Faith & Economics
NUMBER 59, Spring 2012
Hypocrisy and Hypocrites: A Game-Theoretic Note
University of San Francisco
Abstract: Hypocrisy is the feigning of beliefs or virtues that one does not truly possess. Hypocrisy among people claiming religious faith is often provided as a justification for non-religious people to eschew religion. The claim is that widespread hypocrisy among people claiming religious faith is evidence that such beliefs are either false or have no impact on behavior. This short paper provides a proof of precisely the opposite: the existence of genuine faith is a necessary condition for hypocrisy. It demonstrates that the existence of hypocrisy is evidence that genuine religious faith has produced salient differences between non-believers and genuine believers. This is illustrated in a game-theoretic model of market exchange when agent types are hidden. In the resulting Nash equilibrium, hypocrisy always lingers in the shadow of genuine faith when costs of religious profession are low.