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A Response to ‘No Exit’.

Written By: - Date published: 1:48 pm, May 3rd, 2020 - 91 comments
Categories: culture, Environment, Ethics, global warming, religion, science - Tags: , ,

I’m going to pull out the “Your God won’t save us” snippet from the “No Exit” post, and say She was never going to. As Bill says in the next line of his post, “Nothing but ourselves will save us” and that’s what He would ask of us all. We have been given agency, all of us as God’s children. Agency.

I know many people struggle to use their own power, and can be manipulated to not use their power or give it away. Indeed many more fear this freedom God has inbuilt into us. Ouch lost some of you there didn’t I. Logos has kicked in and your reaching for rational, pragmatic or scientific way to talk about issues. Why is this guy talking about God, and silly mythology?

Because Myth matters, it always has. It’s how we originally made sense of the world before we came into the scientific age we currently live in. And when we destroy our world, Myth is the only thing the last people will have. And that Myth is that rationality, pragmatism and science will save us. It won’t, and it can’t, because what rationality, pragmatism and science truly lack is a moral core.

A moral core is the fibre that provides the grit and determination to stand up to evil. And let’s face it, killing people in the name of profit is evil. Killing future generations in the drive to for wealth is the ultimate evil. Creating a situation where poverty is the only option, except for a few, is evil.

This is the option for many Christians, and others of faith. Do we hold onto our convictions, our love of God, our faith and start to do the right thing. Or do we become otherworldly focused and sit this one out?

We are being judged, by God alone. At the end, you have to present yourself to Her and ask did I do the right thing? Did I do what He asked of me? Was I a stand up person?

Here is the apocalypse, the world is dying because of avarice. The faiths of the world all warned of it’s dangers and problems of greed. People of faith need to work together to stop the economic system which enables this one true evil. Or the world so loving given to us by God, will be gone.

91 comments on “A Response to ‘No Exit’. ”

  1. Chris T 1

    No offence, but you might want to take a look at the history of most religions before trying to grab some kind of moral high ground for them.. Just saying

    • RedLogix 1.1

      If you aren't a BSG fan this snippet will make no sense, but it's the scene where the flawed, narcissistic, treacherous Gaius Baltar redeems himself and saves the human race:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVKhryKnmtc

      • McFlock 1.1.1

        I've heard a similar argument in real life.

        No, not all of us sense that sort of thing, or have a yearning for xyz.

        Maybe there's an afterlife, maybe not. I'll find out when I get there. And if there is but god's a dick about it, well screw that guy, anyway.

        • RedLogix 1.1.1.1

          One of the many levels of meaning in this scene is that Cavil (the character holding the girl captive) is a Cylon, a machine, an utterly ruthless one at that.

          And even he understood.

          • McFlock 1.1.1.1.1

            I guess that's the difference between fiction and real life: in real life, someone makes a polemic about something, and others can go "meh. Heard that shit the first time, and it didn't impress me then, either".

            And then others can say “oh, it doesn’t impress you because you don’t understand it, not because it isn’t true”.

            And the narrative breaks down into people accusing each other of not getting it, and the plot goes nowhere.

            • RedLogix 1.1.1.1.1.1

              The power of mythological fiction is that it transcends the 'meh' of the personal and is capable of impressing on us collective truths we could not otherwise access.

              For many people, the scene above is powerful, not because it's a hard, undeniable proof, but because in acting out themes of redemption, courage, faith and trust it creates in us the chance to believe in our own personal capacity for them. It generates the possibility of the transformation of the human heart. Or in this case even a purely computational heart …

              But it's never meant as a compelling proof. It always leaves you free to choose how or when you might respond.

              • McFlock

                Is Balthar redeeming himself by suddenly having a revelation about how the universe works, or is he doing exactly the same thing he always does – frantically slinging BS to get out of a sticky situation? Has he really learned a single thing, or is he just buying time again?

                Then there's the million-dollar question about how well that "redemption" translates into the real world – how many of us have ghost-shags explicitly telling us what to do all the time?

                But that's the issue of faith, right there. In the real world, some people look at a sunrise or double-rainbow and see the wonder of god. Others just see something beautiful. Others might just go "meh". I'd hate to be in the last group, but I like being in the second group.

                Same with music – I'm not usually touched by music. I like a lot of tunes, but very few give me the emotional journey others seem to get from it. And there are others who again see some connection to a universal creator in music.

                But a live opera performance is one of my favourite joys, the sheer fabulousity takes my breath away. When I was scooting over the hill I had to stop and look at the view over the harbour – glorious. I could certainly understand how someone who had a bit of faith in some higher power would have the urge to thank it in those moments.

                Maybe that spark will hit me one day. But it just ain't there. People are people, some good, some bad, most muddle on through without great change to their ouvre. A higher power playing hard to get with "faith" is, frankly, a dick move.

                • RedLogix

                  A higher power playing hard to get with "faith" is, frankly, a dick move.

                  If it was easy, or compelling, you would have no choice in the matter.

                  If each one of us had the same identical experience, something concrete we could all agree on, then there would again be no argument, no possibility of dissent. There would be no search, no individual experience, no questioning, no testing. No acts of consecration.

                  This 'making it hard' gives the space for us to be uniquely human, it safeguards our personal agency, it respects our right to consent to believing in the Divine or not. That may be the exact opposite of a dick move.

                  • McFlock

                    So it's a good thing to have to search when an answer is easily self-evident, and if the search is hard then that's even better? It's just a riff on the problem of natural evil.

                    If the answer was given, then everyone would have the same opportunity. Even if they do the correct thing, the higher power would know why someone did it – i.e. fear, or just because they were the sort of person who wanted to do good.

                    If there's a higher power/creator, why not make us tough or ideal in the first place?

                    Douglas Adams comes to mind – if there is a search to which the creator does not know the answer, then maybe we're just a computer working on the problem for it. In which case, screw that guy.

                  • RedLogix

                    So it's a good thing to have to search when an answer is easily self-evident, and if the search is hard then that's even better?

                    Put it this way, if we frame belief as an act of submission to something greater than ourselves, then is not individual agency, search and willing consent central to the act?

                    And how else can that consent be generated if not by the individual effort, struggle even, to find the answer which fits with our own character and experience.

                    As for good and evil, as Gaius above says, that's our problem.

                    • McFlock

                      If good and evil is our problem, there is no point to god.

                      And knowledge doesn't limit agency, it enables it. Why do we have to place bets on the afterlife when we could know the terms of entry? Maybe that's not a nightclub that's worth the cover charge. Maybe it really is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

                      And if the outcome is predetermined, why even bother with the illusion of agency? If a creator exists and knows the span of time, our "agency" is simply like the "close doors" button in an elevator – frequently not connected to anything, just a make-work device to give us the illusion of control.

                      If life is just the forge in which we are tempered and made strong, there's no reason a creator couldn't just avoid all that banging, heating, and quenching and just get us fully shaped from the same place they created the original ore.

                      If there is a higher power that created us, a multitude of possibilities suggests that it is irrelevant to our life and afterlife. Or a big jerk with a "gotcha!" moment just after we die.

                      So we can find meaning from within ourselves, or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

                    • RedLogix

                      Visualising the afterlife is akin to trying to hold a fourth spatial dimension in the mind. We can understand the concept abstractly and manipulate the symbolic maths, but our mind is constrained to working with three dimensions only. But we can derive some sense of the higher dimensions by making projections from the three we do understand. (My favourite YT on this.)

                      By analogy when we are in the womb we are completely enveloped in that existence, our sustenance and protection completely provided for by our mother. Yet we spend the whole time growing limbs, eyes, ears and all manner of capacities, none of which we make sense at that stage. There is nowhere to run, nothing to see, and nothing of any meaning to hear … yet we develop them all the same, because once born into this life, these abilities are become necessary in order to function in all the new dimensions it offers.

                      The conceptual extension to our next life isn't conceptually hard, it suggests that in order to function well in the dimensions of our next existence we develop non-material capacities in this one by way of preparation.

                      I've also thought that maybe why we pass through this biological existence is that it constrains us to one point in space and time, providing a safe place for the soul to emerge and develop. I personally imagine an afterlife as not being constrained in the same fashion, that time and space don't have the same meaning.

                      It is of course impossible for our minds to visualise any of this directly, but that's the best abstraction I can offer.

                    • McFlock

                      If there is an afterlife, there might not be a creator/higher power any more than this life requires it.

                      But if there is an afterlife with a "why", an external purpose, then there is also a "why bother". If we're born rough-hewn in order to die with our ends shaped, why bother with all that and just have us born with our ends already shaped.

    • gsays 1.2

      Was it religions or people that did the harm you cite?

      I would suggest it is a desire for power and how they choose to interpret the scripture is when the trouble starts.

  2. McFlock 2

    Rationalism lacks a moral core in the same way that your average hammer lacks a clock-radio. Science and ethics are different methods to find solutions to different problems – "can I build it" vs "should I build it".

    Whether god is necessary for morality has filled books for millennia. I got me some Camus a few months ago, and Sartre's on my bucket list. Then there's Buddhism.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    Mythos, a suitable accompaniment to ethos. Stuff that binds folk into large-scale communities, tribes, nations. Britannica:

    "Although politics is often regarded as having taken over the role once played by religion or myth in Western society, the situation is more complex than such a generalization would imply. Just as myth has always had a strong social and political element, so political movements and theories have mythical dimensions. For instance, a mythological component has always been important in keeping political units together, from villages to nations. Recently, however, this mythical dimension has gained prominence with the rise of competing mythlike ideologies such as capitalism and communism; the word ideology might indeed be replaced, in much contemporary discussion about politics, by the term mythology. Finally, crucial terms in modern sociopolitical discussion, such as freedom and equality, although they have a long and complex philosophical history, are often posited in a manner analogous to the function of myth presenting its own authority." https://www.britannica.com/topic/myth/Myths-of-kings-and-ascetics#ref23608

    Inclusion of freedom & equality as example foundational components of political mythology illustrate contemporary relevance of mythos as a formative part of mass psychology.

    Faith is a personal motivation but you are right to link it in, due to religion binding folks via faith. I'm free, unbound, being merely spiritual. But I do have faith. In Gaia.

    Do I have faith in a universal spirit above & beyond Gaia? Yeah, have done since I was a teenager & thought about that long ago. Can I take the antique christian framing of that seriously? Of course not. I ain't silly!

    However it is entirely possible for christians to transcend their belief system and thereby make a positive contribution to contemporary society. I've seen that happen. Never easily, but achievable. I do agree with the essayist's view of the morality/wealth/evil nexus & wish political commentators would get over their childlike aversion to the topic. Elucidating the nexus is indeed likely to become a collective survival skill.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      + 100

      This is primarily a political forum which means some of us hold back from some of the things we might otherwise say, so I appreciate the courage that may have taken.

      • Dennis Frank 3.1.1

        Thanks. Yeah, I get the holding back due to lack of apparent connection which is why I tried to illuminate the connection via Britannica.

        As regards courage, no didn't feel any apprehension at all. Too old for that. I could cite that thing about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread but other topics warrant it more! 🧙‍♂️

    • adam 3.2

      Thanks for the thoughtful response Dennis Frank.

  4. AB 4

    I've come to a typically simple-minded conclusion that what we call 'spirituality' (for want of a better word) is just part of the deep structure of the human organism. In this it resembles language – being both innate and highly various in its forms of expression, though with underlying commonalities among those different forms. Any sort of supernatural superstructure (gods and angels), seems like a non-essential extension of this human attribute – the willed creation of an external objective correlative. Thinking of spirituality as this alternative language allows us to both value it, and understand how it can be misused.

    • Dennis Frank 4.1

      Well put. My view too, basically – although I kinda grafted Gaia on as a whimsical sociopolitical stance after attending the Gaia Conference at the University of Auckland, 1989. I thought Lovelock's advocacy of Gaia too scientific back in the '80s (although being a physics graduate I knew why he felt constrained to be that reductionist). Adding mythos would rev the theory up sufficiently to engage the Green movement, I assumed. Disappointingly, many in the movement still don't get it…

  5. …what rationality, pragmatism and science truly lack is a moral core.

    Well, of course they lack a moral core. They're not about morality. Maybe you're confusing them with ethics. A lot of people seem to leave that one out because it's inconvenient, but for the people who don't leave it out, rationalism, pragmatism, science and ethics very much do have a moral core.

    • adam 5.1

      No confusion. The moral dilemma is the destruction of the planet, not if people have morals. And people who solely rely on logos struggle with cutting through to that point – as your response so apty proves.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 5.1.1

        IMHO, no person or group can destroy "the planet": current civilisation, yes (inevitable, if history is any teacher), current environments, yes (obvious, and on-going); but "the planet" will do just fine for a good while yet. It's 'God's' will.

        If only we humans were the experiment/creation of whatever fiction one chooses to worship.

        • adam 5.1.1.1

          Nit picking whilst rome burns – classy.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 5.1.1.1.1

            Quite right adam – Rome's not a happy place at the moment, although Vatican City has had only 11 Covid-19 cases.

            As for my classy nit picking, well it takes all kinds (theists and atheists included) – among the millions of species for which 'our' planet is (or has been) home, perhaps only Homo sapiens has invented (and continue to invent) theistic belief systems.

            Some of the ‘rules‘ associated with religious belief systems are sensible, and I advocate for them as appropriate. My atheist lifestyle is 100% compatible with numbers five through ten of Judaism's and Christianity's Ten Commandments. Bless, and I wish you well in your good works.

      • Psycho Milt 5.1.2

        I'm pretty sure it would be hard to find a rationalist who couldn't pick the correct answer to the question "Would destruction of the planet be a good thing?"

        Also: as Drowsy M. Kram pointed out, the planet is agnostic about our existence and certainly won't be destroyed by anything we might do with our current level of technology. This is about people, not the planet.

        • adam 5.1.2.1

          We could spend day weeks months arguing over the very right words, but that I won't do with you, or anyone else.

          Does beg the question why are so willing to distract and argue over minutia to score points – rather than promote action on the issue?

          • Psycho Milt 5.1.2.1.1

            You wrote a post claiming that Christians' philosophy has a moral core but mine lacks one. Of course I'm going to dispute that, and no it's not "arguing over minutiae."

  6. Bazza64 6

    A bit of a mix up between He & She, clearly not a believer in the Old Testament, but that’s probably a good thing because that was morally very dubious. And calling everyone God’s child is…. how can I put it, a little “childish”

    Science doesn’t have any morality because it is just humans testing things to see how they work to try & explain the world & universe we live in. But Science doesn’t prevent the asking of difficult questions which religion usually does.

    Why don’t we all just sit & pray for things to get better ? Because we all know nothing will happen. That’s why less & less of us think there is a man/woman upstairs looking over us & keeping score on our behaviour.

    But you can have a bet both ways, hedonism during your life & then a deathbed conversion, may as well have a bit of insurance on the way out ! Disclaimer – if you pop your clogs suddenly your goose is cooked. (Literally as you will be on those hot coals for all eternity) so this is not a fool proof method but it’s the best I can suggest.

  7. Editractor 7

    My first thought on reading this is that moral-coreless science is the one actually leading the charge against climate change while (a lot of) faith still struggles with ideas of dominion over the Earth and celestial rescue. But then maybe all the scientists doing this work are also people of faith.

    What Bill actually said is that “Nothing but ourselves will save us”. And rationality, pragmatism and science – and faith – are just doings of us. Extracting them as separate entities just creates more homonculi, which is convenient if you want to say these are good and those are bad but doesn't really achieve anything.

  8. Descendant Of Smith 8

    I thought the documentary God and The Brain which came out some years ago gave some good insight into the religious experience. Other insights came from reading Damasio's books and articles.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Damasio

    "He has continued to investigate the neural basis of feelings and demonstrated that although the insular cortex is a major substrate for this process it is not exclusive, suggesting that brain stem nuclei are critical platforms as well. He regards feelings as the necessary foundation of sentience."

    Religion to my mind is one way of expressing one need for emotional attachment. I do however put the religions that do the emotional connecting of fear and love in the same category as gangs and cults and those that promote patriotism, and employers who create that culture of "you're either in or out" cult like expectations.

    It's been a well practised technique for a long, long time to manipulate people by putting the two together. Whether it be going to hell, being ostracised including from your family, having the crap beaten out of you when you join – to make the point it'll be worse if you leave, to being promoted if you conform to the group-think and demoted if you do not, to xenophobic fear of foreigners taking your jobs and livelihoods there is way too many of these groups preying on people.

    I have much, much more tolerance for those that do the unconditional love – that feed the human need for emotional connection without any of the fear aspects. It's where science and ethics do have an advantage over religion in my view.

    I appreciate all the thinking that the enlightenment brought – and continues to bring.

    • McFlock 8.1

      The other thing about most religions that come to mind is that they tend to be wilfully interpreted to justify the person's own prejudices.

      The most obvious example is the "christian" who focuses on one passage in Leviticus and ignores adjacent passages and pretty much the entire contents of the Gospels, but the other religions also have their examples.

      If there's any inconsistency or contradiction in the holy texts, some people will bend over backwards to find a meaning that justifies their impulses. Even if that means ignoring the core gist of the total works.

      • Descendant Of Smith 8.1.1

        I'd tend to put it the other way. The institutions you belong to throughout your life will help build your prejudices and your thinking.

        I think it's unlikely that such a person decided all by themselves to pick that particular verse to focus on. There was most likely a pastor before them and another before that other fellow church members or someone of influence – these days there's also those spouting forth on-line (the internet is basically an institution).

        My observation of Israel Folou's messaging shows both a paternal influence from his pastor father and likely having a parish who conforms to the same thinking I would think too that the fundamentalist type thinking was also encouraging by the large number of like thinking groups on-line. "No man is an island" and all that.

        I have no doubt my own thinking has been developed from friends and family and schooling and institutions I have worked and lived and been in.

  9. Bill 9

    Well, I've always regarded political endeavours as a poor relative of religious or spiritual endeavours – and spiritual endeavours as a hiding to nothing.

    Put another way, I don't much care what a person's framework of understanding might be or what their crutch might be as long as it isn't doing anyone else any harm – ie, as long as we’re not talking about a political ideology or religious belief that demands fealty, then it's none of my business how people get though life.

    Back to No Exit. It appears that there's a basic agreement around the thought that no externality is going to save us.

    Problematically, it seems that most people are hooked on some political and/or religious authority (they’re essentially both the same thing) that they'd appeal to in order 'to be saved'. In my mind, that's a ceding of agency and therefor a major contributing factor to our collective paralysis.

    • Dennis Frank 9.1

      I agree re ceding of agency. It has concerned me at times past, filled me with dismay even, due to my flawed assumption that progress was happening.

      As I got older I had to reconcile myself to that aspect of human nature. Unfortunately most humans expect some higher agency to tell them what to think. Brainwashed by the msm is a typical consequence. You can actually watch tv news presenters doing it deliberately! Not by choice, but as instructed.

      For example the hundreds/thousands of parties around the nation reported on One News tonight in breach of level three last night. Viewers were instructed to think this behaviour wrong. The disobedient were hankering for communal fun, using their agency to get it, but we who obeyed yielded to the higher agency of govt.

      So obviously there's a time to conform to big-daddy rules and a time to liberate yourself, and what's going wrong is too many making poor judgments around the timing. And herding builds hive-mind conformity a la China if folks let it.

    • Adrian Thornton 9.2

      This is a answer to the question of religion and/or politics that I sometimes (but not always) quite like…

      Fuck Religion Fuck Politics Fuck the Lot of You!

  10. Nic 181 10

    Religion? Meh! I thought we were all past that. I love to quote Maurice Gee from the Plumb Trilogy.

    ”Belief closes the mind. Thought reaches no final conclusion, it looks forward, always, to new evidence.”

    There lies the conundrum, where is the evidence? Some old books written from 100 years ago to 1800 years ago, or the patient, careful, peer reviewed work of science? My prejudice shows!

    • ianmac 10.1

      Yes Nic. "”Belief closes the mind. Thought reaches no final conclusion, it looks forward, always, to new evidence.”

      Funny though that decisive people seem to be helpful but yet close off new evidence. Here is the decision now do as you are told.

  11. Ad 11

    So Bill the nihilist and Adam the anarchist agree that no framework or structure will "save" us.

    One of the lower surprises of the day.

    Worse, Bill and Adam agree this stance over a film because the film proclaims that positive human agency is dead because of the moral imperfection of each human agent.

    That's never been how humans have been or are, or indeed ever will be.

    The phrase that lit our current fuse was not "I'll do this". The moment that turned our collective human agency was "Let's Do This", a phrase that that named a spiritual pact so necessary that in 2020 we would have been pretty much destroyed as a country without it.

    It takes a whole bunch more than a moral "grit" to get humans out of where they've been. It takes collective immersed belief that the stars and the moon revolve around them. They will align every ten-tonne boulder for a hundred miles t to prove it. For milliennia.

    The human agency that assists in our betterment is collective agency. That's who we are. That always entails some sacrifice of individual agency into a flawed or "fallen" structure. That's what happened after the Christchurch massacre at two of our own sacred sites, just last year. Christians and Muslims came together and we stuck together. We love being flawed, and that common recognition makes our agency stronger.

    It staggers me that no-one above is prepared to defend conventional religions, when this country has had to do so as a matter of high principle after a catastrophic massacre of a people on our shores precisely because they belonged to a conventional religion. Where is the pride in our collective response? Where is our recognition that we stood together to defy the "moral grit" of the armed super-agent?

    Most commenters above can barely even utter the word "spiritual" without caking it in lame linguistic reductionism. Pathetic.

    The organising principle of humans was to be a collective spirit from the first time they settled in one place. Primarily to order to their place in the world and in the stars. It happened even as the Dryadic ice sheets were retreating, in south-eastern Turkey. Over 10 milliennia ago.

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/01/150120-gobekli-tepe-oldest-monument-turkey-archaeology/

    So I can tell you all: we will continue to make headway not because we presume we have within us some righteous moral core, nor from any pathetic fear that I will be "judged", nor whether we can do tiresome theological gymnastics to re-name ourselves as "children" or "servants" under which our "Lord" commands us.

    We will make some headway when we form collectives, act as if we are at one with the tilting of the entire cosmos, presume we only generate agency when we work in collective, and act as if the structures we operate in actually are worth it. And that goes to Mr Moore as well.

    • bill 11.1

      So Bill the nihilist and Adam the anarchist agree that no framework or structure will "save" us.

      Well, that's dead wrong. Won't speak for Adam, but where have I ever said that 'framework' or 'structure' are bad things?

      I’m also a bit confused as to why you think two people arriving at the same place from very different starting points is a all about a film.

      The human agency that assists in our betterment is collective agency. That's who we are. That always entails some sacrifice of individual agency into a flawed or "fallen" structure.

      Why do you think society (the thing that rightly limits individual freedom) is necessarily "a flawed or "fallen" structure" we must cede agency to in order that collective agency is attained? You don't think society can be the product of collective endeavor?

      This I agree with (though it contradicts what else you said) – We will make some headway when we form collectives, act as if we are at one with the tilting of the entire cosmos, presume we only generate agency when we work in collective, and act as if the structures we operate in actually are worth it.

      But how does 'collective' flow from following an order emanating from a node of concentrated power within a given structure that “the rest” have ceded their agency to? It doesn't and can't.

    • RedLogix 11.2

      The much longer version explores themes of universality, trustworthiness, and the nature of the sanctified society.

      I'll make an attempt to enlarge on this.

      Universality implies that everyone is potentially on the inside of our moral horizon.

      Trustworthiness is the foundation of all things, it's how we escape the dismal traps of game theory and rise to collective action. Ad is absolutely right on this, true collective action is powerful beyond our individual imaginations. Our biological nature predisposes us to be a social creature, but trust endows us with unlimited capacity to collectively transcend our biology.

      The sanctified society. We have all seen fragments of it in our lives. Each one of us, agnostic, anarchist and nihilist alike carries in our hearts and imagination, a vision of something better. It's something we sensed or experienced, sometimes concrete and hard earned, sometimes ineffable and mysterious … and often it's so fragile we're reluctant to show it to others for fear of their clumsiness.

      In many ways we're each desperately flawed, we're weak and prone to stupid mistakes. We fall short of our potential and waste so much of our lives, we're vain and treacherous, we don't look after ourselves all that well, and drive ourselves crazy. But in groups we become greater than ourselves, for both good and evil. The collective can mirror back to us the crazy or it can show us visions of the sublime, history is replete with both cases.

      The sanctified society holds up to each one of us the vision of the very best we can be.

      • roblogic 11.2.1

        Have you been reading Augustine? City of God, Book XIX, chap 17:

        This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. […]

        We desperately need more cultural narratives like this, with a vision greater than pillage and profit, and an elevated view of the human person

        • RedLogix 11.2.1.1

          Thank you. No I haven't come across this, I'm nowhere near as well read as I'd like to pretend. I like finding gems like this, it should remind us that while our ancestors wrestled with a world much more limited than ours, they were every bit as smart as we like to imagine ourselves.

  12. Spiritual renewal and cultural revolutions occur only after widespread suffering. After our wealth and security are taken away, all we have is each other, and hopefully some faith to light our path.

    The perception of faith (in the Judeo-Christian tradition at least) as pie in the sky when you die, or invisible sky fairies, is dishonest and diabolical. The Romans and Jewish authorities killed Jesus because his existence challenged the existing power structures. The Christian church (and other religions) are constantly persecuted by immoral and paranoid regimes because their creeds require justice HERE ON THIS EARTH and call for all people everywhere to REPENT.

    Where the USA goes, the rest of the western world follows. This Forbes piece summarises the crisis well (but I have my doubts about its rosy prognostications for the future)

    While pillaging the national economy, Boomers have also personally absorbed the country’s wealth. In fact, as they age, their percentage of total US wealth has increased from 20% to nearly 60%. By comparison, Generation X holds only 16% of national wealth while the Millennials hold a paltry 3%. In fact, Boomers owned about 21% of America's wealth at roughly the same age as Millennials are now. More problematically, 81% of Millennial households (ages 18 to 34) carry a collective debt of $2 trillion.

    Taken to its logical conclusion, the US era is coming to an end. After decades of swelling deficits fed by $6.4 trillion in war spending, many now predict the end of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Beset by social inequality, economic stratification, drug addiction, mass imprisonment, and government dysfunction, the country is now a shadow of its former self.

    Indeed with clinical precision, journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges has deconstructed the corporate take-over of America’s democracy and the ruthless kleptocracy that has broken the country. The culmination of a political, economic, and cultural decay, the United States is now disintegrating.

    The necessary change is coming. Wealth and power will not save us. The pursuit of "happiness" is no longer sufficient. For your life to mean something it has to serve a purpose greater than your own selfish ends.

    • RedLogix 12.1

      The analysis of the Boomer vs Millenial wealth gap strains to draw nefarious conclusions from largely innocent premises. People accumulate wealth as they age, it would be very peculiar if they did not.

      That Boomers have done somewhat better than expected is entirely due to the simple and wonderful fact that they worked through the most productive and prosperous era in US history. Malice had nothing to do with it.

      Beset by social inequality, economic stratification, drug addiction, mass imprisonment, and government dysfunction, the country is now a shadow of its former self.

      Much of this is the consequence of a US that enabled a global trade order, open borders and sea lanes, and paid for most of the security which made it possible. Yet after the Cold War was over they did nothing to re-orient the system to serve any greater purpose. As a result good jobs leaked away from their economy, and the upward social progress of their working classes ground to a halt.

      While at the same time their military continued to absorb far too much of their national treasure, undermining their health and education systems, national infrastructure and social safety nets.

      So while much of the rest of the world was being pulled out of poverty by the global trade order, the US was not gaining substantially from it. This would of course have destroyed any lessor nation, but the natural geographic wealth and security of the North American continent has meant the decline has been masked much longer than might have ordinarily been the case.

      As for their future, it's plain they face a turbulent, painful decade, although this is nothing new. The USA has faced similar crisis' before, and each time they re-invent themselves. Too soon to write them off as 'disintegrating'.

      • roblogic 12.1.1

        OK, the USA will probably not disintegrate, but it's going through something pretty significant. The gospel of progress, positive thinking, and endless prosperity as long as you work hard and keep your nose clean, hasn't been true for 20 years or more, and the televangelists selling snake oil and dreams of Hollywood stardom are losing their grip.

        Piketty observes that the "Brahmin left" are disconnected from the disaffected working class, and this class has become easy prey for merchants of hate.

        • Dennis Frank 12.1.1.1

          I reckon the jury is out still. Disintegration remains a strong contender. If you have time, I recommend this: https://www.ecosophia.net/on-the-far-side-of-silence/

          He's as an acutely perceptive analyst of sociopolitical trends as you can hope for, often a good antidote to boredom, and his reader commentaries are often laced with illuminating insights too – as in this instance.

          • roblogic 12.1.1.1.1

            JMG is a smart guy but his libertarian/prepper solutions to social problems are a sign that either the system is ruined beyond repair, or he's an intellectual idiot who thinks the end of the world is actually a Good Thing™

            • Dennis Frank 12.1.1.1.1.1

              Probably the former. He acknowledged being autistic a while back (but didn't explain the particular way it manifested for him). I don't follow him down into his favourite rabbit hole (magic) due to innate suspicion/scepticism towards traditional occult practices (while also seeing magic in nature & real life sporadically). I just like the clarity & depth he provides.

              • RedLogix

                I followed JMG for some years, he writes well and is quite gentle about it, nothing gets thrust down your throat, his readers are free to browse and pick those elements that fit.

                He's honest about his occult background, but he usually leaves it there.

                His most recent essay on the schooling is typically intelligent and touches on an important topic:

                What has them looking on in dismay is just how little their children are being taught or expected to learn. They’re watching their kids receive dumbed-down lessons that take vacuousness and mediocrity to previously unplumbed levels, and make-work exercises that by and large are well within the capacity of an ordinarily intelligent hamster. Many of them are watching their kids complete a day’s worth of lessons and assignments in well under an hour, and they’re wondering for very good reason exactly why those same kids are being expected to sit in a school for six or seven hours a day, five days a week.

                A sentiment that aligns with a conversation I had in Canada, with a person expressing dismay at the state of much public schooling in the USA. The essay also explores the problematic burderns of the two income household. But as usual his final para is finely honed:

                On the far side of silence, new possibilities stand open. Joseph Campbell reminds us that in the journey of every hero or heroine there’s a departure from the familiar, and very often this takes the form of a withdrawal into solitude and contemplation. That period of reflection and reassessment is a crucial step toward unfolding the potentials for magnificence that we all have within us but so few of us ever use.

                • solkta

                  they’re wondering for very good reason exactly why those same kids are being expected to sit in a school for six or seven hours a day, five days a week.

                  For the purpose of subjugation. Schools are still very authoritarian institutions that force conformity and obedience on the population.

                  • RedLogix

                    Not necessarily, and it certainly was not the original intent behind universal schooling as we first set it up in the 1800's. Besides I'd argue a certain amount of subjugation is not a bad thing.

                    I'm neither for nor against home schooling, nor public education. When done well both have their merits. I've seen home schooled kids given a fine education (both parents had degrees) and public schools produce strong, capable and certainly not docile young adults as well.

                    The outcome probably depends more on the teachers than on whether the location is the home or the classroom. JMG's point is that for the first time ever, many US parents are getting to see what the public system is actually doing with their children, and are wondering if this is the best they can do for them.

                    It would be interesting to know if this experience translates to NZ or not.

                    • solkta

                      Just because something is not a stated intention when institutions are first establish does not mean that they don't come to be a function of those institutions. It was not stated either that universal schooling should be used to smash Maori language and alienate Maori from their culture, but few would argue now that that is not what happened.

                      I didn't mention home schooling but rather was making a comment about the nature of schools as institutions. It is possible for them to function in a different way.

                • Dennis Frank

                  Yeah, I tend to oscillate between periods of retreat & periods of contributing to public life in a low-key way. Sometimes I take a stand that may seem heroic but to me dragon-slaying is utilitarian: a job that must be done. I learnt through several decades of expecting others to do the necessary that kiwis are generally sheeple, so I reluctantly had to take on the job by default.

                  Why bother? Well, why bother to live? Conscience. Know how, can do. You could call it spiritual activism and I wouldn't argue. Green politics nowadays always reminds me of kindergarten, and at the risk of seeming tedious the culprits are leftists.

                  But back to the therapeutic effects of withdrawal into solitude. You become aware of other stuff that the fray was distracting you from. So your next step can often be on a new path as a result. He gets that, and I bet/hope plenty of others around the world got that realisation during their isolation phase.

  13. Descendant Of Smith 13

    "It staggers me that no-one above is prepared to defend conventional religions, when this country has had to do so as a matter of high principle after a catastrophic massacre of a people on our shores precisely because they belonged to a conventional religion."

    There's quite a difference between defending the right of religious freedom and the right not to have someone come and shoot you when going about your normal everyday business and defending (a/each/different/every) religion itself.

    I'm pretty sure I'll never ever defend telling your children they could go to hell for instance.

  14. An earlier comment disappeared for no obvious reason, so I'll expand on it. This is a post I wrote in 2016 that covers the same topic as this post, though from a different perspective. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed. God still does not exist. Religion is still responsible for mass misery. Climate change has not been magic'd away.

    The post:

    "I’m a little worried about God.

    Not only does God not exist, the reasons for needing him to exist are fast fading. The human race is approaching the end of its adolescent years and is heading for maturity. We have the ability to control our world. Only a couple of centuries ago, control was local, regional and for some European nations, pan continental. But now we all think in global terms.

    Climate change is evidence of our race’s planet wide ability to get things wrong. But most of us believe we have the capacity to end global warming, though the willpower is still lacking. We aren’t waiting for God to step in, as once would have been the case.

    Clearly, the world’s population is still mostly religious. But the countries where citizens are happiest are, for the most part, agnostic and social democratic. The Nordic example is where the world should be heading as a next step.

    Given that there is no God and no reason for there to be a God, what do we do about religion? Should we remain tolerant of the unfounded beliefs of the billions of adherents? Should we continue to parse individual religions, identifying some strains of faith as being acceptable, while decrying other, more militant, sects?

    I think it’s time to end religion.

    We could start here in NZ by removing the weird and unjustifiable tax break churches and cults pretending to be churches enjoy. No more taxpayer subsidies for the Catholic church, the global buggerer of small boys. No more assistance to Pope Brian Tamaki or the Scientologists. An end to it. Now.

    The next step is to teach religion in schools. By that, I mean to teach that religion is a sham. Atheist studies, if you like. If the next generation of kiwis can learn that we are the masters of our own destiny, then there may be hope for the future. We may bring up a generation focussed on ethics, not compulsion through fear.

    The next idea might be a step too far for some readers. I think we should look to ban religion altogether. Give it a grace period of a decade or so, then close it down. No more brutalising and poisoning our citizens with notions of heaven and hell. Let the next generation be free to think for themselves.

    If NZ can set an example for the world, as we have done in the past for democracy and peace, maybe, just maybe, we can end some of the madness that is currently brutalizing our small, beautiful world.

    Peace be with you."

    • RedLogix 14.1

      You'll notice that none of the people who do believe in a divinity (however we define it) are advocating here that anyone should be compelled to join them. Indeed I was outlining above to McFlock the necessity of free choice in the matter.

      By contrast your atheist position I think we should look to ban religion altogether. Give it a grace period of a decade or so, then close it down openly imposes your own belief (and a belief it is without question) on us.

      Of course you are correct in this, there is no God as the human mind might imagine it. Anything we might conceive of the Divine is a bit like a goldfish in a bowl, sitting in a room, where a lecture is been given by Andrew Wiles on his Fermat's Last theorem proof. (Which is arguably one of the most difficult pieces of advanced reasoning in existence.) The created, the dependent creature cannot encompass the uncreated, the independent first cause of everything. God as we conceive it cannot exist.

      Therefore I have no particular bone to pick with atheists, if they choose to logically reject a construct they believe makes no sense, then all the more power to them. If you don't want to believe, God makes no effort to coerce, manipulate or otherwise compel you to. And I try to follow that example in my own life.

      But if we cannot know the divine directly, we can perceive it's presence or projection into this world. The divine can become real to us through our own individual experience, and in this we are all independent and unique. There is no fixed formula for decoding the existence of God's from it’s manifestation in this extraordinary reality we all share. Indeed as I grow older I'm only more aware of how little I know, can ever know, compared to how much there is to understand. Even the most cursory glance through wikipedia should thoroughly convince anyone of the merits of intellectual humility. It seems even God's creation may be bigger than we can ever understand.

      So in this matter I'm perfectly content to respect your personal agency, and how your experiences shape your views. It seems fair I ask the same in return.

      As for good and evil. That is our concern, not God's. If you were to imagine the case of a religious institution (all of which are man-made) that did actually succeed in living up to all of it's high principles, all of the time, then it's virtue, it's capacity and competence would be utterly overwhelming. There would be no doubt, no questioning, no search. All humans would either submit or rebel, there would nothing in between, no space for us to travel on our own paths, grow into our own being.

      • te reo putake 14.1.1

        Cheers, RL, I appreciate the quality of your response. The link to the Fermat's theory debate has certainly got the grey matter spinning!

        To touch on a couple of points, I see religion like tobacco. Some people like it, even find it comforting, but it's clearly unhealthy. With tobacco, we are incrementally moving to a ban. The same should happen with religion.

        However, I recognise that the human race is still in the philosophical equivalent of the later years of adolescence. At 18 we have physical strength, a partial education and an understanding of right and wrong. However, at 18, we are not fully mature. Our decision making is rubbish.

        That's exactly where we are as a race. Not children any more, but not yet mature.

        So for the time being, some humans are still going to need to be told bedtime stories in order to get a good night's sleep. That's religion's primary purpose as I see it; to mollify and comfort.

        • RedLogix 14.1.1.1

          As a child I recall The Grimm Fairy Tales and The Waterbabies as the two books I read most often. Both of which are incredibly violent and cruel in many places; yet within them are deep descriptions of human psychology and behaviour. It's a paradox that stories like Hansel and Gretel which have father's abandoning starving children in the forest, or burning witches alive in ovens, should have any moral merit whatsoever.

          Yet in addressing our dark side openly, they vividly show us the starkness of the choice we must all make between good and evil. These stories are full of our human follies and failings, our self delusions, vanities, weaknesses and greed. Yet at the same time show us how courage, faith and clear thinking can redeem us.

          Of course these are children's tales and I'd be rightly mocked if I attempted to adduce moral argument based on Kingsleys fairies Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, and Mother Carey. Yet the stories hold a power and a truth, despite their fictional nature and dated social mores.

          This aligns closely with your view that humanity is passing through the often turbulent and painful process of adolescence. Our childhood tales are no longer sufficient for our expanding bodies and minds. We need more.

          As we become adults our need for narrative, for a grown up mythology becomes only stronger in us, not less. The characters become less magically good and evil, and more responsible for their choices and consequences. I'm trying to convey the difference between a Dr Seuss story and a Robert Greene novel, both have power, but of a quite different nature.

          Or maybe you remember that day when as a teenager you first properly heard a song (for me it was Neil Young's Old Man) in a way that you could not as a child.

          Collectively we can glimpse fragments of the the fresh literature our adult minds crave, but are not quite mature enough to fully engage with. We can hear the music of a harmonious new world as tantalising scraps on the wind. But the crashing noises we are making as we thrash about distract us so much, we often doubt they are real.

      • Adrian Thornton 14.1.2

        Or maybe just this…
        “Far out.
        So there’s an infinite number of parallel universes? No. Just the two.
        Oh, well, I’m sure that’s enough.”

        https://comb.io/J6ZoC5

    • roblogic 14.2

      Here in the techno utopian West, we have increasingly turned from God and our traditional religions and where has that gotten us?

      What can replace God, the author of life, love, meaning, and the ground of all Being? The atheist society turns to progress, money, sex and temporal power. Capitalism promises those things but they turn out to be a marketing scam, this is only for the lucky elite.

      John Lennon was full of shit.

      We need a 12 step programme to wean us off our addiction to capitalism and its lies that corrupt the nation

      • Dennis Frank 14.2.1

        We need a 12 step programme to wean us off our addiction to capitalism and its lies

        Ah, to create such a thing requires both use of the intellect and a capacity for creative design. Who has that combination?? Very few, and none of them has attempted the task as far as I know.

        Also, the weaning can only happen if the prescription is effective. Applied social psychology – how often have you noticed that being effective?

        Re Lennon, I was never a fan but appreciate the guy more in retrospect than when young. Listen to Imagine. Seemed like syrup & a torrent of platitudes when it showed up, yet it ages very well…

    • adam 14.3

      Why did you think it was appropriate or ethical to reproduce your post rather than just add a link?

      Why do you think it was appropriate or ethical to lump all people of faith in together? Feels a lot like an attack from the right, a bit like the cry of the tards that happens here every election – "THE LEFT"

      I can think of a few bad eggs on the left, mainly Lennists who have been rapists and violent to women . Should we ban the left becasue Lennists have a penchant for misogynist behaviour?

      What about people who cause a spike in death threats to female journalist – should they be banned as well?

      Atheists have proven themselves to be just as petty, violent, and vial as people of faith.

      But that was not the point of the post, becasue you have missed that. The point of the post was very very simple – have conviction and do somthing to save the environment you live in. Why do atheists struggle with that simple point? Not all atheists mind, just some.

      • te reo putake 14.3.1

        Hi, Adam. I did post a short comment, with a link. For some unknown reason it was moved to Open Mike by an unknown person. As an alternative, I posted the entire God Botherer OP, which was reasonably brief anyway.

        Both comments (on this post and on OM) generated a bit of discussion, which is good.

  15. Descendant Of Smith 15

    Got us a long way I would have thought. Maybe you don't notice the strong connection between capitalism and religion – it's quite obvious in the National Party and through their connections with religious groups such as The Exclusive Brethren.

    They are not strange bedfellows – neither like paying taxes for the common good. The rise of the charismatic tithing type churches has only exacerbated this.

    Organised religion has a long history of torture and killing, several current religions ostracise you from your family members, many mainstream religions made (and some continue to make) large amounts of money from the poor – whether it be running homes for unmarried mothers, orphanages or poor houses.

    Pray tell why we should not have turned away from such perfidy and where is the era of religious light and happiness that we should wrest back into our lives from current dark times (which aren't as dark as the middle ages when the church had quite significantly more political and financial power).

    And which religion should it be given many have played “it's my turn now” when they have been in power and then persecuted and tortured the opposition. It's atheists like me that support the right for religious freedom so you don't go around killing and torturing each other. It's the non-religious state that passes and enables the legislation that gives effect to those principles.

    Power uses religion just like any other tool in it's tool kit. You're sadly mistaken if you think religion is somehow not part of the conservative capitalist ethos. It's principles can clearly be seen in practise in New Zealand with blaming the individual for their circumstance.

    I have far more likeability for the Maori concepts of Whanaungtanga, Manakitanga and Kaitiakitanga to use three than many of the religious approaches of sin and subservience to a higher being. Something that all people in Aotearoa could aspire to.

    • roblogic 15.2

      Something's a bit off with institutional christianity when it hops in bed with terrestrial empires. in 300 AD (ish) when Constantine made it an official religion of Rome it meant an end to persecution, but began a pattern of watering down some of the basic principles of the faith. ie. you cannot serve both God and Mammon.

      Much love for Maori culture, it’s a healthy challenge to Pakeha materialism and individualism

      • Descendant Of Smith 15.2.1

        There was a really good book on the Royal Society that included some interesting discourse on the role art played in changing thought amongst the general population about heaven and planets and stars.

        You could see the change from gods being portrayed as giant beings much bigger than humans to the same size as humans as the cultural shift was made.

        It's been a while so not sure if it was this book or not. If not it was similar.

        https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/adrian-tinniswood/the-royal-society/9781541673588/

        • roblogic 15.2.1.1

          Tom Holland's Dominion: the making of the western mind outlines a similar trajectory. From ancient times we were communal and tribal, with individuals subsumed to the group (for survival) and society organised around a central (religious) motif. Even 100 years ago churches and community halls were vital parts of community life. Now community life barely exists, families are breaking up, or never forming at all, and we have a traumatised generation without love, filling their souls with empty diversions.

      • Descendant Of Smith 15.2.2

        Remember to much of the opposition to Maori culture wasn't about Maori per se it was a capitalist response to what was seen as Maori socialism or communism. There are some interesting speeches and documents around this from those early parliaments.

  16. KJT 16

    Question.

    Who is the most moral?

    Someone who is nice to other people because they are, nice to other people, or someone who is nice to other people, because an, imaginary father figure will punish them, if they aren't?

    • roblogic 16.1

      Atheism claims that a universe without any inherent moral law is somehow more moral … lolz!

      • Descendant Of Smith 16.1.1

        If there is anything science – especially maths and physics tells us – it is that there is much more absolute inherence in the universe that any of the shifting sands of morality – whether that morality comes from a religious base or not.

        There is no such thing as inherent morality.

        • roblogic 16.1.1.1

          Belief in a rational Creator and lawgiver gave the middle ages progenitors of modern science confidence that the universe is rational and able to be understood by human minds.

          This faith was a prerequisite to science as we know it.

          • Descendant Of Smith 16.1.1.1.1

            Looks like a good read. I've never proposed that good hasn't come out of religions either.

      • KJT 16.1.2

        Religion.

        Makes people in general, less empathetic, less charitable, less tolerant and less kind to "outsiders". And more likely to believe without evidence. Funny that.

        Just like any other gang.

        It is secularist, atheism, not most religious people, that insists on "freedom of religion" and tolerance of other beliefs. No matter how, "magical".

        The "enlightenment" was when religion started to lose it's stranglehold on humanity.

        • roblogic 16.1.2.1

          Atheism and freethinking have their virtues, but unfortunately they do not address the core of the human problem, which is our own self destructive nature. We do have tribal and familial instincts, but without spiritual and moral guidance the average human is liable to fall for whatever BS is marketed to them on TV.

          • KJT 16.1.2.1.1

            It seems to me that it is religious people that are more likely to fall for BS.

            • solkta 16.1.2.1.1.1

              Yes self evident that.

            • roblogic 16.1.2.1.1.2

              Yes, especially when mindless consumerism and valorisation of the machinery of capitalism is the religion du jour.

              • KJT

                Supported by US, and NZ, religious, en-mass.

                • roblogic

                  Those religious working class fools. Why don’t they vote for more mass immigration, globalisation, neoliberalism, and identity politics, like the enlightened political class that claims the “left”

    • bill 16.2

      Is the person giving money to the homeless guy in expectation of gratitude, or to generate feelings of 'goodness' within themselves moral?

      And does it matter whether such a person is religious or not?

      • Descendant Of Smith 16.2.1

        Or are they just behaving as their institutions taught them to e.g. it's not a question of morality at all? It's simply a learned behaviour.

        I read something a few years back – like many things I wish I'd kept it – that looked at generosity amongst citizens of different German cities.

        They found modern day generosity correlated really well with whether eons ago they were a free state or a principality or a duchy etc. There was some pretty good evidence through the years about how what they were several hundreds of years ago affected their behaviours today.

        • bill 16.2.1.1

          e.g. it's not a question of morality at all? It's simply a learned behaviour.

          Sure.

          And the corollary would be around behaviours not yet unlearned. 🙂

  17. Ant 17

    The terms SBNR (spiritual but not religious) and “spiritual atheists” are commonplace these days indicating the persistent belief among many that there’s a dimension to us that is self-sacrificing rather than self-seeking, that there is a mode of fruitful existence lying beyond short-term gain. Religions posit that good deeds is what God “wants’ of us and that there is reward beyond this life if our actions and belief subscribe to doctrine. Except Buddhism. Asked to finally confirm whether there is God or not he replied “I’m not going to tell you whether there is a God. If I say ‘there is God, you will go your way telling others the Buddha says “there is God’ and your lives will go on just as before. If I say ‘there is no God’ you will step forth believing there is no God and your lives will remain unchanged.” Buddha knew of the ‘spiritual’ dimension in humanity and taught sound methods of eliciting it. Buddhism would never have survived till modern times if what he suggested made no difference.

  18. sumsuch 18

    Desmond Morris's 'The Naked Ape' is my house built on the rock. Evolutionary biology describes everything. Why I suspect 'free' love in light of the pair bond. Consciousness is a device. Which brought us to this short and sharp material utopia. Where it failed (past tense advisedly) was, yes, reasoning brought us here but the rationalisation to deal with all the consciousness of failure along the road is our superior ability.

  19. Observer Tokoroa 19

    Bill

    It is such a waste of time reading your nihilism.

    Is there any possible chance that you might lift your dead head out of whatever trough you have put it in, and drop your depressive existence ?

    Or will you throw the children and the elderly onto some sort of nucleic misery ?

    Give us a break Mate. Please

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    3 weeks ago