Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Fundamental Logical Fallacies of Religion | Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society Inc (PATAS

Generally speaking, religion can be defined as a set of beliefs, rituals, ethics or mores that often involves deep devotion to god or gods or higher plane of existence; it also emphasises the concept of transcendent or supernatural reality that is supposedly beyond the grasp of understanding or reason. Religion purports to explain existence and the meaning of life or afterlife for that matter. Religion can be very formal, organised and dogmatic, such as in the case of the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand, religion can also be highly individualistic in nature or may claim to be not religion at all but purports to be “personal relationship” with the divine.

Here I will try to briefly examine some of the fundamental logical fallacies of religion. A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning that is based on incorrect inference (either inductive or deductive). It may either purposely done to persuade people or it may be unintentionally committed due to insufficient facts or capacity to reason. Logical fallacies divert attention from the main issue, which is the validity of conclusions. I do not want to delve too much on the premises or try to be exhaustive in their epistemological implications. I will just list and try to define some of the logical fallacies that I think most religions purposely or unintentionally commit.

1. Argumentum ad Baculum (appeal to the stick) – This is the argument based on fear or appeal to the emotion. This type of argument permeates most religions. The main strength of this fallacy in persuading people relies on the fear of the unknown or the fear of punishment. For instance, Christianity uses the threat of eternal suffering in HELL to convert people and maintain discipline among followers. In short, “believe in our god or else he will deep-fry your ass!” Hinduism, on the other hand, has the concept of karma. Those who are fearful to return as worms in their next life will surely try to behave. Of course, the opposite of this type of argument is the appeal to reward. Example: “Be converted to our religion and you will receive the gift of eternal life, power to heal the sick, speak in tongues and other super powers.”

2. Argumentum ad Misericordiam (argument from pity or misery) – Most people are naturally sympathetic about the suffering of others. Ironically, one significant reason for the success of converting people to Christianity during its infancy was the Roman Empire’s persecution of Christians. Many pagans were converted because they saw the resilience and steadfast dedications of the early Christians in spite of their sufferings, which included enduring several types of  horrible tortures, executions, humiliation and disenfranchisement. The concept of a suffering Christ who willingly (albeit, temporarily) gave up his life is a moving story that can make some faint-hearted cry or cringe.

3. Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (appeal to ignorance) – Most religious people and even atheists are contented with arguing their positions based on the appeal to ignorance. Basically, it is reasoning that relies on the incompleteness of knowledge or evidence and using this to assert that a concept or assertion is false because it does not have sufficient evidence. Conversely, it also purports that if a concept or assertion is not absolutely certain to be false, then it must be true. Hence, the phrase, “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” Taken in the context of the belief in god, how can you prove that god does not exist if you do not have all the knowledge?

4. Argument Based on Unfalsifiability – The error in this type of argument is committed when a claim or assertion cannot be falsified or tested to be true. Almost all of the arguments of all religions fall under this category. Hence, most religious people are contented on accepting their religion as true on the grounds of faith, no matter how ridiculous or unlikely the claims might be. For example, how can you falsify the zombies in the story told by Matthew?

Matthew [27:52] “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose; [27:53] And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

5. Argumentum Ad Hominem – Simply put, this argument is based on attacking the personal characteristic of an individual. In the Christian religious context, humans are considered as sinful and unworthy of salvation. Hence, Christians should  really be grateful and worship Jesus for saving them with his redemptive blood. The fallacy is committed here because of the effort to demean people who are otherwise good. It intends to demoralize people and make them feel guilty and worthless, hence, more pliable for brainwashing.

Romans [3:23] “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Psalm [14:1] “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no god. they are corrupt, they have done abominable works; there is none that doeth good.”

Republished from

'Logic is the bane of theists." Fr.Griggs

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