From the Mailbag From the Mailbag Dear Brother Dobbs: I recently subscribed to _The_Skepti

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From the Mailbag From the Mailbag Dear Brother Dobbs: I recently subscribed to _The_Skeptical_Review_ and am pleased to see how well you and Brother Mitchell are refuting the errors and misconceptions of its Editor, Farrell Till. I learned about the Review through an ad in _The_Humanist_. I'm a member of the American Humanist Association, joining to get a first-hand idea of what they're all about, and have proposed twice to serve as their "resident fundamentalist" if they would publish my views in _The_Humanist_. My assumption is that, since the AHA considers itself to be composed of such "free thinkers," they would certainly be open to an opposing point of view, but, alas, they never responded. I wonder why!? I can understand how you and Brother Dobbs [sic] find Editor Till difficult with which [sic] to reason, but you need to remember that it's often those who once believed who turn into the most vigorous opponents. Consider that Madelaine [sic] Murray O'Hare [sic] and B. F. Skinner were raised as Presbyterians, Hugh Hefner was raised in a conservative Methodist home, Joseph Stalin was a seminary student, and Adolph Hitler sang in the church choir as a boy. People rarely lose their faith for intellectual reasons but because they suffered some personal hurt (as with the foregoing examples), even though they assert--and may even have convinced themselves--that they really just got smart. They will then go on ad nauseum [sic] in an effort to justify their loss of faith, as demonstrated by Skinner's behavioristic ideology and Hefner's hedonistic philosophy. Thus whatever personal hurt Editor Till suffered, let us pray that he may yet be led back to the Lord through love. I recently concluded conducting a series of ten lessons on "Religious and Moral Authority in a Do-Your-Own Thing Age" at Fairfax in which I traced the evolution of religious and secular authority and its destruction in modern times, thus accounting for views such as Editor Till now professes. But as the Apostle Paul tells us in [ref001]Galatians 6:7 , "Be not deceived, God cannot be mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap." _(Name_and_address_withheld_for_reasons_stated_below.)_ __EDITOR'S_RESPONSE:_This_letter_was_written_to_Lindell_Mitchell and_H._A._Dobbs_by_a_Church-of-Christ_preacher_in_Fairfax,_Virginia, who_sent_a_copy_to_us._Upon_receiving_an_advanced_copy_of_the letters_column_for_this_issue,_he_wrote_back_immediately_and_declined the_offer_to_be_our_"resident_fundamentalist."_He_said that_he_was_refusing_the_offer,_even_though_he_recognized_"the risk_of_appearing_to_[us]_to_having_had_[his]_bluff_called." (Now_why_would_he_think_we_would_think_that?)_He_went_on_to_say that_he_"would_also_ask_that_[we]_not_publish_[his]_letter." Because_of_his_request,_we_are_withholding_his_name._The_letter itself_is_being_published_in_order_to_demonstrate_something_that I_know_that_many_readers_probably_don't_know._Bible_fundamentalists often_speak_very_boldly_in_the_pulpit_and_in_their_personal_conversations and_correspondence_with_others_who_are_like-minded,_but_they_aren't nearly_as_bold_about_defending_their_claims_in_a_forum_that_would allow_equal_time_to_an_informed_opposition._ __This_letter-writer_is_exactly_right._I_think_he_backed_down after_his_bluff_was_called._If_he_was_so_anxious_to_be_the_"resident fundamentalist"_for_a_magazine_that_focuses_primarily_on the_humanist_view_of_social_and_political_issues,_why_would_he refuse_the_opportunity_to_be_the_"resident_fundamentalist" for_a_publication_whose_chief_focus_is_on_Bible_fundamentalism? What_else_should_we_believe_except_that_he_backed_down_when_his bluff_was_called?_ __The_following_comments_were_written_and_sent_to_Mr._X_along with_the_above_setup_of_his_letter._The_only_change_we_have_made is_the_substitution_of_X_for_the_writer's_name_whenever_it_was used...._ __Mr._X's_letter_confirms_something_that_I_have_often_told_Bible fundamentalists:_they are their own worst enemies. From its inception, the policy of TSR has been to give Bible inerrantists equal space to respond to the articles that we publish. Our reason for this policy is quite simple: we want to give inerrantists the rope to hang themselves. The far-fetched, ridiculous "explanations" that they resort to in trying to resolve obvious discrepancies and inconsistencies in the biblical text merely confirm that the traditional view of Bible inerrancy cannot be logically defended. The more we expose their failures to our readers, the more we help our case. That is why articles from bibliolaters are always welcomed at TSR. This letter from Mr. X also effectively illustrates the inability of bibliolaters to think logically, so we are happy to publish it._ __X_tells_us_that_since_subscribing_to_The_Skeptical_Review he_has_been_pleased_to_see_how_well_Dobbs_and_Mitchell_are_"refuting the_errors_and_misconceptions_of_its_(e)ditor,_Farrell_Till." Oh?_Well,_I_must_have_missed_something_somewhere_along_the_way, because_I_have_an_entirely_different_impression._For_one_thing, Dobbs_has_written_nothing_for_TSR,_although_he_has_been_invited and_even_challenged_to_do_so._We_did_quote_from_a_letter_in_which Dobbs_launched_an_ad_hominem_attack_on_me,_but_there_was_certainly nothing_in_this_brief_quotation_that_could_even_remotely_be_considered a_refutation_of_my_"errors_and_misconceptions."_If_X was_referring_to_my_oral_debate_with_Dobbs,_perhaps_he_will_be kind_enough_to_point_out_to_us_exactly_what_Dobbs_said_in_it_that refuted_my_"errors_and_misconceptions,"_because_my_mail has_been_running_decidedly_in_the_opposite_direction_of_X's_assessment. Even_some_Church-of-Christ_members_have_said_that,_although_they don't_agree_with_my_position,_they_consider_Dobbs's_performance in_the_debate_an_embarrassment._Is_this_what_X_considers_a_creditable job_of_refutation?_ __As_for_Mitchell,_why_did_he_unilaterally_declare_victory_and drop_out_of_the_debate_if_he_was_doing_such_a_marvelous_job_of refuting_my_"errors_and_misconceptions"?_One_would_think that_he_would_have_welcomed_the_opportunity_to_stay_in_the_fray and_refute_my_"errors_and_misconceptions"_even_more. But_he_didn't._He_quit._Why?_Furthermore,_Mitchell_has_rejected my_challenge_to_debate_the_Bible-morality_issue_publicly_on_the grounds_that_he_has_no_desire_to_humiliate_me._Yeah,_sure,_we can_all_believe_that,_can't_we?_He's_just_too_good_of_a_guy_to have_a_desire_to_humiliate_an_atheist_in_public._ __Mr._X_wonders_why_The_Humanist_did_not_leap_at_his_offer_to be_their_"resident_fundamentalist."_Well,_perhaps_he will_find_the_answer_to_his_question_if_he_will_just_read_his letter_with_a_critical_eye._He_asserted_that_"it's_often those_who_once_believed_who_turn_into_the_most_vigorous_opponents [of_Christianity]"_and_asserted_that_such_people_"rarely lose_their_faith_for_intellectual_reasons_but_because_they_suffered some_personal_hurt."_He_advised_Dobbs_and_Mitchell_to_pray that_"whatever_personal_hurt_Editor_Till_suffered," he_"may_yet_be_led_back_to_the_Lord_through_love."_ __Such_a_maze_of_muddled_thinking_hardly_deserves_a_response, but_I_have_a_serious_personality_flaw._When_a_debating_opponent puts_his_foot_into_his_mouth,_I_experience_an_irresistible_urge to_shove_it_in_even_farther._X_has_made_a_claim_that_is_familiar to_most_ex-fundamentalists_who_have_become_atheists_or_agnostics: the_decision_to_become_a_skeptic_is_usually_not_an_intellectual one_but_one_that_results_from_"some_personal_hurt"_that makes_the_injured_person_claim_atheism_in_order_to_have_an_excuse to_oppose_God._X_cited_Madalyn_Murray_O'Hair,_B._F._Skinner,_Hugh Hefner,_Joseph_Stalin,_and_Adolph_Hitler_as_examples._He_doesn't even_know_how_to_spell_O'Hair's_first_and_last_names,_yet_he_expects us_to_believe_that_he_knows_her_atheism_is_the_result_of_some personal_hurt_she_experienced_that_caused_her_to_rebel_against her_Presbyterian_upbringing._What_is_his_proof?_He_cited_none; he_simply_asserted_it_and_went_on._Apparently,_he_is_so_used_to the_fundamentalist_approach_to_argumentation_that_he_can't_even recognize_when_evidence_is_needed._ __I_wouldn't_even_try_to_estimate_the_number_of_times_someone has_asked_me,_"What_terrible_tragedy_happened_to_you_that turned_you_against_God?"_or_words_to_that_effect._These_are people_who_have_no_conception_of_what_critical_thinking_is,_so because_they_are_logically_illiterate,_they_assume_that_those who_reject_the_religious_doctrines_they_were_taught_in_their_childhood are_people_who_have_experienced_some_kind_of_personal_"hurt" or_tragedy._They_reject_outright_the_possibility_that_the_many who_reject_their_early_religious_training_do_so_simply_because they_have_critically_examined_religion_and_found_it_too_ridiculous to_continue_believing._ __As_I_look_back_on_my_own_life,_I_can_see_that_I_have_been rather_fortunate._All_of_my_children_were_born_healthy_and_have remained_healthy,_so_I_have_never_experienced_the_tragedy_(as many_have)_of_having_a_child_die_or_suffer_from_some_permanently crippling_or_debilitating_disease_or_injury._Now_I_have_grandchildren, and_they_too_are_all_normal_and_healthy._My_father_did_die_suddenly at_a_relatively_young_age,_but_when_this_happened,_I_had_already made_my_decision_to_reject_my_early_religious_beliefs._So_just what_is_this_great_"hurt"_that_I_presumably_suffered that_caused_me_to_"turn_against_God"?_Maybe_Mr._X_can enlighten_me._ __If_Mr._Dobbs_answers_X's_letter,_maybe_he_will_set_X_straight in_this_matter._It_wasn't_any_great_"hurt"_that_I_experienced that_turned_me_against_religion._Why,_no,_nothing_as_innocuous as_that._When_I_was_a_missionary,_I_got_caught_stealing_church funds,_was_called_home,_and_was_fired._I_was_so_angered_that_I turned_against_the_church._This_is_the_scoop_on_me_according_to Dobbs,_and_he_seems_to_get_a_lot_of_"Christian"_pleasure from_making_this_accusation._Another_preacher,_who_was_in_diapers when_I_was_a_missionary,_has_yet_another_explanation_for_my_fall from_grace._I_lost_my_financial_support_when_I_was_a_missionary and_had_to_come_home._(At_least_he_had_the_courtesy_not_to_make me_a_thief.)_In_my_anger,_I_just_quit_the_church_entirely_and made_a_career_out_of_attacking_it.__ __A_lot_of_fundamentalists_who_didn't_even_know_me_30_years ago_nevertheless_seem_to_know_all_about_why_I_abandoned_my_religious beliefs._Their_pride_just_won't_let_them_admit_the_possibility that_I_made_a_rational_decision,_so_they_imagine_all_sorts_of ignominious_reasons_for_my_loss_of_faith._None_of_them,_however, seems_to_have_an_explanation_for_why_I_sat_on_my_anger_for_20 years_before_I_took_revenge_by_attacking_God_and_the_church_that had_hurt_me_so_badly._ __I_personally_know_nothing_about_the_reasons_why_Madalyn_Murray O'Hair,_B._F._Skinner,_and_the_others_on_X's_list_abandoned_their religious_beliefs;_I_don't_even_know_if_all_of_them_did_abandon their_religious_beliefs._I_certainly_don't_think_of_Hugh_Hefner as_any_great_opponent_of_religion._However,_I_do_know_that_X_made an_incredible_blunder_by_including_Adolph_Hitler_in_his_list. Hitler_was_a_practicing_Catholic,_and_there_is_no_indication_that he_ever_abandoned_his_faith._So_X_made_the_same_mistake_that_Time magazine_made_when_it_represented_Nazism_as_"an_officially atheistic_regime."_When_Joseph_C._Sommer,_vice_president of_the_Humanist_Community_of_Central_Ohio,_called_the_error_to the_editors'_attention,_the_following_letter_of_retraction_was issued:_ We appreciate your noting that we were mistaken in characterizing Nazism as an officially atheistic regime. The National Socialists indeed did acknowledge a deity and, however anti-Christian their tenets and methods, aimed to established the German supremacist faith they called "positive Christianity." And too, as you point out, Hitler claimed life-long allegiance to the Catholic religion. We have notified the appropriate staff so that they may correct our files (quoted in The Human Quest, May-June 1994, p. 22, emphasis added). _The_commonness_of_X's_mistake_in_attributing_religious_opposition to_Hitler_speaks_volumes_about_the_way_that_fundamentalists_think. Hitler_committed_monstrous_deeds;_therefore,_he_must_have_been an_atheist,_because_no_believer_in_God_would_have_done_the_despicable things_that_he_did._Such_thinking_shows_an_incredible_ignorance of_religious_history_and_a_complete_inability_to_think_rationally. If_X_has_no_better_critical-thinking_skills_than_to_assume_automatically that_all_despots_are_opponents_of_religion,_is_it_any_wonder_that he_would_falsely_assume_that_vocal_opponents_of_religion_are_just people_who_have_suffered_"some_personal_hurt"?_ __Mr._X_impugned_the_motives_of_The_Humanist_for_not_agreeing to_"publish_[his]_views."_"I_wonder_why?" he_asks._The_question_implies_that_the_editors_of_The_Humanist are_afraid_to_allow_his_views_to_be_heard,_but_if_that_is_a_reasonable assumption,_then_he_would_have_to_agree_that_Mr._Dobbs's_refusal of_my_offer_to_submit_articles_to_the_Firm_Foundation_means_that he_is_afraid_to_let_his_readers_have_access_to_my_views._I_have suggested_many_times_that_Dobbs_and_I_exchange_articles_in_both TSR_and_the_Firm_Foundation,_but,_alas,_he_has_never_responded. I_wonder_why!_Perhaps_Mr._X_can_tell_us._ __X_said_that_he_had_recently_conducted_a_series_of_lessons on_"Religious_and_Moral_Authority_in_a_Do-Your-Own-Thing Age"_that_would_account_for_the_views_that_I_now_profess. (Oh,_gee,_and_I_missed_them!)_He_seems_to_crave_a_little_limelight, so_I_am_going_to_give_it_to_him._He_is_now_TSR's_"resident fundamentalist."_If_he_will_favor_us_with_articles_that_refute materials_we_have_published_in_The_Skeptical_Review,_we_will_publish them._I_suggest_that_he_begin_with_a_refutation_of_my_short_article "No_Bastards_Allowed"_(Spring_1994,_pp._7,12,16)._If he_will_do_that,_we_will_publish_it_simultaneously_with_our_response. Or_if_he_prefers_to_select_another_article_to_use_in_refuting my_"errors_and_misconceptions,"_we_will_give_him_his choice._Or_if_he_would_like_to_submit_an_article_that_attempts a_logical_defense_of_the_Bible_inerrancy_doctrine,_we_will_publish it_with_our_response._He_is_the_resident_fundamentalist,_so_the choice_is_his._ __I_further_urge_X_not_to_stop_with_articles_in_TSR._He_seems to_enjoy_giving_public_lectures,_so_I_propose_that_he_and_I_debate the_Bible_inerrancy_issue_in_Fairfax,_Virginia,_to_give_all_of the_people_who_attended_his_lectures_the_opportunity_to_see_him refute_the_"errors_and_misconceptions"_of_an_atheistic editor._If_he_doesn't_feel_up_to_the_task,_perhaps_he_wouldn't mind_finding_a_qualified_spokesman_to_represent_the_inerrancy view._I_suggest_that_he_contact_Mitchell_and_Dobbs_and_invite either_or_both_of_them_to_debate_me_in_Fairfax._Since_they_have done_such_a_marvelous_job_of_refuting_my_"errors_and_misconceptions" in_The_Skeptical_Review,_he_should_be_glad_to_have_them_as_my opponents._Surely_one_of_them_won't_mind_publicly_humiliating me._ __We_will_all_anxiously_wait_to_hear_what_our_resident_fundamentalist decides._ Dear Mr. Till: Thank you for sending me the tapes. I have to admit it was a miserable experience watching, and I had many flashbacks while watching, but watch it I did, and thank goodness for the fast forward on the remote when it came to Dobbs' exaggerated rhetoric. As a child, I sat through this type of rambling and ranting preaching by preachers of Dobbs' ilk on a regular basis. By the way, what a perfect name for Dobbs, Buster; he sure is a Buster all right, and the red-neck he is he could very well have been a Bubba. Both names are perfect for him. I had no control over this type of exposure until I was a little older, but the damage had already worked on me. I was a believer until I was older and away from home and had time to think and reason, and ask why this, and why that. Then I started reading, and at that time I admit I did not see any real harm in religion. Now I see the irreparable harm to the human race and on so many different levels. I wonder if humanity will ever climb out of this religious pit. It took me years before I found Freedom From Religion, their books and their paper, _Freethought_Today_. I also found _Truth_Seeker_, and this led me to your material, _The_Skeptical_Review_, and I have found many others and have been reading ever since. Hovind is a mystery to me, as he is supposedly an educated man or so he bragged. He did not sound educated. Are the brains of this type of man set in concrete? Goodness, this was just going to be a very brief note to say thank you and get your tapes back as soon as possible so that other people will be able to view them. THANK YOU. _(Kova_Lancaster,_2468_Baywood_Court,_Orange_Park,_FL_32065-6253.) _ P.S. I was so busy being irritated with Buster that I forgot to tell you what a grand job you did by knocking the props out from under all of Buster's arguments. He couldn't answer you, so he went off on those preaching tangents, as if he had a tape in his head that kept going off. Your answers were brief, concise, and to the point. You were superb. Keep up the good work. Count me in your audience that appreciates you. Only one little flaw--try to remember not to turn away from your mike, as I don't want to miss anything you have to say! _EDITOR'S_NOTE:_I_asked_Ms._Lancaster_for_permission_to_publish her_letter_not_because_of_her_compliments_(which_I_appreciate) but_because_of_her_comments_about_the_harm_that_religion_does. Long-time_readers_will_recall_that_I_have_said_the_same:_religion is harmful to society. I know this to be true not from just my own personal experience but from studying the history of persecution and inquisition that religion has left in its wake. Ms. Lancaster is just one of many who have told me about the psychological harm Bible fundamentalism inflicted on them in their youth. I realize that religion does do some things that are beneficial to society, but, as H. L. Mencken said, the bad far outweighs the good. This is so obviously true to those willing to look objectively at the history of religion that additional comment isn't even necessary. A corroborative view is stated after the next letter._ We have just finished reading a copy of your publication _The Skeptical_Review_, given us by Kova Lancaster of Orange Park, FL, and find it makes more sense than most. We will appreciate your including us on your mailing list. (Beth Perry, 7926 Praver Drive West, Jacksonville, FL 32217.) I would like to receive _The_Skeptical_Review_ as offered in the Freedom From Religion Foundation paper for November 1993.... Thank you very much for this favor. I will consider subscribing, of course. I am very much interested in this kind of material after spending 40 years in a dogmatic religion but am now liberated by reading history, philosophy, and religious history. _(Ruth_C._Riales,_1205_Forest_Circle,_Altemonte_Springs,_FL 32714.)_ The next issue of the review, which I hope I will receive in a few weeks, will end my free annual subscription to it. Although I think you pay too much attention to the Old Testament and the review seems intended to fight fundamentalism, I find informations and comments which are useful to a Roman Catholic like myself who likes studying atheism and compared history of religions. Therefore, I am enclosing a cheque of US $12 to pay for my subscription for two further years when the present free subscription ends. Many thanks for these first issues and kind regards. __(Antonio_Casa_Ibanez,_Apartado_882,_50080_Zaragoza,_Spain.) _ I might have a beer and pizza party with my non-Christian/Christian friends and show the resurrection tape. Geisler is their hero. You murdered him. And the two tapes on prophecy fulfillment--does Buster Dobbs really get away with that kind of ignorance and issue evasion? Are there no members of the C of C left with half a brain to reel that airhead back to earth? You did good. You stuck to your questions like glue, didn't let him slip out of them. _(Mark_Smith,_P._O._Box_3065-192,_Garden_Grove,_CA_92642.) _ _EDITOR'S_NOTE:_Mark_Smith,_whose_article_"Evidence_That Doesn't_Demand_a_Verdict"_appeared_in_the_summer_issue_of TSR,_is_a_former_member_of_the_Church_of_Christ_and_therefore additional_proof_that_Bible_fundamentalists_do_occasionally_come to_their_senses--not_very_often,_admittedly,_but_sometimes_they do._ Thanks for the tape [[ref002]Geisler-Till Debate ]. You presented several cogent and salient lines of argument. In total, I believe you did quite well. Still, you failed to note (as did Dr. Geisler) some categorical differences between the seeming syncretisms of Christianity and other ancient "virgin savior" based belief systems. Like Mormonism, their followers didn't die for their assertions (as opposed to renouncing). __(Ross_E._Nunes,_1805_Broadway,_Pekin,_IL_61554.)_ __EDITOR'S_NOTE:_We_have_never_claimed_that_the_"Jesus story"_is_exactly_parallel_to_the_life_of_any_one_of_the many_pagan_savior-gods_who_were_worshiped_before_Jesus_was_allegedly born._We_do,_however,_claim_that_there_are_many_striking_parallels in_the_gospel_stories_and_the_myths_of_those_pagan_gods._Our_position is_that_the_parallels_are_too_striking_and_too_numerous_for_rational people_to_dismiss_them_as_mere_coincidences._After_all,_if_saviors were_born_of_virgins,_then_they_were_born_of_virgins,_and_the exact_manner_of_conception,_whether_by_any_of_the_various_ways that_the_pagan_saviors_were_conceived_or_by_the_"Holy_Ghost" coming_upon_and_"overshadowing"_the_Virgin_Mary_([ref003]Luke 1:35 ) is incidental. The fact that virgin births were, as I said in my debate with Geisler, "a dime a dozen" at the time Jesus was allegedly born of a virgin is sufficient to make any rational person suspicious of the claim. If Mr. Nunes knows of "categorical differences" that would make it reasonable to believe that the virgin birth of Jesus really happened whereas the virgin births of the pagan savior-gods were merely myths, we would certainly be interested in hearing what they are._ __More_puzzling_than_any_of_this,_however,_is_Mr._Nunes's_final sentence._Followers_of_the_other_pagan_saviors_weren't_willing to_die_for_their_beliefs?_I_suggest_that_Mr._Nunes_bone_up_a_little on_religious_history._Religious_martyrs_existed_long_before_Christianity came_on_the_scene._As_for_his_reference_to_Mormons_as_proof_that other_religious_adherents_"didn't_die_for_their_assertions," he_couldn't_have_picked_a_worse_example._Living_where_he_does, only_twenty_miles_from_my_home,_he_should_be_more_familiar_with Mormon_history_than_he_is._Nauvoo_and_Carthage,_Illinois,_are located_just_a_few_miles_west_of_here_in_the_region_where_the Mormons_came_to_escape_the_persecutions_they_had_experienced_in the_Eastern_states._The_peace_they_were_looking_for_wasn't_found there,_because_Joseph_Smith_was_taken_by_mob_force_from_the_Carthage jail_and_lynched._Later,_the_Mormons_moved_on,_going_first_to Western_Missouri_and_then_eventually_settling_in_Utah._The_facts of_Mormon_history_simply_do_not_support_Mr._Nunes's_claim,_and if_he_will,_as_I_suggested,_review_religious_history,_he_will find_that_people_were_dying_for_what_they_believed_long_before the_Christian_era_began._It_is_ridiculous_to_try_to_defend_the basic_claims_of_Christianity_on_the_grounds_that_the_apostles and_early_Christians_were_willing_to_die_for_their_beliefs._Martyrdom was_not_only_not_unique_to_Christianity_but_its_scope_has_been greatly_exaggerated._The_violent_ways_in_which_most_of_the_apostles allegedly_died_are_largely_matters_of_unsubstantiated_tradition, and_the_extent_of_Christian_persecutions_in_general_has_been_misrepresented in_Christian_propaganda._What_Christians_suffered_hardly_compares to_the_persecutions_inflicted_by_Christians_once_they_enjoyed majority_status._If,_then,_my_arguments_in_the_[ref004]Geisler-Till Debate were "cogent and salient," Mr. Nunes would do well to consider them and stop grasping at any straw he can find to try to defend a ridiculous belief system._ [ref001] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Galatians+6:7 [ref002] http:debate.html [ref003] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Luke+1:35 [ref004] http:debate.html

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