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Herb Caen (1916-1997)
San Francsco columnist, author

Herb CaenThe trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.
-- Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle (20 July 1981)

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Callimachus [Καλλίμαχος] (ca BCE 305-240)
Greek scholar, poet, grammarian, and staff member of the Library of Alexandria who compiled the Pinakes (Tables), a 120-volume catalog of the library's contents and thereby originating the critical study of Greek literature; he is said to have written over 800 books; drawing heavily on the Roman poets, such as Ovid, Catullus, and Propertius, he preferred short, elaborated works, opposing the "big books" (μεγά βιβλίων μεγά κακόν) perfected by his rivals — particularly his former pupil Apollonius of Rhodes

"Is Kháridas beneath this stone?"
"Yes, if you mean Arrímas's son
From Kyréne, I'm his tomb."

"Kháridas, what's it like below?"
"Dark." "Are there exits?" "None."
"And Pluto?" "He's a myth." "Oh, no!"

"All that I'm telling you is true,
But if you want the bright side too,
The cost of living here is low."
-- Callimachus, bringing ultimacy to the adage that goes something like, "Laugh, even at tragedy, or you'll go crazy," translated by Stanley Lombardo and Diane Rayor, quoted from Peter Heinegg, ed, Mortalist: Readings on the Meaning of Life (Prometheus:2003)

They told me, Heraclitus,
     they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear
     and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remember'd
     how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking
     and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying,
     my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes,
     long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices,
     thy nightingales awake;
For Death, he taketh all away,
     but them he cannot take.
-- Callimachus, describing one of two senses in which we know we can have a limited grasp at immortality: in the works we produce while living and in our words, particularly the memories of those we loved; the other crack at a sense of immortality, of course, is, as Ray Bradbury pointed out in his essay, "Mother," is through our progeny, translated by Henry Cory (1858), quoted from Peter Heinegg, ed, Mortalist: Readings on the Meaning of Life (Prometheus:2003)

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Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
American anthropologist

Joseph CampbellWhat gods are there, what gods have there ever been, that were not from man's imagination?
-- Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By (1972), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

God is a metaphor for that which trancends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.
-- Joseph Campbell, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

The priests used to say that faith can move mountains, and nobody believed them. Today the scientists say that they can level mountains, and nobody doubts them.
-- Joseph Campbell (attributed: source unknown)

Too many of our best scholars, themselves indoctrinated from infancy in a religion of one kind or another based upon the Bible, are so locked into the idea of their own god as a supernatural fact -- something final, not symbolic of transcendence, but a personage with a character and will of his own - that they are unable to grasp the idea of a worship that is not of the symbol but of its reference, which is of a mystery of much greater age and of more immediate inward reality than the name-and-form of any historical ethinic idea of a deity, whatsoever ... and is of a sophistication that makes the sentimentalism of our popular Bible-story theology seem undeveloped.
-- Joseph Campbell, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

The two greatest works of war mythology in the west ... are the Iliad and the Old Testament.... When we turn from the Iliad and Athens to Jerusalem and the Old Testament [we find] a single-minded single deity with his sympathies forever on one side. And the enemy, accordingly, no matter who it may be, is handled...pretty much as though he were subhuman: not a "Thou" but an "It."
-- Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By, quoted from Morris Sullivan, -- "Thou Shalt Not Kill: Understanding Religious Wars," in Impact Press (October-November, 2000)

Joseph CampbellPeople say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
-- Joseph Campbell, Myth and the Modern World

Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people's myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts -- but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive. Myth tells you what the experience is.
-- Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Nobel Prize-winning French-Algerian novelist and philosopher

Albert CamusI shall not, as far as I am concerned, try to pass myself off as a Christian in your presence. I share with you the same revulsion from evil. But I do not share your hope, and I continue to struggle against this universe in which children suffer and die.
-- Albert Camus, addressing Dominican priests in 1948, quoted by himself in The Unbeliever and Christians, Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, p. 70, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

In order to exist just once in the world, it is necessary never again to exist.
-- Albert Camus, The Rebel, pt. 4 (1951; tr. 1953), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Freedom is not a reward or a decoration that is celebrated with champagne. Nor yet a gift, a box of dainties designed to make you lick your chops. Oh, no! It's a chore, on the contrary, and a long-distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting.
-- Albert Camus, The Fall, quoted in Conrad Goeringer, "Free Speech? Yeah, Right!" in Positive Atheism (July, 2000)

To those who despair of everything reason cannot provide a faith, but only passion, and in this case it must be the same passion that lay at the root of the despair, namely humiliation and hatred.
-- Albert Camus, The Rebel, pt. 3, "State Terrorism and Irrational Terror" (1951; tr. 1953), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.
-- Albert Camus, The Rebel, pt. 5, "Moderation and Excess" (1951; tr. 1953), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

To begin to think is to begin to be undermined.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

There exists an obvious fact that seems utterly moral: namely, that a man is always prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them. One has to pay something. A man who has become conscious of the absurd is forever bound to it.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

I do not want to found anything on the incomprehensible. I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with that alone.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

For the existentials, negation is their God. To be precise, that god is maintained only through the negation of human reason. But, like suicides, gods change with men.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

I don't know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can understand only in human terms.
-- Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning

Beware of those who say: "I know this too well to be able to express it." For if they cannot do so, this is because they don't know it or because out of laziness they stopped at the outer crust.
-- Albert Camus, The Absurd Man

There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.
-- Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert CamusAs for Hitler, his professed religion unhesitatingly juxtaposed the God-Providence and Valhalla. Actually his god was an argument at a political meeting and a manner of reaching an impressive climax at the end of speeches.
-- Albert Camus, The Rebel, pt. 3, "State Terrorism and Irrational Terror" (1951; tr. 1953), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn't it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him, and struggle with all our might against death without raising our eyes towards the heaven where He sits in silence?
-- Albert Camus,The Plague (1947), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow;
Don't walk behind me I may not lead;
Walk beside me, and just be my friend.
-- Albert Camus, quoted from The Existence of Albert Camus

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George Carlin (1937–2008)
Satirical comic; free-speech activist

George CarlinI would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.
-- George Carlin (attributed: source unknown)

If churches want to play the game of politics, let them pay admission like everyone else.
-- George Carlin (attributed: source unknown)

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.
-- George Carlin (attributed: source unknown)

[Having run down the street, into a door and onto the stage, Carlin spends at least a minute trying to quiet the cheering audience so he can open the show.] Why? Why? Why? Why!? Why, why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn't want to fuck in the first place? Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them up to be dead soldiers.

I don't have any beliefs or allegiances. I don't believe in this country, I don't believe in religion, or a god, and I don't believe in all these man-made institutional ideas.
-- George Carlin, quoted from Reuters/Variety "Notable Quotes" for April 25, 2001

George CarlinHere's another question I've been pondering -- what is all this shit about angels? Have you heard this? Three out of four people belive in angels. Are you fucking stupid? Has everybody lost their mind? You know what I think it is? I think it's a massive, collective, psychotic chemical flashback for all the drugs smoked, swallowed, shot, and absorbed rectally by all Americans from 1960 to 1990. Thirty years of street drugs will get you some fucking angels, my friend!
-- George Carlin (attributed: source unknown)

I say if you're going to go for the Angel bullshit you might as well go for the Zombie package as well.
-- George Carlin, You Are All Diseased

Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man -- living in the sky -- who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!
    
But He loves you.
-- George Carlin Politically Incorrect, May 29, 1997

I noticed that of all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers that I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same fifty percent rate. Half the time I get what I want. Half the time I don't. Same as God: fifty-fifty.
-- George Carlin Politically Incorrect, May 29, 1997

If this is the best God can do, I'm not impressed.
-- George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)

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Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Scottish historian, essayist, critic, and sociological writer

Thomas CarlyleOne seems to believe almost all that they believe; and when they stop short and call it a Religion, and you pass on, and call it only a reminiscence of one, should you not part with the kiss of peace?
-- Thomas Carlyle, letter to John Stuart Mill, on the Unitarians, following a meeting with Ralph Waldo Emerson (10 September 1833, published in Letters of Thomas Carlyle, 1923), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

I grow daily to honor facts more and more, and theory less and less.
-- Thomas Carlyle, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of him.
-- Thomas Carlyle, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

If I had my way, the world would hear a pretty stern command -- Exit Christ.
-- Thomas Carlyle, from John E Remsberg, The Christ (1909)

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Richard Cevantis Carrier, Jr. (b. 1969)
American historian; writer; editor of Secular Web

Richard CarrierI am like all other atheists only in that I do not believe there are any gods. Beyond that, I may differ dramatically in my values and beliefs from any other atheist. On both sides of the political spectrum, one can find the neo-conservative Objectivists and the ultra-liberal Communists, both of whom hate each other. These two factions take up nearly opposite sets of values, yet both are comprised of unabashed atheists. I agree with neither. Similar diversity can be found in any other group -- agnostics include devout Christians, freethinkers include New Agers, and the nonreligious include among their ranks everything from nihilists to flakes.
-- Richard C Carrier, in "What an Atheist Ought to Stand For" (September 1998)

It is probably true that almost all atheists stand for the values of reason and freethought. I will attempt to put these values in more substantial terms. There is the belief that inquiry and doubt are essential checks against deception, self deception, and error. There is the belief that logic and the scientific method is the only way the world can arrive at an agreement on the truth about anything. And there is the belief that it is better to be good to each other and to build on what we all agree to be true, than to insist that we all think alike. The words I have put into italics above are the very things I believe all atheists should stand for.
-- Richard C Carrier, in "What an Atheist Ought to Stand For" (September 1998)

It is usually argued that we need religion in order to get humanity to behave and work together. All evidence is to the contrary. Religion has not notably improved human behavior. The pagan Romans were far kinder than the Inquisition Christians. Nor has religion united Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews. It has divided them. In fact, religion will never unite them, because religion requires that they share the same beliefs, without offering any reliable evidence that their ideas are correct. Reason, on the other hand, is the only thing that can unite people of diverse opinions. Reason bases its decisions on evidence available to everyone, and allows people to disagree when evidence is lacking. Religion will never do that.
-- Richard C Carrier, Jr., from "A Fish Did Not Write This Essay" (1995), as quoted in Positive Atheism's predecessor, Critical Thinker (November, 1995), front page

Christians always write to me threatening me with Hell. Strange how they think this vindicates them and their religion. Threats are the hallmark of a wicked creed.
-- Richard C Carrier, Jr., his trademark saying, described in a letter to Cliff Walker (April 28, 2002)

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Angela Carter (1940-1992)
British author

Angela CarterMother goddesses are just as silly a notion as father gods. If a revival of the myths of these cults gives woman emotional satisfaction, it does so at the price of obscuring the real conditions of life. This is why they were invented in the first place.
-- Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman, "Polemical Preface" (1979)

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James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. (b. 1924)
The 39th President of the United States (1977-1981)

United States Flag

Jimmy CarterI believe in the separation of church and state and would not use my authority to violate this principle in any way.
-- Jimmy Carter, letter to Jack V Harwell, August 11, 1977 Box RM1, White House Central Files, Jimmy Carter Library, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

The government ought to stay out of the prayer business.
-- Jimmy Carter, press conference, 1979, Washington, DC, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students.... There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith.
-- Jimmy Carter, in a statement criticizing proposals to strike the word evolution from Georgia's science curriculum, replacing it with the less accurate term, "biological changes over time"; Cox complains that the word evolution is "a negative buzzword"; Carter retorts that a "ban on word would subject [the] state to 'nationwide ridicule'"; quoted from AP, "Georgia Schools Shouldn't Drop 'Evolution,' Carter says" (The Dallas [Texas] Morning News: February 4, 2004)

Jimmy CarterWe become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.
-- Jimmy Carter, speech, 27 October 1976, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

I have looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God recognizes I will do this and forgives me.
-- Jimmy Carter, interview in Playboy (November 1976), during the presidential campaign against Gerald Ford, quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Jonathan Rauch: Abjured God in Speeches

Jonathan Rauch"Indeed, one modern President abjured God altogether, ending speeches with a chaste 'Thank you very much.' This was Jimmy Carter, the most genuinely devout President of the postwar period."
-- Jonathan Rauch, "McGod Bless America," National Journal, June 26, 1999

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Carvaka (6th century BCE)
Possibly the founder of the Carvaka school of thought within Hinduism, which was entirely naturalistic in its view of the universe and hedonistic in its ethical outlook; may not have been a real person (we list the writings here out of convenience)

Only the perceived exists; the unperceived does not exist, by reason of its never having been perceived;
     While life remains let a man live happily, let him feed on ghee though he runs into debts;
     When once the body has become ashes, how can it ever return again?
-- Carvaka, from the Sarva-siddhanta-samgraha, quoted from Jim Herrick, Against the Faith (1985), p. 19

The enjoyment of heaven lies in eating delicious food, keeping the company of young women, using fine clothes, perfumes, garlands, sandal paste, etc.;
     The pain of hell lies in the troubles that arise from enemies, weapons, diseases; while liberation is death which is thc cessation of life-breath;
     The wise should enjoy the pleasures of the world, through the proper visible means of agriculture, keeping cattle, trade, political administration....
-- Carvaka, from the Sarva-siddhanta-samgraha, quoted from Jim Herrick, Against the Faith (1985), p. 19

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Bartolomé de las Casas
Critic of the first fifty years of Christian colonization and oppression in America

The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 13

They [the Christian Europeans] forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They even laid wagers on whether they could manage to slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual's head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers' breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders into a river, shouting: "Wriggle, you little perisher." They slaughtered anyone and everyone in their path, on occasion running through a mother and her baby with a single thrust of their swords. They spared no one, erecting especially wide gibbets on which they could string their victims up with their feet just off the ground and then burn them alive thirteen at a time, in honour of our Saviour and the twelve Apostles, or tie dry straw to their bodies and set fire to it.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 15

Once he [the native lord Hatuey in Cuba] was tied to the stake, a Franciscan friar who was present, a saintly main, told him as much as he could in the sort time permitted by his executioners about the Lord and about our Christian faith, all of which was new to him. The friar told him that, if he would only believe what he was now hearing, he would go to Heaven there to enjoy glory and eternal rest, but that, if he would not, he would be consigned to Hell, where he would endure everlasting pain and torment. The lord Hatuey thought for a short while and then asked the friar whether Christians went to Heaven. When the reply came that good ones do, he retorted, without need for further reflection, that, if that was the case, then he chose to go to Hell to ensure that he would never again have to clap eyes on those cruel brutes. This is just one example of the reputation and honour that our Lord and our Christian faith have earned as a result of the actions of those 'Christians' who have sailed to the Americas.
     On one occasion, when the locals had come some ten leagues out from a large settlement in order to receive us and regale us with victuals and other gifts, and had given us loaves and fishes and any other foodstuffs they could provide, the Christians were suddenly inspired by the Devil and, without the slightest provocation, butchered, before my eyes, some three thousand souls -- men, women and children -- as they sat there in front of us. I saw that day atrocities more terrible than any living man has ever seen nor ever thought to see.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 29

Later, a large band of Christians mounted an attack on this [native] lord [Paris, of Panama], butchering him along with vast numbers of his people and taking all the survivors into slavery, where they duly perished, so that today not a trace remains of what was previously a community with dominion over an area of some thirty leagues.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 36

The Christians seized all the maize the locals [of Nicaragua] had grown for themselves and their own families and, as a consequence, some twenty or thirty thousand natives died of hunger, some mothers even killing their own children and eating them.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 39

The reader may ask himself if this is not cruelty and injustice of a kind so terrible that it beggars the imagination, and whether these poor people would not fare far better if they were entrusted to the devils in Hell than they do at the hands of the devils of the New World who masquerade as Christians.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 124

I [write] ... in order to help ensure that the teeming millions in the New World, for whose sins Christ gave His life, do not continue to die in ignorance, but rather are brought to knowledge of God and thereby saved.
-- Bartolomé de las Casas, A short account of the destruction of the Indies (1992 edition, originally published in 1552), p. 127

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Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945)
German philosopher

Ernst CassirerReligion claims to be in possession of an absolute truth; but its history is a history of errors and heresies. It gives us the promise and prospect of a transcendent world -- far beyond the limits of our human experience -- and it remains human, all too human.
-- Ernest Cassirer, An Essay on Man, quoted from Conway and Siegelman, Snapping (1978)

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Jim Castelli
US Journalist

Jim CastelliReligion is good for American politics when it supports the civil religion; when it speaks out with civility and respect; when it accepts the principles of tolerance and pluralism; when it appeals to a shared sense of morality and not to religious authority or doctrine; when it reminds us that we are a community. not a collection of isolated individuals; when it reminds us that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers.
    
Religion is bad for American politics when it undermines the civil religion: when it speaks of political matters with the certitude of faith in a pluralistic society in which faith cannot be used as a political standard; when it treats opponents as agents of Satan; when it weakens a sense of national community; when it violates the precept of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom which formed the basis for the First Amendment -- the precept that any American should no more be treated any differently than any other American on the basis of his or her opinions about religion than on the basis of his or her opinions on literature or geometry. That is only common sense.
-- Jim Castelli, A Plea for Common Sense p. 193, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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William Cave (1637-1713)
Historian of the Christian Church: Chaplain to Charles II; Canon of Windsor; Vicar of Isleworth

[It was commonly charged that Christians] exercised lust and filthiness under a pretense of religion, promiscuously calling themselves brothers and sisters, that by the help of so sacred a name their common adulteries might become incestuous.
-- William Cave, Primitive Christianity or the Religion of Ancient Christians in the First Ages of the Gospel (1672), Part II, chap. v, describing the Agape "love festivals," quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 403

Both men and women used to meet at supper (which was called their love-feast), when after they had loaded themselves with a plentiful meal, to prevent all shame, if they had any remaining, they put out the lights, and then promiscuously mixed in filthiness with one another.
-- William Cave, Primitive Christianity or the Religion of Ancient Christians in the First Ages of the Gospel (1672), Part II, chap. v, describing the Agapae "love festivals" of the Carpocratians, an early Christian sect, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 403

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