See the “holy shit” posting below (my reaction) on Michael Shellenberger’s apology for promoting climate alarmism over the past 30 years. Also, see “The Great Christian Contradiction” re the Christ myth that has been primarily responsible for re-enforcing the primitive myth of apocalyptic in Western consciousness, belief systems, and ideologies over the past 2000 years. Apocalyptic continues to deform human consciousness with fear, anxiety, depression, and nihilism. It is the “most violent and destructive idea in history”, (Arthur Mendel).
Also, “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” further below. The persistent core pathologies in our grand narratives (religious and “secular”) and the alternatives for a new worldview or meta-narrative. See just below “The Two best things happening today– rising CO2 levels and the warming of Earth’s average surface temperatures”.
Up from the basement… see also the latest GWPF newsletter: “We are facing a tsunami of censorship”, https://www.thegwpf.com/?s=we+are+facing+a+tsunami+of+censorship
The never-ending end times stuff (Reposted from below)
For over 5000 years apocalyptic mythology has been beaten into human consciousness as essential to defining the trajectory of life. Secular versions of apocalyptic mythology, notably the ideology of Declinism (i.e. life worsening toward some great disaster), still dominate public consciousness and narratives today. This is evident in the environmental alarmism movement and particularly in climate alarmism- the prophesies of looming, imminent climate catastrophe and the endless end of days scenarios presented to the public.
Remember AOC’s prophesy in 2018 that we had only 12 years to the end of the world or James Hansen’s prophesy in 2008 that “Its all over in five years”. In the last year of his life Stephen Hawking added his prophesy of apocalypse though he gave us some breathing room, declaring that we had 100 years till the apocalypse. Enough time for him to vacate the scene and avoid the humiliation that inevitably comes to all apocalyptic prophets. Life does not decline toward ending. Evidence shows that with creative human effort life rises toward an improving future.
Apocalyptic threat: Is this really how you “Teach your children well…” (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young), traumatizing them with end of the world scenarios, causing the widespread pathology of “eco-anxiety” in children now frightened of growing up in a world that they are taught will soon end?
Apocalyptic-scale alarmism attunes populations to worst-case scenarios and renders them susceptible to the irrational salvation schemes of alarmists that have consistently proven destructive to humanity and to nature. Remember Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring that influenced the ban on DDT that subsequently resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of people from uncontrolled malaria. The biofuels alarm resulted in further deforestation for palm oil plantations. So also anti-GM crop activism (related to general environmental alarmism) prohibits farmers from getting higher-yield crops and inputs that produce more crop on the same land and consequently farmers have to cut more forest for cropland to feed growing populations. GM crops will save forests.
The latest salvation scheme (i.e. “save the world”) is the demand to decarbonize our societies and shift to renewables. We are already seeing the harm from this in unnecessarily exorbitant electricity and energy prices that impact the poorest people the most. Add to this the direct harm from renewables as noted in ‘Planet of the Humans’ (ignore the documentary’s misinformation on “corrupt humanity exhausting world resources and destroying the planet”). Decarbonization is based on the “unsettled science” of climate alarmism. There is agreement on all sides that CO2 has a warming influence but no consensus that CO2 is the dominant influence on climate change. In fact, much good evidence shows other natural factors overwhelm the CO2 influence on climate. Point? There is no good scientific reason to diminish our use of fossil fuels. There is no rational reason to decarbonize.
We need to end the endless traumatizing of human consciousness with exaggerated fear-mongering about the looming end of all things. It is highly irresponsible and destructive in outcomes. Apocalyptic mythology distorts the true state of life.
The excessive fear-mongering over natural change and problems in our environment incites unnecessary anxiety over life. It contributes to despair over life and the future. No wonder depression is the world’s number one illness and children suffer from the new pathology of “eco-anxiety”.
Further note on “the great contradiction”…
Is there a “method to my madness”, going after the sacred Christ? In the comments below I am going directly to the root of irresponsible and destructive alarmism, and the apocalyptic mythology that continues to feed alarmism movements. Apocalyptic mythology continues to dominate contemporary narratives/story-telling. At the core of apocalyptic is the single worst idea to have ever corrupted human consciousness- i.e. that there is some great punitive, destroying Force or deity behind life. Such a monster has never existed except in the minds of primitive people (and today’s alarmists).
The monstrosity of apocalyptic deity is one element in the background of human worldviews and consciousness that keeps people attuned, even today, to alarmist scenarios and their proclamations of the end of days coming. That monstrosity, in its newer “secular” versions (e.g. vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and karma), continues to fuel, perhaps at subconscious levels, the endless “end of days” scenarios of modern alarmists. Such ‘threat theology’ sensitizes and orients people to fear worst-case scenarios and that incites the human survival impulse. Desperation to survive renders people susceptible to the salvation schemes of alarmists that have proven to be more destructive than any original purported problem may have posed.
My counter alternative to that central idea of punitive Force or deity behind apocalyptic? Go right to the root idea and counter that with a better alternative. I would state that there is only love at the core of reality, a stunning, scandalous ‘no conditions’ love. Historical Jesus got this new theology right but then his insight was buried under Paul’s Christ myth.
Let me touch base, and affirm my position on Historical Jesus, with the views of a couple of historical heavyweights: Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy both argued that the Jesus “diamond” was buried under contradicting New Testament material, notably Paul’s overall apocalyptic Christ message.
Note on my theological response to the theological error noted above: You will never purge humanity of its awareness of “spiritual” reality so rather than deny that awareness, work with it. Offer better, that is, more humane alternatives.
Site project: Combating alarmism. Why?
Going after public alarmism is not a denial that there are serious problems all through life that need attention and solving. Combating alarmism is about the big picture, the overall meta-narratives of our time, and the long-term trajectory of life that shows the gradual improvement of life across history. The gradually improving trajectory of life shows that humanity has been solving problems, overall making life better, and this evidence affirms hope in the future. See World Resource Updates below.
Alarmists and the alarmist media obsess over the negatives in any situation, to wrongly conclude that life overall is declining and worsening. That incites despair and related dangerous responses and outcomes. It attunes populations to the destructive salvation schemes of the alarmism movement (e.g. the latest- the decarbonization of our societies).
The big picture evidence helps us to re-affirm hope in the midst of confronting life’s problems. This helps keep us oriented to our better impulses and calms the tendencies to hysteria, panic, resignation, and other harmful responses and related outcomes. Hope is not whistling in the dark against good evidence. It is about understanding the true state of things and taking encouragement from that.
The two best things happening today– rising CO2 levels and the warming of Earth’s average surface temperatures.
Many in climate science and media claim that rising CO2 levels and rising average temperatures are the two most threatening things happening on Earth today. I would argue to the contrary that they are the two best things happening on Earth today. How so?
Basic plant food
CO2 levels have been dangerously low over the past few million years of our ice-age era and this has stressed plant life. Over the past several hundred thousand years, CO2 levels have even dipped below 200 ppm, once down to 180 ppm. Plant life dies at 150 ppm. Normal and optimal levels of CO2 over the last 500 million years were in the multiple thousands of ppm. https://www.thegwpf.com/video-of-patrick-moores-gwpf-lecture-should-we-celebrate-co2/
During the Cambrian era life exploded with CO2 levels over 5000 ppm. There was no harm to life, or catastrophic collapse, with CO2 in multiple-thousands of ppm. Instead, life flourished.
“During the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods when our most useful plants evolved, CO2 levels were about five times higher than today… Our crop plants evolved about 400 million years ago, when CO2 in the atmosphere was about 5000 parts per million! Our evergreen trees and shrubs evolved about 360 million years ago, with CO2 levels at about 4,000 ppm. When our deciduous trees evolved about 160 million years ago, the CO2 level was about 2,200 ppm – still five times the current level”, (http://co2coalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Rising_CO2__Food-Security-2-21-19-1.pdf).
Contemporary plant response to more food
With the slight rise in CO2 levels from pre-industrial 285 ppm to the 400-plus ppm of today there has been a 14% increase in green vegetation across the Earth over the past 30 years. This is the equivalent to adding green vegetation twice the size of the mainland US. https://www.thegwpf.com/matt-ridley-rejoice-in-the-lush-global-greening/. Where are the celebrating Greens, the self-proclaimed advocates for a greener world?
A warming planet is a more optimal planet
There has been only a mild 1 degree Centigrade warming over the past century. This is part of the longer warming trend that began 300 years ago when Earth began to emerge out of the bitter cold of the Little Ice Age of 1645-1715. This longer warming trend is due to natural influences on climate, and that did not change with this past century (i.e. the same natural factors continue to overwhelmingly influence the present phase of this 300-year-long period of warming).
Our current world average surface temperature of 14.5 degrees Centigrade is still far below the normal and optimum 19.5 degrees C. average of the past hundreds of millions of years. For over 90% of the past 500 million years there has been no ice at the poles. That is a more normal and healthy Earth. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/01/03/earths-ice-ages/
With much higher average temperatures in the past there was no “climate catastrophe” or threat to life. To the contrary, life flourished.
A much warmer Earth will not “fry” because the planet has an efficient energy distribution system where heat rises at the tropics and is carried north and south toward the poles. In a warming world the Equator does not become excessively hotter but rather the colder regions warm more and that benefits all life with extended habitats and less severe storminess because of less severe gradients between warm and cold regions. https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/how-weather-works/global-air-atmospheric-circulation.
Note also that researchers have discovered tropical tree stumps in the Arctic from past warmer eras. The more recent discovery of tropical tree stumps in Antarctica further corroborates the evidence of tropical forests in the pole regions. That evidence affirms the much warmer world of most of the past 500 million years with average 19.5 degrees Centigrade world surface temperatures versus the average 14.5 degrees Centigrade of today’s much colder world. Again, a much warmer world means vastly extended habitats for life, not a “frying” world that destroys life.
Physicist Freeman Dyson summarizes this uneven distribution of warming in the following: “’Global warming’. This phrase is misleading because the warming caused by the greenhouse effect of increased carbon dioxide is not evenly distributed. In humid air, the effect of carbon dioxide on the transport of heat by radiation is less important, because it is outweighed by the much larger greenhouse effect of water vapor. The effect of carbon dioxide is more important where the air is dry and air is usually dry only where it is cold. The warming mainly occurs where air is cold and dry, mainly in the arctic rather than in the tropics, mainly in winter rather than in summer, and mainly at night rather than in daytime. The warming is real, but it is mostly making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter. To represent this local warming by a global average is misleading because the global average is only a fraction of a degree while the local warming at high latitudes is much larger” (The Scientist as Rebel).
Remember too that cold weather kills 10-20 times more people every year than heat does. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/12/20/moderate-cold-kills/, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150520193831.htm.
Plants, animals, and humans are benefiting immensely from this massive greening of our planet and the return to more normal and optimal conditions for all life. “Average increase of 46% of crop biomass owing to increased CO2 fertilization”, Gregory Whitestone on Craig Idso research. See http://www.co2science.org/data/plant_growth/plantgrowth.php
Further, the actual influence of CO2 on climate warming is still not settled because many other natural factors have shown a stronger influence on climate and stronger correlations to the climate change that we have seen over the past few centuries (i.e. cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, ocean/atmosphere relationship).
Fact: There is no good evidence to support fear of looming catastrophe (i.e. “climate crisis”) in a much warmer planet with much higher levels of CO2. The benefits of more plant food and more warmth outweigh any potential negatives.
Consequent to this evidence, there is no good scientific reason for people to decrease their use of fossil fuels or to ban them. It is unscientific and irrational to “decarbonize” our societies or to embrace policies such as carbon taxes. CO2 is not a pollutant or poison that must be restrained. It is the most basic food of life and it has been in desperately short supply for millions of years. We should celebrate with all plant and animal life at the greening of our planet.
The above evidence affirms that there is no climate apocalypse on the horizon.
Insert: Craig Idso, scientist with the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, regarding the EPA Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases (2009) and his petition to repeal the Finding:
“Multiple observations made over the past decade confirm the projected risks and adverse consequences of rising greenhouse gases are failing to materialize. The truth is, in stark contrast to the Endangerment Finding, CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use during the Modern Era have actually enhanced life and improved humanity’s standard of living. And they will likely continue to do so as more fossil fuels are utilized”.
“Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies show (1) there is nothing unusual about Earth’s current warmth or rate of warming, (2) historic and modern records of atmospheric CO2 and temperature violate principles of causation, (3) model-based temperature projections since 1979 artificially inflate warming (compared to observations) by a factor of 3, invalidating the models and all their ancillary claims associated with greenhouse gas-induced warming, and that (4) key adverse effects of greenhouse gas-induced warming, including extreme weather events, temperature-induced mortality and sea level rise, are not occurring despite EPA predictions they would be worsening”.
“The petition also presents compelling evidence that CO2 emissions and fossil energy use provide critical benefits that act to enhance health and welfare for humanity and the natural world… ‘Without adequate supplies of low-cost centralized energy derived from fossil fuels, few, in any, of the major technological and innovative advancements of the past two centuries that have enhanced and prolonged human life could have occurred. Additionally, without the increased CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use over the past two centuries, Earth’s terrestrial biosphere would be nowhere near as vigorous or productive as it is today. Rather, it would be devoid of the growth-enhancing, water-saving, and stress-alleviating benefits it has reaped in managed and unmanaged ecosystems from rising levels of atmospheric CO2 since the Industrial Revolution began’”.
See also the hundreds of studies on CO2 at Idso’s site- co2science.org.
Note: “What is impossible to quantify is the actual percentage of warming that is attributable to increased anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2. There is no scientific evidence or method that can determine how much of the warming we’ve had since 1900 was directly caused by us and how much can be assigned to the continuing natural drivers of climate”, Gregory Whitestone.
“Let us dispel any notion that projected higher levels of CO2 will have a direct deleterious impact on humans… According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ‘CO2 levels may reach 900 ppm’ by 2100, which is well below the minimum threshold for negative impact to humans. The United States Department of Agriculture has set a maximum exposure limit for workers at 5,000 ppm and states that even at levels of 10,000 ppm there are typically no ill effects”, Gregory Whitestone.
The 130 ppm increase since the early stages of the Industrial Revolution is not an “alarming increase”. There is no “climate crisis”.
Note on “consensus”: Almost 32,000 scientists, many of the best scientific minds on the planet, signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Protest Petition which states, “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”.
Environmental alarmism/climate alarmism has become the latest historical eruption of apocalyptic alarmism. These apocalyptic alarms are present in the earliest human writing- i.e. the Sumerian Flood myth, also in the Egyptian ‘Return to Chaos’ and ‘Destruction of Mankind’ myths. Little has changed across history. The same primitive themes have been repeated all across history and across all the cultures of the world. Today, environmental alarmism has taken up the apocalyptic themes to traumatize public consciousness with the same old, same old as ever before. Alarmist media thoughtlessly and obsessively push the endless “end of days” prophecies of environmentalism.
The great disconnects in CO2 alarmism: Over the past hundreds of millions of years CO2 levels have often been very high, in the multiple thousands of ppm, while at the same time Earth’s temperature has been low. And when CO2 levels have been low over that time, Earth’s temperature has often been high. This undermines the hypothesis that CO2 drives temperature in climate change.
Note also that about 350,000 years ago CO2 levels dipped very low, below 200 ppm, going down to 180 ppm. Plant life dies when CO2 levels descend to 150 ppm. That would have been the real climate catastrophe, the apocalypse for all life.
Over the past 400,000 years another pattern undermines the claim that CO2 drives climate warming. Roughly following a pattern of 100,000 year cycles, climate on Earth first warmed, which then warmed the oceans over subsequent centuries, and those warming oceans then expelled CO2 which then rose in the atmosphere. It was not rising CO2 levels first driving the climate warming. There was a centuries-long lag with rising CO2 dependent on climate warming first. http://euanmearns.com/the-vostok-ice-core-and-the-14000-year-co2-time-lag/ and
Another disconnect: During the 1990s the sun entered a solar minimum that became extended. The climate warming trend that had began around the mid-70s then became an extended flat trend. But CO2 levels continued to rise during this time. https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2013/03/Whitehouse-GT_Standstill.pdf
Where then is the claimed causal link of CO2 as the main driver of climate warming or climate change?
Point- Other natural factors drive climate change more than CO2. CO2 has a warming influence and is part of the complex of factors in the climate mix, but the CO2 influence on climate is repeatedly overwhelmed by other natural factors.
Conclusion? Don’t stress over our use of fossil fuels. There is no good scientific reason to restrict or ban fossil fuels. There is no “settled science” basis to support arguments for the decarbonization of our societies.
And to the contrary, there is good evidence that we are helping to save life by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Starving plant life has responded to the rising food levels in the atmosphere with an immense increase in biomass that has greened the planet by 14% since 1982. There has been an increase of green vegetation on Earth, equal to twice the size of the continental US.
Rising CO2 levels (plant food levels) and rising temperatures (on an abnormally cold Earth) are the two best things happening on Earth today. Life is once again flourishing in response.
Quotes from David Atheide’s ‘Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis’. Altheide notes that we are confronted with an increase in narratives of fear, much due to news media focus, exaggeration, and distortion.
“The mass media and popular culture are the most important contributors to fear. The pervasive use of fear in public documents and discourse has helped create a perspective or frame for viewing the world in an entertaining way that is shared by many members of our society… (this major paradox exists)… we are living longer with more secure and comfortable lifestyles than at any other time in history… yet we have the most fear and uncertainty about life…
“My research indicates that more of our narratives involve fear. Fear appeared in more headlines and news reports in the mid-1990s than in the 1980s… For the majority of people, the mass media shape identities and narratives… Fear as a perspective is expanding in social life… Fear is more widely used because news organizations and news sources benefit from it…
“News sources, and especially social control agencies (e.g. police departments) have adjusted their messages to comply with the media logic and entertainment format criteria of news organizations. Consequently, news reports and social control work have become joined through mass communication organizations…
“Murray Edelman, argued that ‘crises’ are simply certain events that are defined in a certain way and promoted to serve the political interests of leaders… ‘crisis’ is oriented to a decisionmaker’s audience and to convince the audience to allow the leader to take decisive action. Fear is used increasingly to define crises and to bump along those claims so that leaders can take political action against ‘external enemies’ or ‘internal enemies’….
“The mass media, and especially the news media, are the main source and tool used to ‘soften up’ the audience, to prepare them to accept the justificatory account of the coming action… Fear is part of social control… Directing fear in a society is tantamount to controlling that society. Every age has its fears, every ruler has his/her enemies, every sovereign places blame and every citizen learns about these as propaganda. The key is to recognize the process and not get captivated with the ‘bogeyman’ of choice in any particular time.”
Alarmism: The exaggeration of real problems in life, often out to apocalyptic-scale (i.e. the end of days), that distorts the true state of a problem. Alarmism incites the worst of human emotions and responses. It arouses the survival impulse in populations, rendering people susceptible through fear, anxiety, and depression, to embrace salvation schemes (i.e. “save the world”) that have far worse outcomes than the purported original problem. The salvation schemes of alarmists embrace the need for “coercive purging” of the threat, along with “instantaneous transformation” of society and life, because the threat is always imminent and dire.
The outcomes of alarmist terrorism have been horrifically destructive as evident in these examples: Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring influenced the ban on DDT that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of people in following decades, many of them children (see The Excellent Powder by Tren and Roberts). The bio-fuels fiasco resulted in rising food prices for the poorest people and further deforestation for palm oil plantations. The anti-GM crops/foods activism resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of children denied Vitamin A in Golden Rice. The push for decarbonization has already harmed the poorest people with rising energy prices and will further devastate the populations of developing countries that are trying to escape poverty with the help of inexpensive fossil fuels.
Understand the themes of background narratives- i.e. notably apocalyptic mythology- that fuel alarmist movements. This site probes the history and main themes of the apocalyptic complex of themes and their descent down through history- from primitive mythologies, to world religions, to the “secular” ideologies of our contemporary world (i.e. Declinism- the myth that life declines toward some great catastrophic collapse and ending).
Some related sources: David Altheide’s Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis (fear and social control). The ‘apocalyptic millennial’ scholars on the mass-death outcomes from the apocalyptic alarmism in Marxism, Nazism, and now environmental alarmism- i.e. Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History, Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth, Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence, and David Redles’ Hitler’s Millennial Reich.
Sources offering good evidence to counter alarmism movements: Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment On The Earth, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Szurmak and Desrocher’s Population Bombed, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, and Hans Rosling’s Factfulness. Note also the sites ‘Humanprogress.org’ and ‘Wattsupwiththat’.
A “holy shit” post in Forbes (now deleted) and a powerful blow to alarmism and apocalyptic in general…
“On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare
37,610 views | Jun 28, 2020, 06:48pm EDT Michael Shellenberger Contributor
“MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.
“I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30. But as an energy expert asked by Congress to provide objective expert testimony, and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public. Here are some facts few people know:
“Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
Carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for decades and peaked in Britain, Germany and France in the mid-seventies
Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture
“I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies. Some people will, when they read this imagine that I’m some right-wing anti-environmentalist. I’m not.
“At 17, I lived in Nicaragua to show solidarity with the Sandinista socialist revolution. At 23 I raised money for Guatemalan women’s cooperatives. In my early 20s I lived in the semi-Amazon doing research with small farmers fighting land invasions. At 26 I helped expose poor conditions at Nike factories in Asia. I became an environmentalist at 16 when I threw a fundraiser for Rainforest Action Network. At 27 I helped save the last unprotected ancient redwoods in California. In my 30s I advocated renewables and successfully helped persuade the Obama administration to invest $90 billion into them. Over the last few years I helped save enough nuclear plants from being replaced by fossil fuels to prevent a sharp increase in emissions.
“Until last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly that’s because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an “existential” threat to human civilization, and called it a “crisis.” But mostly I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public. I even stood by as people in the White House and many in the news media tried to destroy the reputation and career of an outstanding scientist, good man, and friend of mine, Roger Pielke, Jr., a lifelong progressive Democrat and environmentalist who testified in favor of carbon regulations. Why did they do that? Because his research proves natural disasters aren’t getting worse.
“But then, last year, things spiraled out of control. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “The world is going to end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change.” Britain’s most high-profile environmental group claimed “Climate Change Kills Children.” The world’s most influential green journalist, Bill McKibben, called climate change the “greatest challenge humans have ever faced” and said it would “wipe out civilizations.” Mainstream journalists reported, repeatedly, that the Amazon was “the lungs of the world,” and that deforestation was like a nuclear bomb going off. As a result, half of the people surveyed around the world last year said they thought climate change would make humanity extinct. And in January, one out of five British children told pollsters they were having nightmares about climate change. Whether or not you have children you must see how wrong this is. I admit I may be sensitive because I have a teenage daughter. After we talked about the science she was reassured. But her friends are deeply misinformed and thus, understandably, frightened.
“I thus decided I had to speak out. I knew that writing a few articles wouldn’t be enough. I needed a book to properly lay out all of the evidence. And so my formal apology for our fear-mongering comes in the form of my new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. It is based on two decades of research and three decades of environmental activism. At 400 pages, with 100 of them endnotes, Apocalypse Never covers climate change, deforestation, plastic waste, species extinction, industrialization, meat, nuclear energy, and renewables.
“Some highlights from the book: Factories and modern farming are the keys to human liberation and environmental progress. The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land. The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium. 100% renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5% to 50%. We should want cities, farms, and power plants to have higher, not lower, power densities. Vegetarianism reduces one’s emissions by less than 4%. Greenpeace didn’t save the whales, switching from whale oil to petroleum and palm oil did. “Free-range” beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300% more emissions. Greenpeace dogmatism worsened forest fragmentation of the Amazon. The colonialist approach to gorilla conservation in the Congo produced a backlash that may have resulted in the killing of 250 elephants. Why were we all so misled? In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations.
“Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by anti-humanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilization are behind much of the alarmism. Once you realize just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavory or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped. Will Apocalypse Never make any difference? There are certainly reasons to doubt it.
“The news media have been making apocalyptic pronouncements about climate change since the late 1980s, and do not seem disposed to stop. The ideology behind environmental alarmism — Malthusianism — has been repeatedly debunked for 200 years and yet is more powerful than ever. But there are also reasons to believe that environmental alarmism will, if not come to an end, have diminishing cultural power. The coronavirus pandemic is an actual crisis that puts the climate “crisis” into perspective. Even if you think we have overreacted, Covid19 has killed nearly 500,000 people and shattered economies around the globe. Scientific institutions including WHO and IPCC have undermined their credibility through the repeated politicization of science. Their future existence and relevance depends on new leadership and serious reform. Facts still matter, and social media is allowing for a wider range of new and independent voices to outcompete alarmist environmental journalists at legacy publications.
“Nations are reorienting toward the national interest and away from Malthusianism and neoliberalism, which is good for nuclear and bad for renewables. The evidence is overwhelming that our high-energy civilization is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilization that climate alarmists would return us to. And the invitations I received from IPCC and Congress late last year, after I published a series of criticisms of climate alarmism, are signs of a growing openness to new thinking about climate change and the environment. Another sign is the response to my book from climate scientists, conservationists, and environmental scholars. “Apocalypse Never is an extremely important book,” writes Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzerwinning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb. “This may be the most important book on the environment ever written,” says one of the fathers of modern climate science Tom Wigley. “We environmentalists condemn those with antithetical views of being ignorant of science and susceptible to confirmation bias,” wrote the former head of The Nature Conservancy, Steve McCormick. “But too often we are guilty of the same.
“Shellenberger offers ‘tough love:’ a challenge to entrenched orthodoxies and rigid, self-defeating mindsets. Apocalypse Never serves up occasionally stinging, but always well-crafted, evidence-based points of view that will help develop the ‘mental muscle’ we need to envision and design not only a hopeful, but an attainable, future.” That is all I that I had hoped for in writing it. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll agree that it’s perhaps not as strange as it seems that a lifelong environmentalist, progressive, and climate activist felt the need to speak out against the alarmism. I further hope that you’ll accept my apology.
Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here. Michael Shellenberger Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” Green Book Award Winner, and author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.”
Preamble to comment on “The great Christian contradiction” material below (Historical Jesus or Q Wisdom Sayings research):
The feature of ‘unconditional’ should be central to an authentically humane theology (God theory or Ultimate Reality theory). Below, I appeal to the Jesus tradition to establish this point. But my argument is not dependent on first establishing the actual message of the original Jesus. I do not view Jesus as an authority figure and I do not need his actual words (original message) as critical to affirm my point regarding an unconditional theology. I simply refer to the useful comments in the Jesus material (i.e. “love your enemy”) to illustrate something- i.e. unconditional- that stands on its own as authoritative.
Unconditional is the best of being human and holds authority in itself as ultimate goodness without the need for validation by some religious authority. It is “self-validating” as good or true. Unconditional does not need validation from Jesus but I do not mind touching base with such widely respected icons/symbols for illustrative purposes.
Unconditional love is not a religious insight or discovery. To the contrary, religious traditions across history have been essentially conditional traditions- promoting religious demands for right beliefs, correct rituals, required religious lifestyles to please religious deities, and the necessary conditions for religious salvation (i.e. sacrifices, payments). Religion as a conditional institution has never communicated the stunning unconditional nature of deity to humanity.
I would establish the authority of unconditional as supreme goodness by appealing to its discovery and practice by ordinary people all through our societies- i.e. parents, spouses, friends. It is the best behavior that we can engage and hence it should be the basis of any authentic theory of Ultimate Good or Ultimate Love. This is to say- do theology from humanity and then out to deity, not the other way around as religious traditions have long done (i.e. they begin with some holy text as authoritative revealed truth for defining deity and human ethics). Better, first establish the best of being human, and then project that out to define deity, but understand deity as transcendently better (Ultimate Good or Love). To quote Alexander Pope, “Cease from God to scan… The proper study of mankind is man”.
This is all to say- I am not a Biblicist (i.e. dependent on the texts of religious holy books for authoritative validation of ideas or ethics). My location of ultimate authority is common humanity and the best of common human goodness, whether exhibited by a non-religious person, an atheist, or by a religious person. I view all such common love as the expression of the God spirit, or god-likeness (that is to say- humaneness) that is present in ordinary people.
And yes, I am affirming that all people are equally incarnated with the God spirit that is indistinguishable from what we call the human spirit. There has been no special incarnation of deity only in religious heroes like Christian Jesus. To the contrary, there has been an equal incarnation of God in all people and that offers a new metaphysical basis for human equality.
What about bad behavior then? Unfortunately, we all have experience with denying our core human spirit and freely choosing to exhibit the baser features of the inherited animal that still resides in all of us. That is the risk of living with authentic freedom.
Concluding the above point… I do not base my understanding of ultimate reality on traditional religious sources- i.e. holy books- that claim to be “revealed truth” or “supreme authorities for thought and practice”. Those traditional sources of validation should be subject to the same evaluating criteria as all other areas of life- i.e. is the content good or bad, humane or inhumane?
And yes, I get it that an unconditional theology will spell the end of all religion. If God is freely accessible to all alike- not a dominating authority, not demanding salvation conditions (sacrifice/payment), not requiring a religious lifestyle or ritual, not making tribal distinctions between believer/unbeliever, not threatening future judgment/punishment/destruction… well, then who needs religion? We are all free to create our own unique life stories.
A “stunning new theology” buried by Christianity
The great contradiction in Christianity and its holy book, the New Testament.
(The conclusions here are based on Historical Jesus research, notably Q Wisdom Sayings gospel research- i.e. James Robinson, John Kloppenborg, among others.)
First, why go after Paul’s Christ myth, the highly revered icon of a major world religion? Because, even though the Christ represents some highly valued ideals to the Christian community- i.e. love, forgiveness, salvation, hope- it has also embraced and reinforced some of the worst features from an ancient past- i.e. retaliatory vengeance (see the Thessalonian letters, Revelation), tribal exclusion (true believers saved, unbelievers excluded), domination/subservience relating (Lord Christ and his mediating priesthood- “Every knee shall bow”), and angry gods threatening to punish and destroy (John’s Revelation as an epitome statement of this retaliatory vengeance).
You cannot merge and mix contradicting opposites. That promotes “cognitive dissonance” (see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”). Also, the nasty elements in a merger undermine, weaken, and distort the better features in the mix. It’s like putting new wine in old, rotten wineskins.
Further, the Christ gospel of Paul is mainly responsible for embedding/re-enforcing the myth of apocalypse in Western consciousness and keeping that pathological myth alive. As James Tabor said, “Paul has been the most influential person in history and he has shaped practically all we think about everything… (further) apocalyptic shaped all that Paul said and did” (Paul and Jesus). Paul’s apocalyptic Christ myth has shaped much of what we think and how we act- i.e. our ethics and justice systems.
To deal fully and properly with the destructive pathology of apocalyptic we must also deal with the core reality- i.e. the Christ myth- that validates and sustains this mythology in our consciousness and societies. Apocalyptic has been rightly exposed as “the most violent and destructive idea in history” (e.g. Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence).
Religious icons and myths/beliefs still exert an outsize influence on human thought and behavior (Note the 85% of humanity still affiliated with a major world religion as per the World Religion Survey). A close examination of humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity- reveals too many residual subhuman/inhuman features still present. Religious reformism has to move beyond peripheral tinkering to thoroughly and properly tackle the core reality- e.g. the nature of religious deity. This is a project of humanizing our ideals and authorities with our growing understanding of what is truly humane.
Fortunately, developing human insight into the true nature of love as unconditional now points us toward a stunning new understanding of the true nature of Ultimate Reality or God. Parents, spouses, and friends all know, from daily relating to imperfect family/people all around them, that love at its best should be unconditional. We now project this highest form of love out to define deity properly as Ultimate Love and Goodness. The best in humanity, as we understand it in terms of our common modern sensibilities, defines the transcendently better in deity. Yes, this is an “audacious” new way of doing theology. But it points to a more humane understanding of deity than what we have inherited from religious traditions and their holy books, the old sources of authority that are still rooted in primitive views of right and wrong (e.g. punitive justice, exclusion of unbelievers, discrimination of minorities, etc.).
Note on the general tone or spirit of Jesus’ teaching: Historical Jesus repeatedly upset good, moral, righteous people who believed that justice meant fairness as in proper eye for eye payback- i.e. the good should be rewarded and the bad should be punished. Jesus overturned that view of justice, scandalizing and offending people with his teaching on unconditional, universal love. Example: “Forgive seventy times seven… which is to say- endlessly, without limit”. And he argued that his view of God embodied this no conditions love to transcendent or infinite degree. All would get the same ultimate Good in the end (“sun and rain on all, both good and bad”).
Qualifier: We can affirm ultimate safety for all, both good and bad, and this should shape how we treat all in this life (i.e. with restorative justice). But in this life there are natural and social consequences to behavior and we accept that as part of healthy human development. However, we can also freely choose to do the Mandela thing and generously forgive and pardon oppressors/offenders and take a restorative approach toward them. Much like the US did, generally, with Japan and Germany after the Second World War. Or as the mother of the murdered daughter did in ‘The Forgiven’.
Now the “Contradiction”…
The ‘Search For Historical Jesus’, over the past three centuries, has given us the basic outline of what happened in the Christian tradition. The latest phase of this search- the Jesus Seminar- offers more detail on the basic issues involved, i.e. that early Christianity was a diverse movement with major differences, for example, between Jewish Christianity (Jesus as some sort of prophet/king but not God) and Paul’s Gentile Christian movement (Jesus as God-man, cosmic Christ/Savior).
Further, there were numerous other gospels that were not accepted into the Christian cannon- e.g. the gospel of Philip, gospel of Mary, Gospel of James, gospel of Thomas, and so on. The victors of the early Christian battles (i.e. Paul’s version of Christianity) got to dictate what was truth and what was heresy. Emperor Constantine also stuck his nose into the truth/heresy fighting among early Christians (see Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll).
(Insert note on the four gospels included in the New Testament: Of the many other gospels available when the New Testament canon was assembled, why were only Matthew, Mark, Luke and John included? Historians have noted some of the primitive reasoning behind the centuries-long selection process, such as Irenaeus’ affirmation that “there are four universal winds… animals have four legs…”, etc. Such was ancient ‘theological’ reasoning.)
The ‘Search For Historical Jesus’ has revealed that there was a real historical person and we believe that we have got close to his original message. But that message is much less than what the New Testament gospels have attributed to Jesus. The NT gospel writers put a lot of things in Jesus’ mouth, claiming that he had said such things but many of those things contradict his core theme/message.
Note, for instance, his statement in Matthew 5 to “love your enemy”. The single most profound statement of supreme no-conditions love. But then a few chapters later (Matthew 11) Jesus apparently pivots 180 degrees and threatens “unbelievers/enemies” with the single most intense statement of supreme hatred- enemies should be cast into hell. Matthew claims that Jesus threatened the villages that refused to accept him and his miracles/message, stating that they would be “cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth”. These statements could not have come from the same person because they are statements of irreconcilable opposites.
The core teaching of Jesus has been summarized in the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel, notably the first version- Q1. That teaching is basically Matthew 5-7 with some other comments and parables. Luke 6 is a similar summary but with a different setting- lakeside versus Matthew’s mountain top.
Matthew, obsessed with righteousness, tampers with the core Q Sayings Wisdom teaching in the chapter 5-7 section of his book. He adds his own editorial glosses, such as his condition that people’s righteousness had to exceed that of religious teachers if they wanted to get into heaven. They had to meet the impossible condition to “be perfect just as God is perfect”. That distorts entirely the main point of Jesus that it did not matter how people responded to love, because God generously included all, both good and bad. God was unconditional Love, and universal, unlimited inclusion. Luke in his treatment of the very same message does a better job, summing Jesus’ point as “be unconditionally merciful just like your Father is unconditionally merciful” (Luke 6). That gets the spirit of the passage better than Matthew’s conditional additions to the actual statements of Jesus.
The central statement or theme in the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel material is a statement of a behavior/belief relationship. It urges a specific behavior based on a similar validating belief. Note this in the Matthew 5:38-48 section, “Don’t engage the old eye for eye justice toward your enemy/offender. Instead, love your enemy because God does. How so? God does not retaliate against and punish enemies/offenders, but instead generously gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- inclusively to both good people and bad people alike”. Jesus based a non-retaliatory behavior on a similar validating belief- a “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God” (James Robinson).
A critical takeaway here is that a non-retaliating God (no more eye for eye) is a non-apocalyptic God because apocalyptic is about supreme and final retaliation, ultimate eye for eye retaliation. The God of Jesus will not engage the ultimate act of retaliation that is the apocalyptic punishment and destruction of all things (include here the eternal retaliation that is the hell myth). The God of Jesus was non-punitive and non-apocalyptic.
Other common-sense conclusions flow from this stunning new theology, from the core theme of a no-conditions God. For instance, the God of Jesus would not ultimately judge or condemn anyone and would not ultimately exclude anyone (again, sun and rain are given to all- to both good and bad people). The God of Jesus is best defined with the adjective “unconditional” and this summarizes the core theme/teaching in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.
This also means that the God of Jesus did not demand salvation (i.e. no need to “be saved” via sacrifice or payment for sin). His God would not demand sacrifice or payment before forgiving, loving, and including even the worst offenders/enemies. This is evident in the accompanying statements that authentic love would give, expecting nothing in return. And this point scandalizes the religious/moral mind that is oriented to fairness and justice as proper retribution or punishment, justice as tit for tat, hurt for hurt, demanded payment for wrong. No more eye for eye means that God’s love is not tit for tat love that is dependent on some similar response from others.
Note also Jesus’ parables on the Vineyard workers and the Prodigal Son for illustrations of how good people were offended by the unconditional generosity, forgiveness, and love of the Father and the vineyard owner. Their disregard for the commonly understood norms of fair justice offended the older brother and scandalized the all-day vineyard workers. Also, the unconditional inclusion of local “sinners” at meal tables offended righteous, moral Jews who were tribally oriented to the inclusion of similarly law-abiding people and the exclusion of the unlawful. Jesus claimed that God does not view humanity as tribally divided (e.g. good people versus bad people) and does not treat some differently from others. All are the favorites of God, including our enemies. This is to say that God is a oneness God, and all people are equal members of the one human family.
There is a “thematic coherence” to the message and behavior of the Historical Jesus and that message/behavior is intensely oriented to unconditional, universal love.
The rest of the New Testament, including the gospels, contradicts this core non-retaliatory, unconditional love theme entirely. A proper setting forth of the correct chronology of the New Testament highlights this profound contradiction at the heart of Christianity.
Jesus taught first, around 27-36 CE. I would offer that the main point/statement in his core message, the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel, would be the behavior/belief relationship noted above: “Do not engage eye for eye retaliation, but instead love your enemy because God does. How so? Just as we are expected to do, God does not engage eye for eye justice against imperfect people. Instead, God gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- to both good and bad people”. God is a non-retaliatory reality that loves all unconditionally and universally, expecting nothing in return.
James Robinson has correctly stated that Jesus presented “the stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”.
Paul wrote the next material that is in the New Testament- i.e. his Thessalonian letters written around 50 CE (I am passing over the argument re the authenticity of the second Thessalonian letter). In his first letters Paul is clearly rejecting the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and advocating for a retaliatory God- “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish/destroy all who do not obey my gospel”.
His other letters were also written in the 50s CE. In his Romans letter Paul contradicts Jesus directly, notably confronting the core Jesus theme/statement in Matthew 5:38-48. Paul employs the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus used to state his theology that is the very opposite to the theology of Jesus. In Romans 12:17-20 he urges Christians to hold their desire for vengeance at bay because God will satisfy it eventually with ultimate eye for eye vengeance because God is a retaliating deity.
Paul affirms his view that God is a supremely retaliatory reality by quoting an Old Testament statement, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay”. In this, Paul re-affirms eye for eye retaliatory justice and response. There is no ultimate “love your enemy” in Paul’s God or Christ.
In the Romans material Paul is arguing with the Roman Christians- restrain your vengeance lust, not because God does restrains a lust for vengeance (rejecting eye for eye justice as Jesus did), but to the contrary, because God will unleash ultimate vengeance soon enough and satisfy your desire for eye for eye vengeance on your enemies.
I would suggest that Paul used this behavior/belief pairing in Romans 12 to intentionally contradict the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus used in his central message. The similarities are too obvious. Paul rejects the non-retaliatory God of Jesus to fully affirm a retaliatory, punitive God, a tribal God that favors his true believers and rejects the enemies of believers.
Paul also, in other places (again, in contradiction to Jesus), straightforwardly embraced an apocalyptic God/Christ. Once more, note his Thessalonian letters where he states, “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish/destroy all who do not believe my gospel”. This statement of apocalyptic vengeance is the supreme act of a retaliatory, destroying God that engages ultimate eye for eye justice.
Further, Paul rejected and trashed in general, the wisdom tradition that Jesus belonged to. See his first Corinthian letter for detail. See Stephen Patterson’s The Lost Way for detail.
The four gospels that were later included in the New Testament all affirmed Paul’s views and his Christ myth by adding made-up biographical material and statements that they claimed were from Jesus, material that directly contradicted his main theme and message. Mark wrote first around 70 CE. Then Matthew and Luke wrote around 80 CE, John later around 100 CE.
All affirmed Paul’s apocalyptic, destroying Christ myth and Paul’s gospel of that Christ as a great cosmic sacrifice to pay for all sin (i.e. supremely conditional love).
Paul and his apocalyptic Christ myth- the most influential person and myth in history- has since shaped Western consciousness more than anything else. His Christ myth also shaped Western justice as punitive and retaliatory- i.e. eye for eye justice (pain for pain, hurt for hurt).
Fortunately, the inclusion of the original Jesus material in the New Testament has served as a moderating force in the Christian tradition and history, countering the harsher elements with mercy. But unfortunately, the mixing and merging of opposites has resulted in the ‘cognitive dissonance’ of a “diamonds-in-dung” situation (the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy). The better stuff- the core Jesus message and his stunning new unconditional theology- has been too often distorted and weakened by the nastier features in the mix. Again, much like new wine put into old, rotten wineskins. (See Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God for a psychotherapist’s view of the cognitive dissonance of mixed-God theories, and the damaging impact of including subhuman features in ideals/authorities such as deity.)
Contrary to the unconditional love that Jesus advocated, Christian love too often is a tribally-limited love, reserved more specially for fellow true believers in the Christ myth. Paul advocated such tribal love. Also, note his intolerant rage, in varied places, at his fellow apostles that did not submit to his Christ myth. He cursed them with eternal damnation. John in the early chapters of Revelation similarly curses “lukewarm” Christians with threats of exclusion and eternal destruction. And then how about those later chapters of Revelation?
After the core Q Wisdom Sayings message of Historical Jesus there is nothing of the scandalous generosity of unconditional love in the rest of the New Testament.
The unconditional God of Jesus, and the supremely conditional God/Christ of Paul that dominates the New Testament (demand for cosmic sacrifice before forgiving), are two entirely opposite realities.
Ah, such contradictions, eh.
Here is the main contradiction summarized again:
Jesus’ ethic and the theology/belief that it is based on: “Do not engage eye for eye retaliation but instead love your enemy because God does, sending the beneficial gifts of life, sun and rain for crops, to all alike, to both good and bad people”. Behave like that because God is like that.
Paul’s ethic and the theology/belief that it is based upon: Paul copies the pattern Jesus used of an ethic/behavior that is based upon a similar theology/belief. Again, I believe that Paul set this pattern up deliberately to directly contradict the central theme of Jesus and his stunning new theology. Paul’s argument and reasoning in Romans 12:17-20, “Be nice now to your offenders. Hold your vengeance lust at bay because my God- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”, which is to say- I shall satisfy it soon enough.
That is the profound contradiction in the New Testament between Jesus and Paul, between the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and the entirely opposite retaliatory theology of Paul. Theology, or God theory, is the very core ideal and authority of human narratives and influences and shapes all else in belief systems like religion.
Takeaway? The central theme/message of Historical Jesus: “You must not engage ‘eye for eye’ retaliatory justice. Instead, love your enemies/offenders because God does. How so? God does not retaliate and punish God’s enemies. Instead, God gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- universally and inclusively to both good and bad people”.
Christianity has never taken this central theology of Jesus seriously. It opted instead for the retaliatory and tribally excluding God of Paul. Unbelievers are excluded from Paul’s salvation scheme and face the threat of ultimate retaliation in apocalypse and hell. Note Paul’s repeated use in his varied letters of the threatening term “destruction” in relation to people who refuse to believe his God/Christ.
Old story themes, new story alternatives (18 fundamental ideas to re-evaluate)
1. Old story theme (threat theology- the core idea): 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 payback karma, the new gods of environmental alarmism, one of history’s latest apocalyptic movements.
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 God as the Ultimate Destroyer (i.e. via 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”).
Why bother with such speculative metaphysical corrections? Because we need to counter humanity’s “primal fear of after-life harm” that is the outcome of millennia of bad religious ideas beaten into human consciousness and subconscious.
None of the great world religions has ever presented the reality of an unconditional deity. All religion across history has been essentially about conditional reality- i.e. the required conditions to appease and please religious deities (conditions of right belief, proper religious rituals, religious lifestyle, demanded sacrifices/payment for wrong, etc.).
The 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 divine retribution/punishment behind the nastier features of life. While there are natural and social consequences to our choices and behavior, 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 (e.g. Eden), that God 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 a perfect world, and if things are not perfect now then blame corrupt humanity for mucking things up that were once perfect. It can’t be God’s fault.
We- humanity- have always had difficulty 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. We struggle to improve ourselves and others, and to improve life in general, and we ought to do so without the added psychic burden of fear of angry deity or divine threat over our remaining imperfection.
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 the most important lessons of life in our struggle with our own imperfection. For example, we learn how to love in our struggle with the animal inheritance in ourselves and others. We learn what it means to be authentically human 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/enemy (i.e. some life problem that may be physical, mental/emotional, interpersonal, financial, social, etc.). 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).
(Note: The use of the term “imperfection” is not to diminish the horror and trauma that people suffer from natural disaster, disease, and the cruelty of others. But ‘old story’ explanations of the imperfection of the world as a fall from original perfection due to human corruption/sin, and subsequent imperfection introduced as punishment for that original sin… such myths tend to affirm deity as cruel, punitive, and destructive- i.e. God as the great obsessive compulsive Punisher of imperfection. That only adds psychic suffering to general human suffering- i.e. the added burden of unnecessary mental, emotional suffering. We can do better and understand original imperfection in alternative ways. And this is the impulse to theodicy, as roughly the defense of Ultimate Good/Love behind all, and to view the world in a new story as an experience/learning arena.)
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 subsequent human degeneration toward something worse today, is still common in the “noble savage” mythology that dominates throughout academia (i.e. 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. Also, amassed evidence on humanity improving all areas of life across long-term history shows that “we are more creators than destroyers” (Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource).
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. “fallen humanity possessing a 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? We have inherited a core animal brain with its base impulses to tribalism and exclusion of differing others (small band mentality), to domination of others (alpha male/female), and to retaliatory and destructive response to others/”enemies”. Our human consciousness/spirit, along with our inherited animal side, explains the great “battle between good and evil that takes place in every human heart”, (Alexander Solzhenitsyn). The bad side in humanity is not “inherited sin” but is better understood in terms of the inherited animal in us. See Lyall Watson’s “Dark Nature”.)
4. Old story theme : 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).
The trajectory of life as a decline toward something worse is a core feature of apocalyptic mythology.
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. toward more complexity, organization, and 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”.
This theme of long-term improvement, or fundamental direction toward something better, is critical to countering apocalyptic nihilism and affirming hopefulness.
5. Old story theme: The myth that natural disasters, disease, human cruelty, and death are expressions of divine punishment. This adds the unnecessary psychic burden of fear, anxiety, guilt and shame to already unbearable physical suffering. Paul tormented the Corinthians with this argument that their sicknesses and deaths were punishment from God for their sins.
New story alternative: While there are natural and social consequences all through life, there is no punitive, destroying deity behind the imperfections of life. Ultimately there is only Love at the core of reality (see alternatives below on the relationship of Love to the freedom and randomness in life).
6. 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, via a violent blood sacrifice.
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 act inhumanely.
But be assured that no one has ever been separated from the indwelling love that is God, no matter their failure to live as human. 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 separate Sky God up in some distant heaven. God has always been intensely and immediately 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.
Again, as stated similarly in number 3 above, this new alternative overturns entirely the historically persistent myths of “fallen”, “essentially sinful”, or “bad-to-the-bone” humanity.
Further, the idea of God incarnated equally in every person presents a new element for affirming equality among all people (and equal respect for all). God incarnated in humanity offers a stunning new element to defining the essential core of being human- i.e. what we really are as human persons. The Near-Death Experiences repeatedly note this feature of the astounding human unity with deity- of inseparable oneness.
7. 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 good God that wars against evil opponents, 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 (include the use of gender as an oppositional divide). Dualism thinking deforms human identity and buries the fact of our essential oneness in the human family. Dualism thinking affirms the inherited animal impulse that orients people to small-band thinking and behavior (i.e. the tribal exclusion of differing others). Embracing dualism as a divine reality and ideal, orients people toward opposing, dominating, and fighting/destroying others as ‘enemies’.
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 core 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 the good guy beating and destroying the bad guy in some way. There is nothing in this story-telling 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. This is the dualism between our true human spirit/self and our inherited animal impulses.
(Caution: The above comment on essential oneness is not intended to diminish the urgency to fight evil and affirm good in this world. But some have suggested that dualism, and the apparent separation related to dualism- i.e. the division between good and bad- is only a temporal feature of this material realm. This world with its varied dualisms provides an arena for us to live out our stories and engage our varied “righteous struggles against evil”. Others have said that we only experience and learn what good means in our struggle with the opposites of good- i.e. the bad in others, and in life. Bad/evil in this realm provides a contrasting context in which we experience and learn good. Joseph Campbell suggests that this dualistic realm is where “we act out our differing roles on God’s stage”. But he and others suggest that the dualism between good and bad exists only here in this world. It is temporal and not part of any greater timeless reality. See also Natalie Sudman’s The Application of Impossible Things.)
Further note on oneness: The oneness of all, along with the core unconditional nature of deity, counters the myth of some people as especially chosen of God and favored by God more than others. There are no “elect people”, or special “children of God”. The people who see themselves as “true believers”, more so than others, are not closer to God than any other people. Essential oneness means that all humanity, that is every person, has God within them, equally. All people have equal access to the immediacy of God that is everywhere present as the sustaining Core or Source of all reality. Further, there are no special “holy places”- i.e. temples, churches- where limited religious groups gain more access to God than the ordinary lives and daily mundane spaces of all people. Essential oneness is a more humane theological basis for human equality.
8. Old story theme: The myth of a 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 things. 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 mythology is to embrace and advocate the epitome expression of nihilism- i.e. the complete and final destruction of life and the world.
Apocalyptic mythology still dominates much of modern story-telling, whether movies, TV, 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 religious understanding of apocalypse since Zoroaster). The apocalyptic alarmist exaggerates problems in nature and life in terms of “end of days” scenarios, distorting the true state of things, and thereby promotes fear and even destructive violence in populations. The demand for violence is evident in the felt need to “coercively purge” what is believed to be some great threat. See the notes in following sections on the Marxist, Nazi, and Green apocalyptic movements and their mass-death outcomes.
In the new story alternative theme there is no core destroying Force or Spirit behind the harsher 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 in the natural world is not evidence of some punitive deity threatening a final punishment and ending of all things. (See notes on “natural consequences” below)
Further helpful here- some have made the argument that there are also positive aspects to the destructive elements of nature (In response to the theodicy question: Is this the “best possible world?”). For example, the plate tectonic movement that generates destructive earthquakes also generates mountain-building, which creates differences in climate and that contributes to the development of diversity in emerging life (i.e. different environmental pressures on populations and the change that brings forth). Our project is to adapt to such things and we have done better over time. This is evident in the decreasing loss of life across history from natural disasters.
9. 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 (the urge for survival/salvation) to take immediate violent action to purge what is presented to them as the threatening thing. Threatened populations are more easily manipulated to embrace policies that will abandon the democratic process to engage “coercive purification” schemes (Richard Landes) directed at perceived opponents/enemies. End-of-life threats incite populations to embrace policies that will coercively and instantaneously install their version of protection and security in some safe paradise.
Alarmism, that exaggerates and distorts the true state of things, has too often unleashed the totalitarian impulse across history.
We saw the violence of instantaneous transformation policies in the 100 million deaths that stemmed from Marxist urgency to coercively purge the world of the threat from “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 also stems from the escapist mindset of apocalyptic types who cannot endure the struggle to gradually and democratically improve an imperfect world. They irresponsibly seek to escape to some instantly installed utopia, often coercively installed.
10. Old story theme: The demand for a salvation plan- i.e. a required sacrifice or payment (atonement, debt payment, punishment) as necessary to appease/satisfy some great threat or threatening reality, whether a religious God or vengeful Gaia, angry planet, upset Mother Earth, punitive Universe, or payback karma.
(Note: Key point to observe here- Jesus rejected debt payment as necessary to divine love. He advocated the highest form of love, or goodness, as giving to all without expecting any payment in return. And his argument in Matt.5:38-48, also Luke 6:27-36, was about this new standard of human love- i.e. not requiring debt payment from others, or similar response from others, to the initiating goodness that was shown to them. This new ‘no conditions love’ would enable people to be like God who was similarly no conditions love- i.e. the argument of Matthew 5 and Luke 6 to do this because God is like this, or God does this. God gives or loves and does not expect anything in return.)
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. With ultimate safety secured, the only “salvation” that we need to engage is the ongoing and gradual struggle to make life better in this world.
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 or balancing response to goodness shown. 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 freely 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. include sacrifice here). This is how Jesus further defined a God that “loved enemies”.
Jesus rejected the principle of debt payment as a fundamental requirement of divine love. This is clearly expressed in his statement to “give/love expecting nothing in return”. Keep in mind that in these passages (Matt.5 and Luke 6) he urged people to love in a new unconditional manner because that was how God loved. He was arguing for a new standard of love that would show what God was like, that would do what God did (i.e. “Love your enemy because God does”).
Debt payment, or more generally the righting of wrongs as the required basis for offering forgiveness, had been the basis of atonement thinking from the beginning. That was based on the archaic belief that God, as holy, must punish all wrongs properly and fully, and must rectify all wrongs by demanding payment or retribution of some sort. God could not just forgive, accept, and love without first making all wrongs right. That was necessary to restore divine honor. The God of the old atonement/sacrifice mythology could not just freely forgive and love.
That old theology made no sense because it argued that the love of the religious God, based on a prerequisite payment/punishment/atonement, was something lesser than the best of human love. We are expected to just forgive in an unlimited manner (“seventy times seven”), to accept all people universally, and to love without demanding prerequisite conditions or similar response (again the statement- “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. Surely God as Ultimate Goodness and Love would, at least, love as well as we are expected to love- that is, unconditionally.
Jesus further corrected in his parables the old belief that divine love was conditional. Those short stories also illustrated the point that divine love did not require the payment of debt, or more generally the righting of wrongs, before forgiving, accepting, and loving (i.e. the ‘no conditions’ love that defined his new theology). No conditions love meant “no conditions” at all. Note this element in his Prodigal Son story where the father does not demand a sacrifice, restitution, or repayment before forgiving and fully accepting/loving the wayward son. All such conditions were brushed aside by the father.
I reject, as Jesus appears to have done, the old theology that God as ultimate Goodness and Love is held to a lesser standard of love than we are held to. I reject the idea that God remembers all wrongs and can demand conditions before forgiving, while we are told that authentic love, for us, means “keeping no record of wrongs” for some future making-of-things-right. Our love is to be without condition because that is actually how God loves. And it is the unconditional nature of forgiveness and love that constitute the greatness and glory of these features, not the conditions of religious holiness/honor mythology with its prerequisite demands.
Unfortunately, Paul refused the new theology of Jesus and retreated back to traditional conditional theology- i.e. a punitive God that demanded full payment for sin before forgiving anyone. We inherited Paul’s version of Christianity with its orientation toward punitive and conditional treatment of others. Note the clear New Testament statements on this feature of requisite payment as essential to the Christian gospel. The book of Hebrews (chapter 9) states that “without the shedding of blood (sacrifice) there is no forgiveness”. The book of Romans (e.g. chapter 5) states that there is only salvation (“saved from wrath”) after the condition of a blood payment/sacrifice has been fulfilled.
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. Further, my reference to “Historical Jesus” is not an appeal to him as some special religious authority on these issues. I refer to him simply because he continues to be viewed as a notable religious icon. And I would repeatedly emphasize the larger background context to these themes- i.e. the profound contradiction between the core message of Historical Jesus- i.e. the “Q Wisdom Sayings gospel” and Paul’s Christ myth gospel- i.e. the Christian “Jesus Christ”. These two contrary gospels illustrate the profound contradiction between the themes of unconditional and conditional, non-retaliation and retaliation, non-punitive/non-destructive and punitive/destructive, among other contrasting features.)
11. Old story theme: The belief that retribution or payback is true justice (i.e. eye for eye), 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 hurt for hurt theology, or pain returned for pain caused, still under-girds much thinking on justice today, though it is often framed as the practical need to present the punishment of offenders as a warning to others, to serve as a deterrence example for the general public. Psychology now recognizes that such punitive approaches do not work with criminal offenders or children. Punitive response to human imperfection and failure “does not teach alternative humane behavior”.
New story alternative: Again, 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.”
Added note: Yes, there is value in remembering past bad behavior, and the outcomes of such behavior, as a warning to others. The Holocaust is a signature example of this value. But we remember the bad behavior of others in a larger context of consciously forgiving, with an orientation to restorative justice that is victim-centered (i.e. fully deals with restitution issues). Simon Wiesenthal’s “Justice, Not Vengeance” illustrates the struggle for balance on these concerns.
12. 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). Myths of after-life harm have added a magnitude of order increase in fear to the already burdensome fear of death that many people carry.
(Insert: Why bother with speculation about such unknowable realities as after-life reality? Why not just dismiss or ignore such? Well, because the speculation has already been done by major belief systems/religions across history and across all the cultures of the world. Pathology- i.e. bad mythology like the horrific myth of hell- already exists in human consciousness and ignoring it does nothing to solve the problems that the pathology causes- i.e. unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, shame. While all after-life theorizing may be considered speculative, we can at least offer more humane alternatives with healthier parameters- i.e. eliminate unnecessary worry regarding death while also focusing human orientation to full involvement with here and now reality.)
New story alternative: Again, the baseline ideal- i.e. authentic love is unconditional and does not demand the fulfilment 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 again 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 proper justice, in their eyes. Other “righteous” people were also offended and scandalized by Jesus when he invited local outcasts and scoundrels to meals with them. He did not respect the proper tribal boundaries between good and bad people, between true believers and unbelievers. He was too scandalously universal and unconditional.
All such material points to the safe conclusion that there will be no after-life harm. We die into a stunning no conditions Love that is our origin and final home. We are all safe in that Love (i.e. sun and rain are generously given to all alike, to both good and bad people). We are never separated from that Love.
Insert: Make the important distinction here between Ultimate Reality and life in this imperfect world. We can recognize the ultimate final reality of God as absolutely no conditions Love but not deny the reality of natural and social consequences in this world. The need for personal responsibility for behavior is 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.
13. 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 provides validation for the abandonment of historical processes of gradual improvement via creative human freedom and endeavor, and affirms, instead, the demand for overwhelming revolutionary violence that seeks to instantly purge some “corrupt” entity that is viewed as the threat, and then re-install one’s view of some lost paradise.
We saw this resort to “violent force against an imagined enemy” recently with ISIS in Syria (a struggle to bring on the final annihilation/Armageddon battle and then spread the caliphate across the world). We have also seen the same violence in Jewish history (Old Testament) and Christian history (Crusades, Inquisitions, persecution of heretics). The embrace of revolutionary violence has to do with the divine model/human behavior relationship (i.e. our behavior validated by our divine ideas/ideals). As Harold Ellens says, if your God uses force, then so may you, to get your way against your “enemies”.
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 was believed to be under dire and imminent threat from the enemy. Too often this belief in divine violent force has been misappropriated to validate unnecessary harshness and cruelty toward fellow human beings.
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. 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, and to do so while respecting the freedom of others to differ from us.
This is to say that there is no hero messiah, no tribal deity that will intervene with superior force to conquer some enemy of ours, and grant us our vision of our longed-for paradise with our enemies excluded (i.e. the unbelievers of our ‘truth’ as per the book of Revelation).
Note: This point recognizes the valid need at times (police, military) to use legal force to restrain irrational violence. This legitimate use of force is to be distinguished from the harsh mythology that drives ISIS and drove historical Christian violence against fellow Christians that disagreed over theological issues, often very minor disagreements (e.g. note the incident of Calvin putting his fellow Christian theologian, Servetus, to death over the placement of an adjective in a sentence).
We are seeing this advocacy for coercive force today against fellow citizens, over similarly minor issues of disagreement, such as in the climate debate. The hysterical exaggeration of natural change in nature, out to apocalyptic-scale scenarios, has clouded the minds of many and has incited the felt need for coercive force (i.e. criminalize skeptical science), and even violence against opponents.
14. 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, or 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.
15. 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 expressed the divine ideal when he 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.
Yes, this is another stunning correction to traditional God theories.
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 in sections below.
16. 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.
A 17th Old Story theme (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 protect or 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 (not Pantheism) 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 in union with 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.
God has never been silent or absent. There has never been a Sky God up above the world in some heaven, above and outside of humanity, doing things to the world and to people from outside (the “yoyo God”, coming down to intervene in some way and then going back up). To the contrary, God has always been within all things (the creating Sustainer of all reality), especially within the human family. God is evident in all human misery 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 good and 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 to us 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 immanence of deity speaks to the fundamental “oneness” behind all things. Even quantum mechanics points to this foundational reality.
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. The upside is that nothing in life is pre-planned or predestined. We are free to create our own unique story, to become the heroes of our own life adventure. And there is nothing more heroic than choosing no conditions love, for even the enemy, as the supreme height of human achievement. Then we tower in stature like a Mandela.
Note: The above comments relate to one of the options offered in Jewish “Protest Theology” that emerged after the Holocaust (i.e. the idea of God willing/choosing to not intervene in human freedom). Others have suggested that, as spirit, God cannot intervene in material reality, aside from gentle suasion on the human spirit and consciousness.
And of course, aside from these points, there are still the myriad unexplainable and fascinating “coincidences” scattered through personal human stories that we may either view as just random, or the work of Providence. Interesting that people tend to explain good coincidences as Providence, but not so much the bad ones.
Added discussion group post from Bob Brinsmead: “____, many thanks for sending the link to this great Wikipedia article on Process Theology. I would have to say that I agree with the main thrust of the thesis.
“To say that God could have stopped the Holocaust but refrained from stopping it is very unsatisfactory to me. I agree with the argument of the PROCESS theologians here. If God is committed to love, then God is committed to human freedom. God can use persuasion but not coercion of the human will. Love would not allow God to do something that was inhuman (interfere, coerce, etc.). If you look at history and daily experience, there is no other conclusion that seems to be either logically or ethically possible. It is also hard to see God acting contrary to the laws of nature or the laws of physics.”
18. One more Old Story Theme, New Story Alternative to add to the list below…
While human selfishness and greed are present in any approach to life, these features do not most essentially define industrial civilization and its outcomes. Collectivists have argued that the free individual model that developed over past centuries in England (i.e. the “classic Liberalism” that protected the individual rights and freedom of all citizens, equally) orients populations to destructive selfishness, greed, disconnect from nature, and violence, among other pathology. But that is not generally true. More importantly, with the fundamental protection of private property rights, the free individual model has unleashed human creativity as never before, along with environmental concerns, to achieve unimaginable new heights in the improvement of all aspects of our lives, and the world in general.
Old story theme: The myth of the moral and spiritual superiority of the simple lifestyle with low consumption (i.e. self-produced, using only local resources). This is related to “noble savage” mythology, the belief that primitive hunter/gatherers were more pure and environmentally conservative before humanity “fell” in developing civilization (“falling” even further in the last few centuries of industrial civilization). This myth fosters endless guilt and shame over consumption and the enjoyment of the good life. Small is Beautiful by Schumacher was an affirmation of this mythology. Note that it is most often wealthy Western elites that advocate this “morally superior primitivism” lifestyle for poorer people in developing areas.
New story alternative: The search for a better life is the fundamental urge of love- to responsibly improve one’s life and the state of one’s family. And it is the free choice of people to enjoy what they wish to use and enjoy. The abundance that most people enjoy today, with an ever-increasing proportion of humanity moving into middle class status, is part of the larger trajectory of developing technological, industrial civilization that is also lessening environmental impacts. For example, the trend of continuing world urbanization is concentrating more people in smaller and more efficient spaces- e.g. economies of scale- that lessen pressure on natural areas (see population expert Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource). Industrial society further decreases per capita consumption of varied resources with ongoing technological development. The general creation of wealth has also enabled more developed areas to better care for and improve their environments. This overturns the environmental alarmist argument that industrial society is “destroying the world”. See “Environmental transition” research, for example, by Indur Goklany. Also, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed.
Note: There is no finalized consensus on how much of the natural world humans can engage, use, and change. We are a legitimate species and not an intruding “virus or cancer” in the view of those who want a more untouched wilderness world. And from today’s progressing industrial civilization note the emerging trends like ‘peak agriculture’ and the return of agricultural lands to nature as, with safe GM crop inputs, we produce more crops on the same or less land. Note also the improving status of world forests over the past seven decades (FAO reports on increasing world forest cover), and the strengthening of conservation and restoration trends in world fisheries (Ray Hilborn research, University of Washington). Further, there is no species holocaust occurring. It appears the “responsible stewardship” approach of the early 20th Century conservationists is working (see Alston Chase’s ‘In A Dark Wood’).
As Julian Simon said, “Evidence on the big picture and long-term trends of life shows that we are more creators than destroyers”.
Added notes: There is a long history of belief in the moral/spiritual superiority of the ascetic lifestyle and engendering guilt over enjoying the good life too much (the good life viewed in terms of selfishness, greed, the “base” obsession with materialism). Note past history’s cloistered mystics, wandering holy men, and sages, begging for their daily needs. These “holiness exhibited in simple living” cults are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and elsewhere.
Varied other beliefs play into the fear of consumption such as the fallacy of “limited good” that anthropology notes in hunter/gatherer societies where people believe that if some people in the group get more, then others must be getting less, as there are limited resources to go around. The evidence, while at first seeming counter-intuitive, comes down on the side of ever-expanding human resources across history (“cornucopians” like Julian Simon were right).
Simon (Ultimate Resource) has outlined the steps in the process that results in the expansion or increase in resources: Within traditional production there is an apparent scarcity of some resource. This leads to increasing prices for that resource. That prompts the search for more reserves of the resource, the discovery of technology that leads to more efficient production and use of the resource, or a search for alternatives to the resource (i.e. the shift from whale oil to fossil fuels). And ultimately there is a return to the trajectory of lowering the price of the resource. We saw the process above operating with the discovery of fracking technology and the opening of vast new sources of fossil fuels in the US.
Added note to Old Story themes: Holiness mythology
One of the most common responses from religious people to the idea of God as no conditions love is that God is also holy and just and therefore must punish wrong. God’s honor is tarnished by the wrong-doing of people so he must be just (exhibit strict eye for eye) and punish all sin. God cannot just freely forgive and love. But this is primitivism at its worst. How so? It is the very same reasoning that is behind practices like “honor killing”. People in varied cultures today still reason that, for example, a daughter embracing modern habits has dishonored her family and their traditional culture. So the dishonored males are required to punish the “evil” daughter in order to restore their tarnished honor. Holiness theology is embracing this very same primitive reasoning that wrongs musts be punished or justice and honor are not restored properly. I would counter that unconditional forgiveness and love is the true glory of God, the highest goodness and love.
The holiness feature in theology affirms the myth of God obsessed with perfection and punishing imperfection, hence the creation of a supporting complex of myths related to original paradise/Eden (perfect creation), Fall of humanity and ruin of paradise (loss of perfection), subsequent need for an atonement (sacrifice/payment/punishment in order to restore the lost perfection).
Comment in sections further below: “Countering alarmism” (responding to irresponsible and dangerous eruptions of fear-mongering); “World Resource Updates”- the improving state of world forests, soils, ocean fisheries, land species, and atmosphere; “Two best things happening today”- more plant food (i.e. rising atmospheric CO2) in a dangerously low CO2 era and more warmth in an abnormally cold ice-age era; “Outcomes of alarmism”- unleashing the totalitarian impulse (e.g. silencing, banning, and even criminalizing skeptical science); “Deeper roots of alarmism” in apocalyptic mythology.
Note on World Resource Updates: The true state of the main world resources reveals that the overall trajectory of life is not declining toward something worse but is improving toward something better. That is sound evidence for hope in the basic goodness of humanity and our efforts to make our world better.
From Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation (p.412) re the Chinese sage Laozi’s comments on the use of force, and war.
“Force and coercion were inherently self-destructive. Here Laozi returned to the spirit of the ancient rituals of warfare, which had urged the warriors to yield to the enemy. ‘Arms are ill-omened instruments and are not the instruments of the sage’, Laozi maintained. ‘He uses them only when he cannot do otherwise’.
“’Sometimes war was a regrettable necessity, but if he was forced to fight, the sage must always take up his weapons with regret. There must be no egotistic triumphalism, no cruel chauvinism, and no facile patriotism. The sage must not intimidate the world with a show of arms, because this belligerence would most certainly recoil on him. The sage must always try to bring a military expedition to an end. ‘Bring it to a conclusion, but do not boast; bring it to a conclusion but do not brag; bring it to a conclusion but do not be arrogant; bring it to a conclusion but only where there is no choice; bring it to a conclusion but do not intimidate’.
“Wu wei (‘do nothing’), therefore, did not mean total abstinence from action but an unaggressive, unassertive attitude that prevented the escalation of hatred”.
“The good leader in war is not warlike, the good fighter is not impetuous, the best conqueror of the enemy is he who never takes the offensive. The man who gets the most out of men is the one who treats them with humility.
“This’, Laozi concluded, ‘is that I call the virtue of non-violence…’ It was our attitude, not our action, that determined the outcome of what we did. People were always able to sense the feeling and motivation that lay behind our words and deeds”.
University of Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression:
“We the faculty in the Bachelor of the Humanities Program at the College of the Humanities affirm the principles enumerated in the University of Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression. These principles are at the heart of a Great Books education and are the illuminating spirit of a true university and a free society”. — 9 March 2018
“The ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
“The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
“In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.
“As a corollary to the University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”
Soon to be posted…
(1) Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives (meta-narrative themes). Revised version coming soon.
(2) The great contradiction between Jesus and Christ (history’s greatest oxymoron- the term “Jesus Christ”). The central message of Historical Jesus was oriented to a “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”. Paul’s Christ myth embraced the entirely opposite theology of ultimate divine retaliation (e.g. “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish/destroy…”). These two entirely contradicting theologies cannot be mixed or merged in some new combination such as the Christ myth.
This contradiction is about the single worst idea ever imagined by ancient human minds, and still lodged at the heart of the great world religions- i.e. punitive, destroying deity. Paul’s Christ myth is a supreme example of the religious tradition of merging higher human ideals (love, mercy, forgiveness) with some of the darker elements of primitive mythology (tribal exclusion, retaliation, destruction). The result is ‘cognitive dissonance’ (see Zenon Lotufo’s Cruel God, Kind God).
The myth of punitive, destroying deity is the central idea in apocalyptic mythology- “the most violent and destructive idea in history”, (Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence). The outcomes of apocalyptic movements have been horrific across history (see research of Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, Arthur Herman).
The apocalyptic pathology continues to dominate world religions and has even been given expression in “secular” ideologies like Declinism and its offspring- environmental alarmism (latest iteration- climate alarmism). Paul’s apocalyptic Christ myth is singularly responsible for embedding apocalyptic in Western consciousness over the past two millennia. James Tabor (Paul and Jesus) suggests that Paul’s influence has been worldwide.
(3) Joseph Campbell’s ideas on human story- a framework. The meaning of life. With Campbell I would affirm that we achieve maturity (“tower in stature”, become heroes of our story) when we orient our lives to “universal love”.
Qualifier to comments below: The argument for non-retaliation in our response to offenders (no more ‘eye for eye’), and our subsequent treatment of them, is not an argument for ‘pacifism’ in the face of crime, violence, or war. It is an argument for restraint of wrong with humane, restorative intention as opposed to the pettiness of punitive, retaliatory intent (i.e. hurt for hurt, pain for pain, humiliation for humiliation, domination for domination).
As Simon Wiesenthal titled his book- “Justice, not vengeance”. We hold all accountable/responsible just as Nelson Mandela did via his Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And we believe that ultimately, all- both good and bad people- are safe in the same unconditional Love that birthed us into this realm of temporary dualisms. This belief in universalism will influence us to treat our ‘enemies’ more humanely here and now.
Our basic human rights codes and prisoner of war codes urge this same humane treatment of offenders/enemies. See also the Youtube videos on the Norwegian prison model. (Note also Karl Menninger’s criminal justice classic- ‘The Crime of Punishment’.)
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.” This relates also to Campbell’s comment that we maintain our humanity by “remembering our brotherhood with even our enemy, by ‘loving our enemy’”. Love in relation to horrific offenses and offenders is not about feeling mushy, fuzzy, or warm toward offenders and their offenses.
It is healthy human response to feel intense rage over horrific inhumanity. And love in such situations is about responding and treating offenders humanely, no matter how we feel about them. As the mother of the murdered girl in ‘The Forgiven’ said to the police who participated in her daughter’s murder, “I want to kill you, but I will forgive you because that is what my daughter would want. She would not want to continue these hate for hate cycles”. Other examples: The US overall response to Japan after the Second World War, or the Allies treatment of Germany. Such response brought those nations back into the world community.
More on the Jesus/Paul contradiction…
Historical Jesus’ new theology was something entirely new in history. All ancient deities, while embracing more humane features of love, forgiveness, and mercy, also embraced the primitive features of judgment, tribal exclusion (true believers/unbelievers), domination (lords, kings, rulers), and ultimate punishment/destruction.
Historical Jesus (this term distinguishes him from the Christian ‘Jesus Christ’) used an ancient behavior/belief pairing to set forth his stunning new universal theology. Note how the Hebrews (Old Testament) based all the features of their lives on what they believed to be the divine law, word, or will of God. Even their temple was constructed according to a detailed divine pattern. So anthropologist Clifford Geertz notes the Balinese of Indonesia construct their villages and order their lives according to what they believe to be the divine model. This is a common human concern- to fulfill what is believed to be the divine will or model, to base our behavior on beliefs in a divine ideal that validates our behavior.
Jesus use of this behavior/belief pairing: He argues in Matthew 5:38-48 against eye for eye retaliatory behavior and urges people to inclusively “love your enemies” because God does. How so? God generously gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- to both good and bad people, without discrimination, universally, and without ultimate retaliation. Jesus bases his call for non-retaliatory behavior on a non-retaliatory theology. Jesus introduces a new God that does not exhibit retaliation against bad people (punish, destroy) but treats them with the same inclusive generosity shown to good people.
(Insert note: While Jesus stated that there is no ultimate divine retaliation, life in this world has “natural and social consequences” to bad behavior. That is a normal part of human development and maturing.)
Paul then appears to have used this same behavior/belief pairing to contradict that new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and re-establish the old punitive/destroying deity mythology. He appears to have done this intentionally to contradict Jesus’ main theme. (Main theme? Yes, the Matthew 5:38-48 statement is the central message of the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel).
Note how Paul does this in Romans 12:17-20. He urges people not to retaliate but to be nice to enemies based on the hope in divine ultimate retaliation. Paul re-affirms the old punitive, destroying God myth in stating his theology as “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”… (or) “Lord Jesus will return in blazing fire to punish/destroy…” (Thessalonian letters).
In his initial comments on proper Christian behavior Paul appears to agree with the non-retaliatory behavior that Jesus advocated. But a closer look shows that his apparent non-retaliatory ethic was based on the hope in ultimate retaliation against enemies (“Do this so you will heap coals of fire on your enemies… that is, ensure their ultimate punishment”). So even his apparently non-retaliatory ethic is actually oriented to retaliation and he bases Christian hope for justice on the belief in ultimate retaliation against their enemies. Paul’s point on behavior is motivated by the hope for retaliation. That makes his “non-retaliatory” ethic essentially retaliatory in its orientation and intent.
Paul had to restore the myth of a retaliatory God in order to establish a basis for his overall apocalyptic narrative. Retaliation- i.e. punitive, destroying God- is the heart of apocalyptic mythology. That primitive mythology has now been “secularized” in contemporary ideology like Declinism. The new punitive, destroying versions of deity are vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, and karma. Apocalypse- the destruction of the world- is the ultimate act of divine punitive retaliation.
The same old, same old bad ideas continue as ever before. Wreaking the same old damage on human consciousness, emotion, behavior, and society as ever before. The Christ myth of Paul has been, and still is, the singularly most influential embodiment of punitive God theory and apocalyptic mythology. It has long influenced both religious and secular versions of apocalyptic.