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An essay donated by Sherwood Goozee

IZ Sense: revisualizing God

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Sooner or later one must wonder about life--its direction, its experiences, its purpose. This essay is a presumptuous effort to convey a modicum of sense and understanding to the puzzlements of life that affect us all. Even to assume that one can shed a small amount of light on life’s mysteries is quite an assumption in itself. Nevertheless, this is what I have observed in life and believe to be true.

Among the operating principles of the universe are the principles of interdependency and life cycle. Both material and abstract elements, including plant and animal life are interdependent. Like a self-contained organism each component is dependent upon the next. We are literally family in every respect whether we like it or not, and it’s beneficial if we accept the fact. Secondly, the cycle of life is a continuum of birth, struggle and death, rebirth, struggle and death ad infinitum. This process is as true for molecular biology as it is for the cosmos and us. From the point-of-view of people, the universe functions on two fundamental levels--nonphysical and physical: NONPHYSICAL in the eternal laws of nature that we decipher with innate creative intelligence and nonphysical in selective choices of action that ultimately define the extent of our humanity...PHYSICAL in the tangible evolving universe forged by nonphysical natural laws. The physical and nonphysical arenas coexist equally and interact with one another. This being said, many universal truths of the nonphysical world are yet to be discovered or understood, and we must remain open to the inevitability of change in the future, dismantling outdated concepts in favor of new revelations as they arise. The puzzle never ends.

Rather than being safe, the universe is a hostile environment of varying scale: a world of constant change and flux in which each entity uses developed skills to survive. For reasons known and many unknown, challenges are thrust upon us as individuals or as a society while others we deliberately create for ourselves in entertainments, business, sciences, and the arts. These challenges never cease and ultimately give meaning and gratification to life. Without them we degenerate and lose our way. While personal challenges may differ in degree and nature from person to person, we each cope with their effects daily, and none are immune. In the midst of these daily trials, one should always remember that the attitude and effort with which we confront challenges affect the outcome, and failure to use our talents wisely invites misery and despair.

A hostile world can be a scary place. It’s little wonder then that mankind seeks refuge in a supreme being to assuage fears and anxiety and give hope to the future. In consequence, we have given “God” heightened heroic, mystical powers to provide solace. Clearly, evolving concepts of God in various cultures and historical periods more than anything else reflect the reality of our fears and needs, thereby distorting the true reality of God, assuming deities exist. In many ways mankind has projected onto deities super-human versions of what we are actually capable of being ourselves. We have the potential of revenge, brutality, enigma, love, forgiveness, creativity, intelligence, etc., etc. Rather than assigning power to God, “re-own it”, as the self-help book I’m OK, You’re OK suggests to recognize individual traits that we project onto others. Ascribing our power to God denudes human potential; therefore, acknowledge the power of our own potential before appealing to a deity for intervention. Much of which “God” is made we have projected…take back those powers…re-own them. We have the potential to solve our own problems. Believe in that potential. Respect it, nurture it, use it.

It’s said that we are what we eat. Most people probably agree with that. Eat good food in the proper amounts and it’s reflected in a healthy body…makes sense. It’s also true that we are what we do, and our actions reflect what we believe. Sadly, while we may claim to have good values, our actions often indicate otherwise…personally, culturally, and nationally. Usually value systems are learned in the home or a place of worship, but today families are fragmented and religion seemingly has little relevance to what is actually happening in the world. Every day we see people of prominence and responsibility as well as corporate entities failing to meet even the most rudimentary ethical standards with little or no consequence to anyone except the public. It’s small wonder that the rest of us don’t feel compelled to do what’s right. Millions struggle for basic needs while others with little concern for the less fortunate are awash in creature comforts. In short, one doesn’t have to look very far to see the mess that we’re in. When the most pressing concerns are consumption, money, and self-indulgence, our future is indeed bleak. Like a swarm of locusts consuming everything in its path, we are headed for our own destruction, unless we can find something to believe in beyond ourselves. There are serious problems needing attention. As filmmaker Michael Moore put it, society needs to change “Me” into “We”. I think it’s even more than that; we need a revolutionary change in the way we view life.

With the foregoing thoughts in mind, self-examination becomes more important since the way we see ourselves in large part determines our behavior and chances for success. Understanding ourselves and our relationship in the world contribute to decent behavior, and guards against thinking that our beliefs are the only truth...thereby relegating others to an inferior status promoting bigotry and condescension. To act without self-knowledge is often regrettable. Yet sadly this journey to understanding our humanity may take a lifetime for some. Hence, a question of central importance becomes "What is our purpose in life?" The same question could be asked regarding other creatures; however, they seem to know what is expected of them. Only human beings find themselves in a quandary about their purpose in life, and it affects the way we live and the happiness we find. I think the best answer to the question of purpose is to experience the fullest, greatest potential of our humanity. Part of this endeavor requires the act of believing.

Fundamental to life's purpose is our perception of God, assuming that there is a God, and His relationship to us. "Who cares? Let's just have fun! If it feels good, do it! What difference does it make?" some might say. But suppose we had a job and we didn't know who the employer was, what the company expected of us, what our relationship to other employees was, or what the benefits were. How successful would we be? "Not very" is the answer. Likewise, in life we need to know how the system works and our place in it to find personal gratification and not fall into destructive patterns of behavior.

Who or what then is this moving force which some call God? Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a uniform answer or agreement on the concept of God. Yes, most people in the west and near east, would say that there is only one God, but whose one God are we talking about because everyone seems to have their own somewhat vague idea on the subject, and religions haven't helped or agreed on it since the beginning of time. In consequence, God is often divisive. What we have is not one God but about as many Gods as there are people...except for the atheists, of course. Who can blame them for not believing when we have made the nature of God so befuddling and incomprehensible? What exactly is this God phenomenon that is thought by many to have created the universe, if it did in fact, and how do we find it, know it, define it, and benefit from it?

It's regrettable that we have given God the name "God" because the name carries with it the claptrap of centuries from visions of "hell-on-wheels" to "mister-nice-guy". Also, and regrettably for the concept of a deity, we human beings are very dependent on our sense of vision. In consequence, the word God conjures up various mental images, and no matter how hard we try not to visualize God, there is this looming, father-like, larger than life image that intrudes on our understanding of a deity. In fact, the masculine pronoun used with a capital "H" in reference to God says it all…God must be male…but why not a feminine pronoun? Does God have a gender? Actually, He, She, or It isn’t really an appropriate reference. Oddly enough, although God is seen as masculine, we refer to nature as Mother. Nevertheless, if women had had the leisure time to philosophize about a deity, the pronoun no doubt would be feminine. Alas, women were busy rearing children and looking after the needs of men; consequently, albeit an affront to women, God is masculine. A new pronoun is needed--one that isn't gender specific and helps us to think "outside the box" erasing visual images associated with personal pronouns. Though some may find the idea disconcerting, I am coining the word “IZ” for purposes of this essay as a pronoun or synonym in reference to God. It isn't gender specific, and I use it interchangeably to help reframe the God concept.

So, what is God? Well, it certainly isn’t some kind of superhuman being or any kind of matter or substance up in the sky. It isn't even intelligence as we think of intelligence because intelligence requires a mind and a mind infers matter...neurons, synapses, cells, etc. Where would this "mind" be located anyway?

There is a hierarchy of intelligence in the universe that can be observed in various animal forms culminating with human beings and ultimately "God", assuming IZ exists. The human level of intelligence is capable of understanding the ultimate intelligence but incapable of being or becoming that higher intelligence since the highest level is not composed of matter. The ultimate level consists of intangible fundamental abstractions and concepts, rather than matter. Matter could not even exist without the nonphysical laws of science that rule over it. These abstract principles or laws, if I may call them that, exist whether or not we are here to observe them. They existed before the "big bang" of creativity and affect everything in the universe, everything in our world, everything in our life. They permeate our very being whether we believe them or not. They exist beyond time and space. They are eternal. They constitute the plans and building blocks of the universe, and they are neither judgmental nor happenstance. They are eternal truth, like a circle of time with no beginning and no end. Some truths are only momentary…true today but perhaps untrue or less true at a later time; they are not eternal. ETERNAL TRUTH is what God is. Eternal truth is not an entity devised…it just IS and always has been and will be. The antithesis of God is conceived in ignorance and negative choices that contradict nonphysical positive truth.

Consider the game of chess...a game of intellectual skill. The game isn't the chessboard or chessmen, though they are required. The game is an intangible set of rules without which and adherence to there can be no chess game. Similarly, the universe operates on truths, immutable laws, and abstractions some of which are known and many yet unknown that comprise the game of life for the human family. This creative system is the "God phenomenon". Not only do these laws make life possible, but also the unending search for additional laws excites and rewards. We struggle to learn them and express these verities with scientific formulas, logic, or artistry, in the realms of science, philosophy, and the arts. Were the physical universe not here, these truths would still exist. Man can choose them for his benefit or ignore them at his loss and sometimes peril. Defy the law of gravity, for instance, and you'll quickly understand what I mean.

We know for a certainty from school that proven formulas don't lie, and although we might, formulas don't; formulas are true. Presently, scientists aspire to develop one grand formula to explain the entire physical universe. Obviously, it's not easy, it's not simple...it takes time. But when they do find it, it will be magnificently beautiful in its simplicity (just like the theory of relativity). People such as Albert Einstein and others who strive for "the truth" are putting us on God's doorstep with their discoveries; because that's part of what God is, simply a grand formula. It's a formula that works because it's true. Would we pray and kowtow to “A” squared plus “B” squared equals “C“ squared? Of course not...unless we're some kind of math nut. What we do is we use it for our benefit. God's grand universal formula doesn't talk to us. It doesn't take sides. It's a magnificent formulation of eternal truths on which the universe operates, and it's personal because it affects each of us and we can depend on it as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow.

Darwinian theory suggests that life operates through natural selection. This is a generative process for survival involving environment and cellular mutations whereby those that cannot adapt are left by the wayside while the others survive and multiply. Simplistically, it works somewhat the way we create things: trial and error until something clicks and makes sense. The accepted and established is revised or destroyed inevitably with each new creation. Although this process in Darwin's time was thought by some to occur without the guidance of a creative intelligence, it must be remembered how IZ was conceptualized at the time. By today's more enlightened view, the selective aspects of creativity can be seen as part of the God phenomenon. After all, nature's selections are not senselessly idiotic. Mindless selectivity does not require time, intention, or functionality. With Darwin's theory as one of the cornerstones of knowledge, the universe turns on a selectively evolving creative framework. Yet, the world is so constituted that we can depend on the constancy of natural and scientific laws. Thus, scientists become the equivalent of modern day clergymen searching for God's truth. Isn't it ironic that Darwin, who briefly contemplated being a clergyman before becoming a naturalist, tangentially contributes to the understanding of God?

Theologians will agree that God is first and foremost a creator. An important aspect of the God phenomenon is the CREATIVE SPIRIT, and no matter how paltry our creativeness may be by comparison, in some ways it mirrors God's power. A great wonder of human creativity is that it often spans a wide range of emotions to stimulate, challenge, excite, exhilarate, frustrate, agonize, or gratify, and creativity presents an opportunity to benefit from positive choices; however, deliberate negative choices misuse creativity and the results are frequently devastating.

We each create our own world, a world unto itself, orbiting through life with magnetic reaction to people, thoughts, and actions as we search for ways to demonstrate or sometimes to hide what we really are. In the process, we create a separate, different language born of our own experiences using the same words and actions that others use but with subtle and not so subtle differences that interfere with understanding one another. Transmitting my world to yours is an impossible task. Writers carefully hone words for readers that readers can never read. Sadly, we are each forever alone with no “great escape” from ourselves. Only we can truly know what is in our heart, and after all, that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? In the final analysis we are each responsible for what we think and do. For some then the question arises, "Is there an afterlife to reward or punish us for our thoughts and behavior?" For those concerned, it may or may not be comforting to realize that, as previously noted, nonphysical abstract laws exist eternally; therefore, conceivably other entities might also...a soul for instance. Whether it does or not is a matter of faith or speculation to be resolved at a later time for everyone. For now, however, we make Heaven or Hell here on earth as a result of our choices, moral conscience, and relationship to others.

God is a formula for life--physical and otherwise. My dad once said that it's like electricity. We can't see it, but we see the results and we know that it works. That's true, of course, unless we make a poor choice and connect the wrong wires. ZAP! We get a jolt. Wake up! We're messing with the electrical formula. Fortunately, the formula for man is extremely simple...simple so that we can each understand it without excuses: DO WHAT'S RIGHT! To want for others what we would want for ourselves...universally that's really what "right" is, and it's an important precept for mankind. Sure, we have a potential of wrong choice, but prepare to get zapped because that's not the formula, and although sometimes doing what's right isn't as easy as it sounds, having the courage to pursue it benefits and rewards us.

Yes, the formula for humankind is "do what's right". Basically, the God phenomenon is awesomely simple to understand...a formulated system on which the entire universe operates. If we don't follow the formulas, we get hurt and often hurt others in the process. It's not the Creator's fault. It's ours. Now, if you're an atheist, please don't tell me that you don't believe in 2+2. Let me ask you, can mathematics be removed from a numerical equation, can color be divorced from light, or can a creative intelligence be removed from a creation? Even if we conclude that creation is random and has no particular meaning, a creative force is involved. Creativity equals an intelligence and purpose even when nonsensical. An inseparable relationship exists between intelligence and creation. Examples of this creative connection abound. A rock, nature's mighty warehouse of mineral elements, begrudgingly succumbs to sledge or erosion; can anyone look deep inside to the atomic structure and say that intelligent creativity isn't present? A sunflower, standing tall and beautiful, synchronized with the sun...what is its purpose but to be the best sunflower it can be and produce seeds that will insure its immortality. Try to create "from scratch" even one of its cells and if you can, breathe life into it; then tell me that intelligence escapes the sunflower's creation...and what then of mankind or any other part of the universe?

Surely there are many unanswerable questions in the world. For instance, what is beyond infinity? What came before the beginning "bang"? Why is there a universe at all? What is its purpose? There aren't knowable answers to many questions. Often things are beyond our ken and some things apparently just "are". There will always be many puzzling conundrums which we may never solve, but with respect to the phenomenon of God and experiences with our own creativity, I think we have to say that minimally creation requires an intelligence...so too with the universe, an intelligence beyond our full understanding, the awesomeness of God. Therefore, it isn't a question of IF there is a Creative Spirit. The question is: Is the "God" of any given religion construed in a rational manner so that we can believe, or is there a more reasonable way which doesn't require dogma or a questionable leap of faith?

There's no doubt that untold good as well as evil have been done in the name of IZ and religion throughout the ages. Religious ranks have been filled with the willing in hopes of salvation and sometimes the unwilling on pain of death. Often religions have supplanted the inspirational caring simplicity of "holy" men with ritual and dogma, self-righteously seeking domination and control over others. If the ones whose names they champion could see the use of their exemplary lives today, they would be sorely disappointed.

With regard to Christianity, "holy ghost" and "holy spirit" give rise to very eerie pictures, as do the ideas of many other religions. So, forget the vision in your mind. It's nonsense. Forget the preconceived notions religions foster. Forget the rituals and the theatrical trappings that make it all seem mysterious and unfathomable. This thing is as simple as two plus two and is not intended to confuse us. What would be the purpose making IZ complex and unfathomable to the ordinary person? Is God’s largess meant only for intellectuals or zealots?

Christian reference to "God the Father" also poses a problem. Show me a father who wants his children prostrate before him, praying, pleading for mercy, worshiping him, and who then doles out rewards to the chosen submissive ones, and I'll show you a bad father. Every good parent wants their children to be respectful and loving, yes, but not from fear or hope for reward. Beyond that, they want them to learn independence exploring their own person and the world with freedom to think for themselves and experience life on their own terms. Punishment is a non-issue; love and understanding are the hallmark of good parenting. The Biblical and Islamic God of Abraham is a tyrant who is quick to punish unless strictly obeyed. What an ambivalent image--IZ loves us but wouldn't hesitate to throw us into Hell. The sign of a loving father isn't "It's my way or the highway". This concept and the absurd ritualistic demands of religion are relics of the past based on limited understanding of the world at that time but continue as traditions that only confuse issues and repel thinking people. It’s time to question authority and adapt to new realities lest dogmatic zealots destroy the future. We have become intellectually lazy letting others do our thinking for us.

Take just a moment and imagine that there are no religions in the world. Let time stop. The world is as it is but without any religious institutions or beliefs. Now, shift gears to imagine something infinitely greater than humankind--some deity or entity, as well as a plan to foster its understanding and belief. Would any reasonable person develop ideas that exist in established religions today? Dietary laws, clothing laws, hygienic laws, golden streets in the sky, eternal fiery pits, reincarnations, demons, angels and archangels, vestal virgins, eternal life, virgin births, resurrections, holy ghost, holy father, holy wars, holy animals, holy water, holy smoke, holy books, holy grail, holy of holies, incantations, confessionals, dispensations, prayer direction, prayer beads, prayer walls, prayer carpets, gender biases, dubious theatrical rituals, and a raft of other questionable relics from the past just to name a few. It sounds like the Dark Ages...and indeed it is.

Worship of a "God" has been practiced before pagan times to the present seeking special favors or as atonement for our own bad behavior and to what avail? Man is as cruel, corrupt, and greedy as he has ever been only with more tools at his disposal to achieve dubious ends. Obviously, we must be doing something wrong because our worship isn't working. I can certainly understand wanting worship from others. It pumps up the old ego and makes one feel very important, but why would a God need worship? Ask yourself, “Why would a God want worship, let alone need it? Are we intended to be submissive pleading pawns or is God so insecure lacking confidence and self-esteem? Worship may comfort by giving a sense of communion with IZ, but one must wonder if God is interested in our pleas. God is more likely to respond to action rather than words and ritual. Rewards in life accrue for those able to fulfill their innate potential. Unforeseen obstacles may thwart that potential in a hostile universe, but the goal doesn’t change…not for nature and not for us. If we want to show our respect, gratitude, and worthiness for the gift of life, there is a better way to do it than worship. Fulfill the promise of humanity bestowed upon us. Fulfill the potential given. That’s what IZ expects…that’s the formula. Act in ways that honor creation by being the best person possible. Show respect for nature and other people. If God is a "father", make him proud. IZ doesn't need our worship. Replace it with rewarding actions that contribute to the world’s potential making it a better place for everyone.

Often resonating with tenets of philosophy and established religions, nonphysical truths suggest that POSITIVE CHOICE gives balance and equilibrium to life. Acting on positive options elicits a rewarding, uplifting sense of satisfaction and elation. This is God’s response to positive choices. Therefore, the key to life is acting on intelligent creative choices rather than the passivity of prayer and supplication to a God of the cosmos. Prayer may act as an emotional poultice to encourage choice and commitment, but God's gifts come as the result of our actions not the result of our prayers. While our creativity emanates from the spirit of God and distinguishes us from other creatures, it waits to be utilized within each person. Creativity in all its positive forms is the fulfillment of our humanity as well as the solution to many of life's difficulties. Selectivity separates the ordinary from the ideal and the immortal in the fine arts as well as the art of living: the right brush stroke, the precise word, the unforgettable musical phrase, the courage of conviction. Be loving, be generous, be peaceful, be fair.... It's all part of the formula. As a philosopher once wrote, "Life is NOT getting and having; it's BEING AND BECOMING". Pay attention to the formulas, and don’t believe the old saw, "the one at the end of life with the most toys wins".

The universe and creativity have been freely given to us all. Beyond that, we must earn rewards by using our imagination and intelligence. Perhaps life should come with a warning label to remind us that negative choices can be a dangerous trap. At times violence, tragedy, or misfortune fatefully strike, and our response requires courage if we are to survive and recover. Although creativity is not necessarily a smooth or easy road, it is the path to personal fulfillment and the realization of our greatest potential. Positive choice can inspire and affect attitudes that promote success, whereas failure to heed nonphysical truths often results in catastrophe and pain. Literature is filled with the consequences of negative choice as well as heroic tales of larger than life characters destroyed by one “tragic flaw”. We only have to learn from those examples.

Since life is often a difficult struggle, many may ask how can there be a loving God? Wouldn't a loving God make life easier? Not necessarily...IZ doesn't believe in spoiling us. As parents we demonstrate love for our children by trying to give them all the resources at our disposal to succeed and then freedom to utilize or not utilize those resources while pursuing their dreams. Although we can encourage, we cannot live their lives for them, we cannot fight their personal struggles, and if we try to, it's usually disastrous for everyone concerned. It is their life to achieve. Likewise, God wants us to succeed and has given us the tools to make it possible: eternal abstract truths, freedom, intellectual curiosity, and creativity. What more wondrous loving gifts could be bestowed upon us? It is up to us to embrace them. It is up to us to accept our interdependency with compassionate concern for each other and for creation. When we do, life's struggle is assuaged and rewarded. Furthermore and importantly, God's eternal grace is forgiving. Poor choices can always be rectified to begin anew, but when we act inappropriately whether out of ignorance, pride, or selfishness, the struggle becomes more difficult, if not impossible.

In evolutionary life species are intended to reach their fullest potential using given talents, and rewards await those that do. No, IZ doesn't write books, win ball games, or stop catastrophes; we face these challenges with the help of intelligence and selectivity. Choice becomes the basis of character and character is the ship that brings us safely through storms of adversity. Positive choice, appropriate action, and resolution of dilemma based upon just principles gives gratification and purpose to life. Not only that, our creative endowment is infinite and stimulates a full range of human emotions that displays our oneness with each other and with nature.

Still another benefit of positive choice is joy. There are many different kinds of joy, of course. Some of which are more admirable than others: the joy of revenge, the joy of winning, the joy of receiving a gift, the temporary joy derived from drugs to name a few. But there is a lasting inner "pure" joy that comes from giving of oneself, and we have all experienced it to some degree or other in our life. Consider the joy a parent feels when their child succeeds or the joy felt from doing a selfless act to help a fellow human being. This is a different kind of joy and we all can recognize the difference. An example comes to mind of professional golfer Tiger Woods who gave millions of dollars to create a school for disadvantaged youths. He said that it meant more to him than anything he had ever done. It was a joy that, according to him, surpassed all of his other accomplishments. It was the joy of selfless giving...pure lasting inner joy. These are benefits worth having and benefits that are attainable by each of us.

Some other examples of nonphysical positive choice that define the best in human nature are: love rather than hate, concern rather than indifference, compassion rather than cruelty, inclusion rather than exclusion, ethical rather than amoral, caring rather than uncaring, generosity rather than selfishness, forgiveness rather than animosity, understanding rather than ignorance, honesty rather than dishonesty, moderation rather than excess, justice rather than injustice, freedom rather than enslavement, humility rather than boastfulness, valor rather than cowardice, decency rather than vulgarity.... These idealistic choices reward us all. Acting on them discloses the true nature of God within each of us and brings a joy that radiates to others.

The idea of God becomes more poignant perhaps with a mythological tale from ancient Greece. It seems that once upon a time Grecian Gods were very concerned about man and his desire to become godlike. The Gods themselves considered this an imminent threat to their domain of exclusivity. If man could become godlike, it would certainly dilute the real Gods' power and influence. People such as kings and emperors, the very intelligent, and the very rich already thought themselves to be almost demigods. So this was a very serious situation. The real Gods, even Apollo, Poseidon, and Aphrodite, were in near panic for fear that man would discover their secret with all its inherent perks. In consequence, a brainstorming confab with all the Gods was convened on Mt. Olympus to deal with the situation and find a solution to the problem, but all suggestions to resolve the issue seemed inadequate to insure that the power of God remain hidden from mankind. In the sky, under the sea...no place appeared safe from man's prying inventiveness. After much consternation and despair over their failure to find a solution, one inspired God cried, "EUREKA"...or words to that effect. All the Gods turned with bated breath and anticipation. Then the inspired God said, "I have the perfect solution! We'll put it in them; then they'll never find it." And so they agreed to hide this quality in man himself.

Although there may be many reasons why we haven't always had success finding these qualities, there is a solution because we have the gift of creation and, if we wish to, can discover that godlike power within us. Creativity has no bounds. It can be as seemingly insignificant as "making someone's day" with a warm smile to nurturing children toward adulthood, or it can be as profound as great works of art or scientific and philosophical discoveries, but regardless the level of creativity, it begins with thoughtful choices that ultimately reveal our humanity.

Selectivity is the basis of creativity in the tangible and the nonphysical world. The selective process is sometimes shortened through inspiration, but inspiration is the distillation of conscious and unconscious thought ultimately requiring analysis before choice. This condition is the formulary foundation of the universe, and it is our pathway to salvation in the here and now. Is this concept practical? Will it work? Yes, if we believe its truth and practice what we believe.

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Originally posted: 2008-FEB-11
Latest update: 2008-FEB-11
Author: Sherwood Goozee

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