If, per impossibile, there were such a catalog as the Seven Deadly Sins as seen from the Left, hypocrisy would be in first place. Why? Although some who identify themselves as liberals or leftists can be counted among the religious, the dominant note of the Left from at least 1789 on has been anti-religious. Couple this with the fact that perhaps the most egregious forms of hypocrisy are found among religionists, especially the televangelical species thereof, and you have the beginning of an explanation why liberals and leftists find hypocrisy so morally abhorrent. That men of the cloth and their followers exhibit the worst forms of hypocrisy is captured in standard dictionary definitions of 'hypocrisy.' My Webster's shows, "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; esp.: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion." One reads something similar in the OED.
I am suggesting, then, that hatred of religion is at the root of the Left's excessive and unbalanced animus against hypocrisy. Of course, I am not implying that hypocrisy is good; it is plainly bad. But what wants explaining is the Left's mindless fury at it and those who seem to exhibit it. In her fine essay, "Let Us Not be Hypocritical," Daedalus, vol. 108, no. 3, Summer 1979, pp. 1-25, Judith Shklar points out that every other vice and every other evil can be excused after it has been duly analyzed and understood, but not hypocrisy, which to many today appears as the summum malum. Why is hypocrisy singled out as the worst of evils?
It is worth noting that hypocrisy is not among the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, lust, anger, avarice, gluttony, sloth, envy. Does that tell us something? I'm not sure. Does it tell us that religionists are less appalled by hypocrisy perhaps because of a sober acceptance of human wretchedness and of the unavoidable gap between what we are and what we ought to be, a gap not to be bridged by human effort alone? I am also struck by the fact that hypocrisy cannot be easily subsumed under any of these heads. Hypocrisy is not a species of pride or lust or anger, etc. If it is a sin, it is is a sin against truthfulness. But on second thought, perhaps hypocrisy can be understood as a type of pride. The proud man, blinded by his own excellence, cannot see his own faults. Lucifer the light bearer's very phosphorescence hid from him his finitude and creaturely status and transmogrified him from light bearer to Prince of Darkness. Lacking humility and incapable of accurate self-assessment, the proud man imagines himself to be better than he is. He is arrogant in that he arrogates to himself qualities that he does not in fact possess. But this doesn't really support the notion that hypocrisy is a species of pride. The proud man, blinded by his excellences, is blind to his faults. But it seems that the hypocrite must be well aware of his faults so that he can hide them from others. He must know his true motives in order to dissemble them.
Another point worth noting is that in our culture, dominated as it is by liberals and leftists, most of the Seven Deadly Sins are not reckoned sins at all. Given that sin is a religious concept, there cannot be sins for those who deem religion buncombe from start to finish. But one can believe in vice without believing in sin. I think it is safe to say that most Americans today do not consider any of the Seven Deadly Sins to be vices, with the possible exception of sloth interpreted as laziness rather than as acedia. Take gluttony. Americans are by and large gluttons as one can observe by going into any public place. And yet how many speak of gluttony as a vice as opposed to an 'eating disorder' to be treated by stomach stapling, etc? This is a fit topic for a separate post.
But my present concern is the Left's obsession with hypocrisy. Why does it so exercise them if not because of their hatred of religion with its difficult-to-achieve moral demands? ("He who so much as looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I quote this hard saying from memory. Too hard, a lefty might say: it drives people to hypocrisy.) They hate the stringent moral demands and so they attack as hypocrites those who preach them. To a leftist, preaching can only be 'moralizing' and 'being judgmental.' It can only be the phony posturing of someone who judges others only to elevate himself. The very fact of preaching shows one to be a hypocrite. Of course, leftists have no problem with being judgmental and moralizing about the evil of hypocrisy. When they make moral judgments, however, it is, magically, not hypocritical.
And therein lies the contradiction. They would morally condemn all moral condemnation as hypocritical. But in so doing they condemn themselves as hypocrites.