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About Wertbag

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    Auckland, NZ
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    MMA, gaming
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    Married father of 1 from New Zealand

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
  1. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    Just a quick clarification. What is the "standard" for knowledge? How much proof is "usual" for anything to be called a fact?
  2. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    Firstly I'd like to make it clear that my ramblings are purely brain droppings, just random thoughts as my mind wanders through the questions. I don't hold a strong position on gnostism, it sounds right to my mind but I can see both sides of the debate and find such discussions very educational. Even just understanding the arguments against makes you consider how you would answer that if asked in the street. You have to see if you can whittle the reasoning down to just a sound bite size response as that is likely all the time you will have in many such discussions, and yet have a more indepth understanding of the possible viewpoints so you can respond if questioned further. The mistake is trying to disprove a god by pointing to an empty piece of space and saying "Look theres no god there". It isn't a Where's Waldo book, we need to look at what is being claimed. The hardest god to disprove is the irrelevant god. A being who does nothing, is nothing, doesn't communicate and doesn't care about humans. Such a being is not claimed by any religions and really is nothing more than a force of nature. You couldn't even say such a god is an intelligent, thinking creature. All of the gods of religions are in some way interacting with the physical world, and as soon as such claims are made those can be tested and falsified. What we need to understand is the characteristics claimed of this being. Does it materialise? Does it communicate? Does it want us to know it? Does it answer prayers? Does it react to human/animal sacrifice? The definition is critical. The problem can be considered as looking at an infinite data set. An endless data set leaves nothing that can be said about it, so the only way we can make any claims is by limiting that data set to a finite number of data points. The irrelevant god is an infinite data set, but as soon as characteristics are claimed it reduces to a finite set. The Christian god is a perfect example. If He was just an invisible watcher who does nothing, then it would be very hard to disprove, but as we have tons of claims made about Him we have a finite set of data to work with. He is meant to answer prayer, meant to want us to know Him, help his chosen people, meant to be all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful. As per Dan Baker's video once you have such claims you can clearly show that specific entity is an impossibility. The same can be said about the term supernatural. If it is undefined then it could be anything, but as soon as specific physical effects are claimed we can set James Randi on them. It is a fact that 100% of supernatural claims/powers have been shown to be false when tested. If there is no such thing as the supernatural and god is claimed to be supernatural, then He doesn't exist. Or perhaps you could say imaginary things do not physically exist, god is man made so is solely in the mind and therefore does not exist. We can say all religions can be shown to be wrong and all of their claims can be shown to be without merit and void of substance. In proving that you have a null set. Religion is a null set. It feels like there is a subjective layer to facts which I believe is what is meant by "facts reduce to strongly held beliefs". If you run a test a hundred times and get the same result every time it would be understandable to say "based on experience I know result X will happen under these circumstances", but perhaps test 101 won't be the same. Maybe you run the test a million times and still get the same result. At what point can you say you have proven that fact? I think there will be varied answers to that question. At a certain point it is unreasonable to continue to expect a different result, as the old saying goes "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results". The question of knowledge is therefore an individual thing. The amount of evidence required for a piece of information to be verified to your personal requirements will differ. Peer review helps, but again at some point the second person has to come to the conclusion that the testing has been so thorough as to remove all reasonable doubt. I would say "I know gravity keeps me firmly planted on the ground" while a flat earther would say the facts I used to come to that knowledge are wrong. I don't consider this discussion "apologetics" or "changing the definition" but rather just attempting to clarify the definition so we are all looking at the question from the same angle, or at least understanding the other persons view. If you cannot get a clear definition of any term then open discussion is impossible. You will simply end up talking pass each other without addressing each others views. You also mentioned that maybe we were worried by saying we are agnostic, which is certainly not the case. Really the discussion about agnostism vs gnostism very rarely, if ever, gets raised in debates. At least for me it is more about testing labels and trying to see if there is a version that fits in addition to atheist. Atheists are such a wide ranging group, sure we all disbelieve in gods but other than that there is nothing asserted about anything. It leaves me feeling like there should be more accurate terms, but perhaps it is simply a case that the correct terminology doesn't exist. Or maybe I'm a-terminologist I do love that we have this website as a place where such discussions can occur and remain civil. So rare on any discussion boards on the internet, just about any other site would have devolved to an expletive filled flame war by now.
  3. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    Would you say you could be gnostic in regards to the Christian god while remaining agnostic to the idea of gods in general? If a specific belief is shown to be an impossibility then would you accept it is reasonable to be gnostic in regards to that? What about for subjects for which there is no claim of truth such as the FSM? I would say that is both sides of this question. We all agree that we can apply our knowledge in this way, we are all atheists and at the core all agree on the arguments against religion. I do however have friends who I refer to as apathetic atheists. They have no belief in gods but really just don't want to discussion anything about religion. The attitude of "I don't believe in god, leave me alone" is a perfectly valid choice but that leads to the question that perhaps there is a better label that covers an atheist who is willing to take on the burden of proof and provide the arguments against religion? Is there a term to your mind that better fits? Perhaps anti-theist? This would be more a question of the definition of a god. Most people consider god to be an amorphus intelligent being who can directly interfer with the world we live in. We need to get rid of the vague definitions of energies or events as those are just applying the term god to natural events. If we can show all such gods are man made and therefore exist solely in the mind, then we should be able to make an absolute statement. Within this particular set of data 100% of instances are false. Outside of that set of data is a completely different question. It feels like maybe this is a point of difference, the idea of an open set of data vs closed. If I say "There are no pink unicorns in the universe" you can rightly say "You can't possibly know what is out in the universe", but if my statement is more specific, that "there are no pink unicorns in my kitchen", then the claim becomes easily verifiable and we can know the truth of the statement. I had a religious person (not sure what variety of crazy) say to me "I define god as air. It is all around us, it is in every living thing and it is required for life. Do you believe in air?" "Yes, I believe that air exists" "Well then you believe in a god, therefore you can't claim to be atheist" Sigh...
  4. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    From our biased viewpoint Dawkins position is fine, but to the mixed audience that his message is going to admissions of doubt absolutely weakens the position. I say that having heard that exact argument used against him. I've heard quotes such as "He said he doesn't really know" and "He just admitted he has no idea". Dawkins himself says he is not a great debater and he hates the format. I love Dawkins as a science educator, but in a debate situation it is critical to show the audience a confident front. The strength of that confidence carries to those listening and they will respond accordingly. This is not even gnostic vs agnostic, you make sure to avoid that discussion and stick to terms that show your confidence. Saying "I have never seen anything that would convince me otherwise" is a positive statement, while "I'm 99% sure that there is no such thing" leaves that gap that the religious person will jump on. Aron Ra is a great example of this, as he often emphasises the words "fact" and "demonstrable" in debates. "Evolution is a fact. It is provable, demonstrable and beyond doubt". The term fact is a great one. A piece of data which is shown to be true by evidence and by being verified as such. Our knowledge is based on facts and those facts must be verifiable. In the coin flip example given the problem is purely one of the artificial restraint of the video. If that same experiment was done in person then there would be nothing stopping you from going up and verifying the fact first hand. The only conclusion we should reach from the example is that we do not have enough data to come to an answer. Take for example the flying spaghetti monster. We know who created it and why and we know it is pure imagination. We can verify these facts and we can know that the FSM does not exist. To argue we cannot know for sure when we have these facts in hand is unreasonable. You don't need everyone to agree for a fact to be knowledge. You need the facts to be verifiable and provable and, after that is established, if some people do not accept the fact then they would be in an unreasonable position denying reality. What if we are wrong? Then firstly we failed to verify the facts fully, but more importantly our knowledge will have increased with the new data and new facts. Knowledge is not static, it is a constantly expanding pool. Personally I'm 41, and I would say I declared myself agnostic around age 10. My thought at that time was simply that I did not understand the debate, so there was no way for me to make an informed decision as to what I was without a great deal of research. It would be another 10 years before I finally openly called myself an atheist (although for all intents and purpose I was much earlier). I would therefore say I've been a declared atheist for around 20 years and a doubter for at least 30. On a side note, I'm really glad I started this discussion. It was purely a rant so I didn't expect any more than a place to empty my mind. A good, friendly back and forth over a subject with deep thoughts is unexpected but very interesting.
  5. Wertbag

    Rant of the century

    I usually get inspired to rant when I come across videos or comments that really grind my gears. I can go a year without posting then something gets stuck in my mind and it feels good just to work through it.
  6. Wertbag

    Bible selling...

    I never understood that. If you believe its the word of god then wouldn't reading it be the most important thing to do?
  7. Wertbag

    Bible selling...

    I've heard that the often quoted stat of the bible being the best selling book is not giving the whole picture. It is not the regular public who buy it in vast enough numbers but rather church groups that buy bulk to give away. For example groups like the gideons buy large quantities and donate them to hotels. I believe if you actually compare the number of people who open their wallet and choose to purchase a copy then it is out sold most years by the top fiction novels.
  8. Wertbag

    Anyone else hate going to sleep?

    I hate going to bed purely for work/life balance. I find with getting two young kids ready in the morning, then getting home to dinner and chores, if I don't stay up extra late it feels like I work, chores, sleep, repeat. I always try to get in an hour or two of video games, which can result in not getting to bed till close to midnight.
  9. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    I think it also comes down to what you hope to do. If your opening statement is "the burden of proof is completely on the religious person side, supply the evidence or there is nothing to talk about" then, while that is a completely true statement, all you are doing is shutting down the discussion before it can happen. If someone is actually open to discussion and asks why don't you believe in God, taking the option of "no evidence" and ending there will not convince them that you have a well considered position. However if your answer is "I see plenty of evidence that disproves the ideas of Gods put forward such as being man made/no communication/no supernatural/contradictory/vast numbers etc" then you have a list of possibilities that they need to consider and attempt to counter. They can't just think "well, he's never even thought this through, he can't defend his position". I would argue that in a debate situation you can't take a passive stance. Saying "we don't know, we can't know, I'm 99% sure but there's always the possibility" is just setting yourself in this incredibly weak position. Anyone watching will think the religious person is sure of themselves while the atheist appears to be full of doubt. I agree with your statement that we should take on the burden of proof so we can push back hard and with full confidence. The evidence is clear and should be presented as such.
  10. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    I think it can be broken down to "All man made Gods do not exist. All Gods are man made, therefore all Gods do not exist". Probably overly simplified but really gets to the core of the matter. We can know 100% of Gods are man made, and we can know that 100% of man made Gods do not exist. The agnostic view is taking these man made concepts and running with them to a level never claimed by the religious. It creates gaps to fit a God into that the creators of Gods never even thought of. I see no reason to expand a bad idea to make it unknowable when the very idea is clearly a meme existing solely in our minds.
  11. Wertbag

    Gnostic Atheist

    I thought having a rant about my personal label as a “gnostic atheist” will help me get all of my reasoning in line and let me consider the discussion as I write. So why gnostic? To my mind the argument is whether you don’t believe in God because there is no evidence for Him, or whether you know there is no God because the evidence is clear that such a being does not exist. I fall into the second camp, in that I believe there is so much evidence against a God existing that I cannot hold on to any doubt. Dan Baker said it very well in this 18 min video: Basically saying that the very concept of a God, especially the Christian God, is so contradictory as to be an impossibility. I think the one related point which he doesn’t mention, which was a glaring contradiction to my mind, was the lack of communication with any God. As soon as you claim that God wants us to know Him, then it all falls to pieces. He is all-powerful, so if He wanted us to know Him we would. There would be no confusion, He would simply make Himself known. The fact is all the big religions claim this personal God and yet can’t get Him to show Himself. I’ve heard it described as scales, balancing the evidence for the two views. On one side you have science, reason and understanding, on the other you have religion. We all know there is zero evidence on religions side, but it is worse than that, in that every argument that they have ever thought of has been so thoroughly torn to pieces as to be a negative on their side. The God of the gaps has retreated from the advancing sciences until the gaps He can fill are nothing more than irrelevant edges of our knowledge. Perhaps we should consider a statute of limitations on such claims? After tens of thousands of years of spiritual beliefs we are still left with absolutely zero evidence of any supernatural beings. As is often said there are thousands of Gods which have been discarded over the centuries, none of which anyone alive today would show the slightest concern for. In fact we can say 100% of claimed supernatural abilities, events or creatures have been shown to have natural reasons for them. Whether that be psychics, special powers, healing touch, good luck charms, speaking to the dead or astral projection, it is always a case of people being convinced that natural events are actually supernatural. What we have clearly shown is that humans have a great capacity for self-deceit and, on mass, are easily lead to ridiculous beliefs by charismatic leaders. You only have to look at a relatively modern religions like Mormonism or Scientology to see how one con-artist making a claim can grow into a religion followed by millions, or look at the cults able to convince hundreds to commit suicide or destroy their lives based on nothing more than one mans unsupported claims. Is destroying Christianity enough? Well, apart from Christians doing this to themselves with the in-fighting, lack of unity and mixed messages all claimed to be divinely inspired, really we have to say that Christianity is the biggest religion that has ever existed. They have more followers and more wealth than any other. If there was one religion for which a claim of divine help could be made it is this one. So what do we see? Christians have the same life expectancy, suffer the same levels of crime, suffer the same amount of illness and injuries, pay the same insurance premiums and are struck down by terminal illnesses at the same rate as everyone else. So looking across the world at all the different groups, all the different beliefs and rituals, and yet none of it makes any difference to our physical lives. There is absolutely no input from magical sources to make their lives better. So can you disprove God? Yes, if the God in question is given characteristics that can be tested or if it is claimed that God interacts with the physical world. As soon as a claim is made that God is more than an irrelevance then those claims can be tested. Does He perform miracles? Does he talk to people? Does He take physical form? Does He write His thoughts down? Does He answer prayers? Any such claims can be investigated and disproved. All such claims ever made have been shown to be false. So what are we left with? We know religion is created by humans, we know the books are written by people, we know there is no such thing as supernatural events, there is zero evidence for any of the ridiculous claims and we can see new religions created before our eyes. There is no mystery to how we got to where we are and no special people able to do what the rest of us cannot. Really the only type of God that is harder to disprove is an irrelevant one. A God who lit the fuse on the big bang then ran away and hid. Yet even such a God, for who there are almost no claims made, is still clearly an invention of human minds, a mere God of the gaps being put in the last spot that science hasn’t yet reached. When the definition of God is no more than a force of nature, something without form and without function, then any one of a dozen natural forces could fit that description. You would be no longer talking of an intelligent being but purely of an event, one for which natural causes explain better than the need to introduce the supernatural.
  12. Wertbag

    You Tube Christians

    I love the stories of ex-preachers and what it was that shook their faith. One common cause is the hell doctrine. You can't reconcile an all loving god with torturing people for eternity. How can heaven be perfect and peaceful when you are thinking of all your family members who didn't make it so must be burning in a lake of fire. Lots of deconversion videos on YouTube from Dan Baker, Matt Dillahunty, Jerry de witt, Seth Andrews, etc always interesting to see so many different paths to atheism.
  13. Wertbag

    Old topic, new casualty

    My uncle was an atheist and he married a christian. At first they agreed to leave each to their own and basically avoid the subject. That worked for a couple of years until children entered the picture. She wanted them sent to christian schools while he preferred public, she wanted them to go to church but he wanted the kids to choose, she wanted to tithe while he thought they were too poor to give money away. Their values didn't match and slowly everything became a battle. For a relationship to work long term you must have values in common.
  14. Wertbag

    Garden of Eden thoughts

    I'm always amazed when I re-read a part of the Bible which I thought I'd been over numerous times and I find new questions which I've missed previously. Maybe its just a fresh look, or maybe something else I've heard recently has prompted my change of view but whatever it is it does make me realise that even areas I thought of as done and dusted, are still potentially worth another look. The first thought I had was regarding the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Steve were ashamed of their nakedness so hid in the bushes. That knowledge was meant to pass down through the generations, and yet children are not born with any shame. Children will happily walk naked in public, will talk loudly about any subject and will discuss bodily functions with anyone who will listen. There is no sign that a magical inbuilt knowledge of shame exists. We have to teach that to them based on societies standards. Some cultures have women bare chested while in the West it is considered taboo. According to Christians both cultures came from the same source, yet they have come to different answers as to what is appropriate. This thought then left me thinking, if the knowledge gained was "good and evil" then they are saying that nakedness is "evil". Even though there were only two people in the world, and they were married/lovers so were well used to seeing each other naked. So what evil was being done here? There was no one else in existence to see them, so no one could be offended. Surely a knowledge of evil would have meant they understood that harmlessly being naked is not a problem to be fixed? So lets say they gained knowledge of good and evil, and yet in their utopia there was no death, nothing to steal and direct communication with God on a regular basis. Really what evil was there in the world to concern them? The knowledge that evil could be done wouldn't have changed the fact that none was being done. Their lives would not have changed.
  15. Wertbag

    Intentions Don't Matter — Outcomes Do

    1.8 million troops based in the US is "literally no defense"? The worlds largest airforce combined with the worlds largest navy and backed by the most weaponised population on the planet... They have early warning systems, satellites, nuclear weapons, dozens of allies, the best tech and no obvious weakness... Russia, like every 1st world nation, is completely reliant on electricity. They have massive supermarkets, cold storage, distribution networks and tons of modern tech that would disappear without power. Sure emergency measures could attempt to distribute the resources they could salvage, but trying to feed a hundred million people without electricity will result in mass starvation for any country. You simply can't keep fruit, veges, dairy products, seafood or other perishables from spoiling without massive refrigeration. No such weapon exists. The EMP blast that most people are meaning is the result of detonating a nuclear weapon at high altitude so that the blast covers a wide area. You still couldn't take out an entire continent with a single weapon, and really if you are firing nukes then why do a high blast when you could just land it on a city? So yes you could in theory use nukes to make waves, or use nukes to make an EMP blast, but it all boils down to the only vulnerability is dropping nukes, to which no one on earth is safe. Of course the US has more nukes than anyone else, so firing one at them will simply result in M.A.D. The US is not vulnerable to a conventional attack from any opponent. Even combining Russia and China into a single invading military, you'd probably put your money on the US to hold their own if not win outright (it would not go well for anyone involved). China could launch a huge naval armada, but the 11,000km to travel and satellite tracking from the instant they start moving would make that a massacre (the 70 US submarines would take a massive toll). Perhaps Russia could invade across Alaska? Theres only 20,000 troops stationed there, then of course you'd have to invade through Canada before you could even reach the border, all the time tracked by satellite and under constant attack by the US airforce (the largest airforce in the world with 5600 aircraft, second largest being the US navy with 3700 aircraft. This compares to Russia having 1500, or China having 1400 aircraft. The US has 6400 aircraft more than Russia and China combined!) That's not to mention the 300k National Guardsmen who could be called up, the millions of fanatic patriots who would flock to sign up or the thousand armed drones in use. The US is simply untouchable by any conventional war.