I have been working hard lately to understand what to make of doubt. To see where it fits into proper religious life. I’m not sure what’s going on, as there seems to be a lot of similar effort going around, including a fabulous post over at RationalFaiths, as well as a not-so-stellar article from the Ensign this month. The latter was sent to me by relative trying to help me with my “issues”. The former I read because I follow the blog closely. To simplify things, go and read both first, to get us all on the same page.
There… that’s better. Overall, i really liked Matthew’s take on faith vs doubt, especially his explanation of how we sometimes talk past each other at church by using different definitions. I also think it’s important for us less orthodox members to remember that most scriptural uses of the terms are more likely to be used in the more “truth-centered” rather than “objective” sense.
However, I find the objective view much more useful, as I find we are rarely, if ever, actually in a position where the absolute truths can rightly actually be assumed. So here, I’ll try to put down exactly how these terms seem to fit together, in my mind. I’ll try and update the post as my understanding evolves over time.
Given a proposition [A], (e.g. Rome is in Europe), a person can take an infinite number of views on the likely veracity of the statement. However, for simplicity, I think those positions can be lumped into five categories.
- I think there is a 95-100% chance that [A] is true. — This is equivalent to certainty or “knowledge” in the positive sense.
- I KNOW that Rome is in Europe.
- I think there is a 60-95% chance that [A] is true. — This is equivalent to “belief”, or mental assent.
- I BELIEVE that Rome is in Europe.
- I think there is a 40-60% chance that [A] is true. — This is complete uncertainty or ambivalence.
- I have NO IDEA whether or not Rome is in Europe.
- I think there is a 5-40% chance that [A] is true. — This is “doubt“.
- I doubt (or think it is unlikely) that Rome is in Europe..
- I think there is a 0-5% chance that [A] is true. — This is once again certainty or “knowledge” though now in the negative.
- I KNOW that Rome is NOT in Europe.