Categories
On Debating

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance and stupidity.

A variant of a quote by Robert J. Hanlon.

This is an issue I have wanted to discuss for a long time. I have seen it used all the time in apologetics circles. Obviously, among the worst instances I have experienced has been from atheists—but also theists, Christians, and even Catholics have at times acted in ways antithetical to Christianity. However, there are other issues, I might note, for which people do it, including trivialities such as fandoms, I have noted, because the internet appears to be a place for people who are guilty of this to congregate unfortunately (and do and say worse things). 

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the sin of rash judgment is when one “even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor.” (CCC 2477) This is why I am entirely against, on religious grounds, accusing people without reasonable proof of intellectual dishonesty. What I mean by this is that very often when I say, “I think this miracle seems very convincing, enough so that it appears to me that the supernatural must exist for this reason alone”, I often receive, rather than an actual intellectual rebuttal, the response of something to the effect of “Actually, no, you are lying because you want God to exist.”  Now, obviously, if I were just being intellectually dishonest in order to prop up a false belief that God is real, that would be wrong of me, and if that fact were known, I ought to be condemned. However, on this very account, what my interlocutor is doing is harming me by assuming evil of me without evidence, as, seeing that even if I were wrong, it could easily be explained by me just not knowing a lot or being severely intellectually impaired (I do not think I am, but that would be the more charitable interpretation). So if someone says something that seems ridiculous to you, still respond with kindness and try to understand your interlocutor’s views. Typically, in my experience, if your interlocutor’s views seem absolutely ridiculous, chances are the reason for this is that you do not actually understand those views.

Further, even if one disregards the moral perspective, even from a rhetorical perspective, it is a fallacy which C. S. Lewis calls bulverism, which is basically a combination of circular reasoning, the genetic fallacy, and presumption. Other than that it proves nothing because anyone who does this is already presuming that he or she is right, which does nothing for productive discourse, in my mind it actually discredits the one who is making the argument.  Think about it this way: if your opponent’s arguments really made as little sense as you say, why can you not rationally debunk them? By committing the fallacy of bulverism, you are rather revealing your own incompetence in that area.

I think it is used as much as it is because, although logically and rhetorically, it is ineffective and useless, from a human and emotional perspective, it is incredibly effective. If a debater is unaware what the technique is, he may be confused and not know how to respond. Further, those who struggle with the sin of pride (a thing with which I think we have all struggled to some degree as it is the primordial vice), it may offend us, making it harder for us to argue rationally. To put it another way, it evades the question while, if applied carefully, making the opponent look like an idiot rather than doing it to one’s self.

If you are arguing with someone who implements the fallacy of bulverism, I suggest you say something akin to, “Well, if what I am saying is as ridiculous as you claim, then you shall have no trouble explaining to me why I am wrong.” If you find yourself guilty of it, try to avoid it in the future.

Bonum Certamen Certemus
I am the Chivalric Apologist

Advertisement
Categories
On Debating

Sedevacantism Debate: Dimond vs. Cassman Debate (Review)

Above is the debate in question

A few weeks ago, Matt Fradd invited two gentlemen by the names of Jeff Cassman and Br. Peter Dimond onto his show, Pints with Aquinas for a debate on sedevacantism. The full video can be found here. Now, the reason I am bringing this up is because several people seemed to be of the opinion that Br. Peter Dimond, the sedevacantist, had definitively won. Apparently, some commenters even asked Mr Fradd to delete his video (he responds to that request here). I was actually not of the opinion that Dimond did win. The two men seemed on rather even ground to me, and many of Dimond’s apparent success seemed to stem more from good rhetoric which masked some rather apparent problems with how he was going about the debate—no disrespect meant to Brother Dimond, of course.

Now, I am not going to do a point-by-point rebuttal. Others have already done that, such as Trent Horn, Michael Lofton, and others. I admit it is somewhat odd that Mr. Fradd chose Cassman to debate, since he is in SSPX—to the best of my knowledge, SSPX is not in formal schism, but it is in an awkward position in the Church. This may have effected why many faithful Catholics were concerned that Dimond had definitively won. That said, I think Cassman did fairly well, even if I did not agree with everything he said. I understand how it would be difficult to respond to Dimond’s tricky rhetoric.

None of this is to accuse Dimond of doing anything deliberately. I found him much more charitable than I expected, considering his website, for which reason I was pleasantly surprised. He excessively uses all-caps, which, according to the text convention, is typically considered shouting, but he himself seems to be a reserved individual in person. Perhaps I misunderstood his intention in writing. This is why I prefer proper grammar and capitalization rules…

Anyway, I would like to point out one particular flaw I saw in Brother Dimond’s argument, which likely led people to assume that he had done better. It might help anyone who is interested in apologetics to know what not to do or how to respond to someone who does. Brother Dimond prefers what Trent Horn, in his rebuttal, calls a Gish gallop. The term was coined in 1994 by the anthropologist Eugenie Scott, who named it after American creationist Duane Gish who allegedly used the technique frequently when challenging the scientific fact of evolution. It is basically a  rhetorical technique in which a debater attempts to overwhelm his opponent by providing an excessive number of arguments with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. The reason this is a problem that it is much easier to state an argument for an idea than to refute it. Hence, in a timed debate, there is little time to respond to all of it.

I thought, whether intentionally or not, Dimond did this several times, but the part that annoyed me the most was in Dimond’s second cross-examination of Cassman, beginning at 1:03:48. What happens here is that Dimond lists things Popes have allegedly said and asks Cassman. It basically goes under this formula:

Dimond: "Do you agree with the teaching of [insert post-Vatican II Pope] that [insert heretical or dangerously scandalous statement with no context]?
Cassman: "No."

This goes on repeat for far longer than it should until my basic reaction was: “Okay, Brother Dimond, you’ve made your point. Can you move on now?” You can see the full interaction from the link posted above.

Nevertheless, I see why someone would say this made it look like Dimond won. However, I would say this was actually very detrimental to his case and it reminded me of a skilled rhetorician who knows he is in a losing battle and is lengthening out his arguments in a desperate attempt to make himself sound right. In other words, I was unconvinced.

Of course, Cassman had to say he disagreed with the statements Dimond gave with no context. He can assume they are being misused, but unless he knows the details of every single statement a Pope made, he cannot respond to any of them. Hence, for most of these questions, Cassman can only say no. There are, moreover, a few times when Cassman does say that he thinks that, depending on the context, the statements Dimond attributes to the Popes could be justified with Church doctrine and rather than going into depth, Br. Dimond seems to mostly brush them off, saying they cannot be justified and moving on to his next objection, which is why I found this whole debate so frustrating.

What I think Cassman should have said (charitably, of course) is something like: “Brother Dimond, I understand your point, but you are asking a lot of things out of context, so could we please just focus on the strongest few of your objections?”

So how would I have gone about this argument? I feel the need to go Devil’s Advocate and explain how I would structure my own defense of sedevacantism, provided I were, of course, a sedevacantist and very convinced of my sedevacantist position. This is what I would do.

  1. I would argue how there could never be a Pope who was a manifest heretic from Church doctrine and Canon Law.
  2. I would name two or three of the strongest and most obvious heresies I believed to exist in Vatican II and argue that they cannot be justified with the previous teachings of the Magisterium.
  3. I would name two or three of the strongest and most obvious heresies I believed to be stated by “antipopes” and argue that they cannot be justified with the previous teachings of the Magisterium.

If he confined himself to two or three of the strongest arguments, I think that should give his opponent more time to give counterarguments and, if sedevacantism is true, he might refute those, making his stance much more believable—or else why else would he have a debate?

Bonum Certamen Certemus
I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Debating

We Need to Talk About Miracles

Relatively recently, I ended up in a conversation with an atheistic commenter. It started out decently (though not great), but eventually, the topic of miracles arose. I typically do not appeal to miracle claims very often, partially because I fear my opponent might not be as familiar with specific historical details but I expect them to be able to keep up with philosophy if they are going to debate about religion, and partially because I think more people will be willing to be convinced by miracle claims once they accept the logic of God’s existence. That said, I think miracle claims are good evidence for God’s existence. An obvious example is the Resurrection of Christ. Another example I like is the Miracle of Fátima. Obviously, no Catholic is bound to believe it, but I do think that it is nigh on impossible to look at those events with an honest and open mind and not say that a supernatural power was involved.

The reason I am writing a post about it is that sometimes when a theist brings up a miracle claim, the atheist dismisses it out of hand. This particular atheist seemed very displeased and had a rather emotional reaction. Part of me understands that. I would probably be incredulous, at least initially, if, say, someone claimed a credible witness of an alien. Nevertheless, I would at least let my opponent say his or her piece. I would like to introduce a concept known as Chesterton’s Fence, which is basically a principle that says change should not be made until the reasoning behind the current state of affairs is understood. This is how Chesterton himself described it:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton. United States: Ignatius Press, 1986, p. 157.

Now, this is not precisely what happens in the case of miracles, but I think a similar reasoning can be employed here. You should not assume that your opponent is in the wrong without examining that person’s side. It is the greatest mistake of any thinker to assume one’s self to be wrong without first examining the other side. Imagining one knows more than he actually does is the greatest philosopher’s pride into which any philosopher should avoid. He who thinks he knows everything is the most foolish person of all. To quote Socrates, “Although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is, for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.” (The Apology)

There is an informal fallacy in logic known as the argument from incredulity that asserts that a proposition must be false because it contradicts one’s personal expectations or beliefs, or is difficult to imagine. I am not saying everyone who reacts this way to a miracle claim does this deliberately, but take care you do not. Beware, lest your personal preconceived notion of reality blind you against the actual truth.

Bonum Certamen Certemus
I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Debating

I Banned a Commenter From My Blog Today…

This was a hard choice for me and I hope I did the right thing. Banning is something I rarely do. As a matter of fact, it is the first time I have done this. I myself have been banned for no apparent reason other than disagreeing with people from many blogs. Since this person seems to be present to somehow comment on every post I do on atheism (even if she is not a technical follower, which I find vaguely creepy), I imagine said person will also find this post, somehow or other. Anyone who has been looking at the comments to my articles for some time probably knows who it is. For the sake of my own accountability, I feel the need to explain myself.

Now, I wish this blog to be a place of civil dialogue and discussion. For this reason, I am open to non-Catholics commenting so that we can discuss in a mature and charitable manner. This is why I banned said person: she is uncharitable and uncivil. I was prepared for this and resolved to ignore her, but then she also started engaging my less-prepared followers in an equally insolent manner. To this, I felt I could not stand. Many times, I even pointed out to her her problems, to which she generally responded not in an apology or even in a denial, but in a justification of always being rude, usually claiming that either it would not help (in spite of the fact that she did not try) and that she refuses to respect Christians for the sake of being human because Christianity has allegedly brought too much evil into the world (although I might point out that compared to Lenin and Stalin, two firm atheists, we do not look so bad). I also, by the way, try not to be uncharitable to a Nazi or Marxist commenter either, even if their viewpoints did bring much evil into the world. I suppose I cannot evoke higher authorities to an atheist, as I can with any non-Catholic theist. However, aside from the moral aspect of what she was doing being outright wrong, it is also, in my mind, illogical. Believe me when I say that the most persuasive attitude of humility—one willing to admit when one is wrong and that we do not know everything. I am not saying (since I imagine someone will misconstrue it this way) that atheists should right away admit they are wrong without evidence—that would be foolish and uncalled for. However, we, both Christians and atheists, should engage each other as human beings worthy of respect by nature of being human beings. Besides, those who come off as unwilling under any circumstance to admit themselves to be in error substantially weaken their credibility and engaging such people usually ends up being unfruitful, since no human being is infallible (except the Pope, of course, under very specific circumstances, but even belief in Papal Infallibility rests on belief in the Catholic Church).

Now to these, this commenter usually responded that I was “lying”, whatever that meant, and therefore she did not need to actually approach theists in any way that would “help” them. She seemed to very much enjoy accusing people of lying whenever she disagreed with them, even once when I tried to interpret what she was saying and misunderstood her. I do believe this is a rather illogical denial of the possibility that anyone can hold to an honest error. This is also why I am very hesitant to accuse people of lying in any apologetics-related scenario, although I do hear it a lot. At worst, usually the apologist is poorly read and ill-equipped for the topic he is discussing. This is a much more charitable assumption than immediately accusing someone of wrongdoing.

The best I can interpret this, I think she might consider herself to be some sort of holy crusader on a quest to deliver retribution with her words toward all Christians in order to hurt them, and therefore punish them, with her words. I beg the reader not to quote me on that since I could be completely wrong on my interpretation. However, first of all, if that is the case, I seriously wonder if she thinks religion should be illegal. Second of all, it seems odd that she considers herself in the position to do this—basically, annoying theists in retribution for the lives of the men of the men of Jericho or whatever she holds us responsible as some sort of verbal vigilante bringer of justice. Or else she could be trolling for some other reason, but whatever that reason is, it is trolling. I will leave the reader to decide who is probably in the right.

Now, I hope I have done the right thing and I will try to remember to pray for this commenter, she being a person like anyone else, loved by God and beautiful in His eyes. If she really wants to be allowed on again, she can write to me and perhaps we can work out a deal. Until then, farewell, my friends.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Debating

Five Rules for Apologetical Debating

I recently had an argument with an acquaintance of mine. It was a very trivial matter and I thought I was allowed to disagree on that matter, but for one reason or another, it exploded. I sincerely hope things will already have been settled by the time I post this. However, for now, I thought it would be worthwhile to make a list of rules of how to behave when debating. This is important especially when we are trying to defend the Catholic Faith. I try to follow them and I suggest you do as well. Without further ado, here are five things to do when defending the Faith to a non-Catholic.

1. Stay calm

This is the thing I got rather…shall we say annoyed about, in the aforementioned debate I got into with that acquaintance. However, I admit I am guilty of not doing this in disagreements as well—especially when I feel the Mother of God is being insulted or when someone is pulling an ad hominem or straw man. And I admit many faiths hold to absurd and even blasphemous creeds. However, even in such a case, you will win nothing by yelling at such a person who may well not even know any better. Our faith does teach after all that some people are in invincible ignorance and therefore are not Catholic through no fault of their own. (CCC 1260) So remember it may not be your opponent’s fault that he holds heretical opinions and do not hold it against him too much. You might under different circumstances believe the same thing.

2. Argue charitably

I have been in a number of online debates, often with commenters on my blog, in which my opponents are utterly rude. Do not do this. It only turns your opponent off from your arguments. I usually try to back out whenever anyone is being too rude, since I can only assume that either such a person is trying to waste my time or derives some sort of sadistic pleasure from verbally abusing Catholics. However, I am actually more upset still when my fellow Catholics are randomly rude. Yes, I understand how heresy angers you. Nevertheless, desist. It is always a possibility that our opponents are in ignorance. Try to show Christ to them and argue with them in love.

3. Listen

I cannot encourage this enough. Not doing this is the reason why many otherwise intelligent people fail. The reason is quite simple: if a man wishes to debunk another’s viewpoint, he must understand them. Think of all the fundamentalist propaganda which has created some sort of abominable mutant out of the actual meaning of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Obviously they are not going to convince anyone who actually understands the Catholic Faith that it is false. Often by listening, one can actually more easily examine an argument and therefore deconstruct it.

Besides, remember: the goal is to save souls, not win arguments. Even if you utterly destroy your opponent, your opponent still might not be inclined to listen because he is aware that you are not listening to him. For why should he listen to you if you are not listening to him?

4. Put yourself in your opponent’s shoes

Think about what led your opponent to believe what he is arguing. Remember under different circumstances, for all you know you might be arguing the exact same thing. It is not always his or her fault that she holds what view she does, as I said above. If you understand your opponent, it will be much easier to act with charity.

5. Pray

This is, of course, the most important rule. Remember you cannot convert anyone without the Holy Spirit. This does not mean (as is the excuse of some people I have encountered) that we should avoid arguments if there is an actual intellectual barrier keeping people from becoming Catholic, but pray for that person as well that you might be given the graces to know how to approach that person and that graces will work in the person’s life in order to convert.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Debating

One Year Blogging

This day dates one year since I originally posted “Why a Catholic Cannot Vote For a Pro-Choice Politician”. How time flies. Now, in order to celebrate, I thought I might tell you, my most excellent followers, precisely who the person behind the blog is. Here this goes.

First of all, if you are hoping for some epic conversion story, look elsewhere. I unfortunately happen to be a cradle Catholic. Most of my friends were Catholic. I do have Protestant cousins with whom I speak frequently, however. So, I am the youngest of three children and sixteen years old. I am homeschooled (obviously). So if you have been wondering: “What is the real job of the Catholic of Honor anyway?” The answer is simply: a high school student. I plan, however, to go into writing fictional novels, if possible (and before you ask, no, they are not all going to be sappy Christian novels of “man against self”; I have a life apart from this blog).

So why apologetics? Why did I choose to begin this blog? The short answer (or part of it) maybe considered somewhat underwhelming, yet simple nonetheless: I was bored.

Seriously, I had only one real hobby: writing books. My routine on a weekday could be summed up as follows: I would work on my book a bit in the morning, then do schoolwork, and then go to bed. Maybe I am oversimplifying it slightly, but you get the idea. 

So, I already had the hobby of occasionally writing apologetics essays in my notebook when I had good ideas and I liked watching Catholic Youtube, specifically run by the younger generation. So, I figured, if other teenagers can put out Catholic apologetical and theological things, so can I. Furthermore, if I could touch and encourage one person by this blog, or better yet, get one person to heaven (I should say, if the Holy Spirit would do it through His most unworthy servant), it would be worth it.

To be perfectly honest, if I had known there would be so many impolite people online, I might not have had the courage to do this. But I do not regret it. It is probable that the Holy Spirit called me to do this.

So, since then, I have been posting something at least every week. I honestly cannot believe I have made it a year. I would like to thank you all, old and new followers, for being with me this time. I hope and pray that I have encouraged you in the faith.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Debating

Fifteen Fallacies You Might Find in an Apologetical Debate

Have you ever had an argument with someone and known there was something wrong with it, but not known what? Here is a list of fifteen common fallacies which the reader might find in a debate and are good to recognize if one would wish to evangelize. You might find you have committed them yourself or that someone whom you met brought one up last week. You will probably also notice these many times in political debates, for many politicians use these often. Note, that although I am giving a number of examples of things various religious groups say, I am not attacking all of their arguments about the given issue at once. To prove this, I will even give a couple of examples of fallacious reasoning given by members of my own Catholic Church.

Cherry Picking 

In this fallacy, people pick and choose which facts to pay attention to. I do not know why the name was chosen, but I suppose when one picks cherries, he finds the ones as are still good and not eaten by birds. A good example of this is how skeptics often view the Miracle of Fátima. They point out the power of suggestively, possible dust from Morocco, the fact that no photographs were taken of the Sun then (because the camera-men were too terrified) and the alleged claim that some people did not see it, while fail to point out that according to the eye-witnesses, hundreds of people saw the sun dancing around at once, all the rain in Fátima was dried out at once, and this all happened at the word of three children (not even teenagers). I would be hard-pressed to explain that scientifically.

Self-Contradiction

In self-contradiction, one contradicts himself in an attempt to prove his point. J. R. R. Tolkien illustrated this fallacy very comically (and hobbitishly) in a dialogue between two hobbits, Sam Gamgee and Ted Sandyman, as follows:

“All right,” said Sam, laughing with the rest, “but what about these Tree-men, these giants, as you might call them? They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.”

“Who’s they?”

“My cousin Hal for one. He works with Mr. Boffin at Overhill and goes up the North Farthing for hunting. He saw one.”

“Says he did perhaps. Your Hal’s always saying he sees things; and maybe he sees things that ain’t there.”

“But this one was big as an elm tree and walking – walking seven yards to a stride if it was an inch.”

“Then I bet it wasn’t an inch. What he saw was an elm tree, as like as not.”

“But this one was walking I tell you; and there ain’t no elm tree on the North Moors.”

“Then Hal can’t have seen one,” said Ted. There was some laughing and clapping. The audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point.

J. R. R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (Single-Volume Edition) (44-45)

Here Ted seeks to prove that Hal must have seen a normal elm tree and then seeks to prove it by saying he cannot have seen one. This may not seem very realistic to us. You might be surprised to know that arguments just as unrealistic are commonly used. The only difference is that in the fields of politics, philosophy and religion, people sometimes do not care.

Here is an example: “There is no absolute truth.” In saying this, one is giving an absolute claim. If someone ever says this to you, reply: “Are you absolutely sure that is true?” Because if the speaker is sure, he or she must think it is an absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. Likewise, there is also the claim: “Text has no meaning other than what the reader brings to it.” In that case, the text written there just now must likewise have no meaning other than whatever you, the reader, have brought to it.

Fallacy of the Ambiguous Middle Term

Also known as the fallacy of four terms, this fallacy occurs when one changes one of the words or its meaning in an argument so that a false conclusion is derived from an argument. A classic example is: “A ham sandwich is better than nothing. Nothing is better than God. Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than God.” Here, the two premises are true, but the conclusion is blasphemous. Here nothing has two meanings. The first, “nothing is better” denotes that God has the highest possible value. The phrase “better than nothing” simply means that a ham sandwich has some value.

Of course, no one would use an argument like this. For a more realistic example, I have heard Protestants use this argument on Catholics: “Catholics believe that at every mass, Christ’s sacrifice at cavalry is re-presented. However, if Our Lord had to be re-sacrificed every mass, that would contradict Hebrews 7:27, which says that Christ died once and for all. Transubstantiation, therefore, is a false doctrine.” Here they are switching from the term “re-present” to “re-sacrifice”. The Catholic doctrine is that Christ payed the price with his one single sacrifice, but God, who is above time and space, made it so that the same sacrifice at Cavalry might be present at every mass.🐷

Circular reasoning

In Circular reasoning, the argument with which one begins relies on the argument with which one ends. In other words, it follows the form: “A is true because of B, and B is true because of A.” Christians sometimes use it in arguments such as: “We know that God is real because the Bible says so and we know the Bible is true because the Bible is the Word of God.” If the Christian happens to be Catholic, the word Bible might be switched to Scripture and Tradition or Magisterial teaching. Atheists likewise often say: “We know there is no God, because all occurrences in the universe have a natural explanation, and we know all things have a natural explanation because there is no God.” Both arguments are logically invalid.

Red Herring

In the Red Herring, one misleads or detracts from the relevant or important question. There are many different varieties or Red Herrings (all of which might be found in a political debate). Here is a good example:

Catholic: The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and it will last until the end of time.

Objector: But what about the abuse-scandals?

At that time what the Catholic might do is point out that the fact that that is corruption does not mean that the Church was not founded by Christ. If anything, the Devil would want to tempt the Catholic Church the most to make it the least obvious that it was actually of God. The scandals are horrible and should be dealt with, but corruption is as old as Judas Iscariot and there were plenty of evil bishops throughout Church history. The fact that many bishops and cardinals do not follow orthodox Catholic teaching does not make it less true.

Appeal to motive

In the appeal to motive, one challenges a thesis by calling into question the motives of its proposer. For example, someone could say to me: “It’s all well in good for you to defend Catholicism on the internet, but I’m sure you’re just doing it to be popular and get followers.” A good answer I could give would be: “Alright, maybe I am doing this just to be popular on the internet, but even if that were true, it would not invalidate my arguments.”

Ad hominem

The Ad hominem—or in English, “to the man”—can denote a variety of fallacious arguments but in general, I am referring to when one attacks the debater rather than the argument. For example, someone might read my post, In Defense of the Sacraments: The Holy Eucharist, and say “It’s all well and good for the Catholic of Honor to be defending the doctrine of transubstantiation, but he also made jokes concerning cannibalism. My cousin was cannibalized and so I will not accept the argument.” To this I might say in reply: “Maybe I should not have made jokes about cannibalism, but that does not invalidate my biblical arguments all the same. If you have reason to say that my arguments were invalid, point that out, but my own bad jokes are irrelevant.”

Appeal to the stone

In an appeal to the stone (do not ask me the origin of such a title), one dismisses a statement as absurd, invalid, or incorrect, without giving proof of its absurdity. This is an example:

Christian: I’m telling you, Jesus Christ is the one true God.

Objector: That’s absurd.

Christian: How so?

Objector: It just is.

I believe we have all met this one before. If you have ever committed it, never do so again. It is very obnoxious. The appeal to the stone is effective because many of us are too proud to admit that we believe something that is thought to be absurd. Naturally, humility is an effective way to counteract it, both in the worlds of apologetics and of life in general and our journey to heaven. One wise reply would be: “If it is absurd, I do not see how that is so. Tell me what part of my reasoning is fallacious and I will consider it.”

Bulverism

In Bulverism, one assumes something to be wrong without discussion and brings one to think of the psychological condition that brought his opponent to that point. Some atheists say: “Religious people only believe in God because they are too weak to live life without a crutch.” Theists say: “Atheists only refuse to believe in God because if they did they would have to try to avoid going to hell.” Protestants often declare: “Catholics only believe in intermediaries like Mary and the saints, as well as those priests and sacraments so as to get in the way of worship of Christ.” Catholics use the same argument on Protestants: “Protestants only believe in Justification by Faith Alone because they are too scared of dealing with the fear of hell to recognize that they might have to actually follow God’s commandments to be saved.” Perhaps that is how some people came to believe these doctrines, but what matters is why they believe it now and most people have some logical argument or other for that. That might be a good response to anyone who uses Bulverism on you.

Genetic fallacy

In the genetic fallacy, one attacks someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context. A good example would be if someone were to say to me: “You are only Catholic because you are a quarter Irish.” (This does indeed happen to be the case) “And by the way, the Irish are all drunk and only eat potatoes,” the objector might add. (This does not happen to be the case) A good reply of mine would be: “Perhaps if I lived in China there is a greater chance that I would be an Atheist or a Buddhist. If you lived in twelfth-century Italy, you would also most likely be Catholic. However, regardless of why I originally became Catholic, Catholic I am. This does not devalue my argument.”

Straw man fallacy

In the straw man, someone, instead of arguing with the opponent’s actual argument, creates a another argument (possibly out of straw) and argues with it as if it were the actual argument that the opponent suggested. One good example is what Protestants use on Catholics, that is: “Catholics believe that the Pope cannot sin. However, it is clear that Pope John XII, Pope Benedict IX, and others were great sinners. Christ himself often rebuked Peter, whom Catholics hold to be the first pope. Therefore, Catholicism is false.” This is entirely valid logic, but Catholics believe that the pope is infallible, not impeccable, and only under certain circumstances. To be entirely fair, Catholics also commit this same fallacy as I have read pointed out too often by Protestants explaining Sola Scriptura. I have not heard this exact argument, but I suppose it goes like this: “Protestants believe that the Bible is the only source of truth, thus considering all the writings of the Early Church, creeds, and councils to be useless. Thus, they trust that they themselves will correctly interpret Scripture without caring what those who lived closer to the time of Our Lord and the apostles had to say, trusting only in themselves and more modern scholars to be masters in interpretation.” This is not technically true. Although Protestants do not have a sense of Apostolic Tradition being as sacred as Scripture as Catholics do, I have never met a single Protestant who had no respect for St. Augustine, for example. They would say that all these writings must be clearly rooted in Scripture over Tradition, but I doubt any earnest Protestant would ignore any writing of the Fathers, nor any ancient council or creed as “not canonical” without any thought.

False Dilemma

Also known as the false dichotomy, the false dilemma argues that there is a certain number of possibilities when the truth is another. In other words: “Either A or B” when the truth is C. One example would be the argument: “Are we saved by faith or saved by works?” Actually, we are saved by the grace of God. By allowing that grace to work in us, we receive both faith and charity, two necessities for salvation. If someone gives you this fallacy, the easiest thing to do is simply point out the other possibility.

Proof by assertion

This is pretty strait-forward. Actually it is hardly an argument at all and simply consists of asserting a proposition enough until it seems true.

Christian: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. There is no ancient writing with greater credibility than the New Testament.

Objector: He did not. The Bible is fiction.

Christian: How so?

Objector: Because it is.

A good response to this would be: “I understand that you believe that, but please explain how my argument is unsound.”

Retrospective Determinism

In retrospective determinism is an informal fallacy which states that since something happened under some circumstances, it was therefore bound to happen due to those circumstances. One might hear the argument: “Many Catholics do not know the Bible. They also believe that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ, was conceived without Original Sin, was assumed bodily into heaven, and is now queen. Therefore, if they were to read Scripture, they could not possibly believe as such.” It is an unfortunate fact that many Catholics do not read Scripture, but if one looks at the most devout Catholics who pray the rosary daily and often a few chaplets as well, they are actually the most likely to know the Scriptures, while the least devout, the ones who do not study the Bible, are the most likely to fall away.

As a somewhat harsher example, someone might say: “A few centuries ago when people, for the most part, were still Christian and thought it mattered in other parts of their lives, the slave trade was legal.” The assumption is that Christianity led to the slave trade. Actually, it was strictly condemned by multiple popes at the time, including Eugenius IV, Pope Paul III, Gregory XIV, and others.🐙 Some sought to justify the slave trade from Scripture (making this not necessarily purely retrospective determinism), but I personally believe it was an excuse. I will not get into the meaning of those verses concerning slavery at the moment, but I will simply say this. I think everyone knew that God did not approve of the slave trade, but chose to do it anyway as it was much more convenient. Thomas Jefferson, a notorious American slave-owner, spoke out about the evils of slavery. Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address after slavery had brought about a terrible civil war in the U.S. (one of the last countries to get rid of the horrible practice): “The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him.”

A good response to this argument would be to simply point out that there is not a necessary corollary between the two and possibly try to prove them wrong. If a Protestant says that a Catholic only believes something because he does not know the Scriptures, prove that you know the Scriptures. If someone says Christianity supports evil on account of Retrospective Determinism, one could point out that the truth is still true even if no one follows it. Christians today are not supposed to support abortion, homosexuality, and contraception, but many of them do. That does not mean that Christianity itself supports abortion, homosexuality, and contraception.

“I’m entitled to my opinion”

I believe we have all heard this one.

Christian: You need to repent and be baptized!

Objector: I’m entitled to my opinion. Let’s agree to disagree.

If someone says this to you, a good response would be: “I want to bring you to Christ because your immortal soul might be at stake.” If people were running a business and one person suggested Business Plan A and another Business Plan B, obviously no one would say: I’m entitled to my opinion. It might effect the outcome of the business. How much more important than a business is an immortal soul?

I hope this list has been enlightening. If you know of any other common fallacies used in apologetical debating feel free to alert me in the comments. If I can gather a large enough list, I might put together another post with more fallacies. Until then, farewell.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

🐷Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶1366-7

🐙https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/did-the-church-ever-support-slavery Accessed July 9, 2020

Categories
On Debating

Shout Ye Not

Have you ever had a discussion with someone about a serious topic when one of the people talking broke into yelling or getting upset? You are not alone. I intend through this post to give some guidelines for dialogue with people with whom you disagree. As this is a theological and apologetical blog, I am mainly focusing about religious issues, but this might as well work for politics, philosophy, science, or anything else people feel seriously about. These fields are basically all tied together and theology is the Queen of Sciences

You find yourself arguing with an Atheist about the Resurrection. Why are you doing this? Because believing in it might effect the salvation of the Atheist’s immortal soul. So you are trying to help your opponent. If you start shouting “You need to follow Jesus, you imbecile! Hell is real!”, what will the Atheist think?

  1. Christians are rude.
  2. Christians are basically contradictions because they preach about love but do not show it.
  3. Christians will not listen if you try to tell them your own views and will just obnoxiously insist on their beliefs.

Negative attributes of groups show up better than positive ones in a group. Put yourself in your opponent’s shoes. You may say that God put the Truth obviously in creation and so anyone who is an Atheist (going by our previously mentioned hypothetical discussion), cannot possibly care about the Truth and must simply not want to have to follow God.

However, although it may seem obvious to you that God is real, today we are always told that science explains everything. It may be hard for someone to see that God is real for some considering today’s culture or some may have never really thought about it or read the wrong books. It is not as if miraculous events occur every day nor is it that most people have seen them. You never really know whether someone is interested in the Truth until you have spoken with them for a bit. Or if you saw, say, a Republican and a Democrat (two parties in the United States) arguing over a political issue with which you were unfamiliar and the Republican started yelling at the Democrat while the Democrat stayed calm and serene, for whom would you be more sympathetic—the Republican or Democrat?

What if the person with whom you are speaking starts yelling? Stay calm all the same. Say a Hail Mary if you find that hard. Believe me, it will look much better for you if you keep your cool while your opponent starts yelling, and no one will be able to accuse us of being loud, boisterous, obnoxious people. The goal is to save souls. If we shout or yell, it will not help bring anyone who does not already know the truth into the faith. Must we sometimes shout and be impolite? Yes, Christ called people broods of vipers himself. But of whom did he say that? The priests, scribes, and pharisees—the hypocrites. If I met a priest preaching heresy, I just might call him an idiot, but he ought to know better and is a hypocrite by claiming to be Catholic priest yet preaching things contrary to the faith. He had years of training in seminary and is supposed to be a father and shepherd to us. To say to him: “You fool! Do you not fear the wrath of God?” might be a mercy because it is a warning about the path to hell which he seems to be on. Often, those who are not Catholic do not really realize where God wants them to be, that is, in the Church, and one of the best things to do would be to be their friend and show them the love that Christ had for us. 

Is it hard sometimes to stay calm? Of course it is. But with God’s help, you can show kindness to those of other faiths and if you discuss theology and apologetics with those people, the Holy Spirit might be able to use you to bring these people to Christ.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor