The Instigator
Dmetal
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
Cerebral_Narcissist
Con (against)
Winning
20 Points

Atheists should not respect religious beliefs

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/18/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,987 times Debate No: 14415
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (7)

 

Dmetal

Pro

Atheism: Lack of belief in God. One who believes God does not exist.
Religion: Christianity of any denomination (80%+ Americans are Christian).
Respect: Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability (http://dictionary.reference.com...).

Faith protects religion from the tentacles of critical thinking. Although we unknowingly suspend our critical thinking without religious faith everyday, religious faith openly celebrates this suspension. Many Christians actually pay someone to tell them not to critically engage a text. There are certain aspects of the Bible that are questioned but only to a certain extent, the extent to which the main characters are never doubted. This is one of the worst forms of credulity. For instance, we are never to suppose that the miracles within the New Testament were fabricated. Such a position is far more probable than the mutilations of the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry that are attested to in the Bible. The unwillingness to doubt key characters and events, therefore, should make Christianity unrespectable.

One of the major problems with the Bible is that we have very little extra-biblical documentation that can either confirm or give us an alternate perspective of the events therein. For example, maybe the Roman officers (in a Roman document) say that Jesus tried to preform a miracle and failed. Without these documents, we are left to blindly choose our beliefs. It may come up that there are extra-biblical texts that confirm Jesus' story; however, these sources only prove that a distinct group existed in the Levant during the first and second century and that they believed Jesus to be the Messiah. These texts, in other words, only prove that Christians existed. For example, "At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders" (http://www.westarkchurchofchrist.org...).
Notice, aside from the fact that it is small quote from a larger text, that it says, "At this time...". We know that the author is speaking in past tense as if he was not there. We also know that the people believed that Jesus appeared to his disciples. Finally, we know that if Pilate had Jesus crucified, it does not follow that Jesus was resurrected. Plus, history is not always accurate; it's not as scientific as we would like it to be. Historical accounts must also be backed up with science. If a historical account reports that laws of science are broken, it follows that it probably did not occur the way the account claimed.

This predicament leaves us with the option of the "leap of faith." We should just believe it. Not only should you just believe it, you should also respect the beliefs of all who believe this. Credulity in any other instance is a vice, not a virtue. Credulity makes Christianity unrespectable.
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

I have no objections to the definitions my opponent has posted for the purpose of this debate, so I will proceed with my rebuttal.

My opponent opening round may be broken down into two main arguments. The first paragraph is what I shall term 'The argument from Uncritical Faith', the second paragraph is what I shall term 'The Argument from Historical Doubt'.

The Argument from Uncritical Faith
My opponent spends his first paragraph attacking Christianity on the basis that it accepts it's own tenets uncritically and at face value. I will address some of the specific statement he makes to refute this claim.

"Faith protects religion from the tentacles of critical thinking."

Though there does exist examples of such blind faith, my opponent has attempted to make a generalisation against all manifestations of faith.

Pat Robertson, Pastor of St. Peter's Free Church of Scotland in Dundee and Author of 'The Dawkins Letters' argues that he is not a Christian through blind faith, but that he is a Christian because the facts as he sees them supports such a position. He outlines numerous arguments to support his Christian theism, consisting of logic, historical context, and personal experience. He references numerous Christian scientists such as John Polkinghorne or Francis Collins. Though I dispute many of his arguments, he never once invokes arguments pertaining to blind faith. But presents a Christian view point based on rational thought.

His Church has a section dedicated to the Dawkins letters, the rebuttal of Richard Dawkins God Delusion.
http://www.debate.org...

My opponent states that, "the main characters (of the Bible) are never doubted"

However within Christian theology exists the sub-discipline of Christology, the specific study of the nature of Christ consisting both of the critical examination of what he did, what he said, and philosophical debates as to the nature of his divinity. As this article shows, Christology consists of it's competing theories, methodologies, controversies and debates as opposed to the 'blind faith' my opponent would claim.
http://en.wikipedia.org...

My opponent defines respect as, "Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability "

It is clear that the academic brilliance of theologians (however mistaken they may be) the formulation of theistic arguments, and the passion and vigour with which they are argued, may all fall into this definition. Though my opponent may attempt to offer many counter-arguments of Christians possessed of blind faith, the fact that I can demonstrate Christians who hold to rational self-critical faith shows that in certain instances rational atheists can and should respect Religion and so negates this particular argument.

'The Argument from Historical Doubt'.

My opponent states,
"One of the major problems with the Bible is that we have very little extra-biblical documentation that can either confirm or give us an alternate perspective of the events therein. For example, maybe the Roman officers (in a Roman document) say that Jesus tried to perform a miracle and failed."

There exists a number of counter-arguments to this point. Firstly much of our historical knowledge is based on limited documentation. Our knowledge of ancient Egyptian history is based on the work of Manetho, a late Graeco-Egyptian Priests whose research only survives in fragments and quotations and is in parts clearly fictional. However we are able to recreate many important details.

Though I confess that there is no corroboration of the Miracles or divinity of Jesus, there is extensive corroboration of the crucifixion of Jesus.
http://life.liegeman.org...

It must be noted that the possibility of a small despised monotheistic sect that lost it's leader so early on it's history yet managed to survive some 2000 years later does provide a prima facie statistical case for divine providence or the super-human Charisma of Jesus.

This prima facie case, when combined with arguments from logic (the exact nature of which is not as important as their existence for the purpose of this debate) and arguments from personal experience (which by definition are only subject to critical examination by the recipient) serves to at least partially refute my opponents attack on the validity of a Christian belief system.

The Value of Christianity
Regardless of it's truth, or the rationality of it's adherents, Christian faith has a number of positive ramifications that can increase the personal happiness of Christians, and the personal happiness of non-Christians within the same society. There exists no 'should' or moral imperative for Atheists to attack Christian belief as a general rule (excepting rare occurrences where Christian conservative politics challenge say, Secular liberal politics). As religion, or at least Christian faith in the west is generally beneficial their exists an imperative to respect and protect it.

1: Personal comfort, arguably the reason why we have religion at all. There exists no reason for removing religious safety blankets in the name of politically correct truth, or an atheist agenda.

2: Christian Charities, such as the support given to homeless people.
http://www.christiantoday.co.uk...

3: Defence against Moral Nihilism. In the absence of religion there is no rational reason not to embrace moral nihilism, as moral nihilism denies all moral truth propositions and appeals to emotion the natural progression is towards concepts such as social Darwinism unrestricted egoism and pure self-interest. Not this is not intended as an argument for faith, but merely an argument to respect religion.

4: Economic benefits, Church donations combined with the tax exempt status enjoyed in the US unable religious organisations to generate wealth, which is reinvested back into charitable operations, reducing the burden on the Government, as well being spent on Church staff, buildings, publications, for the benefit of the overall economy.

5: Unless Religion is granted an artificial and arguably undeserved veneer of respect, Religion will naturally end up by being persecuted. All societies that have persecuted religious faith have become dictatorial and backward.
Debate Round No. 1
Dmetal

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for accepting this debate.

My opponent says, "Within Christian theology exists the sub-discipline of Christology, the specific study of the nature of Christ consisting both of the critical examination of what he did, what he said, and philosophical debates as to the nature of his divinity." The site , on the other hand, says, "The purpose of modern Christology is to formulate the Christian belief that "God became man and that God-made-man is the individual Jesus Christ"" (http://en.wikipedia.org...). This is not critical examination or engagement. The main character is not doubted or pressed to account for his extreme claims. This is essentially a rationalization for an irrational argument. We see this frequently in pseudoscience. For example, ufology is the study of ufo reports, and it is synonymous with alien visitation. In order to secure credibility, these individuals attach their work with scientific nomenclatures. Christology strives to do the same with Christ; it is a pseudoscience.

"The fact that I can demonstrate Christians who hold to rational self-critical faith shows that in certain instances rational atheists can and should respect Religion and so negates this particular argument."
Such an instance is not demonstrated here so far. My opponent is appealing to authority to prove his argument. Scientists and philosophers,like everyone else, can hold irrational beliefs, even ones that have nothing to do with religion. Finally, for this part, we should not base our beliefs upon exceptions but the general rule. Demonstrating one case of rational, logical, and critical belief in Christianity is not enough because there are still far more Christians who have never critically examined Christianity.

"Firstly much of our historical knowledge is based on limited documentation."
This is an attempt to shift the argument and his responsibility in refuting my claim. Although history is imperfect like I mentioned earlier, we do not contrive extreme beliefs from its accounts. I am not doubting whether Jesus existed but whether he did the things people claimed. The Crucifixion does not necessarily lead to the Resurrection. There are many fanciful stories in history, of which some may have a grain of truth. Troy, for example, may have been a real battle however, the battle does not lead to Achilles being nearly invincible. His image may be that of the heroic, talented Greek warriors.

"This prima facie case, when combined with arguments from logic... and arguments from personal experience (which by definition are only subject to critical examination by the recipient) serves to at least partially refute my opponents attack on the validity of a Christian belief system."
The survival of Christianity is not self-evidently a case for divine providence. Hinduism has existed much longer (3200-2500 BC. http://www.indianexcursion.net...). That, however, does not prove that it has maintained divine providence.
Personal experiences can be critically examined by others. For example, detectives can question and cross-examine a suspect to validate his/her story. When we speak about our experiences, we may leave holes or contradictory claims in our story that may cause a listener to disbelieve us. This can be seen in the Bible. Although I will not get into depth on this, the accounts of the Resurrection varies in who was present and how it occurred. This should cause readers to question the validity of the story. (Opponent if you do refute this, keep it brief because it is not the focus of our debate, and I would much dislike posting numerous, extensive Biblical passages). The point is that it's a case where readers should question the validity of the story.

The value of Christianity
I could just post the crimes that were committed in the name of Jesus, but I will refrain because it has very little to do with the rationality and the amount of respect a belief carries. Many irrational beliefs give people comfort, but this does not warrant our respect. Our respect for a belief should stand on its demonstrable truth, not how much comfort it gives us. All of the points my opponent raises have nothing to do with the validity of Christian beliefs. Sure we should respect the people who give to charity, no matter their religious affiliation; however, we should not immediately respect their personal beliefs, especially if they are founded on credulity. This last point is a very important issue. Groups should always be protected from violence; however, their beliefs should never be protected from scrutiny. Religion should be threatened by mental reason, not physical violence.
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

Christology
This is essentially a rationalization for an irrational argument. We see this frequently in pseudoscience. For example, ufology is the study of ufo reports, and it is synonymous with alien visitation. In order to secure credibility, these individuals attach their work with scientific nomenclatures. Christology strives to do the same with Christ; it is a pseudoscience.

My opponents attack is inaccurate for a number of reasons, firstly in an scientific or philosophical premise one has to make some sort of assumption to begin. In pure logical terms everything should be doubted, which would ultimately make any experiment or concept in invalid. In Christology it may be that the assumption is made that Jesus is divine, however as I have explored the fact that this is not in of itself an irrational premise, it is not an invalid assumption upon which to base a discipline. The charge of pseudo-science is also false, Christology does not proclaim itself as a science, so is therefore immune from the charge of pseudo-science. Christology is theology, theology is in essence philosophy. Philosophy is not psuedo-science but a separate area of study.

In reference to Pat Robertson my opponent states,
"My opponent is appealing to authority to prove his argument."

My opponent has incorrectly identified the logical fallacy of an appeal to authority. This fallacy is explained here.
http://en.wikipedia.org...

If I said, Pat Roberton argues that Christianity is rational, and he is clever, therefore Christianity is rational, that would be an appeal to authority.
However, what I have shown is that Pat Roberston holds to his theism due to rational reasons, of logic, science and personal experience. Not that he is an authority, not that he is clever, not that his conclusions are correct. Merely that he is a example of rational faith.

" Demonstrating one case of rational, logical, and critical belief in Christianity is not enough because there are still far more Christians who have never critically examined Christianity."

I predicted, pre-emptied and refuted this counterargument in my reply in round 1.
My opponents position is that Atheists should not respect Christian beliefs, all Christian beliefs, because all Christian beliefs are irrational. He has defined the debate, and he is arguing for a carpet judgement against all Christianity.

If the resolution was, "Atheism generally deserves more respect than Religion because religion tends to be irrational". My citation of Pat Robertson would be invalid. However as my opponent is arguing for all encompassing absolute, one exception to the rule is sufficient to negate his resolution.

With regards the historical record I can not argue this point any further, the historical record is incomplete. There is no true historical proof of the resurrection. My only counter-response can be that rational Christian faith (as I have demonstrated) is based on a number of sources, some historical, some logical, some from personal experience. If the only basis for Christian belief were the historical record my opponent would have a point here.

I will also accept that the survival of Christianity does not in of itself prove providence, or singularly provide a rational basis for Christian belief. However it is not irrational to pursue the idea that the unlikely survival of such an unfortunate little sect was anomalous and extraordinary in some way. Just in the same way that unexpected test result in the laboratory may cause a scientist to consider and pursue a bizarre line of thought.

"the accounts of the Resurrection varies in who was present and how it occurred. This should cause readers to question the validity of the story. "

In actual fact I believe the opposite is true, if the story was fabricated we would expect all versions of the Resurrection to tie closely into each other. As if all accounts were written by the same person, or the writers were akin to a group of criminals attempting to get their stories straight. Realistically human perceptions and memories are flawed, and eyewitness accounts from any 'exciting' event are more than likely to differ.

As proof of this,
http://www.rense.com...

With regards my counter-arguments on the value of belief my opponent cuts right to the chase where he says,

"Many irrational beliefs give people comfort, but this does not warrant our respect."

Why not? An old woman may believe that her cat loves her, a normal person would respect that, understanding that the belief is dearly held and is of much value. No one will normally care that cats are very selfish creatures, or that love is merely a chemical reaction without any deep meaning. The simple act of respecting something that is held in high esteem, because of the fact it is held in high esteem is valid in order to preserve individual happiness and the quality of social interaction.

Christian belief therefore warrants respect due to its the tremedous body of academic inquiry within it, the value and esteem it is held in, and the societal benefits (which my opponent has not really challenged) it brings.
Debate Round No. 2
Dmetal

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for taking this argument and conducting himself in a professional manner.
Many Christians, even theologians, have not actually engaged religion critically. Cristology is not critical engagement. That is true there are assumptions in science; however, those assumptions are only made when they must be made. For instance, we assume that we can trust our senses. Although Christology does not proclaim to be scientific ,though it uses historical (social scientific) evidence, scientific methodology should be applied to the claims it produces. This would allow for some sort of critical inquiry.

Disrespecting a belief is not the same as disrespecting a person. For instance, if someone believes that the earth is flat, it is not necessary for us to strip him/her of respect as a person; however, we should not respect his/her belief because there is contradictory evidence to it. This argument is not asking anyone to disrespect people but to disrespect beliefs. My opponent has claimed that Christianity deserves respect from atheists because it contains academic inquiry, people value it, and there exists certain economic and social benefits from it. Firstly,this kind of academic inquiry could hardly be called inquiry. When we inquire about something, we put everything on the line. Christology/ theology fail to actually inquire about the true, historical nature of the Bible and Christianity. Secondly, many people value various beliefs, many of of them unsubstantiated. This does not require our respect nor should it assume our respect. Thirdly, economic and social benefits such as helping the poor should be respected on their own terms regardless of a person's belief. Believe it or not, there are many unaffiliated people who improve society.

There exist many contradictions within the Bible (http://www.infidels.org...) (http://www.evilbible.com...) that should substantiate doubt, but many Christians seem unchanged by these evidences. Christians, in other words, are not willing to doubt their beliefs. I would gladly as would many atheists become Christian if certain criteria for evidence could be fulfilled. Of course, many atheists have problems with the miracles within the Bible and the morality therein, but if it was demonstrably true, that would be enough.

The question may arise how we can believe in and respect one's abstract concepts of love and happiness. These things are not demonstrable, but we still believe in them and respect people's feelings towards them; however, they are not in any way similar to the claims that Christianity is making. These claims are historical while abstractions are emotional and attached to an individual. If I say I'm happy, that is something completely different than claiming to be God. Such extreme claims should not be accepted by faith alone; it would be credulous to do so. Because of the lack of evidence and the existence of contradictory evidence, atheists should not respect religious beliefs.
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

I would also like to thank my opponent for a well argued and enjoyable debate.

Christology
I accept my opponents statements that Christology is not analogous to science, and that it does not challenge the core assumptions upon which the subject is based. However Christology still represents centuries of intensive philosophical work. This makes it analogous to science, which in many cases is the application of philosophy to assumptions. Christology can not test the divinity of Jesus in the laboratory, yet many scientific assumptions are also beyond the realms of empirical enquiry. It is for these reasons that I find my opponents conjecture that Christianity is irrational and therefore unworthy of respect to be mistaken.

My opponent states,
"Disrespecting a belief is not the same as disrespecting a person. For instance, if someone believes that the earth is flat, it is not necessary for us to strip him/her of respect as a person; however, we should not respect his/her belief because there is contradictory evidence to it. This argument is not asking anyone to disrespect people but to disrespect beliefs".

My opponent raises a good point, however the analogy is not sound. The claim that the world is flat can be proven to be false beyond reasonable doubt with the most minimal of effort, the claim that Christianity is false is a subject of numerous arguments and counter-arguments and ongoing debate. Flat earthers have an irrational belief, I do not believe that my opponent has made the case that Christianity is of itself an irrational belief.

My opponent states,
There exist many contradictions within the Bible (http://www.infidels.org......) (http://www.evilbible.com......) that should substantiate doubt, but many Christians seem unchanged by these evidences. Christians, in other words, are not willing to doubt their beliefs.

I am not going to challenge the contention that the bible contains contradiction, however the mistake my opponent makes is that he treats Christianity as a monolithic body of fundamentalists. In reality Christianity is literally a broad church, some Christians are absolute literalises, others stress the importance of context, some claim that much of the bible is allegorical, others that it was simply 'inspired'. There are Christian churches specifically tailored to the homosexual community, this would be possible if there existed no Christians that challenge their belief system or the bible.

My opponent argues
"I would gladly as would many atheists become Christian if certain criteria for evidence could be fulfilled. Of course,
many atheists have problems with the miracles within the Bible and the morality therein, but if it was demonstrably true, that would be enough."

I agree with this, however that is not to say that Christianity has not met a rational standard of evidence for some people. It has not met my criteria, but it has met the criteria of many others. Some more intelligent than us, some less so. It is rare for a single idea, even when well substantiated to reach full consensus with all rational humans. In addition the measure of Christianity is not simply held to be through logic, or scientific evidence.

A rational Christian, such as the aforementioned David Robertson, has based their faith on logic, evidence and personal experience. This is how any rational person forms a rational opinion on any subject. It is worth pointing out that my opponent has not managed to negate the existence of his rational Christianity.

"The question may arise how we can believe in and respect one's abstract concepts of love and happiness. These things are not demonstrable, but we still believe in them and respect people's feelings towards them; however, they are not in any way similar to the claims that Christianity is making. These claims are historical while abstractions are emotional and attached to an individual. If I say I'm happy, that is something completely different than claiming to be God. Such extreme claims should not be accepted by faith alone;"

I am not not claiming that such claims should be accepted by faith alone, however nor do all Christians make this statement. My argument is that immaterial of the truth of Christianity, Christian belief need to be respected because of the value and psychological benefits it may bring to a believer. A delusion, may be sensibly defined as a belief that in some way debilitates the person who holds to it. A rational Christian, who has logical reasons for faith, draws strength and a sensation of grace from prayer, and whose life is uplifted by such deserves that his beliefs are respected. That Christian may be wrong, so too may the atheist. If they both declare that they have rational reasons for their belief then by my opponents criteria such beliefs should be respected.

On a final note I would like to draw a parallel of the "third man syndrome" http://en.wikipedia.org.... This is a widely reported phenomena in which people in extreme survival situations 'hallucinate' one or more people, who have come to their assistance. In a number of instances such entities have actually saved the lives of the people involved.

I would argue that such an experience is analogous to religion (though admittedly an extreme example) in that,
1: The people who experience it both hold faith, and question the nature of the existence of 'the third' man to varying degrees as religious people hold to or question the truth of their faith. Some will wonder if it is a genuine supernatural contact, others that it is merely a quirk of the brain. Both rational theories.
2: Such a belief has been beneficial, as the third man has frequently led people to safety.

It is for these reasons that I find that my opponent has no sufficiently substantiated his case, and that I hold that atheists should respect religious belief.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Dmetal 6 years ago
Dmetal
Seems like a lot of people here must respect the beliefs of white supremacists because, after all, you have to respect ALL beliefs.
Posted by GodSands 6 years ago
GodSands
This is so self refuting, all the atheists here are using this site which DOES respect religion beliefs. Surly those who truly do not respect religious beliefs, would not respect this website, which does.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
A nice, literate debate.

The Golden Rule is a religious belief, common to many religions. Because it is religious belief, should it therefore not be respected? At best Pro argued that some religious beliefs ought to be respected.

there is a semantic issue over the meaning of "respected." The common definition is close to "tolerated" or "not insulted." Pro was arguing as if it meant "accepted as true." Con didn't cash in on that very well, but it was in the Con arguments.
Posted by forever2b 6 years ago
forever2b
This argument seems like something Hitler would say. :( We need tolerance and respect, after all we are all nothing but humans.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
This debate was close it came down to :

"I accept my opponents statements that Christology is not analogous to science, and that it does not challenge the core assumptions upon which the subject is based. However Christology still represents centuries of intensive philosophical work. This makes it analogous to science, which in many cases is the application of philosophy to assumptions. Christology can not test the divinity of Jesus in the laboratory, yet many scientific assumptions are also beyond the realms of empirical enquiry. It is for these reasons that I find my opponents conjecture that Christianity is irrational and therefore unworthy of respect to be mistaken."

I have a number of issues with this, science is not philosophy applied to assumptions (that would be the philosophy of science), scientific assertions are also not beyond the realm of empirical evaluation and the main contention was about assertions not assumptions in Religion. That, and similar other sections gave the balance to Pro, I also felt the main contention was missed which was you should not respect faith, and the simpler way to contend this would be to attack the foundation, not try to argue that Religion is not faith.

For example, I love my wife, should you not respect my feelings towards my wife, it was in the beginning based on a purely emotional connection, and not in any way reasoned, just felt. However should my friends and family not respect that feeling? Should they have demanded that in order for them to respect that I would have had to conduct experiments on the relationship, and/or subject it to critical evaluation, or is the feeling enough alone for them to respect the relationship? That I would think would have been the obvious way to attack the argument, and it parallels the development that people go through with God (and some move closer and some move away, same with wives).
Posted by NomadJD 6 years ago
NomadJD
I think that all beliefs should be respected. There is no possible way to know you are correct. But, however, debating seems fine. :) It is a healthy way of disrespecting someone.
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
sod it, I will take it anyway...
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
If you permit me to use an additional definition of respect from your link then I will accept this.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
DmetalCerebral_NarcissistTied
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Reasons for voting decision: A good debate, well presented by both sides. It comes down to arguments about when to respect beliefs one thinks poorly founded. I think Pro won the Christology contention, but lost the more important contention of benefit to society. It is how beliefs are acted upon that counts for society, and excesses of the Middle Ages do not offset current teaching of morality and practice of charity.
Vote Placed by M.Hernandez 6 years ago
M.Hernandez
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Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by SurvivingAMethodology 6 years ago
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