies had assumed the dominant position…had come to stand at the head of a whole series of exhortations…”

“Jesus’ vision of a caring Father who is infinitely forgiving and hence shockingly even-handed in dealing with the bad as well as the good, may have been lost from sight a generation later, as a result of the grueling experiences of the Jewish war, understood as God’s quite judgmental punishment of Israel… the Q people had originally been sons of God in loving their enemies, imitating God originally understood in a quite a different way, as giving sunshine and rain to the bad as well as the good. It was in this sense that they had sought to be God-like…(Albrecht Dihle) has laid out the dramatic extent to which this transcended the common-sense justice of reward and retaliation that pervaded antiquity… ‘the proclamation of Jesus … has eliminated that concept of retaliation as the basis for or ingredient in an ethical order’…Yet already the Q redaction (a later edition of the Q sayings gospel) had come to envisage the Q people again as God-like, but quite differently, like a judgmental God, sitting on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel…Jesus’ basic insight into the ever-loving and forgiving nature of God would seem to have been lost from sight as the age-old view of God undergirding retaliatory justice again reasserted itself…(the Matthew 5 statement that God was non-retaliatory was) the most important theological contribution by Jesus to the history of ideas ( but it was abandoned by the early Christian movement)… (Dihle notes) this basic shift in the doctrine of God at the basis of ethical conduct (that took place between the original Q gospel with its non-retaliatory deity, and a later revision that returned to retaliatory deity)”.

Robinson then comments on the development of Christology- the later Christian development of beliefs about Jesus as the Christ. He notes that Paul did not build his theology of the Christ on Jesus’ teaching but on his own heavenly visions of Christ. Paul’s Christ myth, with its features of divine anger, vengeance, payback punishment, and eternal destruction, contradicts the fundamental non-retaliatory theology of Jesus’ gospel.

“Paul literally and figuratively so outshone Jesus as to leave Jesus out of sight…Paul knew very few sayings of Jesus and did not have a kind of religiosity, much less a theology, built on Jesus’ sayings; he even argues that knowing Jesus according to the flesh, is not really necessary (2Cor.5:16)…he rather explicitly said that the idyllic, unreal world of Jesus has been put behind us, for we must now come to grips with reality, buy a sword, become the church militant…”

“Jesus’ teaching about God and Jesus’ ethic are indeed correlated to each other…’Be full of pity, just as your Father is full of pity’…Jesus explicitly appeals to God’s pity, as the model to be followed by God’s people…. the central appeal of Jesus to love one’s enemies is based on God’s conduct…Thus, at the core of the archaic collections behind the (later versions) of Q there is a striking correlation between the actual conduct that Jesus exemplified and advocated in his sayings, and the way that he conceived of God as a forgiving Father…It is not surprising that Jesus’ shocking view of God has been largely ignored, as has his corresponding ethic…”

“(Dihle) has detailed the dramatic extent to which this new ethic of Jesus derived from his new understanding of God and transcends the common-sense justice of reward and punishment that pervaded antiquity…the proclamation of Jesus and early Christian theology connected to it have eliminated that concept of retaliation as the basis for, or ingredient in, an ethical order…The love of enemies, as the highest ethic of Jesus and the Q people, was indeed very unusual. And it was rooted in an equally unusual vision of a God who gives sunshine and showers to the bad as well as to the good. It is striking that Jesus, at this most central point, did not derive his unusual vision of God, and his highest ethic, from the Hebrew scriptures or indeed from anywhere in the culture of the Ancient Far East…”

“Love of enemies does indeed fly in the face of the common-sense every day judgment that the punishment should fit the crime. It is surprising indeed that Jesus’ rare view of God, and its resultant radical ethic, is derived from his experience of the world of nature around him…Jesus, (drew) such a radical ethic from this simple observation of nature…God… is kind to all, to the bad as well as to the good… (Jesus taught) a vision of God higher than what had been understood before…God’s amazingly impartial love for the bad as well as for the good”.

Robinson then comments that Matthew abandoned the theology and ethic of Jesus (non-retaliation as in Matthew 5:38-48) and returned to a vengeful gospel with his themes of apocalyptic punishment and destruction (he also quotes others on this point). “Matthew’s vengefulness…like most apocalyptic…he deals with the ultimate fate of the wicked. (He) depicts the fate of this group (the wicked) in the harshest terms. One important function of this motif is to satisfy the desire for vengeance on the part of himself and his readers… note (Matthew’s) abundant material relating to the horrific punishments awaiting the wicked. Matthew emphasizes this particular element and uses it to satisfy his apocalyptic community’s psychological need for vengeance on those who are responsible for their suffering…”

(Note: I assume as researchers have noted that Matthew was influenced by Paul’s harsh theology of God retaliating with apocalyptic punishment and destruction of enemies/unbelievers. Paul wrote the earliest New Testament books of Thessalonians and his theology shaped the thinking of the other NT writers).

“(Sim continues) The righteous can take heart that God (or Jesus as Son of Man) will balance the ledger at the (end of history) and exact vengeance on their behalf…Jesus amazing vision of God seems to have been completely lost from sight by the (later versions of the Q sayings gospel) and hence in the gospel of Matthew…”

“What is it that caused Jesus’ vision of God to be replaced by its reverse?… (Sim suggests the early Christian church) ‘was prohibited from taking its own revenge upon its enemies…These demands must have posed some problems for Matthew’s community and raised doubts in their minds about the justice of God. How can God be just when he allows the righteous to suffer and the wicked to prosper and does not allow the former to take revenge on the latter?’”

Robinson here notes that the early Christians then engaged in a great reversal of the new unconditional ethic and theology of Jesus. The early Christians shifted their understanding of God away from a Father who loved enemies and back to a God of vengeance. It was not just an ethical shift but a theological shift backwards. Their doubts about the justice of God (i.e. forgiving and loving enemies, helping the bad and unjust) led them to return to an ethic of revenge against enemies. But they did not just reverse their ethics. They could not do that and leave in place Jesus’ new view of God. “That sublime doctrine of God must (also be reversed)”. So even in later versions of Q, Christians replaced love of enemies with vengeance. The question remains as to why they did this?

Robinson suggests the following reason… it had to do with the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD. This was viewed in the same way as the destruction of the earlier temple in the Old Testament. That was understood by Jews as God abandoning and punishing his people for their sin. “(In the destruction of the temple) God revealed himself as a vengeful God, by punishing Israel again with this second destruction of the temple. Thus the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, experienced as a new devastating punishment by God, in effect replaced Jesus’ revelation of God for the Q community. Accordingly, in the (later version of Q), God no longer shines his sun and rains his showers also on the bad and unjust, but throws them ‘out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth’, as victims of impending rage whom he will burn on a fire that can never be put out…What was left of the… Q community, produced a vision of God that replaced that of Jesus, together with an ethic of vengeance to replace his (ethic) of the love of enemies, after having envisaged the destruction of the temple in 70 CE as an act of God”.

Robinson notes that the early Christian movement lost its resolve and gave way to Paul’s retaliatory gospel. He adds that the earliest version of Q, the original sayings gospel of Jesus, was a collection of wisdom sayings that contained no harsh retaliatory themes such as apocalyptic retaliation. But Q was redacted or revised and later versions became strongly apocalyptic. “Certain elements (e.g. apocalyptic Son of Man sayings) belong to a secondary compositional level and that compositionally and literarily the wisdom sayings, and the wisdom-gospel format, are foundational and formative for the document… the emergence of Christology is not at the oldest layer of Q but only at the redactional level…Christology (Paul’s retaliatory Christ myth) only emerges at this secondary level… Thus the relative absence of Christology from the first edition of Q and the relative prominence of Christology in the second edition of Q is striking”.

He is arguing that the original Q is non-apocalyptic while the later revision of Q is apocalyptic. Robinson adds that the original Q document was not yet corrupted by Pauline theology and was a reliable source for Jesus’ teachings. That original Q contained a core of authentic sayings of Jesus roughly comparable to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This, says Robinson, represents the “epitome of Jesus’ teaching”. That sermon is the nearest we can get to the authentic historical Jesus. Unfortunately, that earliest Jesus tradition moved “toward a more moralizing, spiritualizing, christologizing, domesticating way of imaging Jesus, an amazingly successful enterprise that produced the image of Jesus that most Christians till have today. “Thus Paul provided the core of our Christian faith, not Jesus”. As Paul warned early Christians, if you believe any other gospel than his you were cursed. And we did not need to know the human Jesus any longer, or his teaching. Paul further derided and dismissed the wisdom sayings tradition of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 1-3.

Despite his excellent treatment of these issues, Robinson then ends his book with the confusing suggestion that “doing Jesus’ word is what acquits in the day of judgment”. Huh? What the ….?

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Site Comment: Section Four- Topics Below Intro: Landes on apocalyptic shaping Marxism and Nazism; Bad religious ideas; Lotufo quotes; Comment from discussion group- notes material from Nelson-Pallmeyer (Is Religion Killing Us?) and Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion), among other comment.


Contemporary terrorism affirms again the powerful influence of theological beliefs on human behavior. This pushes us to acknowledge that some very bad features have been projected onto deity where they have long operated as validating ideals. Often validating behavior of the worst kind.

Just defending religion (theism) does not help to resolve this problem. It is important to understand exactly what ideas or features in religious systems have been helpful, and which have been harmful to human relating and existence. Recognizing such distinctions then initiates the project of eliminating the bad stuff. Religious traditions must engage fully the humanizing process that the rest of Western society has undergone over the past few centuries (transforming all ideas, beliefs, ideals, and behaviors into something more humane).

The fact that something is has long been considered “sacred” or “divine” should not prevent its transformation into something more humane.

The most destructive idea in history has been that of violent, vengeful, and punishing deity- the belief that God is engaged in a great struggle to destroy his “enemies” (Zoroastrian dualism). Is this claim of “most destructive idea” perhaps too extravagant? See evidence throughout this site. This is one of the core ideas that drives Islamic violence today. It is an idea that has long been embedded in the foundations of all three Western religions and it has also incited and validated violence throughout the histories of Judaism and Christianity. The myth of violent, punishing deity has profoundly shaped Western narratives, consciousness, justice systems, political policy, personal ethics, and more. The damage from this inhumane myth has been immense in terms of pathologies in human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior (see Lotufo below).

The myth of a violent, punishing God is the foundational idea behind apocalyptic millennialism (i.e. God destroying enemies in an apocalypse, violently purging the present world in order to coercively install a new utopia). Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) presents good evidence that apocalyptic millennialism was the mythology that shaped the so-called ‘secular’ movements of Marxism and Nazism, both mass-death movements. David Cook (Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature) argues that apocalyptic mythology is a significant force driving contemporary Islamic terrorism.

Also, Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God) argues that violent God mythology keeps many people in subhuman stages of development.

This site presents the liberating alternative to the violent God myth. I refer to humanity’s greatest discovery- the “no conditions” theology of sages like Historical Jesus (i.e. non-violent, non-punishing deity). Unfortunately, the central discovery of Jesus was buried and distorted in the larger Christian context of conditional theology (Thomas Jefferson- Jesus’ wisdom sayings were like diamonds buried in a dunghill).

If we are ever going to solve problems like violence thoroughly and for the long-term then we need to fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities. We need to remove all traces of vengefulness and violence in our views of deity, and replace that with authentically humane features. The real battle against terrorism is fought at this foundational level of the “battle of ideas”.

New: See Top 10 list of “bad religious ideas”. While commentators refer to religious ideas that promote violence, few spell out in detail the actual harmful religious ideas. This site deals extensively with the contribution of these religious ideas to violence and other forms of inhumanity. No idea has been more damaging in this regard than the idea of vengeance and violence in deity.

New Intro April 2015 (No apologies for repetition of the main themes on this site. Subsequent comments approach the varied subjects from different angles with differing insights and ways of expression)

This site probes and traces thoroughly the greatest mistake in human thought- that there are violent and punishing spirits (i.e. gods) behind life. That pathological mythology has long been coupled with the equally damaging belief that humanity is fallen and corrupt (sinful). Add to this body of ancient error, the myth of a better past (i.e. original paradise, Eden) that humanity has ruined. Hence, we deserve some punishment from the gods.

The outcome of those errors in early human perception has been the hugely wasteful endeavor of salvation religion- that some sacrifice must be made to appease the offended and angry gods that will retaliate, punish, and destroy. A sacrifice/atonement was considered necessary in order to ward off punishment via disease, disaster, or accident. Sacrifice was also necessary to escape the threatened apocalypse and Hell (eternal punishment). As James Payne (History of Force) notes, the historical outcome of belief in divinely obligated sacrifice has been “rivers of blood” (animal and human) offered to appease sadistic and threatening gods.

Further, add to the above pathology, the myth of a God that promotes oppositional dualism (Zoroaster), demanding that people join some “true” religion and destroy their “enemies” in other false religions. And we wonder why the one human family has been sundered by violence from all sorts of opposing factions (oppositional dualism has also been expressed through ideological, ethnic, racial, national, and other divides).

The above mythology has been a great fraud and lie but it continued to terrorize public consciousness over multiple millennia. Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), for one, has rightly described a personality that seeks satisfaction in hurting others (i.e. demanding violent sacrifice and service) as psychopathic. Yet the myth of a violent, punishing God continues as the core theme, driving the other prominent themes of salvation religion.

This horrific pathology has, like a malignant cancer, permeated human outlook and belief down through history and continues to erupt even today in so-called secular belief systems and movements. These movements have sometimes produced mass-death outcomes. Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth) notes, for instance, the impact of the above mythical themes on Marxism and Nazism, both apocalyptic millennial movements at core. Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline) notes how these mythical themes have shaped 19th Century Declinism and then contemporary environmentalism.

Humanity has discovered two powerful responses to this pathological mythology. Responses that liberate consciousness into authentically humane understanding and existence. These two responses overturn entirely the original mistaken mythology and orient consciousness toward a better future.

Briefly- The discovery of “no conditions” love (unconditional love) at the core of reality and life overturns entirely the primitive views of violent, punishing gods. This infinitely generous love is the very essence of all things. Then the discovery that the same unconditional love is the essential nature of our human consciousness and person, this overturns the error of fallen, corrupt humanity that deserves punishment. We, in our essential person or consciousness, are never separated from the Ultimate Love at the core of reality. We are all unique expressions of that same love.

(Note: Jeffrey Schwartz in You Are Not Your Brain speaks of our “higher, better self”. I take the liberty to specify that this better self is essentially no conditions love, the highest human ideal)

That our very essence is love- this becomes a powerful and liberating new basis for establishing human self-worth, for valuing humanity as essentially good and creative. And because it is not being taught clearly anywhere else that I know of, I draw on the NDE movement as a useful source for insights on the nature/essence of our consciousness or human spirit. NDErs are regularly surprised at the wonder of what we really are, to discover that we are in essence beings of love and light (see NDE quote below). If life is about discovering ourselves- our true self- then the NDE accounts are a useful source of insight that is not available anywhere else. These accounts are helpful for countering the distortion and damage from the fallen humanity mythology that has dominated human thought over history.

And yes, scientific types will decry any appeal to NDEs as not proper evidence. Agreed, it is not “proper evidence” in scientific terms. But I take conscious human experience seriously (it may be the most real thing in the cosmos) and I evaluate the NDE phenomenon in terms of its central discovery of unconditional love. That is a strong validating feature of this experience (as to its “truthfulness” or “reality”).

This quote from one NDE account (Jayne Smith)…”Then in some incredible way that I don’t understand at all, I was able to look deeply inside myself, really into the very core of me, to my essence. I saw that what was there was love, nothing else. My core was perfect love, loving perfection. I had complete love and acceptance for everything. I saw my own gentleness, tenderness, harmlessness. I simply was perfect and loving”.

Most comment below, from the discussion group, is mine, except where I specifically list the name of other contributors.

Comment from discussion group: “Whatever the original reason for its formation in ancient minds, the myth of apocalypse became lodged at the foundations of early human thought/perception and that myth, based on a view of a psychopathic God that would violently destroy people and all life, that myth has continued to terrorize people across history. And to horrifically damaging impacts. We have traced its descent down through history, despite a 100% failure rate. Down to Zoroaster (Mary Boyce, “Zoroastrianism is the most influential religion in history”), and into Christianity and Paul’s Christ myth, and this has shaped the Western consciousness more than any other single idea (see James Tabor in ‘Paul and Jesus’). And then down into secular thought (Arthur Herman- apocalyptic shaped 19th Century Declinism and later environmentalism). And as Landes shows- it has descended into the great mass-death movements- i.e. Marxism, Nazism (the violent apocalyptic purging of some “enemy” in order to bring salvation and the millennial kingdom). They were in some ways profoundly religious movements, influenced by this foundational Christian myth of apocalyptic violence.”

“Hence, my comment- it is very hard to root out this terrifying idea of an angry God threatening to violently destroy people. As Lotufo put it- a psychopathic God. A monster. It exists right at the heart of Christian atonement, the most fundamental of Christian beliefs.”

This opening section presents the following: New comment; Quick overview; April 2015 Introduction; Patrick Moore environmental summary; Zenon Lotufo quotes (exposing the pathological nature of the personality behind atonement theology- defined as finding satisfaction in the suffering of others); A model of religion and violence; Extensive quotes from discussion group (i.e. discussion of Pallmeyer, Lotufo, and Ellens’ research on pathology in religion); and Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology (honor and shame culture, the offense and retaliation response).

New comment:

The repulsive spectacle of death-cult violence continues to erupt across the planet. The regularity of it traumatizes and almost numbs public consciousness. Historical records of violence further reveal how endless and widespread such brutality has been.

Yet historical evidence also shows that over the long term of human history there has been an amazing decline in overall rates of violence. Researchers like James Payne (History of Force) and Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) point out that rates of violence per unit of population (i.e. percentage of people dying violently or homicides per 100,000 people) have decreased steadily as humanity has become wearied by violence and people have grown increasingly more empathic toward others. We take great hope from such long term evidence. And it is necessary to note this improvement because hopelessness and a sense of overwhelming threat only fuels more violence as people feel the need to take defensive action.

Public media do not provide this larger and long-term context of violence. David Altheide notes, for example, (in Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis) that during the 1990s homicide rates in the US declined by 20% but news reporting on homicide increased by 600%. Without the larger context of overall declining violence, that upsurge in reporting on violence provided a distorted picture to the public of what was happening in regard to violence.

But despite the good news of overall decline, any remaining violence should, and does, outrage our common human consciousness. It must all stop, finally, and forever. As one woman said on hearing of more ISIS-type insanity, “No more, please. Just stop it”. And yes, the fact of historically declining violence is little comfort to those still suffering the horror of violence in their lives.

This site tackles one fundamental element that has been responsible, arguably, for promoting more violence over history than any other single thing. And it continues to play a key role in inciting and validating violence in our world. As the Boko Haram leader told his child soldiers last year (2014), “We must give God bodies. We must make God happy”.

“Bad religious ideas” (Sam Harris) have promoted far too much brutality over history and need to be confronted, exposed and radically altered. And there is no worse “bad religious idea” than that of a violent deity. A God that finds pleasure in harming others. Read the Zenon Lotufo quotes further below for detail on how such pathological theology holds humanity at a subhuman stage of development and harms/perverts human personality.

If you want to solve the problem of violence properly and for the long term, then be sure that you root out completely any ideas of violence in humanity’s highest ideal and authority- in God. Humanize thoroughly our views of deity. Eliminate entirely any remaining features that are less than fully human or humane.

The idea of God is the most foundational of all ideas that people look to for guidance for how they should live, and how they should shape their societies (note, for instance, the Mennonite comment that Christian views of a punishing God are the historical basis of Western justice systems). So yes, the real battle that must be won is the battle of ideas. The ideas held in people’s heads that incite them to violence. None is more important in this regard than the idea of deity.

This site probes thoroughly the issue of foundational ideas and ideals and how they shape human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior. I have noted some of the best material on this issue- such as the research of Zenon Lotufo, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Harold Ellens. This site goes after the big ideas/themes that have long been used to promote and validate all sorts of inhumanity. And I probe thoroughly the alternatives that liberate people from such brutality. Notably, the greatest human discovery ever- that of unconditional reality.

This site is all about overcoming the worst mistake ever (i.e. violent, punitive deity) and getting a clear understanding of the greatest discovery ever (no conditions theology).

In relation to the above…

Discussion group: Our discussion group has recently been noting Richard Landes’ work on apocalyptic millennialism (i.e. his book Heaven on Earth) and how this mythology has influenced so-called secular movements like Marxism and Nazism. Landes states that many historians and intellectuals have refused to admit the influence from religion- especially that of Christianity- on people like Marx, Lenin, and Hitler. This is inexcusable when you recognize that Christianity is largely responsible for bringing the myth of apocalyptic millennialism into Western consciousness and society.

Such denial of the Christian role in shaping so-called secular thought and movements does not help us appreciate the key elements and themes of such movements and how they have pushed entire societies toward the mass-death that were the outcome from those movements. Referring especially to Hitler and his use of apocalyptic millennial themes to take Germany toward mass death, Landes says,

“The study of Nazism’s appeal, of Hitler’s charisma, belong to the field of millennial studies…Only then can we identify the key problems: how movements go from the margins to the center of a society/culture, how they pursue their millennial goals, and how they respond…to cognitive dissonance, frustration, and failure (often with increased violence)….Were we to develop a ‘profile’ of millennial movements, leaving out Hitler would be a massive lacuna in the available evidence. He is not so much the measure of the unthinkable, the impossibly evil, as he is the measure of how, with modern technology and an only partially developed civil polity, a nation, a people, seized by, ridden by a millennial passion, can become one of the great dealers of death in human history” (p.388, Heaven on Earth).

Responding to this denial by historians that Christianity was a prominent influence on Hitler, Bob Brinsmead noted, “Yes, and this response to Hitler is repeated in the response of Obama and other world leaders to the shocking brutality of ISIS. They keep saying, especially Obama, that ISIS has got nothing to do with Islam and its religion. It has everything to do with that religion. Groups like ISIS are that segment of Muslims that take the religion seriously, literally, and perhaps even honestly desiring to carry it out. They were like us Awakeners (i.e. Seventh Day Adventists) who insisted that we must go back to the pioneers of the movement and get our theology from the “Early Writings.” Hitler’s view on Hermetic science was the worldwide belief of the intelligentsia of his day just as Anthropogenic Global Warming is now. Hitler was an experiment waiting to happen. He was the one man who was brave enough and stupid enough to carry out the ideology for the salvation of civilization…”

“…That was about as crazy as the now popular fad that we need political leaders who will be brave and bold enough to de-carbonize the economy, which means of course, dismantling modern civilization. If we have a Hitler-leader who will now rise up to lead the world to do that, he will do it to save the planet of course and he would have to be willing to eliminate a billion or two people to do it, But he would do this nasty stuff in order to achieve the glorious goal of being the benefactor of both the planet and the human race. In this sense Hitler was not completely evil. It was his unbending zeal for the greater good that made him so evil, rather than any pure evil motivation.”

Some further discussion group comment on how religious ideas influenced so-called secular movements like Nazism. Note again- for Christian visitors to this site- the following material may be profoundly upsetting. To balance the more disturbing comment below, I would affirm that Christianity has also included in its scriptures many valued human ideals. Those are to be applauded. The point of the following comment is that those great human ideals are embedded among some very subhuman themes that express the worst of primitive mythology and pathology. The larger context has often distorted, undermined, and even buried the meaning of the better ideals.

My comment: “Just having reread Landes section on Hitler and Nazism, you see more clearly how the prominent themes of Christian apocalyptic, atonement, and salvationism have shaped life ‘for the worse’. How this mythology suited so well the psychopathic personality of Hitler, like a comfortable glove. That predatory Animal that appealed to the basest animal in the German population, but presented his ideology so often in the religious themes of Christianity.

“And if there is any doubt about how prominent the Christian themes were in Hitler’s thinking, read Landes’ detailed treatment of this over many pages, with quotes from Hitler’s speeches. In those quotes from Hitler you see core, foundational Christianity. The anti-Semitism, Hitler’s claim to be a John Baptist preparing the people for the coming apocalypse, his announcing the coming Messiah, then later claiming actual Messianic status, and then assuming the role of the violent Christ, the Warrior Christ, his claim of the German Aryan as the chosen people, then announcing the apocalypse and stirring the hope for the German millennium (i.e. the Third Reich), the hope for salvation, commanding the needed sacrifice, exposing the demonic enemy to be destroyed, and on and on. Hitler repeatedly used Biblical references to orient his audience to these themes. And Evangelical Germans supported all this, says Landes.”

“As Landes says, few want to admit the religious nature of Nazism, because it makes all association with any such millennial madness appear to be as insane as the Nazis were. It is profoundly disorienting. The Nazis had to be uniquely evil, the historians claim. Not something similar to a lot of other millennial belief, such as in Christianity. But the links cannot be denied.”

“This is what Lotufo and others are trying to tell the great world religions. There is some really sick stuff in your traditions. Recognize it for what it really is, and how it damages people and societies. And clean it out. Get rid of it. Humanize it fully. Look at the damaging impacts it has produced over history.”

“As Landes says, Hitler was deeply committed to both the Christian texts and (his own notion) of the God that stood behind them. That ‘psychopathic’ God of Christian atonement (Lotufo).”

Another discussion group comment….

“Hitler, using a very Christian set of basic themes, took the German population into darkness and madness that we are still shocked by. Yet, get this, it was all so intensely Christian. An example of Christian belief, attitude, and spirit taken to its ultimate expression. That is the point to get from Landes.”

“And of course, as Landes states repeatedly, intellectuals and historians recoil from this and are ‘disoriented’ by those who point it out. It is too shocking. Hence, the endless effort by historians and intellectuals to portray people like Hitler, Marx, Lenin, Engels, and others, as simply madmen. Aberrations. Whatever you do, just avoid facing the intense apocalyptic millennialism that was at the core of their beliefs. And avoid tying that to its religious and Christian source.”

“It is this refusal to face honestly the source of all this insanity that keeps so many from finding full freedom, and properly and thoroughly solving the inhumanity that stems from such beliefs. Such denial holds us all back from real liberation and progress toward a better future, an authentically human future.”

“This was my complaint with Conrad Black last week. Don’t just engage the usual mindless defense of religion, of theism against atheism. Listen to what the atheists are saying about those ‘bad religious ideas’ and the harm that they have caused people. Look at ISIS today and the ongoing bloodshed that can be traced back to the core themes of this Western tradition. ‘We must give God bodies. We must make God happy’, said the Boko Haram leader.”

“The fundamental issue is the same that humanity has faced all across our history- its about what is human and what is inhuman. And how ideas influence us (i.e. our guiding ideals and authorities, beliefs). And what in all this that gets us to a better future. Quite simple really.”

Another post…

“Add to the list of Christian themes that Hitler used…’all drove toward a virulently zero-sum dualism’ between the Germans and the hated enemy, the Jews. Zoroastrian dualism, Christian dualism.”

“Herman’s Decline work (The Idea of Decline in Western History), and Carroll’s ‘Constantine’s Sword’ fill out the picture of the religious and other themes that produced Hitler. Inspired him, guided him, validated him.”

“And note that Hitler viewed himself as good, as a messiah figure in a great battle against evil (i.e. the Jewish threat to corrupt and destroy the Aryan race and German culture). Christianity gave him that validating perspective. He was convinced that he was in the service of Providence to save Germany from the apocalypse that would be brought on by the enemy Jews.”

“It is easier to dismiss him as just a madman, a nut case, or a crazy psychopath. But that it not the full story and we do not learn what we need to learn from this mess. Sure, there are those elements of plain madness and evil. But do not dismiss how familiar Christian themes also pushed that madness to world-destroying levels. Those themes were also there in the Christian German psyche, all those Christian themes that Hitler played upon. Fear of apocalypse, hope for redemption, a Savior, and a promised coming millennium of peace and bliss.”

Another post from discussion group…

“Landes (quoting this below from Klaus-Georg Riegel, who responded to colleagues that refused to admit there was a millennial genealogy to Marxism)…
“Any attempt to put this totalitarian system (i.e. Marxism-Leninism) in the category of a closed and barbarian theocracy is very often vehemently refused. In this case, very emotionally seated aspirations and hopes of young or older intellectuals are at stake. Everybody who dares to take the Bolshevik world as a religious community is considered as a traitor betraying the humanitarian ideals of the modernity of the French Revolution…If you see it in this case, say the proponents of the project of modernity, the distance between the old and the new modern world would shrink too much and the debts to the Christian tradition would become too heavy. Thus, when you treat the Bolsheviks as a millennial sect you are going to betray the project of modernity and treat the Bolsheviks, despite their very modern efforts to industrialize backward Russia, as a medieval sect of obscure believers”. Wow.

“Intellectuals want to believe that the French Revolution was about reason, science, democracy and historical fact. Landes has thoroughly dissected it as an apocalyptic millennial movement that set the pattern for Marxism. And this all derives from the Christian mother of all this, the religion that brought apocalyptic millennialism into the Western mind and society.”
Some odds and Ends…applying unconditional…

“Just to tie up some things, such as applying a ‘no conditions’ ethic. This does not invalidate the need at times, for instance, to sue for payment where there has been a breach of contract. Or expecting restitution. None of this violates treating all others unconditionally. It is just expected human responsibility to fulfill contracts- otherwise businesses would not function to employ, to produce products or services, if subcontractors did not fulfill their responsibilities under contract. Again, to expect this responsible commitment to contracts, does not violate treating others unconditionally. Where we insist on unconditional treatment in all this, is not taking things toward punishment (i.e. the demand for imprisonment where there is breach of contract). And again, an exclusion here in regard to imprisonment would be the need to restrain violent people who are not able to control their worst impulses (e.g. psychopaths). But many other human failures can be treated without punishment like imprisonment, yet find ways such as via courts (legal obligation to fulfill contracts), in order to maintain functioning societies.”

And this- “Whatever struggle you have with how to apply a no conditions ethic, do not in any way lessen the wonder of the supreme ideal that we base that ethic upon. Let that ideal continue to lighten your consciousness, and warm you consciousness, and scandalize your consciousness with its incomprehensible wonder. Something better, beyond the best that anyone could ever imagine. Transcendent. As those NDErs try to say- a trillion times better than the best love that we can imagine or experience. Don’t weaken in any way the baseline. No matter how difficult the struggle may be to understand and apply such an ethic to imperfect life here.”

Bob Brinsmead on the application of an unconditional ethic.. “___, you are sliding around the point (I think you call it ‘being slippery’). On this matter of unconditional/conditional you are doing the same thing you used to do with vertical/horizontal relating. On the matter of personal relating with other human beings, being truly human requires us to treat others as neither above us or below us – ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Rich or poor, wise or ignorant, young or old, male or female, black or white, educated or uneducated, skilled or unskilled – each is a human being that is entitled to love which is a horizontal form of relating (level playing field). But real life situations may require an employer/employee relationship, a teacher/student relationship, a captain/ordinary soldier relationship which is top down stuff – that is, a vertical order. But if one brings the latter into one’s marriage, or into one’s social life, one is not going to have either a good marriage or a good social life. So Kipling, ‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, and walk with kings nor lose the common touch’.”

“The point I make from the above is that is wrong to use the employer/employee or teacher/student relationship to destroy the obligation to maintain the one commandment that fulfils the law, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.”

“If you can understand that, you will understand why there must be an unconditional relationship and why there must be conditional obligations. You may truly love your neighbour but at the same time require him to fulfill a civil contract – or not play loud music next door when it is your bedtime. It is wrong, wrong, wrong to use examples of things that are clearly conditional to prove that there is no such thing as an unconditional dimension. The simple fact is that love is by nature unconditional. If it is conditional, it is not love – SIMPLE. To distinguish the two ought to be as basic as recognizing what is temporal and what is eternal.” Robert Brinsmead.

One more….”I have come to realize far too late in life the two most foundational truths that most effectively counter the worst pathologies over the history of mythology and religion. The pathology I refer to is that of angry, punishing deity, and fallen, corrupt humanity deserving punishment by deity. The truths that most effectively counter this pathology are the discovery that there is only love behind all reality and life. Incomprehensible unconditional love. There is no anger or threat of punishment from such love. And there never was any such thing as fallen humanity deserving punishment. We are all that same unconditional love at the core of our consciousness and spirit. We have never been separated from that love. It is our true identity and being. Our authentic self”.

New: Throughout history, human consciousness has been endlessly traumatized by the mythical themes of divine threat, deserved punishment (through illness, accident, or natural disaster), looming catastrophe, divinely validated violence, and ultimate destruction (i.e. the apocalyptic ending of the world). These themes have produced unnecessary fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and despair in humanity. What is this all about?

Quick Overview of Site themes

Material on this site challenges the great fraud of apocalyptic alarmism that has generated so much unnecessary fear and anxiety across history. This site embraces the liberating discovery that the overall trajectory of life is not in decline but actually rises steadily toward something better. Overwhelming evidence affirms the fact that human goodness and creativity far outweigh human corruption and destructiveness. Human love and creativity irresistibly triumph over the long term in making life something ever better than before.

There is frequent comment on this site that notes the relationship, for instance, between primitive apocalyptic mythology and contemporary environmental alarmism. This is not to dismiss general environmental concerns but it is a challenge to the excessive distortion, exaggeration, fear-mongering, and bad public policy that repeatedly flow from the alarmist fringe of the environmental movement. The outcome of such alarmism has been a horrific waste of resources, and significant harm to both people and the planet. The bio-fuels fiasco is just one example of the harm to humanity and nature that results from environmental alarmism (i.e. higher food prices for the poorest, more forest cut for palm oil bio-fuels plantations). Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism is an example of horrific harm that was specifically done to humanity. In the decades following her alarmism tens of millions people, mostly children, died unnecessarily due to being denied the protection of DDT.

To properly counter alarmism, I have presented the good evidence on the improving trajectory of life that has been marshalled by researchers like Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, Matt Ridley, and others. I have also noted research on the ideology behind environmental alarmism- notably studies like Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History. But more importantly, I have traced here the deeper origins of alarmism in ancient apocalyptic mythology. This is a project to correct the distortion of alarmism at its most foundational level.

A brief outline of the history of apocalyptic alarmism begins with Sumerian mythology (Sumerian Flood myth- 3rd millennium BCE). Apocalyptic is then formalized a millennium later in Zoroaster’s theology. Zoroastrianism then shapes all three Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and Western consciousness in general. Then a great shift occurs in the 19th Century when the themes of apocalyptic mythology are secularized (given a new secular expression) for the modern era in what is known as “cultural pessimism”, “degeneration theory”, or “Declinism” (i.e. everything is getting worse, corrupt industrial society is heading for a catastrophic collapse). The pathology of apocalyptic myth still dominates today in much human story-telling (note the major movies of recent years- notably the summer of 2013, also TV shows, novels- i.e. the subgenre of post-apocalyptic literature, cartoons and video games).

Most importantly, this site also counters the ultimate reality behind apocalyptic mythology- the pathological belief that there is a punishing and violent God. The primitive theme of enraged and violent deity reached its epitome expression in the myth that God would violently end the world with a great cataclysm that would destroy humanity and all life (the final apocalypse). That great threat led ancient people to create the salvation industry as a defensive response. Salvation religion then presented the conditions that were required to appease and please the angry deity. Salvation religion has wasted massive human resources and time over history by coercing people to placate the mythical reality of threatening and punishing deity (history’s greatest fraud).

But over the history of human mythology there was also the gradual emergence of humanity’s greatest discovery- the discovery that unconditional love defined ultimate reality, the core of all reality (i.e. God). Salvation mythology missed entirely this discovery of unconditional reality at the core of all life. All salvation religion is conditional religion. Conditional religion cannot understand or communicate unconditional reality, but only distorts and buries this greatest of all human discoveries.

There are two critical applications to take from the discovery of unconditional reality behind all. Two applications, or responses, that powerfully counter the worst errors of religious mythology.

For one, when we recognize that unconditional love defines the core of reality, this recognition powerfully counters the myth of angry, punishing deity- the foundational theme of salvation religion. Unconditional love then effectively counters the waste and damage produced by the theme of angry, punishing deity- the “rivers of blood” (James Payne- History of Force) that have been offered over history to appease “vile, sadistic gods”. If Ultimate Reality, or God, is unconditional love then there is no threat to fear, no angry deity to appease, no looming punishment or apocalyptic destruction, and no need for any salvation.

The other critical application, from the discovery of unconditional love at the core of all, is that unconditional love is also the very essence of every human person. This discovery that unconditional love defines the true nature of human consciousness and personhood, this effectively counters the myth of “fallen, corrupt humanity” that has always been associated with angry, punishing gods mythology. The consequence of “sinful humanity” mythology has been the belief that people deserve punishment from the gods. That pathological mythology has produced a damaging swarm of fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and despair in human consciousness.

These two applications from unconditional reality are the most effective counter arguments to the main themes of salvation mythology and the harmful effects of that mythology on people and society.

It is more widely recognized today that unconditional love offers the ultimate definition of authentic humanity. We contemplate the life of people like Nelson Mandela, or historical Jesus, and affirm that unconditional love is the most advanced definition of authentic human being and existence. And we can trace the developing discovery of unconditional from the Akkadian Father (circa 2200 BCE) down through history to our own understanding of it today, including its prominence as the central discovery in the NDE experience and movement (i.e. an encounter with the creating Light as incomprehensible unconditional love).

We then make unconditional love the very foundation or core of our worldview and evaluate everything from this new center.

This site also devotes significant space to the great contradiction between historical Jesus and the Christian Christ myth. This is a conflict between a person who taught unconditional love and a contrary religion that teaches conditional atonement. Historical Jesus was also non-apocalyptic but the Christian Christ was created as the supreme expression of apocalyptic terrorism (see the Christ myth as expressed in Revelation).

To fully correct the pathology of apocalyptic mythology you need to go the foundations of human thought and belief (i.e. in religions like Christianity), to the core ideas and ideals of human belief systems, and make profound changes there.

This site is intensely oriented to freedom and hope. Freedom from the darkening and enslaving distortions of much past mythology, and hope based on ultimate reality as unconditional love. We go to the foundations of human thought, ideals, and authorities to fully humanize those inspiring and validating core themes. This project involves understanding the pathology that still resides there- the “bad religious ideas” that long ago formed the foundational themes of human worldviews and have continued to shape humanity’s highest ideals and authorities, infecting human consciousness for the worse. This site isolates the inhumane in our core ideals or archetypes and then offers the humanizing alternative of unconditional reality. This involves tracing the great themes that have shaped human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior- from ancient mythology, down through religion, into secular versions, and noting how these great ideals have influenced human outlook and behavior.

March 2015 Intro

Repulsive displays of violence continue to erupt across the Mid-East. Few public commentators have been willing to probe the role of religious ideas behind such displays of inhumanity. Most just reflexively offer some form of defensive response, stating that the great Western religions are basically peaceful. I am now extending my comment beyond Islam, to also include Judaism and Christianity, all direct heirs of the same Zoroastrianism grandfather. If we are ever going to properly solve the problem of violence for the long term then we need to embrace this fact- the same core themes in all three Western religions have inspired and validated violence toward others over their histories.

(Note: to reassure religious readers, I applaud repeatedly the ability of most religious people to moderate the more harmful aspects of their religious systems; to reform and humanize their religions and employ them to promote human decency and good. That is admirable and praiseworthy. However, I am focusing on those residual elements in religion that have caused so much suffering to others.)

I won’t guess at what keeps many people from an honest re-evaluation of their religion. It might include fear of the sacred, fear of committing blasphemy, or fear of being labeled heretical and suffering the consequent condemnation and exclusion from some religious group. Or perhaps it is adherence to Biblicism- the belief that the holy books are somehow inspired and given by God and therefore everything in the scriptures must be preserved, defended, and harmonized with all the rest that is there. The result is that the inhumane features from a primitive past then distort and overwhelm later more humane ideals that have also been included. For instance, in the Christian New Testament it is claimed that the “love” of God is revealed in a violent human sacrifice. This is entirely contradictory of common human understanding of love. Love does not solve problems with violence.

But some brave spirits have overcome their fear and are confronting the fundamental role of religion in violence. I refer to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Infidel) and Wafa Sultan (The God Who Hates), among others. See also the excellent research by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Jesus Against Christianity, and Is Religion Killing Us?), Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and Harold Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion).

As I have long argued on this page, along with these recently discovered authors above, you will never solve the problem of violence properly until you confront the pathology at the core of Western religion and correct it in the most foundational way. And we have the solution, offered long ago by the Akkadian Father, and then the sage whose wisdom sayings were buried and distorted in Christianity (as Thomas Jefferson said, Jesus’ sayings were like “diamonds buried in a dunghill”- his unconditional discovery was buried in a supremely conditional religion).

The solution to violence is all about confronting the real Terrorist, the monster deity at the core of the Western religions. The great metaphysical Bully. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that she finally found real freedom when she got over her fear of Hell. I would argue that an even greater freedom results when you get over your fear of the monster behind such perverse myths as Hell. This is a central argument made on this page.

Bad religious Ideas

Some of the pathological themes that have, over history, stirred the worst impulses in people are listed in brief summary form below. These ideas have been employed to inspire and validate endless brutality toward others. Read any good history of violence and note especially the role that religious beliefs have played. For example, James Payne noted in his book History of Force, that people have offered “rivers of blood” to appease sadistic, vile gods. See also Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book or Wafa Sultan’s book (noted above) for contemporary detail on this issue. Christian histories are full of the very same detail on pathological religious belief fostering horrific inhumanity toward others (see, for example, James Carrol’s Constantine’s Sword, or Helen Ellerbe’s The Dark Side of Christian History).

The militant atheists have tried to focus attention on the “bad religious ideas” behind so much human brutality. But religious people have not been listening to their point but continue to sidetrack the discussion in an unquestioning defense of theism against atheism. This misses the critical point that the atheists are making (note- I am not arguing in favor of the general atheist position as the proper response to the problem discussed here, but just acknowledging their helpful contribution).

Be clear that these themes listed just below are inhuman, primitive, and backward. They are pathologies in human perception and outlook.

A few of the more damaging ideas/ideals that shape the core of the Western religions:

1. Oppositional dualism (traceable to Zoroaster). This involves excluding and opposing an “enemy”. Even to the point of destroying one’s enemy. This has a lot to do with primitive animal-like thinking- my band against my enemy’s band. This tribal mindset clouds appreciation of the essential oneness and unity of the human family.

2. Violent apocalypse (traceable to the Sumerians- i.e. Flood myth). The belief in apocalypse is the ultimate expression of hatred and vengeance toward others. It is the hope of true believers that their God will finally and completely destroy the unbelievers, or opponents, to their system. Hope for apocalypse is an expression of lust for supreme violence toward others, to see them utterly destroyed. It is the “final solution” beyond all final solutions. Hell is a further expression of the perverse lust for ultimate vengeance and destruction of others that disagree. Also, the fear that is aroused by belief in apocalypse then produces such things as a sense of victimhood and aggression/violence toward others (i.e. threatening “enemies”). I note this fear/aggression/violence link elsewhere on this site.

3. Also, offense and retaliate response- the demand to punish an offender. The ancient Hebrews gave this a fresh expression in their purity and separation theology. Offense and retaliate was made the core theme of holiness theology- that there is some pure and honorable authority that deserves utmost respect and obeisance. If the honor of that authority is offended, then the authority is obligated to retaliate and punish the offender. Others note that this honor, shame, and punishment thinking is still employed in backward areas of the world today (i.e. honor killings- you have offended my honor, my family, my tribe and laws, so I must destroy you).

4. Add the myth of original paradise corrupted by fallen humanity. “Sinful” humanity now deserves punishment, some form of violent payback from the gods. This religious devaluation of imperfect humanity has fostered endless unnecessary guilt, shame, fear, and even despair. It is a devaluation of human beings as corrupt and defiled. It has led to endless religious advocacy to punish humans. Secular versions- i.e. Marxism, environmentalism- also view corrupt humanity as the destroyer of an original paradise and deserving elimination. This ‘fallen/corrupt humanity’ myth misses the wonder of human consciousness and personhood.

5. Payback punishment as the solution to the imperfection of humanity. This thinking still undergirds justice and prison systems that are oriented toward punishment. Payback punishment is the defining core of Christianity, notably, its foundational theme of atonement (sin must be paid for, or punished).

Behind all such themes we find the overarching belief in a deity that uses violence to solve problems; that salvation or deliverance can only come to us through the violent destruction of our enemies. All of these themes cohere around this core ideal of a violent God. A God that uses overwhelming violence to solve all problems in life, to punish his enemies. This is a profound distortion of the ideal of God as love. Also, the perverse notion of power as overwhelming violence to solve problems is entirely contrary to authentic love that is non-coercive, non-threatening, non-violent, and non-punishing.

For multiple millennia now, these themes have been embedded in human worldviews as the defining features of God, and more recently in history they have emerged in secular versions such as the revenge of Gaia, or angry planet mythology. Humanity’s highest ideals and authorities have long been defined by such barbarism. Located deeply within our subconscious archetypes these inhumane themes influence human outlook, thought, mood, motivation, and how people engage life, how they act. Hence, the rivers of blood offered to the gods over history, along with varied other forms of inhumanity.

The authors, noted above, have affirmed our own conclusions on the pathological themes at the core of religion and their harmful impact on human consciousness and life. They offer extensive detail on what exactly are the bad religious ideas, and their impacts on humanity and life. See again Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Ellens’ material noted below. These writers offer a catalogue of immense human misery, of people suffering under religious pathology.

The long-term and thorough answer to violence, and all forms of inhumanity, is probed throughout this site. Again, it is not a call to atheism, but to fully humanize our core ideals, beliefs, and authorities, removing all features that are inhumane. We need to use the ideal of unconditional reality as a baseline for evaluating and reshaping everything. Make it the foundational ideal of human consciousness and understanding. Explore this with us.

See new comment at very bottom in “Topics below (6)”. That includes “The pathology in Western religion”; review of Karen Armstrong’s ‘Fields of Blood'; a model for understanding the relationship between religion and violence; Love and freedom- understanding suffering; and redefining power as non-coercive persuasion.

And this brilliant summary of the big picture and long-term perspective on climate change by Patrick Moore…

Comment below posted Feb. 2015

This site continues to probe and confront humanity’s greatest error (that became humanity’s greatest monster)- that there is some threatening, violent, or punishing force/spirit behind life. The pathological belief in divine threat long ago sparked the creation of salvation religion- the felt obligation of terrorized people to appease the great threat. The human embrace of appeasement religion then erupted in the offering of “rivers of blood” over human history (James Payne’s comment on animal and human sacrifice). The salvation industry has been a horrific waste of human life as well as time and resources over the millennia. It is responding to a non-existent threat. There is no threatening or punishing God.

Salvation religion has also re-enforced conditional thinking in human consciousness- that some punishment is demanded to pay for human imperfection. This conditional outlook has hindered appreciation for humanity’s greatest discovery, that unconditional love is the core of reality and the defining feature of authentic human existence.

This site also probes the incalculable psychic and social damage of this punishment mythology across history, its harmful impact on human personality and life. Some recently encountered authors (listed just below) affirm with good research just how horrific the damage has been (see books by Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Ellens). I’ve noted a minor quibble with theses authors (their reformist leanings) but do not let that put you off reading their excellent material. Start with Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo.

The earliest gods were pathological deformities- cruel, harsh deities. Those views of gods were embedded as the foundational archetypes, or dominant themes, of ancient human worldviews and little has changed since. Note, for instance, the contemporary belief in “revenge of Gaia” and angry planet or angry nature mythology (the Earth gods angry at “corrupt” humanity and threatening an environmental apocalypse).

Gods that demand suffering, torture, and violent death (sacrifice) to appease their anger at human imperfection, are psychopathic personalities (again, see Zenon Lotofu’s “Cruel God, Kind God: How Images of God Shape Belief, Attitude, and Outlook”). Describing a God that demands atonement as a psychopath may strike harshly on a religious ear but it is important to be clear about the true character of something pathological. Such clarity is necessary to understand a pathology and then properly correct it. Too often things considered sacred, especially gods, are not open for re-evaluation or questioning. Consequently, much pathology continues at the heart of religious traditions. So yes Dr. Lotufo, a psychopathic ideal has long been at the very foundation of much mythology and religion and even resides at the core of so-called secular worldviews.

Just a contrasting qualifier here: Authentic love and forgiveness does not demand pain, or punishment before it forgives. Any parent gets this. Are we then more humane than God, the ultimate Goodness?

Other harmful themes projected onto ultimate human ideals (i.e. gods) include dualism (one must exclude and oppose some enemy), anger at imperfection, payback justice (reward and punishment), and ultimate violent destruction to solve problems (apocalypse and hell). These long ago became foundational themes in human thinking and outlook, or human worldviews. Again, these themes have caused immense damage to human consciousness, in terms of fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and other pathologies.

Some other basic points…

People strive to become like their highest ideals or authorities; they especially try to live according to their views of the divine (note, for instance, the work of anthropologist Clifford Geertz on Bali, Indonesia). Our ideals of the highest Good (i.e. God) shape our consciousness, our mood, our response and actions, for better or worse. For example, violent gods have always incited violence in their followers.

This site also continues to explore humanity’s greatest discovery- that there is unconditional Love behind all. Unconditional Reality affirms that all people are included, all are forgiven, and all will receive the full generosity of the Universe or God, or however you define Ultimate Reality. There is no violence in deity, no threat, no condemnation, no punishment, no conditions demanded, and no separation or exclusion. This is exactly what unconditional means. It is about the discovery of the true nature of authentic humanity. Admittedly, unconditional is scandalous and offensive to minds that are oriented to payback, appeasement, or punishment mythology and ideals.

Unconditional reality points to the most profound liberation movement ever. It overturns entirely humanity’s greatest error, and all the related pathological myth that has supported that error over history. This is about freedom at the deepest levels of consciousness and spirit, where ideas, beliefs, and ideals influence human outlook, mood, and action.

So this site is about the project to fully humanize our foundational ideals, archetypes, themes, or beliefs, if we are to solve problems like violence for the long term. It is about the need to replace the barbaric themes of the past with new narratives of authentic unconditional reality.

As always- this is not about being intentionally offensive or upsetting to the religious mind but about clearing away the clutter in order to apprehend and appreciate the truth of unconditional reality more clearly.

See also the excellent material at www.bobbrinsmead.com (notably his essay series “The Scandal of Joshua Ben Adam”) and similar comment at greatnewstory.com

Jan. Intro 2015

I have been operating for years on the conclusion that one of the most damaging influences on human consciousness, life, and society has been the varied pathological themes embedded in ancient mythology and religious belief. These are themes of ultimate anger, threat, punishment, opposition between true religion and false religion (Zoroastrian dualism), divine demand to oppose and destroy one’s enemies, coming disaster (apocalypse), and eternal violence (hell). These themes became prominent in early human worldviews, and they eventually became background archetypes that have continued to widely influence human outlook and do so even today. They have stirred endless fear, anxiety, depression, opposition and violence over history. They have profoundly hindered human development and progress.

The impact of these primitive themes is often not immediately evident in any average person’s daily waking consciousness, but their influence is still there darkening the background of human thought and mood. These themes have been so deeply embedded in human consciousness and subconscious (hardwired) that they continue to shape so-called secular systems of thought. This conclusion is based on the critical linkage that background archetypes/themes shape daily perception, thought, mood, motivation, and behavior, even when people are not fully aware of it. Note, for instance, how primitive apocalyptic mythology still shapes modern story-telling (e.g. the major blockbuster movies of the summer of 2013 were almost all apocalyptic) and movements like environmental alarmism.

In the past 6 months (since the Fall of 2014) I have come across varied studies that affirm my own conclusions on the destructive influence of religious pathology. These include Harold Ellens’ four volume “The Destructive Power of Religion”, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s “Is Religion Killing Us?” and his “Jesus Against Christianity”, and Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”, among others. Together, they provide a good survey of the incalculable damage done to humanity over history- in deforming and hindering human development, inciting and validating the worst of human impulses and behaviors, and causing immense suffering. Lotufo, for instance, notes that any God that is satisfied or appeased by the suffering of an innocent victim (i.e. Christian atonement) is a psychopathic personality- taking pleasure in hurting another. That is a blunt assessment of the core belief of Christianity, but clear on its pathological nature.

Unfortunately, these writers all tend towards reformism for their solution to the pathology of religion- preserving a general Christian framework but trying to radically redefine God as non-violent in that framework, and emphasizing more the non-violent teaching of Jesus as true Christianity. My argument with this reformist approach is that using conditional Christian categories and the conditional Christian context to define Jesus, only distorts his stunning unconditional breakthrough. The effort to preserve the message of Jesus within Christianity has always distorted and confused that message (see comment further down in “Topics Below (1)”- “The Futility of Reforming Religion”). Better, get his unconditional breakthrough clear (absolutely no conditions, none) and then you will see the oxymoronic or contradictory nature of much reformism. Understand what Thomas Jefferson was getting at in stating that Jesus’ teaching in the Christian New Testament was like “diamonds in a dunghill”. Unconditional is the Jesus diamond and it does not belong anywhere in a defiling/distorting context of conditional atonement that is the essential core of Christianity.

Few people seem able to embrace the scandalous reality of unconditional and what it means for conditional religious thought and salvationism.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the efforts of the above writers, as far as they go. They have understood the root problem of a pathological, violent God at the heart of religions like Christianity, and how this has harmed humanity over the millennia (inciting and validating the worst human impulses to inhumane treatment of others). I applaud them for some forthright and clear comment on this. But they are not getting thoroughly to the foundational nature of the problem and a full solution. Unconditional deity as taught by Jesus is entirely incompatible with a conditional religion like Christianity.

Get the scandal and wonder of unconditional reality as taught by sages like Jesus and you will get some sense of the profound liberation that unconditional offers from all the past pathology of myth and religion. Unconditional opens up an unlimited future as nothing ever before. It presents healing from the impact of all that pathology and points us to an authentically humane future.

Explore this with us. Again, unconditional means simply- “Absolutely no conditions. None”.

Lotufo Quotes (from his book Cruel God, Kind God):

“My main interest is the cognitive and psychological aspects of the (malignant God) system and how people become predisposed…to associate power with cruelty, fear, shame, and guilt…Less easy to detect but nevertheless perceptible in the attitudes and behavior of Christians who have been affected by conservative theology, is the inhibition of the full development of personality…the doctrine of penal satisfaction implies an image of God as wrathful and vengeful, resulting in exposing God’s followers to guilt, shame, and resentment….these ideas permeate Western culture and inevitably influence those who live in the interior of this culture (p.5)”

“Beliefs do exert much more influence over our lives than simple ideas…ideas can also mobilize energy…the possible negative consequences that ideas and beliefs can produce when they generate energy in the interior of an individual…this negative side may express itself…in fanaticism and violence, or it may also produce anxiety and inhibitions that hinder the full manifestation of the capacities of a person…(p.8)”

“The reader may object that God, considered a basic belief in our culture, is rejected or questioned by a large number of people today. Yet the fact is that the idea of God that those people reject is almost never questioned. In other words, their critique assumes there is no alternative way of conceiving God except the one that they perceive through the lens of their culture. So, taking in to account the kind of image of God that prevails in Western culture- a ‘monster God’, as Harold Ellens calls him- such rejection is understandable. As Walter Wink puts it, ‘Against such an image of God the revolt of atheism is an act of pure religion’”

“There is in the Western world a psychological archetype, a metaphor that has to do with the image of a violent and wrathful God. Crystallized in Anselm’s juridical atonement theory, this image presents God as sufficiently disturbed by the sinfulness of humanity that God had only two options; Destroy us or substitute a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He did the latter. He killed Christ…Such a metaphor of an angry God, who cannot forgive unless appeased by a bloody sacrifice, has been ‘right in the center of the Master Story of the Western world for the last 2,000 years’. And the unavoidable consequence for the human mind is a strong tendency to use violence…Hence, in our culture we have a powerful element that impels us to violence, a Cruel God Image…it also contributes to guilt, shame, and the impoverishment of personality, and of the spiritual life (p.11-12)”

“I use the expression ‘image of God’ to indicate the conjoining of beliefs and feelings related to the Supreme Being, beliefs that are largely unconscious…little or no research has been done on how the content of these (religious) systems (image and concept of God) affects mental health and personality development…religious ideas can exert remarkable influence on the psychical integrity and well-being of believers (p.12-13)…”

“The image and the concept of God…become a source of psychological disturbance…many traditional doctrines present God as severe and vengeful…the doctrine of penal satisfaction is the dorsal spine of the plan of salvation and of conservative theology as a whole…there is evidence that the beliefs that make up this plan of salvation are harmful to mental health and also to spiritual life…they produce negative psychological effects in its bearers, like guilt and anxiety, and obstacles to the full development of personality (p.22)”

“(God as monarch)…what a monarch wishes and specially demands from his subjects is obedience…If one perceives God to be chiefly a monarch, then that monarch’s central attribute is sovereignty, that is, power, and what human beings owe to that God-monarch is absolute obedience or risk being severely punished. A God-monarch demands obedience above all else. From a psychological point of view, there is evidence that people who see God in this way are more subject to affective disorders, such as anxiety, feelings of guilt, shame, and depression (p.24)”

“(commenting on Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’, a common Evangelical or Conservative Christian view of theology)…there is no way to associate the loving God from the Prodigal Son parable with the devilish and sadistic being who delights in crushing under his feet his own creatures in endless and meaningless torture…(p.42)”

“(commenting on suffering as a source of pleasure, as in Christian atonement belief)…Repulsive as it seems to us, the practice of submitting humans to horrible torture has not exactly been rare in the history of our species…and makes us ask what kind of perversion can make human beings submit his fellow humans to such atrocious torments. But it seems even more difficult to explain the mental distortion that… (believes and defends)… the idea that the Christian God is not only capable of such perversities but also takes pleasure in them….the defenders of the penal substitution doctrine (Christian atonement)…also defend doctrines like (eternal hell)…(but incoherently reject the idea that God takes pleasure in producing and watching the suffering of his creatures)…this compartmentalization protects such people from realizing the monstrosity of their propositions (p.54)”

“What factors have contributed to the fact that inflicting suffering could be considered as a source of pleasure…to the point where its use became official in criminal law and theological doctrines of the Christian West? (p.54)”

“(what drives) the belief largely widespread in humanity that all guilt leads or should lead to suffering and all suffering is a consequence of guilt…how the painful punishment…becomes…a substitute for payment…this does not even begin to attempt to analyze the psychological mechanism by which one starts perceiving the pain of others as a source of pleasure. So the question Nietzsche himself poses with insistence- ‘How can hurting someone be a satisfaction?’- remains intact (p.56)”

“(We) can shed some light on the factors that lead so many people to accept explanations such as Anselm’s that the Christian God reaps pleasure from human suffering…the simplest and most direct answer is that it is a pathology resulting mainly from a cerebral dysfunction of genetic origin. This is how today we tend to explain the psychopathic personality…traits of emotional insensibility… narcissism, the absence of remorse, the lack of empathy…some psychopaths manifest the strange perversion of obtaining pleasure in causing pain (p.57)”

“I propose that the core of sadism…is the passion for an absolute and unrestricted control over another living being, be it an animal, child, man or woman…the exercise of power… seeks personal exaltation and control over others for his own benefit…the association of power with cruelty that deserves primary attention here…Sadism…is the transformation of impotence in the experience of omnipotence; it is the religion of the psychic cripples…to the sadist character there is only one admirable quality, and that quality is power… (it) wishes to control the helpless and those who cannot fight back…they (the sadist power-mongers) reach positions of importance from which they can cause much suffering… (p.57)”

“The sufferings of human beings thus become the deserved consequences of both original sin and individual’s personal sins as well as instruments of God to purify the soul and lead it to salvation…(commenting on how authority figures- i.e. harsh parents or harsh school teachers- shape human views of God)…the irate schoolmaster of Augustine’s childhood becomes the punishing God that purifies the soul through the many punishments of life… (this is spiritual abuse)…I am witness to struggling human beings who have experienced terrorist-like attacks on their inner souls…the irony is that this horrible damage is done in the name of God…(p.63)

“What has become clear in this section, is that to gain pleasure by producing or contemplating the suffering of others is a manifestation of a grave mental disturbance, absolutely incompatible with what can be considered a mature personality…(p.64)”

“What socio-psychological factors can lead certain people to attribute a partial, arbitrary and often cruel justice to God? We have already seen that the image one has of God decisively influences all of a person’s other beliefs. Thus, if the image is of an evil God, all the individual’s other theological ideas will likely reflect this assumption- and it will be hard to rid oneself of that assumption. However, once incorporated in a solid theological system, these ideas will become a serious hindrance for a person to free himself from the negative image of God that previous experiences have instilled in him. Fear is the cement that gives consistency to these theological buildings grounded in a frightening image of God. Fear inevitably stems from believing unquestioningly that God is authoritative and punitive, and it hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life (p.107)”

“Constituting a powerful instrument of control and always on hand, fear and guilt have always been widely used….guilt based on fear, as far as I can see, is always destructive. Hence, the symbiosis that many forms of religion- especially conservative Christianity- establish with this feeling results in one of the most serious problems, both in terms of psychological damage to personality development…the guilt and fear are linked to the image of God whose justice is essentially vindictive. Not just in the popular use and threats of divine punishment to control children but also and mainly in the fundamental doctrines of the varieties of conservative Christianity, doctrines such as those dealing with the condemnation of all humankind because of original sin, the torment of the unsaved in the eternal flames of hell, the sacrificial death of Christ as the only means of satisfying divine justice, and so on, have their roots in the ideas that revenge is inherent to the character of God, and that suffering is just and appropriate compensation for the offense that are made to him. Thus, the dysfunctional guilt and anxiety associated with it, related to the Christian religion, is rooted in the fear of being the target of divine justice, understood as revenge (p.148-9)”
(End of Lotufo quotes)

Below are varied comments and quotes from a discussion group. They reflect the recent engagement with the work of authors such as Harold Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion), Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Jesus Against Christianity, Is Religion Killing Us?), Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth), among others. These authors affirm the arguments that have long been presented on this site.

Pardon the sometimes fragmented grammar as these quotes were lifted straight from the free-running commentary of the discussion group.

Discussion group comment- “Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), around pages 240-250 does a good section on the secularization of apocalyptic millennialism. He shows how Enlightenment thinkers formulated millennial themes in non-religious terms. The problem is that millennial hopes were mixed with the progress optimism of that era. And sometimes optimistic hope for progress led to violent activism to achieve the utopian dreams (i.e. the French Revolution). The obvious concern here- be careful to distinguish valid progress in terms of non-coercive approaches that protect individual freedom. Approaches that are rational (i.e. they embrace the presence of imperfection in life but work to gradually solve problems and do not lean toward religious Salvationism- expecting coercive intervention to purge and perfect suddenly- i.e. utopianism).”

Another- “Landes in his treatment of Marxism and Communism continues to note that progress optimism was part of the mix of revolutionary thought and action in the 19th Century. And the widespread longing for utopian or millennial perfection of life. It would improve his material if he would clarify that hope for a better future is a healthy human desire. But it is necessary to understand that a better future is not something reached coercively, instantly, or in other ways that violate love and freedom.”

“We continue to wrestle with imperfection in life and in ourselves, and we must continue to solve problems in life. And the evidence is sound that we are creating a better life and world. Decreasing violence and coercion is part of this progress.”

“So it is critical to distinguish authentic progress from millennial or apocalyptic distortion of progress. Longing for apocalyptic progress (cataclysmic, instant utopia) reaches a hysterical fervor and then resorts to violence and coercion to force the implementation of its instant utopia. Landes is not clear on making these distinctions and lumps general progress theory and ideas of the past centuries in with apocalyptic millennialism. This is not helpful.”

Further- “Its an interesting exercise to work through Landes good treatment of millennialism, especially near the end as he does a thorough section on Marxism as millennialism (noting that Marx and Engels tried to deny that they were millennialists). All apocalyptic plays on the human hope for perfection, for freedom and deliverance from imperfection. This is the great human frustration- existing in imperfect life and experiencing the profound awareness that there is something better.”

“Unfortunately, apocalyptic millennialism misdirects that valid human hope for something better by trying to escape the slow, gradual historical process. Apocalyptic seeks a violent purging of the imperfect system that presently exists. It seeks immediate deliverance from all imperfection, hence its emphasis on the always ‘imminent’ ending of the old order and installation of the new utopia. It always looks to ‘speed up the process’ (looking to overwhelming divine intervention and violence to save). It seeks some greater force to deliver us into utopia right now.”

“As Landes says, ‘Totalitarians want to run history forward at top speed to achieve their millennial goals. The infinite personal decisions that people make appear to them as resistance that must be crushed’.”

“Apocalyptic has no respect for the freedom of others. Landes noted regarding the Marxist millennialists (secular millennialism), that they believed that humanity must be coerced to revolt and to enter the Marxist utopian millennium. ‘They must be forced to be free”. That Communist utopia would be achieved via “coercive purity… (through) cataclysmic replacing of the old world with a new and better world…destroying the world to save it…’ and so on. Landes offers some good comment on the belief in coercive violence to redeem immediately and instantly. Pallmeyer and Lotufo also noted that the view of power as overwhelming force is a perverse misunderstanding of the nature of true power.”

“The apocalyptic mind, whether religious or secular, does not understand that the love of God defines the power of God (i.e. God’s power is non-coercive, non-violent, non-intervening… it is persuading love and power). Again, unconditional leads to a radical re-evaluation and redefinition of basic things like power.”

“Landes also notes how the apocalyptic millennial mind holds people in contempt and will destroy human life on a massive scale in order to achieve its utopian millennium. Landes details this in the Marxist/Communist history of the past century- the willingness of Marxists revolutionaries to kill millions in order to coercively attain the Communist millennium. People did not matter as the Marxist state took precedence over all else. This mirrors the similar religious devotion to some higher reality above people (i.e. to God) that has so often led religious devotees to inhumanely abuse people out of their devotion to some higher good (something above humanity).”

Another: “To understand the true state of any thing you need to include the entire big picture of that observed thing. All the data or evidence related to it. Especially that which challenges your own views. This is necessary to counter our tendency to engage ‘confirmation bias’, looking only for evidence that affirms our views and dismissing or ignoring evidence that challenges our views.”

“Also, to get to the true state of something, look at the longest term trends affecting that thing. Be careful to not focus only on aberrational variations to the long term trend. They do not define the overall trend. Professor Pimental made this mistake when he focused on the rise in tuberculosis from 1990 to 1995 (noted in Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist). That was an aberration to the overall decline in TB over the previous 60 years. After that brief 5 year aberration, TB continued to decline as in the long term trend.”

More comment:

“And I’ll give you one on this point- much as I appreciate these writers- Pallmeyer, Lotufo, Ellens- I do not think they are getting to the best long term solutions with their reformist conclusions. This endeavor to revive Jesus within Christianity. To reform Christianity. The conditional nature of salvation religion, and its basic conditional categories, only distorts the unconditional breakthrough of Jesus.“

“You have to first get the scandal and wonder of that unconditional and then you will see how pathetically insufficient all reformism is. All religion is conditional, that is simply basic fact as one looks across the history of human religion. Sure, many great human ideals have been brought into religious traditions, but as Jefferson stated- you end up with diamonds in dunghills. Unconditional wine in conditional (leaky, rotten) wineskins.”

“So I will affirm these writers for a lot of excellent work but still argue that you can do better. Get historical Jesus clear, take that Jesus seriously… get unconditional clear, and then evaluate all else in light of this new foundational truth. Don’t try to weaken or continue the distortion that has long blurred people’s ability to see unconditional.”

“And I get it that they appeal to many religious people who will never feel comfortable abandoning something that has provided them identity and comfort. But there are also many others of us out there who want something different. So I speak to them. Everyone has a mission, an audience, a niche…go for yours.”

Another…”Just a suggestion for ____- read Lotufo, Ellens, Pallmeyer, or any others dealing with religious pathology, and then tell this group what you see as wrong with their argument about the ‘monster God’ behind salvation religions like Christianity, that distortion that has defiled and deformed human consciousness for so long. Tell us how you can defend such pathology hidden under the canopy of the sacred.”

Another…”Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens, among others, all speak of this ‘monster God’. Lotufo notes this image of deity is at the basis of atonement theology, and that the fear of this God holds the rest of the theological system together. These authors all get in some way that this is a monster that humanity faces.“

“It is humanity’s greatest monster. And if you bring this beast down then all the rest of the salvation industry and superstructure begins to collapse. Again, the potency of that Matt.5 summary- a new no-conditions ethic based on a new no-conditions theology. Wow. That is nuclear.”

Another…”Poor ____ is probably wondering where this blast of Arctic air is coming from in the posts below.”

“But I have just been reading the refreshing plain-speaking of Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens and am feeling in the same vein. And yet I still have quibbles with their tame reformism. They do not appear to have really grasped the scandal and wonder of Jesus’ no conditions theology and ethics, and what that means for all religion as conditional reality or institution.”

“But you said another thing below Bob that needs more probing- that we don’t really get the love of God and God’s respect for freedom. And how these two are twins. Alvin Platinga (God, Freedom, and Evil) is a start. There is a scandal to both love and freedom and we play around with such subhuman and primitive understanding of both of these. Hence, we do not really get what it means to be human or humane. We don’t fully get Jesus. Christianity never got him and so buried his brilliant unconditional insights in conditional religion. That is the great scandal of religious history. Jesus was buried in the old pathology of holiness, offense and retaliate, punishment and all the rest. Subhuman, backward, underdeveloped, and psychopathic. Most of us do not get the authentically humane in God. So we settle for primitive theologies of overwhelming power (false power), intervening deity, and so on. We do not get the power of love to change all for the better. The ultimate triumph of unconditional love.”

“But aside from my quibble with their reformism let me strongly recommend Lotufo, Pallmeyer and Ellens.”

Another: “Holiness is unquestioned in religious thinking. It is defended as the height of goodness in deity. Even more than love. As Christians argue, it takes precedence over love.”

“But as we have been doing for years and are now finding others doing the same in their own way….people like Lotufo, Ellens, Pallmeyer cut through such thinking and expose the real nature of all that old theology. It is pathology, not theology.”

“Lotufo goes so far as to argue that any person taking pleasure in the hurting of others (Christian atonement is holiness demanding the suffering and death of another for appeasement)…this is pathology, psychopathic. Yikes, but yes.”

“’Sentimental’ (as used in the copied pages in this post)- one sees the primitiveness of this thinking in our own cultures. The old tough guy who stands up for himself mentality, and the tough guy doesn’t let anyone push him around. The ‘real’ man. He gives just as he gets. He gets even with bad guys. He puts them in their place.”

“There is little of real humanity or real human advance in such honor, shame, and retaliate response. It is just more of the same old same old- very animal-like, very primitive response. Not much of real human courage or advance in such thinking and response.”

“So first of all, do not accept the assumptions of the writer behind this thinking and response- framing anything other than a tough payback response as ‘sentimental’, and tough payback as real holiness and righteousness and therefore real good and right. You need a good bracing read of Lotufo or Pallmeyer to put things clearly and expose the distorted thinking and backward humanity behind such reasoning.”

Another…”There is no ‘sentimentality’ in abandoning the old primitive holiness, wrath, and retaliate responses. In fact, it takes superhuman courage to break that animal response (offense, attack, rage, response to destroy). It takes a god-like courage to respond as Jesus did…no more eye for eye, but love even the worst enemy, forgive endlessly, include as family, shower with the same generosity as you would to any intimate insider. Sun and rain on all alike. The fullest generosity to all alike. That is so far removed from the ‘sentimentality’ of primitive approaches to evil, approaches that continue the cycles of payback, based on sentimental views of deity as holy and demanding the hurting of offenders. And further, as Lotufo shows from psychology- such old responses are psychopathic. Yikes.”

“This description in the scanned pages needs to be challenged as it tries to frame the holding of contradicting opposites in tension, in harmony, as ‘strong’ and healthy and right… and arguing that somehow to abandon such primitivism for a robust new response of unconditional is mere ‘sentimentality’.”

“Good research now sees right through such reasoning for what it really is- primitivism and backward and subhuman- and this is what Lotufo and other’s like Pallmeyer and Ellens are doing so well.”

Another….”Of course love is aroused against evil, against inhumanity. But then it does not perpetuate it by responding in kind. This is the whole point of Jesus in his breakthrough on non-retaliation- love your enemies. Because this is what God is like. Do the counter-intuitive, the superhuman thing. The absolutely contrary thing. Contrary to those primitive animal-like responses that we often feel at first.”

“We have so much good psychological research on this now- note especially that paper from the Australian Psychological Society. Traditional responses (i.e. punishing responses) do not work with children or criminals. They do not teach proper alternative humane responses. Hence, the movement toward more humane restorative responses.”

“This is even stated in Paul, a bit, but more clear in Jesus- love forgives all and endlessly, it does not engage eye for eye, it does not punish. The no-conditions love that he taught, breaks the old cycles of payback and leads us in entirely new directions.”

“So we can drop the projection of holiness onto God. Holiness embodies the primitive offense and retaliate response. Jesus rejected such thinking as inhuman- it was the old honor and shame and retaliate stuff of primitive humanity. Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), Landes (Heaven on Earth) and others all point to this as primitive, backward humanity. It is still dominant in Islam- you have offended my honor, shaming me, and I will or must retaliate and hurt you.”

“They (Lotufo, Landes) also note that real power is not defined by anger and hurting of others, overwhelmingly destroying the offender. It is, instead, expressed in non-coercive forgiving and loving. This changes life for the better by breaking the old anger and hurt responses and taking us in new directions, supernatural directions (again, note Mandela).”

“Wrath in deity as taught in the Bible is also about primitive and backward response to evil (holiness embodies this primitive response). It has no place in a truly human future. Again, Biblicism pushes people to try to harmonize such things- harmonizing the less-than-human, the primitive, with the more authentically human. It never works. This is my persistent argument with reformism in religious traditions. Trying to harmonize great human ideals with pathological primitivism. ____, do read Zenon Lotufo’s good Cruel God, Kind God. Just one of many writing on this issue and strongly oriented to the psychological issues behind all this.”

“This is just more of this endless reformism. The attempt to “reframe” (the Mennonite phrase) or re-interpret all that is in the Bible due to the felt obligation to Biblicism. The Bible is all God-inspired so all its parts must be kept and harmonized in some way. And reformers end up making some ridiculous conclusions as Lotufo points out re John Stott- i.e. that Hell will be there but no one will be in it. Huh? Or non-violent atonement, as in the Mennonites. More huh? Or divine wrath is an expression of love, and love is wrath? Ahhh. Let it all go. These are all absolutely contradicting opposites.”

Another: “My point, as I express appreciation for Pallmeyer, Ellens, and Lotufo for their good work, is that they don’t go far enough and end up stuck in varied versions of this reformism. And especially with the no conditions breakthrough of Jesus, reformism distorts and misses the full scandal of his breakthrough, by trying to maintain it within the conditional Christian context. Jefferson still said it best in pointing out the real nature of the problem- the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament was like diamonds in a dunghill. Clean them off properly so people can really see their value.”

“Be clear on what Christianity actually is, and be clear on what Jesus breakthrough was actually about.”

“And even while I harp on this, I will still mouth appreciation for all the good work that people like Lotufo and Pallmeyer and others are doing. Many need to go through a stage like that first before they may be ready for something more radical. I think back over our own progressive journey, in its many stages.”

Another… “The more you survey the damage from the old story, the more you see the healing power of the alternative that Jesus offered. No wonder, at a gut level, he got it and could say to all those damaged people he met, ‘Fear not….don’t worry’. You can heal yourself, your faith or belief in a merciful, compassionate Father will heal you. He did not have all the psychological tools that we have today, but he got it at a gut level and used it. Pointing people to goodness everywhere in life- to sun and rain and small birds not forgotten, and grass/flowers clothed like Solomon in his glory, and on and on. No threat or punishment in the man born blind, no revenge on the woman caught in adultery. Just mercy and compassion everywhere. Its all good, its all going to be all right for everyone. Fear not. Such liberating healing power from all the millennia of that darkening, enslaving, traumatizing myth of angry, punishing gods.”

“I mentioned this to you recently _____, about re-centering regularly on the Love as noted in so many NDE accounts. As I read this recent spate of books from Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens it hits me again how this mythology of our religions has damaged human consciousness and so many human spirits over the millennia. These more psychological approaches detail more the trauma and destructiveness on the human person and life, the deformity and enslavement.”

“And so many people are not fully aware of how all this has impacted them.”

“So it is a major issue for the human family to recover this liberating discovery of Love behind all. That Ultimate Reality is this powerful, liberating love. I think of this now in terms of two key features or elements. Ultimate reality is unconditional love and we are that same love. Both of these are critical to human healing and advance. I know I repeat this a lot but we are not yet even getting our feet wet on the shores of this, and experience its cleansing, healing power. Its enlightening, liberating impact.”

“Religion as conditional reality has never communicated this truth clearly, but more often distorted and buried it. That explains my impatience with all these reformist efforts. They are good in exposing the violent deity at the core of the old mythology and that we need to move to new more humane views. But they are hesitant to really pull the diamond all the way out of the dunghill and really clean it off so it can do its liberating work. But nonetheless, I applaud them as far as they go. It is helpful.”

“We have also established that we can know that ultimate reality is love by seeing the best in humanity and then reasoning out to deity as infinitely better. From the Akkadian father on down to Jesus, they got this. But unconditional love is rarely opened up for people to see in all its scandal and wonder.”

“I see the liberating impact in varied ways- it liberates from all the fear, anxiety, worry, depression and despair so widespread across the human family by going to the root of human thought/perception to radically change all that pathological belief in ultimate threat, anger, violence, punishment and so much more that was lodged in myth and religion about deity. It changes or humanizes the foundations, or core of human understanding, completely. But that is multiple millennia of abusive and traumatizing impact from myth and religion that has to be cleaned up.”

“And it liberates ethically, in that it liberates from all those animal drives to small band exclusion, retaliation, and destruction of opposing others/enemies.”

“And that we are the same love, also liberates from the damaging impact of fall and sinfulness myth. That we deserve punishment because we are bad. Pallmeyer speaks of a pastor scaring kids with this stuff.”

“Anyway, here is a brief bit from Anita Moorjani that relates to this psychological impact…”

“Anita- ‘I don’t recall ever being encouraged to cherish myself- in fact it would never have occurred to me to do so. Its commonly thought of as being selfish. But my NDE allowed me to realize that this was the key to my healing…In the tapestry of life, we’re all connected. Each one of us is a gift to those around us, helping us to be who we are, weaving a perfect picture together. When I was in the NDE state, it all became so clear because I understood that to be me is to be love. This is the lesson that saved my life. Many of us still believe that we have to work at being loving. But that means living in duality, because there’s a giver and a receiver. Realizing that we are love transcends this. It means understanding that there is no separation between you and me, and if I am aware that I am love, then I know that you are too. If I care for myself, then I automatically feel the same for you’….”

“In my NDE state, I realized that the entire universe is composed of unconditional love and I am an expression of this. Every atom, molecule, quark, and tetra-quark is made of love. I can be nothing else, because this is my essence and the nature of the entire universe. Even things that seem negative are all part of the infinite, unconditional spectrum of love. In fact, Universal Life-force energy is love, and I am composed of Universal energy! Realizing this made me to understand that I did not have to try to become someone else in order to be worthy. I already am all that I could attempt to be”…. and so on…

Another… “Lotufo was a very clinical in his use of psychological terms to describe what this (pathological religious belief- i.e. violent God at the heart of Christian atonement) does to people- maintaining a childish mentality, lobotomized, undeveloped, deformed, and so on. Hard for religious people to embrace such an evaluation, but yes, that is what it has done to so much of the human family. And even many atheists, having abandoned it all, still feel the deforming impact of it, as that is how they still view the religious beliefs that they claim to have left. And many of them still shudder a bit and hedge their bets, just in case. Keeping a string of prayer beads nearby for the final stages. Just in case.”

Another…”There is not much that I have come across that really gets the core of a new view of deity (the Jesus insight on unconditional) and how this relates to the old framework of salvation religion. Hence, not much radical call to abandon the old framework- wineskin- of conditional religion. Once a person really gets a grip on what this new core of reality is actually about….well, then it is hard to try to maintain that within the old wineskins. It makes no sense. Why continue to distort and cloud things. But it is about first getting some basic grasp of unconditional. The scandal and the wonder of it. Then that becomes the new baseline to understand and evaluate all else.”

“Now, I would not push anyone to fully abandon their old worldview unless they have some good alternative ready to replace it. Unconditional provides the safest, welcoming alternative to all the old. No need to fear the loss of anything in the old systems.”

Another: “Just to give some sense of why Lotufo is going after this pathological theology that most of us have been raised in, and how it has infected so many across the planet. Tabor (“Paul and Jesus”) is another researcher who has noted the widespread and significant impact of the Christian religion. Boyce also hit it on the nail in stating that Zoroastrianism was the most influential religion of all, the very religion that shaped the Western consciousness, notably Judaism and Christianity. Here is a quote noting the hindering/damaging influence of this pathological theology…(hindering human development)…”

“(Lotufo)…What socio-psychological factors can lead certain people to attribute a partial, arbitrary, and often cruel justice to God?…We have already seen that the image one has of God decisively influences all of a person’s other beliefs. Thus, if the image is of an evil God, all the individual’s other theological ideas will like reflect this assumption- and it will be hard to rid oneself of that assumption. However, once incorporated in a solid theological system, these ideas will become a serious hindrance for a person to free himself from the negative image of God that previous experiences have installed in him. Fear is the cement that gives consistency to these theological buildings grounded in a frightening image of God. Fear inevitably stems from believing unquestionably that God is authoritative and punitive, and it hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life”.

“And remember, Lotufu notes that even atheists and other skeptics of religion in the wider secular society have all been profoundly influenced by these evil God images and still hold them.”

Another… “In the section I have just read, Lotufo looks at the psychological stages of human development. In very diplomatic language he notes that moral judgment of the ‘eye for eye’ kind is an earlier stage, more suitable to children. ‘The God corresponding to the image conservative theologians make of him would not surpass the least evolved moral levels’. Ouch again.”

Another: “My argument has now long been that despite all the advance that humanity has experienced over the past, we have not yet begun. There is still too much darkness over the human spirit and consciousness, still too much enslavement to mythically oriented thinking or belief. A great liberation has been offered that goes to the depths of human perception (subconscious archetypes, themes), to the foundations of human thought, mood, motivation, and response. But that liberation has not yet been widely embraced due to the impeding force of religious belief and practice. And you know what I am referring to- we have stated it in oppositional pairings such as conditional opposing unconditional, payback opposing non-retaliation, and varied similar pairs.”

“Placing unconditional at the core of new narratives will effect a liberation of the human spirit and consciousness as nothing ever before and that will result in new forms of advance and creativity unimagined so far.”

“Lotufo supports my view in that he goes to the psychological impacts on human personality from all this perverse sadism in religion. Sadism that deforms human consciousness and the human spirit, rendering it something far less than it can be. As he starts his book, he is noting the powerful impact of thought, ideas, beliefs on human life.”

Another…”Again, it is the atheists like Charles Templeton, who conquered their fear of the sacred, of blasphemy, and were then able to clearly see and state all this stuff for what it really is. As Templeton said, such a deity is an Idi Amin (referring to a God that demanded people praise his greatness on pain of death/destruction if they did not). I am now finding more and more people out there willing to claim this is a monster god. Humanity’s greatest monster.”

Another…”It hit me afresh reading this….How did we not intuitively sense it, in the years that we belonged to our varied religions? It was such a perversion of normal humanity or human sensibility. Why did we accept it as right, that someone could be so incensed at the imperfection and failings of people that they would sadistically demand and take pleasure in making them suffer some horror of violence, some cruel, suffering death? Why did we believe that such sadism could satiate someone’s rage and we should view this as humane, or good in some way. And we were taught to worship this atonement theology as love and holiness and divinity, as ultimate right, justice, and goodness. It is, as Pallmeyer and Payne and others have plainly stated, such sadism. Such pathology. Such inhumanity on the bare face of it all. But our religions did not help us to see what it actually was. A great Devil, a sadistic, certifiably insane personality.”

Another… “Wood in the article below (What ISIS Really Wants) adds to our understanding of religion and violence. The larger context of what he is talking about is Richard Landes Heaven on Earth, Millennialist movements and their stages and breakdown and last fits of rage as they collapse. And the desire to bring on the apocalypse that is also part of this process.”

“As I read Wood I thought about the fear at the root of all this. The animal fear at the basis and how all across history that fear has been stirred by violent deity. Inciting fear as in apocalyptic threat has repeatedly resulted in aggressive violence toward others (this was clear in Serbia, in Hitler, and so on).”

“The violent threat was long ago deeply embedded as a foundational human archetype where it continues to work its damage on public consciousness. We see it again in environmental alarmism and their aggression toward perceived threats (trying to ban skeptics).”

“Fear fuels aggression and so you need to counter the fear at its ultimate root, calming such things as the fear of apocalyptic threat. This is for the long term solutions. In the immediate you may have to counter apocalyptic hysteria and madness with defensive action.”

“This is all part of the model that I put out a while back. You have to account for all the important elements and how they relate, such as the animal inheritance (the root source of fear and aggression). And the theological explanations that validate the expression of aggression, that are inspiring ideals. And how these have been related over human history. Then, how to counter this at the deepest levels for long term solutions. Going after those deeply embedded archetypes or ideals. Deal with all the main elements at the deepest levels for the most thorough long term solutions.”

Another… “One last one from Pallmeyer…’Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment’ (Gandhi). Then Pallmeyer…’the most tragic and enduring legacy of these ‘sacred’ texts is that they distort the nature of both divine and human power. Coercive, punishing, violent conceptions of God and power that have their origins in the minds, fantasies, and experiences of men cripple our imaginations and dominate the political, economic, and religious landscape…there is an alternative conception of power rooted in love…more effective’.”

“And his rephrasing of a part of Matt.5:43-45, ‘Loving enemies best reflects what God is like’.”

Another… “Not wanting to keep this line of discussion going too much as it is quite negative… but it is also useful for understanding a current public problem, its roots and how to solve it.”

“I am almost finished Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s Is Religion Killing us. He is a Christian, a professor at St. Thomas University in Minnesota, and works on Justice and Peace endeavors. And this is a valuable bit of research on religion and violence. More useful than most.”

“He argues that all three Western religions have dominant themes of violence in deity and this is the root problem behind religious violence over history. And he marshals the evidence from the holy books of these faiths to support his argument. It is one of the more complete litanies of violent religious teaching. ‘Despicable portraits of a violent, seemingly pathological God and of murderous human conduct justified in relation to the divine’.”

“I was at first put off by his argument that monotheism seemed particularly violent, in light of the similar violence in other earlier non-monotheistic traditions. But his point is good- that a super-powerful God (monotheist) is credited with super power to overwhelm and destroy all enemies. More power means more successful violence.”

“And one of his best points is that the dominant violent explanations in the holy books overwhelm the more humane ideals in those books. ‘Passages that urge tolerance and respect diversity are overwhelmed by others…that legitimate violence, warfare, and intolerance…The collective weight of all passages in these texts that advocate ethical behavior or present evidence of a loving, compassionate God cannot, however, overcome the violent images and expectations of God that overwhelm these sacred texts…’.”

“He does tend a bit to apocalyptic doomsterism here and there but that does not detract from his good points.”

“He is also interesting on the current cycle of violence with Islamic terrorism, and the Western response as similar in character- i.e. the appeal to the divine to validate violence, and the belief that one is acting in the better interests of humanity. And yes, I get it that some will react that he is engaging moral equivalence, but his argument is a bit more sophisticated than that.”

“He is very clear that violent religion is not a distortion of the main themes of religion but is faithfulness to those main themes, in all three Western faiths.”

“He also gets the dualism of the good versus the bad (the enemy), but does not put that in its Zoroastrian context.”

“Good treatment of the Jewish Exodus as ‘liberating violence’, compared with other incidents of ‘punishing violence’.”

“And a lot of other good insights along the way…such as ‘Jesus dies in order to save us from God, not from sin…Jesus’ sacrificial death saves us from a violent God who punishes sin’.”

“Some quotes from Pallmeyer: ‘Most people…believe that violence saves….violence is the world’s religion…It is a serious problem to downplay the problem of religion, violence, and ‘sacred’ text in its many forms…Jews, Christians, and Muslims (can find)…hundreds and hundreds of passages that rightfully can be called upon to bolster their claims that violence and hatred against enemies are not only justified but reflect the will of God…power is identified with violence…’.”

“A few more Pallmeyer quotes…’if human beings acted as God does or as God tells them to act, then they would rightfully be considered certifiably insane…It is not primarily a problem of believers distorting their ‘sacred’ texts. It is rather, a problem rooted in the violence of God traditions that lie at the heart of these sacred texts..’, and so on..”

“This guy nails it as few others have done. Violent behavior is not distorting these Western faiths but being faithful to their core teaching.”

Another… “I’ve mentioned this before ____, but I approach all this with sort of an ‘efficiency’ orientation. It began years ago when I worked in Mindanao with Manobo tribal groups and our endeavors (muddled as they may appear to anyone else) to improve the human condition. Early on I responded at a gut level to human suffering, taking sick people out on logging trucks (the only transportation) to lowland medical clinics and hospitals. It was a horrendous waste of time in that the trucks stopped and sat a varied places along the way. What was usually a 4 hour trip by motorcycle could take the entire day on truck. And then the people, when left at the hospital, would just get up and leave and return to the mountains. They were scared that as people died at the hospital, so evil spirits were prowling in such a place of death. So I could ‘waste’ several days doing such things.”

“So we gradually moved to inviting nurses and doctors into the mountain areas to vaccinate everyone, and to start holding clinics there. Also, later we started medical training programs, getting nurses to come and teach tribal people about basic health care (emergency care, nutrition, and so on- changing people’s views from spirit causes of sickness to germ theory). Training barrio health workers for each area. That was a more efficient use of our time. You could do more good to more people with less investment of time.”

“And that approach spread to educational programs, agricultural programs (increase wealth so tribal people could solve their own issues), water systems (helping solve the cause of 50% of child mortality- dirty water), pig breeding programs, introducing coffee and cacao plant programs, and so on. Continually looking to get at root economic and livelihood issues in order to do the most good for the most people, as we tried to improve the human condition in that part of the world.”

“I have continued this orientation even today- what is the best way to solve critical problems in life and take human well-being in better directions, to improve the human condition? What are root issues to problems and solutions to those root issues? What is most ‘efficient’ in this regard? And we all have opinions on this. My view is that Ellens and others are getting to the most critical of issues to the long term improvement of the human condition. How humanity thinks, feels, and what motivates people. Those great narrative issues, those core themes that have inspired humans over history, that have been used to validate human life and society. Correcting the core issues that have promoted violence and hindered human improvement, and finding better alternatives to inspire and validate human life (dealing with the meaning seeking element in humanity).”

“So just to explain why I get excited by the work of someone like Ellens and his approach. Just saying.”

Another… “Primitive payback explanations (this will be added to my comment on Love and Freedom at bottom-this is still rough copy)”

“Primitive and simple-minded payback thinking long ago resulted in ideas of a punishing God. The payback mind thinks that good is rewarded and bad is punished by a God who overpowers, interferes, and controls all things. This has long been fundamental to human understanding of justice. This is how people have long explained the events of life (the human impulse for meaning and purpose demands explanations for all things).”

“Good events occurring were explained in terms of people being rewarded for living good lives, for being obedient to the dictates of the gods. Bad events occurring were explained in terms of people being punished for doing wrong, for disobeying the taboos of the gods.”

“Such payback thinking is a primitive misunderstanding of life and its events. Good and bad happen to all alike. There is freedom and randomness throughout life. A God of love does not overwhelm with coercive force to intervene in life, and to reward or punish people through the events of life. A God of authentic love has given full responsibility to people to do good, and to prevent bad things from happening.”

“Its time for all of us to grow up and quit blaming God for the events of life. We have been put in charge and are fully responsible for good or bad.”

Another…”Note- I am not trying to be harsh on Pallmeyer and the others for their reformism. I applaud them for such effort, in accordance with the audience that they are speaking to. I tend to gravitate more toward secular, atheist, or general non-religious people. And I prize clarity and straightforwardness, frankness in making points. Hence my argument that the scandal of no conditions has no place in a conditional context. That only perpetuates confusion, obfuscation, clouding of the real scandal and wonder of what we are talking about. I will leave the more diplomatic approach to others like the Mennonites and these reformist authors. But yes, more power to them. They are fellow spirits going after history’s greatest monster and together we will all bring this monster down.”

“Lotufo especially does a good job. He goes after the atonement core of Christianity and nails the psychopathic God at the heart of that core Christian belief or Salvationist system. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, getting over fear of Hell was key to her liberation. Even more key to liberation is getting the monster behind such beliefs, getting the threatening, punishing God behind Salvationism and atonement (payback) thinking.”

Another… “Bob, ____, this is an interesting piece and many lines of thought are sparked. Yes, we project our limited understanding and conflicting assumptions out to define greater reality (God). And get ourselves into all sorts of conflicting and confusing dead ends because of that.”

“To paraphrase an insight of Bob’s- we start with the best in humanity and then reason out from that to Ultimate Good. We see the best in humanity- i.e. the long-developing discovery of unconditional treatment of others, especially offenders- and we reason that God is just like this but infinitely more so. We use Jesus’ logic- if you imperfect people can give good gifts, then how much more God is good. Infinitely more Good. So we hold the best of humanity or humaneness- love at its best, and freedom- and make sense of things from these.”

“Hence, my argument- place unconditional love at the foundation and core of your thinking and then reason out to all else, to evaluate all else. You can’t go wrong.”

“What runs through this piece is the fallacy of Biblicism again. And the resulting cognitive dissonance- the felt obligation to harmonize conflicting opposites. Lotufo does some good work on John Stott and J.I. Packer wrestling with this. Packer just does what the author of Job does and backs off to ‘its mystery’ and our sinful, darkened minds cannot resolve it, so just accept it with all the conflicting dissonance that it is.”

“No. We start with the best in humanity (epistles of flesh) and from that reason to the best in God, getting rid of all that is inhumane and conflicts with ultimate goodness.”

“But primitive payback logic reasons differently and inhumanely. And abdicates to claiming ‘unknowable mystery’. And granted there is this element of mystery but the human drive to know and explain needs more satisfying answers. And with the Jesus breakthrough and similar we get more satisfying answers.”

“So don’t accept the basic assumptions of payback (inhuman) logic and remain stuck there. All this holiness projection and obligation to primitive honor, shame, and retaliation/revenge demands that flow from primitive holiness thinking. This is used still in the most backward areas of the planet. And young women are killed because of it (honor killings).”

“It all results in subhuman redemptive reasoning and assumptions- I am holy, pure, and if you offend my laws then I am obligated to punish, to take revenge. This is all a horrific and barbaric distortion of love. Holiness demands saving violence. So Christian love suffers such distortion in that it demands violence to solve its problems, it assumptions. It demands the ‘mystery’ of redemptive thinking and solutions.“

“Ahh, ____, so many things come to mind as I have just read Pallmeyer who deals with this in such detail (Jesus Against Christianity and Is Religion Killing Us) and Lotufo who also exposes the barbarity of this primitive redemption or atonement thinking (Cruel God, Kind God). This demand of holiness to find appeasement in the suffering of an innocent victim. As Lotufo says, this is clearly a psychopathic personality that must be satisfied by the suffering of others, by harming someone. And this perverse and ‘devilish’ personality is at the core of Christian atonement theory.”

“So we start by recognizing what is pathology in all this- the entire mess of atonement and Salvationist thinking- and what is authentically humane (unconditional treatment of all) and then sort out things from these much better starting assumptions or evidence. This alone frees us from the mess of Salvationism that we have inherited.”

“Ah, this piece sparks so much….but ____, do read these authors, along with Harold Ellens’ The Destructive Power of Religion.”

“And I do not affirm the conclusions of these authors to engage the reforming of Christianity. I go for more radical outcomes. The unconditional insight of Jesus gets lost in the conditional context of Christianity and its conditional atonement categories. But that’s just me. Wanting to really slay this monster God of Christianity entirely and really set people free.”

Another… “Redemptive, atonement categories and logic distort the goodness of God, and distort the power of God, with violence. Pallmeyer is good on this in Jesus Against Christianity.”

Another… “A better way to frame all this (the claim that the improvement in various areas of life is due to religious influence) is in terms of the progression of humanity from a barbaric subhuman past to a more humane present. We (humanity) now understand better what is human and what is inhuman. All this talk of biblical authority, reliability, and so on must be subject to this larger context of humanity discovering ever more clearly just what is human. Just as Lotufo and others are presenting- we can no longer accept a personality that takes pleasure in causing others harm or suffering, as humane. It is pathological, psychopathic, sick, and subhuman. And that monster resides at the core of Christian atonement.”

“To try to describe all that horrible mythology in terms of love, grace, mercy or whatever is to distort entirely the meaning of love, mercy, grace. To define it with pathological violence of the worst kind (pleasure, appeasement in the suffering and harm of others).”

“Ah, read Pallmeyer, Lotufo, and Ellens and discovery what we have wrestled with and now understood better. Just what is wrong with all this Salvationism and what is the humane alternative that Jesus discovered and offered to humanity- unconditional treatment of all. Because this is just what God is like. No demand for some condition to be met, some salvation plan, no threat of punishment, no judgment, no apocalypse looming, no hell. Ah, such liberation and love.”

Another… “____, you speak of reality, real truth, and in previous posts of evidence, facts. Good for you. But then continue that honorable concern with truth and reality to all factual evidence, even evidence that counters one’s views of things. That makes one uncomfortable. If there is any more overwhelming array of evidence, of fact and therefore truth and reality, it would be the overwhelming evidence amassed by Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Matt Ridley, Greg Easterbrook and others on the rising trajectory of life, and civilization toward something ever better. And throw in the overwhelming evidence amassed by James Payne and Stephen Pinker on the decreasing violence across human history as humanity has become ever more empathic and loving and non-violent. Hard factual data that cannot be denied. Only the unthinking embrace of apocalyptic declinism (corrupt humanity destroying the world and all heading for disaster) blinds people from seeing such overwhelming evidence. Myth is myth, and truth is truth, especially when supported by masses of good evidence.”

Another… “Yes, get this clear (life has improved over the long term) and its a huge step forward (progress <: )- your admitting apocalyptic (decline toward some great catastrophe) is wrong. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she found freedom when she abandoned the horrible myth of hell, so abandoning the unhistorical nonsense of apocalyptic myth is a huge step in the right direction. Next, and a much bigger step toward freedom and truth and a better future, is to abandon the psychopath behind all this nutty mythology (the great error of some threatening, punishing God that has long been used to fuel Salvationism, apocalyptic, and a lot more). Ah, Zenon Lotufo has done us all a favor in speaking clearly about the real nature of the deity behind atonement violence (the deformed personality of someone finding pleasure or satisfaction in the suffering and death of another).” “Now we are getting our fogged glasses cleaned off so we can begin to see the wonder of unconditional that Jesus pointed toward.” Another… ”And don’t be discouraged ____ at the slowness of the learning process. It has taken Bob and myself, and others, a lifetime to get all this right. Slow learners all. <:” Another… “Bob, Its quite something how Pallmeyer traces the use of apocalyptic imagery to re-interpret Jesus. His life, his death, and his teaching. I have just read, near the end, how Matthew used apocalyptic to reshape the parables of Jesus, turning the lead characters into God-figures that consistently send people to the torturers and other horrific punishments. This is such a refreshing take on understanding the parables and how the gospel writers distorted Jesus against his own anti-apocalyptic message. As you noted earlier, Pallmeyer has written quite a book (Jesus Against Christianity).” “He brings out well the Christian longing for revenge via apocalyptic and hell. This whole ‘chosen people’ mindset that sees salvation in terms of enemies destroyed, thus fulfilling the perverse human longing for revenge on others. All made sacred in this pathological religious mythology. The very worst of human impulses made sacred, and nowhere more intensely than in the Christ myth of Paul. He does a good job on Paul’s ‘betrayal’ of Jesus.” “I’ve lost that statement where he summarized all this gospel distortion of Jesus in that ‘the slaughtered one’ (Jesus- cross) becomes ‘the Great Slaughterer’ of Revelation.” Another… “Add to Lotufo’s analysis (atonement- finding satisfaction in the suffering of others= psychopathy), add Pallmeyer’s comment on Matthew turning Jesus’ ‘love your enemies’ into Matthew’s favorite phrase put into Jesus’ mouth- ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ in hell. Such a Jesus, says Pallmeyer, is a ‘paranoid schizophrenic’. Ah, such good psychological analysis and conclusion about all this Christian mythology or pathology.” Another… “Good to see we have woken the bear <: ____, your worldview is not so much about ‘stupid’ as about hatred wrapped up in religion. If I may paraphrase Pallmeyer a bit- apocalyptic is an expression of ultimate human hate and lust for revenge against those who differ from them (‘enemies’). All wrapped up in the sacred. The worst of human perversity employed to defile ideas of God, love, humanity. There is no worse evil than evil hiding behind the sacred.” “Remember always that statement of Jesus- ‘Love your enemies….because God does’. Pallmeyer notes that Jesus rejected apocalyptic fantasies and insisted God was both compassionate and nonviolent. His refusal to endorse such pathology as violent deity led his followers to react as Jonah did, to be outraged that God would not destroy enemies. We in our ugliest moments want God to ‘fry our enemies’, as Pallmeyer says. We lust for apocalyptic violence and claim this is justice, and good, and proper salvation. How we have perverted Jesus. He disappointed his listeners by showing ‘how God’s compassion thwarts the human desire for revenge’.” More from Pallmeyer…”Apocalyptic eschatology can corrupt the human imagination profoundly in that it imagines a God whose solution to the problems of the world is slaughter…Images of God matter. Jesus invites us to imitate the infinitely loving, infinitely hospitable, infinitely giving, infinitely forgiving, and infinitely compassionate Spirit of God that surrounds us everywhere and invites us always to abundant life. What is amazing is that very few people embrace a God who is infinitely loving. We prefer God’s violent power and God’s imposed justice to God’s compassion….Few are willing to embrace the mystery and power surrounding a nonviolent God….Human beings have projected so much violence onto God as to make God’s dominant image that of a pathological killer..God is not violent and God’s power is not coercive…redemptive violence is a central theme in the Bible, and its perverse logic dominates modern life. It is the central message of most cartoons, TV dramas, and films…It has come to dominate church theology and ethics…it is the real religion of America…(from Jesus Against Christianity)”, “and much more…” “Ah, Pallmeyer is not for the weak, neither is Lotufo. But what a service these brave spirits are providing humanity by exposing the pathology at the heart of religions like Christianity and the Christian God.” Another… “You think you have reached a plateau in understanding and expression then you encounter some fresh input from others and whole new vistas open up for exploration. Such has been the refreshing encounter with Harold Ellens, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Zenon Lotufo. How they expose the damaging impact of a religion like Christianity and its core themes of atonement, and its God.” Another… “One quibble, Pallmeyer dismisses the love and freedom relationship without really offering any good reason. But then later, his work on God’s power as non-violent and non-coercive is good. He would be more helpful if he got the relationship between authentic love and freedom better.” Another… “Pallmeyer does some good work in showing that power in God is non-coercive and non-violent. God does not, will not, cannot exercise coercive power to make things ‘right’. That is up to us entirely, if at all. Not so comforting but it resolves a root misunderstanding that causes so much misery.” Another…” ____, I am wrestling with expressing these good thoughts from Nelson-Pallmeyer’s Jesus Against Christianity. See if this below makes any sense. I was thinking about your struggle with why God won’t help you and restore the family member that you are concerned about. It goes back to how this religious mythology has distorted so much of our thinking and feeling. I will reword this below before putting it up for our group…” “We have all been damaged far more than we realize by Christian pathology. How little we realize this at the surface of daily consciousness.” “Pallmeyer demonstrates this so powerfully in terms of ancient Israel and its struggles with deity, compassion in deity, power in deity, salvation, and their unrelieved suffering. Their perceptions, as with most of us, had long been shaped by pathological views of punishing gods (i.e. God is about payback justice- rewarding good, punishing bad). This all came up, as Pallmeyer notes, in terms of their experience of Exodus and then Exile. Why, the Israelites asked, are we suffering exile after the overwhelming power and compassion of God that rescued us from Egypt? Why do things still go wrong?” “Part of their answer was to engage self-blame and loathing- ‘we are not holy enough, good enough, we have sinned and are being punished’. “ “But more so, their confusion was rooted in the old pathology of a God who blesses and punishes, rewarding good, punishing bad. If we suffer, then God who is all powerful, must be withholding good/blessing. The subconscious does not let go of these subhuman themes easily.” “If we suffer, then we reason that God is angry, displeased, and withholding good. And of course this stirs fear that keeps minds enslaved to all this insanity of payback and violent Salvationist solutions.” “Ah, only unconditional can resolve all this at the deepest levels of thought, perception and mood. And it helps to engage the shock effect from Lotufo, Pallmeyer and others to break the enslaving bonds of all this pathology.” “We need to thoroughly rethink and reshape the most foundational ideas, ideals, archetypes, and thoroughly replace that inhumanity with the authentically humane, if ever we are to heal and liberate people’s consciousness and spirits from this pathological religious belief.” “Pallmeyer is good on how difficult it is for us to understand concepts like power, salvation, love, and so on, because these have been so overpowered by the subhuman pathologies of vengeance, violent salvation, violent overwhelming coercive power and so on. Even the compassion of God has been perverted by such pathology- this is evident in the claim of the Bible writers that God’s compassion is seen in his destroying enemies.” “This distortion has influenced even contemporary non-violence advocates (Christianity is central to this) with the argument that we can be non-violent now because God will take care of all our enemies in a great end-time violence (the apocalypse).” “I am not providing the full picture presented by Pallmeyer on this- do read his good material.” Another… “By the way, Pallmeyer will help you see how the New Testament writers perverted Jesus’ message with apocalyptic violence. They turned Jesus upside down, none more so than Paul with his Christ myth, the supreme embodiment of violence, hatred of enemies, and lust for revenge. The worst of human impulses (evil) embodied in religion and the sacred. Now who is the real anti-Jesus? Why the Christ myth, of course.” Another… “____, most of human progress has been due to the free enterprise system, lifting billions out of poverty. This has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus, see Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty for the institutions responsible for such progress (one is rational, as against religious, approach to life). Jesus, with his redistributionism, would have been a lousy economist.” Another…” Also remember that the gospel of Christ (Christianity) was the ‘world religion’ under Constantine and the later Roman Empire. And what did this produce? The Dark Ages (the barbarity of the Councils, Crusades, Inquisition, and more). For an entire millennium. It was not till the Enlightenment and scientific era that the grip of Christianity/religion was broken and humanity could progress under rationalism.” Another… “Of course if ____ reads it to his great benefit, he will notice lots to quibble about, like Pallmeyer’s buying into liberation theology and its distorted take on capitalism. This is the cognitive dissonance we all share, holding great insights and looney-toon ones at the same time. Pallmeyer is all out of whack at the end with his apocalyptic-like take on globalization and its ‘increasing’ violence and misery. Huh? Commerce brings peace and immense improvement to even the poorest people.” “And his buying into environmental apocalyptic nonsense. And this after such excellent treatment of apocalyptic in the New Testament and its distortion of God and Jesus. Ah well, he needs our help on various things.” “But where he is good, he is excellent. Like on how we understand power, especially the power of God. Great stuff. So pick out the diamonds and leave the dung, as with anything.” Another…” The overall benefit of Pallmeyer’s book far outweighs any quibbles. That is one stellar piece of research and commentary. I will put him high on my recommends to others. Along with Lotufo, and some of Ellens’work. They are unique in getting the ‘monster God’ and its centrality to religion and religious pathology, its resulting damage to humanity, and then going after the monster to slay it. Humanity’s greatest monster (my derivative from Campbell’s story outline).” “Good to have discovered some fellow warriors going after the most fundamental elements of what is wrong, and how to make it right. This is improving the long term human condition more effectively than anything else. To arrive at this conclusion requires considering the work of James Payne and Stephen Pinker and others on how the human impulse for meaning affects humanity overall. That impulse for meaning has been so profoundly distorted in the history of religions like Christianity. Holding back human creativity and progress.” “But the solution has been offered and some are getting it clear.” Another… “Again, get the full long term context of all this. How ancient people diverted emerging consciousness into early mythology. Thinking religiously. And the felt obligation of terrified people to appease angry gods, and the rivers of blood offered up to appease anger and bribe benefits (rain for crops). How that thinking held people in mythical thinking and the mythical approach to life, mythical solutions (the sacrifice, salvation industry). How that held back human perception and understanding over the millennia. The almost flat GDP that Bernstein and others spoke of. That was all during humanity’s overwhelmingly religious phase of existence.” “Then only a few centuries ago, you get the spread of a more rational approach, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the British classical liberalism (individual freedom, protection of individual rights and property), all bringing a larger body of people to think more rationally and less religiously. Breaking the darkening, enslaving, distorting grip of previous mythical/religious thought and approach. And then modern creativity and progress explodes (roughly around 1820 takes off).” “This is to explain how fixing the fundamentals properly is critical to improving the long term human condition.” “Ellens, Lotufo, Pallmeyer are offering more insight into just how damaging all that religion has been and why it holds humanity back. The pathology of it all. It brought out the worst in humanity- affirming, validating, and inspiring the dark side.” “Also remember that the gospel of Christ (Christianity) was the ‘world religion’ under Constantine and the later Roman empire. And what did this produce? The Dark Ages- the barbarity of the Councils, Crusades, Inquisition, and more. For an entire millennium. It was not till the Enlightenment and the scientific era that the grip of Christianity/religion was broken and humanity could progress under rationalism”. Another… “The violent God is the core or foundation of all the rest, as Lotufo notes. The fear of that monster is the glue holding all the rest together. And the power of that deity is to overwhelm, to use violence, superior violence to save the chosen people. Salvation, power, even compassion, are all understood by the Christian mind, and many other religious minds, as God using ultimate violence to save, to solve problems, to destroy his enemies. Do bad people use this religious belief to endorse their violence? Of course, history is replete with such. The inherited animal (core brain- amygdale, limbic system) is the source of such violent drives. But early people projected all that inhumanity onto deity and there it has remained lodged. Forming the basic archetypes or themes of human consciousness, or subconscious. Shaping human outlook, human mood, human motivation, and response to others. The animal validated by the sacred. Validated by God.” “And that gets you to understanding how religion has promoted such violence over history. And it will not end till we thoroughly clean up and humanize those core ideals and authorities, especially in our religious traditions. They still operate as humanity’s highest ideals and authorities. Note, for instance, as the Mennonites do, how the punishing God of Christianity became the historical basis of Western justice systems. And that in a very Christian nation- the US- justice as punishment still dominates, to the locking up of history-breaking numbers of people. That conclusion is from US Mennonites. And those impacts from the core pathology of Christianity continue all over in other dehumanizing ways- excluding outsiders, treating believers more favorably, and so on.” “And regarding Stalin. You need to read some good history on apocalyptic in secular versions like Marxism. This is why Christianity and Socialism have been so comfortable as bed mates. Stalin was arguably somewhat of a religious nut case, along with Lenin and others, as Landes shows in Heaven on Earth. Historians have always tried to deny the powerful impact of religion on secular movements. But the Christian fingerprints are all over such secular movements. Note also Arthur Hermans’ good treatment of this in The Idea of Decline in Western History. Apocalyptic mythology gripped early human minds (Sumerian) and that fear has not let go since. Revenge of Gaia, angry planet, angry nature and all the rest. It persists all over the so-called secular landscape. Religious nuts all.” “And Lotufo and Pallmeyer also do some excellent work on power. How horribly the human understanding of power has been distorted in Christian and Hebrew theology, as well as all over the place. They note how Jesus entirely redefined power as non-violent, non-coercive. As persuading love. The real power.” Another… “____, and you decry the pacifists for wanting to eliminate violence from the sacred texts. But for long term solutions at the most fundamental level (thorough and proper solutions), at the deepest levels of human mind and spirit, yes, you must humanize humanity’s ultimate ideals and authorities. Or you never properly deal with the root problems. If you do not humanize fully our highest ideals and authorities (gods in religious texts) then the inhumanity just keeps re-emerging all over again in history. In new, and even secular ways.” Another… “____, I think I get your distinction below. But central to our consciousness is the impulse for meaning and purpose. Hence, our appeal to some higher ideal or authority to inspire or validate our behavior. We need beliefs- and create them (some reflect greater reality, some don’t)- to guide our behavior, to act as we feel right and proper, or not. Hence, the central role of mythical or religious belief. Remove the old validating foundation, or better yet, replace it with a truly humane ideal and you can more effectively counter the old nasty impulses. You have something to arouse and inspire the new humane impulses. So transforming love works from within, yes. But it needs the help of our stories, narratives, ideals, beliefs. We think and therefore we act.” “And yes, Bush did just the same as his ‘enemies’ did. Pallmeyer points this out. He appealed to God to validate his fight against the enemy. Just as the Islamists were doing.” Another… “I need to pull some quotes out of this below for my site Intro. We need to focus on brief attention-getting summary statements that deal with this violence issue and the ‘bad religious ideas’ (Sam Harris) that inspire and validate violence. Conrad Black just did a piece in the National Post defending theism against atheism. I wrote a letter to the Editor in response, and to him personally. He misses the real issue- with his defense of religion. He does not deal with the main concern of the atheists- the role of religion in so much brutality over history.” “So deal with the real issue- the violent ideals in religion that promote such violence and inhumanity across history. The atheists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali get the real issue and are trying to deal with it. They take human suffering seriously and take the improvement of the human condition seriously and are looking for thorough and long term solutions. More power to them. That is how you improve life for all in the most thorough and proper manner.” Another… “____, Pallmeyer deals exactly with this issue, notably pacifist Christian friends of his who hold to non-violence, but also the hope that God will deal with evil at the end of time. Because they take comfort in ultimate vengeance (delayed violence), they can engage non-vengeance here and now. This follows on Paul’s Romans 12 advice. Do not return evil for evil, because God will repay in the future. Lotufo would term this ‘cognitive dissonance’ (holding contradictory things in tension).” “I am just rereading Landes good treatment of apocalyptic millennialism and how millennialists merged hope for progress with apocalyptic hope in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is legitimate human hope for a better future. Unfortunately, the apocalyptics distort this with hope for some violent intervention and purging of the present ‘evil’ order, so their instant utopia may be installed.” “But legitimate progress hope understands that it must engage the imperfect, gradual historical process to improve life, and not turn to violent, coercive solutions to rush things along. Love and freedom must be honored all along, as our hope engages life to make things better. Apocalyptic minds (apocalyptically based hope) do not understand that the love of God must define the power of God (non-coercive, non-violent, persuading power).” Another…. “____, a lot of good skeptical comment here (an article about a materialist commenting on NDEs) but he drifts a bit much, at times, in the direction of materialist assumptions. Scientism even. The felt obligation to resolve all things in terms of materialist science.” “Overall, I appreciated his approach. Out of such challenge comes more clarity and clearing away of irrational extremism. And yes, from what I have heard of those NDE conferences, they do sound a bit too New Agey.” “This also reminds me that we always need to clarify the boundaries of physical science. It has a limited mandate and a limiting methodology. It will never be the final truth-teller that gives us the answers to all things that our curiosity probes.” “This also, as so many of these inquiries do, misses the central discovery or theme of the NDE- the incomprehensible unconditional love at the heart of the experience. That in itself, is a key validating or verifying issue. Not all the out-of-body, and other ‘strange’ things going on. Truth has to do with authentic humanity or humaneness. What we all sense in a Historical Jesus or a Mandela.” “In the end, I winced as I did when Sam Parnia said that he believed that science would finally resolve this NDE thing. Not likely. The ‘spiritual’ is and always will be beyond the realm of material science. You cannot (at least not yet) send little cameras along with consciousness into surrounding realms or dimensions. So you cannot prove or disprove the ‘more real than real’ consciousness that NDErs experience. You just go by their recounting and verify all things according to baselines like unconditional love.” “Another point- personal belief shapes all experience and interpretation of such. Personal belief is powerful enough to also create reality.” “Overall, his attempt at times to pull this in the direction of materialist understanding tends to suck the life out of this thing. Much like materialist’ explanation that any afterlife belief is just survival wish longings (or the evolutionary biology argument that love is just a group survivalist thing). It misses the profound essence of consciousness and its impulses for meaning and purpose. So yes, apply skeptical rigor to all things but then have your own tools to evaluate and validate. Mine is unconditional as the baseline for all things.” “He has a tendency to associate NDEs with, as he says, Wizard of Oz, UFO cults, and what not, and by such association he depreciates what he does not understand and cannot explain.” “But near the end he pulls back a bit and expresses some caution about his materialism. He sort of recognizes its limitations. As he says, we always hold our theories as provisional and constantly look for aberrations that may disprove. Exactly, consciousness is beyond the material. Centuries of research have brought us to….absolute mystery. It is the most real thing in the cosmos as each of us can attest right now as we experience it. Yet it has never been understood and explained. We have no idea what it really is.” “His despair at the end, of ‘finding a voice of reason’, should read, despair of ‘finding a voice of materialism’ in this NDE phenomenon.” Comment from discussion group (repeats earlier comment but in a different context): “Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) does an interesting section on the primitive honor belief. He says this perspective was held by elites who believed that they were meant to dominate, that hierarchy was endowed by the Creator. And social order depended on their superiority, their honor. The outcome was elite violence to maintain that superiority, that honor. Landes notes the shift away from this belief, particularly in Europe as democratic revolutions brought elites low and argued for equality of persons. Elites had to learn to embrace criticism and not retaliate against such “offense” to their honor. This involved learning how to suppress anger and violent response. Empathy was part of this development.” “Violence was no longer acceptable as an appropriate response to insult. Emotions such as rage at humiliation and the drive to dominate were no longer acceptable. Compromise and toleration were the new ideals. Honor no longer demanded violence in response to insult. The culture of self-criticism emerged. Later in his book, he notes that this offense and retaliate tradition is still strong in Eastern areas of the world. You will also find it in various places in the Western world (i.e. gang mentality).” “I am coming at this still fresh from Lotufo and his treatment of this honor and offense thing as childish, medieval, and underdeveloped humanity. Yet, this is still the essential nature of the Christian God. Holiness, as Christians argue, is God’s primary attribute, taking precedence even above love. And holiness is about offense against honor, and demand to retaliate and punish, to restore honor. This is what Christian atonement is all about, the restoration of offended honor (offense often stated in terms of human disobedience to God’s law). Lotufo makes clear that this is all primitive, subhuman attitude and response.” Another comment from discussion group: “Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God) probes the core Christian belief that atonement satisfies the offended honor of God. This is a prominent claim in Anselm’s theory of atonement (i.e. penal satisfaction). It is a very primitive way of thinking, very Medieval, yet still present in our time. Landes also does a good job on this- that in offense and retaliation thinking people reason that if someone has offended their honor, or the honor of their family, then they are obligated to punish or destroy the offender.” “As he does with all areas that he covers, Lotufo brings in good psychological analysis of the related issues. He says, ‘Honor is closely linked to self-esteem, for vindictive wrath is linked to the feeling of self-worth and is as intense and easy to arouse as the individual’s self-esteem is vulnerable’. He then does a section on good self-esteem and concludes, ‘It shows the absurdity of attributing to God manifestations of vindictive wrath provoked by offenses to his honor or to an unstable self-esteem’.” “He is taking apart, with careful analysis, the core atonement belief of Christianity.”

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Site Comment: Section five- Introduction; List of topics on this page; Roots of alarmist/apocalyptic thinking; Quotes and summaries; A thought breakthrough; Grand narrative core themes (humanizing worldviews); Zoroastrian dualism (opposing and destroying enemies); The discovery; The futility of reforming religion (the stunning contrast between the unconditional teaching of Jesus and the conditional atonement of Paul); Standing up to the bully gods- the monsters of the metaphysical; History’s greatest Terrorist (violence in God); Getting to the root of violence.

Copyright Wendell Krossa

Note: Comments from previous years are preserved further below. They are repetitive of the main themes on this site but they also contain varied points that are not included in similar but more recent comments.

Material on religion and violence (i.e. religion inspiring or validating violence) is scattered throughout the site.

This page presents the big picture of unconditional reality and existence (no conditions, absolutely none). Unconditional offers an entirely new way to view ultimate reality, or what has long been termed the “spiritual”. Despite the secularizing trends in many societies over the past few centuries, the spiritual still plays a prominent role in shaping human perception, mood, and motivation (how we respond and act). In relation to this, unconditional offers a new humanizing ideal for human thought, behavior and existence. It is the most effective way to counter the destructive ideas or ideals at the core of much religion, ideals that have too often incited and validated the worst of human impulses.

This page also presents the developing history of unconditional reality. I note the first expressions of this discovery in some of the earliest human writing, that of the Akkadian father (2200 BCE), and then down through Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions. And on to the unique contribution of the historical Jesus (a person entirely different from the Christian Jesus). Historical Jesus was the first to get both the ethical and the theological dimensions of unconditional right.

I also present the fact that Christianity (the religion of Paul) rejected, distorted, and buried the Jesus breakthrough on unconditional with its highly conditional atonement theology (i.e. a sacrifice or punishment demanded before the Christian God will forgive). Christianity was a retreat to mythological primitivism and pathology.

I have argued extensively on this page that unconditional reality overturns the most prominent themes of past mythology and salvation religion. These include the themes of divine anger, vengeance, the demand for payback and punishment, the predatory demand for blood sacrifice, dualism between the true religion and outsiders/enemies, and the demand to exclude and destroy enemies (i.e. the ultimate punishment of apocalypse and the eternal punishment of hell). Unconditional exposes all such mythology as profoundly inhumane. These primitive mythical themes have darkened and enslaved human consciousness for millennia. They are pathological ideas that have aroused incalculable fear, anxiety, depression, aggression, and violence over the histories of the great religions. And they are inspiring and validating themes that have motivated endless brutality and inhumanity toward people.

While there is mental pathology that can be corrected at the level of daily consciousness, too often people do not go further to the foundational inherited ideas (archetypes or themes in the subconscious) that shape daily consciousness and mood, those inherited themes in the background of consciousness that have long damaged minds and spirits, that have long shaped human perception, mood, and motivation. Unconditional goes to those deepest levels of human fear, anxiety, depression and despair to profoundly change things for the better. Many of those great subconscious themes were originally formed as mythical/religious themes and have remained in the background even into the present.

At the center of many contemporary secular systems of thought you will still find the old mythology. What is often regarded as outwardly secular is often still profoundly religious at core. I have traced here the linkages and lines of descent of ancient mythology down through history, through religious traditions and into modern secular traditions. The old mythology keeps erupting in ever new versions because it is still deeply embedded in the old background archetypes.

I also look at what unconditional means for human response and action in an imperfect world. Unconditional is not a project that advocates pacifism. Love is always responsible to robustly protect and defend the innocent. But unconditional does offer a radical new approach to the treatment of “enemies”. Mandela offered a great example of this new approach that defused the destructive cycles of payback and revenge.

Unconditional liberates from our animal inheritance as nothing else can. It liberates us from the small band orientation of the past- us versus some enemy. It frees us from primitive offense and retaliation response (eye for eye justice, getting even with offenders). If frees us from the animal-like instinct to oppose and destroy some enemy. It liberates us into authentically humane existence where all are forgiven, all are included, and all receive the full generosity of the universe and life.

There are two critical elements to this ideal of unconditional, two features that most effectively counter the central defects of much religious belief. First, as noted above, it redefines entirely the fundamental nature of all reality, whether you view this in terms of Universe, Mind, Consciousness, Source, Ultimate Reality, or God. Unconditional tells us that there is an incomprehensibly scandalous and wondrous love behind all reality. This love denies outright the core themes of much past mythology and religion with their pathological ideas of angry gods, judgment, punishment, and demand for violent salvation.

Second, unconditional redefines entirely our understanding of the human person or human consciousness. It tells us that we are not fallen and corrupted creatures, as Fall and sin mythology has long told us. Instead, our authentic self is the very same unconditional love that is at the core of all reality. And we are never separated from that essential love. There has never been some broken relationship with the Ultimate Love, some separation that we are obligated to restore via a salvation plan.

Unconditional is simply the greatest discovery ever made by humanity. It changes everything for the better. It offers a powerful new alternative for the future of human spirituality. The two prominent elements noted above provide the most authentically humane ideals for any new grand narrative of the spiritual, as well as the proper foundational themes for any authentically humane worldview or TOE. Unconditional points in a truly humane direction that counters thoroughly all the pathology of past mythology and religion. It therefore liberates at the deepest levels of human consciousness and spirit from the enslaving and dehumanizing violence of the old mythology. It goes to the root themes of apocalyptic and alarmist thinking in general and counters the distorting themes of that mythology, exposing it all as a great fraud and lie.

Unconditional is all about effectively healing the damaging and deforming impact of the old religious mythology. Public consciousness has far too long been battered and traumatized by the themes of past myth and religion. We need an entirely new foundational narrative. These two themes most potently eliminate the core errors of salvation religion and orient us to the truly human.

Note: Once again, the straightforward definition of unconditional is “Absolutely no conditions. None”.

There is significant public concern today over religious violence and accompanying confusion about what exactly in religion promotes violence. Many are defensive of religious traditions and argue that the real problem is extremists that distort religion. This defensive stance does not contribute to understanding of what is wrong with religion and how to properly solve the problem.

All three Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are direct descendants of Zoroastrian religion and hold to the same central ideal of violent deity, a God that resorts to overwhelming violence to solve problems. The core ideas in these religions that express violence include the following- a good God exists in opposition to a dark Force; God demands that people join the right religion and oppose the “false” religions; and God promises to destroy all outsiders to his religion in a violent purging of the world (a great apocalyptic ending). Related ideas that support the core ideal of divine violence include the themes of payback as proper justice, punishment of outsiders/enemies, the demand for a violent sacrifice to effect atonement or reconciliation, and eternal violence in Hell.

This page argues that these core ideas of the Western religions are among the most fundamental contributors to religious violence. These ideas/ideals operate as inspiration and validation for the more violent impulses of people. The histories of all three Western faiths confirm this. An extremist cleric in London also recently affirmed this in stating that his fellow extremists were not distorting their religion but were actually fulfilling the central ideals and precepts of their tradition.

Comment from Bob Brinsmead: “All theologies of God are the projection of the human concept of the highest Good. If the human understanding of the Highest Good is to ultimately solve all problems with ultimate violence (i.e. final apocalypse), then of course that will become a validation or even an incentive for human violence. Like Father, like son. People become like the God they worship. God is the human concept of the Highest Good, the Supreme Ideal- a kind of North pole that our moral and ethical compass latches on to for direction…”

We will never properly resolve the problem of religious violence until we clean up the very core themes of our religious traditions. This is a project to fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities (our gods). This applies to all religious traditions, Western and other. The Futility of Reforming Religion just below illustrates the confusion surrounding the defense of one notable Western religion.

Getting to the root of violence

This page explores the most profoundly humanizing discovery in history- unconditional reality. Unconditional reality defines the future of authentic human existence. It is the foundational theme for history’s greatest liberation movement- the liberation of mind, emotions, and spirit from all that is less than fully human. And it provides the most potent response to the root ideological issues that are behind so many outbursts of violence over human history. It deals thoroughly with the pathological ideas that have deformed human consciousness and worldviews over our past.

Most people get unconditional intuitively in how they treat family members. Others get it in arguing for more humane treatment of offenders. We need to extend this unconditional treatment of others to all humanity, especially toward “enemies”. Just as Nelson Mandela did. And then watch unconditional transform human society and solve the root issues behind violence.

In response to the concern of many that unconditional treatment of people may be a “weak response to evil”, it is stated clearly throughout this site that the unconditional treatment of others does not mean ignoring personal responsibility or accountability for our actions. Unconditional treatment of others does not mean dogmatic pacifism in the face of the insanity of terrorism. Any common sense understanding of human love will include the responsibility to protect the innocent, and the responsibility to restrain and incarcerate violent people who cannot or will not control their worst impulses. But while we engage these defensive responses, unconditional treatment of others ensures that we maintain our humanity in the messy imperfection of life. It ensures that justice will be restorative and not retaliatory, vengeful, or punitive.

Most important, unconditional treatment of all offers the potential to resolve pathologies like violence for the long term. As noted above, unconditional is critical to solving the greater ideological/religious issues that are behind the many conflicts of life. It counters thoroughly the pathological mythical and religious themes that are behind so much human violence, ideals that have long been deeply embedded in the foundations of human worldviews. I am referring to those ideals that have endlessly incited people to treat others inhumanely- i.e. oppositional dualism, exclusion and domination of the other, offense and retaliation response (eye for eye justice), destruction of the enemy, and more. Explore these issues with us here.

See new comment near bottom titled “Dense Complexity” that notes the varied possible causes of violence and what might be involved in long-term solutions (i.e. the advice of the Chinese sage). This is just above Mimetic Mennonites, near the Joke Bin.

And just an aside: My response to the comment of Steve Kroft to Pres. Obama, during his interview on Sept.28, 2014, that some people say, “it seems the world is falling apart”. No. The world is not falling apart. The true state of the world is always best understood by looking at the complete or overall picture and the long term trends. Those trends show, for example, that violence over our entire history has continued to decrease (see James Payne’s History of Force, or Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature). News media, with their orientation to creating fear (see David Altheide’s “Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of Crisis”), do not properly portray the full context of violence in life. While there will be historical outbursts that go against the long term trend, these aberrational setbacks do not explain, or fundamentally change, the long term trend that shows decreasing violence over the millennia.

We have increasingly become something better over our history and we create an ever-improving world. See also Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, or Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, for good detail on how to evaluate the larger picture and long term trends of any issue. This gets us to the true state of any thing.

This site is very much about fighting the hopelessness and despair that can debilitate the human spirit and consciousness. I tackle hopelessness from varied angles, notably going after the great fraud and lie of apocalyptic mythology. That has been the greatest curse and burden on public consciousness for most of our history, the belief that life is declining toward some great catastrophic collapse and ending.

Site Introduction

One of the central themes of this page- unconditional reality- is presented as a potent corrective to the most damaging error in the history of human thought: the pathological notion that there is some threatening, retaliatory, or punishing force behind life. This theme is found all through ancient mythology (i.e. human sickness or catastrophic flood as divine punishment) and it has infected all the great religious traditions.

The mistaken perception of ultimate threat long ago sparked the emergence of religion as the social institution that would set forth the conditions for appeasement of ultimate threats. All religion is fundamentally conditional in orientation. We see that in the development of atonement/sacrifice mythology and practice- the salvation industry. Also, the belief in greater punitive forces or authorities has served to validate a similar punishment emphasis in human society.

(Note: there is more to religion than just appease/please theology, but this is a prominent and damaging theme that has long hindered human ability to see the wonder of unconditional reality. Religion, in general, has taken the human desire for meaning and purpose and sidetracked/perverted it in conditional thinking and existence)

This error of divine threat has been deeply lodged in human outlook and it keeps erupting over history in new systems of belief or thought such as perceptions of vengeful Gaia, angry planet, punitive nature, or callous and cruel natural law. Until it is properly confronted and thoroughly rooted out, it will continue to damage public consciousness and human society with unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, violence, and despair. It will continue to spawn harmful appeasement and salvation responses- religious and secular- such as we have seen from the environmental movement (i.e. anti-development schemes to appease a vengeful Gaia or angry planet).

Related to this, note the new comment further below on The Mother of All Monsters, the early human development of the mythology of judgmental and punitive deity. This particular comment looks further at the linkage between fear and aggression/violence. It also notes how unconditional reality liberates from this pathological belief in ultimate threat.

This page is also devoted to understanding the fundamental causes/roots of alarmist and apocalyptic thinking. For the past two centuries there has been excessive negativity toward human industrial civilization and far too much doom and gloom over the widely assumed decline of nature. Much good evidence shows that while in the past we have made mistakes in our engagement of nature, we have learned from that past, corrected our approach, and are now doing much better in our treatment of the natural world. The result is that we are not heading for some catastrophic collapse but are actually improving life on all fronts. When you look closely at the narrative of contemporary alarmism you discover that it has far more to do with ideology/mythology than with actual evidence (see for instance, Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History). In response, this site engages the good research done on environmental issues by people like Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, and Matt Ridley, among others. The evidence noted by these researchers points away from despair and toward a narrative of hope. Life is not declining toward something worse but is rising toward something better.

Further in regard to alarmism, it is critical to understand the fear/violence relationship. Frightened or alarmed people are more susceptible to such things as victimhood arguments and the felt need to proactively retaliate against “threats”. General alarmism keeps fear heightened in society and this may arouse aggression toward imagined threats or enemies.

This page also makes frequent reference to the Historical Jesus and especially to the stunning contrast between the historical person and the Christian Jesus. I do this because that contradiction illustrates well the greater human story and our struggle for freedom from a primitive past defined by retaliatory violence and our liberation toward a future of non-retaliation. The Jesus/Christianity contradiction also illustrates the ongoing resistance to the liberation that Jesus promoted. He advocated for non-retaliatory existence but Christianity opted for a return to retaliatory thinking and existence. This is notable in Paul’s resistance to Jesus’ teaching and endeavor to maintain eye for eye or punitive justice in his view of deity. More importantly, Christianity has played the major role in bringing apocalyptic mythology, with its retaliatory punishment emphasis, into Western consciousness. See further explanation below.

There is a repetitive focus here on Christian apocalyptic (and the alternative theme of unconditional) that has to do with more than just a bout of OCD. It has to do with the larger project of understanding the historical roots of alarmism (i.e. as in environmental alarmism) and the alarmist’s repeated appeal to religious apocalyptic themes. My response is not about “picking on” religion but is more about clearing away the clutter of conditional religious ideas in order to present more clearly the full wonder of unconditional reality and its liberating potential in life. In the midst of my critique of religion don’t lose sight of this positive intention and approach.

Quotes and summaries from comments further below:

“Correct humanity’s greatest error- the perception of punishing forces/spirits behind life- and you begin to resolve the felt need to appease ultimate threats. This then raises a stunning challenge to the entire institution of religion in human society, as a mediating/atonement/salvation institution”.

“The conditional nature and context of religion cannot properly communicate the unconditional nature of ultimate reality. Religion emerged as a conditional institution- how to appease and please the gods- and cannot express the true nature of unconditional love”.

“Atonement, no matter how you try to dress it up as an expression of love or grace, has always been fundamentally about punishing human failure in order to appease an offended and angry God. Atonement is not an expression of authentic love or mercy. Authentic love forgives freely without demanding that some condition be met first.”

“Apocalyptic retaliation mythology reaches its most intense expression ever in Paul’s Christ myth. Paul takes the error of punishing deity to its most extreme expression in his teaching that Christ will finally destroy humanity and the world”.

“You will never solve the problem of apocalyptic alarmism in Western consciousness until you deal with the Christian role in promoting this damaging pathology”.

“Paul is the most influential person in human history, and realize it or not, he has shaped practically all we think about everything…the foundations of Western civilization- from our assumptions about reality to our societal and personal ethics- rest in a singular way upon the heavenly visions and apparitions of the apostle Paul” (James Tabor in Paul and Jesus).

“Christianity, under Paul’s dominating control, developed as a rejection of the most profound liberation movement ever presented to human consciousness”.

(Note: One of the Jesus Seminar scholars feels that I have been a bit tough on Paul. Let me then qualify that I do appreciate Paul’s efforts at such things as inclusivity- i.e. his Gentile mission, his good argument on freedom from law/scripture/religion, and his generous statements on love. But his larger theological context ruins such efforts with ultimate exclusion and a very tribal version of love- saved believers, damned unbelievers). Theology overrules and determines ethics.

“The entire history of atonement/salvation religion is based on a major error in primitive thinking. It has all been a great fraud and horrific waste of time and resources because there is no threatening or punishing deity to appease”.

“Environmental alarmism often comes across as another reincarnation of primitive apocalyptic/salvation mythology”.

“The CO2 warming effect is overwhelmed and even lost among the stronger influence of other natural factors in climate (i.e. the cosmic ray/sun interaction, the multi-decadal shifts in ocean currents)”.

“There is no higher human ideal or better definition of authentic humanity than unconditional love. It is natural to then define God in the same manner but to infinitely transcendent degree. Unconditional love lifts human theological understanding to the highest pinnacle of goodness, love, or perfection”.

“Unconditional treatment of all people offers the authentic way to peace on earth (see the comment on Mandela)”.

“The Near-Death Experience movement offers valuable insight to understanding that unconditional love defines ultimate reality. A good NDE that tries to express the unconditional love that was experienced is more valuable than many thousands of books on theology, religion, or spirituality that do not make this unconditional element clear”.

“Also, Mark Fox (Religion, Spirituality, and The Near Death Experience) notes that philosophy and theology have shown no interest in the NDE phenomenon. There is “almost total ignorance on the part of theologians and philosophers regarding the mass of research into NDEs”. I would venture that theologians avoid the NDE movement because its core discovery- unconditional love- threatens entirely the foundations of all conditional religion”.

“There is an interesting line of development in human mythology/religion over history. The dominant linkage and line of historical descent is as follows: The early belief that there were punishing spirits behind life, manifest in disaster, disease, or accident. This theme of punishment is already dominant in the earliest writing (Sumerian mythology). The follow-up belief was that the punishing spirits would cause a great final punishment- the apocalypse. The subsequent development of atonement/salvation religion was the appeasement response to the threat of punishing gods. Christianity then added the further development of punishing an innocent victim, which Stephen Mitchell referred to as ‘ghastly paganism’. Punishment is the driving idea behind all this development over history”.

“The Old Testament feature of holiness was another human construct projected onto deity to affirm the need for divine punishment. Holiness was about purity, separation, and the obligation to exact some payment for offenses committed. Holiness reasoning violates unconditional reality entirely. It also supports the idea of some separation of the perfect divine from the fallen human, that there exists a broken relationship, and the need to repair the imagined breach. Holiness mythology enforces intense guilt over human imperfection”.

(Note: We know that life on this planet did not begin in some perfect original paradise. There was no Eden. Life began in imperfection with disease, disaster, and death present from the start. Now, if the creating Source of life enabled/caused life to start so imperfectly, how can that Source then be mad at the imperfection of life and humanity? How can any Creator be mad at the struggle of people to free themselves from imperfection and to gradually become something better? How can any God punish people for the imperfection that they were handed from the very start? If the “plan” of the Creator was for humanity to learn lessons from the struggle with imperfect life, then how can that Creator be upset with the human struggle and progress? Why would such a Creator want to punish creatures for their struggle and development, even if slow and gradual?)

This from a comment further below: “What has been the outcome of the Christian influence? Apocalyptic mythology, with its core theme of punitive deity, has caused more misery and damage to human consciousness and society than anything else in history. That sounds excessive until you trace out the relationships and look at the details of varied examples. For instance, note Rachel Carson’s use of apocalyptic imagery to create chemical alarm and the harmful consequences to millions of people (mostly children) denied the protection of DDT”.

“The myth of a punishing God has been the foundational concept behind the development of Western systems of justice as systems oriented to payback punishment. The myth of a punishing deity thereby keeps cycles of violence alive in human society and ultimately undergirds the inhumane prison system (Note: This is not an argument for abandoning all restraint of violence. The existence of pathologies like psychopathy demand confinement programs in order to protect others)”

“Question: Why cannot God just forgive as we are urged to just forgive without demanding that some condition first be met (i.e. some payment, punishment, or apology)? Why should God expect that a payment or punishment be required first before God will forgive? If a debt is paid or an offense is punished, then no forgiveness is required. Demanding that conditions be met first is not authentic forgiveness. Jesus said, just give without expecting payment in return. And just forgive unconditionally and endlessly. It appears that we are held to a higher standard of humane behavior than God. This is nonsense. It is just as ridiculous as Paul urging that we should not repay evil with evil (i.e. engage eye for eye justice) but God will repay with far worse than just eye for eye payback. And please don’t avoid the point here by falling back on the human construct of holiness that has been projected onto deity. As many Christians respond- God is holy and must punish sin. That just avoids the critical point here- the nature of authentic unconditional forgiveness”.

“The myth of dying and rising gods (life-death-rebirth deities) has deep historical roots (useful for appreciating the “pagan” or “primitive” nature of such myth). This myth has been found in many ancient cultures such as that of the Aztecs, Sumerians, Egyptians, and Japanese (see Wikipedia on dying/rising god myth). This myth was not original to Paul and his Christ myth. As research on Christianity has shown, Paul derived this death-resurrected god idea from Greek mystery religions and applied it to Jesus. The Greeks most likely got it from the ancient Egyptians and their myth of the dying and rising Osiris (Isis/Osiris myth) that was related to Egyptian agricultural cycles- planting and harvesting, and the cyclical rise and fall of the Nile. Joseph Campbell writes that early agriculturalists of around 7000 BCE had beliefs in the necessity of seed to die in order to bring forth new life and the related belief in the Earth goddess as receiver of the dead for rebirth. So this line of myth has primitive, pagan roots and was eventually given expression in Paul’s Christ myth.”

“Apocalyptic mythology is the larger framework for salvation beliefs and religion. Salvation thinking is a subset of the larger template of tightly related apocalyptic myths. The full template is as follows: there was an original paradise, paradise was lost due to human failure/fall, angry gods threatened a final punishment for human sin, a punishment by apocalypse (originally flood, then fire in Zoroaster). The human response born of fear and guilt was to appease the angry, punishing gods by offering sacrifice to atone, to pay for sin. This became the “plan of salvation”, the way of escaping the final apocalyptic punishment. After the apocalypse to end life and the world, a renewed paradise would be inaugurated for true believers in the salvation scheme (salvation only for privileged insiders- tribal love).
“Apocalypse is the original threat of punishment that sparks the appeasement response, the salvation response and the creation of salvation religion.”

“Why is there such strong Christian/religious resistance to the breakthrough discovery of Jesus that God was unconditional love? Why does Christianity reject the Jesus offer of ultimate mercy and generosity toward all humanity? For one- it challenges the common perception of justice as payback. It challenges the base human urge to punish others for their failures. Look at the characters in the short stories of Jesus for illustrations of this base and harsh urge to punish others…
“The vineyard workers are angered that the owner rewards all with the same payment. They received the amount that they had agreed to work for but they were offended that the generous owner also gave the latecomers the same amount. It was not fair according to conventional understanding of fair and just. Similarly, note the older brother in the prodigal parable. He was upset that the father did not act fairly and justly, but generously refused to punish the careless younger brother. The older son, oriented to justice as proper and full payback, and to proper conventional fairness, did not understand the love and generosity of the father toward the undeserving, toward human failure…
“There is an ugly and narrow-spirited harshness when we are oriented toward the punishment of others. We want people to go easy on us and treat our failures generously, but we are too often not so generous toward others who we believe have failed more grievously than we have.”

Further Comment from discussion group…

“One side point along the way (part of my review of Maurice Casey’s ‘From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God’), in 1Cor.11:30 Paul states the primitive view that the gods punished people’s sins with illness, disaster, or other misfortune. That has been one of the most damaging of all myths ever created by punishment-oriented minds. It adds unnecessary psychic suffering to already unbearable physical suffering. Remember the Japanese woman anxiously asking after the tsunami, ‘Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?’ Casey’s words, ‘He (Paul) attributes sickness and death in the Corinthian community to their misbehaviour at this meal… This makes the most of the common view that sickness and death were due to sin’”.

“Jesus rejected eye for eye justice (the punishment of sin), and stated that God did not engage such payback justice. But Paul, in Romans 1-5 (his formal statement of basic Christian belief), carefully re-established eye for eye justice at the heart of his God and his Christian religion. He made a great blood atonement (punishment of sin, payment) the very foundation of Christian belief. Christianity became all about eye for eye punishment and payback. Paul rejected Jesus’ non-punishment ethic and theology for a return to primitive punishment, or eye for eye justice.”

“The historical roots of apocalyptic mythology may be far back in prehistory. John Pfeiffer (Explosion: an inquiry into the origins of art and religion) notes that ancient people may have already held a myth of an original golden age. This is the foundational myth of the apocalyptic template of ideas. One can imagine that the end of a warmer inter-glacial period (“golden age”), perhaps even the previous one over 100,000 years ago, and the subsequent descent into an ice age, may have seemed apocalyptic to ancient minds. There were also great flood events in the prehistory past (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis ) that could have sparked the apocalyptic understanding”.

“Again, note Jesus’ statement. ‘Do not retaliate, do not take revenge, do not get even, or punish’ (no more “eye for eye” response). He does not say, ‘Do not defend yourself or others against violence and evil’. This is a legitimate distinction. Jesus’ core message does not affirm dogmatic pacifism”.

“Unconditional Love is the great truth behind all things…I was going to add, that when we replace all that dark mythology (angry, punishing gods) in our minds with this greatest of all discoveries ever- that unconditional love is at the core of all reality- then that love radiates out to change everything. Everything. Whether in life or death. Let unconditional permeate everything, let it be the baseline by which to evaluate everything, to change everything. Just as some are using it, even though not fully aware they are doing so (e.g. those trying to change justice systems from retributive to more rehabilitative, arguing that God is non-retributive, non-punishing). That is just one area. So yes, unconditional changes everything. It liberates as nothing else can. History’s greatest liberation movement is contained in this term. Unconditional love is at the core of all reality and life”.

“Bob Brinsmead made some comment on how unconditional love has emerged and developed in humanity. He noted that a stranger recently risked his life to save a shark attack victim in Australia, without first enquiring if the victim was a good or bad person. So with the young Boston bomber- the medical staff worked to save his life, not withholding care because of what he had done. So with prisoners and enemies in war, Bob notes that we are ethically and morally bound to act with love toward our worst and most dangerous foes. This, he says, does not mean leaving them free to endanger others. Bob says, ‘Yes, they may have to be restrained, incarcerated, but the aim of this in the best justice systems is called ‘correctional services’ or ‘rehabilitation’. The aim is to rehabilitate and restore the offender to be a good member of the human family, even if the prospects of rehabilitation are not promising. Love will always persevere. The best justice systems are dedicated to save lives rather than to destroy them- unconditionally’. Bob adds, ‘Mandela said that hating your enemy was like drinking poison to hurt your enemy. It diminished one’s own humanity’”…

(Cont.) “My added comments on Bob’s point: Yes, humanity gets unconditional treatment of others and actually practices it in all sorts of common situations as you outlined (e.g. loving family members unconditionally). People have been getting unconditional treatment of others for millennia now. This is nothing new. Check out Wikipedia for the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son. About 2200 BCE. He got it way back then (the ethical, but not the theological part). And so did Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and so many others long before Jesus came along. People, using their own sense of what it meant to be authentically human, started to forgive unconditionally, they chose to not retaliate in kind (eye for eye response), they chose to not engage endless cycles of violence, and so much more. They were wrestling with unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity…”

(Cont.) “…And then along came historical Jesus and he finished the breakthrough on this. He based human ethics on the divine ideal. Do this- treat others unconditionally- because this is just what God is like, what God does. He also loves enemies, includes them as family, and showers the same goodness and generosity on all alike, both so-called just, and so-called unjust. So we have this complete breakthrough today, and what a shame that Paul missed this great breakthrough of all breakthroughs”.

“Paul also missed how Jesus reasoned from the best of the human spirit to the divine as infinitely better. Jesus said that if you imperfect people know how to be good, then how much more is God good, the ultimate goodness. So we see this unconditional love developing in humanity and naturally reason that God is like this also, only infinitely more so. ‘How much more is God good’. We start with the authentically humane in humanity and reason from that to deity. But we understand that deity is transcendently better. My paraphrase of Schillebeekx- ‘God is infinitely more humane than any human’”.

“There is an important linkage to note here. People have always tried to model their lives after greater ideals and authorities. Anthropologists like Clifford Geertz have done work on this- that people try to replicate in their societies and lives what they believe is the divine pattern. This is a natural part of the human impulse for meaning and purpose. We sense that we belong to something greater and we naturally want to be in harmony with that greater reality. If such a greater reality exists then surely it is only common sense to try to fulfill the reason that greater reality created us to fulfill. But the problem arises when people project inhumane features onto the greater ideals and authorities (i.e. the gods). Those nasty features then validate the worst drives in people as they try to model their lives according to such things.”

“Nonviolence, non-retaliation, and non-punishing are all the negative elements of unconditional. On the positive side we have unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity toward all persons, even enemies. Unconditional is the broad term that covers all these elements- both negative and positive- most comprehensively and thoroughly”.

“The conditional nature of Christianity is also evident in the Christian demand that people must believe the violent Christian atonement myth, or be damned. Again, conditions, conditions, and more conditions”.

“Someone responded to the claim that unconditional love was at the core of all, by noting that nature is full of cause and effect. This is natural law. Of course. Jump off a cliff and gravity will pull you down and hurt you when you meet the ground below. But my response was that you cannot then read some divine intention into such things. You certainly cannot read such cause and effect law as being about some sort of divine punishment. That is to repeat the error of the ancients, that anything bad that happens (i.e. the harmful outcomes of natural law at work- storm, flood, disease, and so on) is because the gods are punishing people. There are natural consequences but there is no divine intention behind those natural consequences (to punish or to teach lessons)”.

“As Bob Brinsmead and myself regularly note, we view the historical Jesus as valuable for his great breakthrough insights, but not as some final or higher authority on the issue of unconditional. We, with our own authority today- our human consciousness- are responsible to make our own conclusions about unconditional reality and existence. We are grateful for the discoveries of the past, but we move on from that, free to make our own conclusions about this wonder. And there will never be any final consensus on historical Jesus, as any peek at ongoing research shows…”

“…Also, there is still too much Biblicism scattered among historical Jesus research. Too much sense of obligation to scripture as some divinely inspired authority. One also senses too much respect for Jesus and his words as some similarly divinely inspired authority. We gratefully recognize where he got this humane reality of unconditional right- good for him. But we move on to make our own conclusions about what it all means and how to apply it to our situations. Also, some of the argument in historical Jesus research reminds one of the old theologians arguing about how many angels could balance on the head of a pin. While I value historical Jesus research, I see it as only one element among others for understanding reality and life”.

“As we get caught up in the latest battle in the endless back and forth of historical offense and retaliation response (i.e. the fight against ISIS, a necessary fight), we need to ask if we are actually winning the greater war. The fight is not just against our physical “enemies” but it is more about all of us overcoming those core themes at the root of violence. I refer to those mythical and religious themes that are sometimes more basic to violence than many other things (i.e. violent gods in sacred books that affirm violence). This is a prominent issue to solving violence over the long term. We now have the answer to this issue in the human discovery of unconditional reality. And the long term solution has everything to do with our learning to think and feel unconditionally toward our so-called enemies”.

“The impulses to violence already exist in us and we need to be careful with the ideas/ideals we hold that validate our feelings and actions, for better or for worse. Inhuman ideas/ideals will validate our worst impulses. And to the contrary, humane ideas/ideals will inspire our better impulses. We know better today what is inhuman or human, and its time to fully humanize all of our ideas, ideals, authorities, or sources of inspiration. This is the great trajectory of human history, to humanize all things. This is the reason we exist. It is a tragedy, then, to just wander through life, sure, adding some good ideas/ideals along the way, but not properly cleaning out the old, the inhumane. We are responsible to clean up our own heads thoroughly. This is how we get to, and correct, the root causes of violence and evil in life. The real war with inhumanity is in our own heads”.

“I would argue that we need to replace everything at the core of our consciousness with authentic unconditional reality. This reality needs to be consciously installed as the new defining core of all our ideas, beliefs, ideals, perceptions, or assumptions. And tightly related to this formal installation, we need to intentionally eliminate anything (ideas, beliefs, ideals) that is less than unconditional love; anything that is other than authentic unconditional love. This profoundly humane reality must reshape the very core of our personal worldview, our way of understanding and explaining all things. It must replace everything that is less than, or other than unconditional love; everything that is contradictory to unconditional love.”

“If unconditional love of a quality that is infinitely better than the best that can be expressed, if this is the great truth behind all reality and life, then anything less, or anything contrary to such love, is not authentically human or humane. It is not ultimately true or real. Such can then be rejected as ultimately untrue, unreal, or false. Unconditional is the new baseline to evaluate the authentic, the true, and ultimately real”.

“This is an argument to thoroughly humanize the very foundations of human consciousness or subconscious. And then watch how this wonder of unconditional liberates and radiates out to change everything in life for the better. This is the most profound liberation ever.”

Using a few strands from Joseph Campbell’s story framework and my own paraphrasing- this site is tackling the greatest monster ever in the history of human perception/thought. Slaying this monster of punitive deity is our greatest battle (a battle in the mind and heart), and it results in the greatest liberation of human consciousness ever, the greatest advance in human perception/thought. Are these repeated claims of “greatest” too extravagant? See for yourself.

A Thought Breakthrough

There is a theological breakthrough (better- a human thought breakthrough) presented here that you will find in few other places. It is not presented clearly even in Jesus Seminar research, and rare anywhere else in research on Christian theology or history, or in religious research in general. I have since found it clearly stated only in the writing of people like Simon Joseph (The Nonviolent Messiah). It has to do with the central theme of the historical Jesus and the debate over whether he was an apocalyptic messenger or not. And let me be especially clear that I am referring to the historical Jesus as someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus, entirely opposite to Paul’s Christ myth.

My argument is based on the core theme of the historical Jesus that is found in Matthew 5:38-48.This is his statement of a non-retaliatory ethic based on a non-retaliatory theology (Note: non-retaliation is the negative side of the positive response of unconditional love). Jesus’ central ethical/theological breakthrough is the most striking breakthrough insight in the history of human thought. It is the most advanced and potent statement of ethics and theology anywhere in human literature. It takes the understanding of authentic humanity to new heights. It takes human understanding of ultimate reality into the realm of the truly transcendent. And it is a consistent theme (“thematic coherence”) throughout Jesus’ teaching (see Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition further below). It is also a scandalous threat to the very foundations of Christianity and all religion as atonement or Salvationism. Unconditional means absolutely no conditions. None. (Note: Unconditional as taught by Jesus is quite entirely different from the oxymoronic Christian use of unconditional to describe the highly conditional Christian religion with its demand for full payment or punishment of sin before offering forgiveness)

Jesus stated emphatically that we should not engage in eye for eye treatment of others. We should not respond with payback, take revenge, or punish others because God does not engage payback, take revenge, or punish others. Instead, we should unconditionally love offenders/enemies because this is what God does. God does not retaliate or punish anyone, but loves all equally, both good and bad. God is merciful, compassionate, and generous toward all alike, both just and unjust. Matthew 5 is very clear on this. This is a stunning new view of deity- a theological breakthrough- that is unique in the history of mythology, theology, and religious thought. There is no more liberating and elevating insight than this in the history and realm of human understanding. This is supreme liberation from threat, guilt, shame, fear, depression, and despair at the deepest levels of human consciousness.

(Note: Again, to respond to those who will immediately claim that such unconditional treatment of all is a weak response to evil, I would point out- and do so repeatedly- that, to the contrary, it is the most potent response to evil ever discovered. Look carefully at Nelson Mandela’s use of unconditional to defuse potential violence in South Africa and around the same time, the devastation in Bosnia and Rwanda where unconditional was abandoned. Further, unconditional does not equate with dogmatic pacifism. Love is always responsible to restrain evil and protect the innocent. It is responsible to argue for accountability. See detailed comment further below on this page)

Now the main point in Jesus’ Matthew 5 unconditional statement, especially as it relates to apocalyptic mythology or religion, is plain and simple. If Jesus believed that God did not retaliate but forgave all unconditionally, then he could not have been an apocalyptic messenger or prophet. Apocalyptic is a grand divine act of retaliation against human sin. It is the ultimate act of divine vengeance or punishment. Paul- intensely oriented to apocalyptic thought- is clear on this in his varied statements that God will repay (retaliate), take vengeance, and finally punish and destroy all those who do not obey his gospel. But Paul was entirely wrong about God because Jesus had stated the exact opposite- that we should not retaliate because God does not retaliate. A God that does not retaliate cannot therefore engage in the grand retaliation of apocalypse. And therefore, Jesus was not an apocalyptic messenger. Because God was not a retaliatory or apocalyptic God. Can it be more clear?

(Note: You can state this in exactly the same way with reference to nonviolence. Nonviolence is also a clear theme in Jesus’ teaching. Apocalyptic, to the contrary, is an act of divine violence)

Jesus’ core theme of non-retaliation then overturns the foundations of most religious thought because apocalyptic mythology is the larger framework of atonement and salvation mythology. So this is much more than just correcting the error of apocalyptic mythology.

Jesus’ statement on non-retaliation in God (i.e. non-punishing deity) goes right to the foundational error of all primitive thought. His statement is the most potent response ever to the worst error of the ancients- their belief that the gods were retaliatory and punishing spirits. That error had formed the foundation of all subsequent religion as appeasement, atonement, and salvation. That error has shaped much human perception for the worse ever since. It has had profoundly damaging impacts on human behavior and society for millennia (remember- theology determines ethics).

To place this in its full historical context, here, once again, is a brief history of punishment thinking: As noted repeatedly on this site, it begins with the early error that there were punishing spirits behind life, manifest in disease, disaster, and accident. This theme of punishing spirits/gods is already present in the earliest writing (i.e. Sumerian mythology). The belief in retaliatory spirits was followed by the belief that the punitive gods would cause a great final punishment- the apocalypse (originally by flood, later apocalypse by fire in Zoroaster). This threat, and the guilt and fear that it roused, sparked the survival/appeasement response in humanity- that people must offer some sacrifice to placate the angry gods. Punishment in deity then shaped the formation of religion as Salvationism (sacrifice, atonement, payback justice). Later features like holiness (Old Testament) were projected onto deity to re-enforce the demand to punish human failure and imperfection. Christianity added the further development of punishing an innocent victim, a god-man sent from heaven, which Stephen Mitchell has called “ghastly paganism”. Punishment is the driving idea behind all this development of myth and religion over history. And punishment continues into varied secularized versions in the modern era (i.e. revenge of Gaia, angry planet/nature mythology).

Jesus’ breakthrough insight on ethics and theology blows punishment mythology and religion apart entirely. His discovery that God does not retaliate or punish, overturns the entire history of human ethics and theology like nothing ever stated before. It spells the end of not just Christianity but all religion that is oriented to punishment or atonement theology.

Here again to emphasize and clarify: God does not retaliate or punish anyone. Therefore, God will not retaliate with an apocalypse. Apocalypse is an act of grand final retaliation or punishment. Jesus taught non-retaliation and therefore Jesus could not be apocalyptic.

And if there is no retaliatory punishment in God then there is no demand for any atonement (the demand for punishment of sin in a sacrifice, a payment for sin). And if there is no punishment in God, then there is no condemnation/judgment looming and no need for any salvation plan. You see how this Jesus discovery of unconditional love at the core of ultimate reality blows away the very foundational themes of most historical religion.

And you can now see how contrary Pauline or Christian belief is to the theology of Jesus. In Christian atonement God demands infinitely more than just another blood sacrifice as payment/punishment for human sin. The Christian God demands the sacrifice of a god-man, an infinitely valuable sacrifice to pay for infinite offense against infinite holiness. This is the highest condition ever conceived. It is conditional atonement religion taken to an ultimate extreme. Supremely conditional and atonement Christianity is the greatest attack ever on the unconditional discovery of Jesus.

The discovery of Jesus that God is non-retaliatory or unconditional love is then a threat to the entire history of mythology, theology, and religion itself. It blows away the very foundations of all atonement and apocalyptic thinking completely.

Get a grip on that core unconditional theme of Jesus (again, unconditional is the positive side of non-retaliation or non-punishing). And get a clear grasp that the unconditional love that is God is of a quality infinitely beyond the best that can be imagined or expressed. Understand that this unconditional love is at the core of reality and life. It is the only authentically humane foundation for theology and ethics. It is the new baseline for evaluating everything in life. And it is a profound scandal to all previous mythology, theology, and religious thinking in general, most of which has been oriented to conditional or payback thinking.

To get some sense of the profound importance of Jesus’ breakthrough on non-punishing deity, consider how punishment thinking has affected people over history. It has shaped their mythologies and religions, their social institutions, their mood and motivations, their response and behavior toward one another, their law and justice systems, and political policy and response. The belief in punishing deity has been at the foundation of much of this and more (note the Mennonite comment on this, as well as the comment by Tabor and others).

Then consider carefully the implications that flow out or reverberate from this profound discovery of unconditional at the core of all. Most significantly, as noted above, it powerfully counters the worst error of ancient minds, the error that became the foundation of the entire history of religion and much of human perception and behavior- that the forces or spirits behind life were punishing.

In the above comparisons we are noting history’s worst enslavement and history’s potentially greatest liberation movement (that of mind, consciousness, emotions, and spirit). Ahh, I tend to get extravagant in my expression of this, but the reality that I am pointing toward is far more extravagant and scandalous than anyone can express.

Paul’s myth of a punishing Christ and his Christian religion, in particular, have been the most influential set of myths ever created to promote conditional reality and existence, conditions oriented to punishment. They have shaped the consciousness of the Western world, and through the West to the entire world. Again, as James Tabor, Stephen Mitchell, Hyam Maccoby, and others have stated, Paul has been the most influential person in all history. He has shaped how we think, how we act and treat one another, and how we have shaped our societies (i.e. our justice systems as punitive or payback justice).

And Paul, with his Christ myth, has been singularly responsible for burying the unconditional discovery of historical Jesus. Paul created the great anti-Jesus myth of Christ, and its supporting framework- the Christian religion. Paul’s Christ and his Christian religion have been the most potent force ever to bury the core unconditional theme of Jesus.

Admittedly, Paul got the non-retaliatory ethic of Jesus right (Romans 12) but he rejected Jesus’ theological basis for his new non-retaliatory ethic. Paul did not understand that theology determines ethics. Ultimate ideals and authorities override human ethical standards. Hence, Christians in following generations have too often treated others brutally with punishing vengeance. This has a lot to do with the fact that they have adopted the punishing and vengeful theology of Paul- a God who takes vengeance, who repays with punishing violence and destruction (see Revelation for more gruesome detail on the historical culmination of the Christian ideal of punishment. Note also in other religious traditions how belief in a vengeful, punishing God fuels the human drive to punish and destroy others. We see this daily on our TV screens.).

So get a sense of the wonder of the Jesus discovery of unconditional reality. It is a scandal to most conventional thinking. It is a discovery to blow away the foundations of much human perception, thought, and action. It overturns the Christ myth of Paul and his religion entirely. It takes human consciousness in an entirely new and liberating direction.

And join the ongoing discussion regarding the application of this unconditional ideal to the messy reality of imperfect human existence. Note the innovative endeavors to change our justice systems away from a punitive orientation toward a more restorative emphasis. Note also the research in psychology on the failure of punitive approaches to reform offenders and the harm these punitive approaches cause to children. Unconditional treatment of all people provides the most potent means of confronting and defeating evil, and fostering peace and order, trade and commerce, and a more humane civilization.

Grand Narrative Core Themes

This page repeatedly and thoroughly explores the themes of a new grand narrative of life. Why? To get to the root of what went wrong in the past and to robustly correct that with an authentically human alternative.

I have summarized here the core themes of the old narrative/story of life, rightly called a narrative of despair. It is also a grand fraud and a lie. Overwhelming evidence points to an entirely opposite story of life, a narrative that is repeatedly summarized throughout this site, and is emphatically a narrative of hope.

Here’s an added challenge in regard to this grand narrative exploration- take a good look at your own beliefs, assumptions, and overall worldview (and the worldviews of people you know) to see if any of the old story themes are still lodged in the core of your/their thinking or outlook. You will be surprised to discover how many people, often considering themselves to be modern secularists, still hold to some of the most primitive themes of the old mythical understanding of life.

Just below is a summary list of the more dominant themes of the mythical/religious narratives that have shaped human worldviews and consciousness over history. These themes often reside in the background (human subconscious) but still powerfully shape how people view life and respond to life. They continue to stick around because, when people shift positions on various views they hold, they don’t thoroughly re-evaluate the basic themes at the foundation of their worldviews, often just assuming some things are undoubtedly true and beyond question.

Over more recent history, notably the last few centuries of the scientific movement, these mythical themes have undergone a secularizing process. They have been reformulated in new secular versions but the newer versions are still strikingly similar to the older versions. Thus, these ideas continue to linger in human worldviews and belief systems, both religious and now secular. They continue to darken and enslave minds with unnecessary fear and anxiety.

Here is an oversimplified summary to clarify some of the dominant old story themes.

1. The past was better. There was an original paradise.
2. Corrupted humans have ruined life and it now declines toward something worse. Both humanity and life are in decline toward something worse (this is found in both Western and Eastern traditions- e.g. Buddhism- decreasing life-span, Hinduism- decline toward catastrophe).
3. The divine has separated from humanity and threatens to punish humanity. No single theme in all the history of thought has been more destructive than this myth of threatening, punishing forces/spirits behind life.
4. Some apocalyptic catastrophe will end civilization and life. Life is fragile, stingy, and ready to collapse.
5. A sacrifice is required to appease the punitive forces/spirits that are threatening to punish humanity and end life. In secular versions the sacrifice is to placate the threatened revenge of GAIA or angry planet.
6. Atonement logic (full punishment of all wrong) shapes human justice systems and much of overall human existence.
7. Lost paradise will be restored in a utopian future for the enlightened or elect few.

These ideas have been beaten into human consciousness for multiple millennia. They are some of the most frightening and traumatizing ideas ever conceived by human minds. Ideas that have been imprinted deeply in our subconscious, in our outlook and worldviews. Hence, even when appearing to radically change worldviews, people simply reformulate these primitive ideas in modernized versions. They are ideas that endlessly stir fear, and fear is often behind anger and violence in life.

Note, in particular, the belief in punishing forces/spirits behind life, spirits that threaten to retaliate and destroy people with great disasters. This has been so incessantly beaten into public consciousness over past millennia that it is now almost hardwired in human subconscious. Therefore, even after leaving their religions to adopt newer more scientific viewpoints, it appears that many people still cannot let go of the belief in some threatening force or spirit. This belief in a punishing force then keeps erupting even in what are widely considered to be secular systems of thought. Because this idea of ultimate threat has not been properly re-evaluated and rooted out, people automatically respond to new expressions of threat (i.e. revenge of GAIA or angry planet) without even questioning the validity or reality of what they are frightened by. They continue to assume that some great threat must exist and they then instinctively support the proffered salvation schemes of those who have alarmed them with such threats (i.e. the anti-development schemes of environmental alarmists).

The best of human insight and evidence now points to an entirely new grand story of life- a narrative of valid hope. The core themes are quite entirely opposite to the old narrative themes. Again, this is a simplified summary to focus on some of the more prominent themes. These ideas are about enlightening and liberating consciousness- about getting us to a more humane future.

1. Life began imperfectly. There was no better past or original paradise.
2. Ever-improving humanity has become an increasingly creative force that makes life something ever better than before. There was no human “Fall” into corruption/sin but, rather, over our history we have endlessly risen toward something ever better, toward something more humane. Life itself continues to rise and progress toward something ever better.
3. The divine has never separated from humanity but has incarnated in all humanity as human consciousness. We are inseparable from the Unconditional Love that is our Source and Life.
4. There is no end to life but rather life rises toward an open and unlimited future. Life is resilient, durable, and infinitely generous. This counters the dominant alarmist theme of limits in nature.
5. There are no punitive forces/spirits behind life that need to be appeased. To the contrary, ultimate reality is best understood as unconditional love. Consequently, no sacrifice or salvation is required. There are absolutely no conditions to be met- none. “Salvation” is to be found in creative and improving humanity solving all problems that arise and making life ever better.
6. The great impulse behind life and the overall trajectory of life is to humanize all things, to make more humane. This gives profound meaning and purpose to all things.
7. Based on the nature of ultimate reality as unconditional love, authentic human relating and existence should be oriented to unconditional treatment of all.

To robustly respond, for instance, to the myth of threatening, punishing forces/spirits, try to get a hold of what unconditional means in the new story and then imagine how this unconditional love will liberate human consciousness from all elements of the old mythology. Unconditional blows apart entirely those primitive beliefs in some punishing force or God. It undermines entirely a variety of related themes of the old narrative (i.e. required atonement). Once again, unconditional means absolutely no conditions or requirements. None.

(Note: If this sounds utopian or impractical see comments below on “Unconditional is Impractical?” Unconditional treatment of people has long been at the root of most things that we value in civilization, such as peace and order, trade and commerce, and civilization in general.)

Speaking directly to the religious or mythical mind- unconditional treatment of all means that there is no judgment to fear, no required appeasement scheme to engage, and no hell beneath us. Unconditional proclaims that there is the fullest acceptance for everyone and no separation from our creating Source, however you perceive that.

All salvation religion has been based on this error that some cosmic separation occurred between God and humanity. In secular/environmental versions it is the separation of humanity from “sacred nature”, now rendering both to a state of opposition or enmity. Unconditional renders that myth of separateness to be nonsense. Therefore, because there has never been any separation, there is no need for any salvation, or sacrifice to “pay for sin”, and there is no need to restore some mythically-imagined broken or severed relationship. There is no requirement to appease some upset force or deity. All are safe and secure in the ultimate sense. This goes to the root of human anxiety, depression, and fear (existential fear, subconscious fear).

Stated positively- All are fully included, and all receive the fullest love and generosity from the Universe.

So unconditional gets to the most deeply rooted beliefs in human subconscious- and it challenges all that residual primitivism of despair. It then enlightens, liberates and humanizes our core thinking more than anything else that we have ever discovered in history. Unconditional is indeed our greatest insight ever. It potently counters all the old darkening mythology that has terrorized humanity for millennia.

Watch this unconditional reality cleanse and liberate human consciousness like nothing ever before and liberate the human spirit to new creative heights. It frees us from the basest drives to hate, to take revenge, to hurt others, and to destroy differing others. It inspires toward authentic humanity and authentic human existence like nothing else can.

Other comment

I recently spent time at Facebook doing a series of comments on the religious roots of violence (how theology determines ethics). That is available at Wendell Krossa on a Facebook public timeline. The comment reads from the bottom to the latest at the top. The basic point being made- Christianity brought violent apocalyptic mythology into Western consciousness and society. And that mythology is still a significant root cause of violence in our modern world. The important relationship to note in that comment- what we hold as our ultimate ideals and authorities will shape how we behave, how we treat others. Watch ISIS today for graphic evidence of this. Again, Theology (how we view ultimate reality, i.e. gods) determines ethics (how we behave). Violence in deity has long promoted violence in humanity. This is fundamental to understanding the root causes of violence and to finding effective long term solutions. As a Boko Haram leader said to his child soldiers, “We must give God bodies, we must make God happy”. Trace out this relationship over history and you will understand one of the prominent causes of violence over history. Check out this site for an effective way to counter this pathology.

We are watching Islam suffer today from extremist violence. And while we are repulsed by what we see, we also need to remember the very similar history of extremist violence in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Past Christian brutality (burning heretics in slow green-wood fires, John Calvin) makes ISIS seem tame and merciful in comparison. As a sage said long ago, take out the beam from your own eye first before you worry about the speck in someone else’s eye. Check again the early Christian battles over correct Christian belief, the orgies of violence spawned by the Councils, the Crusades, the pogroms against Jews, the Inquisition, and more. All three Western religions share the same heritage, known as apocalyptic mythology, with its core theme of divine violence against humanity. Apocalyptic myth is about a great act of divine punishment and destruction. And the related divine requirement to oppose and destroy one’s enemies (Zoroastrian dualism). This is all about the human veneration of violence in deity and how this impacts human feeling and action.

Many do not want to admit the key role that religious belief has played in promoting violence among people. But it cannot be denied if we are going to find a long term solution to violence. History shouts at us to face this issue.

(Note in this regard the interplay between our inherited animal drives and the systems of ideas or beliefs that we create to validate our behavior. The ancients projected some of their worst inherited features onto early gods thereby creating nasty monsters. Those gods were then employed to validate nasty human behavior. And so it has been ever since.)

New comment: “Does religion cause depression?”- this comment notes the influence of pathological belief on human mood and the need to change ideas/thought at the deepest levels of consciousness in order to properly deal with depression (cognitive therapy- “the need to correct deeply held but false beliefs that contribute to depression”). Also, Google “religion causing depression” and note the new research on this issue.

Further, see “Discussion group comment” on recent outbursts of violence across the world and the need to deal with “us versus them” tribalism, primitive offense and retaliation response, and treating “enemies” with respect (e.g. MacArthur and the Japanese, Mandela in S. Africa). See also Bob Brinsmead’s good comment on the history of Christian violence (“It would be impossible to estimate the mental and psychological harm these ‘Christian’ beliefs have done to millions of people…the saving grace of the religion of Christ (Christianity) is that it claimed to be based on the teaching of Jesus and for this reason had to carry something of his teaching, although in a subordinate way…I tremble to think of what Christian civilization might have done without the leavening influence of the teaching of Jesus”).
This new comment is at the very bottom just above the “Joke Bin”.

Below the Joke Bin is more comment on “It all gets better, infinitely better”, “History’s greatest liberation movement”, “Celebrating more CO2″, “Christopher Hitchens on religion and violence”, “The human longing for perfection”, “Bob Brinsmead on imperfection in life, and the religious God that cannot tolerate imperfection”, along with a “Model of the relationship between religion and violence”.

Various commentators have noted that 9/11 has made us intensely aware of the relationship between vengeful, violent deity and violent, destructive human actions. This relationship goes far to explain the roots of much remaining inhumanity in our societies.

See comment below on “Solving the root causes of violence” (i.e. the critical link between belief and behavior, between theology and ethics). This is located just below “Eliminating Zoroastrian dualism”. And then note the repeated comment on “Paul’s stunning retreat” from the core insight of the historical Jesus. Jesus had made the unprecedented breakthrough that God was unconditional love- non-punishing, non-retaliating, non-apocalyptic. Paul founded Christianity on the entirely opposite view of God as vengeful, punishing, and ultimately destroying all things (apocalyptic). Understanding this profound contradiction, and its implications for human consciousness and society, is critical to solving the problem of violence. This gets to the very root of the problem.

Also, note “The most potent force against violence/evil” just below the “Wonder of being human: countering the religious devaluation of humanity- the human sinfulness myth and holiness mythology”.

Comment from discussion group re dualism (“us versus them” tribalism), opposition, defeating an enemy:

“Modern humane consciousness is endlessly perplexed by the insane opposition and violence between various groups in today’s world. One good place to start in order to properly understand this opposition and violence is with Zoroastrian dualism. Zoroaster taught that there was a good God and an evil force and they were engaged in a great cosmic battle where the Good would eventually defeat the Evil. Zoroaster stated the divine demand that people must choose a side, the good side or the good religion, and then view themselves as existing in opposition to those on the outside of their true religion…

“Zoroaster illustrates an important relationship- how mythical or religious ideas influence human behavior. In Zoroastrianism you have the requirement that people must replicate in their own lives the greater cosmic dualism and opposition toward an enemy. Humanity must follow the divine pattern or ideal. People have long believed that theology (greater reality and ideals) determines ethics (how we behave). There is a heavenly law, will, or ideal that people must obey or follow…

“(Dualism cont.) In Zoroastrian dualism people were obligated to choose something that would separate them from others who were different, and then oppose them. Zoroastrian dualism was all about the divine demand for true believers to oppose and defeat their “enemies”, to destroy their enemies. This dualist opposition had cosmic implications. There would be a final judgment, and then heaven or hell would be the outcome of people’s choice for separation and opposition. So be careful to choose the “right” side or religion, and then zealously oppose and defeat your “evil” enemies. Or else the good God would punish and destroy you…

“(Dualism cont.) And watch how this dualism and opposition then descended down through Jewish thought and into Christian belief (Paul). And then watch how it shaped modern thought across the world. It is very much a part of how we form our fundamental identity. I belong to this system and you, in opposition to me, belong to that system. In one sense this dualism and opposition can be understood as just ancient tribalism, animal-like bands opposing one another. My band against your band. But religion sacralised this dualism and opposition (remember Mary Boyce’s statement that Zoroastrianism has been the most influential religion in history, shaping Judaism, Christianity and Islam). And then this same religious thinking was secularized in the modern era. The basic themes are still there in secular systems of thought. I do not see that many have gotten past the dualism of Zoroaster, something that has profoundly shaped human outlook over the millennia. You can see this in Putin fighting the West, and in the Western response to such, and in other so-called secular movements where people separate from and oppose one another”…

“(Dualism cont.) Note that Jesus rejected the long history of Zoroastrian dualism with his statement- Love your enemies. Include them. View them as fellow members of the one human family”.

The Discovery

This page explores the most profoundly humanizing discovery in history- that the defining core of reality and life (i.e. Ultimate Reality) is Unconditional Love. What makes this discovery so profound is expressed in the adjective “unconditional”. This is not just about love as the historic human ideal that we are all familiar with. Unconditional points to something far more profound- a transcendent and scandalous love that demands no conditions before forgiving, including, or bestowing unlimited generosity. Absolutely none. Stay focused on this unconditional feature until you can feel the scandal and the wonder of it. It is the essence of authentic liberation, like nothing ever before in all history. The consequences of this discovery in terms of ethical, philosophical, theological, social, political, and other implications, are more than just life-changing. They are beyond astounding. Unconditional changes everything. It takes things nuclear.

Note: We discover unconditional as it emerges and develops in humanity and we then reason from humanity out to all else. The best of the human spirit points to the meaning of all else, including views of deity.

To set the proper context, and offer a clear contrast, I have detailed on this site how traditional religious themes have buried this grand discovery of unconditional. Religion emerged as a social institution oriented to conditions, basically, how to appease and please the gods. From the beginning religion has been about conditions, conditions, and more conditions. Religion has never communicated the true nature of unconditional reality, and by its very nature as a conditionally oriented institution it cannot communicate unconditional reality. And much worse- religious gods have long embodied the harshest features of primitive existence- such things as petty offense at human imperfection, violent revenge, tribalism/exclusion (true believers versus unbelievers, opposing dualism and opposition), and violent punishment, along with conditional atonement and salvation schemes. Deeply embedded within human consciousness, these religious features have shaped human worldviews for millennia and stirred endless fear, anxiety, depression, despair, and dread. They have long influenced human emotion, perspective, response, and behavior, toward violence and other forms of inhumanity.

Unconditional must now replace these destructive features at the core of human consciousness. Unconditional will liberate the human spirit entirely. Unconditional holds the potential to spark the greatest liberation movement ever. A liberation that begins in the depths of human consciousness and frees us to engage the authentically humane in every area of existence. Unconditional goes to the deepest root causes of inhumanity, those ideas or beliefs that have long validated inhuman feeling, response, and behavior. It then changes everything at that foundational level for the better. It replaces the old themes with an entirely new center, or foundation, a core ideal that inspires the best in the human spirit. It becomes the most potent reality ever to solve issues like violence, tribal mentality (us versus them) and exclusion, fear, offense and retaliation response, and anxiety (temporal and existential). Unconditional now frees us to become fully human. It revolutionizes and solves everything in life and death. And it answers all the great questions about the meaning and purpose of existence.

This is about exploring the root causes of what went wrong in ancient thought and discovering the most potent solution- the unconditional treatment of all.

The Futility of Reforming Religion

(Qualifying note: I applaud all moderating and universalizing endeavors within religion, any effort to make religion nice. My argument below is that too often the endeavor to reform religion does not properly deal with the root problem and fully resolve it. I am referring to the problem of nasty core beliefs that validate so much nasty religious behavior. Reformism often preserves the bad ideas which then continue to distort the better ideals in religious systems and short-circuit their beneficial impact.)

A lot of effort is expended today to restate Christianity in terms of more humane ideals. It is an endeavor to downplay the nasty stuff in the Bible and focus more on the nice stuff. You see this especially in the argument that Christianity is really all about the nonviolent teaching of Jesus. Therefore, say the reformers, Christians just need to focus more on the nice ideals taught by Jesus and make these ideals the defining core of Christianity. The reformers are trying to advance the perception that the teaching of Jesus is true Christianity. This promotes a confusing misunderstanding about authentic historical Christianity.

Yes, Jesus’ teaching is included in the Christian New Testament. But it does not constitute the foundational teaching of Christianity. The teaching of Paul is true foundational Christianity, not that of Jesus. And Paul’s core teaching is entirely opposite to that of Jesus. We are talking basic theology here, the way that Paul and Jesus viewed God, justice, and related ideas, the most basic of all religious beliefs. So the effort to reform Christianity is admirable but it does not properly expose and purge the nasty themes that distort the better ideals in the Christian religion. Reformism does not accomplish what needs to be done.

Much Christian reform effort is shaped by the sense of obligation to Biblicism, the belief that the material in the Bible is somehow inspired by God; that it is a revelation from God and therefore its contents must be honored and preserved. Biblicists believe that all the varied elements of scripture must be harmonized, or held in tension somehow, the nasty along with the nice. This erroneous belief in divinely inspired scripture undergirds much reformism and prevents reformers from engaging the radical purging of bad ideas that is required in order to fully humanize their religion.

The main defect in reform efforts is that the most basic Christian teaching- the core teaching- is entirely opposite to the unconditional message of Jesus. This is the great contradiction of Christianity. And be clear on this- the entirely opposite Christian teaching that I refer to, this teaching is foundational Christianity. The nasty stuff on divine retaliation, punishment, and destructive violence is not just later added material that distorts some other original nice foundation. No. The nasty stuff is the foundational material.

The Foundations Book (Supreme Condition versus Supremely Unconditional)

The book of Romans is Paul’s formal statement of the basic beliefs of Christianity. And to laser in a bit more, in Romans 1-5 he presents the absolutely most foundational ideas of the Christian religion. These are the core themes that he employs to create Christianity. And yes, Christianity is his baby (James Tabor, in Paul and Jesus, states that Christianity is Paul’s religion- “Christianity…is Paul and Paul is Christianity”).

Also, there is nothing in the early Romans chapters that can be explained away as metaphorical. The claim that some biblical themes are just metaphorical is another effort to try to alleviate the sting of harsh inhumanity expressed in basic Christian beliefs. But in Romans 1-5 Paul is speaking of real wrath, real blood atonement (the supreme condition), and real justice as punishment. And real destruction for those who do not believe his view of things. This Romans teaching is not just “unfortunate nasty aberrations to true Christianity”. It is not later historical distortion of some original better message, such as the teaching of Jesus. Romans is Paul’s formal statement of the foundational themes of his new religion. It is all about the crucified Christ that Paul stated was the only thing that he would know and preach.

So let’s not continue the delusion that Christianity is something other than the message of Paul, or that it can become something other than what Paul originally created it to mean. That is to promote ongoing confusion.

Paul’s larger context in Romans 1-5 is that of an angry God zealous to punish and destroy sinners. Paul repeatedly states, beginning in chapter 1, that God is enraged with imperfect people (i.e. his repeated use of “the wrath of God”). The demanded solution to appease the wrathful God? There must be a blood sacrifice or atonement as the payment for human sin. The violent murder of an innocent victim as the way of salvation. This supreme condition must be met in order for people to be saved from the wrath and destruction of God. And there is the added condition that people had better believe this eye for eye justice (they must have faith in this gospel of Paul) or they will most certainly be destroyed by God.

Here are Paul’s words- “God will give to each person according to what he has done…to those who persist in doing good…. He will give eternal life… to those who reject the truth (i.e. reject Paul’s views, his gospel, his Christ myth)… there will be wrath and anger…” (Romans 2:6). This is a clear statement that God engages a harsh form of eye for eye justice, rewarding the good and punishing the bad. But even worse, in the next chapter (ch.3) Paul says that all have sinned and therefore all deserve God’s wrath. All are in the bad people category subject to God’s eye for eye, or punishing justice.

This is not Anselm or other later theologians distorting Christian atonement, making it something nastier than Paul intended it to be. No. This is Paul stating the most basic of Christian beliefs, the foundational themes of Christianity and they are already as nasty as they can be.

Paul then says that God had waited to punish people’s sins until he could do so fully in Jesus’ death. He was then able to vent his eye for eye, or payback justice, on Jesus (ch.5), “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement…to demonstrate his justice…to fully punish the previously unpunished sins (my paraphrase of the subsequent verses)”. The Christian atonement is God violently punishing an innocent victim.

Nothing here in Paul’s statement of basic Christian atonement belief remotely expresses anything of the unconditional forgiveness and unconditional inclusion that was taught by Jesus. Jesus’ core theme of unconditional treatment of all people is entirely opposite to the central theme of Christianity, a theme that argues for the fulfillment of the supreme condition of atonement (i.e. Christ dying to pay for sin before God can forgive).

Note carefully the stunning contrast between the unconditional teaching of Jesus and the conditional teaching of Paul. Note in Matthew 5:38-48 that Jesus firmly rejected eye for eye justice- the demand for payment of sin, for punishment of sin, or the demand for revenge. He urged, to the contrary, that we should just freely forgive and love offenders (“love your enemies”). And he based this ethic on a new theology, a stunning new view of God. Do this, he said, because this is what God does. God does not retaliate against offenders but is generous to all, both good and bad. This is an entirely new unconditional theology. Jesus was stating that God does not demand payment, punishment, or blood atonement. God just freely forgives and includes all in the same generous manner. This new unconditional reality was also illustrated by Jesus in his parables and his personal treatment of others. It is a consistent theme throughout his teaching and behavior (see “Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition”, near the middle of the page).

To the contrary, Christian atonement, as presented in Romans, is a clear statement of highly conditional eye for eye justice (the full payment or punishment of sin, vengeance against offenders). But, as I noted above, this eye for eye justice is exactly what Jesus clearly rejected in his most basic statement of ethics and theology. The contradiction between Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s Christianity is so profound (two entirely opposed beliefs) that the two positions cannot co-exist, or be merged, in any manner. The teaching of Jesus cannot therefore be used to reform or explain basic Christianity. The outcome of such merging attempts is to confuse, weaken, and distort the core unconditional theme of Jesus. This is, for example, what the Mennonites do with their “nonviolent atonement” (see further below on this page).

Once again, Paul is setting forth in Romans 1-5 the most foundational themes of Christian belief. That is the most basic statement of Christianity. And it simply has nothing to do with Jesus’ core message that God was unconditional love and treated all people unconditionally. Paul’s teaching- his theology- is entirely opposite to the theology of Jesus. Unconditional, as taught by Jesus, means that there is no angry, punishing God. It means there is no demand for a blood payment or atonement. For Christianity to embrace the unconditional message of Jesus would entail the complete denial of its foundational and highly conditional beliefs as set forth in Romans 1-5.

Christianity has never been fundamentally about Jesus’ teaching, even though that teaching is included in the New Testament. It has been noted by researchers that Paul almost entirely ignored what Jesus said, and instead focused on creating his myth of Christ to explain that Jesus was a god-man sent from heaven as a sacrifice to pay for humanity’s sin, to appease God’s wrath. He ignored the actual “message of the man” and created his own “message about the man”. And Paul’s message was about a supreme condition to be fulfilled before forgiveness could be offered to people, and forgiveness only to those who would believe his sacrificial Christ myth. The justice of God, according to Paul, is highly conditional- reward the good, punish the bad. This is entirely contrary to Jesus’ teaching that God is unconditional love and forgives without demanding that any conditions be met first.

So there is endless confusion caused by the Christian reform efforts to portray Jesus’ teaching as real Christianity. And this distorting claim continues to dominate much Christian reform effort. Reformists argue that we just need to clear away the nasty stuff on punishing wrath and violent blood atonement and focus on the nice stuff in Jesus and then you will get authentic, original Christianity. Not true. Paul’s Christ myth with its angry deity, demand for violent atonement as payment/punishment, and threat of ultimate destruction for unbelievers, this is real original and fundamental Christianity. Paul completely ignored Jesus’ message of no conditions required and, to the contrary, created a supreme condition of a great sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. A supreme condition that had to be fulfilled before forgiveness could be made available. This is Christianity in its most basic form. And it has nothing in common with the unconditional message of Jesus.

Paul is like people in other traditions who pick up on great human ideals such as love, freedom, mercy, and grace, but then merge these humane ideals with the most barbaric expressions of inhumanity such as retaliation, punishment, and destruction. Themes that distort, cancel, and bury the better ideals. Paul tries to explain the nicer ideals in terms of the more brutal ones (i.e. Jesus’ violent death as an expression of divine love or grace) but this just does not work. It does not get anywhere near real unconditional as taught by Jesus. It misses entirely the scandal and wonder of Jesus’ great breakthrough that God was unconditional love.

So you cannot refocus Christianity on the nice bits found in Jesus and still be truly Christian. If you try to “reframe” Christianity in terms of Jesus’ unconditional teaching then you have to reject the core teaching of Christianity regarding necessary atonement (i.e. that Jesus died to pay for our sins and save us from Hell). Otherwise, you are talking oxymoronic nonsense.

It is ultimately a waste of effort to try to mix and merge, or harmonize, the two contradicting gospels of Jesus and Paul. They present two entirely opposite theologies. Again, to get this clear, to see how opposite Paul’s Christianity is to Jesus’ gospel, compare more specifically the theology of Jesus in Matt.5:38-48 with the theology of Paul in Romans 1-5, and 12 (I have done this throughout this site). Keep in mind, especially, the sharply contrasting theological statements of Jesus and Paul. Once again, in Matthew 5 Jesus says, “Do not retaliate, do not engage eye for eye (payback, punishment), but, instead, love your enemies because God does not retaliate or punish but loves both good and bad people the same”. He treats everyone the same, with unconditional generosity (sun and rain given to all alike- no discrimination between good and bad, no judgment of anyone, no condemnation, no punishment, no withholding of unlimited generosity from anyone). But in Romans 1-5, and ch.12, Paul says, “God will retaliate and punish the bad people”. His theology is entirely contrary to the theology of Jesus. Paul’s God is all about wrath at human imperfection and the demand for punishment and atonement.

The best way to understand the teaching of Jesus and its relationship to Christianity is by way of Thomas Jefferson’s comment that Jesus’ teaching is like “diamonds buried in a dunghill”. The logical conclusion, then, is that you value and salvage the diamonds, not the dunghill. It is more helpful to just get rid of the nasty stuff altogether. Throw the rest away. Recognize the diamonds, clean them off fully and properly, and do not try to preserve the dung that they have been buried in. And be very clear on the difference between the two.

Using another metaphor, reform efforts only result in muddying the water and this prevents people from clearly seeing the scandalous wonder of unconditional that Jesus taught. You cannot see Jesus clearly if you try to read him through Paul’s atonement and salvation categories. It only confuses things when reformers make the claim that the highly conditional atonement theology of Christianity can be used to express the unconditional theology of Jesus.

The Mennonites (posted below on this page) try this reforming approach and fail. They, like many others, try to restate or “reframe” Christianity by explaining Jesus’ nonviolent ideals in terms of basic Christian categories like atonement (i.e. using the oxymoronic “nonviolent atonement”). They cannot let go of the larger salvation framework of Christianity. Consequently, their merging of Jesus with Paul only confuses, distorts, and continues to bury the great unconditional insight of Jesus.

Jesus’ new wine of unconditional simply cannot fit into the wineskin of supreme conditional atonement that is Christianity. Highly conditional basic Christianity simply cannot express the core unconditional message of Jesus. To embrace unconditional as taught by Jesus, is to reject entirely the conditional eye for eye justice of Christianity (i.e. full payment/punishment for sin).

In the end, Christian reform endeavors (again, as admirable as the intent may be) are a waste of time and effort. They only end up weakening and distorting the great breakthrough discovery of Jesus regarding unconditional. The new wine of Jesus needs a completely new wineskin.

The nasty stuff in the Bible is just not worth the effort to salvage. Just let it all go. It does nothing to help people appreciate the wonder of unconditional. Let the felt obligation to some form of Biblicism go. Don’t waste any more time and effort trying to preserve something of the dunghill that only buries the diamond of Jesus.

(Added note: What then of the harsher things attributed to Jesus in the gospels? Researchers have noted that Paul influenced the other New Testament writers and hence that may explain a lot of the harsher things that were later attributed to Jesus in the gospels, things put in his mouth about looming punishment and destruction that contradict his core theme of unconditional love)

Further note: I have just come across this good article by Ali Rizvi at Huffingtonpost.com (“An Open Letter to Moderate Muslims”). Ali exposes well the confusing effort of reformers to downplay the nasty themes of their religion by claiming that such themes are just “metaphorical” (this applies to Christians and others, also). He says, “Many of you insist on alternative interpretations, some kind of metaphorical reading- anything to avoid reading the holy book the way it’s actually written…If any kind of literature is to be interpreted ‘metaphorically’, it has to at least represent the original idea. Metaphors are meant to illustrate and clarify ideas, not twist and obscure them. When the literal words speak of blatant violence but are claimed to really mean peace and unity, we’re not in interpretation/metaphor zone anymore; we’re heading into distortion/misrepresentation territory…”.

So yes, the effort to make nasty religion nice is admirable. But recognize just what you are doing when you try to preserve and reform basic Salvationism concepts like atonement or payment for sin; when you try to explain the core themes of historical Jesus in terms of such Salvationism. You are distorting the wonder and scandal of God as unconditional reality. Unconditional means no conditions, no required atonement, no payment or punishment. It means no violence in deity. Get unconditional clear first and then re-evaluate all the rest in the light of this wonder.

Standing up to the bully gods- the monsters of the metaphysical.

(Explanatory note for religious visitors: Comment below is just a recognition that monster gods have never existed. They are entirely straw gods, the projection of primitive violence-oriented minds. People have always projected their own features onto their gods- often their worst features- and then used those gods to validate their own behavior)

This page argues for probing the foundations of human belief systems and cleaning up properly the mess that one still finds there. This is a project to thoroughly humanize our core ideals and authorities.


“Violent gods incite violence in their followers…” Humanity’s highest ideals and authorities (i.e. religious gods) have long been used to inspire and validate some of the most horrific abuse of other people. This problem of pathological religious belief producing violence in religious traditions is evident throughout the history of the Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will never fully and properly solve the problem of religious violence until we root out the pathology of violence in deity.

I recognize that a complex mix of motivating factors may be operating in any situation of violence. That might include political, economic, social, and personal elements. All of these have to be understood and properly responded to. But there is also the larger background of ideals and beliefs that influence more immediate human motivations. A proper and thorough solution to violence must include these more foundational elements- the ideas embedded at the foundations of human worldviews, such as religious beliefs, and especially views of deity.

To illustrate, James Payne (A History of Force) notes that for most of history people have believed in sadistic, vicious gods that derived satisfaction from human pain, blood, and gore (i.e. gods delighting in slaughter, delighting in the suffering and death of human beings). Because of such beliefs, it has long been assumed that it pleased the gods to see bloodshed. In response, people have offered up human sacrifices, often children, to appease the anger of these deities. The primitive belief in sacrifice (human and animal) has provided a river of blood for the gods.

(Note the relationship operating here- I have detailed it throughout this page, notably in the work of anthropologists like Clifford Geertz, that people have always tried to replicate in their lives and societies what they believe is the divine model. For example, when people embrace a belief in some god as an ultimate ideal or authority, they will then employ that belief to validate their own behavior. People have always sought inspiration and validation from ultimate ideals or authorities. Unfortunately, it is too often validation for their worst impulses and actions. See also the comment below on the role of our animal inheritance in fueling violence and how religious belief relates to this)

According to Payne, in recent centuries this barbaric practice of human sacrifice has died out as people have embraced more humane views of gods. But have our views of gods really been fully humanized, and has human sacrifice completely died out? This is a more extreme example but what about the Boko Haram leader who just last year (2014) told his child soldiers, “You must engage every form of violence…We must give God bodies. We must make God happy” and then proceeded to cut off the heads of three people? What about the belief in atonement (human sacrifice, divine violence to solve problems) that is still lodged firmly at the core of the Christian religion? And how do these foundational ideas/beliefs influence human motivation even today?

And why the hesitancy and fear to fully humanize the gods? Is it fear of the taboo of blasphemy, of challenging and changing the untouchable sacred? Why do we still leave pathological features like sadistic violence at the very core of humanity’s highest ideals and authorities? If you do not fully humanize your views of ultimate realities then you will continue to suffer the damaging influence from that residual inhumanity.

Fortunately, most religious people have learned to ignore the nastier features of their belief systems and moderate their worst impulses. But, as some have pointed out (e.g. the Mennonite theologians), the belief in harsh gods still influences people to treat others harshly. For example, the Christian belief in a punishing God is the historical basis of Western systems of justice, notably the US justice and prison system (admittedly oriented to punishment) that locks up people in record numbers. Ancient religious beliefs still influence contemporary human motivation and behavior in varied ways.

Authentic human freedom requires probing the deepest foundations of thought, perception, and emotion to find liberation there from the ideas/beliefs that darken and enslave human minds and spirits. I also think of depression in this regard, and how wrong thinking contributes to this common affliction. In response, some experts advocate treating depression with cognitive therapy- changing deeply held but wrong beliefs that cause depression.

We now have a new discovery (a new insight) into the nature of ultimate reality that goes to the deepest foundations of human thought and liberates us entirely from the ideas in past worldviews that have caused so much unnecessary fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, and despair among the human population. Explore this discovery here with us.

Comment from Joseph Campbell on religion and violence… “We (in the Western Judeo-Christian tradition) have been bred to one of the most brutal war mythologies of all time…In the book of Kings (Old Testament) we have those utterly monstrous bloodbaths accomplished in the name, of course, of Yahweh by Elijah and Elisha…The old Biblical ideal of offering a holocaust to Yahweh by massacring every living thing in a captured town or city was but the Hebrew version of a custom general to the early Semites…This mythology is still very much alive. And of course to complete the picture, the Arabs have their divinely authorized war mythology too…the Arabs revere and derive their beliefs from the same prophets as the Hebrews…They honour Jesus too, as a prophet. Mohammed, however, is their ultimate prophet, and from him- who was a considerable warrior himself- they have derived their fantastic mythology of unrelenting war in God’s name” (Myths to Live By, p.175-179).

Further Intro

(In the comment below I am going after the long term causes of terrorism and violence, the real monsters in the background that inspire and validate violence. My point is that in all the effort to stop those engaging terrorism and violence, make sure you get the real thugs behind it all, the root sources of inspiration)

Most of us are traumatized by the violence occurring across the world. We are sickened and enraged at people who harm others in the most grotesque ways- kidnapping and enslaving young women, raping, terrorizing, and slaughtering innocents. Blowing up naive children (used as suicide bombers) or forcing other children to kill their families. And on and on. The vast majority of us just want it all to stop. As one lady cried, “Please…no more”.

And many people are doing what they can to prevent further violence- whether it be the protective endeavors of police forces, or the proactive work of military people, or the problem solving of diplomats. Or those working in restorative justice programs and myriad other small-scale efforts to make peace and get along with others. We applaud every effort to end violence in any form.

On this site I am going after another element in the mix of endeavors to end violence. I am going after the core ideals that over history have been used to inspire and validate violence. I am engaging important elements in the ideology and theology behind violence. My point is that the long term resolution of violence requires that we fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities. There is just too much remaining inhumanity at the core of these highest ideals and authorities. The reason for this remaining pathology is that some of humanity’s worst features were long ago projected onto gods, embedded in the sacred, and too many people are still afraid to confront and expose the real nature of those deities, or to enact radical change. They are afraid of committing “blasphemy” (a defensive religious belief that argues to protect the status quo with the outcome that keeps our highest ideals as something less than fully humane).

I also want to encourage hope in the midst of too much focus on bad news. The larger historical background trends reveal a significant movement away from violence and toward a more peaceful world (again, see James Payne’s History of Force, or Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature). We are succeeding at creating a more peaceful and kinder world. Love really is everywhere and is triumphing. We are gradually, but irresistibly, entering that better future that we all want. Never lose sight of this long history of progress. It sustains hope.

Now again- why tackle these metaphysical ideas and themes? Because mythological or religious ideas have long played a major role in violence- inspiring and validating the worst of human behavior over the millennia. They are one important foundational element in a complex mix of things that motivate people to engage violence, along with political, economic, and personal motivations. See Harold Ellen’s The Destructive Power of Religion for more detail on the role of religious ideas in inciting people to violence (also, Helen Ellerbe’s The Dark Side of Christian History, or James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword, among others).

Two critical things…

Key arguments presented all through this site: Two discoveries stand above all others in human history as having the most profound potential for liberating and humanizing life.

First- the discovery that there is love at the core of all reality and life. Infinite unconditional love of the most scandalous and wondrous nature. This overturns the foundations of so much past mythology with its great themes of divine violence, revenge, and punishment. Most salvation religion is built on these themes of divine demand for payment and punishment (i.e. violent blood atonement). Unconditional love at the core affirms there is no divine demand for payback, punishment, or violent sacrifice. The discovery of love behind all, overturns entirely the inhumane features that were long ago projected onto deity- the ultimate of human ideals and authorities.

Second- there is the discovery that we (humanity) are that very same love. That infinite unconditional love also defines the nature of our essential consciousness or human spirit. And we have never been separated from the core Love. This discovery overturns all Fall and “human sinfulness” mythology. This discovery goes to the roots of so much shame, guilt, fear, and despair. We are not corrupt destroyers but we are creators who are most essentially love (our authentic or true self).

These two discoveries offer potential for profound liberation from all forms of inhumanity at the foundations of human thought, feeling, motivation, and response.

So again, my argument for going to humanity’s core ideas and beliefs is that to properly and fully solve problems like violence, for the long term, you need to deal with the highest ideals and authorities that inspire and validate human action and existence. You need to fully humanize the very subconscious foundations of human mood, emotion, perspective, motivation, and response. You must go after the monsters residing in human subconscious, the Idi Amins of the metaphysical, and enact radical change there.

I am referring here to such things as the violence that has long been embedded in our highest authorities- the pathology of violent religious gods. And remember that many related mythical themes support the core ideal of divine violence- beliefs like opposing dualism (the divine demand to exclude and opposing some “enemy”), and the obligation to destroy the enemy (i.e. a final apocalypse to purge all imperfection, and eternal hell as the ultimate punishment of enemies).

These central religious themes have validated horrific violence all through the histories of Judaism and Christianity. We are now seeing them, once again, validate violence in Islam. Have Judaism and Christianity finally abandoned their past history of violence? Perhaps. But their core ideals continue to validate lesser forms of exclusion, opposition, and punishment of offending others, of enemies. So while rightly focusing on the horrors emerging from Islam today, we need to remember the sage’s advice to take care of the beam in our own eye first, before condemning the speck in another’s eye. There is too much inhumanity still embedded in the core beliefs of the other Western faiths.

My argument is that unconditional love at the core of all, overturns entirely the primitive perception of violence, or any other form of inhumanity, in deity. It therefore goes to one of the ultimate sources of violence in history- humanity’s core religious ideals and authorities- and transforms the foundational themes there, for the better.

Further note: In any discussion of violence and solutions to violence, we need to also remember the impulse to violence that springs from humanity’s inheritance of base animal drives. I refer to the core animal brain (reptilian, limbic system). This inheritance includes the impulses to a small band orientation (dualism of us versus the outsiders), domination of others (alpha male/female), and exclusion and destruction of competing others (enemies).

What is the relationship of religious belief to this inheritance of often violent drives?

Long ago our ancestors projected their worst features/drives onto their highest ideals and authorities- the gods. Those pathological gods (vengeful, violent, destructive) have since served to inspire and validate the ongoing expression of our worst inherited impulses to oppose, separate from, take offense and seek revenge, and to punish and destroy others (giving sacred validation to people acting like animals). These two together- the animal and the theological- have worked to produce devastating harm over history. Its time to cut entirely this critical root of violence- the sacred validation- by humanizing entirely our core ideals and authorities.

The two great discoveries, noted above, now liberate us from this dark and enslaving animal inheritance at the deepest levels of our consciousness and spirit. They enable us to humanize ourselves as never before.

History’s Greatest Terrorist (this repeats above material but comes at the subject from a different angle)

There is a singularly prominent thing behind much terrorism over human history, one core ideal that more than any other has inspired and validated violence toward others. James Payne (History of Force) expresses this mainspring of terrorism in his comments that many prominent gods over history were hostile, vicious beings that took pleasure in the suffering and death of people. The way to please those gods that desired human destruction was to destroy human beings. And people responded to such barbaric beliefs by offering a horrific stream of human blood over the millennia. People have always allowed their behavior to be inspired and validated by their ultimate ideals and authorities (i.e. their gods).

Yes, you hear me right. Just to state my argument clearly right at the start- the leading terrorist over history has been a violent God- the ultimate human ideal and authority. I am speaking now more to the Western monotheism tradition, though the same argument can be made for other traditions. The chief source of terror over history has been the idea of violence in deity. We see this in the belief in a God that demands sacrifice before he will forgive or include people. A God who advocates violence to solve problems (severely punishing wrong, destroying unbelievers in hell). A God who is enraged at human imperfection and obsessed with taking revenge against imperfection. A God that promotes revenge, payback justice, and final violent apocalyptic destruction to purge the world of “sinful” humanity. A God who demands some salvation scheme (bloody atonement) to placate his wrath. The chief source of terror has long been this divine obsession with violent action to save, violence to resolve problems.

Now, as I state repeatedly, I recognize the complexity in any given situation of violence. Mixed motivations and validations. And so violence has to be responded to with many varied approaches, such as diplomacy. All necessary stuff. But I am pointing to something also very important in this mix- those great background archetypes and ideals that have always influenced human mood, motivation, and action. Nothing has been more critical here than spiritual ideals and authorities, the greatest of all being beliefs in deity. People have always appealed to these highest of human ideals and authorities to inspire and validate their behavior, often to validate their worst actions toward others.

The Boko Haram leader illustrated this in the extreme when he urged his child soldiers to commit all possible acts of violence. He argued, “We must give God bodies. We must make God happy”. But there are also many less extreme ways that people use deities to inspire and validate bad behavior- such as excluding outsiders to their religion, or supporting systems of justice as payback and punishment.

The violent deity at the heart of this harsh mythology has varied other features that flow from the central theme of violence- dualism that excludes and opposes some ”enemy”, the domination of others, the destruction of others (apocalypse), and the demand for a violent sacrifice (atonement) to appease the deity’s anger. These are all features that support the central belief in a violent deity.

This greatest of all ideals and authorities is still prominently at the center of the great world religions, the great belief systems that shape so powerfully shape our thought, perception, mood/emotion, response and behavior. And then we wonder why violence is still so present in our societies.

To put it another way- theology determines ethics. A violent God will inspire followers to violence. Devotees of an ideal of exclusion, opposition and violent destruction will tend to support similar tendencies in their own lives and societies. People find inspiration and validation in their ultimate ideals and authorities- their gods.

Paul is notable in this regard for creating the violent Christ myth. His mythology has influenced Western consciousness and society more than any other single system of ideas. See, for instance, James Tabor comment on Paul’s influence on Western society in his book Paul and Jesus, noted below.

This violent ideal at the core of human consciousness- violent deity- must be rooted out if we are ever to fully solve the problem of violence for the long term. It must be replaced with an authentically humane ideal (i.e. unconditional love). The gods must be fully humanized. The authentic love that is unconditional does not demand violence before it forgives. It does not demand some sacrifice before it expresses love (no conditions, no payback or punishment).

The main terrorists in history are not the groups like Al Queda or ISIS. A God that advocates violence is humanity’s greatest monster, humanity’s greatest terrorist. Such a God has been the ultimate source of terrorism over history.

Many have expended immense effort to try to reform these religious traditions and moderate the harsher elements in them. I applaud all such efforts. Religious people try to focus on the nicer, more humane ideals in their traditions, thereby moderating the overall influence of their religion. But they often leave the core features of divine violence in place, within the core ideal and authority- the god. That remaining pathology then distorts the nicer ideals, keeping people from fully grasping their full humaneness. So the old master Terrorist remains working his darkening and enslaving influence on consciousness and spirit. Not yet fully humanized. Such reformism is so often futile. You cannot gussy up something that is irredeemably violent at core. (see Futility of Reform at the bottom just above the Joke Bin)

Note: Just to emphasize again, the animal inheritance in the human brain is the foundational source of terrorism, that cluster of primitive drives- small band orientation, exclusion and opposition to outsiders/competitors, and the destruction of the competitor. And meaning-seeking humans have always created and appealed to greater ideals and authorities to validate these worst features of behavior. People have always used the sacred to validate the worst of the animal remaining in them.

Here is the address to Bob Brinsmead’s highly valued material at http://bobbrinsmead.com/. Note especially his series of essays on The Scandal of Joshua Ben Adam.

New comment from discussion group

(1)“In some of the NDE accounts you get some great comment on this….people stunned to see that Love is the essence of everything, the very “stuff” that everything is made of, the “energy” that sustains every atom in existence, the creating power and Source, the very life of all things, the nature of the Light which radiates from all things, the very atmosphere of the surrounding, creating reality. Which is just to say, God is Love.

“This is why it is such a liberating thing to rethink the most foundational of conceptions about reality and life. For most of history, humanity has been taught that the greater creating, sustaining realities- the gods- were all about anger, threat, violence, punishment, or revenge. That shaped human archetypes, the great themes of human narratives. It shaped the background, the subconscious with darkness, fear, guilt, and shame.

“And now we discover that was all wrong, entirely wrong. The ultimate Reality behind all had nothing to do with such themes at all, and never did. It was entirely opposite. The creating and sustaining Reality was all about Love and Light. And love of a quality that was incomprehensibly better than the best that we could imagine. It was absolutely unconditional. It was scandalously more wondrous than any words could describe. And it was all, and in all.

“So put that at the core of your thinking, your perception, your understanding, your worldview or belief system. And then let it radiate out to change everything…. for the better. Let it liberate from all that old darkness, fear, and enslavement.”

(2)“I’ve been toying with varied ways to approach this subject…You get a lot of questioning of unconditional love as defining ultimate reality. I think of a friend of Bob’s who questions our conclusions re historical Jesus and whether we are focusing too much on just one statement (i.e. love your enemies because God does, God is unconditional love).

“He ignores the point that Matt.5:38-48 is a core statement of the central theme of Jesus. God as unconditional love is the centerpiece of his wisdom sayings collection. And the theme of unconditional love is consistent throughout his stories, actions, and sayings (thematic coherence throughout his teaching).

“But there is an element of judgment call in making conclusions about the nature of the Love that is the very foundation of all reality. And there is also a lot of evidence.

“Think first of the judgment call aspect- what is the most humane thing you can think of? What is the most humane conception of the highest of human ideals- love? The most humane thing you can imagine in this regard? Unconditional, of course. You see this in the human experience. Just note Mandela for an example, or Jesus. And note it in the overall human story and history. Go all the way back to the Akkadian father, and then through all the great religious traditions, all making statements of non-retaliation, of unconditional love to even enemies. And note it in parental and spousal love. See it in the entire rise of humanity toward something better, toward something less violent (James Payne, Stephen Pinker, Julian Simon).

“OK, now project this human discovery of the highest form of love that we see in humanity, project this out to deity. To define ultimate reality. Only, make it transcendent. As Historical Jesus said, if you imperfect people know how to do good, how much more so God is good. Infinitely more-so. Reason from the best in humanity out to something infinitely better in deity.

“This is just one way of reasoning toward this conclusion that God is unconditional Love, of a quality infinitely better than the best that can be imagined. Judgment call? Or overwhelming evidence? You decide.”

(3)“On the evidential aspect in this- note the grand trajectory of the cosmos and life, and then civilization, toward more order, organization, and complexity. It all progresses toward something better than before. Evidence of goodness behind all. And note the stunning emergence of goodness in human life over our long history. Especially in the past few centuries as this has picked up steam as never before. How to explain this emergence of goodness everywhere? The emergence of compassion and empathy.

“Life could have just continued as animal- brutal, nasty, and short. But goodness emerged and became stronger and more widespread. Even atheist Pinker (Better Angels of Our Nature) can see this overwhelming evidence and be amazed by it.

“Now just project this goodness out to the creating, sustaining Source of all, and make it transcendently better than anything we can imagine or express. Now you are getting close to truth. But as Joseph Campbell said, our best conceptions, words, categories, or definitions all fall short. What really is… is infinitely beyond (even God is a penultimate term pointing toward something incomprehensibly beyond). I would add- its also infinitely better (more humane, more loving).

So judgment call or evidence? Your choice. Or mix them all up. Its all there in the mix.”

(4)“Some more here….There is the element of choice to believe in something supremely humane. You see it in humanity…the long history of non-retaliation as a more humane response to evil. The Akkadian father, and many other pre-Jesus traditions, where people chose to act unconditionally toward others as it was the more humane thing to do. Then you project that unconditional humanity out to God, only you conceive of it as transcendently better. Again, ‘If you being imperfect know how to do good….then how much more is God good’.

“And then having resolved the goodness in deity issue, you then interpret all of life in such terms. Like Jesus seeing good and love everywhere, even in nature.

“But you first resolve what is supreme humanity, supreme humaneness. Unconditional sets the bar here and nothing approaches this as supremely humane. And then you reason out from this baseline. To explain and understand all else. Make unconditional your core theme, the foundation of your worldview. Get the theology right first, and then reason from that to all else. Including the suffering in life.”

(5)“My point in these posts was that to really appreciate this “discovery” of love behind all, you need to take a broad overview of all the past of human worldviews and those dominating themes of anger, vengeance, punishment, looming judgment and destruction. And really feel what that did to humanity over the millennia- i.e. salvation religion with its violent sacrifice producing endless fear, anxiety, guilt, despair, and violence.

“Then this discovery of love- stunning unconditional love- really stands out in such graphic contrast. What a relief from all that past horror. What a liberation.”

(6)“I will give this some thought as it pushes us to express this better (how can there be love or goodness behind all when there is so much disaster, evil, and suffering in life). This has been a huge problem for many, driving them to abandon any consideration of goodness behind all things (i.e. Charles Templeton is one example- his book Farewell to God). It drives many to despair. How can there be love behind all when life is so ugly at times. Hasker offers one way to respond- the philosophical arguments about freedom in life and humanity, and the outcomes of that. This is the best possible world despite harmful outcomes- e.g. tectonic plates produce mountains, beauty, diversification of life, but also tsunamis. I will respond more in a while. The best that people have come up with is the tight relationship between love and freedom. You cannot have authentic love without authentic freedom. This points to one possible direction for finding some answers to this problem of ultimate goodness, and yet suffering in life.”

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Site Comment: Section Six- New comment; A brief history of punishment; Tackling Paul; Ethics and theology contrasted- Jesus versus Paul; Maccoby on Paul inventing his Christ myth; Ethics and theology compared; Central theme repeat; Paul’s reversal/retreat; Eliminating Zoroastrian dualism; Solving the root causes of violence; The wonder of being human; The most potent force against evil; CO2 or natural variation?; Secularized mythology- apocalyptic myth in modern ideology

New Comment

The unconditional treatment of all people presents an authentic way to peace on Earth. It goes to the root of the human tendency to violence and war- the impulse to retaliate and punish. And it challenges the foundational beliefs that have long validated retaliation and punishment.

Also, here is my review of Simon Joseph’s new book The Nonviolent Messiah http://www.amazon.com/The-Nonviolent-Messiah-Enochic-Tradition/product-reviews/1451472196/ref=dpx_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1 . Simon argues convincingly that the new theology of Jesus- a nonviolent, non-punishing God- demands a radical rethinking of core Christian beliefs.

And here is an essay by Robert Perry on the unconditional theme of historical Jesus (http://mustardseedventure.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Perry_Q_LovingOurEnemies.pdf . Perry expresses well the spirit of unconditional as found in the core teaching of the Palestinian sage.

New material at bottom just above the Joke Bin…includes comment on Harold Ellens’ “The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”. Ellens is helpful in pointing to the destructive impact of religious ideas but weak on the solution to this root cause of violence. He, and his contributors, get bogged down in endeavor to reform religion. My response- a conditionally oriented institution cannot properly communicate unconditional reality. New wine needs new wineskins.

See also “The Futility of Reform” that comments on the endeavor to reform Christianity and the confusion that is created by claiming that the teaching of Jesus is foundational Christianity. Not true. The teaching of Paul is original, foundational Christianity. Jesus, to the contrary, advocated a new unconditional theology that was entirely opposite to Paul’s highly conditional theology.

In my response to the Ellens material I have outlined the brief history of how our basest impulses to exclude and harm others are incited and validated by our highest ideals and authorities (often religious ideals and authorities). I note how ancient people projected their worst features onto their gods (i.e. violence as in atonement theology, us versus them tribalism, domination, and destruction of enemies), and then subsequently they used those gods to validate the inhuman treatment of others. To solve this root cause of inhumanity we need to thoroughly re-evaluate our most fundamental ideas and beliefs, especially religious ideas and beliefs, and discard those that do not fully express unconditional reality. We need to build unconditional into the very foundations of our thinking or worldviews, as the highest expression of authentic humanity.

A Brief History of Punishment

In the earliest human writing (Sumerian) we find that ancient people already believed that the gods were punishing spirits. Note, for instance, that Enki was punished with illness for eating forbidden fruit (Epic of Enki and Ninhursag). The theme of punishment then developed into the myth of an apocalypse as a great final punishment of all people (Sumerian Flood myth).The god Enlil wanted to destroy all humanity with a great deluge. The threat of divine punishment, in turn, sparked the appeasement response among people- how to avoid punishment by offering sacrifice to the threatening gods (i.e. salvation religion). We can argue that religion emerged as the social institution to tell people how to appease and please threatening and punitive deity. Christianity later introduced the innovation of punishing an innocent victim in place of guilty people (reviving the idea of human sacrifice). This orientation to punishment has remained dominant in human society over history in such things as punitive justice. And it is all built on a horrific error in early human thinking and mythology.

Some linkages under consideration- theology determines ethics (the linkage between belief and behavior)

This site argues that the greatest error in human perception is that there is some punitive force/spirit behind life. Punishment is the most destructive feature that has ever been projected onto ultimate ideals or authorities. Why should that concern us? Because people have always appealed to higher ideals and authorities to validate their lives. Consequently, the belief in punishing gods has long supported punishing violence in human society. Vengeful gods have long validated vengeful response among people. Theology (how we view the gods) has always been used to validate ethics or human behavior. The way we view ultimate ideals and authorities (i.e. gods) very much determines how we behave and how we live our lives.

To see this in operation visit religious sites or read religious literature and note how people repeatedly validate their behavior by appeal to the “will of God” or the “law of God”. Or just look across the world today at people claiming that they are killing their enemies because that is the will of their vengeful and violent God. And note the same punishing treatment of others in a variety of less extreme situations such as engaging justice as punishment (i.e. notably the US, a significantly Christian nation, that imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth). Note also in relation to this, that punishment responses do not work with children or criminal offenders in general (see report by Australian Psychological Society).

Now why include the historical Jesus in this discussion? Because the historical Jesus made the critical breakthrough that directly and potently countered the destructive ideas of punishment, retaliation, and revenge. His stunning breakthrough was that God does not retaliate or punish. The central point of Matthew 5:38-48 is “Do not retaliate against offenders but, instead, love your enemies because God does not retaliate but is merciful and compassionate to all, giving good things (i.e. sun, rain) to all alike, both good and bad”.

That was the first clear challenge to the primitive error of punishing deity. It was a radical challenge to all previous human perception of deity. It went to the heart of the problem, to the highest of human ideals- that of God- and especially to the idea of retaliating gods that had long supported inhuman practices of punishment. His insight then demolished the foundation of most religion which had claimed that people needed to appease the threatening gods in some manner, to pay for sin (i.e. that people were required to engage some salvation or atonement). In doing this Jesus offered humanity the greatest liberation movement ever- the liberation of mind, consciousness, and spirit. It was liberation from the fear of ultimate threat, ultimate retaliation, and ultimate conditions.

I will repeat for emphasis: the historical Jesus challenged and overturned the distorted perception embedded in the highest of human ideals and authorities- the perception of God as punitive, vengeful, and destructive. In doing that he made the most fundamental and radical change to human perception of ultimate realities in the entire history of human thought.

Paul, unfortunately, reversed the brilliant insight of Jesus and returned to primitive retaliation theology (a punishing God). Paul re-established that pagan error of punitive deity at the foundation of his new religion, Christianity. Note his comment in Romans 12 that people should leave room for the wrath of God because primitive people claimed that God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”. The profundity of Jesus’ theological breakthrough makes Paul’s retreat all the more stunning and shameful. When he embedded punishment at the center of his Christ myth (i.e. a sacrifice of atonement, a god punished for sin) he contradicted entirely the central theme of Jesus. In doing that he missed an unparalleled opportunity to profoundly change the belief/behavior linkage for the better. It was a huge blunder and tragedy for Christianity to make that retreat to pagan mythology. Like many others Paul probably felt that Jesus’ new theology of non-punishment was just too scandalous and impractical. It violated his sense of fairness and right, his belief in justice as proper payback. Just like those characters in the stories of Jesus that were upset with the scandalous generosity being exhibited (i.e. the Father of the Prodigal son and the vineyard owner).

It is critically important to once again recover the key insight of the historical Jesus (that God does not punish), an insight that has long been buried under the Christian theology of retaliating deity. That insight is vital to the full liberation of human consciousness and to our progress toward a more humane future.

This explains why I have included some fairly intense focus here on the historical Jesus.

Note: Advocating for the unconditional treatment of every human person is not advocacy for pacifism. It has a lot to do with the attitudes that shape us as human (note comment below from Karen Armstrong on the Chinese sage). And it has to do with the ideals that we strive toward, and our personal responses to others, as we try to make a better world. Also, any common sense understanding of love embraces the responsibility to protect the innocent (including the active use of force to stop violent offenders). However, in all our qualifying of unconditional (i.e. how we actually apply it in the messy reality of life) we need to be careful that we do not diminish the scandalous wonder of the core reality that we are talking about.

New: See new comment further below on “The Mennonite Solution- Lipstick on a Pig” (just below “Environmentalist/Environmentalism”). Also, the comment on “Mimetic Mennonites” points to the Mennonite project to restate/reframe core Christian themes. This illustrates a wider Christian approach to moderating the harsher themes of Christianity. Ultimately, this does not work to resolve the root causes of violence. Hanging on to some form of atonement (even a lipstick-covered version) causes people to instinctively revert to the perception of required conditions (i.e. threat, punishment, and salvation thinking). The Mennonites, like Paul, miss the unconditional insight of Jesus and insist on maintaining primitive conditional theology (i.e. atonement, Salvationism).The breakthrough insight of the Historical Jesus- unconditional ethics and theology- goes to the heart of what went wrong in early human thought and offers a powerful corrective response to that primitive error of punishing deity.

And another New…There are some surprising things to learn about how Paul may have invented Christianity. This is not just a Christian or religious issue but a larger human society issue. Christianity, with its vengeful, punishing theology, has been largely responsible for re-enforcing the punishment/revenge perspective in public consciousness. This comment is just below “Tackling Paul”.

Note also new comment on the punishment impulse as the main driver behind human myth-making and religion. Also, some new comment on Paul’s great reversal to the “insanely disproportionate punishment of a punitive father” (Stephen Mitchell referring to Paul’s theological views), and then some new comment on Paul’s main themes (i.e. divine wrath, blood appeasement, payback justice, oppositional dualism- election and rejection, and so on). And then, my view of “greatest” things also in the mix below.

See further below the new comment directed to the Jesus Seminar regarding the apocalyptic debate. Also, see the recent post “CO2 or Natural Variation?” More detailed comment on unconditional reality is further below. Unconditional in the Nelson Mandela story is also below.

Clarification: non-retaliation is tightly pair-bonded with unconditional love, both being aspects of the same reality (negative/positive).

Tackling Paul

Why go after Paul, as I do on this page, and possibly offend many good Christians who venerate the apostle so highly? I do it because of Paul’s still outsize influence on how we think today, on how we shape our worldviews, our personal responses, our treatment of others, and our overall societies. His influence has been, and still is, profound on Western consciousness and culture, and through the West to the entire world. Paul’s Christ myth has been the singularly most influential myth in all history (Bob Brinsmead). More than anything else, it is responsible for bringing the damaging apocalyptic perspective into our modern world. Correspondingly, Paul’s religion (Christianity), with its sharply contrasting theology of supreme conditional atonement, has done more than anything else to bury the core unconditional theme of the historical Jesus. You can sum up the stunning contrast between Jesus and Paul in the following oppositional terms- non-retaliation vs. retaliation, non-punishment vs. punishment, non-destruction vs. destruction, or unconditional vs. conditional.

James Tabor, among many others, has also arrived at the conclusion that Christianity is quite entirely opposite to what Jesus taught. He makes the following statements on Paul (in his book “Paul and Jesus”, Preface): “I maintain there was a version of Christianity before Paul, affirmed both by Jesus and his original followers, with tenets and affirmations quite opposite to these of Paul…the message of Paul, which created Christianity as we know it, and the message of the historical Jesus and his earliest followers, were not the same. In fact, they were sharply opposed to one another…” Tabor adds, “Paul’s strongly apocalyptic perspective…influenced all he said and did…Christianity, as we came to know it, is Paul and Paul is Christianity. The bulk of the New Testament is dominated by his theological vision…”. He then notes the significant influence of Paul on modern Western thinking: “Paul is the most influential person in human history, and realize it or not, he has shaped practically all we think about everything….the foundations of Western civilization- from our assumptions about reality to our societal and personal ethics- rest in a singular way upon the heavenly visions and apparitions of the apostle Paul. We are all cultural heirs of Paul, with the well-established doctrines and traditions of mainstream Christianity deeply entrenched in our culture. In contrast, Jesus as a historical figure… has been largely lost to our culture…” And much more.

Note: Tabor does not fully explain the Zoroastrian influence on Paul (i.e. apocalyptic dualism) and he does not clearly set forth the nature of the contradiction between Paul and Jesus.

Ethics and Theology Contrasted- Jesus vs. Paul

This site repeatedly sets forth the stunning contradiction between the message of the historical Jesus and the entirely opposing message of Paul and Christianity. The historical Jesus presented a new ethic and theology oriented to unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, and unconditional generosity toward all. Paul and his Christian religion retreated back to a pagan view of God as excluding, punishing, and vengefully destroying disagreeing outsiders. Paul’s theology embodied the worst error of primitive minds- that there was some punishing force behind life. The contradiction between Jesus and Paul illustrates the greater human story of our struggle to leave a brutal past for a more human future. And it illustrates the ongoing resistance of many people, like Paul, to that liberation and advance.

Look, once again, at the essence of the contradiction in these summary statements of the core themes of Jesus and Paul, noting particularly their starkly opposing views of God.

Ethic and Theology of Jesus (Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 6)

Do not retaliate against evil, but instead, love others unconditionally and you will be like God (this connects the non-retaliating ethic to the non-retaliating theology). God loves enemies, is kind, merciful, and compassionate to the evil and gives good things to all alike (unconditionally), both just and unjust.
(Note: Jesus does not say- “Do not defend yourselves”, but rather, “Do not retaliate in kind, with eye for eye, with getting even”. This is a notable distinction)

Ethic and Theology of Paul (Romans 12)

Do not repay any one evil for evil, do not take revenge but (this connects the non-retaliating ethic with the absolutely contradicting retaliatory theology) leave room for God’s wrath…for ”Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord”.

Paul rejects and reverses the theological insight of Jesus, entirely. And his primitive retaliatory theology became Christianity.

The historical Jesus, with his non-retaliation insight, offered humanity the greatest potential liberation ever. He went to the heart of what was wrong in human thought and corrected it. He went to the very root of primitive mythology that was oriented to revenge, punishment, and destruction of differing others. He rejected that outright (no more eye for eye) and stated that God was unconditional love. But Paul reverted back to primitive myth by reviving the pagan view of God as punishing and vengeful.

The Christian message could have been about Jesus’ new insight- the wonder of unconditional love in deity. But instead, it became about Paul’s opposite view- the horror of divine vengeance and conditional atonement and salvation.

This is an unprecedented scandal (and opportunity) waiting to explode in human consciousness, waiting to go nuclear. Jesus’ new theology contradicts the very heart of Christianity and its salvation message. It goes to the heart of all religion and challenges the foundational ideas of punishment, revenge, judgment, payment, payback justice, atonement, and many related ideas that make up historical religion, and shape much of human culture and civilization. The Jesus insight on God exposes all such concepts and ideas as based on a great fraud and lie- that of a punishing ultimate reality. It is a fraud because there is no threat behind life, no punishing, vengeful deity that demands blood atonement or any form of appeasement. This is a devastating challenge to the entire salvation industry. There are no required conditions to meet, or salvation scheme to engage.

This is not just a Christian or religious issue but a wider human society issue. Christianity, with its vengeful, punishing theology, is largely responsible for re-enforcing the punishment/vengeance perspective in public consciousness. As Hyam Maccoby says, Paul created a myth that became the basis of Western culture. His view of Jesus has influenced the imagination of all Western civilization.

So look carefully at the stunning difference between the theology of Jesus and the theology of Paul. Jesus was not Christian (Maccoby) by any stretch of understanding. And again, remember that Paul has been the most influential person in all history (James Tabor) with his punishing Christ myth, a myth that buries the non-retaliation/unconditional message of historical Jesus. Paul’s Christ myth, not the core message of Jesus, has shaped Western thought and culture more than anything else (Tabor again), and through the West to the rest of the world. See more detail on this below.

Jesus offered humanity a turning point like none other, a liberation for consciousness like nothing ever conceived before. It was an offer of freedom from the primitive outlook of the past, with its pathetic orientation to punishment, revenge, and atonement. He presented the freedom to engage an authentic human future oriented to unconditional existence. Christianity aborted that human future and retreated to the primitive views of pagan cults like the Hellenistic mystery religions that shaped Paul’s thinking. See the research of people like Hyam Maccoby (The Myth-Maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity), Stephen Mitchell (The Gospel According to Jesus), and James Tabor (Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity), among many others. They have been pointing to these issues for decades.

The Jesus breakthrough on theology (from retaliation to non-retaliation) pointed to a potential radical shift in human consciousness like nothing ever before in history. Read on…this site covers this scandalous story thoroughly.

Ethics and Theology compared and contrasted: repeat of similar comment just above but with additional points…

I refer repeatedly to the stunning contradiction between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus (the contradiction between the message of Jesus and Paul’s opposing message). Here, once again, is a shortened summary comparison to set forth as clearly as possible the stunning contrast between the theology of Jesus (his view of God) and that of Paul. This is followed by my paraphrase of Bob Brinsmead’s point that theology determines ethics.

I want readers to see clearly the stark contrast between the two theologies and note the important ethical/theological connection. All through history people have appealed to higher authorities and ideals to validate their behavior, their treatment of others. It is a natural human impulse to do so.

The insight of the historical Jesus that non-retaliation defined an authentically humane ethic and an authentically humane God was an apex point in the history of human consciousness. It was potentially the greatest turning point in the history of human thought. It offered the key to an unprecedented human liberation in that it countered the worst features of primitive ideals and ultimate authorities (i.e. retaliation, punishment), as nothing ever had. Tragically, Christianity rejected Jesus’ central insight and aborted his liberation endeavor.

Ethic and Theology of Jesus
Do not retaliate against evil, but instead, do good to others and you will be like God (this connects the ethic to the theology). God loves enemies, is kind, merciful, and compassionate to the evil and gives good things to all alike, both just and unjust (Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 6).

Ethic and Theology of Paul
Do not repay any one evil for evil, do not take revenge but (this connects the ethic with the absolutely contradicting theology) leave room for God’s wrath…for ”Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord” (Romans 12).

Christianity attempted to embrace the non-retaliation ethic of Jesus, intuitively recognizing that it is authentic human response. But Christianity rejected the theology of Jesus. This is a serious disconnect. What inevitably happens is that theology determines ethics (our view of ultimate Good, of ultimate meaning, our ultimate ideal, determines how we replicate that good or ideal). Consequently, Christianity over its history has often treated disagreeing others with punishing vengeance, in harmony with the Christian view of God as desiring punishment.

Central Theme Repeat

(Here is the full statement of the central theme of the historical Jesus. It is repeated several times on this site to keep it in focus and to provide a stunning contrast with Paul’s opposing central theme of divine retaliation.)

Non-retaliation or unconditional love was the core theme of the historical Jesus, the foundational element in his worldview. This was his main insight into the meaning of ethics and theology. And note below that he tied ethics tightly to theology as the validating basis of human action (ethics based on theology has a long history in human thought and behavior). Act like this because God is like this. Do not retaliate against offenders because God does not retaliate. Do not take revenge (engage eye for eye justice) or punish because God does not take revenge or punish. Instead, include all and love all in the same universally generous manner. Be unconditionally merciful and compassionate as God is unconditionally merciful and compassionate. Love your enemies because God loves enemies.

This striking new theology contrasts entirely with the God of Paul and Christianity, a God that retaliates, takes revenge, and punishes (see Paul’s Dominant Themes further below).

Here is the full statement of Jesus’ core theme combining the elements of both the Matthew 5 and Luke 6 summaries.

“You have heard that it was said, an eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, Don’t resist or retaliate against an evil person.

“If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if someone takes away your belongings, do not demand to have them back. Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good; he sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

“If you love those who love you, that credit is that to you? Even tax collectors love those who love them, do they not? And if you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Doesn’t everybody do that? And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even wrongdoers lend to their kind because they expect to be repaid in full.

“Instead, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting to get anything back. Do to others what you would have them do to you.

“Then your reward will be great, and you will be the children of God (or better, you will be like God) because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. Be compassionate in the same manner that God is compassionate.”

This brief statement turns everything upside down- both ethically and theologically. It was without historical precedent, absolutely unique and explosive in its meaning.

Since the earliest time, human understanding of deity had concluded that the gods were threatening, quick to anger, judgmental, punitive, and agents of ultimate destruction. And the gods represented ultimate realities. They were creators, sustainers and controllers of all things, law-givers, ultimate authorities, and ultimate sources of human meaning and purpose.

Over history, various religious traditions had also introduced the more humane features of compassion and kindness into their versions of deity but that humanity was often conditional, reserved for believing insiders. It was a limited tribal love. Those gods would still punish and destroy outsiders/enemies. Overall, deity as ultimate reality embodied the harshest primitive features of retaliation, tribal exclusion (privileged insiders, threatened outsiders), judgment/condemnation, conditional salvation, and ultimate destruction. People had long projected their very worst features onto their gods.

But in this stunning presentation of a new ethic and theology Jesus stated that all previous understanding of gods was completely wrong. God did not retaliate (no eye for eye), did not punish the bad, and did not exclude or destroy anyone. Instead, God loved all the same and included all with the same unconditional generosity (the good things of life- sun and rain- were given generously to all alike, both good and bad). The historical Jesus took his breakthrough unconditional insight to the core of human meaning and purpose, to the highest of ideals, the highest source of authority and focus of human faith- deity.

That unconditional treatment of all was simply too scandalous for many people to wrap their minds around and so, like Paul, they retreated back to views of retaliating, punishing gods. That suited better their views of justice as full payment for wrong done. And in that shameful retreat, they missed the greatest breakthrough insight in all history.

To get some sense of the profound nature of what the Historical Jesus was actually saying, try this imagination exercise. Imagine if all that terrorizing mythology of historical religion were actually true. Imagine that the gods that created and sustained all things were real beings that threatened, judged, condemned human failure, and then exhibited anger by excluding, punishing, and destroying people. Imagine that myths like Hell were true, that it was a real place. That there was some great, cosmic threat behind all things, divine punishment, ultimate domination/subservience, and realities like eternal torture in a lake of fire. What a horror this universe and life would be. No wonder some people have gone insane contemplating such things. I know of a man at an Evangelical college that jumped to his death because he believed that he had committed an unpardonable sin and was eternally damned. Human consciousness is profoundly traumatized by such ultimate horrors.

But in this statement of non-retaliation or unconditional love, the historical Jesus declares emphatically… “No”. There is no retaliating, judging/condemning, punishing, or destroying God. There is no divine threat against imperfect human existence. Instead, to the absolute contrary, the ultimate reality behind all is love. Let this stunning discovery blow through your consciousness. And stunner of all stunners, the ultimate reality is love of a nature that is beyond the best that anyone could imagine. It is unconditional. Scandalously unconditional. What a liberation for fearful, anxious, troubled minds intensely aware of their failures and living under the terrifying threats of their religious traditions. The contemporaries of Jesus were told of an Abba Father who was merciful, compassionate, forgiving without pre-condition, inclusive of all alike, and who showered infinite generosity on all alike. Well, no wonder the chains began to fall away in the consciousness of many who heard that message.

The scandalous wonder of this Jesus insight would be the foundation of the greatest liberation movement in all history. It would go to the heart of human mind and consciousness to profoundly change the deeply embedded perceptions of primitive thinking, perceptions that had darkened and enslaved spirits and minds for millennia.

And what a profound liberation movement that could have sparked if the followers of Jesus had continued to develop his theme on non-retaliation/unconditional love. But instead, Paul and his Christian religion buried that brilliant discovery under highly conditional atonement mythology. Christianity aborted the greatest liberation movement in history.

Think of what the historical Jesus was actually saying: That everyone is safe in the ultimate sense because unconditional love is at the core of all reality and life. To get some feel of what this means listen to people who have had some firsthand experience of it. Numbers of the Near-Death Experience people have had a glimpse and taste of this love. They tell us that the Light that they encountered is absolute unconditional love. It is a love that is overwhelming and inexpressible. NDErs often express frustration that they cannot find words to fully communicate what they felt. And they come back disillusioned at the things that their religions have taught them about God judging, punishing, or sending people to Hell. They realize that such things are simply not true and, in fact, are entirely contrary to the unconditional love that they experienced.

They also discover that love is everything. It is the basis of all, the energizing life of all, the very essence and substance of all things. It is the permeating atmosphere of all. And again, it is of a quality that is unimaginably wondrous.

Someone stated that light is the essential nature and basis of all reality. Then add this further insight: that, more than anything else, unconditional love defines the nature of the light that is at the core of all. Light and love are one and the same reality.

This creating and sustaining ultimate love that we are speaking about is something that is infinitely better than the best that can be imagined (the real meaning of transcendent in deity). Such love is not tainted by any hint of threat, exclusion, condemnation, or punishment. As Joseph Campbell said of God- the actual reality is beyond categories, beyond terms or definitions, and beyond words or thought. The best that we can think only points in the general direction of something that is infinitely better and infinitely beyond. The terms God or love are only penultimate terms, pointing to things transcendently better and beyond.

And the center of this light and love is immediately inside us. We are not separate from this wonder, nor far from it. It is the very core of our true self or authentic person.

Jesus’ discovery of unconditional love stands in stunning contrast to the perception of deity over history as threat, retaliation, condemnation, punishment, and ultimate destruction. With his breakthrough insight, Jesus sparked a new trend of emerging insight that tells us that deity is unconditional love beyond understanding. This is absolutely explosive in terms of human perception and worldviews. It takes human consciousness in an entirely new direction. It challenges the entire conditional framework of past theology, mythology, and religion. The Jesus theological breakthrough takes things nuclear.

Think of the multiple millennia that those primitive ideas of punitive gods were beaten into public consciousness in endless variations. And think of the traumatizing impact of that on human emotion and life. And think of the outcomes in wasted time and resources as billions of people have tried to appease and please such threatening gods via salvation religion.

And then we discover that the very opposite is true. What a great release and relief to discover that retaliation/punishment mythology has all along been entirely false. And something entirely opposite and of infinite goodness is actually true. Something scandalously opposite to all the dark, frightening things that shaman, priests, and theologians have concocted and terrorized people with over history.

The reality of unconditional love engenders in human consciousness an unprecedented liberation and peace. It liberates consciousness at the deepest levels of subconscious fear, anxiety, depression, and despair.

This new insight on unconditional love as the foundational reality of all now becomes a new baseline for evaluating truth, right, and authentic humanity. And conversely, anything less, or anything other than this unconditional love, is ultimately false, not real, not true, and should be challenged as not right.

Shamefully, Paul dragged Christianity backwards into the primitive pathology of angry, punishing gods, gods that demanded violent bloody sacrifice as appeasement. He aborted the greatest liberation movement in history.

Paul’s Reversal/Retreat- Further comment, providing some sense of how profoundly Paul contradicted Jesus’ core theme of non-retaliation.

The apostle Paul makes one of the most stunning retreats or reversals in history on the issue of retaliation. He rejects the striking advance made by Jesus regarding non-retaliation. Some larger context will help illustrate how severe Paul’s retreat actually was. People over history had made significant progress in their thinking regarding retaliation and punishment. Some had also gradually learned to get the theological basis of authentically humane response right (i.e. non-retaliating deity).

And yes, even Paul got the ethical element right on the issue of retaliation (Romans 12: Do not repay evil for evil, do not take revenge), but then he messed up entirely on the critical theological basis and theological advances that others were making. His theological retreat to a retaliatory deity undermined entirely his ethical advances on non-retaliation (theology determines ethics).

Some background: Primitive people had long engaged excessively retaliatory responses toward offenders. In primitive societies injury, such as causing the loss of an eye, could result in the loss of the life of the offender. Rage at offense, even just some minor verbal offense could result in death to offenders. I have witnessed this in contemporary tribal society (upland Manobo groups in Mindanao, Philippines) where a man’s sense of honor and right to retaliate could lead to killing someone who just verbally offends him. Note how similar forms of extreme punishment response are still engaged in large areas of the world even today (i.e. honor killing where a girl wanting to engage modern life or marry by personal choice will be put to death by close relatives). And these brutal practices of vengeance have long been supported by equally vengeful views of deity.

So the Old Testament/Jewish legal prescription of an eye for an eye was an advance over such harsh paganism. You were not allowed to go beyond exactly the offense that was committed against you. If someone had caused you to lose an eye, then you could retaliate by causing them to also lose an eye. This was an advance over the excessive punishment response of primitive people. But the historical Jesus took this magnitudes of order higher and further into the authentically human response of no retaliation at all. He urged people to stop the cycles of retaliatory violence and punishment all together (Matthew 5:38-48). That was history’s greatest advance away from retaliatory punishment and toward authentic humanity, or authentic human response and existence.

The most striking element in Jesus’ advance was to also get the theological element correct- that non-retaliation in ethics was based on the greater truth of non-retaliation in God. This was absolutely scandalous to all primitive thinking that claimed the gods were ultimate enforcers of justice, as retaliation and punishment. Jesus rejected that primitive eye for eye view of justice and argued that God treated all people, both good and bad, with unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity. Jesus stated that God does not retaliate or get even with enemies but rather loves enemies. He treats enemies generously- inclusively gives everyone the good gifts of life such as sun and rain. He treats the bad just the same as he treats the good. Jesus’ new non-retaliatory theology was a breakthrough insight unparalleled in the history of human perception. It was like a brilliant light had finally been turned on in human consciousness.

Now what about Paul? Stunningly, he retreated backwards from the brilliant breakthrough of Jesus, not just back to Jewish eye for eye response, and not even just further back to the pagan response of a life for an eye, or a life for verbal offense, horribly excessive as such vengeful response is. No, Paul reverses much further back into pagan barbarity, even further than the insanely disproportionate punishment for the mildest of offenses that is seen in the myths of the pathetic gods of antiquity. Those gods punished people with destruction/annihilation for such petty things as being too noisy (i.e. the Sumerian flood myth) or too curious (Adam punished with death for all humanity just for wanting to know the difference between right and wrong).

But Paul takes such primitive insanity a magnitude of order further. His insanely retaliatory God would damn people to ultimate and eternal destruction for all sorts of petty offenses or “sins”. That is more than just a retreat from Jesus, or reversal from the Jewish advance, or even falling back into paganism. That is over-the-top insanity of lust for vengeful punishment. That is a reversal to paganism, a retreat from human advance, and a rejection of humane understanding on a scale unprecedented in history. It is a profound rejection of the core non-retaliation teaching of Jesus. It is a profound retreat from the great liberation that Jesus offered. Shame on Paul. And John in Revelation simply fills out in graphic detail the vision of Paul’s retaliatory Christ myth.

Here is Stephen Mitchell’s comment on this excessive severity of punishment in Paul’s teaching: “The narrow-minded, fire-breathing, self-tormenting Saul was still alive and kicking inside Paul. He didn’t understand Jesus at all. He wasn’t even interested in Jesus; just in his own idea of the Christ, ‘Even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we no longer regard him in this way’. In other words, it isn’t relevant to know Jesus as a person of flesh and blood or to hear, much less do, what he taught; the only thing necessary for a Christian is to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that he died in atonement for our sins (the ‘ghastly pagan’ idea). Like the writer of Revelation, Paul harbored a great deal of violence in his mind, which he projected onto visions of cosmic warfare, and onto an image of God as punitive father…”

And then this powerful statement from Mitchell, “This teaching about hell, which the church took over from a fierce, apocalyptic strand of Judaism, and which it put here into Jesus’ mouth, proceeds from a very impure consciousness, filled with fantasies of hatred and revenge and of an unforgiving, unjust god whose punishments are insanely disproportionate to the offenses” (The Gospel According to Jesus).

Note: the “sins” that Paul includes in his various lists as worthy of God’s destroying wrath (also found in other New Testament writings). They include the following- envy, greed, strife, discord, deceit, gossip, slander, insolence, boasting, disobeying parents, impure thoughts, drinking too much beer, road rage, selfish ambition, lukewarm religious practice, telling fibs, and further exhibitions of imperfect human response and behavior.

Further note: Do not be fooled by the attempts of Christian theologians to ignore this dark side in Paul’s theology and just focus on the nice bits, the diamonds in the dunghill (i.e. love, grace, mercy). Theologians, such as in the Mennonite tradition, have been endeavoring to reframe the foundations of Christianity in terms of the more humane ideals found scattered throughout the Bible. That is denial and evasion of what Christianity has traditionally promoted in its core teaching.

Eliminating Zoroastrian Dualism

When Jesus included the bad with the good (all persons treated the same with unconditional divine generosity) he cut to the root of the Zoroastrian dualism that had long before set the good (true believers) in opposition to the bad (unbelievers). In Zoroastrianism the good were obligated to fight and destroy the bad. Zoroastrian dualism subsequently shaped Jewish thinking, then Christianity, and Western consciousness. That dualistic opposition, exclusion, punishment, and destruction of the disagreeing or offending other, it all ended with Jesus’ unconditional inclusion of all persons in all the good things that God gives (i.e. sun and rain). Jesus’ statement spelled the end of that Zoroastrian dualism that had so prominently dominated previous human thought and had validated so much violent retaliation and fighting among people at all levels of existence. In his Matthew 5 statement the historical Jesus eliminated the foundational categories of good/bad, friend/enemy, and insider/outsider- all forms of limiting tribal thinking. Those categories had profoundly shaped human perspective for the worse over history. Now, all persons were to be viewed and included as intimate family.

Recent material focuses on one of history’s great scandals. Jesus presented the stunning new insight that God did not retaliate or punish. That overturned all previous human understanding of deity. Paul rejected that breakthrough insight and reversed back to traditional historical views of God as vengeful and punitive. Understanding this profound difference between the theology of Jesus and the theology of Paul, and how views of God impact people, is critical to solving the problem of violence in human society. Theological perceptions powerfully determine ethical outcomes. Belief shapes behavior. And, as various scholars note, Paul has shaped Western consciousness and society more than any other single person.

There is a lot more to come on these subjects. We are just beginning to explore the implications of embracing unconditional reality and unconditional existence (i.e. treating all with the same unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity). There is, arguably, no greater or more liberating discovery in all human history. Unconditional takes us to the height of authentic humanity. It redefines human perception of ultimate reality (i.e. the spiritual, God) more radically than any other single insight in history. It was the great breakthrough discovery of the historical Jesus. However, embracing such an ideal and applying it to the often messy reality of daily life requires a good dose of common sense. There is a dense complexity to the widely varying situations across our world.

Solving the ultimate root causes of violence

On this site I have focused intensely on the foundational ideas that validate the varied forms of inhumanity. My argument is based on this plainly obvious relationship- that our ideas and beliefs (how we think) powerfully influence how we act and treat others. And nothing is more powerful for influencing human behavior than views of deity and associated religious beliefs. Over history, theologies (views of God) have embodied humanity’s highest ideals and authorities. They have provided the highest sources of meaning and purpose, and inspired people more than anything else, for better and for worse.

For an example of inspiration for the worse, note how a terrorist group in Nigeria recently appealed to God as they cut off the heads of innocent people (http://www.newsweek.com/2014/07/18/boko-haram-terrors-insidious-new-face-257935.html ). They claimed that killing their “enemies” would make God happy. They urged children to perform every act of violence they could so that God would smile on them. They said, “Let’s thank God and give him more bodies” and then proceeded to viciously hack off the heads of 3 people. That is just one disgusting example of a similar pattern (appeal to God to validate inhumanity) that has erupted endlessly over history and is still far too common today.

Such violence repulses and traumatizes the rest of us but also pushes us to seek ways to fully resolve hate and find a more humane and peaceful world. And while there are many elements that need to be tackled to promote peace, one of the most important is to go to the very foundations of our worldviews, our religions especially, and confront those inhumane ideas that promote inhuman treatment of others. Far too long, and across most religious traditions, some of the most primitive and brutal features have been embedded in people’s core beliefs, in their gods, features that bring out the worst in humanity.

Part of the violence problem is that we have inherited a core animal brain with drives to retaliate, dominate, and destroy others. Religions call this inherited sinfulness or the sinful fallen self.

We have learned over our history that certain ideas that we hold can re-enforce these brutal drives, while other ideas can effectively counter them and inspire the expression of our better selves.

This is a fundamental linkage or relationship that is critically important to understand. Again, grasp the above point that how we think- the ideas that we hold- influences how we feel and then how we respond or act. Our ideas and beliefs shape our behavior. Beliefs determine behavior. Most importantly, theology determines ethics. Views of a punishing, vengeful God have influenced many people to commit heinous acts of terror against others, including members of their own religion. The highest of all ideals and authorities- human views of deity- still determines behavior more than any other single influence. And yes, there is a feedback loop thing operating here in that people also initially project features onto higher authorities like deities, features that then, in turn, validate how they choose to act. That is how views of deity have developed over history.

This theological influence applies not just to terrorist violence, but also across the board to many other lesser expressions of violence. For example, theological beliefs have influenced justice systems toward a punitive emphasis and the barbaric practice of imprisonment (see Mennonite comment on this below regarding our Western tradition of justice). Theological beliefs have also influenced parents to dominate and punish children despite the evidence from psychology that such punitive approaches do not work and cause more harm than good.

Most of the great religious traditions have histories of violent deity or ultimate ideals that have influenced violence among followers of the religion. This has been true in Jewish religion, Christianity, Hinduism, and other traditions. The early error of punitive deity infected all the great religions. Again, nothing has been more powerful over history for influencing human behavior than views of God or related religious beliefs.

Making a foundational solution more difficult, things considered sacred are often the hardest to challenge and change. Some of the most pathological features have been projected onto gods, safely ensconced under the canopy of the sacred where they are never properly confronted and cleaned out. This is due to the long-ingrained human respect for deity as ultimate truth and authority. Admittedly, over the millennia more humane features have also been added to religious traditions but these are too often overwhelmed, distorted, and buried by the other more brutal elements that remain in theologies.

The long term and ultimate solution to violence must include the project of going to our root ideas/ideals and making fundamental changes there. You will never properly solve the problem of violence in human society until you thoroughly root out the inhumane features in human worldviews and then radically humanize the ultimate ideals and authorities that inspire and validate human emotion and behavior.

We know better today exactly what ideas or features have caused the most damage to human minds and behavior. Inhumane ideals such as retaliation (the dehumanizing pathology of getting even), exclusion (us versus them tribalism), domination and control of others, and punishment/destruction. Retaliation embedded in gods has done more to keep cycles of violence going than any other single feature. This feature has been brought down through history via mythology, religion, and even into modern ideology. I have traced these lines of descent on this site (i.e. retaliation theology promoting the development of atonement/salvation religion). The ultimate expression of retaliation is apocalyptic mythology, which finds continued expression in religions like Christianity, and in secularized versions like environmental alarmism.

Fortunately, we have a brilliant discovery- history’s greatest breakthrough insight- that enables us to fully humanize our core ideals and beliefs. We know that the unconditional treatment of all people is the most powerful corrective to counter violence and promote authentic human emotion and behavior. This ideal embedded in our highest ideals and authorities can liberate as nothing else from those base drives that we have inherited. It can inspire humanity, as nothing else can, to achieve authentic human feeling and treatment of others.

I would offer again that the root of the human problem with violence can be summed up in the idea and practice of retaliation. And the solution to this foundational cause of violence is found in non-retaliation, or the unconditional treatment of all people. Humanity can find true liberation from its worst impulses by countering retaliation with unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity. In a word- unconditional love.

But this new humane ethic must be grounded in an equally humane theology of unconditional love. Only then are we properly dealing with the deepest roots of violence. This has not happened yet in the major world religious traditions which continue to maintain the great error of the ancients, that deity was to be defined by retaliation, exclusion, and punishment.

Each of us is responsible to examine the foundations of our worldview, our way of viewing life, and confront any elements that are less than authentically humane and root these out. Our number one responsibility in life is to learn what it means to be truly human, how to think and act as authentically human.

Once again to summarize: ideas/beliefs influence emotions, which then shape response/behavior. The common contemporary example is all too familiar- a vengeful, punishing deity inspiring violent action toward others. Belief shapes behavior. Theology determines ethics.

If you are really serious about changing life for the better and getting rid of violence, and achieving real peace, then directly tackle the religious ideas/beliefs still embedded in the foundations of so many human worldviews, and especially views of deity that are less than authentically humane. Theology embodies the highest human ideal and authority. So join the project to radically humanize views of ultimate reality.

We have a great example of someone who actually did humanize the highest human ideal as never before in history. But tragically, Christianity rejected his breakthrough discovery and retreated back to the theology of a violent God and associated beliefs in violent atonement. I refer of course to the historical Jesus and Paul’s Christian reversal of Jesus’ breakthrough insights.

Nothing has been more potent for countering the root causes of violence, and liberating from evil in general, than Jesus’ new theology of unconditional deity. Nothing has ever been more effective for ending violence in human society than his insight on the unconditional treatment of all people. Explore this with us.

More on site reason: dealing with the ultimate roots of violence…

I am tackling the fraud and lie that there is some great threat behind life, some ultimate cause of punishment because we have sinned. You see examples of this thinking everywhere. After the Japanese tsunami a Japanese woman asked, “Are we being punished because we are enjoying life too much?” Or the well-known American singer who said that she believed her later-in-life miscarriage was punishment for having an abortion earlier in life. You find this perception everywhere and throughout history, whenever someone has suffered some accident, sickness, or misfortune. Even secular materialist types voice this belief in their view that destructive disruptions in nature are punishment for human sin or greed (i.e. the revenge of Gaia, angry nature, or karma).

Just to remind readers again, this pathological belief in some greater threat of punishment behind life began with an ancient misread of the misfortunes of life. Early people believed that there were spirits behind all the elements of life. Natural disaster, accident, war, or disease were then evidence that the spirits were angry and punishing people. How do I know that this is how ancient people thought? I have lived among contemporary tribal people (Manobo tribal groups of Mindanao) who endlessly voiced this perspective as their explanation for natural disaster, accident, and disease. Anthropologists note that we can gain some understanding of historically primitive perspectives by studying contemporary tribal groups further removed from modern Western culture. Going further out from the urban centers of modern culture is a rough proxy for going back in time. (Note: As mentioned repeatedly on this site, there is also abundant evidence of this belief in punishing spirits found in the earliest human writing and mythology, both Sumerian and following traditions)

The idea of punishing spirits has darkened and enslaved human consciousness as nothing else ever has. This pathological idea of some great punishing force or spirit is at the core of much historical religion (i.e. atonement or salvation mythology). Salvation religion was very much an institution developed over history to appease and please some greater threatening reality. It would prescribe the conditions necessary to placate some upset deity- how to live, or what sacrifice to make in order to appease the divine threat. The salvationist solution and response was more violence (i.e. blood sacrifice) to solve the problem of initial violent threat from deity. Trying to solve violence with more violence only locks human consciousness into the dead-end of cycles of violence.

And then there was that stunning breakthrough of historical Jesus that there is no threat behind life, but only Unconditional Love of a scandalous nature. Something infinitely beyond the best that we can imagine. Something that blows away the foundations of any felt need to appease, to get right, or to seek some salvation.

Now let me take this back to the issue of solving violence in human society. You can engage all sorts of peace agreements, and these are necessary, but if you do not get to the real root of violence, peace will not be foundationally or properly established. You have to go to the very core foundational ideas and beliefs that shape our ultimate ideals and authorities. If you do not fully humanize the core ideals and authorities then these deeper causes of violence will continue to fester and erupt in subsequent history.

And this comment from Bob Brinsmead, from a discussion group response to the Bridgette Gabriel videos (e.g. http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/peaceful_majority_irrelevant/ ). These are available on Youtube.
Bob’s comment; “It seems to me that the Muslim lady asked a fair question. Where is the ideological response to the jihadist ideology? The invasion of Iraq and intervention in Afghanistan was a military response. Where is the ideological response? The battle is for the mind and that can’t be won with guns and knives. Israel responds to the Palestinians also by way of massive military retaliation. This may win a battle, but it can never win the war”. Bob Brinsmead.

New comment
As we try to abandon the primitive error of punishing deity, and as we try to move toward the liberation of unconditional ultimate reality, it is important to uncover and break all the varied chains that keep the old punishment theology firmly in place. Here is another bit of related mythology that supports retaliation/punishment thinking- holiness mythology.

The Wonder of Being Human: Countering the religious devaluation of humanity (i.e. holiness mythology)

One of the darker strands of thought in punishment mythology is the idea of human sinfulness. This element re-enforces the need for deity to punish humanity. The ancients also projected holiness onto God (purity and perfection) to further intensify the contrast with imperfect humanity and enforce the need for deity to separate from humanity and punish humanity. Human sinfulness and divine holiness were tightly pair-bonded as supporting pillars of punishment theology.

The human family has been devalued and traumatized by multiple millennia of this profoundly anti-human mythology of sinfulness. In our Western Christian tradition we have been told that we ruined an original paradise, that our ancestors intentionally committed an original error, and therefore “fell” into sinfulness , and that all people now inherit an essentially sinful nature or self. We are also, according to human sinfulness mythology, to be finally destroyed if we do not engage some salvation scheme.

Human sinfulness has become foundational to the fraudulent myth of human separation from God (i.e. excluded, rejected, condemned- holiness as purity and perfection demands separation from impurity, imperfection). This separation mythology claims that we have broken or ruptured a formerly close relationship. We are now told that we need to reconcile with our offended deity, and heal the ruined relationship. This separation perspective further supports appeasement mythology and the belief that a blood sacrifice is required to satisfy the deity that we have offended and angered. That will bring about reconciliation. Thus, we are urged to embrace more violence in order to clean up the mess that we have made of things.

I am simply outlining here the Christian version of this mythology of sinfulness (fallen and corrupt humanity), which is also found in many other religious traditions. Christian sin mythology has darkened human consciousness with intensely damaging psychological impacts.

As now corrupt creatures we are told that we are continuing to ruin things to the extent that life is now in decline toward some great catastrophic ending as punishment for our sins, something that we deserve because our original parents sinned.

Human sinfulness mythology has re-emerged in contemporary ideologies such as environmental alarmism. Green alarmists push the fraud of our essential evil or corruptness by telling us that we are a virus on the planet, a cancer on life, or a curse. All of our successful endeavor to improve our lives and our families is regularly condemned by the anti-human alarmists as greed and selfishness. Not exactly helpful stuff on which to build healthy self-esteem.

This human sinfulness mythology has engendered immeasurable misery for people- endless guilt, shame, fear, self-loathing and self-hate, depression, and despair over our history. And it is all a horrific distortion of the actual human condition and story.

We now have a more rational alternative to this pathological myth of fallen humanity. The real story of humanity is about the wonder of being human and possessing human consciousness. This evidence-based narrative reveals that rather than beginning in some imagined perfection or innocence and then falling into sinfulness, we began in a more primitive and brutal condition in a distant past. That past was defined by much higher rates of violence, along with overall miserable living conditions. We have since gradually developed and risen toward an ever-improving condition. Researchers like Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) and James Payne (History of Force) present sound evidence of our long term trajectory of progress, a trajectory that rises irreversibly from a more violent past and toward a more peaceful present. We have become a notably more empathic and gentle species.

This progress toward something better, or more humane, reveals the true nature of our consciousness, the essence of our authentic human selves.

Somewhere in the distant past the greatest wonder in the cosmos began to emerge and develop in our species, the wonder of human or humane consciousness. Human consciousness came with basic impulses to feel compassion for others and for all for life, to include all as equals, to forgive, and to treat all with unconditional generosity. Though often embryonic in expression over history, these fundamental human impulses have grown steadily stronger over time, till today we see evidence of their widespread influence in our societies, and in civilization overall. See again Pinker, Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource), and others for detail. We are indeed now more creators than destroyers (Simon) and this becomes ever more evident as history progresses. See also my comment on the actual trajectory of life (Rise or Decline?) in an essay that I did for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, available on their website under GWPF Reports, or on the topic bar above.

We now understand that the highest human ideal- what we summarize in the term love- defines our most essential nature or authentic self. Along with our core nature as love, we have an unlimited creative potential. We create ever more useful technology, better medicine and health conditions, and ever more comfortable living conditions. And our compassion and creativity (expressed in our desire for a better life) have enabled us to produce immense wealth by which we are also able to improve conditions for all life on Earth.

Our ongoing and irreversible progress toward something better is evidence, not of essential sinfulness, but of essential love and creativity at our core. There should be no guilt over our original imperfection, and our subsequent gradual progress and development toward our full destiny as something more humane. Our history is a grand story of exodus, of leaving brutal animal existence to create a new authentically humane existence in civilization. This is profound evidence of the love that defines our core human self.

So we are not a curse on the Earth but with our creative and compassionate minds we have improved life on earth. Remember also that mindless nature by itself has destroyed about 99 percent of all species. We now endeavor to preserve all species. Again, this is evidence of the compassion and creativity that define our consciousness.

Also, disciplines like quantum mechanics and related research tell us that our consciousness is not just a by-product of the hamburger in our heads (mind from meat) but is at the very core of reality as a creating element (the inseparable observer/observed relationship- see, for instance, Quantum by Manjit Kumar). Human consciousness may be the most fundamentally real thing, or the only “real” thing in all the cosmos. Information like this ought to help us value being human and to appreciate the wonder of conscious human experience.

Whatever the ongoing discovery that emerges from the varied disciplines of science, we know enough today to conclude that we have never fallen from a mythical better past state (Eden) into some imagined worse present state. The exact opposite is true- that we have steadily risen from a worse state to our presently better condition. We can therefore rationally reject the sinfulness myths that were created to devalue humanity over most of history.

And we can confidently conclude that we have never been separated from the greater Unconditional Love at the core of all reality. That greater reality of Unconditional Love also defines our essential nature (the human self or person) and consciousness as a similar love. You could argue that the greater Consciousness that we call God has incarnated in all humanity as human consciousness. That would indeed then make us the wonder of the cosmos. It would explain why we have endlessly matured and developed toward something better than before.

Add to the above that no sinfulness means no separation from our creating Source, no need for atonement, no need to get right with God, no need to appease deity, no need to engage some salvation religion, and much more. The only “salvation” that we need to engage is the ongoing improvement of life through our ever-developing compassion and creativity.

Its time to end this distorting devaluation of humanity as sinful and to recognize the wonder of our conscious human selves.

Note: How then do we explain the darker side of humanity? Many have offered the insight that we have inherited base drives in a core animal brain, drives to fear, hate, retaliate, punish, and destroy, among others. But these drives do not define our essential human self. Researchers like Jeffrey Schwartz (You Are Not Your Brain) argue for distinguishing between these darker elements and our authentic self which is something much better. Theological types like Albert Nolan and Karen Armstrong have also written that our essential self is love. The NDE movement further offers numerous accounts of people discovering that our essential person is love, just as Ultimate Reality is Love (our real self being inseparable from the Ultimate Love).

Further note on the holiness idea: A Mind that creates all and sustains all in existence is obviously present in every atom of the material reality that it creates and sustains. It is not put off by the decay and death of life. It does not “separate” itself from the less pleasant aspects of physical reality and life. I was raised in an Evangelical tradition where people discussed how an omnipresent God that was holy could possibly be present where there was defilement or impurity. Much like silly discussions of how many angels could balance on the head of a pin. But in such argument you can see how holiness thinking perverts understanding of deity.

And yes, religious people will respond that the human separation from deity is about moral issues (i.e. divine holiness as separation from sin). In Evangelicalism, they claimed that holiness was God’s most essential attribute and it defined everything else about divinity. Divine holiness then formed the solid foundation that re-enforced atonement mythology. Holiness meant offense at any imperfection (“sin”) and the obligation to punish all sin, the need to demand a payment for sin. It was all about the divine requirements or conditions necessary to satisfy or appease the offended holiness.

The historical Jesus responded to this separation distortion consistently with his new theology of unconditional deity. We now understand that purity and perfection in God has nothing to do with holiness and its supreme conditions. Rather, purity and perfection in God has to do with unconditional love, the unconditional inclusion of all, both good and bad, unconditional forgiveness of all without pre-condition, and unconditional generosity toward all. This is quite opposite to religious holiness teaching that defines God’s purity and perfection with its separation and punishment orientation.

Note that religious holiness, with its offense at the faults of imperfect others, also has similarities to such things as barbaric honor practices. Landes (Heaven on Earth) writes that this offense and revenge thinking is found in traditional societies even across the world today. Someone takes offense at something another person does. Offenses include such things as a daughter not heeding parent’s wishes regarding marriage partners, or even just some verbal insult. The offended family then claims the obligation to kill the daughter in order to “restore” their offended honor, or to retaliate severely against whatever other offense was committed. This is primitive thinking and practice. But it is very much like religious holiness teaching (holiness as the feature that validates taking offense at wrong and exercising the obligation to retaliate).

There is another element to holiness theology, usually termed the “numinous”, which refers to the glory or majesty of the divine. But this numinous element is overwhelmed and defined by the exclusion, separation, wrath, and punishment that dominates traditional holiness theology. This is why any purity, perfection, glory, or majesty of deity must be founded on and defined by the Unconditional Love that is the very essence of God. Unconditional Love keeps everything oriented to authentic humanity or humaneness.

I am dealing with these religious issues because I want to provide a thorough exposure of the fundamental ideas supporting punishment theology. If we are ever going to find liberation from the darkness and enslavement of atonement mythology then we need to confront all these related features that validate the monster of punishing deity.

Also, note my preference for the term “imperfection” to describe human failure, instead of the religious term “sin”. Pronouncing something as sin communicates the connotation of all-knowing or ultimate judgment and condemnation, something none of us has the right to exercise. We simply cannot fully know why each of us fail to be fully human in the infinitely varied ways that we all do. We ought to be very cautious about judging the motivations, behavior, and culpability of any other person.

The most potent force against evil

Bob Brinsmead suggested the need to develop the case that a non-retaliation/unconditional ethic and theology is the strongest defence against evil. Unconditional treatment of people does not promote indifference to evil or encourage people to take evil lightly.

Bob’s comment- “For those who may stumble, we should develop the case that the unconditional/non-retaliation ethic and theology is the strongest ethic and the greatest defence against evil. We have to show that it is not indifference toward evil, and we need to develop this from a number of angles. We need to respond to those who stumble on the point of taking evil lightly.”

“We must be liberated from an ethic that is tied to the fear of punishment. This is poor motivation for children and it has even been shown to be poor motivation for animals. As soon as the fear of the punishment fades from view (in the old worldview), the bad behaviour returns. The motivation for good human development and acts must come from within, from ourselves, from a real understanding that by wrongdoing we punish ourselves by diminishing the greatness of who we really are – it reduces and demeans us. Perhaps this is why someone quoted a certain atheist, whom he described as one of the most holy, upright men he had ever encountered. How is the notion “God is watching” different from “Big Brother is watching.” I am reminded of going into a roadside fruit stall where no one was in attendance, only an honesty box, with a statement exhibited which said, ‘You are what you are when no one is watching’. We are all too prone to be angry when we think wrong doers or cheats are getting away with it. They are not. They never do. I used to have a high school teacher that used to tell us kids as we faced examinations, ‘You can cheat if you want to, but you will only hurt yourselves if you do’.” Robert Brinsmead

My response to Bob on this issue:

Yes Bob. Its about that Jesus ethic/theology linkage. Theology determines ethics. Our views of the ultimate good, the ultimate ideal, do shape our emotions, responses, and behavior.

The realization of unconditional love for what it really is…provides a whole new motivation for human behavior. A new theological basis for ethics. There are many strands to follow here- e.g. that human beings have always mimicked their ultimate ideals and authorities. They try to live up to that greater reason that they believe they exist for.

And recognizing unconditional love behind all blows away the basis of guilt, fear, shame, despair and related emotions, all debilitating emotions, especially when employed in evaluating one’s personal failure.

To recognize that there is no condemnation, no threat, no punishment, and especially in any ultimate sense, this does not open the flood gates to evil but quite the opposite. It releases the desire to be the same, to do the same, to experience that same unconditional love. Near-Death Experience accounts affirm this positive response when people experience unconditional love.

People realize that the unconditional love at the core of all reality is who we really are, it is our essential nature and consciousness, and therefore it is our purpose for being here, the meaning of human life. So they return fired with desire to live this love in the details of life. Everything less than this love is viewed as a waste of life, a tragic failure of our very reason for being.

The Australian Psychological Society paper (one example of a lot of similar research) also affirmed the point- that retaliation/punishment responses do not work and only reinforce further bad behavior, both in criminals and in children. Positive affirming responses are more effective in changing behavior for the better. Non-punishing or unconditional approaches teach proper alternative behaviors.

Mandela also discovered that unconditional love brought out the best in former enemies, and changed them for the better. He employed unconditional treatment of others to avoid civil war in South Africa. At the same time others used punishment approaches and unleashed horror on entire societies- e.g. Uganda, Bosnia, and the ongoing cycle of violence in the Mid-East.

Unconditional is the most potent and effective response to counter the evil of retaliation and punishment, the responses that are behind so much violence and misery in the world.

Yes, there are a lot of angles here… such as that unconditional is the most potent thing to deal with guilt and shame, both of which diminish personal understanding of ourselves and our power to oppose evil, to be something better.

There is some interesting comment (noted above) on how unconditional love impacts human behavior in NDEs that might help here. Those who taste the unconditional love of God realize that there is no condemnation, no threat from God. They then experience this interesting new motivation to want to love like that Love. To not disappoint that Love. It becomes the new driving motivation in their lives. To love in all the details of life and to love in a new unconditional manner. We have done some work on this but yes, it needs a lot more. I have some comment on unconditional being at the root of peace and order, trade and commerce, all vital to humans leaving a brutal past to enter more peaceful civilization.

CO2 or Natural Variation? (or Relax about using fossil fuels)

The narrative has been relentlessly beaten into public consciousness over the past few decades- that the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing catastrophic climate warming. But with the halt of warming for the past 17 years the alarmist claim has changed. Rising CO2, alarmists argue, is now causing more general “climate change” with “extreme weather events” (as if both of these have not been common all throughout climate history).

Note carefully how alarmist scientists and media have focused intensely on these two particular things- rising temperatures and rising CO2 levels. They have persistently tried to create fear over these two trends as a great threat to life. This is the central theme of the alarmist narrative today. And it is not supported by good scientific evidence.

This narrative is not just unproven. It is backwards (both rising CO2 and warmer temperatures are a significant benefit to life). And the dogmatic manner in which it has been presented is entirely unscientific. There is no clear, final evidence that rising levels of CO2 are causing any notable climate change. CO2 cannot be isolated out as the dominant cause of climate warming or climate change in general. Other natural elements show stronger causal relationships to the climate change periods that we have observed over the past. These other natural climate drivers appear to be the main causes of climate change.

To clarify further, the debate is not whether CO2 has a warming effect or influence. That is not questioned and there is consensus on that- CO2 does have a warming effect or influence. Both alarmists and skeptics agree on this.

But other natural factors show stronger correlations (and causal relationships) to all the notable climate change periods that we have seen, especially in the past few hundred years. The CO2 warming effect appears to be a minor player in the mix of natural factors.

Note for instance, the cosmic ray/solar flux interaction and its correlation with climate change periods of the past few centuries (for detail see Henrik Svensmark’s The Chilling Stars). This cosmic ray/solar flux phenomenon works as follows: Incoming cosmic rays (from exploding stars) release electrons in the air which encourages the clumping of molecules to make micro-specks, capable of gathering into larger specks of cloud condensation nuclei on which water droplets can form. In brief, cosmic rays cause more cloud formation, especially low clouds (below 3000 meters above the surface) that have a stronger effect in keeping the earth cool. These clouds reflect back sunlight that would otherwise warm the earth.

The other side of this interaction- an active sun provides a barrier to incoming cosmic rays by providing a magnetic shield that prevents cosmic rays from arriving at the Earth. But this shield fluctuates according to whether the sun is active (solar maximums) or not active (solar minimums).

So in summary, cosmic rays cause more cloud which cools the earth. But an active sun prevents incoming cosmic rays (less cloud) and this results in the Earth warming.

Once again: Cosmic rays = cloud = cooling climate. Active sun = less cloud = warming climate.

The sun was notably inactive/dead during the Little Ice Age of roughly 1645-1715. That was an abnormally cold time on Earth and climate has since been rebounding over the past centuries, back toward a more normal warmer world. But the rebound has not been a straight line of rise toward warmer averages. It has been a series of warming/cooling periods of roughly 20-30 years length in a larger overall warming trend (see Dr. Akasofu’s research at http://www.mdpi.com/2225-1154/1/1/4). This interspersing of warming and cooling periods correlates with such things as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation- large shifts in Pacific currents from cooling to warming phases every 20-30 years (i.e. roughly 1880-1910 cooling, 1910-1940 warming, 1940-1975 cooling, 1975-1995 warming, 1995- present flat trend).

Also, the sun was quite active during the warming of 1975-95, and then went dead after that (solar minimum). This correlates to the cessation of warming since 1995 (http://www.thegwpf.org/climate-change-and-the-quiet-sun/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25743806 ).

The CO2 warming effect gets lost or overwhelmed by the stronger influence of these other natural factors. This is notably evident when we recognize that while CO2 levels continue to rise, there has been no further warming for the past 17 years.

The result is that there is no clear evidence that CO2 is dominantly related (the sole cause or dominant cause) to such climate changes as we have noted over the past centuries. It certainly plays a part in any warming but is not primarily responsible for the changes in climate noted above. And then the human contribution to CO2 levels, and warming effect, is much smaller yet (it amounts to “a fart in a hurricane”, according to one scientist).

Others have given some further perspective on CO2 by pointing out the tiny amount that humans contribute and the miniscule size of CO2 in relation to other natural factors. For instance, CO2 is only about 3.6% of all greenhouse gases. And the human contribution to CO2 is about 3% of the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (1 molecule of every 100,000 molecules). Other natural sources of CO2 are immense, the two largest sources being oceans and soils (i.e. bacteria). Also volcanoes, and notably submarine volcanoes (some 3 million), contribute CO2 but these sources are hard to measure.

The overall conclusion then is that we cannot claim that CO2 in general has caused any of the climate change that we know about over the past. And it is certainly not proven that CO2 is now causing any “catastrophic” climate change. And with the human contribution to CO2 being much tinier, then we certainly cannot claim that human emissions of CO2 are causing catastrophic climate change. They have not been proven responsible for causing any of the mild climate change events of the recent past (i.e. the 1975-1995 mild warming). We cannot then argue for reducing human emissions of CO2 because they pose some threat. There is no clear evidence for such a claim. As German meteorologist Klaus-Echart Puls has said, “There is nothing we can do to stop climate change. Scientifically, it is sheer absurdity to think we can get a nice climate by turning a CO2 adjustment knob” (Climate Science, May 10, 2012).

So it is time to end all these panicky calls to stop human use of fossil fuels, fuels that have been a huge benefit to human progress and civilization.

Also, it is time to cease this unscientific nonsense that CO2 is a pollutant or poison, a threat to life. It is the food of all life. And to paraphrase the Oregon Institute of Medicine’s Protest Petition, there is no evidence that rising CO2 is bad for earth while there is much good evidence that more CO2 in the atmosphere is good for earth. For instance, since 1980 there has been a 14% increase in plant productivity from more CO2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v86K5awl_s , see comment at the 34-35 minute mark). The Earth is greener and healthier due to more CO2 in the atmosphere. The biosphere has become more robust.

Pre-industrial age levels of CO2, which are viewed by alarmists as optimal (roughly 250 ppm), were so low that they stressed plant life. Plants prefer levels of 1000 to 1500 ppm as in farmer’s greenhouses.

Also, paleo-climate studies show no evidence that much higher levels of CO2 in the past caused any catastrophic climate change. In the past it was often much warmer with the higher levels of CO2 and life benefitted from such conditions (see Ian Plimer’s Heaven And Earth). For long stretches of time CO2 levels were 1500 ppm, and sometimes as high as 7000 ppm. During the Cambrian era, with its higher CO2 levels, the Earth experienced a great flourishing of plant and animal life (http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html).

Other points: As noted above, since 1980 with the 14% increase in plant productivity, and major greening of the Earth, the result has been a healthier biosphere. With more CO2, plants can tolerate drought better and experience more efficient water uptake. Animals and humans benefit from more plant growth (i.e. higher crop yields).

Another important point to understand from paleo-climate research is the basic causal relationship of warming climate to CO2. Research such as the Vostok ice cores show that increasing atmospheric CO2 tends to follow rising temperatures (warming climate). The relationship here is as follows: Rising temperature warms the oceans. Warming oceans then release CO2 into the atmosphere, causing levels to rise. This relationship occurs over centuries with the CO2 rise lagging the climate warming by up to 800 years. Note the data on this site http://joannenova.com.au/global-warming-2/ice-core-graph/ and their conclusion, “The bottom line is that rising temperatures cause carbon levels to rise. Carbon may still influence temperatures, but these ice cores are neutral on that. If both factors caused each other to rise significantly, positive feedback would become exponential. We’d see a runaway greenhouse effect. It hasn’t happened. Some other factor is more important than carbon dioxide, or carbon’s role is minor.”

Conclusion: The unscientific narrative of the alarmists is not supported with good evidence. They have insistently argued that the colder past with lower CO2 levels was optimal for Earth. And that rising temperatures and rising CO2 levels are now a threat to life. No. That is backwards. Rising temperatures (warming) and rising CO2 is part of a natural return to more normal and healthier conditions for life. And over recent history (past few centuries), rising CO2 and rising temperatures are part of the natural rebound from the Little Ice Age which was an abnormally cold time on Earth.

We need to reverse entirely the alarmist CO2 narrative of the past few decades that rising CO2 and warmer temperatures are a threat to life. CO2 levels have risen to much higher levels over the past and then fallen again. Such is the regular change in a dynamic system like climate. Climate change is the very nature of climate. And with all the massive changes over the past there were no “catastrophic” outcomes for life because with all change there are feedbacks both positive and negative. The result, according to climate scientist Roy Spencer, is that climate acts like a self-regulating system that keeps its varied elements within ranges that support life (despite significant fluctuations or changes, despite endless natural climate change).

And critical to note is the fact that there is no optimal past state in climate that remains in stasis (unchanging). And certainly, the cold temperatures and low CO2 of the pre-industrial past were not optimal for life. So trying to stir fear over “climate change” is not just unscientific but positively irrational and borders on some form of hysteria at times.

Note also in the larger context that these past few million years have been an abnormally cold ice age era with both colder temperatures and lower levels of CO2. This is due to our position on one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way where there is a lot of star activity (i.e. exploding stars emitting cosmic rays). Remember also that for 75% of its history Earth has been entirely ice free. That is a more normal and healthy state for life.

Note further Ian Plimer’s argument that it is during climate cooling that Earth experiences more drought, not during climate warming. Again, the alarmists, like Al Gore, have the science all backwards. Plimer explains that during warmer periods life flourishes while during colder periods life suffers (i.e. more extinctions, more human fatalities). A warmer world with higher levels of CO2 is a healthier world, a more normal world when compared to the long-term context of life on Earth.

Getting the basic science of CO2 and carbon right is vital to end this current alarm over rising CO2 levels. As noted above, alarmists have been trying to portray CO2 as a pollutant and even poison. This is irrational. It is a complete abandonment of sound science. CO2 is the very food of all life. It is vital to a healthy biosphere.

When the evidence does not support the alarmist narrative we then must ask what is really behind all this climate alarmism? This takes us to ideological issues. And further behind that we find mythological issues. Ideology is often just secularized mythology anyway, rooted in a primitive alarmist worldview.

This site is devoted to understanding these deeper roots of alarmist movements, whether religious or secular.

Secularized Mythology- Apocalyptic in modern ideology Wendell Krossa

Opening qualifier: Not all alarmism is an expression of apocalyptic mythology. But much doomsterism/alarmism does touch base with core apocalyptic themes. Apocalyptic is a unique set of primitive and damaging ideas.

Another qualifier: I argue repeatedly on this page that the worst error in all history (i.e. punitive forces/spirits behind life) spawned the most distorting and damaging set of ideas in all history- apocalyptic mythology. The outcome of apocalyptic has been atonement religion- the appeasement or salvation industry. This apocalyptic set of ideas/themes has darkened and enslaved human consciousness for millennia. It still dominates much public consciousness today (note public story-telling media such as movies, TV, and literature).

Now to the main point…

Various strains in contemporary ideology (notably environmental alarmism) are little more than secularized mythology. It is always surprising to discover some of the most primitive mythology still present in modern secular viewpoints. To illustrate this I will trace in brief summary form the main apocalyptic themes as they descend from primitive thinking down into the present. I will employ broad strokes and over-simplify in order to make the point clear and to show the linkages between major historical periods and systems of ideas. The core themes of apocalyptic are not always held up front in daily consciousness or conversation but tend to reside more in the background (subconscious even) where they are often not properly confronted, rooted out, and replaced with more evidence-based and rational alternatives.

The line of descent of apocalyptic mythology, in our Western tradition, is from primitive mythology to Zoroaster, then to Jewish religion, merged into Christianity, and then into 19th Century Declinism or Cultural Pessimism, and then to Environmentalism (we could also include Marxism and Nazism). The thing to note in this lineage is not exact correspondence of statements or expression but the core theme behind any given statement or expression.

Apocalyptic mythology is much more than just the apocalypse myth. Apocalypse by itself (aside from its full context) makes little sense. It is part of a full template of tightly related ideas or myths that includes:

1. The myth of original paradise (or a generally better past)
2. The ruin of paradise by corrupted humanity (Fall). Corrupt humanity now deserves some punishment.
3. The subsequent decline of life toward something worse (i.e. in contemporary expression the world is getting worse, threat from over-population, fragile nature is ready to collapse).
4. A dualism between good and evil. Oppositional dualism affirms the need to exclude and punish some enemy.
5. A salvation scheme- this is atonement thinking, the felt need to make a sacrifice in order to save something (oneself, humanity, or the world) from the final punishment. Salvationism is about placating some angry, punitive force/spirit in order to avoid the end-time grand retaliation from an angry God or revenge of Gaia.
6. A final punishment of evil. This is the actual apocalypse- some catastrophic ending- where the good triumph over the evil (a final retaliation against one’s enemies).
7. The purging of the world (removing the old corrupt order of things- i.e. population reduction, and slowing or reversing industrial civilization), and the restoration of paradise or inauguration of the new kingdom/utopia.

Behind this template of apocalyptic is that core error of the ancients- that behind life there is some threatening, punishing spirit or god. This explains the final punishment of all wrong and the purging of the old corrupt order (the purging of all evil).

Note especially below that it was Zoroaster who introduced a strong dualism into ancient apocalyptic mythology, a clear opposition between good and bad. This would affirm the exclusion of unbelievers or bad people (the disagreeing other). It would affirm the need to punish such people. That dualism would reinforce primitive tribalism and the right to retaliate against and destroy one’s enemies. It would affirm the impulse to exclude and ultimately destroy outsiders in an apocalyptic punishment.

Primitive (Sumerian) mythology

In the earliest human writing (i.e. Sumerian cuneiform tablets) we already find the core themes of apocalyptic mythology. Apocalyptic is not yet assembled into a coherent theology but is more of a scattering of themes here and there. These themes may be noted in such material as the Sumerian or Gilgamesh Flood myth (roughly 2100 BCE though it refers to earlier events). The Sumerian tablets contain fragmentary accounts and a fuller version of the Gilgamesh epic appears somewhere between 1600-1300 BCE in Babylonian mythology.

The core themes: The city of Dilmun was presented as an original paradise. The god/man Enki committed an original error that resulted in his punishment with illness and the degrading of paradise (an early version of the Fall of man theme). And then there was the myth of a great Flood as punishment for human sin (too many people being too noisy). The god Enlil decided to punish the boisterous people with a great deluge. That was the earliest apocalypse scenario. For detail see sites such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_creation_myth

In these early myths we see the barebones outline of primitive apocalyptic thinking.

The earliest expressions of Salvationism or salvation mythology are also found in the earliest human writing, in the Sumerian Flood myth and later related versions such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the varied versions of the flood myth there are different flood heroes- Utnapishtim, Atra-Hasis, and Zi-ud-sura. The flood hero builds an ark and rescues the animals and then, along with his wife in Utnapishtim’s case, is granted eternal life by the gods. This is the earliest recorded mythology of Salvationism and immortality.

There are also conditions to meet in order to gain salvation and this is noted in the case of Gilgamesh, who fails to meet the conditions. For one condition he is required to stay awake but fails. Another condition requires him to obtain an ocean plant which he does, but then while he is busy bathing, a serpent steals the plant that would have given him renewed youthfulness. He then loses his bid for immortality.

And in these same epics (notably that of Zi-ud-sura) there is also the required sacrifice made to the gods, another element of Salvationism. After the flood Ziusudra offers a sacrifice of an ox and a sheep. He is then given “eternal breath” and dwells in the paradise of Dilmun.

So, once again, the core elements of salvation and related mythology are all there in these ancient epics- retaliatory or punishing deity, the original paradise and fall of man (i.e. the paradise of Dilmun and the “sin” of Enki, who becomes ill after eating forbidden fruit), the grand punishment or retaliation of apocalypse (flood), and the subsequent salvation/sacrifice scheme with its conditions.

Zoroastrian apocalyptic mythology

Zoroaster takes up the scattered themes of primitive myth and brings them together to present a more formal and coherent theology of apocalyptic and salvationism.

Zoroaster appears to be the first to introduce into his apocalyptic theology the idea of a dualism between good and evil. He speaks of a good Creator God, Ahura Mazda, and an evil hostile spirit, Angra Mainyu. These two are set in cosmic conflict. This opposition forms the basis of Zoroaster’s pronounced dualism, a dualism between good and bad that obligates people to make a choice of which they will follow.

This dualism results in life in this world becoming a battleground for the conflict between good and evil. According to Zoroaster, the world had originally been created perfect but Angra Mainyu had ruined that perfection, bringing decay and death into the world. This was a formal statement of a Fall (paradise lost). But this world and history would be brought to a final end when evil would be destroyed. A great apocalypse would occur, a final judgment in which good would be separated from evil, when good would conquer evil. A great fire of molten metal would burn the world carrying the unrighteous into Hell. This would purge the world and then its original perfection would be restored for the righteous who would spend eternity in bliss.

In the grand end-time apocalypse, a justice of rigid payback would be fulfilled. The righteous would be rewarded for good done and the wicked would be punished for evil done. Zoroaster’s dualism affirmed the need for opposition and exclusion of one’s enemies or opponents. There was to be a clear demarcation between the good and the bad, with the requirement to punish and annihilate the bad.

Zoroaster was the first to introduce these ideas of a final end to history and the world, a final judgment, Heaven and Hell as payment for deeds done, eternal life, and a great apocalypse by fire (no longer by flood). With these ideas Zoroaster offers a more complete and coherent presentation of apocalyptic and salvation mythology.

See for example http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/apocalyptic-that-which-has-been-rcvealed (sic) and Mary Boyce’s Zoroastrians: Their religious beliefs and practices.

Jewish apocalyptic theology

Apocalyptic mythology is developed in Jewish culture in the post-exile period (the Jews were exiled in 605 BCE and returned in 536 BCE). There is first the development of proto-apocalyptic theology in the writing of Isaiah (chapters 33-35, circa 163 BCE; chapters 24-27, circa 128 BCE), Jeremiah (chapter 33), Ezekiel (chapters 38-39), Joel chapter 3, and Zechariah chapters 12-14 (160 BCE). This is transitional thinking on apocalyptic mythology. Then there is the development of a full-blown apocalyptic theology in Daniel (chapters 7-12) during the Maccabean period (160-60 BCE).

Jewish apocalyptic exhibits the themes of a strong dualism (two kingdoms), the conquering and elimination of evil, a final judgment and divine victory over evil, and the complete reformation of all things (a renewed Golden Age). The good God will triumph over evil and chaos. Salvation is promised though in Jewish thought it had more to do with a this-world restored political kingdom and not some other-worldly individual salvation as in Paul’s thought.
See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalyptic_literature

Christian apocalyptic teaching

The Christian apocalyptic template inherits the Jewish perspective but is more fleshed out and contains the following main themes: an original paradise (Eden), a Fall into corruption due to human failure, the subsequent decline of life toward something worse, toward a catastrophic ending, and the great Apocalypse often referred to in terms such as “the Day of the Lord”. This will be a fiery purging of the world and the ending of the current corrupt world order. It will be a great divine judgment and punishment. After this there will be the restoration of all things in a renewed world (a new Eden), or a kingdom of God. This set of themes is also referred to as Christian salvation theology.

One can find these themes throughout the Christian Bible, but notably summarized in the writing of Paul and John (Revelation). See for instance, Paul’s writing in the letters to the Thessalonians, also in Romans and Hebrews (authorship uncertain).

Apocalyptic in 19th Century Declinism or Cultural Pessimism

In the development of 19th century Declinism theory we find a significant shift occurring in the historical descent of apocalyptic mythology. Apocalyptic is now secularized, or given a more secular expression. Myth is stated as ideology. Hence, my repeated statement that much contemporary ideology is just secularized mythology. Declinism is primitive apocalyptic myth re-emerging in modern thought and expression.

I am indebted to historians like Arthur Herman for the material in this section, notably his excellent study titled “The Idea of Decline In Western History”. Herman illustrates a pivotal point in the history of human thought or perception- how primitive mythology is secularized for the new thinking of the scientific era.

Herman notes the influence of a variety of Christian themes on the thinking of the Decline theorists (see also Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience for more historical detail on the influence of Christian apocalyptic on modern political ideologies like Marxism and Nazism).

Herman writes that Declinism assumes the common belief in an original golden age in the past, and that there has been a subsequent decline of life from that better past. The Declinists of the 19th Century refused to accept that modern industrial society was progress. Instead, in that very progress they saw the forces of decline and decadence. Human industrial civilization was making things worse. They saw in industrialization an emerging hell.

Declinists also held a belief in the Fall of man or the corruption of an originally pure humanity. Declinists believed that primitive people were a superior people. But modern civilization had corrupted the pure native soul and society, and they had subsequently lost their original vitality, their purity and strength. Technological and scientific society had degraded the human spirit. Racial degeneration had occurred. Civilization made people soft and corrupt.

(Note: see Stephen Pinker’s “Better Angels of Our Nature” for good counter evidence that shows the actual progress of humanity over history toward something ever better)

So now life was declining toward something worse than before. This Herman refers to as “Degeneration theory” which claims that there has been a deviation from an original pure and strong type. Modern technological and industrial society has produced this decline in humanity and in life generally. It was all heading for a grand collapse and ending (the apocalypse).

Salvation is to be found in purging this corrupt human civilization and restoring the primitive order or society. There must be a grand purifying, and it should be a violent overthrow, a violent and fiery purging of the old order so that a new order of life, or a new society, may be installed. This new world is to be a return to primitive vitality, and the assumed innocence of the original pure beginning. Herman also notes the Christian belief that salvation required the violent and catastrophic destruction of the old order so that the new order or kingdom could be inaugurated (see Revelation for graphic detail on the brutal violence of the Christian apocalyptic vision).

One can see the core Christian apocalyptic themes all through Declinism. This is the secularization of primitive mythology for the modern age.

Apocalyptic in Environmentalism

Herman in his chapter 12 then shows how Declinism thinking emerged in modern environmentalism. Contemporary environmentalism proclaims that the original Golden Age was found in pure and undisturbed nature, in pristine wilderness. But modern technological society has led to the corrupting of nature, it has degraded the natural paradise. Industrial society has threatened vital nature. Modern technological progress is destroying life, exhausting resources.

And all is now in decline toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. Salvation is to be found in returning to some post-industrial order. Declinists argue that we need to purge this corrupting order and bring in a new world order, or a new civilization, in order to save the planet. And this new order is actually viewed as a return back to nature, back to the original Golden Age. This will mean the renunciation of Western capitalist society for a return to a pure natural existence, to a primitive, pre-capitalist society. This is the new kingdom- a return to primitive society. It is a return to the mythical original vitality (pristine natural paradise) before the fall into modern civilization.

For the environmental declinist, or alarmist, the looming collapse of civilization is then something to look forward to. The catastrophic destruction of technological civilization is an opportunity to bring in the new order. Western civilization is a corrupting evil, and modern civilized humanity is an evil. But Gaia will retaliate and punish this human cancer and remove it, so that the old primitive natural order can be restored.


In all these historical phases of apocalyptic mythology we find the same core themes, no matter the differences of expression over time. The basic template re-emerges endlessly over history from primitive mythology to equally primitive theology to contemporary ideology- original paradise or better past, paradise ruined by corrupting humanity, a Fall into worsening corruption, the decline of humanity and life toward something worse, the looming catastrophic ending (apocalypse), the need to purge the old corrupt order and install a new order (or re-install the original primitive paradise).

From Sumerian myth to contemporary environmentalism, apocalyptic mythology has continued to darken consciousness and alarm humanity. Apocalyptic thinking has always held the dismal view of humanity as corrupt and destructive. It has therefore consistently opposed human development and progress. It has endlessly proposed anti-human salvation schemes that harm people and hinder progress toward a better future (and cause unnecessary damage to nature). It even urges ridding the planet of most of humanity. It is a profoundly anti-human mythology.

Apocalyptic always presents the potential to not only stir alarm but also violence with its oppositional dualism and sense of threat from some enemy (i.e. employing a sense of victimhood to validate violence toward perceived enemies).

Some additional points on the secularization of primitive mythology:

It is important to respond to alarmism with good scientific evidence. Rational science is the anti-dote to hysterical primitivism. And I have argued repeatedly that overwhelming evidence on all the major trends/elements of life affirms a narrative of hope, not alarm. We are not heading toward some catastrophic end of nature, life, or civilization.

But there is this interesting thing going on regarding evidence. You will get two equally bright scientists looking at the same data/evidence and coming to very contrary conclusions. You then realize that there might be ideology at play and influencing the conclusions about the evidence. One way of understanding this has been called “confirmation bias”, where people will accept only the evidence that affirms their views on something, and downplay or dismiss outright the contrary evidence that does not affirm their views. When this occurs then you recognize that it is important to look into ideological issues in order to better understand alarmism. And surprise, surprise because looking even deeper you will often find primitive mythology behind the ideology. Too much contemporary ideology is little more than secularized mythology.

Just for example. I was in a grad program at the University of BC back in the early 90s (School of Community and Regional Planning). Bill Rees was the director of the school and a lecturer (I took most of his courses). He is widely known as the originator or father of the Ecological Footprint model which argues that too many people are consuming too many resources and all is heading for some catastrophic collapse. We need another Earth or two to support our levels of consumption. Our footprint on nature is too large. We are in “overshoot”. Bill was developing this EF during the years I was in his school.

Now to illustrate this thing of mythology at the root of much contemporary ideology- Bill travelled a lot and when absent would invite others to lecture for him. He once had one of his PhD students lecture us on Mother Earth or the earth goddess. And he offered to us in lectures the perspective of Gaia. In a personal conversation, he once affirmed to me that apocalyptic was true. After all, according to Bill, it had happened in the past.

Other leaders of the environmental movement have also appealed to mythology to make their case for alarm over the state of nature. Notable in this regard is Rachel Carson and her appeal to an apocalyptic narrative in the first chapter of her book Silent Spring. Al Gore sometimes refers to his Christian beliefs to back his case for alarm. These are some of the thought leaders of alarmist environmentalism and it is evident that mythology plays some role in their approach. This is why this page focuses so much on understanding the deeper mythical roots behind alarmism.

It is not that any given alarmist will make a clear statement of mythology, tying her/his approach to traditional apocalyptic themes. It is more that they will employ a theme that is indistinguishable from the core themes of ancient mythology.

And thus primitive mythology, now often secularized, still clouds and damages modern outlook and society. It continues to darken public consciousness and enslave the human spirit and human society (notably the alarmist response of anti-development activism, the endeavor to oppose and halt human economic development and overall progress).

Fortunately, the human impulse for authentic liberation will persistently confront the residual influence of this primitive apocalyptic perspective and seek to replace these dark themes with a new narrative of hope based on the increasing evidence of human creative influence on life.
To further note the historical lines of descent and linkages see sites such as http://op-ed.the-environmentalist.org/2007/04/zoroastrianisms-influence-on-judaism.html, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15283-zoroastrianism, or http://www.westminster.edu/staff/brennie/RennieC55R36.1.pdf (Iranian roots of Christianity)

Another ‘additional’ point in relation to apocalyptic mythology: There is a dense complexity in human thought over history. However, throughout history some strains in human thought have played a more dominant role, influencing people and their lives more powerfully than other ideas. And some of these ideas/beliefs have caused immense damage to people and their societies. Hence, my more limited focus at times on a certain themes.

To get right to my point- nothing has caused more grief and damage to humanity than the core human myth of some threatening, retaliatory, or punitive reality. This idea/belief then spawned apocalyptic mythology and its twin- Salvationism theology (i.e. how to escape the punishment of the apocalypse).

My interest in these ideas has to do with getting to the foundational beliefs/ideas in human worldviews and noting their impact on human consciousness and existence. To this end I have repeatedly referred, for instance, to the example of people like Rachel Carson and her use of apocalyptic imagery and the consequence of her alarmism for millions of people, mainly children (i.e. her alarmism over chemicals played a significant role in the ban of DDT which then resulted in tens of millions of unnecessary deaths in the following decades).

Now I am sure that she was a good person and never intended such an outcome from her apocalyptic alarmism. But such outcomes litter the brutal history of apocalyptic thinking. Its potential to alarm excessively has led repeatedly to such damaging outcomes in human societies. Note, for instance, that Hitler bought into Spengler’s apocalyptic/millennial alarmism and then remember the outcome in German society and the larger world.

Note also how environmental alarmism today inspires opposition to human economic development and progress which is vital to protecting the environment. Many have detailed the destructive consequences of this alarmism on humanity and nature (e.g. bio-fuels fiasco, general opposition to fossil fuels).

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Site Comment: Section Seven- The problem of deity; Defining and describing God; Reason for this page (leaving conditional religion for unconditional freedom); Former page Intro; Punishment thinking; I am a dreamer (my list of greatest things); Search for the real deal; Summary of core teaching (historical Jesus); Unconditional in the Jesus tradition; Dating the New Testament books and related sources; The great contradiction; Mandela’s example and the cost of unconditional; Unconditional is impractical?; Unconditional and the use of force (advice of Chinese sage); discussion on Mandela; Brinsmead on non-retaliation in relationships; Two essay summary; Humanity’s greatest mistake

The Problem of Deity

Over history an interesting relationship has developed between humanity and deity. People have long taken human features and projected them out to define deity, to shape their understanding of greater reality. We see this in ancient mythology- gods that fight, punish, destroy, and often in the pettiest manner and over the pettiest things. Primitive gods that were very much like the primitive people that created them.

But as we have become more humane so we have updated our conceptions of deity, making gods more humane also. We see this early on in the Pharaoh-gods beginning to exhibit kindness and mercy. We find it later in the Hebrews presenting God as compassionate. Over history we humanize our gods as we become more humane and as we come to understand better the core features of authentic humanity.

This human/god relationship has also worked in a feedback loop manner. People create their perceptions of gods and then use those gods to justify their own actions and existence. As anthropologists note (e.g. Clifford Geertz), people have long appealed to the divine to validate their own lives and societies. This can be seen in the BCE-era Israelites believing that God gave them detailed instructions on how to build their first temple, how to arrange their camps around that temple, and a vast array of other detailed instructions on things like clothing, diet, care and consumption of animals, sexuality, and more.

And there is a dark side to this appeal to deity, or ultimate authority, for validation. As the gods people created were often primitively violent, so those gods were then employed to validate similar violence among people. We see this even today where people appeal to their God to validate the killing of outsiders/unbelievers. People employ ultimate reality as an ultimate authority and then obligate themselves to replicate that ideal for good or evil.

This is why some have argued that the idea of God has been one of the most dangerous ideas ever conceived (i.e. Bob Brinsmead). Deity has far too often embodied the very worst of primitive humanity- things like tribal exclusion and opposition, domination, and destruction of others. In addition to this, far too often the engagement of deity has resulted in the abandonment of responsibility to improve the human condition here and now (i.e. time and resources wasted on appeasing and pleasing invisible reality). Because of this dark and debilitating side to deity, many have argued that we need to get rid of the concept of deity entirely. As one disgusted atheist blurted, “Let’s get rid of all this metaphysical bullshit”.

While I understand his concerns, that is not likely to ever happen. Consciousness has made us aware that we belong to something greater, that we are part of some greater ultimate reality. And our basic impulse for meaning and purpose pushes us to understand that reality more. We have always been intensely curious to understand and explain the greater forces that give rise to our existence. We want to explain our origins, our existence, and our destination in terms of a greater reality. This has to do with our most fundamental desires, questions, and curiosities. We want to understand how we should live and why, and we seek answers in relation to ultimate reality, meaning, and purpose. This is all foundational to being consciously human.

Also, because so much pathological inhumanity has already been projected onto deity, that needs to be countered properly with more humane alternatives. And, as noted above, the inhumanity already projected onto deity has caused much misery over history. Further, you cannot just cede explanatory ground to philosophies like materialism with its belief in essential meaninglessness. That definition of ultimate reality violates our most basic human impulses for meaning and purpose, and it answers none of our most basic questions and concerns.

There have been a variety of approaches to understanding ultimate realities. A dominant one over the past few centuries has been philosophical materialism. And of course for millennia we have had the mythical/religious approach. Others suggest another alternative- the still developing approach that seeks to combine the discoveries of science with a new understanding of spiritual reality. This may prove to be helpful in the quest for ultimate understanding and explanation (note, for example, the theological discipline of panentheism and books like “In Whom We Live And Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World”).

And in one sense (tipping one’s hat just a bit to the materialists) we could all benefit from a good dose of atheism. I refer to the healthy atheism that Karen Armstrong spoke about, where over history people have always rejected gods that no longer work, for new ones more suited to the times- more humane gods. And fortunately, the gods have become more humane over history as we have come to understand what authentic human existence is about.

This trend of developing humaneness in our understanding of deity is part of the greater historical process of humanizing all things. This is a core impulse of human consciousness. It includes our perceptions of ultimate realities. And this humanizing process culminates in the ultimate expression of authentic humanity- unconditional love. This feature/ideal takes us to the heights of ultimate meaning and purpose. We have now discovered that unconditional is the pinnacle of what it means to be authentically human or humane. And we correctly understand all other things in light of this core theme (e.g. Schillebeeckx, “God is more human/humane than any human being”).

I would clarify here that ultimate reality/deity has always been unconditional love but it has just taken humanity a long time to fully recognize this truth. And unfortunately, while admirably humanizing our gods (our perceptions of deity), too many religious traditions still retain the features of the primitive deities and this results in a distortion of the new human features like unconditional love. Unconditional love then becomes limited by the conditional beliefs of religion (i.e. required atonement, required rituals and lifestyle to please some conditionally oriented deity). This is what Thomas Jefferson referred to as placing “diamonds in a dunghill”.

Further, in the process of humanizing our understanding of deity we need to recognize that there is no “Word from God” handed down from the heavens to tell us what deity is all about. That is the fallacy of Biblicism- the belief in some inspired holy book or Word of God that is an authority that tells us what to think/believe and how to live (i.e. inspired scriptures given to priestly elites to control the lives of others). Nonsense. We all know the divine as much as anyone else by understanding what is best in our own humanity. God is known primarily in all humanity and in all diverse human goodness. And each one of us holds the responsibility to know and explain ultimate reality according to the best features that we find in our humanity. We are all responsible for the greater humanizing project. There is no higher religious authority or mediating priesthood with superior insider knowledge of such things.

And it is unconditional love that now takes us to the absolute height of what it means to be authentically human or humane. This is a human discovery and not a “divine revelation”. We see its gradual development over history from early compassion and kindness to the great ideal of human love and then the further development of our understanding of love as unconditional. This takes love beyond limited tribal perceptions (love family, hate enemies) to an authentic universalism. The unconditional treatment of all people is our greatest insight and ideal (i.e. unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity).

Related to this- we need to purge ourselves of any sense of subservience to higher authorities, of any felt need to appease or serve some greater reality. Contrary to the claim of the ancients, we were not “created to serve the gods”. We are not obligated to subject ourselves to any higher authority, whether political, religious, or other. We have ultimate authority (and ultimate freedom) in our own human consciousness and our personal awareness of what it means to be human.

So there is no divinely-inspired obligation to serve or please some invisible deity, to re-establish or have a relationship with some invisible entity up in the heavens or in the future. The felt obligation to “get right with God” has always been founded on the distorting myth of some cosmic separation of humanity from deity at some time in the past. That never happened. There was no “Fall” of humanity into sin. There was never any fall from something originally better into something worse. To the contrary, the endlessly improving trajectory that is human emergence and development has always been a trajectory from something originally worse and toward something ever better.

Also, we live in the here and now and ought to be focused on loving and serving one another in real time and real life, and not focused on serving some invisible reality. And consider this: a God of authentic love would not be concerned about being praised and served but would ignore Godself to serve the other. Such is the nature of true love. Genuine love frees the other. It does not manipulate and control others with guilt, threat, or fear of punishment. It does not demand dehumanizing subservience. Love and freedom are tightly pair-bonded realities. You cannot have one without the other.

So yes, I am one with the critics on this point- worshipping some God up above in the heavens or up ahead in some future afterlife has long brought out the worst in humans: subservience, guilt, shame, fear, neglect of present life, and worse. The problem with loyalty/service to God is that it often takes precedence over our responsibility to meet the needs of real people. Seeking to know and serving something outside of humanity, or above humanity, has too often led to neglect and abuse of humanity.

We know better now. With the discovery of unconditional love it is no longer plausible to project any sort of inhumanity onto deity or ultimate reality of any kind. Unconditional eliminates all such projects. Unconditional takes us to the ultimate in human conception, ideals, and meaning. And understanding ultimate reality in terms of unconditional love liberates from all concerns about appeasing and pleasing some greater reality. It liberates humanity to embrace life fully in the here and now. It liberates from fear of death and whatever might follow (Near-Death Experience research affirms this outcome). The result is that it liberates from ultimate fears, anxieties, or concerns and orients us to humanity, and to improving the human condition here and now. It orients us to serving humanity and not something above humanity (again, this focus on serving something other than humanity has always led to neglect or abuse of real people). Unconditional love gives us the safest way to conceive of and handle the great reality and ideal of deity. Unconditional alone can properly respond to our most fundamental impulses and concerns.

Defining and Describing God

When you probe the root causes of things like historical alarmism or apocalyptic it is necessary to go back in the history of ideas/thought and that inevitably gets you back into religion and mythology and the human perception of gods/God. That requires using the term God frequently as is done on this page. So here is some explanation of the ever-changing human understanding and description of God.

The religious use of the term God has rendered it almost a dead word in that it has become so covered with accreted and distorting baggage that any use of the term by others requires all sorts of qualifiers. Over the history of religion some inhumane features have been projected onto religious gods- e.g. male gender (and sometimes female), the concept of judgment (vengeance, punishment, payback), the feature of king/ruler (with its consequent domination/submission, control), anger and related appeasement, and so on. People, in projecting such base features onto deity, have created grotesque monsters that are divine replicas of the worst monsters on earth. For instance, atheist Charles Templeton (Farewell To God) correctly noted that a God demanding to be the center of attention and demanding constant praise of his greatness, at the threat of severe punishment, is no different than an Idi Amin.

Nothing is more pagan than the idea of anger or wrath in deity, along with the accompanying threat of punishment and demand for appeasement by blood sacrifice (i.e. the human sacrifice of an innocent victim).

Many now prefer alternative descriptions of Ultimate Reality, with alternate definitions and meanings. So we hear people today referring to such things as the Universe, or universal Mind, Self, or Consciousness, Source, or Ground of Being, and so on. Others will only go as far as Energy or Natural Law as ultimate explanations.

Some thoughts in relation to this creative search for better alternatives: Roy Varghese (The Wonder of the World) notes that our perceptions of ultimate Reality usually understand there to be intelligence involved. If so, then you cannot have intelligence without personality or personhood also. Even Richard Dawkins, while not straightforwardly admitting it, appears to bend in this direction of some intelligence, even if only just a little. Taking the sum of his, along with other’s, comments on natural selection (i.e. it develops, learns, chooses, wills, etc.) you find the growing perception of something with almost some form of intelligence. Hence, Dawkins’ comment that natural selection is the “source of all enlightenment”. Sometimes almost god-like, or creative, in its capabilities and having an element of intelligence, though this will be denied by most proponents of this view.

Others prefer the concept of ultimate Good or Goodness, a sort of catchall concept for atheists and theists. Our ultimate ideal or authority. That which we base our behavior or morality upon (see, for instance, the area of thought known as Moral theology).

Joseph Campbell says that the term God is only penultimate, in that it points to something incomprehensibly beyond. Something beyond words, terms, categories, or understanding. Something truly transcendent. Even Dawkins suggested that he could live with something like this and just below is a beautiful statement by him making this point (from TIME debate with Francis Collins).

DAWKINS: My mind is not closed, as you have occasionally suggested, Francis. My mind is open to the most wonderful range of future possibilities, which I cannot even dream about, nor can you, nor can anybody else. What I am skeptical about is the idea that whatever wonderful revelation does come in the science of the future, it will turn out to be one of the particular historical religions that people happen to have dreamed up. When we started out and we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable–but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don’t see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed (TIME, God vs. Science, Nov.5, 2006).

As noted above, this site argues that Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Being (however you perceive that) is best understood in terms of Unconditional Love (and yes, that would include personality or personhood because love is a relational thing). This feature best defines or describes the core of reality and life, the Creating Source of all. And this Love gives profound meaning and purpose to life. It also offers the safest direction for conception of what we call the “spiritual”. It offers the most humane direction for ultimate Ideals, Realities, or Goodness.

Unconditional Love is entirely non-religious and, in fact, it undermines completely all religion as a conditional social movement or institution. Remember that religion emerged in human society as the movement/institution that would tell people the conditions necessary to appease or please threatening and punishing gods. And there was nothing of unconditional love in such conditionally oriented realities. Consequently, religion has buried unconditional reality entirely. By its very nature as an institution of conditions, religion cannot communicate unconditional reality.

This is all to say- there is still a lot of room for creative exploration and expression of ultimate realities.

Reason for this page

This page arose out of my experience growing up in a religious environment, that of Evangelical Christianity, a fundamentalist form of religion. That religion never felt right to me at the time but I did not know exactly why. I struggled against it for much of my younger life, trying to distance myself from it. But under family pressure, during my late teens, I gave in and tried to fulfill the sense of obligation to that religion. I did not yet possess the mental tools to rethink it all properly. And then for a few years in my early twenties I became somewhat of a religious zealot. And that was perhaps the best thing that I could have done- I took my religion seriously for several years and felt personally just what religion was really all about.

During those years I graduated from an Evangelical Bible college, served overseas as a missionary successfully starting Evangelical churches in another culture and language (upland Manobo groups of Mindanao). I went to the heart of Christianity and experienced fully what it meant to be fundamentally religious. So yes, I get religion.

But while I was engaged in that religious phase I felt that something was not quite right. I felt intensely uncomfortable with being religious.

Gradually, I came to understand that Christianity, like most religion across the planet, embraces and propagates the most powerful ideas ever conceived by human minds- ideas like divine anger and threat, divine domination, tribal exclusion (believing insiders, unbelieving outsiders), judgment, guilt, shame, eternal punishment, and destruction, among others. These can be traumatizing in the extreme, especially when projected onto deity, and given ultimate expression in that form.

Then in my mid-twenties I began to rethink the core themes of Christianity and began a long, slow process of disentangling myself from my religion. In subsequent years, having left my particular religion and religion in general, I have tried to understand the broader social phenomenon of religion and especially its too often dehumanizing influence on societies- its divisiveness, and promotion of often violent tribalism (oppositional dualism between good and bad, between insiders and outsiders, believers and infidels). What is religion really all about? Why does religion so often violate our basic sense of humanity?

Now defenders/adherents of religion will claim that the bad outcomes of religion are not due in some way to the core religious beliefs but are just aberrations due to a few bad apples in the group (people who do not have “true faith”, or extremist elements on the fringe). After all, they argue, look at all the good that religion has done over history. Religious people have started hospitals, schools, charity organizations, and so on. And look at all the good things that religions teach about the great ideals of forgiveness, love, and generosity. And so many people find great comfort in their religious beliefs, it helps them to face the difficulties of life and the fear of death. It gives them hope. I grant all this, and more power to people if they can find such things in their religious traditions and still remain decently human at the same time.

But most religious traditions have created what Thomas Jefferson called a “diamonds in the dunghill” situation. They contain sublime moral teaching but in a larger context that horrifically distorts and even buries the more humane themes. Christianity is notable here for maintaining the core teaching of Jesus on non-retaliation but almost burying that teaching in a larger retaliation context. The Jesus/Christianity contradiction was the very situation Jefferson was referring to with his diamonds in a dunghill comment. The Christian gospels contain noble human ideals that have been lodged in a larger context that profoundly contradicts those ideals. This page deals extensively with this great contradiction between Jesus and Christianity.

So let me disagree with the Christian defense of their core beliefs as generally benign or good. To the contrary, those beliefs embody some of the most inhumane themes of primitive thought.

Fortunately, many religious people have learned to ignore the darker themes of their religions and focus more exclusively on the more humane themes. But unfortunately, the larger context of most religious belief still often overwhelms the diamonds making it hard for many religious devotees to understand clearly the more humane parts. Once again, theology determines ethics.

Other religious people will respond that their religion provides them with hope, the hope of redemption which we all desire and need. Yes, but at what cost in terms of unnecessary guilt, shame, and fear? And what about the burdensome cost of the felt obligation to adopt and fulfill some elaborate salvation scheme. I would counter that we need to question if we ever needed redemption in the first place or if it was all a great fraud and lie from the very beginning. It is legitimate to question if there ever was any threat of anger from the gods, or any threat of punishment and damnation. We need to go back to the very roots of all this religious Salvationism and challenge the original threats to see if they ever actually existed as any sort of credible reality. And when you look carefully at the ancient logic that started the human appeasement movement that we know as religion, then you can see the horrific error that most religion has been founded on (i.e. the error that there is some great threatening and punishing reality behind life).

And what about the fact that most religion has to do with fear as the foundational motivation? John Pfeiffer in his excellent book Explosion: An Inquiry into the Origins of Art and Religion notes that the earliest religious practice was grounded in fear (i.e. shaman scaring early people with frightening myths of the invisible). And religious fear has always extended beyond the normal fears of life. It embraces the element of fear that extends beyond life and death into ultimate realms and realities. Ernst Becker in Denial of Death rightly argues that the fear of death is the primary human motivation that influences all of our thinking and acting in life. Then how much more powerful a motivation is religiously-inspired fear, fear of such things as eternal punishment and destruction. This may explain the damaging influence of religion on human behavior over history, shaping it too often into the most grotesque expressions of inhumanity. We see this even today in religious zealots claiming they must kill others (outsiders, infidels) in order to please their threatening God, to obey their vengeful God. There is a striking linkage between fear and violence, noted in psychology, and this deserves more research and exploration.

But even after confronting the above relationships between religious belief and human behavior, let me add that I hold no hostile or rancorous feelings toward religious people. I understand the human struggle with fundamental religious themes- the long-held desire to understand some greater reality, the human impulse for meaning and purpose, the desire for some better existence, the struggle with guilt, shame, and fear, and the longing for some ultimate redemption and perfection. However, I do not believe that religion over history has dealt properly or successfully with such basic human feelings and desires. In fact, religion has often only exacerbated and distorted such things in the most horrific manner. Religious belief has often been the root cause generating all this pathology in human consciousness and life.

In my own experience of leaving religion I have found it helpful to take a good look at how the core themes of religion have developed over history (see for instance, the research of Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and other mythologists). This history exposes the base human origins of these themes. Since the beginning people have endlessly projected the most inhumane features onto greater realities/gods. And yes, admittedly, religious traditions have also adopted more humane elements over time but they have maintained the larger belief contexts that continue to distort and bury the more humane features they have added along the way. The context is everything.

For myself, I had to leave it all, entirely. Reforming my religion was not an option. I came to see that my religion was just too inhumane at core and I needed entirely new wineskins for the new wine of unconditional reality. The conditional context of religion cannot communicate the unconditional nature of ultimate reality. So I needed to start afresh from scratch. Rebuilding an entirely new approach to understanding and to life. My journey has subsequently been an endeavor to find authentic liberation at the deepest levels of thought, subconscious, and spirit.

One hiccup during the disentangling process- years after leaving Christianity I found myself becoming caught up in environmental alarmism (i.e. deforestation, global warming catastrophe, and other alarms). It was quite a shock to then discover that while I had divested myself of the forms of religion, I was still holding at the core, of what I believed was my new secular worldview, a very religious set of ideas- that of apocalyptic mythology. I was therefore still fundamentally religious in my outlook (apocalyptic mythology is the defining core of Christianity and also shapes much of basic environmental ideology). This is why I urge people to look carefully at the core themes of their worldviews, whether religious or secular, to detect and rethink the basic themes of their grand narratives. It is surprising how much primitive mythology still resides at the heart of many so-called secularized and materialist worldviews.

I would also add that the highest human ideals contained within religious traditions are common human ideals and not religious in origin or nature. And as I have argued repeatedly above and elsewhere, religious contexts too often distort and bury these human ideals.

Such ideals as forgiveness, inclusion, love and generosity are common to all human consciousness or the common human spirit. They are ideals that do not originate with religion but with all common humanity. And remember that religion is most essentially about conditions (how to appease and please the gods). This then contradicts entirely the human ideal of unconditional love which is the core feature of authentic humanity. Religion distorts our highest ideals with conditional limitations. Love then becomes a tribal and excluding reality, limited to insiders, something judgmental and highly conditional. A religious context thus undermines a proper understanding of authentic humanity.

So I understand much better now why my religion never felt right. It violated my basic sense of humanity as unconditional, by defining all things with dehumanizing conditions.

Former Page Introduction

This page focuses somewhat intensely on the ideal of unconditional reality- sometimes referred to as unconditional love or unconditional goodness. Unconditional meaning just what it says- absolutely no conditions. None. And no apologies here for sometimes extravagant repetition of this theme. Why? Because it is simply the greatest discovery in all history. It takes us to the heights of human enlightenment, to truly humane existence, and to the fullest liberation of human consciousness. It is to be prized as history’s singular exceptional insight because it counters the worst errors of early human mythical perception, errors that continue to haunt human minds in the present (i.e. beliefs in conditional and punishing forces/spirits behind life- angry gods, revenge of GAIA, angry planet mythology).

Unconditional breaks the bonds that enslave people at the deepest levels, at the very core of our minds, emotions, and thinking. Unconditional takes us to the heart of true liberation and frees us from all that has degraded and enslaved humanity over history such as the drives to hate, revenge, and punishment.

Unfortunately, this supremely humane ideal is regularly distorted in religious contexts, hence my repeated exposure, for example, of the Christian contradictory use of unconditional love to describe highly conditional atonement theology (i.e. a God that demands the full payment of a blood sacrifice before forgiving anyone). All religion is essentially about conditions- how to appease and please gods. Religion is about conditional thinking and existence. It cannot be otherwise because that is its essential viewpoint and reason for emerging in human society- to tell people the conditions that must be fulfilled in order to attain some salvation. Religion therefore distorts and buries the true meaning of unconditional reality.

It is only in relatively recent historical time that people have come to understand how unconditional redefines the great human ideals of forgiveness, inclusion, generosity, and love. Too often in the past these ideals have been limited and distorted by tribal and religious mentality. Love, for instance, has often been employed as an insider ideal, something that focuses on family and friends or co-religionists but excludes enemies. It has been a very conditional reality.

But activists like the secular sage from Palestine (i.e. the historical Jesus- the non-Christian, non-religious Jesus) urged us to do better. He said, do not just love those who love you. That is what most people settle for. Even thugs and gangsters do that. You can do much better. You can be something much better, something authentically human. Love your enemies too. Love all without discrimination or exclusion. Love unconditionally because God does (Matthew 5:38-48). He tied his new unconditional ethic to his new theological breakthrough- that God was unconditional love.

So unconditional takes our human ideals and lifts them to new heights of clarity and humanity. It reveals with a new intensity just what it really means to be authentically human. What love really means. It eliminates all categories of friend/enemy or insider/outsider. It urges us to treat all as intimate family. Include everyone equally, even your enemies. Just like Nelson Mandela.

And rather than viewing the unconditional treatment of others as a hard saying, or a drudgery, note the positive in that it liberates us from all that darkens and enslaves. It liberates from those old drives to hate, seek vengeance, punish offenders, and in general to exercise stinginess and tight-fistedness about showing mercy. Unconditional breaks the grip of all such inhumanity. It liberates and enlightens and humanizes like nothing else can.

Punishment thinking

As noted elsewhere, the primitive impulse to punish has long been a dominant driver behind mythology or myth making. One of the foundational ideas of early mythology was that of punishing spirits (i.e. gods causing sickness, disasters, great flood). That theme of punishment then sparked the creation of apocalyptic mythology- the idea of a grand, final punishment. That threat, in turn, sparked salvation/atonement thinking as a response to the fear of punishment (how to appease the angry gods, how to escape the threat of punishment). Atonement/salvation mythology became the central element of religion over history.

The Christian refinement to the punishment stream of thought was to suggest the punishment of an innocent substitute. This is what Stephen Mitchell called, in The Gospel According to Jesus, the most barbaric idea of all (“ghastly paganism”).

The theme of punishment runs through all such mythmaking and religious belief. And it has a traumatizing impact on human thought, emotion, behavior, and relationships.

Once again to summarize and focus- punishing gods sparked the apocalyptic myth of a grand, final punishment, which in turn sparked the human desire to escape such terrifying punishment, and this resulted in the creation of atonement/appeasement religion.

There is nothing of authentic and universal forgiveness, mercy, or unconditional love in this pathological line of punishment thinking.

Think of it- how that one major error in primitive minds (punishing gods) shaped so much of subsequent human mythology and religion. That error then became the foundation of most religious belief and practice. Fear of punishment has long stirred the felt need to appease the threat of punishment with costly and wasteful salvation schemes. The error of punishing gods then formed the foundation of atonement/salvation religion.

So much of the subsequent religious superstructure in human society (religious perception, belief, practice) has been built on that grotesque error in primitive minds. Consider the related unnecessary fear and anxiety, the horrific waste of human time and resources over the millennia invested in appeasement or salvation schemes, all because of that major error in primitive thinking. It has all been a huge fraud and such waste because there has never been any threat of divine punishment behind life.

Further, what do you think all this punishment emphasis does to people and how they treat others? Ultimate authorities or ideals powerfully influence human thought and behavior. Punishment or violence enshrined in God has long inspired and validated punishment and violence in human societies (for example, see James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword).

Certainly, there is much more to religion, such as the awe and wonder at life and mystery, or the search for meaning and purpose, but the threat of punishment has been a major theme of religion over history. It has infected the rest with distortion, darkness, and unnecessary fear. It has burdened people already suffering from tragedy with added psychic pain. Remember the woman in Japan after the tsunami (2001) who said, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”

Further note: The growing conclusion today is that punishment approaches simply do not work. For instance, they do not properly rehabilitate criminals because they only re-enforce the response of retaliation and violence. Punishment approaches do not teach more appropriate alternative responses (i.e. forgiveness, non-retaliation, non-violence). And these approaches do not work with children, either. See the Australian Psychological Society report entitled ‘Punishment and Behavior Change’ (http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/punishment_position_paper.pdf)

I am a dreamer

I am a dreamer and Joseph Campbell gave my dreaming some focus long ago. He suggested that human story was about going out into life, facing monsters/problems, struggling to overcome/slay the monsters, and in this process of struggle discovering solutions/insights that would benefit others. So here is my take on this story framework, my dreaming. And let me speak a bit extravagantly here with the repeated use of “greatest” to make an emphasized point- that the ancient error that there is some threatening, retaliatory, punitive force/spirit behind all has caused more misery to humanity than anything else over history. You decide for yourself if my use of the hyperbolic “greatest” is excessive or not. And sorry Stephen Mitchell, but the misery caused by the religious myth of unpardonable sin is nothing compared with this monstrous error of punishing gods (though they are related ideas).

Early belief in a punitive/retaliatory deity (i.e. the gods were behind disease, natural disasters, and accidents as punishment for human failures) then sparked the creation of the apocalyptic set of myths- the belief that there would be some great retaliation/punishment from the punitive spirits (i.e. the punishing gods would destroy humanity with an apocalypse- a flood in the earliest versions and then changed to fire in Zoroaster’s apocalyptic theology). That belief in some great threatened catastrophe in turn sparked the salvation/sacrifice industry, or what we know as religion. The Christian refinement in this punishment stream of mythology was to suggest the punishment of an innocent victim, what Mitchell terms the most repulsive, most barbaric idea of all (“ghastly paganism”, The Gospel According to Jesus). Punitive deity is the ultimate monster behind all this myth-making. Threatening, retaliatory deity is the “greatest” monster that people have ever created to terrorize one another.

The core theme of punishment runs all through this traumatizing mythology. Punishing gods then produced the belief in a grand final punishment, and that sparked the drive to find salvation from punishment (i.e. the development of atonement or appeasement religion).

And when it sparked the sacrifice/salvation response in humanity, this grotesque monster of punishing deity sparked the creation of the “greatest fraud and scam” of all history. Retaliation and punishment in deity generated atonement thinking- how to appease and please the angry, threatening gods. Punishing deity then became the foundation of the entire sacrifice/salvation industry (religion). But it is all a huge scam or fraud, not to say waste of time and effort, because there is no punishing god behind life. It is all a great lie built on a primitive error. There is no ultimate threat to fear, no ultimate anger to appease. There never has been any such thing.

Overcoming this ancient error is then humanity’s “greatest struggle or battle”. This is not some physical battle against material enemies. It is an interior battle waged in human consciousness and mind but a far greater struggle than any other battle. The fight is not so much with violence in others but with our own residual drives to fear, hate, exclude, take vengeance, punish, and exhibit violence.

But into all this primitive darkness there emerged the “greatest discovery ever”, the “greatest human insight”- the wonder of unconditional reality and existence. This discovery was given its most humane statement ever in the non-retaliation theme of the historical Jesus (non-retaliation being the negative side of unconditional love- do not retaliate but, instead, love your enemies). That was the greatest breakthrough insight toward understanding authentic humanity, authentic human relating and authentic human existence. Unconditional treatment of all takes the meaning of authentic humanity to new heights. It takes the supreme human ideal of love to a higher plane altogether, that of authentic universal inclusion and generosity. There is no greater expression of love.

The consequences of this discovery are immense. Conquering the monster of punishing deity with the wonder of unconditional love liberates human consciousness as nothing ever before. Unconditional reality points toward humanity’s “greatest liberation movement ever”. Engaging unconditional is about releasing human consciousness to fully appreciate the wonder of Love behind all reality. This is about getting to the very deepest roots of so much religiously-inspired and enslaving fear, guilt, anxiety, worry, angst, depression, and despair. Unconditional frees humanity from all those dark emotions and the related drives to hate, retaliate, punish, exclude, destroy, dominate, and more. Unconditional liberates human minds, perceptions, and feelings as nothing else can. This unconditional breakthrough holds the potential for the greatest liberation and advance ever in the history of human perception, emotion, or thought.

But then there was the “greatest retreat from liberation” ever. The “greatest reverse” back to primitive apocalyptic mythology and retaliation thinking occurred with the development of Paul’s theology. Paul rejected the breakthrough insight of Jesus that God was non-retaliatory and reverted back to a primitive view of God as retaliatory. This was a reversal of a magnitude previously unknown in all human history.

And nothing has been more powerful for validating the continuing darkness of retaliation thinking and existence than Paul’s Christ myth (his Christology). This is the historical epitome of retaliatory thinking, the apex expression, concentrated in history’s most potent statement of apocalyptic retaliation ever (ultimate and eternal divine retaliation). Yes, I am talking about Paul’s Christ myth, that more than any other single myth in history has affirmed apocalyptic and retaliation, and especially in Western consciousness. This has darkened and enslaved human consciousness as nothing else ever has.

So we now face the “greatest challenge” in all history- to bravely take on this greatest monster of retaliatory deity and slay it for the liberation of human consciousness and perception.

Ahh, I’m such a dreamer. But a growing number of people get this greatest insight ever, especially many of those NDErs (Near- Death Experiencers) discovering the wonder of unconditional love in the Light they encounter. And slaying the monster of retaliating/punishing deity is really about this ultimate goal- to open the way to see the light of incomprehensible unconditional love at the core of all, as the new understanding of authentic humanity, and authentic human existence.

So yes, I am a dreamer. I have seen something of unconditional reality, something of a love that is infinitely better than the best that we can imagine. I have had a glimpse of the incomprehensibly “greatest” reality of all, even though still through a dark glass. It is humanity’s greatest insight ever, the greatest truth and reality of all- the Unconditional Love that is at the heart and core of all reality. We need to get some sense of the real nature of such unconditional love and the fact that in God it is incomprehensible, transcendent, and inexpressible. It is infinitely better than the best that anyone can imagine (this is the real meaning of transcendence in God). And equally important is to realize that anything less than such a scandalous wonder is ultimately not real, ultimately not true, and ultimately not right. It is false or wrong. It is error. Unconditional is the baseline from which to evaluate all ultimate reality and truth.

This is my dreaming of “greatest” things, and my hyperbolic expression to make a point.

Additional note: Richard Gere once responded in an interview, when asked about fighting terrorism (post 9/11)…he said something to the effect that the real battle is not only with violent people, but more-so it was an inner battle with our own personal tendency to such things as violence. The real battle was inside us, in our minds and hearts.

We glory in the great military battles of history but Gere got it right that the greatest battles were those of mind and thought and emotion. Simply because as a person thinks so they will be and act in life. To effectively end violence in life you must go to the heart of the problem- to our residual impulses to retaliate and punish others.

Using Campbell’s framework again- the greatest monsters are not our so-called enemies in humanity, but the monsters that we create in our belief systems and ideologies. So to effect the greatest liberation and progress in human society, it is critical to get to the root of problems, to the most fundamental causes behind the varied issues in life. Because so many people do not get to the root perceptions and assumptions of their worldviews, hence, the same problems keep arising repeatedly over history in new forms. This is all I am saying.

Go after and slay the real monsters facing humanity. This is most critical to improving the human condition and to lifting consciousness to a new plane of liberation. And that liberation will free human creativity like nothing ever before.

Search for the Real Deal (Non-retaliation/Unconditional)

It has long been recognized that there is a historical Jesus whose authentic message can be found among the contradictory and distorting accounts contained in the New Testament gospels. Many have recognized that not all that is contained in the gospels is authentic to the historical person and in fact much contradicts the core message of the man.

This recognition has been expressed in a centuries-long search for the authentic sayings of Jesus, for the authentic gospel. This search begins with people like H. S. Reimarus in the 1700s (he starts the modern critical study of Jesus that challenges the long-held Christian teaching on Jesus), and moves to David Strauss in the 1800s (he recognized that the historical Jesus was buried underneath layers of Christian myth), and on to Albert Schweitzer’s apocalyptic Jesus of the early 1900s, and then into the later 20th Century “New Quest” for the Historical Jesus. The Jesus Seminar is one part of this new quest and recognizes that there are notable “dissimilarities” (differences) between the historical person and the gospel accounts. The Seminar researchers note, for instance, the difference between the exhortation of Jesus to love enemies in Matt.5 and the later condemnation of towns (Matt.11) that rejected his followers. They conclude, “He would not have told Capernaum to go to hell after instructing his disciples to love their enemies” (The Five Gospels, Funk and Hoover).

Researchers like Stephen Mitchell argue that the historical Jesus was wise and forgiving in contrast to the punitive and self-centered Christian Jesus (i.e. John’s gospel). Mitchell then tries to “extricate the authentic sayings of Jesus from the morass of false, imputed statements found in the gospels”. People like Mitchell state that Christianity has created a New Testament that almost buries the authentic teaching of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson referred to this larger NT context as a situation where Jesus’ authentic words were like “diamonds in a dunghill”. This expresses well the point of stark difference between the message of the authentic person and the later contradictory additions to his teaching.

Another aspect of the quest for the historical Jesus was the recognition that the gospel writers (i.e. Matthew and Luke) used another source called Q Sayings Gospel when they wrote their gospels. Q research- or Quelle, the German word for “source”- recognizes that there was a stunning shift from the earliest version of this Sayings gospel that was non-apocalyptic (sapiential or wisdom sayings) to later versions that were strongly apocalyptic. And we are grateful for Q researchers like James Robinson that have noted this difference between an original Jesus gospel and the later Christian gospel. But you do not need Q research to see the striking difference between the authentic message of the historical Jesus and the Christian message about him, the Christ myth.

To appreciate the profound nature of this difference it is useful to get a grip on his core teaching. This will help to evaluate what is authentic among the rest of the material that has been attributed to him. We can engage here what some have referred to as “thematic coherence”, that there is often an organizing theme that consistently shapes the thinking, teaching, and acting of a person.

A summary of the core teaching of Jesus is found in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters 5-7. A similar assembling of his core teaching is found in Luke 6. Within this larger body of core teaching there is a brief statement of his central theme (the core of the core). This is set forth in Matt.5:38-48. It is a clear and profound statement of non-retaliation as related to both ethics and theology. In fact, the ethical ideal is based on the theological truth.

Jesus’ statement on non-retaliation is arguably the clearest and most potent such statement in all history. Others had argued long before him for the principle of non-retaliation in human relating (e.g. the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son, Wikipedia). But Jesus took things to new heights of clarification by opening his statement on non-retaliation with a clear rejection of traditional retaliatory justice (eye for eye) as an ethical standard. And then he offered a new theological element in his statement, something that no one else in antiquity had ever done. He broke with all past perception of gods as retaliatory, judgmental, and punitive for a new theology of God as non-retaliating.

To summarize this core theme of Jesus as stated in Matt.5: First, he straightforwardly rejects eye for eye justice or ethics (payback, retaliation, vengeance, punishment) in favor of non-retaliation. This is a clear rejection of tit for tat response or relating. A rejection of “getting even”. While non-retaliation is the negative aspect (the passive aspect), today we state this type of response or relating positively in the term unconditional love, or unconditional treatment of all people.

After stating that we should not retaliate, Jesus then moved on to emphasize this positive element of unlimited goodness and generosity toward others. This is a call to unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, and the expression of unconditional generosity toward all. And the emphasis is on unconditional or unlimited. Absolutely no conditions before loving all. None.

Jesus then illustrates with varied common life situations how we should respond with unlimited generosity. We are to freely and generously love our enemies. And in stating these situations he lifted love out of the constricted realm of tribal or group thinking. Thugs and primitives restrict their love just to those who love them, to family and friends. You, Jesus urges, can do much better and love universally, including everyone, even enemies. He was eliminating all the divisive and discriminating categories of friend/enemy, insider/outsider, or good/bad people. There should be no limiting discrimination with authentic love.

And he added that people should not let their unconditional treatment of others depend on a similar response from others (Luke 6). Do not let your good treatment of others depend on how they respond to you or treat you. Do not expect others to respond in kind with similar goodness. Just love them anyway. He called for a full liberation from all tit for tat expectation and relating. These were uniquely new insights into unconditional treatment of others. His insights took human perception of love to a new height of humane response and relating.

And then he states the reason why we are to love in such a manner. We are to love enemies unconditionally because God does. We are to forgive all unconditionally, include all unconditionally, and express unlimited generosity toward all unconditionally, because this is what God does. God forgives all, and includes all. God does not discriminate between good and bad but is generous toward all alike. He sends rain and sun on all without discrimination. God loves universally, including the bad, or enemies. So be compassionate in the same manner that God is compassionate. Be merciful just as your father is merciful. It is a tight pair-bonding of ethics with theological ideal.

(Note: The use of “he/father” is not an affirmation of gender in deity)

We find this core theme of unconditional treatment of all people throughout the teaching of Jesus, whether in parables or sayings or other statements. There is thematic coherence throughout his teaching. We see it in the parable of the vineyard workers (unconditional generosity), the prodigal son (no payback conditions), in his statements on unlimited forgiveness, and in his meal-time practice of embracing “sinners” without conditions or exclusion. For more detail, see the added summary posted below, “Unconditional In The Jesus Tradition”.

And this central theme of non-retaliation is critical to resolving the debate over whether he was an apocalyptic prophet/messiah (like his mentor John), or not.

The point is straightforward- if Jesus’ core theme was non-retaliation then he could not have been an apocalyptic messenger. And this gets us to the greatest of all contradictions between the historical Jesus and Christianity (the Christian or Pauline gospel).

Apocalyptic is most essentially a statement of retaliation. It is a grand divine retaliation against sinful humanity. It is a grand punishment, an act of divine vengeance, an exacting of revenge for sin. Paul is clear on this- note his comments, for example, in Thessalonians on God finally acting to repay (see also Romans and Hebrews for similar statements of divine retaliation). Apocalyptic is God intervening to retaliate in a grand final act of punishment of sin.

But Jesus, in his statement of his core theme, had clearly said that God does not retaliate. That core theme of his teaching then contradicts the entire structure of Christian belief or theology. Paul’s Christian system is built on the foundation of divine apocalyptic retaliation (Tabor- Apocalyptic influenced all Paul said and did, and Christianity is Paul’s religion). Paul’s Christian atonement theology is a subset of the larger apocalyptic framework (i.e. paradise, original sin, Fall, coming judgment, punishment of sin in Christ’s death, salvation, final retribution against all sin, consummation, transformation). His Christ myth is all about retaliatory apocalyptic through and through. His retaliating God emphasizes the profound contradiction between Jesus and Christianity.

So the core issue in the difference between Jesus and Christianity is that of retaliation versus non-retaliation, and not just apocalyptic versus non-apocalyptic. Once again, apocalyptic is most essentially retaliation, divine retaliation. This is the key point. And this is the most significant contradiction of all between the historical Jesus and the Christian myth of Christ. One is about non-retaliation and the other is about a supreme and final retaliation.

This difference can be emphasized in a variety of ways- as that between authentic unconditional love and conditional atonement. Or between authentic forgiveness and the demand for atonement or payment. Or, as I have argued above, the difference between non-retaliation, and vengeance or payback retaliation.

You simply cannot mix and merge these opposites, as Paul/Christianity has done, or you eviscerate the true meaning of the unconditional element in the process. With the conditional atonement of Christianity you distort and bury the unconditional insight of Jesus. As Jefferson said, the diamonds have been buried in the dunghill.

Conclusion: To summarize again this issue of thematic coherence- the historical Jesus consistently and coherently taught a message of non-retaliation or unconditional treatment of all. This unconditional treatment of others is a baseline from which to evaluate all of the other teaching attributed to Jesus. Much of that teaching in the gospels contradicts the tenor of this unconditional theme and therefore should be challenged as not authentic or consistent with his core theme.

Once again, as Jesus’ core teaching is coherently and consistently non-retaliatory, we can then conclude that he was unquestionably non-apocalyptic. Apocalypse is a grand divine punishment, a divine retaliation against sinful humanity. As Jesus was consistently non-retaliatory in his core message, then he could not have advocated for divine apocalyptic retaliation, or apocalyptic in any form. This is especially clear in his Matt. 5:38-48 statements, where he says that God does not retaliate but offers unconditional goodness to all without discrimination. God is therefore not behind apocalyptic in any way, shape or form.

Note: We do not need to refer to Jesus as some special authority to validate the ideal of unconditional treatment of others. Our own sense of the authentically humane tells us today what it means to be truly human. But we do benefit from the varied breakthrough insights of past historical figures.
Wendell Krossa

Summary of the Core Teaching: Matt.5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36

Another compilation of Jesus’ core teaching below that combines the features of both the Matt.5 and Luke 6 summaries.

“You have heard that it was said, an eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, Don’t resist or retaliate against an evil person.

“If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if someone takes away your belongings, do not demand to have them back. Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good; he sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

“If you love those who love you, that credit is that to you? Even tax collectors love those who love them, do they not? And if you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Doesn’t everybody do that? And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even wrongdoers lend to their kind because they expect to be repaid in full.

“Instead, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting to get anything back. Do to others what you would have them do to you.

“Then your reward will be great, and you will be the children of God (or better, you will be like God) because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. Be compassionate in the same manner that God is compassionate.”

Note in the above summary of Jesus’ core message these key points: He starts with a clear rejection of retaliation (tit for tat relating) and advocates for non-retaliation. And then he moves on from this negative aspect to a full positive statement of universal and unlimited love toward all people, good and bad. It is not just: Do not retaliate against your enemies, but far more, love your enemies with unlimited forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity. He does not leave his new ethic at passive non-retaliation. No. It is lifted into the elevated humanity of unconditional goodness toward all people. There is no grudging generosity in his message.

And he takes pains to emphasize the scope of authentic love, that this love must be universal, including all, even the worst of people, one’s offending enemies. Love must not be limited in any way by insider favoritism, or family and group loyalties. It must be universal, and not tribal or insider love. There must be no more discriminating categories of friend/enemy, insider/outsider, or good/bad people.

And then he takes further pains to explain the spirit of authentic love. It too must be unlimited, not stingy or restricted in any manner. Love must not be dependent on like response from others (tit for tat expectation). Only shown to those willing to return the same love. No, everyone does that. That is the constricted and primitive tit for tat relating that most people have engaged throughout history. We can do much better.

In this summary of his central theme Jesus takes the human understanding of love to entirely new heights. He urges us to be just like God, to do what God does. To be god-like or supremely humane.

And for those who will view this unconditional ideal as some sort of new law or burdensome requirement to be fulfilled, let me remind them that the God who inspires this ideal is infinite Unconditional Love. There is no threat of judgment, retaliation, or punishment from that Love. Only unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, inclusion, and generosity. So relax while enjoying the human endeavor to be more humane. The very nature of the ideal- unconditional- ensures safety and security for all, no matter how imperfectly we play at exhibiting it.

Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition

(Note: This summary includes passages that are believed to be later additions by the gospel authors and are therefore likely not authentic to the historical Jesus- e.g. the John 9 statement on the blind man, or the woman taken in adultery. I have included these anyway as they exhibit the same spirit as his core theme. Also, this not about seeking validation from some religious authority. I view the historical Jesus as more of a non-religious person, a “secular sage”, according to one of the Jesus Seminar scholars. What is useful to note in his teaching is his consistent focus on the theme of unconditional treatment of all people. That was a great advance for human consciousness. It provided something for us to build on and take further)

This site refers repeatedly to the historical Jesus tradition and his core theme of unconditional treatment of all people. Further below are some passages from the New Testament gospels that highlight this unconditional theme in sayings, parables, and encounters with people.

Just to clarify, my understanding of the historical Jesus is that of a person that is quite entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus. I conclude this from such things as the research on “dissimilarities” noted by the Jesus Seminar (differences between the historical person and the Christian version). I would argue, however, that the Seminar does not clearly and thoroughly set forth the centrality of this key issue of non-retaliation or unconditional love. It is the defining core of Jesus’ message and the main dissimilarity between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus.

But before going to those passages in Jesus’ teaching, note that he was not the first to understand that retaliation/punishment was inhumane and that unconditional treatment of all people was the foundational feature of authentic humanity. Others long before him had also begun to see that unconditional response illuminated the meaning of love like nothing before in history.

One of the first expressions of non-retaliation or unconditional response is found in what is called the “Akkadian father’s advice to his son” (circa 2200 BCE). It states, “Do not return evil to your adversary, requite with kindness the one who does evil to you”. A similar call for non-retaliation comes from Egyptian literature circa 1500-1300 BCE.

The Hebrew prophets (800-600 BCE) then added their own insights on non-retaliation. They stated in various places that God did not want sacrifice (payment, penalty, retaliation, atonement) but rather mercy. See, for example, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:7-8, and Amos 5:21-24. Jeremiah 7:21-22 also says, “When I brought your forefathers out of Egypt I did not give commands about offerings and sacrifices”. Isaiah says, “I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats”. In all these utterances of the prophets there is no demand for payment for sin, no call for atonement, and no threat of retaliation or punishment. The prophets introduced a radical new understanding of God’s justice as forgiveness, mercy, and liberation, not punishment. They were advocating views that were radically opposed to the primitive atonement theology of the Jewish priesthood. So even in the Old Testament there was a prophet/priesthood contradiction that foreshadowed the Jesus/Christianity contradiction.

Buddhist literature in the pre-Jesus era also urged non-retaliation and overcoming evil with goodness. Confucius told his followers, “Do not engage revenge or anger”. The Hindus urged people to not render evil for evil. Socrates said, “We ought not to retaliate or render evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him”. And so on. Even Paul later stated that retaliation or payback was evil (Romans 12).

But in the Christian tradition it has been hard for people to see the wonder of unconditional treatment of others as it was presented by the Historical Jesus. His teaching on unconditional love has been buried for two millennia in the larger retaliation/punishment context of Christian theology, a context that has distorted entirely the meaning of unconditional. Christianity, even today, continues to validate a view of justice as payback punishment (note that while Paul admitted that retaliation was evil for people to engage, in a supreme contradiction he claimed that God would eventually retaliate- again, Romans 12).

Here are Jesus’ main statements and examples of non-retaliation or unconditional response. These represent what is known as “thematic coherence”:

Matt.5:38-48, Luke 6: These two passages offer key summaries that set forth the core theme of Jesus’ teaching. They emphasize a clear rejection of eye for eye or payback justice in favor of non-retaliation. They also present a firm rejection of limited tribal love (love neighbors/family, but hate enemies) for a new inclusive/universalistic ethic of “love your enemies”. Treat everyone, including enemies, as intimate family. This takes the meaning of love to an entirely new height of humaneness.

This new inclusive and unconditional ethic is tightly pair-bonded to a striking new view of God as non-retaliating, and universalistic (God includes all equally whether good or bad, God showers all with the same generosity and love). To use a summary term- God expresses unconditional love toward all. Emphasizing this ethical/theological relationship, Jesus said, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful”. Be just like God- do not retaliate because God does not retaliate. Love your enemies because God loves all enemies.

In this teaching unconditional is not appealed to as some flighty, pacifist ideal plucked out of a new age dream. It is appealed to as the very essential nature of ultimate reality, the fundamental nature of that which is the very core of all reality and life. You cannot get more central to the very meaning and purpose of all things. Unconditional love as the defining core of reality becomes the basis of a new human ethic of unconditional treatment of all people.

Note also, this new theological insight in Matt. 5 contrasts entirely with all previous historical understanding of deity as retaliatory and punitive. It is a unique historical breakthrough.

Look carefully at what the man actually said in this statement of his core theme: No more retaliatory ethic or justice (eye for eye). No more retaliation. Because if you do not retaliate then you will be just like God who does not retaliate (you will be the children of God). What a powerful and comprehensive rejection of retaliation at all levels.

Luke 6 approaches unconditional with the same insights about not just loving those who love you but going further to also love those who do not return the love. Here Jesus urges people to give generously and to not expect anything in return. Don’t expect repayment. Don’t let your unconditional treatment of others be short-circuited by their refusal to respond in kind. Love unconditionally anyway, no matter what the response of others might be. He was advocating the ending of all tit for tat thinking or conditional treatment of others.

John 8: the woman caught in adultery, according to Jewish law/scripture she should be condemned and stoned to death. But Jesus refuses to judge, condemn, or punish her. He rejects conventional payback justice responses and offers unconditional mercy.

Matthew 9: When asked why he exhibited unconditional inclusion toward so-called “bad” people, Jesus replied by quoting the Old Testament statement, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. God, he claimed, was not interested in rigid adherence to discriminating or excluding standards/practices/laws. God desired simple human compassion toward all alike. The inclusion and humane treatment of all people. This was a consistent emphasis in the Historical Jesus tradition- treating everyone according to human compassion and mercy, and not according to some legal standard or dehumanizing social standard/practice (especially not according to some punitive legal precept).

Matt.20: the vineyard workers were royally upset with the liberality of the owner who treats all the workers with the same generosity. Some had worked harder and longer and felt that it was only fair that they received more while the latecomers received less. They