Re: Laughter of the gods

Anders Sandberg (
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 11:22:11 +0100 (MET)

On Thu, 26 Dec 1996, Lyle Burkhead wrote:

> What kind of space do gods exist in? -- I am not referring to "space"
> in the ordinary sense of the word, i.e. three-dimensional space. In
> mathematics, we have vector spaces, topological spaces, and so forth.
> Graphics designers speak of "color space." That's the kind of space
> I'm talking about. Do gods exist in some kind of deity space?

Now *thats* a fun idea! I wonder what kind of normal basis spans it?

As I see it, 'god' is an epithet we give to tremendously powerful beings,
not some special attribute of a being. In the classic era it wasn't that
unreasonable to pronounce the dead emperor a god, the dividing line
between mortals and immortals was seen as rather hazy. In David Zindell's
books the posthuman jupiter- or nebula-minds are called gods and
sometimes worshipped.

> You seem to be saying that deity space is now empty, but is not
> *necessarily* empty. Gods can exist, but they don't exist yet.


> You are postulating that deity space is like music space or
> machine space -- gods are the sort of thing that can be created.
> You are also postulating that the entities that populate deity space
> may or may not laugh -- it is possible for gods to be either
> laughing or non-laughing; Jove or YHWH.


> I'm not sure if you are also assuming that deity space is now empty,
> like music space was before the first song was sung.

Well, as I see it each person has his or her own deity space in her world
model, although there could be said to exist a cultural or global deity
space too. People certainly believe in inhabitants, but I would argue
that these beings are really just mental constructs themselves,
personifications of memes, rather than external beings. And I wouldn't
regard them as deities myself, they are not *that* powerful (just powerful).

> The problem is, there is a non-laughing god who claims that he
> already exists, and that he is the King of the Hill; and who backs up
> these claims by inspiring his followers to exert a real force in the world.
> He calls himself YHWH, or "the Lord."

[It is worth noting that the judeo-christian idea of God seems to be that
there exists a "special" element, God, in the deity space, perhaps the
zero-element but more likely the "largest" or most "perfect" element. ]

Yes, this is a problem. Of course, not all of his followers think that he
is non-laughing. In fact, I think most "ordinary believers" would argue
that he has humour too, simply because it makes him easier to trust
(which is what they really want with him). It is the theologicians and
preachers that believe in a non-laughing god, but unfortunately they are
good at dragging the masses after them.

> There is only one recorded instance, that I know of, where he laughed
> (Psalm #2):
- - -
> "The One enthroned in heaven laughs" -- this is not Jovial laughter,
> this is the har har har of the victor stomping his opponent's head.

Or perhaps the mad scientist laughter: "Those FOOLS! I will deestroy them
all! HAHAHAHAHA!!!" :-)

I think it illustrates my point; people in general want a great bearded old
man on a cloud, not something transcendent. And it is easier to believe
even in a slightly psychotic patriarch that crushes people with his iron
sceptre than an ineffable light that is beyond emotion.

> The English word "Lord" has become such a cliche' that it has lost
> most of its meaning. If you consider the Latin equivalent, Dominus,
> the meaning is clearer: the Lord is somebody who dominates.
> The Boss. Somebody you don't treat with disrespect, or even with
> too much familiarity. The peasants don't talk back to the Lord of the
> Manor, let alone laugh at him. They approach him with fear and
> trembling.

If you really believe in the patriarch on the cloud and that he behaves
as the Old Testament says, then it is a very reasonable approach.
Obedience to someone who is much more powerful than oneself and quite
willing to use this power is a survival strategy - but it doesn't have to
be total obedience, just apparent obedience. The New Testament meme of
loving God is more radical since it demands total obedience in exchange
for happiness.

> In the presence of YHWH, one doesn't laugh. One bends the knee.

This was what a seventh day adventist said to me. To which I responded
"And a god who makes you kneel isn't worth loving". Strangely, many
christians seem to forget which meme/testament they are following.

> The question is whether it is possible to "create" a new god,
> a more Jovial god, who can laugh at anything and get away with it --
> and who can even stand being joked about.
> The operational meaning of this is: Can such a god
> inspire his followers to exert a real force in the world?

I think so. As I have written above, many people have a personal
relationship with their gods and doesn't want big bosses that force them
to do things; even the total obedience of love doesn't preclude joking
with the loved one (although I assume one reason some gods are
non-laughing is that their omniscience always reveal the punchline too

Memetically, I think it might be possible to come up with a laughing deity
that fits the present. There are plenty of people dissatisified with
conventional religion, who might flock around a laughing deity especially
since it undermines so much of the established "truths". A youth
transhumanist religion?

Any virians listening?

Personally my favorite is Hermes, who certainly is the god of the Internet.

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y