The Church of Rationality

You can believe in whatever you want, but if you want to believe in the truth -- you must be rational.

  "In the absence of compelling reasons to believe, unbelief should be preferred."


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Common Fallacies Used to Defend a Belief in God

Fallacy: "from Latin fallcia, deceit ~ A statement or an argument based on a false or invalid inference. "

I have given names to most of the fallacies myself.  Any fallacy that does not fall within a traditional category is usually referred to as a Non sequitur. 

For a broad descriptions of various fallacies please click here

For a broad descriptions of fallacies as used in religion please click here.


Meaning #1: a deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone
Synonyms: sophism, sophistication


Fallacy of the Prime Mover

Aristotle and later St. Thomas Aquinas' Prime Mover argument


Everything requires a cause.

Causality could not have gone on forever.

Therefore, there must have been an uncaused first cause.

* Added assumption: Since everything we understand must have had a cause, the initial cause must be incomprehensible -- ergo, an incomprehensible prime mover taken to be God.

The logic above suggests that the premises must be true taken separately, but cannot be true taken together; therefore, the conclusion must be one of irrationality, something beyond our understanding.

Problem 1: While the argument may seem to lead to a prime mover, the main problem with this logic is that it's not true logic in that the conclusion invalidates the first premise, rendering it to not be a universal truth.  If we take both premises to be true, as we must for the argument to remain valid, we need to find a way to reconcile the two premises, rather than "qualify" one as not always being true. For both premises to remain true we must maintain that all things do indeed need a cause, and that there is no such thing as "forever."  Conclusion: Causality must cause itself in a perennial loop of finite time.  

Problem 2: Even if it were valid, It alone could never lead to the God of the Bible, but only lead to an incomprehensible beginning to the universe.  

Problem 3: The prime mover concept is contrary to free-will, original sin, and atonement; since any intelligent prime mover would have to be the knowing ultimate cause of all that occurs.

Problem 4: If the first cause is causeless, it must have always existed.  Therefore, the effect (being the universe) should have always existed as well.  The existence of the Big Bang actually opposes the notion of an uncaused first cause, rather than support it.   If on the the other hand, the universe had always co-existed with its eternal cause, then for all intents and purposes it would be eternal itself, and therefore would not need a cause; thus the prime mover concept creates a paradox in that if it actually exists, it would not be needed.  

Problem 5: No logical deduction can justly take us to a place of incomprehensibility.  Viewing the two premises as not being reconcilable automatically invalidates the argument, rendering any conclusion to not be sound.  Since this would always be the case in trying to prove irrational things, it becomes apparent there can be no logical argument that can lead to an irrational conclusion.  The two are mutually exclusive.  This is supported by the view that all logical arguments must "make progress" or be enlightening.  Going from "I don't know" to "It's impossible to understand" doesn't intellectually advance us, thus it cannot be a proper deduction.  And, going to "something that is impossible to understand" is committing the fallacy that one might call "appeal to imagination" -- where having an entity that cannot be explained, thus need not be explained, is accepted because it's emotionally satisfying. 

Adjusted Reasoning:

Everything rational requires a cause.

Causality could not have gone on forever.

Therefore, there must have been an irrational uncaused first cause.


As you see I'm trying to make this work to the best of my ability to try to get to the truth of the issue.

Yes, everything we understand does require a cause, and yes causality could not have gone on forever.  Those are both absolutely true statements.   But, "forever" is the misleading word here.  What this really tells us is that time itself is contingent upon something else, not that there was an irrational first cause.  Causality could go on infinitely as long as it is not subject to time.  It's only time that could not have gone on forever, not causality.  Something outside of time caused time to begin.  This may point to a cycle of the period of time that continues over and over.

The following is one of the most interesting discussions that I have ever run across concerning this issue, so I have taken the liberty of reposting it here:    

"Sean Golden (mail) (www):

The Cosmological Argument relies on some very ancient contradictory assumptions about the nature of the universe. Two of those contradictory assumptions are:

1. All events occur because of a previous cause.

2. No causal chain can be infinite.

Assumption 2 violates assumption 1. This fundamental contradiction has led to the formulation of the original concept of "First Cause" which has also been called the "Prime Mover," or by those with an agenda of their own, "God."

The fact that assumption 1 and 2 are mutually contradictory, yet are fundamental to the cosmological argument, should have suggested to the great thinkers that something was wrong with the foundation of the argument itself.

Quantum Physics has directly challenged the validity of assumption 1. Things happen in the quantum world all the time with no apparent "cause" at all. Every experiment we have done seems to tell us two philosophically disturbing things about the universe.

1. Quantum events follow the laws of probability, not the laws of causality.

2. Observation of a system actually changes the nature of the actions of the system.

Both of these experimentally observed "facts" call deeply into question the whole concept of "causal chains".

The second assumption, that no causal chain can be infinite, is already on weak ground due to the whole probability and subjective/objective duality that threatens the causal conditions in assumption 1. To put it another way, the longer a causal chain becomes, and the more it is observed, the further it is likely to diverge from any predetermined outcome, which is logically identical to saying the further our current universe would have diverged from any original "intent." The universe is not a billiard table with particles moving in predetermined paths forever based on some initial motive force. Quantum fluctuations over the immense time and distances of the cosmos make it impossible to predict the final outcome of any initial cause.

Or that is what science seems to be telling us.

For this reason the whole "Prime Mover" argument appears to me to be simply a fallacious argument based on centuries old assumptions about the nature of the universe that are not holding up to current experimental analysis.

The universe is fundamentally weird in ways we have not yet figured out. And we may never figure out. But to throw up my hands and say "heck, I can't figure it out, it must be God" seems to be logically equivalent to saying "heck, I can't figure it out, it must be an illusion." or "heck, I can't figure it out, it must be the Matrix."

I generally end up admitting that the evidence only takes me to the "heck, I can't figure it out" phase, and to form any conclusions from that seems unwise."


Fallacy of false equality

This is a fallacy where one falsely assumes equality in one's own and an opponent's argument. 


"I believe in God and you can’t disprove it.  You don’t believe in God, and I can’t prove it"  implying it's ok to believe in something as long as you can't disprove it, or that it is at least a draw, so it doesn't matter.  see "Appeal to ignorance" ~ Believing that something is true because the converse can't be proven.

This is false, since proof is the reason we believe in anything.   The burden of proof always lies upon the one making an assertion.  A fundamental axiom of logic is: "In the absence of compelling reasons to believe, unbelief should be preferred."  The fact is, is that if something cannot even in theory be disproven, then the claim itself cannot be considered valid.  Any claim must in theory be falsifiable.  Consequently, the claim that "you can't prove a negative" in reference to the support in the belief in God, is completely self-defeating: if you can't prove the negative position, then the positive position is rendered invalid.

Second Example:

"I believe in a religion and you say I shouldn’t because it’s based on faith.  However, you believe in strange and unproven things like a singularity that contains the whole universe, or the “String theory” of the universe that says there could be unlimited universes.  Your belief is no less of a religion than mine."

This is false, since believing in anything that’s based upon observation and prediction is far less hypothetical than believing in something because of faith only, no matter how strange it may seem.  Further, believing due to faith is not correctable, whereas scientific theories can be abandoned or modified to fit new date.  For example, the “Steady-State theory” of the universe has been abandoned because such a universe could not have produced some of the heavier elements.  Science is not claimed to be inerrant, but it is self-correcting; while religion IS felt to be inerrant, so if it actually isn’t we are doomed to being mislead by it for as long as we believe in it.

Burden of Proof used as a fallacy

This is a fallacy where one falsely assumes the burden of proof lies upon the "outsider," or the one going against the majority opinion.

Example 1:

"Most people believe in God, so it is up to atheists to disprove it."

"Most people believe there is life on other planets, so it is up to fundamental Christians to disprove it, since they often assert life on earth is God's special and unique creation."

While this may be true in practice, it is logically false.  Majority opinion is not a valid argument to support the acceptance of a belief.  The burden of proof always, logically speaking, lies upon the one making an assertion as to the existence of somethingCreationists must prove creation.  Evolutionists must prove evolution.  Astronomers must prove there is life on other planets. Theists must prove God.  However, atheists need not disprove God.   

Fallacy due to “Wanting to have your cake and eat it too,” or "Having it both ways."

This is a fallacy of where one instance of presumed evidence contradicts another, but the contradiction is ignored.


"There must be a God because the design of things is so complex, intelligence is required."

"There must be a God because there is no explanation of gravity, the nuclear force, etc.  Or, The whale's brain is much larger than a person's, but humans are much smarter than whales."

The first argument depends upon on things working according to great designs.

The second argument depends upon things working according to miracles.

You can’t have it both ways.  Miracles needed shows lack of design, and intelligent design would exclude miracles as being necessary.  Belief in one argument weakens the other argument as being evidence for God.

Fallacy due to "not being able to see the forest for the trees"

This is an age-old adage that tells us we often can't see the obvious when we get lost in the details.  Debaters sometimes like to get their opponents away from the obvious by use of complex details to cloud the issue.  The person may very well have clouded his own mind by doing this.


"Yes, Ok God made Adam and Eve, but that doesn't make him responsible; Adam and Eve were still responsible for their sin.  After all, we don't hold God responsible for the behavior of all people.  We punish the individual, not his parents.  We don't try to offend God in some way so as to punish him for the behavior of someone.  How could we ever punish anyone if it's all God's fault?  And anyway they had free-will to choose. ... "

The arguer has dragged his opponent off into the trees of confusion, where the forest as a whole can no longer be clearly seen.  One must now go through a lengthy discussion of trying to explain application of punishment in criminal law, how we relegate responsible in society, what relationship any god would have, what -- if anything -- "free-will" is ... .  Clearly, we need to accept the obvious first, and then just realize that while having all the other explanations might be interesting, there can never be an explanations contained in the more complex issues that will defeat the axiomatic reality of where we started -- in this case, that a product acts in accordance with how it is designed, so the designer is first and foremost responsible for how his design functions.  

Fallacy by assumed nullification through contradiction

This is a fallacy were evidence contrary to your belief is thought to be nullified by your own evidence.


"Stalactites can form in far less time than the millions of years that people believe.  The oldest living organism is a tree that is four-thousand years old.  The moon moves away from the earth at a rate of two-inches per year, so it can only be a few thousand years old at most.  Therefore, we have ample evidence to conclude that the universe was created just a few thousand years old, which must mean that the size of the universe being many billions of light-years across and requiring light to have had to take millions of years to reach earth must be wrong -- maybe God just makes it look that way."

No credible evidence can nullify any other credible evidence.  Any explanation must be formulated or modified so as to explain ALL the evidence. 

The true age of the earth is accurately calculated by examining radioactive decay in rocks:




An analogy is an inference that if things agree in some respects they probably agree in others.  One item is the source and one is the target.   

False analogy

A false or weak analogy is one where the source and the target do not have enough in common to make a valid comparison, thus there can be no logical transfer of characteristics from the source to the target.


"Believing in evolution is like believing you could put the parts of a watch in a box, shake it, and eventually get a watch out.

Watches and living things are so manifestly different all the way down to their constituent parts that no transfer of characteristics can be made from how a watch is made to how a living creature is made. 

Fallacy of using analogy as proof

No form of reasoning is valid as proof if the outcome of the reasoning is contained within the pretext of the reasoning - being circular logic: An valid argument must make progress.  An analogy cannot be used as proof because all analogies presuppose the outcome in what is being compared.  The most valid use of an analogy is to demonstrate something that is obviously true, but just difficult to understand.

"Dad, how does a rocket engine work?"  "Well, remember how when you let the air out of your balloon and it flew around the room?  It's the same idea."  "Thanks dad, now  I understand."  "No problem."

The analogy helps to simplify something that is known to be true, but difficult to understand.

Though an analogy can't advance an argument toward proof, it can validate through illumination; where the similarities between the source and target are in fact the only points in contention, making differences irrelevant. 


"Should the Ford Pinto be recalled because the door handles always beak?  Well, yes of course, the Ford Escort was recalled because it had the same problem with the exact same type of door handles."

"I believe that God created Adam and Eve and Adam and Eve were responsible for their own actions in disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit."   "Ok, I have a television here in the room.  If it fails to work properly, am I going to place the blame on the TV or the manufacturer?"    

In this analogy, any differences between people and a TV are of no significance because the relationship of maker to product in both source and target is the only thing in question.  So, what is true for one must be true of the other.  Here the circularity of the analogy structure is what makes the point: A maker of a product is responsible for the product because a maker of a product is responsible for the product.  Like in the example about the rocket engine, the analogy works because it makes something easier to understand, but unlike the previous example where a balloon and a rocket engine could work by somewhat different principles (after all, a rocket engine doesn't compress to squeeze the gasses out the back), the exact sameness here should compel one to transfer his view of who is responsible from the source to the target.  This kind of validating analogy is often used in law to show who must be held accountable in civil suits, by drawing an inescapable parallel.    

Fallacy due to limited perspective

This is a fallacy that occurs from only being able to view things as to how they relate to us.


"There must be a God because I have all the things I need to survive.  He gave me oxygen to breath, food to eat, water to drink … ."

This is a false assumption because if such things did not exist you would not be around to say otherwise.  Having any other view would constitute a paradox in that it would require those beings that have never come into existence to somehow exist to state an opposing view.  No matter what the situation, any living thing produced is going to think things are well designed for it.

Fallacy due to use of maxim structure

This is a fallacy that occurs by saying something in a way structured so as to make it appear as a valid maxim, where in fact there is no rationale to the statement. 


"In order to have a future you must have a past."

This sounds good, but there is actually no connection.  People with amnesia can have a future even if they have forgotten their past.  A past is just not a prerequisite for having a future.

"In order to have life you must give life."

This is sometimes used to try to explain how the sacrifice of Jesus has some connection to our redemption and attainment of everlasting life.  There is actually no logical connection between the parts of the sentence.  There is no reason to think that something has to die, so something else can live.

Fallacy due to use of inappropriate maxim.

"A design needs a designer."

True, a design is by definition something that is planned, so the statement has to be true.  The question is, "Are the structures we see in nature, designs?"  While an artist can plan an image of a sunset and paint his design, a sunset itself is not a design -- it occurs with no planning.  Not even a theist would say God actually designs sunsets.   Structures in nature are "patterns" not designs, and patterns are not contingent upon being designed, though can be.  Patterns are contingent upon repetition and variation, which is what natural forces can and do produce.  Virtually all the parts of an automobile are quite different in size and shape, and to a large degree material.  All the parts of a human are similar -- We are made up of trillions of similar cells that just have variation.  All living things show striking patterns of similarity, while manufactured objects do not.           

Fallacy due to use of vague word

This is a fallacy due to the belief that within the meaning of a vague word there is an explanation that can defeat an otherwise illogical concept.

Such words include: "free will" and "providence" 


"Humans are responsible for their actions because we have free will."

In behavioral psychology and deterministic theory, every action must have a cause dependant upon antecedent factors which would place the true blame for all behavior, including undesirable behavior, upon many factors in a person's life.  This is rationally true, but in order to defeat this reality, the term "free-will" is often employed to make it still seem that all behavior is just de facto the responsibility of the individual, thus shielding God -- the designer and maker -- from responsibility.

"God rules us by providence."

In rational thought, God must have understandable reasons for making decisions.  However, God appears to function irrationally much of the time, such as by not intervening to stop horrific events, or what may seem to be an inexplicable welcomed intervention -- "The tornado skipped over our house!"  In order to explain God not acting in accordance with what logic would dictate, the term "providence" is often use.



The Granddaddy of them all ~ "Rationalizing"

We rationalize when we inauthentically offer reasons to support our claim -- Giving false reasons for doing or believing in something, rather than the real reason.  This is different than just lying, in that the rationalizer also lies to himself.  He convinces himself the lie is true.


"Why should I stop smoking?  I could just step off the curb tomorrow and get ran over by a bus anyway."

Obviously, one should try to limit all dangers to one's life.  Saying it is ok to allow one danger because another danger exists only makes the total threat worse.  The person isn't continuing to smoke because he really thinks he might get hit by a bus.  He is continuing because he's addicted and doesn't want to admit it.

"The reasons why people don't want to believe in god is because they don't want to be held accountable to him."

This is classic rationalizing.  It just ignores what is obviously the real reason for not believing in God, being that the concept is one of a supernatural being, and that anyone should be skeptical of something that is supernatural; and substitutes in a far less likely, but far more  accommodating reason.

The term "rationalizing" is often extended in common language to any use of fallacy, and particularly where people defend a belief by making up scenario, or slanting evidence (though technically these are the fallacies of "Ad Hoc Rescue" and "Slanting."  Once the realm of reality is left by assuming what has not been proven, to be actually true; it becomes impossible to validly surmise more details centered around the belief or objectively examine evidence.    



"I prayed and prayed, but it didn't work!"  "Well, maybe you weren't sincere enough."

This is Ad Hoc Rescue where the proposing of an explanation is done for the express purpose of rescuing the initial belief.   

"In Matthew it says Judas hanged himself, and in Acts it says he fell head-long into a field and his guts burst out.  Well, what really happened is that after he hanged himself his body decayed and eventually the rope broke and his decayed corpse fell onto a rock causing his insides to burst out."

This is unbelievably exactly what Christians say and is a grand example of Ad Hoc Rescue.  There is nothing in either account that even hints at a body decaying, a rope breaking, or a corpse falling onto a rock.  All these extra details are just completely made-up in an attempt to make the contradiction go away -- but still fails to explain how he could have fallen "head-long" into the field.  The details are added for the express purpose of rescuing the initial belief that everything in the Bible must be true. 

"No one can escape from hell.  Since nothing can escape from a black hole, then maybe that's where hell is."

Since no one has proven Hell to factually exist, it becomes absurd to try to figure out where it might be located.  One just delves deeper into illogical thought.  The rationalizer is really just using the idea of a black hole as a way of making it seem more plausible that hell could actually exist.

"Maybe God helped Noah get the animals on the ark."

Since we haven't proven an ark even existed, we can't begin to surmise how Noah got the animals on it.  Imagining God helped is just done to try to make the story plausible and another example of Ad Hoc Rescue.

"Since God would have known that Adam and Eve would sin, he must have turned off his power to know the future." 

Since there is no real proof the story is even true, we cannot go further in assuming that God turned his power off.  Again, this is Ad Hoc Rescue because the only reason one would believe that God turned off his power is to try to make the story plausible -- there is nothing contained within the story that remotely hints that God ceased being omniscient.

"I know that the universe is billions of light years across, so it appears to be billions of years old, but God probably just made it that way to begin with.  After all, if I made a botanical garden I wouldn't  just start by planting the seeds, I'd get grown plants, and put it all together in working order for people to enjoy from the beginning."

This goes beyond slanting the evidence, it is simply ignoring the evidence and going the extra mile in using Ad Hoc Rescue.  If evidence can't be depended upon, then why seek-out evidence at all?  If the scenario proposed were true, then no evidence pertaining to anything would be reliable.

The list here could go on forever.  ....... One can simply not be committed to a belief in something first and then go about finding the proof -- the evidence MUST come first. 

For theists or Christians who do not believe they are rationalizing, just try this experiment.  Imagine that any fairy tail of your choosing is factually true, and then embark upon your same rational for defending it as you do in your religious beliefs.  It will be just as easy.  Cinderella, Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty would be a good place to start.   If you believe the story is true, then you can rationalize every part of it.  Example:  "We know that castles exist, and just last week I read about how someone was put into an induced coma by doctors.  The Bible also tells me there are witches.  There's really no reason to believe that Sleeping Beauty couldn't have been put to sleep for a long time by a wicked witch.   We also know that stem cells can produce any number of types of tissues, so naturally a frog could turn into a prince, and anyway you can't disprove it ...  ."  

Rationalizers come back to reality.  Reality will set you free.