When my parents taught me to examine my beliefs, I was essentially expected to build a defense for what they had taught me. In [my philosophy of knowledge class], we were ostensibly doing the same thing--examining our beliefs--but in practice, it was the exact opposite. We were critically probing our beliefs, challenging them, testing them for weak points, pliability, and boundaries. Some students were even replacing them.
The difference between Eastern and Western education can be traced to the disparity that divides Muslim immigrants from their children: Islamic cultures tend to establish people of high status as authorities, whereas the authority in Western culture is reason itself. These alternative seats of authority permeate the mind, determining the moral outlook of whole societies.
When authority is derived from position rather than reason, the act of questioning leadership is dangerous because it has the potential to upset the system. Dissension is reprimanded, and obedience is rewarded. Correct and incorrect courses are assessed socially, not individually. A person's virtue is thus determined by how well he meets social expectations, not by an individual determination of right and wrong. Thus, positional authority yields a society that determines right and wrong based on honor and shame.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (Zondervan, 2014), pp.107-8.
Monday, November 30, 2015
East vs. West: Authority and Reason