Friday, October 1, 2010

Circular Arguments

The single most common logical mistake one encounters in arguments offered by believers is the use of circular logic.  They usually don't realize that they are using circular logic because it has been ingrained in them since infancy.  They take as a basic, given assumption that god exists.  They assume this on the same deep level that they assume their own parents exist, that gravity works, etc.  They are not even aware that they are implicitly making the assumption because to them, it's not an assumption.  They think it is a basic "fact".

I have previously mentioned Guy P. Harrison's wonderful book, "50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God."  A quick perusal of the table of contents will reveal almost every argument a non-believer has ever heard, and many of them suffer from the logical fallacy of circularity in one way or another.  The arguments that are primarily circular are:

"My god is obvious",
"Our world is too beautiful to be an accident",
"My god created the universe",
"Better safe than sorry",
"A sacred book proves my god is real",
"Divine justice proves my god is real",
"My god answers prayers",
"I would rather worship my god than the devil",
"My god heals sick people",
"My god made the human body",
"My god sacrificed his only son for me",
"I don't want to go to hell",
"My god changes lives",
"Intelligent design proves my god is real",
"The end is near".

When you hear any of these, you can simply point out that the person has assumed that god exists in order to prove that god exists and thus the argument is circular.

Of course, you will hear variations of these as well, such as "you know, if it weren't for god, we wouldn't have anything".  Such variations can sometimes be even easier targets, such as this one, to which one might reply, "So, children who are naked and starving to death in third world countries must prove that god doesn't exist".  But, if you use that tack, I can guarantee that it won't sink in unless you explain that you are simply using the same reasoning that they were using.  They already have programmed answers to such questions, answers that they will spout without even thinking about what you said.  (Theologians even have a name for their efforts to "understand" and "explain" the existence of evil and injustice in the world.  They call it "Theodicy".  Not to be confused with "the idiocy", which is my opinion of it.)

As I have pointed out previously the "My god created the universe" argument also suffers from secondary circularity, in that the believer has to borrow from the conclusion during the course of laying out his argument in order to avoid contradictions:

First, the believer is assuming that god is the only possible explanation.

Second, he assumes that god exists in order to assume that god has special characteristics in order to avoid the problem of explaining where god came from  (because god's unexplained existence contradicts his assumption that nothing can exist without being created).

No comments:

Post a Comment