Thursday, March 15, 2007



Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English ypocrite, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin hypocrita, from Greek hypokrites actor, hypocrite, from hypokrinesthai
Date: 13th century

1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

There's been a spate of examples bobbing to the top of the news of late that demonstrate the falsity of the notion that religion is the basis of morality. Perhaps more correctly, these examples show that public morality bears little, if anything, in common with that ostentatious religiosity that is the hallmark of the Righteous Right. The latest example of the truism that the louder someone proclaims the virtue of religion, the tighter your grip on your wallet and other valuables should be, comes courtesy of Lee Raudonis in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

It appears that some of Georgia's religious conservatives in the Legislature may have unwittingly outsmarted themselves. In their attempt to take a swipe at Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, these legislators now find themselves in the awkward position of doing one thing and saying another.

On the one hand, they have sponsored Resolution 247 expressing the Senate's profound regret for Georgia's participation in the eugenics movement and the injustices done under eugenics laws, including the forced sterilization of Georgia citizens.

On the other hand, some of these same legislators say they are opposed to the passage of a resolution expressing "profound regret" for the injustices of slavery, claiming that neither they nor any Georgians alive today ever owned slaves, and therefore the state should not apologize for something current Georgians did not do.
As Mr. Raudonis points out, there are few, if any, people left who were responsible for the state's eugenics activity in the middle of the last century either. If death absolves all, then Georgians are about as blameless for forced sterilization as they are for forced labor in chains. So, why apologize for one and not the other?

I admit that I was puzzled when I first heard of Senate Resolution 247. It struck me as somewhat odd that a group of conservative legislators had suddenly become "bleeding hearts" who wanted the state to apologize for a past injustice. But after hearing more about the eugenics movement, I actually thought that the resolution might be worth passing, because the actions of the state truly were cruel and a violation of basic human rights. Then I looked up the bill on the General Assembly Web site, and the pieces fell into place. In the first three paragraphs of the legislation, "Charles Darwin," "Darwinian evolutionary theory" and "Darwinian principles" are mentioned as often as eugenics.

Although Darwin and his theory of evolution are no more to blame for eugenics than Christianity is for the Ku Klux Klan, the resolution's authors seem as interested in building a case that eugenics was "an outgrowth of Darwinian evolutionary theory" as in sincerely apologizing for the sterilizations the state committed.
But that still leaves the other problem:

How can these legislators say with a straight face that the state should express "profound regret" for what it did to several thousand citizens (mostly convicted criminals and the mentally disabled) while at the same time claim that there is no reason for the state to express "profound regret" for what it did to millions of citizens who were held in slavery or lived under segregation laws.
Why, they can simply appeal to that mother of morality, their religious beliefs:

So, here's a hint for any group that wants an apology from the state for a past injustice. Find some way to tie Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution to the injustice and you can be pretty sure that your measure will find several willing sponsors in Georgia's General Assembly.
Strangely, you'll find several willing hypocrites in the immediate vicinity as well.

Definition from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

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