Intro notes on human story- the animal/sacred relationship
I embrace a basic dualism in humanity. We have an inherited animal brain with its base drives. But we are not our brain, and our human consciousness is something uniquely different from the animal, with humane impulses that take us in a new direction from animal existence. Our human consciousness constitutes the true human self or person and its core impulse is not just to love, but to love unconditionally. Unconditional love is, then, the defining feature of the human self or person. Unconditional love is our true core nature, the authentic “us”. We discover this truth over our life-time and learn to express it- that we are most essentially beings of love.
Here is my basic argument:
The fundamental animal impulses from our inherited animal brain would include small band or “tribal” thinking and behavior- us versus some “other”, alpha domination of others, and the exclusion and destruction of the competing other.
Affirming the animal inheritance, the foundational themes and behaviors of religion have long included features such as the tribal dualism of “us versus them”- the division of humanity between true believers and unbelievers, domination/submission forms of relating with humanity subservient to an Alpha God or alpha priesthoods (gurus, religious authorities- see Alex Garcia’s “Alpha God”), and the exclusion and destruction of the unbelievers.
These features are central to the animal/sacred relationship, the belief/behavior relationship. From the beginning people have created beliefs, notably religious beliefs, to validate their behavior, even bad behavior. We want to model our lives according to greater realities. As meaning-seeking beings we like to know that we are fulfilling some greater purpose for our existence. So we project features out onto our gods and then, in turn, we take meaning and purpose from those ultimate ideals and authorities, from the “spiritual” realities that we have created.
(Note: I accept that God exists but not a deity that is defined by religious features. Features, as noted above, that have more often been projections of animal existence, and not human.)
Bob Brinsmead: “You become just like the God that you believe in”.
“There are no bad people, just bad ideas that incite bad behavior”.
Heroic human story- conquering the inherited animal
You will encounter the term “unconditional love” frequently on this site. The critical word being “unconditional”. Meaning absolutely no conditions. None.
Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story provides a framework for understanding the transforming role of unconditional love. Campbell says that we all come into life to live a hero’s story. And we face a monster, some problem. It could be physical in nature, or religious, or mental/emotional, social, ethnic, political, economic, or other. In our struggle to conquer our monster we learn lessons, we gain insights, that we can then offer as a “boon” or blessing to help others. See Campbell’s Myths To Live By.
Somewhat similarly, Julian Simon says that we face problems in life, and in our struggle to solve problems we find solutions that can then benefit others.
(Note: If we do not suffer something in life, then we are not much use for understanding and helping others that suffer. Compassion and empathy are developed out of suffering.)
Campbell also says that “a wise man” gives us a sword to slay our monster. And Campbell adds that we achieve human maturity when we orient our lives to universal love. Then we “tower in stature” as maturely human. Like a Nelson Mandela who set aside his desire for vengeance and worked for an inclusive South Africa (i.e. to include former enemies).
And where Campbell said that “universal love” was the feature that lifted us out of base animal existence and into human maturity (becoming a hero), I would use the broader and more inclusive term “unconditional love”.
I would also suggest that the one great monster that all of us face is that of our inherited animal drives (i.e. the impulses of our core animal brain to tribal dualism and opposition, to domination of others, and to the exclusion and destruction of the differing other). Unconditional is the sword of the wise man that helps us to slay this monster of our inherited animal. Unconditional orients us to universal love- to embrace and include all people as members of one human family, to engage all equally, to forgive all, and to treat everyone restoratively, despite any failures to live as human.
Unconditional orients us away from infantile animal thinking and behavior that is characterized by retaliation, tribal exclusion of others, or domination and destruction of some other. Unconditional takes us toward human maturity. It enables us to become mature heroes, to tower in stature as authentically humane, and thereby bring a boon to others.
Unconditional is simply the most liberating and humanizing insight/ideal that we have discovered. It liberates us from our animal inheritance. It humanizes us fully. With unconditional there is no tribal thinking (us versus others), no domination of some “lesser” other, and no exclusion or destruction of another. These infantile animal impulses, and supporting ideas, have always blocked human understanding and expression of unconditional.
Unconditional takes us to the height of authentic humanity, to the authentically humane, and to authentic love. To repeat- it is the insight that enables us to tower in stature as maturely human. It brings forth our true human self, our real nature as beings of love.
So orient yourself to unconditional and be the hero that you should be. Conquer your real enemy and monster, your inherited animal brain and impulses. Your enemy is not some other person/people but your own tendencies to retaliation, domination, exclusion, and harm of some other member of the one human family. Be the person that you really are- i.e. most essentially love at your core. Discover your true self, the hero that is unconditional love. Remind yourself that you are not your animal brain. You are something much better.
Summary: The real enemy that we face in life is inside us. Our real enemy has to do with the animal drives emoted by our old brain, and the bad religious ideas (or secular versions of the same ideas) that we embrace to validate our animal inheritance.
Orienting ourselves to unconditional love would also include the orientation to deity as the ultimate embodiment of such love. An unconditionally loving God is about the complete liberation from all bad religious ideas- i.e. pathological religious myths of God angry at human imperfection, and threatening to judge, condemn, exclude, punish, and destroy imperfect people (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below).
Further on this point that unconditional blows away entirely all bad religious ideas. Include the bad religious ideas of blood sacrifice to appease angry deity, along with the divine demand for correct belief and religious lifestyle, the requirement to fulfill religious ritual, and more. These bad ideas on divine conditions have long been embedded as foundational to religious traditions. Religion has always been most essentially a conditional institution (i.e. how to appease and please alpha gods). Religion cannot therefore reveal unconditional love to humanity. Religion, by its very nature, has long buried the unconditional insight.
Insert on NDE insights on human story:
For those who can handle it- The Near-Death Experience accounts offer some interesting insight into human story. They suggest that the primary reason that we come to the planet is to learn about love. To discover what love is, and how to experience it, both receiving and giving love. Love, notably unconditional love, is the fundamental meaning and purpose of human existence.
Some NDE accounts, like that of Natalie Sudman (The Application of Impossible Things), suggest that we may even choose the life story that we live, including the detailed experiences of our life, both good and bad (i.e. experiences that involve suffering).
The single most primitive idea ever concocted by the ancients- the original bad religious idea- was the belief that the gods punished people through natural disasters, disease, and accidents. This idea has spawned endless human misery- whether unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression or despair.
This worst of all bad ideas- that angry deity was pissed at human imperfection and would punish imperfection- was the idea that sparked the foundation of religion as the human response to appease and please the angry gods. That led to the sacrifice industry and the long history of Salvationism- the search for endless religious ways to find salvation from the threat of divine punishment and destruction.
This belief in punitive deity still forms the heart of our world religions and has even found expression in secular versions (i.e. “revenge of Gaia… angry planet… karma”). The sense of great threat, and the consequent felt need to engage some salvation scheme, continues in contemporary systems of thought.
This mythical pathology misses entirely the true nature of Ultimate reality as unconditional Love (i.e. God is love). Religion as Salvationism (salvation conditions) has long darkened and enslaved human consciousness and prevented human understanding of deity as essentially no conditions love.
Maintaining humanity in the face of evil
A critical issue in regard to justice, and the “just” response to human brutality, is to maintain our own humanity in the face of inhumanity/evil. Maintaining our humanity is about rising above the response of animal retaliation, and taking life somewhere better, like a Mandela, a Railway Man, a Gandhi, or a Martin Luther King. Maintaining our humanity is about unconditional respect for all people (i.e. restorative justice), that includes the responsibility to restrain violent people in order to protect others (e.g. “just” war, or the prison system for criminal offenders).
In the effort to maintain our humanity, it is important how we view the other human person despite their failure to live as human. Do we believe that they are still part of the human family? Can we do as the Chinese sage Laotzi did after defeating his attackers (i.e. not humiliating or rejecting them, but seeking their restoration as fellow humans).
Can we do as General Grant did to General Lee at the end of the Civil War, and welcome the badly behaving other person/people back into the human family, with restorative justice? Can we do what McArthur did with the Japanese after the brutalities of WW2? Can we do what the Allies did in Germany after the war, and seek the restoration of offenders back into the human family? This is about long-term outcomes that are humane.
Maintaining an unconditional respect for all humanity, despite the failures of others, is not to diminish in any way the horror of human brutality and the suffering that brutality causes others.
Further notes on apocalyptic from ‘War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth’:
“The West has produced and exported a number of secular, indeed atheistic forms of millennialism… movements that share the simple combination of a millennial vision of the world transformed, and an apocalyptic belief in the transformation’s imminence… thus we find especially strong tendencies towards both social perfectionism and human agency…”
(That early Christians, when ascendant in society, turned equally violent as their previous persecutors): “Large numbers of demotic millennial movements that turn into totalitarian adventures… reflect precisely the kind of reversal that so many critics anticipate from the proponents of equality; they speak of fairness when they are weak, and with power- in millennial cases, absolute power- such discourse rapidly turns to coercive purity…”
(On the spectrum from active to passive varieties of apocalyptic millennialism): “Active apocalypticism… tends to prefer cataclysmic variants since they promise more readily tangible results to an impatient enthusiast. With the advent of serious technological empowerment (i.e. nuclear weapons), they have become the most likely scenario of this next millennium…” Al Qaeda was an example of this version.
“Here… we find the origins of totalitarianism, that uncontrollable urge to hide one’s shame by coercing purity, even at the cost of huge numbers of lives. Here the apocalyptic imagination is quite capable of contemplating with enthusiasm the death of over five billion people…”
Post from discussion group: “On the repeated episodes of mass-violence that are the outcomes of apocalyptic millennial eruptions in societies- As Arthur Mendel says, ‘Apocalyptic millennialism has been the most violent and destructive force in history’. Apocalyptic millennialism leads people to feel that they must act now, without delay, in order to ‘save’ something under immediate threat. This may involve the trampling of other’s freedom…”
“Love your enemy” is the single most humane statement in all history and literature. It points to the ultimate definition of “humane”, of being truly human, of true goodness or true love. It is liberation from the animal into human maturity, to being a hero.
Topics below: Jesus versus Christ, or “the message of Ultimate Non-Retaliation” versus “the icon of Ultimate Retaliation” (two foundational and contrasting influences on Western consciousness and society). Defining justice- retaliatory or restorative (related issue- maintaining our own humanity in the face of inhumanity). Then: What defines the authentically humane? Also, Gradualistic versus Cataclysmic- the democratic approach to life versus the coercive apocalyptic approach to life (“coercive purification”, Richard Landes) ; Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas; and “The end of the world is always 10 years away”- Saltzman essay.
Note: Paul’s Christ myth is an expression of apocalyptic retaliation (see his first letters to the Thessalonians). This myth has shaped Western consciousness significantly (see Tabor and other quotes below). Apocalyptic (i.e. divine retaliation/punishment) contradicts entirely the core non-retaliation message of Historical Jesus.
This site connects some obvious dots (correlations between things). Christianity is an apocalyptic religion. Christian apocalyptic themes shaped 19th Century Declinism- the most influential ideology of the modern era (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline). Declinism has since shaped environmental alarmism and other apocalyptic-oriented “secular” ideologies. Apocalyptic is anti-human and the outcomes of this primitive mythology have been devastating to humanity and the progress of civilization.
See also varied comments on justice issues below- i.e. the social/natural consequences of behavior (responsibility, accountability), and restorative justice approaches (unconditional respect for all despite the need to restrain bad behavior). Embracing unconditional love is about maintaining our own humanity in the face of offense and brutality from others.
Correlations of interest: Some scholars suggest that apocalyptic is a spent force, a dying mythology. But note the continuing worldwide influence of climate alarmists (a “secular” expression of apocalyptic). With the support of the majority of world governments, they continue to hinder and slow the use of fossil fuels that drive industrial civilization, and that has had a costly impact on human well-being. The poorest people have suffered the most (e.g. the bio-fuels fiasco). Remember also the apocalyptic narrative of Rachel Carson and the outcome that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of people following the ban on DDT. Even Stephen Hawking has become caught up in the endless Chicken Little alarmism of “the end is nigh”. Apocalyptic, now often secularized, is still a potent and damaging force.
People must be held accountable for alarm-mongering in public and the outcomes of alarmist exaggeration on populations. Remember James Hansen (father of the climate warming alarm) telling us in 2008, “It’s all over in five years”.
Why go after bad ideas? Hint: It’s all about the belief/behavior relationship, and the 85% of humanity that belong to the great world religions. And many of the remaining 15% are “unaffiliated”, that is to say- “still spiritual but not religious”.
This site probes the following points: Ideas, especially ideas projected onto deity- humanity’s highest ideal and authority- profoundly influence how people think, feel, and act. And “bad ideas” projected onto deity from the beginning have a long history of horrific outcomes- i.e. crusades, torture and murder of heretics (inquisitions), and the war-scale slaughter of unbelievers/enemies. Bad religious ideas- notably apocalyptic millennialism- played a significant inciting/validating role in the mass-death movements of the 20th Century (Marxism, Nazism, environmentalism).
Lesser “bad outcomes” would include religious judgmentalism, intolerance, exclusion of the unbeliever, condemnation of the different, and religiously-engendered shame, guilt, despair/depression, and unnecessary fear (e.g. the Japanese lady after the tsunami asking, “Are we being punished?”). It is about the overall darkening and enslaving influence of bad ideas.
More than this, bad religious ideas have long blocked the profound liberation that flows from the insight that deity has always been a stunning “no conditions Love”.
The list of bad ideas projected onto deity includes- tribal dualism (believers versus unbelievers); exclusion and domination of the bad people, or the unbelievers; and retaliation, punishment, and destruction of the unbelievers. The driving core here is the worst of all bad ideas- “angry deity punishing bad people”. See the full list of bad ideas below- “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas”. These are subhuman themes, inhuman, simply bad.
These ideas, that have been responsible for much violence, destruction and misery across history, have never been purged from our great religious traditions, notably Christianity and Islam. They are still embedded at the core of these religions in the foundational reality of deity. And in the modern era, bad religious ideas have been given “secular” expression in the dominant ideologies of our world (i.e. 19th Century Declinism and it’s offspring, environmental alarmism). Consequently, people continue to become just like the God that they believe in. Belief influences behavior.
We know better now. We have the alternative that fully humanizes religious gods, that makes our highest ideals and authorities fully humane. We know that unconditional love does this. It takes us to the supreme height of the authentically humane. Unconditional defines Ultimate Goodness. It inspires the best of the human spirit. Again, belief shapes behavior.
An unconditional core Reality (God) tells us there is no ultimate judgment, no exclusion of anyone, no ultimate punishment or destruction of anyone. There is only Love behind all. All are safe in the end. This insight overturns all bad religious ideas. Let your mind toy with this scandalous insight. There is a Love that is infinitely beyond human comprehension.
It is irresponsible to allow subhuman features to continue to define our highest ideals and authorities and to continue to incite, inspire, guide, and validate bad behavior. Most religious reformism, while helpful in moderating religion, has only been peripheral tinkering at the edges, while letting the core ideas remain subhuman, inhuman, bad.
If we are ever to see clearly that “God is love”, then we have to get rid of all the “dung, garbage, muck” (Jefferson and Tolstoy) that buries this ultimate truth. Unconditional should become our highest ideal and authority.
The basic template of bad ideas is still foundational in the great world religions and now in dominant world ideologies (i.e. Declinism, environmental alarmism). These ideas provide continuing inspiration and validation for our worst impulses to tribal dualism, domination of others, and the exclusion and even destruction of differing others.
More on “Why go after bad ideas?”
Some bad behavior can be explained at the level of careless stupidity, people engaging life at the level of unchecked animal impulse- whether exhibiting tribal mentality with its dualism of “us versus some enemy” (i.e. separation, exclusion), or base retaliation against offense, or Alpha domination/predation, or the destruction of the differing/competing other. We see these things in individual stories of bad behavior. Behavior that can be understood in terms of the inherited animal brain that emotes base impulses, subhuman or inhuman impulses.
But because of the primary human longing for meaning (Victor Frankl), there are many that prefer to validate their behavior, including bad behavior, as modelling greater realities or meaning. They seek inspiration, guidance, and validation from greater ideals/ideas and authorities. This is why people have always looked to deity/God for validation (i.e. some divine law, word, will, model/pattern).
We saw this appeal to greater ideal/authority to validate bad behavior in the notable mass-death movements of the past century. Hitler was a striking example of this with his repeated appeals to “Providence” and more generally to “apocalyptic millennial”, or messiah mythology. Those themes resonated with the historical German Christian worldview. Richard Landes treats this in detail in Heaven On Earth.
This is “disorienting” stuff for the religious mind to engage. That esteemed ideas in one’s religious tradition can also be used to validate the destruction that we saw in Marxism, Nazism, and continue to see in environmental alarmism.
Apocalyptic millennialism continues to dominate the great world religions of Christianity and Islam. It has also been given new expression in the “secular” versions of Marxism and environmentalism. The terms have changed but the core themes remain the same.
This site explores these deeply rooted bad ideas- i.e. great punitive forces or spirits threatening ultimate destruction. These bad ideas continue to dominate our master stories, our grand narratives and worldviews (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, karma). They are themes that have long shaped the deepest levels of human consciousness, even the subconscious. These themes influence our thinking, our feeling, and our behaving. Change at the level of foundational narrative themes is critical if we are to solve bad behavior for the long-term future. It is about the liberation to be fully human. Liberation from bad ideas is the most profound liberation at the deepest levels of mind, spirit, and emotion.
This site is then a project to untangle and solve the sacred/animal relationship. To put it most bluntly in order to be clear- people have long sought to validate their worst impulses, their animal impulses to tribal dualism, retaliation, domination, and destruction of differing others, by projecting similar features onto their gods, thus creating ultimate ideals and authorities that provide divine inspiration and validation for their own bad behavior. We then become just like the God that we believe in. Note for example that in apocalyptic millennial movements, people believing in a punitive destroying God will often feel that they must be the agents of that God to carry out his will and destroy his enemies. They must eliminate the “evil” that pollutes and threatens God’s world or God’s people.
Related: This site is also probing the deepest levels of human fear and anxiety, such as the primal fear of Ultimate Harm, of after-life harm- whether a punishing God, angry nature, or karma (see Michael Grosso material below). This is about liberation from unnecessary psychic fears (i.e. the Japanese lady asking after the tsunami, “Are we being punished?”).
Further, fear and hate/rage/retaliation are all mingled emotions. So also note the relationship of fear and the consequences of anxiety/depression/addiction. Background things (i.e. endless environmental alarmism and associated news media exaggeration and alarmism) impact people’s consciousness. Just sayin.
Note: Contrary to the dominant Declinist ideology today (i.e. the apocalyptic alarmism that claims that life is declining toward disaster and ending), evidence on the true state of the world and the overall trajectory of life, shows improvement over the long-term, gradual improvement toward something better. This is a sound basis for hope. And hope has a self-fulfilling effect, it breeds more of the same, inspiring more effort to improve life. Whereas fear has an opposite effect, also of the self-fulfilling type. It can push people toward fatalism and resignation.
Note on breaking payback cycles (taking a few points from Joseph Campbell on human story)
I embrace the “spiritual” insight that we come here to engage a human experience (a life story) in order to learn how to love. To know what love is, to engage the struggle to love, and to help love spread. Love is the central meaning and point of human life. We suffer tragedy, heartbreak, disaster, accident, and cruelty, all the worst situations of life, as opportunities where we can learn to choose something better. That is where true heroism emerges and finds expression. That is where love shines brightest, when chosen against the experience of something worse.
Life’s worst situations offer opportunities to exhibit heroic courage, to take life somewhere better. To exhibit the initiating courage, for example, to break a potential retaliatory cycle (getting even with an offender), and going somewhere better, toward forgiveness, inclusion, generosity, and restoration of offenders. Like a Mandela, or Railway Man, or General Grant seeking the restoration of General Lee after the Civil War.
Qualifying note: Maintaining our humanity in the face of inhumanity:
Any comment on the ideal of non-retaliation requires immediate qualification. The issue is how we maintain our own humanity in the face of bad behavior from others. An unconditional attitude does not mean embracing dogmatic pacifism. Love is always responsible to protect the innocent and restrain violent people. That may involve permanent imprisonment in the case of the repeatedly violent offender or the psychopathic criminal. It may involve eliminating some extremely violent people where other forms of restraint are not possible (i.e. the irrational, religiously-driven violence of ISIS).
Maintaining an unconditional respect for all is about how we prevent ourselves from falling into old tribal dualisms (i.e. “us versus our enemy”) and “eye for eye” cycles of vengeance and punitive payback. We are morally obligated to maintain our own humanity and to seek better long-term outcomes that lessen violence and brutality. That will involve the use of defensive force but always with ultimate restorative intent. Just as the Chinese sage, Laotzi, argued for the careful, minimal use of force to stop attacking armies. But he then urged the triumphant soldiers to not humiliate their attackers after they had defeated them. So McArthur sought to rehabilitate the Japanese after the Second World War. And Mandela sought to include all in the new South Africa, and to turn former enemies into friends.
Related issue: Defining justice as retaliatory or restorative. See discussions in sections below.
Comment from below: The dominant inciting/validating factor in the Western tradition
The term “Jesus Christ” is a statement of profound oxymoron that tries to merge non-retaliation with supreme retaliation. This Christian title has long held together two profoundly opposite messages in an unworkable and disjointed harmonization. The outcome from maintaining the feature of violent retaliation in humanity’s ultimate ideal and authority- deity- has been horrific abuse of people (i.e. Crusades, Inquisitions- torture and murder of heretics, exclusion of unbelievers).
Historical Jesus was history’s greatest Non-Retaliator. His core theme was “no more eye for eye but love your enemy”, (see Matthew 5, and Luke 6). And he based this unconditional ethic on “a stunning new theology” (James Robinson) of a non-retaliating God that loved his enemies, a God that exhibited unconditional mercy and generosity toward all- “God sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad”.
Paul, to the contrary, rejected the unconditional God of Jesus and re-affirmed belief in divine retaliation by creating history’s supreme Retaliator- i.e. his apocalyptic Christ. Paul’s own words from his Romans and Thessalonians letters- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay… The Lord will punish… he will pay back… in blazing fire… punish with everlasting destruction….”. There is a lot more in these and other New Testament letters. And see Revelation for the most graphic portrayal of the violent, blood-soaked Christ destroying billions of his enemies. What do you think such imagery does to human consciousness?
Paul’s views dominate the New Testament and Christianity, and thereby Western consciousness in general (see Tabor quotes below). Consequently, Jesus’ core theme of non-retaliation has been largely distorted, undermined, and even buried, while Paul’s message of supreme retaliation has shaped Western thought and behavior with repeated violent outcomes (i.e. the Crusades, the torture and killing of heretics, and harsh retributive justice systems).
Historical Jesus offered the way to solve bad behavior/violence at the most fundamental level. He fully humanized (i.e. made fully humane) our highest ideal and authority- deity. He radically transformed humanity’s ultimate inciting and validating reality- God- by re-orienting human understanding of God away from retaliation and toward non-retaliation, or unconditional love. His central theme was expressed as “God does not retaliate against enemies but gives sun and rain to all alike, both good and bad”. All were to be treated as family, despite their failure to live as human.
This is fundamental to solving the problem of people using bad ideas to incite or validate bad behavior. Do as Jesus did- make your highest validating ideas/ideals (i.e. God) fully humane. Only unconditional can accomplish this.
Paul outright rejected the project of Jesus. He rejected Jesus’ “stunning new non-retaliatory theology” and retreated to the same old primitive understanding of deity as all about supreme “eye for eye” retaliation, notably in the great payback and punishment of apocalypse and Hell.
The point? We become just like the God that we believe in. Bad ideas incite and validate bad behavior. As Bob Brinsmead says, “The view of what God is like does determine to a large extent how a person lives and how he relates to others. Harsh views of God lead to harsh treatment of others”.
A possible response to this? Embrace the approach of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy- take the “diamonds/pearls” of Jesus and throw Paul’s gospel out. It is the “product of an inferior mind”, according to Jefferson. Jefferson and Tolstoy used much more offensive terms to describe the rest of the New Testament, but I am trying to be nice.
Note on the secularization of primitive apocalyptic millennial mythology: “The West has produced and exported a number of secular, indeed atheistic forms of millennialism… movements that share the simple combination of a millennial vision of the world transformed, and an apocalyptic belief in the transformation’s imminence… thus we find especially strong tendencies towards both social perfectionism and human agency…” (Preface to War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth).
The ultimate in Western religious blasphemy
Oxford Dictionary defines blasphemy this way: “To speak irreverently about God or sacred things”. But note, the ‘benefits of blasphemy’ include liberation from bad ideas, and that is the most profound liberation at the depths of human consciousness, spirit, and emotion. So “Let me make myself vile just this one more time”.
There is no greater blasphemy to the Christian mind than to tackle, challenge, and diminish the Christ myth. “If anyone denies that Jesus is the Christ… he is the antichrist” (1 John). And did I say Christ “myth”? Yes, all apocalyptic is myth, fraudulent myth, pathological myth. Paul’s Christ is the epitome expression of apocalyptic mythology.
See also the comment below that gives a new twist to the conventional Christian view on the “antichrist”. If you take “Q Wisdom Sayings” research seriously, then Historical Jesus was the antichrist. His core message of non-retaliation was against Christ or messiah mythology (i.e. the supreme retaliation of Paul’s Christ in a great apocalypse- again, note Paul’s Thessalonians statements, just above).
Also, see the qualifiers below on the better features that are also embraced by Paul’s Christ. But that merger of good ideas with bad ideas creates the contradiction that this site treats thoroughly (i.e. the ultimate oxymoron of non-retaliation/retaliation that engenders cognitive dissonance in Christianity).
This site traces the historical lines of descent from ancient bad ideas and down into contemporary versions of those same bad ideas. This site notes the correlations between historical systems of thought- from mythology to religion to “secular” ideology. What drives this project? Bad ideas incite people to bad behavior. Always have. Always will.
To properly solve violence and other bad behavior (i.e. the mass-violence eruptions of the past century) we must confront and deal with all the contributing factors, no matter how disorienting that may be.
Focusing the subject:
When you trace contemporary Western bad ideas and behavior back to their historical roots, you arrive unavoidably at Paul’s Christ. That prominent Christian icon brought destructive “apocalyptic millennialism” into Western consciousness and societies. Christian apocalyptic millennialism was then a critical contributing factor behind the alarmist and mass-death movements of the twentieth century. The death tolls were astounding (i.e. an estimated 200 million from just three notable apocalyptic millennial movements- Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism). See the research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, and Arthur Mendel noted below.
“(Apocalyptic millennialism has been) the most violent and destructive force in history”, (Landes in Preface to Vision and Violence).
The bad ideas that contributed to Paul’s Christ myth have even deeper historical roots traceable back to Jewish messiah mythology, Greek hero mythology, Gnostic savior myths, and then further back to Zoroastrian dualism and apocalyptic destruction, and finally back to Sumerian mythology where we find the original pathological myth of “angry gods punishing and destroying bad people” in a great flood apocalypse.
Qualifier: No one denies that much good has also been associated with Paul’s Christ- i.e. the ideals of forgiveness, mercy, deliverance, and so on, that are also present in the myth. But do not neglect the fundamental features of the Christ that express tribal dualism (good people/true believers versus bad people/unbelievers), exclusion and rejection of the unbeliever (small band mentality), alpha domination (Lord Christ ruling all with an iron fist), and ultimate violent destruction of one’s enemies in apocalypse and hell. These darker features tend to limit, undermine, and distort the better features.
If we are ever to solve violence and bad behavior properly and for the long-term future then it is critical that we face this central originating source of bad ideas in our Western tradition.
The nastier features of the Christ have incited and validated the same nasty impulses in people, the impulses emoted by our inherited animal brain. It is an age-old practice of people to appeal to sacred ideas to validate their basest impulses. Fortunately, we are not our brains. We are something much better. But we need better ideas to inspire and affirm our better impulses. We need a fully humanized God, and authentically humane religious icons that are purged of all subhuman features.
In general, this site is oriented to understanding the deeply embedded ideas that shape our thinking and behavior for good and bad. This site probes questions like- What makes us truly human and what dehumanizes us? This site explores the very foundational things that contribute to real and lasting change. This site goes after the real monster in life, the real enemy of humanity- not other people, but bad ideas.
Note: Too much religious reformism has been just peripheral tinkering at the edges. It does not go to the core features of religion, those foundational ideas that define the highest ideal and authority of all- God. To paraphrase Bill Clinton- “It’s the theology, silly”.
More on the source of bad ideas in the Western tradition
In our Western tradition, the endless declinist/alarmist nonsense that has plagued consciousness and life all began with Paul and his apocalyptic Christ myth.
This is the great contradiction in Western consciousness and society- the contrast between the competing influences of Historical Jesus and Paul/Christianity. These two are foundational to understanding Western society- i.e. what influences good and bad in our ethics, what humanizes or dehumanizes justice systems, what has incited alarmist movements and mass-death eruptions and outcomes (notably in the past century), and more.
My argument: Two people have shaped our Western consciousness and societies more than anyone or anything else. Note for example, that Paul’s apocalyptic religion- i.e. Christianity- was given “secular” expression in ideologies like 19th Century Declinism- “The single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century” (Arthur Herman, Introduction, The Idea of Decline). Declinism then shaped contemporary environmental alarmism- “Environmentalism is one of the dominant ideologies of our day… the most widespread of convictions and giving it the potential to become the dominant ideology of the new millennium” (Jeffrey Foss, p.51, Beyond Environmentalism). Paul is most responsible for this.
And in our Western tradition, even Stephen Hawking has recently (2016-17) succumbed to Paul’s apocalyptic ideas and thinking. He has now prophesied the end of days occurring in 100 years. More Chicken Little outcomes from Paul.
This site traces in detail the historical links and the descent of primitive apocalyptic mythology (the original bad religious idea) into subsequent religious versions of apocalyptic (Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Islamic), and then down into contemporary “secular” versions of ideological/scientific apocalyptic. Father of the climate warming alarm, scientist James Hansen, illustrated this with his 2008 statement, “It’s all over in five years”. More “the end is nigh” again, and again, and again…
Here are the key points of contrast between Jesus and Paul. This great Christian contradiction can be summarized in the contrasting core themes, or messages, of these two men:
1. Non-retaliation was the core theme of Jesus (“no more eye for eye, but love your enemy”). In contrast, a supreme retaliation was central to Paul’s gospel- i.e. his Christ retaliating in an apocalypse (“He will pay back… in blazing fire… destruction”, see his Thessalonian letters).
2. Unconditional love for everyone was the central message of Jesus, based on the reality of a God of unconditional mercy and generosity (“sun and rain given to all, both good and bad”). Paul’s central message was the demand for a supreme condition to be met before forgiveness would be expressed to anyone (i.e. sacrifice, atonement, payment by a god-man, as in his Romans letter).
These contrasting themes or messages present foundational issues for all of us: What defines good and bad? What defines human and inhuman? What defines us as authentically human? What is the meaning and purpose of conscious human existence? What is the point of the cosmos and life?
Historical Jesus introduced “a stunning new theology of a non-retaliating God” (James Robinson). His entire orientation was to non-retaliation, or unconditional love toward all people, both good and bad. We see the non-retaliatory orientation of Jesus in his Wisdom Sayings gospel (basically Matthew 5-7 and a few other passages, but without Matthew’s added comments that weaken and distort the message of Jesus).
Jesus central theme or message was to not retaliate against those that offend or hurt us. Instead, we should embrace our offenders as friends, treating them generously as family, giving “sun and rain to all alike”. (Note: Unconditional love to all does not advocate for pacifism in an imperfect world. See the qualifiers below on the responsibility of love to restrain violence- i.e. just war, and imprisonment of repeatedly violent offenders, but with restorative intent in all situations.)
Jesus was the great non-Retaliator, where to the contrary, Paul’s Christ was the great Retaliator. You cannot combine Jesus and Christ in one coherent term or title. That is oxymoronic in the extreme. A contradiction. And it produces cognitive dissonance (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God).
See more detail on the Jesus/Paul contradiction in the next section below “So you think you are secular, and scientific?” That sets forth the proper chronology of the New Testament and illustrates the heart of the contradiction. Note especially the comment in “Confronting the Christ myth” and “The Jesus/Paul contradiction goes to the heart of the human problem”, along with other material.
Get the chronology right. It shows the contradiction.
The core message of Jesus is found in Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36 and was taught around 27-36 CE. He stated, “There must be no more eye for eye retaliation against your offenders, but instead love your enemies because God does. God, with unlimited mercy and generosity, sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad”. God does not retaliate.
Then, the very next Christian teaching came from Paul, his Thessalonian letters written about 50 CE. He states, “The coming wrath… The Lord will punish… he will pay back (retaliate)… in blazing fire… punish with everlasting destruction…”, and so on. John’s Revelation provides graphic illustration of this apocalyptic retaliation and destruction by Lord Christ.
Jesus’ message was bluntly against primitive Christ or Messiah mythology- i.e. that a violent, overwhelmingly powerful, destroying messiah would return to bring ultimate eye for eye retaliation, punishment, and destruction on God’s enemies, the unbelievers. But contradicting the teaching of Jesus, Paul embraced this messiah myth of a retaliatory Christ that would end the world with a great act of divine retaliation against evil, in the apocalypse, and then engage eternal retaliation in the endless torture of Hell.
Throughout his life Jesus repeatedly resisted the efforts of others to make him the Messiah or Christ. He made statements like this- “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”. Jesus was anti-Christ, or anti-Messiah mythology. Dead set against it. Researchers (i.e. Q Wisdom Sayings gospel) note that there is nothing in the original message of Jesus about his coming as a Savior/messiah to pay for the sins of humanity by offering himself as a sacrifice.
Jesus also rejected the tribal division of humanity into believers/unbelievers, insiders/outsiders. His God exhibited non-tribal love for all, both good and bad. Again, sun and rain were given to all alike as equal members of the one human family. There was no discrimination between good and bad, no separation or exclusion of anyone from God’s one human family, no matter how badly they failed to live as maturely human.
Jesus did not promote another “angry God punishing bad people” religion. Which is to say, Jesus did not promote the need for atonement or salvation. He did not promote another salvation religion as Paul did. He did not believe there was an angry God demanding appeasement. To the contrary, his God was unconditional Love. Period. In the Wisdom teaching of Jesus, there is no need to meet an ultimate condition (i.e. sacrifice, atonement, payment of debt) in order to appease a condition-demanding God.
A full set of liberating conclusions inevitably flow from the central theme of a non-retaliating, unconditional God. Jesus did not advocate for ultimate judgment, exclusion, punishment, or destruction of the unbeliever, the bad ones, in an apocalypse or hell.
Paul then rejected and overturned the message of Jesus and made the non-retaliating Jesus into the retaliating Christ- the great Retaliator in an apocalypse (the supreme or epitome act of eye for eye justice). Paul’s Christ would not love his enemies but would violently destroy them in a final great act of divine retaliation, the apocalypse. Paul created Christianity as the religion of the ultimate Retaliator, the Christ, with a message that was entirely anti-Jesus (against the teaching of Jesus). With his Christ as the epitome of divine retaliation in an apocalypse, Paul thereby buried the core message of Jesus in his Christian religion. Again, see Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians for his statements on the retaliating, apocalyptic Christ.
Paul was oriented to supreme retaliation- apocalypse and Hell for the bad, the unbeliever. Paul promoted his Christian gospel as just another “angry God punishing bad people” mythology. See also his Romans letter, and John’s Revelation for more detail.
Paul’s Christ was about fulfilling the supreme condition of atonement as foundational to salvation religion. Paul’s message centered on his gospel of Jesus coming to offer himself as the great final sacrifice to pay for the sins of all humanity (again, see Romans). His gospel was about fulfilling the supreme condition to appease the wrath of a supremely conditional God. There was nothing of authentic unconditional in Paul’s teaching.
Paul also promoted a tribal division of humanity into true believers and unbelievers, with very different outcomes for each group (heaven or hell). Paul’s love was ultimately limited tribal love.
Paul’s retaliation/apocalyptic themes have shaped Western consciousness more than Jesus’ non-retaliation/non-apocalyptic message. See Tabor and other’s comments below.
This site is a project to transform the fundamental orientation of human consciousness and worldviews. For much of our history, our religions and ideologies have oriented our consciousness to retaliation and conditionalism (i.e. eye for eye justice as true justice, payment, punishment). The outcomes of this orientation have been devastating for life.
With Campbell, I argue that we achieve human maturity when we orient ourselves to unconditional love toward all. Unconditional liberates us to a truly human future, a future oriented more to mercy, forgiveness, and generosity toward other’s failures to live as human.
Qualifier- Unconditional love is responsible to protect and restrain violence. It is not pacifist in the face of brutality.
More background stuff
This site goes after the deepest roots of human fear (i.e. fear of Ultimate Harm, after-life harm), and the spiritual roots of much fear, anxiety and depression- bad religious ideas. This relates to research on addiction that is so widespread today (i.e. the claim that addiction may be due in part to general societal fears).
Much public story-telling is at the infantile level of eye for eye narratives, i.e. good guys getting even with the bad guys, giving them their due, meting out payback justice. Joseph Campbell pushed us to think higher, to tower in stature like a Mandela, or the Railway Man. He urged us too orient our lives to universal love, and thereby become mature human beings, to become heroes of our stories, fighting and conquering the monster of our inherited animal brain with its infantile impulses to tribalism (us versus our enemy), to exclude, punish, and destroy the enemy other. Human story-telling needs to catch up to the maturity that Campbell spoke to.
Mixing hate and hope
Apocalyptic millennial mythology stirs the mixed emotions of hate and hope in people. Hatred in the longing to see enemies destroyed in the apocalypse, to see them purged from the world and sent to hell (the supreme expression of hatred for another person). And hope in that “true believers” will get their utopia of like-minded insiders; they alone as God’s chosen people will enjoy paradise after the apocalypse has cleansed the world. This is tribal love and a limited tribal hope, a perverted religious hope that is based on the wish for the destruction of differing others. There is nothing humane about it.
Going for the long-term, foundational transformation of consciousness
I am going after things that have been deeply rooted in human consciousness, across the millennia. Things that are affirmed by our great religious traditions- themes like tribal dualism (us versus them, true believers versus unbelievers, insiders versus outsiders), the judging/condemning and exclusion of others, and the punishment/destruction of the other/enemy.
These features are a combination of inherited animal impulses that are affirmed by bad religious ideas of the same nature- i.e. deities that are tribal in orientation, that favor the true believer and exclude/punish/destroy the unbeliever.
How do we root out these subhuman impulses/beliefs from human consciousness? Cognitive therapy- change how you think. Subhuman or bad religious ideas must be replaced by the humanizing truth of unconditional love- the highest form of love, a love that takes us to the authentically humane. Let unconditional love permeate human consciousness with its understanding that all are members of one human family. There is no tribal division of the human family. Ultimately, no one will be excluded or destroyed by an unconditional God.
But transforming human consciousness with unconditional is a multi-generational project, a gradualistic project, a “gradually permeating” project. It is about replacing the core ideas/ideals of worldviews with new authentically humane themes. This is a leavening project for the long-term.
Background to this project: The destructive outcomes of bad ideas
Across human history religious beliefs and ideals have been used to validate the incalculable wastefulness of the salvation industry. And they have added an unnecessary psychic burden to human suffering (e.g. the Japanese woman asking after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished?”). Add to this the incalculable violence done in the name of God and religion.
Against this background- I am arguing to eliminate this endless use of deity/religion to incite and validate evil. How? Reach beyond peripheral reformism (touching up the fringes of religion) to fully humanize the core ideas and ideals of religion, especially deity. Make God fully humane. Purge all those subhuman features from religious deities- i.e. tribal exclusion (believers versus unbelievers), judgment/punishment and the destruction of unbelievers. Replace those bad ideas with the supremely humane ideal of no conditions love.
Solving violence and other bad behavior. The central religious factor behind mass-violence in the Western tradition. See “disorienting” research of Landes, Herman, and Mendel below. Also, see “Cataclysmic versus Gradualistic” at the bottom of this section (two differing views and approaches to life).
“There are no bad people, just bad ideas that incite people to do bad things”, Bob Brinsmead.
“Our real enemies are not other people, but the inhumane ideas that incite us to treat others inhumanely”.
“The real monsters in life are bad ideas”.
“We are all responsible for the ideas that we put into the public arena and we are responsible for the outcomes of those ideas, both good and bad.”
“Unconditional love liberates us from the worst impulses of our inherited animal brain. It liberates us to ‘tower in stature’ (Joseph Campbell) as mature humans, oriented to universal love”.
Campbell’s point on universal love resonates with other insight which states that we came to the planet to live out a unique human story. I would affirm that love is the central meaning and purpose of human story. We come here to learn love- how to express and receive love. And where Campbell uses “universal love”, I would use the broader “unconditional love” to define human maturity. Unconditional love is the feature that takes us to the height of love and enables us to tower in stature as maturely human.
Balancing qualifier to calm religious minds/nerves: This site repeatedly affirms the better side of Christianity and other religious traditions (i.e. the humane ideas and outcomes), notably the Wisdom Sayings of Historical Jesus. But I also recognize the “cognitive dissonance” in the Christian religion- the tendency to protect and affirm bad ideas along with good ones in contradicting mergers (e.g. God is love but will send you to Hell if you do not believe Paul’s gospel). See Zenon Lotufo’s treatment of this in Cruel God, Kind God.
Cognitive dissonance arises from the fallacy of Biblicism- the felt obligation to defend all that is contained in holy books, as from God (i.e. inspired by God). Hence, both good and bad things must be retained in harmony. I lean more to the blunt conclusions of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy that we must distinguish between the good and the bad (between “diamonds” and “dung”) and throw the bad out. Just as we do all through the rest of life.
Quote from below: “The Christ myth focuses and illustrates the profound contradiction between the message of Jesus and the entirely opposite message of Paul- the message that became Christianity. The core of this contradiction is about what ideas or ideals should define human life and response- i.e. the ideal of retaliation or non-retaliation. This contradiction is central to understanding human history- what went wrong and how to make it right. The contradicting messages of Jesus and Paul help us to understand what most essentially forms the general categories of good and bad in human thought and existence- i.e. non-retaliation or retaliation, unconditional or conditional. What do we hold as an ultimate ideal and authority?- The non-retaliatory/unconditional message of Jesus, or the ultimate retaliatory/conditional message of Paul?”
Another from below: “Paul’s Christ is a supreme statement of his rejection of Jesus’ non-retaliatory theology and his retreat to retaliatory theology.” Understanding all the elements of Paul’s Christ is critical to understanding the core inspiring ideal and authority in Western consciousness, and its destructive outcomes.
Another: “The stunning new ‘non-retaliatory theology’ of Jesus, long buried in Christianity, blows away the entire template of bad religious ideas” (see Top Ten Bad Religious ideas below).
And this from James Tabor: “I maintain that there was a version of ‘Christianity before Paul, affirmed by both Jesus and his original followers, with tenets and affirmations quite opposite to these of Paul. This is the lost and forgotten Christianity…. The message of Paul, which created Christianity as we know it, and the message of the historical Jesus and his earliest followers, were not the same. In fact, they were sharply opposed to one another with little in common… Paul is the most influential person in human history, and realize it or not, he has shaped practically all we think about everything… from our assumptions about reality to our societal and personal ethics… (they) rest in a singular way upon the heavenly visions and apparitions of the apostle Paul. We are all cultural heirs of Paul, with the well-established doctrines and traditions of mainstream Christianity deeply entrenched in our culture. In contrast, Jesus as a historical figure… has been largely lost to our culture…Paul operated with a strongly apocalyptic perspective that influenced all he said and did” (Paul and Jesus, Preface and p.15).
The core themes:
These opposing pairs summarize the basic issues that must be brought into focus: i.e. Non-retaliation versus retaliation, or unconditional versus conditional. How do these opposing realities/ideals influence human thought and behavior, and what are the outcomes in human societies? And what single ideal/icon in our Western tradition ties all this together? What religious reality has been behind the main mass-death movements in Western history?
Those not able to handle “blasphemy/heresy” should exit this site now. I am going to probe the darker side of the Christ of Christianity.
If we are to understand and solve problems like violence, properly and for the long-term future, then we have to confront all the inciting factors, especially the often-ignored religious factors. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the theology, silly”.
This issue of inciting factors is about foundational background ideas and themes that have persisted in worldviews across history. These ideas/themes continue to dominate both religious and “secular” systems of thought. They are primitive mythical themes that have been so deeply embedded in human perception that they have been hardwired in human subconscious. From there they influence the base animal impulses from our inherited animal brain (i.e. the impulses to tribal dualism- insider versus outsider, exclusion of outsiders, and domination and destruction of outsiders).
Note the stunning research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, and Arthur Mendel in sections below. To use Landes’ term, it is “disorienting” to discover that the “apocalyptic millennial” themes of Christianity were critical inciting/validating factors behind the mass-death movements of the 20th Century. That included Marxism (100 million deaths), Nazism (50 million deaths), and environmentalism. Yes, Rachel Carson’s “apocalyptic narrative” in Silent Spring led directly to tens of millions of deaths following the ban on DDT.
Mendel was right to state that apocalyptic has consistently been “the most violent and destructive force in history” (Preface, Vision and Violence).
Before moving on, laser in a bit more on this “disorienting” fact- the apocalyptic millennial themes of our Western tradition are Christian in origin. Christianity is responsible for bringing the myth of apocalyptic into Western consciousness and society. It did this via Paul’s apocalyptic Christ. The apocalypse is the Christian hope for a grand, final act of retaliation against enemies.
Take the research of Herman, Landes, Mendel and others (include also James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword) and note the correlations between core ideas/themes and related outcomes. The same set of bad ideas- apocalyptic millennialism- appear again and again behind history’s mass-death movements, whether behind religious movements or more secular/ideologically-oriented movements. And apocalyptic millennialism is embodied most intensely in Paul’s Christ myth.
Yes, there are also some better ideas/ideals in the Christian mix, and better outcomes from such ideas (notably the wisdom teaching of Historical Jesus). But the better stuff does not diminish the element of bad ideas and the damaging outcomes from those. We must make these critical distinctions between bad and good because there has been too much ‘cognitive dissonance’ in religions like Christianity, where the bad is merged with the good and defended as an acceptable part of the larger whole.
Further, add Islamic violence to the above mix of bad outcomes from bad Christian ideas. In sections below I have also noted the influence of the Christian gospels on early Islamic thought- notably, the Gospel to the Hebrews and Matthew’s gospel. The transmission of ideas from these books occurred via Waraqa, a Jewish Christian priest (Ebionite) and the spiritual mentor of Muhammad. This is another important correlation that cannot be denied. It led to more violence and destruction resulting from the same core themes of “angry deity destroying enemies through apocalyptic violence”.
If you want to solve violence for the long-term future then confront all the contributing factors. Especially, confront the deeply embedded religious themes in our worldviews that validate the worst human impulses to tribalism, exclusion, and punishment or destruction of others. This is problem-solving 101.
This site details the correlations between bad ideas and violence in various systems, both religious and secular. The correlations have been established well by the historians noted above. I am focusing on one critical reality at the center of all this- Paul’s Christ myth. That core icon embodies Paul’s main themes- i.e. ultimate judgment and exclusion (true believers versus unbelievers), the supreme condition of atonement, divine punishment, and apocalyptic destruction.
The Christ is the heart of Paul’s religion- Christianity. I am tying all this research together, bringing into clear focus this inciting mainspring behind varied other bad ideas and bad behavior- Paul’s Christ myth. The great anti-Jesus myth. And I recognize that in going after this “holy of holies” I am opening myself to charges of offensive blasphemy and heresy. But this is unavoidable if you want to fully understand and solve violence in human society.
As noted above, the more prominent themes of Paul’s Christ include the features of tribal dualism (true believers versus unbelievers), and the exclusion and destruction of enemy outsiders. These features arouse and incite very animal impulses in people. See quotes below from Paul’s letters.
With his Christ myth, Paul shaped Western consciousness and society more than any other set of ideas (see Tabor quotes below). With his Christ, Paul brought destructive apocalyptic mythology into Western consciousness and society, and his Christ myth has shaped various other subsequent prominent Western thought systems and movements.
Be clear on this corollary point- Paul rejected the central message of Historical Jesus, that God did not retaliate, did not exclude anyone or punish anyone, and did not destroy enemies. The God of Jesus did not demand atonement or threaten some great final retaliation in apocalypse. Paul’s Christ was a rejection of the Wisdom Sayings Gospel of Jesus. Paul’s Christ was the great “Anti-Jesus”.
So, to understand why these great themes of retaliation, vengeance, punishment and destruction continue in Western thinking, worldviews, and movements- start with Paul and his Christ.
My argument is that Paul’s apocalyptic themes have been at the center of the inciting factors behind Western mass-death movements. And yes, this is disorienting to the many who esteem Paul’s Christ as the great icon of good- i.e. the hope of salvation (Savior) and liberation, and the Deliverer into ultimate paradise and eternal life. No one denies that all these more “positive” features are also present in the Christ. But they are couched in a larger context of some of the worst themes from past mythology. Hence the suggestions of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy, that we must distinguish and separate the good from the bad- the diamonds from the dung.
Recall the project outlined at the beginning- to understand and resolve violence. That will involve confronting all the inciting and validating factors behind violence, including mythical/theological ones. Again, the darker themes of the Christ have long been deeply embedded in Western consciousness and worldviews. Those retaliatory themes of Paul’s Christ (judgment, exclusion, punishment, destruction) have long incited and affirmed the same retaliatory/punitive spirit in people- the impulse to engage revenge/payback, punishment, tribal exclusion (the true believer saved, the unbeliever destroyed), and final “eye for eye” retaliation, or violent destruction of “enemies”. These “worst of all bad ideas” continue to incite the worst of human impulses.
Bob Brinsmead notes that early Christianity, after gaining ascendency in society, then became a brutal movement to punish and destroy it’s enemies (unbelievers and heretics). We saw that in the Crusades. Brinsmead says, “If people believe that God is going to punish those who do not believe as they believe, then that opens the way for them to think that they can act as God’s agents to punish unbelievers, heretics. If we think that God is really angry with certain people, then we will be angry with them too”.
As Bob has said elsewhere, “You become just like the God that you believe in”.
But the use of violent Christian icons to validate violence works in other ways also.
Just to illustrate: Most recently I have been watching examples of how this works on Netflix. Notably, the examples of Pablo Escobar’s hit-men who prayed and crossed themselves just before they went forth to slaughter police and others. They first sought divine blessing before unleashing their punishing violence toward their enemies.
Most of us wonder how people can mix these things- the honoring of Christian religious icons before engaging the worst of human brutality. Praying before a statute of Jesus on a cross, or Mary, and then going out to murder others. But the theme of violence is the same- in the icon and the person appealing to the icon. Note the violent, destroying Christ of Revelation as an example of an ideal that validates similar violent behavior in people. Christian icons- the Christian God and Christ- affirm the same basic belief in violent destruction of enemies that Escobar and Co. embraced. And people have, repeatedly across history, appealed to greater ideals and authorities, often religious, to validate their behavior, even the worst of behavior.
I have stated the core issue above in blunt terms in order to make clear things clear- Paul’s retaliatory Christ incites and affirms the animal retaliatory spirit in people. Ouch. There, I said it.
To affirm again, Paul’s Christ has played a central role in varied destructive systems and movements of Western history. The Christ myth, as a central inciting factor, ties together many other elements in apocalyptic millennialism.
How do we then prevent the use of bad religious ideas to incite, inspire, guide, and validate bad behavior? We fully humanize our ideals just as Jesus did. He rejected eye for eye retaliation against “enemies”. He advocated that, instead, we must love our enemies. We must engage the same unconditional love that God exhibits toward all, whether good or bad. We should include all as equal members of the one human family, where there are no enemies. We must move beyond limited tribal forms of love to the all-inclusive love of God that gives sun and rain to all alike, both good and bad. With the unconditional God of Jesus there is no payback, no punishment, no tribal division of humanity, and no exclusion or destruction of others. Further, there is no demand for atonement conditions. No need for religious Salvationism.
A fully humanized God (fully humane) will take away one of the main inciting factors behind bad behavior- the human appeal to divine reality for validation of behavior. That goes to a root issue and solves it for the long term future. No one can bow before a God of unconditional love and seek affirmation for bad behavior. With an unconditional God you are on your own if you choose to act badly. You will find no validation for subhuman or inhuman behavior in an unconditional God.
Bob’s post to discussion group: A member of a discussion group put up this familiar saying of Jesus, to dismiss his teaching as too impractical for today’s violent world…
“’But I say unto you, do not resist and evil doer.’ Mt. 5:39. Thank God no civilization has ever been foolish enough to read this statement of Jesus as an ethic for all occasions.”
Bob Brinsmead then offered this response…
“I understand that the word ‘resist’, especially in the context in which it is used, is all about responding to the evil doer in kind – retaliatory violence. I suggest to you that even in the secular, political and international relations sphere, responding to acts of hostility with retaliatory violence, that is, playing the game of payback, eye for an eye, retaliatory punishment and all the rest, does not work, never did work, and never will work, but on the contrary, only serves to exacerbate the problem. That too is why the prison system, as generally practiced, spreads rather than contains the cancer of evil. I have read some good accounts of the treatment of convicts on Norfolk Island and Port Arthur in Tasmania. They did nothing to heal the estrangement and disaffection of the convicts.
“You cannot overcome violence with sheer violence. On the other hand Mandela practiced the art of turning his enemies into friends. He did not do this by threatening them, retaliating against them, paying them back, tit-for-tat. Let me repeat: In every situation we are obligated to treat all human beings with unconditional regard (Harold Ellens). The best civil authorities in the world already have progressed a long way toward implementing that principle – in the humane treatment of prisoners of war, and the incarceration of the most violent criminals but abolishing the death penalty. Some time back I recommended a book on Political Love in which there was an excellent chapter devoted to the political philosophy of love according to Martin Luther King.”
From a previous section on this site- the features of Paul’s Christ myth
Paul’s Christ myth has been called “the most influential myth in all history”. It is the foundational Christian belief, the holy of holies, the very heart and soul of Christianity. You challenge this myth at great peril of inciting Christian rage and hysteria. To challenge this is to engage the ultimate blasphemy and sacrilege. Calvin put Servetus to death for refusing to state that Jesus was the Christ- fully equal with God in the Trinity myth. Servetus had rejected the Christ myth. He refused to move an adjective over just two words in a sentence. Calvin wanted him to state “Jesus is the eternal son of God”. Servetus would only admit, “Jesus is the son of the eternal God”. And even though he was Calvin’s fellow Christian theologian, Servetus was slowly burned to death in a green wood fire. It took him 30 minutes to die in horrific agony.
While affirming the good human ideals that were included in Paul’s theology, let me also point to some subhuman features in the same material. Remember Thomas Jefferson’s point that we must distinguish diamonds from dung, and Leo Tolstoy’s similar point to distinguish pearls from muck, slime, and garbage. In quoting such graphic language I am not trying to offend but I am simply seeking clarity about what is good and what is bad in Paul’s teaching. When you protect subhuman features in a belief system, along with better features, the subhuman features cloud and deform the more humane elements in your system. It is corruption by association.
The Christ myth of Paul embraces and affirms some of the most primitive features of ancient mythology. It includes the themes of Threat theology, retaliation justice, apocalyptic destruction, conditional salvationism, blood sacrifice, superior violent messiah mythology (combat hero, ultimate savior mythology), and more. Paul’s Christ is an epitome icon of much that is bad in human thought and belief. It is difficult for Christians to see this because Paul’s Christ is commonly defined and presented in terms of the better human ideals of love, grace, and mercy. His Christ is presented as the Savior of humanity. How can there be anything bad in that?
The better features in Paul’s Christ make it difficult to recognize the other bad features, subhuman ideas like apocalyptic rage and destruction. The danger in these mixed-feature icons is that the darker features are merged with higher human ideals. The subhuman features then weaken and undermine the better ideals. The outcome is that ideals like love are then understood as something that is based on violent human sacrifice and reserved only for true believers. Love then becomes a limited tribal love where unbelievers are excluded and punished in Hell. That is not authentic unconditional love.
Remember, these gods are humanity’s highest ideals and authorities. Icons of the highest Good. The influence of the darker features in such icons can be horrifically damaging to minds and spirits.
Paul’s Christ myth is an intense embodiment of primitive Threat theology- the myth of an angry, punishing God that demands payment, sacrifice, and the severest punishment for failure to do so. Paul’s myth offers an intense focus on humanity’s greatest pathology in thought- the apocalyptic template of themes. Those are the most damaging set of ideas in history- that of an angry deity punishing fallen humanity, and violently destroying the world by apocalypse. Paul’s Christ is an epitome statement or expression of the old myth and theology of a retaliating God who threatens punishment and destruction. That divine threat that has always been at the heart of past mythology and religion.
Note the apocalyptic retaliation in Paul’s earliest writing, his Thessalonian letters: Paul starts those letters by urging faith in Jesus “Who rescues us from the coming wrath”. He then proceeds to warn the opponents of his Christ gospel that “the wrath of God has come upon them at last… The Lord (Christ) will punish men…. The Lord (Christ) himself will come down…. destruction will come on them suddenly… they will not escape… (but) suffer wrath”. Further in Second Thessalonians, “(God) will pay back trouble to those who trouble you… when the Lord Jesus (Christ) is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (Christ). They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord (Christ)… whom the Lord Jesus (Christ) will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming… they will perish”. Yikes to nth degree.
In other letters, Paul repeatedly affirms his central theme of divine retaliation. He speaks of people abusing their bodies and that “God will destroy them” (1Cor.). He warned those who taught other gospels different from his that they would be “eternally condemned” (Gal.1). People who gave in to their sinful nature would “reap destruction” (Gal.6). And that “God’s wrath comes on the disobedient” (Ephesians 5). Opponents of Christians would “be destroyed”, (Philippians 1). And “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong” (Col.3). And of course, his clearest statement of divine retaliation (divine eye for eye justice) is presented in Romans 12:17-20 (“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”).
Angry deity punishing fallen humanity is the fundamental bad religious idea. It is where things originally went wrong. The original “fail” of humanity was to believe that the gods were punishing spirits. Humanity’s original error was to create the mythology of a punishing God. Paul in his Christ myth re-affirmed that primitive pathology of divine retaliation. His Christ became the summation of all that was wrong in past human thought, the summary of all the bad theology of past millennia. Paul in his Christ expresses those worst of all bad ideas to extreme degree or scale. His Christ will bring the ultimate retaliation of eternal destruction.
Paul’s myth then became the embodiment of humanity’s primal fear and terror- the fear of some Ultimate Harm. This was fear that was way beyond fear of temporal natural disaster, accident, disease, or death. It was the ultimate fear- the fear of after-life harm from the gods (i.e. in Greek myth- the wandering of departed souls in the darkness of Hades, or in Christian myth- eternal burning in Hell).
James Tabor: “I maintain that there was a version of ‘Christianity before Paul, affirmed by both Jesus and his original followers, with tenets and affirmations quite opposite to these of Paul. This is the lost and forgotten Christianity…. The message of Paul, which created Christianity as we know it, and the message of the historical Jesus and his earliest followers, were not the same. In fact, they were sharply opposed to one another with little in common… Paul is the most influential person in human history, and realize it or not, he has shaped practically all we think about everything… from our assumptions about reality to our societal and personal ethics… (they) rest in a singular way upon the heavenly visions and apparitions of the apostle Paul. We are all cultural heirs of Paul, with the well-established doctrines and traditions of mainstream Christianity deeply entrenched in our culture. In contrast, Jesus as a historical figure… has been largely lost to our culture…Paul operated with a strongly apocalyptic perspective that influenced all he said and did” (Paul and Jesus, Preface and p.15).
Paul’s mythology of a Christ that would bring on the apocalypse (divine threat mythology) is entirely opposite to Jesus’ stunning new message of a non-retaliatory God that was no conditions love (Matt.5, Luke 6). Jesus had presented the new theology that would liberate humanity from the old threat of some punishing deity- from humanity’s greatest fear. Jesus said that there should be no more “eye for eye but, instead, love your enemies… because God does”. That statement meant that there was no ultimate divine Threat of punishing retaliation. There was only Love at the core of reality. Jesus stated that God sent the good gifts of life- sun and rain- to all alike, both good and bad. God did not discriminate between people but included all and loved all the same. God did not threaten punishment or destruction to the bad people, but offered only generous forgiveness and love to all. Jesus made the single greatest breakthrough discovery in all history. As James Robinson said, Jesus’ non-retaliatory theology was “his greatest contribution to the history of ideas”. (See the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel research).
Paul’s Christ, his core teaching, was a complete contradiction of that gospel of Jesus.
Paul’s Christ myth is the epitome statement of his rejection of the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and his retreat to retaliatory theology. And Paul did this intentionally, as in Romans 12:17-20 where he stated that God would retaliate. God would engage eye for eye justice (i.e. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”). Paul confronted the core theme of Jesus- that God did not retaliate- and rejected it, contradicted it outright, and replaced it with his retreat to primitive Threat theology, the theology of divine retaliation. In Romans 12:17-20, Paul even used the same pattern that Jesus had used, starting with a behavior and then basing that behavior on a belief (i.e. do this because God does this). Only Paul got the belief all backwards from Jesus’ new belief.
Paul’s Christ is a supreme statement of his rejection of Jesus’ non-retaliatory theology and retreat to retaliatory theology.
Paul’s Christ myth buried the single greatest discovery ever. It short-circuited the greatest potential liberation movement ever. Jesus’ new unconditional theology- that God did not retaliate and punish- had offered freedom from humanity’s primal fear of ultimate Harm, fear of divine punishment. This is the great scandal of Christianity. Paul’s Christ is the anti-Jesus. Where Jesus had rejected divine retaliation and punishment, Paul’s Christ is an epitome statement of divine retaliation and punishment. Read those Thessalonian statements again and compare them with the central theme of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48.
The Christ myth focuses and illustrates the profound contradiction between the message of Jesus and the entirely opposite message of Paul- the message that became Christianity. The core of this contradiction is about what ideas or ideals should define human life and response- the ideal of retaliation or non-retaliation. This contradiction is central to understanding human history- what went wrong and how to make it right. The contradicting messages of Jesus and Paul help us to understand what most essentially forms the general categories of good and bad in human thought and existence- i.e. non-retaliation or retaliation, unconditional or conditional. What do we hold as an ultimate ideal and authority? The non-retaliatory/unconditional message of Jesus, or the ultimate retaliatory/conditional message of Paul?
For those who can “handle the truth”, note the stunning research below of Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and others, on the Christian apocalyptic millennialism that has been discovered behind the mass-death movements of the Twentieth Century (Marxism, Nazism, environmentalism). My own take on this research focuses on the correlation between Paul’s Christ myth and the later more “secular” versions of Western apocalyptic millennialism.
Paul’s Christ bears primary responsibility for embedding apocalyptic millennialism at the heart of Western consciousness. So yes, Stephen Hawking, your recent comment on the end of days in 100 years is just a rehash of ancient mythology. Where is the science in that? Note the escapist element in Hawking’s version of apocalyptic, listed below.
And for Christian visitors- Paul’s apocalyptic Christ was a supreme statement of retaliatory theology that is entirely contrary to the core message of Historical Jesus that God did not retaliate, not in apocalypse, not in some future judgment, not in the exclusion of anyone, and not in a future punishment or destruction (i.e. Hell). Jesus rejected eye for eye, and advocated “love your enemy” because that is what God did. Giving sun and rain to all alike, both good and bad. All were included in the limitless generosity of God. All were treated as intimate family. There is no tribal love in the God of Jesus (i.e. no dualism of believers versus unbelievers, or good people versus bad people).
See also “Cataclysmic versus Gradualistic” at the bottom of this section. And comment on the application of unconditional in a violent world. Love is responsible to restrain violence. Maintaining an unconditional attitude toward everyone is not about advocating pacifism in the face of bad behavior. We are all responsible for the outcomes of our behavior. Also, comment on Progressivism’s worrying tendency toward central control.
Top Ten Bad Ideas (now 13 and counting- see other fuller versions of Top Ten Bad Ideas in sections below): Bad ideas incite bad behavior. Unconditional transforms humanity’s inspiring and guiding ideals.
What is the point of confronting the list of bad ideas just below? To clear the way to see the Unconditional Reality behind all.
This site continues to probe root issues and ideas. The original problem of bad ideas began as a “spiritual” issue and it continues as such. The original human error was to believe there was some great punitive Force or Spirit behind life. That became the cohering center, or inciting mainspring, for all other bad ideas, both religious and secular. That error must be responded to at the important level of the spiritual. This is all about the primary human impulse- the impulse for meaning (Victor Frankl).
Note: Our inherited animal brain unleashes base animal impulses deep within our consciousness- the impulses to small band thinking (tribal mentality), to exclusion of others, to domination of others, and to destruction of the competing other. Bad ideas incite and validate these base impulses. Fortunately, we are not our brains (paraphrase of the title of Jeffrey Schwartz’s book “You Are Not Your Brain”).
Just below is a list of foundational bad ideas that have long deformed consciousness and continue to infect contemporary worldviews. The damaging impact of these ideas on humanity over the millennia has been horrific. These ideas have incited and validated endless fear, hatred, tribal exclusion, opposition and conflict, and outright violence.
Perhaps the more serious outcome of bad ideas- missed opportunity over history. These ideas have long blocked human understanding of unconditional reality. They have enslaved human consciousness to the subhuman and inhuman. Bad ideas have blocked human appreciation and enjoyment of unconditional reality, with its potential liberating and humanizing influence on life.
These bad ideas began as primitive mythology and then shaped the major world religions across history, and still do. They are now given “secular” expression in contemporary ideologies like 19th Century Declinism. And as Arthur Herman has said, Declinism has become “arguably the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century”. Declinism’s most notable expression today is through environmental alarmism.
Watch the interesting spectacle today of modern “secularists”, even atheists, walking around mouthing these themes of primitive mythology. Stephen Hawking has recently (2016-2017) joined this group of apocalyptic prophets. This is Chicken Little Syndrome all over again.
Remember, terms change over history but core themes remain the same.Remember, terms change over history but core themes remain the same. People are generally not aware of the deeply embedded (subconscious even) mythical themes behind the ideas/ideologies that they hold. They may feel that they are thinking/observing only at the level of actual reality and scientific understanding of reality. But note the general themes that they are promoting and you will often detect the influence of the primitive mythology of apocalyptic.
See the Introduction to “War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth” for some interesting comment on the inability of many intellectuals to comprehend the emotions that stir others to embrace apocalyptic, and the widespread blindness of intellectuals to this phenomenon of populations succumbing to apocalyptic alarmism.
Here is the actual quote from War in Heaven, referring to Hitler’s use of apocalyptic millennialism, “Even those that were immune to its appeal (apocalyptic) were notably unable to discern or make sense of the unseen emotions stirring their fellow countrymen and countrywomen to action. Unless this apocalyptic millennialism is taken into account, and the widespread blindness to it is better understood, the intellectual history of modern Europe will remain incomplete…” (Introduction).
Note also that Hawking is prophesying on a decreasing logarithmic scale. In 2016 he claimed that the end would occur in 1000-plus years. He is now (2017) down to claiming that the end of all will occur in only 100 years.
Further, a key element of apocalyptic is “escapism”- the desire to escape this imperfect world, to escape the history’s processes of gradual improvement, for some better existence. This escapist element of apocalyptic derives from the ancient Gnostic longing to escape this fallen, corrupted world for some imagined paradise.
So Hawking, consistent with historical apocalyptic, is urging a grand evacuation of this imperfect planet. Arthur Mendel also notes this escapist element in Vision and Violence. “The profusion of science fiction and our fascination with outer-space and other worlds are telltale expressions of this Gnostic escapism from a world judged hopelessly flawed and doomed” (p. 251). Ah, the deforming influence of this primitive mythology.
There is much good research out there on why we think as we do today, and where our ideas come from. I repeatedly urge readers to get into the work of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, and Arthur Mendel on apocalyptic, and also read Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and others on the more general history of ideas.
I am particularly interested in the stunning correlations detailed in this apocalyptic millennial research. Notably, the correlations between primitive apocalyptic mythology, Paul’s Christ, and contemporary ideologies or secular versions of the same ideas. Most disturbing in all this are the mass-death outcomes from apocalyptic millennial ideas- e.g. Marxism, Nazism, and environmentalism (i.e. Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring and the tens of millions of subsequent deaths from the ban on DDT).
As Mendel said, apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history.
We are all responsible for the outcomes of the ideas that we advocate in public. Look again at what Paul’s Christ myth (the mother of apocalyptic in Western consciousness and society) has done in terms of shaping the thinking of the populations that embraced the Twentieth Century’s worst mass-death movements. This is deadly stuff, this bad religious ideas stuff. Do not be caught trying to defend it. That is not just irresponsible but immoral.
Identifying and purging bad ideas is about liberating mind, spirit, and emotion from the pathology that has long harmed people with unnecessary fear, anxiety, depression, and despair. It is about the potentially greatest liberation movement ever- the liberation of consciousness to discover the unconditional reality at the core of all. Unconditional offers the authentically humane ideal that takes us to the supreme height of what it means to be human or humane. Redefining humanity’s greatest ideal and authority- deity- as “no conditions Love” would have a profoundly humanizing impact on human outlook and motivation.
And as Bob Brinsmead has said, “You become just like the God that you believe in”.
Insert note: Just to be real clear on where I am taking this unconditional insight… It means that there is no ultimate judgment of anyone, no ultimate exclusion of anyone, and no ultimate punishment or destruction of anyone. We are all ultimately safe in love. Yes, there goes the entire template of bad religious ideas. Eviscerated by unconditional.
To calm religious minds: Yes, there is a God. But what humanity has long referred to as God has never been the religious deity as defined by these bad religious ideas. Developing human understanding now affirms more clearly that God is love, and Love of a stunningly inexpressible nature- absolutely unconditional (ultimate, transcendent Goodness). This unconditional feature of deity blows away all these bad ideas, completely. It points to the potentially greatest transformation of human consciousness/thought ever.
The truth of unconditional as the nature of deity, and the authentic character of love, is self-validating. It needs no biblical authority (none exists in any religion), and no affirmation by some authority figure. Our common consciousness confirms to us its truthfulness. Parents, spouses, and friends know it to be true and good.
One more from Bob Brinsmead, “There are no bad people, only bad ideas that lead people to do bad things”. Our real enemy is not some other person but the bad ideas that incite bad behavior in others.
The list of Top Ten bad ideas:
1. The myth that there is a retaliatory, punishing Force or Spirit behind life, whether angry God, Greek core Retribution, Gaia, angry planet, or karma. From the very beginning people have projected this worst of all bad ideas onto deity. This myth of some core Retribution or payback, whether a Principle or Spirit, has long been the inciting mainspring for all other bad ideas. This is the original human fail or great error. This original deformity in human consciousness became a defining core feature of humanity’s greatest ideal and authority- deity.
Corrective response: There is only Love at the core of reality, a stunning and inexpressible no conditions Love. Better than the best that can be imagined. Transcendent to infinity.
Further insert: The critical error of the ancients was to reason from destructive natural consequences in life and then to project that out to explain Ultimate Reality. They reasoned that if there was disaster, disease, or accident, that meant the gods were punishing people for being bad. Just as the Japanese lady asked after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished?”
2. The myth of a perfect beginning- the myth that the past was better. But life has since declined toward something worse.
Corrective response: Evidence on the actual history of life shows that life began chaotically but has improved toward more order and complexity, toward something better than before.
3. The myth that humanity was better in the past but then became corrupted. Again, the element of declinism shapes this myth that humanity has degenerated toward something worse.
Corrective response: Evidence affirms that humanity began in brutality but has become something better, more peaceful and loving (see research of Payne- History of Force, and Pinker- The Better Angels of Our Nature). The true core nature of the human person, or self, is love. We are not our inherited animal brain.
4. The myth of humanity being rejected by the Creator, separated from our Source and needing to be reconciled, with the consequent obligation to restore the broken relationship.
Corrective response: No one has ever been separated from the unconditional Love at the core of all reality. That Love incarnated in all humanity as the human spirit or consciousness. This love is the authentic essence of the human self or person, though it is often buried by our free choice to act or live inhumanely.
5. The myth of a cosmic dualism, a Good Spirit in opposition to a bad Force or Spirit. This is played out via human dualisms- i.e. the tribal mindset of “us versus our enemies” (i.e. believers versus unbelievers, or other racial, national, religious, and ideological divisions).
Corrective response: This bad idea buries the truth that the human family is an undivided unity. Dualist ideas affirm the tribal animal impulse (i.e. small band thinking and behavior).
6. The myth of looming apocalypse- the final judgment and punishment. Life is declining toward a great collapse and ending. The “always imminent” element in apocalyptic demands urgent action as required to “save” something. This greatest of historical frauds distorts the improving trajectory of life and causes endless unnecessary fear and anxiety. Apocalyptic has been the “most violent force in history” (Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence).
7. The myth of violent and overwhelming divine intervention to purge corruption from the world. This myth incites the felt need to combat some threat in order to save something. Violent purging is believed necessary to cleanse the world in order to then restore the lost original paradise, to install a utopia.
Corrective response: This approach of “violent purging” (“coercive purification”) violates individual freedom of choice and the slow, gradual development of people in freedom. Love is patient and kind. Democracy is messy and slow.
See good treatment of “gradualism” in Mendel’s Vision and Violence. The desire for instantaneous transmutation of society and life misses the point of the human struggle with imperfection that is essential to human development.
8. The demand for a salvation plan- a required sacrifice, payment, atonement, or punishment. Salvation schemes have often incited mass-death movements (see Landes and Mendel below).
Corrective response: This myth that a condition must be met violates the nature of unconditional reality. It violates the fundamental nature of love as unconditional.
Further note: People alarmed by threat have always embraced salvation schemes that have been horrifically damaging, repeatedly leading to mass-death outcomes. Detail in sections below.
9. Payback as true justice, based on the belief in a retributive God that demands full punishment for sin.
Corrective response: Unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs. If forgives all, freely and without limit. (See qualifiers below on social consequences to bad behavior.)
10. The myth of future divine judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction (Hell).
Corrective response: Again, authentic love is unconditional. It demands absolutely no conditions. None. It embraces all with the same mercy and unlimited generosity. It gives sun and rain to all alike, whether good or bad. Such love scandalizes the mind that is oriented to conditional or payback justice.
Make the important distinction here between Ultimate Reality and life in this imperfect world. Recognizing God as absolutely no conditions Love does not deny the reality of natural and social consequences in this world, the need for accountability and responsibility for behavior as part of human development here. Also, love here and now is responsible to restrain violence, even with force. But our ultimate Ideals do shape our attitudes toward human failure and how we treat that failure in others.
11. The myth of a hero messiah that will use superior violence (i.e. again, “coercive purification” as in apocalyptic mythology). This myth argues for the abandonment of the historical processes of gradual change through the exercise of human freedom, and opts instead for overwhelming revolutionary violence that seeks to instantly purge old “corrupt” orders and install some utopia.
Corrective response: Again, the ideas/ideals that we embrace do shape our thinking, feeling, and behavior. We become just like the ideals/ideas that we hold.
I have repeatedly noted the stunning research of Landes and Mendel that show how these myths of violent deity incite people to violent action, to act as the agents of God to carry out punishment of the unbelievers (i.e. to eliminate threat, or to save something).
12. The myth of Biblicism- i.e. that religious books are more special than ordinary human literature and people are obligated to live according to the holy book . This myth argues that people must submit to some divine will, to divine law and conditions, or to some heavenly model as outlined in a holy book.
Corrective response: We evaluate all human thought and writing according to basic criteria of right and wrong, humane and inhumane. Holy books are not exempted from this.
13. The idea that humanity is obligated to know or serve, to have a relationship with some invisible reality, to give primary loyalty to something above people. This has often led to neglect or abuse of real people.
Corrective response: Our primary loyalty is to love and serve real people around us.
14. The myth of God as King, Lord, Ruler, Judge. The idea that God relates to humanity in domination/submission forms of relating.
Corrective response: There is no domination/subservience relationship of humanity to God. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. Bob Brinsmead has said, “The greatness of God is in serving, in servant-hood”. God is not “above” humanity but has incarnated in all people as an equal. We see that presence of “God is love” in all human goodness toward others. See Alpha God by Alex Garcia.
Add your own bad ideas…
Coming material- Getting beyond race. The true status of all people as one family- the human family. Biological evidence affirms the oneness of humanity.
Response to dismissals of unconditional as too weak in the face of evil, as too impractical for the messy reality of imperfect life. Tell that to Nelson Mandela.
Unconditional is an absolute reality in relation to deity. But in this messy imperfect world, the application of unconditional requires some qualifying. Holding an unconditional attitude toward others does not mean dogmatic pacifism in the face of evil, or mindless “turning the other cheek” in the face of violence, or impractical Kumbayah approaches to violent people.
Restraint of evil is basic to any understanding of love. How might this apply in relation to issues of justice? Embracing unconditional as a supreme human ideal means holding unconditional respect for all people, even the worst of human failures. But this is not about feeling fuzzy, or mushy, toward grotesque human brutality or those who commit such brutality. It is more about maintaining our own humanity in the face of other’s failure to live as human. And it is about engaging justice as restorative in all situations.
The unconditional attitude of the defender when using defensive force is critical to long-term solutions to violence. Note again the Chinese sage Laotzi- i.e. his urging of generous reconciliation toward enemies, and General Grant’s forgiving treatment of General Lee, or McArthur’s treatment of the Japanese, and Mandela’s inclusive attitude toward his former enemies. It is fundamentally humane to maintain a restorative attitude toward defeated enemies, recognizing that they are not our real enemy. Our only real enemies are the bad ideas that incite people to bad behavior.
Just as these examples have shown, an unconditional mindset and attitude will orient us to restorative approaches. That will decrease violence over the long-term.
As Brinsmead argues- there is only one form of authentic love and that is unconditional love. We do not abandon this even when restraining evil. Our human rights codes express this in the humane treatment of prisoners of war.
And yes, bad behavior has social consequences. People must be held accountable and responsible for their behavior. Responsibility is basic to human development.
There is profound mystery attached to the age-old question of Why evil and suffering in life? Despite the continuing presence of such mystery there are helpful directions to probe. Fundamental to understanding imperfection and suffering in life is to appreciate the nature of love. Authentic love does not intervene to overwhelm and control people, to short-circuit the learning processes of life, harsh as that may seem. Love respects the freedom of the other, the freedom of people to grow and develop in their struggle with problems. A perfect world would not provide such an arena for human development.
Add to this the recognition that God has incarnated in all humanity and it is up to people to solve problems in life. It is not the responsibility of some invisible reality. And we see our success in problem-solving through the gradual processes of history. Note, for example, that God did not reveal to early people the causes and cures for disease. People had to slowly and gradually learn the germ-theory of disease and then gradually discover medical solutions. So it goes with most areas of life.
There is a reason for our struggle with problems, and the slow, gradual development of life. Insights in this regard must be incorporated into our endeavor to understand the overall meaning and purpose of the cosmos, life, and developing civilization.
Added note: One of the greatest discoveries to emerge out of humanity’s struggle with imperfect life was the discovery of freedom. Critical in this regard was the development of the practices and institutions to honor individual freedom. These descended down from early Germany and then further down through the English tradition and history. Researchers like Daniel Hannan (Inventing Freedom) have detailed the institutions that were created to protect individual freedom from the endlessly countervailing forces of collectivist central control that undermine freedom.
For some fascinating history of the descent of Collectivism from Plato, and the descent of the individual orientation from Aristotle, see Arthur Herman’s The Cave and the Light. Contemporary Progressivism fails to understand the history and institutions that are critical to freedom and to protecting humanity from the totalitarian impulse that repeatedly emerges from Progressivism’s orientation to centralizing power in government (via excessive taxation and regulation).
More qualifying of unconditional in an imperfect world
Love of enemy is not advocating for the pacifism of the often-misapplied “turn the other cheek” statement in Matthew 5. You do not sing “Kumbayah” in the face of violence and other abuse. You do not “stand down” in the face of assault. Any common sense form of love is responsible to restrain violence. Restrain, but not with counter-attacking hate and in a spirit of tribal vengeance, of getting even, or meting out due payback. This is an important distinction to make if we are to maintain our own humanity in the face of other’s inhumanity. Our singular moral obligation as human is to love all unconditionally. That is authentic love. And our real enemies are the bad ideas that lead others to behave badly.
The examples of people acting like mature adults in situations of violence are well-known. Again, it is critical that we maintain our own decency in the face of other’s failure to act humanely. We have, for instance, the Chinese sage, Laotzi, who urged the use of force to stop assault from attacking armies but then cautioned the defenders to not engage in triumphalism and humiliate their “enemy”. Rather, he encouraged defenders to seek reconciliation with their offenders.
Lincoln and General Grant did this with General Lee and the Confederates after the Civil War. Grant reprimanded his soldiers for cheering as Lee left the house where they just had signed the surrender document. He did not want them to humiliate Lee and told them that the defeated Confederates were still fellow Americans. He was exhibiting Lincoln’s “Charity toward all, malice toward none”. McArthur did something similar with the Japanese after the war, just as the Allies did in Germany.
Even our common human rights codes now embody humane forms of restraint and reconciliation, in things like the humane treatment of prisoners of war (i.e. prohibiting the use of torture).
The mature human spirit will seek reconciliation, inclusion, and restoration after whatever offense has occurred. And yes, in situations of extreme irrational violence (e.g. the religiously-inspired hatred of ISIS, or with criminal psychopaths) permanent forms of restraint, or even elimination, are sometimes required.
Imagine the liberating potential of defining humanity’s highest ideal- deity, God- as “no conditions Love”. An inexpressible love that is transcendently better than the common tribal love that is limited to family, friends, nation, religion, or race.
Embrace two critical elements to this supremely humane ideal that God is authentic no conditions love- unlimited and universal love:
First, God as no conditions love points to the logical conclusions that there is no threat from deity, no ultimate judgment, no exclusion of anyone, and no ultimate punishment or destruction. I have repeated these things so often that they run off my tongue too easily. Permit yourself to be fully stunned by these conclusions. They eviscerate the entire mess of bad ideas that we have inherited from religious traditions.
Second, understand that the core nature of the human self is the same no conditions love. This is to say- we are not essentially bad. We are not our inherited animal brain with its base impulses. We are something much better than what any religion has told us (i.e. that humanity is fallen, sinful, corrupt at core).
These two elements overturn entirely the full template of “bad religious ideas” that people have created to define deity and humanity across history, ideas that have endlessly blocked and distorted human understanding of love.
And remember, the point of conscious human existence is to learn what love means. We are here to learn and to live love. This is the sum of human meaning and purpose. As Joseph Campbell said, when we orient our lives to universal love then we “tower in stature” as maturely human. We are then fulfilling our purpose for existing on this planet. When we love unconditionally we become the hero of our story.
Assumptions- What informs my perception
My foundational assumption about reality is that we come from Love, we exist in Love, and we return to Love in the end. I embrace the self-validating truth that what is most humane (ultimate Goodness) is most true and therefore most real. Again, when I refer to as deity as Love, I do not mean any religious version of love. I mean inexpressibly “no conditions love”. All religion is essentially conditional (how to appease and please gods). No religion has ever communicated to humanity the liberating truth that God is absolutely no conditions love. Religion cannot let go of some form of ultimate payback or punishment.
See detail below on the social consequences of bad behavior and restorative justice systems. The concern is to maintain our own humanity in the face of violence and evil.
Breaking eye for eye cycles. The initiating courage to forgive and take life in new directions.
Why focus on bad religious ideas and possibly upset most people, the 85% of humanity that identify as religious? One critical reason: The Ultimate Reality that we call God has long been humanity’s highest ideal and authority. Deity has always been one of the most powerful influences on human consciousness and life. And unfortunately, from the beginning people have projected some of their worst features onto God- features like ultimate vengeance (final payback justice), tribal exclusion (true believers “saved”, versus unbelievers ultimately rejected), domination of the outsider, and violent destruction of outsiders (e.g. apocalypse and Hell). These features have been the foundational themes of the world religions.
Good historical research has detailed the horrific consequence of these ideas. Just a sampling: James Carroll’s “Constantine’s Sword”, Arthur Herman’s “The Idea of Decline”, Richard Landes’ “Heaven on Earth”, Arthur Mendel’s “Vision and Violence”, Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”, Wafa Sultan’s “A God Who Hates”, Harold Ellen’s “The Destructive Power of Religion”, and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s “Is Religion Killing Us?”, among others.
Think of the time and resources that have been wasted on the salvation industry trying to appease threatening deity. That has been a huge unnecessary drag on human existence and advance. Add to this the long history of outright violence and brutality toward unbelievers and heretics (i.e. true believers acting violently as the agents of violent deity).
The bad ideas noted above continue to shape contemporary religious versions of deity. A notable example- ISIS today brutalizes under the influence of an angry deity that demands destruction of the unbeliever.
“Secular” versions of these bad ideas also express the same dark retaliatory themes- i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, or payback karma.
Now think of the potential influence for good if humanity’s highest ideal were defined as fully humane, with the feature of unconditional? My point- that ultimate ideal of love would resonate with the same unconditional love that is the core of human consciousness. The essential nature of humanity as love (the essence of the human self or person) has often been blocked, violated, and even buried by bad thinking, notably from bad religious ideas, ideas that incite and validate the base animal impulses from our inherited animal brain.
But if humanity’s ultimate ideal were defined solely as unconditional love, then that would eliminate the inciting, guiding, validating role that bad religious ideas have played across history. Unconditional will replace those subhuman/inhuman features with an ideal that can only inspire the best in humanity. You cannot act inhumanely and seek divine validation for inhumane behavior if God is only love- love that is absolutely unconditional.
Barcelona- here we go again
Just after the recent Barcelona van attack, a TV commentator asked, “What fuels people with such inhuman hate?”
We have a mass of good historical evidence today on the ideas that have long inspired, incited, guided, and validated violence. First, we do not discount the base impulses of our inherited animal brain behind much violence- those impulses to small band orientation (tribalism), the excluding and dominating of the other, and the destroying of the competing other. And we recognize that any incident of violence may be influenced by a complex of factors, whether political, economic, racial/ethnic, personal, or other social factors.
But one critical element in human violence has always been the religious element. It has consistently played a role across history. This site explores this element in detail. The religious element is more of the nature of persistent core themes in public “master stories” that have changed little from primitive mythical and religious versions (see comment below on the contemporary “secularization” of ancient mythology).
Here is a brief list of some of the more basic religious ideas that have long incited people to violence. Note that the core themes of the apocalyptic template of ideas- i.e. “apocalyptic millennialism”- have been implicated in the mass-death movements of the past century (Research of Landes and Mendel).
1. Dualism: The tribal division of people between true believers and infidels. People are set in opposition to one another as enemies.
2. The belief in a punitive God that promises to violently destroy the unbeliever, and the divine demand for true believers to act as the agents of God to punish the enemies of God. ISIS is a notable example of a movement acting as the agents of divine punishment.
3. The apocalyptic claim that there is the threat of looming catastrophe and this threat incites the felt need to violently purge the corrupt system of the enemy that threatens the good people. The true believers feel obligated to eliminate the imminent threat in order to save something under threat. Hence, apocalyptic tends to promote “the cataclysmic not the gradualistic” (from Introduction to War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth).
Religious ideas also play on hope, though a perverted form of hope- i.e. the promise of being ‘saved’ into some paradise, millennial or heavenly, after one’s enemies are destroyed.
See full lists of “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas” in the various sections on this site. And remember that across history “theology has often trumped ideology”.
Probing root themes behind alarmist hysteria
Alarmist hysteria over pretty much everything continues unabated. And tribal divisions and opposition continue to surge forth into the public arena (Left versus Right, racial divisions, climate alarmists versus skeptics, and so on). What is going on?
This site probes root issues, general background themes across history, and how those themes persist today in contemporary worldviews and ideologies.
What was once mythical, then religious, is now expressed in “secular” ideology. See Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas in sections below. Terms and expressions change over time but the core themes remain the same old, same old. Note, for example, that James Hansen and Stephen Hawking have taken up the Chicken Little apocalyptic cries of the early Sumerian priests.
And media, in particular, must be held accountable for their highly irresponsible role in creating endless fear over everything. See media sociologist David Altheide’s “Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis”. News media, concludes Altheide, are not truth-tellers but entertainers. They are competing with the rest of the entertainment industry for ratings. And what dominates in much of the entertainment/movie/TV world? Apocalyptic.
It is not so much an issue of whether news reporting is factual or not. It is more the obsessive engagement of ‘confirmation bias’- focusing on things/facts that affirm one’s ideology and ignoring contrary evidence. And then spinning things to apocalyptic scale, thereby distorting the true state of things. That is the essence of “fake news”. And the public has been endlessly deluged with this nonsense. News media today are redefining for us words like “unhinged”, “hysterical”, and “apoplectic”.
More to come: New comment on the continuing apocalyptic hysteria that is infecting public discourse. This “most destructive mythology” in history continues its damaging impact on public consciousness. Researchers, noted below, have stated that Declinism (and its offspring ‘environmental alarmism’) has become the most dominant ideology across the planet today.
This site probes the primitive ideas that incite this never-ending madness of apocalyptic hysteria.
And where is that great human ideal of love in all this?
The following article below was reprinted in the Global Warming Policy Foundation newsletter of Aug.17, 2017…
The end of the world is always 10 years away- Russell Saltzman
Alarmists have been doling out humanity’s demise decade by decade, but it has resulted in some very positive developments.
Unchecked population growth will result in widespread famine, multiple wars over dwindling resources, and will yield only social, economic, and environmental collapse.
These were the key dead-certain predictions contained in the 1968 book The Population Bomb by Sanford University professor Paul R. Ehrlich. His wife, Anne Ehrlich, was co-author but she was not credited until some years later. Ehrlich was then a biologist specializing in butterflies (he became a professor of population studies after publication of Bomb).
Ehrlich was an alarmist. That’s putting it nicely. The only prediction about which he was even half right is the present-day size of the world’s population. As for other predictions, The Bomb is a dud.
Foremost, Ehrlich did not foresee developing agricultural improvements. He didn’t even know they were underway. The Green Revolution had been percolating since the 1950s and before, and was showing results. But for Ehrlich, many people simply meant less food.
While Ehrlich was wearing a The End is Near sandwich board, Norman Borlaug (d. 2009), a Lutheran sleeves-rolled-up agronomist from Minnesota, was working in Mexico, Pakistan, India and elsewhere. Mexico became a net wheat exporter in 1963. The Philippines became a rice exporter in 1968, for the first time in the 20th century. By 1970 India and Pakistan more than doubled their wheat production. India became a net exporter; Pakistan became Asia’s third largest grain producer, also an exporter, and Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work.
While this was happening, Ehrlich was calling for “social policies” to curb population. He suggested mandatory sterilization of Indian males with two children, and he asserted that U.S. food aid to the Third World should be withheld from recipient nations that would not agree to compulsory population control.
Borlaug is often cited as “the man who saved a billion lives,” while Ehrlich, now nearing 86, argued in 2009, “Perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future.”
Was it Yogi Berra: “Predictions are hard to make, especially about the future”?
Ehrlich wasn’t the only voice complaining about people being the world’s ailment. He was only the latest at the time, but he popularized the scary tale of too many people.
Two previous books fretted over the same thing. Our Plundered Planet(1948) by Fairfield Osborn Jr. is aptly described as typifying early “apocalyptic environmental literature.” He too had immediate prescriptions for saving the earth, even if most of them, as he acknowledged, were politically impossible. Yet he had the right prescriptions, he firmly asserted, whether his facts were correct or not. Plundered received generous praise at the time, and still does. An “excellent early statement on environmental collapse due to human overpopulation,” says one Amazon reviewer.
Road to Survival by William Vogt (1948) is another in the same genre. In the approving view of one reviewer at the time, Vogt confidently declared, “The rising curves of population in most countries of the world must be stemmed or else we face continually lowered living standards throughout the world.” For Vogt, food aid amounted to “tossing sandbags at rising flood waters.”
Osborn was board secretary of the New York Zoological Society; Vogt for many years was national director of Planned Parenthood. He died 1968; Osborn in 1969. They are credited with the revival of Malthusian doom economics that began reappearing in the 1950s and 1960s. Ehrlich’s work merely repeats many of the same themes.
For both of these men, as well as Ehrlich, their population ire was directed at China, South America, India, and other nations called Third World. It wasn’t so much “population” that provoked them so much as “some populations.” The major premise was “those populations must be suppressed.” Those people eat too much, clamor for too many resources, and they will lower living standards if we let it go on.
(A note about living standards: A majority of the world population is now middle class, relative to their national GDP, according to The Economist, February 12, 2009.)
The solutions offered to the problem of population were, and in some ways remain, bureaucracy, increased taxation, compulsion, threat, and “family social policies,” or else “in only ten years” we face calamity. In this sense they were no better than current predictors of climatic catastrophe (too many people emitting too many emissions). It amounts to more bureaucracy, more taxes, more threats, and more compulsory “family social planning.”
I keep thinking, oddly, of Harold Camping with his series of spectacularly failed predictions of the rapturous end of the world. Camping’s last prediction was October 21, 2012. The date had been moved back from May 21, 2011 when, again, the world had not ended. My wife had a friend swept up in this, posting despondent Facebook updates as the hour came and inevitably passed.
Ehrlich, Vogt, Osborn, and others like them are essentially dressing up something religious, disguised as science. Their warnings were and are like Camping’s. Camping led thousands in a betrayal of trust, taking their money for his arcane calculations, insisting he had the best biblical diagrams and charts, and was therefore the expert and should not be questioned.
And like Camping, the population prophets are never wrong, except for the timing. (End of Saltzman article)
Cataclysmic versus Gradualistic (from Introduction to War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth)
More on the nature of apocalyptic. The coercive, violent change of apocalyptic movements versus the messy and slow but freedom-oriented change of gradualism.
Or- What makes apocalyptic “the most violent and destructive force in history”? (Richard Landes in Foreword to Arthur Mendel’s “Vision and Violence”).
How did primitive apocalyptic mythology incite modern populations to embrace violent mass-death movements as they did in the 20th Century? (i.e. the apocalyptic millennialism that drove Marxism, Nazism, and environmentalism).
Apocalyptic mythology advocates violent, sudden change- “coercive purification” (Landes). It argues for an overwhelming Force (a deity) to destroy an old “corrupt” system, or corrupted world, in order to make way for the instantaneous installation of a new utopian paradise. Or true believers will take it upon themselves to act as the agents of God to purge evil from the world and bring in the hoped-for paradise.
The myth of apocalypse embodies the perverse hope for the immediate judgment, punishment, and elimination of one’s enemies, and the final destruction of the old, corrupt world system in order to make way for the new heaven and earth.
Apocalyptic rejects the “gradualism” of historical processes, processes that are oriented to respecting human freedom. In the slow, gradual processes of history, people seek to persuade one another rationally, to include others as equals, and to cooperate and compromise in order to make progress. Gradualism is accomplishing progress through hard work in the daily grind of the mundane and the ordinary of life.
Modern mass-death movements were driven by “illusions of sudden, miraculous, and total transmutations” (Mendel, Vision and Violence, p.312). Mendel then quotes Kibbutz settlers who understood that progress was difficult and slow. “Not in revolution, not in war lies the crown of existence, but in growth… A revolution cannot be accomplished in one stroke. A good farmer would not act that way. He would proceed gradually…. Stone by stone we are rebuilding… we must feel our way cautiously… a brick at a time, but never stop building… forgo mysticism and imagination… (embrace) this gradualist merger of idealism and realism… 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’…” (p.313).
Mendel continues, arguing that we should not blame and abandon our ideals and visions, but blame and abandon apocalyptic violence, religious or secular, and commit ourselves to this world and its gradual improvement. The point is to embrace optimism and a basic trust in the future and in mankind’s ability to mold the world progressively, sanely, and morally. That, he says, is the gradualist’s vision, hope, and commitment (p.314).
Mendel ends his book quoting former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon and Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, “Maybe we can make little breakthroughs… Some problems are not to be solved, but to be lived with… and when the chance comes one just nibbles away at them, then stops and waits for the next opportunity to nibble away a little more”.
Quote from Amazon review of David Redles’ book ‘Hitler’s Millennial Reich: Apocalyptic Belief and the Search for Salvation’- “Periods of rapid and radical change are often interpreted as times of utter collapse necessitating the rise of a messianic figure and millenarian movement that attempts to save the world by cleansing it of its impurities”.
Added note from discussion group: We need entirely new narratives that help us to understand the natural world and the meaning of human suffering from natural disasters. Religion has a pathetic history here, based on that original error that there were gods behind all the elements of life and if things were bad then that meant the gods were angry and punishing evil people for their imperfections- i.e. their failure to obey taboos, makes offerings/sacrifices, and other such primitive nonsense.
Natural science informs a better narrative of the world- that there are “natural consequences” all through life. And then we take that science further, informing it with the best of spiritual insights, such as the suggestion that we come into this imperfect world as a learning arena, to struggle with the imperfection of the world in order to develop as human (Joseph Campbell), to learn how to love, and to solve problems and make something better out of this wilderness world (Julian Simon).
Note on the worrying Progressive tendency toward central control
Keep in view the larger historical context of contemporary Progressivism/Liberalism. My point has to do with the longer history of the collectivist tendency to unleash the totalitarian impulse via central control approaches. Progressivism today is the latest phase of the same old Collectivism that has descended down through Western history from Plato (i.e. his Ideas/Forms that should shape the ideal society), to Hegel’s State as embodying the ideal society, down into Marxist centrally-planned State utopianism, and now to Socialist collectivism in its varied forms, all oriented too much to the organizing principle of collectivist central control. Arthur Herman details this history in The Cave and The Light, as Muravchik also did in his more limited outline of Socialist history (Heaven On Earth).
Progressives feel an ideologically-oriented revulsion toward English individualism as too much about “selfishness” and greed (Adam Smith’s “self-interest”), and that revulsion pushes them to downplay the protection of individual freedom in the interests of more focus on “the greater good”, or “common good”. Their orientation to some ideal of greater good gives them a sense of moral superiority, compared to those advocating individual freedom.
Progressives seek to achieve their common good today via the central control mechanisms of excessive taxation and regulation. And they then wonder why (unintended consequences) their approaches have repeatedly tended to unleash the totalitarian impulse (centralized power always corrupts). When “enlightened elites” control others, for their good of course, you then get the dangerous trend to undermine individual freedom in the interest of some greater good.
People have always been neglected or abused when others devote themselves to something that is set above people as primary- some greater ideal, or good, some greater principle, law, ideology, or institution.