I went to bed last night thinking about how much my dislike for some preachers has grown. I can’t stand some of the conservative ones who speak with as many fallacies as they have sentences. On the other side of the spectrum, I gotta get rid of so much fluff to get something decent. It’s depressing and downright ridiculous.
I woke up wanting to write about it. See, writing helps me. But it’s Sabbath, I thought. I am tired of being tired about every religious thing that happens around me. That is not the point of Sabbath or Christianity. The more I write about this, the angrier I’ll get. If I want to write about these subjects (believe me, I do) I will have to find time to do it during the week.
I don’t have a plan B for today, so I will briefly talk about something that bothers me: fallacies. We see them all the time in political discussions, but it is even sadder and more hurtful when present in our religious conversations.
For brevity’s sake, let me list some fallacies which I’m sure you’ve encountered in our discussions of music, women’s ordination, homosexuality (orientation), same-sex relationships, and whatever the pope does (source is linked above).
- Hasty generalization: making assumptions about a whole group or range of cases based on a sample that is inadequate (usually because it is atypical or too small).
- Post Hoc: assuming that because B comes after A, A caused B.
- Slippery Slope: The arguer claims that a sort of chain reaction, usually ending in some dire consequence, will take place, but there’s really not enough evidence for that assumption. The arguer asserts that if we take even one step onto the “slippery slope,” we will end up sliding all the way to the bottom; he or she assumes we can’t stop partway down the hill.
- Ad hominem: the arguer attacks his or her opponent instead of the opponent’s argument.
- Straw man: the arguer sets up a weak version of the opponent’s position and tries to score points by knocking it down.
- Red herring: partway through an argument, the arguer goes off on a tangent, raising a side issue that distracts the audience from what’s really at stake. Often, the arguer never returns to the original issue.
- False dichotomy: the arguer sets up the situation so it looks like there are only two choices. The arguer then eliminates one of the choices, so it seems that we are left with only one option: the one the arguer wanted us to pick in the first place. But often there are really many different options, not just two.
There is not only a problem with our rhetoric when we employ fallacies. Our love also suffers. As Christians, we need to be extra careful in not using these fallacies just because it makes us sound “cool.” In reality, it is lazy thinking that delivers a weak argument, fueling discussion that should get us somewhere. Instead, we just drive each other apart until we actually create a dichotomy that was once false.
We can agree to disagree, but let’s do it in love. The fallacies in our discussions do not show God’s love. They do not show a people so different from the rest of the world that others can’t help but wonder how we can have loving, sound conversations.