See “Hurt for hurt cycles” and “The science of CO2” below.
Point in comment below: Be careful about the features that you project onto and then embrace in humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity. We become just like the God that we believe in. And the outcomes of bad God theory have been horrific for others across history.
Ideas work in a feedback relationship with behavior. We are most essentially meaning-seeking beings (Victor Frankl). We embrace ideas/ideals to inspire, guide, incite, and validate our behavior and lives. This relationship is as old as humanity- to base our behavior/lives on some greater ideal or reality. We want to believe that we are fulfilling some larger purpose, following some greater ideal or model. The issue then becomes- is that greater reality authentically humane or not?
Historical Jesus embraced the central theme of non-retaliation or unconditional love. Paul rejected that and re-affirmed retaliation and conditional love as his central theme (note his overall apocalyptic framework for his Christian religion- apocalypse as the supreme act of retaliation).
Rethink the Christ myth- Jesus is not, and cannot be, Christ
The Christ of Paul has been the single most dominant myth in human history (see Tabor quotes below). It is the heart and soul of Christianity, the most influential belief system in history. While the Christ of Paul does embrace some admirable human ideals like grace, love, and forgiveness, it also embraces some of the basest features of primitive human mythology.
Notable themes associated with Paul’s Christ include: retaliation (divine retribution or repayment), discrimination or tribal exclusiveness (i.e. true believers favored over unbelievers), domination of others (Paul’s Christ as Lord of all, ruling with an iron fist/scepter), excessively harsh judgment (eternal punishment and torture in Hellfire for minor mistakes like gossiping, boasting, trash talking, disobeying parents, and of course, for not believing Paul’s Christ myth), and the threat of violent world destruction (apocalypse- see Thessalonians, 2 Peter, Revelation).
The Christ of Paul must be humanized just as we humanize everything else in life.
Most influential myth in history? How so? Evidence: Note the prominent influence of Christian apocalyptic on 19th Century Declinism, an ideological or “secular” version of apocalyptic mythology. “Declinism became arguably the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century”, Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline in Western History. Further, note the influence of Christian apocalyptic millennialism on Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism (Richard Landes in ‘Heaven on Earth’, Arthur Mendel in ‘Vision and Violence’, and David Redles in ‘Hitler’s Millennial Reich’).
Further proxy evidence for the influence of apocalyptic: The public surveys of people’s pessimism about the future. We also see the prevalence of apocalyptic in contemporary story-telling such as in the movie industry and in literature (i.e. the sub-genre of “post-apocalyptic”). And of course the never-ending environmental alarmist theme of the ‘end of days’ looming just over the horizon. Add here that depression is the world’s number one illness.
The ideals that we embrace give meaning to our lives. They guide how we think and feel. They inspire and motivate our responses and actions. They shape our lives and societies.
So the question is of critical importance: What features should define our highest ideal and authority- deity? This is about the critical issue of distinguishing between what is authentically humane and what is subhuman or inhumane. People have done this from the beginning- learning the simple difference between good and bad, and applying that to all areas of life. Paul’s Christ needs to undergo this same process of reform, of being subjected to affirming what is good and purging what is now understood as bad.
My point in this comment is that there are subhuman/inhumane features that are still embedded in our highest ideals. Those inhumane features continue to shape human consciousness/subconscious and work to harmfully influence us and to incite the worst of human impulses, responses, and behavior. Where Historical Jesus embraced themes that inspired the best of being human, Paul’s Christ embraced features that validate the worst of human behavior.
For example, central to the Christ is the base ideal of punitive retaliation that has often incited and validated the animal-like response of retaliation in the followers of the Christ. Episodes from the darker side of Christian history illustrate this fact. One example would be John Calvin putting his fellow Christian theologian, Servetus, to a tortuous death by slow burning (using green wood for the fire). Calvin’s motive for murder? A disagreement over the Christ myth. Servetus would not move a descriptive adjective to another position three words over in a sentence. Other examples would include the early Christian slaughter of Jewish communities as the Christian Crusaders travelled to Jerusalem to slaughter Muslims that refused to believe the Christ myth.
If we are going to fully humanize human life and society then we must include the project to fully humanize our highest ideals and authority- notably God or Christ. This is about going to the root of the problem to solve things at the deepest levels, to “win the battle of ideas” that are often behind the repeating problems of life, such as religious violence.
Paul’s Christ has been the foundational myth of Western consciousness and culture for two millennia. It has shaped Western justice and ethics. It is primarily responsible for shaping the Western myth of apocalyptic that is now expressed in the ideology of 19th Century Declinism- again, “the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics today”, and most notably so in it’s Environmental Alarmism version. And also again, Paul’s apocalyptic millennial themes were behind the mass-death movements of the past century.
The lines of descent, and the correlations to historical episodes of bad behavior, are clear.
The original error made by primitive minds was that the gods were retaliatory, punitive. This was the conclusion of early human logic- i.e. there were gods behind all the elements of the world (e.g. spirits or gods of trees, streams, storms/thunder, animal life, and disease) and as those elements of life were often destructive, then the gods were obviously angry and punishing people for their “sins”.
Hence, the myth of retaliatory deity was deeply lodged in human worldviews at the very beginning and has even become embedded in the human subconscious. And that myth of divine retaliation then validated the primal impulse in people to retaliate. Retaliation has long defined human justice as something retributive, punitive.
The theme of retaliation has continued at the core of world religions across history. It has also descended into the dominant ideologies of the modern world (i.e. 19th Century Declinism). The theme of retaliation is pair-bonded with the belief that people are bad and deserve to be punished by some great Force or Spirit. We see continue to see this core retaliatory, punitive theme in the contemporary myths of “the revenge of Gaia”, “angry planet”, “retributive Universe”, and karma.
The argument of this site is that the original error of some core retaliation (punitive, destroying deity) was corrected millennia ago by Jesus (his “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”) but that new theology was subsequently buried by Paul’s Christ myth and the Christian religion. Paul rejected the stunning non-retaliatory discovery of Jesus and retreated to re-affirm the ancient, primitive error of retaliation as the defining feature of deity.
Where non-retaliation was the central principle in the message of Jesus, Paul re-established retaliation as the central principle in his gospel.
Two notable icons and their ideas (Paul and Jesus) have dominated our Western consciousness for the past two millennia, more than any others (see James Tabor’s comment below on Paul’s dominant influence on Western society-“Paul is the most influential person in human history”).
The argument of this site is that Jesus and Paul were entirely opposite to one another. This is evident when you isolate their core themes, message, or teaching.
But the religion that they are embedded within- Christianity- has not presented to us that stunning contradiction. And the result has been “cognitive dissonance” of the most serious kind. This dissonance, or disconnect, stems from the oxymoronic merging and mixing of history’s most profoundly humanizing insight (i.e. non-retaliatory, unconditional love in God) with history’s most damaging themes (i.e. divine retaliation and supreme conditionalism/salvationism). This dissonance continues to overshadow our greatest ideal and authority- deity. (See psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s treatment of Christian cognitive dissonance in his book- Cruel God, Kind God)
The inhumane features in the religious mix have always undermined, weakened, distorted, and even buried the better features in the mix. Consider this summary of Christian belief: “God is love, but will send you to Hell if you do not believe Paul’s Christ myth”? Really? Love and Hell from the same reality? C’mon. Seriously?
Here is the contradiction set forth as simply as possible, even if, at first blush, it seems too blunt and offensive. You cannot merge Historical Jesus with Paul’s Christ. The term “Jesus Christ” is entirely contradictory. Jesus is not, and cannot be, Christ. How so?
1. In his core statement of his theology, Historical Jesus taught non-retaliation. He said that there should be “no more eye for eye but love your enemies because God does not retaliate but loves God’s enemies, giving sun and rain to both good and bad people”.
To the contrary, Paul’s Christ, and his general theology, embodied supreme retaliation. He affirmatively quotes the Old Testament theology that declares, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”.
2. Historical Jesus taught a God that was unconditional Love. Again, sun and rain are given to all, to both good and bad people. Or, in the same context, “Give to all, expecting nothing in return. Do good even to even your enemies, expecting nothing in return”- i.e. divine love expects no payment or sacrifice.
Paul’s God, to the contrary, demanded and expected a supreme condition to be met, a payment to be made, before he would do good to his enemies- i.e. the ultimate sacrifice/payment of the death of a god-man (see his book of Romans for detail).
3. Jesus was non-apocalyptic. His non-retaliatory God (no eye for eye) would not engage the ultimate retaliatory act of apocalypse, and would not embrace the ultimate retaliation that is Hell.
Again, to the contrary, Paul’s Christ and God were apocalyptic. See his Thessalonians letters, where Paul states, “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire (apocalypse) to punish and destroy all who do not believe my gospel”.
If you mix or merge these entirely opposite themes, you then create nonsense. Paul’s endeavor to mix Historical Jesus with his Christ has only distorted, undermined, and buried the true message of Jesus.
Historical Jesus had cut the taproot of the destructive apocalyptic myth. He went directly to the retaliation theology at the core of the apocalyptic pathology and repudiated that “eye for eye” God. But Paul, the apocalypticist, rejected the theological breakthrough of Jesus and retreated back to the punitive, destroying deity that would retaliate (engage eye for eye justice) in a great apocalypse. Paul epitomized these bad religious ideas in his Christ myth.
Further: Opposing messiah mythology
Historical Jesus did not embrace messiah mythology in general and especially not the Christ messiah as presented in Paul’s Christ myth. Jesus made a variety of statements that showed that he stood against messiah and Christ mythology. He was, to be blunt, anti-Christology or anti-Christ.
Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel research affirms that in the original teaching of Jesus (i.e. Q1) he said nothing about coming as a messiah, or coming to offer himself as a sacrifice to pay for sin (see James Robinson, John Kloppenborg, Stephen Patterson, and related Q scholars).
To the contrary, the Christ of Paul was presented as the supreme sacrifice to appease divine anger at human imperfection/sin. Paul’s God threatened to retaliate against all sin and to destroy “sinners” unless a payment of blood was made by a Savior/messiah. But, again, Jesus had taught that there was no such angry, threatening God, threatening to retaliate against enemies or sinners. So logically, no sacrifice or atonement was needed to appease the theological fiction that Paul embraced.
Jesus further stood against messiah mythology as in “Lord Christ ruling all”. He had taught: “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, exercise authority over them. But not so with you. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20). The God of Jesus was not a ruling king, but a servant God, humble and lowly, a commoner God. The God of Jesus had nothing to do with ruling elites and domination of others.
I would affirm with Charles Templeton that God was not a self-centered psychopath demanding to be the center of attention and praise like an Idi Amin personality. No. God was authentic love. Such love respects the freedom of others and serves others. It does not control, threaten, coerce or interfere in other’s freedom.
Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy were right that the diamond/pearl of Jesus has been buried in the Christianity and Christ of Paul.
The Core of the Core
To set forth this contradiction between Jesus and Paul more clearly, note again Jesus’ statement of his central theme in Matt.5:38-48, or the better version in Luke 6:27-36 (Luke’s statement of that same message or theme). Central theme? Yes, it is the notable heart (the “core of the core”) of Jesus’ most original teaching as set forth in the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel research.
Note that Jesus based his non-retaliatory, unconditional behavior on the related theological belief in a non-retaliatory, unconditional God. Do this because this is what God is like, or this is what God does. This is how God treats all people, including the bad, the unrighteous, or evil people.
Jesus based his non-retaliatory ethic (how we should behave) on a similar, but transcendently better, non-retaliatory theology (how God behaves).
This is about the fundamental relationship of an ethic based on a theology, or a behavior based on a belief. People have engaged this across history, modelling their lives according to what they believed was the divine pattern (i.e. the will, law, or word of God).
Here again is his statement of his main message or theme:
“You have heard it said that justice is eye for eye. But, no. I say, instead, Love your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you. Give to those who will not give in return. If you to this, then you will be the children of your divine Parent. You will be just like God because God does not engage eye for eye retaliation but instead God loves God’s enemies. How so? God sends sun and rain to all, both to good and to bad people. Be unconditionally merciful to the bad people, just like God.”
Later, Paul used the same pattern (i.e. a behavior related to a theological belief) in Romans 12. But he did so in order to intentionally and directly contradict the foundational ethic and theology of Jesus. Paul said, “Do not repay evil for evil. Do not take revenge”. Why? Because God will vent his wrath and vengeance on your enemies. So at first blush it appears that Paul, contradictorily, based his apparently non-retaliatory ethic/behavior on the very opposite view of a retaliatory God.
Paul affirms his theology in a quote from the Old Testament where it claims that God said, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay”. Paul then adds this critical comment, do good to your enemy in order to “heap burning coals on his head” (i.e. to ensure his punishment at the hands of a vengeful, retaliating God).
Aha. So even Paul’s ethic, while appearing non-retaliatory in practice, is retaliatory in spirit. Note that he said “you must not retaliate in order to ensure the divine or ultimate punishment of your enemy”. Paul’s non-retaliatory ethic is actually retaliatory in spirit and intention toward others (i.e. the end point or goal of your doing good to your enemy is to ensure divine retaliation against him- to “heap coals of fire on them”).
There is no authentic unconditional mercy or non-retaliatory love, whether ethical or theological, in that statement of Paul.
In summary, Paul’s statement is an affirmation of retaliation in direct contradiction to Jesus’ central message or gospel of non-retaliation. Paul, once again, embraced the very worst themes of past mythology and religion, the themes that have always deformed human personality and life with fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame.
Apocalyptic millennialism is the overall framework of Paul’s religion. He embraced the idea of a retaliatory, punishing God that would destroy the world in a final apocalypse and then offer salvation and a millennial paradise for true believers in his Christ.
The outcome (i.e. consequences) of Paul’s retaliatory core themes have been horrific over the past two millennia. For example, look at just the last century and the discovery of apocalyptic millennial themes behind the main mass-death movements of Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism (see research of Richard Landes, Arthur Herman, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles). These movements have resulted in the deaths of 200 million people in just the twentieth century.
Those apocalyptic millennial themes came to us, directly descending from Paul’s Christ myth, and his version of Christianity, then into the 19th Century ideology of Declinism, and then also into contemporary versions of apocalyptic, such as environmental alarmism.
“The initial religious model of apocalyptic transmutation/transformation became the pattern and inspiration for the later secular revolutionary versions” (Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence). Mendel adds that apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history.
Paul’s apocalyptic retaliation theme is still evident throughout Western consciousness and society today. It has shaped Western justice as essentially retributive or punitive (see Mennonite comment further below in “Hurt for hurt cycles”).
Remember, the non-retaliatory God of Jesus cannot be an apocalyptic God because an apocalypse is a great act of supreme retaliation, the final retaliation.
Quotes from Tabor, Mendel
“Paul is the most influential person in human history and realize it or not, he has shaped practically all we think about everything…the foundations of Western civilization, from our assumptions about reality to our societal and personal ethics, rest in a singular way upon the heavenly visions and apparitions of Paul (his Christ vision)… In contrast, Jesus as a historical figure has been largely lost to our culture.” (James Tabor in Paul and Jesus)
“Paul operated with a strongly apocalyptic perspective that influenced all he said or did”. (Tabor)
“Before his conversion Paul was a thorough-going apocalypticist. He did not abandon his apocalyptic thinking; his apocalypticism… formed his framework for understanding his new faith… Paul’s message… was a Jewish apocalyptic proclamation with a Christian twist…”, Bart Ehrman, The Triumph of Christianity.
Again, my point is that the core of apocalyptic mythology is the idea of a retaliating deity that engages the ultimate act of eye for eye justice in an apocalypse (punishing and destroying humanity and the world). Jesus had rejected apocalyptic with his stunning new theology of non-retaliatory God that did not engage eye for eye justice. The God of Jesus would not engage the ultimate “eye for eye” retaliation of apocalyptic punishment and destruction. But, to the contrary, Paul embraced the myth of an apocalyptic God and eye for eye justice.
The full Ehrman quote on Paul’s overall apocalyptic framework: “Even before his conversion Paul was a thoroughgoing apocalypticist. He did not abandon his apocalyptic thinking when he began to follow Jesus; his apocalypticism was instead brought into his new faith and formed his framework for understanding it. This world was controlled by evil forces. That was why there was so much pain and misery here. But God was ultimately sovereign and was about to reestablish his control over the world. He was soon to enter into judgment and overthrow the forces of evil- along with everyone who sided with them- in order to bring about his good kingdom here on earth. The utopia to come was to be preceded by a cataclysmic act of destruction. God’s wrath was about to strike. God would send a cosmic judge of the earth to destroy his enemies and set up his kingdom. And for Paul, that cosmic judge was Jesus. It was Jesus whom the Thessalonians were to “await from heaven” because he was the one who would “save us from the wrath that is coming”. Paul’s message, in a nutshell, was a Jewish apocalyptic proclamation with a seriously Christian twist”. (p.69-70)
And yes, the Jesus material in the Christian mix (Matthew 5:38-48) has been a moderating influence on the more harm-inciting themes in the larger New Testament context. The core Jesus teaching has often inspired the better angels of our human nature.
The scandal in this Christian history is that Jesus offered to humanity the single most liberating and humanizing insight ever. His new unconditional God that overturned the entire theology of past mythology and religion. His was a “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory deity… His greatest contribution to the history of human ideas” (James Robinson).
But Paul and the gospel writers shamefully buried that profound insight and discovery of a core “no conditions” Love. This site explores this scandalous contradiction in detail. Paul and the other New Testament writers short-circuited history’s potentially greatest liberation movement, the liberation of the human spirit at the deepest levels of human consciousness. The Jesus insight that God was no conditions love would have promoted liberation from humanity’s primal fears of some greater punitive, destroying reality. That mythical pathology has long incited the fear, anxiety, guilt and shame that have fueled the wasteful history of Salvationism.
Where Jesus had fully humanized humanity’s highest ideal and authority with no conditions, no retaliation, Paul re-established retaliation in God. He affirmed condition and retribution in our highest ideal and authority. Jesus had taken our highest ideal toward a fully humane direction, while Paul retreated back to the worst of the past. Paul embraced the basest features of past mythology and religion in his Christ, giving those features extreme and ultimate expression in history’s most influential myth.
The stunner and scandal in this- Christianity claims to represent Jesus to the world. But it doesn’t. It cannot. A highly conditional religion cannot express an essentially unconditional reality and message. Yes, the Christian bible includes the core teaching of Jesus but then immediately sets about changing, distorting, and burying his diamond in the “dung” and “muck” of the rest of the New Testament (Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy’s conclusion).
Look at how Matthew does this, adding his own interpretive comments to his quote of the central Jesus message. Matthew adds such statements as “your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees if you want to get into heaven”, or “you must forgive if you want to be forgiven”, or “judge not so you will not be judged”. With these added threats and conditions he messed up the core theme of Jesus that there was no divine threat or condition to meet.
Matthew adds his distorting editorial comment, most notably, when he says that unbelievers “will be cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Hell)”. Imagine, stating that just after he had quoted Jesus’ statement to “love the enemy because God does”. Matthew then gave expression to the single most extreme expression of hate ever uttered- “you will go to Hell”. He included the core theme of Jesus on non-retaliation but then messed that up with the threat of the worst imaginable form of retaliation- Hell. Matthew lacked the self-awareness to recognise how contradictory his comments were to the Jesus material that he had just quoted.
We are all responsible for the outcomes to the ideas that we hold and present publicly. Paul embraced apocalyptic and brought that core theme into Western consciousness. The most destructive idea in history (Arthur Mendel, Vision and Violence). As noted above, that apocalyptic Christ myth descended down through Western history to shape “secular” ideologies like 19th Century Declinism and then the apocalyptic millennialism of the twentieth century mass-death movements. Historians have detailed this (again, Herman, Mendel, Landes, Redles, Cook). It is inexcusable and irresponsible to continue to hold such life-deforming and destructive themes.
This is all about what themes should dominate our great ideals. What should dominate human consciousness. What is authentically humane or inhumane? Retaliation or non-retaliation? Conditional or unconditional love? Apocalyptic threat or not?
The “hate for hate” or “hurt for hurt” cycles of contemporary life
Retaliation dehumanizes all of us that take part in such cycles, rendering us potentially magnificent humans just petty caricatures of our true humanity. Where in all the retaliatory frenzy of life is the “magnificence of being human”? Like a Mandela.
First, to set the tone- we are not observing the agonal breathing of a hospiced American democracy. The hysterical media exaggeration and distortion that we are watching some final decline of America is just more “end of days” nonsense that media endlessly propagate (see David Altheide’s “Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis”).
But note the sometimes ugly back and forth in public today where leading representatives on both sides (e.g. Liberal, Conservative) blame one another for making some embarrassing or hurtful comment that then incites rage on the other side and a similar hurtful response in return. These hate for hate or hurt for hurt cycles drag all participants down to the pettiest levels of human interaction. They are embarrassing, at times, to watch. They are expressions of our infantile side.
(Note in material below: I am distinguishing between legitimate public disagreement and debate over common concerns/issues, and the crossing of the line into ad hominem or personal attack, all too common an outcome when people differ over some important issue.)
There are varied threads that can be pulled from the mix: Such as the over-sensitivity of the many that are ready to pounce on the slightest political incorrectness or perceived offense. Who said that this generation was “emotionally fragile” and offended by everything, and needing “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” to protect from contrary opinion.
There appear to be good numbers of people that are obsessively on the lookout to be offended by anything and everything, and then jump on the slightest thing that remotely permits them to vent their rage at their opponents. This is tribal sensitivity/touchiness and the retaliatory impulse taken to extreme. These people will tackle every comment of an opponent, parsing and twisting even words and how they were pronounced, as evidence of evil beyond evil.
What spirit is this? It is not the human spirit. Where is that basic human spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt to differing others, of toleration of the imperfection of others (i.e. authentic love does not think evil of the other), and of a basic generosity and forgiveness toward one another’s imperfections? Where are the basic human qualities that make us something better than snarling, retaliatory animals?
Further, in much of this we are observing the old totalitarian impulse that tries to shut down and control others and how we think they should express themselves (i.e. the excessive political correctness that most of us recoil from).
There is nothing wrong with robust public disagreement and debate over policies. But we enter the realm of the shoddy and sleazy when we cross lines to demean the disagreeing other person, when we misrepresent their comments (take out of context) with the most extreme distortion (“racist” is a common derogative today), and when we assume and condemn the other’s (invisible to us) motivations as most evil. What happened to “love thinks no evil of the other but assumes the best”? Both sides are guilty of dehumanizing others in these varied ways.
Also, let’s not indulge the self-delusion of the “righteous man” in the temple who looked down his nose at a nearby “sinner”, saying, “I thank God I am not as bad as that person”. Some self-awareness of our own imperfection is a valuable cautionary thing. Remember when Jesus, urging just such self-awareness, asked, “Why do you condemn the speck in the other person’s eye when you have a beam in your own eye?” Consider your own imperfection and failure before criticizing others.
These back and forth retaliatory cycles also include the felt right to “justice” as some form of hurtful payback that should be meted out to those who have committed some perceived offence. This “hurting in return for hurt caused” reminds me of Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s comment that anyone who finds pleasure in hurting another, well, in psychology that is defined as the psychopathic personality (see his “Cruel God, Kind God”). Is there a bit of this in all of us? Or can we blame it on the old animal inheritance that we all carry in our brains? (i.e. the primal urge to retaliate as “defense against some threat”)
Whatever, the cycles of “hurt returned for hurt given” continue, the downward spirals of putting down the other side, of belittling, and demeaning those who disagree with us. Often, the opponent on the other side is devalued as ‘mentally deficient’ in some way.
And whatever happened to “Not wrong, but just different”?
Note also that our dehumanization of the disagreeing other person, however mildly we do this, puts us on the same continuum with the more egregious Nazis. I say this for shock effect- a kind of slap up the side of the head. The Nazis portrayed the Jews as less than human. Careful about playing with that dehumanization continuum even if only at the “soft” end.
The disagreeing other, our “enemy” or opponent, is still as fully and equally human as we are.
And regarding the more serious forms of bad behavior, well, we all share the same potential for such inhumanity even though, in our estimation, we fail to lesser degree. Consider: We may have just luckily escaped the life conditions that led to the much worse behavior of the serious offenders (i.e. childhood trauma, genetic influences, brain deformity as in psychopathy, or poor childhood training in things like impulse control).
Each side justifies its response as standing for “truth” and “right” against the wrong or “evil” of the other side. But the ongoing back and forth reduces all sides to the petty and infantile. Where is the spirit of a Nelson Mandela? To rise above the pettiness of retaliation and to “tower in stature as maturely human”, where life is oriented to forgiveness, inclusion, and unconditional love for all. Remember Mandela’s signature statement, “Let us surprise them (our opponents) with our generosity”.
Of course we are all right to stand against, or speak out against, what we believe to be inhuman or subhuman conduct or expression, according to commonly agreed understanding of such things. But the best of the human spirit will do so with a merciful, empathic and restorative approach toward all others. It will recognize that the offending other is still a fellow member of the one human family, despite our perception of their failure to live as properly human.
Note also the caution of the Chinese sage Lautzu (sp?) who urged mercy and compassion when we are obligated to take necessary counter-measures of defense against more serious forms of attack (i.e. just war). He said, do not engage triumphalism and add humiliation to your defeated enemy, but seek his restoration.
Related insert: Restorative justice approaches continue to fight opposition from the strong punitive element in US justice and penology. This punitive streak is evident in the record-breaking incarceration rates (the “US Gulag”). US imprisonment rates were about 100 per 100,000 population from the Civil War (1865) up to the 1970s. But since then the incarceration rate has risen to over 700 per 100,000 population, where it continues. Note Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment for detail. Also, the Mennonites remind us that our punitive justice systems historically derive from punitive Christian theology. (See note on theologian Ted Grimsrud just below)
Further note: There is also in the mix of the retaliation cycles the drive to create an ever-expanding category of crimes. This is the perverse effort to criminalize opponents- again, the old totalitarian impulse to shut down opposition. Much like Pres. Obama’s Attorney General tried to criminalize skeptical climate science in 2016. Daniel Hannan (Inventing Freedom) noted this trend in Europe, where bureaucrats want to create new laws to cover every detail of life, especially areas not yet covered by some law or regulation. Whereas in England the argument is that if some area of life is not regulated, then let it remain an area of free choice.
Note also that prohibition movements have repeatedly ended as failed projects that tried to excessively criminalize certain things but caused more problems than they tried to solve (i.e. the increased violence during prohibitions). See Jeffrey Miron’s “Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition”.
Also in the mix of these retaliatory cycles we see the tribal impulse operating- us versus our enemies/opponents and the felt need to separate from that other, to exclude the other as bad/evil, and then to dominate or destroy the opposing other. Tribalism leads people to see themselves as good people in opposition to bad others. To see themselves as righteous in opposition to the unrighteous, or as true believers opposed to “unbelievers”.
In the mix of the intense retaliatory cycles of today, where is the love-affirming understanding of the fundamental oneness of the human family? Where is the universal love that most essentially defines us as human?
Countering the retaliation ethic
The single most profound statement anywhere in human writing across history is also the “hardest saying” ever: i.e. “Love your enemy”. Which means- love everyone the same, as intimate family. Embrace “unconditional” love toward all, toward both good and bad people. Don’t just love those who love you back. Anyone can do that. Even thugs love fellow thugs. But be something better- love and do good to those who hate you and mistreat you. Give to those who do not give back. Then you will be just like God. That is what the unconditional God does.
Most people reject this hard saying- “love your enemy”- out of hand, or find some way to discredit, dismiss, or limit its implications and applications. Watch how the older brother in the Prodigal parable reacted to the unconditional treatment of his younger brother. Or how the all-day vineyard workers reacted to the owner’s unlimited generosity. Or how “righteous” guests at meal tables were scandalized when Jesus invited in the local scoundrels and outcasts. Or how the disciples grudgingly questioned Jesus when he told them to forgive all endlessly (i.e. seven times seventy), to keep no record of wrongs. To not think evil of others.
Most of us, when offended or hurt in some way, will then react in kind. We try to hurt back, to get even. We call it payback, getting even, getting revenge, or whatever. We believe that it is our rightful due to get “justice” as some form of punishing the bad that has been done to us or to others. We want to ensure that others get their proper “karma”. We are offended at any suggestion that we should exercise unconditional forgiveness and love because it’s just not fair, right, or just. It’s not moral and we must restore the “moral balance” of life (i.e. reward the good, punish the bad).
While reacting to offense and hurt with a similar response- i.e. hurting back- is a primal human response, it is also very animal-like. Retaliation is us behaving at our worst.
(Insert Note: Retaliation is sometimes done in a passive aggressive manner, such as when one spouse feels that the other has not been showing enough affection, so the hurt party chooses to also limit affection in return. Ah, we are all experts at pettiness, eh.)
When caught in a downward spiralling retaliatory cycle with someone, remember that it takes real courage and maturity to be the initiating person to break such a cycle, to “take one on the chin” and not demand personal “justice” (i.e. the right to get even). But such courage can start a new upward cycle toward something better.
History of retaliatory justice (theology validating the animal response)
Human justice, from the beginning of recorded history some 5000 years ago, has been defined in terms of retaliation. People from the beginning believed that the gods (or God) were retaliatory and they were the enforcers of ultimate justice as retaliation. This belief was based on an original error made by the ancients. They believed that there were gods behind all areas of life.
As the varied features of life were often violent and destructive- i.e. natural disaster, disease, accident- the ancients then logically concluded that the gods were angry and were punishing them for their “sins”. So they reasoned that human justice should do the same. It was simple-minded primitive reasoning. Note, for example, the Sumerian Flood myth where Enlil threatened to punish “noisy people”. Yes, their sin was being too boisterous and vocally so.
Right at the beginning, retaliation was embedded in humanity’s highest ideal and authority as right and good.
Subsequently, people have always felt that it was a basic human right to get even with their offenders. And if not here and now, then God would ensure payback in the future. Paul argued for this in Romans 12:17-20. Do not retaliate here and now, he said, because God will ultimately mete out vengeance in a future final judgment and punishment (i.e. apocalypse and hell).
It was a huge mistake to define justice that way. Why? Because that retaliatory or punitive justice was based on an entirely wrong view of God, a view that was embedded in public consciousness at the very beginning of recorded history.
But God had never retaliated against the bad guys. There had never been any such reality as a punitive, destroying God. To the contrary, God had always been unconditional Love toward all.
Punitive deity has always been bad myth derived from bad logic (See “Punishing Nature: the most fundamental human myth” in the section just below)
Two millennia ago the wisdom sage Jesus corrected the wrong theology at the basis of human justice. Unfortunately, emerging Pauline Christianity immediately buried his insight in its retreat to primitive views of justice as retaliation, based on Paul’s primitive view of God as retaliatory (again- Romans 12:17-20).
Look closely at the most famous statement made by Historical Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48 (the same statement- a better version- is made in Luke 6: 27-36). Jesus said, you have heard that justice was “eye for eye”, that you had the right to get even with your offender, to get recompense, to get “justice”. This view of retaliatory, punitive justice had defined justice all through history because people believed that a retaliatory, punitive God ultimately enforced such justice.
But Historical Jesus (not Christian Jesus, not the “Jesus Christ” of Paul) outright rejected that tradition of retaliatory/punitive justice. Historical Jesus rejected it because he rejected the theological basis of retaliatory/punitive justice as all wrong. He rejected the retaliatory/punitive God behind such justice.
Listen to how he countered that old justice when he stated, “I say, instead of eye for eye response to offenders, love your enemy/offender. Pray for the one who curses you. Give to the one who will not give back to you. Do good to your offender. Why? Because then you will be just like God (“you will be the children of your divine Parent”). God does this. That is what God is like. God does not retaliate against bad people. God loves God’s enemies. God gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain- to all people, to both good and bad people”. God includes all. God loves all the same.
What a stunner, eh. God does not reward the good and punish the bad as per traditional justice approaches. No. God rewards all with the same mercy, goodness, kindness, and generosity. In other words- God is unconditional love toward all.
Push this further: Unconditional deity means that God does not tribally exclude the “bad”, the unrighteous, or unworthy. With an unconditional God there is no tribal division of humanity into true believers versus unbelievers. All get the same unlimited or unconditional love. And hang in there… below is a qualification on how we should treat violent offenders. Unconditional love is not an advocacy for pacifism in the face of bad behavior. But it is advocating for restorative justice toward all, including toward the worst among us.
If we take the central Jesus statement seriously, it tells us that God views all people as full members of the one human family. No one is separated or excluded from God’s mercy and love. No matter how badly they may fail to live as human. Let this scandalize your sense of justice just as it scandalized and offended the older brother of the Prodigal, the all-day vineyard workers, and the guests at meal times when Jesus included the local scoundrels and thugs.
So human justice, with its history-long orientation to punitive responses and approaches, based on the belief that God was punitive, has been all wrong. That fiction of a punishing, retaliating God had always been wrong. No such God had ever existed. Justice should have been restorative from the beginning, based on the truth that God is unconditionally merciful and loving toward all, toward both good and bad people. God had always and only been unconditional Love.
The great world religions had gotten things all wrong. They had embraced the pathology (i.e. the wrong theology) of a punitive, destroying deity. Consequently, all the salvation schemes of the world religions were based on this wrong theology and they have been a horrific waste of human time and resources. There never was any angry deity demanding to be appeased with sacrifice or payment. There never was a retaliating, punishing God to back up retaliatory, punitive justice systems. The theological basis of human justice was all wrong from the start.
Now the promised qualifier: (Intro note: Restorative justice approaches recognize that natural consequences and social consequences are part of life in this world and essential to human growth and healthy development. We are all to be held responsible for our choices and actions, and their outcomes in life.)
The unconditional treatment of all people does not equate with dogmatic pacifism in the face of monstrous inhumanity. The unconditional treatment of all is not advocating to “let all the psychopaths go free” as some thoughtlessly conclude. Love of any variety must restrain violent and abusive people in order to protect others. But an unconditional attitude and approach will then treat offenders restoratively. And yes, even war is sometimes necessary as a response to the irrational religious violence of groups like ISIS. And imprisonment is still necessary to defend the innocent from those with poor or no impulse control (e.g. the mentally ill, the psychopathic). But we then treat prisoners of war and criminal offenders humanely, rehabilitatively.
It also helps to orient our selves toward more empathy with offenders if we try to understand the roots of criminal offense in things like mental illness, childhood trauma (i.e. violence, abuse), or poor training in impulse control. See, for instance, Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment. What does culpability mean in the case of a person that is born with a psychopathic brain where a genetic element may play a role? See Robert Hare’s research on this.
We need to recognize that we are not essentially different from the more criminal offenders among us, except that perhaps we escaped the worst forms of childhood trauma, mental illness, poor training in impulse control, or the random misfortune of inheriting a psychopathic brain. While we rightly share intense rage at the inhumanity and brutality that some people display, we do better to temper that with some understanding of what lies behind criminal personalities and their behavior. (See the Netflix documentaries on death row stories)
For example, I think of the 17 year old man that was put to death in the US for brutally raping and murdering a woman. During his trial it came to light that he had been beaten before being born. His jealous father had beaten his mother’s pregnant belly before his birth. As a baby he was thrown against walls for crying. He was raised in an environment of hatred and violence. No wonder then that as a teenager he started killing neighborhood pets. What is culpability in such situations? And yes, he had to be imprisoned to protect others. Sometimes such people are damaged beyond rehabilitation and may never be safe to release, but where is our humanity in putting them to death?
“Love your enemy” is not asking us to feel warm and fuzzy toward violent people and the inhumanity they commit. But it does ask us to understand all the contributing factors behind criminal behavior and to maintain our own humanity by treating all human failure restoratively, even as we restrain violent people.
A common reaction to advocating restorative justice is that such an approach does not show proper sympathy for the horror that victims have suffered. Restorative justice favors offenders. It is too “easy on criminals”. Not at all. Note the Netflix documentary “Breaking the Cycle” and the comment there by the prison official regarding what actually works best to lower recidivism rates and protect the public. She said that 90% of prisoners will return to society. And punitive approaches do not work to rehabilitate such people. Punitive justice does not teach alternative human behaviors.
Listen to how she responded to her colleague who said that restorative approaches were nice but not workable as they did not consider the feelings of victims and the demand for punishment. She said to him, “We are not in the feeling business. We must prepare prisoners to function properly when they are returned to society and thereby protect the public”. She understood that at a most practical level, evidence affirms that restorative approaches work better to change prisoners, to lower recidivism rates, and to protect the public.
No matter the state of research on these things and current understanding, our response to offenders must be humane, and not return similar hurt to those who have hurt us or others. We make no progress as humans if we continue to embrace retaliatory/punitive approaches toward offenders, aside from the fact that psychology shows such approaches do not work with children or criminal offenders. So again, while we must restrain the violent among us, we should do so restoratively, humanely. This is about maintaining our own humanity in the face of evil. Or as Paul said, not returning “evil” in response to evil done by others.
With Joseph Campbell I would affirm that we mature as human persons, we tower in stature, we become the heroes of our personal stories, when we orient our lives to unconditional love toward all. Then we achieve the point of our existence, the basic reason for our stories. We then learn what love is, what it means to be human and how to love. I would go further and agree with Bob Brinsmead that love must be unconditional or it is not authentic love. Love your enemy gets us to the highest and most humane form of love. It takes us to heroic status like a Mandela. It is us at our most humane.
Leo Tolstoy affirms the humane treatment of offenders: “’The whole trouble’,” Leo Tolstoy wrote about the criminal justice system, ‘is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Human beings cannot be handled without love. It cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life.’” (See more in the added note on Ted Grimsrud at the end of this material.)
The broader arena of human meaning: The larger background context to our human experience in this world.
I would also offer what many from the NDE movement suggest- that this world was created as an arena where we come to learn what unconditional love is and how to express it. This is the central point of creation and human existence. Ken Ring noted in his “Lessons From the Light” that God was concerned about only one central thing- “Have you learned what love is? Do you know how to love? Have you learned anything about love?” That sums up well the core meaning of human existence, the central purpose of a human life story.
Joseph Campbell and Natalie Sudman (“The Application of Impossible Things”) have added some interesting comment on the background to human story in this world. We do well to consider their insights. They suggest that we are part of a greater Consciousness- i.e. our Whole and Real Self that exists in surrounding realms. Only part of our consciousness is expressed through our bodies and brains in this limited three-dimensional (or four-dimensional) realm.
And they suggest that the dualism of good and evil is limited to this material realm. Such dualism does not exist in the greater surrounding reality. We come into this world to struggle within that dualism, to struggle with “enemies/opponents” and to learn love within that struggle. Campbell says that as we struggle against evil we gain insights, we learn lessons, that we can then pass on to help others. From our experience we can become wise men/women to help others in their struggles to be more human.
Campbell says that we face some “monster” that we must conquer in order to become the hero of our personal story. I would suggest that the real monster that we all face is the animal inheritance inside us. Those inherited drives to tribalism (us versus others), the drives to dominate others, to exclude, to retaliate against the other, to punish and destroy the other, the enemy. The inherited animal brain, with these baser drives, is the real monster or enemy that we all face. Our only real enemy is inside us.
When we embrace unconditional love toward all others, then we conquer this dark inheritance, this monster or enemy. Unconditional potently counters the animal because it teaches us to include all as family (non-tribal, universal love), to treat all as equals (non-dominating respect for all), and to forgive all (not punitively retaliating or destroying some “enemy” other). As Campbell said, we “tower in stature as maturely human” when we orient our lives to universal love. We become the heroes of our story. We fulfil the purpose for which we came to Earth. We can then bring a “boon” or blessing to others.
Campbell adds that this world is God’s theatre where we come to act out a story and we are all fellow actors in our plays, some as protagonists, and some as antagonists (foils).
Campbell concludes with this: “All of us living beings belong together.. we are all in reality sides or aspects of one single being, which may perhaps in Western terminology be called God while in the Upanishads its name is Brahman… and we are participants in this creation…”. He then adds this critical point: “When life produces what the intellect names evil, we may enter into righteous battle… however, if the principle of love is lost in that struggle (i.e. “love your enemy”) then our humanity too will be lost…we must not disclaim our brotherhood with even the guiltiest” (Myths To Live By). Campbell urges us to remember our essential oneness with all others in the human family, no matter the failure of some to live humanely. They are still family. We are still one with them.
Pretty speculative stuff, eh? But it resonates more with an unconditional core reality than traditional religious spiritual insights that embrace some ultimate tribal dualism that sets true believers in irreconcilable and eternal opposition to unbelievers. Those old narratives continue to affirm the base features of retaliatory, punitive deity.
Ah, we are so much better than all this back and forth “counter-punching” that goes on in public today. People hating, hurting, demeaning, and belittling one another like infants in a sandbox. Childish, more animal-like than human. Remember Mandela’s mature and humanizing comment: “Let us surprise them (our opponents) with our generosity”. The man displayed a greatness of human spirit toward opponents.
Added note on Mennonite Ted Grimsrud’s theology:
Ted Grimsrud: “The connection between religious belief, in particular how people in the West have viewed God, and retributive criminal justice practices runs deep. God has been understood to be the basis for the practices of human beings inflicting severe punitive pain upon other human beings judged guilty of violating community standards. God is understood, most of all, to be “holy” (that is, unable to countenance sin of any kind). God’s holiness “forces” God to act punitively-and justifies God’s agents (either in the church or in society) also acting punitively. This retributive theology dominated Western worldviews in the Middle Ages and formed the bases for criminal justice practices which began to be institutionalized during that time…”
And this article from the Peace Theology site adapted from Ted Grimsrud’s work…. https://peacetheology.net/pacifism/13-theology-and-restorative-justice/
Theology and Restorative Justice
“’The whole trouble,” Leo Tolstoy wrote about the criminal justice system, ‘is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Human beings cannot be handled without love. It cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life.’
“Our criminal justice system certainly is troubled by tendencies to treat some people (whether offenders or victims) without love, and the consequences are costly. From a Christian perspective, and simply for the sake of social well-being in our society, we need to challenge those tendencies.
Concepts of God and retributive justice
“In the criminal justice tradition of the Western world, the overriding justifications given for violently punishing offenders, even to the point of death, have and continue to be tied to a certain understanding of ultimate reality. In this view, ultimate reality requires retributive justice when fundamental natural or divine laws are violated. Such “retributive justice” is seen to restore the moral balance.
“’Retributive justice’ has theological roots going far back in the history of Western civilization. Part of the theology underlying retributive justice speaks to how God is understood. Key aspects of the view of God generally characteristic of medieval Europe shaped (and were also shaped by) the emerging punitive practices of criminal justice. These continue to be basic in practices of retributive justice.
“While recognizing older antecedents, we will focus on the Middle Ages in sketching the impact of retributive theology on the criminal justice practices of the West. In the early Middle Ages, the church, as it struggled with the state for dominance of European society, found it helpful to utilize the law of the later Roman empire as an instrument for solidifying its authority. It merged its theology with the newly rediscovered legal system to create canon law. Secular authorities, in their turn, followed suit.
“This theology provided a notion of God’s impersonal holiness and retributive response to violations of that holiness. The Roman legal philosophy also centered on impersonal principles. Instead of being based on custom and history, law in this perspective stood alone. Roman law assumed a central authority, thus providing a basis for “legitimate” initiation of action by a “neutral” centralized dispenser of justice. In the medieval worldview, this centralized authority (church or state) was God’s direct agent.
“Roman law was written law, based on principles that were independent of specific customs (“transcendent,” to use theological language). As embraced by the medieval church in its canon law, it had an accompanying method for testing and developing law. Roman law therefore could not only be systematized and expanded but could be studied and taught transnationally by professionals. This universal character helps explain its appeal and almost immediate spread to universities throughout most of Western Europe.
“From the base of Roman law, the church built the elaborate structure of canon law, the first modern legal system. This was a revolutionary development. It provided the papacy with an important weapon in its struggle for supremacy both within the church and in its relationship to secular political authorities.
“By providing for prosecution by a central authority, it established a basis for attacking both heresy and clerical abuse within the church. The most extreme expression of this new approach was the Inquisition in which representatives of the pope ferreted out heretics and tortured them both to obtain evidence and to settle accounts.
“No longer was the individual the primary victim. In the Inquisition, it was a whole moral order that was the victim, and the central authority was its guardian. Wrongs were no longer simple harms requiring redress. They were sins requiring retribution. God’s holiness understood in terms of retributive theology, necessitates punishment, carried out by the human agents of God’s will.”
(End of Peace Theology article)
One more (a post from online discussion group):
“I’ve said too much today already but hey, cyberspace is unlimited and you all have delete buttons…
“So one more… I pull back to that larger background stuff to better understand this world and life and notably the imperfection or “evil” side. “Evil” being at times like “demonic”, sometimes… careful now… sometimes I said, an exaggeration of things to extreme scale, exaggerating the bad behavior of others to extreme badness. Much like damning someone to Hell is the extreme expression of hatred for another that has harmed us.
“But just a month or so ago I put up that comment by Campbell on oneness and the dualism of good/evil in this realm, this temporary realm that is an arena for human story and learning and development.
“Remember Campbell’s points (so also Sudman) that good and evil are limited to this realm as a dualism for human development and story, God’s theatre where we all, as fellow actors, play out our roles (e.g. antagonist, protagonist, wise man/woman, and so on). But it is all part of some greater purpose to provide an arena where we learn or discover universal love. That is the main point.
“Campbell said that we must recognize this greater background or we may lose our humanity in our “righteous struggle” with evil. We may forget “love your enemy” as the essence of our humanity.
“This is not to excuse evil and the need to counter and fight it here and now. But careful of losing sight of the greater background story. Do not lose your humanity and neglect your brotherhood with all, even your enemy. Again, the essential oneness of all.
“And the NDEs tell us that after learning what we agreed to come and learn, all is swallowed up again in that great Love. Even the Hitlers as temporary fellow actors (foils)?
“Sounds speculative, far-fetched? It’s better than the other narratives that are all oriented to retributive response to the enemy. So Campbell, Sudman and other NDErs are offering a narrative that works better to understand the unconditional at the core of all and how to apply that to this imperfect life.
“Remember, Campbell cautioned that this is hard stuff to wrap our minds around but necessary if we are to get the greater story of life right and not lose our humanity in our righteous struggle against evil.”
Why is it so hard to just forgive entirely and freely? Why must there be a demand for some payment or punishment, somewhere, somehow? Why not just plain old mercy and unconditional forgiveness? No strings attached. Like Jesus telling his followers when they asked, grudgingly, how often they had to forgive, and he said, “Just forgive seven times seventy”. Which is to say, without limit or condition. Just do it.
We already do this daily, anyway, as spouses and parents and with friends. Just forgiving completely and freely. Not keeping a record of wrongs and seeking some future “making of wrongs right”. Now, taking this to the theological basis, why can’t God do the same and even more so? Just forgive entirely and freely, without demand for payment or punishment of some sort. After all, isn’t God ultimate Goodness and Love? Much better than us.
If we do it, then why can’t God do the same and even better?
It’s like Jesus reasoning, if you people being evil (i.e. imperfect) know how to give good gifts, then how much more does God know how to do good, God that is ultimate Goodness. Embrace the reasoning here… If we can forgive and let things go without payment or punishment, then how much more can Ultimate Goodness just forgive and forget without demand for payment or punishment, or recompense. Just like us imperfect humans do. As Jesus said, authentic love will just give without expecting something in return. It will love those who do not love in return.
Why do we think that an ultimately good and loving God will operate at some lesser level of goodness or love than what we are expected to operate at? Just askin.
The Science of CO2: What we know today
Someone please tell Bill Maher that CO2 is not a poison (like Syrian gas) or a pollutant. It is the most basic food of all life on Earth. It is embarrassing to have to remind these people that this is Grade One science. And also question Joe Rogan regarding his “appeal to authority” the other day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lD29jqH078). C’mon Joe, you are smarter than that. How often across history has the minority skeptic had to fight the broad flow of group-think and “consensus” authority. Have you ever heard of Copernicus and the consensus that he was skeptical of? Similarly, Galileo? Fighting the authority of the consensus of their day and the threats to silence them, just like Obama’s AG threatening to criminalize skeptical science in 2016.
If appeal to numbers impresses you (i.e. arguing from the authority of some consensus) then what about the long ago Protest Petition signed by almost 32,000 scientists, including many of the best scientific minds on the planet. Media ignored that almost entirely.
Appeal to authority is not how we do good science. Remember the Australian doctor (Barry Marshal) who questioned the cause of stomach ulcers and was roundly trashed by the medical community consensus? Ideological politics dominates climate science today just as in many other disciplines (see Michael Hart’s book “Hubris: the troubling science, economics, and politics of climate change”).
Insert: The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Protest Petition statement is as follows and is still valid:
“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
See CO2science.org for detail on CO2 and its benefits. Also, Patrick Moore’s video clips (Youtube) on “Celebrating CO2”.
Basic points of the climate debate...
We are currently in an “ice-age era” and CO2 levels have been dangerously low over the past few million years due to our place in a spiral arm of the Milky Way (less than 300 ppm in the pre-Industrial period , see Svensmark’s The Chilling Stars). During this ice-age era, plant life has been stressed and starving. Plants prefer CO2 levels in the 1000-1500 ppm range. Over past history when CO2 levels were much higher (5000-7000 ppm range) there was no catastrophic warming and collapse of life, but rather, “life flourished” (Ian Plimer in Heaven and Earth).
World surface temperatures are also low today compared to past historical averages. At just below 15 degrees Centigrade, average surface temperatures today are barely above ice-age conditions of 12 degrees Centigrade. Life flourishes with much higher average temperatures as it has over much of past history. Remember, a few years back they discovered the stumps of tropical trees in the Arctic. An entirely ice-free world has been the norm for 75% of Earth’s history. A warmer world with much higher levels of CO2 is a more healthy, natural, or optimal world. This is entirely opposite to the alarmist narrative.
Insert Note: A warmer world will continue to have extreme weather events/periods (heating and cooling) but will not fry life. Earth has an efficient heat energy distribution system. Hot air rising at the equator is moved in great currents that flow to the poles. The result is less severe gradients between latitudes, and scientists note that generally means less storminess. Remember, with today’s recent mild warming, tornadoes are now at historical lows. So also a warmer world means less severe differences between seasons, and less temperature difference between night and day. Also, a warmer world means less drought (i.e. more evaporation). Again, see Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth for detail on paleo-climatology.
Plimer includes a graph of the past 55,000 years of climate change. The swings of climate change from cooling to warming periods, or from warming to cooling, were most severe in the last 30,000 plus years of the previous ice age. Since the onset of this much warmer inter-glacial period some 15-20,000 years ago, climate change has been much less severe in its swings between warming and cooling periods.
Climate is changing today just as it always has. There is never stasis in the dynamic, complex climate system. It is always warming or cooling. We had a warming period from 1910 to 1940. Then a cooling period from 1940 to 1970. It then warmed slightly (0.3 degrees C) from the 1970s to the mid 1990s. The trend has been flat since about 1995, with the interventions of two strong El Nino events (1998 and 2015-16). There has been a notable cooling in the two years since (2017-18).
The warming of the past century and a half (about 1.0 degree Centigrade) is part of a natural rebound from the bitter cold of the Little Ice Age of roughly 1645-1715 (see research of Syun-Ichi Akasofu on the rebound of climate from the Little Ice Age).
Further, CO2 has a warming effect or influence. The many scientists on the skeptical side of the debate have never denied this. And they have never denied that climate change is taking place and that CO2 is playing a minor role. If any warming period is occurring, then CO2 is contributing to that warming. But the influence of CO2 is minor and is repeatedly overwhelmed by other natural influences on climate. The real deniers are the alarmists (psychological projection?) that deny the good evidence on the correlations between natural influences and the climate change that we have seen over the past.
The nub of the debate:
Skeptical scientists disagree with the apocalyptically exaggerated claims of alarmists that CO2 will cause “catastrophic warming” or “catastrophic climate change”. This claim of looming catastrophe from rising CO2 is another in an endless litany of post-WW2 apocalyptic scenarios- from Rachel Carson’s prophesy of the end of birdsong, to Paul Ehrlich’s 1970s prophesy of cooling disaster and mass starvation, to repeated claims of species holocausts (i.e. ocean species gone by 2048), and on and on. To the apocalyptic mind the end is always nigh, just over the horizon. But “tipping points” are endlessly prophesied and passed without “end of days” calamity.
There is no catastrophic warming in sight. The alarmist models were all wrong. They focused mainly on the human CO2 contribution and the positive feedback from clouds. With their “junk in, junk out” virtual world formulas, they predicted somewhere between 3-6 degrees C. warming over the decades that we are now living through. But real world evidence shows a continuing almost flat climate trend since 1995.
Other natural elements show stronger correlations to the climate change that we are observing. Henrik Svensmark’s research shows a correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover that explains the climate change that we have seen over recent decades. So also the ocean-atmosphere coupling (multi-decadal shifts in ocean currents, e.g. the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) shows a stronger correlation to the climate change of the past few centuries. CO2 is also in the mix but is overwhelmed by these other natural elements.
Svensmark’s research shows that increased cloud cover from cosmic ray activity (especially the low, below 3000 meter clouds) has a negative feedback influence, reflecting heat back out from Earth.
It cannot be stated enough: CO2 is the basic food of all life. Since 1982, with more CO2 in the atmosphere, plant life on earth has increased by 14% (increase in primary plant productivity). The earth is greener today than just a few decades ago. Why are the Greens not celebrating a healthier world? With more food, plants are thicker, stronger, and have better water uptake (see the many CO2 studies on CO2science.org). This increase in world biomass has benefited agriculture- i.e. the increased crop production necessary to feed more people.
Fossil fuels are not a threat to life. And the current alarm-driven rush into renewables, while perhaps holding potential for the future, has been disastrous for poor people, increasing energy costs for the most vulnerable. Renewables (solar and wind) do not work to provide the cheap energy that enables people to escape poverty. Note also the problems with fluctuations in supply (wind not blowing, sun not shining, and storage problems) that require conventional backups for energy grids.
Fossil fuels are foundational to the growth and development of our civilization- our food production, our transportation, the heating of our homes, and all else that we value. And our increasing wealth production in industrial society enables us to take better care of our environment (e.g. Ecological Kuznets Curve research). This outcome is entirely contrary to the Green religion narrative that economic growth and development harms the environment.
Good climate science evidence does not support the alarmist argument that we must stop using fossil fuels because this will result in some catastrophic collapse and ending of life. Again, natural elements show stronger correlations to the climate change that we have seen.
Do some reverse engineering on environmental alarmism (i.e. Green religion) and you will find that it is shaped by the same old themes of primitive apocalyptic mythology that have shaped all religion. Those themes have been given new “secular” expression in things like “revenge of Gaia”, “angry planet”, retributive Universe, or karma. But it is just more of the same old, same old mythology.
The apocalyptic complex includes the myths that the past was better (original paradise of a wilderness world), corrupt greedy people in industrial civilization have ruined the original paradise, and all is now declining toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. Therefore, we must purge the corrupting element (i.e. greedy people in industrial and consumer society) in order to “save the world” and restore the lost paradise. And salvation plans must involve “coercive purification”, or the violent, instantaneous purging of the exaggerated threat (see Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence, “Apocalyptic is the most violent and destructive idea in history”).
This apocalyptic narrative has the story of life all wrong. See Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource for good evidence on the true state of life. See also Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, and Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, among others. See also the regular newsletters from the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Good evidence affirms that life continues to gradually rise on a long-term trajectory of improvement, despite problems everywhere (the ‘imperfection’ of life). The skeptical scientist does not deny that there are problems all through life. The skeptic argues that good evidence contradicts the alarmist’s exaggeration of problems to apocalyptic scale, thereby distorting the true state of life. Life does not decline toward some imagined apocalyptic collapse and ending.