Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: What Is the Genetic Fallacy?

 

A genetic fallacy is an illogical argument for or against an idea based on the origin of the idea. An example is, “It will rain on Tuesday because my father said so.” The speaker’s father may be a good man and a good father, but it doesn’t necessarily translate that he knows for certain what the weather will be like some time in the future. Conversely, a negative example would be, “Easter is bad because it started as a pagan holiday.” While elements of Easter do, indeed, include pagan symbols such as rabbits and eggs, it’s certainly not a bad thing to set aside a day to corporately remember Jesus’ resurrection.

The genetic fallacy in regard to religion refers to the argument that a person’s faith is irrelevant because they most likely learned that faith from their parents. The argument claims that because the primary determinant of a person’s religion is exposure to that religion as a child, and not comprehensive, logical research, a person’s faith is immaterial and false.

The problem with an argument based on genetic fallacy is that the truth of a statement is in no way based on the origin of the concept. A philosophical or theological concept is true or it is not; it does not matter how a person came to believe the concept or who, in the past, held that concept to be true.

At the same time, the genetic fallacy in religion bears consideration because people should not blindly follow a religion merely because it is the religion of their parents. Each individual is responsible for his/her own beliefs and relationship with God. Although a faith learned in childhood is not necessarily false, it is also not necessarily true. Believers should always study the scriptures (Acts 17:11) and be able to give an account as to why they believe (1 Peter 3:15), apart from family tradition.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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