How to Detect Fallacies


99.9% of Christian Apologetics Rely on Fallacies

Ninety-nine point nine percent of Christian apologetics relies on fallacies may be a little hyperbolic, but if you’ve read any amount of Christian apologetics you’ll immediately see how the list of following fallacies is not just commonly employed but the main staple basis and foundation for devotional defenses for belief in the supernatural. Hyperbole aside, you have to wonder exactly how much of theism rests upon fallacious reasoning rather than real truths. No matter which faith, it would seem, that the below fallacies are the main stratagem when arguing for belief in God, or for providing evidence, or for supporting the theist claims.

Summarizing the Norton Field Guide to Writing (2009) section on strategies for supporting your arguments we find that: Fallacies are arguments that involve faulty reasoning. Furthermore, the Norton editors instruct that it’s important to avoid fallacies in your writing because they often seem plausible but are usually unfair or inaccurate and make reasonable discussion difficult. Next, on pages 296 through 298 we find a list of the main forms of fallacies used when arguing. The types of common fallacies which should be avoided are as follows:

Ad hominem arguments attack someone’s character rather than addressing the issues. (Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man.”) It is an especially common fallacy in political discourse and elsewhere…

Slippery slope arguments assert that one event will inevitably lead to another, often cataclysmic event without presenting evidence that such a chain of causes and effects will in fact take place.

Bandwagon appeals argue that because others think or do something, we should, too.

Begging the question is a circular argument. It assumes as a given what is trying to be proved, essentially supporting an assertion with the assertion itself. Consider this statement: “Affirmative action can never be fair or just because you cannot remedy one injustice by committing another.” This statement begs the question because to prove that affirmative action is unjust, it assumes that it is an injustice.

Either-or arguments, also called false dilemmas, are oversimplifications. Either-or arguments assert that there can be only two possible positions on a complex issue.

False analogies compare things that resemble each other in some ways but not in the most important respects.

Faulty causality, also known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”), assumes that because one event followed another, the first event caused the second…

Hasty generalizations are conclusions based on insufficient or inappropriately qualified evidence.

Christian apologists probably tend to rely on fallacies regularly because of the distinct lack of evidence to back up their claims, but also, as has been my experience, because many Christians don’t realize they’re making them in the first place. Understandably, everybody who exercises a little bit of rhetoric will probably have a few fallacies in their arguments, since sometimes it is easier to bypass a difficult area of explanation by skipping over it, but in general it’s a bad idea to rely too much on fallacies. It’s better to try and avoid making them on a regular basis, especially when engaging in any debate you want to qualify as dependable or true.

As expected, we’ve all heard the Christian schema of why we ought to believe. In their attempts to convince us, they often fall back on saying something along the lines that evolution is false therefore the Bible is true, or because the Bible is true evolution is false. Other times we have heard the claim because the Bible is true, and God created it all, evolution is true, and therefore proof of God’s existence.

Or how about this one: you can’t be moral without religion. Or if you don’t believe in Jesus and ask to be saved from your sins (which he created BTW) and beg forgiveness, then low and behold, you’ll go to hell. But don’t worry, God is all loving (never mind the contradiction).

What about this one: the rapture is definitely coming. It’ll be any day now. So repent while you still can! Or that God hears your prayers. Or that you go to paradise in heaven after you die. Or because you can’t prove human consciousness then that’s evidence for God. Or because the universe exists something must have created it, therefore proof that God must exist.

All of these claims are unfounded, therefore when Christians wish to support their devotional beliefs they turn to the slippery slopes of fallacy packed professions and mind-boggling truth claims, hoping you won’t notice their sufficient lack of evidence whatsoever.

Everything from Pascal’s wager to Paley’s watch on the beach; from William Lain Craig’s Kalām Cosmological argument to Dinesh D’Souza’s mocking the intellectual merit of scientists like Richard Dawkins who criticize religion, stating that biologists couldn’t possibly know any better when it comes to religion and that this “caricature” of religion portrayed by its critics is what happens when you let biologists out of the lab (because they demand theologians offer up evidence without really understanding any of the above apologetic theological arguments). All these are, in actuality, intractable fallacies.

If truth be told, skeptics and atheists have understood and do understand these religious arguments, perhaps even better than those who would use them as support, at least since the time they started being proffered as support for the belief in God.

Indeed, many critics of religion have pragmatically attacked these flawed and fallacy driven claims by utilizing fanciful polemic to show how inadequate they actually are. Think, for instance, of Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot, a fine example if there ever was one. Also, the flying spaghetti monster and the existence of invisible pink unicorns, a couple other pieces of reverse engineering ingenuity. So next time you read some religious apologetics, look for how habitually they rely on fallacies to form the basis of their arguments and how frequently they lack well supported and thought out arguments in the first place.

 

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12 comments

  1. I guess we cannot expect religious believers to rely on logical arguments, since the whole premise of most religions is too simply accept the dogma by faith. Plus, once the believers even doubt the dogma, they will be reminded right away that it's Satan/the Devil etc at work, or the fear of Hell will scare them off right away. It's a very effective system to prevent anyone from breaking free of the religion once they have been indoctrinated.

    1. “I guess we cannot expect religious believers to rely on logical arguments…”
      Logical fallacy: Bare Statement
      “…since…”
      Logical fallacy: Unwarranted conclusion.
      “…the whole premise of most religions…”
      Logical fallacy: Guilt by association. Christians are by and large, from my observation, uninterested in “most” religions because we believe that all other religions are false. “Believe,” not “can prove” or “have evidence that.”
      “…simply accept the dogma by faith.” Really?
      Logical fallacy: Bare statement.
      The Bible presents the harmony of Christian and pre-Christian Judaic faith with the proposition (not “theory”) of special or supernatural (“super” = “above” or in this matter, “outside,” nature, or the cosmos) creation.
      The concept that the cosmos spontaneously generated itself from a “primordial speck” is the same as a concept that the cosmos “created” itself from nothing.
      Believers in special creation, in the west mostly as presented in the Bible, have a similar belief: that “God” created the cosmos from nothing.
      Since we have no other record: no one was there to observe and record, it’s all faith based on a foundational assumption or assumptions.
      Atheism is no more nor less illogical than theism. Each is built upon differing foundational assumptions. Pick whichever you like, then try to evangelize the other. Avoid initiating violence but sift one onother’s postulations with the proverbial nit-comb, identifying logical fallacies. Don’t beat up on one another’s foundational assumptions.

      1. Be careful. There are many instances of sloppy reasoning in your response. I just wanted to warn you about this, because when you are criticizing someone for making sloppy reasoning you should at least try not to make the same mistakes because it defeats the purpose of your pointing it out in the first place.

        “I guess we cannot expect religious believers to rely on logical arguments…”
        Logical fallacy: Bare Statement

        This isn’t a composition fallacy without the second half. It’s not clear by your quoting a snippet out of context whether you imply the full sentence or just this part. But this part by itself is a phrase and an incomplete sentence. You cannot accurately determine if a part of a sentences grammar is making a fallacy without the context of the full sentence.

        “…since…”
        Logical fallacy: Unwarranted conclusion.

        No. This is just one word.

        There’s no fallacy here. And the conclusion is part of a generalization that he’s not arguing for. So it’s not clear that he makes the composition fallacy in the first place, because he’s not arguing for religious believers being unable to make logical arguments, it’s just a generalization he extrapolates, or maybe a bit of rhetoric, which he makes as a belief statement. We all make generalizations, but it doesn’t appear to be the generazation itself that he’s arguing for. So, so far you’ve made two inaccurate claims here.

        “…the whole premise of most religions…”
        Logical fallacy: Guilt by association. Christians are by and large, from my observation, uninterested in “most” religions because we believe that all other religions are false. “Believe,” not “can prove” or “have evidence that.”

        ‘Accept dogma by faith’ might be a sloppy way of saying accept things on faith. But this statement is not wrong. That doesn’t mean some religions cannot also accept faith by evidence, demonstration, or special providence, but to say this is guilt by association is incorrect. All religions have a faith component to their belief systems, otherwise they wouldn’t be religions. And all he said was that “the premise of most religions is to accept dogma by faith.”

        So, again, you’ve called out a fallacy that doesn’t exist her. If you wanted to challenge his point about religions, you might ask him to clarify what he means by “accept dogma by faith” first. You mistakenly assume he’s making a negative criticism by saying religions rely on faith or have dogma. Another point of contention would be to ask if this really is the whole premise of most religions. This could be just sloppy phrasing, or hyperbole, but this is dangerously close to actually being a fallacy. Not guilt by association, but overgeneralizing.

        “…simply accept the dogma by faith.” Really?
        Logical fallacy: Bare statement.

        Here it’s not clear what you’re objecting to. His statement, as it is, claims religions accept dogma by faith. Let’s say dogmatic creeds, since dogma is just a degree of believing things based on authority and for no other reason. It would seem faith is required to do this. It’s a true statement if he’s making it generally about how many religions approach and deal with dogmatic claims.

        He doesn’t say *all religions, he says *most. Perhaps *some would have been less of an overstatement. But What do you object to in this claim? The fact that religions have dogma or that he says they require faith to unequivocally accept this dogma? And if so, why? I mean, by my understanding, there’s not much to object to here. And it can only be the Ipse dixit fallacy if he is in fact wrong about dogma requiring faith in order to be sustained.

        I don’t know how you could have dogma without faith, or how you could accept dogma *not by faith. Maybe you know something I don’t. But this doesn’t seem to be the fallacy you think it is.

        The next part I will need to break up a bit.

        The Bible presents the harmony of Christian and pre-Christian Judaic faith with the proposition (not “theory”) of special or supernatural (“super” = “above” or in this matter, “outside,” nature, or the cosmos) creation.

        It does? How so? By paying lip service to the supernatural? What is a harmony between faith and a proposition of the supernatural anyway? It’s not entirely clear what you mean here. I only mention this because you don’t want to make the mistake of obfuscation, either intentionally or unintentionally.

        The concept that the cosmos spontaneously generated itself from a “primordial speck” is the same as a concept that the cosmos “created” itself from nothing.

        No it’s not, actually.

        Saying there’s a quantum foam, or that nothingness in the physical universe is simply unstable, is a scientifically defensible claim.

        Saying that there was an absolute state of nothingness and then via God’s spooky magic suddenly a universe with both a natural component and supernatural component suddenly manifested are completely different claims.

        Believers in special creation, in the west mostly as presented in the Bible, have a similar belief: that “God” created the cosmos from nothing.
        Since we have no other record: no one was there to observe and record, it’s all faith based on a foundational assumption or assumptions.

        Assumption being the key word here. And a foundational claim predicated on merely an assumption is a weak claim to begin with. This is why many theists, at least in my experience, seem to be weary of evidentialism. Because it places the burden on the person to describe a working metaphysics that would explain the world as we observe it. And it doesn’t seem, at least to my knowledge, that anybody has successfully done that.

        Atheism is no more nor less illogical than theism.

        Well, logical analysis between proposition A and proposition B doesn’t yet enter the equation. They’re just opposite belief propositions.

        Each is built upon differing foundational assumptions.

        This is true. Ideological assumption are required to get certain disciplines moving along. But here I think we are dealing more with just basic belief propositions.

        Pick whichever you like, then try to evangelize the other. Avoid initiating violence but sift one onother’s postulations with the proverbial nit-comb, identifying logical fallacies. Don’t beat up on one another’s foundational assumptions.

        Well, that’s all that needs to be said really.

    2. That’s not true Christian faith…Typical straw-man comment. What you say here is a mischaracterization. You do so to fit your false narrative.

  2. warforscience-True, and true. Dogma often blind, or at least limits, what believers can discern because they are restricted by conventional creeds or regulated doctrines. The second part, I would add, is that most Christian apologists are not professionals in any given field they criticize, thus lending to their lack of ability to offer up proper refuations, and also lending to their weakness of having to rely on fallacy driven arguments.That is assuming, of course, that they've actually looked at the arguments they are criticizing instead of just attacking them with a sort of dogmatic righteousness and fundamental zeal. The third point I would stress, is that, many apologists have not really looked into the things they are dismissing. Therefore their faith-based arguments over and over again reflect this form of ignorance.Not all Christians are naive, I am just speaking generally, since it was my experience as a fundamentalist that we were weekly brainwashed to think anything too liberal or too foreward thinking was the work of the devil and that the modern world was a cancer, and that things like science and skepticism (free thinking) were negative influences which, if not kept in check, would drive us to the dark side and away from Christ.And you'd be horrified at how many people just eat up this propoganda without ever checking it. Another reason being an advocate for reasonis so important. Thanks for bringing your thoughts to the discussion!

  3. I know Chuck Norris can kick my ass, but a lion's ass?I know the idea is facetious, but that sort of points to the difference between free thought and religous faith in my view.I know someone trained in the martial arts can kill another perason with his or her bare fists. Science has documented how much damage a well trained body can dish out against another human. Even against wood and brick! I can safely conclude that Chuck Norris could probably kill me with his bare fists if he wanted to.But then I think about a lion. Humans are at the top of the food chain because of our intellect and use of tools. But put us head to head or one to one against most wild animals and we're toast. That would probably include Chuck Norris. Free inquiry allows me to conclude by using data that Chuck is physically superior to me and can kick my ass. Therefore, I won't step in the way of his cowboy boots. But, that same weighting of the facts strongly suggest that Chuck had better not get in the way of that lion's paws. To have honest confidence that Chuck would likely come from an attitude of faith, not a survey of the facts.As to the use of semantics, I do notice that the Bible seems to demote "the wisdom of men". God's foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of men. That notion seems to program you into thinking that when a religious leader that you trust says something in the name of God, it's wiser and more valid than anything that comes from any mere mortal who doesn't have the inspiration of God– no matter how much common sense the "mere" mortal may express.And as for the giraffe not having a track record like Jesus, — no prophesies, faithful followers unto death, and the like– people should be aware of the psychological research where a UFO cult was infiltrated by three social psychologists. They found that once someone is commited to a movement, they will tend to stick with it, even if the prophesies blatantly fail. They rationalize a new meaning for their failed prophesy and dig in even more. And most amazing of all, groups start to proselytize in the face of failed prophesy so that they may grow their numbers!!!I dunno. The Great Commission starts to sound a little dubious to me in light of that research. That's just me . . .Also, Mohammad has at least 1 billion followers. It's the second largest religion and Christianity doesn't have a very large lead. What prophesies have been foretold or fulfilled about Mohammad? Also, the Jews (at large) do not interpret any of the scriptures to be prophetic in the ways that Christians do. The prophesies are imagined and stretched interpretations of Jewish scriptures from their view. I think if one would dig into this idea deeply enough, one may find the Jewish viewpoint concerning their own scripture text to be rather sound– at least on that point.:D

    1. All Chuck Norris’ years of study and practice can be canceled out by one bullet fired by a person who had never touched a gun before. Machines crush tomatoes on sticks. Doesn’t take a steam-drill beating a John Henry. J.H. may have gotten through a little before the steam-drill, but he then dropped dead while the steam-drill kept on drilling and could do it close to 24 hours a day, day after day until it required a repair.

  4. Just to make it clear, warforscience is actually me – I've changed my blog address to WordPress.com, and I was trying to use OpenID for comments in Blogger. Doesn't work well, though.

  5. So how do you like Worpress? Lots of people tell me I should switch over to it, but Blogger suits me just fine. What's your take on the WordPress vs. Blogger thing? Can you give me any suggestions?

  6. For me, I certainly think WordPress has a much better and more customizable dashboard, but it's also slightly more complex. Plus, WordPress also gives you more control over your blog, such as editing comments, blocking IPs and spam, and so on – you'll need to try it out to understand it.I've also heard that WordPress is also much better in SEO (Search engine optimization) than Blogger, for reasons I'm not very sure of. WordPress blogs also tend to conform to W3C web standards, which is better in creating a better web experience, and I've heard that Interent browsers will be able to load the webpage faster if it has less errors. Compare your blog on Blogger and mine on WordPress.The most apparent drawbacks for WordPress is that Javascript and videos aren't allowed (except for some sites like Youtube), and you can't use custom themes. You'll need to pay to get these features.Despite all these, I still feel that WordPress much better to work with. But it's your choice, anyway.

  7. I think I'll stick with blogger for now. Especially because I am using ad sense and Amazon affiliate which is so easy here, as Blogger belongs to Google.Also, I find that with some tinkering I can pretty much format it anyway I like… and so I don't think I'll worry about a switch over any time soon. Thanks for the info though. It's always good to have options.

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