Doubt can be an important part of life if it launches one on a course that results in resolution; that is, doubters should work their way toward becoming believers whenever possible. Doubt is a major force in psychology, religion, and criminology. In criminology, it is usually not possible to prove innocence or guilt beyond a shadow of doubt; however, it is usually possible to prove it beyond reasonable doubt.
According to a local judge, if you go outside your house and find that everything is wet, people are holding umbrellas, wearing galoshes and raincoats, and there are puddles in the street, you can believe beyond reasonable doubt that it has rained even though you didn't see it rain. To believe that it rained beyond a shadow of doubt, you would have to have been there yourself.
In psychopathology, doubt often occurs as a symptom in the obsessive-compulsive disorders. Early in this century there was even a diagnostic category called doubting mania. It was described as an extreme self-consciousness and a preoccupation with hesitation and doubt. Gloria (Mrs. Marple) and I have been fighting doubting mania all of our adult lives. We usually get a half-mile down the road before one of us asks the other "Did you unplug the iron?" or "Did you unplug the coffeepot?" Of course, we know that we did; yet, that doesn't usually stop us from going back to check. One can see how such doubting behavior could easily turn into a full-blown pathology! I believe that Gloria is partly cured. Now days, I go out to start the car, then she comes out, locks the door, walks half way to the car, turns around, goes back into the house, then comes back out in three minutes. Like I said, she's about a "half-mile" better than she used to be. I guess the worst we've ever had the doubting disease was the time we arrived in Southern Illinois, then had to call our neighbor to have her go check to see if the iron was unplugged. You guessed it; the iron was unplugged --it always is.
Like psychology and criminology, religion has always had its share of doubters. We who have been genuine Missouri doubters ("Show me; I'm from Missouri."), have always held "doubting Thomas" as our mascot. When told of Jesus' appearance following the resurrection, Thomas replied that he would not believe until he too had seen the evidence. Jesus tolerated doubt because it was a transitory, nonpermanent state of mind, whereas he condemned unbelief because it was inflexible and resistant to evidence. Nevertheless, whether it's criminology, psychology, or religion, the evidence will only take you so far --belief is what gets you home. Holding beliefs that are beyond reasonable doubt is about as good as it’s going to get! Paul did say, "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I'm just hoping that someday we will be able to leave the house knowing for sure that the coffeepot and iron are unplugged, with checkbook in hand, along with the shopping list, a comb, and all the things we're going to mail. "By the way, did you let the cat out?" I doubt it.