Maybe that’s why the eighth commandment says “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) Lying or not telling the truth would actually cover more than only bearing false witness. Bearing false witness is more about getting someone in trouble for something that they may not have done. The truth is more about what “really” happened, regardless of whether is gets someone in trouble or not.
For example, making up stories that neither harm nor hurt anyone might not be the truth, but it isn’t a sin against the eighth commandment. Fiction writers are saved by this technicality. Of course by telling everyone that the story is not true already does this anyway.
In this line of thinking, one begins to wonder if the creation of false stories in an effort to help people might be a good thing. Aesop’s Fables, for example, are stories that we all understand to be made up. If we didn’t know this before hand, the talking animals give it away as we listen to the stories. We also understand that the stories are meant to teach us a moral, or lesson that we can use to help us live a better life. The stories are not true, but they are good for the common good of society. If people believe that the morals of the stories are true, then they will use the morals as a way to live their lives. If a majority of people live their lives by these morals, then the society will function better.
However, even the morals taught in these stories might not really be true. The truth might be that society functions better when more people live by these morals, but some individuals might actually benefit from circumventing the morals and being selfish citizens instead. Children know that pushing to the head of the line benefits the strong aggressive children. Children, however, are taught that patience is the ideal that we should live up to, because society functions better with a majority of patient people. So, which truth should we teach our children? Only one of these facts can be true: “patience gives you what you want” or “aggressiveness gives you what you want.”
This question does not center around the “patience” or “aggressiveness” issue, but instead it centers around the “what you want” issue. This is because people are incapable of seeing everything and everyone. They see things from their personal point of view and they are capable of seeing things from the point of view of a few neighboring people. So, when a person has something that they personally want they are tempted to aggressively take that thing from the person and allow aggressiveness to give them what they want. This is the state of human nature before we begin to use our wisdom to makes rules and laws to give people something else that they want - peace and security. When a person uses aggression to get what they want they aren’t thinking of the ramifications of their actions on the total peace and security of a society. They are thinking about whether they can get away with getting what they want.
People who support the idea that more law and order makes society better have a good point. Making rules and creating punishments will deter some crime. It doesn’t, however deter all crime. This is because the truth is still lurking out there. People still know that aggression will get you what you want. Whether the aggression is in the form of hitting a person, taking what they have, and running as fast as you can or stealing people’s credit card numbers on the internet by using aggressive software to cheat the system the truth is that people can get what they want in this way. The truth is that the laws only effect those who are caught.
Of course, most people are not aggressive enough to get away with breaking the laws. Either they aren’t fast enough to get away from the police, or they aren’t smart enough to get away with the crime. There are those who are the most aggressive and they do have all their bases covered. Some of these people break the spirit of the law and protect themselves with an army of lawyers. Others simply break the laws and protect themselves with an army of force, which we call gangs or organized crime. When a large group of people choose to ignore the punishment for the crimes and consider only the reward for aggression, further laws and punishments will no longer be effective. The truth is, crime does pay for those who are aggressive enough. But, the truth is also that we do not like to live in a society dominated by aggression.
So, it could make sense that we as a society should spread the lies of morals that will make life better for all of us. If we believe that everyone else will want to live under the rules of a moral based society, then we will be willing to live under those same morals. When we do this we don’t feel like the guy down the street is able to get away with cheating the system, because we believe that honest “good” guys will respect the laws, be patient and work toward the honorable goal of getting what you want through fair and competitive patience.
There might be some truth in the idea that society would be better if everyone worked for the common good of society. But, the truth is there are lazy people in society that don’t want to work for the common good of everyone. The goal of making the world a better place is just a bit to abstract for them to understand the concept. These are the people who drive SUVs because they like big cars that will kill the little people who might choose to drive an economical hybrid. Better them rather than me, floats through the heads of these people. Global Warming and high rates of SUV rollovers can not penetrate this mentality. Aggression wins, is all they can think about. The truth is based on observations, and heavier cars will certainly cause more damage to smaller cars if they hit each other head on at the same speeds. But, the truths about SUV rollovers, Global Warming, effects of smog on people with asthma, the funding of terrorist groups with profits from Middle East oil and many more are out there as well. And, aggression means picking the truth that supports your cause, not the truth that supports the entire society.
Religion is selective with the truths that it supports as well. Religion is not based on observed evidence, but rather on faith. And, faith presupposes what the “truth” is, then it hunts for the evidence that supports that “truth.” For example, some religions have determined that homosexuality is a sin. Even if we were to assume that the Bible were the complete unambiguous truth about all things, there is very little support for this conjecture. If the religion were to determine that polygamy were the true calling of men, there would be much more evidence found in the Bible supporting this claim. But religion selects its evidence carefully and the followers are told not to question their faith, which is a code word for “authority.” If you think about this, truth is never in question if the authority can not be questioned. But, the truth is out there for those who seek it.
As the religious right in the United States has gradually taken control of the Republican Party in the United States the politicians have not resisted them. This was mainly because these religious zealots have brought their own version of the truth with them. Republicans have learned from the religious right how to project authority without being questioned in this newly acquired religious way. Republicans tell their followers not to question them, and then they don’t need to answer those questions. This is why George W Bush only spoke at “friendly” crowds during the 2004 presidential election. He didn’t want to face people who might question the faith. He asked his followers to trust him and believe in him, to have unquestionable faith in him. Then he could lead us into whatever debacle he chose, without being questioned. The truth continued to poke its little head out of the sand, and the faithful repeatedly buried it again, doing what they were told. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” they were repeatedly told. And, since they were raised to be incurious and unquestioning they continued to cling to their faith.
Could you imagine a world where politicians were concerned about truth and not power or control? Imagine what would happen after a school shooting. We wouldn’t have the pointless calls for posting the Ten Commandments on the classroom walls so that the students could “learn” that it is a sin to kill. I am guessing that everyone of the students who have ever brought a weapon to school, had been told at some point that killing was “bad.” They were probably told that it was a sin as well. They were probably told that they might even get the death penalty for killing. But, they still go forward and carry out the planned killing any way. The law and order solution to this problem is to make sure that everyone knows the laws, and the consequences of these laws. And, if that doesn’t work, then they would like to monitor every person in the world and make sure that they don’t have any thoughts about killing people. Since this can not work, they would rather created fear in the population so that neighbors will become so fearful of each other that they will monitor each other, therefore protecting everyone. The other solution depends on other truths that are often ignored. Parents need to spend time with their children and be able to determine mood changes and emotional states. The easy access to weapons could be examined.
The point is that evidence that contradicts the faith is taught to be wrong, sinful, “the devils work.” Truth is taught to be found in faith and not in the observable evidence. This circular reasoning always concludes that the truth is what the authority teaches, and everything else is wrong. In other words truth is based on what a religion proclaims to be true and nothing else can question that. If the Eighth Commandment had said, “Thou shall not lie,” things would be much different. Religions that based their teachings on the Bible would be obliged to search for the “truth.” The truth could only be spoken if people were confident that they really knew the truth. Speaking of something that were merely a conjecture would be prefaced with a warning that “some people believe,” or “we don’t know for sure, but.” This would result in a more honest view of the world than we typically get from many religions. But, honesty is not written in the Ten Commandments, so we can’t expect this from these people.
Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit