The Logical Fallacies of Religion

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Cooper
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The Logical Fallacies of Religion

Post by Cooper »

I post on the RfM board as Beulah: Ethnic Homo sapien. In a post this morning I asked for feedback on the following. I wonder if the posters here could also look these over for logical, historical, or other errors. Thank you in advance.

Argumentum ad antiquitatem, also knows as appeal to tradition, appeal to antiquity, appeal to common practice, or false induction.

The Bible/Torah or Koran is centuries old and has been followed by adherents since their inception.
Therefore the Bible/Torah or Koran is true.

We have a book (Bible/Torah/Koran) that claims god spoke to men centuries ago commanding us to kill the unbelievers.
Therefore we will kill the unbelievers.



Argumentum ad misericordiam also known as appeal to pity

Daniel tells a lie.
Gilbert punches Daniel.
Therefore what Daniel said is true.

Hundreds gave their lives and thousands were persecuted for Mormonism/Christianity/Judaism/Islam.
Therefore Mormonism/Christianity/Judaism/Islam must be true.

Hundreds, thousands or millions gave their lives for Mormonism/Christianity/Judaism/Islam.
Therefore you are not allowed to question the beliefs/tenants of Mormonism/Christianity/Judaism/Islam.


Two wrongs make a right

History is replete with instances of this and particularly instances where the second wrong is committed on the heads of someone or some group of people who had nothing to do with the first wrong.

John sinned.
We will kill Jesus because John sinned and this will rectify John’s sin.

Mormons were persecuted.
Therefore we will kill the Fancher Party and this will rectify the persecution received at the hands of others.

The Holocaust at the hands of the Germans was terrible.
Therefore we will wage war on the Palestinians and take the Palestinians’ land and this will partially compensate for the Holocaust at the hands of the Germans.



Then there are the cases where the first “wrong” is a wrong based on some dubious definition of what constitutes a wrong.

Native Americans, Africans, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, or Christians are “savages” and/or violate the “laws of god”.
Therefore if we force them to convert, enslave, or kill them we are justified and the situation will be rectified.



Cum hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for "with this, therefore because of this"), correlation implies causation, and false cause. This is closely related to post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for "after this, therefore because of this), multicollinearity, or coincidental correlation.

This is often found when “evidence” for the relationship between prayer or “righteousness” and blessings or cursings.

I prayed to be healed.
After 10 days my cold went away.
Therefore prayer healed me.

Mister Scratch
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Post by Mister Scratch »

Hi, Cooper, and welcome to the board!

I think your log. fallacies are more or less spot-on. After all, belief and faith are things which are, by their very nature, illogical.

A couple of very small points:

1) The "two wrongs make a right" is also known by the Latin, tu tocque, which translates as "You too."
2) The "prayer healed me" example is actually a variation on the "procter hoc" fallacy---post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means, "after this, therefore because of this."

Once again: Welcome!

Cooper
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Thank you

Post by Cooper »

I appreciate the welcome to the board. It has been interesting reading through the threads and gaining a feel for the personality of the board. I am impressed with the open discourse on the board and the broad range of topics.

Thank you for the feedback on the logical fallacies.

Actually the tu quoque fallacy is different than the "two wrongs make a right". Tu quoque is when someone claims that a position is indefensible because the defendent engages in a behavior that he or she is critical of. For instance if someone is espousing the negative effects of smoking a tu quoque fallacy would be committed by pointing out that the person making the assertion also smokes. This is a form of an ad hominem argument because it focuses on the person rather than the position.

Cheers

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cksalmon
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Re: Thank you

Post by cksalmon »

I wonder if the posters here could also look these over for logical, historical, or other errors. Thank you in advance.


Hi Cooper—

Although I consider myself a Christian, frankly, I agree with most of what you've written here. I would formalize your examples a bit differently, but I would agree with your (presumed) position that the arguments you've outlined are fallacious. Moreover, I'd suggest that any attempt to formally deduce the truth of a faith-based claim (e.g., Christianity is true) is going to run headlong into logical problems at some point or another. None of the example arguments you've given provide any deductively-valid conclusions upon which the believer might stake his claim(s).

Argumentum ad antiquitatem, also knows as appeal to tradition, appeal to antiquity, appeal to common practice, or false induction.

The Bible/Torah or Koran is centuries old and has been followed by adherents since their inception.
Therefore the Bible/Torah or Koran is true.


The way you've outlined this seems to presuppose an implicit conditional, a-like so:

(1) If a religious text is centuries old and has been followed by adherents since the inception of the text-based religion, that religion is true.
(2) The Bible is centuries old and has been followed by Bible-based Christians since the inception of Christianity.
(3) Therefore, Christianity is true.

I think this would be an example of the informal logical fallacy known as "begging the question," as the truth of the conclusion has been sneaked in, albeit indirectly, in premise (1). Of course, the form of the argument is valid. And the conclusion (3) is guaranteed to be true just so long as premises (1) and (2) are also true. (2) is undoubtedly true. (1), it would seem, is an indirect begging of the question. The conclusion is not necessarily true at all.

Typically, the "appeal-to-tradition" fallacy is an attempt to maintain the status quo in a given situation. An example using your entities above might be:

(4) People have always believed the Bible to be true, therefore we should believe it, too.

Or,

(5) Christians have always believed in a literal six-day creation, therefore, we should, too.

As I understand it, one wouldn't typically find an "appeal to tradition" argued as a formally-deductive proof. I realize that you're probably attempting to formalize the informal fallacies you've run into, but I thought it might bear being pointed out.

I think your "appeal to pity" example plays out in much the same way.

(6) If many people have been persecuted for their faith, that faith is true.
(7) Many people have been persecuted for their Christianity.
(8) Therefore, Christianity is true.

Deny (6), and the argument immediately fails.

Best.

CKS

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Coggins7
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Post by Coggins7 »

The obvious problem with Copper's analysis here is that pointing out the ways in which some religious adherants defend their faith tells us nothing whatever about the actual nature or validity of that faith, let alone how others might defend in rationally.

Logical fallacies are hardly endemic to religious defense, but are found when defending scientific, philosophical, and political belief systems as well. There is nothing in religion qua religion that requires the use of such fallacies that cannot be found in any other kind of intellectual endevor, at least when the things of which it purports to have knowledge go beyond empirical sense experince, observation, or experimental verification.

As to the restored Gospel, since verification of its truth is known through direct communication with God, no retreat to tautological argument forms or argument from tradition or from "the stick"is even necesssary.

Mister Scratch
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Post by Mister Scratch »

Coggins7 wrote:The obvious problem with Copper's analysis here is that pointing out the ways in which some religious adherants defend their faith tells us nothing whatever about the actual nature or validity of that faith, let alone how others might defend in rationally.

Logical fallacies are hardly endemic to religious defense, but are found when defending scientific, philosophical, and political belief systems as well. There is nothing in religion qua religion that requires the use of such fallacies that cannot be found in any other kind of intellectual endevor, at least when the things of which it purports to have knowledge go beyond empirical sense experince, observation, or experimental verification.

As to the restored Gospel, since verification of its truth is known through direct communication with God, no retreat to tautological argument forms or argument from tradition or from "the stick"is even necesssary.


Loran---do you not realize that you are once again putting yourself in the position of having to admit that matters of faith are, by your own definitions, illogical?

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cksalmon
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Post by cksalmon »

Coggins7 wrote:The obvious problem with Copper's analysis here is that pointing out the ways in which some religious adherants defend their faith tells us nothing whatever about the actual nature or validity of that faith...


I agree that the Cooper's arguments do not seal the deal against Christianity or Mormonism or Islam, etc., But, investigated logically, they do tell us that these arguments are non-starters on purely logical grounds. While I disagree with his formalizing of them (in some instances), I don't discount that they are poor arguments—whoever who offers them up.

Logical discourse is just not a big bully lurking in wait to beat up faith claims; it's nothing more or less than a reliable and systematic way of organizing one's thought processes.

Submitting to logic is a simple way (once one internalizes the foreign language, so to speak) of "thinking straight." See Antony Garrard Newton Flew(goodness, British names)'s book entitled, well, Thinking Straight. It's an introductory philosophy text, written when Flew was an avowed atheist, and it still—lo, these three readings past—occupies a prominent place on my bookshelf. He's a pretty fart smeller if ever there was one.

Oh, and Flew moved from atheism to Deism in his final years, based, I'd suggest, on his rigorous application of logic to philosophical givens, as he viewed them.

Best.

CKS

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Coggins7
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Post by Coggins7 »

As far a Scratch goes, move on, nothing to see here.



I knew that about Antony Flew. I had read some of his stuff on philosophical theology back in the early eighties, and he was a fairly severe rationalist then, as I recall (I still have the books).

Logical fallacies are just that; fallacies of reasoning in which what is claimed to follow from evidence really doesn't. Obviosuly, if one is going to attempt a justification of his belief system, whether it be theistic or no, then an intellectually disciplined defense is the best one.


Loran

Mister Scratch
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Post by Mister Scratch »

Coggins7 wrote:As far a Scratch goes, move on, nothing to see here.


Yes, it gets easier and easier. Now all I have to dole out is a single sentence and you roll over.


I knew that about Antony Flew. I had read some of his stuff on philosophical theology back in the early eighties, and he was a fairly severe rationalist then, as I recall (I still have the books).

Logical fallacies are just that; fallacies of reasoning in which what is claimed to follow from evidence really doesn't. Obviosuly, if one is going to attempt a justification of his belief system, whether it be theistic or no, then an intellectually disciplined defense is the best one.
Loran


Yes, I agree. Which of course means such things as not engaging in the Naturalistic Fallacy or argumentum ad antiquitatem when discussing the morality of homosexuality. Right, Loran?

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Coggins7
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Post by Coggins7 »

Nothing to see here...move on.

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