See further below the new Comment from Discussion Group on the Liberating Power of Blasphemy and a new Summary on Unconditional (just below CO2 or Natural Variation).
Other readers- pardon me while I focus for a while on some specialists. There are critically important issues at play here. Previous comment is continued further below.
Immediately below is a post sent to the Jesus Seminar Fellows (researchers associated with the Seminar). As I understand it, the Seminar exists to research and set forth the “dissimilarities” (i.e. differences) between the Historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus. But it appears that the Seminar is lacking a clear emphasis and presentation of the greatest dissimilarity of all. This is about more than just the debate over whether Jesus was an apocalyptic messenger or not. Key to understanding and resolving the apocalyptic issue is to recognize that Jesus clearly and consistently advocated for non-retaliation (both ethically and theologically). And in sharp contrast to his non-retaliation view, remember that apocalyptic is most essentially an act of divine retaliation.
This is the stunning contradiction between Jesus’ viewpoint and Paul’s apocalyptic theology. The key point is plain and simple- the non-retaliatory deity of Jesus is a non-apocalyptic deity. Jesus was emphatically non-retaliatory (Matthew 5:38-48) and therefore non-apocalyptic. Paul took an entirely opposite position with his retaliatory theology. The core teaching of Jesus on non-retaliation is then a death blow to the entire structure of Paul’s theology- his payback atonement views, his general apocalyptic framework, and specifically his apocalyptic Christ mythology. The elephantine question then looms- on what basis can Christianity claim to be the religion of Jesus? How can you embrace a retaliation theology and then claim to be the representatives of the one historical figure who so clearly taught non-retaliation in both ethics and theology?
See further detail below in comment such as “Search for the Real Deal” or “Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition”.
It is absolutely critical for Christianity to face this issue of apocalyptic/retaliation because of the immense damage this primitive mythology has caused to human consciousness and society. To illustrate, here are a few examples:
1. Spengler’s influence (and Declinist theory in general) on Hitler and the outcomes from that madness (for detail, see Herman’s The Idea of Decline and Landes’ Heaven on Earth). James Carrol (Constantine’s Sword) adds another facet here.
2. Then note Rachel Carson’s use of apocalyptic narrative and the horrific outcomes of that (i.e. the ban on DDT and subsequent millions of unnecessary deaths). Note also the general apocalyptic emphasis throughout the environmental movement with its harmful anti-development activism.
3. And note the impact of apocalyptic on Marxism (Landes again on the apocalyptic millennialism influencing this ideology).
The fingerprints of Christian apocalyptic mythology are all over these examples. And at a broader scale: this has to do with some of the most fundamental issues in human existence- such as what it means to be authentically human (the nature of animal existence in contrast with human existence), full liberation from primitive retaliatory thinking/existence, and advance into an authentically humane future. Also note that with apocalyptic you are dealing with the fear-violence relationship and its destructive impact on life.
Post to the Jesus Seminar Fellows:
Dear Seminar Fellow,
I hold much gratitude toward you and the other Seminar Fellows for your valued research on the Historical Jesus. But I have one quibble to put to the Jesus Seminar fellows. It seems that the Seminar has not presented clearly enough (unless I am missing something here- if so, then let me know) the single most important dissimilarity between the Historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus. James Robinson is the one person I am aware of who seemed to grasp something of this in relation to his Q research.
It has to do with Jesus’ comments in his “core of the core” statements in Matt. 5:38-48- his view of deity as non-retaliatory. This was a strikingly unique breakthrough unheard of anywhere before. And few have noted well the contradiction that Paul introduced in retreating from Jesus to a view of deity as retaliatory (Peter- why does Paul teach the opposite of Jesus?).
One of my points in relation to this is that it speaks directly to the debate over whether Jesus was an apocalyptic messenger or not. I have argued that he could not have been apocalyptic. Based on his core theme, as per Matt.5, he was clearly oriented to non-retaliation, both in ethics and theology. He therefore could not have been apocalyptic. Apocalyptic is a grand divine retaliation, a payback punishment for humanity’s sins. If, as Jesus stated, God was non-retaliatory, then God could not be behind apocalyptic retaliation.
Even Robinson did not appear to get the full implications of this, despite his varied clear statements in his writings. At the end of one of his books (Jesus According to the Earliest Witness) he says, “…what acquits in the day of judgment”, belying a belief in some final reckoning (payback).
This Jesus/Christianity contradiction (non-retaliation, retaliation) speaks to something bigger and more profound, a far more important issue in regard to the history of religion. At the very core of much religion over history is that major error of the ancients- that there was some retaliatory or punitive reality behind all (i.e. punishing forces/spirits). One could argue that the very institution of religion in society was created to deal with this error. Religion was a response to that primitive perspective- how to appease and please the threatening spirits. Such was Salvationism or atonement thinking.
The historical Jesus made the most striking breakthrough of all to counter that ancient error with his insight that God was non-retaliatory or “unconditional love” in contemporary terms. Others long before him had gotten parts of the corrective response right, notably the Akkadian father (see Akkadian Father’s advice to his son, Wikipedia, that advice dating from roughly 2200 BCE). But his was only an ethical breakthrough, without the related theological basis. Even the Hebrew prophets had offered some insights on God’s justice as non-retaliatory but then also presented elements of judgment in their message. They did not see the full picture on unconditional, not to the extent that the historical Jesus got it. And there is “thematic coherence” all through Jesus’ teaching on unconditional reality. I have a section on my site detailing this, titled Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition.
This is about history’s greatest liberation movement- liberation at the deepest levels of human thought, perspective, feeling, and response (i.e. liberation from those primitive drives to hate, exclude, seek revenge, punish, and destroy others). And how Christianity under Paul’s dominating influence, rejected that liberation and retreated to a primitive retaliatory theology. Romans 12 shows Paul appears to have gotten the ethical element right, that retaliation was evil, but then reversed to the primitive theology of retaliating deity- God will do the evil business of retaliation. The Jesus/Paul contradiction is a sort of apex point in history, or a grand illustration of the core struggle at the heart of the greater human story- the struggle to leave a primitive past very much defined by retaliation, and the endeavor to enter a more human future very much defined by non-retaliation.
Again, the contradiction is about non-retaliation versus retaliation. This is the core issue behind the non-apocalyptic versus apocalyptic debate. This is the greatest “dissimilarity” between Historical Jesus and Christian Jesus.
The importance of dealing with apocalyptic in the Christian tradition relates to its horrific impact, notably Christianity’s role in bringing apocalyptic alarmism into the modern world, via Declinism and into contemporary ideologies such as Marxism and environmentalism (See, for example, Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History and Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience).
I have a variety of comment on this on my site- www.wendellkrossa.com – along with the grand narrative context of it all.
Regards, Wendell Krossa
The point made just below? Note something of the role of religion over history in promoting apocalyptic alarmism, especially in Western consciousness and the damaging outcomes of alarmism for human society (e.g. the fear/violence relationship, or the anti-human hysteria).
Another point in the comment further below: Note that the historical Jesus was clearly a non-apocalyptic messenger (his core message was non-retaliation, non-retaliatory deity) but Paul rejected that view for the apocalyptic theology of Christianity (retaliatory deity). This is the great contradiction at the heart of Christianity which claims to be the religion of Jesus.
Secularized Mythology- Apocalyptic in modern ideology
Opening qualifier: Not all alarmism is an expression of apocalyptic mythology. But much doomsterism/alarmism does touch base with core apocalyptic themes. Apocalyptic is a unique set of primitive and damaging ideas.
Another qualifier: I argue repeatedly on this page that the worst error in all history (i.e. punitive forces/spirits behind life) spawned the most distorting and damaging set of ideas in all history- apocalyptic mythology. This set of ideas/themes has darkened and enslaved human consciousness for millennia. It still dominates much public consciousness today (note public story-telling media such as movies, TV, and literature).
Now to the main point…
Various strains in contemporary ideology (notably alarmism in environmentalism) are little more than secularized mythology. It is always surprising to discover some of the most primitive mythology still present in modern secular viewpoints. To illustrate this I will trace in brief summary form the main apocalyptic themes as they descend from primitive thinking down into the present. I will employ broad strokes and over-simplify in order to make the point clear and to show the linkages between major historical periods and systems of ideas. The core themes of apocalyptic are not always held up front in daily consciousness or conversation but tend to reside more in the background (subconscious even) where they are often not properly confronted, rooted out, and replaced with more evidence-based and rational alternatives.
The line of descent of apocalyptic mythology is from primitive mythology to Zoroaster, then to Jewish religion, merged into Christianity, and then into 19th Century Declinism or Cultural Pessimism, and then to Environmentalism (we could also include Marxism and Nazism). The thing to note in this lineage is not exact correspondence of statements or expression but the core theme behind any given statement or expression.
Apocalyptic mythology is much more than just the apocalypse myth. Apocalypse by itself (aside from its full context) makes no sense. It is part of a full template of tightly related ideas or myths that includes:
1. The myth of original paradise (or a generally better past)
2. The ruin of paradise by corrupted humanity (Fall). Corrupt humanity now deserves some punishment.
3. The subsequent decline of life toward something worse (i.e. the world is getting worse, threat from over-population, fragile nature is ready to collapse).
4. A dualism between good and evil. Oppositional dualism affirms the need to exclude and punish some enemy.
5. A salvation scheme- this is atonement thinking, the felt need to make a sacrifice in order to save something (oneself, humanity, or the world) from the final punishment. Salvationism is about placating some angry, punitive force/spirit in order to avoid the end-time grand retaliation from an angry God or revenge of Gaia.
6. A final punishment of evil. This is the actual apocalypse- some great catastrophe and ending- where the good triumph over the evil (a final retaliation against one’s enemies).
7. The purging of the world (removing the old corrupt order of things- i.e. population reduction, and slowing or reversing industrial civilization), and the restoration of paradise or inauguration of the new kingdom/utopia.
Behind this template of apocalyptic is that core error of the ancients- that behind life there is some great threatening, punishing spirit or god. This explains the final punishment of all wrong, the purging of the old corrupt order (purging of all evil), and the restoration of the original good.
Note also below that it was Zoroaster who introduced a strong dualism into ancient apocalyptic mythology, a clear opposition between good and bad. This would affirm the exclusion of unbelievers or bad people. It would affirm the need to punish such people. That dualism would reinforce primitive tribalism and the right to retaliate against and destroy one’s enemies. It would affirm the impulse to exclude and ultimately destroy outsiders in a great apocalyptic punishment.
Primitive (Sumerian) mythology
In the earliest human writing (i.e. Sumerian cuneiform tablets) we already find the core themes of apocalyptic mythology. It is not yet assembled into a coherent theology but is more of a scattering of themes here and there. These themes may be noted in such material as the Sumerian or Gilgamesh Flood myth (roughly 2100 BCE though it refers to earlier events). The Sumerian tablets contain fragmentary accounts and a fuller version of the Gilgamesh epic appears somewhere between 1600-1300 BCE in Babylonian mythology.
The core themes: The city of Dilmun was presented as an original paradise. The god/man Enki committed an original error that resulted in his punishment with illness and the degrading of paradise (an early version of the Fall of man theme). And then there was the myth of a great Flood as punishment for human sin (too many people being too noisy). The god Enlil decided to punish the boisterous people with a great deluge. That was the earliest apocalypse scenario. For detail see sites such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_creation_myth
In these early myths we see the barebones outline of primitive apocalyptic thinking.
Zoroastrian apocalyptic mythology
Zoroaster appears to be the first to introduce into his apocalyptic theology the idea of a great dualism between good and evil, between good people (believers of the true religion, followers of the light) and bad people (followers of wrong, people of the darkness). It is a dualism between a good Spirit (Creator) and a wrong principle (destructive force). Zoroaster then posits a great struggle between the good and the wrong. Zoroaster’s dualism affirms the need for opposition and exclusion. There is to be a clear demarcation between the good and the bad and the requirement to punish and annihilate the bad.
He also states that life is degenerating toward a worsening situation, toward a culmination of the great struggle between good and evil. Time will end and the good power will prevail over the evil, there will be a final judgment, evil will be overthrown, and earth will be purified by a fiery material (he changes the apocalypse from flood to fire). There will be a final renovation of all things. The kingdom of the good God will come on earth, and the original paradise or past Golden Age will be restored. With these ideas Zoroaster offers a more complete and coherent presentation of apocalyptic mythology.
See for example http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/apocalyptic-that-which-has-been-rcvealed
Jewish apocalyptic theology
Apocalyptic mythology is developed in Jewish culture in the post-exile period (the Jews were exiled in 605 BCE and returned in 536 BCE). There is first the development of proto-apocalyptic theology in the writing of Isaiah (chapters 33-35, circa 163 BCE; chapters 24-27, circa 128 BCE), Jeremiah (chapter 33), Ezekiel (chapters 38-39), Joel chapter 3, and Zechariah chapters 12-14 (160 BCE). This is transitional thinking on apocalyptic mythology. Then there is the development of a full-blown apocalyptic theology in Daniel (chapters 7-12) during the Maccabean period (160-60 BCE).
Jewish apocalyptic exhibits the themes of a strong dualism (two kingdoms), the conquering and elimination of evil, a final judgment and divine victory over evil, and the complete reformation of all things (a renewed Golden Age). The good God will triumph over evil and chaos.
See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalyptic_literature
Christian apocalyptic teaching
The Christian apocalyptic template inherits the Jewish perspective but is more fleshed out and contains the following main themes: an original paradise (Eden), a Fall into corruption due to human failure, the subsequent decline of life toward something worse, toward a catastrophic ending, and the great Apocalypse often referred to in terms such as “the Day of the Lord”. This will be a fiery purging of the world and the ending of the current corrupt world order. It will be a great divine judgment and punishment. After this there will be the restoration of all things in a renewed world (a new Eden), or a kingdom of God. This set of themes is also referred to as Christian salvation theology.
One can find these themes throughout the Christian Bible, but notably summarized in the writing of Paul and John (Revelation). See for instance, Paul’s writing in the letters to the Thessalonians, also in Romans and Hebrews (authorship uncertain).
Apocalyptic in 19th Century Declinism or Cultural Pessimism
In the development of 19th century Declinism theory we find a great shift occurring in the historical descent of apocalyptic mythology. Apocalyptic is now secularized, or given a more secular expression. Myth is stated as ideology. Hence, my repeated statement that much contemporary ideology is just secularized mythology. Declinism is primitive apocalyptic myth re-emerging in modern thought and expression.
I am indebted to historians like Arthur Herman for the material in this section, notably his excellent study titled “The Idea of Decline In Western History”. Herman illustrates a pivotal point in the history of human thought or perception- how primitive mythology is secularized for the new thinking of the scientific era.
Herman notes the influence of a variety of Christian themes on the thinking of the Decline theorists (see also Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience for more historical detail on the influence of Christian apocalyptic on modern political ideologies like Marxism and Nazism).
Herman writes that Declinism assumes the common belief in an original golden age in the past, and that there has been a subsequent decline of life from that better past. The Declinists of the 19th Century refused to accept that modern industrial society was progress. Instead, in that very progress they saw the forces of decline and decadence. Human industrial civilization was making things worse. They saw in industrialization an emerging hell.
Declinists also held a belief in the Fall of man or the corruption of an originally pure humanity. Declinists believed that primitive people were a superior people. But modern civilization had corrupted the pure native soul and society, and they had subsequently lost their original vitality, their purity and strength. Technological and scientific society had degraded the human spirit. Racial degeneration had occurred. Civilization made people soft and corrupt.
So now life was declining toward something worse than before. This Herman refers to as “Degeneration theory” which claims that there has been a deviation from an original pure and strong type. Modern technological and industrial society has produced this decline in humanity and in life generally. It was all heading for a grand collapse and ending (the apocalypse).
Salvation is to be found in purging this corrupt human civilization and restoring the primitive order or society. There must be a grand purifying, and it should be a violent overthrow, a violent and fiery purging of the old order so that a new order of life, or a new society, may be installed. This new world is to be a return to primitive vitality, and the assumed innocence of the original pure beginning. Herman also notes the Christian belief that salvation required the violent and catastrophic destruction of the old order so that the new order or kingdom could be inaugurated (see Revelation for graphic detail on the brutal violence of the Christian apocalyptic vision).
One can see the core Christian apocalyptic themes all through Declinism. This is the secularization of primitive mythology for the modern age.
Apocalyptic in Environmentalism
Herman in his chapter 12 then shows how Declinism thinking emerged in modern environmentalism. Contemporary environmentalism proclaims that the original Golden Age was found in pure and undisturbed nature, in pristine wilderness. But modern technological society has led to the corrupting of nature, it has degraded the natural paradise. Industrial society has threatened vital nature. Modern technological progress is destroying life, exhausting resources.
And all is now in decline toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. Salvation is to be found in returning to some post-industrial order. Declinists argue that we need to purge this corrupting order and bring in a new world order, or a new civilization, in order to save the planet. And this new order is actually viewed as a return back to nature, back to the original Golden Age. This will mean the renunciation of Western capitalist society for a return to a pure natural existence, to a primitive, pre-capitalist society. This is the new kingdom- a return to primitive society. It is a return to the original vitality (pristine natural paradise) before the fall into modern civilization.
For the environmental declinist, or alarmist, the looming collapse of civilization is then something to look forward to. The catastrophic destruction of technological civilization is an opportunity to bring in the new order. Western civilization is a corrupting evil, and modern civilized humanity is an evil. But Gaia will retaliate and punish this human cancer and remove it, so that the old primitive natural order can be restored.
In all these historical phases of apocalyptic mythology we find the same core themes, no matter the differences of expression over time. The basic template re-emerges endlessly over history from primitive mythology to equally primitive theology to contemporary ideology- original paradise or better past; paradise ruined by corrupting humanity, a Fall into worsening corruption, the decline of humanity and life toward something worse, the looming catastrophic ending (apocalypse), the need to purge the old corrupt order and install a new order (or re-install the original primitive paradise).
From Sumerian myth to contemporary environmentalism, apocalyptic mythology has continued to darken consciousness and alarm humanity. Apocalyptic thinking has always held the dismal view of humanity as corrupt and destructive. It has therefore consistently opposed human development and progress. It has endlessly proposed anti-human salvation schemes that harm people and hinder progress toward a better future (and cause unnecessary damage to nature). It even urges ridding the planet of most of humanity. It is a profoundly anti-human mythology.
Apocalyptic always presents the potential to not only stir alarm but also violence with its oppositional dualism and sense of threat from some enemy.
Some additional points on the secularization of primitive mythology:
It is important to respond to alarmism with good scientific evidence. Rational science is the anti-dote to hysterical primitivism. And I have argued repeatedly that overwhelming evidence on all the major trends/elements of life affirms a narrative of hope, not alarm. We are not heading toward some catastrophic end of nature, life, or civilization.
But there is this interesting thing going on regarding evidence. You will get two equally bright scientists looking at the same data/evidence and coming to very contrary conclusions. You then realize that there might be ideology at play and influencing the conclusions about the evidence. One way of understanding this has been called “confirmation bias”, where people will accept only the evidence that affirms their views on something, and downplay or dismiss outright the contrary evidence that does not affirm their views. When this occurs then you recognize that it is important to look into ideological issues in order to better understand alarmism. And surprise, surprise because looking even deeper you will often find primitive mythology behind the ideology. Too much contemporary ideology is little more than secularized mythology.
Just for example. I was in a grad program at the University of BC back in the early 90s (School of Community and Regional Planning). Bill Rees was the director of the school and a lecturer (I took most of his courses). He is widely known as the originator or father of the Ecological Footprint model which argues that too many people are consuming too many resources and all is heading for some catastrophic collapse. We need another Earth or two to support our levels of consumption. Our footprint on nature is too large. We are in “overshoot”. Bill was developing this EF during the years I was in his school.
Now to illustrate this thing of mythology at the root of much contemporary ideology- Bill travelled a lot and when absent would invite others to lecture for him. He once had one of his PhD students lecture us on Mother Earth or the earth goddess. And he offered to us in lectures the perspective of Gaia. In a personal conversation, he once affirmed to me that apocalyptic was true. After all, according to Bill, it had happened in the past.
Other leaders of the environmental movement have also appealed to mythology to make their case for alarm over the state of nature. Notable in this regard is Rachel Carson and her appeal to an apocalyptic narrative in the first chapter of her book Silent Spring. Al Gore sometimes refers to his Christian beliefs to back his case for alarm. These are some of the thought leaders of alarmist environmentalism and it is evident that mythology plays some role in their approach. This is why this page focuses so much on understanding the deeper mythical roots behind alarmism.
It is not that any given alarmist will make a clear statement of mythology, tying her/his approach to traditional apocalyptic themes. It is more that they will employ a theme that is indistinguishable from the core themes of ancient mythology.
And thus primitive mythology, now often secularized, still clouds and damages modern outlook and society. It continues to darken public consciousness and enslave the human spirit and human society (notably the alarmist response of anti-development activism, the endeavor to oppose and halt human economic development and overall progress).
Fortunately, the human impulse for authentic liberation will persistently confront the residual influence of this primitive apocalyptic perspective and seek to replace these dark themes with a new narrative of hope based on the increasing evidence of human creative influence on life.
To further note the historical lines of descent and linkages see sites such as http://op-ed.the-environmentalist.org/2007/04/zoroastrianisms-influence-on-judaism.html, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15283-zoroastrianism, or http://www.westminster.edu/staff/brennie/RennieC55R36.1.pdf (Iranian roots of Christianity)
Another ‘additional’ point in relation to apocalyptic mythology: There is a dense complexity in human thought over history. However, throughout history some strains in human thought have played a more dominant role, influencing people and their lives more powerfully than other ideas. And some of these ideas/beliefs have caused immense damage to people and their societies. Hence, my more limited focus at times on a certain themes.
To get right to my point- nothing has caused more grief and damage to humanity than the core human myth of some threatening, retaliatory, or punitive reality. This idea/belief then spawned apocalyptic mythology and its twin- Salvationism theology (i.e. how to escape the punishment of the apocalypse).
My interest in these ideas has to do with getting to the foundational beliefs/ideas in human worldviews and noting their impact on human consciousness and existence. To this end I have repeatedly referred, for instance, to the example of people like Rachel Carson and her use of apocalyptic imagery and the consequence of her alarmism for millions of people, mainly children (i.e. her alarmism over chemicals played a significant role in the ban of DDT which then resulted in tens of millions of unnecessary deaths in the following decades).
Now I am sure that she was a good person and never intended such an outcome from her apocalyptic alarmism. But such outcomes litter the brutal history of apocalyptic thinking. Its potential to alarm excessively has led repeatedly to such damaging outcomes in human societies. Note, for instance, that Hitler bought into Spengler’s apocalyptic/millennial alarmism and then remember the outcome in German society and the larger world.
Note also how environmental alarmism today inspires opposition to human economic development and progress which is vital to protecting the environment. Many have detailed the destructive consequences of this alarmism on humanity and nature (e.g. bio-fuels fiasco, general opposition to fossil fuels).
One of the central themes of this page- unconditional reality- is presented as a potent corrective to the most damaging error in the history of human thought: the pathological notion that there is some threatening, retaliatory, or punishing force behind life. This theme is found all through ancient mythology (i.e. human sickness or catastrophic flood as divine punishment) and it has infected all the great religious traditions.
The mistaken perception of ultimate threat long ago sparked the emergence of religion as the social institution that would set forth the conditions for appeasement of ultimate threats. We see that in the development of atonement/sacrifice mythology and practice. Also, the belief in greater punitive forces or authorities served to validate a similar punishment emphasis in human society.
This error of divine threat has been deeply lodged in human outlook and it keeps erupting over history in new systems of belief or thought such as perceptions of vengeful Gaia, angry planet, punitive nature, or callous and cruel natural law. Until it is properly confronted and thoroughly rooted out, it will continue to damage public consciousness and human society with unnecessary fear, anxiety, violence, and despair. It will continue to spawn harmful appeasement and salvation responses- religious and secular- such as we have seen from the environmental movement (i.e. anti-development schemes to appease a vengeful Gaia or angry planet).
Related to this, note the new comment further below on The Mother of All Monsters, the early human development of the mythology of judgmental and punitive deity. This particular comment looks further at the linkage between fear and aggression/violence. It also notes how unconditional reality liberates from this pathological belief in ultimate threat.
This page is devoted to understanding the fundamental causes/roots of alarmist and apocalyptic thinking. For the past two centuries there has been excessive negativity toward human industrial civilization and far too much doom and gloom over the widely assumed decline of nature. Much good evidence shows that while in the past we have made mistakes in our engagement of nature, we have learned from that past, corrected our approach, and are now doing much better in our treatment of the natural world. The result is that we are not heading for some catastrophic collapse but are actually improving life on all fronts. When you look closely at the narrative of contemporary doomsterism you discover that it has far more to do with ideology/mythology than with actual evidence (see for instance, Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History). This site engages the good research done on environmental issues by people like Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, and Matt Ridley, among others. The evidence noted by these researchers points away from despair and toward a narrative of hope. Life is not declining toward something worse but is rising toward something better.
This page also makes frequent reference to the Historical Jesus and especially to the stunning contrast between the historical person and the Christian Jesus. I do this because that contradiction illustrates so well the greater human story and our struggle for freedom from a primitive past defined by retaliatory violence and our liberation toward a future of non-retaliation. The Historical Jesus advocated for non-retaliatory existence but Christianity opted for a return to retaliatory thinking and existence (i.e. notable in Paul’s resistance to Jesus’ teaching and endeavor to maintain eye for eye or punitive justice). See further explanation below.
Quote from below: “The conditional nature and context of religion cannot communicate the unconditional nature of ultimate reality. Religion emerged as a conditional institution (how to appease and please the gods) and cannot express the true nature of unconditional love”.
The Problem of Deity
Over history an interesting relationship has developed between humanity and deity. People have long taken human features and projected them out to define deity, to shape their understanding of greater reality. We see this in ancient mythology- gods that fight, punish, destroy, and often in the pettiest manner and over the pettiest things. Primitive gods that were very much like the primitive people that created them.
But as we have become more humane so we have updated our conceptions of deity, making gods more humane also. We see this early on in the Pharaoh-gods beginning to exhibit kindness and mercy. We find it later in the Hebrews presenting God as compassionate. Over history we humanize our gods as we become more humane and as we come to understand better the core features of authentic humanity.
This human/god relationship has also worked in a feedback loop manner. People create their perceptions of gods and then use those gods to justify their own actions and existence. As anthropologists note (e.g. Clifford Geertz), people have long appealed to the divine to validate their own lives and societies. This can be seen in the BCE era Israelites believing that God gave them detailed instructions on how to build their first temple, how to arrange their camps around that temple, and a vast array of other detailed instructions on things like clothing, diet, care and consumption of animals, sexuality, and more.
And there is a dark side to this appeal to deity, or ultimate authority, for validation. As the gods people created were often primitively violent, so those gods were then employed to validate similar violence among people. We see this even today where people appeal to their God to validate the killing of outsiders/unbelievers. People employ ultimate reality as an ultimate authority and then obligate themselves to replicate that ideal for good or evil.
This is why some have argued that the idea of God has been one of the most dangerous ideas ever conceived (i.e. Bob Brinsmead). Deity has far too often embodied the very worst of primitive humanity- things like tribal exclusion and opposition, domination, and destruction of others. In addition to this, far too often the engagement of deity has resulted in the abandonment of responsibility to improve the human condition here and now (i.e. time and resources wasted on appeasing and pleasing invisible reality). Because of this dark and debilitating side to deity, many have argued that we need to get rid of the concept of deity entirely. As one disgusted atheist blurted, “Let’s get rid of all this metaphysical bullshit”.
While I understand his concerns, that is not likely to ever happen. Consciousness has made us aware that we belong to something greater, that we are part of some greater ultimate reality. And our basic impulse for meaning and purpose pushes us to understand that reality more. We have always been intensely curious to understand and explain the greater forces that give rise to our existence. We want to explain our origins, our existence, and our destination in terms of a greater reality. This has to do with our most fundamental desires, questions, and curiosities. We want to understand how we should live and why, and we seek answers in relation to ultimate reality, meaning, and purpose. This is all foundational to being consciously human.
Also, because so much pathological inhumanity has already been projected onto deity, that needs to be countered properly with more humane alternatives. And, as noted above, the inhumanity already projected onto deity has caused much misery over history. Further, you cannot just cede explanatory ground to philosophies like materialism with its belief in essential meaninglessness. That definition of ultimate reality violates our most basic human impulses for meaning and purpose, and it answers none of our most basic questions and concerns.
There have been three general approaches to understanding ultimate realities. A dominant one over the past few centuries has been philosophical materialism. And of course for millennia we have had the mythical/religious approach. But now we have another alternative- the still developing approach that seeks to combine the discoveries of science with a new understanding of spiritual reality. This may prove to be the most fruitful yet in our quest for ultimate understanding and explanation (note, for example, the theological discipline of panentheism and books like “In Whom We Live And Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World”).
And in one sense (tipping one’s hat just a bit to the materialists) we could all benefit from a good dose of atheism. I refer to the healthy atheism that Karen Armstrong spoke about, where over history people have always rejected gods that no longer work, for new ones more suited to the times- more humane gods. And fortunately, the gods have become more humane over history as we have come to understand what authentic human existence is about.
This trend of developing humaneness in our understanding of deity is part of the greater historical process of humanizing all things. This is a core impulse of human consciousness. It includes our perceptions of ultimate realities. And this humanizing process culminates in the ultimate expression of authentic humanity- unconditional love. This feature/ideal takes us to the heights of ultimate meaning and purpose. We have now discovered that unconditional is the pinnacle of what it means to be authentically human or humane. And we correctly understand all other things in light of this core theme (e.g. Schillebeekx, “God is more human/humane than any human being”).
I would clarify here that ultimate reality/deity has always been unconditional love but it has just taken humanity a long time to fully recognize this truth. And unfortunately, while admirably humanizing our gods (our perceptions of deity), too many religious traditions still retain the features of the primitive deities and this results in a distortion of the new human features like unconditional love. Unconditional love then becomes limited by the conditional beliefs of religion (i.e. required atonement, required rituals and lifestyle to please some conditionally oriented deity). This is what Thomas Jefferson referred to as placing “diamonds in a dunghill”.
Further, in the process of humanizing our understanding of deity we need to recognize that there is no “Word from God” handed down from the heavens to tell us what deity is all about. That is the fallacy of Biblicism- the belief in some inspired holy book or Word of God that is an authority that tells us what to think/believe and how to live (i.e. inspired scriptures given to priestly elites to control the lives of others). Nonsense. We all know the divine as much as anyone else by understanding what is best in our own humanity. God is known primarily in all humanity and in all diverse human goodness. And each one of us holds the responsibility to know and explain ultimate reality according to the best features that we find in our humanity. We are all responsible for the greater humanizing project. There is no higher religious authority or mediating priesthood with superior insider knowledge of such things.
And it is unconditional love that now takes us to the absolute height of what it means to be authentically human or humane. This is a human discovery and not a “divine revelation”. We see its gradual development over history from early compassion and kindness to the great ideal of human love and then the further development of our understanding of love as unconditional. This takes love beyond limited tribal perceptions (love family, hate enemies) to an authentic universalism. The unconditional treatment of all people is our greatest insight and ideal (i.e. unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity).
Related to this- we need to purge ourselves of any sense of subservience to higher authorities, of any felt need to appease or serve some greater reality. Contrary to the claim of the ancients, we were not “created to serve the gods”. We are not obligated to subject ourselves to any higher authority, whether political, religious, or other. We have ultimate authority (and ultimate freedom) in our own human consciousness and our personal awareness of what it means to be human.
So there is no divinely-inspired obligation to serve or please some invisible deity, to re-establish or have a relationship with some invisible entity up in the heavens or in the future. The felt obligation to “get right with God” has always been founded on the distorting myth of some cosmic separation of humanity from deity at some time in the past. That never happened. There was no “Fall” of humanity into sin. There was never any fall from something originally better into something worse. To the contrary, the endlessly improving trajectory that is human emergence and development has always been a trajectory from something originally worse and toward something ever better.
Also, we live in the here and now and ought to be focused on loving and serving one another in real time and real life, and not focused on serving some invisible reality. And consider this: a God of authentic love would not be concerned about being praised and served but would ignore Godself to serve the other. Such is the nature of true love. Genuine love frees the other. It does not manipulate and control others with guilt, threat, or fear of punishment. It does not demand dehumanizing subservience. Love and freedom are tightly pair-bonded realities. You cannot have one without the other.
So yes, I am one with the critics on this point- worshipping some God up above in the heavens or up ahead in some future afterlife has long brought out the worst in humans: subservience, guilt, shame, fear, neglect of present life, and worse. The problem with loyalty/service to God is that it often takes precedence over our responsibility to meet the needs of real people. Seeking to know and serving something outside of humanity, or above humanity, has too often led to neglect and abuse of humanity.
We know better now. With the discovery of unconditional love it is no longer plausible to project any sort of inhumanity onto deity or ultimate reality of any kind. Unconditional eliminates all such projects. Unconditional takes us to the ultimate in human conception, ideals, and meaning. And understanding ultimate reality in terms of unconditional love liberates from all concerns about appeasing and pleasing some greater reality. It liberates humanity to embrace life fully in the here and now. It liberates from fear of death and whatever might follow (Near-Death Experience research affirms this outcome). The result is that it liberates from ultimate fears, anxieties, or concerns and orients us to humanity, and to improving the human condition here and now. It orients us to serving humanity and not something above humanity (again, this focus on serving something other than humanity has always led to neglect or abuse of real people). Unconditional love gives us the safest way to conceive of and handle the great reality and ideal of deity. Unconditional alone can properly respond to our most fundamental impulses and concerns.
Reason for this page
This page arose out of my experience growing up in a religious environment, that of Evangelical Christianity, a fundamentalist form of religion. That religion never felt right to me at the time but I did not know exactly why. I struggled against it for much of my younger life, trying to distance myself from it. But under family pressure, during my late teens, I gave in and tried to fulfill the sense of obligation to that religion. I did not yet possess the mental tools to rethink it all properly. And then for a few years in my early twenties I became somewhat of a religious zealot. And that was perhaps the best thing that I could have done- I took my religion seriously for several years and felt personally just what religion was really all about.
During those years I graduated from an Evangelical Bible college, served overseas as a missionary successfully starting Evangelical churches in another culture and language (upland Manobo groups of Mindanao). I went to the heart of Christianity and experienced fully what it meant to be fundamentally religious. So yes, I get religion.
But while I was engaged in that religious phase I felt that something was not quite right. I felt intensely uncomfortable with being religious. Gradually, I came to understand that Christianity, like most religion across the planet, embraces and propagates the most powerful ideas ever conceived by human minds- ideas like divine anger and threat, divine domination, tribal exclusion (believing insiders, unbelieving outsiders), judgment, guilt, shame, eternal punishment, and destruction, among others. These can be traumatizing in the extreme, especially when projected onto deity, and given ultimate expression in that form.
Then in my mid-twenties I began to rethink the core themes of Christianity and began a long, slow process of disentangling myself from my religion. In subsequent years, having left my particular religion and religion in general, I have tried to understand the broader social phenomenon of religion and especially its too often dehumanizing influence on societies- its divisiveness, and promotion of often violent tribalism (oppositional dualism between good and bad, between insiders and outsiders, believers and infidels). What is religion really all about? Why does religion so often violate our basic sense of humanity?
Now defenders/adherents of religion will claim that the bad outcomes of religion are not due in some way to the core religious beliefs but are just aberrations due to a few bad apples in the group (people who do not have “true faith”, or extremist elements on the fringe). After all, they argue, look at all the good that religion has done over history. Religious people have started hospitals, schools, charity organizations, and so on. And look at all the good things that religions teach about the great ideals of forgiveness, love, and generosity. And so many people find great comfort in their religious beliefs, it helps them to face the difficulties of life and the fear of death. It gives them hope. I grant all this, and more power to people if they can find such things in their religious traditions and still remain decently human at the same time.
But most religious traditions have created what Thomas Jefferson called a “diamonds in the dunghill” situation. They contain sublime moral teaching but in a larger context that horrifically distorts and even buries the more humane themes. Christianity is notable here for maintaining the core teaching of Jesus on non-retaliation but almost burying that teaching in a larger retaliation context. The Jesus/Christianity contradiction was the very situation Jefferson was referring to with his diamonds in a dunghill comment. The Christian gospels contain noble human ideals that have been lodged in a larger context that profoundly contradicts those ideals. This page deals extensively with this great contradiction between Jesus and Christianity.
So let me disagree with the Christian defense of their core beliefs as generally benign or good. To the contrary, those beliefs embody some of the most inhumane themes of primitive thought.
Fortunately, many religious people have learned to ignore the darker themes of their religions and focus more exclusively on the more humane themes. But unfortunately, the larger context of most religious belief still often overwhelms the diamonds making it hard for many religious devotees to understand clearly the more humane parts.
Other religious people will respond that their religion provides them with hope, the hope of redemption which we all desire and need. Yes, but at what cost in terms of unnecessary guilt, shame, and fear? And what about the burdensome cost of the felt obligation to adopt and fulfill some elaborate salvation scheme. I would counter that we need to question if we ever needed redemption in the first place or if it was all a great fraud and lie from the very beginning. It is legitimate to question if there ever was any threat of anger from the gods, or any threat of punishment and damnation. We need to go back to the very roots of all this religious Salvationism and challenge the original threats to see if they ever actually existed as any sort of credible reality. And when you look carefully at the ancient logic that started the human appeasement movement that we know as religion, then you can see the horrific error that most religion has been founded on (i.e. the error that there is some great threatening and punishing reality behind life).
And what about the fact that most religion has to do with fear as the foundational motivation? John Pfeiffer in his excellent book Explosion: An Inquiry into the Origins of Art and Religion notes that the earliest religious practice was grounded in fear (i.e. shaman scaring early people with frightening myths of the invisible). And religious fear has always extended beyond the normal fears of life. It embraces the element of fear that extends beyond life and death into ultimate realms and realities. Ernst Becker in Denial of Death rightly argues that the fear of death is the primary human motivation that influences all of our thinking and acting in life. Then how much more powerful a motivation is religiously-inspired fear, fear of such things as eternal punishment and destruction. This may explain the damaging influence of religion on human behavior over history, shaping it too often into the most grotesque expressions of inhumanity. We see this even today in religious zealots claiming they must kill others (outsiders, infidels) in order to please their threatening God, to obey their vengeful God. There is a striking linkage between fear and violence, noted in psychology, and this deserves more research and exploration. James Carrol, in Constantine’s Sword, offers some insight on this theological violence/human violence relationship in the Christian tradition.
But even after confronting the above relationships between religious belief and human behavior, let me add that I hold no hostile or rancorous feelings toward religious people. I understand the human struggle with fundamental religious themes- the long-held desire to understand some greater reality, the human impulse for meaning and purpose, the desire for some better existence, the struggle with guilt, shame, and fear, and the longing for some ultimate redemption and perfection. However, I do not believe that religion over history has dealt properly or successfully with such basic human feelings and desires. In fact, religion has often only exacerbated and distorted such things in the most horrific manner.
In my own experience of leaving religion I have found it helpful to take a good look at how the core themes of religion have developed over history (see for instance, the research of Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and other mythologists). This history exposes the base human origins of these themes. Since the beginning people have endlessly projected the basest features onto greater realities/gods. And yes, admittedly, religious traditions have also adopted more humane elements over time but they have maintained the larger belief contexts that continue to distort and bury the more humane features they have added along the way. The context is everything.
For myself, I had to leave it all, entirely. Reforming my religion was not an option. I came to see that my religion was just too inhumane at core and I needed entirely new wineskins for the new wine of unconditional reality. The conditional context of religion cannot communicate the unconditional nature of ultimate reality. So I needed to start afresh from scratch. Rebuilding an entirely new approach to understanding and to life. My journey has subsequently been an endeavor to find authentic liberation at the deepest levels of thought, subconscious, and spirit.
One hiccup during the disentangling process- years after leaving Christianity I found myself becoming caught up in environmental alarmism (i.e. deforestation, global warming catastrophe, and other alarms). It was quite a shock to then discover that while I had disinvested myself of the forms of religion, I was still holding at the core, of what I believed was my new secular worldview, a very religious set of ideas- that of apocalyptic mythology. I was therefore still fundamentally religious in my outlook (apocalyptic mythology is the defining core of Christianity and also shapes much of basic environmental ideology). This is why I urge people to look carefully at the core themes of their worldviews, whether religious or secular, to detect and rethink the basic themes of their grand narratives. It is surprising how much primitive mythology still resides at the heart of many so-called secularized and materialist worldviews.
I would also add that the highest human ideals contained within religious traditions are common human ideals and not religious in origin or nature. And as I have argued repeatedly above and elsewhere, religious contexts too often distort and bury these human ideals.
Such ideals as forgiveness, inclusion, love and generosity are common to all human consciousness or the common human spirit. They are ideals that do not originate with religion but with all common humanity. And remember that religion is most essentially about conditions (how to appease and please the gods). This then contradicts entirely the highest human ideal of unconditional love which is the core feature of authentic humanity. Religion distorts our highest ideals with conditional limitations. Love then becomes a tribal and excluding reality, limited to insiders, something judgmental and highly conditional. A religious context thus undermines a proper understanding of authentic humanity.
So I understand much better now why my religion never felt right. It violated my basic sense of humanity as unconditional, by defining all things with dehumanizing conditions.
Sample of topics covered on this page:
Unconditional defines the core of reality and life.
The stunning contradiction between the historical Jesus and Christianity (variously understood as non-retaliation versus retaliation, or unconditional inclusion versus conditional atonement). The contradiction between the core message of the historical Jesus and the entirely opposite Christian message illustrates the larger human struggle for liberation from a primitive past defined by retaliation. The Jesus/Christianity contradiction also resolves the debate over whether Jesus was an apocalyptic messenger or not. Apocalyptic is most essentially about divine retaliation. But his core message was clearly and consistently non-retaliation. Therefore he could not have been an apocalyptic messenger. See further comment below in Search for the Real Deal.
Humanity’s greatest mistake- the myth of punitive forces/spirits behind life (retaliatory deity).
Humanity’s greatest discovery- unconditional defines the core of all reality (it encompasses both theological and ethical elements).
Contrasting history’s two great macro-stories- apocalyptic/decline and exodus/rise.
The ultimate insight- non-retaliation as authentic human response and relating.
Environmental alarmism- the apocalyptic mythology behind alarmism and its historical line of descent through religious and secular movements (the complete template of apocalyptic myth includes the following ideas- original paradise, corrupted humanity destroys paradise, subsequent decline of life, looming apocalyptic ending, purged world and restored paradise).
Climate change update. Countering the distorting exaggeration of environmental alarmism.
Unlimited resource essays- forests, fisheries, soils, species. Countering the myth of limits to human creative potential.
Decline or rise?- the fundamental trajectory of life.
The apocalyptic error and corrective to that error.
No hell beneath us- eliminating pathological mythology.
Creating divine monsters. Countering myths of retaliating, punitive gods.
An unconditional TOE.
Christianity got the wrong gospel (Q research). Christianity took up Paul’s gospel of retaliating deity that is a complete denial of Jesus’ gospel of non-retaliating deity.
And much more.
Note to readers from a religious background: One of the take homes from the varied topics on this page is that everyone is ultimately safe. There is nothing to fear behind life. No looming judgment, no threat of punishment, and no final exclusion. And no matter what a person’s belief system or lifestyle may be, all will be included in the end. In stating this I am aiming at the deepest levels of the human subconscious to counter those embedded ideas from the old mythical narratives, ideas that have long caused unnecessary fear and anxiety.
And of course, this universal inclusion assumes that the point of our existence is to be human. We are all responsible to learn what it means to be human and accountable to become as fully human/humane as we can. This, surely, is the entire point of our personal stories. But no matter how imperfectly we accomplish that, in the end we are all included, all forgiven entirely, and are all safe (in the ultimate sense). Everyone- none excluded- will receive the full generosity of the universe. Such is the scandal of the historical Jesus who advocated unconditional treatment of all people in contrast to the Christian Jesus who embodies conditional treatment of people- reward the good, punish the bad.
So everything is going to be all right, for everyone. Unconditional means absolutely no conditions. None.
Is this unconditional ideal scandalous to our conventional perspectives on justice as proper payback? Of course it is. And is it just too impractical for orderly human society? Not at all. See comment further below… “Is Unconditional Too Impractical?”
Grand Narrative Core Themes
This page repeatedly and thoroughly explores the themes of a new grand narrative of life. Why? To get to the root of what went wrong in the past and to robustly correct that with an authentically human alternative.
I have summarized here the core themes of the old narrative/story of life, rightly called a narrative of despair. It is also a grand fraud and a lie. Overwhelming evidence points to an entirely opposite story of life, a narrative that is repeatedly summarized throughout this site, and is emphatically a narrative of hope.
Here’s an added challenge in regard to this grand narrative exploration- take a good look at your own beliefs, assumptions, and overall worldview (and the worldviews of people you know) to see if any of the old story themes are still lodged in the core of your/their thinking or outlook. You will be surprised to discover how many people, often considering themselves to be modern secularists, still hold to some of the most primitive themes of the old mythical narratives of life.
Just below is a summary list of some of the more dominant themes of the mythical/religious narratives that have shaped human worldviews and consciousness over history. These themes often reside in the background (human subconscious) but still powerfully shape how people view life and respond to life. They continue to stick around because, when people shift positions on various views they hold, they don’t thoroughly re-evaluate the basic themes at the foundation of their worldviews, often just assuming some things are undoubtedly true and beyond question.
Over more recent history (notably the last few centuries of the scientific movement) these mythical themes have undergone a secularizing process. They have been reformulated in new secular versions but the newer versions are strikingly similar to the older versions. Thus, these ideas continue to linger in human worldviews and belief systems (both religious and now secular). They continue to darken and enslave minds with unnecessary fear and anxiety.
Here is an oversimplified summary to clarify some of the dominant old story themes.
1. The past was better. There was an original paradise.
2. Corrupted humans have ruined life and it now declines toward something worse. Both humanity and life are in decline toward something worse (this is found in both Western and Eastern traditions- e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism).
3. The divine has separated from humanity and threatens to punish humanity. No single theme in all the history of thought has been more destructive than this myth of threatening, punishing forces/spirits behind life.
4. Some apocalyptic catastrophe will end civilization and life. Life is fragile, stingy, and ready to collapse.
5. A sacrifice is required to appease the punitive forces/spirits that are threatening to punish humanity and end life (in secular versions- the sacrifice is to placate the threatened revenge of GAIA or angry planet).
6. Atonement logic (full payback for all wrong) shapes human justice systems and much of overall human existence.
7. Lost paradise will be restored in a utopian future for the enlightened or elect few.
These ideas have been beaten into human consciousness for multiple millennia. They are some of the most frightening and traumatizing ideas ever conceived by human minds. Ideas that have been imprinted deeply in our subconscious, in our outlook and worldviews. Hence, even when appearing to radically change worldviews, people simply reformulate these primitive ideas in modernized versions. They are ideas that endlessly stir fear, and fear is often behind anger and violence in life.
Note, for instance, the belief in punishing forces/spirits behind life, spirits that threaten to retaliate and destroy people with great disasters. This has been so incessantly beaten into public consciousness over millennia that it is now almost hardwired in human subconscious. Therefore, even after leaving their religions to adopt newer more scientific viewpoints, it appears that many people still cannot let go of the belief in some threatening force or spirit. This belief in a punishing force then keeps erupting even in what are widely considered to be secular systems of thought. Because this idea of ultimate threat has not been properly re-evaluated and rooted out, people automatically respond to new expressions of threat (i.e. revenge of GAIA or angry planet) without even questioning the validity or reality of what they are frightened by. They continue to assume that some great threat must exist and they then instinctively support the proffered salvation schemes of those who have alarmed them with such threats (i.e. anti-development schemes of environmental alarmists).
The best of human insight (and evidence) now points to an entirely new grand story of life- a narrative of valid hope. The core themes are quite entirely opposite to the old narrative themes. Again, this is a simplified summary to focus on some of the more prominent themes. These ideas are about enlightening and liberating consciousness- about getting us to a more humane future.
1. Life began imperfectly. There was no better past or original paradise.
2. Ever-improving humanity has become an increasingly creative force that makes life something ever better than before. There was no human “Fall” into corruption/sin but, rather, over our history we have endlessly risen toward something ever better, something more humane. Life itself continues to rise and progress toward something ever better.
3. The divine has never separated from humanity but has incarnated in all humanity as human consciousness. We are inseparable from the Unconditional Love that is our Source and Life.
4. There is no end to life but rather an open and unlimited future. Life is resilient, durable, and infinitely generous (this counters the dominant alarmist theme of limits in nature).
5. There are no punitive forces/spirits behind life that need to be appeased (ultimate reality is best understood as unconditional love). No sacrifice or salvation is required (there are absolutely no conditions to be met- none). “Salvation” is to be found in creative and improving humanity solving all problems that arise and making life ever better.
6. The great impulse behind life and the overall trajectory of conscious life is to humanize all things (to make more humane). This gives profound meaning and purpose to all things.
7. Based on the nature of ultimate reality as unconditional love, authentic human relating and existence should be oriented to unconditional treatment of all.
To robustly respond, for instance, to myths of threatening, punishing forces/spirits, try to get a hold of what unconditional means in the new story and then imagine how this unconditional love will liberate human consciousness from all elements of the old mythology. Unconditional blows apart entirely those primitive beliefs in some punishing force or God. It undermines entirely a variety of related themes of the old narrative. Once again, unconditional means absolutely no conditions or requirements. None.
(Note: If this sounds utopian or impractical see comments below on “Unconditional is Impractical?” Unconditional treatment of people has long been at the root of most things that we value in civilization, such as peace and order, trade and commerce, and civilization in general.)
Speaking directly to the religious or mythical mind- unconditional treatment of all means that there is no judgment to fear, and no hell beneath us. Unconditional proclaims that there is the fullest acceptance for everyone and no separation from our creating Source, however you perceive that.
All salvation religion has been based on this error that some cosmic separation occurred between God and humanity (in secular/environmental versions it is the separation of humanity from “sacred nature”, now rendering both to a state of opposition or enmity). Unconditional renders that myth of separateness to be nonsense. Therefore, because there has never been any separation, there is no need for any salvation, or sacrifice to “pay for sin”, and there is no need to restore some broken or severed relationship. There is no requirement to appease some upset force or deity. All are safe and secure in the ultimate sense. This goes to the root of human anxiety, depression, and fear (existential fear, subconscious fear).
Stated positively- All are fully included, and all receive the fullest love and generosity from the Universe.
So unconditional gets to the most deeply rooted beliefs in human subconscious- and it challenges all that residual primitivism of despair. It then enlightens, liberates and humanizes our core thinking more than anything else that we have ever discovered in history. Unconditional is indeed our greatest insight ever. It potently counters all the old darkening mythology that has terrorized humanity for millennia.
Watch this unconditional reality cleanse and liberate human consciousness like nothing ever before and liberate the human spirit to new creative heights. It frees us from the basest drives to hate, revenge, hurt others, and destroy the differing other. It inspires toward authentic humanity and authentic human existence like nothing else can.
CO2 or Natural Variation? (or Relax about using fossil fuels)
The narrative has been relentlessly beaten into public consciousness over the past few decades- that the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing catastrophic climate warming. But with the halt of warming for the past 17 years the alarmist claim has changed. Rising CO2, alarmists argue, is now causing more general “climate change” with “extreme weather events” (as if both of these have not been common all throughout climate history).
Note carefully how alarmist scientists and media have focused intensely on these two particular things- rising temperatures and rising CO2 levels. They have persistently tried to create fear over these two trends as a great threat to life. This is the essence of the alarmist narrative today. And it is not supported by good scientific evidence.
This narrative is not just unproven. It is backwards (both rising CO2 and warmer temperatures are a significant benefit to life). And the dogmatic manner in which it has been presented is entirely unscientific. There is no clear, final evidence that rising levels of CO2 are causing any notable climate change. CO2 cannot be isolated out as the dominant cause of climate warming or climate change in general. Other natural elements show stronger causal relationships to the climate change periods that we have observed over the past. These other natural climate drivers appear to be the main causes of climate change.
To clarify further, the debate is not whether CO2 has a warming effect or influence. That is not questioned and there is consensus on that- CO2 does have a warming effect or influence. Both alarmists and skeptics agree on this.
But other natural factors show stronger correlations (and causal relationships) to all the notable climate change periods that we have seen, especially in the past few hundred years. The CO2 warming effect appears to be a minor player in the mix of natural factors.
Note for instance, the cosmic ray/solar flux interaction and its correlation with climate change periods of the past few centuries (for detail see Henrik Svensmark’s The Chilling Stars). This cosmic ray/solar flux phenomenon works as follows: Incoming cosmic rays (from exploding stars) release electrons in the air which encourages the clumping of molecules to make micro-specks, capable of gathering into larger specks of cloud condensation nuclei on which water droplets can form. In brief, cosmic rays cause more cloud formation, especially low clouds (below 3000 meters above the surface) that have a stronger effect in keeping the earth cool. These clouds reflect back sunlight that would otherwise warm the earth.
The other side of this interaction- an active sun provides a barrier to incoming cosmic rays by providing a magnetic shield that prevents cosmic rays from arriving at the Earth. But this shield fluctuates according to whether the sun is active (solar maximums) or not active (solar minimums).
So in summary, cosmic rays cause more cloud which cools the earth. But an active sun prevents incoming cosmic rays (less cloud) and this results in the Earth warming.
Once again: Cosmic rays = cloud = cooling climate. Active sun = less cloud = warming climate.
The sun was notably inactive/dead during the Little Ice Age of roughly 1675-1715. That was an abnormally cold time on Earth and climate has since been rebounding over the past centuries, back toward a more normal warmer world. But the rebound has not been a straight line of rise toward warmer averages. It has been a series of warming/cooling periods of roughly 20-30 years length in a larger overall warming trend (see Dr. Akasofu’s research at http://www.mdpi.com/2225-1154/1/1/4). This interspersing of warming and cooling periods correlates with such things as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation- large shifts in Pacific currents from cooling to warming phases every 20-30 years (i.e. roughly 1880-1910 cooling, 1910-1940 warming, 1940-1975 cooling, 1975-1995 warming, 1995- present flat trend).
Also, the sun was quite active during the warming of 1975-95, and then went dead after that (solar minimum). This correlates to the cessation of warming since 1995 (http://www.thegwpf.org/climate-change-and-the-quiet-sun/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25743806 ).
The CO2 warming effect gets lost or overwhelmed by the stronger influence of these other natural factors. This is notably evident when we recognize that while CO2 levels continue to rise, there has been no further warming for the past 17 years.
The result is that there is no clear evidence that CO2 is dominantly related (the sole cause or dominant cause) to such climate changes as we have noted over the past centuries. It certainly plays a part in any warming but is not primarily responsible for the changes in climate noted above. And then the human contribution to CO2 levels, and warming effect, is much smaller yet (it amounts to “a fart in a hurricane”, according to one scientist).
Others have given some further perspective on CO2 by pointing out the tiny amount that humans contribute and the miniscule size of CO2 in relation to other natural factors. For instance, CO2 is only about 3.6% of all greenhouse gases. And the human contribution to CO2 is about 3% of the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (1 molecule of every 100,000 molecules). Other natural sources of CO2 are immense, the two largest sources being oceans and soils (i.e. bacteria). Also volcanoes, and notably submarine volcanoes (some 3 million), contribute CO2 but these sources are hard to measure.
The overall conclusion then is that we cannot claim that CO2 in general has caused any of the climate change that we know about over the past. And it is certainly not proven that CO2 is now causing any “catastrophic” climate change. And with the human contribution to CO2 being much tinier, then we certainly cannot claim that human emissions of CO2 are causing catastrophic climate change. They have not been proven responsible for causing any of the mild climate change events of the recent past (i.e. the 1975-1995 mild warming). We cannot then argue for reducing human emissions of CO2 because they pose some threat. There is no clear evidence for such a claim. As German meteorologist Klaus-Echart Puls has said, “There is nothing we can do to stop climate change. Scientifically, it is sheer absurdity to think we can get a nice climate by turning a CO2 adjustment knob” (Climate Science, May 10, 2012).
So it is time to end all these panicky calls to stop human use of fossil fuels, fuels that have been a huge benefit to human progress and civilization.
Also, it is time to cease this unscientific nonsense that CO2 is a pollutant or poison, a threat to life. It is the food of all life. And to paraphrase the Oregon Institute of Medicine’s Protest Petition, there is no evidence that rising CO2 is bad for earth while there is much good evidence that more CO2 in the atmosphere is good for earth. For instance, since 1980 there has been a 14% increase in plant productivity from more CO2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v86K5awl_s , see comment at the 34-35 minute mark). The Earth is greener and healthier due to more CO2 in the atmosphere. The biosphere has become more robust.
Pre-industrial age levels of CO2, which are viewed by alarmists as optimal (roughly 250 ppm), were so low that they stressed plant life. Plants prefer levels of 1000 to 1500 ppm as in farmer’s greenhouses.
Also, paleo-climate studies show no evidence that much higher levels of CO2 in the past caused any catastrophic climate change. In the past it was often much warmer with the higher levels of CO2 and life benefitted from such conditions (see Ian Plimer’s Heaven And Earth). For long stretches of time CO2 levels were 1500 ppm, and sometimes as high as 7000 ppm. During the Cambrian era, with its higher CO2 levels, the Earth experienced a great flourishing of plant and animal life (http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html).
Other points: As noted above, since 1980 with the 14% increase in plant productivity, and major greening of the Earth, the result has been a healthier biosphere. With more CO2, plants can tolerate drought better and experience more efficient water uptake. Animals and humans benefit from more plant growth (i.e. higher crop yields).
Another important point to understand from paleo-climate research is the basic causal relationship of warming climate to CO2. Research such as the Vostok ice cores show that increasing atmospheric CO2 tends to follow rising temperatures (warming climate). The relationship here is as follows: Rising temperature warms the oceans. Warming oceans then release CO2 into the atmosphere, causing levels to rise. This relationship occurs over centuries with the CO2 rise lagging the climate warming by up to 800 years. Note the data on this site http://joannenova.com.au/global-warming-2/ice-core-graph/ and their conclusion, “The bottom line is that rising temperatures cause carbon levels to rise. Carbon may still influence temperatures, but these ice cores are neutral on that. If both factors caused each other to rise significantly, positive feedback would become exponential. We’d see a runaway greenhouse effect. It hasn’t happened. Some other factor is more important than carbon dioxide, or carbon’s role is minor.”
Conclusion: The unscientific narrative of the alarmists is not supported with good evidence. They have insistently argued that the colder past with lower CO2 levels was optimal for Earth. And that rising temperatures and rising CO2 levels are now a threat to life. No. That is backwards. Rising temperatures (warming) and rising CO2 is part of a natural return to more normal and healthier conditions for life. And over recent history (i.e. past few centuries), rising CO2 and rising temperatures are part of the natural rebound from the Little Ice Age which was an abnormally cold time on Earth.
We need to reverse entirely the alarmist CO2 narrative of the past few decades that rising CO2 and warmer temperatures are a threat to life. CO2 levels have risen to much higher levels over the past and then fallen again. Such is the regular change in a dynamic system like climate. Climate change is the very nature of climate. And with all the massive changes over the past there were no “catastrophic” outcomes for life because with all change there are feedbacks both positive and negative. The result, according to climate scientist Roy Spencer, is that climate acts like a self-regulating system that keeps its varied elements within ranges that support life (despite significant fluctuations or changes, despite endless natural climate change).
And critical to note is the fact that there is no optimal past state in climate that remains in stasis (unchanging). And certainly, the cold temperatures and low CO2 of the pre-industrial past were not optimal for life. So trying to stir fear over “climate change” is not just unscientific but positively irrational and borders on some form of hysteria at times.
Note also in the larger context that these past few million years have been an abnormally cold ice age era with both colder temperatures and lower levels of CO2. This is due to our position on one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way where there is a lot of star activity (i.e. exploding stars emitting cosmic rays). Remember also that for 75% of its history Earth has been entirely ice free. That is a more normal and healthy state for life.
Note further Ian Plimer’s argument that it is during climate cooling that Earth experiences more drought, not during climate warming. Again, the alarmists, like Al Gore, have the science all backwards. Plimer explains that during warmer periods life flourishes while during colder periods life suffers (i.e. more extinctions, more human fatalities). A warmer world with higher levels of CO2 is a healthier world, a more normal world when compared to the long-term context of life on Earth.
Getting the basic science of CO2 and carbon right is vital to end this current alarm over rising CO2 levels. As noted above, alarmists have been trying to portray CO2 as a pollutant and even poison. This is irrational. It is a complete abandonment of sound science. CO2 is the very food of all life. It is vital to a healthy biosphere.
When the evidence does not support the alarmist narrative we then must ask what is really behind all this climate alarmism? This takes us to ideological issues. And further behind that we find mythological issues. Ideology is often just secularized mythology anyway, rooted in a primitive alarmist worldview.
This site is devoted to understanding these deeper roots of alarmist movements, whether religious or secular.
Comment from Discussion Group
The Benefits of Blasphemy (or The Liberating Power of Blasphemy)
Critical to full human liberation is the response of blasphemy. Bob Brinsmead has an essay on this (Dare to Blaspheme and Dare to be Free) and one of the National Post columnists (i.e. Robert Fulford) once did a good article on the importance and value of blasphemy. Blasphemy is, among other things, challenging dogma or authority, making fun of such (comedians have a valuable role here), not taking the sacred seriously (over history very inhumane things have been wrongly placed under the canopy of the sacred), or pointing out some mythology for what it really is (irrational or inhumane primitivism).
And the priesthoods, authoritarians, and others don’t like blasphemy at all. Paul threatened severely those who refused to take seriously his new Christ myth. His God would damn and destroy any who doubted or refused to kowtow to his new Christology, called Christianity or the Christian gospel. The threat of blasphemy has long been employed by ruling priesthoods and authorities to prevent any doubt of the ruling dogma, to prevent even healthy questioning of the truthfulness of something.
And the worst of blasphemy in the Christian tradition is to dare to challenge Paul’s Christ myth. To dare to challenge things like the blood sacrifice of Christ, the primitive atonement theology of Paul (violent human sacrifice to placate angry gods).
But thank God for brave spirits that saw through all this damaging mythology and put it in its proper place. Stephen Mitchell in The Gospel According to Jesus does exactly this, and blasphemously so. He describes the Christian distortion of Jesus in the bluntest of terms and quotes notable historical personages (e.g. Jefferson, Tolstoy, and others) that use startling blunt language in reference to the Christian mythology.
Part of the value of a good dose of blasphemy is that it liberates from the threat that backs up religious myth and authority, especially any form of divine threat that keeps people kowtowing in frightened subservience.
Bob has long referred to Mitchell and I finally got around to reading him. It has been a refreshing look at his unique take on all this historical Jesus research. He does an excellent job of highlighting the stunning contradiction between the Historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus.
Here are some quotes and summaries from Mitchell (this first is a quote from Thomas Jefferson): “In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man, and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills”. Mitchell offers quite a bit from Jefferson who stated clearly that he was not opposed to the genuine precepts of Jesus but was opposed to the “corruptions of Christianity”. He was shocked by the deletions, tampering, and alterations done by the gospel writers.
Mitchell notes that there is a voice in the authentic sayings that exhibits a large-heartedness, generosity, compassion, impartiality, and serenity, the purest morality and benevolence and this stands in stark contrast with “the bitter, badgering tone of some of the passages added by the early church”. He notes that there are two very different versions of Jesus, the authentic one and the Christian one. I will use the term “Christ” in place of Mitchell’s quotation marks referral to Christian Jesus (“Jesus”) in order to make the contrast easier to read in this following section:
“Jesus teaches us not to judge (in the sense of not to condemn), but to keep our hearts open to all people, the later Christ is the archetypical judge, who will float down terribly on the clouds for the world’s final rewards and condemnations. Jesus cautions against anger and teaches the love of enemies, Christ calls his enemies children of the devil and attacks them with the utmost vituperation and contempt. Jesus talks of God as a loving Father, even to the wicked, Christ preaches a god who will cast the disobedient into everlasting flames…
“Jesus includes all people when he calls God your Father in heaven, Christ says ‘my father in heaven’. Jesus teaches that all those who make peace, and all those who love their enemies are sons of God, Christ refers to himself as ‘the son of God’. Jesus isn’t interested in defining who he is, Christ talks on and on about himself (i.e. John’s gospel). Jesus teaches God’s absolute forgiveness, Christ utters the horrifying statement that ‘whosoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin’…
“The epitome of this narrow-headed, sectarian consciousness is a saying which the second-century Christian scribe put into the mouth of the resurrected Savior at the end of Mark: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be damned’. No wonder Jefferson said, with barely contained indignation, ‘among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being’“.
Mitchell then does one of the better treatments of the illegitimacy of Jesus (one theory is that perhaps he was born of a military rape- note the repeated comments in the gospels from others asking “who is this man’s father”). He points out well how horribly shameful this was in the Jewish culture of Jesus. It was considered the most shameful of human conditions. Illegitimate people were considered the “excrement of the community”. This would have produced overwhelming problems in a small provincial town with harsh and moralistic attitudes. But out of such an experience would have arisen a profound appreciation for grace, love, and acceptance (the Abba insights of Jesus- “you are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased”).
But the path to such understanding was probably a very human one, from “son of a whore” to “son of God”. And this is where Mitchell’s treatment of all this gets quite interesting. He argues that it would be childish to think the Historical Jesus never caused suffering or made mistakes. And the gospel records contain comments on the failure of Jesus to deal with this early childhood bitterness over his shameful illegitimacy (i.e. his statements about rejecting family). As Mitchell notes, Jesus also died quite young and had little time to resolve such issues. Though it appears at his death he may have come to some resolution when he urged John to look after his mother. And his story of the woman taken in adultery shows, if authentic, that he may have found a way to forgive his mother over this shame. That story may have been a very personal reference.
Numerous passages show that Jesus held a quite stunningly negative attitude toward his mother and family. “His teaching about loyalty to parents is uniformly negative, and is so shockingly”. He quite bluntly rejected his mother and brothers. And to one man who wanted to properly bury his father, Jesus responded, “let the dead bury the dead”. It was, says Mitchell, a slap in the face to a grieving man. And he even calls people to hate their parents. All in the so-called service of God, or call to serve God. Now Christianity has interpreted all this as necessary commitment, as freedom from entanglements, to properly serve God. That puts a noble slant on it all. “Bent into an appropriately pious shape”, says Mitchell.
But there is a notable contradiction here from Jesus himself. He had bluntly condemned anyone who claimed that they could not help their parents because whatever gift they could give to their parents was devoted to God (Matthew 15). Jesus had reproached the Pharisees for not honouring their parents by this use of the appeal that something was devoted to God. But then in the gospels he does exactly that, calling for neglect, and even hate of family, in order to serve God, to put God first. Mitchell stated that for what it really was- irresponsible and callous neglect of normal human responsibility.
Mitchell summarizes Jesus’ neglect of his family in the following comment- “His rejection of his mother seems to me an early, inadequate response to what he must have felt as her rejection of him, her incomprehension of who he had become. Or perhaps it goes back further, to his childhood. Perhaps it contains an unconscious or half-conscious element of blame for the stigma of his birth, and was part of his distancing himself from his shame and everything connected to it… (i.e. Mary’s bastard)”.
In the end Mitchell says we don’t really know, “It is possible that Jesus was able to see her with a nonjudgmental love (i.e. referring to the parable of the adulterous woman) and still, in some hidden corner of his heart, keep holding on to his rejection of his mother (the many other passages where he neglected her or refused to see her)”. But other statements show that maybe he was able to forgive. But it certainly humanizes the man and removes the mythology that Paul and others tried to bury him under- the “dung”, “slime”, or “garbage”, according to Jefferson and others (i.e. the mythology of his being some perfect God-man as in Paul’s Christ myth).
Mitchell notes how Tolstoy used language similar to Jefferson to describe the contrast between authentic Jesus and Christian mythology. “When I first began to study the Gospels I found in them the spirit that animates all who are truly alive. But along with the flow of that pure, life-giving water, I perceived much mire and slime mingled with it, and this prevented me from seeing the true, more pure water. I found that along with the lofty teaching of Jesus there were teachings bound up which are repugnant and contrary to it…I discovered among the garbage a number of infinitely precious pearls”.
And a lot more…
I will put up some further comments from Mitchell that are useful in the service of a healthy and liberating blasphemy. Those still frightened by some of this, please stand back a suitable distance in case lightning strikes… <:
Here from his follow-up notes, “This teaching about hell, which the church took over from a fierce apocalyptic strand of Judaism, and which it put into the mouth of Jesus, proceeds from a very impure consciousness, filled with fantasies of hatred and revenge and of an unforgiving, unjust god whose punishments are insanely disproportionate to the offenses”.
Mitchell then comments on the statement about the sin against the Holy Spirit being unforgiveable, “This sentence is probably responsible for more mental anguish than any other sentence in world literature”. The Prairie Bible Institute (Alberta) had a staff member back in the 70s who committed suicide because he believed that he had committed the unpardonable sin. He jumped out of a hospital window to his death, from a room where they were trying to treat him.
Mitchell says later, “As for sin against God, there is no such thing”.
And this comment of Mitchell on Paul, “The narrow-minded, fire-breathing self-tormenting Saul was still alive and kicking inside him. He didn’t understand Jesus at all. He wasn’t even interested in Jesus, just in his own idea of the Christ...It isn’t even relevant to know Jesus, much less do what he taught, the only necessary thing for a Christian is to believe...that he died in atonement for our sins...Paul harbored a great deal of violence in his mind, which he projected onto visions of cosmic warfare, and onto an image of God as a punitive Father...and he, most ignorantly believed... (in a Devil)”.
Interesting note later about Paul’s letters where there is evidence of how “fiercely opposed to his teaching some of Jesus’ original disciples were. They say that Paul ‘distorts the word of God’...Peter says, ‘why do you teach precisely the opposite of what (Jesus) taught?”
Also, this...”It is sometimes hard to tell the devils from the angels in Paul’s writings, they are all so vindictive. Here, for example, is Jesus looking for all the world like Satan...’when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel who will pay the penalty of eternal destruction”. I have summarized some of this, leaving bits out to shorten it.
And then there are passages where Jesus admits that even he is capable of error.
One final one from his comments on what he believes were the authentic teachings of Jesus- he is dealing with the death of Jesus and the disciples struggling to make sense of this horrible action by the Romans- “Now an absurd problem arose; how could God have allowed this to happen? To this, the disturbed reason of the little community found a terrifyingly absurd answer: God gave his son for the forgiveness of sins, as a sacrifice. All at once the gospel was done for. The guilt sacrifice, and this in its most repulsive, most barbaric form, the sacrifice of the guiltless for the sins of the guilty. What ghastly paganism. For Jesus had abolished the very concept of guilt- he had denied any separation between God and man, he lived this unity of God and man...”. And so on.
I will add later some of the quotes Mitchell puts at the end from a variety of well known people on the “barbarism, ignorance” and what not found in the gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament. “The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful...”
Further comment from Discussion Group
Summary of Unconditional- Pumping Unconditional More
Just a summary of this unconditional wonder in a sort of grand narrative context….
Unconditional response, relating, or treatment of others is arguably history’s greatest discovery. By magnitudes of order. The argument can be made that this reality is at the foundation of peace and order (i.e. opposing parties in some potential conflict choosing not to retaliate and continue payback cycles, defusing potential conflict as Mandela did). It is at the foundation of trade and commerce, at the foundation of urbanization (living together peacefully in larger settlements, which benefits nature also), and hence at the foundation of civilization in general. Yes, it was rudimentary or embryonic at the beginning but still unconditional response and relating. The beginning of unconditional treatment of others is the basis of all that we value as humans, including our very civilization. Civilization is fundamentally about rising above the cyclical violence of primitive blow for blow or retaliatory existence (demanding vengeance or getting even).
Unconditional defines authentic humanity more than anything we have discovered before. It takes the human to new heights. It liberates as nothing ever before from all that enslaves the human spirit- the drives to hate, revenge, and punish others. It liberates us from the worst features of our past.
It is the height of human enlightenment, defining a new elevation of human existence.
And it revolutionizes our understanding of the metaphysical. It defines and humanizes ultimate reality as nothing else ever has. Our understanding of what defines the very best of humanity now also gets us to a new direction for understanding deity, for taking this greatest of human ideals in entirely new and more humane directions (human features, of course, having always been projected out to define deity, for better, or often worse). This then gets us to answering the most profound human questions, those questions relating to ultimate meaning and purpose.
We can now intuit and grasp that the Core of all, the Source of all, the End of all, that which creates, sustains, and receives all in the end, is infinitely better than the best that can be imagined. So we now have the means of understanding better the cosmos, life, and consciousness, what it is all about and where it came from and where it is heading. Unconditional Love takes our perceptions to new heights and advances in all areas.
And naturally this is a scandal to the payback mindset so deeply ingrained in public consciousness over the millennia. It is a potent blow to punitive atonement thinking which has been at the root of all mythological and religious perception. Unconditional undermines all that entirely. Religion emerged as a social institution of condition, or conditional thinking and existence. Religion emerged as the institution oriented to setting forth the conditions required for appeasing and pleasing the gods. It emerged to set forth the conditions to be fulfilled in regard to the spiritual- to understand, to access, to be part of the spiritual. Religion is all about conditional existence. And that conditional orientation undergirds, even today, retaliatory justice and ethics.
Therefore, religion cannot embrace properly or represent correctly ultimate reality as unconditional. It is just too much of a contradiction to handle without distorting unconditional. Note the problem in Christianity with the Jesus’ non-retaliation tradition and the overall atonement framework of Paul (retaliating deity).
Unconditional is the foundational impulse of human consciousness and is evident behind all life and the cosmos in general. That great trajectory to humanize all things. The grand trend toward unconditional existence in life on this planet.
So this wonder of unconditional provides an entirely new framework of hope, safety, security in which to evaluate anything in life, or in reality in general. It responds to all the fears, anxieties, and despair (the roots of human violence and other bad behavior) built up in public consciousness over the millennia. Unconditional so potently corrects those horrible errors in early human perception and therefore provides corrections to all the mess that followed, the sacrifice/salvation industry for one.
Even taking this from a more material point of view- overwhelming evidence supports this conclusion of unconditional behind all things. The three great emergences and their trajectories toward something better, toward something more humane. This points to the inspiring impulse behind these as something infinitely good, infinitely loving. And unconditional takes this understanding to new heights as to what that goodness and love actually means.
If the rudimentary forms of this reality of unconditional made civilization possible, and all the liberation and creative progress in civilization, then what might be the future if all of us really engaged this reality more fully? What further liberation and creativity might be possible? Dream on.
Another comment from the discussion group (Wendell Krossa): “Angry God has become revenge of Gaia and angry planet (quite widely influential views), but still the same old threatening forces/spirits model. People evolve in their thinking but if not careful to clean out the old, they then adopt some new version that appears fresh and different but may be just more of the same old, same old. And did you not see this past summer’s (2013) story-telling binge from major public story media that was almost entirely apocalyptic? Commentators were regularly pointing this out. As others point out the new trend in literature- post-apocalyptic writing.
“But to get back to your comment on obsessions: you missed the full picture. There are two sides to this obsession with unconditional, what went wrong and what makes it right. Apocalyptic and unconditional. Historical Jesus encouraged ‘obsession’ or better- passion or enthusiasm or however one views such things. Getting carried away, especially by something good, great, ennobling. Sell all you have and purchase the diamond or pearl.
“So with unconditional….try to get even just a smidgeon of this wonder as you see in the Historical Jesus tradition. Do what (Ken) Ring advocated and slowly read some good account (i.e. Near-Death Experience, especially the ones focused on unconditional love) and try to feel what the person is communicating. Get some sense of it and see if it will break those remaining bonds of conditional thinking, feeling, and response.
“At a broader scale, passion for this rises from its implications for human consciousness and progress… it unlocks all the secrets, answers all the great human questions, lightens all the darkness, liberates from all the chains/fears/worries deeply embedded in subconscious. It explains the why of existence, goes to the heart of the human impulse for meaning and purpose. It takes you way past Hawking and his TOE meanderings. It tells us what authentic humanity is all about, what ultimate reality is about, what the Core of all is, the goal of all. What life is to be all about. So yes, a lot to get passionate about, a lot to explore.”
Another comment: “So if you want to really liberate humanity and encourage human progress, then help clear up this core error of the ancients, an error that still enslaves modern consciousness. Unconditional goes to this deepest root (threatening, upset forces/spirits, punitive or retaliatory spirits), this core error behind all the rest of atonement logic and thinking, and the related damage this has caused humanity over the millennia. Unconditional love challenges and corrects that error like nothing else in history”.
This page focuses somewhat intensely on the ideal of unconditional reality- sometimes referred to as unconditional love or unconditional goodness. Unconditional meaning just what it says- absolutely no conditions. None. And no apologies here for sometimes extravagant repetition of this theme. Why? Because it is simply the greatest discovery in all history. It takes us to the heights of human enlightenment, to truly humane existence, and to the fullest liberation of human consciousness. It is to be prized as history’s singular exceptional insight because it counters the worst errors of early human mythical perception, errors that continue to haunt human minds in the present (i.e. beliefs in conditional and punishing forces/spirits behind life- angry gods, revenge of GAIA, angry planet mythology).
Unconditional breaks the bonds that enslave people at the deepest levels, at the very core of our minds, emotions, and thinking. Unconditional takes us to the heart of true liberation and frees us from all that has degraded and enslaved humanity over history such as the drives to hate, revenge, and punishment.
Unfortunately, this supremely humane ideal is regularly distorted in religious contexts, hence my repeated exposure, for example, of the Christian contradictory use of unconditional love to describe highly conditional atonement theology (i.e. a God that demands the full payment of a blood sacrifice before forgiving anyone). All religion is essentially about conditions- how to appease and please gods. Religion is about conditional thinking and existence. It cannot be otherwise because that is its essential viewpoint and reason for emerging in human society- to tell people the conditions that must be fulfilled in order to attain some salvation. Religion therefore distorts and buries the true meaning of unconditional reality.
It is only in relatively recent historical time that people have come to understand how unconditional redefines the great human ideals of forgiveness, inclusion, generosity, and love. Too often in the past these ideals have been limited and distorted by tribal and religious mentality. Love, for instance, has often been employed as an insider ideal, something that focuses on family and friends or co-religionists but excludes enemies. It has been a very conditional reality.
But activists like the secular sage from Palestine (i.e. the historical Jesus- the non-Christian, non-religious Jesus) urged us to do better. He said, do not just love those who love you. That is what most people settle for. Even thugs and gangsters do that. You can do much better. You can be something much better, something authentically human. Love your enemies too. Love all without discrimination or exclusion. Love unconditionally because God does (Matthew 5:38-48). He tied his new unconditional ethic to his new theological breakthrough- that God was unconditional love.
So unconditional takes our human ideals and lifts them to new heights of clarity and humanity. It reveals with a new intensity just what it really means to be authentically human. What love really means. It eliminates all categories of friend/enemy or insider/outsider. It urges us to treat all as intimate family. Include everyone equally, even your enemies. Just like Nelson Mandela.
And rather than viewing the unconditional treatment of others as a hard saying, or a drudgery, note the positive in that it liberates us from all that darkens and enslaves. It liberates from those old drives to hate, seek vengeance, punish offenders, and in general to exercise stinginess and tight-fistedness about showing mercy. Unconditional breaks the grip of all such inhumanity. It liberates and enlightens and humanizes like nothing else can.
Search for the Real Deal (Non-retaliation/Unconditional)
It has long been recognized that there is a historical Jesus whose authentic message can be found among the contradictory and distorting accounts contained in the New Testament gospels. Many have recognized that not all that is contained in the gospels is authentic to the historical person and in fact much contradicts the core message of the man.
This recognition has been expressed in a centuries-long search for the authentic sayings of Jesus, for the authentic gospel. This search begins with people like H. S. Reimarus in the 1700s (he starts the modern critical study of Jesus that challenges the long-held Christian teaching on Jesus), and moves to David Strauss in the 1800s (he recognized that the historical Jesus was buried underneath layers of Christian myth), and on to Albert Schweitzer’s apocalyptic Jesus of the early 1900s, and then into the later 20th Century “New Quest” for the Historical Jesus. The Jesus Seminar is one part of this new quest and recognizes that there are notable “dissimilarities” (differences) between the historical person and the gospel accounts. The Seminar researchers note, for instance, the difference between the exhortation of Jesus to love enemies in Matt.5 and the later condemnation of towns (Matt.11) that rejected his followers. They conclude, “He would not have told Capernaum to go to hell after instructing his disciples to love their enemies” (The Five Gospels, Funk and Hoover).
Researchers like Stephen Mitchell argue that the historical Jesus was wise and forgiving in contrast to the punitive and self-centered Christian Jesus (i.e. John’s gospel). Mitchell then tries to “extricate the authentic sayings of Jesus from the morass of false, imputed statements found in the gospels”. People like Mitchell state that Christianity has created a New Testament that almost buries the authentic teaching of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson referred to this larger NT context as a situation where Jesus’ authentic words were like “diamonds in a dunghill”. This expresses well the point of stark difference between the message of the authentic person and the later contradictory additions to his teaching.
Another aspect of the quest for the historical Jesus was the recognition that the gospel writers (i.e. Matthew and Luke) used another source called Q Sayings Gospel when they wrote their gospels. Q research- or Quelle, the German word for “source”- recognizes that there was a stunning shift from the earliest version of this Sayings gospel that was non-apocalyptic (sapiential or wisdom sayings) to later versions that were strongly apocalyptic. And we are grateful for Q researchers like James Robinson that have noted this difference between an original Jesus gospel and the later Christian gospel. But you do not need Q research to see the striking difference between the authentic message of the historical Jesus and the Christian message about him, the Christ myth.
To appreciate the profound nature of this difference it is useful to get a grip on his core teaching. This will help to evaluate what is authentic among the rest of the material that has been attributed to him. We can engage here what some have referred to as “thematic coherence”, that there is often an organizing theme that consistently shapes the thinking, teaching, and acting of a person.
A summary of the core teaching of Jesus is found in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters 5-7. A similar assembling of his core teaching is found in Luke 6. Within this larger body of core teaching there is a brief statement of his central theme (the core of the core). This is set forth in Matt.5:38-48. It is a clear and profound statement of non-retaliation as related to both ethics and theology. In fact, the ethical ideal is based on the theological truth.
Jesus’ statement on non-retaliation is arguably the clearest and most potent such statement in all history. Others had argued long before him for the principle of non-retaliation in human relating (e.g. the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son, Wikipedia). But Jesus took things to new heights of clarification by opening his statement on non-retaliation with a clear rejection of traditional retaliatory justice (eye for eye) as an ethical standard. And then he offered a new theological element in his statement, something that no one else in antiquity had ever done. He broke with all past perception of gods as retaliatory, judgmental, and punitive for a new theology of God as non-retaliating.
To summarize this core theme of Jesus as stated in Matt.5: First, he straightforwardly rejects eye for eye justice or ethics (payback, retaliation, vengeance, punishment) in favor of non-retaliation. This is a clear rejection of tit for tat response or relating. A rejection of “getting even”. While non-retaliation is the negative aspect (the passive aspect), today we state this type of response or relating positively in the term unconditional love, or unconditional treatment of all people.
After stating that we should not retaliate, Jesus then moved on to emphasize this positive element of unlimited goodness and generosity toward others. This is a call to unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, and the expression of unconditional generosity toward all. And the emphasis is on unconditional or unlimited. Absolutely no conditions before loving all. None.
Jesus then illustrates with varied common life situations how we should respond with unlimited generosity. We are to freely and generously love our enemies. And in stating these situations he lifted love out of the constricted realm of tribal or group thinking. Thugs and primitives restrict their love just to those who love them, to family and friends. You, Jesus urges, can do much better and love universally, including everyone, even enemies. He was eliminating all the divisive and discriminating categories of friend/enemy, insider/outsider, or good/bad people. There should be no limiting discrimination with authentic love.
And he added that people should not let their unconditional treatment of others depend on a similar response from others (Luke 6). Do not let your good treatment of others depend on how they respond to you or treat you. Do not expect others to respond in kind with similar goodness. Just love them anyway. He called for a full liberation from all tit for tat expectation and relating. These were uniquely new insights into unconditional treatment of others. His insights took human perception of love to a new height of humane response and relating.
And then he states the reason why we are to love in such a manner. We are to love enemies unconditionally because God does. We are to forgive all unconditionally, include all unconditionally, and express unlimited generosity toward all unconditionally, because this is what God does. God forgives all, and includes all. God does not discriminate between good and bad but is generous toward all alike. He sends rain and sun on all without discrimination. God loves universally, including the bad, or enemies. So be compassionate in the same manner that God is compassionate. Be merciful just as your father is merciful (note: the use of “he/father” is not an affirmation of gender in deity). It is a tight pair-bonding of ethics with theological ideal.
We find this core theme of unconditional treatment of all people throughout the teaching of Jesus, whether in parables or sayings or other statements. There is thematic coherence throughout his teaching. We see it in the parable of the vineyard workers (unconditional generosity), the prodigal son (no payback conditions), in his statements on unlimited forgiveness, and in his meal-time practice of embracing “sinners” without conditions or exclusion. For more detail, see the added summary posted below, “Unconditional In The Jesus Tradition”.
And this central theme of non-retaliation is critical to resolving the debate over whether he was an apocalyptic prophet/messiah (like his mentor John), or not.
The point is straightforward- if Jesus’ core theme was non-retaliation then he could not have been an apocalyptic messenger. And this gets us to the greatest of all contradictions between the historical Jesus and Christianity (the Christian or Pauline gospel).
Apocalyptic is most essentially a statement of retaliation. It is a grand divine retaliation against sinful humanity. It is a grand punishment, an act of divine vengeance, an exacting of revenge for sin. Paul is clear on this- note his comments, for example, in Thessalonians on God finally acting to repay (see also Romans and Hebrews for similar statements of divine retaliation). Apocalyptic is God intervening to retaliate in a grand final act of punishment of sin.
But Jesus, in his statement of his core theme, had clearly said that God does not retaliate. That core theme of his teaching then contradicts the entire structure of Christian belief or theology. Paul’s Christian system is built on the foundation of divine apocalyptic retaliation (Tabor- Apocalyptic influenced all Paul said and did, and Christianity is Paul’s religion). Paul’s Christian atonement theology is a subset of the larger apocalyptic framework (i.e. paradise, original sin, Fall, coming judgment, punishment of sin in Christ’s death, salvation, final retribution against all sin, consummation, transformation). His Christ myth is all about retaliatory apocalyptic through and through. His retaliating God emphasizes the profound contradiction between Jesus and Christianity.
So the core issue in the difference between Jesus and Christianity is that of retaliation versus non-retaliation, and not just apocalyptic versus non-apocalyptic. Once again, apocalyptic is most essentially retaliation, divine retaliation. This is the key point. And this is the most significant contradiction of all between the historical Jesus and the Christian myth of Christ. One is about non-retaliation and the other is about a supreme and final retaliation.
This difference can be emphasized in a variety of ways- as that between authentic unconditional love and conditional atonement. Or between authentic forgiveness and the demand for atonement or payment. Or, as I have argued above, the difference between non-retaliation, and vengeance or payback retaliation.
You simply cannot mix and merge these opposites, as Paul/Christianity has done, or you eviscerate the true meaning of the unconditional element in the process. With the conditional atonement of Christianity you distort and bury the unconditional insight of Jesus. As Jefferson said, the diamonds have been buried in the dunghill.
Conclusion: To summarize again this issue of thematic coherence- the historical Jesus consistently and coherently taught a message of non-retaliation or unconditional treatment of all. This unconditional treatment of others is a baseline from which to evaluate all of the other teaching attributed to Jesus. Much of that teaching in the gospels contradicts the tenor of this unconditional theme and therefore should be challenged as not authentic or consistent with his core theme.
Once again, as Jesus’ core teaching is coherently and consistently non-retaliatory, we can then conclude that he was unquestionably non-apocalyptic. Apocalypse is a grand divine punishment, a divine retaliation against sinful humanity. As Jesus was consistently non-retaliatory in his core message, then he could not have advocated for divine apocalyptic retaliation, or apocalyptic in any form. This is especially clear in his Matt. 5:38-48 statements, where he says that God does not retaliate but offers unconditional goodness to all without discrimination. God is therefore not behind apocalyptic in any way, shape or form.
Note: We do not need to refer to Jesus as some special authority to validate the ideal of unconditional treatment of others. Our own sense of the authentically humane tells us today what it means to be truly human. But we do benefit from the varied breakthrough insights of past historical figures.
Summary of the Core Teaching: Matt.5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36
The compilation of Jesus’ core teaching below combines the features of both the Matt.5 and Luke 6 summaries.
“You have heard that it was said, an eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, Don’t resist or retaliate against an evil person.
“If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if someone takes away your belongings, do not demand to have them back. Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good; he sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
“If you love those who love you, that credit is that to you? Even tax collectors love those who love them, do they not? And if you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Doesn’t everybody do that? And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even wrongdoers lend to their kind because they expect to be repaid in full.
“Instead, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting to get anything back. Do to others what you would have them do to you.
“Then your reward will be great, and you will be the children of God (or better, you will be like God) because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. Be compassionate in the same manner that God is compassionate.”
Note in the above summary of Jesus’ core message these key points: He starts with a clear rejection of retaliation (tit for tat relating) and advocates for non-retaliation. And then he moves on from this negative aspect to a full positive statement of universal and unlimited love toward all people, good and bad. It is not just: Do not retaliate against your enemies, but far more, love your enemies with unlimited forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity. He does not leave his new ethic at passive non-retaliation. No. It is lifted into the elevated humanity of unconditional goodness toward all people. There is no grudging generosity in his message.
And he takes pains to emphasize the scope of authentic love, that this love must be universal, including all, even the worst of people, one’s offending enemies. Love must not be limited in any way by insider favoritism, or family and group loyalties. It must be universal, and not tribal or insider love. There must be no more discriminating categories of friend/enemy, insider/outsider, or good/bad people.
And then he takes further pains to explain the spirit of authentic love. It too must be unlimited, not stingy or restricted in any manner. Love must not be dependent on like response from others (tit for tat expectation). Only shown to those willing to return the same love. No, everyone does that. That is the constricted and primitive tit for tat relating that most people have engaged throughout history. We can do much better.
In this summary of his central theme Jesus takes the human understanding of love to entirely new heights. He urges us to be just like God, to do what God does. To be god-like or supremely humane.
And for those who will view this unconditional ideal as some sort of new law or burdensome requirement to be fulfilled, let me remind them that the God who inspires this ideal is infinite Unconditional Love. There is no threat of judgment, retaliation, or punishment from that Love. Only unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, inclusion, and generosity. So relax while enjoying the human endeavor to be more humane. The very nature of the ideal- unconditional- ensures safety and security for all, no matter how imperfectly we play at exhibiting it.
Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition
(Note: This summary includes passages that are believed to be later additions by the gospel authors and are therefore likely not authentic to the historical Jesus- e.g. the John 9 statement on the blind man, or the woman taken in adultery. I have included these anyway as they exhibit the same spirit as his core theme. Also, this not about seeking validation from some religious authority. I view the historical Jesus as a non-religious person, a “secular sage”, according to one of the Jesus Seminar scholars. What is useful to note in his teaching is his consistent focus on the theme of unconditional treatment of all people. That was a great advance for human consciousness. It provided something for us to build on and take further)
This site refers repeatedly to the historical Jesus tradition and his core theme of unconditional treatment of all people. Further below are some passages from the New Testament gospels that highlight this unconditional theme in sayings, parables, and encounters with people.
Just to clarify, my understanding of the historical Jesus is that of a person that is quite entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus. I conclude this from such things as the research on “dissimilarities” noted by the Jesus Seminar (differences between the historical person and the Christian version). I would argue, however, that the Seminar does not clearly and thoroughly set forth the centrality of this key issue of non-retaliation or unconditional love. It is the defining core of Jesus’ message and the main dissimilarity between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus.
But before going to those passages in Jesus’ teaching, note that he was not the first to understand that retaliation/punishment was inhumane and that unconditional treatment of all people was the foundational feature of authentic humanity. Others long before him had also begun to see that unconditional response illuminated the meaning of love like nothing before in history.
One of the first expressions of non-retaliation or unconditional response is found in what is called the “Akkadian father’s advice to his son” (circa 2200 BCE). It states, “Do not return evil to your adversary, requite with kindness the one who does evil to you”. A similar call for non-retaliation comes from Egyptian literature circa 1500-1300 BCE.
The Hebrew prophets (800-600 BCE) then added their own insights on non-retaliation. They stated in various places that God did not want sacrifice (payment, penalty, retaliation, atonement) but rather mercy. See, for example, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:7-8, and Amos 5:21-24. Jeremiah 7:21-22 also says, “When I brought your forefathers out of Egypt I did not give commands about offerings and sacrifices”. Isaiah says, “I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats”. In all these utterances of the prophets there is no demand for payment for sin, no call for atonement, and no threat of retaliation or punishment. The prophets introduced a radical new understanding of God’s justice as forgiveness, mercy, and liberation, not punishment. They were advocating views that were radically opposed to the primitive atonement theology of the Jewish priesthood. So even in the Old Testament there was a prophet/priesthood contradiction that foreshadowed the Jesus/Christianity contradiction.
Buddhist literature in the pre-Jesus era also urged non-retaliation and overcoming evil with goodness. Confucius told his followers, “Do not engage revenge or anger”. The Hindus urged people to not render evil for evil. Socrates said, “We ought not to retaliate or render evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him”. And so on. Even Paul later stated that retaliation or payback was evil (Romans 12).
But in the Christian tradition it has been hard for people to see the wonder of unconditional treatment of others as it was presented by the Historical Jesus. His teaching on unconditional love has been buried for two millennia in the larger retaliation/punishment context of Christian theology, a context that has distorted entirely the meaning of unconditional. Christianity, even today, continues to validate a view of justice as payback punishment (note that while Paul admitted that retaliation was evil for people to engage, in a supreme contradiction he claimed that God would eventually retaliate- again, Romans 12).
Here are Jesus’ main statements and examples of non-retaliation or unconditional response. These represent what is known as “thematic coherence”:
Matt.5:38-48, Luke 6: These two passages offer key summaries that set forth the core theme of Jesus’ teaching. They emphasize a clear rejection of eye for eye or payback justice in favor of non-retaliation. They also present a firm rejection of limited tribal love (love neighbors/family, but hate enemies) for a new inclusive/universalistic ethic of “love your enemies”. Treat everyone, including enemies, as intimate family. This takes the meaning of love to an entirely new height of humaneness.
This new inclusive and unconditional ethic is tightly pair-bonded to a striking new view of God as non-retaliating, and universalistic (God includes all equally whether good or bad, God showers all with the same generosity and love). To use a summary term- God expresses unconditional love toward all. Emphasizing this ethical/theological relationship, Jesus said, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful”. Be just like God- do not retaliate because God does not retaliate. Love your enemies because God loves all enemies.
In this teaching unconditional is not appealed to as some flighty, pacifist ideal plucked out of a new age dream. It is appealed to as the very essential nature of ultimate reality, the fundamental nature of that which is the very core of all reality and life. You cannot get more central to the very meaning and purpose of all things. Unconditional love as the defining core of reality becomes the basis of a new human ethic of unconditional treatment of all people.
Note also, this new theological insight in Matt. 5 contrasts entirely with all previous historical understanding of deity as retaliatory and punitive. It is a unique historical breakthrough.
Look carefully at what the man actually said in this statement of his core theme: No more retaliatory ethic or justice (eye for eye). No more retaliation. Because if you do not retaliate then you will be just like God who does not retaliate (you will be the children of God). What a powerful and comprehensive rejection of retaliation at all levels.
Luke 6 approaches unconditional with the same insights about not just loving those who love you but going further to also love those who do not return the love. Here Jesus urges people to give generously and to not expect anything in return. Don’t expect repayment. Don’t let your unconditional treatment of others be short-circuited by their refusal to respond in kind. Love unconditionally anyway, no matter what the response of others might be. He was advocating the ending of all tit for tat thinking or conditional treatment of others.
John 8: the woman caught in adultery, according to Jewish law/scripture she should be condemned and stoned to death. But Jesus refuses to judge, condemn, or punish her. He rejects conventional payback justice responses and offers unconditional mercy.
Matthew 9: When asked why he exhibited unconditional inclusion toward so-called “bad” people, Jesus replied by quoting the Old Testament statement, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. God, he claimed, was not interested in rigid adherence to discriminating or excluding standards/practices/laws. God desired simple human compassion toward all alike. The inclusion and humane treatment of all people. This was a consistent emphasis in the Historical Jesus tradition- treating everyone according to human compassion and mercy, and not according to some legal standard or dehumanizing social standard/practice (especially not according to some punitive legal precept).
Matt.20: the vineyard workers were royally upset with the liberality of the owner who treats all the workers with the same generosity. Some had worked harder and longer and felt that it was only fair that they received more while the latecomers received less. They held a strict payback or eye for eye mindset (reward good according to conventional fairness conditions, and punish bad according to similar conventional conditions). And note that the full-day guys received the exact amount that they had agreed to work for. But they were upset that the owner also gave the same amount to the latecomers. They could not comprehend the scandalous generosity of the owner toward all, a generosity that comes from an unconditional mindset.
(Note: this is not advocating for running a business or the general economy according to this ideal. It is simply showing the freedom of people to be generous as they choose with their own goods. It is not an argument for some sort of coercive redistributionist policy.)
Luke 15: the story of the prodigal also includes another character (the older brother) that reacts with upset at the generosity of his father toward the unworthy or undeserving son, toward the bad or evil. The generous father is not interested in judgment, condemnation, or punishment. He is not interested in fair treatment according to conventional standards of reward and punishment. He wants to express generosity and a spirit of celebration, toward even the worst of people, no matter what they have done. Hence his unconditional inclusion and generosity, without any demand for some required payment or payback before forgiving and including (i.e. meeting prerequisite conditions). The father is not interested at all in demanding that conventional payback conditions be met first. And he says that he is willing to extend this generosity to both the good son and the bad son, to the careful and thrifty older son as well as to the careless waster son. There is no discrimination between good and bad in his generous response. He would treat all the very same- with unconditional love.
The older brother, like many good, moral and religious people, just does not get the merciful and generous spirit of his father. He cannot comprehend the unconditional spirit that forgives evil without demanding some payback condition be met first, the generous spirit that does not demand punishment for wrong done. Is this offensive to our sense of justice as fairness and rightness? Of course it is. But this scandalous unconditional treatment of all is getting us to what God is actually like.
Luke 11- Here Jesus states that just as we fallible and imperfect people know how to do good and give good gifts, how much more the perfectly good God will give good gifts. God is infinitely more loving and humane than we are, infinitely more than the best of people (Schillibeekx- God is much more human, more humane than any human being, again, infinitely so). We fallible humans know that non-retaliation is a more humane response, the way to peace, cooperation, and humane existence. How much more then does God know and act accordingly.
This is an especially difficult aspect of unconditional love for many good, moral people to accept. Their orientation to eye for eye justice leads them to hope that God will ultimately and finally exact justice for the many situations where “proper” payback justice was not exacted here in this world. But this is a profound misunderstanding of the unconditional goodness that is at the core of all reality. Ultimate unconditional love means that the very opposite of our hope for payback justice will be true. God is ultimate unconditional love, and infinitely more merciful and generous than we can even imagine. God is unconditional goodness to infinite and scandalous degree, infinitely more than the most scandalous generosity that we exhibit here (e.g. the vineyard owner, the father of the prodigal, or someone like Nelson Mandela). So Jesus’ argument is this: if you imperfect people know how to give good gifts, then how much more will the perfect and good father give good gifts. How much more loving, humane, merciful, and generous is God. Therefore, a proper grasp of deity as ultimate humaneness cannot expect some final and ultimate payback or punishment (final punitive justice). It cannot hope for retaliation from a God that is unconditional love to infinite degree.
We cannot then reserve any hope that some element of residual retaliation is lodged somewhere in some ultimate reality (i.e. God) for future fulfillment. Non-retaliation or unconditional love in God eliminates any such payback hope entirely.
John 9: Jesus denies the ancient and long-held belief that the gods punished people’s sin with disease, deformity, or disaster. All sickness and calamity in primitive time, and often still today, was viewed as punishment from the retaliating gods. As a Japanese woman said after the tsunami a few years back, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”
Matthew 18:21-22: When asked how many times we should forgive an offender, Jesus replies, “Seventy-seven times”. Which is to say, unlimited. Unconditionally.
Luke 10: the Samaritan exhibits no tribal exclusion or favoritism, based on tribal or insider loyalties. He is open, inclusive, generous, and caring toward even traditional enemies.
Luke 7: Jesus accepts anointing by a “sinful” woman without judgment, condemnation, demand for exclusion, or punishment. He refused to express conditional treatment of people according to conventional views of right or wrong, bad or good, insider or outsider.
Luke 19: Jesus is non-judgmental and welcoming (inclusive universalism) toward another “sinner”, Zacchaeus. Again, no conditions are demanded before acceptance and inclusion.
We also find the unconditional treatment of all people expressed in Jesus’ consistent habit of eating with the most despised and excluded people of his time- the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “sinners” or lawbreakers. He gave intense practical expression to his belief that all should be included equally without condition of any kind. It was an expression of generosity to all alike without discrimination between good or bad.
Another critical element to the expression of unconditional love is the embracing of the absolute freedom of others, the freedom to express themselves as uniquely different and original. Authentic love will not try to control or manipulate others, with guilt or any form of coercion. It will embrace the uniqueness of the other, the freedom to be different, even if annoyingly so.
Matthew 20: Jesus illustrates his orientation to unconditional human freedom by telling his followers that they should not exercise authority over others (not lord over others), but should instead serve others. He further emphasized this in his healing, telling people that their own faith had healed them, not God or himself (i.e. he refused to engender a sense of indebtedness or dehumanizing obligation in people). He then urged people to return to their homes and own lives, and not follow or subject themselves to him.
This new unconditional response and treatment of people, as expressed and taught by Jesus, is a baseline from which to evaluate all of the other teaching attributed to the man. Much of that teaching in the gospels contradicts the tenor of this unconditional theme and therefore should be challenged as not authentic or consistent with his core theme.
And as Jesus’ core teaching is coherently and consistently non-retaliatory, we can then conclude that he was non-apocalyptic. Apocalypse is a grand divine punishment, a divine retaliation against sinful humanity. As Jesus was consistently non-retaliatory in his core message, then he could not have advocated for divine apocalyptic retaliation, or apocalyptic in any form. This is especially clear in his Matt.5:38-48 statements, where he says that God does not retaliate. God is therefore not behind apocalyptic in any way, shape or form.
Whether we believe that Jesus was as consistent as we would like to conclude from the above passages, it does not ultimately matter. We understand unconditional reality much better today, and we ought to know by now that it is authentically humane response.
Once again, this consideration of the historical Jesus is not about appeal to authority but about illustration. Jesus is not authoritative on the ideal of unconditional, but illustrative. We possess our own authority- our personal human consciousness- regarding what is authentically human or humane. And that gets us to what an authentically humane God is about.
Dating the New Testament and related sources
The dating below is to provide more context for understanding the insight on unconditional and how Christianity rejected that and retreated to a primitive retaliation viewpoint.
The following are approximate dates for the original publication of the various New Testament books and related sources. Mark was the first New Testament gospel to be written. Matthew and Luke borrowed common material from Mark. They also used common material from some other source, known as Q (from Quelle, German for “source”). Q is considered to be the very first gospel of Jesus and it went through several subsequent revisions. Note carefully that the later revisions introduced a “stunning shift” away from Jesus’ original non-retaliation message.
The point of a stunning shift or contradiction still stands even if there was no Q. Jesus’ core theme of non-retaliation is clear in his Matt.5:38-48 summary. It stands in striking contrast to Christian retaliatory theology.
50s CE (Common Era)
The dating of the original Q source (the very earliest gospel of Jesus, serene and hopeful in tone, non-retaliatory, non-apocalyptic) is early 50s CE. Some researchers suggest 40-50 CE, others 30-70 CE. This original gospel of Jesus contains his core message of non-retaliation or unconditional treatment of all people, both good and bad (the statements of Matthew 5:38-48, similar to the material in Luke 6 that contain a clear rejection of eye for eye justice, and any form of payback or punishment).
Paul wrote Thessalonians also in the early 50s CE and this begins the “stunning shift” away from the original non-retaliation message of Jesus and back to a strong retaliation perspective. In Thessalonians Paul speaks repeatedly of the coming of the Lord, of people heaping up sins to the limit, of the Lord punishing men for sin, of destruction coming on people, there being no escape, of unbelievers suffering wrath, and so on. His views on apocalyptic retaliation and punishment were already well developed. And Paul strongly condemned anyone who held to any other gospel that differed from his Christ mythology. He may have been condemning those who held to the original Q source, the original gospel of Jesus himself.
Paul also wrote I Corinthians somewhere in the mid to late 50s CE (53-57). Galatians was written in the late 50s CE (56-57), 2 Corinthians somewhere between 53-57 CE, Romans between 56-58 CE.
Q2 (threatening and vengeful) was written in the 60s CE, perhaps before the Jewish War of 66 CE. This stunning shift from the original Q (non-retaliatory, non-apocalyptic in tone) to this later revision of Q, now strongly retaliatory and apocalyptic in tone, may have resulted from the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Some have suggested that the Jews viewed that temple destruction as an act of vengeance from God and therefore abandoned Jesus’ new insight on God as non-retaliatory. They then returned to their traditional view of God as retaliatory and punitive. This was a retreat to primitive eye for eye justice, a retreat to views of payback/punishment justice, and atonement theology. Also, the shift back to retaliation may have been due to Paul’s dominant influence on early Christian thought and theology.
Paul wrote Ephesians somewhere between 58-62 CE, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon between 61-63 CE. 1 Timothy was written between 64-65 CE, Titus was written in the same time frame. 2 Timothy was written between 66-67 CE (note also that there are challenges to Paul’s authorship of these books). Some say Mark was written between 60-70 CE, others say in the 70s. Further, it has been questioned whether Timothy was written in Paul’s time or later in the “proto-orthodox” age (Bob Brinsmead).
Q3 was apparently written around 75 CE, and in this revision Jesus is viewed as near deity. This shows the progressive development of the Christ myth or Paul’s Christology, his view of Jesus as approaching the status of a God-man. This is all part of the larger shift away from the actual teaching of Jesus to a message that focuses on Jesus himself, a message that deifies the man. It is part of the overall shift away from the original non-retaliation message of Jesus to the strong retaliation message of Paul’s Christ myth.
80s CE and beyond
Matthew was written in the 80s CE, John in the 90s CE, and Luke/Acts was written in the early 2nd Century. The Gospel of Thomas is up for debate, one credible scholar arguing that it was written before 90 CE, others (most) arguing it was written in the 2nd Century, maybe somewhere between 140-180 CE.
Note: Paul was a forceful person and he is primarily responsible for shaping the teaching of Christianity. His views dominated all others and he is largely responsible for the rejection of the original gospel of Jesus (non-apocalyptic, non-retaliatory) for his own gospel of Christ that is strongly apocalyptic and retaliatory. The New Testament is mostly Paul’s writing or the writing of those who supported his views. Christianity is Paul’s religion, not the religion of Jesus.
The Great Contradiction
Let me summarize further the problem with religion trying to embrace and express unconditional reality: the central problem with most religion is that it is an essentially conditional reality. As noted above, religion developed as a social institution of conditions (how to appease and please gods, how to live the right life and engage the right practices/rituals, and varied other religious conditions).
The stunning discovery about ultimate reality or authentically humane deity is that it is unconditional. People have come to understand that God demands no conditions at all but freely includes all, scandalously loves all, and pours forth unlimited generosity toward all. This is the very opposite of what religion teaches.
So you have these two opposing realities- stunningly contradictory. Religion as all about conditions. But Ultimate Reality or God is unconditional. Conditional religion cannot represent such unconditional reality. Religion therefore generally distorts ultimate reality entirely.
And religion, with a theology (view of God) that is conditional, then influences its adherents to treat others conditionally. Religious love becomes conditional love, reserved more for true believer insiders and not so much for unbelieving outsiders, who are ultimately to be rejected if they do not become true believers.
Another Great Contradiction
This page repeatedly presents the “stunning” contradiction between the historical Jesus and Christianity. This is arguably the greatest theological contradiction in all history.
Here is some background to this contradiction.
The story of human life on this planet is about human consciousness emerging in early humans and that sparks a great exodus out of animal reality and existence. This is not the exodus of modern humans out of Africa some 100,000 years ago. It is a far more profound exodus, the exodus out of animal existence and toward authentic human existence. This is the grandest liberation movement in all history. It is the most ennobling advance and progress in the entire history of life. It is progress from the inhumane toward the humane.
To simplify what is involved in this exodus I would suggest that there is one feature that defines animal and primitive human existence more comprehensively than any other. It is the feature of retaliation with its complementary elements of offense, fear, rage, revenge, and fighting against or destroying the competing enemy. Animals and primitives retaliate against and dominate one another in endless cycles of destructive payback rage.
To the contrary, the essential feature that defines authentic humanity or human existence would be non-retaliation, or to state it positively, unconditional response and treatment of others (i.e. unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, unconditional generosity toward all). This feature is at the very foundation of peaceful and orderly human society. Unconditional response and relating is the basis of trade, commerce, urbanization (more dense forms of relating and existence), and overall civilization. See further comment below on this foundational principle of human progress and existence.
So these two features- retaliation and non-retaliation- define the essential difference between primitive animal-like existence and authentic human existence. And the grand narrative of humanity has been our exodus out from animal existence and toward a new human existence or civilization. The defining element of this story is that we are leaving a past of retaliation for a future of non-retaliation, or unconditional response and treatment of one another.
Unfortunately, many people still resist the full liberation from our primitive past and try to maintain or preserve features of that retaliatory past in our new human civilization. We find this in systems of justice oriented to punishment (eye for eye), in much small-scale human response based on getting even, and at the international level in the cycles of blow-for-blow retaliation between groups and nations (note, for instance, Israel/Palestine history over the past half century).
Now, more than any other phase of human history, the Jesus/Christianity contradiction illustrates this larger human story of exodus from retaliatory existence toward non-retaliatory existence. It also illustrates the endeavor of many people to resist and fight this liberation and progress. The historical Jesus, in a unique new manner, advocated for a new existence that would be defined by non-retaliation. He advocated the unconditional forgiving of all enemies, and the unconditional loving of enemies (including and treating enemies as intimate family). He taught that we should not get even or pay back wrong with more wrong. And to validate this new humane behavior he made a striking new breakthrough in theology with his argument that we should not retaliate because God did not retaliate against enemies. We should love enemies because God loved enemies. He appealed to the essential nature of Ultimate Reality for validation of this new humane ethic of non-retaliation.
But Paul, the chief architect of Christianity (see Tabor’s “Paul and Jesus”), rejected Jesus’ new breakthrough insight that God did not retaliate and instead advocated for the primitive view that God would retaliate and punish enemies (see, for example, his earliest writing in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and his main statement of theology, Romans). Paul rejected Jesus’ endeavor to liberate from a primitive past and instead preserved the feature of retaliation in his new religion, Christianity. He embedded the feature of retaliation in the highest authority, in divinity (God will repay or retaliate). He thereby reversed entirely the discovery of Jesus. Paul retreated from the liberation movement that Jesus had promoted. Paul thus created a completely opposite gospel to the gospel of Jesus. This made Christianity a stunning contradiction of what Jesus had actually taught. Remember, non-retaliation was the very core of Jesus’ gospel (Matt.5:38-48). Yet Christianity, with its retaliatory/punitive deity, claims to represent Jesus. Go figure, eh.
So the Jesus/Christianity contradiction potently illustrates the greater human story. The historical Jesus had inaugurated a new surge away from retaliation existence and toward non-retaliation. But Paul and Christianity resisted that new surge forward and retreated to primitive retaliation thinking and existence.
With the historical Jesus we have history’s most striking advance toward authentic human understanding and existence. With Paul and Christianity we have history’s most stunning retreat to primitive perception and belief (primitive because all past tribal perception of gods was oriented to retaliatory and punitive deities).
Note: Evidence for this Pauline or Christian reversal can be seen in Q (Quelle) research which is a sub-branch of historical Jesus research. Q research notes the “stunning shift” from an early non-apocalyptic gospel to a later version that is apocalyptic (e.g. Burton Mack, The Lost Gospel). The important thing to note in this research is that apocalyptic is most essentially about retaliation, divine retaliation toward imperfect humanity. Jesus Seminar and Q research does not make this element clear. They play around the real issue but lose it in apocalyptic generalities.
Many people have argued that non-retaliation is a weak response to evil. What is needed, they claim, is the iron fist response that countries like Israel use so effectively against their neighbors. But what has been the outcome of that eye for eye or payback response? More of the same old, same old ongoing violence. To the contrary, Nelson Mandela has given humanity a powerful example that non-retaliation or unconditional treatment of all, including enemies (i.e. unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, unconditional generosity) is the most potent and practical way to defeat the evil of cyclical retaliation. And the outcome of his approach? He was able to lead his country away from a potentially violent civil war and toward his vision of a peaceful, non-racial democracy. How contrary to situations like Bosnia or Rwanda where people chose retaliation with its horrific violence and disruption/destruction of life. See further comment on Mandela below.
Non-retaliation is not the same as dogmatic pacifism in the face of evil. Any common sense understanding of the human ideal of love (i.e. unconditional love) will accept that love is responsible to protect the innocent from those who will not or cannot restrain their own worst impulses to violence and harm. But while love will act to restrain evil and protect the innocent, it will at the same time try to avoid the hate and lust for vengeance that fuels ongoing punitive retaliatory responses. It will try to act with the best interests and well being of even offenders in mind. It will act to protect the innocent from violence but while doing so it will maintain the spirit of unconditional love and seek to express scandalous mercy, inclusion, and restoration toward the offenders.
Life with all its imperfection presents often challenging and frustrating situations that severely test the highest of human ideals. But again and again over history good people seeking to live authentic human lives have found ways to overcome the basest human impulses to hate and retaliate, and to inspire one another toward more humane ways of responding and relating. They have found ways to break patterns of tit for tat response and to promote new ways of relating with forgiveness, inclusion, and generous cooperation. These people have given us the widely desired outcomes of more peaceful and cooperative societies. That’s the future we all want.
Related to the above is some new comment from Bob Brinsmead on the practicality of non-retaliation, or unconditional response, in personal relationships.
Unconditional Is Impractical?
People react to the ideal of unconditional treatment of others as simply too impractical an ideal for our societies. They feel that it is too mushy for maintaining order and discipline among people. It is viewed as a weak response to evil. They believe that we need to maintain some stiff payback justice and punishment in order to keep people in line.
It may help to reassure such people that with unconditional you are not arguing for abandoning the responsibility to protect the innocent and the need to restrain violent people. What you are arguing for is a generally more humane treatment of all people. Our responses to others are too often shaped by retaliation and punishment and they don’t get us anywhere, except to more payback in return. More suffering. Note how, at smaller scales, so much human relating is governed by getting even. This endlessly messes up life, whether by fighting among family members, tit for tat practices in workplaces, and other similar response and relating. There is nothing practical or useful that comes from such conditional payback response.
I have argued in material below that unconditional treatment of others is actually the very basis of human civilization and progress. It is, for instance, at the foundation of the commerce that improves all of our lives. Unconditional response and treatment of others is therefore a robust response to the violence and evil of primitive life.
Look carefully at how unconditional treatment of others became the very foundation of our civilization. It is clearly the most practical thing in life. When early people began to restrain their urges to retaliate and destroy one another (early forgiveness and tolerance) they were then able to stop the cycles of blow for blow revenge that had previously governed tribal societies. This enabled them to start trading with one another (early commerce) and to start living together more peacefully (early urbanization). That new practice of unconditional cooperation back then was the beginning of modern civilization. Sure, it was rudimentary or embryonic but it was still authentic unconditional response and relating.
And yes, there is still selfishness, greed, and payback abuse throughout our existence but such things do not define our civilization or commerce in general. More common everywhere is the increasingly humane treatment of one another, the unconditional forgiving, the unconditional inclusion, and the unconditional generosity that lifts us all higher and higher. And so we progress in human society toward an ever better future. See Stephen Pinker’s comments below on the improvement in humanity over the millennia. People have become more empathic and forgiving and tolerant.
If we had continued to treat one another conditionally, according to primitive payback response (tit for tat), then we would still be destroying one another as some people are in varied parts of the world even today.
So the complaint again- is unconditional treatment of others too impractical for our societies? Not at all. To the contrary, it is the very foundation of our civilized life today. Far from being a mushy response to evil, it leads to a robust decrease in the retaliatory evil of primitive life. It enables the commerce that undergirds all the progress that we value in life (the “moralizing influence of gentle commerce”). Unconditional love also responds to all our profoundly human impulses, longings and needs, better than anything else can. It responds to the deeply felt need for justice as liberation, deliverance, and mercy. It responds to our deepest impulses for meaning, purpose, truth, and right. It answers all the erroneous payback anxiety stirred by atonement mythology (the ancient and still deeply embedded felt obligation to appease angry spirits). The new perception that unconditional love defines ultimate reality, responds to atonement anxiety with unconditional security and safety for all. Payback mythology is simply too mushy and sentimental to deal with such profound human longing and needs. Payback thinking is not human enough, not robust enough, not practical enough to meet our most deeply felt needs and desires.
Unconditional then is the most practical of all things no matter what one looks at in human existence. It is the most enlightening, most liberating, and most humanizing of all realities in the cosmos and life. Unconditional is all about the courage to be fully human, to robustly counter the evil of retaliation, and to live as authentically human.
Additional note: Someone recently commented generally on the human desire for enduring peace. OK, ask yourself- what is at the heart of peace?, if not one courageous party (or both) in any potential conflict, choosing to forgive, to include without condition, and to open themselves to generosity toward the other? Unconditional response and treatment of others, as with so many other areas of life, is at the root of peace.
More on the potency and practicality of unconditional response and relating
Consistently, just like the characters in Jesus’ short stories, good and moral people react to the ideal of unconditional love with offense. They claim that it is just too impractical an ideal for contemporary society and it is a weak response to evil. This was the very reaction of the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable, and similar to the reaction of the vineyard workers toward the unconditional generosity of the owner. All these good, moral people believed in tit for tat treatment of offenders.
But the entire world has just celebrated a profound illustration of unconditional love (a rejection of tit for tat response) in the life of Nelson Mandela. This one man gave us a stunning example of just how practical and powerful unconditional love is for improving life and bettering human society, in our contemporary world. Unconditional is indeed the most potent and practical response to the evil and violence of retaliation. It spared South Africa the horrors of violent civil war.
Early in his life Mandela rejected the non-violent policy of the ANC and argued that violence was a proper response for some situations. But later in life he realized how wrong and irrational his youthful zeal had been. He came to believe that treating others unconditionally would bring out the best in them and turn enemies into friends. This would produce the best outcomes for all. By forgiving and forgetting and including without conditions, Mandela repeatedly turned foes into colleagues and defused potential conflicts.
When he first left prison the South African situation was ripe for civil war. Young leaders like Chris Hani and Bantu Holomisa appealed to the more impulsive sectors of the population and catered to the widespread lust for revenge. “There were untold millions of blacks in South Africa for whom vengeance was more appealing than reconciliation, who could not and did not want to forget the past as Mandela urged them to do”, (Richard Stengel in Mandela’s Way). Stengel says that another leader, the Zulu Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was also willing to lead the country to civil war to achieve his own ends. Mandela included these men in his circle of colleagues and convinced them that there was a better way for the good of the country- to forgive, to reconcile, and to include all in a democratic non-racial society.
Mandela chose to exhibit unconditional love toward everyone and successfully led his country away from the violence of retaliation and toward a more peaceful society and future. He was rightly celebrated worldwide for this striking example of humanity.
And the South African situation stands in such contrast with other areas like Rwanda or Serbia where hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered and entire societies ruined for years by civil war. All because people gave way to the lust for retaliatory vengeance. It was said that in Serbia hatreds had been passed down over centuries from generation to generation till finally the opportunity for retaliation appeared and vengeance then erupted in the horror of violent bloodshed and mass death.
Now tell me seriously…is unconditional treatment of others still impractical or a weak response to evil? There is no more potent response to the evil of retaliation.
Discussion group comment on Mandela…
On what authority do we advocate for unconditional treatment of others as the authentically human approach? Do we need to appeal to the Jesus tradition or some religious authority (i.e. a holy book)?
“Bob, in the end it comes down to an enlightened human consciousness as you state below. It comes down to our own consciousness of the human or humane thing.
So setting aside Jesus- pretending that no such tradition ever existed- how would we then present the case for unconditional response and relating, or existence?
“Mandela offers a fascinating new example. He makes no appeal to any Jesus tradition but argues such things as… it helps turn enemies into friends. It brings out the best in others. It resolves potential conflicts. He appeals to his own thoughts on this and his own experience. He highlights it with his own stories. He even has more powerful stories than the ones that Jesus presented. For instance, the blacks at the rugby game were angry and venting hate toward the white team, their own South African team. It could have turned ugly. Mandela in a surprising display of generosity donned a white and green team uniform and shook the hands of the white team, identifying with them as his team, the team of all South Africans. That changed the mood in the stadium from divisive hate to acceptance and inclusion. And so with various other similar displays such as inviting his former guards home for meals and calling them his friends. These are all new parables of unconditional treatment of others, with no appeal to any Jesus. And they may even be more powerful examples as they impacted millions of people, defusing lust for vengeance, and turning it into forgiveness, inclusion of all, and movement toward a non-racial democratic society.
“And so with all these people who lose a loved one to some horrible tragic crime and then step forward to say that they forgive the offender. These are new parables of unconditional for today. New illustrations of what we know with our enlightened consciousness to be the truly humane, the authentically human way to be. And this can all be done without any Bible or Jesus. Mandela appealed to no such thing at all. And the man appeared at times to be atheist. He spoke of “the creation” bringing him to be an illustration of a very ordinary person accomplishing something unique.
“Also, in the Mandela story you get a very humanized person. Full of all the inconsistencies and imperfections of people that we know who are just like ourselves. This is no saintly Madonna-smile Jesus glowing from church pictures. Mandela often got real angry with his guards and wardens and this comes out in his letters and complaints. And he could be vain and put on a good show. But when it came to the crunch he did that unconditional thing so powerfully. So history (or “creation” as he called it) has given us a fresh “Jesus” for today, to illustrate this thing that we sense/know defines authentic humanity. That is authority enough. But even a Mandela is no more authoritative than our own personal understanding and experience of these things. Unconditional stands on its own and is validated by each human person or consciousness.
“Just another comment on this thing of authority and Mandela. Mandela’s unconditional resonated with most of humanity, with all common human consciousness everywhere. There was no legitimate complaint against the spirit of the man. We all got it. His expression of unconditional treatment of enemies was right and true. And so also in contrast, what happened in Bosnia was universally viewed as wrong. Our common human consciousness gets it. That is the basis of our authority. Jesus or no Jesus. Holy book or no holy book.
“Lately, I have been thinking of what orients me to unconditional. And, even if everyone else in the world disagreed, I would still center myself on this as the ultimate truth of ultimate reality. My personal sense of the truly human thing. My own authority.
“But fortunately, over history we have so much evidence that human consciousness has generally learned to rethink ultimate reality as ever more humane ( I use the term ultimate reality in its all-encompassing meaning here- God and humanity and all things). It is part of our ongoing humanization of all things, all perception and all existence. This comes from our fundamental human impulse, the impulse to be truly human, part of the growth over history of human compassion or love. Even someone like atheist Pinker can see the amazing growth in empathy and humanity over history (the move away from retaliation/vengeance and violence).
“All life has been on this trajectory, toward something better, something more humane. It arises from human consciousness and our basic human impulses that we see all through life. Impulses for meaning, for understanding and explanation. For something more human.
“And yes, we take what we can from whoever said such things as in the NT gospels. But ultimately we make our own judgments and conclusions today on our own authority.
“And in the NT there is still that profound contradiction between those Matt. statements and the rest of the NT., Q or no Q. And we arrived at our own conclusions on unconditional, not through any Q.
“So people can seek to disprove something like Q and that is fine (there is debate among biblical scholars about the actual existence of Q)…let the debate rage freely. Q is not any final authority that we need to appeal to. Just as Jesus is not any final divine authority to appeal to. We have our own personal authority, our own personal sense of the truly human thing.
“The human future is non-retaliation or unconditional love. This is the purpose of the cosmos, life on this planet and this purpose is evident in the humanization of civilization or the humanizing process in civilization. It is an unstoppable trajectory that can be traced from the beginning to now and into the future.
“So the ethic and theology on this are clear and right. It needs no defense but is self-validating just as people like Jesus presented it.
“And think of that Akkadian father. What possessed him to say that (i.e. comments on non-retaliation) out of the blue (as far as we know it was out of the blue)? What authority led him to think and speak thus? What scripture did he have to fall back on? Not likely much of anything. Not likely much of any unconditional tradition before him. But his humanity, his human consciousness led him to such a conclusion. It felt more human, or whatever he thought it was. So he did it. And he was right. It is self-validating as the right thing to think and the right way to act. The more human way.
“And that is how all humane features have developed over the past. Our origins were brutal and animal like. But compassion arose in that brutal past and has grown and developed endlessly to the more human world we have today. It started somewhere, against the grain of more prominent ways of existing, more brutal ways of existing (again, the research of Payne on force and Pinker on violence and the decrease of such over history). So someone started it all and it has grown and grown more and more toward unconditional as the ultimate in human existence. And naturally that leads us to rethink divinity in similar but even more transcendent terms. And such is right and true.”
Bob Brinsmead on Non-retaliation in relationships
Non-retaliation in human relationships is extremely down to earth. It starts with ordinary, everyday relating, with those closest to us. Since love is about respecting and accepting the freedom of the other, we have to conclude that the tendency to control and manipulate others is inhuman, contrary to love (evil). It is also part of the hierarchical way of relating which is essentially the way of the animal kingdom.
To love unconditionally means that there will be no retaliation in a relationship. Yet retaliation is generally at the heart of all personal friction. For instance, if one party (partner) feels neglected, ignored, and not accorded one’s rights in any given situation, the other party may seek justice, fairness, or balance through some subtle kind of retaliation. It can take many forms- like an attitude which says, “It is only fair that I should neglect your needs just as you have neglected my needs”, or, “I will make you feel offended/miserable/peeved, just as you have made me feel offended/miserable/peeved”. Or, “I will give you back the same kind of medicine/treatment”. Or perhaps worst of all, use guilt as a lever to change/control/manipulate the other person. These (and we could add a legion more) are just examples of retaliation.
Retaliation can only perpetuate strife rather than end it.
Retaliation is the act of withholding love until the offending other changes and repays the debt you perceive is owed to you. Retaliation is the opposite of forgiveness. It is the declaration of war rather than the cessation of hostilities. On the other hand, the truly human way of relating- a thing which Jesus calls the rule of God- is not to retaliate, that is, not to seek justice by treating others as they have treated us. As Mandela said regarding the hostile others, “Let us surprise them with our generosity”. Bob Brinsmead
Thinking of a new grand narrative (macro-story, meta-narrative)
Basic features of any grand narrative must include insight from the scientific discovery of the past few centuries. But science, valuable as it is, has a limited mandate and cannot (should not) suggest the spiritual elements so vital to a fully-orbed human impulse for meaning and purpose.
And for those tired of religious and irrational mythical explanation but desiring some spiritual meaning to reality and life, there can still be a healthy spiritual component that fits the overall scientific story of reality and life (Panentheism theology does some interesting work on this- see, for instance, “In Whom We Live And Move And Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World”). Some of the spiritual element may be derived from areas of experience/insight such as the Near-Death Experience movement.
I would argue that the ultimate reality behind all is Unconditional Love and this best explains the humanizing impulse evident behind all the great emergences and trends in reality. Note, for instance, the trend of the cosmos toward more habitability for biological and conscious life (more ordered, more complex, more developed). Note the development of life toward the supreme complexity of the human brain able to mediate consciousness. And note the supreme expression of human consciousness in creating human civilization with its core trend toward something more humane (e.g. decreasing violence, more empathic and peaceful people- e.g. Stephen Pinker, Better Angels of Our Nature). In human civilization we have the suitable arena where we can struggle and learn to become more authentically human.
In all reality and life we find evidence of a great humanizing impulse being expressed and Unconditional Love best explains this impulse. This spiritual element takes us further in resolving the primary human impulse for meaning and purpose, further than more purely materialist explanations of reality and life.
So to summarize again, here are some the most basic features of a new grand narrative of reality and life.
Life rises toward something ever better and does not decline toward something worse.
Life is wide open with infinite potential for the creation of something better, and not closed or ending any time soon (i.e. always facing “imminent” collapse in apocalyptic and alarmist narratives).
Humanity is an essentially creative and good force in life, not a fallen and corrupting force.
No salvation or sacrifice is required to resolve life problems for there are no angry, punitive forces/spirits to appease or placate. The “salvation” of the world is seen in the gradual development of conscious humanity as an increasingly creative force in life, resolving all problems that arise and finding solutions that make life better and more humane for all. In that gradual historical development and progress we see the expression of the ultimate reality that is Unconditional Love.
The new narrative posits core goodness (unconditional love at the heart of all reality), a long-term trajectory of improvement and advance into an unlimited future, with a goal of more humane existence (the humanization of all things). This is entirely contrary to the old narrative of core threat, long-term trajectory of decline toward worsening future, with the goal of catastrophic ending.
Two Essay Summary
Two essays of particular interest on this site (see topic bar above):
“Decline or Rise?”- Contrary to endless apocalyptic speculation, civilization is not declining toward something worse but is actually rising toward something ever better (so also life in general). This is due to the fact that there are no limits to human creativity and therefore no limits in the natural world (i.e. the fallacy of limited resources). Nature is not fragile and on the verge of collapse. Rather, the fundamental truth about the natural world is tenacious resilience and infinite generosity (note the shale gas/oil revolution, methane hydrate discoveries, and looming breakthroughs in dark energy).
Also, the rise and progress of life and civilization speaks to underlying realities and how that relates to human meaning and purpose. The most profound element in all this progress is the trend toward a more humane existence (e.g. the decrease in violence over history, the increasing development of humane features such as empathy across the human population).
“Retaliation/Unconditional”- This essay deals with the two dominant themes that have shaped human thought and behavior more than others. It looks at their lines of descent through history, and outcomes in human society. Retaliation summarizes all that was wrong with the human past, including the major error of the ancients in projecting this feature onto ultimate realities (i.e. onto forces/spirits/gods). Unconditional response and relating summarizes the grand liberation into a truly human future. It defines the essential nature of authentic humanity and authentic human existence.
Comment From Discussion Group
“A critical part of what we are trying to do here with unconditional has to do with how this insight corrects the deeply embedded errors in human narratives, things that have become deeply rooted in human subconscious and impact human thinking, feeling, and response in a negative manner. Errors that reinforce the worst of inherited drives, guilt, shame, fear, and violence. Unconditional cleanses human subconscious of all such things. It reshapes the deepest themes of our worldviews, our outlook or perspective. And then it leavens human consciousness with a new ideal, a humanizing ideal, an enlightening ideal. Unconditional is the most humanizing, most robust, most courageous thing ever discovered. The most liberating ideal (liberating from the basest features of our primitive past).”
“There is a good thought in this comment from Hank, ‘Love cannot generate fear’. Some things in human thought and life are just better than others for generating good in life. I was thinking of environmental alarmism and the damage it causes to life. The fear, angst, waste, anti-human sentiment, and anti-progress activism. And so over history- people have said things and done things that deflate hope, undermine love (e.g. the tribal love of most religion), and so much more that is less than fully human. So many ideas, actions, and movements that have not contributed the best for humanity and life. So what things to say and do that will contribute good to life. Remembering that we are always in a position of imperfect knowledge, always learning and growing. But something like unconditional love is an absolute pinnacle of safety. You cannot go wrong with such an ideal. It cannot generate any evil. It keeps you safe in a place of generating only good for life and humanity”.
“Regarding my argument that unconditional love is the very foundation of civilization and commerce…Remember how it all began, with trading. The ancients learned to overcome those tribal urges to retaliate and get even with enemies/others over all sorts of slights and offenses. They recognized that if they forgave and cooperated then all would benefit. That was the beginning of trade, domestication, urbanization, and commerce in general, and hence, human civilization. It was all based fundamentally on unconditional response and relating, no matter how embryonic or primitive at the time”.
Humanity’s greatest mistake
One error in early human beliefs stands above all others- the creation of retaliating and punitive gods (see, for example, Sumerian Flood mythology, Wikipedia). That profoundly mistaken perception of deity has infected and poisoned human understanding, belief, and consciousness in general, throughout subsequent history. It has endlessly burdened people with unnecessary fear, anxiety, and despair.
Also noteworthy in regard to this angry gods mythology is the fact that inhumanity projected onto deity has long been used to validate the same inhumanity toward other people. Deity is the highest authority that people appeal to for validation of their behavior.
The error of retaliatory/punitive deity then led to the creation of apocalyptic mythology- the belief in an ultimate act of divine retaliation or punishment that would end the world. Apocalyptic subsequently shaped the belief systems of most religions in both Western and Eastern traditions (see Mircea Eliade’s History of Religious Ideas and related research). It became the fundamental framework of Christianity (see James Tabor’s “Paul and Jesus”, notably the statements that Christianity is Paul’s religion and that apocalyptic shaped everything that Paul said and did).
Myths of punishing gods also sparked the creation of Salvationism- religious schemes to appease and please the angry gods, often by the offering of sacrifice. Salvationism views people as fallen or sinful, and claims that this human imperfection angers the gods and some atonement must be made. With their dismal view of humanity as corrupted, salvation religions then promote shame and guilt over being human. They engage endless effort to control and restrain flawed people who they believe cannot be trusted with freedom. We also see this today in the anti-development activism of environmentalism, a movement that similarly views people as corrupt and in need of top down restraint.
Environmentalism embodies an apocalyptic orientation in its views that life was more pristine before humanity (original golden age), corrupt people have ruined the original paradise, and now we face a looming environmental collapse or apocalypse. Apocalyptic mythology finds endless new expression in varied scenarios of looming chaos, catastrophe, or disaster, whether environmental, economic, political, or social.
Humanity’s greatest discovery
There is no greater discovery in history than the discovery of unconditional at the very heart of all reality. This liberating insight counters entirely humanity’s worst error- that retaliation and punishment defined the core of reality (i.e. ultimate forces/spirits that were punitive).
Unconditional also revolutionizes our views of humanity. We can now apprehend that humanity shares the same unconditional essence as that of ultimate reality (variously referred to as Universal Mind, Consciousness, Spirit, Intelligence, Self, Universe, Being of Light, or God).
And here is the great contradiction between unconditional ultimate reality and religion. Historically, all religion has been about conditional reality- the correct beliefs, sacrifices, rituals, life style, taboos, and rules to appease and please the gods. Religion has always affirmed the orientation to conditional thinking and existence in society (i.e. justice as payback, eye for eye).
This is entirely contrary to the discovery that ultimate reality is unconditional in its essential nature. Religion, therefore, does not and cannot correctly represent the unconditional love that is ultimate reality or God (unconditional meaning absolutely no conditions, none). Religion, as conditional existence, is completely opposite to that. And this is especially true of a religion like Christianity that advocates a supreme condition in its Christ myth. That myth is about the demand for an infinite sacrifice- that of a God-man- to meet the demand for infinite punishment for human sin. This is the height of conditional thinking/reality. Christianity’s theology is also entirely opposite to the original unconditional gospel of Jesus (see essay “Retaliation/Unconditional”).
Admittedly, religions like Christianity have tried to embrace something of unconditional (as in the teaching of the historical Jesus) but they have only ended up distorting the liberating power of authentic unconditional love and burying its wonder in their larger conditional framework.
Further, any discussion of unconditional reality or existence needs to acknowledge the responsibility of people to fulfill commonly agreed on social obligations and to protect the full range of rights of all people. Unconditional is not an advocacy for extremist pacifism of any sort. Nonetheless, unconditional can still freely permeate all of human response and relating.
The above themes are part of a larger endeavor to understand grand narratives and their impacts on human consciousness and human societies. In the material below and in listed essays I have isolated out core ideas in our narratives (e.g. retaliation, punishment, unconditional) and traced their lines of descent and varied expressions over history. Historical research shows that many primitive religious ideas are endlessly revised and reformulated in newer versions, and given expression even in contemporary secular systems of thought like environmentalism.
Some fun for the day
Three dogs were sitting in the waiting room at the vet’s when they struck up a conversation. The Black Labrador turned to the yellow Labrador and said, “So why are you here?” The yellow Lab replied, “I’m a pisser. I piss on everything….the sofa, the curtains, the cat, the kids. But the final straw was last night when I pissed in the middle of my owner’s bed.” The black Lab said, ” So what’s the vet going to do ?” “Gonna cut my nuts off,” came the reply from the yellow Lab. “They reckon it’ll calm me down.”
The Yellow Lab then turned to the Black Lab and asked, “Why are you here?” The Black Lab said, “I’m a digger. I dig under fences, dig up flowers and trees, I dig just for the hell of it. When I’m inside, I dig up the carpets. But I went over the line last night when I dug a great big hole in my owners’ couch.” “So what are they going to do to you?” the Yellow Lab inquired. “Looks like I’m losing my nuts too,” the dejected Black Lab said.
The Black Lab then turned to the Great Dane and asked, “Why are you here? “I’m a humper,” said the Great Dane. “I’ll hump anything. I’ll hump the cat, a pillow, the table, fence posts, whatever. I want to hump everything I see.” Yesterday my owner had just got out of the shower and she was bending down to dry her toes, and I just couldn’t help myself. I hopped on her back and started hammering away.” The Black and the Yellow Labs exchanged a sad glance and said, “So, it’s nuts off for you too, huh?”
The Great Dane said, “No, apparently I’m here to get my nails clipped! ”
Two Grand Narratives of Cosmos/Life/Humanity
Humanity has produced two especially notable grand narratives of reality/life over history. The following points to several prominent themes that illustrate the profound contrast between these two meta-narratives. This is not to oversimplify the complexity of human belief systems or worldviews. This is intended to focus attention and clarify the more dominant elements and their impact on human consciousness over the millennia. This is necessary because the themes of the old narrative have become deeply embedded in human worldviews and subconscious. They continue to re-emerge in contemporary secular systems of thought like environmental alarmism. They continue to darken and enslave consciousness even in the present.
The old mythical/religious story:
It set forth the fundamental trajectory of life as beginning with paradise/perfection and then declining toward something worse than before. It claims that the future ends with an apocalyptic punishment, a grand retaliation toward humanity for failure (in secularized versions- the revenge of GAIA).
It views humanity as essentially corrupt, as destroyers, and as creatures degrading toward something more corrupt with time. It views human relating too often in terms of retaliation and punishment (eye for eye justice).
It claims that the resolution to the decline of life and threatened final punishment is to be found in religious myths of violent blood sacrifice required to appease the angry and punitive forces/spirits behind life (atonement Salvationism). The retaliatory forces/spirits are sending history toward an apocalyptic ending so some salvation response must be engaged.
Key themes- corrupt humanity, divine retaliation and punishment, decline and ending of life.
The new scientifically-informed universe story:
It sets forth the fundamental trajectory of life as beginning with something more chaotic and undeveloped but rising toward something better than before (more organized, more complex, more advanced). It sees the future as wide open and continually developing or progressing toward an ever-improving existence.
It views humanity as essentially good, as creators, and as creatures developing toward something more humane with time (Payne, Pinker- overwhelming evidence affirms human improvement). It views human relating in terms of non-retaliation and unlimited forgiveness/inclusion/generosity.
It does not propose any salvation scheme but rather the appreciation that creative and good humanity will solve all problems that arise and pass on something ever better to future generations. It views the forces/spirits behind life as defined by unconditional love (not threatening any punishment, not demanding any appeasement or payment).
Key themes- improving humanity, no retaliation or punishment, rise and endless improvement of life.
The Ultimate Resource- Sample quotes from the life-changing optimism of Julian Simon
“You will find that just about every single indicator of the quality of life shows improvement rather than the deterioration that the doomsayers claim has occurred. And things have gotten better for the poor as well as the rich, … humanity is in a much better state than ever before…
“The world’s problem is not too many people but lack of political and economic freedom…the key idea of the book…is this: Greater consumption due to an increase in population and growth of income heightens scarcity and induces price run-ups. A higher price represents an opportunity that leads inventors and business-people to seek new ways to satisfy the shortages. Some fail, at cost to themselves. A few succeed, and the final result is that we end up better off than if the original shortage problems had never arisen…
“Every forecast of the doomsayers has turned out flat wrong. Metals, foods, and other natural resources have become more available rather than more scarce throughout the centuries…But the content of everyday newspaper and television reporting on these matters remain almost one-sidedly doom-saying with urgent calls for government intervention…
“Freeman Dyson writes, ‘Boiled down to one sentence, my message is the unboundedness of life and the consequent unboundedness of human destiny’…the ultimate constraint is not energy but rather information. Because we can increase the stock of information without limit, there is no need to consider our existence finite…
“The vision which underlies and unifies the various topics is that of human beings who create more than they destroy…
“The longer run is a very different story than the shorter run. The standard of living has risen along with the size of the world’s population since the beginning of recorded time. And with increases in income and population have come less severe shortages, lower costs, and an increased availability of resources, including a cleaner environment and greater access to natural recreation areas. And there is no convincing economic reason why these trends toward a better life… should not continue indefinitely…Contrary to common rhetoric, there are no meaningful limits to the continuation of this process…There is no physical or economic reason why human resourcefulness and enterprise cannot forever continue to respond to impending shortages and existing problems with new expedients that, after an adjustment period, leave us better off than before the problem arose…
“The new scientific worldview…assures us that there are no limits to what we and our descendants can hope to achieve and become.”
Simon’s genius- to find the true state of something look at the longest term trends and the entirety of that thing, the complete picture. And why bother finding out the true state of life? “I part company with the doomsayers in that they expect us to come to a bad end despite the efforts we make, whereas I expect a continuation of humanity’s successful efforts. And I believe that their message is self-fulfilling, because if you expect your efforts to fail because of inexorable natural limits, then you are likely to feel resigned, and therefore to literally resign. But if you recognize the possibility- in fact the probability- of success, you can tap large reservoirs of energy and enthusiasm… The ultimate resource is people- skilled, spirited, and hopeful people- who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit as well as in a spirit of faith and social concern”.
I would add that Simon challenged the fear over population growth (i.e. population “explosion”, population “bomb”) as unwarranted. He argued that more minds meant more creative solutions to problems. Population growth was overall a benefit to the world and not a threat to life.
Steven Pinker’s Research on the Amazing Decline in Violence Over History: A sampling of quotes and summaries from his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature”
“This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. Believe it or not…violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species existence…we started off nasty and the artifices of civilization have moved us in a noble direction, one in which we can hope to continue…”
Popular media do little to help us appreciate the decline in violence. “Our cognitive faculties predispose us to believe that we live in violent times, especially when they are stoked by media that follow the watchword ‘If it bleeds, it leads’…a large swath of our intellectual culture is loath to admit that there could be anything good about civilization, modernity, and Western society”.
Comparing the more violent past with today, he notes data from a variety of past societies- rates of violent death- and says, “The death rates range from 0 to 60 percent, with an average of 15 percent”. He then notes that the rate of death from war (violent death) was 3 percent for the first half of the 20th Century, and less than 1 percent for the last half of the 20th Century. Most of the violent death in the 20th Century was due to a few people (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) and does not reflect the rate of violence among general populations. Average people have experienced remarkable declines in all types of violence. Western societies in particular have seen a notable decline in annual homicide rates, from about 20 per 100,000 in 1300 CE to about 1 per 100,000 today (see research of Manuel Eisner).
Pinker then states, “Beginning in the 11th or 12th Centuries and maturing in the 17th and 18th, Europeans increasingly inhibited their impulses, anticipated the long-term consequences of their actions, and took other people’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. A culture of honor- the readiness to take revenge- gave way to a culture of dignity- the readiness to control one’s emotions…Western and Central Europe make up the least violent region in the world today. Among the other states with credible low rates of homicide are those carved out of the British Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, the Maldives, and Bermuda”.
He details such things as the role of commerce in humanizing people more. This is entirely contrary to popular perceptions that commerce dehumanizes us with a dog-eat-dog approach. Evidence reveals that when we engage in commercial activity with one another we learn to inhibit our more violent impulses and behave more cooperatively. The reason is simple enough, “If you’re trading favors or surpluses with someone, your trading partner suddenly becomes more valuable to you alive than dead…Though many intellectuals, following in the footsteps of Saints Augustine and Jerome, hold businesspeople in contempt for their selfishness and greed, in fact a free market puts a premium on empathy. A good businessperson has to keep the customers satisfied or a competitor will woo them away…(quoting an economist of the past) ‘Commerce attaches people to one another through mutual utility…through commerce man learns to be deliberate, to be honest, to acquire manners, to be prudent and reserved in both talk and actions. Sensing the necessity to be wise and honest in order to succeed, he flees vice’”. This is known as the moralizing influence of gentle commerce.
The historical decline in violence, called the Humanitarian Revolution by Pinker, is marked by a change in human sensibilities, notably by the increase in empathy. “People began to sympathize with more of their fellow humans, and were no longer indifferent to their suffering…People started to place a higher value on human life. Part of this newfound appreciation was an emotional change; a habit of identifying with the pains and pleasures of others”. Pinker notes that this new empathy was probably due to the wide spread circulation and reading of books/novels that set forth in detail the lives and experiences of people in far away places. This “created an illusion of first-person immediacy, encouraging people to empathize with the suffering of others…seeing the world through another person’s eyes expands empathy and concern…the reading of fiction is an empathy expander and a force toward humanitarian progress”.
Various other factors play a role in the historical decline of violence: “Cultures that are classified as more individualistic, where people feel they are individuals with the right to pursue their own goals, have relatively less domestic violence against women than the cultures classified as collectivist, where people feel they are part of a community whose interests take precedence over their own…the decline of violence against women in the West has been pushed along by a humanist mindset that elevates the rights of individual people over the traditions of the community, and that increasingly embraces the vantage point of women”.
The ongoing development of empathy in humanity has also spread to our treatment of animals and rights for animals.
Overcoming the impulse to revenge is another critical element in declining violence. “The act of unconditional forgiveness can flick a duo that has been trapped in a cycle of mutual defection back onto the path of cooperation”.
He also notes how destructive the commitment to ideology has been, “with an ideology, the end is idealistic, a conception of the greater good…its ideology that drive many of the worst things that people have ever done to each other”. Noting the Crusades, Wars of Religion, French Revolution, Russian and Chinese civil wars, the Holocaust, Vietnam, the genocides of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, Pinker states regarding ideology, “the infinite good it promises prevents its true believers from cutting a deal. It allows any number of eggs to be broken to make the utopian omelet. And it renders opponents of the ideology infinitely evil and hence deserving of infinite punishment”.
Classic liberalism is praised by Pinker for its humanizing values and practices- “freedom of individuals from tribal and authoritarian force, and a tolerance of personal choices as long as they do not infringe on the autonomy and well-being of others”. This liberalism has also encouraged more openness to immigration, free trade, less protectionism, less make-work policies, and less government intervention in business. It opposes populist, nationalist and communist mindsets that “see the world’s wealth as zero-sum and infer that the enrichment of one group must come at the expense of another…The idea that an exchange of benefits can turn zero-sum warfare into positive-sum mutual profit was one of the key ideas of the Enlightenment”.
Pinker closes with these comments, “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species”. He then notes that “the loathing of modernity is one of the great constants of contemporary social criticism”. The critics of modernity claim that technology has given us alienation, despoliation, social pathology, the loss of meaning, and a consumer culture that is destroying the planet. These critics ignore the positives of modernity that include “transformation of human life by science, technology and reason, with the attendant diminishment of custom, faith, community, traditional authority”. These people, says Pinker, “show that nostalgia for a peaceable past is the biggest delusion of all”.
Baby Boomer Interlude
Baby boomers were intensely focused on their emerging virility in the 60s and hence the vaunted sexual revolution of that time. But that led to a notable loss of balance over what matters in life. Now as Baby Boomers age, they have maintained this concern over their virility but have again neglected to maintain a sense of balance. So they have invested a lot of their money in discoveries like Viagra in order to maintain sexual prowess but have neglected other important things like dementia research.
The result today is the horrifying spectacle of aging Baby Boomers walking around with huge erections but having no clue what to do with them.
Example…Baby Boomer pleading with wife, “Honey, what is this?”
Exasperated wife responding, “Oh, go take a cold shower and go to bed and leave me alone. I have my bowl of chocolates and I’m busy watching my favorite shows”.
Site Focus: The Most Fundamental Questions We Can Ask
What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of authentic human existence? And what themes remain embedded in our contemporary worldviews that are less than human… ideas that darken, distort, and enslave human consciousness?
I have responded to these questions and concerns by focusing on the following themes:
1. Understanding and Re-Defining Ultimate Realities (Retaliation or Unconditional?): Ancient people projected the features of retaliation and punishment onto their gods. That was the worst error made by early humanity. That perverse perception of threatening and punitive deity has shaped the theology of most religion over history and has even infected contemporary secular systems of thought (e.g. revenge of GAIA or angry planet mythology). The myth of punishing gods stirs primal human fear and pushes people to adopt irrational salvation schemes that cause immense harm to populations and societies. I have engaged thoroughly the corrective response of unconditional love as defining the core of reality and life. This presents a powerful challenge to most religion and religious theology. Unconditional liberates human consciousness from all that is less than fully human.
2. Grand Historical Narratives and Their Impacts: Apocalyptic mythology- i.e. the decline of life from a better past and the looming catastrophic ending of life as the ultimate punishment from punitive gods- has been one of the most dominant and damaging narratives in human history. But there is a mass of research supporting the counter narrative of ongoing progress in life, which is evidence of unconditional goodness behind all things.
3. The Actual Trajectory of Life- Decline or Rise?: Environmental alarmism is a contemporary secularized version of primitive apocalyptic and has had an immensely damaging impact on human progress. Fortunately, we have some excellent response to this alarmism from progress researchers like Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource), Greg Easterbrook (Moment on the Earth), Bjorn Lomborg (Skeptical Environmentalist), Matt Ridley (Rational Optimist), James Payne (History of Force), Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature), and others.
4. Corruptors or Creators?: Join me also in taking a closer look at the distorting belief that humanity is a corrupting force in life, and the counter narrative that affirms the wonder of being consciously human and views humanity as a creative force in life. And much more.
Overall, this site presents evidence that affirms optimism regarding humanity and our future. This contrasts with the too often anti-science orientation of alarmist and apocalyptic narratives of despair. On this site you will get some of the best and latest information and insights from the history of human research, discovery, and ideas. There is no greater discovery in all of history than the discovery of unconditional goodness at the core of reality (see below). This is also a stunning new advance in understanding the nature of authentic human being and existence.
Borrowing the story framework of Joseph Campbell (going out, facing monsters/problems, learning lessons) I am tackling some of the more grotesque monsters in history (i.e. threatening or punishing forces/gods) in order to promote liberation at the deepest possible levels of mind, emotion, and spirit. We can be physically and socially free yet still enslaved to ideas and perceptions at the core of our subconscious and worldviews, ideas that are less than authentically human. And how we think about or perceive reality (the ideas or beliefs that we hold) powerfully impacts how we feel, how we respond, and the societies that we create.
So in response to the primary human impulse for meaning and purpose, I pose the question to you- What does it really mean to be authentically human?
Two essays in particular contain more pertinent detail in response to the issues listed above- “Decline or Rise?” and “Retaliation and Unconditional” (see topic bar above).
Further, let me affirm that the best evidence and insights point conclusively to one thing- everything is going to be all right, ultimately, for everyone.
Remembering Nelson Mandela: the South African ambassador said the other day on CNN, “He set people free to be human”. Free from bitterness, hate, and the drive to revenge. Free to forgive, include, and love. What a great human spirit.
This from another columnist: “In his jailhouse memoirs, Mandela wrote that even after spending so many years in a spartan cell on Robben Island – with one visitor a year and one letter every six months – he still had faith in human nature.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion,” he wrote in “Long Walk to Freedom.”
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The Personal Cost of Unconditional Forgiveness
Nelson Mandela did a profoundly human thing. He could have come out of prison a bitter man at losing the best years of his life, years having not been able to see his children grow up. He could have sought revenge against his enemies and taken his country into violent civil war. But instead he chose to forgive his enemies and to include them in a new society. How contrary to the response of the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims (around that same time) who turned to hate, revenge, and bloody slaughter following the breakup of their country. As did the people of Rwanda, and far too many others that have given way to vengeance and violence.
The forgiveness that Mandela chose was at great personal cost to many people. If you can find it somewhere, take a look at the documentary Bill Moyers did years ago on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee set up by Mandela. It was not an endeavor to dismiss the atrocities committed under apartheid but to allow offenders to come forward, admit to their actions, and find reconciliation with their new society (a sort of restorative justice approach).
There is one scene in the documentary that is absolutely emotionally wrenching. White policemen are appearing at the front of a room to take responsibility for their excessive violence toward demonstrators. African mothers are at the back of the room crying, and waiting to hear their former oppressors admit to wrong for having killed their children as they fled a demonstration. The policemen refuse to admit to any wrong, arguing that they were just following orders and doing their jobs. In response to their stubborn refusal to admit to unnecessary cruelty toward the children, the mothers begin wailing. It is an expression of heart-broken human pain almost unbearable to watch. Their young children were shot in the back as they fled a demonstration, unarmed.
The film crew let one of the mothers speak directly to the camera after the hearing had ended. She cried something to this effect, as I remember, “We know we must forgive because it is what God expects of us. But it is so hard”. Especially when the offenders will not admit to having committed any wrong.
But what a gift those women have given to their families and to the memory of their departed children. What a gift to all of humanity. They embraced the authentic humanity of unconditional treatment of others, even enemies. They were willing to forgive the worst of crimes against their own children. And they have made the world a better place and lifted us all toward a better existence. Unconditional treatment of others, despite their actions, liberates us all toward something more humane. It liberates us from the endless dead-end cycles of tit for tat violence that have plagued human existence. We owe those brave mothers more than can ever be repaid for their courageous examples. Their inexpressible pain inspires the rest of us to embrace the cost of choosing a more humane way of life.
(And again, as noted repeatedly in the material below, unconditional response toward others does not diminish the responsibility to protect the innocent, hold one another accountable for actions and consequences, and to restrain those unable or unwilling to control their own worst impulses, especially to violence)
The Ultimate Insight
It is the most profound and liberating insight/ideal ever expressed in all the history of human thought and discovery. “Love your enemies because God does”. This is the core message of the historical Jesus (the non-Christian Jesus).
“Love your enemies because God does”. This statement summarizes the fuller version found in Matthew 5:38-48. It is an ethical challenge based on a stunning theological breakthrough. The historical Jesus was the first in history to repudiate entirely the old view of retaliating/punishing gods for a new view of God as non-retaliating, non-punitive. This is a stunning change in perspective to inspire a stunning change in human behavior. And it is entirely opposite to Christianity’s retaliatory deity.
His statement, “Love your enemies”, has been called a “hard saying”. Perhaps the hardest of all sayings found anywhere in human ethical teaching. However, it takes thought, theology, and ethics to entirely new heights of humanity or humaneness. It opens the way to authentic human response, relating, and existence as nothing else does. It gets us to the very core meaning of unconditional love. It then liberates human consciousness as nothing else ever has from the darkness of enslaving drives to hate, retaliate, and punish, drives that have brought so much misery and suffering to life.
Love your enemies is simply the greatest insight and ideal in all history. It is a courageous expression of the essential meaning of life, to treat every person with unconditional acceptance and generosity. This is something that religion has always derailed with its conditional and retaliatory treatment of enemies (forgiveness and inclusion for believers, rejection and hell for unbelievers).
Someone recently left a bag in a shopping mall and sparked a bomb scare. Mall security cautiously approached the bag and discovered that it contained burritos. They were then able to calm shoppers by reminding them that burritos were only explosive after they were eaten.
One can be scientific if it tries. The other is primitive religion- too often what we have come to know as “green” extremism and fanaticism.
Let me state it another way…
There is a healthy concern for the environment that every human being possesses naturally. Every person is an environmentalist (see environmental transition comment below).
And then there is environmental alarmism (known commonly as environmentalism), a state of agitated extremism that sees crisis and catastrophe everywhere in “fragile” nature. This panicky state of fear-mongering reminds one of Chicken Little’s hysteria over every rattle and squeak in the acorn tree (her global wind alarmism over falling acorns).
Environmental alarmism now has a solid resume of repeated exaggeration and distortion of the state of nature. The latest addition to the CV (resume) is alarmism over climate change, the most natural thing on the earth, with a history now of some 4 billion plus years.
Note some of the more notorious exaggerated scares of the past few decades:
Rachel Carson’s alarmism over chemicals and DDT (see DDT FAQS at the Junkscience.org website).
Global cooling panic in the 70s. Yes. It was just more natural climate change which has been occurring for over four billion years.
Population explosion and mass famine panic. Not to panic. More minds means more creative solutions to problems that arise.
Deforestation and denuded planet alarm. 70 years of data show this was never a crisis issue (Skeptical Environmentalist, p. 111).
Ocean fisheries exhausted and collapsing by 2048 panic. Former leading fisheries alarmist, Boris Worm, has backed off this one.
Species holocaust with half of all species extinct by 2100. Ultimate Resource, ch. 31. There never was a species holocaust caused by humanity.
Agricultural land degradation and food crisis. Another exaggerated crisis. And more.
Welcome to the world of endless apocalyptic nuttiness.
Most media love the alarmist narrative because it suits perfectly their own primary orientation to creating fear (see David Altheide’s Creating Fear: media and the manufacture of crisis). As Altheide notes, media are not truth seekers but entertainers lusting for market share. They love alarmism just as comedians love the walking disaster called Rob Ford.
Now admit it- didn’t environmentalists play a useful role over the past few decades in warning the public about problems in varied areas of nature? Yes they did. But so did market forces and businesses play a useful role in environmental improvement. It has been shown, for instance, that air quality in US cities was already improving before the enactment of the Clean Air Act. That is because all people want clean air and businesses will take action to ensure they meet such demands. If they don’t, they won’t be around for long.
And what about markets and businesses notably reducing CO2 emissions in the US over the past few years by transitioning to shale gas, via fracking? Environmentalists have actually opposed this transition. Go figure. And of course, the reduction in CO2 is only to be viewed as a benefit if you accept the theory that rising CO2 is a problem in the first place (see Climate Change update above).
But let me continue this line of thought that we are all environmentalists now.
Whenever you skeptically challenge environmental alarmism you open yourself to the dismissive putdown of being called a “denier”, something akin to holocaust deniers. That is the pathetic anti-science state that environmental alarmism has come to. Remember, modern science actually began with skepticism- the honorable skepticism of people like Galileo and Copernicus.
Environmental alarmists would also like the public to believe that they alone hold authentic concern for nature and they alone speak authoritatively on environmental issues.
Nonsense. Every human on the planet is an environmentalist. Everyone is genuinely concerned about our world, nature, or our environment. The proof that we are all natural environmentalists comes from things like the “environmental transition” research (similar to Environmental Kuznets Curve research, see, for instance, http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/2714#.UqjHkDh3uM8 ). This research shows that when people are wealthy enough to meet their basic needs they then automatically turn to improving their environments (the “tipping point” figure on this used to be around $8,000 annual income). Trying to halt economic growth and development, as environmentalists regularly do, will maintain poverty which is the greatest destroyer of the environment.
And nobody denies that there are environmental issues and problems that need ongoing attention and resolution. All of us can see that. Protecting the environment is a widespread and legitimate social concern that should have the attention of everyone.
What needs to be challenged more specifically is environmental alarmism and it’s all too common unscientific exaggeration and distortion regarding the varied elements of nature. Environmental alarmism has consistently denied masses of good evidence that show another side to environmental issues, that of ongoing improvement and progress in all the major elements of life. Environmental alarmism has too often been a rejection of science for apocalyptic mythology, with its consistent 100% historical failure rate.
To get at the true state of the world (or any particular element of the world) we must embrace so-called skeptical viewpoints and remain open to all evidence, from all sides. That is fundamental to good, basic science. As noted above, environmental alarmists have too often tried to shut down contrary evidence and discussion, labelling skeptics and their counter positions as “deniers” unworthy of inclusion in public debate. This is a shameful denial of basic science. For detail on the shoddy anti-science methodology of alarmism see the essay Rise or Decline and specifically note the chapter on apocalyptic methodology. The unscientific alarmist approach focuses on isolated examples that do not represent larger populations or situations, and aberrational short term reversals to long term trends. This is not only shoddy science but at times borders on the deceptive or fraudulent.
Alarmists have repetitively expressed their views on varied issues in the excessively exaggerated terms of apocalyptic mythology, distorting environmental situations as portents of looming collapse (“tipping points”) and the end of all. This is done to frighten the public into adopting solutions that have been consistently harmful, not only to economies and people, but also to the environment. Note, for example, the bio-fuels fiasco built on alarm over the use of fossil fuels. Alarmists tried to shift people away from fossil fuels to bio-fuels and ended up causing immense suffering to the poorest people across the world (unnecessary rise in food prices), and this alarm also set in motion forces that led to more unnecessary deforestation.
And as noted above, and repeatedly below, take a good look at Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism and the horrific consequence in the unnecessary deaths of multiple millions of people, mostly children.
Too many elements of political ideology have tainted environmental alarmism and undermined good science. And more importantly, there is that mind-darkening influence of primitive mythology- apocalyptic mythology- that has shaped environmental alarmism into the unscientific and distorting movement that it has now become. This page details a lot of this background mythology behind historical alarmist movements like environmentalism.
To summarize- the public narrative of environmental alarmism has been that too many people are consuming too many resources (human economic growth and development) and this is leading to the collapse of nature and the looming end of civilization. But masses of good evidence reveal a counter narrative that shows something quite different (e.g. Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, and others). The evidence shows that growing populations offer life a growing number of intelligent minds that come up with unlimited creative solutions to all problems and the result is that life improves for all. And as humanity is freed from poverty by economic growth and development, people are then able to care more for their environment and so nature benefits specifically from human economic growth and development. Again, see Rise or Decline for detail.
Unconditional Goodness: A liberating new ethical and theological perspective (part of a larger trend to humanize all of human understanding, that is, to make it more humane)
There is an emerging and still developing discovery spreading through public consciousness that is absolutely the most profound perception or insight in all the history of human thought. It is the discovery that unconditional goodness is at the very core of all reality and life. Unconditional goodness defines everything in the most essential manner.
Now why not use the adjective unconditional as it is commonly paired with love (i.e. unconditional love)? I prefer unconditional goodness with the understanding that it encompasses the full range of meanings related to unconditional, including such things as unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, unconditional mercy, and unconditional generosity, etc. But even more than this I want to focus in more exclusively on the word unconditional itself with the intention to clarify what it actually means. You would think that it explains itself, but unfortunately there is a lot of distorting religious use of this term in contexts that include religious conditions. That only confuses the real meaning of unconditional.
The insight of unconditional, when simply taken for what it says, revolutionizes entirely the human perception of ultimate reality. All past understanding of ultimate forces/spirits viewed those gods as threatening and punishing beings that demanded payment for wrongs committed (i.e. the condition of blood sacrifice to pay for sin/failure). The gods were oriented to conditions or demands that humans had to fulfill in order to be forgiven, accepted, or to be assisted by the gods. But unconditional overturns all such perceptions with the affirmation that ultimate reality is entirely unconditional. And unconditional means just what it says- absolutely no conditions. None.
In addition to ultimate reality, unconditional also revolutionizes other areas of thought, perception, meaning, ethics, and even justice as nothing else has ever done. For instance, most of past human understanding of justice has been oriented to payback conditions- reward the good, punish the bad. However, an Akkadian father (2200 BCE) made a breakthrough in arguing for no payback toward enemies that had done wrong (do not return evil to your enemy). Later Hebrew thinkers, along with other traditions (e.g. Hindu), also rejected payback conditions, arguing that God did not want sacrifice, but rather mercy. So over antiquity there was scattered opposition to conventional views of justice as payback.
This non-retaliation response was then taken further by the historical Jesus, an entirely different person from the Christian conditionally oriented Christ. Jesus was the first to clearly establish the linkage of unconditional ethics to unconditional theology. He advocated that there should be no more eye for eye response but rather love for enemies because God loves enemies. Treat all unconditionally, he stated, because God treats all unconditionally. This message is entirely opposite to the teaching of Christianity which advocates conditional atonement and conditional treatment of people (i.e. love and inclusion for believers who meet the conditions of the Christian gospel, but exclusion or hell for non-believers who refuse to meet the Christian conditions).
Unconditional elevates human response and relating as nothing else ever has. It ends all exclusion of the bad, all insider or in-group favoritism, all tribal separation and exclusion. All persons are to be treated as intimate family. All are to be fully included, fully forgiven, and offered the same full generosity. Unconditional eliminates entirely the concept of enemy, outsider, or other, along with the dualism of good and bad people.
My extravagant use of “all” above is necessary to even get close to the scandalous wonder that is unconditional. An infinitely extravagant and scandalous reality demands extravagant and scandalous expression.
Unconditional then liberates as nothing else can. It liberates from the basest features of our animal past- the encouraged sense of offense when wronged, the subsequent felt rage, hate, vengeance, the desire to punish, and the intention to destroy enemies.
Unconditional is the most brilliant light ever to dispel the darkness in the deepest recesses of consciousness and subconscious. It cleanses human perception from any residual darkening inhumanity. It flushes out the deepest human fears, anxieties, and embedded despair. It touches and inspires the most profound human impulses for meaning and purpose. It promises ultimate acceptance, safety, and bliss to everyone as nothing else ever has.
Once again, unconditional needs to be taken just for what it is- absolutely no conditions, none. This revolutionary insight overturns the core themes of traditional mythology, religion, and justice. It blows the foundations out from under religious and mythological thinking which has always been conditional (i.e. how to appease and please the gods). It lifts the meaning of authentic humanity to entirely new heights. It impacts with a brilliant and liberating light all areas of human thought, understanding, meaning, and purpose.
So much contradictory religious use of this term has dulled the wonder that it naturally engenders when embraced for what it is. Fortunately, things like the NDE movement of the past few decades have brought us a new appreciation of its meaning and profundity. Unconditional love in ultimate reality (God) is something infinitely better than the best that we can imagine or express. It inspires us to be scandalously merciful and generous in our treatment of others and it overturns completely our understanding of conventional justice.
Unconditional love gets us to new heights of authentic humanity or humaneness. It defines the very core or essence of ultimate reality in a stunning new manner. You could safely conclude that anything less is not truly humane and therefore not ultimately true or ultimately real.
And if you find yourself offended by the real nature of unconditional then you are getting some sense of what it actually means. It does offend conventional perception of things like justice and the felt right to get even, to pay back and hurt offenders. And to those who argue that unconditional is a weak and mushy response to evil, I would argue that it stirs the most powerful human impulses, impulses to act as authentically human, including the most powerful of all urges, the empathic impulse to protect the innocent. It is therefore a potent response to evil. Also, traditional payback or punishing responses to wrong have not worked as expected (see the Australian Psychological Society paper in the essay “Retaliation and Unconditional”). They only perpetuate the endless degenerating cycles of tit for tat misery.
And with any discussion of such an unconventional ideal it may be helpful to qualify that unconditional does not entail irrational pacifism. And it does not mean abandoning our normal responsibilities as members of society. But all of this may be permeated by the fresh approach of unconditional treatment of one another.
Also, see further below for more detail on how unconditional goodness counters the root error behind apocalyptic mythology and alarmism. Humanity’s greatest insight robustly corrects humanity’s greatest error.
Some Lighter Theology This may change your mind on re-incarnation.
A couple made a deal that whoever died first would come back and inform the other if there is sex after death.
Their biggest fear was that there was no after-life at all.
After a long life together, the husband was the first to die. True to his word, he made the first contact:
” Marion …. Marion… ”
“Is that you, Bob?”
“Yes, I’ve come back like we agreed.”
“That’s wonderful! What’s it like?”
“Well, I get up in the morning, I have sex. I have breakfast and then it’s off to the golf course.
“Then I have sex again, bathe in the warm sun and then have sex a couple of more times.
“Then I have lunch (you’d be proud – lots of greens). Another romp around the golf course, then pretty much have sex the rest of the afternoon. After supper, it’s back to golf course again.
“Then it’s more sex until late at night. I catch some much needed sleep and then the next day it starts all over again”
“Oh, Bob! Are you in Heaven?”
“No. I’m a rabbit in Kent.”
A Big Picture Approach: Getting to the very root of things- retaliation and unconditional
I am interested in the big picture of the development of human consciousness across history. This is about the larger human story and what themes have shaped human belief systems, mythologies, grand narratives, worldviews, systems of thought, religions, and ideologies. Some themes/ideas (hate, revenge, punishment) have darkened, burdened, and enslaved human minds. The consequent damage to society has been immense. Other ideas or ideals (forgiveness, inclusion, generosity, love) have liberated, inspired, and humanized our minds, and thereby humanized and lifted our societies to a better place. In one sense our history is about learning how to discern between what is human and what is inhuman, how to think correctly, or more humanely.
How we think profoundly impacts how we feel and behave. Our ideas impact the actions that we take or the public movements and policies that we will support. And any study of human history will reveal that certain ideas have been more prominent than others in public narratives (had more profound impacts) and have persisted over time, re-emerging again and again in new or revised versions. For varied reasons they resonate with many people.
I have tried to understand some of the more prominent and damaging of such ideas, along with finding better alternatives, and to trace their evolution down through history.
There is also a personal element to this endeavor. I was brought up in Christianity and took it seriously for several years during my early life. I experienced what it means to be devoutly Christian. And I “suffered” under the yoke of Christianity. So I get religion, fundamentalist Evangelical religion, and its use of the most powerful ideas in history- good, evil, dark, light, God, Satan, heaven, hell, salvation, damnation, and more. Such ideas have profoundly shaped human thought, emotion, and related behavior. I know what those ideas can do to the human psyche and life. I have since spent a lifetime trying to understand what that is all about, how to find freedom from the darker elements of religion, and where to go now. I have tried to answer for myself the big questions- what are more humane alternatives to our religious traditions? What does it mean to be authentically human?
So this gets my juices flowing- what are the most influential themes in our grand narratives (the stories that we live our lives by) and what are their impacts on us and our societies? What is this all about- this ongoing endeavor to distinguish between inhumanity and humanity, between right and wrong, or good and evil?
Now, to help clarify things for people (and for myself, being an ordinary and unsophisticated sort of person) I have isolated out a few of the more prominent themes and their lines of historical descent and linkages down through time. This is not to distort a more complex history but to focus clarity on some very important things.
In the past year or so I have been focusing mainly on two critically prominent themes- retaliation and unconditional. I would suggest that if you get these two clear, and their place in the history of thought/myth/belief, then it will help to understand human history, the human story, life over the millennia, religion, violence, suffering, liberation, progress, and much more. These two get to the essential nature of inhumanity in contrast to authentic humanity. These two themes have battled one another in human consciousness to influence human outlook and behavior and have had immense impact for better or worse in society.
And this also explains to the repeated inclusion here of the Jesus/Christianity contradiction. The contradiction between the original message of the historical Jesus and the very opposite message of Christianity is a sort of historical climax point in the battle between retaliation and unconditional. It illustrates well the larger human story of struggle between retaliation and unconditional response. Our origins were in a violent and retaliatory past. We have over history been making an exodus out of that violent past and toward a more human existence, an existence of unconditional response and relating. Toward a more authentically human world.
Along the way the historical Jesus made a critical breakthrough with his insight that ultimate reality was unconditional love and we should treat others with that same unconditional love (i.e. his statement, Love your enemies because God does). It was a unique theological breakthrough that inspired a unique ethical breakthrough. He rejected retaliation or punitive responses to human imperfection and opted instead for unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, and generosity toward everyone. No exceptions.
But then something astounding happened. His own followers rejected his core message and retreated to a primitive retaliatory position. They chose a retaliatory view of deity and a conditional love that favored insiders and damned outsiders to hell. Paul is most notable here as he was the chief architect of Christianity and he shaped his new religion into a blunt expression of apocalyptic punishment. It was a religion of conditions, conditional love and forgiveness, and conditional treatment of others. His religion has had profound influence in subsequent history, notably in Western consciousness. Christianity has played a major role in maintaining the orientation toward conditional treatment of people in human societies.
So that brave Palestinian peasant (a secular or non-religious sage according to the Jesus Seminar) saw clearly a way of liberation from a primitive past and coherently presented it in core statements and short stories or parables. But his own followers rejected his message and retreated to primitive payback thinking and existence. It is a stunning contradiction at the very heart of Christianity. And yet Christians still insist that they represent the historical Jesus. Go figure, eh.
None of this is to deny that many people find comfort and guidance from their religious beliefs. Many gain such benefit by ignoring the nastier themes of their religion and by focusing on the nicer or more positive elements. In other words, they do not take their religion seriously. They pick and choose. More power to them.
What I am noting however, is that the darker themes that linger in the background of most religious belief systems are often prominent ideas that distort the nicer elements, rendering them less human than they could otherwise be. Those darker ideas then hinder the fullest liberation and expression of the human spirit. And be very clear that the nicer elements in any religion do not originate with religion itself but are common to the general human consciousness that is found everywhere in humanity, whether inside religion or outside. Ideals like unconditional forgiveness, love, and inclusion are human ideals and not exclusively religious ideals or inventions. They originate from human consciousness not from religion which has always been a conditional social institution.
The Mother of all Monsters : some further comment on getting to the fundamental roots of things (a project to humanize all facets of life, and most importantly, the core perceptions at the root of mythological, theological, and ideological systems, or general worldviews)
I have a theory about something that went horribly wrong in early human perception and has distorted public consciousness ever since. Fortunately, we now have the breakthrough insight to correct that error in human thinking.
Taking a cue from Joseph Campbell’s framework for human story (i.e. going out into life, facing and conquering monsters/problems, gaining insights, and returning to benefit others) I would argue that the greatest monster that humanity has ever faced is the primitive perception of ultimate reality/deity as judgmental, tribal and exclusionary, vengeful, and punitive. In other words: the human-created monster of angry, punishing gods. Over history, this belief has shaped the great background template and narrative of public understanding and has influenced all other human fears and anxieties. It sparked the debilitating appeasement response among people (i.e. how to placate the threatening forces/spirits). It has also affirmed other degrading mythology such as the belief in human sinfulness and the widespread guilt over being imperfectly human.
How did early people arrive at such a monstrous theological belief? They believed that there were spiritual forces behind all the elements of life. They then misread the destructiveness of the forces of nature and concluded that these were threatening and retaliatory spirits. This perception was then formed into mythologies of angry gods seeking to punish imperfect and failing humanity through natural disaster, deformity, or disease. We see this perception at the very beginning of human literature in such things as the Sumerian Flood Myth (i.e. a flood as divine punishment for human failings) and the account of Enki being punished with illness (see the Sumerian myth of Dilmun, Wikipedia).
This monstrosity of angry and retaliating gods then became the foundation of all religion as conditional response and existence. Religion emerged as a social institution that would spell out the conditions that were necessary to appease and please the easily upset gods. So the human response to the fear of retaliating spirits was to create conditional religions that would tell people how to think and behave so as not to upset the gods (also known as Salvationism- how to save oneself, humanity, or the world from divine threat). This fear-driven appeasement response is behind all the varied human systems of atonement (the religious belief in required payment for sin or errors). We see this in practices of blood sacrifice and offerings to placate angry gods and gain their favor. This entire salvation/sacrifice industry has been a great burden on humanity in terms of wasted time and resources that could have been better spent on more productive activities. This is especially regrettable when one recognizes that all this religious belief and practice is founded on a horrific error in early human perception.
This monster of a threatening God has long darkened human consciousness and has had incalculable impact on humanity in terms of promoting unnecessary fear, anxiety, and despair. It has enslaved the human spirit and held back creative progress. It has also fostered endless violence as the outcome of punitive justice systems (eye for eye justice) and retaliation/punishment oriented societies. Anthropology has noted that people have long tried to replicate in their lives and societies what they believe is the divine model. For instance, if their understanding of the divine being is oriented to punishment then so also will their lives and society be oriented to punishment.
There is another important issue here in relation to threatening models of deity. Psychology has established the linkage between fear and anger/violence, that anger and aggression is often the expression of fear. Frightened people, like the cornered animal baring its teeth defensively, will often turn violent in order to defend themselves from perceived threats. And we have numerous historical examples of fear evoking defensiveness which creates the environment conducive to aggression and violence toward others. Note, for instance, how Hitler stirred fear over the Jewish threat to Aryan culture and heritage. Or how Hutus stirred fear over Tutsis in Rwanda. Or how the Serb leaders stirred fear over the threat from Muslims. These leaders created a sense of victimhood, of being under apocalyptic-like threat, and the need to take “defensive” action to stop or eliminate the threat (for detail see, for example, Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth).
Angry/punitive God mythology continues to re-emerge in new secularized versions in the modern era such as the revenge of GAIA, angry planet, threatening and punishing nature, and so on. In response, modern populations frightened by angry nature mythology seek to appease that threat by anti-development sacrifices. They seek to appease a vengeful GAIA by constraining human growth and progress which is a kind of self-flagellation, self-denial, or self-punishment (again, blame “fallen, sinful” humanity and seek to punish).
The liberation from these ultimate monsters is found in the human discovery of unconditional reality or the ideal of unconditional love. Many have come to realize that unconditional response and relating is the essential nature of authentic humanity. This has subsequently led to the recognition that unconditional love also defines the essential nature of authentically humane deity (Edward Schillebeeckx- “God is more human/humane than any human being”). With the discovery of unconditional love the real liberation of human minds and spirits has now begun. We now have the singular insight and reality that gets us to the deepest roots of human fears, anxieties, and despair.
Unconditional tells us that there is no threat of retaliation, vengeance, or punishment at the core of reality or life. Over the millennia those threats have been deeply embedded in human outlook and have long shaped all forms of human worldviews and belief systems. But we now have the most powerful remedy to counter those embedded fears and anxieties at the very deepest levels. We have the means to liberate human consciousness as never before.
And with the understanding- noted above- that fear is so often behind anger/violence, unconditional now helps us get to the deepest roots of the human propensity to retaliatory violence. I have often wondered, as I noted above, how the incessant traumatizing of public consciousness with religious or other threats (i.e. environmental alarmism) may keep aggression heightened in societies. For multiple millennia human consciousness has been brutalized by these threats of angry forces/spirits/gods that will destroy. This is the stirring of endless fear and more than just normal death fear. Threatening forces/spirits stir existential fears, with the threat of eternal consequences and punishment. How much of this fear is behind human anxiety and depression at other levels of human consciousness? Human fear of mythological monsters has become part of the foundational background of human understanding or belief. It is a fundamental part of the way that we view the cosmos and life (i.e. even the way we view destructive natural forces). Few even question that there may be no threatening force, spiritual or natural. How does this generalized assumption that some such threat exists then influence other fears and anxieties?
And again, how much does all this larger background fear reinforce in people the impulse to act defensively, aggressively, to hit back at others? Fear keeps people on edge and defensive (see Ernst Becker’s The Denial of Death). But fortunately, we now have this unconditional insight that liberates from fear at the deepest levels of our consciousness. It liberates from any residual sense of ultimate threat or punishment, and the guilt associated with such threat. Unconditional goes to the deepest roots of human fear, to the deepest core of that ancient human error (threatening, retaliatory or punitive forces/spirits) and exposes it for the grand fraud that it is. This is the liberation of mind and spirit at the most profound levels.
The unconditional love that defines ultimate reality (i.e. Universe, Ground, Mind, or God) is of a transcendently scandalous quality that is better than the best that we can conceive. This is the truth that frees utterly, the insight that slays entirely the threatening, punitive God. This profound unconditional love penetrates to the deepest recesses of human subconscious to radically change the core themes of human worldviews (archetypes) and re-orient consciousness to hope and love (humanizing our most fundamental perceptions, beliefs). It can then purge and cleanse human subconscious from all the defiling residue of the long history of primitive threat, fear, and the entire related mythology of despair, such as apocalyptic mythology.
This humanizing project is about getting to ultimate roots and eliminating or radically changing the deeply embedded perceptions, ideas, and beliefs that have shaped the foundations of our worldviews and stirred all the endless unnecessary fear, anxiety, and despair of human experience (see comments below on Grand Narrative Themes). Unconditional will also challenge the core impulse to retaliate that has shaped and supported so much misery in human existence.
Unfortunately, too often people do not get to their root perceptions and correct them properly. The result is that the old monsters only keep re-emerging in new forms to continue darkening consciousness and enslaving human spirits. It is time to slay the very heart of the old monster once and for all. With unconditional reality we have the weapon to do so.
Site Summary (contact: email@example.com)
This site has focused on apocalyptic mythology over the past years because this mythology has had a notably damaging impact on human consciousness and society. It is hard to think of a more damaging set of ideas in all history. Among other examples, I have repeatedly pointed to such things as Rachel Carson’s use of an apocalyptic narrative to stir fear over chemicals and the unnecessary deaths of millions of people that resulted from the subsequent ban on DDT (http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/09/05/rachel-carsons-deadly-fantasies/ ).
Apocalyptic is the myth that life was better in the past but corrupt people have ruined that paradise. Life is now declining toward some grand life-ending catastrophe. These beliefs of looming threat stir fear and panic in populations.
Unfortunately, these primitive beliefs are still widely held in both religious and secular systems of thought. One notable contemporary expression of apocalyptic threat is found in environmental alarmism. This movement advocates the belief in some imminent environmental collapse, perhaps through catastrophic global warming.
Apocalyptic beliefs persistently linger in the background of public consciousness, darkening life with unnecessary fear, anxiety, and even despair. And they spark irrational responses that cause immense harm to people and societies (see Decline or Rise essay).
Apocalyptic is a profound distortion of life and its fundamental trajectory. Apocalyptic devotees claim that life is declining toward something worse in the future. But a mass of good evidence shows that is not true. Life is not declining but is actually rising toward something ever better.
Like many others, I have wondered why so many people continue to believe that life is declining when evidence shows the very opposite. While there are problems everywhere, the overall state of the planet is good and the major trends of life show improvement (for detail see Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Easterbrook’s Moment on the Earth, Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, and others).
In response to the contradiction between apocalyptic myth and reality I have looked closely at the underlying root ideas behind apocalyptic mythology. And I have isolated out what I believe is the key error made by ancient people, an error in perception that led them to view life in terms of apocalyptic myths. I will put this forward as the worst mistake ever made by humanity.
The error they made was to believe that there were angry, punishing forces or spirits behind life. They therefore viewed natural disasters as the gods punishing them for their sins. They also concluded that there would be a grand final punishment from the gods that would end life and the world (see Retaliation and Unconditional essay).
This primitive and distorting perception has long infected the major world religions and now infects modern secular systems of thought, notably environmentalism or green religion. Apocalyptic environmentalism is expressed in terms of a better past (pristine original nature), corrupt people ruining the natural paradise, and life now declining toward environmental collapse and even ending.
Fortunately humanity has been developing an insight that powerfully counters the core error behind apocalyptic. It is the emerging discovery that there is unconditional goodness at the core of reality (unconditional love). The core impulse behind all things is unconditional in nature. This core impulse is evident in the rising and improving trajectories of the cosmos, life, and civilization (increasing organization, complexity and development despite imperfections, setbacks and disasters along the way).
This developing perception of unconditional goodness behind all things overturns the fundamental themes of most mythology and religion throughout history. It also overturns elements of thought in contemporary secular philosophy and even science (e.g. the more dismal views of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that have been used to define the overall trajectory of the cosmos as one of decline).
There are no punishing or destroying forces behind life but rather the core of reality is unconditional goodness and generosity.
This insight presents humanity with an entirely new centering focus for thought, perception, belief, narratives, worldviews, theology, and ethics. It is a core insight (insight into core reality) that ignites hope and liberates consciousness like nothing else in the history of human thought. It presents us with a new center, a new core perception for disciplines like theology.
To clarify further- the unconditional that I am referring to is not the unconditional that is advocated by many religious people who define the term with their religious conditions thereby distorting it entirely. It only causes confusion when people use a term and then define it with an opposite meaning. Note the Christian use of unconditional love with the added qualification that divine forgiveness is subject to the prerequisite payment of an atonement. Nonsense. Unconditional means just what it says- absolutely no conditions. None.
Also, in affirming that the core of reality is absolutely unconditional I am not denying the horror of natural disaster and consequent tragedy. But it is important to correct this perverse idea that forces/gods use natural disaster to punish people. Such a belief adds horrific mental and emotional suffering (fear and guilt) to already unbearable physical suffering. It is one of the most harmful and cruel perceptions ever created.
Like the Japanese woman wondered after the tsunami there, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?” And the many others who claim that natural disasters are punishment from God. Natural disaster is not punishment from any greater force and it is not a portent of something worse to come. Despite natural disasters the overall state of life improves.
And we- humanity- have learned over history to understand life and its randomness better, and how to prepare for disasters, and how to adapt to them. This is good evidence for hope that our lives will improve even more over the long term. Understanding the disasters of life in terms of this greater context of long term improvement can liberate from unnecessary despair.
Below is a summary in point form of the linkages or lines of descent of apocalyptic mythology down through the history of human thought.
1. The ancients believed that there were forces/spirits behind all the elements of life.
2. As those elements were often destructive, the ancients logically concluded that the gods must be angry (wind/storm, rain/flood, earthquake/tsunami, sun/drought, etc.).
3. The ancients believed that the gods were punishing people for their sins and for ruining the original paradise (Sumerian paradise of Dilmun- see Wikipedia).
4. They believed that the gods could be appeased by blood sacrifice. Thus begins the sacrifice/salvation industry- how to appease and please the gods. With the development of this belief in Salvationism we have the development of religion as a social institution of conditions. Religion tells people how to gain favor with the gods, how to gain forgiveness, and how to become an insider. Religion tells people the correct beliefs they are to hold and what is the right lifestyle to follow- i.e. what are the rules and taboos to honor. Religion more formally begins to promote conditional belief and existence as something validated by the sacred. Religion then pushes overall human perception toward this conditional outlook and we find the emergence of such things as views of justice as conditional treatment of people (i.e. reward good, punish wrong, eye for eye). All the great human ideals then become conditional- love, forgiveness, inclusion, etc. (let me add a spoiler alert here that the discovery of unconditional reality challenges entirely all this development of conditional reality)
5. The ancients also believed that the gods would cause a grand final punishment or apocalypse (a great flood in Sumerian and Babylonian myth).
6. Zoroaster later formalized this apocalyptic mythology and changed the final apocalypse from flood to fire. He also introduced the element of strong dualism to apocalyptic mythology- the battle between light and darkness or true religion versus false religion, a dualism that would end in the final apocalyptic defeat of wrong.
7. Zoroaster influenced Jewish thinking and apocalyptic belief (Hebrew exile in Persia or Semitic origins in Persia).
8. Christianity adopted and continued Jewish apocalyptic and further filled out this template of ideas. Apocalyptic myth shaped the entire Christian framework of belief. See James Tabor’s “Jesus and Paul” where he notes that apocalyptic influenced all that Paul said and that Christianity is Paul’s religion. And Paul has been the most influential person in history.
9. Christianity shapes Western consciousness more than any other system of thought.
10. Eastern traditions also adopt apocalyptic views (Mircea Eliade, History of Religious Ideas).
11. 19th Century Declinism (Arthur Herman, The Idea of Decline) develops a secularized version of apocalyptic belief (influenced by Christian belief).
12. Environmentalism adopts the main themes of Declinism (as did Marxism).
Hence, apocalyptic myth has been passed down through history and is still dominant in modern thought, in both religious and secular systems of ideas.
Note: People do progress and gain new insights over history. But far too often while making advances in thought, many also hang onto older deeply embedded themes like apocalyptic. This then distorts the new discoveries and undermines them. Much like the Christian endeavor to adopt unconditional love but to define this in terms of its salvation conditions. This hopelessly distorts unconditional and renders it meaningless. When creating new worldviews or narratives we must be careful to clean out the old, the residual primitive. It is only common sense to put new wine into new wineskins. This is about fully humanizing our worldviews, removing all inhumane elements.
See further below some updated comment on the continuing climate change alarmism and response to that.
No Hell Beneath Us
I might as well quit toying around and get right to the root of what went wrong in human thought and how to correct that. Let me summarize in point form…
No threatening, punishing gods. There is no looming future judgment or punishment from some greater force/spirit. And there is no hell beneath us, Johnny. Do I really need to state this? Well yes, because apparently some 70% of Americans still believe such myths. And many others, more secular types, also still believe that there are punishing forces behind life (e.g. revenge of GAIA, or angry planet). These beliefs are at the root of all religious thinking and religion itself.
No conditions to meet. None. Absolutely none. There are no conditions to fulfill in order to gain full forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity from ultimate reality, however you define that (Universe, Mind, Consciousness, Self, Intelligence, Spirit, Source, Ground, God). Conditional existence is what religion is about, conditions to appease and please threatening deities. Religion is about conditions to be included, forgiven, or to receive benefits from the gods. Its all a horribly distorting assumption/belief to base one’s life upon.
I will add here- spoiler alert- that the discovery of unconditional reality (i.e. unconditional love at the core of reality) has eviscerated entirely the need for conditional response to ultimate forces/gods.
No apocalypse. Apocalypse is the ultimate expression of punishment from the gods. It is the ultimate expression of judgment. Apocalyptic mythology shapes entirely the belief system of Christianity (a great transformation or consummation in Paul’s theology). Let me be blunt on the best and highest authority- there is no future, looming apocalypse. Sorry to spoil your zombie expectations.
No salvation required. There are no judging, punishing gods to appease or please. No such entities have ever existed. Salvationism (the salvation industry) arises from the primitive and distorting belief in punishing deities that demand payment or atonement for sin.
Now why is it important to tackle and correct these fundamental mythical or religious themes? Why possibly offend so many good religious people? Well, its important to risk this because these ideas have not only shaped all religion over history but also continue to infect many secular systems of thought in the present. Its a case of the same old, same old repeating itself endlessly, though in ever new and evolving versions. Some of the most primitive themes from ancient mythology have become deeply embedded in human worldviews and subconscious. If we don’t get to these very root themes in our perspectives and beliefs then the correction of problems in life tends to be at superficial levels and the core problems keep re-emerging and repeating themselves over history.
Look at Europe, for example, considered to be the most secular place on the planet yet the most zealously Green place on Earth (i.e. stronghold of Environmentalism or Green religion). Europeans have rejected one form of religion only to adopt another version with the same basic themes. Many others have similarly tried to leave their traditional religions only to take up other more secular versions that hold to the same themes of their old religions. When making transitions to new worldviews, people often do not thoroughly rethink and change the fundamentally religious ideas that are so deeply rooted in human subconscious and at the core of their worldviews.
Do modern secularists really believe these primitive myths of retaliating gods? Yes they do. They fear, for instance, an angry and vengeful GAIA, or angry planet, and feel the need to come up with salvation schemes to appease and please these newer, but still old school deities. The salvation schemes? Anti-development activism with all the damaging outcomes to humanity that result from such activism. The Salvationism that arises from myths of punishing forces/spirits has always destructively hindered human growth and progress (note, for example, the unscientific anti-GM hysteria, a particularly strong movement in Europe, and the case of Rachel Carson and the DDT ban noted further below). This anti-development, anti-progress activism is often a form of sacrifice or self-flagellation (the felt need for punishment for being corrupt or bad).
Fortunately, along with the development of this retaliatory mythology over history (judging, punishing gods) there was also the development of the insight into unconditional reality. This is a uniquely potent response to the profound error that is retaliatory mythology. Unconditional may be the most important insight in the entire history of human thought.
Unconditional reality redefines love, taking it to new heights of humaneness. It gets us to the very essence of authentic humanity and authentic human relating and existence. It is the most liberating insight ever discovered because it frees us from the basest impulses of our animal past. It effectively counters the entire history of human mythology and religion as conditional reality and existence. It is therefore absolutely vital to the fullest liberation of human consciousness. It liberates from fear and anxiety at the deepest levels of mind, emotion, and spirit.
So yes, it is worth the risk of offending some in order to get to the root of what went wrong in human thought and to try and correct that. The impact of those ancient errors (judging, punishing gods) has continued to reverberate through contemporary public consciousness, hindering human freedom and progress with irresponsible salvation schemes that endlessly block human development and advance.
Explore the material below and the essays listed for more detail- notably the essays “Retaliation and Unconditional” (under button Retaliation/Unconditional in bar above) and “Decline or Rise” (under button Decline or Rise in bar above).
Climate Change Alarmism Continues
Environmental alarmists continue to stir public fear over two particular things related to climate- rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and warming temperatures (i.e. the slight warming period from roughly 1975-1995). They have done this with the help of a panic-oriented media (see David Altheide’s Creating Fear: News and the Manufacture of Crisis).
As the warming has stopped for the past 17 years, alarmists have since shifted their efforts to creating alarm over “climate change”. They heatedly claim that 97% of scientists now agree that humanity is responsible for increasingly dangerous climate change. And any who disagree are still demonized and dismissed as “deniers”.
There is a twisted bundle of distorting, and even false, claims in the alarmist narrative.
No informed person and certainly no credible scientist has denied that climate change is taking place. Climate has always changed and always will. It is misleading for alarmists to create fear over change in a dynamic system that always changes. The alarm over change stems partly from the wrong assumption by alarmists that there is stasis in nature (unchanging) and some past state is optimal and must be preserved (i.e. the low CO2 levels of the pre-industrial past and the cooler temperatures of the past, neither of which are optimal for life).
The key area of disagreement between alarmists and skeptics is around the claim that humanity is responsible for global warming and now climate change. We simply do not know this to be true or how much it may be true. There is no 97% consensus among scientists on this issue of human input or level of responsibility.
There are significant natural elements that affect climate and that appear to overwhelm the human contribution of CO2. The natural elements (influx and muting of cosmic rays, cloud cover, sunspot activity, ocean decadal oscillations, etc.) show stronger or more clear correlations with climate change periods over the past (see for instance, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lawrence-solomon/global-cooling_b_4413833.html).
Lets start by stating what we do know. CO2 has a warming effect on the atmosphere or climate but this is small compared to other natural elements (e.g. water vapour or cloud cover). Humans do contribute to natural CO2 cycles and levels and hence contribute to the warming effect but the human part is tiny (a “fart in a hurricane” according to one scientist who tried to put it in perspective). See http://www.climatedepot.com/2013/05/14/co2-nears-400-ppm-relax-its-not-global-warming-end-times-but-only-a-big-yawn-climate-depot-special-report/ .
While CO2 contributes to the warming effect there is no clear evidence that CO2 alone has caused any past notable period of warming. Other natural elements show stronger correlations to warming and cooling periods. Note especially here that while CO2 continues to rise, the recent mild warming has stopped. This challenges the alarmist assumption that rising CO2 was mainly responsible for the 1975-1995 warming. And this has alarmed the alarmists and they are seeking alternative explanations such as aerosol contributions by nations like China as responsible for causing a temporary blocking effect in the atmosphere.
To properly understand what is happening with climate it helps to look at the bigger picture and the longer term trends. This will help us get to the true state of things.
Over the past century and a half there has been a more general long term warming trend. This longer term warming is related to the Little Ice Age of roughly 1675-1715. That was an abnormally cold time on earth. Since that descent into cold, the earth has been rebounding and returning to more natural and normal warmer conditions.
A scientist at the International Arctic Research Center, Dr. Akasofu, has noted that this natural rebound from the Little Ice Age has occurred over the past several centuries with a series of interspersed warming and cooling periods. Warming, then cooling, and then warming again. He notes there is a correlation of these periods with such things as shifts in ocean decadal oscillations (e.g. the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a large shift in ocean currents that occurs every 20-30 years). Since the Pacific has shifted into a cooling phase over the past few decades, so climate has cooled (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/09/syun-akasofus-work-provokes-journal-resignation/ ).
Others note the relationship of cosmic and solar activity to climate change, notably Henrik Svensmark in his book The Chilling Stars. We had an active sun in the later part of the last century and that relates to the warming period of 1975-1995. The sun then went dead and so the warming ceased and has been flat for some 17 years now. Russian scientists argue that we could be entering an extended cooling period now, similar to the Maunder Minimum of the Little Ice Age.
In the larger paleo-climate picture we find other things that help to understand climate and climate change. We are currently in an ice age era of some several million years with repeated cycles of glaciation interspersed with warmer inter-glacial periods. This ice age era is an abnormally cold time on earth with abnormally low levels of CO2. Compare this to previous extended periods on earth when CO2 levels were much higher (some periods averaging 1500 ppm and even rising to 7000 ppm). Average temperatures were also much warmer over the past. Remember that for 75% of its history Earth has been ice free, including the poles.
So we are currently in an “abnormally” cold time on earth. And with cold climate oceans become cold and reabsorb CO2, leaving lower levels of atmospheric CO2. Plant life then suffers. The pre-industrial levels of 200-250 ppm were not healthy for plant life and in the past plants had to make an evolutionary adaptation just to survive. Plants prefer much higher levels and flourish in greenhouses where farmers supply levels of 1000-1500 ppm. With higher levels of CO2, the food of all plant life, plants have more efficient water uptake and can handle things like drought conditions better.
Because of the recent rise in CO2, one study noted that from 1982-1999 the earth become notably greener and healthier. Net Primary Production increased by 6.17% over this short period. Others note that from 1981 to the present there has been an overall 14% increase in plant productivity, across all vegetation types (Matt Ridley, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v86K5awl_s). More plant biomass means more food for more animals and more food for people. This is why the almost 32,000 scientists who signed the Oregon Institute of Medicine Protest Petition declared in their opening statement that there is no evidence that more CO2 is bad for earth but lots of evidence that more CO2 is good for earth.
So currently rising CO2 levels are not to be feared. There is no real danger to human life till CO2 rises to about 5,000 ppm and some studies suggest even higher (see sites like CO2science.org for detailed studies on CO2 and climate history).
And there is no reason to fear a warmer earth. Ian Plimer has detailed past climate and shown that a warmer world is overall better for life. It has been much warmer in past times and this was not disastrous for life but rather life has flourished during warmer periods. Warm climate is a benefit to life. Certainly there may be some negatives but the positives appear to be also significant. Currently, annual deaths from cold far exceed deaths from heat.
Others have noted that in a warming world there is redistribution of heat energy across the world so that seasons become less pronounced (warmer winters), and daily oscillations become less pronounced (warmer nights), and the poles become warmer. Earth’s climate is efficient at distributing heat energy across the planet and life benefits. As Roy Spencer argues, it appears that climate has a built-in thermostat with varied feedback mechanisms that seek more optimal outcomes in climate.
And contrary to Al Gore’s alarmism, during warmer times there are less droughts (warm oceans evaporate more water). People like Ian Plimer (Heaven and Earth: global warming the missing science) have provided a mass of good evidence from past climate to help understand what is happening with climate change and it appears there is little reason to fear ongoing climate change or warming, or rising levels of CO2.
On the claim of consensus among scientists that humanity is responsible for looming dangerous global warming or climate change, well, there never has been any such consensus. First, consensus is not automatically evidence of sound conclusions or good science. Climate alarmists have appealed to consensus to shut down opposing evidence and opinions. This is anti-democratic and anti-freedom. Skepticism and contrary evidence must be encouraged as vital to any good scientific process.
And if people wish to play the numbers game then what about the 32,000 scientists that signed the Protest Petition? They were almost completely ignored by the media.
Also, the claim that 97% of scientists have concluded that humans are responsible for dangerous climate change is a distorting, if not fraudulent, claim. Lawrence Solomon has traced the route from where that 97% figure was derived and that is a stunning misrepresentation of scientific opinion but is endlessly repeated in the media (http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/01/03/lawrence-solomon-97-cooked-stats/).
There is an irrationality in all this unscientific and insistent alarmism over rising CO2 and slight warming. CO2 is not a poison or pollutant. It is the food of all life and life has responded to rising levels with increased plant production and biomass. We have today a greener and healthier earth as a consequence of more CO2.
And as we have always done, we will adapt to climate change, whether warmer or cooler in the future.
Note also that with a free market shift to natural gas the US has lowered its CO2 emissions over the past years. Yet environmental alarmists have irrationally reacted to this news with endeavors to shut down exploration and extraction of natural gas (notably in Europe).
Also, we need to keep an eye on the continuing inactivity of the sun. The Russian scientists are suggesting this may become an extended cold period similar to the Maunder Minimum of the Little Ice Age. Will Paul Ehrlich then shift again to global cooling alarmism? He tried to stir panic over cooling in the 70s but then shifted to warming panic.
With all this evidence alarmists still refuse to back off from activism to stir panic over climate change. One then wonders what is really behind their scare-mongering. At a deeper level there are clear elements of anti-development ideology and anti-human ideology. But what is really behind all this at an even deeper level? Here we get to primitive religious or mythical thinking that is deeply embedded in human worldviews, both religious and secular (in public subconscious). See below for more detail.
Some Scottish Theology(Contributed by Avril Spencer)
How to get to heaven from Scotland.
I was testing children in my Glasgow Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting into heaven. I asked them, “If I sold my house and my car, hard a big yard sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?”
“No!” the children answered.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the garden and kept everything tidy, would that get me into heaven?”
Again, the answer was “No!”.
By now I was starting to smile.
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave sweets to all the children and loved my husband, would that get me into heaven?”
Again, they all answered “No!”.
I was just bursting with pride for them.
I continued, “Then how can I get into heaven?”
A six year old boy shouted, “Yuv got tae be fuckin dead”.
Kinda brings a wee tear tae yir eye…
A Fresh Look At Unconditional
You will find a lot of comment here on unconditional reality (unconditional response and relating, ultimate reality as unconditional goodness, unconditional love). It is the single most important and potent response to the worst errors of human mythology and religion- notably the belief that there are threatening or punishing forces/spirits behind life. That mythological error has infected both religious and secular systems of thought (e.g. the revenge of GAIA or angry planet beliefs).
Advocating for unconditional reality sparks some very strong resistance. For many people unconditional response does not meet their felt need for “proper justice”, defined according to traditional payback terms (reward the good, punish the bad). Unconditional love just seems too weak and mushy in the face of evil, and too impractical for our societies.
I would respond to this by first pointing out that unconditional love has already long been the very basis of commerce, orderly and peaceful society, and civilization in general. Civilization began when early people, instead of continuing to kill one another as they had done over all previous history, began to tolerate differences, mistakes and offenses, and learned to forgive and to cooperate for mutual advantage. They were then able to trade and live together (early urbanization) without destroying one another. They learned to practice early forms of unconditional love and hence we have civilization today. So unconditional love, far from being impractical, is the very basis of society, commerce, and civilization.
And to the contrary, traditional payback (tit for tat, eye for eye) disrupts the order and peace of society and in general ruins life. Just note the disruption that getting even causes at all levels, whether in the workplace, in home relationships (e.g. the damaging impacts on children), and of course, in its worst large-scale expression- war and its all out destructiveness.
Further, a payback approach does not properly restrain wrong behavior. The discipline of psychology has shown that most people respond better to positive affirmation than to threat and fear. See the Australian Psychological Society paper (noted in my essay Retaliation and Unconditional) which argues “that recent trends towards increased reliance on punishment as a primary response to crime” do not work as expected. Punitive approaches do not rehabilitate or deter criminal offenders. They don’t teach “alternative acceptable behaviors”. Also, punitive parenting approaches are linked to higher levels of aggression in children. The paper recommends approaches that promote empathy, such as explaining other people’s perspectives and feelings. This is known as restorative justice, a form of unconditional response.
And then I would urge skeptics of unconditional to recognize that tit for tat retaliation is animal and not human. Ancient Roman philosopher Musonius Rufus expressed this well in stating, “For to scheme to bite back the biter and to return evil for evil is the act not of a human being but of a wild beast”. And on the other hand, unconditional response and relating gets us to the very essence of authentic humanity. It defines better than anything else what it means to be truly human (endless forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, limitless generosity toward all, treating all as intimate family). This ideal of unconditional love has been summed up best in the saying of Jesus, “Love your enemies”. He also added, “because this is what God does”. Yes, you heard him right. He stated clearly that there is no punishing God. And no judgment. No divine threat of any kind. Only unconditional goodness and generosity toward all alike.
Perhaps some confusion arises in regard to the practicality of this unconditional ideal because some people have mistakenly understood it as advocating pacifist extremism. It does not promote any such thing. While we should approach every human being in the same way or with the same attitude of respect, some people are simply unable or unwilling to control their worst impulses, notably impulses to violence. Such people need restraint in order to protect others. So whatever you think unconditional love means it does not mean pacifist extremism in the face of evil. Any basic understanding of love will include a robust responsibility to protect the innocent.
No matter how we dissect and explain it, many will still find unconditional love to be just too scandalous and will prefer to maintain some sort of payback response in life. But that is a retreat to animal-like existence. It is a refusal to fully embrace authentic human existence.
Some aging humor. This one sags a bit at the punch line.
An elderly lady was secretly planning to commit suicide by shooting herself in the heart. But she wanted to make sure that everything went according to plan. So she went to her doctor and asked him, “Where exactly is my heart?”.
Puzzled, the doctor replied, “Just below your left breast”.
She left to return home.
The next day the doctor arrived at the hospital and was told, “The elderly lady you saw yesterday is down in emergency. She shot herself in her left knee”.
More On Site Content
Join us in exploring some of the latest and best insights from the history of human thought. This site covers topics such as the nature of ultimate reality as unconditional goodness, in pronounced contrast to the basic theme of mythology and religion that the forces/spirits behind life are threatening or punitive. This is part of an endeavor to get to the root of what went wrong in ancient human thought and how to correct that. The misunderstanding of the core nature of reality persists today in both religious and secular systems of thought.
This site also looks at grand public narratives and their impact on societies. It covers the historical descent and evolution of apocalyptic mythology from Sumeria to Zoroaster and Jewish religion and then into Christianity, 19th Century Declinism, and contemporary environmental alarmism. We also explore the fallacy of a limited resources world, the wonder of being creatively human (no fallen, corrupt humanity), and much more. See introductory explanations below or topic bar above.
A qualifying note: the use of the term “environmental alarmism” upsets some people. In response I will affirm that I am strongly pro-environment but quite skeptical of most of the unscientific and irresponsible exaggeration (yes, Chicken Little alarmism) that comes out of the environmental movement. The material below explains why such alarmism is exaggerated and irresponsible.
Decline or Rise- What is the actual trajectory of life?
Does life decline/deteriorate toward some catastrophic ending as in apocalyptic mythology? Or does life rise and progress toward something better? What is the fundamental impulse behind life and what is the fundamental trend of life? The correct answers to these questions are vital to human understanding and the grand narratives that shape our societies.
This site explores the origins and development of apocalyptic mythology, a dominant historical belief that has distorted the fundamental nature of life in both religious and secular systems of thought. This site also explores the new and emerging insight that unconditional goodness (something entirely non-religious) is the basic impulse behind reality and life. See A New TOE (Theory of Everything) further below. Unconditional reality offers a potent response to apocalyptic mythologies.
Have a look at the essays and summaries below for more detail on the developing history of apocalyptic thinking, both ancient and modern versions (e.g. environmental alarmism or apocalyptic). Stating it as diplomatically and nicely as possible, apocalyptic mythology gets the fundamental trends of reality and life entirely wrong. Backwards, upside down, and reversed. Life does not decline toward some catastrophic ending. To the contrary, life rises endlessly toward a better future (see, for instance, the Decline or Rise essay under the same button above).
“On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us”, Thomas Macaulay, 1830
Admittedly, apocalyptic belief could be entertaining as just ridiculous and distorting mythology, if it were not taken seriously (e.g. Halloween Hysteria or October Madness). Unfortunately, too many people do take it seriously. And apocalyptic belief then causes reverberations all through society, in the form of modern alarmism and subsequent public policy response, notably environmental alarmism and its anti-development responses.
(Note: Yes, there are direct links from primitive apocalyptic mythology to movements such as contemporary environmental alarmism. Apocalyptic mythology descends from the earliest Sumerian versions to Zoroaster and Jewish religion and then down through Christian apocalyptic into 19th Century Declinism or “cultural pessimism”- see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline- and then into modern Environmentalism or Green religion. Is this hard for environmental alarmists to acknowledge? Certainly. Just as modern Socialists had a hard time acknowledging that their Marxist heroes were essentially religious fanatics, millennialists. See chapters 10 and 11 of Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth- Egalitarian Millennialism and Totalitarian Millennialism- for historical detail. We are never as secular as we like to think we have become)
See also the essay Retaliation and Unconditional (under Retaliation/Unconditional button above) for more detail on the primitive mistake that sparked the apocalyptic outlook among early people. That mistake continues to re-affirm apocalyptic thinking today and has become deeply embedded in human worldviews. The mistake was to believe that the forces/gods behind life were retaliatory and punitive.
A complex of related ideas was developed to flesh out apocalyptic mythology and its view of punishing deity. This included a notable devaluation of humanity. People were viewed as corrupt, fallen, and destroyers. They deserved punishment. This sinful humanity myth misses entirely the wonder of human development and progress over history (see, for instance, James Payne’s The History of Force, or Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature).
The above myths then led to the development of Salvationism. People were obligated to make some sacrifice in order to appease the gods and save the world (in contemporary environmental apocalyptic, anti-development schemes are claimed to be necessary to appease a vengeful GAIA or angry planet). The damage to humanity from this Salvationism has been incalculable.
These primitive myths have burdened human consciousness for millennia and hindered the full expression and creativity of the human spirit. They continue to darken and dampen human subconscious. There will never be a full liberation of humanity (i.e. mind and emotions) till these myths are isolated and rooted out of human worldviews. I am talking about the complete humanization of thought and outlook at the deepest levels.
The ongoing exploration of unconditional reality is key to an authentic liberation of human consciousness and life. See essays and summaries below for more detail. Unconditional goodness defines the very core of the universe and life. Consequently, everything rises toward something better, though not without freedom and its related randomness (an important pair-bonding to note here- love and freedom).
Some fun with accents
An Asian lady frequently went to her money changer to purchase currency. One day she noticed that the rate had changed. She asked the trader why. He replied, “Currency fluctuations”.
The next time the rate had changed again. She again asked why and was told, “Fluctuations”.
This happened repeatedly in the following days and in response to her questions as to why, the trader repeatedly responded, “Fluctuations”.
Finally, one day, exasperated at his responses, the lady fired back, “Well, fluck you white people too”.
Hey, don’t get your politically correct undies all tied in a knot. Lots of people used to laugh at my excessively nasal intonation and other errors as I learned Philippine languages (Tagalog, Cebuano, and Manobo). I’m just enjoying a bit of payback. <:
There is Nothing to Fear Behind Life (Where religion went wrong and the nature of ultimate reality)
One notable belief takes top spot as, arguably, the most destructive belief ever conceived by humanity. It has been lodged in human worldviews for millennia, darkening consciousness with fear, insecurity, despair, nihilism, and worse. This belief in its varied expressions has been responsible for validating endless violence between people (see, for instance, James Carrol’s “Constantine’s Sword”). Properly challenging and correcting this belief will get us to the deepest possible levels of human liberation… that of mind, emotion, and spirit.
What is the belief? That there are threatening, retaliatory, or punishing forces/gods behind life.
Now there is no diplomatic or conciliatory way of stating this but the great world religions, like Christianity, were entirely wrong to develop their theologies of vengeful, punishing gods, and required systems of salvation to appease such deities. Secular systems with their perceptions of an angry planet or vengeful GAIA, and their anti-development appeasement schemes, have been equally wrong.
There is no angry force or deity behind life. There is no threat of retaliation or punishment behind life. To the contrary, over our history we have discovered that the ultimate reality behind life is of the nature of incomprehensible unconditional love with all the generosity, inclusion, forgiveness, and goodness that such love entails. (For detail on the historical development of this new perspective on deity see “Retaliation and Unconditional” under the Retaliation/Unconditional button in the bar above)
The outcome of this discovery is that there is absolutely no need to fear the cosmos, the world, life, or death. Contrary to much religious teaching, everyone is safe and included in the end. So there is no valid reason to believe or adhere to some religious salvation plan in order to appease some threatening deity. My apologies, but that knocks the foundations right out from under most religion.
The discovery of unconditional love at the core of reality needs to reverberate through human consciousness and subconscious, both religious and secular, and liberate the human spirit at the deepest levels.
There is nothing, ultimately, to fear in the world or life. This is not to deny that horrible things will sometimes happen in life. But despite the imperfections of life- whether accident, disease, or whatever form of suffering- there is no ultimate destroyer or destructive force behind life. No one is punished for being imperfectly human.
I have isolated out and countered this belief of retaliating deity because properly humanizing our views of deity is critical to human progress toward a better world. The search for complete human liberation requires us to counter this most debilitating of ideas in the history of human thought, this perception of ultimate threat, retaliation, or punishment. It is simply wrong and it has held back humanity far too long.
The proper response to this belief- unconditional reality- is a stunningly humane reality that inspires the best in humanity.
Note: Further below I have included excerpts/quotes on unconditional love from Near-Death Experience accounts. These illustrate the developing human insight that the true nature of ultimate reality is unconditional goodness. This is a powerful corrective to the errors of apocalyptic mythology.
Here is a sample quote from these accounts, this one from a lady named Lisa on the NDERF site- “I remember feeling the most profound and utter sense of peace I have ever felt in my life. Suddenly, I was feeling completely safe, being enveloped and protected by something I can only describe as complete unconditional love. This love was all around me, it was everywhere but at the same time it was also me, the one I was, my innermost essence. There was no longer any fear, no worries, no struggle for anything…”.
This brief summary statement effectively counters the two most fundamental errors in mythology and religion- that the gods are nasty (retaliatory, punitive) and that humanity is essentially nasty (fallen, corrupt). These two basic errors still widely infect human thought and outlook. The comment of Lisa, and many other similar NDE statements, does more to correct those two errors than anything religion, science, or philosophy has ever offered. Anita Moorjani, another near-death experiencer, has described her discovery of the “magnificence of being human”. That people are most essentially beings of love and light.
And regarding the credibility of the NDEs, and the movement in general, see the research of Pim van Lommel- e.g. “Consciousness Beyond Life”- as well as the work of researchers such as Jeffrey Long, Ken Ring, and others.
Another accent incident(and a true story)
Two Australian men went to South Korea for a visit, arriving on the day that national elections were being held. They were greeted at the airport by a Korean friend who spoke heavily accented English. They asked their Korean friend how he was doing. Grinning broadly, the man responded, “Everybody happy. Everybody having erection today”.
Retaliation….Non-retaliation (or unconditional response)…in the big picture.
(see essay “Retaliation and Unconditional”)
“For to scheme to bite back the biter and to return evil for evil is the act not of a human being but of a wild beast”, Musonius Rufus, Roman philosopher, circa 30-100 AD.
Retaliation and non-retaliation are the two features of life that help us to understand the heart of the human story as few other things do. This is not to oversimplify the complexity of life but to draw attention to some of the most prominent features of life and their influence on human consciousness and the human journey.
Retaliation illustrates the worst of our past. It is what is wrong with life- the tit for tat or eye for eye cycles of payback that destroy relationships between people, groups, and nations. Unfortunately, retaliation has shaped the core of human mythology, religion, and justice systems for millennia, causing immense misery. It is part of a dark past that we are leaving.
Non-retaliation, or unconditional love, summarizes the best of our human experience and future. It presents us with the highest ideal for authentic human response and existence. It liberates us as nothing else can.
These two features are, arguably, two of the most important things to understand in life. Think of the big picture. The human story is about beginnings in animal reality and then the emergence of human consciousness, which sparks a subsequent exodus or liberation from animal existence, and subsequent progress toward the creation of a truly human existence or human society. But what exactly are we leaving and where are we going? What does it mean to be authentically human and to live as human? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Retaliation and non-retaliation are two features that help to answer such questions.
Much of the material on this site points to such issues in the greater overall human story or narrative. And in dealing with the big questions and the grand human narrative we are also highlighting the same issues at the level of each personal story. Each human life is a microcosm of the larger human story- the endeavor to overcome the animal (our baser inherited drives) in order to live as truly human.
In the sections below I have outlined some history of retaliation in human thought and life, its damaging consequences, and how humanity has learned to successfully counter that brutality with the emerging wonder of unconditional reality. See the listed essays for more detail.
The Apocalyptic Error and The Nature of Reality and Life as Unconditional
(see essay “Decline or Rise”)
Apocalyptic alarmism has surged and receded repeatedly in the post-WW2 era. Note some of the main alarms of the past 60 years- population explosion and mass famine (Paul Ehrlich), global cooling disaster (Ehrlich again), chemical pollution and poisoning (Rachel Carson), acid rain destroying forests, ocean fisheries collapsing by 2048, deforestation and a denuded planet, species holocaust with up to half of all species extinct by 2100, agricultural land degradation and food crisis, catastrophic global warming destroying life, Y2K and planes dropping out of the sky, bird flu wiping out millions, swine flu competing for similar destructive impact, economic collapse and ruin, Mayan end-of-world horrors, religious end-of-world scenarios, and on and on. One alarm barely fades before another is whipped up and public consciousness is assaulted afresh and traumatized all over again. “Crisis”, “catastrophe”, “looming disaster”, and other terms constitute the all-too-common verbal currency of a media industry that is not oriented solely to truth telling but too often to creating fear (see David Altheide’s research on media in Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis). This repeated apocalyptic alarmism keeps people at high alert and results in many viewing the world as a more and more frightening place.
Note also the numerous apocalypse movies that have come out this year (2013) from the story-telling centers of the entertainment industry (see, for instance, List of Apocalyptic films at Wikipedia). In literature there is now a sub-genre of “post-apocalyptic” writing that unquestioningly assumes there will be an apocalypse and therefore focuses on rebuilding in the post-apocalypse world. Note also that while not all alarmism assumes apocalyptic proportions of world-ending catastrophe, much does point in the direction of some super-catastrophe that ends life as we know it.
Populations frightened by apocalyptic alarmism are more easily manipulated to accept salvation schemes to avoid disaster and “save the world”. As Altheide notes, fear enables social control. Fear-mongering is then a direct attack on human freedom. Pose some threat, scare people, and they will do anything… they will respond to the looniest salvation schemes, in order to save themselves and the world. These salvation schemes have now cost humanity trillions in wasted funds (recent estimate from CCNet of GWPF.com) and have hindered economic growth and overall human progress. And the cost of alarmism to human life has been estimated in the multiple millions. Note, for instance, the tens of millions of unnecessary deaths, mostly children, that resulted from the banning of DDT in the wake of Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism (see http://junksciencearchive.com/ddtfaq.html and http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/09/05/rachel-carsons-deadly-fantasies/ ). Like most irresponsible alarmism the outcomes of these panic crusades are devastatingly inhumane.
And all for what? Apocalyptic has a 100% historical failure rate. It distorts entirely the actual state of the world and the trajectory of life. Overwhelming evidence shows that we are not declining toward some life-ending catastrophe. To the contrary, despite occasional disasters and setbacks, life continues to improve and rises endlessly toward something better than before (see Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, among other similar studies of the state of the world). This is not to deny that real problems exist throughout life but to challenge the alarmist exaggeration of problems to life-ending proportions and unnecessarily terrorizing people.
Let me be blunt in order to be clear- apocalyptic is a fraud and a lie. Yet since the beginning of recorded history (i.e. Sumerian cuneiform tablets) apocalyptic has defined the core of human mythology and it has shaped the belief systems of the major world religions and has now infected modern secular systems of thought also, such as environmentalism.
I have traced in various essays here the historical lines of descent of apocalyptic mythology, from early Sumerian Flood myths (the gods punishing early humanity with a great flood apocalypse), down through Zoroaster and his shift to a fiery world-ending apocalypse, and the descent of this belief into Jewish religion, and then into Christianity which brought apocalyptic mythology into the modern Western world and also into the wider world consciousness.
Creating Divine Monsters
Most important to note in all this research is that apocalyptic mythology is rooted in a major error in early human perception- the belief that there were threatening, retaliatory, and punitive forces (spirits, gods) behind life. That perception of divine retaliation was expressed in early beliefs that the gods were angry and would punish humanity. In historically recent secular systems this has been expressed in terms of an angry planet or “the revenge of GAIA”, or in more general views of some nasty outcome for life or the universe.
This primitive myth of ultimate retaliatory forces lingers like a dark residue staining the background of human subconscious. It spoils our perception and our enjoyment of the wonder of life and it hinders human creative potential. It fosters unnecessary guilt and shame over human progress.
Joseph Campbell viewed human life as story. We go out and confront monsters/problems, struggle to conquer them and learn lessons or gain insights in the process, and then bring these insights back to benefit others. Taking Campbell’s story framework I would argue there is no greater monster that humanity has ever faced than this primitive belief in retaliatory or punishing deity. There is no greater fear than the fear of some super-monster out to get you, to punish you. This is beyond normal fear in life. It is about ultimate fear, existential fear, supreme fear- some monster that cannot just kill your body but also your spirit. This is the great background fear that has far too long lurked just out of sight, but so potently keeps fear, despair, nihilism, and other destructive emotions aroused in public subconscious.
We need to confront and slay this grotesque monster, the worst tyrant ever created. It has dominated the core of human mythology for millennia and it has been at the foundation of all religion (religion as conditional existence- the conditions required to appease and please retaliatory gods). Slay this monster and you liberate humanity at the deepest levels in human consciousness and spirit.
The lesson learned in struggling to conquer this monster?
Unconditional Reality: The Corrective to the Apocalyptic Myth
Over the millennia humanity has uncovered a powerful corrective to this distorting apocalyptic and retaliatory mythology. It is the discovery that there is infinite goodness at the heart of all reality and this gets to the single most important insight in the history of humanity.
This insight into ultimate goodness derives from the early perception that non-retaliation or unconditional love defined authentic human relating and existence. See, for instance, the early piece of literature titled “Advice of an Akkadian Father to his son”, circa 2200 BCE (Wikipedia). People then extended this discovery of the authentic nature of humanity as unconditional love out to define ultimate reality or deity. The general humanization of our understanding of humanity inevitably leads to the humanization of our views of deity. We then recognize that God is more humane than any human; infinitely more so.
We now have access to the insight that inexpressible unconditional Love is at the heart of all reality and life. The historical Jesus (entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus) made a notable breakthrough here in stating clearly that God did not retaliate or punish but treated everyone with unconditional generosity (e.g. Matthew 5:38-48). He based his claim that unconditional love was the ideal for authentic humanity on his view that God was unconditional love. The human ethic and the theology were tightly pair-bonded. “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful”. Do not retaliate because God does not retaliate.
Affirming his insight, let me state his conclusion plainly- there is nothing threatening, retaliatory, or punitive behind life. And this conclusion helps us to understand why the overall long-term trajectory of life rises endlessly toward something better.
We can now tell people, especially children, do not be afraid of the universe or life.
Come in and look around for yourself. This site is exploring some of the foundational errors in human mythical perception and the insights that counter those errors. I would argue that there is no more critical error to confront than apocalyptic and its root idea of retaliating and punishing deity. This single idea has had a more devastating impact on human understanding, response, and society than any other idea. It has distorted entirely our perception of the state of the world, viewing it as a fallen or lost paradise. It has promoted a profound devaluation of the status of humanity, wrongly concluding that people are corrupt and destructive, and deserve punishment for being imperfectly human. And it has distorted entirely our perception of the direction of life, claiming that it is declining toward something worse or catastrophic. Apocalyptic has rightly been described as a mythology of despair.
To robustly counter this error it is important to engage the exploration of unconditional reality. Unconditional response and relating gets us to the essence of authentic humanity and the true meaning of ultimate reality. There is nothing more liberating to human consciousness or the human spirit than the embrace of unconditional love. The actual nature of this reality, as with any element of ultimate reality, is infinitely better than the best that we can imagine. This is what transcendence in deity means.
And whatever you may think about how unconditional love should or should not be applied in human society, be clear that it is the nature of ultimate reality. Unconditional love is the very core of all reality, the true nature of the Ground or Source. There is a notable hesitancy and even resistance from many people to the idea of eliminating retaliation and punishment entirely from human relating and existence. We have had the obligation to revenge drilled into our subconscious for so many millennia, via mythology, religion, and now secular systems of thought, that it is simply unimaginable to many people that authentic human existence entails the elimination of all retaliation. Unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity appear to be just too impractical to a properly functioning society in the opinion of many people. Unconditional love violates their sense of justice as including some form of payback or punishment.
(Note: Religious people have developed the contradictory approach of acknowledging that it is wrong to retaliate and harm those who have harmed us. But then they claim that God will retaliate. This is an endeavor to retain some form of revenge somewhere. Paul is notable here for claiming that to repay harm with harm was evil- e.g. Romans 12. Yet he stated that God would repay with far greater harm in the future. God will do far greater harm or evil a future judgment or apocalypse. This contradictory and nonsensical argument results from the felt need to retain some form of retaliation. And so the most barbaric features of our inhuman past are embedded in deity and protected there in succeeding generations of gods)
But however you view the application of unconditional response in human society, be clear that unconditional love must replace the horrific error of the ancient’s that threat, retaliation, and punishment defined the forces behind life (i.e. the gods). What humanity has long termed God (or the Universe, Mind, Consciousness, Self) is authentically human or humane, and to infinite or transcendent degree. God is not just love, but inexpressible unconditional love. Ultimate Reality is infinite goodness. The Ground or Source or Foundation of all must be entirely humanized and cleansed of any residual and defiling inhumanity such as retaliation. We start with getting that basic perception right (fully humanizing our views of deity) and then move to working that out in human ethics or society.
Let me add here that this insight on unconditional defining ultimate reality is not dependent on Q (Quelle) research or even on the statements of the historical Jesus. It is an insight that would have eventually been discovered as part of the inevitable growth and progress of humanity and human understanding. You do not need to appeal to any authority figure to validate such an insight. We rely ultimately on our own personal sense of the human thing no matter what anyone else has said, or not said, about such realities.
Excerpts from Near-Death Experience accounts on unconditional love at the core of all reality
The following statements are from people that have had near-death experiences and reveal something of the incomprehensible love behind all life. As Ken Ring has said, these people can only “stammer hyperbole” in their attempts to describe the inexpressible nature of this love. Enjoy and take time to feel something of what they are trying to communicate.
“(It) was so incredibly powerful and intensely deep that I was astounded and even in a state of shock as it went through me. I never knew such a love existed…it was the strongest force in existence. It was the energy of pure love….everything was love….it was literally everything…the light loved everyone equally without any conditions…pure, undiluted, concentrated unconditional love…a realm of pure, unconditional love and acceptance, a primordial womb of light blazing with beauty and glory beyond measure…the love was like an energy that connected every molecule in the universe” (from Ken Ring’s Lessons from the Light).
“This love is the purest, truest, deepest, totally unconditional love that you could ever imagine”, Bobbi D on NDERF site.
“That being was composed of love, it created love, it emitted love, it directed love. It lived on love. It was love. Love the Power. Pure love came from that being”, DW on NDERF site.
“The Creator is love…perfect, unconditional love is what that being gave me. Love is what the Creator is composed of. It is the skin, the blood, the body of him… God is love”, DW on NDERF site.
“Standing in the presence of divinity I saw the pure love in all of it. There was no judgment… I was surrounded by a tangible light so thick I could feel it. It was pure, unconditional love…Love is all there is…no judgment…only love, unconditional”, Jeffrey O on NDERF site.
“This light had a singular property that is utterly indescribable in the extent and scope of its sheer magnitude. The singular property of this light was one of absolute love. This love was utterly unreserved, completely unbounded, and utterly infinite in its scope…This being, this light, was total love…it was sheer unalloyed love absolute…Love, at the very essence of existence, is what everything is about. It all comes to love”, Peter N on the NDERF site.
“I was also flooded in an all encompassing unconditionally loving energy. It was an energy of unconditional love, an energy that does not discriminate or judge”, Anita M on NDERF site.
“Love is…the basis of everything…In its purest and most powerful form this love… is unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensible glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that will ever exist and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it…this is not only the single most important emotional truth in the universe but also the single most important scientific truth as well”, Eben Alexander in Proof of Heaven.
“The light was everywhere and everything…the loving Source of all that exists, the God of truth and unconditional love….the light was love and love was God…I came to the rapturous awareness of the infinite nature of God’s love…God is only love, nothing other than love. The only reality is God and God is love”, Linda Stewart on NDERF site.
“Only love was real”, unknown.
“God does not judge, he just loves us with unconditional love, this love is indescribable, it is not like what we feel on earth. This is rather a force-love”, Leonard on NDERF site.
“It is all about love…God is only love”, Mary W on NDERF site.
“It is a true experience of inexpressible love. It is a love that can never be adequately described with words…there is no death, there is no judgment, there is no punishment, there is no fear”, Andrew P on NDERF site.
“I now know that there is no hell”, Bolette L on NDERF site.
“All was love…I was able to perceive all the energy that creates physical reality. I could see the sparkling particles connecting and webbing all things together. I felt totally embraced in pure unconditional love…all is connected, all is one and all is love…love is kind of like gravity, but it encompasses all things”, Robyn on NDERF site.
The following excerpts are from Dr. Jeffery Long’s personal research on unconditional love as expressed in NDE accounts.
“I felt so loved, greater than is possible in our earthly life…(love) it was everywhere…I knew love was the greatest force around us and that we are all love and love is the only thing that is real…Love was everywhere. It permeated the afterlife. It was incredible…I was loved unconditionally despite my faults and fears…the paramount element of reality…
“I knew the being I met was composed in its very atoms of a substance I can only call love and that substance created or was a force or power, like electricity is here. Love is the only word I have….It was total love, everything is love…I felt pure love and the feeling of safety…Everything was love…Love is the root of all. It is the alpha and omega…
“Love is everything…All of it was unconditional…no judgments whatsoever attached…I was loved and it was unconditional….We on earth have no concept of true love…A love so great and peaceful as it enveloped my whole being…Oh God, it was all love. Unbelievable love everywhere….Love and energy is what the other side is based on…
“The void is unconditional love…the void was love. It was the source of love…The bright white light was complete and total unconditional perfect love…unconditional love. Absolutely no fear at all…The entire experience was one of unfathomable love…We are loved, not in the human love definition…in a universal way…
“Love is all that is…the word ‘love’ is only the closest word we have- its not really accurate but I can’t do any better with our language…Love was everywhere…everything was love….I was enveloped with unconditional love and knew that was to be how I should live. It is our essence…Unconditional love and forgiveness is what the universe and life are all about….
“All is love and everything is love…Love was the most powerful, permeating feeling. I feel that I learned that love is everything, the oneness that binds us together…God is in everyone of us as love…love is what life is all about…I felt the love of God is in each of us and that it is unconditional…I felt as if I had found the eternal fountain of love and I was splashing around in it…
“The overwhelming vibe from the light beings was love. It almost felt like love was the glue holding everything together…it is all consuming, all forgiving…everything is love…God’s love is pure and unconditional. This came through very clearly…I was safe and surrounded by love that I couldn’t even fathom…
“I was simply wrapped up in the indescribable bliss I felt from head to toe. It wasn’t like love on earth…out of this world love… intensified by a trillion…makes you happy, times a trillion…I felt the warmth of love all around me…God is love…It is beyond words. I have not seen that kind of love in this lifetime…complete love and acceptance…
“Love is all there is….Yes, yes, yes. It was all pure love. God is love and everything exists because of the pure unconditional love. I was surrounded by pure love…a feeling of overwhelming love…”. There is much more throughout near-death experience literature and research.
This site is dedicated to understanding the fundamental themes of our grand narratives (the great stories or worldviews that we live by) and how these themes impact our lives for better or worse. We are committed to the discovery and outline of an authentically humane narrative to replace the less-than-human narratives that we have inherited from past generations. We value an authentically humane story because of the recognized fact that how we think- meaning the fundamental ideas and stories that we hold- profoundly shapes how we feel and act, and shapes the societies that we create. Our foundational ideas play a significant role in making life better or worse.
Decades of research have led some of us to conclude that two fundamental themes in particular have had overwhelmingly significant impact on our grand narratives. These themes are apocalyptic (a grand retaliation or punishment) and unconditional response (non-retaliation or authentic human relating and existence). Get these two fundamental themes clear (retaliation and non-retaliation), and their lines of historical descent, and you will get to the root of what went wrong in human understanding and life, and how to correct that.
Welcome also to the endeavor to explore the positive side of non-retaliation, the ever-unfolding wonder of unconditional reality. Unconditional love now gets us to the root of human meaning and purpose. Unconditional response and relating is the very heart and soul of authentic humanity. It is the very essence of the new human narrative which is about liberation from our animal past and our journey toward a future of truly human understanding and existence. It also answers our most basic questions about ultimate meaning and ultimate realities.
Recent Essays- “Decline or Rise?: The actual trajectory of life (see Decline or Rise in the topic bar above) and “From Retaliation to Unconditional Love” (see Retaliation/Unconditional in the topic bar above). Further below are two new essays on the Christian rejection of the original gospel of Jesus (unconditional love) for the entirely opposite gospel of retaliation theology (see “Entirely Opposite: A Shift Into Reverse” and “Christianity Got the Wrong Gospel”). These essays trace the fundamental error in ancient perception that there were retaliatory or punishing forces behind life. That distortion in ancient human understanding became deeply embedded in human mythologies, religions, and later in secularized systems of belief/thought (e.g. angry planet or revenge of GAIA).
Christianity is especially notable for taking up that ancient error of retaliatory deity and making that central to its belief system. This is expressed in the common New Testament teaching that God will punish humanity with a final apocalypse and judgment. With that emphasis Christianity has played a major historical role in affirming the ancient error that retaliation/punishment defined deity. Christianity is largely responsible for bringing this ancient retaliation error into modern Western consciousness and hence into contemporary world consciousness. The Christian version of retaliatory apocalypse extends beyond religious circles to influence secular systems of thought such as 19th Century Declinism and its stepchild environmentalism.
The fact that Christianity is most essentially a religion of apocalyptic retaliation has been noted by religious historians like James Tabor (see his Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity). Tabor argues that Christianity is Paul’s religion and apocalyptic influenced all that Paul said and did (e.g. his repeated theme of end-time consummation or transformation). The apocalyptic retaliation emphasis of Christianity is a profound contradiction of the central message of the historical Jesus.
Note also the autobiographical material (Leaving My Religion located in the “Autobiography” button above) is being updated as it was originally written over two decades ago. A new summarizing chapter (ch. 16) covers recent breakthroughs on unconditional response and relating.
Decline or Rise?- this essay tackles the most harmful narrative created by primitive minds, a template of themes that has persisted down into the present in both religious and secular versions (e.g. environmental alarmism). It includes the following perceptions- things were better in a past natural paradise, that paradise has been ruined by fallen/corrupted humanity, life is now declining toward some catastrophic apocalypse, and life needs to be purged of the corrupting element so that paradise can be restored. I am arguing in this essay that overwhelming evidence falsifies this narrative of apocalyptic despair and shows that life is not declining toward catastrophic ending, but, to the contrary, is rising toward something ever better. Some of that evidence can be found in material such as Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, James Payne’s History of Force, and Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, among others.
This apocalyptic narrative has caused immense damage to life by frightening people into salvation schemes that oppose and obstruct human progress (anti-development movements) when it is our very progress that enables us to properly care for life.
I have contrasted these two grand narratives of life- the narrative of apocalyptic decline and the narrative of progress- with some detail on their historical development and their impacts on life, and I have focused somewhat more on the latest version of apocalyptic declinism: environmentalism. The subject can be summed up in a quote from Thomas Macaulay (1830), “On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us”.
From Retaliation to Unconditional This essay details the most fundamental mistake made in the history of human perception- the ancient belief that there were threatening and punitive gods behind life. Ancient people believed that the spirits/gods were retaliatory and would punish people for their imperfections and faults. This distorted perception is evident in the earliest written records of human thought, the mythological themes found on Sumerian cuneiform tablets (e.g. Flood apocalypse). When those early people projected retaliation onto deity they created super-monsters beyond any previously known monsters in life.
There is no more fundamental distortion in human understanding to correct than this belief in ultimate retaliatory forces.
Retaliation then became deeply embedded in human mythology and religious systems. It became buried in the wider public subconscious and it became part of the larger worldview or grand narrative of humanity. And this has caused immense damage to human consciousness and societies. We can trace the development of retaliation thinking down through history. It sparked the creation of apocalyptic mythology- the belief that retaliating gods would cause a final end to all life, a final retaliation or punishment known as the apocalypse.
This perception that there is a retaliating or punishing ultimate reality behind all life is a powerful religious belief that is still widely present in secular movements. We see it in the belief in an angry planet or the revenge of GAIA (and the great environmental collapse or apocalypse). For millennia now retaliation has shaped the very core of the narratives and belief systems of people and has thus presented to humanity a horrific distortion of reality and life.
This myth of monstrous threatening and retaliating entities has darkened human consciousness and held back the human spirit for millennia. It arouses the primal human fear of death, our most fundamental psychological motivation (Ernst Becker, The Denial of Death), and this pushes people into irrational responses to life. Fear of some grand end of life (apocalypse) has always stirred fear and panicked people to seek salvation schemes, no matter how irrational, to avoid the prophesied catastrophes. The aroused death fear also reverberates out to inflame other fears, anxieties, despair, depression, nihilism, and even violence toward others.
Retaliation also became central to human perceptions of justice as punishment. We see the consequence of this in the prison system- the punishment of people by locking them up (and this is not to deny the necessity of restraining violent people who cannot or will not control their worst impulses).
The fear of retaliatory deities is also behind the creation of all religion as systems of sacrifice and salvation. It is behind all religion as conditional existence- traditions that present the conditions necessary to appease and please the threatening and retaliatory gods. Religion as a condition oriented approach to God violates entirely the central teaching of the historical Jesus on unconditional love.
Fortunately, early people also initiated the discovery of a stunning new reality that counters entirely the retaliation error (see for instance, the 2200 BCE statement of the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son- Wikipedia). Those people began to discover that non-retaliation defined authentic humanity. They discovered that truly human relating and existence would involve no retaliation, no punishment, no threat, but rather unlimited forgiveness and generosity, unconditional inclusion and love. As well as being the supreme ideal for human response and existence, early people then realized that non-retaliation (unconditional love) also defined the basic nature of ultimate reality. This meant that behind all life there was no threat of retaliation but rather infinite goodness and generosity. The historical Jesus (entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus) expressed this new insight most coherently in his core gospel statement in Matthew 5:38-48, as well as elsewhere in his teaching. He stated that God did not retaliate against enemies but included all equally (sun and rain given generously to all alike, both just and unjust). He presented a radical new view of deity that broke entirely with all past perceptions of gods.
Early Christianity dismissed this message of its founding hero and opted instead for a retreat to primitive payback mythology, the retaliation and punishment of the apocalyptic template of ideas. This essay details this profound failure of Christianity. And while the Jesus Seminar points out numerous “dissimilarities” between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus it does not offer much on distinguishing his central theme of unconditional response and relating, in contrast to Christian payback theology.
What is the outcome of this new discovery that unconditional love is at the core of all reality? Most importantly, there is nothing to fear in the cosmos or life. There is no threat of ultimate retaliation, revenge, or punishment. Everything will be all right for everyone, ultimately. This is the most liberating insight to have ever entered human consciousness and it powerfully counters the ancient error that retaliation defined the gods. It is an insight that counters entirely the perceptions of threat, retaliation, or punishment with the new understanding that behind all reality there is Unconditional Love. Give this insight some space in human consciousness and watch it liberate the human spirit in potent new ways.
The Christian movement has rejected this great insight of the historical Jesus and has blocked the full liberation of human consciousness ever since. Christianity has been the main forum reinforcing the darkness and despair of apocalyptic mythology and Salvationism in modern consciousness, and Western consciousness in particular.
For more on the Christian rejection of unconditional response see the new collection of posts and short essays titled “Christianity Got the Wrong Gospel” under the Retaliation/Unconditional button in the title bar above.
And the latest is titled Entirely Opposite: A Shift Into Reverse (listed as Entirely Opposite, A Shift) also under the Retaliation/Unconditional button. This brief essay focuses on the Q gospel research, the earliest collections of Jesus’ sayings or gospel. That research has revealed a “stunning” shift from an original gospel that was non-apocalyptic (Q1) to a later apocalyptic version (Q2).
But this shift reveals something far more profound- it was actually a shift away from the non-retaliation theology of Jesus to the retaliation theology of Paul and Christianity. There is no more stunning contradiction between basic worldviews in one movement anywhere in history.
Jesus presented his radical new view of God clearly in Matthew 5:38-48. This is a direct statement that God does not retaliate, does not take revenge, or punish. This is argued first in the ethical ideal that we should not engage eye for eye (payback) justice but should instead love our enemies. Do not try to get even with others who have offended or wronged you. If we do this, says Jesus, then we will be just like God who does not retaliate but shows equal generosity to everyone alike, whether good or bad (e.g. sends sun and rain on the just and unjust). Every person is unconditionally forgiven, included, and loved. This is a striking new view of deity. All previous primitive belief held that the gods were angry, retaliatory, vengeful, and punishing and very much tribally oriented (favoring insiders, excluding outsiders).
Paul, and Christianity in general, rejected the new theology of Jesus and retreated to the opposite view that God does retaliate and punish. Paul’s God does not include all equally, nor love all unconditionally. His God first demands payment before forgiving (blood sacrifice), and then only includes those who believe the divine act of retaliation (the death of Jesus as a blood payment). Anyone who refuses to believe this myth will be punished and destroyed ultimately in hell. There is no inclusive love for enemies in Paul’s gospel.
This is the stunning conclusion from the Q shift- the theology of Paul and Christianity is entirely opposite to that of Jesus. Yet Paul tried to merge some of Jesus’ non-retaliatory teaching with his own beliefs. He did this by stating that we are not to take revenge (Romans 12) but should leave it to God to repay or avenge. Christians today continue to argue the same- we must not engage payback as Jesus taught but must let God take revenge for us. This oxymoronic mixing of complete opposites nullifies Jesus’ core message entirely.
So the Q shift from non-apocalyptic to apocalyptic is really a shift from non-retaliation back to retaliation. How so? Apocalyptic is all about retaliation, grand and ultimate retaliation by God. The shift to apocalyptic is most essentially a shift to retaliation. This is a stunning rejection of the original gospel of Jesus. You simply cannot merge and mix these two opposing views as Christianity has tried to do.
When we get the true nature of the Q shift clear, then it also becomes clear that Jesus could not have been an apocalyptic prophet as the New Testament and many biblical scholars claim. Remember, as noted just above, apocalyptic is most essentially about divine retaliation- grand and final retaliation by God. Jesus clearly taught that God did not retaliate so he could not have advocated for apocalyptic retaliation. To claim that he did so is absolute nonsense. He could not have been an apocalyptic prophet.
I am repeating myself here because this issue is just that important.
What are the larger ramifications of this? The Christian rejection of the original gospel of Jesus is illustrative of the larger human story. This narrative is about our liberation from an animal past (notably defined by retaliation) and our search for a more human future. Unfortunately, many have opposed this grand liberation and opted instead to maintain primitive payback response and existence. Christianity, with its maintenance of retaliation theology, has played a significant historical role in blocking the liberation into a more human world by advocating primitive payback thinking.
This is a greater scandal than the discovery of Jesus’ bones (i.e. the Jesus ossuary). It is one of history’s great blunders. You cannot find a greater contradiction anywhere in all of the Historical Jesus research (e.g. Jesus Seminar research that notes the dissimilarities between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus). The evidence is clear that Christianity developed a message that is entirely opposite to the teaching of the historical Jesus. Christianity outright rejected the non-retaliation gospel of Jesus. It refused to accept the core breakthrough insight of Jesus that God was authentic unconditional love. The outcome of this has been significant in terms of impact on human consciousness and behavior. It was an abandonment of a unique and fresh opportunity for liberation from our animal past and into a more humane existence.
I would further add that understanding the above contradiction does not depend on some Q Source or shift. It is clear from a simple look at the central teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48. Compare his comments there with the rest of the New Testament teaching on God as a retaliatory deity.
More detail: Let me further summarize the above essays and give some more concentrated focus to a central point:
For those interested in ultimate root causes or foundational issues I will summarize some very fundamental things that went wrong in the early construction of mythologies and belief systems that have continued to darken and debilitate human consciousness into the present.
I would point to two ideas/perceptions in particular that need to be isolated out and probed further. People ponder, for instance, questions such as why people today still believe life is getting worse when all evidence shows the opposite to be true. And it is helpful at one level to understand the role of the apocalyptic viewpoint behind this perception that life is declining. But as noted in the essay “From Retaliation to Unconditional” there is something even more fundamental that spawns apocalyptic mythology. And yes, understanding the primal human fear of death (Becker, Denial of Death) is part of this search for root causes.
To focus thinking and to go as fundamental as possible I would isolate the following two perceptions as the deeper root cause of apocalyptic/declinist thinking and at the basis of much related darkness, fear, and despair in human consciousness. These two perceptions have fueled the creation of a lot of harmful mythology over history.
Let me state it this way: the two worst mistakes made by early people in shaping human belief systems, mythologies, and religions were the perceptions that there was something threatening and punitive behind life and, second, that there was something fundamentally wrong with humanity. Mircea Eliade (History of Religious Ideas), for instance, notes the early belief that humanity was created from a partly demonic substance and humans were therefore fallen and corrupt.
In both of these perceptions there is the belief that something is fundamentally wrong at the core of things. At the core of some greater creating reality there is darkness, anger, or something retaliatory and punishing. And at the core of humanity there is something dark and destructive, something fundamentally wrong with being human. These are related perceptions (nasty gods, nasty people).
As noted in the essays, these two beliefs or perceptions are behind the creation of apocalyptic mythology and its twin, salvation mythology, and I would argue that they have done more damage to human consciousness over history than any other core beliefs or ideas.
Apocalyptic mythology is the result of the early endeavor to explain why there is catastrophe, suffering, and death in life. It claims that life was originally perfect but people have become corrupt and have ruined the original paradise. So the gods have punished people for their sin with catastrophe, suffering, and death. And the gods will deliver a final, grand punishment in the future in order to rectify all wrong and to clean up the mess that people have made, and then restore the original paradise.
But creative and meaning-seeking humanity has not taken the stance of passive resignation in the face of these horrific distortions in early worldviews. In the earliest human literature we find people searching for and giving expression to alternative insights that counter these dark myths and point toward entirely new directions for human understanding.
Note, for instance, the breakthrough insight into unconditional response toward others. There is an early expression of this in the Akkadian father’s advice to his son (circa 2000 BCE). This led to the developing understanding that supremely humane existence or life involved unconditional forgiveness, unconditional acceptance and inclusion of all, unconditional generosity toward undeserving others, and non-retaliation- in a word unconditional love.
This developing insight into unconditional relating points to a new height of what it means to be human and counters entirely the old beliefs in nasty gods and nasty people. From this emerging insight many people have now come to the entirely opposite perception that unconditional love defines ultimate reality (its true essence or nature or character). And unconditional love also defines the essential consciousness of humanity (our true self, our essential personhood- Karen Armstrong and Albert Nolan, among others, speak to something similar in arguing that the true nature of our essential self is love). Unconditional points to entirely new ways of perceiving the very essence of things.
The evidence that our essential consciousness is love (something fundamentally right with humanity) is seen in the fact that over history we have been rising endlessly toward something better than before. We are gradually learning to express and live our true nature as something good and creative. Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource) and Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature), among others, offer detailed evidence here of this human progress.
So this perception of something wrong in ultimate reality and something wrong with humanity, these are the two worst mistakes ever made concerning the core nature of things, and unconditional is the corrective response that points to entirely new and opposite realities at the heart of all things.
I see these root perceptions of some core nastiness still present all through contemporary thought and expression. We used to see it, for instance, in dark perceptions of the cosmological future- ideas of a degenerating universe (looming cosmological apocalypse under the dominating Second Law- something to worry yourself about now even though it may occur, as one person noted, many billions or even trillions of years in the future, or it may never occur at all in an eternally expanding cosmos). We have also seen it in beliefs regarding environmental collapse, or declinist beliefs in degenerating human civilization, or people getting worse, and on and on.
Overwhelming evidence falsifies this declinist belief in degenerating reality or history and points, instead, to endless progress into an open future, an infinitely unlimited future that develops toward something ever better. There is indeed evidence all around of something very Good at the core of all reality, life, and consciousness.
More “further” detail on above essays…
I have repeatedly argued that the contemporary movement of environmental alarmism is the current historical embodiment of apocalyptic mythology. This movement ramped up apocalyptic alarmism in the Post-WW2 era with repeated claims of looming catastrophe- disappearance of forests (a denuded planet), global cooling alarms of the 70s, mass starvation scares (Paul Erhlich- hundreds of millions would die), ocean fisheries collapse by 2048, agricultural soil degradation and looming food crisis, species holocaust with over half of all species extinct by the end of this century, and for decades now the alarm over global warming destroying life on the planet. And there were a variety of other alarms.
(Note: Pointing out the alarmist exaggeration of environmental issues is not to deny that real problems exist in many areas)
The impact of this environmental alarmism has been devastating to many people, and especially to children (the new condition of eco-anxiety). It has resulted in widespread endeavor to slow and even halt human economic development and growth which then perpetuates the misery and suffering of poverty. Environmental alarmism led Rachel Carson to advocate for a ban on DDT which subsequently resulted in the needless deaths of tens of millions of people, mostly children, over following decades. Environmental alarmism has led to opposition to GM foods (e.g. Golden Rice) and the unnecessary blindness of 8 million children over a recent 12 year period (see Bjorn Lomborg’s article “The unintended consequence of the anti-GMO movement: Blind Children” at the National Post website or at Slate.com). Note also the widespread suffering from fuel poverty in places like Britain and Germany due to alarmism over fossil fuels (see, for instance, the Global Warming Policy Foundation site and its newsletter CCNet).
The evidence on all the main indicators of life on Earth show that, yes, there are problems in varied areas that need attention and solving, but overall things are improving and life has never been better on the planet. There is no need to exaggerate environmental problems all out of proportion to reality and irresponsibly promote panic over the state of life on Earth. We are not exhausting resources and destroying nature. Earth is doing well.
If the facts do not support the alarmist’s viewpoint, what then motivates these people to repeatedly push a panic agenda? I would argue that it has to do with deeply rooted ideas inherited from an ancient past, notably primitive ideas such as are found in apocalyptic mythology that expresses the following basic themes- the past was better in an original golden age; corrupt people have destroyed that better past; life is now declining toward some catastropic collapse and ending known as the apocalypse; after which the world will be purged and a new utopia installed. This narrative is evident in contemporary secular ideologies such as environmentalism.
Evidence clearly shows that this alarmist narrative is entirely wrong.
But, as noted above, there is an even more powerful idea behind contemporary environmental alarmism. This gets even further into the root causes of apocalyptic alarmism. In the essay above- From Retaliation to Unconditional Love (again, see the button Retaliation/Unconditional)- I have traced the historical development of the distorted perception in primitive mythology that there is something threatening, something vengeful and punishing behind life, whether the spirits behind the forces of nature such as storm gods, or a council of gods threatening a great flood as in early Sumerian legends. This perception of retaliatory deity has been expressed in Western religious traditions as an angry, punitive God. More recently in history this perception has been given a more secularized outfitting and has been expressed in terms of an angry planet or an angry and vengeful GAIA (see, for example, James Lovelock’s The Revenge of GAIA).
The perception of something threatening and punishing behind life has done immense damage to human consciousness and society over history. The belief in punishing gods sparked the emergence of the salvation/sacrifice industry which has resulted in an incalculable waste of human time, energy, and resources. Note even today how environmental perceptions of an angry planet have led to major efforts to slow and halt human progress (e.g. making a sacrifice in the form of halting such things as fossil fuel use in order to “save the planet”). This is just more of the same old appeasement and sacrifice approach that has long hindered human liberation and progress.
But enough introduction- read the essay for more detail on the historical development of this idea of divine retaliation and the development of the counter theme of unconditional response that entirely invalidates the old retaliation mythology. These two themes- retaliation and unconditional love- came to a unique historical climax in the contrast between the historical Jesus (unconditional treatment of all people) and Christianity (highly conditional treatment of humanity and payback/salvation theology).
Other related essays available in the topic bar under Unconditional also point out that the core belief of Christianity in the death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin nullifies the core message of Jesus regarding unconditional love. This central Christian belief has held many in bondage to the darkness of payback thinking for two millennia. The mistake made by early Christians was to create a new conditional payback message about the man that nullified the actual unconditional message of the man.
This contradiction is a more significant scandal than the discovery of the Jesus ossuary and the bones of his wife (see the James Cameron documentary aired on Discovery). This Christian distortion of the message of Jesus has far more damaging consequences for human freedom and progress.
Also, James Tabor has a new book out- Paul and Jesus- that makes the case that Christianity is Paul’s religion and Paul paid no attention to what Jesus actually said. He is among many (e.g. Jesus Seminar) that are affirming the notable contradiction between the historical Jesus and Christianity.
So the essays above under the tab titled Unconditional are statements of the plain meaning of unconditional. These essays offer some detail on how Christianity missed a great historical opportunity to liberate human consciousness from enslavement to payback thinking. See also the summary below for some further idea of the content of these essays.
Overall, what is this page about? Let me explain:
The most fundamental trend of all reality is to organize toward something better. The three great emergences of physical reality- the universe, biological life, and human civilization- overwhelmingly affirm this overall long-term trend of all things to improve, advance, develop, grow, and progress toward something better than what existed before. This is true despite aberrational setbacks, downturns, and disasters along the way.
But one of the dominant narratives that has governed public consciousness for most of human history, missed this rising trajectory entirely. That old narrative stated that all things originated in a Golden Age of perfection and power. Then the original people committed an error and this corrupted life and resulted in the subsequent decline of life, which, according to the old narrative, is supposedly now worsening and heading toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. This is known as apocalyptic mythology. It devalues humanity as a curse on the earth and it rails against the human embrace and enjoyment of life. It is a mythology that has produced endless guilt, fear, and despair over the future of life and civilization. Its most recent incarnation has been in the modern environmental movement which envisions coming ecological and civilizational collapse due to human engagement and use of the world. But this narrative of decline is an entirely wrong-headed perspective and it distorts completely the actual trajectory of life which is to endlessly progress toward something better.
This site will present evidence from varied sources that affirm the fundamental direction of life is toward progress, not decline. It will engage information and facts to inform a new grand narrative of hope, a narrative that will inspire public consciousness to embrace life with the knowledge that, despite aberrational setbacks and problems along the way, all things will continue to get better in the long run. Everything will get better, for everyone. The entire histories of the cosmos, life, and civilization are evidence of this trend. Progress toward something better is the core impulse behind all reality, life, and consciousness.
Affirming that life progresses does not mean denying or minimizing the suffering experienced in life and especially the suffering of conscious creatures. Accidents, setbacks, disease, and varied disasters are part of the progress of life and each presents its own problems. This page will also try to explore the mystery and meaning of such imperfection and its damaging consequences within the larger context of overall progress.
One foundational thing that we can build into a new narrative is that this basic trajectory of life to endlessly improve, speaks to the fact that the Ultimate Reality behind all things is not malicious, threatening, punishing, or vengeful as was the angry God of the old apocalyptic narrative. Rather, however one views ultimate explanations- spirit, Mind, universal consciousness, universe, Organizing Principle, Cosmic Self, or God- all the evidence points to ultimate reality being scandalously generous, forgiving, inclusive, and compassionate- in a word: Love. My own conclusion from all the evidence available is that Love, indeed, defines the ultimate reality behind everything. And it is a form of love that transcendently surpasses our common experience of love in this world. It is absolutely unconditional (unlimited, unqualified, unrestricted, unreserved, and unearned).
With this incomprehensible love at the core of all reality, there is nothing to be afraid of in this universe or world. As the old shaman said, “Do not be afraid of the universe”. Life is meant to be something that we embrace fully as an opportunity to live out our unique stories with all their diverse experiences, both positive and negative. Knowing that everything will get better in the long run and that everything will eventually be all right for everyone, this truth liberates us to live and to fulfill the purpose for which we have been born. A new grand narrative centered on love and hope, liberates us to explore and to fulfill our creative potential, whatever we might discover that to be.
Wendell Krossa firstname.lastname@example.org
A New Unconditional TOE (Theory of Everything)
(This is part of an ongoing effort to counter and correct the worst mistake made by early people, a mistake that continues to darken human consciousness in both religious and secular systems of thought/belief. The mistake?- that there are threatening, retaliatory, or punitive forces/spirits behind life)
I have a theory of everything but its not exactly like the TOEs of physics or cosmology. I draw on a variety of areas of human insight to inform my theory. And, as much as I appreciate science, I do not consider science to be the sole valid source of all truth or approach to attaining all truth. The mandate and method of science limits it to certain areas of exploration and it has done humanity well in focusing on its limited mandate. But to gain a full understanding of reality we need to include approaches like philosophy and theology, along with general human intuition and insight.
For my personal TOE, I draw on such things as the grand trajectories of the cosmos, life, and civilization. I see each of these great trajectories or emergences developing toward more order and complexity. I see them moving from something less developed toward something more developed, something more organized, something more advanced, something better than before. I see progress toward something better as the fundamental impulse operating in all these grand trends. There is overall improvement over the long term. That speaks to a fundamental goodness behind reality and life.
I also take note of how humanity has matured over history in understanding what it means to be authentically human. I find this in the insights of a wide variety of people over history. I see the Akkadian Father (circa 2200 BCE) encouraging his son to forgive his enemies and not retaliate against them. I see this same maturing understanding of more human response in many diverse traditions (see my essay Retaliation and Unconditional for detail).
I then see the historical Jesus (an entirely different person than the Christian Jesus) making his striking breakthrough in regard to theology. No one before him had ever stated such a stunning thing- that God did not retaliate or punish anyone. God was of the nature of unconditional love. God included all equally, forgave all endlessly, and was equally generous toward all, whether good or bad. And in many other sayings and short stories the historical Jesus expressed his view that there was unconditional goodness behind all things. He pointed to sun and rain given freely to all alike, to flowers clothed in beauty, to worthless birds fed and cared for. He consistently stated that there was no malice or threat or destructive force behind life. This contradicted all previous human understanding of divinity or gods.
And I read widely in near-death experiences of the similar discovery of an astounding love at the core of reality. It is not just love but a startling new perception of love. It is exactly what the historical Jesus tried to communicate. That God is of the nature of unconditional love, but of a quality that is infinitely and incomprehensibly better than the best that we can imagine. It is unconditional to inexpressible depth and profundity. People having experienced it can only “stammer hyperbole” (Ken Ring) in their efforts to express it. Words simply fail to communicate its full wonder and overwhelming intensity.
Some of the elements that define the incomprehensible nature of unconditional love include such things as endless forgiveness of all wrongs, unconditional inclusion/acceptance of all alike, and unlimited generosity toward all alike. “Give and do not expect anything in return” is another element of unconditional. And this is just getting started in understanding the real nature of unconditional love. At the center of it all is the scandalous wonder that is “unconditional” (absolutely no conditions).
Theology and religion in general have not fully engaged this NDE phenomenon and particularly the discovery of God as unconditional love. We can understand why. Unconditional love poses a direct threat to the very existence of religion as a tradition of conditions- the conditions required to appease and please threatening deities.
All these varied sources of information above lead me to affirm my TOE- that at the very core of all reality and life there is the infinite and incomprehensible wonder of unconditional Love. This Love creates all, sustains all in existence, permeates all, grants profound meaning and purpose to all, and warmly welcomes and embraces all in the end. And this means that all are safe, and everything will be all right for everyone, ultimately.
This is why some of us relentlessly go after the dark theology of apocalyptic. It distorts so entirely the nature of reality and life with its mythology of threatening, retaliatory, and punitive forces/gods. This sorry and primitive mythology has dominated human outlook over history, embedding itself in all of the main religious traditions, and now in most of our modern secular systems of thought/belief. This mythology of despair has terrorized human consciousness far too long with the fear of looming threat, punishment, and destruction. It has ruined the party of life and dragged down the human spirit with gloom over the future. It is entirely wrong and it has horribly distorted the true nature of reality and missed the fundamental trajectory of life to progress toward something better.
Unconditional love is central to any complete TOE. It is the ultimate explanation of reality and life. It is at the very heart of understanding human meaning and purpose.
I am presenting the basic structure of my TOE just to say with the ancient shaman, “Do not fear the universe”. Do not fear life, or anything.
But just a bit more- there is a sometimes intense reaction from people to the ideal of unconditional love. They claim that it is just too impractical to implement in our societies. They say that it violates the human sense of fairness and justice (justice as payback, getting what you deserve- this belief is deeply lodged in human subconscious). And they claim that it shows weakness, especially in the face of evil. It will only lead to more unnecessary suffering.
I would respond to such concerns by affirming first that an authentically humane God does not return harm to those who have caused harm (not in any future or ultimate sense). So at a minimum do not try to validate retaliation or payback justice by appeal to deity. It is just not there. A God of love, notably unconditional love, forgives all alike and endlessly, accepts all, and is generous toward all, both good and bad. Absolutely unconditional.
I would also affirm that a God of love sets people free and this may untie some mental knots for some. Freedom is tightly pair-bonded to genuine love. Both are sides of the same coin. You do not have love without freedom. But the risks of such freedom are significant. Humanity has been set free to learn what it means to be human and to grow and develop as authentically human. And our history shows how terrible the consequences of such freedom can be at times, the brutal manner in which we have treated one another on our journey to becoming more human. But that is the risk that love takes in granting true freedom. There is no other way to gain genuine human growth and response than by granting true freedom of choice.
Add here the element of natural freedom or freedom in nature. Despite the randomness of this element, and its terrifying consequences, this is still the best possible world (see for instance, William Hasker’s The Triumph of God Over Evil for detail).
The freedom in nature and human existence has caused endless confusion with people who expect God to intervene in life to change things, to prevent evil, and save the innocent. But a God of love does not do that. A God of love does not overrule human choice nor overwhelm human learning processes. Love respects the freedom of the other. It is up to us to make the choices to prevent evil, to protect the weak and helpless, and to make life something better. It is up to us to learn how to do the right thing, the human thing. This personal responsibility is absolutely necessary for authentic learning and growth.
So any basic understanding of love includes the responsibility to protect, to stop those who cannot or will not control their own worst impulses. And this will even include the imprisonment of those who engage repeated violence. But, as someone noted, in the spirit of unconditional love we do such things out of concern for the well-being of the offender. We are speaking here of restorative justice, not justice as punishment.
And for those who still consider the practice of unconditional love as exhibiting weakness, try practicing it for a week. Nothing takes more courage. Nothing is more difficult. Jesus’ statement “Love your enemies” is called a hard saying for good reason. It perplexes, inspires, and it frustrates but it is the most sublime thing ever thought or uttered by any person. It takes human ethics to entirely new heights. It takes the meaning of love magnitudes of order higher than ever conceived before. It liberates us from our brutal past like nothing else can. And it reveals the nature of ultimate reality (God) more profoundly than any other statement or definition. It is simply the greatest human insight ever. It gets to the real essence of things. Of what it means to be authentically human, and what God or the core of reality is all about. It is at the heart of any complete TOE.
And as I have argued with a friend, unconditional love is at the very basis of civilization and foundational things like commerce. Civilization began when early people, instead of killing one another as they had over all previous history, began to tolerate differences and mistakes, and learned to forgive and to cooperate for mutual advantage. They were then able to trade and live together (early urbanization) without destroying one another. They were practicing early forms of unconditional love and hence we have civilization today. Unconditional love, far from being impractical, is at the very basis of civilization and society and commerce.
Further note: regarding the idea of a TOE, some physicists will admit that a theory of everything will not provide answers to everything, especially a theory that is focused on all the relationships among physical reality. My TOE does not relate to anything like theoretical physics and the linking of all physical phenomena. A material TOE, like the proposed TOEs of physics, does not explain human consciousness and the fundamental human impulses for meaning and purpose. It does not explain some of the most basic and important things in reality and life.
When I employ the term TOE I am referring to something broader than just the material elements of reality. I am thinking more of the larger picture of reality and life. I am trying to understand the place of the supreme ideal of love in the cosmos and life. And humanity has been intuiting this over our history- the centrality and supremacy of love as our highest ideal. Our discovery of the supremacy of love in our own existence has led to the recognition that love also defines the creating Source of all reality. It defines deity, but to infinitely higher degree, to transcendent heights of the meaning of this ideal. To scandalous extent.
So I would suggest finally that to really understand reality and life in the most complete sense, and to fully understand what it means to be human, or the point of conscious human existence, then explore unconditional love for all you are worth. And note especially that defining word unconditional. Absolutely no conditions. Feel the scandal of this element. The offensiveness of it. How it upsets conventional perception of justice as payback, or punishment, or fairness.
There is nothing more important to get clear at the very core of all meaning or understanding than unconditional love. All else will be distorted or less than complete if you miss this core feature of reality.
Unconditional love is essential to any authentically humane worldview.
Brief Summary of Essays on Unconditional (a bit of comment on theology/spirituality)
Two millennia ago humanity was offered a unique new opportunity to exodus from the slavery of payback existence. An unprecedented discovery had been made that all reality was grounded in unconditional love and therefore every person was the beneficiary of an incomprehensible unconditional love and every person deserved to be treated with unconditional love. None excluded. This was the core message of the Palestinian secular sage Jesus, notably different from the Christian Jesus. His message was a direct counter to the impulses and responses that had prevented people from embracing the freedom to live as authentically human; primitive impulses to retaliate, exclude, dominate, and punish or destroy.
These impulses had long been embedded in systems of payback justice with its elements of wrongs committed, offended parties, deserved revenge, and just punishment. In place of this payback, unconditional love urged unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, and generosity toward all (and no, this was not a call to irresponsibly abandon the obligation to prevent abuse and protect the innocent). Unconditional love would include and honour every person equally, no matter what their status, reputation, or lifestyle.
The main precepts of the historical Jesus presented the first complete template of what unconditional relating meant. It was a love that generously gave to others without expecting repayment. It forgave endlessly (70 times 7, or unlimited) even without the offender seeking forgiveness or making amends first. It did not judge or condemn others. It did not dominate or control others. It was merciful and kind to the ungrateful and evil. After all, said Jesus, a God of love sent rain and sun on good and evil alike. Unconditional was summarized in the comprehensive statement to love your enemies and treat them as intimate family.
Unconditional meant that instead of payback thinking and responses, no conditions were to be set that would impinge on the full acceptance of anyone. No pre-requisite demands were to be made of anyone before offering full forgiveness and treating them with full generosity, mercy and kindness. No payment was to be demanded of anyone for any wrong committed. It meant absolutely no conditions in our treatment of others. Unconditional relating or love summarizes what have been called the ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus and they have been easier to deny or ignore than to implement. And once again, taking these sayings seriously does not mean that we abdicate our responsibility to prevent abuse and protect the innocent. This is not in question. We do not abandon common sense in the endeavor to practice love. Unconditional is more about how we view and treat offenders, even when restraint is required for people unable or unwilling to control their own worst impulses.
Unconditional was to be extended to the deepest recesses of human mental and emotional life, to the rooting out of any ideas that maintained payback in human worldviews, thereby darkening consciousness with unnecessary fear, anxiety, shame and despair. Such ideas include the still widespread beliefs in such things as divine retribution, divine judgment, and punishment in hell.
Unconditional, according to the historical Jesus, stated that God was not a God of get even or payback. God was not a God of vengeance that punishes enemies. As Jesus said, the God behind all reality sends sun and rain to the so-called good and evil alike. God is generous to all, not vengeful, exclusionary, or discriminatory.
We can safely conclude from such statements that there is no coming divine judgement, no divine retaliation, no punishment, and most importantly no Hell (still a widely held belief- 70% of Americans still believe in Hell). It is no longer tolerable to allow such barbaric myths to haunt human consciousness.
What happened to this great offer of liberation into unconditional thinking and existence?
The earliest Christians immediately reverted to payback views and interpreted Jesus’ teaching and life in these pagan terms after he died. How, exactly, did they do this? They claimed that the death of Jesus was a great divine sacrifice to pay for sin, that God first had to send his son to die for sin before he could forgive anyone. This teaching of sacrifice or payment introduces a supreme payback condition that distorts entirely the message of Jesus about unconditional forgiveness and love. It obliterates entirely the meaning of unconditional love as taught by Jesus. The payback theology of Christianity declares that God is not a God of unconditional love but a God of conditions, of full payment, vengeance, and punishment.
Reason it out for yourself: If the debt first had to be paid in full, then unconditional forgiveness is rendered unnecessary and meaningless. The debt has been paid. Forgiveness of any form is no longer needed. You cannot claim that God demanded full payment and at the same time say that God forgives and loves unconditionally. It is an irredeemable contradiction.
Authentic unconditional love, to the contrary, does not demand any payment first. A God who would demand payment first would know nothing of authentic unconditional forgiveness. A God who demanded any conditions be met first would also be held to a lower standard of behaviour and response than we imperfect humans are held to (we are clearly told to treat others unconditionally). Let’s not wrongly conclude that a supremely human God (Edward Schillebeeckx, “God is more human than any human being”) meets a lower standard of forgiveness and love than we do. That makes no sense at all.
Christianity, by creating this belief in divine payment, has inexcusably rejected the truth of unconditional love as taught by Jesus. By introducing a supreme prerequisite condition, Christianity has denied and nullified the core message of Jesus. It thereby missed the greatest opportunity in history to liberate humanity from the darkness of payback thinking and missed a singular opportunity to lead the human exodus into a truly humane existence.
The conclusion that the belief system of Christianity is a direct contradiction and distortion of the message of Jesus can be arrived at by employing such things as the good logic of the Jesus Seminar. They note, for instance, the statements attributed to Jesus in Matthew 11, where he apparently curses Capernaum. These statements, say the Seminar scholars, are not from the historical Jesus but are later additions put in his mouth by others advocating payback and trying to present him in such terms. To quote the Seminar scholars, “Jesus would not have condemned the towns that did not accept him. He would not have told Capernaum to go to Hell after instructing his disciples to love their enemies…the reference to the destruction of Sodom is inimical to someone who taught his disciples to love their enemies” (The Five Gospels, p.320). The logical point I take from this is that anything that contradicts the core message of Jesus to show unconditional love to all, is simply wrong and should be rejected as not authentic to his central message. That’s a great little rule of thumb when sorting out what is authentic to the historical Jesus and what is not.
Let me add that early Christians were not the first to miss an opportunity to liberate human consciousness. The Old Testament prophets had declared centuries earlier that God was not interested in sacrifice (conditions, payment, or punishment) but instead wanted mercy and the liberation of oppressed people. This was a striking new message of justice as liberation, not retaliation. But the message of the prophets was no more welcomed than Jesus’ message was, and it was subsequently buried under the priestly system of payback sacrifice. So Jesus’ emphasis on unconditional and the rejection of that unconditional insight was not without historical precedent.
There is no better insight into what that ultimate reality is than unconditional love. There is no higher point of enlightenment or more clear view of deity than this. This is the essence of the light behind all that is God. So if you want to know ultimate reality or God, as many claim, then explore unconditional love for all you are worth. Christianity has distorted entirely this essential nature of ultimate reality upon which we base all our other perceptions of material reality and life.
Now, is everyone waiting to embrace liberation into an existence of unconditional love and enter a new world of unconditional treatment of all people, no matter what they have done or not done?
Not so much. Authentic unconditional love has always been offensive to people who have invested their lives in the advocacy of systems of payback justice. They take offense at unconditional forgiveness just as Jonah took offense when God forgave his enemies. They respond like the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable who was offended when the father turned away the wasteful son’s offer of repentance and instead freely welcomed him home. The older brother felt the wasteful son should have been reprimanded and suffered some punishment. But the father would have none of it. He was moved by unconditional love.
For those willing to accept it, unconditional love liberates utterly from all fear of retaliation, exclusion, and punishment. It declares that there is nothing to fear in ultimate reality (God) because God does not retaliate against anyone or punish anyone. Unconditional love declares that every person is as fully forgiven, and accepted, and as loved as every other person. Everyone is ultimately safe in unconditional love. Unconditional liberates people in the depths of their consciousness from all forms of fear, anxiety, and darkness. It points to a genuinely humane existence of no barriers, no pre-requisites, unconditional forgiveness and acceptance, and unlimited generosity toward all. There is no obligation to believe something, join something, or to convert to something. Unconditional undermines religion entirely.
All that unconditional love urges is that we extend the same unconditional love to all others that has been extended to us.
Christianity has missed history’s greatest opportunity to liberate humanity and continues to block that liberation with a primitive belief system of conditions and payback. But despite this obstructionism, many people continue to find their way into the liberation of an unconditional humanity.
Let me add this for those who will try to dismiss this central theme of Jesus as too idealistic, impractical, or unworkable in real life. An embrace of unconditional love is not at all incompatible with the growing sensibility to all forms of inhumanity and a robust defense of people from the inhumanity of others who cannot or will not control their worst impulses.
(for more detail see essays above under ‘Unconditional’ and especially the essay From Retaliation to Unconditional Love) Contact: email@example.com
The Two Greatest Things
This page will unabashedly tell you the two most important things you can ever know about life. Those two things can be summed up in these two words- retaliation and unconditional.
What went wrong- humanity’s greatest mistake.
Retaliation epitomizes all that is wrong with life. Retaliation is about the endeavor to vent rage at another, to punish or get even, to dominate and destroy. Our mistake was to legitimize this ugly feature of our past, to embrace it in human existence (e.g. justice as payback), and to try to protect it under the sacred (to project it onto gods and thereby define gods as retaliatory/punitive entities). Retaliation thinking then became the essence of religion- how to appease angry, punishing gods (Salvationism) and the way to exact ultimate vengeance on enemies (e.g. the religious belief in ultimate apocalyptic punishment). Retaliation has darkened human consciousness like nothing else.
What went right- humanity’s greatest discovery.
Unconditional is the epitome of all that is right in life. We have come to the emerging and developing understanding that this feature defines the very essence of ultimate reality. It also defines authentic human response and existence- to treat every person with unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity, including our enemies. Unconditional is enlightenment, freedom and progress. It established the foundation of civilization when early people halted the cycles of payback violence to start trading, living together in larger groups (urbanization and domestication), and started cooperating to improve their lives and societies (the humanization of all life).
Unconditional also answers the fundamental human impulse for meaning and purpose (what does it mean to be truly human). It tells us why we are here and what is the most important thing that we can ever learn in life.
Copyright @ Wendell Krossa
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Everything Is Going To Be All Right
Posted on May 27, 2011 by Wendell Krossa
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged environmental, everything gets better, hope, human spirit, human story, new narrative, progress | 2 Comments