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Author Topic: Talk About Your Religious Beliefs  (Read 10242 times)
Ben Lehman
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« on: April 07, 2005, 05:54:21 AM »

Hi.  An attempt to make a cooler religion thread.  Better.  Faster.  Stronger.

We have the technology.

Instead of just sounding off about why we believe in God, a thing which I find a little bit boring, I'd like people to talk about their religious faith, why it is important to them, what role it plays in their life, how (if) it helps them become a better person and make the world a better place.

In shot: What rocks about your religion?  Or, in the case of Keith, RAWKS.

We have a diverse mix here, from born-agains to fundamentalist athiests to theravada buddhists.  Let's hear it.

Let's not just sound off.  Let's discuss and question, without being pissy about it.  Like, don't go in with the idea of changing anyone's mind.  Don't be all like "I'm going to point out how your such a hypocrite!"  The attitude here, ideally, should be more like "I'm going to use what you said to throw light on something else" or "could you explain, differently, why that is awesome?"  But talk.

I'll talk about me in a bit.

yrs--
--Ben[/url]
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Christopher Weeks
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Posts: 683


« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2005, 06:09:25 AM »

Right, so I'm largely ignorant about religion.  I'm always happy to admit this.  Given that, from my perspective, my lack of faith helps me by letting me see things clearly.  I know that's offensive to some, and I'm really not trying to be, but that's what I see.  I think that I can keep an open mind about everything better than if I were viewing everything through a lens clouded by the supernatural.  That sounds little, but I don't think so.  I think it addresses all the points made about why it's important, the role it plays, and how it helps me be a better person.

Of course, if I'm wrong about all that, then I'm a buffoon.
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pete_darby
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2005, 06:19:29 AM »

I'll tell you when it's finished... damn this is sounding like the game design thread.
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Pete Darby
Danny_K
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Posts: 198


« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2005, 06:33:23 AM »

I'm Jewish.  Tried lots of things, came back to my grandfather's faith in the end.  I find that it engages me intellectually and aesthetically, adds some shape and meaning to my time on this earth.  When I end the week with the Sabbath blessings or celebrate Passover, it makes me feel like the world comes round again and I'm part of something bigger.   I think it's good for my kid, too.

...and I'm also aware that all this is probably just a clever set of memes that play into certain emotional needs.  So what?  It's nice to think there's something after death, and that I'll be reunited with my loved ones in a big endless Sabbath with God and all, but it doesn't sound too likely.  So what?  It's still worth it, in my view, if it makes life more meaningful and pleasant  in this world.  

And, you know what?  From speaking to lots and lots of people facing the end of life or personal tragedy, I think that's how a lot of them feel about religion, too.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2005, 06:44:41 AM »

[crossposted with Danny; interesting how similar our thoughts are]

My religion (philosophical agnosticism) rocks because it's not based on belief or faith. I've shunted all unanswered questions into the same basket with stuff like that Peak Oil or heat death of the universe - they're there, I ponder them when I feel like it, but I certainly don't jump to conclusions just because I'd need an Answer. I'm just happy with waiting and seeing.

What my religion gives to adherents? Perspective and peace. When you manage to analyze human conditioning religion-wise and succeed in setting it aside, you can finally look clearly at the thing people really search for in religion, which is Meaning. Meaning can be gained through philosophy instead of religion, and you stay in control; instead of surrendering to somebody else's myth you choose your own path, based on the wisdom you have. Be the best person you can be.

Ethics-wise, my religion frees a person to consider right and wrong objectively, outside of considerations of metaphysical reward, which plague all major religions. This is why it offers the highest ethical standard of all religions.

So, those are my main points about my "religion", which of course is not religion at all. It's even less of a religion than atheism (which requires some active convinction), unless you consider monk-like calm to ratchet me some religion points. But anyway, let's discuss it: have you belief-people considered a philosophical approach to ethics and cosmology? I'm quite sure that most of your religion's major selling points are pretty irrelevant if thought of analytically. Another question to consider: what is the actual core of your religion, and how does it matter? I've found no religious core precepts that were defensible through anything but blind faith. This is a deal-breaker for me, because it sets all religions on the same level with the "brain in a jar" theory.

--

In the interests of illustrating my religious thought in action, let's take a look at Christianity. It's the first religion I declined, so it always has a special place in my heart.

Christianity as I've seen it in practice can be divided into the following memes:
- Cosmology: God all-powerful created the earth and so on
- Ethics: Believe or get your ass kicked by Jesus
- Ethics2: You have a covenant with God, and your honor requires doing as the Don says
- Ethics3: There is no ethics, because Jesus forgives you
- Aesthetic: Grand architecture and choirs celebrate the idea of God
- Worship: A social ritual, folks participate because of tradition and contacts in the community
- Bible: Enough stuff to justify any practice, if not any theory. Colorful tales.

At some point I realized that my religious experience was very much tied to the social and aesthetic aspects of the church, not to anything in it's ethics or cosmology. The singing and performing of ritual required and reinforced a modicum of convinction in the vague idea of higher power. The thing is, this had nothing to do with Christianity per se, I got a very much similar effect from, say, reading Norman Spinrad. To say it crudely, I couldn't see any difference between brainwashing (read: any powerful art) and church ritual.

Then there was the ethical level, on which I found the church profoundly lacking. My final deliberation came to the conclusion that I don't care ethics-wise whether there is a God or not. That has nothing to do with right or wrong. You can't define right as the God's will (if God is defined as the all-good being, then it's just a simple circularity), and if right is something else, then I have to do it regardless of what God would like. He can do what he wishes with my undying soul, I'm not willing to submit to his will just because of crude threats or a covenant somebody else made for me when I was a couple of months old.

If you remove the aesthetic veil and unbolt the ethical system Christianity proposes, you're left with a rather sad state of affairs with a book of fairy tales, bigotry and narrow nationalistic myths of a people I don't belong to. Believing in the Bible without believing in it's ethics is like believing in H.C. Andersen. No psychological basis at all.

Going forward from this, I've not fallen into the aesthetics of any other religion (although I like some of them very much), and thus haven't gained any religious feelings either. The two are connected, you have to first appreciate the aesthetic before developing the psychological state called Faith. And while some religions have much more solid ethics than Christianity, and even more solid cosmologies (usually achieved by claiming nothing much), the act of religion won't happen just because I agree about ethics and cosmology. I won't suddenly start to believe in Seth (of Temple of Seth fame) just because I agree about ethics, it'd require a much more profound aesthetic experience to give me the faith.

--

Starting from here, a question to you who think yourself faithful: have you ever considered that perhaps your faithful convinction is essentially similar to a political ideology or personal habit, engendered by purposeful and repeating enjoyment of church practice? Would it be possible that the thing you call belief is actually a habit, albeit one deeply embedded?
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2005, 07:03:10 AM »

How poorly people misunderstand others' religion. I'm normally in awe of Eero's insight, and yet I find him lacking here. "There is no ethics, since we are forgiven?" That stuff went out with the Cathars.

Anyway.

I consider myself a Christian. I consider the vast majority of modern Christian religions to have lost their mind hundreds of years ago.

God. I believe there is something beautiful and light in every person, no matter how deep they bury it. I believe it transcends biology. I believe that by seeking to find it, you perfect yourself.

Jesus. Last I read, he said that we are all the sons (and daughters) of God. We all have a Light. Sure, he said he was the Son of God - and we all are too. Awesome!

The afterlife. I believe it doesn't matter. Seriously. Let's take the most well-known piece of New Testament scripture. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." And let's dissect that. "Eternal" there does not mean what you might then. Upon translation, it's shown to just as easily mean "infinite." Heaven's another word for infinitely communicating with God - that is, inifintely living in the Light inside one's self. Hell's a word for being severed from God - that is, being severed from one's own Light. So, I think this piece of scripture means that if you believe in the teachings of Jesus - pretty good stuff, and non-bigoted, except a few things that probably got thrown in after the fact - and believe in the power of rebirth, that a man can kill that which leads to selfishness and make himself a new creature, then you can infinitely live in the Light, finding peace and solace.

I find comfort in this passage, Luke 12:29-31. Jesus says, "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you." This gets misused a lot: "If I'm a good Christian, and believe all this hokum, then I get good stuff!" This is short-sighted human selfishness. I read this:

If I put seeking God, questioning, doubting, and self-examination first and foremost in my life, my path will lead me where I need to go. The basic necessities of life will get taken care of, because when I live searching, I'll manage to pick up some crackers or something.

---

I've lately - especially after recently attending a fundamentalist Pentacostal church and hearing the above passage so misused - thought of coining a new name for what I believe. If I did, it'd be called the Search, and I'd be a Seeker.

---

P.S. (and later edit). I forgot to clarify one thing:

Infallability of the Bible. Oh, I laugh. You can't be serious. Written by people, translated by people, edited by people, hand selected by people. And I'm supposed to think every one is perfect and correct? Man, I believe a lot of stuff, but that's just ludicrous.

To be serious, this follows along with the Search. I believe in all religious texts, the Truth lies hidden within. To find it, you must seek it, and know that the Light inside you will help illuminate it.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2005, 07:25:20 AM »

I was raised Catholic until age 10, when  I found out that our church had refused to marry my parents because my dad had been married before.  My stepfather taught me that morals, ethics, and religion have nothing to do with each other.  He also taught me that respecting others begins with respecting yourself, and to apply logic to right behavior.

What I came out of this with:
1 - I believe in a God
2 - I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, or any other man (wisdom, yes)
3 - The key to happiness is balance
4 - Faith is comletely personal
5 - Everyone has a right to his own happiness, until that inpinges on the same rights of others--in other words, Don't Be An Asshole
6 - Nothing is predestined, but we are given the opportunities to create the best of all possible worlds for ourselves, and our own choices determine that path.

Why this RAWKS!
1 - I can be at peace with anyone who is not committed to harming or discriminating against others.
2 - My moral compass is based around respect for life and reasoning, not dictated to me by an outside source.
3 - My Sundays are free! ;)
4 - I have no need to convert others to my POV--if it works for you without harming others, great!
5 - I am prejudiced against no one. (Insofar as this is humanly possible)
6 - Things in nature have intrinsic value, while artificial constructs have only the value we place on them.

There's much more, but it would take too long to write it all.  Suffice it to say, my beliefs let me be happy and not harm others, while leaving room for positive self-growth.

Nick
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2005, 07:25:55 AM »

Thanks, guys!  These are awesome.

(I know this is the Birthday Forum, so anything goes, but could we, for this thread, shy away from "my religion is awesome because other religions suck" and move towards "my religion is awesome because it provides positives?"  That would be cool.)

I am a theist.  I haven't always been.

I used to be very much like Eero.  I was a self-described "fundamentalist agnostic," and very convinced that there was never any proof for a God one way or another, so the proper thing to do was believe neither.

The train of thought that led me off of this path is a long and complicated one, and runs through some pretty esoteric physics stuff in pretty esoteric ways, so it is probably best not to bring it up here.  In short, for very good reasons, I got tired of being so god damned right all the damned time.

Also, for other very good reasons, I started believing in God.  (I've always believed in evil, having been confronted with some pretty involiate evidence at a young age.  I imagine it was only a matter of time until I started believed in good.)

I am totally unconcerned about the afterlife.  I am totally unconcerned about the apocalypse, or all the other things that athiests and agnostics seem to think are so important to theists.  

I am concerned about doing right in the world and becoming a better person.  Pretty much, at this point, I don't have time for either people who are not interesting in being good, or activities that do not promote my own moral and spiritual growth.

It's been over a year now, though, and I haven't really found a religion past that.  I'm not sure if I will, although at this point I'm pretty strongly attracted to Christianity.  I am deeply cool with the whole "Christ" thing, by which I mean the fundamental connection between humans and the divine.  I can't quite get past the idea that Christ was like this one guy who lived 2000 some years ago.

But that's my own account.

yrs--
--Ben
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2005, 07:27:12 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon

I'm normally in awe of Eero's insight, and yet I find him lacking here. "There is no ethics, since we are forgiven?" That stuff went out with the Cathars.


Thanks, I like your thinking, too.

As for the ethics thing there (the proper theological name of which I forget), it's not nearly as anachronistic as you seem to think. To the contrary, many Protestant churches in the western world have implicitly or explicitly lessened the threat of punishment and the role of evil in their curricula. Finland's Lutheran church (which is my personal primary experience, as it accounts for over 80% of Finns) is a good example: sin is never mentioned in public, because it is thought to alienate modern westerners from a church trying to guild-trip them. Instead the church serves a ceremonial function, happily catering to the great majority who care about it only when they need to get married or buried. And why not? After all, all these rice-Christians pay a church tax the state here allows Lutherans to collect, so the church certainly benefits from a paying but non-caring constituency.

As an example, we have an ordained minister here in Finland who explicitly wrote a book called "There is no Hell" or something like that. Name of Kylliäinen, if I remember correctly. The book certainly caused some discussion, but for the most part it was welcomed positively.

The point: while your church may differ, the idea of an all-accepting church doesn't seem too alien here in Finland. To the contrary, I guess that a church youth worker who explicitly confessed to believing in sin and instructed teenagers according to scripture would find himself jobless pretty quickly. Ministers have more leeway, of course.

Quote

I consider myself a Christian. I consider the vast majority of modern Christian religions to have lost their mind hundreds of years ago.


You seem to have a nice religion. The thing is, what you describe sounds like part Gnostic and part agnostic, and Christian only in the sense that you believe in what Christ taught. Theologically that's pretty far from Christianity. Actually, that's closer to what I believe: wait, see, learn and search, the truth will come if it will.

There's of course nothing wrong with that, I'm just saying this because you complained about my misunderstanding Christianity. My comments were directed towards churches, not what any one of us might understand by the Christ's teachings. I'm sure there are even stranger interpretations than yours.
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Danny_K
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Posts: 198


« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2005, 07:38:13 AM »

Here's a quote from the Economist to explain the differences between US churches and European churches:
(full article at http://www.uwec.edu/Geography/Ivogeler/w188/articles/god.htm )

Quote

But in America, religion has always been a competitive affair, founded on personal belief. In “The Churching of America 1776-1990”, Roger Finke and Rodney Stark point out that, because America was settled by people opposed to state-supported religion, there was never a monopoly, one-size-fits-all faith. Instead, churches have always had to vie for devotees. They have done so in much the same way that firms attract customers: by tailoring their product to suit a particular niche in the market. New churches can spring up easily. Their preachers have often had relatively little education but lots of energy and drive. However, once a church becomes established, with a hierarchy and a trained ministry, its clergy acquire theology degrees, often losing the raw certainty of their faith in the process.
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I believe in peace and science.
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2005, 07:48:57 AM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen

You seem to have a nice religion. The thing is, what you describe sounds like part Gnostic and part agnostic, and Christian only in the sense that you believe in what Christ taught. Theologically that's pretty far from Christianity.


That's great! And exactly my point!

I have no idea what these people believe today, but that was my exact point: I don't see them believing what Christ actually taught. Things like:

1) The old laws are overturned. (So, you know, gays are cool.)
2) No man should go hungry while another one has something to eat. (I think I just quoted from Dogs in the Vineyard.)
3) Love your neighbor. Not just the one with the flag in his lawn. That other one, too, with the mangy dog and the kids in the street.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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xenopulse
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Heretic Forgite


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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2005, 07:57:17 AM »

I used to consider myself an agnostic. Now I'm not sure. Hah, that's almost ironic.

I don't believe in a sentient God. That just doesn't make any sense to me, especially not a God who thinks in remotely human ways.

However, I do realize that life and sentience are miracles. I can't explain them with science. I can't explain them with philosophy. Sure, I can state a certain "what," but not really the "how" or "why" parts.

Also, I realized that I have some fundamental beliefs. I believe in the dignity of humans, in compassion with other forms of life, in balance. I can absolutely say that some things are morally wrong and others are morally right. I'm much of a Kantian, though with a heavy dose of Hegel as well. I see three tiers of moral duties--family, society, humankind. With animals as a semi-moral fourth tier (Kant would consider that last one imperfect duties). I believe my foremost moral duty is the protection of my family.

So religiously, I have found my niche only very recently among the Unitarian Universalists, who confirm the basic human dignity and the value of all life. And every time I read a statement by a UU minister on issues such as same sex marriage, women's right to self-determination, or all people's rights in that regard (including the right to die), I am happy and find myself in agreement. I finally see a group of people who are just as curious and open minded as I am, but who still affirm basic values and community.

That's what rawks about Unitarians. Faith in good values and individual expression of spirituality, tolerance, acceptance, and a healthy dose of common sense.
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Lxndr
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2005, 08:05:47 AM »

Why family as a moral value?

That one has always confused me.  With the one exception of taking care of children that have been brought into the world (a one-way arrow from parent to child), where does morality within family supercede morality outside of family?
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2005, 08:20:48 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman

(I know this is the Birthday Forum, so anything goes, but could we, for this thread, shy away from "my religion is awesome because other religions suck" and move towards "my religion is awesome because it provides positives?"  That would be cool.)


The thing is, the agnostic faith is awesome precisely because it's just the best option in a flawed world, not because of any particular positives.

Then again, most religions seem to provide the same sort of positive benefits. I'll try to list some:
- an ethic (so you know what's right and can feel good about your actions)
- a cosmology (so you know where you stand in the cosmos, and can feel peaceful)
- a society (so you can reaffirm your faith with others under the same flag)
- a high (entertainment value, in other words)
These are common to practically all religions, and they all thus claim same kinds of benefits: confidence, direction, peace with yourself. Even my religion in it's manner provides these:
- my ethic stems from a rather complex philosophical analysis combined with life experience allowing proper perspective
- my cosmology is immediate and postmodern, only fixed in time and space by current need
- my society is artistic, cultural and intellectual, instead of based around a church
- I get my high from good art actualizing philosophical principles, whether religious or not
So my religion is awesome because it provides the same things you get out of other religions, except there's less ties, limitations and evil. Like this:
- my ethic is better than any right-hand religion's, because those aren't really ethics, but moralities (and horribly outdated most of the time)
- my cosmology is better, because I don't claim to know what I don't know
- my society of intelligent people spans the globe, finding resonance in all hearts right and true, and kicks your paltry church with it's tired ministers and hypocrite commoners from here to Sunday
- my high is better, because I get it from the best artist of the world, regardless of creed (How long it's been since the best and the brightest actually committed their skill to service of churches? Middle-Ages, that's how long.)
So that's my spiel. Prove me your faith rocks in one of those categories better than mine, and you have my attention. I'm quite a gamist as far as matters of life and philosophy are concerned ;)

As a hint, I've frequently thought that it'd be cool to take on some very concrete worship-based religion like asatru or something, just for the experience. I think that this is mostly because churches had a monopoly on interactive aesthetic experiences for so many centuries. It might be that my need for worship lessens when we get rpgs that scratch the itch as well or better than your average church. But while waiting for that, I have to say that agnostism falls somewhat short in the interactivity department. Really no good way to celebrate your convinction through ritual, is there? Luckily my agnostic convinction still wins in the overall aesthetic department (show me the church that has better shit than the individualistic celebrations of Heinlein or Spinrad or Egan or such), so there's no real doubt about it's supremacy...

Quote

I am a theist.  I haven't always been.


Ben sounds like me. "I don't have time for either people who are not interesting in being good, or activities that do not promote my own moral and spiritual growth." sounds like something I'd say. Does that mean that I'll fold and start claiming theism when I get older?
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Green
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« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2005, 08:26:26 AM »

Clinton,

That is the most rockin' understanding of Christianity I've come across in a long time.  Though I don't consider myself Christian, your beliefs about the Jesus Thing are pretty similar to mine.  Are you Quaker, by any chance?

Anyway, I'm an Animist.  I don't believe I would ever be able to justify or validate my spirituality in a way compatible with Western philosophical traditions.  It's more instinctive than rational, and I doubt this is the place where I can find someone who understands or appreciates that.

As for why it is important to me and how it makes me a better person or makes the world a better place, it's a bit hard to grasp since I'm not sure of the answers to those questions myself.  Yet, for some reason I don't think it's a bad thing to not know that, to not have all the answers, but that's not Animism; that's something else.

If I were pressed, I would say that the primary things Animism gives to the individual and the world is awareness of and respect for a deeper reality.  It gives genuine appreciation for life both as a process and as the quality of living things.  It forces me to cultivate patience, respect, and understanding.  I am trying to develop acceptance of life and the dualities that unify rather than divide it: bitter and sweet, tenderness and savagery, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, struggles and peace, triumph and tragedy.  It's difficult to comprehend and even more difficult to do, so I won't pretend for two seconds that I know much of anything.

Like I said, I don't know if this "rocks" or if it has value to anyone besides me, but that's it in a nutshell.
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