Friday, September 14, 2012

Religious Doubt and the Psychological Impact

Many Christians go through a period of doubt at some point in their spiritual walk. Not many Christians will be open enough to admit this struggle but it is usually the case. One chooses to keep their issues of doubt to themselves because of the fear of condemnation from other believers or God. In this blog, we will look into the effects of religious doubt and its psychological implications. Guinness (1976) and McLaren (2003) mention that there is an extensive base of knowledge about religious doubt which has accumulated over the past thirty years (as cited in Puffer et al., 2008). Doubt, a phenomenon in human cognition, remains a controversial and unclear topic among many Christians (as cited in Puffer et al., 2008). Some of the misinterpretation about religious doubt can possibly be eliminated by taking a closer look into the identity status of doubters and their unique experiences with identity formation (Puffer et al., 2008). Unfortunately, there have not been substantial studies on the relationship between religious doubt and identity statuses (Puffer et al., 2008).

Beck (1990) opposed the negative connotation of doubt by mentioning that, "Doubt is an integral part of each person's belief system" (p. 327, as cited in Puffer et al, 2008, p. 270). Kézdya, Martosb, Bolandc and Horváth-Szabó(2011) believe that religious doubt could appear to be a part of identity and faith development. They include that such doubt is however often linked with psychological distress, although, the results in the field are not fully proven or substantial in evidence. Newbigin (1995) mentions that "any contact with reality creates contact with doubtable ideas" (as cited Puffer et al., 2008, p. 273).

Although doubt might be understandable to some Christians, others might perceive it as a significant threat serving as the enemy of the faith and leading to risky, dangerous, and destructive thinking (Puffer et al., 2008). Lucado (1989) described doubt as an unwanted and disturbing phenomenon which must be prohibited from the mind and soul of a believer and Buchanan (2000) likened doubt to be as cancer destroying and mutating ones healthy beliefs (as cited in Puffer et al., 2008). Furthermore, Darmani (2002) considered doubt as “a demonic weapon striking in the vulnerable moments of life and creating a disturbing restlessness within the human heart” (as cited in Puffer et al., 2008, p. 273).

Doubt is certainly an issue for most Christians and they might have varying views on the issue of doubt in the life of a believer. When most Christians think of doubt they probably think of “Doubting Thomas” or John who got rebuked for doubting the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fear of rebuke or rejection could potentially cause many believers to view doubt as something straight from hell. The articles mentioned above, expose several views of doubt as well as linking the occurrence of some psychological distress in the presence of doubt. I will think that it is understandable that Christians could be anxious or depressed if they are having religious doubt and they will need to discover that it is more normal than they might think. 


  1. Living by faith can be a difficult task, even for Christians. Because we are human it is easy to fall into doubt. If we do not surrender our lives to the Lord each day, we become vulnerable to this uncertainty. Satan can easily use this doubt as a weapon against us Christians. I know that if I am not constantly in communication with the Lord, through prayer and reading His Word, that doubt overcomes me. I begin to wonder if God really hears me and if He is always there. This is Satan creeping into our lives trying to destroy our relationship with Christ. Thankfully Christ is exceedingly stronger than Satan and can defeat Satan any day.

  2. Nicole,

    I understand where you are coming from in your feelings about doubt. It can be a device of the enemy to distract us from growth in our relationship with God. I also believe that doubt is not always a bad thing. Doubt can ignite a need to search deeper to find truth. When one finds this truth, their foundation will be stronger than before and they will be able to withstand more that comes their way. As Ashton mentioned in his post, Thomas doubted and Jesus did not rebuke him for this but showed him what he needed to see in order to believe.


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