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A friend and I were talking about when it's okay to lie. There are a few cases, such as if I were hiding someone from a killer: I would not be truthful as to the whereabouts of the victim.
Personal things which are nobody's business bring a non-answer from me. A lawyer, tired of lawyer jokes, might reply: "Oh, I work in an office." It's hard not to return rudeness for rudeness.
"Apart from that," I said, "I try to be truthful about everything. If I --"
"Yeah, right!" my friend interrupted.
I felt sorry for a person who may not think there is any such thing as a man who seeks to be honest and truthful.
Atheist activism has helped me find myself; I think I know myself better.
Scratch that -- self-discovery, per se, is not a valid concept; I now think in terms of self-definition rather than self-discovery. While I may discover my limitations, I am not those limitations.
It is important to be aware of our talents and limitations, but the crucial elements of our personhood are the results of tough decisions, hard work, time, and growth. Unlike things genetic and cultural (the accidents), these elements are a bona fide source of pride.
My parents did a fine job teaching good values -- not that I have always (or often) acted on them.
Some historical figures have also influenced me profoundly. Thomas Paine comes to mind, and Gora, the founder of Atheist Centre in India.
In his book "Positive Atheism," Gora said, "The insistence on truthfulness does not disturb the freedom of the individual. An atheist is free to say or to do what he likes, provided he does what he says and says what he does."
I always impair my credibility when I do anything I'd rather be kept a secret. No atheist can afford to do this.
Gora concurs with what Paine said: "A man will pass better through the world with a thousand open errors upon his back than in being detected in one sly falsehood. When one is detected, a thousand are suspected."
If I am honest and up front in all matters, I will eventually find what is best for me, for those around me, and for helping accomplish my goals.
See also An Atheist with Gandhi by Gora
See also Index: Thomas Paine
Copyright ©1998 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon
[Some errors in the original have been corrected here.]