IIRC the standard experimental result is that atheists who were raised religious have substantially above-average knowledge of their former religions. I am also suspicious that any recounting whatsoever of what went wrong will be greeted by, "But that's not exactly what the most sophisticated theologians say, even if it's what you remember perfectly well being taught in school!"

This obviously won't be true in my own case since Orthodox Jews who stay Orthodox will put huge amounts of cumulative effort into learning their religion's game manual over time. But by the same logic, I'm pretty sure I'm talking about a very standard element of the religion when I talk about later religious authorities being presumed to have immensely less theological knowledge than earlier authorities and hence no ability to declare earlier authorities wrong. As ever, you do not need a doctorate in invisible sky wizard to conclude that there is no invisible sky wizard, and you also don't need to know all the sophisticated excuses for why the invisible sky wizard you were told about is not exactly what the most sophisticated dupes believe they believe in (even as they go on telling children about the interventionist superparent). It'd be nice to have a standard, careful and correct explanation of why this is a valid attitude and what distinguishes it from the attitude of an adolescent who finds out everything they were told about quantum mechanics is wrong, besides the obvious distinction of net weight of experimental evidence (though really that's just enough).

LW has reportedly been key in deconverting many, many formerly religious readers. Others will of course have fled. It takes all kinds of paths.

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IIRC the standard experimental result is that atheists who were raised religious have substantially above-average knowledge of their former religions.

As a Grade 11 student currently attending a catholic school (and having attended christian schools all my life) I would have to vouch for the accuracy of the statement; thanks to CCS I've learned a tremendous amount about Christianity although in my case there was a lot less Homosexuality is bad then is probably the norm and more focus on the positive moral aspects...

I currently attend Bishop Carroll HS an... (read more)

0Vaniver7yHow much of this effect do you think is due to differences in intelligence?
3MugaSofer7yThe trouble with this heuristic is it fails when you aren't right to start with. See also: creationists. That said, you do, in fact, seem to understand the claims theologians make pretty well, so I'm not sure why you're defending this position in the first place. Arguments are soldiers? Well, I probably know even less about your former religion than you do, but I'm guessing - and some quick google-fu seems to confirm - that while you are of course correct about what you were thought, the majority of Jews would not subscribe to this claim. You hail from Orthodox Judaism, a sect that contains mostly those who didn't reject the more easily-disprove elements [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/] of Judaism (and indeed seems to have developed new beliefs guarding against such changes, such as concept of a "written and oral Talmud" that includes the teachings of earlier authorites.) Most Jews (very roughly 80%) belong to less extreme traditions, and thus, presumably, are less likely to discover flaws in them. Much like the OP belonging to a subset of Mormons who believe in secret polar Israelites. Again, imagine a creationist claiming that they were taught in school that a frog turned into a monkey, dammit, and you're just trying to disguise the lies you're feeding people by telling them they didn't understand properly! If a claim is true, it doesn't matter if a false version is being taught to schoolchildren (except insofar as we should probably stop that.) That said, disproving popular misconceptions is still bringing you closer to the truth - whatever it is - and you, personally, seem to have a fair idea of what the most sophisticated theologians are claiming in any case, and address their arguments too (although naturally I don't think you always succeed, I'm not stupid enough to try and prove that here.)

Welcome to Less Wrong! (5th thread, March 2013)

by orthonormal 5 min read1st Apr 20131761 comments


If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.

(This is the fifth incarnation of the welcome thread; once a post gets over 500 comments, it stops showing them all by default, so we make a new one. Besides, a new post is a good perennial way to encourage newcomers and lurkers to introduce themselves.)

A few notes about the site mechanics

Less Wrong comments are threaded for easy following of multiple conversations. To respond to any comment, click the "Reply" link at the bottom of that comment's box. Within the comment box, links and formatting are achieved via Markdown syntax (you can click the "Help" link below the text box to bring up a primer).

You may have noticed that all the posts and comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. This immediate easy feedback mechanism helps keep arguments from turning into flamewars and helps make the best posts more visible; it's part of what makes discussions on Less Wrong look different from those anywhere else on the Internet.

However, it can feel really irritating to get downvoted, especially if one doesn't know why. It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation. (Sometimes it's the unwritten LW etiquette; we have different norms than other forums.) Take note when you're downvoted a lot on one topic, as it often means that several members of the community think you're missing an important point or making a mistake in reasoning— not just that they disagree with you! If you have any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

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It's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.

Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.

There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to  discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)

If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome! I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma- honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)

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* Normal_Anomaly
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* shokwave
* Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site!

Note from orthonormal: MBlume and other contributors wrote the original version of this welcome post, and I've edited it a fair bit. If there's anything I should add or update on this post (especially broken links), please send me a private message—I may not notice a comment on the post. Finally, once this gets past 500 comments, anyone is welcome to copy and edit this intro to start the next welcome thread.