Two New 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).
Decline or Rise? 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, but, to the contrary, is rising toward something ever better.
This apocalyptic narrative has caused immense damage to life by frightening people into opposing and obstructing human progress when it is our very progress that enables us to properly care for life.
I have contrasted 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 tackles the root perception at the heart of apocalyptic alarmism and here we get to the single most damaging and enslaving idea ever concocted by ancient minds- that there is something threatening, retaliatory, and punitive behind life. There is arguably no more fundamental distortion in human understanding to correct than this.
This perception of some greater punitive reality fueled the original creation of apocalyptic mythology and also salvation myth/theology (the felt need to appease some angry entity- God or GAIA- with sacrifice. In contemporary versions this Salvationism involves responses that are harmfully self-limiting or self-punishing). The perception of a retaliating/punishing ultimate reality is a powerful religious belief that is still widely present in secular movements (once again, GAIA or the ‘angry, vengeful planet’ of environmental alarmism). 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 reverberates out to other fears, anxieties, despair, depression, nihilism, and even violence toward others.
Christianity deserves special note here for dismissing and derailing the most potent discovery ever offered to liberate human consciousness from this retaliation/punishment mythology, and that is the developing historical insight into unconditional response toward others. This is a discovery that reached new heights of clarity in the teaching of the historical Jesus, a notably different person from the Christian Jesus (see Jesus Seminar research).
The insight into unconditional response toward others would move beyond a human behavioral ideal to completely overturn past perceptions of ultimate realities as angry spirits/gods. It is an insight that counters entirely the perceptions of threat, retaliation or punishment with the new perception that behind all reality there is Unconditional Love.
Unfortunately, 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.
Consequently, the Christian movement has blocked the full liberation of human consciousness ever since and has been a main forum reinforcing the darkness and despair of apocalyptic mythology and Salvationism in modern Western consciousness, in particular.
Insert: Just to further summarize the above essays and give some more concentrated focus to a central point…
For those interested in ultimate root causes or root issues (deep rootists <:) let me summarize some very fundamental things that went wrong in the early construction of mythologies and belief systems that has continued to darken and debilitate human consciousness into the present.
In this regard 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 deeper that spawns retaliation/salvation mythology and apocalyptic mythology. And yes, the primal human fear of death (Becker, Denial of Death) is part of this root cause issue also.
To focus thinking and to go as fundamental as possible I would isolate the following two ideas/perceptions as the deeper root cause of declinist thinking and at the basis of much darkness, fear, and despair in human consciousness. These two perceptions listed just below have fueled the creation of a lot of harmful mythology over history.
I will state it this way: the two worst mistakes made by early people in shaping human belief systems, mythologies, and religions (and eventually ideologies) 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 these perceptions there is the belief that something is fundamentally wrong at the core of things. At the core of some greater/ultimate creating reality there is darkness, anger, 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.
As noted in the essays, these two beliefs or perceptions are behind the creation of apocalyptic mythology and salvation mythology and I would argue that they have done more damage to human consciousness over history than any other core beliefs or ideas.
But creative and meaning-seeking humanity has not taken the stance of passive resignation in the face of these horrific distortions in early worldviews. From the earliest time (earliest human writing) people have been searching for and giving expression to alternative insights that counter these dark myths and point to entirely new directions for human understanding.
I refer to the ongoing development of this insight into unconditional response toward others. This has led to the further understanding that supremely humane existence or life involves unconditional forgiveness, unconditional acceptance and inclusion of all, unconditional generosity toward undeserving others, and non-retaliation- in a word unconditional love.
This developing insight of unconditional points to a new height of what it means to be human and counters entirely the old beliefs in nasty gods and nasty people. 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- Jeffrey Schwartz, Karen Armstrong, and Albert Nolan, among others, speak to something similar). 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 evidence here.
So these, in summary, are the two worst mistakes ever made about the core nature of things, and the two corrective responses that point to entirely new and opposite realities at the heart of all.
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 (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 may never occur at all in an eternally expanding cosmos). We have 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 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 approached the obstruction of human progress in terms of the contemporary movement of environmental alarmism as 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 then resulted in the needless deaths of tens of millions of people, mostly children, over subsequent 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 Britain due to alarmism over fossil fuels (Global Warming Policy Foundation site).
The evidence on all main indicators of life on Earth show that, yes, there are problems in varied areas needing attention and solving, but overall things are improving and life has never been better on the planet. There is no need to 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 them to 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 apocalypse; after which the world will be purged and a new utopia installed. This narrative is evident in contemporary secular ideologies such as environmentalism or the green movement.
Evidence clearly shows this alarmist narrative is entirely wrong.
But 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 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 early on sparked 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 a more detailed historical development of this idea of divine retaliation and the development of the counter theme of unconditional response that entirely opposes 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).
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 and darkness to payback thinking for two millennia. The mistake made by early Christians was to create a new payback message about the man that nullified the actual 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.
Note also the essays above under the other tab titled Unconditional. They are statements of the plain meaning of unconditional. These essays offer some detail on how Christianity missed a great historical opportunity to liberate human consciousnes from enslavement to payback thinking. See also the summary below for some 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 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 reality and 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 imperfection and its consequent suffering 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, energy, 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 is indeed 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 email@example.com
Brief Summary of Essays on Unconditional
Two millennia ago humanity was offered an 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 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 to all. It would include and honour every person equally, no matter what their status, reputation, or lifestyle.
The main precepts of the historical Jesus first set the basic understanding of what unconditional 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 was to be extended to the deepest recesses of human mental and emotional life, to the rooting out of ideas that maintain payback in human worldviews, thereby darkening consciousness with unnecessary fear, anxiety, shame and despair. Such ideas include the still widespread belief in such things as divine retribution, divine judgment, and punishment in hell.
Unconditional states that God is not a God of get even or payback. God is not a God of vengeance that punishes enemies. As Jesus stated, the God behind all reality sends sun and rain to the so-called good and evil alike. God is generous to all, not vengeful 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. 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?
Early Christians immediately reverted back 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. 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 does not demand 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. Let us 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 made an inexcusable assault on the truth of unconditional love as taught by Jesus. By introducing a supreme prerequisite condition, Christianity has distorted 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.
We also know that the belief system of Christianity is a direct contradiction and distortion of the message of Jesus 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 is that if anything contradicts the core message of Jesus to show unconditional love to all, then it 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 a great 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 was not without historical precedent.
Christianity has distorted entirely the nature of the ultimate reality upon which we base all our other perceptions of material reality and life. 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.
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.
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’) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org