The fundamental problem with Paul’s Christ myth was outlined by Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy. They stated that the Christ of Paul “buries the diamonds” of Historical Jesus. The message of Jesus emphasized the themes of unlimited forgiveness and inclusion of all (sun and rain given to both good and bad), unconditional love (no payment or sacrifice demanded before forgiving- e.g. the Prodigal Father), and non-retaliatory justice (no eye for eye retaliation).
Paul’s Christ buries these themes in the “dung” of highly conditional salvationism- i.e. the appeasement of angry deity with the condition of a blood sacrifice as required payment (see Romans, Hebrews), the exclusion of unbelievers (Romans and elsewhere- note the condition of faith in Paul’s Christ for inclusion in salvation), and ultimate retaliation/punishment through apocalypse or hell (see the Thessalonian letters). The conditional religious mythology of Paul buries the unconditional reality that Jesus taught.
Preface to “Christian Contradiction”
Across history people have appealed to deity, as humanity’s highest ideal and authority, to validate their behavior and their treatment of others, notably, to validate justice as the punishment of others for wrongs done. That is the ‘behavior based on similar belief’ relationship. People have long used the features of retaliation and punishment in divinity as the ultimate validation for punitive, payback justice toward offending others. But Historical Jesus swept away that basis of divine validation by stating that God did not retaliate (“no more eye for eye”) but, to the contrary, generously forgave, included, and loved all people whether good or bad (“love your enemies… sun and rain given to both righteous and unrighteous”). Conclusion? You violate the central message of Historical Jesus if you try to use him or his theology to validate retaliatory, punitive justice. Christian Jesus (Paul’s “Jesus Christ”) of course, is another matter altogether. But that mythical Christ is something entirely opposite to Historical Jesus.
“The great Christian Contradiction” (Historical Jesus versus Paul’s Christ myth):
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 (the “original message”) as critical to affirm my point regarding an unconditional theology. I simply refer to the useful comments in the Jesus material (e.g. “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 in 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 with its endless myth-based conditions? 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. Apocalyptic mythology continues to wreak damage through contemporary alarmism movements like environmental alarmism. 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. (Note on the historical lines of descent/influence- Paul’s Christ brought apocalyptic to prominence in Western consciousness and civilization. That Christian heritage then shaped 19th Century Declinism which in turn has shaped contemporary environmental apocalyptic or Green religion.)
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. Most of us understand and practice this ‘no conditions’ forgiveness and love in our interactions with family, friends, and neighbors. We learn to overlook the many imperfections in those around us and just get on with life, and hope others will be equally merciful with our imperfections.
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 longing for vengeance, not because God 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. And while Paul appears to embrace the non-retaliatory ethic of Jesus, note that his ethic is oriented to hope for ultimate retaliation from God and that makes even the apparently non-retaliatory ethic actually retaliatory in intent.
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 his detailed comments on the wisdom tradition. Stephen Patterson’s ‘The Lost Way’ deals with this.
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, or punishment in return for harm caused (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 wine-skins. (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 (Paul quotes an Old Testament statement to affirm his theology of a retaliatory God)- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”, which is to say- God shall satisfy your longing for vengeance 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.
And another version…
History’s single greatest contradiction? My candidate: The contradiction between the central message of Historical Jesus, and the central meaning and message of Paul’s Christ myth (his Christology theory). Or, “How history’s single most profound insight was subsequently buried in a major religious tradition”.
A side consideration: Think of the liberation that could have been promoted over the last two millennia if some movement had taken Jesus seriously (i.e. liberation from the unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame that come from harsh and threatening God theories- Zenon Lotufo). But no one, not even his closest companions, took his scandalous and offensive insights seriously.
The contradiction at the core of Christianity has to do with the following profound opposites- i.e. non-retaliatory behavior versus retaliation, the non-punitive treatment of offenders versus a punitive approach, no conditions versus supreme condition (sacrifice, Salvationism), unlimited love versus limited tribal love, the universal embrace of humanity versus the restricted inclusion of only true believers, and non-apocalyptic versus total apocalyptic destruction. You can’t get more contrary or contradictory than these entirely opposite realities.
Psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo (Cruel God, Kind God), and others, point to the “cognitive dissonance” that arises when you try to hold opposites in some merger.
“Greatest contradiction?” How so? Because of the historical and current world-wide influence of the Christian religion, and notably the influence of Paul’s Christ myth. This myth has shaped the version of Christianity that has descended down to our contemporary world (compared, for instance, to the prominent Jewish Christianity of the first century CE).
And also “greatest” due to the very nature of the contradiction itself. It is hard to find a more stark contrast between entirely opposite realities than that between the main message of Jesus and the contrary Christ message of Paul. I use the term “the main message of Jesus” in reference to the Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel, specifically the Q1 version, and the most important statement in that gospel as now found in Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36.
Historical Jesus stated that, for him, the era of “eye for eye justice” was over. He rejected retaliatory justice and, instead, he promoted the restorative justice of “love your enemies” (Matthew 5). Why? Because that was what God did. It was what God was. The God of Jesus was love of a stunning new variety never before seen in the long history of God theories. His God did not retaliate with eye for eye justice but loved God’s enemies. And the evidence? Jesus illustrated his point with the main features of the natural world. God gave the good gifts of life- i.e. sun and rain for crops- to all, to both good and bad people. There was no discrimination and no exclusion of anyone.
God’s love and generosity was inclusive, universal, and unconditional. Jesus used a behavior/belief pairing to make this point. “Do this… because God does it”. He based his behavior on a similar validating belief. Do this- treat all others with unconditional love- and you will be just like God (you will be acting like the children of God) who treats all with unconditional love.
The God of Jesus was non-retaliatory, non-vengeful, non-punitive, non-excluding, non-destroying and therefore non-apocalyptic. Non-apocalyptic? Yes, because a non-retaliatory God is not an apocalyptic God. Apocalyptic is the ultimate act of eye for eye retaliation, vengeance, punishment and total destruction.
Further, such a God would not demand payment or punishment for wrong. He would not demand a sacrifice for wrong. The God of Jesus would give to all, including those who do not pay back or respond in a similar manner. His God would not just love those who loved him in return (limited tribal love). His God was authentic universal and no conditions love toward all, without exception.
No sacrifice? Yes, this is intimated clearly in statements such as “Lend, expecting nothing in return (i.e. no payback)”. Expect no payment. Just love and give anyway. Freely. Unconditionally.
Try to get the “spirit” of the overall section and the central point of the message of the man (i.e. Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36). Too many get sidetracked in what they believe are qualifying details that undermine the core ‘no conditions’ point that Jesus was making. Remember Matthew, obsessed with righteousness, and as the editor of this material from Jesus, added his own distorting qualifications such as “Be perfect as your Father is perfect”. Luke did a better job with this very same material, getting the spirit of Jesus in stating, “Be unconditionally merciful as your Father is unconditionally merciful” (my paraphrase of Luke’s point and spirit).
Note the same unconditional generosity and forgiveness in other Jesus material such as the Prodigal parable and the Vineyard workers story, and in statements on forgiving “seventy times seven” (unlimited). Also, in his inclusion of everyone at meal tables.
Paul outright rejected this central theme of Jesus and retreated to the old retaliatory, punitive theology of all past mythology and religion. His used the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus had used, but he did this to contradict the central theme of Jesus. I think Paul did this intentionally as he knew he was confronting the central statement of Jesus. So Paul also based his behavior on a validating belief.
Further, Paul more generally trashed and rejected the wisdom tradition that Jesus belonged to (see his first letter to the Corinthians).
At first glance, it appears that Paul embraced the behavioral standard of Jesus in stating that it was wrong to repay evil with evil, to retaliate (Romans 12:17-20). But then he contradicted the new non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and stated that, to the contrary, his God was retaliatory. Paul quoted an Old Testament statement to make his point, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. Paul re-affirmed eye for eye justice at the center of his belief system. And His God would punish and destroy all in the epitome act of retaliatory punishment and destruction- an apocalypse. “Lord Jesus (Christ) will return in blazing fire to punish and destroy all who do not obey/believe my gospel of the Christ” (Thessalonians). See his other letters for similar statements of the punishment/destruction of unbelievers.
And a closer look at Paul’s ethic in this Romans 12 section shows that his advocacy for non-retaliatory behavior was actually retaliatory in intent. You were supposed to engage such behavior in order to ensure that God would take vengeance on your offenders/enemies. Do such in order to “heap coals of fire on them”- to ensure that God punishes them harshly.
There is no greater contradiction in religious history than this one between Jesus and Paul’s Christ. It is the contradiction between non-retaliation and retaliation in deity. Between Jesus’ inclusion of all (sun and rain on all), and Paul’s exclusion and destruction of unbelievers. This is a contradiction between no conditions love and the supreme condition of all conditions ever concocted- the demand for a supreme sacrifice to pay for all sin (i.e. the sacrifice of a god-man to pay for the sins of all humanity- see Paul’s letter to the Romans).
Paul’s term “Jesus Christ” is the epitome expression of an oxymoron. You cannot mix and merge these two entire opposites. Jesus is not Christ. He was against Christology or Christ mythology (see “Rethink Paul’s Christ Myth” below). Jesus is the anti-Christ at the heart of Christianity.
Paul shaped the version of Christianity that we have today. Christianity is the religion of Paul’s Christ (“Christ-ianity”). It is not the religion of Jesus (it is not “Jesus-ianity”). Christianity does not properly represent Jesus to the world. As Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy stated so bluntly, “The diamonds/pearls of Jesus have been buried in the subhuman context of the New Testament”. I’ve paraphrased their actual statements to soften the harsh bluntness of their words.
All across history people have appealed to deities to validate their behavior and their treatment of others, notably, to validate the punishment of others for wrongs. People have always used the features of retaliation and punishment in divinity as the ultimate validation for punitive, payback justice toward others. But Historical Jesus swept away that basis of divine validation by stating that God did not retaliate (no more eye for eye) but, to the contrary, generously forgave, included, and loved all people the same, whether good or bad (sun and rain on both good and bad). You violate the central message of Historical Jesus if you try to use him or his theology to validate retaliatory, punitive justice. Christian Jesus (Paul’s “Jesus Christ”), of course, is another matter altogether. But that is something entirely opposite to Historical Jesus.
The two best things happening today– rising CO2 levels and the warming of Earth’s average surface temperatures have resulted in a much greener Earth and life flourishing in response.
Climate activists, news media, and politicians 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 that 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 30-40 years. This is the equivalent to adding land covered in green vegetation twice the size of the mainland US. https://www.thegwpf.com/matt-ridley-rejoice-in-the-lush-global-greening/. Other studies note that there has been a “31 percent increase in global terrestrial gross primary production since 1900” (Matt Ridley “Against Environmental Pessimism” at PERC). In light of this incredible news on the massive greening of Earth, 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 during the 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. In a warmer world there is also less difference between seasonal temperatures and between night and day temperatures.
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 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’.
See also https://co2coalition.org/2020/08/03/long-term-trends-in-global-gross-primary-productivity/
Long-term Trends in Global Gross Primary Productivity
By Schwalm, C.R., Huntinzger, D.N., Michalak, A.M., Schaefer, K., Fisher, J.B., Fang, Y. and Wei, Y., Aug. 3, 2020
“Multiple studies have confirmed that global gross primary productivity (GPP) has been increasing in recent decades. This key measure of ecosystem health has shown that the terrestrial biosphere today is more productive in terms of its ability to produce biomass (plant growth) and support higher trophic levels up the food chain than it was two, three, five, or even ten decades ago. The latest research study to confirm as much comes from the recent study of Schwalm et al. (2020).
“Writing in the professional journal Scientific Reports, the team of seven U.S. scientists employed a series of 11 offline and 13 fully coupled state-of-the-art Earth system models to reconstruct historical trends in GPP over the period 1901 to 2010. Further they quantified the relative importance of several key drivers impacting the historic change in GPP, including CO2 fertilization, nitrogen (N) deposition, climate change, and changes in land cover/land use. The key findings are illustrated in the three figures below.
“Schwalm et al. report there has been a significant long-term increase in mean annual global GPP of 10.5 Pg C per year (calculated as the difference between the periods 1981-2010 and 1901-1930), which increase is equivalent to approximately 9% of the present value of total annual GPP (~119 Pg C per year). The spatial distribution of the trends, shown in Figure 1, reveals the greatest GPP enhancements have occurred in the tropics and the eastern mid-latitudes of North America.
“Analysis of the chief factors responsible for this incredible increase in GPP reveal the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2 occupies the top spot (lower panel of Figure 1). In this regard, calculations by the authors show the magnitude of the CO2 fertilization effect increased fivefold since 1901 to a value that is presently equivalent to 17% of contemporary global GPP (Figure 2). Nitrogen deposition came in second with its present influence on GPP amounting to a value that is approximately 9% of current annual GPP (see Figure 2). Land use/land cover changes, in contrast, exerted a modest negative impact on GPP presently equivalent to about 1% of modern GPP (also see Figure 2). And not shown in Figure 2 is the influence of climate (temperature, precipitation and radiation effects), which the authors report is positive (enhancing GPP) and about the same magnitude (1%) of the present-day influence of land use/land cover (but opposite in sign).
“Lastly, Figure 3 presents a spatial view of the dominant controlling factors of GPP. Not surprisingly, it is found that CO2 fertilization is the principal influence across 58% of the vegetative land surface, followed by changes in climate and land use/land cover, which both dominate GPP trends over approximately 15% of the land area. Nitrogen deposition, on the other hand, is the least influential spatial driver of GPP trends, dominating in only a mere 4% of the land surface.
“In considering all of the above, it is clear that fears of a soon-to-be-collapsing terrestrial biosphere are vastly overstated. Rather than declining in vigor as so many climate alarmists falsely claim, the world’s land vegetation is increasing its robustness, and has been doing so for over at least the past eleven decades.
“Ironically, the reason for that enhancement is the very action climate alarmists claim should be decimating it: humanity’s increasing use of fossil fuels.
“The combustion of fossil fuels is the principal driver of the contemporary increase witnessed in both atmospheric CO2 and nitrogen deposition. And, if you believe the climate alarmists that rising CO2 is the sole cause of modern warming, well, you can add the positive effects from a warming climate to CO2 and nitrogen deposition as an attributable factor driving the positive trends in GPP.
“Humanity and nature should therefore be thankful for the use of fossil fuels instead of demonizing it as so many climate alarmists do. They couldn’t be more misguided.”
Site splainin: Go after the real monster and enemy of humanity. Its not some other person(s).
Among other concerns, this site is a project to respond to the great curse of ‘environmental alarmism/climate alarmism’ with the good evidence of skeptical science. It is a project to also include the “spiritual” or meaning side of the apocalyptic alarmism issue. Which is to say, to probe the deeper issues of human meaning behind social movements and that includes probing those deeper ‘archetypes’ of the human subconscious or “collective unconscious”, as Jung and Campbell referred to them. In my paraphrase: Those inherited themes and impulses that continue to shape human worldviews and outlook and influence the way that we feel, respond, and behave in life (e.g. the policy responses of politicians and supporting populations).
Years ago I read the work of the apocalyptic millennial scholars- Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles, and also Arthur Herman- and was struck by how apocalyptic millennial themes influenced the great mass-death movements of the past century (i.e. Marxism, Nazism). Those “decline to the end-of-the-world” themes continue to influence today’s mass-death movement of environmental alarmism, something all of the above authors included in their analysis.
Environmental alarmism as another mass-death movement? Yes. One example: Rachel Carson’s “apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring” (the evaluation of a reviewer) influenced the ban on DDT that resulted in millions of subsequent unnecessary deaths, many children. She is the mother of modern environmental alarmism. See ‘The Excellent Powder’ by Tren and Roberts for the history and science of DDT, Carson’s exaggerated alarmism, and its harmful impact.
This site is also fundamentally a project to bring down the pathological God theory that is behind destructive apocalyptic mythology- i.e. the myth of a punitive, destroying God that incites fear, the survival impulse, and violence to purge some imagined threat. This God has been humanity’s greatest monster and greatest enemy, long threatening to punish and destroy humanity via apocalypse and hell. I offer a clear alternative below- the “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God” (James Robinson).
I was recently rereading ‘Cruel God, Kind God’ by psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo. Fellow psychologist J. Harold Ellens notes in the Preface the relationship between religion, psychology, and daily human experience (social psychology). Lotufo later details how cruel God theories deform human personality with fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, and violence. And that bleeds over into wider public issues. As Ellens says, “These matters (of cruel God ideas and their psychological/social impact) are of the highest urgency in human affairs today when religious motivation seems to be playing an increasing role, constructively and destructively, in the arena of social ethics, national politics, and world affairs”. Think, for instance, “Green apocalyptic religion” in this regard.
The inclusion of these “spiritual/religious” themes is also my response to the frustration expressed by climate scientists like Roy Spencer over the fact that scientific evidence alone does not seem to be changing many minds regarding the climate apocalypse narrative that dominates so much public thinking and policy-making today. Others have also noted that statistical data/scientific evidence does not alone get us to truth or insight. We are so much more than just the bare-bones ‘rational’ persons as defined by materialist science.
There is still a significant element of the spiritual/mythical in human worldviews and the human psyche. This is the ongoing influence from the inherited religious themes that relate to issues of ultimate meaning. We need to understand this element of being human if we are to properly deal with alarmism movements such as today’s unrelenting hysteria over climate change. Note, in this regard, the persistence of the mythical in the contemporary shift from traditional religious deities to modern “secular” versions of the same- i.e. vengeful Gaia, angry Planet, pissed Mother Earth, retributive Universe, or karma.
My response? Don’t dismiss the “spiritual” element in the mix but offer better alternatives. Hence, my reposting on below of “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives”, something I continually revise and update. Let your mind toy with alternatives.
Ellens, with careful balance, notes both the constructive and the destructive elements of religious themes and the need to understand just what this distinction is about. This contrast between good and bad religious ideas drives my parsing of the “Jesus versus Paul’s Christ myth” contradiction. We need to understand just what has influenced constructive outcomes from traditional religious traditions (e.g. the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel or original message of Historical Jesus), and what influences the more destructive outcomes from religion (e.g. the darker apocalyptic features of Paul’s Christ myth).
Insert note: I focus on the Christ myth of Paul as an iconic example of bad religious ideas because that myth is primarily responsible for bringing the pathology of apocalyptic mythology into Western consciousness and society. See Paul’s Thessalonian letters for detail.
Landes, for one, made the perceptive comment that if you, for example, dismiss Hitler as just another madman (also true and part of the Nazi mix), then you have missed the real lesson from that mass-death movement- i.e. how apocalyptic millennial ideas can carry a society toward mass-death, how such ideas work on the darker side of humanity, inciting the worst of emotions and responses.
It has long been the argument of this site that bad mythical/religious ideas incite and validate the worst impulses in people and play a destructive role in “the arena of social ethics, national politics, and world affairs”. Note, for example, the mythical/religious themes of a tribal deity that favors chosen followers, dominates people (Lord, King, ruler), and enforces the punitive destruction of unbelievers. Such themes work in conjunction with similar inherited animal impulses- i.e. small band or tribal exclusion, alpha domination and control of others, and the destruction of the differing others. Hence, once again, “the destructive role (of bad religious ideas) in social ethics, national politics and world affairs”.
The great battle-line between good and evil, said Solzhenitsyn, runs down the center of every human heart. This inner battle is shaped by the baser impulses inherited from our animal brain and by the religious ideas/themes long embedded in human grand narratives, both of which operate also from the ‘collective unconscious’ or human subconscious. The above noted bad religious ideas have long influenced some of the worst impulses in people.
In conclusion, Arthur Mendel (Vision and Violence) is right that apocalyptic has been the most violent and destructive idea in history, inciting our worst impulses to fear, to tribal opposition and exclusion of differing others, to fear of threat from others, and the consequent urge to dominate and destroy those we view as threatening enemies. The single worst idea in history- that of punitive, destroying deity- is the cohering center of this apocalyptic pathology. Go after this real monster and enemy of humanity.
The promotion of exaggerated apocalyptic scenarios is the most irresponsible and dangerous thing that anyone can engage. Remember James Hansen, the father of climate alarmism, stated in 2008, “Its all over in five years”. So also Senator AOC claimed that we had only till 2030 before the world would end. Such end-of-days hysteria has fed the push to decarbonize our societies, an irrational response that has already harmed millions with higher energy costs and fuel poverty. And as California now illustrates (rolling blackouts), the worst of the irrational rush to decarbonization is yet to come.
We need to recognize the real monster and enemy behind the endless eruptions of alarmist irrationality. As Solzhenitsyn said, its very much about a battle with something inside each of us. That animal inheritance that is incited by bad religious ideas, none worse than the myth of punitive, destroying deity.
In all your analysis of alarmism eruptions make sure that you also include the deeper roots of alarmism in human spirituality as part of the larger human quest for ultimate meaning. After all, environmental alarmism is also called “Green religion”, and for good reason.
A new post from Wattsupwiththat.com...
“New John Cook 97% Consensus Climate Change Video, Guest essay by Eric Worrall
“John Cook has released a new video which attacks a climate skeptic straw man, to try to bolster his 97% climate consensus claim. Watch the video, judge for yourself. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/09/03/watch-the-thimble-new-john-cook-97-consensus-climate-change-video/
What do I mean by “climate skeptic straw man”?
“When John Cook claims 97% of climate scientists believe humans cause global warming, he is likely absolutely correct. The straw man is Cook’s suggestion that climate skeptics do not believe humans cause global warming.
“Most climate scientists whom opponents identify as “climate deniers” believe anthropogenic CO2 causes global warming. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. I believe anthropogenic CO2 causes global warming. Suggesting that most skeptics do not believe CO2 causes global warming is nonsense.
“But there is a huge difference between believing humans cause global warming, and believing that humans cause significant global warming, or that humans are the ONLY cause of modern era global warming.
“Believing that humans cause global warming is not the same thing as believing that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are leading us towards an imminent climate catastrophe.”
And… A serious Downside to Reducing CO2 Emissions, CO2science.org
“Faltein, Z., Esler, K.J., Midgley, G.F. and Ripley, B.S. 2020. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations restrict the growth of Oxalis pes-caprae bulbs used by human inhabitants of the Paleo-Agulhas plain during the Pleistocene glacials. Quaternary Science Reviews 235: 105731.
“Climate alarmists have ramped up their efforts calling for the total elimination of all fossil-derived energy, claiming there is no downside to such action.
“But there is.
“This fact is made painfully obvious in a recent study by Faltein et al. (2020), who examined the impact of low levels of CO2 (relative to present, ambient CO2 air) on African wood-sorrel (Oxakis pes-caprae). O. pes-caprae was a key carbohydrate source for humans during the Middle Pleistocene, being regularly harvested by human gatherers for its edible underground storage organs (USOs). Given that atmospheric CO2 is a substrate of photosynthesis and growth, Faltein et al. were curious to learn how much the bulb biomass of African wood-sorrel would have been reduced (relative to the present) in the Middle Pleistocene and how such a reduction would have impacted efforts to harvest sufficient biomass to attain daily calorific requirements.
“To accomplish their design, the four South African researchers grew specimens of O. pes-caprae for three months in mini open-top-chambers under average CO2 concentrations of 227, 285, 320 and 390 ppm. All plants received sufficient water and nutrients. Not surprisingly, Faltein et al. report that at the end of the experiment plants grown under reduced concentrations of CO2 exhibited “significantly decreased plant biomass and bulb yield” (see Figure 1). For example, the scientists say that under the lowest CO2 levels, “bulb biomass decreased by up to 80% compared to current ambient concentrations, while total plant biomass showed a two-fold decrease.” Naturally, such growth reductions were attributed to “the fundamental effects of low [CO2] on C3 photosynthetic physiology.”
“With respect to the human impact of such growth reductions caused by low CO2, Faltein et al. note that lower CO2 concentrations “affect both the value of USOs as sources of carbohydrates and the effort that would have been required to harvest sufficient biomass to attain daily calorific requirements.” And in regard to the latter, they calculate “the time required to harvest 2000 calories was more than doubled when [CO2] was decreased from 400 to 180 ppm.”
“In considering the above findings, it is clear that humans benefit from higher levels of atmospheric CO2, which increase plant yields and enhance available carbohydrate supply. Reducing the current CO2 concentration of the atmosphere, which has become a platform of far too many politicians and activists, would have devastating impacts on these two parameters, leading to massive reductions in global food supply, which would likely result in civil unrest and conflict.”
The project above in “Old story themes, New story alternatives”? Freedom from primal and ultimate fears- i.e. from the psychic burden of ‘bad religious ideas’ that has long enslaved human consciousness. That embraces freedom from the fear of divine punishment and harm via the natural world (i.e. natural disasters, disease, accident, cruelty of others), as well as freedom from fear of after-life harm (e.g. myths of hell). This project is about freedom from the most destructive forms of enslavement- the mental and emotional enslavement long generated by primitive myths of ultimate or divine retaliation and punishment.
This site strongly affirms the beneficial impacts of religious/spiritual traditions while clearly distinguishing what is pathological in religion and must be overturned (i.e. “bad religious ideas”). “The Great Christian Contradiction” just below illustrates this distinction between good and bad, humane and inhumane, in a world religion. Historical Jesus with his stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory, unconditional deity is a reality that is entirely different from Paul’s retaliatory God and Christ myth (conditional salvation). Paul’s Christ myth has produced endless “cognitive dissonance” in Christianity, or what Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy bluntly referred to as the problem of “diamonds buried in a dunghill” (or “new wine in old, rotten wine-skins”). See also the “Framework for understanding human story” further below.
While affirming the valued contribution from our materialist/atheist friends to the discussion of religious pathology, the primal human impulse for meaning will, for most people, always embrace a “spiritual” or “ultimate meaning” element. This ought to be obvious from the World Religion survey that showed some 85% of humanity still affiliates with a major world religious tradition and most of the remaining 15% are still “spiritual but not religious”, which is to say just “unaffiliated” (i.e. hold beliefs in ‘spiritual’ realities like “The Universe”, “Gaia”, “Mother Earth/Planet”, karma, or some other form of deity).
And good scientific reasoning does not automatically take us to dogmatic ‘philosophical materialism’ conclusions. Science only takes us so far and then each of us is left to make our own ultimate conclusions about the meaning of this profoundly mysterious reality and life. Each one of us, as a free, independent, and self-determining person, is the ultimate authority on such issues.