Deistic Substitution Argument/Fallacy

One of the most common things you’ll find in theistic arguments is a Deistic Substitution Fallacy. This is where the theist is actually substituting an argument for a deistic god (or higher power of some kind) for his or her particular theistic one. Then, if the argument is considered won, the theist considers his or her particular god proven (bypassing the intermediary step of actually demonstrating that the higher power is the very same God they believe in).

Take prime mover arguments, for example. The essence of a prime mover argument is that something had to start the ball rolling, something had to spark the universe, something had to make it.

On the Codex we deny the prime mover position, because while it’s not a theistic position, it’s none the less a flawed argument, and used by theists all the time. But for now, lets grant the position, and say that yes–some higher power must have started the universe.

The problem is that this stipulation does nothing to prove any one god in particular. How does the Christian know that it was not Vishnu, or Zeus, Odin or Quetzalcoatl who started the universe? We’ve invented nearly 3,000 gods (even the most implacable theist must agree to that. If you’re a Christian, you necessarily believe that the other 2,999 gods were invented. Human beings are in the god invention business, always have been. This doesn’t appear to deter theists in the slightest from their belief both that there is a god, and that they’ve got the right one). So a Christian might well make many different, deistic, arguments for the existence of a higher power, and use it to “prove” that the bible is true. But getting from a higher power to Yahweh is a huge step, and the theist has done nothing to bridge that gap.

“Miracles” are another substitution fallacy. If a baby falls out of a 20 story window into a truck filled with feathers… Does that prove God? That depends more on the language the parents speak than the odds of this actually happening. If the parents speak English, then maybe it does prove God. If they speak Hindi, they’re not going to worship God anytime soon, but they might just walk into a temple to Hanuman, knowing he is watching over them. If this whole thing happened in China, Tiān would see some more followers. In fact there are still some Norse practitioners alive today who would see this as proof that their belief in Thor, the God of Thunder, is justified.


The country you live in (and hence the language you speak) is the best indicator of which god you’ll credit with the miracle. But these kinds of singularities occur all the time, in China, India, the United States… Everywhere, regardless of religion. They happen to believers and atheists alike. But when the theist observes it, they naturally see it as evidence for their particular god. Again, one could easily grant the miraculous claim and say, yes, a higher power intervened there. But saying that it was Jesus himself, that’s a whole other matter.


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