lauerjeremy

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Are we living at the most influential time in history?

This is an unusual comment for me, since I will talk about religion. The Baha'i Faith claims, at least as it would be expressed in the terminology used here, that something very close to the following are both true:
-Strong Longtermism and
-The Hinge of History Hypothesis (HOH).
Conjoining/conflating these two claims is the position criticized by Will in this blog post, a position which is at least to a certain degree defended by Toby in his comments.

My sense is that the Baha'i Faith strongly agrees with Toby (and probably goes much farther than he would) in claiming that both these hypotheses are true, and in addition that certain other hypotheses mentioned below are true. I won't back all this up with quotes now, as I have no idea if anyone here is interested in that level of discussion, and it would anyway require some research time to get right. So what I am stating here amounts to my opinions about Baha'i views.

My views are that, at least at surface level, there is a strong coincidence, one well worth noting, between the views of the Baha'i Faith (in the domain under consideration) and the common views in Effective Altruism that Will intended to criticize. Indeed, it should not be surprising if there was to turn out to be a religious element to the conjunction of these two views, and Will relevantly cites the periods of the birth of Christ and early Christianity, the times of Moses, Mohammed, Buddha and other religious leaders, and the Reformation as potentially very hinge-y periods in history. In one sense, the founders of the Baha'i Faith claim to be merely the latest updates in what they term progressive revelation. But the Baha'i Faith does not claim to be merely a hinge event, but it also claims that the vast majority of human welfare and human flourishing will be experienced in the distant future.

Moreover, in my view anyway, the Baha'i Faith makes two subsidiary claims about what Will and Toby call "permanent lock-in events". The Baha'i Faith makes the auxiliary claim that the following two lock-in events are not something that may occur in the future but rather are actively unfolding at the present time:
1. That war (as one of the primary lock-in mechanisms observed in human history) has been exhausted (i.e. that in a relevant sense there has been an end to war as a world-historical engine), and that there will emerge in the not-very-distant future a unified global culture that will strongly determine what values influence the very long-run future of human flourishing.
2. That there will be a religion (i.e. the Baha'i Faith) that will out-compete both atheism and other religions and becomes a world religion, one whose values will therefore strongly determine the long-run future.
As I understand it, these latter are also joint claims, i.e. both are held to be true at the same time, rather than competing or mutually exclusive claims.

That said, the Baha'i Faith does not claim to be the *final* world religion. According to Baha'i theology, other religions will necessarily succeed and replace it in the future while remaining nevertheless "under its shadow". Therefore the Baha'i Faith in effect claims to be the Hinge Religion of the entire scope of what we think of as human history, whose flourishing will continue for many millennia eventually resulting in a far-future Golden Age of human civilization. These claims would seem to make the Baha'i Faith an object of curiosity for Effective Altruists who sympathize with strong long-termism and the hinge of history views.

Full disclosure: I have been a member of the Baha'i Faith since 1985.