Sunday, 6 February 2011

More truth about liying

Following on from my previous post on lying....
I've been reading the comments on Leila's a Stacy's Catholic posts on the topic of lying.  It all seems so simple, if one just says "Lying is sinful".  But the reality is surely not so simple.  Consider a World where humans never lied - were incapable of lying - about anything at all.  Society would simply not function.  It is as un-natural as not breathing. Sometimes we really want to be lied to, to make our lives more bearable. Some of us just don't even want to know how perilously close to death we sometimes come. So, assuming some lying is essential to family/tribal/national survival, then what we are left with is to decide which lies are justified and which are not.  This is something that each person decides for themselves, whether or not they are religious.  Some people face huge obstacles to not lying to survive.  Others have no need to lie.  Others still lie because they can get away with it, and it gives them what to them is a material advantage over those who do not lie. 
Asa Humanist my view would be that it is is wrong to lie in order to harm others.  And in order to be trusted and to be able to trust those with whom one lives, it is important not to make a habit of lying.  When it comes to nations, I think it's a different kettle of fish.  Arguably the whole purpose of diplomats is to lie on behalf of ones country!  If thereby we avoid war, its hard to argue that this is to the benefit of mankind.


  1. Hi Simian, I think I do accept that lying is always wrong but there seems to be a lot of wordiness about what is and what is not lying. I think on this one I'll have to not judge anyone else and just make sure I don't tell lies.

  2. But Stacy, in order to avoid lying we first have to 'know' what is true. To me it is true that there is no God. To you it is true that there is a God. Is one of us lying? - because logically we can't both be telling the truth, even thogh we believe that we are. To take an example from the other extreme, isn't wearing makeup and flattering clothng also a form of lying? The intent is to persuade other people that one is closer to an ideal than one really is. There are countless similar examples from everyday life.
    I contend that without lies the human race would not be able to survive and prosper. But I still think there are categories of lies that are wholly destructive and are totally unacceptable. I guess it all comes back to the absolutist vs relativist stances we adopt.

  3. I agree with you. I know for myself whether or not I'm lying. It seems that there's the absolutist statement, "Lying is always wrong" and then there's the relavist statment that what is and what is not a lie depends on what's in your mind. Since I don't know what's in someone else's mind I don't know how to settle this one. If my child clearly lied about stealing a cookie that would be one thing. If he wore a costume to deceive someone about his identity, I'd probably laugh at him. I just end up asking the same question. "What is a lie?"