If I tried to convince you that God doesn’t love you, I think you’d roll your eyes, pull out your Bible, and give me an argument that would leave me speechless. You could point me in the direction of moving Gospel passages and speak to me about the Sacraments, and you wouldn’t be wrong to top it all off with your own personal experiences of His love, those powerful, unforgettable moments when you felt with your heart, and knew with your mind, that God was there, standing right behind you. But what if you’re subconsciously telling yourself that God doesn’t love you? That can be a lot more damaging, because you don’t know you’re doing it.
If you are unwittingly using any one of these six common logical fallacies to make yourself forget or disbelieve in the depth and persistence of your Father’s love for you, you can root the fallacy out by learning its name, so it can’t hide from you.
1. Ad Hominem: This is the fallacy that attacks the person instead of his idea. It’s responding to an argument with “Yeah? Well you’re ugly!” Even if the insult is true, logically, all an ad hominem does is add irrelevant information to the table. But if you’re tricked into thinking that the attack matters, you might not have a response. Every time you think to yourself that God must not love you very much because you sin so often and so gravely, you’re just adding irrelevant information. Your sin has no bearing at all on God’s love for you.
2. The Genetic Fallacy comes up when you assume that because the speaker is not to your liking, his argument isn’t any good either. Just because “You are loved” is an overused phrase that you tend to see on motivational posters, plastered over pictures of fluffy, photoshopped kittens, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth remembering. Just because the priest who’s giving the homily on love is poorly educated or old and crotchety doesn’t mean his point isn’t supremely important.
3. The Red Herring fallacy is when you essentially say “Hey look! A distraction!” to avoid addressing the argument you’re up against. It derails the conversation, and you conveniently don’t have to answer what stumped you. We humans are horribly distractible, and do this all the time. We get busy, and fill our lives up with activity after event, so that there’s never time quiet enough to hear the “still, small voice” of God’s love.
4. Creating a False Dilemma means reducing a situation to a bare “either/or” situation, and refusing to consider that there might be a third option. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said in prayer, “God, if you really love me, you’ll get me out of this situation!” Then, when He didn’t step in and do exactly what I had in mind, I’d assume that He didn’t love me.
5. False Cause means taking two things that look related or actually are related, and assuming that one of them caused the other: “The birds always start singing right before sunrise. They must be responsible for the sun coming up!” This one takes a more subtle and less funny turn when we find ourselves thinking, “Every time I pray I hear dead silence. I guess God just isn’t interested in my prayers.”
6. My own personal downfall, the Appeal to Emotion, is when you assume that what you feel is true, and ignore reason and facts. If I feel unlovable, nine times out of ten, I will go a week before I realize I have been assuming that God doesn’t love me quite as much as they say. If I feel angry at myself, I will assume that God is angry at me too. If I feel like I’m incapable of growth in holiness, I will assume that God has given up on me too. I think I’ll get “You’re doing the Appeal to Emotion thing again, Dummy!” tattooed somewhere on my body so I’ll remember to cut it out, and let God be God.
How about you? Which ones give you the most trouble?