Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? 2012-03-19T03:39:42.768Z
Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion 2012-03-03T21:58:20.038Z
Behavioral psychology and buying a warranty at Menards 2011-11-15T02:57:46.294Z
Rationality Boot [Mini]Camp... night class style? 2011-09-08T16:35:20.237Z
Philosophical apologetics book suggests replacing Bayes theorem with "Inference to the Best Explanation" (IBE) 2011-08-30T03:31:22.033Z
Meetup meta: please think carefully when posting -- add desired time/title the first time 2011-04-19T15:32:32.251Z
Mammography problem from 'Intro to Bayes' in my own words/picture 2011-04-09T03:09:21.934Z
Interest in video-conference discussion about sequences and/or virtual meetups? 2011-04-06T22:13:11.024Z
Recent de-convert saturated by religious community; advice? 2011-04-04T03:25:02.450Z
Spreadsheet-based tool for tracking time 2011-01-10T23:55:28.976Z
A LessWrong "rationality workbook" idea 2011-01-09T17:52:51.814Z
Meetup organizing query & a rally for Minnesotans 2011-01-09T04:51:43.141Z
My story / owning one's reasons 2011-01-07T00:17:49.840Z


Comment by jwhendy on Questions on Theism · 2014-10-20T23:42:54.973Z · LW · GW

As some others have said, others on LW (like myself) were not always non-theists. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to discuss or need/want support. Thinking these thoughts and living as a heavily-doubting theist is extremely challenging and draining, from my experience. I was consumed during my initial questioning and ultimate de-conversion. I read and thought day and night, felt sick, alienated, lonely, etc. I wrote some posts here if you'd like to take a look:

One of the more direction-changing thoughts I had (independently and prior to finding out the concept already existed) was what John Loftus claims "The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF)." Basically, if you weren't already a subscriber to some religion, X, could you be convinced of it? Similarly, why are said miracle claims un-convincing even in the least to someone who doesn't already share your religious tradition?

I had a different twist on that. My natural inclination when researching (say, which tool to buy or which method is best) is to force myself to be agnostic to all of them and then research to see which is the most convincing. Say, googling "Milwaukee vs. Dewalt router" or "Milwaukee routers suck/are great" and "Dewalt routers suck/are great" to see what I find. I pay attention to Amazon 1-2 star reviews to look at their content. I started wondering why this shouldn't work for religion. Everyone in my religious community was suggesting that I should "have faith seeking understanding." This always struck me as "believe that you may believe more strongly." I wanted to know why the one thing that mattered the very most in the world shouldn't hold up to the same test I put my financial purchases through.

In addition, I wondered why the Bible, God's inspired book, failed to convince so many others who surely were aware of it. Assuming Christianity was true meant that other religions were false/lies/invented (by humans). Measly human minds creating stories out of thin air have been able to sway more than half the world away from God's official word?

Probably doesn't sound all that great re-writing it, but this was a pretty mind-blowing thought to me back then, and was a definite contributing factor to my ultimate deconversion. Sure, there's apologetics to counter it, but they have to work fairly hard to speculate about God's motives for not being more clear.

As others have stated outrightly or alluded to, toss in whatever apologetic ammunition you'd like and it still works pretty well. Some biblical prophecy, miracle, perfectly fitting theological aspect about Christ, etc. seem amazing to you? Why doesn't it to the nearest Muslim, Hindu, Scientologist, or Mormon? And why do things like reading golden plates from a hat or being embodied alien spirits seem so ridiculous as to not even warrant a fair shake when Christians hear them?

Comment by jwhendy on Personal information management · 2014-10-20T23:20:58.788Z · LW · GW

For links, I switched to the org-id module and a unique ID for any new links. It works as long as the file containing the target headline is in the same directory as the file containing the link.

(require 'org-id)

(global-set-key "\C-cl" 'org-store-link)

(setq org-link-to-org-use-id 'create-if-interactive)

Comment by jwhendy on Personal information management · 2014-10-20T23:09:07.012Z · LW · GW

Yes, and mostly love it. Just not happy with the structure of my information management strategies, at least for daily work documentation. Put "X" under the specific project I'm doing it for? Or what if the learning seems more general... should i start a new tree for longer-term reference knowledge? Or summarize the specific knowledge more generally and keep a copy of both in separate areas? Or write only one and link to it in the other?

Stuff like that.

Other benefits I've really appreciated:

  • embedded/executable code blocks. This is my favorite, favorite feature, and I will never go back (if I can help it) to running analysis code (I do a lot of data analysis/viz with R/ggplot2), generating plots, and then having to insert them into a .doc or .ppt.
  • on that note, being able to export in general is a fantastic feature of Org. HTML, PDF, markdown, whatever. I love not having to futz with image placement manually. Get something you like with some #+attr_html/latex arguments, and then insert a bunch of images really easily by just linking to their location on disk.
  • org is the only, or one of the only, applications that lets you mix and match notes and todos. I used to use TiddlyWiki for all of my work notes and really liked it. But I had to manage todos in something else. But why? Todos often come about in the context of notes, say in a meeting, or for some home project. I really like being able to keep the todos in Org right with whatever prompted the need for action (then view just the actions you need to complete with agenda views).
  • Clocking/time tracking is another aspect that seems awesome, but I haven't started using. I'd love to get to the point where I record what I work on, and especially an estimate + logged hours. Not sure what I'd do with the data, but having it vs. not at least makes post-analysis a possibility.

Still, my various attempts at org file structure seem to end up cluttered and with things structured really oddly. I'll kick off a project with my estimate of what "categories or knowledge" it will require, and as the months or years go on, I'll be in a rush and just resort to keeping a date tree and stuffing the stuff in there like a journal instead. Now I have project-specific info scattered around through monthly journal trees. Harder to archive/find, and end up unfolding a bunch of headlines to find stuff.

Anyway, neat to find other users, so I thought I'd comment even though I'm really late to do so!

Comment by jwhendy on Personal information management · 2014-10-20T23:00:16.665Z · LW · GW

Late the party, and actually found this thread googling around for "Org-mode file/organization strategies." I've been using Org exclusively for work notes, and am finding myself in a similar situation re. being unwieldy. I constantly struggle with choosing one file per project, one big file with one headline per project, or files dedicated by type (one for todos, one for daily journal logs of experiments/efforts, references, etc.).

Org seems like it should be great for moving stuff around, but I find it not that easy. Refiling a mess of headlines seems to be cumbersome, and how do I know that my new strategy will last/work?

I'd love to know how Evernote solves the unwieldy issue for you. I've tried Evernote, Wunderlist, TiddlyWiki,, Zim, and I'm sure others I'm not remembering.

What I'll never give up is the ability to intersperse prose and code. I love, love, love writing all my work reports with embedded R code for analyses in Org-mode, exporting to really nice looking PDF reports. Super awesome, and soooo easy vs. writing all the code elsewhere to generate plots and then inserting them one by one into a ppt. In that respect, Org is awesome. I just haven't figured out an information hierarchy/taxonomy that makes me happy.

Comment by jwhendy on A puzzle concerning CS major vs. engineering major salaries · 2014-04-09T01:59:35.200Z · LW · GW

Another variable, similar to location-based compensation (i.e. standard of living multiplier) is what sort of company the employee lands at. I work at a very large company (80k employees world-wide), with very established pay scales for employees. Just to illustrate how things work:

  • Technical employees are on a scale of what are called job grades
  • Job grades have a pay scale, which includes a minimum, median, and maximum
  • Annual pay increases are calculated based on performance + where you are in your current grade's scale
  • Promotion raises are between 8-12% unless 12% would land you below the minimum of the next grade up

So, that's all to say that when I read this, I wondered about the types of companies that each major lands at. If I had to ballpark my employer's demographics, I'd say: polymer scientists = chemists = chemical engineers > mechanical engineers = physicists = electrical engineers >> environmental engineers = CS majors.

If it's a large, established company with significant investment in a system like the above (intuitively, I'm thinking that ME's and other engineers are more likely to land in places like this vs. startups, smaller companies, and consulting with more variability in salary), could this shed light on the situation? This is similar to Gunnar_Zarncke's comment, but with a bit more behind why established companies might pay less.

Comment by jwhendy on [LINK] System 2 thinking decreases religious belief · 2012-05-03T15:26:37.716Z · LW · GW

Article is now out.

Comment by jwhendy on Meetup : Twin Cities, MN (for real this time) · 2012-04-18T02:48:48.118Z · LW · GW

Darnit. I blew it and fell behind in blog following; didn't even see this get announced. I'd really like to attend one of these! I'll keep my eyes open for the next one.

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-23T01:09:25.297Z · LW · GW

Agreed with respect to the substitution. That describes what I'm getting at. In using "rational," I simply meant, "What's the best way to go about deciding on a purchase of this class of thing?"

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-21T03:07:54.770Z · LW · GW

I wondered about this. So does my wife. I get lost on my computer enough already. Now we reduce capability to browsing and games, and how might that play out? Thanks for sharing this. I'm not sure how it would work in my case...

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-21T03:05:37.030Z · LW · GW

An ebook reader (+ some other prize combination) has occurred to me. I almost bought an ebook reader when they were on sale around Christmas, but couldn't decide between the Nook and Kindle platforms. One thing that worries me is that I have such a hard time reading paper books at the moment; I wonder if an ebook reader only seems like it would improve productivity when in reality it would shortly due to novelty, but then it would wear off.

Some questions:

  • How long have you had it?
  • Did you notice any drop in reading time from initial ownership to present?
  • How many anki decks is realistic (I'm aware of anki and how it works but haven't used it regularly)?

ETA: Thought of another question -- can you put your finger on what, exactly, allowed you to accomplish your goal vs. when you were reading paper?

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-21T03:02:51.088Z · LW · GW

Great suggestion. I'm travelling at the moment, but will review this list. I saw the "don't spend 15-30min" on this and have managed to not really look at the list yet. I plan to revisit it next week and think this will be a good exercise.

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-21T03:01:40.516Z · LW · GW

My wife and I get lost as well. It seems infrequent, but unfortunately when it happens it is epic and horrible. This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for -- something one would never know prior to owning the device, but could share from beyond the curtain. Thanks.

ETA: I don't have data, but in researching this more found a couple of programs that appear not to require data plans and yet still navigate with GPS-unit-containing devices (CoPilot and nDrive are the ones I've found so far). Thus, I may be able to get the use of a tablet, continue not buying a data plan, and also have GPS capabilities.

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-21T03:00:47.116Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the suggestion.

ETA: Back from travelling and re-reading the comments. What makes your more likely to "study anywhere" with the tablet vs. a laptop? Just the lower weight and ~1/3 (or even less) of the thickness? I spend most of my awake time at work, have a macbook which isn't too bulky, but don't take it many places. Do you find that you're more likely to take a tablet and make some small chunk of waiting time useful when you wouldn't have done the same thing with a laptop?

Comment by jwhendy on Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing? · 2012-03-20T01:53:09.204Z · LW · GW

I didn't put much thought into the title. I'm surprised it got downvoted so much, but perhas I lured people in thinking the post was something it wasn't. Other than the title, is my post objectionable?

I think you put it well -- I have a hard time thinking about how best to use the gift and hoped that others with devices I could potentially own might provide suggestions. For example, the idea of a tablet sounds appealing (apps, more mobile than a laptop, reading things, battery life, etc.) but (as shown below), perhaps those here who care to analyze the utility might chime in that it actually decreased efficiency by serving primarily as a distraction.

That's hard to know without actually owning one... and I don't. In any case, my apologies for the misleading title. It was not my intent at all.

ETA: edited the title.

Comment by jwhendy on Theists are wrong; is theism? · 2012-03-06T02:29:24.872Z · LW · GW

Instead, I read the post as claiming "you guys are unreasonable in your overt dismissal of theism and your forceful insistence on it being a closed question, considering many of you are big on BTanism which has similar epistemological status to some varieties of theism".

That. I think after all the comments I've scanned in this post, this was the first one where I really felt like I understood what the post was even really about. Thank you.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-06T02:14:53.086Z · LW · GW

I'm quite glad you commented, and interesting take. What about younger religions that still seem to manager to woo people and hold them intellectually captive like Mormonism (~150 yrs) and Scientology (~50 yrs).

Most of humanity is not part of them, but Mormonism in particular is very quickly growing. Do you think it's success had to do with the aspect of being internally consistent, or some other attractive feature?

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-05T20:20:00.889Z · LW · GW

I'm enjoying this more and more. At first (and it was probably apparent), I was pretty defensive, particularly because this is obviously something personal and important and I felt a bit threatened. I think I (at least, maybe "we") have leveled off and are actually getting places now :)

if their belief is justified it's mostly the result of epistemic luck...

Well put, and we agree on that. Though your big bang cosmology example made me realize that this is more true in far more areas of my life than I am aware of (or even care to think about in order to avoid an ugh field).

It's probable that my default model doesn't apply...

Maybe, maybe not. I was around my father and brother during Christmas break and they don't believe. I was with my wife, though, and we both did very strongly. I said rosary on the plane on the way down, tried to take some personal prayer time, etc. So... I'm not explicitly aware of those things, but then again I was in close proximity to non-believers (which perhaps forced me to wonder why they didn't believe, leading me to my first major cognitive dissonance) and away from my typical very-tight-knit Catholic social sphere for ~10 days.

Then again, I've debated my dad about biblical interpretation and tended to view them in a pained manner, as in a "Why can't they just see the truth?" type of way. It was an unusual circumstance, but I've typically held my own without feeling any doubts or uncertainty before. I could see it either way.

I'll check out the link on rationalization. Thanks.

I think Catholicism has the most reliably good infrastructure of doctrine, but again I may be wrong.

We don't have to pursue this more, but I'd be interested in how you think Catholics are so good. Is it, as you said before, by epistemic luck, or because they actually have some sort of connection to a divine being's will/intention? Similarly, just to probe some specifics:

  • Do you sign onto this being having a purpose/design for humans? As in, was the universe created for us to exist as the pinnacle of creation, to live out holy lives, and then spend eternity in a heaven if we've lived good enough?
  • Similarly, with something like contraception (contraversial, I know), the typical route Catholics would take to their stance is that it's "unnatural." God intended sperm to meet the egg and so preventing that in some non-natural way is thus contrary to his will. How do you sit with that specific line of moral thought and subsequent implication derivation (not just on contraception, any don't-fiddle-with-how-god-designed-things line of argument)?

I'm not very confident of theism...

Oh. When I replied at that other thread (though, that was WIN_2011), it was to you saying you were highly confident in an omni-max being, which I took to mean theism.

I think that's a mischaracterization...

Re-read, and I can see that. I think I'm also still having a hard time wrapping my mind around your use of the word "theism" (or at least what you meant a year ago in that post). "Agent-y processes" is not what typically comes to mind when I'm talking about theism :)

To be fair, though, you do seem to be talking about YHWH, or at least perhaps you're saying that people writing in the bible have been interpreting this simulation machine as the analog of a person, but with magic powers and an interest in their eternal future?

You too; I'm glad there exists a place like LessWrong where...

Indeed! Like I said, I feel much more on the same page with you after some back and forth. It's at least been mind opening to some other views and you'll surely have my head involuntarily occupied (well, your ideas) on my car rides to and from work for several days or more.

Comment by jwhendy on Theists are wrong; is theism? · 2012-03-05T18:48:21.972Z · LW · GW

I'll have to check into compatabilism more. It had never occurred to me that determinism was compatible with omniscience/intercession until my commenting with Vladimir_Nesov. In seeing wiki's definition, it sounded more reasonable than I remembered, so perhaps I never really understood what compatabilism was suggesting.

I'm not positive I get your explanations (due to simple ignorance), but it sounds slightly like what Adam Lee presented here concerning a prediction machine; namely that such a thing could be built, but that actually knowing the prediction would be impossible for it would set off something of an infinite forward calculation of factoring in the prediction, that the human knows the prediction itself, that the prediction machine knows that the human knows the prediction... and then trying to figure out what the new action will actually be.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-05T18:43:30.347Z · LW · GW

Great question! I was quite surprised to read this, and think it's quite the valid reply. In pondering it... my answer would come in a couple of ways.

1) There's nothing intrinsically different. If someone says "I believe in big bang cosmology" and has no trackable fact/reasoning path back to "why," they are unjustified in believing in big bang cosmology. Now, perhaps it will track back to "everyone talks as if the big bang is legit" or "I always see these articles that talk about the big bang and so I guess I figured it was real." Fair enough; belief based on authority/word-of-mouth alone isn't the greatest reason for belief, but they could track it to something at least.

2) The [probably not unique] term, "epistemic baggage" occurred to me as I thought about this. For example, what comes along with or is implied based on believing that the big bang happened? The universe exists? Entropy won't decrease on its own? Something happened and that's why we're here? I don't see a ton of practical implications from believing the big bang, at least for the layman.

Similarly, from a survey of the landscape... science has tended to converge about the big bang.

What about religion? 2000 years (or ~1400 years post-Islam (or ~150 years post-Mormonism (or ~50 years post-Scientology))) has not brought a convergence of religious truth. It could be, as you say, that we just don't have the theories and methods of analyzing the landscape well enough yet to judge between them.

Or it could be that they offer nothing objectively testable or predictive and thus beliefs can co-exist without clashing (there's never going to be a showdown where we get rid of all these silly heresies).

In any case (answering my second point first), religions have not converged. At a time when there were many competing cosmologies, I think it would have been equally odd to take a stand for big bang cosmology because some minority said it was true. Now, knowing the field and then comparing competing ideas would allow one to be justified in professing belief in cosmology -- they have surveyed the landscape and made the best call they could (even better would be to believe with some sort of confidence interval).

This is where we are with religion, yet billions of believers are professing near 100% confidence in their beliefs without having surveyed anything at all -- apologetics, other religions, other holy texts, etc. And we are not living in the religious analog to big bang scientific consensus in order for that to allow hiding behind.

Lastly, there is far more practical (well, theoretically, but I'll get to that) baggage with religion. To profess belief isn't to accept simple things like "I'm here, and the big bang implies how I got here" (you already know your here -- how does the method it came about affect your life?). It's to profess things like bread turning into the flesh of a man, the state of an immortal soul, that the mind isn't what the brain does, and that we can know what god wants us to do with our lives by asking him to speak to us, and that we fell from a more perfect state by "sinning" among other things. There's waaay more baggage associate with professing religious belief compared to whatever you think led to our universe.

I said above practical yet theoretical because the above are technically what doctrine is supposed to require of its believers, but I doubt most of them think about these things to any degree. Thus, it's mostly going through the motions, social bonding/comfort/security, and feeling good by doing good deeds that will please the god they think is watching.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-05T18:23:17.777Z · LW · GW

I don't accept them as individually providing very much evidence at all...

Hard to tell what you meant. I didn't mean to ask whether you accept their belief as providing evidence for theism... only whether or not you think their belief is justified given the level of knowledge you expect from me not to believe.

Well it's a default explanation so I don't have anything for you specifically in mind.

But I still don't understand the meaning of that default explanation... and so I just meant "what types of things count as fitting the definition of 'largely-unconscious far-sighted social pragmatics'?" (I think you answered it in your next bit, though.)

But that you're a member of LessWrong means there's a fair bit of pressure on you to believe whatever LessWrong thinks it's good to believe...

My deconversion was significantly in motion prior to finding LessWrong (first doubts in Dec 2009, first comment here in Jan 2011, which suggests I might have found LW from this post from Jul 2010?).

...the actual deciding factors tend to be unconscious or sentimental drives.

How would I identify whether this is or is not the case, especially if they are unconscious?

I think this idea of a religion being true or false is clearly misguided; it's more a question of how you interpret the world and what institutions allow for more and more-justified optimization of the world, which is heavily contingent on pragmatics of human psychology.

I like how you put that, and thanks for the explanation re. Vassar and Tarleton. I definitely approached my "quest" with the primary focus of trying to determine whether or not there was a deity who cared what I did and whether or not the Catholic faith had something special with respect to such a deity's wishes/plans/texts/etc.

You continue to return to social/pragmatic aspects, which continues to leave me puzzled as to whether you think the Catholic Church's primary advantage is that it's most aligned with the wishes/truths concerning a god of some sort, or whether it's beliefs are just a side effect and what really matters is that it has the best social/pragmatic rules/suggestions for human beings of any competing religion.

This is why I emphasized social psychology and game theory, because doing thorough analyses of questions like these is simply too difficult.

Gotcha, and I'm glad they didn't seem difficult only to me :)

After reading all that, though, it still leaves me puzzled that a being who wants us to know about it would reveal itself (bible) in a time when we had none of these probability and game theories, and no formal study of social psychology.

After I had those I could look into Kant or Aquinas and be impressed, but I don't know if I would have realized the depth of their arguments if I hadn't thought about the moral philosophy and decision theory on my own first.

After reading this post, I think it would be fantastic if you simply laid out some x-part series here on LW specifying more about your current beliefs. At the moment, they seem paradoxically very strong yet vague. As in, you strike me as being rather confident in theism (or various theistic tenets) while typically offering very vague statements about specifically what they are (more on this in a different response, as it fits better there).

My read of this post/threads suggest that what happened is that you came out and asked "Why is theism wrong?" Then a bunch (like ~500) comments took place explaining various objections, and you concluded that everyone was attacking someone else's theism, which isn't what you hold or think is really theism.

Perhaps a new post with specifics might help more (or point me to more of that if it already exists).

Thanks for the dialog.

Comment by jwhendy on Theists are wrong; is theism? · 2012-03-05T18:01:31.544Z · LW · GW

Fair enough, and I've heard that before as well. The typical theistic issue is how to reconcile god's knowledge and free will, hence why I don't think we need to continue in this discussion anymore. You are responding to my questions based on things being determined, which is not what I think most theists believe.

This is why many attempts have been made to reconcile free will and omniscience by apologists.

But that's not the discussion I think we're having. It's shifted to determinism and omniscience, which I think is compatible, but I'm still not on board with some kind of mind that could house all information that exists, or at least that mind being consistent with what theists generally want it to mean (it caused the universe specifically for us, wants us to be in heaven with it forever, inspired holy books to be written, and so on.)

Comment by jwhendy on Theists are wrong; is theism? · 2012-03-05T17:43:55.371Z · LW · GW

Logical impossibility is a bad argument against theism, as it's possible to...

Good point, though my jury is still out on whether it really is possible to parse what it would mean to be omniscient, for example. Or if we can suggest things like the universe "knowing everything," it's typically not what theists are implying when they speak of an omniscient being.'s still unclear what you're inquiring about.

I think I'll just let it go. Even the fact that we're both on the same page with respect to determinism pretty much ends the need to have a discussion. Conundrums like how an omniscient being can know what it will do and also be said to be responsive (change what it was going to do) based on being asked via prayer only seems to work if determinism is not on the table, and about every apologetics bit I've read suggests that it's not on the table.

This thread has been the first time I think I can see how intercession and omniscience could jive in a deterministic sense. A being could know that it will answer a prayer, and that a pray-er would pray for such an answer.

From the theists I know/interact with, I think they would find this like going through the motions though. It would remove the "magic" from things for them. I could be wrong.

Comment by jwhendy on Theists are wrong; is theism? · 2012-03-05T13:48:56.090Z · LW · GW

True, but I more meant the idea of theistic intervention, how that works with intercession and so on. The world "knows" everyone's decisions... but no one intercedes to the world expecting it to change something about the future. But theists do.

I suppose one can simply take the view that god knows both what will happen, what people will intercede for, and that he will or will not answer those prayers. Thus, most theists think they are calling on god to change something, when in reality he "already" "knew" they would ask for it and already knew he would do it.

Is it any clearer what I was inquiring about?

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-05T13:48:26.850Z · LW · GW

Thanks for clarifying.

Comment by jwhendy on Theists are wrong; is theism? · 2012-03-05T04:34:47.957Z · LW · GW

...a high probability to it being omniscient and omnipotent, a fair probability to it being omnibenevolent...

I realize this is a necromancer post, but I'm interested in your definitions of the above. How do you square up with some of the questions regarding:

  • on what mindware something non-physical would store all the information that is
  • how omniscience settles with free-will (if you believe we have free will)
  • how omniscience interacts with the idea that this being could intervene (doing something different than it knows it's going to do)

I won't go on to more. I'm sure you're familiar with things like this; I was just surprised to see that you listed these terms outright, and wanted ti inquire about details.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T19:20:29.895Z · LW · GW

A very possible outcome. What's missing is what I pointed out above in my response to Dallas.

Nonetheless, it still strikes me as a complex situation and I'm not settled on how to judge potential future states and sum the collective happinesses of the stakeholders.

How does one factor in various happinesses, potentially negative views of myself and atheists in general, my childrens' development/emotional/intellectual health, and so on?

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T19:17:26.057Z · LW · GW

I could do that -- I wrote it in org-mode, which lets me export to nearly anything. I'll have to tweak some of the LaTeX specific stuff, but should be doable. Is it that the html version definitely displays in a browser vs. having to download a pdf if no browser plugin is available? Or to read on mobile devices? Just wondering what the appeal of html is. Thanks!

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T17:44:53.005Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the comment. As I put in the document, I'd like to move toward what I consider to be more productive endeavors, including diving in more fully here at LW.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T17:43:39.801Z · LW · GW

That's a good sign. Thank you for your donation of time and effort!

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T17:41:34.100Z · LW · GW

Gotcha. I'm still not sure my specific readership will say, as you put it, "An, an atheist -- tl;dr," but I'll keep thinking about this. I hoped it would be concise (not necessarily 1 page, but not 10, either). As with most of my things, it ended up much longer than I expected. Thanks for the continued input.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T13:47:24.583Z · LW · GW

Indeed, I'm no pro. Thanks for the clarification!

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T13:24:02.521Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the comment. Similar to atorm, I did think it was perhaps a bit over the top in terms of its optimism, but I appreciate the gesture.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T05:22:38.256Z · LW · GW

That's a good point I hadn't considered. Maybe I should stick to my overall plan and keep all reasons out of it. Your'e correct about my reason for including it; it was the major turning point. The point where I first questioned. I'll think more about rearranging or just ditching it and linking to it somewhere else.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T05:05:04.740Z · LW · GW

The conclusion was also written on the very early side :)

Re. the Outsider Test, one of the most eye opening things for me, albeit recently and much post-deconversion, was listening to an Islamic convert from Christianity (example). While I still might not agree with his reasons, it was enlightening to hear someone talk with passion, conviction, reasons, scriptural backings, and so forth about a completely alien faith... all while using the same language, emotion, and excitement that I did about my faith.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T03:57:02.006Z · LW · GW

I agree, and I was. I also started that first (naturally), so I think the idea of finally writing this was more dramatic to me at the time, hence what you're picking up. Hopefully the rest isn't like that (as much). I'll re-read with this in mind and try to be more natural.

Edit your first page until you can read it out loud to a stranger and have it sound like natural speech.

Well put, especially in terms of having something tangible to know when it's right.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T03:04:09.784Z · LW · GW

Huh. What, then, do you believe when it comes to a deity? I may have misread this comment, but it strikes me as saying that you're Catholic for pragmatic/social reasons?

Put another way: what of Catholic doctrine counts as as "largely some really tricky game theory" and what counts as actually true?

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T03:01:08.912Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the honest reply. You are probably much smarter/informed than I am (not stated in a negative/sarcastic manner at all; I really mean that).

I guess I expected you to explain what specifically convinced you...

I stated why I didn't do that in my document. I consider the aspect of relating to friends/acquaintances, mutual understanding/sharing, and simply coming out more important than risking 1) no one reading it to understand/empathize, 2) people getting upset, and 3) unintentionally kicking off about 100 email debates.

...this is clearly an important part of your life, you should be taking it at least that seriously.

Agreed, and so I invested two years of most waking thoughts on this. How does social psychology play into whether or not a theistic being is real or not? Also, see the apologist's turnstile (I'm the "John" mentioned, just as a neat tidbit).

On that note, do you express consistent dissatisfaction with your fellow Catholics on a weekly basis? I hardly expect that many/most/the majority of them expended as much mental and emotional energy into the study of religious apologetics as I did. If you don't accept my apostasy as legit, do you accept the beliefs of most of your fellow Catholics as such? They know less than I do and yet are (at least based on my surroundings of extremely devout (in the dedication-to-Mary-daily-mass-and-adoration-novena-saying sort of way) Catholics) more confident in their beliefs.

...the default explanation for conversion, i.e. largely-unconscious far-sighted social pragmatics...

Could you provide some more specifics? Like I want to sin or don't like my friends or what?

I think you'd have to be at a Michael Vassar or Nick Tarleton level...

And are they Catholic or non-religious? If non-religious... do you accept their apostasy?

I wouldn't be surprised if smart Catholic readers of your explanation for your apostasy felt the same way...

That very well may happen. was an easy read and kept me engaged enough that I didn't compulsively switch tabs or take a bath or whatever, which is a good sign.

Why thank you.

While I'm not smart enough to do it (yet), I would love to see a Bayesian analysis (since you mentioned it) on the probability that a god who values the salvation of souls in the highest degree would require the subject comprehension and intellectual dedication you demand to order to believe (or not). Or require the words of a book spread on foot as the only means toward knowing which specific god is real. Or even that given one true god, the other fake ones would also use the means of an inspired text to spread knowledge of themselves.

Or lastly, that the reading of another fasle god's text could prevent someone from having an inkling whatsoever of being wrong for the rest of their lives, even while having full awareness of competing gods/texts. This is the equivalent of saying that a human (for that's what the authors of non-true-god texts are) like Dan Brown could prevent billions of potential Christians from being so due to their encountering the DaVinci Code before the Bible.

ETA: Oh, and I meant to ask: feel free to provide links/references to what you find most convincing concerning theism.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T02:39:10.769Z · LW · GW

I just finished reading it, and I found it quite moving. It has a few minor syntax errors, but other than that it's good.

Thanks! I got some specific corrections from a blog reader; I'll update and re-upload the new version to avoid repeat corrections. Glad you liked it.

...your family is an order of magnitude larger than mine...

Well, community of religious believers. The family who will receive this, if any, is probably only ~20 strong. Which, in that case, perhaps I should wait until the next family get together to announce in person. Though, the best time tends to be at meal time, and the last time that would have happened, I got asked to pray at Thanksgiving because my family thinks I'm the "holy one." I didn't think it was the best time to deny or announce my nonbelief... so, embarrassed as I am to admit it, I faked it. Apparently, they didn't know the difference.

There's a danger that some people might find your document a bit, well, preachy...

Fair enough. My brother commented that it was "processy." I could see taking my explicit explanation of how I go about things as implying that however they went about their belief isn't as good as mine and thus they would deconvert if they investigated as well. I'll keep that in mind.

Many, many thanks for reading the whole thing and providing input.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:59:54.239Z · LW · GW

Fair points. Did you read the document? Other than a handful, none of my footnotes are scholarly references.

Some of this is from a practical standpoint. I had coffee and dinner and lunch dates with many, many close friends/acquaintances to tell them in person. The community I was involved in contains some 500 people. I don't know if I can have such an interaction with all of them. I'll keep thinking about this point, though. Maybe this would be counter-productive.

ETA: Oh, and sorry... I didn't answer the main question. My primary objective is simply to inform all those who still don't know after two years. I was a member of a community and disappeared. I'd like people to know why, and not have heard via a telephone game. Those who are really important already know. Many beside that know me, don't know yet.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:55:15.642Z · LW · GW

Good point, though Catholics are (can be?) pretty darn mild when it comes to hell. My wife and surrounding community are super tame concerning things like that. There's no outright judgment, but they still probably pray for the future of my soul.

I also plan on opposing things that seem to be unjustified/unreasonable outright. Hell would be one. First communion at age seven is another example. No child can comprehend what they need to in order to profess that a wafer just had it's essence turned into the flesh of a non-physical deity while retaining all of its physical characteristics.

While things seem to be okay at the moment, we haven't crossed a time-sensitive binary option bridge like communion yet. Thus, I don't know what the reaction will be toward my resistance. My wife is very sensitive to her social environment and I think she will feel a lot of guilt and shame for not having her kids go through visible rituals like the sacraments (like everyone else's kids).

Not to mention, once they're at that age, all of our friends' kids will be receiving communion and ours will be sitting there. This will be a stab in the heart every single week.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:48:11.622Z · LW · GW

What about other options:

  • She doesn't deconvert. We remain married, happily.
  • She doesn't deconvert. We remain married, unhappily.

I also predict she could get an annulment pretty easily given my deconversion, which adds another option:

  • I divorce her. She gets married when she's ready and is not ousted from the Catholic community.

Also, it seems like you've honed in on the beliefs of my children and wife as the most important factors (with a side of my wife's future unhappiness, but I'm not sure if you counted that toward the weakening of overall religious influence). Do you think there are other factors to weigh?

In any case, I find the most valuable point to be your reminder to me that this is long term. I've tried to keep that in mind, though weighting near unhappiness vs. far improvement is definitely a potential trap. I'm 27 and thus probably do have more than 10 years.

Nonetheless, it still strikes me as a complex situation and I'm not settled on how to judge potential future states and sum the collective happinesses of the stakeholders.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:38:53.643Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the comment. I hope that won't happen, but definitely see your point.

Because you're implying that them being wrong about everything is possible.

Assuming you read it (or the first page), do you think that my paragraph about intentionally not offering any specific reasons will be any encouragement/enticement to stick around for the rest? I didn't add any arguments specifically because what you said above is so true. No one can listen or empathize once they feel the need to defend.

Also, given that many of these people really do care about my wife (and I), do you think personal connection would offer any additional incentive/motivation?

Thanks for the valuable input. My brother suggested that writing it for myself was perhaps the most valuable aspect of the document as well.

ETA: Having re-read the freethoughtblog post, I think I get it more now. It's not just the content... it's my existence as an atheist and admitting it that's potentially offending. To be fair, I did very much want to insert quite a good amount of hope and happiness toward the end to remove any views that to deconvert alone is what causes sadness/bad fortune, etc.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:34:13.270Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the comment. I kept some of the worst reactions from my religious acquaintances out of the document, by the way :)

I was surprised that Jesus not making more of a splash...

It wasn't, by itself. But consider someone with belief in belief, but who doesn't know it. Imagine the first time they encounter some belief that doesn't pay rent (say the bit about flour impermeability) and it brings down the whole thing. I actually think I had real belief... but I'm just illustrating the nature of what I think happened. Reading this bit about Jesus was the first time I actually saw that my religion might fall into the category of something to be examined, just like everything else. It was the first time I realized I had never researched it to begin with. Hopefully that makes more sense.

On it's own, it probably is inconsequential (many apologists have plenty of reasons for why Jesus wasn't more noteworthy). As the first chink in my armor... it was life changing.

How are you and your wife handling your children's (ir)religious education?

Good question. It's up and down. I advocate for raising them aware of religious beliefs, but not teaching any one of them as true. My wife is [obviously] more inclined to raise them Catholic, and sometimes feels very obligated to do so. Recently, she attended a conference for women in which the speaker made the point very emphatically that raising one's children Catholic was one's duty to god.

She came home and was very renewed in her conviction that this was her mission. I was very troubled by it, mostly because it felt like she had been invigorated to disregard my opinion and rights as a parent, not necessarily because it would have led to raising my children religious. She talked about the matter like it was a one-sided decision.

Subsequently, her trusted Catholic small group informed her that she didn't need to be this forceful and that she could just "live as a witness" and that would be fulfilling her duty. So... I guess we're back to where we started. My older daughter (3.5) does pick up quite a bit of religious stuff ("playing Mass," singing alleluia, etc.), but I think she just likes the ritual and imitating what she sees. I try not to worry about it even though it bothers me.

So... hopefully that paints some of the picture. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:21:00.752Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the note. Hopefully it will be well received by others. I've listened to Sweeney's main audio/tour/thingy (can't recall the name at the moment), but may have to revisit it again. (I noticed NancyLebovitz also mentioned it.)

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T01:17:14.523Z · LW · GW

This also seems like an odd, blanket generalization. We've had one set of interactions on one post... ever. How do you know what will happen in all my posts?

I was simply surprised that you'd think you obviously should have realized I had kids given that I was religious. And so I said something.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T00:48:37.076Z · LW · GW

Good point, and I am. I've cross posted at my blog where I have religious, non-religious deconverts, others in similar situations, and religious readers. I'll also be sharing with closer friends in the target groups for pre-screening. This was one of many places I wanted to turn for input.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T00:33:20.080Z · LW · GW

If you should have figured it out, and didn't, did learning so give you a dose of hindsight bias? I suspect that only after learning I had kids did it seem like a dead obvious fact that this was because I had a religious background. Now that you've found out, you will insist that I need to accept that the generalization was deserved.

Even if the two can be correlated (and that only even works with certain religious groups), I'm more commenting on the use of generalizations/stereotypes in general. Even if they're correct, it doesn't seem to add anything to point out someone meets it.

For example, what if I told you the timing of my children had nothing to do with my religious beliefs?

Lastly, pick a demographic typically associated with drug use. Should someone confide in you that they did drugs, would your next comment be, "Oh, I didn't realize you did drugs. Should have figured it out, given your age/race/sex/etc. combination?"

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T00:06:33.399Z · LW · GW

Oh, I didn't realize you had kids. Should have figured it out, given your religious background.

Might I suggest you work on your tact in human interactions?

Re. a split simply in the proximity sense, that did occur to me/us during a particularly low point -- mostly from my wife in order to help me figure out what I want. I think if I were in a lower emotional state, I'd consider that option more.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-04T00:01:48.320Z · LW · GW

Got it; I read in haste then. My apologies.

Comment by jwhendy on Request for input: draft of my "coming out" statement on religious deconversion · 2012-03-03T23:39:55.848Z · LW · GW

Thanks for reading it. I can export from org-mode into open document format and probably upload it. I'll get back to you if I do so. Many thanks for the proof-reading offer!

that was a fairly enjoyable read...

Anything that would make it more enjoyable? Or any examples of what mad it "fairly" enjoyable vs. "very" or simply "enjoyable"? (Just curious.)

Same for the comment "...will probably do what you want it to..." is that simply based on not knowing my exactly situation or due to some particular content that has you hesitant about saying it will do what I want it to? (Just inviting specifics if you have them; if it was just a general impression, no worries!)