Free thought is not synonymous with atheism
Debate Rounds (5)
Here's the structure as follows:
Round One: Acceptance
Round Two: Opening arguments
Round Three: Rebuttals to opening arguments (No new arguments will be made.)
Round Four: Further rhetorical exchanges between rebuttals
Round five: Closing statements
Good luck to whoever accepts.
While I am not attempting to alter the proposition in any way, it should be clarified what exactly I will be attempting to prove. Atheism does not possess the sole claim on free thought, nor do all the faithful lack it, but atheism is directly derived from free thought, and with few exceptions, is practiced by nearly all its members.
With that cleared, per the rules my opponent will submit their opening argument, and may this debate be a fruitful and enlightening exchange. Good luck!
"Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more truth, beauty, happiness, and wisdom will come to you that way."
"The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but how it thinks."
Both are quotes from the late atheist polecemist Christopher Hitchens. Personally, i agree 100% with these statements; however, the ideas and thought processes behind them are what i disagree with wholeheartedly.
As we all know, Hitchens was an outspoken advocate of "free thought", or to put it in a word that doesn't betray their thoughts, atheism. He and many other leaders of the New Age Atheism propagated throughout the spans of their careers, that if you learned to think for yourself by omitting and escaping religion's supposed tyranny and dogma, atheism would inevitably follow, and the person would be a "free thinker." But what is free thought really? Is it pandering to the words of atheists like Hitchens and being taught religion is inherently evil? That you shouldn't have to choose between the two and would have your sanity questioned if you chose religion? I think not. A real free thinker decides what path to go down without being swayed by every word of both sides, or mindlessly following the words of just one. Atheism, as the New Age sort has demonstrated, is by no means neutral on anything. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a religion, but it's definitely a mindset and paradigm in itself, and like all paradigms, is susceptible to the same closed mindedness the religious are accused of.
But the topic of our debate isn't about which side is right, it's whether or not free thought always leads to atheism, which i am arguing against in this debate for the reasons i outlined above.
Premise one: Atheism has its own message, or doctrine, if you will.
As I said earlier, atheism is in no way neutral in the war of the worldviews. I gave an example at the beginning of how this is very true and relevant. Its message is that to have a free mind, you must be free from religion. But what about being free from atheism? Surely each side in a conflict has its own bias, and this isn't an exception. Atheists are just as guilty of closedmindedness as many of the religious are. Which i will expand on and leads me to my next premise.
Premise two: Nobody should put a specific label on what free thought is based on or precedes.
As i pointed out already, each side in a conflict will be blind to each other to an extent. Atheists will tell you freedom of the mind is freedom from religion, while the religious will say that religion encompasses a freedom from ignorance of a higher power and enlightenment. So who's right?
The answer is neither.
You can never truly put a label on what free thought will unequivacably precede. The answer is that true free thought will lead you to whatever you want it to; not Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or Atheism. But with all of these influences, is free thought possible? I say yes it is. Even though we live in a society that tends to spoon feed us our worldviews, it's still always going to come down to the person's choice if they've been exposed to society. I am not saying that atheists don't possess such an ability, since it was free thought that led them there; but my point is that free thought never leads to just one outcome universally. Because we are all unique, it'll lead to wherever you want. The difference is how informed each person is about these issues, then rational thinking would follow.
Free thought never universally encompasses one thing. No matter what or how many outside influences there are, it will always come down to the person's choice in the very end.
I look forward to your opening arguments.
Now, according to the rules my opponent set forth, I must hold off until next round to rebut his argument, so do not believe I have neglected to conduct that duty. For this reason, my opening round is reserved for arguments only, rather than responses.
While reading previous debates of my opponent (quite impressive, I might add), I noticed a quote on his profile by the extreme creationist Ken Ham, where it is claimed that atheists have "decided right from the start that there is no God", and therefore lose their intellectual prowess when combating the other side. I find this interesting, as Ham admits that atheists have "decided" to not believe in God. Here, Ken Ham unintentionally reveals the starkest difference between faith and atheism; atheism is something that you decide, whereas one"s religious apologies are decided for them, at a time when they are vulnerable to such petty claims. Religious indoctrination of children approaches 100% in most of the world (1). While there seemed to be no similar statistics for atheist parents, it is interesting to note that only about 30% of children raised by atheists retain a non-belief in God (2); that is to say, they were not taught otherwise by their parents. Even though 70% of children raised by atheists ultimately profess a faith in a theistic God, between childhood and adulthood, atheism still makes gains in numbers, and is in fact the only belief system that can boast a net increase in members as people get older. (3) To summarize what this means, the facts imply that a majority of people who become atheists leave their parent religion. Therefore, by definition, an atheist "decides" what to believe, often in spite of their parents, instead of being told what faith they practice.
It could be argued, however, that people abandon their religion for reasons not considered "free-thought". Luckily, research sheds light on this as well. Of all the reasons for leaving a faith and/or deserting the God hypothesis, the top three were lack of evidence, moral grievances, and statistic unlikelihood or absurdity. (4) Nowhere on the list could the statements "because Richard Dawkins said so" or "because I was raised that way" be found.
To conclude this section, statistics prove that a vast majority of disbelievers make a personal choice to become believers for very rational reasons, in direct contrast to those who believe in a God.
The Desire Not to Disbelieve
Most atheists would agree that the personal and caring God that religions allege exists would make a glorious creator if He existed. While there are some exceptions (eg. Christopher Hitchens (5) ), most atheists, including me, wish for a divine and eternal paradise, and dread the irreversible cessation of the consciousness that I strongly suspects awaits me upon death. This is backed up by surveys which show atheists as the minority least joyfull, as just 57% declared themselves "very happy". (6) So a nonbelief in God does not fill people with a great sense of excitement, nor do its devotees wish for a cold universe without a divine creator. But, what again sets atheism apart from religion is that we hold these intellectual positions anyway. The willingness to oppose something that someone wishes to believe automatically indicates a strong and sensible opposition to that belief. It is those who refuse an inviting opinion that can claim a monopoly on enlightenment and free thought, not those who embrace it and anticipate their reward.
Religion and the Impossible Claim
To argue their belief, a religious person absolutely must allege to know that which they cannot know. An important reason why atheists hold an advantage is their ability to say "I don"t know" when discussing creation and the universe. While I will readily admit that I have no earthily Idea how the universe began, or how life first evolved, my opponent will say he does know, and in fact must say he knows, not just how the universe was created, but how all should arbitrate their lifestyle, right down to making love. Atheists hold the greatest free-thought admission in existence, that one does not know everything. This is free-thought in essence, "the faculty of thinking or reasoning" (7), wanting to discover the truth, rather than claiming to already know. In this way, atheism is synonymous with free thought.
The fact that 50% of scientists are atheists, and the numbers growing as more and more elite scientists are surveyed, lend credence to atheism as free thought. (8) Science is free thought in essence, and the scientific method promises thorough investigation and discussion of every "discovery". That the percentage of religious scientists have always been lower than the general population implies something important: that those whose job it is to be free thinkers, and who are the greatest free thinkers of our time, find no reason to believe in a God.
As I am writing this before my opponent has posted his opening statements, I cannot predict his points, but I suspect that he will claim that top atheists are preachers who demand the same adherence as priests and imams. However, it must be noted that the great atheists of our generation, such as Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, are all incredibly learned men who can are far superior to their supporters and have an inherent right to speak on the topic they claim to know about. The same cannot be said about religion, which takes a far more political posture, choosing good speakers and charismatic preachers over the intelligencia. The willingness of atheists to follow those who might not be brilliant orators or socialites, but instead people who know what they"re talking about, shows a need to hear evidence over dogma and examinable theory over doctrine, suggesting, once again, free thought.
One will hear it commonly said that atheists have not considered all their options, nor questioned their own belief, a misconception that I should briefly respond to before concluding. According to a study reported in Time Magazine and the LA Times, atheists and agnostics both know more than the religious about faith and the various holy books. (9). I would dissect this study myself, but the Times, quite a balanced resource, delivers a harsher criticism of religion on this point then I could.
"The study concluded that those who reject faith often do so after growing up in a religious household, and studying and deliberating keeping the faith. Also, atheists and agnostics tend to be better educated in general. Why did Christians do so poorly? It may be because once someone accepts a faith, they stop examining it." (10)
This report leads into a great conclusion of my opening statement. Atheists ignore the indoctrinating influence of their family and peers, and put their own innate desire for religion aside, look at all the options, and ultimately decide not to believe in a God. This is free thought at its most elegant, and I charge my opponent to disagree. Good luck to my adversary, and I eagerly await his next entry.
(1)(2) (3) http://www.patheos.com...
(9) (10) http://newsfeed.time.com...
Rebuttal to "Childhood Indoctrination"
As my opponent has demonstrated, we both know that atheists practice free thought, but is it exclusive to atheism? Because that is what the main idea of the debate is about.
I think "indoctrination" should be defined for everyone here:
the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view: religious indoctrination."(1)
So essentially, indoctrination in any form is necessary for our children, be it religious or not. It is up to the parents to teach or indoctrinate their children with the right morals and to strengthen their moral compass throughout their childhood until they are old enough to think for themselves. On a fundamental and absolute level, when you take all the devious out of the picture, this would be the idea behind religion, too. Most children, as they"re growing up, learn to question their faith when they get older. Whether or not they keep it is up to them.(2) To sum up my rebuttals here, indoctrination is necessary in the form or moral strength, whatever form it may come in; and that children will end up questioning it regardless and either stay or leave their faith. The same applies to all teaching and indoctrination as far as morality goes.
Rebuttal to "The Desire Not to Disbelieve"
Again, many believers (including me) are willing to question their beliefs and stand them up to the tests of human logic and understanding. And also, I would like to point out that almost anything can be abused to claim a monopoly on free thought; not just religion. But even if religion has been abused more than others, does not mean religion in itself claims a monopoly on enlightenment.
Rebuttal to "Religion and the Impossible Claim"
Admittedly, my opponent presents the most reasonable argument here as it is easy to believe religion claims to know all and many followers portray it that way. However, this is not so, depending on what realm you are talking about. (Physical and metaphysical) You will always find people who are closed minded and claim to know everything just because they have religion. Yes, I believe God was the metaphysical cause behind the universe, but what physical mechanism was used? Why not keep searching and further our knowledge and understanding of the universe? The Bible, for example, tells us that God created the universe, but it doesn"t tell us what physical mechanism He used. (e.g Big Bang) It"s up to us to find out. Essentially, I believe God caused it all, but I will readily admit I don"t what happened to bring the universe into existence. That's why we have science is to find out how.
"One will hear it commonly said that atheists have not considered all their options, nor questioned their own belief, a misconception that I should briefly respond to before concluding. According to a study reported in Time Magazine and the LA Times, atheists and agnostics both know more than the religious about faith and the various holy books. (9). I would dissect this study myself, but the Times, quite a balanced resource, delivers a harsher criticism of religion on this point then I could.
"The study concluded that those who reject faith often do so after growing up in a religious household, and studying and deliberating keeping the faith. Also, atheists and agnostics tend to be better educated in general. Why did Christians do so poorly? It may be because once someone accepts a faith, they stop examining it.""
I did mention in my opening argument that free thought would lead to either one, my argument centers on the assertion that free thought will not always lead to atheism. There are many atheists and religious people that go through long periods and journeys of questioning before reaching their destination. So with that in mind, I believe this is largely irrelevant unless my opponent can prove otherwise.
I look forward to hearing my opponent"s rebuttals and wish him good luck in what"s turning out to be a good debate.
Now, I believe my opponent is unclear on the position I am attempting to hold and prove. To show that I indeed clarify my opinion in the first round, I will quote myself. "Atheism does not possess the sole claim on free thought, nor do all the faithful lack it, but atheism is directly derived from free thought, and with few exceptions, is practiced by nearly all its members." To paraphrase, I do not contend that the religious cannot be free-thinkers, or that free-thinkers must always conclude an atheistic perspective, but that atheists practice free-thought, and that atheism perpetuates this by definition.
Based on the last round, the proposition has shifted from "atheism is synonymous to free thought" to "some religious people believe what they do on a rational basis". My adversary spends more time in his rebuttal defending the religious then attacking my position on the actual contention. While perhaps I was too harsh on theists in my opening gambit, I mean not to attack religion, but to compare it to its antithesis and thus prove that only one side of the debate utilizes free-thought.
I will begin with rebuttals to my opponent's introduction.
While the irony of the "atheist doctrine" is used intentionally by Pro to draw comparison with religion, he ought to recognize the fallacy of the statement. In the context of Church, a doctrine is something taught, and which must be believed in order to count oneself as a member of that Church. For example, a recent Catholic dogma established that to achieve redemption, one absolutely must be a Catholic. (1) If your truly believe in the infallibility and authority of the Pope, this has to be believed, or you are not Catholic. Atheism practices so such injustice. Christopher Hitchens never promulgated that to be called an atheist, you must hate the God hypothesis like he did, or that his word is atheistic law. Atheism has no infallible leaders, and so does not work by doctrines. Instead, the only unifying factor for non-believers is, in fact, atheism itself.
This point I believe stems from confusion over the stance I have chosen to take, but it still conducts an attack on my argument that atheists are free thinkers. Indeed, free-thought does not take a side in a debate; there are many great religious thinkers, including Dr. William Lane Craig. (2) I cannot emphasize this point profusely enough. However, a philosophical view can have its grounding entirely in free-thought, and this gain an advantage in the discoid, and this is what I am attempting to prove, and what my opening statement addressed. So to judge the legitimacy of this contention, one must decide whether my points stand.
How, I must ask, in good conscience can my opponent make the statement that children's faith "Whether or not they keep it is up to them." So children are ultimately left to believe what they like? Bringing children involuntarily to Church every week, making them participate in daily prayers, and reminding them often that they are watched over by a omnipotent deity isn't indoctrination? How, then, do 84% of Catholic children "choose" to remain in their parent's religion? (3). No, a vast majority of kids raised by theistic parents do not, and cannot make an uninfluenced decision, and what victims will be willing to believe, if taught young, is astounding. (4)
To say that from infancy, humans should be taught moral is admirable. So why not transmit morals? Perhaps the readers disagree, but must these ethics be accompanied with fanciful tales of Gods, prophets and betrayals? Must one must allege to know everything in order to do this? Not only is this additional teaching unnecessary, but contains many detestable moments. I would submit that the genocide of Amalekites, children sacrifice, and vicarious redemption do not form a strong core for a good and moral life. It should also be mentioned that like the creation of the universe, morals are also opinions, and while youth should be instructed on the basics (eg. don't murder), specifics, like the morality of sex before marriage, should be left for them.
The Impossible Claim
Once again, I defer to the fair-mindedness of the readers, but did I ever suggest that religion stunted scientific discovery? No, oftentimes theists are vague on what utilities God based His creation on, but that does not forgive the greatest unknowable claim of all: that there is a deity in the first place. Furthermore, "how to be good" would not inherently suggest itself as a topic for preachers and not intellectuals. Not to mention the untenable fables corresponded to the faithful every Sunday. However, my intention was to show the superiority of the atheist position, and the ability to admit not knowing certain facts, a point my opponent did not respond to, in my judgement.
The Desire Not to Disbelieve
Once again, did I propose that religion contended a monopoly on enlightenment? Instead, this argument illustrated why atheism is, automatically, by definition, the product of free-thought. I await a response to this.
Pro sums up his argument well by saying "there are many atheists and religious people that go through long periods and journeys of questioning before reaching their destination." I apologize, sir, the facts simply don't support this conclusion, and I patiently await statistics that establish otherwise. My opponent is not permitted to assert a new proposition, or ignore the current one. The onus is on me to prove the proposition, not on my opponent to defend the opposite position.
Good luck to Pro in his next round!
I would like to clarify that the reason I am defending religion more is to argue that atheism isn't synonymous with free thought, which is the point of our debate; ergo, I don't see where the proposition has shifted as I am attempting to argue for the rationality and the free thought many of the faithful possess. I apologize if I was unclear.
I suppose I should begin with our rhetorical exchanges, or rebuttals to rebuttals if you will.
I didn't exactly say that atheism was a doctrine; I said it could be treated like one but what I said was that it has its own message; which is that freedom of the mind is freedom from religion. As I said in my opening argument I am referring to only the New Age Atheism. Yes, I do realize that Hitchens never said that about atheism; however, I remember him comparing religious people to North Korea, hinting at such.(1) I would also like to add that I do believe many religious practices are unjust. But like I am talking about the New Age Atheism in general, I think it would be fair to speak of religion in general, too. When looked at the broadest scope, religion wouldn't be unjust in this sense. If I were to bring up every atheist in history who's demonstrated evil on behalf of getting rid of religion. (e.g. Joseph Staling, Pol Pot.), it would rather spoil our debate. I didn't say atheism was evil because of these people, and I don't believe religion in general should be seen as such because of Catholic Dogma.
My opponent has a rather excellent and hard to refute rebuttal here, but I'll do what I can.
Like I said, I am arguing that the New Age Atheism is not synonymous with free thought, as it takes a direct opposition to religion as many atheist organizations have demonstrated. (American Atheists, Freedom From Religion Foundation, etc.) I am not arguing the superiority of anything, as far as I can tell. I am arguing, however, that free thought does not always lead to atheism.
I apologize, but does this mean children are to be protected by outside influences entirely and to be left to their own devices to make up their minds about morality? It simply isn't possible in today's world. And I meant when children grow up and become adults long after their indoctrination.
Children, in public schools, are taught or "indoctrinated" with evolution whether or not it's agreed with by the children. Although I am not opposed to it, I am using this to make the point that children are exposed to influences that are disagreed with by many other people. I am not making a point on whether or not it's true. There is not way to make a completely uninfluenced decision, but that's not to say that free thought is still impossible. Influences are all a part of thinking for yourself in that they give one something to think about.
For the second part of my opponent's rebuttal, I notice that he brings up the morally deplorable moments in scripture. However, I fail to see where any of this is actually condoned. Just because it's mentioned, doesn't mean it's condoned for everyone who reads it. For example, the Old Testament Laws, if you read carefully, were only given to the children of Israel, and not Christians. That took place many millennia before Christ was born. Ergo, it cannot and does not have binding on believers today. So taking this into consideration, scripture can be viewed as maybe historical accounts with many moral teachings weaved into it. And like I said, children, in order to practice free thought, must be exposed to as much as possible. In our world today, that doesn't seem to be a problem.
The Impossible Claim
To say that religion claims to know everything would also claim that it has no interest in moving forward. So this would be the natural assumption to make about its influence on science derived from this argument against religion. And I believe I responded to my opponent's point, did I not? He mentions that religion claims to know everything, and unless I'm mistaken, I rebutted by saying that it doesn't and explaining how.
The Desire Not to Disbelieve
You mentioned that atheists hold their intellectual positions anyway, regardless of the dread of death, and said that it sets it apart from religion. So naturally I assumed that this was what my adversary was contending since atheism would be the product of free thought. I apologize if I was wrong.
Anyway, I'm not sure why I need to provide statistics. I thought I clearly referred to adults who hadn't grown up atheist or grown up religious and came to either one later in life. That would be a product of free thought, would it not? After those impressionable childhood years, these types of decisions are a lot bigger than they would be back then. But if Con still wants me to produce statistics, by all means I will.
Good luck to Con in the next couple of days!
When I said that Pro was taken a far too defensive stance, my intention was to remind everyone of the point of this debate, and my position which I laid out in the opening round. Perhaps there have been too many stones launched at religion in my rebuttals, but the proposition remains not that the faithful are devoid of free thought, but that, essentially without exception, atheists are free-thinkers.
Premise 1: Doctrine
Indeed, Christopher Hitchens once said "take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more truth, beauty, happiness, and wisdom will come to you that way". (From earlier in the debate) (1) Now, this seems quite at odds to what my opponent considers the atheist attitude, which is that the liberation of the mind leads to liberation from religion. Chrisopher Hitchens, one of the less mild atheist intellectuals, did not say that free thought can only be granted to atheists, or that theists cannot practice it, but instead that enlightenment in truth, happiness, and understanding stem from free thinking. While his words in context imply atheism, they in no way command disbelief, or assign free thinking solely upon it.
Despite my adversary"s errant view of the atheist "doctrine", I must agree with the statement. But you will notice that "freedom from religion" is not equivalent to a disbeliever, but instead suggests a kind of exemption from the dogmatic principles thrust upon the religious; to be free from religion does not necessarily mean to abandon it, but to question its deepest contentions, and look at the discrepancies with an open mind.
Christopher Hitchen"s likening of heaven to North Korea is an effective, if strident, argument. That is the key word. While many atheists share this view, that in no way requires it of all atheists, or excludes atheists who disagree, such as me. By definition, Christopher and others" ideas are arguments, not doctrines, and should not be compared in this way to religious tenets.
Premise 2: This point it seems ought to be dropped. This premise relies almost entirely on the following arguments, and should be judged on that basis. So this contention should not be forgotten, but addressing it at this point in the discussion is arbitrary.
However pleasurable it would be to write a full defense of why children should be left to decide personal morality, suffice it to say that core ethics need not, and should not come complete with a holy book and a priest demanding conformity. What if it was decided that to teach infants morality, the youth must be commandeered into a political party? The only difference being that the Democrats and Republicans don"t threaten eternal torture on their followers. Humans are naturally instilled with a sense of morality that does not require emotional blackmail or dogma.
To compare religious indoctrination with evolution reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of science. There are some trivial scientific facts that one must take for granted, but even children in classrooms are permitted to see science in action, and witness, for example, how evolution works. If Pro doubts some concrete scientific knowledge, with some money and time it is inevitably testable. The few parts of religion that can be experimented on, such as the effectiveness of praying, do not end well for the faithful. (2)
I suppose that I must accept Pro"s reasoning for why Christians need not heed the polemic actions of God in the Old Testament, but immorality flows immutably from everyone Holy Scripture. How about in the New Testament when God says, "I will strike her children dead." (3)The only point here is that the Bible is not a morally pure work, and cannot be proscribed to vulnerable youth as the ultimate guidebook for ethics.
The Impossible Claim
No, religion does not claim to know everything, but that does not excuse the fact that it claims to know the unknowable, and to understand the understandable, and to be the solution to the universe and to the apocalypse, as well as the place to achieve salvation and absolute morality. These ridiculous assertions do not indicate free though on the part of the preachers or their flock. Against, a defense of religion by Pro, but no refutation as to why atheism"s refusal to bend to such allegations does connote free thought.
The Desire Not to Disbelieve
I further await a response as to why atheists" holding to this position despite wanting to believe the opposite is not indicative of free thought. Racking the brain does not find any other feasible and relevant response to this premise.
This entire debate seems to hinges on a misunderstanding of the propositions: to me, proving that some religious people are free-thinkers does not constitute a defeat to my position, as I made clear in every single round since the beginning that I did not contend that theists are incapable of free-thought, or that the opening of one"s mind leads inexorably to disbelief. With that said, the only premise that I feel my opponent has combated me at all in the way of my clearly stated stand is his first premise regarding doctrine. Other than that, nothing Pro has said indicates an explanation of why some atheists are not free-thinkers.
To sum up my whole argument here, the New Age Atheism seems just as susceptible to closed-mindedness as the religious are. However, it appears we have both misunderstood each other to an extent here. My intentions were to show that atheism wasn't synonymous with free thought, while my opponent had to show that it was. So that is why I spent much time defending religion; to show that it wasn't synonymous with any particular thing, especially atheism.
Like my opponent contends about religion, I do not claim that atheists in general are not free thinkers. But the reason I instigated this was to argue that atheism is not neutral and free thought doesn't inevitably lead to it. That was what Con was to argue against.
Either way, it was a great and spirited debate nonetheless, and I want to thank my opponent for accepting it to begin with.
New Age Atheism is far more aggressive, argumentative, and confrontational, but none of these things yields conformity or laziness. If anything, modern atheist's love of debate and anti-theism insured and maintains the reason and free-thought that is atheism. For the reason detailed in this debate, atheism is a manifestation of free-thought! and cannot be otherwise! points I feel my opponent t has failed to properly rebut. With that said, it is up to readers to judge whose arguments held better ground.
Once again, best of luck to my opponent in voting.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sswdwm 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate was just too close for me to vote objectively. Plus I have some bias. So my vote is a draw. Sorry :-( Great debate though, although I got a bit lost on the resolution, and thought both were missing the point a bit.
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