Section topics: The contradiction between Historical Jesus and Paul’s Christ myth (recovering the greatest of “lost loves”); Climate briefs (evidence that counters climate apocalyptic); Some Jim Steele for your spine; What does it mean to be human (basic experiences of human life).
Hope for the new year, Wendell Krossa
Varied public commentators have expressed concern about the intensifying tribalism in our societies, the apparent growing separation and extremism between the Left and Right sides, and the apparent decline of the moderate center (perhaps its more the “silence” of moderates). I would note that media distort things in this regard by obsessing over extremist outrage in that they regularly give prominent space to outraged extremists which then gives the perception that extremists from both sides are dominating things.
What is not doubted is that too many from both sides have succumbed to the dehumanizing cycles of eye for eye retaliation- returning offense for offense given, condemnation for condemnation, hurt for hurt, humiliation for humiliation, punishment for punishment. Outrage and retaliatory vilification have become the go-to responses of many on both sides. Others watch in embarrassment at the ongoing descent toward such infantile behavior.
There is no good outcome from engaging these retaliatory cycles. Retaliation takes us all toward more hatred, anger, division, and even violence.
We all intuitively know what we should do to solve the pathology of retaliatory cycles but how many of us have the courage to man up, to take one on the chin (i.e. refuse to retaliate in kind), and do the right thing- i.e. to forgive, to be tolerant, and to love our offenders? This drama of human heroism plays out most critically in the mundane interactions of daily life with family, neighbors, friends, opponents.
We need more brave examples like Nelson Mandela who refused to engage the lust for retaliation/revenge and instead worked hard to defuse tribalism, to exhibit the rare courage that it takes to break retaliatory cycles, the lust for revenge, and take things in a better direction. And yes, Mandela did hold offenders accountable for their crimes (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) but offered them forgiveness and restoration, not punishment.
Do non-retaliatory approaches work?
Example: Mandela’s approach unquestioningly helped South Africa avoid civil war (this was Richard Stengel’s argument in “Mandela’s Way”). Around the same time the retaliatory approach sent Bosnia/Serbia into violent conflict and mass-death outcomes. Commentators around that time noted that Serbs had nursed grudges from four centuries ago, passing hatred and the lust for vengeance down from generation to generation.
We all know better what is required to act as mature humans. For millennia our ancestors have told us what works to resolve conflict, heal divisions, and bring peace and love back into public life.
We could start by recognizing the basic concerns of each side- by acknowledging the concerns of our opponents as legitimate, by finding common projects, and then engaging practical areas of cooperation.
The single best piece of advice on how to liberate our spirits from hatred and vengeance was given about 4000 years ago- i.e. the “Akkadian father’s advice to his son”. Here is one version: “Do not return evil to your adversary. Requite with kindness the one who does evil to you. Maintain justice for your enemy, be friendly to your enemy. Give food to eat, beer to drink, grant what is requested, provide for and treat with honor”.
That advice on living as heroically human was eventually re-framed in the single most profound statement ever made on what it means to be truly human: “Do not retaliate in kind with eye for eye justice, but instead love your enemy”. This involves, first of all, forgiveness of offenders. It tells us that we should not engage punitive response but, instead, we do better to embrace restorative justice. It calls for mercy and kindness toward imperfect, failing others.
“Love your enemy” tells us to stop thinking tribally and instead think universally, recognizing that everyone is a full member of the one human family. The “Love your enemy” statement (i.e. the Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36 versions) continues to urge universal and inclusive generosity toward all alike, noting the supreme example that we ought to follow- i.e. that God gives sun and rain to both good and bad people. God does not view humanity tribally and neither should we (i.e. good guys versus bad guys).
“Love your enemy” says that we should stop thinking in terms of good versus evil- that we alone are good and our opponents are hopelessly evil and therefore deserve punishment and destruction. And a necessary qualifier should intrude here: Yes, some struggles in history are more clearly against unquestionable wrong but even then we are obligated to treat the “enemy” as family. Much like our human rights codes urge us to treat prisoners of war humanely, restoratively.
Further advice from others: We should seek common concerns around which all can agree and cooperate on solving. American Jimmy Dore, for example, noted varied issues that both sides in his country agree on- i.e. end the drug war, reform the criminal justice system and its excessive incarceration rates, increase employment opportunities for all, provide basic health care for all, and more.
Most of us enjoy the short-term fake pleasure that retaliation gives us even though it renders us petty, subhuman, not at all like the great human spirits that we should be, persons who “tower in stature as heroically human” (Joseph Campbell).
So we all know how to pull back from the intense tribalism of today, how to end and reverse cycles of eye for eye retaliation, and bring back love to prominence in our societies. Our ancestors have been offering us advice on these things for millennia.
A podcast and book recommendation
Joe Rogan (“Joe Rogan Experience”, free on Spotify, episode 1739) just interviewed Philip Goff, the author of “Galileo’s Error”. Goff is an advocate for “panpsychism”, a philosophical position that argues basically that some form of consciousness is at the foundation of material reality and gives being to material reality. Consciousness is the most fundamental reality.
It was a robust discussion with Rogan and it is worth listening to the entire podcast. Rogan appeared to take the position of materialists like Lawrence Krause, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, that consciousness is just the product of electro-chemical activity in the brain. But perhaps I am misunderstanding what he was trying to say.
A few quibbles with Goff’s comments: In noting the presence of some form of consciousness even down to the level of subatomic matter, Goff appears to be reducing consciousness to something simpler or more basic at the lowest levels of material reality, like some kind of mindless force. Kind of like “dumb as a rock”. I am most likely misreading what he was trying to communicate.
I would suggest that we should make clear that the creating/sustaining consciousness at the most basic levels of material reality would be the most profound or transcendent form of consciousness. I mean, it originates all else in reality. That’s gotta be kinda smart, eh.
And I would add that consciousness, like mind, logically infers “personhood”. You cannot have consciousness/intelligence without personality or personhood. Hence, the basic logical correctness of deity theories across history that anthropomorphize the invisible creating/sustaining reality behind our material realm (gods as persons sort of like us humans but higher beings).
So I would argue that our ancestors were right when they intuitively understood that the creating/sustaining Ultimate Reality behind material reality was not just force, energy, or quantum fields but was of the nature of Mind, Consciousness, Intelligence, or Self. They got that right.
Unfortunately, our ancestors were wrong when they projected the most primitive features of animal-like existence onto their gods thereby giving us the monster gods of world religions- gods that judge, tribally exclude some (favor true believers, reject unbelievers), dominate as lords/kings, and punish/destroy unbelievers.
Keep the basic issues of the climate debate clear. There are two basic sides to this debate (with diverse positions on the continuum in between)- that of alarmists and skeptics. Alarmists believe that climate change is an “existential crisis” and is becoming catastrophic. It portends the end of the world (e.g. Congresswoman AOC).
Skeptics agree that climate is changing and that CO2 has an influence on climate warming. But they point to evidence that climate change is not becoming catastrophic but is instead net beneficial.
Remember, 10 times more people die every year from cold than die from warmth. So the mild warming over the past century (1 degree C) is preventing more deaths from cold while practical steps can be taken to alleviate heat deaths (i.e. air conditioning). We could use several more degrees of warming in our still sub-optimally cold world (5-plus degrees C below long-term average paleo-climate temperatures). More warmth means extended habitats for plants and animals and fewer human cold deaths.
Higher levels of CO2 are also net beneficial. CO2 is the basic food of plant life and hence the basic food of all life that is carbon based. Pre-industrial levels of CO2 were dangerously low and our small recovery to 400-plus ppm today has re-invigorated plant life and all life across the Earth. There has been a 14% increase in green vegetation across the planet over just the past 40 years. That means more food for animal life and increased crop production for humanity.
There is nothing catastrophic about the improvements that warming and more CO2 are bringing to life in our world today. Alarmism is highly irresponsible panic-mongering and its solutions (decarbonization) are proving harmful to all life, with abandonment of investment in fossil fuels, scarcity of energy resources, rising energy costs, and destabilized electrical grids too dependent on unreliable renewables.
Renewables may have more of a future role but that should be more reliant on private and not public dime, that is needed elsewhere with regard to real problems that humanity faces (Bjorn Lomborg offers good comment on these issues).
More on Goff
Goff argues that Galileo made a mistake in 1615 when he excluded consciousness from modern science. But perhaps that separation is somewhat like the separation of religion and state. Maybe we do better to keep consciousness out of science, maintaining consciousness research as a separate sort of discipline (while noting correlations/relationships, interactions, even causal ones).
Science may be better if maintained as it is because it has been wildly successful in understanding how material reality functions and thereby enabling us to improve life in many ways. But we should recognize that “scientism” steps across the science/philosophy boundary when it claims that it will answer all human questions about reality. Science simply does not have the tools/methodology or ability to do that. Science is a limited venture that tells us how material reality functions (i.e. natural law) and that is its limited project/job.
Science cannot answer the big questions that our impulse for meaning pushes us to explore. Questions like: Why this material cosmos exists? Why we exist as conscious beings? What is our purpose?
Extreme weather events- hot spells, cold spells, droughts and flooding events- are now regularly presented by media as “the worst on record”, “unprecedented”, and more evidence of “catastrophic climate change”. Unfortunately, the persistent alarmist narrative goes widely public before proper fact-checking has been done. Later proper investigation of the actual state of things is then widely ignored or dismissed as “denialism”. Here is some rational counter-balance to the hysteria generated by obsessively alarmist reporting…
Colder areas are warming
Global warming occurs mostly in the colder regions of the planet, and during colder seasons, and at colder times of day. This is welcome news in a world where 10 times more people die every year from cold than die from warmth.
Real world evidence contradicts climate alarmism
Here is a recent update on sea level rise with surprising evidence that coast lines across the world are expanding not shrinking/sinking…
Quotes from above link….
“A 2019 global-scale analysis of 709 islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans revealed 89% were either stable or growing in size, and that no island larger than 10 ha (and only 1.2% of islands larger than 5 ha) had decreased in size since the 1980s (Duvat, 2019).
“We expected that the coast would start to retreat due to sea level rise, but the most surprising thing is that the coasts are growing all over the world“ – BBC
“Accretion is the dominant trend… across the world”
“Today there are high resolution satellite images available from Google Earth clearly demarcating global-scale decadal shoreline change since the 1980s.
“According to Mao and colleagues, Australia’s coasts have been growing at a rate of +0.10 m/year. Asia’s coasts have been expanding +0.64 m/year. Europe’s coasts are accreting +0.45 m/year. And the African continent has been observed expanding at a +0.31 m/year clip since 1984.
“Claims of dangerously accelerating sea level rise posing an imminent global threat to coasts have once again been challenged by real-world observational evidence.”
Research showing that natural factors like the sun are prominent influences on climate, even more influential than CO2:
And this news to Steele your spines against alarmism:
Jim Steele responds to the panic-mongering over sea level rise, noting the hysterical and irresponsible exaggeration is out of control. Full report with graphics at…
Quotes from Steele’s presentation…
“Disturbingly, the UN members of the COP26 climate conference. America’s Department of Defense, National Public Radio, and mainstream media have all been intensifying sea level rise fear-mongering to amplify the COP26 climate crisis agenda.
“Just a small example of that fear-mongering, we see graphics portraying a flaming earth with red oceans.
“As expected, media outlets like CNN have been busy generating computer fantasies of flooded cultural icons.
“The Grist warns that California’s coast will be inundated by 10 feet of sea level rise by 2100.
“In contrast, I urge you all to follow the science.
“Because the science reveals that they are either ignorant of sea level science or just liars.
“NOAA’s website, using data from PSMSL shows relative sea level at La Jolla has risen just 2.14 millimeters per year, but by eye-balling the graph, the rate of rise appears to have slowed down in the last 40 years.
“Furthermore, scientific evidence reveals that the absolute sea level rise, that’s the rise due to expanding ocean water from climate change, is only 0.15 millimeters per year. Suggesting due to climate change, sea level would only rise by one inch in 160 years.
“Now to determine climate effects, only the Absolute rate of rise, not the Relative tide gauge rate, is relevant.
“Thus, to find the Absolute rate of rise, any vertical land motion around a tide gauge must be accounted for, Otherwise, wherever the land is sinking or subsiding, relative sea level rise will be exaggerated and then falsely attributed to greenhouse warming by the media.
“The advent of the satellite era and global positioning systems has been a game changer for sea level science. GPS systems will allow the absolute sea level to be robustly determined. Unfortunately, there are still many tide gauges that lack co-located GPS systems or adequate long-term data. But best estimates will be determined. And some are now available from the SONEL.org website, a site you should also visit.
“A GPS site near the LA Jolla tide gauge has been active since 2007 and has detected a rate of sinking land of 1.7 millimeters per year. To calculate absolute rate of sea level rise. We subtract that rate of subsidence from the tide gauge rate. The absolute rate of rise computes to just 0.15 millimeters per year. That’s the rise due to climate change… just one inch in 169 years.
“Now other scientists are doing similar calculations as I have done here for La Jolla. Beretta published a 2020 peer reviewed paper, examining five long-term tide gauges with a hundred plus years of data in Oceania: two from Australia, two from New Zealand and one from Hawaii.
“That average was 1.306 millimeters per year.
“The orange bars represent the rate of subsidence.
“The gray bars represent sea level’s absolute rate, by subtracting subsidence rates from the tide gauge rates. The average absolute rate of rise was just 0.125 millimeters per year, a hair lower than the 0.15 rate at La Jolla.
“The absolute sea level rise here suggests climate change requires 200 years to add just one inch to sea level.
“The national tidal facility of Australia, which is now part of the Bureau of Meteorology had reported around Tuvalu between 1978 and 1999, there was no evidence of sea level rise acceleration.
“In Boretti 2020 the threats to Tuvalu were specifically examined and he concluded absolute sea level rise on Tuvalu was just 0.16 millimeters per year or one inch in 158 years. Again, very similar to LA Jolla and the 5 Oceania stations.
“Politicians are trying to guilt trip you with misleading information to justify why you must accept any discomforts from their agenda to deny you the use of fossil fuels.”
And this from McKitrick: “So, haggle about the role of fossil fuels all you like but we’ve always had extreme weather and always will.” Ross McKitrick at
Dominant themes that have shaped human worldviews across history (a sample of the worst of the bad) Wendell Krossa
See the full complex of these ideas in “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” in sections further below. These themes have dominated mythologies and religions across history. They have now been embraced in the “secular” ideology of Declinism that shapes movements like climate alarmism.
1. The myth of a better past (original paradise world). This baseline myth orients the following myths to the meta-theme that life declines toward a worse future, toward disaster. And obviously, if life was once perfect but is now imperfect, then something went wrong. The “Fall” from original perfection has to be explained.
2. The explanation for the loss of original perfection led to the mythical explanation that corrupted humanity had ruined paradise (original/inherited sin mythology). This blame humanity mythology became foundational to human guilt over imperfection in the world and life. Anything wrong in the world/life is the fault of humanity for being imperfect. And you wonder why so many people struggle with poor self-image issues.
3. The belief that the overall trajectory of life is declining toward something worse- toward collapse and ending (apocalypse). And you wonder why fear, anxiety, depression, despair, and nihilism afflict so many people.
4. The belief that imperfect humanity deserves to be punished, even destroyed (more self-loathing, anti-humanism). This led to the creation of myths of divine punishment being meted out through natural disaster, disease, and predatory cruelty. The ultimate punishment will be the divine judgment through a world-ending apocalypse.
And you wonder why so many ‘scared shitless’ people, with their survival impulse fully aroused by “end-of-days” hysteria, are then willing to embrace the irrational salvation schemes of apocalyptic prophets.
5. The felt need to make a sacrifice, to pay for sin, to suffer for sin (e.g. the self-inflicted suffering where populations are shamed and urged to give up the good life for the “morally superior simple lifestyle”). Decarbonization is the latest salvation scheme of apocalyptic prophets (“save the world”), designed to bring down the “great evil” of too much abundance in industrial civilization.
6. The felt need for purification, for a purging of evil. The purging must be “instantaneous/immediate” because apocalyptics believe that the threat of punishment/apocalypse is always imminent. Instantaneous purging and transformation demands revolutionary violence. It cannot tolerate the gradualism of democratic processes that respects the freedom of others to differ (the respect of freedom that seeks compromise and cooperation with equal and differing others).
7. The desire to engage a righteous battle against evil, to join one tribe and to fight opposing tribes as “enemies”. The human practice of tribal dualism stems from an inherited animal impulse (small band existence/mentality). Human tribalism has been re-enforced by meta-myths of a cosmic dualism- i.e. life modelled on the belief that there is a good God engaged in uncompromising warfare with a evil power.
8. The felt need to engage a hero’s quest- i.e. to fight and conquer a monster/enemy, to win a righteous battle, to save a maiden.
9. The felt obligation to ensure that imperfect others are punished, even destroyed (i.e. to engage “justice” as punitive, not restorative).
10. The belief that if life is purged of sin/evil, and purified, then the lost paradise can be restored, and salvation accomplished (utopia achieved).
Watch these profoundly religious impulses/themes play out in contemporary “secular/ideological” variants, just as they played out in Marxism and Nazism last century. We are watching them play out today in environmental alarmism/climate alarmism.
These “bad religious ideas” have not been abandoned but merely reframed for our modern era. Note that many people today identify as “secular” and even “materialist/atheist” because they do not affiliate with a traditional religious tradition. But they continue to embrace these primitive mythical themes, which makes them profoundly religious in terms of their foundational worldview.
It is critical to understand these core themes of alarmism movements because across history they have repeatedly led us into disastrous mass-death outcomes. Insanity has been defined as repeating the same old mistakes. Why not then go to these root contributing factors in our religious and ideological belief systems and make needed changes? Again, see the alternatives in “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” below.
The ‘behavior based on belief’ relationship (from “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives”)
“The belief/behavior relationship, or theology/ethics relationship, is as old as conscious humanity. People, driven/inspired by their primary impulse for meaning, have always tried to model their lives and societies according to some greater ideal or authority, most commonly according to views of deity. Plato did this with his argument that the ideal life and society should be molded according to the invisible Forms or perfect Ideals. The Hebrews followed this pattern in the Old Testament, shaping all aspects of their lives and society according to what they believed was the law, word, and will of their God. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted this practice among the Balinese of Indonesia who patterned their villages and homes according to what they believed was the divine model.”
This is why this site goes after bad religious ideas like the Christ myth of Paul, and bad theological theories (i.e. religious God theories) in general.
Historical line of descent of apocalyptic mythology
The primitive myth of apocalypse has descended across history, notably from ancient mythology to world religions and has now found expression in the “secular” versions of the modern era. We first see apocalypse in the Sumerian Flood myth and Egyptian myths of The Destruction of Mankind and Return to Chaos (3rd millennium BCE). Apocalyptic then appears in Zoroastrian religion (1500 BCE) which then influences the Jewish version of apocalyptic (last two centuries of the BCE era). Jewish apocalyptic then shapes Christian apocalyptic which in turn shapes the ideology of 19th Century Declinism (Arthur Herman, ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’). Declinist apocalyptic now dominates contemporary versions of apocalypse, notably climate alarmism.
The same primitive mythical themes have been repeated all across human history and across all the cultures of the world (Joseph Campbell).
Climate briefs, Wendell Krossa
One of most oft-repeated mantras from the climate alarm movement is that we can “limit climate change to 1.5 degrees C” if we make extreme and immediate cuts to global emissions of CO2 (i.e. eliminate our use of fossil fuels as soon as possible). This mantra of limiting climate change is a statement of profound ignorance of basic climate facts.
We do not know how much the rise of CO2 over the past century or so is due to human emissions or is due to other natural factors.
We do know that the CO2 influence on climate diminishes rapidly (logarithmically) with increasing atmospheric levels, rendering CO2 only a “bit player” in climate change. The cosmic ray/cloud/sun interaction, and the multi-decadal shifts between cooling and warming phases in ocean currents, show stronger correlations with the climate change that we have seen over the past century or so. Larger cyclical patterns in nature also show strong correlations with climate change over larger time frames.
It is irrational to believe that humanity can “turn a CO2 knob” and control climate. We heard this King Canute-type irrationality in the claim by Barack Obama that his election was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow.
We do know that the world descended into the Little Ice Age of 1300-1850 and has still not fully recovered from that bitter cold. The mild 1 degree C warming of the past century was hugely beneficial to all life but Earth could use a few more degrees of warming and that would still be net beneficial (10 times more people die every year from cold than die from warmth). Earth is 5-plus degrees C below long-term historical average temperatures (paleo-climate averages). Further, we are now in the coldest era of our Holocene interglacial. All previous Holocene warm periods (Holocene Optimum, Roman, Medieval) were warmer than our Modern Warm Period.
And we do know that CO2 levels are still far below long-term historical averages (again, paleo-climate research). The slight increase of the past century (from pre-industrial 285 to 400-plus ppm today) has benefitted life immensely with a 14% increase in green vegetation across the Earth over just the past four decades. That has meant more food for animal life and increased crop production for humanity (crop production records are being broken annually).
Quote from Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal Nov. 16, 2021
“If there is one thing the world should take away from the Glasgow COP26 summit, it’s that the most dangerous greenhouse-gas emissions come from the front ends of politicians, not the back ends of cows.”
The essay below (“Christian Contradiction”) continues this site’s project to counter the apocalyptic mythology that dominates modern consciousness. The point is to alleviate unnecessary fear by tracing and challenging/countering the foundational factors that contribute to fear.
The apocalyptic-scale exaggeration that is incessantly beaten into public consciousness by today’s climate alarmism movement incites the survival impulse in populations, thereby rendering people susceptible to the irrational salvation schemes of alarmists. Salvation schemes (i.e. decarbonization to “save the world”) that cause immense harm to the most vulnerable people.
Paul’s Christ myth has been the single most influential myth in history. It is primarily responsible for perpetuating the primitive myth of apocalyptic in Western consciousness (James Tabor affirms these points in “Paul and Jesus”). And yes, there is an “anti-Christ” in Christianity but its not who you think it is. Its someone dear and familiar.
What’s at stake in challenging the Christ myth? History’s single most profound insight- i.e. that God is a “no conditions” reality (the “stunning new theology of Historical Jesus”). That insight has been buried for two millennia under Paul’s highly conditional Christ myth.
The Christ myth- separating diamonds from dung (revised) Wendell Krossa
The fundamental problem with Paul’s Christ myth was outlined by Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy. They stated that the Christ of Paul “buried the diamonds/pearls” of Historical Jesus (“Historical Jesus” is the title used to distinguish the actual historical person from the Christian version- known commonly as “Jesus Christ”). 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 buried these diamond themes of unconditional love in the “dung” (Jefferson’s term) of highly conditional salvation mythology. The main features of conditional salvation include (1) the appeasement of angry deity with the condition of a blood sacrifice as required payment (see Romans, Hebrews); (2) the tribal exclusion of unbelievers (Paul taught in Romans and elsewhere the condition of faith in his Christ myth as necessary for inclusion in salvation); and (3) ultimate retaliation/punishment through apocalypse or hell (see the Thessalonian letters and the Revelation of John). The conditional religious mythology of Paul and other New Testament writers buried the unconditional message of Jesus.
Preface to “The Christian Contradiction” (Jesus versus Christ) Wendell Krossa
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. This is the ‘behavior based on similar belief’ relationship. People have long appealed to, for example, the features of retaliation and punishment in God as the ultimate validation for their exercise of punitive, payback justice toward offending others. Punitive theology undergirds punitive justice.
Historical Jesus reframed entirely the behavior based on belief model when he rejected retaliation as a divinely validated ethic. He stated that, contrary to Old Testament teaching, God did not retaliate (“no more eye for eye”). He argued that, instead, God generously forgave, included, and loved all people whether good or bad. Note the essential point of his Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements: “Love your enemies… (because God does). Be like God who generously and freely gives sun and rain to both righteous and unrighteous”.
Conclusion? You violate the central message of Historical Jesus if you try to appeal to him or his theology to validate retaliatory, punitive justice. Paul’s Christ is another matter altogether. The mythical Christ, a reality entirely opposite to Historical Jesus, validates ultimate divine retaliation.
In the Matthew 5 and Luke 6 statements Historical Jesus overturned previous millennia of all-pervasive threat theology- i.e. myths of angry gods threatening judgment, punishment, and destruction. Unfortunately, Historical Jesus is almost entirely buried under Christ mythology in the New Testament books.
“The great Christian Contradiction” (Historical Jesus versus Paul’s Christ myth): Wendell Krossa
The argument here? The feature of ‘unconditional’ should be central to an authentically humane theology (i.e. God theory or Ultimate Reality theory). In this essay, I will appeal to elements of 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”) to affirm my point regarding an unconditional theology. I simply refer to varied useful comments in the Jesus material (e.g. “love your enemy”) to illustrate his central theme of unconditional love, something that stands on its own as authoritative.
Unconditional love is the best of being human and it possesses authority in itself as ultimate goodness without the need for validation by some religious authority. Unconditional love is “self-validating” as good or true. Unconditional love does not need validation from Jesus but I do not mind touching base with such a widely respected icon/symbol for illustrative purposes.
Unconditional love is not a religious insight or discovery. To the contrary, religious traditions across history have communicated the exact opposite in that they have all 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 an essentially conditional institution, has never communicated the stunning unconditional nature of deity to humanity. By its very nature as a conditional reality religion cannot represent/communicate unconditional reality.
I would establish the authority of unconditional love 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- we should do theology based on the best in humanity and then project the ‘best of being human’ out to define deity, not the other way around as religious traditions have long done. Religions begin with some holy text as authoritative ‘revealed truth’ that defines deity and is therefore the authority for human ethics/behavior.
Better, we should first establish the best of being human, and then project that out to define deity, but recognize deity as something transcendently better (Ultimate Good or Love). We should try to understand deity by first understanding the best of humanity. Another way of stating this- i.e. doing theology by noting the best of humanity and projecting that onto deity- would be 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. We are all experts on basic human goodness and do not need affirmation from outside authorities, certainly not religious authorities.
And yes, I am affirming that all people are equally incarnated with the God spirit that is inseparable and 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, I would affirm that there has been an equal incarnation of God in all people and that also offers a new metaphysical basis for human equality.
What about bad behavior? Unfortunately, we all have experience with ignoring or denying our core human spirit and freely choosing to exhibit the baser features of our inherited animal brain (and its base impulses) that still resides in all of us. The choice to engage bad behavior is the risk that comes with authentic freedom.
Concluding the above point… I do not base my understanding of ultimate reality on traditional religious sources- 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? Modern sensibilities demand a radical overhaul and updating of such traditional sources of authority.
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? An unconditional God means that we are all free to create our own unique life stories. And your story is a valuable or good as anyone else’s. Religious or not. You possess in your human spirit the same ability to know and define God as much as anyone else does.
The Great Christian Contradiction: A “stunning new theology” buried by Christianity
(Note: The conclusions here are based on Historical Jesus research, notably the “Q Wisdom Sayings Gospel” research of James Robinson, John Kloppenborg, among others. I accept that Q is the closest that we have gotten to the actual teaching of Jesus. The actual content of Q is much less than the material in the New Testament Gospels that is attributed to Jesus. And the single most important statement in Q is the central theme of Jesus that is reproduced in Luke 6:27-36 and Matthew 5:38-48.)
First, why go after Paul’s Christ myth, the highly revered icon of a major world religion? Because, even though the Christ represents valued ideals to the Christian community- i.e. love, forgiveness, salvation, hope- it also embodies and validates 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 relationships (Lord Christ and his mediating priesthood dominating others- “Every knee shall bow”), and angry deity threatening to punish and destroy. John’s Revelation is an epitome statement of this divine retaliatory vengeance.
You cannot merge and mix contradicting opposites in some entity and make any sense- i.e. mixing humane ideals with primitive, subhuman ideas/practices. That promotes “cognitive dissonance” (see psychotherapist Zenon Lotufo’s “Cruel God, Kind God”). Also, the nasty elements in a merger will undermine, weaken, and distort the better features in the mix. It’s like putting new wine in old, rotten wineskins.
Further, the Christ of Paul is mainly responsible for embedding and re-enforcing the myth of apocalypse in Western consciousness and keeping that pathological myth alive now for two millennia. 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 that 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 the content of contemporary myth-making as well as our ethics and justice systems.
The historical lines of descent/influence are as follows: Paul’s Christ brought apocalyptic mythology to prominence in Western consciousness and worldviews. That Christian heritage then shaped much of 19th Century Declinism (see Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’). Declinism, in turn, has shaped contemporary environmental apocalyptic or Green religion.
My argument is that to deal fully and properly with the destructive pathology of apocalyptic we must also deal with the core reality- 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” (Arthur Mendel in ‘Vision and Violence’). If you want to fully understand how bad ideas from a primitive past have descended down into modern human narratives and consciousness then recognize the centrality of Paul’s Christ myth in this process. (Note: Messiah mythology actually began earlier in the Jewish messiah tradition that was then continued in Christianity.)
Now the “Contradiction”
Over the past three centuries, the “Search For Historical Jesus” 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 acknowledged 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, notably 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, for example, ‘Constantine’s Sword’ by James Carroll).
Of the varied 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 simple-minded reasoning behind the centuries-long selection process for the New Testament canon, such as Irenaeus’ affirmation that “there are four universal winds… animals have four legs…”, etc. Hence, the four gospels in the New Testament (NT). Such was ancient ‘theological’ reasoning. Though the gospels chosen had to affirm Paul’s theology and Christ myth.
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 his actual message is much less than what the New Testament gospels have attributed to Jesus. The NT gospel writers put numerous statements/sayings in Jesus’ mouth, claiming that he had said such things. But many of those added sayings contradict the man’s core theme/message.
Note, for instance, the statement of his central theme in Matthew 5 to “love your enemy”. That is the single most profound statement of ‘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 hatred ever uttered- that enemies should be cast into hell. Matthew claims that Jesus threatened the villages that refused to accept him and his miracles, 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- a lakeside versus Matthew’s mountaintop.
Matthew, obsessed with righteousness, tampers with the core Q Sayings Wisdom teaching in the chapter 5-7 section of his gospel. 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 desired the universal, unlimited inclusion of everyone. 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 subsequent editorial changes to the original 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- i.e. 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 in a non-retaliatory God. James Robinson calls the statement of Jesus in Matthew 5 a “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God”.
A critical takeaway here is that a non-retaliating God (no more eye for eye) is a non-apocalyptic God because apocalyptic is a supreme and final act of retaliation. The ultimate act of eye for eye retaliation is the great final apocalypse to destroy the world. The God of Jesus will not engage that ultimate act of retaliation in the violent punishment and destruction of all things. Include the conclusion that a God that rejects eye for eye justice would not promote the pathological belief in hell which is an expression of eternal retaliation. The God of Jesus was entirely non-punitive and non-apocalyptic.
These common-sense conclusions flow from this stunning new theology, from the core theme of a no-conditions God. The God of Jesus would not ultimately judge or condemn anyone and would not ultimately exclude anyone. Again, note the stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory and unconditional God in the statements- “no more eye for eye justice, but love your enemy because God does. God gives sun and rain 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 or teaching in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.
A further conclusion from this core teaching would be that the God of Jesus did not demand salvation through blood sacrifice or payment for sin. The God of Jesus would not demand sacrifice or payment before forgiving, loving, and including even the worst offenders/enemies. This is evident in the accompanying statements in Luke 6 that authentic love would “give, expecting nothing in return”. There is no expectation of or demand for debt payment or similar return of any kind.
And this point scandalizes the religious or moral mind that is oriented to fairness and justice as proper retribution or punishment, justice as tit for tat, hurt for hurt, or demanded payment for wrong. No more eye for eye means that God’s love is not a tit for tat form of love that is dependent on some similar response from others.
Most of us understand and practice this same ‘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 that others will be equally merciful with our imperfections. We do not demand payback or reparations for all the wrongs done to us by others. How much more would a deity that is ultimate Goodness offer such transcendent forgiveness and love.
Note also Jesus’ parables on the Vineyard workers and the Prodigal Son for illustrations of how good moral people were offended by the unconditional generosity, forgiveness, and love. The Prodigal’s Father and the vineyard owner disregarded the commonly understood norms of fair justice and that generosity offended the older brother and scandalized the all-day vineyard workers. Further, the unconditional inclusion of local “sinners” at meal tables offended righteous, moral Jews who were tribally minded and oriented to the inclusion of similarly law-abiding people, but excluded the unlawful people or “sinners” (those not practicing Jewish law). 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 enemies because God does. God does not engage eye for eye justice against imperfect people but loves his enemies. We should be just like God who 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”. This is the single most profound teaching/insight in all human history.
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 very first letters Paul straightforward rejects the non-retaliatory theology of Jesus and advocates for a retaliatory Christ- “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 statement and theme of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48. Paul employs the same behavior/belief pairing that Jesus used to state his theology. But Paul uses that same pairing (i.e. basing a behavior on a belief) to make the very opposite conclusion 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. Contrary to Jesus’ non-retaliatory God, Paul’s 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 also 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 destroys the enemies of his followers.
And while Paul appears to embrace the non-retaliatory ethic of Jesus (“Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge”) note that his ethic is oriented to and motivated by the hope for ultimate retaliation from God and that makes even the apparently non-retaliatory ethic actually retaliatory in intent. Basically, Paul was arguing that the Roman believers should be nice to their offenders in order that God could be really nasty to them in the future. Their being nice now was intended to “Pour coals of fire on their heads” in the future, that is, to ensure their harsh judgment at the hands of a wrathful and retaliatory God. So the apparently non-retaliatory ethic of Paul was nothing like the ‘no eye for eye’ ethic of Jesus.
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 anti-wisdom strain in Paul. It was a further effort to undermine the historical Jesus that contradicted Paul’s Christ myth.
The four gospels that were later included in the New Testament all affirmed Paul’s views and his retaliatory and apocalyptic Christ myth. The NT gospels added 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 the Christ as a great cosmic sacrifice to pay for all sin (i.e. a supremely conditional love).
Paul and his apocalyptic Christ myth- the most influential person and myth in history- has since profoundly shaped Western consciousness. His Christ myth also shaped Western justice as punitive and retaliatory- eye for eye justice, or punishment in return for harm caused (i.e. pain for pain, hurt for hurt). Paul’s Christ, and his God, are supremely retaliatory.
Fortunately, the inclusion of the original Jesus material in the New Testament (the Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6 sections) has served as a moderating force in the Christian tradition and history, countering the harsher elements with unconditional mercy. But on the other hand, the mixing and merging of opposites has resulted in the ‘cognitive dissonance’ of a “diamonds-in-dung” situation which was the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy. The better stuff- the core Jesus message and his stunning new unconditional theology- has been distorted and weakened by the nastier features in the mix. 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 the gods of religious traditions.)
Contrary to the unconditional and all-inclusive 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 (e.g. Galatians 1:8-9). 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, at the very heart of Christianity.
Here is the main contradiction summarized again:
Jesus’ ethic and the theology or belief that it is based on: “Do not engage eye for eye retaliation but instead love your enemy because God does, giving 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. Non-retaliatory, universally inclusive, unconditionally generous and loving.
Then Paul’s ethic and the theology or belief that it is based upon: Paul copies the pattern that 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 states (he 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 highest ideal and authority of human narratives. The reality that is God influences and shapes all else in religious belief systems.
Takeaway? The central theme/message of Historical Jesus is buried by Paul’s Christ myth. Again, the central teaching of 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 stunning new 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 or Christ.
Another version of the Christian contradiction (a related post)…
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- “Cruel God theories”, Zenon Lotufo). But no one, not even Jesus’ closest companions/disciples, took his scandalous and offensive insights seriously.
The contradiction at the core of Christianity has to do with the following profound opposites- i.e. (1) non-retaliatory behavior versus retaliation, (2) the non-punitive treatment of offenders versus a punitive approach, (3) no conditions versus a supreme condition (sacrifice, Salvationism), (4) unlimited love versus limited tribal love, (5) the universal embrace of humanity versus the restricted inclusion of only true believers, and (6) non-apocalyptic versus total apocalyptic destruction. You can’t get more contrary or contradictory than these entirely opposite themes/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 larger 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 into our contemporary world (compared, for instance, to the prominent Jewish Christianity of the first century CE- i.e. Ebionism- that eventually became absorbed into Islam).
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 Q 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 instead 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. 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 generously 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 authentically 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 of debt or reparations. 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, including local “sinners” or lawbreakers.
Paul outright rejected the central non-retaliatory, unconditional theme of Jesus and shamefully 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 Paul did this to straightforwardly contradict the central theme of Jesus. I think Paul did that intentionally as he knew he was confronting the central statement and theme of Jesus. So Paul similarly 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 that 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. Don’t retaliate, he said, but be nice to your enemies in order to “heap coals of fire on them”- i.e. to ensure that God punishes them harshly. Both the theology and the related ethic of Paul are oriented to retaliation. The ethic is retaliatory in intent.
There is no greater contradiction in religious history than this one between the God of 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 Jesus’ advocacy for no conditions love and Paul’s advocacy for love based on a supreme condition- 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 then 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” in sections below). Note, for example Matthew 20:25-28, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus condemned the desire to “lord over others” and told his followers that true greatness was to serve others, and that was what he was about. Paul’s Lord Christ, to the contrary, is about absolute domination over others. Jesus was against that vision of a lording ruler or Lord Christ. He is the anti-Christ at the very 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.
Added notes on the Christ: Religious icons and myths still exert an outsize influence on modern human thought and behavior. Note the 85% of humanity that are still affiliated with a major world religion as per the World Religion Survey. Most of the remaining 15% also embrace diverse forms of “spiritual” beliefs.
A close examination of humanity’s highest ideal and authority- deity- reveals many residual subhuman/inhuman features still present in religious versions of God. This exposes a root problem with religious theology or God theories. Once something has been projected onto a religious God, even if it was projected back in the era of human immaturity and primitive thought, such features have become part of the “immutability of deity”- i.e. the belief that religious gods do not change over time and hence must not be tampered with. This immutability feature is protected with threats of blasphemy/heresy.
This urges the consideration that religious reformism has to move beyond peripheral tinkering at the edges (changing this custom or that ritual) to thoroughly and properly tackle the core reality- the nature of religious deity. This is a project that involves humanizing our highest ideals and authorities with our ever-developing and progressing 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 is 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, should define what is assumed to be 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, domination/submission relationships, 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. that 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. Examples: “Forgive seventy times seven… which is to say- endlessly, without limit… sun and rain on all, both good and bad”). And he argued that his new view of God embodied this ‘no conditions love’ to transcendent or infinite degree. Everyone would get the same ultimate bliss in the end.
Based on the theology of Jesus 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, despite the natural consequences for behavior 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’. Simon Wiesenthal, also chose to avoid retaliatory vengeance and forgive while seeking to hold Nazis responsible for their crimes (“Justice, not Vengeance”).
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.
Once more… The core climate issues
Before committing our countries to spend trillions of dollars on renewables and overturn/demolish fossil fuel civilization we must urge populations to consider the full range of evidence on climate change. The alarmist version of “human-caused climate change” is based on unproven speculations that have exaggerated climate-related issues to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the true state of things.
There is no “settled science” or “97% consensus” that humanity is mainly responsible for climate change or that climate change will become “catastrophic”. Too many politicians continue to thoughtlessly affirm the exaggerated climate catastrophe narrative. They are not doing thorough homework on the basic issues of the climate debate.
An important note on climate research…
Quote from Bjorn Lomborg President of the Copenhagen Consensus think tank:
“The science shows us that fears of a climate apocalypse are unfounded,” he said. “But the singular obsession with climate change means we are now going from wasting billions of dollars on ineffective policies, to wasting trillions.”
Dianne Francis adds: “politicians stir up panic then deliver platitudes and net-zero targets decades from now to virtue signal and get elected, he added. They also exaggerate weather events as signs of extinction and ignore the “greening” underway in the world, agriculturally and in terms of reforestation, that in a handful of years is equivalent in size to “two Australias.”
Note the research of climate physicists W. A. van Wijngaarden and W. Happer on greenhouse gases, just below “Scope” and under “Getting it right”…
Climate briefs, Wendell Krossa (a revised reposting):
Response to latest eruption of climate hysteria and COP26 (another in an endless series of “end-of-days” conferences)
Yes, climate is changing but the warming has been mild (about 0.5 degree C since 1975, 1 degree C over the past century). There is no imminent “climate catastrophe”. The bigger threat is still cold that annually kills ten times more people than heat does. A few more degrees of warming will be further net beneficial in our still abnormally cold world that is 5-plus degrees C below long-term historical averages. During past warmer eras all life flourished and civilizations thrived. Further warming will be mostly distributed by ocean and atmospheric convection currents to the colder regions of Earth, to the colder seasons (winter), and to colder times of day (night). That means extended habitats for diverse life forms both plant and animal. (Note the discoveries of the ancient remains of tropical plants and animals in both polar regions revealing that Earth has been ice free and much warmer for most of the history of life).
Yes, CO2 contributes to warming climate but it appears that its contribution is very small, has reached “saturation” (i.e. ability to absorb and re-emit infrared radiation), and is now declining rapidly (a logarithmic decline with increasing levels in the atmosphere). You cannot turn a CO2 knob and control climate (i.e. the ridiculous claim that we can “limit global warming to 1.5 degree C). That is King Canute-like irrationality. Other natural factors overwhelm the CO2 influence on climate.
The benefits of more CO2 in our “CO2 starvation era” have been significant, and are unheralded by media, notably the 14% increase in green vegetation across the Earth over the past 40 years. That has meant more food for animal life and increased crop production for humans (crop production records are surpassed every year).
Overall, human life has been improved immensely thanks to fossil fuels and climate has not been harmed by fossil fuels.
Conclusion: There is no sound reason to tax carbon or decarbonize our societies, an irrational and irresponsible policy response that is harming the poorest people with soaring energy costs, declining energy supplies, and electrical grids destabilized by unreliable renewables.
Future generations of children in Grade One classes will laugh at the hysterical mania (“madness of crowds”) of the many who were carried away by today’s irrational demonization of carbon/CO2.
Note the link below to Joe Rogan’s comment on the Progressive/Woke response to Black politician Winsome Sears who disagreed with Democratic narratives. Rogan speaks to the Progressive tactic of labelling those who dare disagree with them as “racist”. “White supremacist” is an even more extreme pejorative used in the slander crusade of Progressives. That vilification, in the minds of the slanderers, ends any further discussion. They believe that they have then demonized and effectively discredited the disagreeing other, so there is no need for further civil discussion. They don’t need to engage any debate on the issues with those they disagree with.
This Progressive tactic to slander with extreme pejoratives (often racial) is an effort to silence, censor, and cancel disagreeing others. This is being done repeatedly to Black Americans like Winsome Sears, notably to Republicans (Larry Elder is another example), also to white moderate Democrats who disagree with the extreme Left Democratic narrative (i.e. even Joe Manchin was threatened with the racist label).
The Rogan clip:
Proponents of climate apocalyptic do the same in labelling disagreeing others as “deniers” (slandering by association with “holocaust deniers”). Skeptics “don’t believe” the “human-caused climate change” narrative. Having vilified skeptics of the alarmist narrative as irrational, unworthy nutcases, climate apocalyptic advocates then refuse to debate or discuss the issues with them. Evidence presented by skeptical scientists and others is also censored by social media as “disinformation… misinformation” too dangerous for public consumption.
Now a change of scenery for a while: However, I am still going after those basic ideas/themes that have caused so much misery across history- a sample would include the themes of tribal exclusion (the “us versus them” small band mentality that denies human oneness), domination of others, and punitive treatment of the failures of others. These themes, and the impulses they validate, undermine humanity’s defining feature- love- and our embrace of them renders us petty and subhuman. They hinder our quest to become the heroes of our stories that we ought to be, preventing us from becoming mature persons that “tower in stature”.
I offer the material below on the basic features of human life story with no defense for my affirmation of the existence of a reality that humanity has long understood as “deity”. However, my belief in the great mystery of a creating Source is entirely ‘non-religious’.
Insert Qualifier: Why broach the subject of deity in a contemporary world tired of “God-talk”? Because deity has long been the embodiment of humanity’s highest ideals and it continues to serve, for most people, as their highest authority. “Most people”? The 85% of humanity that still affiliate with a world religion, with most of the remaining 15% also holding varied versions of deities (i.e. Gaia, Universe, Mother Earth, karma) though unaffiliated with a major religion.
The more straightforward rejection of deity by some does not liberate them from the primal human impulse for meaning and desire for ultimate answers. More dogmatic forms of materialism/atheism appear to lead some people to shift to “secular” versions of ultimate reality but versions that are still framed too often by the same old themes that dominated primitive deity theories across history. We all orient our primal impulse for ultimate meaning somewhere, in some ultimate reality, whether in deity theories, or quantum physics, or new gods like “Self-Organizing Principle”. Richard Dawkins locates his impulse for meaning in natural selection (i.e. his statement in ‘The God Delusion’: “Natural Selection is the Source of All Enlightenment”). Note how people project capabilities onto these new realities that are quite similar to the features of traditional deity theories.
The ultimate meaning impulse goes somewhere as vacuums of nothingness simply don’t work (too incoherent, irrational, and absurd). So try to deny some long-standing realities if you wish but the natural impulse that they fulfill will find expression somewhere. Nothingness explains nothing.
Further, the tackling of God theory on this site is a continuation of a larger project to probe the root causal or contributing factors of problems, a most serious problem today being the persistence of apocalyptic hysteria and its highly destructive outcomes, notably the apocalyptic expressed in climate alarmism and its decarbonization salvation scheme, the project to overturn industrial/capitalist civilization.
Now back to the gods…
To begin, I affirm the foundational common belief of humanity from the earliest emergence of human consciousness in our species- i.e. the belief that we belong to some greater surrounding invisible reality that very much influences/determines how we live in this material reality. You see this fundamental belief in greater reality in the earliest human writing and mythologies, and even in prehistory art (e.g. John Pfeiffer- ‘Explosion: An inquiry into the origins of art and religion’).
People from the beginning have intuitively understood that surrounding greater reality was more than just energy, force (quantum force-fields in modern theory), or natural law. Greater creating reality (Source) was of the nature of Consciousness, Mind, Spirit, and therefore Self or Personhood.
Where the ancients went wrong (and where I part with them) was in projecting out the basest of animal features to define the greater reality, features like tribal exclusion (deities that favored true believer insiders versus unbelievers/outsiders), deities that related to humanity in domination/subservient forms of relating (i.e. deity as lord, king, ruler with humanity “created to serve the gods”), and deities that meted out justice as punitive destruction (i.e. deity as ultimate judge and punisher, destroying people in apocalypse and hell). Such features became foundational themes of later world religions. These base themes continue to dominate human minds today and define contemporary “secular” deities like vengeful Gaia, retributive Universe, angry Planet/Mother Earth, and payback karma. The age-old sacred has now been reframed as “secular” for the modern world. The basic themes of modern versions are often just the same old.
We can do better. We need to bring deity theories up to date with fully humane features that are more suited to modern sensibilities, and modern awareness of what is humane/inhumane.
It is particularly important to humanize deity theory because (as noted above) across history the reality of God has always been viewed as the highest ideal and authority of humanity. Add here the natural human impulse to base our behavior on our beliefs (to model our lives on what we believe is the divine ideal) and this makes it critical that our highest ideal and authorities are fully humane. A long-standing argument of this site is that nothing humanizes deity more than the feature of unconditional love. None of the world religions, while claiming to represent God to humanity, has ever communicated this core feature of deity to humanity.
Too much religious reform is little more than defensive tinkering at the periphery, unwilling or afraid to change core themes. Most religious reformism does not go to the core idea of deity, the idea that dominates and shapes all else in religious systems. And hence, religious pathologies (bad religious ideas) continue to infect and deform human consciousness.
Anyway, enough already… now on to those features of our stories…
How to understand human life and experience Wendell Krossa
Or: How to tower in stature as maturely human, how to become the hero of your story or quest.
Joseph Campbell said that we all live a “hero’s quest or adventure”. Our lives and experiences can be understood in terms of “the hero’s journey”. We all live heroic stories of adventure, struggle, conquest of monsters/problems, transformation, and discovery/insight that benefits others. I have added to his basic framework, revising, paraphrasing, and changing some things.
Going right to the point on the big question- What is the greater goal or meaning of human life? Above all else that we might accomplish in life, I would argue that we are here to learn what love is and how to love. Love is the fundamental reason/purpose for the cosmos, our world, and conscious human life.
Campbell affirmed love as the overall meaning of life in his comment that we become mature persons when we embrace “universal love”. We become the heroes of our story. I would use the broader term “unconditional” or “no conditions” to define love. This boundary-breaking adjective takes love to a whole new level of courage and achievement. Unconditional love enables us to “tower in stature” as fully and maturely human.
Arguments for unconditional as the highest and most authentic form of love
Unconditional or no conditions love includes universal and more. Unconditional is about an unlimited generosity that demands absolutely no conditions of others before loving them. It is a generosity that loves freely regardless of the response of the other person. Note, in this regard, the “hard sayings” of Jesus to “love enemies”, “to give expecting nothing in return”. He added that it is comparably easy to love and give if you expect an equal return. He was referring to the immature “tribal or ingroup love” that is limited to family and friends who return similar love to the love that is shown to them.
Jesus’ point was that authentic mature love will not set any conditions before loving others. It is not dependent on similar response. And it is not limited to like-minded ingroup members. It will also love enemies. It is not tribally oriented or limited.
Unconditional love is the highest form of love that humanity has discovered and the ideal that takes us safely in the direction of a more humane existence. It guides us toward actions that cause the least harm to others. It provides the safest ethical standard to help us navigate the tests of life. How so? Unconditional urges us to be non-retaliatory, non-dominating, and non-punitive. There is nothing safer than these responses for assuring that the least harm is shown to others, and the most good is done to others.
On the flip side of this…
Unconditional is how we conquer our personal monster, our real enemy in life, the inherited animal impulses inside each of us, impulses that orient us to tribal division (small band mentality), to domination of others (alpha male/female), to treat other’s failures with punitive justice (to destroy competing others). Unconditional enables us overcome these inherited tendencies and thereby to “tower in stature” as a heroic conqueror of the “animal passions”.
Unconditional is about embracing features like unlimited forgiveness of the failures of others, forgiveness that is manifested in restorative justice approaches (non-retaliatory, non-punitive justice). Unconditional is about embracing universal inclusion of all as equals (i.e. non-dominating, non-controlling forms of relating to all others).
Unconditional takes us to the height of what it means to live as authentically human. It is the most humane ideal that we have discovered to shape our goals, our mission/purpose in life. It shows us how we can become the hero of our unique story, and how we can mature as human persons. Unconditional, as our highest human ideal, gives meaning to everything else. It answers all the great questions: “Why existence?”; “Why this cosmos and this world?”; and “Why conscious human life?”
An insert qualifier: Approaching life with an unconditional orientation does not mean pacifist inaction in the face of injustice, violence, or evil. In discussion groups you sometimes get participants who respond to the suggestion of embracing unconditional as an ideal with this distorting dismissal, “Oh, you’re saying that we should let all the psychopaths go free”. No. In advocating for an unconditional mindset, no one is suggesting anything so thoughtlessly irresponsible and extremist. Embracing an unconditional ideal to guide life does not entail the abandonment of common sense in an imperfect world.
An unconditional approach to human failure will hold all responsible for their behavior, and this will require the restraint and imprisonment of people who are not able or not willing to self-control their worst impulses. Unconditional will even regretfully engage war to stop aggression against the innocent. But it will do so with the non-aggressive and non-triumphalist attitude advocated by the Chinese sage Laozi, that does not gloat over the defeat of an opponent.
Unconditional love is not primarily about feeling, as the horrific inhumanity of some offenders rightly evokes rage and disgust. Unconditional is an embrace of love that intends to treat all offenders humanely, despite their offenses. Much like our human rights codes that obligate us to treat prisoners of war humanely. Illustrations of unconditional love of enemies are in movies like “The Forgiven”, “The Railway Man”, “Invictus”, “To End All Wars”, “Ben Hur”, etc.
Start with the most basic reality- Create a new God, a truly humane deity
Unconditional points to a profound redefining of humanity’s ultimate ideal and authority- deity. It overturns entirely the long history of punitive, retaliatory gods demanding sacrifice.
Deities, from the beginning, have been defined by features like tribal exclusion (true believers vs unbelievers), domination (God as lord, king), and retaliatory punishment (God as Judge, ultimate Punisher). These features in deity have long validated the expression of similar features in the followers of such deities because people across history have held deity as their highest ideal and authority. From the beginning, people have naturally tried to model their lives and societies according to their understanding of the nature of ultimate reality or deity. This age-old human impulse to venerate deity as ultimate authority has often resulted in horrific outcomes because “we become just like the God that we believe in or worship”.
Unconditional rejects the base features that have long been projected onto humanity’s highest ideal and authority. Unconditional fully humanizes deity. It makes God safe to use as a source of validation for human behavior and life.
History records stunning examples of the inhumane treatment of others in the name of God. Christian crusaders near the end of the first millennium CE slaughtered Jews and Muslims because they believed their God willed the destruction of unbelievers. ISIS slaughtered people because they believed their God demanded such harsh punishment of infidels.
Defining God as unconditional love will overturn entirely the subhuman features of deity that have long validated inhumane treatment of others. When unconditional defines the highest ideal and authority of humanity, then people wanting to treat others inhumanely are left without recourse to divine validation. They are left indefensible and facing personal responsibility for inhumanity.
Unconditional deity fundamentally re-orients the primal human impulse to base behavior on belief- i.e. to validate our behavior with our beliefs, notably our beliefs regarding the nature of deity. Embracing unconditional in our highest ideal and authority will then enable a profound re-shaping of our responses and our treatment of human imperfection and failure. Where punitive, retaliatory deities have long validated human justice as systems of punitive retaliation, unconditional deity will orient us away from punitive forms of justice and toward the restorative or rehabilitative treatment of imperfect others.
Now interacting with Campbell’s features of human story…
First, I would affirm with Campbell that we come from a greater Oneness that humanity has long called “God” (i.e. the Ultimate Creating Consciousness, Mind, Intelligence, Source, Spirit, Self, Goodness). As noted above, there is one transcendently dominant feature that describes this divine Oneness- Love. Not just love as we commonly know it from our experience, but Love that is inexpressibly, transcendently, and infinitely unconditional. Beyond words, terms, definitions, or categories. The God that is infinitely beyond our human-created theories of God. God as unconditional Love is a reality that is transcendently beyond the common understanding of the term “God is love”. Inexpressibly beyond the best that we could ever imagine. No religion has ever communicated this liberating wonder to humanity.
All religion is oriented to conditional reality- conditions of right belief (the “truth” of the religion), required sacrifice/payment, correct rituals and religious lifestyle, obligatory membership. An unconditional deity renders religion unnecessary, hence the religious hesitation to engage and promote such a God.
Again, ultimate no conditions Love gives ultimate meaning to everything. This stunning new theology of ultimate Love defines the core purpose of the cosmos, the world, and conscious life. It is all.
A related stunner to ponder: Our true self is also the same no conditions Love that is God. This ought to radically transform and reshape our sense of identity or self-image. We are not the fallen, “originally sinful” beings of religious mythology. The love that is God is inseparable from our human spirit and our human consciousness. Unfortunately, our core spirit and consciousness are clouded and inhibited by the material body and brain that we have come to inhabit. Our core nature as no conditions love is distorted and even obstructed from full expression by our interaction with the animal brain that we have inherited. Our brain with its anti-human impulses to exhibit dualistic tribalism, domination of others, and the exclusion, punishment, and destruction of others, leads us to make choices that deny our true nature as beings of love. Yes, I am affirming a form of “dualist interactionism” (immaterial mind with material brain), similar to that of neuroscientist John Eccles.
Further, regarding our origins in a greater Oneness (i.e. that we essentially belong to a greater Consciousness), some suggest that only part of our greater consciousness is expressed through our material body and brain. The human brain is a mechanism that limits our consciousness and enables us to function in this material realm. Our greater consciousness is mediated through our body/brain and this limits our experience to the 5 senses of the human body/brain and the three or four-dimensional reality of this material realm. This limiting enables us to experience life in this world. In this view, the brain is a transmitting organism, a limiting mechanism to make a life story possible in the here and now. (Note: Again, this view is more in line with John Eccles’ “dualist inter-action”.)
Our origin in the Oneness or the Source that is Love, our inseparable union with that Oneness, according to Campbell, is critical to remember as we journey through life so that we do not lose our humanity in this world where we engage our varied struggles with evil. Our true home in ultimate Oneness reminds us that the others we battle against here- i.e. the imperfect others that we may view as “enemies” or opponents- they are equally part of the same greater Oneness that is love. They are still intimate family despite the oppositions/dualisms that we engage here (i.e. the dualisms of religion, politics, race, nationality, gender, or other). The others that we may oppose/fight during our lives are full equals in a greater oneness. They are our brothers and sisters in the same family. If we forget this oneness with others (“our brotherhood with even our enemies”) during our righteous struggle with evil in this world, then we will lose our humanity, says Campbell. We will forget that “love your enemy” is the key to maintaining our humanity.
Others have suggested that we are co-creators with God, that we take part in creating this material reality as a learning arena, a place where we come to learn how to be human, to experience and act out a human adventure, story, or quest. We all come as “fellow actors in God’s theater”, says Campbell, playing our differing temporary roles, whether as good or bad persons.
And others yet suggest that we may even be responsible for choosing our unique life stories and the varied experiences of our stories, both good and bad. We may have chosen our bodies, our families, and our unique life stories, in order to learn, develop, and grow as human. If this is true in any way, then we cannot blame God for our troubles. I am not affirming these speculative things… just offering them for consideration. They point to alternative ways to view the harsher experiences of our lives. We may have chosen (in pre-existence) our unique life experiences as opportunities for personal learning and growth.
Insert: This is not a new take on religious predestination (i.e. that our lives were planned out in advance). As freedom is inseparable from love, so freedom remains paramount to our stories. We exercise authentic freedom of choice and create our stories on the fly, during our sojourn in this world. Freedom, with elements of indeterminacy and randomness, is inseparable from love. Where there is no authentic freedom of choice (free will) there can be no authentic love.
Moving along… Others have suggested that we come into life to fulfill some special mission, that we are called, or sent, to make some unique contribution to improve life, to make the world a better place. And we do this through living a unique life story. No one else can accomplish the unique mission that we have come to fulfill.
Affirming my main point again- that the core purpose of human life and story is to know and learn love. To learn what authentically humane love is about. To learn how to love, how to express the love that is our true self, and how to receive love from others.
And love is expressed through all the diversity of innumerable human lives and experiences- e.g. whether making an economic contribution, a political or social contribution, or something personal. Perhaps as an entertainer. Is there any greater contribution to improving life than that made by comedians? Putting hardship and suffering in its place, laughing at it all, and thereby lightening the dark parts of life. And what about the valued contribution of farmers growing food for all of us? Or sanitation workers preventing the spread of disease? There are no “useless” or less important human lives or stories. Despite the variety of our personal occupations, all of us contribute in some way to the grand overall venture of humanity learning love.
Our contribution may be small and hidden, or it may be offered in the larger public realm. Again, our contributions to life are as diverse as the opportunities to be human in billions of individual life stories. There is infinite creative potential in the freedom to explore, to experience, to create and innovate, to live a unique story.
I would offer, again, that unconditional love is the central point of it all. And that is something intensely personal. As we contribute in some area (i.e. our jobs), we would do well to nourish love as the motivating and guiding factor in our actions. It matters how we relate to and treat others around us in all the mundane, ordinary, and private situations of daily life. Fundamentally, success in life (true human achievement) is about how we treat others as fellow members of the same family. They remain our equals in this one human family despite their status or failures in this world.
Taking another Campbell point here: We all face monsters in life. We experience problems, trials and suffering, things that we struggle with and try to overcome. Our personal monster/problem may be a physical disability, or mental/emotional problems, or some social issue, perhaps economic or political. Our monsters, and our struggles/battles, are as diverse as the problems of our complex world, whether public or personal.
Additionally, Campbell and others have noted that dualism is a vital part of this material realm and there is a greater point to the dualisms of material reality and life (i.e. the good versus evil dualism). Tackling dualism requires the preliminary qualifier that we should not make light of evil in this world and the related suffering that inhumanity brings. But it helps to recognize that dualism serves the purpose, in this arena of life, of providing a backdrop or contrast against which we learn what good is. We would not know good without its contrasting opposite. The experience of evil in life provides an opposite that we struggle against, and through that “righteous struggle with evil” we gain insights, we discover humane responses, and we find solutions to problems, solutions that will benefit others. Our struggle with the wrongs, injustice, or evil of life is also where we learn empathy with suffering others.
Again, being very sensitive to the horrific suffering that many people have endured, I would offer that it may be helpful to note that others have suggested that some forms of struggle and suffering are necessary and even good for us because we would not learn, we would not develop and grow as human, aside from such struggle and suffering. As Julian Simon said, our problems are good for us because they push us to find solutions and our discovered solutions then benefit others. Struggle brings forth the best of the human spirit.
Further, it is critical to recognize that our experience of evil and suffering is never some form of divine punishment. That religious fallacy must be rejected entirely. God as unconditional love does not punish human imperfection. And God does not punish people through the imperfections of the world (i.e. natural disaster, disease, human cruelty).
Philosophical explanations of the meaning of evil and related suffering will never fully satisfy everyone. But it may help others to view the creation of this imperfect world, and its basic features, as fundamentally an experience and learning arena (death serving the purpose of making this realm a temporary experience).
Campbell adds that we will be “wounded” in our struggle with our monster/problem. “Wounding” is as diverse as differing human stories. Wounding may be physical, mental/emotional, or related to some social problem.
To reiterate, we may have chosen our unique problems and experiences of suffering before we came here. We may be more responsible for our lives than we realize. Let your mind toy with this suggestion (see, as an illustration, Natalie Sudman’s “The Application of Impossible Things”).
I would add something further to Campbell’s good points, though in places he has intimated a similar insight. The greatest monster and the real enemy that we all face, and must conquer, the greatest problem that we must all wrestle with and solve, is the inherited animal within each of us (“the animal passions”, according to Campbell). The greatest of all “righteous battles against evil” is the intensely personal inner battle that takes place inside each of us. Here is where the role of unconditional as a guiding ideal comes into laser focus. And this is where we make our greatest contribution to making the world a better place. It starts within us, with conquering our own animal passions.
“Why do you worry about and judge the speck in the other person’s eye (their imperfections) when you have a beam in your own eye (your own imperfections)?”
Revolution, reformation, renewal, transformation, change… should all begin as something intensely personal. Within us. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “The great battle-line between good and evil runs through the center of every human heart”. The great battles against evil in life should focus initially and primarily within ourselves.
We have inherited a core animal brain. They used to frame this as the “tri-partite” brain, with the reptilian core (i.e. amygdala), the limbic system, and then the more human cortex at the surface.
The animal brain (and our past in millions of years of animal existence) bequeaths us with the basic impulse to tribalism (small band separation and opposition to outsiders), the impulse to dominate others (Alpha male/female), and the impulse to exclude, punish, and destroy the differing other/enemy.
But we embrace a liberating qualifier: To paraphrase Jeffrey Schwartz, “we are not our brains”. Our core human spirit, our human self or person, our consciousness, is inseparable from the Love that we have long called God (our Source). We are not our inherited physical/animal brains. We are something much better in our essential nature, personhood, or being (the “real” us). We are most essentially beings or persons that are love. Love is our true inner nature. And this is why our expression of love makes us feel authentically and maturely human, especially the expression of unconditional love toward enemies.
I offer that the most important dualism of all to understand is the human versus the animal. The human in us- our human spirit and consciousness- is taking us in an entirely new direction from our brutal animal past. Our core humanity has set us on a trajectory toward a more humane future.
Evolutionary biology/psychology tends to devalue the human by defining it too much in terms of the animal, by viewing and limiting the human to a form of more advanced animal. Evolutionary biology/psychology then devalues human love as something to be explained in terms of the animal survival impulse- i.e. just another form of “species altruism”. No, human love is something far more wondrous and essential to the greater ultimate meaning of conscious existence.
And here is where Campbell shines when defining human story. He says that the most critically important transformation in human life is when we orient our lives to “universal love”. Then we begin to mature as humans. Then we become the hero of our story. Again, I would use unconditional love as a broader, more inclusive term.
What does the transformation to mature humanity entail?
Unconditional as a guiding ideal enables us to potently counter (overcome, conquer) the animal inside us by orienting us to embrace all others as fellow members of the one human family (inclusive not limited tribal love). Unconditional inspires us to treat all others as equals and not dominate or control free and equal others (no alpha domination). And unconditional urges us to not destroy the other but to forgive the imperfection that we encounter in others. Our core self, as unconditional love, points us toward the restorative treatment of failure in others (toward justice as rehabilitation/restoration, not punishment).
Add here Campbell’s comments on the shamanic experience that involves a disintegration of the self, and then re-integration around something new, a new worldview and life story. When we orient our worldviews and lives to universal or no conditions love, that provides a new cohering center for a more humane worldview and life story. Unconditional transforms and changes everything. It liberates our consciousness from the old features of human narratives that were too often subhuman. Unconditional orients us to new features shaped by no conditions love. See ‘Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives’ for details on constructing an entirely new worldview oriented to unconditional features.
Re-emphasizing critical points:
The most important battles in life are not the great historical wars of tribe against tribe, or nation against nation. The greatest battles/wars are those that take place inside us. And this relates to the deeper meaning of equality in human life. There can be no outer material equality because life is shaped by hierarchies and pyramidal structures where only a few can reach the upper levels, whether in business, sports, politics, or entertainment. Only an elite few can achieve the highest success in those pyramids of life. But everyone has equal opportunity to achieve the greatest success of all in the most important achievement of all- love. Love is the foundational feature that defines real success in human life and story. It is the essential core nature of our human spirit and consciousness, and it gives singularly potent meaning to our existence. Further, love is the only lasting achievement in the cosmos. All else will be left behind and forgotten in this material world or realm. Only what is done in love lasts forever and reverberates to infinity and beyond.
Speaking superlatively, when we struggle and suffer in life, and then discover unconditional as the route to an authentically humane life story, that is the single greatest insight that we can discover, the greatest treasure that we can find, and the greatest victory that we can achieve. When we orient our lives to unconditional love, then we can offer the greatest benefit or boon to others- to treat them unconditionally. Unconditional points us toward the greatest revolution that we can bring to life, toward the greatest possible transformation of life, toward the greatest liberation that we can offer to the world (i.e. liberation from the inherited animal in all of us). The unconditional treatment of imperfect people around us (restorative justice) is one of the most potent personal ways to make the world a better place. Include here also the expression of unconditional love toward oneself and one’s own failures and imperfections.
Another way of putting this… We will all face some struggle, some experience of suffering, something we fear, perhaps opposition from an enemy, or some abuse from an opponent. If we choose to respond to that challenge with love, we then discover our true self as a being of love, and we mature into a heroic person through that experience and choice. Again, for examples, note “The Railway Man”, Nelson Mandela’s life story, the tortured prisoners in “To End All Wars”, or the mother in “The Forgiven’.
In all that we do, and should do, to make this life better- i.e. in sports, in business and work, in all public or social issues, or entertainment- we should never forget that it is how we treat others in the daily mundane interactions (the ordinary and hidden things) that make us real successes and achievers, or not. Steve Jobs appeared to have understood this on his death bed when he apologized to his daughter Lisa for treating her sub-humanly at times. He had great public material success but regretted that he failed in his private life. He died wishing that he had treated his family members with more kindness when he was alive and healthy.
Added notes in conclusion:
The embrace of a no-conditions ideal to guide our lives will orient us to (1) the non-tribal inclusion of all others as full equals. It will orient us to (2) respect and protect the full freedom and rights of all others. And it will orient us away from punitive, destructive forms of justice and (3) toward restorative/rehabilitative forms of justice- i.e. treating all human imperfection and failure with forgiveness, mercy, and generosity.
Campbell also says that a “wise man”, or mentor, will give us a sword to slay our monster and help us to achieve our purpose in life. We all know such people among family and friends, people who give us advice from their own life experience. And again, unconditional love is that potent sword to slay our personal monster or enemy- the inherited animal in us.
From our struggle with this imperfect life and our struggle to learn love, we are transformed into a new person, into a better version of our self. Or better- learning to respond with love is the unveiling or expression of our true self. This is how we “discover our true self”. When we orient our lives to unconditional love, we then “tower in stature as mature humans”, we become the hero of our story, and we fulfill our destiny, we accomplish our mission. And that is how we help to create a better world, a new world, by first making ourselves better persons, by learning to live out the love that is our true self.
Another: Essential to becoming a mature human person is to take responsibility for our failures in life. Personal acknowledgement and embrace of our failures is the starting point of the life trajectory of personal improvement.
Another: Unconditional love is the key to unlock the meaning of the cosmos, this world, and conscious human life. It is the defining essence of our great Source- God. As someone said, “The very atoms of God are made of love, unconditional love”. That love then defines the essential purpose for the creation of the cosmos and life- that all has been created as an arena where we come to learn and experience such love, to receive and express such love. The imperfection of life, then, provides the background against which such love finds the opportunity to shine all the more brightly (in our battle with evil).
One more: The monster that we face in life is a two-headed beast. I noted the basic features of animal reality that we all struggle with- the impulses to tribalism (small band separation and opposition), domination of others (the alpha thing), and the impulse to exclude, punish, and destroy the differing other. Across history, people have projected these very same features onto deities, onto humanity’s highest ideals and authorities- the gods. They have thereby created ultimate monsters that embody tribalism, domination, and punitive destruction. Consequently, conquering a monster in life is more than just overcoming the monster inside us- the animal inheritance in us.
Our battle in life includes conquering the monsters in our meta-narratives- i.e. the religious God theories that inspire, guide, and validate human emotions, attitudes, motivations, and responses/behavior. Religious gods- humanity’s highest ideals and authorities- from the beginning have been monstrous in nature and their features have been employed to validate the same monstrous impulses in people- to tribalism, domination, and punitive destruction. (My repeated use of this triad- tribalism, domination, punitive destruction- is simply illustrative of a larger complex of things. see Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives in sections below)
Unconditional is the sword that potently slays the monster in us and also slays the monstrous pathologies of humanity’s God theories (monster gods). An unconditional God does not validate dualistic tribalism (believers versus unbelievers), or domination of people (the myth of “humanity created to serve the gods”), and does not punish and destroy “unbelievers” (i.e. apocalypse and hell myths).
While each of us has some unique thing to contribute to life in economics, politics, occupation, social life, sports/entertainment, music, or whatever else that we choose to do, the one common factor in all human story is to learn unconditional love, to discover and achieve something of this highest form of love. When we orient our lives to this central ideal, then we have conquered our real monster and enemy, the inherited animal in us. Then we have become the hero of our story.