Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keep the Doubt

I am often told to keep the faith. The truth is, however, I prefer doubt. Faith is about clinging to answers that cannot be proven, while doubt is about wrestling with questions that just won’t go away. Of course I have faith in the value of doubt, so maybe I can keep both, but forced to choose I choose doubt.

Doubt is liberating. Faith plucks the fruit of questioning before it has time to ripen; doubt allows the fruit to ripen. This is what spirituality (dare I say religion?) ought to be about: ripening the questions. Yet people’s hunger for answers is so great that faith almost always trumps doubt.

Unfortunately the answers we pluck and eat rarely satisfy. This is because our questions are weak, and our answers to them shallow. In fact what we call answers are simply echoes of our own opinions. This is why I distrust answers: the right ones always turn out to be mine, and the wrong ones always turn out to be yours. Either I’m infallible, or I simply prefer my ideas to any others.

I’m not saying there is no right or wrong answer. I’m only saying I can’t know which is which. So honesty dictates that I admit to not knowing, and keep the doubt rather than the faith.


Lyn Baker said...

How could we ever approach faith without doubt's work being done in our minds? But then, I recently had a FB friend post "I'd rather be ignorant and faithful than skeptical and doubt." I questioned his statement to which he said, 'poor choice of words, I meant to say simple.' I asked him what was the difference, to which his response was to de-friend me. Sadly, his statement and response is what is taught and encouraged in the fundamentalist evangelical christian movement today. When I was attending church and bible study I made the point in class that we would never know what faith was if doubt were not also present. This idea was completely foreign to the group.
I have honest doubts. I'm not being arrogant or argumentative, I simply have honest sincere doubts. It is doubt that has driven me to step outside my traditional faith to discover that the world is wildly rich in spiritual knowledge. And, it is intoxicating! I want to know more and doubt is the fuel that has set me afire! But not just doubt. I truly want to live this one life to the fullest, and part of that is learning to understand myself. I mean, really understand myself. I was never able approach that kind of understanding being a Christian as it is defined today. What have I found? Islamabuddhajudahhinduchristitaoism! And all of that from doubt. And, I even doubt that! Delicious!

Changeless Chariot said...

If "faith" and "doubt" are purely cognitive processes, then I agree in the power of doubt over faith. The Deep Agnosticism Stephen Batchelor talks about. But after working some with the line in the St. Francis prayer, "[Where there is] doubt, [let me sow] faith," I have come to see the faith he means as beyond cognitive -- it is trust. Trust that life is providing the teachings that are needed, trust that there is a wholeness of which we are each a part, trust that the universe is unfolding as it should. Here, doubt might be better described as fear, anxiety, struggling with life, and suffering. Cognitively? Give me doubt/uncertainty. Emotionally? Give me faith/trust.

And keep giving me thought provoking blogposts, Rabbi!

Anonymous said...

I think there is a difference between blind faith and an intellectually honest faith. Blind faith shuts eyes to evidence or thinking that questions your assumptions. An intellectually honest faith manifests itself when you have thought things through as far as they can go, and then you decide to act with trust. Maimonides, for instance, was a real thinker, but at the end of discussion to unanswerable questions, he quoted the Psalms, "To You silence is praise." There was nothing more to say but just to trust.

Martha said...

I have enjoyed reading this post several times - it is so helpful to me! I love living in the questions. Thank you for helping me articulate my own comfort in the world of doubt.