Dear Christian, Doubt Is Not Your Enemy (Part 1)

For the Christian, doubt is a bad thing - a lack of faith, or even worse, outright unbelief.  Early on in the Bible, doubt is portrayed in a negative light.  The Eden story in Genesis tells of a serpent planting doubt in the mind of Eve - did God really say not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? 

According to the Bible, faith is the “evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  The writer of the gospel of John has Jesus saying “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).  In other words, God approves of those who believe on the basis of stories they have been told, rather than requiring evidence, as “doubting Thomas” did.

Such credulous acceptance of unverified word-of-mouth claims played an essential role in the rise of Christianity.  Miraculous stories abounded in ancient superstitious cultures, providing fertile soil for supernatural beliefs to grow and thrive.  Apologists and theologians love to claim that the New Testament stories are based on eyewitness accounts, but let’s face it – it’s not like the early believers could use a phone, or Google, or Snopes to investigate claims.  Do we really think that they climbed on a donkey and rode for days to track down and interview sources, to verify the tales they were told?  The fact that the people of that time would most likely not be skeptics is the more reason that it is vital we should scrutinize the biblical claims.

I think that believing without sufficient evidence is a dangerous way to live life.  Asking people to believe on the basis of hearsay can be used to get people to accept any sort of claim - religious or not.  Elvis is still alive... communications from aliens... “Breatharians” who claim to live on only air and light - no food.  Some beliefs have deadly consequences.  Would you forgo a cancer treatment, and instead rely on an anecdotal story which some anonymous person emailed to you?

The funny thing about beliefs - it doesn't matter how crazy the story is, once you get enough people buying into to it, the mere fact of numbers will induce others to join also. We humans tend to be swept along by the crowd, in lemming-like fashion.   Furthermore, if you take an unbelievable story which has been handed down from a long time ago, it can magically transform  into something believable, when placed in the context of religious worship.  Once you have groups of people who have "bought in", a person in their midst who dares voice doubts is viewed with pity or suspicion. Others may recoil as if the doubt is contagious because they often have doubts of their own, which they are not expressing. 

Let me make one thing clear at the outset; when it comes to discovering truth, doubt is not your enemy.  In fact, doubt can be a friend and ally.  Skepticism is part of your mental immune system - defending against lies and bad ideas.  Think of doubt like the "Check Engine" light on the dashboard of your car.

 When it lights up, it is an indicator that something is not right; a diagnosis needs to be made, or more serious problems could follow.  Doubt is your mind telling you that things aren't adding up, with regard to ideas that you've bought into.  Ignore it at your own peril!

Go to part 2.

Written by J. M. Green