Swearing About The Bible

by | September 18, 2015

BibleToday I had to swear an oath. The notary brought out the bible & instructed me to put my hand on it.

“Can I swear a civic oath?” I asked.

“Oh sure,” she said as she put the bible away hurriedly.

This got me thinking about swearing oaths on bibles, especially in the context of the Canadian government and judiciary. Canada is a multi-cultural, secular nation with people of many faiths and a sizeable number of “nones”/non-believers. So, why are we still offering the bible when swearing an oath and why is this the default option? Isn’t it time to update these antiquated customs to reflect our modern, Canadian society?

7 thoughts on “Swearing About The Bible

  1. Margaret Hansen

    Thank you for bringing this up. I haven’t been to court since a young adult, but I clearly remember how uncomfortable I was when the bible was presented to me and I was told to follow the procedure of hand placement and swearing etc., all the while thinking, This is crazy as I’m unfortunately insincere, but these older adults want me to pretend I believe this myth. I was too intimidated then to speak up, but now I would have trouble not laughing.

  2. steve oberski

    It’s sort of like going to the doctors office and being asked if you’d like leaches to be applied for ones malady.

    When you think about it, the whole idea of swearing or affirming the truth is bizarre in the extreme, in what sense does this action increase the chance that one is telling the truth ?

    You might as well tap dance or recite a limerick for equal effect.

  3. Randy

    I haven’t had that happen to me, but I would find it very offensive.

    I think that, by law, the default should be “Liber AL vel Legis”, the most notable holy book of Thelema. I think it would be suitably foreign to most theists (while being a legitimate holy text) that the practice would be banned. (Sorry, Thelemites).

  4. Tim Underwood

    “I’ll be happy to. You must be aware of what little this means to a totally secular person.”

    That’s what I said the last time this came up.

  5. billybob

    My experience at the OMB was they asked you whether you would like to swear or affirm.

    It was interesting because some people I knew surprised me
    and swore on the bible. I was wondering if they were actually religious or just wanted not to buck tradition and risk offending someone,swearing on the bible is accepted without a thought whereas affirming is an overt statement.

  6. Ives Douglas

    I’ve been a non-believer since the age of 18. I am now 76. In 1968 I attended court in Vancouver in regard to a traffic incident. When asked to place my hand on the bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth I stated that I was not a Christian and would declare that I was telling the truth. That was accepted, although it raised a few eyebrows.
    I can’t believe this archaic ritual is still carried on in Canada.


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