• RolandTyme
    47
    Recent events have lead me to contemplate my own possible destruction - and it seemed a good time for a confession.

    I appear to be a genuine agnostic - i.e. I am genuinely unsure as to the existence, or not, of God, or supernatural realms and life after death etc. in general. I've never seen an argument on either the atheist side or the theist side which I have found wholly convincing. This leads me to contemplate whether, given my lack of religious faith or observance, if I will be condemned to hell when I die.

    My attitude is this - God can stuff it if he thinks that I am going to worship him simply on the basis that if I don't, I will go to hell. I am more than willing to admit to my sins to the omnipotent, and ask to be forgiven - though for the most part, I feel I should be apologising to the people I have actually hurt, offended or wronged by my actions. This will include God but not be limited to him. But I cannot worship him. It is servile. I cannot pledge allegiance to some faith, as I know the vast majority of my friends will not do this, and so I would be selling them out to save my own neck. My own father was a lapsed catholic and an atheist, so presumably he is in hell. I'm not going to sell out my own father just to save my neck. He wasn't a perfect man, but given that I don't think anyone deserves an eternity of suffering, I don't think he deserves it either.

    Followers of religion never seem to present things in this way. They always seem to be happy to take God's side against humanity, trading on only the "bad people" being in hell. It is an isolating posture - only YOU are going to hell if you remain a bad person. They never phrase it as most of the people you know and love going to hell, if only to say it's up to YOU and THEM INDIVIDUALLY to save themselves. If we all banded together, we presumably would not be able to dethrone God (if Satan couldn't, what chance could we)? But at least we'd be sticking by each other. God appears to want everything on his own terms. We aren't even allowed to be in simply a less-good afterlife if we don't want to worship him - we have to be tortured for eternity.

    A couple of further points. Apologies for a Christian tilt of this post, but I will think this generally for any religion which includes the notion of being condemned to eternal suffering if you don't tow the line.

    Not all demoninations of Christianity follow this doctrinal points. That's fine. They are more appealing to me, but I don't know whether they are the correct ones. As I said, I am agnostic about these things. So if you are offended that I have tarred you with an extreme brush - my apologies.

    Heaven would be nice, but I would be happy with oblivion, which would be, as Luther held (until the resurrection) merely as "sleep".

    All the best. Sorry if you find this a tough read, but as we are potentially facing nuclear annihilation, it's probably a good time to get your thoughts about the afterlife in order.
  • T Clark
    9.8k
    But I cannot worship him. It is servile. I cannot pledge allegiance to some faith, as I know the vast majority of my friends will not do this, and so I would be selling them out to save my own neck.RolandTyme

    In order for this argument to be meaningful, you have to consider that hell is real and as described by some religious sources. You write about it as if is comparable to being fired or getting divorced. If you believe it exists then you risk eternity in the most torturous pain imaginable just to show God who's boss and stand behind your friends.

    Followers of religion never seem to present things in this way.RolandTyme

    I've been annoyed by what I see as the arrogance of this type of believer before. On the other hand, they see hell and damnation as facts. For them to present things otherwise would be denying their God. I don't see "Well, if God's going to be a jerk, screw him" as a very good strategy.
  • baker
    4.9k
    I appear to be a genuine agnostic - i.e. I am genuinely unsure as to the existence, or not, of God, or supernatural realms and life after death etc. in general. I've never seen an argument on either the atheist side or the theist side which I have found wholly convincing. This leads me to contemplate whether, given my lack of religious faith or observance,

    if I will be condemned to hell when I die.
    RolandTyme

    Then you need to check out the actual doctrines of those religions that teach eternal damnation.
    Such as study the Catechism of the RCC, Islamic doctrinal texts, and whatever others there may be relevant (such as the Mahayana teachings on icchantikas).
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    This leads me to contemplate whether, given my lack of religious faith or observance, if I will be condemned to hell when I die.RolandTyme
    Why do you assume that "Hell" isn't mostly filled with those who do not "lack religious faith or observance"?

    Anyway, if there was a "loving God" "He" would want "His children" to know "him" and yet "He" is so completely hidden that millennia of devout seekers and preachers have not provided a shred of public, undeniable evidence that "He" is anything more than imaginary. Either Deus absconditus is either (A) not loving ~ in which case, we're arbitrarily fucked or (B) imaginary; in both cases, "God" doesn't seem worthy of worship. So you're in good company with the nonreligious, the nonbelievers who, in effect, live their one and only lives in this world. Why worry about a "life after life" that is no more evident this side of death than "north of the North Pole"?

    My guess has long been that "Hell" is the worst of what we choose to make of each day. And "Heaven"? Like the Epicureans say of pleasure being the minimum of pain, "Heaven" is choosing daily to reduce "Hell" to the minimum (i.e. as much as you are able to). Consider the ancient Tetrapharmakos (quick read):

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrapharmakos :fire:
  • _db
    3.6k
    Heaven would be nice, but I would be happy with oblivion, which would be, as Luther held (until the resurrection) merely as "sleep".RolandTyme

    Indeed, the pure simplicity and tranquility associated with oblivion makes one wonder why god felt the need to change it by creation. The only theology that makes sense is one that sees the world as something to be liberated from.
  • Tom Storm
    5k
    I've never seen an argument on either the atheist side or the theist side which I have found wholly convincing.RolandTyme

    As an atheist, I don't think that generally there is an argument being put forward. The atheist is simply someone who is unconvinced that god/s exist and considers the claims and evidence produced to be inadequate. A responsible atheist would not make an argument that there is no god - why would they need to?

    Followers of religion never seem to present things in this way. They always seem to be happy to take God's side against humanity, trading on only the "bad people" being in hell.RolandTyme

    Followers of religion may hold very different views to the evangelical apologists who seem to monopolize discussions especially re hell. Many Christians hold to universalism - we will all go to heaven. And many think the Bible is just allegorical stories not be taken literally. I grew up with mainstream Protestantism, hell and punishment was not part of the tradition.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    Here's a suggestion to consider:

    Separate the question of whether God exists from the question of whether there is an afterlife. God may or may not exist. If God does exist, it isn't necessary for Heaven and/or Hell to exist. If God doesn't exist, then there is probably no heaven and hell (as Christians suppose there is).

    God is not a Christian; neither is Jesus (he was a Jew). Christianity does not, and can not, be an accurate representation of who or what God is, Neither can any other religion. Religions contain a set of believe presented as the truth, but hey -- they are guessing. Atheists can't be certain that God does not exist--they are also guessing.

    Unless you believe that God is the model of man, and possesses the same screwy quirks that we do--we don't know what God is like (if God exists).

    A belief in God doesn't require the existence of heaven and hell (in my opinion), so again -- you can separate the two.

    Neither the fall of man (Adam and Eve) nor the redemption of man (Jesus) is necessary. These are theological concepts cooked up a very long time ago.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    A responsible atheist would not make an argument that there is no god - why would they need to?Tom Storm
    Some might say 'there is compelling evidence – nature itself – that there is no (Biblical) god. :chin: (NB: I did for decades but have 'outgrown' mere positive / strong atheism.)
  • T Clark
    9.8k
    A responsible atheist would not make an argument that there is no god - why would they need to?Tom Storm

    And yet many do, loudly and dogmatically, including here on the forum. I got no problem with atheists if they would just shut up and get on with their lives. Problem is, many of them hate religion and feel contempt for those who believe. That's not atheism, it's... I don't know, what is it? It's not reason.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    It's your caricature of 'atheists whom you are unable to counter with sound arguments'.
  • Tom Storm
    5k
    Problem is, many of them hate religion and feel contempt for those who believe. That's not atheism, it's... I don't know, what is it? It's not reason.T Clark

    I understand. Yep, they are often angry. I think the issue is that often atheists have come to their views the hard way and have often been shunned by family and friends for their freethought. My friend John, a priest, says, 'Who can blame people for angry atheism when the church has done so many evil abusive things and God seems completely absent from much church activity?'
  • T Clark
    9.8k
    'Who can blame people for angry atheism when the church has done so many evil abusive things and God seems completely absent from much church activity?'Tom Storm

    I blame them when they doll their arguments all up in the couture of reason and philosophy. For me, philosophy is all about self-awareness.
  • EugeneW
    1.7k
    It becomes scary if people try hiding behind God for compensating their weaknesses. Or pressing their morals referring to them. "God assures our decency", while threatening with hel or promising heaven. Isn't a world in which evil has a place preferable above one in which it's gotta be eradicated?
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    :100:

    (Not that you asked or care) For me, philosophy is about exposing (and perhaps rationally reformulating) fallacious arguments, pseudo-questions, given biases / blindspots, conceptual confusions, unwarranted beliefs / doubts, all manner of discursive nonsense and other forms of immiserating, maladaptive conduct – including, and especially, my own; and then, through study and dialectics, reasoning to more probative questions (i.e. warranted inquiries or speculative interpretations).
  • baker
    4.9k
    Why spend one's time with whatever just any person claims is true about hell and how to get there?

    Actual religions have actual doctrines, and those are what one should refer to; everything else is just personal opinion.
  • Philosophim
    1.2k
    Lets use your own conclusions.

    My attitude is this - God can stuff it if he thinks that I am going to worship him simply on the basis that if I don't, I will go to hell.RolandTyme

    There you go, you've made your decision. Perhaps you just haven't accepted it yet. If the only reason you are contemplating religion is because you think you are going to die, and are concerned about the consequences, then you've just told yourself you shouldn't do that.

    Ignore religion and do good not because of an uncertain reward you will receive one day by an uncertain being, but for the reward of bettering humanity and the world.
  • RolandTyme
    47


    I don't think I have quite made my decision - though I do appreciate your post, and the supportive tone in which it is written. I suppose I am afriad because I cannot logically rule out the possibility that hell exists. And if it exists, I'm going there. I can't morally justify not going there, as I can't morally endorse God's decision that hell should exist.

    I'd like to simply accept the common-sense (for me) position that hell doesn't exist. But my mind doesn't work like that. Well, it does some days, but not all.

    I suppose I just resent all these believers who ultimately, in my eyes, seem very self-serving and condemnatory of others. I don't even care whether heaven exists - but I'm left with their hell. But I am to respectful of the idea that we cannot KNOW that God doesn't exist in exactly the way these people describe to dismiss this as simply their own psychodrama.

    I will be very happy if God isn't like this, but then I don't see the reason to worry. I don't care about heaven, after all. These people seem very hateful who endorse hell - but if they are right, then in my eyes, the creator of the universe is hateful. But that's not going to get me off. He's got more power than me. I'm just going to be his plaything, and he will have me tortured for all eternity, because a) I'm not perfect and/or b) I won't worship him. Because he condemns people to eternal suffering - perhaps there is a circularity here.

    If this is the wrong conception of God, then these Hell-happy believers are actually doing alot to keep honest people away from him, interestingly.

    I like your attitude much more - of doing good in the world as it's the right thing to do.

    I don't know what these people get off on, and I don't know why they are so cowardly. I completely understand the fear - at least, I do quite a bit - but why are they so ready to be on the all-powerful's side? It's like siding with the playground bully over the kids picked on.
  • Philosophim
    1.2k
    I don't think I have quite made my decision - though I do appreciate your post, and the supportive tone in which it is written. I suppose I am afriad because I cannot logically rule out the possibility that hell exists. And if it exists, I'm going there. I can't morally justify not going there, as I can't morally endorse God's decision that hell should exist.RolandTyme

    Well, perhaps I can help out a bit with that. When I was young, I was raised in a Christian household, and I genuinely wanted to believe a God existed. In my mind, who wouldn't want a great and good being helping us do better in the world for ourselves and those around us? I was very fortunate as an Episcopalian that I did not have to attend a church where hell was every really spoken about.

    I also read the bible myself from beginning to end. I used a fantastic bible that would break down the historical significance of passages, and explain meanings better. What I found was that what was often taught in churches didn't necessarily work with the entire message of the bible.

    For starters, "Hell" as a fire and brimstone place of eternal torture is more an invention of society, and not in the original New Testament works. Jesus notes the only way to eternal life is through him. That was because in Judaism, when you're dead, you're gone unless God himself allows you not to. Without Jesus, you didn't live forever to be tortured, you simply died.

    The penalty for sin is death, and all people sin. Jesus died as a payment for that sin, so that all would be forgiven and rise on the last day. All a person had to do was to accept this sacrifice, and they too would live eternally.

    Whether you believe all of that isn't the point. The point I wanted to note is that Christianity in the bible itself, does not threaten eternal life and torture. There is death, or eternal life. Anything that seems to reference a hell is more metaphor than actual prophesy.

    The people who threaten you with hell fire want your money for the church, and they want control over you. But lets not even dwell on that. I want to reference the overall acts of the New Testament to demonstrate an eternal hell fire torture just doesn't seem inline with the overall message.

    Jesus:

    Takes care of kids and insists they are precious and never to be harmed
    Forgives all manner of sinners. Whore's, corrupt politicians, and tax collectors.
    He heals people who have horrid diseases and afflictions.
    He turned water into wine so people could get drunk at a wedding
    Spoke to all people, not just the wealthy, the political, or the religious. In fact, he had fairly harsh words against the Pharisees and Saducees who often emphasized the "Letter of the law over the spirit of the law"

    He states the only way to come to the father (God) is to come through him. But he doesn't seem like some mafioso, or punished people who refused him. In fact, as he dies on the cross he asks God to forgive them for they no not what they do. Jesus doesn't sit around and talk about how everyone is going to burn if they don't accept him. He speaks wisdom and lets people make their own choices.

    The fire and brimstone thing was made by a priest somewhere for their congregation. Its fear and intimidation from people who don't seem to understand the message themselves. If I recall, on the last day all are to be risen, and those who accept the gift are allowed, those who willingly reject it die. That means you don't have to decide now right? That's really the way Christianity is written. I believe there's even a passage from St. Paul where he notes that Christians will receive no greater reward than non-believers. The point of being a Christian is that you know what's coming, and it gives you so much joy that you can't help but spread it to other people so they'll have the advantage of knowing now!

    You seem like a very good person, and I don't want to see you suffer over some "bullys" who want to threaten you with horrible things if you don't believe. However long left you have to live, please enjoy it without fear. Live life, and love it while you can.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    Eventually the absurdity of a loving god who tortures people, not just in hell, but in the actual world, becomes overwhelming. Christianity is incoherent.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    Followers of religion never seem to present things in this way. They always seem to be happy to take God's side against humanity, trading on only the "bad people" being in hell. It is an isolating posture - only YOU are going to hell if you remain a bad person.RolandTyme

    I think there's other ways of seeing it. The depiction of God as a vengeful parent punishing people for not bending the knee is something of a caricature, albeit a caricature based on many generations of religious enculturation. But from a broader perspective, if there are, as religions say, other realms of existence - heavens and hells - then it figures that your destination is the trajectory set by your actions in this life. Within that landscape, religious icons represent archetypal forms. And you don't want to casually dismiss the possibility of hell, from the relatively priviledged perspective of a human existence, when it might be unimagineably dreadful, especially if, when you fetch up there, you know deep down that it might have been avoided. And you will never be 'happy with oblivion', for reasons that ought to be obvious. Maybe the truth is that we're 'condemned to existence', and the kind of existence we have, is very much dependent on the qualities we bring to the living of it. That's what I hope the religions would teach, and insofar as they do, they're right on the money.
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    I appear to be a genuine agnostic - i.e. I am genuinely unsure as to the existence, or not, of God, or supernatural realms and life after death etc. in general. I've never seen an argument on either the atheist side or the theist side which I have found wholly convincing. This leads me to contemplate whether, given my lack of religious faith or observance, if I will be condemned to hell when I die.RolandTyme
    I call myself an Agnostic in the literal sense (ignorance of the facts), not in the "weak Atheist" sense (presumptive knowledge of absence). Based on my well-researched personal worldview, I am fairly sure that our world must have had a First Cause --- intelligent enough to create a self-developing universe from scratch, and to evolve creatures that are able to ask philosophical questions about Ontology (being) and Epistemology (knowing). Since we humans are creatures of space-time, we have no certain way of knowing what caused the Big Bang. So, as philosophers & scientists, we can only speculate using our "god-given" or "accidental" Reason.

    Even most Atheists, now admit that something must have existed prior to the emergence of space-time from the Point of Origin (Multiverse : Many Worlds ; Inflaton Field, see below ). Most recycling-vs-creation scenarios assume it was simply more of the same material stuff we experience in the here & now. But, even faithful atheists will acknowledge that causal Energy & limiting Laws, are more essential than mere matter for moving & directing our evolving world. And some sober physicists have concluded that Energy is actually a causal form of General Information. So, my worldview is based on the inference that Information (mind stuff) is more fundamental than (malleable stuff). I won't go into the background of that concept here, as it has been cussed & discussed repeatedly on this forum.

    If you accept that Information is the fundamental essence of our Reality, then some kind of Enformer is logically necessary to convert Potential Form into Actual forms. And if that makes sense to you, then you are halfway to belief in a God of some kind. But, which of the thousands of god-models would best qualify as the First Cause of our world. Since most ancient religious deities are described in humanoid forms or with human motives, and are obviously modeled on human political leaders, I find them to be poor candidates for the Cause of a physical emergence from almost nothing into everything knowable. Instead, I find a creative Principle, like Plato's LOGOS to be more fitting as the ultimate Enformer.

    Although it's scientifically plausible, in view of 21st century Quantum & Information theories, such a rational "Philosopher's God" is not likely to inspire religious Faith. So, as philosophical thinkers, we must act upon incomplete evidence, and keep an open-mind about topics beyond our ken. As luck would have it, the ancient Agnostic attitude allows us to have a functional belief system, without committing to blind faith in the unknowable. Besides, spooky tales about a miserable or blissful afterlife, are nothing more substantial than ghost-stories & moralizing myths. Therefore, as you are philosophically inclined, you are free act as-if you believe whichever un-verifiable god-option makes sense to you. And you can worry about any uncertain imaginary afterlife you find believable, in view of your chosen god. :cool:

    Agnosticism is the view or belief that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist." ___Wikipedia

    Is Information Fundamental? :
    https://www.closertotruth.com/series/information-fundamental

    Is information the only thing that exists? :
    Physics suggests information is more fundamental than matter, energy, space and time
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23431191-500-inside-knowledge-is-information-the-only-thing-that-exists/

    The Enformer :
    AKA, the Creator. The presumed eternal source of all information, as encoded in the Big Bang Sing-ularity. That ability to convert conceptual Forms into actual Things, to transform infinite possibilities into finite actualities, and to create space & time, matter & energy from essentially no-thing is called the power of EnFormAction. Due to our ignorance of anything beyond space-time though, the postulated enforming agent remains undefined..
    BothAnd Blog Glossary

    BLOONARIUS THE INFLATOR OF WORLDS
    Bloonarius%20the%20Inflator.PNG
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Christianity is incoherent.Banno
    :up:

    I suppose I am af[rai]d because I cannot logically rule out the possibility that hell exists.RolandTyme
    And you can't rule out the actuality of "the afterlife" either? As far as I know, there isn't any intelligible, factual, evidence to corroborate (e.g. any religious) "belief" that individual, self-aware personality survives irreversible brain-death. If you're "agnostic about God", why is a completely non-evident "belief that there is an afterlife" even a live angsty concern? Are you also afraid of, for example, "alien abductions"? or "being reincarnated as a frog"? or "global elites who are pedophile lizard people"?

    Btw, logic itself cannot determine what exists or what does not exist so your fear on that basis is completely unfounded.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/665365
  • Bob Ross
    153
    Hello @RolandTyme,

    I may not be able to solve the dilemma in its entirety for you, but, as this was an issue I used to have constantly as well, perhaps I can provide a bit of exposition.

    As you explicated in your post, your contentions (or more like doubts) pertain to a very specific flavor of Christianity, and that is totally fine. However, at face value, I think you can rule out the possibility of a literal hell, in the sense you described, because in order for someone to be in eternal torment, they must necessarily have the capacity to feel it, and there's legitimately no possibility of feeling without a body: there's no possibility of pain without objects. This inevitably transitions the conversation towards a transference of an individual from their body to another body, as any non-spatialtemporal consideration of a "being" would be incoherent with the conceptualization of a burning hell. With regards to physical-to-physical transitions from one "world" to another "world", prima facea, it would not be impossible but it has no grounds. If one were to fret about every possible proposition, regardless of what grounds it may stand, then they would have an infinite amount of highly intensive claims to contend with, of which they definitely won't be able to deny outright. For example, I could claim to you that the mind, once the body dies, transfers to another body and depending on your karma you will either be one of the unlucky individuals that gets tortured your whole life or one of the lucky ones that lives lavishly. This proposition, even if it is deemed "possible", does not entail any legitimacy. Likewise, I could worry every second of every day that someone is always scheming to kidnap and torture me, without a shred of evidence, but what about the concept of possibility necessitates that I ought to take it seriously? I submit to you: nothing. Again, it could be the case that there's a drunk driver on the road and they could hit me with their car if I decide to go take a walk, but if such a mere possibility were to guide my actions then I would never take a walk!

    Now, at a deeper level, I do think that transcendent concepts, like most conceptualizations of God and an afterlife, are contradictions: there are no actual infinites. The idea of eternity only exists insofar as it exposes a concept that encapsulates a contradiction (albeit not obvious). The concept of eternity simply concatenates the concept of a potential infinite with the concept of actuality, which doesn't actually produce a new concept beyond a potential infinite. Likewise, to claim there's an actual infinite of anything implies that the claim is truth-apt but, in fact, it is not. If I told you there's an undetectable unicorn next you right this very moment, is that truth-apt? I submit to you that it is not. To try and pursue an answer (i.e. true or false) with regards to that proposition is in vain because to pursue it implies it is truth-apt, which it is not not: therefrom the contradiction arises. So, I would submit to you, at a deeper level, an eternal damnation is, at best, nothing more than a potential infinite of inflictions on an object that produces some form of pain, which would be a contradiction to even attempt to prove that it actually occurs forever (transform it to an actual infinite), and, at worst, it simply exposes a concatenation of concepts, as opposed to a unionization, in a contradictory manner (no different than concatenating the concept of "square" and "circle" together, which does not produce a union of the two).

    To keep it brief, I will stop there. I hope that helped a bit.
    Bob
  • Bird-Up
    83
    If God does exist, he is either morally unreasonable, or simply not too bright. Neither quality would justify following him and endorsing his behavior.

    Either he created birds and then punished them for flying (morally unreasonable); or he created birds, and was then astounded with surprise when they started using their wings to fly (simply not too bright).

    No matter how you view it, God's threat to burn people if they don't do certain things is the strategy of a terrorist. If God is all-powerful, then that includes power over Satan. He can extinguish the flames of Hell whenever he feels like it. He would even have the power to make Hell a wonderful paradise. But that's not the kind of god that he is. He wants to watch you struggle.

    I couldn't endorse a human that demonstrated those behaviors. So why would I endorse a god with the exact same behaviors?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    I couldn't endorse a human that demonstrated those behaviors. So why would I endorse a god with the exact same behaviors?Bird-Up

    Agree fully.
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    This leads me to contemplate whether, given my lack of religious faith or observance, if I will be condemned to hell when I die.RolandTyme
    Apropos of nothing : an old country music song by a family group of mostly girls -- one about 12 years old -- sang "heaven's just a sin away, wo wo". Obviously, the potential sinner is aware of the consequences of breaking God's thou-shalt-not rules. But she's tempted to commit adultery anyway : "I think I'm givin' in". Presumably, the one contemplating the moral math is a Southern Baptist.

    Apparently, moral ambivalence is common, even among those who believe in a vengeful deity. Is that a sign of doubt (agnosticism) in the actual existence of the jealous God, or of hormone-addled lust overcomes-faith with hope-against-hope that she can get away with it, just this one time?

    If sane people really literally believed the horror stories about eternal damnation in burning Hell, they would avoid provoking the damning deity at all cost. How could the anticipation of a momentary, here & now, Heaven-on-Earth (shot of dopamine) outweigh the scriptural "certainty" of a permanent Perdition in the not-yet-future? Whoever came up with such a stark (unremitting pain vs eternal pleasure) contrast, in the consequences of Sin versus Piety, was a moralizing genius . . . or an amoral demon. :naughty:
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