The ideas/myths behind alarmist movements across history… new alternatives.
The myth of apocalypse has been one of the most distorting and destructive ideas conceived by primitive minds. Its central theme of decline toward catastrophic ending distorts the overall rising trajectory of life. Further, historians (see notes below on research of Richard Landes, Arthur Herman, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, and others) have traced its role in religious apocalyptic movements and in “secular” apocalyptic mass-death movements such as Marxism, Nazism, and now in environmental alarmism.
Apocalyptic-scale alarmism unleashes the totalitarian impulse… How so?
(And someone said regarding the Extinction Rebellion, that it was a “middle-class death cult that should be laughed out of existence”, hence some of my wording below- i.e. “lunacy gone insane”, a reference to a lot of the environmental alarmism of today.)
Watch the ever-lurking totalitarian impulse in the apocalyptic fear-mongering over environmental problems. When you tell populations that every twitch in nature portends the end of days as imminently nigh, that the situation is at “crisis” levels, or that catastrophe is just up ahead, then alarmist logic reasons that there is no more time for indecisive debate or the critically vital feature of good science- skepticism. We must act now before it is too late (tipping points are being approached and passed) and we must act ‘drastically’ to save ourselves, the world, all life.
This crisis logic unleashes the totalitarian impulse to shut down opponents, to take full control, because the crisis demands decisive action now, and damn the consequences or outcomes. Alarmists appear unaware, or to not care, that this crisis narrative and logic is a direct attack on democracy and freedom. Examples: Pres. Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical science, and David Suzuki called for oil company CEOs to be imprisoned. Get that: Lock up the executives of the companies that provide the fuel for our transportation, to heat our homes, and to sustain agriculture and all else that we value in life.
Central to this apocalyptic logic is the demand for ‘coercive purging’ of the thing that the alarmist believes threatens the world. In the case of climate alarmists the great threat is industrial civilization that is sustained by fossil fuels. The coercive purging of the threat is part of the larger alarmist call for instantaneous transformation of society. We saw this “instantaneous transmutation” element (Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence) with “coercive purification” in Marxism (purge the threat of capitalism), in Nazism (purge the threat of Jewish Bolshevism), and we are now watching it in environmentalism (again, purge the threat of technological/industrial civilization). Today the demand for instant transformation is expressed in the call for rapid “decarbonisation” of our societies (the lunacy of claiming that CO2 is a great threat to life).
Contemporary apocalyptic logic is the very same reasoning that was behind the irrational actions of many people across history, caught up in the hysteria of the apocalyptic movements of their era, who then abandoned their crops and normal patterns of life to go wait in caves for the end to come. No wonder Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource) warned that alarmism creates fatalism and resignation in people. Those people often starved as their crops rotted in the fields.
Likewise, today’s environmental alarmists, with their crusades for coercive purging and instant transformation, will devastate populations as we are already seeing in rising energy costs and fuel poverty, and the excess death rates from cold in places like the US (estimated 11,000 additional annual deaths) and Britain (32,000 annual excess deaths from cold).
Do we really want to return to the climate conditions of the pre-industrial era as some kind of optimum? That was the time of the Little Ice Age, a bitterly cold period across the planet, notably in the Northern hemisphere (roughly 1645-1715). Dangerously low pre-industrial levels of CO2 at roughly 285 ppm stressed plant life, and animal life suffered as a consequence. Today, life across Earth is once again flourishing with more basic plant food and a bit more warmth. All life would appreciate even more of both food and warmth, just as life flourished during the last interglacial- the Eemian- with 4 degrees Centigrade higher temperatures than temperature averages of our interglacial today.
The continuing apocalyptic alarmism over changes in nature fueled by hysterical media oriented to Creating Fear is lunacy gone insane (David Altheide nailed media in his book Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis). And environmental alarmism misses the true state of the world by miles.
Julian Simon taught us how to properly view life and how to get to the “true state of the world” (i.e. How to correctly view the varied elements and problems in our world). He argued that we have to look at the complete big picture. That means including all the evidence from all sides of any issue, especially contrary evidence. This will help us to counter our own personal confirmation bias tendencies to shut out contrary evidence that does not affirm our beliefs.
And we have to look at the long-term trends related to the issue we are looking at. This will show, for instance, that climate change today is mild, and mainly beneficial to life, compared to the more severe changes of the longer term past. Look past the repeated claims that some feature in weather is the “worst on record”. The “record” being referred to is only the past century and a half of more formal weather recording.
Up from the section just 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 16 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 distressed Japanese woman who asked 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.
This site advocates themes for a new meta-narrative that includes the discoveries of the past few centuries of science along with the best of human “spiritual” understanding- i.e. the “ultimate meaning” element. This is about embracing thoroughly a primal human concern as evident in the 85% of humanity still affiliated with a major world religion with many of the remaining “unaffiliated” 15% still “spiritual, but not religious”.
(Note: The ‘spiritual’ being understood in terms of the best in humanity. I do theology by taking the best in humanity as central to meaning and projecting that out to define greater reality/deity- i.e. what is most humane is most true, and most real. See note on unconditional below as the best of human discovery. I make it my baseline criterion for ultimate ideals and authorities like deity. Further, I do not embrace the Biblicism that grants special authority to religious holy books as revelations of ultimate truth from deity, with self-claimed or internal validation.)
An authentically humane narrative will embrace as its cohering center “the stunning theology of a no conditions God”. No religious tradition has ever communicated this ultimate reality to humanity. All religion, to the contrary, is highly conditional- e.g. conditions of right belief, a required salvation scheme (some sacrifice, payment), correct ritual, and detailed religious prescriptions for life, with punishments for wrongs.
A humane narrative will also embrace restorative justice, not punitive. And no, this does not undermine or weaken the need to hold all responsible for their behavior (the natural and social consequences of behavior in this world, with a focus on restitution/healing for victims). Full personal responsibility for our behavior is essential for healthy human development in this life.
Unconditional deity at the center of a system of meaning overturns entirely the Zoroastrian dualist theology that has dominated Western thought for millennia. It overturns the dominant features of Western theology- i.e. themes of deity as Judge (justice as punitive), God as tribally exclusive (true believers in the right religion versus unbelievers), deity as dominating with humanity subservient (i.e. God as King/Lord that mediates authority through priesthoods), and God as violently destructive (apocalypse, hell).
Unconditional theology is liberating in that it states that, whatever we experience in this life, there is nothing to ultimately fear. There is only Love at the core of reality and life, a stunning no conditions Love. That reverberates out to change everything, notably the central punitive orientation of human justice systems.
This unconditional ideal transforms and liberates consciousness as nothing else can. For example, it frees consciousness from humanity’s “primal fear”- the fear of after-life harm (i.e. ultimate judgment, punishment).
Unconditional to define deity? Why? Unconditional is the highest and most humane form of love that we have discovered. Friends, spouses, and parents all get this as the best response to imperfect others. Therefore, unconditional would best define the Ultimate Goodness that humanity has long hoped for in deity- our Ultimate Ideal or Reality. “What is most humane is most true and most real”. This is pretty much my theodicy (i.e. defense of ultimate Good).
See the potential outline of a meta-narrative in “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” (16 dominant ideas) in next section below.
The central climate issue
(Climate alarmism is the latest phase in the long history of excessive human alarm over the natural world. Environmental alarmism is an offspring movement of more general apocalyptic alarm (i.e. end of life, end of world fears). This site probes the mythical roots of such movements.)
Both sides in the climate debate- alarmists and “deniers”/skeptics- agree that climate change is occurring. As it always has. Climate is a complex and dynamic system, not a static system. Pardon the “duh” here.
(Note: Skeptics do not “deny climate change”. They simply disagree with the alarmist claim that human contribution to CO2 is the main cause of climate change and that the scale of climate change will be catastrophic in nature.)
Both sides agree that CO2 has a warming effect or influence. If a warming period is occurring then CO2 is contributing to that warming (but not to cooling).
However, the central disagreement is over the actual role of CO2- how prominent is it? Alarmists argue that CO2 is the dominant or main cause of warming, and some even claim that it is almost entirely the cause of warming periods. They also claim that warming will be catastrophic in outcome.
But other natural factors have consistently overwhelmed the CO2 influence which skeptics point out is small. Note for example, that while CO2 levels continue to rise (now 400 ppm plus), the warming of 1975-95 has turned into the almost flat trend since. Where is the claimed causal relationship here?
Factors like the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction and the ocean/atmosphere interaction have shown stronger correlation to the climate change that we have observed over the past few decades and centuries.
Point? You cannot argue for policies to decarbonise societies when the science does not affirm your claim that CO2 is mainly responsible for warming, and that the warming will be catastrophic in nature. The outcome of decarbonisation would be devastating to billions of people depending on cheap fossil fuels to lift them out of poverty.
Further, given the current knowledge of climate science, as one scientist said, it is absurd to think that we can control climate by turning a CO2 knob. You cannot “stop climate change”. But we can adapt to it just as our line of humanity has done across past history with constantly and naturally changing climate, through an ice age and two inter-glacials.
Further, the hard evidence has shown that the climate change we have experienced has been mild compared to past periods of change. The warming since 1975 has been only 0.3 degree Centigrade. Contrary to the inaccurate and discredited climate models, actual evidence shows that there is no “climate emergency”.
Another critical fact in the mix- the lunacy of demonizing CO2 as a pollutant or poison. CO2 is the main food of all life. It has been at starvation levels during the past millions of years of this ice age era. With some small recovery now, life is once again “flourishing” with a 14% increase in plant productivity since 1982. Plant food levels are still low at 400 ppm plus. Plants prefer CO2 in the 1000-1500 ppm range. With those levels in the past there was no climate crisis or catastrophic outcome for life. Instead, life flourished (see Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth).
(Note that the previous inter-glacial- the Eemian of 127,000 to 106,000 years ago- was much warmer than our current inter-glacial. Also climate change over the last glacial Maximum- the Wisconsin in North America- was much more severe than the changes over this subsequent inter-glacial and all life on Earth today has survived those natural changes. Glaciations, and cold periods in general, are the most destructive factors to life. Alarmists ignore the beneficial outcomes of warming on life.)
This site advocates themes for a new meta-narrative that includes the discoveries of the past few centuries of science along with the best of human “spiritual” understanding- i.e. the “ultimate meaning” element. This is about embracing thoroughly the primal human concern for meaning as evident in the 85% of humanity still affiliated with a major world religion, with many of the remaining “unaffiliated” 15% still “spiritual, but just not religious” (World Religion survey).
The irrepressible nature of the meaning impulse: Add here the history of philosophy, and that even in the scientific arena many scientists frequently cross the science/philosophy boundary, including in the most basic science of all- physics (Sabine Hossenfelder in ‘Lost In Math’). You cannot suppress or deny this fundamental impulse for meaning. Greg Easterbrook noted long ago in a Wired article that materialist scientists constantly do just what religious people have done across history- i.e. appeal to invisible, unknowable realities to explain what exists (note multi-verse theory, or multiple hidden dimensions, as examples).
It’s understood that some people can find final satisfaction in orienting their meaning impulse to material reality alone but that does not work for most people. It never has and never will. Most people across history have oriented their impulse for meaning to some greater creating, sustaining reality (Ultimate Reality or core Reality) that is of the nature of Mind, Consciousness, Self or Spirit/God, and of course, if we think of Mind/Consciousness/Self then that obviously points to Person or personhood. To conclude that Natural law, or quantum energy/force fields, alone will provide the final explanations about reality, well, that does not suffice for most people.
Add here that scientific rationality has done us a great service in exposing the irrationality of much inherited religious belief. But I am not convinced of the correlation of rationality with scientific discovery alone or material reality alone. Others argue it is entirely rational to conclude there is some greater Mind, Consciousness, or Self behind reality and in fact that may be the most logical conclusion to make regarding many things in this profoundly mysterious Cosmos and life.
The issue is what people project out to explain/define greater reality… i.e. Is it fully humane or not? The 16 new themes below deal with things now understood by most people as more humane realities.
Note also the article in the second section below re the frustrated scientist who argues that scientific evidence alone will not settle the climate debate. There are deeper issues of meaning behind the disagreements over the evidence. This site probes those deeper issues that are often “meaning” issues.
Quotes from sections below…
“The 100% failure rate of apocalyptic to predict the future will continue. It will continue to make fools of otherwise bright and well-intentioned people, Paul Ehrlich being a notable example (i.e. global cooling, mass starvation, exhaustion of mineral resources, United Kingdom will not exist by 2000, species holocaust, and other end-of-days scenarios). Unfortunately, the “world’s most intelligent man”, Stephen Hawking, also threw in his lot with apocalyptic in the final years of his life.”
“There is no ‘climate crisis'”.
(Note on climate change: “Climate is changing just as it has changed endlessly across the history of our planet. The changes of the recent past have been mild. From 1975 till today we had only 0.3 degree Centigrade of warming. The previous interglacial- the Eemian- had temperatures that were 4 degrees Centigrade higher than today, in the Northern latitudes, with much smaller ice sheets and higher ocean levels. All life on Earth today has survived such climate change and done well. The climate changes during the last Glacial Maximum were much more severe than the changes during our current interglacial. Our interglacial has also experienced the Roman and Medieval Warming periods that were as warm as today and life flourished with that increased warmth.”)
“There will be no apocalypse (i.e. end of the world)- environmental or other- because there is no God of apocalyptic (nor vengeful Gaia, angry Planet, retaliatory Universe, or karma). There is no punitive, destroying Force or Spirit behind life”.
“Good research affirms that the overall trajectory of life rises/improves toward something better and does not decline toward something worse”.