Some seasoned evangelists will be trained to a level that they will actually try and debate unbelievers. which is none too surprising as they are, first and foremost, orators and mouthpieces. However, they are known to use logical fallacies and those who are not sensitized to their tactics can be caught in their snares.
Let us look at the most common logical fallacies used by the common evangelical Christian, these can occur in no particular order.
Argumentum ad antiquitatem (the argument to antiquity or tradition).
This is the familiar argument that some policy, behavior, or practice is right or acceptable because "it's always been done that way." This is an extremely popular fallacy in debate rounds; for example, "Every great civilization in history has provided state subsidies for art and culture!" But that fact does not justify continuing the policy.
Examples: - "My dad believes it, he was a good man and it works fine for me." - "City Hall has always had the ten commandments here, it's tradition!!"
- "On the money, it says "In God we trust" for years, why should we remove it?"
Argumentum ad baculum (Latin: argument to the cudgel or appeal to the stick)
Also known as appeal to force, is an argument where force, coercion, or the threat of force, is given as a justification for a conclusion. It is a specific case of the negative form of an argument to the consequences.
Examples: - "God exists, because if you don't believe in Him you will go to Hell." - "Repent or burn!!" - "Please Accept Christ as your savior, we don't want you to go to Hell."
- "You my friend will face the very God that you deny! Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ and that includes you! Accept the truth before it is to late,Jesus Died for you and his blood will cleanse you from all sin. By faith in Christ."
Arguing from authority is when an individual uses the words of another to support his or her claim—perhaps pointing out that the person being cited has a Ph.D. to make him or her sound more credible.
Examples: "Dr. Seidle, a biologist, said of evolution: “Evolution is an impossible process at the macro level. That some kind of divine creativity was involved in our creation is indisputable."
Argumentum ad hominem (argument directed at the person)
This is the error of attacking the character or motives of a person who has stated an idea, rather than the idea itself. The most obvious example of this fallacy is when one debater maligns the character of another debater but this is actually not that common.
Examples: - "You wouldn’t understand the truth because you’re an atheist. Of course you think the way you do." - "Evolutionists believe everything goes!!"
Sui Ad Hominem (directed at itself)
An argument so ridiculously inept that it's an embarrassment to the one giving the argument. It's used by preachers as a feint or to get heat from a crowd.
Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance). This is the fallacy of assuming something is true simply because it hasn't been proven false.
Example: - "You can't prove God doesn't exist, so God exists."
Argumentum ad misericordiam (argument or appeal to pity)
The English translation pretty much says it all. The problem with such an argument is that no amount of special pleading can make the impossible possible, the false true, the expensive costless, etc.
- "Oh, and what about the risk they face when open air preaching? they can be shot, stabbed, beat up, spit upon...KILLED.... Etc, but they risk all that for the sake of the Gospel."
- " Please think of the children!!"
This fallacy occurs when an individual alters or presents the opposing position in a false light to make it easier to attack.
Examples: "Evolutionists say that life suddenly appeared from rocks by chance".
Argumentum ad nauseum (argument to the point of disgust; i.e., by repetition)
This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by saying it again and again. But no matter how many times you repeat something, it will not become any more or less true than it was in the first place. Of course, it is not a fallacy to state the truth again and again; what is fallacious is to expect the repetition alone to substitute for real arguments.
In the case of ad nauseum, You should expect it to take the form of many "factoids" that have been proven wrong over and over again, like many "Christian Urban Legends". Even though they have been debunked to death, you will hear it again and again.
Either . . . Or:
An either . . . or fallacy establishes a circumstance that does not allow for any other possibility than an “either . . . or” situation provided by the argument even when other possibilities exist.
Example: "There are true Christians and false conversions"
Argumentum ad populum (argument or appeal to the public)
This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by showing that the public agrees with you. For an example, see above. This fallacy is nearly identical to argumentum ad numerum, which you should see for more details.
Examples: "There are many people who believe the bible, how could we be wrong?"
Circulus in demonstrando (circular argument)
Circular argumentation occurs when someone uses what they are trying to prove as part of the proof of that thing.
Examples: "The bible is the inerrant word of God. It speaks of God, therefore God exists."
A false analogy is present any time similarities between objects or events (A) and (B) are assumed without proof, just because (A) and (B) are similar in some other way.
Example: "Communism and Atheism both lack the belief of gods and Communism is responsible for millions of deaths; therefore, atheism responsible for millions of deaths."
Nature, appeal to.
This is the fallacy of assuming that whatever is "natural" or consistent with "nature" (somehow defined) is good, or that whatever conflicts with nature is bad.
Examples: "Homosexuality is wrong because it goes against nature, God created the heavens and the earth, therefore homosexuality is wrong."
False Dichotomy or Excluded Middle:
This fallacy is similar to the either . . . or fallacy and may be hard to distinguish. False Dichotomy or Excluded Middle is when the extreme ends of a continuum with intermediate possibilities.
Example: "There is only good and bad in the world—there can be no lukewarm."
Non Sequitur ("It does not follow")
This is the simple fallacy of stating, as a conclusion, something that does not strictly follow from the premises.
Examples: "There is a god because the world has many beautiful and complex things to behold"
Petitio principii (begging the question)
This is the fallacy of assuming, when trying to prove something, what it is that you are trying prove.
Examples: "If there is a painting, then there is a painter, therefore if there is a creation, therefore there is a creator!".
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (AKA: Doubtful Cause):
This is a fallacy that occurs when a cause and effect relationship is erroneously assumed when an event happens and then another event happens. (Note: the Latin phrase Post hoc, ergo propter means “after this, because of this.”)
Examples: "School sponsored prayer was banned from schools; divorce rates and teen pregnancies went up; in other words, banning school sponsored prayer resulted in an increase in divorce rates and teen pregnancies."
Ignoratio elenchi (Red herring)
This means exactly what you think it means: introducing irrelevant facts or arguments to distract from the question at hand. This used alot by evangelists as a distraction. These will be especially emotionally charged in order to unbalance you.
Examples: "I should not pay a fine for preaching. There are actual dangerous criminals on the street, and the police should be chasing them instead of harassing a decent tax-paying citizen like me."
*Note: While preaching is protected under the first ammendment of the US constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights, most preacher who get arrested are not arrested because of their speech, but of harassment.
No true Scotsman: The convenient cop-out
No true Scotsman is a logical fallacy where the meaning of a term is ad hoc redefined to make a desired assertion about it true. It is a type of self-sealing argument.
One thing that many Atheists will encounter during discussions, debates and the unfortunate attempts at proselytizations is when a B.A.C. (Born Again Christian), faced with the horrors of what their faith has done in the past and even continue in the present, they will use this line;
"You see, those were not true Christians".
But there is a problem that occurs. It's a cop-out. Here's and example of how It can be explained:
A criminal phished a credit card number, That number was used to obtain a weapon that was involved in a crime spree and the remaining funds used to cover the escape of said felon. Normally, a credit card holder would be responsible enough to report said number as being stolen. Therefore not only avoiding arrest but also helping authorities apprehend said criminal.
Now, what if the credit card holder, was aware of his name and number being used to buy that weapon and these crimes are being committed, and when confronted by the police, merely said "That's not the real credit card holder, I am. But I was fully aware of this going on."
If you replace "Credit card number" with "Christianity" (Or any religion for that matter, but let us focus on Evangelicals). You will notice that there an almost criminal negligence done on the part of the average B.A.C. by being fully aware of what crimes have been done and are being done still in the name of the church, while NOTHING has been done on their part to report said stolen "Religious identity", save some lip-service.