Posted on August 19, 2008


In folk understanding of religion around the world, a superstitious regard for sacred books such as the bible can still be quite strong or influential. For example, some people in America did not quite believe that the astronauts actually walked on the moon. I came upon this posting on the internet: “Here is a video of some guy trying to get the astronauts to swear on the bible that they walked on the moon. Not a single one would do it. That kinda has to make you think a little. Granted this guy is obnoxious as hell but still, alot could be put to rest if they just did it.”


There is no common tradition among Christians to involve the bible in disputes or claims or to prove one’s innocence or honesty. Churches do not encourage such use of the bible. You don’t go to the priest or pastor in church and swear your innocence over the bible.


So if someone alleges (that is “declares without proof”) that I have done him or her wrong and insists that I should take an oath on the bible to prove my innocence, I would not. For very good reasons. I believe that in doing so I will in effect be promoting a superstitious sentiment about the bible. I will be encouraging the belief of people like those American folks that had the astronauts sworn on the bible it would have given credence to their claim of walking on the moon. I revere the bible as God’s word and its rightful place in the life of serious Christians is to reveal God’s will and truth and as such serve to guide my path and conduct. To use such a sacred book as the bible to satisfy someone else’s misguided superstition about it is only to cheapen and dishonour it.


Besides if I do so, I will be contributing to quite a comic situation. First, someone accuses me of wrongdoing and takes an oath on the bible saying that he is telling the truth. Then, pressure is exerted on me to reply by doing likewise, that is, I in turn must take an oath on the bible that I did no such wrong thing.


So if I do so, what will we have? Two persons both taking an oath on the bible that they were telling the truth. So all of you standing by witnessing this drama, what will you be thinking or doing? We all come back to square one, that is, each of you from the outside will still have to decide which one of the two of us is telling the truth.


It is one thing for some American folks to believe that had the astronauts been prepared to take an oath on the bible, they would have believed that the astronauts actually did walk on the moon. It is another thing altogether that in today’s Malaysia, we actually have some people, among whom are some very prominent people, promoting the idea that unless Anwar Ibrahim takes a solemn oath on the koran, his protestations of innocence will be suspect.

Is it too much to hope that a nation which aspires to VISION 2020, will have a more reliable way to measure truth than to take the word of a person on the basis that he has sworn on his choice of a sacred book?

In my earlier posting, HOW WE USE SACRED BOOKS, I wote: “The degree of honesty of any oath-taking is dependent on personal sincerity and a person’s fear of God rather than our hand on a mere book. By the mere act of my swearing on a bible, those who have legitimate grievances against me could draw little comfort or assurance since my swearing on a bible is a very easy thing for me to do. All it requires is a functioning limb rather than a functioning conscience.”

So despite the pressure, were I involved in this sorry drama, I would still not swear on the bible.


Posted in: Perspective