22 awesome things I used to believe were sinful

Growing up as an ultra-conservative Christian, everything is a sin. Here are 22 of them which turned out to be a lot of fun:

1) Halloween

'Halloween Decorations' photo (c) 2010, Sarah_Ackerman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ghosts were demons, witches were devil worshippers, and trick or treating was a deal with the devil.

This also meant that things like Ghostbusters were off-limits. Although for some reason when I received a pair of hand-me-down Ghostbusters boxer shorts I was allowed to wear them. I don’t know, maybe it was judged that downstairs was already a demon-possessed region.

2) Power Rangers

I’m still not entirely sure why all the church parents were so convinced Power Rangers was of the devil. I think it was mostly that the bad guys “looked demonic”. Our mothers had evidently seen a lot of demons.

Power rangers villain

A demon. Or a bloke in a rubber suit. It’s hard to tell at this resolution.

Also, the skintight outfits did not meet fundamentalist modesty standards:

ACE dress code

3) Harry Potter

Harry Potter books

See also anything else which included magic in popular culture, including (but not limited to) Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Meg and MogTo my credit, I didn’t entirely fall for this. I used to watch Sabrina, and I made the revolutionary step of having no opinion on Harry Potter because I hadn’t read them. This did not stop many of my fellow fundamentalists.

4) AC/DC

See also Alice Cooper, who was widely believed to be a tool of the devil, despite actually having views pretty close to fundamentalist Christianity.

5) 18 Certificate Films

Pulp FictionSin City

American History X

Jesus didn’t like these films.

Most of my friends seemed to get around the injunction to avoid material that might “cause you to stumble” by just watching it anyway. I, obedient to the point of idiocy, did not watch an 18-rated film until I left home. It was Reservoir Dogs. 

6) Communism

I accept Marx’s ideas were flawed, and probably  impossible in practice. Still, a just society in which wealth is shared equally is a properly excellent idea, and fuck the money-grabbing Religious Right that taught me otherwise.

Karl Marx

7) Short skirts

short skirt

At my Accelerated Christian Education school, the pastor preached against girls wearing short skirts every week. He said they “stopped boys and girls from relating in a healthy, wholesome way.”

What he should have said that he was a lecherous misogynistic prick who had to blame women for his own dirty mind and thought he had the right to tell other people what to do with their bodies.

Also, women look fantastic in short skirts. Or long skirts. Or whatever the hell else you want to wear. It’s your body.

8) Bikinis

bikini piggyback

Two wanton harlots, clearly.

Bikinis were evil things: They incited men to uncontrollable lust. So women who wore them were sluts, and I was a pervert for finding the sight of women in bikinis enjoyable.

Ironically, there are lots of potential problems with photos of women in bikinis: They risk objectifying women or of promoting unrealistic models of beauty. Most of them promote a very narrow idea of femininity, and just try a Google image search for “bikini” and see what proportion of non-white people you find in the results. But you know what? I never heard anyone preaching about that. They were too busy attacking women for “causing men to stumble”.

9) Magic shows

I see this is still going on, thanks to a recent article in the Christian Post, where illusionists responded angrily to a columnist’s allegation that a levitation trick had been performed using demonic power. I was such an idiot.


On the upside, this at least kept me away from fortune tellers and psychics. I didn’t think they were phonies. I thought they were the devil.

10) Feminism

What I believed:

Pat Robertson feminism

The reality:

If you’re new to feminism, why not start with bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody.

11) Gay people

As well as the real life friends I’ve made, my life is now better for being able to appreciate such folks as:

Stephen Fry






Stephen Fry

Billie Jean King

Freddie Mercury

Sandi Toksvig

12) Martial arts

Martial arts were sinful mostly because they had their roots in Eastern philosophies and religions like Taoism and Buddhism. Some Christians get quite uppity about this – along with anything alien to their white, European Christian culture. Christian opposition to martial arts is mostly just xenophobia.

Furthermore, some martial artists could smash through brickswalk on fire, or kill a man with one punch. Clearly, the only way this could be achieved was through demons.

The result of this was that a Judo champion who joined our church was told he had to choose between God and Judo. He chose God.

13) Being drunk


This is always worth it.

Even when it leads to this.


14) Masturbation

Not only is wanking awesome, but I estimate that 99% of people who believe it’s a sin KNOW it’s awesome. Inevitably, this means they feel that something they love doing is an abomination to God. This can’t be good for self-image (I can tell you from experience it isn’t). No wonder so many fundamentalists seem so grumpy.


15) Clubbing

Here I refer to what used to be called discotheques, not the thing nasty people do to baby seals.

Nightclubs were places of sin and debauchery where people got drunk, consumed illegal substances, and danced in an unseemly fashion before going home and fornicating.

Happily, the fundamentalists were mostly right about this.

16) Staying in bed on Sundays

Staying in bed in general was underrated, to be fair, but I especially appreciate life now that Sunday is no longer the worst day of the week.

Lie in

Photo credit: Richard Riley

17) Violent video games

Street Fighter II

18) Not tithing

Christians! Feeling poor? Have you considered not tithing? It’s like becoming 10% richer for no effort! And you could use the money you save to do something Christian, like, I don’t know, helping the fucking poor.

19) Dirty jokes

(This one will probably offend you. You were warned.)

20) Swearing

My teachers made a major category error here: Swearing is fucking excellent.

21) Yoga

This was evil because

a) something about Eastern Religion
c) when all else fails, always fear what you don’t understand


A satan worshipper, yesterday. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In America last year, conservatives opposed the introduction of Yoga programmes in schools. The district got around this by renaming the lotus position as the “crisscross applesauce”.

22) Sex outside of marriage

My fundamentalist school teachers, Sunday School teachers, and miscellaneous preachers:


Because of you, now when I have sex, it always seems

Really, Really Naughty.

Elephant sex

Also sinful in my previous life: Laughing at amusing photos of animals having sex.

Bonus: Dungeons & Dragons

I’ve never played D&D, so I can’t comment on whether it’s awesome. It was, however, definitely a sin – one that could result in demon possession. You wouldn’t have mocked the school nerds so hard if you’d known they were channelling the power of Satan himself now, would ya?

Related posts:

About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on July 22, 2013, in Atheism, Christianity, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 114 Comments.

  1. haha my parents were the same with harry potter. feminism, short skirts and wanking

    • Luke 3:8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.
      Phil 3:12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

    • Atheist spells Eatshit.

  2. I can confirm that D&D is awesome. As is the RPG game Call of Cthulhu, where you inhabit a Lovecraftian 1920s, and where your characters can be possessed by demons and other creatures of indescribable horror. Definitely one for the fundamentalist blacklist.

    • CoC is totally awesome. There have been attempts to create Christian RPGs and other games and they are all lame.

  3. as an ex-muslim I can add eating bacon to that list.

  4. More entries that could have made the list (please add any you can think of!)

    Evolutionary biology (suggested on twitter by Shane McKee)
    Science fiction (again from Shane)
    Reproductive choice for women

  5. I’d add playing cards. Divilment and witchcraft on every face. Got walloped more than once for being caught playing with them.

    • Ah yes, loads of Christians were against that. My mum came from such a card-playing family that we were never put off. Even gambling was permitted (for tiny amounts of money), which to most conservatives was anathema.

      • My grandparents disapproved of Tombola at the church fate, or raffle tickets as that was gambling. Alcohol was strictly forbidden, although strangely they kept a bottle of brandy in the cupboard “for shock”. Not quite sure what sort of shock they had in mind – possibly of realising their grandchildren were atheists?

  6. This has to be one of my favourite posts, thanks Jonny!
    My weird sinful thing was listening to any kind of secular music. I don’t quite know how I got there. I remember secretly recording “Men in Black” by Will Smith and listening to it on headphones when no one was around.
    Also, when I was 14 I started going a bit goth/emo ish. I remember the horror on some of my friends faces when I wore a spiky collar to a church social (I think they were worried I was possessed). It didn’t last long (possibly a good thing anyway!).

    • I remember your interest in goth culture, and I remember giving you a hard time about. It’s one of the things from my past I’m most ashamed of.

      I had the thing about secular music too. It was weird, because I remember knowing other Christians that weren’t as rigid about it, so I don’t know why I clung to it so hard for so long.

  7. You get a gasquillion extra points for featuring both David Mitchell and Russell Howard in the same clip 🙂

    A few from my own, actual, personal experience:

    The Muppet Movie 1979. Apparently at the beginning of the movie someone says “I’m lost!” and Kermit replies “Have you tried Hare Krishna?” As a ten year old, mesmerised by the big-screen sized talking frog, I didn’t notice that bit of dialogue – but our church pastor did.

    The Nolan Sisters. Lyrics to their songs included stumble-inducing words like “dance”! And “love”! Needless to say, I was not allowed to tape my friends LP 😦

    The word “bum”. One of the novels in our A.C.E. library was an American story that referred to a little boy’s “bum leg”. Our teacher whited out the offending word and replaced it in her own handwriting with “bad”.

    Science. I was taught at my A.C.E. school that the second law of thermodynamics PROVES that evolution is scientifically IMPOSSIBLE! And that therefore, God obviously MUST have created everything.

    Thanks for the memories! 🙂

    • Leanne! It’s great to hear from another ex-ACE student. Would you consider writing something about your ACE experience for the blog?

      • Hi jonny 🙂 Sure, I’d be happy to give it a try. I’ve probably blocked a lot of it out but it’s been more than 30 years now, so I’m finally getting to the stage of being able to laugh about it! 🙂 I’ll see what I can come up with.

    • A.C.E schools are lame. I finished 11th & 12th grade of ACE in one school year, graduated Valedictorian, went to college, and fell flat on my face. New Bethany did not have a teacher for Algebra II.

      I wish someone had taught us about sex, that our bodies were our own, and that adults who touched our bodies in a sexual way should be reported to the police. Instead, I was trained to obey my elders without question.

      At 13 or 14 years of age, I entered my first movie theatre and was overwhelmed with the lights, huge movie screen, and feeling a bit naughty for watching Disney’s Snowmobile Express, I fell in love with sin.

  8. My church was against Star Wars, TV soap operas (due to the immorality), women wearing make-up or cutting their hair, singing Cwm Rhondda (Bread of Heaven) too enthusiastically (we were a Welsh chapel, and Cwm Rhondda was the Welsh Rugby theme song), the ‘Good News Bible’ or other more comprehensible translations of the Bible and newspaper horoscopes were tantamount to Satanism. In fact, Spiritualist or Catholic Churches actually emanated so much evil that it could adversely affect a Christian’s faith if they walked too closely to them. One chapel even thought the Quakers were dangerous!

    They believed wholeheartedly in Satanism, so much so that when I saw a man (presumably a farmer), walking along the street with a cockerel in a cage, I didn’t think “Oh, he’s just bought himself a boy chicken to make some baby chickens” I thought “He’s obviously a Satanist on his way to a Black Mass”.

    And when I encountered a woman with a strange face (wearing what I now know to be a facial prosthesis, after presumably having some horrible surgery or accident), my initial assumption was that she was evil and that I was the only one who could see her ‘true’ face! (I can’t believe I was such an idiot fantasist).

    Our church thoroughly disapproved of the Pentacostalists as well. They told a story that one day, a member of our church (a friend of a friend…) was walking past a Pentacostalist church when he heard someone ‘praying in tongues’ (gibberish prayers that are supposed to be some spiritual language). But, to his horror, the man knew Mandarin Chinese and so understood the ‘tongues’ to be in that language, cursing god and praising the devil. So even though they thought they were Christians, Catholics, Pentacostalists, Anglicans (Episcopalians), Quakers and Baptist churches which weren’t in their set but members of the Baptist Union of Great Britain were in fact charlatan churches, teaching ‘another gospel’ which lead people astray.

    We were ‘Gods Remnant’, those of ‘His People’ that Christ died for, the ‘Few’ he had put aside to be saved. All the rest of those so-called Christians were deceived. Even years later, when I was in a slightly more liberal church, I remember being horrified when a Christian friend suggested going to the supermarket after the service. If she’d recommended sacrificing a goat at midnight I couldn’t have been more shocked!

    I’m an atheist now. It’s much more fun.

  9. For me, christmas and birthdays.

    Now when I have sex I can’t “succeed” thanks to the guilt tripping.

  10. Marxism is still pretty awful. It’s based on philosophical ideas that didn’t really survive the times in which Marx worked (Hegelian dialecticism and the “end of history”) in saying that it is inevitable that people will throw off capitalism once given the impetus to do it. The big issue is Marx’ justification of extreme violence against people who don’t want to give up personal property, religion, etc. In a Marxist collective, people cannot have individual rights — they must be taught to see their own needs as insignificant, and to sacrifice themselves to the “greater good”. This only works as long as there is just enough to meet everyone’s needs, but no one gets rich or goes hungry. So far, that’s never worked, and I’d argue it’s against human nature and history to expect it to. The Soviet Union had both problems — a political aristocracy living in luxury, and a starving population with no sense of self-worth. The absolute and predictable result of such a state of affairs is the rise of someone like Stalin — willing to warp the philosophy and political rhetoric to his own ends.

    • “In a Marxist collective, people cannot have individual rights – they must be taught to see their own needs as insignificant and to sacrifice themselves to the ‘greater good'”… that’s Christianity, isn’t it?

      But seriously, what most people think is communism is actually State-run capitalism. Marx believed that communism is the final stage, with socialism as an interim stage, but his theory has never really been tested as no modern society has made it through socialism to communism.

      Marx was overly optimistic about human nature but that doesn’t demonstrate that Marxism is “awful” – it demonstrates that people are awful.

      There will always be people who are willing to warp any philosophy to their own ends. You’ve focused on Stalin (who was a totalitarian dictator and far from a communist) but, at the risk of triggering Godwin’s law, Hitler was very much opposed to communism and Leftist political dissidents were among the first to be sent to concentration camps. In Mein Kampf, Hitler sets out his view that “the problem of how the future of the German nation can be secured is the problem of how Marxism can be exterminated”.

      So there’s no necessary correlation between Marxist beliefs and and “extreme violence”, any more than there is a necessary correlation between capitalism and extreme violence. The common denominator is people.

      • > No necessary correlation

        If you assume that people will act altruistically, then maybe not. Marx was clear, though: Dissent must be brutally and publicly suppressed. Dissenters must be made examples of. The only way to avoid brutality in a Marxist state is if no one dissents. That’ isn’t likely, in my opinion.

        I was careful about what I said about Stalin, and I referenced him for a particular reason. Stalin is not the reason Marxism (and the Lenin-architected state) failed. Stalin is the *RESULT* of the failure. Marxism makes a Stalin inevitable. Marx, Lenin et.al. thought they were doing the mature grown-up thing by embracing the need for violence to make their utopia work — however,Lenin was unprepared for an unprincipled thug like Stalin, who had no compunction against using Marxist rhetoric and utopian language to cement the power of his totalitarian state.

        Any “Marx 2.0” would have to learn from history and somehow (?) prevent such a person from rising to power in the first place. As it is, I can’t see how the Marxist “interim socialism” can lead to anything but totalitarianism, no matter how well-intentioned Lenin 2.0 might be.

  11. Damn, as an American who is a former Evangelical, Zionist, Pentecostal turned Southern Baptist turned atheist I can add a few things to the list that were considered absolutely EVIL (I know some have mentioned already.):

    1.Being anti-American in anyway, shape or form (especially being derogatory about the founding fathers who were all supposedly really, really good Christian men)
    2.Being anti-war
    3.Drinking any alcoholic beverage, ever. Thank you Assemblies of God and Southern Baptists everywhere for being such prudes.
    4.Wearing clothing that showed shoulders.
    5.Women wearing anything other than skirts or dresses. Down to or even covering the knees. Thanks CFNI for two and half years full of shit!
    6.Buying lottery tickets
    7.Watching any movie that had a higher rating than PG. I was once apart of a ministry that only allowed G movies!
    8.Swimming with the opposite sex. I knew a student from Jimmy Swaggert’s school where they did not allow this!
    9.Any kind of playing cards.
    10.No birth control. I was an executive director at a Christian pregnancy center, and the board and other employees would educate married people on Natural Family Planning!
    11.Voting for anyone who wasn’t a Republican
    12.Believing in any system outside of capitalism
    13.Walking on grass. Again, honorable mention to CFNI (Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas.)
    14.Sex outside of marriage, including masturbation was evil, but I knew a guy who attempted to rape another woman get kicked out of Bible School for a year then was accepted back to complete his last semester and graduate.
    15.Any music that wasn’t “tasteful” Christian music….whatever that is
    16.Any woman asking any questions about leadership, Church doctrine, and the Bible
    17.Anyone who was a Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah Witness, Unitarian, Mormon (of course, due to money and politics, that one changed),Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Satanist, Wiccan, New Ager, and Hare Krishnas

    • Oh and,
      18. No befriending, dating or marrying anyone outside of your faith.

      • Good work Charity. Surviving that is impressive – remembering it all isn’t bad either.

      • Charity, I think you and I attended the same church. Failing to attend church camp was of the devil as well, because there was nothing so important as the yearly indoctrination. I, and my three really cool tattoos, are glad to be out of the church for many reasons–most of which are covered in this blog.

  12. Congrats on getting out, I was raised in a similar manner myself, thankfully I ran far and fast as soon as I could. BTW D&D is awesome, most role-playing games are if you have a fun group of people and a good imagination. Tabletop games like Munchkins is also epic, you should try it.

    • Nice to make your acquaintance, darkbookworm. If I ever find myself hanging out with some keen roleplayers, I might give D&D a shot. Thanks for reading the blog.

      • You’re welcome, it was fun to read, I enjoy humor that pokes holes in the monotheistic idea we were subjected to. Keep up the good work.

        I highly recommend it, you might be surprised at how much fun you have. Another game that I would suggest is called Zombies!, it is a game where you get to kill zombies, collect health or bullet tokens, navigate a map, and use cards to either help your fellow gamers, or screw them over and win. Playing either way is lots of fun.

      • As previously mentioned, CoC is a great game (as is Munchkins). For those of us from religiously controlled upbringings I have to say Paranoia and Puppet Land and two really intense (in a good way) games. In the latter Punch sends his nutcrackers to kill any puppets who aren’t happy all of the time, and to quite wikipedia on the former:
        “The Computer serves as the game’s principal antagonist, and fears a number of threats to its ‘perfect’ society, such as The Outdoors, mutants, and secret societies (especially Communists). To deal with these threats, The Computer employs Troubleshooters, whose job is to go out, find trouble, and shoot it. Player characters are usually Troubleshooters, although later game supplements have allowed the players to take on other roles. The player characters frequently receive mission instructions from the Computer that are incomprehensible, self-contradictory, or obviously fatal if adhered to, and side-missions which conflict the main mission. They are issued equipment that is uniformly dangerous, faulty or “experimental” (i.e. almost certainly dangerous and faulty). Additionally, each player character is generally an unregistered mutant and a secret society member, and has a hidden agenda separate from the group’s goals, often involving stealing from or killing teammates. Thus, missions often turn into a comedy of errors, as everyone on the team seeks to double-cross everyone else while keeping their own secrets. The game’s manual encourages suspicion between players, offering several tips on how to make the gameplay as paranoid as possible.”

        PS Alcohol is also pretty great, often in combination with other fobidden pleasures including but not limited to fornication, playing violent video games and listening to metal 😉

  13. You forgot Anal sex!

  14. I think this is a super funny time capsule of my life and my thoughts!! Thanks so much for the awesome blog article tonight. I thought I was going to start rolling on the floor. Brigitte Grisanti

  15. Staying in bed on Halloween Sunday to have gay sex outside of marriage, including swearing while using a yoga pose is definitely fun. . . 😉

  16. Love it!! How bout facial piercings?

    • Or facial hair at all!

    • As a Southern Baptist girl, I was told that there are some questions that we shouldn’t even ask, like: “How can Genesis and evolution both be correct? ; What was before God? Would God really damn a good Jew (Catholic, Mormon, etc) to Hell when they were brought up in the religion since birth and did more good works than the average Baptist that I knew?

      Blasphemy was an unforgivable sin. Dancing was a sin. Smoking too, but there was a group of church men who took a break outside between Sunday School and Church to smoke and nobody said anything about that.

      I had an uncle who was a moonshiner and cussed like a fiend (this was in the 60s). He used moonshine money to buy a houseful of new furniture. He was a womanizer. His daughters were wild. They danced and wore short skirts. They rolled up the waistbands after they left the house so they were even shorter. Then he got caught moonshining, paid off a judge, stopped making moonshine and got religion. Suddenly the whole family reformed into Pentecostals (took several years). I always theorized that you got religion to the same degree that you felt you had sinned–Bad sins=Pentecostal, Medium=Baptist, Trivial=Methodist or Unitarian.

  17. Feminism isn’t evil. But it also isn’t the “radical notion that women are people” either. Times have changed since bell hooks was relevant. We’re in the era of Rebecca Watson now. So, feminism is about demonizing men, ridiculing skepticism, censoring opposition, and enforcing a conservative social code.

    To my knowledge, no group is working for gender equality across the gender spectrum, but such a concept is known as egalitarianism (for lack of a more precise term). It’s not just the notion that women (and men and others) are people, but should be treated as equals. If something is bad to do, then it’s bad to do, period. Gender doesn’t come into it. If you’re making a policy, and you are using the words “man”, “woman”, “boy”, “girl”, “male”, or “female”, for anything other than providing an example, then you’re probably doing it wrong.

    • Any feminist who demonises men or censors opposition is doing it wrong. But such people are rare. You are attacking a straw, er, person.

      Rebecca Watson sometimes has a way of putting things which doesn’t win her friends, but your characterisation of her views is horribly misleading.

      Feminism is about equality, and there’s no need to make this a binary distinction. One can be a feminist and an “equalist”. Sure, there are aspects of society where men are disadvantaged, but:

      1) Most of these are caused by the same patriarchal structures that feminism opposes,
      2) If you think they are on a par with the sexism women face, you must be wilfully ignorant.

    • Don’t be misled by radicals outside the mainstream idea that feminism means women are people too. There are radicals in every group, every religion. Feminism has become a bad word and I find it quite disturbing. It just means that men and women, boys and girls should have equal status, choices and earning power.

    • Most people that call themselves feminists don’t meet your description of feminism. The kind of feminism you describe is TV Pundit feminism. It’s the crazies of the movement. There are bad apples in every group. Most feminists I see or talk to tend to be egalitarian in their feminism.

      The reason some still wish to call it feminism, is because it is a response to the societal misogyny that has existed for so long. When you see it as a ‘reactive’ movement, it is egalitarian to be a feminist.

      Right-wingers and misogynists have poisoned the term feminism to make it stand for the ‘aggressive’ few that say and do anti-men things. But they do not represent the larger group we call ‘feminists’.

      ‘Atheism’ is a reactive word. Because belief is so prevalent, we need a term for ourselves. When, in reality, we just are humans. We are just on the default setting of no-belief. But we need a ‘reactive’ term to describe ourselves.

  18. In Christian nations, women always were though of as people. Ever heard of “women and children first”? Pretty hard to argue that women were not considered “people” when the individuals supposedly considered “people” (i.e., men) were expected to die in place of the supposed non-people (i.e., women).

    If it was the other way around, feminism would have a hey-day. Hmm…right to vote or expectation to die for the other gender?

    • You are being relentlessly literal about that quote. Do you read the Bible the same way?

      Yes, most Christian nations have successfully categorised women as humans, but they have consistently failed to take the logical next step of making them equal.

      Even the example you give is based on sexist assumptions that women are delicate and fragile and in need of male protection. Old-fashioned notions of chivalry still make women out to be these precious creatures that are either wonderful things to be put on a pedestal (when they act like ‘ladies’), or contemptible (when they act like ‘sluts’).

      Now, you may think that Jesus would have treated women as equals, and you may think that’s the proper Christian thing to do (although from what you’ve said so far, I’d be surprised). But you can’t deny that the New Testament has some wildly sexist notions in it.

    • To quote a line from Out of Africa: “Women and children? Is that one category or two?”

  19. I think nothing beats the belief that baby goes to hell if not baptized and dies at birth.

  20. wow… i don’t understand the republican thing and capitalism for the U.S. part of fundamentalists…

    • Hi, I can tell you as a former conservative Republican that that particular political party prides itself in morality: pro-life, anti-homosexual, prayer in public schools, and pro abstinence based sex education. Therefore, this way of thinking was often seen in my former religious world as being upright, godly, and holy. Oddly enough, there is a great divide in the most devout Christians concerning these issues, Blacks tend to be Democrats, whereas their White counterparts are Republicans in the U. S. However, we have begun to see a shift, more Bible believing Blacks are voting more conservatively due to their rejection of gay marriage.

      Many Christians see capitalism as the right way to live because it is believed that people get where they’re at by means of hard work. This way of thinking stems from Biblical scripture as well as from English U.S. settler, John Smith. Many of us know that sometimes the rudest, and most manipulative people steal, kill, and lie to obtain success in money and/or position and power. (Uh hum, Prescott, George, George W, and Jeb Bush)

      • Hi Charity! Thanks for your answer, it is very helpful. I have to say though it doesn’t seem that logical (at least to me). It is not that clear if Christians really understand what capitalism is.

    • I think that’s mainly due to the abortion debate. The Republicans need this huge bloc of votes from the Christian community, so they buy the whole package. And that capitalism thing has a lot to do with not being communistic or socialistic. Back in the first half of the 20th century, communism/socialism = atheism. I think that’s the source of it.

      • Oh I see, but for socialism religion is completely up to each person, it isn’t atheistic… Thanks for the answer Gracie, it’s a little hard for non-US people to really understand in depth these matters.

  21. We are kindred spirits, my friend. On sex, my favorite line from Woody Allen is, “Of course sex is dirty. If you do it right!”

  22. I came from an A.C.E. school and the nonsense they spouted before still makes me laugh after I read this. I recently read a similar list which includes backmasking, macarena, the ketchup song and all those other demonic foreign songs with demonic dance choreographies. Also Diablo, Magic the gathering. Ahh, childhood memories.

  23. The list, sadly could be endless. I not only grew up with these , but as a former pastor also taught many of them myself. The weirdest ones to me looking back are the restrictions on being environmentally concerned, because doing so was worshiping the creation and not the creator. I also had friends who would not eat at Chinese food restaurants, because they often had “graven images of the Buddha in their establishments.

  24. Wow. You described my upbringing almost exactly – you hit all the ‘big ones’. I would also add: no music that isn’t Christian, alcohol in any form, skirts must cover the knees when you sit, jeans are evil, and so is any form of logic and argument (it’s disrespectful to set up your elders and watch them fall, particularly the minister, mwahaha!).

    You go!

  25. I don’t agree with you on violent video games – I think they are bad. But most of these made me laugh. I found this skirt I really liked yesterday, but didn’t buy it just because it’s long, and I want to wear short dresses and skirts for a change.

  26. As a child/teen (50s 60s 70s) I went to church every Sunday. At 16 I and a few friends discovered the pleasures of pot. At 17 we found the adventures of LSD exciting. At 18 I was baptised. As long as I lived with my parents I kept my copy of Tim Leary’s The Politics of Ecstasy well hidden. At numerous youth retreats, no one ever knew that a few of us were on an entirely different “trip” than the other retreaters. To this day I still enjoy the herb and do not divulge this info to most of my Christian friends and acquaintances since I am not the kind of person that takes any pleasure in intentionally disturbing other peoples sensitivities unless of course I am provoked to take a defensive/proactive position concerning my views on things such as support of gay relationships and pot use etc.

    • I always enjoy teenagers’ stories of secret drug use. I had a friend who used a Bible to press a cannabis leaf. His parents weren’t too happy when their friends came round, opened the Bible, and found the print.

  27. Many of what you listed in your original post and what people have added were sins in my church. Here’s one sin I always found interesting: Christian music. I know that one could make a case for secular music, however, in my church secular music was okay, but Christian music wasn’t. Our church sings A Capella only, so they believed that using God’s name associated with music…even if you were in the act of worshipping God with that music…that was a sin. However, it was okay to listen to music as long as it didn’t happen to mention God or Jesus or anything.

    But, like you, I have also discovered that many things that I once was taught to be sinful is actually awesome and makes my life the happier, more balanced, and more spiritual for it.

  28. I loved this post! Happy to say that now I am a feminist who isn’t afraid of wearing short skirts, swearing, and sex. And exactly what you said with it being my body. Awesome.

    • Hi, Debbie. I left religion a little too late I’m afraid. If I were an atheist in my twenties I probably would have gone hog wild and been the biggest slut ever. Well, after all of that overbearing religion I could see it happening. At least my husband and I are doing pretty well in that department. I’m too old and heavy for short skirts, but I do love to fucking swear like all of the fucking time if you know what the fuck I mean. 🙂

  29. I just found your blog and I’m loving it so far. It’s enlightening and amusing and frankly, terrifying. It’s terrible to hear of yet more religious organizations trapping people in ignorance and fear. I’m glad you managed to leave your church and are happily living in sin! x) And it’s great that you’ve provided a place for others who have been in your situation to come and realize they’re not alone, and share.

    I myself was heavily involved with ISKCON(International Society for Krishna Consciousness) when I was younger. While my list isn’t as long, it matches yours in ridiculousness. Eating meat or eggs, alcohol, gambling(including just playing cards), secular music, contraceptives/recreational sex/reproductive rights for women, homosexuality, and maintaining relationships with “outsiders” were sinful, among other things. Strict rules, separation from people outside the fold, total subordination to authority figures, willful ignorance, sexism- all the works of a fundamentalist cult. I don’t know how I didn’t realize this sooner.

    One of the more ridiculous things I remember is the taboo of eating “rajasic” foods. Foods with a rajasic, or irritating nature, were said to cloud the mind and make one more prone to anger, as well as overstimulate the body and make one susceptible to temptations and passions. So devotees couldn’t eat anything made with garlic, onions, shallots, mushrooms, watermelon or other specific fruits, vegetables or spices for fear it would make them dull-minded, irritable and lustful. Things were pretty bland as a result.

    • Thank you so much, Erika. ISKCON sounds scarily strict. I feel lucky that at least I’ve never had to deal with any rules about food (one look at American evangelicals will confirm that they don’t restrict their diets).

      • It’s America- on a scale of 1 to 10 we take food and religion to 18.

        ISKCON was lunacy. The ‘schools’ were similar to ACE’s as well in that they taught everything on a religious bent. Some are still like this in small communes, teaching little more than English and Sanskrit, basic math and studying scripture/learning to chant/learning to meditate and working on the grounds. At the least I can say ISKCON is evolving- abusive communities and leaders are being outed and excommunicated, outside counseling is opening up for devotees who experienced trauma within the organization, schools are evolving and have a more standard curriculum… still a long way to go, but baby steps are better than nothing.

  30. Oh yes, I’m also a former ACE student! I really forgot all about them until this, and looking up pictures on Google amazed me that I recognized the ones you were talking about! I was luckily only subjected to that ‘education’ for my 8th grade year. There isn’t too much that stands out to me about the material. One science PACE said that sediment layer patterns in different parts of the world were proof for the flood. It even had a story about how some guy found the ark in a glacier, and he’s have proof just as soon as he was able to dig it out! Although, that could have been supplemental material as well. Of course every book had bible verses you were required to memorize for a ‘grade’. I want to say that even the math books had verses in them, but I don’t quite remember. I remember much more from the school itself and the people that ran it than the material itself.

  31. Being a God parent for my nephew. Being that I was taking part in his infant baptism, meant that I would be ‘partaking in a pagen ceremony’ according to my singles leader at the ‘adults only baptims’ church I attended. Seeing as the whole thing would take place 2.5 hours from the nearest church franchise I was a part of, I did it anyways and didn’t tell anybody. Glad I did

  32. Modern day feminism is a liberal scheme to pit white men and women against each other and has nothing to do with women’s rights. Consider that women in white countries are treated better than in most parts of the world and there are places where women don’t even have basic rights, yet feminism doesn’t exist anywhere else. Kinda strange huh?

  33. Yoga is stupid, though. And I personally would not want some idiot with ten weeks of “yoga instructor” training who thinks that chakras are real and she can cure cancer with stretching in my child’s school. School is not the place for pseudoscience and all the related BS that comes with it. Might as well teach creationism the period after that.

  34. Hmmmm, just one question to ponder. What if you’re wrong and the creator of the universe is right? After all, have any of us ever created anything living? I know, I know… it’s these peoples interpretation of the word you’re actually questioning. Guess you should 1) be a believer to begin with, and 2) actually have read the word before you can offer a flesh inspired opinion. Then perhaps you could start rightly dividing the word of God (as many of those you poked at probably should do also). Just an opinion, not unlike yours and OH so many others.

  35. To the ex-Muslim – aren’t you so glad you’re eating bacon now!? Simply the best.

  36. Times like these I am so glad I was brought up Mormon and not fundie Xtian. You all had it bad! I’d add to the list playing cards. A lot of Mo’s think those are bad. Exmo’s can also add: coffee, tea, caffeinated beverages, R rated movies, sleeveless or strapless, or even spaghetti strapped tops and dresses, shorts above the knee, French kissing (I even heard from one leader this included Married people) oral sex (or anything not missionary), and the dreaded going without your garments.

  37. Great blog!! After reading this, I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have been brought up in a non-religious family. All we needed to know was “treat others as you would have them treat you.”

    I’m so happy for all of you!!! Congrats on breaking out of that nonsense!

  38. thanks for the good read and laugh

  39. Thanks Jonny.

    I laughed so hard at the “swearing” sample. That’s so rich!

    I’m still a bit envious of people who never give a second thought to any “sin”, nor, thankfully, do they feel any bossy voice booming away when they’re enjoying being alive. They live simply by their own set of morals, which I’ve been most pleased to find easily exceed the flimsy morals of those persons that trumpet “sin” from the pulpit and pew. It’s all mostly fear tactics and control mechanisms that you’ve listed above. Obviously too, sheer ignorance, and terrible repression of who we are has human beings.

    Those of us who identify keenly with your list do unpack a bag full of problems (****fuck’n shit****) when we recognize how ludicrous the claims of the control freaks actually were. They were ludicrous for always. Some of us believed these fear tactics . . . for a while.

    Self-deception involves a massive amount of careful cover up. Is it any wonder that such claims (“This and That is SIN”) are made by self-deceiving individuals?

    I used to be caught in the same web of lies. It’s wonderful to be free! I mean simply that I now have a sense of honesty that far surpasses the “honesty” of my self-delusional dogmas of 8 short years ago.

    Free. This statement hopefully will elucidate the cognitive dissonance and the bewitching power of the old dogmas that we used to be entrapped by. It’s wonderful to breath again. It’s hard to describe adequately what it’s like to experience true freedom of thought and existence.

    Jonny your one of my heroes. I appreciate the courage this site exemplifies in speak your truth. Don’t ever allow yourself to be shut up.

    I love reading the comments and deeply respect each one who is searching for a way out of the web of deception that ensnared us as free-thinking individuals into the clutches of it’s fear and ignorance. We are strong and courageous, above all else, I think, honest.

  40. Firstly: Marxism seemed reasonable at the time, but it makes fundamental misassumptions about human nature, game theory, psychology, and technological advancement. It’s kind of “Anti-Progress” at a root level.

    Anyway: When I went to ACE in the late ’70s/early ’80s, every single school was Baptist. Baptists were officially discouraged from going to movies at all. Of course many did, and they were allowed to watch movies when they came on TV (Presumably as they’d been censored for broadcast) but movies in theaters were bad. This stance has been relaxed *A LOT* since then, and most Baptist churches no longer feel film is inherently sinful.

    “Rock is of The Devil” is I think really just fogeyism masquerading as religion. Every generation looks down on what the next generation does. I know punk rockers from my own adolescence who are now “worried about the hippity-hop music the kids are listening to.” As though the Dead Kennedies were somehow wholesome. (Incidentally: KD’s “At My Job” – Best. Song. Ever!) I just finished reading a 1985 book by an evangelist who has a section on Rock who is just hilariously wrong about everything. He was about 60 when he wrote it, and I have to think he was simply out of touch and clueless. Nowadays, “Christian Rock” is now acceptable, and every single Protestant church seems to have a Praise Band, playing way the hell too loud. Seriously: I have to wear earplugs at church. It’s irritating.

    That said: it’s not hard to argue that much popular music is at odds with Biblical morality.

    Thirdly, the whole “Sleeping in on Sunday” thing – I honestly never did this until I went to a Bible College. I would never have thought of it. But I slept in, and most of the students did, too, at least much of the time. After a week of Bible stuff, we were frankly a little burned out. Also, if you’re studying Christianity in-depth the Sunday Morning entry-level evangelism seems a little tedious. We refered to sleeping in as “Worshiping at Saint Matress.”

    As to the whole “Babies going to hell” thing, not all denominations believe that. I was raised “Churches of Christ,” and we reject the concept of “Original Sin.” We believe sin is something you choose to do, and if you’re too young to understand your actions, then you’re not responsible for ’em. Our take on “The Fall” was simply that the OPTION of sin didn’t exist prior to Eve eating the apple, but we don’t believe we’re all born sinful, we simply choose to become that way over time. “Churches of Christ” are actually a pretty conservative denomination, too. Nothing new-agey about ’em.

    Sadly, there are no longer any CoC churches in my area.

  41. Oh, PS: Our area used to have a “Christian Magician” who came around a couple times a year. He’d do tricks and specifically point out that they were tricks, not real magic. He pointed out how easily people could be fooled, and that you can’t always believe your eyes. I can’t remember his name now – it was 35 years ago – but I wanna’ say he was one of the Zondervan Christian Publishing family. I myself studied prestidigitation for a bit, ’till it turned out that I was really, really bad at it. I was probably 18 or so before I ever heard anyone say “Magic is a real thing.”

  42. Your comment about sex reminded me of a quote from John Waters. “Thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.”
    But seriously, thank you for your amazing blog! My friends often disbelieve my tales of the insane Christian school I attended. Now I have somewhere to send them.

  43. There is a huge difference having a relationship with God, having Jesus Christ as your savior, and just following the rules. Of course your going to hate that stuff and go to the same ideas of the world if you never have your own relationship or see people with their own relationships with God. More than likely though, most of the people in your church were trying to follow God, and keep their relationship with Him right. I really don’t see how you blame them and make fun of them for trying to help you do the same. It would be you who didn’t choose God, that’s not their fault. Yet you make fun of then for trying to help you do so?

  44. Wow, I accidently came across your blog looking for some homeschool info. You really must have had a bad religious experience growing up. I thought I had a bad experience. I grew up in a rather legalistic home. However, now that I’m older I realize that the way I grew up and the people I was around did not necessarily represent Christ or the Bible. Even Jesus was opposed to the Pharisees and how they treated people and how they were religious without a true relationship with God. They followed all of their man made rules, but lacked love. I must admit the way I live my life now is different then when growing up. My relationship with Christ does not constitute follow a set of rules because if I don’t I will “go to hell”, rather it’s a personal friendship that has grown as I learned through the years what a personal relationship with Jesus is and how that differs from how I was brought up. It’s sad that parents don’t realize that when they live these crazy legalistic lives they actually push their children away from God, the opposite of what they were aiming for. I hardly think swinging to the other side of the pendulum is the answer. You’ll still be searching whether you admit it openly or not. You’ll not find peace in living a life completely opposite to your past trying to prove to yourself that your “free”. Throwing the baby out with the bath water is not the answer. By the way, it’s easy to read post where you have everyone agreeing with you, and most likely because they experienced some of the same things. Think about it…I’m just sayin’. God Bless!

  45. Some of these things that you were taught as ‘wrong’ are like ‘what in the world’ Power Rangers? seriously? It is a very stupid show, but it is not evil. I have heard about the yoga thing. There are a few people in my church who have that view. Yoga originated from Hindu worship poses. Because of that, some Christians believe that Yoga is sinful. (I am not bashing them for that) OK, a deck of cards is often used in gambling. Does that make it sinful to play even go-fish with them? Does the fact that Yoga is used by Hindus as worship poses for their many gods make Yoga wicked? No. It really depends upon how you use it. If you use Yoga as a Hindu would, then yes, it is wrong. But if you use it to get in shape, then it is not sinful. Yoga makes a great workout routine. It improves on your balance and stability. I have never heard of the Martial Arts one though. I have been in it for 6, going on 7 years. ‘Must be through demonic power’ lol. That one is new. As far as I am concerned, with a few years of hard practice and good form, one can break bricks and even kill a person with one, perfectly executed puch straight to the chest. (but that takes many years) We have never engaged in demon worship in the martial arts school. But as for the issue of gay marriage though, it is wrong. It is not the gay people themselves that we are against, but their lifestyle.

  46. This list sounds just like my life. It’s fun getting to go through and re-classify everything as OK! instead of OMG I’M A TERRIBLE PERSON. I’m still pretty bad at that.

  47. Hi Jonny,

    As a still-believing Christian your post made me really sad. I feel sorry that your experience of Christianity was a myriad of rules and suppression. I chose to “follow” Jesus because I believe that God made me, loves me, has a purpose for me, and knows what is best for me.

    And honestly, I have grown to LOVE the way God directs me. When I’m tired and grumpy, I ask God to help me be kind. When I’m self-focused, I ask God to help me think of others. And the benefit to this is beautiful… I have an incredible relationship with my husband – he’s fantastic, and it’s amazing because even when it’s tough, we know we’re committed and we want to love each other. We have really meaningful friendships. Recently, we’ve started fostering some kids because we wanted to literally follow God’s instruction to help those who need it most (and we wanted to do this with our time and energy, not just our money). And fostering – even in it’s early stages – has been tough, but it’s been rewarding too.

    I’m not saying that any of these things only comes to Christians, not at all. I’m just trying to express that my experience has been very different to yours… having believed the claims of the Bible to be true, I actually find a very deep and lasting joy in following God.

  48. Reading these comments… so sad to see so many completely turn away from teachings of Jesus because of being falsely taught religion. “Religion” was alive and well in Jesus day and it was the “religious crowd” that he most emphatically opposed. What many of you were brought up in was the equivalent of the teaching of the pharisees in Jesus day. The idea was that your worth in God’s sight was based on how well you could behave. Of course that’s wrong, but just because you were misinformed about the Bible doesn’t mean its not true. I can see that many of you are angry about what religion has done to so many people, and, ironically, Jesus, who you have decided to reject, was even angrier about it than you are. He was so angry that, as you know, He actually gave His life to shatter religion.

    I hope you know that God does love you, no matter what you do, or how many times you decide to reject Him again. He will never stop calling your name. He created you specifically for this time and place, and, amazingly, has given you complete freedom to choose what you will do with your life. Good or evil, slavery or freedom, selfless or selfish… its completely up to you. If you’re really brave, you might just try once again to read the love story He wrote for you without bias either way. You might try asking Him to speak to you, somehow, if He really does exist.

  49. Loreal Alford

    Wow! No wonder you and all these people hate church, religion and anything associated with it! You have been a load of junk. Most of the things on ur list me and many others sincere Christians do. No, I dont have sex, dont drink (alor of Christians would agree drinking isnt a sin…), and while I lOVE gay people (and dont think their bad people) I dont beleive its Gods will (doesnt mean he hates them) Its important to “rightly divide” the word. Or else you beleive the craziest things and never enjoy life, like Jesus wants us to do.

  50. I got to this website looking up the contents of A.C.E. (which I am only partially aware of). I was actually looking it up as a possible option for homeschooling our children. (I am a fundamentalist. Seriously 🙂 )

    Two things- firstly, this list (and those in the comments) are really fascinating to me. I’ve probably never been on a atheist blog before. I am wide-eyed and amazed. So many things I do or believe that I really thought were ‘normal’ people things. But actually they are ‘fundamentalist’ things apparently. Interesting. I laughed at a lot of them. (I didn’t watch the videos. Too much of a prude.) (I did laugh at the elephant photo. Never thought that was a sin though 🙂 )

    Also, thanks for all the A.C.E. posts. (I read them) I most certainly won’t be looking down that path for my kids! From other samples I could find online, they just seem pretty academically backward. (Is that the case?)

    • Thanks for commenting Lauren. You seem more open-minded than many fundamentalists I know; maybe you’ll like this post too: leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/even-this-creationist-cant-stand-accelerated-christian-education/

      I certainly think ACE is academically backwards.

  51. Very amusing.

  52. Hi jonny.
    I attended one of your Skelptic in the pub talks and found it a really interesting if not a bit worrying that this sort of thing goes on in the UK in 2014.
    This is a real eye opener for anyone liked me who was brought up in a non religous household.

  53. The only thing laughing at dirty jokes strikes me as is middle-school boy immature. Just saying.

  54. “Holy” shit dude….issues much?

  55. You forgot rock music and boner pills!

  56. Oh! Almost forgot……when I was a young whipper in Catholic school, we were told not to watch Gilligans’s Island, no doubt because in the early episodes, Maryann had the short shorts thing goin’ on. Whew! To this day, I just wanna peel off those shorts, turn her upside down and chow down on her furry little honey biscuit. Mmmmmm-mmmmmm tasty!

  57. What I agree on this article is: girls in bikinis, video games, gambling, movies/TV, and secular music (and I also listen to christian music as well). What I don’t agree with this article is: feminism, communism, any books that involve magic fairy tales, and gay marriage (sorry dudes) anyway I remember when I wanted a play station my said no because a preacher said it was bad and machine of the devil. I now have a PS2, Xbox 360 and a laptop . I listen to linkin park, micheal Jackson, usher, David guetta, Calvin Harris, Enrique iglesias, and other music genres and I’m still going to church and facing my everyday flaws as a human bieng…..btw I can’t stand some christian bloggers saying that yoga, taikwando is pagan..I took taikwando and pretty cool and you feel good. The only reason I’ve stopped going because I got pissed when the instructer spanked me for not stretching right enough. Also I can’t stand how some christians say that christians should’ve part take in worldy sports, celebrate Christmas really???? All I do is just ignore them and live my simple life 🙂

  58. you sir need Jesus. only at the gates of heaven will you be judged. and so far… it looks as if you are not going to pass the test of salvation. God is good. God is great. My life is so much better now that God is in it. I love my life now because I KNOW God is with me forever. He is never failing and he loves you, you just need to find that out.

  59. Everything that you mentioned, violates biblical principles: celebrating days that orginated in horrible paganistic practices, being entertained by real or imaginery demonic activity desentizes one to what God wants us to stay away from, making light of witchcraft, music that glorifies the flesh and brainwashes people into doing what God wants us to keep away from because sin hurts us, viewing things that God doesn’t even want us to think about, immodesty, …

    It seems that you were trained right – although you may have twisted things around abit: it is not the church that is prohibiting one from getting exposed to the wrong things (although they should agree with what the Bible says), but it is God’s Word that commands believers to not get involved in them. Your mocking and profanity do not lessen what the Bible says. It seems you are rebelling against what God said to do, and are hoping you can get others that are doing the same or do not know any better to agree with you. You were made aware of what God says is wrong, so you won’t mess up your life. How’s that going for you?

  60. Interesting page. I must agree to many things stated here. However it is far too one sided in my opinion. It is easy to criticize the hypocrites. But being a believer the way Jesus teaches us in the bible is somewhat different. It is all about love finally – even for the enemies. Big topic. Theory is nothing – it’s about practice. Ever heard of Corrie Ten Boom? The story of this lady is absolutely awesome. She risked her life to protect Jewish people in WW2. She was arrested and brought into a concentration camp. However she survived and served as a missionary around the world, esp. in prisons – always preaching forgiveness. There is a very good movie called “The hiding place” on yutube about all that.

  61. I can relate to a few of these, having attended an ACE school all of middle and high school. I resented every moment spent there. Sadly, that place was nothing more than a plethora of legalism where I learned nothing but hatred for authority. If there was a god, I knew I could never possibly conform to his standard of perfection. It wasn’t until I was removed from that wretched place, that I could see Jesus clearly for who He truly is. He is a God of love and mercy and grace and forgiveness. I am now a follower of Jesus Christ, and He is not at all who ‘they’ depicted Him to be. They spoke of rules, not a relationship.

  62. Reading this blog has been very therapeutic for me. I was listening to “All 80s Radio” this morning and all the happy songs just brought back all the sadness because it reminded me of how secular music could have really brightened my shitty fundamentalist childhood. So I did a search for “religion, not allowed to listen to music” and discovered this blog (everything else that came up was about Islam).

    I’d like to add neon colors to the list. My mom wouldn’t let me have hot pink clothes because it would draw too much attention. I don’t think she liked the alternative either, when I started dressing in head-to-toe black in high school.

    Now at age 37, I’m a socialist, Athiest metal fan and I’m having a freaking ball.

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