How To Question Authority

Do not worship false authorities

To question authority we have to identify who and what are our authorities are. Previously we discovered that we could classify authorities as:

  1. Accepted
  2. Appointed
  3. Earned

Young children depend on the first two kinds of authority, accepted and appointed. As we grow and as our experience and ability to discern increases we should begin to discriminate between earned, and unearned authorities. Almost all will at some time be disillusioned by authorities that turn out to be false, or far less expert than we first assumed.

Disillusionment is not a bad thing. Finding false or untrustworthy authorities is an important learning experience. A major step is to systematically and deliberately validate our authorities and rank our authorities in terms of trust and the degree to which they have earned that trust.

We often need to step outside what is comfortable and look back at ourselves from the outside. Sometimes this sort of exploration can be painful. This can be particularly difficult if we believe strongly in something, for example, a particular religion, a New Age guru, or even a political position.

A good example can come from politics. If you are very polarized in the Left, or the Right, then when you look at what the other side is saying you are almost always are looking to find fault, not truth.

If you are serious about questioning your authorities try to look at the polar opposites of your current belief system and try to find truth, not error. Not saying ignore error, but try to focus on finding some truths. Try to find some people on the other side and try to find what you can have in common with them and hopefully you will see that people who hold very different views can indeed be decent people who just happen to disagree with you on some ideas.

If you strongly believe in God, or a Greater Life in the universe then you need to seriously examine the arguments put forth by atheists. If your faith can’t survive logical argumentation then it is a house built on sand (think of Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:24-27).

Whatever your belief system and its authorities, you need to examine them thoroughly and be prepared for the inevitable result that you will find some cracks in them, some less than perfectly satisfying answers. If you don’t then the chances are pretty good that you didn’t look hard enough.

Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, is supposed to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The truth is probably that we live many lives that have no more purpose than to gain experience, but once we get tired of that and want to move on to greater things we have to learn to examine and question authority.

We can do this all through using our mind and being determined to look at all the evidence. But is there something more? Is there some authority that transcends the authority of the senses, the authority of the mind?


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