I found myself thinking today that what fundamentalists call “faith” looks surprisingly like “doubt”, and what they consider “doubt” at the very least demonstrates a greater amount of “faith” than their own so-called “faith”.
Let me explain. (And, by the way, I hope none of those “quotation marks” were “unnecessary”)
Fundamentalists increasingly take measures to try to insulate themselves, and in particular their children, from other viewpoints, and in particular discussions of topics related to science or the academic study of the Bible. Where, in such actions, is any expression of faith that God will watch over them, or even faith that honest seeking after answers and consideration of the evidence will lead to the truth, and that that is a good thing? Where is faith that there is power in their message and the gates of hell cannot withstand it?
Instead, the behavior of many extreme fundamentalists reveals what they really have, deep down: doubt, fear, and uncertainty. If there is one thing that they seem in general to be certain of, it is that exposure to intelligent, rational discussion is something dangerous. Their faith, when they have any, is in insulation of themselves into “holy huddles” as protection against the onslaught of reason, discussion, investigation and even honesty. Is it any wonder that apocalyptic is so popular in such circles?
Honest investigation, on the other hand, involves faith. Faith that it is worth getting to know the Bible better, even if it turns out to be a far more human and far less perfect collection of writings than we had hoped. Faith that seeking after the truth is a good thing, even if it doesn’t lead us to places we would have foreseen. Faith that when we change our minds as we learn, grow and mature, this is healthy and helpful.
To allow the simplistic understanding we had as children, and the childish and immature attitude that went along with it, to be shattered and transformed, involves great faith, in the sense of trust in a process of growth, in the sense of confidence in the ability of honest inquiry to lead to truth and understanding, and also in the sense of courage.
On the other hand, avoiding exposure to other views, and attempting to insulate and isolate ourselves, is as clear an expression of doubt as I can imagine.