Before I began doubting my faith, the only logical fallacy I had ever heard of was the slippery slope fallacy since it is so often used when passing out dire predictions concerning everything from politics to education to bathrooms. Of course, once I understood them, I was a bit shocked by their frequency in the church. This may not come as a surprise to someone who has been a non-believer their whole life, but within the church I was taught that all of our arguments made sense and the more you knew about theology and apologetics, the more you would see this. So I would like to break down these 10 Common Fallacies according to how the church uses them in my experience.
Ad Hominem: Atheists are very familiar with this one because Christians use it all the time. There you are, talking about the morality of the Old Testament god and early Judaism when, from out of nowhere, the believer says, "Well you just don't want to believe it because you want to sin." If they know you well, they may add some personal insults in here like, "Well you are living with your girlfriend and the Old Testament god says that is wrong, so that is why you have a problem with it." The dumber of the Christians will just straight up tell you what an idiot they think you are ("Only a fool says there is no god") and how you are going to hell because you are a whore/slut/sinner/heathen. Suddenly, instead of talking about this deep philosophical concept, you now find yourself defending yourself. To be fair, although I was certainly taught this technique, my parents strongly discouraged this. Personal attacks are not appropriate when having a debate. Obviously, this was something for just my family though because I certainly didn't see this respect reflected in my fellow churchgoers.
Appeal to Authority: Growing up I was part of a large denomination where it was required of the pastors to attend seminary. They spent years studying the Bible, learning Greek and Hebrew, reading books about theology, studying under renowned theologians, learning how to counsel people. Then they had to work as interns and associate pastors before being allowed to move into a senior pastor role. They were the authority. What they said was taken as gospel truth. If you ever questioned anything or had an issue it was always recommended that you go talk to the pastor because, well, he knew everything right? This also meant that any sermon that was preached was considered truth as well. The problems with this lie in the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of churches, each with their own authority and truth, some of which are highly unqualified. I attended one church for a few months run by a charistmatic pastor who had clearly never attended any kind of pastoral training or education. The man had not read the entire Bible, took things out of context (through ignorance), yet passionately preached from a place of "authority". So which authority are we supposed to listen to? Christians will say God, but from there things get ambiguous because we return right back to the question of whose speaks on God's authority? And so we have this twisted logic in which pastors/priests/bishops speak with "divine authority" yet they can't all agree which means that God is clearly not speaking to all of them. Who do you listen to then? I also know that this can be used by Christians in other ways too. For instance, if you are discussing the efficacy of Biblical morality perhaps they would say that they are actually an expert on this subject because they took two classes in Bible college on Biblical morality and apologetics. Or if you complain about the bad Christian music out there they will say (true story) that because they have led worship for years and write some music of their own, they know that this music is actually very good and is pleasing to the Lord. As if this fact should now suddenly change your mind as to whether that song is well-written or not.
Appeal to Ignorance: In my mind, this is the most common fallacy that Christians use. I saw an angel. You can't prove that I didn't therefore you must believe me. There is no proof that God doesn't exist, therefore he does. (Atheists fall into this trap too if they state that because there is no proof, therefore no gods exist. Both statements are illogical.) This is used on every level of Christianity though. You can't prove that my stomach ache wasn't miraculously healed, therefore it was. You don't know what existed before the big bang therefore it didn't happen. Basically, if you can't prove something false then it must be true. Of course, now I think this is absolutely ridiculous, but when I was a Christian it felt like logic and quickly devolved into a 'god of the gaps' fallacy as well. We don't know the answer therefore--God.
Bandwagon Fallacy: Do you know how many Christians there are in the world? Do you know how many people are converting to Christianity in countries where it is illegal? Why would they risk their lives converting to Christianity if it weren't true? So why wouldn't you be a Christian in a country where it is easy? This many people can't possibly wrong. This was the everyday rhetoric within the churches I grew up in and beyond. Back in the mid-90s there was something called the Brownsville Revival. Christians, particularly of the Assemblies of God ilk, where driving from all over the country to Pensacola, Florida to be part of a revival that lasted for nearly five years. People would leave and come back newly invigorated for God. Thousands of people were led to Christ. So many people were affected that it must be right. Right? In truth a whole bunch of sad people with little purpose drove to Florida to be told that a god had a plan for them and this renewed them to start living life again. Here's the thing, there are 6-10,000 people in FLDS and I don't think they are right. During World War II there were 8 million card-carrying Nazis in Germany (about 10% of the population) and I don't think they were right either. Just because everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon doesn't make it right or true. If everyone was jumping off a bridge and said God will catch you, are you still going to jump off the bridge?
Begging the Question: People often use this one wrong. I know I have. Begging the question or circular reasoning was so easy when I was a Christian. God exists because the Bible says he does and he wrote the Bible and I know this because the Bible says God wrote the Bible. Believe it or not, I really thought this made sense at one point. Evolution can't be true because the Bible says that it happened a different way and we know this is true because the Bible says it is true. A belief in God is universal because the Bible says that everyone believes in their heart that there is a god. Atheists can certainly be guilty of using this one too but since atheists use evidence to back up their claims and all Christians have is the Bible, there is definitely a disparity when presenting evidence for your claim. If the only reason for doing or believing something is "because the Bible tells me so" then you will never be able to have a valid logical argument on that topic.
Loaded Question: Why do you hate god so much? What sins are you hiding from god? When did you stop being a moral person? This one is difficult to discuss without acknowledging the role original sin has on thought processes and theology of Christians. I was taught growing up that everyone was a sinner from the moment they were born into this world. There is not a soul alive who is good or deserves the salvation gift. Their Bible tells them straight up that people who don't believe in god are moral reprobates. They are absolutely assuming that you hate god, are hiding sin, and aren't moral because this is what the Bible says of unbelievers. They don't question that you are, they just want to know how to get through to you so that you will see the light. Obviously this is a problem when trying to have a logical argument though. How can you have a discussion about morality for instance if the person you are talking about just assumes that you have no morals? Atheists are not immune to this one either though. It's all over the atheism Reddit threads. Why have so many Christians not read their Bible? Ummm...many of them have. Being able to reason away the problematic areas of the Bible does not mean they haven't read it. It's an assumption of guilt and often puts the person between a rock and a hard place. If they say they agree that they haven't read the whole Bible then you chastise them for being a bad Christian and if they say they have, you chastise them for still believing it.
Non Sequitur: You know, juvenile delinquency is getting worse. We need to put prayer back into schools. Christianity has helped so many people around the world, obviously it is true. This one is rather common in internet memes concerning school prayer or the Ten Commandments, followed by the 'Share if You Agree' or 'Type Amen if You Agree' at the end. They rarely make sense, but there are idiots out there who just keep sharing because to them, these two things do go together. The reason bad things happen is because there is sin in the world and the answer is always Jesus, even when it's not.
Red Herring: Changing the subject, turning the conversation into something that has nothing to do with the actual point, diverting attention. It's an endless parade of a hat tricks. Often, if takes a minute to realize that you have been sidetracked. Again. Why are we talking about the definition of morality? The point is that you don't want to help the poor and advocate for getting rid of programs. This isn't one I saw in every day life, but it certainly reared its ugly head anytime there was a "debate", whether formal or informal. Talking with Christians who use this tactic, is a constant game of redirecting the conversation back to the fucking point.
Slippery Slope: Everything is a slippery slope in the Christian world. Everything is going to lead to death and destruction on a Satanic scale. Legalizing gay marriage will illegitimize "real" marriage and before you know it, people are going to start marrying their dogs and this will make bestiality okay, and bestiality is why God destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah, so God is going to destroy us if we legalize gay marriage. And it's crazy. Especially since the evidence usually doesn't stand up to it. And I get it, some things really are slippery slopes and I think it is human nature to think about the worst outcomes to situations, but that must be reigned in by logic. Is there already a precedence for gay marriage in other countries? Yes. What has been the outcome of the legalization? Have they descended into chaos? Are they marrying animals and fucking them in the streets? Did heterosexual marriages become illegal? And if you want to go down the religious road, doesn't the death of Christ on a cross atone for sins to the point where God no longer needs to strike down people with anger? Isn't Jesus the mediator now? Didn't God say he would save Sodom & Gomorrah if there was at least one righteous man? Don't you count as one righteous person? This is a tactic I use often now, turning their own slippery slope illogical arguments against them using their own holy book against them.
Straw Man: In this fallacy Christians will present an altered version of your argument in order to make it appear absurd. Then they tear apart this weaker argument and declare themselves the victor. I saw this one a lot when it came to evolution. Throughout my youth I was taught that evolution says we are descended from monkeys and isn't that ridiculous because otherwise how do we still have monkeys? I was even taught a song about it as a child. What I wasn't told is that this is ridiculous and no evolutionary biologist has ever said that we are descended from monkeys. It sounds ridiculous because it is. I become guarded whenever I am having a conversation and they say something like, "Well ALL liberals..." or "Atheists think..." and "ALL those people believe". Lumping all groups together, generalizing based on anecdotal experiences, and sometimes just making shit up. It's a logical fallacy that many people can fall into. I know I have had to catch myself. And I admit that this may be one of my favorite fallacy's because it is usually pretty easy to derail. "Well you know they say we are all descended from monkeys..." "What? No they don't. The evidence points to home sapiens and primates having a similar ancestor eons ago. We are not descended from monkeys. We have a common ancestor." Because most young earth creationists only know enough about evolution to sound stupid (as I once did), they rarely have a comeback. Mostly because that was all they knew about the subject.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.