Alarmism movements: patterns, outcomes, root contributing factors

Countering alarmism with evidence-based hope: Facts to clear the mind and liberate the spirit, Wendell Krossa

I regularly hear and read people expressing anxiety, even fear, over varied issues in our shared world- whether the threat from Covid or disease in general, the intensified tribalism over the political/ideological divide in our societies, the purported threat from climate change and extreme weather events, and the general possibility that overall things are getting worse. Many appear to unquestioningly accept the endless media obsession with the dominant alarmist narratives on the varied problems that we face.

This site is committed to understanding “the true state of life”, and that involves getting to the true state of any given issue or problem. Too many, notably in hysteria-oriented and obsessively panic-mongering news media, are exaggerating the actual nature of varied problems and that distorts our understanding of such problems. That exaggeration, and the unnecessary alarm that it incites, then promotes public embrace of wrongheaded solutions that produce outcomes that are worse than the actual problem. Decarbonization in response to the purported “climate crisis” is one example.

Below is a reposting of previous comment (revised, updated) that counters the ongoing alarmism exaggeration and hysteria. The climate alarm today illustrates the common features and dangerous outcomes of all alarmism movements. We see the same patterns/outcomes that are operating in climate alarmism also operating in disease alarmism.

Insert note:

Too many are trying to appease alarmists with concessions to the basic points of the alarmist narrative- i.e. that yes, climate change is a crisis, and yes, humans are causing it. But evidence does not affirm these two basic assumptions of climate alarmism. Climate is always changing but is not a crisis today and does not show trending toward apocalyptic “catastrophe” as the discredited climate models have asserted. And the overwhelming influence of natural factors on climate has discredited the assumptions that climate change is “human-caused”. Natural factors have shown the strongest correlations to the climate change that we have observed over past decades and centuries.

Nearly 140 Scientific Papers Detail The Minuscule Effect CO2 Has On Earth’s Temperature

My conclusion as always- There is no sound, scientifically-proven reason to tax carbon or decarbonize our societies. Fossil fuels are not a dangerous threat to life. Climate science affirms that adaptation strategies are the better option in the face of natural climate change, not wasteful and ineffective mitigation projects.

Continuing…

Life slings at us things that we ought to legitimately fear, whether in the areas of disease, natural disasters, human cruelty, or other. But too often public evaluation and presentation of such threats is accompanied by hysterical exaggeration of the actual threat, sometimes excessive exaggeration that we rightly term “alarmism”. Here follows some comment on this inclination to create existential monsters out of legitimate problems.

“The whole aim of practical politics (and news media) is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” – H. L. Mencken.

Patterns/outcomes in alarmism movements, Wendell Krossa

It is beyond soundly factual that the long-term trajectory of life affirms ongoing improvement on the main features of life. I have often referred to the volumes of amassed evidence from the research of Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource), Greg Easterbrook (A Moment On The Earth), Bjorn Lomborg (Skeptical Environmentalist), Matt Ridley (Rational Optimist), Indur Goklany (The Improving State of the World), Ronald Bailey (The End of Doom), Desrochers and Szurmak (Population Bombed), Hans Rosling (Factfulness), and others (i.e. Humanprogress.org). If people can read such evidence and still accept alarmism narratives then I suspect mythical and ideological elements, more than evidence, are shaping their perspectives.

We see the improvement of life in notable indicators like declining violence across the centuries and millennia, the 96% decline in deaths from weather/climate disasters over the past century, cures and eradication of disease threats, and the improvements throughout the natural world- i.e. declining rates of deforestation, increasing protection of fish stocks, historically very low rates of animal extinctions, and the return of agricultural land to nature due to increased crop production on less land (i.e. ongoing GM crop breakthroughs).

This evidence, and more, exposes apocalyptic-scale alarmism to be a great fraud and lie, and horrifically damaging to public consciousness and life.

But yes, there have been some disastrous disruptions to the trajectory of overall progress, notably the mass-death movements of the 20th Century- i.e. Marxism and Nazism. This will offend some, but the ideas/themes that contributed to those horrors have re-emerged and are working through environmental alarmism today, notably in the climate alarmism movement. Historians like Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles have all noted that the same themes have influenced Marxism, Nazism, and environmentalism. Alston Chase noted this also in his book “In A Dark Wood”. Others also traced the influence of Nazi environmental ideas on modern Western environmentalism.

The patterns of incitements and consequent responses…

Alarmists exaggerate problems with apocalyptic-scale scenarios, buttressed with end-of-days prophesies. This is the influence of primitive apocalyptic mythology working its always destructive influence on contemporary minds. Example: Climate alarmists have set 2030 as their most recent apocalyptic end-times date- “the final tipping point… the end of the world (AOC)… the last chance”. This exaggerated panic-mongering distorts the true state or nature of any problem, making it difficult to rationally understand and respond to problems.

The primary responsibility in the face of any problem (i.e. the project to get to “the true state of things”) is to note the full range of evidence related to that problem. This means that we should especially include the evidence (i.e. “skeptical” evidence) that may be contrary to the confirmation bias of experts involved, but is critical to fully and properly understand the true nature of the problem.

With regard to climate change, this means including the evidence of the many natural factors that influence climate change, factors that overwhelm the influence of CO2 and challenge the alarmist narrative that human emissions are the dominant influence on climate. And we should be asking why climate alarmists fear that contrary evidence so much.

Further, the long-term trends associated with climate show natural cycles of cooling/warming that have always dominated climate change. Long-term trends show, for example, that our Modern Warm Period is the coolest period of our Holocene interglacial. We have been on a 6000-year cooling trend since the Holocene Optimum of 10,000 to 6,000 years ago ended. That Optimum period was 3 degrees C warmer than today. The subsequent Roman and Medieval Warm Periods were also warmer than today. https://perhapsallnatural.blogspot.com/2022/01/how-sun-and-intertropical-convergence.html

We are in the coolest period of our interglacial.

Also, we challenge warming alarmism with the fact that up to 10 times more people die every year from cold than die from warmth (Lancet study). Cooling is the far greater threat to all life.

So the full range of evidence on any issue/problem must be included in order to properly understand and respond to a problem, to get to “the true state of things”.

Most dangerous in alarmism eruptions is that hysterical panic-mongering incites the survival impulse in populations. Frightened people then abandon rational thinking and are susceptible to the salvation schemes of alarmists. Frightened people will unquestioningly embrace alarmist calls to purge some “evil” that purportedly threatens life, in order to “save the world”.

The widely declared “evil” to be purged today, the “enemy” of all life, is the basic food of all life- CO2. CO2 is often referred to by alarmists as a “pollutant”, even a poison (Bill Maher). That is irrational anti-science nonsense and it illustrates the “madness of crowds” thinking that has possessed populations today.

More facts to clear the mind…

We have long been in a “CO2 starvation era” where CO2 levels have been at historic lows that have threatened plant life, and hence all life. Only 20,000 years ago CO2 levels declined to 185 ppm, just 35 ppm above the level at which all life dies (150 ppm). We are still far below the healthy CO2 levels of paleo-climate history (average 1500 ppm) when all life flourished (e.g. 5-6000 ppm during the Cambrian Explosion). There was no “climate crisis/catastrophe” during such times.

And affirming the benefits of rising CO2: In our Modern Warming Period there has been a significant 15% addition of green vegetation across the Earth just since 1980. More plant food in the atmosphere has increased plant production and that has meant more food for animal life, and increased crop production for humanity (see CO2science.org). Point? There is no such thing as “CO2 pollution”. The basic food of all life is not and cannot be a pollutant.

As noted above, good climate science has also shown that CO2 is not the main driver of climate change, and the mild natural climate warming that we have experienced will not become “catastrophic” (i.e. one degree C of warming over the past century in a still abnormally cold world). More warming will yet be net beneficial. Human civilization and all life flourished during the previous warmer periods of our interglacial. Again, the Holocene Optimum (10-6,000 years ago) was 3 degrees C warmer than today.

Policies and projects to decarbonize our societies are now exposing the destructiveness of climate alarmism. Governments have over-invested taxpayer money in unreliable renewables, while blocking funding for exploration and production of fossil fuel resources. The result has been fossil fuel shortages, skyrocketing energy prices and energy poverty affecting the most vulnerable people, and destabilized electrical grids (increasing blackouts).

Climate salvationism (“save the world”) by decarbonization engenders a feeling of nobleness in true believers who feel called to make a sacrifice (i.e. give up the good life) and pay for their sins with some form of suffering. Also, many desire to embrace a hero’s quest and fight a righteous battle against “evil” and they find that desire satisfied in the fabricated war against “greedy consumers in fossil fuel/industrial civilization”.

True believers in climate catastrophe are also offered the hope of salvation in a purified world, free of “polluting fossil fuels”. That purified world will be the restoration of the lost paradise of myth-oriented worldviews (i.e. the world before fallen humanity in industrial civilization, or aiming for the height of moral supremacy in extreme Green visions- “a world without humanity”). Climate alarmists present their crusade for salvation as an existential battle of good versus evil.

Essential to alarmist narratives are mandates for “compelled” salvation- i.e. the demand for “instantaneous transformation” due to the imminence of the threat (Arthur Mendel is good on this in “Vision and Violence”). Manufactured imminence keeps the panic pressure at high level, breaking forth to hysterical levels at times. Imminence then demands coercive, even violent purging of the CO2 threat as the end-of-days is usually only a decade or so away (recent “end-of-days” dates range from 2030-2050).

Alarmists tell us that we cannot wait for normal democratic processes to function because infidels/skeptics to the crusade (i.e. “unbelievers, deniers”), with their calls for open debate over the many uncertainties in data, are dangerously blocking efforts to save the world. Delay is murderous. So human freedom be damned. Totalitarian protocols are now presented as compulsory in order for humanity to “save the world”. And “unbelievers” are to be banned, censored, silenced, and even criminalized (Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch tried to criminalize skeptical science in 2016). The alarmist push is then for centralized state coercion to enact the salvation program.

If you doubt the extremism noted above (i.e. calls for totalitarian responses to purported threats), check these sources…

Cambridge University is Pushing for Tyranny in the Name of Climate Change

Climate Change Weekly #421: Alarmists Embrace Authoritarianism, Ignore Lessons of History

https://thefederalist.com/2022/01/13/more-members-of-the-ruling-class-want-to-use-covid-style-tyranny-to-fight-climate-change/

Again, the same patterns presented here also operated in Marxism and Nazism. Marxist alarmists incited fear of the “capitalist threat” to the world that had to be coercively purged, while Nazis panicked Germans to coercively purge the “threat of Jewish Bolshevism”. Both alarmism movements produced mass-death outcomes. See the research of historians who have traced these and related alarmism patterns in Marxism, Nazism, and now environmentalism: Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline in Western History), Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), Arthur Mendel (Vision and Violence), and David Redles (Hitler’s Millennial Reich).

So yes, we are observing the same patterns operating today in climate alarmism with its salvation scheme of decarbonization.

Further notes on understanding and countering alarmism eruptions:

Presentism

“… most people pay little attention to the study of history and the result is the ‘fallacy of presentism’: the tendency to assume that events of the present are larger, more important, or more shocking than events of the past”, James Payne in ‘A History of Force’.

The fallacy of “Presentism” in relation to climate: The belief that some extreme weather event or natural disaster is the worst ever because we have experienced it firsthand. The larger context is critical for properly understanding weather events, natural disasters, and climate in general. Our current Modern Warm Period is the coolest of all the warm periods of our Holocene interglacial. Further, the extreme weather events of our present world (heat waves, cold spells) are no different from all past history. More surprising, extreme weather events (storms, droughts, floods, wildfires) are not becoming worse and in some cases are becoming less frequent and less severe (even the IPCC affirms this). Note sources like Wattsupwiththat.com for detail.

Media catastrophism:

Climate alarmists obsessively frame every extreme weather event as the “worst on record”, referring only to the record of the past few decades or century. But the extreme weather events of our modern era are no worse than extreme weather events of all past history. News media mindlessly repeat this false narrative of worst ever because they are committed to catastrophism messaging as necessary to gaining audience eyeballs and funding (see sociologist David Altheide’s research on media in “Creating Fear: News and the construction of crisis”).

And from climate expert Jim Steele, one among many other climate scientists making the same point: https://perhapsallnatural.blogspot.com/2022/01/how-sun-and-intertropical-convergence.html

“Natural weather disasters, much worse than those in recent times, have happened throughout history and will continue to happen regardless of any changes in human CO2 emissions.”

The shamefulness of being carried away by panic-mongering and “crowd madness”, Wendell Krossa

A sense of disgrace is evoked when the natural human desire to fight a heroic and righteous battle against some evil is misdirected into alarmist movements that ultimately cause harm to others. And yes, a generous view of this would grant that the harm is the result of unintended consequences from otherwise well-intentioned people. We saw misdirected and destructive heroism in the past century battles of Marxism against industrial/capitalist civilization that has lifted billions out of the misery of poverty while Socialist regimes have unfailingly immiserated billions.

Today we are watching this misdirected zeal in such things as the nihilist destruction of Antifa rioting. But we see its most dangerous eruptions in environmental crusades like decarbonization. Point? Make sure your monsters are real and the outcomes of your “righteous” cause are benefitting others, not harming them.

Examples: Rachel Carson- mother of modern environmentalism- was undoubtedly a well-intentioned lady. But her fear-mongering, based on shoddy science, arguably contributed to the subsequent deaths of many people, often children, due to the bans on DDT that were influenced by her alarmism. See “THE EXCELLENT POWDER: DDT’s Political and Scientific History” by Donald Roberts and Richard Tren.

Greenpeace alarmism over GM crops has also contributed to the unnecessary deaths of millions of children denied Vitamin A in crops like Golden Rice. https://nationalpost.com/opinion/bjorn-lomborg-trashing-rice-killing-children

Big picture perspective on the true state of things, Wendell Krossa

Why the contemporary hysteria over ice melting at the North Pole, Greenland, and varied other glacial regions? For over 90% of our planet’s history the Earth has been entirely ice-free. That is a more optimal, normal, and healthy state for life. Ongoing discoveries affirm that during those past eras when the polar regions were entirely ice free, diverse warm-climate flora and fauna inhabited both poles (e.g. the stumps of tropical trees have been discovered in the Arctic, along with the remains of camels and other warm-region flora and fauna). That means all life experienced vastly expanded habitats during those times. A good thing.

Note that the highest diversity of species today, both ocean and land species, are found in the warmer tropical areas of Earth. Most life prefers warmth. Most people also prefer much more warmth and prove that by vacationing or migrating to live in the warmer regions of Earth. Here in Canada, most of us crowd along the southern border hoping southern warmth may waft up to us once in a while.

More warming does not mean there will be catastrophic harm to life as already warm areas do not necessarily become hotter. More warmth is distributed, via ocean and atmospheric convection currents, to the colder regions of Earth (polar regions), to the colder seasons (winter), and to colder times of day (nighttime). Climate warming spreads to the entire world with beneficial outcomes for all life, not “catastrophe”.

Today we are still far below the much warmer average temperatures of most past history. Average temperatures across much of the history of life were up to 5-10 degrees C higher than today’s average of about 15 degrees C. And life thrived during those much warmer periods. Again, there was no “climate catastrophe”.

Further, the previous three inter-glacial periods were all 3-5 degrees warmer than our current Holocene interglacial (i.e. the Purfleet: 337-300,000 years ago, the La Bouchet: 242-230,000 years ago, the Eemian: 130-115,000 years ago).

What about our interglacial- the Holocene- now 11,000 years long? Over the past 5-6,000 years we have been in a long-term cooling trend. Our current Modern Warm Period is the coolest of the four major warm periods of our interglacial. The previous warmer periods were the Holocene Optimum, Roman, and Medieval periods. The larger context of our interglacial shows that we are now in a cooling trend and that ought to be our real concern as cooling climate means more droughts, more extinctions, and more human suffering.

It is irrational to be worried about melting ice and a few more degrees of average warmth when, in net terms, the benefits to all life from more warming far outweigh any negatives. Cooling is a far greater threat to life. We should value all further warming that we might get at this time in world history.

So again, why this endless media hysteria over melting ice in varied places of our world? Some species may suffer but many more others will benefit from warmer temperatures and an ice-free planet. Others have noted that polar bears have survived the much warmer past interglacial periods (i.e. complete melts of Arctic ice). The Eemian (130-115,000 years ago) was 2-4 degrees C warmer than today.

End notes: Summer Arctic melting has benefitted polar bears immensely. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/09/15/still-waiting-for-two-thirds-of-polar-bears-worldwide-to-disappear-due-to-lack-of-summer-sea-ice/

Melting ice and sea level rise: It is natural for climate to warm and the ice of glacial periods to melt during interglacial periods and hence for sea levels to rise. Oceans have risen a total of 120 meters since our Holocene Interglacial began some 11,000 years ago. Oceans continue to rise at the slow rate of about 1.5-3.0 mm per year. Despite this mild rise, the total surface area of Pacific Ocean islands has increased and not decreased. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/08/31/new-study-62-km%c2%b2-6-net-expansion-in-100s-of-pacific-indian-ocean-island-shorelines-from-2000-2017/

Another: Heat events and wildfires are not worsening today. Wildfires have declined notably over the past century and extreme heat events are “weather events”, not necessarily related to larger climate patterns. There are many diverse factors contributing to local heat waves. See Wattsupwiththat.com for regular climate updates, also GWPF (Global Warming Policy Forum).

Two prominent unproven assumptions of climate alarmists:

Assumption 1: That CO2 is mainly responsible for warming climate. This assumption ignores or dismisses the varied other natural factors that show much stronger correlations to the climate change that we have seen over past decades. Note, for example, the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction (See Henrik Svensmark’s ‘The Chilling Stars’), or the multi-decadal oscillations/shifts in ocean currents from cooling to warming phases, among others. These natural factors overwhelm the CO2 influence on climate.

Assumption 2: That warming will be “catastrophic” if it rises and passes another 1.5-2.0 degrees C.

First, we have had only a 1 degree C warming over the past century and that is part of the natural recovery from the earlier descent into the bitter cold of the Little Ice Age of AD 1450-1850. Who in their right mind would want to return to that pre-industrial cold and to past dangerously low levels of CO2?

Scenarios of another 3-6 degrees C. warming are based on discredited computer models. More to the point, a few degrees more warming would not be catastrophic but would be a return to the more normal, optimal averages of most of past history when all life flourished with much warmer average temperatures (i.e. 20 degrees Centigrade averages, versus the average 15 degrees C of today’s world). A much warmer world means extended habitats for life (i.e. ice free poles as was the state of the world for over 90% of world history), longer growing seasons, less severe gradients between the warm and cold areas that produce more severe storms, and more evaporation which means less drought, and more.

Add here that more basic plant food in the atmosphere- CO2- has resulted in a much greener world (a 15% increase in green vegetation since 1980) along with record crop production over recent years. All life is benefitting from more CO2 and more warmth. It is irrational distortion to claim that more warming will devastate life when past history shows a much warmer world benefitted life immensely.

Remember also that the past warm periods of our interglacial (i.e. Holocene Optimum/Minoan, Roman, Medieval) were all warmer than our modern warm period and civilizations and all life flourished during those previous warm periods.

The true state of life on Earth (a revised reposting) Wendell Krossa

While problems exist everywhere, they are solvable and humanity has done well in caring for and preserving world resources. For detailed research on the true status of world resources see Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’, Bjorn Lomborg’s ‘Skeptical Environmentalist’, or ‘Population Bombed’ by Szurmak and Desrochers, among many similar studies. Below are some basic facts on the main resources of our world. They are the main indicators of the true state of life on our planet. They all show that life is not declining toward something worse. There is no looming environmental apocalypse.

Leading indicators for evaluating the true state of life:

(1) World forest cover in the 1950s was 3.8 billion hectares (FAO stats). World forest cover today is 4.1-plus billion hectares, despite the world population tripling from 2.4 billion people in the early 1950s to almost 8 billion today. Deforestation rates continue to decline and reforestation/afforestation projects continue to succeed. We are not destroying the world’s forests. http://www.fao.org/forestry/fra/52045/en/
and https://www.humanprogress.org/what-do-the-numbers-show-about-global-deforestation/

(2) Proven species extinctions. While any species extinction is unacceptable, we have dramatically improved our care of nature. Species extinctions are on a notably declining trend line and have decreased from about 5 per year in 1870 to about 0.5 per year today (see the IUCN Red List All Extinct Species by Decade on p.101 of Patrick Moore’s new book ‘Fake Invisible Catastrophes And Threats of Doom’). While nature has destroyed over 95% of all species over the span of life on this planet, compassionate humanity is now protecting species as never before.

See also Julian Simon’s chapter on the IUCN report on species loss (in Ultimate Resource and other books) and the discredited assumption/correlation between habitat loss and species extinctions. The wrong assumption was that with habitat loss of 90% some 50% of species would go extinct. Both the Northeastern US and Northeastern Brazil study areas disproved that assumption. The assumption did not understand the resiliency, adaptability, and toughness of life. There is no species holocaust occurring. Nature is not “fragile”.

(3) Climate change (the atmosphere as a main resource): There has been a mild 1 degree Centigrade of warming over the past century and a half. That slightly warmed our still abnormally cold world. We are still in an “ice-age era”. Average surface temperatures today are around 15 degrees Centigrade. That is 5-10 degrees Centigrade below the more optimal average surface temperatures of the past 500 million years. For over 90% of the past 500 million years there was no ice at the poles. That is a more normal and optimal world. And contrary to the falsified climate models, there is no settled evidence of much more warming occurring in the future. There is no “climate crisis” looming.

Also, most of our Holocene inter-glacial, that began around 11,000 years ago, has been warmer than today. The Holocene Climatic Optimum (roughly 10-5,000 years ago) was more than 1 degree C. warmer. The Roman Warm Period (250 BCE to 400 CE) and the Medieval Warm Period (950- 1,250 CE) were also warmer than today. Life overall and human civilization flourished during such warming periods. From about 5,000 years ago our interglacial began a long-term cooling trend (the “Neoglacial” period). Our current Modern Warm period is the coolest of the four warm periods of our interglacial.

We are also still in a “CO2 starvation era” where CO2 has declined to its lowest levels compared to most of past history. 20,000 years ago CO2 levels declined to 185 ppm, barely above the level at which all plant life dies (150 ppm). We have experienced a mild increase in atmospheric CO2 levels to 400-plus ppm today but this is still far below long-term historical averages (multiple-thousands of ppm) when life flourished with much more of its basic plant food.

(4) Ocean fisheries are not collapsing and aquaculture is meeting the growing human demand for fish. See Ray Hilborn reports and FAO summaries on fisheries. The world fisheries are not being decimated, though various species are over-fished and need more protection/better management. Wild fish consumption has peaked over past decades and aquaculture has been growing rapidly to meet the growing demand for fish. https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/01/13/fisheries-management-is-actually-working-global-analysis-shows/

(5) The overall agricultural land-base is not severely degrading. Also, any soil erosion must be understood in net terms, as related to new soil regeneration rates. Further, over the past century and more, we have returned several hundred million acres of agricultural land back to nature as hi-yield GM crops enable farmers to produce more crop on the same or less land. We have probably already passed “peak-agricultural land” use.

Thanks also to increasing levels of basic plant food in the atmosphere (i.e. CO2) there has been a 30% increase in green vegetation across the Earth over the past century. This aerial CO2 also contributes to remarkable increases in crop production (see CO2science.org). Humanity now produces 25% more food than we need. Hydroponics will also meet much of future food demands.

These, and other indicators, show that the overall long-term trajectory of life is improving, not worsening.

A note to our children: Do not fear the future of life on our planet. With continued wealth creation we will continue to solve the remaining world resource problems and life will continue to get ever better than before. Your personal contribution to making life better will add to humanity’s overall success. Do not let false alarmism narratives rob you of hope.

Other indicators of the state of life

These are some of the most important things in life and they tell us where life is heading. This is not to deny that serious problems remain in many areas of life, but to re-assure with hope that people are working to find solutions and our track record affirms that we have done well in solving problems and vastly improving life for most people. The best is yet to come.

Infant mortality rates

In 1800 one third of children (33%) died before reaching 5 years of age. The global rate today is 4.5% and much lower (well below 1%) in most of the more developed countries.
https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality-global-overview

Human life span

In the pre-industrial era the average life expectancy was about 30 years. Today the world average is over 70 years and higher in many countries. See sources like Ourworldindata.org.

Human health

Over the past century major diseases have been conquered, others turned into long-term maladies. The current pandemic appears to have been caused by human action against better advice (i.e. continuing gain of function research despite a ban, and substandard lab safety measures). Hopefully, this outbreak will result in more pro-active vaccine research and other preventative measures that will lessen the chance of future similar outbreaks.

Decline in poverty

Poverty has declined rapidly over past decades and the majority of the world’s population is entering middle-class status. There is no reason this trend will not continue.

Human comfort and well-being

Ongoing technological advances have made human existence much less punishing with breakthroughs in transportation, communication, and general human comfort. Workplace safety has increased significantly. Deaths from natural disasters have declined by 96% over the past century.

Once more- Plant and animal life

With more basic plant food in the atmosphere (CO2) plant life has flourished with a 30% increase in green vegetation on Earth over the past century. Animals have benefitted with more food and humanity has benefitted with increased crop production from aerial fertilization. Also, GM crop breakthroughs have resulted in crop records being broken annually with more breakthroughs to come. We now produce significantly more food than humanity needs. And a warming climate (in an abnormally cold world) will further benefit animal and plant life with extended habitats.

Further, extinctions are at all time lows.

Committed pessimists ignore the many improvements to life and focus obsessively on remaining problems without locating them within the larger overall context of improving life. Alarmist types tend to exaggerate problems out to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the overall big picture and long-term trajectory of life.

Eruptions/surges of apocalyptic hysteria, Wendell Krossa

A renewed surge of apocalyptic madness has been sweeping across the planet- i.e. the climate change hysteria that exaggeratedly claims we are facing “climate catastrophe” if Earth warms a few more degrees. The climate crisis movement is not a science-based movement, though it incessantly nags us to “believe the science”. The themes that climate alarmism promotes reveal that it is just another profoundly religious movement, strikingly similar to all previous eruptions of apocalyptic hysteria. Yes, there are elements of science in the mix- i.e. that we have experienced a mild warming over the past century (1 degree C), and that CO2 plays a small role in warming (“a bit player”).

The best climate science (see sites like co2coalition.org, co2science.org, Wattsupwiththat.com, etc.) shows that we are not facing a “climate catastrophe”. Unfortunately, such evidence is overwhelmed by the primitive mythological themes that have shaped the exaggerated catastrophe narrative of the climate alarmism movement. Climate alarmism themes resonate with primitive mythical ideas that have long dominated human narratives across history, both religious and “secular/ideological” narratives.

Panic-mongering that uses apocalyptic-scale scenarios has always resulted in harm to people. Richard Landes was right to call apocalyptic “the most violent and destructive idea in history”. Today the consequences of the climate alarmist’s salvation scheme- decarbonization- are increasingly evident in (1) severely rising energy prices that hurt the poorest people the most (note recent reports on the energy problems in Britain, Europe, China, and elsewhere), (2) lack of fossil fuel reserves that threaten life as a cold winter approaches (15-20 times more people die across Earth every year from cold than die from warmth), (3) grid instability and shutdown due to increasing dependence on unreliable renewables, and more. See ‘Global Warming Policy Forum’ reports for detail. Note that contemporary climate alarmism has more to do with Chicken Little mythology than the true state of climate.

Once again, here are the primitive mythical themes and patterns that fuel apocalyptic exaggeration and hysteria:

1. The past was better than the present time (original paradise or golden age- a past wilderness world).

2. ”Fallen/corrupt” humans have ruined the original paradise (anti-humanism is central to all apocalyptic mythology- blame humanity).

3. Life is becoming worse and is now declining toward catastrophe and ending (apocalypse). The belief that life is declining/degenerating (narratives of despair) reveals an obsessive and relentless orientation to the thing that go wrong in life with no balancing context of the good things that are happening in life. Declinism denies the long-term and overall improvement of life.

4. The panic-mongering over an apocalyptic ending to life frightens people, arousing their survival impulse. Scared people then abandon rationality and are susceptible to the destructive salvation schemes of alarmists.

5. Apocalyptic salvation involves (1) the felt need to make some sacrifice (e.g. give up the good life for a “morally superior simple life”), (2) the felt need to suffer something (i.e. the felt need to pay for sin, to suffer punishment for being bad), and (3) the felt need to purge some “evil threat”, something that defiles life (purification). The purging of evil is often a violent process. Note, for example, Zoroaster’s vision of a fiery end-time purging of the world, or the similar final violent purging of an impure world as detailed in the New Testament book of Revelation. Again, these themes have been deeply embedded in human meta-narratives both religious and secular.

The purging of purported impurity in the world is necessary to prepare the way for the restoration of the lost paradise, the restoration of a previously “pure world” (Eden, Dilmun, past golden age). Today the purging of evil requires central state coercion. Further, we are told that purging must involve “instantaneous transformation” of society because the apocalyptic ending is always “imminent”. There is no time to waste. The “final tipping point… the end” is just ahead. We have no time left and must act “now”, according to apocalyptic alarmists. Damn the democratic processes that respect the freedom of others.

Note that the prophesied end never arrives because life continues to get better over the long term. Hence, the end-time dates must be endlessly reset further and further into the future.

6. When the salvation is scheme is fully enacted then the lost paradise can be restored.

Scientific fact, though critically important, releases few minds from the above themes because most people live by inherited narratives and the themes of these narratives relate to inherited impulses- i.e. the impulse to engage a hero’s quest, to fight a righteous battle against some evil/enemy (tribal dualism), to conquer a monster, to sacrifice and suffer in order to save something, and consequently to tower in stature as heroic. Climate apocalyptic resonates with these impulses.

I’m reposting these earlier comments on climate change because this apocalyptic movement is now surging to new heights of feverish hysteria over “the end-is-nigh”.

Reposted notes:

The climate alarm movement is the latest in an endless history of apocalyptic alarmism movements. Many of these movements were previously religiously-oriented but today they are often “secular/ideological” in orientation, as in environmental alarmism crusades. However, the same core themes- primitive mythical themes- dominate both religious and secular versions of apocalyptic movements.

Consequences of persistent despair narratives, Wendell Krossa

“Pessimism turns to fatalism and the only option is resignation and withdrawal”, Arthur Herman in ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’. Propagandized pessimism incites spreading hopelessness in populations. World surveys tell us that majorities of populations now believe “the world is getting worse”. And note the correlated trend of young couples refusing to have children in a world they believe will soon end. Or children suffering “eco-anxiety” and afraid they will die before reaching adulthood (so why attend school).

But worse than resignation and withdrawal is the potential of apocalyptic despair narratives to push populations toward a “self-fulfilling prophecy” mindset where alarmed people are increasingly susceptible to alarmist salvation schemes. Schemes intended to overturn industrial civilization, entirely. Human freedom will be the collateral damage of these schemes because Green policies, in their extremist versions, demand all-encompassing change and control of lives via centralized state coercion.

Add the disturbing trends to silence, ban, and even criminalize skeptics to Green hysteria. Example: Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical climate science in 2016. Remember- skepticism, questioning, falsification, contrary data, challenge- all are critical to good science on any issue. Skepticism will enable us to get to the true state of any issue.

Further essential to the Green revolution is the growing demand for “instantaneous transformation” of society because the apocalyptic prophets claim that the end-of-days is imminent, just years up ahead (2030 is the latest end-time date). There is no time to waste, according to the prophets, and objectors with their demands for open debate and democratic processes are endangering all life. They are “murderous” deniers, unbelievers of the despair narrative. Hence, the great Green transformation will require “coercive purging”, via state force, in order to “save the world” from the purported threat to life- i.e. greedy consumers in an industrial society based on fossil fuels.

These totalitarian apocalyptic approaches were tried last century and what was the outcome? We had the mass-death movements of Marxism (100 million deaths from the crusade against the “capitalist threat”) and Nazism (50-60 million deaths from the crusade against the “Jewish Bolshevik threat”). Environmental alarmism has now taken up the formerly Marxist crusade to overturn industrial civilization, with despair narratives no different from the other unhinged apocalyptic crusades of past history.

(Note: The above conclusions are not mine alone. Data and sources from many credible researchers are noted in articles and sections below.)

The next four sections below now have reposted, revised versions of…

(1) “Humanity’s worst ideas, better alternatives”. The most dominant beliefs/ideas from across history with alternatives to transform human narratives, liberate minds. Bad ideas incite, guide, and validate bad behavior.

(2) “History’s single most profound insight buried by Paul’s Christ myth”. The Historical Jesus insight that deity was a stunning “no conditions love”, a reality that is entirely contrary to the highly conditional nature of all religion (i.e. religious conditions of right belief, demanded sacrifice/payment, required ritual and lifestyle, justice as punishment).

(3) “Speculating on the meaning of human life and experience”. Interacting with Joseph Campbell’s points on the “Hero’s journey” and how “no conditions love” enables us to “tower in stature as maturely human”. Unconditional/universal love is how we conquer our inner monster/enemy and maintain our humanity while we engage our “righteous battle against evil”.

(A necessary qualifier: Embracing an unconditional approach to imperfect humanity does not excuse anyone from the responsibility to hold all accountable for bad behavior, including the forcible restraint of uncontrolled bad behavior (i.e. the role of military/police and incarceration programs). An orientation to unconditional treatment of human failure (restorative/rehabilitative justice) is not an advocacy for pacifism in the face of evil. This needs to be said because of the too common ‘illiberal’ tendency to associate love with feeling warm and fuzzy toward offenders and for claiming that unconditional treatment of offenders means being soft or mushy toward offenses. This is more about love as thoughtful pre-determined intention to respond in a certain way, not love as predominantly “feeling”. More what is known as “agape love” in the Christian tradition. As noted before, (“Hear me once, hear me twice”) unconditional treatment of all others is how we maintain our own humanity while engaging our personal battles against evil.

Whenever we talk about any kind of love, we are talking about the best of being human, about what primarily defines us as human. And with no conditions love we are talking about the best of human response in the face of evil. But such response is never about abandoning common sense and the basic human responsibility to protect all from harm. Unfortunately, when discussing the ideal of unconditional you sometimes get those who swing extremist and chirp, “Oh you mean let the psychopaths go free”. No. No one means anything so foolishly void of common sense. It is about the humane way to treat human failure and offense. Again, what is the best of being human?)

(4) “The most good for the most people”. The two main approaches to organizing human societies across history- collectivism versus the orientation to the free individual. What approach has actually achieved the greater good for all most successfully?

Section topics: Joe Rogan as freedom hero; And the Oscar goes to- Dicaprio’s validation of hysterical panic porn- “Don’t Look Up”; Optimism/Pessimism; Traumatizing children with climate apocalypse (the growing pathology of “eco-anxiety”); Research paper from physicist Ed Berry showing that natural sources (not human emissions) are behind the increase in CO2 over the past two centuries; Positive trends (cheer for the new year- the true state of life); Materialism/theism (a review of The Return of the God Hypothesis); Common sense from a geologist, and more… Read the rest of the opening comment here

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Humanity’s worst ideas, better alternatives

Here is a list of some of the most fundamental ideas that have shaped human consciousness and life across the millennia of our existence. The list offers alternatives to some of the worst ideas that people have embraced across our history. The alternatives, drawn from varied ancient and contemporary sources, promote a mind revolution that is more foundational than anything before in history. The alternative themes offer potential liberation that is more profound than any other in history, liberation at the heart of human consciousness, at the core of the human spirit.

Intro to short version of Humanity’s Worst Ideas, better alternatives (long-form version available just below this short-form list)

Joseph Campbell noted that a prominent set of primitive myths has been repeated all across human history and across all the cultures of the world. These myths are profound distortions of reality. They do not express the true state of life yet they continue to dominate human narratives and distort consciousness today.

These ideas have long been the central beliefs of the world religions. They are now also embraced in “secular” ideological belief systems like Declinism, the belief that life is becoming worse and declining toward catastrophe and ending (the ideology of Environmental alarmism, climate alarmism). These ideas have even found expression in “scientific” versions. But at core they are the same old primitive pathologies as ever before.

We have better alternatives to the mythical themes that we have inherited, themes that have always deformed human consciousness and life with unnecessary fear, anxiety, shame/guilt, despair, depression, and violence. How we think (the ideas that we hold) shapes how we view life, how we feel about things, and how we respond and act.

Example: If you believe that some deity will judge, punish, exclude and destroy your enemies (i.e. send them to Hell) then you will inevitably end up treating your opponents in the same manner (judging, condemning, excluding, punishing). We become just like the God that we believe in. This “behavior based on belief” relationship operates in both religious and “secular” environments. Our beliefs subject us to confirmation bias and lead us toward self-fulfilling prophesy outcomes.

Insert note: Climate alarmism, with its apocalyptic scenarios and salvation schemes, is a profoundly religious movement fraudulently presented as secular ideology, even science.

Humanity’s worst ideas, better alternatives (short version), Wendell Krossa

1. Old story myth: The idea of deity as a judging, punishing, and destroying reality. Contemporary “secular” versions of judging, punishing deity include “Vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and payback karma”.

Alternative: The new theology of deity as a stunningly no conditions reality (no conditions love). There is no threat from an unconditional God, no judgment, no exclusion of anyone, and no ultimate punishment or destruction.

2. Old story myth: The idea of a perfect beginning (Eden) and a God obsessed with perfection, enraged at the loss of perfection, and demanding punishment of imperfection.

Alternative: The world was purposefully created as originally imperfect in order to serve as an arena for human struggle, learning, and development. Deity has no problem with imperfection.

3. Old story myth: Humanity began as a more perfect species (the myth of primitive people as pure and noble hunter gatherers, “Adam/Eve”) but those early people became corrupted/sinful (i.e. the myth of the “Fall of mankind”). This myth has led to persistent anti-humanism- blaming humanity for all the imperfections and suffering in the world.

Alternative: Humanity emerged from the brutality of animal reality to gradually become more humane across history (a long-term trajectory of humanity rising/improving, not falling into a trajectory of degeneration/decline).

4. Old story myth: The world began as an original paradise (the past was better) but after the “Fall” the overall trajectory of life has been declining, degenerating toward something worse.

Alternative: The long-term trajectory of life does not decline but overall rises/improves toward something ever better.

5. Old story myth: The belief that natural disasters, disease, human cruelty, and death are expressions of divine punishment, and that humanity deserves punishment.

Alternative: While there are natural consequences all through life, there is no punitive, destroying deity behind the imperfections of life.

6. Old story Myth: The belief that humanity has been rejected by the Creator and we must be reconciled via blood sacrifice/suffering.

Alternative: No one has ever been rejected by the unconditional Love at the core of reality. No one has ever been separated from God. Ultimate Love does not demand appeasement/payment/atonement or suffering as punishment for sin.

7. Old story myth: The idea of a cosmic dualism between Good and Evil (i.e. God versus Satan) now expressed in human dualisms (tribes of good people versus their enemies- the bad people).

Alternative: There is a fundamental Oneness at the core of all and we share that oneness. We all belong equally to the one human family and the ultimate Oneness that is God.

8. Old story myth: The belief in a looming apocalypse as the final judgment, ultimate punishment of wrong, and final destruction of all things.

Alternative: There are problems all through the world but there is no looming threat of final destruction and ending. Apocalypse is a great fraud and lie. There will be no apocalypse as in the religious version of divine intervention to punish humanity and destroy the world (i.e. New Testament book of Revelation).

9. Old story myth: The always “imminent” element in apocalyptic demands urgent action to save something, even the use of coercive violence to effect “instantaneous transformation”. (Arthur Mendel, in Vision and Violence, details the difference between the approaches of “instantaneous transformation” and “gradualism”.)

Alternative: There is no imminent “end of days” on the horizon, inciting the urgency to “save the world”. Rather, life improves through gradual democratic processes as creative humanity cooperatively solves problems.

10. Old story myth: The demand for a salvation plan, a required sacrifice or atonement (debt payment, punishment).

Alternative: Unconditional deity does not demand sacrifice, atonement, payment, or punishment as required for appeasement. Deity loves unconditionally.

11. Old story myth: The belief that retribution or payback is true “justice” (i.e. eye for eye, hurt for hurt, humiliation for humiliation, punishment for punishment).

Alternative: Unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs, forgives freely and without limit. And yes, there are natural consequences to bad behavior in this world, but all justice should be restorative/rehabilitative in response to human failure.

12. Old story myth: The belief in after-life judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction (i.e. hell). This pathology adds unnecessary sting to the human fear of death.

Alternative: Unconditional love does not threaten ultimate judgment, exclusion, punishment, or destruction.

13. Old story myth: The idea of a “hero” messiah who will use superior force to overthrow enemies, purge the world of wrong, and install a promised utopia.

Alternative: A God of authentic love does not intervene with overwhelming force that overrides human freedom and choice. It is up to maturing humanity to make the world a better place through gradualism processes that respect the freedom of others who differ.

14. Old story myth: The fallacy of biblicism- the belief that religious holy books are more special and authoritative than ordinary human literature, and the related fallacy that people are obligated to live according to the holy book as the revealed will, law, or specially inspired word of God.

Alternative: We evaluate all human writing according to basic criteria of right and wrong, good and bad, humane or inhumane. Holy books, written by fallible people like ourselves, are not exempted from this basic process of discernment.

15. Old story myth: The idea of God as King, Ruler, Lord, or Judge. This myth promotes the idea that God relates to humanity in domination/submission forms of relating. This is based on the primitive idea that humans were “created to serve the gods”.

Alternative: There is no domination/subservience relationship of humanity to God. True greatness is to relate horizontally to all as equals. The “greatness” of God is to relate to all as free equals, not to “lord over” others.

16. Old story myth: The idea that humanity is obligated to know, serve, or have a relationship with an invisible reality (deity), that we are to give primary loyalty to something separate from and above people.

Alternative: Our primary loyalty is to love and serve people around us. Their needs, here and now, take priority in life. Loyalty to realities placed above people (laws, institutions, or higher authorities) have always resulted in the neglect or abuse of people.

17. Old story myth: The perception that God is silent or absent during the horrors of life (i.e. Where was God during the Holocaust?). This myth of absent deity is based on the primitive belief that God is a sky deity (dwelling in heaven above), a deity that descends to intervene in life and change circumstances in order to save or protect people.

Alternative: There has never been a Sky God up above in some heaven. God has always been incarnated equally in all humanity and God has always been immediately present in all human suffering and is intimately present in all human raging and struggle against evil. God is inseparable from the human spirit in all of us and is expressed in all human action to prevent evil, to solve problems, and to improve life. We are the embodiments/incarnations of God in this world, and nothing saves us except our choices and actions to oppose wrong and to help one another.

18. Old story myth: The fallacy of “limited good” and the belief that too many people are consuming too much of Earth’s resources, and hence world resources are being exhausted.

Alternative: More people on Earth means more creative minds to solve problems. More consumption means more wealth to solve problems and enable us to make life better- i.e. enable us to improve the human condition and protect the natural world at the same time. Evidence affirms that human improvement and environmental improvement has been the outcome of more people on Earth. See “Population Bombed” by Desrochers and Szurmak, “Ultimate Resource” by Julian Simon, “Humanprogress.org”, and related studies.

Further, we are not exhausting Earth’s resources. With the emergence of some apparent resource scarcity, humanity through improving technology then works to discover more reserves of those scarce resources or makes the shift to alternative resources. There is a superabundance of resources in our world.

Add your own themes/ideas and alternatives.

Qualifier:

Following recent past eruptions of religious terrorism (i.e. ISIS), varied public commentators rightly noted that such eruptions would continue into the future unless we confronted the ideas/ideologies behind such violence. Go to the root ideologies, they said, and deal properly with that. Apply this “go to the root of the problem” to all alarmism/apocalyptic movements. There are common ideas/themes behind such movements, worldviews/narratives that incite people to destructive action. If we are to problem-solve thoroughly and for the long-term future, then we need to tackle the root ideas/themes behind alarmism movements and deal thoroughly with those root contributing factors.

Humanity’s most prominent ideas (a “mind revolution” project)

We all embrace a collection of ideas/themes that shape how we view reality, life, human society, others and ourselves. The ideas we embrace influence how we think, feel, respond, and how we act/behave in life. Just below is a list of the most common and dominant ideas that have shaped human thought across history. These ideas/themes, or indistinguishable variants of them, still dominate most people’s thinking today.

Bad themes/ideas in the mix have incited incalculable harm across history while good ideas have enabled people to counter wrong in life and to construct societies and an overall developing civilization that has progressed toward more humane conditions/outcomes over the long-term. Evaluating the core ideas/themes of our personal worldviews is critical because we have inherited some bad stuff and common human decency obligates us to find better alternatives. We engage this project to better our thinking because we want to contribute something good to life and not waste time in misguided or harmful ventures.

The themes below have been beaten into human consciousness for multiple millennia. They are now hardwired in human subconscious as “archetypes”. With the modern era shift to a more “scientific” worldview these themes were not abandoned but were given new “secular” expression in ideologies and in even sometimes in science. The terms of expression were changed but the core themes remained the same old mythology as ever before. Joseph Campbell was right that the same primitive mythical themes have been repeated all across history and across all the cultures of our world.

These themes continue to dominate most belief systems today, notably as apocalyptic in religious traditions or as ‘Declinism’ in ideological versions. Why do I offer counter-speculation in response to some of these ideas that have to do with the “metaphysical” or spiritual reality? Because bad ideas of the metaphysical already exist and continue to dominate most people’s speculation, so why not at least offer better alternatives? And I recognize that we cannot avoid speculating on a variety of these issues that have always been fundamental to the primal human impulse for meaning and purpose.

Preface to Humanity’s worst ideas, better alternatives (revised, updated long version) Wendell Krossa

The belief/behavior relationship, or theology/ethics relationship, is as old as conscious humanity. People, driven/inspired by their primary impulse for meaning, have always tried to model their lives and societies according to some greater ideal or authority, most commonly according to views of deity. Plato did this with his argument that the ideal life and society should be molded according to the invisible Forms or perfect Ideals. The Hebrews followed this pattern in the Old Testament, shaping all aspects of their lives and society according to what they believed was the law, word, and will of their God. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted this practice among the Balinese of Indonesia who patterned their villages and homes according to what they believed was the divine model.

The fundamental role of belief in shaping human behavior and society (inspiring, guiding, validating human behavior) makes it critically important that our guiding ideals/authorities are fully humane, in line with humanity’s ever-advancing understanding of the authentically humane in all areas of life. And there has never been a higher ideal to guide human life than the ideal of deity. The subhuman features that our ancestors projected onto deity ought to concern all of us because of the correlated subhuman treatment of others across history in the name of deity (i.e. horrific outcomes as in religious violence).

The 18 “Old story themes” below focuses on some of the most dominant and influential ideas from history. Ideas that have shaped human consciousness via mythical and religious traditions. They continue to shape the worldviews of most moderns in “secular” or ideological versions.

The consequences from these subhuman ideas have been, and still are, significantly damaging, both personally and across wider societies. Evidence? On the personal level see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”. Cruel God theologies include the pathological features of deity as a tribally exclusive (favoring true believers, antagonistic toward unbelievers/outsiders), retaliatory (divine payback), dominating (deity as Lord, King- validating domination of others), punitive (deity as harsh judge, justice as punitive), and deity as a destroying reality (apocalypse, hell). These themes have burdened human lives with unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, despair, and violence. And the consequences in human behavior have been horrific because people “become just like the God that they believe in”.

See also the Millennial Studies historians noted in sections below- Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles. They have detailed how the ‘apocalyptic millennial’ complex of ideas contributed to the mass-death movements of the past century (Marxism, Nazism, environmental alarmism). Mendel (Vision and Violence) was right to conclude that “apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history”. Further, Bob Brinsmead has often reminded us that “Men never do greater evil than when they do it in the name of God”. This is because we become just like the God that we believe in.

The project to embrace better alternatives is about the full transformation and liberation of consciousness, and more humane outcomes in human life. The old ideas are no longer credible for defining or explaining reality and life. In many cases, they have long been too dangerous to inspire and guide human thought and behavior.

(Revised long-form version) Humanity’s worst ideas, better alternatives (rethinking 18 of the most fundamental ideas from across human history)

1. Old story theme: The myth of deity as a judging, punishing, and destroying reality that metes out final justice- rewarding the good, punishing the bad (i.e. threat theology). This myth continues as the cohering center of the world religions and is now also given expression in ‘secular’ versions such as vengeful Gaia, angry planet, pissed Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and payback karma- the new retaliatory, destroying gods of environmental alarmism, history’s latest apocalyptic movement.

The myth of God as a retaliating, punishing reality has long under-girded human justice systems as similarly retaliatory and punitive. From early human beginnings, belief in a punitive deity has incited and affirmed the demand for punitive response to human imperfection and failure.

The primitive view of deity as punitive, i.e. God as the Ultimate Destroyer (via apocalypse, hell), is the single most important “bad idea” to engage and correct. All other bad religious ideas are anchored to this foundational pathology in human thought.

New story alternative: The “stunning new theology” that God (Ultimate Consciousness, Mind, Intelligence, Source, Mystery) is an inexpressible “no conditions love”, a non-retaliatory Reality. The adjective “unconditional” points to our highest understanding of love. It is simply the best of being human and is therefore most critical for defining deity as transcendent “Goodness”. Takeaway? There is no ultimate judgment, no ultimate exclusion of anyone, no demand for payment or sacrifice to appease angry deity, no need for redemption or salvation, and no ultimate punishment or destruction of anyone (no such mind-perverting horror as “hell”).

Why bother with these speculative metaphysical corrections? Human well-being requires us to counter humanity’s “primal fear of after-life harm” that is the outcome of millennia of shaman/priests/pastors beating bad religious ideas into human consciousness/subconscious. Fear of after-life harm adds sting to the already unbearable fear of death that many people suffer. Also, we need to sever the age-old relationship of “bad beliefs validating bad behavior”. However you may try to affirm justice as punitive treatment of the failures of others, know that deity as unconditional reality does not validate such efforts. See “The Christian Contradiction” below (Historical Jesus versus Paul’s Christ myth).

None of the great world religions has ever presented the reality of an unconditional deity. All religion across history has been essentially about conditional reality- i.e. the required conditions to appease and please religious deities (conditions of right belief, proper religious rituals, religious lifestyle, demanded sacrifices/payment for wrong, etc.).

Further, the new theology of God as unconditional Love overturns the most psychologically damaging myth that has burdened and enslaved humanity from the beginning- the myth of divine retribution/punishment exhibited through the nastier features of life. While there are natural and social consequences to living in this world and to our choices and behavior, there is no punitive Force or Spirit behind natural world events and consequent suffering (i.e. natural disasters, disease, or the predatory cruelty of others). The myth of punitive deity behind such things, whether angry God, vengeful Gaia, angry Planet, retributive Universe, or payback karma, has long burdened people with unnecessary guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety. Like the distressed Japanese woman who asked after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”

Paul used this primitive threat theology on the Corinthians, claiming that their sicknesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins.

(Note the qualifiers in sections below on holding people accountable for their behavior, the need to restrain bad behavior, responsible human maturing and growth, and restorative justice approaches. All necessary for healthy human development, in this world.)

2. Old story theme: The myth of a “perfect beginning” and that God is obsessed with perfection in the world and life, that God creates perfection (e.g. Eden), that God is enraged at the subsequent loss of perfection, and now wants to punish imperfection. This idea of deity obsessed with perfection originated with the misunderstanding that any good and all-powerful deity would only create a perfect world, and if things are not perfect now then blame corrupt humanity for mucking things up that were once perfect. It can’t be God’s fault.

We- humanity- have always had difficulty understanding and embracing imperfection in life and in ourselves. Imperfection, and fear of divine rage at imperfection, has long deformed human consciousness with fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, and depression. We rightly struggle to improve ourselves and others, and to improve life in general, but we ought to do so without the added psychic burden of fear of angry deity or divine threat over our remaining imperfection. (Note: There are healthy forms of guilt over personal failure and additional unhealthy elements that arise from bad ideas.)

New story alternative: The world began in “chaotic imperfection” but has gradually evolved toward something more complex and organized. Life on this planet is never perfect, but with a lot of hard work humanity has discovered how to gradually improve life. Over history, humanity has created something better out of the original imperfect, wilderness world.

In this new story theme, God has no problem with imperfection but includes it in the original creation. Imperfection, in a new story, serves the important purpose of providing an arena where humanity struggles with a messy wilderness situation in order to learn to solve problems and create something better.

And, most critical, we learn the most important lessons of life in our struggle with our own imperfection. For example, we learn how to love in our struggle with the animal inheritance in ourselves, those base drives to tribally exclude, to dominate, to punish and destroy differing others. We learn what it means to be authentically humane in our “righteous struggle against evil” (Joseph Campbell), the battle against evil that runs through the center of every human heart (Alexander Solzhenitsyn).

Perfection, aside from being boring, does not bring forth the best of the human spirit. To the contrary, struggle with imperfection in life, and in others, brings forth the best in humanity. See Julian Simon’s argument (Ultimate Resource) that our struggle with problems in the world results in creative solutions that benefit others. See also the comment below on Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story and our struggle with a personal monster or enemy (i.e. some life problem that may be physical, mental/emotional, interpersonal, financial, social, etc.). That struggle is where we gain insights and learn lessons that can subsequently help others. Personal suffering also promotes the development of empathy with others that similarly suffer. Empathy is fundamental to being authentically human.

(Note: The use of the term “imperfection” is not meant to generalize and diminish the horror and trauma that people suffer from natural disaster, disease, and the cruelty of others. But ‘old story’ explanations of the imperfection of the world as a fall from original perfection due to human corruption/sin, and subsequent imperfection introduced as punishment for that original sin… such myths tend to affirm deity as cruel, punitive, and destructive- i.e. God as the great obsessive-compulsive Punisher of imperfection. That only adds unnecessary psychic suffering to already unbearable human suffering- i.e. the added burden of unnecessary mental, emotional suffering. We can do better and understand original imperfection in alternative ways. And this is the impulse to “theodicy”, as roughly the belief there is Ultimate Good/Love behind all. Add here the view that the world purposefully exists as an experience or learning arena.)

3. Old story theme (related to previous): The myth that humanity began as a more perfect species but then became corrupted/sinful (the “fall of man” myth). The idea of original human perfection, and subsequent human degeneration toward something worse today, is still common in the “noble savage” mythology that dominates throughout academia- i.e. the myth that original hunter/gatherer people were more pure, strong, and noble but humanity has degenerated in civilization. See, for instance, Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline’, or Steven LeBlanc’s ‘Constant Battles’. Contemporary versions of “fallen humanity” mythology include Green religion’s belief that humanity is a “virus” or “cancer” on the Earth. These are pathologically anti-human views.

New story alternative: Humanity has emerged from the brutality of animal reality (original imperfection) but has gradually become less violent, more humane, and overall more civilized. See James Payne’s ‘History of Force’, and Stephen Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’. Also, the amassed evidence on humanity improving life over the long-term affirms that “we are more creators than destroyers” (Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource).

A new alternative to “fallen humanity” myths will recognize that humanity, with human spirit and human consciousness, is intimately united with the greater Consciousness at the core of reality, a Consciousness that is Love. This “union with deity” is more than relationship. It is more about essential nature. This means that the same Love that is God, is also the essential nature of our human spirit or human self. We can then re-imagine ourselves as most essentially “beings of Love”. We are fundamentally good. This radically changes human self-imaging. We are not the “fallen humans possessing sinful natures” as we have long been taught by mythological and religious traditions.

The real issue is not how far humanity has fallen (the mythical perspective) but the real wonder is how far we have risen (the evidence-based perspective) from our brutal animal and primitive human past. Our improvement over history is evidence of the essential goodness of humanity naturally emerging over time.

(Note: How to explain continuing bad human behavior? We have inherited a core animal brain with its base impulses to tribalism and exclusion of differing others (small band mentality), to domination of others (alpha male/female), and to retaliatory and destructive response to others viewed as “enemies”. Our human consciousness/spirit, existing alongside our inherited animal side, explains the great “battle between good and evil that takes place in every human heart”, (Alexander Solzhenitsyn). The bad side in humanity is not “inherited sin” but is better understood in terms of the inherited animal in us. See Lyall Watson’s “Dark Nature”. Fortunately, to paraphrase Jeffrey Schwartz, “We are not our brains”.)

4. Old story theme: The myth that the world began as an original paradise and that ancient “golden age” has been lost and the trajectory of life is now “declining”, or degenerating, toward something worse (“Each present moment is a degeneration from previous moments”, Mircea Eliade).

The trajectory of life as a decline toward something worse is a core feature of apocalyptic mythology.

New story alternative: Life does not decline overall but the long-term trajectory of life shows that life actually “improves/rises” toward something ever better. Humanity, as essentially good and creative, is now responsible for the ongoing improvement of life and the world. (Note again Julian Simon’s conclusion that we- humanity- have become “more creators than destroyers”.)

Evidence of life improving over past millennia and strikingly so over recent centuries: Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed, Bailey and Tupy’s Ten Global Trends, Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, James Payne’s History of Force, Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, and others.

Brian Green’s ‘The Universe Story’ and Harold Morowitz’s ‘The Emergence of Everything’ detail the longer “improving” trend of the overall cosmos from chaotic heat beginnings to a state that was amenable for carbon-based life to emerge. And over the long history of this planet, life has developed toward more complexity, organization, and suitability to mediate human consciousness . Further, even Darwin affirmed that evolution trended toward something more “perfect”.

This theme of long-term improvement, of a fundamental direction toward something better, is critical for countering apocalyptic nihilism/despair and affirming hopefulness.

5. Old story theme: The myth that natural disasters, disease, human cruelty, and death are expressions of divine punishment. This adds the unnecessary psychic burden of fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame to already unbearable physical suffering. Paul tormented the Corinthians with this argument that their sicknesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins.

New story alternative: While there are natural and social consequences all through life, there is no punitive, destroying deity behind the imperfections of life. Ultimately there is only Love at the core of reality (see alternatives below on the relationship of Love to the elements of freedom and randomness in life).

6. Old story theme: The myth that humanity has been rejected by the Creator, that we are separated from our Source and we need to be reconciled, we need to restore the broken relationship with God, via a violent blood sacrifice.

New story alternative: No one has ever been separated from the unconditional Love at the core of reality. That Love has incarnated in all humanity as inseparable from the human spirit and consciousness. That Love is the essence of the human self or person, though its expression is often hindered and buried by the free choice of people to act inhumanely.

But be assured that no one has ever been separated from the indwelling love that is God, no matter their failure to live as human. God as love is always closer than our breath or atoms. God as love is inseparable from our common human spirit and consciousness.

Note: God incarnated in all humanity demands a radical rethink of theology or God theory. There has never been any such reality as a separate ‘Sky God’ up in some distant heaven. God has always been intensely and immediately present in all humanity and this is evident in the best of humanity, in all human goodness. Conclusion? The reality we call “God” is present in all human raging against evil and suffering. God is present in all human effort to make life better. There has never been any such thing as an absent or silent God. Just listen to and observe the goodness in people all around you.

Again, as stated similarly in number 3 above, this new alternative overturns entirely the historically persistent myths of “fallen”, “essentially sinful”, or “bad-to-the-bone” humanity.

Further, the idea of God incarnated equally in every person presents a new element for affirming equality among people, and equal respect for all. God incarnated in humanity offers a stunning new element to defining the essential core of being human- what we really are as human persons and that every human person ought to be highly esteemed as an embodiment of deity, no matter their failures to live as fully human. The Near-Death Experiences also repeatedly note this feature of the astounding human unity with deity- of inseparable oneness with the divine.

7. Old story theme: The myth of a cosmic dualism, a Good spirit in opposition to a bad spirit- a demonic entity or Satan. Deity is thereby portrayed as embracing an essentially dualistic tribal reality- a good God that wars against evil opponents, a God that favors believers and hates/punishes unbelievers. This idea of a fundamental cosmic dualism is embraced and exhibited through varied human dualisms- such as the tribal mindset of “us versus our enemies”, true believers versus unbelievers, or other racial, national, religious, or ideological divisions (include the use of gender as an oppositional divide). Dualism thinking deforms human identity and buries the fact of our essential oneness in the human family. Dualism mythology affirms the inherited animal impulse that orients people to small-band thinking and behavior (the tribal exclusion of differing others). Embracing dualism as a divine reality and ideal orients people to opposing, dominating, and fighting/destroying others as ‘enemies’.

New story alternative: We all come from the same Oneness and we are all equals in the one human family. We are not essentially defined by the tribal categories and divisions that we create to set ourselves apart from one another, to devalue one another. We are most essentially defined by our common human spirit and human consciousness. And the essential nature of our human spirit is universal or unconditional love. That love is the expression of our true core humanity.

Added note: Most modern story-telling (e.g. movies) continues to re-enforce the primitive themes of dualism and tribalism. Note the all-too-common movie theme of good guy versus bad guy, and ‘justice’ as the good guy beating and destroying the bad guy. There is nothing in such narratives affirming the oneness of the human family. To the contrary, only further affirmation of infantile tribalism and “justice” as retaliation toward offending others. The only dualism that we ought to be concerned about is that of “the battle-line between good and evil that runs through the heart of every person”, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This is the dualism that exists between our true human spirit or self and our inherited animal brain impulses.

Caution: The above comment on essential oneness is not intended to diminish the urgency to fight evil and affirm good in this world. But some have suggested that dualism, and the apparent separation related to dualism- i.e. the division between good and bad- is only a temporal feature of this material realm. This world with its dualism provides an arena for us to live out our stories and engage our varied “righteous battles against evil”. Others have argued that we only experience and learn what good means in our struggle with the opposites of good- i.e. the bad in others, and in life. Bad/evil in this realm provides a contrasting context in which we experience and learn good. Joseph Campbell suggests that this dualistic realm is where “we act out our differing roles on God’s stage” (some playing bad guy, some playing good guy). But he and others suggest that the dualism between good and bad exists only here in this world. It is temporal and not part of any greater timeless reality. See also Natalie Sudman’s ‘The Application of Impossible Things’ for personal illustration of these things.

Further note on oneness: The oneness of all, along with the unconditional nature of deity, counters the myth of some people as especially chosen of God and favored by God more than others. There are no “elect people”, or special “children of God”. The people who see themselves as “true believers”, more so than others, are not closer to God than any other people. Essential oneness means that all humanity, that is every person, has God within them, equally. All people have equal access to the immediacy of God that is everywhere present as the sustaining Core or Source of all reality. Further, there are no special “holy places”- i.e. temples, churches- where limited religious groups gain more access to God than the ordinary lives and daily mundane spaces of all people. Essential oneness of all with deity is a more humane theological basis for human equality in all aspects.

8. Old story theme: The myth of a looming apocalypse as the final judgment, punishment, and destruction of all things. The myth of an apocalyptic ending embraces the pathological theology of God as the destroyer of all things. This ideal has incited endless destructive violence among the followers of such an ideal. Arthur Mendel called apocalyptic “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (Vision and Violence).

To embrace and advocate apocalyptic mythology is to embrace and advocate the epitome expression of nihilism- i.e. the complete and final destruction of life and the world.

Apocalyptic mythology still dominates much of modern story-telling, whether movies, TV, literature (the sub-genre of “post-apocalyptic”), and environmental alarmism or Green religion.

New story alternative: There are problems all through this imperfect world but there is no looming threat of a final destruction and ending (the religious understanding of apocalypse since Zoroaster). The apocalyptic alarmist exaggerates problems in the world out to “end of days” scenarios, thereby distorting the true state of things, and that promotes fear (the survival impulse) and even destructive violence in populations. The inciting of violence is evident in the consequent felt need of people to “coercively purge” what is believed to be some great threat. See the notes in other sections/articles on the Marxist, Nazi, and Green apocalyptic movements and their mass-harm and even mass-death outcomes.

In the new story alternative theme there is no destroying Force or Spirit behind the harsher elements of this world. Ultimately, there is only creating and sustaining Love. And again, the imperfection of this world serves the purpose of providing a learning arena for humanity to struggle with in order to create something ever better.

Further, the destructive elements in the cosmos and world exist as part of the ongoing creative process (i.e. death as entirely natural and serving the purpose of making room for new life), just as Second Law dissipation of energy is “virtuous waste” that serves the creation of more order (Huber and Mills in ‘Bottomless Well’). Again, the element of destruction in the natural world is not evidence of some punitive deity threatening a final punishment and ending of all things. (See also the notes below on “natural consequences”.)

Further helpful here- In response to the theodicy question “Is this the best possible world?” some have made the argument that there are also beneficial outcomes from the destructive elements of nature. For example, the plate tectonic movement that generates destructive earthquakes also generates mountain-building, which creates differences in climate and that contributes to the development of diversity in emerging life (i.e. different environmental pressures on populations and the change that brings forth). Our project is to adapt to such things and we have done better over time. Our success is evident across history in the decreasing loss of life from natural disasters.

9. Old story theme: The urgency of “imminence” (key element- “instantaneous transformation” of life versus “gradualism” in the trajectory of history and life)

The always “imminent” element in apocalyptic proclamations (i.e. the “end is nigh”) demands urgent action to “save” something, to save the world or life. The exaggerated threat of looming apocalyptic ending then incites the survival/salvation impulse in people. They feel the need to take immediate and sometimes violent action to purge what is presented to them as the life-threatening thing. Alarmed populations are then more easily manipulated to embrace policies that will abandon the democratic process and instead will support “coercive purification” schemes directed at purported threats from opponents/enemies. ‘End-of-life’ or ‘end-of-world’ claims incite populations to embrace policies that will coercively and instantaneously install their version of salvation and security in some promised paradise.

Apocalyptic alarmism that exaggerates and distorts the true state of things has too often unleashed the totalitarian impulse across history.

We saw the violence of instantaneous transformation policies in the 100 million deaths that stemmed from Marxist urgency to coercively purge the world of the threat from “destructive capitalism”. Marxism pushed for “instantaneous transformation of societies”, to immediately install its vision of communal utopia. We also saw apocalyptic urgency and totalitarianism in the 50-60 million deaths from Nazi alarmism and consequent action to violently purge Germany of the imagined threat from “destructive Jewish Bolshevism”. Nazis then coercively pushed to establish the millennial paradise of the Third Reich. And we are seeing “coercive purification” again today in the environmental alarmist push to save the world from “destructive humanity in industrial civilization” and to restore the lost paradise of a more wilderness world (Arthur Mendel in ‘Vision and Violence’, and Arthur Herman in ‘The Idea of Decline’).

New story alternative: There is no “end of days” just over the horizon. Rather, life is improving gradually as creative humanity solves problems. The escapist desire for an instantly installed utopia misses the point of the human story as the struggle with imperfection throughout the world, a struggle that is gradually succeeding. Such struggle is essential to human development, learning, and growth. Mendel in Vision and Violence is good on this issue of “gradualism” versus the violence of “instantaneous transformation” movements. Humanity is learning to patiently improve life through democratic approaches that do not coercively overwhelm the freedom of differing others.

The search for instantaneous salvation comes from the irresponsible escapist mindset of apocalyptic types who cannot endure the struggle to gradually and democratically improve an imperfect world. Such people irresponsibly seek to escape to some instantly installed utopia, even if coercively and violently established.

10. Old story theme: The demand for a salvation plan- a required sacrifice or atonement (debt payment, punishment) as necessary to appease some great threat or threatening reality, whether a religious God or vengeful Gaia, angry planet, upset Mother Earth, punitive Universe, or payback karma.

New story alternative: In a stunning rejection of atonement mythology, Jesus rejected the payment of debt as the required demand of God. He advocated the highest form of love, or goodness, as giving to everyone without expecting any payment in return. He stated in Luke 6:30-36, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then… you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

Jesus’ argument is that exhibiting ‘no conditions love’ (not expecting payment) would enable people to be like God who was similarly no conditions love. The argument of Matthew 5 and Luke 6 is that if we do this- give without expecting payment in return- then we will be like God who does not expect payment. God loves, gives, and does not expect anything in return. This statement of Jesus overthrows the age-old religious belief that God demands payment or punishment for wrongs, that God demands atonement or sacrifice in order for God to forgive and love. Read it again and again till the point being made is clear. It is a time-bomb waiting to explode the shackles of distorting mythology that enslave human consciousness.

The fundamental nature of God as unconditional love means absolutely no conditions. None. To affirm as pointedly as possible- there is no divine demand for ultimate payment, sacrifice, no conditions to fulfil. With ultimate safety secured, the only “salvation” that we need to engage in this life is the ongoing and gradual struggle to make life better in this world.

The reality of God as “no conditions Love” obligates us to make all the logical conclusions that arise from such a stunning new theology. Again, the critically important one is that an authentically unconditional God will not demand any conditions of payment or sacrifice. God does not demand a balancing response to goodness or love that has been initially shown. Jesus clearly argued this in his Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements where he taught that an authentic universal love will not just love those who love in return (i.e. family, friends, or fellow tribe members). Unconditional love will also love those who do not love in return. Unconditional love will freely give to all and not demand any return payment. No payment of debt is required as necessary to earn forgiveness and love.

Unconditional love does good to everyone without expecting a similar response, without expecting any payback (include sacrifice here). This is how Jesus further defined a God that “loved enemies”.

In the above statements, Jesus rejected the principle of debt payment as a fundamental requirement of divine love. Again, this is clearly expressed in the statement to “give/love expecting nothing in return”. Keep in mind that in these passages (Matt.5 and Luke 6) he urged people to love in a new unconditional manner because that was how God loved. He was arguing for a new standard of love that would show what God was like, that would enable people to do just what God did, to be just like God (i.e. “Love your enemy because God does”).

Debt payment, or more generally the righting of wrongs, had long been the requirement before offering forgiveness. Payment or punishment of wrong had been the basis of atonement thinking from the beginning. That was based on the archaic belief that God, as holy, must punish all wrongs properly and fully, and must rectify all wrongs by demanding payment or retribution of some sort. God must right all wrong, rebalance the scales of justice in the cosmos. Wrong done had to be rebalanced by right done. God could not just forgive, accept, and love without first making all wrongs right. That was necessary to restore divine honor. The God of that old atonement/sacrifice mythology could not just “freely” forgive and love.

To modern sensibilities that old theology no longer makes sense because it argued that the love of God, based on prerequisite payment/punishment/atonement, was something less than the best of human love. We are expected to just forgive in an unlimited manner (“seventy times seven”), to accept all people universally, and to love without demanding prerequisite conditions or similar response. Again that statement- “give without expecting payment in return, love without expecting love in return”. Parents, spouses, and friends have all learned that no conditions love is the best and highest form of love for daily relationships. Surely God as Ultimate Goodness and Love would, at the least, love as well as we are expected to love- that is, unconditionally.

In his parables Jesus also further corrected the old religious belief that divine love was conditional and demanded full payment or punishment. His short stories illustrated the ‘no conditions’ love that defined his new theology. In his stories he stressed the point that divine love did not require the payment of debt, or more generally the righting of wrongs, before forgiving, accepting, and loving an offender. Note this element in his Prodigal Son story where the father does not demand a sacrifice, restitution, or repayment before forgiving and fully accepting/loving the wayward son. All such conditions were brushed aside by the father. No conditions love meant no conditions at all. This teaching is a stunning rejection of the long history of sacrifice/payment as required to appease demanding deity.

I reject, as Jesus appears to have done, the old theology that God as ultimate Goodness and Love is held to a lesser standard of love than we are held to. I reject the idea that God remembers all wrongs and can demand conditions before forgiving, while we are told that authentic love, for us, means “keeping no record of wrongs” for some future making-of-things-right. Our love is to be without condition because that is actually how God loves. And it is the unconditional nature of forgiveness and love that constitute the greatness and glory of these features, not the conditions of religious holiness or honor mythology with its prerequisite demands that offenders first make things right.

Unfortunately, Paul refused the new theology of Jesus and retreated back to the traditional conditional theology of a punitive God that demanded full payment for sin before forgiving anyone. We inherited Paul’s version of Christianity with its orientation toward punitive and conditional treatment of others. Note the clear New Testament statements that requisite payment is essential to the Christian gospel. The book of Hebrews (chapter 9), for example, states that “without the shedding of blood (sacrifice) there is no forgiveness”. The book of Romans (chapters 3-5) states that there is only salvation (“saved from wrath”) after the condition of a blood payment/sacrifice has been fulfilled.

And of course, in this life people should learn to be responsible for their behavior, to make amends for wrongs done, and to pay their debts. That is all part of normal human development and growth. This is never in question, but it has no part of the new unconditional theology of Jesus. It has no place in authentic love. Our love, just like God’s love, is not to be conditional on anything done, or not done, by others.

Note: The theology of Jesus is not a prescriptive model for economic/commercial relationships in this world. Jesus was speaking to ultimate realities and the atonement mythology of his era. Further, my reference to “Historical Jesus” is not an appeal to him as some special religious authority on these issues. I refer to him simply because he continues to be revered as a notable religious icon. The unconditional love being argued here is a “self-validating” reality. It is good in and of itself.

And I would emphasize the larger religious context to these themes- for example, the profound contradiction that exists between the core message of Historical Jesus in the “Q Wisdom Sayings gospel”, and Paul’s Christ myth (the oxymoronic Christian “Jesus Christ”). These two contrary gospels illustrate the profound contradiction between the themes of unconditional and conditional, non-retaliation and retaliation, non-punitive/non-destructive and punitive/destructive, among other contrasting features. See ‘The Christian Contradiction’ in sections below.

11. Old story theme: The belief that retribution or payback is true justice (i.e. eye for eye), based on the myth that God is a retributive reality that demands the reward of the good and the punishment of the bad. The myth that a retributive God demands full punishment of sin. This hurt for hurt theology, or pain returned for pain caused, still under-girds much thinking on justice today. It is often framed as the practical need to present the punishment of offenders as a warning to others, to serve as a deterrence example for the general public. Psychology now recognizes that such punitive approaches do not work with criminal offenders or children. Punitive response to human imperfection and failure “does not teach alternative humane behaviors”. Instead, punitive justice re-enforces retaliatory cycles.

New story alternative: Again, unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs, it does not obsess over imperfection, and it forgives all freely and without limit (“seventy times seven” which is to say- unlimited). But yes, there are natural and social consequences to bad behavior in this world. All of us are to be accountable and responsible for our choices and actions. This is essential to human development in this life. But all justice in response to human failure should be restorative or rehabilitative.

As Leo Tolstoy wrote regarding the criminal justice system, “The whole trouble is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Human beings cannot be handled without love. It cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life.”

Added note: Yes, there is value in remembering past bad behavior, and the outcomes of such behavior, as a warning to others. The Holocaust is a signature example of this value. But we remember the bad behavior of others in a larger context of consciously forgiving, with an orientation to restorative justice that is victim-centered (i.e. fully deals with restitution issues). Simon Wiesenthal’s “Justice, Not Vengeance” illustrates the struggle for balance regarding these concerns.

12. Old story theme: The myth of future or “after-life” judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction (Hell). The fear of after-life harm is the “primal human fear” (Michael Grosso). Myths of after-life harm have added a magnitude of order intensification of fear to the already burdensome fear of death that many people carry.

(Insert: Why bother with speculation about such unknowable realities as after-life reality? Why not just dismiss or ignore these unprovable metaphysical issues? Well, because the speculation has already been done by major belief systems and religions across history and across all the cultures of the world. Pathology- bad mythology like the horrific myth of hell- already exists in human consciousness and ignoring it does nothing to solve the problems that the pathology causes- i.e. unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, shame. While all after-life theorizing may be considered speculative, we can at least offer more humane alternatives with healthier parameters that eliminate unnecessary worry regarding death, while also focusing human orientation toward full involvement with here and now reality.)

New story alternative: Again, remember the baseline ideal- that authentic love is unconditional and does not demand the fulfilment of conditions. Unconditional love does not threaten ultimate exclusion or punishment. It embraces everyone with the same scandalous mercy and unlimited generosity. It gives sun and rain to all, to both good and bad. All- both good and evil- are ultimately safe and included in the love of an unconditional God. Such love scandalizes the mind that is oriented to ultimate (or after-life) conditional payback justice, or “deserved” punishment.

Illustration: Note again the stories that Jesus told of good, moral people who were offended by the unconditional generosity and love that was shown by, for example, the vineyard owner and the father of the prodigal son. The all-day vineyard workers and the older brother in the prodigal story were upset because, in their view, such unconditional mercy and generosity was not “fair or moral”. It was not proper justice, in their eyes. Other “righteous” people were also offended and scandalized by Jesus when he invited local outcasts and scoundrels to meals with them. He did not respect the proper tribal boundaries between good and bad people, between true believers and unbelievers. He was too scandalously universal and unconditional.

The Jesus stories point to the conclusion that God is unconditional love and hence there will be no after-life harm. We all die as a return back into the stunning “no conditions Love” that is our origin and final home. We are all safe in that Love (i.e. again, sun and rain are indiscriminately and generously given to all alike, to both good and bad people). We are never separated from that Love, no matter what we experience or suffer in this life.

Insert: It helps to maintain the important distinction between Ultimate Reality and life in this imperfect world. We can recognize the ultimate reality of God as absolutely no conditions Love but not deny the reality of natural and social consequences in this life. The need to take personal responsibility for behavior is critical to human learning and development. Love here and now is responsible to restrain violence and to protect the innocent, even with force. But our embrace of the ideal of ultimate unconditional love will orient our treatment of human failure and offense away from punitive approaches and toward restorative approaches. An unconditional attitude will recognize that, no matter how it offends and scandalizes common views of required payback justice, all of us return safely to the same no conditions Love that birthed us and is our final home. We are all one family, and return safely to that Oneness, despite our diverse failures to live as fully human in this world.

Add here that self-judgment and self-punishment are the most devastating experiences that human persons can embrace and endure (Note: We recognize exceptions to this such as psychopathy which may result from genetic deformity). Most people do not need further threat of ultimate judgment and punishment from some greater reality.

13. Old story theme: The myth of a hero messiah that will use superior force (“coercive purification”) to overthrow enemies, to purge the world of evil, and to bring in a promised utopia. This myth provides the incitement and validation to abandon the historical process of gradual improvement (via creative human freedom and endeavor) and to opt for coercive totalitarian approaches. Hero messiah mythology affirms the demand for overwhelming revolutionary violence that seeks to instantly purge some “corrupt” entity that is viewed as the threat, and then re-install some lost paradise.

We saw this resort to “violent force against an enemy”, backed by appeal to an all-powerful warrior deity, recently with ISIS in Syria (i.e. the struggle to bring on the final annihilation/Armageddon battle and then in the name of God coercively spread the caliphate across the world). We have also seen the same violence in the name of a crusading hero God throughout Jewish history (Old Testament) and Christian history (Crusades, Inquisitions, persecution of heretics, all appealed to forceful, violent deity for affirmation).

The embrace of revolutionary violence in the name of God arises from the behavior/belief relationship- that people across history have based their behavior on their beliefs about deity. As Harold Ellens says, “If your God uses force, then so may you, to get your way against your ‘enemies’”.

Again, the great ideals that we embrace will shape our thinking, our feeling, and our responses/behavior. We become just like the God that we believe in. Bad myths like coercive, destroying deity have repeatedly incited people to violent, destructive action, to act as the agents of their violent, destructive God to destroy some enemy and save something that was believed to be under dire and imminent threat from that enemy. Far too often across history the belief in divine violent force has been misappropriated to validate unnecessary harshness and cruelty toward fellow human beings.

This idea of an intervening, over-powering deity is hard to dislodge from people’s minds. Even notable atheists fall back on this idea, as Larry King said to Norm MacDonald years ago, “I can no longer believe in God because of the horrible things that happen to innocent children and God is omnipotent, isn’t he?”. Meaning that God should have intervened with power to prevent such things (the “Why imperfection exists?” issue).

New story alternative (see also “16th bad idea” below): A God of authentic love does not intervene with overwhelming force that overrides human freedom and choice. Further, a non-intervening deity helps to understand the gradualism necessary for improving life. It is entirely up to humanity to make the world a better place, in all ways, and to do so while respecting the freedom of others to differ from us.

This is to say that there is no hero messiah, no tribal deity that will intervene with superior force to conquer some enemy of ours and grant us our vision of a paradise with our enemies excluded as per the vision of Revelation where unbelievers are cast out to suffer eternal rejection and punishment.

Note: This point recognizes the valid need at times for police/military to use legal force to restrain irrational violence. The legitimate use of force is to be distinguished from illegitimate uses of force based on inhumane mythology, notably the use of force by religious extremists. Examples include ISIS and the sorry history of Christian violence against fellow Christians that disagreed over theological issues, often very minor disagreements. Note, for example, the shameful incident of Calvin putting his fellow Christian theologian, Servetus, to death over the placement of an adjective in a sentence.

14. Old story theme: The fallacy of Biblicism, the myth that religious holy books are more special and authoritative than ordinary human literature, and that people are obligated to live according to the holy book as the will, law, or word of God. This myth argues that people must submit to divine conditions, or some heavenly model, as outlined by their holy book.

New story alternative: We evaluate all human thought and writing according to basic criteria of right and wrong, good and bad, or humane and inhumane, as agreed upon in common human rights codes, constitutions, or moral codes. Holy books are not exempted from this process of discernment between good and bad.

Further, our highest authority is our own personal consciousness of right and wrong as tuned by, again, common understanding of such things in widely adopted human rights codes and constitutions that are embraced by the entire human family.

15. Old story theme: The myth of God as King, Ruler, Lord, or Judge. The idea that God relates vertically to humanity in domination/submission forms of relating.

New story alternative: There is no domination/subservience relationship of humanity to God. Jesus expressed the divine ideal when he said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. True greatness is to serve the other and not to dominate or control others. The greatness of God is exhibited in serving, not existing above to rule or dominate. God is not “above” humanity but has incarnated in all people as equals. God relates horizontally to humanity.

Yes, this is another stunning correction to traditional God theories.

We see the presence of this street-level God in all daily, mundane human goodness and love expressed toward others, especially toward enemies, which is the highest expression of authentic love or goodness. When we love unconditionally, we tower in stature as maturely human. We become the hero of our story and conquer our real monster and enemy, the animal inheritance that is within each of us. See the story outline in sections below.

This portrayal of God as an egalitarian or equality advocate, and not a superior controlling entity, is more of the stunning new theology of Jesus. He is saying in effect, if you think that I am an incarnation of God, a son of God, then I will tell you just what God is like. God does not dominate people like a lord, king, or ruler. God relates to all as equals, serving others, and not lording over them. That is the true greatness of God, or anyone- to serve. As an equal.

This comment of Jesus overturns the entire history of human thinking on gods as dominating realities, lords, kings, rulers. One of the earliest and most primitive of all myths is that “humans were created to serve the gods”, to do their will and work, to provide food for them. Jesus overturned that primitive thinking that divine/human relationships were domination/subservience relationships. He said that type of thinking belongs to primitive people (“the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them”). But if you want to be a great human being, a hero, then you should not dominate or control others. That is the secret to true greatness. To respect/honor the freedom and self-determination of all others as true equals.

16. Old story theme: The idea that humanity is obligated to know, serve, and have some relationship with an invisible reality (deity), to give primary loyalty to something outside of and above people (i.e. a law, will, or word of God). This loyalty to something other than real people has often led to neglect and abuse of people.

New story alternative: Our primary loyalty is to love and serve people around us. Their needs, here and now, take priority in life.

A 17th Old Story theme: Absent deity (related to the earlier theme, in the list above, of a hero-messiah that will intervene to save)

One of humanity’s greatest frustrations has been the apparent “the silence of God” across history. The Holocaust is the iconic example of this traumatizing silence of God.

Where was God when natural disasters took hundreds of thousands of lives? Where was God when human cruelty went unhindered during mass-death movements? Such apparent absence should put to rest the common religious myth of a miraculously intervening God. The evidence has long been final that there never was any such thing as a supernaturally intervening deity that would, for example, violate natural law or overrule human choice and action, in order to protect or rescue people.

What then should we conclude? God is good but powerless to help humanity? Or the atheists are right that there is no God? No. I would offer that the evidence simply urges us to rethink the great question of how God relates to this world. Theologies like Panentheism (not Pantheism) are wrestling with this issue.

And some versions of the Deist’s alternative are not much better than atheism. God is not the absent Creator who starts the whole thing running and then disappears off to some far away heaven to wait and watch as natural law works throughout life.

A new theory or theology is emerging that argues that God has incarnated in all humanity. God did not incarnate only in special ‘holy’ persons like the Christian Jesus. Rather, God has incarnated in all humanity in an inseparable oneness with the common human spirit or human consciousness. The human spirit has gradually emerged and developed as more humane across history. This maturing of humanity is evident in the trends to decreasing violence, more democratic societies, and generally improved human well-being (the improvement of all areas of life).

And as Bob Brinsmead notes, the improvement in life has been a long, slow process of gradually developing understanding, growing problem-solving ability, and practical solutions. It has, for instance, taken millennia for us to understand disease and come up with medical cures. See the gradualism arguments in Arthur Mendel’s ‘Vision and Violence’.

We see this common human spirit, or God spirit, emerging and developing in all human goodness, whether expressed in commerce, art, sports, medicine, agriculture, entertainment, and all areas where people contribute to making life better and just having fun while doing so.

As some have stated, we are the voice, hands, and feet of God in this world.

Conclusion? God has never been silent or absent. There has never been a ‘Sky God’ up above the world in some heaven, above and outside of humanity, doing things to the world and to people from outside (the “yoyo God”, coming down to intervene in some way and then returning to heaven). To the contrary, God has always been within all things as the creating Sustainer of all reality, and especially within the human family. This means that God is evident in all human misery and raging against suffering and evil. God is always present in all human action to prevent evil, to solve problems, and to improve life. Just as God has always been present in humanity and expressed in all good and useful human endeavor. This means it has always been our responsibility to prevent wrong and to promote good/right in our world. Yes, it is up to us. We must stop looking to the heavens for what is right here and now, in us.

Add this feature to your theology- God is at our very core, as the human impulse to love, to be something better. God is inseparably united with the love that defines us at our best. God is at the core of the real or authentic human self and is evident in the human impulse to be more humane as expressed in all human goodness.

Conclusion? God has always been closer to us than our own breath or atoms. God has never been absent or silent when people have suffered from natural disaster or human cruelty. Religious mythology has never framed this immanent feature properly. The immanence of deity speaks to the fundamental “oneness” behind all things. Even quantum mechanics points to this foundational oneness feature of reality.

The confusion here over silent deity also has to do with the element of freedom or the inseparable relationship of love and freedom. God as love does not coercively overwhelm the independence, self-determination, and freedom of others. Better, God respects human freedom profoundly and influences with gentle, quiet impulses to do the right thing, what we feel is right (i.e. God “persuades” and does not coerce).

Part of the human confusion over how God relates to this world has to do with our inability to grasp that divine Love prizes freedom highly and will not overwhelm or violate it. Authentic moral goodness emerges only from authentic freedom of choice. Such love entails great risk as authentically free people may choose wrongly. The upside is that nothing in life is pre-planned or predestined. We are free to create our own unique story, to become the heroes of our own life adventure. And there is nothing more heroic than choosing no conditions love, for even the enemy, as the supreme height of human achievement. Then we tower in stature like a Nelson Mandela.

Note: The above comments relate to one of the options offered in Jewish “Protest Theology” that emerged after the Holocaust (i.e. the idea of God willing/choosing to not intervene in human freedom). Others have suggested that, as spirit, God cannot intervene in material reality, aside from gentle suasion on the human spirit and consciousness.

And of course, aside from these points, there are still the myriad unexplainable and fascinating “coincidences” scattered through personal human stories that we may either view as just random, or the work of Providence. Interesting that people tend to explain good coincidences as Providence, but not so much the bad ones.

Added discussion group post from Bob Brinsmead: “____, many thanks for sending the link to this great Wikipedia article on Process Theology. I would have to say that I agree with the main thrust of the thesis.

“To say that God could have stopped the Holocaust but refrained from stopping it is very unsatisfactory to me. I agree with the argument of the PROCESS theologians here. If God is committed to love, then God is committed to human freedom. God can use persuasion but not coercion of the human will. Love would not allow God to do something that was inhuman (interfere, coerce, etc.). If you look at history and daily experience, there is no other conclusion that seems to be either logically or ethically possible. It is also hard to see God acting contrary to the laws of nature or the laws of physics.”

18. One more Old Story Theme, New Story Alternative to add to the list below…

While human selfishness and greed are present in any approach to life, these features do not most essentially define industrial civilization and its outcomes. Collectivists have argued that the free individual model that developed over past centuries in England (i.e. the “Classic Liberalism” that protected the individual rights and freedom of all citizens, equally) orients populations to destructive selfishness, greed, disconnect from nature, and violence, among other pathology. But that is not generally true. More importantly, with the fundamental protection of private property rights, the free individual model has unleashed human creativity as never before to achieve unimaginable new heights in the improvement of all aspects of our lives, and the world in general (increased environmental improvement).

Now the Old story theme related to this: The myth of the moral and spiritual superiority of the simple lifestyle with low consumption (i.e. self-produced, using only local resources). This relates to “noble savage” mythology, the belief that primitive hunter/gatherers were more pure and environmentally conservative before humanity “fell” and became corrupted in developing civilization, falling even further in the last few centuries of industrial civilization with its ever-growing abundance. This myth fosters endless guilt and shame over consumption and the enjoyment of the good life. ‘Small is Beautiful’ by Schumacher was an affirmation of this mythology. Note that it is most often wealthy Western elites that advocate this “morally superior primitivism” lifestyle for poorer people in developing areas (more “Rules for thee but not for me”).

New story alternative: The search for a better life is the fundamental urge of love- to responsibly improve one’s life and the state of one’s family. And it is the free choice of people to enjoy what they wish to use and enjoy. The abundance that most people enjoy today, with an ever-increasing proportion of humanity moving into middle class status, is part of the larger trajectory of developing technological, industrial civilization that is also lessening environmental impacts while it increases human well-being.

For example, the trend of continuing world urbanization is concentrating more people in smaller and more efficient spaces- e.g. economies of scale- that lessen pressure on natural areas (see population expert Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’ for detail). Industrial society further decreases per capita consumption of varied resources with ongoing technological development (the process of “de-materialization”). Thus, the general creation of wealth has also enabled more developed areas to better care for and improve their environments. This overturns the environmental alarmist argument that industrial society is “destroying the world”. See “Environmental transition” research, for example, by Indur Goklany. Also, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed. Humanprogress.org is another good source of information.

Added note: There is no finalized consensus on how much of the natural world humans can engage, use, and change. We are a legitimate species and not an intruding “virus or cancer” as per the view of those who want a mostly untouched wilderness world. And from today’s progressing industrial civilization note the emerging trends like ‘peak agriculture’ and the return of agricultural lands to nature because with safe GM crop inputs, we produce more crops on the same or less land. Note also the improving status of world forests over the past seven decades (FAO reports on increasing world forest cover), and the strengthening of conservation and restoration trends in world fisheries (Ray Hilborn research, University of Washington). Further, there is no species holocaust occurring. It appears the “responsible stewardship” approach of the early 20th Century conservationists is working (see Alston Chase’s ‘In A Dark Wood’).

As Julian Simon said, “Evidence on the big picture and long-term trends of life shows that we are more creators than destroyers”.

Added notes: There is a long history of belief in the moral/spiritual superiority of the ascetic lifestyle and engendering guilt over enjoying the good life too much (the good life viewed in terms of selfishness, greed, the “base” obsession with materialism). Note past history’s cloistered mystics, wandering holy men, and sages, begging for their daily needs. Those “holiness exhibited in simple living” cults are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and elsewhere.

Varied other beliefs play into the fear of consumption such as the fallacy of “limited good” that anthropology notes in hunter/gatherer societies where people believe that if some people in the group get more, then others must be getting less, as there are limited resources to go around. But the evidence, while at first seeming counter-intuitive, comes down on the side of ever-expanding human resources across history. “Cornucopians” like Julian Simon were right.

Simon (Ultimate Resource) has outlined the steps in the process that results in the expansion or increase in resource stocks: Within traditional production there may emerge an apparent scarcity of some resource. This leads to increasing prices for that resource. That prompts the search for more reserves of the resource, the search for technology that leads to more efficient production and use of the resource, or a search for alternatives to the resource (i.e. the shift from whale oil to fossil fuels). And ultimately there is a return to the trajectory of lowering the price of the resource. We saw the process above operating with the discovery of fracking technology and the opening of vast new sources of fossil fuels in the US.

Added note to Old Story themes: Holiness mythology

One of the most common responses from religious people to the idea of God as no conditions love is that God is also holy and just and therefore must punish all wrong. God’s honor is tarnished by the wrongdoing of people so he must be just (exhibit strict eye for eye retaliation) and punish all sin. God cannot just freely forgive and love. But this divine holiness myth is primitivism at its worst. How so? It is the very same reasoning that is behind practices like “honor killing”. People in varied cultures today still reason that, for example, a daughter embracing modern habits has dishonored her family and their traditional culture. So the dishonored males are required to punish the “evil” daughter in order to restore their tarnished honor. Holiness theology is embracing this very same primitive reasoning that wrongs must be punished thoroughly or justice and honor are not restored properly. I would counter that unconditional forgiveness and love is the true glory of God, the highest goodness and love. Authentic goodness and love will just forgive without demanding payment or righting of wrongs first.

The holiness feature in theology affirms the myth of God obsessed with perfection and punishing imperfection, hence the creation of a supporting complex of myths- i.e. original paradise/Eden (perfect creation), Fall of humanity and ruin of paradise (loss of perfection), and the subsequent need for an atonement (sacrifice/payment/punishment) in order to restore the lost perfection.

Added note to “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives”

The alternative new story themes include a “spiritual” element. This simply affirms what most of humanity across history, and most people today, understand and embrace (the 85% of humanity affiliated with a world religion, with most of the remaining 15% claiming to be “unaffiliated” or “spiritual but not religious”). Humanity in general has always understood that greater or Ultimate Reality (Ultimate meaning) is about more than just energy, natural law, quantum fields, multiple-dimensions, or Self-Organizing Principle as the creating Force of philosophical materialism.

Most human beings across history have intuitively understood that greater Reality has to do with Mind, Consciousness, Self/Personhood, Spirit, or Intelligence. Note that you do not have Consciousness or Mind without personality. Further, the early quantum theorists recognized the foundational Consciousness/Mind element also in their conclusion that their new science pointed to the universe as more “a great Thought than a machine”.

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History’s single greatest insight was buried under Paul’s Christ myth

Intro comments:

Paul’s Christ myth has been the single most influential myth in history. It is primarily responsible for perpetuating the primitive myth of apocalyptic in Western consciousness. And yes, there is an “anti-Christ” in Christianity but its not who you think it is. Its someone dear and familiar.

What’s at stake in challenging the Christ myth? History’s single most profound insight- i.e. that God is a stunning “no conditions” reality. That insight has been buried for two millennia under Paul’s highly conditional Christ myth.

The Christ myth- separating diamonds from dung (revised) Wendell Krossa

The fundamental problem with Paul’s Christ myth was outlined by Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy. They stated that the Christ of Paul “buried the diamonds/pearls” of Historical Jesus (“Historical Jesus” is the title used to distinguish the actual historical person from the Christian version- known commonly as “Jesus Christ”). The message of Jesus emphasized the themes of unlimited forgiveness and inclusion of all (sun and rain given to both good and bad), unconditional love (no payment or sacrifice demanded before forgiving- e.g. the Prodigal Father), and non-retaliatory justice (no “eye for eye” retaliation).

Paul’s Christ buried these diamond themes of unconditional love in the “dung” (Jefferson’s term) of highly conditional salvation mythology. The main features of conditional salvation include (1) the appeasement of angry deity with the condition of a blood sacrifice as required payment (see Romans, Hebrews); (2) the tribal exclusion of unbelievers (Paul taught in Romans and elsewhere the condition of faith in his Christ myth as necessary for inclusion in salvation); and (3) ultimate retaliation/punishment through apocalypse or hell (see the Thessalonian letters and the Revelation of John). The conditional religious mythology of Paul and other New Testament writers buried the unconditional message of Jesus.

Preface to “The Christian Contradiction” (Jesus versus Christ) Wendell Krossa

Across history people have appealed to deity, as humanity’s highest ideal and authority, to validate their behavior and their treatment of others, notably, to validate justice as the punishment of others for wrongs done. This is the ‘behavior based on similar belief’ relationship. People have long appealed to, for example, the features of retaliation and punishment in God as the ultimate validation for their exercise of punitive, payback justice toward offending others. Punitive theology undergirds punitive justice.

Historical Jesus reframed entirely the behavior based on belief model when he rejected retaliation as a divinely validated ethic. He stated that, contrary to Old Testament teaching, God did not retaliate (“no more eye for eye”). He argued that, instead, God generously forgave, included, and loved all people whether good or bad. Note the essential point of his Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements: “Love your enemies… (because God does). Be like God who generously and freely gives sun and rain to both righteous and unrighteous”.

Conclusion? You violate the central message of Historical Jesus if you try to appeal to him or his theology to validate retaliatory, punitive justice. Paul’s Christ is another matter altogether. The mythical Christ, a reality entirely opposite to Historical Jesus, validates ultimate divine retaliation.

In the Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements Historical Jesus overturned previous millennia of all-pervasive threat theology- i.e. myths of angry gods threatening judgment, punishment, and destruction. Unfortunately, Historical Jesus is almost entirely buried under Christ mythology in the New Testament books.

“The great Christian Contradiction” (Historical Jesus versus Paul’s Christ myth): Wendell Krossa

The argument here? The feature of ‘unconditional’ should be central to an authentically humane theology (i.e. God theory or Ultimate Reality theory). In this essay, I will appeal to elements of the Jesus tradition to establish this point. But my argument is not dependent on first establishing the actual message of the original Jesus. I do not view Jesus as an authority figure and I do not need his actual words (the “original message”) to affirm my point regarding an unconditional theology. I simply refer to varied useful comments in the Jesus material (e.g. “love your enemy”) to illustrate his central theme of unconditional love, something that stands on its own as authoritative.

Unconditional love is the best of being human and it possesses authority in itself as ultimate goodness without the need for validation by some religious authority. Unconditional love is “self-validating” as good or true. Unconditional love does not need validation from Jesus but I do not mind touching base with such a widely respected icon/symbol for illustrative purposes.

Unconditional love is not a religious insight or discovery. To the contrary, religious traditions across history have communicated the exact opposite in that they have all been essentially conditional traditions- promoting religious demands for right beliefs, correct rituals, required religious lifestyles to please religious deities, and the necessary conditions for religious salvation (i.e. sacrifices, payments). Religion, as an essentially conditional institution, has never communicated the stunning unconditional nature of deity to humanity. By its very nature as a conditional reality religion cannot represent/communicate unconditional reality.

I would establish the authority of unconditional love as supreme goodness by appealing to its discovery and practice by ordinary people all through our societies- i.e. parents, spouses, friends. It is the best behavior that we can engage and hence it should be the basis of any authentic theory of Ultimate Good or Ultimate Love. This is to say- we should do theology based on the best in humanity and then project the ‘best of being human’ out to define deity, not the other way around as religious traditions have long done. Religions begin with some holy text as authoritative ‘revealed truth’ that defines deity and is therefore the authority for human ethics/behavior.

Better, we should first establish the best of being human, and then project that out to define deity, but recognize deity as something transcendently better (Ultimate Good or Love). We should try to understand deity by first understanding the best of humanity. Another way of stating this- i.e. doing theology by noting the best of humanity and projecting that onto deity- would be to quote Alexander Pope, “Cease from God to scan… The proper study of mankind is man”.

This is all to say- I am not a Biblicist (i.e. dependent on the texts of religious holy books for authoritative validation of ideas or ethics). My location of ultimate authority is in common humanity and the best of common human goodness, whether exhibited by a non-religious person, an atheist, or by a religious person. I view all such common love as the expression of the God spirit, or god-likeness (that is to say- humaneness) that is present in ordinary people. We are all experts on basic human goodness and do not need affirmation from outside authorities, certainly not religious authorities.

And yes, I am affirming that all people are equally incarnated with the God spirit that is inseparable and indistinguishable from what we call the human spirit. There has been no “special incarnation of deity” only in religious heroes like Christian Jesus. To the contrary, I would affirm that there has been an equal incarnation of God in all people and that also offers a new metaphysical basis for human equality.

What about bad behavior? Unfortunately, we all have experience with ignoring or denying our core human spirit and freely choosing to exhibit the baser features of our inherited animal brain (and its base impulses) that still resides in all of us. The choice to engage bad behavior is the risk that comes with authentic freedom.

Concluding the above point… I do not base my understanding of ultimate reality on traditional religious sources- holy books- that claim to be “revealed truth” or “supreme authorities for thought and practice”. Those traditional sources of validation should be subject to the same evaluating criteria as all other areas of life- i.e. is the content good or bad, humane or inhumane? Modern sensibilities demand a radical overhaul and updating of such traditional sources of authority.

And yes, I get it that an unconditional theology will spell the end of all religion. If God is freely accessible to all alike- not a dominating authority, not demanding salvation conditions (sacrifice/payment), not requiring a religious lifestyle or ritual, not making tribal distinctions between believer/unbeliever, not threatening future judgment/punishment/destruction… well then, who needs religion with its endless myth-based conditions? An unconditional God means that we are all free to create our own unique life stories. And your story is a valuable or good as anyone else’s. Religious or not. You possess in your human spirit the same ability to know and define God as much as anyone else does.

The Great Christian Contradiction: A “stunning new theology” buried by Christianity

(Note: The conclusions here are based on Historical Jesus research, notably the “Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel” research of James Robinson, John Kloppenborg, among others. I accept that Q is the closest that we have gotten to the actual teaching of Jesus. The actual content of Q is much less than the material in the New Testament Gospels that is attributed to Jesus. And the single most important statement in Q is the central theme of Jesus that is reproduced in Luke 6:27-36 and Matthew 5:38-48.)

First, why go after Paul’s Christ myth, the highly revered icon of a major world religion? Because, even though the Christ represents valued ideals to the Christian community- i.e. love, forgiveness, salvation, hope- it also embodies and validates some of the worst features from an ancient past- i.e. retaliatory vengeance (see the Thessalonian letters, Revelation), tribal exclusion (true believers saved, unbelievers excluded), domination/subservience relationships (Lord Christ and his mediating priesthood dominating others- “Every knee shall bow”), and angry deity threatening to punish and destroy. John’s Revelation is an epitome statement of this divine retaliatory vengeance.

You cannot merge and mix contradicting opposites in some entity and make any sense- i.e. mixing humane ideals with primitive, subhuman ideas/practices. That promotes “cognitive dissonance” (see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”). Also, the nasty elements in a merger will undermine, weaken, and distort the better features in the mix. It’s like putting new wine in old, rotten wineskins.

Further, the Christ of Paul is mainly responsible for embedding and re-enforcing the myth of apocalypse in Western consciousness and keeping that pathological myth alive now for two millennia. Apocalyptic mythology continues to wreak damage through contemporary alarmism movements like environmental alarmism. As James Tabor said, “Paul has been the most influential person in history and he has shaped practically all that we think about everything… (further) apocalyptic shaped all that Paul said and did”, (Paul and Jesus). Paul’s apocalyptic Christ myth has shaped much of the content of contemporary myth-making as well as our ethics and justice systems.

The historical lines of descent/influence are as follows: Paul’s Christ brought apocalyptic mythology to prominence in Western consciousness and worldviews. That Christian heritage then shaped much of 19th Century Declinism (see Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’). Declinism, in turn, has shaped contemporary environmental apocalyptic or Green religion.

My argument is that to deal fully and properly with the destructive pathology of apocalyptic we must also deal with the core reality- the Christ myth- that validates and sustains this mythology in our consciousness and societies. Apocalyptic has been rightly exposed as “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (Arthur Mendel in ‘Vision and Violence’). If you want to fully understand how bad ideas from a primitive past have descended down into modern human narratives and consciousness then recognize the centrality of Paul’s Christ myth in this process. (Note: Messiah mythology actually began earlier in the Jewish messiah tradition that was then continued in Christianity.)

More on the “Contradiction”

Over the past three centuries, the “Search For Historical Jesus” has given us the basic outline of what happened in the Christian tradition. The latest phase of this search- the “Jesus Seminar”- offers more detail on the basic issues involved, i.e. that early Christianity was a diverse movement with major differences, for example, between Jewish Christianity (Jesus acknowledged as some sort of prophet/king but not God) and Paul’s Gentile Christian movement (Jesus as God-man, cosmic Christ/Savior).

Further, there were numerous other gospels that were not accepted into the Christian cannon- e.g. the gospel of Philip, gospel of Mary, Gospel of James, gospel of Thomas, and so on. The victors of the early Christian battles, notably Paul’s version of Christianity, got to dictate what was truth and what was heresy. Emperor Constantine also stuck his nose into the truth/heresy fighting among early Christians (see, for example, ‘Constantine’s Sword’ by James Carroll).

Of the varied other gospels available when the New Testament canon was assembled, why were only Matthew, Mark, Luke and John included? Historians have noted some of the simple-minded reasoning behind the centuries-long selection process for the New Testament canon, such as Irenaeus’ affirmation that “there are four universal winds… animals have four legs…”, etc. Hence, the four gospels in the New Testament (NT). Such was ancient ‘theological’ reasoning. Though the gospels chosen had to affirm Paul’s theology and Christ myth.

The ‘Search For Historical Jesus’ has revealed that there was a real historical person and we believe that we have got close to his original message. But his actual message is much less than what the New Testament gospels have attributed to Jesus. The NT gospel writers put numerous statements/sayings in Jesus’ mouth, claiming that he had said such things. But many of those added sayings contradict the man’s core theme/message.

Note, for instance, the statement of his central theme in Matthew 5 to “love your enemy”. That is the single most profound statement of ‘no-conditions love’. But then a few chapters later (Matthew 11) Jesus apparently pivots 180 degrees and threatens “unbelievers/enemies” with the single most intense statement of hatred ever uttered- that enemies should be cast into hell. Matthew claims that Jesus threatened the villages that refused to accept him and his miracles, stating that they would be “cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth”. These statements could not have come from the same person because they are statements of irreconcilable opposites.

The core teaching of Jesus has been summarized in the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel, notably the first version- Q1. That teaching is basically Matthew 5-7 with some other comments and parables. Luke 6 is a similar summary but with a different setting- a lakeside versus Matthew’s mountaintop.

Matthew, obsessed with righteousness, tampers with the core Q Sayings Wisdom teaching in the chapter 5-7 section of his gospel. He adds his own editorial glosses, such as his condition that people’s righteousness had to exceed that of religious teachers if they wanted to get into heaven. They had to meet the impossible condition to “be perfect just as God is perfect”. That distorts entirely the main point of Jesus that it did not matter how people responded to love, because God generously included all, both good and bad. God was unconditional Love, and desired the universal, unlimited inclusion of everyone. Luke in his treatment of the very same message does a better job, summing Jesus’ point as “be unconditionally merciful just like your Father is unconditionally merciful” (Luke 6). That gets the spirit of the passage better than Matthew’s subsequent editorial changes to the original statements of Jesus.

The central statement or theme in the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel material is a statement of a behavior/belief relationship. It urges a specific behavior based on a similar validating belief. Note this in the Matthew 5:38-48 section, “Don’t engage the old eye for eye justice toward your enemy/offender. Instead, love your enemy because God does. How so? God does not retaliate against and punish enemies/offenders, but instead generously gives the good gifts of life- i.e. sun and rain for crops- inclusively to both good people and bad people alike”. Jesus based a non-retaliatory behavior on a similar validating belief in a non-retaliatory God. James Robinson calls the statement of Jesus in Matthew 5 a “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”.

A critical takeaway here is that a non-retaliating God (no more eye for eye) is a non-apocalyptic God because apocalyptic is a supreme and final act of retaliation. The ultimate act of eye for eye retaliation is the great final apocalypse to destroy the world. The God of Jesus will not engage that ultimate act of retaliation in the violent punishment and destruction of all things. Include the conclusion that a God that rejects eye for eye justice would not promote the pathological belief in hell which is an expression of eternal retaliation. The God of Jesus was entirely non-punitive and non-apocalyptic.

These common-sense conclusions flow from this stunning new theology, from the core theme of a no-conditions God. The God of Jesus would not ultimately judge or condemn anyone and would not ultimately exclude anyone. Again, note the stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory and unconditional God in the statements- “no more eye for eye justice, but love your enemy because God does. God gives sun and rain to all, to both good and bad people”. The God of Jesus is best defined with the adjective “unconditional” and this summarizes the core theme or teaching in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.

A further conclusion from this core teaching would be that the God of Jesus did not demand salvation through blood sacrifice or payment for sin. The God of Jesus would not demand sacrifice or payment before forgiving, loving, and including even the worst offenders/enemies. This is evident in the accompanying statements in Luke 6 that authentic love would “give, expecting nothing in return”. There is no expectation of or demand for debt payment or similar return of any kind.

And this point scandalizes the religious or moral mind that is oriented to fairness and justice as proper retribution or punishment, justice as tit for tat, hurt for hurt, or demanded payment for wrong. No more eye for eye means that God’s love is not a tit for tat form of love that is dependent on some similar response from others.

Most of us understand and practice this same ‘no conditions’ forgiveness and love in our interactions with family, friends, and neighbors. We learn to overlook the many imperfections in those around us and just get on with life, and hope that others will be equally merciful with our imperfections. We do not demand payback or reparations for all the wrongs done to us by others. How much more would a deity that is ultimate Goodness offer such transcendent forgiveness and love.

Note also Jesus’ parables on the Vineyard workers and the Prodigal Son for illustrations of how good moral people were offended by the unconditional generosity, forgiveness, and love. The Prodigal’s Father and the vineyard owner disregarded the commonly understood norms of fair justice and that generosity offended the older brother and scandalized the all-day vineyard workers. Further, the unconditional inclusion of local “sinners” at meal tables offended righteous, moral Jews who were tribally minded and oriented to the inclusion of similarly law-abiding people, but excluded the unlawful people or “sinners” (those not practicing Jewish law). Jesus claimed that God does not view humanity as tribally divided (e.g. good people versus bad people) and does not treat some differently from others. All are the favorites of God, including our enemies. This is to say that God is a oneness God, and all people are equal members of the one human family.

There is a “thematic coherence” to the message and behavior of the Historical Jesus and that message/behavior is intensely oriented to unconditional, universal love.

The rest of the New Testament, including the gospels, contradicts this core non-retaliatory, unconditional love theme entirely. A proper setting forth of the correct chronology of the New Testament highlights this profound contradiction at the heart of Christianity.

The dating

Jesus taught first, around 27-36 CE. I would offer that the main point/statement in his core message, the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel, would be the behavior/belief relationship noted above: “Do not engage eye for eye retaliation, but instead love your enemies because God does. God does not engage eye for eye justice against imperfect people but loves his enemies. We should be just like God who gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- to both good and bad people”. God is a non-retaliatory reality that loves all unconditionally and universally, expecting nothing in return.

James Robinson has correctly stated that Jesus presented “the stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”. This is the single most profound teaching/insight in all human history.

Paul wrote the next material that is in the New Testament- i.e. his Thessalonian letters written around 50 CE (I am passing over the argument re the authenticity of the second Thessalonian letter). In his very first letters Paul straightforward rejects the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and advocates for a retaliatory Christ- “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish/destroy all who do not obey my gospel”.

His other letters were also written in the 50s CE. In his Romans letter Paul contradicts Jesus directly, notably confronting the core statement and theme of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48. Paul employs the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus used to state his theology. But Paul uses that same pairing (i.e. basing a behavior on a belief) to make the very opposite conclusion to the theology of Jesus. In Romans 12:17-20 he urges Christians to hold their desire for vengeance at bay because God will satisfy it eventually with ultimate eye for eye vengeance. Contrary to Jesus’ non-retaliatory God, Paul’s God is a retaliating deity.

Paul affirms his view that God is a supremely retaliatory reality by quoting an Old Testament statement, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay”. In this, Paul re-affirms eye for eye retaliatory justice and response. There is no ultimate “love your enemy” in Paul’s God or Christ.

In the Romans material Paul is arguing with the Roman Christians- restrain your longing for vengeance, not because God also restrains a lust for vengeance (rejecting eye for eye justice as Jesus did), but to the contrary, because God will unleash ultimate vengeance soon enough and satisfy your desire for eye for eye vengeance on your enemies.

I would suggest that Paul used this behavior/belief pairing in Romans 12 to intentionally contradict the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus used in his central message. The similarities are too obvious. Paul rejects the non-retaliatory God of Jesus to fully affirm a retaliatory, punitive God, a tribal God that favors his true believers and destroys the enemies of his followers.

And while Paul appears to embrace the non-retaliatory ethic of Jesus (“Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge”) note that his ethic is oriented to and motivated by the hope for ultimate retaliation from God and that makes even the apparently non-retaliatory ethic actually retaliatory in intent. Basically, Paul was arguing that the Roman believers should be nice to their offenders in order that God could be really nasty to them in the future. Their being nice now was intended to “Pour coals of fire on their heads” in the future, that is, to ensure their harsh judgment at the hands of a wrathful and retaliatory God. So the apparently non-retaliatory ethic of Paul was nothing like the ‘no eye for eye’ ethic of Jesus.

Paul also, in other places (again, in contradiction to Jesus), straightforwardly embraced an apocalyptic God/Christ. Once more, note his Thessalonian letters where he states, “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish/destroy all who do not believe my gospel”. This statement of apocalyptic vengeance is the supreme act of a retaliatory, destroying God that engages ultimate eye for eye justice.

Further, Paul rejected, and trashed in general, the wisdom tradition that Jesus belonged to. See his first Corinthian letter for his detailed comments on the wisdom tradition. Stephen Patterson’s ‘The Lost Way’ deals with this anti-wisdom strain in Paul. It was a further effort to undermine the historical Jesus that contradicted Paul’s Christ myth.

The four gospels that were later included in the New Testament all affirmed Paul’s views and his retaliatory and apocalyptic Christ myth. The NT gospels added made-up biographical material and statements that they claimed were from Jesus, material that directly contradicted his main theme and message. Mark wrote first around 70 CE. Then Matthew and Luke wrote around 80 CE, John later around 100 CE.

All four gospels affirmed Paul’s apocalyptic, destroying Christ myth and Paul’s gospel of the Christ as a great cosmic sacrifice to pay for all sin (i.e. a supremely conditional love).

Paul and his apocalyptic Christ myth- the most influential person and myth in history- has since profoundly shaped Western consciousness. His Christ myth also shaped Western justice as punitive and retaliatory- eye for eye justice, or punishment in return for harm caused (i.e. pain for pain, hurt for hurt). Paul’s Christ, and his God, are supremely retaliatory.

Fortunately, the inclusion of the original Jesus material in the New Testament (the Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6 sections) has served as a moderating force in the Christian tradition and history, countering the harsher elements with unconditional mercy. But on the other hand, the mixing and merging of opposites has resulted in the ‘cognitive dissonance’ of a “diamonds-in-dung” situation which was the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy. The better stuff- the core Jesus message and his stunning new unconditional theology- has been distorted and weakened by the nastier features in the mix. Much like new wine put into old, rotten wine-skins.

(See Zenon Lotufo’s ‘Cruel God, Kind God’ for a psychotherapist’s view of the cognitive dissonance of mixed-God theories, and the damaging impact of including subhuman features in the gods of religious traditions.)

Contrary to the unconditional and all-inclusive love that Jesus advocated, Christian love too often is a tribally-limited love, reserved more specially for fellow true believers in the Christ myth. Paul advocated such tribal love. Also, note his intolerant rage, in varied places, at his fellow apostles that did not submit to his Christ myth. He cursed them with eternal damnation (e.g. Galatians 1:8-9). John in the early chapters of Revelation similarly curses “lukewarm” Christians with threats of exclusion and eternal destruction. And then how about those later chapters of Revelation?

After the core Q Wisdom Sayings message of Historical Jesus there is nothing of the scandalous generosity of unconditional love in the rest of the New Testament.

The unconditional God of Jesus, and the supremely conditional God/Christ of Paul that dominates the New Testament (demand for cosmic sacrifice before forgiving), are two entirely opposite realities.

Ah, such contradictions at the very heart of Christianity.

Here is the main contradiction summarized again:

Jesus’ ethic and the theology or belief that it is based on: “Do not engage eye for eye retaliation but instead love your enemy because God does, giving the beneficial gifts of life, sun and rain for crops, to all alike, to both good and bad people”. Behave like that because God is like that. Non-retaliatory, universally inclusive, unconditionally generous and loving.

Then Paul’s ethic and the theology or belief that it is based upon: Paul copies the pattern that Jesus used of an ethic/behavior that is based upon a similar theology/belief. Again, I believe that Paul set this pattern up deliberately to directly contradict the central theme of Jesus and his stunning new theology. Paul’s argument and reasoning in Romans 12:17-20, “Be nice now to your offenders. Hold your vengeance lust at bay because my God states (he quotes an Old Testament statement to affirm his theology of a retaliatory God)- ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’”. Which is to say- God shall satisfy your longing for vengeance soon enough.

That is the profound contradiction in the New Testament between Jesus and Paul, between the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and the entirely opposite retaliatory theology of Paul. Theology, or God theory, is the highest ideal and authority of human narratives. The reality that is God influences and shapes all else in religious belief systems.

Takeaway? The central theme/message of Historical Jesus is buried by Paul’s Christ myth. Again, the central teaching of Jesus: “You must not engage ‘eye for eye’ retaliatory justice. Instead, love your enemies/offenders because God does. How so? God does not retaliate and punish God’s enemies. Instead, God gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- universally and inclusively to both good and bad people”.

Christianity has never taken this stunning new theology of Jesus seriously. It opted instead for the retaliatory and tribally-excluding God of Paul. Unbelievers are excluded from Paul’s salvation scheme and face the threat of ultimate retaliation in apocalypse and hell. Note Paul’s repeated use in his varied letters of the threatening term “destruction” in relation to people who refuse to believe his God or Christ.

Another version of the Christian contradiction (a related post)…

History’s single greatest contradiction? My candidate: The contradiction between the central message of Historical Jesus, and the central meaning and message of Paul’s Christ myth (his Christology theory). Or, “How history’s single most profound insight was subsequently buried in a major religious tradition”.

A side consideration: Think of the liberation that could have been promoted over the last two millennia if some movement had taken Jesus seriously (i.e. liberation from the unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame that come from harsh and threatening God theories- “Cruel God theories”, Zenon Lotufo). But no one, not even Jesus’ closest companions/disciples, took his scandalous and offensive insights seriously.

The contradiction at the core of Christianity has to do with the following profound opposites- i.e. (1) non-retaliatory behavior versus retaliation, (2) the non-punitive treatment of offenders versus a punitive approach, (3) no conditions versus a supreme condition (sacrifice, Salvationism), (4) unlimited love versus limited tribal love, (5) the universal embrace of humanity versus the restricted inclusion of only true believers, and (6) non-apocalyptic versus total apocalyptic destruction. You can’t get more contrary or contradictory than these entirely opposite themes/realities.

Psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and others, point to the “cognitive dissonance” that arises when you try to hold opposites in some larger merger.

“Greatest contradiction?” How so? Because of the historical and current world-wide influence of the Christian religion, and notably the influence of Paul’s Christ myth. This myth has shaped the version of Christianity that has descended down into our contemporary world (compared, for instance, to the prominent Jewish Christianity of the first century CE- i.e. Ebionism- that eventually became absorbed into Islam).

And also “greatest” due to the very nature of the contradiction itself. It is hard to find a more stark contrast between entirely opposite realities than that between the main message of Jesus and the contrary Christ message of Paul. I use the term “the main message of Jesus” in reference to the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel, specifically the Q1 version, and the most important statement in that Q gospel as now found in Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36.

Historical Jesus stated that, for him, the era of “eye for eye justice” was over. He rejected retaliatory justice and, instead, he promoted the restorative justice of “love your enemies” (Matthew 5). Why? Because that was what God did. It was what God was. The God of Jesus was love of a stunning new variety never before seen in the long history of God theories. His God did not retaliate with eye for eye justice but instead loved God’s enemies. And the evidence? Jesus illustrated his point with the main features of the natural world. God gave the good gifts of life- i.e. sun and rain for crops- to all, to both good and bad people. There was no discrimination and no exclusion of anyone.

God’s love and generosity was inclusive, universal, and unconditional. Jesus used a behavior/belief pairing to make this point. “Do this… because God does it”. He based his behavior on a similar validating belief. Do this- treat all others with unconditional love- and you will be just like God (you will be acting like the children of God) who treats all with unconditional love.

The God of Jesus was non-retaliatory, non-vengeful, non-punitive, non-excluding, non-destroying and therefore non-apocalyptic. Non-apocalyptic? Yes. A non-retaliatory God is not an apocalyptic God. Apocalyptic is the ultimate act of eye for eye retaliation, vengeance, punishment, and total destruction.

Further, such a God would not demand payment or punishment for wrong. He would not demand a sacrifice for wrong. The God of Jesus would generously give to all, including those who do not pay back or respond in a similar manner. His God would not just love those who loved him in return (limited tribal love). His God was authentically universal and no conditions love toward all, without exception.

No sacrifice? Yes, this is intimated clearly in statements such as “Lend, expecting nothing in return (i.e. no payback)”. Expect no payment of debt or reparations. Just love and give anyway. Freely. Unconditionally.

Try to get the “spirit” of the overall section and the central point of the message of the man (i.e. Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36). Too many get sidetracked in what they believe are qualifying details that undermine the core ‘no conditions’ point that Jesus was making. Remember Matthew, obsessed with righteousness, and as the editor of this material from Jesus, added his own distorting qualifications such as “Be perfect as your Father is perfect”. Luke did a better job with this very same material, getting the spirit of Jesus in stating, “Be unconditionally merciful as your Father is unconditionally merciful” (my paraphrase of Luke’s point and spirit).

Note the same unconditional generosity and forgiveness in other Jesus material such as the Prodigal parable and the Vineyard workers story, and in statements on forgiving “seventy times seven” (unlimited). Also, in his inclusion of everyone at meal tables, including local “sinners” or lawbreakers.

But Paul…

Paul outright rejected the central non-retaliatory, unconditional theme of Jesus and shamefully retreated to the old retaliatory, punitive theology of all past mythology and religion. His used the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus had used, but Paul did this to straightforwardly contradict the central theme of Jesus. I think Paul did that intentionally as he knew he was confronting the central statement and theme of Jesus. So Paul similarly based his behavior on a validating belief.

Further, Paul more generally trashed and rejected the wisdom tradition that Jesus belonged to (see his first letter to the Corinthians).

At first glance, it appears that Paul embraced the behavioral standard of Jesus in stating that it was wrong to repay evil with evil, to retaliate (Romans 12:17-20). But then he contradicted the new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and stated that, to the contrary, his God was retaliatory. Paul quoted an Old Testament statement to make his point, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. Paul re-affirmed eye for eye justice at the center of his belief system. And His God would punish and destroy all in the epitome act of retaliatory punishment and destruction- an apocalypse. “Lord Jesus (Christ) will return in blazing fire to punish and destroy all who do not obey/believe my gospel of the Christ” (Thessalonians). See his other letters for similar statements of the punishment/destruction of unbelievers.

And a closer look at Paul’s ethic in that Romans 12 section shows that his advocacy for non-retaliatory behavior was actually retaliatory in intent. You were supposed to engage such behavior in order to ensure that God would take vengeance on your offenders/enemies. Don’t retaliate, he said, but be nice to your enemies in order to “heap coals of fire on them”- i.e. to ensure that God punishes them harshly. Both the theology and the related ethic of Paul are oriented to retaliation. The ethic is retaliatory in intent.

There is no greater contradiction in religious history than this one between the God of Jesus and Paul’s Christ. It is the contradiction between non-retaliation and retaliation in deity. Between Jesus’ inclusion of all (sun and rain on all), and Paul’s exclusion and destruction of unbelievers. This is a contradiction between Jesus’ advocacy for no conditions love and Paul’s advocacy for love based on a supreme condition- the demand for a supreme sacrifice to pay for all sin (i.e. the sacrifice of a god-man to pay for the sins of all humanity- see Paul’s letter to the Romans).

Paul’s term “Jesus Christ” is then the epitome expression of an oxymoron. You cannot mix and merge these two entire opposites. Jesus is not Christ. He was against Christology or Christ mythology (see “Rethink Paul’s Christ Myth” in sections below). Note, for example Matthew 20:25-28, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus condemned the desire to “lord over others” and told his followers that true greatness was to serve others, and that was what he was about. Paul’s Lord Christ, to the contrary, is about absolute domination over others. Jesus was against that vision of a lording ruler or Lord Christ. He is the anti-Christ at the very heart of Christianity.

Paul shaped the version of Christianity that we have today. Christianity is the religion of Paul’s Christ (“Christ-ianity”). It is not the religion of Jesus. It is not “Jesus-ianity”. Christianity does not properly represent Jesus to the world. As Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy stated so bluntly, “The diamonds/pearls of Jesus have been buried in the subhuman context of the New Testament”. I’ve paraphrased their actual statements to soften the harsh bluntness of their words.

Added notes on the Christ: Religious icons and myths still exert an outsize influence on modern human thought and behavior. Note the 85% of humanity that are still affiliated with a major world religion as per the World Religion Survey. Most of the remaining 15% also embrace diverse forms of “spiritual” beliefs.

A close examination of humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity- reveals many residual subhuman/inhuman features still present in religious versions of God. This exposes a root problem with religious theology or God theories. Once something has been projected onto a religious God, even if it was projected back in the era of human immaturity and primitive thought, such features have become part of the “immutability of deity”- i.e. the belief that religious gods do not change over time and hence must not be tampered with. This immutability feature is protected with threats of blasphemy/heresy.

This urges the consideration that religious reformism has to move beyond peripheral tinkering at the edges (changing this custom or that ritual) to thoroughly and properly tackle the core reality- the nature of religious deity. This is a project that involves humanizing our highest ideals and authorities with our ever-developing and progressing understanding of what is truly humane.

Fortunately, developing human insight into the true nature of love as unconditional now points us toward a stunning new understanding of the true nature of Ultimate Reality or God. Parents, spouses, and friends all know, from daily relating to imperfect family/people all around them, that love at its best is unconditional. We now project this highest form of love out to define deity properly as Ultimate Love and Goodness.

The best in humanity, as we understand it in terms of our common modern sensibilities, should define what is assumed to be transcendently better in deity. Yes, this is an “audacious” new way of doing theology. But it points to a more humane understanding of deity than what we have inherited from religious traditions and their holy books, the old sources of authority that are still rooted in primitive views of right and wrong (e.g. punitive justice, exclusion of unbelievers, discrimination of minorities, domination/submission relationships, etc.).

Note on the general tone or spirit of Jesus’ teaching:

Historical Jesus repeatedly upset good, moral, righteous people who believed that justice meant fairness as in proper eye for eye payback- i.e. that good should be rewarded and the bad should be punished. Jesus overturned that view of justice, scandalizing and offending people with his teaching on unconditional, universal love. Examples: “Forgive seventy times seven… which is to say- endlessly, without limit… sun and rain on all, both good and bad”). And he argued that his new view of God embodied this ‘no conditions love’ to transcendent or infinite degree. Everyone would get the same ultimate bliss in the end.

Based on the theology of Jesus we can affirm ultimate safety for all, both good and bad, and this should shape how we treat all in this life (i.e. with restorative justice). But in this life there are natural and social consequences to behavior and we accept that as part of healthy human development. However, despite the natural consequences for behavior we can also freely choose to do the Mandela thing and generously forgive and pardon oppressors/offenders and take a restorative approach toward them. Much like the US did, generally, with Japan and Germany after the Second World War. Or as the mother of the murdered daughter did in ‘The Forgiven’. Simon Wiesenthal, also chose to avoid retaliatory vengeance and forgive while seeking to hold Nazis responsible for their crimes (“Justice, not Vengeance”).

Added note

All across history people have appealed to deities to validate their behavior and their treatment of others, notably, to validate the punishment of others for wrongs. People have long used the features of retaliation and punishment in divinity as the ultimate validation for punitive, payback justice toward others. But Historical Jesus swept away that basis of divine validation by stating that God did not retaliate (no more eye for eye) but, to the contrary, generously forgave, included, and loved all people the same, whether good or bad (sun and rain on both good and bad). You violate the central message of Historical Jesus if you try to use him or his theology to validate retaliatory, punitive justice. Christian Jesus (Paul’s “Jesus Christ”), of course, is another matter altogether. But that is something entirely opposite to Historical Jesus.

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Speculating on the meaning of human life and experience

Speculating with Campbell on the meaning of human life and experience Wendell Krossa

Or: How to tower in stature as maturely human, how to become the hero of your story or quest.

Joseph Campbell said that we all live a “hero’s quest or adventure”. Our lives and life experiences can be understood in terms of “the hero’s journey”. We all live heroic stories of adventure, struggle, suffering, conquest of monsters/problems, disintegration/re-integration, transformation, discovery and gaining insights that benefit others. I have added to Campbell’s basic framework, revising, paraphrasing, and changing some things.

Going right to the point on the big question- What is the greater goal or meaning of human life? Above all else that we might accomplish in life, I would suggest that we are here to learn what love is and how to love. Love is the fundamental reason/purpose for the cosmos, our world, and conscious human life.

Campbell affirmed love as the overall meaning of life in his comment that we become mature persons when we embrace “universal love”. Then we become the heroes of our story. I would use the broader term “unconditional” or “no conditions” to hone the definition of love. This boundary-breaking adjective takes love to a whole new level of courage and achievement. It is unconditional love that enables us to “tower in stature” as fully and maturely human.

Arguments for unconditional as the highest and most authentic form of love

Unconditional or no conditions love includes universal and more. Unconditional is about an unlimited generosity that demands absolutely no conditions of others before loving them. It is a big-heartedness that loves freely regardless of the response of the other person.

Note here the “hard sayings” of Jesus to “love enemies… to give expecting nothing in return”. (Insert note: I am referring to the Historical Jesus not the Christian Jesus Christ). Historical Jesus added that it is comparably easy to love and give if you expect an equal return:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

Jesus’ point was that authentic mature love will not set any conditions before loving others. It is not dependent on similar response. And it is not limited to like-minded ingroup members. It will also love enemies. It is not tribally oriented or limited.

Unconditional love is the highest form of love that humanity has discovered and the ideal that takes us safely in the direction of a more humane existence. It guides us toward actions that cause the least harm to others. It provides the safest ethical standard to help us navigate the tests of life. How so? Unconditional urges us to be non-retaliatory, non-dominating, and non-punitive. There is nothing safer than these responses for assuring that the least harm is shown to others, and the most good is done to others.

Further, with qualifiers…

Unconditional is how we conquer our personal monster, our real enemy in life, the inherited animal impulses embedded deeply inside each of us, impulses that orient us to tribal exclusion and division (small band mentality), to domination of others (alpha male/female), to treat other’s failures with punitive justice (to destroy the offending/competing other). Unconditional persuades us to counter and overcome these inherited tendencies and thereby to “tower in stature” as a heroic conqueror of the “animal passions”.

Unconditional is about embracing traits like the unlimited forgiveness of the failures of others, forgiveness that is manifested in restorative justice approaches toward offenders (non-retaliatory, non-punitive justice). Unconditional is about embracing universal inclusion of all as equals (non-dominating, non-controlling forms of relating to all others, i.e. relating horizontally not vertically).

Unconditional takes us to the height of what it means to live as authentically human. It is the most humane ideal that we have discovered to shape our goals, our mission/purpose in life. It shows us how we can become the hero of our unique story, and how we can mature as human persons. Unconditional, as our highest human ideal, gives meaning to everything else. It answers the great questions of meaning and purpose: “Why existence?”; “Why this cosmos and this world?”; and “Why conscious human life?”

An insert qualifier:

Approaching life with an unconditional orientation does not mean pacifist inaction in the face of injustice, violence, or evil. In discussion groups you sometimes get participants who respond to the suggestion of embracing unconditional as an ideal with this distorting dismissal, “Oh, you’re saying that we should let all the psychopaths go free”. No. In advocating for an unconditional mindset, no one is suggesting anything so thoughtlessly irresponsible and extremist. Embracing an unconditional ideal to guide life does not entail the abandonment of common sense in an imperfect world.

An unconditional approach to human failure will hold all responsible for their behavior, and this will require the restraint and imprisonment of people who are not able or not willing to self-control their worst impulses. Unconditional will even regretfully engage war to stop aggression against the innocent. But it will do so with the non-aggressive and non-triumphalist attitude advocated by the Chinese sage Laozi, that does not gloat over the defeat of an opponent.

Unconditional love is not primarily about feeling, as the horrific inhumanity of some offenders rightly evokes rage and disgust. Unconditional is an embrace of love that intends to treat all offenders humanely, despite their offenses. Much like our human rights codes that obligate us to treat prisoners of war humanely. Illustrations of unconditional love of enemies are presented in movies like “The Forgiven”, “The Railway Man”, “Invictus”, “To End All Wars”, “Ben Hur”, etc.

Unconditional transforming humanity’s highest ideal and authority: Create a new God, a truly humane deity

(Note: Apply these points also to the newer “secular” versions of deity such as “Vengeful Gaia… angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and payback karma”)

Unconditional points to a profound redefining of humanity’s ultimate ideal and authority- deity. It overturns entirely the long history of punitive, retaliatory gods demanding sacrifice/payment.

Deities, from the beginning, have been defined by features like tribal exclusion (true believers vs unbelievers), domination (God as lord, king), and retaliatory punishment (God as Judge, ultimate Punisher/Destroyer). These features projected onto deities have long validated the expression of similar features in the followers of such deities because people across history have venerated the gods as their highest ideals and authorities. From the beginning, people have naturally tried to model their lives and societies according to their understanding of the nature of their deities. This age-old human impulse to venerate deity as ultimate authority has often resulted in horrific outcomes because “we become just like the God that we believe in or worship” (Bob Brinsmead).

Unconditional rejects the baser features that have long been projected onto humanity’s highest ideal and authority. Unconditional fully humanizes deity. It makes God safe to use as a source of validation for human behavior and life.

History records stunning examples of the inhumane treatment of others in the name of God. For example, Christian crusaders near the end of the first millennium CE slaughtered Jews and Muslims because they believed their God willed the destruction of unbelievers. More recently, ISIS similarly slaughtered people because they believed their God demanded such harsh punishment of infidels.

Defining God as unconditional love will overturn entirely the subhuman features of deity that have long validated inhumane treatment of others. When unconditional defines the highest ideal and authority of humanity, then people wanting to treat others inhumanely are left without recourse to divine validation. They are left indefensible and facing personal responsibility for any inhumanity expressed toward others.

Unconditional deity fundamentally re-orients the primal human impulse to base behavior on belief- i.e. to validate our behavior with our beliefs, notably our beliefs regarding the nature of deity. Embracing unconditional in our highest ideal and authority will then enable a profound re-shaping of our responses and our treatment of human imperfection and failure. Where punitive, retaliatory deities have long validated human justice as systems of punitive retaliation, unconditional deity will orient us away from punitive forms of justice and toward the restorative or rehabilitative treatment of imperfect others. In a word- mercy.

Interacting with Campbell’s points on human story…

First, I would affirm with Campbell that we come from a greater Oneness that humanity has long called “God” (i.e. the Ultimate Creating Consciousness, Mind, Intelligence, Source, Spirit, Self, Goodness). As noted above, there is one transcendently dominant feature that describes this divine Oneness- Love. Not just love as we commonly know it from our experience, but Love that is inexpressibly, transcendently, and infinitely unconditional. Beyond words, terms, definitions, or categories. The God that is infinitely beyond our human-created theories of God. God as unconditional Love is a reality that is transcendently beyond the common understanding of the term “God is love”. Inexpressibly beyond the best that we could ever imagine. No religion has ever communicated this liberating wonder to humanity.

Historically, all religious traditions have been oriented to conditional reality- conditions of right belief (the “truth” of the religion), required sacrifice/payment, correct rituals and religious lifestyle, obligatory membership. An unconditional deity renders religion unnecessary, hence the religious hesitation to engage or promote such a God.

No conditions Love redefines the ultimate meaning of everything. The stunning new theology of deity as unconditional Love presents a radical new view of the cosmos, the world, and conscious life.

A related insight to ponder:

Consider that our true self is also defined by the same no conditions Love that is God. This ought to radically transform and reshape our sense of identity or self-image. We are not the fallen, “originally sinful” beings of religious mythology.

If oneness is fundamental reality, then the love that is God is inseparable from our human spirit and our human consciousness. Unfortunately, our core spirit and consciousness are clouded and inhibited by the material body and brain that we have come to inhabit. Our core nature as no conditions love is often distorted and even obstructed from full expression by our interaction with the animal brain that we have inherited. Our brain with its anti-human impulses to exhibit dualistic tribalism, domination of others, and the exclusion, punishment, and destruction of others, leads us too often to make choices that deny our true nature as beings of love. (Yes, I am affirming a form of “dualist interactionism” (immaterial mind interacting with material brain), similar to that of neuroscientist John Eccles.)

Further, regarding our origins in a greater Oneness (i.e. that we essentially belong to a greater Consciousness), some suggest that only part of our greater consciousness is expressed through our material body and brain. The human brain is a mechanism that limits our greater consciousness and enables us to function in a limited manner this material realm. Our greater consciousness is mediated through our physical body/brain and this limits our experience to the 5 senses of the human body/brain and the three or four-dimensional reality of this material realm. This limiting function of our brain enables us to experience life in this world. In this view, the brain is a transmitting organism, a limiting mechanism to make a life story possible in the here and now. (Note: Again, this view is more in line with Eccles’ “dualist inter-action”.)

Our origin in the Oneness or the Source that is Love, our inseparable union with that Oneness, according to Campbell, is critical to remember as we journey through life in order that we do not lose our humanity in this world where we engage our varied struggles with evil. Our true home in ultimate Oneness reminds us that the others that we battle against here- i.e. the imperfect others that we may view as “enemies” or opponents- they are part of the same greater Oneness that is love. They are still intimate family despite the oppositions/dualisms that we engage here (i.e. the dualisms of religion, politics, race, nationality, gender, or other).

The others that we may oppose/fight during our lives are also full equals in a greater Oneness. They are our brothers and sisters in the same family. If we forget this oneness with others (“our brotherhood with even our enemies”) during our righteous struggle with evil in this world, then we will lose our humanity, says Campbell. We will forget that “love your enemy” is the key to maintaining our humanity.

Others have suggested that we are co-creators with God, that we take part in creating this material reality as a learning arena, a place where we come to learn how to be human, to experience and act out a human adventure, story, or quest. We all come as “fellow actors in God’s theater”, says Campbell, playing our differing temporary roles, whether as good or bad persons.

And others yet suggest that we may even be responsible for choosing our unique life stories and the varied experiences of our stories, both good and bad. We may have chosen our bodies, our families, and our unique life stories, in order to learn, develop, and grow as human. If this is true in any way, then we cannot blame God for our troubles. I am not affirming these speculative things… just offering them for consideration. They point to alternative ways to view the harsher experiences of our lives. We may have chosen (in pre-existence) our unique life experiences as opportunities for personal learning and growth.

Insert: This is not a new take on religious predestination (i.e. that our lives were planned out in advance). As freedom is inseparable from love, so freedom remains paramount to our stories. We exercise authentic freedom of choice and create our stories on the fly, during our sojourn in this world. Freedom, with elements of indeterminacy and randomness, is inseparable from love. Where there is no authentic freedom of choice (free will) there is no authentic love.

Others have suggested that we come into life to fulfill some special mission, that we are called, or sent, to make some unique contribution to improve life, to make the world a better place. And we do this through living a unique life story. No one else can accomplish the unique mission that we have come to fulfill.

I affirm my main point again- that the core purpose of human life and story is to know and learn love. To learn what authentically humane love is about- that is, “unconditional”. To learn how to love in that manner, how to express the no conditions love that is our true self, and how to receive similar love from others.

Further, love is expressed through all the diversity of innumerable human lives and experiences- e.g. whether making an economic contribution, a political or social contribution, or something personal. Perhaps as an entertainer. Is there any greater contribution to improving life than that made by comedians? Putting hardship and suffering in its place (proper perspective), helping us to laugh at it all, and thereby lightening the dark parts of life. And what about the valued contribution of farmers growing food for all of us? Or sanitation workers preventing the spread of disease? There are no “useless” or less important human lives or stories. Despite the variety of our personal occupations, all of us contribute in some way to the grand overall venture of humanity learning and expressing love.

Our contribution may be small and hidden, or it may be offered in the larger public realm. Again, our contributions to life are as diverse as the opportunities to be human in billions of individual life stories. There is infinite creative potential in the freedom to explore, to experience, to create and innovate, to live a unique story.

I would offer, again, that unconditional love is the central point of it all. And that is something intensely personal. As we contribute in some area (i.e. our jobs), we do well to nourish love as the motivating and guiding factor in our actions. It matters how we relate to and treat others around us in all the mundane, ordinary, and private situations of daily life. Fundamentally, success in life (true human achievement) is about how we treat others as fellow members of the same family. All others remain our equals in this one human family despite their status or failures in this world.

Tackling other Campbell points:

We all face monsters in life. We experience problems, trials and suffering, things that we struggle with and try to overcome. Our personal monster/problem may be a physical disability, or mental/emotional problems, or some social issue, perhaps economic or political. Our monsters, and our struggles/battles, are as diverse as the problems of our complex world, whether public or personal.

Additionally, Campbell and others have noted that dualism is a vital part of this material realm and there is a greater point to the dualisms of material reality and life (i.e. the good versus evil dualism). Tackling dualism requires the preliminary qualifier that we should never make light of evil in this world and the consequent suffering that evil/inhumanity brings. But it helps to recognize that dualism serves the purpose, in this arena of life, of providing a backdrop or contrast against which we learn what good is. We would not know good without its contrasting opposite. The experience of evil in life provides an opposite that we struggle against, and through that “righteous struggle with evil” we gain insights, we discover humane responses, and we find solutions to problems, solutions that will benefit others. Our struggle with the wrongs, injustice, or evil of life is also where we learn empathy with suffering others (we “feel” what they are feeling).

Again, while being very sensitive to the horrific suffering that many people have endured, I would offer that it may be helpful to note that others have suggested that some forms of struggle and suffering are necessary and even good for us because we would not learn, we would not develop and grow as human, aside from such struggle and suffering. As Julian Simon said, our problems are good for us because they push us to find solutions and our discovered solutions then benefit others. Struggle brings forth the best of the human spirit.

Further, it is critical to recognize that our experience of evil and suffering is never some form of divine punishment. That religious fallacy must be rejected entirely. God as unconditional love does not punish human imperfection. And God does not punish people through the imperfections of the world (i.e. through natural disaster, disease, or human/animal cruelty).

Philosophical explanations of the meaning of evil and related suffering will never fully satisfy everyone. But it may help some to view the creation of this imperfect world, and its basic features, as fundamentally an experience and learning arena, with death serving the purpose of making this realm a temporary experience (a small part of a larger ongoing story).

Campbell adds that we will be “wounded” in our struggle with our monster/problem. “Wounding” is as diverse as differing human stories. Wounding may be physical, mental/emotional, or related to some social problem.

To reiterate, we may have chosen our unique problems and experiences of suffering before we came here. We may be more responsible for our lives than we realize. Let your mind toy with this suggestion (see, for illustration, Natalie Sudman’s “The Application of Impossible Things”).

I would add something further to Campbell’s good points, though in places he has intimated a similar insight. The greatest monster and the real enemy that we all face, and must conquer, the greatest problem that we must all wrestle with and solve, is the inherited animal within each of us (“the animal passions”, according to Campbell). The greatest of all “righteous battles against evil” is the intensely personal inner battle that takes place inside each of us. Here is where the role of unconditional as a guiding ideal comes into laser focus. And this is where we make our greatest contribution to making the world a better place. It starts within us, with conquering our own animal passions.

“Why do you worry about and judge the speck in the other person’s eye (their imperfections) when you have a beam in your own eye (your own imperfections)?”

Revolution, reformation, renewal, transformation, change… should all begin as something intensely personal. Within us. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “The great battle-line between good and evil runs through the center of every human heart”. The great battles against evil in life should focus initially and primarily within ourselves.

We have inherited a core animal brain. They used to frame this as the “tri-partite” brain, with the reptilian core (i.e. amygdala), the limbic system, and then the more human cortex at the surface.

The animal brain (and our past in millions of years of animal existence) bequeaths us with the basic impulse to tribalism (small band separation and opposition to outsiders), the impulse to dominate others (Alpha male/female), and the impulse to exclude, punish, and destroy the differing other/enemy.

But we embrace a liberating qualifier: To paraphrase Jeffrey Schwartz, “We are not our brains”. Our core human spirit, our essential human self or person, our consciousness, is inseparable from the Love that we have long called God (our Source). We are not our inherited physical/animal brains. We are something much better in our essential nature, personhood, or being (the “real” us). We are most essentially beings or persons that are love. Love is our true inner nature. And this is why our expressions of love make us feel authentically and maturely human, especially the expression of unconditional love toward enemies.

I offer that the most important dualism of all to understand is the human versus the animal. The human in us- our human spirit and consciousness- is taking us in an entirely new direction from our brutal animal past. Our core humanity has set us on a trajectory toward a more humane future.

Evolutionary biology/psychology tends to devalue the human by defining it too much in terms of the animal, by viewing and limiting the human to a form of more advanced animal. Evolutionary biology/psychology then devalues human love as something to be explained in terms of the animal survival impulse- i.e. just another form of “species altruism”. No, human love is something far more wondrous and essential to the greater ultimate meaning of conscious existence.

And here is where Campbell shines when defining human story. He says that the most critically important transformation in human life is when we orient our lives to “universal love”. Then we begin to mature as humans. Then we become the hero of our story. Again, I would use unconditional love as a broader, more inclusive term.

What does the transformation to mature humanity entail?

Again, unconditional as a guiding ideal enables us to potently counter (overcome, conquer) the animal inside us by orienting us to embrace all others as fellow members of the one human family (inclusive, not limited tribal forms of love). Unconditional inspires us to treat all others as equals and to not dominate or control free and equal others (no alpha domination). And unconditional urges us to not destroy the failing other but to forgive the imperfection that we encounter in others. Our core self, as unconditional love, points us toward the restorative treatment of failure in others (toward justice as rehabilitation/restoration, not punishment).

Additionally, Campbell makes comments on the shamanic experience that involves a disintegration of the self, and then re-integration around something new, a new worldview and life story. When we orient our worldviews and lives to universal or no conditions love, that new center overturns entirely the old worldviews that were oriented to tribal exclusion, domination of others, and retaliatory justice. Unconditional provides a new cohering center for a more humane worldview and life story. It liberates our consciousness from the subhuman features of past narratives and enables us to build an entirely new worldview framed around new features, as listed above. (See ‘Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives’ for details on constructing an entirely new worldview oriented to unconditional.)

Re-emphasizing critical points:

The most important battles in life are not the great historical wars of tribe against tribe, or nation against nation. The greatest battles/wars are those that take place inside us. And this relates to the deeper meaning of equality in human life. There can be no outer material equality because life is shaped by hierarchies and pyramidal structures where only a few can reach the upper levels, whether in business, sports, politics, or entertainment. Only an elite few can achieve the highest success in the pyramids of life. But everyone has equal opportunity to achieve the greatest success of all in the most important achievement of all- love. Love is the foundational feature that defines real success in human life and story. It is the essential core nature of our human spirit and consciousness, and it gives singularly potent meaning to our existence. Further, love is the only lasting achievement in the cosmos. All else will be left behind and forgotten in this material world or realm. Only what is done in love lasts forever and reverberates to infinity and beyond.

Speaking superlatively, when we struggle and suffer in life, and then discover unconditional as the route to an authentically humane life story, that is the single greatest insight that we can discover, the greatest treasure that we can find, and living unconditionally is the greatest victory that we can achieve. When we orient our lives to unconditional love, then we can offer the greatest benefit or boon to others- to treat them unconditionally.

Unconditional points us toward the greatest revolution that we can bring to life, toward the greatest possible transformation of life, toward the greatest liberation that we can offer to the world (i.e. liberation from the inherited animal in all of us). The unconditional treatment of imperfect people around us (restorative justice) is one of the most potent personal ways to make the world a better place. Include here also the expression of unconditional love toward oneself and one’s own failures and imperfections.

Another way of putting this… We will all face some struggle, some experience of suffering, something we fear, perhaps opposition from an enemy, or some abuse from an opponent. If we choose to respond to that challenge with love, we then discover our true self as a being of love, and we mature into a heroic person through that experience and choice. Again, for examples, note “The Railway Man”, Nelson Mandela’s life story, the tortured prisoners in “To End All Wars”, or the mother in “The Forgiven’.

In all that we do, and should do, to make this life better- i.e. in sports, in business and work, in all public or social issues, or entertainment- we should never forget that how we treat others in the daily mundane interactions (the ordinary and hidden things) is what make us real successes and achievers, or not. Steve Jobs appeared to have understood this on his death bed when he apologized to his daughter Lisa for treating her sub-humanly at times. He had achieved great public material success but regretted that he had failed in his private life. He died wishing that he had treated his family members with more kindness while he was alive and healthy.

Added notes in conclusion:

The embrace of a no-conditions ideal to guide our lives will orient us to (1) the non-tribal inclusion of all others as full equals. It will orient us to (2) respect and protect the full freedom and rights of all others. And it will orient us away from punitive, destructive forms of justice and (3) toward restorative/rehabilitative forms of justice- i.e. treating all human imperfection and failure with forgiveness, mercy, and generosity.

Campbell also says that a “wise man”, or mentor, will give us a sword to slay our monster and help us to achieve our purpose in life. We all know such people among family and friends, people who give us advice from their own life experience. And again, unconditional love is that potent sword to slay our personal monster or enemy- the inherited animal in us.

From our struggle with this imperfect life and our struggle to learn love, we are transformed into a new person, into a better version of our self. Or better- learning to respond with love is the unveiling or expression of our true self. This is how we “discover our true self”. When we orient our lives to unconditional love, we then “tower in stature as mature humans”, we become the hero of our story, and we fulfill our destiny, we accomplish our mission. And that is how we help to create a better world, a new world, by first making ourselves better persons, by learning to live out the love that is our true self.

Another: Essential to becoming a mature human person is to take responsibility for our failures in life. Personal acknowledgement and embrace of our failures is the starting point of the life trajectory of personal improvement.

Another: Unconditional love is the key to unlock the meaning of the cosmos, this world, and conscious human life. It is the defining essence of our great Source- God. As someone said, “The very atoms of God are made of love, unconditional love”. That love then defines the essential purpose for the creation of the cosmos and life- that all has been created as an arena where we come to learn and experience such love, to receive and express such love. The imperfection of life, then, provides the background against which such love finds the opportunity to shine all the more brightly (in our battle with evil).

One more: The monster that we face in life is a two-headed beast. I noted the basic features of animal reality that we all struggle with- the impulses to tribalism (small band separation and opposition), domination of others (the alpha thing), and the impulse to exclude, punish, and destroy the differing other. Across history, people have projected these very same features onto deities, onto humanity’s highest ideals and authorities- the gods. They have thereby created ultimate monsters that embody tribalism, domination, and punitive destruction. Consequently, conquering a monster in life is more than just overcoming the monster inside us- the animal inheritance in us.

Our battle in life includes conquering the monsters in our meta-narratives- i.e. the religious God theories that inspire, guide, and validate human emotions, attitudes, motivations, and responses/behavior. Religious gods- humanity’s highest ideals and authorities- from the beginning have been monstrous in nature and their features have been employed to validate the same monstrous impulses in people- to tribalism, domination, and punitive destruction. (My repeated use of this triad- tribalism, domination, punitive destruction- is simply illustrative of a larger complex of things. see Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives in sections below)

Unconditional is the sword that potently slays the monster in us and also slays the monstrous pathologies of humanity’s God theories (monster gods). An unconditional God does not validate dualistic tribalism (believers versus unbelievers), or domination of people (the myth of “humanity created to serve the gods”), and does not punish and destroy “unbelievers” (i.e. apocalypse and hell myths).

While each of us has some unique thing to contribute to life in economics, politics, occupation, social life, sports/entertainment, music, or whatever else that we choose to do, the one common factor in all human story is to learn unconditional love, to discover and achieve something of this highest form of love. When we orient our lives to this central ideal, then we have conquered our real monster and enemy, the inherited animal in us. Then we have become the hero of our story.

The problem with mythical and religious explanations of greater or Ultimate reality

Mythical and religious traditions emerged during the childhood era of humanity when human understanding was still primitive/elementary. The result was the projection of subhuman/inhuman features out to define greater or Ultimate Reality/deity. Early humans projected onto the gods features like (1) tribal exclusion of some (unbelievers rejected), (2) domination/subservience relationships (humanity created to serve the gods via subservience to priesthoods/religious authority), and (3) divine justice as punishment/destruction (apocalypse, hell). But we are now a more mature species and we need to put away childish things.

Those features have long been entrenched in our great religious traditions, and their God theories. There has been little serious effort to challenge or dislodge the core pathology that has been passed down to us from the ancients. Ongoing reform in religion must overturn those fundamental ideas/myths as they still influence so much else in life and society. Note, for example, the ongoing destructive influence of the nihilistic apocalyptic pathology (God as violent destroyer of all). This primitive mythology is now expressed through environmental alarmism scenarios with their consistently harmful salvation schemes (i.e. decarbonization).

There will always be profound mystery to theology, as there is about all reality, and that cautions us against dogmatism in our theological speculations. In addition, any theological speculation must include the framework of the latest discoveries from science, while noting the persistent tendency of materialist scientists to cross the science-philosophy boundary into metaphysical assumptions (i.e. multi-verse theory, see Sabine Hossenfelder in ‘Lost in Math’ or Jim Baggott in Farewell to Reality).

The long-term and widely embraced conclusion of humanity that there is a spiritual reality is a fully coherent and rational conclusion about reality and life. I do not accept the materialist argument that humanity needs to grow out of or move past the spiritual as with the suggestion of a frustrated atheist, “Let’s get rid of all this metaphysical bullshit”. Our project should be to reframe it all as something more humane while affirming and guarding the science/philosophy and state/religion boundaries.

(Insert note: While acknowledging that the spiritual plays a crucial role in human meaning/purpose issues, a healthy orientation ought to be toward full here and now involvement- i.e. to improving life in this world. The practical, real-world outcome of ideas is the true test of the goodness or usefulness of ideas.)

The human meaning impulse as expressed in spirituality, and spiritual beliefs, has always been something inherent to conscious human awareness. Even the Neanderthals exhibited such awareness as seen in burial site evidence (i.e. items included supposedly for an after-life journey).

It has long been the argument of this site that thorough long-term problem solving should also deal with the human meaning impulse and the meta-narrative themes that express/affirm such meaning. Pathology still dominates at this basic level in public consciousness. And while scientific evidence is always crucial in the problem-solving mix, such evidence does not sway many people toward more rational views due to their deeply held spiritual beliefs. This applies to both sides as secularist/materialist types often hold philosophical beliefs just as dogmatically as religious people hold their religious beliefs.

The above comments are not to discourage our atheist friends who have contributed so much good input to the project of challenging archaic religious beliefs. But their alternative, notably the more dogmatic forms of atheism, will never resonate with most of the human population. A better alternative is the more moderate “atheism”, as some call it, that has been more about the exchange of old unworkable/discredited gods for new ones- i.e. new god theories or ultimate meaning theories- that are more attuned to modern sensibilities regarding humane reality.

Now a change of scenery for a while: However, I am still going after those basic ideas/themes that have caused so much misery across history- a sample would include the themes of tribal exclusion (the “us versus them” small band mentality that denies human oneness), domination of others, and punitive treatment of the failures of others. These themes, and the impulses they validate, undermine humanity’s defining feature- love- and our embrace of them renders us petty and subhuman. They hinder our quest to become the heroes of our stories that we ought to be, preventing us from becoming mature persons that “tower in stature”.

I offer the material below on the basic features of human life story with no defense for my affirmation of the existence of a reality that humanity has long understood as “deity”. However, my belief in the great mystery of a creating Source, while embracing metaphysical speculation, is entirely ‘non-religious’.

Insert Qualifier: Why broach the subject of deity in a contemporary world tired of “God-talk”? Because deity has long been the embodiment of humanity’s highest ideals and it continues to serve, for most people, as their highest authority. “Most people”? The 85% of humanity that still affiliate with a world religion, with most of the remaining 15% also holding varied versions of deities (i.e. Gaia, Universe, Mother Earth, karma) though unaffiliated with a major religion.

The more straightforward rejection of deity by some does not liberate them from the primal human impulse for meaning and desire for ultimate answers. More dogmatic forms of materialism/atheism appears to lead some people to shift to “secular” versions of ultimate reality but versions that are still framed too often by the same old themes that dominated primitive deity theories across history. We all orient our primal impulse for ultimate meaning somewhere, in some ultimate reality, whether in deity theories, or quantum physics, or new gods like “Self-Organizing Principle”. Richard Dawkins locates his impulse for meaning in natural selection (i.e. his statement in ‘The God Delusion’: “Natural Selection is the Source of All Enlightenment”). Note how people project god-like capabilities onto these new realities that are quite similar to the features of traditional deity theories.

The ultimate meaning impulse takes us somewhere as vacuums of nothingness simply don’t work (too incoherent, irrational, and absurd). So try to deny long-standing realities if you wish but the natural impulse that they respond to and fulfill will find expression somewhere. Nothingness explains nothing.

Further, the tackling of God theory on this site is a continuation of a larger project to probe the root causal or contributing factors of problems, a most serious problem today being the persistence of apocalyptic hysteria and its highly destructive outcomes, notably the apocalyptic expressed in climate alarmism and its decarbonization salvation scheme, the project to overturn industrial/capitalist civilization.

Now back to the gods

To begin, I affirm the foundational common belief of humanity from the earliest emergence of human consciousness in our species- i.e. the belief that we belong to some greater surrounding invisible reality that very much influences/determines how we live in this material reality. You see this fundamental belief in greater reality in the earliest human writing and mythologies, and even in prehistory art (e.g. John Pfeiffer- ‘Explosion: An inquiry into the origins of art and religion’).

People from the beginning have intuitively understood that surrounding greater reality was more than just energy, force (quantum force-fields in modern theory), or natural law. Greater creating reality (Source) was of the nature of Consciousness, Mind, Spirit, and therefore Self or Personhood.

Where the ancients went wrong (and where I part with them) was in projecting out the basest of animal features to define the greater reality, features like tribal exclusion (deities that favored true believer insiders versus unbelievers/outsiders), deities that related to humanity in domination/subservient forms of relating (i.e. deity as lord, king, ruler with humanity “created to serve the gods”), and deities that meted out justice as punitive destruction (i.e. deity as ultimate judge and punisher, destroying people in apocalypse and hell). Such features became foundational themes of later world religions. These base themes continue to dominate human minds today and define contemporary “secular” deities like vengeful Gaia, retributive Universe, angry Planet/Mother Earth, and payback karma. The age-old sacred has now been reframed as “secular” for the modern world. The basic themes of modern versions are often just the same old.

We can do better. We need to bring deity theories up to date with fully humane features that are more suited to modern sensibilities, and modern awareness of what is humane/inhumane.

It is particularly important to humanize deity theory because (as noted above) across history the reality of God has always been viewed as the highest ideal and authority of humanity. Add here the natural human impulse to base our behavior on our beliefs (to model our lives on what we believe is the divine ideal) and this makes it critical that our highest ideal and authorities are fully humane. A long-standing argument of this site is that nothing humanizes deity more than the feature of unconditional love. None of the world religions, while claiming to represent God to humanity, has ever communicated this core feature of deity to humanity.

Too much religious reform is little more than defensive tinkering at the periphery, unwilling or afraid to change core themes. Most religious reformism does not go to the core idea of deity, the idea that dominates and shapes all else in religious systems. And hence, religious pathologies (bad religious ideas) continue to infect and deform human consciousness.

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The most good for the most people

The Two Main Approaches to Organizing Human Societies across history- Collectivism versus the free individual Wendell Krossa

Intro

The comment below comes from a “fiercely Independent” viewpoint. Kinda like Goldilocks- not too far Left, not too far Right. Sort of Libertarianish, or better- Classic Liberalism. Floating like a butterfly, free to alight wherever, enjoy the nectar and then move on. A self that is free in an open process and not fixed too rigidly on any “object” (i.e. not finding cemented identity in some immutable ideology, religion, nationality, race/ethnicity, or other objects of human identity). Open and free like ‘The Mutable Self’ of Louis Zurcher.

Independent because while both sides have commendable features and concerns, neither side gets it all right. David Boaz, for example, said regarding the US situation that Republicans needed to embrace more freedom in the social realm and Democrats needed to embrace more freedom in the economic realm. Neither side held a monopoly on good. My ‘Free Floating’ stance also keeps me from the dogmatic tribalism that locks into loyalty to one side only and views the other side as an enemy to be conquered or cancelled.

Interesting note: While some claim that the US Democratic party has previously been more centrist, many on both the Conservative and Liberal sides of the US situation now note that US Democrats/Liberals are being pulled further toward Leftist collectivist ideologies (Progressivism). US Republicans continue also to be pulled toward coercive state intervention on social issues (i.e. women’s rights, choices, and freedoms).

The foundations of modern freedom and equality trace back centuries to emerging ideas that all people in a society should be treated equally under law (i.e. Magna Carta and earlier documents/practises). Contemporary views of freedom and equality are grounded in beliefs that every person deserves the same rights and protections as all others. These beliefs include a foundational plank in modern freedom- i.e. protected property rights. That is the principle that you can create or improve something, and if you invest effort/resources in that something, then the resulting outcome of your investment is protected. You will reap the reward of your investment. Elites/powerholders, whether monarchy, lords, or government officials, cannot confiscate the outcome of your creativity and work. The protection of personal property under law is absolutely basic to equality and freedom. Protected property rights unleashed the modern burst of human creativity and progress that we all value.

Balancing sides and what works best:

(1) The primary orientation to the collective, or (2) a primary orientation to the individual. We never get all that we want on either side of these political divides hence, both sides are obligated out of common decency (“peace and love”) to make some compromise with, basically, what is often the other half of our societies.

The Left/Right or Liberal/Conservative dualism in our societies often becomes infected with the residual tribal impulse that we have inherited from our animal past. The tribal impulse continues to erupt in today’s societies, along with a dose of hardening dogmatism, to the detriment of the necessary cooperation to maintain peace. Fortunately, surveys show that most people on both sides identify with the more moderate/centrist positions in most social issues.

Is there some healthy balance between the free individual approach and the collectivist approach? Our societies continue the multiple-millennia back and forth tug between these two approaches to organizing human societies (see Arthur Herman’s “The Cave and The Light” for the long-term history of this tug-of-war, traced from the Greeks on down). It appears that most people will continue to embrace some mixed version of these two approaches that encompasses the concerns of both sides.

We are seeing the latest version of the Collectivist versus ‘Individual freedom’ struggle play out in the arena of the climate debate where climate alarmists are advocating for coercive collectivist solutions.

I would locate the core issue as this- What primary orientation of a society (i.e. the Collectivist or the Individual approach) has a track record of providing the most good for the most people? And based on such evidence: What is then the more optimal approach for organizing human societies?

Central point/argument:

Protected individual freedom and rights (i.e. personal property rights, protected freedom to enter private contracts, self-determination and self-government, and other personal freedoms), protected personal freedom uniquely unleashes human motivation and creativity to solve problems and to improve life in all ways, with the by-product of benefitting the larger collective- all humanity. Historically (notably over the past two centuries), the orientation of societies to individual freedoms, protections, and rights has resulted in the most good being done for the most people. And most critically, the distribution of power among competing/cooperating equal individuals has prevented the centralization of power that inevitably leads to eruptions of the destructive totalitarian impulse (meddling with the personal freedom of others, controlling others).

Some defining:

Collectivism emphasizes the group and group goals as having priority over the individual and individual rights. Under collectivist approaches the individual is subordinate to some larger collective- i.e. regional, state, or national. Collectivism traditionally advocates for abolishing private property (nationalization of resources/industries). Collectivism involves the centralization of power under the direction of some guiding/controlling elite and that is its primary failing and danger.

Examples of collectives- tribal societies, communes (e.g. Robert Owen’s communalism), Communism, Socialist states, the collective element in social democracies or Democratic Socialism, and more recently Left-leaning Progressivism.

Arthur Herman notes that German philosopher Georg Hegel gave modern collectivism its orientation to the state as the embodiment of the collective or greater good. The collective became government bureaucrats legislating for all members of a society how to live their lives (i.e. individuals subjected to state elites as in Marxist models). “Teams of bureaucrats become a virtual cadre of Philosopher Rulers who bring order and justice to a needy world… the State acting to protect us from ourselves because the State is our Better and Higher Self” (Cave and Light, p.436). The state or government then became the embodiment or representative of greater good in societies.

Let it be affirmed- Collectivist concern for greater or common good is to be honored. The issue, however, is how do we best achieve the most good for the most people, including the good of protecting the freedom of all. What does historical evidence reveal that works best to lift the most people out of the misery of poverty and into prosperity and well-being? In other words, which approach has worked best to actually get us to the greater or common good of all. Again- the most good for the most people?

The approach and principles that get us to the broadest possible common or greater good must be understood, honored, and protected above all else.

A Bit of History

HumanProgress.org notes the explosion of wealth creation and the consequent improvement of the human condition that began, notably, in the early 1800s (1820 to be more exact- https://www.humanprogress.org/about/). See also William Bernstein’s ‘The Birth of Plenty’. That outburst of progress points to the singular great contribution of the West to the rest of the world, a contribution that is often discredited/dismissed by the anti-industrial society activism that comes predominantly from environmental alarmism today. The overall anti-capitalism crusade of past centuries has been taken up more generally today by Left-leaning Progressivism.

Too many outright despise and belittle Western civilization, claiming that it has mainly been about the excesses of Colonialism, Capitalism, and the initial harmful outcomes of industrialization. Admittedly, early industrialization was damaging to people and to nature. But “Environmental Transition” or “Ecological Kuznets Curve” research shows that with increasing wealth developing nations have responsibly transitioned to cleaning up industry, improving the human condition, and improving their overall environments. All people are natural environmentalists when they can afford to be such. This has been the history of the developed nations of the West and elsewhere.

The essential nature of the Western tradition is its orientation to individual freedom. The Western approach of organizing society around individual human freedom, protected personal freedom, has unleashed human creativity as never before through technological industrial society. The Western approach of orienting society to free individuals, via free market principles, has given us all that we value today in improved living conditions and the technological advances of today.

With the immense wealth-creating potential of free individuals, industrial society has also enabled us to protect and improve our natural world as never before. This overturns the relentlessly distorting narrative of environmental alarmists that economic growth and development destroys nature. See Desrochers and Szurmak’s book ‘Population Bombed’ for detail on how human progress in industrial society benefits even nature (e.g. declining rates of per capita resource use- “dematerialization”). Their book is an update on Julian Simon’s brilliant ‘Ultimate Resource’ that originally covered the same ground decades earlier.

England eventually got individual equality and freedom right after struggling with the issue over preceding centuries. The English initiated the individual freedom and equality movement with documents like Magna Carta that subjected kings/lords to the same laws, rights, and responsibilities that were to govern all others. See Daniel Hannan’s ‘The Invention of Freedom’ for this history. Those documents were early expressions of how societies could promote and protect the equality of all citizens.

The English innovation (Magna Carta and similar earlier documents) eventually developed into institutions like a parliament that represented all citizens equally and ceased being an institution that represented only the interests of ruling elites such as Kings/lords- the “government” or governing elites of the past. English Common Law also affirmed the equality of all via equal freedom, protections, and rights.

Most central to protected individual equality and freedom was the protection of individual private property. Kings/lords could no longer arbitrarily seize the property of commoners, a practice that had long undermined the human motivation to improve one’s private property. Later generations saw how powerholder intervention in private property undermined human motivation and resulted in horrific outcomes in China under Mao’s great collectivist redistribution experiments that ended in mass poverty, starvation, and death. The same violation of private property rights also resulted in mass misery under Stalin’s collectivism in Russia. We have further contemporary examples of the failures of collectivism in states such as Zimbabwe (previously the “breadbasket of Africa”), North Korea, and Venezuela (once one of the richest nations on Earth).

The English protection of private property unleashed human creativity and more widespread endeavor by people to improve their own lives and families, knowing they would reap the rewards of personal labor, investment, and achievement. Protected private property is also an essential element in preventing totalitarianism because it provides the physical basis of dispersed power (Fredrick Hayek in ‘The Road to Serfdom’).

The institutions oriented to individual freedoms and rights all came together with wider public influence in the early 1800s and wealth creation took off as never before. Across previous history GDP had been basically flat with about 95% of populations living in absolute poverty.

You may hate and belittle the institution of private property, and its flaws, but understand that it works better than anything else that humanity has discovered to unleash creativity and consequently improve life overall for most people. Unfortunately, private property continues to be framed by collectivists as a great “evil” in human societies. Collectivists view private property as the main obstacle to greater or collective good.

Collectivists have insistently demeaned the human impulse to improve one’s life, one’s property, and the condition of one’s family, as the expression of selfishness and greed. I would counter that improving one’s personal situation in life (the condition of one’s family) through private property is the most basic form of love and responsibility, and the most important contribution that we can make to greater or collective good. This was Adam Smith’s point: “(Smith) the father of modern economics; he of the “Invisible Hand” in markets, the understanding that a person pursuing their own self-interest could contribute to the common good — be they butcher, brewer or baker”, Michael Higgins at https://nationalpost.com/news/world/the-capitalist-manifesto-how-many-millions-of-people-escaped-poverty-lived-longer-and-got-tv

Private property societies continue the spread of wealth creation and that is evident in the stunning decline of poverty across the world today. This evidence affirms the importance of private property as fundamental to sparking human motivation, protecting human freedom, and improving the general well-being of all. Property rights are the most effective means of achieving the greater or common good as the by-product of individual freedom, responsibility, and creativity.

I would then affirm that individual freedom, rights, protections, and equality of opportunity are the foundational elements of the successful model that the West has offered the world. This model for organizing human society endures relentless attack and distortion from collectivists. Herman in ‘The Cave and The Light’ traces the long-term history of these two models and their outcomes from the time of the Greeks. The Collectivist approach originated with Plato and his Ideals/Forms that should shape the ideal society. That approach then descended down through Hegel and Marx. The individually oriented model is traced from Aristotle and on down through the English tradition.

Collectivist models for organizing human society have repeatedly and inevitably unleashed the destructive totalitarian impulse, with its intrusive and coercive control of people, and that has consequently ruined both societies and nature. Central planning of resource use, nationalization of the business/economic realm, and state distribution of resources and the outcomes of production has repeatedly devastated human populations and environments. Collectivist models concentrate power in governing elites (i.e. the “enlightened vanguards” of collectivism) and that never ends well.

Many in the younger generation, not familiar with the horrific outcomes of the past century’s Collectivist experiments, are once again leaning toward Collectivist approaches that promise utopian-like outcomes, or the restoration of some lost past paradise.

A central issue

Collectivists/Socialists refuse to acknowledge the failures of their approach to organizing societies even after the long history of such repeated failures. Why? Because Collectivists sincerely believe that their model for organizing society is “morally superior”. Collectivists believe sincerely that they represent and defend the “greater or common good” while they caricaturize and misrepresent the individual freedom model as promoting selfishness and greed that obstructs and neglects the greater or common good. Consequently, Collectivists believe that their approach is best for all others and that inspires them to repeatedly engage crusades to coerce others to submit to their model. They cannot let go of the dream for Socialism’s eventual success… somehow.

Insert note: Marxist professors at Simon Fraser University (late 1980s) defended Socialism as a noble and humane system for organizing society that just needed another chance to exhibit its essential goodness and effectiveness. They argued that Communism (collapsing around that time) was a perversion of true Socialism. Their defense blurred the point that Socialism was just another version of Collectivism that centralizes power and control of people’s lives (see former Socialist Joshua Muravchik’s history of Communalism/Socialism in ‘Heaven on Earth’).

The Collectivist belief in the moral superiority of their system dismisses the evidence that the societal orientation to individual freedom (protecting individual freedom) has lifted more people out of the misery of poverty than any other approach in history. Despite its abuse by some, the Western free market model has done more to enhance the “greater or common good” and to improve nature than any other model. Note also, by comparison, the disastrous environmental outcomes of Collectivist central planning of resources in the Soviet Union during the last century.

Further, Collectivism has long and comfortable association with Christianity. This is seen in New Testament references to the early Christian movement. Note, for example, Luke in his Acts history stating that early believers “held all things together in common”. That is viewed as the ultimate authentic expression of love, to share all things in common with others. That helps to understand the comfortable fit between Christianity and Socialism over history. But try that communal sharing, especially if coerced, at societal levels (e.g. Communist Russia and China) and watch populations inevitably descend overnight into misery and horror.

The outcome could be different though, if the sharing were voluntary- that is, coming from a place of personal freedom and choice.

Wealth that is gained legally and fairly under commonly agreed “equal opportunity” free market rules should be subject to the personal choice of the owner as to how to distribute the wealth. Examples here would include Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and others. It should be the voluntary and free choice of the owner to share legally and fairly gained wealth as they choose. Note that Gates and Buffet are giving their immense wealth away to promote greater or common good in the manner that they choose. Note also that the bulk of taxes in Western societies are often paid by the wealthiest individuals- e.g. in the US the top 10% of earners pay 70% of federal income taxes (the top 1% pay 38%).

Added notes on organizing human societies

Collectivist models- from Owen’s Communalism, to Socialism, to Communism- all centralize power/control and then an “enlightened” elite are responsible to run the collective. The results have been notoriously the same- unleashing the totalitarian impulse even in well-intentioned people. Who said that the most dangerous people in society are those who believe that they are especially enlightened, more than others, and know what is right and good for others, and therefore will coerce others to submit to their vision of what is good for all.

That is why Frederick Hayek argued that the model of society oriented to protecting individual rights and freedoms, for all its failings, better prevents totalitarianism and protects freedom because it disperses power among competing individuals and organizations (Road to Serfdom). Individually-oriented models promote self-control, self-responsibility, and self-determination. In systems oriented to protected individual rights, people are free, as much as possible, of state control.

Today we have mixed systems- “Democratic Socialism” or “Social Democracy”- with mixed results. For example, we all agree to some limits on personal freedom for the greater or common good (i.e. state legislated taxation for the sharing of common infrastructure costs, and assisting the less fortunate members of our societies, etc.). And our societies go through the ongoing back-and-forth tug between the two models for organizing society and that tugging is good. There are legitimate concerns on both sides and some form of compromise or balance between them is required.

William Bernstein in ‘The Birth of Plenty’ speaks to this ongoing tug between state intervention/control and free markets. He probes the issue of what scale of government will enable our societies to operate at their best by generating the most good for the most people? Should the size of Government be at 15% of GDP? Or 20%? Or 30-40%? The bigger that government becomes, via increased state intervention and control (i.e. taxation and regulation), the more the individual creative impulse is undermined, and then all suffer, equally. Greece in past years was an extreme example of this. Greek governments tried to give everyone everything until the productive business sector collapsed under the burden of overly generous programs for all. One of the best economic minds of the past century, Milton Freidman, argued that the most good for the most people would be a government (all three levels) at around 15% of GDP.

Most people (90% plus) intuitively affirm the ideal of protecting personal freedom from government intrusion, via regulation and taxation, as the test at the back of David Boaz’s book shows (Libertarianism: A Primer). The vast majority of people value personal freedom.

I would conclude that the historical evidence affirms that giving primacy to personal freedom results in immense benefits to greater or common good (the most good for the most people), versus the historical evidence that shows that giving primacy to Collectivism (subjecting individuals to a controlling collective) results in inevitable harmful outcomes to greater or common good.

Add to this mix the Collectivist view that populations are engaged in class warfare- i.e. poor against rich, or people fighting for the common good versus selfish individuals in free markets. Collectivists hold the view that individual endeavor to improve oneself is greed and selfishness that is to be unfavorably contrasted with the “greater good” motivations of Collectivists. But the real issue is how have all sectors of populations done over past centuries. The evidence affirms that the approach that has been oriented to individual freedom has improved the lives of most people, with poverty declining, and middle-class sectors growing across the world. Most people are better off today and this trend of the improving human condition continues to flow mainly from the individually-oriented approach.

Further follow-up notes:

All models for organizing human society are corrupted by excessive selfishness and greed but models oriented to individual freedom have the built-in safety check of institutions such as a free press that exposes such corruption. On the other hand, Collectivist models (centralized power) have a history of suppressing individual freedom, including press freedom and the ability to criticize governing elites or powerholders, and we see the same old harmful results repeatedly. Venezuela is a recent repeat of this history of totalitarian suppression of opposition (press and political). Note also today the increasing censorship coming from the Progressive/Woke side of US society (liberals censoring conservatives on social media platforms).

Further, there are free market organizations that exist to protect against monopoly (note the history of the breakup of Ma Bell, and more recently the challenges to Microsoft). Under Collectivist approaches the state becomes the mega-monopoly protecting itself against dispersion of power and control.

The individual-oriented model is most essentially about freedom and the unleashing of human motivation, creativity, and endeavor to improve individual life and family. That is fundamental human responsibility. And it does not have to be most essentially about selfish greed. Successful achievers can then freely decide how to contribute to greater or common good (the primacy of self-determination).

Today the pull toward Collectivism is re-emerging in Progressivism and the environmental alarmism movements. Modern ‘Liberalism’ has abandoned the Classic Liberalism of the English tradition that has brought freedom and all its benefits to our modern world.

Another

Bob Brinsmead in a discussion group often reminds us that if you redistribute money from wealthier people, then yes, you will have a great party. But the outcome will be that all then become equally poor and unemployed as societies collapse. How will businesses then find the capital that enables them to provide jobs for employees to take care of their families? Note the extreme examples of these redistribution schemes in Chinese collectivist experiments under Mao. Again, we all agree to some level of redistribution for common good- i.e. taxation. The disagreement centers around the levels of redistribution and where that redistribution begins to cause more harm than good by undermining the motivation and creative output of free individuals.

Another

The issue for our societies is not equality of outcomes, an impossible standard, but rather, how are all sectors of society doing? Evidence shows that life has improved immensely for all sectors of modern societies, whether in the realm of health (infant mortality declines, disease control, longer life expectancy for all), calorie intake, technology improvements, etc.

Overall, there are fewer poor people as the populations of many world societies are moving into middle class status. Comparing poorer sectors of a population with the wealthiest people does not reveal an accurate picture that most people, including the poorest, are doing much better today. And the examples of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates show that not all inequality is wrong. See William Watson’s https://nationalpost.com/opinion/william-watson-inequality-good-bad-and-benign.

The French Revolution tried to include material equality in its Constitution, as something to be guaranteed by the State, and that differed from the American Constitution.

Today, environmental alarmism pushes for collectivist solutions and policies in its anti-industrial society crusade. Note the push for centralized control of world economies and lifestyles via institutions like the UN (see Michael Hart’s ‘Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change’).

Another

“Capitalism” should be considered a “dead word”, too burdened by accreted and distorting baggage. A better term would focus on the core issue and ideal of freedom and how freedom unleashes human motivation and creativity to improve oneself, and that is the most basic form of human love. So also, consider that Adam Smith’s term “self-interest” is no longer so useful as it instinctively incites images of individual selfishness and greed that affirm Collectivist distortions. That distortion misses the basic love that is at the core of the responsibility of everyone to improve their own lives and their families, and how this motivation leads to cooperation with others (mutual benefit of commerce) and that fosters peace and stability in societies and between nations. See note below on “the moralizing influence of gentle commerce”.

Another

The issue is not the individual pitted against the greater or common good as though these are mutually excluding entities. But rather which approach to organizing society has best achieved the outcomes of maintaining individual freedom as well as improving the greater good? The historical evidence affirms clearly that protecting individual freedom and rights, as well as preventing totalitarianism, has resulted in lifting billions out of poverty and into middle class status. The individual freedom and rights approach has achieved more greater or common good than any other approach to organizing human society (i.e. the most good for the most people).

Another

The fallacy of “limited good” is also important to confront as this primitive myth buttresses the collectivist activism to coercively redistribute the wealth of more successful people. Collectivists believe that if some people attain more material good, then others must lose out, as resources are limited. Again, see Desrochers and Szurmak in ‘Population Bombed’, also Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’.

Under the “Simon Project” at HumanProgress.org there is the following statement: “Are we running out of resources? Many scholars, including Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich, believed that population growth would result in the exhaustion of resources and a global catastrophe. University of Maryland economist Julian Simon rejected their ideas. In his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource, Simon argued that humans were intelligent beings, capable of innovating their way out of shortages through greater efficiency, increased supply, and the development of substitutes.”

Another

Jordan Peterson rightly notes the Marxist belief that if some people in our societies get more then that is wrongfully gained wealth that is the result of greed, selfishness, and theft. Such belief justifies action to level things, to coercively redistribute the wealth of others. It justifies redistribution activism as righteous action against evil. The motive behind such redistribution is resentment, says Peterson.

Another

Also, critical to include are the histories that reveal the “moralizing influence of gentle commerce”. How commerce improves general human goodness and helps maintain peace among people. This all began with early specialization of labor and trade. People then gained mutual benefit and learned to cooperate peacefully to maintain that mutual benefit. Domestication of animals/plants, and urbanization (concentrating populations on urban areas thereby lessening pressure on natural areas), were accompanying trends that assisted mutually benefitting trade (see ‘The Company of Strangers’ by Paul Seabright for the story of this historical process).

See also https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/philip-cross-capitalism-doesnt-just-make-economies-better-off-it-creates-more-virtuous-people

An example of the moralizing influence of gentle commerce from mutual benefit relationships:

Labor specialization, trade, and mutual benefit: Long, long ago an upland forest dweller, with his specialized experience in making wood implements, learned to trade with a seaside dweller with his specialty in gathering salt, and both benefitted. It worked like this (evidence based on cave drawings). The long-ago cave man once told his wife that he was offended by something that his trading partner- i.e. seaside dweller- had said and he planned to kill him when they next met to trade. The wife of the caveman cautioned him, “Honey, if you don’t come back with salt today for our supper meal, then you ain’t ‘gettin any’ tonight”.

Cave-dweller then thought to himself- “Sheesh, not ‘gettin any’? Yikes.” So he trudged down the mountainside to meet seaside guy, promising himself that he would hold his anger in check, let the offense go, and keep the trade arrangement going. And yes, he then “got some” that night and all was well as early civilization was able to continue. And because seaside dweller survived and had offspring, so here we are today. Its just that simple, eh.

Now you ask me- Is that a true story? Of course, yes, it is true… that is a story.

Another…

The envy of other’s private property and wealth

Collectivists, holding strong antipathy to private property, advocate for taking more money from the wealthy as the solution to society’s financial problems. But some cautions present themselves regarding this proposal…

The wealthy pay the bulk of a society’s tax burden. The top 10% of taxpayers in the US already pay 70% of the tax burden.

Generally, if people are wealthy, they are probably good at creating businesses, jobs, and wealth for others as well as themselves.

They may need their wealth for more research and development, to create further business ventures, jobs, and wealth for others. Note Elon Musk and Steve Jobs in this regard.

Most wealthy people earn their wealth legally and fairly and many give most of it away. Again, note Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, among others, in this regard. Why violate their private property rights and their freedom of choice in how they redistribute their wealth?

Be careful of the distorting stereotypes of wealthy people as greedy, selfish, evil and therefore that becomes justification to take their wealth away via state coercion (i.e. taxation, regulation).

Finally

Collectivist models that centralize power in ever-growing governments (via things like government regulation and taxation) chip away at individual freedom and this is always a dangerous direction to take (again, the failed Socialist states of Zimbabwe and Venezuela serve as recent historical examples). We all agree to allow some outside control to intrude into our lives (state regulation) and the redistribution of some of our income (state taxation). A kind of embrace of a “social contract”. But great care is needed to not allow this trend to get out of control, to allow it to become carried away. Apparently, Europeans have gone further down the road to surrendering personal freedom to central states with more regulation of their lives and more taxation of their income. The English and Americans, more oriented to individual freedom, are hesitant to follow those Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism models.

Societies need to have built-in mechanisms to counter and reverse the trends toward excessive regulation such as the law that was enacted by the British Columbia Liberal party. That law required that one old regulation had to be removed for every new regulation introduced. Others have legislated that two previous regulations should be removed for every new regulation introduced.

Governing elites, infected with the pathological impulse to meddle in and control the lives of others, will persistently do so via excessive regulation and taxation.

Daniel Hannan in “Inventing Freedom”

Hannan on the Western contribution to the world: Personal property rights, personal liberty, and representative government. “There are three irreducible elements… The rule of law… the government of the day doesn’t get to set the rules… they are interpreted by independent magistrates… the law is not an instrument of state control but a mechanism open to any individual seeking redress…

“Personal liberty… freedom to say what you like, to assemble in any configuration you choose with your fellow citizens, to buy and sell without hindrance, to dispose as you wish of your assets, to work for whom you please, and to hire and fire as you will…”

“Representative government… Laws should not be passed, nor taxes levied, except by elected legislators who are answerable to the rest of us…”

“… the individual should be as free as possible from state coercion… (wars for freedom in the last century were between countries that elevated the state over individuals and countries that elevated the individual over the state) …”

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Burying the most profound insight ever offered to humanity

Section topics: Breaking retaliatory cycles, ending tribalism; Same old patterns in alarmism movements; The contradiction between Historical Jesus and Paul’s Christ myth (recovering the greatest of “lost loves”, the Christ myth of Paul buried the single most profound insight on Ultimate Reality ever offered to humanity); Climate briefs (evidence that counters climate apocalyptic); Some Jim Steele for your spine; What does it mean to be human (the basic experiences of human life).

Interesting data noting the significant contribution of natural sources to CO2 levels, sources that overwhelm the relatively small human contribution. This evidence undermines the “human-caused global warming” narrative.

Global Human CO2 Emissions Have Been On A Slightly Declining Trend Since 2011

News on the creeping censorship and totalitarianism of today… Read the rest of the opening comment here

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The madness of apocalyptic hysteria

Section topics: The myth of pristine nature defiled by corrupt humanity (nature becoming trapped in dead-ends); The meta-myth fallacy of too few resources, too many people; Decline or Rise: The actual trajectory of life; Short version of Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives; and more…

Read this article from Spiked and get a sense of the madness that is climate alarmism. It is the world’s latest eruption of apocalyptic hysteria gone completely mad with politicians, media, celebrities, and other prophets trying to outdo one another with bizarre descriptions of the looming “end-of-days”.

Climate Derangement Syndrome

Note this link to data on the 96% decline in climate related deaths over the past century when we had a mild 1 degree C of warming. Remembering that 10 times more people die from cold every year than die from warmth, perhaps the correlation speaks to the benefits of warming, among other things.

Global yearly climate-related deaths

Another bad idea infecting public consciousness (add this to the list of 18 bad ideas below)

A notable theme from primitive mythology that persists today in environmentalism or Green religion- i.e. the belief that nature began as a pure, innocent, noble reality (original paradise) that has been “defiled and corrupted” by fallen, evil humanity. Hence the contemporary project of environmentalism to protect nature from humanity, to prevent human engagement with nature and human use of natural resources. Read the rest of the opening comment here

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COP26- a new crescendo of unhinged apocalyptic hysteria

Section topics: Climate briefs; Notable features in human worldviews; Mendel on Vision and Violence; Narratives of despair; CO2 facts; and more…

Site project: Countering narratives of fear, narratives of despair, affirming hope/love based on good evidence of life improving on all fronts.

Galileo’s version of confirmation bias: “People tend to refuse to consider evidence, if what they might discover contradicts their beliefs.”

We are watching the eruption of obsessive-compulsive pessimism and nihilism on a world-wide scale today. Each new climate COP (Conference of the Parties) unleashes a renewed frenzy of beating apocalyptic into public consciousness with the same old prophesies of “last chance… final tipping point…”, with dates set for the “end-of-days”.

Climate alarmism has developed as another apocalyptic cult that zealously tries to panic populations toward ever new crescendos of unhinged hysteria. Every twitch in nature- e.g. too much heat/too much cold, too much rain/no rain, wildfires, and more- is obsessively seized upon as evidence to affirm the mind-emptying mantra of “human-caused climate change” that alarmists claim is becoming an “existential crisis and catastrophe”. Everything happening in nature that is divergent from normal patterns is proclaimed, with irrational exaggeration, as “the worst on record” and promoted as evidence of looming apocalypse. Read the rest of the opening comment here

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Eruptions, surges of apocalyptic hysteria/madness, and the destructive consequences of such irresponsibility

Section topics: The true state of life on Earth; Beating a mantra into public consciousness; The unproven assumptions of climate alarmism; Patterns in alarmism movements; and more…

Here’s one from Wattsupwiththat.com… “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool”, George Orwell.

Quotes from Richard Landes’ Introduction to Arthur Mendel’s “Vision and Violence”, on apocalyptic millennial movements. Point? Climate change alarmism has become the latest apocalyptic millennial movement.

Apocalyptic millennial movements foresee some catastrophic end to life, a necessary violent purging of some “evil” (CO2, greedy humanity in industrial society), before a new world (millennium, utopia) can be established or a lost paradise restored.

Landes’ comments…

“The Nazis were a millennial movement… millennial as a belief in a radically transformed future for all mankind… the secular is merely another clothing that millennialism has taken… and Nazism is as much a New Religious Movement as a new political one… Hitler was one of the most powerful and paranoid messiah figures that history has ever produced… the German response to him was a classic, if tragic, case of violent millennial enthusiasm… Democracy, Scientific Utopianism, Nationalism, Communism, Zionism, Nazism, Environmentalism are forms of millennial thinking, partly secular, partly still profoundly religious.”

“To the pessimists, the world and humans are so permeated by evil that terrible catastrophes must come to annihilate the evil at the dawn of the new world. Extremists of this school foresee immense violence and human destruction, they tend to view things dualistically, seeing everyone as part of the forces of “good” or “evil” with no middle ground… nothing can motivate more powerfully than apocalyptic beliefs”.

“We have reason to fear the apocalyptic believers- they believe we hate and want to destroy them, and their violence is, in their minds, purely self-protective, when it is not world saving…. Totalitarianism is the desperate effort of a millennial movement that has taken power to force the creation of the perfect world… millennialism can be the most violent and destructive force in history”. Read the rest of the opening comment here

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Get the story of life right

Site topics: Resurging collectivism; The anti-liberalism of modern Liberalism; Presentism; The tragedy of being carried away by ‘crowd madness’; Hold something fundamental; Basic issues of the climate debate; and more…

Contact: wkrossa@shaw.ca While this site is copyrighted material, feel free to copy and share.

Important climate fact: 15- 20 times more people die every year from cold than die from warmth: (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150520193831.htm or https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673614621140?via%3Dihub) And you are afraid of more warming? A couple of more degrees warming in a still abnormally cold world will not be “catastrophic warming” but will benefit all life.

The arguments in the comment below are not intended to downplay the obligation to care for and use resources responsibly, conserving them for future generations. The comment is intended to counter the irresponsible fear-mongering over population growth and environmental issues. My comment is a counter to doom narratives that ignore the human success in caring for world resources and creatively finding alternatives to scarce resources. The true state of life is a narrative of hope. Read the rest of the opening comment here

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Site project: Countering alarmism hysteria, whether religious or secular

Topics below:

Summary list of ‘Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives’ (full version in sections further below)
Main points of the climate debate- evidence versus alarm (Conclusion: There is no “climate crisis”)
Meat creating mind? How? And evidence, please.
The single most profound statement ever made takes us to the height of being human (i.e. “Love your enemy”)
Changing meta-narrative themes
“Heat or cold? Which is worse? (the Northwest heatwave of June 2021)
Nature knows best? Then why does it become trapped in dead ends?
Also a reposting of “The true state of life on Earth” and “Patterns in alarmism movements” further below.
At the bottom of this section- Pushing past tribalism, re-affirming cooperation, and “Presentism” as the fallacy that contemporary events (e.g. extreme weather events) are the worst in history because we experience them firsthand.

Ideas

A prominent complex of ideas/themes has been repeated all across human history and across all the cultures of the world. These ideas/themes are primitive mythical creations that do not express the true state of things but profoundly distort reality and life. Nonetheless, they continue to dominate human consciousness and narratives.

These themes have long dominated mythical/religious systems of belief. They are now also embraced in “secular” ideological belief systems and are even found in “scientific” versions. But at core they are the same old primitive ideas as ever before.

They are tackled on this site because they have long deformed human consciousness and life with unnecessary fear, anxiety, shame/guilt, despair, depression, and violence.

Old story themes, new story alternatives, Wendell Krossa

1. The myth of deity as a judging, punishing, and destroying reality. Contemporary “secular” versions of judging, punishing deity include “Vengeful Gaia… angry Planet/Mother Earth… retributive Universe… and karma”.

Alternative: The new theology of deity as a stunningly no conditions reality (no conditions love).

2. The myth of a perfect beginning (Eden) and a God obsessed with perfection, enraged at the loss of perfection, and demanding punishment of imperfection.

Alternative: The world was purposefully created as originally imperfect in order to serve as an arena for human struggle, learning, and development. Deity has no problem with imperfection. Read the rest of the opening comment here

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Love as ultimate reality, ultimate meaning

Section topics: Notes on theology; Love as ultimate reality, ultimate meaning; Climate updates; An anti-fear project; Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives, and more…

A further explanation on humanizing deity theories:

Just a note on why I include the feature of “domination” (i.e. God as Lord, King) among the barbaric features that must be eliminated from a truly humane God theory (theory of ultimate reality, theory of ultimate meaning/purpose). Domination/subjection forms of relating are common to brutal animal existence. Animals relate in domination/submission relationships, usually with weaker animals subjected to an alpha male or female. Religious traditions have embraced such forms of relating as fundamental to their ultimate ideals and authorities- their gods. See, for example, Alex Garcia’s book ‘Alpha God’.

In addition, one of the first mental creations of early humans was the myth that people were created to do the work of the gods, to serve the gods. That early myth enforced the perception that humans were to be subject to the gods, to be subservient to deity.

Critical to emerging human development was our eventual understanding that enlightened, mature people would relate to one another as equals, not as superiors to inferiors. We now understand that true human greatness is about treating all as equals, and not intervening, overwhelming, controlling, or dominating others. Not violating the freedom and self-determination of others.

Historical Jesus got this right when he reasoned with his followers who wanted positions of authority over others. His response: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” True greatness and glory was in serving, not ruling. This humane principle used to be the understood and accepted mandate of politicians in democratic societies.

Consequent to understanding the nature of truly humane forms of relating, we can reason that a truly humane God, a truly loving deity, will relate to all as equals, not as inferiors, subjects, or servants. A fully humane God will relate horizontally to humanity, not vertically as a superior. Relating vertically as a dominating superior would be inhumane and unloving.

Add here Charles Templeton’s point that someone demanding dominance, and attention and praise on pain of death for refusal, would be an Idi Amin-type character (see his book “Farewell to God”). Yet we project such nonsense onto the ultimate Good and Love that is God???

A side note: While life is replete with hierarchical organizations, it is possible to relate within such structures as authentic humans. Those in supervisory positions can express equality with others in the way that they relate to and treat others in lower positions. For example, by honoring the input of others on decisions that impact them. This is important because self-control and self-determination are critical to human health.

Putting something before or above people

I have just watched “The Crown” (Netflix) on British royalty. It reminded me of an old insight that Bob Brinsmead shared with us decades ago- that whenever we put loyalty to something else above people, to something other than people, whether loyalty to law, to a religion or belief system, to God, to an institution, to a nation state or an ideology, to an ethnic group or race, then people tend to be ignored or abused.

People that were loyal, first and foremost, to the monarchy and its archaic traditions/protocols/rituals, people that put the monarchy first, then crushed and destroyed real people around them. Such loyalty led superiors to stifle the diverse personalities, emotions, and expressions of inferiors.

Our primary loyalty, our only loyalty, must always be first to real people and their individual needs, not to something above people that takes priority over them and their needs.

Bob Brinsmead

“There are some things Love (agape) cannot do. Therefore, there are some things God cannot do. “It is impossible for God to lie” is an example. In personal relationships there are some things that Love, along with its corollaries of wisdom and justice, that one cannot do. God cannot build Rome in a day because Rome implies a human culture, the formation of a collective character, the development of a language etc. God has entered a partnership, a covenant with his creation and therefore God is limited by the principles of freedom involved in that relationship. So God is not going to intervene as we might want him or even expect him to intervene. I could tease this out, but I suggest the propositions you repeat are not a watertight logic as those who advance these either/or propositions think they are.”

“It comes down to a question of whether love is worthwhile. Life is about the receiving and giving of love. The truth is discovered by getting involved and doing it. It’s a precious gift that took a long time to make and is very precious. Creation (not yet finished) has been a labour of love, and not without pain and suffering. No such thing as the Creator bringing creation to pass without a lot of time and effort. The Creation science wants us to believe God did it in the blink of an eye – easy stuff! The narrative functions with the image of an absolute Dictator Deity using unfettered omnipotent, omniscient, etc. powers, and based on a very wrong concept of God having dominion and requiring of all absolute unquestioning obedience – as the old Calvinists used to say, ‘perfect obedience to every decree to the utmost degree.’ Sounds like the ultimate subjection of the subjects to me.”

Love as Ultimate Reality, ultimate meaning Wendell Krossa

I embrace the view that there is an inexpressibly wondrous love at the core of reality and behind all life. And that love is the meaning and purpose of the cosmos, the world, and conscious human life. We are here to learn love, to exhibit love, to experience love in all the diversity of human stories and experiences. Love is all.

I base my conclusions on several points of reason:

1. Love is our highest and most meaningful ideal. It is the fundamental defining feature of what it means to be human. It is the best and highest thing that we know.

2. Historical Jesus argued that God was love of an unconditional nature. That central insight is expressed in his statement: “Do not engage eye for eye response to offenders, but instead love your enemy because God does, giving sun and rain to all alike” (Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 6:27-36). God was unconditional love. That was Historical Jesus’ greatest contribution to the history of human spiritual insights. (Note: Hist. Jesus appears to point to deity as unconditional reality. Whether he actually does or not, matters little. I do not regard him as some final authority. It is my conclusion.)

Unfortunately, the New Testament authors, shaped by Paul’s thinking, then distorted and buried that unconditional insight with a retreat to the highly conditional and retaliatory Christ of Paul (i.e. “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish and destroy all who do not believe” Paul’s gospel). The religion of Paul’s Christ myth was created as just another conditional tradition with correct beliefs to be an included insider/true believer, proper rituals, demanded sacrifice/payment, and righteous lifestyle necessary to identify oneself as a “saved” insider of the religion (versus “damned” outsiders).

All such religious conditions were backed with severe threats to those refusing to embrace the conditions- notably, temporal and eternal punishment and destruction. See Paul’s warning to the Corinthian Christians that God was punishing them with sickness and death as retribution for their sins. It would get worse as Paul warned in Romans 12:17-20. Ultimate and eternal vengeance was coming.

3. God as unconditional love is the central discovery of a modern spiritual experience movement- the “Near-Death Experience”. Many of those accounts detail an encounter with a Being of love/light so stunningly unconditional that it is inexpressible in its infinite transcendence and wonder. With that love there is no judgment, no condemnation, no exclusion of anyone, no demanded sacrifice or payment, no punishment or destruction. No conditions at all. None. That means no religion too.

Hence, my conclusion that all are safe in that love, in the end. All are included in that love.

(Note: Any advocacy for no conditions deity raises questions regarding how order and morality can be maintained with such an ultimate ideal. Hence, the following qualifier.)

Qualifier: Ultimate safety and inclusion for all does not mean excusing bad behavior here and now. There are social and natural consequences in this world and that is critical to healthy human development. All of us must learn to be fully responsible for our choices and actions and the consequences for others. People unable or unwilling to control their worst impulses should and will be restrained and even locked up. But that criminal justice response must always be restorative/rehabilitative, as much as possible.

Leo Tolstoy- “The whole trouble lies in that people think that there are circumstances/conditions when they may treat their fellow beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist.” Read the rest of the opening comment here

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