Skip to main content

I Swear

By Carl S ~

Have you thought of removing the words, "so help me, God" in ending the oath witnesses and defendants take after swearing to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" What would happen? One veteran court recorder remarked that, in his experience, "so help me, God," was no deterrent to perjury: people still went on to lie in the witness box. Defendants have been known to say things they know aren't true, sometimes several times at a hearing. You would think it would be quite the opposite, judging by the gravity of the situations involved. Why isn't this so? Is it that they know their God doesn’t care?

But before we consider this question, we might look at oath-taking involving God. One biblical scholar (John Allegro?) has said that the 2nd commandment alone, "taking the Lord's name in vain," does not refer to blasphemy. It has to do with using the name of God as one's witness to support lying under oath. If believers were aware of this, would it make a difference? I doubt it; I suspect they know the punishment for breaking this won't happen.

By placing one hand on the bible, the Christian witness makes a public gesture of being honest. To on-looking believers who assert that that book itself contains "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," the implication is: this is the one book which is the very Unquestionable Source of Truth itself, so it's the best foundation to swear on. But is it really? Because if it's a book containing contradictions, even lies, shouldn't its writers and defenders be held up to skepticism, asked to provide evidence for their claims to be examined for truth claims, before their book is used in an evidence-finding courtroom? Shouldn't it, rather, be flung out the window? Allowing this book to be used to support an individual's truth-telling, as it is under current usage, is akin to swearing on a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Religious belief is indifferent to providing evidence through all sides of issues necessary to finding out what is true. Such belief is really all about hoping. Hoping that what is believed is true or will come true. Oath taking is the hope, on the part of the affirmer, that what he/she says will be believed as true, and will be accepted as habitually unquestioningly as the bible he swore on. We have witnessed ourselves how the religious take vows with fingers crossed. A marriage vow to be faithful is, for too many, hope they will not be suspected of or caught violating that vow. Other oaths are taken with the expectation that "I hope I never have to live up to what I just said." No God involved.

Oaths are rituals, and rituals are somewhat magical, and the fusion of the two can lead to the expectation that one can, magically-backed, live up to the oaths, or even, magically, lie one's way out of them without being caught. So, oaths and faith and hope and lying, and rituals and the bible on which they’re sworn, can all be connected in a big tangled web of lies, each justifying the other. For those who do not want to take responsibility for their actions, this tangled web is habitual. And those who swear to God know that their god is impotent and absent to do anything to stop them himself. So there.

Whether in the courtroom or not, with or without "as God is my witness," this whole business of oath-taking is overdone. It's a short-cut to getting it over with. The taking of oaths is ritualistic and, seriously, rituals usually aren't taken seriously. Do immigrants who hold up their hands and pledge allegiance to a nation "under God," mean what they say? If they're Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Pastafarians, etc., they sure don't. Believers did, way back when the wrath of gods brought misfortune, even death, for disobeying a god. Perhaps only the most radically minded believer will still go along with those beliefs. Most of us swear not very seriously.

Let me share some information I found. Since the Enlightenment, "truth" is defined as: evidence, fact-based knowledge, being subject to verification, and falsifiable. But past civilizations interpreted “truth" far differently in their teachings. Mythology, superstition, and tall tales were mixed in with known facts, actual places and events, to make them "credible." (Backwardly, even in the 21st century, believers prefer the myth of intelligent design to the evidence for evolution.) Previously, there was no way to fact-check the unknowable. People created their own realities and explanations, just like evangelicals do today. They relied on dreams, entrails, the effects of drugs, damage or other aberrations in the abnormal brain activities of others, etc., for their "truth-access." These are some of the ways, then and now, most believers claim to "know the Truth."

Religious belief is indifferent to providing evidence through all sides of issues necessary to finding out what is true. So, fabricated truth-histories and stories were concocted to enable tribes and eventually, civilizations, to have cohesive cultures. "Truth" had an entirely different meaning then. All scriptures are birthed in that practice. Truth was what is said for effect on the audience, because the audience is willing to believe. Psychologically speaking, it makes sense that the lie-tellers themselves either came to believe their own lies, which made them all the more convincing, and/or, must have known that repetition "made them true." Simply put, what we are also describing is "religious tradition." The fact that people still won’t care about this in the 21st century is disturbing.

The fact that there are people who swear to tell the truth while placing their hands on ancient scriptures means that the methods used to promote those texts makes them acceptable in making civil judgments. If you don't want to take the responsibility of thinking about them, habitually, you'll accept bullshit "on faith." As one author put it, "Faith is Not wanting to Know what is true," even though the means for finding truth have been available for centuries now.

Why do people perjure themselves in public, even before an audience of millions watching them on TV? One reason has to do with responsibility. They don't want to believe they're responsible for their actions, or try to make excuses, or blame others, etc. And they often expect judge, jury, and observers to take their words on faith, just as they'll take claims of faith to be unquestionably true. It works for faith; why not for them?

Do believers truly believe what they claim to believe, judging by their actions, even if they swear to believe?


Popular posts from this blog

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Morality is not a Good Argument for Christianity

By austinrohm ~ I wrote this article as I was deconverting in my own head: I never talked with anyone about it, but it was a letter I wrote as if I was writing to all the Christians in my life who constantly brought up how morality was the best argument for Christianity. No Christian has read this so far, but it is written from the point of view of a frustrated closeted atheist whose only outlet was organizing his thoughts on the keyboard. A common phrase used with non-Christians is: “Well without God, there isn’t a foundation of morality. If God is not real, then you could go around killing and raping.” There are a few things which must be addressed. 1. Show me objective morality. Define it and show me an example. Different Christians have different moral standards depending on how they interpret the Bible. Often times, they will just find what they believe, then go back into scripture and find a way to validate it. Conversely, many feel a particular action is not

On Living Virtuously

By Webmdave ~  A s a Christian, living virtuously meant living in a manner that pleased God. Pleasing god (or living virtuously) was explained as: Praying for forgiveness for sins  Accepting Christ as Savior  Frequently reading the Bible  Memorizing Bible verses Being baptized (subject to church rules)  Attending church services  Partaking of the Lord’s Supper  Tithing  Resisting temptations to lie, steal, smoke, drink, party, have lustful thoughts, have sex (outside of marriage) masturbate, etc.  Boldly sharing the Gospel of Salvation with unbelievers The list of virtuous values and expectations grew over time. Once the initial foundational values were safely under the belt, “more virtues'' were introduced. Newer introductions included (among others) harsh condemnation of “worldly” music, homosexuality and abortion Eventually the list of values grew ponderous, and these ideals were not just personal for us Christians. These virtues were used to condemn and disrespect fro