Fear and Trembling, 22" x 14" monotype ©Daniel Embree 2010
The gay Mormon community is big, and encompasses a wide range of beliefs and lifestyles. I am part of a network of gay Mormon blogs, and I enjoy reading about so many different approaches to spirituality and sexuality. Recently in one of these blogs, an acquaintance of mine lamented his frequent doubts, expressing the shame he felt over his lack of faith.
I believe that making doubt a vice is one of modern religion’s biggest and most tragic crimes. Doubt is not a vice! It is a virtue!
Doubt tempers society. Questioning leads to growth. It leads us to new, more accurate information. Skepticism creates accountability. It keeps people honest, and without it, we would have no ethics.
Consider a person who doubts–he is likely humble, able to admit his own faults–able to admit what he doesn’t know. He is curious, likes to learn, checks his sources. He is not easily tricked or manipulated. He is adaptable and able to consider many viewpoints. All of those things are virtues!
Compare that to what I see far too often with people of a self-professed faith–they are stubborn, self-righteous, and often close-minded. They are sure of themselves–yes–but with that comes inflexibility and arrogance.
I see a fear of doubt in many conservative religions, and I think it is a reaction to science, which requires questioning. I think that’s a shame because skepticism doesn’t just belong in the laboratory. I think there is a nice place for it in religion. Look at how questions and experimentation have improved technology. Wouldn’t it be nice to see our knowledge of spirituality increasing at a similar rate?
I am wary of any culture that makes doubt a reason for shame, embarrassment, or apology. If an organization is telling you not to question it, not to doubt it, not to be skeptical, then I think that is a reason to be even more skeptical of it.
Learning how to doubt–and how to be comfortable with the idea of not knowing–is one of the best things I have learned since finding myself on the outside of Mormonism. It has made me a better person, and I am grateful for it!