Over at Strange Notions, I joined Deacon Jim Russell (a Catholic radio speaker)and James Croft (who blogs in the Patheos Atheist channel) for a symposium on the ethics of lying. Deacon Jim kicked off the conversation with “Lying and Truth-Telling: A Question for Catholics and Atheists.” He explained that Catholics disagreed about whether a lie is only sinful if the target has a right to the truth. Then, in James Croft’s “The Ethics of Lying: One Humanist’s View,” he took a pragmatic approach to lying (which is ethical if you’re a consequentialist).
And then I turned up with “Interfering with the Eschaton: Why Lying Is Wrong.” Here’s an excerpt:
Lying to save a life is a bit like concussing the Gestapo officer at the door. It’s a solution, and it may be the best of a set of bad options, but there’s a wound involved. A sin is a sin, even if the outcome was, on net, good from a consequentialist perspective. You still breached a duty or ruptured the relationship you ought to have with the officer at the door. The fact that you’re lying is a cue that something has gone wrong, whether upstream of your present moment in time or in this instant…
I like to think of lying (actively or passively) as a special case of a general problem. In herYoung Wizards series, Diane Duane would call it being pro-entropy. I might call it interfering with the eschaton. The telos of humanity is to be healed of all divisions. The wounds we have inflicted on ourselves or on others will be closed up, and it will be possible to be wholly united with each other and with God. Lying to someone is creating distance between my target and the world-as-it-is. And I’m deepening the distance between myself and the person I am instrumentalizing.