Jesus Didn't Exist, Again? Follow up

After reading through the comments about my earlier blog entitled "Jesus Didn't Exist, Again?" I realized that I apparently wrote too quickly to make myself clear. So, let me try again, this time seeking to make my point more lucid.

By way of background, a student of philosophy named Derek Murphy has written a book entitled Dead Little Fish which allegedly proves that Jesus never really existed at all. In other words, it is another Jesus Myth book. The book is self-published by Derek Murphy, and I encouraged people not to waste their time reading the book. Now, the clarification and elaboration:

First, my comment about ID was simply directed at people who claim that you can't consider ID because it isn't published in "peer-reviewed" literature. I don't take that position, and so I was simply chiding people who would maintain that position while somehow arguing that this book can be taken seriously. Whether this book can be taken literally depends upon the nature of the claims being made and the support for those claims in both Jesus Myth literature and ID. If you reject ID for reasons other than the fact it isn't published in "peer-reviewed" literature, then I would say that you have that right even if I think you are wrong, but that's not the point of my mention of ID in the post.

Second, my objection to this book is not dependent upon the fact that it is self-published. However, the fact that it is self-published suggests (in this case) that the book wasn't of sufficient interest to publishing companies to make it worth their while to publish. After all, if this book really proves that Jesus was a myth (as opposed to throw out more suppositions from re-interpretations of the Biblical texts and writing of the church fathers), then why in the world wouldn't a major publisher pick it up. You'd think that at least Prometheus Books would pick it up since that company publishes almost anything that supports their atheistic worldview. The fact that this is self-published suggests that this book isn't enough for Prometheus.

Third, I was not saying that Murphy's book shouldn't be considered on its merits. I was saying that it was highly doubtful given what I can glean about his book from the PR release and other information that the book has any merits.

Fourth, I didn't link to the website for the Mr. Murphy's company in my last blog, but I think I need to in order to clarify the problems with this book. Murphy's publishing company is called Holy Blasphemy which should give you some insight into Murphy's thought process. On the "About Us" page, he notes:

While we are not strictly anti-religious, we believe that organized religions begin from a point of fear, and limit the potential of a fearless path to spiritual growth. Blasphemy is the practice of speaking out against dated religious customs and clearing the way to a fuller appreciation of truth, and is considered by us to be a sacred duty fo the spiritually eager.

You see, Murphy takes the point of view that Christianity is spiritually crippling because, in his limited view, it starts with the point of "believe or suffer." Of course, to those of us who understand Christianity, that is not Christianity's starting point. In fact, it is a simple distortion of the Gospel message that is regularly cited by people who are skeptics. At a minimum, Murphy's approach to the Gospels has to be taken as being suspect merely because his entire viewpoint is based on a misrepresentation of the Christian position creating a straw man to attack.

That's all fine and good, but what about his claims that Jesus never existed? Does he have any new information that suggests that's true that hasn't already been presented in such books as The Empty Tomb? Personally, I doubt it. I don't see anywhere in the articles available on the "Holy Blasphemy" webpage or Murphy's personal blog that shows that such a bombshell is in his book. Instead, it is more of the "let's spiritualize Jesus" type of nonsense. Take, for example, the following from an article that is available both on the blog and the "Holy Blasphemy" webpage entitled "Jesus Didn't Exist!":

For example, The Gospel of Judas is making a lot of news today, because Judas was always blamed for betraying Jesus, and now suddenly, it appears as if he was really the best disciple. Taken literally, that may be fascinating...but Judas, like Jesus, is a symbol. Specifically, Judas represents the astrological sign that betrays the sun in winter. Like other crucified saviors, Jesus must pass through the 12 horoscope signs in his one-year ministry. In the gospel of Matthew, both the parables and imagaery [sic] are arranged to match the progression of the sun through the zodiac. Christian symbols like the lamb and the fish and intrinsically astrological, and have to do with the precession of the equinoxes.


I'm sorry, this appears to be projection more than bombshell. Murphy doesn't want Christianity to be true because of his preconceptions about what it is, and so he tries to put it into a spiritual context to explain the Gospels while dismissing them. Wait . . . he doesn't quite dismiss them, but rather he robs them of their true import by claiming that they are still helpful even if Jesus wasn't really the Son of God who was incarnate and died on the cross to save the world from its sin.

Whatever. If you want to waste your time reading this book, I guess you can. But be warned in advance: If you start reading this book expecting to find anything useful about Jesus Christ, it is very, very, very, extremely doubtful that you will come away with better information than you had going in.


Anonymous said…
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BK said…
I don't know Paul Copan, so asking him doesn't seem particularly likely. But more than that, you may have a great book, but I am not going to buy it to find out. If you can lend me a copy or make sure a copy is available in the a library that I can get to, I will review it. Since most self-published books aren't in libraries, I assume I won't find it there. Thus, if you want it reviewed here, please feel free to send us a copy and either Layman or I will happily promise a review.
Anonymous said…
Paul Copan is the President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and has a number of good book length treatments about skeptic's questions.

I can't tell you how many times people have asked me for a free book to review. I've given away plenty. I know you'll disagree with it. Yet, I'll consider it, especially if you promise to be fair with it and not pick out an argument that you know a lot about and proceed to rip it to shreds without giving a fair assessment of the rest of what I write.
Jason Pratt said…

In fairness to John, any argument can be 'ripped to shreds', at least at first glance. (Obviously he himself thinks the argument is still strong and worth including in the book, or else he wouldn't have added "even if I still think you're wrong".)

I think John's main concern in getting a review of the book from Layman or BK, is to not waste time going over disputes between them which are already widely available on this site, but to cover the less discussed material instead. (I suppose I could be wrong about that, but that seems to be what he's meaning from what he's saying.)
Jason Pratt said…

while I understand the annoyance of having people ask for free copies of a book being nominally sold for a profit, especially when the author is also the one who expensed the book in the first place, that's a normal part of being a publisher. (Speaking as someone who is in the midst of setting up a small publishing company myself.) If we want someone to review the book, we provide them free copies. That's how it works. (That's also why we send out bound galleys months in advance at no charge to various people whom we hope will print reviews of us, or provide blurbs. It's called PR. {s})

Granted, if I'm expecting a hostile review of a book on the front end, I'd at least like to get compensated for providing the ammunition. {g} Even so, if I'm the one _asking_ for the review, then I'm expected to provide the ammo. (And, after all, a hostile review of a book will almost certainly do more damage to sales than can be compensated for in any realistic manner by having sold one copy for the review.)

So, if you seriously want them to review it, it's okay to be cautious and provisional about it (hoping for a fair review and being unwilling to send them ammo for an unfair one); but if you start off by _challenging_ them with reviewing it... then frankly the publishing cost of one copy is a small price for you to pay for the possibility that they may be unfair in answering your challenge. If you aren't willing to risk the $3 you paid to get the copy into existence, on the ground that you estimate the risk of damage to far exceed the $3, then you shouldn't have made the challenge to start with.
Anonymous said…
I'm leaving for the weekend, but I want to be clear here. I think my book is of a sufficient depth containing a sufficient case that it won't be long before people here and there will have to take a look at it. So I do not need to give out very many books. I consider it a one book demolition of Christanity. That does not mean apologists will be persuaded, or that most Christians will. I just think this is the best way to describe the book. It will challenge Christians, maybe to the core.

Often someone wants to personally dialogue with me about my book (via e-mail), thinking to themselves they can answer my challenges. But one by one they drop off as they read through it. And I never hear from them again.

Prove me wrong is my challenge.
Jason Pratt said…
{{But one by one they drop off as they read through it. And I never hear from them again.}}


Speaking as someone who has been doing this kind of disputation for years himself (and who also has an extremely high opinion of his own capabilities {lopsided g}):

there _are_ in fact other reasons for why people might drop off discussion never to be heard from again (though still obviously active elsewhere), than despair against the sheer unbeatable awesomeness of my skill. I know very well this is true, because on occasion I myself don't bother continuing a discussion either for many of various reasons, none of which have anything to do with thinking the other fellow is winning against me at all.

To pick a non-contentious example, I recently spent large amounts of time writing up and posting in-depth analyses of a particular person's doctoral dissertation, and didn't get far into his second section before I quit. This wasn't because I thought he was winning his point. It was partly because he hadn't yet gotten to the topic I was really there to analyze in the first place; partly because I had already totally destroyed his methodology (in my own mind at least {self-critical g!}); partly because other things in my life occurred that called for my attention, and by the time I got back to where I could address it I felt that the topic was cold; partly because I was frankly becoming bored with the analysis; partly because I wanted to go do more research on it anyway elsewhere; and partly because I sensed that I was monopolizing time and killing free discussion in the area for other people.

And that's in a case where there _wasn't_ actually anyone else actively discussing the topic with me. A discussion on something longterm, like a book, is much like committing to a marriage with someone else over that period--even in the best possible case, it's more time-consuming and difficult than doing something by one's self (if I may be allowed to draw the tacit comparison. {wry g})

Consequently, when other people bail out of a disputation with me, with or without any explanation, I make it a point of self-discipline _not_ to infer this means my Hiten Mitsurugi Sejuro Hiko-ness was too overwhelmingly competent for them to bear. That _might_ be true; but a bunch of other things might be true instead.

BK said…
First, John, if you want to send me a copy of the book, I will review it as fairly as possible. You may not find it to be a fair review, but I can only come at it from my own situation with my own built in assumptions. Take a look, for example, at the recent post I made on the Ken Miller ID video. Bruce apparently thinks its a great video, and he may be right, but through the first 30 minutes (that I have reviewed thus far) it is, from my point of view, horrible. I think I'm being very fair, but Bruce apparently thinks I am being nitpicky to the nth degree. The same may happen with a review that I would give to your book.

Also, I have to echo Jason's thoughts. There have been many times that I have started arguing with someone and after several ago arounds have decided that they are embedded in their viewpoint and there is no amount of discussion that is going to change their minds. Thus, since I have a limited amount of time and don't want to spend it banging my head against the wall, I will sometimes simply abandon the conversation. Often when I do so I hear the other side saying "I won the debate." No, they didn't win from my point of view or the points of views of some of the others who have been following the discussion. So, I think it erroneous to think that simply because people have backed away it means that you have necessarily proven your case -- it may simply be the case that they don't feel that it's worth the effort.
slaveofone said…
Hmmm... A waste of time... I think there's a fair number of people who read books for political reasons. They don't chose a book because they want to learn something. They don't chose a book because they want to question things and explore alternate viewpoints. They don't chose a book because it's written by an authority in the field. They chose a book because it supports their agenda and rallies their cause and, quite possibly, because it belittles or demeans those they oppose. I, personally, don't see any point in that... I'd rather burn a book by Josh McDowell than read it... But someone's reading Josh McDowell, so I don't see why someone wouldn't read Dead Little Fish either.
Anonymous said…
So understood Jason. How one explains the facts will be subjective here. But those are the facts. Several people have been gun ho to proclaim they are getting my book to dismantle the book before my eyes, but within days, or as much as a couple of weeks they drop off the map. Explain these facts however you like.

One Christian gal in a online discussion forum has recently expressed out loud that she's seriously considering being an atheist. That's a pretty huge leap for her from reading just one book, don't you think?

BK. No free book for you. Doesn't the Bible say that a worker is worthy of his wages?
BK said…

That's okay, I expected that it would be a waste of my time anyway. BTW, a worker is worthy of his wages, but the verse refers to people who are doing the work of God. Those who aren't doing God's work also deserve wages of a sort. (Rom. 6:23)
Anonymous said…
Cute BK. I don't suppose you mean that non-believers are unworthy of their (monetary) wages, right? :-)

Yeah, it'll be a waste of your time. Don't bother. It won't matter to me any. But if you consider yourself a shepherd....
Layman said…
Yet, I'll consider it, especially if you promise to be fair with it and not pick out an argument that you know a lot about and proceed to rip it to shreds without giving a fair assessment of the rest of what I write.

If I can shred what I know a lot about, why should I give weight to your arguments about which I know less? Despite the bravado, that is not exactly a self-confident assesment.

It is common practice to provide courtesy review copies to willing reviewers with an outlet. We've received such offers and written such reviews. If we are not a big enough market for you, fine. That is certainly understandable. Refusing to do so because we know enough about some of your arguments to rebut or weaken them is less understandable. But using an inapplicable Bible verse to justify your decision is tactless at best.

BTW, people become Christians after hearing one alter call, or one sermon, or reading one book, or having one discussion with a friend. I guess that proves Christianity is right acording to your logic?
Derek Murphy said…
Hi everybody, my name is Derek Murphy, the author of the Dead Little Fish book that's under discussion. I appreciate many of the comments made, and agree with most of the blog author's points: it's true, I haven't spent enough time developing neither my blog nor website, and so unfortunately someone who wants to find out about me in order to judge the quality of my writing has a poor sampling.

I have, however, spent a great deal of time on the book. I'll admit, it isn't 'scholarly', although it is well researched and referenced. I wanted it to be accessible, and read smoothly, which it does. I noticed that Jesus Myth books are easily and readily dismissed. The idea seems so silly and profane, nobody needs to justify it by taking it seriously. In my view, that's unfortunate. The theory (and I) may be wrong, but can an open-minded society choose what will be true before listening to the evidence?

Dead Little Fish does, actually, present quite a lot of evidence that I couldn't find in any other source (besides the ancient texts I read, or the new comparisons I saw.) However, because I'm a young author, with no background to speak of, it is nearly impossible to be published by any publishing firm; rather than wait it out and hope to be patroned, I self-published. It may not have been wise for my career or reputation but, what's done is done. Also, against my better judgement, I made the book PR and marketing information a little more dramatic, to make it stand out, because you're right, what good is another Jesus Myth book if the theory has already been disproven?

At any rate, you can read the introduction and first chapter for free here;
And if you'd like to review the book more thoroughly, I'll send you a copy.


Derek Murphy
Jason Pratt said…
JL: {{So understood Jason. How one explains the facts will be subjective here.}}

I'm just calling for a realistic agnosticism, where applicable. (Insert irony as appropriate. {g}) I wasn't trying to 'explain' those facts one way or another; just as I make it a point of self-discipline not to infer (without actual evidence) that my own opponents run away in fear and despair, or whatever. Things happen; and a refusal to continue disputation with me might (for all I know) be badly reflecting on _me_ in any given case.

In the case of the Christian girl who was seriously considering going to atheism instead, you have a definite fact to work with that links directly to a conclusion for that particular case. I have no intention of explaining that away--obviously people convert, and clearly your book was a factor in her case.

{{Doesn't the Bible say that a worker is worthy of his wages?}}

That could be flipped around, since _you're_ the one calling the challenge here on Bill (and Layman). If you want him to work on your book, make it available to him. If you think he won't give it a fair shot, don't make it available to him. Otherwise, it starts to look like all you're after is the profit-after-expenses of one sale.

If BK had gone to you first and said "I think your book is trash; I dare you to let me have a crack at it", then I would think it appropriate for him to pay the fee for the duel, so to speak. He who makes the challenge pays the cost, or else his challenge looks empty as though it was only made for show. Furthermore, he who makes the challenge has little room to complain about when and how the challenge is to be fulfilled; otherwise one could make a challenge to someone known not to be in a position to answer at the moment, in order to score an empty victory by an expected refusal. (The point is to keep people from being held hostage, so to speak, by spurious challenges.)

Derek Murphy's reply and attitude are, IMO, more proper so far. It _is_ difficult to get a publishing house to spend the major amounts of money ($40-$70K at a minimum) necessary to set up a book on a decent print run with decent marketing. Even aside from the question of credentials, it's mainly a matter of lack of capital + glut of submissions + market saturation. The quality of the work doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. (It _could_, and not infrequently _does_, but it doesn't _have to_.) Even Prometheus Books has an operating budget every quarter. {s}

Anyway. If you think your book is of "sufficient depth containing a sufficient case that it won't be long before people here and there will have to take a look at it", then there's no reason to make the challenge in the first place. Sooner or later Bill and Layman will _have to_ take a look at it, right? Just be patient and wait for it.

Anonymous said…
I don't see what the fuss is all about here. I have challenged people to read a book before, like James Barr's After Fundamentalism. But I don't need to offer to buy any book that I recommend and give it to that person. Or is it that anytime we recommend a book we're supposed to give it to someone? Hardly. Why is this different because it's my book has not been explained. I decide who to give free copies to. Why continue here? I can do what I want with my free copies and I don't like it when people claim they are deserving of one.

Then BK ASKED ME FOR A FREE COPY! To which I said I'd consider it. Now how often do you go around asking for handouts BK? This assumes you are important enough that I should give you a free copy. You should probably make your case here that you are that important. I haven't seen that case made yet.

And Layman, I never said that you should give weight to my arguments about which you know less. But typically Christians will find an argument they know a lot about, critique a book based upon that argument alone, conclude that the book as a whole is bad, without also telling the reader how forceful his other arguments seem to be. And my book presents a cumulative case. Each part supports the other parts, and I doubt very much if you have a handle on all of the issues I write about to critique it effectively. So I fully expect you to pick on one argument, trash it, say that you don't know much about the rest of my arguments, and conclude that if the one argument you know a lot about is so bad that the rest of the book is bad, even though you don't have any expertise in the other areas I write about.

And that is just a shoddy approach to a book that lays out a cumulative case. And this disussion here tells me I won't get a fair hearing, anyway.

Like I said, I recommend my book. I think it's challenging to the core. Get it if you want it. There are people being persuaded by it. Any other questions?
Anonymous said…
And should you ever want to do a review of my book, which I couldn't care less whether or not you did, here are some basic guidelines on how to do it.
BK said…

Just to keep the record straight: you are the one who challenged me to read and review your book. I merely said that I am not going to buy your book to review it and made suggestions as to how it might be made available to me where I don't have to spend any money. If you don't think we're important enough to send us a copy, then I certainly won't argue with that decision. But regardless, I suspect that your book is just like so many others, and I never had a desire to read it anyway. But the offer stands -- you provide us a copy somehow where we don't have to pay, and either Layman or I will review it.

BTW, the Da Vinci Code has convinced a lot of people that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child, and that book is pretty much recognized to be a load of crap. Thus, the mere fact that people may be reading it and changing their mind about Christianity is unfortunate, but not very compelling that it is well-done.
BK said…

The theory (and I) may be wrong, but can an open-minded society choose what will be true before listening to the evidence?

The problem is that you say that you have stuff that isn't in any other book that makes the case that Jesus was a myth, but I have seen nothing. I am not saying that people shouldn't be open-minded, but I am saying that based upon your own PRWeb release, your idea of scholars is pretty poor and there's no reason to believe that you have some new bombshell that proves that Jesus didn't exist. Hence, my urging people not to waste their time.

But now that you've checked in, tell us, what exactly is new in your book that I haven't read in a hundred other "Jesus is a myth" books? After all, if you have "quite a lot of evidence" that you haven't seen in any other source, why not tell us three or four bits of evidence that we haven't seen before so people can judge the value of your book?
BK said…

And that is just a shoddy approach to a book that lays out a cumulative case. And this disussion here tells me I won't get a fair hearing, anyway.

Actually, you will get a fair hearing, you just probably won't like what you hear. But I can certainly commiserate with your statement that you don't like nitpicking when your book makes a cumulative case. I say that all the time to atheists, but they just keep hammering away at a point that they think that they're winning at. Still, if the point is one that is in their favor (usually, its not), I don't blame them. Still, it is obvious that if a person is able to show that the author doensn't know what they're talking about on one point, then it raises questions about everything else being said. That's the way evaluation works -- ask any jury.
Layman said…
BTW, my whole life is a cumulative case for Christ. :)
Anonymous said…
In case you forgot what I originally said, here it is again: So let me challenge you to get and read and critique my book. I personally think it would be tough to know enough about every topic I write about to effectively critique it all. The topics you probably wouldn't have any trouble with are....are...the one on whether Jesus bodily rose from the dead, since you seem well versed on that subject, even if I still think you're wrong. But the others? Maybe a few others. But them all? I seriously doubt it. Go on, give it a try. Actually, if I am wrong, I'd like to know where.

Then to make a parallel argument I also say this: Likewise, I challenge you to get and read James Barr's book After Fundamentalism too. Go on, give it a try. Actually, if he's wrong somewhere, I'd like to know where.

And I could say that about several books, too.

Now tell me once again what the problem is here.

If you cannot do proper exegesis of my words, how can you actually do proper exegesis of the words in the Bible? Moreover, how can God condemn us if we misunderstand the words of the Bible?
BK said…
1. I don't see where I have misunderstood a thing you have said.

2. I am not a fundamentalist, so have no interest in reading After Fundamentalism.

3. There are no problems here. You simply challenged me to read and critique your book and I said that I would if I had a copy I could review without buying it. That's ultimately where we stand and have stood throughout.

4. I don't see where has said anything different. Plus, God doesn't condemn us if we misunderstand the words of the Bible. No wonder you are confused.
Anonymous said…
Here's an aside.

BK: God doesn't condemn us if we misunderstand the words of the Bible. Then your God cannot condemn me because I understand the Bible to be a product of a mythical and superstitious people, can he? But if, according to you, I thought the way you do about the Bible, God would not condemn me.

Here's a dilemma I posed on my Blog. What d'ya think?
BK said…
1. "Your God"? He isn't my God; He's God. If I'm right, He's everyone's God. If you're right, He doesn't exist. So is there a point to saying "your God"?

2. If wordgames were arguments, this would be a winner. But you aren't misunderstanding the Bible, you're rejecting it.

3. God doesn't condemn you for misunderstanding the Bible. You stand condemned because of your sins.

4. Is your dilemma an example of what I could expect if I read your book?
Anonymous said…
"Your God" is a brief way of describing the particular belief you have in God. Can't understand what I write, eh? Then don't bother reading my book at all. You will do to that what you just did here, and that is you will not practice the principle of charity when reading it. You do know what that principle is don't you?

God doesn't condemn you for misunderstanding the Bible....

Sure he does!

Is your dilemma an example of what I could expect if I read your book?

This is not in my book, but these types of things can be found it my book, yes. Can you answer it or not? I didn't see any attempt at it so far....
Layman said…

When you first started commenting here you claimed to be looking for civil dialogue even with Christian apoligists. In this thread, when you mentioned your book, BK quite nicely offered to review it if he could find it in a library or you sent him a review copy. We have received review copies in the past and reviewed books for the website. BK then responded to your concerns about how he might review your book by promising to write as fair a review as possible.

Apparently because BK only offered to review your book and not to buy it, you have acted like an ass, not to mention chest-thumping about how great your are because a few people have had their doubts encouraged by your book and others have grown tired of emailing you (having had to plow through repeated and extraodinarly lengthy emails from one of your co-bloggers, forgive me for not assuming it was because you were winning the argument). I can understand being proud of writing a book, I was proud when I finished my online article on Acts, but have a little humility. There are lots of books and articles and arguments and website competing for people's attention. One way to get yours noticed is to send courtesy copies. If you don't want to do that, fine, but don't take the lack of interest in buying your book as an act of fear or concern on anyone's part. There are plenty of other atheists whose materials we are already in possession of or whom are particularly effective in an area that interests us who are in line before you.
BK said…
Amazing. I question something that you've done and you respond that I can't understand what you've written. Then you naysay a matter of Christian theology that you apparently never learned. Finally, you seem to insist that I respond to a rather poorly reasoned bit on your blog as if it really mattered what you say . . . . Amazing. I think we're done.
Anonymous said…
Layman, I do want a civil dialogue. What I mostly found here were people berating me for not giving BK a freebie. If they want him to have it then take up a collection! I get a little tired of such behavior, as would you.

And please tell me you understood it when I earlier said, "your God." While this is a trivial matter to be sure, it is evidence to me he wouldn't give my book a fair hearing.

And now look at BK's own humility, above.

And as far as humility goes? What's that? ;-)
Anonymous said…
Sorry, I deleted my first post. I thought I was deleting my last one only to rewrite it. But we're done here.
BK said…
In re-reading this, I realize that I owe John a partial apology. I typed too fast in response to his statements which I found to be annoying, and said "Finally, you seem to insist that I respond to a rather poorly reasoned bit on your blog as if it really mattered what you say . . . ." That reading doesn't reflect what I was thinking (unless it is a Freudian slip which refelts some deep-seated thinking I have that is not operating at the conscious level).

For the record, what I meant was that John seemed to think that by posting a link to an outside post, he was obligating me to respond to it. John is free to control what goes on his blog, but he is not free to control what is written by me on the CADRE blog. To that extent, it doesn't really matter what he says because I am not going to write on something just because he or anyone else here links to it.

Thus, I apologize to John for that comment which reads differently than what I intended. I do care what you think, but not to the extent that you I feel obliged to respond to every comment you make.

At the same time, I think that you weren't being as charitable as you pretend based upon what you wrote. But that's for others to judge . . . .

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