Posts Tagged ‘faith



15
Jun
09

Drive-by Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness

Been a while since I’ve posted a drive-by scripture, so here we go, with Second Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16.

Much is made about how the word of God is infallible. In other words, the Bible is the final word and it’s not wrong in any way, shape or form.

I believe that. And I don’t believe that.

Having spoken recently on the translational issue with my post “Lost in Translation,” it should be clear that I have differing levels of regard for various translations. To some degree, even differing levels of trust.

I wholeheartedly believe that the structure of the Bible as it stands is pretty much inspired by God. The Catholics and the Protestants have a slightly different take on books that should or should not be included, but the differences are minor in the end. I believe there is value in some of the books that are not in the Protestant version, as well as some important books that are not in either Catholic nor Protestant translations of the Bible.

But at the same time, humans have had their grubby little hands all over the word of God, and mistakes, personal interpretations and the like are inevitable when human error gets brought into the mix.

But this, I think, can be a good thing as well as a challenge. While I believe that we can never truly understand God while we are in this world, tethered to our bodies and our carnal needs and desires, I believe we are meant to search for Him and seek Him continually, even if we are among the faithful.

Perhaps especially if we are among the faithful. For I believe that true faith and a closer relationship with God forces us to really think about what the Bible is trying to tell us, instead of expecting it to give us simple answers. And I think that truly coming to God forces us to question our faith, ourselves, and even the version of the word of God that we open to read.

23
May
09

Sticking Your Neck Out by Miz Pink

Pink_Lips_darkpinkSo maybe the title and topic of today’s post has more to do with having gotten sucked into playing Vampire Wars on Facebook (and starting to play Bloodlines and Vampires on it too) than anything else but it does seem a timely topic. (I’ve balancing a sleeping baby on my lap as I type this Deke so I hope you’re happy you slavedriver)

I see Deke is throwing out his work/schooling concerns and fears and tentative plans for all to see and I know it’s stressing him out. So he’s trying to put his neck out on the line but its been a long time coming and I know he feels like he didn’t stick his neck out soon enough so now he feels like it’s on the chopping block instead.

For my part Sir Pink has a job where he sees some things going on that aren’t quite right but if he says something he might be collecting unemployment. It’s nothing that violates any laws he’s aware of but its something that some people should be called on and it bothers him that he doesn’t feel like he can risk doing that.

For my part I’ve cut back on my work to be home with Mini Pink Model 3 pretty much full time for the first year of her life if possible and that means less money in the family pocketbook and I think it’s the right call but still it’s scary and making things rough.

We’re in a time and place with a lot of uncertainty in the world in terms of financial survival, environmental balance, peace vs. war and so much else. Often the people who look like they’re sticking their necks out actaully have huge safety cushions and safety nets backing them up and aren’t really risking much. A lot of common Joes who look like they aren’t doing anything are making quiet choices like dropping health insuracne to pay the mortgage or rent and keep food on the table, and that’s a huge risk but no one see that and no one would probably care if they did.

Bible tells us to have faith but as Deke pointed out in the comments of his latest thread, we have to do some heavy lifting ourselves and sometimes make some tough choices.

Sticking our necks out isn’t easy but it’s sometimes necessary. We need to pray and have faith as we do so…and we need to think things through…but sometimes we also just have to pull down the collar and stretch our heads out and hope that it will end up with a medal around our necks and not axes coming down on them.

28
Apr
09

Disproving Jesus

jesus_brown2Most atheists with whom I have interacted wisely stick to the argument that religion and faith are silly notions after centuries of increasing scientific discovery, and that Jesus, while a fine guy, couldn’t be the son of a God that doesn’t exist.

I understand this belief system. I really do. I even respect it, as much as I would respect any non-Christian religious belief system with which I did not agree.

But some poor fools in subsets of the atheist camp insist on doing something more: Arguing that Jesus never existed.

The thing is, how many ancient people in the historical record—religious, philosophical or otherwise—can we really prove existed? Siddartha Buddha? Moses? Sun Tzu? Aristotle?

We accept the existence of certain people based on a faith in the historical record. Either they wrote things themselves, people wrote about them, or both.

The New Testament documents, the gospels and the letters both, are among the most enduring and complete historical records around. I’m not saying that they can be proven to be 100% accurate in the details, but many surviving historical documents about famous figures we know to have existed (like Alexander the Great) were written centuries after they died. Between fragments of multiple copies of the New Testament documents and complete documents from within mere decades of Jesus’ life and death, we have sufficient proof—combined with mentions of him by Jewish authorites and historians of the time—to make the case that he existed.

Argue all you want about the divinity or the details, but he existed, and he made a splash when he arrived on the scene. A splash with ripples that continue well into today and far into the future.

Yet there are some atheists who continue to go through convoluted arguments about how Jesus was made up, or Jesus was an amalgam of multiple figures at the time. They are intent on proving that he didn’t exist, which is just as fruitless, pointless and stupid as Christians who feel they have to find Jesus’ final resting place and prove that’s where he was buried or trot out the Shroud of Turin as definitely being the burial shroud of the Christ. I’m all for archeology and science. And sometimes, they can bear fruit on filling in gaps and explaining things that once didn’t make sense in the Old and New Testaments.

But proving that you’ve found something of Jesus’ probably is virtualy impossible. Just like proving he didn’t exist.

And I wonder, why the drive to prove he doesn’t exist? If you don’t believe in his divinity, fine. But why try to expunge him from the historical record?

Unless he threatens you. Unless on some level, you are afraid he might exist as savior and Lord, and your faith that he isn’t divine rests of trying to convince yourself he never lived at all, much less rose from the dead.

Mind you, I’m not talking about atheists in general, whom I can respect even when they irritate the hell out of me. What I mean are those who insist on trying to wipe Jesus out entirely.

Because they remind me too much of the people who try to insist the Holocaust never happened. Sure, we say it’s something you cannot ignore or deny, but look how their efforts gain a tiny bit of traction with every decade that passes, with every survivor of it who dies. One day, decades or centuries in the future, people will be able to easily say, “That couldn’t have happened,” and the Holocaust may one day be relegated to mythology, even though it happened. Or, people may say it was a huge campaign of lies and disinformation, and wasn’t nearly as bad as the record says.

So, unless you’re planning to negate the existences of a lot of other people in ancient history, please give up trying to disprove Jesus’ existence. It’s intellectually dishonest and smacks of a cover-up job.

10
Apr
09

Stupid Christians

ancient-textSo, mostly, I’ve grown accustomed to people making blanket statements about how Christians are basically stupid.

That is, if you are strong in your belief or faith  you have automatically abandoned all ability to think logically, think critically, question authority, or have any objective opinion worth hearing.

My latest reminder of that is in a comment under the “Christian Sans” post at Deus Ex Malcontent, part of which comment goes:

I only think it is pathetically sad that religious people can only think in terms of right and wrong according to their God of choice, and not in terms of “Okay, how or why does this person do or think this?” Religion gets in the way of objective thought, period. There is no question in my mind that anyone who professes to me to be highly religious is also highly retarded and sheep-like in their morality and almost undoubtedly opinionated to the point of absolute frustration.

I know the commenter didn’t really call out Christians specifically, but really, that’s the group that mostly gets called out on stupidity via faith. Next up on the list to get slammed are the Muslims, but because of concerns about racial and ethnic slurs, liberal and progressive folk (I consider myself fairly liberal and progressive by the way, despite my total faith in God the Father and Jesus the Lord) don’t pick on them as much. I have yet to really hear anyone slam Jews for lacking the ability to think, except from time to time when truly conservative Jews or Israel’s policies come up. Scientologists get slammed too, but that isn’t really a religion…it’s a cultish L. Ron Hubbard fan club. And as yet, I have heard zero comment about lack of intelligence among Buddhists, Wiccans (or other Pagans), Hindus, etc.

Anyway, my point isn’t to rant about how this irritates me, partly because it irritates me less than it used to, if only because I’m developing thicker emotional calluses.

My point is that I think when people slam the intelligence of religious folks, they miss the point. Generally speaking, there are many intelligent and thoughtful people with strongly held religious beliefs. Yes, even Christians. The problem isn’t with people who put their faith in Jesus…or Allah…or Whomever. The problem is with people who blindly follow a religious leader or religious institution. It’s generally organizations and leaders who put wrongheaded thoughts into people’s heads in a way that makes them really stick.

You see, I don’t put my faith in an institution. Nor even a specific denomination. At various times in my life, I’ve been Catholic, Baptist, Congregational and totally non-denominational. That’s because I go to a church to get community and to get my soul feed through the hearing of the Word of God, not to join a damn club. It’s being around people with some common touchpoints and it’s about getting a little edification. When a pastor or institution makes me feel unwelcome, when it starts creating its own special dogma or rules for people to follow aside from God’s, or when it just gets boring or silly or rude, I leave. I find a new church home.

My loyalty isn’t to a pastor or a physical church. My loyalty is to The Church, with a capital “c.” The one that God wanted established through Jesus. Now, keeping my eye on what Jesus taught and told us to do, and filtering that through most of what the New Testament writers shared…well, I can do pretty damn well being accepting of all sorts of people and holding all sorts of opinions and even having many intelligent thoughts about the world.

I don’t base my politics on my religious beliefs. I don’t base my science on the Book of Genesis. I don’t pick and choose whom I will befriend based on whether they believe what I believe.

And I know that I’m not alone in this. It may be that many Christians allow themselves to be sheeple. But at the same time, so do many people in general. They blindly follow their political leaders or their nation without a care in the world. They follow shopping trends or rack up their debt or buy shit that Sarah Jessica Parker wears…because they are often sheeple.

People in general have an aversion to deep reflection and critical thinking. And objective thinking in its truest form is pretty fucking rare. Most people don’t want to lead or dance to their own drumbeat. They want to be led.

That, my friends, is the problem. Not religion. Because while there are many deep-thinking atheists and agnostics, there are also plenty of them who are just as slavishly stupid as Christians are made out to be. They just choose entirely different ways to express it.

09
Apr
09

One Nation, After God

church01So, as you may have heard, not only are we in a post-racial America now that Barack Obama has been elected president (yeah, right…), we also may be on the brink of the End of Christian America (cue up the ominous music…and go here if you want to read an article about this matter).

OK, so fewer Americans self-identify as Christians. More people identify as having no particular religious beliefs or profess to be atheists. And “only” a third of Americans think of themselves as born-again.

And I say: So what?

What is the frickin’ problem here? Why are so many Christians so up in arms about this? As a Christian myself, who is born again, this trend strikes me as neither a surprise nor, in fact, even a real issue.

I say this for two reasons: one of them political/social and the other biblical.

The Political and Social Aspect

Regardless of the ranting and ravings of the more froth-at-the-mouth conservative commentators, the United States of America is not a Christian nation, and never was. It doesn’t matter that our money says “In God We Trust.” It doesn’t matter that the Founding Fathers were either Christians or Deists. It doesn’t matter that the government added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, (62 years after the pledge was first introduced, incidentally). We are not a Christian nation.

The Founding Fathers expressly dictated that there should be no state religion. They were trying to escape the tyranny of a government that told them what to believe and taxed them from afar while giving them no say in the running of their nation. And even if they had put Christianity into the Constitution as the official religion of the the land—which they didn’t—they had designed the Constitution so that it could be amended later to change with the times and evolve. Even if they secretly desired everyone in the nation to be a Christian, they left open the intrinsic right—and expectation—that not everyone would be so.

If we are going to insist that this be a Christian nation because the Founding Fathers were Christian, we should still embrace other notions they had at the time, such as the idea that only white landowners should vote. We should therefore revoke voting rights from all women, most of the men in the nation, and all non-whites. If that sounds good to you, you scare me and should immediately hole up in your bunker until you starve to death.

In a nation that embraced immigration and encourages people all over the world to come and enjoy our “American Dream” by becoming citizens of our nation, or at least fans of it from overseas, it is ridiculous to think that we would remain overwhelming Christian. There is more than one religion in the world. And two of the other biggies, Judaism and Islam, come from essentially the same roots as Christianity, so we should expect them to stick around too and even grow.

I don’t want a nation to base it policies and laws on a single religion’s belief system. So, frankly, I’m glad that conservative Christians aren’t calling all the political shots and able to freely frame laws around their specific religious precepts.

The Biblical Take on Things

But beyond the political and social reasons why should neither be surprised nor frightened by a lessening of the “Christianity” of the United States, there is the biblical aspect.

Jesus and the writers of the New Testament have all told us, multiple times, that people will ultimately turn away from God for the most part. It has been made crystal clear that a time will come when Christians will not necessarily be in a position of prestige or even safety. “Men will become lovers of themselves and not of God.” Furthemore, “we will be persecuted for Jesus’ sake.” Need I go on?

If you’re Christian and you’ve read the Bible at all, you should expect that the world will gradually drift away from Christianity. We were never promised a world in which folks would mostly be praising God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost and just a few people would be lost. God would prefer that no one be lost, but the fact is that the world is supposed to go away from God’s away. That’s is what we’ve been told to expect.

To fret about gradual movements (or even seismic-level ones) toward that and to argue about how wrong it is strikes me a lot like complaining that teenagers often don’t listen to their parents or like their decisions. Sure, it’s a valid topic of conversation, but the core fact you’re addressing is only going to come as a surprise to someone who’s totally clueless about reality.

This doesn’t change the fact that we should be ready to share the Gospel with those who are interested or who don’t really understand it. But to be surprised that Christianity would fall by the wayside should be no surprise at all. That road was predicted more than 2,000 years ago for us.

07
Apr
09

Two-fer Tuesday: Awareness by Miz Pink

pink-wearing-woman-looks-upSeems alot of folks really think (particularly as fewer and fewer identify themselves as religious) that to be religious is to suffer from a shortage of awareness. You must not be aware of (or respect) other religions than yours. You must be trying to ignore the fact that you should be aware of scientific advances and give up on that old-time religion stuff. You must not be aware of how damaging religion has been over the centuries.

I don’t agree and in fact I think that religion can be chock-full of awareness. It’s just that religion is designed around a really specific kind of awareness. An awareness of yourself and the fact that you fit into a world bigger than what we see. I’m aware that dinosaurs walked the earth before humans appeared. I’m aware that some nasty things have been done in the name of religion. I’m aware that other people have different faiths and realize that it’s certainly possible they might be right and I might be wrong.

But I’m also aware that I have a soul and that I am part of the plan of a higher power and that this Christian path I’m on is certainly the right path for me.

17
Mar
09

If God Came Down…

gods-handI’m going to say something that might strike a lot of you as silly.

If God came down and showed His power and said, “I am God, and by the way, yes, Jesus is my son”…well, I don’t think everyone (perhaps not even the majority of folks) would start believing in God or the way of Christianity.

Mind you, if Vishnu came down or Zeus or Buddha or anyone else, I think they wouldn’t get as much respect as you’d think, either.

I’ve been thinking about this a bit as people have chided me in believing in a God who won’t show Himself more obviously. I also read a very interesting novel recently called The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson, and the main character in it, who’s more than a bit of a doubter, writes at one point, something to the effect of: “Just one flaming cross in the sky that everyone can see at the same time. That’s all it would take.”

But that’s a lie, really.

Think about it. If a flaming cross appeared in the sky, would you assume it came from God? Even if there was a booming voice saying, “Respect this cross, for on it my one begotten son died for your sins”? Or, would you be one of the people who claims it’s some sort of prelude to an alien invasion, and that aliens created religion as a way to come back and wield power over us with minimal resistance?

Or might you be someone who would claim that some government or coalition of governments seeking to institutionalize religious precepts had made the cross and voice appear with some hitherto hush-hush technology created in Area 51?

Or might you think you had lost your mind and were hallucinating or in a coma or something, and everyone around you who saw this was just part of your imagination, too?

Or, hey, God Himself steps out of the clouds, not just some fiery lightshow. You might use one of the theories above, or maybe you’d say, “Shit, some numbnut was born with the ability to reshape reality, and now we have a crazy mutant near-omnipotent nutjob who thinks he’s God almighty.”

These are not silly notions; that humans would doubt so much even then. Many people don’t like the idea of a God in Heaven. They will not accept that idea no matter how hard you hit them over the heads. Some people don’t want to have a God in Heaven, and even if they are made to believe He exists, those people may quite well reject Him because they don’t like His way of doing things.

So, in the end, even if burning crosses appear in the sky, well…I think we’re mostly left with faith.

12
Mar
09

Superstition, Insanity and Faith

black-cat-on-red1With Friday the 13th coming up tomorrow…oh, that unlucky day…I thought I’d wax philosophical on superstition vs. faith.

Fearing that bad luck will befall you because you walked under a ladder is superstition. Leaving food out for the fairies so that they won’t do mischief in your house is superstition. Keeping a rabbit’s foot in your pocket is superstition.

Hell, I’ll even grant you (despite my Christian faith) that praying for something and expecting to get what you want is superstition. (God isn’t a cosmic ATM).

Faith in any religion or belief in a god (or God Himself) is not superstition. Maybe it is if you’re looking to explain love as being some god firing an arrow in your ass or the movement of the sun as being due to some dude’s invisible chariot. But a belief in a higher power is not superstition.

In fact, I find it no more ludicrous than believing that the whole universe just spontaneously popped out of nowhere, which is what a lot of people seem to believe. Or that it was a pre-existing compressed ball of matter/energy that suddenly exploded. Because the fact is that believing the universe is some random unguided thing that has always existed in some form is just as wacky as believing there is an entity (or are entities) that shaped it and perhaps guide it on some higher level.

So, with that, I respectfully request that anyone who has been baiting Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus or anyone else with the “I can’t believe you buy into that superstitious nonsense” line please stop. You can disagree with faith, but please stop lumping it in with superstition. I wish some of you would stop with the “delusional” tag as well, because I know that I’m well aware of reality, the laws of physics and the need to function in the world around me.

As for the Scientologists, who maintain a huge, cultish church around the writings of a bad science fiction author?

Well, they’re just fucking insane.

25
Feb
09

Taking the Leap

the-big-leapNo surprise to regular readers that I have semi-regular discussions with atheists and agnostics on this blog and at others. I don’t try to covert them, because I’m not clinically insane nor masochistic, but I think it’s great to make sure we all understand each other. Much better than one side calling the other a bunch of superstitious idiots, while the other side is calling them narrow-minded secularists.

In fact, TitforTat and The Word of Me have probably been my most frequent foils lately (and I mean that in the nicest recreational fencing/dueling way possible). In terms of longer dialogs, though, TWOM had a conversation with me here with regard to a Mrs. Blue post here, and I’m trading thoughts with him over at one of his postsover at his blog right now.

It’s good stuff, and I like the conversations. As long as no one gets to calling me an out-of-touch looney-toon, all’s good (that hasn’t happened often, and most of those people I don’t even try to engage again). But I have been thinking a lot lately about what divides a spiritual believer from a non-believer, and it strikes me that as much as we intellectually can appreciate each other, it is hard to truly explain ourselves to each other. For both sides, it seems self-evident that our position is the correct one, and it troubles us on some level that the other side hasn’t broken through to our way of thinking.

This struck me in particular when TWOM recently posted in one of his comments something to the effect of “I’ve read the Bible and I’ve tried to understand it and believe.” I’m probably misquoting him a bit, but that was the gist as I recall. And it’s been said to me before by other agnostics and atheists that they have tried to read the Bible with an open mind and “just don’t get it.”

And this is precisely where the rubber meets the road: Faith vs. concrete facts. Intellect vs. surrender.

This is not to say that the faithful lack intellect nor that the doubters and atheists lack any kind of “spiritual” or moral core. Far from it. But here is the best example I can come up with as a person of faith:

Imagine a person who decides to go skydiving. There are a few likely scenarios.

She completely freaks out with fear and doesn’t go to the skydiving takeoff point at all. This would analogous, I believe, to someone who says “Yes, I’ll consider your points and/or read that Bible thing” but never really tries.

She goes to the site, freaks out, and just cannot get on the plane, or she gets on the plane but cannot get herself out of that seat until it lands again. She never jumps, but she at least went to where it would all start. I liken this to the person who does give some consideration to it, but never really turns off the literal/concrete parts of their brain. I mean, I personally enjoy and respect (and use) critical thinking, but you cannot think your way to faith.

She makes it to the door of the plane while it is in midair, but she cannot make the jump. She sees all that open sky beneath her and feels the excitement and fear in her gut. She has a visceral and emotional reaction, but making the leap is just too much. She goes back to her seat. Here we have a person who has managed to open their heart and might see a glimpse of what the faith believer sees, but on some level, the thought of letting go is too much. Whether because of fear that it might be true, and a desire not to find out and have to consider answering to a higher power, or whether fear that faith will lessen them somehow; reduce their intellect or spin them too far away from provable reality perhaps.

She jumps out of the plane and goes for the ride. This would be the person who does make the leap from purely temporal and rational thought to faith. It is a wild and scary ride sometimes, and the person might regret it in some ways. The person might even decide one day to reverse course and deny that faith she tasted or decide not to embrace it fully, but the leap was indeed made, whether for a short time or a lifetime.

None of this is to suggest that atheists or agnostics are cowards. Fear isn’t altogether a bad thing. And they, in turn, could accuse someone of me of being fearful of considering that there isn’t anything beyond this life; that there isn’t any intelligence guiding the universe. They would argue that I am afraid to let go of a comfortable superstition.

Myself, I don’t feel fear at the possibility there might not be a God. I have considered it. Hell, I spent most of my life ignoring spiritual things and the church and might as well have been an agnostic or even atheist, despite having been a baptized Catholic who occasionally went to church. I still find myself at a crossroads at times when I ask, “Am I spiritually delusional?” In the end analysis, having made the leap and feeling the swell of my spirit and sensing things beyond the physical and intellectual, I simply cannot conceive of there not being a God.

It is, to me, as clear and as unassailable as the existence of gravity. That doesn’t mean I don’t doubt some of the specifics of the Bible or wonder if my spiritual path is the right one. But for me, taking the leap wasn’t simply a transient thing. I live in a world where God exists, and I can no more deny Him than I can deny myself.

09
Dec
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Outside the Box by Miz Pink

pink-dress-with-gift-boxSo today I’m supposed to write about some sort of ‘thinking outside the box’.

At first I thought Deke was just getting silly or running out of ideas but it does go along nicely with something I’ve been playing around with in my head lately.

I wanna talk about the possibility that the idea of many paths leading to God might not be so crazy. I’m not saying that all faiths are correct and Im not saying all paths are good or valid ones to take on the spiritual walk. I still tend to believe for alot of reasons that Jesus Christ is THE path.

Deke and me have talked about this some…the idea of all religions being equally valid (for folks who believe in a higher power but don’t have much faith in religious institutions themselves). And our talks have often come to the idea that SOMEONE has to be right and most everyone else has to be wrong because there are too many irreconcilable differences between alot of them.

But I’ve been trying to think more creatively and broadly about things and to think outside of my own faith beliefs. What I’m about to say ISN’T me stepping away from Christianity or trying to get people of other religions off the hook. Like I said I still believe in Jesus as the guy who we need to go through to get to God. But in the spirit of thiking outside the box, here is an interesting little theory I have that would allow for all faiths (or most of’em anyway) to coexist and be valid paths to heaven.

Here goes…

What if the defining godly attribute isn’t just faith but also imagination? What is the creative mind is what the creator is looking for in heaven? If anyone has seen the flick “Defending Your Life” the idea was that you keep being reincarnated and going back to Judgement City and basically having your life put on trial until the heavenly courts decide that you have conquered your fear. Fear in that movie is what keeps humans on Earth from advancing to whatever the next level is in the afterlife. I don’t know what emotion or whatever they have to overcome thereafter, if any.

What if imagination is what God is really looking for? He creates. He manages a whole universe and maybe even more than just the universe. He supposedly created us in his image. So what if what he wants is for us to expand our minds to a point where when we die we are beings that have enough creativity and imagination to be enough like him to move on to the next level. Maybe like in the movie we get recycled until we get it right.

I’m just saying. It’s an interesting idea. Because if it were true, and it probably isn’t…but if it were, it would mean that religion isn’t so much about getting it right but being able to conceive how God and spiritual things fit into our earthly lives. The act of being able to imagine a God and how we would fit into his/her/its design on a complex and deep level is what the goal really is.

Just a thought.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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