This argument was in Critical Thinking by Moore and Parker.

I think God exists, because I was raised a Baptist. The book states that this wasn't an argument because it just stated a reason for why they believed in God.

However, can't you just rewrite it and add an unstated premise like this:

I was raised a Baptist. Baptists are raised to believe in God's existence. Therefore, I think God exists.

  • 1
    You are likely confusing types of arguments. There are primarily two kinds taught at this stage: deductive arguments & inductive arguments. Your idea to add a premise may work as an inductive argument at best because the conclusion would not be certain. Deductive arguments must have an absolute or certain conclusion if the premises are true. You would need to know some rules & procedures also for deductive arguments. The premises cannot be just out of the blue. They must have a strong relationship & because the relationship is strong the conclusion is guaranteed. This is not deductive.
    – Logikal
    May 12, 2021 at 21:06
  • 1
    You are confusing an argument for believing in God and a reason to believe in God. We understand the reason why the Baptist believes in God, but this has no convincing power (and therefore is not a very good reason). Compare with, "I believe in Santa because my parents told me he exists". Surely, I can be convinced a toddler actually believes in Santa and understand why, but that won't convince me to believe in Santa.
    – armand
    May 13, 2021 at 2:02
  • 1
    You can add an unstated premise and make it into an argument, but that just means that the original version was not one, which is their point. An argument must state all of its premises.
    – Conifold
    May 13, 2021 at 6:06
  • It's a belief. Beliefs aren't arugments.
    – Marxos
    May 13, 2021 at 20:52

4 Answers 4


Since the book is titled "Critical Thinking," they mean that this isn't a good argument to believe God exists.

It does accurately, factually explain why the person raised a Baptist believes God exists. But it does not justify this belief; it explains why the belief is held without supporting the belief itself.

Formally, you are right that it is technically an argument. A formal argument doesn't need two premises, or even any premises, and it may be fallacious. But it looks like this book uses a different definition of "argument":

Time to look more closely at arguments—the kind that actually show something (unlike the red herrings and emotional appeals and other fallacies we are going to be talking about in a moment).

So this book, at least in that section, reserves the word "argument" for arguments whose premises do support the conclusion.

  • What you meant to say is IN MATHEMATICS an argument may not need premises.In some logic types premises are required aka mandatory. In Aristotelian logic two premises are always present even if one premise is suppressed -- not seen by the viewer. In this way, there is no such thing as an argument with an odd number of premises. A conclusion must be drawn from at least two premises ALWAYS. Because you don't visually see premises doesn't mean there ARE NO PREMISES. THAT may be true sometimes only aka true only 2 days out of the 7 day week. You should qualify the no premises only applies in math.
    – Logikal
    May 12, 2021 at 21:13
  • @Logikal Not all logic is Aristotelian logic. Actually there is no reason for Aristotelian logic to be taught anymore. Just teach first order logic, which can express all the same arguments and a lot more besides, and has value outside of first year intro logic classes. If it's too advanced for beginning students, you can just choose to only teach the very simplest proofs, just the same as Aristotelian logic does.
    – causative
    May 12, 2021 at 21:31
  • you miss my point. The purpose of the different types of logic is not the same. So Mathematical logic is not a counter to the field of Rhetoric as Aristotelian logic is. There is a reason our court systems do not have Mathematical logic proofs for jury purposes. If all you needed was math why do lawyers avoid it in the courtroom? Why are no politicians using Mathematical logic in their debates? Mathematical logic doesn't apply universally in the real world. The information is not conveyed the same way. Aristotelian logic works in the real world always. Math doesn't always apply.
    – Logikal
    May 12, 2021 at 21:57
  • @Logikal " In this way, there is no such thing as an argument with an odd number of premises." Counterexample: Three Aristotelian logicians walk into a truck stop diner. The waitress comes over and asks: Do y'all want coffee?" The first logician says: "I don't know." The second logician says: "I don't know." The third logician says: "Yes!" This example shows that some arguments require three pieces of information to resolve, and that no two pieces of information (which logicians want coffee) can ever be sufficient to determine the truth value of the proposition.
    – user4894
    May 12, 2021 at 22:23
  • @user4894, first off that is not an argument form. Secondly if it were there would always be a hidden premise not listed. If you understood that arguments need a middle term to form a conclusion you would be able to follow deductive rules to derive the hidden premise. This type of reasoning is above just the Mathematical logic approach. The Aristotelian form is pure deductive reasoning. All the other kinds of what you people call logic is a subcategory of deductive reasoning. The number of techniques are not identical. Your example doesn't exclude a hidden premise at all. Prove it excludes.
    – Logikal
    May 12, 2021 at 22:30

Whether you were raised a Baptist or not has obviously nothing to do with whether god exists or not, but it has everything to do with you thinking she exists.

Your sentence “I think god exists because I was raised a baptist” can be interpreted in two ways, one that is makes the statement completely wrong and one that makes it correct. English language can be a bit vague.


Your filled in premise "Baptists are raised to believe in God's existence" should be interpreted as "Baptists are raised to make believe in God's existence". Once understood the missing premise this way, make believe is like try to believe but the result may be either way. So your conclusion doesn't hold tightly, thus may be better classified as some rhetoric reason for why they believed in God, not as a cogent argument.

  • Aren't you making a metaphysical claim about God without any proof or evidence? In fact your theology is wrong. Baptists are taught to believe. Your phrasing it as "make believe" is factually wrong and logically wrong. We may not be able to know if God exists, but surely we know what Baptists are taught. By the way, why don't Baptists approve of making love standing up? It might lead to dancing.
    – user4894
    May 12, 2021 at 23:14
  • @user4894 thx for your critique and comment. I'm not indicating anything related to theology here. My point is simply if one is raised as Baptist doesn't mean he or she believes in God for certain... May 13, 2021 at 0:19
  • I see your point. Baptists are famous for doing the things they say they're not supposed to do.
    – user4894
    May 15, 2021 at 1:23

Short Answer

If your question is asking why does the stated material not constitute a good argument for the existence of God, the answer hinges upon the difference between propositions and propositional attitudes.

I think God exists, because I was raised a Baptist. The book states that this wasn't an argument because it just stated a reason for why they believed in God.

In short, arguing about 'God existing' and why 'belief exists about God's existence' are two distinct topics, and it seems that the authors may have been arguing that the text discusses the nature of the belief about God rather than God directly. Propositional attitudes are very important in understanding philosophical intentionality. In this case, the point is not about the nature of the structure of the argument, but rather about the relationship between belief and knowledge.

Long Answer

First, let's suss out the difference between belief and knowledge at an introductory level by examining justified, true belief (JTB) as a basis for knowledge which is an epistemological topic.

Certainly, belief in the existence of something doesn't necessarily imply the existence of something. Children are often led to believe in tooth fairies despite the lack of existence of tooth fairies. A parent who gives money in exchange for a tooth while a child sleeps is providing evidence to justify the existence to reinforce belief because even young children are attuned to the difference between reality and imagination. In fact, science provides strong evidence that psychological and philosophical belief are rooted in evolutionary principles. The ability to tell what and what not 'the state of affairs' is is a natural ability that is observable even in pre-speech infants who manifest object permanence. In fact, the debate over what is real and what is not, what exists and what doesn't is rooted in naive realism.

So, let's provide an argument to speak merely about the existence of God.

I talk to God and read the signs he gives, therefore God exists.

This is an implicit argument containing an enthymeme articulated below.

P1 I talk to God and read the signs he gives.
(P2 If I can talk to someone and they talk back, they exist.)
C Therefore, God exists.

(Note, some thinkers refuse to acknowledge the existence of implicit arguments based on the claim that one simply cannot draw conclusions about another's enthymemes. This is a deficient reading of argumentation if you have any familiarity with the cooperative principle and Gricean maxims and real-world communication.)

In this example, the argument, depending on your views of the premises may or not follow, but it's unavoidably an argument (implicit or otherwise). A person commits to ontological status, explicitly provides one premise, and is obviously situating those two statements amid what constitutes common-sensical notions about existence. Instead of good, let us recognize that arguments may be sound and valid or strong and cogent depending on your take of formal and informal argumentation.

But what the authors offer is an entirely different example, whereby the claimant seems to be making a claim about the existence of God based on their beliefs and their origins.

I think God exists, because I was raised a Baptist.

P1 I was raised Baptist.
(P2 Baptist beliefs are true about God's existence.)
C I think God exists.

This is a poor argument about God's existence not because it is an implicit argument which relies on enthymemes, but rather because it doesn't actually argue whether not exists but rather explains the origin of the belief.

This is subtle. To know God exists, one has to have adequate justification and true belief, and making the claim that the existence of God is predicated upon personal and social belief and its origins doesn't anything to directly argue the existence of God. After all, millions of children believe in the tooth fairy, and yet you'd be hard-pressed to find a defender of the reality of the tooth fairy. In fact, this argument seems to hinge upon argument by popularity or perhaps argument by authority. It is this lack of justification about God's existence that makes the argument poor in establishing the existence of God. This is why many theologians have gone to great lengths to build an argumentation to withstand refutation by naturalists. A good example is the ontological argument for the existence of God.

Ultimately, the important lesson to draw is that a gulf stands betweens belief and knowledge of existence, though what constitutes the appropriate bridge to establish the latter from the former is a matter of ontological debate especially since Edmund Gettier posed some simple questions with heavy logical consequence in the 1960's.

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