Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moral Cretinism Part II
Lying and Murder

In a past posting I discussed a morally repugnant piece of garbage that sought to excuse the Khmer Rouge. Well I’ve just found a piece of crud that in some respects outdoes that bit of slime ball idiocy.

It comes from the website Answers in Genesis or AIG for short.1 In this piece a Mr. Bodie Hodge answers the question about whether or not it is ever right to lie.2 Mr. Hodge makes a complete hash of it.

Below I will quote the full E-Mail exchange with my comments concerning Mr. Hodge’s morally cretinist views.

You, know I almost hate to do this because I know how much email you guys handle. . . But I want to respond to Bodie Hodge’s “contradictions” article on Rahab’s “lie”. Bodie is almost always right on the mark and is probably my favourite feedback man, but in this case I have to take exception to his saying that it is always wrong to lie . . . The ninth commandment says we should never bear false witness against our neighbour (or anyone). But if the Nazis are looking for Jews, and you know where they are, it would not be wrong to lie, in order to protect them, nor would this be bearing false witness “against” someone . . . I think in the same way the Israeli midwives lied to the Egyptians about the birthing of male babies in Moses’s day . . . I know its a rare exception, but there may be other circumstances when it might be appropriate to “lie”, although obviously, 99% percent of the time it would be wrong . . . Keep up the good work, all of you, your ministry is the most awesome in the world, just blows me away. M.H.3

Scene from the movie Sophie's Choice

Now Mr/s M.H., is of course giving to moral absolutists an extreme example just to see if they are willing to bend their un-bendable moral absolutism in order to do good. Or even to realize that this is a morally difficult situation and sometimes you have to commit one sin to avoid a greater one and/or to do good. Of course being a Fundamentalist moral cretin our analyst fails spectacularly.
Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis and thanks for the comments. I know this can be a touchy subject, but please bear with me as I try to explain. Keep in mind that I, too, am not perfect but will try to answer as scripturally as possible. (Also, sorry for the length—but this feedback will allow me the breadth that I did not have with the contradiction article on Rahab on the website.)4
To refine Mr. Hodge’s position. Scripturally means to him sections of the Bible I like, interpreted the way I like. Further Mr. Hodge elevates the detailed word of the Bible above mere human considerations and that includes other people’s lives and of course this is a form of idolatry. And of course he forgets that bit about the word kills but the spirit gives life.

Righteous Lies?

Bearing false witness is a lie, and in Hebrew the word for false in Exodus 20:16 is sheqer, which literally means “lie.” It is derived from the Hebrew word shaqar, which means “deal falsely, be false, trick, and cheat.” There are many verses in the Bible that reaffirm the Ninth Commandment, and a couple are:5
Well first of all a word is interpreted in context with other words, and the text does say bear false witness. It seems clear that it is referring to judicial and judicial like proceedings and is not intended to be a blanket prohibition of all lying regardless of circumstances or situations. So it seems that the commandment against bearing false witness does not ban lying in all situations. It is of interest that Mr. Hodge ignores context in order to get the result he wants.

Leviticus 19:11
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.

1John 2:21
I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

The devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), and one lie to God the Holy Spirit was worthy of instant death for Ananias (Acts 5:3–5). Paul points out that even if he were to lie for the glory of God, he would be deemed a sinner for such an act:

Romans 3:7
For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, thy am I also still judged as a sinner?6
Note that Mr. Hodge then cherry picks appropriate quotations to back up the view that he is obviously taking that lying is indeed a heinous sin. I note he selects passages which in his opinion support an absolutist interpretation of the prohibition against lying. It is of interest that Rabbi’s of the rabbinical age that began before Jesus and lasted until 500 C.E., argued the notion that in order to save a life you could break many of the Mosaic laws. Because some divine commands, like the duty to preserve innocent life have priority over others.

It is of interest that he quotes the Bible about the Devil being the father of lies, which is fascinating, so lying to save someone, can only be prompted by the Devil. How fascinating.

This all of course assumes that Mr. Hodge is quoting the passages properly and in context, an assumption that may not be accurate.
In light of such passages, does a “righteous lie” really exist? The most common example sent to me was envisioning the Holocaust and being placed in the position of lying to potentially protect someone’s life. Like most, if placed in such a difficult situation, it would be very difficult. In fact, I could never be sure what I would do, especially if it were a loved one.7
A bit of dawn breaks in Mr. Hodge’s head. He admits that he would not know what to do and that he would be sorely tempted to lie. However this dawn is only temporary and Mr. Hodge reverts back to mindless obedience to the literal word.
But consider for a moment that we are all already sentenced to die because we are sinners (Romans 5:12). It is going to happen regardless. If a lie helps keep someone alive for a matter of moments compared to eternity, was the lie, which is high treason against the Creator, worth it?8
So Mr. Hodge elevates lying to “high treason” against God. Wow! Is this any lie? Well it appears to be the case with Mr. Hodge. So is Mr. Hodge really saying that lying to save an innocent life is punishable by eternal damnation? In effect Mr. Hodge is saying that being a murderer / accessory to murder is a lesser sin than lying! So helping to murder an innocent human being despite its violation of so many passages in the Bible, i.e., “thou shall NOT kill". (Here in the King James Bible sense of murder) is nothing compared to a lie. And note Mr. Hodge does not even talk about graduations of lies. Does lying like when you told some body she looked good in that dress when they did not a lie that will damn you for eternity? Well it appears from Mr. Hodge that yes it does.

I further note that this turns God into a monster obsessed with a rule that is in the circumstances utterly trivial.

But then we here the real reason why you should not lie. It does not make any difference because you’re going to die anyway and compared to eternity it is trivial. So by this calculus murder is trivial, after all death is going to happen anyway. So why pray tell live at all! In other words other people’s lives don’t matter very much. Our Mr. Hodge is not finished however.
It would be like sitting in a cell on death row and when the guards come to take your roommate to the electric chair, you lie to the guards and say you don’t know where the person went—while your roommate is hiding under their covers on the bed. Does it really help? Since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), death is coming for us, and there is an appointed time (Ecclesiastes 3:2).9
Well Mr. Hodge the analogy is bad. First of all the people we are lying to protect are INNOCENT. Secondly if we lie they have a better chance of surviving. Third the authorities (Nazis') in this case are violating every commandment in the book including thou shall not kill. The fact is the Nazis' can not be sure, unlike the inmate in this case that there is anyone there and it is possible for you to save them by lying and you would almost certainly get them killed by telling the truth. The appointed time stuff is interesting is Mr. Hodge stating that God decided when the innocents who were murdered in the Holocaust died it was their “appointed time”? If so then Mr. Hodge is saying God is responsible for their deaths. Once again God the monster.
Proverbs 12:19
The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Is it worth sinning against God to try to buy a moment of time next to eternity—intentionally lying is foolish and would only harm the extent of your own life (Ecclesiastes 7:17). Let’s look further at Scripture for an example of a situation where a lie could have saved a life.10
Once again Mr. Hodge states that intentionally lying is wicked because it is foolish. Let me get this, lying to save an innocent party from wrongful death etc., is foolish but telling the truth and being an accessory to murder is wise!? But then we see the secret meaning Mr. Hodge’s vomits. Mr. Hodge states that it would harm the extent of your own life. In other words God is such an anal retentive asshole that he would damn you for saving an innocent by lying. However if you tell the truth and are an accessory to murder he will reward you with eternal joy in heaven. Besides what is an innocent being murdered anyway compared to your eternal bliss in heaven? They would eventually die anyway?!

The self centered moralistic idiocy of this to elevate one owns sense of “proper” moral behavior over the lives of others beggars belief.

It is of interest to note that Mr. Hodge seems to think truth all the time is a good thing because in the end it pays well.

Stephen in Acts 6–7 preached Christ, and men came against him. This culminated with a question by the high priest in Acts 7:1who said: “Are these things so?” At this point, Stephen could have done a “righteous lie” to save his life so that he could have many more years to preach the gospel. However, Stephen laid a long and appropriate foundation for Christ—then preached Christ. And they killed him.

But this event triggered a persecution that sent the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 11:19) and peaked with Paul (who consented to Stephen’s death) coming to Christ and taking the message to the Gentiles and writing several books of the New Testament. The Lord had a greater purpose for Stephen—even though it cost him his life. Keep in mind, however, that this, and other examples, are about the person in question—not another.11
Aside from the fact that Stephen’s hypothetical lie was to save himself not others and so doesn’t meet the situation described at all. The other problem is that given that human beings want to go on living and who in their right mind would blame Stephen for lying to save himself. That he did not shows enormous courage and faith. Since God is supposed to be forgiving I rather suspect he would forgive a lie designed to save one’s own life.

Of course the question in the Nazi hypothetical is aside from the considerable courage required to hide these people, remember hiding someone is a form of deception, it requires considerable courage to lie, deceive etc., to keep those people safe.

Do We Know What God Had in Mind?

I often wonder if a Nazi soldier asked if someone was there hiding and they told the truth before God, could the Lord have in mind a greater purpose? Could God have used that person to free a great many people who ultimately died in the Holocaust? Or have done something to stop the war earlier? Or cause a great number of Jews and Nazi’s to come to know Christ? It is possible, but we simply cannot know. And one should not dwell too long on “what ifs” anyway.12
The question is not what God had in mind but what these men had in mind. What they had in mind was rounding up these innocent, (yes I’m overusing the word); people in order to kill them. Given that that was their objective lying to stop them carrying it out seems reasonable. As for what God had in mind!? What the hell are you implying? Are you saying that somehow the Holocaust was part of God’s plan?!
This paragraph is utterly revolting. Mr. Hodge seems to be implying that by telling the truth in this hypothetical situation that somehow this is part of God’s plan to save souls. That this is a greater purpose. No doubt the Holocaust was also part of God’s “greater purpose”. What a monstrous conception of God.

But then the great purpose is to get more people to “know Christ”, little matters like saving their lives are nothing compared to that.

The implication seems to be that by telling the truth and helping to murder these innocents these people find Christ and are saved and are rewarded with an eternity of bliss. No doubt those innocents who are murdered and do not find Christ get an eternity of suffering in hell.

It is also of interest that Mr. Hodge seems to not realize that by lying, hopefully successfully, these liars help prevent the Nazi soldiers involved of being guilty of murder. But then what their doing is nothing compared to lying according to Mr. Hodge.
No doubt, there is great value in the truth (John 8:32). As fallible, sinful human beings, our imperfect thoughts may not be able to comprehend what God has in mind, and we need to strive to trust God when He speaks on this subject, regardless how hard it may be. We need to place our faith fully in Christ and trust in God in all things—and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
I’m not saying this to be “preachy,” because I really don’t know what I would do in such a situation. However, I would pray that the Lord would grant me the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it—but more preferably—how to avoid being in that situation in the first place.13
So we should just trust God and avoid using our god given brains. This is known as abdication of responsibility. It is also called cowardice.

Mr. Hodge then again admits he would not know what to do in this situation. Again admitting he might do the right thing and lie his head off. He would of course pray about saying the right thing. Why pray, THE RIGHT THING TO DO IS TO LIE!!! But then the cowardice comes in, Mr. Hodge would try to avoid getting in that situation. Just how would he do it?

I would suspect he would simply refuse to help so he would not have to lie. He would refuse to help innocent people because he just cannot lie even to save their lives. Well if that is the case he should definitely refuse to help them if he lacks the moral courage to lie to save them and would prefer to sacrifice their lives on the altar of his “moral” code.

The fact is by agreeing to hide them the person doing so is agreeing to do what is necessary to keep them safe and this includes an enormous amount of deception and yes, lying. Further Mr. Hodge conveniently forgets that by refusing to obey the Nazi rules against sheltering Jews, the hiders were disobeying Paul’s injunction that the authorities are ordained by God and should be obeyed. If Mr. Hodge cannot do any of this he should not be hiding these people at all.
If Forced into This Situation . . . What Then?
Let’s consider again the Nazi-Holocaust situation: there seems to be a conflict in the situation to lie before God to try to save someone else’s life. The result is often called the “greater good” or “lesser of two evils.”
I’ve been told in the past that the lesser of these two evils would be to lie to save a life—hence the common phrase “a righteous lie.” This is often justified by appealing to the command to love our neighbor (Romans 13:9).
But how does God view this, remembering that God is a discerner of our motives. To God, a lie for selfish motive was worthy of death to Ananias. But, in fact, just one sin is worthy of death (Genesis 2:17). (This should be a reminder that we should continually praise God for His grace that is bestowed upon us). But let’s look at Scripture again. The two greatest commandments are:
Mark 12:28–31
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first1 commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Jesus tells us that all the commandments can be summed up into these two statements. But of these two, the first is to love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. So, this would trump the second. Our actions toward God should trump our actions toward men. Peter also affirmed this:
Acts 5:29
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” If we love God, we should obey Him (John 14:15). To love God first means to obey Him first—before looking at our neighbor. So, is the greater good trusting God when He says not to lie or trusting in our fallible, sinful minds about the uncertain future?14
The moral cretinism is now full blown. After mentioning the very obvious lesser of two evils argument Mr. Hodge engages in some really twisted scripture pulling to justify his stance of truth telling at all costs; including the lives of innocent people.

Of course Mr. Hodge’s quote about one sin is worthy of death is of course to imply that lying to the Nazis about innocent people being hidden by you is a crime worthy of death, i.e., eternal punishment. Of course being guilty of murder by telling the truth is of little consequence. Opps! Hold it. God frowns upon murder. What about “thy brother’s blood cries out from the earth”. It is that which I think God will reproach these truth tellers for at judgment. I further note that God condemned Cain for murdering his brother not for Cain lying about knowing where his brother was.

Firstly Jesus’ commandment about is about loving God and part of the proof of loving God is loving your neighbour, how does it show love of God to condemn your neighbour to death?

Then Mr. Hodge goes into a favorite Fundamentalist mantra; obedience. Yep we should obey God and never argue or disagree with him but like mindless automatons obey him. Or at least Mr. Hodge’s version of him. But in the end blind obedience to God and some, in the circumstances, trivial rule trumps simple human decency. We owe absolute obedience to God. Yet just how are being obedient to God if we by not lying treat our neighbour badly. Condemn them. Damn them. In this twisted case our selfish need to please God, in the way Mr. Hodge thinks God should be pleased, trumps our duty to our neighbour. Just how God is going to be impressed by that is beyond me. Further obedience to God requires that we obey a sinful, genocidal regime and cooperate in sending innocent (there’s that word again) people to their deaths. It in other words requires and mandates obedience to the orders of a thoroughly vile regime. This is called capitulation to evil.
Consider this carefully. In the situation of a Nazi beating on the door, we have assumed a lie would save a life, but really we don’t know. So, one would be opting to lie and disobey God without the certainty of saving a life—keeping in mind that all are ultimately condemned to die physically. Besides, whether one lied or not may not have stopped the Nazi solders from searching the house anyway.
As Christians, we need to keep in mind that Jesus Christ reigns. All authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), and He sits on the throne of God at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; Hebrews 8:1). Nothing can happen without His say. Even Satan could not touch Peter without Christ’s approval (Luke 22:31). Regardless, if one were to lie or not, Jesus Christ is in control of timing every person’s life and able to discern our motives. It is not for us to worry over what might become, but rather to place our faith and obedience in Christ and to let Him do the reigning. For we do not know the future, whereas God has been telling the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).15
Now starts the weaselling and sophistical attempts to evade the consequences of telling the truth in this case.

Mr. Hodge weasels quite grotesquely. He argues that we don’t know for sure that it would save a life. Really! The great majority of Jews who were caught by the Nazis were murdered. The majority of survivors were those who had fled or were hidden. Those who survived the camps were the young and the fit, (and only a minority of those) at least when they entered the camps. The elderly, very young, infirm, pregnant women etc., were first on the list to be murdered. So it was an extremely good bet that they would die.

Besides does one need the certainty of saving someone? No of course not. Telling the truth would have in the circumstances the near certainty of getting them killed lying at least as the chance of saving them. So of course you lie.

But of course Mr. Hodge evades accepting responsibility by saying you can’t be sure they would die. That is crap it would be in the circumstances virtually certain. So guess what you would be responsible for not lying and sealing their fate.

Of course even if one puts aside the issue of death. There is the fact that telling the truth, assuming it doesn’t get them killed, would condemn these innocents (yes that word again) to terrible, undeserved suffering which if you lie you have a chance of preventing them from enduring.

There is more crap about lying possibly not preventing the search. So what! Lying has a hell of lot better chance of preventing the search than not lying. Mr. Hodge continues to try to evade the issue that telling the truth might get someone killed by postulating a hypothetical.

As for the nonsense about we all die eventually anyway. What an inhuman evil way to conceptualize death, and human suffering, but then it always easier when someone else is suffering and dying. It is of note that our author states that God (Jesus Christ) is in control of the “timing” of everyone’s life. This of course means that God is responsible for the Holocaust and we should not thwart God’s ordained times for people, even if they are innocents, (yeah once again that word), to die.

We should not worry about what might happen in the future to those innocent (yet again) people for ours is not the future to see que sera, sera! This is pure abdication of responsibility for other people. I wonder does Mr. Hodge plan at all for his future? If he does, does he realize that he is not placing his faith in God and letting God reign?

Of course God gave us brains and not to think about the future and the consequences of our acts is simple cowardice. What Mr, Hodge is considering is an act of incredible hubris, that of putting a very narrow conception of “morals” above others. The arrogance is breathtaking.

Mr. Hodge also never considers the possibility of refusing to answer the question at all and therefore avoiding lying. But then I strongly suspect there is an element of obeying authority even if they are Nazis in his analysis.

Of course the problem with saying nothing is that it would almost certainly be interpreted as an admission that you are hiding someone. And that would doom the people you are trying to save as much as a yes.

As for trusting in God is it not remarkable that Mr. Hodge is writing for a blog, (AIG) that is actively trying to get Creationism taught in schools. Just why are they not trusting to God and letting God reign? Why are they actively doing anything at all? Not a lot of faith in God it seems.
Wow, you put a lot of work in to that answer Bodie, and from a biblical basis too. I agree with you 100% about lying to protect yourself, that could be interpreted as mere cowardice, and I think most of your biblical examples dealt with that. However there is a scripture in Exodus ch.1 vs. 15–22, in which the Jewish midwives are told to kill all the male babies they delivered but refused to do so. When asked why they hadn’t destroyed the babies, they told the Egyptians the Hebrew women simply gave birth faster than the Egyptian women, and had the babies before the midwives got there. Vs.17 however says that the Jewish midwives saved the male children alive, so here they are lying not only to save the male babies but probably to escape punishment from the Egyptians. Vs. 20 says that God dealt well with the midwives for doing this. I think this is one of the rare examples or cases where lying would truly not be offensive to our Creator. At any rate, I think this scripture shows that not all lies are equal, at least to my mind. In that most lies are done for self advancement, self protection, greed, etc., but some are done at least with the intention of protecting others, their reputations or physical selves. I can’t fault your stance though, your conscience and the Word must be your guide. Keep up the good work.—M.H.
Ms/r M.H., is in my opinion being very kind to Mr. Hodge, who deserves nothing but contempt. But he raises an interesting example from scripture of lying for a good cause.
I looked up the passage about the midwives, and I, personally, don’t believe they lied. Scripture doesn’t really say they did. Please see the context:
Exodus 1:15–22
Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so it was, because the midwives feared God that He provided households for them. So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.” Naturally, their fear of God led them to refuse the order to murder. It makes more sense to me that they could have informed the Hebrew wives what the Pharaoh had commanded, and, thus, many of the Israelite women were giving birth before the midwives would arrive so they would not be in a position of killing the child. Perhaps the midwives took their time to arrive as well. That would allow the children to survive and the midwives to speak the truth to Pharaoh. What would make pregnant mothers more vigorous or lively to have the child born? Make them aware that if they do not give birth quickly their child’s life may be in danger. There are any number of ways the mothers and midwives could have avoided it.
With humbleness in Christ, Bodie16
What a convoluted stew of crap. Mr. Hodge is desperately trying to save his (im)moral position regarding lying so he comes up with this absurd piece of drivel. And we get the usual false humility that ill conceals a Everest of pride and conceit.

The text clearly says that the midwives “saved the male children alive” this seems to imply that the midwives performed their duties has midwives and lied about it to Pharaoh. This common sense explanation makes sense unlike Mr. Hodge’s absurd distortions and fantasizing.

But then it appears that to Mr. Hodge lying is a worst sin than participating in murder.

Strangely people like Mr. Hodge have no problems with killing in war or killing in self defence, this despite the fact that the Bible condemns killing or at least murder. It seems never to occur to him that protecting one self or others may justify lying as it does killing in self defence etc. But then others have thought like Mr. Hodges. Immanuel Kant for one.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant was famous for his categorical imperative that it was always wrong to lie even to a murderer looking for a victim. This is quite accurately characterized as stunningly inhuman and frankly evil. The convoluted philosophical nostrums that Kant engaged in to justify this repellent stew boil down to the notion that lying is so evil that enabling murder is just not as wicked. Of course only someone living in a provincial backwater like Königsberg, obsessed with philosophical minutia, and little understanding of real life could possibly have advanced such a repellent and evil notion. But then to Kant his philosophical abstractions were more important than real people.17

In the case of Mr. Hodge we have a similar idea, in this case his inhuman, evil idea of what God demands trumps human decency. Mr. Hodge seems to hope he would have the courage to tell the truth and thus be a murderer, or at least an accessory to attempted murder, thus earn his reward in heaven. Well I hope he never has anyone taking refugee with him.

In Erasmus' Praise of Folly he ridicules some of the Scolastics for thinking that it is:
...better to let the whole world perish down to the last crumb and stich, as they say, than to tell a single tiny insignifigant lie.18
Erasmus viewed views as such no-nothing nonsense. As the commentary of the above noted passage says:

That a lie may not be told to save the world from destruction admirabily illustrates the way the scholastics derived moral norms from absract principles rather than human needs. Lies are intrinsically evil. The end does not justify the means, and no extrinsic end can therefore justify a lie. The application of abstract principle is logical, but the resulting norm takes no account of charity or compassion.19
Thus Mr. Hodge like Kantshows a stunning lack of compassion and basic humanity, but like the scholastics their principles trumped human decency.

I do not know what I would do in a similar situation. I would hope I would hide these people and, yes, lie through my teeth to keep them safe.

1. Answers in Genesis, Here

2. Hodge, Bodie, Feedback: A Righteous Lie, in Answers in Genesis, Here.

3. IBID.

4. IBID.

5. IBID.

6. IBID.

7. IBID.

8. IBID.

9. IBID.

10. IBID.

11. IBID.

12. IBID.

13. IBID.

14. IBID.

15. IBID.

16. IBID.

17. Kant, Immanuel, On a Supposed Right to tell Lies from Benevolent Motives, in Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics, Kongmans, Green and Co, London, 1898, can be found at Online Library of Liberty, Here.
Here is a sample of Kant’s reasoning:
If, then, we define a lie merely as an intentionally false declaration towards another man, we need not add that it must injure another; as the jurists think proper to put in their definition (mendacium est falsiloquium in præjudicium alterius). For it always injures another; if not another individual, yet mankind generally, since it vitiates the source of justice. This benevolent lie may, however, by accident (casus) become punishable even by civil laws; and that which escapes liability to punishment only by accident may be condemned as a wrong even by external laws. For instance, if you have by a lie hindered a man who is even now planning a murder, you are legally responsible for all the consequences. But if you have strictly adhered to the truth, public justice can find no fault with you, be the unforeseen consequence what it may. It is possible that whilst you have honestly answered Yes to the murderer’s question, whether his intended victim is in the house, the latter may have gone out nobserved, and so not have come in the way of the murderer, and the deed therefore have not been done; whereas, if you lied and said he was not in the house, and he had really gone out (though unknown to you) so that the murderer met him as he went, and executed his purpose on him, then you might with justice be accused as the cause of his death. For, if you had spoken the truth as well as you knew it, perhaps the murderer while seeking for his enemy in the house might have been caught by neighbours coming up and the deed been prevented. Whoever then tells a lie, however good his intentions may be, must answer for the consequences of it, even before the civil tribunal, and must pay the penalty for them, however unforeseen they may have been; because truthfulness is a duty that must be regarded as the basis of all duties founded on contract, the laws of which would be rendered uncertain and useless if even the least exception to them were admitted.
To be truthful (honest) in all declarations is therefore a sacred unconditional command of reason, and not to be limited by any expediency.
The above reasoning is sublime in its idiocy. Note Kant very carefully avoids dealing with the issue of what happens if you answer yes and the murderer comes in and kills the person. Or if the person is cowering in a corner within your line of sight. So you know he is in the house. I note that Kant stupidly states that you are responsible if you lie to a murderer but are not responsible if you tell the truth and the murderer kills that person because you told the truth. The convoluted hypotheticals of Kant about the person not being there if you tell the truth, blah, blah, are evasions of the issue. We can speculate all we like. The bottom line is protecting that person from being murdered.
To state that being truthful is an unconditional duty not limited by any sort of expediency is simply evil. But then Kant believes that lying is a greater sin than being an accessory to murder. To call Kant’s position disgusting, immoral, evil etc., is to state the unvarnished truth.

18. Erasmus, Praise of Folly, Penguin Books, London, 1971, p. 156.

19. IBID, p. 156 Note 102.

Pierre Cloutier

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