Listening to today's Geologic Podcast (the only podcast I strive to hear the day it's released), an interesting thought occurred to me:

What text would I swear upon?

The KJV Bible is the traditional Perry Mason tool of choice, but it isn't really applicable to a nation of a hundred kinds of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, atheism, and miscellaneous. I think that it's sufficient to say "Do you solemnly swear under penalty of perjury, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth or so help me I will tear off your head and shit down your neck?" That's cool because it clearly outlines the punishment for failing to follow the rules and avoids specifying any kind of ontological infrastructure or belief system to support that punishment.

Many people who don't consider a physical Bible to be a sacred or holy object would just politely play along with the Christians in the court system, but I doubt that the godless heathens of the world could consider lying under oath to be a good thing to do. Whether or not you believe in the Judeo-Christian God, you should as a civilized human being of any race or religious orientation still understand and concur that telling the truth is a moral imperative. It withstands any religious or secular scrutiny and touches upon the fundamental law of societal stability that if you do not follow such an imperative, you are a complete and total douchebag and society has a right to reject you in an inalienable act of self-preservation.

But all this is beside the point. I started this because I wanted to talk about them fancy word-books. Swearing to tell the truth should be (and in fact is) based solely on the person's own character and desire to remain an honest person. To this end, putting one hand in the air and another on a copy of an English translation of the writings of a bunch of desert-dwellin' zealots is exactly as necessary, and beneficial, as putting a hand on a copy of Action Comics #1. In fact, I know people who would much rather swear upon trying to uphold the ideals of the last son of Krypton than those of any saint or savior they were lectured about in Sunday School.

George Hrab puts forth, briefly, the idea of having atheists and other science-minded types swear upon a copy of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, which I would dig if it happened, but I don't consider that book to be figuratively sacred, by which I mean that lying about something after saying I wouldn't fails to detract from my appreciation of that text.

I think that the book, whichever one it is, would vary from person to person, and yet would be recognized as having high value among society as a whole as well. I don't know what I'd choose. A Watchmen trade? I never keep my copy far from reach. I'd feel awful of I was responsible for sullying the good name of Volume 2 of The Art of Computer Programming. It's been a while since I've picked it up, but I have a fondness for Ovid's Ars Amatoria as well, but that's a little too sophomoric to build as a basis of the American legal system. Peter David's Vendetta will always be a treasured tome. That's probably my best choice until I can get back to Powell's and have my memory refreshed.

1 comment:

Toni said...

Why not a copy of the consitution? If as a citizen we must appear in court and swear to be truthful, shouldn't the document be one that is pertinent to our citizenship?