Commonly used logical fallacies in religious ‘arguments’

May 9, 2008

So why do most religious arguments fail? Well most are either factually wrong (or outright lies) or else they are full of logical fallacies (usually both). Today I shall go through the most frequently used logical fallacies and show examples of them in a common religious argument. Mainly, I will summarize this video, adding in a few examples of my own. (Also thanks to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe)

Ad Hominem:

This is attacking the arguer, rather than his arguments. Christopher Hitches is an alcoholic, so his criticism of religion is invalid. Christians, in response to an argument, often quote Psalm 14:1; The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Huh? So what if I’m a fool, that does not address my argument!

Ad Ignorantiam:

This is saying that X is true, because we don’t know that X isn’t true. Scientists don’t know what caused the Big Bang (or how life could have arisen naturally on Earth) therefore goddidit.

Ad Populum:

This is saying that X is true, or has more credence, because many people agree with it. 90% of the world is religious… they can’t all be wrong, can they?

Argument From Authority:

Stating that X is true because a person or group of perceived authority say it is. Now don’t get confused… it is certainly reasonable to give more credence to those with appropriate credentials, but the truth of a claim should ultimately rest on evidence. C.S. Lewis was a Christian, therefore Christianity is true. The Bible says X is true, therefore X is true.

Confusing Association With Causation:

This is saying X is associated with Y, therefore X causes Y. Crime and atheism are both on the rise, therefore atheism causes crime.

False Dichotomy:

Saying that X is either X1 or X2 when really X is either X1 or X2 or …. Xn. In other words, saying that something has to be either this or that, when there are a number of other things it could be. Either creationism is true, or evolution is true.

Argument From Final Consequences:

A reversal of cause and effect; saying that something must be true because of the effect it causes. God must exist or else life would have no meaning.

Special Pleading (or Ad-hoc Reasoning):

Arbitrarily adding elements into your argument so that it appears valid. Dinosaurs lived with humans, but were wiped out in the global flood.


An argument that uses circular reasoning.

Personal Incredulity:

A creationist favorite. I don’t understand X, therefore X is false. I don’t understand how life could have arisen through chance, therefore goddidit.

False Reductio Ad Absurdium:

Now don’t get confused here. Formally “X implies Y and Y is false therefore X” is false is completely valid. The fallacy is usually made in “implies” part. You have not seen God, and are skeptical of His existence because of this. You also have not seen Julius Caesar, therefore you should be skeptical of his existence.

Moving The Goalposts:

Arbitrarily moving the criteria for proof out of range of what evidence can currently provide. Creationists tend to do this when they ask for an example of ‘macro evolution’. Since their whole ‘kinds’ premise is not well-defined, given any example they will say that’s just another ‘kind’, not macro evolution.

Slippery Slope:

Arguing that a position cannot be accepted because if it is accepted, so too must be the extreme of the position. We cannot allow gay marriage because it leads to polygamy and inter-species marriage!

Shifting The Burden Of Proof:

Leaving it to your opponent’s to disprove your case, instead of proving it yourself. You can’t prove God doesn’t exist!


Applying certain criteria to one belief, but not to another. An example is a Christian denouncing the Koran because of its violent content, while ignoring the violent content of the bible. Another example is how theists claim that God is needed to create intelligence, but that God doesn’t need a creator himself.

Tu Quoque:

An attempt to justify something wrong, because others do it too. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist!

Straw Man:

Mis characterizing a position so that it is easier to argue against. Evolution says we come from rocks! I’ve never seen a monkey turn into a human!


A logical connection is implied where non-exists. I can’t think of any common examples, and any example would probably be misrepresenting the common theist position. Nevertheless, you should notice when a non-sequitor comes up.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc:

A preceded B, therefore A caused B. I prayed to Jesus and took my medicine and I got better. Jesus cured me!

Appeal to Emotion/Pity/Consequences

Instead of addressing the argument, an appeal is made. I can’t imagine living my life without God watching my every move… that would be horrible! You don’t believe in God? I pity you! If I don’t believe in God, I’ll go to hell. That would be bad, therefore God exists.


Using the improper definition of terms. Evolution is just a theory.

To conclude, using a logical fallacy means your argument is wrong. Theists do it all the time! Learn to recognize it when they do!


2 Responses to “Commonly used logical fallacies in religious ‘arguments’”

  1. scaryreasoner said

    “So why do most religious arguments fail?”

    “Most?” Are you aware of any which do not fail?

    I am not.

    Over a period of several years, I have been looking for a religious argument which is not blatantly and extremely retarded. I’ve not found any. Not one.

  2. scaryreasoner said

    I should add, this is a nice list of failed arguments you’ve put together. Of these, the one I see the most frequently is appeal to consequences. “Atheism leads to nihilism,” etc.

    I do see Post hoc, ergo propter hoc quite a bit too though. Just today, I saw posts on wordpress arguing in this vein: “how else to explain the death toll from the cyclone in Burma, but that God is angry because of the political actions preceding the cyclone.”

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