Roots of alarmist/apocalyptic thinking; Quotes and summaries; A thought breakthrough; Grand narrative core themes (humanizing worldviews); Zoroastrian dualism (opposing and destroying enemies); The discovery; The futility of reforming religion (the stunning contrast between the unconditional teaching of Jesus and the conditional atonement of Paul); Standing up to the bully gods- the monsters of the metaphysical; History’s greatest Terrorist (violence in God); Getting to the root of violence.
Copyright Wendell Krossa
Note: Comments from previous years are preserved further below. They are repetitive of the main themes on this site but they also contain varied points that are not included in similar but more recent comments.
Material on religion and violence (i.e. religion inspiring or validating violence) is scattered throughout the site.
This page presents the big picture of unconditional reality and existence (no conditions, absolutely none). Unconditional offers an entirely new way to view ultimate reality, or what has long been termed the “spiritual”. Despite the secularizing trends in many societies over the past few centuries, the spiritual still plays a prominent role in shaping human perception, mood, and motivation (how we respond and act). In relation to this, unconditional offers a new humanizing ideal for human thought, behavior and existence. It is the most effective way to counter the destructive ideas or ideals at the core of much religion, ideals that have too often incited and validated the worst of human impulses.
This page also presents the developing history of unconditional reality. I note the first expressions of this discovery in some of the earliest human writing, that of the Akkadian father (2200 BCE), and then down through Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions. And on to the unique contribution of the historical Jesus (a person entirely different from the Christian Jesus). Historical Jesus was the first to get both the ethical and the theological dimensions of unconditional right.
I also present the fact that Christianity (the religion of Paul) rejected, distorted, and buried the Jesus breakthrough on unconditional with its highly conditional atonement theology (i.e. a sacrifice or punishment demanded before the Christian God will forgive). Christianity was a retreat to mythological primitivism and pathology.
I have argued extensively on this page that unconditional reality overturns the most prominent themes of past mythology and salvation religion. These include the themes of divine anger, vengeance, the demand for payback and punishment, the predatory demand for blood sacrifice, dualism between the true religion and outsiders/enemies, and the demand to exclude and destroy enemies (i.e. the ultimate punishment of apocalypse and the eternal punishment of hell). Unconditional exposes all such mythology as profoundly inhumane. These primitive mythical themes have darkened and enslaved human consciousness for millennia. They are pathological ideas that have aroused incalculable fear, anxiety, depression, aggression, and violence over the histories of the great religions. And they are inspiring and validating themes that have motivated endless brutality and inhumanity toward people.
While there is mental pathology that can be corrected at the level of daily consciousness, too often people do not go further to the foundational inherited ideas (archetypes or themes in the subconscious) that shape daily consciousness and mood, those inherited themes in the background of consciousness that have long damaged minds and spirits, that have long shaped human perception, mood, and motivation. Unconditional goes to those deepest levels of human fear, anxiety, depression and despair to profoundly change things for the better. Many of those great subconscious themes were originally formed as mythical/religious themes and have remained in the background even into the present.
At the center of many contemporary secular systems of thought you will still find the old mythology. What is often regarded as outwardly secular is often still profoundly religious at core. I have traced here the linkages and lines of descent of ancient mythology down through history, through religious traditions and into modern secular traditions. The old mythology keeps erupting in ever new versions because it is still deeply embedded in the old background archetypes.
I also look at what unconditional means for human response and action in an imperfect world. Unconditional is not a project that advocates pacifism. Love is always responsible to robustly protect and defend the innocent. But unconditional does offer a radical new approach to the treatment of “enemies”. Mandela offered a great example of this new approach that defused the destructive cycles of payback and revenge.
Unconditional liberates from our animal inheritance as nothing else can. It liberates us from the small band orientation of the past- us versus some enemy. It frees us from primitive offense and retaliation response (eye for eye justice, getting even with offenders). If frees us from the animal-like instinct to oppose and destroy some enemy. It liberates us into authentically humane existence where all are forgiven, all are included, and all receive the full generosity of the universe and life.
There are two critical elements to this ideal of unconditional, two features that most effectively counter the central defects of much religious belief. First, as noted above, it redefines entirely the fundamental nature of all reality, whether you view this in terms of Universe, Mind, Consciousness, Source, Ultimate Reality, or God. Unconditional tells us that there is an incomprehensibly scandalous and wondrous love behind all reality. This love denies outright the core themes of much past mythology and religion with their pathological ideas of angry gods, judgment, punishment, and demand for violent salvation.
Second, unconditional redefines entirely our understanding of the human person or human consciousness. It tells us that we are not fallen and corrupted creatures, as Fall and sin mythology has long told us. Instead, our authentic self is the very same unconditional love that is at the core of all reality. And we are never separated from that essential love. There has never been some broken relationship with the Ultimate Love, some separation that we are obligated to restore via a salvation plan.
Unconditional is simply the greatest discovery ever made by humanity. It changes everything for the better. It offers a powerful new alternative for the future of human spirituality. The two prominent elements noted above provide the most authentically humane ideals for any new grand narrative of the spiritual, as well as the proper foundational themes for any authentically humane worldview or TOE. Unconditional points in a truly humane direction that counters thoroughly all the pathology of past mythology and religion. It therefore liberates at the deepest levels of human consciousness and spirit from the enslaving and dehumanizing violence of the old mythology. It goes to the root themes of apocalyptic and alarmist thinking in general and counters the distorting themes of that mythology, exposing it all as a great fraud and lie.
Unconditional is all about effectively healing the damaging and deforming impact of the old religious mythology. Public consciousness has far too long been battered and traumatized by the themes of past myth and religion. We need an entirely new foundational narrative. These two themes most potently eliminate the core errors of salvation religion and orient us to the truly human.
Note: Once again, the straightforward definition of unconditional is “Absolutely no conditions. None”.
There is significant public concern today over religious violence and accompanying confusion about what exactly in religion promotes violence. Many are defensive of religious traditions and argue that the real problem is extremists that distort religion. This defensive stance does not contribute to understanding of what is wrong with religion and how to properly solve the problem.
All three Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are direct descendants of Zoroastrian religion and hold to the same central ideal of violent deity, a God that resorts to overwhelming violence to solve problems. The core ideas in these religions that express violence include the following- a good God exists in opposition to a dark Force; God demands that people join the right religion and oppose the “false” religions; and God promises to destroy all outsiders to his religion in a violent purging of the world (a great apocalyptic ending). Related ideas that support the core ideal of divine violence include the themes of payback as proper justice, punishment of outsiders/enemies, the demand for a violent sacrifice to effect atonement or reconciliation, and eternal violence in Hell.
This page argues that these core ideas of the Western religions are among the most fundamental contributors to religious violence. These ideas/ideals operate as inspiration and validation for the more violent impulses of people. The histories of all three Western faiths confirm this. An extremist cleric in London also recently affirmed this in stating that his fellow extremists were not distorting their religion but were actually fulfilling the central ideals and precepts of their tradition.
Comment from Bob Brinsmead: “All theologies of God are the projection of the human concept of the highest Good. If the human understanding of the Highest Good is to ultimately solve all problems with ultimate violence (i.e. final apocalypse), then of course that will become a validation or even an incentive for human violence. Like Father, like son. People become like the God they worship. God is the human concept of the Highest Good, the Supreme Ideal- a kind of North pole that our moral and ethical compass latches on to for direction…”
We will never properly resolve the problem of religious violence until we clean up the very core themes of our religious traditions. This is a project to fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities (our gods). This applies to all religious traditions, Western and other. The Futility of Reforming Religion just below illustrates the confusion surrounding the defense of one notable Western religion.
Getting to the root of violence…
This page explores the most profoundly humanizing discovery in history- unconditional reality. Unconditional reality defines the future of authentic human existence. It is the foundational theme for history’s greatest liberation movement- the liberation of mind, emotions, and spirit from all that is less than fully human. And it provides the most potent response to the root ideological issues that are behind so many outbursts of violence over human history. It deals thoroughly with the pathological ideas that have deformed human consciousness and worldviews over our past.
Most people get unconditional intuitively in how they treat family members. Others get it in arguing for more humane treatment of offenders. We need to extend this unconditional treatment of others to all humanity, especially toward “enemies”. Just as Nelson Mandela did. And then watch unconditional transform human society and solve the root issues behind violence.
In response to the concern of many that unconditional treatment of people may be a “weak response to evil”, it is stated clearly throughout this site that the unconditional treatment of others does not mean ignoring personal responsibility or accountability for our actions. Unconditional treatment of others does not mean dogmatic pacifism in the face of the insanity of terrorism. Any common sense understanding of human love will include the responsibility to protect the innocent, and the responsibility to restrain and incarcerate violent people who cannot or will not control their worst impulses. But while we engage these defensive responses, unconditional treatment of others ensures that we maintain our humanity in the messy imperfection of life. It ensures that justice will be restorative and not retaliatory, vengeful, or punitive.
Most important, unconditional treatment of all offers the potential to resolve pathologies like violence for the long term. As noted above, unconditional is critical to solving the greater ideological/religious issues that are behind the many conflicts of life. It counters thoroughly the pathological mythical and religious themes that are behind so much human violence, ideals that have long been deeply embedded in the foundations of human worldviews. I am referring to those ideals that have endlessly incited people to treat others inhumanely- i.e. oppositional dualism, exclusion and domination of the other, offense and retaliation response (eye for eye justice), destruction of the enemy, and more. Explore these issues with us here.
See new comment near bottom titled “Dense Complexity” that notes the varied possible causes of violence and what might be involved in long-term solutions (i.e. the advice of the Chinese sage). This is just above Mimetic Mennonites, near the Joke Bin.
And just an aside: My response to the comment of Steve Kroft to Pres. Obama, during his interview on Sept.28, 2014, that some people say, “it seems the world is falling apart”. No. The world is not falling apart. The true state of the world is always best understood by looking at the complete or overall picture and the long term trends. Those trends show, for example, that violence over our entire history has continued to decrease (see James Payne’s History of Force, or Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature). News media, with their orientation to creating fear (see David Altheide’s “Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of Crisis”), do not properly portray the full context of violence in life. While there will be historical outbursts that go against the long term trend, these aberrational setbacks do not explain, or fundamentally change, the long term trend that shows decreasing violence over the millennia.
We have increasingly become something better over our history and we create an ever-improving world. See also Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, or Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, for good detail on how to evaluate the larger picture and long term trends of any issue. This gets us to the true state of any thing.
This site is very much about fighting the hopelessness and despair that can debilitate the human spirit and consciousness. I tackle hopelessness from varied angles, notably going after the great fraud and lie of apocalyptic mythology. That has been the greatest curse and burden on public consciousness for most of our history, the belief that life is declining toward some great catastrophic collapse and ending.
One of the central themes of this page- unconditional reality– is presented as a potent corrective to the most damaging error in the history of human thought: the pathological notion that there is some threatening, retaliatory, or punishing force behind life. This theme is found all through ancient mythology (i.e. human sickness or catastrophic flood as divine punishment) and it has infected all the great religious traditions.
The mistaken perception of ultimate threat long ago sparked the emergence of religion as the social institution that would set forth the conditions for appeasement of ultimate threats. All religion is fundamentally conditional in orientation. We see that in the development of atonement/sacrifice mythology and practice- the salvation industry. Also, the belief in greater punitive forces or authorities has served to validate a similar punishment emphasis in human society.
(Note: there is more to religion than just appease/please theology, but this is a prominent and damaging theme that has long hindered human ability to see the wonder of unconditional reality. Religion, in general, has taken the human desire for meaning and purpose and sidetracked/perverted it in conditional thinking and existence)
This error of divine threat has been deeply lodged in human outlook and it keeps erupting over history in new systems of belief or thought such as perceptions of vengeful Gaia, angry planet, punitive nature, or callous and cruel natural law. Until it is properly confronted and thoroughly rooted out, it will continue to damage public consciousness and human society with unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, violence, and despair. It will continue to spawn harmful appeasement and salvation responses- religious and secular- such as we have seen from the environmental movement (i.e. anti-development schemes to appease a vengeful Gaia or angry planet).
Related to this, note the new comment further below on The Mother of All Monsters, the early human development of the mythology of judgmental and punitive deity. This particular comment looks further at the linkage between fear and aggression/violence. It also notes how unconditional reality liberates from this pathological belief in ultimate threat.
This page is also devoted to understanding the fundamental causes/roots of alarmist and apocalyptic thinking. For the past two centuries there has been excessive negativity toward human industrial civilization and far too much doom and gloom over the widely assumed decline of nature. Much good evidence shows that while in the past we have made mistakes in our engagement of nature, we have learned from that past, corrected our approach, and are now doing much better in our treatment of the natural world. The result is that we are not heading for some catastrophic collapse but are actually improving life on all fronts. When you look closely at the narrative of contemporary alarmism you discover that it has far more to do with ideology/mythology than with actual evidence (see for instance, Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History). In response, this site engages the good research done on environmental issues by people like Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, and Matt Ridley, among others. The evidence noted by these researchers points away from despair and toward a narrative of hope. Life is not declining toward something worse but is rising toward something better.
Further in regard to alarmism, it is critical to understand the fear/violence relationship. Frightened or alarmed people are more susceptible to such things as victimhood arguments and the felt need to proactively retaliate against “threats”. General alarmism keeps fear heightened in society and this may arouse aggression toward imagined threats or enemies.
This page also makes frequent reference to the Historical Jesus and especially to the stunning contrast between the historical person and the Christian Jesus. I do this because that contradiction illustrates well the greater human story and our struggle for freedom from a primitive past defined by retaliatory violence and our liberation toward a future of non-retaliation. The Jesus/Christianity contradiction also illustrates the ongoing resistance to the liberation that Jesus promoted. He advocated for non-retaliatory existence but Christianity opted for a return to retaliatory thinking and existence. This is notable in Paul’s resistance to Jesus’ teaching and endeavor to maintain eye for eye or punitive justice in his view of deity. More importantly, Christianity has played the major role in bringing apocalyptic mythology, with its retaliatory punishment emphasis, into Western consciousness. See further explanation below.
There is a repetitive focus here on Christian apocalyptic (and the alternative theme of unconditional) that has to do with more than just a bout of OCD. It has to do with the larger project of understanding the historical roots of alarmism (i.e. as in environmental alarmism) and the alarmist’s repeated appeal to religious apocalyptic themes. My response is not about “picking on” religion but is more about clearing away the clutter of conditional religious ideas in order to present more clearly the full wonder of unconditional reality and its liberating potential in life. In the midst of my critique of religion don’t lose sight of this positive intention and approach.
Quotes and summaries from comments further below:
“Correct humanity’s greatest error- the perception of punishing forces/spirits behind life- and you begin to resolve the felt need to appease ultimate threats. This then raises a stunning challenge to the entire institution of religion in human society, as a mediating/atonement/salvation institution”.
“The conditional nature and context of religion cannot properly communicate the unconditional nature of ultimate reality. Religion emerged as a conditional institution- how to appease and please the gods- and cannot express the true nature of unconditional love”.
“Atonement, no matter how you try to dress it up as an expression of love or grace, has always been fundamentally about punishing human failure in order to appease an offended and angry God. Atonement is not an expression of authentic love or mercy. Authentic love forgives freely without demanding that some condition be met first.”
“Apocalyptic retaliation mythology reaches its most intense expression ever in Paul’s Christ myth. Paul takes the error of punishing deity to its most extreme expression in his teaching that Christ will finally destroy humanity and the world”.
“You will never solve the problem of apocalyptic alarmism in Western consciousness until you deal with the Christian role in promoting this damaging pathology”.
“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 the apostle Paul” (James Tabor in Paul and Jesus).
“Christianity, under Paul’s dominating control, developed as a rejection of the most profound liberation movement ever presented to human consciousness”.
(Note: One of the Jesus Seminar scholars feels that I have been a bit tough on Paul. Let me then qualify that I do appreciate Paul’s efforts at such things as inclusivity- i.e. his Gentile mission, his good argument on freedom from law/scripture/religion, and his generous statements on love. But his larger theological context ruins such efforts with ultimate exclusion and a very tribal version of love- saved believers, damned unbelievers). Theology overrules and determines ethics.
“The entire history of atonement/salvation religion is based on a major error in primitive thinking. It has all been a great fraud and horrific waste of time and resources because there is no threatening or punishing deity to appease”.
“Environmental alarmism often comes across as another reincarnation of primitive apocalyptic/salvation mythology”.
“The CO2 warming effect is overwhelmed and even lost among the stronger influence of other natural factors in climate (i.e. the cosmic ray/sun interaction, the multi-decadal shifts in ocean currents)”.
“There is no higher human ideal or better definition of authentic humanity than unconditional love. It is natural to then define God in the same manner but to infinitely transcendent degree. Unconditional love lifts human theological understanding to the highest pinnacle of goodness, love, or perfection”.
“Unconditional treatment of all people offers the authentic way to peace on earth (see the comment on Mandela)”.
“The Near-Death Experience movement offers valuable insight to understanding that unconditional love defines ultimate reality. A good NDE that tries to express the unconditional love that was experienced is more valuable than many thousands of books on theology, religion, or spirituality that do not make this unconditional element clear”.
“Also, Mark Fox (Religion, Spirituality, and The Near Death Experience) notes that philosophy and theology have shown no interest in the NDE phenomenon. There is “almost total ignorance on the part of theologians and philosophers regarding the mass of research into NDEs”. I would venture that theologians avoid the NDE movement because its core discovery- unconditional love- threatens entirely the foundations of all conditional religion”.
“There is an interesting line of development in human mythology/religion over history. The dominant linkage and line of historical descent is as follows: The early belief that there were punishing spirits behind life, manifest in disaster, disease, or accident. This theme of punishment is already dominant in the earliest writing (Sumerian mythology). The follow-up belief was that the punishing spirits would cause a great final punishment- the apocalypse. The subsequent development of atonement/salvation religion was the appeasement response to the threat of punishing gods. Christianity then added the further development of punishing an innocent victim, which Stephen Mitchell referred to as ‘ghastly paganism’. Punishment is the driving idea behind all this development over history”.
“The Old Testament feature of holiness was another human construct projected onto deity to affirm the need for divine punishment. Holiness was about purity, separation, and the obligation to exact some payment for offenses committed. Holiness reasoning violates unconditional reality entirely. It also supports the idea of some separation of the perfect divine from the fallen human, that there exists a broken relationship, and the need to repair the imagined breach. Holiness mythology enforces intense guilt over human imperfection”.
(Note: We know that life on this planet did not begin in some perfect original paradise. There was no Eden. Life began in imperfection with disease, disaster, and death present from the start. Now, if the creating Source of life enabled/caused life to start so imperfectly, how can that Source then be mad at the imperfection of life and humanity? How can any Creator be mad at the struggle of people to free themselves from imperfection and to gradually become something better? How can any God punish people for the imperfection that they were handed from the very start? If the “plan” of the Creator was for humanity to learn lessons from the struggle with imperfect life, then how can that Creator be upset with the human struggle and progress? Why would such a Creator want to punish creatures for their struggle and development, even if slow and gradual?)
This from a comment further below: “What has been the outcome of the Christian influence? Apocalyptic mythology, with its core theme of punitive deity, has caused more misery and damage to human consciousness and society than anything else in history. That sounds excessive until you trace out the relationships and look at the details of varied examples. For instance, note Rachel Carson’s use of apocalyptic imagery to create chemical alarm and the harmful consequences to millions of people (mostly children) denied the protection of DDT”.
“The myth of a punishing God has been the foundational concept behind the development of Western systems of justice as systems oriented to payback punishment. The myth of a punishing deity thereby keeps cycles of violence alive in human society and ultimately undergirds the inhumane prison system (Note: This is not an argument for abandoning all restraint of violence. The existence of pathologies like psychopathy demand confinement programs in order to protect others)”
“Question: Why cannot God just forgive as we are urged to just forgive without demanding that some condition first be met (i.e. some payment, punishment, or apology)? Why should God expect that a payment or punishment be required first before God will forgive? If a debt is paid or an offense is punished, then no forgiveness is required. Demanding that conditions be met first is not authentic forgiveness. Jesus said, just give without expecting payment in return. And just forgive unconditionally and endlessly. It appears that we are held to a higher standard of humane behavior than God. This is nonsense. It is just as ridiculous as Paul urging that we should not repay evil with evil (i.e. engage eye for eye justice) but God will repay with far worse than just eye for eye payback. And please don’t avoid the point here by falling back on the human construct of holiness that has been projected onto deity. As many Christians respond- God is holy and must punish sin. That just avoids the critical point here- the nature of authentic unconditional forgiveness”.
“The myth of dying and rising gods (life-death-rebirth deities) has deep historical roots (useful for appreciating the “pagan” or “primitive” nature of such myth). This myth has been found in many ancient cultures such as that of the Aztecs, Sumerians, Egyptians, and Japanese (see Wikipedia on dying/rising god myth). This myth was not original to Paul and his Christ myth. As research on Christianity has shown, Paul derived this death-resurrected god idea from Greek mystery religions and applied it to Jesus. The Greeks most likely got it from the ancient Egyptians and their myth of the dying and rising Osiris (Isis/Osiris myth) that was related to Egyptian agricultural cycles- planting and harvesting, and the cyclical rise and fall of the Nile. Joseph Campbell writes that early agriculturalists of around 7000 BCE had beliefs in the necessity of seed to die in order to bring forth new life and the related belief in the Earth goddess as receiver of the dead for rebirth. So this line of myth has primitive, pagan roots and was eventually given expression in Paul’s Christ myth.”
“Apocalyptic mythology is the larger framework for salvation beliefs and religion. Salvation thinking is a subset of the larger template of tightly related apocalyptic myths. The full template is as follows: there was an original paradise, paradise was lost due to human failure/fall, angry gods threatened a final punishment for human sin, a punishment by apocalypse (originally flood, then fire in Zoroaster). The human response born of fear and guilt was to appease the angry, punishing gods by offering sacrifice to atone, to pay for sin. This became the “plan of salvation”, the way of escaping the final apocalyptic punishment. After the apocalypse to end life and the world, a renewed paradise would be inaugurated for true believers in the salvation scheme (salvation only for privileged insiders- tribal love).
“Apocalypse is the original threat of punishment that sparks the appeasement response, the salvation response and the creation of salvation religion.”
“Why is there such strong Christian/religious resistance to the breakthrough discovery of Jesus that God was unconditional love? Why does Christianity reject the Jesus offer of ultimate mercy and generosity toward all humanity? For one- it challenges the common perception of justice as payback. It challenges the base human urge to punish others for their failures. Look at the characters in the short stories of Jesus for illustrations of this base and harsh urge to punish others…
“The vineyard workers are angered that the owner rewards all with the same payment. They received the amount that they had agreed to work for but they were offended that the generous owner also gave the latecomers the same amount. It was not fair according to conventional understanding of fair and just. Similarly, note the older brother in the prodigal parable. He was upset that the father did not act fairly and justly, but generously refused to punish the careless younger brother. The older son, oriented to justice as proper and full payback, and to proper conventional fairness, did not understand the love and generosity of the father toward the undeserving, toward human failure…
“There is an ugly and narrow-spirited harshness when we are oriented toward the punishment of others. We want people to go easy on us and treat our failures generously, but we are too often not so generous toward others who we believe have failed more grievously than we have.”
Further Comment from discussion group…
“One side point along the way (part of my review of Maurice Casey’s ‘From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God’), in 1Cor.11:30 Paul states the primitive view that the gods punished people’s sins with illness, disaster, or other misfortune. That has been one of the most damaging of all myths ever created by punishment-oriented minds. It adds unnecessary psychic suffering to already unbearable physical suffering. Remember the Japanese woman anxiously asking after the tsunami, ‘Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?’ Casey’s words, ‘He (Paul) attributes sickness and death in the Corinthian community to their misbehaviour at this meal… This makes the most of the common view that sickness and death were due to sin’”.
“Jesus rejected eye for eye justice (the punishment of sin), and stated that God did not engage such payback justice. But Paul, in Romans 1-5 (his formal statement of basic Christian belief), carefully re-established eye for eye justice at the heart of his God and his Christian religion. He made a great blood atonement (punishment of sin, payment) the very foundation of Christian belief. Christianity became all about eye for eye punishment and payback. Paul rejected Jesus’ non-punishment ethic and theology for a return to primitive punishment, or eye for eye justice.”
“The historical roots of apocalyptic mythology may be far back in prehistory. John Pfeiffer (Explosion: an inquiry into the origins of art and religion) notes that ancient people may have already held a myth of an original golden age. This is the foundational myth of the apocalyptic template of ideas. One can imagine that the end of a warmer inter-glacial period (“golden age”), perhaps even the previous one over 100,000 years ago, and the subsequent descent into an ice age, may have seemed apocalyptic to ancient minds. There were also great flood events in the prehistory past (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis ) that could have sparked the apocalyptic understanding”.
“Again, note Jesus’ statement. ‘Do not retaliate, do not take revenge, do not get even, or punish’ (no more “eye for eye” response). He does not say, ‘Do not defend yourself or others against violence and evil’. This is a legitimate distinction. Jesus’ core message does not affirm dogmatic pacifism”.
“Unconditional Love is the great truth behind all things…I was going to add, that when we replace all that dark mythology (angry, punishing gods) in our minds with this greatest of all discoveries ever- that unconditional love is at the core of all reality- then that love radiates out to change everything. Everything. Whether in life or death. Let unconditional permeate everything, let it be the baseline by which to evaluate everything, to change everything. Just as some are using it, even though not fully aware they are doing so (e.g. those trying to change justice systems from retributive to more rehabilitative, arguing that God is non-retributive, non-punishing). That is just one area. So yes, unconditional changes everything. It liberates as nothing else can. History’s greatest liberation movement is contained in this term. Unconditional love is at the core of all reality and life”.
“Bob Brinsmead made some comment on how unconditional love has emerged and developed in humanity. He noted that a stranger recently risked his life to save a shark attack victim in Australia, without first enquiring if the victim was a good or bad person. So with the young Boston bomber- the medical staff worked to save his life, not withholding care because of what he had done. So with prisoners and enemies in war, Bob notes that we are ethically and morally bound to act with love toward our worst and most dangerous foes. This, he says, does not mean leaving them free to endanger others. Bob says, ‘Yes, they may have to be restrained, incarcerated, but the aim of this in the best justice systems is called ‘correctional services’ or ‘rehabilitation’. The aim is to rehabilitate and restore the offender to be a good member of the human family, even if the prospects of rehabilitation are not promising. Love will always persevere. The best justice systems are dedicated to save lives rather than to destroy them- unconditionally’. Bob adds, ‘Mandela said that hating your enemy was like drinking poison to hurt your enemy. It diminished one’s own humanity’”…
(Cont.) “My added comments on Bob’s point: Yes, humanity gets unconditional treatment of others and actually practices it in all sorts of common situations as you outlined (e.g. loving family members unconditionally). People have been getting unconditional treatment of others for millennia now. This is nothing new. Check out Wikipedia for the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son. About 2200 BCE. He got it way back then (the ethical, but not the theological part). And so did Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and so many others long before Jesus came along. People, using their own sense of what it meant to be authentically human, started to forgive unconditionally, they chose to not retaliate in kind (eye for eye response), they chose to not engage endless cycles of violence, and so much more. They were wrestling with unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity…”
(Cont.) “…And then along came historical Jesus and he finished the breakthrough on this. He based human ethics on the divine ideal. Do this- treat others unconditionally- because this is just what God is like, what God does. He also loves enemies, includes them as family, and showers the same goodness and generosity on all alike, both so-called just, and so-called unjust. So we have this complete breakthrough today, and what a shame that Paul missed this great breakthrough of all breakthroughs”.
“Paul also missed how Jesus reasoned from the best of the human spirit to the divine as infinitely better. Jesus said that if you imperfect people know how to be good, then how much more is God good, the ultimate goodness. So we see this unconditional love developing in humanity and naturally reason that God is like this also, only infinitely more so. ‘How much more is God good’. We start with the authentically humane in humanity and reason from that to deity. But we understand that deity is transcendently better. My paraphrase of Schillebeekx- ‘God is infinitely more humane than any human’”.
“There is an important linkage to note here. People have always tried to model their lives after greater ideals and authorities. Anthropologists like Clifford Geertz have done work on this- that people try to replicate in their societies and lives what they believe is the divine pattern. This is a natural part of the human impulse for meaning and purpose. We sense that we belong to something greater and we naturally want to be in harmony with that greater reality. If such a greater reality exists then surely it is only common sense to try to fulfill the reason that greater reality created us to fulfill. But the problem arises when people project inhumane features onto the greater ideals and authorities (i.e. the gods). Those nasty features then validate the worst drives in people as they try to model their lives according to such things.”
“Nonviolence, non-retaliation, and non-punishing are all the negative elements of unconditional. On the positive side we have unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity toward all persons, even enemies. Unconditional is the broad term that covers all these elements- both negative and positive- most comprehensively and thoroughly”.
“The conditional nature of Christianity is also evident in the Christian demand that people must believe the violent Christian atonement myth, or be damned. Again, conditions, conditions, and more conditions”.
“Someone responded to the claim that unconditional love was at the core of all, by noting that nature is full of cause and effect. This is natural law. Of course. Jump off a cliff and gravity will pull you down and hurt you when you meet the ground below. But my response was that you cannot then read some divine intention into such things. You certainly cannot read such cause and effect law as being about some sort of divine punishment. That is to repeat the error of the ancients, that anything bad that happens (i.e. the harmful outcomes of natural law at work- storm, flood, disease, and so on) is because the gods are punishing people. There are natural consequences but there is no divine intention behind those natural consequences (to punish or to teach lessons)”.
“As Bob Brinsmead and myself regularly note, we view the historical Jesus as valuable for his great breakthrough insights, but not as some final or higher authority on the issue of unconditional. We, with our own authority today- our human consciousness- are responsible to make our own conclusions about unconditional reality and existence. We are grateful for the discoveries of the past, but we move on from that, free to make our own conclusions about this wonder. And there will never be any final consensus on historical Jesus, as any peek at ongoing research shows…”
“…Also, there is still too much Biblicism scattered among historical Jesus research. Too much sense of obligation to scripture as some divinely inspired authority. One also senses too much respect for Jesus and his words as some similarly divinely inspired authority. We gratefully recognize where he got this humane reality of unconditional right- good for him. But we move on to make our own conclusions about what it all means and how to apply it to our situations. Also, some of the argument in historical Jesus research reminds one of the old theologians arguing about how many angels could balance on the head of a pin. While I value historical Jesus research, I see it as only one element among others for understanding reality and life”.
“As we get caught up in the latest battle in the endless back and forth of historical offense and retaliation response (i.e. the fight against ISIS, a necessary fight), we need to ask if we are actually winning the greater war. The fight is not just against our physical “enemies” but it is more about all of us overcoming those core themes at the root of violence. I refer to those mythical and religious themes that are sometimes more basic to violence than many other things (i.e. violent gods in sacred books that affirm violence). This is a prominent issue to solving violence over the long term. We now have the answer to this issue in the human discovery of unconditional reality. And the long term solution has everything to do with our learning to think and feel unconditionally toward our so-called enemies”.
“The impulses to violence already exist in us and we need to be careful with the ideas/ideals we hold that validate our feelings and actions, for better or for worse. Inhuman ideas/ideals will validate our worst impulses. And to the contrary, humane ideas/ideals will inspire our better impulses. We know better today what is inhuman or human, and its time to fully humanize all of our ideas, ideals, authorities, or sources of inspiration. This is the great trajectory of human history, to humanize all things. This is the reason we exist. It is a tragedy, then, to just wander through life, sure, adding some good ideas/ideals along the way, but not properly cleaning out the old, the inhumane. We are responsible to clean up our own heads thoroughly. This is how we get to, and correct, the root causes of violence and evil in life. The real war with inhumanity is in our own heads”.
“I would argue that we need to replace everything at the core of our consciousness with authentic unconditional reality. This reality needs to be consciously installed as the new defining core of all our ideas, beliefs, ideals, perceptions, or assumptions. And tightly related to this formal installation, we need to intentionally eliminate anything (ideas, beliefs, ideals) that is less than unconditional love; anything that is other than authentic unconditional love. This profoundly humane reality must reshape the very core of our personal worldview, our way of understanding and explaining all things. It must replace everything that is less than, or other than unconditional love; everything that is contradictory to unconditional love.”
“If unconditional love of a quality that is infinitely better than the best that can be expressed, if this is the great truth behind all reality and life, then anything less, or anything contrary to such love, is not authentically human or humane. It is not ultimately true or real. Such can then be rejected as ultimately untrue, unreal, or false. Unconditional is the new baseline to evaluate the authentic, the true, and ultimately real”.
“This is an argument to thoroughly humanize the very foundations of human consciousness or subconscious. And then watch how this wonder of unconditional liberates and radiates out to change everything in life for the better. This is the most profound liberation ever.”
Using a few strands from Joseph Campbell’s story framework and my own paraphrasing- this site is tackling the greatest monster ever in the history of human perception/thought. Slaying this monster of punitive deity is our greatest battle (a battle in the mind and heart), and it results in the greatest liberation of human consciousness ever, the greatest advance in human perception/thought. Are these repeated claims of “greatest” too extravagant? See for yourself.
A Thought Breakthrough
There is a theological breakthrough (better- a human thought breakthrough) presented here that you will find in few other places. It is not presented clearly even in Jesus Seminar research, and rare anywhere else in research on Christian theology or history, or in religious research in general. I have since found it clearly stated only in the writing of people like Simon Joseph (The Nonviolent Messiah). It has to do with the central theme of the historical Jesus and the debate over whether he was an apocalyptic messenger or not. And let me be especially clear that I am referring to the historical Jesus as someone entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus, entirely opposite to Paul’s Christ myth.
My argument is based on the core theme of the historical Jesus that is found in Matthew 5:38-48.This is his statement of a non-retaliatory ethic based on a non-retaliatory theology (Note: non-retaliation is the negative side of the positive response of unconditional love). Jesus’ central ethical/theological breakthrough is the most striking breakthrough insight in the history of human thought. It is the most advanced and potent statement of ethics and theology anywhere in human literature. It takes the understanding of authentic humanity to new heights. It takes human understanding of ultimate reality into the realm of the truly transcendent. And it is a consistent theme (“thematic coherence”) throughout Jesus’ teaching (see Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition further below). It is also a scandalous threat to the very foundations of Christianity and all religion as atonement or Salvationism. Unconditional means absolutely no conditions. None. (Note: Unconditional as taught by Jesus is quite entirely different from the oxymoronic Christian use of unconditional to describe the highly conditional Christian religion with its demand for full payment or punishment of sin before offering forgiveness)
Jesus stated emphatically that we should not engage in eye for eye treatment of others. We should not respond with payback, take revenge, or punish others because God does not engage payback, take revenge, or punish others. Instead, we should unconditionally love offenders/enemies because this is what God does. God does not retaliate or punish anyone, but loves all equally, both good and bad. God is merciful, compassionate, and generous toward all alike, both just and unjust. Matthew 5 is very clear on this. This is a stunning new view of deity- a theological breakthrough- that is unique in the history of mythology, theology, and religious thought. There is no more liberating and elevating insight than this in the history and realm of human understanding. This is supreme liberation from threat, guilt, shame, fear, depression, and despair at the deepest levels of human consciousness.
(Note: Again, to respond to those who will immediately claim that such unconditional treatment of all is a weak response to evil, I would point out- and do so repeatedly- that, to the contrary, it is the most potent response to evil ever discovered. Look carefully at Nelson Mandela’s use of unconditional to defuse potential violence in South Africa and around the same time, the devastation in Bosnia and Rwanda where unconditional was abandoned. Further, unconditional does not equate with dogmatic pacifism. Love is always responsible to restrain evil and protect the innocent. It is responsible to argue for accountability. See detailed comment further below on this page)
Now the main point in Jesus’ Matthew 5 unconditional statement, especially as it relates to apocalyptic mythology or religion, is plain and simple. If Jesus believed that God did not retaliate but forgave all unconditionally, then he could not have been an apocalyptic messenger or prophet. Apocalyptic is a grand divine act of retaliation against human sin. It is the ultimate act of divine vengeance or punishment. Paul- intensely oriented to apocalyptic thought- is clear on this in his varied statements that God will repay (retaliate), take vengeance, and finally punish and destroy all those who do not obey his gospel. But Paul was entirely wrong about God because Jesus had stated the exact opposite- that we should not retaliate because God does not retaliate. A God that does not retaliate cannot therefore engage in the grand retaliation of apocalypse. And therefore, Jesus was not an apocalyptic messenger. Because God was not a retaliatory or apocalyptic God. Can it be more clear?
(Note: You can state this in exactly the same way with reference to nonviolence. Nonviolence is also a clear theme in Jesus’ teaching. Apocalyptic, to the contrary, is an act of divine violence)
Jesus’ core theme of non-retaliation then overturns the foundations of most religious thought because apocalyptic mythology is the larger framework of atonement and salvation mythology. So this is much more than just correcting the error of apocalyptic mythology.
Jesus’ statement on non-retaliation in God (i.e. non-punishing deity) goes right to the foundational error of all primitive thought. His statement is the most potent response ever to the worst error of the ancients- their belief that the gods were retaliatory and punishing spirits. That error had formed the foundation of all subsequent religion as appeasement, atonement, and salvation. That error has shaped much human perception for the worse ever since. It has had profoundly damaging impacts on human behavior and society for millennia (remember- theology determines ethics).
To place this in its full historical context, here, once again, is a brief history of punishment thinking: As noted repeatedly on this site, it begins with the early error that there were punishing spirits behind life, manifest in disease, disaster, and accident. This theme of punishing spirits/gods is already present in the earliest writing (i.e. Sumerian mythology). The belief in retaliatory spirits was followed by the belief that the punitive gods would cause a great final punishment- the apocalypse (originally by flood, later apocalypse by fire in Zoroaster). This threat, and the guilt and fear that it roused, sparked the survival/appeasement response in humanity- that people must offer some sacrifice to placate the angry gods. Punishment in deity then shaped the formation of religion as Salvationism (sacrifice, atonement, payback justice). Later features like holiness (Old Testament) were projected onto deity to re-enforce the demand to punish human failure and imperfection. Christianity added the further development of punishing an innocent victim, a god-man sent from heaven, which Stephen Mitchell has called “ghastly paganism”. Punishment is the driving idea behind all this development of myth and religion over history. And punishment continues into varied secularized versions in the modern era (i.e. revenge of Gaia, angry planet/nature mythology).
Jesus’ breakthrough insight on ethics and theology blows punishment mythology and religion apart entirely. His discovery that God does not retaliate or punish, overturns the entire history of human ethics and theology like nothing ever stated before. It spells the end of not just Christianity but all religion that is oriented to punishment or atonement theology.
Here again to emphasize and clarify: God does not retaliate or punish anyone. Therefore, God will not retaliate with an apocalypse. Apocalypse is an act of grand final retaliation or punishment. Jesus taught non-retaliation and therefore Jesus could not be apocalyptic.
And if there is no retaliatory punishment in God then there is no demand for any atonement (the demand for punishment of sin in a sacrifice, a payment for sin). And if there is no punishment in God, then there is no condemnation/judgment looming and no need for any salvation plan. You see how this Jesus discovery of unconditional love at the core of ultimate reality blows away the very foundational themes of most historical religion.
And you can now see how contrary Pauline or Christian belief is to the theology of Jesus. In Christian atonement God demands infinitely more than just another blood sacrifice as payment/punishment for human sin. The Christian God demands the sacrifice of a god-man, an infinitely valuable sacrifice to pay for infinite offense against infinite holiness. This is the highest condition ever conceived. It is conditional atonement religion taken to an ultimate extreme. Supremely conditional and atonement Christianity is the greatest attack ever on the unconditional discovery of Jesus.
The discovery of Jesus that God is non-retaliatory or unconditional love is then a threat to the entire history of mythology, theology, and religion itself. It blows away the very foundations of all atonement and apocalyptic thinking completely.
Get a grip on that core unconditional theme of Jesus (again, unconditional is the positive side of non-retaliation or non-punishing). And get a clear grasp that the unconditional love that is God is of a quality infinitely beyond the best that can be imagined or expressed. Understand that this unconditional love is at the core of reality and life. It is the only authentically humane foundation for theology and ethics. It is the new baseline for evaluating everything in life. And it is a profound scandal to all previous mythology, theology, and religious thinking in general, most of which has been oriented to conditional or payback thinking.
To get some sense of the profound importance of Jesus’ breakthrough on non-punishing deity, consider how punishment thinking has affected people over history. It has shaped their mythologies and religions, their social institutions, their mood and motivations, their response and behavior toward one another, their law and justice systems, and political policy and response. The belief in punishing deity has been at the foundation of much of this and more (note the Mennonite comment on this, as well as the comment by Tabor and others).
Then consider carefully the implications that flow out or reverberate from this profound discovery of unconditional at the core of all. Most significantly, as noted above, it powerfully counters the worst error of ancient minds, the error that became the foundation of the entire history of religion and much of human perception and behavior- that the forces or spirits behind life were punishing.
In the above comparisons we are noting history’s worst enslavement and history’s potentially greatest liberation movement (that of mind, consciousness, emotions, and spirit). Ahh, I tend to get extravagant in my expression of this, but the reality that I am pointing toward is far more extravagant and scandalous than anyone can express.
Paul’s myth of a punishing Christ and his Christian religion, in particular, have been the most influential set of myths ever created to promote conditional reality and existence, conditions oriented to punishment. They have shaped the consciousness of the Western world, and through the West to the entire world. Again, as James Tabor, Stephen Mitchell, Hyam Maccoby, and others have stated, Paul has been the most influential person in all history. He has shaped how we think, how we act and treat one another, and how we have shaped our societies (i.e. our justice systems as punitive or payback justice).
And Paul, with his Christ myth, has been singularly responsible for burying the unconditional discovery of historical Jesus. Paul created the great anti-Jesus myth of Christ, and its supporting framework- the Christian religion. Paul’s Christ and his Christian religion have been the most potent force ever to bury the core unconditional theme of Jesus.
Admittedly, Paul got the non-retaliatory ethic of Jesus right (Romans 12) but he rejected Jesus’ theological basis for his new non-retaliatory ethic. Paul did not understand that theology determines ethics. Ultimate ideals and authorities override human ethical standards. Hence, Christians in following generations have too often treated others brutally with punishing vengeance. This has a lot to do with the fact that they have adopted the punishing and vengeful theology of Paul- a God who takes vengeance, who repays with punishing violence and destruction (see Revelation for more gruesome detail on the historical culmination of the Christian ideal of punishment. Note also in other religious traditions how belief in a vengeful, punishing God fuels the human drive to punish and destroy others. We see this daily on our TV screens.).
So get a sense of the wonder of the Jesus discovery of unconditional reality. It is a scandal to most conventional thinking. It is a discovery to blow away the foundations of much human perception, thought, and action. It overturns the Christ myth of Paul and his religion entirely. It takes human consciousness in an entirely new and liberating direction.
And join the ongoing discussion regarding the application of this unconditional ideal to the messy reality of imperfect human existence. Note the innovative endeavors to change our justice systems away from a punitive orientation toward a more restorative emphasis. Note also the research in psychology on the failure of punitive approaches to reform offenders and the harm these punitive approaches cause to children. Unconditional treatment of all people provides the most potent means of confronting and defeating evil, and fostering peace and order, trade and commerce, and a more humane civilization.
Grand Narrative Core Themes
This page repeatedly and thoroughly explores the themes of a new grand narrative of life. Why? To get to the root of what went wrong in the past and to robustly correct that with an authentically human alternative.
I have summarized here the core themes of the old narrative/story of life, rightly called a narrative of despair. It is also a grand fraud and a lie. Overwhelming evidence points to an entirely opposite story of life, a narrative that is repeatedly summarized throughout this site, and is emphatically a narrative of hope.
Here’s an added challenge in regard to this grand narrative exploration- take a good look at your own beliefs, assumptions, and overall worldview (and the worldviews of people you know) to see if any of the old story themes are still lodged in the core of your/their thinking or outlook. You will be surprised to discover how many people, often considering themselves to be modern secularists, still hold to some of the most primitive themes of the old mythical understanding of life.
Just below is a summary list of the more dominant themes of the mythical/religious narratives that have shaped human worldviews and consciousness over history. These themes often reside in the background (human subconscious) but still powerfully shape how people view life and respond to life. They continue to stick around because, when people shift positions on various views they hold, they don’t thoroughly re-evaluate the basic themes at the foundation of their worldviews, often just assuming some things are undoubtedly true and beyond question.
Over more recent history, notably the last few centuries of the scientific movement, these mythical themes have undergone a secularizing process. They have been reformulated in new secular versions but the newer versions are still strikingly similar to the older versions. Thus, these ideas continue to linger in human worldviews and belief systems, both religious and now secular. They continue to darken and enslave minds with unnecessary fear and anxiety.
Here is an oversimplified summary to clarify some of the dominant old story themes.
1. The past was better. There was an original paradise.
2. Corrupted humans have ruined life and it now declines toward something worse. Both humanity and life are in decline toward something worse (this is found in both Western and Eastern traditions- e.g. Buddhism- decreasing life-span, Hinduism- decline toward catastrophe).
3. The divine has separated from humanity and threatens to punish humanity. No single theme in all the history of thought has been more destructive than this myth of threatening, punishing forces/spirits behind life.
4. Some apocalyptic catastrophe will end civilization and life. Life is fragile, stingy, and ready to collapse.
5. A sacrifice is required to appease the punitive forces/spirits that are threatening to punish humanity and end life. In secular versions the sacrifice is to placate the threatened revenge of GAIA or angry planet.
6. Atonement logic (full punishment of all wrong) shapes human justice systems and much of overall human existence.
7. Lost paradise will be restored in a utopian future for the enlightened or elect few.
These ideas have been beaten into human consciousness for multiple millennia. They are some of the most frightening and traumatizing ideas ever conceived by human minds. Ideas that have been imprinted deeply in our subconscious, in our outlook and worldviews. Hence, even when appearing to radically change worldviews, people simply reformulate these primitive ideas in modernized versions. They are ideas that endlessly stir fear, and fear is often behind anger and violence in life.
Note, in particular, the belief in punishing forces/spirits behind life, spirits that threaten to retaliate and destroy people with great disasters. This has been so incessantly beaten into public consciousness over past millennia that it is now almost hardwired in human subconscious. Therefore, even after leaving their religions to adopt newer more scientific viewpoints, it appears that many people still cannot let go of the belief in some threatening force or spirit. This belief in a punishing force then keeps erupting even in what are widely considered to be secular systems of thought. Because this idea of ultimate threat has not been properly re-evaluated and rooted out, people automatically respond to new expressions of threat (i.e. revenge of GAIA or angry planet) without even questioning the validity or reality of what they are frightened by. They continue to assume that some great threat must exist and they then instinctively support the proffered salvation schemes of those who have alarmed them with such threats (i.e. the anti-development schemes of environmental alarmists).
The best of human insight and evidence now points to an entirely new grand story of life- a narrative of valid hope. The core themes are quite entirely opposite to the old narrative themes. Again, this is a simplified summary to focus on some of the more prominent themes. These ideas are about enlightening and liberating consciousness- about getting us to a more humane future.
1. Life began imperfectly. There was no better past or original paradise.
2. Ever-improving humanity has become an increasingly creative force that makes life something ever better than before. There was no human “Fall” into corruption/sin but, rather, over our history we have endlessly risen toward something ever better, toward something more humane. Life itself continues to rise and progress toward something ever better.
3. The divine has never separated from humanity but has incarnated in all humanity as human consciousness. We are inseparable from the Unconditional Love that is our Source and Life.
4. There is no end to life but rather life rises toward an open and unlimited future. Life is resilient, durable, and infinitely generous. This counters the dominant alarmist theme of limits in nature.
5. There are no punitive forces/spirits behind life that need to be appeased. To the contrary, ultimate reality is best understood as unconditional love. Consequently, no sacrifice or salvation is required. There are absolutely no conditions to be met- none. “Salvation” is to be found in creative and improving humanity solving all problems that arise and making life ever better.
6. The great impulse behind life and the overall trajectory of life is to humanize all things, to make more humane. This gives profound meaning and purpose to all things.
7. Based on the nature of ultimate reality as unconditional love, authentic human relating and existence should be oriented to unconditional treatment of all.
To robustly respond, for instance, to the myth of threatening, punishing forces/spirits, try to get a hold of what unconditional means in the new story and then imagine how this unconditional love will liberate human consciousness from all elements of the old mythology. Unconditional blows apart entirely those primitive beliefs in some punishing force or God. It undermines entirely a variety of related themes of the old narrative (i.e. required atonement). Once again, unconditional means absolutely no conditions or requirements. None.
(Note: If this sounds utopian or impractical see comments below on “Unconditional is Impractical?” Unconditional treatment of people has long been at the root of most things that we value in civilization, such as peace and order, trade and commerce, and civilization in general.)
Speaking directly to the religious or mythical mind- unconditional treatment of all means that there is no judgment to fear, no required appeasement scheme to engage, and no hell beneath us. Unconditional proclaims that there is the fullest acceptance for everyone and no separation from our creating Source, however you perceive that.
All salvation religion has been based on this error that some cosmic separation occurred between God and humanity. In secular/environmental versions it is the separation of humanity from “sacred nature”, now rendering both to a state of opposition or enmity. Unconditional renders that myth of separateness to be nonsense. Therefore, because there has never been any separation, there is no need for any salvation, or sacrifice to “pay for sin”, and there is no need to restore some mythically-imagined broken or severed relationship. There is no requirement to appease some upset force or deity. All are safe and secure in the ultimate sense. This goes to the root of human anxiety, depression, and fear (existential fear, subconscious fear).
Stated positively- All are fully included, and all receive the fullest love and generosity from the Universe.
So unconditional gets to the most deeply rooted beliefs in human subconscious- and it challenges all that residual primitivism of despair. It then enlightens, liberates and humanizes our core thinking more than anything else that we have ever discovered in history. Unconditional is indeed our greatest insight ever. It potently counters all the old darkening mythology that has terrorized humanity for millennia.
Watch this unconditional reality cleanse and liberate human consciousness like nothing ever before and liberate the human spirit to new creative heights. It frees us from the basest drives to hate, to take revenge, to hurt others, and to destroy differing others. It inspires toward authentic humanity and authentic human existence like nothing else can.
I recently spent time at Facebook doing a series of comments on the religious roots of violence (how theology determines ethics). That is available at Wendell Krossa on a Facebook public timeline. The comment reads from the bottom to the latest at the top. The basic point being made- Christianity brought violent apocalyptic mythology into Western consciousness and society. And that mythology is still a significant root cause of violence in our modern world. The important relationship to note in that comment- what we hold as our ultimate ideals and authorities will shape how we behave, how we treat others. Watch ISIS today for graphic evidence of this. Again, Theology (how we view ultimate reality, i.e. gods) determines ethics (how we behave). Violence in deity has long promoted violence in humanity. This is fundamental to understanding the root causes of violence and to finding effective long term solutions. As a Boko Haram leader said to his child soldiers, “We must give God bodies, we must make God happy”. Trace out this relationship over history and you will understand one of the prominent causes of violence over history. Check out this site for an effective way to counter this pathology.
We are watching Islam suffer today from extremist violence. And while we are repulsed by what we see, we also need to remember the very similar history of extremist violence in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Past Christian brutality (burning heretics in slow green-wood fires, John Calvin) makes ISIS seem tame and merciful in comparison. As a sage said long ago, take out the beam from your own eye first before you worry about the speck in someone else’s eye. Check again the early Christian battles over correct Christian belief, the orgies of violence spawned by the Councils, the Crusades, the pogroms against Jews, the Inquisition, and more. All three Western religions share the same heritage, known as apocalyptic mythology, with its core theme of divine violence against humanity. Apocalyptic myth is about a great act of divine punishment and destruction. And the related divine requirement to oppose and destroy one’s enemies (Zoroastrian dualism). This is all about the human veneration of violence in deity and how this impacts human feeling and action.
Many do not want to admit the key role that religious belief has played in promoting violence among people. But it cannot be denied if we are going to find a long term solution to violence. History shouts at us to face this issue.
(Note in this regard the interplay between our inherited animal drives and the systems of ideas or beliefs that we create to validate our behavior. The ancients projected some of their worst inherited features onto early gods thereby creating nasty monsters. Those gods were then employed to validate nasty human behavior. And so it has been ever since.)
New comment: “Does religion cause depression?”- this comment notes the influence of pathological belief on human mood and the need to change ideas/thought at the deepest levels of consciousness in order to properly deal with depression (cognitive therapy- “the need to correct deeply held but false beliefs that contribute to depression”). Also, Google “religion causing depression” and note the new research on this issue.
Further, see “Discussion group comment” on recent outbursts of violence across the world and the need to deal with “us versus them” tribalism, primitive offense and retaliation response, and treating “enemies” with respect (e.g. MacArthur and the Japanese, Mandela in S. Africa). See also Bob Brinsmead’s good comment on the history of Christian violence (“It would be impossible to estimate the mental and psychological harm these ‘Christian’ beliefs have done to millions of people…the saving grace of the religion of Christ (Christianity) is that it claimed to be based on the teaching of Jesus and for this reason had to carry something of his teaching, although in a subordinate way…I tremble to think of what Christian civilization might have done without the leavening influence of the teaching of Jesus”).
This new comment is at the very bottom just above the “Joke Bin”.
Below the Joke Bin is more comment on “It all gets better, infinitely better”, “History’s greatest liberation movement”, “Celebrating more CO2”, “Christopher Hitchens on religion and violence”, “The human longing for perfection”, “Bob Brinsmead on imperfection in life, and the religious God that cannot tolerate imperfection”, along with a “Model of the relationship between religion and violence”.
Various commentators have noted that 9/11 has made us intensely aware of the relationship between vengeful, violent deity and violent, destructive human actions. This relationship goes far to explain the roots of much remaining inhumanity in our societies.
See comment below on “Solving the root causes of violence” (i.e. the critical link between belief and behavior, between theology and ethics). This is located just below “Eliminating Zoroastrian dualism”. And then note the repeated comment on “Paul’s stunning retreat” from the core insight of the historical Jesus. Jesus had made the unprecedented breakthrough that God was unconditional love- non-punishing, non-retaliating, non-apocalyptic. Paul founded Christianity on the entirely opposite view of God as vengeful, punishing, and ultimately destroying all things (apocalyptic). Understanding this profound contradiction, and its implications for human consciousness and society, is critical to solving the problem of violence. This gets to the very root of the problem.
Also, note “The most potent force against violence/evil” just below the “Wonder of being human: countering the religious devaluation of humanity- the human sinfulness myth and holiness mythology”.
Comment from discussion group re dualism (“us versus them” tribalism), opposition, defeating an enemy:
“Modern humane consciousness is endlessly perplexed by the insane opposition and violence between various groups in today’s world. One good place to start in order to properly understand this opposition and violence is with Zoroastrian dualism. Zoroaster taught that there was a good God and an evil force and they were engaged in a great cosmic battle where the Good would eventually defeat the Evil. Zoroaster stated the divine demand that people must choose a side, the good side or the good religion, and then view themselves as existing in opposition to those on the outside of their true religion…
“Zoroaster illustrates an important relationship- how mythical or religious ideas influence human behavior. In Zoroastrianism you have the requirement that people must replicate in their own lives the greater cosmic dualism and opposition toward an enemy. Humanity must follow the divine pattern or ideal. People have long believed that theology (greater reality and ideals) determines ethics (how we behave). There is a heavenly law, will, or ideal that people must obey or follow…
“(Dualism cont.) In Zoroastrian dualism people were obligated to choose something that would separate them from others who were different, and then oppose them. Zoroastrian dualism was all about the divine demand for true believers to oppose and defeat their “enemies”, to destroy their enemies. This dualist opposition had cosmic implications. There would be a final judgment, and then heaven or hell would be the outcome of people’s choice for separation and opposition. So be careful to choose the “right” side or religion, and then zealously oppose and defeat your “evil” enemies. Or else the good God would punish and destroy you…
“(Dualism cont.) And watch how this dualism and opposition then descended down through Jewish thought and into Christian belief (Paul). And then watch how it shaped modern thought across the world. It is very much a part of how we form our fundamental identity. I belong to this system and you, in opposition to me, belong to that system. In one sense this dualism and opposition can be understood as just ancient tribalism, animal-like bands opposing one another. My band against your band. But religion sacralised this dualism and opposition (remember Mary Boyce’s statement that Zoroastrianism has been the most influential religion in history, shaping Judaism, Christianity and Islam). And then this same religious thinking was secularized in the modern era. The basic themes are still there in secular systems of thought. I do not see that many have gotten past the dualism of Zoroaster, something that has profoundly shaped human outlook over the millennia. You can see this in Putin fighting the West, and in the Western response to such, and in other so-called secular movements where people separate from and oppose one another”…
“(Dualism cont.) Note that Jesus rejected the long history of Zoroastrian dualism with his statement- Love your enemies. Include them. View them as fellow members of the one human family”.
This page explores the most profoundly humanizing discovery in history- that the defining core of reality and life (i.e. Ultimate Reality) is Unconditional Love. What makes this discovery so profound is expressed in the adjective “unconditional”. This is not just about love as the historic human ideal that we are all familiar with. Unconditional points to something far more profound- a transcendent and scandalous love that demands no conditions before forgiving, including, or bestowing unlimited generosity. Absolutely none. Stay focused on this unconditional feature until you can feel the scandal and the wonder of it. It is the essence of authentic liberation, like nothing ever before in all history. The consequences of this discovery in terms of ethical, philosophical, theological, social, political, and other implications, are more than just life-changing. They are beyond astounding. Unconditional changes everything. It takes things nuclear.
Note: We discover unconditional as it emerges and develops in humanity and we then reason from humanity out to all else. The best of the human spirit points to the meaning of all else, including views of deity.
To set the proper context, and offer a clear contrast, I have detailed on this site how traditional religious themes have buried this grand discovery of unconditional. Religion emerged as a social institution oriented to conditions, basically, how to appease and please the gods. From the beginning religion has been about conditions, conditions, and more conditions. Religion has never communicated the true nature of unconditional reality, and by its very nature as a conditionally oriented institution it cannot communicate unconditional reality. And much worse- religious gods have long embodied the harshest features of primitive existence- such things as petty offense at human imperfection, violent revenge, tribalism/exclusion (true believers versus unbelievers, opposing dualism and opposition), and violent punishment, along with conditional atonement and salvation schemes. Deeply embedded within human consciousness, these religious features have shaped human worldviews for millennia and stirred endless fear, anxiety, depression, despair, and dread. They have long influenced human emotion, perspective, response, and behavior, toward violence and other forms of inhumanity.
Unconditional must now replace these destructive features at the core of human consciousness. Unconditional will liberate the human spirit entirely. Unconditional holds the potential to spark the greatest liberation movement ever. A liberation that begins in the depths of human consciousness and frees us to engage the authentically humane in every area of existence. Unconditional goes to the deepest root causes of inhumanity, those ideas or beliefs that have long validated inhuman feeling, response, and behavior. It then changes everything at that foundational level for the better. It replaces the old themes with an entirely new center, or foundation, a core ideal that inspires the best in the human spirit. It becomes the most potent reality ever to solve issues like violence, tribal mentality (us versus them) and exclusion, fear, offense and retaliation response, and anxiety (temporal and existential). Unconditional now frees us to become fully human. It revolutionizes and solves everything in life and death. And it answers all the great questions about the meaning and purpose of existence.
This is about exploring the root causes of what went wrong in ancient thought and discovering the most potent solution- the unconditional treatment of all.
The Futility of Reforming Religion
(Qualifying note: I applaud all moderating and universalizing endeavors within religion, any effort to make religion nice. My argument below is that too often the endeavor to reform religion does not properly deal with the root problem and fully resolve it. I am referring to the problem of nasty core beliefs that validate so much nasty religious behavior. Reformism often preserves the bad ideas which then continue to distort the better ideals in religious systems and short-circuit their beneficial impact.)
A lot of effort is expended today to restate Christianity in terms of more humane ideals. It is an endeavor to downplay the nasty stuff in the Bible and focus more on the nice stuff. You see this especially in the argument that Christianity is really all about the nonviolent teaching of Jesus. Therefore, say the reformers, Christians just need to focus more on the nice ideals taught by Jesus and make these ideals the defining core of Christianity. The reformers are trying to advance the perception that the teaching of Jesus is true Christianity. This promotes a confusing misunderstanding about authentic historical Christianity.
Yes, Jesus’ teaching is included in the Christian New Testament. But it does not constitute the foundational teaching of Christianity. The teaching of Paul is true foundational Christianity, not that of Jesus. And Paul’s core teaching is entirely opposite to that of Jesus. We are talking basic theology here, the way that Paul and Jesus viewed God, justice, and related ideas, the most basic of all religious beliefs. So the effort to reform Christianity is admirable but it does not properly expose and purge the nasty themes that distort the better ideals in the Christian religion. Reformism does not accomplish what needs to be done.
Much Christian reform effort is shaped by the sense of obligation to Biblicism, the belief that the material in the Bible is somehow inspired by God; that it is a revelation from God and therefore its contents must be honored and preserved. Biblicists believe that all the varied elements of scripture must be harmonized, or held in tension somehow, the nasty along with the nice. This erroneous belief in divinely inspired scripture undergirds much reformism and prevents reformers from engaging the radical purging of bad ideas that is required in order to fully humanize their religion.
The main defect in reform efforts is that the most basic Christian teaching- the core teaching- is entirely opposite to the unconditional message of Jesus. This is the great contradiction of Christianity. And be clear on this- the entirely opposite Christian teaching that I refer to, this teaching is foundational Christianity. The nasty stuff on divine retaliation, punishment, and destructive violence is not just later added material that distorts some other original nice foundation. No. The nasty stuff is the foundational material.
The Foundations Book (Supreme Condition versus Supremely Unconditional)
The book of Romans is Paul’s formal statement of the basic beliefs of Christianity. And to laser in a bit more, in Romans 1-5 he presents the absolutely most foundational ideas of the Christian religion. These are the core themes that he employs to create Christianity. And yes, Christianity is his baby (James Tabor, in Paul and Jesus, states that Christianity is Paul’s religion- “Christianity…is Paul and Paul is Christianity”).
Also, there is nothing in the early Romans chapters that can be explained away as metaphorical. The claim that some biblical themes are just metaphorical is another effort to try to alleviate the sting of harsh inhumanity expressed in basic Christian beliefs. But in Romans 1-5 Paul is speaking of real wrath, real blood atonement (the supreme condition), and real justice as punishment. And real destruction for those who do not believe his view of things. This Romans teaching is not just “unfortunate nasty aberrations to true Christianity”. It is not later historical distortion of some original better message, such as the teaching of Jesus. Romans is Paul’s formal statement of the foundational themes of his new religion. It is all about the crucified Christ that Paul stated was the only thing that he would know and preach.
So let’s not continue the delusion that Christianity is something other than the message of Paul, or that it can become something other than what Paul originally created it to mean. That is to promote ongoing confusion.
Paul’s larger context in Romans 1-5 is that of an angry God zealous to punish and destroy sinners. Paul repeatedly states, beginning in chapter 1, that God is enraged with imperfect people (i.e. his repeated use of “the wrath of God”). The demanded solution to appease the wrathful God? There must be a blood sacrifice or atonement as the payment for human sin. The violent murder of an innocent victim as the way of salvation. This supreme condition must be met in order for people to be saved from the wrath and destruction of God. And there is the added condition that people had better believe this eye for eye justice (they must have faith in this gospel of Paul) or they will most certainly be destroyed by God.
Here are Paul’s words- “God will give to each person according to what he has done…to those who persist in doing good…. He will give eternal life… to those who reject the truth (i.e. reject Paul’s views, his gospel, his Christ myth)… there will be wrath and anger…” (Romans 2:6). This is a clear statement that God engages a harsh form of eye for eye justice, rewarding the good and punishing the bad. But even worse, in the next chapter (ch.3) Paul says that all have sinned and therefore all deserve God’s wrath. All are in the bad people category subject to God’s eye for eye, or punishing justice.
This is not Anselm or other later theologians distorting Christian atonement, making it something nastier than Paul intended it to be. No. This is Paul stating the most basic of Christian beliefs, the foundational themes of Christianity and they are already as nasty as they can be.
Paul then says that God had waited to punish people’s sins until he could do so fully in Jesus’ death. He was then able to vent his eye for eye, or payback justice, on Jesus (ch.5), “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement…to demonstrate his justice…to fully punish the previously unpunished sins (my paraphrase of the subsequent verses)”. The Christian atonement is God violently punishing an innocent victim.
Nothing here in Paul’s statement of basic Christian atonement belief remotely expresses anything of the unconditional forgiveness and unconditional inclusion that was taught by Jesus. Jesus’ core theme of unconditional treatment of all people is entirely opposite to the central theme of Christianity, a theme that argues for the fulfillment of the supreme condition of atonement (i.e. Christ dying to pay for sin before God can forgive).
Note carefully the stunning contrast between the unconditional teaching of Jesus and the conditional teaching of Paul. Note in Matthew 5:38-48 that Jesus firmly rejected eye for eye justice- the demand for payment of sin, for punishment of sin, or the demand for revenge. He urged, to the contrary, that we should just freely forgive and love offenders (“love your enemies”). And he based this ethic on a new theology, a stunning new view of God. Do this, he said, because this is what God does. God does not retaliate against offenders but is generous to all, both good and bad. This is an entirely new unconditional theology. Jesus was stating that God does not demand payment, punishment, or blood atonement. God just freely forgives and includes all in the same generous manner. This new unconditional reality was also illustrated by Jesus in his parables and his personal treatment of others. It is a consistent theme throughout his teaching and behavior (see “Unconditional in the Jesus Tradition”, near the middle of the page).
To the contrary, Christian atonement, as presented in Romans, is a clear statement of highly conditional eye for eye justice (the full payment or punishment of sin, vengeance against offenders). But, as I noted above, this eye for eye justice is exactly what Jesus clearly rejected in his most basic statement of ethics and theology. The contradiction between Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s Christianity is so profound (two entirely opposed beliefs) that the two positions cannot co-exist, or be merged, in any manner. The teaching of Jesus cannot therefore be used to reform or explain basic Christianity. The outcome of such merging attempts is to confuse, weaken, and distort the core unconditional theme of Jesus. This is, for example, what the Mennonites do with their “nonviolent atonement” (see further below on this page).
Once again, Paul is setting forth in Romans 1-5 the most foundational themes of Christian belief. That is the most basic statement of Christianity. And it simply has nothing to do with Jesus’ core message that God was unconditional love and treated all people unconditionally. Paul’s teaching- his theology- is entirely opposite to the theology of Jesus. Unconditional, as taught by Jesus, means that there is no angry, punishing God. It means there is no demand for a blood payment or atonement. For Christianity to embrace the unconditional message of Jesus would entail the complete denial of its foundational and highly conditional beliefs as set forth in Romans 1-5.
Christianity has never been fundamentally about Jesus’ teaching, even though that teaching is included in the New Testament. It has been noted by researchers that Paul almost entirely ignored what Jesus said, and instead focused on creating his myth of Christ to explain that Jesus was a god-man sent from heaven as a sacrifice to pay for humanity’s sin, to appease God’s wrath. He ignored the actual “message of the man” and created his own “message about the man”. And Paul’s message was about a supreme condition to be fulfilled before forgiveness could be offered to people, and forgiveness only to those who would believe his sacrificial Christ myth. The justice of God, according to Paul, is highly conditional- reward the good, punish the bad. This is entirely contrary to Jesus’ teaching that God is unconditional love and forgives without demanding that any conditions be met first.
So there is endless confusion caused by the Christian reform efforts to portray Jesus’ teaching as real Christianity. And this distorting claim continues to dominate much Christian reform effort. Reformists argue that we just need to clear away the nasty stuff on punishing wrath and violent blood atonement and focus on the nice stuff in Jesus and then you will get authentic, original Christianity. Not true. Paul’s Christ myth with its angry deity, demand for violent atonement as payment/punishment, and threat of ultimate destruction for unbelievers, this is real original and fundamental Christianity. Paul completely ignored Jesus’ message of no conditions required and, to the contrary, created a supreme condition of a great sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. A supreme condition that had to be fulfilled before forgiveness could be made available. This is Christianity in its most basic form. And it has nothing in common with the unconditional message of Jesus.
Paul is like people in other traditions who pick up on great human ideals such as love, freedom, mercy, and grace, but then merge these humane ideals with the most barbaric expressions of inhumanity such as retaliation, punishment, and destruction. Themes that distort, cancel, and bury the better ideals. Paul tries to explain the nicer ideals in terms of the more brutal ones (i.e. Jesus’ violent death as an expression of divine love or grace) but this just does not work. It does not get anywhere near real unconditional as taught by Jesus. It misses entirely the scandal and wonder of Jesus’ great breakthrough that God was unconditional love.
So you cannot refocus Christianity on the nice bits found in Jesus and still be truly Christian. If you try to “reframe” Christianity in terms of Jesus’ unconditional teaching then you have to reject the core teaching of Christianity regarding necessary atonement (i.e. that Jesus died to pay for our sins and save us from Hell). Otherwise, you are talking oxymoronic nonsense.
It is ultimately a waste of effort to try to mix and merge, or harmonize, the two contradicting gospels of Jesus and Paul. They present two entirely opposite theologies. Again, to get this clear, to see how opposite Paul’s Christianity is to Jesus’ gospel, compare more specifically the theology of Jesus in Matt.5:38-48 with the theology of Paul in Romans 1-5, and 12 (I have done this throughout this site). Keep in mind, especially, the sharply contrasting theological statements of Jesus and Paul. Once again, in Matthew 5 Jesus says, “Do not retaliate, do not engage eye for eye (payback, punishment), but, instead, love your enemies because God does not retaliate or punish but loves both good and bad people the same”. He treats everyone the same, with unconditional generosity (sun and rain given to all alike- no discrimination between good and bad, no judgment of anyone, no condemnation, no punishment, no withholding of unlimited generosity from anyone). But in Romans 1-5, and ch.12, Paul says, “God will retaliate and punish the bad people”. His theology is entirely contrary to the theology of Jesus. Paul’s God is all about wrath at human imperfection and the demand for punishment and atonement.
The best way to understand the teaching of Jesus and its relationship to Christianity is by way of Thomas Jefferson’s comment that Jesus’ teaching is like “diamonds buried in a dunghill”. The logical conclusion, then, is that you value and salvage the diamonds, not the dunghill. It is more helpful to just get rid of the nasty stuff altogether. Throw the rest away. Recognize the diamonds, clean them off fully and properly, and do not try to preserve the dung that they have been buried in. And be very clear on the difference between the two.
Using another metaphor, reform efforts only result in muddying the water and this prevents people from clearly seeing the scandalous wonder of unconditional that Jesus taught. You cannot see Jesus clearly if you try to read him through Paul’s atonement and salvation categories. It only confuses things when reformers make the claim that the highly conditional atonement theology of Christianity can be used to express the unconditional theology of Jesus.
The Mennonites (posted below on this page) try this reforming approach and fail. They, like many others, try to restate or “reframe” Christianity by explaining Jesus’ nonviolent ideals in terms of basic Christian categories like atonement (i.e. using the oxymoronic “nonviolent atonement”). They cannot let go of the larger salvation framework of Christianity. Consequently, their merging of Jesus with Paul only confuses, distorts, and continues to bury the great unconditional insight of Jesus.
Jesus’ new wine of unconditional simply cannot fit into the wineskin of supreme conditional atonement that is Christianity. Highly conditional basic Christianity simply cannot express the core unconditional message of Jesus. To embrace unconditional as taught by Jesus, is to reject entirely the conditional eye for eye justice of Christianity (i.e. full payment/punishment for sin).
In the end, Christian reform endeavors (again, as admirable as the intent may be) are a waste of time and effort. They only end up weakening and distorting the great breakthrough discovery of Jesus regarding unconditional. The new wine of Jesus needs a completely new wineskin.
The nasty stuff in the Bible is just not worth the effort to salvage. Just let it all go. It does nothing to help people appreciate the wonder of unconditional. Let the felt obligation to some form of Biblicism go. Don’t waste any more time and effort trying to preserve something of the dunghill that only buries the diamond of Jesus.
(Added note: What then of the harsher things attributed to Jesus in the gospels? Researchers have noted that Paul influenced the other New Testament writers and hence that may explain a lot of the harsher things that were later attributed to Jesus in the gospels, things put in his mouth about looming punishment and destruction that contradict his core theme of unconditional love)
Further note: I have just come across this good article by Ali Rizvi at Huffingtonpost.com (“An Open Letter to Moderate Muslims”). Ali exposes well the confusing effort of reformers to downplay the nasty themes of their religion by claiming that such themes are just “metaphorical” (this applies to Christians and others, also). He says, “Many of you insist on alternative interpretations, some kind of metaphorical reading- anything to avoid reading the holy book the way it’s actually written…If any kind of literature is to be interpreted ‘metaphorically’, it has to at least represent the original idea. Metaphors are meant to illustrate and clarify ideas, not twist and obscure them. When the literal words speak of blatant violence but are claimed to really mean peace and unity, we’re not in interpretation/metaphor zone anymore; we’re heading into distortion/misrepresentation territory…”.
So yes, the effort to make nasty religion nice is admirable. But recognize just what you are doing when you try to preserve and reform basic Salvationism concepts like atonement or payment for sin; when you try to explain the core themes of historical Jesus in terms of such Salvationism. You are distorting the wonder and scandal of God as unconditional reality. Unconditional means no conditions, no required atonement, no payment or punishment. It means no violence in deity. Get unconditional clear first and then re-evaluate all the rest in the light of this wonder.
Standing up to the bully gods- the monsters of the metaphysical.
(Explanatory note for religious visitors: Comment below is just a recognition that monster gods have never existed. They are entirely straw gods, the projection of primitive violence-oriented minds. People have always projected their own features onto their gods- often their worst features- and then used those gods to validate their own behavior)
This page argues for probing the foundations of human belief systems and cleaning up properly the mess that one still finds there. This is a project to thoroughly humanize our core ideals and authorities.
“Violent gods incite violence in their followers…” Humanity’s highest ideals and authorities (i.e. religious gods) have long been used to inspire and validate some of the most horrific abuse of other people. This problem of pathological religious belief producing violence in religious traditions is evident throughout the history of the Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will never fully and properly solve the problem of religious violence until we root out the pathology of violence in deity.
I recognize that a complex mix of motivating factors may be operating in any situation of violence. That might include political, economic, social, and personal elements. All of these have to be understood and properly responded to. But there is also the larger background of ideals and beliefs that influence more immediate human motivations. A proper and thorough solution to violence must include these more foundational elements- the ideas embedded at the foundations of human worldviews, such as religious beliefs, and especially views of deity.
To illustrate, James Payne (A History of Force) notes that for most of history people have believed in sadistic, vicious gods that derived satisfaction from human pain, blood, and gore (i.e. gods delighting in slaughter, delighting in the suffering and death of human beings). Because of such beliefs, it has long been assumed that it pleased the gods to see bloodshed. In response, people have offered up human sacrifices, often children, to appease the anger of these deities. The primitive belief in sacrifice (human and animal) has provided a river of blood for the gods.
(Note the relationship operating here- I have detailed it throughout this page, notably in the work of anthropologists like Clifford Geertz, that people have always tried to replicate in their lives and societies what they believe is the divine model. For example, when people embrace a belief in some god as an ultimate ideal or authority, they will then employ that belief to validate their own behavior. People have always sought inspiration and validation from ultimate ideals or authorities. Unfortunately, it is too often validation for their worst impulses and actions. See also the comment below on the role of our animal inheritance in fueling violence and how religious belief relates to this)
According to Payne, in recent centuries this barbaric practice of human sacrifice has died out as people have embraced more humane views of gods. But have our views of gods really been fully humanized, and has human sacrifice completely died out? This is a more extreme example but what about the Boko Haram leader who just last year (2014) told his child soldiers, “You must engage every form of violence…We must give God bodies. We must make God happy” and then proceeded to cut off the heads of three people? What about the belief in atonement (human sacrifice, divine violence to solve problems) that is still lodged firmly at the core of the Christian religion? And how do these foundational ideas/beliefs influence human motivation even today?
And why the hesitancy and fear to fully humanize the gods? Is it fear of the taboo of blasphemy, of challenging and changing the untouchable sacred? Why do we still leave pathological features like sadistic violence at the very core of humanity’s highest ideals and authorities? If you do not fully humanize your views of ultimate realities then you will continue to suffer the damaging influence from that residual inhumanity.
Fortunately, most religious people have learned to ignore the nastier features of their belief systems and moderate their worst impulses. But, as some have pointed out (e.g. the Mennonite theologians), the belief in harsh gods still influences people to treat others harshly. For example, the Christian belief in a punishing God is the historical basis of Western systems of justice, notably the US justice and prison system (admittedly oriented to punishment) that locks up people in record numbers. Ancient religious beliefs still influence contemporary human motivation and behavior in varied ways.
Authentic human freedom requires probing the deepest foundations of thought, perception, and emotion to find liberation there from the ideas/beliefs that darken and enslave human minds and spirits. I also think of depression in this regard, and how wrong thinking contributes to this common affliction. In response, some experts advocate treating depression with cognitive therapy- changing deeply held but wrong beliefs that cause depression.
We now have a new discovery (a new insight) into the nature of ultimate reality that goes to the deepest foundations of human thought and liberates us entirely from the ideas in past worldviews that have caused so much unnecessary fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, and despair among the human population. Explore this discovery here with us.
Comment from Joseph Campbell on religion and violence… “We (in the Western Judeo-Christian tradition) have been bred to one of the most brutal war mythologies of all time…In the book of Kings (Old Testament) we have those utterly monstrous bloodbaths accomplished in the name, of course, of Yahweh by Elijah and Elisha…The old Biblical ideal of offering a holocaust to Yahweh by massacring every living thing in a captured town or city was but the Hebrew version of a custom general to the early Semites…This mythology is still very much alive. And of course to complete the picture, the Arabs have their divinely authorized war mythology too…the Arabs revere and derive their beliefs from the same prophets as the Hebrews…They honour Jesus too, as a prophet. Mohammed, however, is their ultimate prophet, and from him- who was a considerable warrior himself- they have derived their fantastic mythology of unrelenting war in God’s name” (Myths to Live By, p.175-179).
(In the comment below I am going after the long term causes of terrorism and violence, the real monsters in the background that inspire and validate violence. My point is that in all the effort to stop those engaging terrorism and violence, make sure you get the real thugs behind it all, the root sources of inspiration)
Most of us are traumatized by the violence occurring across the world. We are sickened and enraged at people who harm others in the most grotesque ways- kidnapping and enslaving young women, raping, terrorizing, and slaughtering innocents. Blowing up naive children (used as suicide bombers) or forcing other children to kill their families. And on and on. The vast majority of us just want it all to stop. As one lady cried, “Please…no more”.
And many people are doing what they can to prevent further violence- whether it be the protective endeavors of police forces, or the proactive work of military people, or the problem solving of diplomats. Or those working in restorative justice programs and myriad other small-scale efforts to make peace and get along with others. We applaud every effort to end violence in any form.
On this site I am going after another element in the mix of endeavors to end violence. I am going after the core ideals that over history have been used to inspire and validate violence. I am engaging important elements in the ideology and theology behind violence. My point is that the long term resolution of violence requires that we fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities. There is just too much remaining inhumanity at the core of these highest ideals and authorities. The reason for this remaining pathology is that some of humanity’s worst features were long ago projected onto gods, embedded in the sacred, and too many people are still afraid to confront and expose the real nature of those deities, or to enact radical change. They are afraid of committing “blasphemy” (a defensive religious belief that argues to protect the status quo with the outcome that keeps our highest ideals as something less than fully humane).
I also want to encourage hope in the midst of too much focus on bad news. The larger historical background trends reveal a significant movement away from violence and toward a more peaceful world (again, see James Payne’s History of Force, or Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature). We are succeeding at creating a more peaceful and kinder world. Love really is everywhere and is triumphing. We are gradually, but irresistibly, entering that better future that we all want. Never lose sight of this long history of progress. It sustains hope.
Now again- why tackle these metaphysical ideas and themes? Because mythological or religious ideas have long played a major role in violence- inspiring and validating the worst of human behavior over the millennia. They are one important foundational element in a complex mix of things that motivate people to engage violence, along with political, economic, and personal motivations. See Harold Ellen’s The Destructive Power of Religion for more detail on the role of religious ideas in inciting people to violence (also, Helen Ellerbe’s The Dark Side of Christian History, or James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword, among others).
Two critical things…
Key arguments presented all through this site: Two discoveries stand above all others in human history as having the most profound potential for liberating and humanizing life.
First- the discovery that there is love at the core of all reality and life. Infinite unconditional love of the most scandalous and wondrous nature. This overturns the foundations of so much past mythology with its great themes of divine violence, revenge, and punishment. Most salvation religion is built on these themes of divine demand for payment and punishment (i.e. violent blood atonement). Unconditional love at the core affirms there is no divine demand for payback, punishment, or violent sacrifice. The discovery of love behind all, overturns entirely the inhumane features that were long ago projected onto deity- the ultimate of human ideals and authorities.
Second- there is the discovery that we (humanity) are that very same love. That infinite unconditional love also defines the nature of our essential consciousness or human spirit. And we have never been separated from the core Love. This discovery overturns all Fall and “human sinfulness” mythology. This discovery goes to the roots of so much shame, guilt, fear, and despair. We are not corrupt destroyers but we are creators who are most essentially love (our authentic or true self).
These two discoveries offer potential for profound liberation from all forms of inhumanity at the foundations of human thought, feeling, motivation, and response.
So again, my argument for going to humanity’s core ideas and beliefs is that to properly and fully solve problems like violence, for the long term, you need to deal with the highest ideals and authorities that inspire and validate human action and existence. You need to fully humanize the very subconscious foundations of human mood, emotion, perspective, motivation, and response. You must go after the monsters residing in human subconscious, the Idi Amins of the metaphysical, and enact radical change there.
I am referring here to such things as the violence that has long been embedded in our highest authorities- the pathology of violent religious gods. And remember that many related mythical themes support the core ideal of divine violence- beliefs like opposing dualism (the divine demand to exclude and opposing some “enemy”), and the obligation to destroy the enemy (i.e. a final apocalypse to purge all imperfection, and eternal hell as the ultimate punishment of enemies).
These central religious themes have validated horrific violence all through the histories of Judaism and Christianity. We are now seeing them, once again, validate violence in Islam. Have Judaism and Christianity finally abandoned their past history of violence? Perhaps. But their core ideals continue to validate lesser forms of exclusion, opposition, and punishment of offending others, of enemies. So while rightly focusing on the horrors emerging from Islam today, we need to remember the sage’s advice to take care of the beam in our own eye first, before condemning the speck in another’s eye. There is too much inhumanity still embedded in the core beliefs of the other Western faiths.
My argument is that unconditional love at the core of all, overturns entirely the primitive perception of violence, or any other form of inhumanity, in deity. It therefore goes to one of the ultimate sources of violence in history- humanity’s core religious ideals and authorities- and transforms the foundational themes there, for the better.
Further note: In any discussion of violence and solutions to violence, we need to also remember the impulse to violence that springs from humanity’s inheritance of base animal drives. I refer to the core animal brain (reptilian, limbic system). This inheritance includes the impulses to a small band orientation (dualism of us versus the outsiders), domination of others (alpha male/female), and exclusion and destruction of competing others (enemies).
What is the relationship of religious belief to this inheritance of often violent drives?
Long ago our ancestors projected their worst features/drives onto their highest ideals and authorities- the gods. Those pathological gods (vengeful, violent, destructive) have since served to inspire and validate the ongoing expression of our worst inherited impulses to oppose, separate from, take offense and seek revenge, and to punish and destroy others (giving sacred validation to people acting like animals). These two together- the animal and the theological- have worked to produce devastating harm over history. Its time to cut entirely this critical root of violence- the sacred validation- by humanizing entirely our core ideals and authorities.
The two great discoveries, noted above, now liberate us from this dark and enslaving animal inheritance at the deepest levels of our consciousness and spirit. They enable us to humanize ourselves as never before.
History’s Greatest Terrorist (this repeats above material but comes at the subject from a different angle)
There is a singularly prominent thing behind much terrorism over human history, one core ideal that more than any other has inspired and validated violence toward others. James Payne (History of Force) expresses this mainspring of terrorism in his comments that many prominent gods over history were hostile, vicious beings that took pleasure in the suffering and death of people. The way to please those gods that desired human destruction was to destroy human beings. And people responded to such barbaric beliefs by offering a horrific stream of human blood over the millennia. People have always allowed their behavior to be inspired and validated by their ultimate ideals and authorities (i.e. their gods).
Yes, you hear me right. Just to state my argument clearly right at the start- the leading terrorist over history has been a violent God- the ultimate human ideal and authority. I am speaking now more to the Western monotheism tradition, though the same argument can be made for other traditions. The chief source of terror over history has been the idea of violence in deity. We see this in the belief in a God that demands sacrifice before he will forgive or include people. A God who advocates violence to solve problems (severely punishing wrong, destroying unbelievers in hell). A God who is enraged at human imperfection and obsessed with taking revenge against imperfection. A God that promotes revenge, payback justice, and final violent apocalyptic destruction to purge the world of “sinful” humanity. A God who demands some salvation scheme (bloody atonement) to placate his wrath. The chief source of terror has long been this divine obsession with violent action to save, violence to resolve problems.
Now, as I state repeatedly, I recognize the complexity in any given situation of violence. Mixed motivations and validations. And so violence has to be responded to with many varied approaches, such as diplomacy. All necessary stuff. But I am pointing to something also very important in this mix- those great background archetypes and ideals that have always influenced human mood, motivation, and action. Nothing has been more critical here than spiritual ideals and authorities, the greatest of all being beliefs in deity. People have always appealed to these highest of human ideals and authorities to inspire and validate their behavior, often to validate their worst actions toward others.
The Boko Haram leader illustrated this in the extreme when he urged his child soldiers to commit all possible acts of violence. He argued, “We must give God bodies. We must make God happy”. But there are also many less extreme ways that people use deities to inspire and validate bad behavior- such as excluding outsiders to their religion, or supporting systems of justice as payback and punishment.
The violent deity at the heart of this harsh mythology has varied other features that flow from the central theme of violence- dualism that excludes and opposes some ”enemy”, the domination of others, the destruction of others (apocalypse), and the demand for a violent sacrifice (atonement) to appease the deity’s anger. These are all features that support the central belief in a violent deity.
This greatest of all ideals and authorities is still prominently at the center of the great world religions, the great belief systems that shape so powerfully shape our thought, perception, mood/emotion, response and behavior. And then we wonder why violence is still so present in our societies.
To put it another way- theology determines ethics. A violent God will inspire followers to violence. Devotees of an ideal of exclusion, opposition and violent destruction will tend to support similar tendencies in their own lives and societies. People find inspiration and validation in their ultimate ideals and authorities- their gods.
Paul is notable in this regard for creating the violent Christ myth. His mythology has influenced Western consciousness and society more than any other single system of ideas. See, for instance, James Tabor comment on Paul’s influence on Western society in his book Paul and Jesus, noted below.
This violent ideal at the core of human consciousness- violent deity- must be rooted out if we are ever to fully solve the problem of violence for the long term. It must be replaced with an authentically humane ideal (i.e. unconditional love). The gods must be fully humanized. The authentic love that is unconditional does not demand violence before it forgives. It does not demand some sacrifice before it expresses love (no conditions, no payback or punishment).
The main terrorists in history are not the groups like Al Queda or ISIS. A God that advocates violence is humanity’s greatest monster, humanity’s greatest terrorist. Such a God has been the ultimate source of terrorism over history.
Many have expended immense effort to try to reform these religious traditions and moderate the harsher elements in them. I applaud all such efforts. Religious people try to focus on the nicer, more humane ideals in their traditions, thereby moderating the overall influence of their religion. But they often leave the core features of divine violence in place, within the core ideal and authority- the god. That remaining pathology then distorts the nicer ideals, keeping people from fully grasping their full humaneness. So the old master Terrorist remains working his darkening and enslaving influence on consciousness and spirit. Not yet fully humanized. Such reformism is so often futile. You cannot gussy up something that is irredeemably violent at core. (see Futility of Reform at the bottom just above the Joke Bin)
Note: Just to emphasize again, the animal inheritance in the human brain is the foundational source of terrorism, that cluster of primitive drives- small band orientation, exclusion and opposition to outsiders/competitors, and the destruction of the competitor. And meaning-seeking humans have always created and appealed to greater ideals and authorities to validate these worst features of behavior. People have always used the sacred to validate the worst of the animal remaining in them.
Here is the address to Bob Brinsmead’s highly valued material at http://bobbrinsmead.com/. Note especially his series of essays on The Scandal of Joshua Ben Adam.
New comment from discussion group
(1)“In some of the NDE accounts you get some great comment on this….people stunned to see that Love is the essence of everything, the very “stuff” that everything is made of, the “energy” that sustains every atom in existence, the creating power and Source, the very life of all things, the nature of the Light which radiates from all things, the very atmosphere of the surrounding, creating reality. Which is just to say, God is Love.
“This is why it is such a liberating thing to rethink the most foundational of conceptions about reality and life. For most of history, humanity has been taught that the greater creating, sustaining realities- the gods- were all about anger, threat, violence, punishment, or revenge. That shaped human archetypes, the great themes of human narratives. It shaped the background, the subconscious with darkness, fear, guilt, and shame.
“And now we discover that was all wrong, entirely wrong. The ultimate Reality behind all had nothing to do with such themes at all, and never did. It was entirely opposite. The creating and sustaining Reality was all about Love and Light. And love of a quality that was incomprehensibly better than the best that we could imagine. It was absolutely unconditional. It was scandalously more wondrous than any words could describe. And it was all, and in all.
“So put that at the core of your thinking, your perception, your understanding, your worldview or belief system. And then let it radiate out to change everything…. for the better. Let it liberate from all that old darkness, fear, and enslavement.”
(2)“I’ve been toying with varied ways to approach this subject…You get a lot of questioning of unconditional love as defining ultimate reality. I think of a friend of Bob’s who questions our conclusions re historical Jesus and whether we are focusing too much on just one statement (i.e. love your enemies because God does, God is unconditional love).
“He ignores the point that Matt.5:38-48 is a core statement of the central theme of Jesus. God as unconditional love is the centerpiece of his wisdom sayings collection. And the theme of unconditional love is consistent throughout his stories, actions, and sayings (thematic coherence throughout his teaching).
“But there is an element of judgment call in making conclusions about the nature of the Love that is the very foundation of all reality. And there is also a lot of evidence.
“Think first of the judgment call aspect- what is the most humane thing you can think of? What is the most humane conception of the highest of human ideals- love? The most humane thing you can imagine in this regard? Unconditional, of course. You see this in the human experience. Just note Mandela for an example, or Jesus. And note it in the overall human story and history. Go all the way back to the Akkadian father, and then through all the great religious traditions, all making statements of non-retaliation, of unconditional love to even enemies. And note it in parental and spousal love. See it in the entire rise of humanity toward something better, toward something less violent (James Payne, Stephen Pinker, Julian Simon).
“OK, now project this human discovery of the highest form of love that we see in humanity, project this out to deity. To define ultimate reality. Only, make it transcendent. As Historical Jesus said, if you imperfect people know how to do good, how much more so God is good. Infinitely more-so. Reason from the best in humanity out to something infinitely better in deity.
“This is just one way of reasoning toward this conclusion that God is unconditional Love, of a quality infinitely better than the best that can be imagined. Judgment call? Or overwhelming evidence? You decide.”
(3)“On the evidential aspect in this- note the grand trajectory of the cosmos and life, and then civilization, toward more order, organization, and complexity. It all progresses toward something better than before. Evidence of goodness behind all. And note the stunning emergence of goodness in human life over our long history. Especially in the past few centuries as this has picked up steam as never before. How to explain this emergence of goodness everywhere? The emergence of compassion and empathy.
“Life could have just continued as animal- brutal, nasty, and short. But goodness emerged and became stronger and more widespread. Even atheist Pinker (Better Angels of Our Nature) can see this overwhelming evidence and be amazed by it.
“Now just project this goodness out to the creating, sustaining Source of all, and make it transcendently better than anything we can imagine or express. Now you are getting close to truth. But as Joseph Campbell said, our best conceptions, words, categories, or definitions all fall short. What really is… is infinitely beyond (even God is a penultimate term pointing toward something incomprehensibly beyond). I would add- its also infinitely better (more humane, more loving).
So judgment call or evidence? Your choice. Or mix them all up. Its all there in the mix.”
(4)“Some more here….There is the element of choice to believe in something supremely humane. You see it in humanity…the long history of non-retaliation as a more humane response to evil. The Akkadian father, and many other pre-Jesus traditions, where people chose to act unconditionally toward others as it was the more humane thing to do. Then you project that unconditional humanity out to God, only you conceive of it as transcendently better. Again, ‘If you being imperfect know how to do good….then how much more is God good’.
“And then having resolved the goodness in deity issue, you then interpret all of life in such terms. Like Jesus seeing good and love everywhere, even in nature.
“But you first resolve what is supreme humanity, supreme humaneness. Unconditional sets the bar here and nothing approaches this as supremely humane. And then you reason out from this baseline. To explain and understand all else. Make unconditional your core theme, the foundation of your worldview. Get the theology right first, and then reason from that to all else. Including the suffering in life.”
(5)“My point in these posts was that to really appreciate this “discovery” of love behind all, you need to take a broad overview of all the past of human worldviews and those dominating themes of anger, vengeance, punishment, looming judgment and destruction. And really feel what that did to humanity over the millennia- i.e. salvation religion with its violent sacrifice producing endless fear, anxiety, guilt, despair, and violence.
“Then this discovery of love- stunning unconditional love- really stands out in such graphic contrast. What a relief from all that past horror. What a liberation.”
(6)“I will give this some thought as it pushes us to express this better (how can there be love or goodness behind all when there is so much disaster, evil, and suffering in life). This has been a huge problem for many, driving them to abandon any consideration of goodness behind all things (i.e. Charles Templeton is one example- his book Farewell to God). It drives many to despair. How can there be love behind all when life is so ugly at times. Hasker offers one way to respond- the philosophical arguments about freedom in life and humanity, and the outcomes of that. This is the best possible world despite harmful outcomes- e.g. tectonic plates produce mountains, beauty, diversification of life, but also tsunamis. I will respond more in a while. The best that people have come up with is the tight relationship between love and freedom. You cannot have authentic love without authentic freedom. This points to one possible direction for finding some answers to this problem of ultimate goodness, and yet suffering in life.”