Fallacies 'R Us


After debating with religious people on Twitter for a number of months (mostly Christians, some Muslims and a few... stray bullets), I thought to myself that all arguments for gods are based on flawed logic. A short convo confirmed that, indeed, my fellow atheists on Twitter believe the same. This is a short list with the most common logical fallacies I've encountered. This post will be updated to incorporate new fallacies when they present themselves.

The Fallacy Fallacy


Warning: Using flawed logic doesn't mean that your conclusion is necessarily wrong, it just means that you cannot base your conclusion on that logic. Let's think about an example to clarify this. Suppose you are going to visit your family, and they ask you at what time you'll arrive. You take into account the inevitable traffic jam and estimate an hour. Then, you step into your car and lo and behold, there is no traffic jam... but you get a flat tire. You arrive at the estimated time, but not because of the traffic jam you were worried about.

The same applies to the arguments in favor of gods. The fact that all arguments are based on flaws doesn't mean there are no gods... It just means that the religious shouldn't base their faith on those flawed arguments.

Saying that all arguments in favor of gods are flawed and concluding therefore that there are no gods is the fallacy fallacy.

The Proof by Assertion Logical Fallacy

Saying that something is true, doesn't make it true. Repeating a lie doesn't make it true either.
  • God exists
  • There is a heaven / hell
  • As sure as there is a god
  • Allah Akbar
Only affirmations based on evidence should be given any credibility. “Gravity exists” is not an assertion logical fallacy, because we experience it daily. Julius Caesar was an historical figure because there are historical accounts and archaeological evidences that he, indeed, existed.
  • The evidence of god is everywhere. Look around you
This is still an assertion logical fallacy. Whatever we can observe is called “reality”. Supernatural gods, cannot be observed as per definition. Saying that gods obey the laws of nature is admitting that gods are powerless... nonexistent.

The Appeal to Authority Logical Fallacy

It's very easy to confide in the knowledge of others, especially when they are presented as experts.
  • Parents say that god exists
  • Preachers say that god exists
  • Teachers say that god exists
  • Weird people on street corners say that god exists
Parents, preachers, teachers and weird people commit the assertion logical fallacy... and you believe their affirmation, which is the appeal to authority logical fallacy.
  • Einstein, Newton (or others) believed in god
Whatever somebody (Einstein or whomever) believed is irrelevant, as long as they have not provided any evidence for the existence of gods. Basing your believe on the believe of others is not basing your believe on anything solid.

The Bandwagon Logical Fallacy

The fact that loads of people think that something is true, doesn't mean that it's actually true. Not so long ago, everybody thought the sun revolved around the earth. Then Copernicus came and, posthumously, changed all that. Now we know the earth revolves around the sun, and the sun around a massive black hole in the center of the milky way.
  • 2 Billion Christians/Muslims can't be wrong (the numbers change somewhat, sometimes)
  • Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth, therefore it's true

The Anecdotal Logical Fallacy

This is one of my favourites. Somebody tells you a story and you believe the story. For instance, Mary told Joseph that she was inseminated by the Holy Spirit (if you accept the story that they actually existed).
  • The old testament featured talking bushes
  • The apostles wrote eye witness accounts of Jesus
  • The Koran features Muhammad rising to heaven on a winged, flying, horse.
The 'holy' books contain stories. Maybe these are true, maybe not. Most of these stories are impossible to verify, especially when containing supernatural events. That's why I call the bible the tallest tale ever told (paraphrasing George Carlin). 

The Appeal to Emotion Logical Fallacy

Somebody tries to join two unrelated issues with an emotional link. Think about all the people that suffer hunger; eat. The fact that you eat (or not) doesn't affect the person who suffers hunger in any way. If you actually want to help people who suffer hunger, you can give to a charity that feeds them... or that teaches them how to fish.
  • Jesus died for your sins
  • Missionaries put their lives on the line
  • Martyrs died for their faith
  • God loves you (+ Assertion Logical Fallacy)
Appealing to Jesus' death is emotional blackmail. The logical fallacy is to try to do something for Jesus, as he can't be repaid... ever.
(Some) Missionaries are putting their lives at risk, voluntarily. So what? That proves they believe in their deity. It is not evidence for the deity actually existing.
Dead missionaries are martyrs. Same thing. It's no evidence for gods.

Note: The appeal to fear logical fallacy was brought to my attention shortly after publishing this. It's a special case of appeal to emotion logical fallacy.
  • You'll burn in hell (with caps lock)

Circular Logic Logical Fallacy

In formal logic, basing your premise on your conclusion on your premise on your conclusion.... is a flaw. Stating that something is True, because it's True doesn't make it true. It's an elaborate Assertion Logical Fallacy.
  • The bible is true because it says so in the bible
  • The creator created the creation (look around you)
  • God sacrificed himself, to himself, to save you from himself.

    Source: atheistforum.wordpress.com

Non-sequitur Logical Fallacy

This means 'it doesn't follow'. If Aristotle is a man, therefore the sky is blue.
  • We don't know therefore gods
Mostly, this fallacy is used with the god of the gaps idea. If there's a gap in the scientific knowledge that's where gods are (Which god?)

Special pleading Logical Fallacy

This fallacy occurs in conjunction with the above, non-sequitur god of the gaps.
  • What caused the first cause? Ah, gods are uncaused.
Also known as the Kalam Cosmological Fallacy.

Black or white Logical Fallacy

Ever heard of Pascal's wager? He said that you're better of believing in 'god' because of the chance of ending in hell was smaller. That might be so if there would only be one god. But there are thousands. According to Christians, non-christians will go to hell. According to muslims, non-muslims will go to hell... So, with only Yahweh and Allah, your chances of going to hell are getting worse... if there are gods, that is.

Logical Fallacy of Confusion

The aim of this logical fallacy is to render the conversation useless by confusing the opponent. The person utters total nonsense. For instance: Creationists like to talk about 'Kinds' which has no scientific definition.

  • "God made the wild animals according to their kinds" Genesis 1:25 
How can creationists claim that the domestic cat and the lion are of the same kind, as some do, saying that 'kind' equates to family?

Logical Fallacy of Equivocation

Similar to the last logical fallacy, this one misuses the meaning of words. For instance, belief.

  • Do you believe things without evidence?
Well, yes, I do. Not all beliefs are religious beliefs and I can believe loads of things without evidence. I can believe my wife is faithful to me, without evidence. I can believe that the state will provide a hospital when I need one. I can believe the snake-oil salesman. The important part isn't what I can believe or not believe, but what is rational.

Selective Attention Logical Fallacy

FimusTauri commented on this logical fallacy, also known as Cherry Picking. The verses of the holy books that appeal to the reader are considered true, while the verses that are not are ignored.


--- Help me add the logical fallacies I've missed. Thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. I’m sorry for the delayed reply. School just started and you know the deal. Also, it’s 3.30 am right now and I’m just about to write a reply, so I hope it’s not gonna be too bad as my mind is very tired. lol. But I’ll try my best. Okay.

    Well, your main argument, stated on the first paragraph, is that “all arguments for gods are based on flawed logic”. First of all, this is a very bold claim and you clearly never actually proved that they (ANY) are flawed? You never went through ANY of the classical arguments for the existence of God, or for the trustworthiness of the Scriptures or for the historical Jesus, and showed where their flaw(s) was/were. So for you to prove your claim that ALL of them are flawed, you would have to go through every single theist argument and expose their error. But, at least on this article, you didn’t do it.

    Secondly, you seem to have confused the validity of an argument with its truthfulness. An argument can have premises that are false and the argument still be valid, since its validity has to do with its logic, whether or not its premises follow logically, instead of whether or not its premises are true or false. Of course, what we really want is an argument that is both valid and true, which will make it a SOUND argument. This is the most basic thing in epistemology and you should know if you want to make such bold claims. Let me quickly illustrate with a classic argument:

    Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its beginning

    The universe began to exist.

    Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.

    As you can see (hopefully now), there’s no problem with the logic of this argument. The premises follow logically. Now whether or not its premises are true (any) is a different issue. Of course the argument would be false, bad, stupid (you name it) if its premises were false, but that has nothing to do with its logic. now, since your statement – that all arguments for gods are based on flawed logic - is obviously false, I now challenge you to prove the premises to be false.

    Thirdly, you affirmed: “only affirmation based on evidence should be given any credibility”. Well, I honestly don’t think you believe in this. As a matter of fact, you confess, at the end of your article, that you don’t believe on what you just wrote here. I’ll let you think on your own about the many things that you believe without evidence (or good evidence). One doesn’t have to have evidence for every single thing he believes in order to be a rational person. Ex. Just because you can’t prove your own existence or the existence of other minds doesn’t mean that you should be skeptic about existence. Further, you tried to illustrate it with the example of gravity. When you said the word “evidence”, I confess I was expecting more. I mean, your example of gravity is merely that “we experience it daily”. That’s it? Even theists, all over the world and all throughout history– including brilliant scientists – confessed to experience the Holy Spirit daily. It seems the same to me, to say the least. You better come up with a better example next time.

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  2. Also, you mentioned you believe in Julius Ceaser as a historical figure due to the historical accounts and archeological evidences regarding him. Once again, you can’t just say something and expect people to believe in it when you don’t actually show it. Isn’t what you guys love most, after all? EVIDENCE.? Then show me the evidences of Caesar that you mentioned - I was really hoping that you would put at least a couple sources here, so that I would use the same source to show that they also believed in the historicity of Jesus. But, since I do believe that Caeser was a historical person indeed, let’s keep going. Well, in response to this, I say that the majority of scholars (atheists, skeptics, agnostics, religious, whatever) DO BELIEVE that Jesus indeed existed. The most respected source would be the Jewish historian Josephus, in case you wanna check it out. But pretty much ANY you search will affirm the existence of Jesus of Nazareth as a historical person. This is common knowledge among historians and you should know it by now. I invite you to stop reading your other atheist bloggers and dive into real trustworthy research.

    In addition, you affirmed that theists commit a fallacy when they base their belief in God on someone else’s belief in God (ex. Newton believed in God, therefore I believe in God). Now, I guarantee you that Christians do NOT believe in God just because, say Newton believed in God. This is not a fair evaluation of Christians. The reason Christians, sometimes, point out the fact that many intelligent human beings actually believed in God is because Christians are, at times, called irrational and ignorant. True, some of them are, but not all. But of course they don’t BASE their belief on someone else’s belief, no matter how stupid they are. That would be even contrary to the gospel. Let’s be fair now.

    Moreover, you mentioned the Bandwagon logical fallacy. Well, remember that such fallacy also applies to your skepticism about God. Just because loads of people are naturalists doesn’t mean that the supernatural realm doesn’t exist. Right?

    Furthermore, you mentioned the Anecdotal fallacy. Here you pointed out some miracles from the Bible, and then you concluded that the Bible is the tallest tale ever told. Your main argument here goes like this: p1: Most miraculous stories are impossible to verified; c: therefore the Bible is the tallest tale ever told. Well, you talked about flawed logic, here is a good example. Your conclusion clearly doesn’t follow from your premise. You seem to be missing some premises. You can’t start with “A, not being verified” to “therefore, A, is the tallest tale”. There are some hidden assumptions here that makes your argument INVALID. I’m not arguing that what you said is false or true. Your first premise, for instance, is TRUE! Most stories in the Bible ARE INDEED impossible to be verified (scientifically), but that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that therefore they are merely tales. No need for examples here, it’s way too obvious.

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  3. Now regarding the appeal to emotion logical fallacy. I agree that missionaries dying doesn’t prove a rip that their God exist. Not even close! But that’s not supposed to be an argument or an evidence for God’s existence. I honestly don’t know why you would think it would? Has someone every come up to you and said: missionaries are dying for God. Therefore, God exists? It seems to me that you made up this argument and tried to refute it just to make Christianity look bad. This was never an argument from Orthodox Christians, ever.

    In addition, I one hundred percent agree with you that when some “apologists” says “The Bible is true because it says it is true” this is a circular reasoning. And unfortunately there are indeed some illiterate Christians that try to use this as an argument when obviously this is at best circular. But just because a Christian is using a bad argument doesn’t mean that Christianity isn’t true, right? I read circular arguments all the time from atheists, including from you. Does that make atheism wrong? Absolutely not.

    Regarding the ‘Non-sequitur fallacy’, I agree as well, Christians don’t usually believe in the god of the gaps. As a matter of fact, the Bible is not a scientific book, in case you didn’t know. If a Christian wants to learn how the universe works, he must study science not the Bible. the god of the gaps was never supposed to be an argument either. I have no clue where that originated.

    Next. This is a good one. Why do you think that God being ‘uncaused’ would be a fallacy? I’m really looking forward for you to answer this question. If there were only one thing that you should reply me on all that I wrote, please reply this one! Christianity says that God is eternal, that is, by definition he has always existed, independently of time and space. So He is, by definition, uncaused. Now why is that a fallacy? If you don’t believe that this uncaused God exists, that’s fine – very unfortunate but fine – but why is it a FALLACY? This is not an argument, it is an attribute of God. You can reject God with all his attributes, fine, but a fallacy? Perhaps you’re missing the definition of the word fallacy.

    Regarding your comment on creationists that say things such as “kind equates to family”, I’m with you here. Unfortunately (I’m repeating myself here) some Christians are quite ignorant about science. But again, that doesn’t mean that Christianity is wrong, right? Or that God doesn’t exist. For example, 95% of the atheists are completely ignorant about what the Bible says and what it means (what it meant). Does that mean that the Bible must be true, then, just because their comments about it are dull? Not at all.

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  4. At the end, you confessed that you actually do believe in things without evidence (even though earlier you said you didn’t) and you affirmed that the reason why it’s fine in believing in some things without evidence but not fine to believe in religion/God without evidence is because the important thing is to believe on what is rational. Now, this is another argument that is invalid. Rationality involves reason. Think with me. You gave the example of your belief that your wife is faithful to you. Why would you say that that is something rational to believe? Just because you trust her doesn’t make it rational, right? (or does it?) I confess, it’s a hard question! But anyways, a lot of people trust in God, but that doesn’t make their belief in God rational. Your example is one about faith, not rationality. So your example also fails your argument. Now, I’m not criticizing you for having faith in your wife and for trusting that she won’t cheat on you. I actually encourage you to trust her. And you’re by no means IRRATIONAL just because you believe she is not cheating on you even though you have zero idea/evidence of what she’s doing while you’re not around her. Now if you tell me that you actually do have some good evidence believe she’s faithful to you, then your example wouldn’t support the argument. See my point?

    Lastly, I’m not sure what you meant and you said “most Christians ignore the cruelty in the NT”. So I can’t comment on that one.

    Overall review: not only have you not proved ANY of the arguments for theism/God to be logically flawed, but most of your arguments are actually logically flawed, that is, invalid.

    I encourage you to go over the classical arguments for God’s existence, with no bias. Open minded. And read through it and reply me back. I told you earlier I was an open minded person and asked you to provide me some scientific evidence against God and that I would truly consider it, but you told me that I’m not open minded. So now I’m assuming you are open minded. So this is the least you could do. The best source I recommend to you is the website: Reasonable Faith.

    Thank you for the respectful interaction. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete

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