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You probably think the Inquisition was a perversion of the "true" spirit of Christianity. Perhaps it was. The problem, however, is that the teachings of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries.

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You believe that Christianity is an unrivaled source of human goodness. You believe that Jesus taught the virtues of love, compassion, and selflessness better than any teacher who has ever lived. You believe that the Bible is the most profound book ever written and that its contents have stood the test of time so well that it must have been divinely inspired. All of these beliefs are false.

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But I didn´t say no. I didn´t say no because between safety and adventure I choose adventure. Plus, I thought it would be great crack, getting to meet all these muckety-mucks, and truthfully, as a new American I felt it would somehow be unpatriotic to refuse a chance to make a fool of myself in front of the president, who, after all, had no problem doing exactly that in front of the entire world.

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It was such an unlikely collection of people that it actually felt like a dream. So much so, that more than once I checked to see if I was wearing pants, something I often do, just in case. With a past like mine it´s never a bad idea.

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He had a better mind and a more rigorous temperament than me; he thought logically and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense.

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I was someone who had gone out with the daughter of Mrs Sarah Ford (deceased) for a period of about a year, who had been patronised by her husband, loftily scrutinised by her son, and manipulated by her daughter. Painful for me at the time, but hardly requiring the subsequent maternal apology of five hundred pounds.

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But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions - and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives - then I plead guilty.

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And though we were making new friends ourselves, we were somehow persuaded that Adrian wasn't: that we three were still his nearest intimates, that he depended on us. Was this just to disguise the fact that we were dependent on him?

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And yet what precisely is this 'greatness'? Just where, or in what, does it lie? I am quite aware that it would take a far wiser head than mine to answer such a question, but if I were forced to hazard a guess, I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it. In comparison, the sorts of sights offered in such places as Africa and America, though undoubtedly very exciting, would, I am sure, strike the objective viewer as inferior on account of their unseemly demonstrativeness.

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Santa Claus was from the other side. He belonged to the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics, to the Jesus-worshippers and Jew-haters, to Hitler and all the rest of them.

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For the first time in her life Granny wondered whether there might be something important in all these books people were setting such store by these days, although she was opposed to books on strict moral grounds, since she had heard that many of them were written by dead people and therefore it stood to reason reading them would be as bad as necromancy.

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She cannot have known that once you abandon Hell, you must never go back there. But in the end there is no difference between dying from ignorance and dying beneath the feet of thousands of men who have regained their freedom. You close your eyes, and then there is nothing anymore. And death is never difficult. It requires neither a hero nor a slave. It eats what it is served.

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Stupidity is a sickness that goes very well with fear. They nurture each other, creating a gangrene that seeks only to propagate itself.

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People still works their fields with ploughshares forged over a century ago. Haymaking has to be done by hand. Everyone has taken a step backwards, as if humanity had suffered a huge hiccough, as if human history had given man a violent kick in the backside and now we have to start all over again almost from scratch.

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Saint-liness is very odd. When people encounter it, they often take it for something else, something completely unlike it: indifference, mockery, scheming, coldness, insolence, perhaps even contempt. But they are mistaken and that makes them furious. They commit a grievous crime. This is no doubt the reason that most saints end up martyrs.

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But sometimes, Brodeck, wisdom's not what we think it is. The creatures you see before you are savage beasts. Truly savage, however much they look like beached whales. Brutes with no heart and no mind. With no memory, either. Nothing counts but their belly, just their belly; all the time they think of one thing and one thing only: keeping that belly full.

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Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.

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My name is Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it. I insist on that. I want everyone to know it.

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With his lips clamped firmly onto hers, he probed the fleshy floor of her mouth, then moved round inside the teeth of her lower jaw to the empty place where three years ago a wisdom tooth had crookedly grown until removed under general anaesthesia.

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Secondly the horse was a pasero, which in this case does not mean a ferryman but a horse which has been carefully trained not to trot but to move at a steady, undulating lope. This was the one pace at which Don Emmanuel never rode it, so it had not only a sagging back, but also the depressed, irritated and frustrated air of a natural artist whom financial straits have reduced to taking a job as a bank clerk.

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