Back when I was still a Bible-thumping, church-going, evangelical Christian, I used to have little moments of doubt. One time it happened while I was sitting in church listening to my pastor preach about obedience. He briefly mentioned the serpent that spoke to Eve and tempted her to disobey God.
Out of nowhere, a thought occurred to me: “A talking snake? No way, that didn’t really happen. None of this is real.” It wasn’t in those exact words, but that was the idea, and it terrified me. How could I doubt the Holy Word of Almighty God? How dare I? And then it was clear: Satan was whispering in my ear just as he had whispered in Eve’s ear in the Garden of Eden. Well, I wasn’t going to fall for it.
It happened again one day when I was flipping through my Bible and came across the book of Jonah. “A man inside the belly of a whale for three days?” I thought. “This is just a fairy tale.” Immediately I realized Satan was putting evil thoughts into my head again, so I fell to my knees and prayed to God to strengthen my faith. The doubts went away, for a while.
Another time was during Bible study while we were discussing the story of Job. It seemed so strange to me. God and Satan were debating whether Job would still praise God if he weren’t so blessed, so God allowed Satan to kill Job’s entire family? Just to prove a point? It sounded about as plausible as any Greek or Roman god myth. And once again, I said a prayer to quell those evil doubts. I was determined to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Verses like that are part of the reason for the success of Christianity. It has several built-in mechanisms for dealing with doubtful thoughts, apparent contradictions, and the general lack of evidence.
For example, consider Colossians 3:2 which says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” In other words, don’t spend too much time thinking about reality. Instead, keep your head in the clouds. It’s much easier to maintain a faith-based belief if you avoid learning things that might discredit that belief.
Then there’s 2 Corinthians 4:18: “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” So the fact that there’s no tangible evidence for all these supernatural claims isn’t a problem because that’s how it’s supposed to be. As it says in John 20:29, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
And of course there’s Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Sorry, but faith isn’t evidence of anything. If faith is evidence of Christianity, then what about all the “evidence” of Islam and Hinduism?
In spite of that obvious flaw, these verses continue to make the Christian religion impervious to reason. It doesn’t matter if parts of it don’t make sense or if there’s no way to demonstrate that any of it is true; God expects you to believe anyway. This is why some pastors make ridiculous statements such as the following:
“The facts may tell you one thing. But, God is not limited by the facts. Choose faith in spite of the facts.” – Joel Osteen
When I was a Christian, I was actually proud that I had faith in spite of the facts because I had been taught that faith is a virtue. But faith is not a virtue. As Matt Dillahunty put it, “Faith is the excuse people give for believing something when they don’t have a good reason.” I’ll tell you what is a virtue: Doubt.
If it weren’t for doubt, we would still be living in the dark ages. People would still think the Earth is flat or that we live in the center of the universe. It is only because of those who doubted conventional wisdom and were willing to question the teachings of the church that we now know better.
Doubt is the path to knowledge. If what you believe is true, then doubting it is harmless because further investigation will only confirm your belief. But if what you believe is false, then doubting it is necessary if you’re to ever find out that it’s false.
If only someone had told me that when I was a Christian. Instead of examining my doubts, I ran from them. I was convinced they were lies straight from the pit of Hell. And whenever I entertained one of those doubts for more than a moment, I felt guilty.
If you’re a Christian, perhaps you can relate. You don’t have to be ashamed of doubts. They just show that you’re a thinking person, and that’s a good thing. Faith is not a virtue. Doubt is a virtue.