This is part II in a series on the things a society needs to value in order to have civilization. In the Spherical Model, civilization is the positive northern hemisphere of the sphere, with its opposite, savagery, down south.
The 5 values, which show up in the Ten Commandments, are God, life, family, truth, and property ownership. I’m doing them in whatever order works for me. Part I was on life. Part III will be on property ownership. Honoring God and family are so big, I’m saving them.
|The quote is from the John Keats poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn."|
I took the photo of the urn in the British Museum in 2016
So, here is the section on truth from the Spherical Model website article on Civilization.
“Thou shalt not lie” is a commandment with many ramifications in Civilization. Observe, for example, taking an oath to tell the truth in a court of law. The oath means that, because God is your witness, and He knows the truth, and you will be judged by Him in this life and the life to come, therefore you feel the requirement to tell the truth under oath. God is bigger than yourself, a mere human, and He is bigger than your human peers; so it is to God you obligate yourself in the oath, not just to society. If you don’t believe in God, what does your oath mean? You might be telling the truth; there are honest people who don’t believe in God. But, without any belief greater than your personal self, you (your own god) could declare that it is acceptable for you to lie if it fits your personal needs to do so. You accept no higher authority to insist otherwise. Society feels no obligation from you, because you admit to nothing greater than yourself and your personal moral code, however self-serving.
[Side note: I am not saying that we isolate ourselves from non-religious people, and not give them the freedoms the rest of us enjoy. I am saying, societally it ought to be up to the non-religious to present evidence that they are being truthful. Maybe that would be submitting to a lie-detector; maybe it would be supplying character witnesses. I’m not sure of a solution, and it may look no different from now. Affirming, rather than taking an oath, is already allowed in the Constitution, and there are already laws against perjury. But I would like to see some initiative on the part of the non-religious to compensate the Civilized society for the fact that their belief system gives society less guarantee of their truthfulness.]
While we must not have a state religion (more on freedom of religion later), there is a religious morality that enables laws and freedom to exist and encourage civilization that atheism (or secularism) fails to do. And it shouldn’t be surprising that many of the tyrannies in the world in the past century have been atheistic (the alternative to atheistic tyranny is religious tyranny—that is, a single forced religion; societies with freedom of religion don’t become tyrannies). In Soviet countries during communist rule, Christian grandmothers persisted in teaching religious values to their children and grandchildren. The Soviets controlled productions. But developers of the European Union have conspired that they will not make the same mistake; they will also control reproduction and education. When you control education of children, you control the destiny of mankind.
In addition to that original section, it turns out I’ve written often enough about truth to make a collection. Here they are in chronological order:
· Stand for Truth, March 2, 2012
· The Truth Is Is That, July 16, 2012
· Truth, Beauty, Goodness, January 6, 2014
· Wisdom and Learning, May 11, 2015
· Truth and Perception, April 17, 2017
· Truth Be Told, November 6, 2017
· Speak the Truth and Play Fair, February 12, 2018
· Telling the Truth, May 24, 2018
· Red Pills, Walking Away, and Truth Seeking, July 16, 2018
· Tribalism vs. Truth, August 27, 2018
· Who Is Telling the Truth, September 27, 2018
· Truth Before It’s Too Late, October 4, 2018
· Perceiving What Is Real, July 8 2019
I’ve referred to this before (in “Truth Before It’s Too Late”), but in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, rule number 8 is “Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.” As he’s talked about this concept, he suggests never saying anything that makes you feel weak. He’s not talking about wielding power over others, or making them think you do so you don’t somehow appear weak. He’s talking about an internal guide. If you’re saying something untrue, pay attention and you’ll notice a weak feeling inside. People use the word conscience possibly to mean the same thing. Unless you train yourself to ignore it, there’s an internal guide to know whether you’re telling the truth.
When asked about whether a person should tell the truth even when there’s a Nazi at the door to collect the Jew you’re hiding in a closet, he doesn’t actually answer that question. Instead, he points out that there were a lot of lies—giving in to the weakness, saying the convenient, mollifying little lies—building up to the situation where Nazis were in power and could arrive at your door asking that question. Telling the truth each and every one of those times, let the consequences follow as they may, is your guide to the best possible future. Lying, for convenience, self-protection, or manipulation of others is walking away from the best civilized life you could live.
Truth matters. Civilization depends on it.