Argumentum ad martyrdom

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But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
Carl Sagan[1]

Argumentum ad martyrdom is a pseudo-Latin term used for two different logical fallacies commonly favored by cranks and Christian fundamentalists:

Galileo gambit variation[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Galileo gambit
Argumentum ad martyrdom — I perceive that they don't like me, therefore I am correct.
—Tinker Grey[2]

This version typically stems from a belief that the message being conveyed makes people hostile because of its truth. This usage was initially coined by "Tinker Grey", a secular member of Christian Forums[3] who saw that refuting an argument of a member who was under the impression that other members hated them resulted in a bolstering of their confidence in their refuted argument.

The argument is reportedly popular with Christians as the Bible says to expect persecution for your beliefs and that persecution indicates you are right (e.g., Matthew 5:11-12):

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(And lots more.[4])

Personal certainty[edit]

This usage is the argument that Christianity (or, for that matter, Islam[5] or whatever) is true because people would not martyr themselves for it if it were false, sometimes presented in the rhymed statement that martyrs wouldn't "die for a lie". Thus, the martyrs' assumed personal certainty is advanced as evidence for a proposition.

This usage precedes the "Galileo gambit" usage,[note 1] and in Christianity, it goes back to the 2nd/3rd century Church father TertullianWikipedia, who claimed that "the blood of the martyrs is seed", i.e., that the examples of martyrs dying for the Christian faith would convince others that Christians must be on to something that good.[7] Tertullian also spawned the branch of history known as Christian martyrology.Wikipedia[8]

Argument from personal certainty is trivially false: throughout history, many people have died in the service of provable lies. More generally, if you consider the number of people who died for mutually contradictory ideas (e.g., from different religions or over doctrinal disputes), it is likely that most people who died for an idea were actually wrong. As this is a common argument, detailed refutations have been compiled.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. "And, once again, we find a Biblical prophesy fullfilled in our lifetime — the Bible clearly predicts that the day will come when those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ will be persecuted and ridiculed." by SensibleSam[6]


  1. Quotes, Stories, and Bon Mots related to Pseudoscience & Mistaken Pronouncements
  2. Argumentum ad martyrdom — I perceive that they don't like me, therefore I am correct. by Tinker Grey (24th November 2009, 01:25 PM) Christian Forums (archived from April 14, 2015).
  3. Christian Forums
  4. All That Will Live Godly in Christ Jesus Shall Suffer Persecution Topical Bible Studies (archived from May 23, 2019).
  5. Dying for God: Martyrdom in the Shii and Babi Religions by Jonah Winters (1997) Master of Arts thesis, University of Toronto via Bahá'í Library (archived from May 22, 2019).
  6. Re: Article Discussion: Theater protest set by activists for gay by jimhinco (December 11th, 2008, 5:13 pm) #598987 Denver Post (archived from (April 14, 2015).
  7. Tertullian, Apologeticus, ch. 50.
  8. Rediscovering the Martyrology by George Weigel (2.26.14) First Things.
  9. Would someone die for what they knew was a lie? Religions Wiki.