Monday, April 27, 2015

How to Lie While Telling the Truth

I came across the following on Facebook:
"I was born a sinner too. My sin is mentioned in the Bible 25 times. I tried to change but I couldn't...  Luckily society learned to accept us left-handed people."
(Nicholas Ferroni, educator and  activist)
Pretty clearly, it carries two messages. One is that the Bible is nonsense, since it condemns people for being left-handed. The other, implicit, is that biblical condemnation of homsexuality is nonsense, since biblical condemnation of left-handedness is.

As best I can tell from a little Google searching, the first message is a lie. The Bible mentions the left hand a considerable number of times, but the usual context is something like Jesus sorting people, putting the good people at his right hand and the bad at his left. That neither says nor implies that being left-handed is a sin. Most people are right handed, so it's natural enough to use "on his right" as a positive symbol. 

Read literally, Ferroni isn't saying that the Bible claims being left-handed is a sin, only that it is a sin and is mentioned 25 times in the Bible. But since he obviously doesn't believe it is a sin, his claim only makes sense on the assumption that the Bible says it is. So far as I can tell it doesn't, although perhaps someone reading this can point at an example.

Even the literal version is probably false, since a reference to sorting people to someone's right hand and left hand isn't a reference to being left-handed, so my title understates how dishonest his claim is—my search only turned up two biblical references to left-handed people, neither of them negative. The interesting question is whether any of the people who approved of his post will be disturbed by the discovery that they were approving of a lie.

While searching for information, I came across what appears to be a Christian fundamentalist web site telling people to stop being left-handed. Reading it, in particular the faq, I am pretty sure it is a fake.  If I am correct, I am again curious as to whether people hostile to Christian fundamentalists are or are not bothered to find their position being pushed by a deliberate fraud.

Does anyone here have information showing either that it is a fake or that it isn't?


LH said...

The only left-handed reference I can recall off the top of my head (my knowledge on the subject being more or less limited to the Torah) is of a judge who assassinated an enemy leader by clever concealment of a sword. He wore it on his right side, expecting the guards to assume that he was right-handed and would draw from his left. His left-handedness was not described as a negative quality.

Lawrence Kesteloot said...

Land Over Baptist is a well-known parody site.

David Friedman said...

LH: There is apparently also a reference to a bunch of Benjamite slingers who were left handed and always hit their target.

Anonymous said...

I was raised Roman Catholic and sent to a RC grade school taught by nuns. The nuns would break rulers over your hand if they caught you writing left handed. We were repeatedly told Satan was left-handed. And blessing yourself left handed was akin to blasphemy! As someone who was ambidextrous, I learned not to use my left hand in school. There was a girl in our class who was exclusively left hand and driven to tears daily. It wouldn't surprise me to learn she's in therapy if not a mental ward. Whether or not it's in the Bible, Roman Catholics are raised to believe being left-handed is a sin.

noballgame said...

I've noticed that there are a lot parody pages mocking Christians that have their posts shared by people not knowing what they are sharing isn't a genuine Christian page with the intention of "look how stupid/mean Christians are". One example I remember is the page Christians against drugs, which is only obviously satire if you read the about section of their profile.

Daniel Lemire said...


Roman Catholics are raised to believe being left-handed is a sin

I do not deny that there might be some truth to this (I really do not know) but I also went to school with nuns and I never heard of anyone getting beaten with rulers for being left handed.

David Johnson said...

My grandmother, a teacher, was punished for being left handed too. But not in a parochial school, but a public government school. As a teacher she steadfastly refused to punish lefties as she was a leftie herself.

Shaddox said...

Landover Baptist Church appears to me to be very clear satire. Wikipedia also describes it as such:

Shaddox said...

I know of Roman Catholic communities that do not punish or oppose left-handedness, so that at least brings us to anecdote parity.

David Friedman said...

I wonder how much of the pattern of trying to train children out of being left handed came from the idea that there were advantages to standardization. In some traditional societies, the right hand is used for clean purposes, in particular eating, the left for unclean, such as wiping yourself after a bowel movement. That probably makes some sense as a way of reducing contagion. But it's enforced in part by social pressure, which depends on other people knowing which hand you use for which purpose, which is a lot easier if everyone does it the same way.

Along related lines, some tools are different for the right and the left hand, so unless you are always using your own there is some advantage to going with the majority. I'm not sure how common that problem would be in pre-modern societies.

Natalie said...

Possibly some Catholics at some times did this. But not at the RC schools I attended, nor the ones my left handed sister attended in the late '60s to late '70s.

I remember one teacher saying that in the past left-handers had been forced to write with their right hands. She spoke of it as a thing they did in the bad old days, and as a national (i.e. in the UK) trend not a specifically Catholic thing.

I recall some ribbing of the left-handers in the class when we talked about the seat of honour being to the right of the host, and about the derivation of the word "sinister".

Islam does teach, I believe, that the left hand should be used for unclean tasks. But it does not teach that being left handed is a sin.

Natalie said...

As a slightly whimsical bit of anecdotal evidence that forcing left handed people to write with their right hands certainly spread beyond church schools, I give you James Blish's 1970 Star Trek novel "Spock Must Die." It talks about left handedness a good deal because Spock's evil mirror image, created in a transporter experiment gone wrong, is of course left handed. In the middle of this entertaining hokum there is a surprisingly heartfelt passage that says that stammering is a result of left handers being forced to write right-handed, and I wondered when reading it if Blish spoke from bitter personal experience.

David Lubkin said...

In high school in Israel about a third of the seating with an integrated writing surface was designed for left-handed students. Suggesting that left-handedness was too common among Biblical Jews to have been stigmatized.

BTW, if you are looking toward Jerusalem from the north, the Mediterranean is to your right. The word in Hebrew for 'right' effectively means 'seaward.'

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

My grandmother used to tell us anecdotes of catholic nuns forcing students to write with their right hand, and disciplining them if they were caught writing with their left hand. She was left handed herself, but learned to write with her right hand from being forced to in school.

Power Child said...

In the Torah it's well established that what God does is set some things apart from other things. That concept right there is the key to understanding most of what's in the Bible. This setting apart as holy also includes some references to the right-hand side of things.

However, it doesn't mean that the non-set-apart things, or left-side things, are evil or sinful.

It's an additional stretch to say that left-handed people are evil or sinful.

This comes full circle, though: you were really interested in whether people approving Ferroni's post would be disturbed by the discovery that it was a lie. I suspect that either they would not be upset (telling themselves something like "Oh well, I'm sure the Bible says something comparably nonsensical") or they would be, but not as much as they ought to be, since adding to or subtracting from God's words is perhaps the gravest of sins. Since Ferroni's approvers apparently don't put any stock in the gravity of God's words, they'll be mildly annoyed at having approved of a lie, but they won't be righteously indignant or mortified to the pit of their stomachs, which they ought to be.

Natalie said...

I woke up in the middle of the night and realised that my "Spock Must Die" example probably does not show (even whimsically) what I thought it did, because evidence from the author's other books suggests that he may well have been raised a Catholic. So I hastened to correct myself lest I provide an example of what Professor Friedman is complaining about in this post, i.e. writers being happy to let their readers persist in believing something the writer knows or suspects to be wrong.

That said, the suppression of left handedness in schools definitely is far more widespread than Catholic schools or even schools in historically Christian cultures - the Wikipedia article on "Bias against left-handed people" speaks of forced conversion to right-handedness still occurring in much of Asia.

Natalie said...

I have the impression, gained from talking to older relatives as I grew up, that in the UK there was a last surge in enthusiasm for compelling left-handers to change in the 1940's and 1950's, possibly under the strong preference of opinion-formers in those times for "nurture" in the perennial nature vs nurture debate.

Not that the pressure was always in that direction. In the 1900's an "Ambidextral Culture Society" was formed by one John Jackson and promoted the idea that all should train themselves to use their weak hands. It had several members prominent in British society at the time, notably Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, who contrary to many claims was naturally right handed but had moderate success in teaching himself to use his left hand.

Maurizio said...

My father-in-law is a so-called "corrected left-handed", meaning he was born left-handed but was forced to use the right hand during childhood. This was common practice in Italy until 40 years ago.

Alan Light said...

As others have said, Landover Baptist is clearly a parody web site.

As for left-handedness, I do not know of any Protestant church that considers left-handedness sinful or any kind of problem whatsoever, nor have I ever encountered a Biblical passage to that effect. Historically there have been some culturally inspired negative views towards left-handedness, and of course occasionally there is joking about it in religious communities, but I don't know of any condemnation of left-handedness native to any religion or religious text.

As for any concern that they are basing their opinions on outright lies, it seems to concern the run-of-the-mill wannabe fourth rate intellectuals that make up the majority of progressives even less than it concerns the run-of-the-mill anti-intellectuals that make up the majority of conservatives. I suppose it is the natural result of believing in moral relativism without having the intelligence to realize that in practice an intelligent moral relativist will come to almost identical conclusions as a moral absolutist with a hierarchy of moral absolutes.

Power Child said...

Regarding left-handedness, it would probably be tricky to say that 1 in 11 people are inherently especially sinful based on something that even primitive peoples understand as inborn. Especially since southpaws were useful to have around (for example, in hand-to-hand combat it's good to have some lefties on your side to keep the enemy on their toes).

@Alan Light:

"run-of-the-mill anti-intellectuals that make up the majority of conservatives."

I live in a somewhat conservative area and interact with conservatives a lot, and I think your description of the "majority of conservatives" is inaccurate.

I've also interacted with tons of progressives, though, and your description of them is spot on.

Ilíon said...

"My grandmother, a teacher, was punished for being left handed too. But not in a parochial school, but a public government school."

Same with my mother: it was in the government-run public indoctrination centers that she was punished for left-handedness.

Of course, back in those days (the 1930s), crippled children like her were frequently sent to special schools ... where the staff was likely to be the dregs of the teaching profession. She told of having a teacher (*) who liked to torment a small boy in the class. While my mother couldn't walk unaided, she had exceptional upper-body strength ... and quick reflexes. So, one day after tormenting this boy, the government indoctrinator walked a little too close to my mother, who reached out and forcefully grabbed her and explained to her that she was never to torment the boy again.

(*) in a mixed-age class; as I recall, my mother was in 6th grade and the boy in 2nd

Roger said...

Left-handedness is not known to be innate.

David Friedman said...

One point that occurs to me, after some more googling. There are a fair number of places online where people repeat the claim about Biblical condemnation of left handers, often as linked to the claim that the Catholic Church regards, or used to regard, left handedness as sinful.

So far, I have not found a single one that offers any evidence at all on Catholic doctrine to that effect. The only evidence is the lie about the Bible plus anecdotes about school children being forced to write with their right hands.

If there was real evidence out there, surely they would have found it and repeated it.

Ilíon said...

"If there was real evidence out there, surely they would have found it and repeated it."


This is similar to another lie that leftist race-mongers like to peddle about the Bible and Christianity (and America). It's the one about America's (assertedly) "endemic racism" being fostered by the Biblical association of sin with the color black.

Yet, enyone who has actually read the Bible knows that in the Bible in color of sin isn't black, but rather scarlet (blood red).

Andrew said...

Ecclesiastes 10:2 (KJV): "A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left."

Of course, interpreting this single verse as a condemnation of left-handedness would be odd to say the least. Most things which are condemned in the bible are condemned multiple times. Plus, the general view among Christians seems to be that if an Old Testament law is not restated in the New Testament, then it has not applied since Jesus' death.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

If you want a lot about the Bible and skin color, I recommend The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World).

Anonymous said...

It's like the apocryphal quotes attributed to famous people. They get copied and copied, but nobody ever cites a source.

Bruce said...

It's like the apocryphal quotes attributed to famous people. They get copied and copied, but nobody ever cites a source.

I think Abraham Lincoln said that. : )

Eric Rasmusen said...

The left hand and Darwin posts raise the question of whether the Web has reduced or increased informativeness. My first thought was that we have a temporary problem, since a little experience would teach everyone that something being written on the web is not only no more reliable than what your friend's mom says, but less reliable, since there is a bigger chance your supposed fact is an outright lie.
My second thought was that there's not enough feedback to teach most people. Few people are critical thinkers, after all, even among the college educated. Moreover, the web is useful as a rationalization tool, for people who use it to look up the one site out of 1,000 that supports their position and purposely if without admission screen out contrary information.

Stuart James Takahashi Gray said...

Hello. This was a good read. Here's one for ya:

Judges 3:15–21
15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. 20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.

Kind of like a Left handed Israeli Zoro, and a servant of God to boot! :)
Cheers friend!

David Friedman said...


I've long argued that one important intellectual skill is the ability to evaluate sources of information on internal evidence. Not only are we not taught that, we are anti-taught it. In the standard K-12 context there are two sources of information, the teacher and the textbook, and you are supposed to believe them.

The web provides an opportunity to train that skill, but only if you want to.

Unknown said...

It's crazy how much people lose the context of culture throughout the course of time. Being left-handed wasn't the sin. The issue is the fact that in the old world.......toilet paper didn't exist. There are many parts of the world today that the left hand is considered "dirty" as it's the hand that you finish your business(for lack of a better world). If you were to great, handshake, touch someone with your left hand it was an insult and if done intentionally, sinful. People learned what their left was for and that their right would be their dominant hand and useful hand. It has nothing to do with left or right but if you put it in the necessary cultural context you can't help but understand, believer or not, how intentionally using your "dirty" hand delibrately was not viewed as acceptable.

Larry C said...

You fall into a trap when you say "it's natural enough to use "on his right" as a positive symbol." Having said that 'it's natural' that right is good, left is bad you have left yourself open to the criticism that is being made that left handed is sin. One to the other is a very small and reasonable step to make.

Mark said...

No they are not.

Nancy said...

Ehud, a judge of Israel and a mighty warrior, was left-handed (Judges 3:15-21). Judges 20:16 mentions 700 left-handed warriors who could “sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” First Chronicles 12:2 seems to reference bowmen who were ambidextrous. When the Bible refers to left-handed people, it speaks of left-handedness as an advantage, not a weakness.

While it is not as honorable as sitting at someone’s right hand, sitting at the left hand is still a position of honor (Matthew 20:21). Sitting immediately to a person’s left was considered the second-most honorable position. It was not as if everyone to the right was more honored than those to the left. The right hand is used in the Bible as a symbol of strength due to the right hand usually being stronger than the left. This should not be understood as a slight against left-handed people


opinionatedc said...

Left handed or right handed people are equally sinful.To judge a person life based on which hand they write with is just as ignorant as saying the grace of God doesn't cover all. The bible also says he without sin " throw the first stone," he was speaking to a woman, " noticed" being accused of by I believe( lairs saying they caught her in the act) committing adulterey.( their story) But we can draw the analogy that those judging was equally if not more guilty of doing what they were accusing her of (sinning sexing , adultery etc.). Noticed what they dropped ( their stones could have been bricks, harsh words arrogance ) and did what( went away one by one from the eldest to the youngest)( why)they were convicted by their conscience of their own life.(John 8 KJV)that they did not harm her.( commit a murder) What happen to the women? Jesus first asked her a question( where are thine accusers?) she says, No one Lord ( did she lie?) I think not she may have not committed adultery )she knew they were trying to kill her wrongfully her reply was," No Jesus,"I don't know my accusers or No lord I am not guilty. The scribes and Pharisee were seeking to entrap Jesus Grace and Mercy and kill her with the law of Moses. He saw them coming he was writing in the dirt first Jesus ignores them. second time he rises up and speaks to her his and her enemies ( they were against him too) afterwards he Jesus vindicates their victim he says," ( Now does that mean she never sinned again)( difficult to believe since we all have a sinful nature maybe not adultery but something else or may be adultery who really knows). This is powerful I believe if she was guilty if the scribes and Pharisees accusation Jesus would have corrected her for lying than bless her but he doesn't accuse her of lying but protects her believes in her.
I write with my right hand. but my heart and others right handers are just as sinful as left handers heart.

opinionatedc said...

To add additionally to my thoughts that the adultery whether right or left hand could not have been taken in adultery was it was custom in those days that both be bought before the council. The story or any theologians has ever identified the man who she was with in addition Jesus used the words where are thine accusers? accusers can have truth or accusers. can be lairs I choose to believe they were lairs she was not taken in adultery because Jesus would have said something to the effect of her actions being an adulterous woman Iam not condoing the behavior of those who are committing adultery iam a truly single woman for seven years But accusers both left and right hand been thrower out churches careers communities everyone lying I sexing when it is them sexing and let us be real Some things you can't get inn unless you sex or to me commit a greater abomination ( same sex,identity theft have sister wives incest etc) why would someone want to be part of that ? Today most are duressed whenypu speak to them on a personal level they hate themselves but once again evil. so I have concluded again with sin left and right hands are just as evil. A left hand is not a curse I would also choose to think to be born with no hands would or could be considered a curse.So your left hand or right hand doesn't denote personality ability or success but your choices makes you sinful. Could you hear people blaming their mediocrities on which hand they write with when right handers have the same mediocrities?

Unknown said...

I went to grade school in the 60s. I am told, I believe corre3ctly, that I learned to write shortly after teachers had quit tying lefties left hands behind their backs. I have inferred that I learned to write before teachers learned how to teach lefties how to write.
Us lefties in the described group write differently from lefties before and after us.

Anonymous said...

I'm RC and so are my daughters and no one ever corrected them of it in Catholic School, so I'm assuming that the Catholic Church has finally figured out that this practice is silly and unfounded in the Bible. We were always taught that being left-handed meant you were gifted in Art and Music. Both of my daughter's are very talented so that may be. On a more serious note, I think Nicholas Ferroni is looking for his 15 minutes of fame, and is insecure and hoping that his lies will attract other insecure people to follow him. I've read some of his ideas, and I'm not impressed with what he has to say.
As far as left being the side for Satan, we throw salt over our left shoulder if we spill it and say "Bless me, Father". I don't believe left handed people are evil, I do believe that left handed people were chosen to stand beside the rest of us, designed stronger by God, to walk with us in life. I believe that Left-handed people were/are given a gift.