For a long time, I have followed a policy of not discussing religious
matters online. This is because my family is Orthodox Jewish - they
believe in the literal truth of the Old Testament - and for many years
it has been necessary for me to conceal from them my real beliefs.
Today I sent them an email informing them that I am not, in fact,
For those of you who are curious about the history of the break, I am
proud to say that my religious disagreements began at the age of five.
I was spared the painful break, the sudden crisis of conscience from
faith to reason, that often characterizes such transitions; when I was a
child, people tried to sell me blatantly ridiculous concepts - like
praying in a language you don't understand, or the idea that two
contradictory opinions can both be correct - and I wouldn't buy them,
although I wasn't allowed to say so. I never trusted Authority over my
own perceptions - not at age five, and not at any age. And I'm proud of
I don't remember the exact age when I crossed over from believing that
Judaism had accumulated flaws to believing that Judaism was outright
wrong, but I do recall that at the age of fourteen I believed that
Judaism was just another memetically generated religion. But I still
had to follow all the rules. If you've been wondering why it's only in
the past month that you've seen any posts from me between Friday night
and Saturday night, it's because Jews aren't allowed to use computers on
the Sabbath. So it's been a very long nightmare indeed that has just
I would like to thank the six people who knew, and kept, my secret:
It helped a lot to be able to talk to someone, even for just a few
hours. (Everyone I knew in Chicago was also Jewish.)
I would also like to thank Damien Broderick, who met my father at the
1999 Worldcon, and was aware that my family was Orthodox Jewish, but
agreed not to raise the topic. I don't know if Damien guessed the
truth, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.
-- firstname.lastname@example.org Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://singinst.org/beyond.html
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