Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Ethon Lowe | Societal misfits and cheating

Published:Friday | November 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMEthon Lowe

"Why do even happy people cheat?" asked Ian Boyne in his article in The Sunday Gleaner of October 29.

Yup, why, do EVEN happy people cheat, indeed. You would expect only unhappy people to cheat. But who doesn't want to be happier? Wouldn't you want to have an array of multiple partners to add even more spice to your life? And, since stoning of adulterers has gone out of fashion (just look at the numerous rock stones cluttering up our country), would-be philanderers should now have free licence to do their thing with impunity.

It seems Ian is targeting certain societal 'misfits', including yours truly, to learn their stance on this rather despicable activity. He says, "if you are a deist like Michael Abrahams, who does not believe in the Bible, or an atheist like columnist Mark Wignall and letter-writer Ethon Lowe, what objective morally unassailable reason would you have not to cheat even once especially if your partner doesn't have to find out."

While I am honoured to be mentioned with these illustrious gentlemen, Michael and Mark are, I am sure, fully capable of responding in their usual inimitable way. I suspect Ian is capitalising on the public's notion that atheists and deists are reputed to be immoral monsters, and without moral prohibitions, these societal misfits will be exempt from the consequences of cheating. Atheists cheat and religious people cheat, but we have moral restraints to avoid it. For atheists, the act of cheating has nothing to do with religion or lack of it, and everything to do with the consequences of his/her actions. Christians are restrained by that nebulous word 'sin', which presumes a supernatural judge. They regard themselves as weak and sinful. If, however, they cheat and therefore sin, they can always blame it on Christianity's favourite fall guy, the devil - 'The devil made me do it'. If Jimmy Swaggart, the ex-televangelist, can do it, so can you. Ask for God's forgiveness and their sins are forgiven. This doesn't sound like a prohibition against cheating, but rather an inducement to it.

An atheist doesn't have that option. He cannot fall back on the 'God will forgive' cop-out. He is entirely responsible for his actions. The only people who can forgive him are the people who he wrongs. Atheists are concerned with relationships with real people, not mythical beings. His relationships, therefore, tend to be stronger, and he is less likely to cheat.


NATURAL impulse


Want to cheat? It's natural to want to cheat. We have a genetic evolutionary impulse to cheat (the evolutionary benefit is it increases our odds to have more offspring) and like our nearest animal relative, the chimp, we are notorious philanderers. Genes are implicated and associated with an increase in promiscuous behaviour. However, correlation is not causation and more studies are needed.

In case you are wondering, my wife is a fervent no-nonsense Christian. Despite our differences, we still enjoy the love, trust and social bonding in our marriage. I respect her belief in a higher power. She, albeit grudgingly, also respects my lack of belief.

- Ethon Lowe is a medical doctor. Email feedback to and