Is Doubt Wicked?

This post discusses the “wickedness of unbelief”: It seem odd to think of the mere lack of belief in something as wicked. I mean, it’s not like it’s an action or anything. But apparently it must be.
In this post, Jim says “Nothing troubles me more than the weakness of my faith to simply believe God in every situation. Make no mistake about it, unbelief is horrible and I make no excuse for it.” So, basically, the worst thing you can do is be unable to believe something that has little evidence supporting it. Since when is doubt a bad thing? Doubt is what gets us to look deeper at our assumptions. It’s doubt that ensures that we lose false beliefs. Doubt isn’t a bad thing. In fact, doubt is a very good thing. And if you doubt the things that you’re supposed to believe, instead of burying that doubt, you should be doing some research into that belief. You’ll either discover that the belief is true and have concrete reasons to accept it, or you’ll find yourself able to replace a false belief with a true one.
Jim goes on to say “It is a criminal thing to disbelieve our ever faithful and true God.” Oh, so I should go to jail for not believing in your god? If you believe that not believing in god is a criminal act, then that is exactly what you’re saying. But why should it be a criminal act? Why should I be forced to accept your god as true? It’s not a criminal act to disbelieve in global warming, or the effectiveness of vaccines. It’s not a criminal act to doubt the government, or your teachers or parents. In fact, I’m pretty sure that constitutes a thought crime. So should it now be legal to prosecute people for thought crimes? Or do you just want people to pay lip service to your particular belief system because…well, just because? If that’s what you want, perhaps you should consider finding some place that has a theocracy as opposed to a democracy to live.
He goes so far as to say “In our case, the wild beast that is ever ready to pounce upon us is that vile enemy, unbelief.” You know that disbelief isn’t a conscious thing, right? Disbelief is simply the inability to accept a claim. If it bothers you so much, there is a cure: research. You may continue to disbelieve, but at least you’ll have evidence to back up your lack of belief. Or is lack of belief so bad in your mind that it is better to believe falsehoods than it is to disbelieve. If that is the case, then I’m a bit concerned about your ability to be honest.
Jim says “When I consider the greatness of divine love, the price paid for my pardon, the never-failing kindness of the Lord, and the multitude of promises He has made to me concerning my everlasting safety in Christ my Surety, my heart is ashamed to have ever doubted Him.” If you know these things to be true, then why would you have any doubt? Last I checked, if you have evidence to support your belief, then you have no reason to doubt said belief. The only reason we doubt our own beliefs is either because we have no evidence to support our beliefs or we are coming to a point where we no longer accept them (usually because the evidence says otherwise. Again, if you want to eliviate your doubt, doing some research can help.
He claims that “Fear, anxiety and discontentment are just polite names for unbelief.” Um…no. Fear is a response to a potential threat. It’s usually caused by the belief that there is something when there is nothing (though sometimes there is something, which is why it’s important). Anxiety is a feeling of worry. It’s a lot like fear in that it is usually caused by believing there is something when there is nothing. Discontentment is just as likely to be caused by the feeling that there is something greater as it is to be caused by the feeling that there is nothing where one once thought there was something. None of these are specifically caused by disbelief, nor are they themselves disbelief.
He continues “I echo both the attitude of this man who wept over his unbelief and the words which he spoke and humbly ask the Lord to help (bring aid showing compassion) to my unbelief. As there is nothing so vile and inconsistent like the wickedness of unbelief in a believer, so there is nothing so wonderful and so God-honoring as to simply believe Him.” Again, you’re saying that believing despite evidence is better than disbelieving. This means that it is better to believe falsehoods than it is to disbelieve. How can anyone be considered honest with this mindset? If your god is real, and there is so much evidence to support his existence, then he should not care if you feel doubt. He should not care because you can simply do a bit of research and come to the conclusion, based on evidence, that god exists. Then your doubt would be cured ad your belief would be stronger. The idea that doubt is a bad thing, and the fact that research doesn’t seem to alleviate this doubt, suggests that you should doubt because there is not enough evidence to believe.

25 responses to “Is Doubt Wicked?

  • vonleonhardt2

    If you ever bothered to talk to a little old person at church… they used to say it didn’t matter what you felt or thought as long as you kept going forward. It seems to me both the Atheist and Christians now-a-days focus so much on “feeling” doubt(s), that I wonder how objective either side is being.

    Sorry to use you guy’s as a foil, but an atheist that says “feel the doubt and let it turn you” sounds a lot like a Mormon who’ll say “feel that warm sensation that it might be true?” Everyone can agree something so socio-politically defining as religion shouldn’t be decided by emotion for or against…

    The kid who wrote the article seems to see doubting as a naughty feeling he shouldn’t have.


    • hessianwithteeth

      I never said let the doubt turn you. Whatever that actually means. I said feeling doubt isn’t a bad thing. It is a sign that you don’t have enough information. It has nothing to do with being led by emotion.
      There’s no such thing as perfect objectivity. If that’s what you expect to find, then you don’t understand humans. Science eliminates the bias by having many different people perform the same study. But we’re talking about belief. Assuming that emotions are infallible is problematic, but assuming that they have no role in influencing what we believe is also problematic. The trick is to read into the emotions you feel to determine what affect they are having. Doubt is an obvious one: it means you are unable to maintain a particular belief. It means you don’t have enough information, or have too much information against the belief, to maintain it. Put simply, it means do more research.
      The author of the original blog post isn’t a kid either.


      • intuite

        Doubt and faith are two side to the same coin…each is dependent on the other.


      • vonleonhardt2

        I didn’t claim you need perfect objectivity. But claiming it is impossible requires perfect objectivity BTW.

        I was being a bit sarcastic, “feel the power of the dark side, we have cookies.”

        Again,” read into your feelings” is not something I’d promote. Seek why you feel them and address them, yes; however, the adult approach to doubt should be acknowledge, step back, and address. Doubt just means doubt, not that an argument is right or wrong. (Sometimes I doubt my calculus when the answer is right) after those steps, then decide With regard to emotions giving them the weight you want To give them. They are valid, but this way they don’t steer more than they should.

        Sorry, someone who is so against doubt and needs to block it is thinking doubt means more than feeling doubt. And that is a sign of lacking self discipline and self understanding. It’s how people get fat! Hungry means you feel hungry, not that you need more calories.

        Ultimately reading into emotions is no different than a savage reading into portents.

        On a aside that is pet peeve-ish:

        science works by eliminating telic considerations, not eliminating bias. Otherwise plate tectonics and a few other theories would have been accepted a lot earlier.
        The thing is most bias come from telic considerations so there is naturally less.
        The problem philosophically is when you feel science effecting your telic view on the “meaning” of life, you really need to ask “how is a different how changing the why?” I don’t think anyone who is satisfied with how a thing came to be answering why it did is very intellectually mature. Albeit they can seem very sophisticated and as they are staying a bunch of hows their facts check out great; it’s the wrong question.
        I could give you the universal theory of everything and it doesn’t answer why am I me, etc. It gives you how, but that’s it.

        Excuse typos on my mobile


        • hessianwithteeth

          I never said science is done by eliminating bias, I said they eliminate bias by having a number of people do the same study. That’s how the peer review process determines if a study is accurate.
          By read into your feelings I meant figure out why you’re feeling them. From my experience, if I’m taking a test and I answer a question, but doubt my answer, it’s a sign that I don’t really know the answer. I may get it right because the subconscious part of my brain remembered, or I got lucky, but I don’t consciously know the answer. Doubt may not be defined as that hint that I don’t know, and it may not be a magic power or anything, but it is a hint. It suggests that you need to look into something.


  • 61chrissterry

    Why is doubt wicked. If you believe in God, who you would say gave us a brain, then it should be for some useful reason and through thought can come doubt, which may or may not produce an even stronger faith.


  • caelesti

    In the church my boyfriend was brought up in, faith/belief was thought to be a “gift” from God, so you couldn’t “choose” to have faith in God. (I guess by that logic they shouldn’t try to convert non-believers, as they just aren’t the “chosen ones”?) The idea that it only matters what you believe, and not what you do with your life is completely immoral.

    Liked by 1 person

  • December Bliss

    I feel bad for quietly Liking posts that say so much and encourage me to think so deeply. My brain is a tired thing right now but I wanted to leave a comment, just something to say thank you for your words and for the thoughts they inspire. I’m glad I found your blog. There’s some seriously good reading in here 🙂


  • ejwinner

    I’ve always wondered about a god intolerant of other beliefs, let alone unbelief. What is he afraid of? Have I that much power over him that he worries himself over whether I care if he believes or not?

    I suspect Jim wants to say that if doubt leads to unbelief, the sense of pleasure he gets from feeling ‘redeemed’ would evaporate, leaving him having to deal with the world as it is, without the safety-net of ‘divine order.’

    ‘“Fear, anxiety and discontentment are just polite names for unbelief.”’ – I suspect Freudian projection going on here.


  • clubschadenfreude

    Good post. The theist’s recommendation of believing in something just because you want to or think you should because you’ve been told that you’ll hurt a god’s feelings can and does fail. When I was losing my faith, I did all of the stuff that theists claim will work to get it back, praying, reading, talking. Tried praying, got no response from this god (so much for evidence given to a doubter). Read the bible to go to the “horse’s mouth”, realized it was pretty nasty. Read about other sects and religions, lots of contradictions and again nothing showing one group was better than another. If this god will eternally torture honest doubters, well, I wouldnt’ believe in such a petty thing anyway.


  • The Gospel of Barney

    No doubt is normal and healthy. C.S. Lewis once said something to the effect, “As a Christian I have my doubts but as an atheist God was a horrible possibility!”


  • equippedcat

    He is, I think and hope, talking about a believer in God doubting something about God. This says and implies nothing about a non-believer. Even then, he goes too far. Doubt is normal for a sane believer, and God even acknowledges that in the Bible.


  • Rational minority Report

    Doubt is the best tool in a skeptic/rationalist’s arsenal. It is what differentiates those who live their lives with critical thought and those who are comfortable with cognitive dissonance. That doesn’t make us wicked; we’re just being more honest with ourselves.


  • aspiringwriterdt

    I don’t believe Jesus ever doubted, but He did despair, and He did grieve, and He did implore the Father to take away the burden ahead of Him. Those are huge elements of our own human doubt. Lord I believe…help my unbelief. With due respect, Jim’s views miss the forest for the trees.


  • paidiske

    While I agree that doubt is a healthy, even an inevitable thing, I suspect that you and the person you are quoting are using “belief” with slightly different nuances.

    In Christian circles, belief isn’t just about your intellectual acceptance of a set of ideas about God. It draws on the NT Greek verb pisteo, which carries more of a sense of “trust, depend on, take assurance from.” Often when a Christian talks about their lack of belief, or their doubt, they don’t mean lack of intellectual certainty, but more that they have acted in a way which has not shown trust in God, or something like that. In effect, they are criticising their behaviour in their relationship with God, rather than their doubt.

    Anyway, I wonder if that throws his take on things in a slightly different light?


    • trueandreasonable

      I think Paidiske really hits the nail on the head here. “Nonbelievers” almost always see Christians lamenting their lack of faith as their lamenting their lack of a belief that God exists. And to be fair sometimes that is the case. But like she says often Christians lament their lack of faith as a lack of trust in God.

      I intend to write several blogs about faith and belief including what I have gathered about what the Greek words mean. Pistis and Pisteuo (translated as belief in in John)

      I would also point out that democracy (at least in the sense that it means everyone gets to vote for their lawmakers) does not ensure that certain religions or atheism are not criminalized. Our bill of rights does that – but our bill of rights is to that extent an anti-deomocracy measure.


      • hessianwithteeth

        Even if it’s trust you’re worried about, doubt can make it stronger. Again, collect evidence. If you believe that your spouse is cheating on you, letting that belief fester is a bad idea. If your spouse isn’t cheating, they may feel upset that you thought they were, but at least looking in to your belief will prevent you from doing undue harm based on a belief. And, if they are cheating, then you can act based on your evidence and not based on your assumptions.
        As for Pistis and Pisteuo, Pistis is the singular nominative form, and Pisteuo is one of its declensions. They translate as trust, or faith, in someone, not as belief in John. They can be in reference to anyone and just refer to the type of trust you’d put in your mom if she said she’d do something for you.
        You’re misunderstanding my statement. A theocracy is a government based around a particular religion. If the United States adopted a government based around certain Christian teachings, then it would become a theocracy. In a secular state, which is generally what forms as a result of democracy, no religion can be put ahead of any other. Yes, laws can be set up to devalue a certain religious group, but they cannot be set up to put one religion over all others. Most countries, however, actually have laws preventing the government from setting up new laws that attack certain religious beliefs. These same laws also protect atheists. So to criminalize a particular religious, or not religious, group would actually be illegal. Not to mention it would be a human rights violation.


      • trueandreasonable

        It depends what you mean by “democracy.” If by democracy you are using a definition that assumes certain rights such as the right to believe/practice any religion you want then yes it is exclusive of theocracy. This is a valid use of the word democracy but democracy can also mean somethign totally different. It can mean everyone gets to vote or have input as to what laws/government will control them. In that case people can have democratically elected governments that establish a state religion.

        “In a secular state, which is generally what forms as a result of democracy, no religion can be put ahead of any other.”

        Well maybe a secular state forms as a result of a democracy maybe it doesn’t. At least if we mean democracy in the sense that people can choose what sort of government they want then they can elect one based on religion/sharia law puritanism, or socialism, or whatever the majority of voters want. The US constitution has a check against the people democratically electing someone who will establish a national religion. But to that extent it is an anti-democratic measure.

        As for pistis I thank you for your information. I have not studied Greek in depth but I have a particular interest in the terms Pistis and Pisteuo. Yes I agree that Pistis can mean trust and it is not necessarily trust in a divine entity. It can be ordinary trust. I think all the sources I have read agree with this. But it might also have different connotations.

        One of the problems is that there can be sort of a blur between translation and interpretation. So certain lexicons will say something like “pistis means trust and in the new testament it means…” well when they add in the “in the new testament it means ….” I then start to think we are going from translation to interpretation. So I am looking for how the word is translated in sources other than the new testament.

        Plato dealt with “Pistis” fairly in depth in the analogy of the divided line. (I has been translated as confidence which can connote trust and/or strongly held belief) But Plato used a different dialect of ancient Greek. He used Attic greek whereas the New testament is Koine Greek. Is this significant for understanding this word? I don’t know some say the gramar and vocabulary is different. But surely some of the vocabulary would be the same. Is this particular word different? I don’t have the breadth of knowledge of the different Greek dialects to answer that question.

        From what I understand the new testament is one of the main sources we have of Koine Greek. So to some extent we simply don’t have other sources to use.

        Finally the word “believe” or “trust,”even if set aside all translations of greek and interpretation of the new testament, can be somewhat complicated. There is plenty of philosophy written about what it means to believe something. For example does it imply you will act a certain way etc. I use Quine’s definition and address that in my blog here:

        But this varies from Hume’s view of what a “belief” is.

        Obviously what this word pistis and pisteuo means is very important for Christians. After all if faith has come to mean something different then having “faith” is not what Paul or the scripture writers say Christians must have. Yet we are I believe only able to get a general sense of it. One thing is clear these words do not require that the trust or belief be without evidence or reason. That view of “faith” has been added later and is not part of what pisteuo and pistis mean.

        Sorry for the long comments but I am currently trying to get a handle on these words so its of interest to me.

        I’m curious how you came to understand pistis as trust.


        • hessianwithteeth

          I wasn’t talking about democracy as it is defined. I was talking about democracy as it has occurred in history. Modern democratic states have had a habit of becoming less religious over time. In fact, a number of democratic states became democratic as a way to remove religion (to a great extent) from their government. Today even authoritarian states tend not to be religious, but authoritarian states are still more likely to enforce a state religion than democratic states are. This is largely because our world has become pluralistic and everybody is now allowed to vote, which mean even those in minority religions have a voice where policy is concerned. As such, if you want to enforce your religion on the populace, a democratic state isn’t the best place to do it.
          As for my understanding of Greek, I’m learning ancient Greek at university. Koine Greek is noticeably different from Attic Greek, but they are both still dialects of the same language. It can be a bit more challenging to translate one if you are used to the other, but they are not so different as to be untranslatable. It is mostly differences related to certain spellings and grammar changes. For the most part, the words and their meanings are the same.


          • trueandreasonable

            “Modern democratic states have had a habit of becoming less religious over time.”

            I’m not sure what you mean. Compared to what? Authoritarian Governments under Lenin and Stalin and Mao made things non-religious pretty fast.

            If there is an authoritarian Government that forces religion then yes I think more people will be religious. We see that with Islam and to some extent with Christian History.

            On the other hand I believe more people become religious in the Soviet union and China the more they embrace democracy.

            I don’t think you can say democracy means less religious and authoritarian means more religious. It just depends on the authoritarian regime.


      • trueandreasonable

        Oh and regarding your analogy, I think its a good one. To use it in this case lets say you investigate your spouse and find them to be blameless and find good reason that you should trust them. Yet you still keep mistrusting them.

        That is often what the Christian is saying when they lament their lack of faith. They know they have explored whether Christ should be trusted and his commands followed. And they have concluded they should follow his commands. Yet from time to time they act as if they don’t believe/trust him – ie, they sin. They do their own thing, knowing its not what God wants.

        But yes I agree doubts should be explored.


    • hessianwithteeth

      As I wrote to another commenter, that Greek word (Pistis is the nominative singular) means trust, as opposed to belief, in someone. If Christians are using that word for other meanings, then whatever. Ancient Greek is a dead language. But it was meant in the sense of how you would trust any other person. It’s not a divine or special kind of trust. It’s also not the word ancient Greeks would have used if they were to refer to belief. As such, I can only take what he said at face value. He says belief so I’m going to stick to the socially accepted version of belief.
      It doesn’t change anything to me because I still believe that, when in doubt, research is the key. If you want to strengthen your trust in someone, you learn more about them. You find out if they have been trust-worthy in the past, you find out what others say about them, and you give them more trust as you realize how trustworthy they actually are.


  • thatcosmicdust

    Wow! This is a brave post in a season when many people are stuck on believing no matter what. Thanks for the interesting thoughts


Tell us what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: