Without a structure of authority that guides group behavior in the soft, delicate, physically defenseless, human species; cooperative life , even primitive cooperative human life would not have been possible and the species Homo sapiens would never have evolved. Cooperative behavior was and is essential for the development of civilization. And It is the organization of a social structure through defined levels of authority that is necessary for formation and survival of a functional and successful community. In the larger sense this allows tribal to national assemblages of individuals to work, play and wage war as a cohesive society.
The functional base of authority, however, is the granting of allegiance to that authority by the individuals that compose that society. Authority claimed by brute force and fear of death for disobedience is difficult and costly to maintain. Rebellion is always just one insult away; and rebellion by those who would in turn, in one way or another, claim absolute authority is the ultimate expression of what is termed “human nature”. However if the authority figure is only but the representative of an all powerful supernatural being(s), then the individual or group that claims all powerful authority, stakes that claim not directly as the “be all, end all” of human authority; but instead as an intercessor for an all powerful, supernatural entity, then the absolute authority claimed and given to this supernatural being(s) is wielded by its intercessor(s) and representative(s). Even when the authority of the supernatural being is muted by the rise of secularism, a very recent development in the flow of human history, the power, glory, and beneficence of this/these supernatural entity(s) is requested and interpreted by and through its worldly representatives. “In God We Trust” is more than a slogan, it is one of many symbols of the granting of authority and usually worldly goods to the representatives of whatever god is professed by those who claim authority over the life and talents of the community.
I think we are slowly discovering that authority is not “God’s gift to humanity” but just a survival tactic for civilization. And it is a tactic that we must learn to wield, not to support irrationality and give ourselves over to supernatural myths, but as a powerful tool of reason and analysis for the fair and progressive development of human societies. We have known this in a limited and conflicted way since the Magna Carta was chartered in the early 13th century, and more clearly after the French and American revolutions in the late 18th century. The American Constitution enacted March 4, 1789 elucidated the concept that for the common good, authority must be defined by the people without supplication to a supernatural God, consultation perhaps, but only if one is so inclined, and never with a demand for universal supplication. Hopefully we will continue on this path.