What makes religious doubt so challenging is that in almost every religious community, the box of normative beliefs contains beliefs of each kind – personal, historical, aesthetic, scientific, moral, and dispositional (and more – this list is not complete). To make matters worse, it is seldom clear how a faith community expects me to hold this or that belief. For example, when I am invited to say, “I believe there is one God who exists in three Persons,” am I making a statement of historical and scientific belief, on the same level as “Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president” or “Light travels at 186,000 miles per second”? Or is my statement more personal (I trust those who told me this is true), or more aesthetic (This is a beautiful thought to imagine), or dispositional (This is my working hypothesis, because my disposition is to defer to authority figures in my community)?”
Things get really complicated when we realize how powerful authority figures – we could call them gatekeepers – first articulate the box of norms that members must follow, then police conformity, and then impose punishments or dispense rewards accordingly. They’re like a dominant horse who can drive any other horse out of the herd.
From “Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What To Do About It” by Brian McLaren