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« So the media aren't all bad... | Main | Volaticotherium antiquus »

Oh, well, that's all right then

Category: ReligionWeirdness
Posted on: December 13, 2006 12:37 PM, by PZ Myers

Here's another article on that freaky Left Behind video game. The rationalizations for the ability to kill people violently in the game are fascinating.

Left Behind Games' president, Jeffrey Frichner, says the game actually is pacifist because players lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them. They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

Isn't the most wonderful version of pacifism ever? Go out, butcher a few people, engage in a warlike campaign…and as long as you beg an invisible man's forgiveness afterwards, you can still call yourself a pacifist. With that kind of reasoning, Ted Haggard is a heterosexual, Bill Bennett is a cautious investor, and Ted Nugent is an environmentalist. No wonder Christianity is popular among hypocrites.

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Comments

#1
Go out, butcher a few people, engage in a warlike campaign...and as long as you beg an invisible man's forgiveness afterwards, you can still call yourself a pacifist.
That dodge goes all the way back to the time of Constantine, since of course the essentially pacifist message of Jesus was just a bit awkward for the state church of a heavily militarized empire.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne | December 13, 2006 12:40 PM

#2

This game suffers from mind-blowing hypocrisy. But you knew that.

Posted by: Brian X | December 13, 2006 12:59 PM

#3

Wow, do you also get 72 virgins when you die?

Posted by: jeffk | December 13, 2006 12:59 PM

#4

Who wants virgins? Bring out the whores!

Posted by: Will E. | December 13, 2006 1:02 PM

#5

There's no sex in heaven. What's the point?

Posted by: Steve_C | December 13, 2006 1:15 PM

#6

Genitals are banned from heaven. There's a big basket at the gate.

It's not pretty.

Posted by: JD | December 13, 2006 1:34 PM

#7

There may be no sex in the Christian heaven, but there are 144,000 virgins.

Posted by: QrazyQat | December 13, 2006 1:34 PM

#8

Go out, butcher a few people, engage in a warlike campaign...and as long as you beg an invisible man's forgiveness afterwards, you can still call yourself a pacifist.

Isn't this the same cult that viewed slaughtering infidels as a form of prayer during the Crusades?...

The more things change...

Posted by: Bob | December 13, 2006 1:36 PM

#9

Does smoking meth and having adulterous gay sex with Rev. Haggard raise or lower your spirit points?

Posted by: Ompus | December 13, 2006 1:51 PM

#10
Go out, butcher a few people, engage in a warlike campaign...and as long as you beg an invisible man's forgiveness afterwards, you can still call yourself a pacifist.

This is where the doctrine of salvation by faith. See Ephesians 2:8 and 9.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So, go ahead and mow down those unbelievers - since you are saved by faith alone.

Posted by: Rick @ shrimp and grits | December 13, 2006 1:55 PM

#11

Jeffrey Frichner, says the game actually is pacifist because players lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them. They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

Elsewhere ...

"What we've decided to do is embed our message in a game so that it's not overt but it is in the game," Left Behind Games President Jeffrey Frichner said. "We're not ashamed of it. There are Scriptures in the game and we're faithful to those Scriptures."

Thanks, Jeffrey, for providing additional evidence that your Scriptures are nothing but vile antisocial baloney for ignorant frightened sheeple.

Posted by: Great White Wonder | December 13, 2006 1:58 PM

#12
lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them. They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

This is bloody (literally) revolting. I presume you can't shoot the believers if you're playing the side of "good?"

Hypocrisy indeed. So long as you're "saved," you can be the nastiest son of a dog on the planet and it's not a problem. Sure. Although I shouldn't disparage the son of the dog, I suppose.

To my view, anyway, evil is as evil does. Killing others is deep in the evil scale. Praying afterward merely emphasizes the fact that you knew it was wrong.

Would anybody know how well this game is selling? I can't believe it's a World of Warcraft-class blockbuster. Or at least I dearly hope not or I may just flat give up.

Morph

Posted by: MorpheusPA | December 13, 2006 2:12 PM

#13

The definition of 'pacifist' is one of the clearest examples of double-speak I've ever seen (together with 'free speech zones').

Somewhat related: THE GOOD BOOK BUSINESS - Why publishers love the Bible. Interesting article in the New Yorker.

Posted by: Kristjan Wager | December 13, 2006 2:17 PM

#14

Not sure about the sales figures, but I'm pretty sure that lots of people aren't playing it. There isn't so much as a whiff of an FAQ up on gamefaqs.

http://www.gamefaqs.com/computer/doswin/data/928956.html

There is, on the other hand, much derision.

Posted by: Rick @ shrimp and grits | December 13, 2006 2:23 PM

#15

the game actually is pacifist because players lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them. They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

Yeah. And when little Johnny grows up he'll know that he can gun down people and then attend a faith-based sewing circle in prison and get his little gold stars in heaven! And then be let out to form his own church, where they'll push more video games at other little Johnnys. Hallelujah--pyramid scheme!

Posted by: Kristine | December 13, 2006 2:27 PM

#16

It's the religion in this game that I have a problem with, not the violence. I like violently killing people in video games.

Posted by: Dave Regan | December 13, 2006 2:30 PM

#17

Rick there are no frequently asked questions because a)they don't ask questions and b)when they do, they pray for guidance.

Jesus is their FAQ page.

Posted by: ellenbrenna | December 13, 2006 2:34 PM

#18
It's the religion in this game that I have a problem with, not the violence. I like violently killing people in video games.

Me, too, Dave. I'm killer with a dagger and either a Holy Smite or Wrath spell in WoW.

It's not even the religion per se that bothers me (well, it does, but not enough that I would occasion to comment on it here). It's the fusing of violence and religion to make some sort of fundamentalist point.

Sorry for the italics. I got excited. It's also the fact that the violence is just fine if you pray afterward. You get your little donut and orange juice for being a good little Christian and also get to blow away the opposition.

My WoW characters never pretend to be "good" or "evil" per se. They're performing a quest. My actions with the NPCs have consequences, true, but I don't have to pray my way out of situations.

Now, the way I treat other player characters does have greater consequences because behind those characters are real people with real emotions. I try to treat all of them well. I never shoot them and pray afterward.

No matter how tempting it sometimes is.

Morph

Posted by: MorpheusPA | December 13, 2006 2:37 PM

#19
And then be let out to form his own church, where they'll push more video games at other little Johnnys. Hallelujah--pyramid scheme!

I wonder if it would be possible to get Tipper Gore to go before Congress to ask for a warning label cautioning that these games may contain dangerously explicit religious content.

Posted by: Rick @ shrimp and grits | December 13, 2006 2:38 PM

#20

That New Yorker article is indeed interesting. It also features a true bust-a-gut moment:

The popularization of the Bible entered a new phase in 2003, when Thomas Nelson created the BibleZine. Wayne Hastings described a meeting in which a young editor, who had conducted numerous focus groups and online surveys, presented the idea. "She brought in a variety of teen-girl magazines and threw them out on the table," he recalled. "And then she threw a black bonded-leather Bible on the table and said, 'Which would you rather read if you were sixteen years old?'" The result was "Revolve," a New Testament that looked indistinguishable from a glossy girls' magazine. The 2007 edition features cover lines like "Guys Speak Their Minds" and "Do U Rush to Crush?" Inside, the Gospels are surrounded by quizzes, photos of beaming teen-agers, and sidebars offering Bible-themed beauty secrets:

Have you ever had a white stain appear underneath the arms of your favorite dark blouse? Don't freak out. You can quickly give deodorant spots the boot. Just grab a spare toothbrush, dampen with a little water and liquid soap, and gently scrub until the stain fades away. As you wash away the stain, praise God for cleansing us from all the wrong things we have done. (1 John 1:9)

This may be the most practical advice ever given in a religious publication.

Posted by: Blake Stacey | December 13, 2006 2:43 PM

#21

Although I have to add that I knew at least a few sixteen-year-old girls who would go for anything in "black bonded leather".

Posted by: Blake Stacey | December 13, 2006 2:47 PM

#22

Aw, but Rick, that's not what Matthew 16:27 says. It says "Works":

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

But that might mean the Bible contains contradictions.

Hmmm. That doesn't seem possible, does it?

Posted by: MikeM | December 13, 2006 2:54 PM

#23

Whose ted nugget, and what does he do against the environment?

Posted by: Andrew Briscoe | December 13, 2006 3:10 PM

#24

From GameSpot, they are planning to do an expansion pack and a sequel. Ugh!

Posted by: Corey Schlueter | December 13, 2006 3:18 PM

#25

hmm, why do i find the name of their company,

Left Behind Games

to be prophetic?

that aside, and I'm sure somehow it will end up being subsidized as "outreach" and so qualify under Bush's wonderful funding program, this is no different than all the websites that try to entice kids with flashy animations and group hug type messages.

sick?

yes.

unexpected?

nope.

Posted by: Ichthyic | December 13, 2006 3:21 PM

#26

ellenbrenna:
Jesus is their FAQ page.

I think you may be seriously underestimating the number of people who turn to Jesus for their video game help. It's not just those playing Left Behind:

"Jesus F***in' Christ! How do I get through this damn level?"

Posted by: CS | December 13, 2006 3:25 PM

#27

Have you ever had a white stain appear underneath the arms of your favorite dark blouse? Don't freak out. You can quickly give deodorant spots the boot. Just grab a spare toothbrush, dampen with a little water and liquid soap, and gently scrub until the stain fades away. As you wash away the stain, praise God for cleansing us from all the wrong things we have done. (1 John 1:9)

Huh. So God = spare toothbrush + water + liquid soap!

God helps remove dogshit off your shoes, too.

Posted by: Great White Wonder | December 13, 2006 3:26 PM

#28

Andrew:

See, for example, http://www.theonion.com/content/node/32390

Posted by: CS | December 13, 2006 3:27 PM

#29

What's really disturbing is that the game is being touted as an uplifting alternative to similar games such as Grand Theft Auto. In GTA, killing people has ACTUAL consequences, such as being arrested or being killed. In both cases, you lose all of your stuff and the game gets harder as a result.

It may not be a particular serious consequence, but there's at least SOMETHING there other than "losing spirit points".

Posted by: Rod Hilton | December 13, 2006 3:39 PM

#30

MikeM - No, that's incredibly easy to get around. You are saved through faith, and rewarded based on works. The way this was always explained to me is given two Christians, one with lots of "works" and one without, they both get into Heaven but the one with the big resume gets a bigger gold house on God Main Street. I wish I were joking.

Posted by: Carlie | December 13, 2006 3:40 PM

#31
I presume you can't shoot the believers if you're playing the side of "good?"

As I understand it, there's no "if" about it - unlike practically every other wargame in existence (going back all the way to the pre-computer wargames where *somebody* had to play the Axis or there wouldn't be a game), you can't choose which side you're fighting on.

So much for free will.

Actually, I don't understand how they can be faithful to their religious beliefs and have a game at all. Isn't it essential to the definition of a game that the outcome be affected by the players' actions? If the end of days is not only preordained but actually prophesied, isn't the player forced to "win" no matter what they do? Or is it possible to achieve an outcome different than that foretold in the Bible? I find it hard to imagine the designers deciding to compromise faithfulness to the source mythology in the name of gameplay, under the circumstances.

Posted by: Chris | December 13, 2006 3:54 PM

#32
This is where the doctrine of salvation by faith. See Ephesians 2:8 and 9.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So, go ahead and mow down those unbelievers - since you are saved by faith alone.

You may not like it but it is much more logically coherent than trying to decide which 'works' merit this and that although I guess one could argue that faith is a work in and of itself and make the entire idea moot.

Posted by: GH | December 13, 2006 3:58 PM

#33

they both get into Heaven but the one with the big resume gets a bigger gold house on God Main Street.

Is it an suprise that Jeff "White Beacon" Frichner's idea of heaven includes gated communities?

I suppose it makes sense. It wouldn't be right if some white guy who spent all his life resisting the sweet temptation of man-boy love ended up in a corner of Heaven where he was forced to listen to dark angels plucking the bass strings on their harps all night long.

Posted by: Great White Wonder | December 13, 2006 4:04 PM

#34

But if there is an inadequacy in heaven and some have shacks and others manshions can any scenario of have and have nots be considered ideal?

Posted by: GH | December 13, 2006 4:12 PM

#35

A pacifist is someone who doesn't have killing people in first place in their list of priorities?

Posted by: Numad | December 13, 2006 4:32 PM

#36

The biggest sin this game commits is that it's really not very fun.

I was immediately destroyed by a roving gang of street musicians who converted me to satanism with a 12-part guitar chorus.

I sure wish that had been a joke.

Posted by: Drew | December 13, 2006 4:43 PM

#37

"Huh. So God = spare toothbrush + water + liquid soap!

God helps remove dogshit off your shoes, too."

Thank Dog! I just got a puppy for Christmas!!

Posted by: donna | December 13, 2006 4:43 PM

#38
As you wash away the stain, praise God for cleansing us from all the wrong things we have done. (1 John 1:9)

This may be the most practical advice ever given in a religious publication.

If that's not to your taste, there's always the Aussie Bible. It's a hoot. It's also a little scary, because as far as I can tell, they're serious about it.

The angel said to her, 'G'day Mary. You are a pretty special sheila. God has his eye on you.[...] Don't panic, don't chuck a wobbly. God thinks you're okay. You're about to become pregnant, and you'll have a son, and you're to call him Jesus.[...] Leave the mechanics up to God. This is heavenly stuff. God's Spirit will come upon you, and the Big Brain behind the Big Bang will manipulate the necessary molecules to make it happen.[...]

(My favorite line has to do with the birth of John the Baptist: "When her nine months were up Libby popped her sprog.")

Different languages, different jazzed-up versions, anything to get the Word out. If that means pandering to teenagers, they'll do it. It's just another variation on the comic-book versions, or the Southern "Cotton Patch Gospels" or the gang-speak "God Is for Real, Man!" that were all over the place when I was a kid in the '60s.

Posted by: anomalous4 | December 13, 2006 4:53 PM

#39

It would just be one more piece of foolishness if it weren't for the religion part. Hypocrisy number one is that the groups that have protested violent entertainment have been almost exclusively fundamentalist christian - the very folks who are bringing this violent game to children. Hypocrisy number two is that the flip side of that argument is that only people who are already mentally unbalanced enough to consider doing violence would be convinced to do violence in real life based on inspiration from entertainment. I think anyone who believes in the rapture, takes the bible literally, and plays this game believing that Jesus WILL come down and smite the unbelievers and reward the faithful who help him count as just the kind of folks who might have a problem with the fantasy/reality line being a bit blurry. Putting Left Behind in the hands of fundamentalist young people is like giving AK-47s to the criminally insane.

Posted by: Alison | December 13, 2006 5:04 PM

#40

This particular thread has been placed under the section of 'religion'. The kind of religious kookiness being discussed is the same as the kind that showed up today in New York Times article on gay evangelical christians, seeking to find a synthesis between their sexuality and their religion. I apologize for going slightly off-topic.

The article itself portrays the pathetic plight of these homosexual individuals. Shunned by their peers, they seek to find solace in their religion, only to be shunned therefrom also. But still they persist, holding onto their beliefs in a value system that actively rejects them - which seems quite masochistic to me. They would be better off in believing in the power of Cthulhu or Harry Potter, IMHO.

However, for those with strong guts, please venture onto the comments section. You would see the same kind of misguided rants about the 'inerrancy' of the bible that all of the creationist kooks spew forth in great quantity. But it is scary to know that there are people who actively believe in this ludicrous sh*t and form a worldview based on that!

Now the funny part, the last comment (till I checked) was from one 'high school student'. The homophobic comments of this poster were so reminiscent of another high school student (president of the student body, no less) that many of us have encountered just yesterday...

Posted by: suirauqa | December 13, 2006 5:34 PM

#41

Don't those teenage-themed bibles remind one (those of us old enough, that is) of those (pardon) godawful attempts to be "hip" that adults were promulgating back in the '60s - early '70s? The men who tried that shit back then always looked like superannuated dorks.

Posted by: mndean | December 13, 2006 5:34 PM

#42

Those odd Bibles seem like a case of trying to be "all things to all people", as Paul himself had described himself as doing:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
(1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV)

Posted by: Loren Petrich | December 13, 2006 7:45 PM

#43

Chris Said:

So much for free will.

Actually, I don't understand how they can be faithful to their religious beliefs and have a game at all. Isn't it essential to the definition of a game that the outcome be affected by the players' actions? If the end of days is not only preordained but actually prophesied, isn't the player forced to "win" no matter what they do?

You have an excellent point. There's no challenge because all you have to do is wait for the Big Cheesus to come in and solve the problem. You get dealt a pre-selected Solitaire hand that's the same every time. All you need to do is play it right and wait.

That's not much fun.

This was always a problem I had with Biblical prophecy in general. Um, if the conclusion is foregone, the forces of the Antichrist are going to be destroyed, and we all know this...then why bother playing the game?

Perhaps God likes solitaire? If so, the concept of lost souls to Hell is abominable. Any Power that plays the game in that manner wouldn't be one I could accept.

Drew noted that the game commits the cardinal sin (for games) of not being fun, too. With a predestined path, that wouldn't be surprising.

As I chew on the game concept, it's even worse. Shooting 'em means you just consigned them to Hell. Not nice. Not nice at all.

MOrph

Posted by: MorpheusPA | December 13, 2006 8:44 PM

#44

I idly note that most games' sales figures are based on the initial sales to distributors. When those units sell, THEN we know what's 'successful' or not.

The better measure of the game is whether or not it's showing up on *gaming* sites rather than just religious sites. There have been shite computer games produced by the christian groups for ages - hell, I played most of them growing up. Leaving Tellus Minor is forever etched on my brain as being the most pointless waste of time I could ever invest in when there was fun stuff like the word processor to use.

As for the game itself, the End Times philosophy of the church is basically just there to scare people shitless. It really is - I've never seen a preacher touch on the subject without direct intent to terrify his audience. I find it especially morbid that I first was preached at about this book when I was *eight*.

Posted by: Talen Lee | December 14, 2006 12:57 AM

#45

I would argue that though I don't agree with him on many things, from what I know Ted Nuggent is a decent conservationist. He may hunt and talk a bunch of macho smack but in practice he doesn't destroy the environment and eats what he kills. He is closer to Teddy Roosevelt than to Dick Cheney.

Posted by: Ralph | December 14, 2006 1:13 AM

#46

I'm reminded somehow of two things:

-An old Christian role-playing game (and only in the loosest sense of the term) called DragonRaid, which seemed more oriented to teaching Fundagelical values than actual fun and imagination, and
-the letter I read in some magazine or newspaper years ago saying that video games that give players multiple lives teach kids that life isn't sacred, and that you should have one life, and when you lose it, you can never play the game again.

Seems like everything has to be didactic in some way or another. Can't have mindless fun or open-ended fantasy -- you may find yourself on a road They don't approve of.

Posted by: Brian X | December 14, 2006 2:03 AM

#47

Karen, does that mean Heaven has a low-rent district and, for contrast, a Nob Hill?

Interesting.

I wonder if Hell has similar gradations. If Hitler is in the fire, while someone who's greatest sin was forgetting to put the toilet seat back down is merely in the "warm" section.

Could be. I guess that makes sense.

Or not.

Posted by: MikeM | December 14, 2006 2:37 AM

#48

As I understand it, there's no "if" about it - unlike practically every other wargame in existence (going back all the way to the pre-computer wargames where *somebody* had to play the Axis or there wouldn't be a game), you can't choose which side you're fighting on.

I am soooooo tempted to waste a few months of weekends putting my cracker skills to good use, by providing a crack of this game that lets you play the part of an "evangilising atheist". No points for guessing what that would entail :-)

Posted by: demallien | December 14, 2006 2:57 AM

#49

Don't panic, don't chuck a wobbly. God thinks you're okay. You're about to become pregnant

Any "Aussie Bible" that uses the word "pregnant" instead of "preggers" is an imposter! :-)

Posted by: demallien | December 14, 2006 3:01 AM

#50

I like to compare Left Behind: Eternal Forces to a game like Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War. While both are RTS games and the latter is far worse in terms of violence and gore, the former contains an active promotion of the violence as a spiritual value.

That's what I think some of the Christian nuts don't get when they call gamers hypocrites over this matter. I don't know of any violent that actively and overtly encourages it's violent content as an inherently good thing.

Posted by: Tyler DiPietro | December 14, 2006 5:52 AM

#51

FWIW, I've heard that the game is sheer crap from many gaming friends.

demalien, go for it!

Posted by: nunyer | December 14, 2006 7:34 AM

#52
Left Behind Games' president, Jeffrey Frichner, says the game actually is pacifist because players lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them. They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

Lets try that logic with another game...

Grand Theft Auto actually is pacifist because players lose "ammo" every time they gun down prostitutes rather than have sex with them. They can earn ammo again by having their character buy some at a store.

Yep, works the same.

Posted by: jpf | December 14, 2006 9:48 AM

#53

This list of all-time worst video games contains a previously released horribly bad Christian game:
http://www.seanbaby.com/nes/egm19.htm

It manages to be somewhat less offensive than Left Behind - Evisceration of the Heathens.

Posted by: DrSteve | December 14, 2006 10:06 AM

#54

Sounds like a great T-shirt idea:

"Jesus is my FAQ page."

Set it up on CafePress, and CA-CHING... ;-)
...so what if it an atheist designed it,
I'm not above scamming the suckers.

-JJR

Posted by: JJR | December 14, 2006 11:09 AM

#55
Isn't it essential to the definition of a game that the outcome be affected by the players' actions? If the end of days is not only preordained but actually prophesied, isn't the player forced to "win" no matter what they do?

Perhaps so, but you can affect the point spread!

Posted by: Ted Powell | December 14, 2006 1:35 PM

#56

I think the Rapture has already begun in the game... they're fighting for souls!
If they don't convert they are "left behind" get it?

Posted by: Steve_C | December 14, 2006 1:45 PM

#57

Not nearly so egregious, but here is another interesting game. I know I can't wait, and this one is only five bucks too!

http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/fun.games/12/13/shivah.rabbi.reut/index.html

Posted by: MG | December 14, 2006 1:45 PM

#58

Actually, I don't understand how they can be faithful to their religious beliefs and have a game at all. Isn't it essential to the definition of a game that the outcome be affected by the players' actions? If the end of days is not only preordained but actually prophesied, isn't the player forced to "win" no matter what they do?

No, it's a simulation. The goal is to figure out how to run the simulation "correctly", so that you get to see the outcome of the prophecy.

I've played some of the demo. Basically the first mission involves moving a person from Point A to Point B. Along the way, you have to walk past "evil musicians" (I guess they're playing rock music). Being around them causes your disciple to lose "spirit points", and if those drop below 60% then he has a spiritual crisis and presumably becomes an agnostic, and you fail the simulation. So you need to play through the mission again, remembering to periodically hit the "pray" button to regain spirit points.

It's quite a moving testimony to the fragile nature of human faith. (I don't know if that's the message they were trying to send, though.)

When you complete the mission you're "rewarded" with some Christian E-Z Listening music and a sermonette. The first sermonette was the Creationist "What use is half an eye?" argument.

I kind of like this sort of campy entertainment, and I might have played through the game if it had been any fun. As it was, I got bored and quit during the fourth demo mission.

Posted by: ma | December 14, 2006 3:35 PM

#59

Now I know why these nuts were trying to say violent games warped people - because they were going to develop one themselves, and they were preparing for people to accept the idea that games influence behaviour substantially ...

Posted by: Keith Douglas | December 15, 2006 2:59 PM

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