This is an essay on questions, specifically about how we respond to questioning ourselves, and how people react when questioned in Western society (and possibly in the world in general) and the problems therein.
When people are asked a question (particularly “Why” questions) people are prone to assuming the questioner is being disrespectful, and/or to very quickly get defensive (often because they assume the questioner is being disrespectful).
Similarly, when we question our own previously held convictions or beliefs (or are told to) there is this odd idea that the ideas themselves as well as our belief in them becomes weaker. I suppose our belief might weaken somewhat during the process of questioning them, but of course the ideas remain just as strong or just as weak as they were initially. However, the end result of questioning is not always weakened belief, as beliefs can become stronger for having been questioned. After all through more thorough investigation, research, and use of our own logical facilities we may be able to discover further evidence supporting said beliefs.
Of course “why” questions particularly in the case of those authority positions may be thought of as an assumption of incompetence, but it can come from curiosity, or a sort of general “I can’t work out why this is, but I’m sure you have a reason for it, please do explain” sort of a thing. Questioning does not always indicate dissent, nor is it always a predicator of dissent.
Generally, I believe this to possibly be the result of living in a society who’s largest religious influence is one that puts a high value on the idea of faith, of unquestioning faith despite lack of evidence. I would suggest, that the reason we are discouraged from questioning is because the Christian tradition has lead us to believe that questioning = dissent, or failure to believe strongly enough. When in reality the only beliefs that questioning weakens are the beliefs based upon weak facts.
I also believe that this has lead society in times where it has attempted to “question and change” old beliefs, to assume that questioning must result in the throwing away of all previous beliefs, as evidenced by the modernist architectural revolution of the 1950s, which turned its nose up at Art Deco (which referenced past styles of architecture in new ways, and although revolutionary still had its basis in history) and turned to Bauhaus which abandoned as sentimental or false all historical reference. Bauhaus although occasionally beautiful, is impossible to live in properly without creating a jarring note, if you leave a magazine on your pristine stainless steel coffee table… you have created a note that ruins the style of the house, whereas less cleanly modernist places allow for plants, magazines, coffee mugs, and so on with no sense that they are out of place.
Similarly, this lead to the second wave feminist rejection of all things associated with femininity as demeaning for both men and women, and pooh-poohed the idea of things like sewing and cooking as valuable skills for a functioning society, which obviously they are.
Essentially, this tendency is the flip side of society’s discouragement of questions, the false dichotomy that if you question your beliefs and find even one that you realize is false, then you must throw out all of the others along with it, or keep the false one in with the bundle.
So, at the last, my advice is to question everything, collect as much reliable evidence as you possibly can, and abandoned and retain beliefs as logic dictates.