Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dear Believers: Embrace Your Doubts

No gurus.
You like your religious beliefs and your religion. You like the stories--most of them, anyway--in the holy texts. You admire the central characters. You enjoy hearing and singing the devotional songs. You have a nice time at your place of worship, and the people there are very nice. You relate to them. You know the clergyman is pretty smart. He explains so clearly where the religious doctrines come from, and how they apply to the live we lead today. It is amazing, that the wisdom of old can resonate with each one of us. What's more, the sayings and the stories apply differently to such a variety of situations.

But you also have doubts. You pray, and you believe, but you have a twinge. How is God actually working in your life, how does that happen? When you look at your life, at the day by day of it, at the way the world works, how is it that God is so absent?

You have doubts. You wonder whether the religion's doctrines on gods and heaven and sins...are wrong. Maybe God didn't send Joseph down to Egypt or speak to Israel at Sinai or grant them victory over Jericho. Maybe Jesus wasn't the Son of God or the savior of humanity's sins or the conqueror of death. Maybe Mohammed wasn't a prophet. Maybe Joseph Smith made a mistake. Maybe Paul of Tarsus was a zealot. Maybe L. Ron Hubbard was only kidding. Maybe Mary was a regular mother.

My message to you, believers, is to embrace your doubts. I am not saying you should become an agnostic or an atheist. I am not saying to doubt everything or to believe everything. That's not at all what I want. Instead, I want for you to accept that it is right and good to have doubts. It is right and good to explore them, to understand them, to seek answers to them from various sources.  It's not a bad thing to enjoy doubt because doubt helps you to look for more information, and the more you look the more you will see.

I'm saying it's OK that your religion does not have all the answers, and I'm saying that your life is fine. Life can be a struggle. It can be unfair. It can be maddening. It can be lonely. It can be scary. Your life has all sorts of stresses, setbacks, and sonofabitches.

But your life also has greatness. It has you, first of all. You're pretty neat. It has a sun, a sky, and stars. It has the most amazing animal and plants all around. It has color, sound, and texture. It has friendly people, wacky people, kind people, generous people, smart people, and super people. Your life has its own story and possibilities. Your life has love, laughter, interest, music, value, potential, significance, and consequence. It has all these things, just by virtue that you are here.

Embrace your doubts. Don't think that doubts are bad or shameful. Don't be afraid or embarrassed about them. Don't ignore them, but explore them.

Investigate your unbelief as much as you have investigated your belief. Give yourself permission to follow every question.

Dear believers, this is my message. What is yours?


  1. I'm not a believer, but this is my philosophy:

    Anything which is true should be able to withstand honest scrutiny and questioning.

    Anything which cannot hold up under such scrutiny and questioning is false, and not worth believing.

    And if you're afraid or unwilling to scrutinize or question a cherished idea or belief, then you probably already know, deep down, how it would fare.

  2. Things are more complicated than this. Very often we can't really (or maybe "fully" is a better word) know whether something is true or false.

    I think many people are willing to question beliefs, but they are unwilling to accept that questioning is morally right, that questioning may lead to a path of extraordinary interest, and that a negative answer won't destroy the world.

    The goodness of questioning is, I think, what I am trying to communicate. Its OK to doubt, and its OK that investigating doubts may lead one to atheism (or, to an enriched theism). One must feel empowered to sail away from shore, and prepared not to return.


Feel free to comment if you have something substantial and substantiated to say.