Archive for the ‘Spiritual/Religious’ Category

The nature of reality and how it informs decisions

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

So, one of the things I occasionally feel resentment about is my desire to spend large numbers of hours exploring music combined with the recognition that the world almost certainly does not *need* these things (and the odds of me being better than anyone else at creating music are vanishingly small). One thing I have thought about is how my actions would be different if I *knew* the nature of the universe.

In particular, if I knew that I was in a single-person video game style simulation, I wouldn’t be concerned about the needs of the world and just what I could get away with.. I work more than I need to to support myself, partially to help out other people and partially to hone my skills in the hopes that I can participate in either the singularity or the mass automation in such a way as to help increase the general freedom of humanity.

But, I have to go with the assumption the reality that is presented to me is “real” and that the suffering of people is likewise real. On the other paw I am not willing to be completely selfless and give all my energy into things that advantage other people. So I try to balance out time to do the things I want to do (like exploring music and artificial neural networks) with things that the world will pay me to do because presumably it needs them done (system administration and a lot of not very exciting coding, mostly)

Some of the possibilities as to “what’s going on” that have occured to me

*) This whole thing could be a accidental side effect of some other system – our type of life inserts itself into entropy flow – we might even be moving from system to system, tapping different entropy flows, without us being aware of it.

*) This could be the work of a creator or creators. That might *also* be us, or it might be a seperate, distinct entity.

*) This might be a massive multiplayer simulation. In that case, it might be that the plot is driven by our decisions or it might be that the plot is on rails.

Unlike other people I have met I tend to think the people I talk to are not me, so I tend to think whatever we’re in has some sort of networking or multiple participants. I do wish sometimes that I knew what the most efficient choices to make were in order to optimize for reducing the suffering of others, and then could do cost-benefit analysis of the various actions I am taking in order to find some sort of optimized path forward that contains adequate time of me doing the things I want to do for my own reasons vs helping others.

The dangers of certainty

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

So, in reading “Thinking fast and slow”, I’ve come to think of the human brain as having two modes. One of these modes involves some voodoo that we might call ‘free will’ – it doesn’t execute quickly, but it is easily changeable. The other involves hardcoded, compiled neural interconnects – it’s the reflexes that make you hit the brakes when the car in front of you stops – and, I am coming to suspect, the hard-wiring that makes you insist “Of course Jesus hates gays and would support hurting them in any way possible!” and other equally absurd interpretations of the bible – not to mention “COVID is a hoax and I am free to not wear a mask” even as you read of others who took that stance dying.

I talked in a previous article the idea that because multiple signals pass through the same set of subnets our minds may protect even wrong ideas because they are necessary confluences of signal. I’ve also come to think more and more about the actual physical restrictions of changing the physical wiring – neurotransmitters, proteins, all sorts of actual, limited resources come into play when unlearning something. Therefore, there is a biological reason we might defend wrong ideas.

Now, there’s a couple of directions I’d like to go with this. At some future date I will discuss the tendency of certain Christians to think hate is love – I think I’ve talked about that before but the above does point out why there’s probably not a lot of point in trying to bring to their attention that they are just plain wrong – they’re not going to be capable of learning, their firm belief has translated into neural wiring and they *can’t* unlearn – even if Jesus himself came and told them they were wrong, they wouldn’t be able to accept and integrate that.

This same problem exists in political ideology that is carefully grounded in fiction. We’ve talked about how conservative media (especially Fox) has been lying for a long time – but the adherents to it think that the lies are facts, and have formed hard structures encoding them. Again, they can see over and over the data proving that trickle down economics do not work, and continue to push for it. They can see over and over that automation is taking their jobs, and continue to blame the immigrants.

Part of what I’m trying to wrap my head around is there’s no point in being angry with them. Both groups of people mentioned above are contributing to making the world a worse place, but there’s no way they can stop. They can’t even be aware of the fact that they’ve got deep structures that are counter-factual stored.

Now, there’s a lot of things that I talk about as being ‘unknowable’ – things like our purpose here, what happens after we die, what deities there might be (clearly if there is someone in charge they don’t want us to know that as the amount of work they’ve gone to to maintain plausible deniability is absurd). And I try to avoid having certain beliefs about those unknowables, because I’d rather not know than have absolute faith in something that’s wrong, especially if that absolute faith led me to encourage abuse of others because I thought, in my limited view of the universe, that their choices were “sin”.

I have noticed that over and over people create God in their image – limited and full of hate. One of the things that I’ve mentioned to various Christians trying to convince me that I’m going to hell is that I tend to think I’d be better at imagining God than they would because of my life experience – I’ve built worlds (in games), I’ve coded somewhere near a million lines in a wide variety of languages, I’ve used evolutionary algorithms, I’ve read thousands of books and studied many subjects. Now, I’m not claiming I’m God – far from it – but I think I’d be better able to wrap my head around what a deity might think like than most of the people who claim to know the mind of God because of a bunch of words written by people wandering around in a desert 2000 years ago.

Now, if God would like to change my mind about this, I’m certain *e knows how to reach me. I’m open to other ideas – but you are not going to convince me that the Bible is the word of God (except in the very general sense that if God is infinity, all books are the words of God). You will convince me that the words of Jesus contain wisdom – and the primary message is “Be excellent to each other”. Them who would like to hate on those who sleep with different folk are failing to be excellent to each other, therefore I am clear on the fact they have failed to grok the message of Jesus. Often it’s because they are creating God in their own, hate filled, confused, lost image. But you’ll never convince them of that. Why? See above.

Another way to look at hell

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Hate is thinking that a deity has created a place of eternal suffering in order to punish you if you don’t guess right amongst the plethora of religions that all appear man-made in a world where there’s a survival incentive to make up religions (if you’re a priest, it puts food on the table) and humans obviously make things up all the time.

Love is thinking that a deity has created a place of eternal suffering so that the masochists will have a utopia too.

Chicken or the egg

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

So, recently someone tried to sell me on that old chestnut, the idea that the universe requires a creator but God doesn’t.

And I was thinking about it, and I realized this idea is beyond absurd. If God is a neural network they are a neural network orders of magnitude more complex than *we* are, and we certainly appear to require a framework within which we can exist. I suppose it’s possible that we would be able to exist without the hardware that is our brain, but the vastly different behaviors that people with brain damage exhibit suggest that this is not in fact the case.

(Of course, a lot of Christians get nervous when I talk about God being a neural network – then again, they want for God to have no free will at all, because that’s the only way the whole “Jesus had to die for your sins” thing even makes a tiny shred of sense. Still doesn’t make a *lot* of sense then.)

Anyway, to return to the previous problem. The universe appears to have a relatively small handful of rigid rules – it’s a framework. I have no trouble at all believing this universe was always here and will always be here. I have a much larger problem believing this hypothetical God was always here and will always be here given that we haven’t even come up with a way yet that a thinking being could exist without somewhere to exist in.

So, my original point remains – if the universe requires a creator, so does God, and you’re stuck. If God doesn’t require a creator, neither does the universe. And, given the rigid and simple nature of the universe, if one came about before the other, I’d vote universe first, God second.

Now, of course, we have to consider other possibilities, as I pointed out to this person. One is that creator and creation may be entangled – God may have been created h*self in the process of creating the universe. Certainly creating a universe would be a evolutionary thing. We also have to consider that time’s arrow may only flow in the direction that it does for creatures of our type. Time may be multidimensional, or not exist at all, for creatures of other types. So the discussion about who created who may be meaningless because maybe it was *all* already here and we’re just experiencing it as this linear thing because of the type of creatures we are.

We also should consider the possibility that God in fact created the universe and h*self and we’re currently in the bootstrapping process before God actually exists. I don’t think this is likely but it does go into the hat.

I still also like the possibility that we’re living as a accidental side effect of some other process and no one knows we’re here. It explains a lot.

I could go on for a few more paragraphs but I’m trying to avoid wear and tear on the paws so I’ll save it for some other time.

I do like from time to time the idea that “God” may in fact be a team – I think I’ve spoken elsewhere about the possibility that *we are the operators* – and then we put on our player hats and we’re the players. There’s a certain beauty to this and clearly we have demonstrated that we are capable of building universes.

While I’m tossing additional thoughts in here – it has always scared me that Christianity disables people’s brains such that they can’t see the obvious flaw in claiming the universe required a creator but God didn’t. At some point I should make a list of all the ways Christianity obviously fails common sense as expressed by someone who is capable of thinking in boolean algebra, and why it scares me that the people who believe in it *cannot* see this no matter what you do or say. (It does reinforce my thought that Christianity is a informational virus that in certain ways blinds it’s host so that it can continue to live and reproduce)

I do wonder if, as a programmer who has done a especially deep dive into programming, I’m more able to see religions as programs for humans – written by people with dubious and possibly even nefarious aims – than the average person.

Christianity’s fatal flaw, reprised

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

So, I keep thinking about this topic because I keep feeling like if I could just put the right words on my thoughts, it would suddenly make sense to the Christians in my life why I’m so convinced the religion A: was made up out of whole cloth B: contains harmful ideas and C: should be relegated to the dustbin of history

I acknowledge that they’re generally not that likely to be able to integrate this information – that in fact the structure of their minds will prevent it because of the massive neurological upset that understanding would bring them – suddenly their entire mind would need fundamentally re balanced. But it still bothers me, especially when I have people on Facebook very sincerely assuring me I’m going to hell for not believing the right things in the right way.

I know I’ve talked elsewhere about how having a plethora of religions, each claiming to be the one true way and that all adherents to all other religions are less-than, is a awful thing we should be doing away with, especially since we now live in the age of weapons that can kill millions in minutes and we can no longer afford to have wars for no particularly good reason.

In any case, one basic thesis of Christianity that I hear pushed again and again is that man is so flawed that Jesus has to “die for our sins” because “God is a just god and demands that someone be punished for all these sins”. It’s insisted that even people who have only committed minor sins are way too flawed for our perfect God. It’s also insisted that Adam’s failure to obey God was part of what started all this.

But hang on a minute. God *Created* us with neural networks that start unformatted (almost no internal structure, we are mostly born tabla rasa). If God wanted perfect obedience, creating us a state machine (similar to the computer I’m writing this on) would have gotten H* exactly that. God clearly either had no knowledge of how neural networks work (which would prove the all-knowing part a lie) or *wanted creatures that wouldn’t always walk the straight and narrow perfectly*. It is not the nature of a mostly-blank neural network to immediately leap to perfect behavior – some sin along the way is *inevitable*.

Now, mind you, I’m not asserting that we’re designed by a supernatural being at all, I’m fine with the idea that we may have just happened, that a evolutionary process may be all there is that is responsible for our existence. What I can safely rule out, however, is that we were created by a all perfect being that should then be punishing us for being flawed. This has always had a couple of problems in the argument

1) The Christians who argue that God *has to* punish us for all eternity for our limited and temporal sins are

a) Arguing for a evil God. Only a evil creature would punish so disproportionally to the crime
b) Arguing that God has no free will. And yes, they really do argue that! They say he *Can’t* just let our mistakes slide, that it’s outside of his nature because he is a Just God (never mind that eternal torture for temporary errors, especially the low grade errors must of us commit, is about as unjust as I can imagine)

2) The Christians who argue that the only path to redemption is through Jesus are

a) Aruging that God has no problem with the vast majority of human population being misled in a way that leads to them being tortured eternally or
b) Arguing that God can do nothing about the plethora of religions that claim another path or
c) Arguing that their supposedly just and moral being has no problem with expecting us to *guess* in the face of huge amounts of misleading information, *including the observation of the world around us which would *strongly* support the idea that humans are storytellers who manipulate each other for money at the drop of a hat and that religions are just a way for the priests to manipulate the sheep in order to get money

Anyway, the fundamental mismatch between the way unpatterned neural networks behave on their way to learning to be patterned neural networks and the apparent expectations of God as described by the Christians seem to me to be a valid reason to declare the religion is bullshit. That’s before we even get into the abusive nature of “God loves you so much that he built a special place to punish you if you don’t love h* back”. Most of the behaviors the Christians ascribe to God we would call abusive if anyone else did them, and generally I think what’s going on here is the Christians, who have brainwashed themselves into believing the Bible’s threats about God are true, are so afraid of what God could do to them that they apply the “Where does a 600-pound monkey sit? Anywhere he wants to” strain of morality to God.

The ethics of God

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

So, one of the things I find rather creepy about Christians is their willingness to defend the ethics of God. It’s pretty clear to me from looking around Earth that if there is a God they’ve been operating with some very questionable ethics (the proliferation of religions, each claiming to be the only true one, makes one suspect that if there is a God, they either don’t care about us at all or they enjoy watching us fight – then we could discuss the ethics of using evolutionary algorithms to design a body that *someone is living in while it’s being designed* – especially the lack of any way to turn off the pain / damage report subsystem.

In essence, most Christian defenses of God’s ethics come down to “A 600 pound gorilla can sit anywhere he wants to” – which I suppose might mean that Christian worship of God is worthless to God because they’re only worshiping h* because they’re afraid of h*. Of course, I’ve always found the thought that a supreme being would want worship rather questionable anyway, see various posts in various places.

As usual as I pen these words I contemplate that a few hundred years ago I would have been put to death for them.

Anyway, one net result of all this is I find the idea that there *isn’t* a God actively aware of us or engaged in our lives (which might not mean there isn’t a God at all – as I’ve said elsewhere I think there probably is but they’re probably about as aware of us as we are of individual cells in our body) vastly preferable to the idea that there *is* one and everything I see before me is their idea of how things should be run.

Although, on the other paw – I’ve mentioned elsewhere how no one could ever know if they were at the top of the stack – even God may believe there is something above h*, whether h* is willing to admit this to humanity or not. (And there may well be.. it may be turtles all the way up, or all of us may be in some sense above any one of us). So maybe God isn’t disavowing all religions because *e isn’t sure whether *e is at the top of the pile or not. It’s a interesting idea to play with anyway.

Advice I would give my child

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

So, I’ve been mulling over things that I wish my parents had told me – and of course, given that my memory is a swiss cheese, they probably *did* tell me some of these and I just don’t remember it.

Anyway, I figured I’d make a few blog posts on the topic over the next few years and see if anything good popped out.

#1: The important thing is not who you love or what you love, but that you love. Get involved, get engaged, be interested in your life. If your life isn’t interesting to you, adjust things until it is.

#2: You are the author of your own story, and you get to decide what kind of character you’re going to be. You don’t get to decide what happens to you – that’s something the universe will decide – and your ability to bend the universe is much much smaller than it’s ability to bend you because of the relative size of you and the universe. However, you do get to be whoever you want to be, and that’s important. Make sure you are the hero of your own story.

#3: If you stand upon the shoulders of giants, you can achieve wonders. This doesn’t mean that you need to get a education as sold at a ridiculously high price from the commercial education system, but it does mean you should learn from those who went before you. Libraries and the wikipedia are both free. Read and learn and try things and fail and get up and try again.

#4: The master has failed more times than the apprentice has tried.

#5: It is worth doing hard things. Dare to be a badass at something even though it costs you thousands of hours of hard work. You’ll like yourself better for it.

#6: My friend Cygnostik has a great quote – “Everybody is born unique, but so many die as copies.” I could also quote Enigma here – “Don’t accept average habits. Open your heart and push the limits.”. You are only here for a limited time, you are going to die as we all do. Try to make the time you’re here worth having come.

#7: Thus far, when I look back on my life, most of the things I regret are the things I *didn’t* do.

#8: One of the secrets of life is balance – in particular, balance between risk and reward. There are a lot of things that risk-averse people will tell you not to do that have significant rewards. On the other paw, there are also a lot of things where the risk outweighs the reward.

#9: Don’t do anything you don’t want to remember having done.

#10: Another song quote “You’ve got to do what you can to keep your love alive – try not to confuse it with what you do to survive.” Almost none of us are lucky enough to get paid to create the art we want to be creating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage your creative side early and often.

Thoughts about love

Monday, January 18th, 2021

So, I’ve been pondering various things about love. It’s always been intuitively obvious to me that the standard behavior claimed by the Christian God (“You’ll be tortured for all eternity unless you believe $WHATEVER) is the opposite of love, and as I went through the various experiences with various people over the past few decades of my life, it became apparent to me that if you love someone and they don’t want to talk to you, then the only real thing to do is not talk to them, at least within the framework of behaving lovingly towards them. I have done further thought about to what extent love accepts people as they are vs to what extent love wants them to grow, and then the other question is when you want someone to grow because you love them, to what extent are you able to accept that you may not be aware of what the real optimum for them is? I definitely think there’s a problem with parents wanting children to have similar moral and value frameworks even though their moral and value frameworks may be wrong (and there’s a *huge* problem with people not considering that their moral and value frameworks may be wrong even as they are cheering on systems which are more or less guaranteed to fail)

Love is probably the slipperiest thing to define I have ever really considered. The word is heavily overloaded (like God) – meaning it has many different meanings depending on context and both the speaker and the listener.

Interestingly, there was one point where I thought I was addicted to sex, but I discovered that sex without love has no value to me, therefore apparently I am addicted to love. I think someone had a song about that..

I’m not even going to try to actually write the definition of it, at least not yet. I note that in the Bible officially love keeps no record of past wrongs, which means that hell as a punishment for any wrong behavior is apparently biblicly impossible. I always find the frantic jumping of Christian apologists to “But God is a Just God!” both funny and predictable. I think I’ve talked elsewhere about how the history of religions involving dieties is in general a measure of how humans always try to put superhuman intelligences into boxes they can understand and invariably end up using too small of a box. Thusly, I expect way, way better behavior from God than most people, and I sometimes wonder if this is because I myself am more intelligent, at least in some senses, than most people, and thusly can imagine a bigger box.

However, having a big enough box to capture the idea of love remains beyond me, at least thus far. I can sometimes identify which the path of love is, but I’m just beginning to even grasp the shape of it, much less be able to compile what I know into english.

I’ve heard it broken down into eros, philios, and agape, but I find all of the above overlapping and also suspect it breaks down to many more colors of the rainbow than that.

Thoughts on the existence of God (or many Gods)

Friday, January 8th, 2021

So, from time to time I like to ponder this one – and remember, Christians, there was a period where I could have been put to death simply for writing this essay, for the crime of blasphemy, which I think argues more clearly than anything I could down here that your religion has a definite evil bent, at least as implemented on Earth.. but I digress..

Is there a God?

The existence of the universe doesn’t provide any argument either way. Lots of religious folks will say “The universe must have a creator” but when you ask “Who created God”, they look at you blankly. If God could have always been here, so could the universe. The rigid mathematical nature of the universe tells us very little as well – it’s clearly something that could have bootstrapped itself, as is human life. We’re not intended, apparently, to determine from our environment whether there’s a God (or many) or not.

Well and good. My strongest argument for there being a God (or hopefully many, since one would probably have been driven insane by being the only one of their kind) is that it doesn’t really make sense to me that humans would be the biggest and smartest things around. My second strongest argument is that WWIII hasn’t happened yet.

Arguments against God, or at least any God with any kind of morals you’d want to hang around, include everything from nuclear weapons to the proliferation of religions claiming to be the only one and claiming all adherents to other religions are ‘less than’ to the incredible cruelty of nature itself – and you can make interesting side arguments such as we’re in a video game, a experience to try when we get tired of perfection, a situation intended to encourage us to learn, etc. I can’t clearly rule out the existence of God based on anything I’ve seen thus far. I have seen things that argue in my opinion either for God or for many-worlds hypothesis.

My opinion is there are probably many things bigger than we are, angels, Gods, you-name-it. Whether they’re even aware of us is questionable – are we aware of individual cells in our body? How about dust mites? But, that opinion is subject to change when new information arrives.

My additional opinion is that pretty much all the religions of earth have bugs. I don’t buy that I want a complete lack of attachments, so I don’t think I’m cut out to be a bhuddist. A lot of the horrors of the Bible make me want to run screaming, and a lot of the horrors modern Christians commit – especially telling people “If you don’t believe the same thing as I do, you are going to Hell” – with the side note that that’s okay with them and they think you deserve it – have similar problems.

(As per always I must disclaim – I have met Christians who seem to understand what love is, and who don’t think my final destination is eternal torment because of the complex set of beliefs that I have. They’re just alas in the minority thus far.)

If you think Jesus’s name matters, you probably missed the point.

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

One thing that has always irked the heck out of me is Christians that end every prayer in “In Jesus’s Name, Amen”.

If one were to think of two things that are antithetical to each other a whole lot of the time, it would be love and ego. A lot of the time, Jesus’ message seemed to be about choosing love. I can’t help but feel like when his message pushed the idea of choosing ego, it might well be misrepresentation in translation or even later editing by people with ulterior motives.

We know people have ulterior motives in religion. Some of how we know is that the current Christian set pushes “christian values” that *aren’t even in the bible*’. The bible never explicitly says sex outside marriage is bad, although it does suggest sex inside marriage is good. It never talks about abortion at all and it explicitly says life begins at first breath. And, when I went through a number of bible quotes suggesting I’m going to hell for not believing in Jesus’ divinity in context, what I found was that it said the wicked go to hell.

However, let’s return to the previous topic here. If there’s one thing I believe strongly is that *Love is still love no matter what the beloved is named*. If you think you’re only going to heaven if you believe Jesus’ name is Jesus, I’ve got news for you, you missed the message by about a mile there. If you want to experience heaven, live in and with a mindset of love, and you won’t even have to die to get there. If you insist on thinking it matters what God’s name is, you’re probably going to get lost along the way. Just my opinion.