If you spend much time in religious circles then you know that “having doubts” is considered one of the worst things that a religious person can experience. “Having doubts” usually amounts to developing questions about the longstanding beliefs of your religious community. Here are some examples: Does God really exist? Was Jesus really divine? Is there any validity at all in other religions? Is America really a Christian nations? Is global warming really a lie devised by liberals and the devil? Does God really care if I drink beer?
Perhaps a belief in global warming does not seem to reach the level of apostasy of questioning the divinity of Jesus, but it is a slippery slope (or so the argument goes). One day you are watching a Michael Moore film, the next day you are burning Bibles in your front yard.
It is curious to me that conservative religious people are so afraid of any amount doubt. Perhaps it is this idea of the slippery slope; the fear that one step off the path of right doctrine will send us hurtling into darkness and deception.
If you don’t believe that this is such an issue, give it a test. Tell your pastor or religious friend that you are having second thoughts about the literalness of the Bible. Tell them that you aren’t sure if you believe in the devil. Tell them that you think evolution might be true. See what kind of reaction you get if you admit to seeing inconsistency in scripture or believing that God is displeased with America’s consumerism or foreign policy. Or worst of all, tell them that you are becoming a democrat.
The truly ironic part of this issue is that the Bible is full of expressions of profound doubt. Abraham, Moses, Job, Samson, Gideon, David, and Jesus disciples struggled with understanding God. The authors of the Psalms continually question God’s goodness, whether He really has their best interest in mind, and whether or not He will abandon them. Even Jesus expresses feelings of frustration and abandonment.
Doubt is one of the first steps on the journey to new things. Without questions and doubt there would never be scientific discovery or innovation. Questioning the status quo is also, often a foundation of leadership. Followers accept the way things are. Leaders find a better way.
Seth Godin says, “Faith is the cornerstone of humanity; we can’t live without it. But religion is very different from faith. Religion is just a set of invented protocols, rules to live by (for now). Heretics challenge a given religion, but do it from a very strong foundation of faith. In order to lead, you must challenge the status quo of the religion you’re living under.”
I applaud the doubters, the questioners, and the heretics. Doubt leads us to truth. Doubt strengthens our beliefs. Doubt makes us healthier people.