The Argument of Christian Hypocrisy and Injustice
One of the most common objections to Christianity goes something like this: I would never join the church because there are too many hypocrites in it; or, if the church is supposed to be preaching the truth, why is it responsible for so much evil. Or as famous Atheist Madalyn Murray O Hair put it, ‘Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea.’
I have mixed feelings about how good an argument against Christianity this really is. On the one hand I am sympathetic to the fact that a messenger can discredit a message, and credibility is lost when the church that claims to believe and follow the truth ends up denying the truth it preaches. However, I also think there is a logical fallacy here, an Ad Hominem argument. The words Ad Hominem literally mean “to the person”, and it is a cheap tactic in logic when you attack a person and not examine the argument they are proposing. Irving M. Copi in his text book Introduction to Logic explains how the ad hominem argument works: ‘The way in which this irrelevant argument may sometimes persuade is through the psychological process of transference. Where an attitude of disapproval toward a person can be evoked, it may possibly tend to overflow the strictly emotional field and become disagreement with what that person says. But this connection is only psychological, not logical. Even the most wicked of men may sometimes tell the truth or argue correctly.’1 This is a very effective way of swaying public opinion and the cheap and common tactics used by politicians to try and discredit one another in order that their policies will also be rejected. We do not believe that the truth of Christianity is established by the perfection of its followers, there is no philosophy or set of ideas that is perfectly practised; this does not necessarily infer that they must all then be false.
In fact I would suggest that this is one of the best starting points for arguing for Christianity, it is a very helpful argument to clarify what Christianity actually is and how it differs from other religious perspectives. There are two things I want to do in this message. Firstly, I want to explore the nature of Christian hypocrisy, it is so broad a category as to be unhelpful. Secondly, I want to answer the charge with some more positive arguments.