What “We All Know” about a Lie

One of the most fundamental problems with an atheistic philosophy is that it can concoct no standard from which to derive ethical judgments. About the best atheism can do is say that the majority should rule, or each situation should be decided “on its own merits” (situationalism). In Dan Barker’s book, Losing Faith in Faith, he attempts to show that the Bible, based on the moral standard of God, is not a truly moral book, and that only atheism provides moral answers to life’s toughest questions.

As an example of the Bible’s “incompetence” in the area of ethics, Barker cites the ninth commandment—Do not bear false witness—which is repeated in the New Testament (Mark 10:19), as inadequate because it fails to admit “the possibility of ethical dilemmas” (1992, p. 345). According to Dan Barker, there are some instances in which lies are “considered virtuous.” He further stated, “We all know that it is sometimes necessary to tell a lie in order to protect someone from harm” (p. 345, emp. added). Barker gives a scenario about a woman who is being hunted by her abusive husband, and he concluded: “I would consider it a moral act to lie to the man.”

Barker, then, finds it a moral practice to lie if he thinks that such a lie will keep a person from harm. What is one of the things that Barker thinks is most harmful? Listen to his statement:

Religion is a powerful thing. Few can resist its charms and few can truly break its embrace. It is a siren who entices the wandering traveler with songs of love and desire and, once successful, turns a mind into stone. It is a Venus fly trap. Its attraction is like that of drugs to an addict who, whishing to be free and happy, becomes trapped and miserable (p. 51).

From this statement, one can see that Dan Barker places religion at the top of his “most harmful” list. On page 233 of his book, he declared: “Religious morality is dangerous.” On page 286, he said that certain religious people are “abusing their children” by teaching them things like “evolution is a Satanic lie.”

Putting Mr. Barker’s statements together in logical form: (1) he considers it moral to lie in order to “protect someone from harm;” (2) he considers religion to be harmful; (3) then it must follow that Mr. Barker’s position implies that it would be moral to lie in order to dissuade a person from believing in God or religion.

If Mr. Barker is willing to lie, it seems to me that one should be leery about what he presents as “fact” in his writings about religion.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).


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