In my recent video, I discussed the genetic fallacy which you can find (here). Here’s the transcript. If you want to check out the actual video make sure u check out the link above.
One of the most common arguments against Christianity that I come across is undoubtedly the idea that “you’re only Christian because you were born that way”. You grew up in a Christian environment, a Christian family or you grew up in America something along those lines.
While this line of reasoning does sound rather reasonable at first glance, there are actually multiple flaws with this reasoning. So in this video, I will be discussing this criticism and demonstrating why atheists should stop using it in discussions. If you’re interested in this, make sure you watch till the end and I hope you enjoy it.
Before we start picking apart this argument, I would like to show you a video made by the youtube channel Closer to Truth in an interview with Micheal Shermer, an atheist, who I think provides a very good example of a genetic fallacy.
As you can see, Shermer says that the chances of theism being true, given the variety of religions and the “country” determined nature of religious faith, is very low. Now we got our argument in front of us, let us point out a few flaws.
The main flaw of this argument is that it is guilty of a logical fallacy named the “genetic fallacy”. Unlike common expectations, this argument has nothing to do with genes or science. Instead, this is the idea that it is logically fallacious to argue against a viewpoint due to its origins and history.
To demonstrate this fallacious nature, I would like to use another well known fallacy as an analogy. This fallacy is none other than the ad hominem fallacy, the attack against the person instead of their claims.
An ad hominem fallacy would go like follows. “How can a rapist say that murder is wrong? Surely a rapist is so morally depraved that they have no ideas on morals!” Of course, this is rather extreme, but it serves the point. The truth of a statement is independent from the person raising it. A bad person can say correct things and a good person can say wrong things.
In the same way, the truth of a statement should also be independent from the history/ origins of the claim.
Another way to illustrate the fallacy of the genetic fallacy is by looking at its structure. Since the general format is “it’s only because you lived/ grew up in x that you believe in y, hence belief y is wrong”, I feel that a few examples would do the trick to undermine its strength.
It’s only because you lived/grew up in modern times that you believe racism is wrong, hence racism is not wrong.
It’s only because you lived/ grown up in modern times that you believe that atheism is true, hence, atheism is false.
It’s only because you lived/ grown up in a Communist society that you believe communism is good, hence, communism is bad.
As you can see, all these three lines of reasoning are clearly unsound. Instead of discussing the proposition in question, the person guilty of the genetic fallacy just attacks the origins of the belief, leaving the arguments for the proposition very much uncontended.
Hence, we can conclude that it is demonstrably fallacious to argue from the fact that one was born in a Christian country to the idea that Christianity is false.
But let us take a deeper look into Shermer’s argument. He also raises the idea about multiple religions and multiple gods. It appears that he is arguing for the falsity of an object due to the numerous contradictory objects in the same set.
Well this reasoning is, of course, quite problematic. Let us say that there are ten thousand objects in a set, each of these representing one of the religions that Shermer is referring to, what is the most we can say?
I think the only logical thing we can say is that there are a lot of objects in the set and nothing else. I fail to see how the number of objects in the set leads to one of the objects in the set being false.
A good way to illustrate this would be “possible world” theory. This is the idea that there are various “worlds” which represent other possible states of affairs. These worlds are not to be confused with “multiverses”, they should just be seen as other ways the world could have been.
Now with this in mind, we soon realise that there are many possible worlds, way more than ten thousand, more like a few billion. Think of how many variations the world could have been.
Perhaps you grew 1 more strand of hair or perhaps ate one less pizza slice for dinner, all of these would branch off into their own possible worlds.
Despite this large set of possible worlds, it doesn’t follow that our world, a possible world, does not exist or is false. In the same way, it is clear that just the size of the set of religions would not impact the truth of any individual religion.
From these two analyses, we can safely say that this argument against theism or Christianity is wanting. One should not use it in a discussion and if you come across it, you should be confident in replying to it. Like always, if you disagree with anything I say, or really like what I am doing, make sure you comment on it below.
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