At what stage does a lie become a lie?

As ex member’s of the eb Brethren.Who have experienced all kind of nastiness of an immensely uncaring nature, and faith abuses and so on. So then, naturally we will now feel truth is important. We can get quite upset too, when we observe brethren members, actively involved in telling porkies so as to mislead people.So as to cover up sex abuses.Or so as to deceive the general public,in regard of issues of charity status that the charity commission might be involved in questioning

As far as i can tell, from my interest of ex eb comments and ongoing discussion i observe.It seems (to me) that there is this contention that the brethren members are one of the few church groups whom are more likely involved in actively being quite willing to mislead so as to deceive (although i might be mistaken)

But anyway, is this idea, IE: the idea that only a few wayward church groups would ever be bothered to be involved, realistic?

I question that this is a realistic judgement. I’ve been questioning this for some years now.I now have some real doubt that its actually correct to claim.

And if its not correct to claim it, then might this then also help to explain how and why it might have been so easy for the brethren groups to go so wayward themselves. To cause extreme harm unto so many people, without even displaying any real sense of remorse,or guilt or empathy and compassion and so on, for harm of all the many human being lives that their own deceitful act were ruining along the way

What about church members of other groups.Do they have more tendency to stick to the straight and narrow road in regard to telling complete truth ?. Specially groups of what many ex eb would perhaps like to see as mainstream Christians

This subject really interests me a lot,and not because i wish to be judgmental of mainstream Christian.Please understand me when i say that, as i’m being honest in saying it.Not because i’m opposed to believers either.

But more so because i can see why truthfulness is important.For sake of all of us.Even for the sake of heathen atheist like myself too. Truthfulness is specially important among those people pertaining the faith of being those particular type people purposely endowed with responsibility to act as being like moonbeams for good of all humanity, within this world . Because religion also has a particular way to influence so many humans

That’s obviously something mighty important right ?.Religion is playing a huge roll within our world

Consider the far reaching implication if it didn’t happen.Consider how interconnected so many situation that evolve within all of our lives are. Like,if theist cannot be observed to remain truthful themselves,then how will the roll on effect of that phenomena then go on to manifest within society at large as well too?.

Like will secular society soon enough also have little decent ability to be able to discern right from wrong anymore either?

Might this go some way to help us all explain why society seem to display so little concern in regard of harm constantly caused,unto certain people, who happen to get tangled up, by one way or another, within extremely harmful faith abuses ,that ruin lives ?

Will it help explain why few people care that much ,about cult members tangled up in faith abuses ?

How about that question? .  



Anyway.The conversation that ensued, on a forum that seem mainly of Catholic people,as to whether white lies (ill call them white lies here anyway,as i’m just not sure, what else to define them as?) were ok,or not so bad started with the first comment below

Quote 7 comments below : 


Morality has not arisen due to human empathy and social survival, rather it has been written on our hearts.

“Written on our hearts” is a metaphor, wouldn’t you imagine?

If it is a meaningful metaphor, why couldn’t morality arise from empathy? Isn’t empathy the essence of “love your neighbor as yourself”?

Some issues of morality require lengthy, complex reasoning. (Here’s something I read years ago that came to mind. It is not required reading here. It’s just an example of complex moral reasoning, and I am sure there are many examples even more complex.) Others are unresolved. (Can you lie to the Nazis to protect Anne Frank?) I don’t think such matters can be figured out by consulting one’s heart.

Also, the culture in which a person grows up, and socialization by the family, teachers, and neighbors is going to have a profound effect on what a person believes (and feels) is right or wrong.


    ” (Can you lie to the Nazis to protect Anne Frank?) ”

    Just a note on this single point. You have used this example before, and I would suggest that it really is not an unresolved issue.

    Following the principles of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s sprachspeilen , one must watch the context in which a statement is made and the understanding one should expect.

    In natural law ethics, one is not morally obliged to tell the whole truth to the Nazis, since they are in no way entitled to it. That does not mean one can lie, and it is NOT a lie, because they should know that no one is going to say “Yes” in such a context. Thus the “No” is a wide mental reservation, meaning “No, as far as you are concerned” with the “as far as you are concerned” not being said. Just as when a mother tells Johnny to tell the salesman she is not home, he should understand that she is not home to him.

    Many people do not understand the complex nature of speech and that not everything people think of as lies really are such. Conversely, a strict mental reservation is of such nature that the hearer has no way of guessing that the whole truth is not being expressed, as if one were to say to the Nazis, “No, she is in Paris,” but meaning only in one’s imagination. Thus a strict mental reservation is actually a real lie.

    Next time someone asks you how you are doing today and you say “Fine,” realize that he isn’t really expecting you to tell him about your painful ingrown toenail — so your answer is not a lie, but is rather the sort of thing Wittgenstein means by his “language games.”

  • Reply

      David Nickol
      Lying to save Anne Frank from Nazis? Technically if you did that it’s a venial sin not a mortal sin. Like stealing a single grape from the Supermarket.

      They fleshed this out over at Feser’s.

    • Reply

        I will try to weigh in on this tomorrow, since it is getting late, but I believe you and Dr. Bonnette are not on the same page.

        It seems to me you are implying it is okay to commit a venial sin if it is done with good intentions. Remember the famous Newman quote:

        The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.

        If that is true, and it is a venial sin to say to the Nazis, “No, Anne Frank is not in the attic” when she is, then it is better to tell the truth and let the Nazis get Anne Frank.

      • Reply

          It’s not ok to commit a venial sin but it is not as severe. You don’t loose salvation but you come up to the line. Of course as Feser pointed out there are ways you can mislead someone without lying. Just like you can kill someone without murdering them. You can equivocate for example.

          Nazi: Are there Jews in the basement?
          Me: No! (In my head: Just for today I am adopting an extreme Catholic Supercessionist view of Judaism being completely replaced by the Catholic religion. Thus the people I am hiding in the basement aren’t real Jews but belong to a dead religion with the pretension of being judaism so what I am saying is technically true. I am not hiding Jews.)

        • Reply

            Me: No! (In my head: Just for today . . .

            Nothing I have ever read on either side of the debate has led me to believe that this kind of “mental reservation” could be considered anything but a lie, plain and simple. If I can rearrange reality in my head and then use that as a basis for a response, it seems to me there is no deception I can’t accomplish in one way or another.

          • Reply

              That is likely because you could be a consequentialist and don’t know it? Misleading people is not the same as lying just as killing is not the same as murder. Not having s e ,x with the wife when she is fertile is not birth control either(either you or Adams have argued it is I forget which? Forgive me. ) The consequences are the same. I mislead the guy but morally it is not the same as lying thought the practical effects are the same. Just like if I kill a man who is trying to kill me he becomes dead but that doesn’t make me a murderer.

            • Reply
            • One other person is typing…

      In natural law ethics, one is not morally obliged to tell the whole truth to the Nazis, since they are in no way entitled to it.

      Interesting fact. The first English edition of the Catechism had a definition of lying that was “corrected” in the second edition. The definitions were as follows:

      First Edition: To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth.

      Second Edition: To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.

      I have read accounts that say the first edition was correct but was simplified so as not to cause confusion. I have also seen accounts that claim theologians wrote to Rome to request a change in the second edition since the first edition was in error.

      Just as when a mother tells Johnny to tell the salesman she is not home, he should understand that she is not home to him.

      LOL. I remember my mother giving me almost exactly the same example when I was a kid, except I think she used a businessman and a secretary. I don’t want to say exactly how long ago that was, but it was a long time ago!

    • Reply

        I just read the column in which Dr. Feser discusses this exact issue and found that he consistently calls the act “lying” in every instance. He says nothing at all about mental reservations or the distinction between wide ones and strict ones (outright lies).

        This whole subject of lying is fascinating, since most people have a very strict notion of lying that leads to the absurd inference that everyone lies at one time or another, thereby making the defense of always telling the truth seem absurd.

        Very few people explore the “language game” explanations of Wittgenstein, and therefore it becomes like interpreting Genesis absolutely literally and getting absurd interpretations.

        We use language in many “game” understandings in which communication is not perverted or contradicted, but in which the language often simply does not mean what it says on the surface — yet the people communicating know perfectly well what is meant.

        The most obvious example is one I gave above. When someone asks “How are you today?”, they do not expect you to tell them about every least ailment you are suffering. In fact, you could not feel very well at all, but honestly reply, “Just fine,” since they really do not want to hear all your woes, but are merely being polite.

        That is also why, even when under sworn oath on the witness stand, where you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — no one still expects the WHOLE truth. If you are asked what you were doing on the morning of the 23rd, you are not expected to say which foot hit the floor first as you got out of bed that morning, or what you had for breakfast. It is the context that makes communication effective and, as a whole, truthful.

        Thus, traditional moralists have developed the technical explanation of mental reservations, which some accuse of being a way to say that a lie is not a lie — but that is to twist and misunderstand its proper application.

        Thus, again, when the Nazis ask if you are hiding Anne Frank, it is NOT A LIE to say “No.” Were you to then add that she went to Paris, that would be a strict mental reservation that the Nazis could not misinterpret as anything but a lie if then then discovered her hiding in your attic. The point is that the strict mental reservation is a clear communication of something contrary to what is in your mind, whereas the wide reservation can and should be understood as part of the “language games” that readily deceive no one in ordinary discourse.

        That is why when you say “No” to the Nazis, you risk being interrogated more closely to force you to tell the COMPLETE details, since the initial “No” did not, in fact, deceive them!

      • Reply
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      Some years ago (2011), an anti-abortion group called Live Action engaged in various deceptions to interact with, and surreptitiously record, employees of Planned Parenthood. A debate ensued among some “heavy hitters” in conservative Catholic circles as to whether the deceptions employed by Live Action constituted lying, and whether lying was always wrong. Christopher Tollefsen’s article titled Truth, Love, and Live Actionin The Public Discourse was among the first to criticize Live Action. Christopher Kaczor disagreed with Tollefsen in a response entitled In Defense of Live Action. Tollefsen replied to Kaczor in his article Why Lying is Always Wrong. Robert George supported Tollefsen in a piece on Mirror of Justice titledLife and Truth, and Janet E. Smith’s article Fig Leaves and Falsehoods on First Things supported the view that lying is not always wrong (or at least that not all deliberate deceptions are lying). It seems clear to me from this debate, and from the Feser article that Jim the Scott linked to, that this issue is not settled.

      Regarding what you say about Wittgenstein and also about mental reservation, it seems to me that unless all parties involved are not in on the “game,” untruths may be lies. For example, if a salesman is trying to reach a businessman, and the businessman’s secretary says, “He is not in,” the salesman is likely to understand the secretary is saying, “He is not in . . . to you.” And if the salesman does not understand, we might take it as his fault for not being aware of business conventions. But if the businessman’s boss (lawyer, doctor, wife, probation officer) calls, then “He is not in” may well be considered a lie, since they may reasonably expect not to be players in the game of “He is not in . . . to you.”

      By the way, I list the articles above that I found fascinating at the time of the original debate, but I am not proposing we read them all and debate them! For those who are interested in even more,however, a comprehensive roundup of most of the pertinent articles published at the time may be found here.

    • Reply


end of 7 comments ive quoted above

Note to anyone reading.I can say,for certain, that my own experience has been, that in general Catholic folk were mostly nice people.Catholic Christian i found to act kindly,fairly much so too, even toward atheists like me.And besides, there’s actually loads and loads of nice people,all around us, within our real world anyway.

However ,even so, being a nice person doesn’t necessarily also automatically mean, that nice people will then also be able to feel so bad,themselves, about the lives being lived by other people.Or even empathize with other peoples life situations that befall them

There is evidence what seems to suggest, that perhaps human (including nice people) are more able to feel empathy for situations that they themselves can also imagine they might be more likely to also directly encounter themselves as well too.

Like for instance,

1.falling foul of a cave tragedy, like what had happen with the Thai boys what had got stuck within a cave recently

2.falling foul of  issues like what happen with the Pike river mine disaster,here in NZ. Or elsewhere

3. falling foul of fires that are killing people

4. Falling foul of earthquake disasters

5 Falling foul of flood disasters


And so on

Nice people will be fairly quick to rally help in all of these situations above

So perhaps the problem isn’t so much that we lack nice people?. The problem is perhaps more that nice people find it far harder to feel empathy and therefore compassion, for situations of what the are also less able to ever see themselves ever falling foul of

That might make sense?

Science suggest that it is possibly something like mirror neuron of what perhaps help fire up our feelings of empathy, for others

So therefore,people who feel unable to ever see themselves falling foul of certain situation, are therefore also far less likely to ever have any reaction from mirror neuron


About ExEB

I'm a agnostic/atheist . Interested in learning more about science. I also am an "ex-member" of a group most publicly known within modern times, as the Exclusive Brethren. Whom are an off-shoot of the original Plymouth Brethren group. I'd say it likely my personality could possibly be described as quirky.You know ,as in being , unconventional , unorthodox , unusual, off-centre, strange, bizarre, weird, peculiar, odd, freakish, outlandish, offbeat, out of the ordinary, bohemian, alternative, zany I'm sure iv'e been classed as "crazy" . Many times But then, being born into a group like the exclusive brethren. Doesn't lend itself ? to tend to produce things considered as being "very normal" .Does it I escaped the Exclusive Brethren cult as a 15 year old teenager. Even since that time iv'e been trying to adjust to living life outside the cult. With much of my life being lived within the genre of "wild colonial boy" style. In the general sense of a church-rebel picking and choosing from role models who appeared within-life along the way. But as the exclusive brethren cult had traditionally maintained a general church-rule , of need to shun and totally excommunicate any ex member of their group.Treating such people as if they were dead. Thus this situation developed more to do with my need of following traditionally enforced church-rule , as apposed to it being so much about "life-choices". Certain emotional experiences, and parts of life in general, have led to me adopting a sense of low self esteem. Which is a situation i still deal with from time to time. Through my ongoing interest in science. I find i am able to gather more information to help me better understand my situation. Much about life for me, has often seemed like a massive puzzle.With many missing pieces.
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