Tuesday 25 February 2020

The father of lies - and the nature of our public world

John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Christianity is very rare among moral systems in prohibiting lying as a general rule; and I think this relates to our more deeply-rooted understanding of this sin.

Secular discouragements against lying are based around the inexpediency of dishonesty overall and in the long term. A lie is mostly committed because it is expedient to gratification in the short-term - so the lie needs no 'hedonic' justification (assuming one gets-away-with-it).

But a 'system' in which the individuals are dishonest is inefficient, and may be ineffective. So even mainstream secular authorities try to encourage and enforce honesty among the workforce - at least under most conditions (unless where subordinate is instructed to lie by a superior). 

This is most clearly seen in science. The value of science for increasing human happiness and diminishing suffering absolutely depends upon scientists seeking and speaking truth. But in any specific circumstance, it is nearly-always expedient for a specific scientist (or any person 'using' science) to be expediently dishonest - whether at the level of exaggeration of hype and spin, by selectivity and distortion - or outright fabrication and public denial of what one (secretly) believes to be correct.

Therefore, since Christianity ceased to the basis of motivation for scientists and Western society (gradually, but very completely over the past three or four decades); science has become more and more dishonest because there was no reason Not to be dishonest, and innumerable (hourly) reasons to be as dishonest as one can get-away-with...

Until science ceased to be science - and became assimilated as a part of the bureaucratic structure of mainstream, modern, Leftist culture.

My point is that dishonesty is one of the major tools of evil. If the sexual revolution has been the battering ram by which the powers of evil have corrupted, the insidious expansion of dishonesty has been what made this possible; and the increasing severity and pervasiveness of dishonesty in Western public discourse has been perhaps the single largest manifestation of the triumph of evil.

A Christian cannot do much about the mass of public discourse; but my impression is that Christians themselves are insufficiently aware of the evil of dishonesty; and this has been a major cause of the corruption and apostasy of those Christians who have resisted the lures of the sexual revolution.

This happens at the group level of churches and denominations, and at the level of individuals. What may start with 'public relations', publicity, advertising, consciousness-raising, damage control... spirals to become vast structures of systematic dishonesty. Examples would include the notorious 'cover-ups' of churches in relation to sexual or financial abuses.

But at an individual level there are innumerable Christians whose jobs require them to be increasingly and ever-more-extremely dishonest. Yet this plain fact of life is seldom mentioned, seldom reached awareness, is therefore seldom explicitly repented - and my impression is that many apparently-devout Christians (in high esteem among their peers) are in fact living-the-lie to such an extent as to invalidate their faith

Such is the nature of these times. In our era, unrepented sins cannot be held in check - held constant; but (under the pressure of our culture) rapidly get amplified to overwhelming levels.

A modern Christian 'examination of conscience' would do well to highlight the problem of dishonesty - because this is likely to be neglected and unnoticed; and dishonesty is one of those sins that acts as procurer and facilitator for all other sins.

Start with dishonesty and you will soon end-up with all-the-rest.  

Every lie, every failure to be honest, is an act of homage to the devil.


dearieme said...

An interesting piece by Malcolm Kendrick on scientific - or at least medical - lies (or suspected lies).


Bruce Charlton said...

@d - MK is on the right lines (and has said some niceish things about yours truly) but he doesn't realise the depth of the problem.

All this stuff has been known for decades. Anybody who wanted to know the truth about a drug would require participants, and doctors, to 'guess' whether the patient was receiving the active or 'placebo' - because when this has been done, both will usually guess correctly more than random.

But the trials are Not done to discover the truth, but for quite other reasons - career, funding, marketing, to cover-up ineffectivness or bad side effects etc. Truth does not get a look-in except that the fraud must be done deniably.

(e.g. a trial of the antipsychotic (and major best-seller) olanzapine (Zyprexa) led to 9% suicides - a staggeringly high rate - but this was left off the paper, which cleverly reported only side effects that affected at least 10% of the population... https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2013/01/what-is-most-gratuitously-bad-drug.html

Trials can be made to show, pretty much, what the designers want to show, at a 'statistically significant' level - and they do. But it is now The Law that doctors should adhere to guidelines based Only on 'randomised trials'. They are required to ignore what happens when they actually give the drugs to their actual patients (that despicable thing 'anecdotal evidence'... it used to be called 'experience').

So, there we have it.

Jared said...

I liked this post. I think learning to be an honest person is part of learning to be a true independent adult. True honesty needs some context because people need to understand what will be understood by others, and what message you really want to convey to others.

It was interesting that you quoted the book of John about Satan being a liar. I think part of the point of that quotation is that Satan is not really revealing any truth or is not really worth listening to, he is just creating his own falsehoods and lies. Kind of like when Jesus said of the Pharisees: 'let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind.'
I don't know if Christianity is that unique in prohibiting lies, but I think the context it gives for understanding what is a lie and the shades of meaning in things is really important. For instance, because I believe in the Christian concept of God being different from the world and the devil, when I hear a worldly song on the radio portraying a worldly message, I can recognize it as a lie, even if it seems happy and upbeat.

I think it is good to be concerned about trends, especially to help us shape our individual actions. And when society has constrained our action in a certain area, we can do our best to not let it take away our true agency.

Knowing what we know about the preexistence, and this life being after the preexistence, I think that no matter what challenges we face here we can have confidence the experience can be for our good.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks for that Jared.