Renewing My Good, My Joy

Following this weekend’s multiple mass shootings across our nation and what will surely be more in the coming days, or weeks, months, or years as things stand and have stood, our country will be buried alive in body-bags, drown in all the blood and endless tears from families and close friends… I desperately had to find relief. I paused to re-balance. I had to detox and find buoyancy in my music, reminding me that there are still many decent, stable, joyful, helpful, patient, compassionate, understanding, empathetic, peace-making people who do live, love, laugh, and gladly learn… then DO those things I list making this world a safer better place.

To that end, here are my three selected life-renewing songs (out of many) that have returned to me a warm smile and a bigger heart. I’ve also included a previous happy slideshow from a previous blog-post: Amour et Coeurs Jumeaux. Let me know if you like my songs. If you feel the need or urge, share one of your favorite happy feel good songs down in the comments. I think we could all use some.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

The Whereabouts

When I was a small boy and with my family visiting Dad’s family in Galveston and Brazoria Counties, Texas, we always made a stop by my great grandmother at her rural small farmhouse for a full day, perhaps even late into the night if other aunts, uncles, and cousins would come by as well. They were fun times; lifetime memories. If all of us 12-20 cousins were also there, the time together was a circus complete with clowns of capers and their pranks. At grandma Konzack’s there were endless things to do, tinker with, play, and generally find as much mischief as possible.

My great grandmother Konzack had about 25-30 acres of land with 4-6 heads of cattle, a big hay-barn, and chicken coup near her 1900’s self-built, five bedroom antebellum home. She always had 2-4 dogs around, watch-dogs more less that were never allowed inside the house. They were somehow responsible for keeping guard of the house and policing wanted and unwanted animals outside during the night. Hours would fly by, but before we would leave, grandma Konzack would always pack us up with the family beef from her deep-freezer and literally the freshest eggs from her busy hens. She and my Dad always had strange, peculiar stories about the goings on with that hen-house. This is one of them… well, a version of one with my own allegorical twist. 😉

But first some quick background. Without going into a long revisit of my family heritage, suffice to say that many/most of my paternal ancestors were of Franco-German-Swiss heritage of Freethinking families. In other words, they often marched to their own beat not blindly following mainstream religion and yet without denying their strong convictions of family and civil service to community in the spirit of individual American freedom and liberty within the confines of our U.S. Constitution. This made many of my paternal family minorities in Texas given most Texans were Southern Baptists, Catholics, or Conservative mainline Protestants, or to say it diplomatically… all equally excitable. She was surrounded on three property-lines by Southern Baptists and Evangelical Protestants where over the years there developed a cordially silent, unspoken, public smiles of tolerance for each other. That’s how folks did it in 1940, 50, and 60’s rural America.

This is my allegorical tale called The Whereabouts.

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Grandma Konzack had several hens in her coop, but six of them were very special, particularly reliable and productive hens. Their Latin names were Curiositas, Contradictio, Testimonium, Scrutinio, Aequalitatem, and the best egg producer Didicit. She was the queen over all other hens. The chicken coop had six levels on one wall and six more on the opposite wall. In a way, the eggs from grandma Konzack’s hen-house were, numerically speaking, the 666 hens with 666 eggs! 😈 I tell you, they were the most delicious eggs you’d ever have the privilege of putting in your mouth!

Curiositas was probably one of the most elusive hens to keep track of at any given time, even with the door to the hen-house closed and locked did not mean she would be happily content inside her specific nest box! If she had half a chance to to get out and explore, near or far didn’t matter, then she was GONE before you could say Whoa Nellie. However, Curiositas became one of the smartest, wittiest hens. She learned fast the most efficient methods of escape, hiding, and the most ideal locations on Grandma’s property to perch and watch everything below. She also learned equally as fast all the worst methods of the same.

One day she was never seen again. Vanished.

Contradictio was THE HEN that could challenge the patience of any wise owl and the cunning of the feline Margay. If you thought you’d anticipate where Contradictio would be or would behave, 9-times out of 10 you’d be wrong. What was MORE astonishing was that she could anticipate your behavior practically every single time. She could unravel your tricks or dishonesty before or by the count of five.

One day she was never seen again. Gone.

Testimonium on the other hand was a very friendly, gregarious hen. She always wanted to a part of or in the center of the day’s action. Testimonium also had a very nosy streak always getting in your way or face seeing up close what you were doing. If there was ever any sort of unscrupulous behavior taking place in the hen-house or outside nearby she would know firsthand EVERYTHING that took place! The quintessential court room witness of poultry!

One day she was gone, never seen again. Egg dishes are showing up less and less on the kitchen table!

Scrutinio was the single no-nonsense hen. You messed with or changed her nest-box even the slightest, she would know and immediately return it to her standards. In fact, change the daily routine in the smallest of ways and she was going to go all rooster on your ankles or hands! You could not slip anything past her scrutinizing eyes and high standards. Nothing!

And then one day she too was gone. Never to be seen again. Now there seems to be a pattern going on, right?

Aequalitatem was undoubtedly the protectorate hen of all hens. She would not stand for any mistreatment of hen-femininity! If two hens wanted to sleep together in the same nest box, then as far as Aequalitatem was concerned it was no one’s business what two adult hens wanted to do in the privacy of their nest box. Her motto? If no chickens were being harmed in the acts of amore, consenting hens can do whatever THA F*CK their pretty feathers wanna do. Period! Yes, she was the Joan of Arc of bold hen-ness.

Then one morning she too had disappeared. This was now very serious. Only our honorable, most wise and intelligent Queen hen remained…

Didicit was the Queen for many reasons, but the one best reason was her wisdom and that she had come to us from Oxford, England. She had been a favorite hen of a number of Nobel Prize winning professors at Oxford University and had traveled the world with them as their lucky feathered Madame. It was reasonably rumored that she understood no less than five different languages! Many an avian university department requested her services for various scientific studies. Didicit’s eggs were never bothered for obvious reasons. Two of her chicks had thankfully survived.

When she had gone missing grandma Konzack was infuriated. She went to her three neighbors trying to determine if they had noticed any bizarre activity the last week or so. After chatting politely with all three neighbors, both Southern Baptist families and the Evangelical family, grandma noticed that all three families had the exact same painting on their living room walls (seen below).

living room painting

Grandma Konzack asked her friendly neighbor about the familiar painting on the wall. They replied Oh, we are big animal lovers, in particular foxes. Curious, she asked why that particular animal. They are remarkably stealthy, cunning canine carnivores. They keep all the unwanted trashy, disease-carrying animals away.” they answered with a sly grin. Grandma Konzack couldn’t resist and retorted back:

Yes, but they are not particularly honorable carnivores are they… sneaking up on their prey and always hiding, always fleeing scared of the slightest trouble. No wonder the British had so many fox hunts with their hounds!

Not amused her neighbors responded in a snide tone Well that may or may not be true, but it’s always the end that justifies the means. If your survival depends on eliminating enemies with dishonorable stealth, then it deserves our favor. Grandma was not particularly surprised by the logic. She had been around these type folks most of her life. It was why she enjoyed the company of others who enjoy life to the fullest. I’ll be on my way she said. If you do notice anything out of the ordinaryshe politely explained, please let me know would you?” Their response was even more strange than their previous:

We do not know the whereabouts of your fancy, expensive hens Mrs. Konzack. The husband continued, Perhaps they’ve simply runaway or perhaps tried and failed to cross the road. His wife chuckled under her breath. Then, to show his “Christian politeness” he asked grandma:

We are having a weekend prayer-n-fellowship meal down at the church tomorrow afternoon if you’d like to attend. Do you know the whereabouts of our Fellowship Center? We’re having all sorts of goodies as long as the eye can see and the bellies can pack, including baskets of fried chicken!

Thanks but no thanks grandma replied quickly. And yes, I know where the Fellowship Center is located Knowing her welcome would not last much longer, she smiled in reciprocated charm and said:

No one can miss it because it is as monstrous and gaudy as the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and as she opened the door to exit said in closing:

But nowhere near as beautiful, as naturally human, or as meaningful as The Temples of Khajuraho (see above video). But I am guessing you’ve never been outside Brazoria County, much less out of the United States have you? If you can put your bibles down for a day or find a quite spot other than your church sanctuary, read Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad for an enlightening, delightful life-lesson of what it means to be truly human.

My grandma Konzack was a wonderful woman with a sharp, witty sense of humor. One would learn fairly soon too she did not appreciate any type of elitism from anyone, not the President, not the Queen of Britain, and damn sure not from any kuntry folk from rural Texas. She’s the one who taught me the meaning of Right, but everyone sits on the pot the same for the same reason. There were some other juicy tidbits she’d add, but I’ll skip those so not to offend the sensitive or faint-hearted. She was a tough, tough woman, but full of so much life!

I do miss my Grandma Konzack.

To my readers: Tell me in comments below what my allegorical story says to you. What happens to the Hen House and the future of flocks when the best hens (and their egg producing/teaching abilities) are silenced.

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Live Well — Laugh Often — Love Much — Learn Always

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Truth, Denial & Phobia

This is the second part of Being Wrong & Feeling Right: Two Parts.

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Deborah Lipstadt is an American historian and author specializing in the Holocaust. In 1993 she published her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory where she responds in extensive detail to rising, growing movements in Europe and parts of N. America challenging the veracity of the Holocaust during World War II and claiming it did not take place and was overly exaggerated by the European Jews. David Irving, a Nazi Germany advocate and controversial scholar, sued Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books Ltd in the U.K. for her characterizations of his writings and public speeches writing in her book he was anti-Semitic, preposterous, and barely a pseudo-historian.

Lipstadt and Penguin Books won their case by proving in the British court that her characterizations of Irving’s work and speeches were significantly true and not libelous to Irving. The judge’s decision was a paramount victory not only against Holocaust denial, but also a major victory against shotty, ill-founded denialism while further reinforcing credible, consensual, established academia and scholarship by some of the world’s most elite institutions of higher (highest) education and their renown experts and staffs.

In 2016 the film Denial dramatized these proceedings in British court, the case and the real-life characters, and was deservedly nominated for Best British Film in 2017. For these above reasons I highly recommend watching the movie. The official trailer:

When upsetting, distressing, or traumatic events and/or information arises that shake-up or shatter a person’s belief-system and/or our perception of life, our human brain and nervous system—and if we’re more fully comprehensive, our ego as well—can create a psychological coping routine, a mechanism that neglects and negates what is or has actually happened. Fear and anxiety over being wrong and confused or the potential of it, causes a large portion of the human population to simply deny those events/information exist(ed). For them it is easier to deny than walk the harder, troubling, longer road of learning to solve, adapt and cope. They will often seek out echo-chambers (organizations or groups) to further cement the psychological denial. Over time the repeated immersing into the neuro-cognitive pathologies and regular participation with echoing support-groups can and often do create long-term phobias.

Another powerful motive for denialism is self-interest, that prideful ego which convinces us we deserve favorable praise and inflated importance at the expense of reality and others. Self-preservation at any cost.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair

Or when his image of power is threatened! Sinclair could not be more correct when considering a long, long history of prime examples. I will name only a handful of examples, but the list of overly inflated egos (some tyrannical), self-preservation, severe denial, and paranoia through atrocious brutality is long and always growing:

  • Henry Ford and the too little too late Model A — Henry Ford, Sr. was in Model T La-La land (denial) virtually until his death. He blamed worker unions for the plummeting sales of the 20-year antiquated Model T automobile. When he finally relented to production of the Model A, Chrysler-Plymouth and General Motors had seized the industry’s top market positions, leaving Ford to wither and struggle until World War II arrived.
  • Coca-Cola — a small number of taste-test participants influenced or contaminated Coca-Cola Company’s (un)controlled market testing (Project Kansas) of a sweeter formula being considered as the New Coke to boost sales and market share. The change was an utter failure/denial by Coke executives because the facts of market data showed for decades it was Coke’s brand-name that made and kept loyal consumers, not a newer formula and change.
  • DuPont — and their disposal (or failure to properly dispose) of chemicals used to make Teflon that leak or eventually leak into human or animal drinking water-basins. Well over 3,500 lawsuits against DuPont and/or Chemours still await trial. Both mega-billion dollar corporations deny their chemical or waste management directly cause major health-injury problems in at least 27 U.S. states. However, since 1961 DuPont’s own scientists knew their chemical wastes caused severe and lethal problems in lab animals, but intentionally concealed (denied) these studies from the public and EPA.
  • Lehman Brothers — and their asset overvaluation (denialism & greed) then subsequent bankruptcy in 2008, a major player/cause of the 2008 Wall Street crash then bailout by U.S. taxpayers via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Joseph Stalin — the “Great Purge” between 1936 – 1938 when Stalin murdered around 750,000 political rivals and dissenters and over 1-million others he perceived as threats. These are conservative estimates.
  • Saddam Hussein — aside from the gassing of some 5,000 Kurdish Iraqis and wounding over 10,000 more in 1988, Hussein convened a public meeting of Ba’ath Party officials in July 1979. He ordered the gathering to be videotaped. Hussein read a list of 69 names of perceived “traitors” who were then escorted out in custody then executed by firing squad or given weapons inside a courtyard and ordered to execute each other or themselves.
  • Intel — for nearly 3 decades (60’s – 80’s) Intel reigned supreme in semiconductors, with their memory-chip and microprocessors both. By 1983 Japanese semiconductors had stolen a big chunk of that market. Intel was in a nose dive. Like Henry Ford, old vanguard CEO’s at Intel thought their long dominance in memory-chips were the future (denialism, skewed rationalism) whereas Gordon Moore and Andy Grove realized the ominous hard data, facts and stats overwhelmingly pointed to the microprocessor and PC’s as the future. Their decision to change the business model—amp up and expand production of microprocessors while cutting way back on memory-chips—saved Intel from looming bankruptcy. “Pentium” is now a household name.
  • ExxonMobil — one of the most blatant hypocritical cases of denialism for self-preservation has been ExxonMobil. Within almost 200 in-house publications between 1977 – 2014, the oil giant’s own scientists admitted (click here) that climate change was unequivocally occurring and caused by human discharge and/or waste.
  • Richard M. Nixon — though a number of U.S. Presidents clearly fall into this denial, truth, phobic examination, President Nixon is the poster-boy of denialism for self-preservation during and after the Watergate scandal in the early 1970’s. A new poster-boy President of blatant denialism and inflated ego may(?) be just around the corner.
  • Adolf Hitler — Duh, of course. No explanation necessary.
  • Should I name all the evangelical pastors or Catholic clergy?
  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — in tandem with The Tobacco Institute and PR firm Hill & Knowlton, Inc., the tobacco industry launched a massive counter-attack against scientific and medical-health researchers determining and publicly publishing the negative impacts of smoking. Their counter-attack? “Doubt is our product.
  • Merck and their VIOXX — Before the FDA could approve Merck’s blockbuster pain-relief rofecoxib hit drugstore shelves, health professionals were finding and reporting in 1999, 2000, and 2004 the drug increased the risks of heart disease. With 88,000 – 139,000 heart attacks (30% – 40% fatal) attributed to rofecoxib, over four years later the drug was finally banned in November 2004. Merck executives knew of these reports, but misled physicians, the public, and the FDA.
  • USS Indianapolis Capt. McVay Tragedy — in the dying months of the Pacific War 1945 the naval heavy battlecruiser, while carrying the atomic bomb to eventually be dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was headed for her next assignment. At 12:15AM 30 July 1945, the USS Indianapolis was fatally struck by two Japanese torpedoes and sunk in 12-minutes. Due to her top secret cargo and mission she was never reported missing even after 24-36 hours after her scheduled arrival in Leyte. In the end and after an official investigation into the tragedy, the U.S. Navy solely blamed Capt. Charles B. McVay III and court-martialed him, putting the 1,139 lost sailors on his head and in self-preservation of and abdication by the U.S. Navy rather than take the public shame and embarrassment for numerous mistakes in combat intel. For many years after McVay received hate-mail from families of lost Indianapolis sailors. Declassified naval documents now reveal (though too late) that Capt. McVay was in truth not to blame for any causes leading to the ship’s sinking. But in 1968 McVay committed suicide.

These 14 prime examples are a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the modern refined art of denial, distorting the truth and reality. I am quite sure you could name off several more I did not mention, right?

Public Outcomes of Denialism, Phobia, and Untruths/Lies

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Immunization Non-Compliance
— Despite the remarkable declines or near eradication of measles, mumps, rubella, and pertussis across the U.S. and most of the world over the previous century and modern, universal availability of vaccines, resurgence of these diseases persist. CDC data for the measles:

immunization-us

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Paranoia Over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) — Despite the significant consensus by scientists, healthcare physicians, and bio-genetic engineers from many acclaimed prestigious institutions and universities across the world, who stake their lifetime careers and reputations on making these studies and publications, a large percentage of Americans are afraid and skeptical of foods that have been genetically modified. From the National Academies for Sciences, Engineering & Medicine:

gmos

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One such university, Purdue University’s College of Agriculture addresses the misinformation and conflicting media stories; click here for more details.

The Impact of Ignorance or Restricted Knowledge — Truth or fiction. Fiction or truth. Many selectively choose what they want to accept as factual if it aligns with their own political, social, or religious beliefs. They also choose what is fallacy or untrue, or will ignore the evidence/data when it doesn’t align, whether it is verified, confirmed, factual and true, or not.

9-11 and obama

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Ideological Divide On Climate Change — Despite the abundant evidence and facts over the last century measuring global climate change, there remains a deep ideological divide in the U.S. about whether it is very serious and harming people now.

climate change divide

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Holocaust Doubting and Denial — Despite the eye-witness accounts by thousands upon thousands of Allied liberating soldiers and their commanders at Nazi death or concentration camps across Europe in the last months of World War II, as well as the abhorrent physical and forensic evidence at the time, a noticeable population today believe the Holocaust did not occur or was greatly exaggerated by Jews and Jewish sympathizers.

holocaust denial

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Don Quixote: My lady

I am not your lady!…
I am not any kind of a lady! 

So of course I became,
As befitted my delicate birth,
The most casual bride
Of the murdering scum of the earth!
Aldonza

Don Quixote: And still thou art my lady.

And still he torments me!
How should I be a lady?

If you feel that you see me
Not quite at my virginal best,
Cross my palm with a coin,
And I’ll willingly show you the rest!
Aldonza

Don Quixote: Never deny thou art Dulcinea.

Take the clouds from your eyes
and see me as I really am!
Aldonza

Those are a portion of the musical lyrics from the song and scene “Aldonza” in the 1972 film Man of La Mancha. Though the beautiful, alluring, prostitute Aldonza is trying to convince Don Quixote that she is not the woman he imagines, it is clear for several reasons that he is not seeing it nor will he accept it. Such is the force of denialism lost in euphoric romance. Emotions have over-powered critical reasoning.

Recognizing Methods of Truthiness, Denialism, or Phobias

This will not be an exhaustive list, but I will spot-light more popular, modern methods of reframing, misdirection, or flagrant deceit by employing pseudo-science or pseudo-historicity (vs. accredited historicity & historiography) that an audience or people are so dazed by the audacity, they may doubt or question their own perceptions of reality. Here are five traits of denialism from the European Journal of Public Health by Paschal Diethelm and Martin McKee:

  1. Pinpointing emotionally based or controversial conspiracies and publicizing those opinions. This would include tainted or polluted peer review or checks-n-balances by other expert colleagues in the subject field. Inversionism is a variant of conspiracy theories which can be utilized.
  2. Employing fake experts or paper-vapor institutions to refute (and slander?) legitimate experts. The internet or world-wide-web is ideal for this tactic.
  3. Specifically isolating or cherry-picking support and sources while ignoring or overlooking exhaustive databases, research studies, and counter-reviews.
  4. Imploring near-impossible or ridiculous standards of confirmation, e.g. the Lenski Affair.
  5. Employing logical fallacies which might include red herrings, straw-men arguments, or false analogies.

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Attacking Intellectualism on the Rise

Why is the majority of the general public gullible and/or naïve to hyped or erroneous influences? Why do celebrity, charismatic personalities attract droves of people to ill-founded causes and misguided, immoral, unethical ideologies? When we are trapped by self-imposed fears and external turmoil caused and funded by targeted propaganda, it becomes easier to simply deny our imperfections and mistakes, as tragic as they might be, in order to feel right instead of the alternative:  shame or embarrassment.

Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers and the 3rd President, opportunistically attacked intellectualism. John Adams, as well as Alexander Hamilton, got into heated debates with Jefferson about democracy and how it should be governed. Jefferson and his political party supported the wisdom of the commoners, a peer review, if you will, to hedge against tyranny and oligarchies or dictators. Adams Sr. and Hamilton, however, knew too well how poorly educated most commoners of that day were to con-men tyrants and charismatic persuasion by corrupt causes and ideologies. Yet, in today’s more advanced, more widely educated populations—primarily in first-world or advancing second-world nations—as opposed to 18th-century America, the mob revolutions in which Jefferson witnessed in his day occur less frequently due to informed early detection by the citizens.

In other words, today there exists exponentially more credentialed “experts” to police Cults of Personality and protect the less fortunate and more gullible against precisely the cunning tyrants Jefferson detested. One difference in today’s pool of experts is that they are all highly specialized in very specific fields of study, possibly two or three, maybe four on a basic level. But not ten or fifteen or more. Being a Nobel Prize winning expert or scholar in ten or more subjects is humanly impossible. Therefore, like it or not, we must… no, we have no choice but to rely on highly trained, vastly experienced professionals, the “intellectuals” in their fields of expertise. In this regard, even Thomas Jefferson fell short. Now, with all due respect to our 3rd President, if we commission a large pool of experts, ala a democracy of intelligent commoners(?), then we could hope Tommy would have approved.

Pessimistic or Vigilant?

Truth does matter. Truth backed up by incontrovertible, scientific or historical facts, repeatable ad infinitum, do indeed exist. In an interview about the movie Denial and her legal run-in with David Irving, Deborah Lipstadt said:

I try to be optimistic about things, but history teaches me that that is not always the case. There are people out there who are very much beguiled by these stories. When I see it seep into the general conversation of people not on extreme ends, that’s when I get worried. This is why it is so important to challenge liars about their lies. Challenge them with the facts.

deborah lipstadtI do have a lot of admiration and respect for what Ms. Lipstadt and her legal team showed and protected regarding accredited scholarship, freedom of speech, and the accountability one must always own in speaking or printing ideas or opinions as facts of science and/or history. She certainly deserves applause and recognition for protecting the atrocious reality of the Nazi Holocaust against saber-rattling, self-proclaimed, self-absorbed, charismatic trouble-makers calling them self a great leader, or reformer, or intellectual. Her victorious feat cannot be denied.

Ms. Lipstadt is Jewish by birth and by all available accounts and information it is reasonable to assume she is still active in practicing her Jewish faith. There is no easily accessible information to the contrary. This leads me to my own question for Ms. Lipstadt in regard to her quote just above.

There are increasing amounts of scholarly and scientific evidence and facts suggesting, even convincingly demonstrating that all three Abrahamic religions are based on beguiling stories which are indeed within general conversations of people not on extreme ends over 2-3 millenia that in the end are hoaxes, gross distortions of historicity, and the three religions worry and cause great concern for a large number of sane, reasonably intelligent secularists and humanists around the world. My question:

Have you or would you, Ms. Lipstadt, put your religious faith to the exact same rigorous scrutiny you afforded the defense of the Holocaust and put bogus Holocaust deniers through?

To my readers, followers, and visitors. Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions, or challenges. They could stimulate an invigorating discussion or debate!

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