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The Fallacious Appeal To Authority


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One of the greatest fallacies about Christianity is its appeal to authority. We have a collection of 66 writings (many more were excluded after religious authorities banned them) that we are to believe can provide us with infallible wisdom and insight into the future -- because they supposedly form a compiled word of God.


My mother recently gave me a book called Trust in God Therapy, which offered advice that made absolutely no worldly sense...and that many people would take because they trusted it. (Example: "No matter where you are, you are right where you need to be." Really? So if I'm in prison for a crime I didn't commit, I'm supposed to be there? If I'm associating myself with dangerous people, it's because I'm supposed to be there and not because I'm too stupid to predict the danger?)


But before you laugh at or applaud what I have written, take a look in the mirror. How many decisions do you and I make every day that are based on a fallacious appeal to authority?


Here's an example: I once shopped at a grocery store that had two stone tablets in front (gee, I wonder where they got that idea) with etchings that read, "Rule #1. The customer is always right. Rule #2. If the customer is ever wrong, refer to rule #1."


I'm sure lots of customers appreciated this ego stroking, but what message was this store sending to its employees? That a customer can make up any price for something and that, because he's the customer, that must be the right price. Never mind that the store must be able to earn a profit on its merchandise to keep supplying the almighty customer with food, year in and year out.


As President Bush made his case for war in Iraq, many people didn't take much time to examine the merits of the case. Instead, they'd respond to critics, "He's the President, and we should support him." (I just love the Britney Spears quote in Fahrenheit 9/11.) But did anyone take into account that Bush, even if he were leveling with us, even if he were otherwise a MENSA member, is fallible and that, by "supporting our troops" we were supporting a policy that put them in harm's way unnecessarily?


Where I work, we do lots of things for our clients that are clearly not in their best interests, just because they said so. We let glaring errors pass just to avoid confrontation. Would the client not appreciate us for questioning the merits of an idea? Would the boss prefer to have yes-men or people who can help him or her become more successful?


What does this fallacy cause you to do? How can we change ourselves and, by extension, our world by refusing to subscribe to it?

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