Reasonable Belief in a Creative Intelligent Being

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McCulloch
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Reasonable Belief in a Creative Intelligent Being

Post #1

Post by McCulloch »

Resolution: On the basis of morality and scientific evidence regarding the origins of the universe, it is reasonable to believe that the universe was created by a single intelligent powerful being, which we will call God.

Process:
  1. ByFaithAlone will post an opening argument affirming the resolution with regard to objective morality. McCulloch will then present one post negating this. Each debater will then post one cross examination, listing up to ten questions for their opponent based on the issues raised in the opening arguments. Each debater will then be given one post to respond to those questions and one post to reply to the responses.
  2. In the tenth post, McCulloch will affirm that it is not reasonable to believe that the universe was created by a single intelligent powerful being on the basis of the scientific evidence regarding the origins of the universe. ByFaithAlone will present one post negating this, that is asserting that the scientific evidence supports the belief in a single intelligent Creator. As before, each debater will then post one cross examination, listing up to ten questions for their opponent based on the issues raised in the opening arguments. Each debater will then be given one post to respond to those questions and one post to reply to the responses.
  3. Following that, each debater will summarize their side of the debate. No new evidence or arguments will be put forward in the summaries.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Objective Morality and God's Existence

Post #2

Post by ByFaithAlone »

First of all, let me extend my thanks to my opponent for agreeing to debate with me and any spectators who will hopefully learn from this debate now and in the future. I will be presenting my arguments as I do in my high school debate matches, providing logical arguments and evidence as I go. I hope to provide as many analogies as I can along the way and cite my work and evidence as much as possible particularly with regard to scientific claims.


Moral Argument for God’s Existence

My first argument will regard morality, more specifically objective morality. The basic structure of my argument is as follows:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values do exist.
*Logical Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

*If both premises are true the statement logically follows. If I used any logical fallacies, please bring them up!

Clarifications
1. By objective moral values I mean values that hold true despite belief for or against them.
2. I am not saying a person needs to believe in God to be moral but rather that a final arbiter between good and evil must exist.

Defense of Premise 1

For a nonbeliever, particularly naturalists, this premise should make a whole lot of sense. Without God, morals are merely evolutionary in nature. To claim an action is morally wrong from this standpoint would mean that people have created morals by which to live by not because the action is objectively right or wrong but rather because at some point in the distant past it became necessary to rid ourselves of that behavior as to survive as a species. What is best for society or humanity as a whole is the morally correct course of action from this view.

However, this also creates a problem for this world view. There is no objective morality! No one can condemn the actions of another as a moral abomination as his/her view is simply subjective and carries no weight with the other person as they might view their own action as necessary for society and therefore moral. Therefore, one cannot condemn and must even support what is now considered morally wrong.

Take for instance, violent versions of social Darwinism in which the weak and disabled are killed to keep society as a whole stronger, smarter and healthier. From the world view described above, no one can condemn these actions as morally wrong as they benefit society and all moral values are merely subjective. Hitler cannot be condemned for the Holocaust nor can ethnic cleansing be condemned as through these actions various groups have become united and made their society “better.�

I also recognize that my opponent is a member of the humanist group. The description of the group specifically mentions Secular Humanism which I researched extensively. Secular humanists tend to believe that although God does not exist, some things are objectively wrong. But how can he claim that some things are somehow attached naturally to right and wrong? My opponent would have to claim that some abstract moral values automatically attach themselves to certain actions in a scientific or evolutionary process. This is simply absurd. To claim this would mean that other species would have surely evolved to include the moral values that we do yet the murder of infanticide and other “moral crimes� are present in many species.

Support for Premise 2 – although my opponent clearly believes in objective moral values by belonging to the usergroup of humanists, I will address Premise 2 as well

I strongly believe that some things are truly wrong and I know that most of the atheists and agnostics on the forum believe so too as well as friends in my own life. Take for instance opponent who supports LGBT rights and would believe it immoral to kill those who practice homosexuality. Take prominent atheists such as Hitchens or Dawkins who promote human rights and fight against attacks on homosexuality. All of these people believe that some things are wrong despite what society may or may not believe. But, in an atheistic world, how can we believe something like that? Nietzsche recognized the implications of a moral life in which God was dead. The only alternative is nihilism and life has no higher purpose or moral compass. What is good for one person (or in the case of humanists – humanity) might as well be his/her moral compass and whatever he or she needs to do is “right.� To those who believe in objective morals, the only alternative is a arbiter of justice who is impartial and powerful and the logical conclusion if both Premise 1 and Premise 2 stand is that God exists.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15

Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

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Re: Objective Morality and God's Existence

Post #3

Post by McCulloch »

Let's look at the logic first:
  1. Premise: If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Premise: Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. From (1) and (2)
Yes, I agree that this logic is as valid as :
  1. Premise: If rational square roots of positive prime numbers do not exist then Kangaroos do not exist.
  2. Premise: Kangaroos do exist.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, there are rational square roots of positive prime numbers. From (1) and (2)
No fault with the logic. But before we move on to the premises, let's first deal with the two clarifications.

We have been given a clarification that objective moral values mean that there are moral values that hold true regardless of belief. With this I can agree. That is the meaning of the word objective.

It looks as if one might be begging the question however, by introducing a nameless final arbiter between good and evil. In ByFaithAlone's view, moral values cannot be objective unless there is some final arbiter. I see it differently. There is a parallel between morals and economics. There are objective economic principles. For example, in a free market of sufficient size with rational agents and an undifferentiated commodity, the price for a particular good will vary until it settles at a point where the quantity demanded by consumers at that price will equal the quantity supplied by producers at that price, resulting in an economic equilibrium of price and quantity. Now, this principle requires no final arbiter, but it remains true, even to those who have not read Adam Smith or Milton Freedman. Similarly with morals. If it can be demonstrated that objective morals exist, there is still no implication that there is some final arbiter. As far as I can see, the existence of objective morals does not require belief in an ultimate arbiter any more than the existence of a fixed value for [font=Georgia]Ï€[/font] or the universal gravitational constant [font=Georgia]G[/font]. I expect that we'll get into that debate in the second part.

Now on to the premises. The first, if I may restate it, is that objective moral values cannot exist without God. To state or to imply that evolution is not objective is to misunderstand evolution. Evolution is about as objective as any natural process or principle can be. It matters not whether you believe it, its principles are unbending and uncaring. If there are objective morals (more on that in the discussion of the second premise), then would they not affect and influence the path of evolution? Do we require that there be a God to explain micro-economic equilibrium or the law of supply and demand? Are these economic principles relative, do they change between culture to culture? No. Various cultures may have differing understandings of how economic principles work, but work they do, regardless of whether you believe or don't, understand them or not. So, without someone showing me that objective moral values could only possibly be sourced from the god, I would reject the assertion of the first premise, that God is the only possible source of objective moral principles.

And now a side-bar regarding definitions. My learned opponent claims that for naturalists reduce morality to, "[font=Georgia]What is best for humanity as a whole is the morally correct course of action. [/font]" To this, I agree. But, I claim that this also is his definition of morality. Where we differ, in the area of morality, is not the definition, but the application of the definition. To the supernaturalist, what is best for humanity includes the benefits realizable only in the afterlife and an understanding of how to achieve what is best for humanity is not achievable by human reason, but must be supplemented by divine revelation.

The implication that non-theists must be amoral in order to be consistent has been made. Without God's objective morality, we must sink into a cesspool of moral relativism or hypocritically adhere to the morality we inherit from our more godly fellow citizens. Why, it is asked, can we condemn {select from a list of morally reprehensible actions}? I would condemn these acts because they can be objectively shown to be bad for humanity and human societies. What then is the basis for a theist to condemn these acts? They, rather than showing an understanding of true morals, arbitrarily condemn such acts on the basis of a supposed revelation from their God. If their God said to kill all of the Canaanites, their children and their cattle, then it would be a morally correct thing to do. There exists no objective standard, just an arbitrary dictum from the spokesperson for the god.

Unlike my opponent, I see nothing absurd in the evolutionary explanation for morality. Other social species certainly do show proto-moral behavior. Beavers, for example, are known for their alarm signal: when startled or frightened, a swimming beaver will rapidly dive while forcefully slapping the water with its broad tail, audible over great distances above and below water. This serves as a warning to beavers in the area. Once a beaver has sounded the alarm, nearby beavers will dive and may not reemerge for some time. To not sound the alarm, I would think, would feel analogous to the human feeling that goes with immoral behavior. What is absurd, is to assume that because morality is a product of evolution, that is must be identical for all species. Evolution has made some species monogamous (beavers and many bird species) but not other species (93% of mammals).

My opponent asks, presumably intended rhetorically, "How can we believe that some things are wrong despite what society may or may not believe?" He presumes that without his impartial and powerful God to enforce moral principles, moral principles cannot exist. So rather than look to objective reality for a truly justifiable and objective set of moral principles, he looks into the subjective world of divine revelation for his moral principles.
Francois Tremblay wrote:To claim that morality is subjective is a denial of causality – actions have consequences, which arise because of natural, psychological and social laws. If you stop eating, you will die. If you stop drinking water, you will die even faster. If you break the social mores of decency or peaceful behaviour in your relationships with others, your life will be affected and even endangered. If you do not pursue social values in general, you will live isolated from the benefits of civilization. If you do not pursue mental values, you will not have the mental capacity to reason our way through life. Without such values, you would easily fall prey to any received idea, any scam, you would have no capacity to manage your life. Causality is universal: actions have consequences, causes have effects, if we fail to follow the requirements of life we will fail to live.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Cross Examination

Post #4

Post by ByFaithAlone »

I'm sorry for the delay to both my opponent and any spectators but life, that destoyer of all the best laid plans, got in the way. Thankfully, now that school has drawn to a close, I will be able to post replies sooner. Again, thank you for your patience.

I have a few cross examination questions for my opponent. They are as follows...

(P.S. Some of these questions will just be to clarify on some of the analogies)

1. Can you explain your economic analogy in more detail and how it relates to morality?

2. Is utilitarianism moral, amoral or immoral and why?

3. Is anything created by humans objective?

4. Do you consider science to be morally neutral?

5. As a secular humanist, why/how do moral values exist?

6. How can you show that (select from a list of morally objectionable actions - let's just choose a form of social Darwinism that kills the weak, disabled and old) is objectively wrong from a humanistic point of view?

7. You mention that there is no objective standard in a dictum by a god. A dictum by a god if one were to exist is by nature objective as it is independent of person’s beliefs. I believe what you are trying to say is that people created god(s) to serve as the basis of objective morality and used their subjective viewpoints. Am I correct or are you claiming that god(s) is subjective as well?

8. In your beaver example are you saying that beavers evolved morals?

9. You mention that it is absurd to assume that because morality is a product of evolution, that it is identical for all species. However, isn't that the entire point of objective morality - that it is true in all things? Also, are you claiming that animals have a different objective moral standard?

10. It appears as though you agree with my second premise but not my first. Is this correct and if so can we focus the remainder of the moral argument on the first premise? If not, please explain your problem with premise two.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15

Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

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Post #5

Post by McCulloch »

Questions for cross examination:
  1. Can you explain how Christian morals are any different from any other consequentialist moral system? I mean, other than the fact that you believe that the consequences of your acts may affect your well-being after your death.
  2. Is there anything other that what is best for society or humanity as a whole in your moral system?
  3. Can you explain how a system which is dependent on arbiter of justice who is impartial and powerful can be described as a moral system rather than a legal system? How do you distinguish between law and morals?
  4. Does your objective moral system help you to answer the classic crying baby ethical dilemma?
    An ethics professor wrote:You live under a dictatorship, and you are trying to escape to another country. You, and only you, have a gun, with a silencer, for protection. Several people are also with you, and want to escape. If any or all of you are caught by the state police, you will face certain death, probably after torture and great unpleasantness. In the room are you, your wife, your baby, your two sisters, a friend, his wife and their baby, and a young woman you never met, with her elderly father, and her baby. You are all waiting for someone to take you to the next village and safety. Suddenly, you see the state police coming into the house from the window. Everyone is SO quite! Suddenly-- one of the babies starts crying! If the policemen hear the baby, all of you will be killed. There are no means to soothe the baby quickly enough to avoid detection. Would you kill the baby? Would your answer be different depending on which baby was crying?
    The actual answer that you have to this dilemma is not so much important. How you arrive at the answer is.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Re: Cross Examination

Post #6

Post by McCulloch »

  1. Can you explain your economic analogy in more detail and how it relates to morality?
    [font=Georgia]Yes, I can. I see a parallel between the disciplines of ethics and economics. Both seek to understand aspects of human behavior. Economists have discovered, through careful analysis and observation, certain principles which hold true. For the purposes of this debate, it really does not matter what those principles are. The important point is that the principles of economics were true before they were discovered and remain true even to those who hold false economic beliefs. Yet, we do not require a divine chairman of the federal reserve system, to have put those economic truths in place. If you decrease your per unit profit by lowering the price you sell, you may still make more money if the lower prices attracts enough more buyers. This is an economic truth. We don't need there to be a God to have granted this economic truth to us. It just is.
    I submit to you that there are ethical truths analogous to that. We are not as far along in discovering these ethical truths as we are in understanding economics, but they exist. Objectively. Without the need of a divine ethical dispenser. [/font]
  2. Is utilitarianism moral, amoral or immoral and why?
    [font=Georgia]Ultimately, most systems of ethics or morals are utilitarian, rather than the other way around. Didn't Jesus express a utilitarian ethic by suggesting that those who follow his teachings be motivated by treasures in heaven which are eternal? [/font]
  3. Is anything created by humans objective?
    [font=Georgia]No, probably not. So, while our understanding of physics, economics and ethics will always bear the taint of our own biases, the fundamental principles of these subjects are, I believe, objective. We benefit from trying to understand these topics more fully attempting to remove what biases we have. We may not perfectly achieve this ideal, but it is a target worth aiming for. [/font]
  4. Do you consider science to be morally neutral?
    [font=Georgia]No. Of course science can be used to evil purposes, but science is to me is morally good. Science, by definition, is the process of discovering the truth about various propositions1. Truth is good. [/font]
  5. As a secular humanist, why/how do moral values exist?
    [font=Georgia]I could speculate, but for now I will not. The truth is: we don't know. Some research is being done and some interesting things are being found out, but there is a whole lot we don't know. I'm comfortable with that. I believe that an honest I don't know is of greater value than the God did it of the revealed religions. May I submit to you that you don't know either. Why do moral values exist? You might ultimately answer because God says so. But that answer is not any more satisfactory or any less arbitrary than the secular humanist answer. [/font]
  6. How can you show that (select from a list of morally objectionable actions - let's just choose a form of social Darwinism that kills the weak, disabled and old) is objectively wrong from a humanistic point of view?
    [font=Georgia]The claim of social Darwinism is that the benefits to society by removing those who are perceived to be detrimental to society would be greater than the harm done to society by implementing the measures necessary to enforce this. It is wrong because that assessment is not warranted by the evidence. We do not have sufficient knowledge of how societies work and how genetics work to adequately assess this. The depersonalization and restrictions of freedom and rights required to implement eugenics impose inestimable harm on the fabric of society. Humans have gotten to where we are by a combination of our intellectual capacity combined with our ability to work together as a society. This working together is facilitated by our moral codes which based on the twin principles of empathy and fairness. As moral codes veer away from empathy and fairness, societies suffer. [/font]
  7. You mention that there is no objective standard in a dictum by a god. A dictum by a god if one were to exist is by nature objective as it is independent of person’s beliefs. I believe what you are trying to say is that people created god(s) to serve as the basis of objective morality and used their subjective viewpoints. Am I correct or are you claiming that god(s) is subjective as well?
    [font=Georgia]Close. I am claiming that our understanding of the gods, their will and their revelations is subjective. I don't believe that any of the gods actually exist, so how can I claim that they are subjective? It is like asking if the current King of France is bald. [/font]
  8. In your beaver example are you saying that beavers evolved morals?
    [font=Georgia]Perhaps not in the same way as there are human morals. Our moral systems are necessarily more complex and adaptive, due to our greater cranial capacity. It might be more accurate to describe it as proto-morals. [/font]
  9. You mention that it is absurd to assume that because morality is a product of evolution, that it is identical for all species. However, isn't that the entire point of objective morality - that it is true in all things? Also, are you claiming that animals have a different objective moral standard?
    [font=Georgia]Humans are animals. Different animal species have different moral standards. Slavery is expected in bees but immoral for humans. Protective group warnings is an expected moral behavior for baboons but not for Wall Street or Bay Street traders. Felines clearly have a different view on forced sexuality than humans. Each species has evolved to suit its own environmental niche. For those species with sufficient cognitive abilities to choose their course of action, the morality of their choices is dictated by its adaptive suitability.[/font]
  10. It appears as though you agree with my second premise but not my first. Is this correct and if so can we focus the remainder of the moral argument on the first premise? If not, please explain your problem with premise two.
    [font=Georgia]I agree with you on the second premise with the possible exception of what it means to be objective. I see objectivity meaning that the moral principle is true regardless of whether the subject believes it or not. To that, I think you agree. You seem to believe as well that in order to be objective, it must also be universal. I disagree. What is acceptable behavior for a weasel may not be acceptable for a higher primate. Relativity in no way changes the objectivity of the respective moral codes. [/font]

______________________
1 OK, technically, science is really about the elimination of falsehood. But if there are a finite set of options, that amounts to the same thing.

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Post #7

Post by ByFaithAlone »

Here are my answers to CX. I would like to note that some of these questions relate to me as a Christian rather than to the argument in general regarding God's existence. As a result I don't believe questions 1 or 2 are relevant but I could be wrong.

Can you explain how Christian morals are any different from any other consequentialist moral system? I mean, other than the fact that you believe that the consequences of your acts may affect your well-being after your death.

Christian morals rely not only on the concept of divine justice supersede death but also a desire to love and obey God. You may regard these as one in the same but I see it differently. It is a similar attitude between father and son. The son obeys his father not only because he fears the consequences but because he loves his father. Apologies if that analogy was bad. As I stated, I'm not to good with them.

Is there anything other that what is best for society or humanity as a whole in your moral system?

Again, the desire to please God should also be important. For instance, the Jewish people (specifically Orthodox and conservative) wear specific clothing not because it is helpful to humanity to wear it (except for the jobs in creating it, I suppose :)) but because it pleases God.

Can you explain how a system which is dependent on arbiter of justice who is impartial and powerful can be described as a moral system rather than a legal system? How do you distinguish between law and morals?

The difference between morals and laws is quite simple. Law is a system of rules enforced-by a set of institutions for civil, political, and economic obedience in a society. Morals are what is right and what is wrong. Morals are objective laws that govern how one should live life. While a legal system can change and is utilitarian in nature, the final arbiter, by nature, is objectively moral (and therefore the morals are changeless) and is therefore the only being that can pass moral judgment. Without this, we could not claim to have objective morality as there would be no ultimate impartial system on which to base morality.

Does your objective moral system help you to answer the classic crying baby ethical dilemma?

Firstly, this situation requires us to define something that is objectively wrong. For this situation I will use murder as my standard. Murder is the unjustified killing of another human being. If we understand this to be the objective value we wish to uphold than the solution seems simple.

(a) We club the baby with the pistol to knock it out. Two pluses to this plan. Saves ammo and the baby lives. :whistle:
(b) More what you are getting at - if death is unavoidable than the question we need to ask is, is that death justified. :-k That would then have to be answered according to a person's religion. Personally, I would consider it a sin, as I believe it to be unjustified, and would prefer either the first option or option (c)
(c) Muffle the baby against someone's body. If anyone hears the baby, they would have heard you footsteps anyway. The person with the gun (i.e. me) should hold the guards off for as long as possible.

Basically, I don't believe there is a more dilemma that exists in which I cannot look to my religion to provide an answer. However, that is immaterial to this debate.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15

Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

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Re: Objective Morality and God's Existence

Post #8

Post by ByFaithAlone »

Sorry for the delay.

My opponent and I seem only to disagree in regards to the first premise. Therefore, that is what I will address.

My opponent issues several challenges to this premise.
1. The Economic Analogy
2. The Evolutionary Adaptation of Objective Morals is Possible
If I missed a major argument, please let me know...

1. The Economic Analogy Argument
McCulloch wrote:If it can be demonstrated that objective morals exist, there is still no implication that there is some final arbiter.
This seems to be our first point of contention. You use the economic analogy to describe why you believe that there is no need for a final arbiter of justice. I will admit, you had me stumped for awhile on how to respond. It was a very good analogy and I applaud your work. However, I do have problems with it.

Objective morality is the objective distinction between what is right and what is wrong.

2. The Evolutionary Adaptation of Objective Morals is Possible
McCulloch wrote:Evolution is about as objective as any natural process or principle can be. It matters not whether you believe it, its principles are unbending and uncaring.
True. Science is objective. However, evolution is amoral. It is uncaring just as you say. How could a system that is uncaring and has no bent towards good or evil (morality) create such a system in which we both believe? To me, it seems highly unlikely that evolution would create such a system. Furthermore, once someone understands that morals are merely an evolutionary byproduct, morality loses all meaning. They are no longer important and can be done away with or used as needed.

Lastly, a few other points of contention...
McCulloch wrote:To the supernaturalist, what is best for humanity includes the benefits realizable only in the afterlife and an understanding of how to achieve what is best for humanity is not achievable by human reason, but must be supplemented by divine revelation.
You are implying an afterlife. In the Christian sense this would be true but we are merely arguing about the existence of a powerful being. Additionally, for Christians, the goal is only partly the rewards of heaven (please see my CX response).
McCulloch wrote:The implication that non-theists must be amoral in order to be consistent has been made. Without God's objective morality, we must sink into a cesspool of moral relativism or hypocritically adhere to the morality we inherit from our more godly fellow citizens.
Actually, I would disagree here. You don't inherit morality from more godly citizens. This is not what the moral argument is trying to say. Rather, objective morality exists. It can be known by everyone, be it theist or non-theist.
McCulloch wrote:Why, it is asked, can we condemn {select from a list of morally reprehensible actions}? I would condemn these acts because they can be objectively shown to be bad for humanity and human societies.
How are they shown to be objectively wrong? For example, how can you prove that the killing of the mentally handicapped to prevent them from reproducing is objectively wrong?
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15

Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

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