The Ten Commandments — #9

TenCommandmentsA StubbornThings Symposium   6/20/14
Introduction  •  It seems to me that there are two kinds of laws. There are laws geared toward the animal and there are laws geared toward the spirit.

The animal laws are meant to prevent you from doing what you would do (or might well do) if your neighbor was allowed to do it too. Humans have a bizarre fixation on “fairness” — to the point where they will do bad things as long as everyone else is allowed to do them too.

This is the root evil of all forms of collectivism. In collectivism, there is no measure of right-and-wrong other than what your neighbor is allowed to do. Such laws are often anchored in little more than political machinations, at worst, or mere fleeting fad and fashion, at best.

This is no doubt why Dennis Prager notes that the right is concerned with the big evils (timeless evils such as murder, for instance) while the Left is obsessed with the little evils (such as cigarette smoking or recycling). And these “little evils” come and go, often turning on a dime: One day gay marriage is wrong…the next day it’s a new “civil right.”

The animal gauges right and wrong in the context of what his neighbor is allowed to do. But The Ten Commandments, although certainly of use to man’s lower animal nature, are meant to address man’s spiritual side as well. “Honor thy mother and father.” “Thou shalt not kill.” “Keep the sabbath day holy.”

The words “holy” and “honor,” in particular, are not words you’ll commonly find encoded into civil law. These Ten Commandments are dealing with Big Law. We are not being asked to use paper instead of plastic at the check-out line. We’re being asked to get in line with the most basic laws of the Cosmos.

Ironically, these laws and ideas are being stolen from us, dishonored, and made profane by a modern Western movement (Cultural Marxism, also known as Leftism, Progressivism, socialism, or Communism) which constantly is lying about who we are and where we came from. Thus the ninth commandment is no small thing to consider.

The Editor


Number 9: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”


 

GLENN FAIRMAN

Eternity Versus the Lie – Thoughts on the Ninth Commandment

There is no question that the sin of bearing false witness, either during a trial or as a tawdry means to blacken the good name of another for personal gain, is reprehensible and counter to the harmony of the City. The fact that this injustice is recognized as a grave affront to God carries with it an even more serious condemnation than mere criminal perjury, since what is false in man’s public square may be hidden, but what reverberates before the all-seeing court of The Most High is of an entirely different character. Indeed, the very subversion or corruption achieved by speaking or affirming “the thing which is not” – either through commission or omission, reveals that naked depravity infecting our nature and our malignant propensity for self interest over what is good and just. Yet despite the gravity of this offense, if the frontiers of the 9th commandment stopped here, we might still escape much of its judgments relatively unscathed.

But like all God’s legislation that scours the recesses of the heart, we are not to be let off so easily. In its most expansive interpretation, the commandment binds our tongues to uttering the truth in all matters. As it is against His nature for God to lie, we who would be like Him and dwell within the light of his countenance must also affect a similar probity. And while holding our tongues hostage to an unwavering sincerity in our human dealings is perhaps more natural for some than for others, the proof of our redemption or damnation is ultimately evidenced in the familiar ease in which we speak true or weave that which is false.

If it is held that our God is the Father of Lights in whom no shadow abides, then conversely, our great adversary is the Father of Lies and has been so from the very beginning. Given this, I should speculate that most of us, due to a natural propensity for self-preservation and a native capacity for: self-deception, pain avoidance, or a driving need to be deemed worthy in the eyes of others, wander in that grey continuum between uttering crystalline truth and delivering the bold faced lie with abandon.

For those at the latter end of that spectrum who lack Heaven’s perspective, man’s cavalier flirtation with the truth can often be justified with a nimble apologetic. Indeed, such men might reason that we are a race of bards who dabble in the colors of fantasy and fiction in an effortless narrative fashion; and as such, humanity is by nature congenially disposed to those who can tease the beauty from an oftentimes colorless and hateful world — even if history and fact are mauled in the process. We may shamelessly tell ourselves that we detest a falsehood that is malevolent in intention — rolling our eyes at the braggart whose aim is clearly self-exultation, while loving any sincere embellishment alloyed with a fact that might lead us to a greater truth down the road. All too frequently, through the quality of human rationalization, we discover how effortlessly we can manipulate words to veil our squalid motives — so that even the blackest of lies can appear praiseworthy if done for the sake of love, country or the “greater good.” Such is the diabolic power of the lie to destroy with a sugared kiss.

Moreover, since the New Philosophy has informed us that there are no longer any objective truths to be found in the world, we walk as a race on a moral balance beam – negotiating the abyss with scientific knowledge and secular explanatory myths that ascribe existential meaning to take the place of truth in modernity’s vacuum. In light of this new paradigm, we require a host of “noble lies:” such as those proposed in Plato’s’ “Myth of the Metals.” Secured through man’s “inventiveness,” it is reasoned that these lies, (whether they are rooted in “religion” or atheistic materialism) will supply society with its necessary cohesion by helping forge an artificial cult of brotherhood where there was once only a war of all against all Brave New Utopians have always believed that their Earthly City can be founded for the sake of “higher ends” – no matter how many eggs were scuttled in the process That fact that the dream erected on the back of the lie invariably fails is proof that some lessons are never to be learned on the human stage.

In the absence of truth, one no longer need speak the truth; and everything under the velvet canopy of night can then be called into question, since every sacred cow has gone to slaughter. If we dare pursue Ariadne’s thread even further into the labyrinth, we may find that even the Commandments themselves have been relegated to the status of just another benevolent fantasy to legislate order to a once stiff-necked and lawless people. By rendering God’s truth as merely another clever fiction, we soon disappear into that maze as the thread becomes ash in our very hands.

Fortunately for the Christian, truth is not merely an inventive fancy. Though the temporal world: saturated in its pride, shoddy advertisements and hollow promises, might appeal to the palate of unredeemed men, such myths and artifices will be utterly consumed as chaff before the Sovereign Will that rules creation. For the Christian, the scriptures make plain the biblical imperative: only what is true – only what is holy is worthy to stand before the Great King. The Enduring City cannot be constructed on a fabrication, and so God will provide us with one. In describing the character of the New Jerusalem: that Eternal City prepared for God’s beloved at the End of Days, John the Revelator writes:

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Lest any ambiguity about mendacity and the Kingdom of God remain unchallenged, the King James translation of Rev. 22:15 dispels all doubt about Heaven’s toleration of liars:

“Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.”

Having been known in my day as a person who could spin a tale with the best of them, this verse always sets my teeth on edge. Most writers have a propensity for exaggeration, but I was always astounded at how easily the lie came to my lips. The fact that I now anguish over this “virtue” is perhaps the beginning of wisdom, as age overtakes me and I consider Lincoln’s admonition that “no man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” He who would command respect must practice the habit of truth telling, be it ever so painful and unglamorous. In the end our integrity before God and our own consciences are all we will ever truly own – and these, friends, are words of sober truth.

— Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com.

 

JOHN KIRKE

“The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.”

So wrote Joseph A. Schumpeter, in a line that is one of Thomas Sowell’s favorite quotations. Not even the devoutly religious are immune from the temptation to lie for a good cause.

I find Mormon ad campaigns to be somewhat misleading in suggesting that they’re just another Protestant denomination, and Islam’s doctrine of taqqiya explicitly permits lying to non-believers. Andrew McCarthy has pointed out that supposedly moderate Islamists will routinely condemn terrorism, but they often do so without mentioning the distinction they draw between terrorism and resistance, and that their idea of resistance includes suicide bombings against civilian targets in Israel.

The Left’s secular religion thrives on deception. In The Grand Jihad, McCarthy persuasively argued that Islam and the Left often cooperate in attacking a common enemy, namely the West’s traditional democratic institutions, but they also sometimes have similar tactics.

(The similarities can be overstated, but then again, in targeting the Pentagon, Bill Ayers beat the 9/11 terrorists by nearly thirty years.)

Deception is the very basis of subversion, that is, Gramsci’s long march through the institutions, through which the Left has gained control of the “commanding heights” of the culture while working against these organizations’ stated beliefs and goals.

Elected officials can and should act on their own principles even in the face of popular opposition, but the consent of the governed must be informed consent, so political candidates must be forthright about their beliefs. One very prominent Leftist surrounded himself with unrepentant domestic terrorists, race-essentialist preachers, and other Marxists, but he presented himself as a post-partisan, post-racial moderate.

(One reason he won is a Leftist press that refused to scrutinize his background but still pretended to engage in unbiased and objective journalism.)

The Ninth Commandment, in its full implications, forbids such a Machiavellian approach to ends and means.

The command only explicitly forbids perjury – a serious act, since false accusations can destroy a man’s life, livelihood, and reputation – but surely the command has a much broader application.

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches not to take an oath, but this cannot entail a blanket prohibition, as the Mennonites tend to believe. He did not object to the high priest’s command “by the living God” to answer whether He is the Christ (Matt 26:63). Instead, I believe that Christ commends a life of such transparent honesty that an oath is always superfluous: even an honest oath “comes from evil” insofar as it acknowledges our default behavior of lying out of self-interest.

A commitment to honesty doesn’t entail a lack of discretion. The Bible condemns gossip, and before His mission was completed and the Great Commission was given, Jesus told His disciples to keep His identity as the Messiah a secret (Matt 16:20). Jesus even taught that His use of parables was in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10, that the crowds would hear but not understand (Mark 4:11-12, cf. Matt 13:10-17).

Still, the Bible clearly teaches that there was no deceit in Jesus’ mouth (I Pet 2:22, citing Isaiah 53:9). Christians must follow Christ’s example.

To resist Schumpeter’s maxim, our ideals must include a rigorous commitment to the truth.

We must treat our neighbors as human beings to be persuaded, not objects to be manipulated.

And, politically and even in our personal lives, we must check our real motivations to avoid the false rationalization seen in that quote doubtfully attributed to J.P. Morgan.

“A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good one, and the real one.”

Less than two weeks after Senate candidate Todd Akin stumbled over an interview question about abortion, Speaker of the House John Boehner rammed a rules change through the 2012 Republican National Convention, undermining the power of the state parties and grassroots. Most right-leaning pundits who called for Akin to resign barely mentioned Boehner’s betrayal of the GOP base, and it was then that I saw most clearly the fraud behind their stated concerns about electability. Winning elections obviously isn’t your first priority when you think moderates must be coddled while the base can be insulted at will.

We must stand apart from the statists even in our own party, not just in our opposition to the goal of progressivism in even its mildest, most managerial form, but in our willingness to be honest about what we believe.

We must be honest, knowing that truth is on our side, and knowing that truth is a powerful weapon indeed against even systematic deception.

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)

— John R.W. Kirke is a pseudonym of a Christian husband, father, and engineer who has written elsewhere under other names, including “Lawrence” in the comments at National Review Online. He remains deeply moved by the unpublished memoirs of Professor D. Kirke (1888-1949).

See Also:    The Tenth Commandment Symposium
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48 Responses to The Ten Commandments — #9

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    For reasons lost in the mists of time (though one can always guess), I’ve had a horror of false accusations. This has affected my reactions to some stories (such as the dark — especially for me — ending to Fredric Brown’s Here Comes a Candle). It also led me, in discussing the detailed reports of vandalism by the Clintons and/or their staff on leaving the White House in 2001 (which the Bush team generously or honestly — I don’t know which — denied), to note that it was bad news either if Bush willingly covered up vandalism at taxpayer expense for the sake of a civility that the other side has no intention of returning, or if someone had actually worked up such a false accusation (it was too detailed to be a misunderstanding).

    As for the more generalized aspect, my basic goal for a long time has been to seek after Truth. I don’t claim to be inerrant, or even 100% honest in my 63 years, but to me there is no higher purpose than the unbending pursuit of Truth wherever it may be found. In this respect, I will mention Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, in which she mentions various “satir modes” by which people communication with each other. One is the “leveler mode” (i.e., one of leveling with others) — an attitude of total frankness. I see that as my default mode. Indeed, the ideal to me (which probably will never be achieved) would be for the leveler mode to be the only one I ever use.

    I consider it no accident that Satan is the Father of Lies (a title that Slick Barry Liebama could just as easily claim). Nor am I surprised that the hymn “Once in Every Man and Nation” notes that “in the strife of truth with falsehood” one must choose between “the good or evil side”. I hope always to place myself on the side of truth — and thus against the evil side. But how well I succeed in that is not something I can decide for myself.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      As for the more generalized aspect, my basic goal for a long time has been to seek after Truth.

      I think it was in one of Thomas Sowell’s articles where he said that people aren’t generally interested in truth.

      I tend to agree. Anyone who has read “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” will get an idea for the twinkle in the eye that Feynman carried around. He loved looking into how things worked. He was a natural scientist. I doubt that anyone taught him to get joy out of inquisitiveness, of getting to the bottom of things.

      And regarding strictly material subjects (the domain of science), “truth” in this realm is relatively safe. Generally speaking, finding out the precise weight of the electron holds little promise of upsetting anyone (other than the group of scientists who may have come to a different conclusion about the weight).

      Even so, look at all the kool-aid involved in the global warming fraud. Clearly even regarding something that you would think would be as innocuous as the weather can be a subject used and abused for political and other purposes, where truth becomes the enemy of someone.

      But certainly in the realm of normal human affairs, particularly politics, truth is generally not of interest to people. Slander and “bearing false witness” is now just part of the normal news cycle. Our politicians and news organizations are thoroughly corrupt.

      So it takes a brave individual indeed to have a regard for truth. I’ve come to believe that a love for truth as a value unto itself is relatively rare. For most people, the truth of a thing is an afterthought. People will claim truth often enough as a tactic. But it’s just that…a tactic. They’re not actually after truth. They’re after winning or otherwise getting their way.

      I think Glenn captures a fair bit of this aspect in his essay. Mankind is a rationalizer. He not only very easily lies to others as a weapon. He lies to himself. And some people are such regular liars, in ways large and small, that lying becomes a part of who they are. It’s not just something they do.

      And for those who believe integrity is a very worthy value, the advantages that may come with lying just aren’t worth it.

    • Rosalys says:

      Deana Chadwell writes about the lies which started and fueled the Salem witch trials. The other side of the story is that the originators of the lies and those who fanned the flames were never called to account for their heinous crimes. No one suffered much, if any consequence for his or her lies and the victims for the most part were never compensated or given justice. That was an abomination! (It’s curious and quite telling that what really stopped the nonsense was that someone accused the governor’s wife of being a witch!)

      George W. Bush was wrong to sweep the vandalism of the Clinton staff under the rug. Refusing to hold them accountable was a lie in itself for which we continue to pay the price. I don’t read anywhere in the Bible where we are called to be “nice” the way most people use the word today. Christians are called to be kind and compassionate, but we are also called to seek truth and justice. (Christ wasn’t very “nice” when He drove the money changers out of the temple!) It is not kind to allow evil doers to get away with their crimes. It encourages more bad behavior and discourages the repentance which leads to salvation. By being “nice” to the criminal you are all too often being very, very cruel to the rest of society.

      It was the height of wimpiness and borderline criminal of the Senators to refuse to convict Clinton the Impeached, with overwhelming evidence against him for perjury and suborning perjury, a crime which for any one of us mere mortals would land us in the hoosegow for some time. It was a grievous error which only emboldened the ruling class who (rightly it turns out!) reasoned that they could do anything short (I hope!) of murder and they will not be called to answer for it!

      Yes, God is love! Yes, God is merciful! But let us also remember that God is just, that He loves justice, and that He is the Supreme Judge of mankind. The 9th Commandment is ultimately about justice.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, technically we don’t know if Bush swept Clinton vandalism under the rug, or someone came up with an extremely detailed false accusation. My point is that it was very bad either way.

        One must remember that the theological key to stopping the Salem witchcraft trials involved the question: Can Satan appear in the guise of a church member in good standing? Cotton Mather said he couldn’t; Increase Mather said he could. In the end (probably indeed because of who was accused), the authorities decided to agree with Increase, which forced them to ignore the spectral evidence. They never concluded that the hysterics were lying, only that Satan’s appearance as members of the community didn’t have to mean that those members were witches. Of course, this meant that all or most of the people executed were innocent (no one who confessed was executed), but the idea of compensation didn’t exist at that time.

        • Rosalys says:

          I did a little rereading on the subject and found I was wrong about the victims not being compensated. Not quite 20 years later there was money allocated for the survivors. But perhaps the word restitution is a better word. One of the accusers tried to recant, but recanted her recantation when she was herself was incarcerated. All I’m saying’ is there was some bearing false witness going on and someone should have received at least the proverbial slap on the wrist. At least the majority of folks felt ashamed by the whole awful episode – which is a lot more than can be said for our Ruling Class!

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        George W. Bush was wrong to sweep the vandalism of the Clinton staff under the rug. Refusing to hold them accountable was a lie in itself for which we continue to pay the price. I don’t read anywhere in the Bible where we are called to be “nice” the way most people use the word today.

        That’s such an outstanding thought, Rosalys. It shows clarity of thought and no waffle. (I like waffles, but not the political or social kind).

        I believe that our nation is being eaten out at its core by this vapid and purely superficial stress on being “nice” instead of good.

        No, I don’t mean being perfect or perfectly righteous by being “good.” To set that as a societal goal is flirting with fundamentalism or at least a society whose ass cheeks are puckered way too tightly for its own good. A certain amount of silliness and even hypocrisy are normal, even healthy. Being human implies being limited, imperfect, and even sinful. It goes with the territory.

        I think being honest about that is healthy. But lying to ourselves about it is not, particularly lying that all these things whose foundations lie in narcissism — the overriding desire to simply feel good and to be thought good of, no matter what — has caused us to be superficial and quite vacuous ninnies. This is the drive, as Dennis Prager often notes, to be “nice” but not good.

        We’re never going to be perfect. But we should strive for at least an operational level of good. But “nice” is for ninnies. George Bush (and I don’t think this was just a political calculation, it’s the core of his tepid “compassionate” conservatism) is of the mind that one must simply be “nice.” That’s the general gist of Establishment Republicans who generally view those who think values and principles (aka “morals”) are important are the sort of unwashed rubes who Obama dismissed as “clinging to guns and religion.”

        Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, did not have politics whose essence was “Like me, like me, like me.” Oh, personally, he was a very congenial fellow. But he was also full of fire and brimstone when the occasion warranted it (as if often did). He understood that even as you fight for your values, you can do so in a mostly positive way. But if the goal is to be “liked” — that is, to never offend anyone — then you might as well pack away the very idea of standing for something important.

        Bush was indeed wrong to sweep under the rug the vandalism done to the White House by the Clinton Democratic mob. It was the perfect opportunity to do a “photo op,” to show the vacuous and narcissistic yuppies, baby boomers, and adult hippies who elected this bum just what the consequences of their ideology was. Instead, much like he did when he called Islam a “religion of peace,” his Progressive and narcissistic impulse to always polish a turd — no matter how stinky the turd — prevailed. After all, that’s what “nice” people do. “Nice” people are not “divisive.” “Nice” people are “tolerant” and “inclusive.”

        Hail to the one honest man I heard who actually groaned when Michael Reagan, at a recent speech to a Republican crowd, said the word “inclusive” in such a way that it could have come out of the mouth of Hillary Clinton. There are people remaining whose politics and religion are larger than the weak and milquetoast progressivism that is part and parcel of the Establishment Republicans such as exists with the Bush family.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The GOP Establishment refuses to accept that the liberal Democrats are at war with them (and even more so with us) and wish to destroy us. Of course, in Mississippi the Barbour machine chose to ally with the worst Democrats and use the worst tactics in order to maintain their gravy train, so the problem may be that both are at war (one overtly and one usually covertly) with ordinary Americans.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The Establishment Republicans will play hardball when it comes to the Tea Party. But they don’t play hardball when it comes to Democrats.

            The logical conclusion to draw from this is that the Establishment Republicans have more in common with the Democrats/Leftists and thus view the Tea Party (or any normal American who believes in the Constitution and this country’s founding principles) as an enemy to their cause. And their cause is the prestige, power, and money that comes from being inside of and running government. The sheer idea of actually reducing government is nonsensical from their point of view.

            Oh, that’s not to say that Establishment Republicans don’t share the conceit that they can run the existing bureaucracies better. And that might even be true in some cases. But their goal is not a reverence for, and application of, historically Republican/conservative principles.

            Does that mean that these are bad people? No. They are just the normal flies who are attracted to the honey (or excrement, if you prefer to use that metaphor). They can be written off and explained as “nothing new under the sun.” But America itself was something new. And other than Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and a few others, not a damn one of these Establishment Republicans (and their mouthpieces in the conservative media) cares more for this country than he does for his own massive and over-sized sense of self-importance and unhinged ambition.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I hope (and suspect) that Henry Barbour had no idea what he unleashed when he chose to hire a partisan Democrat to run his GOTV effort in black areas. The Tea Partier linked to the invasion of Cochran’s wife’s room was found dead today, an apparent suicide. When Henry Barbour atones for his misconduct in the same way, I’ll consider forgiving other Establishment Republicans.

              There are reports that some are uncomfortable with Barbour’s tactics — but so far not enough to denounce him. They have to choose between Barbour and us, and I rather suspect I know their choice. So let Barbour and his K street lobbyists do their volunteer labor as well as providing money.

              I would recommend that Mississsippi conservatives vote against Cochran one way or another. Let him pay the price (but only politically) that Admiral Byng paid after Minorca (“to encourage the others”, as Voltaire put it in Candide). And let Barbour pay that price literally.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    In Asia, truth is often viewed as a dangerous thing. Governments are particularly sensitive to this. But it is also something which is treated gingerly in personal relationships.

    Since my return to the States, I have noticed there is less a trend to where truth is less esteemed than “harmony”. Of course, this “harmony” is pretty much defined by the Left.

    It is one thing to lie to others. A real danger arises when one begins to believe one’s own lies, which many in the Left apparently do. Another good reason to seek the truth and honesty.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Sense my return to the States, I have noticed there is less a trend to where truth is less esteemed than “harmony”. Of course, this “harmony” is pretty much defined by the Left.

      You’ve just described what animates Establishment Republicans.

      • Rosalys says:

        This pursuit of harmony is killing us! The result of this pursuit of harmony is the destruction of our nation and an ever increasing chaos for us peons. But hey! If it gives “them” nice dreams at night I guess it’s all worth it!

        This is why the Republicans are held in such contempt by much of their own party.

        Here is my tip of the day for all you politicians. There is nothing more attractive than a righteous man with balls of steel (especially to us gals!)

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Instead, I believe that Christ commends a life of such transparent honesty that an oath is always superfluous: even an honest oath “comes from evil” insofar as it acknowledges our default behavior of lying out of self-interest.

    This is a particularly interesting point that John Kirke makes. I would say that aside from harmless social lying, it’s a terrific point that we tend to lie so casually as a matter of course that it is somewhat absurd that we have even to bother with taking an oath. It’s like saying, “Okay, now I’m telling the truth.” Well, gee…thanks. It’s an admission that lying is our (or at least many people’s) normal mode.

    And John makes a good point that honesty doesn’t mean saying every dad blame thing on your mind. That is, that honesty doesn’t include gossip. Sometimes silence on some particular point is as good as a lie, but most often it’s just wise discretion.

    I respect people’s right to their own privacy. I don’t believe that adherence to honesty means we can’t have a private sphere. But we can’t lie about things that are important.

    But the most astonishing thing of all is that those who have risen to the point of being self-aware about the issue of honesty probably understand that, when all is said and done, they put themselves at a distinct disadvantage in a world full of fibbers. Yes, there is something to be said for having a reputation for integrity. That can be very valuable.

    And yet at the end of the day, I think we all know that lying is so prevalent because it is entirely useful. And those who commit to doing business and having friendships and relationships where we don’t treat people like a mere object (which is what lying is all about) understand that there is sometimes a price to pay in this world for being honest. But, frankly, for those who don’t want to be scumbags, that price is generally considered more than worth paying.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Pat, I’m impressed by your scholarly approach to this. Well said.

    • Pst4usa says:

      Thanks Brad. Same to you, and I think all of these are done very well.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thanks, Pat. And I assume you’re not lying. 😀

        By the way, one of our symposium members had to back out of this writing assignment because of time constraints. That means there is a spot open. If someone would like to join, let me know. I’d particularly like to get a Jewish perspective, but I’ll take anyone who feels they have something to say about these Ten Commandments. And if you’d like to write about #9, submit it ASAP and I’ll add it on.

        • Pst4usa says:

          Did I miss something or did I imagine that I already did write something on #9? That may be a Freuden slip on the quality of my writing Brad, but I have never been too worried about that. I do need to do a lot of work on my writing skills; that is why I appreciate this opportunity, so thank you again for allowing me to participate with such fine writers.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I’ll be depending on you right ’til the last when we make it to #1. I don’t know how many of us will be left by then. But I’m guessing you’ll be there at the finish line. 🙂

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    In Theodore Dalrymple’s book, “In Praise of Prejudice,” he mentions that Richard Dawkins and the cranky atheists (yes, that’s redundant) have their own Ten Commandments:

    The biologist Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, quotes with approval one of the new Ten Commandments with which a hopeful atheist wants to replace the old Ten Commandments. Among the new Commandments are: a) Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts; and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them; b) Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others; c) Question everything.

    This has long been the supposed goal and role of intellectuals. The American black writer James Baldwin, in his Fire Next Time, advises his nephew to “Take no one’s word for anything—even mine.” This is a paradoxical injunction that, if taken literally, would soon drive someone mad.

    Does anybody live, has anybody ever lived, by these commandments? In the first place, there is an assumption that facts speak for themselves and will settle all questions worth settling, including those of belief. In fact, they will not even settle all questions of fact. It is a counsel of impossible perfection that people should believe things with precisely the degree of conviction that is warranted by the evidence that they themselves possess. Is there a single person in the history of the world, even the philosopher Bertrand Russell, a constant scold of convention, who has lived like this?

    Dalrymple then goes into his “Battle of Hastings” analogy, stating how impossibly cumbersome (let alone time consuming) it would be to have to “test all things” and “always check your ideas against the facts,” never relying merely on the authoritative opinion of another.

    In reality, this issue lays bare the conceit of the “Brites” (a name often used by atheists and others on the Left). The idea is that they have formed their opinions via “reason.” Libertarians tend to have this same conceit. After all, they have made such a self-conscious show (at least the atheists and socialists have) of stating how they are not beholden to mere superstition that it must be true.

    And that’s pretty much all you get from the Left, and many libertarians as well. You get the conceit of higher knowledge by people who haven’t actually done the work. They’ve simply absorbed a tribal designation that says that if you belong to this identity group you therefore are a “Brite.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      When Michael Shermer mentioned in one of his books that the atheist brigade liked to call themselves “brights” (which he defended as not implying anything about the non-atheists, indicating that he’s either stupid or a liar), my reaction was that a more proper term for them is “arrogants”.

      In terms of not accepting anyone’s word, I will note an interesting encounter once between Ayn Rand and Ruth Beebe Hill. The latter was staying at the house Rand owned around LA since Rand had moved to NYC, and wanted to put out a series of libertarian-oriented tapes. She wanted Nathaniel Branden to do some, but first wanted to listen to a tape of him. He refused because he “didn’t audition”, and Rand insisted that it wasn’t necessary — her boytoy was eminently qualified. Hill refused to do a Branden tape sound unheard. So the next time Rand visited, she began to upbraid Hill for not taking her word — t o which Hill replied, “It was from you that I learned to make my own judgments and not take anyone else’s word.”

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        So the next time Rand visited, she began to upbraid Hill for not taking her word — t o which Hill replied, “It was from you that I learned to make my own judgments and not take anyone else’s word.”

        A perfect example of the hypocrisy and vacuity of these types.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          True, but I think it was even more arrogance. Rand thought herself to be the perfect rationalist, and also thought that everything was a matter of reason. So you were perfectly free to make your own decisions — but if you disagreed with her in any way, then clearly you fell short of totally rationality. And to challenge her — and therefore claim she was capable of error — well, she reacted as Stalin reacted to someone claiming to have been falsely accused during the Yezhovshchina.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            she reacted as Stalin reacted to someone claiming to have been falsely accused during the Yezhovshchina.

            Did that make Nathaniel Braden her malignant dwarf?

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Well, I’m not sure he was a dwarf, and probably wasn’t as malignant as Leonard Peikoff (who remained a Rand sycophant). But I might add that the source of the story is Barbara Branden.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Oh, goodness gracious. How typical.

            Certainly I think knowledge, facts, non-zealousness, and careful thinking are good things. But what so many of these “Brites” and libertarians call “reason” is simply personal preference. But they try to give their subjective opinions extra oomph by anointing them as arrived at by “reason.”

            This is another liberal/libertarian trick, for if they can label their policy as based in “reason,” then any opposing policies are, by definition, un-reasonable. One reason I’m so down on libertarians is because you run into this inherent dishonesty just about every time.

            “Reason” isn’t going to tell you if capitalism is better than Communism. There are simply people who prefer one or the other. There are logical strengths and weaknesses to both.

            As I like to tell people, life itself is not “reasonable.” It just is. It exists outside the sphere of “reason.” Existence is in some way gratuitous. And many things are like that. You would be a fool to “reason” your way to what to have for breakfast. Certainly some input of facts, such as what types of food are healthy, is a good thing. But when the final choice is made, it’s more a matter of preference as well as other factors. But that morning’s breakfast will not be deduced from a mathematical equation.

            “Reason” itself is amoral. It is a method, not a moral stance. The Nazis, for example, used huge applications of “reason” to design their military machine and their Final Solution.

            Reasonableness, on the other hand, is always welcome. It means being non-zealous. It means being able to unclench one’s butt cheeks from a pet idea and seeing further than that idea, taking in other factors and data, and doing so in a way where the end goals is truth, not kool-aid.

            “Reason,” as typical used by many, is an affectation. It’s worth noting that one of the most popular libertarian magazines is named “Reason.” That should tell you something.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I good example of where reason untethered to ethics can lead is the Star Trek episode “Amok Time”. T’Pring was brilliant in her ploy to get Kirk to fight as her champion, as Spock admitted; but she revealed herself to be totally monstrous, no matter how rational.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                That’s a perfect example, Timothy. More proof that “Everything I need to know about life I learned in Star Trek” (at least regarding the original series).

                T’Pring was rational and monstrous. True, she might have been rational and benevolent. But the one isn’t inherently connected with the other unless one dishonestly defines “rational” as only the good stuff.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Taken to its Libertarian end, it is rational and reasonable to consider only the individual, i.e. oneself. Sacrifice for others or an ideal is simply irrational and unreasonable. Is this a sophisticated or primitive view?

              No doubt, humans act from generally selfish motives, but not all people act this way all of the time.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Sacrifice for others or an ideal is simply irrational and unreasonable.

                Indeed, Mr. Kung. And this is where Ayn Rand’s Objectivist nonsense goes off the deep end. To denigrate the Mother Teresa’s of the world — or any mother or father who has raised and sacrificed for a child — because supposedly they are the thin end of the wedge in regards to creeping collectivism is loony. And I mean “loony” as a technical description of that philosophy.

                Humans have a track record of many monstrous acts and deserve harsh words for that. But as Dennis Prager points out, humans are also the only species that has hospitals. Our benevolence is our saving grace. Without it we are all market-based sociopaths. And I think Objectivism and libertarianism draw far too close to that description.

                Rand makes absolutely no distinction in her writing between private benevolence and the kind of political welfare “benevolence” that we should rightly deride and be on guard against. But there is absolutely no danger from your local Lion’s Club collecting donations for eye glasses. Instead, there is much to commend that practice.

                Objectivism, which overlaps with libertarianism almost exactly, is a zealous and somewhat unhinged ideology.

          • Rosalys says:

            she reacted as Stalin reacted to someone claiming to have been falsely accused during the Yezhovshchina.

            I saw her react exactly that way on the Phil Donohue Show 35 years ago! That is why I never got around to reading any of her books until two years ago. I really liked We the Living, I have mixed feelings about Atlas Shrugged, and I haven’t yet read The Fountainhead. Has anyone on this site done a review of Atlas Shrugged yet? I think it would make for a good discussion.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Atlas Shrugged is an extremely long book, which means that any review would need to be rather long, even if you include the 100-plus page chapter of Galt’s speech (which most people probably never read anyway). There are many fine aspects of the book (I love the many scenes in which Francisco D’Anconia skewers the looters’ hypocrisy), but it also shows her black-and-white view of the world.

  6. Timothy Lane says:

    Regarding Objectivism and charity, one might note that Ragnar Danneskjold spent his time raiding “looter” ships and then depositing the proceeds into the Mulligan Bank in Galt’s Gulch for the benefit of the various entrepreneurs victimized by the looters (based on their income taxes paid). When Hank Rearden challenges him as just another do-gooder, Danneskjold (as a professional philosopher) does a nice job of sophistry to claim that this is really making the future society (of which he would be a member) better off by speeding up its recovery. But, of course, liberals can defend the welfare state on pragmatic grounds, claiming that it makes society better by reducing social strife. So by her logic, private charity is atrocious “altruism” — but the welfare state could simply be social pragmatism.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ayn Rand had a very naive and narrow definition of the word, “altruism.” She basically defined it as a kind of debilitating mental condition that inevitably led to collectivism. The patient may think he is doing good. But he is simply ushering in Stalin.

      Are there people who fall for the supposed “compassion” of politicians? Yes, and lots of them. But the fault isn’t altruism. The fault is foolish people and dishonest politicians. But I find it hard to believe we could ever have too much altruism.

      On this point Ayn Rand was a nut. She was brilliant in her defense of the free market system and her critique of collectivism. But she had a blind spot regarding altruism. I suspect this was because she was somewhat of a cold person and was just doing what most people do…trying to normalize their own behavior or view of things.

      Beware intellectuals of any stripe.

      • Brad — excellent analysis of Rand. It’s a very tricky position — being financially conservative and atheist at the same and altruism is one of the stumbling blocks — it’s impossible to explain from an evolutionary standpoint. Good job.

        And these essays were all good, informative, and thought-provoking pieces. Yeah!

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Thanks, Deana. One tries one’s best to carve out a little ray of sanity in the blizzard of nonsense being thrown around these days.

          I’ve had conversations with Objectivists. And they remind me of Sterling Hayden’s character in the movie, Dr. Strangelove. This somewhat mad general (Gen. Jack Ripper) was always going on about the importance of “purity of essence” and maintaining one’s “vital fluids.”

          This is the same vibe that I get from Objectivists. Anything at all that threatens to put any kind of restraint or damper on their sense of achievement or “self-esteem” is viewed like Dracula views crosses.

          This proves once again the maxim that any good thing, when taken to an extreme, can become a bad thing. A healthy sense of “self-esteem” or confidence is something man needs in order to make his way in the world. But to take it out of context of all the other things man needs (compassion, wisdom, humility, grace) is to create a monster.

          Clearly Ayn Rand was of this mindset. “Altruism” was that thing that got in the way of personal achievement (and her and Branden made an idol of it). In the mind of Objectivists, there is no higher value, thus spending one’s time and energy (one’s essence) on the well-being of others just makes no logical sense if you are guided by their main premise.

          And because even slightly zealous human beings haven’t quite entirely blotted out their conscience — the pangs of seeing the world through more than just mechanical eyes — they need to exaggerate and equate altruism with the thin end of the wedge that leads automatically to collectivism. It’s the intellectual’s equivalent of sticking his hands over his ears and shouting “Nyeah nyeah nyeah…I can’t hear you.”

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Nicely phrased. Incidentally, the John Birch Society was an opponent of fluoridation of water, which they (of course) considered a communist conspiracy. This is undoubtedly where they got General Ripper’s particular obsession, though I have no idea if the JBS actually phrased it that way.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I met a Bircher at a Tea Party meeting a few months back. There’s a bit of a tinfoil hat thing going on with them. Sort of like libertarians, they’re solid on two points but the third one is typically cuckoo.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                One friend of mine was a bit of a Bircher in his day, but more recently he became a Green spouting off about the Kochs. Left or right, there’s still that touch of paranoia.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    And John makes a good point that honesty doesn’t mean saying every dad blame thing on your mind. That is, that honesty doesn’t include gossip.

    When I was younger, I was under the misapprehension that saying everything I thought was being honest. As I matured, I came to the realization that expressing my honest opinion was often neither appropriate nor necessary. Unsolicited opinions can often be hurtful and may have negative rather than positive effects. I am now more discrete with my opinions unless they are asked for, and then I give them both barrels.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      And I’ve finally learned that when people ask for my opinion, what they usually really want is to have their own opinion confirmed. Shutting up when asked one’s opinion is often a good policy and one that I rarely take.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Shutting up when asked one’s opinion is often a good policy and one that I rarely take.

        That is why, when asked my opinion in conversations about politics, social questions or the like, I will ask my interlocutor if they really wish to hear it?

        The Germans have a good saying about lies. It is, “lies have short legs.” I like that.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          We Germans (the largest part in the mix that I am) aren’t as dumb as we look. 😉

          I sort of circumvent the entire opinion process by blogging. I put my opinion out there and people can either read it or dismiss it without even bothering. In actual fact (or what we call “real life”), I’m rarely asked for an opinion. But when I am, you can be certain that I have one on darn near any topic.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          In some cases, when asked such a question, I like to ask back, “Do you want an honest answer or a pleasant one?”

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I just wanted to remind everyone, I have one slot open if you want to join this Ten Commandments Seminar. Let me know.

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