Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
10-05-2013, 12:36 PM
Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor"

Okay, fine, it's a biblical passage, so most of us here will view it skeptically. If you're on this site, odds are that you won't regard it as the revealed law of God, literally set down in stone by His Finger on Mount Senai. That's fine, skepticism is good. (Alternate post title.) That's said, I think most of us would regard most acts of bearing false witness, under most circumstances, to be shitty things to do, so don't do them.

A brief perusal of wikipedia (that's me, an inexhaustible titan of exhaustive research) suggests that this commandment was initially applied narrowly to civil and criminal court cases. Essentially, it was a law against perjury. The "against thy neighbor" clause seems to have always been interpreted broadly or thrown out; this prohibition was not in place only for the people living to either side of you on the street.

In Christianity, it seems to have broadened in its scope. Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran traditions (and I'm sure more) view it as covering social interactions beyond legal proceedings. Spreading of malicious lies, unfounded gossip, and public denunciations are all covered. Again, this is viewed as protecting society generally, rather than JUST your nieghbors. Some also view it as including an imperative to speak about what you do know, to not engage in lies about yourself (such as boasting or false humility), or lies in general, and not to bear false witness about God.

Let's break down exactly what it means to be a false witness. The most severe offense seems to be an outright, knowing lie that serves to condemn a person. If I claim Alice murdered Bob, when in actuality I know that Alice was at my place that night and couldn't possibly have done it, that is false witness.

Yet there's another kind of false witness: Falsely PRESENTING yourself as a witness, when you are not. Suppose Alice is on trial for killing Bob, and I don't know the first thing about whether Alice did it or not. I didn't see how Bob died, I can't personally account for Alice's whereabouts at the time of his death, and I don't have a deep insight into Alice's character and thus can't testify that she would never do such a thing. I am not a witness, and have no actual witness that I can bear.

Yet suppose I have read enough coverage of the trial to have formed a strong opinion that Alice did indeed kill him. Or perhaps I have heard someone else tell me about the incident, and buy into their account. For one reason or another, despite not being a witness, I now believe that Alice killed Bob. I am STILL not a witness, and if I testify to the effect that Alice killed Bob (possibly because Alice's court-appointed attorney is asleep on the job), then I have born false witness. This is not because I have lied about Alice killing Bob. I didn't. I fully believed the testimony I offered. Or maybe I just made something up or flipped a coin. Again, I don't KNOW that what I say is false.

But that's not what makes it bearing false witness. Rather, it is because I have falsely presented myself as a witness when I am not a witness at all. Furthermore, it would still be bearing false witness (under the broader, Christian definition) if I simply shouted it from the rooftops for all to hear, rather than testifying in court. And, really, spreading that sort of story about someone without having a good foundation for it is a shitty thing to do.

Presumably, the same could be said about testimony regarding religion or God. It is not enough to have been told it, or formed a strong opinion about it, or simply having a feeling in your heart. If you bear witness to something, and you are not ACTUALLY a witness to it, then you are a false witness.

Broken down like this (and yes, I realize I'm now wandering into logical implications and interpretations that I DON'T know are adhered to by large swaths of Christianity), the commandment against bearing false witness is astonishing. Here is a prominent part of Christianity which DOESN'T tell us to accept or proclaim on faith alone. Rather, it insists that we need more than faith alone before we can testify. This is a passage of the Bible which presents an imperative for EVIDENCE. Perhaps Christians won't recognize why I find this astonishing, but I'm sure a great many atheists would.

What does this mean for Christians dealing with atheists and similar non-believers? For starters, it means that most of those tactics which atheists most deplore are off-limit. Consider:

Saying that all atheists hate God. Have you constructed an airtight deductive proof? (Hint: if most people who see such a proof start pointing out flaws in it, then it's not airtight, nor does it become airtight if you stick your fingers in your ears and go lalalalala.) Have you done a thorough survey of every atheist on the subject, and had them all confirm their hatred of God? Or have you used a polygraph or some similar method to sort out that the ones who denied such a hatred were lying? Are you, in fact, a witness to such a universal hatred? If not, and if you say it publicly anyway, then you are bearing false witness.

Or how about stating that evolution is false? (To clarify, evolutionary origin of species, rather than evolutionary origin of life or evolution as an ongoing process.) Bear in mind that this is more than just saying what did or didn't happen in the ancient past; it is also a judgement on the reliability of a great many people in the present, who accept and teach evolution. If you proclaim that evolution must be false, you are not only discussing what happened or didn't happen thousands or millions of years ago. You are also declaring that the science teacher down the road who is even now explaining the Theory to his class of students is spewing falsehoods. It is bearing witness, not just against an idea, but against people. And what is your basis for your denial? Some assumptions based on the Genesis genealogies that date the earth between 6000 and 12000 years and that you read in some Creationist magazine? If so, you are not personally a witness. Or maybe it's received wisdom from a pastor? If so, YOU are not a witness. Or maybe you just believe in your heart that it's wrong, and guess that this feeling is coming from God? If so, then YOU are not a witness. You are a witness to your own disbelief, so by all means state that you don't believe. You are a witness to the things which cause you to not believe, so by all means state what causes you not to believe. You are a witness to what other people have said, so feel free to state that they have said it. Citations are good! But when you cross the line to declaring it false... especially if you do so with very little direct examination of the evidence or the arguments... yeah. You're getting into false witness territory.

Ditto for straw-manning. Ditto for declaring all atheists immoral. Ditto for insisting that the founding fathers were all devout and fervent Christians. Ditto, ditto, ditto.

And how does it apply to atheists and the rest of us non-believers? It's not in the nonexistent "things God has forbidden us" mental category, but it is in the "shitty things to do" mental category, and also in the "things that would violate my integrity" category. Well, among other things, it tells us NOT to proclaim the existence of God, no matter how much we might be pressured, persecuted, or punished, without first seeing convincing evidence.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 6 users Like Reltzik's post
10-05-2013, 01:54 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-05-2013, 02:58 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.

Sorry, but the THOUSANDS OF OTHER times when someone decided to trust God and God was nowhere to be found show that no, it's not always good to obey a non-existent, schizophrenia-induced imaginary friend in the sky. Drinking Beverage

It sickens me that people can and do make dumb, stupid fucking decisions based on their trust in God. Then again, it's natural selection at work. Maybe you should keep it up. Thumbsup

Through profound pain comes profound knowledge.
Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto! Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 4 users Like Misanthropik's post
10-05-2013, 10:38 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.

You're quoting from the babble again. You just can't help yourself, can you?

As always...you'll be laughed at.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Mark Fulton's post
11-05-2013, 02:37 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

This presents a dilemma for Christians. There are parts of scripture which seem to be bad ideas if applied in real life.

This example that you presented is a perfect one. Lying is a sin, and so is disobeying Earthly authorities. So why would you lie to the authorities about whether you were hiding Jews? There is literally not a single commandment that tells you to lie to Nazis, nor is there a commandment about preventing others from committing murder. The reason that you would do it is because you understand that the bible isn't actually your standard for right and wrong, just a guideline. You know that letting others get killed by your actions is evil, even if the bible didn't tell you that it was. And good for you, because we'd all do the same. It's just important that you recognize what your true source of morality is -- the prevention of suffering, Humanism.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Starcrash's post
13-05-2013, 08:17 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
Quote:Sorry, but the THOUSANDS OF OTHER times when someone decided to trust God and God was nowhere to be found show that no, it's not always good to obey a non-existent, schizophrenia-induced imaginary friend in the sky.

What is your reasoning or evidence that has determined that God has to answer every prayer/request with "yes" or "sure"? I wouldn't make that case from the scriptures. Why is that your line of reasoning here?

Thanks.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
13-05-2013, 08:26 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(13-05-2013 08:17 AM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  
Quote:Sorry, but the THOUSANDS OF OTHER times when someone decided to trust God and God was nowhere to be found show that no, it's not always good to obey a non-existent, schizophrenia-induced imaginary friend in the sky.

What is your reasoning or evidence that has determined that God has to answer every prayer/request with "yes" or "sure"? I wouldn't make that case from the scriptures. Why is that your line of reasoning here?

Thanks.

I would assume the simple fact the multiple times the bible says if you pray, god will always say yes?

Leviticus does not justify stupidity, but it is more than enough to define corruption of the human mind.

[Image: 24851795.jpg]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
13-05-2013, 09:31 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.

There is no lie told by a man with a gun in his neck. This is just one problem with the attempt at objective morality by Christians.

If you come to my house and point a gun at me, it is YOU who is the moral actor, not me. My actions, once threatened, cannot be considered ether moral or immoral. They are based on my survival and possibly the survival of another human being.

Thou shall not kill is another absurd moral rule. For instance, in the above scenario you may be attempting to murder me. If that's the case and I must kill you to stop your attack, I'm still not a moral actor in the event... for the same reason.

There is a definite and demonstrable difference between killing and murdering and, there is the same difference between telling an untruth and lying.

Objective morality is a complicated group of conclusions that can be arrived at through the consistent application of logic and philosophical first principles. The people who wrote the ten commandments were privy to neither.

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. - Chinese Proverb
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like bbeljefe's post
13-05-2013, 09:58 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.
Did you even read Reltzik's post? Consider

"Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea." --Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
13-05-2013, 02:41 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(13-05-2013 09:31 AM)bbeljefe Wrote:  
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.

There is no lie told by a man with a gun in his neck. This is just one problem with the attempt at objective morality by Christians.

If you come to my house and point a gun at me, it is YOU who is the moral actor, not me. My actions, once threatened, cannot be considered ether moral or immoral. They are based on my survival and possibly the survival of another human being.

Thou shall not kill is another absurd moral rule. For instance, in the above scenario you may be attempting to murder me. If that's the case and I must kill you to stop your attack, I'm still not a moral actor in the event... for the same reason.

There is a definite and demonstrable difference between killing and murdering and, there is the same difference between telling an untruth and lying.

Objective morality is a complicated group of conclusions that can be arrived at through the consistent application of logic and philosophical first principles. The people who wrote the ten commandments were privy to neither.

You know, I'd disagree with this notion. I'd say that the moment when a gun is against our neck -- actually or metaphorically -- is what truly reveals the content of our morality. Certainly, the presence of physical threat changes the context of morality. Actions which might be appalling in another scenario, such as attacking and killing a law enforcement officer, can become acceptable or even virtuous in the context of said officer rounding up Jews for the Nazis. In that sense, the everyday morality can be ignored, because morality is relative to circumstance, and these circumstances are not everyday. And it's also why I couched the original post in qualifiers like "most acts of false witness, most of the time, are shitty things to do."

But it also indicates the strength with which you hold your convictions. It's easy enough to save a life when doing so requires only that you drop five bucks in a charity jar or give a pint to the Red Cross/Crescent. That says good things about your morality. But someone being willing, or not willing, to risk their own life to save someone else's? That says much, much more.

PJ, if you're not familiar with it (and I guess you might be familiar with it), have a look at the Doctrine of Mental Reservation. It's had a checkered past, being used both as a tool to shelter people from persecution (as in the nazi scenario), but also to conceal clerical sexual abuse of children from authorities and the public at large. I'll, ah, also echo the previous comment of "what about all those Jews that no God protected"? In that light the anecdote you provided sounds more like coincidence (albeit one that can be spun to poignant effect) than anything grander. Sure, it doesn't disprove the notion that a benevolent, omnipotent God decided to protect a couple here and there and ignore all the others, but it ain't exactly resoundingly consistent with the existence of such a being.

Regarding Thou Shalt Not Kill: This is a pretty big translation error, and "Thou shalt not murder" is a better translation. (Among many of the questionable translations in King James.) This is because there are distinctions held, even in the Bible, between rightful and wrongful killing, implying that not all killing is forbidden. For example, killing in warfare was permissible by Biblical standards, and so was, say, killing sheep for their mutton. As murder is wrongful killing, "thou shalt not murder" is a moral imperative by truism. Of course, this simply shifts the the question to what types of killing are and aren't murder. The commandment against stealing is similarly a moral truism, IMO. Wrongfully taking something from someone is, well, wrong, but what makes one type of taking wrongful and another type of taking permissible?

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Reltzik's post
Post Reply
Forum Jump: