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Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

Hi there everyone, happy mid-winter festive period.

I'm V (not from the film), 33, and living in the wilds of the UK, for now. I became very sick when I was 16 and essentially slept through my late teens and 20s so I'm playing catch up with a vengeance. I found the site through a friend and I've been a (silent, shadowy) member for a while but hadn't been able to carve out the time to get through the sequences, until now.

I'm a final year Applied Maths and Computer Science student but I'm also really interested in cognitive science, rationality, philosophy and their applications. I detest being wrong and not understanding things I consider to be important. Rationality is the best tool I've found for helping me get out of my own way and for protecting myself from myself and others. Having lost so much time and having had a generally strange life, I care a lot about getting the most out of the time that I do have, having opinions that reflect reality as closely as possible and making the best quality decisions I can.

At the moment degree work, trying to move house and preparing for post graduation is swallowing my life but I do have a couple of side projects on the go; a couple of app ideas which may or may not be useful enough to make, gaining basic programming proficiency (for some value of all three words) and a portfolio of work; a blog about my later stage recovery and the process of becoming "well", and a few other bits and pieces.

I have embarrassingly poor grammar and spelling which I'm trying to improve so I'm happy to be corrected if I start spewing word salad. I'm aware I've just invited replies consisting entirely of corrections to this comment and that's o.k.

Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story

Disclaimer: Cognitive science says that this incident probably didn't happen the way I remember it.

When I was 5 years old, my mum sent me to Sunday school because she was casually Church of England and that's what you did. It was only the second or third time I'd been and after the lesson they had us pass around a box full of sweets and told us each to take one. I remember thinking that there was something I really didn't like about this as the box was coming around so I passed it on without taking a sweet. One of the women running the group noticed and asked the other children to pass the sweets back to me, assuming I'd forgotten to take one. I stopped them and said that I didn't want a sweet thankyou. When she asked me why I paused for a moment and then said 'I don't think Jesus would like you bribing us to believe in him'.

She gaped at me a little and there was a very awkward pause but nothing was said immediately. When my mum arrived to collect me they asked for a word with her while I waited in the car. When she came back, she sat down and asked me what had happened. When I explained the story to her she burst out laughing, told me I'd done well and that I wouldn't be going to Sunday school any more. On the way home she explained that my conclusion about the sweet was right but saying so had upset the ladies in charge, especially because I'd said it in front of the other children, and they'd asked her not to bring me to Sunday School again. This confused me because the only explanation that made sense was that I'd been excluded because what I'd said was correct but 'dangerous' in some way.

At the time I believed in god in a childish, unquestioning sort of way but I'd already had a few problems with the idea that I should believe in God because I wanted to go to heaven and because if I didn't I'd go to hell and the sweet incident was the first time I'd put my finger on the problem. If I was going to believe, I wanted to believe based on truth not bribes or punishment.

It wasn't an 'aha' moment exactly but the incident stuck with me over the years and the idea that I wanted my beliefs to be true rather than based on what I want to be true has, I think, kept me heading in the right direction.