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MrHen comments on The Meditation on Curiosity - Less Wrong

36 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 October 2007 12:26AM

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Comment author: MrHen 30 January 2010 07:13:10AM 5 points [-]

I'd love to read more, and I'm especially curious what it would mean to you to no longer identify as a theist, and how that would feel.

It is a complicated feeling. It is hard to adequately explain without delving into detail explanations of (a) my particular beliefs (b) the society of friends and family I inhabit and (c) a heck of a lot of personal history. I am not ready to deal with all of that here. I suspect bits and pieces will leak out.

The one thing I will say now is that it would completely wreck almost every aspect of my life. I have everything invested in this.

I'm also curious about the last two:
Fear of confirming Theism and dealing with the social consequences

Since, at this point, I don't have much to think that critical examination will lead to me dropping Theism, it is still possible that it will strengthen Theism. I don't think it is more likely but I expect it would provoke a stronger reaction than my confession did.

Preemptive rejection of Rationality and/or Reality

If I really were scared enough to dodge critical examination I would be smart enough to drop anything that threatened a critical examination. As in, it wouldn't be given a foothold. I have enough power over my beliefs to choose what I want to believe. Right now, Rationality has my attention. If it scared me enough I would just leave and never return.

This hasn't happened and I do not expect it to happen. But if the situation were that dire, I would want to hold off on the critical examination until it was less scary.

For that to even make sense you have to give me the benefit of the doubt in terms of how I argue with myself. I don't expect it to translate well into other person's belief system. Also, it is very late... so... I don't promise anything and reserve the right to recant tomorrow. :)

Comment author: Blueberry 01 February 2010 07:29:16PM 0 points [-]

The one thing I will say now is that it would completely wreck almost every aspect of my life. I have everything invested in this.

Wow. Then it's not at all surprising you feel this way. You've left out a lot of details of your life, so I can't really comment on specifics (though please feel free to share them if you're ever ready to do so here). But given that, it's going to be almost impossible for you to change that belief.

I'm very confident that a detailed, unbiased examination of your theistic beliefs would reveal that there's no evidence for them and you hold them for social reasons. Do you agree? That being the case, you may not want to try to engage in this kind of examination right now. It sounds like you need time to think about what you really want in your life, and what kind of life you want to lead, independent of your beliefs about theism. Do you want to uproot your life right now?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 February 2010 07:51:38PM *  3 points [-]

Blueberry, the human species has got to do this sometime. Please don't get in the way.

Comment author: Blueberry 01 February 2010 07:57:30PM *  4 points [-]

I agree that humanity needs to do this sometime, and I agree that MrHen needs to do this sometime.

I don't know enough about MrHen's situation to know whether it's in his best interest to suddenly uproot himself from every aspect of his life right now, or whether there are ways of creating support networks and easing the transition that would help him. I'm not saying he should hide from the truth; I'm saying he may need to lay the groundwork for finding the truth first.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 February 2010 08:07:37PM *  6 points [-]

AFAIK these things just get more difficult the longer you put them off. This is the usual rule, and it's also the usual rule that people are heavily motivated on a cognitive level to find excuses to let things slide. Someone wrote about this very eloquently - I'm not sure who, possibly Tim Ferris or Robert Greene - with the notion that "hoping" things will get better isn't really hope so much as a form of passivity, motivated more by fear of action and change than any positive hope. Any delay of this sort should have a definite deadline attached to it.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 01 February 2010 08:20:43PM *  7 points [-]

I've found a definite (and not necessarily complete) list of steps to be useful in the absence of a deadline, and I think that's what Blueberry was getting at: MrHen might be best served by adding things to his to-do list that answer the question "what things do I need to do to get my personal life arranged in such a way that I would be able to be 'out' as an atheist without major repercussions?"

Comment author: ciphergoth 01 February 2010 10:38:05PM *  7 points [-]

In that case, you probably shouldn't think about whether or not there is a God just now.

Rather, you should first think about what you're going to do if you conclude there isn't. In your case, the line of retreat is rather more literal for you than it is for other people. Who would you bring in on your thinking before it had reached a conclusion, to let them know you're really wondering? What would you do to make the best of the situation, given how much you have invested? You'll find it very hard to think about this rationally until you can really face the thought of it going either way.

Comment author: MrHen 01 February 2010 10:54:06PM *  2 points [-]

You'll find it very hard to think about this rationally until you can really face the thought of it going either way.

Yeah. This is a hard mental exercise... and this area of thought experiments encounters a lot of resistance. Something is actively blocking this area and that is Very Bad. I have a hunch about what it is but don't know how to explain it well.

Hmm...

Comment author: ciphergoth 02 February 2010 12:20:44AM 6 points [-]

But don't delay. Whichever conclusion you come to, I can't imagine you would ever turn around and think "I'm really glad I spent so long putting off really thinking hard about that". You won't enjoy it, and you're unlikely to see it as time well spent.

I'm not saying rush to a conclusion; I am saying rush to thought.

Comment author: MrHen 02 February 2010 01:26:22AM *  2 points [-]

Agreed. Today is not the day, however, due to other circumstances. If I don't have at least two plausible options for both of the following questions by Saturday, February 6th feel free to pester me.

  • Who would you bring in on your thinking before it had reached a conclusion, to let them know you're really wondering?

  • What would you do to make the best of the situation, given how much you have invested?

Comment author: MrHen 08 February 2010 06:50:12AM 1 point [-]

Answer is up, one day late.

Comment author: MrHen 08 February 2010 06:49:41AM 2 points [-]

Who would you bring in on your thinking before it had reached a conclusion, to let them know you're really wondering?

If it came to the point where I began expecting to drop Theism I would tell my wife, my brother, and probably a good friend of mine in Minnesota. My wife because it affects her, my brother because he would probably have advice on how to deal with switching, and my friend because he has always had good advice before. And he's the one I feel I could actually talk to about the subject.

What would you do to make the best of the situation, given how much you have invested?

Given the option, I would leave my current city and go back to school. I suppose everything else revolves around the conversation I have with my wife. I would prefer to stay together but I honestly don't know what would happen. I don't see us splitting up, but I am not confident in this.

As for personal and non-social impacts, I would start over again. I would take the beliefs I have built in the journey to dropping Theism and continue the process. I expect I would continue acting relatively the same but with an attempt at slowly replacing all of the habits and rituals I have grown accustomed to having.

Comment author: ciphergoth 08 February 2010 08:38:15AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for thinking about this and answering. I hope that you're talking to these people now about the overall journey that you're on with respect to rationality, whether or not you raise the specific subject of theism. I think you'll have an easier conversation if you talk to them about the journey as it's going on than if you suddenly find yourself having arrived at somewhere that was not where you set off before those closest to you knew you were even setting out.

Comment author: MrHen 08 February 2010 02:32:19PM *  2 points [-]

Actually, I find it hard to talk about rationality because everyone I would want to talk to about it would think it was completely obvious. I talk about biases and the like, and particular examples, the but the basic concepts tend to get responses like, "Well... yeah? And?"

EDIT: Note that this is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The people I would want to talk to about it are the most likely to have already thought about these subjects.

Comment author: Kevin 08 February 2010 02:38:45PM 0 points [-]

How about talking about the solution to determinism versus free will, or "if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound?"

Comment author: MrHen 08 February 2010 02:54:32PM 0 points [-]

The solution? Everyone would get the concept of the topics involved. Most of them would get bored and move the conversation along.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 February 2010 01:40:03AM *  12 points [-]

I should also mention that, judging from the stories I've heard, it's a lot easier to talk about your doubts with your spouse when they're doubts. I presume you have a wife and kids and parents and siblings and local community who are all deeply religious? I don't know about the others, but the sooner you start talking to your wife about your doubts, the more likely you are to stay together as you go down whatever path you go down.

Comment author: MrHen 02 February 2010 02:35:07AM 3 points [-]

This is good advice. Thank you.