Ownership

December 18, 2017

Humans seem to have difficulty with the concept of ownership. When does someone start to own something? If you buy something from someone who didn’t rightfully own it, does it become yours, and how many of the things you’ve bought were bought from their rightful owners? Who may rightfully access a scarce resource? I find most conflicts with children are caused over ownership, which is understandable, given that even adults can’t figure it out, and are inconsistent with respect to whether a child really has the rights to something that’s “theirs”.

As a capitalist who believes in ownership, I like Locke’s idea: you start to own something when you produce it from raw materials, and then you may trade things you own. The people that did the work get the benefit. But most capitalists conveniently forget to address ownership of things in common, including the raw materials themselves. Everybody, or nobody, rightly owns nature, and when something is owned in common, a person may not simply take part of it and claim it’s theirs. But that’s how tons of companies get their raw materials. This implies that many things you buy were bought from someone who didn’t rightfully own it.

So how can anything ever rightly get produced? We need a theory of common ownership. Fortunately, environmental ethics already provides one: “leave a place or commonly owned resource in a better state than you found it”. You can take a resource from nature if you do something to improve nature by a greater amount. If a resource, such as wood or stone, is plentiful, then you don’t have to do much to pay back that debt. For scarcer resources, such as the rare metals used in cell phones, you need to do a lot to increase the well-being of everybody before you can rightfully take them. (By the way, this includes the well-being of plants and animals, which might not need to be compensated for some rare materials that mean little to them but a lot to humans, but do indeed need to be compensated for various other taken resources.)

Why do we tend to teach / strongly believe in property rights but not common ownership rights? Why do we punish violations of one but not the other? They’re equally important. Various self-proclaimed conservatives often want the government to protect their property rights but not the rights being violated when companies extract raw materials. But they can’t actually formulate a theory of ownership that makes sense without a common ownership theory – something that’s usually propounded by various self-proclaimed liberals. Locke’s theory alone breaks down when raw materials become scarce. There is no ultimate explanation of how someone gets the right to, for example, drill for oil, or own a piece of land.

This is one reason I’m somewhat uneasy about bitcoin: since it can’t be traced, if you buy a bitcoin, you can’t tell whether the person who sold it to you really owned it, or whether they hacked someone’s account to get it. (As a tangent, this could be solved with a cryptocurrency that has full surveillance, while still being decentralized. With such a currency it would be possible for everybody to see whether a particular coin is truly owned by its holder. I’m not sure if it’s possible to create such a form of currency though.) But perhaps we can’t be any more sure of the legitimacy of any of our possessions than we can of our bitcoins. An ethical person will therefore self-audit themself to determine whether they really deserve (have worked hard enough for) something they think they have a right to, regardless of whether the law says they have a right to it.

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The best ways to learn things

November 16, 2017

I’m brainstorming to make a list of the best way to learn each topic / subject. Does anyone have any suggestions for particular subjects? When I say “best” I don’t necessarily mean the fastest, or the way that gets you high marks on a test, but rather the most educative, also factoring in how engaging / fun a method is. The assumption is that if you enjoy learning, then learning becomes way easier and sticks with you better. Also, when I say “learning”, I don’t just mean kids – adults can also learn.

Here’s what I have so far:

Language – immersion (living in a place where the language is spoken)
Geography – Strategy games featuring real places? (I learned some geography from the Risk board game, but it’s not very detailed. Are there better ones?)
Math – ? (Probably games, but most I’ve seen just teach speed of mental calculations or ability to do arithmetic. How to teach mathematical understanding? And what about fractions, algebra or calculus? 3D holograms might help with integrals, but other than that I’ve encountered nothing other than lectures, textbooks, and practice, and there /must/ be a better way.) Sports – practice
Musical instrument – practice? (But how to learn musical notation?) Vocabulary / spelling / literacy – reading and writing books, poems
History – ? (cosplay / role-playing? Accurate movies? Debates?) For learning dates of particular events / inventions there’s a card game series called “Timeline” which is quite fun, however I’d argue that knowing dates is a less significant part of the topic of history. Perhaps also strategy games that are historically accurate?)
Art – practice making art – the most important thing is for the student to have choice in what they make
Economics – ? (There’s probably a good video game that simulates a marketplace, but what is it?)
Computer science – ? (Once you know the basics, the best method is to write software of your choice that you personally want to exist. But how to learn the basics? I know of many games for kids that try to teach coding principles – what’s the best one? And what’s the best way to learn a particular language?)
Physics – experiments work well for Newtonian physics, although I suspect Augmented Reality could improve educative value, but what software exists for this? For modern physics, experiments don’t help much. Perhaps 3D holograms?
Chemistry – I have no idea how to best learn the periodic table? Chemical reactions of molecules could be shown with 3D modelling / 3D holograms, I imagine – is there software that does this? But even in that case how to learn specific uses for these reactions, or the application of the molecular reactions to the real world? (I.e. chemical engineering, I think?) This is something I never learned, so I’m totally clueless in this area. I imagine there could be a video game where you have certain chemical resources and certain tasks to accomplish and have to use strategy to decide how to mix chemicals. Does such a game already exist?
Biology – Ideally dissection, but that’s expensive and there are ethical issues, and it doesn’t let you see small things. Perhaps a computer simulation where you zoom around inside an organism via a first-person 3D perspective, with names of various internal organs / cell components / etc. appearing? There should also be a way to make this into a game, perhaps a 3D exploration game where you’re trying to gather items from inside an organism’s body, or a strategy game where you’re a virus trying to find effective ways to infect a body and fighting white blood cells. Is there any such software already?
Climate change – ? Perhaps simulation software exists that shows visual effects of different activities / changes and allows you to see how things change with various policies / lifestyle changes? If so, what is it?
Ecology – Ideally going to particular ecosystems and observing them over a time – however, this would only teach you overall principles, not particular names of things, and it’s expensive. Perhaps there’s simulation software that shows the effects on an ecosystem as a species grows or shrinks, or a simulation game where you try to build your own ecosystem and try to let it survive the longest or survive various disasters. But how would you learn about the makeup of particular ecosystems in the real world this way? Perhaps the game could include a way to build your own ecosystem beforehand (like Minecraft does), and could allow contributions from the community so various real-world ecosystems from around the world could be contributed collaboratively.
Philosophy – Discussions / debates, structured with some kinds of rules to allow everyone to have a say
Speed-reading – ? (Is it even practical to learn? Can you enjoy speed-reading something or understand it deeply, and if not, isn’t something inherently broken whenever you feel speed-reading would be useful?)

Overall themes seem to be:
-for factual knowledge, create the usual kinds of games or media that people usually enjoy consuming, but just replace the imaginary content with real-world content that you want people to learn -for skills, learn by using the skill

My ultimate vision is for everyone to spend most or all of their time in educative or beneficial activities – whenever any traditional rote learning through textbooks / lectures happens, or when humans (as opposed to robots) do menial, repetitive work, or when people exist in a vegetative state (e.g. watching TV), then significant amounts of time, indeed of people’s lifespans, are potentially wasted. My claim is that avoiding these 3 by doing only “leisure” that’s educative would cure boredom and make for a meaningful life (similarly to how you can eat food that is both healthy and tastes good, making food that tastes good but is unhealthy, as well as food that is healthy but doesn’t taste good, wasteful).

I’m also considering implementing one of these ideas in my free time, if I can think of one that’s better than what’s available and hasn’t already been tried. My frustration is the gap between the ways technology can be used for educational benefits, and the inability or unwillingness of teachers or non-geeks to make use of technology that’s available, because of factors like technophobia, poor quality software, etc. My experience with educational software is that it just slaps a fun theme on factual recall, and I have in mind deeper tools. But I sense that, although there’s a ton of work to be done in the area of educational technology, the work that gets done tends to be ignored.

Input is welcome.

Costs

October 28, 2017

This is my thought process:

https://xkcd.com/1908/

except ethics gets factored in too: buying some stuff causes harm, so I have to calculate the lowest cost in harm of my various alternatives. But what about the wasted time doing so, and the opportunity cost of using that time to undo other harm? Probably needs calculus.

Equations

September 29, 2017

I often find students memorizing formulas in math / science, without understanding them. I wonder if students would understand math better if they weren’t given formulas? It seems like formulas are faster but require less thinking.

What about this rule: you can only use a formula if you come up with the formula yourself. This would make for a much different way of doing math – I guess it would be slower-paced, involve more reasoning, and require a higher level of understanding. Would this be better or worse? Would it be more or less fun?

Old Books

September 4, 2017

“Every age has its own outlook.  It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.  We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.  All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny.  They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.  We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, ‘But how could they have thought that?’—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.  None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already.  Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill.  The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Moral Reasoning

August 21, 2017

Recent events in the news have further confirmed my suspicion that there are a lot of people who don’t engage in moral reasoning. It seems to me like this activity is a basic, necessary component to living a life that’s worth living. Even the most basic moral argument can easily refute racism: humans are equal because they’re equally sentient and equally feel pain / pleasure, etc. The reactions I read to news stories of this sort are largely shock or disbelief that there could be people who are actively fighting for causes that are so clearly wrong – but what if someone were to grow up in such a way that they never used moral reasoning? Suppose they only ever did things because either they felt like it or because they were told to? Surely such a person could be brainwashed into believing anything?

And aren’t there many aspects of modern life that make it easy to grow up this way? Modern convenience makes it easy to get instant gratification at the push of the button, and the ease of shopping makes it easy to meet your needs with money, causing the pursuit of more money. These 2 things together in turn make it easy to be preoccupied with one’s own happiness, and be less focused on other people. (Not that this happens to everyone in the modern world, just that the modern world makes it easy.) Combine this with the fact that many parents don’t teach their children to use moral reasoning, but instead try to control their behaviour by making the child obey them – while simultaneously giving them the full complement of modern conveniences in the form of toys. Surely all this is a recipe for disaster?

But lest I seem to be only pointing the blame at others, let’s examine in more detail what moral reasoning is and try to figure out why I also don’t use it nearly as much as I should. Moral reasoning is the use of reasoning to determine what you should do, either in a particular situation, or even what you should do with your life as a whole. When you’re born you’re thrown into an unknown universe, and rather than living a meaningless life, with moral reasoning you can try to determine how to live purposefully, rather than just accepting what you’re told or what you feel naturally inclined to do. Regular reasoning just gives you facts about the world. Moral reasoning also involves getting facts about the world, but then it applies them to a particular course of action, either showing that a course of action accomplishes a conviction or perhaps establishes a conviction itself.

For example, should I lie on my dating profile to get more dates? On the one hand, more dates might increase the chances of finding someone to be happy with, increasing both our happiness. But whether lying increases the chances of finding someone you’re really compatible with is less certain – that would be an example of a factual claim that could be investigated with something like statistics. On the other hand, I’d be wasting the time of most or all of the people I’d be going out with, who would believe I’m somebody else – at least the extra dates who would now be going out with me only because of the lies would be harmed. So lying would mean helping myself at the expense of others, and therefore I conclude that no, people shouldn’t lie on their dating profiles. (The beauty of this and any other moral reasoning argument is that the result holds completely independently of how I feel about lying and also of what popular consensus says about how normal it is to lie.)

Note that, as with most moral reasoning questions, the issue gets boiled down to whether I should prefer my own happiness over the happiness of others. Cognitively, I answer no to that question because rationally, I’m equal to others. There’s nothing about me that makes me more special or important than others with respect to the core of what a person is. But the problem we all face is that we’re stuck in this body, and have to experience the pain / pleasure of only this one body, without experiencing the pain / pleasure of others. This is what causes us – myself included – to prefer our own well-being, or to be preoccupied with our own goals / desires while ignoring others. When we do this, we are acting as if we are utterly alone in the cosmos – as if everybody else doesn’t really feel or experience anything. In other words, we’re acting as if our existence is meaningless. As long as there are other people with their own experiences like ours, moral reasoning tells us we should consider their needs as equal to ours. (And of course, it’s very possible that any selfishness will be balanced out anyway, through something like karma, being repeatedly reincarnated until you’ve lived everybody’s life, or purgatory.)

Instead of even thinking about moral reasoning, as we should, to determine our actions or the course of our life, we develop defense mechanisms to protect our self interest. A common one is to confuse ethics with emotions, and seek goals that we feel strongly about. This is why politically divided groups can’t change each other – each side is just emoting, using rhetoric to express how strongly they feel about the importance of their belief. People who are stuck in this frame of mind are imprisoned into believing whatever beliefs their peers or surroundings taught them to believe. If they had been raised in a different place or time, they would have happened to develop different beliefs. The obvious question then is: which of these beliefs or ethics are actually real? What if everything that some people have said is an ethic is a real ethic? Stealing, lying, giving to charity, visiting the sick, polluting, swearing, extramarital sex, judging, blasphemy, killing, pets, animal testing, eating animals, generosity, pride, discrimination, patience, good manners, consent, courage, vanity, gossip, collecting interest, helping those in danger, sharing, wasting, evil thoughts, violent media, modest dress, harming others, abortions, having children in an overpopulated world, birth control, and I could go on and on. Wouldn’t we all be totally screwed if we had to take all of these, and more, into consideration for all our actions? So then which ones are you going to consider real morals? If you say “the ones I already believe in”, then how did you come to believe in those ones? If it was just based on what you were taught, or the experiences or feelings you happened to have, then how do you know you got the right ones? The only way is to use moral reasoning. You can’t just believe your feelings or your parents or your priest or your teacher when it comes to such important issues. And you can’t just say “I’m a liberal-type person so the following list of liberal-type ethics is my list.” Remember there is no liberal or conservative – those aren’t reasons, they’re categories. You need to come up with your own reason for each moral issue. Otherwise you’re nothing but somebody else’s puppet.

Bathrooms

June 5, 2017

When I say that humans aren’t rational, the following excerpt from “Callahan’s Secret” by Spider Robinson is an excellent illustration of what I mean. The human characters ask their friend, an alien from an advanced race, what is the single thing that puzzles him the most about humans. His answer?

“Bathrooms.”…

“What exactly is it that puzzles you about bathrooms?”…

“Everything, Michael. The first item one finds in a typical bathroom is the sink. I have made tests: half of the time and energy spent at a sink are used in adjusting water temperature. Your technology makes cheaply available thermocouples which will reliably deliver water of any specified temperature-yet in every single bathroom in the world the job is done by hand, with every use. Unbelievable waste of time and water and heated water.

“Next the medicine cabinet: I have never seen one designed with the intelligence of the average spice rack. You have to spill everything into the sink to access the aspirins.

“The human bathtub could only have been invented to help weed out the elderly, careless and unlucky; it could be argued that this is laudable, but why must even the survivors be made so uncomfortable during what ought to be a delightful chore? Why are comfortable head supports not standard; why must tubs always be too short, too narrow, too hard and too difficult to keep clean; why build them of such preposterous materials; and above all, why is the single showerhead almost invariably located where it cannot be brought to bear on the specific areas where it would be most useful and most pleasant?

“As for the commode … it would take a volume to simply list its gross deficiencies. Forget the insanity of throwing precious fecal matter into the ocean, along with gallons per bowls of drinking water-how could humans possibly have designed for daily use and accepted as a universal standard an artifact which is acutely physically painful to use, enforces an unnatural and inefficient posture, and has no facilities whatsoever for cleansing either its user or itself? And why do you persist in using them for male urinals though they are manifestly unsuitable for that purpose?

“To be fair, I must admit that given your level of technology there is not much to criticize in the towel rack but my friends, from an engineering point of view it is the only pardonable object in a human bathroom.”

Wealth

May 17, 2017

Jesus told a rich person that he should give away all his possessions in order to follow him. Since middle-class North Americans are in the top 1% richest people in the world, does this mean that those of us who claim to follow him should do the same?

I honestly don’t know. It’s clear that Jesus and early Christians were very anti-money. He explicitly said you can’t serve both God and Money, he and his followers were essentially homeless, and the early church lived in communes where they shared all their possessions – and when one of them tried to keep some of his private property, God killed him miraculously. But on the other hand, things are different today with respect to money than they were in his time, aren’t they? We have to pay rent and other required fees, which we wouldn’t be able to pay if we gave away all our money – in his time, I get the impression that money was moreso for extra luxury and comfort. You can’t live in a tent around here without freezing, but you could in his time. But then again, don’t we also have the option of moving somewhere warm and living in a tent?

Media is another big difference. Under copyright law, we have to pay a fee to experience certain movies, books, video games, and other works of art. In other words, we must pay fees for the right to do certain activities and have certain experiences, and not only for the right to a certain level of luxury. This is screwed up, of course – it would be a lot more ideal for artists to receive a benefit for causing art to /exist/, as happens for academic research, rather than getting paid when someone makes a copy of their art. But we’re stuck with that system for a while, which means giving away /all/ your possessions and money would mean being unable to experience many available experiences. Then again, perhaps we should boycott those experiences in protest anyway?

One possible, less harsh interpretation (which is the one I’ve tended to lean towards) is that it’s not using money that’s wrong, but it’s rather a sense of ownership of private property that’s wrong. That is, if you share everything you have to the maximum extent, and use it for the benefit of others instead of just your own, then it’s OK to own it. For example, it’s immoral to yell at kids to get off your lawn, or to try to get rid of a skunk who is living under your shed, but it’s fine to live in a house that you allow random strangers to sleep in. I think this interpretation requires more than just being willing to share with people who ask you, though – I think it requires actively seeking people to share stuff with, and letting go of the fear of losing that stuff when you do. Which implies that I apparently don’t follow even this interpretation, because I own some DVDs which, although I do lend them to people who ask, could be shared more maximally if I donate them to the library. Why haven’t I? Is it that I don’t want to give up control in case the library decides to sell them or ceases to exist, at which point I’d have to re-buy them to regain the ability to watch them? Or maybe I just can’t bear to part with the various masterpieces I own? I think that’s the same feeling in me that made the rich person not want to give away all his wealth.

There are of course a plethora of practical reasons to minimize consumption, such as global warming, third-world slavery, or the simple fact that you can use your money for good instead of consuming, but my point is that there’s more here than a mere optimization problem to reduce these evils. There seems to be a deeper evil of being attached to money or possessions. If we were to avoid that evil, I think the other outward world-problem evils would be avoided as a consequence. I really believe that money corrupts (I’ve experienced it in my own life), and a ton of money corrupts absolutely (which we’ve all seen explicitly with Trump and his cronies).

On the other hand, maybe that interpretation of Jesus’s message is wrong. Maybe we should literally give up everything, and live with exactly the same quality of life and available activities that everybody in his time who did so would have had to do. Or maybe it really is a matter of maximizing efficiency, treating his message as a guideline rather than an absolute rule – for example, there’s no denying that, /in some cases/, money or possessions can be used to get more money and possessions, which can in turn be used to help others. And anyway, where does energy factor into it? There were no fossil fuels or electricity in his time; are using those for your own benefit the same as using money, and why should it matter whether you’re using free, public electricity or other resources rather than your own? And what about the value of your time?

There’s no question that merely working to get money to buy normal things for yourself and then retire is not following Jesus’s ethics. But what his ethics with respect to property /do/ mean for us today is not clear to me. How do other people deal with the dichotomy between these ethics and modern life? (Other than simply not following them, of course.)

Openness

April 28, 2017

Annoyances with medical people while trying to get a blood test to check all my vitamins and nutrients (which is something that seems worth measuring once in a while for everybody) has got me thinking about openness. Consider: does the collection of knowledge we humans have attained include knowledge of how to measure your vitamins and nutrients? You probably say “yes”. But I, a member of the human species which supposedly possesses this knowledge, don’t seem to have access to it. I need a doctor’s permission to get a blood test ordered, which is done by someone in secret, who then must give me the results vicariously through the doctor. When I look up how a blood test is actually done, all I can find are instructions saying “go to a doctor, get a note, then go to a lab, they poke you with a needle, then you get the results from your doctor, and this is what the results mean”. That would be like, if a 4 year old asked you where food comes from, you replied that “you buy it at the grocery store”.

This problem is widespread, and it isn’t limited to the medical field. Everywhere information is held hostage by privileged groups. It happens with source code, with food, with cell phones, with inventions, with laws, and with academic research. People know this, but I think most people don’t think it’s a big deal. I guess this is because they think people that make stuff need to make a living, and if they were open with their knowledge, they couldn’t? But that’s hogwash. Critically, I’m /not/ expecting to do everything myself, in DIY fashion – that’s impractical. I’m demanding to have the /option/ to do each thing myself. People who are knowledgeable in a particular field can still make money even if the knowledge of how to do their field is universally available –
it’s called bartering. The expert plumber or construction worker can do a task quicker and better than me, so it’s worth my while to pay them to do so, even if their tricks aren’t secret. (Indeed, I’d be willing to pay them /more/ to be open about their technology, so I could understand my house better.)

What’s the solution? I don’t think it’s lobbying governments or corporations to be open – that has little effect for a lot of effort. I think building an open body of knowledge is more effective, because once it’s built, the closed products become obsolete and inferior to the open alternative. The most important step towards this is a change of values, towards valuing an expanding of the body of human knowledge. If you can control your car with your cell phone, but it only works with software made by one company and a car made by one company, then has human knowledge really expanded to the point of knowing how to control our cars with our cell phones, the same way it’s expanded to knowing Einstein’s theory of relativity? For our /real/ body of knowledge to expand –
that is, the body of knowledge that /everybody/ has access to – people have to realize that there is an ethic which says “sharing my knowledge with others is a goodness”.

Note that this ethic of sharing knowledge, openness and transparency applies to a wide variety of human activity, not just technology. Teachers who make their slides or lesson plans public are contributing to the body of human knowledge, and are doing a good deed. Farmers who publicly and freely share their methods of growing food more effectively are doing a good deed. Researchers who post their publications publicly on the internet for free are doing a good deed. Governments who freely and publicly share information about how to have a healthy lifestyle are doing a good deed. People who don’t share freely may believe they need to keep things private in order to make a living, and they may be right, and this may be morally /acceptable/ – but they haven’t /really/ contributed to the body of human knowledge. I think that’s the crux of the issue – people who invented something great, thinking to themselves how great it is that they invented this useful thing and what a benefit to humanity it is. But if they’re keeping it secret and asking for payment for it, then they haven’t really made the contribution that they believe they have, they’ve just survived.

What’s the point of church?

March 16, 2017

The retirement of the minister of my church has got me rethinking what’s the point of going to church. This is an especially hard question for me since I’ve tried out many churches and he’s pretty much the only minister I really liked. Since I’m so anti-organized-religion and anti-evangelical I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever find another church / minister which I don’t feel is a waste of time. I find that sad.

The crux of the matter, for me, seems to be that Jesus, as far as I can tell, condemned most of what organized religion has ever amounted to. His harshness towards the Pharisees and their rituals, to social status and prestige, to fakeness, and to money, rules out quite a few. When I look at what’s left I can’t usually find much substance. When it comes to learning how to be a better person, the moral choices that matter (such as environmentalism, animal rights, children’s rights), which we make on a regular basis, tend not to be discussed at church. But those social justice issues are the kinds of things Jesus talked about. Since Jesus was not political (that is, he was concerned with the actions of individuals instead of the actions of societies) but was counter-cultural, we need to learn how to apply his teachings to be appropriately counter-cultural in the context of the present culture, and it’s hard to find churches teaching us how to do that. If anything, they’re usually pro-cultural because that’s what attracts a greater crowd. There are of course lots of people discussing these wider ethical issues, but not in a religious context, even though Jesus’s teachings apply – i.e. no one is teaching us how to be a /whole/ person, with the spiritual and ethical growing in unison.

The best reason I’ve heard for going to church is to grow as a community (the Bible is sometimes cited, since this is the reason the early church in the Bible was meeting). But church isn’t really a community anymore – it’s listening to one person talk, plus some pointless rituals. Can’t I get that benefit from reading books from wise people or watching wise people on Youtube, and avoid the pointless rituals? That possibly more ideal kind of community “church” died out centuries ago; indeed, I suspect that the Council of Nicaea, or some similar unification of belief under one organized religion, caused a lot of the original wisdom to be lost to popular culture, and this has probably happened several times in history.

The problem is that I do believe in the importance of spiritual growth, similarly to how everybody believes in the importance of physical or mental growth. It doesn’t seem like I can grow spiritually very well in a vacuum, and I really feel like my spiritual growth is stunted. I need some role models or teachers to teach me how to be a better person, and reading Facebook memes doesn’t cut it. Church is supposed to help with that, but has largely failed to. Even if it were possible to have a faith-based community with freedom of thought / expression (which is debatable), joining something that isn’t one doesn’t solve anything or fulfill any duty.

Are there any other reasons to go to church? I’m at a loss, and this issue has bothered me for a long time.