Doubts get a bad rap.
I grew up in a very conservative religious environment, where doubts were considered a kind of moral failing. It caused me a lot of fear and stress, especially later on, when I realized that I had no choice but to reassess what I had believed growing up. But in the end, my doubts led me to a far greater (and far more powerful) understanding of my own faith. Without that, I have no idea where I’d be today, but I very much doubt it would be nearly as good as where I am.
There’s a reason why we tend to react to doubt the way we do—and I’m not necessarily talking purely about religious doubt, but of any “anchor” of our life in which we have previously had faith. It’s unsettling. People take great comfort from the safety of the familiar, from the people, institutions, and beliefs that they’ve grown to trust, and questioning them undermines our sense of security.
Of course, that doesn’t make it wrong. In my case, the conservative religious beliefs I had been raised with were making me miserable and had led me to failure in pretty much every area of my life. Doubting them ended up being the best thing I could have done, because in confronting them I gained a much better understanding of what I believed, and left behind a lot of baggage that didn’t have any reliable basis.
Perhaps it’s best to see doubts as a kind of trial-by-fire. If you take them in the right spirit, they can purify your beliefs, burning away the excess and the false assumptions—but if you try to ignore them, they can grow wild and indiscriminate. I think the worst thing you can do with doubts is just suppressing them with your willpower because you’re trying to force yourself to believe something you really don’t. It will tend to make you see other viewpoints as adversarial and means that if that faith ever does fail, it’s likely to be for nonspecific reasons, simply because your will finally broke, rather than because you discovered some new and compelling evidence.
The tough reality we have to face is that human beings believe (and stop believing) things for all kinds of reasons, many of which aren’t as reasoned as we’d like to think. That reality registers as a form of danger, and like any other kind of danger, leaves us with a choice to fight or flee. And as with most dangers, just about the worst thing, you can do is not make a choice.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd