Pharyngula

Look in your own backyard for the religious crazies. Here’s a letter that was published in the St Cloud Times which I found simply unbelievable—it’s a plea to people to obey the bloodthirsty skygod of the Bible, and it makes an awful argument.

… Down through the ages, God has continued to display his unmerited, undeserved favor toward mankind, and also his continued warnings. He has recorded in his word not only the good things, but the failures and weaknesses of men and women. … He has faithfully shown us there is nothing new under the sun. One nation rises up and is used to bring judgment on a corrupt one.

The account of Jephthah should warn us that we should go to the word of God for direction and not make any rash vows or say things we may one day regret. According to the law, which Jephthah was under, only certain clean animals and birds were eligible for sacrifice.

His regret for not having first considered what God would’ve had him do is nothing compared with the anguish one day of those who refuse to be accountable to God and deny, change or add to his word. They will be judged by it.

The story of Jephthah from Judges 11:29-40 is a good reason to abandon that Judeo-Christian vileness. Perhaps you recall it; a Hebrew chieftain asks for his god’s aid in slaughtering the Ammonites, and all God asks in return is that Jephthah sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home. Jephthah devastates the Ammonites, destroying twenty towns (nice), and the first thing he sees at his door is his daughter. Who he then kills and sacrifices as a burnt offering.

What a horrible story and what horrible people that they think we should learn love of and obedience to god from it; all it tells me is that their god is a monster, and that those who follow him are unconscionably amoral themselves.

August Berkshire has a reply published today—it’s a little milder than I’d have been, but that’s why he’s better at public relations than I am.

The Feb. 10 letter “Account warns us to go to Bible for direction” states: “The account of Jephthah should warn us that we should go to the word of God for direction.”

According to the Bible, Jephthah pledged to sacrifice to God the first thing that walked through his door, which turned out to be his daughter. (Judges 11).

Did God intervene to save the child at the last moment, as occurred in the Abraham and Isaac story? No.

Evidently God has no problem with human sacrifice. In fact, it is estimated that God kills 33 million people in the biblical stories.

Fortunately, most of humanity has moved on from the barbaric times and god depicted in the Old Testament.

Comments

  1. #1 Bryn
    February 24, 2007

    The story of Jephthah is one of my favorites for people who want to argue in favor of the “mercy” of God. I’m surprised the guy even knew it. Most Christians I mention it to have never heard of it. Not surprising, really, since most of them have never actually read the silly book they profess to follow. The letter-writer seems to have ignored the real point–that God could have had the family dog trot out or a pigeon land on Jephthah’s head. Instead, the first thing ol’ Jeph sees is his daughter. Nice God you got there, folks.

  2. #2 Paul
    February 24, 2007

    It’s a great cover story for a bit of infantacide.

    “So Jeph, you killed your daughter… care to explain why before we stone you to death?”

    “Well you see fellas, God came to me before my recent genocide of the Ammonites and said…”

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2007

    the way the story ends, almost makes one think that the writer was intentionally pointing out the irony in blind obediance.

    hmm.

    maybe the bible is filled with warnings after all… just not the ones commonly thought of by xians who uh, blindly obey.

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?
    February 24, 2007

    What a horrible story and what horrible people that they think we should learn love of and obedience to god from it; all it tells me is that their god is a monster, and that those who follow him are unconscionably amoral themselves.

    I wonder if it’s actually supposed to teach a totally different lesson: that Jephthah shouldn’t have asked for such an evil thing as genocide in the first place, and was punished for his blasphemy.

    Of course, such a modern interpretation still leaves the… surprising idea of killing entirely innocent children just to teach their father a lesson, like in the Book of Job and probably several more places.

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?
    February 24, 2007

    What a horrible story and what horrible people that they think we should learn love of and obedience to god from it; all it tells me is that their god is a monster, and that those who follow him are unconscionably amoral themselves.

    I wonder if it’s actually supposed to teach a totally different lesson: that Jephthah shouldn’t have asked for such an evil thing as genocide in the first place, and was punished for his blasphemy.

    Of course, such a modern interpretation still leaves the… surprising idea of killing entirely innocent children just to teach their father a lesson, like in the Book of Job and probably several more places.

  6. #6 abeja
    February 24, 2007

    The god of the bible is needy, demanding, vain, hateful, petty and unreasonable. He gets offended when people take his name in vain, he demands human sacrifice, he slaughters innocents. As a society, we don’t generally hold people with those qualities in high esteem. Yet the biblical god is not just feared, he is loved. Christians love their deity. When I’ve asked them about specific examples of cruelty that the god they believe in has inflicted upon humanity, I’ve never really had anyone try to honestly answer why they love a god who is so cruel. I’ve been told that those stories didn’t really happen, (by people who say the bible is inerrant). Or I’ve been told, “It was a painful thing for him to do, but it was necessary for the good of all humanity”. Or I’ve been told that christians won’t question “HIS” wisdom. The worst response to that question is when I’ve been preached to or when bible quotes have been thrown at me. Do the christians even know why they love a deity who is so disgusting?

  7. #7 SteveC
    February 24, 2007

    Ichthyic wrote:
    > the way the story ends, almost makes one
    > think that the writer was intentionally
    > pointing out the irony in blind obediance.

    I thought the same thing, that it was probably a kind of s stealth response to lead believers down a path that goes, “Jephthah? Gotta look that one up…” *reads story* “Wait, what?” *head asplodes*

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2007

    still leaves the… surprising idea of killing entirely innocent children just to teach their father a lesson, like in the Book of Job and probably several more places.

    It certainly does imply a historical basis for devaluing life.

  9. #9 Dustin
    February 24, 2007

    Hmm. Very interesting. Let’s see what Conservapedia has to say about this.
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Deuteronomy
    *snicker*

  10. #10 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2007

    LOL.

    Let’s see what Conservapedia has to say about this.

    Assfly should just give up trying to be serious and write the thing up as a comic venture in book form.

    I’d bet he would make a considerable sum off of it.

  11. #11 llewelly
    February 24, 2007

    Admit it, PZ. You hate this story because Jephthah caused the extinction of the Ammonites, three of the most beautiful orders of shelled cephalopods in the fossil record.

  12. #12 steve s
    February 24, 2007

    The best thing about christianity is that it’s fiction. How awful it would be, to find out that such a powerful monster as Yahweh existed.

  13. #13 steve s
    February 24, 2007

    Reviewing the false claims of religion I do not wish, as some sentimental agnostics affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case.

    -Christopher Hitchens

  14. #14 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2007

    but that’s certainly not the idea the St Cloud Times letter writer got.

    indeed, it would appear that the letter writer missed that potential interpretation. go figure; subtlety and alternative interpretations don’t seem to be amongst the fundiebot strongsuits (to put it mildly).

    really, though, I do wonder sometimes if a lot of the writers of that collected text weren’t subtly hinting that the reader shouldn’t be so blindly trusting (like they knew it was all hokum, and were trying to subtly point this out to the observant).

    similar to making an anecdote that would show how blindly follwing charlatans like GW and co. has unintended consequences?

    hmm.

    I also would bet that someone has tried applying this analysis to a lot of the anecdotes in that book before.

    really, I could imagine a group of shaman sitting down together and saying to themselves:

    “look, I know this is all a bunch of bunk we used to maintain group heirarchy and order (and get paid), but really, shouldn’t we at least give the smart ones a chance to figure out what’s really going on?”

    of course, this is all beside the point of the letter writer taking the anecdote at face value and making the destructive conclusion they did, just like all the idiots that blindly followed Bushco now get to discover the consequences of that as well.

    just an interesting tangent.

  15. #15 Caledonian
    February 24, 2007

    The real lesson here is simple: do not do stupid things.

    In this particular case, do not make stupid oaths and don’t agree to pay a price that’s open to wild contingency.

    Also, the ancient Hebrews were evil, but we all knew that already.

  16. #16 BibleSmith
    February 24, 2007

    “Jephthah’s daughter was a willing sacrifice, she said that he should keep his promise.”

    Well then, if a child says its ok to do it, It must be so!

  17. #17 SLC
    February 24, 2007

    Re biblical atrocities.

    In point of fact, the story of Sauls’ visit to the witch at Endor is even worse. Saul goes to Endor to have a witch bring up the prophet Samuel, because he hasn’t received his instructions for the following days battle from Yahweh. Samuel informs Saul that Yahweh is displeased with him and that the latter is going to make it his business to see that the Israelites will lose the upcoming battle and that Saul and his sons will leave the field feet first. Now why is Yahweh displeased with Saul you may ask. Is Saul neglecting to attend Friday night services? No. Did Saul have a ham sandwich for lunch? No. The reason is that, in a previous victory over the Amalekites, Saul failed to kill all of those who were captured, sparing some of them. This was against Yahwehs’ orders which were to spare none. Yahweh doesn’t like guys who don’t obey orders!

    In addition, there is the issue of Sauls’ jealousy of David which came about after a previous victory in which the Hebrew women salute the returning soldiers by singing that Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands! Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mau Tse Tung had nothing on these guys.

  18. #18 Azkyroth
    February 24, 2007

    In my experience, the least idiotic response I’ve heard from Christians regarding the Jephthah story is to point out (claim) that God was absent; that God did not reply directly to Jephthah’s vow and didn’t tell him anything about what to do when his daughter came out, so it was him freely choosing to do an evil thing he thought his god wanted. Originally I didn’t have a response to that when it was brandished at me other than to reiterate that a loving god would have intervened anyway to prevent needless suffering–or at least sent a clear message.

    A better response would add that Jephthah got what he asked for, whether or not god gave him a direct reply. And if this is just an example of a person foolishly doing an evil thing he thought god wanted, why is that not stated explicitly? Why is Jephthah depicted as favored by god? What is the story doing in the bible in the first place?

  19. #19 Adam
    February 24, 2007

    Speaking of “religious crazies”, take a look at some of the comments on this article:

    http://time-blog.com/middle_east/2007/02/jesus_tales_from_the_crypt.html?iid=chix-digg

    My favorite is the commenter who argues that the “truth of the Bible is evidence of the truth of the Bible”.

  20. #20 John Marley
    February 24, 2007

    What is the story doing in the bible in the first place?

    I have wondered the same about a lot of Bible stories

  21. #21 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2007

    adam:

    i rather like the irony contained in this post:

    I don’t buy this heresy for one minute. After I heard about this, I did some digging and found that Cameron and Jacobovici produced a documentary that claimed the Exodus actually occurred. I, as a believer, already knew that.
    So, this raises an important question. If Cameron and Jacobovici believe in the Exodus, how could they NOT believe in the Resurrection? How could they accept part of Scripture, but not all of it? They’re speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

    ooooh the sweet, delicious, irony.

    actually, wouldn’t it just be so much fun if the subject of Cameron’s film has some legitimacy to it?

    oh, but the spins that will arise from that.

    pure genius of him to decide to invest in making a film of it.

  22. #22 craig
    February 24, 2007

    Last summer I had a “garage give-away” or sorts… I gave away about 8 to 10 thousand books in hundreds of plastic boxes lining my dad’s driveway.

    During this little event I had one of the creepiest experiences of the last few years – an older couple came up to me, wearing red, white and blue ribbons, US flag lapel pins, and other “flair,” and asked if I had any Left Behind books.

    I’ve had friends who were schizophrenic. I’ve spent time in psych wards and got along well with the other people there… none of these people, even the most extremely troubled, ever creeped me out. Their problems were understandable. The word crazy didn’t apply to them.

    The Left behind people are crazy. Just flat out crazy.

  23. #23 Stegve
    February 24, 2007

    In point of fact, the story of Sauls’ visit to the witch at Endor is even worse. Saul goes to Endor to have a witch bring up the prophet Samuel…

    Saul visited the forest moon of Endor? And the Ewoks just let him?

  24. #24 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2007

    Saul visited the forest moon of Endor? And the Ewoks just let him?

    he went to see the witch. she lives on the other side of Endor.

    he wiped out the ewoks later (thank god).

  25. #25 SteveM
    February 24, 2007

    “The account of Jephthah should warn us that we should … not make any rash vows or say things we may one day regret.”

    Yes, the story of Jephthah is horrible, but I don’t think it is an example of God demanding a human sacrifice. It is the story of a man making a foolish oath that he fulfills to his deep regret. And that is the point the letter writer is trying to make. And no, God did not intervene because He did command Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter the way He commanded Abram to sacrifice his son. Jep was obeying his own oath, not the “word of God”. Not that I agree with the letter, but I think you completely missed the point.

  26. #26 D
    February 24, 2007

    Saul visited the forest moon of Endor? And the Ewoks just let him?

    It does Not. Make. Sense. Saul needs to read up on the Chewbacca Defense

    Religion’s common denominator: God likes torture. (n.b.: Hell)

  27. #27 yiela
    February 25, 2007

    This reminds me of the last bible meeting I attended. I was an athiest at the time but very “respectful of others beliefs” and I was very isolated, new baby, no car, husband working many hours. So, a lady I knew would pick me up once a week and we would read about women in the bible. This day it was a story about a battle. A guy from the “bad” side decided to bail on the battle and go hide out in the tent of a chick from the “good” side. They were friends or something. She acted totally cool about it and he fell asleep on the couch. When he was asleep, she pounded a tent stake through his head. The scary part was that the lady reading got really excited, started praying aloud about how wonderful the place god had given women was. It was like an extasy or something with the whole phallic tent stake penetrating his head thing. She had everyone hold hands and everyone got all hot for god, praying and swaying. I realized that no one really knew where I was with my two month old baby and my “get hard for god” act was not very convincing. It was really really scary.

  28. #28 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2007

    I was an athiest[sic] at the time

    meaning, you aren’t any more?

  29. #29 Krystalline Apostate
    February 25, 2007

    The story of Jephthah is reason enough to be apostate
    The Canaanites were good enough for me.

  30. #30 octopod
    February 25, 2007

    He killed the ammonites? Oh no! D-: That asshole!

  31. #31 yiela
    February 25, 2007

    I’m an athiest. I was just meaning that I wasn’t a christian at the time. I never really have been and have never had a serious bout of christianity. I was a little susceptable to woo at that time but not christian at all. I still hang out with a lot of christians and even a few very woo woo people. I attended both a candle christmas eve thing and a solstice party this year. I’m not bragging, I just don’t know any other athiests and I want to have some friends. We have a lot of other things in common. I do sometimes call my friends (either group) on the really whacky stuff. The spine tapping allergy cure and god controlling the birthing times of livestock through prayer are two that have come up lately. My close friends that “know” that I’m a somewhat of a free thinker tolerate me even though they think I’m the one that’s nuts, haha. I’m still in the closet about my actual athiesm though. The consequences to my kids and my job would be pretty severe. Mostly, I just avoid the topic if I can.

  32. #32 Kristine
    February 25, 2007

    I ask this again, if we are to take this letter seriously, then why prosecute Andrea Yates for killing her kids? How do we know that she didn’t hear the voice of God? How do we know?

    Well, of course we know she didn’t. This is beyond ridiculous.

    I don’t even understand the letter-writer’s point, as her “advice” is obviously inapplicable to anything in reality, and downright illegal, and sick.

    At the risk of sounding maudlin, there’s a speech in a Star Trek episode given by Captain Kirk to one of his crewmembers who’s in cahoots with Apollo (who turns out to be an alien with superpowers), in which Kirk speaks passionately about the loyalty human beings owe each other in the face of deities. I’ve always loved that speech, and though, of course, Apollo is portrayed as a false god because he’s really an alien, I loved extrapolating its meaning.

  33. #33 Tom Foss
    February 25, 2007

    Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
    –1 Thessalonians 5:21

    Yeah, it’s right there in the text. I don’t know why so many Christians are anti-science all-or-nothing literalists. It tells them straight out “don’t believe shit if it’s not proven.”

  34. #34 Raguel
    February 25, 2007

    I guess it’s a cultural thing, but I don’t understand the vow. What’s the possibility someone/thing other than his daughter would be the first thing to “walk through his door”?

  35. #35 possummomma
    February 25, 2007

    I’ve always found that trite little phrase, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” to be very anti-theist. Basically, the phrase supports the theory that matter is always matter and energy just changes form.
    If there’s truly “nothing new”, then where do babies come from? Seriously. If there is NOTHING NEW, that would have to include new people.
    Yeah… I realize it’s a weak argument, but the phrase has never sat right with me.

  36. #36 Damien
    February 25, 2007

    I’ve always found that trite little phrase, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” to be very anti-theist.

    Actually, Jennifer Michael Hecht included a discussion of Ecclesiastes in Doubt: A History in her sections on Jewish doubt. She argues that most of it feels very Epicurean, possibly authored by a Hellenized Jew.

  37. #37 pzykr
    February 25, 2007

    PZ Myers wrote, “…all God asks in return is that Jephthah sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home.” Unfortunate mistelling of the story–harder to debunk bullshit with inaccurate characterizations like this.

    Gregory Bateson, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, tells how his father made him study the bible so that he would be an informed atheist (Bateson pere was an atheist, too, of course). Thanks, Foster Disbelief, for bringing us the actual text…

  38. #38 Crosius
    February 25, 2007

    Raguel>
    Well, in the version of the story recorded in Grimm’s Fairy Tales (which is much more entertaining than the bible version, and does not include a genocidal war), the king expected it would be his faithful dog that would meet him on the road home. Except of course that his daughter runs to greet him more quickly than the family dog. Much effort is made in the Grimm’s version to convey that the king is believes he is pulling a fast one on the entity to whom he vows to give the, “first thing to greet him on the road home.”

    I suspect versions of this particular cautionary tale have been floating around for much longer than there has been a bible – probably much longer than there has been writing. Most cultures possess the meme of oath-taking, and most cultures have a desire to convey the danger of making an oath in bad faith.

  39. #39 Krystalline Apostate
    February 25, 2007

    Jim:
    There is a persistant tradition, for example, that in the original version of the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham did indeed kill his son, though Yahweh brought him back to life later.
    I hadn’t heard that before. Got link?

  40. #40 Patrick Quigley
    February 25, 2007

    It is worth noting that the only time that Jephthah is mentioned in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:32), it is not with condemnation but unequivocal praise. He appears among a list of murderers and genocidal maniacs like Moses, Samson, and David …

    …who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. (Hebrews 11:33-34)

    So much for the “that’s just the Old Testament” argument.

    Thanks to Tracie Harris of The Atheist Experience for pointing this out.

  41. #41 JS
    February 25, 2007

    “Kirk speaks passionately about the loyalty human beings owe each other in the face of deities. I’ve always loved that speech, and though, of course, Apollo is portrayed as a false god because he’s really an alien, I loved extrapolating its meaning.”

    …says Kristine,above.

    From the trial of Count Yorck von Wartenburg

    Yorck: “Herr President! I have already stated that in view of the development that had been taken by the National Socialist ideology, I did…”

    Freisler [interrupting]: “did not agree! To state it exactly, you told him: Regarding the Jewish question, the extermination of the Jews did not suit you; the National Socialist concept of justice did not suit you.”

    Yorck: “The essential point is the connection between all these questions, the claim by the state of total power over the citizen, with the elimination of his religious and moral obligations toward God.”

    Freisler: “Tell me, where has National Socialism eliminated the moral obligation of a German? The German man, the German woman, infinitely more healthy, has infinitely deepened them. I have never heard before that it had eliminated moral obligations. And as for religion, there National Socialism is very modest. It says: Please take care of that as you please; only stay in the other world with your demands, church. For the souls, after all, will do their fluttering around in the other world. Here on earth our present life counts. Otherwise the church could concern itself with politics. So what you say is at least quite distorted; it makes no sense.”

    Yorck: “I wanted to give this simply as an explanation.”

    http://www.joric.com/Conspiracy/1V-Trials.htm#York

    (On August 8, 1944, Count Yorck von Wartenburg was sentenced to death by the Nazi “People’s Court” and hanged the same day in Plotzensee prison)

    Although this will be deliberately misinterpreted, the point is not that “atheist = Nazi” – the point is that asserting some undefined and unjustified loyalty to other human beings really means, in practise, obedience to human auhority and the State. The motto of the SS was, after all, “my honor is my loyalty.”

  42. #42 bad Jim
    February 25, 2007

    L’enfer, c’est les autres.

  43. #43 Man of Mystery
    February 25, 2007

    “what JS said”

    First, Godwin’s Law means you automatically lose the argument.

    Secondly, loyalty to other human beings mean ‘to treat other human being with respect and kindness’ not ‘do what people tell you for no good reason’.

    Third, blind obedience to a higher authority, even when it tells you to do thing that go against your own moral code – that sounds suspiciously like religion to me.

    Fourth, seriously, Godwin’s Law. Look it up.

  44. #44 Lurker
    February 25, 2007

    A comment from a lurker:

    In the Jewish tradition, Jephthah’s actions are viewed as unsavoury and incorrect. His vow is irresponsible, and anyway he was incorrect in carrying it out on his daughter.
    The Yalkuth Shimoni embellishes on the story:
    She [Jephthah’s daughter] said to him, “Where does it say that you may sacrifice people? It is only written about cattle and sheep!”
    “But I have promised, my daughter” he said.
    “Jacob, who said ‘everything You give me, I will tithe to you’ – did he offer up any of his children?”
    But he refused to listen to her.
    She said, “let us go to the wise men – maybe they can annul your vow!”
    But he would not go.

    The same source is also critical of the behaviour of the wise man of the generation, who for reasons of honor refused to go to Jephthah to annul his vow.

    A sorry story all round.

  45. #45 baruch grazer
    February 25, 2007

    and all God asks in return is that Jephthah sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home. (emphasis mine)

    As pzykr points out, PZ starts with a misreading of the text.

    Even if one starting with the assumption that the text is valueless, evil crap, the rigorously honest treatment of data that is the ideal of science should be at least attempted.

    No intent here to defend the editorial that set this blog entry in motion. Plenty of Jewish and Christian readers of the text who don’t see it as parenting instructions and so forth.

  46. #46 waldteufel
    February 25, 2007

    I use my bible every day! It’s pretty heavy, so it makes a good weight to keep my mouse cable from dropping off the desk.

    Other than as a weight of some kind, I can’t think of a single good use for the damned bible. If anyone knows of any other use, please let us know.

    If you’re practicing religion, you’re mainlining stupid. (Thanks, PZ)

  47. #47 KC JONES
    February 25, 2007

    Ths JWS sr wrt sm grssv sht. Lv t t th JWS, h,PZ?

    Th JWSH scrptrs r jst ll bt kllng rn’t thy?

    Thts wht th JWS mnt sn’t t PZ?

  48. #48 KC JONES
    February 25, 2007

    Ths JWS sr wrt sm grssv sht. Lv t t th JWS, h,PZ?

    Th JWSH scrptrs r jst ll bt kllng rn’t thy?

    Thts wht th JWS mnt sn’t t PZ?

  49. #49 mark
    February 25, 2007

    The letter-writer seems to have ignored the real point–that God could have had the family dog trot out or a pigeon land on Jephthah’s head. Instead, the first thing ol’ Jeph sees is his daughter.

    Now, what kind of story would that have been? It would be like if in the movie Gunga Din Cary Grant negotiated peace with the tuggies and the film ends with Sam Jaffe playing cornet in a band in Bombay.

  50. #50 Willy
    February 25, 2007

    #60: Maybe this is apocryphal, but it is a good story:

    I understand that Owsley delivered a bible that had been soaked in acid to the Chicago 7 defendants while they were in the Cook County lockup. Once inside, pages were torn out and eaten. Most of the jail was tripping for quite a while.

  51. #51 Elliott
    February 25, 2007

    For comparison, check this out. Geese overflying the house gave the woman spiritual messages telling her to kill the kid, and she obeyed. (And they found her not guilty.) So, would Christers accept a flock of geese as the equivalent of their invisible sky buddy?

    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/02/24/colo_grandma_not_guilty_in_tots_murder/

    Posted by: Roy | February 24, 2007 08:20 PM

    To be fair, Roy, the woman was effectively found to be not guilty by virtue of insanity, and remanded to a secure facility until the degree of danger she presented to her fellow citizens could be determined .

  52. #52 Krystalline Apostate
    February 25, 2007

    First, Godwin’s Law means you automatically lose the argument.
    Actually, YOU need to look it up. 1st off, the invoker LOSES the argument as well, & secondly, it signifies that the thread that it occurred in is over.
    “However there is also a widely- recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin’s Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.”

  53. #53 llewelly
    February 25, 2007

    I was an athiest[sic] at the time

    meaning, you aren’t any more?

    It’s a gradual process. First, one becomes athy. Second, one becomes athier. Third, one becomes athiest. Finally, one becomes more neighborly, and is an atheist.

  54. #54 Talen Lee
    February 25, 2007

    waldteufel, I’m told that the paper of most bibles makes pretty good paper for roll-your-own cigarettes. You can even have fun by going through and cutting out the bits most Christians ignore anyway first.

  55. #55 Sonja
    February 25, 2007

    I think the message to George W. Bush is clear. A Jenna/Barbara sacrifice for a glorious victorious victory in Iraq.

  56. #56 andrea
    February 25, 2007

    Given how much sex and advocation of violence is in the bible, I’m surprised it’s allowed in schools!

    waldteufel asked, “Other than as a weight of some kind, I can’t think of a single good use for the damned bible. If anyone knows of any other use, please let us know.”

    Otherwise useless tomes make excellent flower presses to dry & flatten flowers for botanical and artistic efforts.

  57. #57 David Harmon
    February 25, 2007

    Sonja: Well, there would be much mana indeed from twins….

    General: Folks, Yahweh, and especially Old-Testament Yahweh, is your basic sky-father god. That arbitrary cruelty is merely the terrifying randomness of natural disaster, psychologically contained by a name and a body of stories, and (in this case) projected onto an infantile father-archetype.

    But here’s something to chew on: the more indignant it makes you that God (by whatever name) isn’t not always wise and caring… well, it suggests you’re doing a little projecting of your own. Specifically, making demands of the positive aspect of that same father-archetype, and responding to their failure with denigration instead of idealization.

    Much the same goes for Jesus as the Sun Child, mutatis mutandis….

  58. #58 PZ Myers
    February 25, 2007

    OK, apologists, I read the bible passage—in case you hadn’t noticed, it was linked to in the article.

    And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.

    That’s pretty plain. Jephthah promised a sacrifice, and then THE LORD delivered his enemies to him. Plain as day, the bible is giving credit for the victory to that deity, after Jephthah’s promise. That’s how the letter-writer I quoted interpreted it, that’s the plain interpretation of the language written there.

    You’re going to have to twist the story harder, I think.

  59. #59 dorid
    February 25, 2007

    With respect to the “geese grandma” (comment #4) she was found not guilty BY REASON OF INSANITY… and was sentenced to a mental institution for an indefinite period of time.

    It isn’t like the judge or jury accepted the “god made me do it” arguement.

  60. #60 VMartin
    February 25, 2007

    Author of the article has no basic knowledge of history of religion. The hysteric statement “The story of Jephthah from Judges 11:29-40 is a good reason to abandon that Judeo-Christian vileness.” prove it sufficiently. Might be we should also abandon platonian idealistic thinking while it inspired christian philosophers? Author should study more what Christianity is and what Judaism is and do not blend them together in future.

    Religious truth unfolded itself during history in peculiar unique way in which judaism played signifficant role once.

    Christianity with Trinity conception is the last final word.

    —————
    Might be there is some similarity or metaphore between unfolding of religious thinking and unfolding of compexity of life during evolution. Both of them are predetermimed.

    It’s John Davison’s merit that he focused are attention to this forgotten fact.

  61. #61 VMartin
    February 25, 2007

    Author of the article hasn’t apparently the basic knowledge of history of religion. The unadequate statement “The story of Jephthah from Judges 11:29-40 is a good reason to abandon that Judeo-Christian vileness.” prove it sufficiently. Might be we should also abandon platonian idealistic thinking while it inspired christian philosophers? Author should study more what Christianity is and what Judaism is and do not blend them together in future.

    Religious truth unfolded itself during history in peculiar unique way in which judaism played signifficant role once.

    Christianity with Trinity conception is the last final word.

    —————
    Might be there is some similarity or metaphore between unfolding of religious thinking and unfolding of compexity of life during evolution. Both of them are predetermimed.

    It’s John Davison’s merit that he focused are attention to this forgotten fact.

  62. #62 VMartin
    February 25, 2007

    Of course John Davison addressed only process of biological evolution.

  63. #63 Jim Harrison
    February 25, 2007

    Crystalline Apostate asked for a link about my claim:

    “There is a persistant tradition, for example, that in the original version of the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham did indeed kill his son, though Yahweh brought him back to life later.”

    I don’t have a link, but I have got a reference. The traditions are discussed by Bruce Zuckerman in his book Job the Silent, which deals with pre-Biblical versions of the Job story and the general theme of how much of the Bible is commentary, revision, or parody. Just as modern kids don’t know that the poems in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are take offs of once well-known poems, readers of the Bible are likely to misunderstand the point of some books of the Bible because they have no way of knowing what they were written against or refuse to acknowledge that parts of scripture might be meant satirically or ironically.

  64. #64 Krystalline Apostate
    February 25, 2007

    Jim:
    I don’t have a link, but I have got a reference. The traditions are discussed by Bruce Zuckerman in his book Job the Silent, which deals with pre-Biblical versions of the Job story and the general theme of how much of the Bible is commentary, revision, or parody.
    Thanks Jim.
    Pre-biblical? Do you mean Midrashic, Talmudic, or the Tanakh? Or are we talking a wholesale borrowing from other cultures? I find this fascinating, & do wish there were some web links for this.
    Just as modern kids don’t know that the poems in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are take offs of once well-known poems, readers of the Bible are likely to misunderstand the point of some books of the Bible because they have no way of knowing what they were written against or refuse to acknowledge that parts of scripture might be meant satirically or ironically.
    Again – really? Lewis Carrol ‘borrowed’ from the bible? Or ancient poetry? Again, any links whatsoever?
    I’m just curious, not challenging.

  65. #65 Blake Stacey
    February 25, 2007

    For y’alls consideration:

    It is often suggested that the tale [of Jephthah] is left unvarnished in an attempt to assimilate into Yahvism the ritual of a pagan festival. The story concludes:

    Judges 11:39. . . . And it was a custom in Israel,

    Judges 11:40. That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

    There were well-known rites all over the ancient world celebrating the death and subsequent rebirth of a god. This represented the annual agricultural cycle: the death of crops in the winter and their rebirth in the spring. It would be customary for women to bewail the death of the god with great ceremony each year, and then to rejoice at the news of the rebirth.

    To deprive the women of their long-established custom would ahve been difficult; to transfer it from a heathen god to the daughter of an Israelite hero might have been easier.

    From Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, pp. 246–47.

    In other words, it’s awfully hard to tell for sure, but the Jephthah story might have been stuck in Judges for the same reason that Christmas was pegged to the winter solstice. Hmmm, there are more details in this book somewhere. Consulting the Index. . . . Aha, page 584:

    To modern Westerners, the most familiar form of this sort of tale is found among the Greek myths. This tale tells of Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture, and her daughter Persephone. Persephone is stolen by Hades, the god of the underworld, and Demeter seeks her all over the world. While she seeks, all vegetation dies and winter comes over the world. Eventually, Demeter finds Persephone and a compromise is reached. Persephone may stay with Demeter part of the year and with Hades the rest, and this explains the recurring cycle of growth and death and growth again.

    The Babylonians have a myth of this sort, too; one that long antedates the Greek version, of course, and goes back, in fact, to Sumerian days before the time of Abraham. In the Sumerian myth, Dumu-zi (the name which later became Tammuz) is the brother and lover of Ishtar, the goddess of earth and sky. Tammuz is killled by a boar while hunting, or, perhaps, through some thoughtless act of Ishtar, and must descend into the underworld. Ishtar follows and ransoms him only with the greatest difficulty. It is for this Tammuz that the women first wail and then rejoice.

    (The Babylonians called the month of the summer solstice Tammuz in honor of the god and the Jews borrowed the name. This heathen god, despite Ezekiel, is still honored in the Jewish calendar today, just as Western calendars contain the month of March, a name used freely by Jews and Christians alike although it honors the pagan god Mars.)

    The Tammuz myth spread along with agriculture and always it was to the women that its rites particularly appealed. After all, in primitive societies it is the women who are most concerned with agriculture. If the western half of the Fertile Crescent Tammuz was called “Lord” (Adonai). This was “Adonis” in the Greek version of the name and Greek mythology adopted the tale of Tammuz when they told of Adonis, the young lover of Aphrodite, who was killed by a boar to the goddess’s infinite distress. (And gave us the word “Adonis” to represent any extremely attractive young man.)

    The Israelites undoubtedly worshiped Tammuz and these rites were popular with the women among them. Indeed, the writers of the final version of the Book of Judges probably tried to mask the idoloatrous practices of the women by referring to their weeping for Tammuz as weeping for Jephthah’s daughter (see page 246).

    Nor has the practice died out completely even today, for the emotions surrounding the religious ritual in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus—Good Friday followed by Easter—owes something to the millennia in which the god of vegetation died and was reborn every year.

    There you go: Jephthah’s daughter, Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis and the Easter Bunny all wrapped up in one package.

  66. #66 QrazyQat
    February 25, 2007

    Well, some people here might try to argue that it’s a subtle, sneaky argument against genocide or human sacrifice, but that’s certainly not the idea the St Cloud Times letter writer got.

    That’s the thing. It seems obvious that the story was likely originally conceived as a parable to warn people against obeying “god”, but was than incorporated into the mass of conflicting stories that make up the parts of the bible that are today officially recognised. In doing so its likely meaning was turned 180.

  67. #67 Krystalline Apostate
    February 25, 2007

    Thanks Blake, but I knew most of that. I’d never heard a tie-in of the resurrection theme for Abe’s (attempted) sacrifice of Isaac – I was aware that the OT mentions ‘raising the dead’ in a few places – I think it was Ezekiel or Isaiah. Big proponent of parallelism myself.

  68. #68 Nick (Matzke)
    February 25, 2007

    I’m not a big fan of Jephthah, but if you read the Bible story about him sacrificing his daughter, you’ll see he wasn’t all bad. He gave his daughter permission to go to the hills and “bewail her virginity” for awhile.

    When the professor brought up this story in my freshman seminar, I do believe I had the most memorable reaction. As I recall, I said that if Jepthah’s daughter was about to be sacrificed, she probably went to the hills to do something else with her virginity besides bewail it.

  69. #69 K
    February 25, 2007

    I liked the Beauty and the Beast version. You know, the merchant makes the deal with the beast to bring to him the first thing that touches him because it might be a bird but no, it’s his daughter. At least the father had SOME morals.

    Hey, you want a crazy christian? http://www.thewatcherfiles.com/

  70. #70 Kagehi
    February 25, 2007

    Lewis Carrol ‘borrowed’ from the bible?

    Umm. I don’t see any place where it implies “biblical poems”, just, “once well known ones”. That could mean ones that where not often told, but contemporary to Lewis’s time, which have since gone entirely out of use. And its in fact what I interpreted it to mean. Sometimes even atheists seem to develop damned stupid one track minds when reading things…

  71. #71 Jim Harrison
    February 25, 2007

    The poems that Lewis Carrol parodied were not taken from the Bible. They were mostly moralizing children’s poems from the early 19th Century. “You are Old Father Williams,” for example, takes off from an Old Man’s Comforts and How he Gained Them by Robert Southey. Martin Gardner reprinted the Southey poem and the other originals in his Annotated Alice, a book I love to plug.

  72. #72 hanna jörgel
    February 26, 2007

    My favorite Jephtha anecdote comes from the sung version. Carissimi, for those of you who know music. The daughter was played by a very pregnant woman. And she was Mormon.

    It was really wild singing these things about her fate (and Carissimi’s librettist threw in stuff about her maidenhood).

    Really, it was a hoot.

    I guess you had to be there.

  73. #73 hanna jörgel
    February 26, 2007

    My favorite Jephtha anecdote comes from the sung version. Carissimi, for those of you who know music. The daughter was played by a very pregnant woman. And she was Mormon.

    It was really wild singing these things about her fate (and Carissimi’s librettist threw in stuff about her maidenhood).

    Really, it was a hoot.

    I guess you had to be there.

  74. #74 False Prophet
    February 26, 2007

    Man of Mystery and Krystalline Apostate, you both need to look up Godwin’s Law. Because it says nothing about winning or losing arguments, only:

    Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

    And that’s from Godwin himself.

    Anyway, all this arguing over interpretations the particular scripture in question seems kind of pointless. If you’ve read Deuteronomy, Judges, Joshua, or Samuel, you know Yahweh’s a sadistic, genocidal monster. Consult The Brick Testament for more details.

  75. #75 yehudasf
    February 26, 2007

    Long after those who rage against Him are dust & extirpated; left without issue & forgotten, my descendents & the descendent of my People will still honour Hashem, & fulfill the mitzvoth. We have no issue with science, maths, (calculus, trigonometry, algebra etc) nor any of the wonderful improvements to life that they have brought. We do, however feel saddened that some use mere science as a basis for an over-arching rejection of Hashem. Many times, IMO said rejection is based more on the horrifying experiences brought about by followers of the dead heretical bastard child of an adulterous Levantine slut. My people believe that religious faith & its accompanying strictures & observances are always intrinsic (kept & applied to one’s self/community), never extrinsic (shoved down the throats of those not of our People). While it is considered a good & meritorious thing to share a positive benefit (tzedaka,charity) with the entire community at-large, it will & should never be the practice to try to impose a stricture applicable only amongst our People to others.

  76. #76 Iain Walker
    February 26, 2007

    VMartin (Message #76):
    Might be there is some similarity or metaphore between unfolding of religious thinking and unfolding of compexity of life during evolution. Both of them are predetermimed.

    Actually, the similarity would be that neither of them are pre-determined, but are the consequences of accumulated contingent, historical events. Otherwise, they’re rather different. Cultural evolution tends to be Lamarkian in the way characteristics are passed on, biological evolution tends to be Mendelian.

  77. #77 Kristine
    February 26, 2007

    JS, the state is an abstraction and thus an alien being. If you know me at all you know that I don’t have “some undefined and unjustified loyalty to other human beings.” And “my honor is my loyalty” meant loyalty to the Fuhrer. And thanks for sweetening the poisoned well by telling me, after comparing me to Nazis, that you’re not comparing me to Nazis. Thanks a lot.

    And incidentally, congratulations on fighting your parking ticket. What an achievement. Too bad they don’t give out Godwin’s Law tickets.

  78. #78 quork
    February 26, 2007

    Ooh, a response in the St. Cloud Times:
    Write Now: Atheist’s letter missed the point of Bible’s lessons

    By Jason Hubred
    Montevideo
    .
    In a Feb. 16 letter, August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheists writes that “God has no problem with human sacrifice,” citing the biblical story of Jephthah.
    .
    As is usual with skeptics of Christianity and the Bible, Berkshire fails to understand the point behind this and other events recorded in the Bible. The story of Jephthah is not a lesson in favor of human sacrifice, but a lesson against making brash, thoughtless promises, particularly to God.
    .
    This story does not make God, the Bible, Christianity or Christians evil or “barbaric” as Mr. Berkshire wrote. The lessons of the Bible can often be harsh, but they are there so that we may learn from and be edified by them.

    Jason: First, could you be a bit more clear? Is it a “story”, or a “recorded event”? I.e. do you believe it actually happened? Second: who gave you the franchise on exclusive interpretation of such Bible stories? If it says God performed a service in exchange for a sacrifice, then how does that not make Him “evil and barbaric” as well as harsh? Do you consider human sacrifice to be not evil and barbaric?

  79. #79 Raguel
    February 26, 2007

    I’ve read through a lot of the replies, but the only thing that makes sense to me is that the story was co-opted from pagans.

  80. #80 Krystalline Apostate
    February 26, 2007

    False Prophet:
    Excuse me, I was using the answers.com version –
    “[Usenet] “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin’s Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely- recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin’s Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful. Godwin himself has discussed the subject.”
    & here is the referral to Godwin himself.
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.10/godwin.if_pr.html
    I fail to see how I was incorrect.

  81. #81 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2007

    I’ve read through a lot of the replies, but the only thing that makes sense to me is that the story was co-opted from pagans.

    that’s a safe position to take, given the number of things that have been co-opted from various pagan religions into xianity.

    like the very fish symbol they like to use so often.

  82. #82 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    the point is that asserting some undefined and unjustified loyalty to other human beings really means, in practise, obedience to human auhority and the State.

    Non sequitur.

    The motto of the SS was, after all, “my honor is my loyalty.”

    Not that it matters, but “unsere Ehre heißt Treue” means “our honor is called loyalty”, “loyalty” in the vassal sense, loyalty to the leader (in German: Führer). In short, that’s ideology — religion by some criteria. Because German is my mother tongue, I can tell you that it has even introduced the word Loyalität to have a bit of distinction, and that’s not the word used by the SS.

    Religious truth unfolded itself during history in peculiar unique way

    Evidence?

    Might be there is some similarity or metaphore between unfolding of religious thinking and unfolding of compexity of life during evolution.

    Does it mean something if there’s a similarity between your interpretation of the history of religion and your misinterpretation of the history of life?

    Yes, it is a misinterpretation. Are you more complex than a sauropod? (You will say your brain is, which is not really testable, but your lungs are much simpler.) Are the bacteria in your gut more complex than a sauropod?

    Read more Gould. There is no progress in evolution. Only the diversity of life has increased.

    Both of them are predetermimed.

    Ah, really. Evidence? I have rarely seen something as chaotic as life, and I’m a paleobiologist.

    It’s John Davison’s merit that he focused are attention to this forgotten fact.

    Learn what “fact” means.

    And while biological evolution is over

    That’s what Davison wants to believe. But evolution can still be observed. Go measure the beak lengths of Darwin finches over a couple years (has been done). Go to a molecular biology lab, grow a couple billion bacteria in the presence of a virus, and watch for a couple of days. And so on. “Reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing in it.”

    it cannot be explained by Mendelism.

    LOL! Did anyone ever claim it could be? You need to add mutation and selection, and drift. Then it works.

    French academy of science forbade treatises on “Origin of languages” around 1870. Unlike darwinists they knew at thet time and know also today that all about “Origin” of languages is mystery and no research is able to solve it. Yet darwinists have no problem to consider their tales about “Origin of species” as science even at the very beginning of 21 century.

    Non sequitur.
    Besides, do you mean “language” or “languages”? If the latter, you are dead wrong.

  83. #83 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    the point is that asserting some undefined and unjustified loyalty to other human beings really means, in practise, obedience to human auhority and the State.

    Non sequitur.

    The motto of the SS was, after all, “my honor is my loyalty.”

    Not that it matters, but “unsere Ehre heißt Treue” means “our honor is called loyalty”, “loyalty” in the vassal sense, loyalty to the leader (in German: Führer). In short, that’s ideology — religion by some criteria. Because German is my mother tongue, I can tell you that it has even introduced the word Loyalität to have a bit of distinction, and that’s not the word used by the SS.

    Religious truth unfolded itself during history in peculiar unique way

    Evidence?

    Might be there is some similarity or metaphore between unfolding of religious thinking and unfolding of compexity of life during evolution.

    Does it mean something if there’s a similarity between your interpretation of the history of religion and your misinterpretation of the history of life?

    Yes, it is a misinterpretation. Are you more complex than a sauropod? (You will say your brain is, which is not really testable, but your lungs are much simpler.) Are the bacteria in your gut more complex than a sauropod?

    Read more Gould. There is no progress in evolution. Only the diversity of life has increased.

    Both of them are predetermimed.

    Ah, really. Evidence? I have rarely seen something as chaotic as life, and I’m a paleobiologist.

    It’s John Davison’s merit that he focused are attention to this forgotten fact.

    Learn what “fact” means.

    And while biological evolution is over

    That’s what Davison wants to believe. But evolution can still be observed. Go measure the beak lengths of Darwin finches over a couple years (has been done). Go to a molecular biology lab, grow a couple billion bacteria in the presence of a virus, and watch for a couple of days. And so on. “Reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing in it.”

    it cannot be explained by Mendelism.

    LOL! Did anyone ever claim it could be? You need to add mutation and selection, and drift. Then it works.

    French academy of science forbade treatises on “Origin of languages” around 1870. Unlike darwinists they knew at thet time and know also today that all about “Origin” of languages is mystery and no research is able to solve it. Yet darwinists have no problem to consider their tales about “Origin of species” as science even at the very beginning of 21 century.

    Non sequitur.
    Besides, do you mean “language” or “languages”? If the latter, you are dead wrong.

  84. #84 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    Oops, sorry for the opened instead of closed blockquote tag.

    Off-topic: Why does anyone use answers.com? It’s just a mirror site of en.wikipedia — except it’s not updated as often.

  85. #85 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2007

    Oops, sorry for the opened instead of closed blockquote tag.

    Off-topic: Why does anyone use answers.com? It’s just a mirror site of en.wikipedia — except it’s not updated as often.

  86. #86 Chris Gruber
    February 27, 2007

    I’m pretty sure the early Christians just couldn’t bear to pass up a visual pun.

    Well, who among us can? I do love a good pun.

  87. #87 Leon
    February 27, 2007

    French academy of science forbade treatises on “Origin of languages” around 1870. Unlike darwinists they knew at thet time and know also today that all about “Origin” of languages is mystery and no research is able to solve it. Yet darwinists have no problem to consider their tales about “Origin of species” as science even at the very beginning of 21 century.

    Wrong again, VM. What a silly thing to say! The origin of languages is being actively studied and researched by scholars even as we speak. As for “Origin of Species”, you should know that Darwin was referring to how different species develop, not the origin of life.

    Also, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Darwinist these days. You might have missed this, but like other sciences, evolutionary biology has progressed quite a bit since Darwin’s day. That’s one of the hallmark of science, you see: it builds on past successes and improves itself. Refusing to change is one of the hallmarks of religion.

  88. #88 Leon
    February 27, 2007

    David Harmon said:

    But here’s something to chew on: the more indignant it makes you that God (by whatever name) isn’t not always wise and caring… well, it suggests you’re doing a little projecting of your own. Specifically, making demands of the positive aspect of that same father-archetype, and responding to their failure with denigration instead of idealization.

    Much the same goes for Jesus as the Sun Child, mutatis mutandis….

    Well sure, fair enough, maybe people are doing a little projecting some of the time. But blind, unquestioning obedience to authority is never a good thing. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to judge an authority figure who habitually violates his own moral codes (Thou shalt not kill, etc.) and in fact insists his followers do the same on multiple occasions (Ammonites, Caananites, etc.). The fact that in the New Testament he does an about-face and tries to convince us he’s a loving, forgiving God doesn’t change the way he acted in the OT.

  89. #89 yudash
    May 13, 2007

    what do you think the probability is that many of these God-told-me-to-do-it genocidal massacres are in fact cynical political spin stories. Lots of men are liars. Especially people in power. Winners get to write history. Read with caution and dont blame God when you can blame men. Occam could have said it.

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