Thursday, September 27, 2012

Responsibility

It seems that some people have no proper sense of responsibility. Sometimes it's not taking responsibility for their own actions, and sometimes it's a shifting of responsibility away from the guilty party.

One time I knew someone who already had two kids that they barely had the funds to take care of. Then one day they were talking about their love life and how they really can't afford another child. Their religion apparently meant that birth control was out of the question, so they came up with this 'brilliant' idea. "We'll just have to risk it and see what happens. If God means for us to have a third child, we will." Really? You can't afford a third child. You realize there are ways to make it very unlikely that you will conceive a third child, yet you pass the buck on to divine mandate... There is someone in this situation that bears responsibility, but this responsible party is not some deity. The one responsible is them. If they choose to risk unprotected sex, they are liable. Inventing someone else to blame if things go awry is simple irresponsible, yet this occurs far too often.

There was also a case where a former employer tried to pass the buck as well. Let me say first that they were horrible business owners. They were completely out of their depth, and sabotaged themselves more often than not. One day their pastor stopped in and conversation moved toward the state of the business. My employer was confiding in him about the state of the business and had stated that they were not sure what they had to do or change.

 Did their pastor have advice? He sure did, but it certainly wasn't good advice. "Don't do anything different. Stay faithful and God will provide." Seriously? Yep, that was the best advice he could come up with to a very real problem that could effect not only the business owners, but the employees as well. Unfortunately, they followed this poor advice. First they had to downsize the staff. They downsize again. Eventually they had to either sell or shutter the doors. In the end they were forced from the industry and sold. Again, we see someone shifting responsibility away from themselves, to a supernatural medium. When all was said and done, they had no one to blame but themselves, whether they ever realized it or not.

Most recently, I was struck with another surprising shifting of responsibility. I was watching TV with some people I know, and a teaser came on to advertise that the news show coming up had interviewed female military members that were raped by males in the military. Then came the statement that took me completely off guard. "Well they wanted into the military, what did they expect? Those kind of guys don't care about that." What!?! Are we really going to go down the road of blaming the rape victims for what happened to them? All because they were guilty of the crimes of wanting to defend their country, and for having a vagina. This is truly despicable. You don't blame the victim... you have to hold the offender responsible in a case like that. How is the argument that no one should be surprised because of the assumption that uncouth men are in the military, thus women being in the military made it inevitable that this would happen even remotely logical or responsible. Woman have the right to serve, just as men do. These women broke no laws. But the men in these cases committed rape, which is a crime. So the responsibility and blame lays clearly with the rapist and not the raped.

Sadly, society always seems to be in a race to shift responsibility away from the self (who are actually to blame), and in some shocking cases, attempts are actually made to blame victims. This needs to be corrected, and soon if we are to return to a path of progress.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, September 24, 2012

End of the religious rainbow.

It seems that for many, all it takes is the desire for there to be a God and all his rewards in order to believe. They want this to be true with all their heart. In fact, over time many convince themselves that they know it is true. I've been asked by many, "But don't you want to live forever/go to Heaven?". As if the desire for this translates into causing it to be reality. Of course, we know that simple desires do not influence reality. You can point this out, but it is often just brushed aside.

But this magical desire for reward is comparable elsewhere. It is said that at the end of a rainbow you'll find a pot of gold. I would like it to be true that I could stumble upon a pot of gold, or even track one down. But I of course know that wishing I could find a pot of gold does not translate in to one actually existing 'at the end of the rainbow'. Similarly, a theist may wish for an afterlife. But in this instance they are actually able to trick themselves into thinking it's real.

What if I devote my life to finding that gold? I could watch the weather reports 'religiously', track down rainbows and speed to the area the end of the rainbow appears to be! Does that make it true now? Of course not! But the religious can devote their days to their god in hopes of the 'ultimate reward'. Yet they see it almost as if they collect points down the line. Like the more they devote to it, the realer it is in their mind.

Next, I may point out that a rainbow is just an optical illusion caused by light shinning through water droplets in the atmosphere. Thus, there is no end, beginning, etc. Physically, there's nothing there. It's just light. Since there is no physical end, there is no where for a pot of gold to be hidden. Ah, but then someone tells me that this is only true for 'regular' rainbows. Leprechaun's rainbows look exactly like regular ones, are indistinguishable and DO have an end! Sounds a lot like when someone tells me that God lives in Heaven, in a different realm from you and I. Both are unsubstantiated qualifiers. A desperate case of special pleading in order to keep their claim from failing.

It's sad, and I believe a bit childish as well, that so many can't draw this distinction. A wish is well and good. But no amount of wishing can ever make it true if it isn't. Whether this comparison would make many realize this fact is questionable. But we can always hope.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Female Christianity

From time to time, we'll have Christians going door to door in our neighborhood trying to sell their religion to everyone and anyone who will listen. One thing that surprises me is how often the proselytizers are women or young girls. This surprises me, because religion often treats women as second class citizens. Allow me to illustrate...

Go show that angry mob a good time while I entertain our guests.
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a
man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.

-Genesis 19:6-8

So here we have a clear illustration of a man who is taught as being righteous, but is offering his two daughters up for rape, so that the crowd won't rape the male angels who just arrived. This is truly despicable, and illustrates that these poor girls were regarded with such little worth. So little that they would be offered up for rape so that men would not be raped.

Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I'll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife.

-Genesis 34:12

In this passage we see girls/women being viewed as property that a father can simply sell into marriage. Women are living beings with their own thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Anyone that truly views women as equal to men could ever defend the selling of women into marriage. Yet the supposedly unquestionable Bible refers to women as if they were property.

If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the girl’s father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. The girl’s father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.

If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

-Deuteronomy 22:13-21

Next we see the penalty for a woman marrying while not being a virgin. First, we see the insane
requirement that a woman has to stay a virgin until she is married. Additionally, there is no such (Biblical) prohibition for men. A sad sad double standard. But then we see that there is the drastic difference in punishment for the man and the woman. If the man makes a false accusation, he receives a simple fine of 100 shekels. In contrast, if the woman's virginity can not be proven, she is sentenced to death by stoning. Death for the natural action of having had sex?! Personally, I don't think there should be any penalty for a wife not being a virgin. Perhaps the husband can be cross, had she told him that she was a virgin, but death is simply barbaric.

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

-Deuteronomy 22:28-29

More shocking Biblical marriage law. In the above verse, this poor woman  would be forced to marry and spend the remainder of her life with the man that raped her. If this isn't a gruesome thought, I don't know what is. Again we see that the man's punishment (in addition to marriage) is to pay the girl's father 50 shekels. The girl is no longer a virgin, so the father loses the ability to charge a 'virgin price' for his daughter.

It's like someone stealing a new car, being forced to pay the difference between a new and used car price, and getting to still keep the car. The next shocking aspect is that the marriage is a punishment for the man in this situation. I think that any rational person will agree that if that is punishment for anyone, it is punishment to the woman that was victimized by this man she is now forced to marry. So here we have an innocent victim being punished, seemingly for the 'crime' of being a woman and getting raped.  Sickening.

If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

-Deuteronomy 25:5-6

Once more, women being viewed as property. Here we see a woman being forced to marry and conceive children with the brother of her recently deceased husband. Again, woman are represented as transferable property. Additionally, this passage projects the purpose of women in a marriage as child bearing machines. Degrading no matter how you look at it.

If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

-Deuteronomy 25:11-12

Here we are presented with an odd situation... Two men are fighting, and one man's wife comes to his aid by grabbing for the genitals of the other man. So we have a woman coming to help her husband, yet the reward she gets for coming to his aid is that her hand must be cut off!?! How is that justice, or sensible in any regard? Additionally, there is no punishment mentioned for the men that are fighting, yet the punishment is listed for the one who attempted to break up the fight.

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

-Deuteronomy 24:1-4
 

 Yup, you read that correctly. The institution of marriage that just about any Christian will tell you is a lifelong commitment, and that divorce is not condoned, is not as squeaky clean as they would have it seem. I wrote in a prior post about the truth of 'Biblical marriage'. But the important aspect here is that divorce is not allowed unless the man finds his wife 'displeasing' to him. He doesn't like the sex, isn't happy in some regard and he can just throw her aside and claim to be displeased. Conversely, there is no pathway for the wife to dissolve a marriage, whether she be displeased, abused, or just wants to move on. Again, a double standard and the wife being viewed as an object to be possessed, rather than a living, breathing, feeling, equal person.

Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

-Numbers 31:17-18

Yep, first you invade and kill an entire town, but then  keep the virgin women as a war prize to rape and discard as you please. Sickening behavior that no moral person could ever allow. Yet here it is condoned and commanded in the Bible.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

-1 Timothy 2:12-15

This excerpt plainly and proudly proclaims it's misogyny. It comes right out and declares that men must have authority over women (so much for equality). Next it reduces women once more to child making factories under threat of eternal torment. Leading a good moral life is apparently not enough. Unless you bow your head to all men, and crank out child after child, the Biblical eternity on offer is to be tortured  forever in the fiery pits of Hell.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

-1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Once more, we see women being classed below men. Women can not teach. Women can not speak up in church. Women must ask all questions to their husband once home. This is all language for those who value women as second class... Who feel that they are inferior to men.  An institution that cares not for the opinions of women, who doesn't want to hear from them, that feel they are incapable of teaching as if they posses a mind that is sub-par to a man's. So when I see so many women that are proud Christians, it surprises me. When I see the woman on my door step that is preaching and trying to teach her God's word, I can't help but notice how they are (ignorantly?) in defiance of what their holy book dictates.

Don't get me wrong, I celebrate that they feel they can do anything that a man can, and that they are equal to men. But the Bible disagrees. Are they unaware of this fact, do they not know of the passages listed here (and more), do they simply ignore the verses they don't like, or do they pretend that there is some rationalization that makes these ugly thoughts somehow more acceptable? My guess would be that it is a mix of all of the above.

But in my opinion, there is no way that a woman that is well versed Biblically, as well as a woman that is proud to be who she is and should be, should be a Christian. At the very least if they are still a Christian, they should be quite vocal in their opposition to the misogyny that the Bible teaches as divine law. But instead, it seems that most live in this fantasy where Christianity views and excepts all as equal with open arms and love. As I have shown in this post, equality is something that it certainly does not preach... as long as you're a woman that is.

-Brain Hulk


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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Religion's tangled web - Or how atheism made me a better person

Obviously I am an atheist now. But I had to shake off the spell of religion before taking a firm grasp on logic and reason. People like myself, is who this post is mostly directed toward. I was one of those people that actually bought in to the superstition I was fed in my youth. When you are a follower, you obviously believe in God. But on other issues there also tends to be a 'party line', so to speak, that followers also have a group consensus toward. For some a differing opinion in these areas may have been part of what planted your seed of doubt, and for others these views may have changed during or after 'loosing the faith'. So I ask of these people, has becoming an atheist changed your views in any other area other than just the existence of a God? I know it has for me, so I'll start:

Homosexuality:

Once upon a time I hated gays. They were vile, dirty, unnatural, etc. It was as if they were sub-human and unworthy of consideration. Gay rights? I would have considered that a laughable notion in my past. But if you were to ask me why I thought these things (I was never vocal of this opinion in public mind you), I wouldn't have been able to offer any justification. I'd simply say that, 'that's the way it is'. But why did I hold this opinion? Simple, it was the church. I was young and impressionable when I still believed. And the view the church was selling is the same one I formerly held. That homosexual are walking sin, and they know it. A view that I can now clearly see was one full of hate and oppression.

Luckily when I was shedding my former religion, I made the wise 'internal audit' to see where else this fairytale had clouded my thoughts. I was shocked and appalled at how unjust the opinion the Catholic faith had tried to plant in me was. I was ashamed, but at the same time happy that I was able to see the world clearly now. Now I recognize that homosexuals are people just like you and I. Requiring the same basic needs as everyone else and deserving of equal respect and rights as everyone else. I have gay friends now as well. While I am ashamed of my past, I proud that I have shed the past religious influence that caused me to blindly follow and accept what I was told was the 'truth and the way'.

Abortion:

Okay, I didn't have much knowledge of this issue before I started forming doubts, but there has been a change still. I briefly held the belief that abortion was 100% wrong, 100% of the time. Why? 'Because the church said so'. But it wasn't long until I started learning about the life changing aspects of having a child. Financial, dedication needed, time needed, etc, etc... And if a woman were raped and became pregnant, wasn't it wrong to force her to have a child she never asked for? Or what if birth control failed? They were never intending for that outcome, so why must they have the child if they actually tried to prevent it?

 I realize that even atheists fall on both sides of this issue, but I'm sure some have gone pro-life (anti-choice) to pro-choice due to shedding religion. My view now is one that abortion is a hard issue and one that isn't just black and white. I cases of rape or failed birth control, I think it's okay. But only if it is taken care of early. If you wait too long to decide, I feel you pass a threshold where I would no longer be in favor. The question is where to place that threshold. I feel that the current 'line in the sand' that allows abortions up until, but before what is considered a 'late term' abortion is a good one.

Additionally, I do not agree with those that carelessly have unprotected sex and simply use abortion as their form of birth control. I am in favor of family planning and people having safe sex. So please, think things though and take some responsibility into consideration before making things much more complicated than they need be. This is part of why I feel that real sexual education is so important, and the church's opposition is so nonsensical. Teach kids about safe sex, and more of the kids that have sex will practice safe sex. The more that practice safe sex, the less that will get pregnant by mistake. The less that get pregnant, the less that will get abortions. So if the church really cares about abortion so much, I feel they should hand out condoms rather than pamphlets that simply plead that sex is bad and a no-no.

Sex:

When I was younger I was pretty shy. This is part of why I was a late bloomer when it came to relationships. I was shy, sure. But I was also terrified by the prospect of sex. In the church teachings, I was given the impression that the body is a dirty sinful thing, and to act on any 'urges' prior to marriage was just plain disgraceful. So for the longest time what was my deterrent from 'temptation'? Simply avoiding relationships entirely! I hid myself away and looked down on anyone who engaged in any premarital 'activities'. Arrogantly judgmental of others... that was my game.

 But now I have shed that controlling view of a simple, natural and emotional activity. It's actually something that is quite beautiful when done with true feelings... regardless of marriage or not. After I was officially and atheist I was way behind the 8-ball when it came to dating . I was years behind! My shyness was getting better, but was still a major deterrent. I tried the online thing and had little luck. Stood up, friends matched me with someone who was seeing someone, tried for a girl that I was unaware was unavailable, talk for a while just for them to disappear, etc.

Trouble was, that online I was open about the fact that I'm an atheist. After that shoe dropped, that's as far as anything went. Then out of the blue this one girl contacts me and actually thinks my atheism is cool. She, a Wiccan at the time, felt that if anyone would not be instantly judgmental toward her beliefs, it would be an atheist. Well, we talked a good bit, had a first date, a second, third, we made out, made love, and grew closer and closer as time passed. Eventually we were engaged, and were married! In my personal story I feel that losing my faith was actually a big part of what opened the door of love to me. It's hard to explain why. But, prior to loosing may faith, I never felt I would be good enough for anyone. I was resigned to a solitary existence, and never dreamed that I'd be married. And look at me now! I couldn't be happier.

Politics:

Another area that changed for me was politics. I used to be a hard line Republican. If Fox news didn't say it, it was wrong, twisted and full of bias. The irony of that former opinion is especially amazing. When it came time to vote, the question wasn't who stood for what, it was, who did Fox (and my fellow faithful) say was the person for the job. And when it cam to local elections, did I look up the candidates to see what they said on the issues? Nope! I simply looked at the list and blindly voted for whoever had the 'R' next to their name. I was not a very well informed voter, and am embarrassed to say that I voted for G. W. Bush in my first two times being eligible to vote. Granted, his opposition still won my state both years anyway, but I can't help but look back on that personal history and shake my head.

Why did I follow that party line? Because the GOP was the party my family followed, and the party any 'good Christian' voted for. When I shed my faith, this was another area where I stepped back and asked myself what I really thought. If you've read this far, you can guess that I quickly decided that the GOP was not for me. What I did find was that I am a mixed bag as far as politics go. Progressive in a most areas, but still conservative in a few. Due to this fact, I am now registered as an unaffiliated voter. Now when an election comes along, I ignore the 'R' and 'D' (and even 'G' , 'L', etc) as best I can, and instead focus on the issues. Once I am informed, I will decide which candidate best speaks for what I feel and believe. Because of that personal audit I ran after becoming an atheist, I am now a vastly more informed and responsible voter.

There are more areas that I could talk about, but it's getting late here and I'd like to hear others stories as well. In short, loosing my religion actually made me a better person. Incredibly judgmental and close-minded, to open-minded and accepting/understanding. Plus personally, it showed me that I wasn't a dirty sinful speck. I do realize that I am still a speck in the cosmic perspective, but that interpretation fills me with wonder, rather than the former self-loathing. I am worth receiving the love of another, life is worth living the best way we can and everyone is equally entitled to live a happy fulfilled life.

-BH


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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Marriage and kids.

Marriage... It's a wonderful thing, and I love my amazing wife so very much. But there is one question that has come up more than a few times. Kids. Back when we first got engaged, there were people that started asking if my (then) fiance was pregnant. Then friends and family started having kids. Then the question became, "Are you guys going to start having kids so our kids can play?" Now, after nearly three years, nearly every time I see or speak to the family I don't see that often ask when we're going to start having kids. Get married, and it's all kids, kids, kids. If my wife and I wanted kids right away, why wait to get married? What is it about marriage that makes people act like it's a vehicle for creating children? When I married my wife, it was for love and commitment. Why is it that some people seem confused by the fact that we did not get married in order to have children? If a couple wants to have loads of kids, that's great... have at it. But my wife and I shouldn't be expected to become parents as well. We got married, we're in love, and we're still relatively young. So for the time being we've decided to hold off on having kids in order to enjoy this time while we can. Will we eventually decide to have kids? Maybe, but who knows what the future may hold. But the question still remains, as to why children seem to be an expected part of marriage. The purpose of marriage is not to breed and have as many kids as possible. Marriage is about love. If to you, love includes starting a family, that's fine. But please don't expect us to conform to your idea of what marriage should be. Right now, it's about loving one another. And for us, that's great.

-BH

Saturday, September 8, 2012

(God given?) Rights

The other day, someone was arguing that rights can only come from God. To do this he actually quoted the following excerpt from the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

 He then claimed that atheists couldn't reconcile that quote with atheism if they think the have rights, and that if you try to claim that people decide rights that they mean nothing because if people can give them, they can also take them. Not surprisingly, his argument fails...

It actually isn't hard for an atheist to reconcile that phrase from the Declaration, since that documents intent was to declare independence from Britain. Conversely, the Constitution established the United States and the rights on which it was built. This document (notably secular) is the one that is really important. But lets look at the Declaration briefly, and please realize that the term 'creator' is broad and could have a few meanings. But even if we are to assume a deity is the intent, which deity is NOT established.

But again, the important fact is that we draw our rights from the Constitution. As he said, if rights aren't granted from a deity, and man instead, they can be granted and revoked. This is actually amazingly important, and why our founders made the Constitution as a living document. In US history, rights have been given and taken away. Equality was eventually given to women and African-Americans. Rights have also been revoked, like the right to own slaves. Those are just a few examples that show that our government grants and decides what rights that are to be afforded, and that this fact is a very good thing! And if the Constitution is used as a guide, well reasoned rights are a very lucky thing for us to have. If rights weren't flexible, women would be resigned to second class status and there would be no option for the correction of that shortcoming. I'll take reasoned rights any day.

-BH

Monday, September 3, 2012

Atheism and Faith

All too often I hear Christians saying that that it takes faith to be an atheist, just as religion requires faith. They typically state that the claims of the big bang or evolution are incredible and require incredible faith to believe. But to me these statements show a total ignorance or misunderstanding of the scientific method.

I will grant them this... The claim alone that the entire universe was born from the burst of amazingly compressed pure energy and that we evolved from simpler organisms are pretty extraordinary ideas, just as is the claim that everything is due to the hand of a cosmic magician is a rather extraordinary claim. I agree that the claims alone are extraordinary, but at Carl Sagan once said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". And that's what separates science from religion. Extraordinary evidence is exactly what we have.

Whether it be red shifting, background radiation, radiometric dating, elemental composition of the universe, application and adherence to natural law, fossil evidence, DNA evidence, distribution of spices, etc. We do have amazing evidence. Having that brings an amazingly unlikely claim from hearsay to unequivocal truth. There was a time when it was an amazing claim to say that the Earth wasn't flat or that the Earth wasn't the center of the solar system and universe. Yet through the study of our surroundings and the evidence collected, we find these to be truths rather than wild claims. The way to truly understanding our world is through this tireless pursuit of knowledge.

In contrast, all religion offers is wild claims and a history of denouncing any who question them. If a person chooses to question what science finds, that's all well and good. But they must then offer sound reasoning and scientifically acceptable evidence to to back up their claims. Science looks at the evidence at hand and then draws conclusions from said evidence. If that evidence overturns conventional wisdom as we know it, so be it. We've learned something, and that's the point of science.

Yet religion starts with a conclusion and goes no further. And what about flexibility? Science realizes that we don't know everything and is willing to adjust as new information comes available. But yet again, religion remains rigid and calls anything that disagrees evil lies of Satan.

Atheism by way of scientific evidence does not require faith. To claim as such just exposes the person's ignorance to the facts at hand.

-BH

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