Here is a brief summary of a “model of religion and violence” (full version further below)
First, just to hold in the front of our heads, here are a few core defining features of animal existence- this would include small band mentality (us versus them- the outsider), domination (alpha male/female), along with exclusion and destruction of some competing enemy.
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.
So yes, 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 an 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 ultimate 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 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.
Briefly- 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. Because the animal has long been considered “sacred” it is hard to rethink and reform it 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- e.g. God is love but tortures and destroys people in Hell. Huh?
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. 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.
Over the past years this site has been telling a story about what is most fundamentally wrong 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, 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 (us versus them tribalism), their mood (fear, guilt, shame, despair), their motivation (defensive aggression), and their actions (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 it is 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 our consciousness remains incomplete.
Further comment on this subject (from discussion group): Taking the Animal out of God- another round with more detail.
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 new beliefs in spirits and gods. Those animal features defined their new emerging 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).
They then turned around and used that mythology to validate their own very animal-like behavior and existence. The new sacred then became their highest ideal and authority to validate their own lives and actions (i.e. a feedback loop- project and then use the projection to validate). And so we have had an endless series of tribal gods, favoring some 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 actual 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.
There has long been this animal-like deity at the core of human consciousness (the myth of violent, tribal deity), an ultimate ideal that has always incited the worst impulses of our animal inheritance, validating the expression of those base impulses. That has long been the sum or core theme of the old mythical/religious narrative. Violent deity is the single most damaging idea ever lodged in human minds. And it has infected all else for the worse, including contemporary secular ideologies such as the “revenge of Gaia”, angry planet, or karma.
But 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 core 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 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 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 some 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 some 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.
This site is a project to bring down humanity’s greatest monster- the myth of violent, punishing deity (see “I am a dreamer” further below). This site is also about liberating human consciousness from all the other ideas that have traumatized and enslaved people over the millennia, notably ideas related to religious realities that stir fear, anxiety, despair, depression, defensive aggression, and more. From another perspective, this site is about the search for what it means to be authentically human.
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. 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 is the humane ideal of no conditions love- the liberating wonder of no punishment, no payback, no exclusion, no destruction, but only unconditional love and generosity toward all. 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 karma to explain greater realities.
An 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 the problem of 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 elements. But I would argue that the religious element is absolutely critical 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. This goes back to the very beginning of the development of the sacred in early human history.
(Note: 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 Model of Religion and Violence below)
The most damaging pathology to human consciousness has been that of apocalypse and its related myths. 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 (i.e. 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”).
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). 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 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. And I have been careful to acknowledge the humane ideals in such 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. It 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 promote 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. 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.
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). 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)
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.
We need to purge the background of human consciousness- i.e. the subconscious, the archetypes or grand narrative themes- of these bad ideas and replace them with humane alternatives such as unconditional. Do this and we 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. Include also the new pathology 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 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.
Qualifier: 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, 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.
So 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. This can 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.
Contemporary terrorism affirms again the powerful influence of theological beliefs on human behavior. This pushes us to acknowledge that some very bad features have been projected onto deity where they have long operated as validating ideals. Often validating behavior of the worst kind.
Just defending religion (theism) does not help to resolve this problem. It is important to understand exactly what ideas or features in religious systems have been helpful, and which have been harmful to human relating and existence. Recognizing such distinctions then initiates the project of eliminating the bad stuff. Religious traditions must engage fully the humanizing process that the rest of Western society has undergone over the past few centuries (transforming all ideas, beliefs, ideals, and behaviors into something more humane).
The fact that something is has long been considered “sacred” or “divine” should not prevent its transformation into something more humane.
The most destructive idea in history has been that of violent, vengeful, and punishing deity- the belief that God is engaged in a great struggle to destroy his “enemies” (Zoroastrian dualism). Is this claim of “most destructive idea” perhaps too extravagant? See evidence throughout this site. This is one of the core ideas that drives Islamic violence today. It is an idea that has long been embedded in the foundations of all three Western religions and it has also incited and validated violence throughout the histories of Judaism and Christianity. The myth of violent, punishing deity has profoundly shaped Western narratives, consciousness, justice systems, political policy, personal ethics, and more. The damage from this inhumane myth has been immense in terms of pathologies in human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior (see Lotufo below).
The myth of a violent, punishing God is the foundational idea behind apocalyptic millennialism (i.e. God destroying enemies in an apocalypse, violently purging the present world in order to coercively install a new utopia). Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) presents good evidence that apocalyptic millennialism was the mythology that shaped the so-called ‘secular’ movements of Marxism and Nazism, both mass-death movements. David Cook (Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature) argues that apocalyptic mythology is a significant force driving contemporary Islamic terrorism.
Also, Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God) argues that violent God mythology keeps many people in subhuman stages of development.
This site presents the liberating alternative to the violent God myth. I refer to humanity’s greatest discovery- the “no conditions” theology of sages like Historical Jesus (i.e. non-violent, non-punishing deity). Unfortunately, the central discovery of Jesus was buried and distorted in the larger Christian context of conditional theology (Thomas Jefferson- Jesus’ wisdom sayings were like diamonds buried in a dunghill).
If we are ever going to solve problems like violence thoroughly and for the long-term then we need to fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities. We need to remove all traces of vengefulness and violence in our views of deity, and replace that with authentically humane features. The real battle against terrorism is fought at this foundational level of the “battle of ideas”.
New: See Top 10 list of “bad religious ideas”. While commentators refer to religious ideas that promote violence, few spell out in detail the actual harmful religious ideas. This site deals extensively with the contribution of these religious ideas to violence and other forms of inhumanity. No idea has been more damaging in this regard than the idea of vengeance and violence in deity.
New Intro April 2015 (No apologies for repetition of the main themes on this site. Subsequent comments approach the varied subjects from different angles with differing insights and ways of expression)
This site probes and traces thoroughly the greatest mistake in human thought- that there are violent and punishing spirits (i.e. gods) behind life. That pathological mythology has long been coupled with the equally damaging belief that humanity is fallen and corrupt (sinful). Add to this body of ancient error, the myth of a better past (i.e. original paradise, Eden) that humanity has ruined. Hence, we deserve some punishment from the gods.
The outcome of those errors in early human perception has been the hugely wasteful endeavor of salvation religion- that some sacrifice must be made to appease the offended and angry gods that will retaliate, punish, and destroy. A sacrifice/atonement was considered necessary in order to ward off punishment via disease, disaster, or accident. Sacrifice was also necessary to escape the threatened apocalypse and Hell (eternal punishment). As James Payne (History of Force) notes, the historical outcome of belief in divinely obligated sacrifice has been “rivers of blood” (animal and human) offered to appease sadistic and threatening gods.
Further, add to the above pathology, the myth of a God that promotes oppositional dualism (Zoroaster), demanding that people join some “true” religion and destroy their “enemies” in other false religions. And we wonder why the one human family has been sundered by violence from all sorts of opposing factions (oppositional dualism has also been expressed through ideological, ethnic, racial, national, and other divides).
The above mythology has been a great fraud and lie but it continued to terrorize public consciousness over multiple millennia. Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), for one, has rightly described a personality that seeks satisfaction in hurting others (i.e. demanding violent sacrifice and service) as psychopathic. Yet the myth of a violent, punishing God continues as the core theme, driving the other prominent themes of salvation religion.
This horrific pathology has, like a malignant cancer, permeated human outlook and belief down through history and continues to erupt even today in so-called secular belief systems and movements. These movements have sometimes produced mass-death outcomes. Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth) notes, for instance, the impact of the above mythical themes on Marxism and Nazism, both apocalyptic millennial movements at core. Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline) notes how these mythical themes have shaped 19th Century Declinism and then contemporary environmentalism.
Humanity has discovered two powerful responses to this pathological mythology. Responses that liberate consciousness into authentically humane understanding and existence. These two responses overturn entirely the original mistaken mythology and orient consciousness toward a better future.
Briefly- The discovery of “no conditions” love (unconditional love) at the core of reality and life overturns entirely the primitive views of violent, punishing gods. This infinitely generous love is the very essence of all things. Then the discovery that the same unconditional love is the essential nature of our human consciousness and person, this overturns the error of fallen, corrupt humanity that deserves punishment. We, in our essential person or consciousness, are never separated from the Ultimate Love at the core of reality. We are all unique expressions of that same love.
(Note: Jeffrey Schwartz in You Are Not Your Brain speaks of our “higher, better self”. I take the liberty to specify that this better self is essentially no conditions love, the highest human ideal)
That our very essence is love- this becomes a powerful and liberating new basis for establishing human self-worth, for valuing humanity as essentially good and creative. And because it is not being taught clearly anywhere else that I know of, I draw on the NDE movement as a useful source for insights on the nature/essence of our consciousness or human spirit. NDErs are regularly surprised at the wonder of what we really are, to discover that we are in essence beings of love and light (see NDE quote below). If life is about discovering ourselves- our true self- then the NDE accounts are a useful source of insight that is not available anywhere else. These accounts are helpful for countering the distortion and damage from the fallen humanity mythology that has dominated human thought over history.
And yes, scientific types will decry any appeal to NDEs as not proper evidence. Agreed, it is not “proper evidence” in scientific terms. But I take conscious human experience seriously (it may be the most real thing in the cosmos) and I evaluate the NDE phenomenon in terms of its central discovery of unconditional love. That is a strong validating feature of this experience (as to its “truthfulness” or “reality”).
This quote from one NDE account (Jayne Smith)…”Then in some incredible way that I don’t understand at all, I was able to look deeply inside myself, really into the very core of me, to my essence. I saw that what was there was love, nothing else. My core was perfect love, loving perfection. I had complete love and acceptance for everything. I saw my own gentleness, tenderness, harmlessness. I simply was perfect and loving”.
Most comment below, from the discussion group, is mine, except where I specifically list the name of other contributors.
Comment from discussion group: “Whatever the original reason for its formation in ancient minds, the myth of apocalypse became lodged at the foundations of early human thought/perception and that myth, based on a view of a psychopathic God that would violently destroy people and all life, that myth has continued to terrorize people across history. And to horrifically damaging impacts. We have traced its descent down through history, despite a 100% failure rate. Down to Zoroaster (Mary Boyce, “Zoroastrianism is the most influential religion in history”), and into Christianity and Paul’s Christ myth, and this has shaped the Western consciousness more than any other single idea (see James Tabor in ‘Paul and Jesus’). And then down into secular thought (Arthur Herman- apocalyptic shaped 19th Century Declinism and later environmentalism). And as Landes shows- it has descended into the great mass-death movements- i.e. Marxism, Nazism (the violent apocalyptic purging of some “enemy” in order to bring salvation and the millennial kingdom). They were in some ways profoundly religious movements, influenced by this foundational Christian myth of apocalyptic violence.”
“Hence, my comment- it is very hard to root out this terrifying idea of an angry God threatening to violently destroy people. As Lotufo put it- a psychopathic God. A monster. It exists right at the heart of Christian atonement, the most fundamental of Christian beliefs.”
Site Summary: Unconditional Reality corrects the most damaging error in the history of human thought- the primitive belief that there are violent and punishing forces or spirits behind life. It 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: These 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.
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 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 all 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 stop wrong and do 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 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 and acted just like his vengeful, punishing God.
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.
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. 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 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.
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 retaliation.
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 caused 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. And again, this is not advocating for pacifism in the face of irrational hate and violence. Love is responsible to protect and to restrain violence.
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.
This opening section presents the following: New comment; Quick overview; April 2015 Introduction; Patrick Moore environmental summary; Zenon Lotufo quotes (exposing the nature of the personality behind atonement theology- defined as finding satisfaction in the suffering of others); A model of religion and violence; Extensive quotes from discussion group (i.e. discussion of Pallmeyer, Lotufo, and Ellens’ research on pathology in religion); and Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology (honor and shame culture, the offense and retaliation response).
The repulsive spectacle of death-cult violence continues to erupt across the planet. The regularity of it traumatizes and almost numbs public consciousness. Historical records of violence further reveal how endless and widespread such brutality has been.
Yet historical evidence also shows that over the long term of human history there has been an amazing decline in overall rates of violence. Researchers like James Payne (History of Force) and Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) point out that rates of violence per unit of population (i.e. percentage of people dying violently or homicides per 100,000 people) have decreased steadily as humanity has become wearied by violence and people have grown increasingly more empathic toward others. We take great hope from such long term evidence. And it is necessary to note this improvement because hopelessness and a sense of overwhelming threat only fuels more violence as people feel the need to take defensive action.
Public media do not provide this larger and long-term context of violence. David Altheide notes, for example, (in Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis) that during the 1990s homicide rates in the US declined by 20% but news reporting on homicide increased by 600%. Without the larger context of overall declining violence, that upsurge in reporting on violence provided a distorted picture to the public of what was happening in regard to violence.
But despite the good news of overall decline, any remaining violence should, and does, outrage our common human consciousness. It must all stop, finally, and forever. As one woman said on hearing of more ISIS-type insanity, “No more, please. Just stop it”. And yes, the fact of historically declining violence is little comfort to those still suffering the horror of violence in their lives.
This site tackles one fundamental element that has been responsible, arguably, for promoting more violence over history than any other single thing. And it continues to play a key role in inciting and validating violence in our world. As the Boko Haram leader told his child soldiers last year (2014), “We must give God bodies. We must make God happy”.
“Bad religious ideas” (Sam Harris) have promoted far too much brutality over history and need to be confronted, exposed and radically altered. And there is no worse “bad religious idea” than that of a violent deity. A God that finds pleasure in harming others. Read the Zenon Lotufo quotes further below for detail on how such pathological theology holds humanity at a subhuman stage of development and harms/perverts human personality.
If you want to solve the problem of violence properly and for the long term, then be sure that you root out completely any ideas of violence in humanity’s highest ideal and authority- in God. Humanize thoroughly our views of deity. Eliminate entirely any remaining features that are less than fully human or humane.
The idea of God is the most foundational of all ideas that people look to for guidance for how they should live, and how they should shape their societies (note, for instance, the Mennonite comment that Christian views of a punishing God are the historical basis of Western justice systems). So yes, the real battle that must be won is the battle of ideas. The ideas held in people’s heads that incite them to violence. None is more important in this regard than the idea of deity.
This site probes thoroughly the issue of foundational ideas and ideals and how they shape human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior. I have noted some of the best material on this issue- such as the research of Zenon Lotufo, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Harold Ellens. This site goes after the big ideas/themes that have long been used to promote and validate all sorts of inhumanity. And I probe thoroughly the alternatives that liberate people from such brutality. Notably, the greatest human discovery ever- that of unconditional reality.
This site is all about overcoming the worst mistake ever (i.e. violent, punitive deity) and getting a clear understanding of the greatest discovery ever (no conditions theology).
In relation to the above…
Discussion group: Our discussion group has recently been noting Richard Landes’ work on apocalyptic millennialism (i.e. his book Heaven on Earth) and how this mythology has influenced so-called secular movements like Marxism and Nazism. Landes states that many historians and intellectuals have refused to admit the influence from religion- especially that of Christianity- on people like Marx, Lenin, and Hitler. This is inexcusable when you recognize that Christianity is largely responsible for bringing the myth of apocalyptic millennialism into Western consciousness and society.
Such denial of the Christian role in shaping so-called secular thought and movements does not help us appreciate the key elements and themes of such movements and how they have pushed entire societies toward the mass-death that were the outcome from those movements. Referring especially to Hitler and his use of apocalyptic millennial themes to take Germany toward mass death, Landes says,
“The study of Nazism’s appeal, of Hitler’s charisma, belong to the field of millennial studies…Only then can we identify the key problems: how movements go from the margins to the center of a society/culture, how they pursue their millennial goals, and how they respond…to cognitive dissonance, frustration, and failure (often with increased violence)….Were we to develop a ‘profile’ of millennial movements, leaving out Hitler would be a massive lacuna in the available evidence. He is not so much the measure of the unthinkable, the impossibly evil, as he is the measure of how, with modern technology and an only partially developed civil polity, a nation, a people, seized by, ridden by a millennial passion, can become one of the great dealers of death in human history” (p.388, Heaven on Earth).
Responding to this denial by historians that Christianity was a prominent influence on Hitler, Bob Brinsmead noted, “Yes, and this response to Hitler is repeated in the response of Obama and other world leaders to the shocking brutality of ISIS. They keep saying, especially Obama, that ISIS has got nothing to do with Islam and its religion. It has everything to do with that religion. Groups like ISIS are that segment of Muslims that take the religion seriously, literally, and perhaps even honestly desiring to carry it out. They were like us Awakeners (i.e. Seventh Day Adventists) who insisted that we must go back to the pioneers of the movement and get our theology from the “Early Writings.” Hitler’s view on Hermetic science was the worldwide belief of the intelligentsia of his day just as Anthropogenic Global Warming is now. Hitler was an experiment waiting to happen. He was the one man who was brave enough and stupid enough to carry out the ideology for the salvation of civilization…”
“…That was about as crazy as the now popular fad that we need political leaders who will be brave and bold enough to de-carbonize the economy, which means of course, dismantling modern civilization. If we have a Hitler-leader who will now rise up to lead the world to do that, he will do it to save the planet of course and he would have to be willing to eliminate a billion or two people to do it, But he would do this nasty stuff in order to achieve the glorious goal of being the benefactor of both the planet and the human race. In this sense Hitler was not completely evil. It was his unbending zeal for the greater good that made him so evil, rather than any pure evil motivation.”
Some further discussion group comment on how religious ideas influenced so-called secular movements like Nazism. Note again- for Christian visitors to this site- the following material may be profoundly upsetting. To balance the more disturbing comment below, I would affirm that Christianity has also included in its scriptures many valued human ideals. Those are to be applauded. The point of the following comment is that those great human ideals are embedded among some very subhuman themes that express the worst of primitive mythology and pathology. The larger context has often distorted, undermined, and even buried the meaning of the better ideals.
My comment: “Just having reread Landes section on Hitler and Nazism, you see more clearly how the prominent themes of Christian apocalyptic, atonement, and salvationism have shaped life ‘for the worse’. How this mythology suited so well the psychopathic personality of Hitler, like a comfortable glove. That predatory Animal that appealed to the basest animal in the German population, but presented his ideology so often in the religious themes of Christianity.
“And if there is any doubt about how prominent the Christian themes were in Hitler’s thinking, read Landes’ detailed treatment of this over many pages, with quotes from Hitler’s speeches. In those quotes from Hitler you see core, foundational Christianity. The anti-Semitism, Hitler’s claim to be a John Baptist preparing the people for the coming apocalypse, his announcing the coming Messiah, then later claiming actual Messianic status, and then assuming the role of the violent Christ, the Warrior Christ, his claim of the German Aryan as the chosen people, then announcing the apocalypse and stirring the hope for the German millennium (i.e. the Third Reich), the hope for salvation, commanding the needed sacrifice, exposing the demonic enemy to be destroyed, and on and on. Hitler repeatedly used Biblical references to orient his audience to these themes. And Evangelical Germans supported all this, says Landes.”
“As Landes says, few want to admit the religious nature of Nazism, because it makes all association with any such millennial madness appear to be as insane as the Nazis were. It is profoundly disorienting. The Nazis had to be uniquely evil, the historians claim. Not something similar to a lot of other millennial belief, such as in Christianity. But the links cannot be denied.”
“This is what Lotufo and others are trying to tell the great world religions. There is some really sick stuff in your traditions. Recognize it for what it really is, and how it damages people and societies. And clean it out. Get rid of it. Humanize it fully. Look at damaging impacts it has produced over history.”
“As Landes says, Hitler was deeply committed to both the Christian texts and (his own notion) of the God that stood behind them. That ‘psychopathic’ God of Christian atonement (Lotufo).”
Another discussion group comment….
“Hitler, using a very Christian set of basic themes, took the German population into darkness and madness that we are still shocked by. Yet, get this, it was all so intensely Christian. An example of Christian belief, attitude, and spirit taken to its ultimate expression. That is the point to get from Landes.”
“And of course, as Landes states repeatedly, intellectuals and historians recoil from this and are ‘disoriented’ by those who point it out. It is too shocking. Hence, the endless effort by historians and intellectuals to portray people like Hitler, Marx, Lenin, Engels, and others, as simply madmen. Aberrations. Whatever you do, just avoid facing the intense apocalyptic millennialism that was at the core of their beliefs. And avoid tying that to its religious and Christian source.”
“It is this refusal to face honestly the source of all this insanity that keeps so many from finding full freedom, and properly and thoroughly solving the inhumanity that stems from such beliefs. Such denial holds us all back from real liberation and progress toward a better future, an authentically human future.”
“This was my complaint with Conrad Black last week. Don’t just engage the usual mindless defense of religion, of theism against atheism. Listen to what the atheists are saying about those ‘bad religious ideas’ and the harm that they have caused people. Look at ISIS today and the ongoing bloodshed that can be traced back to the core themes of this Western tradition. ‘We must give God bodies. We must make God happy’, said the Boko Haram leader.”
“The fundamental issue is the same that humanity has faced all across our history- its about what is human and what is inhuman. And how ideas influence us (i.e. our guiding ideals and authorities, beliefs). And what in all this that gets us to a better future. Quite simple really.”
“Add to the list of Christian themes that Hitler used…’all drove toward a virulently zero-sum dualism’ between the Germans and the hated enemy, the Jews. Zoroastrian dualism, Christian dualism.”
“Herman’s Decline work (The Idea of Decline in Western History), and Carroll’s ‘Constantine’s Sword’ fill out the picture of the religious and other themes that produced Hitler. Inspired him, guided him, validated him.”
“And note that Hitler viewed himself as good, as a messiah figure in a great battle against evil (i.e. the Jewish threat to corrupt and destroy the Aryan race and German culture). Christianity gave him that validating perspective. He was convinced that he was in the service of Providence to save Germany from the apocalypse that would be brought on by the enemy Jews.”
“It is easier to dismiss him as just a madman, a nut case, or a crazy psychopath. But that it not the full story and we do not learn what we need to learn from this mess. Sure, there are those elements of plain madness and evil. But do not dismiss how familiar Christian themes also pushed that madness to world-destroying levels. Those themes were also there in the Christian German psyche, all those Christian themes that Hitler played upon. Fear of apocalypse, hope for redemption, a Savior, and a promised coming millennium of peace and bliss.”
Another post from discussion group…
“Landes (quoting this below from Klaus-Georg Riegel, who responded to colleagues that refused to admit there was a millennial genealogy to Marxism)…
“Any attempt to put this totalitarian system (i.e. Marxism-Leninism) in the category of a closed and barbarian theocracy is very often vehemently refused. In this case, very emotionally seated aspirations and hopes of young or older intellectuals are at stake. Everybody who dares to take the Bolshevik world as a religious community is considered as a traitor betraying the humanitarian ideals of the modernity of the French Revolution…If you see it in this case, say the proponents of the project of modernity, the distance between the old and the new modern world would shrink too much and the debts to the Christian tradition would become too heavy. Thus, when you treat the Bolsheviks as a millennial sect you are going to betray the project of modernity and treat the Bolsheviks, despite their very modern efforts to industrialize backward Russia, as a medieval sect of obscure believers”. Wow.
“Intellectuals want to believe that the French Revolution was about reason, science, democracy and historical fact. Landes has thoroughly dissected it as an apocalyptic millennial movement that set the pattern for Marxism. And this all derives from the Christian mother of all this, the religion that brought apocalyptic millennialism into the Western mind and society.”
Some odds and Ends…applying unconditional…
“Just to tie up some things, such as applying a ‘no conditions’ ethic. This does not invalidate the need at times, for instance, to sue for payment where there has been a breach of contract. Or expecting restitution. None of this violates treating all others unconditionally. It is just expected human responsibility to fulfill contracts- otherwise businesses would not function to employ, to produce products or services, if subcontractors did not fulfill their responsibilities under contract. Again, to expect this responsible commitment to contracts, does not violate treating others unconditionally. Where we insist on unconditional treatment in all this, is not taking things toward punishment (i.e. the demand for imprisonment where there is breach of contract). And again, an exclusion here in regard to imprisonment would be the need to restrain violent people who are not able to control their worst impulses (e.g. psychopaths). But many other human failures can be treated without punishment like imprisonment, yet find ways such as via courts (legal obligation to fulfill contracts), in order to maintain functioning societies.”
And this- “Whatever struggle you have with how to apply a no conditions ethic, do not in any way lessen the wonder of the supreme ideal that we base that ethic upon. Let that ideal continue to lighten your consciousness, and warm you consciousness, and scandalize your consciousness with its incomprehensible wonder. Something better, beyond the best that anyone could ever imagine. Transcendent. As those NDErs try to say- a trillion times better than the best love that we can imagine or experience. Don’t weaken in any way the baseline. No matter how difficult the struggle may be to understand and apply such an ethic to imperfect life here.”
Bob Brinsmead on the application of an unconditional ethic.. “___, you are sliding around the point (I think you call it ‘being slippery’). On this matter of unconditional/conditional you are doing the same thing you used to do with vertical/horizontal relating. On the matter of personal relating with other human beings, being truly human requires us to treat others as neither above us or below us – ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Rich or poor, wise or ignorant, young or old, male or female, black or white, educated or uneducated, skilled or unskilled – each is a human being that is entitled to love which is a horizontal form of relating (level playing field). But real life situations may require an employer/employee relationship, a teacher/student relationship, a captain/ordinary soldier relationship which is top down stuff – that is, a vertical order. But if one brings the latter into one’s marriage, or into one’s social life, one is not going to have either a good marriage or a good social life. So Kipling, ‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, and walk with kings nor lose the common touch’.”
“The point I make from the above is that is wrong to use the employer/employee or teacher/student relationship to destroy the obligation to maintain the one commandment that fulfils the law, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.”
“If you can understand that, you will understand why there must be an unconditional relationship and why there must be conditional obligations. You may truly love your neighbour but at the same time require him to fulfill a civil contract – or not play loud music next door when it is your bedtime. It is wrong, wrong, wrong to use examples of things that are clearly conditional to prove that there is no such thing as an unconditional dimension. The simple fact is that love is by nature unconditional. If it is conditional, it is not love – SIMPLE. To distinguish the two ought to be as basic as recognizing what is temporal and what is eternal.” Robert Brinsmead.
One more….”I have come to realize far too late in life the two most foundational truths that most effectively counter the worst pathologies over the history of mythology and religion. The pathology I refer to is that of angry, punishing deity, and fallen, corrupt humanity deserving punishment by deity. The truths that most effectively counter this pathology are the discovery that there is only love behind all reality and life. Incomprehensible unconditional love. There is no anger or threat of punishment from such love. And there never was any such thing as fallen humanity deserving punishment. We are all that same unconditional love at the core of our consciousness and spirit. We have never been separated from that love. It is our true identity and being. Our authentic self”.
New: Throughout history, human consciousness has been endlessly traumatized by the mythical themes of divine threat, deserved punishment (through illness, accident, or natural disaster), looming catastrophe, divinely validated violence, and ultimate destruction (i.e. the apocalyptic ending of the world). These themes have produced unnecessary fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and despair in humanity. What is this all about?
Quick Overview of Site themes…
Material on this site challenges the great fraud of apocalyptic alarmism that has generated so much unnecessary fear and anxiety across history. This site embraces the liberating discovery that the overall trajectory of life is not in decline but actually rises steadily toward something better. Overwhelming evidence affirms the fact that human goodness and creativity far outweigh human corruption and destructiveness. Human love and creativity irresistibly triumph over the long term in making life something ever better than before.
There is frequent comment on this site that notes the relationship, for instance, between primitive apocalyptic mythology and contemporary environmental alarmism. This is not to dismiss general environmental concerns but it is a challenge to the excessive distortion, exaggeration, fear-mongering, and bad public policy that repeatedly flow from the alarmist fringe of the environmental movement. The outcome of such alarmism has been a horrific waste of resources, and significant harm to both people and the planet. The bio-fuels fiasco is just one example of the harm to humanity and nature that results from environmental alarmism (i.e. higher food prices for the poorest, more forest cut for palm oil bio-fuels plantations). Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism is an example of horrific harm that was specifically done to humanity. In the decades following her alarmism tens of millions people, mostly children, died unnecessarily due to being denied the protection of DDT.
To properly counter alarmism, I have presented the good evidence on the improving trajectory of life that has been marshalled by researchers like Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, Matt Ridley, and others. I have also noted research on the ideology behind environmental alarmism- notably studies like Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History. But more importantly, I have traced here the deeper origins of alarmism in ancient apocalyptic mythology. This is a project to correct the distortion of alarmism at its most foundational level.
A brief outline of the history of apocalyptic alarmism begins with Sumerian mythology (Sumerian Flood myth- 3rd millennium BCE). Apocalyptic is then formalized a millennium later in Zoroaster’s theology. Zoroastrianism then shapes all three Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and Western consciousness in general. Then a great shift occurs in the 19th Century when the themes of apocalyptic mythology are secularized (given a new secular expression) for the modern era in what is known as “cultural pessimism”, “degeneration theory”, or “Declinism” (i.e. everything is getting worse, corrupt industrial society is heading for a catastrophic collapse). The pathology of apocalyptic myth still dominates today in much human story-telling (note the major movies of recent years- notably the summer of 2013, also TV shows, novels- i.e. the subgenre of post-apocalyptic literature, cartoons and video games).
Most importantly, this site also counters the ultimate reality behind apocalyptic mythology- the pathological belief that there is a punishing and violent God. The primitive theme of enraged and violent deity reached its epitome expression in the myth that God would violently end the world with a great cataclysm that would destroy humanity and all life (the final apocalypse). That great threat led ancient people to create the salvation industry as a defensive response. Salvation religion then presented the conditions that were required to appease and please the angry deity. Salvation religion has wasted massive human resources and time over history by coercing people to placate the mythical reality of threatening and punishing deity (history’s greatest fraud).
But over the history of human mythology there was also the gradual emergence of humanity’s greatest discovery- the discovery that unconditional love defined ultimate reality, the core of all reality (i.e. God). Salvation mythology missed entirely this discovery of unconditional reality at the core of all life. All salvation religion is conditional religion. Conditional religion cannot understand or communicate unconditional reality, but only distorts and buries this greatest of all human discoveries.
There are two critical applications to take from the discovery of unconditional reality behind all. Two applications, or responses, that powerfully counter the worst errors of religious mythology.
For one, when we recognize that unconditional love defines the core of reality, this recognition powerfully counters the myth of angry, punishing deity- the foundational theme of salvation religion. Unconditional love then effectively counters the waste and damage produced by the theme of angry, punishing deity- the “rivers of blood” (James Payne- History of Force) that have been offered over history to appease “vile, sadistic gods”. If Ultimate Reality, or God, is unconditional love then there is no threat to fear, no angry deity to appease, no looming punishment or apocalyptic destruction, and no need for any salvation.
The other critical application, from the discovery of unconditional love at the core of all, is that unconditional love is also the very essence of every human person. This discovery that unconditional love defines the true nature of human consciousness and personhood, this effectively counters the myth of “fallen, corrupt humanity” that has always been associated with angry, punishing gods mythology. The consequence of “sinful humanity” mythology has been the belief that people deserve punishment from the gods. That pathological mythology has produced a damaging swarm of fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and despair in human consciousness.
These two applications from unconditional reality are the most effective counter arguments to the main themes of salvation mythology and the harmful effects of that mythology on people and society.
It is more widely recognized today that unconditional love offers the ultimate definition of authentic humanity. We contemplate the life of people like Nelson Mandela, or historical Jesus, and affirm that unconditional love is the most advanced definition of authentic human being and existence. And we can trace the developing discovery of unconditional from the Akkadian Father (circa 2200 BCE) down through history to our own understanding of it today, including its prominence as the central discovery in the NDE experience and movement (i.e. an encounter with the creating Light as incomprehensible unconditional love).
We then make unconditional love the very foundation or core of our worldview and evaluate everything from this new center.
This site also devotes significant space to the great contradiction between historical Jesus and the Christian Christ myth. This is a conflict between a person who taught unconditional love and a contrary religion that teaches conditional atonement. Historical Jesus was also non-apocalyptic but the Christian Christ was created as the supreme expression of apocalyptic terrorism (see the Christ myth as expressed in Revelation).
To fully correct the pathology of apocalyptic mythology you need to go the foundations of human thought and belief (i.e. in religions like Christianity), to the core ideas and ideals of human belief systems, and make profound changes there.
This site is intensely oriented to freedom and hope. Freedom from the darkening and enslaving distortions of much past mythology, and hope based on ultimate reality as unconditional love. We go to the foundations of human thought, ideals, and authorities to fully humanize those inspiring and validating core themes. This project involves understanding the pathology that still resides there- the “bad religious ideas” that long ago formed the foundational themes of human worldviews and have continued to shape humanity’s highest ideals and authorities, infecting human consciousness for the worse. This site isolates the inhumane in our core ideals or archetypes and then offers the humanizing alternative of unconditional reality. This involves tracing the great themes that have shaped human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior- from ancient mythology, down through religion, into secular versions, and noting how these great ideals have influenced human outlook and behavior.
March 2015 Intro
Repulsive displays of violence continue to erupt across the Mid-East. Few public commentators have been willing to probe the role of religious ideas behind such displays of inhumanity. Most just reflexively offer some form of defensive response, stating that the great Western religions are basically peaceful. I am now extending my comment beyond Islam, to also include Judaism and Christianity, all direct heirs of the same Zoroastrianism grandfather. If we are ever going to properly solve the problem of violence for the long term then we need to embrace this fact- the same core themes in all three Western religions have inspired and validated violence toward others over their histories.
(Note: to reassure religious readers, I applaud repeatedly the ability of most religious people to moderate the more harmful aspects of their religious systems; to reform and humanize their religions and employ them to promote human decency and good. That is admirable and praiseworthy. However, I am focusing on those residual elements in religion that have caused so much suffering to others.)
I won’t guess at what keeps many people from an honest re-evaluation of their religion. It might include fear of the sacred, fear of committing blasphemy, or fear of being labeled heretical and suffering the consequent condemnation and exclusion from some religious group. Or perhaps it is adherence to Biblicism- the belief that the holy books are somehow inspired and given by God and therefore everything in the scriptures must be preserved, defended, and harmonized with all the rest that is there. The result is that the inhumane features from a primitive past then distort and overwhelm later more humane ideals that have also been included. For instance, in the Christian New Testament it is claimed that the “love” of God is revealed in a violent human sacrifice. This is entirely contradictory of common human understanding of love. Love does not solve problems with violence.
But some brave spirits have overcome their fear and are confronting the fundamental role of religion in violence. I refer to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Infidel) and Wafa Sultan (The God Who Hates), among others. See also the excellent research by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Jesus Against Christianity, and Is Religion Killing Us?), Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and Harold Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion).
As I have long argued on this page, along with these recently discovered authors above, you will never solve the problem of violence properly until you confront the pathology at the core of Western religion and correct it in the most foundational way. And we have the solution, offered long ago by the Akkadian Father, and then the sage whose wisdom sayings were buried and distorted in Christianity (as Thomas Jefferson said, Jesus’ sayings were like “diamonds buried in a dunghill”- his unconditional discovery was buried in a supremely conditional religion).
The solution to violence is all about confronting the real Terrorist, the monster deity at the core of the Western religions. The great metaphysical Bully. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that she finally found real freedom when she got over her fear of Hell. I would argue that an even greater freedom results when you get over your fear of the monster behind such perverse myths as Hell. This is a central argument made on this page.
Bad religious Ideas
Some of the pathological themes that have, over history, stirred the worst impulses in people are listed in brief summary form below. These ideas have been employed to inspire and validate endless brutality toward others. Read any good history of violence and note especially the role that religious beliefs have played. For example, James Payne noted in his book History of Force, that people have offered “rivers of blood” to appease sadistic, vile gods. See also Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book or Wafa Sultan’s book (noted above) for contemporary detail on this issue. Christian histories are full of the very same detail on pathological religious belief fostering horrific inhumanity toward others (see, for example, James Carrol’s Constantine’s Sword, or Helen Ellerbe’s The Dark Side of Christian History).
The militant atheists have tried to focus attention on the “bad religious ideas” behind so much human brutality. But religious people have not been listening to their point but continue to sidetrack the discussion in an unquestioning defense of theism against atheism. This misses the critical point that the atheists are making (note- I am not arguing in favor of the general atheist position as the proper response to the problem discussed here, but just acknowledging their helpful contribution).
Be clear that these themes listed just below are inhuman, primitive, and backward. They are pathologies in human perception and outlook.
A few of the more damaging ideas/ideals that shape the core of the Western religions:
1. Oppositional dualism (traceable to Zoroaster). This involves excluding and opposing an “enemy”. Even to the point of destroying one’s enemy. This has a lot to do with primitive animal-like thinking- my band against my enemy’s band. This tribal mindset clouds appreciation of the essential oneness and unity of the human family.
2. Violent apocalypse (traceable to the Sumerians- i.e. Flood myth). The belief in apocalypse is the ultimate expression of hatred and vengeance toward others. It is the hope of true believers that their God will finally and completely destroy the unbelievers, or opponents, to their system. Hope for apocalypse is an expression of lust for supreme violence toward others, to see them utterly destroyed. It is the “final solution” beyond all final solutions. Hell is a further expression of the perverse lust for ultimate vengeance and destruction of others that disagree. Also, the fear that is aroused by belief in apocalypse then produces such things as a sense of victimhood and aggression/violence toward others (i.e. threatening “enemies”). I note this fear/aggression/violence link elsewhere on this site.
3. Also, offense and retaliate response- the demand to punish an offender. The ancient Hebrews gave this a fresh expression in their purity and separation theology. Offense and retaliate was made the core theme of holiness theology- that there is some pure and honorable authority that deserves utmost respect and obeisance. If the honor of that authority is offended, then the authority is obligated to retaliate and punish the offender. Others note that this honor, shame, and punishment thinking is still employed in backward areas of the world today (i.e. honor killings- you have offended my honor, my family, my tribe and laws, so I must destroy you).
4. Add the myth of original paradise corrupted by fallen humanity. “Sinful” humanity now deserves punishment, some form of violent payback from the gods. This religious devaluation of imperfect humanity has fostered endless unnecessary guilt, shame, fear, and even despair. It is a devaluation of human beings as corrupt and defiled. It has led to endless religious advocacy to punish humans. Secular versions- i.e. Marxism, environmentalism- also view corrupt humanity as the destroyer of an original paradise and deserving elimination. This ‘fallen/corrupt humanity’ myth misses the wonder of human consciousness and personhood.
5. Payback punishment as the solution to the imperfection of humanity. This thinking still undergirds justice and prison systems that are oriented toward punishment. Payback punishment is the defining core of Christianity, notably, its foundational theme of atonement (sin must be paid for, or punished).
Behind all such themes we find the overarching belief in a deity that uses violence to solve problems; that salvation or deliverance can only come to us through the violent destruction of our enemies. All of these themes cohere around this core ideal of a violent God. A God that uses overwhelming violence to solve all problems in life, to punish his enemies. This is a profound distortion of the ideal of God as love. Also, the perverse notion of power as overwhelming violence to solve problems is entirely contrary to authentic love that is non-coercive, non-threatening, non-violent, and non-punishing.
For multiple millennia now, these themes have been embedded in human worldviews as the defining features of God, and more recently in history they have emerged in secular versions such as the revenge of Gaia, or angry planet mythology. Humanity’s highest ideals and authorities have long been defined by such barbarism. Located deeply within our subconscious archetypes these inhumane themes influence human outlook, thought, mood, motivation, and how people engage life, how they act. Hence, the rivers of blood offered to the gods over history, along with varied other forms of inhumanity.
The authors, noted above, have affirmed our own conclusions on the pathological themes at the core of religion and their harmful impact on human consciousness and life. They offer extensive detail on what exactly are the bad religious ideas, and their impacts on humanity and life. See again Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Ellens’ material noted below. These writers offer a catalogue of immense human misery, of people suffering under religious pathology.
The long-term and thorough answer to violence, and all forms of inhumanity, is probed throughout this site. Again, it is not a call to atheism, but to fully humanize our core ideals, beliefs, and authorities, removing all features that are inhumane. We need to use the ideal of unconditional reality as a baseline for evaluating and reshaping everything. Make it the foundational ideal of human consciousness and understanding. Explore this with us.
See new comment at very bottom in “Topics below (6)”. That includes “The pathology in Western religion”; review of Karen Armstrong’s ‘Fields of Blood'; a model for understanding the relationship between religion and violence; Love and freedom- understanding suffering; and redefining power as non-coercive persuasion.
And this brilliant summary of the big picture and long-term perspective on climate change by Patrick Moore…
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, a…(read full bio)
[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.
Comment below posted Feb. 2015
This site continues to probe and confront humanity’s greatest error (that became humanity’s greatest monster)- that there is some threatening, violent, or punishing force/spirit behind life. The pathological belief in divine threat long ago sparked the creation of salvation religion- the felt obligation of terrorized people to appease the great threat. The human embrace of appeasement religion then erupted in the offering of “rivers of blood” over human history (James Payne’s comment on animal and human sacrifice). The salvation industry has been a horrific waste of human life as well as time and resources over the millennia. It is responding to a non-existent threat. There is no threatening or punishing God.
Salvation religion has also re-enforced conditional thinking in human consciousness- that some punishment is demanded to pay for human imperfection. This conditional outlook has hindered appreciation for humanity’s greatest discovery, that unconditional love is the core of reality and the defining feature of authentic human existence.
This site also probes the incalculable psychic and social damage of this punishment mythology across history, its harmful impact on human personality and life. Some recently encountered authors (listed just below) affirm with good research just how horrific the damage has been (see books by Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Ellens). I’ve noted a minor quibble with theses authors (their reformist leanings) but do not let that put you off reading their excellent material. Start with Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo.
The earliest gods were pathological deformities- cruel, harsh deities. Those views of gods were embedded as the foundational archetypes, or dominant themes, of ancient human worldviews and little has changed since. Note, for instance, the contemporary belief in “revenge of Gaia” and angry planet or angry nature mythology (the Earth gods angry at “corrupt” humanity and threatening an environmental apocalypse).
Gods that demand suffering, torture, and violent death (sacrifice) to appease their anger at human imperfection, are psychopathic personalities (again, see Zenon Lotofu’s “Cruel God, Kind God: How Images of God Shape Belief, Attitude, and Outlook”). Describing a God that demands atonement as a psychopath may strike harshly on a religious ear but it is important to be clear about the true character of something pathological. Such clarity is necessary to understand a pathology and then properly correct it. Too often things considered sacred, especially gods, are not open for re-evaluation or questioning. Consequently, much pathology continues at the heart of religious traditions. So yes Dr. Lotufo, a psychopathic ideal has long been at the very foundation of much mythology and religion and even resides at the core of so-called secular worldviews.
Just a contrasting qualifier here: Authentic love and forgiveness does not demand pain, or punishment before it forgives. Any parent gets this. Are we then more humane than God, the ultimate Goodness?
Other harmful themes projected onto ultimate human ideals (i.e. gods) include dualism (one must exclude and oppose some enemy), anger at imperfection, payback justice (reward and punishment), and ultimate violent destruction to solve problems (apocalypse and hell). These long ago became foundational themes in human thinking and outlook, or human worldviews. Again, these themes have caused immense damage to human consciousness, in terms of fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and other pathologies.
Some other basic points…
People strive to become like their highest ideals or authorities; they especially try to live according to their views of the divine (note, for instance, the work of anthropologist Clifford Geertz on Bali, Indonesia). Our ideals of the highest Good (i.e. God) shape our consciousness, our mood, our response and actions, for better or worse. For example, violent gods have always incited violence in their followers.
This site also continues to explore humanity’s greatest discovery- that there is unconditional Love behind all. Unconditional Reality affirms that all people are included, all are forgiven, and all will receive the full generosity of the Universe or God, or however you define Ultimate Reality. There is no violence in deity, no threat, no condemnation, no punishment, no conditions demanded, and no separation or exclusion. This is exactly what unconditional means. It is about the discovery of the true nature of authentic humanity. Admittedly, unconditional is scandalous and offensive to minds that are oriented to payback, appeasement, or punishment mythology and ideals.
Unconditional reality points to the most profound liberation movement ever. It overturns entirely humanity’s greatest error, and all the related pathological myth that has supported that error over history. This is about freedom at the deepest levels of consciousness and spirit, where ideas, beliefs, and ideals influence human outlook, mood, and action.
So this site is about the project to fully humanize our foundational ideals, archetypes, themes, or beliefs, if we are to solve problems like violence for the long term. It is about the need to replace the barbaric themes of the past with new narratives of authentic unconditional reality.
As always- this is not about being intentionally offensive or upsetting to the religious mind but about clearing away the clutter in order to apprehend and appreciate the truth of unconditional reality more clearly.
See also the excellent material at www.bobbrinsmead.com (notably his essay series “The Scandal of Joshua Ben Adam”) and similar comment at greatnewstory.com
Jan. Intro 2015
I have been operating for years on the conclusion that one of the most damaging influences on human consciousness, life, and society has been the varied pathological themes embedded in ancient mythology and religious belief. These are themes of ultimate anger, threat, punishment, opposition between true religion and false religion (Zoroastrian dualism), divine demand to oppose and destroy one’s enemies, coming disaster (apocalypse), and eternal violence (hell). These themes became prominent in early human worldviews, and they eventually became background archetypes that have continued to widely influence human outlook and do so even today. They have stirred endless fear, anxiety, depression, opposition and violence over history. They have profoundly hindered human development and progress.
The impact of these primitive themes is often not immediately evident in any average person’s daily waking consciousness, but their influence is still there darkening the background of human thought and mood. These themes have been so deeply embedded in human consciousness and subconscious (hardwired) that they continue to shape so-called secular systems of thought. This conclusion is based on the critical linkage that background archetypes/themes shape daily perception, thought, mood, motivation, and behavior, even when people are not fully aware of it. Note, for instance, how primitive apocalyptic mythology still shapes modern story-telling (e.g. the major blockbuster movies of the summer of 2013 were almost all apocalyptic) and movements like environmental alarmism.
In the past 6 months (since the Fall of 2014) I have come across varied studies that affirm my own conclusions on the destructive influence of religious pathology. These include Harold Ellens’ four volume “The Destructive Power of Religion”, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s “Is Religion Killing Us?” and his “Jesus Against Christianity”, and Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”, among others. Together, they provide a good survey of the incalculable damage done to humanity over history- in deforming and hindering human development, inciting and validating the worst of human impulses and behaviors, and causing immense suffering. Lotufo, for instance, notes that any God that is satisfied or appeased by the suffering of an innocent victim (i.e. Christian atonement) is a psychopathic personality- taking pleasure in hurting another. That is a blunt assessment of the core belief of Christianity, but clear on its pathological nature.
Unfortunately, these writers all tend towards reformism for their solution to the pathology of religion- preserving a general Christian framework but trying to radically redefine God as non-violent in that framework, and emphasizing more the non-violent teaching of Jesus as true Christianity. My argument with this reformist approach is that using conditional Christian categories and the conditional Christian context to define Jesus, only distorts his stunning unconditional breakthrough. The effort to preserve the message of Jesus within Christianity has always distorted and confused that message (see comment further down in “Topics Below (1)”- “The Futility of Reforming Religion”). Better, get his unconditional breakthrough clear (absolutely no conditions, none) and then you will see the oxymoronic or contradictory nature of much reformism. Understand what Thomas Jefferson was getting at in stating that Jesus’ teaching in the Christian New Testament was like “diamonds in a dunghill”. Unconditional is the Jesus diamond and it does not belong anywhere in a defiling/distorting context of conditional atonement that is the essential core of Christianity.
Few people seem able to embrace the scandalous reality of unconditional and what it means for conditional religious thought and salvationism.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the efforts of the above writers, as far as they go. They have understood the root problem of a pathological, violent God at the heart of religions like Christianity, and how this has harmed humanity over the millennia (inciting and validating the worst human impulses to inhumane treatment of others). I applaud them for some forthright and clear comment on this. But they are not getting thoroughly to the foundational nature of the problem and a full solution. Unconditional deity as taught by Jesus is entirely incompatible with a conditional religion like Christianity.
Get the scandal and wonder of unconditional reality as taught by sages like Jesus and you will get some sense of the profound liberation that unconditional offers from all the past pathology of myth and religion. Unconditional opens up an unlimited future as nothing ever before. It presents healing from the impact of all that pathology and points us to an authentically humane future.
Explore this with us. Again, unconditional means simply- “Absolutely no conditions. None”.
Lotufo Quotes (from his book Cruel God, Kind God):
“My main interest is the cognitive and psychological aspects of the (malignant God) system and how people become predisposed…to associate power with cruelty, fear, shame, and guilt…Less easy to detect but nevertheless perceptible in the attitudes and behavior of Christians who have been affected by conservative theology, is the inhibition of the full development of personality…the doctrine of penal satisfaction implies an image of God as wrathful and vengeful, resulting in exposing God’s followers to guilt, shame, and resentment….these ideas permeate Western culture and inevitably influence those who live in the interior of this culture (p.5)”
“Beliefs do exert much more influence over our lives than simple ideas…ideas can also mobilize energy…the possible negative consequences that ideas and beliefs can produce when they generate energy in the interior of an individual…this negative side may express itself…in fanaticism and violence, or it may also produce anxiety and inhibitions that hinder the full manifestation of the capacities of a person…(p.8)”
“The reader may object that God, considered a basic belief in our culture, is rejected or questioned by a large number of people today. Yet the fact is that the idea of God that those people reject is almost never questioned. In other words, their critique assumes there is no alternative way of conceiving God except the one that they perceive through the lens of their culture. So, taking in to account the kind of image of God that prevails in Western culture- a ‘monster God’, as Harold Ellens calls him- such rejection is understandable. As Walter Wink puts it, ‘Against such an image of God the revolt of atheism is an act of pure religion’”
“There is in the Western world a psychological archetype, a metaphor that has to do with the image of a violent and wrathful God. Crystallized in Anselm’s juridical atonement theory, this image presents God as sufficiently disturbed by the sinfulness of humanity that God had only two options; Destroy us or substitute a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He did the latter. He killed Christ…Such a metaphor of an angry God, who cannot forgive unless appeased by a bloody sacrifice, has been ‘right in the center of the Master Story of the Western world for the last 2,000 years’. And the unavoidable consequence for the human mind is a strong tendency to use violence…Hence, in our culture we have a powerful element that impels us to violence, a Cruel God Image…it also contributes to guilt, shame, and the impoverishment of personality, and of the spiritual life (p.11-12)”
“I use the expression ‘image of God’ to indicate the conjoining of beliefs and feelings related to the Supreme Being, beliefs that are largely unconscious…little or no research has been done on how the content of these (religious) systems (image and concept of God) affects mental health and personality development…religious ideas can exert remarkable influence on the psychical integrity and well-being of believers (p.12-13)…”
“The image and the concept of God…become a source of psychological disturbance…many traditional doctrines present God as severe and vengeful…the doctrine of penal satisfaction is the dorsal spine of the plan of salvation and of conservative theology as a whole…there is evidence that the beliefs that make up this plan of salvation are harmful to mental health and also to spiritual life…they produce negative psychological effects in its bearers, like guilt and anxiety, and obstacles to the full development of personality (p.22)”
“(God as monarch)…what a monarch wishes and specially demands from his subjects is obedience…If one perceives God to be chiefly a monarch, then that monarch’s central attribute is sovereignty, that is, power, and what human beings owe to that God-monarch is absolute obedience or risk being severely punished. A God-monarch demands obedience above all else. From a psychological point of view, there is evidence that people who see God in this way are more subject to affective disorders, such as anxiety, feelings of guilt, shame, and depression (p.24)”
“(commenting on Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’, a common Evangelical or Conservative Christian view of theology)…there is no way to associate the loving God from the Prodigal Son parable with the devilish and sadistic being who delights in crushing under his feet his own creatures in endless and meaningless torture…(p.42)”
“(commenting on suffering as a source of pleasure, as in Christian atonement belief)…Repulsive as it seems to us, the practice of submitting humans to horrible torture has not exactly been rare in the history of our species…and makes us ask what kind of perversion can make human beings submit his fellow humans to such atrocious torments. But it seems even more difficult to explain the mental distortion that… (believes and defends)… the idea that the Christian God is not only capable of such perversities but also takes pleasure in them….the defenders of the penal substitution doctrine (Christian atonement)…also defend doctrines like (eternal hell)…(but incoherently reject the idea that God takes pleasure in producing and watching the suffering of his creatures)…this compartmentalization protects such people from realizing the monstrosity of their propositions (p.54)”
“What factors have contributed to the fact that inflicting suffering could be considered as a source of pleasure…to the point where its use became official in criminal law and theological doctrines of the Christian West? (p.54)”
“(what drives) the belief largely widespread in humanity that all guilt leads or should lead to suffering and all suffering is a consequence of guilt…how the painful punishment…becomes…a substitute for payment…this does not even begin to attempt to analyze the psychological mechanism by which one starts perceiving the pain of others as a source of pleasure. So the question Nietzsche himself poses with insistence- ‘How can hurting someone be a satisfaction?’- remains intact (p.56)”
“(We) can shed some light on the factors that lead so many people to accept explanations such as Anselm’s that the Christian God reaps pleasure from human suffering…the simplest and most direct answer is that it is a pathology resulting mainly from a cerebral dysfunction of genetic origin. This is how today we tend to explain the psychopathic personality…traits of emotional insensibility… narcissism, the absence of remorse, the lack of empathy…some psychopaths manifest the strange perversion of obtaining pleasure in causing pain (p.57)”
“I propose that the core of sadism…is the passion for an absolute and unrestricted control over another living being, be it an animal, child, man or woman…the exercise of power… seeks personal exaltation and control over others for his own benefit…the association of power with cruelty that deserves primary attention here…Sadism…is the transformation of impotence in the experience of omnipotence; it is the religion of the psychic cripples…to the sadist character there is only one admirable quality, and that quality is power… (it) wishes to control the helpless and those who cannot fight back…they (the sadist power-mongers) reach positions of importance from which they can cause much suffering… (p.57)”
“The sufferings of human beings thus become the deserved consequences of both original sin and individual’s personal sins as well as instruments of God to purify the soul and lead it to salvation…(commenting on how authority figures- i.e. harsh parents or harsh school teachers- shape human views of God)…the irate schoolmaster of Augustine’s childhood becomes the punishing God that purifies the soul through the many punishments of life… (this is spiritual abuse)…I am witness to struggling human beings who have experienced terrorist-like attacks on their inner souls…the irony is that this horrible damage is done in the name of God…(p.63)
“What has become clear in this section, is that to gain pleasure by producing or contemplating the suffering of others is a manifestation of a grave mental disturbance, absolutely incompatible with what can be considered a mature personality…(p.64)”
“What socio-psychological factors can lead certain people to attribute a partial, arbitrary and often cruel justice to God? We have already seen that the image one has of God decisively influences all of a person’s other beliefs. Thus, if the image is of an evil God, all the individual’s other theological ideas will likely reflect this assumption- and it will be hard to rid oneself of that assumption. However, once incorporated in a solid theological system, these ideas will become a serious hindrance for a person to free himself from the negative image of God that previous experiences have instilled in him. Fear is the cement that gives consistency to these theological buildings grounded in a frightening image of God. Fear inevitably stems from believing unquestioningly that God is authoritative and punitive, and it hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life (p.107)”
“Constituting a powerful instrument of control and always on hand, fear and guilt have always been widely used….guilt based on fear, as far as I can see, is always destructive. Hence, the symbiosis that many forms of religion- especially conservative Christianity- establish with this feeling results in one of the most serious problems, both in terms of psychological damage to personality development…the guilt and fear are linked to the image of God whose justice is essentially vindictive. Not just in the popular use and threats of divine punishment to control children but also and mainly in the fundamental doctrines of the varieties of conservative Christianity, doctrines such as those dealing with the condemnation of all humankind because of original sin, the torment of the unsaved in the eternal flames of hell, the sacrificial death of Christ as the only means of satisfying divine justice, and so on, have their roots in the ideas that revenge is inherent to the character of God, and that suffering is just and appropriate compensation for the offense that are made to him. Thus, the dysfunctional guilt and anxiety associated with it, related to the Christian religion, is rooted in the fear of being the target of divine justice, understood as revenge (p.148-9)”
(End of Lotufo quotes)
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 the past, 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.
Below are varied comments and quotes from a discussion group. They reflect the recent engagement with the work of authors such as Harold Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion), Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Jesus Against Christianity, Is Religion Killing Us?), Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth), among others. These authors affirm the arguments that have long been presented on this site.
Pardon the sometimes fragmented grammar as these quotes were lifted straight from the free-running commentary of the discussion group.
Discussion group comment- “Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), around pages 240-250 does a good section on the secularization of apocalyptic millennialism. He shows how Enlightenment thinkers formulated millennial themes in non-religious terms. The problem is that millennial hopes were mixed with the progress optimism of that era. And sometimes optimistic hope for progress led to violent activism to achieve the utopian dreams (i.e. the French Revolution). The obvious concern here- be careful to distinguish valid progress in terms of non-coercive approaches that protect individual freedom. Approaches that are rational (i.e. they embrace the presence of imperfection in life but work to gradually solve problems and do not lean toward religious Salvationism- expecting coercive intervention to purge and perfect suddenly- i.e. utopianism).”
Another- “Landes in his treatment of Marxism and Communism continues to note that progress optimism was part of the mix of revolutionary thought and action in the 19th Century. And the widespread longing for utopian or millennial perfection of life. It would improve his material if he would clarify that hope for a better future is a healthy human desire. But it is necessary to understand that a better future is not something reached coercively, instantly, or in other ways that violate love and freedom.”
“We continue to wrestle with imperfection in life and in ourselves, and we must continue to solve problems in life. And the evidence is sound that we are creating a better life and world. Decreasing violence and coercion is part of this progress.”
“So it is critical to distinguish authentic progress from millennial or apocalyptic distortion of progress. Longing for apocalyptic progress (cataclysmic, instant utopia) reaches a hysterical fervor and then resorts to violence and coercion to force the implementation of its instant utopia. Landes is not clear on making these distinctions and lumps general progress theory and ideas of the past centuries in with apocalyptic millennialism. This is not helpful.”
Further- “Its an interesting exercise to work through Landes good treatment of millennialism, especially near the end as he does a thorough section on Marxism as millennialism (noting that Marx and Engels tried to deny that they were millennialists). All apocalyptic plays on the human hope for perfection, for freedom and deliverance from imperfection. This is the great human frustration- existing in imperfect life and experiencing the profound awareness that there is something better.”
“Unfortunately, apocalyptic millennialism misdirects that valid human hope for something better by trying to escape the slow, gradual historical process. Apocalyptic seeks a violent purging of the imperfect system that presently exists. It seeks immediate deliverance from all imperfection, hence its emphasis on the always ‘imminent’ ending of the old order and installation of the new utopia. It always looks to ‘speed up the process’ (looking to overwhelming divine intervention and violence to save). It seeks some greater force to deliver us into utopia right now.”
“As Landes says, ‘Totalitarians want to run history forward at top speed to achieve their millennial goals. The infinite personal decisions that people make appear to them as resistance that must be crushed’.”
“Apocalyptic has no respect for the freedom of others. Landes noted regarding the Marxist millennialists (secular millennialism), that they believed that humanity must be coerced to revolt and to enter the Marxist utopian millennium. ‘They must be forced to be free”. That Communist utopia would be achieved via “coercive purity… (through) cataclysmic replacing of the old world with a new and better world…destroying the world to save it…’ and so on. Landes offers some good comment on the belief in coercive violence to redeem immediately and instantly. Pallmeyer and Lotufo also noted that the view of power as overwhelming force is a perverse misunderstanding of the nature of true power.”
“The apocalyptic mind, whether religious or secular, does not understand that the love of God defines the power of God (i.e. God’s power is non-coercive, non-violent, non-intervening… it is persuading love and power). Again, unconditional leads to a radical re-evaluation and redefinition of basic things like power.”
“Landes also notes how the apocalyptic millennial mind holds people in contempt and will destroy human life on a massive scale in order to achieve its utopian millennium. Landes details this in the Marxist/Communist history of the past century- the willingness of Marxists revolutionaries to kill millions in order to coercively attain the Communist millennium. People did not matter as the Marxist state took precedence over all else. This mirrors the similar religious devotion to some higher reality above people (i.e. to God) that has so often led religious devotees to inhumanely abuse people out of their devotion to some higher good (something above humanity).”
Another: “To understand the true state of any thing you need to include the entire big picture of that observed thing. All the data or evidence related to it. Especially that which challenges your own views. This is necessary to counter our tendency to engage ‘confirmation bias’, looking only for evidence that affirms our views and dismissing or ignoring evidence that challenges our views.”
“Also, to get to the true state of something, look at the longest term trends affecting that thing. Be careful to not focus only on aberrational variations to the long term trend. They do not define the overall trend. Professor Pimental made this mistake when he focused on the rise in tuberculosis from 1990 to 1995 (noted in Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist). That was an aberration to the overall decline in TB over the previous 60 years. After that brief 5 year aberration, TB continued to decline as in the long term trend.”
“And I’ll give you one on this point- much as I appreciate these writers- Pallmeyer, Lotufo, Ellens- I do not think they are getting to the best long term solutions with their reformist conclusions. This endeavor to revive Jesus within Christianity. To reform Christianity. The conditional nature of salvation religion, and its basic conditional categories, only distorts the unconditional breakthrough of Jesus.“
“You have to first get the scandal and wonder of that unconditional and then you will see how pathetically insufficient all reformism is. All religion is conditional, that is simply basic fact as one looks across the history of human religion. Sure, many great human ideals have been brought into religious traditions, but as Jefferson stated- you end up with diamonds in dunghills. Unconditional wine in conditional (leaky, rotten) wineskins.”
“So I will affirm these writers for a lot of excellent work but still argue that you can do better. Get historical Jesus clear, take that Jesus seriously… get unconditional clear, and then evaluate all else in light of this new foundational truth. Don’t try to weaken or continue the distortion that has long blurred people’s ability to see unconditional.”
“And I get it that they appeal to many religious people who will never feel comfortable abandoning something that has provided them identity and comfort. But there are also many others of us out there who want something different. So I speak to them. Everyone has a mission, an audience, a niche…go for yours.”
Another…”Just a suggestion for ____- read Lotufo, Ellens, Pallmeyer, or any others dealing with religious pathology, and then tell this group what you see as wrong with their argument about the ‘monster God’ behind salvation religions like Christianity, that distortion that has defiled and deformed human consciousness for so long. Tell us how you can defend such pathology hidden under the canopy of the sacred.”
Another…”Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens, among others, all speak of this ‘monster God’. Lotufo notes this image of deity is at the basis of atonement theology, and that the fear of this God holds the rest of the theological system together. These authors all get in some way that this is a monster that humanity faces.“
“It is humanity’s greatest monster. And if you bring this beast down then all the rest of the salvation industry and superstructure begins to collapse. Again, the potency of that Matt.5 summary- a new no-conditions ethic based on a new no-conditions theology. Wow. That is nuclear.”
Another…”Poor ____ is probably wondering where this blast of Arctic air is coming from in the posts below.”
“But I have just been reading the refreshing plain-speaking of Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens and am feeling in the same vein. And yet I still have quibbles with their tame reformism. They do not appear to have really grasped the scandal and wonder of Jesus’ no conditions theology and ethics, and what that means for all religion as conditional reality or institution.”
“But you said another thing below Bob that needs more probing- that we don’t really get the love of God and God’s respect for freedom. And how these two are twins. Alvin Platinga (God, Freedom, and Evil) is a start. There is a scandal to both love and freedom and we play around with such subhuman and primitive understanding of both of these. Hence, we do not really get what it means to be human or humane. We don’t fully get Jesus. Christianity never got him and so buried his brilliant unconditional insights in conditional religion. That is the great scandal of religious history. Jesus was buried in the old pathology of holiness, offense and retaliate, punishment and all the rest. Subhuman, backward, underdeveloped, and psychopathic. Most of us do not get the authentically humane in God. So we settle for primitive theologies of overwhelming power (false power), intervening deity, and so on. We do not get the power of love to change all for the better. The ultimate triumph of unconditional love.”
“But aside from my quibble with their reformism let me strongly recommend Lotufo, Pallmeyer and Ellens.”
Another: “Holiness is unquestioned in religious thinking. It is defended as the height of goodness in deity. Even more than love. As Christians argue, it takes precedence over love.”
“But as we have been doing for years and are now finding others doing the same in their own way….people like Lotufo, Ellens, Pallmeyer cut through such thinking and expose the real nature of all that old theology. It is pathology, not theology.”
“Lotufo goes so far as to argue that any person taking pleasure in the hurting of others (Christian atonement is holiness demanding the suffering and death of another for appeasement)…this is pathology, psychopathic. Yikes, but yes.”
“’Sentimental’ (as used in the copied pages in this post)- one sees the primitiveness of this thinking in our own cultures. The old tough guy who stands up for himself mentality, and the tough guy doesn’t let anyone push him around. The ‘real’ man. He gives just as he gets. He gets even with bad guys. He puts them in their place.”
“There is little of real humanity or real human advance in such honor, shame, and retaliate response. It is just more of the same old same old- very animal-like, very primitive response. Not much of real human courage or advance in such thinking and response.”
“So first of all, do not accept the assumptions of the writer behind this thinking and response- framing anything other than a tough payback response as ‘sentimental’, and tough payback as real holiness and righteousness and therefore real good and right. You need a good bracing read of Lotufo or Pallmeyer to put things clearly and expose the distorted thinking and backward humanity behind such reasoning.”
Another…”There is no ‘sentimentality’ in abandoning the old primitive holiness, wrath, and retaliate responses. In fact, it takes superhuman courage to break that animal response (offense, attack, rage, response to destroy). It takes a god-like courage to respond as Jesus did…no more eye for eye, but love even the worst enemy, forgive endlessly, include as family, shower with the same generosity as you would to any intimate insider. Sun and rain on all alike. The fullest generosity to all alike. That is so far removed from the ‘sentimentality’ of primitive approaches to evil, approaches that continue the cycles of payback, based on sentimental views of deity as holy and demanding the hurting of offenders. And further, as Lotufo shows from psychology- such old responses are psychopathic. Yikes.”
“This description in the scanned pages needs to be challenged as it tries to frame the holding of contradicting opposites in tension, in harmony, as ‘strong’ and healthy and right… and arguing that somehow to abandon such primitivism for a robust new response of unconditional is mere ‘sentimentality’.”
“Good research now sees right through such reasoning for what it really is- primitivism and backward and subhuman- and this is what Lotufo and other’s like Pallmeyer and Ellens are doing so well.”
Another….”Of course love is aroused against evil, against inhumanity. But then it does not perpetuate it by responding in kind. This is the whole point of Jesus in his breakthrough on non-retaliation- love your enemies. Because this is what God is like. Do the counter-intuitive, the superhuman thing. The absolutely contrary thing. Contrary to those primitive animal-like responses that we often feel at first.”
“We have so much good psychological research on this now- note especially that paper from the Australian Psychological Society. Traditional responses (i.e. punishing responses) do not work with children or criminals. They do not teach proper alternative humane responses. Hence, the movement toward more humane restorative responses.”
“This is even stated in Paul, a bit, but more clear in Jesus- love forgives all and endlessly, it does not engage eye for eye, it does not punish. The no-conditions love that he taught, breaks the old cycles of payback and leads us in entirely new directions.”
“So we can drop the projection of holiness onto God. Holiness embodies the primitive offense and retaliate response. Jesus rejected such thinking as inhuman- it was the old honor and shame and retaliate stuff of primitive humanity. Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), Landes (Heaven on Earth) and others all point to this as primitive, backward humanity. It is still dominant in Islam- you have offended my honor, shaming me, and I will or must retaliate and hurt you.”
“They (Lotufo, Landes) also note that real power is not defined by anger and hurting of others, overwhelmingly destroying the offender. It is, instead, expressed in non-coercive forgiving and loving. This changes life for the better by breaking the old anger and hurt responses and taking us in new directions, supernatural directions (again, note Mandela).”
“Wrath in deity as taught in the Bible is also about primitive and backward response to evil (holiness embodies this primitive response). It has no place in a truly human future. Again, Biblicism pushes people to try to harmonize such things- harmonizing the less-than-human, the primitive, with the more authentically human. It never works. This is my persistent argument with reformism in religious traditions. Trying to harmonize great human ideals with pathological primitivism. ____, do read Zenon Lotufo’s good Cruel God, Kind God. Just one of many writing on this issue and strongly oriented to the psychological issues behind all this.”
“This is just more of this endless reformism. The attempt to “reframe” (the Mennonite phrase) or re-interpret all that is in the Bible due to the felt obligation to Biblicism. The Bible is all God-inspired so all its parts must be kept and harmonized in some way. And reformers end up making some ridiculous conclusions as Lotufo points out re John Stott- i.e. that Hell will be there but no one will be in it. Huh? Or non-violent atonement, as in the Mennonites. More huh? Or divine wrath is an expression of love, and love is wrath? Ahhh. Let it all go. These are all absolutely contradicting opposites.”
Another: “My point, as I express appreciation for Pallmeyer, Ellens, and Lotufo for their good work, is that they don’t go far enough and end up stuck in varied versions of this reformism. And especially with the no conditions breakthrough of Jesus, reformism distorts and misses the full scandal of his breakthrough, by trying to maintain it within the conditional Christian context. Jefferson still said it best in pointing out the real nature of the problem- the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament was like diamonds in a dunghill. Clean them off properly so people can really see their value.”
“Be clear on what Christianity actually is, and be clear on what Jesus breakthrough was actually about.”
“And even while I harp on this, I will still mouth appreciation for all the good work that people like Lotufo and Pallmeyer and others are doing. Many need to go through a stage like that first before they may be ready for something more radical. I think back over our own progressive journey, in its many stages.”
Another… “The more you survey the damage from the old story, the more you see the healing power of the alternative that Jesus offered. No wonder, at a gut level, he got it and could say to all those damaged people he met, ‘Fear not….don’t worry’. You can heal yourself, your faith or belief in a merciful, compassionate Father will heal you. He did not have all the psychological tools that we have today, but he got it at a gut level and used it. Pointing people to goodness everywhere in life- to sun and rain and small birds not forgotten, and grass/flowers clothed like Solomon in his glory, and on and on. No threat or punishment in the man born blind, no revenge on the woman caught in adultery. Just mercy and compassion everywhere. Its all good, its all going to be all right for everyone. Fear not. Such liberating healing power from all the millennia of that darkening, enslaving, traumatizing myth of angry, punishing gods.”
“I mentioned this to you recently _____, about re-centering regularly on the Love as noted in so many NDE accounts. As I read this recent spate of books from Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens it hits me again how this mythology of our religions has damaged human consciousness and so many human spirits over the millennia. These more psychological approaches detail more the trauma and destructiveness on the human person and life, the deformity and enslavement.”
“And so many people are not fully aware of how all this has impacted them.”
“So it is a major issue for the human family to recover this liberating discovery of Love behind all. That Ultimate Reality is this powerful, liberating love. I think of this now in terms of two key features or elements. Ultimate reality is unconditional love and we are that same love. Both of these are critical to human healing and advance. I know I repeat this a lot but we are not yet even getting our feet wet on the shores of this, and experience its cleansing, healing power. Its enlightening, liberating impact.”
“Religion as conditional reality has never communicated this truth clearly, but more often distorted and buried it. That explains my impatience with all these reformist efforts. They are good in exposing the violent deity at the core of the old mythology and that we need to move to new more humane views. But they are hesitant to really pull the diamond all the way out of the dunghill and really clean it off so it can do its liberating work. But nonetheless, I applaud them as far as they go. It is helpful.”
“We have also established that we can know that ultimate reality is love by seeing the best in humanity and then reasoning out to deity as infinitely better. From the Akkadian father on down to Jesus, they got this. But unconditional love is rarely opened up for people to see in all its scandal and wonder.”
“I see the liberating impact in varied ways- it liberates from all the fear, anxiety, worry, depression and despair so widespread across the human family by going to the root of human thought/perception to radically change all that pathological belief in ultimate threat, anger, violence, punishment and so much more that was lodged in myth and religion about deity. It changes or humanizes the foundations, or core of human understanding, completely. But that is multiple millennia of abusive and traumatizing impact from myth and religion that has to be cleaned up.”
“And it liberates ethically, in that it liberates from all those animal drives to small band exclusion, retaliation, and destruction of opposing others/enemies.”
“And that we are the same love, also liberates from the damaging impact of fall and sinfulness myth. That we deserve punishment because we are bad. Pallmeyer speaks of a pastor scaring kids with this stuff.”
“Anyway, here is a brief bit from Anita Moorjani that relates to this psychological impact…”
“Anita- ‘I don’t recall ever being encouraged to cherish myself- in fact it would never have occurred to me to do so. Its commonly thought of as being selfish. But my NDE allowed me to realize that this was the key to my healing…In the tapestry of life, we’re all connected. Each one of us is a gift to those around us, helping us to be who we are, weaving a perfect picture together. When I was in the NDE state, it all became so clear because I understood that to be me is to be love. This is the lesson that saved my life. Many of us still believe that we have to work at being loving. But that means living in duality, because there’s a giver and a receiver. Realizing that we are love transcends this. It means understanding that there is no separation between you and me, and if I am aware that I am love, then I know that you are too. If I care for myself, then I automatically feel the same for you’….”
“In my NDE state, I realized that the entire universe is composed of unconditional love and I am an expression of this. Every atom, molecule, quark, and tetra-quark is made of love. I can be nothing else, because this is my essence and the nature of the entire universe. Even things that seem negative are all part of the infinite, unconditional spectrum of love. In fact, Universal Life-force energy is love, and I am composed of Universal energy! Realizing this made me to understand that I did not have to try to become someone else in order to be worthy. I already am all that I could attempt to be”…. and so on…
Another… “Lotufo was a very clinical in his use of psychological terms to describe what this (pathological religious belief- i.e. violent God at the heart of Christian atonement) does to people- maintaining a childish mentality, lobotomized, undeveloped, deformed, and so on. Hard for religious people to embrace such an evaluation, but yes, that is what it has done to so much of the human family. And even many atheists, having abandoned it all, still feel the deforming impact of it, as that is how they still view the religious beliefs that they claim to have left. And many of them still shudder a bit and hedge their bets, just in case. Keeping a string of prayer beads nearby for the final stages. Just in case.”
Another…”There is not much that I have come across that really gets the core of a new view of deity (the Jesus insight on unconditional) and how this relates to the old framework of salvation religion. Hence, not much radical call to abandon the old framework- wineskin- of conditional religion. Once a person really gets a grip on what this new core of reality is actually about….well, then it is hard to try to maintain that within the old wineskins. It makes no sense. Why continue to distort and cloud things. But it is about first getting some basic grasp of unconditional. The scandal and the wonder of it. Then that becomes the new baseline to understand and evaluate all else.”
“Now, I would not push anyone to fully abandon their old worldview unless they have some good alternative ready to replace it. Unconditional provides the safest, welcoming alternative to all the old. No need to fear the loss of anything in the old systems.”
Another: “Just to give some sense of why Lotufo is going after this pathological theology that most of us have been raised in, and how it has infected so many across the planet. Tabor (“Paul and Jesus”) is another researcher who has noted the widespread and significant impact of the Christian religion. Boyce also hit it on the nail in stating that Zoroastrianism was the most influential religion of all, the very religion that shaped the Western consciousness, notably Judaism and Christianity. Here is a quote noting the hindering/damaging influence of this pathological theology…(hindering human development)…”
“(Lotufo)…What socio-psychological factors can lead certain people to attribute a partial, arbitrary, and often cruel justice to God?…We have already seen that the image one has of God decisively influences all of a person’s other beliefs. Thus, if the image is of an evil God, all the individual’s other theological ideas will like reflect this assumption- and it will be hard to rid oneself of that assumption. However, once incorporated in a solid theological system, these ideas will become a serious hindrance for a person to free himself from the negative image of God that previous experiences have installed in him. Fear is the cement that gives consistency to these theological buildings grounded in a frightening image of God. Fear inevitably stems from believing unquestionably that God is authoritative and punitive, and it hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life”.
“And remember, Lotufu notes that even atheists and other skeptics of religion in the wider secular society have all been profoundly influenced by these evil God images and still hold them.”
Another… “In the section I have just read, Lotufo looks at the psychological stages of human development. In very diplomatic language he notes that moral judgment of the ‘eye for eye’ kind is an earlier stage, more suitable to children. ‘The God corresponding to the image conservative theologians make of him would not surpass the least evolved moral levels’. Ouch again.”
Another: “My argument has now long been that despite all the advance that humanity has experienced over the past, we have not yet begun. There is still too much darkness over the human spirit and consciousness, still too much enslavement to mythically oriented thinking or belief. A great liberation has been offered that goes to the depths of human perception (subconscious archetypes, themes), to the foundations of human thought, mood, motivation, and response. But that liberation has not yet been widely embraced due to the impeding force of religious belief and practice. And you know what I am referring to- we have stated it in oppositional pairings such as conditional opposing unconditional, payback opposing non-retaliation, and varied similar pairs.”
“Placing unconditional at the core of new narratives will effect a liberation of the human spirit and consciousness as nothing ever before and that will result in new forms of advance and creativity unimagined so far.”
“Lotufo supports my view in that he goes to the psychological impacts on human personality from all this perverse sadism in religion. Sadism that deforms human consciousness and the human spirit, rendering it something far less than it can be. As he starts his book, he is noting the powerful impact of thought, ideas, beliefs on human life.”
Another…”Again, it is the atheists like Charles Templeton, who conquered their fear of the sacred, of blasphemy, and were then able to clearly see and state all this stuff for what it really is. As Templeton said, such a deity is an Idi Amin (referring to a God that demanded people praise his greatness on pain of death/destruction if they did not). I am now finding more and more people out there willing to claim this is a monster god. Humanity’s greatest monster.”
Another…”It hit me afresh reading this….How did we not intuitively sense it, in the years that we belonged to our varied religions? It was such a perversion of normal humanity or human sensibility. Why did we accept it as right, that someone could be so incensed at the imperfection and failings of people that they would sadistically demand and take pleasure in making them suffer some horror of violence, some cruel, suffering death? Why did we believe that such sadism could satiate someone’s rage and we should view this as humane, or good in some way. And we were taught to worship this atonement theology as love and holiness and divinity, as ultimate right, justice, and goodness. It is, as Pallmeyer and Payne and others have plainly stated, such sadism. Such pathology. Such inhumanity on the bare face of it all. But our religions did not help us to see what it actually was. A great Devil, a sadistic, certifiably insane personality.”
Another… “Wood in the article below (What ISIS Really Wants) adds to our understanding of religion and violence. The larger context of what he is talking about is Richard Landes Heaven on Earth, Millennialist movements and their stages and breakdown and last fits of rage as they collapse. And the desire to bring on the apocalypse that is also part of this process.”
“As I read Wood I thought about the fear at the root of all this. The animal fear at the basis and how all across history that fear has been stirred by violent deity. Inciting fear as in apocalyptic threat has repeatedly resulted in aggressive violence toward others (this was clear in Serbia, in Hitler, and so on).”
“The violent threat was long ago deeply embedded as a foundational human archetype where it continues to work its damage on public consciousness. We see it again in environmental alarmism and their aggression toward perceived threats (trying to ban skeptics).”
“Fear fuels aggression and so you need to counter the fear at its ultimate root, calming such things as the fear of apocalyptic threat. This is for the long term solutions. In the immediate you may have to counter apocalyptic hysteria and madness with defensive action.”
“This is all part of the model that I put out a while back. You have to account for all the important elements and how they relate, such as the animal inheritance (the root source of fear and aggression). And the theological explanations that validate the expression of aggression, that are inspiring ideals. And how these have been related over human history. Then, how to counter this at the deepest levels for long term solutions. Going after those deeply embedded archetypes or ideals. Deal with all the main elements at the deepest levels for the most thorough long term solutions.”
Another… “One last one from Pallmeyer…’Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment’ (Gandhi). Then Pallmeyer…’the most tragic and enduring legacy of these ‘sacred’ texts is that they distort the nature of both divine and human power. Coercive, punishing, violent conceptions of God and power that have their origins in the minds, fantasies, and experiences of men cripple our imaginations and dominate the political, economic, and religious landscape…there is an alternative conception of power rooted in love…more effective’.”
“And his rephrasing of a part of Matt.5:43-45, ‘Loving enemies best reflects what God is like’.”
Another… “Not wanting to keep this line of discussion going too much as it is quite negative… but it is also useful for understanding a current public problem, its roots and how to solve it.”
“I am almost finished Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s Is Religion Killing us. He is a Christian, a professor at St. Thomas University in Minnesota, and works on Justice and Peace endeavors. And this is a valuable bit of research on religion and violence. More useful than most.”
“He argues that all three Western religions have dominant themes of violence in deity and this is the root problem behind religious violence over history. And he marshals the evidence from the holy books of these faiths to support his argument. It is one of the more complete litanies of violent religious teaching. ‘Despicable portraits of a violent, seemingly pathological God and of murderous human conduct justified in relation to the divine’.”
“I was at first put off by his argument that monotheism seemed particularly violent, in light of the similar violence in other earlier non-monotheistic traditions. But his point is good- that a super-powerful God (monotheist) is credited with super power to overwhelm and destroy all enemies. More power means more successful violence.”
“And one of his best points is that the dominant violent explanations in the holy books overwhelm the more humane ideals in those books. ‘Passages that urge tolerance and respect diversity are overwhelmed by others…that legitimate violence, warfare, and intolerance…The collective weight of all passages in these texts that advocate ethical behavior or present evidence of a loving, compassionate God cannot, however, overcome the violent images and expectations of God that overwhelm these sacred texts…’.”
“He does tend a bit to apocalyptic doomsterism here and there but that does not detract from his good points.”
“He is also interesting on the current cycle of violence with Islamic terrorism, and the Western response as similar in character- i.e. the appeal to the divine to validate violence, and the belief that one is acting in the better interests of humanity. And yes, I get it that some will react that he is engaging moral equivalence, but his argument is a bit more sophisticated than that.”
“He is very clear that violent religion is not a distortion of the main themes of religion but is faithfulness to those main themes, in all three Western faiths.”
“He also gets the dualism of the good versus the bad (the enemy), but does not put that in its Zoroastrian context.”
“Good treatment of the Jewish Exodus as ‘liberating violence’, compared with other incidents of ‘punishing violence’.”
“And a lot of other good insights along the way…such as ‘Jesus dies in order to save us from God, not from sin…Jesus’ sacrificial death saves us from a violent God who punishes sin’.”
“Some quotes from Pallmeyer: ‘Most people…believe that violence saves….violence is the world’s religion…It is a serious problem to downplay the problem of religion, violence, and ‘sacred’ text in its many forms…Jews, Christians, and Muslims (can find)…hundreds and hundreds of passages that rightfully can be called upon to bolster their claims that violence and hatred against enemies are not only justified but reflect the will of God…power is identified with violence…’.”
“A few more Pallmeyer quotes…’if human beings acted as God does or as God tells them to act, then they would rightfully be considered certifiably insane…It is not primarily a problem of believers distorting their ‘sacred’ texts. It is rather, a problem rooted in the violence of God traditions that lie at the heart of these sacred texts..’, and so on..”
“This guy nails it as few others have done. Violent behavior is not distorting these Western faiths but being faithful to their core teaching.”
Another… “I’ve mentioned this before ____, but I approach all this with sort of an ‘efficiency’ orientation. It began years ago when I worked in Mindanao with Manobo tribal groups and our endeavors (muddled as they may appear to anyone else) to improve the human condition. Early on I responded at a gut level to human suffering, taking sick people out on logging trucks (the only transportation) to lowland medical clinics and hospitals. It was a horrendous waste of time in that the trucks stopped and sat a varied places along the way. What was usually a 4 hour trip by motorcycle could take the entire day on truck. And then the people, when left at the hospital, would just get up and leave and return to the mountains. They were scared that as people died at the hospital, so evil spirits were prowling in such a place of death. So I could ‘waste’ several days doing such things.”
“So we gradually moved to inviting nurses and doctors into the mountain areas to vaccinate everyone, and to start holding clinics there. Also, later we started medical training programs, getting nurses to come and teach tribal people about basic health care (emergency care, nutrition, and so on- changing people’s views from spirit causes of sickness to germ theory). Training barrio health workers for each area. That was a more efficient use of our time. You could do more good to more people with less investment of time.”
“And that approach spread to educational programs, agricultural programs (increase wealth so tribal people could solve their own issues), water systems (helping solve the cause of 50% of child mortality- dirty water), pig breeding programs, introducing coffee and cacao plant programs, and so on. Continually looking to get at root economic and livelihood issues in order to do the most good for the most people, as we tried to improve the human condition in that part of the world.”
“I have continued this orientation even today- what is the best way to solve critical problems in life and take human well-being in better directions, to improve the human condition? What are root issues to problems and solutions to those root issues? What is most ‘efficient’ in this regard? And we all have opinions on this. My view is that Ellens and others are getting to the most critical of issues to the long term improvement of the human condition. How humanity thinks, feels, and what motivates people. Those great narrative issues, those core themes that have inspired humans over history, that have been used to validate human life and society. Correcting the core issues that have promoted violence and hindered human improvement, and finding better alternatives to inspire and validate human life (dealing with the meaning seeking element in humanity).”
“So just to explain why I get excited by the work of someone like Ellens and his approach. Just saying.”
Another… “Primitive payback explanations (this will be added to my comment on Love and Freedom at bottom-this is still rough copy)”
“Primitive and simple-minded payback thinking long ago resulted in ideas of a punishing God. The payback mind thinks that good is rewarded and bad is punished by a God who overpowers, interferes, and controls all things. This has long been fundamental to human understanding of justice. This is how people have long explained the events of life (the human impulse for meaning and purpose demands explanations for all things).”
“Good events occurring were explained in terms of people being rewarded for living good lives, for being obedient to the dictates of the gods. Bad events occurring were explained in terms of people being punished for doing wrong, for disobeying the taboos of the gods.”
“Such payback thinking is a primitive misunderstanding of life and its events. Good and bad happen to all alike. There is freedom and randomness throughout life. A God of love does not overwhelm with coercive force to intervene in life, and to reward or punish people through the events of life. A God of authentic love has given full responsibility to people to do good, and to prevent bad things from happening.”
“Its time for all of us to grow up and quit blaming God for the events of life. We have been put in charge and are fully responsible for good or bad.”
Another…”Note- I am not trying to be harsh on Pallmeyer and the others for their reformism. I applaud them for such effort, in accordance with the audience that they are speaking to. I tend to gravitate more toward secular, atheist, or general non-religious people. And I prize clarity and straightforwardness, frankness in making points. Hence my argument that the scandal of no conditions has no place in a conditional context. That only perpetuates confusion, obfuscation, clouding of the real scandal and wonder of what we are talking about. I will leave the more diplomatic approach to others like the Mennonites and these reformist authors. But yes, more power to them. They are fellow spirits going after history’s greatest monster and together we will all bring this monster down.”
“Lotufo especially does a good job. He goes after the atonement core of Christianity and nails the psychopathic God at the heart of that core Christian belief or Salvationist system. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, getting over fear of Hell was key to her liberation. Even more key to liberation is getting the monster behind such beliefs, getting the threatening, punishing God behind Salvationism and atonement (payback) thinking.”
Another… “Bob, ____, this is an interesting piece and many lines of thought are sparked. Yes, we project our limited understanding and conflicting assumptions out to define greater reality (God). And get ourselves into all sorts of conflicting and confusing dead ends because of that.”
“To paraphrase an insight of Bob’s- we start with the best in humanity and then reason out from that to Ultimate Good. We see the best in humanity- i.e. the long-developing discovery of unconditional treatment of others, especially offenders- and we reason that God is just like this but infinitely more so. We use Jesus’ logic- if you imperfect people can give good gifts, then how much more God is good. Infinitely more Good. So we hold the best of humanity or humaneness- love at its best, and freedom- and make sense of things from these.”
“Hence, my argument- place unconditional love at the foundation and core of your thinking and then reason out to all else, to evaluate all else. You can’t go wrong.”
“What runs through this piece is the fallacy of Biblicism again. And the resulting cognitive dissonance- the felt obligation to harmonize conflicting opposites. Lotufo does some good work on John Stott and J.I. Packer wrestling with this. Packer just does what the author of Job does and backs off to ‘its mystery’ and our sinful, darkened minds cannot resolve it, so just accept it with all the conflicting dissonance that it is.”
“No. We start with the best in humanity (epistles of flesh) and from that reason to the best in God, getting rid of all that is inhumane and conflicts with ultimate goodness.”
“But primitive payback logic reasons differently and inhumanely. And abdicates to claiming ‘unknowable mystery’. And granted there is this element of mystery but the human drive to know and explain needs more satisfying answers. And with the Jesus breakthrough and similar we get more satisfying answers.”
“So don’t accept the basic assumptions of payback (inhuman) logic and remain stuck there. All this holiness projection and obligation to primitive honor, shame, and retaliation/revenge demands that flow from primitive holiness thinking. This is used still in the most backward areas of the planet. And young women are killed because of it (honor killings).”
“It all results in subhuman redemptive reasoning and assumptions- I am holy, pure, and if you offend my laws then I am obligated to punish, to take revenge. This is all a horrific and barbaric distortion of love. Holiness demands saving violence. So Christian love suffers such distortion in that it demands violence to solve its problems, it assumptions. It demands the ‘mystery’ of redemptive thinking and solutions.“
“Ahh, ____, so many things come to mind as I have just read Pallmeyer who deals with this in such detail (Jesus Against Christianity and Is Religion Killing Us) and Lotufo who also exposes the barbarity of this primitive redemption or atonement thinking (Cruel God, Kind God). This demand of holiness to find appeasement in the suffering of an innocent victim. As Lotufo says, this is clearly a psychopathic personality that must be satisfied by the suffering of others, by harming someone. And this perverse and ‘devilish’ personality is at the core of Christian atonement theory.”
“So we start by recognizing what is pathology in all this- the entire mess of atonement and Salvationist thinking- and what is authentically humane (unconditional treatment of all) and then sort out things from these much better starting assumptions or evidence. This alone frees us from the mess of Salvationism that we have inherited.”
“Ah, this piece sparks so much….but ____, do read these authors, along with Harold Ellens’ The Destructive Power of Religion.”
“And I do not affirm the conclusions of these authors to engage the reforming of Christianity. I go for more radical outcomes. The unconditional insight of Jesus gets lost in the conditional context of Christianity and its conditional atonement categories. But that’s just me. Wanting to really slay this monster God of Christianity entirely and really set people free.”
Another… “Redemptive, atonement categories and logic distort the goodness of God, and distort the power of God, with violence. Pallmeyer is good on this in Jesus Against Christianity.”
Another… “A better way to frame all this (the claim that the improvement in various areas of life is due to religious influence) is in terms of the progression of humanity from a barbaric subhuman past to a more humane present. We (humanity) now understand better what is human and what is inhuman. All this talk of biblical authority, reliability, and so on must be subject to this larger context of humanity discovering ever more clearly just what is human. Just as Lotufo and others are presenting- we can no longer accept a personality that takes pleasure in causing others harm or suffering, as humane. It is pathological, psychopathic, sick, and subhuman. And that monster resides at the core of Christian atonement.”
“To try to describe all that horrible mythology in terms of love, grace, mercy or whatever is to distort entirely the meaning of love, mercy, grace. To define it with pathological violence of the worst kind (pleasure, appeasement in the suffering and harm of others).”
“Ah, read Pallmeyer, Lotufo, and Ellens and discovery what we have wrestled with and now understood better. Just what is wrong with all this Salvationism and what is the humane alternative that Jesus discovered and offered to humanity- unconditional treatment of all. Because this is just what God is like. No demand for some condition to be met, some salvation plan, no threat of punishment, no judgment, no apocalypse looming, no hell. Ah, such liberation and love.”
Another… “____, you speak of reality, real truth, and in previous posts of evidence, facts. Good for you. But then continue that honorable concern with truth and reality to all factual evidence, even evidence that counters one’s views of things. That makes one uncomfortable. If there is any more overwhelming array of evidence, of fact and therefore truth and reality, it would be the overwhelming evidence amassed by Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Matt Ridley, Greg Easterbrook and others on the rising trajectory of life, and civilization toward something ever better. And throw in the overwhelming evidence amassed by James Payne and Stephen Pinker on the decreasing violence across human history as humanity has become ever more empathic and loving and non-violent. Hard factual data that cannot be denied. Only the unthinking embrace of apocalyptic declinism (corrupt humanity destroying the world and all heading for disaster) blinds people from seeing such overwhelming evidence. Myth is myth, and truth is truth, especially when supported by masses of good evidence.”
Another… “Yes, get this clear (life has improved over the long term) and its a huge step forward (progress <: )- your admitting apocalyptic (decline toward some great catastrophe) is wrong. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she found freedom when she abandoned the horrible myth of hell, so abandoning the unhistorical nonsense of apocalyptic myth is a huge step in the right direction. Next, and a much bigger step toward freedom and truth and a better future, is to abandon the psychopath behind all this nutty mythology (the great error of some threatening, punishing God that has long been used to fuel Salvationism, apocalyptic, and a lot more). Ah, Zenon Lotufo has done us all a favor in speaking clearly about the real nature of the deity behind atonement violence (the deformed personality of someone finding pleasure or satisfaction in the suffering and death of another).”
“Now we are getting our fogged glasses cleaned off so we can begin to see the wonder of unconditional that Jesus pointed toward.”
Another... ”And don’t be discouraged ____ at the slowness of the learning process. It has taken Bob and myself, and others, a lifetime to get all this right. Slow learners all. <:”
Another... “Bob, Its quite something how Pallmeyer traces the use of apocalyptic imagery to re-interpret Jesus. His life, his death, and his teaching. I have just read, near the end, how Matthew used apocalyptic to reshape the parables of Jesus, turning the lead characters into God-figures that consistently send people to the torturers and other horrific punishments. This is such a refreshing take on understanding the parables and how the gospel writers distorted Jesus against his own anti-apocalyptic message. As you noted earlier, Pallmeyer has written quite a book (Jesus Against Christianity).”
“He brings out well the Christian longing for revenge via apocalyptic and hell. This whole ‘chosen people’ mindset that sees salvation in terms of enemies destroyed, thus fulfilling the perverse human longing for revenge on others. All made sacred in this pathological religious mythology. The very worst of human impulses made sacred, and nowhere more intensely than in the Christ myth of Paul. He does a good job on Paul’s ‘betrayal’ of Jesus.”
“I’ve lost that statement where he summarized all this gospel distortion of Jesus in that ‘the slaughtered one’ (Jesus- cross) becomes ‘the Great Slaughterer’ of Revelation.”
Another... “Add to Lotufo’s analysis (atonement- finding satisfaction in the suffering of others= psychopathy), add Pallmeyer’s comment on Matthew turning Jesus’ ‘love your enemies’ into Matthew’s favorite phrase put into Jesus’ mouth- ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ in hell. Such a Jesus, says Pallmeyer, is a ‘paranoid schizophrenic’. Ah, such good psychological analysis and conclusion about all this Christian mythology or pathology.”
Another... “Good to see we have woken the bear <: ____, your worldview is not so much about ‘stupid’ as about hatred wrapped up in religion. If I may paraphrase Pallmeyer a bit- apocalyptic is an expression of ultimate human hate and lust for revenge against those who differ from them (‘enemies’). All wrapped up in the sacred. The worst of human perversity employed to defile ideas of God, love, humanity. There is no worse evil than evil hiding behind the sacred.”
“Remember always that statement of Jesus- ‘Love your enemies....because God does’. Pallmeyer notes that Jesus rejected apocalyptic fantasies and insisted God was both compassionate and nonviolent. His refusal to endorse such pathology as violent deity led his followers to react as Jonah did, to be outraged that God would not destroy enemies. We in our ugliest moments want God to ‘fry our enemies’, as Pallmeyer says. We lust for apocalyptic violence and claim this is justice, and good, and proper salvation. How we have perverted Jesus. He disappointed his listeners by showing ‘how God’s compassion thwarts the human desire for revenge’.”
More from Pallmeyer...”Apocalyptic eschatology can corrupt the human imagination profoundly in that it imagines a God whose solution to the problems of the world is slaughter...Images of God matter. Jesus invites us to imitate the infinitely loving, infinitely hospitable, infinitely giving, infinitely forgiving, and infinitely compassionate Spirit of God that surrounds us everywhere and invites us always to abundant life. What is amazing is that very few people embrace a God who is infinitely loving. We prefer God’s violent power and God’s imposed justice to God’s compassion....Few are willing to embrace the mystery and power surrounding a nonviolent God....Human beings have projected so much violence onto God as to make God’s dominant image that of a pathological killer..God is not violent and God’s power is not coercive...redemptive violence is a central theme in the Bible, and its perverse logic dominates modern life. It is the central message of most cartoons, TV dramas, and films...It has come to dominate church theology and ethics...it is the real religion of America...(from Jesus Against Christianity)”,
“and much more...”
“Ah, Pallmeyer is not for the weak, neither is Lotufo. But what a service these brave spirits are providing humanity by exposing the pathology at the heart of religions like Christianity and the Christian God.”
Another... “You think you have reached a plateau in understanding and expression then you encounter some fresh input from others and whole new vistas open up for exploration. Such has been the refreshing encounter with Harold Ellens, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Zenon Lotufo. How they expose the damaging impact of a religion like Christianity and its core themes of atonement, and its God.”
Another... “One quibble, Pallmeyer dismisses the love and freedom relationship without really offering any good reason. But then later, his work on God’s power as non-violent and non-coercive is good. He would be more helpful if he got the relationship between authentic love and freedom better.”
Another... “Pallmeyer does some good work in showing that power in God is non-coercive and non-violent. God does not, will not, cannot exercise coercive power to make things ‘right’. That is up to us entirely, if at all. Not so comforting but it resolves a root misunderstanding that causes so much misery.”
Another...” ____, I am wrestling with expressing these good thoughts from Nelson-Pallmeyer’s Jesus Against Christianity. See if this below makes any sense. I was thinking about your struggle with why God won’t help you and restore the family member that you are concerned about. It goes back to how this religious mythology has distorted so much of our thinking and feeling. I will reword this below before putting it up for our group...”
“We have all been damaged far more than we realize by Christian pathology. How little we realize this at the surface of daily consciousness.”
“Pallmeyer demonstrates this so powerfully in terms of ancient Israel and its struggles with deity, compassion in deity, power in deity, salvation, and their unrelieved suffering. Their perceptions, as with most of us, had long been shaped by pathological views of punishing gods (i.e. God is about payback justice- rewarding good, punishing bad). This all came up, as Pallmeyer notes, in terms of their experience of Exodus and then Exile. Why, the Israelites asked, are we suffering exile after the overwhelming power and compassion of God that rescued us from Egypt? Why do things still go wrong?”
“Part of their answer was to engage self-blame and loathing- ‘we are not holy enough, good enough, we have sinned and are being punished’. “
“But more so, their confusion was rooted in the old pathology of a God who blesses and punishes, rewarding good, punishing bad. If we suffer, then God who is all powerful, must be withholding good/blessing. The subconscious does not let go of these subhuman themes easily.”
“If we suffer, then we reason that God is angry, displeased, and withholding good. And of course this stirs fear that keeps minds enslaved to all this insanity of payback and violent Salvationist solutions.”
“Ah, only unconditional can resolve all this at the deepest levels of thought, perception and mood. And it helps to engage the shock effect from Lotufo, Pallmeyer and others to break the enslaving bonds of all this pathology.”
“We need to thoroughly rethink and reshape the most foundational ideas, ideals, archetypes, and thoroughly replace that inhumanity with the authentically humane, if ever we are to heal and liberate people’s consciousness and spirits from this pathological religious belief.”
“Pallmeyer is good on how difficult it is for us to understand concepts like power, salvation, love, and so on, because these have been so overpowered by the subhuman pathologies of vengeance, violent salvation, violent overwhelming coercive power and so on. Even the compassion of God has been perverted by such pathology- this is evident in the claim of the Bible writers that God’s compassion is seen in his destroying enemies.”
“This distortion has influenced even contemporary non-violence advocates (Christianity is central to this) with the argument that we can be non-violent now because God will take care of all our enemies in a great end-time violence (the apocalypse).”
“I am not providing the full picture presented by Pallmeyer on this- do read his good material.”
Another... “By the way, Pallmeyer will help you see how the New Testament writers perverted Jesus’ message with apocalyptic violence. They turned Jesus upside down, none more so than Paul with his Christ myth, the supreme embodiment of violence, hatred of enemies, and lust for revenge. The worst of human impulses (evil) embodied in religion and the sacred. Now who is the real anti-Jesus? Why the Christ myth, of course.”
Another... “____, most of human progress has been due to the free enterprise system, lifting billions out of poverty. This has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus, see Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty for the institutions responsible for such progress (one is rational, as against religious, approach to life). Jesus, with his redistributionism, would have been a lousy economist.”
Another...” Also remember that the gospel of Christ (Christianity) was the ‘world religion’ under Constantine and the later Roman Empire. And what did this produce? The Dark Ages (the barbarity of the Councils, Crusades, Inquisition, and more). For an entire millennium. It was not till the Enlightenment and scientific era that the grip of Christianity/religion was broken and humanity could progress under rationalism.”
Another... “Of course if ____ reads it to his great benefit, he will notice lots to quibble about, like Pallmeyer’s buying into liberation theology and its distorted take on capitalism. This is the cognitive dissonance we all share, holding great insights and looney-toon ones at the same time. Pallmeyer is all out of whack at the end with his apocalyptic-like take on globalization and its ‘increasing’ violence and misery. Huh? Commerce brings peace and immense improvement to even the poorest people.”
“And his buying into environmental apocalyptic nonsense. And this after such excellent treatment of apocalyptic in the New Testament and its distortion of God and Jesus. Ah well, he needs our help on various things.”
“But where he is good, he is excellent. Like on how we understand power, especially the power of God. Great stuff. So pick out the diamonds and leave the dung, as with anything.”
Another...” The overall benefit of Pallmeyer’s book far outweighs any quibbles. That is one stellar piece of research and commentary. I will put him high on my recommends to others. Along with Lotufo, and some of Ellens’work. They are unique in getting the ‘monster God’ and its centrality to religion and religious pathology, its resulting damage to humanity, and then going after the monster to slay it. Humanity’s greatest monster (my derivative from Campbell’s story outline).”
“Good to have discovered some fellow warriors going after the most fundamental elements of what is wrong, and how to make it right. This is improving the long term human condition more effectively than anything else. To arrive at this conclusion requires considering the work of James Payne and Stephen Pinker and others on how the human impulse for meaning affects humanity overall. That impulse for meaning has been so profoundly distorted in the history of religions like Christianity. Holding back human creativity and progress.”
“But the solution has been offered and some are getting it clear.”
Another... “Again, get the full long term context of all this. How ancient people diverted emerging consciousness into early mythology. Thinking religiously. And the felt obligation of terrified people to appease angry gods, and the rivers of blood offered up to appease anger and bribe benefits (rain for crops). How that thinking held people in mythical thinking and the mythical approach to life, mythical solutions (the sacrifice, salvation industry). How that held back human perception and understanding over the millennia. The almost flat GDP that Bernstein and others spoke of. That was all during humanity’s overwhelmingly religious phase of existence.”
“Then only a few centuries ago, you get the spread of a more rational approach, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the British classical liberalism (individual freedom, protection of individual rights and property), all bringing a larger body of people to think more rationally and less religiously. Breaking the darkening, enslaving, distorting grip of previous mythical/religious thought and approach. And then modern creativity and progress explodes (roughly around 1820 takes off).”
“This is to explain how fixing the fundamentals properly is critical to improving the long term human condition.”
“Ellens, Lotufo, Pallmeyer are offering more insight into just how damaging all that religion has been and why it holds humanity back. The pathology of it all. It brought out the worst in humanity- affirming, validating, and inspiring the dark side.”
"Also remember that the gospel of Christ (Christianity) was the 'world religion' under Constantine and the later Roman empire. And what did this produce? The Dark Ages- the barbarity of the Councils, Crusades, Inquisition, and more. For an entire millennium. It was not till the Enlightenment and the scientific era that the grip of Christianity/religion was broken and humanity could progress under rationalism".
Another... “The violent God is the core or foundation of all the rest, as Lotufo notes. The fear of that monster is the glue holding all the rest together. And the power of that deity is to overwhelm, to use violence, superior violence to save the chosen people. Salvation, power, even compassion, are all understood by the Christian mind, and many other religious minds, as God using ultimate violence to save, to solve problems, to destroy his enemies. Do bad people use this religious belief to endorse their violence? Of course, history is replete with such. The inherited animal (core brain- amygdale, limbic system) is the source of such violent drives. But early people projected all that inhumanity onto deity and there it has remained lodged. Forming the basic archetypes or themes of human consciousness, or subconscious. Shaping human outlook, human mood, human motivation, and response to others. The animal validated by the sacred. Validated by God.”
“And that gets you to understanding how religion has promoted such violence over history. And it will not end till we thoroughly clean up and humanize those core ideals and authorities, especially in our religious traditions. They still operate as humanity’s highest ideals and authorities. Note, for instance, as the Mennonites do, how the punishing God of Christianity became the historical basis of Western justice systems. And that in a very Christian nation- the US- justice as punishment still dominates, to the locking up of history-breaking numbers of people. That conclusion is from US Mennonites. And those impacts from the core pathology of Christianity continue all over in other dehumanizing ways- excluding outsiders, treating believers more favorably, and so on.”
“And regarding Stalin. You need to read some good history on apocalyptic in secular versions like Marxism. This is why Christianity and Socialism have been so comfortable as bed mates. Stalin was arguably somewhat of a religious nut case, along with Lenin and others, as Landes shows in Heaven on Earth. Historians have always tried to deny the powerful impact of religion on secular movements. But the Christian fingerprints are all over such secular movements. Note also Arthur Hermans’ good treatment of this in The Idea of Decline in Western History. Apocalyptic mythology gripped early human minds (Sumerian) and that fear has not let go since. Revenge of Gaia, angry planet, angry nature and all the rest. It persists all over the so-called secular landscape. Religious nuts all.”
“And Lotufo and Pallmeyer also do some excellent work on power. How horribly the human understanding of power has been distorted in Christian and Hebrew theology, as well as all over the place. They note how Jesus entirely redefined power as non-violent, non-coercive. As persuading love. The real power.”
Another... “____, and you decry the pacifists for wanting to eliminate violence from the sacred texts. But for long term solutions at the most fundamental level (thorough and proper solutions), at the deepest levels of human mind and spirit, yes, you must humanize humanity’s ultimate ideals and authorities. Or you never properly deal with the root problems. If you do not humanize fully our highest ideals and authorities (gods in religious texts) then the inhumanity just keeps re-emerging all over again in history. In new, and even secular ways.”
Another... “____, I think I get your distinction below. But central to our consciousness is the impulse for meaning and purpose. Hence, our appeal to some higher ideal or authority to inspire or validate our behavior. We need beliefs- and create them (some reflect greater reality, some don’t)- to guide our behavior, to act as we feel right and proper, or not. Hence, the central role of mythical or religious belief. Remove the old validating foundation, or better yet, replace it with a truly humane ideal and you can more effectively counter the old nasty impulses. You have something to arouse and inspire the new humane impulses. So transforming love works from within, yes. But it needs the help of our stories, narratives, ideals, beliefs. We think and therefore we act.”
“And yes, Bush did just the same as his ‘enemies’ did. Pallmeyer points this out. He appealed to God to validate his fight against the enemy. Just as the Islamists were doing.”
Another... “I need to pull some quotes out of this below for my site Intro. We need to focus on brief attention-getting summary statements that deal with this violence issue and the ‘bad religious ideas’ (Sam Harris) that inspire and validate violence. Conrad Black just did a piece in the National Post defending theism against atheism. I wrote a letter to the Editor in response, and to him personally. He misses the real issue- with his defense of religion. He does not deal with the main concern of the atheists- the role of religion in so much brutality over history.”
“So deal with the real issue- the violent ideals in religion that promote such violence and inhumanity across history. The atheists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali get the real issue and are trying to deal with it. They take human suffering seriously and take the improvement of the human condition seriously and are looking for thorough and long term solutions. More power to them. That is how you improve life for all in the most thorough and proper manner.”
Another... “____, Pallmeyer deals exactly with this issue, notably pacifist Christian friends of his who hold to non-violence, but also the hope that God will deal with evil at the end of time. Because they take comfort in ultimate vengeance (delayed violence), they can engage non-vengeance here and now. This follows on Paul’s Romans 12 advice. Do not return evil for evil, because God will repay in the future. Lotufo would term this ‘cognitive dissonance’ (holding contradictory things in tension).”
“I am just rereading Landes good treatment of apocalyptic millennialism and how millennialists merged hope for progress with apocalyptic hope in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is legitimate human hope for a better future. Unfortunately, the apocalyptics distort this with hope for some violent intervention and purging of the present ‘evil’ order, so their instant utopia may be installed.”
“But legitimate progress hope understands that it must engage the imperfect, gradual historical process to improve life, and not turn to violent, coercive solutions to rush things along. Love and freedom must be honored all along, as our hope engages life to make things better. Apocalyptic minds (apocalyptically based hope) do not understand that the love of God must define the power of God (non-coercive, non-violent, persuading power).”
Another.... “____, a lot of good skeptical comment here (an article about a materialist commenting on NDEs) but he drifts a bit much, at times, in the direction of materialist assumptions. Scientism even. The felt obligation to resolve all things in terms of materialist science.”
“Overall, I appreciated his approach. Out of such challenge comes more clarity and clearing away of irrational extremism. And yes, from what I have heard of those NDE conferences, they do sound a bit too New Agey.”
“This also reminds me that we always need to clarify the boundaries of physical science. It has a limited mandate and a limiting methodology. It will never be the final truth-teller that gives us the answers to all things that our curiosity probes.”
“This also, as so many of these inquiries do, misses the central discovery or theme of the NDE- the incomprehensible unconditional love at the heart of the experience. That in itself, is a key validating or verifying issue. Not all the out-of-body, and other ‘strange’ things going on. Truth has to do with authentic humanity or humaneness. What we all sense in a Historical Jesus or a Mandela.”
“In the end, I winced as I did when Sam Parnia said that he believed that science would finally resolve this NDE thing. Not likely. The ‘spiritual’ is and always will be beyond the realm of material science. You cannot (at least not yet) send little cameras along with consciousness into surrounding realms or dimensions. So you cannot prove or disprove the ‘more real than real’ consciousness that NDErs experience. You just go by their recounting and verify all things according to baselines like unconditional love.”
“Another point- personal belief shapes all experience and interpretation of such. Personal belief is powerful enough to also create reality.”
“Overall, his attempt at times to pull this in the direction of materialist understanding tends to suck the life out of this thing. Much like materialist’ explanation that any afterlife belief is just survival wish longings (or the evolutionary biology argument that love is just a group survivalist thing). It misses the profound essence of consciousness and its impulses for meaning and purpose. So yes, apply skeptical rigor to all things but then have your own tools to evaluate and validate. Mine is unconditional as the baseline for all things.”
“He has a tendency to associate NDEs with, as he says, Wizard of Oz, UFO cults, and what not, and by such association he depreciates what he does not understand and cannot explain.”
“But near the end he pulls back a bit and expresses some caution about his materialism. He sort of recognizes its limitations. As he says, we always hold our theories as provisional and constantly look for aberrations that may disprove. Exactly, consciousness is beyond the material. Centuries of research have brought us to....absolute mystery. It is the most real thing in the cosmos as each of us can attest right now as we experience it. Yet it has never been understood and explained. We have no idea what it really is.”
“His despair at the end, of ‘finding a voice of reason’, should read, despair of ‘finding a voice of materialism’ in this NDE phenomenon.”
More on 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 (repeats earlier comment but in a different context): “Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) does an interesting section on the primitive honor belief. He says this perspective was held by elites who believed that they were meant to dominate, that hierarchy was endowed by the Creator. And social order depended on their superiority, their honor. The outcome was elite violence to maintain that superiority, that honor. Landes notes the shift away from this belief, particularly in Europe as democratic revolutions brought elites low and argued for equality of persons. Elites had to learn to embrace criticism and not retaliate against such “offense” to their honor. This involved learning how to suppress anger and violent response. Empathy was part of this development.”
“Violence was no longer acceptable as an appropriate response to insult. Emotions such as rage at humiliation and the drive to dominate were no longer acceptable. Compromise and toleration were the new ideals. Honor no longer demanded violence in response to insult. The culture of self-criticism emerged. Later in his book, he notes that this offense and retaliate tradition is still strong in Eastern areas of the world. You will also find it in various places in the Western world (i.e. gang mentality).”
“I am coming at this still fresh from Lotufo and his treatment of this honor and offense thing as childish, medieval, and underdeveloped humanity. Yet, this is still the essential nature of the Christian God. Holiness, as Christians argue, is God’s primary attribute, taking precedence even above love. And holiness is about offense against honor, and demand to retaliate and punish, to restore honor. This is what Christian atonement is all about, the restoration of offended honor (offense often stated in terms of human disobedience to God’s law). Lotufo makes clear that this is all primitive, subhuman attitude and response.”
Another comment from discussion group: “Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God) probes the core Christian belief that atonement satisfies the offended honor of God. This is a prominent claim in Anselm’s theory of atonement (i.e. penal satisfaction). It is a very primitive way of thinking, very Medieval, yet still present in our time. Landes also does a good job on this- that in offense and retaliation thinking people reason that if someone has offended their honor, or the honor of their family, then they are obligated to punish or destroy the offender.”
“As he does with all areas that he covers, Lotufo brings in good psychological analysis of the related issues. He says, ‘Honor is closely linked to self-esteem, for vindictive wrath is linked to the feeling of self-worth and is as intense and easy to arouse as the individual’s self-esteem is vulnerable’. He then does a section on good self-esteem and concludes, ‘It shows the absurdity of attributing to God manifestations of vindictive wrath provoked by offenses to his honor or to an unstable self-esteem’.”
“He is taking apart, with careful analysis, the core atonement belief of Christianity.”