The roles of doubt in religious faith
Quotes dealing with religious doubt
Pierre Abelard: "The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by
doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth."
Gordon Allport: "The mature religious sentiment is ordinarily
fashioned in the workshop of doubt."
St. Augustine: "Doubt is but another element of faith."
Browning: "You call for faith: I show you doubt, to prove that
faith exists. The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say, If faith
Charles Bukowski: "The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence."
George Carlin: "Don't just teach your children to read. Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything."
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The faith demanded by the
Christian Revelation stands on a different footing from the belief claimed
by any other religion. Since it rests on divine authority, ... its refusal
involves not merely intellectual error, but also some degree of moral
perversity. It follows that doubt in regard to the Christian religion is
equivalent to its total rejection." 2
G. K. Chesterton: "It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but
it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong."
Darrell J. Fasching: "I have found a fullness in the doubts and questions of my life that
I once thought could only be found in the answers. Mercifully, doubts
and questions have come to be so fulfilling that I find myself
suspicious of answers, not because they are necessarily false or
irrelevant, but because even when relevant and true they are, and can
only be partial. It is doubt and questioning that always lure me on to
broader horizons and deeper insights through an openness to the infinite
that leave me contentedly discontent." 3
Erich Fromm: "Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties."
Hal E. Fulton: Commenting on the dozens of Branch Davidians who died at
Waco, TX: "... if these people had been more like [the disciple] Thomas, the
whole tragic incident need never have happened." 5
G Gaia: "The common dogma [of fundamentalists] is fear of modern knowledge,
inability to cope with the fast change in a scientific-technological
society, and the real breakdown in apparent moral order in recent years....
That is why hate is the major fuel, fear is the cement of the movement, and
superstitious ignorance is the best defense against the dangerous new
knowledge. ... When you bring up arguments that cast serious doubts on their
cherished beliefs you are not simply making a rhetorical point, you are
threatening their whole Universe and their immortality. That provokes anger
and quite frequently violence. ... Unfortunately you cannot reason with them
and you even risk violence in confronting them. Their numbers will decline
only when society stabilizes, and adapts to modernity."
Andre Gide: "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it."
Donavan Hall: "Any religion which prohibits doubts abandons any
hope of growth or development. A religion without doubt is fixed and
unchanging. Such a religion is useless to dynamic thinking individuals who
are curious about the truth of reality." 6
Oliver Wendell Holmes: "To have doubted one's own first principles is
the mark of a civilized man."
John A. Hutchinson: "Unthinking faith is a curious offering to be
made to the creator of the human mind."
Blaise Pascal: "To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely -- this
is for man what running is for a horse."
Tennyson, in his poem In Memoriam: "There lives more faith
in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds."
Theodore Rubin: "There are two ways to slide easily through life: to
believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking."
- "Throughout the long period of religious doubt, I had been rendered very
unhappy by the gradual loss of belief, but when the process was completed, I
found to my surprise that I was quite glad to be done with the whole
- "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the
intelligent are full of doubt."
Isaac Bashevis Singer: "Doubt is part of all religion. All the
religious thinkers were doubters."
George H. Smith: "... for the Christian to doubt the truth of a purported
revelation is potentially to challenge the authority of the infallible
God in whom she believes. It is therefore religious doubt, not atheistic
disbelief, that constitutes the greatest threat to orthodox beliefs,
because doubt threatens to undermine a belief system from within." 7
Mark Taylor: "Religious conflict will be less a matter of
struggles between belief and unbelief than of clashes between believers who
make room for doubt and those who do not." 4
Paul Tillich: "Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an
element of faith."
Miguel de Unamuno: "Faith which does not doubt is dead faith."
- "Faith consists in believing not what seems true, but what seems false to our understanding."
- "Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous."
Michael White: "God isn't afraid of our doubts, but He doesn't want to leave them with us either."
Zen saying: "Great Doubt: great awakening. Little Doubt: little
awakening. No Doubt: no awakening.
About religious doubt in the military:
Anon: "There are no Atheists in foxholes."
Bill Cooke: "... enforced Christianity was the surest breeding
ground for unbelief. Many men either became unbelievers or met unbelievers
during their military service." 1
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Bill Cooke, "The Gathering of Infidels: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist
Press Association," Prometheus Books (2004).
"Doubt," Catholic Encyclopedia, at:
Darrell J. Fasching, "Narrative Theology
After Auschwitz: From Alienation To Ethics," Fortress Press, (1992), Page
Mark C. Taylor, "The Devoted Student," New York Times, 2006-DEC-21. See
our essay on the role of religious doubt.
Hal E. Fulton, "Faith, Reason and Doubt," at:
Donavan Hall, "Science and the Fear of Doubt," St. Alban's Lectures, (1996),
George H. Smith, "Why Atheism," Prometheus Books, (2000).
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Posted 1996 to 2012 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Copyrights for the individual quotations held by their creators
Last updated: 2012-APR-21
Compiled by: B.A. Robinson