Faith and Science

by John Green on September 23, 2008

(I wrote this post for YA for Obama and am crossposting it here.)

I don’t talk about it very often, but I’m a religious person. In fact, before I became a writer, I wanted to be a minister. There is a certain branch of Christianity that has so effectively hijacked the word “Christian” that I feel uncomfortable sometimes using it to describe myself. But I am a Christian.

So I’m going to write this blog post as a Christian. I’m not going to write (yet) about the time I met Senator Obama. I’m not going to write (yet) about how Obama’s economic plan offers our country the best opportunity to avoid what will be a long and painful period of economic stagnation no matter who becomes President. But I want to explain three reasons why I feel that I am called not only by my conscience and values but also by my faith to support Barack Obama.

First, there is the question of loving thy neighbor as yourself, which Jesus states clearly and irrevocably is the second most important law for his followers, behind only the love of God. Our healthcare system is profoundly broken because we have failed to live up to this high calling–because most Americans have been willing to live in a nation where tens of millions go uninsured. For all the uninsured (my brother Hank and his wife were among them for many years), bankruptcy is an accident or a diagnosis away. Money they’ve saved to send their kids to college must instead pay for chemotherapy, and not because they made poor choices or failed to work hard, but because they own or work for small businesses, or because they’re unemployed, or because they’ve been sick before and so insurance companies refuse to cover them. (My father, a cancer survivor, couldn’t get health insurance for fifteen years after his recurrence of bladder cancer.)

Making health insurance available to all isn’t going to be easy, and it isn’t going to run smoothly, and it will require sacrifice by all Americans. But I would have happily made the sacrifices involved for my brother or for my father, and so as a Christian I must be willing to make them for all my neighbors. John McCain and Sarah Palin have already said they will not bring meaningful reform to our health care system. Barack Obama, with the support of the U.S. Congress, will.

Secondly, the world in which we live. Apocalypticism has always been a part of Christianity. Early Christians (and some argue Jesus himself) were convinced the world as we know it would not survive for more than a generation or two. For much of recent history, this has meant for many Christians that we don’t need to worry too much about what some Christians derisively call “the World.” Evangelical leaders (and Governor Sarah Palin) have said that man can’t possibly affect the climate, because God made it and humans could never destroy it. (To which I say: Um, okay, but didn’t God make the passenger pigeon?) We are unquestionably called by the Bible to stewardship of the land, and right now that means Americans must make drastic changes in the way we use energy and how we find it. Our failure not to have done this earlier owes to the tremendously powerful oil lobby and an administration that has always protected them over the long-term interests of Americans (and in doing so, has financed a tyrannical regime in Saudi Arabia that has long denied religious freedom or the freedom of expression to its citizens). Climate change is the greatest issue of our time, and if we fail to recognize it, we will be remembered by whatever people remain as the prideful gluttons who said to future generations, “Let them eat cake.”

Finally, science. Sarah Palin has repeatedly stated that she wishes to see creationism taught in our schools. I believe that every Christian (and indeed every American) should be opposed to this. What science has taught us does not invalidate religious faith, and to those evangelical Christians who believe otherwise, I would respectfully say that you are placing too much faith in the power of science. Not that science isn’t powerful: We now know, thanks to rational thought and the testing of hypotheses, that evolution was the driving force behind the breathtaking diversity of life in the world. And we know that the earth has existed far longer than we have. Science has given so much to the experience of being a creature on this planet. But it does not render our spiritual lives irrelevant.

The anti-intellecutalism that has become the hallmark of religious conservatism in contemporary Christianity (and many other religions) will only set us back–not only economically and politically but also spiritually. We must invest in science; we must teach our children the scientific method; we must share with them the myriad discoveries that the scientific method has brought us. And we must do all of these things in classrooms that are in the business of teaching children how to learn, and not in the business of teaching that faith in God is incompatible with the intellectual rigor and creative innovation that have been the glory of our nation’s past. Christianity loses in that bargain, and so, too, does America.

{ 147 comments… read them below or add one }

Simone July 16, 2015 at 1:54 pm

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed when I heard you were a christian. I personally think you must have a lack of brains to not believe in evolution (no offence). I love the fact that even though you’re religious, you love science and you don’t try to convert anyone. So thanks for being one of the few people I know that are religious yet not some douchebag.

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Melissa July 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm

First, it is good to see that you respect John regardless of his beliefs. I wanted to point out though that John never personally stated he didn’t believe in evolution. That was an assumption on your part. Plenty of Christians believe in evolution and God. I would challenge you to meet other Christians besides the decidedly anti-intellectual ones John speaks of. If not, then google it :) They are out there. I would also recommend you look up Georges Lemaitre. I think it may change the way you perceive Christianity and evolution a little bit.

The lack of brains comment was uncalled for although I get you were trying to explain how you feel about Christians in general. It is sad that you seem to have a bad experience in general but a little more digging and outreach will reveal that not everyone has a narrow minded view of the world.

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Waverly August 1, 2015 at 8:17 pm

He did not express a lack of belief in evolution. In fact, he expressed the opposite: A support of evolution and a rebuttal for why creationism should not be taught in schools. So I belived you’re incorrect in telling him “no offence.” Just because someone expresses a faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t mean they’re an misguided half-wit who dismisses evolution as a blasphemous suggestion on principle.

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Gudgramer November 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Only the best Christian apologetic can just completely ignore the fact that he said that he doesn’t believe in evolution and just twist it and interpret it in some stupid way that tries to make his idiotic position into a reasonable one. You religious folks give me a good laugh when you contradict yourselves(Just like your bible contradicts itself hundreds of times).

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Jake D December 25, 2015 at 2:31 am

“We now know, thanks to rational thought and the testing of hypothesis, that evolution was the driving force behind the breathtaking diversity of life in the world.” A direct quote from the article. Yes, some Christians can be anti-intellectual or hypocritical. Yet to lump all Christians under that label shows yourself to be as close-minded and biased as you accuse them of being. I am a Christian, and I am also an avid student of the sciences. John Green, it seems, is the same. Critique the Church and religion in areas where it needs fixing. Doing so is actually quite useful. But don’t label an entire group of people as idiotic because they have a different view than you.

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Xander October 16, 2015 at 2:25 am

he just said he does believe in evolution though

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Georgina July 26, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Okay. First off, I want to apologize, if not to you (because I doubt you’ve read my mind), to God (because otherwise my conscience would eat me alive), because I thought you were an atheist, John Green. Seriously. You have no idea how relieved I am now that I know one of my favorite authors believes in God, and is in fact Christian.
But what I really am still in doubt about is why oh why some of your characters lack that faith. Just recently I read An Abundance of Katherines, and Colin doesn´t believe in God, whereas his friend Hassan does.
Just…??
Anyway, I’m glad I’ve been enlightened on this aspect of your life, John Green.

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Tim July 31, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Why would you be relieved about the fact that he is christian? It’s not like believing in one religion makes you in any way better than people that believe in another religion. And it’s not like books written by atheists are not as good as books written by christians, or vice versa. I am an atheist, but I don’t feel in any way sad about John having other beliefs than I do (and I don’t understand why some do)

As for book characters, I think it’s ridiculous to say that religious writers can only create religious characters. I like how John keeps his books pretty neutral religiously, with Christian, Muslim, Atheist and Jewish characters (just like real life). If you think that all his characters should be religious because he is, I think you should consider that there are other people with different beliefs who also want to read his books and also want to feel represented.

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Jared August 15, 2015 at 2:34 am

Coming from a Christian view, you should be relieved when you find out someone is a Christian…but not because that makes people better than others. Christians believe in sharing the gospel to those who aren’t believers and they/we also believe in heaven & hell. Georgina also said that John was already a favorite author of theirs, so she wasn’t discriminatory against him even when she thought he was an atheist. However I don’t think that a Christian author has to or even should make every character in a piece of work a Christian, cause that’s not realistic at all, and even the Bible isn’t that way.

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Youmna July 28, 2015 at 5:06 pm

God is literally everything. Without him how could science ever excist? I’m Christian and i’m proud of it.

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Youmna July 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Oh and i forgot to mention that John Green is my al time favorite author. He inspires me. He should be an example to many people!

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Nick September 3, 2015 at 4:03 am

He is a tosser!!

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Liam September 3, 2015 at 7:02 pm

He is a little bit of a knob I think we can agree

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MoyBoy September 3, 2015 at 7:05 pm

wanted to rub bleach in my eyes after reading this book, John Green please respond

Nick September 3, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Should have stuck to being a minister. Writing CLEARLY is not his thing

Macka September 3, 2015 at 7:10 pm

John Green, your birth certificate is an apology letter from the condom company…

M-dawg September 3, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Is your ass jealous of the amount of shit that came out of your mouth?

Nick September 3, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Amen Macka.

Just like John Green, I am praying

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Nick September 3, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Greeny is taking more smack from M-dawg than he takes up his backside

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AussieBruce September 3, 2015 at 7:31 pm

John Green thinks he is some legend of an author who can connect with every single young adult worldwide. The truth is simply that he cannot

Question from an ex-Christian August 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

I’m sure you have tons of emails every day, so I’ll be excited if you get the chance to respond to this.

I very much appreciate your worldview and perspective on Christianity. My question, as an ex-Christian, is…well…*why* Christianity?

I’m not asking you to prod into your beliefs. I’m asking, because I’ve met very, very few people who share the ideas that you have…*and* remain Christian. So any sort of answer helps me as an individual, spiritually.

I’m in a period of skepticism…agnosticism. I’ve read a LOT of books on the subject. I’ve talked to a LOT of people from various religious backgrounds…and I feel as if in a gridlock between what the majority of scholars have to say about Jesus, what respected philosophers have to say about theological topics…what respected psychologists and neuroscientists have to say about belief…what anthropologists and historians have to say about the evolution of religion…etc.

And I’m certain you have as well.

Just…why? Why believe in such an old myth? The idea baffles me…but makes me all the more curious.

Thanks so much for your time. – Sean.

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Love all April 13, 2016 at 9:23 pm

Hey,I am a Christian and am not ashamed to say that I have also battled with questioning thoughts of the whole idea even existing based upon the views of other so called “Christians” but I have come to the conclusion that people have certain ideas about Christianity and have expressed them so to where it makes each and everyone of us look foolish and discriminative and condemning those who we should be showing our love into hell even though that is and never was a right given to us by God. That is between thereselves and God and not for our choosing to say so. I believe that God is not a terrible God or even a terrible idea for condemning people to hell for ignoring the one true thing he has ever asked directly out of anyone and that is to believe in him and the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and according to the new testimate to Love all people no matter who or what they believe in and to lead people to Christ through love,not judgement for God is the only one to judge and if you chose not to believe me that is your every right but you,despite your desistion, are nor an idiot or hated but just misled by others and that is the true crime,they will have to pay for that,but you always have a place in God’s heart and in mine. P.S. my name is also Sean which led me to submit a reply haha…

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Brandi May 10, 2016 at 1:15 am

I’d like to know the reason as well. I also used to be a Christian, and I don’t understand how he can have “faith” in a book like the Bible. I renounced my faith & became an agnostic atheist after I learned the history of the Bible. My favorite documentary is called The God Who Wasn’t There, I recommend it to anyone who thinks fundamentalism is the wrong way to interpret the Bible. Also, there’s an old website called evilbible.com that points out the many inconsistencies of the Bible. It’s worth checking out.

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John G August 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Mr. Green,
First let me say that I am relieved that you are willing to speak about your faith at least this small bit, “let your light shine before all men” and all. Being that the light within you is Christ, putting it behind a bushel so as to try and not “turn off” any readers is probably only going to stifle His work through you. Now, about your support for Obama. You have given us personal anecdotes (your father) that have lead you to think that we all want someone to pay huge expenses for us and therefore should “do unto others” in the same way. It is highly debatable that using the government -perhaps the most broken system in existence- to accomplish such a thing is indeed a motion of love or of torture. HSAs would be a better option in my opinion, but I believe the Church has a huge responsibility to take care of the sick and needy. The Church is deserving of much criticism for not having done so, but the government is NOT a good solution. Plus, you have thrown your support and trust to a person who has repeatedly lied (Obamacare will reduce the deficit?srsly?) and who has very clear stances on the most vulnerable among us, our unborn and newly born. You are aware that he voted against having doctors work to save viable babies that survived abortion, right? But this issue doesn’t hit close to home, perhaps you don’t have a personal anecdote related to the murder of unborn babies.
Finally, I hope by now you can see that his foreign policy has made things worse for many Christians in foreign lands. Corruption seems to thrive in the government under his leadership, the IRS and DOJ being two glaring examples. American Christians in the military and outside of the military have seen their beliefs and avenues of expression thereof systematically extinguished.
Your post reads like an apology for the evils of Christianity, echoing the apology of Mr. Obama for the evils of America. Bringing up creationism as to why you want to support Obama is a non-sequitur. It seems you’re just pulling out straw men because you know it is what “the world” believes, and you feel some need to explain that “hey I’m not one of THOSE guys!! Honest!” I’m not sure what Christian thinkers you follow or if you even have any Christian Literary mentors, but I acknowledge you can either be a direct and outspoken writer like C.S. Lewis, or a more subtle one like Tolkien, who injected truth at the foundation of the narrative.

All this to say, I hope you have thought better of your decision to support these liberal progressive platforms. They won’t treat you any differently because you think global warming is a huge threat in spite of God’s sovereignty. By now it should be clear that you cast your pearls to swine.

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Ty August 19, 2015 at 2:40 am

Hello,

I too am relieved that he did share his outlook on faith (Coming from a a Catholic). Though I will like to point out that Mr.Green isn’t quite liberally progressive as you may think he is. John is roughly described as independent. He’s voted for Republicans before, and has even described himself as one on his tumblr, though he only labels himself as one by name. Though I believe John, like many other Democratic voters fell into the trap of Obama’s outspoken policies, Twice. John simply votes using rational and logical thinking, whichever side appeals to him more. The problem with this however is that it is too easy to get deceived. I am not going to call him out for that simply because, I have no reason to. He doesn’t seem to be the kinda guy who is too radical or fanatical of the left.

As for religion, I suppose does seem like he’s apologetic, like he is regretting it in some form. But I cannot say I don’t respect it. It’s true, most Christians should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Though I would have to disagree on opposing to teach Religion in school. Religion is sole cause of modern science, it’s birthed and has largely made our history. It has given us many scientific thinkers and theories. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe we should be teaching are kids to be fanatical and preach the entire book of Leviticus off of the top of their head and solely believe in it. But I do believe that teaching our children religion, in the right direction, of course. Can lead to not only a more scientific community, but also a more friendly and prosperous one. But hey, that’s just me.

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Devin April 26, 2016 at 8:53 am

Yes, it is just you.

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Rebecca September 5, 2015 at 5:36 pm

I am thankful for this post. You are amazing, John Green.

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Abia September 6, 2015 at 4:42 pm

I am a 13-year-old nerdfighter.
I’ve known of my love for science since I got my first toy microscope and found Discovery Science.
Unfortunately, nearing my age and interest level as far as science is concerned, in my very conservative Christian school, you are taught that never can science and God coexist.
You must devote yourself to religious institutionalism and conformance to said institution, blindly doing so out fear and some artificial alternative to love. The other option is total skepticism and apathy, blasphemously disrespecting God, because you have your own thoughts and aren’t terrified of death.

It is so freeing to recently have discovered that these notions are rediculous. The way I see it, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. If something is true, it is of God and all truth belongs to him.
Isn’t that beautiful?

God has never needed us to prove his existence, nor has he ever despised innovation. God is within all of matter and has inconceivable power to manipulate matter and forces even beyond our home dimension (of but three of the seven that Einstein theorised). You should never be scared to seek the truth and lose God, for then all that has happened is that you’ve stopped searching early (often after but one opinion) or you have not reached full truth, but assumed that everything has been concluded and ensured.

Go look for stuff and love people! Seek truth in all that you do, but stay curious after! You will find God outside of conformance and inside of your own creative interests.
Thanks for inspiration and a place of acceptance!
Abia.

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Josh September 22, 2015 at 10:50 pm

Abia, that was an absolutely wonderful response. You rock!

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Kim November 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm

Abia, beautiful! Keep up with your faith, God has given you a lot of wisdom at such young age! God bless you

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Kaylee October 1, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Dear John,

I think it’s awesome that you believe in God! I think you set a good example to this world about what it is like to follow God! I encourage you to embrace what you believe. You are an awesome guy, I love your videos and your books! Thanks for having the courage to share this with us!

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Zoe November 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Thank-you for this.
i was feeling very alone in faith

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Asher Peterson December 3, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Hi John Green,
Wow. I just wanted to say I thought that I was alone in my views of science and Christianity, what with going to a conservative Christian school. But I was wrong.
I believe in modern science and Christianity, and that they aren’t mutually exclusive. That I can still believe the Big Bang, Evolution, Uniformitarianism, etc., while still being a Christian who believes the Bible.
Is there one set of words for that belief? Theistic evolution? Evolutionary creationism? I don’t know, but I just wanted to say I agree with you 100%.
I will tell you, however, that I am utterly ridiculed in my Christian school for all of these beliefs. I am taught the creationist version of everything, and cannot argue unless I feel like having the entire class including the teacher basically bully me over it until I back down. That’s probably why my parents are switching me to a different school next year.

Thanks so much for posting this,
Asher Peterson, Age 13

P.S.
I have read The Fault in our Stars. It’s my new favorite book.

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Etenom April 4, 2016 at 3:06 am

despite this post I do not believe John Green is a christian, or at least a very good one due to many many average things he’s said. I also think if he’s a true christian he wouldn’t be so reluctant about it!
P.S. I’m a christian

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Gabrielle June 15, 2016 at 5:09 am

I think he’s just saying he’s disappointed about how the word “Christian” is now associated with hate, ignorance, and hypocrisy. :) God bless.

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Nobody in paticular April 12, 2016 at 4:14 pm

You can not be a christian and believe in evolution at the same time. Creationism should be taught just as well as evolution. If you are Christian, you believe that God created us and the world.

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Luna Potter April 27, 2016 at 12:25 am

Dear John,

First of all, I’d like to say I apologize for my grammar. I’m not a good writer, but there’s a good reason for this message. I doubt you’ll see this, but I thought I’d leave this comment here anyways. Thank you so much for not being afraid to express yourself. I 100% am with you with both believing in faith and science. I admire you so much, for speaking out to what you believe in, despite all of the negative feedback you probably get from most people. I also, agree with your independent opinion on politics. I love that even you must know how republican most Christians are, you still speak out to the critiques you have about the Republican Party, and how it relates to following God. Thank you so much, for this article. I think you’re a great writer, you’re really funny, you know how taxes work, and you’re a Christian that also acknowledges science. Anyways, I really admire you for everything you’ve said and how you are. You have inspired me to do more research on evolution and how it can mesh with faith too. Thanks a lot for your article.

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Riley May 10, 2016 at 8:02 pm

Personally I am very happy that you feel comfortable enough to show us what you believe in. I am also a Christian, and even if you did not believe in my faith I would still love and appreciate your writing the same as I do now. So thank you for the article.

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Gabrielle June 15, 2016 at 5:06 am

Thank you for being an example of a Christian who seeks to approach things with logic and consideration. I am so inspired by you and Hank when I see your devotion to understanding the world. And the more I see of the complexity of human life, the vividness of our thoughts, the extreme amazingness we can do with our brains to create technology, it makes me believe none of this could have happened by accident. I am perhaps more conservative that you, but I want to follow your example of really shining a light and emitting Christ, no matter who I’m with. And the way you’ve done this to the nerdfighteria community is inspiring. I am deeply afraid of the “real world” because I’m sheltered in a private Christian school. I am afraid of being called ignorant for believing creationism could happen, but the way I see it is that there is evidence for everything. There is much evidence for young earth creationism. There is much evidence for old earth creationsim. There is much evidence for evolution. Everyone has just puts their faith in something. I put my faith that my experience feeling God’s presence in my life, evidence for a worldwide flood, ect. is enough to overcome evidence against it. This is the same way evolutionists believe the fossil record, radiometric dating, ect. is enough to overcome the huge gaps in the fossil record too. I am 14, and a naive, still ignorant, dumb Christian, but I KNOW that the Bible commands us to learn about the world, to defend our faith. We can’t do that if we live in this bubble– which you’ve so inspiringly popped. If there is a God, then anything is possible through him, and I see that in you.

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gary June 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Are our pastors telling us the truth?

Are Christian pastors honest with their congregations regarding the lack of evidence for the Biblical Creation Story? The World Wide Flood? The lack of archeological evidence for the Exodus?

What about the Resurrection? Is there really a “mountain of evidence” for the Resurrection as our pastors claim or is the belief in the Resurrection based on nothing more than assumptions, second century hearsay, superstitions, and giant leaps of faith?

You MUST read this Christian pastor’s defense of the Resurrection and a review by one of his former parishioners, a man who lost his faith and is now a nonbeliever primarily due to the lack of good evidence for the Resurrection:

—A Review of LCMS Pastor John Bombaro’s Defense of the Resurrection—

(copy and paste this article title into your browser to find and read this fascinating review of the evidence for the Resurrection)

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