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Re: Swearing an oath

Thanks for your reply!

I know I was "shooting from the hip" with this one! I will try again, and I hope you can be patient with me but I will try to be more precise:


Let's start with a basic premise, premise, conclusion, and give some details. By the way, this is not for an assignment, just for fun, but the topic is somewhat relevant if it were to ever come up in a legal argument.

The Oath in question is the oath of office for Congress. They are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, a specific document that says the following about religion:

1. That Congress shall not (by establishing laws) respect any one religion over another or prevent the free practice of any peaceable religion.

2. That the purpose of our nation is so that people can exercise their freedom (assumed to be given by an unnamed Creator)to pursue happiness as they please, which implies the pursuit of both virtues (freedoms) and vices (hopefully in moderation)and which would obviously include the freedom to decide whether or not to pursue a relationship with a Creator or not, and how to do that if so, and many other little things (owning a dog, eating bacon, watching football, etc.)


These oaths are sworn to using a book. Typically that book is the Bible for several reasons. For one, it contains Mosaic Law, which is a root of many of our legal and moral constructs. But I think there is at least one other reason a Bible serves as a "valid premise" upon which to swear such an oath:

The Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, are conducive to government and the church working together for the common good. If you look at Mordecai or Daniel in the Old Testament, or see Jesus' admonition to render to Ceasar what is his, also never asking his disciples to rise up and fight you see a pattern. The Pauline Epistles also continue this pattern, advising believers to obey ordinances, because they are there for our good. The CONTENT of the book upon which you swear should matter!

At the very least, one ought to be able to give an argument as to how the "OATH" verbal (the 1st premise) and the "IMPLIED OATH" (the contents and character of the book upon which they swear, the 2nd premise) ought to follow the rules of logic!

If, for example, someone was being sworn in on a Superman comic book, they could at least argue that "Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American way!" I couldn't fault them for doing this, because it is compatible with their verbal oath.

If someone were to swear on a math textbook, they might argue that math represents absolute and pure truth, and so is the purity of their oath. It would be hard to make much argument about that, math is a very literal expression of quantifiable truth, and it at least it doesn't take away from the verbal oath.

The CONCLUSION we want to arrive at is that the swearer of the oath made an "OATH IN GOOD FAITH" meaning that it is evident that the swearer fully intends to do what they said--uphold and defend the Constitution.

The only book I see people swearing in on that might present a "Catch 22" is the Koran. The Koran explicitly instructs it's followers to lie in such situations. It explicitly sees only one path to peace: the path of deceit, violence, subjugation through heavy taxes and yes, slavery too. The Bible speaks of G-d's Kingdom taking over, but it, in contrast, explicitly warns that vengeance, violence and the like (with the exception of honorable military service,and self defense) are prohibited, and that freedom comes from "knowing the truth" rather than using deceit.

People who adhere to the Koran believe in it not just as a religion, but as a geo-political agenda. The Koran has historically been interpreted most literally. Kill and oppress the enemies (meaning all non-Muslim humanity) and impose Sharia Law. This is in stark contrast to Judeo-Christian values, whose most common interpretation is winning over one's neighbor with good works, reason and kindness.

The worst catch with the Koran is the doctrine of deceit. Human nature already bends towards deceit. Logic can help "keep us honest" by forcing us through intellectual discipline to see if what we are doing has any integrity. It "preserves" truth. A famous philosopher once said (Plato I think) that the unexamined life is not worth living! I see at least one example of an examined life in the Bible (the Book of Ecclesiastes) and certainly their are other examples in the Bible. How does a Muslim know he is even telling himself the truth? Why would he/she care to tell him/herself the truth? Is he lying to himself just to make him/herself a better Muslim? Since the Koran puts NO premium on THE TRUTH, but only on the end of spreading a particular belief, how could they know? That belief system is therefore a sea of logical conundrums, not merely hard to understand passages or seeming contradictions.

I'd love your take on this stuff, please forgive my long-windiness, and I WIL

Something about you (optional) From Florida

Re: Swearing an oath

Dear Patriot, you're a man close to my heart! I agree entirely with what you said. Seeing your name (Patriot) and the time when you posted your conundrum (just after the new Muslim women representatives swore allegiance in Congress), I guessed where you were getting at politically.

In fact, I made a very similar (though much briefer) comment in a news website, stating (roughly) that it is a contradiction for these women to swear allegiance to the US constitution over a Koran, when the Koran is a supremacist document instructing Muslims to takeover and rule over the whole world. We live in sad times in this respect.

I've written some critical stuff on Islam and the Koran, by the way. Here: http://www.thelogician.net/A-FORTIORI-LOGIC/Islamic-Logic-11.htm and here: http://avisionpolemics.bravesites.com/entries/logical-criticism/3-mahmoud-zeraatpishe

As regards Christianity, I would like to recommend to you (and everyone) an excellent book that I am currently reading and almost finished: Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity. Great writer. He also has A history of the Jews, that I read before. Unfortunately, he does not have a history of Islam.

Returning to your shot-from-the-hip paradox, something could be built there, similar to the Liar Paradox, or maybe Russell's Book Catalogue Paradox. But of course, like all paradoxes, it will be resolvable. Once you get into very detailed analysis, you find the logical fault(s) involved.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher