Any Christians Here?

by DragonGod3 min read12th Jun 201777 comments


Personal Blog

I’m currently atheist; my deconversion was quite the unremarkable event. September 2015 (I discovered HPMOR in February and RAZ then or in March), I was doing research on logical fallacies to better argue my points for a manga forum, when I came across Rational Wiki; for several of the logical fallacies, they tended to use creationists as examples. One thing lead to another (I was curious why Christianity was being so hated, and researched more on the site) I eventually found a list of how the bible outright contradicts Science and realized the two were mutually incompatible—fundamentalist Christianity at least. I faced my first true crisis of faith and was at a crossroads: “Science or Christianity”? I initially tried to be both a Christian and an atheist, having two personalities for my separate roles, but another Christian pointed out the hypocrisy of my practice, so I chose—and I chose Science. I have never looked back since, though I’ve been tempted to “return to my vomit” and even invented a religion to prevent myself from returning to Christianity and eventually just became a LW cultist. Someone said “I’m predisposed to fervour”; I wonder if that’s true. I don’t exactly have a perfect track record though…
In the times since I departed from the flock, I’ve argued quite voraciously against religion (Christianity in particular (my priors distribute probability over the sample space such that P(Christianity) is higher than the sum of the probabilities of all other religions. Basically either the Christian God or no God at all. I am not entirely sure how rational such an outlook is, especially as the only coherent solution I see to the (paradox of first cause)[] is an acausal entity, and YHWH is not compatible with any Demiurge I would endorse.)) and was disappointed by the counter-arguments I would receive. I would often lament about how I wish I could have debated against myself before I deconverted (an argument atheist me would win as history tells). After discovering the Rationalist community, I realised there was a better option—fellow rationalists. 
Now this is not a request for someone to (steel man)[] Christianity; I am perfectly capable of that myself, and the jury is already in on that debate—Christianity lost. Nay, I want to converse and debate with rationalists who despite their Bayesian enlightenment choose to remain in the flock. My faith was shattered under much worse epistemic hygiene than the average lesswronger, and as such I would love to speak with them, to know exactly why they still believe and how. I would love to engage in correspondence with Christian rationalists.
1. Are there any Christian lesswrongers?
2. Are there any Christian rationalists?

Lest I be accused of no true Scotsman fallacy, I will explicitly define the groups of people I refer to:

  1. Lesswronger: Someone who has read/is reading the Sequences and more or less agrees with the content presented therein.
  2. Rationalist: Someone who adheres to the litany of Tarski.

I think my definitions are as inclusive as possible while being sufficiently specific as to filter out those I am not interested in. If you do wish to get in contact with me, you can PM me here or on Lesswrong, or find me through Discord. My user name is “Dragon God#2745”.
Disclaimer: I am chronically afflicted with a serious and invariably fatal epistemic disease known as narcissist bias (this is a misnomer as it refers a broad family of biases). No cure is known yet for narcissist bias, and I’m currently working on cataloguing and documenting the disease in full using myself as a test case. This disease affects how I present and articulate my points—especially in written text—such that I assign a Pr of > 0.8 that a somebody would find this post condescending, self-aggrandising, grandiose or otherwise deluded. This seems to be a problem with all my writing, and a cost of living with the condition I guess. I apologise in advance for any offence received, and inform that I do not intend to offend anyone or otherwise hurt their sensibilities.
I think I’ll add this disclaimer to all my posts.


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You might be interested in Leah Libresco who used to hang around the rationalist sphere and now runs a blog of her own.

4MrMind4yYeah, that would have been my answer too. With a giant caveat that she doesn't write about rationality anymore (and thank God for that).
0DragonGod4yThanks, I'll take a look at the link,

I consider myself both a Christian and a rationalist, and I have read much of the sequences and mostly agree with them, albeit I somewhat disagree with the metaethics sequence and have been working on a lengthy rebuttal to it for some time. I never got around to completing it though, as I felt I needed to be especially rigorous and simply did not have the time and energy to make it sufficiently so, but the gist is that Eliezer's notion of fairness is actually much closer to what real morality is, which is a form of normative truth. In terms of moral phil... (read more)

3denimalpaca4yI would urge you to go learn about QM more. I'm not going to assume what you do/don't know, but from what I've learned about QM there is no argument for or against any god. This also has to due with the distance between the moon and the earth and the earth and the sun. Either or both could be different sizes, and you'd still get a full eclipse if they were at different distances. Although the first test of general relativity was done in 1919, it was found later that the test done was bad, and later results from better replications actually provided good enough evidence. This is discussed in Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. There are far more stars than habitable worlds. If you're going to be consistent with assigning probabilities, then by looking at the probability of a habitable planet orbiting a star, you should conclude that it is unlikely a creator set up the universe to make it easy or even possible to hop planets. Right, the sizes of the moon and sun are arbitrary. We could easily live on a planet with no moon, and have found other ways to test General Relativity. No appeal to any form of the Anthropic Principle is needed. And again with the assertion about habitable planets: the anthropic principle (weak) would only imply that to see other inhabitable planets, there must be an inhabitable planet from which someone is observing. So you didn't provide any evidence for any god; you just committed a logical fallacy of the argument from ignorance. The way I view the universe, everything you state is still valid. I see the universe as a period of asymmetry, where complexity is allowed to clump together, but it clumps in regular ways defined by rules we can discover and interpret.
2Darklight4yStrictly speaking it's not something that is explicitly stated, but I like to think that the implication flows from a logical consideration of what MWI actually entails. Obviously MWI is just one of many possible alternatives in QM as well, and the Copenhagen Interpretation obviously doesn't suggest anything. The point is that they are a particular ratio that makes them ideal for these conditions, when they could have easily been otherwise, and that these are exceptionally convenient coincidences for humanity. The stars also make it possible for us to use telescopes to identify which planets are in the habitable zone. It remains much more convenient than if all star systems were obscured by a cloud of dust, which I can easily imagine being the norm in some alternate universe. Again, the point is that these are very notable coincidences that would be more likely to occur in a universe with some kind of advanced ordering. When I call this evidence, I am using it in the probabilistic sense, that the probability of the evidence given the hypothesis is higher than the probability of the evidence by itself. Even though these things could be coincidences, they are more likely to occur in a controlled universe meant for habitation by sentient beings. In that sense I consider this evidence. I don't know why you bring up the argument from ignorance. I haven't proclaimed that this evidence conclusively proves anything. Evidence is not proof. Why though? Why isn't the universe simply chaos without order? Why is it consistent such that the spacetime metric is meaningful? The structure and order of reality itself strikes me as peculiar given all the possible configurations that one can imagine. Why don't things simply burst into and out of existence? Why do cause and effect dominate reality as they do? Why does the universe have a beginning and such uneven complexity rather than just existing forever as a uniform Bose-Einstein condensate of near zero state, low entropy part
2Viliam4yPerhaps in some other universe the local people are happy that the majority of their universe does not consist of dark matter and dark energy, and that their two moons have allowed them to find out some laws of physics more easily.
0MrMind4yInteresting, what is that? Are you familiar with the writings of Frank J. Tipler? That would be computronium-based I suppose.
1Darklight4yThe idea of theistic evolution is simply that evolution is the method by which God created life. It basically says, yes, the scientific evidence for natural selection and genetic mutation is there and overwhelming, and accepts these as valid, while at the same time positing that God can still exist as the cause that set the universe and evolution in motion through putting in place the Laws of Nature. It requires not taking the six days thing in the Bible literally, but rather metaphorically as being six eons of time, or some such. The fact that sea creatures precede land creatures precede humans suggests that the general order described in scripture is consistent with established science as well. I have heard of Tipler and his writings, though I have yet to actually read his books. Positronium in this case means "Positive Computronium" yes.
0MrMind4yI was asking because positronium is an already estabilished name for an exotic atom, made of an electron and a positron. I suggest you change your positronium into something like friendtronium, to avoid confusion.
2Darklight4yActually, apparently I forgot about the proper term: Utilitronium []
0MrMind4yWell, it depends. Utilitronium is matter optimized for utility. Friendtronium is (let's posit) matter optimized to run a FAI. Not necessarily the two are the same thing.

I'd consider myself a rationalist, and also a christian. I don't expect to convince any of the former to join the later (or vice versa) but to give some explanation there are three main reasons.

  1. I alieve in the christian god, probably as a result of being raised by a protestant pastor and in a small rural town where the overwhelming majority of people were some form of protestant. I spent half a decade calling myself an atheist after making the intellectual realization that the evidence wasn't pointing that way, but I still consistently behaved as though

... (read more)
0denimalpaca4yThey're still being inconsistent with respect to the reality they observe. Why is the self-consistency alone more important than a consistency with observation?
0Screwtape4yYou are correct that both sorts of things could be called inconsistency, and as soon as I come up with a better way to phrase that difference I'll edit. I think being consistent with observations + priors is better than being consistently wrong. I also think being wrong in known ways is better than being wrong is unknown ways. Imagine driving a car with a speedometer that's always ten miles an hour under what you're actually going, or using a clock that's twenty minutes fast. You know you're getting wrong answers, but you can do an adjustment in your head to correct for it. If your speedometer is off by a random amount that changes at random times, it's both inconsistent with observation and inconsistent with itself, and therefore useless. You can't adjust or compensate, you just have to ignore it. (Or get used to getting pulled over :p)

I'm kinda close to this. I'm definitely a LW-er, posted here for years and all that. I find the 'where are all the aliens/simulation?" argument to be pretty persuasive in terms of atheism being a bust, so my general leaning is theist.

I don't have strong ideas about what the Intelligent designer might be, but I think there is/was a mind at work. I attend church, but calling myself Christian would be a stretch. It's probably the closest though.

0turchin4yThere one more "rationalist" prove of God existence. If we assume mathematical universe by Tegmark is true, and EY wrote like he supports it, then it should be dominated by extremely large superintelligences modelling our world - because any possible computer program exists as a mathematical object and there are more complex math objects than simple. Personally, I don't buy this as an evidence of God's existence, but see this as an argument against the mathematical universe.
0denimalpaca4yWhy does this imply atheism is a bust? The only thing I can think of that would make atheism "a bust" would be direct evidence of a god(s).
2WalterL4yif I flip a coin twice and get heads, and you ask me what the odds are that it'll be heads next time, it's 50/50. If you flip heads a million times and ask me what it is next time then it's 100%, because the coin doesn't have a tails side. Sufficiently improbable stuff is evidence that there's a hidden variable you aren't seeing. Imagine the turtles from Mario getting together and talking their world over? Koopa atheists would point out that they have no proof that their world is a simulation. Koopa theists would point to the equivalent of the no aliens data point (the score counter, the time limit). None of them can get evidence of 'God', but the ones that are smart aren't the ones that reserve judgement, and say maybe it's just really double random chance that their world is setup like an entertainment game.
0Lumifer4yHow about the anthropic principle?
0denimalpaca4ySure, but you aren't showing what that hidden variable is. You're just concluding what you think it should be. So evidence that there's something missing isn't an opportunity to inject god, it's a new point to investigate. That, and sufficiently improbable stuff becomes probable when enough of it happens. Take a real example, like someone getting pregnant. While the probability of any given sperm reaching the egg and fertilizing it is low, the sheer number of sperm makes the chance that one of them fertilizes the egg is decent. The argument can be equally applied to why we don't see alien civilizations: intelligent life may be incredibly rare, but not infeasibly so, because the universe is so vast that that vastness creates the chance for at least one instance of life starting and evolving to a noticeably intelligent state. Neither the sperm nor the life, then, necessitate a god for their improbability yet existence, and until one can show that a god is necessary and nothing else will suffice to explain the universe, a god should not be proclaimed the (often only possible) right conclusion. I don't see how your Mario argument relates to the no aliens data point, specifically how the positive evidence of a score counter in any way is like the lack of evidence of alien civs.
0WalterL4yYou can call it 'something missing', or 'god'. The thing that put life on one planet and not on anything else that can be observed is the thing we are gesturing at here. It feels like you see how the Mario argument works. The koopas are both pointing to the weirdness of their world, and the atheists are talking about randomness and the theists are talking about maybe it is a Sky Koopa. Turn it around another way. Before too long we'll be able to write software that does basically what our brains do (citation needed, but LW so I'll guess you agree). Some of this software will be in simulated worlds. That software may well divide into atheist and theist movements, and speculate about whether they are in a simulation. The theists will be right. There will be a lot more minds in simulations than have ever existed inside of human bodies (citation needed, but I feel pretty safe here), so the general answer, posed at large to the universe of all minds ever, to whether your observable universe has a 'god' or 'hidden factor' is 'Yes'. Seems super arrogant for us to presume that we are the exception. Much more likely, there is sentience behind the arrangement of the observable universe. The idea that one planet alone would have life is just too much of a score counter, too much of a giveaway.
0denimalpaca4yI disagree. Something missing is different than a god. A god is often not well-defined, but generally it is assumed to be some kind of intelligence, that is it can know and manipulate information, and it has infinite agency or near to it. Something missing could be a simple physical process. One is infinitely complex (god), the other is feasibly simple enough for a human to fully understand. I don't think this is really what you wrote the first time, but the argument you're presenting here doesn't progress us anywhere so I won't spend more time on it. I think we should drop this metaphor from the conversation. Disagree again. First, "basically what our brains do" and "what our brains do" is almost certainly a non-trivial gap - if our brains are too complex for us to fully know every aspect of it at once, that is well enough to make precise predictions - then the jump to "basically what our brains do" introduces a difference in what we would predict. If we want to program all the neurons and neurotransmitters perfectly - have a brain totally modeled in software - then that brain would still need input like actual humans get or it may not develop correctly. To the second point about " a lot more minds in simulations...", I also think this argument is fatally flawed. Let's assume that a perfect human brain can be simulated, however unlikely I think this is personally. To convince that simulated mind that it is in a base reality, it would have to be able to observe every aspect of that reality and come to the conclusion that the universe can and does fully exist by it's own processes. To be convinced it is living in a simulation, it may only need to see one physically "weird" thing; not a seemingly-too-improbable thing like no aliens, but an absolutely wrong thing, such as reversal of causality, that would be basically a glitch of the system. Now some may argue that the simulators could "roll back" the simulation when these glitches occur, but I'm skeptical of the
1WalterL4yIt feels like you've gone from asking for an explanation to resisting a conversion effort that I'm not making here. Minds simulatable: It's kind of weird that I'm the one saying that there is nothing magic about a mind, and you are the one basically adding souls, yet we are theist and atheist respectively, but surely if minds are unable to be simulated that would be a blow 'against' your beliefs, yeah? Doing that being hard: That doesn't seem knowable. Like, yeah, it seems like faking five senses would be hard, but that's just from our perspective. We can make much simpler minds than ours easily, presumably whatever made us is far enough beyond us that this isn't a big deal. Rollback: Same as above? LIke, maybe this is happening constantly, maybe not. No way for us to know. We might find aliens one day!: Sure, I'll change my mind when that happens. For now the evidence is that we are a special case, which implies a hidden variable. That hidden variable is most likely a mind, since that's what it would be if any simulated intelligence asked what it was. The earth is unlike the rest of everything we've observed. That's weird. One potential reason is that a mind we cannot observe arranged things that way. That will be the right answer for any of our fictions that we give the ability to ask this question in the future, so it is probably the right answer for us.
2denimalpaca4yFirst, I'm not "resisting a conversion". I'm disagreeing with your position that a hidden variable is even more likely to be a mind than something else. I absolutely am not adding souls. This makes me think you didn't really read my argument. I'll present this a different way: human brains are incredibly complex. So complex, in fact, we still don't fully understand them. With a background in computer science, I know that you can't simulate something accurately without at least having a very accurate model. Currently, we have no accurate model of the brain, and it seems that the first accurate model we may get is just simulating every neuron at some level. What I'm saying is that unless that level we simulate neurons on is sufficiently small, there will be obvious errors. Perhaps this is feasible to simulate some human minds, even at the level of quantum mechanics. My claim against a simulation being run in our universe that could sufficiently trick a human is this: There is not enough energy. This can be understood by thinking about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and recognizing that to fully simulate something would require giving that thing the actual energy it has; to simulate an electron, you would need to give it the charge of an actual electron, or else it would not interact properly with its environment. Then it follows, if everything is simulated with its actual energy, it would take more energy than the universe has to simulate, because practically we lose energy to heat every time we try to fight entropy in some small way. The conclusion is that the universe is precisely simulating itself, which is indistinguishable from reality. The need for this perfect simulation is a consequence of maintaining the observable complexity that is apparent in the formulations of these hypotheses by people like Bostrom. I wouldn't claim humans being in a simulation is impossible - my claim is that our own civilization cannot perfectly recreate itself. So there's no
3WalterL4yIt feels like you are answering the old question of whether God could create a rock he couldn't lift by explaining that lifting is hard. Like, the idea that an entity simulating our universe wouldn't be able to do that, because they'd run out of energy doesn't pass even the basic sniff test. Say 'our' universe, the one that you and I observe, is a billionth the size of a real one. Say they are running it so that we get a second every time they go through a trillion years. Say that all of us but me are p-zombies, and they only simulate the rest of y'all every time you interact with my experiences. The idea that there aren't enough resources to simulate the universe isn't even really wrong, it just seems like you haven't thought through the postulation of us being a simulation. Even the invocation of our laws of physics as applying to the simulation is bonkers. Why would the reality where our simulation is run in have anything resembling ours? Our creations don't have physics that resemble ours. Video game characters don't fall as per gravity, characters in movies and books don't have real magnetism. Why would you imagine that our simulator is recreating their home conditions? Lastly, you need to either fish or cut bait on the humans being possible to simulate. If you aren't postulating a soul, then we are nothing but complicated lighting and meat, meaning that we are entirely feasible to simulate. If you do think there's something about the human mind going on that God's computers or whatever can't replicate, then I'll certainly cede the argument, but you don't get to call yourself an atheist. It's even more bizarre to see you say that the claim of simulation makes no predictions, in response to me pointing out that it's prediction (just us in the observable universe) is the reason to believe it. Walter if no aliens: Simulation/creator of some kind Walter if aliens : Real Denim if aliens: Real Denim if no aliens: looks really hard away from how monstrously unl
2denimalpaca4yI'm convinced you are not actually reading what I'm writing. I said if the universe ours is simulated in is supposed to be like our own/we are an ancestral simulation then this implies that the universe simulating ours should be like ours, and we can apply our laws of physics to it, and our laws of physics say there's entropy, or a limit to the amount of order. I also believe that if we're a simulation, then the universe simulating ours must be very different than ours in fundamental ways, but this tells us nothing specific about that universe. And it implies that there could be no evidence, ever, of being in a simulation. Just like there could be no evidence, ever, of a god, or a flying spaghetti monster, or whatever other thought experiment you have faith in. What I am trying to say is that you need a level of complexity to sufficiently trick intelligent beings in to not thinking they're in a simulation, and that humans could not create such a simulation themselves. Key word: complicated. Wrong word: feasible. I think you mean possible. Yes we are possible to simulate, but feasible implies that it can readily be done, which is exactly what I'm arguing against. Go read up about computer science, how simulations actually work, and physics before you start claiming things are feasible when they're currently impossible and certainly difficult problems that may only be feasible to the entirety of humanity working together for centuries. The prediction something makes is never the reason to believe something. The confirmation of that prediction is the reason to believe something. You cannot prove that whatever prediction the simulation makes is true, therefore there is not a rational reason to believe we are in a simulation. This is the foundation of logic and science, I urge you to look into it more. The lack of aliens isn't proof of anything (absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence).
0WalterL4yIt's super aggravating that if you already understood that we can't know anything about the (universe simulating ours / the mighty God who created us / the inscrutable machinations of the Spaghetti Monster who cooked the broth of our creation) you go on these long tangents about what they could and could not do. You do it again with regard to simulating humans. Yes, it would be tough to do now. Easier in the future. By definition a cakewalk for the unknowable entity responsible for doing it right now with me and you. Since you understand that we have no knowledge of the mind responsible for our creation, why do you go on about how tough it must be for it? Look, in regards to evidence, you get this in your day to day life. You must, you are a living being. If there are no muddy footprints in your hallway then your toddlers didn't run down it. Earth's complexity in a vastly more simple universe is the same as the coin that flips heads a googleplex times. Earth is weird (should I steal your cool habit of using italics on important words for weird?). The absence of other things like it in our light cone is evidence that there is a hidden variable. (In the same way that me guessing your card more than 1/52 of the time is evidence that you are missing the trick) In every other case we can set up or find where this situation is roughly analogous (watchmaker is the classic), the answer is that the experimenter is to blame. He put the watch in the desert, the other rocks are less complicated not because of chance, but because they weren't put there by a civilization that can make watches. If you are still hung up on how hard it will be to simulate our minds, then just imagine that our simulations are simpler than us, ok? They can only hear, and time goes slower. There are only ten people in their whole universe, whatever. Point is, that when they ask this question, the 'right' answer for them to come to is that they have a creator. That's also the right answer for us
0entirelyuseless4yI mostly agree with this, except for argument that we are in a simulation based on the non-existence of aliens, since I have no reason to believe that it is easy to get life from non-life in the first place. There may be one civilization out of every ten thousand spaces the size of our visible universe. This could change, of course, if it turns out that abiogenesis is extremely easy. Such a fact would actually support your position (which falsifies the implied claim in this thread that there cannot be evidence for it in principle.) I definitely agree that it is a mistake to assume that an external simulating universe should have the same physical laws, or to argue that we are not in a simulation because it is "hard," or that it would use too much energy.
0denimalpaca4yCould you give an actual criticism of the energy argument? "It doesn't pass the smell test" is a poor excuse for an argument. When I assume that the external universe is similar to ours, this is because Bostrom's argument is specifically about ancestral simulations. An ancestral simulation directly implies that there is a universe trying to simulate itself. I posit this is impossible because of the laws of thermodynamics, the necessity to not allow your simulations to realize what they are, and keeping consistency in the complexity of the universe. Yes its possible for the external universe to be 100% different from ours, but this gives us exactly no insight at all into what that external universe may be, and at this point it's a game of "Choose Your God", which I have no interest in playing.
0entirelyuseless4yI agree that no one is ever going to run any ancestor simulations in our world. When Bostrom made his argument he accepted that this was one possible conclusion from it. I think it is the right one. That does not mean there are no simulations at all. As one example Walter mentioned, novels are simulations of worlds, but very different worlds. And likewise, there is no proof that we are not contained in another very different world that differs from our world as much as our world differs from novels.

Another Christian here, raised as a Calvinist, but consider myself more of a non-denominational, ecumenical one, with some very slight deist tendencies.

I don't want to sound rude, but I don't know how to formulate it in a better way: if you think you have to choose between christianity and science, you have a very incomplete information about what Christianity is about, and also incomplete knowledge about the history of science itself. I wonder how many who call themselves Bayesians know that Bayes was a very devout Christian, similar to many other founder... (read more)

-1metatroll4yThe real god is using you to make these people think. And it is using me to make you think. Yours thoughtlessly, metatroll

I’m currently atheist; my deconversion was quite the unremarkable event. September 2015 (I discovered HPMOR in February and RAZ then or in March), I was doing research on logical fallacies to better argue my points for a manga forum, when I came across Rational Wiki; for several of the logical fallacies, they tended to use creationists as examples. One thing lead to another (I was curious why Christianity was being so hated, and researched more on the site)

So you came to a pseudo-rationalist cite, (you will find the opinion of Rational Wiki around here ... (read more)

3gjm4yHere's my deconversion narrative; do let me know whether you find it stupid. I was a Christian for many years, but repeatedly found that the best arguments I heard against Christianity seemed stronger than either the best refutations of those arguments or the best arguments for Christianity, and was uncomfortably aware that I didn't have much in the way of actual evidence for the factual claims of the religion I followed. I also found that the most intellectually impressive people I came across were distinctly more often atheist than Christian (though of course there are very impressive people of all (ir)religious persuasions), which seemed not what I should expect if Christianity were right. Eventually -- this was not, so far as I was aware or can remember, prompted by any particular thing -- I decided that I needed to think matters through from scratch, or as near to that as possible. So, over the course of the next year and a half, I enumerated all the good reasons I could think of for believing or disbelieving, tried to assess the strength of each, kept track of it all in a lengthy document (it ended up, I think, being roughly the length of a short novel), and when I had gone into each in as much depth as I could convince myself it warranted I made numerical estimates of how much evidence it gave in what direction. Then I tallied it up. A naive multiplicative combination (as if each piece of evidence were independent of all the others) gave ... I forget right now, but maybe it was something like 10^10:1 evidence against Christianity. I tried to estimate how much "overlap" there might be, and concluded that however I sliced it I had much better reason to reject Christianity than to accept it. So I stopped being (or calling myself) a Christian. The above oversimplifies a bit. For instance, of course the real question isn't simply "Christianity or atheism?"; there are multiple varieties of both and plenty of other religions. I kept an eye out for any sign that
0lmn4yIt's not stupid as it stands. It is however rather lacking in the specifics it'd need to evaluate it.
0gjm4yIt's already as long and detailed as it seemed to me reasonable to post here.
0lmn4yFor example you wrote: Which arguments and which factual claims?
0gjm4yBear in mind that this was several years ago, so my memory may be faulty. But I think mostly the arguments I called #1 and #2 above, together with (applicable only to more-traditional versions of Christianity) objections to specific Christian doctrines as morally monstrous (hell), probably internally incoherent (Trinity, dual nature of Christ), factually incorrect (recent origin of life), etc. Factual claims: pretty much any of them aside from some (mostly unimportant theologically) historical details. A couple of central examples: The existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus.
0gjm4yLooking at the discussion that's followed from this, one thing seems worth emphasizing: the monstrous/incoherent/incorrect Christian doctrines constitute strong evidence that Christianity is wrong collectively, not individually. A body of ideas can be excellent on the whole while still having occasional errors in it; but if you look at Christian doctrines as a whole, and divide them into (1) uncontroversial ones, (2) controversial ones whose rightness or wrongness we have little hope of evaluating, (3) controversial ones that on further investigation seem to be right, and (4) controversial ones that on further investigation seem to be wrong ... it looks to me as if there are a lot more in category 4 than in category 3. And that seems to me like good evidence that Christianity is not, in fact, the product of revelation from a benevolent superbeing.
0g_pepper4yThe claim of a recent origin of life is not very central to Christianity. In fact, I believe this is a minority position among Christians world-wide. Did you intend it as a factually incorrect claim of Christianity, or as a factually incorrect claim of a particular flavor of Christianity (e.g. fundamentalist)?
1gjm4yI intended it as a factually incorrect claim of some versions of Christianity. It is true that most present-day Christians, especially those in wealthy industrialized well-educated nations, no longer make such a claim. (And also that the possibility of taking the Biblical account as something other than straightforward factual narrative has eminent representatives a long way back into the Christian tradition. But I'm pretty sure that until, say, 250 years ago at least 90% of the world's Christians, and a sizeable majority even of the world's best-informed Christians, believed that the origin of life is very recent. How much that matters when trying to decide whether Christianity is right is an interesting question I don't propose to go into here.) [EDITED to add a word I noticed I'd accidentally omitted.]
2g_pepper4yI don't know if that is true or not, but it sounds plausible. However, 250 years ago no one had a justified, accurate estimate of how long ago life originated - the science behind that had not been done yet. So, I do not see how the fact (if fact it be) that most Christians had an inaccurate idea about how old life is has any relevance to whether or not Christianity is true.
0gjm4yAs I said, the relationship of this to the truth or untruth of Christianity's claims is complicated. But one reason why it might be relevant is that there is a difference between not knowing something and confidently believing something that is false, or still worse holding that that false thing is a revelation from God. If for many centuries the Christian tradition confidently proclaimed a belief that was actually wrong, then that doesn't make the Christians involved particularly bad or stupid (since, as you say, no one else knew the answer either) but it does mean that the Christian tradition was capable of prolonged serious error. Which in turn means e.g. that arguments of the form "X is more likely to be true, because look at this lengthy tradition of people who believed it" -- which is actually an argument with some strength; people believe true things more often than otherwise similar false things -- are weaker than they would be without such mistakes in the history of that tradition.
0g_pepper4yI don't know that I would classify the error as serious; a belief in a recent origin of life it is not central to Christian doctrine. None of the core tenants of Christianity are dependent on a recent origin of life. Nor is correctness regarding the age of life instrumentally important in the typical person's day-to-day non-religious activities. And, it is not the case that the Christian community as a whole (obviously there are some exceptions) hung on to this belief once strong contrary evidence became available. This is true. But, I suspect that rather than confidently believing in a recent origin of life, a lot of pre-modern Christians simply did not give the topic much thought one way or the other. And, it seems to me that holding an incorrect belief in the absence of evidence against the belief is a relatively minor failing, particularly if that belief is a non-central one. But, we already have lots of evidence that a lengthy tradition of belief in something does not imply that the thing is true. So, premodern Christian belief in a recent origin of life does little to weaken the argument that X is probably true if there is a lengthy tradition of people believing X (since the argument was IMO already quite weak to begin with).
0gjm4yThere are plenty of Christians who would disagree (or, more precisely, would say that a belief in a recent origin of human life along the lines of the story in Genesis is central, on the grounds that the New Testament draws analogies between Adam and Christ that don't work if there was not a historical Adam with the right characteristics). More to the point -- since in fact I agree with you that a recent origin of life is not central to Christian doctrine -- I think an error can be serious without being central to Christian doctrine. We do. None the less, many Christians have trouble applying that evidence to their own religion :-).
0g_pepper4yRegarding Adam - yes I think that Catholics in particular are committed to a belief that there was an actual Adam and an actual Eve. However, as far as I know, they are not committed to any particular time-line as to when the actual Adam and the actual Eve lived (nor are they committed to all of Genesis being literal). So, I don't think that this counts as modern Christians necessarily believing in a recent origin of human life, much less in a recent origin of life in general. Fair enough - we can agree to disagree about that. I just don't see how pre-modern Christians having an incorrect belief regarding a non-central (to Christianity) scientific fact in the absence of any significant evidence that their belief is wrong is particularly problematic. I think that we have an area of agreement here - I think that the argument that we should believe in Christianity because there is a long tradition of people who believe in Christianity is, by itself, quite weak.
0lmn4yWhy is punishing bad people morally monstrous? Do you also find the scientific doctrine of light, and mater, being both particle and wave internally incoherent.
1gjm4yMeta-note 1: I am not much interested in turning this into a lengthy argument about whether the available evidence actually does or doesn't support Christianity. When I did that for myself my notes ended up being about 80k words long, and that was fairly terse and didn't waste space on mutual misunderstandings etc. as any discussion between different people is liable to do. I don't think LW is a good venue for tens of thousands of words of religious argument. I was addressing your statement about ex-Christians having "the stupidest reasons"; if you want to argue, not that my reasons were stupid, but that after lengthy consideration they will turn out to be wrong, then that's a change of subject. Meta-note 2: I realise that in the grandparent of this comment I didn't give a complete answer to your question (though it's possible that the smaller question I answered was the one you actually intended) because I didn't say anything about the arguments for Christianity that, in my opinion, were weaker than the best arguments against. I forget what arguments for Christianity (or, more weakly, for theism) I thought most convincing at the time, but here are some of the ones I looked into: arguments "from design" based on some variety of alleged excellence in the universe; inferences from particular apparent miracles or religious experiences to a divine agent behind them; arguments for Christianity in particular on the basis that the available historical evidence overwhelmingly favours belief in the resurrection of Jesus; allegedly-impressively-fulfilled prophecies in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures; "cosmological fine-tuning"; the alleged dependence of morality on God. Punishing bad people may or may not be morally monstrous. Punishing finite badness with eternal torture is morally monstrous. The scientific doctrine of light and matter does not really say that light and matter are "both particle and wave"; that is a simplification for popular presentation. What it act
0lmn4yI'm not necessarily ether. I'm not even a Christian. That's what makes the number of laughably bad arguments people use to deconvert themselves so frustrating. Why? I actually disagree with this point. One could make the same argument about the trinity. BTW, do you actually understand quantum physics well enough for that to happen?
0gjm4yBecause it seems incredibly unlikely to maximize utility, neither does it accord with what seems to me a general principle that punishment should be at most proportionate to the crime being punished. Why isn't it morally monstrous? I really don't think one could. What Christian theologians themselves (at least, the ones I've read) say about the Trinity is generally not anything like "this is counterintuitive but we understand it clearly now". I don't think they would claim that the appearance of contradiction goes away once the thing is understood; in fact I think they are more inclined to say that the more deeply you understand it the more (gloriously) mysterious it gets. I think so. There are many levels of understanding quantum mechanics and I by no means claim to have achieved them all, but the apparent contradiction goes away rather early in the process and from what I do understand of the deeper levels it does not look to me as if it ever comes back. (Other mysteries do appear, but that's a different matter.)
0lmn4yAvoiding for the moment the question whether utilitarianism is the right approach to these kinds of problems. There is in fact a decision theory argument in favor of this. Eliezer stumbled up on a version of it and didn't react well, specifically banning all detailed discussion of it from LW in an extremely ham-handed manner. Where does this principal come from? Can you provide any utilitarian justification for it? It's a useful mildly useful Schelling point in certain rather specific circumstances but that's about it.
0gjm4yI haven't given a lot of thought to that particular argument, but it doesn't look to me as if it can plausibly work here. In order for it to produce useful effects without unacceptable collateral damage, it seems to me that you want the threat known to a small number of people and to persuade them to work towards a highly specific goal that those people are particularly well-suited to achieving. Exactly how small, how specific, what goal, and how well-suited may vary together in kinda-obvious ways. These conditions don't seem to me to be anywhere near to being met in the case of the Christian idea of hell. I'm not sure. If I'm thinking in utilitarian terms (which I generally am) I am mostly concerned with actions rather than principles (unless the question at issue is "would this be a good principle to have?", which it isn't here). I brought the deontological viewpoint in at all only because I know some people reject consequentialism and may be (or profess to be) wholly unmoved by the mere fact that something causes vast amounts of unnecessary suffering.
0lmn4yNot really. In fact one reason for universality is to discourage reactions like Eliezer's.
0gjm4yThe more people the threat is known to, the less likely that they all comply. Then, if the idea is to actually follow through on the threat (note that if that isn't the idea then you don't have here any sort of argument that hell is not morally monstrous) you're stuck with torturing a bunch of people for ever, which is liable to outweigh the benefits.
0lmn4yAnd someone who doesn't know about it is even less likely to comply. If you've already concluded that threatening to torture someone is worth it for the increased chance of getting compliance, then the exact same calculation applies to everyone else.
0gjm4yHmm, that's true. So let's see how that calculation works out in the two cases being considered. The one that upset Eliezer: the goal is to get a sufficient number of people from a rather unusual population to do something extraordinary. Probably doesn't actually work (see e.g. the actual responses to that LW post, which AFAIK didn't in any case take the form "OK, I must start doing all I can to comply") but the idea here is that a small number of people can make a huge difference. The goal, therefore, is a very large impact per expected person tortured. The one we're talking about here: well, we can see roughly how this turns out. Empirically, people who believe in the Christian hell don't behave dramatically better than people who do. Hence, a fairly small impact per expected person tortured. (If I try to steelman your argument, I get things like this: "Ah, but you're looking now, at a time when in fact scarcely anyone actually believes in hell. Historically, most of the hell-belief comes centuries ago when Christianity was stronger, and for that reason it was effective then, which was an essential element in making Western mostly-Christian civilization the effective, high-trust thing it is; so we may suppose that God gave people the idea of hell with that purpose, knowing that it would die out once it was no longer needed." I don't want to get into a lengthy response to an argument that I just made up and that you may think is no good, but here's a sketchy one: 1. Plenty of people still believe in hell. 2. The doctrine of hell whose (de)merits we're discussing doesn't actually say that people are only eligible for hell if they have never stopped believing in it. 3. It's not in fact at all clear that the doctrine of hell was ever very effective in improving behaviour. 4. Neither is it at all clear that any such improved behaviour had much to do with the evolution of Western society into what it is now. 5. It's not hard to think of other ideas a benevolent supe
0lmn4yHasn't quite been my experience but, whatever. Of course, otherwise it would be completely useless as it would simply motivate people to stop believing in it.
0entirelyuseless4yI agree that hell is a bad idea. That said, many Christians are tending more toward the position that very few people actually go to hell. It could be that only the very worst people go there, together with a few of the better people who could have done far more good than they actually did. If the numbers are small enough, there might be a significantly larger number of people who did a great amount of good, but would not have done it, if they had not believed in hell. In that case, there might be a large impact per person going to hell. Obviously, there are still many problems with this, like whether that large impact can justify anything eternal.
0Good_Burning_Plastic4yHow so?
0bogus4yIt does maximize utility if it ends up being out-of-equilibrium for every agent. This is known as a grim trigger [] strategy. Making the "punishment proportionate to the crime" is definjtely worthwhile in imperfect information settings where you can't ensure that the bad outcome will be fully out-of-equilibrium, but an agent with perfect information needs not concern hirself with this case!
0gjm4yI agree that that's possible in principle but (1) it seems extremely unlikely to work out that way in practice, especially as (2) it is clear that the existence and terms of such punishment are very far from universal knowledge; and (3) those branches of the Christian tradition that embrace belief in eternal hell for the unsaved almost always also insist that we should not expect that hell to be empty. (I should reiterate at this point that Christianity as such does not require belief in eternal torture for the unsaved; in particular, a pretty good argument can be made that its texts fit as well or better with mere annihilation for them, and if -- as the more sophisticated Christians almost always are these days -- you are willing to accept that much in those texts can be outright wrong , then all bets are off.)
0bogus4yThere's actually quite a bit of ambiguity about this - enough for a tradition of 'universal reconciliation' to exist, which expressly says that hell will eventually empty out. It seems rather clear that the position that we must take the possibility of eternal hell seriously and 'make every effort to enter through the narrow door' but that universal salvation is something that can meaningfully be hoped for, can in fact be held with some consistency.
0gjm4yI agree that there is some ambiguity, but I am not convinced that that position can be held so consistently as you suggest. Let me first of all say that of course a Christian may make every effort to enter through the narrow door for reasons other than their personal welfare. I take it the question is whether they can be moved by the prospect of their own damnation while also thinking an empty hell likely. Now, there are two different ways in which you could think an empty hell likely but not certain. (1) You could be uncertain between (a) lots of people in hell, with no realistic prospect of escape, and (b) some process that usually or always makes hell end up empty; or (2) you could be confident that the latter is the case, but think that in some cases the process might fail. I don't think branch 1 is actually relevant to this discussion -- because if you think (1a) is a thing you think it's plausible that God might do or allow, you're right back in that "morally monstrous" box. So let's consider branch 2. What that means is that the danger of any given individual getting stuck in hell eternally is small enough that it's likely that everyone gets out. Let's suppose the total number of people ever to live is 100 billion = 10^11; then, crudely, that means that any individual's risk of not getting out is no worse than about 1 chance in 10^-11. And if the individual wondering about this is a Christian, making at least a typical-Christian effort to live a life pleasing to God, and thinks that the system in question was set up by that same God with the intention of incentivising God-pleasing behaviour ... well, then surely they have to reckon their own chances considerably better than average. So then the question is: how much actual incentive does, say, a 10^-12 probability of eternal damnation produce? Surely very little, not least because it's kinda lost in the noise compared with other improbable ways of ending up eternally damned (some other nastier religion
0Good_Burning_Plastic4yDepending on what exactly you mean by "particle" that's either no less tautological than dogs being both mammals and animals or a possibly-only-approximate provisional model (complete with well-studied mathematical techniques to sweep the consequences of the incoherence under the rug []) we're using while we figure out how to extend quantum field theory down to the quantum gravity scale and beyond.
2satt4yPlausibly people around here talk more smack about RW than about Christianity, but I'm doubtful that we actually think RW worse than Christianity!
0entirelyuseless4yConversion narratives have equally stupid reasons for them. Bryan Caplan has a blog post where he talks about this. He notes that most people will never change their minds about anything important to them, and if they do, it will be for stupid reasons. The reason this happens, regardless of whether you call it conversion or deconversion, is that humans are far more interested in "fitting in" than in believing the truth about the world. As I have said many times before, there is no reason why people on LW would be exempt from this. Still, some people are just a little bit more interested in the truth than people in general are.

For any Christians here on LessWrong, are you currently or do you plan on signing up for cryonics? If so, how do you reconcile being a cryonicist with believing in a Christian afterlife?

2entirelyuseless4yI am neither of those, but the obvious answer would be that a soul would depart to the afterlife upon information theoretic death.
0ImmortalRationalist4yBelieving in a soul that departs to the afterlife would seem to make cryonics pointless. What I am asking is, are there Christians here that believe in an afterlife and a soul, but plan on being cryopreserved regardless?

Catholic here. In regards to the Litany of Tarski, I can say that I want to know the truth since childhood, so I qualify. I have been given a 100% certainty (yes, 100%) that Jesus Christ is God and that ex-cathedra pronouncements of the Popes are true, so I draw my conclusions.

2entirelyuseless4yDo you also have 100% certainty about which pronouncements are ex-cathedra or which men are or have been Popes?
0Bound_up4yThat sounds interesting. By "given a 100% certainty," do you mean that you just noticed that a certainty about certain propositions was now in you, where once it wasn't?
6cousin_it4yBanned. I've been banning a bunch of similar stuff today.

Well this is interesting....