Monica Miller

Why graphic images need to be displayed: from the woman who took the photos

Monica Miller
By Monica Miller
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The following is a guest blog post by Monica Migliorino Miller Ph.D., director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and author of Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars (St. Benedict Press, 2012). Monica Miller is the same photographer who took many of the photos of aborted babies being used in pro-life demonstrations.

February 4, 2013 (ProlifeAction) - On the 40th anniversary of Roe. v. Wade, Simcha Fisher posted an article at National Catholic Register online entitled “Eight Reasons Not to Use Graphic Images at the March for Life.” Simcha’s negative view of graphic images is part of a larger debate within the pro-life movement on the use of abortion victim photos, and I now offer this rebuttal.

Simcha prefaces her eight reasons by stating: “A public place is not the place to use these images — ever.” Simcha makes it clear that she does not oppose the use of graphic images in certain contexts, but she attempts to argue that they should never be used in a public forum.

Simcha contradicts her own position when she states that seeing the photos caused her to “be shaken out of a vague, fuzzy support for the pro-life cause into the realization that this is a life and death struggle — real life and real death.” If so, then why oppose the public display of the tragedy of abortion when others, too, may be shaken into the same realization? Here are Simcha’s reasons and my response to them.

Objection One: Children Will See the Photos

Simcha argues that since parents do not allow children to watch gruesome slasher movies, with fake blood and violence, children should not be exposed to real violence, and in this case the violence of abortion. Of course the display of graphic images is not deliberately aimed at children and they are not entertainment.

I would argue that the pro-life movement has an obligation to publicly reveal the injustice of abortion, to indeed — as she already acknowledged — awaken dead souls to America’s national tragedy. Even as pro-lifers we can fail to realize the crisis that legalized abortion represents — a social/moral crisis that sends 3,500 innocent people to their deaths each day with the sanction of law.

This crisis requires that the truth be publicly exposed — and the magnitude of the injustice that we face overrides the possibility that children will see the pictures. It simply makes no sense to forego the public exposure of our national slaughter that has sent tens of millions of children to their deaths for the sake of sparing children who might see the photos and who might be affected by them. The horrific injustice of abortion and our nation’s continued support for it requires that the photos be shown — despite the possibility of children seeing the disturbing images.

This is not to say that pro-lifers should be insensitive to this potential problem. Pro-life demonstrations and especially Face the Truth tours should post visible warning signs. Doing so goes a long way to mitigate the concern that children will be exposed to the violence of abortion.

On a more personal note, my own children as early as the age of five held graphic images in public demonstrations with me at their side. They have suffered no negative effects in any way. Rather this built up their resolve to oppose abortion.

Furthermore, I have vast personal experience with parents whose children have seen the signs and I can say that the way parents themselves respond to the images influences the response of their children. If the parents are angry and upset — so will the child be. But if the parent exhibits a sense of peace and explains to the child what happened to the unborn baby in a way that children can understand, potential trauma is much alleviated.

Nevertheless, to impose as requirements that children will never see the photos or that they will never be upset by them are simply unjustified demands in light of the need to reveal the truth about abortion in order to bring this injustice to an end.

Objection Two: The Photos Will Upset Post-Abortive Women

My response to this is similar to the response above. Yes, the movement rightly needs to be sensitive to the needs of post-abortive women, but again, the primary victims of abortion are the millions who perish under the law in a violent death, in a nation that at least tolerates such killing and at worst advocates such killing. The enormity of the injustice requires that the public be awakened to the slaughter.

No pro-lifer is forcing post-abortive women to look at the bloody remains of an aborted child. That is not the purpose of a demonstration that uses graphic images. And there simply is no one-size-fits-all response of post-abortive women to such images. It makes no sense to stop showing the photos in order to spare post-abortive women who may become upset when these very photos actually prevent women from choosing abortion and thus spare them a lifetime of torment.

On the display of graphic images, well known pro-life activist Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, stated: “As a woman who has had two abortions, I am grateful that the truth is being shown, so that others can avoid this pain in the first place.”

Objection Three: The Photos Will Upset Mothers

I can honestly say that in 37 years of activist activity, and as a mother of three born children and the mother of three miscarried children, I have never known any mother to be affected by abortion photos in a psychologically negative manner.

This is not to say that certain mothers do not experience deep sorrow at the sight of these photos or re-live a sense of loss regarding their miscarried babies. But such a response is not negative — it is simply human, and again in no way does the arousal of such sentiments and emotions justify keeping the victims of abortion hidden from the general public for the sake of bringing an end to abortion.

Objection Four: Showing the Photos Dishonors the Child

Famous humanitarian and concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel stated: “To forget murder victims is to kill them twice.” The photos of the aborted unborn and their public exposure in no way dishonors these children. Abortion kills real people, it assaults the life of a personal someone — a personal someone that the very act of abortion meant to keep hidden forever, to blot out a life as if he or she had never lived.

When a pro-lifer photographs that victim and exposes the injustice done to that victim — short of a humane burial, this is the highest possible honor that can be given to that aborted child. When a graphic image is displayed — it is that child who speaks.

The abortion photo is the only real way we can say these particular hidden, unwanted persons lived once, that their lives matter, and through the photos we can contemplate the injustice they suffered and be aroused to do something about it!

Objection Five: Showing Graphic Images Gives Pro-Lifers a Bad Image

Simcha said that anyone who publicly displays graphic images “come[s] across as a lunatic.” She was quick to add that such a person is “not a lunatic” yet she believes that such pro-lifers “sure look that way.”

I have spent countless hours on Face the Truth Tours, planned hundreds of demonstrations with graphic images and certainly some of those who observe us think we are “lunatics.” However, there are just as many, if not indeed the majority of those who see us who understand that we are protesting an injustice — that we are making an issue out of it and who, even if they don’t agree with us, treat us with respect for taking a stand.

When Simcha believes those who display graphic images are viewed as “lunatics” I suspect that she is revealing her own personal repugnance of pro-life activism and her own fear of being misunderstood than is the actual case when it come to this type of pro-life demonstration.

Objection Six: Graphic Images Push Women Into Abortion

Simcha agrees that graphic images have saved lives — that woman intending to abort changed their minds after viewing the images. However, she argues that such photos should not be used because some women are so repelled by them that they “freaked out and rushed into the clinic.”

The problem with her whole argument here is that every baby was schedule to be killed and that none of them would be alive unless the reality of abortion was present to the abortion-bound women. In other words, through the graphic images some babies were spared abortion who would otherwise be dead! So — this is not an argument against graphic images — but an argument in their favor!

However, there is one valid point that she inadvertently makes — namely that in a sidewalk counseling situation there should be no graphic posters near the entrance to the clinic if pro-lifers have an opportunity to talk to the women. The pro-lifer needs to be able to engage the woman one-on-one — to really counsel her as a friend. The pro-lifer will have expanded the opportunity for personal engagement with the woman in this singularly most sensitive, urgent moment if the trappings of a protest are not there.

Objection Seven: Graphic Images Desensitize Pro-lifers to Abortion

As someone who has taken the broken bodies of the aborted unborn out of the trash, spent hundreds of hours up-close with these victims photographing them, and attended countless demonstrations with the posters of abortion victims, I can honestly say such exposure has not hardened me to the injustice of abortion.

I know of no committed pro-lifer who is less resolved to fight the injustice of abortion due to repeated exposure to the victims. Indeed, as I said in my book, Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars — a book that, by the way, contains eight photos of aborted babies — “Once you see the bodies with the right mind, you can never go back. They have taken you into their world.”

Objection Eight: People Will See What They Want to See

This is Simcha’s weakest argument. Basically she says that since those who support abortion will deny the authenticity of the abortion victim photos, pro-lifers should stop showing them. This is like saying, since there are those who deny that the Nazi Holocaust ever happened, the photos of concentration camp victims should cease to be displayed.

Who cares if the enemies of life deny the truth of the photos? This is no reason not to show them. The reality still needs to be exposed no matter whom or how many wish to deny the truth. Simcha’s argument here simply cannot be taken seriously.

Conclusion: Abortion Photos Are a Necessary Element of the Pro-Life Cause

There is simply no social reform movement that did not make use of images of injustice to advance its cause. This is because images of injustice speak and change hearts in a way that no speeches, political strategies, facts and statistics could ever do.

Some, like Simcha Fisher, argue that the viewing of abortion images should be infrequent and completely voluntary. However, this means that only those in our pro-death nation who are willing and motivated to check out a website, read a book with graphic images, seek out pro-life literature that contains them will ever be confronted by the reality of the abortion atrocity. And so we are talking about the very few!

If the movement relied solely on a voluntary audience, we would not educate those millions of people who need to be exposed to the tragedy of our national slaughter and have their consciences awakened. And it is painfully obvious that the movement cannot depend on the media to do this for us.

Fifty-five million people have been put to death in our national crime. The majority of the public has yet to be awakened to this atrocity. The showing of images of the victims — images that primarily communicate the humanity of the victim — are a necessary part of the pro-life effort to end the killing of the unborn.

The photos tell a terrible truth that would otherwise remain hidden — and our movement would be seriously impoverished, perhaps even crippled — without the telling of this truth.

Reprinted with permission from ProlifeAction. 


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse
By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘”far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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