New Comment topics:
Alarmism: a curse on the human spirit (the deeply rooted mythology behind alarmism); Thoughts on the anti-human element in environmental alarmism; Climate alarmism as social control; Declinism Defined- the dominant worldview today.
Michael Grosso on the human fear of death (materialism misses the point); Clear away the garbage (Leo Tolstoy- Christianity buries the great discovery of Jesus); Religion and God- the pairing of entire opposites; Love your enemy- the “hard saying” that points to the greatest discovery ever and to the true nature of love.
Neglected Narrative: What really caused the 2008 financial crisis? Ronald Bailey- Federal regulations have made you 75 percent poorer; Rupert Murdoch links regulations, climate alarmism, to global financial turmoil; Investor’s Business Daily- How Reds became Greens.
Ebionism: the link from Jewish religion to Christianity to Islam; The Center- Joseph Campbell on presence; Change your story- we got the old one all wrong (Threat theology, apocalyptic, a new core ideal).
“Alarmist News Media” (comment on Trump hysteria) is at bottom of this section.
Alarmism- a primitive curse on the human spirit
Across history people have rightly feared changing nature and its more extreme events- droughts, storms and floods, earthquakes, volcanism, and warming or cooling periods (ice ages being the most extreme and damaging of all natural events). But the great error in early human logic was to conclude that changing nature and the extreme events of nature were manifestations of the gods punishing people. How did they come to that conclusion? Ancient people believed that there were metaphysical forces- spirits or gods- behind all the elements of nature and if those elements were destructive then the gods must be angry and were punishing “corrupt, evil” people for doing something wrong. That was the original great fail in early human reasoning.
You see this error in the earliest mythology- the Sumerian Flood myth. Floods destroyed human settlements and life. Consequently, people reasoned that Enlil, the god in charge of storm and rain, was angry and planned to destroy humanity by flood.
I would not be too hard on the ancients as they were in the initial stages of trying to figure out the meaning of reality and life. They were historically young. But there is something seriously wrong (pathological) when moderns continue to think like primitives and continue to push exaggerated and excessive alarmism over nature and its events (i.e. some metaphysical intention behind nature). Its way past time to grow up and act like responsible adults now. See other comment below from Joseph Campbell on the infantile and mature stages of human story.
The belief that the harmful aspects of nature were expressions of divine punishment became deeply lodged in human perception, even in human subconscious. This pathology has never been properly confronted and fully rooted out of human worldviews. Because it remains primarily a mythological or theological issue at root, I will deal with it at that level.
The fear that the gods were using natural disasters to punish people is found all across human thought and writing, throughout our early history of mythology. Note again the Sumerian Flood myth where Enlil wanted to get rid of noisy people. This myth of gods harming people through nature is also found in our later religious traditions- i.e. the biblical myth of an angered God punishing Adam and Eve with the loss of the original paradise because of human “sin” (i.e. the subsequent curse of imperfection all through nature and life). It continues to find new expression in contemporary myths like Gaia taking revenge on greedy, destructive people. This deeply ingrained sense of being punished through nature was voiced powerfully by the Japanese lady after the tsunami in 2011. She asked, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”
It may be one of the most common pathologies in human thought- to view accidents, natural disasters, disease, and changes in nature- as divine punishment for human failure or sin.
Public consciousness continues to be endlessly battered with alarmism over dynamic and changing nature and possible negative impacts. Global warming alarmism, now referred to as “climate change” alarmism, has dominated public awareness over the past few decades. Before this, it was fear of global cooling (1970s). Explanations like the Gaia hypothesis can often be located behind the alarm over changing nature and the potential threat from nature, and that hypothesis again expresses the deeper fear of punishment from greater forces or spirits/gods.
Just an aside: Does this alarm over changing nature also have something to do with the ancient fear of the loss of order and a return to chaos? Many today hold the unscientific view that life should be unchanging. It should remain constant in some form of stasis or equilibrium, in some assumed optimal state. For instance, climate alarmists believe that the optimal state for nature should be at pre-industrial levels of cold and dangerously low levels of CO2. If nature changes from that supposed optimal state then something is going wrong and people are to blame. Life is losing its equilibrium and things are heading for chaotic collapse. This is archaic “return to chaos” mythology all over again.
My repeated argument here is that the foundational pathology behind alarm about changing nature today is the deeper human fear of being punished by greater spirits, through nature. I base my conclusion on the evidence from human understanding all across history. The fear of changing nature, or fear of the extreme events of nature as divine punishment is still present today in the myth of the revenge of Gaia or angry planet. Fear of greater harmful forces or spirits is a deeply rooted, primal, and even subconscious belief.
As noted above, because fear of punishing gods began long ago as a theological problem I am dealing with it at the level of mythology/theology. To properly resolve this fear, I am going to the foundational level of causal factors in order to fully solve pathologies there for the long term future.
I have brought in Michael Grosso’s comments below to show another element at the root of alarmism in relation to the metaphysical. Grosso says that the human fear of death is actually “fear of harm after death”. Anthropological evidence supports his argument. He affirms my point that people most fundamentally fear greater spirits that might harm us (i.e. threat theology), whether in this life through nature or after death.
The fear of harm from spirits is arguably one of the oldest themes in human consciousness. It has shaped all historical mythology and religion (i.e. angry, punishing God), and it continues to shape contemporary ideology (again- revenge of Gaia, angry planet, karma).
I have responded to this theologically-rooted fear with the most potent discovery ever (a theological response) that exposes and counters threat mythology as entirely wrong. There is nothing behind reality or life to harm us. There is only Love at the core of reality. Non-violent, non-judging, non-punitive, non-excluding, and non-destroying love. Our greatest fear began as an ancient theological error and this fear must be solved at the same level of theology or mythology, with a potent theological response.
Note: Along with mythical and religious insights, we also respond to alarmism over changing nature at the level of natural evidence. In this regard, I have sometimes referred to the great trajectories of reality as good evidence for hope, as the best evidence for our future. They- the cosmos, life, civilization- all show improvement over the long term, not decline from something previously better and toward something worse. They show, instead, movement from something not as good, and toward something better.
Human mythology and religion has got these trajectories all wrong, notably the trajectory of life, in the myth that life moves from something originally better- from an original paradise- and now declines toward something worse. Life degenerates toward some disastrous ending. All other bad religious ideas stem from this error- i.e. the myths of original paradise, corrupt people ruining the original paradise, life now declining toward some apocalyptic ending, and the need to purge the world of corrupting humanity so that the lost paradise can be restored (i.e. millennialism, utopianism).
The great trends of life all show the opposite to be true- that there is no overall decline of life but rather, improvement of life over the long term. This was Julian Simon’s point- unless evidence shows something to the contrary, we can take past long term trajectories as the best evidence for the future direction of life.
Note also that you get endless variations (change) in any long term trend. Central to life and nature is the fact of “imperfection”. Nature is defined by constant variation, change, often extreme and sudden change. Nature is full of disasters, setbacks, downturns, and accidents. Despite this imperfection, the overall trends are toward improvement.
Look at any overall long term trend to properly understand the general trajectory of improvement in life and nature (the true state of something). The mythology of decline toward catastrophe misses this larger picture of the overall long term trends. Actual evidence consistently affirms that the true story of life is entirely opposite to the apocalyptic myth that all is in decline.
Michael Hart, in Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change, notes the environmental alarmist narrative that change in nature presents some kind of dangerous threat. He says that non-scientists concluded that the earth system was extremely fragile, “balanced on a knife edge between too warm or too cold”. Climate alarmists claimed that climate was generally stable and stayed within a very narrow band that made the planet liveable. “Any deviation from that balance spelled imminent disaster requiring immediate efforts to mitigate the danger” (p.124-5). This narrative was a surprise to many earth scientists “whose fundamental frame of reference had always been that of a planet in a constant state of flux”. He goes on to note that humanity evolved over the past one million years in climates that were both hotter and colder than today’s. But climate alarmists know that their narrative of looming apocalyptic disaster gets public attention and money. So they continue to push the unscientific narrative that life is fragile and in imminent danger of collapse, and that humans are responsible for disturbing nature from its presumed stasis in some optimal pre-industrial state.
Thoughts on the anti-human element in environmental alarmism
Environmental alarmism has become one of the most destructive movements on the planet today. A friend argues that it poses a far greater threat than religious terrorism. It has hindered and slowed human progress with excessive regulation designed to prevent often non-existent or exaggerated threats. See the article below on regulation, much of it environmental regulation (“Federal regulations have made you 75% poorer”).
Alarmists persistently exaggerate problems and distort our understanding of the true state of things. There are real problems all through life but exaggeration does not help us to understand the actual nature or extent of problems and what might be the appropriate measures to solve them. Further, policy responses based on unscientific exaggeration and distortion inevitably harm people and nature. Note Rachel Carson’s exaggeration of chemical threats and the consequent ban on DDT (tens of millions then died unnecessarily). Or the bio-fuels fiasco (a response to alarmism over fossil fuels) that harmed the poorest people and resulted in more rainforest being cut for palm oil plantations. Reacting to alarmist distortion with fear-based policy responses does not promote good outcomes.
Careful distinctions are also important when dealing with environmental issues. All people are pro-environment. The Ecological Kuznets Curve, or Environmental Transition research, affirms this (see Indur Goklany articles). After basic human needs are met, most people instinctively turn to protecting their environment. We are all true environmentalists, but not all alarmist distorters that deny good evidence on the true state of the world.
Contemporary environmental alarmism has become fiercely anti-science, intensely ideological/political and oriented to the primitive mythology of apocalyptic. Climate alarmism, in particular, has abandoned the basic science of CO2. It has become a religious-like and dogmatic movement obsessed with persecuting heretics/skeptics just as the Medieval church intimidated Copernicus and Galileo with threat. “They do not believe in climate change” has become the alarmist mantra. Skeptics are “deniers” (unbelievers). That has always been a fraudulent and misleading charge. Skeptical scientists have never questioned climate change. The real issue has always been the observed causes of climate change- are they natural or human-influenced, and to what extent. Michael Hart states regarding one of the IPCC reports (and this is still true today), “The report’s bottom line was that James Hansen’s 1988 assertion that the human signal had been detected was premature and had yet to be demonstrated” (p.176, Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change).
Central to environmental philosophy or ideology is the anti-human element. Environmentalism embraces the primitive belief that people are essentially sinful, corrupt, and destructive. Consequently, human life and society is essentially destructive. The companion idea here is the myth of the noble savage- that people in early tribal society (hunter gatherer) were more pure and lived in harmony with wilderness nature. But then humanity created agrarian and subsequent state society, or human civilization, and this has been a destructive trend, further corrupting humanity and destroying an originally pristine wilderness world.
The primitive mythology of fallen and destructive humanity was transformed into ideology for the modern world during the 19th Century in the ideology of Declinism or Cultural Pessimism. There alarmists modified and intensified their anti-humanism in the belief that humanity, and specifically human industrial technological society, was the great destructive force on Earth (i.e. capitalism). They believed that a wilderness world was the original paradise that must be maintained or recovered, the lost golden age that must be restored. Wilderness was the optimal state for the planet, the only natural and pure state for the Earth, and that life has been in decline toward disaster with the development and growth of human civilization that changes parts of nature and uses natural resources.
Modern environmentalists embraced this primitive mythology, and its secularized version- the more recent ideology of Declinism. And then in concert with disillusioned Reds, they discovered a powerful new way to oppose and stop humanity and human industrial civilization, the great destroyer of paradise nature. They could do it with a “war on carbon” as in the fight against CO2 and the climate change alarm. Fossil fuels are the driving energy of industrial society and its progress and success. By demonizing the very energy that powers all civilization and progress, the alarmists could vent their anti-humanism and stop human civilization most effectively.
This anti-carbon ideology is entirely against basic science. It is a war on life itself. CO2 is the food of all life. With the slight rise in CO2 since 1980 the Earth has become 14% greener. The planet is healthier with 14% more plant productivity. But we are still in a suboptimal state with CO2 at historically low levels that stress plant life. And average surface temperatures are still at subnormal, suboptimal levels compared to most of past history on the planet. For 75% of its history, Earth has been ice-free at the poles. But the recent trend to rising CO2 and rising temperatures is promising of a return to a healthier planet and the flourishing of life once again. See Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth for paleo-climate detail.
Contrary to the alarmist narrative, our economic growth and development- our human society- is saving life on Earth, enabling us to protect species, to protect forests, ocean fisheries, and soils. The actual observed evidence reveals an entirely opposite narrative to the alarmist mythology. Humanity and human civilization is the best thing that has happened to Earth and will continue to “save the world”.
Climate alarmism as social control
Climate alarmism has never been about the physical climate system alone. There are other mixed drivers behind this alarmist cult. One very evident theme is the ancient myth of corrupt, greedy, rapacious humanity as the destroyer of paradise. The “Adam ruining Eden” myth. And because alarmists believe that people are essentially corrupt and destructive, then people must be restrained and controlled for their own good. Controlled by “enlightened elites” who know what is best for all the rest and will coerce others into submission to the elite vision of utopia. This is why central planning and control via the UN and its agencies has been promoted as critical to solving the “climate crisis”.
Michael Hart offers some insightful comment on the Progressive ideology that drives climate alarmism. It’s just a newer rehash of the same old centralized control tendencies of past Socialism. Quoting George Will, “climate alarmism (and other alarms) validates the progressive impulse to micromanage other’s lives- their light bulbs, showerheads, toilets, appliances, and automobiles, etc.” (p.26).
Hart notes that climate activists ignore scientific evidence to pursue an “ever-increasing regulatory state”. Alarmists have learned that frightening people with apocalyptic scenarios loosens public purse strings. And they have created an unscientific myth of a fragile planet under assault from humanity and its industrial civilization and in danger of imminent collapse. Their salvation plan? “Bigger governments, more central planning, further political regulation, higher taxes, and less individual liberty (only this) could save humanity from a looming climate Armageddon” (p.127). As Fred Singer adds, “most of these ‘compulsive utopians’ have a great desire to regulate”.
Hart says that Progressives have taken over the UN and its agencies with the powerful alarmist narrative “with which to advance their ambitious agenda of global governance… (the solutions to the problems that Progressives stir alarm over) lay in central planning, state control, and global governance” (p.162). He adds that Progressive solutions involve the same measures favored by the UN, “more government regulation by technocrats based on an expanding network of intergovernmental agreements predicated on wealth redistribution and greater political control of human activity… (the IPCC was established to promote this agenda)… global governance to restrain humanity’s self-destructive impulses as manifested in capitalism, industrialization, consumerism, individualism, and all the perceived ills of modern civilization” (p.175).
I make frequent reference to 19th Century Declinism on this site. Here is a brief summary of this ideology. In Declinism you see clearly the basic outline of primitive apocalyptic themes.
In Declinism ancient apocalyptic mythology was given a new ‘secular’ expression as an ideology and applied to Western civilization. But Declinism is just that- primitive apocalyptic given a secular expression. Ernst Kaseman said that apocalyptic was the “Mother of all theology”. I would expand that to say that apocalyptic is the mother of all mythology, theology, and continues to dominate much ideology. It has long been the overall framework of both religious and secular worldviews across history. And Herman adds, “(Declinism) has become arguably the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century”.
Similar to all primitive apocalyptic mythology, Declinism embraces the ideas of an original golden past (a better past, an original paradise- i.e. pristine original nature before humanity). Then humans came along and created technological, industrial society that has changed and ruined the original wilderness world. Central to all apocalyptic mythology and Declinism is the anti-human myth that people are essentially bad and destructive. Then as this industrial civilization has spread, it has destroyed nature and now all is in decline toward some great apocalyptic collapse of nature and civilization. This destructive industrial civilization must soon collapse, or be violently purged, in order to save nature, to save the world, and to restore the lost original paradise. The current destructive civilization must be removed so that a new utopian paradise can emerge or be restored. Hopefully, an environmental utopia, according to Declinists.
Apocalyptic Declinism also pushes the themes of immanence and urgency- we must act soon and coercively to save the world, to purge the bad and restore the lost good. Individual human freedom be damned.
Declinism, as with all apocalyptic mythology, gets the actual story of life and civilization all wrong. Life and civilization have not been declining toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. The great trajectories of both life and civilization have been rising toward something ever better than before. Never perfect or utopian, but something better. We- humanity- are learning to solve problems and to make life better. Evidence on the main resources of life- i.e. forests, fisheries, soils, species- shows no evidence of looming disaster but rather improvement. Again, yes, there are problems everywhere but in net terms we are more creators than destroyers (Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource).
The central apocalyptic themes of Declinism have long dominated Western consciousness. They are mythical and religious ideas that have descended from Zoroastrianism which then shaped Judaism and Christianity. Christianity has been the single most prominent influence on Western consciousness and civilization. Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline) shows that Christian ideas have shaped Declinist ideology, just as Richard Landes similarly presents evidence that these ideas have shaped Marxism and Nazism (Heaven on Earth).
Here is Michael Grosso’s interesting take on the human fear of death. The following comment is mainly quotation- without quotation marks- mixed with paraphrase and scattered explanatory comment. (Note the final paragraph on the view of ultimate reality that potently resolves this primal death fear.)
(Prelude: Grosso has nailed something that I have been focusing on for past years- the pathological belief in some ultimate Threat. Grosso says that one of our deepest fears is that of “harm after death”. We fear not death itself but harmful spirits or a harmful experience/existence after death. Ultimate Harm is just another facet of Threat theology. These fundamental fears are why the great fraud of apocalyptic mythology still resonates with so many people, now often through environmental alarmism. These alarmist movements are touching deeply rooted, even subconscious beliefs and fears- that Something will get us imperfect humans and that we “corrupt” creatures deserve retribution. So justice as payback, punishment, and destruction, is coming.)
Michael Grosso starts his article on “Fear of life after death” (in the book ‘What Survives?’) with a comment about a friend who resisted the very thought of even reading about the possibility of ongoing life after death. Grosso found this resistance an interesting phenomenon among materialists. He says that some people are motivated to disbelieve in life after death just as others are motivated to believe.
He then moves into anthropology (i.e. Sir James Frazer), noting that early people spontaneously believed in life after death. Scientific materialists explain this as wishful thinking, Freud’s infantile wish fulfillment, a neurotic rebellion against the harsh tyranny of the reality principle. They say the fear of death inspires people to invent survival myths in denial of personal extinction. But, Grosso says, these explanations do not tally with the evidence of anthropology. To the contrary, the facts show that the first people feared not extinction, but life after death. They feared not death itself, but the dead.
Tribal people all over the Earth believed that the spirits of the dead were capable of inflicting all sorts of mischief on the living, especially on close relatives. So tribal people viewed the dead with fear and apprehension, as a source of harm.
Psychologists also argue that the claim that belief in life after death is just wish fulfillment (survival wish) doesn’t ring true. If the unconscious were just forging a dream world to placate narcissistic ego (i.e. the self desiring to survive), why not forge a more agreeable myth?
He goes on to note that across the world tribal people believe that immediately after death, spirits hover about their former earthly abodes and do their greatest harm. They “stick” to their former possessions. So one strategy is to destroy (e.g. burn) the dead person’s house and belongings. I watched Manobo (tribal groups on Mindanao) burn perfectly good houses of recently dead people and I wondered at the wastefulness of this practice among poor people. I also saw them, when very sick, leave lowland hospitals because hospitals were places where people died. Such responses do not enhance survival but, instead, lessen the chances of survival.
Grosso notes that the effects of this belief are economically ruinous. Therefore, to say that this belief in life after death relieves the personal survival anxiety, seems facile, says Grosso. It would be a great more consoling to survival anxiety to not believe in an afterlife. It would be less economically ruinous, something that threatens survival. There would be far less to worry about, and people could settle down and enjoy life.
Grosso argues that this primordial fear of death is probably part of the heritage of our collective psyche. Each of us carries the psychic archeology of our species.
Grosso then says that the invention of scientific materialism was a powerful means for banishing the primordial fear of hostile spirits. The primal mind is hemmed in by a superstitious fear of the other. This is seen in beliefs like the age-old fear of the “evil eye”. We project dark impulses onto other agents of consciousness. We have this innate fear of the other and we project this onto spirits in the after-life.
Therefore, Grosso argues that we can understand the appeal of scientific materialism. It de-animates nature, it wipes out mind, soul, and consciousness by reducing them to mere by-products of biochemical processes, doomed to annihilation with the death of the body. Materialist science makes our fear of the other go away. There’s nothing in the dark to frighten us, science reassures us. Nothing at all.
Grosso continues, stating again that the pagan conception of life after death was rooted in the primal fear of the dead. Then in Greek thinking there was a shift from fear of the dead to fear of an unappetizing form of life after death. This is seen, for example, in the Odyssey with its descent into a realm of bodiless phantoms. The frightening depths of Hades. The Greeks were at home in the daylight, but night-time made them sad and uneasy. Hades was a gloomy state of consciousness, a prolonged nightmare of aimless out-of-body wandering.
Plato later presented a more positive conception of the afterlife but Hades continued to dominate the popular Greek mind.
Grosso notes that the Greek philosopher Epicurus then used the materialism of Democritus to argue the case for the dissolution of the soul at death. Epicurus was motivated to disbelieve in life after death and was seen as a benefactor of mankind, a healer offering an expressly therapeutic philosophy. He healed the fear of life after death. According to Lucretius, Epicurus delivered the human race from the dread of Acheron (the river of death) that had troubled mankind from its innermost depths.
Materialism and the denial of life after death in Epicurean philosophy freed people from a peculiar form of anxiety- the anxiety that comes from the thought of having to face our worst fears in the innermost depths of human consciousness. It frees people from the dark side of consciousness, intuitively felt by the ancients to embody what awaits us in the afterlife.
Grosso says that Epicureanism sheds light on the motives behind the rise of classic materialism. Two main motives rise in this worldview, he says, and they seem to involve a contradiction. On the one hand, ancient materialism was a weapon for avoiding contact with the dark side of the afterlife, which Grosso takes as Jung’s Shadow. Hades being the preeminent domain of shades and shadow.
On the other hand, ancient materialism was the attempt to found a new religion which it did by focusing on the sacred and eternal character of matter, says Grosso. The religiosity of classical materialism is clear from its origins in Greek natural philosophy. Starting with Thales, early Greek thinkers concentrated on discovering the Arche- the source, origin, or principle of all things- in the material realm. Greek natural philosophy, which gave birth to modern physics, renounced personal immortality in hope of capturing ultimate meaning in the timeless principles of nature.
The origins of scientific materialism were thus rooted in a quest for the sacred. The arche of the physicists is a sublimation of theos- the divine and the godlike- and the transfer of this ultimate reality to the material realm, says Grosso.
Thus the progress of natural science has been identified with eliminating anything that hints of the shadowy ‘inner depths’ that so frightened Lucretius. Materialism now believes that it would be a sacrilege to destroy the unity of science by validating alien forces like mind or soul, for one would then expose oneself to the Lucretian fear of the inner depths, says Grosso.
Grosso continues to explain that our fears are historically conditioned by past thought and mythology. He adds that the Christian news of resurrection opened the possibility of death’s higher possibilities. But it also raised the spector of an angry God, guilt, judgment, damnation, and hell. So there are good historical reasons why educated people in the West associate belief in life after death with oppressive institutions and cruel practices, says Grosso.
Similar Eastern ideas of karma, caste, and reincarnation raise misgivings and open a can of worms- hell, devils, witchcraft, hags, incubi, elves, demons, and much more that people regard as superstitious and irrational.
Life after death then opens a universe filled with unknown and possibly frightening entities and forces. Grosso says that he does not doubt that the fear of harmful supernatural forces is still alive and well in the unconscious minds of many superficially rational human beings. The study of dreams and behavior of psychotics show how close the ‘shades’ of the unconscious are to our normal mental life. The possibility of life after death, he says, could stir up fear of the harmful in timid rationalists, hence the appeal of the materialism paradigm that can be used as a rationalist shield against such fears.
People invest themselves emotionally as well as intellectually in scientific materialism. Any hint of psychic anomaly (spiritual reality) might awaken in some of us the Lucretian dread of Acheron.
He continues: fear of judgment, guilt, and karmic retribution are other reasons for fearing life after death. We feel intensely the fear of God, of hell, and of judgment. The prospect awakens ideas of sin, guilt, pollution, defilement, punishment, purification, and other unsavory and disturbing things. Scientific rationalists are anxious to rid the world of these unpleasant ideas, especially the ideas of guilt and hell. It thus serves their purpose to invest in disbelief of the afterlife. A primal fear of harm in the afterlife is at the root of this.
Further, Plato says in Phaedo that a bad man would welcome death if it were extinction, for then he would not have to worry about the consequences of his deeds. And, if there is no reincarnation, then he would not have to worry about striving for self-perfection from life to life. Not many of us relish forever struggling with our weaknesses, says Grosso.
Grosso finishes with a few other reasons that people embrace for not believing in an afterlife: the fear of enlightenment, the fear of helplessness in a strange environment, or pessimism- where people believe that evil might be as powerful as ever in an afterlife.
Now, do I really have to say this? The recognition of a core Unconditional Love potently resolves this primal fear of harmful forces or spirits after death. Unconditional Ultimate Reality tells us that all the old threat and harm mythology was entirely wrong. There is no ultimate threat of retaliation, punishment, exclusion or destruction. Unconditional liberates consciousness to entirely new directions of security and peace about death. The Jesus discovery of infinite Love at the core of reality (Matthew 5:38-48) cuts the foundational root of the deepest human fear- the fear of death. It offers the greatest liberation ever from the darkest and most enslaving of all fears- the fear of death itself and the fear of harm in the after-life. Note carefully that the Jesus discovery liberates from the fear generated by Christianity. That is the great contradiction between Jesus and Paul that is dealt with all through this site.
This site is a project to counter and purge the pathological ideas in human systems of meaning (i.e. religion) that agitate the deepest fears in human consciousness.
Posts from discussion group:
“The embrace of the stunning discovery of historical Jesus on theology (a core Unconditional Love) is the single most profound shift in human consciousness ever, the single greatest liberation movement ever. It is liberation of mind and spirit at the deepest levels. It involves the shift from believing there is a core Retribution (Greek belief) to understanding that the core of reality is absolutely no conditions Love. It is a shift from believing in core punishment, retaliation, hate, violence, and destruction, the dominant themes of historical mythology and religion, and yes even ideology- i.e. Karma, vengeful Gaia, and angry planet- to embracing unlimited, infinite Love. Put Jesus’ discovery against the entire background of human perception across the centuries and millennia. That gives some sense of how profound and scandalous and wondrous this shift is.”
Further post: “This unconditional mindset- love your enemy- is very much about perception, thought, and of course, consequent attitude and response (how we treat the offender). With “love your enemy” we recognize that our enemy is actually an equal member of our one human family, despite any failure to live as human. We also include that enemy in the scandalous, unconditional love of God, recognizing that God actually does so. This changes radically how we think of, or view, the offender and our attitude will impact how we treat the offender over the long term. So yes, we use force to restrain and even eliminate the violent person but we still recognize that they are family. In love your enemy there is no more tribal love. If you love just those who love you in return, then how are you any different from the primitive tribal mindset (us versus them).”
Another: “The Jesus statement in Matt. 5 and Luke 6 rejects tribal thinking- the offended versus the offender, the enemy. It changes radically how we view the other, especially the one who harms us. Much like a parent does not view a badly behaving kid as an enemy to be rejected and punished but still embraces the child as family. Albert Nolan was good on this (Jesus Before Christianity)- to extend our love out to include all as intimate family. This enables the shift from punitive response to restorative treatment of all. The NDErs get this profound oneness with all others- that we are one unified family of humanity. Again, ‘If you love just those who love you in return, as the tribally minded primitives do, then how are you any better than the primitives?’”
“We have been making this distinction for a long time- there is a significant difference between retaliation as getting even, punishing your offender, and the obligation of love to defend and protect, to restrain violence. This distinction embraces the “love your enemies” of Jesus while being pragmatic too. Is it a distinction without a difference? No. Look at the outcomes of a retaliation mindset and the opposite unconditional mindset. One continues the cycles of getting even, cycles of violence, while the other seeks to lessen cycles of payback (see Payne in History of Force). As the Chinese sage Laotzi noted, your attitude affects how your carry out your defence against “enemies”. Ongoing slaughter or care to act with restorative intent and purpose, which inspires a restrained use of force. We also see the differing outcomes in the imprisonment of offenders without the death penalty, or the humane care of prisoners of war. The offenders that are subject to these different attitudes and approaches get it also…”
Clear away the garbage first (see Tolstoy below)
Across history humanity has been traumatized by endless threat, and most damagingly by ultimate metaphysical threat, spiritual threat. The earliest people feared forces and spirits that threatened to cause the decline of life toward some great disaster. John Pfeiffer points to the prehistory belief in the loss of an original paradise (see “The Big Picture: The Descent of bad religious ideas” below). Then the Sumerians terrorized populations with the great Flood myth and an angry god (i.e. Enlil) plotting to finish off humanity. The Egyptians kept stride with the Sumerians and frightened their people with the Destruction of Mankind and return of all creation to chaos. Zoroaster kept up the beat of threat with his final apocalypse that would end the world in a flood of fiery molten metal that would wash all down into Hell. His ideas shaped Western consciousness and the Western religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Greeks also affirmed threat with their belief in a core Retribution behind all things. Eastern traditions also had their own ultimate threat themes- e.g. Hindu cycles of creation, maintenance and then dissolution, and Buddhist decreasing life spans.
The idea of some ultimate Threat has formed the core of human worldviews for millennia. It has been the foundational myth of the great world religions- that there are forces or spirits behind life that will punish imperfect humanity. They will retaliate against human failure, they will exclude their enemies (unbelievers), and they will finally destroy people in rivers of fire (Egyptian), or lakes of fire (Christian). The gods are obsessed with perfection and punishing imperfection. These themes have dominated human consciousness for millennia. Divine threat is the foundational essence of salvation religion, the belief that you must atone (make payment, suffer punishment) for your imperfection, in order to be saved from divine threat of destruction (see Romans 5:9).
The belief in some ultimate Threat was then transformed into secular versions in the 19th Century for the modern secular or scientific era (i.e. Declinism- see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History). But in the shift to a more secular/scientific way of thinking little actually changed at the core of human worldviews- the threat was given new expression in things like the revenge of Gaia, angry planet, the collapse of nature and civilization, or karma. This was a different way of expressing threat, the terms and names were new, but the core themes remained the same. Something or Someone was upset with human failure and threatened to purge humanity from the world in a great apocalypse, putting an end to life as we know it, so that some utopia could be installed. Thus, threat mythology persists today in our main world religions and now also in secular systems of thought. Apocalyptic belief continues to dominate all through popular story telling. Apocalyptic is so widely accepted as inevitable reality that literature now has a sub-genre called “Post- apocalyptic”. The apocalypse is just assumed as unquestionable so we might as well just focus on what to do afterward.
Over the same trajectory of history others struggled against the relentless barrage of threat mythology and projected more humane features onto the gods- features like mercy, love, and kindness. But they did not purge the core threat of divine retribution, judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction. Their belief systems maintained the larger context of divine threat and that weakened, undermined, and even buried the nicer features that were projected onto the gods.
Finally- the breakthrough discovery that tried to end threat theology
Two millennia ago a wisdom sage (note carefully here- Historical Jesus, not Christian Jesus) made a striking breakthrough and outright rejected the primitive mythology of ultimate threat. He taught that Ultimate Reality, or what humanity has long called God, did not retaliate, did not exclude (i.e. did not tribally favor the good- the believer, and reject the bad- the unbeliever), but instead showered love and generosity on all people, both good and bad alike. There was no discrimination between anyone in the one human family. See the full statement of his central theme, his gospel, in Luke 6:26-37, Matthew 5:38-48. All were safe. The core Reality- God- was absolutely no conditions Love. Infinite and inclusive Love. There was no ultimate threat of any kind. For detailed comment on this discovery see material throughout this site.
It was a breakthrough like no other before it, or since. It reached the height of the ideals of love and goodness. It attained the supreme meaning of authentic humanity or humaneness. I would challenge anyone to find a similarly brilliant statement of a supremely humane ethic bonded with a supremely humane belief (the behavior/belief relationship). I have found nothing comparable anywhere else in human thought or writing over history.
Then one of the great scandals of history happened. The newly emerging Christian religion buried the wisdom sage’s discovery in the same old threat theology of all past mythology and religion. Yes, the early Christian writers also included much of the wisdom sage’s original teaching (e.g. Matthew 5-7) but immediately changed elements of it, or surrounded it with contrary themes of threat- retaliation, punishment, exclusion of unbelievers, and final destruction in Hell. Watch how Matthew does this just after chapters 5-7 in his gospel. Paul based his entire Salvationism on the myth of an angry, threatening God (see Romans 1-5, and 1 Thessalonians). I have detailed this in sections below. The New Testament writers created a larger framework that rejected and buried the Jesus’ discovery of an unconditional Core Reality. They denied humanity the liberating discovery of Jesus.
Fortunately, over history many Christians have learned to ignore or downplay the nastier themes in their holy book and focus on the more humane ideals, like love and forgiveness. But the larger context of Threat theology continues to weaken the better ideals, to undermine and even bury the discovery of Jesus. Threat of ultimate punishment and destruction is the defining feature of Paul’s Christ. Again, see 1 Thessalonians of Romans 1-5 for examples.
Others recognized what had happened to the Jesus discovery and bluntly pointed it out. Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy both stated that the original teaching (the “sublimely moral or superior teaching”) was still there in the New Testament but it was like a diamond or pearl that was buried in “dung… slime, muck, and garbage” (i.e. the surrounding teaching of Paul and the gospel writers). The past three centuries of the “search for the historical Jesus”- the search for the original person and his original message- also recognizes this contradiction between Jesus’ new “theology of a non-retaliatory deity” (James Robinson) and the contradictions in the later Christian teaching (i.e. the Christian return to a retaliatory God).
This site is a project to counter the pathology of Threat theology and to recover the lost treasure of a core Love. Jesus’ discovery of a core unconditional Love is the single greatest and most liberating discovery ever made. It liberates human consciousness from the entire past of threat theology. And it liberates from the worst of human fears- the fear of death and what comes after death (i.e. myths of ultimate retribution, judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction). This is freedom from the deepest historical and subconscious roots of human fear. Explore this site for all aspects of this discovery.
Religion and God- the pairing of entire opposites
The profound contradiction between the core teaching of Jesus, and the entirely opposite core teaching of Paul, illustrates the greater historical fact that mythology and religion have always buried the true nature of ultimate reality or deity.
One of the central projects on this site is to present the central discovery of historical Jesus that deity/God was unconditional love. Religions across history had got this central theological truth all wrong, and none more so than Christianity, beginning just after Jesus left the scene.
Religion as Salvationism has persistently presented the very opposite reality to an unconditional God. Contrary to unconditional reality, salvation religion has always promoted conditions. It cannot do otherwise. It sets forth the conditions that are required to appease and please the upset deities. Religion is a conditional social institution. All across history it has buried this liberating discovery of God as no conditions Love. Yet, greatest of all ironies, religion claims to represent God to humanity. That is oxymoronic to extreme- highly conditional religion trying to represent something entirely opposite- absolutely no conditions Love. The diamond has long been buried in the dunghill, according to Jefferson and Tolstoy. What a confusion-generating mess.
And Christianity took this conditional religious thinking (divinely required payback, retaliation, punishment, atonement, exclusion of some, final destruction, ultimate harm) and epitomized it in Paul’s Christ. Christianity took conditional thinking to new heights in the Christ myth. The Christ of Paul was about a supreme sacrifice, an ultimate payment, to appease the wrath of God and atone for all sin. This supreme religious condition buried the brilliant discovery of Jesus that God was absolutely no conditions Love.
In his original gospel- the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel- Jesus had said nothing about coming as a savior to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin, to pay for sin. He taught nothing about divine conditions.
Jesus had also pointedly taught that there was no exclusion of unbelievers with God. Sun and rain were showered on all alike, both good and bad. Love was extended to all alike. There was no tribal exclusion, no limits to God’s love. Jesus said that if you love only those who love you, then how are you any better than a primitive tribal person who loves only those of his own tribe. God is not like that, limiting love only to the good, or to insiders. God includes and loves all the same, as one family. Both good and bad persons are included in the family of God.
The point? No one has ever been “separated” from God. No one needs to “get right” with God. No one will be excluded from God’s future or from God’s generosity.
Most of us grew up in Christianity and never saw this great liberating discovery of Historical Jesus that God was a stunning unconditional Love. We read it many times in places like Matthew 5:38-48 but only saw the conditional and threatening context- what Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy called “the muck, slime, garbage, and dung” that surrounded it. But yes, something of the spirit of that core message (i.e. love your enemy) affected us at times.
Now we know better. There can be no more excuses for ignorance.
Note: My repeated appeal to historical Jesus (as someone entirely opposite to the Christian Christ) is not an appeal to religious authority. It is simply to touch base with someone considered to be an important icon in religious history. The ideal of unconditional love stands on its own as the supreme expression of the ideal of love. It is the highest statement of authentic humanity. It needs only the validation of our own human consciousness and human spirit. It does not need any religious authority to validate it.
“Love your enemy”- the ‘hard saying’ that points to the greatest discovery ever, and to the true nature of love
It is the hardest saying ever uttered because it goes so entirely against the grain of “natural” human conditioning, emotion, and response. It goes against the age-old understanding of justice as the fundamental right to engage payback or punishment. And its an old saying, predating Christianity by two millennia. The Akkadians had their own version in ‘The Father’s Advice to His Son’ (roughly 2000 BCE). The Father said, “Do not return evil to your adversary; requite with kindness the one who does evil to you… be friendly to your enemy… Do good things, be kind all your days.” The Akkadians were following the best impulses of their “supernatural” human spirit and consciousness.
(Qualifier: As with all other comment on this topic, we are not dismissing or downplaying the other side of this issue, the “natural consequences” of bad behavior in human society. It is fundamental to human learning and growth to fully embrace personal responsibility for one’s choices and actions- i.e. to make restitution. Social institutions like justice departments and prisons help us do this.)
Love your enemy is the single most liberating ideal ever offered to humanity. It points human ethics toward the supremely humane, the way toward freedom from our inherited drives to retaliate, to hurt back, to exclude, and to destroy the offender, the enemy that harms us. Revenge, getting even, tit for tat or eye for eye, renders us petty and infantile, even animal-like. We can be so much better than vengeance. We can become magnificent beings of love, forgiveness, and inclusion. Love your enemy takes us to the height of authentic humanity and it enables us to “tower in stature” like Nelson Mandela. It points the way to ending cyclical violence and to creating that better world that we all want.
(Note: It is understood that not all endeavor to hold offenders accountable/responsible is fueled by the drive for vengeance. See comment all through this site on restorative justice approaches.)
There are no greater heroes than those willing to sacrifice some personal right to retaliate in order to stop a descending trajectory of revenge and to start a new upward trajectory toward something better. Again, remember that Mandela spared South Africa the descent into retaliatory violence, the very force that destroyed Rwanda and Serbia around the same time.
Love your enemy points to the greatest discovery ever? (Title above)
Yes. It fundamentally redefines our understanding of deity and the spiritual like nothing in historical religion has ever done. It is the single greatest breakthrough insight into theology, ever. It overturns all past understanding of deity. It tells us plainly that God loves God’s enemies. It takes the truth- “God is love”- to the pinnacle of authentic transcendence, wonder, and yes, disorienting scandal. Disorienting scandal because it completely overturns our foundational orientation to justice as some form of payback or punishment.
In the full statement of Matthew 5:38-48, and Luke 6:26-37, Jesus said that God does not retaliate against enemies (no more eye for eye), and that means that God does not condemn, does not judge, does not discriminate or exclude (sun and rain given to both good and bad), does not punish, and does not destroy God’s enemies. Make the full range of conclusions from this radical redefinition of love.
Further, “love your enemy” points to the critical fact that God does not demand some pre-requisite payment (i.e. an atonement sacrifice) for wrong but gives freely and asks for nothing in return. God just loves, not expecting anything in return. Read the two passages noted above carefully. I have quoted them in full below. Its all there. “God loves enemies” points to a diverse range of obvious outcomes or conclusions.
Unfortunately, Matthew immediately contradicted this brilliant discovery in his larger context where he repeatedly insists that enemies would be “cast into outer darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Matthew retreated back to traditional theology that is all about conditions, retaliation, punishment, and ultimate destruction.
And “love your enemy” points to the true nature of love? (Again, title above)
Most of us embrace a tribal form of love, limited to those who love us in return (family and friends), but not for enemies. That makes us no better than primitive savages, according to Historical Jesus. Again, read the above passages. Paul teaches a tribal form of love all through the rest of the New Testament in his Christ that loves those who believe but ultimately excludes and damns those who do not believe his gospel. The rest of the New Testament writers follow Paul, not Jesus.
Throughout this site I have repeatedly framed this stunning discovery of Jesus against the larger background of human thought over the millennia. The idea of divine Threat or Harm has haunted our understanding of ultimate Reality and the after-life for our entire history. Myths of angry, punishing gods threatening to destroy humanity for imperfection- these are the core themes of all mythology and all religion. Now we discover this threat theology has been entirely wrong. There is nothing to fear ultimately. There is no ultimate Harm or Threat. And all sorts of related myths are then overturned- there is no ultimate judgment, no exclusion of anyone, and no punishment. To the absolute contrary, there is only a stunning Love behind all. Not a tribal love (loving only those who love in return), not a limited love, but a magnificent universal love. Infinitely, inexpressibly, and transcendently unconditional. Love your enemy means absolutely no conditions. None. Carefully think through all the implications of this hard saying: Love your enemy does away with all Salvationism and atonement mythology.
Further affirmation and clarification: I would also point people to the NDE (Near-Death Experience) accounts that offer graphic description of this stunning core reality that is Unconditional Love. But many dismiss the NDE as not proper ‘evidence’. Whatever your position on this, it is there for those who want to benefit from it.
Confronted with this hard saying, most people react with intense excuse-making:
“It’s just not practical.”
“It’s too mushy in the face of evil.”
“What about justice?”
This site explores this ultimate expression of love and the struggle to express it in an imperfect world.
Just below is a summary of the core teaching of Historical Jesus, combining the Luke 6:27-36 and the Matthew 5:38-48 statements. A suggestion: throw away the rest of the bible and just keep this central teaching of Historical Jesus. It is all you really need to know. Most of the rest of the bible only distorts and buries this “diamond” (Jefferson) or “pearl” (Tolstoy). Jesus’ statement in the Matthew 5 and Luke 6 passages contains the ultimate humane ethic paired with the ultimate humane theology (the belief/behavior relationship).
The core teaching:
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said ‘eye for eye’, and ‘tooth for tooth’ (i.e. traditional justice as retaliation, payback, punishment). But I tell you… Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you or mistreat you, that you may be the children of God (or “be like God”, because this is what God does)…”
He continued, “God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you (tribal, discriminating, excluding love), what credit is that to you? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even primitives do that? If you lend only to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even primitives lend to primitives, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be the children of God, because God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as God is merciful.”
Again, nothing in the above teaching lessens the responsibility of love to protect the innocent, to restrain evil/violence, and to hold offenders responsible for their behavior (i.e. embracing natural consequences in human society such as imprisonment for those who will not restrain their violent impulses).
Love your enemy is more about how we view offenders/enemies and issues like culpability. It is not about lessening our outrage at violence and all forms of inhumanity. It is more about our attitudes toward offenders and our consequent treatment of them. For one, it would argue for doing away with the death penalty as imprisonment can now guarantee public safety.
I come at this, not as a Conservative, but as an independent or classic liberal in the British classic liberal tradition, the best thing that the West has offered to the world. The very thing- what we call the free market system- that has lifted billions of people out of the misery over poverty over the past few centuries.
For years a prominent public narrative has stated that the meltdown of 2008 was failure of the free market, and notably the banking system. That was the persistent conclusion of Pres. Obama. But that narrative missed a key element in that collapse- the massive failure of state intervention. Economic writers like Terrance Corcoran (National Post) and Richard Salsman (Forbes) have detailed the history that led up to the financial collapse. That history includes government intervention in the form of Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act legislating banks to make risky loans (well-intentioned concern for poor families), governments using Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to distribute the risk to the general public, and Clinton/Cisneros pushing for more home ownership (a good and well-intentioned goal). Alan Greenspan contributed to the growing housing bubble from this state intervention by lowering interest rates.
This critical element of state intervention was not included in much of the public analysis of the 2008 collapse. Blame was assigned to the elements of banking excess and failure, and more generally to the unregulated free market. And those banking failures were present. But banks had responded to state pressure to make risky loans, and state support for that risk, and so they went all out to generate loan schemes to risky low-income populations and others.
When the bubble burst, some people generalized things out to argue that the basis of the failure was the overall system of capitalism that they claimed was essentially about selfishness and greed. And so to solve the problem and ‘save the world’, people advocated that the solution to the problem was more state intervention in the form of more regulation of the capitalist system.
The outcome of trying to solve the crisis by resorting to more of what caused the crisis- more state intervention in the market- has been the weakest recovery since the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. And the world economy continues to struggle with weak growth.
The movie- “The Big Short”- was entertaining and got part of the problem right- the excesses in US banking. But that story missed the full context of what caused that financial crisis. To solve any problem properly you must first understand and include all the causal or contributing factors.
The world economy is suffering today from excessive government intervention and control via excessive regulation and taxation (see articles by Ron Bailey below, and comment by Rupert Murdoch). Also, The Big Short played to conventional Hollywood/Leftist notions of big business/banking/financial sector as essentially corrupt and needing state control. Its a popular narrative but it distorts some very important things.
My read of the US election of 2016 was that Hilary Clinton just did not understand the consequences of the state intervention element. She proposed more regulation and taxation of US business, already among the highest taxed and regulated in the world (note the relation here to outsourced investment- US businesses moving abroad, and consequent job loss). Her approach, as with Obama’s, was that government solved all problems, especially by controlling the market more.
Hilary proposed to solve the US job problem with more government spending- infrastructure spending. That is necessary and somewhat useful, but it was an extension of her more general Keynesian thinking and approach (i.e. government spending as necessary to get a slow or recession economy growing again). That was also common to Obama’s thinking and approach. The problem is that this approach adds to the debt problem and that would have been especially true if she had continued to burden US business with more taxation and regulation that would have further hindered the overall wealth-creation potential of business.
Admittedly, there is greed and corruption all through the economic system. But that is not the driving force of the system that we know as the free market, or capitalism. The foundational element of the system, as it emerged out of British classic liberalism, is freedom. Individual human freedom and when that freedom is protected it unleashes human creativity. Most essentially the free market system is about protecting individual freedom, individual property rights, and private contracts, from state intervention and control.
Originally, the free market system emerged out of the British endeavor to protect average citizens from monarchal intervention by establishing a representative parliament that would protect individuals from arbitrary monarchal seizure of property. It was the endeavor to protect private property rights as fundamental to human progress and success. When people know that they can create something or improve their property/capital and that the fruit of their work will not be confiscated, then they are motivated to invest the work and capital to do so. Socialists have never understood this basic human motivation to improve oneself and one’s family, and have always damned it as selfishness or greed, something to be restrained or fought, not encouraged.
Free and protected citizens will use their natural creativity and ingenuity to solve problems, to make life better for themselves and their families, and that impulse for a better life has led to inventions, innovations, and wealth creation (creating, producing, selling, buying, trading) that has benefitted not just individuals but the larger societies as well. We see the sudden rising trend in world GDP around 1820 (after millennia of flat GDP) as this free market system began to spread and function.
And yes, some regulation and taxation (government intervention) is understood as necessary for the public good (i.e. contributing to our share of public infrastructure). But the battle in our societies is over how much contribution is best, and what the consequences of differing levels of contribution are for the general good and improvement of society.
Here you get the historical tug between the Left and the Right. For detail of this broader history see Arthur Herman’s The Cave and The Light.
People like Friedrich Hayek (Road to Serfdom) agreed that some basic regulation from government was useful in the sense of a basic vision for where people should head as a society (i.e. freedom, success, wealth, jobs), but he cautioned that people do not need detailed rules of how to get to the future that they want. That should be left to free individual choice and self-determination. His concern was to encourage independence and freedom in populations; to be careful of creating too much dependency on government that would undermine freedom and kill creativity.
William Bernstein in The Birth of Plenty also dealt with this issue of how much government was most beneficial to a society. Should government be at 20% of GDP, or 30%, or 40% of GDP? (i.e. the level of government as a percentage of total GDP- as a proxy for size of government). Bernstein said that if there was too little government then society would suffer social unrest from those at the bottom wanting more help. But if there was too much government, then that would kill the ability of business to create wealth (i.e. too much state regulation and taxation of business to support too much government). Greece is a recent example of an extreme failure of too much government overwhelming the business sector’s ability to sustain a society. Europe in general has been heading in this direction of excessively expanded and intrusive government.
Milton Freidman, one of the finest economic minds produced by the US, offered his estimation of how much government was best for a society. He argued that government at 15% (including local, state, and federal) would permit the most good for the most people in a society. Less was better, according to Freidman.
To illustrate the Leftist tendency to excessively expand government and government control of the economy, I think of the example of France in 1980 when Mitterand’s coalition took over government. Typical of Leftists, they started to nationalize sectors of the economy (expanding government intervention) and within the year the French economy tanked. But they had the sense to pull back and let the economy recover. Then the leader of the Communist section of Mitterand’s coalition stated, “We must respect business as the creator of wealth in a society”. Wow. What an admission from a Communist. (See detail in Joshua Muravchik’s Heaven on Earth, a history of Socialism. Muravchik is a former Socialist.)
Wealth creation by the business sector (small, medium, and large) is the most fundamental of all concerns for any society. It is the basis of all other good that you may want to do in a society. Wealth creation is necessary to fund all the other elements/programs of a society. Any person planning to become a political leader of a modern society must understand this basic fact of how wealth is created in a society. Wealth creation is the basis of things like protecting the environment. See Ecological Kuznets Curve research on this. See also William Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty for the four fundamental societal institutions that promote wealth creation.
Notes: Watch the Leftist tendency to project class divisions and warfare on to the business sector. The Leftist tendency is to damn “big business” as somehow more evil, as something different from small or medium business, which is supposedly morally superior. Big business then deserves more regulation and taxation. This may be just more of the “envy of success” so typical of the Left.
It has also been noted that economic freedom is the most fundamental of freedoms. All other freedoms are based on the economic freedom of citizens. When governments encroach on individual economic freedom via taxation (i.e. spending people’s money for them) and regulation (telling people how to live their lives) then human freedom in general is under threat.
It needs primary and repeated emphasis- citizens, and their businesses (all levels- small, medium, and large) are the creators of wealth and jobs in society, not government. Again, this recognizes that some government involvement in things like general infrastructure development, and national and international defense, is acceptable to most people.
Additional note: Much of the Left argues from the fact of general social inequality that there must be more state intervention to redistribute wealth and create a more equal income distribution in society. But the Left fails to understand that there is an important difference between bad inequality and good inequality. Bad inequality we try to correct. But good inequality is necessary for general improvement of the greater good. See, for example, William Watson’s The Inequality Trap: Fighting Capitalism Instead of Poverty.
An example of good inequality would be Steve Jobs and Apple (so also Bill Gates). Jobs invented things that millions of people wanted and freely gave their money to purchase. They were not forced to buy Apple’s products, and they believe that they got their money’s worth. The result was billions of dollars for Steve Jobs. Some argue that government should then redistribute the wealth of billionaires like Jobs. However, that might interfere with Apple’s ability to do research and develop new products. The choice of how to spend wealth that was fairly attained in a free market is the free choice of the owners of the wealth, and not to be decided by envious others or government bureaucrats.
A further point: Friedrich Hayek argued that the free market system best prevents totalitarianism by distributing power amongst competing actors. The Socialist Left with its concern for the ‘greater good’ has always tried to counter and stifle the individual and individual freedom as too much about ‘selfishness and greed’ (demonization of the motives of others). The Left has commonly proposed concern for the ‘public good’ as the dominant moral issue in society, and this is used to justify more centralized control of society and economies by “enlightened” elites. There is an arrogance in some believing that they know what is best for all the rest and then to use coercion to force their beliefs and programs on all others.
C.S. Lewis: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience”.
Centralizing control of economies- i.e. increased government- has always undermined personal freedom and tended toward totalitarianism (see Muravchik’s Heaven on Earth for historical detail of such collectivist endeavors). The Leftist approach has never understood basic human motivation (improvement of the self, or family) and how this works through the free market system to alleviate poverty, maintain freedom and independence, and thereby lift all of society. The freedom market also works to promote moral goodness and peace in societies. People engaging mutually beneficial commerce are careful not to harm one another and disrupt such mutually beneficial relationships.
The genius of free markets is that they trust average people to solve problems and thereby lift society. Socialists/Leftists, on the other hand, view people as fundamentally selfish and corrupt. The “ignorant masses” need enlightened elites to control and guide them (to restrain personal selfishness by centralized control of economic activity) in order to redirect people to live for some greater good, as defined by the enlightened elite. Socialists have never trusted average people to do the right thing. You see this in Marx’s comments that reveal how he despised the very peasants that he claimed to be fighting for (again, see Muravchik’s history of Socialism- Heaven on Earth). So also Mao expressed disdain for the peasants of his society (Chang and Halliday in “Mao”).
Final note: As Arthur Herman traced its descent down from Plato and Aristotle (The Cave and The Light), the great struggle in our societies has often been between collectivism and individualism. Collectivism (yes, it includes Communalism, Communism, and Socialism) has always tended toward totalitarianism, often to the confusion and consternation of Socialists who continue to claim that Communism was a perversion of pure Socialism. But as Muravchik shows, someone (i.e. the enlightened elite) has to run the collective for everyone else. Collectivists just cannot see how the greater good can be achieved aside from their coercive control. But again, the free market shows, to the contrary, just how greater good is achieved by free individuals like Steve Jobs.
The collectivist sector of our societies continues to reshape itself for new generations. Its core project is to centralize control of societies, and especially control of economies, for the greater good, of course. It has re-birthed itself today in the environmental alarmist movement which agitates to save the world (the greater good) with coercive intervention and centralized control via the UN. These collectivist movements have always sought to limit individual freedom and choice, to have enlightened elites tell all others how to live.
Government does not create wealth and jobs but more often hinders such endeavor with excessive regulation and taxation. It more often gets in the way. Government works best when it exists as a minimal institution to protect the freedom and the rights of citizens. But that approach requires governing bureaucrats to trust average people with freedom.
Federal Regulations Have Made You 75 Percent Poorer
U.S. GDP is just $16 trillion instead of $54 trillion
Ronald Bailey | June 21, 2013
The growth of federal regulations over the past six decades has cut U.S. economic growth by an average of 2 percentage points per year, according to a new study in the Journal of Economic Growth. As a result, the average American household receives about $277,000 less annually than it would have gotten in the absence of six decades of accumulated regulations—a median household income of $330,000 instead of the $53,000 we get now.
The researchers, economists John Dawson of Appalachian State University and John Seater of North Carolina State, constructed an index of federal regulations by tracking the growth in the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations since 1949. The number of pages, they note, has increased six-fold from 19,335 in 1949 to 134,261 in 2005. (As of 2011, the number of pages had risen to 169,301.) They devise a pretty standard endogenous growth theory model and then insert their regulatory burden index to calculate how federal regulations have affected economic growth. (Sometimes deregulation extends rather than shortens the number of pages in the register; they adjust their figures to take this into account.)
Annual output in 2005, they conclude, “is 28 percent of what it would have been had regulation remained at its 1949 level.” The proliferation of federal regulations especially affects the rate of improvement in total factor productivity, a measure of technological dynamism and increasing efficiency. Regulations also affect the allocation of labor and capital—by, say, raising the costs of new hires or encouraging investment in favored technologies. Overall, they calculate, if regulation had remained at the same level as in 1949, current GDP would have been $53.9 trillion instead of $15.1 in 2011. In other words, current U.S. GDP in 2011 was $38.8 trillion less than it might have been.
Let’s use those results as the starting point for some rough calculations. The Bureau of Economic Affairs estimates that real GDP in 1947 was $1.8 trillion in 2005 dollars. The real GDP growth rate between 1949 and 2011 averaged 3.2 percent per year. Compounded over the period, that would yield a total real GDP of about $13.3 trillion in 2011; that’s the same figure the bureau gives for that year. If regulation had remained fixed at 1949 levels, GDP growth would have averaged 2 percent higher annually, yielding a rate of about 5.2 percent over the period between 1949 and 2011. Compounded, that yields a total GDP in 2005 dollars of approximately $43 trillion, or $49 trillion in 2011 dollars, which is in the same ballpark as the $53.9 trillion figure calculated by Dawson and Seater.
But let’s say that the two economists have grossly overestimated how fast the economy could have grown in the absence of proliferating regulations. So instead let’s take the real average GDP growth rate between 1870 and 1900, before the Progressives jumpstarted the regulatory state. Economic growth in the last decades of the 19th century averaged 4.5 percent per year. Compounding that growth rate from the real 1949 GDP of $1.8 trillion to now would have yielded a total GDP in 2013 of around $31 trillion. Considerably lower than the $54 trillion estimated by Dawson and Seater, but nevertheless about double the size of our current GDP.
All this means that the opportunity costs of regulation—that is, the benefits that could have been gained if an alternative course of action had been pursued—are much higher than the costs of compliance. For example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s report Ten Thousand Commandments 2013 estimates that it costs consumers and businesses approximately $1.8 trillion—about 11 percent of current GDP—to comply with current federal regulations. That’s bad enough, but it pales in comparison to the loss of tens of trillions in overall wealth calculated by Dawson and Seater.
Defenders of regulation will argue that regulations also provide benefits to Americans: lower levels of air pollution, higher minimum wages, and so forth. But the measure devised by Dawson and Seater accounts for both the aggregate benefits and the costs of the regulations. The two researchers note their results “indicate that whatever positive effects regulation may have on measured output are outweighed by negative effects.” There may be some unmeasured positive outputs that result from regulation. But the benefits would have to be hugely substantial to offset the loss of $39 trillion in output in 2011 alone. Is that plausible?
Dawson and Seater explicitly do not attempt to separately measure the benefits of regulation in their study, only its overall effects on output. But the Office of Management and Budget does claim to measure the costs and benefits of federal regulation. In the most recent Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) report, the highest estimates for costs and benefits for regulations adopted from 2002 to 2012 are $84 billion and $800 billion respectively. Let’s be extremely generous in calculating regulation’s benefits and assume that they provide not just $800 billion in total benefits over 10 years, but that much in just one year. Then, just to be sure that we haven’t overlooked any non-monetized benefits unaccounted for the OIRA, and to take into account of the fact that number of pages in the CFR have risen six-fold, let’s multiply that by 6, yielding an estimated annual regulatory benefit of $4.8 trillion.
That’s just a bit more than a quarter of the current GDP. Recall that Dawson and Seater have calculated that if the regulatory burden had remained the same as it was in 1949, the U.S. economy would be about $38 trillion bigger than it currently is. So the upshot of this wildly optimistic set of assumptions regarding the benefits of regulation is that Americans have foregone $33 trillion in income that we otherwise would have had. Or in the alternative case, where a lower rate of growth results in a GDP of only $31 trillion, that would mean that Americans have foregone about $10 trillion in income due to overregulation.
Whatever the benefits of regulation, an average household income of $330,000 per year would buy a lot in the way of health care, schooling, art, housing, environmental protection, and other amenities.
Since GDP growth rates in other industrialized countries more or less track U.S. growth rates over the period, I asked both Dawson and Seater via email if it would be fair to conclude that those countries had also adopted a similar suite of regulations that also slowed their potential GDP gains. Being careful not to go beyond the data in the study, Dawson replied, “Similarity of growth rates really doesn’t tell us anything about the growth effects of regulations in the different countries. However, it would be fair to say that many studies (cited in our paper) examine the effects of regulation in many European countries and find large negative effects on employment, investment, rates of new business start-up, and so on.”
For example, a 2004 World Bank study of the effects of regulation in a large sample of industrial and developing countries constructed an index of severity of regulation. It revealed that increasing a country’s index of regulation by one standard deviation (34 percent) reduces its per capita GDP growth by 0.4 percent. Dawson and Seater’s article, in comparison, finds that “an increase in total regulation of 600 percent reduces growth by just 2 percentage points. Relatively speaking, our effect is smaller.” With appropriate caveats about differences in various studies, Seater told me via email, “The uniform message that comes through from all the studies I have seen is that regulation has strong negative effects on economic growth.”
So if the effects of regulation are so deleterious to economic growth and the prosperity of citizens, why do countries enact so much of it? Dawson and Seater’s paper mentions three theories: Arthur Pigou’s notion that governments enact regulations to improve social welfare by correcting market failures, George Stigler’s more cynical view that industries capture regulatory agencies in order exclude competitors and increase their profits, and Fred McChesney’s argument that regulations are chiefly aimed at benefiting politicians and regulators. I asked if their results fit most closely with McChesney’s. Dawson replied: “This could be the conclusion that one reaches based on our empirical results (since they show a net cost of regulation over time), but again we did not set out to prove or disprove any particular theory.” Seater added that their research does not address the question of “why society allows excessive regulation….It’s an important [issue], but it is one for the public choice people to study, not for macroeconomists like me and my coauthor.”
One such public choice theorist, Mancur Olson, argued in The Rise and Decline of Nations (1982) that economic stagnation and even decline set in when powerful special-interest lobbies—crony capitalists if you will—capture a country’s regulatory system and use it to block competitors, making the economy ever less efficient. The growing burden of regulation could some day turn economic growth negative, but in a note Dawson and Seater suggest that in the long run that will “not be tolerated by society.” Let’s hope that they are right.
Rupert Murdoch links regulations, climate change ‘nonsense’ to global financial turmoil
By David Wright, CNN
Washington (CNN)Media mogul Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter Wednesday night to weigh in on the recent volatility in global financial markets, calling small business “the only hope for growth” while decrying the regulatory obstacles standing in its way — and pointing a finger at climate change “alarmist nonsense.”
Hours after a dramatic rebound among Wall Street stock exchanges that followed days of massive losses triggered by a cratering Chinese economy, Murdoch offered, “So markets bounce. Too much cash looking for a home. Far too few prepared to invest and employ.”
“Small business,” he argued, is “the only hope for growth.” But the business magnate suggested that such growth is unlikely.
“Global growth dangerously low. Blame politicians’ layers of regulations. Too hard,” he tweeted, adding “US federal regs 170,000 pages before states & cities.”
Murdoch is a regular critic of what he says are excessive and outdated government regulations, and in his tweets he focused the criticism specifically on rules related to climate change.
“In the last 3 decades carbon in US air has reduced by nearly 50%,” he observed, adding that he is “A climate change skeptic not a denier.”
But he proceeded to blast climate change activists, saying “Sept UN meets in NY with endless alarmist nonsense from u know whom! Pessimists always seen as sages.”
The 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to open in New York City on September 15. One of the main themes expected to be discussed is environmentally sustainable development, with an eye toward the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for the end of the year in Paris.
From Investor’s Business Daily site…. Reds became Greens
Fraud: While the global warming alarmists have done a good job of spreading fright, they haven’t been so good at hiding their real motivation. Yet another one has slipped up and revealed the catalyst driving the climate scare.
We have been told now for almost three decades that man has to change his ways or his fossil-fuel emissions will scorch Earth with catastrophic warming. Scientists, politicians and activists have maintained the narrative that their concern is only about caring for our planet and its inhabitants. But this is simply not true. The narrative is a ruse. They are after something entirely different.
If they were honest, the climate alarmists would admit that they are not working feverishly to hold down global temperatures — they would acknowledge that they are instead consumed with the goal of holding down capitalism and establishing a global welfare state.
Have doubts? Then listen to the words of former United Nations climate official Ottmar Edenhofer: “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with the environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole,” said Edenhofer, who co-chaired the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group on Mitigation of Climate Change from 2008 to 2015.
So what is the goal of environmental policy? “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy,” said Edenhofer.
For those who want to believe that maybe Edenhofer just misspoke and doesn’t really mean that, consider that a little more than five years ago he also said that “the next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”
Mad as they are, Edenhofer’s comments are nevertheless consistent with other alarmists who have spilled the movement’s dirty secret. Last year, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, made a similar statement. “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said in anticipation of last year’s Paris climate summit. “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”
The plan is to allow Third World countries to emit as much carbon dioxide as they wish — because, as Edenhofer said, “in order to get rich one has to burn coal, oil or gas” — while at the same time restricting emissions in advanced nations. This will, of course, choke economic growth in developed nations, but they deserve that fate as they “have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community,” he said. The fanaticism runs so deep that one professor has even suggested that we need to plunge ourselves into a depression to fight global warming.
Perhaps Naomi Klein summed up best what the warming the fuss is all about in her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” “What if global warming isn’t only a crisis?” Klein asks in a preview of a documentary inspired by her book. “What if it’s the best chance we’re ever going to get to build a better world?”
In her mind, the world has to “change, or be changed” because an “economic system” — meaning free-market capitalism — has caused environmental “wreckage.”
This is how the global warming alarmist community thinks. It wants to frighten, intimidate and then assume command. It needs a “crisis” to take advantage of, a hobgoblin to menace the people, so that they will beg for protection from the imaginary threat. The alarmists’ “better world” is one in which they rule a global welfare state. They’ve admitted this themselves.
(This material was pulled from Wikipedia and other online sources)
Ebionism is the link from Jewish religion and Christianity to Islam. How so? Ebionism was an early branch of Jewish Christianity that eventually spread to the Arabian Peninsula. An Ebionite priest in Mecca, named Waraqa, became the spiritual mentor of Muhammad, filling his head with ideas of a violent, punishing God that would destroy unbelievers in Hell, ideas that were taken from the gospel of Matthew that was used by the Ebionites.
Note the strands of belief and practice (some minor, some more consequential) traceable from Judaism, through Christianity and into Islam.
I am interested mainly in theological similarities with Islam. I want to note the traces of Judaism and Christianity that are clearly evident in Islam. Most notable- the idea of a wrathful God that will damn unbelievers to Hell. I have shown elsewhere that Matthew warned the villages of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum that refused to repent and receive the messenger and the message, that they would suffer hellfire (Matthew 11). So Muhammad also repeated this very same teaching in the Quran and warned those who did not believe the message and messenger, that they would end in hellfire. This was a key “bad religious idea” passed down from Jewish belief (violent, punitive deity) to Christianity (God and Hell) and then to Islam. Waraqa obviously used Matthew’s gospel to communicate these ideas to Muhammad. Note in the Quran that Muhammad affirms that he accepts the Jewish scriptures and “the other gospel”.
Ebionism moves to Arabia
The Ebionites emerged around 70 CE. They may originally have been Essenes who converted to Jewish Christianity. After the Bar Kokhbar revolt of 135 CE they lost influence and converts. They were marginalized and persecuted by Jews and Christians. Around 375 they were present in Cyprus but then were no longer in the region by the 5th Century. They were present in the Arabian Peninsula up till the 11th and 12th Centuries, in cities such as Mecca and Medina.
The Ebionites believed that the Jewish God was the creator. They emphasized the oneness of God.
The Ebionites denied the supernatural birth of Jesus (so also Islam). They affirmed that a divine power came on Jesus at his baptism, a reward of his perfect obedience to the Law. Jesus was chosen because of his righteousness. By this power Jesus performed miracles.
The transmission of the violent God idea- from Matthew to Muhammad
The Ebionites retained the Hebrew bible (OT) and used the gospel to the Hebrews, considered to be a Hebrew version of Matthew but without the birth and infancy chapters, the first two chapters. They used the Matthew material from the third chapter on. They also used writings such as “the Clementines”, the Ascents of James, and perhaps other NT books. They generally rejected Paul and considered his message to be a corruption of the true message of Christ.
They considered Matthew as “their principal scriptural authority”, the most Jewish of the gospels. The entire Jewish law was to be kept- i.e. Sabbath, kosher food (excluding meat- i.e. no pork in Islam, as in Jewish religion), and circumcision. They may have used a Gospel of the Nazareans, similar to their version of Matthew or based on Matthew. Other scriptures used by the Ebionites- the Journeyings of Peter, etc. Their theology was fundamentally Jewish and Essenian.
The violent, punitive God idea would have come down from the Jewish scriptures to Matthew and then into the Quran.
The Ebionites observed the Mosaic Law, including the ceremonial law. Their emphasis was on righteousness, salvation by law-keeping. They only had table fellowship with those who converted to Judaism. They practiced frequent ablutions- excessive ritual bathing (so also in Islam)- in the manner of the Essenes. As noted above, some argue that they had a close relation to the Essenes. The Essenes did not engage trade (is this related to the anti-usury feature in Islam?). They embraced asceticism, and avoiding immorality (also a prominent concern in Islam). They opposed animal sacrifice and reverenced Jerusalem- praying in its direction during daily worship. They held a low opinion of women and gave prominence to the poor, features also common to Islam.
The Center (rethinking religious “spirituality”)
Joseph Campbell, speaking of Ultimate Reality or God, notes that the Center is everywhere and each of us is the center. “God is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere…Each of us- whoever and wherever he may be- is then the center, and within him, whether he knows it or not, is that Mind at Large” (p.265, Myths To Live By).
This insight counters well the traditional religious teaching that God is in heaven above, or off somewhere absent (i.e. ‘sky gods’ mythology), or to be encountered only in some future existence (heaven). To the contrary, the creating, sustaining Love at the core of reality and life is here right now in each of us. It is our core, our authentic self or person. What humanity has long called God is most notably present in all humanity and is manifest most especially in all diverse human goodness. Our humanity, or humaneness, is the best evidence of God.
One of the important discoveries about God is that our human consciousness and human spirit is the very essence of God in humanity, the presence of God in this world. This human spirit is most manifest in love for others, and it is especially manifest in the height of authentic love- love for enemies.
The takeaway? We do not need to go anywhere else to achieve spiritual maturity or to gain enlightenment from some guru with esoteric spiritual “secrets”. We do not need to go anywhere else to get “closer to God”. No- the Creator and Sustainer of all is right here in our personal life and story. We have All right now inside us- in our own consciousness and human spirit. Each one of us is the very Center of the best that there is. The best that we can achieve or experience is not somewhere else. Related to this, Jesus said that the kingdom of God was among you, and in you. It is not somewhere else or something future. It is in the here and now of your personal life and story.
And to focus this point further- the only secret to enlightenment is love, especially unconditional love toward all, toward even the enemy. This is the height of spiritual insight, experience, attainment , or achievement. Despite how uncomfortable it may feel as we struggle to express it- unconditional love toward all people in the most ordinary, mundane, and difficult details of daily life- this is the height of spiritual experience or manifestation of the divine. There is nothing higher, more advanced, or more important. This is the ultimate experience of God, the supreme knowledge of God, and the greatest manifestation of God in life. Love your enemy.
The height of human success in life, then, is found in this- to love the hard-to-love person in the most difficult parts of daily life, in the midst of the boring and the mundane, in the daily grind.
A further takeaway- authentic human success is then equally available to every person- even to the poorest, the least educated, the least “enlightened”, or the least skilled. Ultimate human success is to be experienced in unconditional love in daily life. It is not about feeling some flight of personal ecstasy, or other blissful emotions. It is not about the struggle to attain insight and enlightenment in some complex and esoteric system of thought. Spiritual success is about intent, choice, and action to love the hard-to-love person near us. That is the center of where God is, and the ultimate experience of God in this life. In many situations the choice to love may not feel good at all. It may be accompanied by feelings of regret, guilt, shame, tiredness, and despair. But despite how the choice to love feels at the time it is the expression of true spirituality.
Change your story- we got the old one all wrong.
Just to orient new visitors and laser in on some central projects on this site…here is some new comment. As with other sections below, I am going to the root of problems- to the deepest levels possible (background themes, subconscious things)- to find thorough, foundational solutions. I will argue that an unconditional Core Reality offers good potential to solve deeply rooted fears that lead to bad ideas and subhuman responses and actions in life.
What might be the fundamental features of a new human story, a new grand narrative for humanity?
I would start with a rehash of the old story to remind people of its main features, and to understand where we went wrong in the first place. See my Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas for detail on the main features of the old grand narrative that has shaped human worldviews for past millennia, a narrative that has distorted reality and life completely.
The old narrative claimed an original perfection, a better past. It stated that “corrupted” or “fallen” people had ruined the original paradise. Anti-humanism is at the core of the old story. It devalues people as essentially destructive, rebellious, bad to the core, and deserving punishment.
Having ruined paradise, the old story said that life began declining toward some catastrophic ending (i.e. an apocalypse). It argued that corrupt people must now be punished and removed from the world. It threatened that God would soon purge fallen humanity, and the corrupt world system (human society), and thereby save the world and restore the lost paradise.
This mess of bad mythology has long been behind Salvationism, millennialism, and utopianism.
And here is an interesting fact about contemporary life- the primitive mythology of apocalyptic still defines our great religions. It also shapes much secular thinking today, notably environmental alarmism which wants to purge the current world system- i.e. halt or remove industrial civilization- in order to restore the lost paradise of wilderness nature.
The core of the old story, the cohering center, is the pathology of an angry, punishing God that will destroy this imperfect world. Talk about fear-mongering gone extreme, eh.
The new story must start with a stunning new core- an incomprehensible unconditional Love that changes everything. That “no conditions Love” means no judgment, no punishment, no exclusion of anyone, and no coming violent destruction of any kind. There is no need for Salvationism religion, humanity’s greatest waste.
Where do I get this new core from? Start with Historical Jesus and his breakthrough theology of unconditional love, long buried in Christianity.
Just as all the features of the old story cohered around the violent, punitive center- some great metaphysical Threat- so all the features of a new story will cohere around this new Center that is infinite Love, inexpressible no conditions love- absolutely no Threat.
The take-away? There is nothing to fear before death, in death, or after death. This new core Love blows away entirely the foundations of humanity’s greatest fear- i.e. the terror at some ultimate Harming Force or Spirit in an after-life. There is nothing after death to harm us- see my summary of Mike Grosso’s argument.
I would ground people in this liberating truth- everyone is safe and everyone is included in the incomprehensible Love of God. This goes directly to the root of humanity’s greatest fear- the fear of harm after death. A core Love tells us there is no such Threat of ultimate Harm, and there never has been any such Threat. There is no angry deity demanding atonement (payment) or threatening punishment.
But properly replacing the old Threat mythology will require a thorough-going probe of the depths of our subconscious where those Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas have taken such deep root. It will require re-evaluating our personal worldviews to isolate bad ideas and to directly counter those themes that support the central belief in Divine Threat. Again, I would suggest using my Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas for guidance in re-evaluating your personal worldview.
Then replace that old core Threat with this new core ideal of ultimate Love. The liberating power of this core theme of “absolutely no conditions Love” will then permeate consciousness and liberate at the very depths of the human spirit (subconscious) as it deals potently with the most foundational human fears and worries. It will effectively counter our worst impulses to fear, anxiety, and despair that have long been agitated by bad mythology, bad religion, and now bad ideology.
Its time to end this horrifically damaging pathology of some ultimate Threat of harm.
Then fill out the basic framework of a new story, thoroughly replace the old ideas, deal with each of the main elements of the old narrative and replace those with new themes- i.e. that there was no perfect beginning, no fall and decline, and no loss of paradise. Instead, right at the beginning of life, we were given an imperfect world to struggle with and to improve. Imperfection was built in right at the beginning to give us something to struggle with in order to exercise our creative powers to improve life. Imperfection has always stirred people to create something beautiful, to make something better. See discussion on embracing imperfection in sections below.
This imperfect planet is a learning arena. It is where we principally learn how to love. Our struggle with imperfection brings out the best in us. Just watch how people respond when some emergency disaster occurs, how they do anything they can to help one another. After great catastrophes, people then note how the disaster brought out love and humanity in others. Much like death brings out the best in us.
All physical evidence affirms the new story of life as a long history of improvement. Life and civilization have risen toward something better over the long term. Life has not declined toward some disastrous ending. This speaks to a core Love or core Goodness behind all, and it speaks to our fundamental drive to create something better.
Further critical to a new story- get rid of the anti-human element, the endless devaluation of humanity as essentially corrupt. We are not the fallen, vile creatures that mythology and religion have beaten into our consciousness across history. In our personal lives and general history we see evidence that we have gradually become better. Pinker, Payne, and others present the good historical evidence of our historical improvement in their books.
Finally, there will be no horrible end to life, no apocalypse. There will be no punishment of humanity. The future is wide open, infinite in all directions.
And with the end of each human life- all return to Love. All are ultimately safe in Love. As a sage once said, we come from love, we live in love, and we return to love in the end. This effectively counters the primal death fear.
Take a good look at your personal worldview and its main themes. How many old story myths are you still holding? Look at my Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas to help guide you in evaluating your own views.
These old story myths and ideas distort reality and life entirely. They undermine hope. As Julian Simon said, they lead to fatalism and resignation in people. The cause unnecessary fear, anxiety, and despair. Imagine- young people choosing not to have children because they are fearful on bringing their children into what they believe is a declining world that is heading for catastrophe.
Further note: An entirely new core Love will require rethinking the age-old issue of why evil and suffering exist in life if there is a core Goodness or Love. A new core ideal of unconditional love will also demand a new appreciation of the relationship between love and freedom. Unconditional love is about non-coercion, non-intervention, respecting individual freedom in human life, and natural freedom in the world.
Related to this- Common sense and pragmatism does not deny the responsibility to restrain violence, including the imprisonment of repeatedly violent offenders and the stopping of irrational violence as in ISIS. But unconditional also gives new impetus to restorative justice, to treat all offenders as family despite their horrific failure to live as human. There is no more “enemy” or outsider with unconditional.
New Opening Section:
This site is an ongoing project to clear away the prominent bad ideas that we have inherited from across mythological and religious history, in order to better see the stunning discovery of a core unconditional Love.
This site details the history of primitive apocalyptic mythology (i.e. Threat mythology) and how this pathology has dominated most religion over history. Primitive apocalyptic was then transformed into secular versions for our contemporary “scientific” age. Apocalyptic made the transition into modern consciousness via 19th Century Declinism. See Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History for detail. These primitive mythical themes are still at the root of much contemporary alarmism, including secular versions of alarmism like environmental alarmism.
Apocalyptic mythology has arguably caused more harm to humanity than any other body of ideas, religious or ideological. Historians like Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth) and Arthur Herman have shown how apocalyptic influenced mass death movements like Marxism and Nazism, and again, how it continues to impact human consciousness and life through Environmental Alarmism. Apocalyptic themes and outlook have long been deeply rooted in human consciousness and worldviews (even in human subconscious) and continue to dominate public consciousness today.
These primitive apocalyptic themes continue to stir endless fear, anxiety, depression, and despair, and harmfully influence human outlook, emotion, and motivation. Julian Simon noted that environmental alarmism promoted fatalism and resignation in populations. You see this in people that are afraid to have children, fearful of bringing new life into what they believe is a declining world.
We also have today the strange “cognitive dissonance” (people unaware of holding great contradictions in their minds) of many self-proclaimed modern secularists and even scientists mouthing the very themes of the most primitive mythology of the ancient past.
To properly understand and solve pathologies like apocalyptic catastrophism you must deal with the religious roots of this pathology that have never been fully purged from human worldviews. This is why I focus so intently on the mythical/religious themes that are behind contemporary human ideologies and worldviews, and trace the descent of these themes across history. We need to understand how many of our main beliefs are inherited from a primitive past and are based on a major error in early thought.
Apocalyptic mythology has buried the actual story of life, and the true nature of Ultimate Reality. It has undermined human hope and darkened consciousness and enslaved the human spirit for millennia.
Why do these themes so persistently continue to govern human outlook? I have traced to origin of this to a profound error in early human logic- i.e. the fallacy of some punishing or destroying force or spirit behind life. This pathology remains at the heart of our great world religions and secular ideologies. You will not free people from the rest of the template of bad religious ideas until you break the grip of the core bad idea- divine threat.
When you look at good evidence on the true state of the world (i.e. Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource), this evidence does not support alarmist exaggeration. Good science overturns this apocalyptic nuttiness entirely. While there are problems everywhere in the world, life in all its main elements and resources is not heading toward collapse and ending. To the contrary, evidence shows that there is improvement over the long term in all the main features of life.
When the evidence does not support alarmism, you then realize that alarmists are not basing their views on evidence but too often on mythological views from an ancient past. Again, I have traced these themes from primitive mythology, down to 19th Century Declinism where they were given secular expression for the modern age, and then into contemporary ideologies like environmental alarmism. At the core of contemporary alarmism we are still dealing with the deeply-rooted themes of apocalyptic mythology.
I have summarized these apocalyptic themes in the following general template of ideas (see full template in “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas” below). Apocalyptic mythology embraces the myths of a better past (pristine original nature), corrupt humanity ruining the better past (i.e. the damaging impact of industrial civilization), now life is in decline toward some great catastrophe (apocalyptic collapse), so the corrupting force (greedy humanity) must be violently purged in order to save the world and restore the lost original paradise.
Based on overwhelming and sound evidence to the contrary, I would summarize my conclusions this way, “Do not be afraid. Do not worry. Despite what life throws at us, despite the continuing problems that we face in an imperfect world, ultimately, life on earth is improving and it is going to be all right, for everyone. We are all safe in the end”. See detailed evidence throughout this site. I base my conclusion of ultimate safety for all, on diverse forms of “evidence”- both from religious or spiritual traditions, and from other more widely understood evidentiary traditions (i.e. science).
My response to apocalyptic myth, and to Threat theology in general, is to go to the deepest levels of human consciousness (the subconscious) where such themes have long been embedded and from where they shape human perception, belief, feeling, motivation, and response. I have offered the most potent solution to this apocalyptic pathology- the profound discovery of an ancient wisdom sage that there is no ultimate threat. There is only “no conditions Love” at the core of reality. That discovery gets to the ultimate root of the problem at the most important level.
Explore with us the single most explosive and liberating discovery ever. It comes from an ancient wisdom sage and the religious tradition- Christianity- that tried to bury his discovery. Both Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy stated that the “diamond… or pearl” had been buried in the larger religious system. This is the greatest religious scandal in history.
Alarmist news media (just some diversionary comment)
This is rich, watching the wake of the US election. For the past year or so most of the media embraced an irresponsible hysteria over Donald Trump and the sometimes disgusting comments that he made. Media portrayed him as evil incarnated and endless commentators prophesied that he would usher in the end of days if elected.
This episode of Trump hysteria illustrates the more general irresponsibility of alarmist news media. It is all too typical of what news media has become with its orientation to alarmism (addiction to exaggerating terms like “crisis”, “catastrophe”, “disaster”, “imminent collapse”, etc.) and subsequent distortion of the true state of life.
David Altheide (media sociologist) nailed the media in his “Creating Fear: News and the Manufacture of Crisis”. News media are obsessively devoted to fear-mongering in the battle for ratings. As Altheide said, news media are not truth-tellers but entertainers competing with the rest of the entertainment industry, an industry that is intensely oriented to the great fraud of apocalyptic insanity. And yes Altheide, creating fear is all about “social control”. First generate fear, then push your salvation scheme on the very people that you have terrorized (i.e. we must “save the world”). Much like hell-fire preachers offering salvation. (To be balanced, the Trump side also stirred hysteria over Clinton)
And after this latest bout of alarmist hysteria generated by the media, are we now supposed to be surprised at the eruption of fear in the population? Children frightened and crying in classrooms?
Media have been doing this for decades with unscientific climate alarmism, exaggerating and distorting climate change. James Hansen, the author of this warming alarmism hysteria (beginning in 1988), prophesied in 2008 that it “would be all over” in five years. He contributed to the general rise of the new pathology of “eco-anxiety” among children.
Celebrity apocalyptic preachers like Leonardo DiCaprio continue to fuel this irresponsible extremism with the recent pronouncement that he is “terrified” of climate change (see National Geographic documentary). This is the same guy that went bonkers over a Chinook in Alberta and believed that it was the apocalypse. The locals made a complete fool of him by not cluing him in to local weather anomalies. Imagine- being in a dangerously cold place and frightened of warming up. Can you get any more nutty? Most of us are glad to get indoors to our fossil-fuel heated homes. And we would love for Canada to once again become a tropical country (yes, they have discovered the tree stumps of an ancient tropical forest in the Arctic).
Climate has been changing over the entire history of the planet, often far more suddenly and severely than the mild change that we experienced from 1975-1998 (about 0.3 degree Centigrade, part of the natural recovery from the Little Ice Age of 1645-1715 CE). We are just beginning to understand more about the natural elements that drive climate change and completely overwhelm the influence of CO2 on climate. Note the good research on cosmic rays, the interaction with the sun and its cyclical patterns, the ocean-atmospheric interaction, clouds, and more (see, for example, Henrik Svensmark’s ‘The Chilling Stars’).
Give us a break from this Green madness. It has gone beyond cultic nuttiness now. It has become lunatic fringe stuff. The tragedy is that politicians across the globe have bought into it and are harming entire societies with policies to fight a “war on carbon”. A war on carbon? We, and all life, are carbon-based beings. All life is carbon-based. This is Grade One science. And we get carbon mostly via CO2 in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this food of all life has been at historically low, dangerously low levels, for the past millions of years. (See paleo-climate research in excellent studies such as Professor Ian Plimer’s ‘Heaven and Earth’)
Plant life has suffered under these low levels; it has been stressed and starving. Now that there has been a tiny bit of recovery from pre-industrial lows of 285 ppm, to about 400 plus ppm today, life is recovering. But this is still short of the basic 1000-1500 ppm that plant life prefers. Over long stretches of past history, when CO2 was in the 1000-1500 ppm range, and even higher, there was no catastrophic collapse of life but rather life flourished during those eras.
Since 1980, with our slight rise in CO2, there has been a 14% increase in plant productivity across the globe. The planet is greener, healthier, and the biosphere is more robust. There are more plants, and they are thicker, stronger, with better water uptake, because they are getting more food. Animal and human life has benefitted immensely from this increase in food supply. Why are the Greens not celebrating this return to more natural, more normal conditions for life? Why are they not celebrating the greening of the planet? (See Matt Ridley article below)
There is a senseless irresponsibility to this alarmist extremism. It is more than just blatant fear-mongering. It is the shameful abandonment of good basic science. Michael Hart has just put out a great study of this in his “Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change.”
Just an aside: I would overturn the climate alarmism narrative entirely and state that rising CO2 and rising temperatures are the best thing happening to the planet now. They signal a return to more natural, normal and healthy conditions for life. Life is and will flourish with both trends rising. The evidence from paleo-climate research affirms this contrary narrative of hope.
(Continuing…) And after committing this alarmist terrorism on populations, media then report on the mess that they have created- the traumatized and frightened populations, people laying about in the fetal position at the Clinton headquarters, weeping hysterically. Get a grip people. Alarmism is irresponsibility gone insane. As a friend suggests, this climate alarmism is a worse form of terrorism, and more damaging, than any religious terrorism (for detail on the damage, see articles below on increased regulation, and consequent decreased income).
Life will be fine and will continue to improve as it has for past millennia, despite the aberrational setbacks, downturns, and other imperfections along the way. Basic good evidence continues to show the true state of life on Earth, in the complete picture and long term trends. Once again- take a close look at Julian Simon’s brilliant book “Ultimate Resource”. There is no sound evidence that life will collapse into catastrophe in the future. Apocalyptic mythology is and always has been a great fraud and lie. It has a 100 percent failure rate across history.
Just a follow-up note on Trump alarmism: The “Classic British Liberalism” of Conservative economic policies will help tens of millions of Americans. I affirm this, coming from my position as a fierce Independent on economics and politics (float like a butterfly and find nectar wherever you can). Listen to Ben Carson on these economic issues, and Rudy Guliani, who turned New York from a basket case to a success story with these very policies.
Most critical to a successful society is to get the basic economic principles right. This is the basis of all the other good that you want to do in a society. Obama and Clinton never understood this (note: apparently Bill Clinton listened to Milton Freidman and that may explain his success with economics). Obama and Hilary Clinton kept pulling toward the failed collectivist policies of the past century (i.e. central planning and control of economies via more taxation and regulation). That has never worked to lift a society and never will. Remember the great experiment of the past century between the two systems and the outcomes (i.e. economic, resource, social, and environmental impacts).
Point? You can be the biggest jerk but if your policies are right then you will, overall, benefit your society. Or conversely, you can be the nicest person but if your policies are wrong then you will consequently harm your society.
Further: Collectivism is all about “enlightened elites” (‘enlightened vanguards’ in the collectivist systems) believing that they know better than the common people how to spend their money (taxation) and how they should live their lives (government regulation). There is nothing more dangerous than the do-gooders that believe they know what is good for all others and will use state coercion to force their control on others. Central control is essentially a lack of trust in ordinary people and their creative ingenuity.
Some good reading on economic issues- The Birth of Plenty by William Bernstein, Libertarianism by David Boaz, Arthur Herman’s The Cave and the Light (traces the history of collectivism from Plato and individualism from Aristotle), and Heaven on Earth: The rise and fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik, a former Socialist, among others.
Further note: The Chinese finally got it, the economic freedom issue, and then lifted over 400 million of their people out of poverty over a 20 year period. Though their continued obsession with central planning and control hinders further economic success.
The French Socialists also got it under Mitterand’s coalition of Socialists and Communists in the early 80s (see Muravchik’s Heaven on Earth). They initially did what all Collectivists do on gaining power and began to nationalize sectors of the French economy. The economy subsequently collapsed within their first year in power but they had the sense to back off and let it recover. Then the leader of the Communist faction of Mitterand’s coalition stated, “We must respect the business sector as the creator of wealth in a society”. Wow. And Duh. But what an admission from a Communist, eh.
And do not do what Hilary did and project class warfare on the business sector, using the stereotypical Hollywood narrative of big business as evil and small or medium business as morally superior. All business is responsible for creating wealth and jobs in society and all of us benefit from that (see Neglected Narrative).
And yes, there is greed and excess in the capitalist system. But that is not the essential driving nature of the system. The foundational impulse of the system is freedom (this emerged out of Classic British Liberalism) and the unleashing of the human creative drive in that protected freedom.