Like many bloggers, I use labels (tags) for my posts. I've seen on other people's blogs that it's really easy for tags to get out of hand so I try to be careful with which ones I use. They need to be broad enough so that they categorize posts easily but narrow enough so that they are still very relevant to every post they're applied to. It's not always easy but by paying attention, tags don't get too numerous or remain too few as to be useless. One tag I use is “hypocrites.” It occurred to me, though, that my use of the word may not be viewed the same way as how liberals use the word. To clear up any confusion, I thought I'd take a few moments to elaborate on what I mean.
To liberals, hypocrisy seems to be the most grievous of sins. For example, many liberals advocate the legalization of drugs while most conservatives are against drug legalization. Drug users are usually viewed sympathetically by liberals. However, when Rush Limbaugh's addiction to Oxycontin became public, he was reviled as a “hypocrite” by the left. Here was a conservative who has spoken out against drugs but was, himself, a drug addict. Limbaugh's sin, then, wasn't necessarily his drug use but his hypocrisy.
By using the word “hypocrite” this way, liberals are really engaging in a type of type of ad hominem which doesn't really address the arguments being raised by the person they're calling a hypocrite. Simply because Limbaugh used drugs, for example, does not mean that everything he said about drugs is false. To the contrary, his experience my have given him a greater insight into the dangers of drug addiction. The left merely used the scandal of his addiction to disparage Limbaugh personally and to discredit his show.
I look at hypocrisy in a more philosophical sense. In logic, contradictory statements cannot be true. There is a rule in logic known as the law of non-contradiction. In a nutshell, something cannot be “A” and “not-A” at the same time in the same sense. Here's what it means by same sense: the word “green” can mean a couple of things: it can mean a color and it can mean unripe. So someone could say, “the apple is green (in color) and not green (meaning it's ripe).” This is not a contradictory statement because an apple could truly be “green and not green,” merely in different senses. However, if I said, “I am RKBentley and I am not RKBentley,” and I mean both in the same sense, then my statement cannot be true because it contradicts itself. I either am RKBentley or I'm not.
Unlike my critics, when I talk about hypocrisy, I'm not necessarily concerned about the hypocrite's character. The usual reason that I point out hypocrisy is to show the contradictory nature, and thus the invalidity, of an argument. If a critic contradicts himself, then his argument cannot be true; one premise or the other (or both) must be false. In this sense, hypocrisy is very relevant to a debate.
In my last post, I talked about the hypocritical arguments of Richard Dawkins. Let me put two of his quotes side-by-side.
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
“Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.”
These statements contradict each other. In the first, Dawkins says there is “no justice,... no purpose, no evil, [and] no good.” In the latter, Dawkins says it a “grievous wrong” for parents to impart their religion to their children. Well, which is it? Is there right and wrong or isn't there? Both statements cannot be true, therefore I seek to examine which premise is false. If the first is true, then Dawkins has no grounds to make his accusation against Christian parents. If the latter is true, then Dawkins cannot say the universe is void of good and evil. Either way, Dawkins' arguments are undermined.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said that if we hear His words and do them, we are like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. But anyone who rejects His words is like a foolish man who builds his house upon sand. Christians should always be able to make sound arguments because their foundation is solid. On the other hand, atheists can hardly escape being hypocrites. It is a symptom of their condition where they deny reality. They cannot make sense of anything without contradicting their own worldview. When they do, Christians should stand ready to challenge the hypocrite's premises. The critics are either wrong in their criticism or they are wrong in their worldview. Either way, their arguments fail. It's inevitable because their arguments are built upon sand.