This sites probes one of the root issues behind bad behavior across history- theology (i.e. the bad religious ideas that have been used to incite and validate bad behavior). We offer a potent alternative to transform the core of human worldviews and master-stories- i.e. unconditional reality. The potential of unconditional to transform human consciousness and life is unlimited.
Recent additions: A sample of the most destructive ideas. The outcomes of bad ideas. Short-circuit the central validation for bad behavior with unconditional. Human identity and tribal mentality. My complaint against religion- it has never communicated unconditional reality to humanity. Stunning research on the apocalyptic millennial ideas behind Twentieth Century mass-death movements.
Topics at the bottom of this section: The hardest saying ever- “Love your enemy” (It’s not about pacifism). De-fang the death monster. Transform and liberate the core of human consciousness with the unconditional ideal. A brief summary of the history of bad religious ideas. Blurb on environmental alarmism (Celebrate CO2- the food of all life). Post on stirring the dreaming impulse in young people (their essential goodness). Apocalyptic incites destructive salvationist responses (the relationship between fear and “defensive” aggression). An Independent taking a poke at Progressive intolerance.
Any comment on unconditional sparks the common response that it is impractical for real life. I would counter, for example, that Nelson Mandela used a form of unconditional in his treatment of opponents and thereby spared South Africa the possible outcome that engulfed Rwanda and Serbia around the same time in the 90s. As Richard Stengel noted in Mandela’s Way, millions of South Africans wanted to engage retaliatory vengeance but Mandela urged them to take the high road, to forgive and include all in a new South Africa. So tell me again- How is the unconditional treatment of others impractical for real life?
(Note: There is no greater display of human courage, “manliness”, or strength than to engage the unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and love of some enemy. It is the superhuman courage that breaks downward spirals of petty retaliation (getting even) and sparks new upward trends of improving human relating. As Mandela said, “(Unconditional forgiveness and inclusion) brings out the best in others. It turns enemies into friends. So let’s surprise them (our opponents) with our generosity”.)
But yes, embracing an unconditional view of others and taking an unconditional approach to life does not easily resolve issues of inhumanity, brutality, and violence. Unconditional respect for all human life is not a call for pacifism in the face of violence. Love is always responsible to restrain violence and hold all accountable for their behavior. Mandela also established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where offenders could take responsibility for their crimes.
Unconditional, as the fundamental feature that defines us as human, urges us to treat human failure with restorative and not punitive intent. Nonetheless, love still embraces the social consequences of bad behavior (i.e. restitution and other forms of responsibility to clean up the messes that we make in life). Embracing an unconditional attitude and respect for all is about maintaining our own humanity in the face of inhumanity. We already widely practice this unconditional treatment of all people in such things as the humane treatment of prisoners of war.
Calming religious nerves
When tackling bad religious ideas as this site does, it is helpful to calm religious nerves by affirming the great human ideals embodied in religion and the immense good that religious people have done across history. Most religious people are moderate in their understanding and practice of their religion. But all the great religions also have histories of horrific violence. That compels us to understand how religious people have at times used their ideas/beliefs to commit brutality toward others. What are the features of any religious tradition that incite and validate inhumanity toward others? And why are those bad ideas still embedded at the heart of our great religious traditions?
Note, for example, the stunning research on the religious ideas (i.e. apocalyptic millennialism) that were central to the mass-death movements of the 20th Century, and are behind Islamic violence today, just as they were behind Christian violence in past centuries.
It may be disorienting for religious people to confront these things, but among the many good features in our religious traditions there are also some of the worst ideas ever conceived by ancient minds, ideas that continue to incite inhumanity today (see “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas” below). Winning the “battle of ideas” with violent movements like ISIS is about going to these root issues and correcting the foundational ideas that have long been behind human thought, emotion, motivation, and behavior. This is a central project on this site.
Bob Brinsmead: “You become just like the God that you believe in… There are no bad people, just bad ideas that incite people to do bad things”.
Unconditional definition: “Absolutely no conditions. None.”
Purging bad ideas
The repetitive presentation here of bad ideas has one purpose- to highlight the widespread prominence of these bad ideas and how they contrast so entirely with humanity’s greatest-ever discovery, the insight that unconditional love defines the core of reality (i.e. Ultimate Reality or God). If you think this unconditional feature is ho hum stuff, then consider that no religious tradition has ever communicated the nature of deity as absolutely and scandalously unconditional love. All religion across history has communicated the very opposite reality- i.e. God as a conditional reality, and the exacting religious conditions necessary to appease and please God.
Religion by its very nature is a conditional social institution that cannot communicate the wonder of unconditional core reality, or unconditional ethics. And religious gods, long widely regarded as humanity’s highest ideals and authorities, have always determined the nature of human ethics. Punitive and conditional gods have long oriented people, for instance, toward punitive justice systems (i.e. “eye for eye”, or payback justice), and the conditions (sacrifice and payment) required for salvation.
This unconditional feature points to the most profound shift in consciousness ever imagined- a shift away from our history-long orientation to some core retaliation/retribution and toward the unlimited and universal love that should define deity (sun and rain given to all alike, both good and bad). Just as unconditional transforms human ideas of deity entirely, it consequently transforms human ethics radically, orienting us toward unconditional respect for all imperfect people and toward more restorative treatment of others (i.e. rehabilitative justice approaches).
Further, in giving us a new core orientation for our consciousness, unconditional offers the greatest possible liberation ever, liberation from the base features of our inherited animal past, and into a truly human or humane existence. Unconditional changes everything, entirely.
I would argue that our primal human impulse for meaning naturally orients our consciousness and spirit to unconditional love. I would suggest that unconditional is actually our defining feature as human beings (i.e. the true nature or essence of the human self is unconditional love). This is more than just an orientation to unconditional love. It is something more basic or essential to the nature of being human. It is about essential human goodness that overturns all past mythology of human fallen-ness, corruption, or sinfulness.
This fundamental human impulse to universal love has already set humanity on a millennia-long trajectory of improving life in diverse ways. Love, in general, as the defining feature of humanity, has expressed its powerful influence in historically lessening rates of violence (see research of James Payne and Stephen Pinker for examples), in the better overall health and living conditions of humanity, and in things like environmental improvement (see Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource). Love has made us “in net terms more creators than destroyers”.
Notes: The apocalyptic millennial complex of ideas embraces the core theme of a punitive, destroying God. These ideas are foundational to religions like Christianity and Islam.
(Note: Apocalyptic expresses the myth of a great collapse, destruction, and ending of life and the world. Apocalyptic also involves a great purging of corruption from the world so that a millennial hope can be realized. The hope to regain some lost paradise, or enter a new millennial utopia.)
Get this “disorienting” point in the following material- the “apocalyptic millennial” complex of ideas has been largely responsible for the mass-death movements of the Twentieth Century (i.e. Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism). Apocalyptic millennial ideas are religious ideas. They are core religious ideas. And they are also Christian ideas. Let this disturb or disorient your mind. Christianity is responsible for embedding these ideas in Western consciousness for the past two millennia.
These ideas are still working damage today via ideologies like Declinism. This is the myth that life degenerates or declines toward something worse and consequently humanity must embrace salvation schemes (e.g. “save the world”), schemes that have caused immense waste and damage to humanity and life. Declinism is arguably the dominant ideology in the world today (see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline, and Jeffrey Foss’s Beyond Environmentalism).
Apocalyptic millennialism is still lodged at the heart of our great world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). This primitive mythology is entirely contrary to the reality of an unconditional God.
A sampling of the most destructive ideas ever created would encompass the following themes (this is a small selection out of a larger complex of bad ideas):
Tribal dualism: Us versus some enemy. Tribal thinking denies the essential oneness of all humanity. We are one family of equals. But the tribal impulse continues to erupt today in humanity’s religious clashes, in ideological oppositions, and in national, ethnic, and racial divides, among others. (see “Note on the tribal problem” below- re human identity issues)
Another: The alpha domination or control of others. Animal forms of relating (i.e. vertical relating, or domination/subservience relating) were long ago projected onto deity (e.g. the divine right of kings) to validate the domination of gods/priests/kings and others over people. Often the gods ruled people via their representative priesthoods or state leaders. Relating vertically to others denies the essential equality and freedom of all human persons.
Today, people still scramble for power-holding positions over others in the arenas of education, work/business, entertainment, and varied social institutions and arenas. Some say that the worst dictators are the little dictators that are found in families and other minor, daily situations. While you can escape the big central dictator, it is harder to escape the little local dictators (i.e. the “boss or parent from hell”).
Another: Justice as some form of eye for eye retaliation or payback, or retribution that includes the punishment and destruction of others. Punitive justice denies the fact that all of us share imperfection and we need to be merciful toward one another’s failures to live as human. To the contrary, restorative justice approaches, while still responsible to restrain bad behavior (natural/social consequences), ultimately seek the humane treatment of all people, even the worst human failures. Restorative justice views the failing other person as still a fellow member of the human family.
And one more bad idea: The idea that Ultimate Reality is a conditional reality that demands the fulfillment of the requirements of salvation religion, some sacrifice or payment for human imperfection. This embraces the perverse myth that deity is angry with human imperfection.
These and other similar features (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below) are more the features of animal existence, and not authentic human existence. These themes were projected onto early gods, onto humanity’s highest ideals and authorities. The early gods were tribal gods favoring their followers over outsiders or enemies. The God of religion today is still a tribal God, favoring/saving his people (i.e. true believers) and excluding or destroying the unbelievers. The destruction of the “bad” or “evil” outsiders will be in a great final apocalypse and future Hell.
The early gods were also ruling kings, judges, and lords. These domination/subservience themes have remained deeply embedded in human conceptions of theology/deity ever since. They are still the core defining features of the God of the world religions of today. God is still all about alpha domination (see Alpha God by Alex Garcia). This is expressed in the belief that deity is defined by kingship and lordship, in myths like God/Christ ruling over subservient humanity and the human obligation to “serve God”.
Further, our main world religions continue as intensely conditional social institutions. They are all about salvation schemes and the sacrifices or conditions that are required to appease or please upset deities.
These bad ideas have been “secularized” for the modern era and are even given ideological expression. They continue to dominate human consciousness as fundamental themes/realities. Note, for instance, the Green God- “vengeful Gaia”, or angry planet, or payback karma mythology. Environmentalism today also continues to promote the primitive mythology of apocalyptic threat and consequent necessary Salvationism (“save the world”).
The outcomes of bad ideas
Bad ideas have endlessly incited, guided, and validated bad behavior over history, often with horrific outcomes for others. This long history of incitement to nastiness climaxed in the mass-death movements of the 20th Century. Note the stunning research below that details the role of “apocalyptic millennial” ideas in shaping and inciting the mass-death outcomes of Marxism (100 million), Nazism (50-60 million), and now continuing to shape environmental alarmism (e.g. Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative and the tens of millions of subsequent deaths of people denied the protection of DDT).
The great tragedy in this history of bad outcomes from bad ideas is that we have long had the discovery that overturns all bad ideas. Yes, one word- the adjective “unconditional”- embodies the ultimate definition of authentic humanity and authentic deity. Unconditional overthrows the very heart and soul of much past human thought, mythology, religious belief, and much ideology of today (i.e. Declinism, the dominant ideology across the world today).
Recall again that the core of human thought and belief across history has been dominated by ideas of retributive justice- that there were retaliatory gods that would punish human badness or failure. This has long oriented our views of justice toward payback, punishment and destruction, toward eye for eye vengeance. Getting one’s “just” revenge.
The bad religious ideas of tribal dualism, domination, exclusion, and destruction of differing others- these all flowed from the essential core bad idea of “angry god punishing bad people”.
Unconditional, to the contrary, radically re-orients us toward restorative attitudes and approaches, and away from punitive justice. Even psychology recognizes today that punitive approaches do not work with children or criminal offenders. Our human rights codes also acknowledge unconditional respect for all in that we must treat even prisoners of war humanely.
Unconditional scandalizes our consciousness by telling us there has never been any retributive, punitive reality behind life. There has never been any such threatening God. There has only been, and always been, no conditions love at the core of reality. Universal and unlimited love. Love of an incomprehensible and inexpressible nature. Better than the best that can be imagined.
How could the world religions have missed this unconditional core Reality and gotten things so wrong with their myths of punishing gods? As repeated on this site, early people made a huge error in assuming that there were gods/spirits behind all the elements of nature. As those elements were often destructive (i.e. natural disaster, accident, disease) they concluded that the gods were angry and were punishing them for being bad, for making mistakes, for their “sins”- i.e. their failures to obey the gods, or to honor taboos.
This early error in logic led to the creation of religion as “conditional salvationism”- i.e. the required conditions necessary to appease and please the upset and demanding gods. Religion, as a conditional social institution, then buried the truth of God as “absolutely no conditions Love”.
Unconditional holds the potential for the greatest liberation ever. It holds the potential to liberate humanity entirely from the base features of our animal inheritance, to liberate us into a truly human future. Unconditional inspires and encourages the best impulses of the human spirit, just as we saw recently in Nelson Mandela, and as we have seen in many other great human spirits.
With unconditional there is no tribal division, separation, or opposition. With unconditional all are viewed as equal members of the one human family. All share the same human consciousness and same common human spirit. With unconditional there is no domination of some “lesser” other. All deserve to be treated with unconditional respect and inclusive love. And there is no exclusion and destruction of the differing other. Unlimited forgiveness is the absolutely free right of all, with no divine demand for salvation conditions to be met, no demand for some atoning sacrifice or payment for human imperfection. There is only infinite love behind all and toward all.
These unconditional themes offer a new baseline, a new complex of core ideas for an entirely new master-story for humanity. Unconditional presents new foundational themes that bring out the best in humanity. Let unconditional permeate your consciousness with its authentically humane ideals, and overturn all the residual features of an animal past- i.e. all the petty retaliation, hurting back, dominating, excluding and eliminating the other.
Imagine the potential of unconditional to transform life for the better. It goes to the deepest levels of consciousness, to subconscious archetypes (inherited impulses and related ideas), to fully humanize, to make fully humane the foundation themes at the core of human being. Unconditional goes to the deepest roots of thought, emotion, motivation, and response/behavior, to radically transform the driving impulses, and the related validating themes behind human existence. Ah, the potential to liberate from the animal into the truly human. This is the greatest liberation movement ever imagined.
Note: Short-circuit bad behavior
Put unconditional at the core of new master-stories and you will do away with the central historical validation for bad behavior- the primitive myth of “retaliatory deity punishing bad people”. People across history, feeling the impulses of their inherited animal brain have looked to ideas of divine reality in order to validate the expression of their animal impulses. The use of deity to validate behavior has to do with the primal human impulse for meaning (to explain and validate human behavior and life). So people have long appealed to gods that validate tribal thinking, domination of others, and the exclusion and destruction of enemy others. Their religious traditions have often embraced these themes and provided the religious validation for such bad behavior.
My point- take away the central validation of retribution that has long come from deity/religious ideas and replace that with unconditional and you will have removed one of humanity’s most important stimulants to bad behavior. With unconditional as the new core of our belief systems, people that choose to act badly will be on their own without the validation from primitive ideas of punitive deity. Unconditional will not permit the mistreatment of others. It will not provide any validation for retaliation, domination, or exclusion and destruction of some differing other.
You cannot appeal to deity for inspiration or validation of any form of bad behavior if that deity is defined as unconditional love. If you choose to act badly, you will have no divine approval and you will be on your own to violate the core of your own humanity as unconditional love. You will be left to feel your base animal impulses just for what they really are- inhuman, wrong.
This is where the ideological battle against violence in general must be ultimately won. Go to the root of what has long inspired, guided, motivated, and validated bad behavior- i.e. bad religious ideas. Transform core human ideals with unconditional and that will sever/short-circuit the root motivating factor that has long been used to incite and validate all forms of inhumane behavior.
Note on the tribal problem
Part of the human tribal mentality problem has to do with human identity, how we create our identity as human persons. Louis Zurcher wrote a good little book on this back in the 70s- ‘The Mutable Self’. He argued that as human beings we should be “people in process”, open to ongoing development, growth, and change.
And I would add that in our creation of personal identity we should emphasize more the oneness of humanity, the unity of the human family. As human beings we all share the same human mind, human consciousness, and human spirit. These elements ought to be at the core of our identity. We should remember that our essential human identity has more to do with our status as “world or human family citizens” than as citizens of some one nation or race.
The problem, according to Zurcher, is that we tend to place our identity in fixed, unchanging objects and we then make ourselves “immutable” or unchanging selves. We may place our identity in things like occupation (i.e. I am a soldier, a doctor, and so on), or religion, nationality, ideology, ethnic group/race, and more. And having embraced a fixed identity in such objects, we then view ourselves in opposition to differing others, even “enemy” others.
I would add this to Zurcher’s points- that when some aspect of our fixed identity is challenged, perhaps a challenge to our political or religious beliefs, then we may view that as not just a challenge to some idea that we hold, but as a challenge to our very selves. Because we have placed our identity so entirely in that challenged thing, we do not view it as just a challenge to some idea that we hold, but as a challenge to our very selves. And hence, we view it as a threat to our very identity and our existence as persons. Some people then react with the basic survival instinct, with a sometimes a very violent defensive reaction. Such survival reactions are very animal-like reactions.
The core, the core (from discussion group posts)
In all your endeavor to make life better, do not neglect the core human ideals, the foundational ideas of our worldviews, our systems of belief/thought, and ideologies. Note our great world religions and dominant ideologies like 19th Century Declinism. These are still oriented to and shaped by ideas of retaliatory payback (i.e. Greek core Retribution), tribal dualism (true believers versus unbelievers), alpha domination by gods or priesthoods or gurus, and the exclusion and destruction of enemies (i.e. apocalyptic mythology). These are profoundly subhuman and inhuman ideals.
Humanity’s major religious gods- our contemporary highest ideals and authorities- are still defined by these ideas. And we wonder why humanity still experiences the negative outcomes of such ideas. These core themes powerfully impact human emotion, thought, motivation, and response/behavior.
Take unconditional reality to the core of the above ideals, redefine those core ideals and authorities, and thereby overturn all that is less than human. Make our core ideals and authorities fully humane with the unconditional feature.
Love, love, love
The single greatest wonder in the entire cosmos and world is human love. Most people agree that love is our greatest ideal, emotion, and motivating influence, the one thing that most profoundly defines us as human. It is the light in the darkness of an imperfect world, an often violent world. Love is at the heart of our primal impulses for meaning and purpose. Love is also the most powerful force that we have discovered to transform, humanize, and to improve life.
Unfortunately, love has often been distorted and even buried by our inherited animal drives- i.e. the drive to tribal dualism (us versus other members of the human family, love limited to like tribal members), the drive to alpha domination of others, and the drives to exclusion and destruction of differing others.
The key to understanding the nature of authentic love is located in the adjective “unconditional”. Unconditional points to highest understanding of what love is. Unconditional takes us to the heights of our experience of human existence; it takes us to the ultimate meaning of humaneness or goodness.
Unconditional love holds the potential to spark the greatest liberation movement ever, the liberation of mind, spirit, and emotion at the deepest levels of human consciousness. It liberates from the worst features of our animal inheritance and past. It points to the most fundamental way to make life better, by radically humanizing our core ideals, especially deity.
We all hope, at a gut level, that our own imperfections will be treated with unconditional love from others. Lets then extend the same unconditional love toward all others. This is the essence of empathy.
My complaint against religion
No religious tradition has ever communicated to humanity the scandal and wonder of the “no conditions Love” at the core of reality. All religion, by its very nature, is oriented to conditions- How to appease the gods (i.e. sacrifice). How to please the gods (i.e. obligated belief and religious lifestyle).
Christianity, for example, had the opportunity to present the unconditional discovery of Historical Jesus, but instead, at the very beginning it rejected that “stunning new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus” (James Robinson) and buried his unconditional discovery (love all enemies, sun and rain on all both good and bad) in a follow-up context of divine threat of retaliatory punishment and destruction, and required conditions for salvation. Christianity buried the unconditional God of Jesus under Paul’s highly threatening and conditional Christ myth (i.e. the supreme sacrifice of a god-man to pay for all sin- believe this or suffer divine wrath). See, for example, his Romans letter. The burial of the unconditional “diamond” in New Testament “dung” was the blunt point made by Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy.
I reject the religious distortion of humanity’s highest ideal- deity. For multiple millennia people have projected subhuman and base features onto deity. Features like tribal dualism (true believers versus unbelievers), alpha domination (humanity subservient to deity and the representatives of deity- priesthoods), and exclusion and destruction of the unbelieving “evil other”. These are basic animal features, and not human.
I do affirm the better ideals in the religious mix, but I note that the better ideals are defined and distorted by the less humane features in the mix, often resulting in “cognitive dissonance”, the holding of contradicting things in some oxymoronic merger (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God). For instance, Christian love, like all religious love, is limited tribal love. It is not the universal love that Jesus taught, i.e. love of even enemies. Note how Matthew, just a few chapters after the Jesus insight on love of enemies then damns those enemies to hell (i.e. “cast into outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth”). Christianity in general presents this contradiction of “God is love, but will send you to Hell if you don’t believe Paul’s gospel”.
One more: I draw upon and affirm “spiritual” insight. I do not see the spiritual as something of secondary value in human knowing. Across history the spiritual has been primary to the human impulse for meaning and purpose. My baseline for evaluating spiritual “truth” is the feature of unconditional.
Now to the main point.
What is this thing of conscious human experience in this imperfect world? What does it mean? What is the purpose of it all?
The whole point is love. Unconditional love. The unconditional adjective in particular unlocks and explains it all. Unconditional Love is what created the cosmos and this world. Unconditional love is also our essence as human persons, the reality that incarnated as the common human spirit in all of us. Unconditional reality is our true self, our basic nature as human beings, the core of our consciousness and our human spirit.
And some “spiritual” insight tells us that we possibly chose to come here in order to experience love, to learn what love is, and to express love. Love is the main reason, or goal, of our unique human stories and our life experiences.
Love emerges and develops in the context of its opposite- against imperfection, against unlove, hate, inhumanity, and brutality. These things provide the imperfect context, the learning arena in which we experience love, and bring forth the beauty of love in response to inhumanity. Love shines brightest in the dark of life. And with love as our essential nature, we have been successful, gradually improving the human family and life in general. As fundamentally good and creative beings, loving beings, we have lessened violence across history, and we have made life overall better (see for example Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource).
Note the varied striking historical examples of love conquering hate and inhumanity- i.e. the historical Jesus (not Christian Jesus), the Chinese sage Laotzi, General Grant, McArthur, Mandela, and many more.
In the end we all return safely to that Love at the core of reality. There is no ultimate judgment, exclusion of anyone, punishment for imperfection in this world, or destruction. There is only ultimate Goodness, and a Love beyond comprehension. All are safe, really safe in that Love. There is nothing to fear. And yes, to balance things, there are social and natural consequences to bad behavior in this life.
I would tell children these two most basic and important things- Love is at the core of all reality. It is the creating, sustaining reality behind all life. And you are love in your essential self. Love is what you really are as a conscious human person. You are not essentially bad. And whatever you suffer in life, you will be safe in the end (see “De-fanging the death monster” below). Whatever your failures in life, you are still essentially good, “perfect” just as you are.
And in the dark times of life, re-orient yourself to the Love at the core of reality and life. It gives meaning to everything. When using methods like mindfulness or meditation, do not just try to empty your mind but give your consciousness a proper healing and humanizing center- the Love behind all. The Ultimate Goodness that is God and the human spirit.
So don’t miss the point of it all. Don’t waste your life on the subhuman emotions and responses of hate, revenge, payback, or hurting some other person. Embrace the liberating power of forgiveness, inclusion of all, respect and love for all. Get busy developing and maturing as human by focusing on love. Discover your true self as most essentially love.
And yes, there is no contradiction with love restraining violence and holding others accountable for their bad behavior. But love does so restoratively, respecting all as fellow members of the one human family.
Here are some of the basic assumptions embraced on this site: I affirm what the majority of people across history have intuitively embraced, that we are part of some greater reality. And that reality is not just energy or natural law, and certainly not just material. Rather, it has to do with Mind, Consciousness, Self or Personhood, Spirit, or what people call deity/God.
I hesitate to use the term God because of the accreted religious baggage that has deformed human understanding of God over history (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below).
Humanity has also come to understand that love is our supreme ideal, the feature that most defines us as truly human. And we have come to recognize that unconditional is the highest expression of love or humaneness. Unconditional is the supreme definition of what it means to be truly human. We therefore correctly project this unconditional ideal onto God as the most correct definition of Ultimate Goodness or Ultimate Humaneness. But we do this projection to infinite or transcendent degree in God. To inexpressible degree. As Campbell said, even the term God is penultimate and points to something incomprehensibly beyond, inexpressible better than the best that can be imagined.
Hence, my little summary of reasoning- What is most humane is most true, and most real.
Unconditional love defines Ultimate Reality most correctly. It is the core of all, of our true nature or true self.
Stunning research (Note: While there may be a complex of contributing factors to any situation of bad behavior, do not neglect the prominent role that bad religious ideas have played over the millennia- inciting, guiding, or validating bad behavior.)
Read David Redles book Hitler’s Millennial Reich and note how apocalyptic millennial and messiah ideas influenced Hitler to engage the “final war of annihilation” to save Germany, at the cost of 50-60 million lives. This is stunning information on how Hitler’s thinking, and Germany’s in general, was shaped by these religious ideas.
Richard Landes covered similar historical ground in Heaven on Earth and detailed how apocalyptic millennial ideas also shaped Marxism (100 million deaths), and environmental alarmism. Landes notes that Western historians were “disoriented” to discover the primitive religious ideas that shaped the thinking of their Marxist heroes. Others have noted how Rachel Carson used an apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring and the outcome was the deaths of tens of millions of people denied the protection of DDT.
This history of mass-death outcomes from apocalyptic millennialism led Arthur Mendel (Vision and Violence) to state that apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history.
And these ideas, in diverse “ideological/scientific” expressions, continue to dominate modern human consciousness. James Hansen, father of global warming alarmism, declared in 2008, “It’s all over in five years”. Even Stephen Hawking has joined the Chicken Little alarmists, recently (2017) stating that humanity has only 100 years till the end of days.
Where does this apocalyptic millennial madness come from? Well here is more “disorienting” information- Christianity is mainly responsible for bringing apocalyptic millennial and messiah mythology into Western consciousness (see, for example, James Tabor’s “Paul and Jesus”). This complex of ideas was then “secularized” (given secular expression) in 19th Century Declinism which became the dominant ideology of our modern era (see Arthur Herman’s “The Idea of Decline”). See also Jeffrey Foss’s Beyond Environmentalism.
It is highly irresponsible to continue to protect these “bad religious ideas” in our major world religions and ideologies (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Declinism, environmental alarmism). Yes, Eastern traditions also embrace the mythology of apocalyptic decline (i.e. the great cycles of rise and then decline toward catastrophic ending in Hinduism, and the decreasing/declining life-span of Buddhist belief). See, for example, Mircea Eliade’s History of Religious Ideas.
We have overwhelming evidence today of the destructive influence of bad ideas on human consciousness, behavior, and life (see The Destructive Power of Religion by Harold Ellens, also Cruel God, Kind God by Zenon Lotufo). Note the full lists of Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas in sections below.
With the evidence that we now have of the damage that bad religious ideas have caused across history, why are these ideas still the main defining features of our highest ideal and authority- i.e. God- in our major religions?
Note: What evidence counters apocalyptic Declinism? Read Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, among others.
Life is not declining toward something worse, toward collapse and ending. The long term trajectory of life improves toward something better. This is sound evidence for hope and it overturns the primitive apocalyptic mythology behind Declinism.
This site is committed to slaying the monsters that incite primal human fears (e.g. fear of after-life harm). And there has been no greater monster in human history than the myth of a threatening God and the bad religious ideas that embody threat of divine judgment, condemnation of human imperfection, exclusion of some members of the human family, and ultimate punishment and destruction (i.e. apocalypse and Hell). Add vengeful Gaia, angry planet, and karma to this list of monstrously threatening forces/spirits.
This site counters this pathological mythology with a new foundational theme for human master-stories and worldviews- the discovery of a stunning “no conditions Love” at the core of all reality. This insight radically redefines human understanding of theology and ultimate meaning. It tells us that there is no threat behind life. We are all ultimately safe in Love.
Add the insight that this same “no conditions love” is the core of the human spirit or consciousness (i.e. it has incarnated in all humanity). Unconditional love is the true nature of the authentic human self or person. This discovery radically redefines our understanding of people. We are not the corrupt, fallen, sinful beings of religious mythology. We are fundamentally good. The amassed evidence of how we have lessened violence, and improved life overall on this planet, affirms the essential goodness of people. As Julian Simon said in Ultimate Resource, in net terms we have been creators, not destroyers.
Unconditional reality offers the potential for the most profound transformation and liberation of human consciousness ever. It overturns entirely all bad religious ideas, most critically the central religious threat of a retaliatory deity punishing bad people. That is the original and foundational bad religious idea that spawned religion as the social institution that embodied divine threat and burdened people with the onerous conditions for Salvation (i.e. how to appease and please threatening, condition-demanding gods). Threatening and conditional deity continues its fear-inciting function today in “secular” versions (e.g. angry planet, payback karma).
Unconditional core reality overturns entirely the myth of the threatening, destroying God behind the pathology of apocalyptic millennial ideas.
Using Joseph Campbell’s good insights on human story, I see that a wise man long ago gave humanity the sword to slay the monster of threat theology. The sword was the insight that God was unconditional love. The wise sage (Historical Jesus, not Christian Jesus) offered the sword of unconditionally loving deity to slay the threatening monster gods of religion. He said, “Love your enemy because God does. God sends sun and rain on all people, both good and bad. God is unconditional love toward all. Be unconditionally merciful just like your Father is unconditionally merciful”.
But Paul rejected that new view of unconditional deity and retreated to the punishing God of all past mythology. He created his Christ myth as the ultimate expression of retaliatory, punishing deity (see his Thessalonians letters, and John’s Revelation, for examples). That Christ became the core of Christian apocalyptic destruction and conditional Salvationism. While there are some great human ideals embedded in the Christian Christ, there are also some of the worst features imaginable- i.e. tribal dualism (true believers versus enemies), alpha domination (Christ as Lord), and the exclusion and destruction of differing others, “evil others” (again, apocalyptic and Hell).
These bad religious themes have dominated Western consciousness ever since. They now find expression in “secular” versions of the modern era, like 19th Century Declinism and environmental alarmism- the dominant ideologies of today’s world.
Apology for apocalyptic
Why so much emphasis here on apocalyptic themes? Because fear incites “defensive” aggression in populations. The fear/anger relationship. When people have been alarmed by apocalyptic threats, they are then willing to embrace defensive aggression (i.e. “salvation” schemes) to stop some threat, to “save” something, or to incite actual an apocalypse as the purging of some corrupting thing (i.e. capitalism in Marxist mythology, the Jew in last-century Germany, and fossil-fuel industrial society in environmentalism).
Apocalyptic has incited endless violence over history, including mass-death movements. See the research sources noted above and the mass-death outcomes.
The devastating outcomes of apocalyptic millennialism point to the issue of the “impatient millennial mind” that wants to escape this imperfect world and its gradual processes of improvement. The millennialist seeks the more instantaneous transformation of society into some more perfect world. This escapist (Gnostic) impulse drove the search for the utopian paradises of Marxism, the Nazi Reich, and the search for today’s environmental paradise. But it takes “cataclysmic violence” to achieve these utopian dreams. Richard Landes calls this “coercive purification”. See more detail below. Also note Arthur Mendel on “historical gradualism versus cataclysmic approaches”.
While apocalyptic stories can provide good fun entertainment, apocalyptic becomes destructive when taken seriously as it still is by many people. We even have the spectacle today of many people walking around and claiming to be modern secularists, even atheists, yet mouthing the very same old themes of primitive apocalyptic mythology. Again, note Hansen and Hawking and many others. Green religion is just that- a religion, and a primitive one at that. It distorts our understanding of life entirely.
See qualifiers just below that respond to the common tendency of many people to dismiss history’s hardest saying- “love your enemy”- as just too impractical to deal with evil. The qualifiers note the responsibility of love to restrain violence while acting restoratively toward all offenders. Remember, Nelson Mandela embraced “love your enemy” as the most practical approach for avoiding civil war in South Africa. It worked powerfully to spare that country the horrors of violence that were unleashed around the same time in Rwanda and Serbia where they abandoned love of enemy.
Bob Brinsmead: “There is only one kind of authentic love- unconditional. If love is not unconditional, then it is not authentic love”.
Post from online discussion group:
“Not to beat this to death but just a comment re ____’s struggle with “Love your enemy because God does”. This is the single most important statement ever made by any human. There is nothing comparable anywhere in human thought or writing.
“’Love your enemy’ points to the most important ethical standard ever discovered by humanity, the ideal that gets us to the authentic nature of love- the highest human ideal.
“’Love your enemy’ gives us the single most profound insight into theology and the unconditional reality that is God. And that means it is the single most important insight into human meaning and purpose, our primary impulses. Nothing else gets us closer to what it means to be human, to what is the purpose of the cosmos and this planet. It tells us that there is “universal no conditions love” at the core of all reality. And it tells us that God created this imperfect world as an arena where we come to learn unconditional love.
“Do not dismiss or downplay the importance of this one statement that is the real diamond in that Christian context that endlessly tries to undermine it with the religious themes of retaliatory and punitive violence (i.e. angry deity punishing human imperfection and demanding salvation conditions).
“Many try to dismiss ‘love your enemy’ as too impractical for real life, as too mushy, not manly enough, not “just” enough (not proper “payback justice”). Not good enough to deal with evil. Tell Nelson Mandela that.
“Better, wrestle with it, embrace it as the one thing that will get you closest to fulfilling the purpose for which you chose to come to this life. The one thing that will unlock all the great secrets or questions about life and reality.
“Love your enemy”.
Note: Our real enemy in life is within each of us- our inherited animal brain with its base impulses to tribal dualism (us versus others), to alpha domination of others, and to exclude and destroy the differing others. This inherited animal is the real monster that we face in life and must conquer. And we remember that we are not our brains. We are something much better. We are most essentially beings of love, in our core authentic human self.
Further posts from discussion group:
(Note: Someone in an online discussion group dismissed the statement of Jesus- “Love your enemy”- as too soft and feminine. It was not masculine enough to deal with violent attackers like ISIS. This person argued that the hard saying to love enemies was just too impractical for life in an often violent world. Our response is that love never abandons common sense. Love is responsible to restrain violence and to hold others responsible for their behavior. The real issue here is how we maintain our own humanity in the face of inhumanity from others. How do we create and engage something better than the endless downward cycles of payback vengeance that render us all petty and infantile, and that have deformed human existence.)
My comment on this line of discussion…
“Interesting back and forth here, ____. In one sense this comment is typical of much response to history’s “hardest saying”. Many view “love your enemy” as a call to impractical pacifism. That’s why, in my summaries of Matt.5 and Luke 6, I leave out the following statement to “turn the other cheek”, as it only affirms the incorrect assumption that this passage is teaching pacifism. Too many people conclude that “love your enemy” means lying down and singing Kumbayah in the face of violence like ISIS. They conclude that “love your enemy” is useless for dealing with violent people and human brutality.
“We need to formulate new presentations of the spirit and application of “love the enemy”, with added qualifiers that include the responsibility of love to restrain evil and to protect the innocent, while doing so with restorative intent and approach. Look at our human rights codes today that hold us to the standard of treating prisoners of war humanely.
“And note the historical examples of General Grant treating the Confederates with mercy and restorative justice after the Civil War (Lincoln- “Malice toward none. Charity toward all”). Or McArthur treating the Japanese restoratively after the horrors of WW2. So also the Allies in Germany.
“Many today understand that “love your enemy” is a baseline definition of authentic love and they practice it in diverse ways. Remember Nelson Mandela practicing his own version of “love your enemy” in South Africa and thereby sparing that country the horrors of civil war.
Post from Bob Brinsmead re this line of discussion:
“There are times when a parent must intervene to discipline a child, to arrest a spiral of bad behaviour. But it makes all the difference whether the parent does this by flying into an uncontrolled act of retaliation to assuage frustration and anger, or if it is done for the long term benefit of the child. I might also point out that in most civilized countries of the world, such as Australia and most of Europe, the death penalty is never imposed with even the worst of criminals.
“A few years ago, for instance, Norway did not impose the death penalty on one of the worst mass murderers in history. He is still in prison and recently took the prison authorities to court on the grounds of inhumane treatment. The Court of Justice upheld his appeal.
“All these things such as the humane treatment of prisoners of war, the humane treatment of prison inmates irrespective of their crimes, the rejection of capital punishment out of respect for all human life, is what we might call the exercise of “political love.” Great thought leaders like Martin Luther King had a lot to say about the exercise of political love. It is a political and civil exercise in unconditional respect for human life. That is the term used by Harold Ellens.
“Yet the Australian authorities, that will not execute any criminal or prisoners of war, will at the same time send soldiers overseas to kill Taliban insurgents – or ISIS, or in the case of World War 2, Nazis. This is not a contradiction of the principle of “political love.”
“There are occasions when a rampant murderer might have to be killed as clearly the lesser evil measured against having more people killed. But if he is captured alive, the law demands that he be treated humanely. If he is hungry he must be fed. If he is sick or wounded, he must be given medical attention (i.e. like the Boston bomber). And he must not be executed out of respect and reverence for human life.
“This raises the interesting theological/ethical question of whether these human standards are higher than what the Bible sometimes imputes to God. Does the biblical God behave as well as humans? E.g.- Australia has not executed the Port Arthur mass murderer of about 20 years ago. It will not execute him even if he lives 100 years. Is your biblical God as good as that? Our prison rehabilitation program may not succeed in reforming some prisoners, but it does not cease to try on that account. Does God give up on some rebels, or will Robert Thomson’s “Hound of Heaven” eventually succeed?” (end of Brinsmead quote)
Another post (W. Krossa again):
“Like Jefferson and Tolstoy, I would pull the diamonds out of their religious/biblical context (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6) and restate them this way: “Love your enemy unconditionally because God does. While at the same time restraining bad behavior (violence). Treat your offender with restorative intent and justice (sun and rain generously given to all alike, both good and bad). And do not judge/condemn others for their imperfections (i.e. the specks in their eyes) but remember your own faults (i.e. the beams in your eye).”
“I am with you here- that our greatest enemy is within us. Our real enemy is our inherited animal brain and animal impulses to tribal dualism, domination of others, and the exclusion and destruction of others. That is the real monster that we all face in life and must conquer. Richard Gere tried to make a similar point just after 9/11 (i.e. the real enemy was the tendency to violence that is in all of us) and was booed by the New York crowd that felt he was being too mushy and conciliatory toward the Islamic enemy. They wanted payback. He was being too Buddhist and feminine.”
“My being baffle-gabbed over all this, is about perplexity at not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Why not hold a view of God as transcendently unconditional, yet recognize that in this imperfect world, love is responsible to restrain bad behavior and encourage responsibility in others. Yet holding “unconditional respect” for all people while doing so. We know that our ideals shape the direction that we take and the approaches that we use with others. The ideal of unconditional love pushes us toward more restorative intent and applications.
“Unconditional respect for all” as per Harold Ellens may be more helpful in expressing this. “Unconditional grace” was another term that he used.
“Re your comment on “love your enemy” and your feeling that we are ‘ripping it out of context…invoking it as a universal absolute for all occasions.’
“Not at all. The point that Bob and I have made many times before- we are all responsible to maintain our humanity toward others in all situations, even as we restrain violence and ensure the safety of others (just war, imprisonment of repeatedly violent people, and so on). Why these distinctions are so hard to grasp puzzles me. As Bob says, there is only one kind of authentic love- unconditional or universal love.
“Look at Gen. McArthur treating the Japanese restoratively after the war, bringing Japan back into the world community. We have many such examples in just our lifetimes. People in diverse ways “loving some enemy”.
“Love your enemy” was the most powerful corrective ever offered to counter a long history of ‘eye for eye’ retaliatory violence. It has had an immensely humanizing impact on humanity since. Look at how it has moderated Christian violence over history. It still inspires all sorts of people to be and do better.”
“Again, it’s about corrective balance. We have emerged out of a more violent past where eye for eye dominated human relating and the studies on violence show this (Payne, Pinker). So as humanity matures across history we see a movement more in the direction of unconditional treatment of one another. This is the point of the “love your enemy” comments. About a humane ideal that takes us all in a better direction, gradually over history, just as humanity has been doing. This is something to celebrate, and not deride as some sort of pathology.”
De-fanging the Death Monster
Humanity’s greatest fear has always been the fear of death. Ernest Becker outlined this in his famous book ‘The Denial of Death’. Most of us recognize that we have to face this monster head on and find some way to conquer it, some way to alleviate the sting of its inevitable threat to life. We do this in order to live a life free of debilitating fear. It does not work to just deny its presence as the concluding fact of every life.
How to de-fang the monster? First, I hold a “spiritual” view of life and reality. Not religious, but spiritual. A critical distinction. My “spiritual” is informed by all sorts of things, from quantum mechanics, brain/mind research, consciousness research, Near-Death Experience research, and the good insights from across history. Something like what Dr. Pim Van Lommel covered in ‘Consciousness Beyond Life’.
And to the contrary, I have purged my thinking of bad religious ideas that have long exacerbated the human death fear.
Religious beliefs across the millennia have intensified natural human fear of death with horrifically terrorizing myths of after-life harm, of an angry God threatening judgment, condemnation, exclusion, punishment, and destruction (Hell). Take this for a starter- there is no such thing as Hell. That is the perverse product of over-heated religious minds filled with hate for the “evil other” that differs from them. And there no such reality as angry deity threatening judgment, exclusion of anyone, or ultimate destruction. There never has been any such reality. We now know the original fail in early logic that arrived at such perverse mythical conclusions (i.e. that natural disaster, disease, and accident were expressions of angry gods punishing human sins).
We now have the stunning insight that behind life there is an inexpressible Love at the core of all. Death is the liberation into that Love and Light. As numbers of NDErs tell us, death was the best thing that ever happened to them. It was something entirely different from what their religions had taught them to expect. Many of them report that, having experienced an infinite Love, they no longer fear death.
The point? All are safe in the end, safe in an incomprehensible unconditional love. We all come from love, we exist in love every moment of our lives, and we all return to love in the end. This insight blows all bad religious ideas right out of the water. It is a loud shout out to everyone, to not fear death.
OK, but what about the preliminaries, the dying process? Leonard Cohen used to quote his friend Irving Layton who said this about death and the dying process, “One hopes that the preliminaries will not be too uncomfortable”. Cohen was responding to someone who asked him what he thought about death. He replied that he was not afraid of death itself but held the same concerns that we all have about the dying process- the preliminaries. We all hope that it will not be uncomfortable.
Doctors now re-assure us that with modern medicine they can moderate pain successfully and relieve most discomfort in those dying. I watched my father die in a hospice and saw the pain moderation medicine grant him a surprisingly “not uncomfortable” dying process. I hope to be so fortunate also but I realize that not all achieve the same comfort. This is why modern right-to-die freedoms are another critical option here.
Further, the NDE people offer some other helpful insights here. They say that family members watching someone die actually suffer more than the dying person. The family may feel distress at what they observe the dying person going through. But people who come back from death say that while their body showed signs of suffering, they had already left that body and were in a place of great peace, love, and bliss. They say that they even tried to communicate to watching family members that they were fine and not suffering pain or distress.
This insight can offer relief to those who have lost a loved one to some horrific accident or violent event. I think of the Swiss researcher who found that many who suffered catastrophic falls while mountain climbing recounted later that they had left their bodies during the fall and did not experience the final painful ending. Others say similar things about drowning, that after some initial panic they were engulfed in peace and bliss, on leaving their bodies.
These insights are for those who can accept them. My conclusion- take comfort where you can find it. We have a lot to work with today. I view the NDE movement as a loving Father re-assuring his frightened children that everything will be alright in the end.
And if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end (this last bit is borrowed from Bob Brinsmead).
(We never minimize human trauma and suffering. Common empathy enables us to feel intensely all suffering. But the human impulse for meaning then pushes us to orient our consciousness to finding hope and meaning in greater reality, in ultimate Love.)
The imperfection of life, and at times the outright horror from natural disaster and human brutality, can traumatize and overwhelm sensitive human spirits. But ultimately everything will be all right because there is an incomprehensible and transcendent Love at the core of reality. An absolutely no conditions Love.
Unconditional love redefines entirely our understanding of Ultimate Reality and the meaning of all things. It overturns the entire complex of pathological ideas that we have inherited from conditional mythologies and conditional religions (i.e. how to appease and please deity or karma, how to meet the conditions for some salvation scheme). World religions, both Eastern and Western traditions, have never communicated to humanity the true nature of ultimate reality as unconditional love.
The “threat theology” of world religions (i.e. judging, punishing, destroying gods), and their salvation conditions, has long darkened human consciousness with the unnecessary psychic burden of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, and anxiety. There has never been any angry, retributive deity that people must appease or please. The best “spiritual” insight today recognizes that there has always been only “no conditions Love” at the core of reality and life.
That core Love has incarnated in all humanity, in the common human spirit, and expresses itself in all diverse human goodness. Contrary to religious mythology, we are not essentially fallen, corrupt, or sinful beings. Yes, we have inherited an animal brain, and a long past in animal existence, with the base impulses to tribal dualism (us versus differing others), alpha domination of others, and the tribal exclusion and destruction of some competing other. But critical to recognize here- We are not our brains. We are not our animal past. We are most essentially love. This is the true nature of our authentic human self.
Our essential human nature as love is evident in the gradual improvement of humanity across history. Note the amazing decline in violence over our history (see, for example, the research of James Payne and Stephen Pinker). Note our successful endeavors to make life something better. As Julian Simon said in Ultimate Resource, in net terms we are more creators than destroyers. Media, oriented to the aberrational dark side of life and to disaster, do little to enlighten the public regarding this long-term improving trajectory of life.
(See also David Altheide’s Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis. News media, says Altheide, are not truth-tellers but entertainers competing with the rest of the entertainment industry. What dominates entertainment? Apocalyptic decline and disaster.)
Look at the main indicators of the true state of life. Today we live longer, we are healthier and wealthier, and we continue to improve our world. This is not to deny that problems still exist all over the world. There is a huge ‘Duh’ hanging over this recognition- the world is still imperfect. But there is no evidence of an overall decline of life toward some looming disaster and collapse. Apocalyptic mythology has always been a great lie. Overall, life has been improving across the millennia.
And most important to recognize in the face of today’s environmental alarmism, CO2 and warmer temperatures are not a threat to the world, but instead, bring an immense benefit to life. See, for instance, “Celebrating CO2” by Patrick Moore.
We are all members of the one human family and we all return to the same unconditional Love in the end, after our stories have been completed here. This unconditional ideal redefines human meaning and purpose. It tells us that our stories are most essentially about learning what love means, and how to express our core nature as love, notably as embodiments of unconditional love. We mature as human persons when we orient our lives to universal love (Joseph Campbell- see his outline of human story just below).
This site probes the bad ideas that cloud our understanding of unconditional reality, bad ideas that incite too much bad thinking and bad behavior- i.e. tribal dualism (true believers versus unbelievers), domination of others (human subservience to alpha gods, alpha priesthoods, and alpha power-holders in business and government institutions), and the exclusion and destruction of differing others (us versus some “evil” enemy that must be destroyed in apocalypse and hell). We are something much better than all this.
Note: I embrace unconditional as the defining feature of deity in spite of the offense that it causes to conventional understanding of justice as some form of payback. This site treats thoroughly the issue of natural/social consequences to behavior and the responsibility of love to restrain bad behavior while maintaining a restorative attitude toward all human failure.
Some big picture issues
The same complex of ideas has been behind incalculable violence across history- i.e. the apocalyptic millennial template, both in its religious versions, and more historically recent “secular” or ideological versions. Apocalyptic millennial themes have long incited, guided, and validated mass-death movements. This has to do with the belief/behavior relationship. This relationship is at its worst when people use bad religious ideas (notably, inhumane versions of deity) to validate their inherited animal impulses. I am talking about the animal/sacred relationship.
This site probes the larger and long-term picture and the great background themes that have long shaped human systems of thought/belief, worldviews, and life. There are all sorts of questions about possible relationships between things (correlations). For instance, there is endless promotion of alarm over the claimed decline and potential collapse and ending of life. What impact does this have on populations? Some have pointed to links between fear and addiction issues (i.e. opioid crisis). Arthur Herman says that the despair-generating ideology of Declinism (i.e. life is declining toward disaster and collapse) has become “arguably the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century”. What might be the possible relationship of Declinism to depression as the number one illness across the world? And what about the relationship between fear and aggression?
Consider these background apocalyptic millennial themes, still dominant in our religions and ideologies, and how they might impact public consciousness and life.
History of Bad Ideas
It all began with The Original Error, actually a two-part error in early logic.
The two worst of all bad ideas were that of “punitive deity” and the related myth of “essential human badness” that deserved punishment, with ultimate punishment in apocalypse and Hell. These two were combined in the myth of “angry gods punishing bad people”. These two bad ideas then formed the foundational theme of most ancient mythology, then subsequent world religions (the salvation industry), and have now found expression in “secular” versions of the modern era, like 19th Century Declinism and environmental alarmism (i.e. vengeful Gaia or angry planet punishing corrupt, greedy humanity).
The critical issue with bad religious ideas- they incite and validate our worst inherited animal impulses, the impulses to tribal dualism (believers versus unbelievers), to alpha domination of others, and to exclude and destroy the competing other (the “evil other”, the unbeliever).
The Great Correction
The Great Correction was the insight that the central ideal in the human search for meaning, i.e. Ultimate Reality or God, was not punitive, but was love, and love of an incomprehensible nature- absolutely no conditions. This was a stunning new understanding of humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity. Corollary to this: the related insight that people are essentially good, and not fallen, corrupt, or sinful. Yes, humanity has an inherited animal brain that emotes base impulses. But we are not our brains. We are something much better.
The discovery of Love at the core of all reality liberates consciousness entirely from ultimate fears and concerns- i.e. fears of ultimate after-life harm. And Love at the core of reality liberates us from one of history’s most oppressive beliefs- that the bad things that happen in life (i.e. accidents, natural disaster, disease, tragedy, cruelty of others) are some form of punishment from deity or karma.
The discovery of no conditions Love at the core of reality was subsequently buried in religions like Christianity with its demand for a supreme condition to be met- the sacrifice of a god-man to pay for sin (see, for example, Paul’s letter to the Romans). Historical Jesus research offers some detail on the contradictions between Historical Jesus and conditional religion (i.e. sacrifice or salvation conditions). Note for example, James Robinson’s work on “the stunning new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus” as contrasted with later Christian retaliatory theology.
There are diverse motivating influences behind bad behavior, whether personal, social, political, economic, or other. But religion has always played a prominent role in providing ultimate ideals to meaning-seeking, purpose-seeking humans. Our great religious traditions have provided both good and bad ideas to inspire, guide, incite, or validate human behavior. The result of holding bad ideas with good ideals has been “cognitive dissonance” in religion (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God). Some of the bad themes that have long dominated religion have now been given “secular” expression in contemporary ideologies. Terms have changed, but core themes have remained the same.
This site argues that the human future lies with unconditional. Joseph Campbell used the term “universal love”. Unlimited love is another related term. Unconditional redefines Ultimate Reality entirely. It purges humanity’s highest ideal and authority- God- of all the base features that have accreted on deity from past mythology and religion. It sets a new standard for human meaning and life. It is the supreme understanding of the great human ideal of love. Unconditional takes love to its most humane expression.
Insert on apocalyptic millennialism (the core bad ideas)
Apocalyptic millennialism plays on two fundamental human emotions- fear and hope. Apocalyptic incites fear of looming disaster and millennialism inspires hope for salvation into paradise. But millennial hope is a perverse form of hope based on the expected destruction of your enemies as essential to achieving your utopia. It is more humane to ground hope on universal or unconditional love.
Post from discussion group:
“The question is not so much this minor aberrational badness in humanity but the more general human goodness. The insight that at core we are all beings of love and light, our most essential self as human spirits.
“So the question- how to touch that, to inspire it to break forth. How to help young people make that transition to mature adults, to incite them to make their unique contribution to making life better. How to help them orient themselves to universal love and thereby tower in stature, to become the hero of their story.
“It is about stirring the dreaming ability in young people- to help them believe they are essentially good and they came to life to learn love, to help spread love in life, and to do whatever interests them in diverse ways to making life better. Think Borlaug, Mandela, creating companies and jobs for others, peace-making diplomacy, all sorts of arenas for human creativity in medicine, agriculture, sports/entertainment, trades, service industry, engineering, science, and on and on. All the diversity that is humanity and life.
“But that basic idea of making some positive contribution to life, to make life better. That they have some unique personal mission or purpose in all this. That only they can make.
“And encourage them that goodness is generally succeeding in life. Life is now better than at any time before in history (medically, economically, peace-wise, and so on). Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource), among others, has detailed the improving trajectory of life.
“We are here to contribute to making life better for ourselves and others. So tell young people to get as much education and training as they can. Then earn as much money as they can. The simple fact is that more wealth enables you to do more good. Then tell them to do as much good as they can in the area of their interest. They should add their own unique contribution to life in whatever areas. Tell them- go into life, be good and do good to as many people as they can.”
Blurb on environment (Collusion issues? How about the collusion between environmental alarmists and alarmist media?)
Environmental alarmists have been terrorizing public consciousness for decades with the two-part apocalyptic scenario that warmer temperatures and rising CO2 levels are going to cause some great catastrophic collapse and ending to life. Pardon my French but this is upside down nonsense. In net terms, warmer climate with more basic plant food (CO2) is immensely beneficial to life (see for instance, the Introductory Statement to the Protest Petition of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine).
We have been in an “ice-age era” these past millions of years. Temperatures and CO2 levels have been abnormally low, and plant life has been stressed with the pre-industrial CO2 levels that were below 300 ppm. Now, with the slight rise of CO2 to above 400 ppm, plant life has rebounded with a 14% increase in plant productivity since 1980. The world is greener today. Healthier. The biosphere is more robust. More CO2 is a great benefit to life because atmospheric CO2 is the primary food of all plant life. It is not a pollutant or poison. More CO2 is not threatening some apocalypse. We do not need a “war on carbon” (Richard Branson), which is to say- a war on life itself.
Good science has shown that while CO2 has a warming effect, this influence is overwhelmed by other natural influences on climate such as the three-way cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, and the ocean/atmospheric coupling. These natural elements show stronger correlations to the recent climate change that we have seen.
The point? Given the current uncertainty in climate science as to the human contribution, you cannot demand that people stop using fossil fuels and hope to adjust some CO2 climate knob and control climate. The alarmist salvation schemes are costing humanity trillions of dollars of lost growth and harming the poorest people the most, without making any discernible impact on climate.
Historians have made the stunning discovery that the same set of bad ideas- “apocalyptic millennialism”- has been behind much bad behavior over history. This includes the long history of religious violence, and the more recent violence of secular mass-death movements in the Twentieth Century.
These apocalyptic millennial ideas have shaped most religion across history. This template of ideas continues to dominate public consciousness today in varied human ideologies and worldviews including materialist/atheist worldviews. Arthur Mendel has summarized the devastating outcomes of these ideas in stating that “apocalyptic millennialism has been the most violent and destructive force in history”.
Keep in mind the relationship between fear and anger/rage. Apocalyptic alarmism has always incited fear and aggressive “defense” against proposed threats. The outcome has often been salvation programs that have caused immense harm to many others.
Apocalyptic millennialism was “secularized” in 19th Century Declinism (the most dominant ideology across the world today), and then became the inciting force behind Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism. Note that Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative led to the consequent deaths of tens of millions of people. That harm continues with the anti-fossil fuel movement and the consequent fuel poverty in places like Britain.
This site offers a potent response that goes to the root of the problem of bad ideas to overturn the apocalyptic millennial template entirely and offer a new centering ideal, an authentically humane ideal that inspires the best of the human spirit. The unconditional alternative deals with the fundamental human impulse for meaning as it relates to “spiritual” realities.
Note on Progressive intolerance: The comment just below comes from my position as a fierce “Independent” (float like a butterfly, take nectar wherever you find it, then move on). Both sides in our great social divides (i.e. Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative) have beneficial things to offer life. But both sides also have disturbing tendencies that need watching. One important concern today is the growing intolerance evident in Progressivism.
Note that contemporary Progressivism is the latest expression of historical collectivism (i.e. variously known as Socialism, Leftism, or modern Liberalism). Arthur Herman in ‘The Cave and the Light’ traces the descending history of the collectivist and the individual models, down from Plato and Aristotle to today’s world.
Collectivist movements have always tended toward central control approaches for organizing human society. Today central control is effected through excessive taxation policies and regulation.
Progressives instinctively react to individualism as more about selfishness and greed, hence they believe that individuals need to be controlled for their own good, and for the “greater good” or common good. This view of individualism as being more about selfishness and greed gives the Progressive the sense of holding a morally superior position compared to the individual orientation of alternative approaches.
But central control approaches have always had problems with concentrating power and thereby unleashing the totalitarian impulse in societies, even though an “unintended consequence”. The growing intolerance of contemporary Progressivism has been evident in recent Leftist opposition to alternative viewpoints or approaches (i.e. violent opposition on college campuses to alternative expression, and also violent opposition on streets to alternative views). Intolerant central control is an ongoing threat to freedom.
It is disturbing to see in recent polls that one in five young people today believe it is OK to use violence to shut down those that disagree with them.
We also see this Progressive intolerance toward alternative views in the environmental alarmist movement. Recall the recent (2016) effort by the US Attorney General to criminalize skeptical climate science, and the call by alarmists (e.g. Hansen, Suzuki) to imprison energy company CEOs. Also, note the general media favoring of alarmist science over skeptical science.
These are worrying trends emerging from contemporary Progressivism.
Quote from below: How apocalyptic became “the most violent and destructive force in history” (Mendel).
Apocalyptic mythology incites a variety of responses. It incites the fear of looming destruction, and the consequent felt need for “defensive survival” responses in order to eliminate the threat that is believed to be behind some prophesied collapse and destruction.
We saw the Nazis argue that the Jews presented an apocalyptic threat to the Aryan race in Germany and therefore that threat had to be eliminated in order to “save Germany”. We saw Rachel Carson present the same narrative of looming apocalypse in terms of threatening chemicals like DDT. The consequence of her alarmism was the unnecessary death of tens of millions of people that were denied the protection of DDT.
(For historical detail on how apocalyptic millennialism has incited mass-death movements see research of Arthur Herman- The Idea of Decline; Richard Landes- Heaven on Earth; Arthur Mendel- Vision and Violence; and David Redles- Hitler’s Millennial Reich: apocalypse and the search for salvation.)
Environmental alarmists continue to incite fear of looming apocalyptic destruction from industrial civilization and its fossil fuels. They insist that we must “save the world” from fossil fuels by slowing industrial civilization, and we must radically alter the energy sources of our civilization. This is costing humanity trillions of dollars from lost development and failed renewable schemes. See Global Warming Policy Foundation reports online.
Apocalyptic also incites the felt need to encourage or induce an apocalypse in order to purge some evil threat from the world (i.e. the use of “coercive purification” to purge evil, Richard Landes). We must purge some corrupting thing, some old corrupting order (i.e. industrial civilization) so that the world can be saved and we can then restore the lost paradise, or install a new utopia, a more perfect world (our hoped-for millennium).
And this brings up the issue of “cataclysmic” versus “gradualistic” approaches to life (see comment on Mendel below). Apocalyptic has often incited the impatient millennialist hope for cataclysmic or instantaneous change, and the inevitable violence that is necessary to bring this drastic change about (again, coercive purification).
Apocalyptic thinking exhibits the unhealthy desire of Gnostic escapism- to escape this imperfect world, to escape from the gradual and slow historical processes of change, to escape from the imperfection of life into some immediately-established perfect world (utopianism).