How Jesus became God

Before he was born, a visitor from heaven told his mother that her son would be divine. Unusual signs in the heavens accompanied his birth. As an adult, he left his home to become a travelling preacher. He told everyone not to be concerned about their earthly lives and material goods but instead to live for the spiritual and eternal. He gathered several followers who believed he was the Son of God. He did miracles, healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. He aroused opposition among the ruling authorities, and they put him on trial. After he departed from this world, he appeared to some of his followers, who later wrote books about him. This story is not about Jesus of Nazareth but Apollonius of Tyana, Bart Ehrman tells us in his book How Jesus Became God.1

In ancient times, critics used the similarities between the tales about Jesus and Apollonius to question and mock Christianity. In the ancient world, there was no chasm between the divine and the earthly realm. Kings were often called sons of the gods. The miracles attributed to Jesus are not exceptional either. There were other men of which people said that they did similar deeds. Legends about people spring up easily. You only have to observe what happens on the Internet and social media. People believe and spread ostentatiously false claims. Finding out the facts later can be an arduous task. And success is not guaranteed. It has been the work of biblical scholars for centuries.

Miraculous and virgin births occur in other religions too. Claiming to be the Son of God was not unusual either. Julius Caesar pretended to be a descendant of the goddess Venus. Of Alexander the Great, it was said that his father was the Greek supreme god Zeus. Kings in the ancient world often claimed to be descendants of the gods. That gave them legitimacy for who dares to go against the will of the gods? Jewish kings were also Sons of God. So, if Jesus called himself Son of God, this could mean the king of the Jews. And it probably was seen that way by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

About Jesus, much remains unclear. The Gospels date from decades after Jesus’ death and scholars believe that they are based on stories that are passed on orally. Oral storytelling is notoriously inaccurate but scholars believe that the Gospels at least partially describe what Jesus actually said and did. Much is plausible given the time and place in which he lived. The Gospels also tell us things that Christians would not have made up because it contradicts their teachings.1 And, the Gospels are copied from earlier sources that are now lost. The time gap between the events and these sources is smaller, so fewer errors may have crept in.

Paul could have written about what transpired. He knew several first-hand witnesses so he had insider knowledge. It seems that he did not. But why? There may have been reasons not to write about what happened or to destroy these accounts. Perhaps, the events were too disturbing. It may have taken Paul nearly two decades to come to terms with what he found out about the relationship between God and Jesus. The first three Gospels are remarkably similar and do not say much about this relationship. Scholars believe that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are based on the Gospel of Mark and another text with the sayings of Jesus. Only, the troubling insider knowledge may not have disappeared. It may have been worked upon instead to become the Gospel of John.

Jesus most likely did claim to be the Son of God. According to the Gospels, Jesus called God ‘Father’. And, he may have been the Bridegroom in a marriage representing the Kingdom of God. All the synoptic Gospels hint at Jesus being the Bridegroom. Perhaps Jesus believed that he would become king, but he never directly claimed to be king of the Jews. He did not deny it either. But why? We cannot know that with certainty as Paul of Tarsus probably invented Christianity. Still, we may get close. Paul joined the Christian movement early on. He knew the apostles and other first-hand witnesses personally. Hence, only his interpretation may stand between us and Jesus’ teachings. Paul was a devout Pharisee with knowledge of the Jewish religion and scriptures as well as Greek thought and philosophy.

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The identity of God

The Gospels state that Jesus had a personal and intimate relationship with God. Scholars agree that the Gospels have been edited.

The Jewish religion of the imagined deity Yahweh and its scriptures may be an obstacle to our knowledge of God. To understand God, we may need to take the perspective of this universe as the creation of an advanced humanoid civilisation to entertain one of its members. Hence, there could be more to the mysterious apocalyptic prophet who felt a close relationship with God and started a new religion with over two billion followers today. Christianity began as a branch of Judaism, a religion defined by its scriptures. Religious claims have to be justified by referring to the scriptures. Their scriptures outline how Jews, Christians and Muslims see the owner of the universe. So if God is a woman who married Jesus, and Jesus had preached somewhere else, for instance, in Egypt or China, then Christianity would have been a completely different religion.

Christianity is called the religion of love. God is love, Christians claim. Christianity paints a different picture of God than Judaism and Islam. Those religions present a vengeful warrior God. So, how is this to be explained? The God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is believed to be the same. Perhaps Jesus knew God personally, and maybe God is not the deity the Jews imagined. Paul likely went at great length to bring the new religion in line with existing Jewish doctrine while being as truthful as possible. To many religious people, the scriptures are infallible. Paul could have obfuscated the most controversial parts of what he discovered by making cryptic references to the scriptures. Viewing it in this way makes sense.

Biblical scholars tend to be agnostic about God and reason from what they can establish from historical sources. Christians, on the other hand, believe that Yahweh is Jesus’ father. Both groups see Jesus within the Jewish context. And Jesus looked at himself in this way too. That may turn out to be a handicap as Yahweh is the imagined deity of the Jews, and not necessarily the all-powerful Creator of this universe. It may be better to view Yahweh as the cloak behind which our Creator is hidden. The most pressing problem for Paul may have been that God is a woman who had a romantic relationship with Jesus. Only to suggest so was considered blasphemy. And so, Jesus became married to the Church like God was married to the Jewish nation. It made Jesus eternal and godlike. That was not a great leap if he was Adam, God’s eternal husband. Jesus still lives, Paul believed, as he had seen Jesus in a vision.

The Book of Daniel comes with an enigmatic individual who will bring final judgement and start God’s kingdom. In Daniel’s vision, it was a human being coming with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13). His kingdom will be everlasting, and all rulers will worship and obey him (Daniel 7:27). Daniel did not think of Jesus, but that did not stop Christians from applying it to Jesus. Jesus himself may not have thought that he was this person called Son of Man. On several occasions, Jesus mentioned the Son of Man as if he is someone else.1 In other instances, Jesus appeared to imply that he is the Son of Man. Scholars reason that the latter is what Christians believed so that the former more is likely is what Jesus said. That is because your belief can affect how you interpret words. It was however not far-fetched to think that Jesus would be the Son of Man as Jesus mentioned him while there was no other qualifying candidate to fill this position.

Jesus may have thought himself to be in the position of Adam or perhaps even the reincarnation of Adam. Adam was God’s son (Luke 3:38) and Jesus the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15) or firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29). People understand these words in relation to the Jewish scriptures, but they may be cryptic references to Adam being born first as the son of Eve, and Jesus being the reincarnation of Adam. It may also apply to the phrase ‘born of God’ (John 1:13) as all of humanity is born of Eve if you consider Adam to be Eve’s son. They together are the mythical ancestors of humanity. From this perspective, it makes sense that the message of Christianity applies to all of humanity like Paul inferred.

The firstborn son was of importance in traditional agricultural societies for the inheritance of land and the leadership of the family clan. The Jews were no exception. The theme occurs on numerous occasions in the Hebrew Bible. The story of Jacob and Esau is well-known. King David was also called God’s firstborn son (Psalm 89:27). Far more interesting is that the Jewish nation Israel is God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22) as Israel is also God’s bride (Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:7, Joel 1:8). It presented Paul with an escape as God married his firstborn son in this way. In a similar vein, Jesus became married to the Church like God was married to Israel. And so Jesus may have become God as the Christians became Jesus’ people like the Jews are Yahweh’s people.

That is not as problematic as it may seem. A widely held belief among the Jews was that there are two powers in heaven.1 In Genesis, God speaks in the plural, ‘Let us make humankind in our image.’ It may reflect a polytheist past of the Jews, in which they believed that the gods created the universe. If you presume this universe to be a simulation created by an advanced humanoid civilisation for the entertainment of one of its members, then it makes perfect monotheist sense too. The beings of this civilisation are the gods and the owner of this universe is God. The Jews did not see it this way. Instead, this phrase produced speculation about the existence of a godlike sidekick working alongside God.

The Hebrew Bible claims that God appeared to people from time to time. For instance, some people saw God sitting on a throne (Exodus 24:9-10) while no one has ever seen God and lived (Exodus 33:20). Others saw the Angel of the Lord, who is also God, and survived. Abraham and Hagar are among those who have seen the Angel, and the Hebrew Bible then tells us that they have seen God. Hence, the Angel of the Lord is God but not God himself. Otherwise, they would not have survived.1 And so there must be two gods, an invisible all-powerful Creator and his visible godlike sidekick. From this perspective, Jesus could be the Angel of the Lord and the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

Many Jewish scholars like Paul were influenced by Greek philosophy. In Platonic thinking, there is a sharp divide between ideas and matter. The spiritual world of ideas is superior in the Platonic view. God is pure spirit, the most superior being. For Platonists, ‘spirit’ can use words to produce matter. Platonic reasoning thus agreed with Judaism as God created all things by using words. And so, words must have existed before creation. The Jewish philosopher Philo lived at the same time as Jesus. He asserted that the Word is the highest of all beings, the image of God, according to which and by which the universe is ordered. Philo called the Word the second god. The Word is thus God’s sidekick. The Gospel of John starts in a similar fashion, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Here, the Word had become Jesus.

In Proverbs, Wisdom speaks and says that she was the first thing God created. And then God created everything else with the help of Wisdom alongside him (Proverbs 8:22-25). She is a reflection of the eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness (Wisdom 7:25-26). Wisdom is female because the Greek word for wisdom is female. Wisdom was present when God made the world and is beside God on his throne (Wisdom 9:9-10).1 And so, there are two contenders for being God’s sidekick, the Word and Wisdom. Or perhaps, there are two sidekicks. If the Word has become Jesus then Wisdom could be the Holy Spirit, and we might arrive at the Trinity.

Eve gave birth to Adam. What to do with this? It contradicts the Jewish scriptures. And the scriptures are sacred. So, why not claim that Jesus was born from a virgin instead? After all, Jesus was Adam, and Eve was a virgin when She gave birth to Adam. And God’s name was Mary like Jesus’ mother while God was also Jesus’ Mother. That may have been convenient for those inventing a scheme to work around this issue. And so, Jesus may have become born from the Blessed Virgin Mary instead. Early Christians may have understood Jesus’ virgin birth as code for Eve being the mother of Adam.

Virgin births were not a theme in Judaism even though Christianity teaches otherwise. Isaiah wrote that a young woman will give birth to a son as a sign that God will destroy Judah’s enemies (Isaiah 7:14). Isaiah addressed king Ahaz in the eighth century BC and did not think of Jesus who was to come seven centuries later. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible available in the first century AD, ‘young woman’ was translated as ‘virgin’. The author of the Gospel of Matthew used it to forge a prophecy of Jesus’ virgin birth. In this respect, it is remarkable that the Quran consistently calls Jesus Son of Mary and not Son of God, thus implying that Jesus had no father. It could be code for God’s name being Mary.

The basis for the claims of Christianity in the Jewish scriptures is problematic at best. The facts contradicted the scriptures, and the efforts to resolve these logical difficulties helped to turn Jesus into God. It should not surprise us that early Christians disagreed on the issue of Jesus being God and that most Jews did not buy into it either. If Jesus had preached in Egypt and had claimed that his wife is the goddess Isis, the all-powerful Creator and that he was the reincarnation of her son Horus, his teachings may have been preserved unscratched, but it may not have worked for what God had in mind. Egypt was a polytheist nation that could have adopted another cult alongside the existing ones. The Jews, however, were monotheists with established scriptures. It made Christianity, and later Islam, uncompromisingly monotheist too. Converts had to renounce all other gods. That allowed Christianity and Islam to wipe out the other religions, first in the Roman Empire, and later everywhere else where Christianity and Islam became dominant. And if this universe comes with an all-powerful owner, that may have been the plan all along.

Featured image: Christ Pantocrator in Hagia Sophia. Svklimkin (2019). Wikimedia Commons.

1. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher. Bart D. Ehrman (2014). HarperCollins Publishers.

The religion Paul invented

Christianity is an invention of Paul of Tarsus. Paul was a Pharisee who devoutly observed the Jewish religious laws. Christianity began as one of the small Jewish sects founded by an end-time prophet who claimed to be the Messiah. Many Jews awaited a messiah. They expected a strong leader who would liberate the Jewish nation. Jesus did not live up to this expectation. Paul was at first a fervent persecutor of the followers of Jesus. But then he received a vision. According to his own words, Jesus appeared to him. It was a turning point in his life and an event that shaped the future of humankind. In his book The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman tries to reconstruct Paul’s reasoning that is the foundation of Christian thinking.

His vision proved to Paul that Jesus still lived as his followers claimed. Jesus had died by crucifixion, so he was resurrected, Paul reasoned. And therefore, he must be the long-awaited Messiah. Following this rationale, Paul ran into theological problems. The Romans had executed Jesus after humiliating him in public. So, why did he have to die? Then Paul came up with an answer. In many religions, people sacrifice animals to please the gods. These animals do not die for their transgressions but to cover for the sins of others.1 And so, Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Paul did not invent that Jesus died for our sins. Christians probably believed that already when Paul joined the movement.2 In the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve apostles.’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) These were the things passed on to him, possibly as a creed.2

And it must have been God’s plan all along to save Her (His) chosen people in this way, Paul reasoned further, so observing Jewish religious laws is not critical for your salvation, nor do you have to be a Jew. That Jewish religious law is irrelevant is a dramatic change of mind for a former Pharisee, but it may make sense if he knew what had actually transpired. Several prophecies in the Hebrew Bible promise that all peoples in the world will accept the God of the Jews. To Paul, Jesus was the fulfilment of these prophecies. Rejecting all false gods and having faith in Jesus should be enough. Paul believed himself to be God’s missionary to spread the good news as this was also prophesied.1 Paul was a Jewish scholar who knew the Jewish scriptures, while most other Apostles lacked such education. And so, he could shape the theology of the early Church.

Paul dedicated his life to spreading the good news that faith in Jesus can save everyone. During his many travels, he founded Christian communities. His mission was not easy. The Jews often expelled him from their synagogues. But he was determined, and he worked hard. Paul’s universal message of personal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ that is open to everyone appeared to have been attractive. It allowed Christianity to become a major world religion. Another, perhaps more important reason for people to convert to Christianity during the first centuries, were stories about miracles Christians performed.1 But Christianity never became a success with the Jews.

There have been several contending versions of Christianity. The most well-known are the Nazarenes, the Marcionists, the Ebionites, and the Arians. They all derived their teachings from the scriptures that appear to contradict themselves. The Nazarenes continued to observe the Jewish religious laws. Jesus probably did not intend to abolish them either. The Marcionists preached that the benevolent God of the Gospel who sent Jesus Christ into the world as the saviour is the true Supreme Being opposed to the evil creator God of the Old Testament. Indeed, God may not have been the deity the Jews imagined. The Ebionites claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was human and the last prophet before the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. They did not believe that Jesus was divine, nor did they think that he was born from a virgin. Jesus might have agreed. And Arians claimed that Jesus Christ, even though he was the Son of God, did not exist from the beginning of Creation.

For centuries, Christianity was in a state of flux, but Christian theology was gradually taking shape. There were several contradictions to deal with. For instance, Christians believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. And Jesus is God but the Father is also God. They are not the same but there is only one God. The Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the favoured religion of the Roman Empire. He oversaw the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the first effort to attain consensus about a uniform Christian doctrine. Constantine had invited the bishops of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire. More efforts to establish an official doctrine and a canon of scriptures were to follow. The Roman state promoted the official teachings so that the other strains of Christianity faded into obscurity.

The four Gospels of the New Testament probably were written between 70 and 95 AD, more than forty years after Jesus preached. The Apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, most likely never wrote them. Scholars believe that they are based on collections of stories that were circulating. Storytelling is extremely inaccurate if nothing is written down. The authors of many letters of the Church Fathers are not the people those letters claim either. And we do not have the original texts of the New Testament. There are only copies made centuries later. Scholars have used these copies to reconstruct the original texts as much as possible.

Paul became a follower of Jesus early on. He came to know Jesus’ disciples, who had been first-hand witnesses. Paul probably would not have dared to deviate too much from what he believed to be the truth. He had been a devout Pharisee and was a knowledgable scholar of the Jewish scriptures, so it is not far-fetched to presume that Paul intended to bring his own epiphany and the beliefs of Jesus’ followers in line with the Jewish religion and scriptures. Paul may have had help, but it is fair to say that he invented Christianity. Paul opened Christianity to everyone and probably outlined the Christian theology. And he may have obfuscated what he thought to be the most troubling elements of the new religion so that we may find only traces of them in the scriptures.

Featured image: Head of St. Paul. Mosaic in the Archbishop’s Chapel, Ravenna, 5th century AD (public domain)

1. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. Bart D. Ehrman (2018).
2. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher. Bart D. Ehrman (2014). HarperCollins Publishers.

Building a nation with religion

The Israelites started as a tribe in Canaan, much like other tribes living there. For a long time, the area was under Egyptian control. That began to change after 1150 BC. Egypt was beset by droughts, food shortages, civil unrest, corruption, and endless bickering in the court, causing it to retreat from Canaan. Agriculture was the basis of existence in the area. That required territorial defence, hence states. In the resulting power vacuum, several petty kingdoms emerged. Israel and Judah were among them. This situation lasted until new imperial powers emerged on the scene four centuries later.

Map of Israel and Judah
The kingdoms of Canaan

Yahweh was one of several gods and goddesses worshipped in Canaan. At first, El was the supreme deity in the Canaanite belief system. The goddess Asherah was his wife.1 The new small states in the area needed religion to justify their existence. The kings of Judah, and perhaps also Israel, promoted a national religion around Yahweh to solidify their authority. Other kingdoms in the region had adopted national deities too. For instance, Molek was the deity of Ammon, while Moab had Chemosh to defeat its foes and supply the country with blessings.2

The worship of Yahweh may have become the state religion in Judah and possibly Israel but people still worshipped other gods. The Hebrew Bible testifies of tensions between those who worshipped other deities alongside Yahweh and those insisting on worshipping Yahweh alone. Those insisting on worshipping Yahweh alone, still believed that the other gods existed. As Yahweh had become the primary deity, El became a generic word for god, and Asherah then became Yahweh’s wife.

As time passed by, new empires arrived on the scene. Israel was overrun in 720 BC by the Assyrians. The Babylonians conquered Judah in 597 BC after taking over the Assyrian Empire. The Babylonians destroyed the country and deported many of its inhabitants. Others moved to Egypt. The Jewish communities in Egypt, Babylon, and Judah became dispersed. The authors of the Hebrew Bible responded to the situation by reconnecting them and showing that they share a common heritage. They belonged to a larger group, a nation, a family with common ancestors. The Hebrew Bible became a compilation of existing tales from these communities and the royal archives of Judah.3

After the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire, Emperor Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Israel. He commissioned the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. Those still living in the area opposed this plan and a political struggle unfolded. After seven decades, Ezra and Nehemiah finally succeeded in rebuilding the temple. At the time, Jewish society was on the brink of being wiped out. Israel and Judah did no longer exist. The remaining Jews were mixing with the surrounding population. Jewish leaders had to find a way to keep their people together. The editors of the Hebrew Bible aimed to preserve Jewish identity around a common religion, history and cultural heritage.

At the same time, Judaism gradually became monotheist under the influence of Zoroastrianism. The prophet Zoroaster believed in a single good creator god and an opposite evil power. The Jews probably were henotheists at first, which means that they believed in other gods but only worshipped Yahweh. It is expressed, for example, in the commandment that you shall have no other gods before me rather than you shall believe there is only one God. Most of the Hebrew Bible has a henotheist perspective. Zoroastrianism was widespread in the Middle East. This religion influenced Judaism by bringing in monotheism, messiahs, free will, heaven and hell, and Satan. Zoroastrianism not only affected Judaism. Some of the Greek philosophers around 400 BC were also monotheists.

The Hebrew Bible emerged under the reign of five successive empires: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Hellenistic Rulers, and the Roman Empire. Judah probably had royal archives, so several writings date from centuries before the Hebrew Bible was compiled. There is however no evidence for the historical account of the Hebrew Bible from before the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The first chapters of Genesis resemble previously extant Mesopotamian myths. Moses most likely never led the Israelites out of Egypt. Israel and Judah may have been united under the reign of David and Solomon but this united kingdom could also have been invented to promote unity. It made the inhabitants in the area all descend from one great nation. And before that, history becomes truly murky. No written records exist from these times. The tales about Abraham, Isaac, and Moses may have been legends from different communities merged into one narrative to promote a single Jewish nation.3

The survival of the Jews and their religion has been hanging by a thread for a long time, but after more than 2,500 years, the Jews are still a people, so their nation-building project around their religion proved to be a successful long-term survival strategy. The Jews even managed to rebuild their nation. It is also remarkable that Judaism stood at the cradle of Christianity and Islam. And so, the Jews have played a central role in world history. It is an impressive feat considering their numbers.

Featured image: Torah scroll (public domain)

1. “El the God of Israel-Israel the People of YHWH: On the Origins of Ancient Israelite Yahwism”. In Becking, Bob; Dijkstra, Meindert; Korpel, Marjo C.A.; et al. Only One God?: Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah. Dijkstra, Meindert (2001).
2. 1 Kings 11:7
3. The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future. Wright, Jacob L. (2014). Coursera.

New Book: The Virtual Universe

Religions claim that a god or gods have created this universe. More recently, the simulation hypothesis allows us to explain how the gods might have done this. We could all be living inside a computer simulation run by an advanced post-human civilisation. But can we objectively establish that this is indeed the case?

There is sufficient evidence that we live inside a simulation, and this evidence allows us to establish the most likely purpose of our existence. This book is an exercise in applying logic to the evidence. It does not promote a specific religion. It goes along with science, but there are limits to what science can establish. God is beyond those limits.

This book addresses the following topics:

  • Why our existence is not a miracle that requires a creator.
  • How the possible motivations of post-humans can help us to establish that we live inside a simulation.
  • Why there is not proof in real life, not even in science.
  • Why the simulation hypothesis is not scientific.
  • How our minds can trick us how to avoid pitfalls in our observations and reasoning.
  • How the laws of reality can help us to ascertain that we do live in a simulation.
  • Why the evidence for the paranormal is not scientific but strong enough to count.
  • How to explain premonition, evidence suggesting reincarnation, ghosts, ufo’s, and meaningful coincidences.
  • How coincidences surrounding major historical events indicate that everything happens according to a script.
  • Why many people see 11:11 and other peculiar time prompts.
  • What predetermination tells us about our purpose.

By reading this book, you will discover that the world makes perfect sense if we assume it to be a simulation and that it does not make sense to presume that this world is real.

You can find it here:

Post-human motivations

We may find out that we live inside a simulation if we can notice that our reality is not realistic, at least in some aspects. To see why we can look at the possible motives for post-humans to run simulations of human civilisations. Even though it is not certain post-humans might have similar motivations as we have. Modern humans attach great value to their inner selves, so we may not change our human essence once we can. Hence, the motives of post-humans might well be similar to ours, and they might run simulations of human civilisations for research or entertainment.

Research could be about running what-if scenarios. So what if a giant meteor hits the surface of the planet? What if China never became unified? Alternatively, what if there never were religions such as Christianity and Islam? Or what if a deadly infectious disease breaks out? Countless scenarios are possible. Post-humans might be interested in running them to see how humanity will cope. These simulations are likely to be realistic.

Possible entertainment applications are games or dream worlds to make your imagination come true. Such a simulation may not be realistic in some aspects as it reflects the rules of a game or someone’s imagination. Chaos theory states that small changes in the initial conditions of complex systems can have a dramatic impact on future developments. For instance, a butterfly flapping its wings in Texas might cause a hurricane in China. And simulations of civilisations are complex, so to guarantee a particular outcome, you need control over everything that happens. This requirement does not apply to games. Unpredictable developments make games more interesting.

Our understanding of human nature suggests that the number of simulations for entertainment likely vastly outstrip those run for research, at least if sufficient resources are available. Hence, if we do live inside a simulation, we should expect it to be for entertainment. The owner or owners may use avatars and appear like ordinary human beings to us. If reality is unrealistic in some aspects, this suggests that our purpose is entertainment as a simulation run for research is more likely to be realistic. Furthermore, evidence of control further indicates that the purpose of this simulation is not a game but implementing someone’s imagination.

If the beings inside the simulation were sentient, that can raise ethical questions like whether or not they have rights the creators should respect. Considering how humans treat each other, it is not a given that these rights would be respected even when the creators acknowledge them. In a realistic simulation, bad things do happen to people all the time. And in the case of control, the beings inside the simulation are not sentient. They do not think and do not have a will of their own. Hence, we might have no intrinsic value to our creators.