The Culture of Dishonesty: Abortion, Divorce, and Obamacare

Over at Public Discourse I have an essay looking into the public’s rather disturbing (to me, anyway) lack of anger about the president’s dishonesty in selling the health care law (if you like your health care, you can keep your health care).

Over the decades, there seems to have been a decline in seriousness about the need for politicians to tell the truth.  Nixon was in real danger of being impeached for, among other things, lying to the public.  In fact, his impeachment and removal was a certainty, which he avoided only by resigning.  A generation later, Clinton was impeached but not removed (only reprimanded) for, among other things, lying to the public.  Today anybody can tell that president Obama misled the public about the real consequences of the Affordable Care Act, but there has been no serious repercussions for him such as Nixon and Clinton faced–just complaining.


I argue that our culture may have become habituated to dishonesty by the prevalence of abortion and divorce.

On abortion:

An alternative argument has it that a fetus is a human being but is not a human person. In this view it is said that abortion is morally unproblematic because moral respect attaches to personhood and not mere humanity. Since a fetus, though a human being, cannot have self-consciousness or concern for the future, it is not due the protections that we naturally accord a fully mature human person. Once again, the problem with this argument is that almost nobody really believes it, so that its constant reiteration as a defense for abortion necessarily has a corrosive effect on our respect for the truth.

If the personhood argument were correct, then it would be just as moral to practice infanticide as it is to procure an abortion, since newborn children have no more sense of self-consciousness or concern for the future than do late-term fetuses. But, aside from a few theorists in the academy, virtually everybody agrees not only that infanticide is wrong but that it is murder. The personhood argument, then, is merely an expedient to justify abortion. In other words, it is a dishonest argument, and its dishonesty is sufficiently evident that its popularity must undermine our society’s commitment to truth.

On divorce:

Our culture of divorce, however, is also a culture of deception. The traditional marriage vows—by which a married couple proclaim that they will remain married until they are parted by death—are still commonly used. And yet they are used in a context in which everybody knows that divorce is accessible, and that many might decide to resort to it. The conclusion seems unavoidable that many Americans get married, using the traditional formulations, knowing all along that they might go back on their word and seek a divorce later if they think it necessary. That is to say, they make a promise to each other in the most solemn way possible—in traditional prescribed language, in front of their families and friends, and often in a house of worship—believing as they do so that the promises made are not really binding. Leaving aside the question of the morality of divorce itself, we can certainly say that people who behave in this way are enacting a farce that cannot help but undermine their respect for truth telling.

You can read the whole thing here.

  • Kevin

    If a fetus contains a human life, then that human life is not a part of the woman’s body and she should not have undue say over whether the child within her lives or dies. Moreover, the “divorces are good because they stop violent situations” argument is a red-herring: most divorces occur out of convenience and a lack of seriousness about the commitment made to one another.

    • Eric Johnson

      I respectfully disagree.

    • Sean Argir

      You forget to talk about a couple issues with abortion.

      1. What if the mother and fetus will die if the fetus is not aborted? Both will die instead of one.

      2. What if the fetus is so diseased and/or deformed that will won’t survive outside the womb or will survive a short life full of unbearable pain and so forth?

      —These two points need to be discussed in determining whether it is ok or not ok to abort a fetus in certain situations. You fail to even give a hint about these two issues of abortion.

  • Eric Johnson

    Regarding divorce, the “traditional marriage vows” are inconsistant with reality. Many divorces end the cycle of emotional and physical violence. Many divorces end the cycle of fear. Regarding abortion, pro-choice advocates are not being dishonest. They understand that a fetus is a potential human being. Even if a fetus is an actual human being, pro-choice advocates believe that a fetus is part of a woman’s body and that all women have the right to do with their body as they choose.

    • Chris

      It is an undeniable objective scientific fact that life begins at conception and abortion is the killing of a human being. Anyone who says otherwise is dishonest or hopelessly ignorant. Meaningful traditional marriage vows have been a reality for centuries, even though we reject them regularly in our contemporary society.

      • Eric Johnson

        Simply because something has been around for centuries doesn’t make it accurate.

      • Sean Argir

        What types of medical situations do you think should be of concern enough for the mother to be allowed to go ahead with an abortion?

  • Sean Argir

    This article really doesn’t settle well with me.

    ABORTION: First off, many people don’t like to talk about the issue of the mother dying if fetus is not aborted. They also don’t ever talk about the fetus being so damaged (diseased, deformed) that it can’t survive outside the womb or would live a short life full of agonizing pain. These are two issues for abortion that should be discussed more openly upon both sides of the abortion argument.

    DIVORCE: This article makes divorce look like a totally bad direction to take for any reason whatsoever. Thus, if a woman or man is severely abused by their spouse, divorce is out of the question according to the context of the article. I would prefer the safety of a human being than see them being continuously in pain due to staying with their spouse. Divorce is acceptable and should be morally right in various situations.

    Many times I find this site seems to only talk about one side of divorce and abortion and claiming they are wrong no matter what. It never discusses the many different views / stances / arguments and seeing them from both sides of the arguments.

    • Eric Johnson

      Excellent points Sean Argir. Claiming that divorce and abortion are always wrong shows no flexibility of thought and leads to individuals protecting their beliefs when it makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Sean Argir

        Thank you Eric.

        I wish that everyone of any religion stays open-minded when discussing any issue at hand. Just because an organization has a specific stance on an issue due to it being tradition does not mean it is the right stance in today’s world.

        Look at the bible and when it all was written. If it was taken more openly as a philosophical point of view, then I would believe more Christians would be open for change.

        The bible was written in a time when scientific and philosophical research barely made any discoveries and advances.

        Why can’t the church allow the bible to change and grow along with the minds of human innovation/discoveries in the realm of understanding? (this is just a curious question that I have pondered)



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