A critical issue in regard to justice, and the “just” response to human brutality, is to maintain our own humanity in the face of inhumanity/evil. Maintaining our humanity is about rising above the response of animal retaliation, and taking life somewhere better, like a Mandela, a Railway Man, a Gandhi, or a Martin Luther King. Maintaining our humanity is about unconditional respect for all people (i.e. restorative justice), that includes the responsibility to restrain violent people in order to protect others (e.g. “just” war, or the prison system for criminal offenders).
In the effort to maintain our humanity, it is important how we view the other human person despite their failure to live as human. Do we believe that they are still part of the human family? Can we do as the Chinese sage Laotzi did after defeating his attackers (i.e. not humiliating or rejecting them, but seeking their restoration as fellow humans).
Can we do as General Grant did to General Lee at the end of the Civil War, and welcome the badly behaving other person/people back into the human family, with restorative justice? Can we do what McArthur did with the Japanese after the brutalities of WW2? Can we do what the Allies did in Germany after the war, and seek the restoration of offenders back into the human family? This is about long-term outcomes that are humane.
Maintaining an unconditional respect for all humanity, despite the failures of others, is not to diminish in any way the horror of human brutality and the suffering that brutality causes others.
Intro notes on human story- the animal/sacred relationship
I embrace a basic dualism in humanity. We have an inherited animal brain with its base drives. But our human consciousness is something uniquely different, with humane impulses that take us in a new direction from animal existence. Our human consciousness constitutes the true human self or person and its core impulse is to love unconditionally. Unconditional love is, then, the defining feature of the human self or person. Unconditional love is our true core nature, the authentic “us”. We discover this truth over our life-time and learn to express it- that we are most essentially beings of love.
The fundamental animal impulses from our inherited animal brain would include small band or “tribal” thinking and behavior- us versus some “other”, alpha domination of others, and the exclusion and destruction of the competing other.
The foundational themes and behaviors of religion include the tribal dualism of “us versus them”- the division of humanity between true believers and unbelievers, domination/submission forms of relating with humanity subservient to the Alpha God (see Alex Garcia’s “Alpha God”), and the exclusion and destruction of the unbelievers.
These features are central to the animal/sacred relationship, the belief/behavior relationship. From the beginning people have created beliefs, notably religious beliefs, to validate their behavior, even bad behavior. We want to model our lives according to greater realities. As meaning-seeking beings we like to know that we are fulfilling some greater purpose for our existence. So we project features out onto our gods and then, in turn, we take meaning and purpose from those ultimate ideals and authorities, from the “spiritual” realities that we have created.
(Note: I accept that God exists but not a deity that is defined by religious features. Features, as noted above, that have more often been projections of animal existence, and not human.)
Bob Brinsmead: “You become just like the God that you believe in”.
“There are no bad people, just bad ideas that incite bad behavior”.
Heroic human story- conquering the inherited animal
You will encounter the term “unconditional love” frequently on this site. The critical word being “unconditional”. Meaning absolutely no conditions. None.
Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story provides a framework for understanding the transforming role of unconditional love. Campbell says that we all come into life to live a hero’s story. And we face a monster, some problem. It could be physical in nature, or religious, or mental/emotional, social, ethnic, political, economic, or other. In our struggle to conquer our monster we learn lessons, we gain insights, that we can then offer as a “boon” or blessing to help others. See Campbell’s Myths To Live By.
Somewhat similarly, Julian Simon says that we face problems in life, and in our struggle to solve problems we find solutions that can then benefit others.
(Note: If we do not suffer something in life, then we are not much use for understanding and helping others that suffer. Compassion and empathy are developed out of suffering.)
Campbell also says that “a wise man” gives us a sword to slay our monster. And Campbell adds that we achieve human maturity when we orient our lives to universal love. Then we “tower in stature” as maturely human. Like a Nelson Mandela who set aside his desire for vengeance and worked for an inclusive South Africa (i.e. to include former enemies).
And where Campbell said that “universal love” was the feature that lifted us out of base animal existence and into human maturity (becoming a hero), I would use the broader and more inclusive term “unconditional love”.
I would also suggest that the one great monster that all of us face is that of our inherited animal drives (i.e. the impulses of our core animal brain to tribal dualism and opposition, to domination of others, and to the exclusion and destruction of the differing other). Unconditional is the sword of the wise man that helps us to slay this monster of our inherited animal. Unconditional orients us to universal love- to embrace and include all people as members of one human family, to engage all equally, to forgive all, and to treat everyone restoratively, despite any failures to live as human.
Unconditional orients us away from infantile animal thinking and behavior that is characterized by retaliation, tribal exclusion of others, or domination and destruction of some other. Unconditional takes us toward human maturity. It enables us to become mature heroes, to tower in stature as authentically humane, and thereby bring a boon to others.
Unconditional is simply the most liberating and humanizing insight/ideal that we have discovered. It liberates us from our animal inheritance. It humanizes us fully. With unconditional there is no tribal thinking (us versus others), no domination of some “lesser” other, and no exclusion or destruction of another. These infantile animal impulses, and supporting ideas, have always blocked human understanding and expression of unconditional.
Unconditional takes us to the height of authentic humanity, to the authentically humane, and to authentic love. To repeat- it is the insight that enables us to tower in stature as maturely human. It brings forth our true human self, our real nature as beings of love.
So orient yourself to unconditional and be the hero that you should be. Conquer your real enemy and monster, your inherited animal brain and impulses. Your enemy is not some other person/people but your own tendencies to retaliation, domination, exclusion, and harm of some other member of the one human family. Be the person that you really are- i.e. most essentially love at your core. Discover your true self, the hero that is unconditional love. Remind yourself that you are not your animal brain. You are something much better.
Summary: The real enemy that we face in life is inside us. Our real enemy has to do with the animal drives emoted by our old brain, and the bad religious ideas (or secular versions of the same ideas) that we embrace to validate our animal inheritance.
Orienting ourselves to unconditional love would also include the orientation to deity as the ultimate embodiment of such love. An unconditionally loving God is about the complete liberation from all bad religious ideas- i.e. pathological religious myths of God angry at human imperfection, and threatening to judge, condemn, exclude, punish, and destroy imperfect people (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below).
Further on this point that unconditional blows away entirely all bad religious ideas. Include the bad religious ideas of blood sacrifice to appease angry deity, along with the divine demand for correct belief and religious lifestyle, the requirement to fulfill religious ritual, and more. These bad ideas on divine conditions have long been embedded as foundational to religious traditions. Religion has always been most essentially a conditional institution (i.e. how to appease and please alpha gods). Religion cannot therefore reveal unconditional love to humanity. Religion, by its very nature, has long buried the unconditional insight.
Insert on NDE insights on human story:
For those who can handle it- The Near-Death Experience accounts offer some interesting insight into human story. They suggest that the primary reason that we come to the planet is to learn about love. To discover what love is, and how to experience it, both receiving and giving love. Love, notably unconditional love, is the fundamental meaning and purpose of human existence.
Some NDE accounts, like that of Natalie Sudman (The Application of Impossible Things), suggest that we may even choose the life story that we live, including the detailed experiences of our life, both good and bad (i.e. experiences that involve suffering).
The single most primitive idea ever concocted by the ancients- the original bad religious idea- was the belief that the gods punished people through natural disasters, disease, and accidents. This idea has spawned endless human misery- whether unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression or despair.
This worst of all bad ideas- that angry deity was pissed at human imperfection and would punish imperfection- was the idea that sparked the foundation of religion as the human response to appease and please the angry gods. That led to the sacrifice industry and the long history of Salvationism- the search for endless religious ways to find salvation from the threat of divine punishment and destruction.
This belief in punitive deity still forms the heart of our world religions and has even found expression in secular versions (i.e. “revenge of Gaia… angry planet… karma”). The sense of great threat, and the consequent felt need to engage some salvation scheme, continues in contemporary systems of thought.
This mythical pathology misses entirely the true nature of Ultimate reality as unconditional Love (i.e. God is love). Religion as Salvationism (salvation conditions) has long darkened and enslaved human consciousness and prevented human understanding of deity as essentially no conditions love.
Further notes on apocalyptic from ‘War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth’:
“The West has produced and exported a number of secular, indeed atheistic forms of millennialism… movements that share the simple combination of a millennial vision of the world transformed, and an apocalyptic belief in the transformation’s imminence… thus we find especially strong tendencies towards both social perfectionism and human agency…”
(That early Christians, when ascendant in society, turned equally violent as their previous persecutors): “Large numbers of demotic millennial movements that turn into totalitarian adventures… reflect precisely the kind of reversal that so many critics anticipate from the proponents of equality; they speak of fairness when they are weak, and with power- in millennial cases, absolute power- such discourse rapidly turns to coercive purity…”
(On the spectrum from active to passive varieties of apocalyptic millennialism): “Active apocalypticism… tends to prefer cataclysmic variants since they promise more readily tangible results to an impatient enthusiast. With the advent of serious technological empowerment (i.e. nuclear weapons), they have become the most likely scenario of this next millennium…” Al Qaeda was an example of this version.
“Here… we find the origins of totalitarianism, that uncontrollable urge to hide one’s shame by coercing purity, even at the cost of huge numbers of lives. Here the apocalyptic imagination is quite capable of contemplating with enthusiasm the death of over five billion people…”
Post from discussion group: “On the repeated episodes of mass-violence that are the outcomes of apocalyptic millennial eruptions in societies- As Arthur Mendel says, ‘Apocalyptic millennialism has been the most violent and destructive force in history’. Apocalyptic millennialism leads people to feel that they must act now, without delay, in order to ‘save’ something under immediate threat. This may involve the trampling of other’s freedom…”
“Love your enemy” is the single most humane statement in all history and literature. It points to the ultimate definition of “humane”, of being truly human, of true goodness or true love. It is liberation from the animal into human maturity, to being a hero.
Topics below: Jesus versus Christ, or “the message of Ultimate Non-Retaliation” versus “the icon of Ultimate Retaliation” (two foundational and contrasting influences on Western consciousness and society). Defining justice- retaliatory or restorative (related issue- maintaining our own humanity in the face of inhumanity). Then: What defines the authentically humane? Also, Gradualistic versus Cataclysmic- the democratic approach to life versus the coercive apocalyptic approach to life (“coercive purification”, Richard Landes) ; Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas; and “The end of the world is always 10 years away”- Saltzman essay.
Note: Paul’s Christ myth is an expression of apocalyptic retaliation (see his first letters to the Thessalonians). This myth has shaped Western consciousness significantly (see Tabor and other quotes below). Apocalyptic (i.e. divine retaliation/punishment) contradicts entirely the core non-retaliation message of Historical Jesus.
This site connects some obvious dots (correlations between things). Christianity is an apocalyptic religion. Christian apocalyptic themes shaped 19th Century Declinism- the most influential ideology of the modern era (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline). Declinism has since shaped environmental alarmism and other apocalyptic-oriented “secular” ideologies. Apocalyptic is anti-human and the outcomes of this primitive mythology have been devastating to humanity and the progress of civilization.
See also varied comments on justice issues below- i.e. the social/natural consequences of behavior (responsibility, accountability), and restorative justice approaches (unconditional respect for all despite the need to restrain bad behavior). Embracing unconditional love is about maintaining our own humanity in the face of offense and brutality from others.
Correlations of interest: Some scholars suggest that apocalyptic is a spent force, a dying mythology. But note the continuing worldwide influence of climate alarmists (a “secular” expression of apocalyptic). With the support of the majority of world governments, they continue to hinder and slow the use of fossil fuels that drive industrial civilization, and that has had a costly impact on human well-being. The poorest people have suffered the most (e.g. the bio-fuels fiasco). Remember also the apocalyptic narrative of Rachel Carson and the outcome that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of people following the ban on DDT. Even Stephen Hawking has become caught up in the endless Chicken Little alarmism of “the end is nigh”. Apocalyptic, now often secularized, is still a potent and damaging force.
People must be held accountable for alarm-mongering in public and the outcomes of alarmist exaggeration on populations. Remember James Hansen (father of the climate warming alarm) telling us in 2008, “It’s all over in five years”.
Why go after bad ideas? Hint: It’s all about the belief/behavior relationship, and the 85% of humanity that belong to the great world religions. And many of the remaining 15% are “unaffiliated”, that is to say- “still spiritual but not religious”.
This site probes the following points: Ideas, especially ideas projected onto deity- humanity’s highest ideal and authority- profoundly influence how people think, feel, and act. And “bad ideas” projected onto deity from the beginning have a long history of horrific outcomes- i.e. crusades, torture and murder of heretics (inquisitions), and the war-scale slaughter of unbelievers/enemies. Bad religious ideas- notably apocalyptic millennialism- played a significant inciting/validating role in the mass-death movements of the 20th Century (Marxism, Nazism, environmentalism).
Lesser “bad outcomes” would include religious judgmentalism, intolerance, exclusion of the unbeliever, condemnation of the different, and religiously-engendered shame, guilt, despair/depression, and unnecessary fear (e.g. the Japanese lady after the tsunami asking, “Are we being punished?”). It is about the overall darkening and enslaving influence of bad ideas.
More than this, bad religious ideas have long blocked the profound liberation that flows from the insight that deity has always been a stunning “no conditions Love”.
The list of bad ideas projected onto deity includes- tribal dualism (believers versus unbelievers); exclusion and domination of the bad people, or the unbelievers; and retaliation, punishment, and destruction of the unbelievers. The driving core here is the worst of all bad ideas- “angry deity punishing bad people”. See the full list of bad ideas below- “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas”. These are subhuman themes, inhuman, simply bad.
These ideas, that have been responsible for much violence, destruction and misery across history, have never been purged from our great religious traditions, notably Christianity and Islam. They are still embedded at the core of these religions in the foundational reality of deity. And in the modern era, bad religious ideas have been given “secular” expression in the dominant ideologies of our world (i.e. 19th Century Declinism and it’s offspring, environmental alarmism). Consequently, people continue to become just like the God that they believe in. Belief influences behavior.
We know better now. We have the alternative that fully humanizes religious gods, that makes our highest ideals and authorities fully humane. We know that unconditional love does this. It takes us to the supreme height of the authentically humane. Unconditional defines Ultimate Goodness. It inspires the best of the human spirit. Again, belief shapes behavior.
An unconditional core Reality (God) tells us there is no ultimate judgment, no exclusion of anyone, no ultimate punishment or destruction of anyone. There is only Love behind all. All are safe in the end. This insight overturns all bad religious ideas. Let your mind toy with this scandalous insight. There is a Love that is infinitely beyond human comprehension.
It is irresponsible to allow subhuman features to continue to define our highest ideals and authorities and to continue to incite, inspire, guide, and validate bad behavior. Most religious reformism, while helpful in moderating religion, has only been peripheral tinkering at the edges, while letting the core ideas remain subhuman, inhuman, bad.
If we are ever to see clearly that “God is love”, then we have to get rid of all the “dung, garbage, muck” (Jefferson and Tolstoy) that buries this ultimate truth. Unconditional should become our highest ideal and authority.
The basic template of bad ideas is still foundational in the great world religions and now in dominant world ideologies (i.e. Declinism, environmental alarmism). These ideas provide continuing inspiration and validation for our worst impulses to tribal dualism, domination of others, and the exclusion and even destruction of differing others.
More on “Why go after bad ideas?”
Some bad behavior can be explained at the level of careless stupidity, people engaging life at the level of unchecked animal impulse- whether exhibiting tribal mentality with its dualism of “us versus some enemy” (i.e. separation, exclusion), or base retaliation against offense, or Alpha domination/predation, or the destruction of the differing/competing other. We see these things in individual stories of bad behavior. Behavior that can be understood in terms of the inherited animal brain that emotes base impulses, subhuman or inhuman impulses.
But because of the primary human longing for meaning (Victor Frankl), there are many that prefer to validate their behavior, including bad behavior, as modelling greater realities or meaning. They seek inspiration, guidance, and validation from greater ideals/ideas and authorities. This is why people have always looked to deity/God for validation (i.e. some divine law, word, will, model/pattern).
We saw this appeal to greater ideal/authority to validate bad behavior in the notable mass-death movements of the past century. Hitler was a striking example of this with his repeated appeals to “Providence” and more generally to “apocalyptic millennial”, or messiah mythology. Those themes resonated with the historical German Christian worldview. Richard Landes treats this in detail in Heaven On Earth.
This is “disorienting” stuff for the religious mind to engage. That esteemed ideas in one’s religious tradition can also be used to validate the destruction that we saw in Marxism, Nazism, and continue to see in environmental alarmism.
Apocalyptic millennialism continues to dominate the great world religions of Christianity and Islam. It has also been given new expression in the “secular” versions of Marxism and environmentalism. The terms have changed but the core themes remain the same.
This site explores these deeply rooted bad ideas- i.e. great punitive forces or spirits threatening ultimate destruction. These bad ideas continue to dominate our master stories, our grand narratives and worldviews (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, karma). They are themes that have long shaped the deepest levels of human consciousness, even the subconscious. These themes influence our thinking, our feeling, and our behaving. Change at the level of foundational narrative themes is critical if we are to solve bad behavior for the long-term future. It is about the liberation to be fully human. Liberation from bad ideas is the most profound liberation at the deepest levels of mind, spirit, and emotion.
This site is then a project to untangle and solve the sacred/animal relationship. To put it most bluntly in order to be clear- people have long sought to validate their worst impulses, their animal impulses to tribal dualism, retaliation, domination, and destruction of differing others, by projecting similar features onto their gods, thus creating ultimate ideals and authorities that provide divine inspiration and validation for their own bad behavior. We then become just like the God that we believe in. Note for example that in apocalyptic millennial movements, people believing in a punitive destroying God will often feel that they must be the agents of that God to carry out his will and destroy his enemies. They must eliminate the “evil” that pollutes and threatens God’s world or God’s people.
Related: This site is also probing the deepest levels of human fear and anxiety, such as the primal fear of Ultimate Harm, of after-life harm- whether a punishing God, angry nature, or karma (see Michael Grosso material below). This is about liberation from unnecessary psychic fears (i.e. the Japanese lady asking after the tsunami, “Are we being punished?”).
Further, fear and hate/rage/retaliation are all mingled emotions. So also note the relationship of fear and the consequences of anxiety/depression/addiction. Background things (i.e. endless environmental alarmism and associated news media exaggeration and alarmism) impact people’s consciousness. Just sayin.
Note: Contrary to the dominant Declinist ideology today (i.e. the apocalyptic alarmism that claims that life is declining toward disaster and ending), evidence on the true state of the world and the overall trajectory of life, shows improvement over the long-term, gradual improvement toward something better. This is a sound basis for hope. And hope has a self-fulfilling effect, it breeds more of the same, inspiring more effort to improve life. Whereas fear has an opposite effect, also of the self-fulfilling type. It can push people toward fatalism and resignation.
Note on breaking payback cycles (taking a few points from Joseph Campbell on human story)
I embrace the “spiritual” insight that we come here to engage a human experience (a life story) in order to learn how to love. To know what love is, to engage the struggle to love, and to help love spread. Love is the central meaning and point of human life. We suffer tragedy, heartbreak, disaster, accident, and cruelty, all the worst situations of life, as opportunities where we can learn to choose something better. That is where true heroism emerges and finds expression. That is where love shines brightest, when chosen against the experience of something worse.
Life’s worst situations offer opportunities to exhibit heroic courage, to take life somewhere better. To exhibit the initiating courage, for example, to break a potential retaliatory cycle (getting even with an offender), and going somewhere better, toward forgiveness, inclusion, generosity, and restoration of offenders. Like a Mandela, or Railway Man, or General Grant seeking the restoration of General Lee after the Civil War.
Qualifying note: Maintaining our humanity in the face of inhumanity:
Any comment on the ideal of non-retaliation requires immediate qualification. The issue is how we maintain our own humanity in the face of bad behavior from others. An unconditional attitude does not mean embracing dogmatic pacifism. Love is always responsible to protect the innocent and restrain violent people. That may involve permanent imprisonment in the case of the repeatedly violent offender or the psychopathic criminal. It may involve eliminating some extremely violent people where other forms of restraint are not possible (i.e. the irrational, religiously-driven violence of ISIS).
Maintaining an unconditional respect for all is about how we prevent ourselves from falling into old tribal dualisms (i.e. “us versus our enemy”) and “eye for eye” cycles of vengeance and punitive payback. We are morally obligated to maintain our own humanity and to seek better long-term outcomes that lessen violence and brutality. That will involve the use of defensive force but always with ultimate restorative intent. Just as the Chinese sage, Laotzi, argued for the careful, minimal use of force to stop attacking armies. But he then urged the triumphant soldiers to not humiliate their attackers after they had defeated them. So McArthur sought to rehabilitate the Japanese after the Second World War. And Mandela sought to include all in the new South Africa, and to turn former enemies into friends.
Related issue: Defining justice as retaliatory or restorative. See discussions in sections below.
Comment from below: The dominant inciting/validating factor in the Western tradition
The term “Jesus Christ” is a statement of profound oxymoron that tries to merge non-retaliation with supreme retaliation. This Christian title has long held together two profoundly opposite messages in an unworkable and disjointed harmonization. The outcome from maintaining the feature of violent retaliation in humanity’s ultimate ideal and authority- deity- has been horrific abuse of people (i.e. Crusades, Inquisitions- torture and murder of heretics, exclusion of unbelievers).
Historical Jesus was history’s greatest Non-Retaliator. His core theme was “no more eye for eye but love your enemy”, (see Matthew 5, and Luke 6). And he based this unconditional ethic on “a stunning new theology” (James Robinson) of a non-retaliating God that loved his enemies, a God that exhibited unconditional mercy and generosity toward all- “God sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad”.
Paul, to the contrary, rejected the unconditional God of Jesus and re-affirmed belief in divine retaliation by creating history’s supreme Retaliator- i.e. his apocalyptic Christ. Paul’s own words from his Romans and Thessalonians letters- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay… The Lord will punish… he will pay back… in blazing fire… punish with everlasting destruction….”. There is a lot more in these and other New Testament letters. And see Revelation for the most graphic portrayal of the violent, blood-soaked Christ destroying billions of his enemies. What do you think such imagery does to human consciousness?
Paul’s views dominate the New Testament and Christianity, and thereby Western consciousness in general (see Tabor quotes below). Consequently, Jesus’ core theme of non-retaliation has been largely distorted, undermined, and even buried, while Paul’s message of supreme retaliation has shaped Western thought and behavior with repeated violent outcomes (i.e. the Crusades, the torture and killing of heretics, and harsh retributive justice systems).
Historical Jesus offered the way to solve bad behavior/violence at the most fundamental level. He fully humanized (i.e. made fully humane) our highest ideal and authority- deity. He radically transformed humanity’s ultimate inciting and validating reality- God- by re-orienting human understanding of God away from retaliation and toward non-retaliation, or unconditional love. His central theme was expressed as “God does not retaliate against enemies but gives sun and rain to all alike, both good and bad”. All were to be treated as family, despite their failure to live as human.
This is fundamental to solving the problem of people using bad ideas to incite or validate bad behavior. Do as Jesus did- make your highest validating ideas/ideals (i.e. God) fully humane. Only unconditional can accomplish this.
Paul outright rejected the project of Jesus. He rejected Jesus’ “stunning new non-retaliatory theology” and retreated to the same old primitive understanding of deity as all about supreme “eye for eye” retaliation, notably in the great payback and punishment of apocalypse and Hell.
The point? We become just like the God that we believe in. Bad ideas incite and validate bad behavior. As Bob Brinsmead says, “The view of what God is like does determine to a large extent how a person lives and how he relates to others. Harsh views of God lead to harsh treatment of others”.
A possible response to this? Embrace the approach of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy- take the “diamonds/pearls” of Jesus and throw Paul’s gospel out. It is the “product of an inferior mind”, according to Jefferson. Jefferson and Tolstoy used much more offensive terms to describe the rest of the New Testament, but I am trying to be nice.
Note on the secularization of primitive apocalyptic millennial mythology: “The West has produced and exported a number of secular, indeed atheistic forms of millennialism… movements that share the simple combination of a millennial vision of the world transformed, and an apocalyptic belief in the transformation’s imminence… thus we find especially strong tendencies towards both social perfectionism and human agency…” (Preface to War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth).
The ultimate in Western religious blasphemy
Oxford Dictionary defines blasphemy this way: “To speak irreverently about God or sacred things”. But note, the ‘benefits of blasphemy’ include liberation from bad ideas, and that is the most profound liberation at the depths of human consciousness, spirit, and emotion. So “Let me make myself vile just this one more time”.
There is no greater blasphemy to the Christian mind than to tackle, challenge, and diminish the Christ myth. “If anyone denies that Jesus is the Christ… he is the antichrist” (1 John). And did I say Christ “myth”? Yes, all apocalyptic is myth, fraudulent myth, pathological myth. Paul’s Christ is the epitome expression of apocalyptic mythology.
See also the comment below that gives a new twist to the conventional Christian view on the “antichrist”. If you take “Q Wisdom Sayings” research seriously, then Historical Jesus was the antichrist. His core message of non-retaliation was against Christ or messiah mythology (i.e. the supreme retaliation of Paul’s Christ in a great apocalypse- again, note Paul’s Thessalonians statements, just above).
Also, see the qualifiers below on the better features that are also embraced by Paul’s Christ. But that merger of good ideas with bad ideas creates the contradiction that this site treats thoroughly (i.e. the ultimate oxymoron of non-retaliation/retaliation that engenders cognitive dissonance in Christianity).
This site traces the historical lines of descent from ancient bad ideas and down into contemporary versions of those same bad ideas. This site notes the correlations between historical systems of thought- from mythology to religion to “secular” ideology. What drives this project? Bad ideas incite people to bad behavior. Always have. Always will.
To properly solve violence and other bad behavior (i.e. the mass-violence eruptions of the past century) we must confront and deal with all the contributing factors, no matter how disorienting that may be.
Focusing the subject:
When you trace contemporary Western bad ideas and behavior back to their historical roots, you arrive unavoidably at Paul’s Christ. That prominent Christian icon brought destructive “apocalyptic millennialism” into Western consciousness and societies. Christian apocalyptic millennialism was then a critical contributing factor behind the alarmist and mass-death movements of the twentieth century. The death tolls were astounding (i.e. an estimated 200 million from just three notable apocalyptic millennial movements- Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism). See the research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, and Arthur Mendel noted below.
“(Apocalyptic millennialism has been) the most violent and destructive force in history”, (Landes in Preface to Vision and Violence).
The bad ideas that contributed to Paul’s Christ myth have even deeper historical roots traceable back to Jewish messiah mythology, Greek hero mythology, Gnostic savior myths, and then further back to Zoroastrian dualism and apocalyptic destruction, and finally back to Sumerian mythology where we find the original pathological myth of “angry gods punishing and destroying bad people” in a great flood apocalypse.
Qualifier: No one denies that much good has also been associated with Paul’s Christ- i.e. the ideals of forgiveness, mercy, deliverance, and so on, that are also present in the myth. But do not neglect the fundamental features of the Christ that express tribal dualism (good people/true believers versus bad people/unbelievers), exclusion and rejection of the unbeliever (small band mentality), alpha domination (Lord Christ ruling all with an iron fist), and ultimate violent destruction of one’s enemies in apocalypse and hell. These darker features tend to limit, undermine, and distort the better features.
If we are ever to solve violence and bad behavior properly and for the long-term future then it is critical that we face this central originating source of bad ideas in our Western tradition.
The nastier features of the Christ have incited and validated the same nasty impulses in people, the impulses emoted by our inherited animal brain. It is an age-old practice of people to appeal to sacred ideas to validate their basest impulses. Fortunately, we are not our brains. We are something much better. But we need better ideas to inspire and affirm our better impulses. We need a fully humanized God, and authentically humane religious icons that are purged of all subhuman features.
In general, this site is oriented to understanding the deeply embedded ideas that shape our thinking and behavior for good and bad. This site probes questions like- What makes us truly human and what dehumanizes us? This site explores the very foundational things that contribute to real and lasting change. This site goes after the real monster in life, the real enemy of humanity- not other people, but bad ideas.
Note: Too much religious reformism has been just peripheral tinkering at the edges. It does not go to the core features of religion, those foundational ideas that define the highest ideal and authority of all- God. To paraphrase Bill Clinton- “It’s the theology, silly”.
More on the source of bad ideas in the Western tradition
In our Western tradition, the endless declinist/alarmist nonsense that has plagued consciousness and life all began with Paul and his apocalyptic Christ myth.
This is the great contradiction in Western consciousness and society- the contrast between the competing influences of Historical Jesus and Paul/Christianity. These two are foundational to understanding Western society- i.e. what influences good and bad in our ethics, what humanizes or dehumanizes justice systems, what has incited alarmist movements and mass-death eruptions and outcomes (notably in the past century), and more.
My argument: Two people have shaped our Western consciousness and societies more than anyone or anything else. Note for example, that Paul’s apocalyptic religion- i.e. Christianity- was given “secular” expression in ideologies like 19th Century Declinism- “The single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century” (Arthur Herman, Introduction, The Idea of Decline). Declinism then shaped contemporary environmental alarmism- “Environmentalism is one of the dominant ideologies of our day… the most widespread of convictions and giving it the potential to become the dominant ideology of the new millennium” (Jeffrey Foss, p.51, Beyond Environmentalism). Paul is most responsible for this.
And in our Western tradition, even Stephen Hawking has recently (2016-17) succumbed to Paul’s apocalyptic ideas and thinking. He has now prophesied the end of days occurring in 100 years. More Chicken Little outcomes from Paul.
This site traces in detail the historical links and the descent of primitive apocalyptic mythology (the original bad religious idea) into subsequent religious versions of apocalyptic (Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Islamic), and then down into contemporary “secular” versions of ideological/scientific apocalyptic. Father of the climate warming alarm, scientist James Hansen, illustrated this with his 2008 statement, “It’s all over in five years”. More “the end is nigh” again, and again, and again…
Here are the key points of contrast between Jesus and Paul. This great Christian contradiction can be summarized in the contrasting core themes, or messages, of these two men:
1. Non-retaliation was the core theme of Jesus (“no more eye for eye, but love your enemy”). In contrast, a supreme retaliation was central to Paul’s gospel- i.e. his Christ retaliating in an apocalypse (“He will pay back… in blazing fire… destruction”, see his Thessalonian letters).
2. Unconditional love for everyone was the central message of Jesus, based on the reality of a God of unconditional mercy and generosity (“sun and rain given to all, both good and bad”). Paul’s central message was the demand for a supreme condition to be met before forgiveness would be expressed to anyone (i.e. sacrifice, atonement, payment by a god-man, as in his Romans letter).
These contrasting themes or messages present foundational issues for all of us: What defines good and bad? What defines human and inhuman? What defines us as authentically human? What is the meaning and purpose of conscious human existence? What is the point of the cosmos and life?
Historical Jesus introduced “a stunning new theology of a non-retaliating God” (James Robinson). His entire orientation was to non-retaliation, or unconditional love toward all people, both good and bad. We see the non-retaliatory orientation of Jesus in his Wisdom Sayings gospel (basically Matthew 5-7 and a few other passages, but without Matthew’s added comments that weaken and distort the message of Jesus).
Jesus central theme or message was to not retaliate against those that offend or hurt us. Instead, we should embrace our offenders as friends, treating them generously as family, giving “sun and rain to all alike”. (Note: Unconditional love to all does not advocate for pacifism in an imperfect world. See the qualifiers below on the responsibility of love to restrain violence- i.e. just war, and imprisonment of repeatedly violent offenders, but with restorative intent in all situations.)
Jesus was the great non-Retaliator, where to the contrary, Paul’s Christ was the great Retaliator. You cannot combine Jesus and Christ in one coherent term or title. That is oxymoronic in the extreme. A contradiction. And it produces cognitive dissonance (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God).
See more detail on the Jesus/Paul contradiction in the next section below “So you think you are secular, and scientific?” That sets forth the proper chronology of the New Testament and illustrates the heart of the contradiction. Note especially the comment in “Confronting the Christ myth” and “The Jesus/Paul contradiction goes to the heart of the human problem”, along with other material.
Get the chronology right. It shows the contradiction.
The core message of Jesus is found in Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36 and was taught around 27-36 CE. He stated, “There must be no more eye for eye retaliation against your offenders, but instead love your enemies because God does. God, with unlimited mercy and generosity, sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad”. God does not retaliate. Read the rest of the opening comment here