Ron Brown at The Frame Problem has an interesting post Doubt in and faking of faith, and the need for secular alternatives to religious communities.
He comments on the reasons for religious belief:
“People receive religious belief and ritual indoctrination from a very young age, years before their ability for effective critical thought comes in. Once this early framework is set in place and has served for years as a framework for forming beliefs and understanding the world (e.g., in terms of right and wrong, what is meaningful and important, social connections, justice), it could understandably be very difficult to question the validity of these beliefs. Then on top of this there is often a lot of social pressure—in many places one risks ostracism by their family and/or community for leaving the faith. The fear of losing one’s grip on reality, meaning, and purpose, losing one’s grip on right and wrong, of having to entertain the notion that justice in this world is by no means assured, and on top of this, the fear of ostracism from one’s family and community could form the most powerful set of reasons for dogmatism. The person risks abandoning much of their most important “knowledge” and social support.
I figure that there probably are a decent proportion of believers that do have some doubt. However, I don’t think that most believers are living a charade. I think that most believers are genuinely committed to their beliefs, even though they have some underlying doubt—however deep down it may be.”
But Ron goes further to suggest alternatives to religion for those who have doubts about their faith
“I think that an important step toward making people more willing to question their faith is the provision of other options for community and the pursuit of happiness and meaning. I would like to eventually help build a community which embraces many of the positive aspects of religion (e.g. supportive community, teaching love and kindness, providing a social forum for the development of wisdom and wellbeing) but which does away with the dogmatism and replaces it with open-minded skepticism and curiosity and intellectual honesty. I would like to see many of the wise developments in buddhist philosophy and practice (but without the faith components), such as mindfulness meditation, teachings such as the danger of investing oneself in externals (e.g., beliefs, possessions, status, others), and so forth. I would also bring in the philosophical and scientific curiosity of the ancient Greeks and modern academia. And of course, there would be community building activities such as social events, charity work, group projects, support groups and so on.”
Some food for thought here?