I have a new series of posts in mind.
Nassim Taleb gave some advice to a friend. I am borrowing that advice. He recommended reading Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. (I am also borrowing the actual book; my parents had a copy. Thanks again.)
She understands that religion is mostly an emotional-aesthetic commitment and one that is shared with other people; it becomes a collective commitment. It is not about belief, but about trust. It is not a desire to be fooled by randomness by seeing false patterns (or, as she explains in her Great Transformation, it ceased to be so at some point in the sixth century BC). I am ashamed to say that I was initially reluctant to start reading it because she was not an academic/dropped out of an academic program –not realizing that it is precisely because she is not an academic that there is no single fake bone in her work. I felt guilty and silly at my neglect: the book had been staring at me since 1994. And there is this nagging feeling: How many other people have I ignored based on the same idiotic criterion? (source, #81)
From the jacket of her book:
Any particular idea of God must – if it is to survive – work for the people who develop it. Ideas of God change when they cease to be effective. The concept of a personal God who behaves like a larger version of ourselves was suited to mankind at a certain stage but no longer works for an increasing number of people. Understanding the ever-changing ideas of God in the past and their relevance and usefulness in their time is a way to begin the search for a new concept for the twenty-first century. Such a development is virtually inevitable, because it is a natural aspect of our humanity to seek a symbol for the ineffable reality that is universally perceived.
I think this new concept of God doesn’t need to rely on superstition or on the supernatural. I don’t even think this symbol, however we point at it, needs to be given agency or authority. And if we do it right, I think we will be able to test it.
It’s actually an old concept, something we’ve been wrestling with since we’ve become conscious of our motivations.
Here are some ideas and titles I’m working on:
God: From Magic to Motivation
A Brief History of God, and Possibly, Motivation – a look at words and meaning
Religion as (Cultural) Redundancy, and all the more important because of it!
Part 1 – Multiple Conservatives, the Dangers of Optimizing
Part 2 – Separating Church and State, Separating Hero and Nanny
Burqa, Panentheism, Responsibility – an examination of what has implications for our behaviour
Can we Do without Religon? – a look at a Jared Diamond talk
The Myth of Violence - TED talk with Steven Pinker
Marvin the Android (from the HHGtotheG), and Being Smart Enough to Pick your Programming
Myth as Reinforcing Critical Thinking – Inspired by Dale McGowan’s family and Santa Claus
William Lane Craig Confirms My God
Skepticism and Associated Learning – a look at how we manage Patternicity
The Myth of Growth – The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function
Ultimate Complexity and Cultural Regeneration – I’ve been Reading Shantaram
A New Ataraxia - the inner peace from the skeptical suspension of belief and disbelief, or, not filling holes with ideas just to say the holes are filled.
What do you think?
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(Note: I think I’m developing a potentially unhealthy bro-crush for Nassim Taleb. I want to write a song based on his ideas. Do you know the song “Synchronicity” by The Police? I want to find a karaoke version and put over-top of it a tongue-in-cheek ditty called “Platonicity” or maybe “Patternicity”… any ideas or help with lines would be appreciated…)