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Begging the Question Fallacy

Religious Arguments


It's not uncommon to find religious arguments that commit the "Begging the Question" fallacy. This may be because the believers using these arguments are simply unfamiliar with basic logical fallacies, but an even more common reason may be that a person's commitment to the truth of their religious doctrines may prevent them from seeing that they are assuming the truth of what they are attempting to prove.

Here is an oft repeated example of a chain like we saw in example #4 above:

6. It says in the Bible that God exists. Since the Bible is God's word, and God never speaks falsely, then everything in the Bible must be true. So, God must exist.

Obviously, if the Bible is God's word, then God exists (or at least did exist at one time). However, because the speaker is also claiming that the Bible is God's word, the assumption is made that God exists in order to demonstrate that God exists. The example can be simplified to:

7. The Bible is true because God exists, and God exists because the Bible says so.

This is what is known as circular reasoning - the circle is also sometimes called "vicious" because of how it works.

Other examples, however, aren't quite so easy to spot because instead of assuming the conclusion, they are assuming a related but equally controversial premise to prove what is at question. For example:

8. The universe has a beginning. Every thing that has a beginning has a cause. Therefore, the universe has a cause called God.
9. We know God exists because we can see the perfect order of His Creation, an order which demonstrates supernatural intelligence in its design.
10. After years of ignoring God, people have a hard time realizing what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad.

Example #8 assumes (begs the question) two things: first, that the universe does indeed have a beginning and second, that all things that have a beginning have a cause. Both of these assumptions are at least as questionable as the point at hand: whether or not there is a god.

Example #9 is a common religious argument which begs the question in a slightly more subtle way. The conclusion, God exists, is based upon the premise that we can see intelligent design in the universe. But the existence of intelligent design itself assumes the existence of a designer - that is to say, a god. A person making such an argument must defend this premise before the argument can have any force.

Example #10 comes from our forum. In arguing that nonbelievers are not as moral as believers, it is assumed that a god exists and, more importantly, that a god is necessary for, or even relevant to, the establishment of norms of right and wrong. Because these assumptions are critical to the discussion at hand, the arguer is begging the question.

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