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Disclaimer: The below information contains many generalisations and may not apply to any particular cult.

Self refuting statements

Self-refuting statements are also called self-defeating statements. They are statements that implicitly deny their own truthfulness. From the logic side of things, it's a little like shooting oneself in the foot. One of the most commonly used is variations of "There are no absolutes" – which is an absolute statement. It's easier to see when it's rephrased "There are absolutely no absolutes" because it's clear that it contradicts itself.

One topical example of this phrase, Obi Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars Episode III) claimed "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." Because this is an absolute statement and we know that Jedi don't lie, either Obi Wan (or rather George Lucas or his ghost writer) is an idiot who has used a self-refuting statement, or Obi Wan is a Sith. (Ha! Bet you didn't know that about him – Editor.)

Another commonly used self-refuting statement used in relation to religions is "Truth is relative." Again, it's an absolute statement which in order to mean anything must be true. But if truth isn't absolute the statement isn't true.

Self refuting statements don't need to be refuted, as such, since they do that themselves. However, they should be pointed out. Here's a few examples of how, using questions to hopefully help the person who made the self refuting statement get thinking. Closely related to many of these self-refuting statements is the Law of non-contradiction, which basically says something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same sense.

Truth | Reality | Religion | Logic | Language | Miscellaneous

Statement Response(s)


There is no absolute truth.

- Is that absolutely true?
- Are you absolutely sure about that?

"All people or groups that claim to have absolute truth are liars" – paraphrase of Rob Bell's teachings.

Is that also an absolute truth, and therefore a lie?

"Nothing is black and white" – example from Internet.

Is that black and white?

"There are no absolutes in life, except for death, a reality many of the religious find difficult to grasp or accept ..." – atheist (and antitheist) Sam Clements in a letter to NZ Herald, 5 June 2014.

Note that atheism is a religious belief system (and antitheism, which Sam Clements practices, is a religion), hence Sam Clements is a religious person finding reality difficult to grasp. Atheism encourages people not to think rationally or to consistently apply logic.

Isn't that an absolute statement?

A letter in the NZ Herald the following day refuted Sam Clements:
... your correspondent Sam Clements, I wonder if he has succumbed to the tyranny of irrationality posing as logic.
Apart from ignorance ... there is the contradictory declaration that "there are no absolutes in life".
He excepts death from this dogmatically absolute statement.

"All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie" – Bob Dylan song Things Have Changed. - Is that true?
- Is that a lie?
"No religion can claim an absolute monopoly on the Holy Spirit or theological truth." – Unitarian belief, Wikipedia listing. - So that statement isn't absolutely true?
"Religion and Spirituality both are relative truths." – Kosmic Fusion website. - Did you just make an absolute religious statement?
We can't know truth. - Is that true?
- Do you know that?
"No human being, Pope, housewife, scientist, graduate or web-master can say beyond a doubt what is true without assuming divine infallibility." – JH by email, defending Rob Bell. - Is what you just said true?
- If that is true, are you assuming divine infallibility?
"The mind has no capacity to tell truth from falsehood" – David R Hawkins. - Did your mind have the capacity to tell that that statement is true?
- Does my mind have the capacity to tell that that statement is true?
- How do you expect my mind to be able to determine the truthfulness of this statement?
"Since nobody is capable of being in possession of the whole truth about anything, our common humanity matters more" – Bill Clinton in this video. - Were you in possession of the whole truth about that statement when you said it?
- Is that wholly true?
"You can't believe anything you read online" – the title of an online article. - Why don't you just cut to the chase and say "This sentence is false"?
Truth is relative.
(This is known as relativism.)
Is that statement only relatively true?
"Science has absolutely proved that truth is relative" – paraphrase of DP by email. - Is that "truth" also relative?
- Is that absolutely true, or just relatively true?
"Truth is completely negotiable" – from a personal discussion. - Is that "truth" also completely negotiable?
- Is that absolutely true, or just negotiably true?

All truth depends on your perspective.

Truth is different for everyone.

- Is that statement true?
- Does that truth depend on your perspective?

- Does that mean that statement could be true only for you?
- What if my truth is that truth is the same for everyone (as per the Law of non-contradiction)?

"We must all find out our own truth" – Nanda McLean in a letter to NZ Herald.

"You should try to discover your own truth" – comment on NZ Herald web site.

- Is that true for me or just for you?
- Are you telling me my truth instead of letting me find out my own truth?
- What happens if I find out my truth contradicts your truth?
- It that your own truth or my own truth you're trying to discover for me?

"Emergent doesn't have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that matter." – Emergent Church leader Tony Jones.

- Is that absolutely true?
- Is that a position?

"There are no facts, only interpretations." – Friederich Nietzsche (who suffered a collapse and a complete loss of his mental faculties aged 44).

- Is that a fact?
- Is that just your interpretation?
- How long will it be before your interpretation of that changes?

This (whatever it might be) is the only source of truth.

- Is that statement true?

"The Bible is the only truth" – president of a Christian apologetics school (paraphrased).

- Is that idea true?

"Science is the only effective way to get at truth" – WD by email.

- Is that idea true?
- Is that undeniable? Oh, wait, undeniability (eg, the law of non-contradiction) is a logical way to get to truth.


We create our own reality. - Did I just create you saying that or did you?
- When you said that did we create the same reality at the same time?
"Each individual creates his/her own reality" – LH in forum post. - Was it someone real who just said that?
- Did your reality just create me asking you if your reality just created me asking you if ... ?
"Reality is in your experience" – SW by email.

- Is that really true or did it just become true when I experienced it?
- If I had never experienced you saying that would it never be true?
- Did you exist before I experienced you saying that?

"... people[']s reality is whatever they believe it to be" – RW by email. - Is it just your belief that your reality is whatever you believe it to be, or is that really the case?
- If my reality is, like yours, whatever I believe it to be, did I just create your emails by believing I would receive them?
- Do you believe my reality changed when you believed you said that?
- If I believed I hadn't read your statement then would it not have been real?

Everything is an illusion.

Pain and suffering are just an illusion.

- Is that statement true or just an illusion?
- If pain is an illusion tell me why it is that when I sit on a pin and it punctures my skin, I dislike what I fancy I feel?
- Go jump in front of a speeding truck, then. [Perhaps not an acceptable reply, but it does show the statement is not a livable one.]

"All matter is an illusion" – PJ by email.

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one" – Albert Einstein.

- Who/what just said that?
- Did an illusion just make a real statement?

- Why do you persist in making illusory statements?

We don't exist.

Matter doesn't exist.

- If that's the case then what just said that?
- If matter doesn't matter you should try stepping in front of a bus and see if the bus's matter matters. [Perhaps not an acceptable reply, but it does show the statement is not a livable one.]

"Science now knows there is really no matter as such" – PJ by email.

"The universe isn't made of anything" – QI producer John Lloyd on radio.

- Who said that?
- What said that?
- Did an immaterial person just make a material statement?
- If you're immaterial does it matter what you espouse?

"Matter is mortal error... matter is the unreal and temporal" – Christian Science doctrine (quoted in Watchman Fellowship's Off site link: Christian Science Profile).

- Did an unreal person just make a real statement?
- Did I just hear the result of unreal thought processes?

Matter does exist, but nothing else does.

There is no supernatural.

Does the immaterial meaning of that statement exist?

When did you gain the supernatural omniscience to know that?

"Nothing exists except matter" – philosopher Mary Midgley. Does that statement have any meaning (ie, outside of the matter it exists as)?
"[We are] just atoms formed into molecules that come together organically" – NZ Herald columnist Alan Duff.

Are your immaterial presuppositions of materialism and naturalism also just atoms?

Where does his certainly come from? How can he speak so dogmatically about our nature and origins? If his comments are just the personal conclusions of a mere cluster of "atoms come together into molecules", can I trust his conclusions? – response to NZ Herald editor by Peter Armstrong.

... consideration of the matter of whether "we're just atoms" is the field of philosophy or world view and theology. "We're just atoms" is atheist philosophy or world view, not science. Duff might consider how beings he believes are "just atoms" could have the ability to self reflect and think, "We're just atoms." In other words, what explanation does he have for human rationality? – response to NZ Herald editor by John Hayes.

My viewpoint is solidly grounded in personal experience. How can subjective evidence provide a solid foundation?
"I've got my feet firmly planted on this illusion" – Cindy Williams. How can [an] illusion provide a firm footing?
You can't trust your senses. Should I trust what my ears are hearing/eyes are reading when you ask that?
"Know all things to be like this: A mirage, a cloud castle, a dream, an apparition, without essence, but with qualities that can be seen. ... Know all things to be like this: As a magician makes illusions of horses, oxen, carts and other things, nothing is as it appears." – The Buddha, from the Samadhiraja Sutra.

- Is that statement a mirage?
- Is that statement's meaning a mirage?
- Is that statement as it appears?


All religions are true.
(This is known as pluralism.)

You can't claim your religion is the only true one.

- Am I wrong if I disagree with that?
- Is my religion wrong if it disagrees with that?

- Is that a true religious statement itself?
- Are you claiming that religious statement is a true one?

"All major religions come from God." – Baha'i basic belief, from their web site.

What if my major religion from God disagrees with that?

It is wrong to judge.

It's wrong to say others are wrong.

We should let God do the judging.

- Then why are you judging?

- So what you just said is wrong?
- Are you wrong in saying that?
- Are you right to say others are wrong?

- God and you?

"Judging anyone is a direct judgement of the self." – "Rev" AH by email (spelling corrected).

In making that judgement are you judging yourself?
"No one is wrong or broken" – NLP basic tenet.

- So if I say that's wrong I can't be wrong in saying that?
- If someone disagrees with that are they wrong?

"Give up the interpretation that there’s something wrong" – Landmark Education teaching. - Is that interpretation right?
- Then how can it be wrong to think there's something wrong?
- Would that be an interpretation of something being wrong that you haven't given up yet?
- Could you demonstrate for us how playing on the motorway isn't wrong?
"Why not let God deal with him?" – a Hugh Ross supporter quoted here. - Shouldn't such questioners leave me alone and let God deal with me? – Dr Jonathan Sarfati.
We can't really know anything [about religion].
(This is known as "hard-boiled" agnosticism.)
Do you know that?
"Nothing is known or can be known about the existence or nature of God" – PCa by email. (Apart from being self refuting, later in the same email he also showed himself wrong by logically demonstrating that God is not a God who must prove himself to people. Clearly he does know something about God.) - How do you know nothing is known?
- How do you know nothing can be known?
- How can you know those things if nothing can be known?
"I know nothing!" – Sgt Schultz, TV series Hogan's Heros. How do you know that?

There is no God.

- How do you happen to omnisciently know that? (Omniscience being a characteristic of God and God alone.)
- Wouldn't you have to be God to know that?

God doesn't take sides.

- Does God take that side?
- Does God take His own side?
"Let the Holy Spirit guide your life, not a belief" – forum post. Do you have a belief in the Holy Spirit?
God is not omniscient (all-knowing). - And you know this because...?
- When did you become omniscient, that you would know that?
- That word "omniscient", I do not think it means what you think it means. (Video quote.)
We should tolerate all views/religions. - Why don't you tolerate my view/religion?
- So you tolerate all intolerant views as well?
"Author George Orwell ... opposed all ideologies and ideologues" – NZ Herald photo caption. - Did he oppose that one too?
- Why did he stop short of opposing the ideology of opposing all ideologies?
You shouldn't try to impose your own religion views on other people. Why are you trying to impose your religious view on me?
"But please, do not impose your beliefs on others" – PCa by email. Aren't you trying to impose your beliefs on me there?


"There are exceptions to every rule!" – SS, Subud member, by email.

- Is that a rule that's always right?
- Is that a rule that has an exception too?
- So what are the exceptions to that rule?

Reasoning is unreasonable. - What???
- That reasoning sounds unreasonable to me.

"Reasoning confuses you" – Joyce Meyer.

"The more you try to reason the more confused you'll get" – Joyce Meyer.

- Are you just trying to confuse me by making nonsensical statements?
- What's your reason for that?

- How much reasoning did you do to come up with that?
- Doesn't that mean that your statement is either confused or you didn't think before speaking?
- You sound confused. What's the reason for you being confused?
- Have you tried to reason a lot lately?
- Speak for yourself!

"There is a reason to question reason" – mathematician Morris Kline. - When you reasoned your way to that, how did you reason your reasoning was reasonable?
All generalisations are false. Are you just generalising?

"We never generalize!" – LL by email. (This claim was in between claiming the ancient Egyptians levitated slabs by manipulating the molecules around them, and claiming "Fact: Only the truly disgusting would be insulted at being called disgusting.")

Except for now?
I'm skeptical of everything. Including your own skepticism?
"I'm skeptical of anything I haven't seen or held in my hands" – PC in private conversation. (This is an example of the principle of verification, where something is true only if it can be empirically verified, and empricism, which says the origin of all knowledge is experience.) - So you're skeptical you have a brain?
- Are you skeptical of that statement?
- Have you held that statement in your hands?

Question everything.

Doubt everything.


Should I doubt that?

Everything we know is wrong. - Is that right?
- How do you know that?
"Everything you know is wrong." – many, including Weird Al Yankovich. Including the meaning of words you just used?
We can't make any decisions. - When/how did you decide that?
- When/how did you come to believe that? [A more subtle approach.]


Language is meaningless.
- Is that sentence meaningless?
- Don't you have to use meaningful language to tell me that?
"Words have become meaningless in our society" – Rodney Howard-Browne.

- Did those words you just used mean something?
- Did you just make a meaningless statement?

"Words aren't absolutes" – Rob Bell.

"No word is objective" – John Shelby Spong.

- Are those words absolute?
- Is the meaning of those words absolute?
- Did you mean anything absolute by that statement?

- Are those words objective?
- Is the meaning of those words objective?
- Did you mean anything objective by that statement?

"Words are not the ultimate truth." – from New Age book Conversations with God (paraphrased).

So what you just wrote is not ultimately true?

"You must come to a point where nothing in your life has any meaning" – Landmark Education teaching.

- Did you intend that point to have any meaning?
- You mean what you just said is meaningless?

"There is no inherent meaning in anything." – Landmark Education teaching.

- Did that have any inherent meaning?
- What do you really mean, then?

"The meaning of life is meaningless" – Landmark Education teaching.

[... Long pause ... Tumbleweed blows across web page ...]
Um... seriously, can't you do any better?

"Thoughts don’t have a beginning – they are fluid and undefinable" – Karl S from Hungary in a article.

"Do you really think so? ;)" – Dr Jonathan Sarfati.

"None of us can actually read the Bible, or anything else, simply at face value. It sounds easy, but it’s not." – Mike Hore, an old earth creationist, quoted in a article.

- So I cannot read that at face value?
- If you didn't mean what you wrote, what did you actually mean? No, wait, I won't be able to read that at face value either...

"Human language is inherently ambiguous, and there is no such thing as 'literal meaning'." – Mark Chiddicks, comment on this article.

So what you just said has no literal meaning?

"Words are the source of misunderstandings." – The fox in The Little Prince (a "children's book" which condones suicide).

- Then what am I to understand of that?
- Maybe you shouldn't have said that using words.
- Do I misunderstand your use of the word that is the definite article?
That’s just your interpretation.
That's just your opinion.
That's just your view.
And is that just your interpretation / opinion / view?
"All opinions are vanities" – David R Hawkins. Was that opinion just a vanity?
"What I say is not an opinion." – Neil deGrasse Tyson. Is that so?
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." – Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor AD 161 to 180), Meditations (Wikipedia: "It is considered by many commentators to be one of the greatest works of philosophy" ... and it's self-refuting). - Since I just heard you say that, is it only your opinion, not a fact?
- Since I just read that, is it only a perspective, not truth?
I cannot speak a word in English. What language was that?

"He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know." – Lao Tzu, quoted by Ivan Searle in a letter to the Listener in a failed attempt to discredit religious teaching.

- Did you just say something?
- So you don't know what you are saying?


"Therefore, it is clear that there cannot be a theory or a spiritual teaching in Subud" – Subud web page.

"Subud is neither a teaching nor a religion, but an experience awakened by the power of God leading to a spiritual reality free from the influence of ... thinking" – Subud web page.

- Isn't that a spiritual teaching?

- Isn't that a teaching?
- Were you under the influence of thinking when you wrote that?
- Did you have to think to come up with that or to tell it to me?

"Math is a question of fact, and religion is a question of faith" – BZ by email. Do you just believe that in faith or is it a fact?

"The objective certainty that people crave doesn't exist outside of God." – JH by email, defending Rob Bell.

But since you're making that statement outside of God, is what you just said objectively certain?

"All belief is a cover up for insecurity." – Deepak Chopra.

Do you really believe that? (Video quote.)

"Don't think, just do."

So you weren't thinking when you said that?

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." – The fox in The Little Prince (a "children's book" which condones suicide).

- Were you using your heart to see that it was right you should say that?
- Were you using your heart in order to be able to see the right words to say that with? (Since when did the heart have those sorts of language skills?)
- I just read those words, so are they not essential?
- Let me know when you start to feel thirsty. I'll see if I can use my heart to see some invisible water.

"Honour Before All" – Mt Albert Primary School motto.

Is honour more important than truth? How is lying honourable?

"Never Settle" – cellphone company slogan.

- So I shouldn't settle on buying this brand?
- ... on a fair price for which to buy this phone?

"Philosophy is dead." – theoretical physicist (and folk hero) Stephen Hawking.

Is that philosophy dead?

More self-defeating statements are listed on Apologetics Junkie. Feel free to suggest others – see the Contact page.

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