It's been a while since I've posted. I've decided to set some goals for my "quest"... and then accomplish them.
Much of this renewed vigor came from some requests for advice from various sources. I primarily asked for comments regarding the petrified-ness I experience when we have to be among a lot of members of the religious community I used to participate in (and with which my wife is still involved). I hate the idea of my non-belief coming up and starting an uncomfortable discussion, people learning about my non-belief "through the grapevine" and being offended that I didn't tell them, or entering into pointless and heated debates.
Probably the biggest suggestion I received was to finish "my statement" and make it available as a quick way to get out of a sticky situation. In other words, instead of having to risk a pointless debate, when asked what prompted my non-belief, I can simply respond, "Why don't I just send you my summary when I get home?" That way, there's no face to face pressure of thinking one of us needs to be conclusively demonstrated to be wrong right then and there, and they get to read my reasons at their own pace and without feeling like there needs to be an immediate rebuttal. Also, this has the added benefit of allowing lots of sources to be provided, since in face to face debates I often find myself stating something, being challenged, and then being without computer access to show them my source. This makes one look foolish, but then again I don't think it's reasonable to be expected to have a mental catalog of everything you've read ready for quoting!
This re-energized me to finish THIS.
And that led me to want to re-attack THIS. Finishing that list will help with a lot of things. I want to read those books anyway, just to know more, but it will also be something tangible to point to when challenged about being biased concerning my information uptake. My wife likes to point out that I read solely atheist blogs, which is true. On the other hand, she doesn't read non-devotional materials, believer or non. If she did, I think it would be more apparent that it's pretty difficult to read either side without being made aware of the other. Yes, you're primarily hearing the "last word" from someone on a certain side, but it doesn't mean you're ignorant of any and all apologetics offered by "the other side." For example, you're not going to google "the problem of evil" and read an atheist's discussion of it without hearing mention of the free will defense, soul-building defense, or the like from the theist's position. You may read it such that the atheist addresses those responses while you don't get to hear a theist's responses to those counter-arguments, but I think there's definitely some credit to give to anyone intently reading anyone's side of the issues.
Anyway, the point is that if I can polish off some more books, at least I'll be able to point to a set goal I've met regarding the reading of both sides of the story. I think I'll be changing some of those books. A lot of them aren't at the library, and I don't want to buy them, either.
Also, I've pretty much fallen in love with LessWrong. That sounds odd to say, but it's true. People are so supportive and caring when needed, and quite admirable in their discussion of topics with one another -- seeking to offer counterpoints and challenges and striving to agree on the best possible approximation of The Territory. I also just love the content and approach of the posts. Eliezer Yudkowsky (site founder) is a pleasure to read and I always learn something or see something differently when reading his posts on how to be more rational.
I want to think better. I'm want to have the most reliable approach to evidence and the world that is possible. As such, I've committed to reading through some of the sequences at LW, particularly Map & Territory, Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions, Reductionism, and How to Actually Change Your Mind. I'll be taking notes through these and will probably blog my notes. Following reading all of these is when I'll re-start my book reading.
So... there you have it. When I finish the LW posts (with notes), my book list (with notes), and final statement... I think I'll be about done :) Once those are out of the way, I may very well concern myself with other things as best I can. I'm about tired of thinking about religion and god all of the time. I've tried, and think I've tried fairly valiantly to pursue this area. Should I finish the above, I think my attempt will have been even more valiant. At the end of the day, though, I want to get on living and making an impact, and don't think that my religious beliefs actually affect my potential for impacting the world much at all; it just affects the lens I see through while going about actually "doing."