Religion

Discuss anything interesting but not remotely Countdown-related here.

Moderator: Jon O'Neill

Do you believe?

Yes, I am very religious
9
12%
Yes, but not in a big way
7
10%
Unsure, I am agnostic
12
16%
No, I am an atheist
45
62%
 
Total votes: 73

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Kieran Child
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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sun Aug 30, 2009 1:03 am

"created man of dust" 3-59
"created you from clay" 6-2
"created man from a drop of fluid" 16-4
"we created him out of nothing" 19-67
"created man from water" 25-54
"create a mortal out of mire" 38-71
"created man from a clot" 96-2

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 1:53 am

Jon Corby wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:[the Qur'an lays down the challenge of finding within it a single contradiction and challenges mankind to produce a single verse like any of the thousands therein. No-one has met either challenge yet.
I don't understand this second challenge. What if I took a verse and changed a word. Isn't that "a verse like any of the thousands therein"? Sounds kinda subjective to me. Can you elaborate please?
Good question, and one I asked years back to a friend much wiser than myself. Check this out, as it'll do a far better job than me.
Kieran Child wrote:"created man of dust" 3-59
"created you from clay" 6-2
"created man from a drop of fluid" 16-4
"we created him out of nothing" 19-67
"created man from water" 25-54
"create a mortal out of mire" 38-71
"created man from a clot" 96-2
Contradiction being? I made a cake from flour. I made a cake from sugar. I made a cake from.... and since I was able to produce these ingredients from nothing, I therefore made the cake from nothing.

Okay, totally random (maybe not totally) open question: why do people (assuming you do) celebrate Christmas, Easter etc?

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:26 am

So if someone asked you what you made a cake from, you would only say one of the ingredients? :|

And yes. I pretty much 'celebrate' every religious festival. The main reason being that the food around those times is better and cheaper. When I was back in Yorkshire, there was a place where you could get free samosas on little eid. That was win.

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Re: Religion

Post by David O'Donnell » Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:12 am

Easter and Christmas are hangovers of pagan celebrations.

Not sure if I approve of the conflation between agnostic and unsure since being agnostic is a specific argument that the whole issue is not worth debating since it cannot be proved either way.

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Re: Religion

Post by Sue Sanders » Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:27 am

Regarding the ingredients....To my eye it just looks more likely to be various mis-translations. To me, I feel that the cake explanation is trying to make a square peg fit a round whole, which smacks of 'blind' belief.

A huge number of people in this country 'celebrate' bonfire night. And, once we've left junior school, no-one really pays much attention to why we celebrate it.

With regard to Easter, personally that one passes me by - other than to refer occasionally to the idea that it was a pagan festival celebrating spring fertility that was taken over as a christian festival; which makes sense of the link with eggs and bunnies. And 25th of December was the feast of Saturnalia
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Re: Religion

Post by Charlie Reams » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:06 am

Derek Hazell wrote:I have watched several programmes with Richard Dawkins on them, and he has always said that he has reached his decision and could not be persuaded otherwise now.
[Citation needed]

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:14 am

The citation was "several programs with Richard Dawkins in" :)

But yeah, in his books he emphasizes his uncertainty.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:52 am

Kieran Child wrote:So if someone asked you what you made a cake from, you would only say one of the ingredients? :|
Well, you've quoted each phrase in isolation and not allowed context. If I was talking about the sweetness of the cake then yes, it would be sufficient only to mention sugar. The Qur'an needs to be taken as a complete text in which all the verses complement each other, rather than taking isolated portions. Indeed, a closer inspection will reveal some hidden depths (some say miracles) regarding these particular verses; see this.
Kieran Child wrote:When I was back in Yorkshire, there was a place where you could get free samosas on little eid. That was win.
Sounds awesome!
Sue Sanders wrote:Regarding the ingredients....To my eye it just looks more likely to be various mis-translations.
I agree that it's easy for meaning to get lost in translation which can lead to ambiguity and is all too often exploited. Which is why one should consult a scholar of classical Arabic to clarify these points. I've found that any such ambiguity is then resolved, although there may be minor differences of opinion. The fundamentals are very much fixed though and in particular the issue of what man was created from is accepted by all Muslims (as far as I know).

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:57 am

Junaid Mubeen wrote:So Islam clearly thinks of gays as sinners. But in the same way, anyone who commits adultery, has pre-marital sex or drinks alcohol are sinners.
So how is 'drinking alcohol' defined?

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:11 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:So Islam clearly thinks of gays as sinners. But in the same way, anyone who commits adultery, has pre-marital sex or drinks alcohol are sinners.
So how is 'drinking alcohol' defined?
The revelations regarding alcohol consumption came in a sequence (as did many verses relating to a particular ruling). The reasoning is that God is well aware of our difficulty with abstaining from certain evils and thus the only way to turn humanity away from alcohol is to do it in steps. Initially, alcohol was banned from prayers and this was eventually extended to all society. The verses have been interpreted to mean the banning of all intoxicating subtances. Furthermore, the Prohet (pbuh) advised even against consuming small amounts, so for example cooking oil with trace amounts of alcohol is forbidden.

If I'm honest, of all the teachings in Islam, those regarding alcohol make the most sense to me. I can't believe how consumed society (particularly in this country) is by it.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:17 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:The verses have been interpreted to mean the banning of all intoxicating subtances. Furthermore, the Prohet (pbuh) advised even against consuming small amounts, so for example cooking oil with trace amounts of alcohol is forbidden.
So morphine (for example) is out?

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:20 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:The verses have been interpreted to mean the banning of all intoxicating subtances. Furthermore, the Prohet (pbuh) advised even against consuming small amounts, so for example cooking oil with trace amounts of alcohol is forbidden.
So morphine (for example) is out?
I should have mentioned that with regards to medicine, these otherwise illegal substances are very much permitted if there is no reasonable alternative. So morphine is very much acceptable for medical purposes.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:25 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:I should have mentioned that with regards to medicine, these otherwise illegal substances are very much permitted if there is no reasonable alternative. So morphine is very much acceptable for medical purposes.
I see. So you'd only be allowed morphine if the pain you're suffering would kill you, and not just to make you feel better?

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:30 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:I should have mentioned that with regards to medicine, these otherwise illegal substances are very much permitted if there is no reasonable alternative. So morphine is very much acceptable for medical purposes.
I see. So you'd only be allowed morphine if the pain you're suffering would kill you, and not just to make you feel better?
If there was no alternative to alleviating the pain, then morphine would be perfectly acceptable. It's easy enough to distinguish when morphine (or whatever) is being used for medicinal purposes rather than being abused.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:41 pm

So intoxicating drugs for alleviating pain are fine, but not for other types of suffering? I wonder what Islam thinks of mental illness.

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Re: Religion

Post by Derek Hazell » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:51 pm

Kieran Child wrote:The citation was "several programmes with Richard Dawkins in" :)

But yeah, in his books he emphasizes his uncertainty.
Thanks Kieran. I expect in the kind of programmes I have watched he has felt backed into a corner, and so has just sounded more certain because of having to defend himself against people who think they are certain of their religious beliefs. Surpisingly I haven't read his books, but it looks as if I need to.

I deserved for Charlie to creep back on early and pick out my post out of the entire thread though, because of my tongue-in-cheek comment about doing a major poll while he is away.
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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 1:20 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:So intoxicating drugs for alleviating pain are fine, but not for other types of suffering? I wonder what Islam thinks of mental illness.
Not at all. Please see this.

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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Sun Aug 30, 2009 5:51 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:So Islam clearly thinks of gays as sinners. But in the same way, anyone who commits adultery, has pre-marital sex or drinks alcohol are sinners.
So how is 'drinking alcohol' defined?
The revelations regarding alcohol consumption came in a sequence (as did many verses relating to a particular ruling). The reasoning is that God is well aware of our difficulty with abstaining from certain evils and thus the only way to turn humanity away from alcohol is to do it in steps.
I don't think it's that easy to explain away the contradictions in the Quran about alcohol, given that in the Meccan sura wine is talked about positively. Are we to believe that in God's 12-step program he would first have us drink wine before making us abstain from it?

It's this sort of thing which makes many non-Muslims who have studied the Quran come to the conclusion that the contradictions in the Quran do not arise from God's poetic use of language and mysterious revelation, but from Muhammed changing his ideas part way through the creation of the Quran in the face of non-success and criticism, things that are even spoken about in the Quran itself.

I can't help but think that the (undeniably clever) explanations for contradictions in holy texts are borne from having a belief in God as default and then trying to fit the evidence around that belief. A lot of your (and many religious people's) reasoning seems to go by the form of "God definitely exists, that's why x is true" or "God is so intelligent that we can't understand why x appears false, but because God exists then x is true", which would be fine if God existed but that's something that needs to be demonstrated before I start to consider taking on board that reasoning.

By the way I find it commendable that you can be so open about your beliefs, which differ greatly from what most of us believe on this forum, and that you are willing to have your beliefs tested in debate, so, er, kudos :).

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:24 pm

Ben Hunter wrote:I don't think it's that easy to explain away the contradictions in the Quran about alcohol, given that in the Meccan sura wine is talked about positively. Are we to believe that in God's 12-step program he would first have us drink wine before making us abstain from it?
There are two verses (that I know of) that doubters cite regarding alcohol: the one you refer to, I think, is where God mentions the rivers of wine in Heavan. One explanation is that Heavan is free of corruption and therefore the wine within retains its taste, but isn't actuallt intoxicated. In the other verse, wine is described as having some benefits and the point is made that these are outweighed by its negative effects, so it should be avoided at all costs. Logical enough, surely? Bear in mind that these revelations came at a time where society was hooked on alcohol. So the first revelations were asking for a reduction, which evolved into a full blown prohibition. This seems a reasonable methodology as opposed to expecting everyone to give it up in one fell swoop. To change attitudes, one must first respect the needs of the people. Change is often slow, after all.
Ben Hunter wrote:It's this sort of thing which makes many non-Muslims who have studied the Quran come to the conclusion that the contradictions in the Quran do not arise from God's poetic use of language and mysterious revelation, but from Muhammed changing his ideas part way through the creation of the Quran in the face of non-success and criticism, things that are even spoken about in the Quran itself.
I think an elementary study into the life of the Prophet (pbuh) will reveal that he never allowed anyone to dictate his agenda (which he believed was solely spreading the word of God). The Prophet (pbuh) was persecuted for over twenty years on the basis of his teachings; even the so-called relaxed versions of these rulings were met with contempt. Criticism and non-success would always be something to deal with, but then you'd have to argue he didn't manage it at all well. If his aim was to rally support by changing the message, it would have been (a lot) easier to remove any ban on alcohol, or no longer insist on 5 daily prayers, or a dress code for men and women, etc etc etc
Ben Hunter wrote:I can't help but think that the (undeniably clever) explanations for contradictions in holy texts are borne from having a belief in God as default and then trying to fit the evidence around that belief. A lot of your (and many religious people's) reasoning seems to go by the form of "God definitely exists, that's why x is true" or "God is so intelligent that we can't understand why x appears false, but because God exists then x is true", which would be fine if God existed but that's something that needs to be demonstrated before I start to consider taking on board that reasoning.
I think this is reasonable to a large extent. It's quite clear that a lot of people are brought into (any) religion without question and then do what you describe. On the other hand, a vast proportion of Muslims (and plenty of the ones I know) do puruse an objective course of enquiry and still make the same conclusions. I believe there's a reason why Islam is so diverse, with growing numbers of reverts across the globe. And I feel it's embedded in the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh), which are embodied by Muslims everywhere. I think there's enough in both to make one ponder if there is something divine about this religion. I've not even mentioned the scientific revelations in the Qur'an, or its consistencies with other faiths, and I've barely scratched the surface on the remarkable life and character of the Prophet (pbuh). The belief that God exists, for me and many Muslims I know, really is the most logical conclusion of an objective enquiry.
Ben Hunter wrote:By the way I find it commendable that you can be so open about your beliefs, which differ greatly from what most of us believe on this forum, and that you are willing to have your beliefs tested in debate, so, er, kudos :).
I appreciate the comment, thanks Ben. If you're willing to ask the questions, I'll do my best to respond. I figured I'm probably the only Muslim voice here (correct me if I'm wrong anyone) and so can offer a point of view rarely heard on forums like this. I should also say: please don't take my word for everything and assume you now have complete answers for the questions you posed. I am very limited in my understanding of Islam and have no doubt failed to do it the justice it deserves. Moreover, much of this is my personal interpretation and I know Muslims who'd disagree with much of what I've said. If you really want an objective answer to anything, it's not enough just to take my word for it.

One last thing: I'm very busy this coming week so probably won't hit the forum much. Please don't assume it's because I've shyed away from this thread...but it is taking up a lot of time!
Last edited by Junaid Mubeen on Mon Aug 31, 2009 1:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:31 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:[I figured I'm probably the only Muslim voice here
You seem to be the only active voice from any religion, so I hope you enjoy the fact that virtually every post in this thread is directed at you!

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:35 pm

Jon Corby wrote:I also don't understand the reasoning that the universe is perfect so it must have a creator. Doesn't this just add an extra layer of complexity (i.e. where did the creator come from) rather than explain anything?!
I've always thought this as well. I don't know if many of you have heard of William Lane Craig, but he's an American Christian who has had several debates with atheists and people from other religions. Some of the arguments he uses seem quite basic (he uses the above argument) but in the debates I've seen him have on YouTube, his opponents don't seem to pounce on the weaknesses in his arguments. I'd love to take him on.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:43 pm

I only just twigged what Junaid's pbuh business was about - I'd spent most of the thread thinking it was the name of some prophet I hadn't heard of.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:25 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:I only just twigged what Junaid's pbuh business was about - I'd spent most of the thread thinking it was the name of some prophet I hadn't heard of.
I didn't know either until I just looked it up because of you. I won't spoil it for others though.

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Re: Religion

Post by Derek Hazell » Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:28 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Michael Wallace wrote:I only just twigged what Junaid's pbuh business was about - I'd spent most of the thread thinking it was the name of some prophet I hadn't heard of.
I didn't know either until I just looked it up because of you. I won't spoil it for others though.
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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:43 pm

I've never been sure how a religious person, who believes in free will and stuff and believes we are being "judged" by God to determine where we go after we die, can reconcile this with the blind process of evolution and how our behaviour is just the result of physical goings on in a physical world determined by blind laws of physics, other than by just denying it all.

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Re: Religion

Post by George Jenkins » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:06 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:In these and many cases, religion is exploited to sell an idea and rally support, but that is the fault of the abuser, not the religion.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people?
Religion is good, there is Lot's of money to be made from it. Also! It permits you to commit mass murder in the name of your own "true religion". There were so many protestants killed in Cromwell's time, the Government published the Human rights act. (I forget the correct title, perhaps the common law act?) This authorised protestants to kill catholics in their own defence. I don't think that law has ever been rescinded, but you must act within the law to defend yourself. Of course, in the old days, if you were an intelligent person, and knew that you are only an animal with a more developed brain than a monkey, you had both the protestant and catholic nutters stringing you up or toasting you on a bonfire. I do enjoy reading the old testament though. Talk about mass murder and burning. And there is a vicious, cruel bastard called god who is much worse than Genghis Kan. (I hope that is the right spelling)

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:15 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:Contradiction being? I made a cake from flour. I made a cake from sugar. I made a cake from.... and since I was able to produce these ingredients from nothing, I therefore made the cake from nothing.
Actually, if we're gonna try and use this cake analogy a bit more accurately, let's say I made a cake from iron filings. I made a cake from sand. I made a cake from nothing. (Which makes no sense - can you explain how you "produce ingredients from nothing"?!)

And sounds like it came from somebody who knows fuck all about what cakes are actually made from.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Mon Aug 31, 2009 12:05 am

Jon Corby wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:Contradiction being? I made a cake from flour. I made a cake from sugar. I made a cake from.... and since I was able to produce these ingredients from nothing, I therefore made the cake from nothing.
Actually, if we're gonna try and use this cake analogy a bit more accurately, let's say I made a cake from iron filings. I made a cake from sand. I made a cake from nothing. (Which makes no sense - can you explain how you "produce ingredients from nothing"?!)

And sounds like it came from somebody who knows fuck all about what cakes are actually made from.
This is fair enough...provided you can justify that any of the 'ingredients' mentioned in the Qur'an make no sense. I'll address the issue of creating something from nothing for now, since this is the one you've cited:

obviously I'm incapable of doing so, but I believe in a God that created the universe from nothing. This is something that I can't fully grasp, but equally I can't grasp the idea that the universe has been around forever. What should be clear is that given a belief in a timeless God, either scenario is plausible. The issue that many people have is when these are used to argue for God's existence in the first place, which is not what I'm doing right now.

In any case, as always the ayah (verse) needs to be taken in context; a more expansive translation is as follows:

(19:66) The human being asks, "After I die, do I come back to life?"
(19:67) Did the human being forget that we created him already, and he was nothing?

So God is demonstrating his ability to create life from nothing; we have already experienced this once with birth (sorry Corby, but you were once nothing) and shall do so again after we die.
Michael Wallace wrote:I only just twigged what Junaid's pbuh business was about - I'd spent most of the thread thinking it was the name of some prophet I hadn't heard of.
My bad, I really should have mentioned this ("peace be upon him", for anyone still wondering). Reminds me of an RE lesson I had where a student was reading to the class and kept pronouncing this phonetically.

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Re: Religion

Post by David O'Donnell » Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:36 am

I am tickled by the fact that any criticisms of the Qur'an have focused on inconsistencies in the text, there are a number of presuppositions here:

1. The Qur'an is accepted as the word of a deity;

2. The Qur'an represents the writing of one person (perhaps a prophet of God).

Even fundamentalist Muslims concede that the writing of the Qur'an could not possibly be by one person.

Likewise the New Testament (from which Christianity is derived) has to be by more than one individual.

Likewise the Old Testament (which informs most aspects of the Jewish faith) has to be by more than one individual.

The presumption in any argument thus far is that either these (mutually exclusive texts which is a natural conclusion given religious division) texts comprise the word of God or are written by different individuals in a univocal manner: hence to uncover an inherent contradiction is to thus disprove what has been written.

Let us suppose for a moment that any one of these text compositions is the result of manifold and diverse influences hence contradictions are to be expected. Hence univocalism is to be denied. Hence the text ceases to be the sacred word of God or Allah or Yahweh. It is a [they are] social text(s), historically situated and even, perhaps, insightful for the time ... but it is [they are] of the time.

Perhaps these texts have some relevance for the way we live our lives, an explanation of how the cosmos operates and our role in it but perhaps these explanantions are too simplistic for the times in which we live. Maybe aspects of the text are just completely irrelevant: hardly surprising!! (they are from a different time). In much the same way we can discern that Newton is a genius of his time but that he inevitably failed to predict the theories of Einstein. He had seen far because he had stood upon the shoulders of giants and modern thinkers do likewise (perhaps standing on Newton's shoulders!)

This is not to suggest that our direction is unimpeded progress - some of our so-called progress has resulted in greater conceptions of misery than ever imagined possible. The age of the enlightenment promised a new birth but when delivered turned out to be an almighty diarrhoea-ridden shit. Just reflect upon concepts like: "World War"; "Nuclear Holocaust"; "Genocide"; ad nauseam.

What are the problems of our dependence on texts for understanding our own role within the cosmos? The text is not a thought in the true sense. When I have a thought perhaps I try to explain it to you using language and perhaps you get it ... perhaps you don't ... or perhaps I have no means of expressing it. If God or Gods are omnipotent and the cosmos is universal perhaps it is understandable that I may never convey this to you. This is particularly relevant when I may not be able to convey a simple colour to you:

"It's a reddish brown"
-"you mean maroon"
"But not quite maroon"
-"I think I know what you mean"
"How can we be sure?"

Further, I think in English because it is my native tongue (sic): English is a language with all the rules that the use of language entails. Are my thoughts constructed in the same manner? Is there a gulf between my thoughts and their translation into expression? How does this complicate our understanding of written texts? What do we understand by the word of God(s) as opposed to the thought of God(s)?

Perhaps you are thinking that ... most likely - this is a long-winded and asinine post!; or, I have a feeling that there are gulfs between thought and text that permeate our scholarly history but how does this feeling materialize? To the first question I have nothing but sympathy but to the second you must only consider the great upheavals that have gone on in all aspects of thought from the classics to today: the early Greeks indulged in pederasty; Pythagoras drowned one of his brethren who proved the existence of irrational numbers; Ptolemy to Copernicus; Newton's conception of gravity contra Einstein's contra Einstein's theory of light contra Planck's; social Darwinism to Nazi concentration camps; the gaining of the means of defending oneself to the development of atomic power ad infintum.

What are the conclusions?

- well, very few - merely that I want to undermine the authenticity of the text as a means of divining understanding in a pluralist world wherein language is differentiated from how one arrives at thoughts.

Sorry for the long-winded reply but I am flabberghastingly drunk! Hence the time!

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Mon Aug 31, 2009 9:40 am

No Muslim would think that the Koran was compiled by one person, because the story of the compilation of the Koran is known, but every Muslim believes that it is the word of a god. You will not be able to find a Muslim who does not think that Surah 21, Passage 33 has, at some point, been spoken by god himself.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Mon Aug 31, 2009 9:54 am

Junaid Mubeen wrote:This is fair enough...provided you can justify that any of the 'ingredients' mentioned in the Qur'an make no sense.
See, herein lies the problem. Man isn't created from dust. Yet presumably you have some twisted explanation as to how actually he kinda is (dust is largely dead skin, and man has skin!) whereas it's just plain bullshit. There'll be some tenuous explanation for everything, that you actually believe is some kind of miraculous insight. And then also you'll go onto claim how the Qu'ran states in detail the reproductive process and stuff, despite already claiming that man was made from dust.
Junaid Mubeen wrote:So God is demonstrating his ability to create life from nothing; we have already experienced this once with birth (sorry Corby, but you were once nothing)
Can I lol at this bit? I know it's just a jokey comment that doesn't form part of the discussion, but you have to admit it's kinda funny in the context of this thread to try and make jibes suggesting the atheist is full of his own importance :)

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Re: Religion

Post by Howard Somerset » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:26 am

I've gone for option 3. Even though I feel about 99% sure that there is no god, certainly not using most conventional religious definitions of god, nothing is absolutely certain, so I've had to go for the unsure option.

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Re: Religion

Post by Phil Reynolds » Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:09 pm

Kieran Child wrote:Also growl at the distinction between agnosticism and atheism. All atheists are agnostics (basically)
Speaking as an atheist who came to that position after much thought and consideration and weighing up of evidence, I find that statement mildly offensive. Saying that I am basically agnostic suggests that I haven't made my mind up. I have. An agnostic is sitting on the fence, waiting for sufficient evidence to help them decide one way or the other. An atheist, by contrast, has decided (whether through weight of evidence or personal conviction).

Douglas Adams got so riled with people wagging their finger at him and saying, "Ah, but you're really an agnostic aren't you? If you were presented with incontrovertible proof that God exists, you'd change your mind?" that he took to declaring himself a "radical atheist" just to enforce the point (which shouldn't have needed making) that he was an intelligent person who had viewed the evidence, made his mind up and saw no likelihood of that position changing.

For me, like Douglas Adams, atheism is not a question of (lack of) belief. I can state that God doesn't exist as confidently as I can state that the moon isn't made of blue cheese. I could be all wishy-washy about it and say, "Well, I believe the moon isn't made of blue cheese, but I can't prove that it isn't, and I haven't been there and seen it for myself; so I guess I would have to change my mind if you could show me evidence that it is"; but there would be no point. Likewise with religion.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:48 pm

Phil Reynolds wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:Also growl at the distinction between agnosticism and atheism. All atheists are agnostics (basically)
Speaking as an atheist who came to that position after much thought and consideration and weighing up of evidence, I find that statement mildly offensive. Saying that I am basically agnostic suggests that I haven't made my mind up. I have. An agnostic is sitting on the fence, waiting for sufficient evidence to help them decide one way or the other. An atheist, by contrast, has decided (whether through weight of evidence or personal conviction).

Douglas Adams got so riled with people wagging their finger at him and saying, "Ah, but you're really an agnostic aren't you? If you were presented with incontrovertible proof that God exists, you'd change your mind?" that he took to declaring himself a "radical atheist" just to enforce the point (which shouldn't have needed making) that he was an intelligent person who had viewed the evidence, made his mind up and saw no likelihood of that position changing.

For me, like Douglas Adams, atheism is not a question of (lack of) belief. I can state that God doesn't exist as confidently as I can state that the moon isn't made of blue cheese. I could be all wishy-washy about it and say, "Well, I believe the moon isn't made of blue cheese, but I can't prove that it isn't, and I haven't been there and seen it for myself; so I guess I would have to change my mind if you could show me evidence that it is"; but there would be no point. Likewise with religion.

And the same point can be made about religious people. Unless a Christian, for example, is 100% sure (actually some of them claim to be but there's bound to be some that aren't) then they too can be accused of being an agnostic.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:51 pm

Find it offensive, but you are one.
agnostic is a-without gnostis-knowledge.
You don't know whether or not God exists.
Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens and Harris all identify themselves as agnostic, because that's what all sensible atheists are.
Be offended, but you are agnostic.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Mon Aug 31, 2009 8:05 pm

Kieran Child wrote:Find it offensive, but you are one.
agnostic is a-without gnostis-knowledge.
You don't know whether or not God exists.
Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens and Harris all identify themselves as agnostic, because that's what all sensible atheists are.
Be offended, but you are agnostic.
I suppose what annoys people is when someone says "You're not an atheist; you're an agnostic." I don't think a position like atheism requires 100% certainty any more than a position like Christianity. So without knowledge, you might be an agnostic, but then you can be both an atheist and agnostic I'd say. But we're just playing word games really.

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Re: Religion

Post by Derek Hazell » Mon Aug 31, 2009 8:09 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:I suppose what annoys people is when someone says "You're not an atheist; you're an agnostic." I don't think a position like atheism requires 100% certainty any more than a position like Christianity. So without knowledge, you might be an agnostic, but then you can be both an atheist and agnostic I'd say. But we're just playing word games really.
Yep. The topic's gone full circle. When I first put my interpretation of the words, it turned out other people's were different. And now with Junaid (the only religious person willing to speak out) busy, people are back to talking about the definitions again.
Where better to play word games though?
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Re: Religion

Post by Phil Reynolds » Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:03 pm

Kieran Child wrote:You don't know whether or not God exists.
Yes, I do.

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:22 pm

Phil Reynolds wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:You don't know whether or not God exists.
Yes, I do.
IAWTP

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:36 pm

Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Phil Reynolds wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:You don't know whether or not God exists.
Yes, I do.
IAWTP
So both of you rule out any possibility of their being a god? :shock:
If so, your position is definitely not one of science, which is what I was expecting.

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Re: Religion

Post by Derek Hazell » Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:52 pm

Kieran Child wrote:So both of you rule out any possibility of their being a god? :shock:
If so, your position is definitely not one of science, which is what I was expecting.
No, Phil is an actor, so perhaps he is more qualified than any of us to separate fact from fiction . . .
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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:06 pm

Kieran Child wrote:So both of you rule out any possibility of their being a god? :shock:
If so, your position is definitely not one of science, which is what I was expecting.
This may be because you do not properly understand what is meant by science.

Like any other scientific question, in considering the existence or non-existence of one or more gods we look at the available evidence, conduct experiments and evaluate them, consider the probabilities, and then state our position. We then invite those who take a contrary position to prove that position. Scientifically. If, after a reasonable time, they cannot do this, then we can advance our hypothesis to the status of a theory and begin to rely on it. If it is later disproved we can revise our opinions.

Most people would consider several thousand years a long enough trial period. No evidence has been forthcoming. None.
Before you begin to argue the point, please make sure you understand the concept of scientific method..

To take a simple example, when we leave the house we do not need to take elaborate precautions against the possibility of gravity failing on us. We consider it a fact. We rely on it. As do you. Should it be disproved at some later date we can reconsider it. In the meantime we do not need to keep banging on about it and paying attention to every crackpot who claims to know somebody who once read a book that disproves it.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:24 pm

Once you step outside the loveliness of maths and enter the murky world of 'science', the concept of 'proof' is a little lost on me. I don't know that there isn't a god any more than I know that I'm sitting on a chair. Whilst I will base various of my actions on the fact that I think I am sitting on a chair, I wouldn't say I am certain that I am, because I can't be.

Something that we try and drill into the heads of people studying epidemiology is that you don't say "the null hypothesis is false", you say "the data are incosistent with the null hypothesis".

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:25 pm

Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:So both of you rule out any possibility of their being a god? :shock:
If so, your position is definitely not one of science, which is what I was expecting.
This may be because you do not properly understand what is meant by science.

Like any other scientific question, in considering the existence or non-existence of one or more gods we look at the available evidence, conduct experiments and evaluate them, consider the probabilities, and then state our position. We then invite those who take a contrary position to prove that position. Scientifically. If, after a reasonable time, they cannot do this, then we can advance our hypothesis to the status of a theory and begin to rely on it. If it is later disproved we can revise our opinions.

Most people would consider several thousand years a long enough trial period. No evidence has been forthcoming. None.
Before you begin to argue the point, please make sure you understand the concept of scientific method..

To take a simple example, when we leave the house we do not need to take elaborate precautions against the possibility of gravity failing on us. We consider it a fact. We rely on it. As do you. Should it be disproved at some later date we can reconsider it. In the meantime we do not need to keep banging on about it and paying attention to every crackpot who claims to know somebody who once read a book that disproves it.
Until there is proof for something, you cannot know it, and to know it is to eliminate the possibility of anything else being true. I genuinely cannot think of any prominent atheist who would eliminate the possibility of god. Even Mr. Stenger is.
What you said about the scientific method is mostly correct, but thankfully you included the very important point that "if it is later disproved". If you claim not to be an agnostic, then you are ruling out the possibility of it ever being disproved. You have a static belief system that will never be shaken by any evidence, because you just 'know'.
When we leave the house we do not need to take elaborate precautions because it is incredibly unlike that gravity will fail on us, but it could still happen. We consider it a fact but it isn't one. We rely on it because it is as near as damn it, but the fact that the possibility of disproof exists means that it is never a certainty that the case is correct.

If you leave open any possibility, however minute, of God existing, then you are an agnostic. If you do not, then you have ruled out a possibility without proof for doing so, and your stance is faith based.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon O'Neill » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:39 pm

Kieran Child wrote:
Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:So both of you rule out any possibility of their being a god? :shock:
If so, your position is definitely not one of science, which is what I was expecting.
This may be because you do not properly understand what is meant by science.

Like any other scientific question, in considering the existence or non-existence of one or more gods we look at the available evidence, conduct experiments and evaluate them, consider the probabilities, and then state our position. We then invite those who take a contrary position to prove that position. Scientifically. If, after a reasonable time, they cannot do this, then we can advance our hypothesis to the status of a theory and begin to rely on it. If it is later disproved we can revise our opinions.

Most people would consider several thousand years a long enough trial period. No evidence has been forthcoming. None.
Before you begin to argue the point, please make sure you understand the concept of scientific method..

To take a simple example, when we leave the house we do not need to take elaborate precautions against the possibility of gravity failing on us. We consider it a fact. We rely on it. As do you. Should it be disproved at some later date we can reconsider it. In the meantime we do not need to keep banging on about it and paying attention to every crackpot who claims to know somebody who once read a book that disproves it.
Until there is proof for something, you cannot know it, and to know it is to eliminate the possibility of anything else being true. I genuinely cannot think of any prominent atheist who would eliminate the possibility of god. Even Mr. Stenger is.
What you said about the scientific method is mostly correct, but thankfully you included the very important point that "if it is later disproved". If you claim not to be an agnostic, then you are ruling out the possibility of it ever being disproved. You have a static belief system that will never be shaken by any evidence, because you just 'know'.
When we leave the house we do not need to take elaborate precautions because it is incredibly unlike that gravity will fail on us, but it could still happen. We consider it a fact but it isn't one. We rely on it because it is as near as damn it, but the fact that the possibility of disproof exists means that it is never a certainty that the case is correct.

If you leave open any possibility, however minute, of God existing, then you are an agnostic. If you do not, then you have ruled out a possibility without proof for doing so, and your stance is faith based.
Yawn.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:44 pm

Apologies but I find this very important. Atheists are constantly being attacked for their position being based on faith, when it isn't. Atheism should be the lack of faith. But then when an atheist rules out the possibility of god it becomes a faith and plays into this common criticism.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:25 am

Kieran Child wrote:Apologies but I find this very important. Atheists are constantly being attacked for their position being based on faith, when it isn't. Atheism should be the lack of faith. But then when an atheist rules out the possibility of god it becomes a faith and plays into this common criticism.
It is sort of important, but then you can get a bit silly. Do you "know" that all your toys don't come to life when nobody's watching a la Toy Story? No, you can't "know" because it would only happen when there's no witnesses. But you don't really entertain the possibility do you? The whole "leaving it open" thing is just to avoid the (pointless) counter-argument from theists that you've made there. It just saves a bit of time.

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Re: Religion

Post by Phil Reynolds » Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:31 am

Richard Dawkins says (on p74 of the paperback edition of The God Delusion): "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden", which is a long way from claiming (as Kieran did in his first post on this thread) that there is no useful distinction to be made between atheists and agnostics.

Back in the days when I used to be agnostic, I think my personal epiphany was the realisation that, if there were suddenly to be found some incontrovertible proof that God existed, and he really turned out to be the cruel, illogical, power-obsessed and vengeful deity that the Old Testament asks us to believe in, then I wouldn't be interested anyway. Once the existence or non-existence of God becomes irrelevant to you, it's much easier to weigh up the evidence objectively.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:15 am

I didn't say there's no useful distinction :shock:
And that quotation is correct. Dawkins is an agnostic, along with every published atheist I've ever read.
To be honest, I find it highly unlikely that you aren't agnostic, but you claimed not to be on the grounds that it implies that you haven't made up your mind, but it doesn't imply that.
Atheist - someone who doesn't believe in god
Agnostic - someone who isn't certain whether or not god exists

The majority of atheists would accept both labels, be aware of the subtlety in wording of both, and seek to remove the stereotypes surrounding both.

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:21 am

Jon Corby wrote:It is sort of important, but then you can get a bit silly. Do you "know" that all your toys don't come to life when nobody's watching a la Toy Story? No, you can't "know" because it would only happen when there's no witnesses. But you don't really entertain the possibility do you? The whole "leaving it open" thing is just to avoid the (pointless) counter-argument from theists that you've made there. It just saves a bit of time.
Thanks for that, Jon. It sums up exacly what I was failing to get across: "silly", "pointless", "save time". Spot on!
Phil Reynolds wrote:Richard Dawkins says (on p74 of the paperback edition of The God Delusion): "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden", which is a long way from claiming (as Kieran did in his first post on this thread) that there is no useful distinction to be made between atheists and agnostics.

Back in the days when I used to be agnostic, I think my personal epiphany was the realisation that, if there were suddenly to be found some incontrovertible proof that God existed, and he really turned out to be the cruel, illogical, power-obsessed and vengeful deity that the Old Testament asks us to believe in, then I wouldn't be interested anyway. Once the existence or non-existence of God becomes irrelevant to you, it's much easier to weigh up the evidence objectively.
And for that, Phil. I absolutely agree.
Kieran Child wrote:Atheist - someone who doesn't believe in god
Agnostic - someone who isn't certain whether or not god exists
But your argument is that this "atheist", as defined by you, cannot exist. Are you really 100% sure of that?

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:23 am

Of course an atheist can exist. I'm an atheist.

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Re: Religion

Post by Phil Reynolds » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:32 am

Kieran Child wrote:I didn't say there's no useful distinction
You said "[G]rowl at the distinction between agnosticism and atheism". If you think there is a distinction - let alone a useful one - why do you growl at it? Make your mind up, for God's sake.

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Re: Religion

Post by Brian Moore » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:36 am

Jon Corby wrote:Do you "know" that all your toys don't come to life when nobody's watching?
Of course toys come to life. You need proof?

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Re: Religion

Post by Chris Corby » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:37 am

This topic has got really heavy, but I would like someone who beleives in God to explain to me where it all fits in with the indisputable fact that dinosuars ruled the world for millions of years before homo sapiens which as far as I know no religious handbook, eg the Old Testament, acknowledges.

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Re: Religion

Post by Chris Corby » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:37 am

Brian Moore wrote:
Jon Corby wrote:Do you "know" that all your toys don't come to life when nobody's watching?
Of course toys come to life. You need proof?
My wife's toys come to life when I am not watching.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:41 am

Phil Reynolds wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:I didn't say there's no useful distinction
You said "[G]rowl at the distinction between agnosticism and atheism". If you think there is a distinction - let alone a useful one - why do you growl at it? Make your mind up, for God's sake.
I did say that, and I still would, because the distinction being made was wrong. There may be a different word for it but I'm not aware of one. The point I was aiming for was that agnosticism and atheism are not exclusive terms. Not all agnostics are atheists but the great majority of atheists are agnostics.

If you look at the definitions I gave above, or indeed the definitions in any dictionary, you will see this is the case.
What Corby said is correct. To be an agnostic you are leaving open the possibility, even though you may see the possibility as very very small (Dawkins and the fairies). But to shut out that possibility, however small, becomes an act of faith.

It is important because of how common the argument gets put against atheists that theirs is a position of faith, when for the majority of them, it isn't.

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Re: Religion

Post by Matt Morrison » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:47 am

Chris Corby wrote:
Brian Moore wrote:
Jon Corby wrote:Do you "know" that all your toys don't come to life when nobody's watching?
Of course toys come to life. You need proof?
My wife's toys come to life when I am not watching.
+1. This is much more my level.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:51 am

Chris Corby wrote:This topic has got really heavy, but I would like someone who beleives in God to explain to me where it all fits in with the indisputable fact that dinosuars ruled the world for millions of years before homo sapiens which as far as I know no religious handbook, eg the Old Testament, acknowledges.
Well, everyone thinks dinosaurs are awesome. God was no different. So he made his planet and filled it with dinosaurs. But after a while he got bored, because they just lumbered round eating stuff and each other. He wanted a bit more variety. So he thought he'd fill it with more intelligent beings who could come up with much more interesting and inventive ways of killing each other, other than just biting them. So he killed all the dinosaurs off with one fell swoop, and set about making humans. Once he'd done that, he filled their heads with enough hostility to get the process started and sat back to watch. Now, if you were God, you'd hardly say "oh yeah, before you guys, I also made these big lizards, but I got a bit bored of them, so I killed them all off and made you". Cos then people might say "but.... what if you get bored of us?" and that wouldn't do. So instead you bury all the dinosaur evidence and say "I love each and every one of you! (suckers)".

:)

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:55 am

Chris, the problem with indisputible facts is that the religious have a tendency to dispute them.
http://www.bible.ca/tracks/tracks.htm

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Re: Religion

Post by Derek Hazell » Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:00 am

Jon Corby wrote:
Chris Corby wrote:This topic has got really heavy, but I would like someone who beleives in God to explain to me where it all fits in with the indisputable fact that dinosuars ruled the world for millions of years before homo sapiens which as far as I know no religious handbook, eg the Old Testament, acknowledges.
Well, everyone thinks dinosaurs are awesome [. . . ]"I love each and every one of you! (suckers)".

:)
A wonderful new explanation for a contradiction of the long distant past. I would love to see a book written as a collaborative effort between the two Corbys explaining all contradictions in past, present and future life on this planet.
Living life in a gyratory circus kind of way.

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