Landes on apocalyptic shaping Marxism and Nazism; Bad religious ideas; Lotufo quotes; Comment from discussion group- notes material from Nelson-Pallmeyer (Is Religion Killing Us?) and Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion), among other comments.
Contemporary terrorism affirms again the powerful influence of theological beliefs on human behavior. This pushes us to acknowledge that some very bad features have been projected onto deity where they have long operated as validating ideals. Often validating behavior of the worst kind.
Just defending religion (theism) does not help to resolve this problem. It is important to understand exactly what ideas or features in religious systems have been helpful, and which have been harmful to human relating and existence. Recognizing such distinctions then initiates the project of eliminating the bad stuff. Religious traditions must engage fully the humanizing process that the rest of Western society has undergone over the past few centuries (transforming all ideas, beliefs, ideals, and behaviors into something more humane).
The fact that something is has long been considered “sacred” or “divine” should not prevent its transformation into something more humane.
The most destructive idea in history has been that of violent, vengeful, and punishing deity- the belief that God is engaged in a great struggle to destroy his “enemies” (Zoroastrian dualism). Is this claim of “most destructive idea” perhaps too extravagant? See evidence throughout this site. This is one of the core ideas that drives Islamic violence today. It is an idea that has long been embedded in the foundations of all three Western religions and it has also incited and validated violence throughout the histories of Judaism and Christianity. The myth of violent, punishing deity has profoundly shaped Western narratives, consciousness, justice systems, political policy, personal ethics, and more. The damage from this inhumane myth has been immense in terms of pathologies in human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior (see Lotufo below).
The myth of a violent, punishing God is the foundational idea behind apocalyptic millennialism (i.e. God destroying enemies in an apocalypse, violently purging the present world in order to coercively install a new utopia). Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) presents good evidence that apocalyptic millennialism was the mythology that shaped the so-called ‘secular’ movements of Marxism and Nazism, both mass-death movements. David Cook (Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature) argues that apocalyptic mythology is a significant force driving contemporary Islamic terrorism.
Also, Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God) argues that violent God mythology keeps many people in subhuman stages of development.
This site presents the liberating alternative to the violent God myth. I refer to humanity’s greatest discovery- the “no conditions” theology of sages like Historical Jesus (i.e. non-violent, non-punishing deity). Unfortunately, the central discovery of Jesus was buried and distorted in the larger Christian context of conditional theology (Thomas Jefferson- Jesus’ wisdom sayings were like diamonds buried in a dunghill).
If we are ever going to solve problems like violence thoroughly and for the long-term then we need to fully humanize our highest ideals and authorities. We need to remove all traces of vengefulness and violence in our views of deity, and replace that with authentically humane features. The real battle against terrorism is fought at this foundational level of the “battle of ideas”.
New: See Top 10 list of “bad religious ideas”. While commentators refer to religious ideas that promote violence, few spell out in detail the actual harmful religious ideas. This site deals extensively with the contribution of these religious ideas to violence and other forms of inhumanity. No idea has been more damaging in this regard than the idea of vengeance and violence in deity.
New Intro April 2015 (No apologies for repetition of the main themes on this site. Subsequent comments approach the varied subjects from different angles with differing insights and ways of expression)
This site probes and traces thoroughly the greatest mistake in human thought- that there are violent and punishing spirits (i.e. gods) behind life. That pathological mythology has long been coupled with the equally damaging belief that humanity is fallen and corrupt (sinful). Add to this body of ancient error, the myth of a better past (i.e. original paradise, Eden) that humanity has ruined. Hence, we deserve some punishment from the gods.
The outcome of those errors in early human perception has been the hugely wasteful endeavor of salvation religion- that some sacrifice must be made to appease the offended and angry gods that will retaliate, punish, and destroy. A sacrifice/atonement was considered necessary in order to ward off punishment via disease, disaster, or accident. Sacrifice was also necessary to escape the threatened apocalypse and Hell (eternal punishment). As James Payne (History of Force) notes, the historical outcome of belief in divinely obligated sacrifice has been “rivers of blood” (animal and human) offered to appease sadistic and threatening gods.
Further, add to the above pathology, the myth of a God that promotes oppositional dualism (Zoroaster), demanding that people join some “true” religion and destroy their “enemies” in other false religions. And we wonder why the one human family has been sundered by violence from all sorts of opposing factions (oppositional dualism has also been expressed through ideological, ethnic, racial, national, and other divides).
The above mythology has been a great fraud and lie but it continued to terrorize public consciousness over multiple millennia. Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), for one, has rightly described a personality that seeks satisfaction in hurting others (i.e. demanding violent sacrifice and service) as psychopathic. Yet the myth of a violent, punishing God continues as the core theme, driving the other prominent themes of salvation religion.
This horrific pathology has, like a malignant cancer, permeated human outlook and belief down through history and continues to erupt even today in so-called secular belief systems and movements. These movements have sometimes produced mass-death outcomes. Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth) notes, for instance, the impact of the above mythical themes on Marxism and Nazism, both apocalyptic millennial movements at core. Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline) notes how these mythical themes have shaped 19th Century Declinism and then contemporary environmentalism.
Humanity has discovered two powerful responses to this pathological mythology. Responses that liberate consciousness into authentically humane understanding and existence. These two responses overturn entirely the original mistaken mythology and orient consciousness toward a better future.
Briefly- The discovery of “no conditions” love (unconditional love) at the core of reality and life overturns entirely the primitive views of violent, punishing gods. This infinitely generous love is the very essence of all things. Then the discovery that the same unconditional love is the essential nature of our human consciousness and person, this overturns the error of fallen, corrupt humanity that deserves punishment. We, in our essential person or consciousness, are never separated from the Ultimate Love at the core of reality. We are all unique expressions of that same love.
(Note: Jeffrey Schwartz in You Are Not Your Brain speaks of our “higher, better self”. I take the liberty to specify that this better self is essentially no conditions love, the highest human ideal)
That our very essence is love- this becomes a powerful and liberating new basis for establishing human self-worth, for valuing humanity as essentially good and creative. And because it is not being taught clearly anywhere else that I know of, I draw on the NDE movement as a useful source for insights on the nature/essence of our consciousness or human spirit. NDErs are regularly surprised at the wonder of what we really are, to discover that we are in essence beings of love and light (see NDE quote below). If life is about discovering ourselves- our true self- then the NDE accounts are a useful source of insight that is not available anywhere else. These accounts are helpful for countering the distortion and damage from the fallen humanity mythology that has dominated human thought over history.
And yes, scientific types will decry any appeal to NDEs as not proper evidence. Agreed, it is not “proper evidence” in scientific terms. But I take conscious human experience seriously (it may be the most real thing in the cosmos) and I evaluate the NDE phenomenon in terms of its central discovery of unconditional love. That is a strong validating feature of this experience (as to its “truthfulness” or “reality”).
This quote from one NDE account (Jayne Smith)…”Then in some incredible way that I don’t understand at all, I was able to look deeply inside myself, really into the very core of me, to my essence. I saw that what was there was love, nothing else. My core was perfect love, loving perfection. I had complete love and acceptance for everything. I saw my own gentleness, tenderness, harmlessness. I simply was perfect and loving”.
Most comment below, from the discussion group, is mine, except where I specifically list the name of other contributors.
Comment from discussion group: “Whatever the original reason for its formation in ancient minds, the myth of apocalypse became lodged at the foundations of early human thought/perception and that myth, based on a view of a psychopathic God that would violently destroy people and all life, that myth has continued to terrorize people across history. And to horrifically damaging impacts. We have traced its descent down through history, despite a 100% failure rate. Down to Zoroaster (Mary Boyce, “Zoroastrianism is the most influential religion in history”), and into Christianity and Paul’s Christ myth, and this has shaped the Western consciousness more than any other single idea (see James Tabor in ‘Paul and Jesus’). And then down into secular thought (Arthur Herman- apocalyptic shaped 19th Century Declinism and later environmentalism). And as Landes shows- it has descended into the great mass-death movements- i.e. Marxism, Nazism (the violent apocalyptic purging of some “enemy” in order to bring salvation and the millennial kingdom). They were in some ways profoundly religious movements, influenced by this foundational Christian myth of apocalyptic violence.”
“Hence, my comment- it is very hard to root out this terrifying idea of an angry God threatening to violently destroy people. As Lotufo put it- a psychopathic God. A monster. It exists right at the heart of Christian atonement, the most fundamental of Christian beliefs.”
This opening section presents the following: New comment; Quick overview; April 2015 Introduction; Patrick Moore environmental summary; Zenon Lotufo quotes (exposing the pathological nature of the personality behind atonement theology- defined as finding satisfaction in the suffering of others); A model of religion and violence; Extensive quotes from discussion group (i.e. discussion of Pallmeyer, Lotufo, and Ellens’ research on pathology in religion); and Countering the holiness distortion in Western theology (honor and shame culture, the offense and retaliation response).
The repulsive spectacle of death-cult violence continues to erupt across the planet. The regularity of it traumatizes and almost numbs public consciousness. Historical records of violence further reveal how endless and widespread such brutality has been.
Yet historical evidence also shows that over the long term of human history there has been an amazing decline in overall rates of violence. Researchers like James Payne (History of Force) and Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) point out that rates of violence per unit of population (i.e. percentage of people dying violently or homicides per 100,000 people) have decreased steadily as humanity has become wearied by violence and people have grown increasingly more empathic toward others. We take great hope from such long term evidence. And it is necessary to note this improvement because hopelessness and a sense of overwhelming threat only fuels more violence as people feel the need to take defensive action.
Public media do not provide this larger and long-term context of violence. David Altheide notes, for example, (in Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis) that during the 1990s homicide rates in the US declined by 20% but news reporting on homicide increased by 600%. Without the larger context of overall declining violence, that upsurge in reporting on violence provided a distorted picture to the public of what was happening in regard to violence.
But despite the good news of overall decline, any remaining violence should, and does, outrage our common human consciousness. It must all stop, finally, and forever. As one woman said on hearing of more ISIS-type insanity, “No more, please. Just stop it”. And yes, the fact of historically declining violence is little comfort to those still suffering the horror of violence in their lives.
This site tackles one fundamental element that has been responsible, arguably, for promoting more violence over history than any other single thing. And it continues to play a key role in inciting and validating violence in our world. As the Boko Haram leader told his child soldiers last year (2014), “We must give God bodies. We must make God happy”.
“Bad religious ideas” (Sam Harris) have promoted far too much brutality over history and need to be confronted, exposed and radically altered. And there is no worse “bad religious idea” than that of a violent deity. A God that finds pleasure in harming others. Read the Zenon Lotufo quotes further below for detail on how such pathological theology holds humanity at a subhuman stage of development and harms/perverts human personality.
If you want to solve the problem of violence properly and for the long term, then be sure that you root out completely any ideas of violence in humanity’s highest ideal and authority- in God. Humanize thoroughly our views of deity. Eliminate entirely any remaining features that are less than fully human or humane.
The idea of God is the most foundational of all ideas that people look to for guidance for how they should live, and how they should shape their societies (note, for instance, the Mennonite comment that Christian views of a punishing God are the historical basis of Western justice systems). So yes, the real battle that must be won is the battle of ideas. The ideas held in people’s heads that incite them to violence. None is more important in this regard than the idea of deity.
This site probes thoroughly the issue of foundational ideas and ideals and how they shape human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior. I have noted some of the best material on this issue- such as the research of Zenon Lotufo, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Harold Ellens. This site goes after the big ideas/themes that have long been used to promote and validate all sorts of inhumanity. And I probe thoroughly the alternatives that liberate people from such brutality. Notably, the greatest human discovery ever- that of unconditional reality.
This site is all about overcoming the worst mistake ever (i.e. violent, punitive deity) and getting a clear understanding of the greatest discovery ever (no conditions theology).
In relation to the above…
Discussion group: Our discussion group has recently been noting Richard Landes’ work on apocalyptic millennialism (i.e. his book Heaven on Earth) and how this mythology has influenced so-called secular movements like Marxism and Nazism. Landes states that many historians and intellectuals have refused to admit the influence from religion- especially that of Christianity- on people like Marx, Lenin, and Hitler. This is inexcusable when you recognize that Christianity is largely responsible for bringing the myth of apocalyptic millennialism into Western consciousness and society.
Such denial of the Christian role in shaping so-called secular thought and movements does not help us appreciate the key elements and themes of such movements and how they have pushed entire societies toward the mass-death that were the outcome from those movements. Referring especially to Hitler and his use of apocalyptic millennial themes to take Germany toward mass death, Landes says,
“The study of Nazism’s appeal, of Hitler’s charisma, belong to the field of millennial studies…Only then can we identify the key problems: how movements go from the margins to the center of a society/culture, how they pursue their millennial goals, and how they respond…to cognitive dissonance, frustration, and failure (often with increased violence)….Were we to develop a ‘profile’ of millennial movements, leaving out Hitler would be a massive lacuna in the available evidence. He is not so much the measure of the unthinkable, the impossibly evil, as he is the measure of how, with modern technology and an only partially developed civil polity, a nation, a people, seized by, ridden by a millennial passion, can become one of the great dealers of death in human history” (p.388, Heaven on Earth).
Responding to this denial by historians that Christianity was a prominent influence on Hitler, Bob Brinsmead noted, “Yes, and this response to Hitler is repeated in the response of Obama and other world leaders to the shocking brutality of ISIS. They keep saying, especially Obama, that ISIS has got nothing to do with Islam and its religion. It has everything to do with that religion. Groups like ISIS are that segment of Muslims that take the religion seriously, literally, and perhaps even honestly desiring to carry it out. They were like us Awakeners (i.e. Seventh Day Adventists) who insisted that we must go back to the pioneers of the movement and get our theology from the “Early Writings.” Hitler’s view on Hermetic science was the worldwide belief of the intelligentsia of his day just as Anthropogenic Global Warming is now. Hitler was an experiment waiting to happen. He was the one man who was brave enough and stupid enough to carry out the ideology for the salvation of civilization…”
“…That was about as crazy as the now popular fad that we need political leaders who will be brave and bold enough to de-carbonize the economy, which means of course, dismantling modern civilization. If we have a Hitler-leader who will now rise up to lead the world to do that, he will do it to save the planet of course and he would have to be willing to eliminate a billion or two people to do it, But he would do this nasty stuff in order to achieve the glorious goal of being the benefactor of both the planet and the human race. In this sense Hitler was not completely evil. It was his unbending zeal for the greater good that made him so evil, rather than any pure evil motivation.”
Some further discussion group comment on how religious ideas influenced so-called secular movements like Nazism. Note again- for Christian visitors to this site- the following material may be profoundly upsetting. To balance the more disturbing comment below, I would affirm that Christianity has also included in its scriptures many valued human ideals. Those are to be applauded. The point of the following comment is that those great human ideals are embedded among some very subhuman themes that express the worst of primitive mythology and pathology. The larger context has often distorted, undermined, and even buried the meaning of the better ideals.
My comment: “Just having reread Landes section on Hitler and Nazism, you see more clearly how the prominent themes of Christian apocalyptic, atonement, and salvationism have shaped life ‘for the worse’. How this mythology suited so well the psychopathic personality of Hitler, like a comfortable glove. That predatory Animal that appealed to the basest animal in the German population, but presented his ideology so often in the religious themes of Christianity.
“And if there is any doubt about how prominent the Christian themes were in Hitler’s thinking, read Landes’ detailed treatment of this over many pages, with quotes from Hitler’s speeches. In those quotes from Hitler you see core, foundational Christianity. The anti-Semitism, Hitler’s claim to be a John Baptist preparing the people for the coming apocalypse, his announcing the coming Messiah, then later claiming actual Messianic status, and then assuming the role of the violent Christ, the Warrior Christ, his claim of the German Aryan as the chosen people, then announcing the apocalypse and stirring the hope for the German millennium (i.e. the Third Reich), the hope for salvation, commanding the needed sacrifice, exposing the demonic enemy to be destroyed, and on and on. Hitler repeatedly used Biblical references to orient his audience to these themes. And Evangelical Germans supported all this, says Landes.”
“As Landes says, few want to admit the religious nature of Nazism, because it makes all association with any such millennial madness appear to be as insane as the Nazis were. It is profoundly disorienting. The Nazis had to be uniquely evil, the historians claim. Not something similar to a lot of other millennial belief, such as in Christianity. But the links cannot be denied.”
“This is what Lotufo and others are trying to tell the great world religions. There is some really sick stuff in your traditions. Recognize it for what it really is, and how it damages people and societies. And clean it out. Get rid of it. Humanize it fully. Look at the damaging impacts it has produced over history.”
“As Landes says, Hitler was deeply committed to both the Christian texts and (his own notion) of the God that stood behind them. That ‘psychopathic’ God of Christian atonement (Lotufo).”
Another discussion group comment….
“Hitler, using a very Christian set of basic themes, took the German population into darkness and madness that we are still shocked by. Yet, get this, it was all so intensely Christian. An example of Christian belief, attitude, and spirit taken to its ultimate expression. That is the point to get from Landes.”
“And of course, as Landes states repeatedly, intellectuals and historians recoil from this and are ‘disoriented’ by those who point it out. It is too shocking. Hence, the endless effort by historians and intellectuals to portray people like Hitler, Marx, Lenin, Engels, and others, as simply madmen. Aberrations. Whatever you do, just avoid facing the intense apocalyptic millennialism that was at the core of their beliefs. And avoid tying that to its religious and Christian source.”
“It is this refusal to face honestly the source of all this insanity that keeps so many from finding full freedom, and properly and thoroughly solving the inhumanity that stems from such beliefs. Such denial holds us all back from real liberation and progress toward a better future, an authentically human future.”
“This was my complaint with Conrad Black last week. Don’t just engage the usual mindless defense of religion, of theism against atheism. Listen to what the atheists are saying about those ‘bad religious ideas’ and the harm that they have caused people. Look at ISIS today and the ongoing bloodshed that can be traced back to the core themes of this Western tradition. ‘We must give God bodies. We must make God happy’, said the Boko Haram leader.”
“The fundamental issue is the same that humanity has faced all across our history- its about what is human and what is inhuman. And how ideas influence us (i.e. our guiding ideals and authorities, beliefs). And what in all this that gets us to a better future. Quite simple really.”
“Add to the list of Christian themes that Hitler used…’all drove toward a virulently zero-sum dualism’ between the Germans and the hated enemy, the Jews. Zoroastrian dualism, Christian dualism.”
“Herman’s Decline work (The Idea of Decline in Western History), and Carroll’s ‘Constantine’s Sword’ fill out the picture of the religious and other themes that produced Hitler. Inspired him, guided him, validated him.”
“And note that Hitler viewed himself as good, as a messiah figure in a great battle against evil (i.e. the Jewish threat to corrupt and destroy the Aryan race and German culture). Christianity gave him that validating perspective. He was convinced that he was in the service of Providence to save Germany from the apocalypse that would be brought on by the enemy Jews.”
“It is easier to dismiss him as just a madman, a nut case, or a crazy psychopath. But that it not the full story and we do not learn what we need to learn from this mess. Sure, there are those elements of plain madness and evil. But do not dismiss how familiar Christian themes also pushed that madness to world-destroying levels. Those themes were also there in the Christian German psyche, all those Christian themes that Hitler played upon. Fear of apocalypse, hope for redemption, a Savior, and a promised coming millennium of peace and bliss.”
Another post from discussion group…
“Landes (quoting this below from Klaus-Georg Riegel, who responded to colleagues that refused to admit there was a millennial genealogy to Marxism)…
“Any attempt to put this totalitarian system (i.e. Marxism-Leninism) in the category of a closed and barbarian theocracy is very often vehemently refused. In this case, very emotionally seated aspirations and hopes of young or older intellectuals are at stake. Everybody who dares to take the Bolshevik world as a religious community is considered as a traitor betraying the humanitarian ideals of the modernity of the French Revolution…If you see it in this case, say the proponents of the project of modernity, the distance between the old and the new modern world would shrink too much and the debts to the Christian tradition would become too heavy. Thus, when you treat the Bolsheviks as a millennial sect you are going to betray the project of modernity and treat the Bolsheviks, despite their very modern efforts to industrialize backward Russia, as a medieval sect of obscure believers”. Wow.
“Intellectuals want to believe that the French Revolution was about reason, science, democracy and historical fact. Landes has thoroughly dissected it as an apocalyptic millennial movement that set the pattern for Marxism. And this all derives from the Christian mother of all this, the religion that brought apocalyptic millennialism into the Western mind and society.”
Some odds and Ends…applying unconditional…
“Just to tie up some things, such as applying a ‘no conditions’ ethic. This does not invalidate the need at times, for instance, to sue for payment where there has been a breach of contract. Or expecting restitution. None of this violates treating all others unconditionally. It is just expected human responsibility to fulfill contracts- otherwise businesses would not function to employ, to produce products or services, if subcontractors did not fulfill their responsibilities under contract. Again, to expect this responsible commitment to contracts, does not violate treating others unconditionally. Where we insist on unconditional treatment in all this, is not taking things toward punishment (i.e. the demand for imprisonment where there is breach of contract). And again, an exclusion here in regard to imprisonment would be the need to restrain violent people who are not able to control their worst impulses (e.g. psychopaths). But many other human failures can be treated without punishment like imprisonment, yet find ways such as via courts (legal obligation to fulfill contracts), in order to maintain functioning societies.”
And this- “Whatever struggle you have with how to apply a no conditions ethic, do not in any way lessen the wonder of the supreme ideal that we base that ethic upon. Let that ideal continue to lighten your consciousness, and warm you consciousness, and scandalize your consciousness with its incomprehensible wonder. Something better, beyond the best that anyone could ever imagine. Transcendent. As those NDErs try to say- a trillion times better than the best love that we can imagine or experience. Don’t weaken in any way the baseline. No matter how difficult the struggle may be to understand and apply such an ethic to imperfect life here.”
Bob Brinsmead on the application of an unconditional ethic.. “___, you are sliding around the point (I think you call it ‘being slippery’). On this matter of unconditional/conditional you are doing the same thing you used to do with vertical/horizontal relating. On the matter of personal relating with other human beings, being truly human requires us to treat others as neither above us or below us – ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Rich or poor, wise or ignorant, young or old, male or female, black or white, educated or uneducated, skilled or unskilled – each is a human being that is entitled to love which is a horizontal form of relating (level playing field). But real life situations may require an employer/employee relationship, a teacher/student relationship, a captain/ordinary soldier relationship which is top down stuff – that is, a vertical order. But if one brings the latter into one’s marriage, or into one’s social life, one is not going to have either a good marriage or a good social life. So Kipling, ‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, and walk with kings nor lose the common touch’.”
“The point I make from the above is that is wrong to use the employer/employee or teacher/student relationship to destroy the obligation to maintain the one commandment that fulfils the law, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.”
“If you can understand that, you will understand why there must be an unconditional relationship and why there must be conditional obligations. You may truly love your neighbour but at the same time require him to fulfill a civil contract – or not play loud music next door when it is your bedtime. It is wrong, wrong, wrong to use examples of things that are clearly conditional to prove that there is no such thing as an unconditional dimension. The simple fact is that love is by nature unconditional. If it is conditional, it is not love – SIMPLE. To distinguish the two ought to be as basic as recognizing what is temporal and what is eternal.” Robert Brinsmead.
One more….”I have come to realize far too late in life the two most foundational truths that most effectively counter the worst pathologies over the history of mythology and religion. The pathology I refer to is that of angry, punishing deity, and fallen, corrupt humanity deserving punishment by deity. The truths that most effectively counter this pathology are the discovery that there is only love behind all reality and life. Incomprehensible unconditional love. There is no anger or threat of punishment from such love. And there never was any such thing as fallen humanity deserving punishment. We are all that same unconditional love at the core of our consciousness and spirit. We have never been separated from that love. It is our true identity and being. Our authentic self”.
New: Throughout history, human consciousness has been endlessly traumatized by the mythical themes of divine threat, deserved punishment (through illness, accident, or natural disaster), looming catastrophe, divinely validated violence, and ultimate destruction (i.e. the apocalyptic ending of the world). These themes have produced unnecessary fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and despair in humanity. What is this all about?
Quick Overview of Site themes…
Material on this site challenges the great fraud of apocalyptic alarmism that has generated so much unnecessary fear and anxiety across history. This site embraces the liberating discovery that the overall trajectory of life is not in decline but actually rises steadily toward something better. Overwhelming evidence affirms the fact that human goodness and creativity far outweigh human corruption and destructiveness. Human love and creativity irresistibly triumph over the long term in making life something ever better than before.
There is frequent comment on this site that notes the relationship, for instance, between primitive apocalyptic mythology and contemporary environmental alarmism. This is not to dismiss general environmental concerns but it is a challenge to the excessive distortion, exaggeration, fear-mongering, and bad public policy that repeatedly flow from the alarmist fringe of the environmental movement. The outcome of such alarmism has been a horrific waste of resources, and significant harm to both people and the planet. The bio-fuels fiasco is just one example of the harm to humanity and nature that results from environmental alarmism (i.e. higher food prices for the poorest, more forest cut for palm oil bio-fuels plantations). Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism is an example of horrific harm that was specifically done to humanity. In the decades following her alarmism tens of millions people, mostly children, died unnecessarily due to being denied the protection of DDT.
To properly counter alarmism, I have presented the good evidence on the improving trajectory of life that has been marshalled by researchers like Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Greg Easterbrook, Matt Ridley, and others. I have also noted research on the ideology behind environmental alarmism- notably studies like Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History. But more importantly, I have traced here the deeper origins of alarmism in ancient apocalyptic mythology. This is a project to correct the distortion of alarmism at its most foundational level.
A brief outline of the history of apocalyptic alarmism begins with Sumerian mythology (Sumerian Flood myth- 3rd millennium BCE). Apocalyptic is then formalized a millennium later in Zoroaster’s theology. Zoroastrianism then shapes all three Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and Western consciousness in general. Then a great shift occurs in the 19th Century when the themes of apocalyptic mythology are secularized (given a new secular expression) for the modern era in what is known as “cultural pessimism”, “degeneration theory”, or “Declinism” (i.e. everything is getting worse, corrupt industrial society is heading for a catastrophic collapse). The pathology of apocalyptic myth still dominates today in much human story-telling (note the major movies of recent years- notably the summer of 2013, also TV shows, novels- i.e. the subgenre of post-apocalyptic literature, cartoons and video games).
Most importantly, this site also counters the ultimate reality behind apocalyptic mythology- the pathological belief that there is a punishing and violent God. The primitive theme of enraged and violent deity reached its epitome expression in the myth that God would violently end the world with a great cataclysm that would destroy humanity and all life (the final apocalypse). That great threat led ancient people to create the salvation industry as a defensive response. Salvation religion then presented the conditions that were required to appease and please the angry deity. Salvation religion has wasted massive human resources and time over history by coercing people to placate the mythical reality of threatening and punishing deity (history’s greatest fraud).
But over the history of human mythology there was also the gradual emergence of humanity’s greatest discovery- the discovery that unconditional love defined ultimate reality, the core of all reality (i.e. God). Salvation mythology missed entirely this discovery of unconditional reality at the core of all life. All salvation religion is conditional religion. Conditional religion cannot understand or communicate unconditional reality, but only distorts and buries this greatest of all human discoveries.
There are two critical applications to take from the discovery of unconditional reality behind all. Two applications, or responses, that powerfully counter the worst errors of religious mythology.
For one, when we recognize that unconditional love defines the core of reality, this recognition powerfully counters the myth of angry, punishing deity- the foundational theme of salvation religion. Unconditional love then effectively counters the waste and damage produced by the theme of angry, punishing deity- the “rivers of blood” (James Payne- History of Force) that have been offered over history to appease “vile, sadistic gods”. If Ultimate Reality, or God, is unconditional love then there is no threat to fear, no angry deity to appease, no looming punishment or apocalyptic destruction, and no need for any salvation.
The other critical application, from the discovery of unconditional love at the core of all, is that unconditional love is also the very essence of every human person. This discovery that unconditional love defines the true nature of human consciousness and personhood, this effectively counters the myth of “fallen, corrupt humanity” that has always been associated with angry, punishing gods mythology. The consequence of “sinful humanity” mythology has been the belief that people deserve punishment from the gods. That pathological mythology has produced a damaging swarm of fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and despair in human consciousness.
These two applications from unconditional reality are the most effective counter arguments to the main themes of salvation mythology and the harmful effects of that mythology on people and society.
It is more widely recognized today that unconditional love offers the ultimate definition of authentic humanity. We contemplate the life of people like Nelson Mandela, or historical Jesus, and affirm that unconditional love is the most advanced definition of authentic human being and existence. And we can trace the developing discovery of unconditional from the Akkadian Father (circa 2200 BCE) down through history to our own understanding of it today, including its prominence as the central discovery in the NDE experience and movement (i.e. an encounter with the creating Light as incomprehensible unconditional love).
We then make unconditional love the very foundation or core of our worldview and evaluate everything from this new center.
This site also devotes significant space to the great contradiction between historical Jesus and the Christian Christ myth. This is a conflict between a person who taught unconditional love and a contrary religion that teaches conditional atonement. Historical Jesus was also non-apocalyptic but the Christian Christ was created as the supreme expression of apocalyptic terrorism (see the Christ myth as expressed in Revelation).
To fully correct the pathology of apocalyptic mythology you need to go the foundations of human thought and belief (i.e. in religions like Christianity), to the core ideas and ideals of human belief systems, and make profound changes there.
This site is intensely oriented to freedom and hope. Freedom from the darkening and enslaving distortions of much past mythology, and hope based on ultimate reality as unconditional love. We go to the foundations of human thought, ideals, and authorities to fully humanize those inspiring and validating core themes. This project involves understanding the pathology that still resides there- the “bad religious ideas” that long ago formed the foundational themes of human worldviews and have continued to shape humanity’s highest ideals and authorities, infecting human consciousness for the worse. This site isolates the inhumane in our core ideals or archetypes and then offers the humanizing alternative of unconditional reality. This involves tracing the great themes that have shaped human thought, mood, motivation, and behavior- from ancient mythology, down through religion, into secular versions, and noting how these great ideals have influenced human outlook and behavior.
March 2015 Intro
Repulsive displays of violence continue to erupt across the Mid-East. Few public commentators have been willing to probe the role of religious ideas behind such displays of inhumanity. Most just reflexively offer some form of defensive response, stating that the great Western religions are basically peaceful. I am now extending my comment beyond Islam, to also include Judaism and Christianity, all direct heirs of the same Zoroastrianism grandfather. If we are ever going to properly solve the problem of violence for the long term then we need to embrace this fact- the same core themes in all three Western religions have inspired and validated violence toward others over their histories.
(Note: to reassure religious readers, I applaud repeatedly the ability of most religious people to moderate the more harmful aspects of their religious systems; to reform and humanize their religions and employ them to promote human decency and good. That is admirable and praiseworthy. However, I am focusing on those residual elements in religion that have caused so much suffering to others.)
I won’t guess at what keeps many people from an honest re-evaluation of their religion. It might include fear of the sacred, fear of committing blasphemy, or fear of being labeled heretical and suffering the consequent condemnation and exclusion from some religious group. Or perhaps it is adherence to Biblicism- the belief that the holy books are somehow inspired and given by God and therefore everything in the scriptures must be preserved, defended, and harmonized with all the rest that is there. The result is that the inhumane features from a primitive past then distort and overwhelm later more humane ideals that have also been included. For instance, in the Christian New Testament it is claimed that the “love” of God is revealed in a violent human sacrifice. This is entirely contradictory of common human understanding of love. Love does not solve problems with violence.
But some brave spirits have overcome their fear and are confronting the fundamental role of religion in violence. I refer to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Infidel) and Wafa Sultan (The God Who Hates), among others. See also the excellent research by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Jesus Against Christianity, and Is Religion Killing Us?), Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and Harold Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion).
As I have long argued on this page, along with these recently discovered authors above, you will never solve the problem of violence properly until you confront the pathology at the core of Western religion and correct it in the most foundational way. And we have the solution, offered long ago by the Akkadian Father, and then the sage whose wisdom sayings were buried and distorted in Christianity (as Thomas Jefferson said, Jesus’ sayings were like “diamonds buried in a dunghill”- his unconditional discovery was buried in a supremely conditional religion).
The solution to violence is all about confronting the real Terrorist, the monster deity at the core of the Western religions. The great metaphysical Bully. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that she finally found real freedom when she got over her fear of Hell. I would argue that an even greater freedom results when you get over your fear of the monster behind such perverse myths as Hell. This is a central argument made on this page.
Bad religious Ideas
Some of the pathological themes that have, over history, stirred the worst impulses in people are listed in brief summary form below. These ideas have been employed to inspire and validate endless brutality toward others. Read any good history of violence and note especially the role that religious beliefs have played. For example, James Payne noted in his book History of Force, that people have offered “rivers of blood” to appease sadistic, vile gods. See also Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book or Wafa Sultan’s book (noted above) for contemporary detail on this issue. Christian histories are full of the very same detail on pathological religious belief fostering horrific inhumanity toward others (see, for example, James Carrol’s Constantine’s Sword, or Helen Ellerbe’s The Dark Side of Christian History).
The militant atheists have tried to focus attention on the “bad religious ideas” behind so much human brutality. But religious people have not been listening to their point but continue to sidetrack the discussion in an unquestioning defense of theism against atheism. This misses the critical point that the atheists are making (note- I am not arguing in favor of the general atheist position as the proper response to the problem discussed here, but just acknowledging their helpful contribution).
Be clear that these themes listed just below are inhuman, primitive, and backward. They are pathologies in human perception and outlook.
A few of the more damaging ideas/ideals that shape the core of the Western religions:
1. Oppositional dualism (traceable to Zoroaster). This involves excluding and opposing an “enemy”. Even to the point of destroying one’s enemy. This has a lot to do with primitive animal-like thinking- my band against my enemy’s band. This tribal mindset clouds appreciation of the essential oneness and unity of the human family.
2. Violent apocalypse (traceable to the Sumerians- i.e. Flood myth). The belief in apocalypse is the ultimate expression of hatred and vengeance toward others. It is the hope of true believers that their God will finally and completely destroy the unbelievers, or opponents, to their system. Hope for apocalypse is an expression of lust for supreme violence toward others, to see them utterly destroyed. It is the “final solution” beyond all final solutions. Hell is a further expression of the perverse lust for ultimate vengeance and destruction of others that disagree. Also, the fear that is aroused by belief in apocalypse then produces such things as a sense of victimhood and aggression/violence toward others (i.e. threatening “enemies”). I note this fear/aggression/violence link elsewhere on this site.
3. Also, offense and retaliate response- the demand to punish an offender. The ancient Hebrews gave this a fresh expression in their purity and separation theology. Offense and retaliate was made the core theme of holiness theology- that there is some pure and honorable authority that deserves utmost respect and obeisance. If the honor of that authority is offended, then the authority is obligated to retaliate and punish the offender. Others note that this honor, shame, and punishment thinking is still employed in backward areas of the world today (i.e. honor killings- you have offended my honor, my family, my tribe and laws, so I must destroy you).
4. Add the myth of original paradise corrupted by fallen humanity. “Sinful” humanity now deserves punishment, some form of violent payback from the gods. This religious devaluation of imperfect humanity has fostered endless unnecessary guilt, shame, fear, and even despair. It is a devaluation of human beings as corrupt and defiled. It has led to endless religious advocacy to punish humans. Secular versions- i.e. Marxism, environmentalism- also view corrupt humanity as the destroyer of an original paradise and deserving elimination. This ‘fallen/corrupt humanity’ myth misses the wonder of human consciousness and personhood.
5. Payback punishment as the solution to the imperfection of humanity. This thinking still undergirds justice and prison systems that are oriented toward punishment. Payback punishment is the defining core of Christianity, notably, its foundational theme of atonement (sin must be paid for, or punished).
Behind all such themes we find the overarching belief in a deity that uses violence to solve problems; that salvation or deliverance can only come to us through the violent destruction of our enemies. All of these themes cohere around this core ideal of a violent God. A God that uses overwhelming violence to solve all problems in life, to punish his enemies. This is a profound distortion of the ideal of God as love. Also, the perverse notion of power as overwhelming violence to solve problems is entirely contrary to authentic love that is non-coercive, non-threatening, non-violent, and non-punishing.
For multiple millennia now, these themes have been embedded in human worldviews as the defining features of God, and more recently in history they have emerged in secular versions such as the revenge of Gaia, or angry planet mythology. Humanity’s highest ideals and authorities have long been defined by such barbarism. Located deeply within our subconscious archetypes these inhumane themes influence human outlook, thought, mood, motivation, and how people engage life, how they act. Hence, the rivers of blood offered to the gods over history, along with varied other forms of inhumanity.
The authors, noted above, have affirmed our own conclusions on the pathological themes at the core of religion and their harmful impact on human consciousness and life. They offer extensive detail on what exactly are the bad religious ideas, and their impacts on humanity and life. See again Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Ellens’ material noted below. These writers offer a catalogue of immense human misery, of people suffering under religious pathology.
The long-term and thorough answer to violence, and all forms of inhumanity, is probed throughout this site. Again, it is not a call to atheism, but to fully humanize our core ideals, beliefs, and authorities, removing all features that are inhumane. We need to use the ideal of unconditional reality as a baseline for evaluating and reshaping everything. Make it the foundational ideal of human consciousness and understanding. Explore this with us.
See new comment at very bottom in “Topics below (6)”. That includes “The pathology in Western religion”; review of Karen Armstrong’s ‘Fields of Blood’; a model for understanding the relationship between religion and violence; Love and freedom- understanding suffering; and redefining power as non-coercive persuasion.
And this brilliant summary of the big picture and long-term perspective on climate change by Patrick Moore…
Comment below posted Feb. 2015
This site continues to probe and confront humanity’s greatest error (that became humanity’s greatest monster)- that there is some threatening, violent, or punishing force/spirit behind life. The pathological belief in divine threat long ago sparked the creation of salvation religion- the felt obligation of terrorized people to appease the great threat. The human embrace of appeasement religion then erupted in the offering of “rivers of blood” over human history (James Payne’s comment on animal and human sacrifice). The salvation industry has been a horrific waste of human life as well as time and resources over the millennia. It is responding to a non-existent threat. There is no threatening or punishing God.
Salvation religion has also re-enforced conditional thinking in human consciousness- that some punishment is demanded to pay for human imperfection. This conditional outlook has hindered appreciation for humanity’s greatest discovery, that unconditional love is the core of reality and the defining feature of authentic human existence.
This site also probes the incalculable psychic and social damage of this punishment mythology across history, its harmful impact on human personality and life. Some recently encountered authors (listed just below) affirm with good research just how horrific the damage has been (see books by Lotufo, Nelson-Pallmeyer, and Ellens). I’ve noted a minor quibble with theses authors (their reformist leanings) but do not let that put you off reading their excellent material. Start with Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo.
The earliest gods were pathological deformities- cruel, harsh deities. Those views of gods were embedded as the foundational archetypes, or dominant themes, of ancient human worldviews and little has changed since. Note, for instance, the contemporary belief in “revenge of Gaia” and angry planet or angry nature mythology (the Earth gods angry at “corrupt” humanity and threatening an environmental apocalypse).
Gods that demand suffering, torture, and violent death (sacrifice) to appease their anger at human imperfection, are psychopathic personalities (again, see Zenon Lotofu’s “Cruel God, Kind God: How Images of God Shape Belief, Attitude, and Outlook”). Describing a God that demands atonement as a psychopath may strike harshly on a religious ear but it is important to be clear about the true character of something pathological. Such clarity is necessary to understand a pathology and then properly correct it. Too often things considered sacred, especially gods, are not open for re-evaluation or questioning. Consequently, much pathology continues at the heart of religious traditions. So yes Dr. Lotufo, a psychopathic ideal has long been at the very foundation of much mythology and religion and even resides at the core of so-called secular worldviews.
Just a contrasting qualifier here: Authentic love and forgiveness does not demand pain, or punishment before it forgives. Any parent gets this. Are we then more humane than God, the ultimate Goodness?
Other harmful themes projected onto ultimate human ideals (i.e. gods) include dualism (one must exclude and oppose some enemy), anger at imperfection, payback justice (reward and punishment), and ultimate violent destruction to solve problems (apocalypse and hell). These long ago became foundational themes in human thinking and outlook, or human worldviews. Again, these themes have caused immense damage to human consciousness, in terms of fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and other pathologies.
Some other basic points…
People strive to become like their highest ideals or authorities; they especially try to live according to their views of the divine (note, for instance, the work of anthropologist Clifford Geertz on Bali, Indonesia). Our ideals of the highest Good (i.e. God) shape our consciousness, our mood, our response and actions, for better or worse. For example, violent gods have always incited violence in their followers.
This site also continues to explore humanity’s greatest discovery- that there is unconditional Love behind all. Unconditional Reality affirms that all people are included, all are forgiven, and all will receive the full generosity of the Universe or God, or however you define Ultimate Reality. There is no violence in deity, no threat, no condemnation, no punishment, no conditions demanded, and no separation or exclusion. This is exactly what unconditional means. It is about the discovery of the true nature of authentic humanity. Admittedly, unconditional is scandalous and offensive to minds that are oriented to payback, appeasement, or punishment mythology and ideals.
Unconditional reality points to the most profound liberation movement ever. It overturns entirely humanity’s greatest error, and all the related pathological myth that has supported that error over history. This is about freedom at the deepest levels of consciousness and spirit, where ideas, beliefs, and ideals influence human outlook, mood, and action.
So this site is about the project to fully humanize our foundational ideals, archetypes, themes, or beliefs, if we are to solve problems like violence for the long term. It is about the need to replace the barbaric themes of the past with new narratives of authentic unconditional reality.
As always- this is not about being intentionally offensive or upsetting to the religious mind but about clearing away the clutter in order to apprehend and appreciate the truth of unconditional reality more clearly.
See also the excellent material at www.bobbrinsmead.com (notably his essay series “The Scandal of Joshua Ben Adam”) and similar comment at greatnewstory.com
Jan. Intro 2015
I have been operating for years on the conclusion that one of the most damaging influences on human consciousness, life, and society has been the varied pathological themes embedded in ancient mythology and religious belief. These are themes of ultimate anger, threat, punishment, opposition between true religion and false religion (Zoroastrian dualism), divine demand to oppose and destroy one’s enemies, coming disaster (apocalypse), and eternal violence (hell). These themes became prominent in early human worldviews, and they eventually became background archetypes that have continued to widely influence human outlook and do so even today. They have stirred endless fear, anxiety, depression, opposition and violence over history. They have profoundly hindered human development and progress.
The impact of these primitive themes is often not immediately evident in any average person’s daily waking consciousness, but their influence is still there darkening the background of human thought and mood. These themes have been so deeply embedded in human consciousness and subconscious (hardwired) that they continue to shape so-called secular systems of thought. This conclusion is based on the critical linkage that background archetypes/themes shape daily perception, thought, mood, motivation, and behavior, even when people are not fully aware of it. Note, for instance, how primitive apocalyptic mythology still shapes modern story-telling (e.g. the major blockbuster movies of the summer of 2013 were almost all apocalyptic) and movements like environmental alarmism.
In the past 6 months (since the Fall of 2014) I have come across varied studies that affirm my own conclusions on the destructive influence of religious pathology. These include Harold Ellens’ four volume “The Destructive Power of Religion”, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s “Is Religion Killing Us?” and his “Jesus Against Christianity”, and Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”, among others. Together, they provide a good survey of the incalculable damage done to humanity over history- in deforming and hindering human development, inciting and validating the worst of human impulses and behaviors, and causing immense suffering. Lotufo, for instance, notes that any God that is satisfied or appeased by the suffering of an innocent victim (i.e. Christian atonement) is a psychopathic personality- taking pleasure in hurting another. That is a blunt assessment of the core belief of Christianity, but clear on its pathological nature.
Unfortunately, these writers all tend towards reformism for their solution to the pathology of religion- preserving a general Christian framework but trying to radically redefine God as non-violent in that framework, and emphasizing more the non-violent teaching of Jesus as true Christianity. My argument with this reformist approach is that using conditional Christian categories and the conditional Christian context to define Jesus, only distorts his stunning unconditional breakthrough. The effort to preserve the message of Jesus within Christianity has always distorted and confused that message (see comment further down in “Topics Below (1)”- “The Futility of Reforming Religion”). Better, get his unconditional breakthrough clear (absolutely no conditions, none) and then you will see the oxymoronic or contradictory nature of much reformism. Understand what Thomas Jefferson was getting at in stating that Jesus’ teaching in the Christian New Testament was like “diamonds in a dunghill”. Unconditional is the Jesus diamond and it does not belong anywhere in a defiling/distorting context of conditional atonement that is the essential core of Christianity.
Few people seem able to embrace the scandalous reality of unconditional and what it means for conditional religious thought and salvationism.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the efforts of the above writers, as far as they go. They have understood the root problem of a pathological, violent God at the heart of religions like Christianity, and how this has harmed humanity over the millennia (inciting and validating the worst human impulses to inhumane treatment of others). I applaud them for some forthright and clear comment on this. But they are not getting thoroughly to the foundational nature of the problem and a full solution. Unconditional deity as taught by Jesus is entirely incompatible with a conditional religion like Christianity.
Get the scandal and wonder of unconditional reality as taught by sages like Jesus and you will get some sense of the profound liberation that unconditional offers from all the past pathology of myth and religion. Unconditional opens up an unlimited future as nothing ever before. It presents healing from the impact of all that pathology and points us to an authentically humane future.
Explore this with us. Again, unconditional means simply- “Absolutely no conditions. None”.
Lotufo Quotes (from his book Cruel God, Kind God):
“My main interest is the cognitive and psychological aspects of the (malignant God) system and how people become predisposed…to associate power with cruelty, fear, shame, and guilt…Less easy to detect but nevertheless perceptible in the attitudes and behavior of Christians who have been affected by conservative theology, is the inhibition of the full development of personality…the doctrine of penal satisfaction implies an image of God as wrathful and vengeful, resulting in exposing God’s followers to guilt, shame, and resentment….these ideas permeate Western culture and inevitably influence those who live in the interior of this culture (p.5)”
“Beliefs do exert much more influence over our lives than simple ideas…ideas can also mobilize energy…the possible negative consequences that ideas and beliefs can produce when they generate energy in the interior of an individual…this negative side may express itself…in fanaticism and violence, or it may also produce anxiety and inhibitions that hinder the full manifestation of the capacities of a person…(p.8)”
“The reader may object that God, considered a basic belief in our culture, is rejected or questioned by a large number of people today. Yet the fact is that the idea of God that those people reject is almost never questioned. In other words, their critique assumes there is no alternative way of conceiving God except the one that they perceive through the lens of their culture. So, taking in to account the kind of image of God that prevails in Western culture- a ‘monster God’, as Harold Ellens calls him- such rejection is understandable. As Walter Wink puts it, ‘Against such an image of God the revolt of atheism is an act of pure religion’”
“There is in the Western world a psychological archetype, a metaphor that has to do with the image of a violent and wrathful God. Crystallized in Anselm’s juridical atonement theory, this image presents God as sufficiently disturbed by the sinfulness of humanity that God had only two options; Destroy us or substitute a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He did the latter. He killed Christ…Such a metaphor of an angry God, who cannot forgive unless appeased by a bloody sacrifice, has been ‘right in the center of the Master Story of the Western world for the last 2,000 years’. And the unavoidable consequence for the human mind is a strong tendency to use violence…Hence, in our culture we have a powerful element that impels us to violence, a Cruel God Image…it also contributes to guilt, shame, and the impoverishment of personality, and of the spiritual life (p.11-12)”
“I use the expression ‘image of God’ to indicate the conjoining of beliefs and feelings related to the Supreme Being, beliefs that are largely unconscious…little or no research has been done on how the content of these (religious) systems (image and concept of God) affects mental health and personality development…religious ideas can exert remarkable influence on the psychical integrity and well-being of believers (p.12-13)…”
“The image and the concept of God…become a source of psychological disturbance…many traditional doctrines present God as severe and vengeful…the doctrine of penal satisfaction is the dorsal spine of the plan of salvation and of conservative theology as a whole…there is evidence that the beliefs that make up this plan of salvation are harmful to mental health and also to spiritual life…they produce negative psychological effects in its bearers, like guilt and anxiety, and obstacles to the full development of personality (p.22)”
“(God as monarch)…what a monarch wishes and specially demands from his subjects is obedience…If one perceives God to be chiefly a monarch, then that monarch’s central attribute is sovereignty, that is, power, and what human beings owe to that God-monarch is absolute obedience or risk being severely punished. A God-monarch demands obedience above all else. From a psychological point of view, there is evidence that people who see God in this way are more subject to affective disorders, such as anxiety, feelings of guilt, shame, and depression (p.24)”
“(commenting on Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’, a common Evangelical or Conservative Christian view of theology)…there is no way to associate the loving God from the Prodigal Son parable with the devilish and sadistic being who delights in crushing under his feet his own creatures in endless and meaningless torture…(p.42)”
“(commenting on suffering as a source of pleasure, as in Christian atonement belief)…Repulsive as it seems to us, the practice of submitting humans to horrible torture has not exactly been rare in the history of our species…and makes us ask what kind of perversion can make human beings submit his fellow humans to such atrocious torments. But it seems even more difficult to explain the mental distortion that… (believes and defends)… the idea that the Christian God is not only capable of such perversities but also takes pleasure in them….the defenders of the penal substitution doctrine (Christian atonement)…also defend doctrines like (eternal hell)…(but incoherently reject the idea that God takes pleasure in producing and watching the suffering of his creatures)…this compartmentalization protects such people from realizing the monstrosity of their propositions (p.54)”
“What factors have contributed to the fact that inflicting suffering could be considered as a source of pleasure…to the point where its use became official in criminal law and theological doctrines of the Christian West? (p.54)”
“(what drives) the belief largely widespread in humanity that all guilt leads or should lead to suffering and all suffering is a consequence of guilt…how the painful punishment…becomes…a substitute for payment…this does not even begin to attempt to analyze the psychological mechanism by which one starts perceiving the pain of others as a source of pleasure. So the question Nietzsche himself poses with insistence- ‘How can hurting someone be a satisfaction?’- remains intact (p.56)”
“(We) can shed some light on the factors that lead so many people to accept explanations such as Anselm’s that the Christian God reaps pleasure from human suffering…the simplest and most direct answer is that it is a pathology resulting mainly from a cerebral dysfunction of genetic origin. This is how today we tend to explain the psychopathic personality…traits of emotional insensibility… narcissism, the absence of remorse, the lack of empathy…some psychopaths manifest the strange perversion of obtaining pleasure in causing pain (p.57)”
“I propose that the core of sadism…is the passion for an absolute and unrestricted control over another living being, be it an animal, child, man or woman…the exercise of power… seeks personal exaltation and control over others for his own benefit…the association of power with cruelty that deserves primary attention here…Sadism…is the transformation of impotence in the experience of omnipotence; it is the religion of the psychic cripples…to the sadist character there is only one admirable quality, and that quality is power… (it) wishes to control the helpless and those who cannot fight back…they (the sadist power-mongers) reach positions of importance from which they can cause much suffering… (p.57)”
“The sufferings of human beings thus become the deserved consequences of both original sin and individual’s personal sins as well as instruments of God to purify the soul and lead it to salvation…(commenting on how authority figures- i.e. harsh parents or harsh school teachers- shape human views of God)…the irate schoolmaster of Augustine’s childhood becomes the punishing God that purifies the soul through the many punishments of life… (this is spiritual abuse)…I am witness to struggling human beings who have experienced terrorist-like attacks on their inner souls…the irony is that this horrible damage is done in the name of God…(p.63)
“What has become clear in this section, is that to gain pleasure by producing or contemplating the suffering of others is a manifestation of a grave mental disturbance, absolutely incompatible with what can be considered a mature personality…(p.64)”
“What socio-psychological factors can lead certain people to attribute a partial, arbitrary and often cruel justice to God? We have already seen that the image one has of God decisively influences all of a person’s other beliefs. Thus, if the image is of an evil God, all the individual’s other theological ideas will likely reflect this assumption- and it will be hard to rid oneself of that assumption. However, once incorporated in a solid theological system, these ideas will become a serious hindrance for a person to free himself from the negative image of God that previous experiences have instilled in him. Fear is the cement that gives consistency to these theological buildings grounded in a frightening image of God. Fear inevitably stems from believing unquestioningly that God is authoritative and punitive, and it hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life (p.107)”
“Constituting a powerful instrument of control and always on hand, fear and guilt have always been widely used….guilt based on fear, as far as I can see, is always destructive. Hence, the symbiosis that many forms of religion- especially conservative Christianity- establish with this feeling results in one of the most serious problems, both in terms of psychological damage to personality development…the guilt and fear are linked to the image of God whose justice is essentially vindictive. Not just in the popular use and threats of divine punishment to control children but also and mainly in the fundamental doctrines of the varieties of conservative Christianity, doctrines such as those dealing with the condemnation of all humankind because of original sin, the torment of the unsaved in the eternal flames of hell, the sacrificial death of Christ as the only means of satisfying divine justice, and so on, have their roots in the ideas that revenge is inherent to the character of God, and that suffering is just and appropriate compensation for the offense that are made to him. Thus, the dysfunctional guilt and anxiety associated with it, related to the Christian religion, is rooted in the fear of being the target of divine justice, understood as revenge (p.148-9)”
(End of Lotufo quotes)
Below are varied comments and quotes from a discussion group. They reflect the recent engagement with the work of authors such as Harold Ellens (The Destructive Power of Religion), Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Jesus Against Christianity, Is Religion Killing Us?), Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth), among others. These authors affirm the arguments that have long been presented on this site.
Pardon the sometimes fragmented grammar as these quotes were lifted straight from the free-running commentary of the discussion group.
Discussion group comment- “Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), around pages 240-250 does a good section on the secularization of apocalyptic millennialism. He shows how Enlightenment thinkers formulated millennial themes in non-religious terms. The problem is that millennial hopes were mixed with the progress optimism of that era. And sometimes optimistic hope for progress led to violent activism to achieve the utopian dreams (i.e. the French Revolution). The obvious concern here- be careful to distinguish valid progress in terms of non-coercive approaches that protect individual freedom. Approaches that are rational (i.e. they embrace the presence of imperfection in life but work to gradually solve problems and do not lean toward religious Salvationism- expecting coercive intervention to purge and perfect suddenly- i.e. utopianism).”
Another- “Landes in his treatment of Marxism and Communism continues to note that progress optimism was part of the mix of revolutionary thought and action in the 19th Century. And the widespread longing for utopian or millennial perfection of life. It would improve his material if he would clarify that hope for a better future is a healthy human desire. But it is necessary to understand that a better future is not something reached coercively, instantly, or in other ways that violate love and freedom.”
“We continue to wrestle with imperfection in life and in ourselves, and we must continue to solve problems in life. And the evidence is sound that we are creating a better life and world. Decreasing violence and coercion is part of this progress.”
“So it is critical to distinguish authentic progress from millennial or apocalyptic distortion of progress. Longing for apocalyptic progress (cataclysmic, instant utopia) reaches a hysterical fervor and then resorts to violence and coercion to force the implementation of its instant utopia. Landes is not clear on making these distinctions and lumps general progress theory and ideas of the past centuries in with apocalyptic millennialism. This is not helpful.”
Further- “Its an interesting exercise to work through Landes good treatment of millennialism, especially near the end as he does a thorough section on Marxism as millennialism (noting that Marx and Engels tried to deny that they were millennialists). All apocalyptic plays on the human hope for perfection, for freedom and deliverance from imperfection. This is the great human frustration- existing in imperfect life and experiencing the profound awareness that there is something better.”
“Unfortunately, apocalyptic millennialism misdirects that valid human hope for something better by trying to escape the slow, gradual historical process. Apocalyptic seeks a violent purging of the imperfect system that presently exists. It seeks immediate deliverance from all imperfection, hence its emphasis on the always ‘imminent’ ending of the old order and installation of the new utopia. It always looks to ‘speed up the process’ (looking to overwhelming divine intervention and violence to save). It seeks some greater force to deliver us into utopia right now.”
“As Landes says, ‘Totalitarians want to run history forward at top speed to achieve their millennial goals. The infinite personal decisions that people make appear to them as resistance that must be crushed’.”
“Apocalyptic has no respect for the freedom of others. Landes noted regarding the Marxist millennialists (secular millennialism), that they believed that humanity must be coerced to revolt and to enter the Marxist utopian millennium. ‘They must be forced to be free”. That Communist utopia would be achieved via “coercive purity… (through) cataclysmic replacing of the old world with a new and better world…destroying the world to save it…’ and so on. Landes offers some good comment on the belief in coercive violence to redeem immediately and instantly. Pallmeyer and Lotufo also noted that the view of power as overwhelming force is a perverse misunderstanding of the nature of true power.”
“The apocalyptic mind, whether religious or secular, does not understand that the love of God defines the power of God (i.e. God’s power is non-coercive, non-violent, non-intervening… it is persuading love and power). Again, unconditional leads to a radical re-evaluation and redefinition of basic things like power.”
“Landes also notes how the apocalyptic millennial mind holds people in contempt and will destroy human life on a massive scale in order to achieve its utopian millennium. Landes details this in the Marxist/Communist history of the past century- the willingness of Marxists revolutionaries to kill millions in order to coercively attain the Communist millennium. People did not matter as the Marxist state took precedence over all else. This mirrors the similar religious devotion to some higher reality above people (i.e. to God) that has so often led religious devotees to inhumanely abuse people out of their devotion to some higher good (something above humanity).”
Another: “To understand the true state of any thing you need to include the entire big picture of that observed thing. All the data or evidence related to it. Especially that which challenges your own views. This is necessary to counter our tendency to engage ‘confirmation bias’, looking only for evidence that affirms our views and dismissing or ignoring evidence that challenges our views.”
“Also, to get to the true state of something, look at the longest term trends affecting that thing. Be careful to not focus only on aberrational variations to the long term trend. They do not define the overall trend. Professor Pimental made this mistake when he focused on the rise in tuberculosis from 1990 to 1995 (noted in Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist). That was an aberration to the overall decline in TB over the previous 60 years. After that brief 5 year aberration, TB continued to decline as in the long term trend.”
“And I’ll give you one on this point- much as I appreciate these writers- Pallmeyer, Lotufo, Ellens- I do not think they are getting to the best long term solutions with their reformist conclusions. This endeavor to revive Jesus within Christianity. To reform Christianity. The conditional nature of salvation religion, and its basic conditional categories, only distorts the unconditional breakthrough of Jesus.“
“You have to first get the scandal and wonder of that unconditional and then you will see how pathetically insufficient all reformism is. All religion is conditional, that is simply basic fact as one looks across the history of human religion. Sure, many great human ideals have been brought into religious traditions, but as Jefferson stated- you end up with diamonds in dunghills. Unconditional wine in conditional (leaky, rotten) wineskins.”
“So I will affirm these writers for a lot of excellent work but still argue that you can do better. Get historical Jesus clear, take that Jesus seriously… get unconditional clear, and then evaluate all else in light of this new foundational truth. Don’t try to weaken or continue the distortion that has long blurred people’s ability to see unconditional.”
“And I get it that they appeal to many religious people who will never feel comfortable abandoning something that has provided them identity and comfort. But there are also many others of us out there who want something different. So I speak to them. Everyone has a mission, an audience, a niche…go for yours.”
Another…”Just a suggestion for ____- read Lotufo, Ellens, Pallmeyer, or any others dealing with religious pathology, and then tell this group what you see as wrong with their argument about the ‘monster God’ behind salvation religions like Christianity, that distortion that has defiled and deformed human consciousness for so long. Tell us how you can defend such pathology hidden under the canopy of the sacred.”
Another…”Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens, among others, all speak of this ‘monster God’. Lotufo notes this image of deity is at the basis of atonement theology, and that the fear of this God holds the rest of the theological system together. These authors all get in some way that this is a monster that humanity faces.“
“It is humanity’s greatest monster. And if you bring this beast down then all the rest of the salvation industry and superstructure begins to collapse. Again, the potency of that Matt.5 summary- a new no-conditions ethic based on a new no-conditions theology. Wow. That is nuclear.”
Another…”Poor ____ is probably wondering where this blast of Arctic air is coming from in the posts below.”
“But I have just been reading the refreshing plain-speaking of Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens and am feeling in the same vein. And yet I still have quibbles with their tame reformism. They do not appear to have really grasped the scandal and wonder of Jesus’ no conditions theology and ethics, and what that means for all religion as conditional reality or institution.”
“But you said another thing below Bob that needs more probing- that we don’t really get the love of God and God’s respect for freedom. And how these two are twins. Alvin Platinga (God, Freedom, and Evil) is a start. There is a scandal to both love and freedom and we play around with such subhuman and primitive understanding of both of these. Hence, we do not really get what it means to be human or humane. We don’t fully get Jesus. Christianity never got him and so buried his brilliant unconditional insights in conditional religion. That is the great scandal of religious history. Jesus was buried in the old pathology of holiness, offense and retaliate, punishment and all the rest. Subhuman, backward, underdeveloped, and psychopathic. Most of us do not get the authentically humane in God. So we settle for primitive theologies of overwhelming power (false power), intervening deity, and so on. We do not get the power of love to change all for the better. The ultimate triumph of unconditional love.”
“But aside from my quibble with their reformism let me strongly recommend Lotufo, Pallmeyer and Ellens.”
Another: “Holiness is unquestioned in religious thinking. It is defended as the height of goodness in deity. Even more than love. As Christians argue, it takes precedence over love.”
“But as we have been doing for years and are now finding others doing the same in their own way….people like Lotufo, Ellens, Pallmeyer cut through such thinking and expose the real nature of all that old theology. It is pathology, not theology.”
“Lotufo goes so far as to argue that any person taking pleasure in the hurting of others (Christian atonement is holiness demanding the suffering and death of another for appeasement)…this is pathology, psychopathic. Yikes, but yes.”
“’Sentimental’ (as used in the copied pages in this post)- one sees the primitiveness of this thinking in our own cultures. The old tough guy who stands up for himself mentality, and the tough guy doesn’t let anyone push him around. The ‘real’ man. He gives just as he gets. He gets even with bad guys. He puts them in their place.”
“There is little of real humanity or real human advance in such honor, shame, and retaliate response. It is just more of the same old same old- very animal-like, very primitive response. Not much of real human courage or advance in such thinking and response.”
“So first of all, do not accept the assumptions of the writer behind this thinking and response- framing anything other than a tough payback response as ‘sentimental’, and tough payback as real holiness and righteousness and therefore real good and right. You need a good bracing read of Lotufo or Pallmeyer to put things clearly and expose the distorted thinking and backward humanity behind such reasoning.”
Another…”There is no ‘sentimentality’ in abandoning the old primitive holiness, wrath, and retaliate responses. In fact, it takes superhuman courage to break that animal response (offense, attack, rage, response to destroy). It takes a god-like courage to respond as Jesus did…no more eye for eye, but love even the worst enemy, forgive endlessly, include as family, shower with the same generosity as you would to any intimate insider. Sun and rain on all alike. The fullest generosity to all alike. That is so far removed from the ‘sentimentality’ of primitive approaches to evil, approaches that continue the cycles of payback, based on sentimental views of deity as holy and demanding the hurting of offenders. And further, as Lotufo shows from psychology- such old responses are psychopathic. Yikes.”
“This description in the scanned pages needs to be challenged as it tries to frame the holding of contradicting opposites in tension, in harmony, as ‘strong’ and healthy and right… and arguing that somehow to abandon such primitivism for a robust new response of unconditional is mere ‘sentimentality’.”
“Good research now sees right through such reasoning for what it really is- primitivism and backward and subhuman- and this is what Lotufo and other’s like Pallmeyer and Ellens are doing so well.”
Another….”Of course love is aroused against evil, against inhumanity. But then it does not perpetuate it by responding in kind. This is the whole point of Jesus in his breakthrough on non-retaliation- love your enemies. Because this is what God is like. Do the counter-intuitive, the superhuman thing. The absolutely contrary thing. Contrary to those primitive animal-like responses that we often feel at first.”
“We have so much good psychological research on this now- note especially that paper from the Australian Psychological Society. Traditional responses (i.e. punishing responses) do not work with children or criminals. They do not teach proper alternative humane responses. Hence, the movement toward more humane restorative responses.”
“This is even stated in Paul, a bit, but more clear in Jesus- love forgives all and endlessly, it does not engage eye for eye, it does not punish. The no-conditions love that he taught, breaks the old cycles of payback and leads us in entirely new directions.”
“So we can drop the projection of holiness onto God. Holiness embodies the primitive offense and retaliate response. Jesus rejected such thinking as inhuman- it was the old honor and shame and retaliate stuff of primitive humanity. Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), Landes (Heaven on Earth) and others all point to this as primitive, backward humanity. It is still dominant in Islam- you have offended my honor, shaming me, and I will or must retaliate and hurt you.”
“They (Lotufo, Landes) also note that real power is not defined by anger and hurting of others, overwhelmingly destroying the offender. It is, instead, expressed in non-coercive forgiving and loving. This changes life for the better by breaking the old anger and hurt responses and taking us in new directions, supernatural directions (again, note Mandela).”
“Wrath in deity as taught in the Bible is also about primitive and backward response to evil (holiness embodies this primitive response). It has no place in a truly human future. Again, Biblicism pushes people to try to harmonize such things- harmonizing the less-than-human, the primitive, with the more authentically human. It never works. This is my persistent argument with reformism in religious traditions. Trying to harmonize great human ideals with pathological primitivism. ____, do read Zenon Lotufo’s good Cruel God, Kind God. Just one of many writing on this issue and strongly oriented to the psychological issues behind all this.”
“This is just more of this endless reformism. The attempt to “reframe” (the Mennonite phrase) or re-interpret all that is in the Bible due to the felt obligation to Biblicism. The Bible is all God-inspired so all its parts must be kept and harmonized in some way. And reformers end up making some ridiculous conclusions as Lotufo points out re John Stott- i.e. that Hell will be there but no one will be in it. Huh? Or non-violent atonement, as in the Mennonites. More huh? Or divine wrath is an expression of love, and love is wrath? Ahhh. Let it all go. These are all absolutely contradicting opposites.”
Another: “My point, as I express appreciation for Pallmeyer, Ellens, and Lotufo for their good work, is that they don’t go far enough and end up stuck in varied versions of this reformism. And especially with the no conditions breakthrough of Jesus, reformism distorts and misses the full scandal of his breakthrough, by trying to maintain it within the conditional Christian context. Jefferson still said it best in pointing out the real nature of the problem- the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament was like diamonds in a dunghill. Clean them off properly so people can really see their value.”
“Be clear on what Christianity actually is, and be clear on what Jesus breakthrough was actually about.”
“And even while I harp on this, I will still mouth appreciation for all the good work that people like Lotufo and Pallmeyer and others are doing. Many need to go through a stage like that first before they may be ready for something more radical. I think back over our own progressive journey, in its many stages.”
Another… “The more you survey the damage from the old story, the more you see the healing power of the alternative that Jesus offered. No wonder, at a gut level, he got it and could say to all those damaged people he met, ‘Fear not….don’t worry’. You can heal yourself, your faith or belief in a merciful, compassionate Father will heal you. He did not have all the psychological tools that we have today, but he got it at a gut level and used it. Pointing people to goodness everywhere in life- to sun and rain and small birds not forgotten, and grass/flowers clothed like Solomon in his glory, and on and on. No threat or punishment in the man born blind, no revenge on the woman caught in adultery. Just mercy and compassion everywhere. Its all good, its all going to be all right for everyone. Fear not. Such liberating healing power from all the millennia of that darkening, enslaving, traumatizing myth of angry, punishing gods.”
“I mentioned this to you recently _____, about re-centering regularly on the Love as noted in so many NDE accounts. As I read this recent spate of books from Lotufo, Pallmeyer, and Ellens it hits me again how this mythology of our religions has damaged human consciousness and so many human spirits over the millennia. These more psychological approaches detail more the trauma and destructiveness on the human person and life, the deformity and enslavement.”
“And so many people are not fully aware of how all this has impacted them.”
“So it is a major issue for the human family to recover this liberating discovery of Love behind all. That Ultimate Reality is this powerful, liberating love. I think of this now in terms of two key features or elements. Ultimate reality is unconditional love and we are that same love. Both of these are critical to human healing and advance. I know I repeat this a lot but we are not yet even getting our feet wet on the shores of this, and experience its cleansing, healing power. Its enlightening, liberating impact.”
“Religion as conditional reality has never communicated this truth clearly, but more often distorted and buried it. That explains my impatience with all these reformist efforts. They are good in exposing the violent deity at the core of the old mythology and that we need to move to new more humane views. But they are hesitant to really pull the diamond all the way out of the dunghill and really clean it off so it can do its liberating work. But nonetheless, I applaud them as far as they go. It is helpful.”
“We have also established that we can know that ultimate reality is love by seeing the best in humanity and then reasoning out to deity as infinitely better. From the Akkadian father on down to Jesus, they got this. But unconditional love is rarely opened up for people to see in all its scandal and wonder.”
“I see the liberating impact in varied ways- it liberates from all the fear, anxiety, worry, depression and despair so widespread across the human family by going to the root of human thought/perception to radically change all that pathological belief in ultimate threat, anger, violence, punishment and so much more that was lodged in myth and religion about deity. It changes or humanizes the foundations, or core of human understanding, completely. But that is multiple millennia of abusive and traumatizing impact from myth and religion that has to be cleaned up.”
“And it liberates ethically, in that it liberates from all those animal drives to small band exclusion, retaliation, and destruction of opposing others/enemies.”
“And that we are the same love, also liberates from the damaging impact of fall and sinfulness myth. That we deserve punishment because we are bad. Pallmeyer speaks of a pastor scaring kids with this stuff.”
“Anyway, here is a brief bit from Anita Moorjani that relates to this psychological impact…”
“Anita- ‘I don’t recall ever being encouraged to cherish myself- in fact it would never have occurred to me to do so. Its commonly thought of as being selfish. But my NDE allowed me to realize that this was the key to my healing…In the tapestry of life, we’re all connected. Each one of us is a gift to those around us, helping us to be who we are, weaving a perfect picture together. When I was in the NDE state, it all became so clear because I understood that to be me is to be love. This is the lesson that saved my life. Many of us still believe that we have to work at being loving. But that means living in duality, because there’s a giver and a receiver. Realizing that we are love transcends this. It means understanding that there is no separation between you and me, and if I am aware that I am love, then I know that you are too. If I care for myself, then I automatically feel the same for you’….”
“In my NDE state, I realized that the entire universe is composed of unconditional love and I am an expression of this. Every atom, molecule, quark, and tetra-quark is made of love. I can be nothing else, because this is my essence and the nature of the entire universe. Even things that seem negative are all part of the infinite, unconditional spectrum of love. In fact, Universal Life-force energy is love, and I am composed of Universal energy! Realizing this made me to understand that I did not have to try to become someone else in order to be worthy. I already am all that I could attempt to be”…. and so on…
Another… “Lotufo was a very clinical in his use of psychological terms to describe what this (pathological religious belief- i.e. violent God at the heart of Christian atonement) does to people- maintaining a childish mentality, lobotomized, undeveloped, deformed, and so on. Hard for religious people to embrace such an evaluation, but yes, that is what it has done to so much of the human family. And even many atheists, having abandoned it all, still feel the deforming impact of it, as that is how they still view the religious beliefs that they claim to have left. And many of them still shudder a bit and hedge their bets, just in case. Keeping a string of prayer beads nearby for the final stages. Just in case.”
Another…”There is not much that I have come across that really gets the core of a new view of deity (the Jesus insight on unconditional) and how this relates to the old framework of salvation religion. Hence, not much radical call to abandon the old framework- wineskin- of conditional religion. Once a person really gets a grip on what this new core of reality is actually about….well, then it is hard to try to maintain that within the old wineskins. It makes no sense. Why continue to distort and cloud things. But it is about first getting some basic grasp of unconditional. The scandal and the wonder of it. Then that becomes the new baseline to understand and evaluate all else.”
“Now, I would not push anyone to fully abandon their old worldview unless they have some good alternative ready to replace it. Unconditional provides the safest, welcoming alternative to all the old. No need to fear the loss of anything in the old systems.”
Another: “Just to give some sense of why Lotufo is going after this pathological theology that most of us have been raised in, and how it has infected so many across the planet. Tabor (“Paul and Jesus”) is another researcher who has noted the widespread and significant impact of the Christian religion. Boyce also hit it on the nail in stating that Zoroastrianism was the most influential religion of all, the very religion that shaped the Western consciousness, notably Judaism and Christianity. Here is a quote noting the hindering/damaging influence of this pathological theology…(hindering human development)…”
“(Lotufo)…What socio-psychological factors can lead certain people to attribute a partial, arbitrary, and often cruel justice to God?…We have already seen that the image one has of God decisively influences all of a person’s other beliefs. Thus, if the image is of an evil God, all the individual’s other theological ideas will like reflect this assumption- and it will be hard to rid oneself of that assumption. However, once incorporated in a solid theological system, these ideas will become a serious hindrance for a person to free himself from the negative image of God that previous experiences have installed in him. Fear is the cement that gives consistency to these theological buildings grounded in a frightening image of God. Fear inevitably stems from believing unquestionably that God is authoritative and punitive, and it hinders the full development of personality and spiritual life”.
“And remember, Lotufu notes that even atheists and other skeptics of religion in the wider secular society have all been profoundly influenced by these evil God images and still hold them.”
Another… “In the section I have just read, Lotufo looks at the psychological stages of human development. In very diplomatic language he notes that moral judgment of the ‘eye for eye’ kind is an earlier stage, more suitable to children. ‘The God corresponding to the image conservative theologians make of him would not surpass the least evolved moral levels’. Ouch again.”
Another: “My argument has now long been that despite all the advance that humanity has experienced over the past, we have not yet begun. There is still too much darkness over the human spirit and consciousness, still too much enslavement to mythically oriented thinking or belief. A great liberation has been offered that goes to the depths of human perception (subconscious archetypes, themes), to the foundations of human thought, mood, motivation, and response. But that liberation has not yet been widely embraced due to the impeding force of religious belief and practice. And you know what I am referring to- we have stated it in oppositional pairings such as conditional opposing unconditional, payback opposing non-retaliation, and varied similar pairs.”
“Placing unconditional at the core of new narratives will effect a liberation of the human spirit and consciousness as nothing ever before and that will result in new forms of advance and creativity unimagined so far.”
“Lotufo supports my view in that he goes to the psychological impacts on human personality from all this perverse sadism in religion. Sadism that deforms human consciousness and the human spirit, rendering it something far less than it can be. As he starts his book, he is noting the powerful impact of thought, ideas, beliefs on human life.”
Another…”Again, it is the atheists like Charles Templeton, who conquered their fear of the sacred, of blasphemy, and were then able to clearly see and state all this stuff for what it really is. As Templeton said, such a deity is an Idi Amin (referring to a God that demanded people praise his greatness on pain of death/destruction if they did not). I am now finding more and more people out there willing to claim this is a monster god. Humanity’s greatest monster.”
Another…”It hit me afresh reading this….How did we not intuitively sense it, in the years that we belonged to our varied religions? It was such a perversion of normal humanity or human sensibility. Why did we accept it as right, that someone could be so incensed at the imperfection and failings of people that they would sadistically demand and take pleasure in making them suffer some horror of violence, some cruel, suffering death? Why did we believe that such sadism could satiate someone’s rage and we should view this as humane, or good in some way. And we were taught to worship this atonement theology as love and holiness and divinity, as ultimate right, justice, and goodness. It is, as Pallmeyer and Payne and others have plainly stated, such sadism. Such pathology. Such inhumanity on the bare face of it all. But our religions did not help us to see what it actually was. A great Devil, a sadistic, certifiably insane personality.”
Another… “Wood in the article below (What ISIS Really Wants) adds to our understanding of religion and violence. The larger context of what he is talking about is Richard Landes Heaven on Earth, Millennialist movements and their stages and breakdown and last fits of rage as they collapse. And the desire to bring on the apocalypse that is also part of this process.”
“As I read Wood I thought about the fear at the root of all this. The animal fear at the basis and how all across history that fear has been stirred by violent deity. Inciting fear as in apocalyptic threat has repeatedly resulted in aggressive violence toward others (this was clear in Serbia, in Hitler, and so on).”
“The violent threat was long ago deeply embedded as a foundational human archetype where it continues to work its damage on public consciousness. We see it again in environmental alarmism and their aggression toward perceived threats (trying to ban skeptics).”
“Fear fuels aggression and so you need to counter the fear at its ultimate root, calming such things as the fear of apocalyptic threat. This is for the long term solutions. In the immediate you may have to counter apocalyptic hysteria and madness with defensive action.”
“This is all part of the model that I put out a while back. You have to account for all the important elements and how they relate, such as the animal inheritance (the root source of fear and aggression). And the theological explanations that validate the expression of aggression, that are inspiring ideals. And how these have been related over human history. Then, how to counter this at the deepest levels for long term solutions. Going after those deeply embedded archetypes or ideals. Deal with all the main elements at the deepest levels for the most thorough long term solutions.”
Another… “One last one from Pallmeyer…’Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment’ (Gandhi). Then Pallmeyer…’the most tragic and enduring legacy of these ‘sacred’ texts is that they distort the nature of both divine and human power. Coercive, punishing, violent conceptions of God and power that have their origins in the minds, fantasies, and experiences of men cripple our imaginations and dominate the political, economic, and religious landscape…there is an alternative conception of power rooted in love…more effective’.”
“And his rephrasing of a part of Matt.5:43-45, ‘Loving enemies best reflects what God is like’.”
Another… “Not wanting to keep this line of discussion going too much as it is quite negative… but it is also useful for understanding a current public problem, its roots and how to solve it.”
“I am almost finished Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s Is Religion Killing us. He is a Christian, a professor at St. Thomas University in Minnesota, and works on Justice and Peace endeavors. And this is a valuable bit of research on religion and violence. More useful than most.”
“He argues that all three Western religions have dominant themes of violence in deity and this is the root problem behind religious violence over history. And he marshals the evidence from the holy books of these faiths to support his argument. It is one of the more complete litanies of violent religious teaching. ‘Despicable portraits of a violent, seemingly pathological God and of murderous human conduct justified in relation to the divine’.”
“I was at first put off by his argument that monotheism seemed particularly violent, in light of the similar violence in other earlier non-monotheistic traditions. But his point is good- that a super-powerful God (monotheist) is credited with super power to overwhelm and destroy all enemies. More power means more successful violence.”
“And one of his best points is that the dominant violent explanations in the holy books overwhelm the more humane ideals in those books. ‘Passages that urge tolerance and respect diversity are overwhelmed by others…that legitimate violence, warfare, and intolerance…The collective weight of all passages in these texts that advocate ethical behavior or present evidence of a loving, compassionate God cannot, however, overcome the violent images and expectations of God that overwhelm these sacred texts…’.”
“He does tend a bit to apocalyptic doomsterism here and there but that does not detract from his good points.”
“He is also interesting on the current cycle of violence with Islamic terrorism, and the Western response as similar in character- i.e. the appeal to the divine to validate violence, and the belief that one is acting in the better interests of humanity. And yes, I get it that some will react that he is engaging moral equivalence, but his argument is a bit more sophisticated than that.”
“He is very clear that violent religion is not a distortion of the main themes of religion but is faithfulness to those main themes, in all three Western faiths.”
“He also gets the dualism of the good versus the bad (the enemy), but does not put that in its Zoroastrian context.”
“Good treatment of the Jewish Exodus as ‘liberating violence’, compared with other incidents of ‘punishing violence’.”
“And a lot of other good insights along the way…such as ‘Jesus dies in order to save us from God, not from sin…Jesus’ sacrificial death saves us from a violent God who punishes sin’.”
“Some quotes from Pallmeyer: ‘Most people…believe that violence saves….violence is the world’s religion…It is a serious problem to downplay the problem of religion, violence, and ‘sacred’ text in its many forms…Jews, Christians, and Muslims (can find)…hundreds and hundreds of passages that rightfully can be called upon to bolster their claims that violence and hatred against enemies are not only justified but reflect the will of God…power is identified with violence…’.”
“A few more Pallmeyer quotes…’if human beings acted as God does or as God tells them to act, then they would rightfully be considered certifiably insane…It is not primarily a problem of believers distorting their ‘sacred’ texts. It is rather, a problem rooted in the violence of God traditions that lie at the heart of these sacred texts..’, and so on..”
“This guy nails it as few others have done. Violent behavior is not distorting these Western faiths but being faithful to their core teaching.”
Another… “I’ve mentioned this before ____, but I approach all this with sort of an ‘efficiency’ orientation. It began years ago when I worked in Mindanao with Manobo tribal groups and our endeavors (muddled as they may appear to anyone else) to improve the human condition. Early on I responded at a gut level to human suffering, taking sick people out on logging trucks (the only transportation) to lowland medical clinics and hospitals. It was a horrendous waste of time in that the trucks stopped and sat a varied places along the way. What was usually a 4 hour trip by motorcycle could take the entire day on truck. And then the people, when left at the hospital, would just get up and leave and return to the mountains. They were scared that as people died at the hospital, so evil spirits were prowling in such a place of death. So I could ‘waste’ several days doing such things.”
“So we gradually moved to inviting nurses and doctors into the mountain areas to vaccinate everyone, and to start holding clinics there. Also, later we started medical training programs, getting nurses to come and teach tribal people about basic health care (emergency care, nutrition, and so on- changing people’s views from spirit causes of sickness to germ theory). Training barrio health workers for each area. That was a more efficient use of our time. You could do more good to more people with less investment of time.”
“And that approach spread to educational programs, agricultural programs (increase wealth so tribal people could solve their own issues), water systems (helping solve the cause of 50% of child mortality- dirty water), pig breeding programs, introducing coffee and cacao plant programs, and so on. Continually looking to get at root economic and livelihood issues in order to do the most good for the most people, as we tried to improve the human condition in that part of the world.”
“I have continued this orientation even today- what is the best way to solve critical problems in life and take human well-being in better directions, to improve the human condition? What are root issues to problems and solutions to those root issues? What is most ‘efficient’ in this regard? And we all have opinions on this. My view is that Ellens and others are getting to the most critical of issues to the long term improvement of the human condition. How humanity thinks, feels, and what motivates people. Those great narrative issues, those core themes that have inspired humans over history, that have been used to validate human life and society. Correcting the core issues that have promoted violence and hindered human improvement, and finding better alternatives to inspire and validate human life (dealing with the meaning seeking element in humanity).”
“So just to explain why I get excited by the work of someone like Ellens and his approach. Just saying.”
Another… “Primitive payback explanations (this will be added to my comment on Love and Freedom at bottom-this is still rough copy)”
“Primitive and simple-minded payback thinking long ago resulted in ideas of a punishing God. The payback mind thinks that good is rewarded and bad is punished by a God who overpowers, interferes, and controls all things. This has long been fundamental to human understanding of justice. This is how people have long explained the events of life (the human impulse for meaning and purpose demands explanations for all things).”
“Good events occurring were explained in terms of people being rewarded for living good lives, for being obedient to the dictates of the gods. Bad events occurring were explained in terms of people being punished for doing wrong, for disobeying the taboos of the gods.”
“Such payback thinking is a primitive misunderstanding of life and its events. Good and bad happen to all alike. There is freedom and randomness throughout life. A God of love does not overwhelm with coercive force to intervene in life, and to reward or punish people through the events of life. A God of authentic love has given full responsibility to people to do good, and to prevent bad things from happening.”
“Its time for all of us to grow up and quit blaming God for the events of life. We have been put in charge and are fully responsible for good or bad.”
Another…”Note- I am not trying to be harsh on Pallmeyer and the others for their reformism. I applaud them for such effort, in accordance with the audience that they are speaking to. I tend to gravitate more toward secular, atheist, or general non-religious people. And I prize clarity and straightforwardness, frankness in making points. Hence my argument that the scandal of no conditions has no place in a conditional context. That only perpetuates confusion, obfuscation, clouding of the real scandal and wonder of what we are talking about. I will leave the more diplomatic approach to others like the Mennonites and these reformist authors. But yes, more power to them. They are fellow spirits going after history’s greatest monster and together we will all bring this monster down.”
“Lotufo especially does a good job. He goes after the atonement core of Christianity and nails the psychopathic God at the heart of that core Christian belief or Salvationist system. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, getting over fear of Hell was key to her liberation. Even more key to liberation is getting the monster behind such beliefs, getting the threatening, punishing God behind Salvationism and atonement (payback) thinking.”
Another… “Bob, ____, this is an interesting piece and many lines of thought are sparked. Yes, we project our limited understanding and conflicting assumptions out to define greater reality (God). And get ourselves into all sorts of conflicting and confusing dead ends because of that.”
“To paraphrase an insight of Bob’s- we start with the best in humanity and then reason out from that to Ultimate Good. We see the best in humanity- i.e. the long-developing discovery of unconditional treatment of others, especially offenders- and we reason that God is just like this but infinitely more so. We use Jesus’ logic- if you imperfect people can give good gifts, then how much more God is good. Infinitely more Good. So we hold the best of humanity or humaneness- love at its best, and freedom- and make sense of things from these.”
“Hence, my argument- place unconditional love at the foundation and core of your thinking and then reason out to all else, to evaluate all else. You can’t go wrong.”
“What runs through this piece is the fallacy of Biblicism again. And the resulting cognitive dissonance- the felt obligation to harmonize conflicting opposites. Lotufo does some good work on John Stott and J.I. Packer wrestling with this. Packer just does what the author of Job does and backs off to ‘its mystery’ and our sinful, darkened minds cannot resolve it, so just accept it with all the conflicting dissonance that it is.”
“No. We start with the best in humanity (epistles of flesh) and from that reason to the best in God, getting rid of all that is inhumane and conflicts with ultimate goodness.”
“But primitive payback logic reasons differently and inhumanely. And abdicates to claiming ‘unknowable mystery’. And granted there is this element of mystery but the human drive to know and explain needs more satisfying answers. And with the Jesus breakthrough and similar we get more satisfying answers.”
“So don’t accept the basic assumptions of payback (inhuman) logic and remain stuck there. All this holiness projection and obligation to primitive honor, shame, and retaliation/revenge demands that flow from primitive holiness thinking. This is used still in the most backward areas of the planet. And young women are killed because of it (honor killings).”
“It all results in subhuman redemptive reasoning and assumptions- I am holy, pure, and if you offend my laws then I am obligated to punish, to take revenge. This is all a horrific and barbaric distortion of love. Holiness demands saving violence. So Christian love suffers such distortion in that it demands violence to solve its problems, it assumptions. It demands the ‘mystery’ of redemptive thinking and solutions.“
“Ahh, ____, so many things come to mind as I have just read Pallmeyer who deals with this in such detail (Jesus Against Christianity and Is Religion Killing Us) and Lotufo who also exposes the barbarity of this primitive redemption or atonement thinking (Cruel God, Kind God). This demand of holiness to find appeasement in the suffering of an innocent victim. As Lotufo says, this is clearly a psychopathic personality that must be satisfied by the suffering of others, by harming someone. And this perverse and ‘devilish’ personality is at the core of Christian atonement theory.”
“So we start by recognizing what is pathology in all this- the entire mess of atonement and Salvationist thinking- and what is authentically humane (unconditional treatment of all) and then sort out things from these much better starting assumptions or evidence. This alone frees us from the mess of Salvationism that we have inherited.”
“Ah, this piece sparks so much….but ____, do read these authors, along with Harold Ellens’ The Destructive Power of Religion.”
“And I do not affirm the conclusions of these authors to engage the reforming of Christianity. I go for more radical outcomes. The unconditional insight of Jesus gets lost in the conditional context of Christianity and its conditional atonement categories. But that’s just me. Wanting to really slay this monster God of Christianity entirely and really set people free.”
Another… “Redemptive, atonement categories and logic distort the goodness of God, and distort the power of God, with violence. Pallmeyer is good on this in Jesus Against Christianity.”
Another… “A better way to frame all this (the claim that the improvement in various areas of life is due to religious influence) is in terms of the progression of humanity from a barbaric subhuman past to a more humane present. We (humanity) now understand better what is human and what is inhuman. All this talk of biblical authority, reliability, and so on must be subject to this larger context of humanity discovering ever more clearly just what is human. Just as Lotufo and others are presenting- we can no longer accept a personality that takes pleasure in causing others harm or suffering, as humane. It is pathological, psychopathic, sick, and subhuman. And that monster resides at the core of Christian atonement.”
“To try to describe all that horrible mythology in terms of love, grace, mercy or whatever is to distort entirely the meaning of love, mercy, grace. To define it with pathological violence of the worst kind (pleasure, appeasement in the suffering and harm of others).”
“Ah, read Pallmeyer, Lotufo, and Ellens and discovery what we have wrestled with and now understood better. Just what is wrong with all this Salvationism and what is the humane alternative that Jesus discovered and offered to humanity- unconditional treatment of all. Because this is just what God is like. No demand for some condition to be met, some salvation plan, no threat of punishment, no judgment, no apocalypse looming, no hell. Ah, such liberation and love.”
Another… “____, you speak of reality, real truth, and in previous posts of evidence, facts. Good for you. But then continue that honorable concern with truth and reality to all factual evidence, even evidence that counters one’s views of things. That makes one uncomfortable. If there is any more overwhelming array of evidence, of fact and therefore truth and reality, it would be the overwhelming evidence amassed by Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, Matt Ridley, Greg Easterbrook and others on the rising trajectory of life, and civilization toward something ever better. And throw in the overwhelming evidence amassed by James Payne and Stephen Pinker on the decreasing violence across human history as humanity has become ever more empathic and loving and non-violent. Hard factual data that cannot be denied. Only the unthinking embrace of apocalyptic declinism (corrupt humanity destroying the world and all heading for disaster) blinds people from seeing such overwhelming evidence. Myth is myth, and truth is truth, especially when supported by masses of good evidence.”
Another… “Yes, get this clear (life has improved over the long term) and its a huge step forward (progress