Oftentimes when a person dies, you'll hear that he or she was a person "of faith" listed along with their accomplishments and virtues. When they say this, they're specifically talking about somebody who held on to some sort of religious faith and/or faith in something that's supernatural. I think that considering faith to be a virtue is a mistake, but rather than criticizing faith - which would automatically turn off a lot of potential readers - I'm going to start by praising doubt.
I think that some folks might get a bit confused by the word "doubt" though. Obviously, you don't want to get so crippled with doubt that you're unable to do what you need to do. In other words, if you have a particular job to do, you don't want your doubt to stop you from doing it. However, there's nothing wrong with the doubt itself. For instance, I'm a teacher, and I doubt myself all the time. I sometimes wonder if I have even the slightest clue what I'm doing. I don't let that stop me from getting out there and teaching the class though. I listen to my doubts, but that's not the only thing going through my mind. To give an example, I had a former student - a particularly smart one at that - thank me recently for what I taught her, as she said it really helped her in college. That's but one example of what gets me through. I also know that I have a pretty good track record of being able to do what I set my mind to doing, and I know that when it comes to teaching, it does depend on some of my personal strengths. Still, the doubt is good, as sometimes I have some bad ideas, and if I never had any doubt, I'd never take the time to get rid of them.
There have been times in my life when I could have used a little more doubt. Years ago, my wife and I refinanced our house. My dad went along with us to listen to the spiel of the lender, and he told us that we shouldn't trust that company. We went ahead and did it anyway, and we wound up getting a pretty crappy deal. It could have been worse though - my dad's initial skepticism wound up getting us an even better deal than they were initially offering. Still, my dad told me to walk away, and I should have listened to him.
The reason why it's important to listen to your doubts is that we human beings have a tendency to believe what we want to be true. I really wanted to believe that some random company wanted to seek me out to give me a great deal. They managed to make it all sound very legit. I also really want to believe that a Nigerian Prince wants to hook me up with several hundred thousands of dollars, but lucky for me, that has all the hallmarks of a scam, so it doesn't require a lot of sifting through the facts to determine that it's bullcrap.
When you feel that doubt coming on, that means that your brain is working, and at the very least, you need to give it some consideration. Also, if somebody expresses to you that they have doubt about something, even if it's something you believe in very strongly, your reaction should be to listen to what they have to say. Why? Because their ideas might lead you to the truth of the matter.
Even within religious traditions, there is the precedent for doubt and questioning being a virtue. What if Martin Luther never doubted the teachings of the Catholic Church? Where would Christianity be today? If you're Catholic, and that doesn't impress you, then take a look at the life of Jesus as written in the Gospels. He questions a lot of conventional thinking at the time. You can find the same sort of thing with Mohammed and even The Buddha.
Unfortunately, and this is the part where I badmouth faith, the problem with today's religious traditions is that while they praise the questioning that spawned their traditions, they don't think that it should be questioned any further. When a believer tells another believer that he or she is doubting the faith, they aren't met with a "Oh yeah? Why is that? Maybe you have a good reason for it." Instead, they're told to pray or they're told to read something that will reconfirm the bias that they already hold.
The problem with being told to pray about one's doubt is that it assumes that there's something wrong with the doubt in the first place. But if you've followed my train of thought so far, you can see how even in religious tradition doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. This kind of thinking, that one must ask God to "help" deal with the doubt makes it sound like there's something wrong with the person who's feeling the doubt. They've got something that needs to be expunged. What if that doubt is leading to some truth though? The believer isn't encouraged to even consider that as a possibility.
Have a look at the story that I included (on the image with the pumpkin). It lists "doubt" along with "hate" and "greed" - things that are "yucky" and need to be thrown away. (I'm with it on the second two things.) What kind of a horrible message is this to send to children? I told my son that it was a monster that was making gurgling sounds at the swimming pool (it was the filter). He just laughed at me and said, "No it's not, daddy." I couldn't have been more proud of him. Also, the day that he figures out that Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. aren't real will be a cause for (mild) celebration, as it will show that he's got a brain and he's using it.
And if he ever doubts something that I firmly believe, I'll ask him to tell me his reasons. From there, we'll try to get to the truth of the matter, and either I'll be able to show him the error of his reasoning - or he will show me the error in mine.