I’d like to make a short post on the genetic fallacy, only because I encounter it so frequently in faith-related discussions. It’s important that Christians know how to respond when confronted with arguments such as, “you’re only a Christian because you were born into a Christian family in a country that’s predominantly Christian.” This kind of statement is usually intended as an attack on the veracity of a person’s faith, and often comes along with an allegation of confirmation bias.
In a previous post, “Alister McGrath on the Demand for Proof,” I mentioned that I’ve recently been listening to a number of debates on religion. In one of these debates, Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza gave an excellent response to John Loftus‘s use of the genetic fallacy. I thought it was worth passing on:
“Essentially John Loftus said that we can’t really know if a religion is true, because there happen to be many of them. If you happen to be born in Afghanistan, you’d be a Muslim. If you happen to be born in Tibet, you’d be a Buddhist.
That’s true, but what on Earth does that prove? I happen to have been born in Bombay, India, which happens to be a Hindu country. The second largest group is Muslim. Even so, by choice I am a Christian. Just because the majority religion is one thing doesn’t make it right or wrong.
By the way, what [John Loftus] says about Christianity…is equally true about beliefs in history or science. If you are born in Oxford, England, you are more likely to believe the theory of evolution than if you are born in Oxford, Mississippi. If you are born in New Guinea, you are less likely to accept Einstein’s theory of relativity than if you are born in New York City. What does this say about whether Einstein’s theory of relativity is true? Absolutely nothing.
In other words, [John Loftus] is guilty of what in logic is called the ‘genetic fallacy’. It’s the fallacy of confusing the origin of an idea with its veracity.”