This site explores the history of “bad religious ideas” and the stunning contrary theology of unconditional. It traces the descent of apocalyptic in the Western tradition- from the apocalyptic Christ of Paul to environmental alarmism. Paul’s Christ myth (“the most influential myth in history”) has shaped all of us, profoundly.
Most of us feel that we exist as conscious persons somewhere just behind our eyeballs. And we feel that we are reacting to stimuli around us in daily life. We are often unaware of the themes, ideas- and associated impulses/emotions- that influence us from the back of our skulls (i.e. the subconscious). There are deeply embedded things in the background of our belief systems, our worldviews, primitive things that powerfully shape our lives (i.e. our perception, our feelings, and our responses/actions).
This site traces the line of descent of primitive apocalyptic myth down from Sumerian/Egyptian religion, to Paul’s apocalyptic Christ, to 19th Century Declinism, and then to the environmental alarmism of today. Ancient myth has become “secular” ideology.
Watch how this deeply embedded stuff works. For example, we heard “secular scientist” James Hansen, state in 2008- “It’s all over in five years”. Now ask yourself: How was that really different from the primitive Sumerian priest that alarmed his ancient population with the claim of a looming great Flood that would destroy humanity and life?
And what about Stephen Hawking today prophesying that the end is nigh? He has switched from prophesying in 2016 that the end of days would be in 1000-plus years to now prophesying in 2017 that the end of days will happen in just 100 years. How is Hawking any different from Pastor Harold Camping who prophesied the end in 2013? The same primitive themes continue to find new expression in both religious and secular versions.
Hence, the interesting spectacle today of many self-proclaimed secularists, even atheists, mouthing the same old, same old themes of primitive apocalyptic. The terms used to express apocalyptic change over time but the core themes remain the same.
Environmental alarmism, as the latest apocalyptic movement, exaggerates the many problems in life to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the true state of things and frightening populations to embrace devastatingly harmful salvation schemes. Remember Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative (Silent Spring) and endeavor to save the world that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of vulnerable people, many children, due to the consequent ban on DDT.
Apocalyptic alarmism is not just irresponsible (e.g. like shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater). It is highly immoral. We are all responsible for the themes, and their outcomes, that we put out into public consciousness.
A qualifier: My challenge to the fraud of apocalyptic is not a denial of the potential for catastrophe in life, whether natural or human-caused (i.e. war). Going after apocalyptic is about rejecting the added and unnecessary psychic burden of the fraudulent belief that people are being punished by deity through natural disaster or human cruelty. Rejecting apocalyptic is also about countering the inciting role that apocalyptic has played in pushing alarmed people into wasteful salvation schemes (e.g. the anti-fossil fuel, anti-industrial society lunacy of today). And it is about ending the inciting role that apocalyptic millennialism has played in promoting mass-death movements (see Landes and Mendel research below).
Topics below: The contradiction between the message of Historical Jesus and the Christ of Paul- the stunning new non-retaliatory God of Jesus versus Paul’s retaliating deity, the core theme of all past mythology/religion. The retaliating God of Paul is at the heart of his Christ myth. The core features of Paul’s Christ have shaped Western consciousness more than any other set of ideas.
Then: Exploring unconditional as the ultimate expression of the human ideal of love. Unconditional takes love to the supreme height of the authentically humane.
Further: Apocalyptic- the most violent and destructive force in history. And: Why probe theology? Bad theological ideas have a long historical record of inciting bad behavior. Psychotherapists Zenon Lotufo and Harold Ellens detail the damaging influence of punitive God theology on human consciousness and behavior.
Also, Joseph Campbell on human story, conquering monsters, and maturing into universal love. Further, “The origin of bad ideas”, and “Humanity created to serve the gods?” Then: Rethinking theology as authentic no conditions love.
At the bottom- Child’s play: Trump and media locked in eye for eye cycles- adult “counter-punching” or infantile “getting even”?
One more: New comment from discussion group on Arthur Mendel’s book “Vision and Violence”- how apocalyptic became “the most violent force in history”. Detail on how bad religious ideas have been given “secular” expression in the alarmist ideologies of the modern era (e.g. environmental alarmism).
“Angry God punishing bad people“- This ancient and original bad idea prevented early humans from appreciating the truth that unconditional Love defined the core of reality. The fraudulent myth of “angry God punishing bad people” then incited the historical response of salvation religion (i.e. the endeavor to appease angry, threatening deity). All other “bad religious ideas” sprang from this primitive myth of punishing deity (see ‘Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas’ in sections below).
Today’s “secular” versions of angry, punitive deity include “vengeful Gaia”, “angry planet/nature”, or karma, threatening to punish humanity- “the virus or cancer on the earth”. The great fraud of apocalyptic is based on this idea of punitive deity, the apocalypse being the expression of God’s final judgment and punishment of humanity.
Note in new material below (i.e. Confronting the Christ myth) that Historical Jesus rejected the myth of retaliatory deity and embraced a core unconditional Love- God is love and only love. Paul then subsequently rejected that “stunning new theology” of Jesus and retreated to the primitive myth of retaliatory, punishing deity. He expressed his retaliation theology in his Christ myth and Christianity was formed around this myth. This Jesus/Paul contradiction illustrates the overall history of the human struggle with an animal inheritance (an animal brain oriented to retaliation) and our new human consciousness oriented to unconditional love.
This site tackles bad religious ideas and their contemporary expression in movements like environmental alarmism or Green religion. Bad religious ideas have been fingered as directly responsible for inciting the base human impulses to tribal exclusion and opposition, to domination and destruction of differing others. See sources below on the religious themes behind the mass-death movements of the 20th Century.
A critical correlation to watch: Bad religious ideas, like apocalyptic, incite fear which then pushes people to embrace harmful salvation schemes that have too often ended in mass-death outcomes.
This site is a project to expose and clear away the obstructing clutter of bad religious ideas that block our appreciation of the incomprehensible Love at the core of reality and life. Life is all about love. Love is the defining nature of Ultimate Reality, or what people have long referred to as God. Consequently, love explains why the universe was created. Love is the meaning and purpose of all things.
Further, love defines us as authentically human. It is the central impulse of human consciousness. Love is the core nature of our true self, the basic “stuff” of the real human person. Love defines our humanity in contrast to our animal inheritance (paraphrasing Schwartz- “We are not our animal brains”).
And the adjective “unconditional” takes us to the very height of the authentically humane. It takes us to the summit of human love. Unconditional love, or unlimited, universal love, enables us to “tower in stature” like a Nelson Mandela.
So when you ask that great question- What does it mean to be human?… you are really asking- What is love?
My argument is that across history the foundational ideas of religious traditions have prevented humanity from seeing the true nature of love as unconditional. Religious traditions have all been essentially conditional in nature (i.e. the conditions necessary to appease and please the gods). Religion, as a conditional institution, cannot communicate the scandal and wonder of love that is inexpressibly unconditional. Religious beliefs have always limited, distorted, and even buried the unconditional nature of authentic love.
The central themes of historical religion have been given “secular” expression in the myths and ideologies of today (i.e. angry planet, karma, or some other principle of core retribution).
Fortunately, many people, from their experience as parents, spouses, and friends are getting the real nature of love as unconditional. Even our common human rights codes are giving voice to unconditional love in the embrace of human diversity.
Based on the “spiritual” insight that the Creator is no conditions Love, I would assure everyone that we are all ultimately safe in Love, despite the things that we suffer in this imperfect world. This affirmation that all comes from a core Love, argues for a revolution in our understanding of imperfection in life and the horror of human suffering. What does it mean? See discussions below.
Whatever your conclusions on the meaning or point of suffering, the discovery of deity as absolutely no conditions love cuts the taproot of the primal human fear- the fear of some Ultimate Harm (i.e. divine judgment, punishment, exclusion, destruction). Angry, punishing deity has long been the foundational myth promoted by religious traditions. That has always added an unnecessary psychic burden to human suffering. As the Japanese woman said after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished?”
The understanding of Ultimate Reality as “no conditions love” fuels my personal battle with bad religious ideas, especially the great fraud of monster gods (i.e. Threat theology). I see the greatest liberation movement still struggling to emerge- the battle to liberate human consciousness at the deepest levels of mind, spirit, and emotion from the sense of ultimate threat. Too many people still embrace some form of the primitive myth of core Retribution (i.e. punitive God, karma).
Note also the interesting spectacle of many moderns- even self-proclaimed secularists- walking around mouthing the themes of primitive mythology such as apocalyptic. Even Stephen Hawking has succumbed in recent years (2016-17) to “Chicken Little Syndrome” and has been prophesying the end of all things, much like Pastor Harold Camping did in 2013.
Further note: I have focused on the root idea of “angry God punishing humanity” because this single primitive myth has incited incalculable misery and suffering across the millennia, through religious and secular versions (i.e. stirring unnecessary fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and even violence). Its most notable expression is in the threat of apocalypse. Confronting this primal bad idea is about going to the root issue behind other more surface pathologies in life. It is about proper problem-solving at the deepest levels.
Most of us feel that our consciousness operates right behind our eyeballs. We feel that we are reacting to immediate stimuli around us in daily life. But as we listen to people express themselves, and when we note the common themes recurring in public discourse, we hear endless repetition of the same basic ideas that humans have voiced across the millennia. These themes have obviously been deeply embedded in the background of human thought, belief, and worldviews (i.e. in human subconscious). It is always the same old, same old. Whether voiced by a primitive Samarian priest or Stephen Hawking today.
Here is some more comment on another bad religious idea that prevents the full appreciation of love.
To set up the following: Supreme retaliation, or Christianity as the great anti-Jesus movement (see Jefferson and Tolstoy quotes below)
The central atonement message of Christianity is about a supreme act of divine retaliation or punishment of sin (see Romans 1-5). Paul teaches that God held his wrath in check till Christ came along to suffer that wrath in his death and thereby pay for all sin (“In his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished”). But then, in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus God had punished all sin in order to demonstrate his eye for eye justice (i.e. retaliatory or punitive justice). The death of Jesus to pay for sin was a supreme act of cosmic retaliation. That act of retaliation is further buttressed by the threatened retaliation of Christian apocalypse (see Thessalonians, Revelation, and other books). Add here the ultimate expression of divine retaliation in the myth of Hell for unbelievers. All such Christian teaching on retaliation is in direct violation of the central non-retaliation message of Jesus (Matthew.5:38-48).
Purge the theme of retaliation from your ultimate ideals- i.e. deity- before worrying about the problems of using non-retaliation as a guiding ethic for life. Get the core right first.
What brought the destructive apocalyptic myth into Western consciousness? How did primitive mythology become the dominant ideology across the world today? (See quotes by Arthur Herman on 19th Century Declinism, and comment from Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and Jeffrey Foss on the widespread influence of environmental alarmism.)
Alarmist madness continues unabated. Public consciousness is endlessly battered and traumatized by alarmist hysteria. Just over the past half-century we have been terrorized by the global cooling threat, wildly exaggerated resource depletion predictions, mass starvation claims, world-wide disease epidemics, and varied other apocalyptic scenarios.
This site probes the root ideas/themes and the history behind apocalyptic alarmism. Apocalyptic has descended from primitive mythology (i.e. Sumerian, Egyptian) to the main world religious traditions, and now into “secular” ideologies. Herman, Landes, and Mendel offer historical detail on the transformation of religious ideas into secular versions of the same. The terms change but the core themes remain the same. “Angry God punishing bad people” has become “angry planet punishing humanity, the virus or cancer on the planet”. Modern self-proclaimed secularists wander around today sounding just like the primitives of past millennia. With apocalyptic it is always the same old, same old.
The latest comment below focuses in on one of history’s most influential myths, the icon that brought the apocalyptic myth into Western consciousness and society, where it remains embedded as a foundational idea.
Post from discussion group: “I am going more directly at the Christ as the epitome statement/expression of retaliation, of apocalyptic threat, of an angry deity punishing bad people… and so on. The worst of the worst of bad religious ideas. It has long been my view that the contradiction between Jesus and Paul summarizes or illustrates the overall human story and fundamental human problem- our struggle between our inherited animal brain and our new human consciousness, and the basic impulses that flow from these two very different sources. This is my ‘dualism'”.
Another post: “We are all responsible for the outcomes of our ideas on life around us. Read Mendel, Landes, Herman, Ellens, Lotufo and all the others. Look at what Paul’s Christ (the mother of apocalyptic in Western consciousness and society) has incited in terms of mass-death outcomes. Those 200 million deaths in the past century that are attributable to just Marxism, Nazism, and environmentalism (the ‘apocalyptic millennialism’ of the Marxists and Hitler, and Carson’s apocalyptic narrative). This is deadly stuff, this bad religious ideas stuff. Do not be caught trying to defend it as so many have done across the millennia, investing their lives in such defence”.
(See note further below on Hitler’s use of Christian apocalyptic millennialism- quotes from Landes’ book.)
Let me jump right in…
How does the Christian Christ relate to one of the central projects on this site- to go after alarmism of all forms? Well, Christianity’s Christ brought history’s most destructive idea- i.e. apocalyptic- into Western consciousness and society. Note the summary statements of the scholars and historians just below. There is a direct line from Paul’s Christ to the environmental alarmism of today (via 19th Century Declinism). Primitive myth became religion that then became “secular” ideology. See also the “balancing qualifier” comment that affirms the more humane features in the Christ. And note carefully- the core issue is non-retaliation versus retaliation. Which defines us as authentically human?
And yes, I get it that this comment is “disorienting” to the Christian mind, even offensive to minds that have long been taught that the Christ is the epitome of goodness. I also acknowledge the better ideals projected onto this icon.
Quote from below:
“The greatest contradiction in religious history is embedded at the heart of Christianity. It is expressed in the title “Jesus Christ”. Each of these two names represents an entirely opposite theme or message, an entirely contradictory ideal or gospel- i.e. non-retaliatory theology versus retaliatory theology. These two cannot be merged or mixed in one belief system. Merged in Christianity they have long expressed a supreme oxymoron. Yet they continue to be held as though they expressed one coherent truth. The consequence has been endless and harmful cognitive dissonance in Christianity (for detail see Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”).
“The contradiction here becomes clearer when you sort out the mixed-up chronology of the New Testament. The order of books there is not according to the actual timeline of what was taught first and what followed.” And so on… (more detail below)
As with other comment here, the same basic correlations are repeatedly presented to keep the larger context in view. The Christ of Paul is a supreme expression of apocalyptic threat (note also John’s graphic portrayal of the world-ending return of the Christ in Revelation). This icon of ultimate alarmism has kept fear alive in the minds of billions of people over the past two millennia. Remember this key correlation- alarmed people subsequently feel pushed to embrace salvation schemes and the outcomes of Salvationism have often been horrifically damaging to many others.
Note, for example, that Christian ‘apocalyptic millennial’ ideas and associated Salvationism, played a significant role in validating the mass-death movements of the past century (again, see research of Landes, Mendel, Herman, and others on Marxism, Nazism, environmentalism- noted below). Rachel Carson used an apocalyptic narrative to stir alarm over chemicals and that led directly to the deaths of tens of millions of people that were denied the protection of DDT. The relationship between these bad ideas and destructive outcomes are detailed throughout this site.
Today, environmental alarmism is just the latest phase of the never-ending human obsession with apocalyptic exaggeration and hysteria. Contemporary “secular” versions of alarmist apoplectic have direct linkages to the same old themes of all past apocalyptic mythology. There is nothing new under the sun. Words/terms change but core themes remain the same.
Good research has established the line of historical descent of bad ideas from primitive mythology to later religious traditions and now to the ideologies of our era. Arthur Herman in ‘The Idea of Decline’ (on 19th Century Declinism) shows how primitive myth was transformed into “secular ideology” for the modern era. Declinism is the mother of environmental alarmism or Green religion.
We have long had the potent response to the apocalyptic pathology. We have the “spiritual” insight that there is no Ultimate Threat. There is only an inexpressible Love at the core of reality. This insight cuts the taproot of the primal fear that has always been behind many other forms of alarmism.
This site probes these root issues, ideas, and historical correlations behind apocalyptic alarmism.
Related note: The Jesus/Paul contradiction epitomizes another element at the heart of the human problem. History’s greatest religious contradiction illustrates the long-standing human problem with retaliation and points to its solution (i.e. non-retaliation, or the unconditional embrace of all).
Non-retaliation, or the unconditional treatment of others, is central to what it means to be human. Unfortunately, non-retaliation is dismissed by many as too weak or mushy in the face of evil. It is considered too impractical in a world of aggressive offenders.
To hone the subject a bit more: non-retaliation, or unconditional, is fundamental to properly defining Ultimate Reality (God) as authentically humane. There is an absoluteness to non-retaliation in that sense. And non-retaliation ought to be foundational to all the other great ideals/ideas that shape humane consciousness, ethics, and existence.
But to parse a bit- in an imperfect world, non-retaliation is obviously not an argument for dogmatic pacifism. Any common sense understanding of love, recognizes that love is responsible to restrain violence, to protect the innocent, and to hold all accountable for their behavior (basic to human development). Our justice and prison systems generally exist to uphold natural or social consequences. Nonetheless, non-retaliation urges us to treat all human failure restoratively and not punitively. This means continued push for ongoing revolution in our justice systems that are currently still too oriented to punitive approaches. In a word- “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.”
A balancing qualifier to the Christ material below
Across history, uncountable numbers of good Christian people have found comfort in the features of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and promised salvation that are attributed to Paul’s Christ. The influence of these features has often been positive on human societies. But there is another side to the Christ- the presence of darker features that have often undermined the better ideals and incited the baser impulses of people.
This darker side has promoted a long history of Christian tribal exclusion (true believers versus unbelievers), Christian triumphalism (e.g. Constantine’s embrace and exaltation of the Christian religion over minor-difference alternatives), and repeated episodes of violence committed in the name of the Christ such as the torture and killing of heretics. Example: John Calvin had fellow Christian theologian Servetus burned to death because he refused to confess Calvin’s view of the Christ. Calvin acted just like the Christ that he believed- dealing severely with opponents. See Revelation for graphic illustration of how the “enemies” of the Christ will be destroyed. In much of the rest of the New Testament there is none of the “love your enemies” that Jesus taught.
The comment below sets forth the stunning contrast between the non-retaliatory theology of Historical Jesus and the entirely opposite retaliatory theology of Paul, as embodied in his Christ. That is the core issue- non-retaliation versus supreme retaliation. Jesus’ central message of a non-retaliating God overturns Paul’s Christian theology entirely. His non-retaliatory theology exposes Paul’s retaliatory Christ myth as the great anti-Jesus. The cognitive dissonance that has followed this contradiction has confused and traumatized Christian consciousness for two millennia (see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s book Cruel God, Kind God).
Consider also these summarizing statements of varied scholars, theologians, and Christian historians: I.e. Paul has been the single most influential person in history; his Christ myth has been the most influential myth in all history; Paul’s Christology shaped the thinking of all the other New Testament writers; Paul wrote over 50 percent of the New Testament; Paul created Christianity, it is his religion; apocalyptic shaped all that Paul said and did; Christianity has shaped Western consciousness, ethics, justice systems, and overall society more than anything else. And the message of Historical Jesus has largely been lost to our societies.
Further, I come at this as a former Evangelical. In my previous religious life we were taught that the Christ was the “holy of holies”, the supreme icon of the Christian sacred tradition. To challenge this myth was the very height of blasphemy and sacrilege. To doubt the Christ would get you tossed into the lowest and hottest regions of Hell. This explains the repeated episodes across history of violent torture and killing of heretics that dared question the Christ.
Confronting the Christ myth
Why tackle the Christ myth of Paul, the very heart of Christianity, when this will potentially offend so many good people that embrace the Christ as ultimate truth? Well, one reason for doing this is that the Christ myth, with its central feature of ultimate divine retaliation, has almost entirely buried the core message of historical Jesus that there is no retaliating deity. This is what Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy were both trying to express when they stated that the “diamonds/pearls” of Historical Jesus had been buried in “dung/slime/muck” of the larger New Testament context.
This is a critical point to get: The teaching of Jesus has been included in the gospels (i.e. Matthew 5-7) but the gospel writers then added further statements and parables, claiming that Jesus had also taught the additional material. But much of that added material contradicts his core message as in Matthew 5:38-48.
Three centuries of “the search for the Historical Jesus” has revealed the profound contradiction between the original message of Jesus and most of the later Christian material (i.e. the rest of the gospels and other New Testament letters).
The non-retaliation diamond of Jesus holds the potential to liberate and humanize consciousness as nothing else can possibly do, and take us toward a more humane future. This contradiction between Jesus and Paul is all about the ongoing struggle between the primitive myths that validate our inherited animal brain, and the contrary ideals that affirm our new human consciousness.
The original error of the ancients was to conclude that the violence and suffering of life- i.e. natural disasters, warfare, disease- were from angry gods that were behind all the elements of life and they were punishing people for their sin (i.e. failure to obey taboos/laws, failure to worship or offer sacrifice, and so on).
This pathological belief that “angry, retaliatory deities punish imperfect people” has darkened and enslaved human consciousness ever since. It is foundational to the world religions and it has even found “secular” expression today- i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, or karma. After the 2011 tsunami, a Japanese woman voiced this fallacy that has long burdened humanity when she asked, “Are we being punished?” Paul’s Christ affirmed this ancient pathology and embedded it at the heart of Christianity (see the early chapters of his Romans letter- his repeated reference to “the wrath of God”).
In the comment just below on the contradiction between the message of Historical Jesus and Paul’s Christ myth I am affirming “the single greatest contribution of Jesus to the history of human ideas” (James Robinson). Historical Jesus taught that there was no “eye for eye” retaliation from God. Instead, God loved his enemies and showered the same unconditional generosity on all alike, both good and bad. According to Jesus, God was absolutely no conditions love. There was no threat of retaliation, punishment, or destruction from an unconditional God. But two decades later Paul rejected that insight and taught the very opposite- that there would be a supreme divine retaliation from the Christ (a world-destroying apocalypse, harsh judgment/punishment, and eternal hell).
Just below I have re-arranged the New Testament books into their proper chronological order to help clarify this contradiction between the central message of Jesus and Paul’s entirely contrary Christ myth.
Get a good grip on the core non-retaliation theme of Jesus in sections like Matthew 5:38-48. Make that your baseline for understanding the rest of the gospel material. That stunning non-retaliatory theology of Jesus liberates entirely from history’s single most traumatizing and damaging myth- that there is some ultimate Force or Spirit that punishes human imperfection through the violence and suffering of life. The Jesus discovery overturns the entire template of related bad religious ideas that affirm divine judgment, exclusion of the bad, and the need for salvation schemes to appease some angry deity.
Think of the wasted resources, time, and energy given to the sacrifice industry across history. Further, Salvationist mythology has spawned endless violence (again, see research of Landes, Mendel and others on the mass-death outcomes from Christian apocalyptic millennialism).
The central Jesus breakthrough frees our consciousness to understand this imperfect world, and related suffering, in entirely new ways. One new direction- the Near-Death Experience movement consistently suggests that this life is a learning arena for human experience and development. But all life eventually returns back safely to the embrace of an inexpressible unconditional love.
The Jesus/Paul contradiction goes to the heart of the human problem
The contradiction between the teaching of Historical Jesus and Paul’s “Christ” myth (what he terms “Jesus Christ”) illustrates the greater struggle of humanity across history, the struggle between the base impulse to retaliate and the humane ideal of non-retaliation. (Note: The ideal of non-retaliation is not an affirmation of dogmatic pacifism in the face of violence. It is more about restorative justice approaches that include the responsibility to restrain violence.)
At risk of offending Christians I would argue that the Christ myth of Paul incites and validates one of humanity’s primal animal impulses, the impulse to retaliate, punish, and destroy some differing other. Paul’s Christ myth is a statement of supreme tribal retaliation mentality. It expresses the ultimate form of retaliation against “enemy” others, the “unbelievers, the unrighteous” that deserve ultimate exclusion, judgment, and punishment. See comment below on Paul’s theology of retaliation- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. Across history, this theology of divine retaliation has validated human justice systems as payback or punitive justice, and also incited outbreaks of religiously-inspired violence.
Retaliating, punishing themes continue to find expression in contemporary religions and even in new “secular” myths like “the revenge of Gaia”, angry planet, and karma. As with all past mythology and religion, people continue to validate the animal impulse to retaliate by creating ever new mythologies of tribal opposition toward others, and ideologies oriented to payback and its related themes. (Note research of Landes, Mendel, and Herman on the “secularization” of religious ideas.)
To the contrary, Historical Jesus rejected retaliation theology and retaliation approaches toward others. He urged people to abandon eye for eye retaliation as subhuman and taught that we should love our enemies, because God did so. Instead of retaliating against offenders/enemies he stated that God gave the good gifts of life- sun and rain- to all alike, both good and bad people. Jesus’ new theology of a non-retaliating, unconditionally loving God affirmed the core impulse of human consciousness to love all unconditionally, to forgive the imperfect offender, to include all people as members of one family, and to embrace new restorative forms of justice (i.e. treating offenders as ultimately redeemable members of the same human family).
The contrast between retaliation and non-retaliation gets to the heart of the contradiction between Jesus and Paul.
Qualifier: I do not appeal to Jesus as some religious authority that is necessary to validate the truth of unconditional love. He is useful to illustrate this ideal but most people get it from their own experience as parents and spouses. Our common human rights codes also embody the humane approach of treating all people unconditionally. We see this in the widely embraced laws regarding the humane treatment of prisoners of war, the protection of the rights of minorities, and so on.
Moving on to explain the contradiction…
The greatest contradiction in religious history is embedded at the heart of Christianity. It is expressed in the title “Jesus Christ”. Each of these two names represents an entirely opposite theme or message, an entirely contradictory ideal or gospel. These two cannot be merged or mixed in one belief system. Merged in Christianity they have long expressed a supreme oxymoron. Yet they continue to be held as though they expressed one coherent truth. The consequence has been endless and harmful cognitive dissonance in Christianity (again, for detail see Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”).
The contradiction here becomes more clear when you sort out the mixed-up chronology of the New Testament. The order of books there is not according to the actual timeline of what was taught first and what followed. Using good research on Historical Jesus, and especially Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel research, I offer below a more correct chronology of the New Testament. This will highlight the contradiction that is Jesus Christ.
The very earliest material in the NT is the teaching of Jesus. That is a collection of wisdom sayings that he taught somewhere between 27-36 CE. He was a wisdom sage and his original and basic teaching is found in roughly Matthew 5-7, along with some other sayings and a few parables. The same basic teaching is also found in Luke 6. Note that Matthew tampers with that original material by adding his own conditions and threats that contradict the central point that Jesus had made.
Examples: Matthew added such things as, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees… you will certainly not see the kingdom of heaven”. And he ends the Matthew 5:38-48 section with “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Whereas Luke, repeating the same section of statements by Jesus, ends by saying, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful”. Luke adheres more closely to the spirit of Jesus in that section on unconditional generosity toward all.
The foundational theme of Jesus, the single most important point that he made, is expressed in the Matthew 5:38-48 section (see also Luke 6:27-36). This section sums up the core theme of the gospel of Jesus. He says that “there should be no more eye for eye retaliation toward offenders, but instead, we should love our enemies/offenders”. Why? He continues, stating basically- Because God loves his enemies. “God sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad people”. God does not discriminate between good and bad. God does not favor the good and punish the bad. God loves all the same. God includes all as equal members of one family. Today we call this “unconditional love”.
Note also the consistent emphasis of Jesus on unconditional love in his parables (i.e. the Prodigal, the vineyard workers), his unconditional inclusion of all people at meals, his urging of unconditional forgiveness toward all, and so on. Unconditional is the consistent message and practice of the man.
In the central Matthew 5 comment, Jesus was stating that Ultimate Reality- God- was an inexpressible love, an absolutely no conditions love. There was nothing monstrous in God. Nothing threatening, nothing to fear. God was love, and only love.
Another critical point here- In this original Wisdom Sayings material, Jesus says nothing about his coming as a Savior to offer himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world. He says nothing about any obligation to meet some supreme atonement condition set by God. He says nothing to affirm the later dominant themes of Paul’s Christian gospel- i.e. his atonement-centered Christ myth.
Further to understanding this issue of contradiction, I will repeat what I said above, that while the original wisdom material of Jesus was included in the New Testament, the gospel writers later added a significant amount of extra material, claiming that Jesus had also taught that material. But the additional material often contradicts the main theme of Jesus in Matt.5:38-48. It contradicts his central point of unconditional love for all.
“Unconditional” is then the baseline from which to evaluate the rest of the material in the New Testament, as to whether it actually affirms the central unconditional theme of Jesus, or not. Again, Jefferson and Tolstoy both got this point of fundamental contradiction in their comments that there were diamonds/pearls in the gospels (i.e. the Matthew 5:38-48 material) but the diamonds/pearls were buried in surrounding subhuman material that was “dung”, “slime”, or “muck”.
Now follow the logic:
There are inescapable logical conclusions that flow from the core teaching of Jesus. His new insight on God as unconditional love overturns entirely the bad ideas of past religious traditions. With a God of unconditional love there is no ultimate exclusion of anyone, no ultimate punishment of anyone, no ultimate judgment, and no ultimate destruction (i.e. apocalypse or hell). If God is no conditions Love, then there is no need to fulfill any condition of atonement sacrifice, to make any payment, or to embrace a salvation plan. Jesus does not have to “die to pay for the sins of the world”. The new non-retaliatory God of Jesus completely overturns the foundational atonement theology of Paul’s Christianity.
According to Historical Jesus, God had always been unconditional love. There had never been anything monstrous in God, nothing to fear. Primitive threat theology- with its features of divine anger, retaliation, judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction- had always been a great fraud, an outright lie that distorted entirely the true nature of deity. I am being blunt in order to be clear.
James Robinson rightly says that the non-retaliating God of Jesus (no eye for eye justice) is “Jesus’ greatest contribution to the history of human ideas”. Before Jesus, no one had ever taught a fully non-retaliating deity, an unconditionally loving God. Previous gods had qualities like love, kindness, and mercy, but they also embraced the wrongly projected and subhuman features of harsh judgment, tribal exclusion of the disobedient or unbelievers, and final punishment of the bad guys. They had all demanded that conditions of some sort had to be met before they would include, forgive, protect or save anyone.
No previous mythology or religion had ever communicated to humanity the truth of God as absolutely no conditions love. And none have done so since.
Note also that in the Matthew 5:38-48 section Jesus sets forth a behavior/belief relationship. He first presents his unconditional ethic or behavior- i.e. non-retaliation (no eye for eye). He then bases that behavior/ethic on a similar belief- his new theological insight that God does not retaliate. This is critical to note as Paul later uses this very same behavior/belief pattern when he rejects the theology of Jesus (Romans 12:17-20).
The next Christian material to follow Jesus’ original teaching is from Paul. Paul wrote his first letters to the Thessalonians around 50 CE. In those letters he affirms that he rejects outright the theology of Jesus and retreats to a retaliating, punishing, destroying God. The God of all past mythology and religion.
Paul then wrote his other letters in the mid and late 50s CE. Mark wrote his gospel around 70 CE. Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels around 80 CE. John followed later.
You can clearly see Paul’s dominating influence on the later Christian writers, notably the gospel writers. They embraced his particular interpretation of Jesus as presented in Paul’s retaliatory Christ myth. Scholars tell us that Paul shaped the thinking of the rest of the New Testament. Paul shaped Christianity and the New Testament with his “Jesus Christ” myth that embodied supreme retaliation.
Read carefully the Matthew 5:38-48 statements and then immediately following this, read Paul’s entirely contrary views of God in Thessalonians.
Just to refresh your memory, Jesus had taught in Matthew 5 (my paraphrase), “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye’…but I tell you ‘Love your enemies’… (because God does this)… He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you only love those who love you, then what good is such limited and conditional tribal love? Even the primitives love like that. Be something much better. Be unconditionally merciful like just your Father is unconditionally merciful”.
Then some quotes from Paul’s earliest writing, the two Thessalonians letters: “…the coming wrath… The wrath of God has come upon them at last… The Lord will punish men… The Lord himself will come down… destruction will come on them suddenly… they will not escape…. (they will) suffer wrath… God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire… He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord… those who are perishing… they will all be condemned who do not believe the truth…”.
The Christ of Paul epitomizes an intense expression of retaliation. You also see this theme of supreme retaliation throughout Paul’s other letters- in the repeated reminders of God’s wrath and coming destruction. There is no unconditional God in Paul’s gospel of the Christ.
And in his Romans letter Paul appears to intentionally and straightforwardly confront the core behavior/belief statement of Jesus in Matt.5:38-48 in order to directly contradict it, to reject its theology. In Romans 12:17-20 Paul employed the same pattern as Jesus- he stated a behavior and then based that behavior on a belief. But confusingly, oxymoronically, he based his behavior on a contradictory belief. He first admitted that we should not retaliate in kind against offenders (no eye for eye) because that is evil. Paul appeared to urge people to not take revenge, similar to Jesus.
But then he contradicted Jesus’ new non-retaliatory theology entirely. Paul said that we should not retaliate because God will retaliate. To affirm this he quoted Deuteronomy 32:35, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. Don’t retaliate, Paul urged, because God will retaliate. First, this is oxymoronic nonsense to base a behavior on a contrary belief. But even more, it is a direct contradiction of the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus. It is an outright rejection of the core statement of Jesus that God does not retaliate, God does not engage eye for eye justice, does not take revenge against the bad guys. Paul’s fundamental theology is a direct rejection of the earlier theology of Jesus.
With Jesus we had the stunning new theology of a non-retaliating, non-punishing God. But in Paul we get a retreat to the retaliating, repaying, punishing God of the Old Testament and all primitive mythology and religion. Paul created Christianity as just another “angry God punishing bad people” religion.
Additionally, even the apparent non-retaliatory ethic in Paul’s Romans 12 statement is contrary to Jesus’ similar non-retaliation ethic in Matthew 5. Paul’s embrace of a non-retaliatory ethic misses the spirit of Jesus because he advocates for non-retaliation with a retaliatory intention. He says, do this- do not retaliate- in order to ensure divine retaliation against your opponent (i.e. “to heap coals of fire on their heads”, that is- to ensure future punishment from God).
Overall, Paul’s retaliatory Christ myth, his Christian gospel, is a direct rejection of the central message or gospel of Jesus. And that is why they call it “Christ-ianity” and not “Jesus-ianity”.
In Jesus we find that there are no conditions demanded by God for forgiveness and acceptance. Sun and rain are freely and generously showered on all people, whether good or bad. But in Paul’s Christ myth there is the demand for a supreme condition to be met first before any forgiveness will be offered to anyone- there must be the sacrifice of a God-man to pay for the sin of the world (see Romans 3-5). And then you had to meet the follow-up condition of believing Paul’s Christ myth, or else.
The sum of the matter- Paul’s gospel is entirely opposite to the gospel of Jesus. You cannot merge or mix the core teaching of Jesus and the Christ myth of Paul. Paul’s Christ is, in fact, the great anti-Jesus. It is about an entirely opposite God to the God of Jesus.
Keep this in mind every time you hear the title “Jesus Christ”. History’s greatest religious contradiction, greatest oxymoron.
Note: The immediate reaction of most people to the unconditional message of Jesus is that “God is also just”. Yes, but according to Jesus, God does not engage the old eye for eye justice (i.e. payback, punishment justice). No. God is about a new unconditionally forgiving and including justice that scandalizes conventional understanding of justice. Note the reactions of the older brother in the Prodigal parable and the all-day workers in the vineyard parable. The unconditional treatment of all people, both good and bad, offends conventional perceptions of justice as fairness, as equal payback or punishment of offenders. But that is the core theme of Historical Jesus.
Added note: Throughout this site I have made clear that an unconditional theology and ethic does not affirm dogmatic pacifism. Love is always responsible to restrain violence, to protect the innocent. But an unconditional ethic will advocate for more restorative approaches to justice and for abandoning the death penalty.
Added note: Is the correlation between Christianity and Hitler’s mass-death movement too far-fetched? Note these points from Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth, on Hitler’s appeal to Christian “apocalyptic millennialism” to incite the German population and to validate his messianic mission to save Germany. The following quotes are from his ‘Chapter 12: Genocidal Millennialism’.
Hitler and other German soldiers returning from the First World War…”shared a messianic revolutionary outlook… a synthesis of ‘nationalist ideology and an apocalyptic Christian mythology’. The warrior-dictator can lead Germany to the Promised Land only once he has destroyed evil, sin, and death in their earthly embodiment as the potent, satanic Jew’… the Weimar Republic represented a powerful incitement to apocalyptic feelings…” (p.355).
Hitler’s public performances aroused messianic hopes and revealed “the power of millennialism to corrupt even the most highly developed and sophisticated minds” (i.e. Heidegger, Schmitt, Jung, p.360)). Landes notes that after Hitler’s release from prison, following the failed Beer Hall Putsch, “he became openly messianic”. Further, “He was thinking of himself as the Messiah and it was he himself who was destined to lead Germany to glory (p.362). He used quotations from the Bible more frequently”. Hitler repeatedly referred to Providence as guiding him.
Reich itself, explains Landes, “means literally ‘millennial kingdom’ and all earlier uses of the term referred to Christian millennial movements…when Nazi ideologues developed their notions of the Third Reich as a millennial kingdom, they knew precisely to what they referred…” (p.363). And, “Hitler’s religiosity continues to constitute a major problem for historians”.
Landes notes the resistance of many historians to the connection between Nazism and religion. But he presents the stunning evidence that affirms “the Nazi episode represents one of the most powerful connections between a religious leader and a following of the faithful in recorded history… Nazism is a religious phenomenon that appealed to the same critical issues and emotions that religion does… the apocalyptic and messianic traditions that date back to the earliest centuries of Christian-Germanic relations…” (p.367).
“Hitler’s one dominant and dominating characteristic was that he felt himself appointed by Providence to do great things for the German people… He took his Christianity seriously…” (p.369).
Landes explains Hitler’s version of Christianity by arguing that it is important to note which Christ Hitler held in veneration. “It was, as his early companion Hanfstangl noted, ‘not Jesus Christ the crucified but Jesus Christ the furious’. In other words not the Jesus of the First Coming, of ‘turn the other cheek’, who allowed himself to be crucified, but the Christ of the Parousia, the warrior on horseback with a sword issuing from his mouth, slaughtering the enemies of the Lord (Revelation 19)…. Hitler believed that ‘my Lord and savior was a warrior’… Favoring Christ, the warrior of Armageddon… he rereads the gospels for signs of his Christ… the Christ who seized the whip and drove out the money-lenders from the temple…” (p.371).
Landes says that Hitler saw his struggle against the Jews as the continuation of Jesus’ own struggle against Jews. Hitler said, “’As a Christian, I have the obligation to be a fighter for the truth and the right’…Having identified himself with the warrior Jesus sent to save the world from the evil chaos of the Jews, Hitler ended his speech with a declaration about the spiritual basis of his movement… He is a redeemer…” (p.372).
Landes continues, noting that one key to Hitler’s success was the reception he received from Germany’s Protestant community, the German Christians, Evangelical Christians. Those Christians read the gospels as a justification for warfare against the enemies of God, the Jews. Hitler used those gospel texts as his authority…”He was deeply committed to both the Christian texts and his own notion of the God that stood behind them” (p.375).
Landes ends this chapter with comment on how Hitler saw the Jews as an apocalyptic threat. Landes concludes his chapter on Hitler with this, “The study of Nazism’s appeal, of Hitler’s charisma, belong to the field of millennial studies…Only then can we identify the key problems…Hitler is not so much the measure of the unthinkably, the impossibly evil, as he is the measure of how, with modern technology and an only partially developed civil polity, a nation, a people, seized by, ridden by a millennial passion, can become one of the great dealers of death in human history” (p. 388).
Post from discussion group (W. Krossa): “On TV last night they were discussing the new EPA proposal to have scientists on both sides of the climate debate do some public discussion of both sides. Good for them. But then the panel commented on whether that would change anyone’s minds. Not likely they concluded. Maybe a few.
“Why in the face of good evidence, do people maintain their positions, like Gore on alarmism? Because evidence does not always convince many people. They are more oriented to belief, to emotion, to powerful ideas in the back of their heads that keep them locked in confirmation bias thinking and approaches.
“Hence my interest in that background stuff- the mythology behind the ideology that is behind the science. Go to the root, the taproot of all this. That Christ myth that brought apocalyptic into Western consciousness”.
Post from Bob Brinsmead to discussion group:
“Again ____, you miss the point about the Church being no better than their persecutors. I don’t think such an early date for Revelation holds, but even if that was true, the earliest Christians were no better, split as they were into innumerable warring factions, condemning and damning the other factions – the letters of John urging his group not to extend basic hospitality to other Christians who did not share their point of view. And even Paul, damning anyone and everyone – Jerusalem apostles or angels from heaven – who had a version of the Gospel that was different to his, splitting up with Barnabas, rejecting John Mark, showing no tolerance to Peter and those who came from James to Antioch. There is ample evidence that the very earliest Christians – Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians – could not tolerate differing others, and there is evidence that in the early Church at Rome, Jewish Christians did not worship together with Gentile Christians. Christianity spawned the most factious religion in human history…
“James Carrol (Constantine’s Sword) argues that the seeds of the Holocaust against the Jews goes right back to the primitive Church and to the Christian theology of the Cross. The first Christians did not hesitate, in their zeal for the Gospel of Christ (not the Gospel of Jesus)… did not hesitate to put the intellectual thumb screws on people by way of making offers of eternal bliss if you believe what we tell you and damnation in Hell of you don’t listen to us. It was inevitable that all this would end in physical thumbscrews and even the Stake for dissenters. No, the earliest Christians were no better than John Calvin burning Servetus at the stake due to his failure to confess their Christology. The worshippers of the Christ were like their Christ – a fearsome figure indeed – the Christians became his instruments to punish unbelievers. As Voltaire said, if you start out declaring that God will punish those who don’t’ believe your religion, you will finally be willing to assassinate those who don’t believe what you believe. Even the Gospel of John has it all wrong when he has Jesus in his last instructions to his disciples giving them his one commandment, “love one another.” Nonsense! This was just a teaching of tribal love, love your own kind rather than love for the differing, even hostile others. The so-called Christian Gospel proved to be antithetical to the core teaching of Jesus that was preserved in the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel” (end of quote).
Summarizing quote: “There is no metaphysical threat behind life, whether a punitive God, vengeful Gaia, angry planet, or payback karma. Getting right to the point: There has never been any ultimate threat of exclusion, judgment, punishment or destruction, and there is no need for any sacrifice, payment, or salvation scheme. Religion across history has never communicated to humanity the stunning truth that Ultimate Reality is only love, that deity is scandalous ‘absolutely no conditions’ Love…
“Unconditional deity liberates the human spirit from the primitive and primal religious fear of Ultimate Harm. There has never been any threatening, punishing metaphysical Force or Spirit behind life. There is only “no conditions Love” at the core of reality. That is the height of the authentically humane imagination.”
“The greatest liberation movement is still struggling to find full expression….liberation from bad religious ideas is the most profound form of human liberation that impacts human consciousness at the deepest levels of mind, spirit, and emotion.”
Further point summary of site themes: Exploring unconditional reality as the supreme expression of the great human ideal of love. What is most humane is most true, and therefore, most real.
1. The original bad religious myth- apocalyptic. Apocalyptic was first expressed in the Sumerian Flood myth. Over a millennium later, Zarathustra changed it to apocalypse by fire. That myth of a heat apocalypse has shaped Western consciousness ever since.
2. Apocalyptic became the most violent and destructive myth in history (see comment on Arthur Mendel’s book Vision and Violence, below). The central idea of apocalyptic is that of a punishing, destroying deity. Holding the ultimate ideal of a punishing God deforms human consciousness (see psychotherapists Ellens and Lotufo below). As Bob Brinsmead warns us, “You become just like the God that you believe in”.
3. See the stunning research of Landes, Mendel, Herman, and others below which shows that apocalyptic millennialism- i.e. destroying/purging the world in order to install a new paradise- was behind the mass-death movements of the last century- Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism (over 200 million deaths in total). Primitive religious themes were given “secular” expression in the ideologies of the modern world. Apocalyptic also continues to incite Islamic terrorism just as it has incited Jewish and Christian violence over past history.
4. The apocalyptic theme continues to drive environmental alarmism today, making it the most destructive movement on Earth. Example: Rachel Carson’s exaggerated chemical apocalypse led to the deaths of tens of millions of people in the decades following the ban on DDT. 8 million children died over a recent 12-year period because they were denied access to Vitamin A in Golden Rice due to alarmism over GM foods. Apocalyptic alarmism is not just irresponsible, it is immoral.
5. The potent counter to apocalyptic was made two millennia ago by the wisdom sage, Historical Jesus, a person entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus. Historical Jesus rejected apocalyptic. He taught non-retaliation (no more eye for eye) because God did not retaliate, God did not engage eye for eye justice. To the contrary, the God of Jesus loved God’s enemies (sun and rain given to all alike, both good and bad). God did not exclude or punish enemies (no apocalyptic retaliation or destruction) but loved everyone as family. In that Matthew 5:38-48 statement, Jesus overturned entirely the central themes of all past mythology and religion.
6. ”No more eye for eye but love your enemies” is the single most humanizing and liberating insight ever offered to humanity. It frees us from animal retaliation and inspires us to engage authentic human existence in the unconditional treatment of imperfect others. However, love of enemies is not an affirmation of dogmatic pacifism. Love is responsible to restrain violence and protect others. There is no dogmatic “turning of cheeks” in “love your enemy”.
7. Unfortunately, Paul rejected the non-retaliating God of Jesus and retreated to the primitive apocalyptic deity of all past mythology and religion. Paul then created Christianity as just another apocalyptic retaliation religion. His Christ myth is the supreme expression of eye for eye retaliation. Paul contradicted outright the core non-retaliating message of Historical Jesus. Paul embraced the punishing, destroying God of all historical religion. See his central apocalyptic theme in his earliest letters to the Thessalonians. Also, note his Romans 12:17-20 affirmation of a retaliating God- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”.
Christianity then brought apocalyptic into Western consciousness and society. See quotes from Tabor, Boyce, and others, below.
8. Fortunately, the non-retaliating, universally loving God of Jesus has been rediscovered in contemporary spiritual movements such as the Near-Death Experience movement. Many of these people speak of encountering an inexpressible unconditional Love behind all.
9. God (Ultimate Reality, Universal Mind, Self, Consciousness) has always been unconditional Love. There never was any such thing as a retaliating, punishing deity. The logical consequences of an unconditional deity are astounding for human consciousness to embrace: Once again, there is no judgment, no exclusion of anyone, no punishment, no apocalypse or hell. There is no need for sacrifice, payment, or salvation. The discovery of unconditional Love at the core of reality is the most liberating insight ever presented to human consciousness. It liberates from all the bad religious ideas of the past. It liberates at the very depths of mind, spirit, and emotion. Unconditional offers the single most profound transformation of human consciousness ever.
Note: The point of this site: to robustly re-center human consciousness on unconditional love- the supreme understanding of authentic humaneness or goodness, and our highest understanding of the great human ideal of love. Unconditional redefines our highest ideals (deity) and redefines the nature of human being. Our true human self is the very same unconditional love that is God. Let unconditional shape all human thought and existence- whether ethics, justice, human relationships, or anything else. Make unconditional your baseline for all things in reality and life.
All across history religion has been essentially a conditional social institution that has buried the truth of an unconditional God. Express unconditional love in whatever terms you want- i.e. universal love, unlimited generosity, or non-discriminating love, but make clear its scandalous nature as “absolutely no conditions” love.
The human story has been about movement away from primitive retaliation/punishment and toward unconditional belief and existence. We see this in our common human rights codes that generously embrace human diversity and freedom. The consequent unconditional treatment of others (behaving just like an unconditional God with unlimited forgiveness, endless mercy, universal inclusion, and unconditional love) takes us to full maturity as human. We then “tower in stature” (Joseph Campbell) as magnificent humans. Like Nelson Mandela when he forgave and included his former enemies in his new South Africa, surprising them with his generosity (e.g. former prison guards invited to be his security staff).
Summary of main site projects: This site engages the foundational themes/ideas in human systems of thought/belief and focuses on what is most essentially wrong (i.e. the pathology of retaliation/punishment as in apocalyptic mythology), and how to make it right with the discovery of an unconditional core Reality and the consequent unconditional treatment of everyone. From the beginning of human existence people engaged the primitive practices of vengeance and punishment that have perpetuated inhumanity and violence in our societies. But over subsequent millennia we have made things better by gradually embracing the humane ideal of universal love- forgiving all, including all, and loving all as equal members of one family.
The greatest monster that humanity has ever faced is the bad religious idea of “an angry God punishing bad people”. That has been the cohering central theme of mythology and religion across history, and it now continues in contemporary “secular” ideologies (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry nature/planet, karma, environmental apocalypse). How do we counter this pathology? With the single greatest insight ever- that there is only love, inexpressible unconditional love at the core of all. That same love is also the essence of the core human self. There are no essentially fallen, corrupt people. It is bad ideas that make people do bad things. Few people would act badly if they knew that they were most essentially beings of love and that they were sent here to learn and to express love.
(Insert: How do we explain badness in people? We all have an inherited animal brain with its nasty impulses to domination of others, aggression, exclusion and destruction of differing others. But fortunately, we are not our brains.)
Again, the logical conclusions that flow from an unconditional core reality are astounding: Contrary to the entire history of religion, there is no ultimate judgment, no ultimate exclusion of anyone, no ultimate punishment of anyone, and no final destruction or hell. There is no need for sacrifice, payment or salvation. All because there is no ultimate punishing deity. There is only inexpressible love behind all. This unconditional insight severs the taproot of human fear, the fear of Ultimate Harm. Unconditional reality liberates mind, emotion, and spirit as nothing else can.
(Qualifier: Engaging unconditional does not mean going soft on inhumanity/violence in this imperfect world. Love is always responsible to restrain evil and protect the innocent.)
Note: I appreciate the numerous scientists that provide good evidence to challenge all forms of alarmism. But my project is going to the root beliefs that remain embedded in the background of many people’s worldviews. I am interested in the ideas that shape people’s emotions and push them to embrace confirmation bias approaches to evidence (i.e. dismissing contrary evidence and accepting only evidence that supports their beliefs). Too many people continue to embrace alarmism and the harmful salvation schemes of alarmists.
Continuing with bad religious ideas…
Bad religious ideas have been a central feature that people have used across history to incite/validate violence and other inhuman behavior.
How do bad religious ideas incite bad behavior?
The most destructive set of ideas ever created is the “apocalyptic millennial” template of myths. Apocalyptic millennial mythology tells us that God will end the world with a great fiery purging of evil/corruption, and then install a new paradise. The core theme of this apocalyptic template is that of “an angry, vengeful deity punishing bad people”. This “cruel God” myth deforms human consciousness and retards human development, producing “fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, fanaticism, violence… Cruel God theology has resulted in wars, religious oppression, Crusades, inquisitions…” (Psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo in Cruel God, Kind God).
The idea of ultimate punishment/destruction creates fear in people. Frightened people then embrace harmful salvation schemes to save themselves and others. The salvation schemes involve action to eliminate some threat (i.e. some threatening enemy). That action often requires violence (“coercive purification” of the threat). Frightened people are also motivated by a perverted form of hope, hope for salvation into some promised utopia after their enemies have been eliminated (i.e. the utopias of Marxism, Nazism, or the return to the lost paradise of pristine nature in environmental utopianism).
Richard Landes in Heaven on Earth and Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence, among others, provide stunning historical detail on how the primitive ideas of apocalyptic millennialism were given “secular” expression in the ideologies of our modern era- notably, in 19th Century Declinism and contemporary environmentalism. These historians have traced the apocalyptic millennial themes behind the mass-death movements of the past century. Apocalyptic millennialism incited Marxism, Nazism, and environmentalism to engage programs that led to the deaths of over 200 million people. These ideas continue to incite religious violence in ISIS.
I am in agreement with Bob Brinsmead that the most damaging movement in the world today is environmental alarmism with its endless endeavor to block economic growth and development, harming the poorest people the most.
Apocalyptic millennialism is given new forms of expression from century to century but the core themes always remain the same- that the past was better, corrupt people have ruined the original paradise, life is now declining toward some great disastrous collapse and ending (toward something worse), there will be a great purging of the corrupt world (a punishment of bad people) so the lost paradise can be restored or a new utopia installed. Environmental alarmism today is just another “secular” expression of primitive mythology.
(Note the punishing deity of past mythology and religion is now expressed in things like “the revenge of Gaia”, “angry planet or vengeful nature”, and karma.)
Let it be noted clearly that Christianity is most responsible for bringing apocalyptic into the modern world, especially into Western consciousness and society. Paul’s Christ myth is intensely centered on supreme retaliation and apocalyptic destruction. His Christ myth has been the source of much violence over history. It is the beating heart of apocalyptic millennialism.
Humanity’s most liberating insight:
We have long had the answer to this apocalyptic pathology- history’s most liberating insight that there is no angry, punitive Force/Spirit behind life. There never has been any such reality. There is only an inexpressible “absolutely no conditions love” at the core of reality. This discovery overturns entirely the myths of punitive, destroying deity. The logical conclusions from this discovery overturn the core themes of historical religions. There is no judgment, no exclusion of anyone, no punishment or destruction (i.e. Hell), and no need for salvation/sacrifice/payment.
Every person, good and bad, is included in the family of God. This was a key element in the central message of Historical Jesus- that “God sends sun and rain on both the good and the bad”, without discrimination or exclusion. Every person is loved as much as any other person, no matter what their failures have been to live as human. Such is the scandal and wonder of unconditional love. If an unconditional God does not offend you, then you are probably not fully grasping the real universal and unlimited nature of such love. Historical Jesus told several stories of good people that were offended by such unconditional generosity toward “bad people” (i.e. the Father’s generosity toward the Prodigal Son, and the vineyard owner’s generosity toward the late-arriving workers). Many people are oriented to some form of justice as fair payback and will not accept unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity.
This insight into unconditional is not based on any spiritual revelation, holy book or religious authority. It is the common human understanding that the highest human ideal of love finds its supreme expression as unconditional love. Unconditional takes us to the height of being maturely human, to the height of goodness. Every parent or spouse gets that unconditional is the highest form of love. We then simply project this out to our ultimate realities- deity- and to transcendent degree. It’s called “doing theology from below” (Bob Brinsmead), from the best in humanity and then reasoning out to deity.
The second most liberating insight:
The authentic human self or person is the same unconditional love that is God. This overturns all fallen, sinful humanity mythology that has been at the heart of historical religions. There are no bad people deserving punishment. Human badness/evil can be explained in terms of our inherited animal brain and the bad ideas that people use to validate those base animal impulses (i.e. small band tribalism- exclusion and opposition toward some “enemy”, domination and destruction of the enemy). Fortunately, we are not our brains (to paraphrase Jeffrey Schwartz’s book title).
Our anger should then be directed at the bad ideas (religions, ideologies) that incite/validate bad behavior, not at our fellow human beings.
The discovery of God as no conditions love provides a stunning new baseline for ultimate meaning/theology. It advocates a more humane approach to ethics (i.e. embracing all people unconditionally as equal members of one human family), and a new orienting principle for justice systems (i.e. the shift to restorative justice for all). The discovery of the human self as essentially no conditions love provides a new baseline for human self-evaluation, or self-esteem.
Unconditional liberates at the deepest levels of mind, spirit, and emotion, from the bad ideas that have long caused humanity unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, and despair. Human suffering is bad enough without the added psychic burden of some metaphysical threat behind the harsher elements of life.
The point of embracing unconditional as the supreme definition of authentic goodness, of authentic humaneness- it re-centers consciousness on the highest understanding of love. It fully humanizes our highest ideals (God). And it offers a stunning new valuation of the real magnificence and wonder of being human.
Additional note- good evidence overturns the apocalyptic myth that life is declining toward some great disastrous ending. See Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist.
Some quotes on bad theology inciting bad behavior:
Stephen Weinberg: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion”.
Bob Brinsmead: “The worst forms of evil are committed in the name of God”.
So I ask: Do you want to make the world a better place? Do you want to stop violence? Then yes, engage all sorts of projects that contribute to the general endeavor to make life better- whether economic, political, social, or personal programs of improvement. But do not neglect one of the more critical sources of bad behavior over history- bad theology. Make sure that you also humanize your highest ideals- including theology. Purge your personal beliefs/ideology of all the subhuman/inhuman ideas that have long incited or validated subhuman and inhuman behavior. Quit protecting bad ideas under the sacred, in theology. This is much more than some call to reform religion.
A brief taste of Campbell’s story outline (more detailed version below):
Each person comes to engage a hero’s journey, to live out a human story. Each person faces a monster to conquer, a problem to solve. In the process of struggling with one’s monster, insights are gained and lessons are learned that can be passed on to benefit others. Also, a wise person gives us a sword to slay our monster.
Campbell adds that we achieve human maturity when we center our lives on universal love.
Added note from NDE accounts: Everyone comes here to learn something about love, how to give and to receive love. Love is the central point of all human story. And unconditional love takes us to the height of human love.
Note on the overall master story of humanity: The greatest monster that humanity has faced is that of threatening, punishing deity. The weapon to slay this monster? The discovery that God is unconditional love and does not threaten or punish anyone. You can tell you children with assuredness that there is no ultimate monster.
The original human error that became the core of humanity’s great religious traditions and the single most damaging idea in history- i.e. angry God punishing imperfect people in an apocalypse (now given “secular” expression in contemporary ideologies like 19th Century Declinism). Ultimate threat provokes the Salvationist response in people- the endeavor to appease or eliminate threat, to engage salvation schemes that have often resulted in mass-death (i.e. the “coercive purification” of Marxism, Nazism, ISIS, and environmental alarmism). We win the “battle against bad religious ideas” with a humane alternative. We liberate human consciousness from its primal fears by redefining deity as authentic love, as absolutely no conditions love. This cuts the taproot of the damaging Salvationist survival response.
Unconditional at the core of reality offers an authentically humane center for human consciousness, emotion, and personal behavior. Unconditional core reality points to the greatest liberation movement ever- liberation from bad ideas that enslave mind, spirit, and emotion. Unconditional also re-orients justice away from retaliatory or punitive approaches and towards restorative justice.
(Note: We are all environmentalists in the sense that we are all concerned about environmental health. The Ecological Kuznets Curve, or Environmental Transition research, affirms this. But “environmental alarmism” is something else- an extremist movement that exaggerates problems to apocalyptic scale, thereby distorting the true state of things. Environmental alarmism incites fear in populations and that pushes people to embrace damaging salvation schemes. Alarmism creates the felt need to act drastically, to make some harmful sacrifice, in order to save something that is under dire threat. The unintended consequences have been devastating for millions of the most vulnerable people.)
The impact of bad theology on human consciousness: Psychotherapists Lotufo and Ellens (quoted just below) state well the long-term historical problem of “bad theological ideas inciting bad behavior”. A further critical point made by Landes, Herman, and Mendel is that bad religious ideas have been “secularized” over past centuries, and continue to incite harmful response and behavior in the environmental alarmist movement, arguably the most destructive movement on the planet today.
Bad ideas, whether religious or secular, are often presented in a context of affirming something good, as “Salvationism”- i.e. the effort to save something. How can salvation be bad? But look carefully at the devastating outcomes of much Salvationism. Up to 50 million people died unnecessarily from the ban on DDT, a direct consequence of Rachel Carson’s endeavor to “save life” from her apocalyptically exaggerated chemical threat. 8 million children died over a recent 12 year period because they were denied the protection of Vitamin A in Golden Rice, due to anti-GM alarmism (saving life from the “threat” of human technological advances). And so it goes.
We rightly claim that it is irresponsible to shout “fire” in a theatre and possibly cause harm to people. But environmental alarmists are shouting not just “fire” but “the end of life, the end of the world” in public. James Hansen claimed hysterically in 2008 that “It’s all over in five years”. John Holdren stated that one billion people would die from climate warming by 2020. Even Stephen Hawking has become caught up in this Chicken Little apocalyptic madness, and is setting dates for the end of life. He now claims that it’s all over in 100 years.
Alarmed populations are then pushed to embrace policies to save life or save the world. The outcome of such policies has been tens of millions of unnecessarily lost lives, trillions of wasted dollars, and unnecessarily slowed economic development. Alarmist salvation policies harm the most vulnerable people the most- the poor of the world. This is beyond irresponsible. It is immoral.
Where is the “truth-telling, fact-checking” news media on these mass-death outcomes from alarmist exaggeration and distortion?
(Note: There were 200 million deaths in the past century that have been attributed to the same set of bad religious ideas- apocalyptic millennialism.)
Why probe theology (ideas of God)? (Looking at foundational ideas behind bad behavior over history and offering alternatives- i.e. humanizing deity as unconditional reality. No religious tradition has ever communicated this insight of deity as scandalous and wondrous no conditions love. All historical religion has been about the conditions necessary to appease and please the gods.)
From the beginning, theology has been foundational to the human impulse for meaning. Theology has always embodied and expressed humanity’s highest ideals (e.g. ultimate Goodness, ultimate Love). But theology has also been the receptacle of some of humanity’s basest features, such as retaliation/vengeance, tribal exclusion and opposition, and the violent destruction of threatening enemies.
Since the earliest human writing (Sumerian), theological ideas have been embedded as foundational themes in human ‘master stories’ or grand narratives. Theological ideas, now often in the background, still exert a profound impact on human consciousness, emotion, and response (how we treat others). It is no stretch of reason to conclude that freedom from the more inhumane themes in our master stories, or worldviews, is the ultimate liberation because it liberates the depths of consciousness from ideas that harmfully infect mind, spirit, emotion, and behavior.
A key and oft-repeated relationship to note and explore in the following material: Bad theological ideas incite fear and often violent Salvationist responses. An angry God, or other Forces/spirits threatening apocalyptic destruction, has always stirred alarm in populations. Alarmed people then respond with “defensive” action to save themselves, to save their societies, or to save life as a whole (i.e. save the world). The defensive endeavor to save, sometimes involves “coercive purification”, the elimination of some threatening enemy, the purging of some evil that threatens people or life.
The appeal of apocalyptic millennialism also includes a distorted form of hope, hope that is based on the violent destruction of the present world as necessary to purge corruption in order to attain some utopian paradise (the goal of salvation).
These extensive quotes from Brazilian psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (mixed with quotes from psychotherapist J. Harold Ellens) explain the harmful impact of bad theological ideas on human consciousness, emotion, response, and life. “Cruel God images” retard human development and promote inhuman behavior (for detail, see his book Cruel God, Kind God).
“(Cruel God) theology has resulted in wars, religious oppression, Crusades, inquisitions… In the psychological domain, the consequences of (cruel God theology) are fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, fanaticism, violence, and impoverished personalities (the inhibition of the full development of personality)… These doctrines (original sin, Hell, eternal punishment) prevail in the official systems of the majority of Christian churches…”
Lotufo says that most people are not aware of these ideas because they are often in the background of our consciousness. Yet they powerfully shape us, retarding our development as human. He says, “The idea of God is almost never questioned (God ideas/beliefs are often largely unconscious)…
“The image of God that prevails in Western culture is a ‘monster God’ (J. Harold Ellens)… Ellens proposes a cultural reason for the religious motivation to violence… There is in the Western world a psychological archetype, a metaphor that has to do with the image of a violent and wrathful God. Crystallized in Anselm’s juridical atonement theory, this image represents God as sufficiently disturbed by the sinfulness of humanity that God had only two options: destroy us or substitute a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He did the latter. He killed Christ…
“The crucifixion, a hugely violent act of infanticide or child sacrifice, has been disguised and presented by Christian conservative theologians as a ‘remarkable act of grace’. Such a metaphor of an angry God who cannot forgive unless appeased by a bloody sacrifice has been right in the center of the Master Story of the Western world for the last 2,000 years. These ideas permeate Western culture and inevitably influence those who live in the interior of this culture. And the unavoidable consequence for the human mind is a strong tendency to use violence….
“With that kind of metaphor at our center, and associated with the essential behavior of God, how could we possibly hold, in the deep structure of our unconscious motivations, any other notion of ultimate solutions to ultimate questions or crises than violence- human solutions that are equivalent to God’s kind of violence… This is about the effects that certain kinds of ideas produce in the human psyche… religious ideas can exert remarkable influence on the psychical integrity and well-being of believers…” (Introduction, chapters 1 and 2, from Cruel God, Kind God).
Note also the relationship of Islam to Christianity and Christian theology. Muhammad received his ideas of God from his Jewish Christian mentor, Waraqa, the Ebionite cousin of his first wife (see Joseph Azzi’s The Priest and the Prophet). Waraqa taught Muhammad from the Gospel to the Hebrews and Matthew’s gospel. There are striking similarities between the violent, punitive deity in the gospels and the same themes in the Quran. See further detail in sections below.
Another critically important point made repeatedly on this site: Primitive mythological/theological ideas have been “secularized” or given secular expression in the ideologies of the modern era, notably in ideologies like 19th Century Declinism. Historians have located the same bad theological ideas- i.e. “apocalyptic millennialism”- behind Marxism (100 million deaths over the past century), Nazism (50 million deaths), religious violence (ISIS), and also behind the horrific damage from environmental alarmism. Note again Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative and the mass-death outcomes from the ban on DDT.
Theology is still critical to solving the most basic problems in life. Fortunately, we have long had the potent and humane theological alternative to the bad religious ideas of our past, bad ideas that have long incited bad behavior. I refer to the discovery that redefines ultimate reality as “no conditions Love”, an insight that takes us to the supreme expression of authentic humanity. In response, a main project on this site is to fully humanize, to make fully humane, our highest ideals and authorities- deity- by redefining God as absolutely no conditions love.
We do all that we can at the level of scientific evidence, political interventions, economics, and social issues, to solve problems in life. But we must also go to the core themes related to varied problems and solve the issue of bad ideas that incite bad behavior. We have to properly and thoroughly “win the battle of ideas”, especially the battle with the most foundational ideas of our master stories.
Unconditional radically changes humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity. Unconditional thoroughly humanizes deity (makes authentically humane) and thereby eliminates one of the main sources of inspiration for bad behavior over history.
Notable research sources frequently cited: Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline, Richard Landes Heaven on Earth, Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence, David Cook’s books on Islamic apocalyptic, among others.
Once again, my paraphrase of Bill Clinton, “It’s the theology, stupid”.
(Insert: Sections below on this site also note the presence of the inherited animal brain in humanity, with its base drives to domination of others, exclusion of others (tribal mentality), and even the destruction of competing others. It is interesting to note that the sacred has been used across history to validate our animal inheritance- i.e. God as dominating, excluding, and destroying unbelievers.)
Joseph Campbell offers the following basic features to outline human story:
Each one of us comes into life as a “hero” to live out a unique human story. And we all face some monster, some problem that we must fight. In our struggle to conquer our monster, we gain insights, and we learn lessons that we can then bring to others (Campbell- bring a “boon” to others).
Campbell also says that a wise man gives us a sword to slay our monster.
One critical point made by Campbell: We develop into mature humanity when we center our lives on love, on universal love. I would use the synonymous term “unconditional love”. When we focus our lives on universal or unconditional love, we then “tower in stature” as mature humans. Unconditional love takes us away from the childish vengeance of our past and to full human maturity.
I would suggest that the greatest common monster that most people have faced is the monster of threatening, punishing God. This monster has long been at the heart of mythology, religion, and now ideological systems. Secular versions of the punishing God theme are now expressed in the myths of “the revenge of Gaia”, angry planet, or karma.
A wise man long ago gave humanity the sword of unconditional love to slay the threatening monster Gods of religious traditions. That wisdom sage stated that there was no such thing as a punishing, demanding deity. There was only “no conditions love” at the core of reality. The sword of unconditional love liberates us from the threatening mythology of past history, from myths of angry deity demanding sacrifice or punishment. Unconditional core Reality enables us to now maturely center on love, on unconditional love, whether in theology or in our personal treatment of others.
The discovery of unconditional love at the core of reality goes to the root fears of humanity, fears that have often incited violence and the inhumane treatment of others.
More on “Why probe theology?” The background themes in human ‘master stories’ or grand narratives have a profound impact on human consciousness, emotion, and response (how we treat others). Freedom from bad ideas is the ultimate liberation because it goes to the depths of human consciousness, freeing us from ideas that harmfully infect mind, spirit, emotion, and response.
The same bad theology has been located behind problems like religious violence and the horrific damage from environmental alarmism- i.e. Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative and the mass-death outcomes from the ban on DDT.
The origin of bad ideas
Humanity’s original great error was the foundational myth of “angry gods punishing bad people”. That pathology is present in the earliest human writing- the Sumerian Flood myth where gods threatened to destroy humanity with water (the first expression of “apocalypse”). The idea of angry, punitive deity was then passed down as a central theme of all subsequent human systems of belief. It became the single most dominant and damaging idea across history.
The myth of an angry God threatening to punish people was logically followed by the divine demand that people embrace some salvation scheme- that they should meet some condition, make some sacrifice or payment to appease angry gods. Some versions of Salvationism even demanded “coercive purification” movements- i.e. the elimination of threatening enemies as necessary to save something.
The key thing to note- threat/fear incites the natural survival response, the desperate reaction to save oneself or one’s society, to act “defensively”, even if violence is necessary. Salvationism has often embraced violence across history.
A millennium later, Zoroaster reframed the original apocalypse myth. He stated that contrary to the original threat of gods punishing bad people with a water apocalypse, in his new religion God would punish bad people with a heat apocalypse (i.e. fiery molten metal washing over the Earth). His theology of heat apocalypse then dominated the Western religions and consciousness with heat threat.
The idea of a punitive deity threatening apocalypse subsequently shaped modern “secular” systems of belief, notably 19th Century Declinism (see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline). Threat theology continued to shape the offspring of Declinism, mainly contemporary environmental alarmism with its varieties of threatening forces/spirits- e.g. vengeful Gaia, angry planet/Mother Earth, payback karma, or some general collapse and ending of life due to heat threat.
(Note: Richard Landes says regarding apocalyptic millennialism, “Secular is merely another clothing that millennialism has taken- with startling new vigor since ca. 1500 CE… Scientific utopianism, Communism, Zionism, Nazism, Environmentalism… are all forms of millennial thinking, partly secular, partly still profoundly religious”, in Vision and Violence by Arthur Mendel.)
The tragic outcome of apocalyptic terrorizing is that the fear of some great threat pushes people to embrace Salvationism schemes that are often devastatingly harmful. See the research of Richard Landes (Heaven On Earth, also Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline) on how apocalyptic millennialism shaped Marxism, Nazism, Islam, and environmentalism (i.e. the mass-death outcome of Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic alarmism). Where are the news media on this mass-death story?
This site explores the alternative to that original error in human thought- the discovery of a core Love, an absolutely no conditions love as a truly humane definition of deity. But why engage a “spiritual” explanation of core reality? Because most people still want a spiritual response to an original human spiritual concern.
Our primary human impulse is the impulse for meaning (Victor Frankl). And our primary impulse is not fully satisfied with explanations of ultimate reality that end in natural law, multi-verses, Self-Organizing Principle, or other material explanations. Our primary impulse for meaning is satiated only with some ideal of Ultimate Goodness or Ultimate Love, and most pointedly, we desire an Ultimate Reality that is absolutely no conditions Love. That gets us to the core of what it means to be truly human. Unconditional love takes us to what is most humane in any reality.
(Note also: Surveys show that 85% of humanity affiliates with a religious tradition. And many of the remaining 15% are “unaffiliated”, that is to say “spiritual, but not religious”. Materialist explanations of ultimate reality hold little attraction for most people.)
The discovery that there is only “no conditions Love” at the core of reality, means that there has never been any such thing as Ultimate Threat or Ultimate Harm. There has never been an angry God threatening to punish imperfect people. The entire history of religion has missed this. Religion was created as an essentially conditional institution (how to appease and please some god) and has never communicated the true wonder and scandal of core reality as “no conditions Love”.
The logical conclusions that flow from a core Love completely overturn the entire suite of bad religious ideas (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below). Some of the conclusions? There is no coming judgment, no separation or exclusion of anyone, and no divine punishment or destruction of unbelievers. Most critical, there is no need to embrace any salvation scheme. Everyone is safe, ultimately.
The discovery that deity has always been no conditions Love goes to the root issues behind problems like religious violence and environmental alarmism. Unconditional love goes to the most deeply embedded human fears and hopes.
Note: When Historical Jesus stated that there should be no more “eye for eye retaliation, but instead love your enemy”, he cut the tap root of the personal survival response, the felt need to defend against all attack, to use violence toward an enemy. That survival response has long fed cycles of tit for tat violence across history. (Further below, distinctions are made between legitimate forms of forceful defense- i.e. the responsibility to restrain violence- and alternative approaches.)
Humanity created to serve the gods? Nah. Rethinking theology as authentic love.
Samuel Kramer (The Sumerians: Their history, culture, and character) notes that the Sumerian epics were concerned primarily with individuals and the exploits of the individual hero. Gilgamesh is notable in this regard. The epics are exaggerated tales of the hero’s powers and deeds, with heroes claiming supernatural aspects to their deeds. The heroes were “extravagantly self-laudatory”, they embraced self-glorification.
Add to this the Sumerian belief that “people were created to serve the gods”. In this Sumerian myth-making we see the beginning of the idea of deity as something elevated above humanity, and the enforcement of domination/subservience in the relationship of deity to humanity. As far as we know, the Sumerians originated the mythology of gods as realities that were elevated above people as dominating lords, kings, rulers, judges, and heroic saviors. That was all part of the ancient practice of creating heroes or gods that would dominate others.
A further related feature- the widespread Sumerian concern with temples, built on ziggurats (elevated platforms at the center of towns), with each town having a reigning god. Again, all part of establishing the belief that gods were special and deserved service, worship, and their place at the center of attention, above all else in society. Again, add here that from the beginning of human myth-making, humanity had been downgraded to serving the gods (i.e. making offerings and sacrifices, feeding the gods).
I would also add here the ancient belief that Kings/priests were God’s appointed representatives to rule over and to judge people. Often both of these roles were combined in the same person- the priest/king. Those elites or power-holders were self-appointed to mediate between God and people. They pushed themselves to prominence above ordinary people, even deifying themselves as gods. That practice affirmed the ancient pattern of associating deity with the rule and domination of people.
Another notable feature of Sumerian culture was the practice of an intense competitiveness. This was part of the education in Sumerian schools, where students would praise themselves while depreciating others. This practice could get real nasty during competitions between two opposites, between two persons, or sometimes posited as between two things, almost like stand-ins for persons. In Sumerian educational competition you elevated yourself and demeaned another person.
That competitive self-elevation, and depreciation of another, carried over into the Sumerian creation of myths that portrayed the gods as doing the same. We remember here that people have always projected their human features onto their gods, to define the gods. Out of human self-elevation we find the feature of gods doing the same, elevating themselves. People have often projected their worst features onto their gods.
So from the beginning, you find the gods elevated above people, praising themselves and demanding similar praise of their greatness and their greatly exaggerated deeds (self-glorification). And just like their human creators, the gods demeaned others, their opponents, even claiming their opponents were satanic. Sumerian competitiveness was about your goodness and greatness being exalted and contrasted with your opponent’s badness and lesser powers.
Does this practice of competitive self-elevation, and depreciation of another, perhaps also explain the later cosmic dualism of Zoroastrianism? A great good God versus an evil force or spirit?
In stunning contrast to the above mythology, Historical Jesus rejected the effort of his friends to make him a heroic messiah figure, a god or ruling king that conquered others by superior force (e.g. the Christ of Revelation). In his original teaching (i.e. Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel) he made no claim to be a messiah hero, a Savior, a lord or god. As Stephen Patterson says, the theology of Jesus poses a challenge to Christian theology. That is putting it mildly. Jesus’ theology blows Christian theology (i.e. Paul’s “Lord Christ” myth) right out of the water.
To the contrary, Jesus said that if you want to lead, then serve others. He was re-affirming his central theme of unconditional love and the self-forgetting nature of authentic love. Such love does not dominate or control anyone, but instead serves the other. Jesus introduced a stunning new theology of deity as servant, lowly, humble, and self-forgetful. We state this today as “God hidden in humanity”, in the ordinary and mundane of daily common life.
In Jesus’ new theology, God was not a great Lord, or judge, that dominated and demanded to be the center of attention, with threat of death to anyone not bowing to him, like an Idi Amin character. God, according to Jesus, was no great hero doing great heroic deeds, exaggerated “supernatural” deeds like the heroes of primitive mythology.
In Jesus’ theology, God was love, no conditions love. And the nature of authentic unconditional love calls for a profound revolution in our conceptions of deity/God.
Added note: Instead of looking for God “up above”, or in some great event, in some grand historical intervention with overwhelming force/power, as in the activity of kings, lords, or heroic saviors, perhaps it is more truthful to see God in all ordinary human goodness (whether religious or atheist), in the mundane activities of daily life, in the small and boring thing. Authentic love is self-forgetful as it serves the other. And that makes love the most common truth of all human beings. Yes, who said- you are all gods?
Further point: Mark’s gospel notes a repeated practice of historical Jesus, that after he had healed someone, he told them that “(their) faith had healed them”, not his power or God. He then told the healed people to return to their lives, and did not urge them to become his followers. He refused to create a sense of indebtedness toward himself, or to take advantage of the natural sense of indebtedness from being healed and thereby encourage subservience to himself.
He also told others not to tell anyone about his healing work, as though rejecting the instinctive response of most people to create a public narrative of some hero’s greatness or his great deeds. In the same gospel Jesus also rebuked people seeking places of honor, and the most important seats in synagogues.
If the above is considered to be subhuman or inhuman behavior, and to be condemned in other people- i.e. demanding the place of honor, the most important position, demanding praise for oneself, creating a sense of indebtedness, and subservience from others- then why would it be proper for deity to be allowed to act in such a subhuman manner, to act so inhumanely? Again, this reveals the stunning contrast between the message of historical Jesus and the rest of the Christian religion.
“Any God is a monster if he cannot behave at least as well as the average human behaves in his or her better moments. Monster gods make monster people”, psychotherapist J. Harold Ellens.
Gods over people- Facebook posts
If you go to some meeting, into a room of people, and some guy gets up and demands to be the center of attention, demanding praise of his greatness, like an Idi Amin or Kim Jong-Un, and threatening punishment or death to any not complying…. what would you do? You would pull out your I-Phone and call 911 and ask SWAT to get there right away. OK, but then why have the religions of the world always projected such inhumanity onto deity, creating realities that demand to be the center of attention and praise? What does such behavior have to do with authentic love?
Atheist Charles Templeton first helped me to see the perversity of self-praise in deity, in his Farewell to God. And no, I don’t agree with his general conclusion about deity overall, but he makes other points that are important. This thing of elevating gods over humanity, and the related devaluation of humanity, has ancient roots. I’ve traced that to Sumerian mythology, the earliest human writing.
Bob Brinsmead has long challenged this- arguing that when you elevate something over people and demand loyalty to that thing set above people and before the needs of real people (i.e. primary loyalty to law, religion, ideology, gods, whatever), you then often end up neglecting or abusing real people.
Note particularly the origin of the elevation of gods over people. And how that violates authentic love. It is always helpful to trace ideas/beliefs to their historical origins. That helps to see the primitiveness of things. It helps to understand why any given thing was started. And remember, all traditions borrow from previous traditions. There is little new under the sun.
Summary for quick visits:
This site is the enemy of all apocalyptic exaggeration and alarmism, especially religious apocalyptic with its core theme of “an angry God threatening to punish imperfect people” (in a disastrous end to the world). This site is also the enemy of “secular” apocalyptic alarmism (i.e. environmental alarmism) with its vengeful Gaia, angry planet, or karma getting even with “corrupt humanity”- the virus or cancer on the planet- through some ecological apocalypse.
The consequences of alarmism have been devastating for humanity, particularly for the most vulnerable people. See detail below on the horrific mass-death outcomes of apocalyptic millennial mythology just over the past century (200 million-plus estimated deaths).
This site offers a humane alternative to the pathology at the core of apocalyptic- it’s punitive deity myth. There has never been any such thing as a retributive, punishing God. There has always and only been a stunning “no conditions Love” at the core of reality. This insight presents a consciousness-transforming challenge to all religious belief (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below).
Coming: New comment on Arthur Mendel’s book ‘Vision and Violence’. Mendel traces the development of “apocalyptic millennialism” in Judaism and then in early Christianity. He, and Richard Landes in the Introduction, show how apocalyptic millennialism became the “most violent force in history”. They also emphasize that primitive apocalyptic mythology has become “secularized” (i.e. given a secular mask) in the ideologies of our modern world. Terms and expressions have changed but the core apocalyptic themes have remained the same. See also Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline and Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth for more historical detail on secular versions of apocalyptic.
Apocalyptic millennialism plays on two basic human emotions- fear and hope. The apocalyptic element plays on our primal fear of some great looming punishment, loss, or destruction. This is the primitive human fear that we deserve divine punishment for being bad in some way (original fault or sin). That fear pushes us to engage salvation/sacrifice schemes to appease the threat, or to engage “defensive” violence in order to eliminate some threatening enemy.
The millennial element of apocalyptic stirs hope that we might be delivered into some promised salvation or coming utopia.
But here is the stunning point that I want to make- Three prominent 20th Century movements, that were all influenced by apocalyptic millennial ideas, led to the deaths of over 200 million people in the last century. Yes, the same core ideas of apocalyptic millennialism were traced behind Marxism (100 million deaths), Nazism (50 million deaths), and environmental alarmism (the 50 million deaths in the wake of Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic alarmism and the ban on DDT). Reviewers have noted that Carson used an “apocalyptic narrative setting” in her book Silent Spring. (Sources for historical detail- Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence, Richard Landes Heaven on Earth, Jeffrey Foss’s Beyond Environmentalism, among others)
Apocalyptic exaggeration and alarmism continues its destructive impact through the environmental movement. Apocalyptic applies to environmentalism where alarmists exaggerate problems in nature to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the true state of things. In this regard, note the 8 million deaths of children over a recent 12 year period from alarmism over GM foods that led to the ban on Golden Rice. Further, there was a higher-than-normal death rate in Britain over the past 20 years (one million extra deaths) due to fuel poverty caused by Green apocalyptic extremism there.
Apocalyptic exaggeration and alarmism is not just highly irresponsible, it is profoundly immoral.
Apocalyptic extremism also harmed nature in things like the excess deforestation for palm oil plantations (bio-fuels)- the result of fossil fuel alarmism.
Apocalyptic millennialism also continues its destructiveness in religious versions such as ISIS (see David Cook’s Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature, and related books). Apocalyptic continues in other re-emerging fundamentalisms (again, see Vision and Violence).
This site advocates the potent answer to all forms of apocalyptic millennialism by going after the central apocalyptic theme of “angry deity punishing imperfect people”, notably in some great final judgment and destruction- the apocalypse. This site corrects that fundamental error with an authentically humane alternative- the discovery that there has never been any punishing God, or any other retributive force, behind life. This insight liberates human consciousness entirely from all forms of divine threat and the felt need to engage the destructive “Salvationism” responses of endless apocalyptic scenarios, whether religious or secular.
Explore with us the stunning and liberating insight that deity has always been absolutely no conditions reality, or what we call inexpressible “unconditional Love”. Ultimate Reality is unconditional reality. This means that there is no metaphysical threat behind life. There never has been any such pathology.
The logical conclusions from this discovery lead to a rejection of the entire suite of “bad religious ideas”. At a minimum this means no divine threat of retaliation/retribution, no judgment, no exclusion or separation, and no ultimate punishment or destruction (i.e. no Hell or other forms of after-life harm). So also there is no vengeful Gaia, angry planet, or karma. And there is certainly no need to embrace any salvation scheme or make any sacrifice to appease or please some imagined angry God.
This unconditional discovery poses a powerful threat to all religion as a tradition that is oriented to conditions- i.e. the conditions necessary to appease and please deity.
Unconditional at the core of reality liberates entirely from the complete template of bad religious ideas (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below). Unconditional liberates human mind, spirit, and emotion at the deepest levels of consciousness.
Added note: Masses of good physical evidence also show that life is not declining toward some great disastrous collapse and ending. Evidence affirms that human effort to gradually improve the world have worked well and life overall improves on all fronts. For detail, see Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, and other similar works.
Discussion group posts on Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence– how apocalyptic became “the most violent force in history”. Mendel could have benefitted from Julian Simon’s evidence (Ultimate Resource) that humanity has done well in gradually improving life in human civilization. Also, Daniel Hannan’s Inventing Freedom would have helped Mendel see how humanity has improved life through industrial society. But these are only minor quibbles.
(Note: Mendel focuses on the critical issue of why apocalyptic became a violent force in life. He argues that violence emerged when the early Jews abandoned their previous belief in the gradual improvement of life over history, for a new belief in some instantly granted paradise. The Jews longed for deliverance from centuries of oppression. The longing for salvation then led the Jews to embrace the Gnostic desire for instantaneous salvation from an evil world. That escapism required violence- the violent purging of the old world (and destruction of the Jew’s enemies) in order to permit the installation of some utopian kingdom. This is about a shift from patient gradualism to instantaneous escape from suffering.)
First discussion group post:
(Note that this is free-flowing discussion with little attention paid to grammar, proper discourse structure, and other niceties of more formal writing):
Arthur Mendel in his book Vision and Violence offers some interesting comment on the original Hebrew belief in gradual change over history in order to progress toward the ‘better society’. He then notes how Jews reframed that into the instant transformation of apocalyptic destruction, in their changing views of how to attain the good society. That new emphasis on instant transformation then validated the necessary use of violence to attain their better world suddenly. He is tracing the development of apocalyptic in Jewish history. Jewish apocalyptic then shaped Christian apocalyptic.
Mendel first traces the creation myth of the Hebrews and the human responsibility to be oriented to this world, and to improving this imperfect world into something better, gradually over long-term history. But Jewish suffering under oppressive regimes pushed Jews to seek a quicker salvation. Mendel later notes the Jewish openness to Greek Gnostic belief in seeking the better reality in another life (escaping this “evil” world) and that a messenger would be sent from above, a Prince from his Father, to deliver humanity into that other better world. This was a problem for Jews who believed in loyalty to this earthly world.
Paraphrasing Mendel…. The Jewish solution was found in change, at once, of the existing natural, physical world into the good society. With that all the features of apocalyptic fell into place, says Mendel. God could effect the miracle swiftly, completely at any time. Again, that new belief was born out of Jewish suffering under varied oppressive regimes, most recently the Romans.
That new shift in Jewish thought was based on an earlier belief (Old Testament)- that the loving parent (Father God) could rescue his children when their suffering was at its worst. And their evil oppressors could be justly punished in the catastrophic destruction that was needed to sweep away the old order and make room for the new world, the kind of violence that their God had often previously used to punish the enemies of Israel. Their ideals for a better world could be realized at once by violent transmutation, says Mendel.
So this presents all the essentials of the apocalyptic pattern that were evident in the themes of popular Jewish writing at that time. Total rejection of the present world, absolute faith in the imminence of an ideal divine kingdom of the saved, certainty that a divinely sent Messiah will bring this salvation, and the key feature- emphasis on the terrible violence that will accomplish the miraculous transmutation.
Richard Landes emphasizes the secularization of apocalypse (i.e. religious belief finding new expression in modern secular systems) in his good Introduction to Vision and Violence, by Arthur Mendel. Looks to be another good read. They look at both sides to this apocalyptic issue- “apocalyptic millennialism”. This is a paired thing- fear (the destruction of apocalypse) and hope (entry to a millennial paradise), and the outcomes, often mass-death outcomes across history.
I am also reading War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth (Cook has a chapter in this on the origin of Islam as an apocalyptic religion). And ordering some books on the Jewish apocalyptic.
Landes says this in Vision and Violence: “Secular is merely another clothing that millennialism has taken (with startling new vigor since ca. 1500)”. He continues, noting how millennial enthusiasm has stirred such violence, even in modern history…. “Scientific utopianism, Communism, Zionism, Nazism, Environmentalism…. all forms of millennial thinking, partly secular, partly still profoundly religious…” His argument: “(apocalyptic) millennialism can be the most violent and destructive force in history”.
What these authors lack however, is a potent response. This is where we can offer something- the Historical Jesus discovery. That needs more push. A spiritual response that goes to the root of the primal human fear (Michael Grosso), a spiritual fear, the fear of ultimate or divine Harm as expressed through apocalyptic across history. Historical Jesus offered a powerful response to that, a response that went to the core of consciousness to liberate from that fear. A fear that still dominates “secular” systems of thought today.
Ah, so much still to learn and present to fight this greatest monster of humanity (Campbell). We have the sword to slay this (from the wise man- Campbell again). Time to get on with it.
What Landes and these others are doing is showing how prominent this apocalyptic/millennial thing is in human thought. How it has been “secularized” to dominate modern minds. And how destructive it has been to human thought and life. Herman and Foss back this up, showing the dominance of apocalyptic across human ideologies today, and the mass-death outcomes (100 million deaths from Marxism, 50 million deaths from Nazism, 50 million deaths just from Carson’s apocalyptic alarmism).
And again, I would suggest that we offer a powerful counter, an alternative, something few scholars will engage because it requires going to root “spiritual” issues. Offering a spiritual response to what is at core a spiritual concern- dealing with spiritual fears, primal fears.
I long ago got over any concern about not being “credibly” scholarly by dealing with these spiritual/religious issues. I am more concerned with actual human concerns across the millennia, actual fears and hopes. We simply have to go to ultimate roots if these things are to be properly dealt with for the long term. As psychotherapist Lotufo says, most people are not aware of these ideas because they are often in the background, yet they powerfully shape us, retarding our development as human.
To bring this home- just look at across the world at the general themes that populations are subjecting themselves to- whether in climate change alarmism, or the wide acceptance of apocalyptic narratives in public story-telling, and so on.
Mendel continues his presentation of how apocalyptic reached its final form, how it became a movement of violence.
He says that apocalyptic millennialism reached its final form in the most influential of all Hellenistic Jewish apocalyptic works, the Christian gospels. Most particularly in Paul’s work and Revelation. Here the Gnostic-like messiah has already come. And the gospels lean toward the otherworldly sentiments of Gnosticism, a messenger that is sent by his divine father to save the lost souls corrupted by the material world and return them to their divine home.
Mendel notes that the millennial kingdom of Christian writing may be an attempt to accommodate both desires- the Gnostic otherworldly one and the Jewish this-world focus.
He moves on to note the emphasis in Christianity on suffering as redemptive, purifying, a good thing in itself. Suffering leads to salvation- the divine essence can only be redeemed through the pain of apocalyptic punishment. This pushes thought toward apocalyptic violence. “Only by annihilating or reversing the reality of this world can religious man realize his goal of union with the sacred”.
And, “This study argues, the initial religious model of apocalyptic transmutation became the pattern and inspiration for the later secular-revolutionary versions, the consequences of that Gnostic extremism should be self-evident. The purer the Incarnation, the more severe the Crucifixion, as violently enforced by the authoritarian ‘remnant’ left in the wake of the successive apocalyptic upheavals… the potential for such violence inherent in the original vision is most apparent in Revelation. Virtually the whole of that text is an account of the violence, devastation, suffering, and death necessary to purge the world and clear the way for the pure and perfect kingdom…” and so on.
He also suggests that the reason for the miracles in the gospels is to re-affirm the magical potency of apocalyptic, that God and Son can and will miraculously make all things new. He adds that Apocalypse was now complete and ready to begin its long and violent career in our history.
This guy, with Landes, looks good on how all this was “secularized” to dominate modern human thought.
Mendel in his work on apocalyptic brings out this interesting tension or struggle in humanity, between the Jewish creation mandate to gradually improve this world (create the better or good society here and now) and the Gnostic desire to escape this “evil” world altogether.
Also, the desire for some instantaneous purging of the corrupt world and the installation of some utopia. And how Christian apocalyptic millennialism grappled with both and came up with the idea of a new heaven and earth. Trying to accommodate both things. But the downside is the violent purging necessary to accomplish the instantaneous vision. That violates freedom.
But good points on the slow, gradual struggle with the imperfection we have and making it better- which is exactly what evidence shows that we have done over history. Creating a promised land gradually. And yes, sometimes the major breakthroughs- evolution by creeps and jerks. Both in the mix. Sudden leaps of improvement but also the necessary slow progress. The Marxists missed this slow element and like Mao tried leaps that ended in disaster. Trying to install utopia instantly. Again, needing totalitarian force/violence, and violation of freedom to do so.
There appears to be some good reason for this cosmos and life as imperfect and our struggle with that. Yet our longing for perfection is also part of the mix and legitimate also. The longing for “leaps”. How to reconcile all this in our understanding and societies.
There are ideals in the Gnostic system that all can identify with and affirm. But reality in this world brings us right back down to earth. Transformation has always been a slow, gradual struggle toward something better. With thankfully, little bursts here and there, mini-leaps.
Bob Brinsmead’s reply to my posts on Mendel’s book Vision and Violence:
“Changing the world suddenly in an apocalyptic event, even it were a divinely driven apocalyptic event, is a profoundly anti-human idea. It makes no difference whether the apocalypse is a secular one along Marxist lines or a “Second Coming” along Christian lines. We know that God’s rule is a Rule of Love, and there is no rule of love without human freedom. This understanding is essential to understanding any satisfactory theodicy. Love means that God has enough faith in the creation to allow humanity to positively develop, learn and progress.
“It is said, for instance, that Rome could not be built in a day. Not even God could build Rome in a day because Rome is a human society. It takes time to develop a human language, a human culture and a human character. This development can’t be imposed even by Almighty God. While God‘s spirit is present as an influence in human consciousness, it is humans themselves who develop a human character. Humans are left to develop a language appropriate to their needs. Humans must develop a culture to serve their growth and development. This takes time. Not even God can short-circuit the process. No language can be developed instantly and no culture can be developed instantly, despite that primitive Biblical myth about the sudden confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel.
“By the same token, God could not instantly create a human being in God’s own image, with a fully formed character language and culture. Not if humanity was to be truly human! It has been endlessly speculated how long it might have been before Adam fell from his mythical status of moral perfection after he was created. I think it was Luther who speculated it was after a couple of weeks. It was at least before he sired any children.
“But it would not make sense to propose that God held such a recently created being responsible for the “Fall” (with consequences for all subsequent humanity) when Adam would have been immature, undeveloped in character and culture. We don’t hold babies morally responsible for their behaviour. This mythical Adam was obviously only a baby in terms of experience and development. God could no more make a perfectly mature human being in a day than God could make Rome in a day. Oh yes, we might childishly imagine that some arbitrary Monarch in the sky might do such magical things, but not the God whose rule of love means a domain where freedom reigns.
“As Morowitz puts it in The Emergence of Everything, “It seems to me anti-religious to lose patience, as some people do, with a God who took 12 billion years rather than six days to create the universe.” (p. 53). The old creation narrative not only flies in the face of the reality of scientific facts, it flies in the face of human reality. It has taken humanity thousands of years to develop a language, a culture and an advanced civilization. As one small example, it has taken humanity thousands of years to progress medical knowledge to the point of understanding that disease is not caused by spirits that get into us, but by germs we could not see until we had the technology to see them. Neither germ theory nor atomic theory dropped from the sky in some “special revelation.”
“A lot of history had to pass under the bridge until humanity began to unlock the secrets of bacteria and atoms. God has done no cheating in this learning process – like doing our human homework for us. So yes, as Morowitz puts it, “The authors of the Old Testament were vastly off in dating the origin of the universe and the solar system at 6,000 years ago.” It is interesting to note that Hindu scripture had a much clearer view of the vast reaches of time involved in creation.
“I would suggest that one reason why creation could not be such a sudden thing is because, as Morowitz puts it again, “the universe is not totally determined; neither is it totally random.” (p. 193). That is an excellent observation. Putting this in a more theological way, I would say that creative love takes time. Why has God taken so much time in creation? That is because it has all been a work of love. The freedom-giving nature of love means that human development is “not totally determined; neither is it totally random.” Think about that one for a while!
“Now if those old religious ideas about the sudden arrival of a complete and perfect humanity about 6,000 years ago are a load of mythical codswallop, then we have to see that the related ideas about the sudden apocalyptic end of the world along with the creation of a new world and a new humanity are equally mistaken. Both are profoundly mistaken because they are profoundly inhuman and profoundly contrary to the reign of love.” (end of Brinsmead quote)
Mendel is doing a surprisingly good job on these issues in relation to the development of apocalyptic in the Christian tradition. The competing tugs between differing things (Jewish this-world orientation and Gnostic other-worldly orientation) and of course the horrific outcome when people opted to abandon the slow historical process for some belief in instantly-achieved utopia.
Our desires and understanding lead to ideas and approaches that have very different outcomes. The desire for instant deliverance is not an evil in itself, but it needs tempering with reality, as your other post on the slow development of things showed. Other important factors are at play- love and freedom, and the healthy need to develop in a gradual process.
Bob, if you don’t yet have Mendel you will want to get him. I am pleasantly surprised at the breadth and depth of what he is doing on this apocalyptic thing. My bits and pieces presented here do not do him justice. Like Herman in Cave and Light, Mendel is giving a great overview of human thought and struggle across our history. And he and Landes are showing how primitive bad ideas have been “secularized” for our age and continue to dominate today.
These guys show the basic tugs between things in human society (collectivism and individualism, struggle with imperfection and longing for instant perfection). And those on opposing sides are not bad people but it is about the outcomes in real life from the beliefs that we hold. I am sure Paul was basically a decent guy, compassionate (though domineering in some ways, intolerant also). But if Paul could post-fact see the outcomes of his ideas today, I am sure he would be horrified. What his Christ myth has done over history.
So also Rachel Carson- a basically decent person, she would be horrified to see the outcomes of her apocalyptic alarmism.
We have the benefit today of long-term perspective and the overview of how different ideas have impacted people and the outcomes in our societies. We see the continuing harm to so many people from environment alarmism.
We have less excuse to not correct things. It would be highly irresponsible of us to refuse to clean up things, to not find good alternatives after all we have seen across history and the outcomes in our societies.
It’s one reason I urge this unconditional thing- it simply is the safest approach in terms of outcomes in any area of life.
And especially irresponsible is to leave humanity’s highest ideals and authorities as they are (what we have inherited from the past). That is the root, the foundational issue in terms of contributing causes of harm to human society. To repeat- It’s the theology, stupid.
I think of just in our life times and a bit beyond- how these very ideas played a prominent role in hundreds of millions of deaths (Foss in Beyond Environmentalism). Hitler and Carson alone impacted by a similar set of ideas and responsible for 100 million deaths just between the two of them.
Where is the news media on this story?
But so many still refuse to deal with one of the deeper roots of the problem and correct it, because it is theology. Sacred, untouchable. Thanks to many that have lost their fear of blasphemy and go after the real monster in life (Garcia, Lotufo, Ellens, and on and on).
Where I am now in Mendel, he is dealing with the Talmudic tradition. The realization of those Jews that messianism was not going to happen, so how do we live here and now and improve life gradually. But elements of messianism crept back into even that tradition.
Mendel does a section on Medieval apocalyptic movements and how they bridged the gap between earlier religious apocalyptic to modern secular apocalyptic. A variety of elements are developed… again, that personal and social suffering are necessary for purification and salvation. The need for washing in blood.
And the element that true believers must be God’s instrument to punish the unbeliever, a dehumanized child of Satan. “The true believers were to march out as the Lord’s punishing sword to purify the world”.
And interesting, Mendel also shows the medieval introduction of the feature of communal ownership and violent class struggle. That lords and nobles must be exterminated and property held in common.
Mendel is tracing the lines of correlation- “their pivotal role linking the initial Judeo-Christian millennial vision and violence with later, and current, revolutionary totalitarianism”.
This is a critical point made by Mendel and Landes- the secularization of all these primitive bad religious ideas for the modern world. Something few historians will recognize (Landes points this out in the Intro and in his own book). As Landes said, in the early days of Marxism, Western Socialists were “disoriented” to see their Marxist heroes were just religious nut cases. They could not accept that.
Mendel puts it like this, “The remaining chapters will follow the later stages of this history of vision and violence, after the Apocalypse changed its mask from religious to secular”.
What Mendel is bringing out is how these Rationalist thinkers embraced horrific violence as good, in order to accomplish their greater good. They believed that annihilating violence was necessary to destroy the old systems/institutions that were corrupt so the new, pure society could be realized. This is evident in the French Revolution, in the Marxist thinkers. All bought into the amoral embrace of violence as a good and necessary process of purging. You had to “cut off the diseased limb to save the whole body”. And they believed that they were “acting in love”. Love for some greater good that took precedence over people. Mendel is showing how Rationalist thought, the removal of a personal God, influenced all this. The cold, barren impact of rationalism.
Mendel traces Marxist apocalyptic in that where ancient Jewry had looked to divine miracle to effect the final deliverance, so Marxists looked to Historical inevitability to accomplish the final purging of the evil forces and assure the triumph of the good, and bring in the new world. He traces the key features.
Mendel is actually keeping out of the way and doing an interesting presentation of the two streams of Marxism- the revisionist Western Europe Marxism (work gradually through the existing democratic system) and the revolutionary Russian Marxism. More apocalyptic oriented, and not wanting to patiently work through democratic processes but willing to use brutal violence to achieve quick entry into utopia.
Interesting how Mendel has structured his entire discussion around these competing views of history- the gradualist improvement of life versus the demand for an instantaneous transformation that requires coercion and violence to attain some paradise.
As Mendel works through a dense presentation of historical ideas and viewpoints, you see in the mix so much you can identify with- the longings, the desires for the better world. But what in the mix led so many people to embrace movements whose outcomes were so devastating to many others. These are things that need sorting out so we humanity, do not keep repeating the mistakes of the past.
I had just read somewhere that the death total from Marxism last century was 100 million people (70 million under Mao, 20 million under Stalin- see Wikipedia ”Mass Killings Under Communist Regimes”). Hitler is responsible for 50 million. Some argue Carson also was responsible for 50 million unnecessary deaths (you could add the 8 million children denied Vitamin A in Golden Rice, the extra one million deaths in Britain over a recent 20 year period from the Green madness there). That is 200 plus million. And these authors trace that to the same set of basic ideas- apocalyptic millennialism. The very heart and soul of Christianity. And Christianity is the source of all this apocalyptic mythology in Western society.
At heart of things is this problem of imperfection in this world and what that means and how we embrace and deal with imperfection.
My point- you have to deal with such fundamental “spiritual” issues in this in order to make some sense. Why is the cosmos and life imperfect? The great question of the ages and the endless work of theodicy to try to understand and explain it all. Why suffering? Is there Ultimate Goodness? What Noel has constantly pestered us with, as he should.
It is the great question. And we must deal with those basic human fears rooted in all the past explanations that there is some angry, punitive force/spirit behind it all. Or the conclusion of so many others- meaninglessness.
We must affirm hope, but hope based on better foundations than apocalyptic salvation and deliverance. That is a distorted hope.
Mendel does what appears to be an endless and wearying section on the counter-culture movement of the 60s. Quoting endless gurus and what not, all urging people to escape the monotony of work and material gain in industrial society. But then he finishes up with this comment- “It appears little different from all earlier millennial illusions of an immediate liberation from a failed world… the counterculture of the 1960s is but the latest example of Gnostic withdrawal, the most recent of a long series of ‘failure of nerve’ that extend from the rise of Christianity (Judaism in a state of despair), through the successive late medieval and early modern religious millennial movements… to the profusion of science fiction and our fascination with outer space and other worlds are telltale expressions of this Gnostic escapism form a world judged flawed and doomed… the regressive character of its vision (1960s counterculture)…” and so on. Good point. Again, the confusion over this imperfect world, just as the ancients believed it was some form of punishment and that we needed to find some salvation scheme to rectify things, to find deliverance from it all.
You appreciate here all the more the insights from the NDE movement that this imperfect life has meaning, that this is a learning arena for human development. That we are here to learn love, and we do that in the struggle with imperfection. This sort of insight needs to be brought more into the larger issues of what this imperfect world means.
Interesting comments in Mendel on this 60s counterculture movement as very much exhibiting a failure of nerve, a wish to remain in infancy, to not grow up and take responsibility for life, for life’s imperfection and the struggle to make life better. To, rather, escape back to infancy and the supposed security of infancy. The flight inward to all sorts of Eastern religious traditions arose from the “atrophy of will and the capacity to confront reality”. He notes this as more general in Eastern religious traditions and hints at its possible relation to other issues there. Escapism, the refusal to grow up and take responsibility for this imperfect world and the work required to make it better in a tough gradual process of change and improvement. So Gnosticism sought escape, just as the countercultural 60s did.
Some interesting comment all through this.
And just to return to his initial comments on Gnosticism- there are many features in Gnostic thought that one sees in NDE comments. Those features are not to be disparaged entirely. Many are just common sense understanding of some things, things that resonate with normal human desire- i.e. the desire to escape suffering. But it’s the larger context of how those features are used to embrace some form of escapism, some form of apocalyptic millennialism. That turns otherwise good insights into parts of an overall more disastrous system.
In personal ways we see this in the frustration when things go wrong and we have to engage some struggle to try to make them “right” again. All the prayer and hope that accompany such. Nothing wrong with such desire, but it prompts wondering about our frustration with such setbacks, frustration with the need to struggle to get things right again. Is this the longing to remain in infancy, to escape harsh reality and its struggles and what that involves as a learning process?
Maybe Natalie Sudman (Application of Impossible Things) was right- that we choose to come here to learn certain things and may even choose our life experiences that will help us to learn what we choose. But she notes, we often forget that bigger picture or plan, and get lost in real world experience and its frustrations. And indulge those infancy desires for that original union with Mother providing all and us having no responsibility, just feeling secure in someone doing all and providing all. Mendel suggests these things.
Ah, growing up is hard to do. Struggling with the harsh imperfections of life.
Mendel ends his excellent little work on apocalyptic with some great quotes on gradualism. His book is full of good material, but especially these competing views of gradualism versus immediate salvation and the violence necessary to attain that. He could have benefitted from including Julian Simon who also affirms human embrace of this world to improve it gradually and how evidence shows we have been successful in doing so.
Mendel quotes a variety of people at the end of his book on the issue of gradualism,
“Not in revolution, not in war lies the crown of existence, but in growth…He would proceed gradually… rich in love for the man who strives for the sublime but with an understanding of his weakness… stone by stone we are rebuilding the land laid waste thousands of years ago…It is not our wish to take pride in our moral splendor but to accomplish something real… we must feel our way cautiously… my dreams were opulent, my demands modest… a brick at a time… but never stop building… forgo mysticism… necessary to increase realism… this gradualist merger of idealism and realism… sometimes the work in difficult, clogged with pettiness… the dream will be great…and dreams, wonderful dreams, but to be realized not through violent struggle, but by every kind of work in the field and in the vineyard….
“…not to blame and abandon the ideals and the visions, but it should be to blame and abandon the apocalyptic violence and specific theories and interpretations, religious or secular, that justify it (violence)… through the humanist credo of commitment to this world and its gradual improvement…the point is the optimism and basic trust in the future and in mankind’s ability to guide and mold it progressively, sanely, and morally. That is the gradualist’s vision, hope, and commitment… gradualist involvement and reform… maybe we can make little breakthroughs… some problems are not to be solved but to be lived with… then the chance comes one just nibbles away at them, then stops and waits for the next opportunity to nibble away a little more…”.
And as the blurb in the link below says, Mendel believes apocalyptic serves to bring about policy change in environmentalism. Weak points like that, one can ignore, as the rest is so good. You never get a real home run in much of anything, but just take the good stuff and ignore the rest. He is so good for the points he makes. Everyone who studies something can find some emphasis or whatever that adds to overall understanding.
I will incorporate Mendel’s main points in future summaries. The hope element in apocalyptic millennialism. And more on how violence is validated in the pursuit of some greater good. And interesting on how the zealots believed they were acting in love as they engaged slaughter of enemies. Cutting off the diseased arm to save the body.
Now some diversion in child’s play: Donald Trump exhibits some of the worst (and best) of human nature. Just like the rest of us.
From my perspective as an Independent it is interesting to watch the back and forth between Donald Trump and US media. I am not taking up a defense of either side in this often petty spat. Note the comment just below on the “The tantrums of the five-year olds”. My understanding is that they are essentially good people on all sides of this issue, but acting quite immature at times, to the embarrassment of the rest of us. Is our embarrassment due to the fact that we see the worst of ourselves in their behavior?
(Insert on bias/hypocrisy: Mike Huckabee was on TV (July 3, 2017) noting that Donald Trump is repeatedly assassinated in a Central Park play and there is not a peep from mainstream media. Then Trump puts up that cornball pro-wrestling clip, widely understood as a joke, and the media go apoplectic over his supposed “advocacy of violence”, his “attack on the free press and democracy”. Remember Clint Eastwood’s wise counsel- “People, grow up”. Piers Morgan was also right to urge his CNN/media colleagues to quit taking every Tweet as the apocalypse.)
The tantrums of the five-year olds (or The re-affirmation of universal mercy and kindness)
Gandhi: “I have never understood how a human being can take pleasure in the humiliation of a fellow human being”.
(Note: Most of us engage retaliation in varied ways. It may be a verbal response toward someone who has insulted us. Or it might be the quiet denial of affection toward a spouse that we feel has not treated us the way that we expected to be treated. Note also your emotional response and subsequent actions when you get cut off in traffic. This universal personal guilt over retaliation ought to be a caution to not get too self-righteous when observing other’s failures to be human. We all tend to place ourselves on the self-righteous continuum somewhere, with others placed further toward the “worse” end of the continuum. This also is childish of us.)
It’s embarrassing to watch the five-year olds throwing tantrums in the political and media realms. Retaliation does that to us adults. It renders us petty, childish- this infantile practice of getting even with some offender, some attacker that we feel has insulted us, or whose behavior offends us in some way.
And the five-year old behavior is on all sides. Though each side makes the claim regarding the opposite side- “He/they started it”. That is exactly what five-year olds say. They do not take responsibility for their own immature response to another’s offenses but they deflect or project blame to the other side. Neither side wants to respond as grown-up and exercise common human forgiveness and kindness.
And any original culpability soon gets lost in the back and forth of retaliatory cycles.
Let me name the people that you already suspect I am talking about.
About a year ago Anderson Cooper interviewed Donald Trump and asked him why he retaliated against someone who had insulted him or made some negative comment about him. Trump said, “He started it”. Cooper laughed and replied, “That’s what a five-year old says”. I will get to more on the Donald’s infantile responses in a moment.
But for months now Cooper and his colleagues at CNN have been just as immature in their 93% negative coverage of Trump. Acting like petty, retaliating five-year olds. Doing just what Cooper condemned in Trump a year ago. Claiming that Trump starts it all with his mean Tweets. You see, the CNN people are really pissed and hurt that they have been called “fake news”. So they are getting even with Trump, intent on bringing him down. They have been acting like five-year olds, spending 24/7 on retaliatory attacks against Trump. They have been largely ignoring policy issues to focus overwhelmingly (the Harvard 93% stat) on personal attack. CNN has now taken ad hominen attack to a scale rarely seen before. This is not serious news reporting.
CNN is further losing credibility as a once good news organization when their top producers/commentators admit the Russia probe is mainly “bullshit… a nothing-burger” but their excessive coverage of negative things gets them high ratings.
The fake news element comes across in the effort to twist every Trump Tweet into an expression of profoundly evil intent. Again, they should give some heed to their former colleague, Piers Morgan, who cautioned them to not take every Tweet as the apocalypse. (Note: Others at CNN exhibit less extremist imbalance and try to offer the perspective of opposing viewpoints.)
But Trump has his own upside-down ethic to sort out so that he can grow up. Apparently, in some book of his, he has stated that “eye for eye” is the governing ethic of his life. And he claims to be Christian.
When Bill O’Reilly interviewed him during the Primaries and asked him why he retaliated against some person, Trump replied, “Its eye for eye, Bill”. O’Reilly laughed and said, “No, its not”. But O’Reilly did not take that any further. He should have.
If you are Christian, as Trump claims to be, then you ought to know that right at the beginning of the New Testament, in Matthew’s gospel chapter five, there is that famous statement of Jesus, “You have heard it said, ‘eye for eye’”. Jesus then rejects that and adds, “But I say to you, love your enemy”. He rejects eye for eye retaliation and offers a stunning new ethic of forgiving and loving those who offend us. Not retaliating or getting even. That should be understood as the focal point for authentic Christian behavior. It tells us how to grow up and act maturely human. Like adults.
Trump, in a another long-ago Primary interview, said that his wife Melania used to chide him for going after others so harshly. But she appears to have abandoned her maturely restraining role and joined her husband in his retaliatory ethic. She laughs as she now affirms that “Donald says, when someone attacks you, you hit back ten times as hard”. And apparently, trying to lift this childish behavior a notch, they don’t call it eye for eye retaliation anymore, but “counter-punching”. Something good and healthy. Just sticking up for yourself.
Nah. No excuse-making can dress up something that debases anyone that engages it- retaliation. Getting even. Hitting back. It renders any human petty, childish.
What we are watching has gone far beyond any reasonable defense against attack. Legitimate defense is valid when it sticks to some contended issue. Such defense does not sink to the personal insult that we are watching. So distinguish properly between things that differ.
Cooper and his colleagues are doing no better at CNN. And MSNBC takes this childish personal insult to unhinged extremes that are embarrassing to watch. These news organizations are all exhibiting the same childish behavior in their endless negativity toward Trump. They are hurt at having been called “fake news” and are now pushing the cycle of retaliation further downward into infantile pettiness. Like a sandbox full of five-year olds throwing sand back and forth, all the while chanting “He/they started it”. Shame.
Someone please print some pictures of Nelson Mandela and put his famous phrase- “Let us surprise them (our enemies) with our generosity”- at the bottom of the pictures. Then send the pictures to Trump and Cooper and all the others engaged in this childish behavior of attack and counter-attack. Hurting in return those who have hurt us.
Not retaliating, but surprising your offender/opponent with forgiving generosity, will make anyone “tower in stature” (Joseph Campbell). Just like Mandela towered in stature as maturely human when he forgave and included his enemies in the new South Africa. It takes real courage to take one on the chin and break retaliatory cycles and start movement toward human maturity. And as Campbell notes, we achieve human maturity when we center our lives on unconditional love.
Let’s stop this petty retaliation on all sides and grow up. Look, I am not that mature myself but I have been embarrassed at how both sides have been acting in the Trump/media hissy fit.
Note: CNN tries to frame the narrative of their tit-for-tat spat with Trump as their righteous defense against his “attack on freedom of the press”, his “dangerous attack on democracy” in general. But other commentators suggest that finally someone is pushing back against the liberal domination in US media and the mainstream media do not like that challenge to their imagined position as the arbitrators of politically correct Progressive domination of US society.
Other comments on Progressive intolerance and imbalance:
Ben Stein has said that Hollywood is a one-party state and does not tolerate diversity of opinion or open debate. If you dare challenge the Progressive domination there, you will be black-listed. How does that differ from the McCarthyism that we saw previously on the other side? Others note that there have been decades of one-party centralized control in media and hence the vitriolic and apoplectic response to Trump for challenging that control. Still others point out that at places like MSNBC there were months of relentless venomous personal attack before Trump responded. But always, on all sides, that defensive five-year old dismissal of responsibility to act like a grown-up- “He/they started it”.
The argument for excessive hypocrisy and bias in the mainstream media mounts daily. You hear CNN commentators (Fareed Zakaria) tell us that the assassination of Trump in the Central Park play is just “artistic expression”. Comedians defend Kathy Griffin’s bloody head as just pushing the boundaries of comedy. OK. And little fuss is made by mainstream media over Johnny Depp’s call for another assassination of a president, or Madonna’s call for the White House to be blown up. Little attention is given by mainstream media to Snoop Dogg shooting a likeness of the president, or to Progressive banning of alternative voices on campuses and in Hollywood. Little on-air time is given to actual Leftist violence on campuses and in the streets. Little mainstream media discussion is focused on how Democratic extremist comment may have incited things like the shooting of the Republican Congressmen.
Yet mainstream media give us this insane hysteria over a WWE joke as “advocating real violence”. C’mon, we’re not that stupid. We know fake and real. We know serious and funny. So mainstream media- let’s be more balanced and fair in these things.
The general thrust of this site is anti-apocalypse. Be careful. Do not take any of this media hysteria over Trump too seriously. He is not bringing “the end of democracy” or another “dictatorship”. He is not the new “Hitler in the streets” (Ashley Judd). He is not Hugo Chavez as the CNN commentators are now suggesting. Donald Trump has been politically incorrect (many of us appreciate this), and even crude occasionally (not appreciated so much), but he is not a monster.
Donald Trump is a fundamentally good person, as many of his actions affirm. But he needs to grow up and abandon his eye for eye ethic that reduces him to childishness at times. And so also, those fainting folks over at CNN are basically good people. They’ve just lost their way. Hopefully, they will yet recover some semblance of sanity again.
We all just need to get a grip. And “grow up” as Clint Eastwood urged. We are much better than this petty “us versus our enemies” tribalism.
One more: If mainstream media are concerned about press freedom and general freedom of expression, as they claim, then they could exhibit more fairness and win back public trust by doing some stories on the intolerance toward opposing viewpoints on US campuses, the lopsided Liberalism in Hollywood, and the dominant Progressive stance of media in general. Just sayin.