Johnson: authoritarian lure | Letters



Some who participated in the January 6 uprising later confessed that they had been duped by Donald Trump. How could seemingly sane and reasonable men and women be taken in this episode?

Part of the answer could be that human beings are prone to seeking leadership and will often follow someone who reeks of trust and authority. For example: Mussolini, Hitler, Jim Jones.

Life is often complicated; the truth is not always easy to find.

Religious traditions are in principle authoritarian. When we are inducted into religious traditions, we are not encouraged to think critically – to seek evidence or argument. The authority of God is translated into the human community by means of holy books or a religious hierarchy: Torah, Talmud, Bible, Koran. In Catholicism, the pope is considered infallible on certain matters. The authority of the Bible was emphasized by Billy Graham: “The Bible says…”

Religious issues are complicated and beliefs are difficult to base on logic or evidence. “Faith”, as belief and trust, is a crucial element of a religious tradition. This was powerfully described by Tevye in “Fiddler On The Roof”. However, faith is not knowledge.

The appeal to authority, of course, also manifests itself in non-religious movements: Das Kapital for the Marxists, the “Little Red Book” of the Marxist Mao Tse-tung, Mein Kampf for the Nazis.

Critical thinking – the search for evidence and logic – is not always easy. It can threaten our core beliefs and our sense of identity. But a functioning democracy demands that of us.

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