Figuring Out Religion

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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by MediumTex » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:03 pm

Xan wrote:
TennPaGa wrote:
Xan wrote: It doesn't mean that you want to be a quarterback, but to some extent, you're putting yourself in the position of talent scout, coach, and general manager when you pass judgment on a quarterback.
The talent scout has the ear of management on future player acquisitions.  The coach has control over who plays quarterback, and what plays he calls.  The GM acquires the players.  MT is none of these things in the analogy.  He is just a fan in the stands making the observation that the quarterback is throwing a bunch of interceptions and pissing in the other team's Gatorade, and then making the evaluation that these are not typical things good quarterbacks do.  It still doesn't mean he wants to be quarterback.
I'm not saying he wants to be quarterback, but he's putting himself in the position of those above the quarterback.
TennPaGa wrote:
When you pass judgment on God, you're putting yourself in the position of God.
This isn't the case in the quarterback situation, though.  Why is it the case here?
There isn't an office above God.  The only option when passing on judgment on God is to swap places.
The intention of my analogy was to show that even by the standards that quarterbacks set for themselves, an interception is a things to be avoided.  When I observe the interceptions from the stands, I am observing the quarterback failing to follow a standard he set for himself when he became a quarterback.

Sometimes, a player who isn't intended to be a quarterback finds himself in that role, and you can tell that he isn't intended to be a quarterback because, among other things, he throws a lot of interceptions.

A common, and I think reasonable, standard of proof to follow when someone is making a supernatural claim is whether the premises supporting the supernatural claim are at least coherent.  So, for example, if I say that "God exists, and because Man is evil he needs to have certain arrangements made to commune with God because God can only commune with that which is good and righteous", but then I show you a God who is hosting post-battle orgies, killing babies, ruining guys like Job for sport, setting up an eternal torture chamber called Hell for people who never even heard about him, etc., you might point out to me that the type of God I described is not the God I actually presented, and I think that a disconnect like that would seriously undermine the credibility of the supernatural claim.

I just feel like God shouldn't be constantly breaking character if he expects me to believe that he is real.

And remember, too, that there may be a real God out there somewhere who is the source of the universe, and the God from the Bible might just be a an anthropomorphised knock-off.  I think that could easily be the case, and the real God is just choosing not to reveal himself to us at all at this time.  He is simply letting his creation play out based on the way he designed it.  In my example, the real God would find it amusing that we are making such efforts to understand the nature of a supernatural being that doesn't exist, while failing to grasp that there is a real deity out there, whose nature might be infinitely more interesting than the nature of the xenophobic sexist God from the Bible.  It's the same mistake that the little plastic army men make.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by l82start » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:17 pm

MediumTex wrote:
I just feel like God shouldn't be constantly breaking character if he expects me to believe that he is real.

And remember, too, that there may be a real God out there somewhere who is the source of the universe, and the God from the Bible might just be a an anthropomorphised knock-off.  I think that could easily be the case, and the real God is just choosing not to reveal himself to us at all at this time.  He is simply letting his creation play out based on the way he designed it.  In my example, the real God would find it amusing that we are making such efforts to understand the nature of a supernatural being that doesn't exist, while failing to grasp that there is a real deity out there, whose nature might be infinitely more interesting than the nature of the xenophobic sexist God from the Bible.  It's the same mistake that the little plastic army men make.
"an anthropomorphised knock-off." is how i see the christian god being described in this thread as well, the very act of using words to describe the "transcendent", color, limit and create contradictions in the understanding of the thing being described.  words at best can only be a sign post pointing in a direction you should travel.. when taken as such the meaning of the bible and the reality of what Christ was trying to get across looks nothing like the mental gymnastics being preformed by the Christians we are trying to understand ..
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Gosso » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:26 pm

Stewardship wrote: Don't jump to conclusions when coming across difficult passages in the Bible.

Fr. Robert Barron on Violence in the Bible
https://youtu.be/1A65Wfr2is0
If you read the Bible in such a way that it leads you to say violence is a good thing, I should be more violent, or that God is hateful and violent, then you have ipso facto misread it because you have not read it from the standpoint of the "lamb standing as though slain."
Pope Benedict on the subject in VERBUM DOMINI:
In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult.

Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.

God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things.

This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel.

So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.

I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.
+1.  But sadly I doubt your post will gain much interest among the participants in this thread.  It seems to be sola scriptura or bust.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by MediumTex » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:45 pm

Gosso wrote:
Stewardship wrote: Don't jump to conclusions when coming across difficult passages in the Bible.

Fr. Robert Barron on Violence in the Bible
https://youtu.be/1A65Wfr2is0
If you read the Bible in such a way that it leads you to say violence is a good thing, I should be more violent, or that God is hateful and violent, then you have ipso facto misread it because you have not read it from the standpoint of the "lamb standing as though slain."
Pope Benedict on the subject in VERBUM DOMINI:
In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult.

Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.

God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things.

This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel.

So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.

I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.
+1.  But sadly I doubt your post will gain much interest among the participates in this thread.  It seems to be sola scriptura or bust.
It sounds like Pope Benedict was simply arguing for some sort of moral relativism.

Isn't he just saying that back in frontier days it was cool for Solomon to have 400 wives and 600 concubines, for God to kill on a massive scale, and for the winners to do a little raping and pillaging with God's approval, even though God would never approve such things today?

I guess the good news is that what Pope Benedict is saying might also mean that those male ancestors we all have who married girls under 18 may not have been pedophiles after all.  It's always bothered me a little bit that what we call pedophilia today (and which will get you a ticket to prison for many years and a lifetime of registering as a "sex offender") was unremarkable in many communities only a few generations ago, and is still common in many parts of the world today (it's just academic to me, though, because I prefer older women :) ). 

Morals are always a function of the times we live in.  Think about how during wartime a society of men who would mostly say that killing is wrong march out to the battlefield with the goal of killing as many of the enemy as possible.

Is it wrong to kill babies?  Was it wrong back when we were hunter/gatherers and the clan knew exactly how many mouths it could feed and practiced infanticide on those they could not support?  Moral relativism.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Gosso » Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:41 pm

MT,

It seems that the Pope was suggesting that morality "grows" as human society learns more.  I believe there is a core morality that everyone has, it just requires a proper cleaning of the glass to see it properly.

But I was mainly +1ing the YouTube clip from Bishop Robert Barron.  His work is fantastic.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Desert » Sat Sep 19, 2015 6:22 am

Pointedstick wrote: This is interesting to me because I feel like the world is already explicable. I never find myself wondering, "Why did that happen!?!?! What's going on??" Or anything like that. Before you found Christianity, did you have those kinds of thoughts? Did you feel like parts of the world made no sense?
The actions of humans make more sense to me now.  I used to think that civilization was on a bit of an upward trajectory; that society was at least very gradually improving, due to increasing knowledge, more access to information, etc.  But that didn't reconcile at all with what I saw around me; in fact, I saw that humans were every bit as capable of horrific acts today as at any time in the past.  If anything, it appears that things are getting worse, as improved technology makes killing more efficient and a little less visible.  At the same time, however, I would look around and see humans doing some really wonderful things in the world, some without any real obvious selfish interest.  I think Christianity offers the best explanation for this dichotomy; humans made in the image of God ... which means more than "looks a bit like God," it means we have a similar set of characteristics, our conciousness, understanding of right and wrong, capability of love and hate.  But fallen human nature unfortunately allows us to do horrific things in this world.  This dichotomy shows up in a Nazi official being able to genuinely love his family after a long day at work, or an abortion doctor to be a really kind, decent person in many areas of life.  We are all, in my view, capable of both tremendous good and evil. 
I completely understand this because I like most Christians too. For the most part, I have found them to be hardworking, honest, dependable, and sincere in their personal lives. I still feel like I don't understand how these kinds of traits come from such a blood-soaked religion, because I feel like I have them myself and have had many experiences of religious people (and especially Mormons) sort of not comprehending how I can exist because they are used to people with my traits only being Christians. This has happened many times in my life… but that's another story. :)
You might want to look beyond a blood-soaked religion and see the blood-soaked world.  This world is, and has always been, a very violent and bloody place.  Despite our outrageous wealth in this country and other first world nations, we are all going to depart this world in a painful death.  In between our birth and death, we're going to look around and see humans constantly killing each other.  I'm not trying to be dark; there are wonderful things around us as well, but this world is full of brutal murder and tragic death.  It is blood soaked. 

By the way, I like that story about you being mistaken for a Christian.  I remember experiencing that a lot in the past, when I was most definitely not one.  I ascribed it to the fact that I could sort of understand their language and thought processes, having grown up around them.  But maybe it was something else.  It's interesting that you're experiencing that as well.  I have no idea what that means, it's just interesting. 
I understand that within the bounds of Christianity, this is the most important mission (saving people from Hell), but does it ever bother you that the mission is only important in the first place because God set things up in that way?  It seems sort of like being ordered by your general to defuse a minefield that he had ordered laid and was continuing to spread elsewhere. I feel like I might get pissed with the general for bringing about the negative conditions that necessitated the mission in the first place. Even if I followed his orders and liked him personally, I feel like it would kind of tick me off.
By mission, I didn't really mean saving people from hell.  I can't do that.  It's possible that God could use some actions or words on my part in accomplishing that in someone's life, but I don't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.  I think of it more as being a small part of God's hands and feet, in feeding the hungry, helping the poor, etc.  I'm not talking about just charitable donations, but rather actually becoming involved in individuals' lives to make a difference in the world.  There are many great people and organizations dedicated to this type of thing now.  Here's just one example, the organization I volunteer with:
http://advancememphis.org/

It's a group of people who reach out and help, hopefully in a positive way, through education, job training, financial education, and entrepreneurship. 
Desert wrote: 5. I like knowing that God cares about my son, and will be with him when I'm gone from this earth.  Honestly, this played a big part in me being open to Christianity.  It seems so long ago now, but it was huge for me.  At the risk of being hyperbolic, I feel like God sent my son into my life, and used him and the subsequent challenges to open my closed heart.  My son was also the second person I told, when I realized I was a Christian.  It was a huge step for me, maybe the biggest step so far, because I was so against any kind of brainwashing of his developing mind.
6. I like the Bible.  Not all of it, I have to admit.  But I still remember the first time I read it, actually believing it was God's word.  It was amazing.
I'm not sure I really understand this. I mean, I get that as a Christian, you believe that God cares about everyone, but how is your son different or special? Doesn't it bother you how God didn't seem to care at all about the children he killed or ordered killed himself in the Bible? I feel like it would bother me that God had killed millions of children in the past over things like the sins of their parents or accidents of birth. I feel like I would worry that the same thing could happen to my son if I ever strayed from the Christian path. This is where the doubt thing comes in. If I were a Christian, and I started to have doubts, that would probably make me feel like my salvation was in jeopardy, and along with it, the metaphysical protection granted to my dependents--one of those apologetics articles tried to explain how it was merciful of God to kill children after he had killed their parents for their sins, because otherwise they would die of starvation, and a quick death was preferable. Clearly if I ever lost Jesus, then I would be unforgiven, which means that I could be killed at will, which would mean that my children could suffer that fate themselves--including the part about eternal torment--out of mercy. ???
To clarify, I don't think my son is special ... to anyone other than me and my family.  I do think God used my son in my life to completely change me, however.  He may use totally different methods with someone else. 

As far as risk of death of my child through God's hands, I think I have to say this, as offensive as it may sound:  All of us who have kids know that we've sentenced them to death, merely through the action of procreation.  Every last one of them is going to die a sad and tragic death, likely painful, and leaving behind distraught friends and family.  And yet, as parents, we know that and have kids anyway. 

I know I'm not directly responding to your question, but I feel like we need to talk more about death before we get back to judging God's choices here. 
Desert wrote: 7. I like the "experts."  Preachers, scientists, apologists, etc.  I have a real hunger to hear from these people.  There are many of them, they're amazingly well-educated, and with the internets and such, it's all at my fingertips.  I'm like a kid in a candy store.
This is one I feel like I do not share or understand. Most of these figures are pretty repulsive to me. They either feel fake, or come off as arrogant in how much faith they have in their own message. I rarely sense any humility in typical apologetics--just zeal to spread the message.
Well, I don't like all of them, or maybe not even most of them .... they are all humans, after all.  But when I find the ones that I like, I really get into listening/reading their work. 

A recent favorite is the author of this book, David Platt:
http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Taking-Fa ... 1601422210

I went with the audio book that Platt reads himself, and it's really good.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Desert » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:20 am

Pointedstick wrote: Not exactly. I do think that there is objective morality, and that it derives from our biology, which dictates that we are sentient creatures with feelings, and those two details inform basically all human morality. All the world's oldest moral codes--most of them codified in religions--largely agree on a set of basics: Don't murder, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, don't do bad sexual stuff to other people; that kind of thing. It all more or less fits under the umbrella of the golden rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which was articulated more or less that exact way by Confucius 400 years before Christ was born. The concept appears in Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and probably a lot of others too. I also think evil objectively exists--I think it's what you call it when someone derives pleasure from knowingly, callously, and repeatedly violating those moral rules.

That said, I do tend to believe that there is no inherent purpose, direction, or meaning to the universe. I think we humans create those things for ourselves. This notion does not fill me with cosmic dread. Same with duties; those are socially constructed according to various cultures' notions of what maximizes social harmony, productivity, or whatever. That doesn't make them meaningless or non-existent; on the contrary, it's important to fit into what your society expects of you if you expect to be able to fit into your society.
I'm trying to figure out how you reconcile the two statements I've cherry-picked in bold, above.  From the point of view of a naturalist, I can understand the second statement well.  The universe has no purpose, and life itself is an accident of abiogenesis/evolution.  From that starting point, one could argue that morality essentially evolved along with human evolution.  But then that morality would be no more objective than any other creation of humans, including religion.

I think Dawkins does a good job of summarizing the logical conclusion of a purely naturalistic view of the universe:
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Mountaineer » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:45 am

Gosso wrote:
Stewardship wrote: Don't jump to conclusions when coming across difficult passages in the Bible.

Fr. Robert Barron on Violence in the Bible
https://youtu.be/1A65Wfr2is0
If you read the Bible in such a way that it leads you to say violence is a good thing, I should be more violent, or that God is hateful and violent, then you have ipso facto misread it because you have not read it from the standpoint of the "lamb standing as though slain."
Pope Benedict on the subject in VERBUM DOMINI:
In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult.

Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.

God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things.

This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel.

So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.

I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.
+1.  But sadly I doubt your post will gain much interest among the participants in this thread.  It seems to be sola scriptura or bust.
Stewardship and Gosso,

Thanks for the posts.  I agree with most of what Fr. Barron and Pope Benedict are saying about how to interpret Scripture.  Especially the context part (not only context within the Scripture pericope or Book but also context of to whom the message was addressed, when, where, who wrote it, what is symbolic, what is factual, etc.) and reading the OT through the lens of the NT - i.e. a Christocentric perspective.  A literal interpretation of Scripture frequently leads one to be anchored in the Law (which in my opinion ultimately leads one to either pride or dispair or abandonment of faith) to the exclusion of hearing the Gospel.  I also thought the reference to the Church Fathers was spot on - in our current day we think we are so "smart" when we come up with all the questions, comments, and concerns about contradictions in Scripture.  These things were hammered out almost two thousand years ago - little we come up with is new; in my opinion it is just our prideful sinful self that thinks we know better on the significant Scriptural doctrines than those who came before.  There are really no significant Scriptural contradictions, just our limited understanding from a sometimes superficial or misguided knowledge of Scripture.  Anyway, thanks for sharing.

... M
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Desert » Sat Sep 19, 2015 8:37 am

MediumTex wrote:
Stewardship wrote: The thing that nagged me most when I was an agnostic wasn't the question of death, but the question of my own existence and consciousness which would just about require the existence of a power beyond the universe.

Have these questions (your existence and consciousness) been tackled yet in this thread?

If my existence depended on a certain sperm entering a certain egg, then by that alone the odds against my existence were incredible, almost impossible.  Yet, here I am.  No, something else must be at work.
I think that the intuition you are describing is the seed of all religious belief systems.

I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that our consciousness suggests that there may be something external to us directing everything, but that still leaves us with the challenge of figuring out which religious belief system (if any) provides an accurate articulation of the intuition you are describing.
I agree with you both on this topic.  Try as I did, I never could convince myself of a purely naturalistic world. 
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Desert » Sat Sep 19, 2015 8:40 am

Stewardship wrote:
MediumTex wrote:
I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that our consciousness suggests that there may be something external to us directing everything, but that still leaves us with the challenge of figuring out which religious belief system (if any) provides an accurate articulation of the intuition you are describing.
True!  But that is an important first step in a process and lifelong journey.  For various reasons, the Bible was the next place for me to investigate.  There, on the first page on the first verse, Genesis 1:1 reads "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  A profound, bold beginning statement!  Then I read on...
This might be my favorite post in this entire thread to date. 
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Xan » Sat Sep 19, 2015 9:10 am

Desert wrote:You might want to look beyond a blood-soaked religion and see the blood-soaked world.  This world is, and has always been, a very violent and bloody place.  Despite our outrageous wealth in this country and other first world nations, we are all going to depart this world in a painful death.  In between our birth and death, we're going to look around and see humans constantly killing each other.  I'm not trying to be dark; there are wonderful things around us as well, but this world is full of brutal murder and tragic death.  It is blood soaked.
Excellent point.  Many here are (fallaciously) separating the Old Testament God of wrath from the New Testament God of love, and then balking at the God of wrath.  Of the two (which of course really are one and the same), it seems strange to declare that it's the God of wrath who isn't compatible with this world.  I mean, look around.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Xan » Sat Sep 19, 2015 2:38 pm

MediumTex wrote:The intention of my analogy was to show that even by the standards that quarterbacks set for themselves, an interception is a things to be avoided.
Well hang on.  God never set ANY standards for himself.  He sets standards for us.  It wasn't "Killing is wrong", it was "THOU shalt not kill".  He even says "Vengeance is mine" (meaning that it is not our place to avenge, but also that He certainly may).

God is an entirely free spirit, answerable to no one but Himself.  He has told us where He can be found FOR US (of course He can be found everywhere, but without the promise of being for us, who knows what might happen): in the gathering of believers, with the preached Word, with the waters of Baptism, with the bread and wine and body and blood of the Sacrament.  That's where He has bound Himself by his own promise to be, for us.
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