Saturday, October 13, 2012

The most effective lies are combined with truth

As I was reading through 1 Timothy 1 this week, I came across a few lists, a list of good things and a list of bad things. As I usually do when these come up, I went through the list and talked about which elements I agree with and which I don't. As I was digging through the list and discussing which parts I like and which I don't I was reminded of the idea that a pure lie is easy to spot, but a lie that has a bit of truth mixed in with it is much more likely to sneak past your bullshit detector.

The verse that got my mind off in this direction was 1 Timothy 1:5 which says that "love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." I was imagining someone reading this verse who isn't analyzing it quite as much as me, but more just reading it like a normal person. They would first see that love issues from a pure heart and their brain processes that as correct. Yes, this makes sense and we are happy with it. The next thing they see is a good conscience. Again, love comes from someone who has a good conscience, this rings true. At this point the reader has probably already decided that the sentence is correct, they finally read that love comes from faith and they accept it without thinking about it one bit. The reader has already accepted this is true so this last item is accepted with no thought whatsoever.

This is of course something that happens in your brain, and very fast. And honestly, this example is probably not even the best one out of my reading of the bible so far, it just happens to be the one I was at when this idea popped into my head. But I think the very fact that these lists are in the bible in this way is a problem. They put things that are obviously good with things they want to assert are good, and by doing so a casual reader will take the whole list as good. They do this with negative lists too, how many times have we seen a list of relatively minor bad things and then murder is thrown into the list? I'm sure everything else on the list feels a little bit worse when it is sitting right there next to murder.

Another angle I was thinking of with this idea, is imagine trying to convince someone that they are wrong, for instance that love doesn't come from faith. If the statement that was made was simply "love comes from faith" I could get right to the root of the problem. On the other hand, with these ideas bundled up I have to first step over "a pure heart" and "good conscience" before I can get to my objection. With these things being bundled, it makes things more difficult.


  1. Didn't think about it like that, but you are totally right. I think once you establish trust, it's easy to be fooled, especially when the information is just thrown in there like that. It reminds me of the show Penn and Teller Tell A Lie. They tell a bunch of stories or "urban legends" and you are supposed to figure out which one is a lie.

    "Taking it on faith," is just such a horrible argument. When you hear it, someone is often telling you, "I don't have a really good argument, but you won't convince me that I am wrong." I think using this kind of reasoning is terrible in any circumstance.

    1. yeah, establishing trust is a perfect way to put it. I've never seen that penn and teller show, sounds good. Reminds me of science or fiction on skeptics guide to the universe. Good stuff.


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