The Virtue of Doubt

Shares

 

 

The beginning of wisdom

 is found in doubting; 

by doubting we come to the question, 

and by seeking 

we may come upon the truth.

Pierre Abelard

(1079-1142)

 

By Karen Loethen

I want to give this idea some thought, the idea that doubt is a virtue. Let’s unpack it a little. I would venture to say that every single person who ever claimed to have or claims to have a religious outlook on life has had periods of doubt in their life. It is a very human thing. In fact, the church holds faith, over doubt, as one of the highest virtues one can hold. Much of the church’s teaching, in fact, tells that having faith even when doubt is sucking one’s mind into the unending fire is the highest virtue and is, therefore, essential to being in good graces with the Christian god.

Furthermore, doubt is considered a form of pride in the church. Another sinful thing, pride. It seems that the church wants nothing more than to save all believers from the sin of pride, the sin of doubt, by encouraging them to maintain faith in the face of doubt. What treacley goodness comes when one experiences doubt and yet chooses faith over that doubt.

Whereas I say that doubt is a human being’s natural function common sense sticking its head above the water and wondering what in the world am I doing in this crazy place.

A goodly amount of churchy effort goes in to the practice of encouraging adherents to maintain faith in the face of doubt. As Dieter F. Uchtorf said doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. I’ve got to admit, that’s cute and catchy. Another cute pat on the head, Little One, is that expression Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.

In other words, give us some time to beat your common sense back into submission.

I wonder how many bouts of doubt I weathered before finally finding a way out of the church? Quite a few, actually, because I can clearly recall several of them. Moments when my eyes began to open, to see the ridiculous, to see the obviously man- made parts of religion before being subsumed back into the fable and the pageantry. Back to the place where Thomas is a cautionary tale rather than a human being looking for clear, true signs of the resurrection…signs that should have been easy to display in that moment…to dear Doubting Thomas. I mean, just show me your wound, Lord, since we’re right here and all.

Yes, those moments when doubt begins creeping up, story inconsistencies, weird/rewritten church history, obvious power plays, moments when the church as an institution, a money-making institution vs. a creation of a deity, becomes so clear, moments when the very kernel of truth of a religion becomes undeniably shaken. Having the courage to explore the doubt, to explore the questions more fully, to entertain the idea that the mustard seed is a truly ridiculous metaphor.

The truth is, being able to change one’s mind when presented with new information is the true sign of courage and maturity; doubt is a true virtue. So listen to your doubt; it’s trying to tell you something. Allow me to end this little diatribe with one of my favorite quotes by Bertrand Russell:

 The whole problem with the world 
is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, 
and wiser people so full of doubts.

Karen Loethen

July 14, 2018

Blogger at My Own Mind

About the Author Karen Garst

Leave a Comment:

2 comments
Add Your Reply