I'm Having Doubts About Religion... What Do I Do?

Questions about Atheism and Family

Doubt
Doubt. Philipp Nemenz/Cultura/Getty

Question:
I'm having doubts about religion, but my family is very devout. What do I do?


 

Response:
Questioning a religion you have grown up with and to which your family continues to adhere can be a very difficult thing to face. Contemplating the possibility that you might abandon your family's religion can be even more daunting. Nevertheless, it is something which many people do go through in their lives and which every devoutly religious person should be prepared to do — a religion which cannot be questioned or reconsidered is not a religion which merits devotion, after all.

The fact that such questioning is necessary does not, of course, make it any easier — especially if you happen to be young and still living at home with your parents. Many families may even take such questioning very personally, feeling that you are somehow betraying them and the values they have tried to raise you with. Because of this, it may not be wise to immediately shout out to the world that you have doubts about your religion.

 

Questioning and Studying

Indeed, hasty action in general is not called for; rather, what is needed is care, attention, and study. You should take some time to focus on exactly what it is which has caused you to start having doubts. Do you find the historical basis for your religion to be questionable? Do you find some feature of the universe (like the existence of pain, suffering, and evil) to be incompatible with the sort of your religion is centered around?

Does the existence of other religions with equally devout followers make you wonder how you can believe that yours is the One True Religion?

There are many possible reasons why a person will begin to have doubts about their religion; in addition, the process of doubting may engender even more doubts which have never come up before.

You should carefully consider just what doubts you have and why you have them. After that, you will need to take the time to study the issues and gain a better idea of which topics are the problem. By studying them, you can perhaps reach a decision about just what really is reasonable to believe.

 

Faith vs. Reason

Perhaps there are good responses to your doubts; as a consequence, your faith will be stronger and have a better foundation. On the other hand, perhaps you won't find good responses and you will be faced with a choice: to continue with a religion which you know isn't reasonable, or to give up that religion in favor of beliefs which are reasonable. Some people go with the former and call it "faith" — but for some reason, such faith is only considered a virtue in the context of religion.

Conscious adoption of beliefs known to be unreasonable or irrational is normally looked down upon when it comes to politics or consumer purchases. Who is praised for saying, "I know that President Smith cannot justify his policies and I know that his party cannot explain the myriad of internal contradictions they keep telling people to believe, but I have Faith that they are the answer to our problems"?

Thus, if you cannot find good answers to your questions and doubts, perhaps you will find that it is time to find a different path in life. It might not be atheism and it might be a different religious orientation, but it should nevertheless be one which addresses life in a way which is rational and coherent. You shouldn't be embarrassed about the fact that you are trying to make your own way in a manner which makes sense to you; you are under no obligation to adopt the same religion as your family simply because you have done so in the past.