Wednesday, January 18, 2006

About Lying

There are two reasons not to lie. 1. It’s morally wrong. 2. You’ll probably get caught and have to suffer consequences. Most people don’t lie because of No. 2. The Bible and preachers use the fear of hell and eternal consequences to keep people in check. Over the millennia fear has worked better than yammering about moral wrongs. When the stories that make up the Bible were set down, the world was ruled by theocracies. The religious faction that had the biggest and strongest army got to reign supreme. And morality was on a sliding scale: Whatever worked was moral. The ruling faction of the moment claimed God was on its side. If Kings had to justify lawbreaking or lapses in ethics they said God understood because the masses had to be forced to abide by God’s laws. As long as religions ruled over governments, leaders could say, “God says so” and the people had no choice but to act as though they believed it. The Protestant Reformation changed all that in Europe. First, in 1520 Martin Luther held that the church was under secular authority. And second, in 1534 England’s Henry VIII put religion under the authority of the crown when he enacted the Act of Supremacy and established a state church. Now the Bush administration would like to establish a theocracy in the United States because it would bring back the old sliding scale of morals. Killing is right and just because God wants to strike down the ungodly. Women are under the thumb of men because that’s God’s law. The Supreme Magnificence who sits at the head of government makes all decisions after God tells him what to do. And lying isn’t lying because God knows it’s for the greater good. Ergo, lying is morally right. I’d be more afraid of a Bush theocracy if the White House hadn’t put our military might in Iraq. Instituting martial law to enforce the immoral laws of Little Jesus George would be equivalent to calling forth the Texas Longhorn Council of Boy Scouts. But still, the most serious and lasting wrong visited on mankind by religions and governments has been the lying. It’s the lies that have been written down. It’s the lies that have lived on and have been accepted as truth. In the past, the excuse for not blowing the whistle on lies has been that the liars could cause punishment and/or death to their subjects. Now the only reason to accept our government’s lies is because we are stupid or because it’s easier than doing the right thing.

1 comment:

Barry Schwartz said...

I don't think this one holds together. In my opinion, you (like everyone else) should scrupulously avoid the term 'immoral', because it is immoral. I use the term 'unethical' because it implies a code of ethics and thus can have content.

(Most people don't even realize that the term 'immoral' can be immoral, and they might think it a paradox. But for me it is clear and, in this case, it is my opinion.)