I have been analyzing arguments made by prominent atheists and looking for logical fallacies. I am new at this. Are my analyses correct?

From: “The All Time best arguments against religion/faith #2 (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens)” video.

  1. Richard Dawkins, when referring to the fact of various conceptions of God in different traditions, claims that “they can’t both (different religious views) be right”. How can he make authoritative statements on theology without himself having any formal training in the field? This is a straw man fallacy because he is painting a picture of what the position of theism in general (supposedly) which is not factually accurate for every theist. Specifically, he is saying that they can’t all be right. He assumes that believing in one conception of God necessitates throwing out all other conceptions of God.

  2. He says that believing in God is comparable to children believing in an “imaginary friend”. This imaginary friend comparison is the fallacy of weak analogy.

  3. He claims that there is “Not the slightest shred of evidence” to support the belief in God. How can he prove this?

  4. He is attempting to make an argument against theism in general. Assuming that those who argue in favor of theism must necessarily believe that their particular understanding of God excludes all others does not attack the validity of theism in general. It only argues against only particular individuals who hold that specific belief. He is also committing the non-sequitur fallacy by jumping to his conclusion without bringing us through the necessary logical steps it would take to get there.

  5. He assumes that God could only manifest in one way.

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    His views are much shaped by Abrahamic faiths. 31% of the world is Christian, 24% Muslim, so both a majority of religious people & a majority of all humans do fit this. In Islam "There is no God but Allah" is part of the core statement to become an adherent. The 1st of the 10 commandments is "You shall have no other gods before me", which is more in-group. Sikhism however freely acknowledges & respects it's origins in polytheistic Hinduism, while being monotheistic. Buddhism denies Creation, putting it at odds to that. Mystic traditions pretty much all identify a hidden unity among faiths.
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 30, 2020 at 16:07
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    "How can he prove this?" The burden is not on him, but on whoever asserts a hypothesis.
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 30, 2020 at 16:11
  • @criglcrag I agree with you that normally the burden of proof would on the theist. In this case I feel he did not choose his words carefully enough. If he had said "we have not seen sufficient evidence to justify the idea of God". He would not be making the same claim. In this case he is making the claim that no evidence exits. Shouldn't he have to demonstrate that? Or can he just say that as if its a fact without explaining it? Nov 30, 2020 at 16:18
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    1. One does not need to be a theological authority to notice that competing conceptions of God are different; 2. Analogies are not arguments and their aptitude is a matter of taste; 3. He does not need to prove it, but it is obvious by the standard of evidence (of a scientific kind) he has in mind; 4 There is nothing wrong with identifying common theistic traits and making a general argument, nor with skipping steps that can be filled in a transparent way; 5 Unclear what that means. His arguments can be disputed, but it is not a simplistic matter of spotting fallacies, one has to work harder.
    – Conifold
    Nov 30, 2020 at 22:39
  • I found Bret Weinstein's criticism one of the most on-target youtu.be/rm8FksjlJtM Dawkins says religion is a parasitic meme complex, but over time parasites interests tend to converge with hosts making symbiosis. Religious practice has been around a very long time, all over the world, so by Dawkins own ideas, it must be generating benefits. Dawkins just retreated from this point in a huff, & edited it out of the main video. This is the ground he's weakest on.
    – CriglCragl
    Dec 1, 2020 at 4:23

4 Answers 4


One has to remember that Dawkins is crusading against the anti-science Christian fundamentalist movement that has succeeded in perverting the science curricula taught by some American schools and is threatening others likewise.

But he is almost as bad as them, getting carried away by his own rhetoric and applying it out of its domain of validity. For example he will diss the God of the Holy Bible, thereby assuming that he has dissed all Gods, indeed all religions. For anybody with an ounce of clarity in their thoughts, picking off his fallacies is as easy as picking off those of his opponents.

Stick within the context of his political crusade, and as a political campaigner he makes a lot more sense. His theology doesn't get my vote, but his education policy does.


Let me conditionally disagree with you regarding point 1. The argument that 'there are multiple religions with contradictory sets of beliefs. So, all the religions have to be incorrect or God doesn't exist' is not a good argument. But I don't see Dawkins forwarded that argument here. Rather what I see is him simply stating that 'All religions cannot be True simultaneously", which you seem to agree with.

You said

He assumes that believing in one conception of God necessitates throwing out all other conceptions of God

I don't see how you can infer this from his statement. He is not necessarily throwing out all the conception of God (and he even acknowledges that he cannot). He says that if you affirm a particular religion, then you have to throw out other religions. Then this is not a straw-man. Also, we have to remember that most of the discourses Dawkins engages in revolve around Christianity and sometimes Islam.

Now, of course there exist perennialists, pantheists and many others (but they constitute a very small portion relative to all the religion-based theist). Dawkins has to be understood, as Guy Inchbald stated, in the context of his crusade against anti-science fundamentalists.


Congratulations on your approach to learning how to think critically! One of the best ways to do so, is to read or listen to people you disagree with, and try to understand both what is valid in what they say, and where they have reasoning errors. I urge you to read, rather than watch videos though, as critical thinking generally works better with text than in video.

What you will find, is that ALMOST ALL POVs are inadequately supported, even by the strongest reasoners and most eloquent arguments. Fundamentally, we DON'T have a strong case for a specific metaphysical view over all others, and understanding where the holes are in the justification of a particular POV will pay off massively for you in being better able to think critically about all other questions in life going forward.

However, the section of the video you are keying on is less than a minute of one video, which of necessity CANNOT have an argument in it. Hence all it consists of are summary statements by Dawkins, NOT ARGUMENTS. Therefore it really doesn't have fallacies in it. Once more -- go to essays or books by Dawkins, THEN critique the detailed arguments he makes.

Your five points are of variable validity. For 1, Dawkins points out that not all religions can be true, and the adherents of competing religions have no difficulty asserting their rivals are untrue. Dawkins again, in this showrt section Dawkins can't make his full case, but what he is referencing is an inference argument that ALL of these critiques of rival religions are pretty widely accepted as valid (the majority reject each religion), and therefore it is reasonable to infer that NONE of the rival religions are true. This is not a definitive knock-down argument, as is true in general of inference arguments, and invlvves a leap beyond the evidence. For any specific theist, they would want to see the argument against their views, and would want to present the counter-rebuttals. So this argument is not effective for any THEIST, but is primarily effective to help atheists rationalize why not to bother with this process. If Dawkins provided examples of doing this examination in good faith for 5-6 instances, and showed that the theists counter-arguments are in each case weak, and THEN inferred that this is likely to be the case for all religions, THEN this inference argument would be much more strong, and not a fallacy.

  1. Argument by analogy is not a fallacy, but is just a particularly weak form of argument. One can make analogies that support both sides of every dispute, hence the existence of an analogy is not actually an argument. What it is is an assistance to the listener to open their mind to consider a claim, because of the similarity to other claims the listener knows are valid. Treat this as just a minimal plausibility assist, not really an argument.

3 is not a fallacy, but it is an unsupported claim in this video. IF you actually examine this claim in any longer form with supporting argument provided, you will find that it is false. ALL religions have multiple evidences in favor of each of their views. That evidence is in conflict with the evidence for the competing religions, and is weak and unconvincing enough that non-theists will not find it compelling. So in the long form, this would not be a fallacy, this would just be a falsehood, which overstates the "not sufficiently convincing" actual situation.

  1. Dawkins does focus on the unitary God of the Abrahamic faiths, and incorrectly treats arguments against monotheism as definitive against religion. I did not really see that here, but you will find this fallacy in his longer discussions.

I did not understand your claim #5.

  • 1
    "One of the best ways to [learn to think critically] is to read or listen to people you disagree with, and try to understand...where they have reasoning errors." And an even better way is to look for flaws in the arguments of people we agree with.
    – Ray
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:20
  • @Ray -- we humans are much worse at identifying errors in arguments we agree with the conclusion of, than arguments we disagree with the conclusion of. You are much more likely to find flaws in arguments you agree with, BY reading the people you disagree with. But yes, the ultimate goal is to figure out when ideas that you want to believe in are wrong, and that involves critically examining your own or closely aligned beliefs.
    – Dcleve
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:31
  • Yep. I didn't mean to suggest that finding flaws in arguments we disagree with isn't a great first step. Merely that finding flaws in arguments where we agree with the conclusions is the next step towards being able to find the flaws in our own arguments (specifically because it's harder).
    – Ray
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:41

It is not necessary for Dawkins to argue against God. If someone argues for the existence of God, or any particular god or belief, it is for that person to prove this. If, however, they merely assert their belief, then there is no need for argument. The other side of the argument, the atheist, need do nothing. The burden of proof lies with the proposer. This is also known as Hitchen's Razor.

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