A problem with logical fallacies arises from the fact that most people are emotion-driven and not only do not understand them, but hate any attempt to explain them. As a subject foreign to them, most of humanity seems content to take anyone’s word about how any particular fallacy works or even if it’s logical. An example is an attempt to explain the nature of equivocation using faith as a topic. Merriam-Webster spells out a definition for us in plain words:


faith (from Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionery):

1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions

2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust

3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

synonyms see BELIEF

— on faith: without question <took everything he said on faith>


Be wary of references pointing to Internet pages, as many support agendas that thrive on misinformation. This example of equivocation uses one common logical fallacy to explain another.

From: http://www.logicalfallacies.info/ambiguity/equivocation/ beginning at the heading: [quoted material displayed in italics]

Real-World Examples

(1) Christianity teaches that faith is necessary for salvation.

(2) Faith is irrational, it is belief in the absence of or contrary to evidence.

(3) Christianity teaches that irrationality is rewarded.

This argument, which is a reasonably familiar one, switches between two different meanings of “faith”. The kind of faith that Christianity holds is necessary for salvation is belief in God, and an appropriate response to that belief. It does not matter where the belief and the response come from; someone who accepts the gospel based on evidence (e.g. Doubting Thomas) still gets to heaven, according to Christianity.

For the kind of faith for which (1) is true, (2) is therefore false. Similarly, for the kind of faith for which (2) is true, (1) is false. There is no one understanding of faith according to which both of the argument’s premises are true, and the argument therefore fails to establish its conclusion.

Acceptance of this example to demonstrate equivocation depends upon at least one of three conditions: Acceptance of Christianity as verifiably factual (so it can be called ‘faith’ for some other reason); ignorance of logical principles; a hurried scan by a busy writer who failed to catch the scam inherent to item (1) in the list, which implies that Christianity is a rational ‘faith’ based upon demonstrably verifiable principles. It is not, and support for it depends upon sophistry, circular reasoning, hearsay, and equivocation.

In truth, list items 1 and 2 are the same (“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.“), and number 3 is true. (See http://biblehub.com/hebrews/11-1.htm to verify this “interpretation” of what looks like plain, straightforward language). So, even in the Christian reference book, faith gets described as an irrational substitution for reality. (2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.” Romans 8:24 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”)

To hope for what you already have and can see (objective reality), the author of that verse obviously knows, is to pit reality against dreams and desires, to make a gamble whose outcome cannot be known for so long as the person doing that still lives. Were that person to gain it in this lifetime, (s)he would have no need for faith, for it would then be present. By implication, the verse tells you that faith is about what you know you cannot have, but hope to gain by dying first. In the end, faith is an admission made of not believing in whatever one proclaims faith to be about! That states only one reason for why it is irrational.

What the writer of the quoted apologia has done, if you find this hard to understand, was to ‘reverse-equivocate’ faith by offering a definition that, since it has no support, readers must take his word on faith. Circular reasoning, the other fallacy, refers a source back to itself for verification. The reason for calling it reverse equivocation is that doing so intends to give authority to questionable material by using it as a reference, thereby attempting to establish a definition that does not exist, and then attempting to use that definition to “prove” a point that could not be made without it.

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