Does this argument represent a logical fallacy? If so, which one?

Jack: People who argue against [religion] are racist.

Jill: But, [religion] is not a race!

Jack: Well, that religion is not a race doesn't stop people who attack it from being racist!

I have a feeling that Jack's last statement is fallacious but I don't know enough to identify which logical fallacy is at play here (if one even exists at all). Does this line of reasoning hold water?

  • 1
    Identifying logical fallacies - whilst an interesting and sometimes entertaining exercise - is somewhat like correcting the spelling of a piece of written work; that is it can be spurious to the deeper element of marshalling argument, evidence and reasoning: religion is not race, but may be be an aspect of it; that attacking one might be a stand-in for the other. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 8:48
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    Jack may very well be trying to express that there can be a strong correlation.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


There is a couple of fallacies at play here, all variations on the red herring. Bringing in racism is a red herring because racism is irrelevant to religion as Jack himself acknowledges. He then says that those who so argue might still be racists nonetheless. This is a valid point, but it is irrelevant since the original argument was to show that they are racists in view of their criticism of religion, not to refute someone who claimed they can't be that in addition to it. This is ignoratio elenchi, a.k.a. irrelevant conclusion or ignoring the issue. And finally the claim of racism is more emotionally charged than being anti-religion, so it is likely used to discredit the opponents personally and dismiss their arguments, which is a case of poisoning the well.

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    There an interesting question here: Logically conflating criticism of a religion with racism towards its practitioners is a fallacy, but in real life, more often than not, those who strongly criticize a specific religion (as opposed to all religions) tend to come from a place of racism and bigotry. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 4:35
  • There is more likely a case of being "anti-some-specific-religion", and not "anti-religion".
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 9:59
  • Technically Jack did not claim that they are racists in view of their religion. It seems to be strongly implied, and that's how Jill interprets the statement, but Jack's initial statement is merely an assertion, not an argument in itself.
    – Era
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:46
  • @Alexander I think a case for bigotry is more plausible than a case for racism, which presupposes intolerance based on a biological trait (real or perceived) rather than lifestyle or ideology, and accordingly elicits a stronger emotional response. Using one as an (anti) euphemism for the other is meant to appeal to that. Also, some religions are singled out for particular faults, e.g. Islam (terrorist fears), scientology (history of brainwashing and harassment), mormonism (history of polygamy and sexual abuse), which even if misperceived do not indicate bigotry.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 23:02

This doesn't strike me as being necessarily fallacious at all, just a little elliptical. The missing premise is that the racist people referenced are primarily against [religion X] because they associate it with [race Y], against which they hold a prejudice.

That's quite plausibly true. Of course, to test it you'd have to see if people react differently to members of [religion X] when they are not of [race Y].

For a real world example, it has been argued that some people responded quite differently to the Boston Marathon bombers (than to other bombers of the same religion) because they were Caucasian rather than Middle Eastern.

  • I agree. This is in line with @alexandersking's comment on the accepted answer as well. I think it is technically fallacious (as stated in OP's example), but there is a valid argument underlying the point that Jack is trying (unsuccessfully) to make. Whether the argument is sound is a separate issue, and not worth discussing here.
    – Era
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:50

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