#### If God doesn't exist, why did He talk to me last night?

This is a reply to the question, embedded as a reply to both atheists and theists. I also had the experience of God talking to me, and I would like to say right off the bat that I was a confirmed and practicing atheist for all my life, until the age of 30, when this happened. I would no longer describe myself as an atheist, but the funny thing about this is that none of my factual knowledge about the world has changed in the transition. I didn't start believing that the world was created in 6 days, or that there were any supernatural events in its past, or that anyone came from the dead (in the material sense), or a virgin birth, or anything like that. But I understood why people would find it important to lie through their teeth and say that this stuff happened, and keep lying in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. God is important, and to some, it is more important than scientific truth. I don't believe the two concepts are contradictory, because I think both are true, and truth doesn't contradict other truth.

So although I get the concept of God, I don't believe in any of the dogmas of religious authorities. I support gay marriage, and I like religious rebellion, people finding new ways in response to new circumstances. I will not accept a religious authority telling me what God thinks, or that any text is infallible, because I don't believe in infallible things in this world.

But I get the whole God business now, where I didn't before, so I feel I can speak to atheists in a way to make the whole thing make sense to them, in a way that other people of faith cannot. Because I know what the problem is--- the problem is not God, it is the supernatural picture of God painted in the fairy tales in the Bible.

God is not supernatural. Nor is God even particularly counterintuitive. it is a description of the universal ethics, as (correctly) personified in a super-smart individual, which makes decisions on right and wrong. God is described as omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. It is more precise to say God is impotent, unchanging, and abstract. But, though the actions of people who have faith, God can work certain types of miracles. Miracles like toppling the Roman empire and getting rid of human sacrifice. Miracles like abolishing slavery, and instituting charity. The world with religion is slightly better than the world without, although the world with a future religion, I hope, is better than the world with the present religions, which are authoritative, and generally require you to check your brain at the door.

First, I must pause to say how my religious experience came about. I read The 120 Days of Sodom, by Marquis de Sade. The reason I read this work is because I read a longish short story by Sade, which was, to my mind, the first transgender story ever written, and I became compulsively interested in the how the 1790s allowed a story like this to get written, a story which better belongs in the 1970s. Sade is a fantastic and engaging writer, writing full-blown 19th century style at the end of the 18th century, except he is more taboo-busting than any of the Brontes. He is more subversive than any literature before or since, with the possible exception of some pamphlets in the 1960s (like the SCUM manifesto, or the Discordianism documents), which lived on in the 1990s, on usenet. The general pattern of taboo eradication on usenet was what led me to Sade. I needed to know how someone could be writing usenet at the turn of the 19th century. Sade is writing during the pamphleteering era, the French Revolution, and his writing is in a society where free speech is new and celebrated, the more free the better. In this sense, he is writing on his era's usenet.

Anyway, while reading Sade, one has a disorienting psychological experience. He tells you of debauchery, sexual stuff, and horrific crimes, side by side, and mixes it with the most authoritarian of totalitarian power. He links the sex impulse and the authority impulse, and enhances the link. The sexual things become more and more depraved with each page, and the authority becomes more and more totalitarian, until he is describing outright sex murders, and complete and total dehumanization of both victim and perpetrator.

The funny thing is that you don't become titillated (at least, I found it impossible to find it sexy), because Sade engages in authorly tricks. He has a bowl of human feces, which, whenever something the least bit titilating is happening, somebody grabs a turd from the bowl and eats it. It's like the treatment in the movie "A Clockwork Orange". Every time something sexy is happening, it is mixed in with a crime, and with the eating of a turd, and you get this nausiating mixture of sexual thoughts and revulsion.

By the end of Part I of the book (the only part fully written), I was physically sick. I had a headache and a stomacheache. Reading Parts II,III,IV took a very short time (they are only sketches), and it didn't help, the nausea and headache just got worse. The problem for my atheist mind was that the absurdly cartoonishly abhorrent ethically behavior of the villains is combined with insanely long rationalizations, which individually are not enough to persuade, but which in their self-consistency and length, are genuinely persuasive and get you to think the way the villains do, so that you understand exactly why they think they should continue to behave in this terrible way.

I will give an example, although I can't do justice to Sade:

Innocent: But if you kill a person, you will feel guilty. You will have pangs of guilt and suffer from your conscience.

Villain: Ah, that is true for the first murder. This is why you must not stop at one. You must continue to murder, and murder more, because with each victim, the voice of conscience diminishes in amplitude, until it is thoroughly suppressed, and then you can continue to murder with no feelings whatsoever.

Innocent: But surely your victims desire to live outweighs your desire for amusement?

Villain: This is only so from a false point of view. Why should my amusement be beholden to any restrictions from my victim? My victim is but a plaything, and has no power to manipulate me, except to the extent that I grant this right. Why should I, the strong, grant this right, to this weak unworthy creature? Why should I not take what is rightfully mine, as the strong, and amuse myself with this creature's death? It is only superstition that prevents you from doing so.

Innocent: But what about the voice of God, that calls to you to respect your fellow brother?

Villain: What is this voice but superstition? It is just a fable made up by the priests to amuse themselves by gaining their powerful position. They will just amuse themselves with their own crimes, and let us amuse ourselves with ours. The only justice is that of strength--- let the strong rule.

And so on and so on. The same sort of thing is done in "Philosophy in the Bedroom", and "Justine"/"Misfortune of Virtue", and in many of Sade's short stories.

The problem is that the arguments are reasonable, and they carry force of logic, in that it is consistent to believe these awful things. And yet, as a human being, it is impossible to believe these things. Your mind rebels, and the rebellion makes reading Sade (at least for the atheist) a torture, it feels like your soul is being murdered by the logic of the villains. When I went to bed that night, and I tossed and turned, horrified. Could the world be like this? How could the world be this way? And yet, it seems that it is. This state is what Christians describe as Hell, although I would have called it moral anguish, it is the same thing. Sade is writing science fiction of a sort. He is describing a world without God.

I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling of a comforting presence, which was assuring me that the descriptions in Sade are just not so, that this is not the order of the world, that it is just a lie. This feeling was that an external agent was calling me, telling me it would be ok. I am not delusional--- I know that there was nothing there in any physical sense, that anything I felt or percieved came from my own psychology. But this thing is universal human psychology. We all have a little antenna inside our head that can hear the word of God. It has nothing to do with creating the universe, or putting animals on a boat (although these are nicer kid-friendly illustrations of the concept than Sade's dugeons).

I am not talking about a literal antenna, it doesn't work by radio waves, it's a moral antenna, and it derives it's wisdom from experience and collective memory, shared through our cultural stories. But the guidance comes nonetheless, and it comes with a force, and it is only when you really reject this guidance, if you are a real atheist, if you are one of Sade's villains, that you understand what God means, and what it means to reject it.

In human history, only nietzsche attempted to reject God for real. I don't like nietzsche, because he is ripping off Sade. Except unlike Sade, he takes this contemptible world-view of the villain seriously, nietzsche isn't trying to show you the absurdity of the philosophy. This is why Sade was considered "The Holy Marquis" in his time. He was recognized as a writer of secular religious texts. If you want to know what God is, there is no better way than through reading Sade.

Sade's influence is immense. He essentially invented the psychology of the modern villain, the 19th century Gothic story, the horror genre, and he was an important precurser to psychopathia sexualis, the study of sexual fetishes that eventually led to the Kinsey report and the sexual liberalization of the 20th century. The 20th century genre of film-noir also ows him a great debt, as noir also is the science fiction which asks "what would it be like in a world without God?"

The feeling of God is distinct from the reality of God, and it is not enough to say one feels something to explain why it is true. You can feel a lot of things that just aren't so. I will argue that God is not one of these false intuitions. But as this window is unbearably slow, I will do so in another answer.

The collective mind of human beings created the most terrible societies of the 20th century. It is the individual with his concepts of right and wrong who has to resist the instinctive urge to join the group. A good example is a teenager who is participating in ostracism of his friend just to feel he belongs.

Being religious mostly means to feel belonging to such a group, it has nothing to do with your notion of God. Where I live most religious groups are promoting the idea of Holy war, while most secular citizens are looking for compromise and peace.

Your definition of being religious is in complete contrast with my examples. Maybe it is useful for you but it can not be used globally.

Yes, this is why I am not a member of any religious organization. But if you look deep inside their religious texts, this is what they are talking about.

The collective mind of human beings is not God, it only becomes God in the limit of infinite time, and with everyone behaving superrationally perfectly. It is never realized in the world.

You are a genius, Ron. You probably don't appreciate it, cause that's the way we all are, we don't appreciate things that look trivial to us. I hate to see you mind wasted on conspiracy theories. This preoccupation is not only a waste of time, it compromises everything else you do and it will be used by your enemies. But this is another topic.

A couple of points - Sade psychology - There is a strange (to me) phenomenon that a person suffering from psychosis can "infect" others in their proximity with their disease. This is, as I understand it, not a literal infection where the "normal" person becomes psychotic too, but rather that the unreasonable and outlandish beliefs and actions of the psychotic person start to seem reasonable and believable.

I suppose it is a form of brainwashing. Trying to understand another person's mind necessitates opening yours to the extent you have to almost believe what they do, thus reality has to take a back seat for the time being until your mind works out what is feasible and what is outlandish.

I believe that is what happened with you when "god" calmed your confused and disgusted mind after reading Sade. It was merely your inner good sense reasserting itself.

The other point I would like to make regards Pantheism, I'm sure you know this is the belief that god exists in all things, and is everywhere and has many names, including "Mother Nature" as well as all the other religious names given to a controlling force, or many controlling forces in the universe.

As I understand Pantheism (I am open to correction) It is merely a "rose by any other name" and as such, there is no such thing as an athiest belief, as even the most hardened athiest would accept that "something" happens and causes something else... the big bang, etc. We athiests don't call it "god", but "the unknown" "science" or "gravity" or "time/space contiunum" or whatever. But should all these events be given the name "God", then we are all believers!

I don't claim that the "God" that calmed me down was any different from what you call my "inner good sense", but that the notion of inner good sense, if made mathematically precise, is equivalent to an external benevolent infinitely large intelligence. This equivalence is the reason people become convinced of the existence of God, and since it is equivalent to a self-consistent "inner good sense" to believe this thing, I can't say they are wrong. They are only wrong to attribute supernatural feats to this thing.

I take your point here but isn't this Panthiesm (not that it matters particularly). Incidentally I am open to correction but wasn't Sade imprisoned for his perversions? Thus he WAS a villain!

I wonder if brainwashing through the medium of "characters" is not still to be considered brainwashing?

Pantheism is not exactly the same, because I'm not saying "God is the universe", or "God is in this rock", rather, that God is an abstract very large intelligence which belongs to the realm of pure mathematics. Whether you say "God exists" or "God does not exist" is similar then to asking "Does pi exist" or "Does pi only come into being as we calculate it". The question is meaningless from a positivist perspective, since it has no bearing on the senses.

The notion of "pi" is relatively good analogy, because we learn more about pi through calculating it. A rock isn't calculating pi, so if you said "pi is the rock", you would be somewhat disingenuous. It's not calculating anything.

The same way, God is something that we come in contact with when deciding how to act ethically in large collective games, and then you become more aware of the concept as you make a self-consistent ethical system. The method for producing such a system is to imagine the limiting intelligence of all the collective computations bundled up into an enormous computation which knows everything, has a will and desire, and tells you what to do. This conception is the idea of God. It's not more complicated than this. It's not supernatural, and the description of it as supernatural made me miss out on this insight until I read someone who separated ethics from supernatural stuff, and this person is Sade.

Sade's criminal activity is dubious stuff unreliably reported--- it mostly consisted of reports of overly rough S&M games, and some brothel personnel who were completely freaked out by this stuff. The activities were possibly exaggerated so as to put him in prison. The sex stuff was kinky, but I can't tell what was going on exactly, you see much worse consensual sexual stuff all the time. I have to admit that if all the accusations are true, such as inflicting injuries on unconsenting women, then he was guilty of criminal activity. I find it hard to believe he was capable of comitting actual crimes, based on the clear ethical understanding evident in his writings. If he was a criminal in his 20s, he certainly was not after he started to write, and perhaps his own writing led him to discover God too.

His later life, he was an upstanding citizen and participated in revolutionary government. In the 1820s, he was villified and suppressed, and by then, his writing was destroyed and censored. It is possible that he was more familiar with evil due to his abusive tendencies in youth, or his unusual sexual upbringing, but I suspect he was arrested because he was into perverted sex, and some of his partners were freaked out by it, and thought he was going to hurt them.

I like your conception of 'God'. However a quick couple of points:

- Why can't this 'morality' stem from the human psyche just as stems happiness, sadness, confusion, fear, goodwill, love, etc? Why does it have to be an agent distinct from the ordinary self that needs a separate concept and a name? What I mean is, when we are repulsed upon reading about 'wrong' acts, this reaction could be as trivial and rational as, say, a fear of insects as a result of an evolutionary mechanism--there is no need for this fear to arise from a "collective human consciousness" that guides us towards the right fear, similarly, why does morality have to stem from a source any different from the human psyche?

- Are atheists and Sade's villains then guided by "The Devil", which has its own type of antenna and guides one towards "immorality" as defined by collective memory and experience? In that case, why don't we attribute all human reactions to supernatural guiding forces? Invoking Occam's, is there a need to invent these entities of 'God' and 'Devil' at all?

- Further, when atheists speak of "being able to live one's live perfectly well and ethically without believing in God" they mean that one can go about one's life making ethically right decisions without ever questioning or acknowledging any guiding force behind these. Why is there a need to acknowledge this God? We are able to be creative without acknowledging an actually entity "Muse", etc., etc.

The reason it needs a separate name is because it is a separate concept. If you were part of a society that allowed you to actually see a torture-murder, you wouldn't be revolted! You would think the fellow had it coming, because when it happens, the society reconfigures itself to make it seem justified and normal. You only are feeling revulsion because the collective has internalized religious thinking already.

I didn't make a claim for the source, it is obviously consistent to say it comes from "the human psyche", except it's not the psyche of any one human, but the collective, and only in the condition that the collective behaves superrationally at all times, and it's really only God in the pure infinite system limit, assuming complete superrationality.

The Sadian villain Devil agent is simply described by Nash rationality. The opposition to religious thinking is simply rational self interest, nothing else. It doesn't make a "Devil" because it isn't coherent or consistent across many individuals to form an agent larger than one person, Self-interest is usually exactly one person wide.

That's not to say that there aren't little gods, like nazi-god, which are superrational inside their collective, but self-interested towards other collectives. Such things do make devils, collective agents rules by self-interest, but they are ultimately limited by the size of the collective, they are not capable of doing something new. So the nazis were defeated by bigger collectives that were superrational, both the westerners (who had religion) and the Russians (who had communism, essentially equivalent but not superstitious, and associated with a crappy totalitarian theocracy).

The argument about existence of God is the argument about the existence of a self-consistent limit of superrational game-play encompassing all situations. It is more involved, and I have made it in other answers on this site.

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The problem is that, after reading Sade, I saw that the villain's logic is also self-consistent, although ridiculous. I knew as a teenager that non-superrational Nash-rationality (or nietzsche/Ayn-Rand rationality) was self-consistent and foolish, but I had never worked through the implication of this self-consistency, or heard anyone argue the other side logically and forcefully again and again as Sade forces you to read. While feeling my brain revolt, I gradually understood the equivalence of superrationality and monotheistic religion, and I also understood that the superrational point of view is equivalent to a massive being with desires. I remained the same as I was in terms of understanding of the physical world, but I understood that the term "atheist" is generally applied to a person who rejects a self-consistent ethical standard for all people, something which is equivalent to a large infinitely intelligent being that knows everything and desires absolute good. They are equivalent concepts.

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The reason you need to read Sade cover to cover is to see that the position of the villain is logical. It is not at all illogical. There is no logical contradiction in torturing for its own sake, especially if you have power, and are guaranteed to never be in the victim's shoes. The Roman colloseum was perfectly logical--- entertain 1,000,000 people with the execution of a few slaves. The Comanche warrior ethos is perfectly logical--- torture your victims to instill terror and to increase your capacity for brutality. The recent CIA ethos--- torture people for information--- is also superficially logical. These things are not forbidden by logic, they are forbidden by self-consistency of the ethics.

There is no supernatural God, and most theists don't care about a supernatural God. The supernatural stories are a way to get people to understand the ethical God, and they serve no other modern purpose. If they did not serve this purpose, the supernatural stuff would have died out in the enlightenment.

If you don't obey God, nothing supernatural happens to punish you. But over time, God reveals itself in people's actions, so your actions will have magical-seeming consequences that will collectively ensure that your deeds will be buried, and those of the ethical folks will be selected for preservation.

For example, look at underrecognized physicists. These people worked very hard for no compensation (at least, no reasonable compensation considering how hard they worked, since they got no recognition). But in 2005, people made an effort to recognize the greatest of these--- Ernst Stueckelberg--- with a conference in Basel.

I have no faith in humanity, and no faith in supernatural events. I have faith that there is a consistent superrational ethics, and that collectively people approximate this ethics closer and closer with time, so the world gets better in the way predicted by the monotheistic religious texts. This is what it means to say "I believe in God" for most people of faith. Nothing supernatural, nothing more.

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The reason you need to read Sade cover to cover is to see that the position of the villain is logical. It is not at all illogical. There is no logical contradiction in torturing for its own sake, especially if you have power, and are guaranteed to never be in the victim's shoes. The Roman colloseum was perfectly logical--- entertain 1,000,000 people with the execution of a few slaves. The Comanche warrior ethos is perfectly logical--- torture your victims to instill terror and to increase your capacity for brutality. The recent CIA ethos--- torture people for information--- is also superficially logical. These things are not forbidden by logic, they are forbidden by self-consistency of the ethics.

There is no supernatural God, and most theists don't care about a supernatural God. The supernatural stories are a way to get people to understand the ethical God, and they serve no other modern purpose. If they did not serve this purpose, the supernatural stuff would have died out in the enlightenment.

If you don't obey God, nothing supernatural happens to punish you. But over time, God reveals itself in people's actions, so your actions will have magical-seeming consequences that will collectively ensure that your deeds will be buried, and those of the ethical folks will be selected for preservation.

For example, look at underrecognized physicists. These people worked very hard for no compensation (at least, no reasonable compensation considering how hard they worked, since they got no recognition). But in 2005, people made an effort to recognize the greatest of these--- Ernst Stueckelberg--- with a conference in Basel.

I have no faith in humanity, and no faith in supernatural events. I have faith that there is a consistent superrational ethics, and that collectively people approximate this ethics closer and closer with time, so the world gets better in the way predicted by the monotheistic religious texts. This is what it means to say "I believe in God" for most people of faith. Nothing supernatural, nothing more.

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I can't use a different word without denying credit to the ancient folks who clearly recognized this very concept.The ethical God is so parallel to the supernatural conception, that I think it would be a mistake to try and claim that the idea is new.

You must understand that ancient Judaism and ancient Christianity both denied the supernatural--- in the early middle ages, both declared that supernatural sooth-saying, astrology, card-reading, fortune-telling, magic rituals, and so forth, were banned really because they don't work. This is said clearly in the Christian and Jewish liturgy. The idea that supernatural crap doesn't work is a midieval idea, and it was a consequence of having a monotheistic religion that removed all aspects of God except the ethical one. This is what you read in early Christian liturgy, ethical God, not supernatural God. The supernatural stuff ends with the end of the Bible.

So I cannot honestly say that this idea is new--- the monotheistic ethical idea is that the ethics consistency is equivalent to declaring it to be the will of an all-knowing agent who desires absolute good. This is indeed a consequence of making a community of superrational persons, and having them decide on a self-consistent superrational ethics. The community becomes a new organism, a little god, and over time, as communities interact, they make bigger and bigger gods. The notion of the almighty God is that there is a limiting conception, where all the communities join together superrationally into one gigantic all-knowing intelligence, and this conception is not magical, or implausble, it's just hard to recognize and hard to communicate. The religious traditions just make it easier to communicate the idea quickly.

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I replied above--- the problem is that "atheism" has two meanings: rejecting the supernatural (good) and rejecting the universal self-consistent superrational ethics (bad). Superrational behavior is essential, and without accepting this in all it's glory (which involves a personifiable will that decides right and wrong in all circumstances, and has preferences and utilities like a human, and desires absolute good), you easily can fall pray to prisoner-dilemma type constructions by social forces to make you behave unethically. This is not some abstract consideration--- it's the daily question of whether to give a guy on the street a dollar, or whether to write non-free software, or to make a software patent, or whether to vote for a politician that supports torturing detainees.

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Atheism might have only one meaning, but God has several. I am saying that a proper superrational consistent transferable formulation of ethics is largely indistinguishable from the classical monotheistic conception of God shared by major religions today.

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This is what I thought too, for a long time, this is why I was an atheist--- I didn't recognize that the church-going folks were talking about this thing that is true, I thought they were talking about superstitious nonsense. They aren't. There are superstitious things that go along for the ride, but they are propped up by association with ethical God. Without this, the superstitious ideas disappear due to their own falseness.

To see that the ideas are the same, read the early Catholic liturgy, their statements, seemingly out of nowhere, about what the holy spirit desires don't make any sense--- how the heck do they know what the holy spirit desires? It is because they standardized on a superrational ethics through adopting the Jewish bible, and new testament documents that described how to spread the monotheism through the Roman empire. Because they standardized, you needed to hew to the standard, so it has to be persuasive and easy to follow. They changed the interpretation the old testament to get rid of the flat-Earth stuff (which wasn't hard), they renounced strict Mosaic law to allow easy conversion without undue burden among illiterate people (and also, Mosaic law is kind of primitive), and they reinterpreted the prophecies about the messiah as those applying to Jesus, a spiritual leader, rather than to a militaristic leader who wins in a battlefield. They then made a community where you needed, as part of the superrational ethics, to just accept these documents without amendments and without question, because they knew that if you are allowed to amend religious documents, the powerful people will put in exceptions and water down the ethics, to fit existing practice. It would become "love most of your neighbors, except the slave being executed in the colloseum". Or "the rich man cannot enter the kingdom of God, except of Caesar, who can." And so on. So they standardized and said you can't touch it, it's the word of God, and this convention preserved the documents well. This is also true in Judaism and Islam, and all religions really. They want the ethical standard to be unalterable, which in practice means its just very, very, hard to alter. You need a huge supermajority.

To see that the God concept in the Bible and the superrational ethical God are basically the same concept, you need to know that the superrational ethics implies that there is a collective will, the desire for best ethical behavior in all the circumstances. This collective will unifies the community to act as one, so it can collectively do things that no individual can do, especially not a helpless powerless slave. The slaves who were part of the community, who took communion and became part of the body of Christ, could not only act meaningfully, they could continue to act long after their physical death. The Christians did this by canonizing martyrs after death as saints, giving them a spiritual afterlife with consequence in the real world.

They held feasts, and celebrations of the martyrs' life and works, and celebrated their life and martyrdom. They also canonized powerful people who sincerely converted, like Augustine, or Constantine, forgiving these powerful people of all their pre-Christian bad behavior, so long as their conversion is for real. The early Christians carried relics of famous martyrs, and this was the whole point, that's what makes it different from Judaism. The canonization process allows self-sacrifice to become effective as a means of social change, and allows martyrdom to pay off in the long run. Christ himself is the prototype of martyrdom. By showing martyrdom to be a valid and acceptable consequence of ethical behavior, the Christians explicitly made it clear that they do not expect victories on the battlefield. They knew the Romans would win in any military confrontation, and the Jewish wars showed them to be right. The Christians knew that, despite their loss in battle, they were still on the side of God, and they would still eventually prevail.

The Jewish religion wasn't standing stil either. The Jews also adopted a similar stance in the 2nd century, after the Bar-Kochva rebellion failed, and the true diaspora began. The Jewish martyrs of that era, Rabbi Akiva, and so on, were in every practical way parallel to the Christian martyrs of the same era. The Jews also proselytized throughout the Roman empire, but the Christians did it more easily and effectively, and the Jews decided they would live on as a minority faith, they would maintain the faith within a larger Christian culture. The Christians didn't bother them too much (at first), because they were both monotheists.

The religious folks knew they would still be opposed politically, and persecuted, but now they were in the more realistic position, where they knew that God is not something that would assure them victory in battle. So the Christians knew that people would be senselessly executed in brutal horrifying ways, so the Christians gave a guarantee--- if you are in the body of Christ (the congregation forms the body of Christ, just as the ethical folks form the superrational collective), then the body of Christ (the congregation) will give you life-after-death as best it could, it will ensure that your martyrdom will be known to all, and even if the details of your martyrdom are lost, there will be an awareness of the evil you faced, and the body will continue to struggle from within, until eventual victory, and you are never alone. You would communicate with the congregation through mutual awareness of your shared plight, and your mutual awareness of the superrational ethics.

The great victory came in the 4th century, from within, as Constantine was converted, and the entire Roman empire was now subjected to the religion of slaves. It was slaves who spread the religion up through the ranks, by persuasion and moral force, and by stories of martyrdom, it was not imposed through power.

If you think this stuff only happens in ancient times, the Marxists did exactly the same thing in the 20th century, with communism replacing God as the ethical standard to follow. The communists had their martyrs and saints just as the Christians did, and they also worked from the bottom up. In this case, the Marxists thankfully didn't impose their order on the whole world, because the results were similar to the Christian order of the middle ages, it was even more authoritarian than the Church. But its the same mechanism in the details, and the Christianization of Rome is an example of Marx's class struggle, where it ends in destroying the old ruling class.

Not long after the conversion, there were major irreversible ethical gains. A great Catholic martyr put an end to the colloseum, by martyring himself in front of an angry audience, protesting the treatment of the victims. The Roman colloseum is gone for good, nobody supports torturous public executions of people anymore.

The ethical gains continued throughout the middle ages, as spreading Christianity put an end to child sacrifice and ritual murder in England and Ireland, Judaism ended ritual murder among the Khazars, Christianity brought monotheistic ethics to Russia, and Eastern Europe, and a writing system.

The ethical gains were marred by Church corruption, which was always a problem the moment the Church had power. The requirement of confession gave the Church nearly totalitarian power, because the priests knew all about you from a young age, and could isolate subversives and heretics early. But then, with the emergence of a merchant class, banking, the Protestant reformation and the scientific revolution, you saw the Church sanctioning the same sort of public torture-executions they were built to oppose. The modern Christian faiths splintered off and decentralized Christianity, and you have the modern world.

I think that it is fine to standardize on a superrational ethics, but one must be aware of the importance of individual freedom, and to this end, one must make sure that the documents we sanctify today have the ability to both produce a realistic and relatively egalitarian economic outcome, and at the same time respect the fact that individuals are sometimes more right than collectives, that God isn't always on the side of large masses of people, sometimes its the large masses that are in the grip of a collective delusion. I don't have all the answers here, so I'll shut up.

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The question of whether God is 'external' or 'internal', it's essentially the same question as whether 'pi' exists or is discovered as we calculate it. The question is meaningless in the sense of Carnap, and I don't care which position you take regarding God, as they are equivalent. This is what logical positivism gets you--- an end to the senseless debates about whether something is "out there" or "made as we see it". One can't discuss this stuff sensibly without logical positivism.

Superrational ethics is not just ethics--- it is ethics with the requirement of logical self-consistency, justified by considerations of correlation between actors. This is not trivial to make mathematically precise, and the first mathematically precise description was given by Hofstadter in 1980, for the simpler case of symmetric games.

To give you an example: suppose that you and 20 other people all have a chance to drill for a rare mineral on your contiguous properties, and the mineral is shared, but you can't communicate for some reason, you can't tell what anyone else is doing, and you can't agree to share the profits, or do any coordination in any way.

Suppose that the conditions are such that if more than one of you drills, you will wreck the commodity, and you will only extract $1000 worth apeice before it is rendered worthless. But if exactly one of your drills, then this person will extract$10,000,000 worth of stuff. What is the ethical way to behave regarding this? Remember, you aren't allowed to share (this can be realistic if you replace money with some other less sharable commodity), and the problem is now well posed.

The economist's answer is that you all drill and get $1000 and that's that. The collective social usefulness of the$10,000,000 of material one of you could have extracted be damned.

The correct answer to this "Platonia dilemma" is for each of the 20 people to flip coins so that they have a probability of exactly 1/20 of digging for the commodity. No other answer is correct, this is the unique superrational answer (under these conditions, with all else being equal). If you show me a single system of ethics that explained that this is the correct outcome in this situation, I will accept that "superrational ethics" is just what people standardly call "ethics". I don't think there is a single person who showed that this is the answer until Hofstadter did so (although others stumbled on this independently afterwards, of course), so the notion of superrationality is new. Further, I don't think there are more than a handful of people who would actually flip coins in such a circumstance (and further, the requirement of flipping coins requires a superrational society at large, a sufficiently high confidence that all the other 20 folks are also superrational, otherwise the answer reverts to normal rationality), so that superrationality is not even well known at this point, except through the approximation provided by scriptures.

The result of superrational ethics is to bind collectives of people into communal entities that are thinking independently of any one individual, remembering things collectively in texts, and finding out new things by exploring and thinking regarding the tradition and the texts. The intelligence thus formed is an approximation to the religious notion of the ethical will of God, which is the limiting intelligence in a community with infinitely many people (or other thinking beings) which has been doing this for a very long time. The resulting collective intelligence is just as definite as an individual intelligence, except much smarter, since it "knows" all the circumstances involved. But you can't tell what the thoughts of this large intelligence is, except to the extent that you know the circumstances too, and have a good model in your head of this collective thing. You can sense what some of its desires are, and what it is "thinking about" so to speak. This is communal intelligence, and it is what superrational ethics allows--- it allows individuals to form a coherent collective, with assurances that people will work for a common good without punishment or reward. This is essential.

The idea of an overarching intelligent agent in charge of a system of ethics, the agent formed by the collective itself (sort of, the agent formed by the collective in the limit of infinite time and infinite resources, the limiting conception is important) is what is denoted by God in religious thinking, and I think it is wrong to take away the term from the religious folks just because they attribute supernatural stuff to it too occasionally. All you have to say is "Listen, God is not supernatural, God doesn't control the weather, or the orbit of asteroids, or work miracles, but we get your point about ethics". Then they will go along for the ride with everything you say (this is true from experience).

They might object to evolution, but if as you talk about evolution, you say "One is aware of the collective intelligence properties of RNA networks both in individual cells, and across cellular lines, and I know that the statement that evolution is mindless is a lie, as the process itself is intelligent by its nature--- any design is a process of evolution in the head, and all biological evolution is a design by a disembodied entity formed by the interacting species", and then they will be on board with evolution too, as even the Pope is on board now.

Theists are not objecting to evolution as Darwin described it, but to the mindless modern-synthesis picture of evolution by random spot mutations, by SNPs, something which should be acknowledged to be false given this decade's genome data (but Pauli and many others knew it was false in the 1950s, since SNPs would take nearly forever to evolve a mouse to a human).

But if you say "There is no God, so there is no planning in the genome", or "There is no God, so we should execute the mentally retarded", or "There is no God, so we shouldn't ask people to seek lifelong sexual relationships which are as permanent as possible", then they will reject you, and oppose you with supernatural stories, as perhaps they should, because God is a precarious concept, which barely survived even with all the supernatural bogeymen people made up to reinforce it.

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I do not have to work harder--- please try to think about how to generalize superrationality to cases with asymmetry (first, ignore history! You have to do this step by step). The result is that the superrational strategy is the game-theoretic strategy of all the players as a collective, maximizing the utility of an invisible non-agent, who is not playing the game.

This is a new result--- superrationality in asymmetric games introduces a new agent, whose utility is effectively determined by the individual utilities of the players (and self-consistency in the Von-Neumann Morgenstern sense). This agent is constructed to allow a superrational strategy, you can't produce a superrational strategy without this agent, except in the case of symmetric games.

What is this agent? Is it "real"? It has a consistent utility function for sure, so it can be personified as a person with wishes and desires, but it only "exists" in its effect on the superrational collective.

Now consider the case of different superrational communities playing games against each other. These communities play as one, according to the will of the superrational super-agent that is defined by their collective utility function, determined by their superrational ethics. I call each such collective agent a "god" (lower case g), and these gods play games with each other, when different agents of different superrational persuasion are playing against each other.

So you might think these gods might want to behave superrationally with each other. If you admit this, then you make a bigger god, from the collectives collecting into bigger collectives. These bigger gods are again only defined by the superrational decisions dictated to the players, or to the gods, from the superrational strategy. There is some freedom here, because the superrational strategy in asymmetric situations is not as rigid as in the case of perfectly symmetric

It is reasonable to assume that this process is convergent--- that this is a super-duper superrational utility function for all players, and all gods, that appears in the limit of infinite time and infinite systems. This notion of a super-duper intelligence which dictates ethics can be identified productively with the notion of God, or almighty God, you find in monotheistic religions.

The result of this assumption, which I identify with "faith in God" is that superrational communities can join together to make a self-consistent superrational system which encompasses all decisions, and all individuals in a self-consistent way. To find this strategy, we have to debate ethical questions, and figure out the self-consistent way to resolve them on larger and larger levels so that we get the optimal outcome.

These debates have been going on in religion. The atheistic examples I chose are not arbitrary--- in hitler's Germany, the retarded were executed, and the religious folks protested, putting a stop to the killings through public outrage. The superrational strategy does not allow such things, it does not allow you to execute retarded folks, even though there is no symmetry between them and the non-retarded. This is discovered through the incorporation of people into a superrational community without prejudice, another principle which is applied in religious texts.

Similarly, when you say evolution is "blind", you could make the same argument about your brain. Your neurons are also kind-of blind. They don't know what you want. But when they clump together, they become intelligent, as intelligent as you. Similarly, the RNA networks in cells are equally intelligent, they carry gigabytes of data in a random-access way, and they also bind together, through evolution, into collectives with some ordinary rational, and some superrational aspects (the difference between competition and symbiosis). The result are enormous computations in nature, of terabytes size or more, which are intelligent enough to put together a lion or a person, and this is a feat of engineering, which one must not attribute to non-computing machinary. All the cell is a computing machine.

I accept without question the modern identification of computation with intelligence, so to me intelligent design is the same as computational design, and the evidence for computation in the genome is undeniable. It is this that the intelligent design advocates are pushing, and this is just plain true.

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That's a nonsense question--- does pi "exist" when there is no one around to calculate it? The question is meaningless, it is an abuse of language in the sense of Carnap, so you can take any position on it, and I wouldn't be able to distinguish between them in any sense at all. This is why it is important to establish positivism before one starts such discussion, so that one doesn't debate meaningless things.

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My God is not just the superrational collective--- this is not "God", it's "god". God is the limit of "god" when gods collectively get big.

I don't say it exists separately from humanity, but I also don't say it doesn't exist separately from humanity. I don't admit that question, it is positivistically meaningless. Therefore I can agree both with an atheist who says that "God is a manifestation of humanity", and with a theist who says "God created the universe from outside". Both statements are equally vacuous to me, so I can accept either one without changing any truth value, just by changing internal philosophical gauge (like changing gauge in electromagnetism). When you are speaking in different gauges, you don't sound consistent, but you have to know the positivism and then you can switch gauges too. It's not hard, the idea is simply: only give meaning to those distinctions which can be empirically tested in principle, and try to put your thoughts in a precise language, like a computer language, to avoid ambiguity. That's logical positivism. It resolves all the "deep questions" of philosophy at one stroke, and that's what Carnap did--- he answered all the deep questions, and then was buried by philosophers,

Do I think that space-alien-folks will have a notion of God similar to ours? Absolutely yes. Alien intelligent robot-folks? Absolutely yes. Except both of them would probably speak in terms of superrational collectives, rather than supernatural agents, since the supernatural stuff is false. They wouldn't have a precise Jesus, or Krishna, or Hofstadter, but they would have something similar, depending on the history of their superrational collective.

Asking if God is separate from the people who discover aspects of God is like asking whether pi existed before we calculated it. For sure each "god" is not separate from the people who follow it, so Christian-god is not separate from Christians, Islam-god is not separate from Muslims, Jewish-god is not separate from Jews. But they all try to make a universal God, which is uniquely defined in the limit, so they should agree when they come together superrationally with each other.

It's not obvious that pi exists to infinite precision, by the way. It either does or doesn't depending on your philosophy. I suppose I should ask you whether the reals also "obviously" have a well ordering.

Here is the answer to your questions (which are not positivistically meaningless, unlike the first one):

1. Can your god be worshipped?

Absolutely yes, if you want, but it's really not my God, it's the same God religious people talk about. Really. You can gather collectively and discuss God, listen to folks who you think have a good mental representation of God, make statues and images that you feel illustrate aspects of God, sit and meditate with your friends trying to get awareness of God. You are trying to understand the self-consistent all-knowing ethics, that's all, and this can be furthered by any activity whatsoever that brings awareness to yourself and others, and does at most only a little harm.

2. Can you can pray to God?

Sure, you can pray to God. You have an internal model of God, and God will answer, in a sense, in that the model will tell you the best approximate answer you have. This will change with time, so it's not really God God, just an approximation, but this is what you are praying to, your best approximation to God, which admittedly is not that great, but what else you got?

3. Can it heal the sick?

No. God can't heal any somatic disease (as opposed to psychological disorder). Claiming that God can do this is charlatanry and scamming. What God can do is give comfort to the sick, and assure the dying that they will be remembered.

4. Does it meddle in the affairs of man?

Not by rearranging atoms. But the people who are aware of God are always improving their mental image of God, and create all sorts of different ways to serve God on Earth--- like joining together to eliminate slavery. So there are sorts of little gods aware of big God, who are trying to do all sorts of things, and these things are acting as agent of God (or not, according to whether the model is defective). Atheists can also do God's work: Richard Stallman is an atheist saint.

5. Does it offer the chance for eternal life?

I am not sure if this question is meaningful. Obviously not in this world, where we die. If it's in a "Platonic realm", then I would say all of the instances of you can be thought of as "existing" in the Platonic realm for "all time", if you like, or thought of as not, it's a meaningless question in the sense of Carnap. So I don't say "yes", or "no", or "I don't know". I say "This is not a valid question, it is imprecise".

But it definitely offers canonized people the chance for quite a long life, of deep impact, by transmitting their stories. That's not the same, of course.

6. Do you have a soul.

This is sort of a meaningless question, but it can be clarified like this: the soul is software, the brain is hardware. Software runs on hardware, but is abstract. I don't "have" a soul, in this sense, I am a soul, and this soul is not a noun, but a verb. We know what souls are made of--- they are made of bits and ops. All this is said modulo philosophical gauge, so you can say "yes", "no", whatever, depending on ontology, so long as you understand hardware and software, the distinction, and that you are software. This is the only gauge invariant statement one can make about the soul.

7. Are you a sinner?

Sort of. Since God is perfect, and you aren't, just by sitting here talking to me, you are missing out by opportunity cost of the ability to save 5,000 people through some action that is completely obvious to God, knowing all the circumstances, but not to you. Your image of God is limited. So yes, you are a sinner in this sense, of opportunity cost, and this is what Christians mean by this concept, "you are a sinner".

God doesn't know everything, everything, by the way, God just knows all the circumstances for every ethical decision. God doesn't need to know the outcome of truly random events.

But you aren't a freaking mass murderer, or anything. That equivalence of complacent inaction to horrible crimes was created for the Roman times, where just by being complicit with the Roman state, or by attending the colloseum, you were a mass murderer.

I think it is an acceptable hyperbole to say "we are all sinners." Especially in the context of Rome, where all those people sitting watching in the audience were all guilty of the worst crimes by complicity.

8. Did it create humans?

Certainly not in the material sense, we came from monkeys, who came from yeast. But the notion of the human soul, the software, evolving to approximate God, also has a parallel in the natural world producing stronger forms by evolution with computing elements, and this can be thought of as "directed" by God in the sense that it produces larger and large computations with time. The detailed answer depends on your philosophical gauge, but I think "no" is the best answer.

9. Did it create the universe.

Heck no.

10. Can my girlfriend by God?

Does your girlfriend know what to ethically do in all circumstances? Your girlfriend my be "god" of your collective of two, meaning that her decisions are at all times equal to the group decisions, and you have no influence on her in any way (I doubt this very much). But she can't be "God", because this concept has a limit of infinite numbers of people over infinite time. It's a limiting conception.

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The funny thing is that most theists, reading the same exact things, say: "Got ya. So you DO believe in God! Thanks for clearing that up."

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If I didn't associated "my" ideas with God, I would be the most egotistical idea-stealing thief in the history of ideas.

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Atheism can't have only one meaning, because "God" has many meanings, so disbelieving in it means different things depending on what you disbelieve. The notion of "God" is just a universal ethical system that is self-consistent across individuals, this concept is equivalent to a super-smart agent that knows all about you and everyone else, and has desires about how they should behave. These are equivalent ideas. So it is not possible to say "I disbelieve in God, and yet my ethics are the same", because the ethics themselves are tantamount to a belief in God. You can disbelieve in the supernatural stuff, however, without any effect on the ethics, and you can disbelieve in the "existence" or "nonexistence" of anything without any effect on behavior. The important thing is whether you act in accordance with a self-consistent transferable superrational ethics, i.e. in accordance with the will of a hypothetical being who knows everything and desires pure good.

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It's not exactly the same in fine detail, there are some nitpicky differences, but it's close enough that you can see exactly what the religious Yahweh worshippers mean, and that it isn't nonsense.

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I am not using the word God in any more metaphor than I use the words "Timothy Bushell". Both are collective entities which have a self-consistent world view and a utility function, desires and intentions. The only difference is that Timothy is a collection of neurons with punishment and reward through neurotransmitters, while God is an abstract entity formed from the limiting conceptions of infinite collectives of people behaving ethically. Both are just equally real. I don't believe it has a more powerful meaning than the one I give, this meaning is powerful enough--- it's an idealized all-knowing thing that wants you to be good and coordinates human action to reward good behavior without coercion.

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You are just as abstract as God. Which neuron is Timothy Bushell? In the same way, while no individual is God, the abstraction formed by collective ethical action is just as real and just as important as you, which doesn't make it real, because I don't know what "real" means beyond having empirical consequences that can be observed, which is true of you and of the ethical notion of God both.

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I am maddening aren't I. I do it on purpose, it's ethically required. I do not deserve to be clipped on the ear, I deserve to be thanked, and you will someday, although you don't really need to, because God has already done it for you.

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The problem is that in making "The humanity of Ron Maimon" precise, one is forced to imagine it as a shared humanity, extending to all human beings past and future, and corresponding to a limiting future conception of an infinite knowledge object which is only imperfectly realized or understood by Ron Maimon.

I would give it a new name: the transcendent superrational strategy generating consistent all-knowing algorithm for game-play, but the religious folks already call something nearly identical by the name "God", and it is stealing credit from them to deny that their conception, minus the supernatural bits (which they don't take too seriously anyway, at least not as adults), is nearly exactly the same, up to a choice of philosophical gauge. The equivalence is in the sense of logical positivism, and the conceptions are equivalent in the sense of logical positivism, so I can't say the religious folks are wrong, just that they are stating it in the most obtuse and scientifically unfriendly way one could do it.

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The laws need to be conscious of the infinite time limit of superrational behavior, and the only standardized way to talk about it right now is through religion. That doesn't mean one should standardize religious texts through government authority, that's a terrible thing, but it means one should try to secularize and understand the main point of these texts, which is important and true.

The main point is that ethical behavior is only possible if you try to imagine a self-consistent all knowning entity which tells everyone what to do. It doesn't mean that you know what this entity would be thinking, but you can get an idea from self-consistency, and symmetric superrationality, plus some heuristics whch are roughly encapsulated in religious texts. This process is neverending, but you need to start.

Without this, you can make horrendously evil laws, like the laws on euthenasia, or forced sterilization or other forms of eugenics. The modern civil rights movement and the modern social justice movements are born of the religious impulse, appropriately reconfigured for modern circumstances, and one needs to do one's best to understand it, although not to impose one's limited understanding on others, except through persuasion, where possible.

It is good to remember that eugenics laws in the United States were passed by Christian legislators, upheld by a Christian Supreme Court and accepted and supported by a Christian public. What happened to the religious impulse?

National Socialists were late-comers in this game; Hitler was so impressed by American efforts that his racial hygiene laws were largely modeled after existing US state laws.

Yes, the Christianity in the US is so often fake insincere nonsense. The US is a secular nation, and it had to recapitulate quickly all the lessons of the old world religious movements in its secular institutions, abolishing slavery, ending genocide, accepting redistribution, it's painful to recapitulate like this, but the rate of change is faster, so the US is about caught up now.

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If you think that there is a direct benefit to you, then you don't understand ethics. Ethics is when you do something against your self-interest, because it benefits "something else". This "something else" is the definition of God, and it doesn't need to exist in any way to make sense.

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That's complete bullshit. You can do things against your own interest, if they are in the interest of a collective you are a part of, if you are aware of this collective interest, and you have a sense of collective responsibility. It is a self-serving and false lie that people only act in their self interest, except in the tautological sense that you can define self-interest as how they act.

Acting against self-interest, for example, is why people hid political refugees against the nazis, and protested the regime, against their interest, because these people were killed. It is not an ego stroke, since nobody usually would know about it. It is acting against your self-interest because there is a greater interest that you are aware of, and that greater interest defines the will of God, in the limit of big communities and long times.

My definition is not obscure, it is the logical positivist core of the standard definition. Please learn superrationality, and it will become clear how a person can act agianst self-interest, and then please start doing that, when necessary.

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The "antenna in the head" is cribbed directly from Sade, although he called it something else, since it was before the invention of radio--- I think Justine called it a "receiver", and I had no idea what she was talking about or why the villain didn't challenge this "receiver" nonsense (I read the 120 days after Misfortunes), but when I got it, it all became clear.

Lets take this logically.

God talked to you last night, so today you put up a question on his existence on www.quora.com implying that God talking to you last night means God exists.

We dont know what God said, what was the pitch, tone, frequency of the voice you heard, whether there were any witnesses or audio visual equipment to reinforce or refute your statement, your hearing abilities, your psychological state before and after the experience, and how you got the ability to recognize God by his voice.

We shall ignore monotheistic God versus multiple Gods, or your personal beliefs.

Let us put ourselves in your ears.

1. I hear a sound
2. I hear a voice
3. I hear a voice saying something
4. I hear a voice saying it is God, or which something secondary event proves it is God's
5. Let me not listen to what it says
6. Let me not spread God's word
7. Let me ask a question on Quora

Judging by this forensic analysis as well associated doubts raised by my fellow humans (I hope!), it is quite likely that (in decreasing order of probablity):

1. you asked a provocative question seeking humor, mirth, lulz
2. your mental abilities are compromised that you think you hear God's voice but they are recovered enough then ask this on Quora (ignoring Reddit and Stack Overflow)
3. you are suffering from delusion (with swings and ups and downs in your condition)
4. you really heard God's voice and want to share this discreetly without provoking people to call you crazy

I am sorry. I really don't know the answer to this. No one really knows, even the ones who think they know. If I knew the answer to God's existence, well I would be smarter than typing this for you here.

If you do believe or were once trained to believe in a Judeo-Christian God, you may want to brush up on the Third Commandment though.

http://carm.org/exodus-207-do-not-take-name-lord-vain

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain."

God might decide to downvote you (if He exists).

It's not a voice speaking in tones. It speaks in pure emotions, but in a way that feels like an external agent communicating directly in your head. When you try to communicate in language with the thing, using reason, it goes away. I always thought to myself "If I shall ever talk to God, I will reason to God it's nonexistence", but the funny thing is, when it happens, you can't actually do it, because God goes away, and only comes back when you stop reasoning rationally. It's hard to describe, and it's not absolutely necessary for communicating the idea, which does not require any transcendent experience whatsoever, just an understanding of superrationality and the formation of intelligences from larger and larger collectives.

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Superrationality is a decision making procedure where you take into account the sameness of the decision making algorithm between individuals participating in the game, within the algorithm itself. It is described on Wikipedia, and in one of my answers here. In the simplest case, consider a situation where you and a stranger are in two rooms, you can choose between two options "C" and "D". If you both choose "C", you each get $1000, if you both choose "D" you each get$1, but if one of you chooses "C" and the other chooses "D", the one who chooses "D" gets $1001, and the one who chooses "C" gets nothing. There is a temptation here (although quite small) to choose "D" over "C", and in standard game theory, the "rational" thing to do is to choose "D", which means two rational economists walk out with$1, while two irrational people who think they are being instructed by a magical being in the sky to choose "C" will walk out with $1000. The notion of rationality can be defined as the game-theoretic rationality, in which case D is the answer, or you can say "wait a second, I am doing the same problem as the other fellow, our answers are going to be the same. Shouldn't I take this into account before I choose the options, and choose the option, which, if it were the same for every player, would make my outcome better?" Reasoning in this way is called "superrationality", and it did not exist as a concept precisely formulated before 1980, when Douglas Hofstadter formulated it, to express his annoyance with the standard game-theoretic answer, which is not only suboptimal for the two players, it conflicts with both intuition and the actual behavior of people in this situation (hardly anyone chooses D with a defection tempetation as small as$1).

So people can behave superrationally, and there is an ambiguity in the notion of rationality which consists of "how superrational are you".

Superrational players all play the same as each other, and so form a collective. The algorithm for a superrational collective is somewhat ambiguous when there is no symmetry, so that the outcomes are different between the different players. Then you can't be sure what the superrational strategy is supposed to be. Such a strategy can be defined self-consistently as a utility function (a will) of an agent that isn't present, but tells all the other agents how to play.

In order to make the best decisions for all games, the agent has to know everything about everybody and every situation. Then the decisions of this agent are the decisions that make the superrational collective "happy".

Superrational collectives can make larger games with other superrational collectives, and there is a notion of a limiting conception--- namely of the ultimate superrational strategy. This would be a constructed utility function (an abstract disembodied will), which tells everybody how to play, and knows everything about every situation, and desires absolutely good outcomes.

This entity is the concept of God that people acquire intuition for by ethical reasoning. The notion is well defined, it is abstract, and it is required for defining superrational strategies. The notion of ethical behavior, or even of collective rational behavior, is ambiguous to the extent that it depends on what you think about the existence of this God limit of decision making.

This notion of God is completely sensible, i think it is perfectly true, it has no supernatural component, and it coincides with the "voice of God" that religious people hear in their heads, as I know from some personal experience.

The agent can be said to "exist" or "not exist" independently of whether you follow the decisions of the strategy. You can say "God does not exist, and I will behave according to the will of the perfect superrational strategy", or you can say "God does exist, and I will behave according to the will of the perfect superrational strategy", and both positions are equivalent as far as behavioral outcomes, and so distinguishing between the two is meaningless in logical positivism, and is meaningless to me.

But usually, when people say "There is no God", they then use this to make rationalizations for them to behave unethically, by deviating from their best sense of what the best superrational strategy should be. This is why atheism is associated with unethical behavior (although not always, it is a tendency that gives atheists a bad reputation). The ethics are defined by constructing this limiting collective entity which tells all the ethical players what to do (through their construction of a superrational ethics, and their meditation considering what that ethics should say about behavior in this or that situation).

This idea, the idea of a perfect superrational strategy, is what religious people are talking about when they discuss God.

I should say that it is not clear that God is in favor of collectivism--- God's will might involve individualistic activity in those cases where an individual has an idea for something new, where other people just don't understand something that this person understands, so there is a reason to act in a way that is different from other people. That's not necessarily an anti-superrational action, although people tend to think that individualism requires a rejection of this superrational notion of God.

I think individualism and collectivism are really independent of the notion of God, you can use the notion to support either. But the notion of God is the collective utility of the ultimate limiting superrational collective, so it is somewhat collective in this sense, and it has been used in the past to suppress individual contributions which deviate from the mainstream, and I think that's a shame. But the idea is coherent, it's not superstitious nonsense, despite one's first superficial impression.

It always makes me wonder when I see a "witness" for a god, such as this, by an Anon User. It does seem a contradiction.

Anyway . . .

If your god talked to you last night, then that would seem to be perfect proof to you, but only to you, that your god does exist. None of the rest of us can confirm this happened. We have only your word for it. And I am perfectly willing to take your word that you believe this happened. But, as others have pointed out, there do exist other explanations for your belief.

And you need to understand that atheists do not have this subjective experience of a deity talking to them in the night. That absence is actually the first occurrence (or non-occurrence) that tends to confirm a lack of belief in any god or gods. (If people of faith cite a personal, subjective relationship with their god as evidence for that god's existence, then it seems fair that atheists should be able to cite a total lack of any such personal and subjective relationship with any god as one of the reasons they are comfortable with a lack of belief.)

The second reason, of course, is the lack of any credible, objective and verifiable evidence for the existence of any god(s) in the physical world, where there should be evidence if such god(s) did exist.

So, I respect your belief and do not question it at the personal, subjective, one-on-one basis you cite. It simply is not convincing to me,

While atheists don't normally hear a personified God, they can be induced to by reading the Marquis de Sade. I can speak from personal experience here--- after reading the 120 Days of Sodom, I could swear that God came down from heaven to talk to atheist me. I guarantee you this type of experience from reading this book cover to cover, taking the villains' arguments seriously. The book is designed to induce a religious experience in an atheist. So being an atheist does not innoculate you from hearing God, in fact, all it usually does is make you more susceptible to ethical backsliding by rationalizations coming from immoral people who want to institute an ethics of convenience which gives them power over others.

It's not god. It's your mind. You think someone(god) is talking to you, but it really is just your inner voice or something of that sort perhaps.

I don't find your question foolish at all. It may not be god, but it could be something spiritual that you felt last night. Or it could be as random as a thought can be.

It's not exactly your inner voice, because it can communicate to you larger ethical issues which you are not fully consciously aware of. It's like your mind simulating the collective intelligence, and deriving guidance from the effectiveness of this simulation, through pure emotional communication. it is not a delusion--- you do it too, everyone does it except maybe some hardened psychopathic killers, but you don't call it communicating with God, you call it listening to your conscience or something like that, even though it isn't purely from you, but enters through social collective mechanisms of authority. It is when the authority mechanisms conflict with conscience that the voice of God is most clear, because it is then clearly separate from social forces which push you to do unethical things.

Its easy to bash. I am going to suggest that we have an instinctive orientation toward behaving lovingly and selflessly - the voice of which is our conscience, and that when someone prays they are getting in touch with a part of ourselves that is perfectly attuned to the universe. In a sense, he was talking with God.

This instinct is more, because the thing one is communicating with is constructed through self-consistency and social knowledge to be a very wise thing, and in the idealization, and infinitely wise thing. It's perfectly reasonable to make a name for this large intelligence, and to call it God, but it is not reasonable to claim the laws of physics are suspended at any point.

That's normal. Delusion and hallucinations, this is normal in our society.

It's not a delusion, it comes when you are most lucid, and it doesn't come with a speaking voice, at least not in normal language. It communicates in vague feelings of comfort and assurance which judge your consideration of different actions, and it doesn't feel exactly like talking, more like nonverbal telepathy with a vast intelligence. It's derived from social feelings, sure, and it is all happening in one's head in the physical sense, but it is a mistake to call it a delusion, because the guidance is spot on for producing transformative social change, and no social change can come without this voice. This voice is what religious people call God, but some atheists, like Richard Stallman, hear it louder than the most devout theists. It is distorted in the texts, that people fail to identify this universal human thing, the ethical guidance from what seems to be without, with what the religious people call God, because this thing has nothing to do with the big bang.