Faith and Doubt

February 25, 2013

Doubt plays an important role in intellectual and faith development.  As we receive wisdom (from teachers, scripture, etc.), we test it against our own experience, our own sense of what is right and true.  In this way, we create meaning for ourselves.  Making meaning is what humans do. 


An inability to admit doubt (aka fundamentalism) masks a deep fear of being wrong.  As Reinhold Niebuhr puts it, “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.”  Fundamentalism comes in all flavors, including atheism and secularism!


In James Fowler’s Stages of Faith, doubt lives primarily in the “Individuative/Reflective” stage, though it stays with us as we develop and grow.  Individual Unitarian Universalists and UU congregations can sometimes get stuck here.  We can fall into a trap of defining ourselves by what we reject…what we don’t believe…rather than doing the work of articulating what we do believe. 


The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it is despair.  We all despair; there are times when we lose faith, lose hold of the thread of meaning in our lives.  And so we must articulate our deepest, most sustaining wisdom, and share it with one another, so that in those times, we can be reminded of who we are and why we matter.

Read the full text of the sermon on the UU Church of the Palouse website:


Resource List


Faith:  Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg

Faith without Certainty, by Paul Rasor

 “Faith and Doubt” in The Dynamics of Faith,  by Paul Tillich

James Fowler’s “Stages of Faith,” from Wikipedia: 

“Faith and Fiction” by Frederick Beuchner

“If I Were Asked” by The Rev. Victoria Safford:

The History of Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht


Dictionaries define love as “a feeling of connection and affection.” However, the word itself has very little power until and unless the feeling moves us to act in some way. Love inspires us to reach out to a friend or a family member we’ve not spoken with for a while. Love of the earth inspires us to live more sustainably. Love expects us to forgive, and not to forget. Love implies acceptance, or unconditional positive regard. And as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds us, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

What are the ways that you use your power to promote love in the world? What are the fears that keep you from loving more fully? What are the ways that love leads you to act?