Aristotle once wrote that 'All persons ought to endeavor to follow what is right, and not what is established.' This means questioning what society merely assumes, and daring to come up with different answers. Does your province or state think the death penalty is a good thing? If you go along with them and never ask what makes a human life significant, you're just a sheep, an unthinking human herd animal, for going blindly with the mob. Do your friends, professors, or parents think prostitution, polygamy, incest, or child brides are a bad thing? It's worth mulling over what makes one sexual option better or worse than another in terms of morality. And if you think all of these are bad, but you think gay marriage is okay, it's worth wondering why you think homosexuality is better than polygamy and child brides - especially because in places like Nigeria, polygamy and child marriage is practiced while gay marriage is seen as a bad thing, and it's worth having an answer for why North American sexual ethics should be accepted while Nigerian ethics should not.
My point is that we've all got these cultural assumptions that we feel everybody else should share; from the person who thinks you're intolerant for not accepting homosexuality (but is also strangely intolerant towards other sexual options, like Ontarian prostitution), to the Conservative/Republican who denounces anyone that doesn't share their philosophy on how the prison system should work, to small-town religious figures who take strong stances against those who differ with their views of science and philosophy, everyone seems to think they're right but no one wants to explain why.
Case of Isaiah vs. The Herd
In Isaiah 8.11, Isaiah Ben-Amos wrote, 'Yahweh spoke to me with His strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people'. At the time Israel was full of lavish waste, characterized by a lack of sexual morals (they might have said 'sexual liberation'), swamped in idolatry, and bloated with greed. And God's command to Isaiah was to not follow the herd. To not become a sheep. To be called arrogant, intolerant, regressed. To be hated. To eventually -according to tradition- be murdered by being sawed in two from top to bottom with a wooden saw. Before we go on we need to stop and think about Isaiah's words. As Christians, we follow God, and God has commanded His people not to get swept up into the cultural quicksands but to follow Him and do what is right. In terms of culture, it's an exact forerunner to Aristotle's words quoted above.
Question Why You Question Authority
Also, don't get too far down the road protest thinking. Sometimes the culture isright. Maybe you won't be a herd animal by reacting against every cultural norm, but (and I hate to say it like this) you'll still be just as stupid. It's not enough to question authority. You've got to question whyyou question authority. Cross-examine all of your most deeply held beliefs and see what remains when the rubble clears. If you think there is no God, look at the underlying assumptions and see how strong those are. Or if you believe Jesus died for our sins and rose on the third day, maybe go back and try to figure out why you believe in that and not Atheism or Islam. Don't use emotionally-based arguments like 'I could never worship a mean sounding god like Allah' or 'a world without God would just feel so meaningless' either. Really take a logic-based, rational approach here.
The Sexuality/Gender Example
Before I deleted most of his comments, an anonymous poster replied to my last article the other day and was looking for a fight on the issue of homosexuality. The thing is, while he kept throwing prepositions like 'intolerant', 'ignorant', 'bigoted', 'biased', and 'homophobic' out at anyone who wouldn't happily endorse the LGBT lifestyle, he couldn't for the life of him explain why he thought the gay lifestyle was okay. His whole attitude was, 'I can't or won't explain the reasons for endorsing this, but you're ignorant if you don't fall in line.' That's classic herd thinking - 'just shut up and say, "baah."' There's no reason, it's just, 'this is the way it is.' It just is. And that's supposed to be good enough. But Christians can be sheep on this issue too: they can shout up and down about how homosexuality is evil and demon inspired, but they never stop to ask whythat's the case (if it is the case). I know the assumptions that I have which lead me to believe that the gay lifestyle is wrong - do you? Can you explain why incest, polygamy, child marriage, prostitution, homosexuality, pornography, and heterosexuality are all different and why some of these should be allowed while others shouldn't? Christians at least can make sure that their belief in the Bible is reasonable and then work into issues of sexuality from there, but especially for the non-religious, it's worth asking why you believe certain things about sexual ethics and demand others see things the same way.
Think Outside the Herd
Whether you're a North American questioning social norms, to a conservative Christian who believes in evolution, I salute you. The world's cultures are one big box, and it's good for us to get outside of them for a bit, to question and probe what they stand for and value, and to go back in as more resolute and changed people. Philosophers and Prophets (Aristotle and Isaiah, respectively) have told us not to become part of the herd. By continually questioning our most deeply held assumptions, we can do this. Even if we come back more traditional and institutionalized, as I feel I sometimes have, we will be freer and more thoughtful people for having gone through the experience and having not settled for weak or dubious answers. Always question your underlying assumptions, and ask your friends to do it too.