culture is a complex composition of the manners, rites, language, laws,
ideas, and customs of a people. These sources describe what a given
people hold to be true, or at least valid. How they act to one another,
how they build things, how and what they punish and reward, how they
think of birth and deathall these make up the outlines of a given
Some thinkers want to say that truth and falsity are
relative to a culture (multi-culturalism). Whatever the culture does or
holds becomes its own absolute in that domain. Any outside revelation or
philosophy must accommodate itself to the culture, not vice versa. No
such thing as a natural law or universal philosophy, whereby one might
judge the content of a culture, is acknowledged.
long held that its essential revelation is directed to all “cultures.”
Whatever is good can be accepted. If anything is found that is alien to
revelation, it would need to be modified in light of universal truths.
The supposed “neutrality” or autonomy of any culture, however, makes it
almost impossible to judge real differences between good and evil, truth
and falsity. If such differences do not objectively exist as the same
for all cultures, it does not make much difference what we hold or what
culture we belong to. In effect, they are allWestern, Muslim, Chinese,
Hindu, Byzantine, Japanese, African, Latino, modern,
For those who hold universal principles of
reason and revelation, current Western culture, in which the American
polity participates, is, in many fundamental things, based on lies. The
devil, interestingly enough, is said to be the “father of lies.” This
attribution indicates that the devil bases his own life on the lie of
his own self-worth. It also means that he can convince human beingswho
can imitate himthat the lies they live by are “true.” They are not to
be challenged or repented. This “kingdom of lies” is not divided within
itself. One lie follows from another. All converge to deny what man and
creation are about.
What are these “lies” on which our present
culture is based? Each one of them, on examination, denies or violates a
principle of reason or a fact of science. But they are all strenuously
adhered to as “truth” because they allow us to do what we want. They
enable us to avoid responsibilities for our chosen actions. We insist
that they are our “rights,” our “privileges,” or our “liberties.”
The first and most obvious lie
embedded in our culture is that abortion does not kill a specific,
actual human being. All evidence shows that this killing is true. To
hold the lie in our souls, we must and do call it a “right” or a
“choice” that allows us to pretend that we know not what we do.
The next lie
is that marriage does not necessarily consist in the permanent, legal
bond of this man and this woman who form one flesh, a home in which they
beget and raise their own children. Any legislation that defines
marriage as merely a civil contract between members of the same sex or
other arrangements is based on a lie. It denies what marriage is. It
denies what is owed to the child, both a mother and a father.
The third lie
is that euthanasia is a “right” to kill oneself or have others do so
for us. It is made legitimate by the civil law. Euthanasia is
self-inflicted suicide, not an act of compassion or autonomy over
The fourth lie is that war is always immoral
and never has any legitimate justification. War is never without its
evils but never to allow war’s legitimacy in any circumstances
whatsoever is to ensure tyranny and ignore the need to defend human good
and dignity against those who would destroy it.
The fifth lie
is that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. The only way for
anyone to become not-poor is for him to learn from those who have
learned how to produce wealth sufficient for human needs and well-being.
The sixth lie
is that man himself is the chief threat to the well-being of the planet
earth. Man’s presence on this planet is at least as natural as that of
any other being. The well-being of the earth is not more important than
the well-being of man. The purpose of the earth is to provide for this
well-being, a well-being that knows what the earth is and needs.
The seventh lie
is that the earth is over-populated and must drastically reduce its
numbers by millions or even billions. The earth, because of human
intelligence and enterprise, can take care of the population of the
earth. Human well-being is, in fact, more threatened by population
decline than over-population.
The eighth lie is that
there is no truth. Everything is relative to our individual preferences.
Relativism is always self-contradictory. It is a lie to maintain that
man cannot know any truth about himself, the cosmos, or God.
The ninth lie
is that democracy is always the best form of government. Democracy is
that form of government based on a concept of liberty that allows man to
do whatever he wants. It generally becomes a form of tyranny of the
majority in which whatever the people want is the law and is identified
with what is right.
The tenth lie is that the purpose of
government is to protect human “rights.” As they are used, “rights” are
not a description of what is due to man. Rather they are rooted in
Hobbes’ claim that we can do whatever we want to keep alive and protect
what we claim. “Rights” become what the state says and enforces. No
reason can be found why they do not become tomorrow the opposite of what
they are today.
Lie number eleven is that Islam is only a
religion of peace. Islam, however, mostly expanded by war. Those who
die in its wars are considered martyrs. It is considered to be blasphemy
to deny any element of Islam’s holy book or tradition. Islam does not
tolerate what it does not believe. The Trinity and Incarnation are specifically denied in the Koran.
number twelve is that Jesus Christ is not who He said He was, that is,
the Incarnate Word of God. All presumed evidence that denies this truth
does not bear careful examination.
Lie number thirteen is
that Christianity is another religion like all other religions. It has
reasonable basis for its truths. “Religion” is technically an aspect of
the virtue of justice. It attempts to define what, by using only his
natural powers, man owes to his gods. Christianity is a revelation of a
divine Person about who God is and what is necessary for salvation. What
it contains is addressed to human reason and does not contradict it.
number fourteen is that sin does not exist, that it can be explained by
psychology, determinism, sociology, or myth. It need not be forgiven.
The consequences of sin go on whether we like it or not. They become
present in both the lives of the sinners and those against whom they
sin. Sin is often a major aspect of a culture that determines its
Lie number fifteen is that no final
judgment is possible. This position means that nothing we do makes any
ultimate difference. Our lives are hence basically meaningless and of no
ultimate worth. But that a final judgment exists is the truth. Since we
are free and intelligent, we must give an account and be judged for how
we used these gifts.
In suggesting that the culture is founded on
these fifteen lies, I do not want to suggest that there are no other
ones, or that the culture does not also contain aspects of virtue and
good. Many people recognize and seek to counteract each of these lies.
But in putting them together, I do intimate that lies are connected with
each other. One will lead to the other once we embrace and live by one
or the other. We will find ourselves “being led on,” whether we like it
Yet, we need not accept these lies. Eric Voegelin once
wisely remarked that “no one needs to participate in the aberrations of
his time.” But the temptation to do so, to be politically and culturally
correctand it is a temptationis very great. As C. S. Lewis noted in The Screwtape Letters, our deviation from the good usually does not begin with the big aberrations but with the small ones.
Pieper rightly told us that it is not the “lie” that is the real basis
of culture but “leisure.” Leisure is the Aristotelian word used to
describe what we do when all else that we “need” to do is completed. The
implication is that the most important things are not really the
economic or political ones that have to do with just living and not
living well. But to live well, we must think and think about what is, about what we did not make or establish. The things that are contain their own order that we are to discover lest we deceive ourselves and see only what we want to see. We read in Plato’s Timaeus:
“Now while it is true that anything that is bound is liable to being
undone, still only one who is evil would consent to the undoing of what
has been well-fitted” (41b).
The “lies” that are found basic in
our culture in fact “undo what has been well-made.” We do not
acknowledge this disorder because we too often “consent” to the
“undoing” of what we are and ought to be.