There are many, many different ways people begin to doubt their faith. Age isn’t a huge factor: some people start when very young and others when they are much older.
A common sequence of events can look like this:
- First comes doubt. This isn’t always a consciously rational process, you may feel something nagging you in the back of your head about your upbringing and/or faith
- Then come the questions, the nagging becomes questions about your faith. Sometimes old questions that you had answers to re-open, and the more you learn, the more questions you may have
- Then for some, comes opening up to people. Asking friends, religious figures and family questions. For some this may be too risky, so they take to online communities where they can doubt, without feeling as at risk
- What comes after doubt depends from person to person, and also changes over time. Some people leave their faith and religion in general completely, others join other faiths or become deists, others continue with their faith but often become less conservative in their interpretation and rituals and some continue to maintain their faith or become even more religious
The most important thing here is there is no pressure to stay, change or leave your faith. Just enjoy the inquisitiveness of the human mind, and ask yourself questions.
Doubting can often come hand-in-hand with fear, and even self-loathing. Some beat themselves up for asking questions the first place, and might engage more strongly in rituals like praying or with their local faith community or proselytising to “cure” their doubts and questions. The fear can often come from worrying about whether they will be punished for doubting and questioning. It is important to remember that the human intellect is a marvellous thing, and no one can blame you for using it. Curiosity is hard-wired into us: babies are some of the most curious humans out there.
There is a fantastic 5 minute questionnaire on Leaving Your Religion which you can take to help yourself navigate how you currently feel about, think about and practice your faith.