In an age where Artificial Intelligence is slowly taking over, the question in the title of this post continues to linger and captivate the minds of thinkers. It’s a question that not only many scientists have tried to answer, but many sceptics have tried to dabble with as well. In reality, however, it’s not a question that many of us tend to enjoy harbouring. It’s an unpleasant thought that our lives and everything we take for granted is not really there, at least in the conventional use of the “is” word. Of course, there’s justification in that discomfort, because it implies that all the experiences we’ve had, all the relationships we’ve been in, all the great sunsets, all the places we remember visiting, every object in the world, is essentially a lie.
As a consequence, a surprisingly small number of people actually really spend time dwelling on this thought, it interferes with our world-view. That small number of people, however, might not be as small as you expect.
Here’s a thought experiment. Think of the world as being split into two groups of people. Group A has those who believe we’re in a simulation, and Group B contains those who don’t. Eagle-eyed readers would say, “There’s a third group as well” which includes those people who don’t care. Let’s call that Group C, and admittedly, they’d be correct, at least partially.
It would be a fair assumption that a significant percentage of the Group C consists of those people who either never care to ask the question in the first place, presumably because their belief in their religion absolves them from having to question reality and those people who feel there’s a “divine plan” anyway. Intuitively, the same can be said about the Group B (those who don’t think we’re in a simulation). A majority of people I’ve spoken to about this who fall in Group B tend to be religious, also in tune with the “divine plan” philosophy.
That is consistent with the message that gets put out by religious people, since the core content in most religions (in fact I can’t even think of an exception, but I’m no expert) postulates that a creating force, usually in the shape or form of a human, created the world and all the settings around the individual believer, including all the possibility that the passage of time brings.
It presumes that the believer is significant.”Prayers” help avert difficult situations in the believer’s life. If religion wasn’t already exciting enough, animal sacrifice is encouraged by belief systems that billions of people follow, so that’s delightful as well. The amount of religious doctrine that gets shoved down a person’s throat at an early age even in the 21st century is so unbelievably bizarre!
I digress. The point is, how is religious belief any different than a simulation anyway? The definitions vary a bit, yes, but are the characteristics easy to tell apart? In more ways than one, religion is the belief that the world is a simulation, religious texts are just descriptors of that simulation, the “set and setting” if you will. Religion doesn’t just try to answer the “are we in a simulation?” question, more often than not, religion is the answer that cures the need to ask that question. It’s convenient not to think about this, and religion takes advantage of that convenience.
What do you feel about this? Let your opinion be heard! Don’t forget to mention if you believe in religion.