In the face of continuing surges of alarmism over climate change, some basic facts are useful…
After decades of apocalyptic-scale fear-mongering over the role of CO2 in climate change, growing evidence shows that other natural factors are significantly more responsible for the mild climate change that we have seen since the 1970s (0.3 degree C of warming from 1975-95, flat climate trend since). No one denies that CO2 plays a role in warming (not in cooling) but even its minor role is consistently overwhelmed by natural elements such as the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, and the ocean/atmosphere interaction. See for example The Chilling Stars by Henrik Svensmark.
Takeaway point? You cannot demonize CO2 as a pollutant and poison and then argue for the decarbonisation of entire societies. The harm to the most vulnerable people from anti-carbon hysteria has already been horrific in terms of rising food prices, as well as increased deforestation (i.e. the bio-fuels fiasco) and in growing fuel poverty and additional deaths from related cold. The Lancet noted that an international study showed that cold weather annually killed 20 times as many people as hot weather.
Where are the alarmist media on these important facts?
Notes: Climate change is occurring today just as it has across the entire history of this planet. Climate is a complex dynamic system, not a static system. But there is no looming “climate crisis”. In fact, the changes in climate during this inter-glacial- i.e. the Holocene- have been mild compared to the more severe changes in climate that occurred over the last 30,000 years of the previous glacial Maximum, known as The Wisconsin in North America (50,000 to 20,000 years ago). See the graph of the last 50,000 years of climate history in Ian Plimer’s ‘Heaven And Earth’.
Further, life overall is not declining toward some apocalyptic-scale disaster or ending. In fact, there is notable improvement on the major features and trends of life on earth- i.e. forests, fisheries, soils, land species, and general human well-being. The “true state of the world” promotes hope for an ever better future. Certainly, there are problems to be solved all through life, but the human historical record shows that we are becoming ever more successful in solving the problems and making the world a better place for humanity and for nature. Julian Simon was right that the evidence shows that “people have been more creators than destroyers”.
“In today’s environmental alarmism, there is promotion of endless fear over any “change” in nature. Climate physicist/meteorologist Richard Lindzen said regarding change in climate, “we are scanning for small changes… we are talking about tenths of a degree… and viewing them as ominous signs of something…” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJwayalLpYY).
Site project: “There will never be an apocalypse because there is no punitive, destroying Force or Spirit behind life- i.e. no God of apocalyptic. At the core of reality there is only an “inexpressible no conditions Love”. This “stunning new theology” potently counters humanity’s greatest monster and enemy- the threatening deity of religious traditions, the straw God that has never existed except in human imagination and mythology. The conditional (demands sacrifice, payment) and threatening deity of religion has long buried the “diamond” discovery that Historical Jesus pointed to (see statements of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy) that God was a non-retaliatory, universalist and non-discriminating reality that gives the good gifts of life (sun and rain) to all alike, to both good and bad people.
“The threat theology of much religion (i.e. apocalypse, hell) has long been the most harmful pathology in human consciousness, generating endless and unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and depression. It continues embedded in wider human consciousness, and is given new expression today in “secular” versions- i.e. angry Planet/Mother Earth, karma, retributive Universe, and vengeful Gaia myths, the deities of Declinism and environmental alarmism.”
Main site topics:
16 themes for a new meta-narrative centered on the stunning new theology of unconditional deity.
Environmental alarmism as contemporary apocalyptic mythology (the offspring of Declinism). The endlessly destructive pathology of alarmism.
Campbell’s outline of the main features of human story and the meaning of life (i.e. universal love as mature humanity- see sections below).
The profound contradiction between Historical Jesus and Paul’s Christ myth. Jesus rejected Christ/messiah mythology. (also further below).
The belief/behavior relationship, or theology/ethics relationship, is as old as conscious humanity. People, driven/inspired by their primary impulse for meaning, have always tried to model their lives and societies according to some greater ideal or authority, mainly deity. Plato did this with his argument that the ideal life and society should be shaped according to the invisible Forms or perfect Ideals. The Hebrews followed this pattern in the Old Testament, shaping all aspects of their lives and society according to what they believed was the law, word, and will of their God. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted this practice among the Balinese of Indonesia who built their villages and homes according to what they believed was the divine model.
The critical role of belief in shaping human behavior and society (inspiring, validating human behavior) makes it vitally important that our guiding ideals/authorities are fully humane.
The 15 ideas below have been the most dominant and influential ideas in history. They have shaped human consciousness across history via mythical and religious traditions. They continue to shape the worldviews of most moderns in “secular” or ideological versions. The consequences from these subhuman ideas have been, and still are, significantly damaging, both personally and across wider societies. Evidence? On the personal level see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God. See also the Millennial Studies historians noted in sections below- i.e. Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles. They have detailed how the ‘apocalyptic millennial’ complex of ideas contributed to the mass-death movements of the past century (i.e. Marxism, Nazism, environmental alarmism). Mendel (Vision and Violence) was right to conclude that “apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history”. Also, Bob Brinsmead has often reminded us that “Men never do greater evil than when they do it in the name of God”.
The project to embrace better alternatives is about the full transformation and liberation of consciousness, and more humane outcomes in human life. The old ideas are no longer credible for defining or explaining reality and life.
Old story themes, new story alternatives (15 fundamental ideas to re-evaluate)
1. Old story theme (threat theology): The myth of deity as a judging, punishing, and destroying reality that metes out final justice- i.e. rewarding the good, punishing the bad. This myth continues at the foundation of the world religions and is now also given expression in secular versions such as vengeful Gaia, angry planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and karma. This myth of God as a retaliating, punishing reality has long under-girded human justice as similarly retaliatory and punitive. From the beginning, belief in a punitive deity has incited the demand for punitive response to human imperfection and failure.
This primitive view of deity as punitive and the Ultimate Destroyer (i.e. apocalypse, hell) is the single most important “bad idea” to engage and correct. All other bad religious ideas are anchored to this foundational pathology in human thought.
New story alternative: The “stunning new theology” that God is an inexpressible “no conditions love”, a non-retaliatory Reality. The adjective “unconditional” points to our highest understanding of love and is therefore most critical for defining deity as transcendent “Goodness”. Takeaway? There is no ultimate judgment, no ultimate exclusion of anyone, no demand for payment or sacrifice, no need for redemption or salvation, and no ultimate punishment or destruction of anyone (no such thing as “hell”).
This new theology of God as unconditional Love overturns the most psychically damaging myth that has burdened and enslaved humanity from the beginning- the myth of retributive, punitive deity. While there are natural and social consequences to our choices and behaviors, there is no punitive Force or Spirit behind natural world events and suffering (i.e. natural disasters, disease, or the cruelty of others). This myth of punitive deity behind such things (e.g. angry God, vengeful Gaia, angry Planet, retributive Universe, or karma) has long burdened people with unnecessary guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety. Like the Japanese woman who said after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”
Paul used this primitive threat theology on the Corinthians, claiming that their sicknesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins.
(Note the qualifiers below on holding people accountable for their behavior, the need to restrain bad behavior, responsible human maturing and growth, and restorative justice approaches. All necessary for healthy human development, in this world.)
2. Old story theme (notable element- perfection/imperfection, and the belief that the past was better): The myth of a “perfect beginning” and that God is obsessed with perfection in the world and life, that God creates perfection (Eden), is enraged at the subsequent loss of perfection, and now wants to punish imperfection. (This idea of deity obsessed with perfection originated with the misunderstanding that any good and all-powerful God would only create perfection, and if things are not perfect then blame bad humanity for mucking things up that were once perfect. It can’t be God’s fault.)
We- humanity- have always had a terrible time understanding and embracing imperfection in life and in ourselves. Imperfection, and fear of divine rage at imperfection, has long deformed human consciousness with fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, and depression. Yes, we ought to engage the struggle to improve ourselves and others, and to improve life in general, in all ways. But we ought to do so without the added psychic burden of fear of angry deity or divine threat.
New story alternative: The world began in “chaotic imperfection” but has gradually evolved toward something more complex and organized. Life on this planet is never perfect, but it gradually improves. And over history, humanity has created something better out of the original imperfect, wilderness world.
In this new story theme, God has no problem with imperfection but includes it in the original creation. Imperfection (in a new story) serves the important purpose of providing an arena where humanity struggles with a messy wilderness situation in order to learn to create something better. And, most critical, we learn how to love in the process of engaging that struggle with imperfection in others (i.e. we learn more humane values in our “righteous struggle against evil”, Joseph Campbell).
Perfection, aside from being boring, does not bring forth the best of the human spirit. To the contrary, struggle with imperfection in life, and in others, brings forth the best in humanity. See Julian Simon’s comment that our struggle with problems in the world leads to creative solutions that benefit others (i.e. Ultimate Resource). See also the comment below on Joseph Campbell’s outline of human story and our struggle with a monster. That struggle is where we gain insights and learn lessons that can help others (e.g. Personal suffering can lead to empathy with others that similarly suffer).
3. Old story theme (related to previous): The myth that humanity began as a more perfect species but then became corrupted/sinful (i.e. the “fall of man” myth). The idea of original human perfection, and human degeneration toward something worse today, is still common in the “noble savage” mythology that dominates throughout academia (the myth that original hunter/gatherer people were more pure and noble but humanity has degenerated in civilization). See, for instance, Steven LeBlanc’s ‘Constant Battles’. Contemporary versions of “fallen humanity” mythology include Green religion’s belief that humanity is a “virus” or “cancer” on the Earth. These are pathologically anti-human views.
New story alternative: Humanity has emerged from the brutality of animal reality (original imperfection) but has gradually become more humane, less violent, and more civilized. See James Payne’s History of Force, and Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature.
A new alternative to “fallen humanity” myths will recognize that humanity, with human spirit and human consciousness, is intimately and intensely united with the greater Consciousness at the core of reality that is Love. This “union with deity” is more than relationship. It is more about essential nature. This means that the same Love that is God, is also the essential nature of our human spirit or human self. We are most essentially “beings of Love”. We are fundamentally good. We are not evil (i.e. core “sinful nature”), as we have long been told by mythology and religious traditions.
The real issue is not how far humanity has fallen (the mythical perspective) but the real wonder is how far we have risen (the evidence-based perspective) from our brutal animal and primitive human past. Our improvement over history is evidence of the essential goodness of humanity naturally emerging over time.
(Note: How to explain bad human behavior? That inherited animal brain with its base impulses to tribalism and exclusion of differing others, to domination of others, and to retaliatory and destructive response to others/”enemies”.)
4. Old story theme, related to previous (key element- life as an overall declining trajectory versus life as an overall rising or improving trajectory): The myth that the world began as an original paradise and that “golden age” has been lost and the trajectory of life is now “declining”, or degenerating, toward something worse (“Each present moment is a degeneration from previous moments”, Mircea Eliade).
New story alternative: Life does not decline overall but the long-term trajectory of life shows that it actually “improves/rises” toward something ever better. Humanity, as essentially good and creative, is now responsible for the ongoing improvement of life and the world. (Note Julian Simon’s conclusion that we- humanity- are “more creators than destroyers”.)
Evidence of life improving over past millennia and recent centuries: Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed, James Payne’s History of Force, Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, and others.
On the longer “improving” trend of the overall cosmos and the long-term emergence of life (i.e. more complexity, organization, suitability for carbon-based life to mediate human consciousness), see Brian Green’s ‘The Universe Story’ and Harold Morowitz’s ‘The Emergence of Everything’. Further, even Darwin affirmed that evolution trended toward something more “perfect”.
5. Old story theme: The myth that humanity has been rejected by the Creator, that we are separated from our Source and we need to be reconciled, we need to restore the broken relationship with God.
New story alternative: No one has ever been separated from the unconditional Love at the core of reality. That Love has incarnated in all humanity in the human spirit and consciousness. That love is the essence of the human self or person though it’s expression is often hindered and buried by the free choice of people to live inhumanely. But be assured that no one has ever been separated from the indwelling love that is God. God as love is always closer than our breath or atoms. God as love is inseparable from our common human spirit and consciousness.
(Note: God incarnated in all humanity demands a radical rethink of theology or God theory. There has never been any such thing as a Sky God up in some heaven. God has always been intensely present in all humanity and this is evident in the best of humanity, in all human goodness. God is present in all human raging against evil and suffering. God is present in all human effort to make life better. There has never been any such thing as an absent or silent God. Just listen to and watch people all around you.)
6. Old story theme: The myth of a cosmic dualism, a Good spirit in opposition to a bad spirit (i.e. a demonic entity, Satan). Deity is thereby portrayed as an essentially tribal reality- i.e. a God that favors believers and hates/punishes unbelievers. This idea of a fundamental cosmic dualism is played out through varied human dualisms- i.e. the tribal mindset of “us versus our enemies”, true believers versus unbelievers, or other racial, national, religious, or ideological divisions. Dualism thinking deforms human identity and affirms the inherited animal impulse that orients people to small-band thinking and behavior (tribalism), toward opposing and fighting others as enemies. (Related themes: The tribal exclusion of an enemy ‘other’, domination of differing others.)
New story alternative: We all come from the same Oneness and we are all free equals in the one human family. We are not essentially defined by the tribal categories and divisions that we create to set ourselves apart from one another. We are most essentially defined by our common human spirit and human consciousness. And the essential nature of our human spirit is universal or unconditional love. That love is the expression of our authentic humanity.
(Added note: Most modern story-telling (e.g. movies) continues to re-enforce the primitive themes of dualism and tribalism. Note the all-too-common movie theme of good guy versus bad guy, and ‘justice’ as good guy beating and destroying bad guy in some way. Nothing in this about the oneness of the human family. Instead, only further affirmation of infantile tribalism and retaliation between people. The only dualism that we ought to be concerned about is that of “the battle-line between good and evil that runs through the heart of every person”, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.)
Others have suggested that dualism, and the apparent separation related to dualism, is only a feature of this material realm.
7. Old story theme (key element- deity as violent destroyer, versus non-destructive God): The myth of looming apocalypse as the final judgment, punishment, and destruction of all things. The myth of an apocalyptic ending embraces the core theme of God as the destroyer of all. This ideal has incited endless destructive violence among the followers of such an ideal. That is why Arthur Mendel called apocalyptic “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (Vision and Violence).
To embrace and advocate apocalyptic is to embrace and advocate the epitome expression of nihilism.
Apocalyptic still dominates much of modern story-telling, whether movies, literature (note the genre of “post-apocalyptic”), and environmental alarmism or Green religion.
New story alternative: There are problems all through this imperfect world but there is no looming threat of final destruction and ending. The apocalyptic alarmist exaggerates problems to “end of days” scenarios, distorting the true state of things, and thereby promotes fear and even destructive violence in populations.
In this new story theme there is no core destroying Force or Spirit behind the violent elements of this world. Ultimately, there is only creating and sustaining Love. And again, the imperfection of this world serves the purpose of providing a learning arena for humanity to struggle with, in order to create something ever better.
Further, the destructive element in the cosmos and world exists as part of the ongoing creative process (i.e. death as entirely natural and serving the purpose of making room for new life), just as Second Law dissipation of energy is “virtuous waste” that serves the creation of more order (Huber and Mills in Bottomless Well). But again, that element of destruction is not evidence of some punitive deity threatening a final punishment and ending of all things. (see notes on “natural consequences” below)
8. Old story theme (key element- instantaneous transformation of life versus “gradualism” in the trajectory of history and life): The “always imminent” element in apocalyptic (i.e. the “end is nigh”) demands urgent action to “save” something, to save the world or life. The exaggerated threat of apocalyptic ending pushes people to take immediate violent action to purge the threatening thing and to coercively and instantaneously install their version of paradise (“coercive purification”, Richard Landes).
We saw the violence of instantaneous transformation in the 100 million deaths that stemmed from Marxist urgency to coercively purge the world of destructive capitalism and immediately install its vision of utopia. We also saw it in the 50-60 million deaths from Nazi alarmism and consequent action to violently purge Germany of the imagined threat of “destructive Jewish Bolshevism”, and then coercively initiate the millennial paradise of the Third Reich. And we are seeing “coercive purification” again today in the environmental alarmist push to save the world from “destructive humanity in industrial civilization” and restore the lost paradise of a wilderness world (Mendel in Vision and Violence, and Herman in The Idea of Decline).
New story alternative: There is no “end of days” just over the horizon. Rather, life is improving gradually as creative humanity solves problems. The escapist desire for an instantly-installed utopia misses the point of the human story as the struggle with imperfection throughout the world, a struggle that is gradually succeeding. Such struggle is essential to human development, learning, and growth. Mendel is good on this issue of “gradualism” versus the violence of “instantaneous transformation” movements. Humanity is learning to patiently improve life more democratically without coercively overwhelming the freedom of differing others.
The search for instantaneous salvation stems from the escapist mindset of apocalyptic types who cannot endure the struggle to gradually improve an imperfect world. They irresponsibly seek to escape to some instantly-installed utopia.
9. Old story theme: The demand for a salvation plan- i.e. a required sacrifice or payment (atonement, punishment) to appease some great threat or threatening reality, whether a religious God or vengeful Gaia, angry planet, upset Mother Earth, punitive Universe, or karma.
New story alternative: The fundamental nature of God as unconditional love means “absolutely no conditions. None.” That means there is no demand for ultimate payment, sacrifice, or conditions to fulfil. The only “salvation” that we need to engage is the ongoing and gradual struggle to make life better in this world.
Insert: The reality of God as “no conditions Love” requires that we make all the logical conclusions that arise from such a stunning new theology. Again, a critically important one is that such a divine reality- an authentically unconditional God- will not demand any conditions of payment or sacrifice. Jesus himself had argued this in his Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements where he taught that an authentic universal love will not just love those who love in return (i.e. family, friends, or fellow tribe members). But unconditional love will also love those who do not love in return. Unconditional love will also give to all and not demand any return payment. Unconditional love does good to everyone without expecting a similar response, without expecting any payback (i.e. sacrifice). This is how Jesus further defined a God that “loved enemies”.
Jesus rejected the principle of debt payment as a fundamental requirement of authentic love (“give/love expecting nothing in return”). Debt payment, or more generally the righting of wrongs, had been the basis of atonement thinking from the beginning. This was based on the belief that God, as holy, must punish all wrongs properly and fully, and must rectify all wrongs by demanding payment of some sort. God cannot just forgive, accept, and love without first making all wrongs right. This was necessary to restore divine honor. God could not just freely forgive, accept, and love as we are expected to do (e.g. authentic love “keeps no record of wrongs” for some future making of things right).
This makes the atonement love of the religious God, based on prerequisite payment/punishment, something lesser than the best of human love. We are expected to just forgive, accept, and love without demanding prerequisite conditions (again- give without expecting payment in return, love without expecting love in return). Parents, spouses, and friends have all learned that this no conditions love is the best and highest form of love for daily relationships.
Jesus further illustrated that divine love does not require the payment of debt, or more generally the righting of wrongs, before forgiving, accepting, and loving. And his God embraced this ‘no payment’ love. No conditions love meant “no conditions” at all. Note this element in his Prodigal story where the father does not demand a sacrifice, restitution, or repayment before forgiving, accepting and loving the wayward son.
I reject, as Jesus appears to have done, the theology that God as ultimate Goodness and Love is held to a lesser standard of love that we are held to. That God can demand conditions before forgiving, accepting, and loving, while we are told that authentic love must keep no record of wrongs. It just forgives, accepts, and loves without condition.
Unfortunately, Paul rejected this new theology of Jesus and retreated back to traditional threat theology- i.e. a punitive God that demanded full payment for sin before forgiving anyone. We inherited Paul’s version of Christianity.
And of course, in this life people should learn to be responsible for their behavior, to make amends for wrongs done, and to pay their debts. That is all part of normal human development and growth. This is never in question, but it is not the basis of theology and authentic love. Our love, just like God’s love, is not to be conditional on anything done or not done by others.
(Note: The theology of Jesus is not a prescriptive model for economic/commercial relationships in this world. Jesus was speaking to ultimate realities and the atonement mythology of his era.)
10. Old story theme: The belief that payback is true justice, based on the myth that God is a retributive reality that demands the reward of the good and the punishment of the bad. That retributive God demands full punishment of sin. This primitive theology under-girds much justice today.
New story alternative: Unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs, it does not obsess over imperfection, and it forgives all freely and without limit (“seventy times seven”). But yes, there are natural and social consequences to bad behavior in this world. All of us are to be accountable and responsible for our choices and actions. This is essential to human development in this life. But all justice in response to human failure must be restorative.
As Leo Tolstoy wrote about the criminal justice system, “The whole trouble is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Human beings cannot be handled without love. It cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life.”
11. Old story theme: the myth of future or “after-life” judgment, exclusion, punishment, and destruction (i.e. Hell). The fear of after-life harm is the “primal human fear” (Michael Grosso).
New story alternative: Again, authentic love is unconditional and does not demand the fulfillment of conditions. It does not threaten ultimate exclusion or punishment. It embraces all with the same scandalous mercy and unlimited generosity. It gives sun and rain to all, to both good and bad. All- both good and evil- are ultimately safe and included in the love of God. Such love scandalizes the mind that is oriented to ultimate (or after-life) conditional payback justice or “deserved” punishment.
Note the stories that Jesus told of good, moral people who were offended by the unconditional generosity and love that was shown by, for example, the vineyard owner and the father of the prodigal son. The all-day vineyard workers and the older brother of the prodigal were upset because such mercy and generosity was not fair, moral, or just in their eyes. Other “righteous” people were also offended and scandalized by Jesus when he invited local outcasts and scoundrels to meals with them.
Insert: Make the important distinction here between Ultimate Reality and life in this imperfect world. Recognize God as absolutely no conditions Love but do not deny the reality of natural and social consequences in this world; the need for responsibility for behavior as critical to human development. Love here and now is responsible to restrain violence and to protect the innocent, even with force. But our embrace of the ideal of ultimate unconditional love will orient our treatment of human failure and offense away from punitive approaches and toward restorative approaches. An unconditional attitude will recognize that, despite the offense and scandal to conventional payback justice, all of us return safely to the same no conditions Love that birthed us and is our final home. We are all one family, despite our diverse failures to live as fully human in this world.
Add here that self-judgment and self-punishment are the most devastating experiences that human persons can embrace and endure. Most people do not need further threat of judgment and punishment from some greater reality.
12. Old story theme: The myth of a hero messiah that will use superior force (“coercive purification”) to overthrow enemies, to purge the world of evil, and to bring in a promised utopia. This myth argues for the abandonment of historical processes of gradual improvement (via creative human freedom and endeavor) and opts instead for overwhelming revolutionary violence that seeks to instantly purge some corrupt entity that is viewed as the threat, and then re-install the lost paradise.
Again, the great ideals that we embrace will shape our thinking, our feeling, and our responses/behavior. We become just like the God that we believe in. Bad myths like coercive, destroying deity have repeatedly incited people to violent, destructive action, to act as the agents of their violent, destructive God to destroy some enemy and save something that is believed to be under dire and imminent threat.
New story alternative (see also “16th bad idea” below): A God of authentic love does not intervene with overwhelming force that overrides human freedom and choice. Hence, the apparent randomness and related cruelty in a world where there is authentic freedom. Further, a non-intervening deity helps to explain the gradualism of improving life. It is entirely up to humanity to make the world a better place, in all ways.
13. Old story theme: The fallacy of Biblicism, the myth that religious holy books are more special and authoritative than ordinary human literature, and that people are obligated to live according to the holy book as the will, law, or word of God. This myth argues that people must submit to divine conditions, to some heavenly model as outlined by their holy book.
New story alternative: We evaluate all human thought and writing according to basic criteria of right and wrong, good and bad, or humane and inhumane, as agreed upon in common human rights codes or constitutions. Holy books are not exempted from this process of discernment between good and bad.
Further, our highest authority is our own personal consciousness of right and wrong as tuned by common understanding of such things in widely adopted human rights codes and constitutions that are embraced by the entire human family.
14. Old story theme: The myth of God as King, Ruler, Lord, or Judge. The idea that God relates to humanity in domination/submission forms of relating.
New story alternative: There is no domination/subservience relationship of humanity to God. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. True greatness is to serve the other and not to dominate or control others. The greatness of God is exhibited in serving, not existing above to rule or dominate. God is not “above” humanity but has incarnated in all people as equals. God relates horizontally to humanity.
We see the presence of this street-level God in all daily, mundane human goodness and love expressed toward others, especially toward enemies, which is the highest expression of authentic love or goodness. When we love unconditionally, we tower in stature as maturely human. We become the hero of our story and conquer our real monster and enemy, the animal inheritance that is within each of us. See story outline below.
15. Old story theme: The idea that humanity is obligated to know, serve, and have some relationship with an invisible reality (deity), to give primary loyalty to something above people (i.e. a law, will, or word of God). This has often led to neglect and abuse of real people.
New story alternative: Our primary loyalty is to love and serve real people around us. Their needs, here and now, take priority in life.
And a new addition…
The 16th bad idea (related to the earlier theme, in the list above, of a hero-messiah that will intervene to save)
One of humanity’s greatest frustrations has been the apparent “the silence of God” across history. The Holocaust is the iconic example of this traumatizing silence of God.
Where was God when natural disasters took hundreds of thousands of lives? Where was God when human cruelty went unhindered in mass-death movements? Such apparent absence should put to rest the common religious myth of a miraculously intervening God. The evidence has long been final that there never was any such thing as a supernaturally intervening deity that would, for example, violate natural law to rescue people.
What then should we conclude? God is good but powerless to help humanity? Or the atheists are right that there is no God? No. I would offer that the evidence simply urges us to rethink the great question of how God relates to this world. Theologies like Panentheism are wrestling with this issue.
And some versions of the Deist’s alternative are not much better than atheism. God is not the absent Creator who starts the whole thing running and then disappears off to some far away heaven to wait and watch as natural law works throughout life.
A new theory or theology is emerging that argues that God has incarnated in all humanity. God did not incarnate only in special ‘holy’ persons like the Christian Jesus. Rather, God has incarnated in all humanity as the common human spirit or human consciousness. That human spirit has gradually emerged and developed as more humane across history. This is evident in the trends to decreasing violence, more democratic societies, and generally improved human well-being (the improvement of all areas of life).
And as Bob Brinsmead notes, the improvement in life has been a long, slow process of gradually developing understanding and practise. It has, for instance, taken millennia for us to understand disease and come up with medical cures. See the gradualism arguments in Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence.
We see this common human spirit, or God spirit, emerging and developing in all human goodness, whether expressed in commerce, art, sports, medicine, agriculture, and all areas where people contribute to making life better and just having fun while doing so.
As some have stated, we are the voice, hands, and feet of God in this world.
So God has never been silent or absent. To the contrary, God has always been evident in all human crying and raging against suffering and evil. God has always been present in all human action to prevent evil and to solve problems and to improve life. God has always been in all humanity and all useful human endeavor. That means it has always been our responsibility to prevent wrong and to promote good/right in our world. Yes, it is all up to us. We must stop looking to the heavens for what is right here and now, in us.
Add this feature to your theology- God is at our very core, as the human impulse to love, to be better. God is inseparably united with the love that defines us at our best. God is at the core of the real or authentic human self and is evident in the human impulse to be more humane as expressed in all human goodness.
This means that God has always been closer than our own breath or atoms. God has never been absent or silent when people have suffered from natural disaster or human cruelty. Religious mythology has never framed this immanent feature properly.
The confusion here over silent deity also has to do with the element of freedom or the inseparable relationship of love and freedom. God as love does not coercively overwhelm the independence, self-determination, and freedom of others. Better, God respects human freedom profoundly and influences with gentle, quiet impulses to do the right thing, what we feel is right (i.e. God persuades and does not coerce).
Part of the human confusion over how God relates to this world has to do with our inability to grasp that divine Love prizes freedom highly and will not overwhelm or violate it. Authentic moral goodness emerges only from authentic freedom of choice. Such love entails great risk as authentically free people may choose wrongly.
Environmental alarmism (different from the common concern for the environment that we all share), Nazism, Marxism, and the major world religions have all embraced the same old set of themes that have dominated human consciousness since the beginning- the apocalyptic millennial complex.
This complex of themes includes the following: The past was better (original paradise, Eden). Corrupt, fallen people have ruined the original paradise. Life is now in decline, worsening toward some great disaster and ending. Salvation must involve the “coercive purging” (Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth) of the threat to the nation or world (i.e. industrial, capitalist civilization in environmentalism and Marxism; Jewish Bolshevism in Nazism; evil, unbelieving people in religious versions).
Salvation must also be via “instantaneous transformation” (Herman Mendel, Vision and Violence) as the threat is imminent. Watch this in the push to ‘decarbonise’ societies as soon as possible. Then the lost paradise can be restored or the new utopia installed. Add here the felt need of threatened, alarmed people (guilt, shame) to make some sacrifice to appease the angry, destroying Force/deity behind the apocalyptic threat.
This complex of themes has repeatedly influenced populations to embrace mass-harm movements, and even mass-death movements, across history.
Insert: Over 31,000 scientists signed the Petition below which states that we are not facing “a climate emergency”. This is the real ‘consensus’ on climate science.
Protest Petition (Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine).
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
More on apocalyptic
The “coercive purging” and “instantaneous transformation” elements in apocalyptic mythology (detail below).
The promotion of apocalyptic hysteria, aside from being the ultimate expression of nihilism, is highly irresponsible and destructive. Notable examples- James Hansen stating in 2008, “It’s all over in five years”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claiming in 2018, “The world is going to end in 12 years”. Al Gore prophesying in 2006 that the final “tipping point” toward catastrophe would be in 10 years. And even Stephen Hawking, in his last year, predicting the end of humanity in 100 years. Smart man. Give yourself departure room to avoid the humiliation that has always resulted from embracing apocalyptic lunacy. In this regard, remember pastor Harold Camping and the year 2012.
The problem with inciting apocalyptic hysteria is that frightened populations are then susceptible to supporting salvation schemes (save the world) that embrace coercive purging and instantaneous transformation elements, just as Marxism and Nazism did. These have been immensely destructive to humanity and to nature over the past century or so. Watch environmental alarmism /climate alarmism today. See detail in sections below. Note also the informative reports from media such as Global Warming Policy Forum.
Why do ordinarily good people embrace coercive purification and instantaneous transformation movements? Well, if the end of the world is nigh (“climate crisis… climate emergency”), then there is no more time for normal democratic processes, skeptical views, or debate (e.g. Pres. Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, trying to criminalize and silence skeptical science). If the “end of days” is just up on the horizon, then we must act now to entirely transform societies (e.g. decarbonise, use only renewables, go fully Green). Note the “instantaneous” versus “gradualism” arguments in Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence.
Apocalyptic and totalitarianism go hand in hand.
The evidence of the destructiveness of contemporary environmental apocalyptic continues to mount. Rising energy costs and fuel poverty, harming the most vulnerable people the most. And the devastating impacts of wind mills and solar panels on wildlife. See Michael Shellenberger’s TED presentation on YouTube, “Why renewables can’t save the planet”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-yALPEpV4w
More on Historical Jesus vs Paul’s Christ myth
Historical Jesus embraced the best of a new narrative of reality with his new unconditional theology and ethic. The Christ of Paul, while embracing some of the more humane features of humanity (e.g. love, grace, kindness), also retained some of the worst features of our primitive past- i.e. the features of domination (Lord Christ), tribal exclusion (only true believers saved), supreme condition (sacrifice as payment), punishment and destruction (apocalypse and hell). These darker features have undermined, distorted, and buried the better features in the Christ mix. The oxymoronic merging of good ideals with subhuman ones, ends in cognitive dissonance. It is to put new wine into old rotten wineskins. It does not work.
Historical Jesus advocated non-retaliation (no eye for eye but instead love your enemy) while Paul’s Christ promotes ultimate and eternal retaliation in a world-destroying apocalypse and hell.
Historical Jesus taught no conditions love in his generosity that did not demand reparations or payment in return (give expecting nothing in return). To the contrary, Paul’s Christ is the expression of demand for supreme condition and full payment (a required sacrifice/punishment for all sin).
Jesus embraced the unlimited inclusion of all in his statement that God gives the good gifts or essentials of life to all alike without discrimination (sun and rain to good and bad). Paul argued that only true believers in his Christ would be saved/blessed. All others will be destroyed (see his Thessalonian letters).
Historical Jesus urged service to others as true greatness. Paul taught the ultimate domination by his Lord Christ and the subservience of all to that Christ.
Jesus taught his followers to just forgive all wrongs (seventy time seven or unlimited) while Paul claimed there must be punishment of all sins (all sin would be recorded/stored till the day of “God’s wrath”).
The contradiction between Jesus and Paul’s Christ expresses what has always been wrong in human thought and belief systems (the subhuman old story themes of tribal exclusion of unbelievers, domination by an Alpha authority, eternal punishment/destruction) and how to make it right (the more humane alternatives of the inclusion of all, non-controlling respect for the freedom of others, forgiveness and restorative justice).
The Jesus’ theme of unconditional has always scandalized, offended, and outraged good, moral people as his vineyard and prodigal parables illustrate (i.e. the all-day vineyard workers and the older brother of the prodigal). Jesus rejected the retaliatory/punitive justice responses that most people demanded as fair and just.
The stunning new non-retaliatory deity of Historical Jesus means no judgment, no exclusion of anyone (sun and rain on all), no demand for salvation (payment, sacrifice), no punishment or destruction. Conditional religions have not communicated this wonder to humanity.
Christianity embraced Paul’s theology of a God that demanded a supreme condition be met (blood sacrifice as payment) before he would forgive and save anyone. That central Christian message has overturned entirely the core message of Historical Jesus that God was no conditions reality. Christianity buried the single greatest discovery in all history- that the true nature of core reality (ultimate reality or deity) was an inexpressible no conditions Love.
“People become just like the God (ultimate ideal or authority) that they believe in”, Bob Brinsmead.
“Life is a journey, a struggle to liberate ourselves from the subhuman, or the inherited animal in us- i.e. tribal exclusion of differing others, domination of others, retaliatory punishment and destruction… and to embrace the maturely human- i.e. the universal inclusion of all, non-controlling respect for the freedom of others, forgiveness and restorative justice”.
Go to the root idea behind apocalyptic alarmism- offer a potent alternative that fully humanizes (makes fully humane) humanity’s highest ideals and authorities- deities.
There is an effective counter to the core theme of apocalyptic with its great threat of punitive, destroying deity/Force. The counter insight states that there is no such thing as a supernatural threat behind life (threat mythology or theology- i.e. angry, punitive God, vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, payback karma, or retributive Universe).
What is the counter insight? It is the single greatest discovery ever offered to humanity- that the core of reality, Ultimate Reality or deity, is Love. And not just love, but a stunningly inexpressible love- no conditions, universal, unlimited Love. This revolutionizes theology/spirituality entirely. All religion across history has been highly conditional- i.e. setting forth the conditions of correct belief, demanded sacrifice/payment for wrong, right religious ritual and lifestyle. No religion has ever communicated to humanity that deity/God is an entirely no conditions reality. None.
Religion, by its very nature of setting forth religious conditions, is an essentially conditional institution. It cannot communicate unconditional reality. Kind of a big duh here, eh.
The contemporary NDE movement is the only tradition that has clearly communicated this no conditions insight to us. The discovery of God as a stunningly inexpressible unconditional love is the central discovery in most of those experiences. But some, associating themselves with that movement, have muddied understanding by trying to use their experience to re-affirm their conditional religious tradition, and even re-affirm the pathology of hell.
The NDE movement is not the first to communicate the reality of a no conditions God. Historical Jesus offered this stunning new theology of God as unconditional Love in his main body of teaching- the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel. Q researcher, James Robinson, noted that Jesus’ single most important contribution to the history of ideas was the “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory deity”. This is presented in the Matthew 5:38-48 and similar Luke 6 passage. In those passages Jesus taught that there was to be no more ‘eye for eye’ retaliation, but instead we should love our enemies, because God does. God does not retaliate, he said, but loves God’s enemies, giving sun and rain to all alike, to both good and bad people.
It appears that Historical Jesus reasoned to this no conditions theology from the beneficial features of the natural world- i.e. sun and rain.
Where Robinson stated the discovery of Jesus as a “non-retaliatory theology”, I would add that it points to the broader meaning of unconditional, unlimited, universal love. See also Jesus’ vineyard and prodigal parables that affirm his no conditions theology. The vineyard owner and father of the prodigal both ignored the standards of common fairness or justice to engage offensive mercy and generosity toward others, including scoundrels or offenders. They made no demands for proper fairness, payback, or reparations but instead chose to exhibit scandalous generosity and love toward all. And that generous love offended the all-day vineyard workers and the prodigal’s older brother.
(Insert note: This is not an argument for abandoning responsibility to pay debts, make restitution, and fulfil common life requirements. It is not a blueprint for business or economic activities. Jesus, I would suggest, was offering a new theology and related ethic of restorative justice. And it is always up to the victims/property owners to decide how, when, and if to forgive or not.)
Unfortunately, this brilliant insight on the true nature of deity as no conditions Love was then buried by Paul’s highly conditional Christ myth- i.e. he taught that the Christ had to first offer himself as a cosmic sacrifice/payment for all sin before God would forgive wrong. This was a message of supreme condition being demanded. There is nothing unconditional in Paul’s Christ myth.
Paul even railed against the wisdom tradition that Jesus belonged to, condemning it as heresy in his first Corinthian letter (see, for example, Stephen Patterson’s The Lost Way). He then buried that “wisdom tradition Jesus” in his Christ, to create history’s greatest oxymoronic symbol, the merger of contradicting opposites known as Jesus Christ. Paul buried the central no conditions message of Jesus in the symbol of ultimate condition- his Christ myth.
The NDE movement has consistently affirmed this stunning insight of Historical Jesus- his point that God is an inexpressible unconditional Love. As some of the NDE people say, they return after their experience to realize that their religion has it all wrong on all the major themes of religious traditions. There is no angry God, no judgment, no punishment, no demand for sacrifice, and no hell. There is only Love at the core of reality. Unconditional Love. And they state that God’s very substance, God’s very “atoms” if you will, consist of this love. This love is the core of all core reality, the ultimate reality behind all else, the most essential nature of the Consciousness that sustains all else in existence.
Some have dismissed these experiences as not credible because they are just subjective personal experiences of people. Well yes. Just as all the great historical systems of spiritual insight or belief are based on the personal experiences of people of those past eras. For example, Judaism is founded on the personal spiritual experiences of Abraham and Moses, among others (e.g. prophets, sages). Buddhism is founded on the personal spiritual experiences of the Buddha. Christianity is founded on the personal spiritual experience of Paul and his vision of his Christ. And Islam is founded on the visions and seizure experiences of Muhammad. All great religious/spiritual traditions are founded on such personal spiritual experiences.
The NDE movement may be a critical contributor to the latest phase of ever-developing and evolving human spirituality.
The important issue to consider is not that it is personal experience but what is the content of the experience- i.e. what is communicated and learned. Is the content of the experience authentically humane according to our contemporary understanding of humane?
Mark Fox (Religion, Spirituality and The Near Death Experience) has noted that philosophers and theologians have by and large ignored the NDE movement. Yes, of course, because its central discovery of God as unconditional reality spells the end of all conditional religion. Now that is real threat theology.
And remember also, our personal conscious experience is the only thing that we know as real. It may be the actual basis of all other reality, a point offered by early quantum theorists (“the universe is more a great Thought than a machine”).
Further, our understanding of ultimate reality needs to embrace a number of other things. For instance, today we fully accept the discoveries of the modern scientific movement. Any spiritual tradition that ignores or contradicts what science has clearly established must be called into question. But we also recognize that the discovery capacity of science is limited by its physical/material orientation and its very methodology as similarly oriented to the material.
Science is not and will not be the final revealer of all truth about reality and life. It takes us only so far and then each of us must make our own conclusions about reality and life, just as physicists regularly cross the science/philosophy boundary to speculate about greater reality and meaning (see, for example, Sabine Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math). This is especially true regarding Ultimate Reality or deity and its core nature and meaning. And yes, I get that scientists will argue that their speculation is not the same as that of spiritual traditions. They claim to be more “rational” as defined according to the philosophical materialism position of many scientists. But Greg Easterbrook was right in his long ago Wired article, to note that both materialist scientists and religious people are doing essentially the same thing in appealing to invisible, unknowable realities to explain what exists.
I would offer, to guide speculation, that we should use the most humane discoveries and insights about being human. Our personal consciousness of such things is our ultimate authority. And then from that understanding of what is most humane or human, we then reason out to explain ultimate realities. Here the NDEs affirm what most of common humanity has discovered- that unconditional love is the highest and truest form of love.
Spouses, parents, and friends all get this in daily relating and life. Reasonably then, it would be safe to conclude that God as ultimate Goodness would be no conditions love to transcendent degree.
So yes, everyone feels the need to speculate about greater realities, invisible realities (the nature and meaning of such). As noted above, this speculation goes on even in the most basic areas of science like physics. This “speculation” is vital to our impulse to know, to understand, and to attribute meaning. However, we should engage all such speculation carefully, using the best available criteria from science and human spirituality. My criteria again- to guide my understanding of ultimate meaning- is oriented to what is most humane… i.e. What is most humane is most true and most real.
We simply cannot exist in a vacuum of not knowing or not explaining greater realities. Despite the pissed atheist arguing that “We need to get rid of all this metaphysical bullshit”. Just look at the history of human mythology, religion, and philosophy/ideology. These systems of human knowing and explaining still dominate most human minds today. So at a minimum, offer more humane alternatives to what will be put into public awareness anyway.
Corollary to this discovery of the true nature of core reality, we have also discovered that unconditional love is our core human nature or spirit, the very essence of our true inner self or person.
Again, no religion has ever communicated this wonder to humanity. Instead, the great world religions have endlessly promoted the primitive “fallen and essentially corrupt humanity” myths, and the related myths of angry, punitive deities punishing fallen people. The great religious traditions have buried the true nature of ultimate reality along with the wonder and magnificence of being human.
“We come from Love, exist always in Love, and return to Love in the end”.
More on the meaning of conscious existence on this planet… insights from varied people.
(Note: Speculation from personal experiences??? Well, all the great human traditions of thought/belief- e.g. the world religions- are based exactly on such experiences. Note, for example, Abraham’s meeting the two “angels”, his attempted sacrifice-of-son experience, and Moses’ burning bush and mountain-top experiences as foundational to Judaism, the Buddha’s tree experience shaping Buddhism, Paul’s Christ vision as the heart of Christianity, and Mohammad’s cave visions/seizures as central to Islam. See more detail on personal experiences below. Its not the nature of the experience that matters but the content of what is communicated. I.e.- is the content fully humane in line with modern human sensitivities/values?)
Now the point…
Some have suggested (e.g. Joseph Campbell, Natalie Sudman, others) that this world, with its dualisms (good/evil, male/female, animal/human, etc.), exists as a learning arena for human development and creativity. We all come here from a greater Consciousness, a greater Oneness, for a temporary material experience in order to “act out our roles on God’s stage” (Campbell).
Others, notably from the NDE movement (those personal experiences), offer the insight that the main thing we come to experience and to learn is love. Love most essentially defines us as authentically human. And we learn love in contrast with its opposites (i.e. the dualism thing, love as a counter response to hate). Just as we appreciate light more in contrast with dark.
Love is most central to what it means to be human. And not just love. Too many of us remain in the tribal world of love for only family and friends. How many actually move on past such limited, tribal forms of love? But to those wanting to courageously explore new realms of human advance and maturity, then embrace the struggle to love unconditionally, universally, with unlimited love, to experience and practice authentically restorative love. Like Mandela (“Let us surprise them- i.e. our opponents/enemies- with our generosity”), or The Railway Man.
Albert Nolan (Jesus Before Christianity) said the love that Jesus advocated meant “treating all as intimate family”, including enemies. And as Bob Brinsmead says, if love is not unconditional then it is not authentic love.
Further, Joe Campbell said that we all come to live a story. We go out into life to face some struggle, some monster. To fight some “righteous battle against evil”. But in our battle, says Campbell, we must not forget our oneness with even our enemies or we will lose our humanity. We maintain our humanity by remembering our oneness with our enemies, our essential brotherhood in the one family that is the entirety of humanity. We maintain our humanity by “loving our enemies”. When we embrace such universal love then we “tower in stature as maturely human” like a Mandela. We then become the hero of our story.
Unconditional love most potently liberates us from the enslavement to our animal inheritance with its base impulses to limited tribal love, the exclusion of differing others (small band orientation), domination of others (the alpha thing), and the destruction of differing others/enemies.
Embracing the unconditional ideal is not about abandoning responsibility to face the often harsh natural and social consequences to our behavior. Embracing unconditional is to orient life to inclusive, universal love, to respect for the freedom of others (non-controlling), and to restorative forms of justice (not retaliatory, punitive justice).
Unconditional, universal love takes us to the magnificence of being human. It lifts us out of the realm of the pettiness that dominates so much human thought and response. Unconditional love is the essential nature of our human spirit and consciousness. It is our true self, the real core human person.
With this recognition of the essential goodness of all people, I would affirm with Bob Brinsmead that there are no really bad people, only bad ideas that lead people to do bad things. When we realize what we really are- i.e. most essentially beings of love- then we cannot do other than love. When people forget what they really are, then they engage less-than-love behaviors. So we could re-frame Jesus’ dying statement re the Roman soldiers that killed him, “Father, forgive them… for they know not who they are”.
See full “Framework for Human Story” in sections below.
The same old, same old
Many of the dominant themes we have inherited from our past do not represent the true state of reality or life. Further on the downside, they actively incite, guide, and validate similarly bad behavior in people.
But let me back up a bit… Joseph Campbell said that the same mythical themes/ideas repeat endlessly across history and across all the cultures of the world. The historical movement of ideas is from ancient mythology to major world religion and then to the “secular” or ideological/philosophical versions of our modern world. It is always the same old, same old.
Here’s a list of the more common ones:
Original paradise; fall of man (the essential corruptness of humanity); the ruin or loss of paradise due to human sin; the decline of life toward something worse, toward an apocalypse (this is a punishment of human sin); the need for salvation (an appeasing sacrifice or payment to satisfy the threatening Force or deity); the need for coercive purging of the threat to life in order to save the world and restore the lost paradise; and the promise of a new paradise exclusively for the saved true believers.
The millennial scholars (Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, and Arthur Herman) have shown us the role that apocalyptic millennial themes played in the mass-death movements of Marxism, Nazism, and are now playing in environmental alarmism. Marxism argued that the past paradise of tribal communalism had been ruined by capitalist society and this great threat to life had to be violently purged in order to restore the lost communal paradise. Nazis argued that their past paradise of vital, pure German society/culture was threatened by Jewish Bolshevism that had to be purged in order to restore German society and purity in the Millennial Reich. And environmental alarmists argue that the paradise of a wilderness world has been ruined by industrial fossil-fueled society that must be restrained/purged in order to restore that lost wilderness paradise.
The cohering theme behind these bad ideas is that of a great threatening Force or Spirit/deity, a punitive, destroying God. We replace this with the great insight that God is no conditions love.
A new core for a meta-narrative
We have the stunning “spiritual” insight that at the core of reality there is an inexpressible no conditions Love. And that means no ultimate threat, no ultimate retribution, no ultimate judgment, no ultimate punishment, and no ultimate destruction- all themes that have defined the deities of all past mythology and religion. These features continue to dominate the modern “gods” of contemporary secular belief systems- i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and karma.
Put this discovery of a core no conditions Love at the center of your worldview and watch it transform everything from ethics, relating to others (especially opponents or enemies), and justice systems (restorative approaches for children and offenders, not punitive).
A common complaint- Unconditional is weak, impractical
Any advocacy for a new theology of unconditional evokes the fear in some that without threat theology (ultimate divine threat of punishment) you weaken moral obligation in people and appear to ignore victim suffering (i.e. the demand for retaliatory punishment as justice).
But the embrace of unconditional theology is more about big picture/meta-narrative themes and countering the serious pathologies (e.g. punitive/destroying deity and apocalyptic) that have long worsened human suffering by inciting and validating the bad behavior that has caused so much suffering across history (i.e. retributive justice responses- the punishing and destroying of enemies/offenders). Wrestling with unconditional is about understanding root cause of bad behavior and consequent suffering, humane alternatives, and thereby finding big picture solutions that alleviate victim suffering.
And defending the old retaliatory-oriented narratives with only peripheral tinkering around the edges does not solve things thoroughly and for the long term future.
The embrace of unconditional theology becomes the new orienting narrative center that affirms things like restorative justice approaches. And evidence shows that people respond better to positive/affirmative re-enforcement than they do to threat of punishment. These approaches more effectively improve human behavior and lower recidivism rates in offenders and that prevents further victim suffering more effectively than punitive/retaliatory approaches.
Can unconditional be practical for society-wide application? Just note Nelson Mandela and compare his approach with the retaliatory approaches engaged in Serbia and Rwanda around the same time (mid-90s).
Our societies (and overall human civilization) are held together by shared meta-stories or narratives with commonly embraced ideals and beliefs. The basic themes in these stories originated with the primitive logic of our ancestors. And while various more humane ideals have been added to our stories across the millennia (e.g. forgiveness, kindness, mercy), some of the more subhuman/inhuman themes of the ancients are still dominant in our great stories, both in religious and secular versions- themes like tribal dualism and exclusion of differing others, retaliatory/punitive justice, and destruction of the enemy outsider, among other ideas).
Many of these themes can no longer credibly serve to inform contemporary understanding of reality and life. And some are entirely against the best evidence that we now have of the nature and trends of reality and life. Further, some ideas have been outright harmful, inciting or validating exclusion, mistreatment, and even violence toward others. The outcomes of some “bad ideas” have been horrific in terms of personal fear, anxiety, despair/depression, and violence.
So the struggle continues to bring our stories up-to-date, to fully humanize them with evidence-backed themes and with the most humane insights that are widely embraced today.
The following paragraph summarizes some of the more notable bad ideas that are still foundational themes in the main world religions and have now been embraced in secular ideologies like Declinism and its offspring- environmental alarmism.
Examples: The past was better but essentially corrupt people (“fallen humanity” myth) ruined the original paradise and now life is declining toward some great disaster and ending, toward an apocalypse. A punitive, destroying deity (or vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, or karma) will intervene with an apocalypse to coercively purge the threat to life (i.e. corrupt, greedy humanity) in order to “save the world” and restore the lost paradise.
Add here the exclusionary tribal dualism of true believer versus unbeliever, or the common divide of “the good people” in contrast to “the bad people” (our opponents or enemies). Or the contemporary divide of Left versus Right, which is fine for defining legitimate debate over public policy issues but becomes harmful when taken too seriously as a human identity marker.
Tribal thinking continues to dominate much of public discussion today. Tribal mentality views the other as different in some basic way- i.e. as lesser human, as somehow worse than “our side”. Tribal thinking denies the essential oneness of all humanity. It denies the equality of all people, an equality that is based on the foundational markers of being human- i.e. our common human spirit, our common human mind and consciousness, and the common love that is the single most critical identity marker of our humanity.
To add a bit of personal philosophy- we are one human family and we come from, exist in, and return to the ultimate Reality/Oneness that is inexpressible Love.
As Joseph Campbell said, in our “righteous struggle against evil” we must not forget our brotherhood/oneness with our enemy, or we will lose our humanity. We maintain our humanity by “loving our enemy”.
Ah, we can all do so much better. We can learn to “tower in stature” as maturely human by embracing universal love (Campbell again). See 16 Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives for a new meta-narrative, below.
“The Consequences of Bad Ideas”
There are consequences to certain beliefs/ideas that are often devastating to the most vulnerable, to the elderly and to children, and also destructive of nature. Look at the GM (genetically modified crops) alarmism and the unnecessary deaths of 8 million children over a recent twelve year period because they were denied access to Vitamin A in Golden Rice. https://nationalpost.com/opinion/bjorn-lomborg-trashing-rice-killing-children . Note also the bio-fuels disaster that caused the rise in food prices for the poorest people and resulted in the cutting of more rainforest.
So also, note Rachel Carson and her exaggerated chemical alarmism with the consequent DDT ban and millions of unnecessary deaths, again many children. And today, with anti-CO2 hysteria, we have unnecessarily rising energy prices and consequent fuel poverty and increased death rates among the poorest.
The alarmists are well-intentioned people trying to save something that they believe is under threat. But evidence shows that the threats are too often exaggerated out of all proportion to the actual state of things, and the consequent salvation approaches are more harmful than the issues they claim to solve (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-yALPEpV4w on why renewable can’t save the planet).
It is highly irresponsible and even immoral to incite public alarm, as over GM crops, when there is no evidence of harm to people or the environment. The only harm has been the devastation to the 8 million children that died over that 12 year period.
Such devastating outcomes from environmental alarmism have been all too commonly repetitive over past decades. The death tolls are stunning.
Correlation: Declinism and Depression (exploring elements in a complex mix)
Depression is now regarded as the world’s “number one illness”. And Declinism (the belief that life is worsening toward some great catastrophic collapse or ending- usually environmental) has been called “the most dominant and influential theme in the modern world” (Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline).
Julian Simon has illustrated this correlation between Declinism and depression with his personal experience of depression. He had embraced the environmental alarmism of his era (1960s/70s), with the belief that the world was going to hell in a handbasket. Media exaggeration and alarmism was one notable contributor to the sense of a worsening world (see David Altheide’s “Creating Fear: News and the Manufacture of Crisis”).
Consequently, Simon suffered serious depression. And, aside from his personal experience of depression, he noted the problem of persistent widespread unhappiness among populations in the midst of an improving world and much better human condition. Add here today’s widespread “eco-anxiety” among children.
Media must take responsibility here for their obsessive compulsive hysteria over environmental problems/issues as signs of looming apocalypse. Any change in the natural world- i.e. local weather events, shifts in animal populations (even just one “sick” polar bear)- is viewed and reported as ominous evidence of imminent catastrophe. This alarmism over natural world “change” has become unhinged madness.
Simon then decided to look at the best sources of evidence and find out for himself the “true state of the world”. To his surprise he discovered that life, while still replete with problems, was improving on all its main features. Humanity was learning, correcting past mistakes, and improving the world. Simon concluded that overall evidence affirmed that we- humanity- were “more creators than destroyers”. He presented his discoveries in Ultimate Resource. See also his book “Its Getting Better All The Time”. Numerous other researchers followed Simon with similar thorough compilations of data on the main indicators of life- e.g. Greg Easterbrook, Bjorn Lomborg, Ronald Bailey, Indur Goklany, Matt Ridley, Desrochers and Szurmak, among others.
Simon said that after his study, his depression then lifted and never returned. Such cognitive therapy (changing one’s mind with more positive inputs) is one important element in curing depression.
Despair over life can cause some people to do desperate and dangerous things. We see this repeatedly. The tragedy here is that the true story of life is one that engenders hope and love. But it is a story that media and politicians are not interested in presenting to the public. Alarmism works better to raise money and stir supporters for your salvation schemes.
“When problem-solving for the long-term future, go to the root ideas behind the issue that you are concerned about”, Wendell Krossa. This site tackles alarmism and the apocalyptic mythology behind alarmism.
The ultimate liberation- freeing our consciousness from the subhuman ideas/ideals that have long burdened people with unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and despair/depression (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God).
Quotes from sections below: The foundational pathology in human thought…
“Apocalyptic mythology embraces the original and foundational error of our ancestors- i.e. that there were spirits behind all the elements of nature, and if nature was destructive (storm/flood, sun/drought, earthquake/tsunami) then the gods must be angry and were punishing people for their sins. Note the Sumerian Flood myth for one of the earliest versions of this ancient logic (i.e. the god Enlil threatened to destroy humanity with a flood for their sin of “being too noisy”). A Japanese woman brought this ancient logic into the present by asking, after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?”.
“The common belief that retributive deity was behind the natural world and its nasty outcomes then defined deity as punitive and destructive and that theological error became the foundational theme in human worldviews. It was embedded in the theologies (God theories) of subsequent world religions (e.g. note Paul telling the Corinthians that their illnesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins). The Genesis “fall of man” myth also promotes this view that natural world imperfections, and associated suffering and death, are punishment for sin.
“This belief has now descended into the ideologies of the modern world (i.e. 19th Century Declinism and its offspring- environmental alarmism- a “secular” or ideological version of apocalyptic with its theologies of vengeful Gaia, angry planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and payback karma). The negative impacts from the natural world are still viewed as retribution/punishment from greater Forces/Spirits. Punitive deity theories continue to work harm, in both religious and secular versions (i.e. fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, depression, and violence- see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God).
“The supreme expression of divine anger and punitive destruction would be a life-ending, world-ending apocalypse.
“Punitive deity theories (threat theology) have long been associated with demands for sacrifice/payment/appeasement, hence the salvation industry across history. The dark side of this apocalyptic mythology has been alarmed populations embracing salvation schemes that demand the coercive purging of some imagined threat, in order to save something believed to be under threat. We hear this repeatedly in hysterical claims that we must “take drastic action” to halt fossil-fueled industrial civilization (i.e. de-carbonize our societies) in order to “save the world”. Apocalyptic alarmism is anti-freedom, anti-democracy. It claims that there is no more time for disagreement or debate as the time is too short. So skepticism must be outlawed just as President Obama’s Attorney General, Lorretta Lynch, tried to ban and criminalize skeptical science. Apocalyptic unleashes the totalitarian impulse.
“The outcomes of apocalyptic salvationism have been devastating for many people and for nature- e.g. the bio-fuels fiasco and consequent deforestation, or Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring that contributed to the ban on DDT and subsequent deaths of tens of millions of people. Arthur Mendel was right that apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history.
“We have the potent corrective to this foundational error of punitive, threatening deity- the insight that deity is an inexpressible no conditions Love. This insight overturns the original error of the ancients and puts a stake through the heart of the apocalyptic fraud and the terrorizing God at the center of that fraud- humanity’s greatest monster and enemy.
“Note: Any advocacy for non-punitive deity will have to explain the imperfection of this world (i.e. natural disaster, accident, disease) and the consequent suffering that humanity has long viewed as divine punishment. This requires the reframing of human meta-narratives with new insights on the purpose of conscious human existence in this imperfect world- e.g. that imperfection in life is essential to the world as a learning arena for human development. For example, struggling with imperfection in others brings forth the best of the human spirit in the values of forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love. But maintain this baseline- suffering is not punishment for sin as the world religions have long claimed (see ‘Framework for human story’, below).”
Note: There are natural and social consequences all through life but these are not expressions of some divine retribution or punishment. Children must be taught the difference between natural consequences and mythical/religious explanations of the natural world (i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, or karma).
Site predictions: Affirming evidence-based hope in the face of endless alarmism over looming environmental apocalypse. The end is not nigh. As Julian Simon said (Ultimate Resource), past long-term trends (i.e. the continuing improvement on all the major features of life) give us the best evidence of what will happen in the future. But the Chicken Little spirit never dies. Apocalyptics have endlessly predicted the end of days across history and it never comes because apocalyptic has a 100% failure rate. Apocalyptic distorts entirely the true state of our world- i.e. the improving trends of life.
Just a few predictions…
Climate will continue to change as it has over this inter-glacial, with mild swings between heating and cooling periods (compared to the more severe swings in climate change over the past 30,000 years of the previous glaciation- see Ian Plimer’s “Heaven and Earth”). Further warming will be more beneficial and allow life to flourish in currently colder areas of the planet. For 80% of its history, Earth has been much warmer than today and entirely ice free. Life “flourished” during such times.
CO2 will continue to rise and the outcomes of more atmospheric CO2- the basic food of all plant life- will overall be beneficial to life, further greening the planet. Earth has already experienced a 14% increase in plant productivity just since 1982 from the small increase in CO2 over that time. Plant life prefers CO2 levels in the 1000-1500 ppm range and life has flourished with such levels over past history.
Other natural elements- i.e. the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction and the ocean/atmospheric interaction- will continue to overwhelm the small CO2 influence on climate.
Species loss will continue at historic rates of a few species a year and human preservation efforts will continue to prevent the larger species losses that have occurred over past history.
World forest cover will continue to increase as crop productivity increases and that lessens the demand for agricultural land and results in the return of agricultural land to nature (a continuing trend). World forest cover in the 1950s was approximately 3.8 billion hectares. Today it is over 4.0 billion hectares.
Poverty will continue its “stunning decline” across the world. The overall human condition will continue to improve as it has over past centuries, due to improving human understanding and ongoing creativity in problem-solving. And nature will continue to improve as a direct result of the improvement in the human condition (i.e. further wealth creation leading to more ability to protect the natural world).
Ah, there is so much more good news about the true state of life on our planet. While there are problems everywhere that demand our full involvement, overall the trajectory of life will continue to improve into the future.