by Carol A. Davis
In religion, leaders will often use “logical fallacies,” logically flawed arguments, to persuade and manipulate churchgoers into doing what they want. According to Wikipedia, “A fallacy is incorrect argument in logic and rhetoric resulting in a lack of validity, or more generally, a lack of soundness.”
A very common fallacy used is called “Cherry-picking the Evidence (also called anecdotal evidence, confirmation bias, biased sample, and proof by example), “… it is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.”
Here’s an example:
Yeah, I’ve read the health warnings on those cigarette packs and I know about all that health research, but my brother smokes, and he says he’s never been sick a day in his life, so I know smoking can’t really hurt you.
Here is an example of one that was often used at a church I used to attend. They were always pushing members to tithe and “sow more seed” to get that “hundred-fold return.” Often they would have a member stand up before the church to give their testimony of how they finally decided to give tithing a try, and directly after, something really good happened to them. Maybe they received a big settlement they had been waiting on for a long time, received a promotion at work, received a check in the mail that they hadn’t been expecting, got approved for a house or car loan they should not have been eligible for with their credit rating, and things of that nature.
These testimonies would have everyone wanting to give more, because they thought if they did, the same would happen to them. The fact was, for every member who’d had an experience like that, there were many more who had been faithful in tithing and giving offerings for years, but never experienced any kind of windfall or dramatic change in their financial situation. But those people were not going to be asked to testify about it in front of the church, so you weren’t going to hear those stories. They showed you the evidence they wanted you to see and excluded what they didn’t want you to see.
Don’t be fooled by leaders who cherry pick evidence. Anecdotes alone are not enough to support a claim.