Argumentum Ad Baculum and its use in Catholicism

" I. Argumentum ad Baculum (fear of force): the fallacy committed when one appeals to force or the threat of force to bring about the acceptance of a conclusion."

Hypothetical Atheist:

  1. Catholic to Child: “You will go to mass today or (threat)”.
  2. Bible to Human: “Love me or you will be sent into Hell”.
  3. All arguments in the Bible that use Hellfire as a threat.
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There are eight beatitudes in the gospel of Matthew. They are all positive and uplifting.

In the gospel of Luke only four beatitudes are listed. In addition to those four uplifting beatitudes in Lk there are four corresponding ‘woes’ to each beatitude. Those woes could be considered warnings, or maybe even an appeal to force.

It may just depend what perspective works for each individual. They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Maybe that’s why the New Testament is much more toned down than the OT. If one perspective doesn’t work for someone, maybe they should look at it another way.

Hell is an existing part of reality. A threat is a potential reality that is actualized by choosing one of the options. Since God is reality, there is only Him or Hell. We have to choose one. It’s like being on the side of a mountain on an infinitely narrow path. You must either go up or down. If you choose Down, you die. It’s not a threat. I don’t kill you if you choose down. I’m just warning you what will happen.


Actually Catholicism has never been spread with the argument of force.
Convert or be beheaded has been and it is still used by other faiths.
As others have pointed out when the Bible or a Prophet admonishes us of the outcome of our behavior he is not forcing us to follow the path he would like us to follow.
Love cannot be coerced, period. It must be freely given. We cannot convert fear into love.


Since that’s not the Way things are… Those arguments went nowhere


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Hypothetical Atheist:

Sentence 1: Submit or you shall be Disowned by your parents. The Force of law creates an incentive so strong that you can’t not submit.
Sentence 2: Whataboutism.
Sentence 3 and 4: Love God or you end up in hell. I don’t make the rules, I just say how it is.

Since that’s not the Way things are… Those arguments went nowhere

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The exercise of religion is not a consistently rational event.

I’m a non-believer and I don’t hold it to that standard. I’m just cognizant of the fact that there’s no such thing as an aboriginal human society that exercised atheism.

The human animal is not always rational. It has emotions it acts on that are not always to its material benefit.

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(in ominous Russian accent)

No tret comrade. Eets just a fect mmmm? Da?

Because humans have immortal souls and therefore tend to transcend the natural world.

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My favorite theory is that a certain level of intelligence needs it and thus invents it.

Atheists usually say that billions of people in the world are wrong and a few thousand atheists are right. Very counter intuitive.

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shrug A few things;

I’m not aware of anyone that speaks for “Atheists”. But as to billions of people being wrong, your religion sort of requires it too. Just everyone except Catholics.

Said gently.

As far as the number of “The Unconvinced”, we’re roughly a half-billion or so.

Whether the use of force is right or wrong in this case, fallacies such as this are for logical demonstrations. None of the situations you’re describing are just logic arguments so there’s no logical fallacy bring invoked here.

Again, perhaps threat of force is unethical in certain situations, but argumentum ad baculum is for logical demonstrations and not what you’re describing.


Not that gently but fine.
As for half a billion… nah, maybe only if you include the agnostics. True atheists are few, not statistically significant.

There are degrees of atheism just like there are degrees of Catholicism just like there are degrees of anything.

The no-god positivists, sure. Only several million of them world-wide. But on the flip side, I’d say that number is fairly close to the number of devout Catholics that don’t use birth control, keep the holy days, submit fully to the magisterium of the Church, so on and so forth.

But if we include the tepid, there are 1.2 billion Catholics and roughly half a billion “unconvinced” as it pertains to any religion.

So, first, we have an “argument to authority” (can you show that this “Argumentum ad Baculum” is a real fallacy without just pointing to authority?). And second, it is not a very exhaustive citation of that (questionable) authority. After all, it says:

B. The ad baculum contains implicitly or explicitly a threat. Behind this threat is often the idea that in the end, “Might makes right.” Threats, per se , however, are not fallacies because they involve behavior, not arguments.

C. Often the informal structure of argumentum ad baculum is as follows.
If statement p is accepted or action a is done, then logically irrelevant event x will happen.
Event x is bad, dangerous, or threatening.
Therefore, statement p is true or action a should be rejected.

IV. Non-fallacious examples of the ad baculum : the appeal is relevant when the threat or the force is directly or causally related to the conclusion.

Now, let’s look at your examples:

So, in which of those cases are we supposed to have a “logically irrelevant event”? Can you actually prove that it is so?

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you’ve unmasked a fallacious argumentum

To anyone who has raised children, this may be an amusing thread.

I didn’t threaten my children. I made promises.

And I kept them.

And to those who say that a 6 month child does not understand directions concerning behavior, I promise to pick myself up from the floor after laughing so hard I cry.

I have twin daughters and even at 6 months old, it was clear one led and one followed; but as they sat propped up in their crib (with so many stuffed toys they could not fall over) they occasionally got into a pulling dispute over one. When I heard the ruckus begin, I stepped in and said “If you don’t stop fighting, I will take the toy away.”

If the fight commenced again, I walked in and took the toy away. I didn’t get into who started it; I didnt repeat myself; I just ended it; and I never walked in the second time and repeated what I had said; I just kept my promise. It did not take very long and they got the message - so much for all the parents who “corrected” me telling me that children at that age could not understand. Maybe their child didn’t, but my twins did; and maybe they “threatened” the child, rather than keeping promises.

All of which is short for the issue of “threats”. As to Hell, God does not send us there. We choose it. We are given choices, and we choose; granted that some (if not many) of our choices have an emotional aspect to it, we still choose. Our parents don’t make us choose bad things, we do it quite well and efficiently on our own. and granted that all too many parents may speak of "either you (do or don’t do) this or you will go to hell, the bottom line is we choose. And yes, fear can be a motivating factor; but we still choose in spite of the fact that many weak individuals blame everyone except self.

It seems as if a non-applicable false conundrum/paradox was posted

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