Some of that might be because of evaporative cooling. Reading the sequences is more likely to cause a theist to ignore Less Wrong then it is to change their beliefs, regardless of how rational or not a theist is. If they get past that point they soon find Less Wrong is quite welcoming towards discussions of how dumb or irrational religion is but fairly hostile to those that try and say that religion is not irrational; as in this welcome thread even points that out.

What I am wondering about is why it seems that atheists have complete caricatures of their previous theist beliefs. What atomliner mentions as his previous beliefs has absolutely no relation to what is found in Preach My Gospel, the missionary manual that he presumably had been studying for those two years, or to anything else that is found in scripture or in the teachings of the church. So are the beliefs that he gives as what he previously believed actually what he believed and if so what did he think of the complete lack of those beliefs being found in scripture and the publications of the church that he belonged to and where did he pick up these non standard beliefs? Or is something else entirely going on when he says that those were his beliefs?

This doesn't limit itself to atomliner; in my experience generally when atheists talk about their previous religion they seem to have always held (or claim they did) some extremely non-standard version of that religion. So is this a failure of the religion to communicate what the actual beliefs are, a failure of the ex-theist to discover what the beliefs of the religion really are and think critically about, in Mormon terms, "faith promoting rumors" (also known as lies and false doctrine, in Mormon terms), or are these non-standard beliefs cobbled together from "faith promoting rumors" after the atheist is already an atheist to justify atheism?

I know that atheists can deal with a lot of prejudice from believers about why they are atheists so I would think that atheists would try and justify their beliefs based on the best beliefs and arguments of a religion and not extreme outliers for both, as otherwise it plays to the prejudice. Or at least come up with something that actually are real beliefs. For any ex-Mormon there are entire websites of ready made points of doubt which are really easy to find, there should be no need to come up with such strange outlier beliefs to justify oneself, and if justifying isn't what he is doing then I am really very interested in knowing how and why he held those beliefs.

Showing 3 of 7 replies (Click to show all)

I know that atheists can deal with a lot of prejudice from believers about why they are atheists so I would think that atheists would try and justify their beliefs based on the best beliefs and arguments of a religion and not extreme outliers for both, as otherwise it plays to the prejudice.

Really? It don't think it takes an exceptional degree of rationality to reject religion.

I suspect what you mean is that atheists /ought/ to justify their disbelief on stronger grounds than the silliest interpretation of their opponent's beliefs. Which is true, you sh... (read more)

0[anonymous]7yHave you noticed any difference between first and second generation atheists, in regard to caricaturing or contempt for religion?
6Vaniver7ySuppose there is diversity within a religion, on how much the sensible and silly beliefs are emphasized. If the likelihood of a person rejecting a religion is positively correlated with the religion recommending silly beliefs, then we should expect that the population of atheist converts should have a larger representation of people raised in homes where silly beliefs dominated than the population of theists. That is, standard evaporative cooling, except that the reasonable people who leave become atheists, and similarly reasonable people who are in a 'warm' religious setting can't relate. (I don't know if there is empirical support for this model or not.)

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

by orthonormal 5 min read1st Apr 20131761 comments

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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).

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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.

EXTRA FEATURES:
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
* Randaly
* 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.

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