Friday, March 25, 2005

The genetic fallacy and Jehovah's Witnesses

Here's another fallacy Jehovah's Witnesses use in their arguments. They use this fallacy in several arguments, but the most common is in their argument against celebrating Christmas.

The genetic fallacy is when you argue agaist a present thing or idea based on its shady past or origins. You assume that what was true in the past is true in the present. For example, suppose drums were originally invented for use in conjuring up the spirits of dead ancestors. A person would be committing the genetic fallacy if, for that reason, they thought using drums in the present is bad. Just because people use drums today doesn't mean they pour any spiritual significance in it.

Jehovah's Witnesses will point out that many aspects of the Christmas celebration originated from a pagan holiday--Saturnalia. It took place on December 25th, etc. The Chrismas tree bears some similarities to ashera poles. All of these observations are used to argue that Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas, but this is a clear example of the genetic fallacy. Just because Saturnalia was celebrated on December 25, or just because people cut down trees to make ashera poles doesn't mean people who celebrate Christmas today pour any pagan meaning into their celebration. There's nothing inherently wrong with cutting down a tree, putting it in the living room, and decorating it anymore than there's something wrong with beating a drum. And there's nothing wrong with giving gifts. There's nothing wrong with having a big dinner with your family. And there's nothing wrong with doing these things for the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus. And there's nothing wrong with doing it on a particular day that happens to have also been the day Saturnalia (or any other pagan holiday) was celebrated.

The same thing applies to Easter. Although some aspects of a pagan holiday have been retained (such as rabbits and easter eggs), that doesn't mean Christian pour any of those meanings into their celebration of Easter today. There's nothing inherently wrong with Easter eggs, rabbits, or candy.

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