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The Philosophers God vs. the God of the Bible


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#1    Jor-el

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 11:31 PM

The God of the Philosophers vs. the God of the Bible

The God of the Hebrew Bible is for the most part an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic being, that is, a God who has the form and emotions of humans. He (it is a he) walks and talks, has arms and legs, becomes angry, happy, or sad, changes his mind, speaks to humans and is addressed by them, and closely supervises the affairs of the world. The God of the philosophers is a different sort of being altogether: abstract (the Prime Mover, the First Cause, the Mind or Soul of the Universe, etc.), immutable, and relatively unconcerned with the affairs of humanity. The tension between these rival conceptions of the Deity is evident in the work of Philo, who is able lo find a philosophically respectable God in the Torah only through allegorical exegesis. Philo is particularly careful to sanitize the anthropomorphic and anthropopathic passages. In the land of Israel the pressure to interpret the Bible in this fashion was less intense, but even here many of the Targumim, the Aramaic translations of scripture, reduce or eliminate the scriptural anthropomorphisms.

Perhaps some Jews were concerned about the very unphilosophical image of God in the Hebrew scriptures, but most Jews were not. Apocalyptic visionaries and mystics persisted in seeing God sitting on his throne surrounded by his angelic attendants. The rabbis had no difficulty in believing in a God who loves and is loved and with whom one can argue. The masses needed (and need!) a God who is accessible and understandable. In the fourth century most of the monks in Egypt understood the anthropomorphisms of scripture literally. After all, God declares, "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26), proof that the image of man is the image of God. After hearing a pastoral letter from the bishop of Alexandria and a sermon from his abbot which insisted that the scriptural anthropomorphisms were to be understood allegorically because God has no shape, one elderly monk arose to pray but could not. "Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me!" he wailed. Popular piety does not need or want an immutable and shapeless Prime Mover; it wants a God who reveals himself to people, listens to prayer, and can be grasped in human terms. This is the God of the Shema, the Bible, and the liturgy. This is the God of practically all the Hebrew and Aramaic, and some of the Greek, Jewish literature of antiquity. It is not, however, the God of the philosophers.


Source: From the Maccabees to the Mishnah By Shaye J. D. Cohen

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So God is... which?

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#2    White Crane Feather

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 12:01 AM

Both and none. If my iPhone wants to have a conversation with my computer from when I was a child...it needs to simplify it's language and mass amounts of information so that my old hp can even process the cached information. Even then the old hp will take hours to process it, if something quirky dosnt happen to cause it to crash. Were talking about a translater and capacitor for divine information. Christ.., the Buhdda... And many others that are unsung.

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Bruce Lee-

#3    Mr Walker

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 01:05 AM

An excellent book, "The gifts of the jews" by Thomas cahill, explains the significance of the jewish faith as it evolved god into not just an anthropomorhic entity, but one with a personal relationship with each human being. It appears that this may have occured both for cultural reasons, but also, if you accpet the writings of the old testament becaue tha tis precisely how they encountered their god.

I am not familiar with the works of philo, but  philosophy involves the construction of a god, based on philosophical principles of how people conceive a god should or must be. To the "children of the dust" or hebrews God WAS NOT a construct but a real physical and present god, who walked with  them and intervened  actively in their lives.

Perhaps the greatest "translation" of god by these people was into a monotheistic form. Other perceptions of god had been physical nad philosophic, but all, generally, were pantheistic in nature.

As late as the 1800s there was considerable debate in parts of christianity as to whether god was more pantheistic, (eg existing within all elemants of nature) or more anthropomorphic, ie a more localised entity. Even today, gaean theology sees god as  pantheistic. In my own experince he is pantheistic in distribution but monotheistic in his relationship with humans. ie he relates to us, one to one, as a singular entity.

But god exists in trees and in animals as well as in people, because god IS integrated into the universe.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#4    me-wonders

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 03:08 PM

I love the Sumerian relationship with gods and goddesses.  Making statues of them, and clothing them, and sometimes taking them to visit each other.  I really don't think Jews invented this personal relationship with a god.


#5    Jor-el

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 09:28 PM

View PostMr Walker, on 12 January 2012 - 01:05 AM, said:

An excellent book, "The gifts of the jews" by Thomas cahill, explains the significance of the jewish faith as it evolved god into not just an anthropomorhic entity, but one with a personal relationship with each human being. It appears that this may have occured both for cultural reasons, but also, if you accpet the writings of the old testament becaue tha tis precisely how they encountered their god.

I am not familiar with the works of philo, but  philosophy involves the construction of a god, based on philosophical principles of how people conceive a god should or must be. To the "children of the dust" or hebrews God WAS NOT a construct but a real physical and present god, who walked with  them and intervened  actively in their lives.

Perhaps the greatest "translation" of god by these people was into a monotheistic form. Other perceptions of god had been physical nad philosophic, but all, generally, were pantheistic in nature.

As late as the 1800s there was considerable debate in parts of christianity as to whether god was more pantheistic, (eg existing within all elemants of nature) or more anthropomorphic, ie a more localised entity. Even today, gaean theology sees god as  pantheistic. In my own experince he is pantheistic in distribution but monotheistic in his relationship with humans. ie he relates to us, one to one, as a singular entity.

But god exists in trees and in animals as well as in people, because god IS integrated into the universe.

Do you think that the God of the ancient Hebrews as expounded in Torah, is compatible at all with the modern invisible 1st cause which we abstractly call god?

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#6    Jor-el

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 09:31 PM

View Postme-wonders, on 12 January 2012 - 03:08 PM, said:

I love the Sumerian relationship with gods and goddesses.  Making statues of them, and clothing them, and sometimes taking them to visit each other.  I really don't think Jews invented this personal relationship with a god.

No, it is a reflection of a much older attitude. But one that has not gone out of fashion in some circles. There is a statue of Mary in Portugal that has its own wardrobe as well as a baby Jesus with different types of baby clothes. When these statues go out into the street in processions, they are always dressed in differnt clothing as befits the occasion.

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#7    Lion6969

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 10:49 PM

The philosophically deduced god is more rational, logical and a correct conceptual interpretation of the empirical data leading to god. However the philosophical god presented in the OP is not the only model of god, although most share those attributes there are differences, such as an active god, who listens to pray etc, is also reconcilable within in the philosophical model of god.

The biblical god is unfortunately a man god. A man god is not tangible to most humans who can not reconcile such a concept rationally, logically or scientifically.


#8    Mr Walker

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 08:08 AM

View PostJor-el, on 12 January 2012 - 09:28 PM, said:

Do you think that the God of the ancient Hebrews as expounded in Torah, is compatible at all with the modern invisible 1st cause which we abstractly call god?
Excellent question. I am not sure how manymodern peole see god in that way, and how long it has been an option for belief among people, especially christians. Almost all the christians i know personally, from every denomination, who actually believe in god, still see god as a real physical being. They might see jesus as the hiuma form of god or they might see god as a being who can emulate human shape or they might have a differnt concept of his physicality.


The construct of a god without physical form  has occured in the past, but in modern times almost seems to have become an option were a real physicla god is too unbelievable or dificult for modern tastes. Ie amyone can relate to a construct of god shaped as they wish him to be, and without any physical presence or consequence.
while i know god manifests in many forms, and is both physical, and  an energy or spirit form, I do think there is a basic division beween a real physical god, and a immaterial one.

To me it is not the form, but the consequences of the form which create a basic divison. A real god hears. A real god speaks. A real god has the ability to interact with the material world.  Now some forms of immaterial or invisible gods may also have that ability by chosing to manifest physically, but a god without any physical form has no; intelligence , motivation, intent  or purpose. ANd if it could have those things, it would have no real way of acting on them or implementing its desires. It certainly could not be of any practical help to a human being;  except by faith based placebo effect, which in itself can be very powerful. So yes, I think the jews  perceived and acted in a relationship with, a different and more practical form of god  than an invisible first cause.

But then i think, and find, that most modern believers still maintain their belief in that "old fashioned jewish type of god". They believe, or find, that the god of today acts in the same way as the god of the bible, uses the same forms, and performs the same types of miracles as those we see described by the bible writers in both the old and new testaments.

I have  a little chuckle when peole say things like,"oh but god has withdrawn from humanity. He doesnt put in personal appearances like those we read about in the bible anymore."  Actually that form of god is here with us now excatly as he was when he walked with the jewish peole in the old and new testamnet times.
Many modern peole can, and do, recount personal stories of encounters, just like those one reads about in biblical times.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#9    Leonardo

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 01:26 PM

View PostMr Walker, on 13 January 2012 - 08:08 AM, said:

To me it is not the form, but the consequences of the form which create a basic divison.

I disagree.

It is the concept of being that creates the boundary between the athropomorphic deity and the philosophic one. Yet the concept of being does not require a form imagined upon the entity.

However, the state of being necessarily imparts boundaries on the conceptualised, anthropomorphised deity, with the implication that figure has to be, in some way, limited. By contrast the philosophic 'first-cause' exists in a state of unbeing as a force - unsentient (not non-sentient), and unbounded.

While many of the various religions which conceptualise their deity as a 'being', also raise their deity by way of some superior honorifics - such as 'all-mighty', 'omnipotent', etc - they have all made their deity limited in some way through projecting a state of being onto it. No-one wants their god to be alien, so this creating upon it a state of being can be seen to be a way of making the concept of god more palatable and less-frightening in a very frightening universe.

Because the anthropomorphic deity is 'like us' in enjoying a state of being, it can understand us and we can, in some way, understand it. This means we can project our own fears onto the deity and be comforted by the knowledge it understands them and, being god, can protect us from them.

None of this applies to a non-anthropomorphic, philosophic deity. It (and really, this concept cannot even be called an 'it') shares none of the vulnerabilities that having a state of being imparts. There is no common ground between ourselves - who exist as beings - and the philosophic god - which has no being, and may have no existence as we understand the term. Therefore we cannot gain succor from projection of our vulnerabilities, hopes or fears onto it.

As for the question posed by the OP, the answer depends on what the believer projects onto the god they believe in. Do they believe in a limited god by projecting a state of being onto that figure, or do they believe in an unlimited, and ineffable, 'prime-cause' which may or may not exist in some state of unbeing?

Edited by Leonardo, 13 January 2012 - 01:35 PM.

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#10    Jor-el

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:24 PM

View PostLeonardo, on 13 January 2012 - 01:26 PM, said:

I disagree.

It is the concept of being that creates the boundary between the athropomorphic deity and the philosophic one. Yet the concept of being does not require a form imagined upon the entity.

However, the state of being necessarily imparts boundaries on the conceptualised, anthropomorphised deity, with the implication that figure has to be, in some way, limited. By contrast the philosophic 'first-cause' exists in a state of unbeing as a force - unsentient (not non-sentient), and unbounded.

While many of the various religions which conceptualise their deity as a 'being', also raise their deity by way of some superior honorifics - such as 'all-mighty', 'omnipotent', etc - they have all made their deity limited in some way through projecting a state of being onto it. No-one wants their god to be alien, so this creating upon it a state of being can be seen to be a way of making the concept of god more palatable and less-frightening in a very frightening universe.

Because the anthropomorphic deity is 'like us' in enjoying a state of being, it can understand us and we can, in some way, understand it. This means we can project our own fears onto the deity and be comforted by the knowledge it understands them and, being god, can protect us from them.

None of this applies to a non-anthropomorphic, philosophic deity. It (and really, this concept cannot even be called an 'it') shares none of the vulnerabilities that having a state of being imparts. There is no common ground between ourselves - who exist as beings - and the philosophic god - which has no being, and may have no existence as we understand the term. Therefore we cannot gain succor from projection of our vulnerabilities, hopes or fears onto it.

As for the question posed by the OP, the answer depends on what the believer projects onto the god they believe in. Do they believe in a limited god by projecting a state of being onto that figure, or do they believe in an unlimited, and ineffable, 'prime-cause' which may or may not exist in some state of unbeing?

Can this unlimited, and ineffable, 'prime-cause' appear to be anthropomorphic as well?

In other words, due to our own limitations, might not this God appear to us in a way that we can also define, thus only appearing to limit itself, according to human senses?

Edited by Jor-el, 13 January 2012 - 10:25 PM.

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#11    ChloeB

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:41 PM

View PostJor-el, on 13 January 2012 - 10:24 PM, said:

Can this unlimited, and ineffable, 'prime-cause' appear to be anthropomorphic as well?

In other words, due to our own limitations, might not this God appear to us in a way that we can also define, thus only appearing to limit itself, according to human senses?

Joseph Campbell says God/gods are personifications of energies, which I would say are creative, destructive, etc.  He brought up an interesting point, about cultures that would have their anthropomorphized version of a God in the form of a clown, which seems weird, but what he said was that the clown, the absurdity was to prevent from the person from stopping at the image and to break through that.  The God of the Bible is way to human and male, it's to me limiting and makes it hard to see anything but that, the judging father in the sky peering down on us, checking for your name in the book of life.  I think it would probably be challening to find anything in the bible that is not overwhelmingly human, just "man writ large."  I think what you've got there in your questions there is an Eastern vs. Western idea of God.  I don't know what would meet in the middle, maybe the clown god, maybe that's why we have tricksters, to remind us that image isn't the stopping point.

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#12    Jor-el

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:10 PM

View PostChloeB, on 13 January 2012 - 10:41 PM, said:

Joseph Campbell says God/gods are personifications of energies, which I would say are creative, destructive, etc.  He brought up an interesting point, about cultures that would have their anthropomorphized version of a God in the form of a clown, which seems weird, but what he said was that the clown, the absurdity was to prevent from the person from stopping at the image and to break through that.  The God of the Bible is way to human and male, it's to me limiting and makes it hard to see anything but that, the judging father in the sky peering down on us, checking for your name in the book of life.  I think it would probably be challening to find anything in the bible that is not overwhelmingly human, just "man writ large."  I think what you've got there in your questions there is an Eastern vs. Western idea of God.  I don't know what would meet in the middle, maybe the clown god, maybe that's why we have tricksters, to remind us that image isn't the stopping point.

I agree with the concept or at least with its approach. Personally I see the human aspect of God as something that is only for our benefit. True to the OP assertion that we cannot really associate emotionally with an abstract concept as evidenced in the Phiosophical God. Not that it isn't without merit. Paul himself used the concept of the unknown God to preach to the Greeks. This unknown God may have been by all accounts was the Aristotelian concept of the 1st Cause or the Prime Mover.

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#13    Habitat

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 12:21 AM

Newsflash ! We already know all about God !  :o  Like the flabby youth who dreams of having a washboard six-pack tummy, it's not a case of working those abs ( or in this case, our inquiring mind ), but just staying away from the fridge ( the organized knowledge of humanity) to have that flab melt away to reveal the sought-after six pack we already possess, but didn't know it ! No more to pay ! And there it all is in its glory, Adonis lives ! As the sage said, sell your knowledge ( of God) and buy bewilderment (about God). Sadly, that old inquiring mind is so smitten with its own craft and cleverness, it is very hard to push off the stage !  :no:


#14    Mr Walker

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 06:56 AM

[quote] name='Leonardo' timestamp='1326461175' post='4170969']
I disagree.

It is the concept of being that creates the boundary between the athropomorphic deity and the philosophic one. Yet the concept of being does not require a form imagined upon the entity.[/quote]

Not sure exactly wha this sequence of words means. A conceptual being requires some conceptualised form, even if that is invisible and immaterial. A real entity stands as itself.
Are you arguing that immaterial, invisible, first cause gods can have all the physical and interactive abilities of a physical or anthropomorhicised god?

. My point i think agreed with you. We can imagine a god without form or physicality and many humans do construct such divine forms. But such a god cannot, in a real or logical sense interact with us or alter the physicla world.  Thus, even theologiclaly/theoretically, it is limited. Even an imaginary (or perceived) god like thor, or loki, or any god in human form, must have within its construct the ability to interact with humans  and alter physical reality. And if it exists in real form rather than as a human construct, then even more so.

[quote]
However, the state of being necessarily imparts boundaries on the conceptualised, anthropomorphised deity, with the implication that figure has to be, in some way, limited. By contrast the philosophic 'first-cause' exists in a state of unbeing as a force - unsentient (not non-sentient), and unbounded.[/quote]

True but I look at it this way.  The philosophic first cause god is much more severely limited by its very nature. So much so that it disqualifies itself as a true human god in logical and semantic  terms. How can an entity be a god if it is non responsive to its followers who call it god.?
Now, while an anthropomorphised or real physical god has more limitations than such a philosphic god (eg it cannot be truly omipotent or omniscient as such qualities are beyond reality or physicality,)  in effect its functions make it much more of a real god in name and in power.. It can communicate with people. it can respond to them, and it can interact with the minds and bodies of its followers. It can manipulate space, time, and energies, as a philosophic construct logically and physically could not.
Thus it IS the abilities and functions of the two forms which create the critical differnce beween them.

[quote]
While many of the various religions which conceptualise their deity as a 'being', also raise their deity by way of some superior honorifics - such as 'all-mighty', 'omnipotent', etc - they have all made their deity limited in some way through projecting a state of being onto it. No-one wants their god to be alien, so this creating upon it a state of being can be seen to be a way of making the concept of god more palatable and less-frightening in a very frightening universe.[/quote]

True. BUT there may be, and probably are, many great and powerful entities out there in the universe. MAny of them may be advanced even beyond our god. BUT they cannot BE human gods. If anything we would be below their recognition, and certainly their interest They have evolved far beyond our range of being. A god can only come from within a limited range of entities, real or conceptualised. It must be (to be a god ) capable of recognition/awareness of its followers , an interest in them, a desire to interact with them. and an ability to respond to them. Otherwise such an entity is NOT a god of humans, even of we would want it to be.

[quote]Because the anthropomorphic deity is 'like us' in enjoying a state of being, it can understand us and we can, in some way, understand it. This means we can project our own fears onto the deity and be comforted by the knowledge it understands them and, being god, can protect us from them.[/quote]

Absolutely, both in theological /philosophical terms and in physical ones.

MAny writers construct beings that are incomprehensible to mankind, and who do not comprehend mankind They may also exist in reality But they are not and cannot be gods to humans. Only an entity, constructed or real, which falls within a certain imaginary/ evolutionary spectrum, somewhat similar to man can be a god to, or of, mankind.

[quote]
None of this applies to a non-anthropomorphic, philosophic deity. It (and really, this concept cannot even be called an 'it') shares none of the vulnerabilities that having a state of being imparts. There is no common ground between ourselves - who exist as beings - and the philosophic god - which has no being, and may have no existence as we understand the term. Therefore we cannot gain succor from projection of our vulnerabilities, hopes or fears onto it.[/quote]

Absolutely, and thus it is disqualfied as a god for humanity. It is only a construct designed for a philosophic purpose. Again this differentiates the potential functionality of each type of god. You are speaking here of a lack of functionality of the philosophic god which I agree with completely How can you see such an entity as a god in; linguistic /semantic or theological terms?


[quote]As for the question posed by the OP, the answer depends on what the believer projects onto the god they believe in. Do they believe in a limited god by projecting a state of being onto that figure, or do they believe in an unlimited, and ineffable, 'prime-cause' which may or may not exist in some state of unbeing?[/quote]
I dont disagree, but this comes back to functionality rather than form. You argue much the same. To you both forms are the same; both are constructs of humanity.  Where the constructs differ is in the  inherent functionality of each form
Of course, in a separate debate, i go much further , beyond such human constructs; and argue that god IS real and physical. Thus his form dictates his functionality as it does for all livng things.  God cannot be, in reality what he is not, neither more nor less than what he is. But god IS. This is true of all real living things.

A dog is what it is. It can't be more or less, because we want it to be so. That does not stop humans constructing talking dogs, flying dogs, or many other forms of constructed dogs. Such constructs are created for, and serve, a purpose.  So do constructed gods. But if i construct a dog so far removed from a dog as to have none of its form or functionality, then why call it a dog? Can i actually/ legitimately, define such a construct as a dog, if it has none of the form or functionality of a real dog? If it does not serve as a dog, within its extended construct, can it be called a dog, and will others recognise it as a dog?

I would argue, No , and that the same principle applies to god.

Edited by Mr Walker, 14 January 2012 - 06:57 AM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#15    Mr Walker

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 07:01 AM

View PostHabitat, on 14 January 2012 - 12:21 AM, said:

Newsflash ! We already know all about God !  :o  Like the flabby youth who dreams of having a washboard six-pack tummy, it's not a case of working those abs ( or in this case, our inquiring mind ), but just staying away from the fridge ( the organized knowledge of humanity) to have that flab melt away to reveal the sought-after six pack we already possess, but didn't know it ! No more to pay ! And there it all is in its glory, Adonis lives ! As the sage said, sell your knowledge ( of God) and buy bewilderment (about God). Sadly, that old inquiring mind is so smitten with its own craft and cleverness, it is very hard to push off the stage !  :no:
On the other hand, what sort of person would want to surrender an entire keg, for a mere six pack? :devil:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.




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