I am trying to figure out whether Rush Limbaugh and his supporters do not believe in the Christian God, or do not care whether such a God exists. They certainly have no qualms against "bearing false witness." This implies that they do not believe that a God who prohibits bearing false witness exists, or they do not care.
Granted, I do not believe that such a God exists. I have an argument for a social prohibition against bearing false witness that does not depend on the existence of such a God. I'll get to that later. For a few paragraphs at least, I want to look at this from Limbaugh's own assumptions.
From “Crooks and Liars,” in a recent radio show, Limbaugh said:
"I got an email here. "(Uh) Rush, (uh) now that two of our own have been tortured and murdered by the terrorists in Iraq, will the Left say that they deserved it? I'm so sick of our cut-and-run liberals. Keep up your great work." Bob C. from Roanoke, Virginia. "PS, I love the way you do the program on the Little Kim (?)" (laughs) I read...no I added that! He didn't, he didn't put that in there. (laughs) You know, it-it's-I-uh...I gotta tell ya, I-I-I perused the liberal, kook blogs today, and they are happy that these two soldiers got tortured. They're saying, "Good riddance. Hope Rumsfeld and whoever sleep well tonight."
Let us grant Limbaugh the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume that he went out onto the internet and found somebody who (1) identified themselves as a 'liberal', and (2) cheered the death of these soldiers.
No, on the other hand, a fundamental principle of justice says that the person who makes these types of accusations deserves no benefit of the doubt. Instead, the benefit of the doubt goes to the accused, who are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The accuser has the obligation to provide evidence, which Limbaugh did not do.
This is Limbaugh's first moral transgression.
I also want to make it clear that every one of Limbaugh's transgressions reflect on those who support him. Limbaugh himself suggests that this is a valid moral implication. He uses it when he infers that the moral condemnation of those who murdered these soldiers reflects those who cheer the murderers. He’s right in this. Yet, from this, we get to infer that those who would cheer Limbaugh’s own injustice and immorality are also tainted by his moral transgressions.
However, let us assume that Limbaugh went out and discovered some person or persons who cheered the murder of these soldiers.
There is a clear distinction between cheering the murder of these soldiers, and condemning Rumsfeld for being partially to blame for their deaths. Assume that a man knows that a neighbor up the street is a serial killer. With this in mind, he sends his wife over to the neighbor’s house to borrow some flower. He never sees her again. There is a difference between cheering the death of the woman and condemning the man for causing that death.
Limbaugh’s comment suggests that he is misrepresenting the claims of those he read. This would make him a liar, and this would be his second moral transgression.
So, let us go further and say that he found somebody who actually cheered the death of these soldiers – who claims that killing them was a good thing and well deserved. Limbaugh’s discovery would only justify a conclusion that condemned those who actually cheered these deaths. He would have no justification for expanding those who are guilty – those who are worthy of condemnation – beyond those who actually committed this moral transgression.
Yet, Limbaugh does expand the range of those he says are guilty. Limbaugh does, in fact, condemn the innocent.
His logic is exactly the same as that used by a person who goes out to do some research, finds an example of a black man murdering a cop, then going onto his web show and claiming, "I have perused the internet and discovered that black men are, indeed, cop killers." Or, it would be similar to going out onto the internet, discovering that a Protestant planted a terrorist bomb in north Ireland, and said, "I have gone out onto the internet and discovered that Protestants are terrorists."
This is the type of person Limbaugh is. He is exactly like the person who would make these types of inferences against blacks or Protestants. He is, in short, a bigot, practicing the bigot’s art of applying the wrongs (real or imagined) of a few individuals to those of an entire group.
This is Limbaugh's third moral transgression.
Again, the contemptible moral quality of Limbaugh’s actions reflect on those who cheer and support him, in the same way as the morally contemptible actions of those who murdered those soldiers reflect on those who would cheer the murderers.
Limbaugh’s actions clearly fall under the category of “bearing false witness.”
He “bore false witness” when he misinterpreted the original claims as “cheering that the soldiers were killed.” He bore false witness when he applied the transgressions of a few individuals (if true) to a whole group.
With this evidence clearly in hand, we are forced to conclude that either Limbaugh does not believe in a God who condemns "bearing false witness," or he believes that such a God exists but does not care about His prohibitions.
Those of his followers who would cheer and support his actions must also believe either that no God would condemn them for supporting a campaign of lies, or does not care that such a God exists. These are the only attitudes consistent with their behavior.
Of course, I do not believe that there is a God that prohibits bearing false witness. Yet, I argue that people generally have a reason to promote a culture of aversion to deceit. The fulfillment of desires requires true beliefs, so people generally have reason to promote a culture filled with true beliefs. This means promoting a culture in which people love truth and hate deception. The way to do this is to use the tools of praise and reward on those who love the truth, and to condemn and punish deceivers.
In this case, this argues that Limbaugh and those who support him are deserving of condemnation, because they have proved themselves to have no fondness for truth and an immoral affection for deception (a.k.a. "bearing false witness").
By praising and rewarding liars and hate mongers, they are helping to raise a generation that sees liars and hate mongers as role models, who will be tempted to become liars and hate mongers themselves, with all of the evil that will come from this. The way to teach a generation to respect honesty and kindness is to reverse this trend of rewarding deceitful hate mongers, and praising and rewarding those who are honest and kind instead.
The same argument suggests that we would be wise to create a culture in which people are adverse to harming the innocent. That would be a culture made up of people who welcome individual responsibility where the innocent are allowed to live free and only the guilty are punished. Bringing about such a culture means praising and rewarding those who protect the innocent and who condemn the guilty only with proof of guilt, while condemning those who over generalize guilt as a tool for promoting hate.
I recognize that Limbaugh and his followers do not share these assumptions. Instead, they assert that there exists a God who loves honesty and justice who commands their followers to do the same. Yet, at the same time, Limbaugh bears false witness against others. This only makes sense if we conclude that, deep down, Limbaugh believes that no such God exists or he does not care.
As for his followers and supporters, their support only makes sense under the assumption that they do not believe that a God that condemns bearing false witness exists or they do not care.
Nor do they seem to care for the benefits that reason suggests we would harvest by creating a society of individuals who have affection for honesty over deception, kindness over hate, and justice over injustice. We need a society in which people love honesty, kindness, and justice. Cheering and supporting Limbaugh means cheering and supporting deception, hate, and injustice – with all of the social costs that these evils bring with them.
Limbaugh and his supporters may want to claim that they are innocent. However, we can trust that an all-knowing God would have no trouble seeing past their rationalizations.
I can imagine Limbaugh and his followers being questioned at the Pearly Gates, being challenged by an angel at the gates to heaven saying, “Here, again, you bore false witness against your neighbor. We told you that was not allowed. Yet, time and time again you broke this commandment. You know what we do to people like you, right?”