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Old 2011-06-27, 08:04   Link #3181
Irenicus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
@irenicus, regarding India. Hinduism certainly went through many changes, and in many respects solidified the rule of ruling classes (through the caste system, for instance), but the religious systems of Europe did similiar and yet were eventually swept away by monotheistic religions. The fact that it occured twice, with Islam as well, indicates to me that they had some quality that allowed them to take root and stay where othermonotheistic religions didn't. Islam benefitted from being the nexus of an Empire, but that Empire was ultimately short lived, and afterwards Islam wasn't used as a tool for maintaining most of the subsequent states. Then again, Christianity didn't fulfill the role to the same extent either after the fall of Rome. But the fact that Christianity managed to supplant the religions of the invaders is more significant. Perhaps Hinduism had nationalistic elements attached, but can't the same be said for all polytheistic religions?
One can put it very simply: the Roman Empire embraced Christianity from the inside. The Hindu states did not. Islam was introduced most successfully in the subcontinent by the sword, though it arrived earlier with Arab merchants trading along the Malabar coast (if I recall correctly).

Introduction by the sword means success and failure comes with the sword. The Arab Caliphate brought the religion successfully wherever it conquered, but neither the Delhi Sultanate nor the Mughal Empire ever completely conquered the continent. And when the Mughals came close, it was with great difficulties and the empire was exhausted, not to mention soon to be turned back.

I don't think there's a special element in Hindu theology that makes it more resilient against a competing monotheistic religion so much as it is a combination of the geography of the subcontinent and the way history works out that translates into Hinduism in all its polytheistic one-thousand-and-one cults not only surviving but continuing to dominate India today.

It's not like Christianity took over Europe in a single sweeping revolution either. Constantine "only" acknowledged a process that was by then a few centuries old, and the conservatives of the Roman ruling class had their moments of resistance too. Who knows what would happen had Julian survived? Even then, and despite the power of the Roman state backing up Christianity (as the Emperor Theodosius made full use of), "Paganism," as the Christians would come to call it, take many, many centuries to die*. But it was the embrace of the new religion by the ruling state that allowed Christianity to take root such that it was not to be removed easily by a potentially different trend. Islam was not removed easily in India either -- or at all. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and large communities within the Republic of India itself are Muslim today.

The situation in Europe was that the Christian association with the Roman legacy ensured its perpetuation. The tribes which divided the remnants of the Roman empire sought prestige, which the mystique of Rome gave, and were receptive to conversion. Islam in India had no such helpful legacy.

However, I do have to argue that while both Islam and Christianity were soon dissociated from a single specific state, they remain very powerful tools of those in power in general -- as well as providing a common cultural ground when a single unified empire no longer exists. A post-Roman Europe gradually came to be centered around the Roman Catholic Church, in its culture and in many way its politics. Its theology was the foundation of intellectual activity between the collapse of the old Roman empire and the dawn of the Renaissance. Islam had an even more profound unifying effect; not only does it provide a common theology, it also provides a common language, a common identity that supersedes the many sultanates, emirates, shahdoms, and a few caliphates of an "Islamic" world.

*I once read a book that explored an Inquisition case in 16th century Italy, where a man was interrogated for professing beliefs which, as the author points out, show deep-rooted peasant folklore elements which had little to do with Christian theology. As late as the 16th century, in Italy! The author discussed at lengths the difference between the "high" culture of the ruling class which has long since embraced Christianity and the sort of funny things that tend to survive in the "low" culture of the peasants.

Quote:
Regarding China, in a sense, much of China's state theology had elements making it uniquely prone to Millenarianism, and that tradition may even reach down to the present day communists. The whole concept of the "Mandate of Heaven" meant that when a dynasties rule collapsed, and natural disasters etc. occured, the people had license to overthrow it. Given that the emperor's rule was divine itself, it made the people more willing to embrace another form of divine rule, like the Taipings (who I love to read about).

However I don't think it's a satisfactory explanation why they were often so large and bloody. Equivalent movements in Europe never reached that size. Perhaps the divided nature of European nation states prevented these movements from crossing linguistic boundaries? Then again, other movements (like the Reformation, or Liberal Revolutions) did so succesfully so...
I don't think the "divine rule" is the important part with Millenarian movements so much as that Imperial China's ideology gave such paramount importance to order and stability. With action comes equal reaction and all that; if gradual, progressive change isn't even conceptualized, you think in terms of total revolutions -- i.e. millenarianism, a belief when change, total change, is at hand. If the state is all powerful and singular, a world unto itself, then one must topple the world to change it. And if you have the moral right to rebel, and you are starving and dying and suffering, with nothing at all to lose, and the prophet's words are crying out that a new and better world is at hand, if you but believe in [insert specific millenarian superstitious weirdness here], well you have a recipe for the beginning of a grand avalanche.

Said avalanche, as I've noted, will unfortunately be clashing against a great and formidable wall, a state possessing great resources of arms, scholars of varying degrees of moral authority entirely unimpressed with your movement rallying the people against you, and the weight, that almighty weight, of tradition.

As for the amazing casualties that tend to occur, it's really simple: China's big, China's crowded, China's got lots of people (I once read a paper which noted how Chinese agriculture was far more productive in terms of yields per area than a contemporary Europe, historically), and the way China fights wars is certainly not with any intention to preserve manpower (as would be the case for the hoplites of the Classical Greeks, for example). As early as the Warring States armies numbered in the hundreds of thousands (though a conservative estimate by modern historians can put the numbers down somewhat...but such is the case for just about every other culture too, so it works out).

So a rebellion in which there are many many people involved, the peasants have nothing to lose, the state has no intention to be merciful, the war is effectively total, and both sides are using tactics which spare no human expenses -- I could see how the Taiping Rebellion can top the casualties of a world war.

The two pan-European movements you mentioned were aided by technology, though. Printing presses and industrial revolutions.

Last edited by Irenicus; 2011-06-27 at 08:16.
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Old 2011-06-27, 10:30   Link #3182
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
One can put it very simply: the Roman Empire embraced Christianity from the inside. The Hindu states did not. Islam was introduced most successfully in the subcontinent by the sword, though it arrived earlier with Arab merchants trading along the Malabar coast (if I recall correctly).

Introduction by the sword means success and failure comes with the sword. The Arab Caliphate brought the religion successfully wherever it conquered, but neither the Delhi Sultanate nor the Mughal Empire ever completely conquered the continent. And when the Mughals came close, it was with great difficulties and the empire was exhausted, not to mention soon to be turned back.

I don't think there's a special element in Hindu theology that makes it more resilient against a competing monotheistic religion so much as it is a combination of the geography of the subcontinent and the way history works out that translates into Hinduism in all its polytheistic one-thousand-and-one cults not only surviving but continuing to dominate India today.
Speaking of India and Abrahamic religions, I recently learned that even there Chistianity had a most ancient footing, with the Nasrani, also referenced as St Thomas Christian, which make a sizeable fraction of the population in Kerala.

They make a good study case for how Christianity expanded in structured polytheistic societies, without a political or military backing of any sort.

In a documentary, they even described how this particular Christianity and the local Hindu traditions influenced each other, with Christian figures permeating the Hindu deities for instance.

Quote:
It's not like Christianity took over Europe in a single sweeping revolution either. Constantine "only" acknowledged a process that was by then a few centuries old, and the conservatives of the Roman ruling class had their moments of resistance too. Who knows what would happen had Julian survived? Even then, and despite the power of the Roman state backing up Christianity (as the Emperor Theodosius made full use of), "Paganism," as the Christians would come to call it, take many, many centuries to die*. But it was the embrace of the new religion by the ruling state that allowed Christianity to take root such that it was not to be removed easily by a potentially different trend. Islam was not removed easily in India either -- or at all. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and large communities within the Republic of India itself are Muslim today.

The situation in Europe was that the Christian association with the Roman legacy ensured its perpetuation. The tribes which divided the remnants of the Roman empire sought prestige, which the mystique of Rome gave, and were receptive to conversion. Islam in India had no such helpful legacy.

However, I do have to argue that while both Islam and Christianity were soon dissociated from a single specific state, they remain very powerful tools of those in power in general -- as well as providing a common cultural ground when a single unified empire no longer exists. A post-Roman Europe gradually came to be centered around the Roman Catholic Church, in its culture and in many way its politics. Its theology was the foundation of intellectual activity between the collapse of the old Roman empire and the dawn of the Renaissance. Islam had an even more profound unifying effect; not only does it provide a common theology, it also provides a common language, a common identity that supersedes the many sultanates, emirates, shahdoms, and a few caliphates of an "Islamic" world.

*I once read a book that explored an Inquisition case in 16th century Italy, where a man was interrogated for professing beliefs which, as the author points out, show deep-rooted peasant folklore elements which had little to do with Christian theology. As late as the 16th century, in Italy! The author discussed at lengths the difference between the "high" culture of the ruling class which has long since embraced Christianity and the sort of funny things that tend to survive in the "low" culture of the peasants.
Actually, this example is symptomatic of one of the main success mechanism of Christianity, which I think had a similar role in the success of Buddhism: it's rather large tolerance for syncretism, in spite of all the top-down orthodoxy and inquisitorial control.
Testimony of this are most if not all of our Holidays and their panapharelia, which all have roots in "pagan" celebrations.
Similarly, in the countryside, worship places and rites honoring local deities were redirected toward the (sometimes invented) Saints of the Church. Which legitimately drew criticism during the Reformation from those who seeked a more "pure" form of Christianity.

To illustrate this, when I visited Japan this spring, after being amazed at all the Shrines and altars I found scattered in the mountains, fields, residential areas and shopping disctricts, I realized that this was very reminiscent of what you can find in many Countries, where a Cross marks every summit and crossroad, where minuscule Sanctuary and Statues are hidden in the countryside, sometimes near a spring, or haging from a wall in the City. And where Saints where honored with lavish processions across the City or the Countryside.
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Old 2011-06-27, 21:36   Link #3183
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I would kindly ask that the current discussions (no matter how interesting) be brought to PM/VM. This is not the thread for general religious discussions (in fact there is no such thread due to how heated and over-the-top they become), this thread is dedicated to the exploration and discussion of your personal faith, how it was acquired (personal history only), and what it means to you (how your faith impacts your life, etc).

Last edited by james0246; 2011-06-27 at 22:46.
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Old 2011-06-28, 03:38   Link #3184
BaKaBaKaOtaKu
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I was born as a Roman Catholic but I'm currently having sceond thoughts on converting to another religion. I seem to have realized that my religion has been practicing some things that are against God's will. Uhmmm, I kinda want to change myself and be a better person. XD
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Old 2011-06-28, 03:47   Link #3185
erneiz_hyde
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Originally Posted by BaKaBaKaOtaKu View Post
I was born as a Roman Catholic but I'm currently having sceond thoughts on converting to another religion. I seem to have realized that my religion has been practicing some things that are against God's will. Uhmmm, I kinda want to change myself and be a better person. XD
Just so you remember, never confuse the two: Religion and their followers. Religion can't practice religion, it's their followers who are practicing it.
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Old 2011-06-28, 09:52   Link #3186
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Just so you remember, never confuse the two: Religion and their followers. Religion can't practice religion, it's their followers who are practicing it.
Or not practicing it as the case may be. At some point, one has to decide if one wants to carry the label of a religion if a sufficient number of followers are misbehaving badly. I know a number of people who are insistent that they be called "Methodist", "Presbyterian" or "Lutheran" (for example) first - rather than just "Christian" because they don't want to be lumped in with the antics of some proponents of evangelical fundamentalism.

In my case, the behaviors of my "birth religion"'s followers were motivating me to study belief systems across time (historical and modern) and space (cultural). That's how I arrived at where I'm at today (humanist agnostic who practices Zen and splashes of Shinto in to satisfy the irrational whimsy).
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Old 2011-06-29, 21:58   Link #3187
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Joudo Shinshuu Buddhist (浄土真宗)

EDIT: as for this page...you know, like, a LOT of people don't practise what they preach/go completely off the other side form it.

Take my own mother for example: Italian Roman Catholic. (Big switch from my grandparents on my other side, pre-war Shinto). Anyway, her thing was as follows:
>Send the kids to Sunday School
>Go to church every week
>Get drunk nightly
>Beat her eldest daughter and autistic son
>Force eldest daughter to play both Cinderella and replacement-man-of-the-house
>While forcing daughter to play man, trying to convince sister that I would rape her b/c I'm gay. (Didn't work, thank goodness)
>Rinse and repeat.

Of course, more than anything, she was an all around failure at being human, probably would've done the same if she were on the Shinto side, too.

But, then again, some of these doctrines are ridiculously demanding. Here's an anectdote about it-sort of about it:
>Went once (back South) with a neighbour to her Baptist church. The money bowl comes around and jolly old reverend tells us to look at our dollar bills, and says that if a "J" is in the serial number, that bill belongs to Jesus and we have no right to keep it...

So, one of the daughters of the boarding house I live in who came along, too, her name began with "L", turns to me and says, "So does that mean all the ones with Ls belong to me?" IT'S A LOGICAL FOLLOW.

And seriously, the irrational gay hate... So, those gay penguins in the German zoo and Flipper are treacherous abominations, too? Sex for pleasure/non-baby purposes within a species=a few will be gay... Our speicies has sex for pleasure, our speicies has a few gay people.

And Islam...oh, boy...(Going on Eastern European sect here, may differ from Middle East/South?Southeast Asian sects)

Praying five times a day? And you gotta be all ritualistic about getting down on your hands and knees wherever you are. So, a lot of people lug rugs around. Couple of people in my class last semester did that (Don't know where they all were from- class was Arabic 1B). In this modern, fast paced, go-go-go world, that's a demanding request.

Not to mention that stuff about girls who walk around not covered head to toe (Long sleeves in summer!), any area left uncovered will be set on fire at time of judgement.

Now, even other sects of Buddhism are too demanding. Have no worldly possesions, live only on kindness of others, be completely vegan.

The point is, of course people aren't going to practise all of this, most doctrines are insanely demanding. Even mine, sometimes, I lose sight of my self-awareness.

Thing is, about practising what you preach...if you can't practise it, just don't preach it. That's my solid opinion. You'll catch me saying things like the world should all be Buddhist, but I say in in humour. You'll catch me talking about self-awareness having helped me, but self-awareness is talked about outside of Buddhism, too. You'll catch me saying "Thank God" and I don't believe in God. But I won't really talk about my beliefs unless provoked. Like, my mother went on and on about God all the time, and yet, she couldn't practise it like, ever. Flipside, her father, my grandfather, was full of love, married to the same woman his whole life- and more faithful than she ever deserved, also a Roman Catholic...didn't really preach.

I also knew this one woman once (unfortunately), greedy as sin (pun TOTALLY intended), selfish as hell (intended), boisterous, insolent, and...kind of a whore. Opened her mouth- all preach. Opened her eyes in the morning- no follow...

...Correct me if I'm wrong, but seems the preachiest ones follow the least, and preach to compensate...
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Last edited by agoodcupoftea; 2011-06-29 at 22:45. Reason: Added more relevant stuff
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Old 2011-06-30, 02:07   Link #3188
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Originally Posted by agoodcupoftea View Post
...Correct me if I'm wrong, but seems the preachiest ones follow the least, and preach to compensate...
Not one to generalize, but yeah, I also see this trend. Sadly it's these less faithful that is most often heard by those outside of the faith. I know good peoples who are Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Atheists. The good sides of each belief system is too often the ones least known by others. Imo religion or any kind of belief system is something like a personal tool, and should be treated like one.
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Old 2011-06-30, 10:41   Link #3189
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Originally Posted by agoodcupoftea View Post
...Correct me if I'm wrong, but seems the preachiest ones follow the least, and preach to compensate...
I think it's more that the preachiest religions have the most "adherents" and so far more who never really thought much about their faith. Smaller religions who don't actively expand their base will only tend to ever have those who are committed in their numbers. Compare that to Buddhism in the west, all the people who are practicing it are making the concious decision to do so. But if you went to the countries where they are main stream (say, south east asia), I'd say you'd find the same rates of non-compliance as in christianity. Most of us live in christian countries so we are familiar with it.
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Old 2011-06-30, 14:31   Link #3190
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I am Christian and I accept who you are but doesn't mean I don't care about your salvation! His greatest commandment was to love one another and to love God. <3
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Old 2011-06-30, 15:46   Link #3191
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I am Christian and I accept who you are but doesn't mean I don't care about your salvation! His greatest commandment was to love one another and to love God. <3
What if I don't want salvation? If there's one thing that pisses me off more than loud, snorting laughter it's being proselytized to. If you actually read what you believe, you'd know that your loving god murdered countless millions, all for the sake of self-aggrandizement.

I don't mean to be offensive--I am simply telling it like it is. Read your own Bible--it's there, plain as day!

At least older deities weren't so hypocritical to claim they were loving and good while murdering and destroying everything...
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Old 2011-06-30, 16:01   Link #3192
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What if I don't want salvation?
From a Christian's standpoint, that doesn't make you any less qualified to hear the Gospel. Whether you choose to accept it is between you and God.
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Old 2011-06-30, 21:17   Link #3193
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Given that proselytizing often produces a "loss" result (driving people away or wanting to throw things)... simply *BEING* a stellar role model would be more likely to attract possible adherents. Some of the best advertisements for Mormonism I ever encountered never said a word about their faith -- they were just stellar role models. OTOH... we have a raft of rabid fundamentalists who were/are noted to "behave poorly" while coercing people (no matter what religion).

This is what many people waving their holy scripts forget... of course, the *history* of proselytizing isn't necessarily happy -- a fair amount of it was "holybook and sword" (convert or die).
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Old 2011-06-30, 21:24   Link #3194
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Given that proselytizing often produces a "loss" result (driving people away or wanting to throw things)... simply *BEING* a stellar role model would be more likely to attract possible adherents. Some of the advertisements for Mormonism I ever encountered never said a word about their faith -- they were just stellar role models. OTOH... we have a raft of rabid fundamentalists who were/are noted to "behave poorly" while coercing people (no matter what religion).

This is what many people waving their holy scripts forget... of course, the *history* of proselytizing isn't necessarily happy -- a fair amount of it was "holybook and sword" (convert or die).
I wonder if this is why I am a Jew magnet. I have so many Jewish friends, and their religion never comes up in an attempt to convert or preach. Sure, the religion comes up when we talk about or debate religion, but these discussions are always so civil compared to some of the "conversations" I've had with creationists and/or Southern Baptists.

Mormons have some damn good PR folks and they generally go about their preaching in a very inoffensive way (compared to the fundies, anyway). Too bad their religion is horribly misogynist and also so nutters they're one step away from scientologists.

Seriously... Jesus was an alien and Lucifer's brother, and when you die (assuming you're male and have a dozen wives), you become the god of your own planet... and don't get me started on the polygamy thing. That harem shit gives decent polyamorous people a bad name.
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Old 2011-06-30, 23:58   Link #3195
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simply *BEING* a stellar role model would be more likely to attract possible adherents.
Sure, that can be a great way to attract people. But as a Christian, you're still eventually going to have to actually talk about your faith and Jesus Christ and the Gospel, etc.
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Old 2011-07-01, 00:30   Link #3196
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Sure, that can be a great way to attract people. But as a Christian, you're still eventually going to have to actually talk about your faith and Jesus Christ and the Gospel, etc.
Of course. Adopting the behavior of a communicable disease is what made Christianity and Islam so damn prevalent. Can't spread the good word without preaching it, after all.

Or threatening to kill you if you don't convert. Just sayin'.
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Old 2011-07-01, 00:42   Link #3197
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Well, to be fair, if they didn't have a religion they'd find some other excuse and reason to coerce people. It just proves to be too convenient of an excuse at many times though. Any ideology can be corrupted as such.

At least to me, religion doesn't suck, beliefs don't suck, but people do.
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Old 2011-07-01, 00:58   Link #3198
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That's kind of circular reasoning, because the religions and their associated beliefs were created by people... and those people tended to suck.

It's pretty hard to defend an ideology that explicitly, in its most holy texts, demands that nonbelievers and homosexuals (among a great many other types of people) be killed.
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Old 2011-07-01, 01:10   Link #3199
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Originally Posted by synaesthetic View Post
That's kind of circular reasoning, because the religions and their associated beliefs were created by people... and those people tended to suck.
Well, then I'd be hating a lot of things then.

I'm not necessarily arguing that religion wasn't used for these purposes, but it's just something that's hardly unique to religion.

Of course, my personal belief is that I shouldn't really heed a 3000 year old book from the middle east, but hey...

Though I guess the East Asian religions tend to be umm... less imperialistic?

I guess this isn't the topic for me to talk about this, maybe a new thread, or wall post or w/e.
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Old 2011-07-01, 01:49   Link #3200
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Of course. Adopting the behavior of a communicable disease is what made Christianity and Islam so damn prevalent. Can't spread the good word without preaching it, after all.
Of course, communication is important in many fields. It's a large part of human interaction. So I find it pretty odd that you are attributing it to a disease.
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