Atheist fallacies (installment #1)
“Believing in God is like believing in the Easter Bunny, fairies, goblins, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster!”
Such claims are extremely abundant on the internet, and in books by atheist science popularizers such as Richard Dawkins. But to be an effective critical thinker, one must learn to quickly spot logical fallacies, such as the two glaring fallacies which claims such as the above commit.
When a person compares belief in God to belief in goblins (etc), he is really just expressing his beliefs in a forceful manner which does not present any logical argumentation. It is important to first realize that every disbelief or skeptical stance is really just an alternate belief. For example, one can only doubt that life is the result of intelligent causes from the vantage point of belief that life is the result of unintelligent causes. There is simply no way around this. Period.
As a Christian, I am a deeply skeptical non-believer in atheist claims that life is the result of unintelligent natural causes. I explain some of the logical reasons for my disbelief in posts such as The Case for God is not a Case of the God of the Gaps and Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God.
But it would be patently fallacious for me to express my disbelief by comparing atheists who believe as such to believers in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Doing so would commit the two following logical fallacies, as excerpted from the following posts:
The popular fallacy of doubting or rejecting a novel claim or argument out of hand simply because it appears superficially “incredible,” “insane” or “crazy,” or because it goes against one’s own personal beliefs, prior experience or ideology. This cynical fallacy falsely elevates the saying popularized by Carl Sagan, that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” to an absolute law of logic. The common, popular-level form of this fallacy is dismissing surprising, extraordinary or unfamiliar arguments and evidence with a wave of the hand, a shake of the head, and a mutter of “that’s crazy!”
Appeal to Ridicule (reductio ad ridiculum)
(also known as: appeal to mockery, the horse laugh)
Presenting the argument in such a way that makes the argument look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or the use of exaggeration.
Person 1 claims that X is true.
Person 2 makes X look ridiculous, by misrepresenting X.
Therefore, X is false.
It takes faith to believe in God just like it takes faith to believe in the Easter Bunny — but at least the Easter Bunny is based on a creature that actually exists!
Comparing the belief in God to belief in the Easter Bunny is an attempt at ridicule and not a good argument. In fact, this type of fallacy usually shows desperation in the one committing the fallacy.
Again, an atheist who compares belief in God to belief in goblins (etc.) is merely expressing his beliefs in a forceful manner. But merely assuming one’s beliefs to be true without providing any logical argumentation is meaningless and fallacious. Cultural and other experiential factors place limitations on the usefulness of beliefs which have not been logically vetted, but rather, have been passively and uncritically accepted. As an illustration, Craig Keener references a story about a king of Siam, in his book Miracles.
Because the king lived in a tropical region, before the advent of mass communication and rapid transit, his perceptual framework did not allow for the possibility of frozen rivers. Hearing from Dutch visitors about riding horses on top of rivers that became so cold that they became hard like stone, this ruler “knew that the men were liars.” The king’s inference was a logical one based on the reality with which he was familiar, as Keener notes. But one must not confuse reality itself with the reality with which one is familiar. If the King of Siam had compared the Dutch visitors’ belief in frozen rivers to belief in fairies or goblins, he would have been guilty of the two above mentioned logical fallacies.