“What is wrong with lying if it is not morally wrong?”

I have yet to encounter a coherent argument for a foundation for obligatory morality.

At the same time, I have accused people of intentionally lying or misrepresenting my position.

Amazingly, many of the people I accuse of mendacity will counter by saying their lies should mean nothing to me since I do not believe in obligatory morality.

It is a shame I would have to address this, but this sort of nonsensical defense of lying has seemed to be increasing recently, and most incredibly, primarily among the very theists who claim a single lie is worthy of eternal damnation.

Lying is not “morally” wrong since there is no domain of “morality” in which something can be “morally” wrong. But emotions do exist. Here are a couple of the emotional and practical consequences of lying, both of which are a sufficient reason to limit lying to those cases in which it would preserve the greater good.

1. If you care for others you’ll do your utmost to make sure they have as much access to the truth as possible since goals are best accomplished through rational decisions based on accurate information. Happiness is accomplished through wise decisions enabled by accurate information. If you care for others, you won’t make it a practice to lie. This appeal to your humanity does not require an obligatory morality.

2. If you care about yourself, you’ll build a reputation for truth-telling. People do not like liars. This quite universal distaste for liars does not require that we have some type of obligatory moral standard saying lying is morally wrong. lies cause emotional and sometimes physical injury. This is very commonsensical. Others will distrust you when you lie, and your social options will decrease. If you care about yourself, you’ll not lie.

So, while you can not say “Lying is morally wrong”, you can most certainly say “Lying is wrong if you don’t want to hurt yourself and others.” There is no obligation in this; only unhappiness for yourself and others if you choose to make lying a habit. And I’m most certainly not “borrowing” from your unsubstantiated obligatory morality in my emotional distaste for lying due to the pain it causes.

As simple as all this is, I have actually heard at least 5 times within the last year the statement that, because I find no justification for obligatory morality, I can take no offense to lying. It is almost as if they claim we must give up our emotions (which clearly do exist) if we deny them their obligatory morality (which clearly does not exist).

Those theists who make this claim after lying do so in violation of a) the standards of their god, b) rationality, and c) the emotional distaste for lying found the world over.

Makes one wonder whether they are intentionally attempting to undermine their position.


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