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Atheism and spirituality.


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This isn't a thread about the label "atheist". Its a thread about the possibility of atheist having spirituality, or the non-religious, non-woo equivalent. Use the term spiritual or don't use it, but say whether or not you think it is or is not off limits to atheists. Elaborate all you want. I'd like to see what people think about this.

 

Of course, but one needs to clarify how one is defining "spirituality" and "atheism" when one asks about that possibility. I would suggest that, indeed, in the traditional sense of these words, many people might consider the term "spiritual atheist" an oxymoron.

 

Thus, the fact that some ministers call themselves atheists (aka, non-theist, theological non-realist) is confusing to some people:

“I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God,” says Gretta Vosper [who is under a review to see if she is fit, as an self-avowed atheist to remain a minister in the United Church of Canada] .....“I don’t believe in what I think 99.99% of the world thinks you mean when you use that word.” Tor her, God is instead a metaphor for goodness and a life lived with compassion and justice." https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/24/atheist-pastor-canada-gretta-vosper-united-church-canada

I think that fundamentally, many people need to belief in a higher consciousness of some sort in order to validate their ideals, to protect them from misfortune, to offer them eternal life, to relieve them of guilt, etc. Such a 'higher power' is hard to come by in terms of constructing some sort of modern day mythology. No doubt, people find alternatives in superheroes, UFOs, etc.

 

By definition, I would suggest, (each) god is a spirit. So one either has to define spirituality in terms of things such as human goodness, compassion, and justice (in which case, one is replacing religion with humanism), or define spirituality in terms of gods (be they wood sprites, or lightning throwers, or cross bearers or whatever).

 

If the former (humanism), I would suggest that one use a different term other than "spirituality" to define any human bonds and virtues that humanitarians might hold to be of lasting value, given the inevitable religious connotations associated with the word "spirituality."

 

In practice, I have seen religious people try to appeal to those outside the church (e.g., the non-committed, the apathetic, agnostics, secularists, atheists, etc.) by holding meetings which are supposedly not religious, but just spiritual, only to find, when attending such a meeting, that those running it belonged to a specific church and gradually, rather surreptitioulsy, assumed or introduced or promulgated a belief in God. Thus, they may start out talking about the need for everyone to believe in a "higher power," which seems reasonable enough, and gradually talk about the importance of following the moral guidelines associated with a belief in a higher power, and then talk about making a pledge to follow such a higher power and to obey the moral guidelines, etc., until, voila, one finds oneself in the midst of a religious service.

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Threads don't get deleted. It's a database. At most, they are hidden via the GUI. Threads connect to the profile of everyone who's contributed. They connect to the view count everyone who's clicked.

It works for Buddhists. Meditation has a spiritual aspect, but you don't need spirituality to be at peace, you just need to be content with your lot.

You definitely don't think of atheism the way I do. The first sentence of yours I quoted claims it can be quantified, and the second attempts to do so. I think of god(s) the same way I think of stamp

There is good reason to believe that human's intellect and ability to have a more sophisticated experience evolved just like everything else.

 

Through our senses we receive information from the world and we find a world full of meaning.

 

It means something to us because the information is being transformed into the brain, and the human brain is an organ of meaning.

 

To me, spirituality is this process of creating meaning in the world.

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Through our senses we receive information from the world and we find a world full of meaning.

 

It means something to us because the information is being transformed into the brain, and the human brain is an organ of meaning.

 

To me, spirituality is this process of creating meaning in the world.

This definition of spirituality seems too general and all inclusive: Couldn't we define any creature's "life" as the process of creating meaning in the world. In that sense, every living thing is spiritual.

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This definition of spirituality seems too general and all inclusive: Couldn't we define any creature's "life" as the process of creating meaning in the world. In that sense, every living thing is spiritual.

 

 

Only the creatures that are self aware, a dog needs no meaning, just a squirrel to chase.

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Perhaps you could supply the quote...

I suspect that we may be speaking past one another here.

 

Your subsequent post implies that you're challenging the claim that nobody is 100% theist or atheist (a claim which I believe has merit and is defendable; it could be argued easily by focusing on the subjective nature of truth itself, or even by exploring the deeper/purest definition of faith wherein it's only possible for one to experience true faith in the face of some underlying uncertainty).

 

That said, my response was clearly focused on the Dawkins aspect of Jimmy's post, specifically:

 

Jimmy said, "Even Richard Dawkins is probably about 99% atheistic."

 

To this you replied, "An opinion supported by any evidence?"

 

I reminded you that, "Dawkins said so himself in God delusion. He's an atheist, but accepts that maybe he's wrong," and followed up by asking, "What evidence are you seeking?"

 

I will again acknowledge that we may have been speaking past one another, however it was at this point in our exchange that you requested I share a quote, but I won't share a quote. I will share three.

 

First is from page 50 of The God Delusion where Dawkins sets up a scale of probability for the existence of God. It takes the form of 1 = 100% certainty in the existence of God and 7 = 100% certainty in the nonexistence of God.

 

After further describing each of the steps on that scale, Dawkins shares in his text, "I count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7."

 

He then later offered in an interview on Real Time with Bill Maher, on April 11, 2008, that he might be a '6.9.' You can watch for yourself in the following video from time point 01:35 to 02:30: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsObQqQQdVg

 

Finally, Dawkins then in a debate with Archbishop Rowan Williams held in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre on February 23, 2012, on the theme of 'THE NATURE OF HUMAN BEINGS AND THE QUESTION OF THEIR ULTIMATE ORIGIN again self-classified himself as a 6.9; his specific quote being, "The probability of any supernatural creator existing is very, very low, so let's say I'm a 6.9."

 

You can view the exchange yourself in the video at the following link, specifically time point 1:11:45 to 1:13:10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb4aanpsx6Q

 

Hope this helps. Understanding that we may have originally been speaking past one another, let me repeat that the other claim of Jimmy's (that nobody is 100% theist or atheist) is IMO also entirely defensible and can be simply and successfully argued using multiple independent and valid tacks. Cheers.

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An opinion supported by any evidence?

Sure. If you count this article as evidence.

 

But when Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams suggested that Professor Darwin is often described as the world's most famous atheist, the geneticist responded: 'Not by me'.

He said: 'On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn't, I call myself a six.'

Professor Dawkins went on to say he believed was a '6.9', stating: 'That doesn't mean I'm absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don't.'

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2105834/Career-atheist-Richard-Dawkins-admits-fact-agnostic.html

 

Sorry, I came back a little late. hope that is satisfactory.

 

6.9/7=0.9857142857

From my phone calculator. you can round that up to 0.99 or 99%.

 

From what iNow has said, this was stated less dramatically in "The God Delusion" but I have not read the book so I am not able to make any other comment on it.

 

Uh, oh! I missed the latter part of iNow's reply which has ample evidence rather than the rehashed quotation from a "newspaper".

Edited by jimmydasaint
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Spirituality to me means trying to understand how the brain achieves these things and trying to use this information to achieve a better overall mental/emotional well-being.

 

 

To me it means to be content, enough to see the amazing patterns in a flame or on a window in a rain storm, or enjoy a selfless act, or enjoy the time when nothing happens, or enjoy a job well done etc...

Edited by dimreepr
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So, I have a little story to share with you all today.....

 

This morning I went to church for the first time in about 8 years or so (other than funerals/weddings/etc.). This was my first time actually GOING TO CHURCH in 8 years or more. I was invited by my friend who is the pastor at this church. He knows I'm a non-believer, and he asked me to come out and sit through one of his sermons. It sounded like a decent excuse to get out of the house, so I accepted his invitation.

 

I was kind of nervous as I haven't been to church in years and I was going alone. I thought I would feel out of place. But my main goal was to observe church (and Christianity) through my new atheist lenses. I had never done this since becoming an atheist, and I wanted to just see what it was like to be in church with the knowledge and education I now have. I also wanted to see again what it was like to be part of the congregation and what emotional/spiritual benefits might be there to reap for an atheist. And, of course, just to go back and revisit the church and see what it was like to me now.

 

The first thing I noticed after walking in was how bright and smiling everyone's faces were, hugging each other and saying very nice, loving things to each other. I could immediately see why church and religion are so comforting to most people. All this community and fellowship stuff..... that's good stuff. This type of thing pays emotional dividends for many people, and I don't dispute that one bit. It is very nice to have that kind of community and to back it all up with preachments that reassure everyone that they are someone very special, that their worldly problems are being looked after by a benign, and all-powerful father, and that their inevitable deaths will only be the beginning of a wonderful eternal life. It is no question that this is a wonderful thing to believe (even though this just a cherry-picked version of Christianity).

 

My friend's sermon was decent and charismatic (preachin' the gospel), and it seemed as though he sneaked some stuff about atheism into his sermon, to which he just basically said something to the effect of "everyone wants to have eternal life, even atheists would like to have eternal life." I suppose I would agree with that, depending on what kind of eternal life it is. I could tell he had structured a goodly portion of his sermon about me, though he would not single me out or call me by name. He kept talking about "someone who hasn't accepted Christ whom he has been talking with lately." Well, since I haven't accepted Christ, and him and I have been engaging in discussions of this sort lately, and since he invited me to his sermon, my guess is that he was referring to me.

 

At the end of the service, I could tell that when it comes to community, support, family, and having a place to gather every weekend and show love and care for one another, the religious have us beat hands down. There is no denying the principal advantage to winning people over that religion has over science and reasoned argument. Science just does not offer that kind of emotional reinforcement that humans crave. Religion is like the big party that everyone is so excited about, and science is like the party pooper that says the party doesn't exist and is a myth, and that we're all going to die and be dead forever. This, I believe is the main thing that keeps people in the churches and believing in false things. What religion has to offer is something that science and reason simply cannot compete with. That is, at least not for the people who don't crave evidence and reason.

 

I honestly don't want to get rid of the churches. I would just like to see them reformed and re-purposed. As someone who was born and raised in the south, I cannot imagine a small town around here without all the nice little white churches everywhere that complement the scenery and tie things together. Also, realistically, I don't see religion ever going away, and getting rid of it is just a pipe dream I believe. I actually loved every part of my experience in church this morning save for the nonsensical superstitious and dogmatic beliefs behind it all. If we could get rid of those, get rid of prayer (in the traditional sense), and just focus on the gathering, community, and emotional support, I would be perfectly fine with church. But I don't think that will ever happen. Of course, I could be wrong.

 

Anyway, I thought this was relevant to the topic and thought I'd throw it out there.

Edited by Tampitump
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Yeah, the sense of connection and fellowship and community at church is pretty great. No doubt about it. It's too bad it's coupled with such nonsensical beliefs and ridiculous fairy tales and us/them tribalism.

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and us/them tribalism.

I think that is also the key. On one hand, religion seems very loving and welcoming (especially in southern baptist churches), but the love is very in group/out group, us/them type of love. Most of the charity, outreach, and volunteer work has a "spreading the word of Jesus" slant to it, rather than just helping others for the sake of helping others. There were many times when my pastor friend talked about "taking Jesus out of schools" during his sermon, to which I wanted to face palm right then and there, but I was trying to show respect. After all, its their church, they can say whatever the Hell they want and I don't care. I felt like Dawkins when he sat through the Ted Haggard sermon. Though my friend was not quite as obnoxious or moronic as Haggard, and I'm not nearly as sophisticated and smart as Dawkins. lol

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Only the creatures that are self aware, a dog needs no meaning, just a squirrel to chase.

I get your drift, but again, there is no clear line that one can draw in the evolution of creatures where one says at this point self awareness begins.

 

(that nobody is 100% theist or atheist) is IMO also entirely defensible

But again, one need not assume that Dawkins is referring to any god that we might typically think of as being like those that a religious per son might worship. Merriam Webster defines a theist as one who has a "belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures."

 

It is one thing to think of god as a higher power that creates the universe. Perhaps even some Higgs Boson field or the like might qualify for that definition....but that is not theism. Einstein said he wanted to know the thoughts of God, but one could hardly call him a theist.

 

But the obvious problem with your statement is that it is anecdotal, with n=1. If you are saying there are no complete atheists, then you need to survey everyone, keeping close track as to what they mean by god(s).

 

And yes, no one is certain of anything. I am not even sure that the table in front of me is not just an optical quantum illusion of some sort. And as Hume noted, we can't even be sure the 'self' exists, or that the sun will rise tomorrow. However, such epistemological cynicism/skepticism could apply to everything, so that by virtue of its all inclusiveness, saying that one can't be certain (100%) of anything says nothing at all that is unusual when it comes to specific comments whether or not there are people who are or are not 100% sure god exists. I could just as well say I am not 100% sure that Hillary Clinton exists as I have never set eyes on her. Such literal philosophizing seems to be saying something, but is just meaningless pyrotechnics similar to claiming that no one can prove that absolute solipsism is wrong.

 

On the other hand, I am sure that you can find plenty of people who will state that they are 100% sure that the God portrayed in the Bible as creating Eve from a rib, or creating Adam and Eve in the blink of an eye, or turning water to wine or ascending physically to heaven, etc. is pure myth. I suspect Dawkins would be one of those. I know I am.

 

But yes, the Higgs-Boson field, for example, might have a degree of consciousness...who knows, but, unless such a higher creative "power" is promulgating moral guidelines, or has some sort of plan for humans, it is a rather interesting but irrelevant issue. Being a theist implies, I would suggest, that the existence of (god)s makes a significant difference to ones life.

Edited by disarray
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This point was never contested.

Ok, so if we are all on agreement that being a theist implies that one believes in the existence of a god(s) who not only created the universe, but also makes a significant difference in ones life, then I would suggest that, since science is not at a point where it has all the pieces of the puzzle that would show that the universe comes into existence spontaneously (though my and most scientists bet is that it does), the issue is then really whether there are no people who are completely certain that there is no god(s) who makes a significant difference to ones life, e.g., provides moral and life guidelines, offers conditions for salvation, etc. In this case, I would suggest that there are plenty of people who would say that they are certain that there is no god that will grant them eternal life or send them to hell depending upon whether or not you believe in him, no god who says that it is against his commandment to believe in other gods, etc.

 

I have found that the line of reasoning of some intelligent design proponents is that life (e.g., the structure of the eye) is so complex that evolution alone can't account for it, so that there must be a god who created and designed everything. Apart from being bad science, such a claim does not impact society all that much. However, they then take it to the next level, i.e., that of religion, by suggesting that if a god went to all the trouble, so the argument goes, of making the universe, he/she must have wanted people to appreciate what god had given them, and to be good, and to take care of the planet and each other, etc. In short, they begin with an scientific argument and end up through a bit of surreptitious logic to introduce religious attitudes in general and often Christian beliefs in particular. It is for this very reason that the Supreme Court disallowed intelligent design doctrine into the schools, as the court found it to be just a form of Creationism in disguise.

Edited by disarray
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My pastor friend invited me back to his church tonight for a one on one conversation just between us. So we sat down in his office for about two full hours and had a discussion. I was actually looking forward to this because he wanted to understand more about why I was of the opinion I am, and inevitably I wanted to know more of where he stood in terms of his theology and his views on science etc.

 

The conversation went very well as I had expected. I think I kind of overwhelmed him with my science talk and the many logical arguments I made. It was apparent that he had not spent much time studying the arguments on this subject and was not well-versed in apologetics. At the end of the discussion, it all boiled down to what it always bouls down to: I, as an atheist, am not willing to take things on faith and he, as a Christian, is. He tried to question where my objective moral standards comes from, and I gave him my naturalistic, evolutionary explanation that I think is most probable. He claimed to love science, but seemed to have a very fundamental misunderstanding of how the methods of science work, how skepticism works, how inductive and deductive reasoning work, how the burden of proof is supposed to work, and ultimately how science and rational thought works. There were moments where I felt like my arguments were getting through to him and he was starting see the merits of them. But ultimately his response was that he holds his faith in God based on how God "makes him feel", and that he is convinced by that alone despite science and evidence.

 

I also picked his brain about his understanding of evolution and where he stands on matters of origins. He said that he didn't know how old the earth is, but that he believes it is 6-7 thousand years old as the Bible would indicate. He also didn't seem to know a great deal about what the theory evolution says, and was very dubious of it. Ultimately, I got the sense that he just does not trust that science has, or could ever provide reasonable answers to these questions.

 

He expressed concern for me, but also a great deal of respect, which I appreciated. He asked me a myriad of questions about things ranging from the afterlife, to what I would do if the existence of the Christian God could be proven, to whether or not I wanted it to be true. I provided my honest answers. I don't think my attitude would change much if this God were proven to exist, I really don't wish for it to be true, and I'm not really troubled by the fact that this could be my only life. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather it not be, but I'm not depressed knowing that it is.

 

At the end of the day, I think the conversation was positive and productive on both parts. I think I gave him a ton of things to think about. I think I changed him in some ways, I really do. This guy is only 24 years old, so I think I unloaded some pretty profound knowledge on him that just hasn't ever been exposed to. His behavior made it seem as though he had just been enlightened with information he's never thought about before. I'm not bragging that I "owned him in debate" or anything like that, but he certainly did not seem to have expected me to drop this type logic on him.

 

We agreed to disagree and remain friends/allies. The end!

 

The story was worth telling.

Edited by Tampitump
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what I would do if the existence of the Christian God could be proven, to whether or not I wanted it to be true. I provided my honest answers. I don't think my attitude would change much if this God were proven to exist, I really don't wish for it to be true, and I'm not really troubled by the fact that this could be my only life. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather it not be, but I'm not depressed knowing that it is.

 

But that is the point of the scientific attitude as opposed to many other approaches...that whether or not one wants something to be true is irrelevant to the pursuit of knowledge.

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But that is the point of the scientific attitude as opposed to many other approaches...that whether or not one wants something to be true is irrelevant to the pursuit of knowledge.

Agreed.

 

Feeling there is no afterlife inspires us to maximize our time, actions, and deeds in this one.

Agreed.

I see that this thread has become essentially a failed attempt at herding cats. Would a mod please delete it?

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Threads don't get deleted. It's a database. At most, they are hidden via the GUI. Threads connect to the profile of everyone who's contributed. They connect to the view count everyone who's clicked.

 

They allow readers in the future to explore new realms of thought and and awaken dormant ideas, often from something as simple as a Google search.

 

Spam gets deleted. Occasional trollish toddleresque mess gets deleted. Threads sometimes go off track, get derailed, and even hijacked so will sometimes be locked...but not deleted.

 

This thread is none of those things.

 

You can cease from further participation if you choose. You can decry the outcome and be disheartened by the random walk it's taken, but please don't "take your ball and go home" by having a thread deleted thus ruining the experience of everyone else.

 

In the grand scheme of things, our posts are at best ephemeral fleeting gusts of wind in a drought ridden landscape, but they often quench the thirst of those most parched, sate the hunger of those most emaciated, and even on less than rare occasions allow well intentioned pompous blowhards like me to string together enjoyable erudite seeming combinations of words on a polar gore that may genuinely change people's lives.

Edited by iNow
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Feeling there is no afterlife inspires us to maximize our time, actions, and deeds in this one.

 

Well yes and no. I have met people who say they felt quite liberated once they became atheists. It is hard to say whether they were happy to dispense with the hope of an afterlife, or just glad not to have to accept the intellectually insulting beliefs of the religion that their parents had foisted upon them.

 

But, as T.S. Eliot noted, in general, "human beings cannot stand too much reality." One of the things that discourages and worries people is that life is short and the absence of the hope that heaven provides for many is a comfort."

 

Though I am in favor of honesty, life seems to run more smoothly if we pretend to be in a better mood then we really are when dealing with peers and customers at work, that we always love are children (equally) despite their getting in our hair on a daily basis, etc. It's all part of being civil and polite.

 

I personally don't think that it is impossible that consciousness survives physical death, and I could, if pressed, put together a defense of this belief based upon the scientific remarks of various physicists. But that is another issue. My point is that the belief in eternal life is a great comfort to people, so much so that we talk about the fear of death, a revulsion at nature's cycle of birth and decay, the hope that one will meet up with ones loved ones after death, etc.

 

I am not fussed if some people choose to believe in eternal life...as long as they don't attempt to get me to believe in a bunch of religious "baggage" that goes with such a belief....that is, as long as they don't then tell me I must believe in the same god and follow the exact same moral codes and accept the same superstitious nonsense and participate in the same inane rituals as they do.

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Threads don't get deleted. It's a database. At most, they are hidden via the GUI. Threads connect to the profile of everyone who's contributed. They connect to the view count everyone who's clicked.

I offered two fairly lengthy accounts of recent experiences I had with the clergy, and some very good points to debate on, but no one is biting. This thread likely does not contain any information that would be useful to anyone on a Google search. I'd rather it just get deleted or archived. Either way, I'm going to start doing what everyone else is doing and ignoring this thread/forum.

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I offered two fairly lengthy accounts of recent experiences I had with the clergy, and some very good points to debate on, but no one is biting.

 

 

Well done, you bedazzled the village idiot with your science-y stuff; but ask yourself, why did he leave with a smile?

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I offered two fairly lengthy accounts of recent experiences I had with the clergy, and some very good points to debate on, but no one is biting. This thread likely does not contain any information that would be useful to anyone on a Google search. I'd rather it just get deleted or archived. Either way, I'm going to start doing what everyone else is doing and ignoring this thread/forum.

 

!

Moderator Note

The topic is Atheism and Spirituality. Please stay on topic.

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That is on topic. A discussion between an atheist and clergy relates to atheism and spirituality. It was everyone else who got off topic on the pages prior to this one. I'm out. I'll never be back to this stupid forum.

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Threads don't get deleted. It's a database. At most, they are hidden via the GUI. Threads connect to the profile of everyone who's contributed. They connect to the view count everyone who's clicked.

 

They allow readers in the future to explore new realms of thought and and awaken dormant ideas, often from something as simple as a Google search.

 

Spam gets deleted. Occasional trollish toddleresque mess gets deleted. Threads sometimes go off track, get derailed, and even hijacked so will sometimes be locked...but not deleted.

 

This thread is none of those things.

 

You can cease from further participation if you choose. You can decry the outcome and be disheartened by the random walk it's taken, but please don't "take your ball and go home" by having a thread deleted thus ruining the experience of everyone else.

 

In the grand scheme of things, our posts are at best ephemeral fleeting gusts of wind in a drought ridden landscape, but they often quench the thirst of those most parched, sate the hunger of those most emaciated, and even on less than rare occasions allow well intentioned pompous blowhards like me to string together enjoyable erudite seeming combinations of words on a polar gore that may genuinely change people's lives.

 

If you ever decide to change careers you may want to look into poetry! :)

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