Here's my response to this week's challenge:
This week’s challenge is from a post titled, “The Horrible Truth about Religion.”
It says, “Worshiping gods is futile and is nothing more than an ancient practice by weak-minded and superstitious people. It has no place in the 21st century. The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world, not to spend our entire lives studying an old book looking up to the sky and worshiping an invisible ruler in another realm.”
If I wrote a textbook on logical fallacies, or mistakes in thinking, I would include this challenge at the beginning of that textbook because it is a perfect example of mistakes in thinking. There are a number of different fallacies all wrapped up in one paragraph, like a banquet of fallacies.
Let’s go with the food metaphor. First, the appetizer. This challenge commits an ad hominem fallacy. An ad hominem fallacy occurs when a person attacks another person or their character rather than the argument itself. In this example, the person calls people who believe in God weak-minded or superstitious. This is no different than when you were in elementary school and someone at recess called you ugly and said your mother dresses you funny. Its just name-calling. It may be the people who believe in God are weak-minded, but whether God exists or not has nothing to do with whether his followers are weak-minded. They could be entirely buffoons, and it wouldn’t change whether God exists or not.
It reminds me of the 20th century writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard. He used to say, “When you can’t answer a man’s argument, all is not lost. You can still call him vile names.” The point he’s making is that often times when people don’t have a substantive argument to offer against another person’s view, they simply resort to name-calling, and that’s precisely what’s going on in this example.
It makes me wonder what the person who wrote this challenge would think of the following list of people who all believe in God. For example, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin, Copernicus, Galileo, and Francis Collins (who used to head up the Human Genome Project) were or are believers in God, so are you going to call these people weak-minded? It seems like a stretch.
That’s the appetizer, how about the salad? The second problem that occurs in this particular challenge is that it commits what’s called a straw man fallacy. It’s where you take a person’s view point and you misrepresent or mischaracterize it in such a way that it’s a lot easier to attack than the actual argument that the person holds. This is precisely what this challenge does. It takes our view and mischaracterizes it as simply primitive people, looking to the sky, and believing in rulers that exist in another realm –almost as if we believe in Thor.
Of course, this is not the Christian theistic position. The theistic position is that we have philosophical, scientific, and theological arguments for our view. We have substantive reasons that have been thought out for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years. This challenge does not engage those arguments at all.
It is possible that our arguments are mistaken. It is possible that we’ve made some missteps in thinking. However, you can’t simply dismiss our view or mischaracterize it in such a way where it’s a lot easier to attack, and ignore the arguments that we’ve offered for a long time. This challenge misrepresents our view and then attacks a view that we don’t really hold.
Now for the main course. This challenge begs the question. To put it another way, it assumes what it’s trying to prove. Allegedly, the point of this challenge is to say that worshiping gods is futile because God doesn’t exist. However, that would only be true if God actually doesn’t exist. Notice, that’s not proven here. There’s no evidence given for that claim. It’s simply assumed to be true. It first needs to be demonstrated that God actually doesn’t exist before it makes any sense to say that it’s futile to worship gods.
This challenge isn’t an argument at all. It’s merely a string of assertions. Every one has assertions and opinions, but it’s an entirely different case to make a substantive argument in favor of those opinions. This challenge doesn’t do that. Instead, it assumes what it’s trying to prove without offering any arguments for the claim that God doesn’t actually exist.
For the dessert, let me make one final comment. There’s a sentence in this challenge that’s rather peculiar to me. It says, “The reason for life in this world is to experience life in this world.” Besides sounding profoundly unsatisfactory, I’m curious, where do they get their reason for life in this world if there’s no god, and we just evolved from stardust? If we have no soul, and when we die we are going to enter into a state of unconsciousness for all eternity in the future, then where do they get the meaning of life? It makes no sense, and I suggest they only have three options.
The first option is to say there actually is no meaning to life. The second option is to say that we’ll just assert that there is a meaning to life. We’ll just invent a meaning to life, but in reality there actually isn’t one. This is simply a placebo. They’re just saying there’s a meaning to life when there actually isn’t. The third option is to borrow the meaning of life from some other worldview, namely the Christian theistic worldview which believes that life is pregnant with meaning and that all sorts of things that we do have purpose.
Bottom line is that this challenge fails because it is simply a series or a string of assertions with no evidence or reasons to back it up. At least we can give it props for giving us examples of a number of different logical fallacies all wrapped up into one paragraph.