And more from the gay marriage front…

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The first poll on the issue since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court ruling shows 65% opposed to same-sex marriage and 25% supporting it. Meanwhile, an article in the New York Times examines complex attitudes toward marriage among gays. The more I follow the debate, the clearer it is that, as Jacob Sullum has written, at issue is the perception that by legalizing same-sex marriage the state will be "endorsing" same-sex relationships. Maggie Gallagher in The Weekly Standard and Steve Miller in his Culture Watch blog at the Independent Gay Forum agree that the distinction between marriage and civil unions matters because, in Miller's words, "marriage confers dignity upon a relationship and civil unions don't." The Times article notes that "some [gay] couples said they would marry largely for symbolic reasons"—in the words of one man, "to say that we're just as normal as everyone else." Meanwhile, since the Massachusetts marriage ruling, I have heard several people who have been generally supportive of gay rights (including civil unions) gripe about being "forced to accept that it's completely normal" to be gay.

I suspect that legalized same-sex marriage, even if it were to become the law in all 50 states, won't have the impact that one side wants and the other fears. Social acceptance can only come from people, not government; just because something is legal doesn't mean people will be more likely to approve of it. There is evidence, for instance, that cultural attitudes toward abortion have become more negative since Roe v. Wade. The same Times article hints at the fact that legalization does not always equal acceptance: one man said that he would not marry his long-time partner because his conservative family would disapprove, despite being supportive of his relationship: "One year for Christmas they gave us bath towels with his initials and my initials. But a wedding would push them over the edge."

Privatizing marriage, as Sullum suggests and as libertarians like David Boaz have been arguing for years, would seem to be the most bloodless solution—now endorsed even by mainstream liberals like Michael Kinsley, whose column on the subject was provocatively titled "Abolish Marriage." Of course, that's about as likely as Jerry Falwell officiating at a gay wedding.

NEXT: What Ever Happened to Moral Equivalence?

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  1. Of course, if any mention of God/prayer/relgious sybmols is construed as an “establishment” of religion, it isn’t hard to make the leap that legalizing gay marriage would be construed by the public at large as an endorsement of same-sex relationships.

  2. gay “marriage” isn’t illegal. it’s just that the government doesn’t sell licenses to same sex couples. so they don’t recieve whatever extra benefits that come along with it.

  3. I don’t care what gays do in their bedroom.
    I refuse to let them tell me what to do in my head.

  4. If two people can make a legal entity which gives them benefits, why should it matter what their sex is?

  5. This whole debate is a non-starter. Whether the bride and groom are atheist,deistic or somewhere in-between, you are not recognised as ‘married’, till you are issued a marriage certificate.
    Thus making it a civil matter. And if the state is willing to issue a drivers licence to homosexuals, they should also be obliged to issue marriage licences.

  6. Joe, “inheretance, hospital visitation, child custody, right not to testify”

    Ever heard of a will? When was the last time a hospital refused a friend the right to visit a patient? Most restrictions are based on age, not status. When one of my family members was in the hospital with terminal cancer, I was denied access because of my age…and I was direct family…if you can give me one documented case, I might be persuaded, but I doubt that you can give me any evidence, only conjecture.

    Child custody? Since when did custody rights extend beyond father and mother? Even grandparents have no “right” to visitation much less custody.

    Right not to testify? Some states have abolished the husband-wife privilege. And there is always the Fifth Amendment.

    Joe, your arguments are, at best, shit.

  7. To a believer in a religion, there is nothing more filled with reason that that religion.

    Really? Such as what, pray tell? That there is this all-benevolent all-powerful celestial tyrant that “loves” us all, yet is willing to condemn us to eternal damnation for stepping out of line just once? That the Earth and all the life on it was created in six calendar days despite all geological, astronomical, and biological evidence? That some Nazarene con-man could raise the dead, walk on water, and turn water into wine? (I’m sure Penn & Teller could perform those tricks too with some mirrors, trick glasses, and willing audience participation.)

    The religious conservatives always dredge up that tired Dostoevsky quote about how “those who are not willing to believe in God are willing to believe in anything.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) However given all that JEEZ-us freak of believers of other faith demand us to accept, who’s really trying to sell us a bill of goods: The atheist, or the theist?

    You claim that my objections to religion are devoid of reason, yet the religious ask me to accept all this… or else? dhex already made the point about how religion spurns logic for “faith.” Believing that the sky will turn mauve with purple polka-dots won’t make it so. Believing that you’ll go to heaven–or indeed, anywhere–after you die won’t make it so. Believing that gays and lesbians are committing immoral acts, doesn’t make it so either.

    “And there is nothing more “devoid of reason” than the writings of another blogger engaging in his adolescent rebellion against his parents and their religion in public.”

    Huh? First of all, I’m 29, so the adolescent crack doesn’t really count for much. (Although my parents are devout Catholics and I too believed in the teachings of the Church Of Rome, but I got better.) Furthermore, why is it considered a sign of immaturity to question or rebel against traditional authority be it in public or private? What makes your acceptance of religion so much more “cultured” than my criticism?

    “And at present, the arguments of supporters do not seem to be swaying the majority.”

    Because the majority’s opinions are governed by backward and bigoted notions about sexuality. Just as the idea that whites and members of other racial groups were (and are still) governed by bigoted and backward notions about race. If there is ever to be a consistent climate of social freedom in this nation, someone has to break down the walls and take on the “traditional morals and family values” that saturate this society and toss them on the ash heap of history.

  8. Whoops, sorry! It was phil that made the point about faith vs. reason, although dhex’s point was very good too. I’d like to get “God” up on a podium too, and I have some VERY tough questions for the big windbag.

  9. richard, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, you’re not going to listen to anything that doesn’t confirm your existing prejudices anyway, and I’m not motivated enough to jog you out of your ignorance.

  10. Kipp,

    Instead of attacking my arguments, you attack me…that is adolescent.

  11. Joe, still no arguments in refutation, only personal attacks…and it seems that I do know what I am talking about…as no one has given me any argumentation otherwise…only personal attacks.

  12. Joe, I am willing to listen. I want you to give me good solid arguments how the rights or privileges you list (inheretance, hospital visitation, child custody, right not to testify) are currently being curtailed or denied…Tell me. I am waiting.

  13. Why don’t you look it up yourself, if understanding the issues is what you’re really interested in.

    But it’s not.

  14. “I have nothing against homosexuals, I just haven’t heard any good argument for allowing marriage…”

    Errrrr… Because it’s our lives and the jack-booted thugs in our government have no right–written or unwritten–to tell people what they can do when no one is actually being harmed. That should be good enough reason for anyone.

    What I don’t hear are any good reasons AGAINST gay marriage. (Religious “reasons” don’t count. If there is anything devoid of reason, it’s religion–especially Christianity.) Let’s say they do legalize gay marriage: What rights have been taken away from you? Will gay marriage endanger your life? Will allowing homosexuals to get hitced mean that someone will take away your property? Will allowing two men or two women to marry one another somehow deprive you of your civil or economic liberties?

    If the answer is that it doesn’t hurt your right to life, liberty, and/or property, then there is no reason why our government needs to butt in at all to stop it.

    Like abortion, firearms, erotica, or another freedom that the Left/Right wants to clamp down on; if you don’t like gay marriage, that’s fine by me. Just don’t propose to another man.

  15. “Furthermore, why is it considered a sign of immaturity to question or rebel against traditional authority be it in public or private?”

    i’m going to toss out a guess and say because the only uniform time people have any actual antinomian push to their actions is between, say, 15-17. some people seem to go through constant upheval after that, and some never bother to leave the town they were born in (mentally or geographically) but those few short years of at least somewhat thinking for yourself are a commonality.

    plus it has the added benefit of not having to engage the question at hand – why people feel the need to invoke one’s personal cosmology to justify legislation and government intervention.

  16. Dear Richard, or may I call you Dick? Personal attacks aside, as much as I enjoy them, I’d have to say you conform to the Sean Hannity, “tell me where I am wrong,” stance, but then stubbornly say you haven’t heard any refutation of your premise.

    Well, here’s one. You state that child custody isn’t an issue with gay couples (paraphrased). Well, what about the esteemed ex-Justice Roy Moore slapping down a child-custody suit because the plaintiff was a lesbian? He even had the temerity to state homosexuals are an “abomination.” If he is such a devout follower of Leviticus, he should have stoned himself to death for idol worship and working on the Sabbath.

  17. Oh and Dick, you’re wrong on the facts.

    “Ever heard of a will?” Ever hear of someone dying without a will? In most states, a married partner automatically gets the estate. Except that gay spouses are not recognized, and the “next of kin” becomes, say, the Dad who threw little Johnny out of the house at 18, and will be perfectly happy to take the money and throw Johnny’s spouse out on the street.

    “When was the last time a hospital refused a friend the right to visit a patient?” Again, decisions about visitation and treatment are made by – you guessed it – the next of kin.

    “Child custody? Since when did custody rights extend beyond father and mother?” The spouse that a parent married gains standing to claim custody. Depending on the state and agency, a spouse either automatically gains co-custody of children adopted by the other spouse, or can do so very easily. Whereas an unmarried partner often cannot be recognized as the second parent, or has to go through considerable hoops to do so.

  18. richard asks: “Ever heard of a will? When was the last time a hospital refused a friend the right to visit a patient? Most restrictions are based on age, not status. When one of my family members was in the hospital with terminal cancer, I was denied access because of my age…and I was direct family…if you can give me one documented case, I might be persuaded, but I doubt that you can give me any evidence, only conjecture.”

    Straights are protected by intestate succession laws, even if they lack a will; why should gays not be allowd the same default (and free) protections? Further, it has happened that a gay has been refused visistation privileges by parents of a dying patient with whom said gay has been domestically partnered. I am not going to do a Yahoo/Google search to document what I know, but feel free to do so yourself.

    But, I have written on H&R about a former gay friend of mine who has been partnered for some 10 yrs with an Austrian national, whom he cannot marry. The feds are always threatening to deport his Austrian partner. I assure you, there is no marriage substitute you can get in the lawyer’s office for that problem (both of them are themselves lawyers, as am I, and we have thought about this professionally rather a lot. A straight couple could marry and “poof!” no issue.

    And of course, his partner was forced to testify against my former friend’s interests in a civil suit. We fought that based on spousal privelege, but lost in the NY Court of Appeals. To my disgust, that case is now annotated in the NY rules of evidence.

  19. You know, God’s already pissed that we got rid of slavery, which is condoned in the Bible and was a respected tradition across cultures for thousands of years.

    If we allow gay marriage, again flouting Biblical convention and cultural norms, God’s really going to be pissed.

  20. Mark S.: the slogan on your blog pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? “Reflections, observations, and other useless babblings of Mark A. Siefert.”

    To a believer in a religion, there is nothing more filled with reason that that religion. And there is nothing more “devoid of reason” than the writings of another blogger engaging in his adolescent rebellion against his parents and their religion in public.

    Gay marriage is certainly going to be judged by the courts to be protected by the constitution. I don’t think it makes sense, myself, for two of a gender to marry, but hey. The court of public opinion will be the place for the decision about a constitutional amendement. And at present, the arguments of supporters do not seem to be swaying the majority.

  21. Jon H,

    You don’t hold God in high regard do you? I mean if he/she/it/whatever is easily angered by we finite little creatures and our petty foibles what pray tell will the great Sky Ghost do when each succeeding generation buys into the God-sustaining pantheon mythos less and less? What will God do when his (or whatever) existence is no longer supported by circular logic and ferverent hope? Will he disappear in a puff of logic when no longer taken any more seriously than say, the Tooth Fairy?

    🙂

  22. Cathy sez, “Social acceptance can only come from people, not government.”

    But social acceptance is exactly that – social. It occurs within a social realm, not an individualist. People look around and take cues from their peers when making such a judgement. And the presence of traditional markers of marriage and legitimacy – rings, ceremonies, marriage licenses, etc. – imbues the union with meaning.

    richard, re: benefits – inheretance, hospital visitation, child custody, right not to testify.

  23. The only problem I see with abolishing marriage, per se, is that all the benefits conferred upon married couples would be lost. The breeders wouldn’t like that.

  24. frenk…all believers, we presume, believe their belief systems are reasonable. if you can believe that.

    it would be most helpful if the deity or deities of the true religion(s) would hold a press conference on all the major cable channels or issue a divine memo of sorts on this and many other issues to make matters clear. since they have refused to do so to date leaves us with some unfortunate potholes in the public sphere, one of those being “cause this old book says so” is often taken as a reasonable argument in some circles.

  25. Regardless of whether one supports gay marriage (which I do), civil unions for gays, or neither, can we all agree that imposing the two former institutions on the public eternal to the established legislative process might well cause a backlash that no one here wants? Or are we so intent on our libertarian goals that we are willing to see them implemented through dictatorial means? Do we really need another Roe v Wade-like court decision to convulse the nation unnecessarily for the next four decades?

  26. Speaking as a outsider, Jeffersonian, I see libertarians denounced legislative action as “tyranny of the majority” just as often I see them denounce judicial action as “dictators in robes.”

    Was Brown v. Board a bad thing, because it caused a southern backlash?

  27. Joe,

    Just as all the pros & cons must be considered in making decisions like, er, going to war, it’s important to consider that battles won in legislatures will likely have greater society wide acceptance than those won in the confines of a courtroom. Now, that doesn’t mean that judicial review has no place, and it doesn’t mean that the robes should base their decision on anything but the most accurate reading possible of what justice dicates as interpreted by the law and the Constitution, but I would take a victory in the legislature over a victory in the courts any day. And while I’ve argued against the logic of many complaining about gay marriage, I have very mixed feelings about the Massachussetts decision. I’m not at all sure this will turn out to be a good thing.

  28. Joe,

    Just as all the pros & cons must be considered in making decisions like, er, going to war, it’s important to consider that battles won in legislatures will likely have greater society wide acceptance than those won in the confines of a courtroom. Now, that doesn’t mean that judicial review has no place, and it doesn’t mean that the robes should base their decision on anything but the most accurate reading possible of what justice dicates as interpreted by the law and the Constitution, but I would take a victory in the legislature over a victory in the courts any day. And while I’ve argued against the logic of many complaining about gay marriage, I have very mixed feelings about the Massachussetts decision. I’m not at all sure this will turn out to be a good thing.

  29. duh, sorry ’bout the double post…using my nephew’s ‘puter over the holiday……..

  30. Why do so many libertarians look exclusively for collectivist solutions? Why does it not even occur to them that individuals can and should take their own marriages private without appeal to society?

  31. Oh, another thing Joe, you make a very good observation about the apparent dichotomy between arguing against tyranny of the majority and arguing against tyranny of the courts. But don’t forget that not all libbers think the same and I wonder if these aren’t the same libbers saying the two different things?

  32. “battles won in legislatures will likely have greater society wide acceptance than those won in the confines of a courtroom”

    Both of which will have greater acceptance than battles lost in the legislature. Look at the history of the civil rights movement; the judicial decisions moved the entire country left on minority rights, with the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act being adopted only after years of action to enforce courts’ decisions.

    So I don’t buy the argument that this decision short-circuited the process by which our society will come to recognize the rights of gay people. History suggests it will significantly advance that process.

  33. Joe, I thought you weren’t going to reply to me. Nice to see that you did.

    Wills/Probate…you’re right about dying without a will…So get a will. Don’t piss and moan about it, go get a will. If you don’t want your money to go to your next of kin, and land in probate, go get a will…You can write one yourself, it may not hold up in court, so get a lawyer or a book or software that does it for. Still not a good argument…laziness is never a good argument…don’t forget, write your will…do it now, and quit bitchin about it. Afterall, many people (gay and straight) die without wills and their money goes to family they may not care for. Ending up in probate is still not a good reason for marrying, regardless of being gay or straight.

    Next of kin…again…get a will…This one should be a living will. Ending up in a hospital that won’t allow your partner/friend to visit (again, no stories or evidence that this has happened…Joe you dropped the ball here) is still not a good reason for marrying, regardless of sexual identity. It is a good reason for moving to a different hospital and talking to the press about being oppressed.

    Child custody…what state allows a step-parent to usurp a natural parent’s right to custody? Or another family member’s right? None currently do, so why should the child, whose parents have divorced and one parent has ‘married’ a person of the same sex and who then divorces that person of the same sex, becoming the ex-step-?, be in the custody of the ex-step-?

    Joe, to resurrect this last argument from the caldron of boiling conjecture, I will assume that you are talking about adoption and a same-sex couple doing the adoption. In that situation, you might need a marriage to gain visitation and custody if you split…oh wait, nope you don’t need marriage to have visitation and custody. Assuming you are in a state where homosexuals can adopt, you would have already had custody, the State isn’t going to take your right to custody or visitation of the child away because your ex-partner suddenly turned straight. You just need a good attorney to get the child-custody arrangements to your liking and a judge who feels the law is on your side…it doesn’t matter if you are gay or not.

    This all goes back to my original point, get a lawyer….oh, and Joe, in most states, the surviving spouse can elect against the will and take a statutorily defined percentage of the estate with the surviving heirs getting the rest…that is the only argument for allowing gay marriage based upon death and survivorship, and that falls because you would have no spouse to worry about since you can’t marry same sex persons…presumably, you now have a will which says it all goes to your partner…

    If you need a lawyer to help you do this Joe, look me up in a year…if you live in my state.

  34. To a believer in a religion, there is nothing more filled with reason that that religion.

    Right. Which is why the holy texts of all the major religions go on and on, ad nauseum, about why reason, logic, empiricism and investigation are all more important than simple faith.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have to retrieve my eyes, which have rolled to the back of my head.

  35. Driver’s licenses and marriage licenses on an even plane? What kind of mental gymnastics are you trying to pull?

    Mojo jojo, what benefits are you talking about?
    Tax? That is a complete fallacy…you are better off living together than ever getting married, though that is slowly changing. If you need any evidence, get married and consult a tax attorney…you may be flabbergasted by the results.

    So Mojo, what benefits…

    For thousands of years, marriage has been between a man and a woman, only during the last one hundred and fifty years has marriage been “licensed” by the state…Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious establishments…

    I have nothing against homosexuals, I just haven’t heard any good argument for allowing marriage…

    Dancalio, your logic boggles me…if two people can make a legal entity…so can three people, so can five thousand people…that isn’t an argument for allowing homosexual marriage, that is an argument for…I don’t know what that argument is for…but it has no relevance here.

  36. For the state to endorse straight marriage but not gay marriage is discrimination based on nothing except the social and religious values of a majority. It is entirely appropriate for the courts to intercede.

    I also don’t think the backlash will be as bad as some predict- I suspect that the more the issue of constitutional amendments is discussed, the less enthusiasm it will generate. Of course I could be wrong on this.

  37. Do you have a life, richard? It seems your entire existence consists of trolling reason’s comment boards and writing just the response that will rile people’s feathers. There’s a certain adolescent charm to it all, of course – but don’t you have some way of attracting *positive* attention to yourself instead?

  38. Mona, you are absolutely right about the immigration issue, but you are the first to make the argument here. It is a good one, but not the most persuasive for drastically altering custom, law, and culture of marriage.

    As for hospital visitations, living will, or even demanding to switch hospitals is still the best way to go.

    Again, you are the only one with good solid harms (stemming from the inability to marry someone of the same sex) to homosexuals in the area of immigration laws. Still not persuaded that it should be legal.

  39. And spousal privilege should be abolished, in my opinion.

  40. So Richard, what do you believe should be done? Nothing? Yep.

    :-

  41. Cathy Young said:
    “The more I follow the debate, the clearer it is that, as Jacob Sullum has written, at issue is the perception that by legalizing same-sex marriage the state will be “endorsing” same-sex relationships. Maggie Gallagher in The Weekly Standard and Steve Miller in his Culture Watch blog at the Independent Gay Forum agree that the distinction between marriage and civil unions matters because, in Miller’s words, “marriage confers dignity upon a relationship and civil unions don’t.””

    As an anarchist, I’m immediately offended by the eternal Catholic argument that we give a (hoot) about what the state endorses. We hear the same hand-wringing concerning the war on drugs issue.
    Some of my best friends are Catholics, but whatever the Pope or the state or Dilbert’s boss endorses is just wrong.

  42. The questions on the Fox poll are incommensurate. Question 1 asks, “Do you support or oppose *allowing* homosexual couples to form civil unions…” Question 2 asks, “Do you *favor* or oppose same-sex marriage?” As every libertarian knows, supporting allowing something isn’t the same as supporting it. This could be part of the reason for the greater affirmative response to Question 1.

  43. Steve in CO writes: “You don’t hold God in high regard do you? I mean if he/she/it/whatever is easily angered by we finite little creatures and our petty foibles what pray tell will the great Sky Ghost do when each succeeding generation buys into the God-sustaining pantheon mythos less and less? What will God do when his (or whatever) existence is no longer supported by circular logic and ferverent hope? Will he disappear in a puff of logic when no longer taken any more seriously than say, the Tooth Fairy?”

    I think we agree on this…

    I find it really hard to give much credit to the God-who-must-be-appeased model, especially the one in Genesis (the book, not the band) who gets pleased or displeased over the sacrifices by Cain and Abel.

    You just created the whole freaking universe, and you’re going to get your cosmic panties in a twist over a sheep?

    Yeah, sure. That’d happen.

  44. Gays should all be thrown in the chipper — head first

  45. no PUNK, no one should, not even bigots like yourself

  46. Throughout I’ve been reading the word “gays” as a plural noun – sometimes even by people with something to say (and PUNK – nice post guy; somebody should give him a cookie). Since when is it ok to use gay other than as an adjective? Can you say “He’s a gay” – or “a group of gays protested the event.” It sounds ridiculous and juvinile to me – I can’t be alone here. Homosexual doesn’t take that much time to write.

  47. Richard, why should gay people have to jump through complicated, expensive hoops that straight people avoid without a second thought?

    In case you don’t realize it yet, you’re arguing for a legally defined second class with limited rights. But I suspect you do realize it.

  48. joe,

    It’s clear to me that since Richard is planning to be a lawyer, he’s afraid that gay marriage will hurt business and is therefore arguing strenuously (and very unconvincingly) against it (If I’m on the jury, Richard’s client will be making a vist to ol’ Sparky (…but Your Honor, this is a CIVIL case!:-)).

    Don’t worry about the drop in business, Richard. I’m sure there will be plenty of gay divorce to go along with gay marriage.

  49. Mark S., I’d hate to be on the same side of any argument with you. What a way to alienate people who might be making an actual effort to understand your side. Attack religion in general, and then state that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is “backward and bigoted”. Beautiful. Maybe you really are right and everyone else is wrong, but belitting your opponents isn’t going to make them agree with you. And sometimes the real people you argue with don’t look like the straw men you construct in your head.

    Cathy makes the whole point, perfectly, I think. I’ve seen some very good arguments on this thread for allowing civil unions, but none for creating (and, yes, that’s the word I meant to use) gay marriage in particular. Assuming that it would be possible to allow civil unions with all the legal and financial benefits of marriage, then the civil unions v/s marriage argument boils down _purely_ to social acceptance and semantics. And you can’t coerce acceptance. But you can sure as hell make people feel like you’re trying to force them to accept something that they’re not yet sure they want to.

  50. Richard,
    Why should homosexuals have to fight for and justify their right to the same privaleges as heterosexuals? Why should the onus not be on you to come up with a good reason NOT to legalize gay marriage? What give heterosexuals the right to decree from on high that homosexuals aren’t entitled to the same legal rights? Is it simply because there are more of them? If this argument holds water, then women ought to start taking rights away from men–there are more of us, you know….

  51. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that a ban on homosexual marriage is unconstitutional. Funny- these courts rule that marriage is no longer sacred, and God is to be banned from every aspect of public life. Clearly, the courts in this country are in complete opposition to what most Americans believe is right. George Washington probably just fainted in heaven, when he heard this ruling. Why can homosexuals just live their lives and not fight to be equal?

  52. “If there is anything devoid of reason, it’s religion–especially Christianity.”
    I am aware that this was posted a while ago, but in defense of my faith, Christianity is the most logical religion out there. I have studied most of the major world religions (Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Shintoism, Daoism, and atheism, not to mention many others that fall under these.) Christianity is simply the most logical. Look at the universe and how it was started. Can someone please tell me how this all got here? Science proves evolution wrong in saying that matter cannot come into being by itself, and the law of entropy clearly states things go from order to disorder, meaning evolution is not logical. Also, why would anyone believe in evolution when Darwin himself was skeptical about it? The most logical religion is Christianity.

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