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C.S. Lewis had an interesting perspective on this question. It seems even he, as a devout believer, preferred the hypocrite to the sincere bigot:

"I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme -- whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence -- the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication."


Good article, Greta--thought-provoking. I guess I'd have to go with the hypocrite too, in the political arena, since politics is a shifting geography: your friends today can be your opponents tomorrow, and vice versa, and that's just par for the course. In government you always have to fight to keep your coalition together, if you're in any meaningful kind of democracy.

In personal life, though, that's a little tougher. IF you have any reasonable chance of getting the bigot to change their mind, it's probably worth taking them over the hypocrite, but otherwise...maybe you're back to the hypocrite again. Damn the lesser of two evils!

One small thing, though--that should be closed-minded (i.e., not open), rather than close-minded (i.e., not far).


I cruise through your blog fairly regularly, and I always enjoy your thought process and your style. This post provoked me to say "thank you," and keep up your great work.
You may have steered me towards a solution to a conundrum that I have been wrestling with.


Robert Madewell

Sometimes I am so embarrassed to be from Arkansas. Sadly, Huck is a typical Arkansan. Thankfully, I am not. I actually, met him at a republican rally in my hometown. I went for the free eats. I wanted to ask him if Arkansas will ever amend it's constitution to allow atheists to legally hold public office and to testify in court. I didn't get to ask it.

Summer Squirrel

Being an atheist living in Houston and having fundy relatives I just automatically thought of them as hypocrites. I see now that they are pure bigots, in the sense of Huckabee, and will never change their minds no matter where the evidence leads them.

It's sad that there is no hope for them.

Great post, I love reading your blog.

Donna Gore

It always makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD when someone rants about a "biblical model" of marriage. Obviously these people haven't read their own holy book. The biblical model of marriage is polygamy! Not only is it okay to have numerous wives -- it's admirable enough to warrant some bragging. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines!

Here's a recap in the Skeptics Annotated Bible.

So I guess Mitt Romney is right on this one !


George Wallace renounced segregation in his later years, bringing many of his followers along with him. Lyndon Johnson used up so much political capital on the 1964 Civil Rights act that he couldn't get us out of Vietnam. (a mixed result to say the least, which also resulted in handing the South to the Republicans for the next 50 years or more) But they are examples of true bigots who changed for the better.

Of course it isn't comforting that i had to think that far back for examples...

Robert Madewell

My favorite "family values" bible verse is this one:

Women had a heck of a time back then.

Spanish Inquisitor

Boy, you do make it difficult to vote for either of these Republicans, don't you?

Thanks. I wasn't going to vote for them anyway. ;)


I wouuld love for all the people who say that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats to have this debate.


I totally prefer hypocrisy to bigotry. I mean, duh.


this blog is sooooo brokeback

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