Comment in this section: Creating a Safe God- understanding roots causes of violence; Global Religious landscape quote; Further comment on Monsters of the Metaphysical; Linkages; Historical damage from alarmism; More on basic linkages; Brinsmead quote on vertical relating; Some reactions to unconditional; One more on links; The grand trajectory of the cosmos and life toward unconditional.
This humanizing project recognizes a common feature that has contributed to a similar problem in all the great religious traditions- the problem of violence in the name of God. Basic to good problem-solving is to consider all the elements that are involved in causing a problem, and then embrace the best means of solving the problem properly and thoroughly for the long-term future. This is about fully humanizing our validating ideals.
Quote from below: “Note that the suicide bombers are not shouting “Political oppression”, “Economic disparity”, or “Social corruption”. They shout “God is great”. Their motivating ideal is God, a God that affirms violence. See Terror in Mumbai in next section below.
And pay careful attention to the comment on avoiding “us versus them” tribalism over this violence issue. Note the larger Western Christian context of religious violence. It is about a shared inheritance of bad religious ideas and who passed on what to whom. In regard to this, note research on Muhammad’s Jewish Christian mentor, Waraqa, and the scriptures that he used to fill Muhammad’s mind with visions of violence (i.e. the Gospel to the Hebrews, roughly similar to the gospel of Matthew). Islam is just the latest major religion in the Western tradition that embraces violent gods promoting violence to punish and destroy unbelievers, with the inevitable consequence of promoting violence between people. Other sections below treat this in detail.
To the affirmative- despite the all-too-common outcome of violence, many in these religious traditions have learned to moderate their behavior for the better. But the core inciting feature of violent deity still remains embedded at the very foundations of these traditions, in their holy books. The pathology has not yet been properly dealt with and others advocating violence will continue to replace the current terrorist groups that we are repeatedly obligated to defeat.
Creating a Safe God- Understanding the root causes of religious violence and terrorism. Solving Alarmism and related Violence (Note comment in other sections below that an unconditional theology most effectively prevents the pathology of using deity to validate inhumane treatment of others)
Keep in mind this basic relationship when confronting the problem of alarmism and related violence- Psychology reminds us that fear is often behind rage, hate, and aggression (i.e. fear of threat to one’s safety or survival, the sense of victimhood). Note, for a graphic example, the hyena trapped by the lion, baring its teeth, wailing desperately, and prepared to furiously bite and claw as it goes down. So also (I have no smooth and easy segue here) people in religious and other systems of belief will sometimes engage violent defensive action against perceived threats to their belief system. Those systems provide people with their core identity and challenges to that identity are then felt as challenges to one’s very survival and existence (attacks on one’s self), hence the violent defensive responses.
Over human history the theology of Ultimate Threat has been at the very heart of the problem of alarmism and violence. Note the long history of violence in all the major religious traditions that hold views of angry, violent deity.
Consider also this point- deity has always been humanity’s highest ideal and authority.
The problem with religious gods is that they have embodied, not just the best features of humanity, but also the very worst pathologies, the worst of features/ideas that are known to arouse alarm and incite or validate violence. I refer to features like divine anger at human imperfection, divine vengeance or payback justice, divine rejection and exclusion of significant sections of the human family (oppositional dualism- believers versus unbelievers), and ultimate destruction of differing others. This pathology in deity has brought endless misery into human thought and life. And again, this is balanced with the recognition that other humane features have also been projected onto the gods. But the better ideals have often been distorted, weakened, and even buried by the nastier features of the gods (Thomas Jefferson’s “diamonds buried in a dunghill” metaphor).
To solve problems like violence for the long term we must engage this foundational issue of theology and its inciting and validating role in religious violence. And we need to engage the project to fully humanize our gods in order to properly defuse that harmful validation.
Deity is not going away as many atheists might wish. Despite the wider secularization of human thought following the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, recent surveys show some 85% of humanity still consider themselves as religious in some manner. And many in the remaining 15% of humanity that is classified as “unaffiliated” also hold beliefs in non-religious versions of God, or Gaia, Karma, angry planet, or some other variant of “secularized” ultimate reality. God is still humanity’s highest ideal and authority. (See survey of humanity’s religious beliefs just below)
In light of these facts, we need to confront this issue of theology and any pathology related to it.
The good news- we have discovered the potent means to counter the inherited pathology in deity. One critical element is to radically redefine God with the ideal of “absolutely no conditions love”, just as Historical Jesus tried to do before Christianity rejected his breakthrough insight on unconditional deity (see other sections below). Absolutely no conditions love makes God safe. It fully humanizes God. You cannot dehumanize another person if you are inspired and guided by the ideal of unconditional love. You cannot abuse another person if you treat them with unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity. Add here the feature of non-domination of others. Treating all with respect as equals.
Bob Brinsmead offers another potent counter to the pathology in religious versions of deity. He argues that we should relocate or re-orient theology to a focus on humanity. Brinsmead says that it is a wild goose chase to try to know and serve God as most religion teaches. To “have a relationship with God”. That religious focus on a God outside of and above humanity orients people to something invisible and unknowable, something out there in the sky or cosmos. It draws human attention and concern away from the here and now of daily life, toward appeasing and pleasing something abstract, something separate from humanity. That has too often led to neglect and abuse of real people in the here and now.
This insight comes from Brinsmead’s previous argument that loyalty to something above people- i.e. to law, scripture, religion, or God- is to put something before people and that has always led to neglect and abuse of people. Religious history illustrates this practice of religious people putting God above or before their fellow human beings and their needs. Note, for example, the ancient Jewish tendency to neglect sick or hurt people because such activity was prohibited on the Sabbath day of rest. They gave priority to being “faithful” to the law or word of God. When you try to love and serve something before humanity, you then inevitably neglect or harm real people.
So Brinsmead urges that we should understand that God has incarnated and disappeared into humanity. Consequently, humanity alone is where we know and serve God, by loving and serving real people. This is a significant re-orientation of theology away from the heavens and toward improving life for real people here and now. Paraphrasing a biblical comment, if you feed, clothe and heal the least of people you are doing that to God. So any knowing and serving of God is best accomplished by knowing and serving the needs of real people. This is about the conflation of the old command- “Love God and love your neighbor” into just one new command- “Love one another”. Focus your “spirituality” on real people, not on sitting around trying to imagine and relate to something invisible and unknowable.
Further on this point that God is known only in humanity, Brinsmead states the religious insight that humanity is the supreme image of God in this world. I would add the refinement that God is specifically known in what is humane about humanity, in the best of human goodness. Brinsmead also affirms that all we can know about God derives from the good that we see in people. We see love and generosity in real people and we then understand that is evidence of ultimate Good, of God. So any good theology should originate with and be located in the best that we find in humanity. It should be based on the most humane features that we see in people- unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional generosity. Add here the treating of all as equals, without domination and control. Respecting the freedom of all.
Brinsmead further adds that knowing and worshipping a God separate from and above humanity is simply not possible. That God is beyond comprehension or understanding. The result of such a focus is that we end up worshipping our own ideas about that God and those ideas have too often been inhumane. Brinsmead says, “This is why the God of religion with all its doctrines of God had to disappear from my radar some years ago. This is to recognize that if God has ever given us an image of what God is like, that image comes to us only in human form. The only way to know, serve and love God is to know, serve and love our neighbour, which Jesus says must include even those who are against us, our ‘enemies’ .”
Our focus in life should remain solidly oriented to humanity and to improving the human situation in this world. The orientation and concerns of much religious tradition only distract from a healthy here and now focus. So Brinsmead is arguing for a fundamental re-orientation of theology, that we should abandon the idea of some God above in the heavens and recognize that the best of humanity is our finest evidence of what God is like- inclusive, forgiving, generous, and non-dominating.
See more detail in “Some theological musing” below in Section One.
Survey of the religious population of humanity- from http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/
The Global Religious Landscape
“Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
“The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.
“At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.” (End of Pew quote)
As the above quote shows, theology- the human awareness of God or the spiritual realm- is here to stay. And this site engages theology because of its prominent historical role influencing human behavior for good and evil, far too often for evil.
Deity has always embodied humanity’s highest ideals and authority. My argument, therefore, is that we need to humanize theology, make it fully humane. We need to create a safe God that can no longer be used to validate inhumanity or violence toward others.
Further comment on Monsters of the Metaphysical- Creating a Safe God, a God that cannot be used to incite, inspire, guide, or validate anything inhuman
I have noted elsewhere on this site, that there is a complex of elements necessary to engage in order to solve terrorist violence- political, economic, social, and personal elements. But in most episodes of contemporary religious violence there is another key element to engage and that is theology- i.e. people appealing to violent deity to validate their violence toward others. This element is especially critical to long-term solutions to religious violence.
Note that suicide bombers do not shout “Political oppression”, “Economic disparity”, or “Social corruption”. They shout “God is great”. Their motivating ideal is God, a God that advocates violence. See Terror in Mumbai below.
On this site I have argued that the greatest monsters ever are the monsters of the metaphysical. Religious gods exhibiting pathological features like violence. Notable in this regard is the Christian God and the historical evidence that this God has significantly influenced Islam. Again, see comment below on Muhammad’s Jewish Christian mentor Waraqa and the gospel that Waraqa used to shape Muhammad’s thinking. In light of this evidence, one could argue that the real Master Terrorist behind today’s religious violence is the Western religious belief that God uses violence to punish and destroy his enemies, all those outside the “true religion”.
Consider also- when police capture a potential terrorist (Ibrahim Boudina, 2014, inside Greece) and find in his backpack a manual titled “How to make Artisanal Bombs in the name of Allah”, then you have to take seriously the role that deity plays as the real Master Terrorist, as the supreme inciting, inspiring, motivating, guiding, and validating Ideal or Authority.
I am offering a potent alternative to all this religious violence- a long neglected alternative- that redefines God as non-violent, non-retaliatory, and non-threatening. It is the very alternative view of deity that was offered by the Historical Jesus but was then rejected by Paul when he created the Christian religion and returned to views of a violent and retaliating God.
The discovery of Jesus was that God was absolutely no conditions love. That was an entirely new way of viewing deity. That discovery has long been buried in the Christian religion. See “Christian Contradiction” below in next section.
I am also thinking long-term future. My potent alternative involves engaging the project to radically change the validating models for human behavior. The history of mythology shows that people have always appealed to gods as ultimate ideals and authorities to validate how they behave. Deity has long been one of the main elements in validating violence toward others. I am trying to eliminate such validating excuses for subhuman behavior by taking the inhumane features out of God and re-enforcing absolutely no conditions love as the defining feature of God.
This will mean (the long term future again) that if someone chooses to engage vengeance, punishing violence, tribal exclusion (us versus them dualism), or violent destruction, they must not be enabled to appeal to like-minded gods anymore. If someone chooses to engage any form of subhuman behavior then they will have to recognize that they are acting contrary to the very character and nature of God, their Creator. They will have to realize that they are violating the very reason for which they were created, which is to learn and exhibit unconditional love (i.e. to be like God, to be “the children of God”, according to Historical Jesus).
They will also have to embrace the fact that they are violating their own true nature as unconditional love. See other comment in other sections below on the corollary discovery to an unconditional core reality- that the essence of the authentic human self is this very same no conditions love.
By fully humanizing our ultimate ideal and authority- God- we can help eliminate the pathology of people appealing to inhumane conceptions of deity as validation for inhumane behavior.
The practice of appealing to deity to justify inhuman behavior has been engaged over the entire history of humanity and the outcome has been never-ending rivers of blood. Enough is enough. Inhumane gods have too long been employed to affirm the inhumane treatment of others.
It is time we thoroughly cleaned up religious gods, removing all subhuman features, everything and anything that validates inhumanity. Cautious religious reform efforts that play around the edges but ignore the foundational bad ideas in deity are not going to properly solve the problem for the long-term future. You can destroy movements like ISIS but new groups will continue to find inspiration and motivation in those core bad ideas.
And apply this broadly- it does not matter whether people consider themselves religious or secular. We need to challenge and purge all excuse for bad behavior, all those inhumane ideas/ideals that people use to validate subhuman behavior in any system of thought or belief. And we need to provide new alternative inspiring ideals, none more important than unconditional that points us toward the authentically human.
We can take from this foundational ideal of absolutely no conditions love that we have been created for one supreme reason- to love unconditionally. This is the point of the cosmos, of life, and of our personal stories. What a waste of human life to miss this fundamental reason for our existence. The sense of wasted human potential needs to permeate public consciousness as an inhibiting factor against inhuman behavior.
An important feature on this site is the effort to draw links between things in order to better understand and solve problems like religious violence, a persistent problem today. I recognize the complexity and the diverse elements that we must engage to find solutions (i.e. political, economic, social, personal). And I also see the tendency to neglect this feature of core religious beliefs when considering violence and its solutions. Is this aversion to confront core religious belief due to fear of challenging the sacred and the severe prohibitions and backlash that might follow such challenge?
Note: there is some public media talk about the “supporting environment” for terrorism. The supporting environment is more than just the sub-population of Islam that affirms violent religious jihad, apparently only some 15% of the total Muslim population. That supporting environment also includes features such as the basic religious texts and core religious themes of Islam. But whenever we discuss Islamic violence we should try to avoid any “us versus them” focus, and the charge of Islamophobia- the broad-brush condemnation of all Muslims with the violence of the few.
We do this by moving the boundaries of the supporting environment back further to include the larger Western religious context with its core myth of violent deity. That ideal of violent deity originated with ancient Sumerian mythology and then descended down through Zoroastrianism, to Judaism, then into Christianity, where it then shaped the core beliefs of Islam. See detail below on Waraqa, the Jewish Christian mentor of Muhammad. Waraqa drew on his translation of the Gospel to the Hebrews (a gospel roughly comparable to Matthew’s gospel) to fill Muhammad’s head with visions of a violent deity affirming destruction of unbelievers.
Christianity needs to take full responsibility for its influence on Islam, for providing a key element to the supporting environment for violence. Muhammad affirms that influence in the Quran, his embrace of what he calls “the previous gospels”.
All these religious traditions share a common core pathology- the idea of an angry, violent God that punishes human imperfection with violent destruction. You will never solve violence for the long term until you confront and radically humanize this key element.
The linkages are clear down through history. Therefore, we do not single out Islam because of the violence erupting in that religion at this point in history. We must keep in view the full context and understand what needs to be changed at the very foundations of all these religious traditions.
Larger Context- The historical damage from alarmism
This site treats “bad religious ideas” seriously because of the historical damage they have caused by alarming people and inciting “defensive” aggression toward others. There are several facets to this problem. Scholars note that contemporary religious violence by groups like ISIS is very much motivated by an alarm and aggression-inciting apocalyptic mythology. See, for instance, David Cook’s “Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature”. It gets as specific as Quranic verses stating that a threatening deity will punish those who do not partake in jihad and destroy their enemies.
So also Christian scripture advocates support for punitive action against heretics, and that has inspired the subsequent history of violent Christian persecution of heretics and unbelievers. For an example, Google “John Calvin on punishing heretics” and check some of the sites that come up, such as this one http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2016/02/john-calvin-capital-punishment-for-heretics-anabaptists-etc.html
This will help to understand the history of Christian violence in the name of God and Christ.
The damage from alarmist mythology is also evident in movements like environmental alarmism. Note, for example, Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism that led directly to the ban on DDT, once an effective response to the malaria problem. Someone pointed out that in the two plus decades following that ban, some 50 million people, mostly children, died unnecessarily (roughly 2 million a year). The damage from environmental alarmism continues in blocked economic development and growth due to alarmist exaggeration of environmental problems and subsequent regulation. And again, there appears to be a religious element even in environmental alarmism. One reviewer of Silent Spring noted that Carson used an apocalyptic narrative to frame her chemical alarmism.
More on Basic linkages to understanding violence, notably religious violence
A simplification to clarify some critical links.
Human violence originates ultimately from our core inherited animal brain. Some of the more base animal impulses from that brain include small band orientation (tribal thinking, tribal favoritism), excluding and opposing outsiders, and dominating or destroying competitors.
Consciousness emerged in early humanity and sparked the search for meaning. In that search, one original mistake of the ancients was to conclude that the gods were violent. They assumed that the imperfection in life- i.e. natural disaster, disease, the cruelty of others- was punishment from angry gods. The gods then became threatening monsters that would send sickness, disaster, and death as punishment for human “sin” or error. Those punishing gods incited the sense of threat and that would prompt the felt need for some Salvationist response, or to act with “defensive” aggression toward others, toward enemies.
Other base animal-like features were also projected onto those earliest gods- features like kingship with its domination/subservience relating, and views of deity as judging authority and therefore condemning and punishing people.
Thus, early people projected some of their worst features onto their gods. Those highest of human ideals and authorities were then used, in turn, to validate the worst of human behavior. The sacred was used to validate the animal (the expression of animal-like behavior).
Confusion arises here because human features were also projected onto the gods. Contributing to the confusion was the felt obligation of religious believers to merge the human features with the inhuman features, to preserve the harsher features along with the nicer features, in some kind of harmonization of good with bad. The result is what psychologists call cognitive dissonance- the holding of contradicting opposites in one’s mind. Why do people do this? Because of religious “Biblicism”- the belief that religious scriptures are holy books from God, “inspired” words sent from God, and believers must therefore embrace all things in such books as divine truth, holding the bad with the good in some merger.
The outcome of maintaining very animal-like features in our highest ideals and authorities has been the history of religious violence, with people using God to incite, inspire, guide, and validate their worst actions. Using what should express the highest Good, to validate some of the worst of human behavior.
The corrections project- the answer to the less-than-human gods that we have inherited is to embrace the project to fully humanize deity, to purge our gods of all inhumane features, all that is subhuman. This humanization project has penetrated most other areas of life. The sacred must not be exempted from this basic project of discerning and separating bad from good.
Yes, solving violence involves engaging a complex of factors- political, economic, social, and personal. But critical for long-term and thorough solutions is to purge our belief systems of “bad religious ideas” (Sam Harris’ term), none more important than those pathological features in deity.
This site offers “absolutely no conditions love” as the highest definition of ultimate Good, of authentic love, of what it means to be truly humane. It therefore ought to be our most fundamental definition of deity.
Comment from Bob Brinsmead on vertical and horizontal relating…
“Just a further point on why the historical Jesus was against the Messiah concept. It went deeper than a rejection of violence. It was a rejection of the hierarchical or vertical order of human relationships. When we stop to think about it, every creature in the natural animal order functions through a pecking order of vertical relationships with the strong dominating, destroying, or even eating those lower down the order. It works the same whether it be dogs, horses, cows or chickens. The group always structures itself with a pecking order.
“I noticed this when I was a child. Every cow in our herd had a place in the pecking order of the herd that was never contested, except when we brought a new cow into the heard. This started many head to head contests until the new cow found its place in the pecking order. If we got a new horse, you could hear them fighting all night until an adjusted pecking order was established. I was the youngest of a large young family that had a dog who responded to our call. But if there was a contest to call the dog, the dog instinctively obeyed whoever was more senior in rank. If we younger kids were playing with the dog, no matter how much fun it was for the dog (hide and seek, ball playing, and all that), if my father called out or whistled for the dog, he would leave us like a shot and go to our father. There is always a pecking order in a pack of dogs.
“But human relationships ( you shall love your neighbour as yourself) call for a horizontal order, and if this human order of mutual love prevails, it makes no distinction with age, wealth, education, race, religion or anything else. Love functions on a horizontal order of mutual acceptance and respect despite any diversity/differences.
“From ancient times, society tended to create kings or some form of supreme leader at the top of what Disraeli called “the greasy pole.” In Egypt and many other cultures, the monarch was regarded as some kind of incarnation, or as the Hindus would say, an avatar of God. We see this exhibited in that remnant of Alexander’s empire, the Grecian Seleucid kingdom, what Daniel 11 calls “the king of the north”, based in Syria. There were four notable kings in that line: One was called Antiochus Magnus, another Antiochus Theos, and another Antochus Soter. And as though those titles meaning Great, God, Saviour were not enough, the most vile Ruler of them all called himself Antiochus Ephiphanes – meaning that he was the very epiphany of the Divine Person, a kind of Greek incarnation like the Christian incarnation of God in Jesus.
“But when we look at the Sermon on the Mount we see that Jesus rejected all this exclusivity of imputing the role of avatar to one supreme person who was at the top of some giant Amway pyramid. He simply said, “You (plural) are the light of the world” and went on to show how all of us are equally called to be the incarnation or the avatar of God who is Unconditional Love.
“So according to Jesus there can be no pecking order, no hierarchy, no pyramid of importance, much less domination and destruction of lesser mortals, in the kingdom of God. “Call no man your father…. All of you are brethren” with no superior or inferiors, etc. This is a human order of mutually relating on a horizontal level, not loving down to someone (that’s patronizing) and not loving up to someone( idolatrous deference), which makes love impossible. No one is to be looked up to, and much less can claim to be uniquely or exclusively the avatar of God. Ghandi was right when he said, “I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus.” And listen to this, “I should not care if it was proved by someone that the man called Jesus never lived, and that what was narrated in the Gospels was a figment of the writer’s imagination [ some of it surely was]. For the Sermon on the Mount would still be true to me.” Gandhi was an avatar of God, that’s for sure! But a flawed avatar in this flawed created order.
“Gandhi got what Christianity did not get, namely, that what is of supreme importance is what is said, not who is supposed to have said it. But in Christian history, the Who was turned into the great Icon that effectively buried the What.
“Forget about the question of Who said it? Pay attention to What is said.” (End of Brinsmead quote)
Some Reactions to the unconditional treatment of all
People react with the complaint that it is unreasonable to advocate for the unconditional treatment of all people in a world of psychopathic terrorism that repeatedly blows up life, traumatizing us all with “rivers of blood”. In the face of such violence, the forgiveness expressed, for example, by the Charleston church-goers seems to be quaintly out-of-touch with reality, a past-era of impractical pacifism and Kumbayah campfire circles with too much youthful “peace and love” idealism.
I would counter- no. Such expressions of unconditional forgiveness and love are the far-sighted hope for a better world that we all want, a world free of hate and endless vengeance, free of the endless cycles of payback violence that have shaped far too much human interaction over history. Forgiveness, and the affirmation of unconditional love, is the truly human longing to be done with all that horror once and forever. At an intuitive gut level most of us get it that some form of unconditional treatment of offenders expresses the deepest longings of the human spirit.
And a critical qualifier must always be included in any advocacy for this idealism- that unconditional love for all includes the responsibility to restrain violence, while at the same time struggling to find a better way forward. Love is never the abandonment of responsibility and strength in the face of evil.
Again, this is about our struggle with the highest human ideals in the messy reality of imperfect life. What does it mean to be authentically human in this world?
Naturally, ongoing suffering sparks our most profound questions- Why a God of love permits such suffering. Why do good people suffer evil? How do we feel and act as human in the face of inhumanity?
In the confusion that such struggle brings, do not ignore the fact that unconditional is in fact a highly practical solution to ending violence. Remember the recent example of Nelson Mandela and how he avoided civil war in South Africa by treating his enemies with his own unique approach to unconditional forgiveness and love. He thereby short-circuited the widespread demand for violent vengeance that would have produced civil war, which is what happened in Rwanda and Serbia around the same time.
One More on the links
Some clear linkages are followed on this site regarding issues like violence and the ideas that validate violence, namely religious ideas. It begins with acknowledging the presence of our animal inheritance, a core brain that emotes base drives from our animal past- notably, small band or tribal orientation (band members against outsiders), predation by bands, and the opposing threat of other predators, alpha domination, and the destruction of the threat or enemy.
Fear is natural to this inheritance and fear often serves a useful life-preserving function. But with the emergence of consciousness and the thoughtful human search for meaning and purpose, a burden of psychic fear was added to natural fear. Early humans made the mistake of believing that the imperfection of life was punishment from angry gods, from Super Predators in the sky. That added a metaphysical source of threat that has caused excessive unnecessary fear and alarm over history.
That ultimate mythical Threat sparked the development of the salvation industry and the endless search for some salvation scheme, something to protect people from the gods or to find deliverance from that fear. Salvationism has led to incalculable waste and even violence across history.
Fear also generates aggression toward others. People feeling threatened will often engage in aggressive “defense” against the felt threat – against threatening “enemies”. So while some fear is normal and even healthy, other forms of fear produce exaggerated and distorted views of threat, such as in apocalyptic thinking. The outcomes of exaggerated fear have always been harmful to both people and the environment.
Unnecessary fear, wasteful Salvationism, and defensive aggression has continued into modern secular movements such as environmental alarmism or Green religion.
The grand progress of the cosmos and life toward unconditional
The ultimate liberation of human consciousness. Filling in the grand narrative background of this site.
This site argues that absolutely no conditions love is the core of reality and life. That was the main insight and theme of the Historical Jesus, “his greatest contribution to the history of ideas”, to borrow James Robinson’s phrase (but reframing its meaning). Unconditional is a discovery that was buried by Christianity and its atonement condition.
Unconditional love is also the very core of human consciousness, the essence of the authentic human person. On this point I am coming, for instance, from the direction of Jeffrey Schwartz’s ‘You are Not Your Brain’ (i.e. his note about us having a higher, better self- the human person- that is different from our inherited animal brain).
The core reality that is Unconditional Love, the Source of all, emerges in early humanity. It is incarnated in all humanity as human consciousness, or more specifically as consciousness of the humane. Human consciousness comes with this fundamental impulse for something more humane. And this foundational impulse drives most human desire and endeavor.
(Note: The ancient Greeks refer to this impulse as “the soul’s desire for perfection”. I often refer to it more generally as the common human impulse for “something better”.)
So in response to the great question of meaning- What is human life all about?- I would offer that unconditional love gives us the best clue. I would suggest then that you make unconditional your baseline for understanding all the rest of reality and life- the overall story of the cosmos and life, its meaning and purpose.
To summarize this point- what is most humane, is most true and most real.
The grand progress of the cosmos and life toward something better cannot be solely or properly understood in terms of the material development of reality and life- i.e. natural law explanations. The human or humane element is lacking in materialist explanation of these things. Materialist explanations are therefore limited and not fully helpful for answering ultimate questions. Though, to be clear, natural law or material explanations are useful for the scientific endeavor and its limited scope of explanation. There is no need to bring meaning and purpose issues into that limited endeavor.
But something more fundamental is driving all progress, including material progress. I am referring to the purposeful overall movement of everything toward something more humane. This includes the overall movement of the cosmos and world toward a material environment suitable for conscious life and conscious humanity then developing a more humane existence in civilization. So I would suggest that the great story of the cosmos and life is better understood in terms of this grand movement toward something more humane.
Lets trace this out more: It affirms my proposal that unconditional love, as the ultimate expression of the humane, is key to the ultimate understanding reality and life- the reason or purpose for it all.
I see the progress toward something more humane in the multi-billion year process of producing carbon in the death and rebirth cycles of stars. This fundamental process “was created” to provide the carbon basis for life. So also the trend of the growing organization and complexity of biological life reaches its height in the most complex thing in the cosmos, the human brain. This complex organ alone is suitable to mediate or transmit the wonder of all wonders, human consciousness with its core impulse for something better, for something more humane.
You also see the expression of the core unconditional reality in the story of humanity across history. Emerging consciousness sparked the impulse in early people for a more humane existence. They were emerging from the brutality of animal existence and their new consciousness prompted them to become increasingly repulsed by animal-like violence and to abandon that brutality for something better, to make an exodus out of animal existence and toward the promised land of a more humane existence. We see this pursuit of something better, something more humane, in one of the primary indicators- the ongoing decrease of violence over history. This is our ongoing rejection of previous animal-like existence for something better, something more human.
People have endlessly followed this fundamental impulse for something better. They have framed it in the great question- what does it mean to be human, or humane? Or even more simply- what is the difference between good and bad?
The fundamental human impulse for the better thing breaks forth in immeasurably diverse ways. It has often been perverted in such things as utopian visions for an immediately-installed perfect life, where coercive violence is employed to try to gain the imagined utopia. You even see this impulse in the distorted hope of apocalyptic- in the longing for a great end-time purging of evil and imperfection, in order that some lost paradise can be restored.
The fundamental impulse for the better, for the more humane, is expressed in the diverse projects to improve the human condition. It is evident in the many endeavors to improve human health, to end infant mortality, and to increase the human lifespan. It is expressed in the improvement of the human food supply, the improvement of housing, transportation and communication, and in the development of more inclusive and all-encompassing rights for everyone.
Unfortunately, this grand humanizing project- creating something better, or more humane- has often been stalled in religious traditions.
Again, I would urge that you make unconditional your baseline for evaluating everything in life, especially religious belief systems. The unconditional treatment of all is our supreme understanding of authentic humanity, it is our highest insight into the great ideal of love, what love actually means. And we naturally extend this understanding of ultimate goodness out to define deity, the creating Source of all. And that is how unconditional gets us to the ultimate understanding of core reality and the meaning and purpose of life.
Hence, my suggestion that what is most humane, is also most true and most real. Unconditional gets us to the ultimate truth and reality of all things.
This embrace of unconditional as a baseline is about the most profound liberation of consciousness at the deepest levels of awareness, perception, knowing, and feeling.
If the core of all is unconditional love, and that is also our core, then we are all ultimately safe, and all ultimately good. We are surrounded and interpenetrated by unconditional Love, and we are that same love at our very core. It is our authentic human self.
So unconditional love at the core of all, explains why human consciousness emerged and sparked the grand human endeavor to find a better world, a more humane world, a more loving world. We see that great humanizing endeavor in all that people do to make life better.
Unconditional defines human meaning and purpose as nothing else can. It defines the cosmos and life better than anything else that we have discovered. To paraphrase someone- all comes from unconditional love, all exists in unconditional love, and all returns to unconditional love.