Thursday, March 31, 2005

Our doubts

One of the first obligations of those who are free is to exercise the courage to doubt.

Here is strange doctrine indeed! Religion, we are told, is defense of faith.

I should like to suggest, however, that doubt is faith's hidden affirmation.

The people of noblest faith have been the people of strongest doubt. Out of Gautama's doubts about the prevailing Hinduism of his day has sprung one of our major world faiths, Buddhism.

Out of the doubts of Heraclitus emerged the vital intellectual force of Western civilization.

Out of the doubts of Jesus about the established religion of his day came both his crucifixion and the Christian faith.

Out of the doubts of Luther arose Protestantism's fighting faith.

Out of the doubts of Freud and Nietzsche, Berdyaev and Whitehead, Margaret Sanger and Martin Luther King has come a New Reformation in religion, a New Renaissance open to the demands of world civilization.

Forever out of doubt grows an unwavering faith.

In such a setting, then, we need not only the classic emphasis of the Epistle of James concerning faith and works; we also need a new fusion of faith and doubt.

The modern world's will to believe is twisted out of shape unless it is tempered by the courage to doubt.

Doubt is the modern citadel of freedom, standing in eternal opposition to tyranny's idols of infallibility.

Courage to doubt is free faith's vital center. Whoever would be adequately human must be a doubter.

Encounter with doubt is eternally the price of honest faith. Whoever would ascend to the heights of creative living must first pass through the valley of the shadow of doubt.

Capacity for doubt is a measure of one's humanity. Ability to doubt is one of the surest guarantees of mature faith.

Out of modern doubt concerning sacred idols of infallibility arose faith in individual freedom of belief as the living center of a responsibly concerned community.

Out of modern doubt concerning walls which thwart the growth of life—walls of national prejudice and pride, of religious exclusiveness, of racial arrogance, of vindictive caste and class—emerged trust in the unrestricted use of reason in religion as the guiding, disciplining agent of faith that makes us free and whole, members of one another in a world community of life.

Out of modern doubt concerning every form of tyranny over the mind and body, heart and soul, has come faith in generous tolerance of differing religious views and practices within a context of commitment to the democratic process in church and state, school and industry and home.

Out of modern doubt concerning the superstitions, bigotry and idolatry of particular religions comes out growing faith in a universal religion uniting people of diverse faith everywhere in sacred common quest of what Theodore Parker called "truth for the mind; good works for the hands; love for the heart; and for the soul, that aspiring after perfection, that unfaltering faith in God which, like lightning in the clouds, shines brightest when elsewhere it is most dark."

Do we now begin to doubt?

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