O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Quotes about Doubt

I get asked occasionally if I’ve heard this or that quote about doubt and faith from such-and-such famous person. In most (but not all) cases, yes, I’m aware of the quote. This is due to two reasons:

1) Because I’m a big philosophers-and-theologians-and-writers nerd. Actually, the “nerd” tag explains a lot of things about me.

2) Because collecting doubt-quotes has been something of a hobby of mine for several years. I’ve been assembling them, I guess, for the same reason more pious folk read inspirational sayings or Bible verse-a-day calendars: because they make me feel better.

Because they make me exhale in relief.

Because they help me remember I’m not alone.

Not all of these quotes ended up in my book, but some did. A few are from Christian believers. Others are not. Some of them, to those who are less prone to doubt, may sound like self-justification of what you might identify as spiritual weakness. And I get that. I really do.


But these thoughts are comforting to me, and whether you agree entirely with them or not, I think they can be informative to any discussion about religious doubt and uncertainty.

Anyway, I figured this was as good a time as any to gather them up into a single place. Here you go:

• “Doubt is but another element of faith.” (St. Augustine)

• “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”
(Paul Tillich)

• “Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not
certainty.” (Flannery O’Connor)

• “You call for faith: I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists. The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say, If faith o’ercomes doubt.” (Robert Browning)


• “Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” (French novelist and writer Andre Gide)

• “Unthinking faith is a curious offering to be made to the creator of the human mind.” (John A Hutchinson)

• “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be
unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.” (G. K.

• “The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by
doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the
truth.” (Pierre Abelard)

• “Great Doubt: great awakening. Little Doubt: little awakening. No Doubt:
no awakening” (Ancient Zen saying)


• “The whole problem
with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of
themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” (Bertrand Russell)

• “Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters.” (Isaac Bashevis Singer)

• “To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what
running is for a horse.” (Pascal)

• “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” (Rene Descartes)

• “I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.” (American Playwright Wilson Mizner)



I love that one: Doubt is what gets you an education. That’s true. It’s not always a comfortable education, but it’s an education all the same.

Your thoughts? Do these kinds of quotes inspire/comfort/encourage you like they do me? Are there any doubt-y quotes I’ve missed?

If so, please share.

Comments read comments(18)
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posted July 22, 2010 at 7:43 am

I love the Andre Gide quote. I always tell people that Christians with questions don’t bother me, it’s the ones with answers.

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Joseph Palmer

posted July 22, 2010 at 8:14 am

I really like these quotes and find them very encouraging. The Flannary O’Connor quote specifically stood out to me this morning because of my own doubts I’m dealing with. It’s important that I remember that the evidence of faith in my life is not found in a clear head or complete understanding about some issue or theological question, but in placing whatever trust I have in Jesus to see me through.

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Mr. Big

posted July 22, 2010 at 9:01 am

Doubt it…Doubt it….Doubt it out loud! (KISS)
– oh wait, maybe I misheard that one…
I like the Robert Browning quote. I’m going to make that my new personal motto.

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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted July 22, 2010 at 10:30 am

You asked for it :)
(And don’t tell me you haven’t encountered this one FOR REAL.)
“Thinking leads to Heresy. Heresy begets Retribution. Blessed is the mind too small for Doubt.” (Warhammer 40K)

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posted July 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

A shout-out for the Abelard quote. He’s my favorite philosopher (and the fact right there that I have a favorite philosopher makes me a nerd too), precisely because of what that quote represents.
And related to doubt is this comment that President Obama made back in 2004:
“I think that religion at its best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.”
It’s not the reason I voted for him, but it does illustrate what to me is a very realistic and healthy mindset.

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Charlie H.

posted July 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

The Chesterton quote totally struck me out of the whole lot, as most people associate religion with closed mindedness, where as to me anyone who loves God should be open to him wherever he may be found (which is to say everywhere).

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posted July 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Great doubt, great awakening; little doubt, little awakening; no doubt, no awakening-ancient zen saying. Sounds somewhat like my favorite philosopher: confucious.
Thank You for the enlightenment this morning.
Blessings to all! :)

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posted July 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

i just love quotes in general… i generally don’t collect them because they become flags that get in the way of living. i do, however, like this voltaire quote. “Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous.”

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Janet Oberholtzer

posted July 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it.” Tim Keller

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Drew Smith

posted July 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I found this quote to be interesting.
Bertrand Russell on the Value of Philosophy said…
From The Problems of Philosophy, Chapter XV
“The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find… that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.”

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posted July 22, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I think i’m too close to an unhealthy church to respond to this as i normally would.
So, i’m simply sad to know that the pastor of our former church believes that doubt condemns you to hell. Not my belief. But it still makes me sad.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 7:29 pm

THANK you for this. It came at a time when a friend is struggling with belief. Coincidence? I think not! God is good!

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posted July 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Was it St. Augustine who said, “Doubt is the seedbed of faith?”

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posted July 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm

“What is the meaning of life?” asked the Rabbi’s student.
The Rabbi replied, “That’s such a wonderful question, why would you want to exchange it for an answer?”
(Not so much about doubt, but in the same line of truth-seeking…)

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posted July 22, 2010 at 10:16 pm

The father of the lad possessed of “a foul spirit”: Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

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Jonathan Chang

posted July 23, 2010 at 7:38 am

I had the Descartes one on my FB for awhile. It’s comforting to know that I’m not going crazy with the questions I have.
Sometimes I just feel like we’re just the Stepford wives in church regarding faith and doubt.

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posted July 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Love the qoute!inspiring

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shawn smucker

posted July 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

?”The despair about truth by the skeptic shows that truth is still his infinite passion” -Paul Tillich

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