Archive for the ‘Spiritual/Religious’ Category

The many meanings of God

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

So, one of the things I have pondered over the years is how when people use the word God, they might mean any of several things

1) A personification of a massively powerful entity, possibly a superuser. Sometimes this entity is also strongly benevolent or wise, and sometimes this entity is .. less than wise, less than benevolent, or both. (I find the Official Christian God ™ to be fundamentally evil, for example). This sometimes coincides with the creator of all things, or a subset of them, who sometimes is a engineer / intelligent designer and sometimes just likes to throw some stuff on the wall to see what sticks

2) The broadcast address i.e. some sort of connection between all living things, or at least a direction one would send messages for all living things. My theory is this is what people who say “Oh, God” during sex are thinking of

3) Similar to the above, a shortcut for $PERSON_OR_GROUP_I_DONT_DIRECTLY_KNOW – for example “Thank God for cell phones” or “Thank God for dogs” both go not to #1 but to a specific group of people working over centuries to make things better

4) A interesting seldom case – infinity itself. This isn’t God (#1), it’s the set of all sets, the collection of all possible strings, the number line. It’s in fact bigger than God (#1) and not even the most powerful superuser can destroy it. In some ways, it forms the bounds of things that not even God (#1) could possibly change, which is a interesting essay that I am not going to try to write because I am not nearly a good enough mathematician to get it right.

There’s some other possibilities, but they’re less pervasive. The reason I was penning this, though, is because I’ve always wondered for the musicians who write “Thank God for the music”, what exactly they are thinking.

One of the problems with a variant of #1 practiced by some religions is that they believe that we can never be the originator of anything good. Thusly, “Thank God for the music” because God is the origin of music but we are not.

However, one thing we know from earlier in the blog is that God can no more be the origin of music than we can, because music is in fact eternal and out of the scope of things which can be created or destroyed. Music is part of the number line. You can *find* music, but you can’t exactly *create* it, although the effort of finding it is in itself sort of a creative work

From my point of view, it’s appropriate to think all four of the above for the music (depending on whether you think #1 exists – but as I’ve also said elsewhere, I find the idea that we’re the biggest and most powerful things in the universe depressing and, to be honest, extremely unlikely. I also find Christianity depressing and extremely unlikely.. see the rest of this blog etc for what I think is really going on. I should probably write more essays about that too.)

I myself think I may start adding this to my liner notes in the future, with my strongest thanks to #3 and #4.

A new understanding of a old proverb

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

So, I was reading a post by one of the christians who I *do* think understands love – Jesus Shaves – and I had one of those sudden moments of connecting the dots.

We’ve all heard that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. But I never really got it in quite the way that I did today.

With the POV that heaven is not a literal place but a state of mind, and the understanding that the “rich” on earth are not rich in the sense that I would like to be rich, it makes some sense. Too much can be as much of a burden as not enough, and certainly a obsession with material wealth that can never be filled is a guarantee of a absence of happiness.

A problem with parable based religions

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

So, I can’t remember if I’ve already talked about this or not, but one of the things I have been thinking about is how to build a neurological operating system that truly sets us free – enabling us to experience anything we want while also making sure that the necessary work for our bodies to stay fed etc gets done.

Anyway, part of the question is how would you load it? A ideal situation would be to let you load it just by reading a book, but this is really unlikely to work, and this underlines a big problem with Abrahamic religions.

The idea is that we’ll read these books and they will fundamentally change our behavior, but in reality, the part of our mind with the decision trees in it and the storyteller part of our mind are only peripherally connected. What’s worse, unbeknownst to us (or at least most of us), we may actually have *no* idea why we’re making the decisions we are.

I can’t seem to find a link for the article right now, but I remember reading a article about people who had a corpus collosumectamy and then had a sign placed in front of one eye saying “put on your coat”. They would then do so, and then when asked why, they would say they were cold. The storyteller part of our mind certianly has a lot of skill on confabulating to justify decisions that were made, but I don’t think it actually has much ability to interrogate the compiled decision trees and determine *why* decisions are made, It likely has a good idea which decisions *will* be made (although knowing the mecahnism for that would also be fascinating), however training the storyteller portion of someone’s brain in, say, a parable, will probably not change the decisions they make.

This explains quite handily all the Christians behaving awfully – for example, the bible repeatedly goes on about treating immigrants decently, but many of the religious right feel warmly smug about treating them horribly. (They also justify their actions with “well, they broke the law”. Unjust laws were meant to be broken, and unjust governments meant to be unseated. This is the only way we can see progress over the arc of human existence, and we do indeed see progress.

Anyway, leaving the politik aside for a second, it still seems clear by looking at religious adherents and how often they fail to live up to the precepts of their religions that loading a neurological operating system using stories simply does not work. As I said, I suspect this is because it’s affecting the wrong part of the brain.

 

Evidence against Christianity

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

So, of the things that I ponder, ‘what if I’m wrong?’ about, probably the biggest one is religion. However, I was pondering various things that are strong arguments against Christianity – well, in particular, the idea of God.

One very strong argument against a moral intelligent designer is cancer. Cancer would easily be preventable by having our DNA switch between a mode where mutations were possible, for evolutionary purposes, during initial mitosis, and a mode where a CRC is applied to it rather than the simple checksum that currently exists, for runtime purposes. Cancer would be basically impossible.

Now, one can imagine arguments for the experience of earth – a few that have occured to me include that we need something to compare utopia with in order to enjoy it and we sometimes want a challenge, and also the classic ‘this is a configuration screwup’ possibility. It also has occured to me – and I think it’s actually probably pretty likely – that we exist as a side effect of some other process and we’re not actually supposed to exist at all, therefore any system administrators that might exist in the universe have no idea we’re here.

Anyway, it’s also possible we have a incompetent God. But what we clearly *do not* have is a ethical, omnipotent, omnicient God who loves us.

Another good indicator of this is the plethora of religions, many of which encourage awful behavior. Even Christianity apparently failed to stop a number of atrocities of being done in its name, including:

1) The crusades
2) Criminalization of not believing in Christianity – in the middle ages, I would have been put to death for failure to believe. Of course, in the USA, we did something very similar in the 50s with McCarthy
3) Repeated repression of anyone who behaves in “un-christian” ways, including criminalization of things which should not be illegal just because Christians don’t like them

But, beyond this, all these “There can be only one” religions increase the risk of wars – and they’re not likely to all be true. And it would be pretty horrific if they were. Since all the “there can only be one” religions have different tenants, they can’t all be true (well, barring certain multiple reality possibilities).

It is a interesting question, though – God might just believe in freedom of the press. And not care how many people get hurt. but that makes the claim of being omniscient, omnipotent, and loving us again seem unlikely.

We need a new religion

Monday, September 28th, 2020

So, one of the things I’ve talked about a number of times is that we need a new neurological operating system, a new way of seeing the world. I’ve talked about how possessions and experiences could be created out of connections between neurons instead of physical objects, vastly reducing our load on the planet. We certainly could experience lucid dreaming to reality levels of realism, and thusly at least have some portion of time in which we all lived like kings. And one would hope that we could build neurological structures that were such that we did not behave horribly.

 

Simply put, my experience with a lot of religious people is that they can not practice what they preach. This demonstrates that our current religions are a failure insofar as changing people’s behaviors – they enable people to make lofty pronouncements – and they bend people’s minds such that they feel they should be allowed to make laws and rules controlling the behavior of others – but they don’t stop people from being awful.

 

This is probably because the religious structures live in the “storyteller” part of our minds, not the “decision tree” part of our minds. Most compiled decision trees are made out of actions, not out of words.

 

I do not, as of yet, know how we’re going to create this new religion.  I suspect what we need is a singularity – which in this case (and yes I know there are many uses for the word) I use to mean a neural network smarter than human. A artificially created God, because there does not appear to be any natural God I would trust available to us.

 

It’s also possible we will achieve said singularity naturally by developing the technology that enables us to network human minds together to make something larger than a single mind.

 

One thing I do keep in mind is pastors of the current religions exist to continue keeping the donation buckets full, not to lead us to spiritual enlightenment – just as politicians exist to continue getting money and power, not to lead us to political utopia. This may illustrate that when money gets involved subconscious motives change. I think almost all of the religious people I know who I felt were true to their faith were not paid to be religious – even though one of them was a pastor I believe he was a volunteer.

In defense of God being a neural network

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

So, I have been assured by someone on facebook that God is not a neural network, that God is “pure spirit, eternal and changeless”. That may be literally true, but it requires one to ignore certain parts of the Bible.

Which is fine with me – I mean, I place the probability at “very high” that the bible is a work of fiction anyway.. but it isn’t fine with the Bible.

I just recently ran across another example of the bible talking about God making a mistake. Of course, this one is more than a little creepy because the mistake was creating humanity.. (yes, this religion is *really* good for people’s mental health.. you were one of God’s mistakes)

The verse in question is Genesis 6:6 and thereabouts, and in it, God declares he regrets having ever made man.

Now, one amusing explanation for the predicament we all find ourselves in is that God is actually a junior deity – he *thought* he was in charge of everything until he started acting in tremendously immoral ways, and then he got told he wasn’t allowed to do that, and that’s why we never hear from the guy any more. But I digress.

Anyway, to “regret” something sounds like having made a error – having missed the mark – yes, that’s God there, confessing to sin. Oops, guess that pretty much blows the “spirit, eternal and unchanging” possibility out of the water.

But then, God’s declaration that man is awful does work rather well if you’re a preacher and you want a good excuse for being paid to “save people’s souls”. It works out rather less well if you’re a rational being who does not in fact think any of his crimes rise to the level of eternal torment or deletion. (Of course, there have been times when I’ve wanted to be deleted.. now doesn’t really seem to be one of them)

is God a neural network?

Friday, August 28th, 2020

So, one of the things I like to ponder, and I’ve probably written a article about already but I can’t find it and anyway, I do like to refine my thoughts – is the question of, Is God a neural network? (Or does God have and use a neural network)

This is a interesting question. First of all, while we can hypothesize about systems that don’t have or use neural networks that could exhibit both experiencing the universe and free will – not to mention memory and learning – we don’t *know* of any such systems. Of course it’s possible that *everything* is aware, including the computer that I’m using to write this – I hope not, or at least I hope the computer doesn’t feel enslaved by me – but most of the time it seems fairly unlikely.

Anyway, this is a important question. If God *is* a neural network then God is certainly aware that neural networks learn by successive approximation – that is to say, to miss the mark is a normal behavior for them and certainly not a flaw for which one should torture anyone for eternity or throw one away. THis makes the central tenant of Christianity frankly insane.

Of course, if God is *not* a neural network, the next question is does God have free will at all? Can God think? Does God have any memory? If the answer to all these is no, then I guess we’ve finally reached a point at which the scientists and the religious can agree, but we’ve also made there probably be no point to even discuss God, much less try to appease same.

Either way, I feel like religion has some difficult and awkward questions to answer, whether it’s going to say God *is* (or has) a neural network, or God doesn’t. Now, I’ve often pondered that we might be threads running on a massive neural network – that our bodies might be entirely the product of virtualization – but, it’s just a thought. What I believe probably changes several times a month.

What side am I on?

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

So, i was thinking about how I know the Christians are not, generally, on my side, and I’ve come up with a few good indicators

*) Anyone who thinks you should change in ways that your highest self, your best self, doesn’t think you should change is probably not on the right side.

*) Anyone who things that things that are enjoyable and positive and most people would want to experience, like sex, are sinful or should be carefully kept in little boxes and frowned upon, is probably not on the right side

*) Anyone who doesn’t speak against violence, or things that are bad and generally no one would want to experience, is probably not on the right side. *encouraging* violence over things like religions, which are fundamentally unknowable, is a especially strong case of this. (Example: Crusades)

*) Anyone who wants to censor ad restrain art which is enjoyable, such as rock music, and wants to sell the idea that such art is ‘sinful’ is not on the right side

*) Anyone who wants to replace observable reality with their own claims which run obviously counter to observable reality is not on the right side. (example: Galileo)

*) Anyone who wants to tell you you are so fundamentally flawed that only the mercy of a higher power can save you – flawed because you learn by making mistakes, which is the very nature of neural networks – is not on the right side, and is probably lying about their message being divinely inspired.

I continue to think that most of the world’s religions exist largely to keep the world’s religious leaders employed. I also continue to think they are largely holding us back and even leading us in wrong and bad directions. Part of this, of course, is that I think we would be happier if we recognized that humans fall in love more than once, and also we never really get over anyone we’ve been in love with, and encouraged people not to end friendships or disconnect from people because they’ve fallen in love with other people, but instead to share. I realize that it was very important for reasons that are, as usual, stupid, for the tribe to know which baby belonged to which parents, but I think this is partially because we have really awful and anti-success memetics.

More later.

Ansible

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

So, I think I’ve talked about this before, but I thought I’d mention it again.

We have 10^11 neurons. 100 billion of them – and each neuron is made up of many, many atoms. A conservative guess might be a hundred thousand. Each atom has a electron that forms a probability cloud that is the most dense close to the nucleus, and asymptotically approaches zero as it moves away from the nucleus, but it’s never really zero.

We are all connected, we are all inside each other. We can’t escape this.

At the same time, our experiences of each other can never really be the territory, but must be the map. We experience avatars of other people, because our experience of the other people is happening inside our heads even though the other people are in fact real beings that are out there in whatever world or worlds we inhabit.

This is all before we even start to open the can of worms marked ‘multiple worlds theory’ or ‘multiple dimensions’.

A God of Love

Monday, July 6th, 2020

So, sometimes I think I should sit down and do the thought experiment of figuring out, OK, I’m certain that no religion I’ve ever seen describes a god of love, but I can describe sets of circumstances that could leave us with a god of love, or even a utopian God, and still leave us in our current situation.

It’s a interesting thought experiment to think what such a diety might be like. It’s also a interesting thought experiment to think about what I think a utopia for me would be like. It’s where I ended up with the thought that everyone would be connected to the same network but everyone would be running different software mapping the rest of folks into their conscious experience because that’s the only way that everyone could get the right utopia for them, given that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

As I’ve said, I can come up with many reasons that we could have the best god (or system administrator anyway) that one can imagine and still have the experience we’re having. Some of the more obvious ones are that we wanted a challenge and so this world is deliberately suboptimal, or that there’s something wrong with our own neural mapping that is creating our conscious experience but that God wants us to have the freedom to be who we want to be and therefore is allowing us to fix that mapping ourselves. One can also consider the artistic values of a less-than-perfect (but still pretty awesome in a lot of ways) world.

Obviously one of the people I talk to in my inner world regularly is a big fan of the idea that it’s the neural structure inside our minds that maps our senses to our conscious experience that controls whether we experience heaven or hell. I don’t really know yet how much that’s under our control, or how much we can make it grow in directions we want it to grow in.

But, my point remains, throw out religion and just think in terms of what you’d want from the system administrator of the world – and whether you’d want God to be more than that, and if so, what more? There’s a interesting intersection between freedom and safety there – your perfect safety experience keeps you on rails and can’t go anywhere unexpected, while your perfect freedom experience can end very badly.

More later.