Why We Leave

December 31, 2010 at 4:07 am 24 comments

Religious people often make the case that people like being atheists, agnostic, or just non-believing because then they can “do whatever they want”. The idea is simple: if there is no god, there is no one watching you when you are alone and therefore there are no consequences as long as you can get away with something. In other words, atheists can turn a blind eye to their own actions.

The last couple of years I have watched in utter astonishment as “True Christian” after “True Christian” have on the one hand turned their eye to corruption around them and on the other self-righteously and tirelessly stood up for their favorite principles. It seems as if turning the blind eye is completely subjective and is not limited to the atheists. It is a human problem.

Along with this observation, I have had another question floating around in the back of my mind: why is it that some of us leave and some stay Christian? How is it that tiny details can drive one person to leave their faith while others can simply ignore them completely and act as if they are honestly no big deal?

For example, it may bother a good Christian woman endlessly to hear a swear word or be in the company of someone who is drinking alcohol but when it comes to sending troops to die in Iraq for what might be a trumped-up war… she can honestly act like it is not her problem and that they are serving the Lord by giving their lives up. A person can whine about a little wine and praise Jesus over a dead relative in battle?

For secularists things like this bother us enormously. We feel a sense that overwhelming injustice is being done by our fellow humans.Vote for a Christian Republican who supports creationism and refuses to even read the evidence for evolution? Be against abortion even in the case of rape? Teach the Bible is inerrant when there are so many “obvious” errors? Support Palin?

Outrageous!

It seems that in order to pick our battles we do have to turn our blind eye to things.

I have seen Christians ignore blatant Bible contradictions by changing the topic or inventing – on the spot – an explanation that seems reasonable enough that they can just move on. Or they simple shoulder the responsibility onto their pastor, elders, or “experts”. In the end, textual contradictions do not exist as long as the believer feels that resolving them is not their responsibility. And even when many believers make a crack at giving an answer, they often assume the Bible is still inerrant even if someone can knock a hole in every harmony they can give.

In other words, “it is not my problem!”.

The Christian is doing what every human does everyday: shouldering responsibility on others to relive their own stress.

As an atheist I have made the mistake of assuming that every Christian should feel the sense of responsibility to defend the entire Bible, creationism, or the logical contradictions with the concept of God as I did when I felt convicted to abandon Christianity altogether. In other words, it was almost as if I wanted to say “hey look, I felt this massive responsibility, why don’t you?” I feel disrespected, like a person who set out to clean up a massive mess and discovered a problem and no one else even thinks there is a mess. It makes me feel alone and like keeping things clean is a lost cause.

And I think that for many of us who leave a religion of some sort, we probably all – at some point – felt responsible for something others did not. We set out with noble motives to shoulder a weight that others had refused to pick up or had only loosely dealt with. When we discovered the only resolution involved a complete cleanup of our worldview, we looked around in astonishment that nobody else felt the huge weight we did.

The truth is that a belief in god can be a great peace-bringer because it gives us a being upon whom to shoulder all the weight of responsibility in the end. It allows us to remove responsibility from ourselves. It allows us to turn a blind eye to problems and simply follow up every accusation with “well, that is the Lord’s business and He is in control.”

So why do some of us leave then, when it could be so easy to just shoulder all the responsibility for our religion’s every problem onto a deity?

We leave because we started being responsible. We started seeing the millions of people dying of starvation yearly and supposedly going to hell, or the increasing global warmth, or the poor handling of scientific data, or the discrepancies in our holy text, and we said “I am responsible to resolve these issues.”

And what do we call it when a person starts to shoulder more and more responsibility rather than expecting others to take care of it for him?

Growing up.

Entry filed under: Josh. Tags: .

Drifter, Rebel, Modernist…? Peace or the Sword?

24 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Analyst  |  December 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    My working hypothesis is that 98% of people cannot think logically. Trying to get them to do this is as futile as trying to teach a dog to use a can opener.

    You see this clearly when you read apologist books. The arguments they use are illogical and they have to desperately avoid the many other problems of religion.

    Even more clear are the ‘intellectual’ efforts of apologists who ‘reply’ to books such as those by Harris, Dawkins or Hitchens. It’s like dragging your brain through a swamp – backwards.

    Always remember this if you are on trial – the people who will ‘judge’ you literally cannot think.

    Be afraid.

  • 2. Joshua  |  December 31, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Thinking logically, I suppose, is a purely practice-based skill. Rarely does someone get born thinking that way. People are born programmed to be trained by their parents and local community like many other living organisms.

    For me, I just spent years learning to computer program and, naturally, that taught me to think critically about *everything*.

    I never imagined those skills would boil down to affecting my faith. Apparently some people do not make the connection between the skills they learn with computers and their faith, but for me the connection was made.

    I guess we’re all different and yeah, probably should be afraid.

    On the other hand, not much you can do about the inability of others to think other than to outsmart them if you can.

  • 3. Ubi Dubium  |  January 1, 2011 at 3:39 am

    I think religions have had thousands of years to develop their “immune systems”. The religions that have competed and survived to the present day are the ones that are best at winning and keeping converts. Any religion that is easy to leave will not last.

    Which still leaves the question of why some of us are able to do it. Since many de-converts spent many years as fervent believers, it can’t be just a natural resistance. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and figuring out what it is about human nature that leads people into religion, and I’m pretty comfortable with the answers I’ve found. I think I need to spend more time and conversation on what let us escape. Could it be something as simple as “we finally grew up”?

  • 4. Richard  |  January 2, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I’ve often wondered whether the difference between those who leave and those who don’t (or maybe, *a* difference) is that we who leave actually took it all seriously.

    I know many faithful Christians would howl in protest at the suggestion that they do not take seriously their own faith, but I still wonder whether those of us who really tried to live it, who really looked at what was being claimed, and on what basis, and at the problems we saw, and — most critically — refused to be satisfied with the easy, feel-good answers, and therefore kept digging, were the ones who could finally see that there *were* no actual good answers. Biblical contradictions really are difficult to defend or explain away. Hell really is a vile, obscene, screamingly immoral doctrine. Evil in the world really isnt easily explained away. Etc etc etc etc…

    Christianity has answers to all these issues, of course, but the question is, why did we remain satisfied with those answers for a while, but then, less and less so, as time went on. Take Hell again, for example. I contend that if you say you believe in Hell, and are not spending every waking moment shrieking it from the rooftops, then you either do not really believe it, or have not thought (really sat down and thought seriously) about what it is and what it is saying.

    I can relate to what you say about feeling responsible for a mess no one else acknowledged. I felt like I loved it so much I had to know the truth, no matter what. Nietzsche said somewhere the Christian virtue of honesty demanded the death of Christianity (paraphrasing).

    Maybe we just really got it, really wanted to *know*, whereas others just want to feel better.

  • 5. Joshua  |  January 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I think I would have to agree that many of us took it more seriously. That said, there are plenty of people who leave who never took it seriously: and those are the ones that believers (of any religion) hold up as examples of “laziness in the faith”. Then they assume everyone who leaves falls into that category.

    This is probably why apologists or others so often point out that you need to “ground” yourself in the word of god, because they know of “so many” people who rejected Christianity over questions that had such simple answers.

    So it seems people reject for various reasons.

    Personally I think that people’s intuitions guide them a lot more than they realize. Often we have a gut feeling about something that we cannot explain and we are basically looking for information that confirms the gut feeling. Or we begin to feel a hunch about something and then that hunch builds – while we are in denial – until we can ignore it no longer. Thing is, some people become Christians for both reasons too.

    So there are probably people who fall all along the spectrum: some who want to leave Christianity and are just looking for an excuse and others who do not want to leave and are fighting their own doubts endlessly and finally can fight what their gut is telling them no more.

    It is the latter category that ends up on a site like this. People who are looking for excuses to leave Christianity rarely end up spending countless hours fighting to defend their intellectual honesty. They just find the excuse and leave.

    People who desperately wanted it to be true and are fighting their gut instinct that tells them something is wrong end up on sites like this… because, at least for me… I still on occasion wish parts of it were true. But I want to be intellectually honest, too, and I don’t want some Christian putting me into the category of lazy Christians who gave up.

    And that misconception about us serious Christians is what, I think, fuels us into such vigorous defense of our non-belief. We are surrounded by hundreds, thousands – a whole frickin’ country – of people who immediately assume we are lying, intellectual dishonest, morally reprobate individuals just because we disagree with them. So to combat this we pour out endless energy explaining ourselves and demonstrating – both to ourselves and those around us – that our brains are functioning in a healthy fashion.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Christians often feel that we protest too much and this confirms in their mind that we are doubt-filled, unstable individuals.

    The reality is that maybe we are doubt-filled, unstable individuals and that is what drove us to give up the unstable claims of Christianity – because those claims started to freak us out more than they freak out other people!

    For me, my doubt became my friend, driving me to accept only certain claims.

  • 6. Richard  |  January 2, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    You’re probably right about there being a spectrum of reasons for leaving. People are different. Its tempting to try to oversimplify the matter by coming up with *one* universal reason.

    Sometimes one persons instablitity is another persons growth, or at least willingness to grow. At this juncture in my life, I consider that a virtue, no longer a vice. As a believer, I would have considered that building ones house on sand. Amazing how our interpretations change. I am tempted here to say thank God we have the ability to grow….

    I agree with you that those of us who really, really tried and really, really wanted it to be true wind up here because,here, we are validated by others who understand what we have been through and how hard we tried. I worry that we can feel, sometimes, secretly ashamed of this need. I confess I have felt that way at times. Protesting too much, like you said. I kind of suspect that the concern over what believers think of our decision suggests that some part of us is tempted to agree with them; its a projection of some unacknowledged feelings we carry. I think its the residua of our former interpretive system still making itseld known. My own view is that this is pretty normal, though difficult to face. Human beings rarely feel just one way and one way only about something, esp something so encompassing as ones former religion.

    “Validation”, though, is one of those terms from psychological theory that winds up in pop psychology and, after time starts to sound like so much psychobabble fluff. But, actually, validation is (empirically) a pretty basic human emotional need. We need to be understood, accepted, and have our experience and interpretations of experience acknowledged. Invalidating environments are experienced as extremely aversive.

    So anyway, I think its very understandable that we wind up here. The problem, I think, as you alluded to, is that believers find a way to negatively intepret our decisions and behaviors negatively no matter what we do. If we try to explain ourselves, we are seen as unsure of ourselves. If we seek support (like here), that is seen as a kind of weakness, because (of course) we know we are sinning and fleeing the Truth. If we are indifferent to Christians’ views on our apostasy, we are arrogant. Each of these things is a criticism designed to hit home, by tapping into some vulnerability that Christianity spent years nurturing in the first place. Arrogance, unwillingness to face the “real” Truth especially are constant targets of their apologetics. Hence, we react by trying to convince them that we were not arrogant, we were sincerely trying, sincerely wanting it to be true yet simultaneously sincerely seeking the truth, and that ego had nothing to do with it. But, mired in their belief system as they are, I am coming more and more to believe it is an ultimately futile effort.

  • 7. Josh  |  January 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    You know, I think many of us did take it more seriously. But we were a rarity, sadly.

    But it just occurred to me this might mean that the way other christians view us is not as bleak as we would have viewed ourselves through our previous Christian worldview.

    I’ve been surprised at how little friends and family try to convert me back these days. We get along more jovially and sometimes their unwillingness to lovingly try and work through the problems I see with chrisianity is more telling of their laziness than anything. It becomes a reassurance to me that, at the least, I tried.

    And I think you’re right. Most christians are looking for reasons to believe because it makes them feel good. They don’t want to hear evidence against their faith because so far their faith has proved a benefit to them. And because of this they need a reason to look down on everyone who does not feel as they do. We end up being poor lost souls who have a desperate need we are ignoring.

    Coming out of christianity I was sexually repressed like no ones business… I couldn’t understand how everyone else did not seem that way. I interpreted a lot of behavior as sexual repression.

    My mistake was assuming everyone else has the same desires I did… Because I was so fixated (read addicted) on it.

    I think a lot of christians are quite addicted to the highs they get from their spiritual experiences. But they think it is a need… Something they cannot live without. As a result they must project those desires onto everyone else.

    As a result us exchristians must be starved and ignoring our true hearts desire. Furthermore we must have never truly tasted the filling of the lord. After all, In their minds it is a need, not an addiction.

    And this is speaking from experience.

    And think about this for a second: who are the people who leave drug addictions and preach against doing any drugs?

    The ones who were the most dependent.

  • 8. Josh  |  January 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Sorry for sentence structure / punctuation. Typing all that on an iPhone after a beer is rough :)

  • 9. Warrior  |  January 5, 2011 at 5:19 am

    This is an interesting post from you. The Christian doctrine is nothing but copying of earlier Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Greek & Roman mythos. Even the doctrine of Trinity is never ever explained by a single Christian around the world. The early Church fathers like Justin Martyr, Peter, Paul, James were all confused lot of personalities. Peter, James & John against Paul could never reconcile till the end. Historically there is no evidence of Jesus Christ as described in Bible, the most interesting basis of bible ( Alais the word of God ) is just to create fear in the minds of readers. Bible is nothing but false fables, myths, lies, deceit by the early theologians. Thats the reason we find so much contradictions throughout. If human beings live in first understanding themslves, without selfish ignorance and ignorant selfishness then I guess we are just at the starting point of becoming more closer to God. I disagree with the Judeo-Christians that God created Satan or evil or Devil.
    You have described certain points very well so i dont need to repeat. Keep up posting such stuff. Peace !!!!

  • 10. Pam Burgess  |  January 6, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Thank you Warrior! I have been struggling with the history of Jesus as described in the Bible, for years. Early theologians found a lot of power in words! Creativity, I will give them that. I believe some of the stories are inspirational, helping to create an atmosphere of compassion and love which seems to help preserve the community spirit. This is where I cease to be a cynic or critic. When a religious group is in check (your local church? am sorry I do not understand what I mean by this), it seems to me this is a great place for support, networking, nurturing, etc. I may understand the good intentions of the church, but believe their ultimate mission in following the Bible may be a misguided.
    Question: How do I believe in a God who does not make sense to me according to religious teachings I’ve been exposed to, as well as the Bible?!

  • 11. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  March 8, 2011 at 6:59 am

    This Agnostic Atheist Activist who has been an Atheist Activist for longer (well over 50 years) than most of you have been alive Sez:

    Anyone who does not KNOW the Iraq War is FULLY JUSTIFED and a NECESSSARY part of our World Wide War on the Moslem Fanatics who have been KILLING our Friends. Allies and we Americans for OVER 40 years is either TOO LAZY to get off their ass and do sufficent research OR they are just too damn dumb to be able to fully comprehend what the evidence and facts mean!

    PERIOD!

  • 12. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  March 8, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Many people leave religion for the same reason many (most?) go from being liberal to being conseratives. This being the increased knowledge gained by the experience of aging.

    The longer one lives, the more experience they gain. And as experience equals knowledge
    they question more things.

    So people leave the religion they were programmed in to because something in their life caused them to question one, or more things about their religion. The more they question, the more they learn and the more knowledge gained, the less religion they have.

  • 13. Lucian  |  March 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Be against abortion even in the case of rape?

    Why would one innocent victim choose to punish another innocent victim? :-\

  • 14. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  March 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Well Lucian

    LOGIC TIME!

    If you had a clue, you would know there is nothing wrong with abortions what so ever.

    FYI We humans have NO MORE “Right to Life” than than does any other living thing.

    Damn near every single thing you eat was once ALIVE. The plants and all other living things which WE KILL so we can eat, have as much “right to life” as does any fetus or human.

    IF you, or anyone else, wants a full explanations of why:

    1. There is nothing wrong with Abortions,

    2. the Death Penalty is very Civilized

    3. the Iraq War is FULLY Justified

    4. The god of the Christians either does not exist OR is TOTALLY INCOMPETENET

    (Do yo know humans have INVENTED, NAMED and WOPRSHIPPED 25,000 Different gods so far?)

    you can email me at religionsucks@webtv.net

  • 15. UHU Tv Forum  |  April 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Okay, I’m going to go a bit off-script here, and throw out a rant. A rant that, despite truly heroic efforts on the part of my inhibitory circuits, I simply cannot withhold. I normally like my posts to be more polished than this, but what the hey. Consider this a brief follow up to my earlier post about how to [.

  • 16. UHU Tv Forum  |  April 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    IF you, or anyone else, wants a full explanations of why:

    1. There is nothing wrong with Abortions,

    2. the Death Penalty is very Civilized
    4. d. I normally like my posts to be more polished than this, but w
    5. hat the hey. Consider this a brief follow up to my earlier post 6 6. about how to [.

  • 17. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  April 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    WELL “UHU Tv Forum” JUST WHAT ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO SAY?

  • 18. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  April 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    WELL “UHU Tv Forum” JUST WHAT ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO SAY?

    DO YOU THINK WE ARE MIND READERS?

    ANYONE WHO THINKS IT’S “OUTRAGEOUS” THAT MANY OF WE MORE LOGICAL, RATIONAL, INFORMED AND INTELLIGENT ATHEISTS VOTED FOR MCCAIN AMD PALIN OVER THE DISHONEST, LYING, SOCIALIST,
    RACIST & CLUELESS, PISS POOR JUDGEMENT SKILLS AND NO INTEGRITY ODUMA, E MAIL ME AND I SHALL EXPLAIN WHY.

  • 19. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  June 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

    In further reply to “UHU Tv Forum”

    (Who hides behind a screen name like the coward he-she-it most probably is,)

    I’ve received unsolicited comments which complimented me on my intelligence and my use of logic. As well as my ability to clearly communicate my views

    And I defy you, or anyone else, to either logically or factually prove even one thing I have said in my many, many hundreds, if not thousands of my internet posts in over 13 years of my being on the internet is not a fact.

    Neil C. Reinhardt

  • 20. Skhan  |  November 18, 2012 at 1:36 am

    I have done a “mission” trip to my own city, as well as a number of other ciiets in the U.S. never to another country. I have noticed one pattern here, and that is that the higher the socioeconomic level, the less time people generally have for MOST truly meaningful things including everything from spending quality time with their children, to making sure that they are going to heaven when they die. They are more focused on GETTING more THINGS instead of what really matters. Many people in the U.S. are so materialistic that they don’t want to hear about God, or listen to Him. God might tell them they’re doing something wrong or even that He wants them to take time off work and go to the slums of Mexico and minister to the people there!!! Also, Christianity has become one of the few things in the U.S. that you can still hate without losing your PC status. Christians here are portrayed as fanatics/freaks because of a few people who SAY they are Christians and then go do bad things.In Mexico many people grow up without being hardened against God and Christianity by their society as most do here. Yes, their poverty level may make them more open to Christianity they don’t have all the material things in the way to distract them from Christ. They are also more willing to take the time to listen to someone who wants to talk to them about Christ. Is it any wonder that people who want to make a difference go to Mexico and other poor countries? They can make a difference for these people both physically and spiritually!References :

  • 21. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  November 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    First, I am a 77 year old Agnostic Atheist Activest who has been an Atheist for 68 of my 77 years adn a Atheist Activiest for over half of a centry. As I’m not only many times more experienced than are most my age, and smarter than 97.5% of the world, I many times more knowledge than most.

    Second, While many, many Millions of Former Christians are now Atheists. most Christians are so indoctrinated into their religions as babies, children, teenagers the odds are they will remian programmed until they die.

    After all as the Catholic Church says and it seems all religions believe, “Give me a Child until the Age of Seven and they are Mine FOREVER!”

    What happens to those religious people who “See the Light” and lets “the TRUTH set them FREE” is some happens or some one says, or they read something which causes them to OPEN their mind and to begin questioning their religious beliefs.

    They MAY realize the ONLY reason they believe there is only One god and why they are a Jew, a Moslem or a Christian
    is SIMLY DUE TO WHO RAISED THEM.

    And they MAY realize the ONLY reason they believe there is only One god and not MANY. MANY gods is because they were
    not raised by Hindus! (or any of the other more than a Billion who do believe there are MANY gods.)

    Someday, they MAY even realize the ONLY place Any and/or ALL Gods Exist are IN the Minds of those who Believe in them. NO god exists in the Real World.

    As far as being good, consider this fact.
    Open Atheists in the US are around 5% while the percent of we Atheists in US Prisons is LESS than one quarter of One
    percent! This while “believers” make up the other 99.975+ percent with Christians comprising some 75 precent of those in America’s prisions.

    Thus PROVING religion is NOT needed to be a good person.

    FYI The reason only about five percent are “OPEN Atheists” is becuse MOST Atheists are AFRAID to make it public
    they ARE Atheists. Some are even Afraid to let their close friends and family know the truth about how they feel about gods and religion.

    NOW PAY ATTENTION!

    The FACTS are the Iraq War was FULLY
    JUSTIFIED!

    The only ones who do not know this FACT are those who either did not pay sufficent attention to what was going on at the time OR they are too lazy to get the facts now! And they may also just be too STUPID to be able to comprehend the facts IF they did get them!

    In March of 2003, I put together a list of SEVENTEEN Factual reasons which Fully Justify the Iraq War. And I have sent this list to more than a few who disgree with me.

    NOT only has not one of them been able to DIS PROVE even ONE of my facts, some refuse to read them and none have even tried to PROVE I am wrong. They will NEVER be able to prove me wrong as Facts are Facts and real Facts can not be proven wrong.

    Neil C. Reinhardt

    religionsucks@webtv.net

  • 22. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  November 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    my error, I replied to the wrong post and I forgot to read the d=comments befor my posting.

    MY BAD!

    I AM SORRY!

    I APOLOGIZE FOR MY ERROR

    Neil

  • 23. cag  |  November 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Skhan #20, why are you wasting your life promoting imaginary beings?

    True, being called a christian would be the worst insult that anyone could lay on me.

  • 24. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  November 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Well Cag

    The odds are you are not going to like the second part of this.

    Methinks the reason Skhan pushes the beliefs in childish and imaginary gods is because he was indoctrinated as baby, child and teenager to do so. And I very strongly doubt that Skhan either realizes he/she was programmed to do so in the first place much less, is still programmed to believe things which break the laws of common sense, logic, nature and science.

    While I am an Agnostic Athiest Activist, and have been an Atheist Activist ro over half of a century, thinking I am a “typical Atheist” would be more insulting to me than being called a Christian.

    This as my far more extensive experience in dealing with Atheists than most others have, prove to me, that very sadly, MOST Athiests ONLY use Logic, Knowledge and Critical Thinking skills on the subject of there being one, or more, gods.

    On any other subject, most Atheists are as apt to deny any facts which prove they are wrong as are Christians on things like Evolution, (which is true) if Homosexuala are born being born being Homosexuals (they are) and if abortion is wrong. (It is not,)

    Only at least Christians have a very valid reason to deny facts as they were, from the time they are babies, programmed to deny any facts which may prove them be wrong. This while any Atheists who deny facts (like about the Iraq War and the fool who is our president) have NO intelligent logical or rational reason to do so.

    As Forrest Gump said:

    “Stupid is as Stupid Does”

    Denying Facts is STUPID!

    So while those who deny fact after fact may not actually be stupid, for all intents & purposes, Fact Deniers ARE STUPID!

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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