Saturday, August 4, 2012

Where Are All The Black Female Atheists?

I asked this several years ago and since then I have had the pleasure of meeting many Black atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers of the opposite sex. Women like Sikivu Hutchison who wrote the recent book, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars or Ayanna Watson, head of Black Atheists of America or journalist, Jamila Bey, and many others have shown that not all black women remain willing captives to religious dogma. Not all black women can so easily cherry-pick through this abominable book of atrocities and ignore its condoning of slavery and misogyny. So, if some, why not all?

The women in my family are strong, proud. They refuse to be dominated by men, choosing to be single rather than accept the tyranny of unworthy males. Yet they bow without question before the most chauvinistic character in all of literature, the god of Abraham. How can this be?

I struggle with not looking down upon Christians, particularly Christians who are Black, Latino, homosexual, or female, the ones who have suffered the most at the hands of Christianity. It is hard not to think of them as grossly ill-informed, self-hating, sell-outs, or just plain stupid. I said recently of gay republicans, that if this were 1968 and there was a candidate promising to lower the deficit, balance the budget, and find jobs for everyone, but he was against interracial marriage and wanted to bring back Jim Crow laws, there is no way in hell I would vote for him. That's why I could not understand gay "fiscal conservatives" voting for republican candidates. I feel the same way about women and minorities praying to the god of Abraham. Don't you know that son of a bitch hates you?

As a result, I often find myself wincing when my mother or my aunts talk about going to church or praying or when they send me emails or finish a conversation with "God Bless You" or "Have a blessed day" or that annoyingly innocuous tagline "Blessings". I want to tell them how idiotic I find their faith and how I not only find it embarrassing as a Black person, but that they should be embarrassed as women. I feel toward them the way you would feel about a woman who speaks glowingly of her abusive husband, a little sad and embarrassed and just a tad bit disgusted.

I want to remind them of all the horrible things the bible says about women, how it condoned slavery and how the atrocities of the bible led to thousands of years of persecution by males and how it was used to justify the Trans Atlantic slave trade. Yet, even when I have told Black women this, it has never changed a thing, therefore, I am unwilling to risk my relationship with my loved ones to try to convince them of something they are unwilling to be convinced of. Yes, they all know my feelings about religion. It's plastered all over the internet and my Facebook page, so how could they not. I just don't talk about it directly with them, except for my mom, who happens to be a preacher of all things.

What is so odd for me, and so difficult to understand, is that I come from strong women. The women in my family have raised kids by themselves, overcome all manner of hardships from poverty to spousal abuse to cancer to lupus. These are not weak women. And when I see women like Ayanna Watson, who has shrugged off the fetters of religious dogma, I wonder why my own family members, no less strong or intelligent, cannot. I wonder why the millions of Black women crowding the churches throughout America and the world, cannot. I wonder if the centuries of slavery and oppression has somehow conditioned us to obey even imaginary, despicable masters.  The thought saddens and appalls me. I wonder if the feebleness of the American educational system, particularly in Black urban areas, has somehow contributed to this absurdity, made us less rational and more vulnerable to charlatans. Perhaps, as I have said before, the legacy of the Black church's involvement in the Civil Rights movement makes us feel obligated to the church and Black women, traditionally placed in the role of the preservers and purveyors of cultural identity, and the ones charged with the role of keeping the family together, feel a unique obligation to maintain the faith. Faith is, after all, part of the Black cultural identity in America. The only way that will change is by changing what mothers teach their children and right now teaching a young black kid how to be a good person is seen by most women, most people, in America as synonymous with teaching them how to be good Christians. Charged with the responsibility to raise good Christian children, I believe many Black women feel obligated to remain good Christians themselves. They may feel that failing to keep the faith would somehow be the same as failing their children and by extension their family and ultimately the entire Black culture.

Whoa. That is one hell of a burden to carry. No wonder there are so few Black female atheists. Until we relieve this burden from them, until we show the women in our culture that being Black does not have to mean being Christian, that being a good person does not necessitate being a Christian, that doing right by your children and raising them well does not have to mean bringing them up in the church despite all the cultural pressure to do so, until we can instill in them that raising rational, free-thinking individuals will not doom them to hell or make them bad parents or bad women, we will never be free as a people. It starts right here, with mom and dad. And I know I have placed a lot of the responsibility on the moms here, but that's only because, in our culture, that's where most of the pressure to conform originates. Women place pressure on their peers to toe the line and show up to church every Sunday with their kids in tow. They shame other women and judge them when they don't show up in a way that they don't when it comes to Black men. It is more acceptable for a Black man to avoid church then for a Black woman. She is still viewed as the nurturer. It is her responsibility to preserve the faith and the culture. Women are the majority of the church population in our culture, so that's where the indoctrination has to stop. Free the moms and the kids will follow.

But is it that simple? Is it simply extreme peer pressure, a sense of cultural and familial responsibility, coupled with the extreme religious indoctrination as children that most of us undergo that continues throughout our lives that has led to the obvious imbalance in freethinking Black females versus freethinking Black males? Is that the reason so many Black women, including my aunts, cousins, sister, niece, mother, and grandmother continue to embrace the god of their oppressor? Would a concentrated campaign to change the cultural paradigm of Black female religious enslavement fundamentally change our culture? I say, it is worth a shot.


37 comments:

  1. Enjoy your blessings!!! You are in my prayers. I would write more but I've gotta get ready for church.

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  2. LOL! I assume this is a joke since your account was just created. Good one though.

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  3. Excellent post!!! I am a young black atheist(21), and of course being this minority within a minority, it's a damn shame seeing black women just openly follow this stuff with all their heart. Yet, this is the same religion that persecuted and enslaved our people.

    A few days ago, I went out with a girl who is black, to a Houston Dynamo match, we had a great time and she even got into the sport. Anyway, after that we were talking and religion just happened to pop up. She's one of those typical religious christian women, but she was stunning and fun to talk to when she wasn't talking about religion.

    Anyway, we start talking about it, eventually I tell her upfront that I'm an atheist and she was shocked and I saw the look of disappointment on her face. She goes on and says that she likes me but she couldn't date me because of me being an atheist, and that her family wouldn't like it either and that her marriage must be "yoked" between two Christians. At that moment, I dropped her back to her place and told her take care(originally we were going to eat afterwards).

    It's things like that being why the majority of the women I have dated or have taken past a friendship level are not black. Black women want to complain that they can't find a good black man, well the good ones don't believe in fairy tale madness that has limited and enslaved our people. So, back to not dating black women for me. I have a better record with Latinas and Asian girls when it comes to religion....that or I need to get the hell out of the South once I graduate from school.

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    1. So you blaming the South because you are a Square and intolerant of others beliefs.

      Got ya.

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    2. She started talking marriage during a first date? Talk about ulterior motives! You might have had a lucky escape.

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    3. I haven't given up on black women. I am attracted to them and not really any other race. I have the same issues about religion. I find it better to just say I'm not religious. Every black woman I meet asks me why I am single and I guess it's because I love black women but can't stand ignorance. So I'll be happy just getting in and out of relationships until I meet a free thinking woman.

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  4. I hear ya, Rashad. I went through many of the same experiences when I was single. What helped was being so open that anyone who dated me had to know already what they were getting into. What I wound up with, were many Black women who dated me in an attempt to convert me. Of course, that didn't work. There were also the Christian women who wanted to date me just to see how the other half lived and feel a little naughty. That was cool for a while, whatever, but there was no way I could marry someone like that. My wife was still a Christian when we married. we simply avoided the subject of religion. Now, she calls herself an agnostic, which just means that she's an atheist who's still afraid of going to hell.

    Oh, and ignore the reply. That's just a troll creating Blogger names just to stir up shit. I find it kind of amusing and not worth deleting at any rate.

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  5. @Rashad: Try being black, an atheist and gay finding a man who's not up in the front pew every Sunday. I'm lucky that my current BF, while a believer, is not one of those hardcore church queens (the type who swear up and down they aren't gay but regularly sleep with/date men)and doesn't have a problem with my atheism.

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  6. I am black, female and an atheist and it never fails to amaze me the hold religion has on black women. I see relatives on Facebook writing long status updates about the "devil" creating problems for them and God will reveal the plan for their life, etc. It's pathetic. Both my husband and I came to our atheism/skepticism together (fortunately), however he is white. And only after I started verbalizing my own criticisms of religion, did he come out and say, "Yeah, I had those thoughts too." He showed a lot in his actions, too. Never showed much desire to find a church, in all the places we lived. Not sure how things would have gone down if I had married any of the black men I had come across/dated. I'm just lucky that we can raise our kids to think critically and without religion and being on the same page doing that.

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  7. I'm Godless, black and...wait for it...female! I too wish there were more of us out there. Actually, I did learn of one more: Annalise Fonza, an ex-United Methodist Church clergywoman. She was a recent guest on FFRF Radio.

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  8. Good to hear from all of you and wonderful to know there are more sisters coming out of the dark and identifying themselves as atheists. The shackles of religion have been on our people far too long.

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  9. Great to see you blogging again! I should watch this space more often. Fascinating post. I am neither black nor female, but I can witness similar situations in my own people. I am a Quebecker. Catholicism was for decades a core part of our identity and it is still, which means that often people confuse religious faith with culture. Furthermore, when a community is exploited and/or oppressed by outsiders, it turns to its elite/ruling class for help and guidance. Historically, this elite was in Quebec predominantly the Catholic clergy or Catholic rulers. And this ruling classs often becomes oppressive and exploiters towards the community they are supposed to protect. The Catholic Church left my people in fear and ignorance for years and even though they lsot their power still have an undue influence over society. I think something similar happens here: many Blacks equate Black identity with religion, with a Black clergy that keeps its flock under the domination of a patriarchal rule, using Black identity as justification.

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  10. Oh, and if I can offer a piece of solution: when arguing with a devout Catholic, I often use Islamism as a mirror of his own faith. Because people can defend their faith adamantly, but they often disregard other faiths, or even beliefs coming from outsiders as weird or evils, even though the difference is merely cosmetic. I often ask: "what is different, essentially, in your Catholic faith, regarding the treatment of women and homosexuals, for instance, and Islam? How is a Catholic priest and a mollah?" The best they can usually come up with is that the Catholic priest is usually not as fanatic, which of course is a sheepish excuse. You want to show what's wrong with Black preachers? Ask Black women about white preachers. Many are racist, ignorant, uneducated bigots. And, of course, phallocrats. Do they deserve to be revered because they believe in God? Would you go to worship in their church if you were white? And how is the Black preacher who is homophobic and a chauvinistic pig any different?

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  11. I am a woman of color (mixed Black and Cherokee) and Free Thinker. I just wrote a long comment to one of your other blogs before I discovered this more timely one.

    I get so frustrated with all of my friends who are just as frustrated with me. I left Catholicism and Christianity long ago but turned to African and Native American spirituality. Then realized that they are all just as ridiculous and unhealthy for folks who need to be thinking about how to better our lives and become more intellectually empowered.

    When I hear one of my friends tell me that, "The universe is going to bring me this or that" or "The universe is telling me this or that" It's hard to keep my patience. I also have a hard time not being condescending toward them. I am always checking my tone and turning my head and rolling my eyes just to help me not to scream.

    I have recently had to move to a place where I thought I knew no one but ran into a woman from my hometown. She is one of these spiritual junkies (as I call them). We just had a heated debate about crop circles (!) of all things. And then she proceeded to argue with me about how all of the pyramids were built: not by enslaved humans who worked till their backs broke--which is proven by the archeological record, which I stated---but she believes they were built by sound waves....I'd say OMG but the irony is almost too much!

    We really need to get back to thinking about revolution / change in our communities and stop all this irrational thinking. I am certain that there are powerful people who are sooooo happy that we are still in the bondage of religion and spirituality. No chains needed on our bodies if our brains are still enslaved.

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  12. "It's things like that being why the majority of the women I have dated or have taken past a friendship level are not black. Black women want to complain that they can't find a good black man, well the good ones don't believe in fairy tale madness that has limited and enslaved our people. So, back to not dating black women for me. I have a better record with Latinas and Asian girls when it comes to religion....that or I need to get the hell out of the South once I graduate from school."

    If a woman is willing to give up her religion for a date then there might be a character flaw somewhere, at least the resolve is something to be respected. Also consider that demanding a place above such a high, personal priority as religion indicates an arrogance on your part. There is no God and no such thing as a Good Black Man (tm), such random events and repeated attempts for compatibility. Its sounds like you'd like Black Women to trade one God for another just instead of hell its less access to black penis. The fear of the former and the premium placed on the latter are both overinflated.

    There is also a challenge for Black Women Atheists out there when dating even Atheist Black Men; most of their Mother's are still Christian. How many Black Christian mothers do we know want a "heathen" for a daughter in law? If so will your wish to raise your children without religious doctrine be respected by her and further defended by your husband/partner? Probably not.

    Something else to think about:
    When blacks leave their respective religions behind they will find something similar to fill that void; another religion, conspiracy theory, or radical politics. There is a need to be subject to something they believe is bigger than their capacity for reason. This is probably why groups like The Black Hebrew Israelites, Rastafarianism, and the NOI are black sausage fests. Even the political and cultural groups in the black population duplicate the Christian church model right down to self-exultation, internal oppression of black women (meaning their ideas and oppositions are subject to the gender filter), paranoia, and even the groupie-like actions of black women are there.

    Its probably a good thing that most Black Women Atheists keep their distance and their lack of religion to themselves. Coming out as a black Atheist is hard enough but for women is blood in the water. Black men will try to place themselves in that void and if you're honest with yourselves, you'll admit it.

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    1. O. M. Goodness. I have been a confirmed atheist since I was a teenager. I met my best friend at 17, who is a black man, and my current fiance, also a black man. They both coincidentally (tell me if I spelled that wrong lol) became atheists after meeting. Or, admitted their atheism, whatevs. My friend grabbed onto Dan Brown-esque conspiracy theories and the New World Order ish. My fiance is into that Ancient Aliens crap and is ALWAYS chasing BigFoot and, despite telling me how much he loves science, continues to participate in this pseudoscience nonsense while simultaneously lambasting Xtians and Xtianity. So sad, but I guess they both felt like they needed something to fill the void...

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  13. One more thing to The Good Black Man (tm) up there. Those slaves weren't your people. You didn't know them, you don't care about them, and chances are you co-opt their suffering to make yourself look "conscious". Then again that must be something Good Black Men (tm) do.

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  14. Where are all the Black men who support and respect the Atheist Black women?
    The women who wholeheartedly reject that women are responsible for all sin in the bible, who reject the cruel purpose of Christianity to subjugate an entire race of people?
    Who understands her place as a minority in the minority, yet the intelligence and strength to embrace it?
    Where are these men who want a woman that cannot be controlled by any invisible God? To most black men someone like me who has no fear of a "creator" I am also a paria because it means I cannot be obedient to anyone or a man either.
    I am so sick and disgusted with the holy rolling Jesus freak christian black women but even more so with the repulsive men who give these women credence and airplay despite their lack of critical thought, reasoning and self understanding.
    Most black men say they are liberated, free thinking atheists but are married to some God fearing nut job so she can raise his children "right". Someone he can take around his family, who will accept her dementia as the thoughts and philosophies as a "GOOD Woman"
    I have never been a "Christian" I have freed myself from the dementia of God since I could read at 3 years old to ask questions and have been ostracized, criticized and demonized my entire life..MY WHOLE LIFE because I could not accept this LIE as truth and I have never met any man of color who took me seriously or understood where I was coming from or even try to engage me in a serious relationship because they cannot understand anything about my abhorrence to the Church, Jesus or any of that shit. Where are the black men who want a REAL woman who can think for HERSELF and is willing to support her, honor her, cherish her and treat her with the same dignity he would treat a "Christian" girl?

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    1. People told me that when I got pregnant I would change my mind about my atheism and "go back to God." They talked about the miracle of birth. I read The Greatest Show on Earth while I was pregnant. I know where babies come from lol. It was extraordinary, but also very ordinary. I look forward to raising my son to be objective and critical, fun-loving and secure, with knowledge of his history. I feel very lucky to have found someone, who happens to be Black, to share that with me. (Though I am an equal opportunity employer as far as race and gender :)

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  15. Excellent article and really well written.

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  16. Amazing article.
    I am from India, and religion is big there. Due to various reasons both me and my my brother were almost single handedly raised by my mother, one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. She is a skeptic but is still religious, and we often discuss about many abuses that are committed in the name of religion. She knows I am an atheist, and supports it. So when I asked why she still believed in religion, her answer was revealing. She was there because of the community, and also because of the trials and tribulations in her life. when everyday is a mental and financial struggle to raise two kids, you are simply too tired and emotionally battered at the end of the day. Even if you doubt it, faith keeps up the hope that someone up there is tallying up the injustices, and looking for you.
    She has never tried to convert me, and is an atheist in many ways.
    Somewhere, in her answer probably lies yours too.

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  17. Hi there,

    I hope you are still around. I'm a black female atheist, 40ish, live in CA and I cannot even find a decent black atheist anywhere in the entire state! Advice please. Thanks.

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    1. Begin by just letting a good man be good.

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  18. i think you should read i don't have enough faith to be an atheist,matter of fact,i challenge you to read it.

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  19. Hello Cocopea. Sorry, for the delay in responding. I have been remiss in monitoring this blog. My advice would be to start a black atheist group. Second to that, find a lapse believer who is perhaps sitting on the fence and push him over gently to the side of reason. In other words, if you can't find one, create one. Hope that helps.

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  20. To the "Unknown" individual who suggested I read that book of nonsense "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist" I would point you to this very thorough review of said book. http://tucsoncitizen.com/freethought-arizona/2012/07/23/i-dont-have-enough-faith-to-be-an-atheist-book-review/ This paragraph pretty much sums up my opinion of that tripe:

    "The book’s title is absurd. It does not take faith to reject a claim, since disbelief should be the default position for any claim until evidence is presented. We are born without a belief in God and lacked a belief until indoctrinated by parents. Even then, doubts remain. The authors choose to throw the word faith around very sloppily. They claim that any world view requires faith. For example pg. 27 states that skeptics have faith that skepticism is true and agnostics have faith that agnosticism is true. Atheism, skepticism and agnosticism are not belief systems. Skepticism is a method of determining what beliefs are true through inquiry. Atheism and agnosticism are single issue positions-one dealing with belief, the other with knowledge. The only thing all Atheists have in common is that they do not believe in a god. The authors however conflate Atheism with what some call “strong Atheism.” Atheism is a lack of belief in a God or gods while “strong Atheism” is a belief that no God exists. Many high profile Atheists including Richard Dawkins choose not to identify with the latter."

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  21. I'm a woman and religious and I don't feel oppressed. Enlighten me.

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  22. Read your bible, Quran, Torah, what have you. You will see all the misogynistic passages that command women to be silent, obedient, and subservient to men. Just because those passages are largely ignored in our culture, doesn't mean they don't still have an effect. Go to the most religious cultures on earth, from Afghanistan to Salt Lake City, and you will find a view of females that would turn the stomach of any self-respecting woman. Women who don't respect themselves, and buy into the bullshit about a woman's place being somewhere beneath men, will not be bothered by it at all. Which are you?

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  23. It is funny, my mother is a preacher, even though the bible expressly forbids women from teaching men and commands them to be silent. 1 Corinthians 14:34 - 35* 34. "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." I have asked her how she rectifies that with her "calling". Her reply is the same as so many other women who cherry-pick the bible, ignoring the parts they find offensive. "I don't believe that part." I'm pretty sure the bible is an all or nothing proposition. It's either the word of god or it isn't. If some of it is bullshit then all of it is suspect. Garbage in. Garbage out.

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    1. " I'm pretty sure the bible is an all or nothing proposition. It's either the word of god or it isn't. If some of it is bullshit then all of it is suspect. Garbage in. Garbage out."

      Aww, man! The fights (personal attacks devoid of logic or reason) that erupted, when I speak this forth... Just to respond, saying, 'Well, the Bible is supposed to be absolute, and your faith implies otherwise,' can have many [black] women seething. This is deep!

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  24. Another godless black female raises her hand. Just stumbled across your blog. Looking forward to reading all the past posts.

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  25. I stopped believing and practicing years ago, but I finally had the courage to openly admit my agnostic views to my ultra religious parents 2 weeks ago! A godless, black female. . .

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  26. Here I am!! I always hated church. It seemed like a crock to me from very early on. For years I thought that I just had not found the right church. Then I moved to the phase where I felt I could just believe in my own way without going to church. Finally, I realized and admitted to myself, that believing in god is 100% senseless. In no way does it compute for anyone other than a white male to buy into religion and the bible.

    Now, I admire the whites who are atheists. After all, the entire racket favors them. So far them to reject it takes some balls. Blacks, on the other hand, this should be a no brainer, people. Yet here we are, of all the races, the most Christian. It's disgusting. It's hurting us to be so blind and obedient. This blog gives me hope that we are getting there!

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  28. great read! I, too am a black female atheist and have been scrutinized for being such. From what I've observed, it's definitely the culture of black churches that keeps women in my family in attendance. Not going to lie, I, in some ways, miss having family and feeling apart of that community. If I were to attend church now, I would have a similar reaction. Pity for the lack of rationality and ill-constructed view of the universe. The gospel music (even down to the singing style), the praise dancing, the style of sermon delivery, the clothing (the hats), the fellowship hour food, as well as secular gossip have all been linked to our race. Leaving the church was almost sad for me. Kind of like finding out Santa wasn't real. Christmas lost all meaning. Just another lie.

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