The man who was Thursday

55

When I was a teenager I used to love Gilbert Keith Chesterton. His novels (“The man who was Thursday”, “The Club of Queer Trades”, the Father Brown series) seemed to me so unique as to be works of a quirky genius; his essays revealed a smart and well-read man. But I grew out of him in adulthood, eventually finding his picture of Merrie Olde England sickly and cloying, and his constant defence of Christianity (he was High Anglican before converting to Catholicism) vastly irritating. [although, doing research for this piece, I came across more quotes from him which made me rethink a bit. Try: "Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction". "Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers is another." "'My country, right or wrong' is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" "The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all." "The only defensible war is a war of defense. "]

Anyway, I thought about him the other day because of Mars (bear with me, we’ll get to it). The Mars story made me think of what is perhaps Chesterton’s most famous aphorism: “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”

Curiosity led me to check on where this quote came from, and I was in for a surprise. Chesterton never said it, never wrote it. Instead it seems to have come from a writer who inadvertently combined two other quotes – “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” and
“You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief–of belief in almost anything.”

There, that’s a surprise eh, somebody misquoted to produce a widely known but wrong quote (play it again Sam). But to be fair the mangled quote does give the essence of Chesterton’s belief – if you don’t have an imaginary friend in the sky then you start believing in other imaginary things.

Utter nonsense of course. Chesterton was a very smart man with a huge blind spot of fundamentalist christian belief. Atheists are people who become skeptical about religious claims, then, examining all the evidence, find that there is none supporting the existence of a god. Do you seriously suggest, GK, that they suddenly abandon this skeptical approach in relation to other extraordinary claims? Christians (and members of other religions) have this covered – the less evidence the more faith, so a total lack of evidence requires absolute faith and therefore being perfectly at one with the religion concerned. Do you reckon, Gilbert, that they abandon this trusting belief system when faced with claims about events no more plausible than those in the Bible?

If you believe in religious relics, communion, saints, miracles, life after death, Noah’s Ark, creationism, then I submit, Gilbert, you have been primed to believe anything. Take this, for example, happening right now in 2012, in the sophisticated capital of one of the most advanced countries in the world. Note this little gem of rational thought:
“The saint died in 1552, but his forearm was not removed from his body until 1614, chosen as an object of devotion because he used it to bless and baptise thousands of people in Asia.”

Incidentally, one of the disturbing things about the story is the matter-of-fact way it is reported. As if such a loony tunes procedure was the most natural thing in the world. Would have been nice to have the reporter say “you batshit crazy loons WTF are you on about?” and return to the newsroom, story unwritten.

But, to reiterate, if you can believe that a 500-year-old pickled arm has mysterious powers, you can believe anything. Possibly you might believe, as some did recently that a small, vaguely pyramidal-shaped rock seen by Curiosity on Mars had been carved by Martians (or, as a few years ago, that an outcrop of rocks on Mars, illuminated at one time of day, was a giant carved face. Bit reminiscent really of finding the face of Jesus on a piece of burnt toast, or visions of the “virgin Mary” in a row of fence posts or stains on a wall). What do you think, GK, it was atheists who believed such rubbish?

Or, in your own beloved England, just the other day, were they atheists who thought that bright lights in the sky was a UFO, not space junk re-entering the atmosphere or a large meteorite? Is it atheists who believe in homeopathy, aliens, ghosts (when was that “exorcism” I read about?), telepathy, naturopathy,  paranormal, mediums who talk to the dead? Or is it the people who believe water turned into wine, a virgin gave birth, a burning bush spoke, the Red Sea parted, or some chap returned to life after dying and spoke to a couple of people?

Well, Mr Chesterton, your extraordinary evidence for the claim?

55 comments on “The man who was Thursday

  1. Eric Snyder says:

    Interesting information about the quote David. I always enjoy learning facts so as to never confuse them with fantasy. But then, you handily dismiss the man’s intellect after admitting respect for the very same intellect; puzzling.

    But, just to keep the “facts” straight, the “chap” who “returned to life after dying and spoke to a couple of people” actually had more than 500 eye witnesses of this miraculous event instead of a couple. Usually, 500 eye witnesses of ANY event would stand up in any court as valid evidence of the event. Of course, the “huge blind spot” can only apply to Christians and no atheist could ever suffer such an affliction.

    Back to Mars (which I find just as interesting as you) though, I really think that planet along with the rest of the entire universe provides a pretty decent response to your last question of Chesterton: “…evidence for the claim?” I certainly don’t claim to have the mental acuity to represent G.K. Chesterton but, “something” does not come from nothing unless you blindly decide to be anti-science and disavow laws of physics. So, ultimately, where did Mars come from?

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    • Mindy says:

      So ultimately, where did God come from?

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      • Eric Snyder says:

        God is eternal, outside the scope of time and space Mindy. He always has been and always will be.

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        • David Horton says:

          The universe is eternal, always has been and always will be. See how easy that is?

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        • Eric Snyder says:

          But, the universe is matter, substance, a “thing.” And, God isn’t. God is a spirit, set apart from tangible mass, energy, and particles.

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          • David Horton says:

            “god is a spirit” – you know ths because …?

            In quantum physics particles can pop in and out of “existence”. You might try reading Krauss again, or for the first time. The “universe is a ‘thing'” shows your misunderstanding.

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            • Eric Snyder says:

              John 4:24.

              What would you call the universe? I used the word “thing” to differentiate it from intangible. Doesn’t the universe consists of energy, matter and “things” with mass?

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        • Mindy says:

          So someone had to construct the universe or it is unbelievable, but God gets to be eternal. Are you not seeing the contradiction here?

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          • Eric Snyder says:

            Yes Mindy, if God was a “someone” (a creation rather than a Creator) there would definitely be a contradiction. But God is a spirit that dwells outside the dimensions of time and space, a Creator.

            If design exists, it is imperative that a designer exists as well. If you were to walk through a junk yard kicking the debris with your feet and notice a Rolex watch skittering through the dirt, what would your first thought be? I’m pretty sure it would not be look what happened as I kicked glass, metal and dirt; a watch!

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            • Mindy says:

              But it’s a chicken and egg argument, you can’t just have the designer pop up out of nowhere. If you can then why can’t the Universe just pop up out of nowhere? Maybe it did, oh yeah that’s called the Big Bang. :)

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              • Eric Snyder says:

                But, the designer didn’t just “pop up out of nowhere” ; not a chicken or egg conundrum. The designer/Creator has always existed. But, that being said, out of respect for David’s desire to end this conversation, I want to honor his request and not continue.

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    • fairlycirrus says:

      Oh Mr Snyder … 500 witnesses eh? I snort with derision! Ever heard of Derren Brown? He’d make any religious ‘miracle worker’ look pathetic by comparison.

      And the old ‘no something from nothing’ thingy … do try to keep up with the rest of us, old chap. Exciting ideas are afoot and you seem to be entirely missing out on them. I’m not saying he has all the answers by any means but you really should read up on Krauss’s work.

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      • Eric Snyder says:

        Had not ever heard of Derren Brown before (great opportunities to learn on this blog). So, I did look him up and found that he is an entertainer described as an “illusionist” and versed in “magical arts.” I get your point but honestly don’t believe he’s relevant to the comment. He’s an entertainer!

        I am a bit familiar with Krauss and his arguments about origins. When pressed about where quantum fields come from, he has to respond with the pejorative “moron.” When Krauss is questioned about his book ending the questions about origins, he comments “…in all seriousness, I never make that claim…” This is not to say that Krauss is not a very intelligent physicist, just that he suffers from the same “huge blind spot” of faith David claims plagued Chesterton. Chesterton’s faith was in God and Krauss’ faith is in “no God.”

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    • fred says:

      Eric
      I presume this:
      “….more than 500 eye witnesses ….”
      is referring to 1 Corinthians 15.3ff.
      You haven’t actually read it have you?
      If you had you would see a problem or two or more with your literal understanding.
      Firstly there is only the word of one person for this, namely the author, supposedly some otherwise unknown fella named Paul.
      So 500 plus witnesses[?] becomes the claim and claim only,of one person.
      Secondly,the author, Paul [?], does not name them.
      Unnamed ‘eye-witnesses’, hmmm that carries very little weight doesn’t it?
      “Eye-witnesses” to what? These are, allegedly, ‘appearances’ – the author actually uses that word 4 times. Not real live events but ‘visions’, ‘according to scripture’, in dreams or some inner sub-conciousness. There is a less tactful word than saint for authors that claim, without evidence, that sort of thing.
      Thirdly these 500 fellas are described as ‘brothers’.
      Can you explain to me how 500 men can be brothers to each other – in a kin/sibling sense?
      1 father and one mother who bore 500 live male children?
      1 father with 100 wives [or some such number] averaging 5 male children each?
      Maybe a few adoptions chucked in to round up the numbers?

      There are several other problems with this supposed scenario of supposed eye-witnesses to a vision. But I’ll stop boring those who aren’t interested.

      But, I repeat, you really haven’t read 1 Cor have you? Analytically that is.

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      • Eric Snyder says:

        Actually, I’m referring to I Cor. 15:6 Fred. Paul does mention Peter by name in vs 5 and the other disciples (although you’re right Paul doesn’t give each of their names). In vs 7 Paul also mentions James by name. So, names are given.

        The Greek word is literally translated “I see.” Agreed, it COULD have a metaphorical meaning but it also has a literal meaning of “seeing.”

        Paul was hardly an “unknown fella.” He was a historical figure. At least documents with the credibility of the encyclopedia Britannica claim he is.

        As far as the 500 “brethren” statement goes, these “brothers” were not familial brothers sharing progenitors. They were spiritual brothers who shared being “born” into the family of God.

        After his resurrection, Jesus dined with people, walked with them, and talked with them. All of which are characteristics of a relationship more physical than a “vision” or “sub-conscious” experience.

        I do try to read Scripture analytically and with an open mind. Could you do the same?

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        • David Horton says:

          “After his resurrection, Jesus dined with people, walked with them, and talked with them”. Evidence for this Eric?

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          • Eric Snyder says:

            Dining, Matt. 21:12 & Luke 24:30. Walking, Luke 24:13-17. Talking, Acts 1:4-8.

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            • David Horton says:

              Er, no, you misunderstand the nature of “evidence” I’m afraid.

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              • Eric Snyder says:

                Trusted documents with a TON of support usually are the source of historical event “evidence” as far as I know. We are talking historical events here.

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                • David Horton says:

                  “trusted documents” written by authors unknown many years after the supposed event, copied and recopied, and the first copies no older than hundreds of years after the event. So “ton of support”? “Historical events” not recorded by any contemporary observers? When you pick up this collection of myths Eric you obviously suspend all capacity for disbelief.

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                  • Eric Snyder says:

                    There is more manuscript support (by a significant margin) for the Bible than any other collection of ancient writings. Pretty difficult to have “historical events” thousands of years ago recorded by any contemporary observers; maybe I missed your point but this seems pretty obvious to me.

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                    • David Horton says:

                      Sorry Eric, this is just nonsense. You are saying the bible supports the bible? There is no independent (ie non “disciples”) writing confirming any of the supposed extraordinary events of the New Testament, nor of this supposedly major figure “Jesus”.

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                    • Eric Snyder says:

                      Factually, it is not nonsense at all; I would not believe “nonsense.” There are independent docs mentioning Jesus:Josephus, Tacitus, and Thallus for starters. Again, the Bible supporting the Bible is not “one book” supporting itself. The Bible consists of 66 books written by a variety of folks over an immense period of time. So, rather than one book, there are a number of books supporting the same theme.

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        • fred says:

          Eric
          “As far as the 500 “brethren” statement goes, these “brothers” were not familial brothers sharing progenitors. They were spiritual brothers who shared being “born” into the family of God.”

          I’m going to ignore all your other errors and repititions of standard Christian apologetics and focus on this.
          I agree with your answer [on the 'brethren' issue only] -fully.
          It fits coherently with Paul [who despite your assertion is a figure completely unknown outside Christian legends] saying that that its OK for the christians eg Pete, to take ‘sisters’ as wives” [I Cor 9.5]. Without the kin term being used as “spiritual brothers who shared being “born” into the family of God” this would equate to incest and I don’t believe such was meant.
          And ‘spiritual brothers [or sisters or whatever kin term you like] is the best understanding for why Paul says Rufus and he share a mother [Romans 16.13], similarly when calls Titus ‘my brother’ at 2 Cor 2.13.
          And, in fact, Paul uses kin terms in the sense you describe prolifically, dozens, scores of times. He even says that all believers in Christ are ‘sons of god, just like JC himself.
          Note that.

          But suddenly, inconsistently, Christians want to change that meaning .

          At Galatians 1.19 Paul refers to James ‘the brother of the lord’ and Christian apologists insist this lone term [maybe one other elsewhere] MUST mean blood relation so giving us the slimmest, the very slightest, of support for a historical JC.
          Double standards.
          Word games.
          You can’t have it both ways, the word ['adelphou"] either means, in context, kin sibling or ‘spritual brother’. Chopping and changing meanings to suit a political agenda is pure sophistry.
          Speaking of which …
          The Greek word for ‘appearance’ has the meaning “to see with the mind, to perceive, know” and is consistent with:
          1. the appearances [sic] of JC after death cannot be a live body, he was not physically seen by Paul [who is not a witness to the alleged appearances to anyone else - thats just hearsay, or lies].
          2.Paul frequently talks of seeing and believing things ‘by revelation’.
          3.He states elsehere that he ascended to heaven …. do you really think he did??

          So to attempt to portray the alleged ‘appearance’, as claimed by this unknown writer, as
          anything resembling a physical event is, again, empty sophistry.

          Try harder, read more analytically.

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          • Eric Snyder says:

            There really is no inconsistency using the Greek word for brother in 2 situations any more than the English word brother. The Greek adelphos can mean either a “brother” in the faith or a familial brother just like the English word for brother can have 2 meanings. You can have it both ways without playing any “word games.” The context (historically & archaeologically) give the proper meaning.

            Jesus stood before Thomas (after the resurrection) and asked Thomas to touch the places on his “body” that had been injured during the crucifixion. Don’t you think it would be pretty hard to touch the body of a “perception, revelation, or vision?” He stood physically and bodily before Thomas.

            And, yes, Jesus did physically ascend in Acts.

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    • David Horton says:

      Speaking of “eyewitness accounts”, any thoughts on Matthew 27:51-53 Eric? Any thoughts on how this might relate to Paul’s account, who wasn’t there, hadn’t met “Jesus”, and wrote years after the “event”?

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      • Eric Snyder says:

        Well, I really don’t think the Matthew account has anything to do with Paul’s account David. The account you mentioned in Matthew occurred on the day Jesus was crucified and died. Of course, you know that Jesus’ resurrection was 3 days later. Paul’s account (written years later) of the eye witnesses had to be later than the Matthew incident because the witnesses saw the resurrected Jesus.

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  2. Eric Snyder says:

    Yes, I do. The most significant event in that Matthew account, IMO, is the veil in the temple, that kept anyone but priests out of the Holy of Holies, being torn from top to bottom. That woven fabric was several inches thick.

    Unlike Hawking & Mlodinow, I have no problem with miraculous events having occurred and/or occurring.

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    • David Horton says:

      Familiar with Thomas Paine’s 1794 comment on this Eric?
      “”The writer of the book of Matthew should have told us who the saints were that came to life again, and went into the city, and what became of them afterward, and who it was that saw them – for he is not hardy enough to say he saw them himself; whether they came out naked, and all in natural buff, hesaints and shesaints; or whether they came full dressed, and where they got their dresses; whether they went to their former habitations, and reclaimed their wives, their husbands, and their property, and how they were received; whether they entered ejectments for the recovery of their possessions, or brought actions of crim. con against the rival interlopers; whether they remained on earth, and followed their former occupation of preaching or working; or whether they died again, or went back to their graves alive, and buried themselves.”

      “Strange, indeed, that an army of saints should return to life, and nobody know who they were, nor who it was that saw them, and that not a word more should be said upon the subject, nor these saints have anything to tell us!  Had it been the prophets who (as we are told) had formerly prophesied of these things, they must have had a great deal to say.  They could have told us everything and we should have had posthumous prophesies, with notes and commentaries upon the first, a little better at least than we have now.  Had it been Moses and Aaron and Joshua and Samuel and David, not an unconverted Jew had remained in all Jerusalem.”

      “Had it been John the Baptist, and the saints of the time then present, anybody would have known them, and outfamed all the other apostles.  But, instead of this, these saints were made to pop up, like Jonah’s gourd in the night, for no purpose at all but to wither in the morning. Thus much for this part of the story.”
      “The tale of the resurrection follows that of the crucifixion, and in this as well as in that, the writers, whoever they were, disagree so much as to make it evident that none of them were there.”

      I mean, seriously Eric, you believe this nonsense? The “thick” curtain was ripped? Really?

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  3. Eric Snyder says:

    I was not familiar with Paine’s discourse on this event. It’s interesting but it seems he is strangely focused on minutiae and missed the main point.

    I’m convinced it’s not nonsense but, rather, truth of how humankind came to be on this Earth and what their purpose for being here is.

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    • David Horton says:

      So, 500 graves opened up, and 500 dead people strolled around the city, and no one noticed this except “Matthew”?

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      • Eric Snyder says:

        Why do you keep confusing the Matthew account with the I Corinthians account? Nothing about “500 graves” opening up in Matthew.

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      • Geoff Andrews says:

        Come on, David; admit it: Eric’s magic wand of miracles wins the argument every time against your crude club of logic. Difficult to debate, reason, discuss or argue with someone who believes in miracles.

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        • Eric Snyder says:

          Miracles are not the subject here Geoff. David made a statement that was inaccurate and I challenged it with the only logic (historical record) that’s available in discussions of this nature. The “crude club” has hardly been logical.

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          • Geoff Andrews says:

            My comment was a general one, Eric; my cynicism was a little obscure but I suspect David, to whom I addressed the comment, probably had an inkling of it’s nature. My point was that no matter how logical one is, it’s impossible to discuss or debate the merits or otherwise of the bible or some controversial social issue with a theist such as yourself who uses the bible as his authority. You have only one reference in your bibliography,
            I don’t need to engage with theists to shore up my philosophy, which I developed without the aid of a priest whispering in my ear or a hypercritical dollar-crazed TV evangelist shouting at me. I have no need to dominate some christian or muslem blog site with my profundity.
            You may infer what you like about the last paragraph.

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            • Eric Snyder says:

              I understand Geoff. But, it’s just the inaccuracies that bug me. I quoted and referred to more than one reference and that fact is completely overlooked while accusing me of only citing one source. That does make a reasonable/logical discussion difficult.

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  4. Eric Snyder says:

    Love to keep discussing David but I need to leave for an appointment now.

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  5. fred says:

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.
    On the ‘trusted documents’ claim, try this:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/?s=the+empty+tomb&key=transcript

    I recommend ‘jesus and mo’ for a dose of sanity.

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  6. David Horton says:

    Someone has told Eric that (1) the various books in the bible support each other rather than being a mass of contradictions (even between the 4 “gospels”); and (2) that there is “independent historical evidence” supporting what is in the New Testament. There isn’t. A useful summary is here http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html. Needless to say there is no “independent evidence” for the events of the Old Testament.

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  7. Eric Snyder says:

    This rosa guy kind of makes my point! You stated there were NO independent (non-disciple) documents that mentioned Jesus. I said Josephus, Tacitus & Thallus did. Quoting directly from the rosa references: Josephus “He was [the] Christ.” Tacitus “Their founder, one Christus, had been put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.” and Thallus “Some scholars believe that his work can be interpreted as the earliest reference to the historical Jesus” This seems pretty clear and really not worthy of contesting.

    I understand why he would undertake this effort to discredit these sources but that does not make them invalid for the discussion we were having. Rosa (and Dan Barker) says they are not valid. Dan Barker was deceptive when he tried to put on the face of a believer when he wasn’t. It kind of looks like the same deception applies on the Rosa site.

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    • David Horton says:

      Eric, I give in. Your three best sources are (1) an obvious later interpolation (2) one that has merely a possible second hand reference to Christians being persecuted in Rome, which doesn’t actually relate to the historicity of the supposed “jesus” and (3) one based on a lost copy of a lost manuscript supposedly referred to by a monk 800 years later!

      Is this the kind of “supporting evidence” you would accept for anything else?

      And Dan Barker. So he “pretended” to be an evangelical preacher for 19 years eh? Then realised it was rubbish. That’s his real crime isn’t it Eric?

      This discussion has reached its end.

      Like

  8. Eric Snyder says:

    I’ll respect your wishes.

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