Contact: email@example.com copyright Wendell Krossa
New comment below: 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”, and more discussion group comment.
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 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 fuller 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 necessary 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 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, as well as the inclusion of former outsiders (i.e. Gentiles), though that was a conditional inclusiveness.
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.
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 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.
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 irresistibly 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. retarding 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 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.
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.
More on alarmist distortion
The alarmist will 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. More detail on these resources will be offered over the summer.
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.
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. It is all about the fulfillment of some condition.
Here is something to consider in all this reformism- 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. 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- people urge me to be more “balanced” and 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.
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. 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 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: I noted earlier that I get complaints that I am not “balanced” enough when 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 you Christians- 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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.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.
“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.”
“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. “
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
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.