Do we have it too easy?

I am wor­ried that I have it too easy. I re­cently dis­cov­ered LessWrong for my­self, and it feels very ex­cit­ing and very im­por­tant and I am learn­ing a lot, but how do I know that I am re­ally on a right way? I have some achieve­ments to show, but there are some wor­ri­some signs too.

I need some back­ground to ex­plain what I mean. I was raised in an athe­ist/​ag­nos­tic fam­ily, but some time in my early teens I gave a mys­te­ri­ous an­swer to a mys­te­ri­ous ques­tion, and… And long story short, in­fluenced by ev­ery­thing I was read­ing at the time I be­came a the­ist. I wasn’t re­li­gious in the sense that I never fol­lowed any es­tab­lished re­li­gion, but I had my own “the­olog­i­cal model” (heav­ily in­fluenced by theos­o­phy and other west­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tions of east­ern re­li­gions). I be­lieved in god, and it was a very im­por­tant part of my life (around the end of high school, be­gin­ning of col­lege I started talk­ing about it with my friends and was quite open and proud about it).

Snip 15-20 years. This sum­mer I started lurk­ing on LessWrong, read­ing mostly Eliezer’s se­quences. One morn­ing, walk­ing to the train sta­tion, think­ing about some­thing I read, my thoughts won­dered to how this all af­fects my faith. And I no­ticed my­self flinch­ing away, and thought Isn’t this what Eliezer calls “flinch­ing away”? I didn’t re­solve my doubts there and then, but there was no turn­ing back and cou­ple of days later I was an athe­ist. This is my first “achieve­ment”. The sec­ond is: when I got to the “free will” se­quence, I stopped be­fore read­ing any spoilers, gave my­self a week­end and I figured it out! (Not perfectly, but at least one part I figured out very clearly, and got im­por­tant in­sights into the other part.) Which I would have never thought I would be able to do, be­cause as it hap­pens, this was the origi­nal mys­te­ri­ous ques­tion on which I got so con­fused as a teenager. (Another, smaller “achieve­ment” I doc­u­mented here.)

Maybe these are not too im­pres­sive, but they are not com­pletely triv­ial ei­ther (ac­tu­ally, I am a bit proud of my­self :)). But, I get a dis­tinct feel­ing that some­thing is off. Take the athe­ism: I think, one of the rea­sons I so eas­ily let go of my pre­cious be­lief, was that I had some­thing to re­place it with. And this is very-very scary, that I some­times get the same feel­ing of amaz­ing dis­cov­ery read­ing Eliezer as when I was 13, and my mind just ac­cepts it all un­con­di­tion­ally! I have to con­stantly re­mind my­self that this is not what I should do with it!

Do not mi­s­un­der­stand, I am not afraid of be­com­ing a part of some cult. (I had some ex­pe­rience with less or more strongly cultish groups, and I didn’t have hard time of see­ing through and not fal­ling for them. So, I am not afraid. Maybe fool­ishly.) What I am afraid of, is that I will do the same mis­take on a differ­ent level: I won’t ac­tu­ally change my mind, won’t learn what’s re­ally mat­ters. Be­cause, even if ev­ery­thing I read here turns out to be 100% ac­cu­rate, it would be a mis­take “be­liev­ing in it”. Be­cause, as soon as I get to a real-world prob­lem I will just go astray again.

This com­ment is the clos­est I saw here on LessWrong to my con­cerns. It also sheds some light on why is this hap­pen­ing. Eliezer de­scribes the ex­pe­rience vividly enough, that af­ter­wards my mind be­haves as if I had the ex­pe­rience too. Which is, of course, the whole point, but also one source of this prob­lem. Be­cause I didn’t have the ex­pe­rience, it wasn’t me who thought it through, so I don’t have it in my bones. I will need much more to make the tech­nique/​con­clu­sion a part of my­self (and a lot of crit­i­cal think­ing, or else I am worse off and not bet­ter.) And no, Eliezer, I don’t know how to make it less dark ei­ther. Other than what is already quite clear: we have to be tested on our ra­tio­nal­ity. The skills have to be tested, or one won’t be able to use them prop­erly. The “free will” challenge is very good, but only if one takes it. (I took it, be­cause it was a cru­cial ques­tion for me.) And not ev­ery­thing can be tested like this. And it’s not enough.

So, my ques­tion to more ex­pe­rienced LessWrongers: how did you cope with this (if you had such wor­ries)? Or am I even right on this (do I “worry” in the right di­rec­tion)?

(Oh, and also, is this con­tent ap­pro­pri­ate for a “Main” post? Now that I have enough pre­cious karma. :))