The Emptiness of God as a Philosophical Concept
It is a sad day when any Christian renounces his former faith and rejects the gospel. It is even more sad when the Christian in question is someone who was an active evangelist and a close friend. I had a feeling that I knew what he meant when he posted “[name withheld] is free of the cult and not afraid.” But I checked the litany of comments below the status to confirm what I feared: the “cult” he meant was Christianity.
He now believes that God is love, but nothing more than that. Of course, this belief is informed by Scripture, which he also rejects. Leaving that contradiction aside, we find that what my friend has done is to reduce God to a mere philosophical concept.
He appears to understand that God is necessary for existence. He would probably agree with me that God is the First Cause, or the Uncaused Cause, that touched off the chain of events that eventually became our universe. Other than that, my friend seems to have no way to inform his understanding of God other than to label him “love.” This is reducing God to a speculative philosophical concept.
The Christian, however, believes in a deity that is more than just a philosophical concept. The Christian has real object for his faith, that is, the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered all of the same things that we suffered, emerging victorius, so that we can have real comfort with someone who has been there before. Jesus is God’s way of getting closer to us: by becoming flesh and blood and suffering though life as one of us.
A philosophical concept, however, is a cold and impersonal force that has never experienced life the way that we can. This isn’t a real person that we can retreat to when times are rough. So, when times get rough, while the Christian sees Jesus as the anchor and the rock to weather the storm, my friend won’t have such a rock. He’ll only have himself.
Once he has to weather a storm relying only on himself, it is easy to conclude that a philosophical concept did nothing for him. So why not shed the philosophical concept altogether?
Reducing God to a mere philosophical concept is only a few steps away from atheism.
Posted on December 13, 2009, in Apologetics, God and tagged atheism, Jesus, Personal. Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.
You know… I got tired of making excuses for God. I got tired of realizing that my so-called answered prayers were at best wishful associations. I got tired of seeing the overwhelming evidence against the gospels, and no really good rebuttles, other than the typical Christian thinking-bubble. I got tired of trying to make excuses for discrepencies between scriptures. I got tired of reading the bible and thinking to myself, I don’t believe a thing here: people raised from the dead, miracle workings, Jesus’ ascendence into Heaven… then coupled with all of my own personal experiences made me finally wake up.
I wanted to believe it so bad. I really did. But it’s odd when I think back, that I never once thought that I was in need of being reconciled to a creator. Christianity came around at a time in my life when I was confused and burned-out and on a road to self destruction, so I latched on for hope in something better. Then after 5 to 6 years of trying to be a Christian, I finally got tired of trying to force myself to be joyful and believe in something that had looming doubts in my mind.
Christianity bases itself on the assumption that the bible is God’s infallible word. Yet when you start do study how it came to be and all of the translations you realize that there are ridiculous amounts of contradictions and discrepancies, but because somebody wants to believe their stance so bad, they come up with a thousand excuses to make it look fine. I’m sick of it.
I think about Bill Keller, a passionate evangelist who took his live prayer show to the air believing it’s what God wanted. Then he tried to get national sponsoring. It worked for a couple months but didn’t go. He said it was because he hadn’t secured a good financial model. Then tried again claiming that it was God’s will. Then finally started asking for donations to support the show and could never get it going. Now he says well obviously that wasn’t God’s plan so there’s no nationally syndicated show now, just a webcast.
How many times has this happened to us? We claim we THINK we know what God is doing or what He is teaching us and when it doesn’t go the way we prayed we MAKE EXCUSES.
Then there’s the comparison to other Christians who seem to be more fulfilled and joyous and we wonder what we’re missing so we pray more and devote more time to God and nothing really happens. Life just goes on and we exault God when they go in the way for which we prayed and say well it must not have been God’s will when it didn’t go that way.
What a load of crap.
Israel and every other population on the planet had their Gods, and it was a turf war as to who’s God was bigger and badder. Do you really believe that God just picked Israel and chose to reveal Himself to the world over thousands of years? Wow that leaves billions out of the loop doesn’t it? Oh… well I guess you’ll just say that His ways and thoughts are not our own. Yeah… let’s use scripture to prove scripture… circular logic.
Jesus was like so many other “self-proclaimed” messiahs. I would bet that he lived, but I would put money on the fact that he was no more than a radical political, social, and religious activist. The gospels weren’t even written down until 30+ years after his death. The writings were exaggerated to put him to a God-like status so that he appeared to be the messiah that the Jews were waiting on. And don’t even get me started on the astrology associations of the Jesus myth. Oh and check out the Gospel of Mary Magdalene if you really want a treat about a different perspective of Jesus…
I don’t claim to know who or what God is, and I’m totally content with that. It will be a mystery until death. And perhaps after death there is something, and perhaps not. But at this point I UTTERLY REJECT THE GOD OF CHRISTIANITY AND JESUS CHRIST.
I don’t have the answers to life, but I’m convinced it’s not Christianity.
Surely you don’t utterly reject Jesus Chrestos too? But he died to purchase you from the Demiurge so that the Demiurge could not burn you in hell unjustly! Or did you think your God of love is the Demiurge who created parasites out of love and all the diseases in this world and blindness and crippledness, all out of love? The Demiurge is out to get you. Turn to Jesus Chrestos.
Although the Demiurge seeks to burn everyone in hell both righteous and unrighteous indiscriminately, Chrestos will save those “who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Romans 2:7) as Marcion (i.e. ‘Paul’, for Marcion – Marcus = ion = little = Paul) says in this authentic statement.
do I only go on moderation if I say his name?
yep that’s how it works! I can’t say Mark Ion’s name. If I say Mark Ion I get blocked because stating the name of IC XC’s apostle is a no no here.
You apparently have failed to notice that all of your comments mentioning Marcion have been approved. You have now demonstrated that you are a total idiot. In so doing, you have also stumbled on to one of my biggest pet peeves: speculating on things which you know nothing about. Next time you want to know why a comment gets held in moderation, shoot me an e-mail and ask. It’s not like I hide my contact information. I have a “Contact Us” page for crying out loud!
For the record, I had a commenter a while back who manged to be a bigger idiot than you, and got himself banned. He went by the name Marcion, so “Marcion” is on my comment blacklist, and any comment, nome de plume. or e-mail address that contains “Marcion” will be held in moderation. It has nothing to do with my personal opposition to Marcionism.
In conclusion, you’re an idiot.
Furthermore… Christianity feeds on emotion… just look at the Charismatics… they get you all hyped up and you get an excited feeling that you attribute to the holy spirit…
And jeez do I even need to go into the vast array of Christian doctrines??? Nobody can come to agreement… NOBODY. Now the Episcopal church is ordaining gays… obviously they don’t believe it’s an abomination to God, though the bible clearly says that homosexuallity is…
All of the religions of the world have followers that believe so much that they are willing to suffer and die for the cause… for the false hope they create… some are even willing to murder in the name of God.
Think about David Koresh, who claimed to be the 2nd coming of Jesus. Think about Joseph Smith. Think about Muhammed. Think about the Jonestown Massacre or the Heaven’s Gate cult. So to say that the gospels must be true because people died or suffered for it is completely moot…
Ultimately, I do believe in a creator as the first cause, Cory is right about that. I think God can be proven by careful analysis of the natural world. But perhaps He doesn’t want anything from us. Perhaps we’re just here for His amusement and creativity. I don’t know, and I’m not worried about it.
Jesus had a radical teaching… he taught about LOVE. I think the Beatles hit it when they said that “all you need is love”. I think Jesus had an understanding of the big picture. I think he understood very well what it was to be human living in Jewish society. I think he was a visionary.
In the end, if I am wrong, so be it. I do not fear death. Even careful analysis of the bible points out that those who are rebellious to God (if I am wrong) will be destroyed, not stuck in a place of fiery torment for eternity. Bring it. Amen.
Based on the latter portion of your statements, I can’t help but to feel that emotionalism is the motivating factor for your belief–humanity is stronger than you think, without phantasmal ploys.
My friends… God IS love. Jesus understood this. Somewhere over the millenia, man decided that to please God it required rituals and doctrines and laws and blah blah blah… Jesus realized this was crap. Hence he said there are really only 2 commandments, and that is to love God with all of your heart mind and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Because if you love, you cannot sin. It makes a simple sense. If you love God, you will follow the natural order of things.
Did you know that studies have shown that projecting love and positivity onto water actually changes its visible molecular structure? Water has a “memory” and a “consciousness”… (there’s a fascinating series about the mystery of water on Youtube check it out)… No wonder so many cultures have a flood story… no wonder water makes up most of the world and most of all life… it is the universal solvent… God designed us and everything around us to react positively to love… and He is no different…
I am not an atheist, but I refuse to believe the classic Christian interpretation of God. We’ve mucked it all up. No doubt there will be hundreds of critics telling me that I’ve now embraced some new-age philosophy. It think it’s pretty obvious. Humans thrive on love, and so does nature… it is God’s design.
The only way to obey God and glorify God, is to love.
Everything outside of that is man-made crap because man is selfish and wants to control even the ways in which we approach God. God didn’t need the animal sacrifices of the Jews… the Mayans didn’t need to appease God with their human sacrifices… that was man’s warped thinking. We thought we needed a savior… we thought it was something so much more grand than love. Religion breeds hatred. God is the same God no matter where you are on earth, and the laws of love govern humanity.
I think even the so-called atheists will respect this position, seeing as though they love their families and their fellow man.
And as for you Christians and other monotheistic or polytheistic worshippers… check your heads… check your respected documents, and tell me if love isn’t the common denominator.
That’s because GOD IS LOVE.
So you got tired of biblical contradictions and making excuses for God (I guess meaning OT genocides and such). But what about the contradictions in nature? How does this “God is love” concept reconcile all the diseases of the Creator? Marcionism makes more sense than your “God is love” idea: i.e. The Creator is hate, and the Good God is love. Jesus as the Son of the Good God came and died on the cross to redeem (i.e. purchase) us from the Hate-God who created this world so that we could be with his Father who is love. Believing only in the Creator and labeling him love doesn’t make much sense. Where’s the love in all the parasites and nasty bugs and such he created? Besides, Marcionism has the advantage of being an actual ancient version of Christianity, and one that lasted all the way to the 10th century when the crusade wiped it out (because it was already wiped out in the West by then and only the East was hanging on). God is love doesn’t explain the sad state of the world. Are you sure there aren’t two gods?
“Did you know that studies have shown that projecting love and positivity onto water actually changes its visible molecular structure?”
(interesting concepts of God here otherwise!)
Well put. I’m an agnostic atheist–however, “Process Theology” is the only plausible concept that is coherent and intelligible. God is love–in that I believe b/c I see it emanating from myself, and amongst humanity.
“So, when times get rough, while the Christian sees Jesus as the anchor and the rock to weather the storm, my friend won’t have such a rock. He’ll only have himself. Once he has to weather a storm relying only on himself, it is easy to conclude that a philosophical concept did nothing for him.”
I’ve never seen how this works with the orthodox concept of Jesus. When a loved one dies you are to be conformed by the fact that you’ll see them again in heaven. Jesus helps you through the crisis. NOT. Because what if your loved ones weren’t Christians? Will you die because your grandmother dies out of Christ and you know you will not see her again ever? No. You’ll get through it. And not with Jesus’ help, but without it. He can’t help you here. He can’t make you feel good about your grandma going to hell because she wasn’t a Christian. If anything he’d make it worse by saying “she deserves it–she should have believed in me.” At this point you have to rely on yourself, and you’ll be better off doing so. In fact, if you’d rely on yourself also when you want to stop sinning, you’d accomplish it rather than saying “I’m weak.” Tell yourself you are strong and make yourself so. When you say “I’m weak and prone to fall. I need God’s help all the time” you make yourself fall by telling yourself you are weak.
My last comment I guess. Time to move on. So I have to say this too. (You stink at apologetics btw) Hippolytus says (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iii.iii.v.xix.html) “When, therefore, M@rc^on or some one of his hounds barks against the D3m^urg3, and adduces reasons from a comparison of what is good and bad, we ought to say to them, that neither Paul the apostle nor Mark, he of the maimed finger announced such (tenets) For none of these (doctrines) has been written in the Gospel according to Mark.” Showing that M@rc^on was understood to be both Mark and Paul. M@rc^on meaning little Mark, thus able to be split into Mark and Paul, Mark when discussing the gospel and Paul the apostol^con, that is the epistles. Therefore M@rc^on’s gospel was understood to be the real authentic Mark. (Where’s the real ending of Mark?) So then, beware when M@rc^on’s dogs bark to tell them that Mark, he of the maimed finger (castrated Mark in other words, Mark the Eunuch) did not teach such M@rc^on^t3 doctrine about the Creator being bad and Jesus being good. But people though so back then before the Catholic church killed them and forced everyone to believe in canonical Mark rather than M@rc^on’s Mark (he of the mutilated finger). I think I’ll stick with the persecuted group and their beliefs rather than the persecutors. But you can make your own choice Cory. Take your place in hell with the persecutors if you will.
So goodbye my friend Cory. At least I leave you with this advice from Hippolytus. If you ever encounter anyone like me again, tell them “Mark, he of the maimed finger, announced no such tenets.” That will be easier for your than engaging in the comparison of good and bad since you are inept at it.
Two observations: first, I don’t actually believe that you’re gone. Second, if I am so bad at apologetics, then why on earth did you stick around for so long?
However, if my first observation proves to be incorrect and you really are gone, you won’t be missed.
Rey… you drive me effing crazy. Go away.
And Cory, how do you reconcile things like the Skeptics Annotated Bible? The contradictions are there, for you to read from your own bible as well. I’m sure there’s some logical way to explain a few of the scripture errors away… OH BUT WAIT!!! The bible is INFALLIBLE!!! THERE’S NO ERRORS!!!
Here are many answers to the so-called “contradictions” pointed out in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. Did you even research any Christian answers? Not bloody likely.
You’re british? BTW, please reformat that website. Black background with white and blue text…are they trying to blind us?
here’s a really cool article by a guy with a very similar experience as me. It explains his conversion to liberal Christianity, then evangelical fundamental Christianity, then ultimately after much study and personal experience, his deconversion.
I can totally relate to him.
I’m offering this as a glimpse into my reasoning, especially since this man does it with so much more tact than me hehehe.
Weak. “Hell is bad so Christianity is wrong.” Just lame. At the very least an intellectually honest atheist would admit that some people deserve hell but that everyone does not. The blanket condemnation of hell as immoraly in every case shows the workings of a depraved mind in my estimation. Anyone who opposes child molesters going to hell, deserves hell himself. But opposing that a man whose only sin is telling a little white lie (and who doesn’t believe in the Bible) should go to hell is just.
First of all, hell doesn’t exist. The bible translates “hell” from the following words:
Gehenna – also known as the Valley of Hinnom which in the OT was a burning garbage dump outside of Jerusalem… a place where the worm never dies… duh… wherever there is dead and decaying meat (dead humans included) and garbage, you will find maggots and flies. Also notice that the OT makes no mention of a resurrection or eternal life. The OT also uses the word everlasting to talk about things that obviously end, but has everlasting effects.
Hades – this refers to the unseen realm of the dead… an underworld
sheol – this is the grave. When you die you go down to sheol. you’re buried.
Hell is referred to as a place of everlasting punishment, not everlasting punishing.
Read Malachi 4, where God says that all evildoers will become a burnt stubble… ashes. That sounds pretty permanent to me.
The NT is the only place where we hear of eternal perpetual torment. And do you really believe the wacked out crap in Revelation???
As for child molesters and murderers and the like… I think as humanity that we all want to see some sort of eternal agony for those people. We want to see a power higher than ourselves deal with them because we can’t fathom the actions that have been committed.
I say it’s up to us to deal with them… it’s progressive for society to make them go away and pay the consequences for their actions.
And one more thing for you to ponder… I was raised in a household where my parents never took me to church or taught me about God or showed me the bible. And you know what? It NEVER once occurred to me that I needed to be reconciled to ANY god. That didn’t happen until some of the religious nuts came into my world and scared me with the unknown.
which is what life after death is… UNKNOWN. We can’t fathom ceasing to exist, so we like to ponder whether or not we do.
I used to present the same moral arguements… that there must be an active God that gave us morals… no God, no morals…
now I see that that may not be the case. It seems to me that most morals are time-tested common-sense wisdom, and beneficial for the progress of society.
But I could be wrong, and that’s fine.
But so could you.
If hell doesn’t exist, then why does Jesus teach more on hell than heaven? Can you explain that one?
Explain why is a virtually unheard of idea in the Old Testament.
Also, you assume that the bible is true and that Jesus is the son of God. For those of us who don’t believe that, hell is not an issue.
hell that is
that certainly is an explanation, but I don’t buy it.
This might also be of note.
considering it’s from the calvinist perspective, why should I even bother?
obviously I’m not predestined.
furthermore, that didn’t help at all. So what if the contempt for me is everlasting, I’m burned up and destroyed. Lame.
“I used to present the same moral arguements… that there must be an active God that gave us morals… no God, no morals…”
I didn’t even say that. I said that child-molestors deserve hell and therefore the argument “hell is bad so the Bible is stupid” is asinine and moronical to the max.
This essay really does boil down to “Hell is bad, therefore God does not exist.” Weak reasoning. I have to wonder how much theology the guy has actually studied. I much doubt that he has ever tried to reason thoughtfully through love and justice, and how the two are in no way contradictory.
Explain why is a virtually unheard of idea in the Old Testament.
Also, you assume that the bible is true and that Jesus is the son of God. For those of us who don’t believe that, hell is not an issue.
LOVE this testimony from an ex-Christian:
It sort of hit my wife and me suddenly late in our process of deconverting. Every Christian rejects something (or a lot of things) in the Bible. Particular things. Things about which the Bible is very clear. It turns out, there’s no other choice.
The Bible contains a lot of paradoxical statements, conflicting accounts that cannot be unraveled and even a formal contradiction or two. It also has commands that the Christian does not wish to obey and descriptions of God that the Christian does not want to worship.
Still, Christians can’t reject the Bible entirely. That would be throwing out the baby Jesus with the holy water. The Bible is the only reason to believe certain things they do hold dear. So, in one way or another, they reject what they don’t like.
Some Christians will dismiss more of the Bible, others less. Some in pious sounding ways, and others more flagrantly. The better educated, more articulate Christians might perform mental genuflections to explain biblical contradictions and write grand systematic theologies to describe their gods, while the uneducated ones might tell you only what they feel in their hearts and the religious yuppies will tell you what meaning they take from the Bible. What each Christian is telling you, though, in her or his own way, is that he or she is god.
The result is a rank and unique pride that claims a divine stamp of approval upon the Christian’s own life, while rejecting both all of the Bible that doesn’t appeal to her or his liking and the gods constructed by other Christians, reflecting other parts of the bible.
It’s an arrogant syncretism of life and religion that we call Self-Projection as God (SPAG).
For a practical demonstration, just pick a pair of contrary or contradictory Bible verses that are on either side of a sensitive issue and ask a Christian what she or he thinks about them. The better you know the Bible and the Christian, the easier it will be to pick the appropriately contrary verses, but the result will always be the same: The Christian will start rationalizing and explaining the contradiction in a way that accommodates them to his or her own life.
Understand that we’re not merely intending to demonstrate simply that the Bible is an inconsistent hodgepodge of ancient mythology and antiquated ethics rife with error. That’s obvious and it’s not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that because the Bible is such mishmash, SPAG is the necessary and universal form of Christianity in practice, an absolute identity: All Christianity is Self-Projection as God.
I’ve answered this exact testimony here. You really don’t read what the other side has to say, do you?
and they have a rebuttle to your rebuttle.
Another great ex-Christian testimony:
I was born into an Assemblies of God family and became saved at the tender age of 5 years old.
There were a number of events in my life that caused me to leave Christianity. First of which was reading about the philosophers of The Enlightenment in my European History class in High School. I remember reading one of the atheist philosopher’s writings and getting quite mad. I was mad at my teacher for making me read this crap, cause the arguments made were very good and actually made me question my belief in God for the first time. I quickly put this event out of my mind as I could not even consider that God did not exist, as my whole life had been built on this premise.
My next event down the atheist path happened while I was in college. I was dating a girl who had converted to Christianity from Islam. Needless to say her parents were not happy about this nor that she was dating a Christian, so they insisted we visit a mosque with them while they were in the states visiting (she was from overseas). I remember going to the mosque and the leader of the mosque showing me where Muslims believe where Jesus’ body is buried. I also remember my girlfriends mom telling me that when the astronauts first visited the moon, they heard the Muslim call to prayer. I could tell that the cleric and her mom truly believed with all their hearts that what they said was true, just as Christian pastors believe in the resurrection of Christ with all their hearts. I of course knew what they believed was false, but if they could believe such falsehoods so strongly, who is to say what I believe so strongly is not also false? I now knew that one could believe in a lie just as strongly as one could believe in the truth.
The last straw was a few years ago when I got married. I married a Christian girl, but she was not as fundamentalist as I was in my thinking. She rarely went to church and openly questioned some of the church’s biggest teachings. We had struggles in our marriage from the beginning, which again had me questioning God for I felt with all my heart that God wanted me to marry her. How can it be this hard? Maybe I was doing something wrong. Well, since she didn’t go to church and I was struggling with my faith, I decided I didn’t want to go either, so I just stopped going for the first time since I was born! It felt really weird at first, not going to church.
It was also at this time that my wife and I decided to move in with a friend of ours who happened to be a lesbian. We were too young and poor at the time to afford a house on our own, but with her help we could afford it. My fundamentalist mom of course was horrified when she found out. I told her about my wife’s and my struggle in our marriage and sure enough a week later she sent me an email claiming the reason for my difficult marriage was that we were living with a lesbian. She went on to claim that our lesbian friend secretly wanted to seduce my wife and kick me out of the house?!?!? What the Hell?!? Luckily, I had been away from the fundamentalist mentality long enough to realize that my mom was crazy. I mean, I actually had more in common with our roommate than my wife did (she loved sports and was a big Cubs fan just like me!) She just went with the same old fundamentalist propaganda that she was taught. You know, all gay & lesbian people are pure evil and sadistic with two goals in life. One, have sex & orgies with thousands of random people, and second, destroy all of America’s Morals!
My wife has two sisters who are just as fundamentalist as my mom. I began to see how crazy they were as well. They both believed they had strong “callings on their life” and have moved to different countries to follow god’s leadings. The both are two of the most horrible people I have ever met at times as they constantly attack their brother and parents with verbal assaults when they are in bad moods, even telling their brother how horrible of a father he is several times in front of his 6 year old daughter (he is actually a very good father). They both have health problems and both believe that they are the result of demonic attacks on their lives because they were meant to do such great things for God and of course Satan wants to stop them from doing God’s work. Seeing how crazy their beliefs were and how awful they could be as human beings, I thought, God could not have possibly called them to do anything, they have just made up all of this crap in their heads. It wasn’t too long before I realized that I had been guilty of the same thing, believing God was working in my life and “willing” me to do this or that, when the reality was I had just made it up in my mind.
It was quite scary letting go of God when your whole life was based on a personal God existing. I had always thought that there was a god who had my back, and with my parents praying for me, I would always end up where I was supposed to be. It was scary thinking no one had my back anymore, but yet it sure made a lot more sense. I mean if God has got all his people’s back, then why are so many women raped, people tortured, and God’s chosen people, the Jews, nearly exterminated in the Holocaust? It made a lot more sense that God didn’t exist to explain these situations, than if he did exist.
I began to think of some of the wacky things I had seen in the church that never made sense and saw how ridiculous and patently ” untrue these practices were, such as “speaking in tongues” (this mumbo-jumbo never made sense to me and I never got into it, even thought it is central to much of Assembly of God doctrine). I mean, I never heard anyone actually speak in a real language, and I saw how they coerced people into this “gift from god”, by saying, “just start moving your mouth and have faith, even if it sounds weird”, or one kid telling me, “just say “haba, jaba, laka” over and over again and then the spirit will come.” I’ll never forget the small A of G church I attended in college for a little while, where people would actually run around the church in circles when the emotional fervor had put everyone into a frenzied state!
At the same time, I felt a big burden lift off of me, as I realized I didn’t have to worry about pleasing this invisible God that I had never seen before and was never really sure how to make happy. Now I was free to do what I felt was right. To many Christians surprise, I didn’t immediately become immoral and start having sex with random people, doing drugs, and killing people. In some ways I became more moral as I knew that every decision or action I made could and would affect somebody else. I couldn’t just rely on the old Christian cop out, “well, if I hurt somebody, it will be okay, cause God will forgive me, and the person I hurt will too if they are truly Christian”. I realized religion is not proof of God, only proof that people BELIEVE IN A GOD.
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