I don’t believe you.
You don’t like hearing those words. Nobody does. You want to be believed. You want me to come to the same conclusions you have, to do whatever it is you think is best. So you need to call on someone, or something, that you think will help to make your case, right? You need an Authority.
Perhaps you could refer to some passage in The Bible. The Word of God, right? What better authority can there be?
Didn’t Moses hand down God’s law? Let’s see…
“Israel, for the good of the whole country, you must kill anyone who murders an innocent person. Never show mercy to a murderer! ” Deutoronomy 19:13.
That’s authoritative! Reading a bit more…
“Whenever you capture towns in the land the LORD your God is giving you, be sure to kill all the people and animals.” Deutoronomy 20:16.
Oh, dear. Right. This is the Old Testament. Let’s try the New Testament! Jesus is in there, right? Son of God? St. Paul, the first Apostle to the Gentiles? There’s an Authority for you.
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13.
That sounds good! Very inclusive! Now, a bit further on…
“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.” 1 Corinthians 14:33b-34.
Hmmm. My Presiding Bishop must have a difference of opinion with St. Paul on this particular issue. Must be some additional scholarship or doctrinal interpretation that’s needed before you use The Bible as an Authority.
Well, what about the Koran? Isn’t Muhammed considered to be the Last Prophet? That sounds like an Authority.
“Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; He admonishes you that you may be mindful.” The Holy Qur’an [16.90].
Very good! Read some more…
“(As for) those who do not believe in Allah’s communications, surely Allah will not guide them, and they shall have a painful punishment.” The Holy Qur’an [16.104].
Oh, dear. That kind of Authority isn’t going to sit well with unbelievers, is it? Perhaps you’d better go with something that appeals to my logical side? Is there some secular, non-religious Authority you can use?
What about Data? The facts! Statistics!
Oh. But wait. ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ Thanks to a former colleague, I will want to know the bias of the questions (“Have you beaten your wife lately? Yes or No.”), the bias of the data sample (Americans are likely to prioritize localization lower than Europeans), and the size of the data sample (answers from 2 people aren’t going to be as statistically significant as 200 — see here for impressive-looking formulae).
But, if you put enough numbers and graphs and statistics together, won’t that bolster your case? What if you use lots of numbers, and then throw in some eyewitness accounts? Won’t that work?
Well, not really. Take the Press. They make their living from eyewitness accounts, right? Yes. But what about in controversial situations? Their eyewitness accounts that agree with what the Government is already saying aren’t very interesting. The Press has to report the other eyewitness accounts that tell “the rest of the story” in order to satisfy the average American appetite. But of course, all these other eyewitness accounts make The Press less of an Authority to whomever believes that the Government says (and knows) the whole story.
So, what can you do? What Authority can you invoke to sway my opinion, when other Authorities fall short?
The answer is simple. You. And me. Your personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. And the experiences and thoughts and feelings that we share. Our shared Humanity is the only Authority that really works, if you want me to believe you.
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