"The Book Of Mormon" or Belief In Belief, The Musical

This song is... beautiful... Tragically so... It's like someone took some of the sequences here and made a checklist of everything that's wrong with religion, and why it still works and why it can stir the heart of noble, brave, generous people... The main character is a Mormon missionary, he was always groomed to be a believer, and his cheering and professing was rewarded, and he was happy. Then he was sent to some warzone in Africa, to convert people there to his faith (And I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people! You can be a Mormon!). Except the people really aren't interested in what he preaches, and might easily shoot him in the head for it (But "What's so scary about that?", when you have an immortal soul and know you are doing the right thing? Whatever the outcome, you win!). But, see, that's okay, as long as he believes wholeheartedly and without a shred of doubt, everything will be fine... (You cannot just believe part way, you have to believe in it all. My problem was doubting the Lord's will, instead of standing tall!). Of course, if it does not turn out fine, that's all your fault for not believing enough...

You know, I'd like to say something smart to start the discussion over, but right now I'm just feeling too emotional... You know what, I'll just post the lyrics for the song, and let you guys suggest the adequate potholes for every instance of... blatant, obvious, categorized insanitiy irrationality that this song demonstrates...

 


 

Ever since I was a child I tried to be the best
So, what happened?
My family and friends all said I was blessed
So, what happened?
It was supposed to be all so exciting to be teaching of Christ 'cross the sea,
But, I allowed my faith to be shaken.
Oh, what's the matter with me?

I've always longed to help the needy
To do the things I never dared.
This was the time for me to step up
So, then, why was I so scared?

A warlord who shoots people in the face.
What's so scary about that?
I must trust that my Lord is mightier
And always has my back.
Now I must be completely devout
I can't have even one shred of doubt...

I believe that the Lord, God, created the universe.
I believe that He sent His only Son to die for my sins.
And I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America
I am a Mormon,
And a Mormon just believes.

You cannot just believe part way,
You have to believe in it all.
My problem was doubting the Lord's will
Instead of standing tall.

I can't allow myself to have any doubt.
It's time to set my worries free.
Time to show the world what Elder Price is about!
And share the power inside of me...

I believe that God has a plan for all of us.
I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet.
And I believe; that the current President of The Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God.
I am A Mormon,
And, dang it! a Mormon just believes!

I know that I must go and do
The things my God commands.
I realize now why He sent me here.

If You ask the Lord in faith,
He will always answer you.
Just believe in Him
And have no fear!

I believe that Satan has a hold of you
I believe that the Lord, God, has sent me here
And I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people!
You can be a Mormon..
A Mormon who just believes!

And now I can feel the excitement.
This is the moment I was born to do.
And I feel so incredible
To be sharing my faith with you.

The Scriptures say that if you ask in faith,
If you ask God Himself he'll know.
But you must ask Him without any doubt
And let your spirit grow...

I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob.
I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well.
And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.
If you believe, the Lord will reveal it.
And you'll know it's all true. You'll just feel it.
You'll be a Mormon
And, by gosh!
A Mormon just believes!
Oh, I believe.
I believe.

 


 

Okay, now with the actual performance. Try not to laugh, and fail...

But this kinda raises an interesting question. Why is it, in fact, so thrilling, to share a faith that one actually doubts, with other people? Is it some sort of resonance? Like, "whew, he believes too, that's evidence towards me being right and this being true, right?". What's that, Affective Death Spiral, Uncritical Supercriticality, or not exactly either but something related? And why is it that it does not happen with certain other faiths, such as, say, the Church of England, or Judaism?

Also, a guy with the sheer agape of Elder Price could easily work for some other humanistic enterprise, such as an NGO... But why is it that I just can't imagine someone singing

"I belieeeeve, into the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948!

I beliieeeeeeve that every man has a right to live,

And I beliieeeeeve that every person was born equal before the law!

Just belieeeeeve that every man should be able to travel freely (within their country)!

I do belieeeeeve that every person has a right to property!

I am a (???????), and I've got reasons why I believe!"

 

No, seriously, why is it that non-religious movements seem to lack this oomph, this particular eagerness, that the religious are often portrayed bearing? There's untapped human potential, here, friends, and we're letting it go to waste. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence. So, how do we infuse this kind of zeal, of enthusiasm, into, say, the Less Wrong brand of Secular Humanism? Here's a challenge for ya: edit "I Believe" to fit your actual creed (no need for it to be consensual here). Don't be afraid to sound silly, what you're supposed to carry carry across is emotional passion that compels people to follow you.

 

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That's a great song -- I hadn't heard it before and it's satire at its finest.

This is tangential, but I noticed that it's a very literal parody (especially at the beginning) of "I Have Confidence" from The Sound of Music, which (while not exactly a rationalist anthem or anything) is a song about the virtue of shutting up and doing the impossible, when you have to.

You know, after reading this and more, I'm starting to believe that, once we're powerful enough, sending missionaries on educational/evangelical missions to third-world countries would have a very interesting impact on existential risk, on the long term. Third-worlders outnumber the rest, and, if we believe that, at some point, they will catch up to us in power and might, and given that, intellectually, they are still malleable, I'd say it's in fact pretty urgent to take the opportunity, as soon as possible, to spread our message into the Third World, before they too become a Bible and Qran Belt.

In Africa especially, the old religions are being furiously and frantically abandoned by the young in favour of Islam and Christianism partly because of how much more cool and modern (and providing of a mental and legal frameqork dequate to complex modern society) they are.

Imagine how enthusiastic they'd be about a "religion" (and by that, I mean affiliation) that's even more modern and cool, and that can accomodate their own previously-existing systems easily and improve from there, rather than replace them wholesale, thanks to the flexibility of metaethical thinking as opposed to revealed-morality thinking.

And you know what would really sell the deal? An education system. Especially one that gives them a chance to join a cheap-yet-prestigious university overseas and get the chance to come back to their countries more formidable than ever. The chance for an actual future. People in the Thrid World can go very far indeed in their efforts to educate themselves if you guarrantee them a social elevator, but if you offer a chance for migration... oooh boy...

Okay, at this stage of Lesswrong development, it's kind of a pipe dream, but one around which can give us something to really look forward to, right?

Are you familiar with the concept of "white man's burden"?

By asking this question you are probably trying to say something, but I would prefer if you said it explicitly. Then it would be easier to discuss it rationally.

I'm familiar of the concept of "With Great Power Comes Great Responsiblity". Race is entirely incidental (in fact I am not a White Man, nor am I Rich, or anything like that: my power is my Knowledge, my Virtues and my Skills, and I want to share them).

Okay. The outside view predicts that programs of the form "let's convince third worlders that our good ideas are good" are at high risk of extremely racist results. There is a large probability that Rational_Brony did not take that into account, as opposed to thinking of it but deciding that in that particular case (maybe in the general case of programs started by people who explicitly think racism is bad) the risk would small relative to the benefits of doing it right.

I'm not aware of that particular risk, though it should have been obvious in retrospect. But let me put it this way: this very instant, there are many interest groups from all regions of ideaspace (authoritarians, libertarians, progressives, reactionary, egalitarians, hierarchists, and there are probably more dimensions I'm forgetting) that are not shy about preaching their ideologies, wholesale and unadapted, unto this very naïve yet extremely cynical Third World. There is an authentic race that's going on right now.

And while allowing ourselves to be rushed would be stupid and we should do this on our own terms, the fact is that, while we wait for those places to get internet connections and the resources to maintain them, the time to browse, the level of literacy in English to, say, stumble on this site... Well, by that time, our candidates will probably have already become new and zealous Evangelical Christians or Hardline Islamist zealots.

How much would it cost to set up parallel Less Wrong sites for the top five languages, relying entirely on Google Translate to start with, perhaps providing only the Sequences at first, and improving the translations gradually through wiki editing?

It would definitely take a lot of time and effort. To quote Rational Wiki:

If you indicate your disagreement with the local belief clusters without at least using their jargon, it used to be common for someone to helpfully suggest that "you should try reading the sequences" before attempting to talk to them. The "sequences"[6] are several collated series of Yudkowsky's blog posts, and there are eighteen sequences in all. The indexes for just the four "core sequences"[7] are somewhere north of 10,000 words. Those link to over a hundred and fifty 2,000-3,000-word blog posts. That's about 300,000-450,000 words for those four, and around a million words for the lot.[8] With a few million more words of often-relevant comments. For comparison, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy is 473,000 words.[9] As such, "You should try reading the sequences" is LessWrong for "fuck you." This seems to have stopped since it was called to their attention.

Lets not forget that the sequences are set up specifically to appeal to a western audience with presumably western ideals. Major alterations would probably need to be made to compensate for the dissonance between cultures. The typical mind fallacy strikes among people with fairly similar upbringing. How much more destructive would it be in the transfer of ideas between a person whose heritage diverged from that of another man 3,000 years ago?

I think you overestimate the diiferences between humans. Here are the human universals. Some of which we need to get rid of, chiefly superstition.

yes, but bias twists the way different people interpret a message. A Buddhist would be unlikely to counter and argument against religion the way a Christian would. Less Wrong is designed to free people of bias in its Western form. The sequences counter memes that are widespread in America but might not be so in Egypt. Im not saying that the ideas cant be spread, i just think you might have to do more than just translating the language if you're going to appeal to an entirely different audience with different ways of thinking.

Then he was sent to some warzone in Africa, to convert people there to his faith ... Except the people really aren't interested in what he preaches, and might easily shoot him in the head for it

My first reaction was that if his "utility" is number of people converted, then it is OK to be afraid of being shot, because if he is shot soon enough, he obviously cannot convert many people. So even if his own survival has zero value per se (because he will have cool afterlife later), he should still care about his life as a means to convert other people.

But then, maybe God "really prefers" people to be behavior executioners, not utility maximizers. It kind of makes sense -- with omnipotent and omniscient God, the final victory of 3^^^3 utilons is pretty much guaranteed, but individuals can still be punished for their wrong behavior, so it is more rational (more winning) to follow the right (rewarded) behavior even when it has absurd consequences, instead of trying to influence some global outcome which is predetermined. This sounds like a more extreme version of the Newcomb's Problem.

maybe God "really prefers" people to be behavior executioners

Executers seems like a less off-putting usage.

Thanks... I felt a bit strange while writing it, but I didn't pay enough attention.

Sorry, English is not my first languish. :D

Be very cautious of zeal and enthusiasm, they can be a way of going very wrong, very quickly. Or as Spock said in My Enemy, My Ally: "Enthusiasm about science is to be commended, but enthusiasm in science is to be avoided at all costs; it biases the judgment and may blind one to valuable observations. Guard against it."

No, seriously, why is it that non-religious movements lack this oomph, this particular eagerness, that the religious have?

Careful of a false, or at least not subtle enough, premise.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

Edited that mistake out. It might also be a matter of external perception. When one sings "Sunday Bloody Sunday" or "We Are The World", people treat it as fake fuzzy drivel that tastes like diabetes at best. "Darned Beatniks (or insert some other inaccurate label here), they don't understand how the world works!".

Religious people, on the other hand (especially those belonging to very popular religions or religions you are supposed to believe in), seem to be exempt from this perception: no matter how outlandish and naïve they can get, people will admire them for believing in the face of overwhelming evidence, and for not letting failure and injustice and persecution bring them down.

Martyrs are a particularly extreme version of this, one Abrahamics seem to love.

Perhaps a part of the source of the humour of "The Book Of Mormon" is that Mormonism is "mainstream" (that is, Christian) enough to be recognized as something that it's noble to believe in, yet unorthodox enough that some of its tenets will seem absurd to most other denominations. If it were a religion that we, the audience, were not familiar with at all, and that had no connection to the faiths, the affiliations, that we were born unto... No matter how otherwise popular, it wouldn't be nearly as funny. In fact, it would be perceived as a cruel mockery.

And now you've made me imagine a "Book of X", where X would be an especially strange and obscure Islamic denomination with ambitions of proselytism (in Africa, sure, why not), and how other Muslims would react to such a show...

I believe, that there's a couple of relevant previous discussions. Hey, one of us used to a missionary!

And I believe there's a pony fanfic about this called The Book Of Friendship.

That's right, people, Bronies have attempted this experiment before us... Love and Tolerance have walked around the world in the time it took Reason to put its boots on?

I meant the experiment of memetically mutating Trey Parker's "The Book of Mormon" into something that represents (and affectionately parodies) our movement.

But sure, we do, that and that book that everyone's been waiting for for so long. It had better be at least as good as Robert Greene's 48 Laws of P...

Now wait a minute. That's actually an interesting idea. The same way the Prince was "This is how a Prince should act (therefore we shouldn't have princes)", and The 48 Laws of Power are "This is how to pull a dick move (so that you can see them coming a mile away)", we could have a "Suckers: People's Inherent Lack Of Judgement And How To Exploit It (and now that you know what the most common Logic Failures are, DON'T DO THEM)".

I'm working on it (Dark Arts sequence)... It's taking longer than I anticipated. Perhaps unsurprisingly.

Yeah, you'd be amazed at how wide the human bag of tricks in that department is. Ever heard of the Kansas City Shuffle?

If you'll pardon my vernacular:

Rational_Brony
implying being a brony would otherwise imply irrationality
implying liking ponies is unusual on LW
implying defining yourself by what TV shows you like is rational
implying rationality is best defined as an achievable, permanent state and not a theoretical ideal

Er, that's, like, totally not what I meant at all. Death Of The Author for the win?

EDIT: To specify, I was looking for the most anonymous, unassuming handle possible. One that could represent anyone here. While still being somewhat memorable. "rational_brony" came to mind, because, while few bronies are rationalists, many, many rationalists are bronies.

So, how do we infuse this kind of zeal, of enthusiasm, into, say, the Less Wrong brand of Secular Humanism?

This is the problem I've spent the past several months working on.

My Take on a Rationalist Anthem

(A not particularly great recording of it here. I'm working with a musician friend to rework it into a slimmer, sleeker version with instrumentation)

Design Process for Rational Humanist Ritual

-

Existing songs that I consider uplifting and relevant include:

"Humanity Can do Awesome Things"
Uplift
Son of Man (Surprisingly on point when you imagine it to be about ancient humans)
Singularity
Defying GravityThe World is Not Enough (Be careful sharing this one. It needs a reworked context to not sound creepy)

"Joy in the Merely Real"
I Love the World
The Words of God

Holy crap, the more I explore this show, the more interesting I find it...

Hm. Some here think they can outsmart me. Maybe. Maybe... I for one can't outsmart this site's bullet points... (No, seriously, the markup help ain't working...)

For bullet points, I've successfully used them before. It had something to do with spaces.

Asterisk with no spaces: *bullet one

Asterisk after a space: *bullet two

Asterisk before a space:

  • bullet three

Asterisk with spaces before and after:

  • bullet four

ETA: well, none of those got it, I'll check my previous comments...

Asterisk with no spaces after a blank line:

*bullet five.

Asterisk after a blank line then a space:

*bullet six

Asterisk before a space and after a blank line:

  • bullet seven

Asterisk after a blank line and a space, and followed by a space:

  • bullet eight

Looks like you need a blank line before the asterisk, and a space after. A space before the asterisk makes no difference either way, and is invisible in the result.

ETA: you don't need blank lines between the items in a bullet list.

  • line one
  • line two

If you put them in, it looks like this:

  • line one

  • line two

Downvoted for being pointless. Why exactly am I looking at a screwed up Mormon song and trying to extract value from it? Because it's funny to recently-become-athiests? That's not a good enough reason to post on LessWrong, which is a site about rationality, not a site about making fun of blatant irrationality.

The song is from a musical satire of the Mormon religion that treats its characters with an astonishing level of respect. It's relevant because it is essentially a list of irrational behaviors to avoid.