A JOURNAL

on DOUBT 

by Bennett Wade Kilpela

Go back to The Ben Kilpela Home Page


CONTENTS

2002 Preface -- below

1991 Preface -- below

EXTRACTS on "Doubt" -- below

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

All contents copyright 1991, 2002 to Bennett Wade Kilpela


* 2002 PREFACE to the ON-LINE EDITION *

I wrote this book more than a decade ago. I was a firm Christian at the time of its writing (Evangelical Protestant by specific creedal conviction), but I was struggling desperately to resist skepticism and retain my crumbling faith in orthodox Christian doctrine -- as I had for about 20 years since I had been born again at a Bill Gothard Seminar in Detroit in 1972. Hoping to stave off full apostasy, during those years of strongest faith, I explored and toyed with many heretical opinions on doctrinal matters while I read without ceasing in theology, philosophy, and Christian apologetics.

After a time, despite my continuing faith, I found that my implacable doubts of Christianity, in general and in each of its many varieties, were increasing to the point that I knew I was about to reach a crisis. I had to do something to conquer doubt or my faith would die. After a great deal of reading and studying and talking and thinking, I decided to set out to prove Christianity true to my own satisfaction -- and with the secret and vainglorious hope that I would be the one person in the history of humankind who would at last resolve all doubts concerning Christianity and religion and absolute metaphysical Truth. It was a labor of vanity and arrogance I set for myself: to find a solution to doubting and believing in Christianity for myself and the whole world.

(Did I truly believe at that time that I would be the one person who would, finally, show, say, all Hindus that modern Protestant Evangelical Christianity is the certain absolute truth? All Roman Catholics, too? All atheists? All philosophers? All scientists? EVERYONE?! Without doubt or scruple or misgiving? To a perfect certainty? It is embarrassing to think that I did, but such was my hope and dream and jejune expectation, and this hope explains a good deal in the book.)

My doubts of most Christian doctrines, general beliefs, and ideas lasted a painfully long time, and it is this period that forms the setting of this book. My most severe doubts of Christianity came to an end, as you will see, and my journal, I believe, remains a helpful record of one person's struggles to believe and to dispel doubt. It directly concerns Christianity, of course -- American Evangelical Protestant Christianity, in specific -- but much more generally it concerns human doubting on all the big questions of life and thought and action: what is true and good, who or what is god, is there an after-life, etc. -- all those great, unchanging issues that have engrossed humankind for thousands of years. So I offer this book to foster understanding of the doubter and the searcher, of the reflective person hungry for Truth. It recounts only one man's experience at one time in his life concerning one particular philosophical system of truth, but I have found parallels to my experience in many other writings. Thus, although I had a grand Christian purpose for writing this book a decade ago -- to help serious doubters remain Christians -- as I express in my 1991 Preface, my purposes in offering this new edition, I find it important now to point out, are considerably different.

I reached a point of rest in this book, as you also will see. I found a way to keep my Christian faith, as weak and heterodox as it was. I came to adopt certain opinions that, for some few years, soothed my doubting. But my position on the various issues under discussion in this book, on doubt and truth and faith and various religious doctrines, have changed considerably since this book was finished and the period of my most intense doubting came to an end. I have new opinions and have reached new conclusions in the past five years -- and I am still modifying these opinions and conclusions gradually day by day. I have decided, however, not to discuss these current views in this preface or anywhere in this new edition. These views are a matter for a future work. The book itself recounts how I found ways to maintain my Christian faith while remaining a doubter (though I am fairly confident that most Christian traditions would brand the position I reached as heretical) -- for I found I could not stop doubting Christianity -- and all metaphysical and religious creeds and systems. Nonetheless, this time of uneasy rest did not last. I no longer fully agree with the former Ben Kilpela who wrote this book on the views he adopted to bring a time of intense Christian doubting to an end. Yet though my ideas and conclusions have changed, and will probably change yet again, I will not in these pages judge my own past. I believe that that should come later.

I will say this much about my current views: most of the ideas and judgments on Christianity that I expressed in this book remain fairly close to my ideas and judgments today. It is, rather, concerning the alternatives to Christianity that I have greatly changed many of my ideas and opinions during the last decade. For example, though I had read a good deal of William James's writings on faith and truth and religion before I wrote this book, I write very little of James in the journal, mostly because at the time of its writing I was mostly disgusted by his pluralist, pragmatist ideas. That has much changed. James has become an important thinker in my life.

Rest assured, however. Some time later on my web site, perhaps in another book, I intend to write on my current views on metaphysical truth. For now, however, I offer this book to see into the mind of the doubter at a specific time and concerning one specific system of religious faith.

Finally, I have made a few very minor revisions from the first edition of the book and added a selection of extracts to these prefaces.


* 1991 PREFACE *

This book is a reconstruction. From the late seventies until about three years ago, I doubted the Christian faith with a wearying stubbornness that made me wonder whether I had any right to call myself a Christian. I kept no journal during that long, burdensome, and puzzling period, but have often wished I had. Because I believe that an unflinching, honest journal about doubt will be helpful both to skeptical Christians and unbelievers, I wrote the journal I neglected to write when I was doubting most intensely.

Fortunately, writing as if I were keeping the journal five or ten years ago was not difficult; I had two good resources to work from. The first was a diary I actually kept at the time. Though I was writing that journal mostly to help me handle the emotional stresses of a divorce, I am thankful now that I often wrote about my doubts concerning Christianity and about wanting to know whether it is the truth with certainty. (My divorce and the events leading up to it play a supporting role in this book.) The second resource was my unfading memories. Surprisingly, as I wrote this journal I found that those dark days of intense and persistent doubting are still painfully fresh. I remembered almost every skeptical thought that passed through my mind. Many times, I even felt as though I were living through that decade of extreme skepticism again. The diary I kept and my memories of doubting both made it possible for me to write an accurate account many years after the thoughts, feelings, and events described in this book took place.

Because I often seemed to be reliving that time as I wrote, I decided to reconstruct the journal according to a simple standard: what would I have written had I been keeping a journal specifically about skepticism at the time I was doubting so severely. Knowing this standard will help you understand why I left so many matters unexplained and unresolved. I do not believe I would have known how to explain or resolve them had I been keeping this journal five years ago. Knowing this standard will also help you to understand why I have refrained from offering any thrilling, irresistible solutions to skepticism or a long-awaited proof of Christianity. Frankly, however thrilling, it would have been dishonest. I did not begin to overcome doubt by resolving my skepticism or discovering proofs.

It is also important to note that writing to this standard was something I needed to do. It kept me from writing a journal about the present. As I wrote this book, the temptation was always strong to write about my current opinions on doubt and faith and the Christian religion. After all, the most crippling doubts have long since passed, and, naturally, I do not entirely agree with myself any longer. Some of the most crippling doubts have healed and my mind has changed on a number of matters. It would have been easy to start trotting out my latest opinions, which now happen to seem so firm. But, if the truth be known, since the time this journal covers, I have changed my mind many times on hundreds of matters, back and forth -- thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs up, thumbs down again. I suppose this is, eternally, the way of skeptics, one of which, I think I have finally accepted, I still am. Because I am, and because I still sympathize so deeply with skeptics I meet and read about, and because I know I have no guarantee that my present opinions will keep me from becoming desperately skeptical all over again tomorrow, I held it most important to write a book about skepticism, not the resolution of it. In summary, to keep from dwelling on what I now think about Christianity, skepticism, and the alternatives to Christian faith (ideas that might be the subject of another book), I decided to recount only those thoughts that would have occurred to me during the time of deepest skepticism, the time, that is, that I frequently almost renounced Christianity; and you can trust me -- I do remember those doubts well. I have had occasion to do battle with most of them again and again in the past three years.

My standard, however, did not prevent me from making many important changes in the story. You should be aware that, though my thoughts, opinions, doubts, and beliefs are faithfully represented, much of this journal is fiction. I have invented most of the events and all of the people, mostly for the sake of economy, orderliness, and comprehension, but also because most of what specifically happened has been lost to my memory. I thought it better to create new -- though comparable -- events than to pervert the words and deeds of my family, friends, and acquaintances.

One fictional part is important to take special note of. In this journal, I realize, it appears that I doubted for only a few months. Such was not the case; the period of my most severe doubting lasted some six or seven years. For obvious reasons, I decided that trying to write a journal covering six years of unassailable skepticism was unworkable. Too little progress was made; too many struggles recurred too frequently; there were too many fits and starts. Hence, what I have written makes my turning against Christianity and then my change of heart about it appear to have happened much more quickly than they happened in my life (though the thoughts are wholly accurate to my state of mind as I first doubted and then began to change). I have found, and want you to see, that doubts are never so easily routed. Much diligent, careful thinking over long periods of time must go into finding truth and choosing faith before skepticism will even slightly weaken. Do not be misled by the way time has been compressed in this book.

I've discussed this matter at length because it is consequential. Those who suffer doubts, I know, are most troubled by cheap and quick answers, easy solutions, and the breezy, arrogant confidence of the faithful -- Christian or not. You should always keep in mind that in this journal I did not write much about how I overcame doubts or discovered solutions. Do not read on in the hope that at any moment the wonderful answers to all your questions will suddenly appear on the page. (I have read many books of apologetics with that hope growing stronger in me moment by moment.) I have written about no wonderful, final answers, both because I did not find any three years ago and because they are seldom found (if at all). It would have been disgracefully deceptive to unveil a long list of incontrovertible answers, as if I actually convinced myself that I had proved the truth.

On the other hand, I do write a great deal about the answers I found three years ago, about the solutions I discovered, and about some of my quick and sure confidence-builders. Nonetheless, be advised: I only thought they were answers, solutions, and quickly and surely boosted my confidence. I wrote about these ideas not to persuade you that they are the final, incontrovertible answers to all doubts, but because they were my thoughts. You must decide for yourself whether the answers are here, elsewhere, or anywhere at all. I can only offer them as the real answers I found at the end of a long period of severe skepticism.

This reconstructed journal, then, is foremost a painful, honest report on skepticism. It is not a book of apologetics, even though, naturally, apologetics is a topic often discussed. But, to repeat, I warn you not to read this book as a defense of Christianity. Read it, instead, for consolation and sympathy and honesty.

This might seem a dangerous enterprise -- consoling the doubter without curing his doubts. Many Christians, as well as those holding to many other faiths and philosophies, would agree that the only way to help a skeptic is give him answers. What about that scary passage in the Epistle of James? they ask. Does not the Bible declare that the doubter is unstable and will not receive anything from the Lord? Isn't helping a doubter learn to accept and abide with his doubts, they reason, only going to endanger him with ever more serious doubts and perhaps lead to his apostasy and, if Christianity is truth, the danger of hell fire? I fully disagree. I have written the book, I suppose, I longed to read when I was suffering doubts, a book that understood what I was enduring, that sympathized with my thoughts and emotions, and that taught me some valuable lessons about doubting and the faith of a skeptic. I have tried to accomplish all this simply by saying exactly what was on my mind.

It is my firm opinion, as it was back in the darkest hours of skepticism, that there is no cure for doubt. A skeptic can learn to believe, search for truth, make decisions only in the company of doubt. I know this flies in the face of most Christian teachings, but I contend that most people, even most Christians, are, secretly, troubled skeptics.

I must stop before I begin to preach. I've already written too much that might bias you to my own conclusions about Christianity and doubt and truth, which have inevitably filtered into this journal. I sincerely believe that you must reach your own conclusions about doubt and faith, not mine. I have recounted in this journal some the conclusions I actually reached at the end of my long period of skepticism. (Many of them are not, to remind you again, conclusions I have reached since. I still suffer many doubts, but have learned to manage them.) This book is full of opinions. But they are not opinions I am trying in any way to persuade you to adopt. They are not offered as a position I boldly believe you must take. They are offered for your evaluation. You must make your own judgments. You must weigh all matters of faith and doubt in your own scale. I do not even agree with myself on many of the points I confidently make in this journal and once assuredly believed.

It is, after all, your life, not mine. Your questions are not mine, your thoughts are not mine, your hopes and dreams and fears and ideas and uncertainties are not mine. My only purpose is to help you face your doubts without shame or the fear of judgmental Christians (who hold doubt to be so despicable), and help you make decisions about Christianity and many other faiths and ideas, all by helping you accept and accommodate your doubts. I cannot make myself the final judge of any decision you might make, because I have nearly made every possible decision, from confident faith in Christ to apostasy.

This is always hard for anyone who imagines himself a thinker to accept -- that he does not, inevitably, have all the answers and that his opinions are not necessarily sound. But it must be admitted. Thousands of books of apologetics have already been written -- it is astonishing to think of that fact. (In this journal, I discuss some of those I read to find the "final" answers.) I have not tried to write the book I thought those authors failed to write. They have done their jobs well (though I did not always think so), and I have nothing to add. My journal is about what you do when you realize that there are no firm answers, when you realize that doubts cannot be resolved -- when you realize that doubt is not going to pack its bags agreeably and move out. The possible judgments of my book and its ideas are numerous. A Christian might condemn me for trying to accommodate skepticism; another might agree with me that doubt is incurable; yet another might wonder why I've made so much fuss about uncertainty, not to mention all the other matters I could not stop thinking about; some might think I'm a little off my rocker (if not a lot); but any judgement is yours to make. My hope is that as you make your determination about me and this book, and about truth and doubt, I will help you to live your life as you earnestly and soberly think you should.


EXTRACTS

On "Doubt"

 

Introductory Note:

I offer these few quotes on doubt that I have been digging up over the years. They were not part of the original book to which I now attach them. I compiled the extracts during and after the writing of A Journal on Doubt, and this collection now makes a insightful companion to that work -- though I did not intend that at first. The list is in no order whatsoever. You can read as far as you like and draw the conclusions you deem best, as well as judge how each extract is related to my own book. Less than a majority of the quotes listed here express ideas that I fully or mostly agree with. Some I disagree with entirely. Yet each extract offers, at least, some significant insight into doubting itself. I have marked quotes that closely match or resonate rather well with my own ideas with double [**] asterisks.

 

The Extracts:

 

** Doubt, it seems to me, is the central condition of a human being in the twentieth century. - Salman Rushdie

 

When in doubt, don't start out. - New York State Drivers Association

 

If we begin in certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with doubt, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties. - Francis Bacon

 

** To drift is to be in hell, to be in heaven is to steer. - G.B. Shaw

 

Weary the path that does not challenge. Doubt is an incentive to truth and patient inquiry leadeth the way. - Hosea Ballou

 

** Only when we know little do we know anything; doubt grows with knowledge. - Goethe

 

To deny, to believe, and to doubt well are to a man as the race is to a horse. - Blaise Pascal

 

Doubt must be no more than vigilance, otherwise it can become dangerous. - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

 

Doubt is thought's despair; despair is personality's doubt.... Doubt and despair ... belong to completely different spheres; different sides of the soul are set in motion.... Despair is an expression of the total personality, doubt only of thought. - Soren Kierkegaard

 

** Doubts are more cruel than the worst or truths. - Moliere

 

Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions. - Thomas Szasz

 

To give a reason for anything is to breed a doubt of it. - Hazlitt

 

Intellectuals cannot tolerate the chance event, the unintelligible; they have a nostalgia for the absolute, for a universally comprehensive scheme. - Raymond Aron

 

Among the safe courses, the safest of all is to doubt. - Spanish proverb

 

Seeking to know is only too often learning to doubt. - Antoinette Deshoulieres

 

I doubt if a single individual could be found from the whole of mankind free from some form of insanity. The only difference is one of degree. A man who sees a gourd and takes it for his wife is called insane because this happens to very few people. - Desiderius Erasmus

 

Prejudice, which sees what it pleases, cannot see what is plain. - A. DeVere

 

Doubt is long-winded. Certainty is brief. - Mason Cooley

 

** Doubt is an uneasy and dissatisfied state from which we struggle to free ourselves and pass into the state of belief; while the latter is a calm and satisfactory state which we do not wish to avoid, or to change to a belief in anything else. - Charles Sanders Peirce

 

Doubt is the brother of shame. - Dr Erik Erikson

 

Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices -- just recognize them. - Edward R. Murrow

 

Life is doubt, And faith without doubt is nothing but death. - Miguel de Unamuno

 

An open mind is all very well in its way, but it ought not to be so open that there is no keeping anything in or out of it. It should be capable of shutting its doors sometimes, or it may be found a little drafty. - Samuel Butler II

 

To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. - O.W. Homles, Jr.

 

Faith no doubt moves mountains, but not necessarily to where we want them. - Mason Cooley

 

Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters. - Isaac Bashevis Singer

 

I might as well doubt of my own being, as of the being of those things I actually see and feel. - George Berkeley

 

** I'll not listen to reason.... Reason always means what someone else has got to say. - Mrs. Gaskell

 

One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. - Henry David Thoreau

 

Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing, though the overtaking and possessing of a wish discovers the folly of the chase. - Congreve

 

** We cannot begin with complete doubt. We must begin with all the prejudices which we actually have when we enter upon the study of philosophy. These prejudices are not to be dispelled by a maxim, for they are things which it does not occur to us can be questioned. A person may, it is true, in the course of his studies, find reason to doubt what he began by believing; but in that case he doubts because he has a positive reason for it, and not on account of the Cartesian maxim. Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts. - Charles Sanders Peirce

 

It is a golden rule not to judge men by their opinions but rather by what their opinions make of them. - Lichtenberg

 

The man who listens to reason is lost: reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her. - G.B. Shaw

 

Belief in truth begins with doubting that all that has hitherto been believed to be true. - Nietzsche

 

** An attitude of philosophic doubt, of suspended judgment, is repugnant to the natural man. Belief is an independent joy to him. - William Minto

 

Uncertain ways unsafest are, and doubt a greater mischief than despair. - John Denham

 

Ignorance itself is without a doubt a sin for those who do not wish to understand; for those who, however, cannot understand, it is the punishment of sin. - Augustine

 

People are more firmly convinced that their opinions are precious than that they are true. - Santayana

 

Fanaticism is ... overcompensation for doubt. - Robertson Davies

 

** There is no philosopher in the world so great but he believes a million things on the faith of other people and accepts a great many more truths than he demonstrates. - Tocqueville

 

Do you call it doubting to write down on a piece of paper that you doubt? If so, doubt has nothing to do with any serious business. But do not make believe; if pedantry has not eaten all the reality out of you, recognize, as you must, that there is much that you do not doubt, in the least. Now that which you do not at all doubt, you must and do regard as infallible, absolute truth. - Charles Sanders Peirce

 

Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming denial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment in the truth. - Tryon Edwards

 

** All reasoning ends in an appeal to self-evidence. - Patmore

 

The believer is happy; the doubter is wise. - Hungarian proverb

 

Doubts and jealousies often beget the facts they fear. - Jefferson

 

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. - André Gide

 

Melancholy and sadness are the start of doubt ... doubt is the beginning of despair; despair is the cruel beginning of the differing degrees of wickedness. - Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautréamont

 

A reasonable doubt is nothing more than a doubt for which reasons can be given. The fact that 1 or 2 men out of 12 differ from the others does not establish that their doubts are reasonable. - Lord Hailsham of Marylebon (Quintin Hogg)

 

There is nothing that fear or hope does not make men believe. - Vauvenargues

 

** Just as I am, though tossed about/ With many a conflict, many a doubt;/ Fightings and fears, within, without,/ O Lamb of God, I come; I come. - Charlotte Elliot

 

The whole is a riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty, suspense of judgment appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject. But such is the frailty of human reason, and such the irresistible contagion of opinion, that even this deliberate doubt could scarcely be upheld; did we not enlarge our view, and opposing one species of superstition to another, set them a quarrelling; while we ourselves, during their fury and contention, happily make our escape into the calm, though obscure, regions of philosophy. - David Hume

 

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. - Samuel Johnson

 

Never for a moment have I had one doubt about my religious beliefs. There are people who believe only so far as they can understand-that seems to me presumptuous and sets their understanding as the standard of the universe. - Woodrow Wilson

 

Desire engenders belief: if we are usually aware of this, it is because most belief-creating desires last as long as we do. - Proust

 

A belief which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition. - José Bergamín

 

** Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is still theoretically possible; and as the test of belief is willingness to act, one may say that faith is the readiness to act in a cause the prosperous issue of which is not certified to us in advance. - William James

 

Out of the element of participation follows the certainty of faith; out of the element of separation follows the doubt in faith. And each is essential for the nature of faith. Sometimes certainty conquers doubt, but it cannot eliminate doubt. The conquered of today may become the conqueror of tomorrow. Sometimes doubt conquers faith, but it still contains faith. Otherwise it would be indifference. - Paul Tillich

 

Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their willingness to doubt. - H.L. Mencken

 

And new Philosophy calls all in doubt,/ The element of fire is quite put out;/ The Sun is lost, and th'earth, and no mans wit/ Can well direct him where to look for it. - John Donne

 

** Any truth is better than indefinite doubt. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

My noisy denunciation trails off in doubt. - Mason Cooley

 

Argument is conclusive ... but ... it does not remove doubt, so that the mind may rest in the sure knowledge of the truth, unless it finds it by the method of experiment.... For if any man who never saw fire proved by satisfactory arguments that fire burns ... his hearer's mind would never be satisfied, nor would he avoid the fire until he put his hand in it ... that he might learn by experiment what argument taught. - Roger Bacon

 

Thus truth's established and borne out,/ Though circumstanced with dark and doubt --/ Though by a world of doubt surrounded. - Robert Frost

 

** A thing "is" whatever it gives us the least trouble to think it is. There is no other "is" than this. - Samuel Butler

 

** If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely", it would not have any significant first person, present indicative. - Wittgenstein

 

When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; though such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation of others. - David Hume

 

Hypothesis is a toll which can cause trouble if not used properly. We must be ready to abandon our hypothesis as soon as it is shown to be inconsistent with the facts. - W.I.B. Beveridge

 

One must always hope when one is desperate, and doubt when one hopes. - Gustave Flaubert

 

The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry. - Simone Weil

 

Doubt is brother-devil to Despair. - John Boyle O'Reilly

 

** The whole [of religion] is a riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty, suspense of judgment appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny concerning this subject. - David Hume

 

** My esoteric doctrine, is that if you entertain any doubt, it is safest to take the unpopular side in the first instance. Transit from the unpopular, is easy ... but from the popular to the unpopular is so steep and rugged that it is impossible to maintain it. - William Lamb Melbourne

 

Jesus calls us in, sends us out/ bearing fruit in a world of doubt,/ gives us love to tell, bread to share;/ God (Immanuel) everywhere! - Fred Kaan

 

Defined in psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously over-compensates a secret doubt. - Aldous Huxley

 

Test yourself on mankind. It is something that makes the doubter doubt, the believer believe. - Franz Kafka

 

How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise. - Alexander Pope

 

Who never doubted never half believed/ Where doubt there truth isn't in her shadow. - Philip James Bailey

 

Given the existence ... of a personal God ... who ... loves us dearly ... it is established beyond all doubt ... that man ... wastes and pines ... for reasons unknown. - Samuel Beckett

 

He who does not know the truth at sight is unworthy of her notice. - William Blake

 

A thing is not truth till it is so strongly believed in that the believer is convinced that its existence does not depend upon him. - Chapman

 

** It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions. - T.H. Huxley

 

** The chief phenomenon of our days is the sense of the provisional. - Burckhardt

 

There is something Pagan in me that I cannot shake off. In short, I deny nothing, but doubt everything. - George Gordon Noel Byron

 

** He, who has a true idea, simultaneously knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the truth of the thing perceived. - Baruch Spinoza

 

Nothing is harder to topple than a fact that supports a deeply held prejudice denied by its holder. - Russell Ackoff

 

Nearly all our powerful men in this age of the world are unbelievers; the best of them in doubt and misery; the worst of them in reckless defiance; the plurality in plodding hesitation, doing, as well as they can, what practical work lies ready to their hands. - John Ruskin

 

** Who shall decide when doctors disagree,/ And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me? - Alexander Pope

 

There is a vulgar incredulity, which in historical matters, as well as in those of religion, finds it easier to doubt than to examine. - Sir Walter Scott

 

The wisdom of mankind creeps slowly on,/ Subject to every doubt that can retard/ Or fling it back upon an earlier time. - Richard Henry Horne

 

When a man you like switches from what he said a year ago, or four years ago, he is a broad-minded person who has courage enough to change his mind with changing conditions. When a man you don't like does it, he is a liar who has broken his promise. - Franklin Adams

 

** Apart from blunt truth, our lives sink decadently amid the perfume of hints and suggestions. - Whitehead

 

** Life is judged with all the blindness of life itself. - Santayana

 

A lively, disinterested, persistent liking for truth is extraordinarily rare. Action and faith enslave thought, both in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism, or doubt. - Henry Amiel

 

The brute necessity of believing something so long as life lasts does not justify any belief in particular. - Santayana

 

Nobody can really guarantee the future. The best we can do is size up the chances, calculate the risks involved, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make our plans with confidence. - Henry Ford II

 

A fool hath no dialogue within himself, the first thought carrieth him with the reply of a second. - Halifax

 

** The intellectual who no longer feels attached to anything is not satisfied with opinion merely; he wants certainty, he wants a system. The revolution provides him with his opium. - Raymond Aron

 

Philosophy is a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. - Amrose Bierce

 

The discovery of what is true and the practice of that which is good are the two most important aims of philosophy. - Voltaire

 

Some like to understand what they believe in. Others like to believe in what they understand. - Lec

 

Intellectuals cannot tolerate the chance event, the unintelligible: they have a nostalgia for the absolute, for a universally comprehensive scheme. - Raymond Aron

 

The humorous man recognizes that absolute purity, absolute justice, absolute logic and perfection are beyond human achievement and that men have been able to live happily for thousands of years in a state of genial frailty. - Brooks Atkinson

 

There is nothing more likely to drive a man mad than... an obstinate, constitutional preference of the true to the agreeable. - Hazlitt

 

** The opinion which is FATED to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate it is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real. - C.S. Peirce

 

We need fewer philosophies and more philosophers. Frank Romer

 

People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know. - Brooks Atkinson

 

Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions. - Alan Barth

 

** All our final resolutions are made in a state of mind which is not going to last. - Marcel Proust

 

There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth. - Samuel Butler

 

We are chameleons, and our partialities and prejudices change places with an easy and blessed facility. - Twain

 

A very popular error -- having the courage of one's convictions: rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one's convictions. - Nietzsche

 

Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent. - Samuel Johnson

 

He that is possessed with a prejudice is possessed with a devil. - Tryon Edwards

 

There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. - Jacob Bronowski

 

It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not in the dogma, or want of dogma, that the danger lies. - Samuel Butler

 

You cannot become a truly effective advocate unless you know all sides of your subject thoroughly, opposing arguments as well as your own. - G.R. Capp and T.R. Capp

 

It is hard to believe a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place. - H.L. Mencken

 

I grow daily to honor facts more and more, and theory less and less. - Thomas Carlyle

 

** There are two kinds of people in the world: the conscious and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic. - Gilbert Keith Chesterton

 

In politics as in religion, it so happens that we have less charity for those who believe the half of our creed, than for those who deny the whole of it. - Charles Colton

 

A myth is a fixed way of looking at the world which cannot be destroyed because, looked at through the myth, all evidence supports the myth. - Edward De Bono

 

** Sincerity is all that counts. It's a widespread modern heresy. Think again. Bolsheviks are sincere. Fascists are sincere. Lunatics are sincere. People who believe the earth is flat are sincere. They can't all be right. Better make certain that you've got something to be sincere about and with. - Tom Dribert

 

If you cry "Forward", you must without fail make plain in what direction to go. - Chekov

 

Being tolerant does not mean that I share another one's belief. But it does mean that I acknowledge another one's right to believe, and obey, his own conscience. - Victor Frankl

 

The fierce and partial writers of the times, ascribing all virtue to themselves, and imputing all guilt to their adversaries, have painted the battle of the angels and the demons. - Edward Gibbon

 

We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things: and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them. - Geothe

 

** It is almost impossible to convince people who are under the influence of ideological bigotry that whose whom they regard as belonging to the enemy species are human. Louis Halle

 

An ideology is a complex of ideas or notions which represents itself to the thinker as an absolute truth for the interpretation of the world and his situation within it; it leads the thinker to accomplish an act of self-deception for the purpose of justification, obfuscation and evasion in some sense or other to his advantage. - Karl Jaspers

 

** There are those who feel an imperative need to believe, for whom the values of a belief are proportionate not to its truth, but to its definiteness. Incapable of either admitting the existence of contrary judgments or of suspending their own, they supply the place of knowledge by turning other men's conjectures into dogmas. - C.E.M. Joad

 

** The word "belief" is a difficult thing for me. I don't believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it -- I don't need to believe it. - Carl Gusatv Gunn

 

** In ancient times philosophers defined man as the rational animal; and philosophers since then have always found much more to say about the rational than about the animal part of the definition. But looked at candidly, reason bears about the same proportion to the rest of human nature that we in this hall bear to the rest of America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Polynesia. Reason is one of the very feeblest of nature's forces, if you take it at only one spot and moment. It is only in the very long run that its effects become perceptible. Reason assumes to settle things by weighing them against each other without prejudice, partiality or excitement; but what affairs in the concrete are settled by is, and always will be, just prejudices, partialities, cupidities and excitements. Appealing to reason as we do, we are in a sort of forlorn-hope situation, like a small sand-bank in the midst of a hungry sea ready to wash it out of existence. But sand-banks grow when the conditions favor; and weak as reason is, it has this unique advantage over its antagonists that its activity never lets up and that it presses always in one direction, while men's prejudices vary, their passions ebb and flow, and their excitements are intermittent. Our sand-bank, I absolutely believe, is bound to grow. Bit by bit it will get dyked and breakwatered. - William James

 

There can never be any reason for rejecting one instinctive belief except that it clashes with others. It is of course POSSIBLE that all or any of our beliefs may be mistaken, and therefore all ought to be held with at least some element of doubt. But we cannot have REASON to reject a belief except on the ground of some other belief. - Bertrand Russell

 

Dogma is a defensive reaction against doubt in the mind of the theorist, but doubt of which he is unaware. - Harold D. Lasswell

 

With most people unbelief in one thing is founded on blind belief in another. - Lichtenberg

 

A clash of doctrines is not a disaster -- it is an opportunity. - A.N. Whitehead

 

** Dogma does not mean the absence of thought, but the end of thought. - Chesterton

 

When men are brought face to face with their opponents, forced to listen and learn and mend their ideas, they cease to be children and savages and begin to live like civilized men. Then only is freedom a reality, when men may voice their opinions because they must examine their opinions. - Walter Lippman

 

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth -- that error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it has been cured of one error, is usually another error, and maybe one worse than the first one. - H.L. Mencken

 

** A man may dwell so long upon a thought that it may take him prisoner. - Halifax

 

The principle itself of dogmatic religion, dogmatic morality, dogmatic philosophy, is what requires to be booted out; not any particular manifestation of that principle. - J.S. Mill

 

** Tolerance of people who differ in convictions and habits requires a residual awareness of the complexity of truth and the possibility of opposing views having some light on one or the other facet of a many-sided truth. - Reinhold Niebuhr

 

The beating of drums, which delights young writers who serve a party, sounds to him who does not belong to the party line like a rattling of chains, and excites sympathy rather than admiration. - Nietzsche

 

Ultimate insights have a tendency to undermine the orthodox approaches by which they have been reached. - Santayana

 

No dogma or superstition in any religion yet uncovered by anthropologists is more tyrannical, and more intellectually absurd, than that of the historically inevitable or necessary. - Robert Nisbet

 

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths, or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt. - Robert Pirsig

 

We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened. - James harvey Robinson

 

There is nothing more horrible than the murder of a beautiful theory by a brutal gang of facts. - la Rochefoucauld

 

It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it. - Edwin Way Teale

 

Clearly it is not reason that has failed. What has failed -- as it has always failed -- is the attempt to achieve certainty, to reach an absolute, to find the course of human events to a final end.... It is not reason that has promised to eliminate risk in human undertakings; it is the emotional needs of men. - Allen Wheelis

 

** Several things about atheism. First, it is the smallest minority group in the world. Why? Because there are no dead ones. Second, an atheist is guilty of the worst form of pride. He, or she, says that everyone else who believed in God and his Son for thousands of years was an idiot and only they are smart enough to have figured out there is no God. Is that credible? Are atheists smarter than Lincoln and Solzhenitsyn; scientists and illiterates and the apostles?... Billions believe and have believed. Only a tiny minority don't. But they will someday, because every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Cal Thomas.

 

A mind that questions everything, unless strong enough to bear the weight of its ignorance, risks questioning itself and being engulfed in doubt. If it cannot discover the claims to existence of the objects of its questioning-and it would be miraculous if it so soon succeeded in solving so many mysteries-it will deny them all reality, the mere formulation of the problem already implying an inclination to negative solutions. But in so doing it will become void of all positive content and, finding nothing which offers it resistance, will launch itself perforce into the emptiness of inner revery. - Emile Durkheim

 

Cotton Mather died when I was a boy. The books/ He read, all day, all night and all the nights,/ Had got him nowhere. There was always the doubt,/ That made him preach the louder, long for a church/ In which his voice would roll its cadences,/ After the sermon, to quiet that mouse in the wall. - Wallace Stevens

 

Many things are not believed because their current explanation is not believed. - Nietzsche

 

** If the greatest philosopher in the world find himself upon a plank wider than actually necessary, but hanging over a precipice, his imagination will prevail, though his reason convince him of his safety. - Pascal

 

I don't think man comes to faith firsthand except through despair or to knowledge of God except through doubt. It has to be a kind of watershed experience. - Francis B Sayre, Dean, National Cathedral, Washington DC

 

There is a species of skepticism antecedent to all study and philosophy, which is much inculcated by Descartes and others, as a sovereign preservative against error and precipitate judgment. It recommends an universal doubt, not only of all our former opinions and principles, but also of our very faculties; of whose veracity, say they, we must assure ourselves, by a chain of reasoning, deduced from some original principle, which cannot be fallacious or deceitful.... The Cartesian doubt, therefore, were it ever possible to be attained by any human creature (as it plainly is not) would be entirely incurable; and no reasoning could ever bring us to a state of assurance and conviction upon any subject. - David Hume

 

In wonder all philosophy began: in wonder it ends.... But the first wonder is the offspring of ignorance: the last is the parent of adoration. - Coleridge

 

Experience does not err; it is only your judgment that errs in expecting from her what is not ion her power. - da Vinci

 

Man's rational life consists in those moments in which reflection not only occurs but proves efficacious. - Santayana

 

** Nothing hath an uglier look to us than reason, when it is not on our side. - Halifax

 

If you don't know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere. - Henry Kissinger

 

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,/ The proper study of mankind is Man./ Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,/ A being darkly wise and rudely great:/ With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,/ With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,/ He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest,/ In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast,/ In doubt his mind or body to prefer;/ Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;/ Alike in ignorance, his reason such/ Whether he thinks too little or too much:/ Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;/ Still by himself abused, or disabused;/ Created half to rise and half to fall;/ Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;/ Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled;/ The glory, jest, and riddle of the world! - Alexander Pope

 

Our prejudices are our mistresses; reason is at best our wife, very often needed but seldom minded. - Chesterfield

 

Our quaint metaphysical opinions, in an hour of anguish, are like playthings by the bedside of a child deathly sick. - Coleridge

 

** There is no assurance of the great fact in question [namely, immortality]. All the arguments are mere probabilities, analogies, fancies, whims. We believe, or disbelieve, or are in doubt according to our own make-up -- to accidents, to education, to environment. For myself, I do not reach either faith or belief... that I -- the conscious person talking to you -- will meet you in the world beyond -- you being yourself a conscious person -- the same person now reading what I say. - Rutherford B. Hayes

 

And in navigation, the more sights we take, the more likely we are to hit port. - Henry Osborn

 

No man ever quite believes in any other man. One may believe in an idea absolutely, but not in a man. In the highest confidence there is always a flavor of doubt-a feeling, half instinctive and half logical, that, after all, the scoundrel may have something up his sleeve. - H.L. Mencken

 

There is somebody wiser than any of us, and that is everybody. - Napolean

 

Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well. - Rousseau

 

I would rather be the child of a mother who has all the inner conflicts of the human being than be mothered by someone for whom all is easy and smooth, who knows all the answers, and is a stranger to doubt. - D.W. Winnicott

 

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. - Schopenhauer

 

Everybody calls "clear" those ideas which have the same degree of confusion as his own. - Proust

 

** Where there is no exaggeration there is no love, and where there is no love there is no understanding. It is only about things that do not interest one, that one can give a really unbiased opinion; and this is no doubt the reason why an unbiased opinion is always valueless. - Oscar Wilde

 

Prejudices are the principles of people we don't like. - John Grier

 

The best generals I have known were ... stupid or absent-minded men.... Not only does a good army commander not need any special qualities, on the contrary he needs the absence of the highest and best human attributes-love, poetry, tenderness, and philosophic inquiring doubt. He should be limited, firmly convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he will not have sufficient patience), and only then will he be a brave leader. God forbid that he should be humane, should love, or pity, or think of what is just and unjust. - Leo Tolstoy

 

The method which begins by doubting in order to philosophize is just as suited to its purpose as making a soldier lie down in a heap in order to teach him to stand upright. - Kierkegaard

 

Though your views are in straight antagonism to theirs, assume an identity of sentiment, assume that you are saying precisely that which all think, and in the flow of wit and love roll out your paradoxes in solid column, with not the infirmity of a doubt. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Whether there be any such moral principles, wherein all men do agree, I appeal to any, who have been but moderately conversant in the history of mankind, and looked abroad beyond the smoke of their own chimneys. Where is that practical truth, that is universally received without doubt or question, as it must be, if innate? - John Locke

 

** For the scientist the formulation of questions is almost the whole thing. The answers, when found, only lead on to other questions. The nightmare of the scientist is the idea of complete knowledge. He shudders to think of such a thing. Compare this with the certainty that belongs to religion, and you will see how different science is from religion. Religion replaces doubt with certainty. Science holds an infinity of doubt, and implies a faith. Faith in what? Perhaps in nothing; just a capacity to have faith; or if there must be faith in something, then faith in the inexorable laws that govern phenomena. - D.W. Winnicott

 

** Compromise is odious to passionate natures because it seems a surrender; and to intellectual natures because it seems a confusion. - Santayana

 

The main objection to religious myths is that, once made, they are so difficult to destroy. Chemistry is not haunted by the phlogiston theory as Christianity is haunted by the theory of a God with a craving for bloody sacrifices. But it is also a fact that while serious attempts are constantly being made to verify scientific myths, religious myths, at least under Christianity and Islam, have become matters of faith which it is more or less impious to doubt, and which we must not attempt to verify by empirical means. Chemists believe that when a chemical reaction occurs, the weights of the reactants are unchanged. If this is not very nearly true, most of chemical theory is nonsense. But experiments are constantly being made to disprove it.... Chemists welcome such experiments and do not regard them as impious or even futile. - J.B.S. Haldane

 

The thinker philosophizes as the lover loves. Even were the consequences not only useless but harmful, he must obey his impulse. - William James

 

** One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the alter of the great historical ideas -- justice or progress or happiness of future generations... or emancipation of a nation or race or class... this is the belief that somewhere... there is a final solution. - Isaiah Berlin

 

In order to get at the truth, conflicting arguments and expressions must be allowed. There can be no freedom without choice, no sound choice without knowledge. - David Berninghausen

 

Not failure, but low aim is a crime. - Ernest Holmes

 

Cultivate an intellectual habit of subordinating one's opinions and wishes to objective evidence and a reverence for things as they really are. - W.I.B. Beveridge

 

I do not greatly care whether I have been right or wrong on any point, but I care a good deal about knowing which of the two I have been. - Samuel Butler II

 

** Bigot, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain. - Ambrose Beirce

 

An unprejudiced mind is probably the rarest thing in the world; to non-prejudice I attach the greatest value. - Andre Gide

 

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority. - T.H. Huxley

 

Perfect accuracy of thought is unattainable, THEORETICALLY UNATTAINABLE, and undue striving for it is worse than time wasted: it positively renders thought unclear. - C.S. Peirce

 

Beaten paths are for beaten men. Eric A. Johnston