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The Question of Religion and the Founding Fathers, UPDATED

Posted Saturday, April 24, 2010, at 2:56 PM

"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed."

Original wording of the First Amendment as penned by James Madison

The question of how religion played a role in the crafting of the Constitution is not a new one. Nor is the question of how the Founding Fathers viewed established religion. But it the second question was answered by the Founding Fathers in their words over and over again. They were NOT fans of organized religion. A majority of the founding fathers, including the first three presidents did not identify themselves as Christian, but actually Unitarians.

George Washington made no mention of religion at the time of his death and in fact championed the freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. At one point a self proclaimed universalist who denied the existence of Hell was given the appointment of army chaplain by Washington despite vocal outcry from other chaplains.

James Madison, who is the father of the Constitution was not even religious and had this to say about Christianity, "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlets encouraged the seed of revolution in the founding fathers was not a fan of any religion (in the same vain as Karl Marx).

Benjamin Franklin even went as far as question the story of Jesus but with reservation. He was firm in his belief of God but questioned the story of Jesus but in the end decided it was not for him to decide if it was true or not as he would find out for himself.

President Obama has taken a lot of flak for extending an olive branch to Muslims and stating that the United States was not a Christian nation. He was right, the United States is not a Christian nation it is a nation that has a mix of many different religions. But he was not the first one to reach out to the Muslims and proclaim that the United States was not a Christian nation. That honor is bestowed on Congress and President John Adams in 1797 when Congress ratified and Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli. One important part o that Treaty read:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

But the bottom line of all of this in no matter what their personal views were on organized religion the 1st Amendment is one of the few amendments that is crystal clear:

Amendment 1:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

The Constitution itself states that Congress can make no law establishing a religion. There is to be no state religion. It really is that simple. There is also the part about prohibiting the free exercise thereof of religion. It says nothing about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. It only mentions religion as a whole.

This is not an attack on Christianity or religion, believe it or not, this is and answer to the attack on the Founding Fathers. There has been a movement over the last 50 years (and that is a conservative number, their have been attempts all the way back to around 1900) to completely rewrite American history. The biggest single unfounded rewrite surrounds the founding of this country. There has been a concerted effort to not only change how the founding fathers felt and believed but also change the meaning of the Revolution. It is all political. Quotes have been wholly taken out of context or simply made up to make it appear that the Founding Fathers believed a way they did not.

I am not saying that the Founding Fathers were not religious, far from it. But they saw what had happened in the past and wanted, in creating a new country, to loosed those binds of religion. They believed that a person should be able to believe in the religion they saw fit without having to worry about being restricted by their government.

America was founded on Christian beliefs, but not solely on Christian beliefs if was founded on so much more than just religion.

The Declaration of Independence spoke first of the Laws of Nature before religion and it was not specified even when the Creator was written what that it was the Christian Creator. Universalism (which Jefferson was one) only accepts one higher power and wholly rejects the Christian Trinity. The Constitution begins with "We the People" and does even mention religion. In fact the original Oath of Office for the President does not end with "so help me God" in it's entirety the original Oath reads as follows: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." It was all about protecting and defending the Constitution not holding up religious values.

In God We Trust did not become standard on the money until 1954. The phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was not in the original allegiance. Francis Bellamy wrote the original in 1892 with not mention of God. It should also be known that Bellamy was a socialist and that he was forced to leave his church because of his socialist teachings using the Bible. His granddaughter stated after "under God" was added in 1954 that Bellamy would have not liked that addition since he was forced from his church for his beliefs.

This is OUR shared history and we do not need to get all tangled up in what our Founding Fathers believe or said. It is all out there for us to read, there is nothing to interpret, their words can not be abused to fit a political ideology. I do not look at the founding of this nation as a way to confirm my political beliefs. I look at the founding as the country as a wondrous and brave experiment that over 200 years later is still going strong.

To answer the question of whether religion had a role in the Founding Fathers attempts to establish a new country the answer is yes, naturally it had some role but it did not have the overwhelming role that revisionists are trying to force. The Founding Fathers were religious but did not form the country on religion. To argue over religion and the founding of the United States of America is a needless argument.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that I missed a pretty important article from the Constitution on which texts the Founding Fathers intended to be used in Oaths, it is not the Bible, but rather the Constitution:

Article VI

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

For all the talk about vagueness by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, this passage is rather clear that the only law of the land the Founding Fathers expected to be followed was in fact the Constitution.

Selected quotes and examples were taken from

The United States Constitution

The Bill of Rights

The Declaration of Independence

--also known as The Charters of Freedom

Treaty of Tripoli, 1797

Annals of Congress

The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

Papers of George Washington

Papers of Thomas Jefferson

Papers of John Adams

Papers of Benjamin Franklin

A look at Unitarian Universalism

The origin and evolution of the Pledge of Allegiance


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

This is GREAT!! Your entire column speaks quite eloquently of the fact that you've read ONLY the cherry-picked things that support your own viewpoint. :-)

As with most modern "historians," you ignore the ministers that signed the Declaration, the state constitutions, the multiple Christian inscriptions all over D.C., etc. etc. You simply parrot what your leftist teachers and textbook writers have gleaned from the millions of written words.

I challenge you to go directly to the words of ALL the founders. Their writings are presented on multiple websites for your convenience. The actual documents left by our founders present a far more Christian view.

You can continue to insist that your 10% is the whole story...but anyone else accepting the challenge and truly studying the founders own words will quickly find the 90% you ignore.

-- Posted by MrsSmith on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 9:42 AM

Actually MrsSmith had you actually read the entire blog instead of making up your mind that I got this out of "Leftist textbooks" or "leftist teachers" you would have seen that I picked up all my information from the Constitution, the Founding Fathers and actual writings. It is interesting that you have condemned me for parroting our laws and our founding fathers.

But you have fallen for the revisionist's version of our history instead of reading for yourself. It is all there in black and white and is not subject to be rewritten to suit your beliefs.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 5:20 PM

Okay MrsSmith, I will play along. If, as you say, this nation was founded on Christian principles and I am only giving 10% of the story, then how do you explain that our THREE Charters of Freedom make barely a mention of any religion and none on Christianity. In fact the two mentions on any religion is keeping religion out of government and vice versa and not having to swear an Oath of office on any religious text. Explain why "In God We Trust" doesn't become printed on every amount of money until the 50s. Explain why "under God" was only added to the Pledge of Allegiance after almost a hundred years (again in the 50s).

It is really interesting that the revisionist view of our founding really did not come to fruition until the 50s when we were waging a Cold War against the nasty godless Soviets.

Can you respond to that?

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 8:00 AM

And the white noise from edmundburke has returned. So nice to know you still don't allow facts and people actually say get in the way of your trolling.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 8:51 AM

Okay we all know you hate liberalism edmund you have made that clear on every single blog you have every posted on but what in the world does Stalin slaughtering millions in the Soviet Union have to do with how our country was founded?

For that matter what does spending period by liberal or conservative(since most of us on here have all agreed that uncontrolled spending has happened under both Democratic and Republican presidents but you somehow continue to ignore that any Republican at any time has spent more than their Democratic counterparts or that they have spent at all) have anything to do with what this country was founded on? When this country was founded we were completely broke.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 9:36 AM

Hey um yeah edmund I am the one that asked how Stalin pertains to this thread not loud and the question still remains as what Stalin did have anything to do with this thread. My original comment regarding the Soviet Union is that we put God on everything to distinguish ourselves from them. What Stalin did to his own people have absolutely nothing to do with this. All you were doing was trying to change the subject so you would not have to deal with the fact that our country was not based on Christian values.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 9:55 AM

McCook Gazette will do nothing on edmundburke. He must have some serious political pull with them. Maybe if someone actually flagged his comments other than me something would be done. Unless McCook does something they are endorsing his language and trolling, which I guess is okay.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 2:52 PM

Point noted Senior, he has been on here as Steffanie, Steff, hankherndon, and now edmundburke (and who knows how many other personas). But hey a person can keep trying. In the mean time for every inaccuracy he presents as truth I will be there with the facts.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 3:21 PM

"Religion probably doesn't belong in government I agree but a government that endorses immorality, wealth redistribution, sloth, class envy, the murder of innocents, idealism despite history, and a general disregard for self determination and the successes and failings it produces is even less desirable.-- Posted by edmundburke on Sun, Apr 25, 2010, at 12:11 AM"

IMMorality-- Halliburton andKBR, Larry Craig,John Ensign and a certain S.C. Governor;

Wealth Redistribution -- $12.5 BILLION annual net profits for the health insurance companies, Halliburton and KBR collecting Trillions from the taxpayers.

The murder of innocents -- Custer at the Washita, Black Kettle's camp with OLD Glory torn down by Chivington's drunks and Wounded Knee.

"IDEALISM DESPITE HISTORY," -- Does Warren Harding and "TeapotDome" count, How about the terms of U.S. Grant and Chester A. Arthur; Let's try on Nixon, Spiro Agnew and the entire Nixon

White House senior staff--to a man; even Mafia candidate Thomas E. Dewey,"Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy (aka-- the Ft. Dix, N.J supply clerk];

Mafia senator Alphonse D'Amato.

True enough, not much in those histories to encourage idealism, but that's the problem with pragmatic political realists -- We know there is going to be some KKK-Senator standing up to oppose for the sake of opposing, AND EARNING HIS ELECTION CAMPAIGN BONUSES from special interests --- and we still believe in this "NOBLE EXPERIMENT" we call the American democratic republic.

"..disregard for self determination" --

Now that's funny--

I.G. determines to pursue academic advancement and earn multiple degrees, gaining competence in multiple languages; Mike has done just that; and

this dumb ol' cowhand pursues ongoing goals in several business areas, despite several moronic assertions here that I am merely an enfeebled senior.

I.G. and Mike and I are repeatedly called every name feeble minds can concoct --albeit with even common words misspelled.

Nothing like a self-styled superior intellect who cannot spell moron, which it are.

-- Posted by HerndonHank on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 4:56 PM

Eduardo,'

Robert Byrd has admitted his youthful mistakes re the KKK.

Several recent and current southern GOP politicians -- senators, congressmen, governors, judges, prosecutors and sheriffs -- have been seen leaving Klan rallies but not one has ever admitted KLAN membership.

JUST as when I was a boy,every prominent old southern DixieCrat was an openly active KLANSMAN.

Had an uncle who loved to brag of the important politicians he could call upon for assistance thanks to their Klan ties.

Until about 1945, it was common to find reports of lynchings, burnings, draggings in daily newspapers. As late as 1950 there were open Klan floggings of "uppity blacks" from Texas to Maryland and Florida.

-- Posted by HerndonHank on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 8:50 PM

reformed you know how it goes they can't add anything to the conversation or come up with a legitimate response so they change the subject while claiming to stay on topic. It's the classic bait-switch move.

Another thing that should be pointed out is that despite what revisionists have been telling us for the last decade (Bill O'Reilly specifically) secularism is not a new phenomena invented by liberals. It has been around for hundreds of years and in fact is what this country was founded on.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 10:55 PM

Carl,

Was it a love affair?

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 10:42 AM

In regards to the KKK...google Black Wall Street.

Tulsa Race Riots.

If one waters the tree of ignorance, the fruit it bares will be rotten!

-- Posted by Bonzer74 on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 11:32 AM

Hooray Senior Loud, for random, obscure song lyrics, although my love affair was mainly Jesus and my hotrod.

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 12:01 PM

J.I.M.T.S.

Jesus is my true savior...

thousands dead and the town burned to the ground...I was born in Stillwater, I am familiar w/ the area. Maybe Hitler should of just tured himself in.

-- Posted by Bonzer74 on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 12:12 PM

So anyways, the United States was founded as a secular nation that welcomed all religions. It was not until the Cold War that religion in America became Christianity and it was not until the Reagan Revolution that Christianity meant that only Christians should be able to benefit from the freedoms of the Constitution and all others were just out of luck.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 12:16 PM

I don't really see how November Rain which hit #3 in the U.S., was the most requested video on Mtv (when it still played music videos) and won awards in 1992 can be considered obscure. But okay maybe I'm biased. I do think it was the best GNR song.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 1:14 PM

Yes but fortunately those who actually know their history and do not subscribe to the idea of a theocracy in the United States are fighting back against the revisionists. But you did just prove my point from an earlier thread when I stated that the Conservative Revolution had already occurred.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 1:15 PM

reformedrightwinger,

Ah we must be thinking of different songs, I was thinking "Jesus Built my Hotrod" by Ministry.

Mike,

Although the founders wanted a nation that had no state government, I believe it is a bit disingenuous to state it welcomed all religions. Arguments about Deism and Chritianity aside, the founders were schooled in European thought. In general, views of religion and religious toleration in the 18th century were vastly different than current views. I don't think Jews and Mahometans were welcomed the way you imply. I think it more likely that the founders generally assumed that Americans would be Christian but that they didn't care if they were Mennonites, Catholic, or Lutheran.

What nonsense are you arguing here? I get from your post that until the 1960's Christianity was not the dominant religion in the United States, and that after the 1980's Christians feel that only they deserve the Constitutional protections. Where does this argument even come from? Do you have any evidence to support this wild claim or are you just trying to upset people with the types of unfounded claims you so often deride Conservatives for producing?

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 1:20 PM

"I get from your post that until the 1960's Christianity was not the dominant religion in the United States"

I would suggest you re-read what I wrote because I at no point ever said that or alluded to it. No one has even argued that Christianity is not nor has never been the dominant religion in the United States. It is interesting that you called a point that you penned out of thin air nonsense that I was arguing. Just another example of you putting words in other people's mouths so you can attempt to make them look foolish. Problem is it does not work when the words are printed for everyone to read. But nice try.

Do I have evidence? Watch Fox News or the TEA Parties once in awhile.

You previous point, speaking of unfounded claims, has no basis in fact. There were Jews among the Founding Fathers. It was not assumed that all Americans would be Christian and you can not point to one word written that defends your point. Assumed or not if the Founding Fathers truly wanted this to be a Christian dominated government they would have put it in writing. Instead they specifically forbid government run religion and religion run government.

They were schooled in European thought which at the time was rejecting religion in light of the Great Awakening. Most of the Founding Fathers were heavily influenced by the Great Awakening.

No amount of revisioning will change the fact of history.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 1:50 PM

I didn't try to present any facts, I shared my OPINION, haven't we been over this before?

Mike, here is what you said:

"It was not until the Cold War that religion in America became Christianity and it was not until the Reagan Revolution that Christianity meant that only Christians should be able to benefit from the freedoms of the Constitution and all others were just out of luck."

If religion in America was not Christianity until the Cold War what was it? You said Christianity was not religion in America until the 1960's, I know you don't believe that but if you are going to type stupid, thoughtless comments be prepared to back them up or acknowledge you said something stupid.

Second point, I want a specific example of a legitimate source who claims that only Christians should benefit from the Constitution. A vague comment about watching idiot extremists doesn't convince.

Third point,

Guillermo and Mike, I would hope you realize by now I don't try to put words in your mouth, I share what I interpret you to be saying, if that isn't what you mean I would appreciate a further explanation. You see, this is how debate works, someone says something the other person thinks about what they said then responds. This pattern should continue until people have either made thier point clear or given up. The one line zingers that people often try to float around here that then devolve into pointless namecalling is not debate.

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 9:50 AM

SW, your whole motive is to put words into the mouths of others. You can claim that you don't do it but these threads are full of you putting forth false arguments of others and then trashing them. I know you are trying to sound intelligient by throwing big words out there, but that all comes crashing down when you dive to the lowest common denominator and call other peoples intelligience into question by calling them stupid.

You clearly have no idea how real debate works if you think that by offering your opinion of what you have determined someone else has said and call them an idiot in the process.

If you re read my blog and my posts it is pretty clear that what I was talking about was "religion" as used by the Founding Fathers. I'm sorry that you are a parser of words. But until the 1960s this country was largely a secular government nation it was not until we became afraid of the godless Soviets that Christianity entered the government.

I do not believe I was being vague when I said that all you needed to do was watch Fox News on a daily basis or go to a TEA Party rally. You believe I was and unfortunately there is nothing I can say that will clear that up.

You have already determined that I am an idiot as you have called me that several times. You keep claiming you want to have debates on here. How about you stop with the namecalling which you claim you despise and actually debate what I say, not what you think I am saying and then call me an idiot because of what you think I am saying or better put what you are making up what I am saying.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 10:41 AM

Mike,

Whoa, calm down there buddy,

When did I call you an idiot or stupid? I said you made a stupid comment I didn't say you were stupid. The other day I said I thought you were a whiny hypocrite but that isn't the same as being stupid.

I did read your blog that's why I was confused by the seemingly random comments about the Cold War and Reagan, don't be so upset about saying stupid things we all do it at times.

BTW, what do you mean trying to sound intelligent by using big words, what big words did I use in these posts?

I'm still waiting for some backing of your claims about Christians and the Constitution as well as the introduction of Christianity into government during the Cold War.

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 12:06 PM

Let's see putting "In God We Trust" on all our money and putting "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or two HUGE examples.

I am sorry that you are confused about what you feel are random examples. They aren't but oh well. They go right with the formation of the country as a secular government and the efforts from the 60s through today to turn it into a religious government.

The fact that no where in the Constitution does it demand (in fact it does the opposite) that any officer of the federal government be sworn in on the Bible or "Swear to God" at the beginning. But don't pretend the firestorm that would erupt if an officer swore in on a document other than the Bible. Remember the lies about Obama swearing into Congress on a Koran? People thought he should not be president because of that. Remember when Obama had to redo the oath because he flubbed it and when it was done in private without a Bible several anchors on Fox News said he wasn't truly president because he had not sworn in on the Bible?

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 1:10 PM

Where in the Bible does it say that gay marriage is illegal? Where in the Bible does it give you permission to treat everyone who isn't like you like dirt under their feet? Where in the Bible does it say that minorities are to be scorned and treated less than human?

See edmund I can do this to

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 5:37 PM

I gotta know edmund that if the Republicans do take control of Congress will you even have anything left you have been celebrating the wins of 2010 since 2008.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 6:08 PM

As it stand right now CQ Politics, which has been pretty close to exact over the last few election still have the Democrats controlling both Houses after November. Even if you give Republicans all the Toss-Ups as of now the Democrats would still have a 51-49 edge in the Senate and 232-203 edge in the House, but you guys would control the most Governor mansions 29-21 so you still have that.

http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?pa...

Go ahead and bring out the bias birds. Who was it, MrsSmith, that claims that snopes.com is a liberal biased site?

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 6:14 PM

Has anyone noticed?"

The Dow is back above 11,000, all parties agree the economy is steadily recovering.

Congressional Republicans are folding their filibuster after three days, because -- they admit - All thos "Cards and letters and Emails" condemming more obstructionist attempt5s to prevent financial regulations overhauling.'

Remember all the claims about the "bail out" being given new teeth and the muscle to back them.

Remember -- with passage of the Health Care Bill, the nation would be bankrupt within the month.

OH don't forget, Rush probised to leave the U.S. if the Health Care Bill was ennacted into law.

Hurry up and deliver Rush, I can't hold my breath waiting for Rush or Hannity or??"?"? to leave the country as promised.

-- Posted by HerndonHank on Thu, Apr 29, 2010, at 10:21 PM

This should not be a surprise to anyone except for a few on here, but as I predicted Republicans are already taking credit for parts of the Health Care Reform bill that they voted en masse against. Boehner leading the way.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Fri, Apr 30, 2010, at 11:43 AM

So your response to the fact that Republicans, for the second time, have taken credit for a bill that they completely railed against and voted against (with Boehner leading that attack and credit taking) is to say that I am on acid. Sad, but typical. Sad, because once again your heroes in Washington are talking out of both sides of their mouths, typical because once again you refuse to accept what they are doing as hypocritical and instead attack the person that called it.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Sun, May 2, 2010, at 6:49 PM

edmund, you are clearly either just simply not paying attention or ignoring when your heroes take credit for something they voted against. Boehner has already taken credits for the popular parts in the health care reform bill. It's on record.

But as I have said before you more than anyone cries the loudest about liberal hypocrisy while at the same time ignoring or just striking from history the hypocrisy on your side.

By the way since I have never done LSD, in Lincoln or anywhere else I have lived, once again you are caught lying about something so you do not actually have to have a point of debate.

You are one of the easiest people to debate because when you have been proven wrong or just have nothing to add you turn to personal attacks that you just simply make up. Have fun with that.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Mon, May 3, 2010, at 9:17 AM

What does that even mean edmund. I catch you in one of your many lies about well just about everything and your response is a non-response copy and paste job? But thanks just the same for proving my point for me ... again.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Mon, May 3, 2010, at 10:23 AM

How do you go from prosecuting druggies to working in a cubicle? That's quite the step down. More like a fall.

That's almost like our dear old Steffanie who at one point not only went to the high school I taught at but was one of my students until she screwed up and got on to me for working on my blog instead of teaching on a day when there was no school. Then she suddenly became a pregnant drop-out working at Taco Bell.

I love it when you guys can't decide which lie to go with and then get caught and in your attempt to back yourself out of the lie you only make it worse.

So which defense will you use next edmund:

The one about the chicken or watch and learn young sucklings. Because you won't defend yourself.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, May 4, 2010, at 2:53 PM


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