New material just below: Some stunning insights; “Reflecting” with Noel- how I arrived at unconditional as defining the core of reality (the “stunning new theology” of Historical Jesus, entirely contrary to Paul’s Christ myth); Decline to despair.
Section topics further below: Some opening qualifiers; The transformation and liberation of consciousness: The pathology of punitive, destroying God has long dominated mythology, religion, and is now given expression in “secular ideology” (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, karma); The overdue replacement- unconditional deity; Climate insert- natural trumps human; The never-ending ending- Stephen Hawking joins the Chicken Little parade; The human struggle with imperfection; Degenerating public discourse?; The story of improving life- hope overcoming fear; There is no monster; Bad ideas and their outcomes; A qualifier to calm religious nerves- affirming the good from religious traditions; The unconditional treatment of all and justice issues; Environmental alarmism; Bob Brinsmead’s posts and my responses.
Stunning stuff for the New Year
(Apocalyptic alarmism: Engage some ‘reverse engineering’. Trace ideas back to their historical roots. What incites and affirms harmful alarmism in Western consciousness?)
Environmental alarmism continues as a dominant note in contemporary world consciousness. And like all irresponsible alarmism it exaggerates and distorts the true state of things in life. The outcomes of alarmism have been devastatingly harmful to both humanity and life in general.
Alarmism incites people to embrace “salvation” schemes (i.e. save the world, save something) that too often unleash the old totalitarian impulse that is then expressed in “coercive purification” approaches. We saw this outcome with Marxism, Nazism, and we are now seeing it in environmentalism. And yes, also in Islamic extremism and terrorism. These apocalyptic purging movements are driven by the same core themes. (see Campbell below on common themes repeated across history and cultures)
Why does environmental alarmism continue to dominate human consciousness? Because it is based on the ideology of 19th Century Declinism that has become “the most dominant and influential theme in the twentieth century” (see full Herman quote below). Declinism promotes the view that life is degenerating/declining toward some disastrous collapse and ending. (“Each present historical moment is a degradation from previous historical moments”, Mircea Eliade)
And what shaped Declinism? Here we get to some more stunning and disorienting information. Declinism is a “secular” version of primitive apocalyptic themes (see Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’). How did those apocalyptic features get into the mix? Here is the disorienting stuff. They were borrowed from basic Christian ideas/themes.
Paul’s apocalyptic Christ myth has been primarily responsible for re-enforcing apocalyptic alarmist themes in Western consciousness (see the full Tabor quotes just below). How did this happen? Paul brought primitive apocalyptic mythology into Christianity as a central theme in his Christ myth. And there is an element of huge scandal here- he did that in direct contradiction to the central teaching of Historical Jesus that had finally broken the grip of apocalyptic mythology on human minds. Jesus had rejected the foundational pathology of a punitive, destroying God, a God who destroys the world in an apocalypse. See my post “Reflecting” just below.
If we are to “win the battle of ideas” with alarmist thinking, then we must confront the core themes/ideas that have long incited alarmism. Liberation from apocalyptic alarmism must include “winning the battle of ideas” at the level of the deeply embedded mythical and religious themes that are behind such alarmism.
It is not an unreasonably difficult project to trace the descent of bad religious ideas down through history and see how they have shaped diverse belief systems. Notable in this regard, the basic themes of primitive apocalyptic mythology have been given “secular” expression in the worldviews and ideologies of our modern era (again- note Declinism and its offspring, environmentalism). See the comments of mythologist Joseph Campbell below on the persistence of common basic themes in human worldviews over history.
And where are the news media with this information? They are supposed to be fact-checkers and truth-tellers. David Altheide isolated the general media agenda in “Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis”. Many in news media are alarmists competing with the rest of the entertainment industry. What dominates the entertainment industry? Apocalyptic alarmism. Media love the ongoing alarmist hysteria with its endless “imminent end of days” scenarios.
(This material below skips a broad swath of pre-CE history to focus mainly on our Western tradition over the past two millennia. See “The Descent of Bad Ideas” in other sections below for more detail on pre-CE history.)
Getting right to the point...
Apocalyptic is the heart of Paul’s Christ myth. “Lord Jesus will come in blazing fire to punish and destroy those who do not believe our gospel” (my paraphrased summary of the prominent apocalyptic theme in his first letters, the brief missives to the Thessalonians). Paul’s apocalyptic Christ embodied some of the most primitive of ancient apocalyptic themes and his Christ myth then shaped the views of all the other New Testament writers that followed him, including the gospel writers. Paul wrote Thessalonians and his other letters in the 50s CE. Mark wrote his gospel around 70 CE. Luke and Matthew wrote their gospels around 80 CE. The book of Revelation wraps up the apocalyptic New Testament with an epitome statement of divine violence.
Paul’s Christ has shaped modern Western consciousness more than any other single idea or myth.
“Paul is the most influential person in human history, and realize it or not, he has shaped practically all we think about everything… (he has shaped) the West in particular… the foundations of Western civilization- from our assumptions about reality to our societal and personal ethics- 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…” (James Tabor in Paul and Jesus, Preface).
Historical Jesus is not the Christian Christ
Jesus had introduced “a stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God” (James Robinson). He had stated, “Do not engage eye for eye retaliation but instead love your enemy… because God does. God sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad”. The God of Jesus did not retaliate against bad people. And because his God did not retaliate, then that God would not engage the ultimate act of retaliation in an apocalypse (see “Reflecting” post below).
But Paul rejected that new theology of Jesus outright and retreated to the same old retaliatory God of all past mythology and religion. Paul stated his theology in quotes like this, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-20). Paul’s God/Christ was entirely contrary to the God of Jesus. Paul’s God would retaliate against bad people.
Tabor continues, “The message of Paul, which created Christianity as we know it, and the message of historical Jesus and his earliest followers, were not the same. In fact, they were sharply opposed to one another with little in common beyond the name of Jesus… (Further) Paul operated with a strongly apocalyptic perspective that influenced all he said or did” (James Tabor in Paul and Jesus, Preface, p.15). Tabor adds that Paul and others “deliberately obscured the original message of Jesus”.
Christian apocalyptic themes then eventually shaped 19th Century Declinism, which states that life is declining toward some disastrous collapse and ending. Declinism then “became arguably the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century” (Arthur Herman in ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’, Introduction). Declinism is the modern “secular” expression of apocalyptic mythology.
Further, “apocalyptic millennial” mythology embraces the millennial feature, stating that the apocalypse will purge corruption from the world so that the lost paradise can be restored, or a new utopia installed. Apocalyptic millennialism, as expressed in ideologies like Declinism, has been “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence). How so? Apocalyptic millennialism urges “coercive purification” approaches, and those have played a significant role in the mass-death movements of the past century (i.e. in Marxism- 100 million deaths, in Nazism- 50-60 million deaths, and in Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative that led to tens of millions of deaths from 1970-2000 following the bad on DDT). For historical detail, see research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, and David Cook.
Apocalyptic millennial themes incite, guide, and validate the destruction of enemy others.
Apocalyptic millennialism continues to shape environmental alarmism today and continues to incite and validate the harmful outcomes of this primitive anti-human mythology. Again, apocalyptic millennialism has always incited “coercive purification” approaches (Richard Landes in Heaven On Earth). These alarmist-inspired movements try to save something that is believed to be under imminent threat. The manufactured threat demands immediate coercive action to save the threatened thing (i.e. save Germany in Nazism, and in Marxism save civilization from capitalism). Today environmental alarmists urge the coercive purification of corrupt humanity itself which they view as a virus or cancer on the earth. They seek to “save the world” by blocking or purging human industrial civilization (i.e. hinder and prevent economic development and growth) so that the lost paradise of a wilderness world can be restored.
Apocalyptic millennial ideas also influence Islamic extremism and terrorism. See research of David Cook- e.g. Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature.
Why are news media not onto this incredible story of these bad ideas inciting such horrific movements of bad behavior? The violence experts keep telling us that we “must win the battle of ideas” if we are to achieve a more peaceful future. Well, here are the most damaging ideas of all. And detailed research has been done on the devastating outcomes of these ideas in varied movements over recent history.
The single most harmful idea at the core of the apocalyptic complex is the myth of an angry deity that threatens to punish and destroy bad people. This pathology has dominated and deformed human consciousness and worldviews in both religious and secular worldviews- i.e. punitive, destroying deity is now expressed in the myths of vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, and punishing karma.
Is it any wonder that with such an ultimate ideal and authority- i.e. punishing, destroying deity- many have committed violence toward others? People become just like the God/gods that they believe in. Where Mendel said that apocalyptic was the most destructive idea in history, I would further isolate and focus on the punitive deity at the core of apocalyptic as the most destructive idea/theme in history.
Note: Pointing out the dark side of Paul’s Christ is not denying that there are also some good features in the Christ. But when you mix good features with some of the worst of bad ideas like apocalyptic, you create problems like “cognitive dissonance” where the bad features overshadow, redefine, weaken, and even bury the better features. As a wisdom sage said, you cannot put new wine in rotten, leaky wineskins. You just ruin the good wine.
The prominent features of the Christ myth embody the worst of past mythology.
For example, in Paul’s Christ myth you have the feature of Zoroastrian dualism which is an expression of primitive tribalism- i.e. the mythology of a cosmic good battling a cosmic evil. The cosmic dualism is played out in this-world dualisms and the demand for true believers to stand in opposition to differing others as unbelievers or enemies. Human dualisms are expressed in all sorts of religious, political, national, social, and racial divides. Such dualism buries the truth that the human family is one family.
You also have features like alpha domination in the claim that the Christ is a ruling Lord that demands subservience and worship (see Alex Garcia’s Alpha God). The Christian Lord will eventually exclude and destroy unbelievers in an apocalypse and then hell. See the book of Revelation for some of the most disturbing expression of this horrific mythology.
This oxymoronic mixture of good features with bad features was the point that Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy made. They said there was the brilliant insight of Jesus on non-retaliatory deity (i.e. a diamond/pearl) that was buried in Paul’s message of ultimate retaliation and destruction. Note also Zenon Lotufo’s good comment on this mixing of good ideas with bad ideas in ‘Cruel God, Kind God’.
Even more critical, the central insight of Jesus that God was no conditions Love was buried by the highly conditional God of Paul. This is the great scandal of Christianity. Paul’s God demanded that a supreme condition of an ultimate sacrifice must be met before he would forgive human imperfection. See Romans 1-5 for detail. The “no conditions God” of Jesus did not demand any sacrifice or conditions to be met. Note how Jesus made this no conditions point clear in parables like the Prodigal Son.
If we are to properly prevent the destructive outcomes from apocalyptic alarmism then we need to get busy and purge the deeply embedded themes of this mythology from human worldviews. We have the potent alternative in the profound discovery of historical Jesus- that God did not retaliate and punish/destroy, certainly not in an apocalypse. God was no conditions love that sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad. It is irresponsible to leave this diamond of an unconditional deity buried in a highly conditional atonement and apocalyptic context.
This Christ myth of Paul (retaliatory apocalyptic) continues to incite and affirm harmful alarmism in Western consciousness. It buries the single most profound insight in all history- the statement by Historical Jesus that there is no retaliating, apocalyptic God. There is only unconditional love and generosity behind life. See more detail in “Reflections” just below.
Reflecting (post to online discussion group):
(Note: I approach this “spiritual” material as a fierce Independent, sort of “spiritual but not religious”. I am not obligated to defend any religious tradition. However, I affirm with Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy that there is a “diamond/pearl” in the Christian New Testament, but it has been buried by the surrounding context. I have spent years trying to pull it out and clean it off. It is the diamond of unconditional, buried in the highly conditional religious context of Paul’s Christ myth, a myth that dominates all the New Testament books, including the gospels.)
Noel, I have been reflecting on the journey of past decades and how I came to my conclusion that ultimate Reality, and ultimate truth, is unconditional. Unconditional is the core of my TOE (Theory of Everything). Unconditional is the foundational theme of a new grand narrative (master-story) that I would offer.
Let me outline how I made my personal breakthrough.
Over previous decades I had taken some provoking comment from varied sources. Bob Brinsmead, for instance, made a brief comment in the early 90s that he did not accept environmental apocalyptic and he urged us to read Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource. I had also read James Robinson in the 1990s and must have had his comment in the back of my mind somewhere- i.e. “the stunning new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus”.
Then in the late Oughts, Benny Peiser urged me to do that Decline or Rise report and I wrestled again with the apocalyptic issue, as expressed in 19th Century Declinism and environmental alarmism. I then revisited the mythical/religious roots of apocalyptic, and I wrestled especially with Matthew 5:38-48. I read extensively the “Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel” research, some of which makes the argument that Matthew 5:38-48, and the similar Luke 6:27-36 statement, expressed the core teaching of Historical Jesus. It presented the cohering center of his message, his main theme.
I would argue that this hard saying to “love enemies as God does” is one of the most profound statements of authentic love in all of human literature. It presents a devastating blow to the apocalyptic pathology.
I also had Clifford Geertz’s work in mind from an Asian Studies course that I did at UBC in the late 80s or early 90s. Geertz outlined the behavior/belief relationship that has been so dominant to humanity across history. People across the world have always tried to model their behavior and societies according to some divine ideal or pattern. Note the Israelites in the Old Testament, for example. They believed that they were following a law or word of God in all the details of their lives. People try to validate their behavior and lives as expressing some divine ideal.
Matt.5 then became clear. Jesus said, “Do not retaliate (no more ‘eye for eye’, no hitting back) but, instead, love your enemies”. And then- this is my critical point- he went on to base this non-retaliatory behavior on a new theology of a non-retaliatory God (relating a behavior to an identical belief). He basically said, “Do this (no more eye for eye)…because God does this. This is what God is like”. God does not retaliate against God’s enemies. God does not “get even” with bad people. Be non-retaliatory because God is non-retaliatory. Love even your enemy because God loves all (both friends and enemies) the same.
But more than just Robinson’s point about a “stunning new non-retaliatory theology”, the Matthew 5 passage pointed to something much more profound and revolutionary- to the broader reality that God was “absolutely no conditions love”.
How did Jesus make this broader unconditional point? He added other statements such as- “God sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad”. With an unconditional God there was no discrimination between good and bad people, and no exclusion of the bad guys. We can safely conclude this means that there is no punishment or destruction of anyone, which is what retaliation/retribution theology had always argued across history (i.e. bad guys will get their just deserts somewhere, sometime). All historical religion had affirmed some form of ultimate payback theology, long arguing that God was the ultimate source of final reckoning, judgment, exclusion of unbelievers, and punishment/destruction of bad people.
Jesus was repudiating that retaliatory theology entirely and stating more broadly that God loved universally, with unlimited forgiveness and generosity. Which is also to say- there were absolutely no conditions to meet in order to be included in God’s mercy, forgiveness, or generosity. God was, indeed, authentic unconditional Love. Bad people were also freely included in the unconditional love and generosity of God.
In this potent Matthew 5 statement, Jesus overturned of the entire history of bad religious ideas by going directly to the foundational bad idea of punitive, destroying God and rejecting that outright.
Once again, make all the obvious logical conclusions from this stunning new theology. Jesus was saying that there was no ultimate judgment, no ultimate punishment, and no ultimate destruction of anyone. Just as important, he was saying that there was no “here and now” punishment or destruction. This was evident in the common fact that the goodness and generosity of life- sun and rain- was given to all alike. The natural world was evidence of the goodness and generosity of God toward all people.
We can certainly conclude that Jesus’ new non-retaliatory theology means no apocalypse or hell- the epitome expressions of divine retaliation, punishment, and destruction. If Jesus taught that God does not retaliate, then God will not engage the ultimate act of retaliation in a world-destroying apocalypse.
Paul missed this essential point in the gospel of Jesus and, instead, embraced the primitive view of a punitive deity that would engage ultimate retaliation in apocalyptic destruction. See his Thessalonians letters for the presentation of his retaliatory, apocalyptic Christ, and Romans 12:17-20 for the direct statement of his retaliatory theology (i.e. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”). Paul shaped the thinking of the rest of the New Testament writers. He created the apocalyptic Christian religion that we have today (see James Tabor’s summary statements in “Paul and Jesus”).
That section in Matthew 5 (similar to Luke 6) was pointing clearly to much more than just the feature of non-retaliation. It was pointing to the greater scandal and wonder of “unconditional” love. Absolutely no conditions Love. And that was the single greatest breakthrough in human thought ever. Never before in history had anyone made such a breakthrough in God theory- concluding that there was no punishing, destroying deity behind life. There was only “no conditions Love” at the core of reality. While all previous gods had nicer features projected onto them (i.e. kindness, mercy), the core of historical deity theory was still defined by the elements of punishment and ultimate destruction.
Just to refresh visitor’s minds, here is my paraphrased summary of the Matt.5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36 statements, the single most profound statement on love to be found anywhere in human literature.
“You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye’… but I tell you ‘Love your enemies’… (because God does this)… God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you only love those who love you back, then what good is such limited and conditional tribal love? Even the primitives love like that, lending only to those who repay back. Be something much better. Bless those who curse you. Give to those who will not pay back. Pray for those who mistreat you, that you may be the true children of your divine Parent (i.e. be like God). Be unconditionally merciful and loving like your divine Parent is unconditionally merciful and loving”.
The other statements in the Matt.5 and Luke 6 sections further explain the unconditional nature of God. They add detail as to how we should behave because that is what God is like. For instance, Jesus said that we should “give and expect nothing in return”. There should be no expectation of payment for good done, which is to say- no sense of tit for tat obligation. I would argue that this works both ways, whether expectation of good returned for good done, or bad returned for bad done.
Jesus rejected that natural expectation of fair return. He urged people to just love disinterestedly, without any expectation of some return in kind. He argued that God just loved without expectation of return payment. This feature overturned entirely the essence of atonement thinking that had always been based on the belief that there must be some proper payment or payback, like all expectation of equal exchange in any relating (i.e. good for good, bad for bad). This belief in payback had always stirred expectation for fair or just payment (i.e. just return or consequence).
I am arguing that this expectation of just and fair response applies to the negative side also, that just as most people expect some good response for good shown, so there must also be some payment or punishment for wrong done (i.e. a sacrifice). There is no free and unlimited generosity in traditional atonement thinking.
This expectation of tit for tat return is deeply ingrained in human consciousness. Most people across history have embraced the expectation of some fair and equal return- i.e. good for good, and bad for bad. We accept as a fundamental given that good must be rewarded and bad must be punished, somehow, somewhere. We cannot just forgive entirely and let bad go without some form of payment, some form of tit for tat. Yet these statements of Jesus affirm that authentic love is entirely unconditional. It just gives expecting nothing in return- no conventional “just” outcome or return. We are to love anyway with no expectation of reward for good or punishment for bad.
Most people instinctively reject this radical teaching of Jesus because it offends all common sense of proper justice and right. Most cannot embrace the idea of expressing absolutely no conditions love toward the unresponsive. And this rejection of the unconditional treatment of all others is felt even more intensely against the thought of unconditional mercy and forgiveness for wrong done.
Yet, most parents and spouses express such unconditional love toward human imperfection and failure on a daily basis (i.e. but yes, safely within the confines of some “tribal”, family, or friendship grouping).
(Again, qualifiers throughout this site note that in this world, people are held responsible for bad behavior as part of the normal functioning of a society- i.e. natural and social consequences as part of normal human development and to protect others. But we argue that all enforcement of accountability for bad behavior should be done with unconditionally restorative intent toward all people.)
A further element in these Matthew and Luke statements: Jesus argued that authentic love- the love of God- was not tribal. It was not limited by tribal considerations. God does not just love those who love in return, as family and friends do, as the primitive tribal people do toward one another. No, God does not love in that tribally-limited manner. God loves in an unlimited manner, not just favoring or loving fellow in-group members that return love in kind. God loves all in the one human family, both good and bad (i.e. in religious parlance- both believers and unbelievers). That is, again, pointing to a genuinely universal love, an absolutely unconditional love. Non-tribal love.
All the statements in Matthew 5:38-48 are pointing to an unconditionally loving God as the basis for the unconditional treatment of all people, whether good or bad.
This is the single greatest statement on authentic love anywhere in human literature.
The common elements of generous nature affirm the new unconditional deity
Once again, the core teaching of Historical Jesus pointed to a stunning new theology that was something far more profound than just non-retaliation, as Robinson said. Jesus pointed to a scandalous love that is absolutely unconditional. He stated that God was an absolutely unconditional reality. And he understood the sense of scandal that this evoked in most people who embraced the common understanding of justice as some form of payback or fairness (i.e. reward the good, punish the bad).
Jesus understood that his new non-retaliatory, unconditional theology scandalized the conventional human sense of justice. He illustrated this scandal and offended sense of justice in his vineyard workers and prodigal son stories. Note the response of the all-day vineyard workers to the unlimited generosity of the owner- arguing with him that his generosity was not fair or just. Note the response of the older son to the unconditional forgiveness and generosity of the father toward the prodigal son, with no call for repentance or restitution. The Father called only for a celebration with no thought of punishment or demanded payment.
That unconditional generosity scandalized and offended the sense of justice and fairness of the good, moral people in those stories (i.e. the all-day workers and the older son).
If you are not disoriented and offended by the scandalous nature of unconditional love then you have not fully grasped it’s truly radical nature. It overturns entirely our age-old and deeply ingrained sense of justice and fairness in life.
Then note carefully the apparently peripheral comment near the end of the Matthew 5:38-48 passage where Jesus said, “God gives sun and rain to all alike, both good and bad”. That statement is nuclear in scale and impact. It goes to the core of all previous mythology and religion, to the very foundations of historical religion as Salvationism.
Religion across history has been built around the foundational idea of some punitive Force or Spirit- i.e. a punishing, destroying God. A God that metes out ultimate justice as some form of payback- i.e. rewarding the good, punishing the bad (e.g. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”, Romans 12:17-20, and “I will give to everyone according to what he has done”, Revelation 22:12). All religion has been consistent in teaching a God that makes sure that all is ultimately made right in the cosmos and life, and that no bad deed goes unpunished (e.g. the Greek mythological theme of a “core Retribution” behind reality). Religions like Christianity present a God who remembers and punishes every fault even though that contradicts the love ideal of 1 Corinthians 13- i.e. “authentic Love keeps no record of wrongs”.
The Original Fail
The idea of a punishing God at the core or reality and life began with the original error in early human logic. How did that error first occur? The ancients believed that there were spirits or gods behind all the elements of the natural world. Gods of storm and thunder, sun gods, gods of trees, plants, and animals, gods of streams and rocks, and more. And because nature was often destructive- i.e. storm/flood, sun/drought, earthquake/tsunami, accident and disease- so the ancients concluded that the gods were angry and were punishing people for their sins, for human failure to obey taboos, or failure to make required offerings and sacrifices, and failure to worship as the gods demanded.
Ancient people had concluded that the gods punished people through nature. That was a fundamental given in primitive understanding. We see that in the earliest human writing, in the Sumerian Flood myth which states that a great flood would be punishment for the sins of early people.
That early logic became foundational to all religion- the belief that nature gave evidence of punitive, destroying deity behind all things. Also, religion as the institution of salvation grew out of that early error. From the beginning, the early shaman argued that they knew the secrets of the invisible spirit world and would tell their fellow tribe members how to appease the angry gods with blood sacrifice, how to make payment for wrong, or how to endure punishment for wrong against the gods (see John Pfeiffer’s Explosion: An inquiry into the origins of art and religion).
The belief that the gods ensured retribution then became fundamental to salvation thinking- i.e. that wrong had to be corrected, and things had to be made right again by some payment or punishment. The early shaman and priests would tell people how to be “saved” from punishment and destruction by making things right again. The conditions of sacrifice/payment had to be met. Debt had to be paid. There was nothing of authentically free mercy and forgiveness in Salvationism thinking. It was all about appeasing and pleasing highly conditional deity with required payment.
The idea of retribution and payment also became central to human understanding of justice. Payback mythology then shaped justice systems with an orientation to punishment.
In the Matthew 5 section Jesus rejected that thinking outright. He overturned the very foundation of all previous religion that was based on the core idea of punitive, retributive deity. He rejected all previous understanding of justice as the right to get even (eye for eye). He rejected the very basis of atonement theology- the myth of an offended God that demanded some necessary payment or punishment, some return for love shown or something given. Most critically, he rejected the basis for this payback or retributive thinking- that gods punished people through the varied elements and events of the natural world.
Jesus said, “No, nature does not affirm a punitive God. It affirms the exact opposite- unconditional or no conditions love”.
He appealed to two main features of nature, critical to human existence- i.e. sun and rain for crops. He stated that these two basic features of the natural world affirmed a core unconditional love. A God that loves all the same- both good and bad. Unconditionally. A God that does not discriminate, and does not separate, between good and bad. With an unconditional God there is no exclusion and punishment of the bad. There is only universal generosity and goodness toward all in the one human family. An unconditional God treats the bad in this world just the same as the good, with forgiveness, inclusion, and generous love. And apply this unconditional generosity even more to the next life.
Follow these core Jesus statements with the correct logical conclusions. His stunning new view of nature as exhibiting all-inclusive love means that there is no punishment of human sin or failure through nature. There is no exclusion or destruction of the bad. And Matt.7:1 adds to this new theology of non-retaliation with the admonition- “Do not judge”. There is no judgment of the bad. God does not judge the bad people, so do likewise. Treat them just as God does with no conditions love.
(Again, a note on a balancing qualifier: This site repeatedly deals with the need to hold people responsible for their behavior, to restrain violence and promote accountability, as vital to human development and maturity. It evokes a huge “Duh”, but we live in an imperfect world with natural and social consequences. But this does not weaken the point that every person is to be treated with unconditional respect, and with a restorative justice approach.)
The foundational historical understanding of deity as punitive and destructive, continues widely today. And the fundamental belief that God punishes bad people through nature and natural disaster still dominates human worldviews. Remember the response of American Christians after the hurricane Katrina- i.e. the argument that it was punishment for America’s sins. Other similar versions of this belief are seen in the widespread belief in the vengeance of Gaia, or the angry planet myth. Many today believe that global warming and projected destruction from environmental disasters are punishment for human greed and bad behavior in industrial society (i.e. human guilt for ruining the natural paradise). The global warming alarm, and environmental alarmism in general, illustrate the widespread persistence of this primal human fear of punishing gods venting anger and retributive justice through nature.
We saw this primitive belief expressed by the Japanese woman after the 2011 tsunami. She asked, “Are we being punished?” This belief continues today in the common street-level embrace of punishing karma. It is the same old error.
The Jesus insight affirms that there is no vengeful Gaia, no angry planet, no retributive Universe, and no punitive karma. There never has been any such ultimate payback reality behind nature.
Christianity embraces a Core Retribution
Unfortunately, Paul rejected the stunning new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and, in a shameful retreat, embraced the primitive view that God punished sin through features of the natural world and life. He embraced the primitive myth that disease/sickness was punishment from God. All through his first Corinthian letter he warns Christians that God is destroying them through sickness and death as punishment for their immorality and other sins. He claimed that they were being judged and punished with sickness and death for such things as improper protocol when eating the Lord’s Supper. He even referred to the ancient Israelite situation and stated that God punished the Israelite’s immorality with poisonous snakes that killed thousands. Paul promoted the primitive belief that God punished people through nature- through natural disaster, disease, accident, or animal attack.
Paul, in general, embraced a theology of ultimate retaliation, ultimate conditionalism. See his Thessalonian and Roman letters (e.g. Romans 12:17-20).
Jesus had rejected this primitive mythology of ultimate retribution or punishment. Note also his comment that the man born blind was not evidence of God punishing sin through nature (i.e. he was not blind as punishment for his parent’s sin).
The belief that nature offers evidence of punishing deity has added an immense burden of guilt, shame, and fear to human physical suffering across the millennia. The sense of being punished for being bad has further traumatized already suffering people. It has all been a great lie. There has never been any such reality as a punitive God behind the natural world.
Thematic Coherence in the Jesus Tradition
This theme of unconditional love is evident all through the Jesus tradition. Unconditional love gives “thematic coherence” to Jesus’ teaching (a cohering central theme). And non-retaliation is just one negative feature in the mix of his unconditional teaching.
Note, once again, his comment in Matthew 7:1- “Do not judge”. Authentic love does not engage condemnatory judgment of imperfect others. It recognizes the speck in other’s eyes, but then focuses more on dealing with the beam in it’s own eye.
Note also Jesus’ comment to forgive “seventy times seven”, or in an unlimited, unconditional manner. And note his unrestricted, non-discriminatory inclusion of the “bad folk” (“sinners”) at table fellowship, and in other situations. Consider his non-condemnatory, no punishment statement to the woman caught in adultery (and yes, he also urged her to be responsible for her bad behavior, to stop her bad behavior). And again, remember his two parables of the vineyard owner/workers, and the Prodigal son, where he points to unconditional forgiveness and generosity. He consistently advocated a mercy and love that was unlimited, unconditional toward both the good and the bad.
Further affirmation of unconditional theology
I later read the Near-Death Experience material and that added graphic detail to this theme of unconditional. Numbers of those accounts stated that there was no future judgment, no Hell, no condemnation, and that no salvation was needed for acceptance by God (i.e. atonement, payment, or punishment). All people were ultimately included and safe in love. The NDE accounts stated that the defining core of God was unconditional love of an inexpressibly wondrous nature.
(Just an aside- I had to poke Bob for months on this point, from the Fall of one year into the Spring/Summer of the next. Then the penny dropped, on the no-apocalyptic thing in particular, as one important element in this. To me, it was critical to seeing the overall picture of unconditional clearly. If, as Jesus said, do not retaliate because God does not retaliate, then there will be no apocalypse which is a great act of divine retaliation. God as unconditional love will not do that.)
And to qualify- it is important to not view the Jesus material as authoritative for establishing unconditional at the core of meaning/reality. The Jesus tradition is simply illustrative and useful because you can touch on it as respected by so many people (i.e. a great religious icon). But beware the Biblicist mind that views Jesus and the Christian Bible as some final authority. No, it’s better to appeal to common parenting, spousal relating, human friendship, common human rights codes, and many familiar examples of unconditional love from history (e.g. Mandela, the Railway man). Unconditional in common humanity is the authoritative basis for establishing the truth of unconditional love. We then project out from humanity to establish that God is unconditional love, but to transcendent degree in deity. We do theology from common humanity and then project the best in humanity out to deity. We do not do theology primarily from some religious holy book or religious icon.
From this baseline of unconditional I rethought everything- the meaning of the cosmos and life in this world. And the imperfection problem. I came to view life as a learning arena for human experience and development, where we come to learn how to love unconditionally, how to be god-like, or better, how to become authentically human. And we develop and learn to be human by struggling with imperfection and inhumanity. We develop empathy and compassion from suffering in an imperfect world, by struggling with imperfection and trying to create something better.
Then, taking Joseph Campbell’s story outline further, I would argue that the real enemy and monster that we face in life is our common animal inheritance. Unconditional is the sword to slay the impulses of the animal most effectively. Unconditional counters the animal drives to tribal exclusion, to domination, and to destruction of the outsider. Unconditional inspires our human impulses to include all, to forgive all, to treat all restoratively.
Unconditional makes the best sense of this world and its imperfection and suffering. It offers a potent new center or core for a new human grand narrative. The original error that deformed early human consciousness was the myth of a punitive, destroying God at the core of reality and life. That became the foundational idea behind all religion as Salvationism- how to appease and please God. Unconditional guts and overturns that central pathology entirely.
This is the most critical point- unconditional goes to the taproot- the worst idea ever- to the primitive center of historical mythology, religion, and ideology- and overturns that pathology of a punitive, destroying God, whether in religious versions, or Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, or karma.
Unconditional offers the greatest liberation and transformation of consciousness and life ever imagined. It deals potently with the primal human fear of death and after-life harm (Michael Grosso). There is no ultimate threat.
And then you include all the qualifiers on how to engage unconditional respect for all in this imperfect world. You note that love is responsible to protect, to restrain violence/evil, to hold accountable/responsible, but to do so restoratively. Justice as restorative, rehabilitative. We do this as much as is possible given pathologies like psychopathy (also treated restoratively even if you have to throw the key away).
Add to this- the most humane thing you can think of in human attitude and behavior. That points to Ultimate Goodness.
I urge- let unconditional explode in your consciousness. Let it offend your sense of justice and fairness just like it offended the all-day vineyard workers and the older son in the Prodigal parable. Let it disorient your understanding of justice as righteous payback- reward the good, punish the bad. Let it scandalize your sense of right. Mostly, let it stir some sense of the wonder of an inexpressible love behind all reality and life.
Decline to despair
19th Century Declinism “is arguably the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century”, (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline in Western History). Declinism states that life is degenerating toward some disastrous collapse and ending due to human excess in industrial society. Declinism is the mother of environmental alarmism and climate change alarmism.
Declinism, as expressed in climate alarmism, is just the latest expression of primitive “end of days” apocalyptic mythology. Apocalyptic appears in the earliest human writing- in the Sumerian Flood myth. Apocalyptic then lodged itself at the core of human consciousness and has been given endless prominence in human worldviews across history and cultures.
Despite its persistence in human worldviews, there has never been an apocalyptic ending to the world and there never will be. James Hansen’s 2008 prophesy- “It’s all over in five years”- was just one more failed prediction of the end of days. Apocalyptic is a great fraud and lie that distorts entirely the actual long-term trajectory of life to improve gradually toward something better than before. Life has risen endlessly toward something better and has not declined toward something worse.
Yet the primitive myth of apocalyptic persists in dominating and enslaving human consciousness with fear and despair. It feeds the tendency to self-fulfilling prophecy, pushing people toward fatalism and resignation in the face of problems. Much like Paul Ehrlich stated in the face of potential widespread starvation, “Let India go down the drain”.
But if apocalyptic serves the purpose of providing good fright night entertainment, why get our undies tied in knots over it?
Because the outcomes of apocalyptic have been horrifically destructive to both people and nature. Apocalyptic has been “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (Arthur Mendel in Vision and violence). “Apocalyptic millennialism” was a critical inciting force behind the 100 million deaths from Marxism (see Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth). Apocalyptic millennialism was behind Nazism and its 50-60 million deaths (see David Redles’ Hitler’s Millennial Reich). Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring resulted in tens of millions of unnecessary deaths from the subsequent ban on DDT. Apocalyptic continues to wreak damage in the trillions of dollars from environmental alarmist crusade against fossil fuels and general blockage of economic development.
Yes, apocalyptic is the most violent and destructive idea in history.
Now a disorienting fact: Apocalyptic mythology entered our Western tradition via Paul’s apocalyptic Christ myth (see his first writing- the Thessalonian letters). James Tabor notes this in his book ‘Paul and Jesus’, “Apocalyptic influenced all that Paul said and did”.
If we are to win the battle of ideas with those bad ideas that have incited so much bad behavior over history then apocalyptic is one foundational bad idea that must be challenged and purged.
Certainly, go after the shoddy science that embraces apocalyptic declinism. And go after the bad ideology behind science that also embraces apocalyptic themes (see Michael Hart’s ‘Hubris: the troubling science, economics, and politics of climate change’, also Jeffrey Foss’s ‘Beyond Environmentalism’). And get a good grip on the true state of life on earth from researchers like Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource), Greg Easterbrook (A Moment on the Earth), Bjorn Lomborg (Skeptical Environmentalist), Ronald Bailey (The End of Doom), Indur Goklany (The Improving State of the World), Matt Ridley (Rational Optimist), and many others.
Understand the great trajectories of improvement that have dominated the cosmos, life, and civilization (James Payne- History of Force, Stephen Pinker- The Better Angels of Our Nature). Life has progressed endlessly from something initially worse, and toward something better.
Masses of good evidence expose the lie of apocalyptic decline toward disaster.
This site goes to the root themes behind apocalyptic mythology and offers a potent alternative. At the heart of apocalyptic is the primal fear of an angry deity that threatens to punish people for being bad. This myth still dominates the world religions and is also given “secular” expression in versions like the revenge of Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, or karma. It is the same old, same old pathology of some punitive, destroying Force or Spirit that will take vengeance on humanity, the “virus”, the “cancer” on the planet.
There has never been any such punitive, destroying deity. There has always been only Love at the core of reality- the scandal and wonder of “absolutely no conditions Love”. Let this explode in your consciousness and watch the chains fall away, the chains of primal fears and anxieties.
New Years project: A series of “stunning” insights/ideas. To spark new neuronal synapses and stave off declining brain performance. For your spare-time musing.
Countering the deep roots of anxiety, fear, depression, resignation, and despair in contemporary public consciousness.
The following ideas challenge deeply embedded bad ideas (subconscious even) that have deformed human consciousness for millennia. Notable here is the apocalyptic millennial complex of ideas- i.e. that life is declining toward disastrous ending where the world will be instantaneously purged of corruption and utopia installed.
These ideas have incited and validated too much bad behavior over history (“coercive purification” responses), even playing a significant role in the mass-death movements of the last century (e.g. Marxism, Nazism, environmental alarmism- see research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, David Cook, and others). As Arthur Mendel says, “Apocalyptic is the most violent and destructive idea in history”.
The key idea at the core of the apocalyptic complex is that of punitive, destroying deity. And people have always become just like the God that they believe in.
While varied other factors contribute to any incident of inhuman behavior- i.e. political, economic, social, and personal issues- do not ignore the role that is played by deeply embedded mythical themes (bad religious ideas) that continue to incite and validate human behavior.
“The fundamental themes of mythological thought have remained constant and universal, not only throughout history but also over the whole extent of mankind’s occupation of the earth”, Joseph Campbell in Myths To Live By.
Contrary to the endless alarmist narrative of imminent apocalypse, evidence is overwhelming that life is not declining toward something worse, toward some disaster and “end of days”. To the contrary, despite continuing problems across the world, the main elements of life have shown improvement over the long-term. Life, in general, has improved for most people. Read Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, and many similar studies, and build a good foundation for rational hope in your personal worldview.
Also challenge the anti-humanism in much contemporary religion and ideology. Recognize that people are not essentially evil and destructive, despite the awful behavior of some (those who do not know who they really are). All of us are most essentially beings of love. Love is the core nature of our authentic human self. This common love is evident in all ordinary human endeavor to improve life in diverse ways, and in all effort to promote common decency and goodness, to resolve conflict and foster peace and inclusion among people.
Most liberating for consciousness: There is no punitive, destroying Force or Spirit behind life. I would capitalize every word of this previous sentence. There has never been any retaliatory deity. Also, for you more “secular” types- reject contemporary “secular” versions of punitive deity mythology. There is no vengeful Gaia, no angry planet, no retributive Universe, and no punishing karma. There has never been any such reality behind life. These primitive myths continue to dominate and deform human consciousness in the modern world.
Most transformative for consciousness and for a new master story of life: Embrace the insight that there is only Love at the core of reality. Stunning, inexpressible “no conditions Love”. Everyone is ultimately safe in this Love. This ought to be the foundational idea for a new grand narrative of life.
This “spiritual” insight that scandalous unconditional Love is the true definition of deity, this resolves humanity’s two primal fears. (Note: Religious traditions muddle this unconditional feature by claiming that their deity loves unconditionally, but only after some supreme condition of sacrificial death is fulfilled. That is oxymoronic nonsense and it has produced endless “cognitive dissonance” in such traditions.)
First, an unconditional deity resolves the still widespread human fear of punishment through the natural world (i.e. the primitive belief that angry gods punished bad people through natural disaster, accident, or disease). Just as the Japanese woman asked after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished?”
Second, a core unconditional Love resolves the primal human fear of some after-life exclusion, punishment, or harm. There is no such ultimate Threat. We are all ultimately safe in Love. Embrace the profound liberation this brings.
Leftover from 2017
“That awkward moment when it hits you that your life won’t last forever and you think about the people who you love deeply and thinking about it aches, and you don’t know if it’s because sometimes you love people so much it strangely hurts, or because you wonder if you missed opportunities to love them or could have loved them better… and you are reminded once again that there is nothing more important than love…
“The best that I know to say is- don’t leave love left undone. There may be things you don’t accomplish in this world… or attain… or achieve. But don’t let shrinking back from love be one of them. If you’re fortunate, what you discover in your life is that love is the only thing that really matters and love is all there is. On your way out of this world you’ll look back and see it was always about that… it was always love.” Jim Palmer
Section topics: Some opening qualifiers; The transformation and liberation of consciousness: The pathology of punitive, destroying God has long dominated mythology, religion, and is now given expression in “secular ideology” (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, karma); The overdue replacement- unconditional deity; Climate insert- natural trumps human; The never-ending ending- Stephen Hawking joins the Chicken Little parade; Imperfection; Degenerating public discourse?; The story of improving life- hope overcoming fear; There is no monster; Bad ideas and their outcomes; A qualifier to calm religious nerves- affirming the good from religious traditions; The unconditional treatment of all and justice issues; Environmental alarmism; Bob Brinsmead’s posts and my responses.
The great original errors in human thought (i.e. punitive deity, worsening life, apocalyptic mythology) all began in ancient spiritual thought and traditions, in primitive mythology. Those core errors have continued down through the history of major religions and into contemporary “secular” ideologies and systems of thought (e.g. vengeful Gaia, 19th Century Declinism, angry planet and environmental collapse, retributive Universe, street-level karma). These errors have to be dealt with at that same level of the “spiritual” because they are issues of primary meaning and primal fears.
Qualifier: Initial appearances to the contrary, this site affirms the immense good that has come from religious traditions and religious people. But…. yes, always the big “But”. Why bring up the dark side of religious traditions? The intention of this site is to clear away distorting ideas in order to help people to more fully appreciate the wonder of the love at the core of reality.
Further, the portrayal here of the dark side of deity (i.e. bad religious ideas) will seem unfamiliar and even offensive to some religious people. I would respond- remember, there are some 600 passages in the Bible that advocate divine violence (e.g. punish and destroy some enemy, apocalypse, Hell).
To balance this swing at the dark side, this site affirms that theism is the most rational, logical conclusion to the process of human reasoning. Some prefer to argue that theism should be based mainly on “religious faith”. Fine. But my point- the theism advocated here has little to do with religious varieties of theism. This site affirms the insight that the core of reality (i.e. Ultimate Reality or God) is “absolutely no conditions Love”. This contrasts entirely with all historical religion that has presented the opposite- i.e. conditional views of deity. Religion has always been a conditional institution that presents the burdensome conditions required to appease and please gods. Conditional deity has driven the salvation industry across history, with its sacrifice/payment conditions.
Now, how do I get to unconditional as the ultimate truth, as the defining feature of Ultimate Reality or God? I reason from the best in humanity and then project that out to transcendent degree in deity. Consider- love is the supreme human ideal. And unconditional is our highest understanding of love. Unconditional love is the most authentically humane thing that we know. If we can engage the goodness of unconditional love, then how much more is God good?
I sometimes offer this line of reasoning: What is most humane is most true, and therefore most real.
An authentically humane theism is critical to winning the battle of ideas or ideology. Deity is the ultimate taproot issue behind problems like religious tribalism and religiously incited violence. Deity, as humanity’s highest ideal and authority, has long played a critical role in human thought and behavior. Too often the versions of deity that people have appealed to for guidance and validation, have been subhuman and grossly inhuman. More animal than human. For illustration of this see Alex Garcia’s Alpha God.
I would also affirm the endeavor to merge spiritual intuition and insight with scientific discovery, as in the “Panentheism” branch of theology. But new forms of theology/mythology will not resemble past versions in any fundamental way. Especially, if we take unconditional as the defining core feature of the spiritual.
Another: Using Historical Jesus research (i.e. Jesus Seminar), and especially Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel research, I take the same approach as Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy to the New Testament. There was a Historical Jesus who presented a “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God” (see Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6: 27-36). But that “diamond/pearl” of Jesus was buried in the contrary teaching of the rest of the gospels. See, for example, Matthew’s condemnation of enemies to hell fire in his later chapters.
Paul, the creator of Christianity (James Tabor- “Paul and Jesus”), rejected the new theology of Jesus and retreated to a God that engaged divine retaliation. See, for example, Paul’s Thessalonians letters, and his statements in Romans 12:17-20. This contradiction between the core teaching of Jesus and the entirely contrary teaching of Paul comprises the great “cognitive dissonance” of Christianity (see Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”).
The transformation and liberation of human consciousness at the most fundamental level. “Winning the ultimate battle of ideas”.
People from the beginning have created ideas to validate their behavior and lives. Early people intuitively sensed that they were part of some greater reality, a “spiritual” reality. And they believed that greater reality defined their lives. It offered important insight into what they were supposed to be about in this world. So they tried to understand and explain that greater surrounding reality.
From the earliest writing we see people projecting features out to explain the greater reality. Along with more humane features, they also projected their worst features onto their early gods. Deity then became humanity’s highest ideal and authority. Deity became the foundational idea in human worldviews to inspire, guide, incite, and validate human behavior and life. And those core features of early God theory have remained unchanged into the present, in both religious and “secular” versions (i.e. ideologies).
Anthropologist Clifford Geertz, among others, has noted that people model their lives according to what they believe is the divine will, law, word, or plan. Using the divine pattern, people then try to fulfill the divine reason that they believe they were created to fulfill.
This works in a feedback loop manner- People first project features out to define their deity, and then they use that deity as validation for how they should act and live. This causes problems when there are nasty features in the divine mix, features like violence, exclusion, and punishing destruction. Bad features in deity have long been used to incite or validate the worst impulses in people. “People become just like the God that they believe in”, Bob Brinsmead. “Like Father, like son”. “The apple does not fall far from the tree”, and so on.
“To win the battle of ideas” properly and thoroughly, we have to clean up our theology, i.e. our views of God. That is the core of the problem. Deity or God is the foundational bad idea that has to be corrected. Refining the point more: We have to fully humanize our views of deity. There is still too much of the subhuman and inhuman deeply embedded in the main God theories of our major world religions. That foundational pathology has also infected secular minds and ideologies (i.e. myths of vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, karma).
We moderns have invented endless new religious beliefs and ideologies across the millennia, and we have persistently held onto the same primitive core themes from the earliest mythologies, and repeatedly affirmed them in our new systems of ideas or beliefs. Joseph Campbell studied the history of mythology and religion like few others ever did, and he concluded that the original themes of primitive mythology have been expressed endlessly in all sorts of diverse versions across subsequent historical cultures and religions. He said that people continue to create new myths for new eras and new systems of meaning/explanation, but the main motifs/themes of the myths are always the same.
“The fundamental themes of mythological thought have remained constant and universal, not only throughout history, but also over the whole extent of mankind’s occupation of the earth”, (Campbell, Myths to Live By, p.21).
Campbell also noted that mythical themes have always been used to express our deepest passions and impulses, including our inherited animal impulses.
My point here: The earliest people projected their worst features, subhuman features, features of our animal inheritance, onto God- features like tribal mentality and behavior (us versus outsiders, others), exclusion of others, domination of others (alpha mentality/behavior), and the punishment and destruction of differing others. These features are more animal than human.
The gods were thus created as tribal gods that favored their chosen followers and excluded others, punishing and destroying outsiders as “enemies”.
Add here the primitive belief that there were gods behind all the elements of nature and because nature was often destructive (i.e. storm/flood, sun/drought, earthquake/tsunami, disease) so early people concluded that the gods were angry and punishing people for their faults/sins. This logic re-enforced the pathology of punitive, destroying deity.
With those subhuman features, early people created the greatest monster ever- a threatening, punishing, and destroying God. Ever since, that has been the foundational bad idea in human grand narratives, in human systems of belief, in religions, and diverse other worldviews.
Punitive, destroying God is the cohering center for an entire complex of related bad ideas. These bad religious ideas were created to affirm and explain the core myth of threatening God. And they have defined religion from the beginning. The problem is that the bad ideas overwhelm the good features in the religious mix, often burying those better features. This was Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy’s complaint about the larger New Testament context of bad ideas that buried the “diamond/pearl” of Jesus’ basic teaching (i.e. the New Testament threats of a punishing God destroying unbelievers, where Jesus had taught- “love your enemies”).
Early people embedded Threat theology at the core of reality and life. And with divine punishing violence at the core of human systems of meaning and explanation, people then concluded that the threatening deity also had to be appeased with violence- i.e. with blood sacrifice. Violent, punishing God then sparked the destructive history of the sacrifice/salvation industry with its endless shedding of blood as payment for sin. With a core ideal that was oriented to violence, it is no wonder that across subsequent history so much violence has been committed in the name of gods/God.
The punitive, destroying God also demanded human subservience based on the early myth that “people were created to serve the gods” (i.e. to provide food and offerings to the gods, to do the work of the gods). God demanded that people serve and worship him, and human subservience to deity would be fulfilled through all sorts of similar domination/subservient relationships in human society (i.e. priesthoods/followers, kings/subjects, dominating institutions/members, and so on). There is no authentic freedom under such dominating deity.
That threatening God also demanded punitive justice- eye for eye justice. Justice as payback or punishment. And so human justice systems modelled the divine pattern of justice as punitive. And God demanded that salvation conditions must be met if people were to escape ultimate punishment and destruction in Hell. Salvation conditions were the response to the primal human fear of death and after-death harm, fears that were incited by myths of punishing deity. Religions have invented endless conditions of proper sacrifice, payment for wrong, correct belief to please deity, along with required adherence to a religious lifestyle and religious taboos. For more detail on the full complex of bad ideas, see “Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas” in sections below.
This site has repeatedly traced the descent of bad religious ideas across history. Punitive deity begins with the Sumerian god, Enlil, threatening to punish and destroy humanity in a great apocalyptic Flood. Punishing deity is visible in the early Egyptian myths of The Destruction of Mankind and Return to Chaos. Punitive, destroying deity appears in the Hindu god Shiva- the Destroyer, the Wrathful Avenger responsible for disintegration, annihilation, and destruction. Hindu apocalyptic is expressed in the great cycles of decline toward destruction. Punitive, destroying deity is expressed in the Zoroastrian apocalypse where Ahura Mazda destroys and purges the world with molten metal. Punitive, destroying deity is found in the Greek myth of a core Retribution, and then in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic apocalyptic destruction of the world.
The threatening God does not die with the emergence of the modern secular, scientific era. Punitive deity re-emerges in “secular” dress in 19th Century Declinism which then shaped Marxist and Nazi apocalyptic millennialism. Those violence-oriented ideologies embraced the apocalyptic purging of the world as necessary to eliminate some threat- i.e. the threat of destructive capitalism, or the threat of the Jewish “disease”. The “coercive purification” (Richard Landes) of apocalyptic destruction was necessary to clear the way for the installation of a communist paradise, or the millennial Reich. See the research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, and David Cook (Islamic apocalyptic millennialism), noted in sections below.
The core myth of punitive, destroying God also shaped environmental alarmism with its vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe and karma myths. In environmentalism the perceived threat is corrupt, greedy people in industrial civilization that must be restrained or purged in order to recover the lost paradise of a wilderness world.
It is always the same old, same old core themes that are given ever-new expression, whether in religion or “secular” ideologies. Terms change over time but core themes stubbornly remain the same. I would suggest that these baser themes of mythology persist because they validate our worst impulses, our inherited animal drives to tribalism, to exclusion or domination of others, and the punishing destruction of the differing other. Campbell suggested similar reasons for the persistence of mythical themes in human worldviews. They enable us to express our “animal passions”.
The core idea of punishing, destroying God has dominated Western consciousness and society through its Christian version in Paul’s apocalyptic Christ myth. While that myth also embraces more humane features, its core is still the foundational theme of retaliating, destroying deity. See Paul’s earliest writing in Thessalonians, along with Romans and Revelation, for detail on the basic Christian theme of “the wrath of God” and destruction of unbelievers.
Punishing, destroying God continues as the central idea in all the great world religions. It is behind ISIS violence today just as it was behind much Christian violence over the past two millennia. Again, a punitive, destroying God that threatens apocalypse is endlessly given new terms and expressions but the core theme remains the same. Punitive, apocalyptic God is tightly pair-bonded with the myth that we are bad to the bone and we deserve punishment from some greater Force or Spirit. It’s the same old, same old as ever before, from the very beginning.
The myth of threat theology- a punishing, destroying God- has incited incalculable harm across history, inciting the basest of human impulses- primal fears that then incite tribal opposition, to exclude and destroy differing others with punitive, destroying justice.
Punitive God, venting his anger in an apocalypse, has always frightened people to embrace harmful “salvation” schemes to save civilization, save the world, or now- save nature from evil humanity, the cancer or virus on nature. Such salvation schemes, as noted above, often involve the “coercive purification”- i.e. coercive central control to save something from some “imminent” threat. We saw this in Marxism, Nazism, and we are now seeing it again in the environmental alarmism movement. These salvationist demands for coercion, override and undermine the freedom of others. They have repeatedly unleashed the totalitarian impulse in societies, to great harm.
In some of the most stunning research ever, scholars have located the same core themes of apocalyptic millennialism behind the varied recent movements of intensely bad behavior- i.e. the mass-death movements of the past century, notably Marxism (100 million deaths), Nazism (50-60 million deaths), and now environmental alarmism (Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative led to tens of millions of deaths). Again, the central bad idea in the apocalyptic millennial mix is the myth of a punishing, destroying God (or some other destroying Force/Entity) that will bring life and history to a final end in an apocalypse. Again, note books by Landes, Herman, Mendel, Redles, and others.
And yes, destroying Force/Spirit is still the most dominant idea in public consciousness across the world today. It has been given “secular” expression through the ideology of 19th Century Declinism- the idea that life is declining toward some disastrous collapse and ending. Declinism has become “the single most dominant and influential theme in politics and culture in the twentieth century” (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline). Apocalyptic Declinism endlessly incites fear of looming destruction and ending. It is the most irresponsible and immoral theme in public discourse today because amassed evidence shows the opposite to be true- that the trajectory of life has endlessly improved toward something better than before. Life is not declining toward disastrous ending. Apocalyptic decline has always been a great fraud and lie.
So yes Stephen Hawking, spare yourself the embarrassment of being proven wrong, along with all the other apocalyptic prophets of history. Get off the Chicken Little bandwagon before it’s too late.
We are not as secular and modern as we like to think we have become. We continue to embrace the worst of bad ideas from the primitive past. And the tragedy in this, is that we have long had the potent alternative.
This pathology of punitive, destroying deity, that threatens apocalyptic ending, has warped and defiled human consciousness from the beginning. It has burdened billions of people with unnecessary fear and the desperate felt need to find salvation, to make some payment or sacrifice, or embrace some punishment.
We were long ago given the insight that there is no threatening, punishing God behind reality and life. There never has been any such thing. The myth of punitive, destroying God was a great fraud and lie from the beginning. The Ultimate Reality that we call God has always been “absolutely no conditions Love”. That is the foundational truth behind reality. But no religion has ever communicated this inexpressible no conditions love to humanity.
All religion has been conditional in nature- how to appease and please angry, threatening gods. Religion has always mediated the salvation conditions that are demanded by some threatening God. Religious conditions that tell us how to pay for human imperfection (i.e. sacrifice for “sin”). They tell us what punishment conditions must be met and how eye for eye justice must be satisfied. Religion tells us what correct beliefs must be embraced and what religious lifestyle will please God (i.e. how to be “converted” in order to be saved). Also, what rituals must be embraced and what institutions must be joined.
Endless religious conditions to fulfill. Unconditional God liberates from all such burdensome conditions.
Religious conditions have always buried the core truth that God is absolutely no conditions Love.
This stunning new theology of a no conditions God holds the potential to unleash the most profound transformation and liberation of consciousness ever. Liberation from humanity’s primal fear of ultimate harm (i.e. after-life harm). Unconditional God overturns the entire suite of bad ideas from the past that were built around the core idea of punitive deity. Unconditional Core Reality liberates from the endless apocalyptic threat of looming, imminent disaster that has darkened and enslaved consciousness for millennia.
Unconditional core reality orients humanity to a stunning new ideal for thought and behavior- the unconditional treatment of all human imperfection and failure. It urges us to embrace restorative justice toward all, not punitive, destroying justice.
Unconditional as a new foundational human ideal inspires the best in human consciousness, the best impulses of the human spirit. It potently counters the worst features and impulses of our animal inheritance. Unconditional inspires us to include all others as free equals. It inspires us to forgive all and to treat all restoratively. It tells us that everyone is ultimately safe, despite whatever imperfection or failure we suffer here.
Historical Jesus (not Christian Jesus) made the first historical breakthrough to present a non-retaliatory, unconditional God. Unfortunately, Paul rejected the breakthrough theology of Jesus and retreated to the old retaliating, destroying God of all past mythology. He then created his retaliatory Christ as the foundation of his new religion- Christianity. See detail in his Thessalonian and Romans letters.
Restorative justice involves the responsibility to restrain violent, abusive people and to hold all accountable for bad behavior, and to make restitution to victims. And note some public examples of the practical success of restorative justice approaches- e.g. General Grant after the Civil War in his merciful treatment of General Lee; MacArthur in Japan acting restoratively toward the Japanese; Mandela in S. Africa; the Railway Man, and many others that chose to unconditionally forgive and include offenders, to treat them restoratively. Most parents and spouses also get the practical nature of unconditional in their daily relationships with imperfect family members.
Another: It has been difficult for religious people to confront the bad ideas in their systems. Many religious people have been led to believe that their religious system is all about goodness and love. They have been taught to focus on the better features iof their religion, and to ignore or explain away the nastier stuff (e.g. the now common religious defense that things like Hell are just “metaphor”). I fully affirm such moderating endeavors- to make religion more humane. But that denial of the dark side only produces “cognitive dissonance” from holding contradicting opposites in the same system. For example, Christianity could be summed in the oxymoronic statement, “God is love…. but will send you to Hell if you do not believe Paul’s Christ myth”. Nah. There is no authentic love that will reject and torture others eternally just for holding different ideas.
To continue to hold onto the bad stuff just because it is in your holy book will only distort and undermine the better features of your religious tradition. Religious love is then not authentic universal or unconditional love but it remains a form of tribal love, a love that is reserved ultimately for fellow “true believers”, but excludes unbelievers. It is conditional love, defined by that wider context of your religious conditions.
Another: Campbell, in his outline of human story, said that a wise man gives us a sword to slay our monster. I would suggest that unconditional is the sword to slay the greatest monster ever- the monster of punitive, destroying God. Unconditional enables us to orient our lives to universal love and thereby mature as human, to tower in stature like a Mandela.
The great media fraud continues- “They don’t believe in climate change”. Both Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton repeatedly scolded opponents with this distorting claim during the US Election Primaries.
A generous evaluation would conclude that they were not intentionally misleading the public but were just profoundly ignorant of the basic issues in the climate debate.
Skeptical scientists (the debate divides between alarmists and skeptics) do not deny that climate change is taking place. Skeptics affirm that CO2 has a warming influence. Climate has warmed over the past century and a half by about 1 degree Celsius. From roughly 1975 to 1995, climate warmed by about 0.3 degree Celsius. And CO2 played a role in that warming. Skeptics affirm this basic climate science.
But the heart of the debate is over the main elements that caused this mild warming. And there is disagreement over the alarmist claim that the 1975-95 period of mild warming was a foretaste of further catastrophic warming still to come. The alarmist climate models all predicted that the world would warm by 3-6 degrees Celsius over these very decades that we are now living through. And that would be catastrophic for life. But that has not happened. The past warming trend has paused and the climate trend has been flat for the past 20-plus years.
Also, over past decades scientists have discovered that varied natural elements have strongly influenced climate change and these natural factors have overwhelmed the CO2 influence. The natural elements show stronger correlations to the climate change that we have seen, more so than the CO2/warming correlation. No one denies the CO2 influence is present when any warming is occurring. But that CO2 influence is consistently overwhelmed by other natural factors that influence climate. Factors like the three-way cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction (see Henrik Svensmark’s research in The Chilling Stars). And factors like the ocean/atmospheric coupling (i.e. the great shifts in ocean currents from warming to cooling phases, or cooling to warming phases, that have played a notable role as climate has recovered from the Little Ice Age of roughly 1645 to 1715).
News media exhibit a profound ignorance of these core issues of the debate with their incessant claims that skeptical scientists “deny climate change”. No, they do not deny climate change and they do not deny the warming influence of CO2. Media further exhibit ignorance when they claim that there is “consensus” on climate change. There never has been any consensus on what drives climate. If you want to play the consensus and numbers game, then remember that long ago some 32,000 scientists signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s Protest Petition. That Petition stated that there is no good evidence that warmer temperatures and more CO2 will cause catastrophic harm to life. But there is a lot of good evidence that warmer temperatures and more CO2 will bring much benefit to life. Media ignored the Protest Petition almost entirely.
Good evidence supports the benefits of warming and more CO2 (see Patrick Moore’s Celebrating CO2). Since 1982 there has been a 14% increase in plant productivity on Earth. The planet is greener and healthier today with more plant food in the atmosphere. Previously, plant life was stressed because CO2 levels were too low, in the dangerous sub-300 ppm area. Levels are still too low, as plant life prefers levels in the 1000 to 1500 ppm range. Just what farmers give plants in green-houses. See CO2science.org for detailed studies on CO2.
The alarmists and alarmist media have the narrative all backwards and upside down, just like Alice in Wonderland- black is white, and white is black. Rising temperatures and more CO2 are not a threat to life but, in net terms, bring great benefit to life. The observed evidence affirms this.
The never-ending ending
People have been prophesying the end of the world since the beginning. The earliest human writing has an apocalypse myth- the Sumerian Flood myth. And that pathology in human thought has dominated human consciousness ever since. It has long shaped the great world religions and has now been given “secular” expression in the ideologies of our modern world. Apocalyptic myth was given an ideological expression in 19th Century Declinism- “the single most dominant and influential theme in culture and politics in the twentieth century” (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline).
But life on earth never comes to any catastrophic end. Despite the imperfection and problems throughout the world, life continues to gradually improve toward something better than before.
James Hansen, like all apocalyptic prophets across history, was entirely wrong when he stated in 2008, “It’s all over in five years”. Fellow apocalyptic, Stephen Hawking, has recently (2017) joined this Chicken Little parade with his prophesy that the end of days will occur in 100 years.
To counter this endless doom and gloom nonsense let me suggest these apocalyptic prophets should read Freeman Dyson’s “Disturbing the Universe” and embrace a good dose of hope. As Julian Simon said, “We are, in net terms, more creators than destroyers”. And that is why evidence affirms that humanity has gradually improved life on earth across the millennia. The best evidence, from the long-term trajectories of the past, shows that there will be no end of days.
Note: When you abandon science and move to embrace primitive religious themes, then you have taken on the title “Pastor”. Just as Pastor Stephen Hawking has joined Pastor James Hansen and Pastor Harold Camping (now deceased). Pastor Hansen and Hawking? Yes. When you state that “it will all be over in five years” (Hansen’s prophesy in 2008), then you have not made a scientific statement but a profoundly primitive statement of mythology- apocalyptic mythology.
Note: People from the beginning have never understood or accepted the imperfection of reality and life. The earliest people believed that the gods/God had created an originally perfect world- i.e. paradise, Eden. But corrupt people had ruined that paradise of perfection and now life was declining toward some disastrous ending where an apocalypse will purge the world so that the original lost perfection can be restored in some millennial utopia. This mythology of apocalyptic millennialism has dominated human consciousness and narratives ever since. And it is entirely wrong. This site probes the problem of imperfection in reality and life, and what it might mean as an essential element for human development.
Added notes: Imperfection
The imperfection throughout life is more of an aberration to the greater trend of reality and life to organize and improve.
The earliest people could not accept the imperfection of the world. They could not believe that God had created the world imperfect. So they created the myth that the world had been originally created perfect (i.e. original paradise, Eden). But bad people had then ruined the paradise and sent life into decline. Early corrupt, sinful people had caused a Fall, or loss of paradise, and sent life heading toward some future disaster where God would purge the imperfection of the world by apocalypse and then restore the lost paradise of perfection.
(Note: There is a version of original paradise, human error causing the loss of paradise, with the consequent imperfection of life, in the Sumerian myth of the paradise city of Dilmun, and Enki eating the 8 forbidden plants and thereby causing the loss of paradise.)
The imperfection in the cosmos and the world has incited endless questioning from most people across history. One of the most fundamental of human concerns has always been- Why is there such horrific suffering from natural disaster, disease, and human cruelty? In response, the earliest people created the distorting mythology that God was obsessed with perfection and punishing imperfection, and ridding the world of imperfection.
Many people have chosen to focus on the imperfection of life and then use that imperfection to define the overall trend and state of life. It reminds me, for example, of the past tendency of some to define the universe story in terms of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and consequently argue for a narrative that was dominated by the theme of ultimate decline toward disaster. Certainly, thermodynamics plays a significant role in reality and life.
Julian Simon discussed this issue of the Second Law in his book “Ultimate Resource”. He noted the changing opinions of people like Stephen Hawking on the role of thermodynamics. Was the Second Law the dominant factor that defined reality, or was the increase of order and organization the dominant factor with the Second Law playing a subservient role?
Quote from Ultimate Resource (p.78-81): “Whereas the second law implies decreasing order (increasing disorder), from the point of view of human beings all our observations record a long-term increase (in order) no matter what quantities we look at. The increases in complexity of living things throughout geological time, and of human society throughout history are the most important examples… Earth has changed from a smaller number of species of simple creatures toward a larger number of complex and ordered creatures… The history of human institutions describes ever more complex modes of organization… All this suggests more order rather than less order… All the empirical evidence shows an increase in order… which implies the conclusion that entropy (increasing disorder) will continue to decrease rather than increase in the human environment…”
Others (i.e. Huber and Mills in “Bottomless Well”, and other books) have argued that the “waste” of dissipated energy from thermodynamics is “virtuous” in that it is essential to creating more order, higher forms of order. The Second Law is therefore subservient to the larger trend of increasing order and organization in reality and life.
These issues relate to the general imperfection that is so obvious throughout reality and life. What does the presence of imperfection mean? It has been present from the beginning. Imperfection is fundamental to reality and life. I would argue that imperfection is not the defining feature of life but is subservient to larger and long-term trends of organization and improvement toward something better than before.
Related thoughts: Some in spiritual traditions have suggested that the purpose of this world is to serve as a learning arena for human experience and development. We do not develop in perfection. Our better human qualities only develop from our struggle with imperfection, our struggle to solve problems. Out of our suffering with imperfection and problems, our fundamental empathy and love inspire us to create something better. So imperfection serves the greater purpose of pushing us to create a better world. This is similar to Huber and Mills argument that the Second Law serves to create more order.
Life in general does not develop and progress in perfection. Even biology acknowledges that disturbance (imperfection) is critical to disrupt and spur further development in life.
It was the signal error of the earliest people to view imperfection in the world as punishment from angry gods. That shaped the earliest human narratives toward viewing imperfect nature as evidence of punitive forces/spirits taking vengeance on the imperfection of people. They believed that all struggle and suffering was punishment from God.
That error became central to the history of religious belief. It was an underlying error that led to the onerous burden of salvation religion- i.e. how to appease and please angry gods that were upset with imperfection and threatened to punish it. But as some have questioned- If God created the world as originally imperfect, then God obviously has no problem with imperfection and our struggle to make life something better.
These issues are probed in detail in sections below.
Another: I would view the amazing generosity of life (i.e. abundant natural resources) as further evidence of a greater background Generosity. Note that a farmer puts one seed of corn in the ground and gets hundreds more back from that one seed. Such generosity is evident all through the natural world.
Varied researchers have dealt with the fallacy of “limited natural resources” and the primitive zero-sum thinking that comes from this fallacy. The human mind has unlimited creative abilities and has consistently solved apparent resource shortages across history and will continue to do so. Again, note Simon’s work in Ultimate Resource.
Important side notes to the imperfection issue:
Apocalyptic millennialism has dominated human thought from the beginning. We see it even today in 19th Century Declinism and its direct offspring- environmental alarmism. Apocalyptic threat incites fear and pushes people to embrace and engage salvation schemes (i.e. save civilization, save the world) that are immensely harmful to humanity and life in general. Note the stunning research which shows that apocalyptic millennial themes were behind Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism (Carson’s apocalyptic leading to the tens of millions of unnecessary deaths of people denied the protection of DDT).
Isolate the central bad idea behind apocalyptic millennialism- the threat of a punishing, destroying Force (e.g. Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, karma), or God in religious versions. Replace that core bad idea with the insight that there is only Love at the core of reality and life. No conditions Love. Which is to say there is no ultimate threat of harm. And there is no promise of ultimate perfection in this world. There is no promise of salvation into some millennial paradise or utopia, whether Marxist communist utopia, Nazi Third Reich, or environmental natural paradise.
And there is no promise of “immediate” salvation (instantaneous transformation) into some perfect state. Does it have to be said that life improves gradually. See Arthur Mendel’s great statements on gradualism in Vision and Violence. We are here to struggle with an imperfect world and gradually improve it into something better, to create a promised land out of our wilderness.
The sudden, coercive purification approaches of Marxism, Nazism, and now environmentalism have led to disastrous eruptions of the totalitarian impulse. All such central control approaches have repeatedly unleashed the totalitarian impulse in societies. Enlightened elites have always believed they know what is best for others and will override the freedom of others to enforce their vision of some greater good.
The impatience of the millennial mind, well-intentioned as it believes it is, has been disastrous for human societies and for nature. It believes that it can push life into some immediately installed perfection. Remember Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the twenty million human beings that died as a result. So with Carson’s chemical alarmism and the tens of millions who died, many children.
Degenerating public discourse?
Various people have commented on a growing ugliness in public discourse over the past few years.
Some diverse inputs that may help to evaluate this, and some potent religious responses…
The sense of some growing trend to public nastiness may illustrate a variety of things. It may speak to media obsession with bad news, while ignoring good news. David Altheide noted this in Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis. News media are “not truth-tellers but entertainers competing with the rest of the entertainment media”. What dominates entertainment? The myth of decline toward apocalyptic disaster.
Altheide notes, for instance, that during the 1990s, homicide in the US fell by 20% but over the same time period news reporting on homicide increased by 600%. Now what do you think the public then perceives is happening? Reporters go out and stick a mike in some little old lady’s face and ask, “Ma’am, what do you think of the world situation?” Naturally, taking her cues from news media reporting, she replies, “Oh its awful, isn’t it? Its all going to hell in a hand-basket”.
Another factor in the mix of public nastiness can be attributed to the infantile but common embrace of “eye for eye” response to offense from others. Also known as “getting even”, “tit for tat”, “hitting back” or “counter-punching”, and what not. All sides do this. None of us are innocent. And it renders us all childish, infantile. Acting like 5 year olds in a sandbox. Endless ad hominem attack.
Another contributing element to the sense of growing public nastiness- the tendency of so many to express exaggerated “offense” over all sorts of perceived faults of others, to be thoroughly pissed at slights from others. Some seem to enjoy exhibiting hysterical outrage at everything. Puffing themselves with self-righteous indignation. Getting the vapors.
Some old religious precepts need to be brushed off and re-emphasized in public to counter such nastiness.
First, is it really our business to involve ourselves in other’s faults? Or is that something for the offenders and the offended to resolve between themselves? Why do so many others jump in to add to the judgment, condemnation, and calls for severe punishment? What is our justification for being busy-bodies, sticking our noses in other’s affairs and lives? Sure, social media give us all more access to everyone else’s lives.
But what about the advice of Jesus: “Do not Judge… Do not condemn, but forgive…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your eye?” Which is to say, pay attention to your own imperfections and quit condemning others for their faults.
Once, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who had brought to him a woman caught in adultery. They argued that the Law of Moses stated that she should be punished by stoning. Jesus responded, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. Ouch.
Remember also that self-righteous Pharisee who went to the Temple to worship and thanked God that he was not as bad as other “sinners”. His denial of his own imperfection, in comparison with the “worse” sins of imperfect others, was self-delusional.
Add here Jesus’ response, when he was asked by some followers- How many times should we forgive someone who sins against us. He replied, “Seventy times seven”, which is to say without limit or ending. Forgive unreservedly or unconditionally.
There is a lot of great advice in religious traditions to counter the human tendency to engage the downward payback spirals of returning nastiness for nastiness.
There is other good material in the Historical Jesus tradition. But I would here make the clear distinction between his teaching and the larger New Testament context that contradicts his core themes of unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion, and unconditional love. Jesus based all his ethical material on “the stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”, an unconditionally loving God. But Paul and the other NT writers rejected the theology of Jesus and retreated to primitive retaliatory views of deity.
Here is a summary of some of the best from the Jesus tradition. In the Matthew 5 and Luke 6 sermons we find the following: Jesus rejects the common justice of his era- “eye for eye justice”, paying back our offenders. He argues that, instead, we should “Love our enemy… do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get something back… give expecting nothing in return (i.e. do not demand some payment because God does not expect any payment or sacrifice for wrong)… If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles… Give to the one who asks and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you…”
He went on, “Pray for those who persecute you… Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Be like God who causes sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If you just love those who love you what reward will you get? Even the pagans do that. Be unconditionally merciful just like your heavenly Father is unconditionally merciful toward all, both good and bad.”
Embracing these humane and mature attitudes of generous mercy toward imperfect people all around us would go far to alleviating public nastiness and making life better for all.
Further, what about the wise advice in the old religious maxim to “hate the sin but love the sinner”?
And of course, any common sense love will hold others accountable for their serious misbehaviour. But even that holding responsible must be done with a restorative spirit and not a punitive spirit, not with intention to destroy. And yes, restitution should be made to victims.
The true story of life: Decline toward disaster, or rise toward something ever better?
Fear has too often incited aggressive “defense” against the perceived threat. This has led to “salvation” schemes that have caused immense harm.
Hope inspires and affirms the expression of love.
Primitive myth becomes modern ideology
Joseph Campbell has noted that the basic themes that give us meaning have remained the same across human history. Expression of these themes changes from age to age, and from culture to culture, but the core themes remain the same.
Over most of past human history, humanity viewed life mythically and religiously. Then over the past few centuries we entered the scientific era. We like to think that we have become more secular today and scientific. But the same ancient themes continue to dominate our consciousness, in new “secular” versions. They are the same old themes of past mythology and religion- of original paradise ruined and lost, of life declining toward something worse, toward some disastrous ending, of bad people being punished and the world being purged, and the lost paradise restored (Salvationism).
And the old story is all wrong. The insight that the core of reality is unconditional Love changes everything. It overturns all the themes of the old story- themes of loss, decline, threat of punishment, and necessary salvation. The core of the old story- a punishing/destroying God- promoted endless fear in humanity.
Unconditional is the single most profound transformation of consciousness, and it liberates consciousness to hope and to express a similar love.
Overall story: Discussion group posts
____, these follow-up comments leave me utterly confused. What do you mean in relation to what Bob just said?
I have commented too much on this animal/sacred relationship but here goes one more yak attack.
We come from that animal background and still have that animal brain in our skulls emoting some powerful animal drives/impulses. Bob noted some below.
But humanity also has human consciousness and that made early humans aware of better things, aware of greater reality/deity, and so on. Aware of love.
But as they embraced their primary impulse to meaning, to understand and explain all things, they began to project out features to explain the greater reality they were part of. And some of the features they projected out were very animal-like. Hence, the early gods were alpha gods (male and female- Gimbutas on the female versions). They were tribal gods favoring their band and excluding and destroying outsiders.
And yes, some human qualities in the early mix also. So yes, they very much created gods that resembled their own lives and the features of their lives. And those features in the early gods have persisted in subsequent versions down into our major systems of meaning today- our world religions. As well as into ideological systems.
And those gods became the highest of human ideals and authorities. They were used to inspire, incite, guide, and validate human life and behavior. Again, see people like Geertz on this common human trait of trying to model human life after the divine will, word, law, or plan. A very natural thing. To try to fulfill what we believe we were created to do.
So it works in feedback loop fashion- project out and then use that as validation of life here.
And those nasty features are all part of what became salvation religion.
My argument has been to purge all that nasty stuff because of the role it has long played in stirring the worst in humanity, validating the worst. Replace it with the Jesus theology of no conditions love. That overturns all the dark, nasty features of the old gods and old religion.
Unconditional as a new highest ideal then inspires the best from us. It potently counters all those features of the old animal inheritance. Unconditional urges us to include all as equals, to forgive all and act restoratively toward one another. And so much more.
Anyway, I have a bunch more comment on my site dealing with this. More yak attack.
But yes, in our essential nature as conscious persons, we are love. That as Nolan and others have said, is the real essential human person. This animal part is not really us. Paul called it inherited sin but that only confuses things as it locates the problem in salvation religion with all its conditionalism. Better to view it for what we now know it is- an animal inheritance and the only real enemy we face, the only real monster in life (a monster projected out onto deity to create the ultimate Monster). This is the monster we must conquer so we can mature as human (when we orient our lives to universal love, to what we really are). It is about “towering in stature” which unconditional enables us to do. That new centering ideal or baseline of authentic humanity and authentic deity.
Bob nailed it below. Now explain what you meant in your follow up comment.
Another (response to another person ‘s comments on salvation religion as presenting the gravity of human depravity and the need for salvation)
Salvationism is all wrong from the start. It is not about the ‘gravity of human depravity’. And anyway, I would argue that a strong appreciation of unconditional goes farther than any fall and sinfulness mythology to showing the horrific contrast between good and evil. When you grasp real good as in unconditional then the proper contrast is set for understanding any falling short of that. Un-love stands out all the more starkly. Depravity stands out all the more, especially religious depravity which tends to be left out of traditional justice thinking.
But the remedy is also more profound and potent with unconditional. It is not about re-affirming fall and sinfulness and the brutality of Salvationist myth as the solution. With sacrifice, human sacrifice, payment, blood, violence… all essential parts of the Salvationist remedy across history in prominent religious belief.
Unconditional liberates entirely from all that. Much of that salvationist thinking only re-enforced our animal drives with similar retaliatory or punishing justice systems.
Unconditional frees from all that with a new clear center for human ethics- unconditional love. None of the muddying or muddling that came from eye for eye justice systems. Systems that often just enforced the old animal drives, retaliatory ideas re-enforcing the impulse to retaliate.
The story of improving life- hope overcoming fear
From the very beginning the human story of life on earth has been dominated by the theme of apocalyptic. Apocalyptic mythology states that an original paradise has been ruined, and now life is declining toward some disastrous ending where God (or Gaia, angry planet, karma) will punish people and then purge the world of its imperfection- i.e. bring this imperfect world to an end through an apocalypse- so that the lost paradise of perfection can be restored.
The earliest human writing (i.e. Sumerian) already tells us of gods threatening to destroy humanity in a great apocalyptic flood. The early Egyptians also threatened the “end of days” in their myths of The Destruction of Mankind and The Return to Chaos. Apocalyptic then became the central theme in historical religions, notably shaping Western consciousness via Zoroastrianism (i.e. Ahura Mazda destroying and purging the world with fire and then restoring paradise). Zoroastrianism then shaped Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as apocalyptic religions.
Note: Apocalyptic is the foundational bad idea in the complex of “apocalyptic millennialism” which has long been central to most religious thought. There are two basic features to apocalyptic millennial mythology and they play on the two fundamental human emotions of fear and hope. The threat of the “coercive purification” of the world by an apocalypse incites fear of punishing destruction. And the promise of millennial paradise stirs the hope of salvation. But understand that millennial hope is a perverted form of hope that is based on the destruction of one’s enemies.
(Note in sections below: The salvation schemes of apocalyptic alarmists have always caused immense damage to life and repeatedly incited mass-death movements.)
Apocalyptic mythology also descended through the Eastern religions of Hinduism (great cycles of rise and decline to disastrous ending) and Buddhism (decreasing life-spans). See, for example, Mircea Eliade on the history of religious ideas. The pervasiveness and persistence of this apocalyptic theme is astounding to trace across history and across the world.
Apocalyptic was then “secularized” (given new expression in secular terms) in 19th Century Declinism to become “the most influential theme of modern politics and society” (Arthur Herman). Declinism then pushed apocalyptic to center stage in modern public consciousness through environmental alarmism (Green religion) with its diverse expressions of contemporary destroying gods- i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, and karma.
The terms used to express apocalyptic millennialism change from culture to culture across history but the core themes remain the same, whether in religious or secular versions.
The central theme in apocalyptic mythology is that of a punishing Force or God that will destroy people and the world. The myth of a violent retaliation by God to punish human imperfection and coercively purge the imperfect world is the most perverse idea to have ever entered human thought. This threat of divine punishment has long been couched in the despair-generating myth that life is declining toward disastrous ending. And this pathology has dominated human narratives from the beginning.
Apocalyptic has distorted the story of life entirely. It has misread completely the great trajectories of overall reality and life on earth. There was no original perfection or paradise, and there was no ruin of paradise, and there has never been a consequent decline of life toward some disastrous ending. To the contrary, life has been an endless trajectory of improvement toward something better than before.
Look at the evidence of overall improvement in the three great emergences and trajectories of reality. The cosmos began in chaotic heat. But as the universe expanded and cooled it became more organized and complex. Galaxies and stars and solar systems formed. Out of the cyclical birth, death, and rebirth of stars, carbon was formed. Carbon is essential for the material organisms that life eventually inhabits.
The overall story of the universe is that of a great trajectory of improvement toward something better than before.
Life on our planet also began in chaotic disorder but has gradually improved toward something better than before. Life has organized with ever more complexity in diverse organisms and biological systems, growing ever more advanced till it achieved the complexity of the human brain that is suitable to mediate human consciousness. Even E. O. Wilson admitted, by any standard life has progressed.
Add to the progress of life a good dose of randomness that assures freedom in life.
And human consciousness then found expression for its essential love and creativity in the third great emergence and trajectory- human civilization. Here we find evidence of the greatest wonder in the cosmos- love emerging and developing in humanity, and then human love creating a promised land out of the former wilderness of nature.
Humanity also began in chaotic brutality but we have become something ever better in civilization. James Payne and Stephen Pinker, among others, have traced the evidence that we have become less violent and more humane (kinder and gentler) across our history. Julian Simon has likewise amassed evidence on the true state of life and that evidence affirms that we have become “more creators than destroyers” as we have improved our world over time.
Our irrepressible impulse to make life into something better is evidence of our essential goodness. Our gradual improvement of this imperfect world is the expression of our core nature as love.
These three great emergences and trajectories- cosmos, life, and civilization- all express the creative Love that is the true heart of reality. This unconditionally generous Love ought to be the center of a new narrative or master story for humanity. Purge the old pathology of punitive, destroying deity and replace that with unconditionally loving and creating deity. This gets us to the truth of reality and life as something that originates from Love and is endlessly inspired by love. And this makes love the essential meaning and purpose of all reality and life.
Critical to the true narrative of life: The greater creating Love has incarnated in all humanity and finds expression in all human diversity and creativity. The creating Love has expressed itself in the three great emergences and trajectories of reality and life. But especially we see it manifest in humanity becoming something ever more humane. In our struggle to improve this imperfect world we are gradually learning to mature as human, to “tower in stature”, as we orient ourselves to universal love (from Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story).
This centering truth of Love as expressed in endless improvement, in endless rise toward something ever better, this gets to the true story of life. The old apocalyptic narrative of declining life, as the manifestation of a punitive/destroying deity, got things all wrong.
The real story of life inspires hope that is based on the best evidence that unconditional Love is the true core of reality and life.
There is no monster
The worst idea ever voiced by ancient people, the idea that there was some retributive, punitive core reality (i.e. punishing God), this idea has persisted in the deep background of human consciousness and endlessly re-emerges in human systems of meaning, both religious and secular/ideological. This worst of all bad ideas continues to incite the primal human fear, the fear of some ultimate harm.
What is the evidence for the never-ending prominence and persistence of this bad idea? Take a survey across the millennia and note the diverse expressions of this idea in all sorts of religious and secular versions (see “Historical descent of worst idea” just below).
We are more subtle today and like to think that we have become secular and scientific in our thinking and expression. But why do we endlessly re-create and embrace the same old monster of retaliatory deity as ever before? Shame on us. Especially since we have long had the sword to slay the monster (from Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story- a wise man gives us the sword to slay our monster). I have sharpened the sword below.
It cannot be repeated enough- there has never been any retaliatory, punishing reality behind life. There is no monster. Ultimately, there is only Love of the most humane kind imaginable- absolutely no conditions Love.
Section topics: Liberation; Bad ideas and their outcomes; Discussion group post; A qualifier to calm religious nerves; The unconditional treatment of all and justice issues; Summary of site themes; Environmental alarmism; Bob Brinsmead’s posts on bad ideas shaping bad behavior; My responses to Bob.
A liberating center for consciousness
The single greatest transformation of human consciousness is to embrace the insight/discovery that there is unconditional Love at the core of reality.
Embracing a core “no conditions reality” then liberates the human mind in powerful ways. It frees us to create our own unique story, to make our own unique contribution to life. Unconditional liberates us to live a story free of religious restrictions, free of ideological boundaries, free of all the things that people traditionally feel obligated to embrace to define their stories- whether inherited national, racial, familial, occupational, or other binding features. Unconditional liberates us as nothing else can to make some unique and creative contribution to life.
Unconditional at the core of reality means that all of us are ultimately safe, despite our failures to live as fully human. No one will be excluded from the future and from future good, whatever our spiritual traditions imagine that to be. Unconditional core reality is the Daddy of all Daddies that says that it will be all right for everyone. There is no ultimate monster.
The sense of ultimate safety that unconditional provides, that fundamental sense of safety presents a foundation for the greatest liberation ever conceived, liberation from humanity’s two primal fears- the fear of death and the fear of after-life harm. An unconditional ultimate reality (deity) liberates us from the entire suite of bad ideas across history that have always re-enforced these primal fears- i.e. pathological ideas of angry gods, demand for salvation conditions, threat of judgment, the exclusion of unbelievers, and the threat of punishment and destruction (i.e. apocalypse and Hell). Unconditional tells us that this complex of bad ideas has been a great fraud and lie.
Throughout this site I have repeatedly summarized the bad ideas that have dominated most human consciousness across the millennia. This provides the overall background to highlight the stunning contrast with unconditional reality. See Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas in sections below.
Unconditional ultimate Reality does not eliminate all the pain of life but it changes the big picture background (how we view reality and life) and that helps us on an individual level to deal with the misery of suffering. It assures us that all suffering eventually will end, and it will end in Love. We are all ultimately safe in love. In the meantime, an Unconditional Core Reality affirms that all human suffering has profound meaning, down to the mundane details of ordinary daily human life. Nothing in life is wasted or meaningless.
Unconditional core reality (i.e. God as unconditional love) offers the clearest insight into the meaning of the cosmos and human life. I affirm that across history human views of deity have always served as the ultimate embodiment of meaning.
Unconditional God then tells us that, more than anything else, we are here to experience and learn unconditional love. And the imperfection of life that we all experience provides the contrasting context to help us understand and learn unconditional. The imperfection of life, and the imperfection of others, provides opportunity to experience and express unconditional love toward others. Note stories like The Railway Man, or the story of Nelson Mandela, for illustrations of how this works.
It may seem harsh to state- but it is through suffering that we learn empathy and we then become useful for helping others that suffer.
Further, and most critical to our personal stories, unconditional is how we find liberation from our inherited animal, the monster within each of us. Unconditional shows us how we can conquer the inherited impulses of our animal brain- i.e. the impulses to tribal dualism (us versus others), to domination of others, and to exclude and destroy the competing other. Unconditional urges us to include all others as free equals in the one human family, and to unconditionally forgive all human imperfection, to engage restorative justice and not punitive or destroying justice.
Unconditional shows us how to achieve human maturity and become the heroes of our own stories (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell’s outline on human story). Unconditional enables us to “tower in stature” like a Nelson Mandela.
An ultimate reality that is unconditional love also tells us that the same unconditional love is our true nature. It is the essence of our human consciousness, the essential nature of our authentic human self.
Unconditional redefines entirely the core of all reality, the meaning of transcendence in ultimate reality, or deity. Unconditional love tells us what God actually is. It tells us that God is something better than the best that can be imagined. As Joseph Campbell said, God is beyond words, terms, categories, definitions or concepts. That must be said most pointedly about the absolutely no conditions love that is the essence of God.
If love is the best thing that we know, the ultimate of goodness, the ultimate human ideal, and if unconditional is the epitome of love, then God is unconditional love that is better than the best that can be imagined or expressed. God is most humane and most loving to inexpressible degree. Historical religions have never communicated this scandal and transcendent wonder to humanity.
Unconditional in deity is a scandal because it overturns the heart of all historical religion that is oriented to the divine conditions that are necessary to appease and please divine justice as some form of payback, justice as the demand for payment or sacrifice.
Unconditional is the central point of this site. Others use terms like “universal” or “unlimited”. Unconditional is more all-encompassing. It expresses our highest understanding of what love is. It points to the epitome of goodness and therefore to the best in ultimate reality and ethics.
Burying the diamond
The truth of “no conditions core reality” has long struggled against the domination of retaliatory and conditional religious thinking. This struggle is epitomized in the Christian religion. Historical Jesus tried to introduce “the stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God” (James Robinson), but early Christians (Paul and the gospel writers) buried that new discovery in the same old retaliatory theology and conditions of all past mythology and religion.
Note the central teaching of Historical Jesus that God was no conditions Love: “There must be no more ‘eye for eye’ justice but instead, love your enemy because God does. God sends sun and rain on all alike, both good and bad… Do not judge anyone” (Matthew 5 and 7). The non-retaliating God of Jesus did not judge, did not exclude anyone, and did not threaten to punish or destroy anyone. Most important, his God did not demand payment or sacrifice for sin. His God forgave all without condition.
But Matthew and others immediately set about contradicting this new theology with the same old threats of judgment, exclusion of the bad, and punishment/destruction. A few chapters after the teaching of Jesus, Matthew says that unbelievers will be cast into outer darkness (Hell). He was taking his cues from Paul who had earlier written about the coming punishment and destruction of the bad in his Thessalonians and Romans letters. Paul’s ideas dominated and shaped the subsequent Christian movement.
Paul also set forth the supreme condition that had to be met before God would forgive anyone- the sacrifice of a god-man. Christianity is built on this myth of a conditional God and a supreme condition to be fulfilled.
Some basic site definitions:
Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas (below) covers most of the worst ideas from across history. The “apocalyptic millennial” complex of ideas forms the heart of bad religious ideas. This complex shapes the core of religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (To counter the natural religious defensive reaction to any challenge, see “Calming Religious Nerves” below- a qualifier that affirms the good in religious traditions.)
The central bad idea in the religious mix is that of a retaliatory, punitive God, a God that punishes and destroys bad people (i.e. unbelievers) in an apocalypse and then Hell.
The apocalyptic element in apocalyptic millennialism incites fear of punishment/destruction and that fear pushes people to embrace harmful and wasteful salvation remedies. The millennial element in apocalyptic millennialism incites hope. However, it is a perverted form of hope for salvation into some paradise, based on the punishment and elimination of one’s enemies. It is a subhuman form of tribal hope, limited to embracing only true believers.
Unconditional means simply what it says- absolutely no conditions. None. Others use similar terms like universal or unlimited. All are reaching toward, or pointing to, the same reality.
A point of clarification: Religious people also embrace the term unconditional but use it in an oxymoronic manner. You will hear Christians claim that God’s love is unconditional because Jesus died to pay for all sin. He met the supreme condition of offering a sacrifice to atone for all sin. Pardon me, but “Huh?!?” God’s love is unconditional because his demand for someone to meet a supreme condition first (i.e. blood sacrifice as payment) has now been met and fulfilled? You cannot merge unconditional with the conditions of religious traditions. That mixing of opposites explains the prevalence of “cognitive dissonance” in religious traditions (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God).
There is no excuse for Christian muddling around this issue of unconditional in deity because Christianity has held the alternative for two millennia. Tragically, it buried that stunning new theology of Jesus in the highly conditional Salvationism of Paul and the gospel writers. I refer to the diamond of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48 (similar statement in Luke 6). That diamond has been buried in a context that rejects its main theme of unconditional love and retreats to the conditional salvation mythology of Paul’s Christ myth.
And some parsing on environmentalism: We are all environmentalists in that we all care for our world. But “environmental alarmists” take the problems of an imperfect natural world (e.g. naturally changing climate) and exaggerate such problems to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the true state of things. They then alarm people to embrace salvation schemes that have caused immense harm. Remember Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative that led to the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of people denied the protection of DDT.
Bad ideas from across history and their outcomes in human societies.
Bad ideas can be summarized in the “apocalyptic millennial” complex of ideas that have been “the most violent and destructive set of ideas in history” (paraphrase of Arthur Mendel from Vision and Violence). Apocalyptic millennialism appeals to human fear of destruction/ending (apocalypse), and the perverted hope to be saved into paradise (millennialism) after one’s enemies are eliminated.
The worst of all bad ideas drives apocalyptic millennialism- i.e. the myth of a tribal God that favors true believers, and that excludes and destroys unbelievers.
While terms and expressions have changed over history from religion to religion, and from culture to culture, these core themes of apocalyptic millennialism have remained the same in diverse newer versions. They were given “secular” expression in 19th Century Declinism- “the most influential theme in politics and culture today”, (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline).
Today apocalyptic millennialism has been embraced by environmental alarmism, the most destructive movement on the planet today. Yes, Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring led to the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of people in the following decades.
Equally stunning, the themes of apocalyptic millennialism were also behind the mass-death movements of the last century- i.e. Marxism and Nazism (see research of Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles). These same ideas are behind Islamic violence today (see research of David Cook). They are still the foundational themes embedded at the heart of the great world religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). They are also found in Eastern traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism (See Mircea Eliade’s research).
We have long had the potent response to apocalyptic millennialism- the insight that there has never been any divine threat behind life. There has never been a punitive, excluding, or destroying God. There has always been only Love at the core of reality and life. Absolutely no conditions Love. God has always been only Love. Authentic love does not view humanity tribally. It does not include some and exclude others. It does not dominate or control free others. It respects all as free equals. It does not punish or destroy anyone.
“No conditions Love” presents an entirely new theology for humanity. It provides a new humane center and ideal for human meaning and worldviews. It presents a new ethical standard that takes us to the height of love. No religion has ever communicated the full scandal and wonder of unconditional love to humanity. All religion has been conditional in nature- presenting the conditions necessary to appease and please demanding gods.
Unconditional love at the core of reality offers the opportunity for the greatest liberation movement ever, liberation of consciousness at the deepest levels of mind, emotion, motivation, and behavior.
Post from discussion group:
“Remember the origin of religion in human society, as per those earliest human writings and the central themes in those epics, stories. Take the prominent Sumerian Flood myth as an example. Angry gods threatening to punish and destroy bad people. Understand that Salvationism, the heart of most religion, is the human reaction to divine threat. The felt need to make some sacrifice, some payment, endure some punishment, in order to appease and please the angered deities. So also, religious ritual and belief and life-style as part of the mix.
“And yes, we recognize the other elements, the human longing for meaning, for transcendence, to embrace awe at mystery, and more. All part of the mix. And the search for more humane ideals and ethics, also mixed in this.
“But keep in mind the core themes from the beginning, and how those shaped religion to be a conditional social institution- setting forth the religious conditions to appease and please gods. Threatening gods.
“And there you have the core of religion, notably our Western tradition. The core bad idea- an angry deity threatening to punish and destroy bad people. The epitome of this threat- in apocalypse, the final great punishment, destruction and ending of all.
“The salvation hope related to this- true believers saved into some paradise- is a perverted form of human hope as it is based on the punishment and destruction of one’s enemies, the bad outsiders.
“And these themes, as Campbell notes well, descended down through history from culture to culture and religion to religion, and even into our modern age in our ideologies. The terms of expression change from tradition to tradition but the core themes remain the same. Primitive themes now given “secular” expression in movements like environmental alarmism.
“Reforming the periphery does not solve the problem thoroughly and for the long-term. Go to the monster that is the root of all evil. The God at the heart of these religious traditions and ideologies (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, or karma).”
The historical descent of the worst idea (discussion group post)
Try to follow this worst of bad ideas down through history- the foundational bad idea of a retaliating, punishing God. Think Joseph Campbell- his comment on watching the ancient mythical themes as they descend from culture to culture and from age to age, changing expression but the themes remain the same.
Just a rough sampling across history to note the line of descent…
Sumeria- angry Enlil threatening to destroy noisy people in a great flood.
Egypt- the Destruction of mankind and Return to chaos myths.
Repetition of the Sumerian myths in subsequent Akkadian and Babylonian myths.
Zoroaster- Ahura Mazda and the apocalyptic destruction of the world (purging of evil). This Zoroastrian apocalyptic shapes Western consciousness.
Greek myth of core Retribution.
Jewish embracing of the Persian/Babylonian mythology of a retaliatory, punitive God.
Christian embrace of that same retaliatory, punitive God in Paul’s gospel (see his Thessalonian and Roman letters).
Islamic embrace of that retaliatory, punitive God (via Jewish Christianity- i.e. the Ebionites).
19th Century Declinism embracing these Christian themes of lost paradise, decline toward disastrous ending, ultimate retaliation and punishment as in apocalyptic millennial mythology. Declinism becomes the dominant theme in modern politics and society.
Green religion now embraces these same mythical themes of punitive deity- i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, and karma. It’s the same old core themes of apocalyptic millennialism.
Point? Terms or expressions change, but core themes remain the same. And human consciousness continues to be deformed by the same old, same old monster as ever before.
Again to emphasize, primitive mythical themes still dominate public consciousness today. These ideas were “secularized” (given new secular expression) in Declinism, “the most influential theme in politics and society today” (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline).
So the threat of some ultimate punishment or destruction continues in public narratives. Listen to the main prophets today…. Hansen, Gore, Hawking, and many others that are predicting some coming judgment, punishment, and destruction. These “secular” versions are aside from the religious versions that continue to dominate most of humanity- i.e. the 85% of humanity that is affiliated with some major religious tradition.
The mother of all news stories
Why are news media not on this incredible story? Some two hundred million people died in the mass-death movements of the last century- i.e. Marxism (100 million), Nazism (50-60 million), and environmental alarmism (the tens of millions that died following Rachel Carson’s alarmism over DDT).
Here is the stunning evidence- the very same ideas/themes of “apocalyptic millennialism” were behind all of these movements, inciting public fear and the felt need to engage “coercive purification” of some threat (Landes’ term in Heaven on Earth). These ideas are behind ISIS violence today, just as they were behind much Christian violence over the past two millennia. The themes of the “apocalyptic millennial complex” are still the foundational themes of our great world religions. See research of Herman, Landes, Mendel, Redles, and Cook, noted in sections below.
This is where the “battle of ideas” must take place if we are to prevent further mass-death eruptions from these apocalyptic millennial ideas. Most critical, we must confront the driving core in all of this- the idea of a punitive Force/Spirit and the felt need to appease that retributive Core- whether God, Gaia, angry planet, the Universe, or karma.
These ideas, that have been behind so much violence and death, are the taproot causal element that must be confronted and solved.
A Qualifier to calm religious nerves
This site deals with bad ideas and their impact on human consciousness and life across the millennia. Confronting bad ideas is critical to solving recurring problems like religiously-incited violence. And dealing with bad ideas, of necessity, requires dealing with the most historically dominant and damaging of all bad ideas- “bad religious ideas”. But when you start to poke around religious ideas, you evoke a natural defensive reaction from religious people who rightly value their traditions and feel any challenge to be “an attack” on their tradition. However, that is not the intention when dealing with bad religious ideas.
Let me begin by affirming the great human ideals in religious traditions- ideals like forgiveness, mercy, kindness, justice, and other humane ideals. And let me also affirm the many good people that affiliate with religious traditions and the immense good that they contribute to life. This is not under challenge or subject to questioning. The good that people do via their religious traditions deserves strong affirmation.
The issue is that in religious traditions there is a prominent residue of core bad ideas (inhumane themes or teaching). Most religious people also recognize these bad ideas and feel obligated to find ways to deal with them, by outright dismissal, by downplaying, or by ignoring them.
There are numerous examples of bad ideas in religious holy books. Most religious people recognize, for example, that they must ignore divine commands to “stone disobedient children to death” (Old Testament). Most recognize that it is not humane for slaves to submit to masters, as Paul advocated in the New Testament. Or that women should submit to their husbands. And so on. Further, there are some 600 passages in the Christian Bible that advocate violence. Modern human consciousness leads most of us, including most religious people, to reject such primitive thought and teaching.
But more to my point- historical religion in general has been a conditional social institution. Religion has always been predominantly about the conditions necessary to appease and please some demanding deity. Conditions of required sacrifice, payment for wrong, punishment, exclusion of unbelievers, obligated beliefs and religious lifestyle, and so on. These conditional features of historical religion (they are the foundational themes) have always buried the true nature of God as an absolutely unconditional reality- as “inexpressible no conditions love”. Religion has never communicated to humanity this core nature of God as unconditional Love.
In fact, the foundational idea of historical religion, the core bad idea, has always been that God was a retributive reality, a retaliatory God that would punish and destroy bad people. This central bad idea became the cohering center for all other bad religious ideas and it incited the related idea that an angry deity demanded the supreme condition of a blood sacrifice (the sacrifice of a god-man) as payment for human failure. See Paul’s book of Romans for detail on this conditional Salvationism religion.
Again, the bad features still in the mix of religion are not just peripheral features that can be ignored as non-essential. They are the foundational elements of all religion. They are subhuman features that distort the other good features in the mix. The bad features that undermine and bury the good features. Christian love, for example, is often a very tribal form of love. It is ultimately limited to true believers, and excludes and rejects unbelievers. It is not authentic universal or unconditional love.
The bad features in the religious mix produce “cognitive dissonance”, the confusion that arises from holding contradicting opposites in some oxymoronic merger or combination. You could, for example, summarize the central contradiction of Christianity as “God is love but will send you to Hell if you do not believe Paul’s gospel”. Common sense today tells us that there is no authentic love that will torture others forever in fire.
It ought to concern all of us, including religious people, why so much violence has been committed across history in the name of God and religion. What is it in the religious God that incites so much bad behavior in people? (See Brinsmead post just below) This site probes the age-old problem that “people become just like the God that they believe in”. People have always modelled their lives on their greatest ideal and authority- God. This poses the question- Is your God authentically humane? Or are there residual features in your deity that are subhuman or inhuman and that could be employed to incite similar behavior in people? Our response ought to be to humanize our God thoroughly, to clean up our views of deity.
This site advocates the purging the core bad ideas from religion, not just reforming religion by tinkering around the periphery. Most critically, replace the punitive God at the heart of religion with an authentically unconditionally loving God. That is the real reform of religion that must take place if humanity is to “win the battle of ideas” with groups like ISIS. It is also the reform that must take place if we are to resolve the damaging outcomes from religious movements like environmental alarmism (Green religion). Environmental alarmists embrace the core religious themes of retributive, punishing deity in “the revenge of Gaia”, angry planet, and karma myths.
Qualifiers: The unconditional treatment of all, and justice.
The truth that Ultimate Reality, or deity, is unconditional Love, orients us toward the same feature of unconditional as a supremely humane ethical ideal. Unconditional takes us closest to the meaning of being authentically human.
But the practice of unconditional raises all sorts of questions and ethical issues.
What about justice? This is always the first reaction of most people to the ideal of no conditions love. And this leads to important qualifiers on the difference between Ultimate Reality (i.e. deity as ultimate Goodness, as no conditions Love) and the imperfection of life here and now.
Unconditional points to new explanations of why this world and life exist with all the imperfection that is so widespread throughout life.
Some have suggested that life on Earth provides a learning arena where we are given the opportunity to learn how to love unconditionally. The imperfection of others (offense, insult, abuse) gives us opportunity to learn how to “tower in stature” like Mandela, to become mature people “whose lives are oriented to universal love” (Joseph Campbell).
Unconditional shows us how to conquer our own imperfection- our animal inheritance with its drives to tribalism, to domination of others, and to exclude and destroy others. Unconditional enables us to counter these base drives and thereby become the heroes of our own stories. Unconditional persuades us to include and to treat all others as equals, and to forgive all offenses, and to engage human failure with restorative justice, not punitive or destroying justice.
Insert: Just an aside here- I would recommend Natalie Sudman’s “The Application of Impossible Things” for some discussion of the dualisms of life- the opposites of good and bad. Her discussion of this helps to understand that the experience of good emerges and develops out of the contrast with bad. The point here is never to excuse or diminish the bad in life, its harmful impacts, and the need to oppose and fight the bad in life. The point is to place this issue of good/bad dualism in a larger context of meaning. Campbell also offers the suggestion that the dualism between bad and good is a temporary feature of this material reality.
Consider the alternative: If life were perfect then there would be no need to learn or develop human qualities. The best of humanity comes out of the struggle with opposites, from our struggle with problems and monsters like our animal inheritance. And our animal inheritance is the real enemy that we face, the real monster in life. Unconditional is the weapon that slays the monster/enemy and frees us from the animal to live as the hero of our own story. Unconditional enables us to become maturely human, to tower in stature by orienting our lives to universal love.
Unconditional love and justice also pushes us to understand the distinction between unconditional respect for all people and the fact of natural and social consequences to bad behavior. Behave badly and you will face social/natural consequences- i.e. responsibility for your behavior and its consequences in our societies.
But unconditional respect for all human life will urge all of us (offenders and victims) to embrace the important developments in the arena of restorative justice, versus punitive approaches to justice.
Unconditional also strikes down the heart of the totalitarian impulse to dominate and control others (the “central state control” pathology). Unconditional urges us to respect the freedom of all as equals in the human family.
Most important, unconditional presses us to ask- what does it mean to be authentically human? And how do we maintain our humanity in the face of brutality and violence, in the face of the failure of others to be human? These are questions of ultimate meaning and purpose.
This site argues that as human persons we are always obligated to maintain unconditional respect for all people, while accepting the responsibility of love to restrain bad behavior and hold offenders responsible for their behavior. Love is responsible to restrain violence while treating offenders restoratively, not punitively. This challenges, for instance, the use of the death penalty. Even our human rights codes embrace a form of unconditional in the humane treatment of prisoners of war. Note the great examples of the post-WW2 Allies in Germany, McArthur in Japan, and General Grant in his treatment of General Lee after the Civil War (“Malice toward none. Charity toward all”, Lincoln).
The second most common reaction to unconditional is that it is “impractical for real life”. This response assumes, wrongly, that unconditional respect for all people means feeling mushy or fuzzy toward offenders and offenses. Unconditional respect for all does not entail pacifist turning of cheeks in the face of violence and other brutality. It does not mean sitting down before ISIS and singing Kumbayah. Not at all. We are right to feel intensely enraged at all human brutality and to act to restrain it.
I remind people that Mandela chose unconditional forgiveness and inclusion for South Africa and he faced strong opposition from his colleagues who wanted their vengeance. But he spared South Africa the violence that engulfed Rwanda and Serbia around the same time in the 90s. Now, was his unconditional approach really impractical for the real world? And yes, Mandela also established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to hold offenders responsible for their crimes.
Unconditional respect for all is more about eventual feelings of disappointment and sorrow over the failure of others to live as human, contrasted with the natural rage that seeks punishing vengeance, and that seeks to hurt back those who hurt us, and thereby descend into the same form of inhumanity that was initially expressed by offenders. Embracing unconditional respect for all is about maintaining our own humanity in the face of the failure of others to be human.
As the father of a brutally murdered daughter explained- he eventually realized that his daughter would not want him to darken the rest of his life, and ruin the rest of his family, with hate and bitterness. So he chose to forgive, not primarily for the sake of the offender, but to maintain his own humanity and to bring healing to the rest of his family.
Summary of main site themes (a continuing series of summaries of site topics)
The “apocalyptic millennial” complex of ideas has caused immense harm across history, endlessly influencing human thought, emotion, motivation, and behavior in destructive ways. These ideas have long been behind religious violence and continue to influence movements like ISIS (see, for instance, David Cook’s books on Islamic apocalyptic). Apocalyptic millennialism stirs two basic human emotions. It incites the fear of punishment (apocalyptic destruction and ending) and the perverted hope that true believers will be saved into some promised utopia (millennialism) after their enemies are eliminated.
It is a stunning discovery to recognize that these apocalyptic millennial ideas were behind the mass-death movements of the past century- notably Marxism and Nazism (see research of Richard Landes, Arthur Herman, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles). And apocalyptic millennialism continues to drive the most destructive movement on the planet today- environmental alarmism. For starters, note that the apocalyptic narrative of Rachel Carson in Silent Spring led to the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of people that were subsequently denied the protection of DDT.
The core idea behind the apocalyptic millennial complex is that of a threatening Force or Spirit- a God that will punish bad people. This became the foundational idea of the world religions, the central idea behind Salvationism- i.e. how to appease and please threatening deity (what sacrifice to offer, what required conditions to fulfill). Punitive Force or Spirit has been given expression in modern “secular” myths of the revenge of Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, or karma. And the demand for a sacrifice to save something continues (i.e. sacrifice human prosperity in industrial civilization in order to “save the world”).
Humanity has long had the great alternative discovery that there has never been any punishing, destroying God. There has only been Love behind all- absolutely no conditions Love. That is the core of reality and the foundational definition of deity. Unconditional is the height of authentically humane reality, of ultimate Goodness. Unconditional love is also the supreme human ethical ideal.
Unfortunately, the discovery of God as unconditional love has been buried in conditional religion. Religious traditions with their salvation conditions have completely buried the nature of deity as no conditions love.
Unconditional core reality calms primal human fears because it overturns entirely all ideas of some ultimate judgment, exclusion, or punishment/destruction. Unconditional is how we win the “battle of ideas” that shape human thought, emotion, and behavior.
Unconditional deity tells us there is no eye-for-eye justice at the core of reality. There is only a scandalous unconditional forgiveness, inclusion and generosity behind all things. There is only “sun and rain given to all, both good and bad”. We can then conclude that there is no coming judgment, exclusion, or punishing destruction of anyone. Unconditional overturns all bad ideas entirely and tells us that we are all ultimately safe in Love. This truth of unconditional reality severs the taproot of primal human fear, fear that has long incited our worst impulses and behavior toward one another.
Environmental alarmism– the latest version of apocalyptic millennialism
The most destructive movement on the planet today is environmental alarmism, most notably as expressed in the climate alarm since 1988. The alarmist movement is the latest historical embodiment of “apocalyptic millennialism”, the worst themes in a complex of bad ideas from across history.
This site offers a potent counter to apocalyptic millennialism- the insight that there is absolutely no conditions Love at the core of reality and life. This insight counters the primal human fear of some ultimate punishment and destruction that is incited by apocalyptic mythology. Unconditional overturns the entire complex of bad religious ideas.
Where did apocalyptic millennialism come from?
The earliest people believed there were spirits/gods behind all the elements of nature. And because nature was often destructive- i.e. storm/flood, heat/drought, earthquake/tsunami, accident and disease- so early people concluded the gods were angry and were punishing them for their sin or failure (i.e. failure to offer sacrifices, failure to obey and worship, or failure to keep taboos). That early logic then formed the heart of subsequent historical religious belief- that there were angry gods punishing bad people.
The epitome statement of divine threat was that of deity punishing and destroying humanity and life in an apocalypse.
Out of their fear of divine punishment that was exhibited through nature, early people believed that sacrifices would appease divine anger and pay for human wrong. Under threat of divine punishment/destruction people embraced Salvationist religion, which is the religion we have today.
These primitive themes did not fade with humanity’s entrance into the modern secular, scientific era. They continued in the major world religions. And most stunning, these same beliefs were given new expression in modern “secular” ideologies like 19th Century Declinism and Green religion, the dominant ideologies on the planet today. The terms used to express the primitive ideas are new but the core themes are the same old, same old as ever before (see Top Ten Bad Religious Ideas below).
Environmental alarmists continue to embrace primitive myths that the past was better but humans have ruined the original paradise. And they believe that changing and sometimes destructive nature (i.e. climate change and warming) is again expressing some form of divine anger at bad people. We see this logic in contemporary versions of punitive deity- i.e. the revenge of Gaia, angry planet, retributive Universe, or Karma. And so divine threat must be placated with some sacrifice. This is the same old anti-human mythology as ever before.
The insight that the core of reality is unconditional Love, this overturns entirely the core theme of all past mythology and religion- that there is a punitive God at the core of reality. A core unconditional Love does not threaten to punish or destroy and demands no sacrifice or payment for human imperfection and engagement of nature.
(Note: See climate change updates in sections below. Climate science has discovered the varied natural elements that show the strongest correlations to the climate change that we have seen over the past. Yes, CO2 is part of the influence on changing climate, but is overwhelmed by other natural elements such as the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, or the ocean/atmosphere coupling.)
Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth notes that we mature as human beings when we conquer our animal passions. Our inherited animal drives are the monster that we must conquer in order to become the heroes of our stories. Our real enemy in life is within us. Our animal drives (i.e. the drives to tribal dualism- us versus some enemy, alpha domination of others, and the exclusion and destruction of others/enemies) are the root of problems in life.
The problem is that the monster we face in life is a two-fold monster.
It developed like this- early people were aware of their inherited animal drives- again, the drives to tribal dualism (us insiders versus some enemy outsider). And the drive to dominate others- alpha domination. Also, the drive to exclude and destroy the competing other. These animal features were projected onto early versions of deity. Early people created tribal Gods that protected their chosen followers but excluded outsiders or unbelievers. Gods that dominated both followers and enemies (alpha gods).
Having projected these animal features onto their gods, early people then in turn used those divine ideals as a validating authority to justify similar treatment of others. Animal-like gods validated animal-like treatment of others. This animal/sacred relationship has continued down through religious history and even into the present world.
Related posts from discussion group (how bad ideas shape human behavior and society)
This first post is from Bob Brinsmead to an online discussion group…
Dear ____: Thanks for keeping me in the loop and for sending me the article about the “Kalegi Plan” which is a translation from the Italian journal called Identica (I could not find any mention of the author’s name). I notice, however that the author of the paper which you enclose for discussion is concerned about matters of “race,” “blood,” “genetic inheritance,” ethnicity, etc. These concerns were also behind the pre-World War 11 eugenics movement that had very wide support among a lot of thought leaders all over the world before it was eventually discredited by what happened in Germany.
I could summarize my response to the article about the “Kalegi Plan” in one short proposition: “blood (and by blood I mean genetic inheritance, race, ethnicity, DNA, etc.) is nothing; culture is everything”.
The recent scientific achievement of mapping the human genome has amply demonstrated that Homo Sapiens is one, and that racial differences like skin pigmentation and facial features constitute a very superficial difference. A scientific analysis, for instance, might possibly show that you have more genes in common with some Eskimo than your own Caucasian wife. I don’t always agree with St. Paul (as for instance, some of the things he said about women and marriage) but according to the science of the human genome, he was correct when he said that all human beings are made “of one blood to dwell on the face of the earth.”
As an example of what I say, we could hardly find two peoples more unalike and hostile to each other than Arabs and Jews. The Jews are over-represented in all fields of human knowledge – medicine, science, music, art, agriculture, etc – while the Arabs are under-represented. There are no significant racial, bloodline, or genetic differences that can account for this because Arabs and Jews are both Semitic races that have descended from Abraham. It is culture rather than blood that accounts for the great differences between them, illustrating my point that “blood is nothing, but culture is everything.”
Culture is not something that is set in stone. It can evolve and change. At the time of World War 11, both the German and the Japanese people were marked by a militaristic and supremacist culture that made them aggressive and even cruel to other peoples. Today, it would be hard to find a more peaceful, gentle and polite culture on the face of the earth than the culture exhibited in Japanese society. Germany shed its war-prone culture too and has been influenced by strong anti-war sentiments. No culture is so sacrosanct that it should never change. And that includes indigenous cultures too.
Sometimes cultures need to change to improve the social, ethical or economic status of their people. It should go without saying that it is not just “white culture” than might need to change. Culture, like the development of human consciousness, should be seen as a work in progress as we hold on to what is of great value in our culture, yet always be ready to improve.
Having said the foregoing, we now need to consider what it is that determines the way a culture develops for better or for worse. There was once two rival City-States among the Greek people – Athens and Sparta. The peoples of these two cities were racially identical, but they developed very different cultures. Athens developed (if only for a brief period of history) the world’s first truly democratic state and a peaceful democratic culture. Sparta, on the other hand, developed a culture of war with a brutal dictatorship that subjected its people to rigid control.
The vastly different cultures in Athens and Sparta had nothing to do with such things as blood, genetic inheritance, DNA or ethnicity. The two cultures were the result of very different ideas. We could also describe the difference as a different worldview or different beliefs. The way their respective educational systems taught their children from their earliest years were starkly different.
Let me give a few more illustrations of how ideas or beliefs determine the practices of a culture. The indigenous people of Irian Jaya (West New Guinea, now part of Indonesia) used to believe that they alone were the only people on earth who were truly human. So they felt that they had some divine right to eat people not of their kind. Belief determines culture. The Tasmanian Aborigines believed that all sea food was evil and must not be eaten under any circumstances. So they starved in times of famine despite being surrounded by ample sea food. Ideas determine culture. The culture of slavery still flourished in America even after it formulated the Declaration of Independence enshrining the human rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet Jefferson, one of the framers of that famous document, still kept slaves. The culture that supported slavery was sustained by the belief that certain races, being superior to others, were divinely appointed to rule, while inferior races of human beings should be subjected to servitude.
Beliefs determine actions and the shape of a culture for better or for worse.
I would agree that the flood of immigrants into Europe urgently needs to be contained. The threat is not from blood that is alien to the West, but from ideas and cultures that are incompatible with Western liberal democracy. Included in that hostility to Western culture, of course, is the worldview of Islamists with their beliefs in the Islamic conquest of the world. Yet for the most part, this threat to the West remains a threat from without.
The far greater threat to the free World of Western civilization is the enemy already within the gates, and as far as the EU is concerned, it is the enemy that has already penetrated the citadel of power in governmental and educational institutions. It is what Madeline Albright has called “the religion of the 21st. century.” This is the kind of environmentalism that preaches climate catastrophe and has a program to de-industrialize the free World. Under the guise of controlling the climate, it wants to control people far beyond what was ever envisaged under the kind of socialism that existed behind the Iron Curtain. The carbon “pollution” (a complete oxymoron if ever there was one) it wants to control is not possible without controlling every aspect of human existence – because human beings, like every other form of life on the planet, are made of carbon and exist by ingesting carbon and emitting carbon. What we are up against here is an ideology or a religion that sees human freedom expressed in a free economy, a free press and free speech, as an unmitigated threat to their Green Utopia.
Both the Greek and the Judeo-Christian worldviews formed Western Civilization and came to fruition in the great Enlightenment that gave birth to the triumph of reason, the age of science and liberal democracy. This is a worldview which places Mind over Matter and rational thought over the random and sometimes destructive rule of nature. One of the main reasons why we humans today live nearly three times longer than humans generally lived in the past is because through medical science, mankind has learned to control destructive bacteria which are produced by Nature. And every great advance in science and human technology has come about as mankind has exercised some measure of control over the natural order.
A brilliant medical practitioner told me once that although some of his professional time is spent trying to correct human stuff-ups like accidents and bad living habits, most of his time is spent dealing with mother nature’s stuff-ups. All of humanity’s greatest killers are not wars and human conflicts, but epidemics and plagues caused by pathogens and viruses produced by mother Nature. So the Spanish flu at the end of World War 1 killed many more people within 6 months than had been killed during the whole course of the war. Unthinking nature can be benign and beautiful; but it may also be malign and destructive.
What the Green religion of environmentalism challenges is man’s right to control the natural order – that very control that has unleashed an age of human prosperity and progress. The ideology of extreme environmentalism wants to reverse all this by placing humanity under the rule of the natural order. That is why Greenpeace will fight to the death GM technology in general and Golden Rice in particular, even though Golden Rice could save a million lives a year. This is the worldview of primitive nature worship. Anyone who seriously investigates the environmental debate will soon find that the core issue is about man’s place in the natural order. The issue is whether the free and thinking mind should control matter or whether unthinking matter should control mind.
After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the anti-free-world socialists did not give up the fight, but the Reds became Green and poured into the radical environmental movement. Socialism morphed into the Green religion of environmentalism. It is widely recognized as a religion because it has a worldview or a core belief system. It is not prepared to give up the fight until it dances on the grave of the Free World and its free economy, free thought and free speech.
The enemy outside the gate of Western Civilization wants submission (Islam means submission)to Sharia Law. The enemy within the gates of Western Civilization wants submission to the rule of Gaia (Mother Nature). Each carries its own blueprint of a totalitarian order.
So rather than be concerned about Europe being changed for the worse by a flood of foreign blood, we should be far more concerned that Europe in general and Germany in particular have led the world down the path of what has aptly been called “the religion of the 21st century.” Here are ideas, beliefs, a worldview that has the potential to not just change, but to destroy the culture of Europe.
Paul Tillich, a widely recognised authority on the relationship of religion and culture put it this way: “Religion as ultimate concern is the meaning-giving substance of culture, and culture is the totality of forms in which the basic concern of religion expresses itself. In abbreviation: religion is the substance of culture, culture is the form of religion.”
On later reflection, Tillich said that he might have expressed this better if he had used the word “worldview” instead of “religion,” to indicate that he was talking about core beliefs and ideas that give people a sense of meaning and purpose. It was Stephen Weinberg who famously remarked, “In order for good people to do evil, that takes religion.” I would prefer to restate that observation to read, “In order for good people to do bad things, that takes bad ideas.”
Let me conclude this discussion with another proposition to stand alongside my first which says: blood is nothing; culture is everything. With the exception of people who are mentally sick such as psychopaths, my second proposition may be stated like this: There are no bad people, only bad ideas.
Thanks for listening,
Another from Bob:
I recommend reading of James Michener, The Covenant, the story of South Africa – the Boers were devout Calvinists who founded the nation of apartheid. The story of the Great Trek from Europe to South Africa was a religious journey as much as the journey of the Pilgrim Father’s to America. The Boers saw themselves as re-living the Exodus story, settling a new Promised Land given to them by God, with the Africans seen in the role of the Canaanites. Most of the leaders of this expression of Calvinism were devout and sincere in what they were doing as John Calvin was when he put Servetus to death for heresy. To the Boers, the Africans were the sons of Ham, destined to live in subjection. As they viewed things, it was all in the Bible. Surely here is another example of what Stephen Weinberg was saying: “In order for good men to do evil, that takes religion.”
The most frightful religious evil by far, in my book, would be the doctrine of the eternal torment of the great mass of mankind. What this teaching must have done in warping the minds of countless millions and crushing out “compassion for the ignorant and those who are out of the way” is all beyond computation. Yet good men like John Wesley believed it – at least for most of his life, because in the end he learned toward Universalism.
The doctrine of eternal torment justified and motivated Catholics to hate Protestants because they were taught that the Protestants were lost and destined to Hell; and then vice versa. Wesley could give some of the most ghastly portrayals of the terrors and suffering of eternal Hell. It sent countless people insane or else drove them to atheism. This must rate, surely, as the most inhuman, unloving, fiendish, pornographic, hateful – beyond all adjectives, surely – thing ever taught in the name of the Christian religion. And such cruel beliefs led to cruel behaviour.
How can you pass such an evil, vile, wicked, contemptible teaching (adjectives fail me) off so lightly? For sure, this doctrine is a myth, it is like a child having a monster under the bed – and don’t try to tell me that those who have believed and advocated this teaching did not have a monster under their beds.
My point- ethics can’t be considered aright unless the motivation for ethics is taken into account. Love is corrupted if it is not given freely, and that means without the compulsion of fear and quite apart from any conditions.
For instance, if I had two sandwiches to eat and I confronted a man who had nothing to eat, I could quite freely give him one of my sandwiches. That is love done without compulsion, threat, fear, reward, or punishment of any kind, especially without that threat in Matthew 26 of eternal punishment if you don’t give to those who are hungry.
But if a man rode up on horseback and said to me, Give me one of your sandwiches otherwise I will blow your brains out, then my act of giving that sandwich is not an act of love because, while it might be the same act, the motivation is different. So threats of punishment and inducements of reward corrupt love at its source.
Carried to its end, this means that love that is pure, unconditional, and free is in danger of being corrupted by any doctrine of threat that falls short of unconditional love.
The doctrine of Hell is such a monstrous assault on the human mind that it must be condemned as something akin to the rape of the human mind. This would have to be ranked as the worst religious idea ever taught.
Further posts from discussion group (W. Krossa):
These posts from Bob above get as close as possible to expressing the horror of bad religious ideas and their impact on human consciousness, emotion, motivation, and behavior. Include the whole mess of bad ideas, and especially the driving center of all this- the pathology of a punishing, destroying God. This single worst idea is the foundation of all the rest, and it has found endless new expression in all sorts of religion and Salvationism, and now “secular” ideologies- Declinism, vengeful Gaia, angry planet, karma, retributive Universe.
I heard a discussion on local radio the other day as I was driving somewhere. They were going on about how “the Universe” (popular new term for deity) would get even with you and punish you for your faults or sins. It would punish you in some way, and they were blathering on about this silly nonsense as if enlightened with the latest spiritual insight. No. It is primitive and dark and enslaving misery. More of the same old, same old. Read the earliest human writing for the initial expressions of this pathology that has warped human consciousness from the beginning.
Once again- that punitive, destroying deity found an epitome expression in apocalyptic- the idea of an ultimate destruction, punishment, ending. Mendel said just what Bob is saying below- it is the most violent and destructive idea in history. That can be said of the entire related mess of bad religious ideas.
Again, read the good research of Herman, Landes, Mendel, Redles, Cook and others and be aware of the hundreds of millions of lives destroyed in our life times and barely beyond (last century), all directly related to these ideas. Like Lomborg said about the anti-GM food movement- that it was immoral, so I would echo that in regard to these ideas, that it is not just irresponsible to defend and propagate them, but immoral.
My biggest complaint against religious traditions is that nothing in them clearly communicates to people the real nature of God as no conditions Love. Oh, the one diamond in the mix sort of does this (Matthew 5:38-48), but it is almost buried in it’s larger context. Matthew adds bits that distort and mess it up- i.e. “your righteousness must exceed that of the…”, and, “be perfect as your Father…”. Only a few chapters later he thoroughly buries the Jesus diamond with the threat of people being cast into outer darkness- Hell.
Where in historical religion do we get some real clear expression of God as no conditions love? The full scandal and wonder of this?
You have to drag this out of places like Matthew 5. Scrubbing off the “dung, garbage, slime, muck” of the context (Tolstoy and Jefferson’s words).
The repetitiveness of our major problems in life, now so much suffering from environmental alarmism, the latest embodiment of apocalyptic millennialism (the most prominent ideology across the planet and part of “the most destructive complex of ideas in history”- Mendel and Foss), shows that we are not getting to the root of problem solving. We are not getting to the taproot, the central causal factor in history’s greatest source of misery and suffering. It seems such a waste of effort at times, and all other levels of problem-solving must be part of the mix also, but it seems such a waste to do all the rest and not go to the central causal factor in the mix, the ultimate taproot that has driven all the rest across history.
Isn’t it astounding that the central bad idea is still preserved and protected at the heart of humanity’s major systems of meaning- our world religions? And now embedded at the heart of our great ideologies- notably, in the most influential theme in politics and culture today- Declinism (Herman). That central bad idea of retaliatory, punitive God that has always been the cohering center of all the rest.
My orientation to fundamental problem solving leaves me a bit stunned at how people dance around and avoid this. Especially, when we have such a potent solution, now available for the past two millennia. Something seriously amiss here.
Remember, deity/God is the highest human ideal (embodiment of human ideals) and the ultimate human authority or validation. So, “you become just like the God that you believe in”.
Here is the point- An unconditional God who forgives all, includes all, and loves all unconditionally, this does not offer an ethical standard or validation to harm any other person. But a violent, punishing deity that threatens the worst punishment and destruction- apocalypse and Hell- well, such a God is powerful incitement and validation to harm others in all sorts of ways. Do you see the problem her that has been endlessly exhibited across history in religious and secular versions?
My further responses to Bob’s post above...
Campbell after a life-time of studying human myth, made some summarizing points about his life work. He said that he was guided to find the common themes in world cultures that point to the constant urge of people to “center their lives on deep principles”. People sought to understand and explain the experience of being alive, of conscious life. Hence, the great themes in human mythology. Science in recent centuries has only added to this millennia-long search of humanity to understand and explain this experience of existing here on Earth, of being alive.
Cutting to the point- yes, we are all moved by age-old principles or impulses, and associated ideas. We center our lives on these, trying to understand and explain our lives with ideas that then guide our lives.
I would suggest some very basic principles or impulses have had the most profound impact on humanity. One, of course, is fear. And what Bob is outlining above- Green religion- is, as most religion across history, driven by fundamental fear. Primal fear. In their case, fear of Mother Nature, of offending the gods of nature, fear of Gaia’s revenge, fear of the angry planet. Fear because of the myth that our “corrupt industrial society” has caused a Fall from paradise (i.e. the myth that our industrial society is the expression of our essential greed and corruption, of our sinfulness) and now our corrupt industrial society is causing a decline toward disaster and apocalypse. Like the ISIS killer, the Green fears a coming judgment and punishment. Greens fear an environmental apocalypse as in the common environmental alarmism narrative of today.
So to appease violated paradise (i.e. nature) we must sacrifice our society, we must sacrifice our success in industrial society (our success is viewed as the outcome of our greed and sinfulness). This is all age-old stuff- based on ancient principles, and the ancient feelings associated with such things. This has to do with primal fears and primitive ideas to explain such fears.
But as Campbell noted, we don’t argue people out of such beliefs. Not even science and endless reams of facts have been able to do that.
We have to go deeper, to the deepest roots or principles that Campbell and others spoke of. Archetypes in Jung’s words.
And that is why this sword of unconditional cuts to the deepest roots. To the deepest emotions and fears of humanity.
I have not yet received my copy of The Influential Mind, but from the reviews I have read, I suspect she touches on this. We do not argue people out of their beliefs, but must touch one another at another level, emotionally if you will (and yes, debate over facts, ideas, and beliefs is part of the mix of changing minds and culture).
So there is something- one of the deep principles- that resonates profoundly with the human spirit, and across history we see this in all human progress. We refer to it as the highest human ideal- i.e. love. Campbell noted how this led to profound change in people, when people oriented their lives to universal love. When they responded to this deep principle of love. How this led to maturity in young men. It has led to the maturity of humanity overall across the millennia.
This centering principle of love gets to an important emotional root, and to the deepest or most primal fears, including as Grosso said, those primal fears of ultimate Harm- those ancient fears of harmful forces behind nature, of angered gods or violated nature that need appeasement.
And as we have long argued- Historical Jesus nailed the most primal of all fears in his Matthew 5 statements. He overturned the most fundamental of all core principles- the principle of payback justice, punishing justice, or retributive justice which humanity has long believed was at the core of reality and life. The threat of ultimate Harm. This primal fear of divine harm has long been expressed in the human fear of nature, or natural forces and their destructive impacts. That was the origin of human fear of punishing gods- early people believed that natural disasters were the expression of angered deities punishing bad people.
One brief statement of Historical Jesus overturned that most fundamental fear and stirred the most basic human principle of love, stirring hope based on love.
Note that he appealed to nature to affirm his point. He stated- No, nature was not the expression of offended deities punishing bad people. Rather, nature (i.e. sun and rain) was evidence of an unconditional loving God blessing all, both good and bad. Nature gave evidence of divine goodness, of divine inclusion of all. Sun and rain were given to all both to good and bad, and that was evidence that there was no tribal dualism between good and bad, and no exclusion of the bad. Nature, contrary to primitive belief, was evidence of unlimited generosity and love. Wow. What a contrast to all past fear of nature and natural disaster as affirming angered, punitive, or destroying deity. What an overturning of the heart of all past religion and the felt need for sacrifice to appease. What an overturning of all Salvationism, which is just what Green religion replicates.
I have been hitting this drum for a while- using Campbell’s similar point on universal love, or unconditional, to appeal emotionally to people. We need to go past beliefs, and even thought, to the core fear and overturn that with unconditional. We need to appeal to this most fundamental human longing for ultimate safety and security, and orient consciousness to this unconditional love that is the most common feature of our humanity. We need to urge, as Campbell did, that we center our lives on this. Orient our lives to this universal love. Then let this idea of unconditional love work out through consciousness and overturn all the rest of the complex of bad ideas that make up culture.
It is a multi-faceted problem or issue and a lot of diverse response is needed to resolve it.
Its a small, almost forgotten sideline to the Jesus statement, but I would suggest it is critical to all historical myth and religion, including contemporary Green religion. That statement of Jesus that nature was evidence of divine Goodness, and not threat. I refer to his comment on “sun and rain given to all, both good and bad”. Nature as evidence of divine Generosity or universal love, of all-inclusive love. Was he countering the long history of belief that the darker elements of nature were evidence of angry gods punishing bad people? That is the origin of religion as Salvationism- that some sacrifice must be offered to appease the angry gods expressing anger and punishment through storm, disease, accident, and all forms of natural disaster.
Was Jesus intentionally countering that ancient core belief of nature as expressing divine anger and punishment? With his comments on nature expressing inclusive love via sun and rain on all, both good and bad?
My point- I have long argued that the original human error was the wrong logic that natural disaster was evidence of punitive gods, punishing bad people. You see that in the Sumerian Flood myth at the very beginning of human writing. Destructive nature as evidence of punishing deity. This then became the core of religion and Salvationism. How to appease divine anger and find salvation.
Think of this in terms of today’s environmental alarmism and the common fear of nature (i.e. fear of global warming as disaster and apocalypse). This is ancient, primal stuff.
Again, the Jesus statement goes to the very heart of this, to the core principles that Campbell was pointing to. And Campbell got the answer right- centering human life, orienting ourselves to universal love. He did not explain it as clearly as, ahem, we do. But he got the basic point clear.
Post from Robert Brinsmead
The man who does evil by robbing a bank deceives nobody, is not likely to impress too many people to become a follower. He stands as a clear beacon light to others not to go down that evil path. Very few people are in danger of becoming bank robbers. But there are deceivers and killers who do evil things under the cloak of religion or even dedication to God. Jesus said that time would come when those who killed God’s people would think that they were doing God’s service. Not pretending to do God’s service, but themselves believing in doing this evil work they were doing a holy work. Paul thought he was doing a holy work when he persecuted the church. Calvin thought he was doing a holy work when he had Servetus executed. The men of religion who ran the Inquisitions did what they did because they thought they were doing God’s service. Those who went on the Crusades to drive the Muslims out of the Holy Lands, including the Children’s Crusade, were driven by bad ideas.
Crucifying Jesus was surely a bad idea. But Jesus prayed for those who were killing him, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Why did Jesus say to the woman caught in the act of adultery, “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The first part of his saying made the second part a possibility.
My response to Bob’s above post: How good people can commit evil in the name of something good (i.e. God)
Think also of Rachel Carson, motivated by the best of concerns- for human and environmental health. Even Hitler- to save Germany from the threat of looming annihilation. Or all those highly educated and highly motivated people trying to “save the world” today from imminent disaster and ending. Hansen, Gore, Hawking, and so many more. Good people with the best of intentions to do good for humanity and the world. And the hundreds of millions die as a result.
They all believe they are doing God’s work. Hitler certainly believed this. Look at his comments in Redles work on how God/Providence had chosen him for the work he did. His was a high and holy calling.
Now, if God had been understood more generally as Jesus defined God, then that supreme ideal and authority could not have been used for validation to harm others. In fact, the Jesus theology would have undermined any such validation. The one treating another subhumanly would have felt all alone and evil in his deed. Like the bank robber.
But those widely believed perceptions of God as promoted by our great religions (God as punitive reality), those offer validation for evil in the name of God.
And this is why commentators are right that “we must win the battle of ideas” to properly solve religious violence. Yes, and we do that most potently by going to the ultimate root of the problem- bad theology at the core of the entire mess of bad ideas. The ultimate solution. Replace all that bad theology with “the stunning new theology of Historical Jesus”.