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“You become just like the God that you believe in”, Bob Brinsmead.
Much religious reform continues to protect “bad religious ideas” (Sam Harris’ term) at the core of religion. The humanizing project (making more humane) that has impacted much of the rest of thought and life must be taken to the very heart of religion- to deity. Religious gods must be fully humanized if we are to properly solve violence for the long term future. Anything inhumane or subhuman must be purged from humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity. Pathological views of God have long been used as the ultimate validation for pathological human behavior- to incite, inspire, guide, and validate such behavior. See comment on the belief/behavior relationship below.
This site is a project to combat alarmism in all its perverse forms- religious or secular. Alarmism generates fear and fear plays a central role inciting aggression and even violence (i.e. defense against perceived “threat”). Note carefully the role that theology has historically played in religious violence. This is one critical element to explore when trying to resolve the problem of religious violence.
Quote from below: “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.”
See Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas in next section just below, “Site Project: Conquering metaphysical monsters”. Also note how these bad ideas descend down through history in “The Big Picture: Historical descent of mythical/religious pathology”, following “Site Project…”. This helps to understand the never-ending eruption of religious violence across history.
I refer repeatedly on this site to the contradiction between Historical Jesus and Paul because this contradiction illustrates well the overall human story. It illustrates our emergence out of an animal past defined very much by attack and defense responses, later refined in the offense and retaliate responses of human existence and human views of justice as payback punishment. Contrast this with our struggle to become more human, more loving. Here we find people (i.e. Akkadian Father, circa 2200 BCE) advocating that we should respond to offense by forgiving offenders (“Do not return evil to your adversary, requite with kindness the one who does evil to you… be friendly to your enemy”). This new ethic of non-retaliation was further refined in the no revenge teaching of Historical Jesus (no more eye for eye), and people like Nelson Mandela.
To calm religious nerves- yes, I appear to go after Paul a lot, and especially his Christ myth, or Christian religion. Remember, we have Christ-ianity, not Jesus-ianity. Christianity is Paul’s religion, not a religion centered on the main message of Jesus. My complaint with Paul is that he rejected and buried the central unconditional discovery of Historical Jesus. He rejected Jesus’ view of a non-retaliating God (Matthew 5:38-48) and opted instead for the primitive retaliating God of all previous mythology and religion (note his theology in Romans 12- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”). Paul then became the single most dominant influence on Western consciousness and society (noted by James Tabor, among others). For example, his views have shaped our justice systems as more punitive than restorative (see comment below by Mennonites).
My challenge to Paul’s retaliation theology is not intended as an “attack” on Christianity. It is more about pointing to the best thing in that tradition- the unconditional discovery of Jesus. He was the first person in history to fully humanize God with “absolutely no conditions love”. Recover that central theme of Jesus and you have the best of the Christian tradition. And yes, that discovery overturns entirely the atonement theology of Paul (i.e. meeting the supreme condition of sacrifice to appease a God that demands retaliation, payment, punishment- see Romans 1-5). but if you radically reframe Christianity around Jesus’ discovery that God is absolutely no conditions Love (no payment, no punishment, no sacrifice) that would be too disorienting for most Christians to embrace.
Section content: Why they Hate us (Fareed Zakaria documentary); Nowhere left to hide; What we are trying to do; Rethinking justice as unconditional; Tolstoy and Jefferson on the contradiction between Jesus and the gospels; Attack? Nah; Changing our thinking; Religion and violence; Sam Harris on bad religious ideas; The Jesus/Paul contradiction; Complaint re conditional religion; Pathology of Alarmism; Wealth creation enables environmental improvement; Sanders on climate hoax; Chronology argument for Christian contradiction; New comment from Bob Brinsmead; Notes on love (Can we find a better term than unconditional?); Large Hadron Collider documentary.
“Why They Hate Us” (Fareed Zakaria, CNN, May 24, 2016)
Fareed Zakaria took a look at what might be behind Islamic violence across the world today. Some of the participants in his documentary rightly cautioned that Islamic violence comes from a minority in the Muslim world and does not represent the attitudes of most Muslims, who are moderates. I would add to this caution that any discussion of Islamic violence needs to be placed within the larger context of Western religion. The bad religious ideas (Sam Harris’ term) that promote Islamic violence today have descended down from Zoroastrianism, to Judaism (see Old Testament), to Christianity, and from there into Islam. And of course, we can trace bad religious ideas back even further to the very first human literature (i.e. the Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian mythologies).
I have traced this line of descent of bad ideas below in other sections (see, for instance, “Islamic violence”). There is startling evidence- i.e. The Priest and the Prophet, Joseph Azzi- that Muhammad’s mentor was a Jewish Christian priest (Ebionite). The mentor, Waraqa, taught Muhammad from the “Gospel to the Hebrews” which was roughly similar to the Christian Gospel of Matthew. He filled Muhammad’s head with ideas of a violent God, threatening violent punishment for unbelievers. Note the repetition in the Quran of an ever-watching and threatening God who will send people to Hell, just as Matthew repeatedly warns people of being “cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. (Consider also the fear/aggression link noted in psychological research)
Also, Muhammad affirms throughout the Quran that he accepted and absorbed the “other scriptures” (i.e. the Jewish scriptures and the gospel to the Hebrews). Islam is very much the direct offspring of Jewish religion and Christianity.
So yes, let’s not just point the finger at Islam.
But Zakaria appears hesitant to fully embrace the influence of this violent deity mythology. At the end of Why They Hate Us, he said that the root of the Islamic problem was not the theology but that it was political. And of course, the political element is present. So are the elements of economics, the claim of “Western social corruption”, and the personal histories of Islamic extremists (i.e. the criminal pasts of many jihadists). But do not dismiss the critical theological issue in this mix. We are talking about the myth of a violent, punishing God that is used to incite, inspire, guide, and validate violence toward unbelievers. You find the very same theological influence and violent outcomes throughout the histories of Judaism and Christianity. Read the rest of the opening comment here