Why I changed my mind


Cataclysmic. Like the Houston Astros’ earth-shattering defeat of the New York Yankees in last years’ American League Championship series. Except the earth wasn’t…you know…literally “shattered” in that series.

From Paul’s point of view, Jesus’ defeat of evil and triumph as Lord of the world inaugurating the new age was certainly cataclysmic.


I read quite a few posts in the beginning to mid of this thread and a few things stood out.

While I think @T_aquaticus did an excellent job explaining the difference between agnosticism and atheism, I think some clarification is needed by using some examples.

A gnostic is someone who knows that something is true (a claim about knowledge)
An agnostic is someone who lacks the knowledge about something
A theist is someone who believes a god exists (a claim about a deity)
An atheist is someone who lacks the belief in a god

Many people seem to think (religious and non religious alike) that a belief claim and a knowledge claim are mutually exclusive when in fact they are not. For instance, a person can be any of these combinations:
A gnostic theist - Someone who knows that god exists and believes that he does
An agnostic theist - Someone who doesn’t know if god exists, but believes that he does
A gnostic atheist - Someone who knows that god doesn’t exist and doesn’t believe that he does
An agnostic atheist - Someone who doesn’t know if god exists and doesn’t believe he does

99% of the atheists that I encounter fall under the “agnostic atheist category”. The majority of Christians fall under the agnostic theist category which is also why they rely on faith (belief without evidence) while some others, usually creationists claim that they not only believe in god, but also know that he exists (these people are usually dishonest). Furthermore, while gnosticism and agnosticism are often used in regards to religion, they can be used for any subject. For example, you can be an agnostic about the existence of dragons, with the exception of some nutjobs who are gnostic about the existence of dragons, most people fall in this category in regards to this subject. You can be gnostic about how much money you have in your wallet (you can also be agnostic!)

Another thing that I found quite interesting is when you guys were discussing about a universe coming from nothing vs god being outside of space and time and creating the universe. I would really like it if someone can explain me how something can exist outside of space and time. I honestly can’t even comprehend what that means because the word “exist” is only valid in space and time. Existence implies that you’re inside of space and time. Every verb can only function within time. I was walking in the past. I’m walking right now. I will be walking in the future. Something can not exist outside of space and time, something can not create something else without time. The engineer created the rocket - this implies a past and a present. Without time, there is no actions (creation, walking, or anything else). Without space there is no existence (by definition). I just cannot comprehend what it means, if someone could please explain it to me I would appreciate it.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #263

Short answer: we can’t.

Since we all share in each other’s limited perspective from inside this bottle we call “time and space”, nobody is going to be “explaining” this as if we could have some other studied perspective or experience. We only have our imaginations for what it might seem like to be “outside of this bottle”. But (speaking for myself), I want to abstain from the hubris that would be needed for me to presume that my/our experience is the only possible type of existence, and that nothing could possibly exist on the other side of any barrier from my/our understandings. For one thing, we can at least approach that wall from one side, even if we can never fully see or understand what may be on the other side. Some of us are willing to gamble that there is more out there beyond our reachable boundaries.

We can only use analogies (like ‘walls’) back to things within our own little bottle of existence to speculate how “being outside time and space” might make some sense – but we can’t really experience it; or at least I suppose not short of receiving divine revelations or visions. In one sense you are right to say “everything” must be in time and space … at least “everything” as it is commonly used by us, of course. But it is only another chapter of our old tribal hubrises to declare in a wider philosophical sense that the inconceivable is impossible. We’re like islanders who,since we don’t know anyone who has ever sailed away from the island we’re on and returned, conclude that no other lands could possibly exist.

Added edit … of course as a Christian, I think I have more than enough hints and intimations in Scriptures to warrant my belief that God is everywhere including beyond any of my limiting barriers of understanding. That doesn’t contribute to our understanding in any scientific sense, of course; it isn’t supposed to. But it is all I need for my resting point of faith. I’ll still use science or philosophy to know learn what I can.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #264

Interesting categorical clarity. I propose that an atheist needs to be somebody who has been exposed to the conjecture of God’s existence … enough to consider and reject it. E.g. If we found an isolated person or tribe that had no beliefs about any Gods and had never heard of any such thing; I would not think of them as atheists even though they have no belief in God (just as it probably isn’t accurate to think of a baby or an animal or a rock as atheists either --even though none of those have belief in God in any way we easily imagine). To me it connotes a thinking being with the capacity for knowledge and consideration of the question.

The problem is not atheism
(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #265

Stalin gets blamed for everything. He wasn’t a boy scout, but he was responsible for Soviet Union beating the Nazis (most of them Christian, btw) and then setting the Soviet Union to becoming a superpower after a massive destruction during WW2. And, btw, Moscow has a museum dedicated to Stalin Gulags. Where is the US museum dedicated to the plight of the Native American Indians and the Slaves right here in the US?

Keep in mind that you, a Christian, are an atheist when it comes to ALL other Gods/Deities throughout human history. I just disbelieve one more God (or 3 More, depending on how they are counted) than you do. Disbelieving Zeus doesn’t make us any less moral, neither does (I argue) disbelieving Jesus.

(John Dalton) #266

Leaving everything else alone, that’s highly debatable. It would be less controversial to say he was responsible for them getting very nearly totally crushed by the Nazis.

(George Brooks) #267


I will tread where others fear to go.

What if we agreed that 3 dimensions plus time is “the Universe”. There are mathematical reasons for believing in 7 more spatial dimensions (totaling 10 spatial, or 11 total). If these dimensions are real,
would you consider them “inside space & time” ? Or would you consider them outside?

Some physics (or maybe just a science writer?) suggest the best way to look at Entanglement is that it is a particle or bit of energy that has not so much been “entangled” with another tiny bit by a scientist - - but rather - - that it is the unveiling of a particle resident in one of these other dimensions, and in the process, we see two “manifestations” in our dimensions (each one a reverse reflection of the other).

What do I mean by this? As you may recall, when two particles are entangled, if you change the spin of one particle, the other particle instantly changes its spin in the opposite direction … and this happens instantly, regardless of location, and thus causality has the appearance of going faster than light.

“Multi-dimensionalists” would interpret this to mean the underlying dimension of reality for that entangled pair is what is being changed, and the “virtual reflections/manifestations” of the underlying reality are naturally changing instantaneously, because it’s ultimately just one particle, appearing in our Universe in two places!

One of the first Star Trek movies (if not the first?) gave us a glimpse of a “worm hole”, that allowed the ship to traverse an unimaginable distance in a short time. But in the movie, the “hole” was presented as a tunnel. There is no need for a “tunnel” - - if wormholes exist, they are much more comparable to a “hole” - - into which one drops and appears somewhere else. The first of the newer Star Treks actually fixed that. Instead of a “worm-tunnel”, two spaceships (one in pursuit of another) enter a “bubble” … a spherical representation of a 3-dimensional hole in our Space/Time universe which dumped them into a different Space/Time.

One more way to look at things: if “entanglement” is comparable to a dot on a piece of white paper, with the dot simultaneously appearing on part of the page, and (in folded space, or on the folded paper), the same dot (different view) appears on a 2nd part of the white paper where the two are touching.

Is that “magical” area, not part of our 3 dimensions+time, part of what you consider the Universe?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #268

I disagree. You have to keep in mind that the Soviet Union consisted of many nationalities and ethnicities. And some Soviet people, especially in the Western Ukraine and Lithuania joined the Nazis. How do you fight the enemy where your own people are joining the Nazi’s against you?

And the Germans were brutal. They would burn the whole village if there was even the slight resistance against them. This was very demoralizing, knowing that if you kill a german, everyone of your people who remains in the village will be killed in retaliation.

It is under these conditions the Soviets won.

I actually believe there was a conspiracy by the West to let Soviet Union die. So the German Nazis knew they will not really fight the West. This explains Hitler’s boldness to attack the Soviet Union even as the Great Britain was not defeated in June of 1941. (remember, GB declared war on Germany in 1939). And there was a miracle on Dunkirk, where surrounded Allies were allowed to escape (by miracle?I?) whereas no such miracles were afforded on the Eastern Front.

So yes, Stalin was responsible for the Red Army victory. Was he brutal? Yes he was, but perhaps this is what was needed. Most other armies of the West surrendered to the Nazis.

(George Brooks) #269


Far be it from me to delve into side-issues… but the novelty of someone lionizing Stalin was just too much to resist.

WWII was a team effort. The Soviets probably would have been confined to the least pleasant part of their Eastern lands if they had not been supplied by Western allies.

At the same time, I’m willing to admit that without the sheer terror of being conquered by a Slavic dictatorship keeping German troops on the Eastern Front, no doubt cracking the Atlantic Wall might have been well nigh impossible, or at least the breakout would have ground to a halt somewhere 20 miles inland.

The reason the Soviets were able to put up such a stiff resistance is not exactly an expression of human nobility. Stalin used the war as the perfect opportunity to reduce his population problem, by sacrificing some 20+ million soldiers and civilians in a grim war of attrition. If he was willing to starve millions of his countrymen in the Ukraine when there was no war, he was surely going to do the same with less guilt when it came to the survival of Soviet independence.

This same ruthlessness was used to turn the Soviet Union into a super power… that went bankrupt less than 40 years after his death. One might be tempted to be more amazed at Stalin’s ability to die a natural death (if he did die a natural death) rather than any particular management expertise or any special insight into how to extract the greatest productivity out a citizenry without doing them any harm (in terms of the latter part, he was completely incapable of avoiding harm).


Just for the record, I would fully agree with that. As stated in other posts, atheism is closely related to skepticism, and in order to be skeptical of a claim you need to be presented with a claim (and have the mental capacity to be skeptical).


Walking the same dangerous path . . .

There has also been talk of the universe being a hologram, similar to a video game. The rules of our universe are embedded in the computer, and what we see is the result of that program playing itself out. This means that “strange action at a distance” is the result of the underlying program. This also plays into the idea of ancestor simulations where an advanced species would produce many, many simulations of their ancestors that is indistinguishable from the real thing due to their technological advances. It is proposed that ancestor civilizations would vastly outnumber real civilizations in our universe, so there is a strong probability that we exist in an ancestor simulation.

Of course, I really don’t buy into any of this. However, it does make for interesting conversation over a coffee or a pint.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #272

Soviet Union, under Stalin, transformed from a mostly agrarian country to an industrial machine/powerhouse. It takes effort to convince the kulaks to give up their farm lands and allow their individual lands to feed the (now) urban population.

Keep in mind, that the West had a golden blockade/embargo on the Soviet Union’s gold in the 1930s. So, the leadership had a tough choice. Either export grain to continue industrialization or fold and die. These issues/questions are not black and white.

Also, consider that the famine in the Ukraine lasted a few years and ended in the 1933 or so. If Stalin wanted to deliberately kill off Ukrainians, why stop at 1933 and not continue with the famine until 1940s, up until the Nazi invasion?

There is a discussion on this point right here:

(John Dalton) #273

But why were they willing to join the enemy? Stalin’s earlier repressive policies had turned many against him. Lithuania was only reoccupied in 1940, after Stalin’s deal with the Germans made it possible–and made it possible for the Germans to turn against them and nearly knock them out of the war. If it wasn’t for Japan attacking the US, how would things have turned out? Hard to say.

(George Brooks) #274


Aren’t we saying pretty much the same thing?

You said Stalin had no choice but to be a monster.

And I said he was a monster who didn’t care about being a monster.

He was a flash-in-the-pan… nobody could be expected to do what he did … nor would we want them to.

Sometimes monsters are embargoed for a reason … like to keep Stalin weak enough to inhibit his invasion of another territory. And look what happened? As soon as he had a 2nd wind from WWII, he invaded half of Europe and exported more terror around the world. Sweet feller.

(Daniel) #275

Holodomor was not merely a cause of gold embargo (and your link does not do what you are suggesting that it does) as there are many alternatives to what he did. I mean refusing aid, not using best practices, limiting people’s movement and flexibility and letting or causing millions to die was not good leadership. Genocidal practices can continue until an opponent or group is subdued (submit or die) rather than a “final solution”.

Instilling a culture of fear and mass killings of political opponents is also not good leadership.

Despite literally knowing a good deal of Nazi war plans, he still did not adequately prepare for the initial offensive even when a proper defense in scale between relatively comparable forces would have greatly limited Nazi gains and victories.

Seizing part of Poland and killing the intelligentsia, Finland winter war, one could go on. These are not the hallmarks of an effective leader. His political doctrine of “I cannot catch up to the West so I need to use military force to gain territorial advantage” is still played out in Russia today sadly.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #276

People forget that Poland and Finland, among others were territories that were formerly a part of the Russian Empire.


Imagine Russia’s strength disappeared and Ukraine invaded Crimea. Would the West look at it as an invasion or a powerful Ukraine getting back it’s rightful territory?

I did not say Stalin was a boy scout, but the country needed to be transformed quickly. Basically, industrialization that took decades in the West had to take place in years in the Russia. Was that a good move by Stalin? At the end, it may have been what saved the Soviet Union (and the West) from the Nazi’s.

Keep in mind, Russian Empire did not employ the same methods as the Great Britain or the US. We are living in the West now, so it’s easy to forget the genocide of the Native American Indians and the Slavery. Is America a great nation? Of course it is, but not without it’s skeletons. That’s why I said that history is not black and white.

Look at the modern world. How many wars and deaths has America caused just in the last two decades? Are people just as outraged at the deaths of the Middle Eastern people as they are about Stalin’s killings of Russian Intelligentsia and his Gulags? What is the difference?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #277

If Stalin pre-empted Hitler’s attack, he would have been an aggressor with US and Great Britain potentially fighting him along with the Nazis.(i’m speculating, on this point, but there were images of Britain’s queen doing a Nazi salute and Truman did say if the Russians are winning, the US should help the Germans, adding that he did not want Hitler to be victorious under any circumstances)

Let me add one more point. It was under Stalin that the Soviet Union rebuilt itself after the WW2 destruction!

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #278

There are two [quote=“SuperBigV, post:265, topic:37604, full:true”]

Stalin gets blamed for everything. He wasn’t a boy scout, but he was responsible for Soviet Union beating the Nazis (most of them Christian, btw) and then setting the Soviet Union to becoming a superpower after a massive destruction during WW2. And, btw, Moscow has a museum dedicated to Stalin Gulags. Where is the US museum dedicated to the plight of the Native American Indians and the Slaves right here in the US?

Keep in mind that you, a Christian, are an atheist when it comes to ALL other Gods/Deities throughout human history. I just disbelieve one more God (or 3 More, depending on how they are counted) than you do. Disbelieving Zeus doesn’t make us any less moral, neither does (I argue) disbelieving Jesus.

There are two questions here. The first is: Did the universe create itself or be eternal, which is the claim of the atheist or was it created in whole or in part by powers beyond the physical which is the claim of the theist? This is a question of fact.

The second is Which faith do you ascribe to which is associated with your chosen God, god, or ideology? Technically I think Hitler was a theist because he was officially a member of the Catholic Church, but as a Nazi we worshiped that ideology which was centered around himself. Stalin technically was an atheist, but as a Communist he worshiped the Party, which was centered around himself.

Stalin was not immoral because of his atheism, but because of his ideology and actions based on that. Hitler was not moral because of his membership in the church, but because of his immoral ideology and actions. Neither Stalin or Hitler are persons who good role models and makes me fear for Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Russia was not saved from Hitler by Stalin. Russia was saved by its people who decided that Stalin was the lesser of the two evils The were right in that Stalin was smart enough to stop fighting his people and the church long enough to win the war.

I hope the people of Russia know that Stalin’s purges of the military and his refusal to believe that Hitler would attack the USSR and prepare for that attack set Russia up for defeat, that the people and God refused to accept, even though their sacrifice benefited immoral people.

For me believing in Jesus makes me moral. I do not know what you believe in and would not judge you in any case, because that is God’s responsibility. However I find that beliefs do make a difference and wish we would discuss morality rather than beliefs, because faith without works is bogus.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #279

Ah… but what was Hitler without the Christian German peoples?

Also, Russians now understand what the West/NATO are capable of, because Chechnya happened while Russia was embracing the West.

Here is one thing I don’t get. A Christian God tortures people in hell of all eternity! According to Jesus (few people find the narrow path to life while many walk wide road to destruction), majority of the world’s population will be tortured in Hell for all eternity. This is much worse than what Stalin had done. He killed hundreds of thousands, but never more than half of USSR population! And yet, Stalin is the worst monster while God is the ultimate goodness!? Let’s establish some standards first.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #280

Fake (Putin) news!

The same place that Lenin and Stalin would be without Christian Russian people.