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Wanting a reason to believe


Canderis
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Alright. I'm an atheist. And I hate it. The most frightening thought to me is that when we die, that's it. I can't imagine what true nothing is like. I just cannot grasp it. But unfortunately, because of how my mind works, that is what I believe happens when we die. I really wish I could believe in something different, a religion or something, just to help make the end a little less scary, but I can't just believe in something to believe in something. I can't do it. I could say I do, but then there's still that thought hidden behind the believing exterior. It's really hard to have a positive look on life and think like this. Does anyone else feel the same way? Can anyone help me change my belief?

 

PS. If this has to be deleted or locked for any reason, I'm sorry for causing trouble.

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Roman Catholic, and a lot of the time it's hard as balls to believe. My advice, stay calm and carry on for the moment, in all circumstances keep up appearances, and look to the people you trust in real life rather than the internet for further advice on this matter.

 

Also, don't say that you want to find something you'd feel more comfortable to believe. Say that you want to find the truth of the universe.

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First of all, there's no reason for this to be locked. This is the section of the forum for this kind of stuff!

 

Second, I recently watched a good video which may show you that you can be more comfortable with the beliefs you have rather than the ones you think you should have. Being honest with yourself is a good policy.

 

I am not sure how to make dying less scary, since that never really came up as a problem for me. Alan Watts had a great bit which might help you, though-- just to put a little perspective on things.

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I'm a Christian (though I don't consider myself a very good one). I'm willing to give you my perspective on the issue.

 

To me, there simply has to be an first cause for the universe, for everything that exists. If we're buildings, something had to build us. If we're programs, something had to code us. "Something coming out of nothing" doesn't make sense to me.

 

I've been told since my childhood that the first cause is the God of Christianity. So I decided to see if that God existed or not.

 

What I eventually came to understand is this: 1. The Christian God exists. 2. If you want to "see" whether he exists or not, you have to want to know him (note: not "know of").

 

By my understanding, God is not a litmus paper that you can stick into a pot of chemicals to see what happens. The fact is, he's a person, and has desires and motivations in the same way we do (though perhaps not at the same level). And as a person, his policy regarding revealing himself is to do it to people that want something to do with him.

You don't have to know who he is, specifically, but if you really want to know the real god/godlike entity (note: not "know of") that exists, he is willing to oblige you. Your motivations matter in this, and God knows when they're valid or not.

 

How he reveals himself from person to person is not set. In can be in a number of ways - the uniting factor in the experiences is that you *know*, without a shadow of a doubt, what just happened, and who it was. My theory regarding this is that somewhere, deep down in our psyches, there is an imprint of what His presence is like - like a forgotten memory of a person's face. You may not be able to bring the face to mind, but when you see it, you immediately know who it is.

 

Whether this imprint is obtained from traces of unconscious sensing of God in the world, or whether we were born with it, I don't know; but it's there, like a dormant instinct.

 

 

Regarding your specific situation, colloquial existential Nihilism seems to me as the only logical conclusion of Atheism. I don't understand how atheists can keep from moving into that ideology. (That's not an insult, it's a genuine question.) From what I can tell, most just occupy themselves collectivism or individualistic pursuits to distract themselves from the question. It seems to work until for some reason or another, the distractions, or ability to pursue distractions is taken away, and the person is forced to consider to logical emptiness that lays before them.

 

If you have trouble believing in the supernatural because you don't know how it works, let me pose this question to you: Do you have trouble using an appliance because you don't know how it works?

 

Personally, I don't know how the microcomponents in my computer work, but I'm pretty sure I have a computer. How? Because I can use it. If I tried explaining the concept of my computer to someone who's never seen post middle-ages technology, they would be perfectly valid in disbelieving it. This does not change the fact that I have a computer, however, and am able to use it like one.

 

 

 

Anyway, that's my belief regarding supernatural contexts of our existence. I make no implication of coercion regarding it - take it as you will. :)

Edited by JesusIsGonnaOwnSatan
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Saying I'm an atheist is too strong of words. I'm agnostic really. I believe that there had to be a higher power to start everything. But beyond that I really don't see evidence, true evidence, of it actually doing anything beyond that. I see my phone and I know it works. I may not know how it works, but if I really wanted to know, I could take it apart and figure it out. With god, I cannot find anything that is unbiased proof. The word of some book isn't proof enough for me. I can't pretend it is, because it will never be enough for me, and nobody has been able to show me real proof that isn't a logic fallacy of some kind. I wish I could but I can't.

As for nihilism. I can see myself drifting towards that, hence why I posted this thread.

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I don't post too much over here anymore but I had to post on this topic since I have had a personal experience with it. I died of a heart attack on 12 Sept. 2011, and based solely on my own experience I can say there is no God or at least no God that wanted anything to do with me. All I can remember about my death was the complete and utter blackness that I saw. Before death I was agnostic, but after I became a full blown atheist. Not sure if this helps or makes you more fearful of death with all you said in you o.p., sorry Canderis

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You died or your heart stopped on that day for moments?

 

Either way, many reports from people (many of them atheists) who had NDEs claim to have a vision of afterlife.

 

My grandpa had one, but it's impossible to know if he had the vision while he was actually dead or when he was unconscious.

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Canderis please allow me to congratulate you for posting this. Death, Religion, and everything associated with it are usually very uncomfortable for anyone to talk about.

 

I will start off by saying I am a Christian, and I think a lot like you I wanted solid proof. I grew up a Lutheran and have very recently switched to a non-denominational church. Let me tell you upon switching to a non-denominational church it was almost as if I was slapped in the face with why God had to be the awnser. My second week at the church the pastor brought in a scientist who was against God and asked him many different questions. The scientist was unable to disprove God and did not even have a valid argument against much of what was asked. In the end this scientist explained it like this: (and I am sorry as its exactly the awnser a someone struggling with religion does not want to hear)He said scince cannot disprove God nor can it prove God.

 

Unfortunately this brings me to the sad conclusion that I have personnaly drawn; Just as you expect to wake up when you fall asleep you have to just expect that there is a God and if there is not, what the hell could you have done about it anyways?"

 

Hope this helps-Supreme Kotor

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My grandpa had one, but it's impossible to know if he had the vision while he was actually dead or when he was unconscious.

 

The interesting part of the reports is that it's supposedly impossible to have a vision (or any kind of senses) because there was no brain activity. The fact that people can retain their counsciousness (even describe places and conversations by other people) in such state is, at the very least, intriguing.

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To me, there simply has to be an first cause for the universe, for everything that exists. If we're buildings, something had to build us. If we're programs, something had to code us. "Something coming out of nothing" doesn't make sense to me.

 

A similar thought like that, years ago, is one of the reasons that keep me from being a full atheist. I was raised as a Baptist, then one day decided I didn't believe in god anymore and started to lean towards atheism. But the problem was, I wasn't really sure, because that didn't really feel right to me either. So I started reading tons of books on every spiritual subject from Christianity to Pagnaism to New Age to Metaphysics. And after all the years of studying, researching, making my own conclusions, I came to that same conclusion among many other conclusions. So now, I've found my own path and have reason to believe there is some sort of creator and there is some sort of consciousness after death. I just don't believe in what atheist or religions say anymore; not saying they are not a 100% right about some things, but maybe only half way right about some things.

 

 

 

 

 

@Canderis: Don't know what to tell you, man. Except that no one can really tell you what to believe on this subject, you have to find your on path and beliefs. Whatever makes sense to you. So I suggest reading lots of books on everything pertaining to religion and other beliefs, research, research, research, as I did. Empower yourself and gain knowledge on the subject. Maybe you will find what your looking for that makes sense to you and gives you peace of mind. All I know is, what the atheist say doesn't feel right to me or what the religious say doesn't feel right to me, so their must be a third possibility, a third answer. For me that was the case, for you...I don't know, man. I mean that's up to you.

 

Anyway, my two cents.........

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Wow, I didn't expect to come across a deep and profound thread such as this. Let me start by saying this, HIGH FIVE! Canderous, if you feel that there is a higher power out there or you are hopeful that there is, then you owe it to yourself to trust yourself. I am agnostic as well, hopeful that there is a loving God waiting after death but never really seeing this Deity's influence on our world. There is hate, war, famine, diseases, sickness NAME IT, and we see these horrible things happening and it leaves us with this "Schrodinger's cat" feeling about the exsistance of a God. But one thing is true, everytime I see someone help a complete stranger, or I wake up to my wife's smile, or a million other good things in this world (Like these caring people giving you a big verbal hug) it gives me hope, as it should you man, and I am sorry I cannot vouch for there being this divine supreme entity, I can vouch that there are good people, and that we only live once (unless your Hindi, or Buddhist or others that believe in re-incarnation) and we should do our damnedest to surround ourselves with them, be one as often as we can, and if we were wrong our whole lives about there maybe being a God then we wont notice, but if the part of us that says there is is right, and we did good things and were good people then we still have absolutely nothing to fear. Hope this helped?

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You died or your heart stopped on that day for moments?

 

Either way, many reports from people (many of them atheists) who had NDEs claim to have a vision of afterlife.

 

I was dead twice within minutes of being revived, not completely sure but I think I may have died a third time on the way to the hospital. I talked to the guy that gave me CPR, and brought me back the first time, about a week later he said I was dead for a good 5 minutes. I am willing to have a conversation with anyone who wants to know more, but it should be via PM. But anyways back on topic.

 

I should rephrase what I said about what I believe, atheist doesn't quite cover it. I do believe in a higher power, but my idea of God or gods is a little different. I believe all the world's religions are based off of visits from different species of alien visitors to this planet in the past. I don't know about any of you but if I had an encounter with an alien species that could make it to this planet I would think they were a god.

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Regarding your specific situation, colloquial existential Nihilism seems to me as the only logical conclusion of Atheism. I don't understand how atheists can keep from moving into that ideology. (That's not an insult, it's a genuine question.) From what I can tell, most just occupy themselves collectivism or individualistic pursuits to distract themselves from the question. It seems to work until for some reason or another, the distractions, or ability to pursue distractions is taken away, and the person is forced to consider to logical emptiness that lays before them.
If it helps as an illustration, I am comfortable being atheist (I am not uncertain in any way about God's existence) and yet I am certainly not a nihilist, instead preferring modern Aristotelianism.

 

Nietzche may get a bad rap sometimes, but he was dead on that most of the time people just pay lip service to Christian values. What is lost when you declare yourself atheist at that point?-- not much. But it would be a terrible mistake to assume that rejecting religion means necessarily embracing nihilism, a point which he was specifically critical of.

 

Of course, that's not to say I didn't go into the nihilist phase for a while as a result of apostasy, though I think that was at least partially due to simply not knowing about other methods for finding meaning. Even if you do know though, it's hard to completely change your values system, and it takes a long time to really accept a new method of value after being with Christianity for most of your life.

Edited by Samuel Dravis
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Canderis: Guess I'm kinda in the same boat, I have so far in my life (sort of) dealt with it in two ways.

1:

The first one I'm not sure I recommend, it might be possible to convince yourself into believing in something after death. I made my own religion out of desperation, starting out as a generalized prayer towards a "something" who'd take care of those I had known who had died, and those that I thought was going to die soon. In the beginning, it was based on the idea that as long as I remembered them, some part of them wasn't really dead (nothing supernatural involved yet), and evolved into "me remembering them keeps them alive in the afterlife" (and voila, I became a believer). Just to be clear, I knew my religion was made up, I knew I was making it out of desperation, yet I still became a believer for a few years. Not sure if it'll work for anyone else, and it might only have worked because I was young(er), but since it's one of the few ways I have dealt with the issue, I thought I'd mention it.

 

2:

Alright, this one didn't really work as well, but it's how I deal with it now. Basically I plan to arrange to have my body frozen once I get an incurable disease. Hopefully, science will eventually make us immortal, at which point they are hopefully capable of resuscitate me. Yes, I know I might die in such a way to make this impossible, that my body once dead could be ruined beyond repair, that future mankind might not want to bring me back, and that we might never be able to become immortal or able to bring me back. Still, it's a comforting thought for me at least.

 

@:JIGOS: I'd be willing to argue against the existence of a God (and your specific arguments, like "something had to come first"), but that would require its own thread so feel free to make one if you want.

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Canderis, I don't know what I can add to what TKA and Sam have already said. Belief is not something that gets dropped into your lap fully formed. It requires work, like everything else. It's also not enough to simply want some nice benefits from belief. Unless it's for the sake of truth, I really don't see the point, myself.

 

For my part, the most convincing argument for the existence of God is not that there is something rather than nothing but that everything remains consistent.

 

To me, the problem is not so much a choice between religion and atheism, but a choice between God and a kind of solipsism. (Of course, in life such 'choices' must be made up of many little decisions; nothing is every quite this binary).

 

I would caution you against following anecdotal answers: the experience of life is useful, but merely because one person couldn't answer a question, it does not mean that no valid answer exists.

 

Finally, a point Sam made to me a long time ago is that belief has a practical dimension. If you wish to believe, make an act of belief (i.e., pray, if the mood strikes you); nothing will come of nothing.

 

On the question of death and dying, what is it that alarms you? (Personally, I find the judgement rather more terrifying.) The end of your existence? This may be a rather stark answer, but all of our existences have been in the process of ending from the moment we were born. We can't avoid death. There are no tricks to get around it. We can try to accept and prepare ourselves for it.

 

You died or your heart stopped on that day for moments?

 

Either way, many reports from people (many of them atheists) who had NDEs claim to have a vision of afterlife.

 

Private revelation and/or vision does not present a very convincing argument one way or the other, IMO. It puts rather too much stock in the eye of the beholder for my liking.

 

If it helps as an illustration, I am comfortable being atheist (I am not uncertain in any way about God's existence) and yet I am certainly not a nihilist, instead preferring modern Aristotelianism.

 

Nietzche may get a bad rap sometimes, but he was dead on that most of the time people just pay lip service to Christian values. What is lost when you declare yourself atheist at that point?-- not much. But it would be a terrible mistake to assume that rejecting religion means necessarily embracing nihilism, a point which he was specifically critical of.

Is that Neitzsche's point? The Madman seems to suggest a certain ambiguity about what is lost:

 

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

(Emphasis mine.)

 

Perhaps his point is that non-belief, on its own, is not enough? Or perhaps it's simply a recognition that man is a ritual creature.

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Private revelation and/or vision does not present a very convincing argument one way or the other, IMO. It puts rather too much stock in the eye of the beholder for my liking.

 

I'm not trying to present it as fact. I'm just saying that it's something that many people under NDE have experienced. Regardless of what they saw, the fact that they were able to retain their counciousness and senses with no brain activity is, to me, a good indication that we are not dependable of our bodies and that "life" exists after we decease.

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Private revelation and/or vision does not present a very convincing argument one way or the other, IMO. It puts rather too much stock in the eye of the beholder for my liking.
A reference from John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel here related to this--sections 6-9.

 

Finally, a point Sam made to me a long time ago is that belief has a practical dimension. If you wish to believe, make an act of belief (i.e., pray, if the mood strikes you); nothing will come of nothing.
Interestingly, I think that I lifted that, at least partially, out of Ascent of Mount Carmel somewhere, but I can't remember the specific location.

 

Is that Neitzsche's point? The Madman seems to suggest a certain ambiguity about what is lost:

 

 

(Emphasis mine.)

 

Perhaps his point is that non-belief, on its own, is not enough? Or perhaps it's simply a recognition that man is a ritual creature.

I thought it was that, since God was dead (that is, no longer given the central place in people's lives that had given all the other ritual accompaniments, such as a Christian morality, their power), that people would feel like they were adrift without purpose. Nietzsche goes on further than this though and says: if our previous morality has been cast off and we can see that there are other moralities possible, what is to stop us from deciding a new set of values for ourselves, one that makes us into what we want to be?

 

Interestingly enough, this new set of values will also form the basis for the criticism of other value systems-- including the previously cast off Christianity! (The Antichrist anyone?)

 

I think probably the most telling part of the passage you quoted was "Yet his shadow still looms". It does loom-- in the form of colloquial uses for the word "good", for example. As a contrast, with Aristotelianism there is not really an exact equivalent to the Western idealized "good". There is good towards an end, good related to existing as a human being, but not good-in-itself as is commonly associated with God.

 

This imprint of God on our culture is widespread, and it is no wonder that people who have decided to do away with God find it very hard to separate from his shadow, as I mentioned in my first post. It is a bit more complicated than just saying, "I don't believe."

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Errm' date=' no it only proves that people remember a vision, something that they could easily have experienced either before their heart stopped, or after.[/quote']

 

Again, it's not about the vision. How do you explain the fact that these people could describe conversations between medics or even actions in that state (and without being able to see or hear since the face is covered during an operation and in many cases their brain activity was inexistent)?

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I think rather than trying to convince yourself of something you don't believe, your time would be better spent trying to come to terms with the inevitable, and to accept it and maintain a positive outlook despite it.

 

I believe in living life to the fullest I can, so that when I die I can honestly say I'm happy with what I've achieved. I think once you've reached that point, there's no reason to continue anyway. I think not that people are scared of dying, but ending life prematurely, the only way to stop this is to live life to the greatest extent possible to you, until you can say that you're happy with your life, and ready to leave. Whether anyone actually gets to that point or not I don't know, but the determination to do so is what drives me.

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I think rather than trying to convince yourself of something you don't believe, your time would be better spent trying to come to terms with the inevitable, and to accept it and maintain a positive outlook despite it.

 

I believe in living life to the fullest I can, so that when I die I can honestly say I'm happy with what I've achieved. I think once you've reached that point, there's no reason to continue anyway. I think not that people are scared of dying, but ending life prematurely, the only way to stop this is to live life to the greatest extent possible to you, until you can say that you're happy with your life, and ready to leave. Whether anyone actually gets to that point or not I don't know, but the determination to do so is what drives me.

 

You sound very enlightened. Be well on your journey.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm an Atheist, yet I have nothing against religion and I believe that a religious person should continue to practice their beliefs, as long as their religion teaches them good values. Besides, who am I to say that there isn't a God? I don't know if there is and there's only going to be one way to find out, so in the meantime you live your life to the fullest extent and when the time comes you won't be worrying about where you're going to go, but what happiness you've brought to other people and how much you've enjoyed your life, knowing that you had no regrets. There's nothing wrong with religion, but I believe that you should devote yourself to religion because of the values it teaches, and not because of the fear you have of death.

 

Now on the more blunt note, if there really is a Heaven and you have been a good person (which should come naturally) you will get in and live forever. If there isn't a Heaven and nothing happens once you die, then you won't realise it because you'll be dead. This doesn't mean that there isn't a point to life, it just means that the journey is much more important than the destination, so while you're on the journey, make sure that it is the best life that you can make it.

 

Besides, I'm guessing you've got many years ahead of you, so don't stress out about dying, because that'll be a little counter-productive to the whole "live your life" motto.

 

And in case you are still worried (which you shouldn't be) feel free to watch this. I find that pretty soothing -

Edited by evilhazardz
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I am a secular humanist, and unfortunately I am often called a "bigot" by critics of my anti-religious activism. You see, I have no problem with people believing what they want to believe in private. I, myself am an atheist. I just don't like how religion, interpreted literally is the promotion of "faith" or ignorance, and saying "God did it" is not very satisfying at all. I think the real beauty of the universe is not "God", but rather the perfectness of everything. How all universal constants are just so perfect as to allow us to survive. How all mechanisms of physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics all work symbiotically to form this stable universe. God is the embodiment of Occam's Razor, i.e. God is the simplest, shortest answer to all problems. Want to find out how the universe began? Well, obviously advanced physics and applications of mathematics won't get you there. Instead, rely on a book written hundreds if not thousand of years ago, by people with little to no knowledge of modern science and mathematical advancements.

 

As an atheist, I am not afraid of dying. In fact, I don't want to be granted "eternal life" or "72 virgins" or whatever. Imagine eternity! I mean, the first hundred billion years would be fun, but what about the next hundred billion? The next trillion? The next centillion years? No matter how spiced up heaven is, it sounds very unpleasing. I think it enough that we, humans, are part of this vast universe. 93 billion light years long, 13 billion years old. Even if we are just a blink of an eye on the grand scale of things. A good analogy used by Richard Dawkins: "Extend your arm fully to the side. Your arm represents 4 and a half billion years of Earth. From your tie to your wrist, that is the time in which all life on Earth was bacteria. Then, the dinosaurs come in at about your palm. All mammals on Earth come from a common ancestor, which would be at the very tip of your finger. And all of human history: the Mesopotamians, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, Vikings, Chinese, all humans, they are all in the dust that falls from one stroke of a nail file." This shows how truly insignificant we are, on both the scale of the Earth, and the universe itself. And yet, in just that tiny amount of time, on Earth, we have conquered evolution. We are above it. We invented modern medicine. We doubled the human life expectancy. We have invented the television, the radio, the automobile, the plane, the computer, and the phone. All of this from just one species on Earth. No other life, ever, on Earth has accomplished such feats, nevermind within a timeframe of 10,000 years.

 

I feel proud to be alive, not because of an all-powerful deity who controls our actions, but because of how far we've come, how much we've created using a brain that was meant to be used for survival. We live in a vast universe, just waiting to be explored by us, intelligent life. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I am still enthralled to see the advances in science and technology which may, years from now, enable our descendants to explore our galaxy. We are all made of stars. We are made of the dense material created when stars died and went supernova. I am not afraid to die, simply because when I do die, I won't even *know* that I died, and all of my consciousness: the electrical impulses that travel through neurons that stimulate centers in my brain, will become one with the universe. Once again, I will be completely subject to all of the driving forces in nature. I will be invincible, according to the law of conservation of energy. Who knows, when I'm dead, where I will go. Will I be swept away when the Sun dies, billions of years from now? Will I travel through space, on and on and on, until I finally become part of the material that creates new life, in another galaxy? Time can only tell what will happen to me when I'm dead, but I know for sure that it will be as exciting as when I am alive. You do not need religion to have reassurance for an afterlife. You only need see the amazingness of the universe itself. Devote yourself to the betterment of the human race, the advance of modern technology and science, to understanding why and how the universe works.

 

That, sir, is why I am not afraid to die.

Edited by Isaac Clarke
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