When beliefs stop becoming interesting
Jonas Ellison

How is the god/non-god helping you. . .

…give more of yourself to the world around you?

I had solved the god-problem, for myself, over thirty years ago, and was contented and quiet about my beliefs and sources of belief. Yet, since 9–11, I became reengaged, with the main emphasis of, how can large swaths of people believe one thing while other large swaths of people can believe something very very different (politics, religion, internet facts and alternate facts, etcetera). I later gravitated to social media, and to talking with living breathing people around me, again, about long buried conclusions and about the source from which those conclusions were drawn. Fun.

…healing your insecurities?

The investigation of the source of belief, of naturally evolved cognitive mechanisms, and peer reviewed studies on Google Scholar for such things as belief mechanisms, comfort, insecurities, doubt and levels of confidence has been so rewarding. There are many claims about politics, religion and internet facts and alternate facts that can be fairly easy researched and being skeptical and learning better modes of critical thinking, and about natural human biases, and countermeasures to human biases have given me a better path to answering questions that are often answered with opinions online and in the news with peer reviewed studies on Google Scholar — it has been wonderful.

…live a more deliberate life?

The arguments for both sides of the god question cultivate so many more questions that are not normally asked! For example, someone might say, “Well, then how do you explain…” and you realize this is a position that you have not thought of deeply or researched before. Why is, or isn’t an argument a good and sound argument? After doing research about the human condition, or arriving at sound verifiable answers to some of these previously, and personally, untouched questions surely allows one to interact with their fellow humans with consciousness and intentionally hitherto unknown. It is like reading the treatises of the enlightened founding fathers, or some other great classical literature, and realizing, “Wow, these people have done a lot of deep thinking about many fundamental topics, and have amazing arguments for their positions!” I feel like the god/not god question can be a re-starting point for a path of personal enlightenment and growth.

…laugh more?

Being not in the middle of the letter “U” shaped spectrum for personal religiosity versus happiness is a possible advantage. Robust atheists, and the deeply religious tend to be more happy, so engaging in the god/not god conversation and reaching one of those positions may evoke more laughter. There is studies that show a negative correlation between religiosity and happiness within large societies (the more secular societies are the less dysfunctional and more happy — as an anecdote, think Iran or Syria versus Sweden or Denmark). This brings to mind the question — are those on the extreme ends of the political spectrum more happy about their position? See, something else to research just emerged from a previous question!

…love more?

I have learned to practice more love for those on the opposite side of the god/non god question, and in some cases of those on the same side which I think are traveling on the wrong byway. Although, I had engaged in the mind-experiment of thinking as peoples brains as a series of If…Then statements [or in a more sophisticated manner, the lack of free will, and that free-will may be only an illusion], over twenty years ago, when actively engaging with people who hold angry and absolutist beliefs, I have to practice what I believe! I have to practice thinking of them as victims of their circumstances, their upbringing, their biology and of their local social order. This forces me to try to attack ideas without attacking the people which hold those ideas (which is difficult for many of them, because for many they are trained to think of a subtle attack on their strongly held ideas is as an all out attack on them as a human being instead of an opportunity to examine the source of their own beliefs and of the other guys beliefs).

…cultivate more curiosity?

Absolutely. Trying to believe as many true things as possible, and as many untrue things as possible takes some work. Realizing that it as important to be skeptical of any belief you hold as well as the beliefs others may hold continually requires critical thinking and the examination of the sources of the beliefs of others and the beliefs of one self. “Why do I believe this?” can lead to introspection, research and analysis which can lead to more robust and fact based positions which are much more satisfying and rewarding.

…dance with the uncertainties of life?

Learning that some people don’t know when it is okay to say “I don’t know.” has been fascinating. For me, the informal study of critical thinking, and better more efficient ways to come to more sound conclusions, sometimes by observing how others do not do this, have been very fascinating and rewarding. The different types of arguments, critical thinking, human biases, and all kinds of personally initiated mini-studies have resulted by engaging in the god/non god arguments! The continual seeking of truth, and the best methods to obtain the truth in an internet age where there are facts and alternate facts everywhere that are both represented as being true when one can not be completely true has been very rewarding and enlightening.

…bring more vibrancy, color and richness to your aesthetic world?

I have found myself looking up in awe and wonder at the clouds everyday when walking to work. The conversations have reminded me that, yes, I also experience awe and wonder even though others might be convinced, incorrectly, that this is impossible for me. The conversations often remind me of how easily it is to take this awe and wonder in nature and the universe for granted, and how nice it is to purposely put one’s self in a position where they shall experience those feelings of awe and wonder.

…create a warmer presence towards your family and neighbors?

I don’t see that it has increased the frequency of engagement with them, but during the engagements, yes, it has helped. I find I am more interesting in examining what they believe and why. I also find myself compelled to be engaged with them, when they parrot some position: engaged in some soft Socratic-method probing of the beliefs they hold, which helps them examine their beliefs deeper than they had thought about before. Very fun.

…solve interesting problems?

Solving interesting technical problems is a very large part of my job. I find the god/non god arguments help me to explore problems not at work but with my own thinking — in areas I find that I have not explored deeply, or that I have not explored for decades. It forces me to make arguments to others, and for myself, more carefully, and with more generosity more often. Also, engaging in the god/non god topic with others of an opposite view helps to sharpen your thinking on subjects other than the god/non god topic. It gives me the chance just to write for strictly my own benefit (I don’t image anyone else will benefit from writing this long boring and unseen book that I just wrote, for example, at least not anyone other than myself.), but writing for writing sake is constructive —it forces one to think for themselves and to make their positions more concordant with reality.

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